Old CDs, older stories

I spent last night putting my CD collection online. I’m at 273 CDs as of last night. My goal is to get at least 500. If I wouldn’t have sold or traded so many during college, I’d have at least a thousand, I think.

I also went CD shopping last night. The bounties: The Beatles – Past Masters Vol Two, ELP – Trilogy (gold disc), and Queensryche – Queensryche EP. I’m listening to Past Masters right now – it’s a great collection of the late sixties stuff, which is my favorite era of Beatles stuff. Observations about the Beatles that I made last night:

  • It’s annoying that so many commercials use their songs and ruin them for me
  • It’s amazing how many bits of children’s songs are mixed in there
  • The song Paperback Writer must’ve been like Motorhead when it first came out and knocked the shit out of all the American Bandstand, Monkees-looking idiots that were into the “fab four” before then.
  • The track “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” is pretty fucking weird.
  • I need to buy all of the Beatles CDs.

As for the ELP CD, it is probably the best sounding disc in my collection. That album was one of the first CDs I bought way back when I got my first player (in 1987). The original AAD pressing sounds way better than most remasters on the market these days. The gold disc sounds even more incredible than that. It even sounds good on the total piece of shit Koss computer speakers in my office. Of course, when I listened to it all the way through at home, it revealed a lot of the deficiencies in my current sound system. I really wish I could just rush out and drop the cash on a pair of Magnepan speakers and a good amp, but I guess I have to wait on that, probably until after I move.

As for the third CD – I’ve had that Queensryche EP probably since the summer of 1987, before the CD player, but on tape. The CD has one extra song on it, the Prophecy, which was also on the soundtrack for Decline of Western Civilization 2 – The Metal years. That addition means I now have the complete Queensryche discography, barring singles and imports, which will cost more than a fucking house to find.

Sorry if today’s post sounds like record collector’s anonymous or something, but I have another bitch, and that’s mass-produced “collectible” stuff. Here’s an example that I told Ray about and he completely agrees to the point of suicide: A lot of the Motorhead albums were remastered this year. Every single one of them had about 3 or 4 rare tracks also included, like B-sides or live stuff, and they all had the original artwork plus some more liner notes. That’s cool if you’re like me who doesn’t have any of their stuff on CD yet, but it is a mixed bag for someone like Ray who owns all of their stuff, and now has to buy all of it again to get the singles tracks, which he won’t really *own*, so he still needs to keep his eyes out for that stuff. Okay, so now Castle decides to put out this 4 or 5 CD boxed set of Motorhead stuff. Now, my question is: should I spend $50 to get this, which doesn’t include all of the albums, just to get the few odd extra tracks, and then should I, in addition, buy all of the reissues too, so I can have the whole albums? The purpose of a boxed set was probably originally so you could say “I don’t have any of their albums, now I can get all of them in one fell swoop, and maybe save a couple of bucks”. There’s a Beatles boxed set that contains all of their recordings, plus the singles, and nothing extra except this cool roll-top wooden box, but you probably save yourself some cash doing it. (I haven’t done the math yet, and I already own enough stuff to make it prohibitive to have doubles). Anyway, what’s a collector like Ray to do about a boxed set like the Motorhead one? He probably has all of the stuff in the set, albeit not remastered and in that order, and not with the package or booklet. But if he says fuck it to buying it, he doesn’t have the complete collection.

All of this makes me think about my collection, and how “complete” you can get. Like the Beatles thing – you can go to any big record store, buy the couple dozen studio albums, the two past masters albums, and you’re essentially “complete”. But you could spend the rest of your fucking life buying singles, 45s, reel to reels, bootlegs, live performances, solo albums, collector’s albums, UK pressings, German pressings, fan club records etc etc etc.

Another artist I’m closing in on with regard to completion is Peter Gabriel. I have all of his studio albums (solo – don’t fuck with me about his stuff with Genesis), but I’m missing the live albums, the compilations, and the singles. (actually, between paragraphs above, I got on line with and ordered 3 Peter Gabriel singles, and the German version of Security). Anyway, this will probably be unfulfilled for a while, because both of the live albums, although pretty good, cost more. And singles – the only singles stores ever carry are Mariah Carey or whatever. I don’t even know what singles Peter Gabriel released in his pre-Sledgehammer career, let alone where I can buy them. Oh, and he has a CD-ROM out too. Maybe he has two?

Nothing else is going on today – it’s slow, everyone is gone or leaving early. I imagine traffic will be pretty gnarly leaving work today. It’s actually nice out, though – the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Maybe I should leave early, too.


(I’m bored as hell, and there’s nothing to do, so it’s time for another weird game of thought association. Since I’ve been babbling all day about CDs, I’ll start there)

I bought my first CD player in the summer of 1987, with my first paycheck from my new “real” job at Taco Bell. Two weeks of stirring giant tubs of cold reconstituted bean paste bought me a Toshiba player that was somewhere between a portable and a full-sized model. It ran on AC power only, and was a top-loader with a tiny LCD display and the basic buttons for operation. I think it had some memory function, and you could see elapsed vs. remaining time. With a metal case and not that much plastic in its construction, it felt much sturdier than most el cheapo models on the market right now. At K-Mart, I paid maybe $99.99 for it, and then went over to Super Sounds in Concord Mall to spend the absolute last of my cash on a single CD. This was when they were half vinyl, half tape, and had maybe two bins with CDs in them. My first choice: Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time. I rushed home on my bike, plugged into my Soundesign rig, and listened away. The beginning of an addiction.

A few months later, I was at World Records in Pierre Moran mall, right after school on a Tuesday. I picked up a copy of Metallica’s new EP, Garage Days Re-Revisited, and a RYKOdisc sampler called Steal This Disc. I bought it because it was only $8 or something, and every CD helped back then. I piled back into the Camaro, probably turned on Master of Puppets, and left for work. Now I drove, and I had a new job – I was a dishwasher at this Italian restaurant called Columbo’s. My friend Matt Wanke convinced me to bust suds over there, because he worked on the pizza line and it’d be cool to work together. I gave notice at Taco Bell, and they didn’t schedule me for my last two weeks.

The only thing noteworthy to come out of Columbo’s was that I met a guy named John that was even more insane than me, and I kept running into him for the next few years. While we were slamming through dishes from the dinner rush, he’d just stand up from his sink and say “I wonder what would happen if we put angel dust in the mozarella shakers” or “I’m going to go tell customers to leave their tip under the food on the dirty dishes, so we get a shot at the money”.

I also had to close the restaurant one school night a week. I learned how desolate Elkhart can be after 10PM. Sometimes I’d drive all the way to Goshen to get some food at the late night drive through Burger King.

Fuck – my mom called and threw off my whole train of thought. At least she didn’t mention the $450 rental car tab I put on her credit card

I walked out of Columbo’s on a Saturday night, without another job lined up or any money saved. (aside from CDs, I blew a bunch of cash putting a new exhaust on the Camaro). I got a job at Ward’s a few days later, and started a long tenure that took me through high school and beyond.

My first couple of Wards checks (which were my first non-$3.35 checks of my life) went to a new heater core in the Camaro. By that point in time (September? October?) the Indiana fall made driving to school in the morning pretty unbearable. My old heater core was full of holes, so I took the ‘in’ and ‘out’ hoses and connected it together with one hose. I didn’t lose any more of the precious green fluid on the driveway, but I also saw my breath when I drove anywhere in the AM.

The weekend of the heater core replacement also included some other repairs – I think I also installed a manual choke control (aside from freezing my ass off in the morning, the carb also had its problems) and a manual oil pressure gauge. That was actually on Halloween weekend, and I planned on going out with my friend Jia that night. It’s impossible to see the oil pressure sender on that engine (it’s sort of hidden back by the HEI distributor) and I didn’t tighten something enough. I started the engine with the hood open, and it shot oil all over the damn place for a dozen seconds, until I killed the engine. So we had to take Jia’s car.

I think our plan back then was similar to most – we’d drive around in downtown Elkhart or downtown Goshen and hope that some incredibly beautiful and loose women would be walking around and then they’d somehow end up in the car, and the magic would happen, so to speak. This, of course, NEVER HAPPENED. (Regardless, my friend Ray thinks this is 100% feasible and still wants to do this all the time.) The odds of this happening would probably be higher if we were in a crappy Camaro than in his car, a green, four door, Dodge Dart. We went out in his car anyway, listened to Master of Puppets on a crappy jambox, and went to some fairly hidden and now probably completely destroyed video game place, that had a shitload of games and a little cafeteria where you could get a hamburger or some nachos or something. Lots of people hung out there, and none of them were from our school. We played a bunch of Tron Deadly Disks or Spy Hunter or whatever I was into at that moment, and had some heavy discussions about how much stuff sucked in relation to our 16 year old worlds, which seemed infinitely wise at the time, and were infinitely stupid in retrospect.

On the way home (this was Halloween), we got egged and the Dart had no windshield washer solution, so we put on the wipers and drove for an hour, hoping they might scrape enough at the molecular level to remove the egg without any solvent. Then, while driving, swearing, and listening to Metallica, a black cat ran in front of the car, and Jia almost hit it. We both shit our pants and prayed to the reaper, knowing that we’d probably be killed in the next ten seconds.

We weren’t.

On the 4th of July in 1989, my parents found out that I had several thousand dollars in credit card debt hidden from them, and wanted to kill me, throw me out, and bitch for hours about how horrible I was. I decided to help them out by leaving and going to Jia’s to cool off, so I left the house without telling them where I was going. I found Jia at a tennis court at the high school (I didn’t really know he played tennis), and we hung out at his house that night. I called my parents back and they were crying and all upset over it. My mom expected them to find me dead and penniless under a bridge in Minnesota a few months later, and instead I was looking at porno and listening to Led Zeppelin in Jia’s bedroom a mile away. It was then that I learned I could win almost any campaign against my parents, and I was largely right.

I’m having a hard time remembering when I first started hanging out with Jia – we met in 7th grade algebra, along with Roger Eppich and Larry Falli and the rest of the braniacs. I guess it was at the end of the 9th grade school year. We were riding around on bikes, and to get to his house, we had to go into Ox-Bow park, and then scale some fence to cross the street. (you could’ve just not gone through the park, but it saved like maybe 4 seconds of time or something). Anyway, we went to his house, and he lost a joint that was hidden inside a ball-point pen, somewhere in his comic book pen. He had a cornoary while tearing through all of these old issues of Silver Surfer or whatever, and then found it. Aside from Health Studies class pictures, it was the first time I saw pot, ever. During the whole bike ride, Jia kept talking about all of these girls he was taking to the movies and then later messing around with. We were in a gym class before that and he’d come in with these insane and obviously false reports about his exploits, and always offered to get me a cut of the action. I figured it might be possible, because at this point in time, Jia and I looked almost like identical twins. In fact, Mr. Post, my junior high algebra teacher, signed my yearbook “To Jia..”.

About that gym class – it was made of 49% future pro atheletes – and not just the stupid ones who could run a mile in 10 seconds or shoot a million freethrows in a row – I’m talking about the ones that go to Stanford to be on their rowing team plus study corporate law. 49% of the class were the future license plate makers of America. And the other 5 of us – me, Jia, Jerome, Nathan, and maybe one or two others, were all like Silicon Valley hopefuls. The only reason we didn’t get the shit kicked out of us on a regular basis was because the other two groups were beating the fuck out of each other in basketball games. Most of the year was basketball – the coach was also the basketball coach, and this was when Shawn Kemp was shopping for a shoe contract or something, so he was always doing press conferences with ESPN and we were always playing the always-no-supervision basketball games. By the end of the year I got pretty good at it – all of us Apple II programmers played a 3 on 3 game, and would occasionally have to take in a loser, like this guy Ernie Friend, to round out the teams.

Other memorable gym class moments – we had to do some super-olympic event thing that involved running, jumping, gymnastics, climbing the rope, etc etc and you had to do all of this shit and beat certain goals and you’d get the A. Anyway, I didn’t pass ANY of the hundred-some events. Because I actually tried all of them, though, I still got a C.

About Jia, like a week later he was going to come over and spend the night, hang out, see my place, all of that. (this was at the age when it was still cool to go to someone’s house to see how many cool computer games they had, or whatever). My mom had to go pick up Jia, and when we got there, he was completely stoned. I guess my mom didn’t figure this out, but I knew he couldn’t stay in the house all night, because he was really fucked up, speaking in tongues, etc. So we went outside, and wandered around my subdivision and the once-vacant land to the east of the division. He spent a while laughing and making stupid observations, and then got really serious and started talking about a lot of the same issues that we shared, things that plagued both of us. Both of us were smart, poor, geeky, creative, and somewhat outside the loop within our rich and trendy high school. Jia’s outer shell was more defined than mine, and he had more confidence in many social situations. I never understood how he dealt with it, and it wasn’t until then that I realized that he didn’t deal with it, sort of like me.

Anyway, I got Jia back to my place many hours later. He ate a whole bunch of fairly rancid pizza like it was the best thing on earth, and I found, via note, that I was grounded for leaving the house for so long. After that, we were friends. And I found a secret that he hid from a lot of people – he collected Transformers. Once at his house, I had a strange “two worlds collide” experience when a fellow Transformers collector showed up to hang out for a while. He was Ray – known to me as the guy from my electronics class, but now known as one of my best friends.

Talking about high school is boring me, so I should get out of here…


Differently worded War Pigs

Nothing beats listening to Black Sabbath – the song Black Sabbath, the title cut to their first album, when the weather is shitty and you’re half awake and not running at full steam. It’s that righteous depression that Henry Rollins is always talking about – not the kind that makes you think “I’m so sad, she left me” or whatever, but the kind that makes you think you ARE Iron Man, and your heavy boots of lead are pulling you down, which explains why you overslept by two hours and couldn’t get out of the shower in under a half hour. What really rules about the CD I’m listening to – this new Ozzy Osbourne compilation – is that this particular version of Black Sabbath is one that was recorded live at a rehearsal, before their first album came out. It’s heavier than fuck, like the album version, but the sound is really raw and the vocals are not as refined as the album. There’s also a version of War Pigs on here that has different words to it.

Last night, I thought I almost blew the whole night away – right after work, I hit the phone and made four calls that lasted about four hours, plus dinner in there, the tail half of Frazier (which was just background noise as I cooked), and Seinfeld. By 11:30, I felt shitty and knew I wouldn’t get any writing done. I sat down and took about four or five pages of notes about the first couple of chapters in Summer Rain. I’m on a weird rewriting program where the first few chapters will collapse down into one or maybe two chapters, because I piss away almost the first third of the book talking about one weekend that doesn’t have much to do with the story. After the notes, it was almost 1, but I sat down and started chopping at the first first chapter. I’m learning how sloppy my writing is, and it’s letting me seriously change things, but it’s slower than hell. I’ve always considered the first part of the book to be the best writing, since it’s what I edit most. I start with grandiose ideas to edit the whole book and I quit by chapter 3. So chapter 1 has been rewritten like 200 times, but when you get about 40 chapters out, that stuff hasn’t even been read since it was laid on the page in 1995.

This version of War Pigs with different words is just fucking eerie. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times, plus the cover versions by Faith No More and whoever else covers this song. I seem to remember being on church with Jim Manges and his parents (maybe this was a hallucination, or something we talked about) and turning to him during the service and saying “Satan laughing spreads his wings” in the most Ozzy-like voice I could perform in a half-whisper. Jim originally got me going on Sabbath, on Paranoid and on old Ozzy stuff like Bark at the Moon.

I just did a search, and there’s a Black Sabbath web ring….


The doctor that invented flouride

Sometimes, I get into a fit about finding information about something, and I spend forever doing web searches and reading through endless pages of material for no reason. Right now, I’m in the middle of searching for the name of the doctor that invented flouride. He died on 11/27/96, but I don’t know his name.

I’ve been on and off sick all weekend, and I’ve been buying more CDs. I finally found a copy of the Queensryche “Sign of the Times” single, which I wanted for the Japanese-only track, which it turns out, sucks. I did get the new Ozzy CD, which is noteworthy for its 1970 rehearsal tape versions of 4 old Black Sabbath songs, including a verion of War Pigs that has different words. It also has some multimedia stuff on one of the discs, and I tried that out yesterday. I think this is my only enhanced CD.

Okay, I’ve given up on the fluoride search and I’m just listening to the White Album, eating applesauce, and doing what I do every time the sun is out and I’m sitting in my office – thinking. It’s cold and shitty outside, and there’s some pretty thick and high clouds; when I got out of bed thismorning, it was like some weird lighting effect – the sky dark, but sun poking through my blinds and illuminating the bed in thin strips.

I’m thinking about what to do beyond work today. I wandered into a music store yesterday and looked at all of the basses and drums and guitars and minidisc 4 tracks and keyboards and wished I played SOMETHING. I’ve learned my lesson about buying musical instruments and trying to learn – I don’t have the discipline. But I want to be in a band and write music and record stuff, and I’ve felt like this for a long time. That’s why I bought and sold a drumset, a guitar, several bass guitars, and a cheap synth in the last 10 or 15 years.

And when I think about this, I think maybe writing is my substitute for that. I know Mark Leyner talks about that a lot, and I’m sure other writers feel that. I can’t keep a beat, but I can fill up 500 pages without too many problems. So if I say “okay, I’m a writer. Instead of another Electric Ladyland, I’ll produce another On the Road” or whatever. Well, this begs another question: what am I doing with myself right now?

Writing takes as much skill and dedication as playing guitar in a band. You spend hours a day practicing or writing or rehearsing or whatever. And right now, I’m spending a few seconds a day writing. I should be writing 3, 4 hours a night, but it’s always some excuse. Granted, being sick all of the time is a convenient excuse, but even if I’m sick, I can at least sit in front of the computer, put in a CD, and press the B key for 45 minutes, just so I’m used to being in front of the computer. I keep thinking about musicians like the Beatles, who produced about 79,000 albums in only 10 years, or people like Zappa who produced 2 or 3 albums a year, toured a few hundred dates, produced other albums, wrote soundtracks, etc etc etc. I need to be working like that, and I’m not.

Why do I think about this when the sun is out but it’s cloudy? That part was a lie – I think about it a lot, regardless of the weather. This weather makes me think of Indiana winters, to some extent. I should take back what I said – the sun doesn’t appear to be out anymore.

An aside – I just found out that as of last Saturday, I have been journaling on paper on a mostly daily basis for 4 years. Maybe when I get home tonight, I’ll pull out my old spiral notebooks and take a look back through them. It’s weird, because on a related note, I’m trying to fill a notebook before the end of the year, and I don’t think I’ll make it. I usually fill two notebooks a year (120 page, writing on both sides), but this year has been slow, mostly because I seldom write when I’m at Karena’s for the weekend, and on my weekends alone, I’ll write more on those days then I do during the whole week. So I’m trying to double up my writing volume. I’m a few pages shy of the 2/3 mark. I might make it if I break out into a short story one night or something…


Day of the Clumsy Jackyl

I’m getting all of this mail from people I knew a long time ago, which is both cool and weird. I’ve been writing a story based on it, in an odd way. Some of it is my fault – I have a habit of sifting through my old mail and finding people that vanished off the face of the earth. It’s an interesting way to spend a Friday afternoon, anyway.

Last night was like Day of the Clumsy Jackyl at my apartment. I knocked a glass of sprite on the floor and the only thing that saved my paper journal was that my bed comforter was half on the floor and somehow absorbed the whole glass without letting a drop hit the floor. Hail satan. I then had to wash all of my stuff, and this all happened at like 11 at night. I got to bed by one, amazingly enough. Also happening that night – I spilled my garbage, spilled a bag of aluminum cans, spilled some sprite on the counter, and went to answer the phone and somehow grabbed the receiver but not the cord, saying hello several times before I realized I had to untangle the handset cord from that fucked up mess where the cord gets twisted around itself a million times. That happened twice.

Nothing else is going on here…



Thanksgiving is a week from today, which is pretty weird. To me, it’s still the beginning of November for some reason. That lost time in Indiana threw off my internal clock.

I got no work done on Summer Rain last night, but I’ve been doing my scheming for the next issue of Air in the Paragraph Line. I’m trying to line up interviews with people – I have some good ideas, but I don’t know if any of them will work. I’m also thinking about other stories, writing, and ideas that might come together by the end of the year for the next issue.

The Beatles are still in the player, although I’ve wavered a bit and listened to everything from Saxon to ZZ Top over the last couple of days. I counted last night and I have 250 CDs at home. That might be the most I’ve ever had, but it doesn’t seem like that much to me. I’d like to have an even 500. I’m trying to buy up all of the CD versions of tapes that I have from high school on up, before they all disintigrate. Unfortunately, some of this stuff is impossible to find, but I’m having some good luck in finding old stuff like Saxon and Gary Moore on (expensive) import reissues. I just need the money…

I’ve been amazed at the number of dreams I logged in 1996 and how I’ve only remembered a few in recent months. I thought maybe it was because I quit caffeine and it was somehow supressing REM sleep or something. Last night, I left a pad of paper right under my glasses on the nightstand, and managed to write down two dreams that I don’t even remember right now, but I know they’re on paper. I’m hoping to get all of these down into a web page.


old journals

Last night, in a fit of research for Summer Rain, I found some old attempts at journals dating back to about 5 years ago. I put them on here [long gone now, sorry] for people to check out, even though they’re weird and don’t make a lot of sense to anyone but me.

The oldest journal talks mostly about the tail end of my relationship with Cheryl. After scanning some old email last night, I found that I first met Cheryl five years ago to the day yesterday. It’s strange to think it was that long ago, but even more strange to think about how much I’ve changed. I feel like I was able to work with people much better back then – I worked in the computer labs, had more friends, and was more “socially honed”. If I were single today and someone like Cheryl crossed my path, I wouldn’t be able to say word one to her. I know I was depressed back then, and upset that I couldn’t find a steady girlfriend. But hell, I was pulling em in like Jerry Seinfeld on a good episode. Why the hell was I depressed?

(Don’t answer that.)

After wasting most of the evening, I started some heavy work on Summer Rain, and I feel like I’m making progress on the first book. I’ve identified that most of it sucks, and there are some really bad dynamics problems that need to be fixed. The first book is about as long as the second and third books put together. There’s a short detour in the first book where I go home for a weekend and it turns into 11 CHAPTERS. Out of FIFTEEN. A third of the damn summer is that weekend. There’s lots of work to be done.

Am I the only person who saw that most of the Jedi religion was based on Catholicism? “May the Force be with you”/”And also with you”

It is, of course, raining like hell and dark outside. It is winter! I am not a believer of this El Nino bullshit, so I won’t take any excuses about a late winter this year. I think El Nino is an excuse made up by some corporate fuckheads to give a more PC explanation for global warming. Not that I care either way, really. If the icecaps melt, I will gladly sell my winter clothes and move to the Idaho-Pacific coast.


Remastering a two-track master

How do you remaster a two track master? I could see running it through some kind of filter, or digitizing it and using some weird electronics or computer programs to “clean” it. Maybe there’s something I don’t know about mastering and remastering CDs.

I’m babbling because I went CD shopping last night, and one of my picks was the new version of Hendrix – Electric Ladyland. No complaints about the mastering at all – and its cool that it all fits on one CD without any problems. The new artwork is cool, especially the hand-written letters inside. I like it because I had this album on vinyl, an old copy from the sixties that had warps and skips and problems, but I listened to it anyway. I still have a tape that I practically memorized, along with the skips and problems. Today was the first time I heard Little Miss Strange without a giant gap in the guitar solo, where my needle would always go airborne and jump past a good 20 seconds of the album.

This is the kind of album I like. It’s got lots of different types of music, and it is LONG. You can put it in and sit back or work on a book or some cleaning or whatever, and it plays out for a while. One of my biggest pet peeves about the death metal scene was that all of the albums were like 28 minutes long. By the time you put it in the player and sit down in your chair, its halfway over. Ladyland is an awesome album to put in on a rainy day when you don’t want to get out of bed. Actually, the song Rainy Day, Dream Away is the perfect Seattle song to play when you’re pissed off about the weather. It lets you chill out, and then from that, you go right into 1983… and everything is cool.

My other purchase was The Beatles (aka the white album). As a long two-disc, this is similar to the above. But the white album reminds me of a different period of time – I think I talked about this before – but about five years ago, I knew nothing about the Beatles, and just decided I had to own all of their albums. So I started buying stuff and reading books, and worshipping the Beatles. Because of this, all of my friendships and memories and problems and stories from 1992 are somehow set to a Beatles soundtrack. All of my Beatles stuff went when I sold most of my CD collection in 1995 (which was stupid). Listening to the CDs now is like some kind of time machine, which is both good and bad.

I’ve been thinking about only buying CDs that are older than me for the rest of the year. Of course, that isn’t too long – 3 paychecks, I think. I’d like to start collecting James Brown stuff, but that’s a lot of stuff…

I wanted to write today, but I spent my time doing, well not much. I should try to belt out a few words before lunch is over…


High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

I read this book about a year ago and thought “oh fuck! this guy has taken about every theme from my first piece-of-shit book Summer Rain and incorporated them into a novel that’s actually interesting, funny, and touching.” My first read made me both jealous and overjoyed. I kept the book around with a group of other novels that reminded me of what I needed to do during the eventual rewrite of Summer Rain. (other said books include John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, Rupert Thomson’s The Five Gates of Hell, some key points in On the Road, Shampoo Planet minus all of the generation X crap, and an ever-changing list of Bukowski fiction).

I’m rewriting Summer Rain now, for a lot of different personal reasons. Hornby’s book fell into my hands again, because I was too cheap to buy new reading material, but mostly because I wanted to keep thinking about Summer Rain, instead of buying some book about futuristic bug aliens that read minds and colonized the planet Mars or something. Reading his book kept me on track, and made me think much more about the new edits to my book. But, his story made me think of some other themes, and this is one that haunted me:

You can look back, or you can look forward.

Here’s the deal: this book is about a guy named Rob who is in his mid thirties and lives in the UK. He runs a beat-up record store out of the way in some dark alley, and works with two other characters who are total music bigots. I mean they have 40,000 records in their house, they listen to walkmen constantly, they are making top 5 or top 10 lists all the time (top 5 blind performers, top 5 side one, track one openers, worst 5 bands, etc). Anyway, the book starts with Rob talking about his top 5 breakups. Why? He just got dumped. And now he’s 35, pissing away at some tiny shop, wondering what’s next.

Hornby’s got all bases covered here. He’s hitting you with the hilarious and screwed up antics of this small record store, sort of like a UK version of the movie Clerks or something, and you’re also getting the quite real and touching story of this guy trying to figure out what it all means. He messes around with an American folk singer woman, and tries to look up all of the women he’s dated in some self-masochistic ritual of trying to find out what went wrong.

Like I said, this all reminds me of what went on in Summer Rain – the main character got dumped, and he spent the better part of a summer trying to find out what path to follow in life. But what hit me more was how Hornby had detailed a lot of the strange emotional conditions that had led to my writing of Summer Rain. I became a writer because I got dumped by somebody, and needed to find something to do besides sending her emails about every 20 seconds and asking what was so wrong with me or what did I do or would therapy help or is this something that happened to me as a child. And Summer Rain became a vehicle for me – instead of looking up my old girlfriends and asking them what was wrong with me, I could animate them, and watch them interact with the other characters in my book, and find out what went wrong during the course of the novel. I don’t know if it exorcised any demons, but it kept me writing.

Anyway, it is a good book, and worth reading. End of book report.

I went to see the band Dream Theater on Saturday night. It was a totally last-second plan; I heard about it on the radio that afternoon, and it was only $20, and right down the hill from me, so what the hell. The club is called the Fenix, and it’s massively small for this kind of deal. As a dance club, it’s pretty huge, but get a couple of big-dick drum sets and about 28 tons of amps in there, and it gets small fast. They sold out of tickets (lucky I got down there around lunch to buy one before then), so it was wall-to-wall leather jacket in there. I went by myself, and didn’t really talk to anyone, but I got there just as the opening back started, so I missed any awkwardness there.

The opening band pretty much sucked – some amalgam of the most annoying and marketable parts of U2, Pearl Jam, and Blind Melon, or something. They weren’t horrible, but I didn’t find them too noteworthy, and if you listened to 5 seconds of both bands, you could tell that this was the doing of some record exec. I was standing by some fratboys that were really into this band, which sort of proves my point. Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as seeing the Cult open for Metallica, but it wasn’t like seeing Primus open for Rush, either.

[Editor’s note: the band I mentioned above was actually Creed.]

I’m really into Dream Theater’s first two albums and their EP. I got an advance copy of their first album long before it was out, and played the damn thing thin. I wasn’t into their second-to-newest album, Awake, and I didn’t know they had a new one. So there’s my problem – they played a lot of new stuff, and I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Granted, it all sounded cool, but it was unfamiliar to me. After a LONG time, they did some stuff from the EP, then the first two albums, and I was into that.

The band’s pretty tight and all of the musicians are more than talented. It was weird to see them on such a small stage, but reassuring that so many people showed up. They did a lot of weird improv-melody type stuff. Long drum solo. Chapman stick. Lots of guitar. A keyboard player. Instrumental stuff. High-end operatic vocals. It was all there.

If you’re wondering why I don’t paint a broader picture, it’s because I am weird about concerts. It’s so anti-climactic in a sense, and although I recognize music perfectly, I can never remember the damn names to songs, let alone lyrics. So I’m not the kind of person that can memorize a set list and post it up here and talk about all of the exact technical stuff that went on. Either it was good, or it sucked. This concert was good. Not as good as the G3 tour, but pretty good.

I’ve decided I need to buy more CDs. And I need to get a new stereo someday. Hornby’s book reminded me that I was obsessed with the Beatles 5 years ago. Now, I don’t have any of their stuff on disc (I do have Revolver on tape). The White Album is this haunting return to this time when I lived in my tiny Mitchell Street apartment, hit on every woman that moved, and tried to program in C with every chance I could get. But, like Hornby taught me, you can look back or you can look forward….


Brushing teeth as muse

I’m at the point where I’m thinking more about the novel than other trivial things when I’m in the shower, eating, driving, etc. Today, I brushed my teeth, and then rushed to the spiral notebook for a pageful of ideas. Now I need to do the same with my amount of writing.

I used to tell people I would write for three hours a night: from 9 to midnight, and maybe more. It’s a romantic gesture stolen from Charles Bukowski’s fiction novels, and one I tried to live by. It never worked – I would eat dinner late, get in a phone conversation, go to Denny’s, shopping and Barnes and Noble, whatever, and not get started by 9. And I’d screw around on the computer, get distracted by CDs, and otherwise avoid the writing sometimes. But some nights, I’d burn away and write until dawn. I tried to write 2000 words a night back then, and I’d usually make it. My mistake was that I never wrote 2000 good words. I read so many books that said ‘get your first draft finished, no matter how bad, and then you can edit it). It doesn’t work like that – I can’t edit for shit, especially the jumbled mess I wrote two years ago.

Now, I’m lucky to get an hour of writing done during lunch, and maybe an hour later at night. I’m working on improving that, but it takes work…

I really liked last night’s episode of ER – I’ve always felt that the gutsy surgical bullshit got in the way of the human emotion behind the characters, and not the other way around. I guess I like the medical stuff to an extent – it’s better than exploding rocket launchers and stuff. ER is an addicting show, and aside from the dramatics, the writing really hooks me. It’s also how a show like Seinfeld can drag me in every time. For a show about nothing, it sure is loaded with a bunch of really catchy plots full of self-referential material.

I found out that if you put four whole apples and a whole lemon in a juiceman, it makes a kick-ass lemonade. The apples sweeten it, but the lemon’s taste overpowers it. It’s sort of slushy, like a smoothie. I think I might get some strawberries and try adding them, too.

It’s Friday. Time to finish up the work day, and get out of here for the weekend…


Mental roadblocks, celery MRIs

I’m already hitting various mental roadblocks during this new rewrite of my first book, Summer Rain. My new outline is not much more then a mental recollection of how the book is supposed to work. The problem is – sometimes I forget. And when I go back and try to reference the old draft, it corrupts things and I go from creating this new, more functional structure to just rehashing all of the old shit that’s in the book.

I read pieces of a year-old draft, and the amount of work ahead of me is overwhelming. Writing shifts from bad to poor, the story drags with no real ‘hook’ to it, and everything is sloppy. It goes from describing everything too much to having no descriptions at all. I like bits and pieces of it, but some of it is pretty corny. I’ve tried editing it, but I think it would be easier to just start over.

I got my stupid checkbook from Seatac airport. It cost me $2 to park there for 20 seconds and get the thing. But I was able to balance everything and pay another round of bills last night.

Does a cross-section of celery look sort of like an MRI, or is it just me?

I got a kick-ass Camaro catalog in the mail – I must’ve put my name on a list a few months ago. It’s mostly stuff for 67-69, and mostly original with some repro stuff. So it is all expensive, for people who want to pay $175 a tire to get the original Firestone red-wall tires for their totally restored 69 Z-28. Anyway, it’s got me thinking more about buying another Camaro after I unload this piece of shit Escort. I’d need garage space, though. We’ll see…

I had a weird dream about my ex-girlfriend Tanya. I was at some unknown house watching Apocalypse Now with Simms, Andrea, and this guy who lived down the street from my parents. He was on the phone with someone, and then hung up. I asked who it was, and he said it was Tanya and that they were going out. I told him that I dated her a while ago, and he started telling these stories about how they slept together on their first date and how she was really wild in bed, and I was getting insanely jealous about the whole thing. It was like being a Giants fan back when they totally sucked, and you give up on them, and then they get incredibly good. I woke up and thought it all was real, and I was still all jealous about it. I don’t think jealous is the word for it – I didn’t want her back or anything. It was more like a betrayal. I don’t know – maybe it was because I ate right before I went to bed, who knows.