Skipping school

I only skipped school twice in high school. (I think I only went to class twice in college.)

The first: I think this was in the fall of my senior year, but I’m not sure. I was driving in to school, and a bunch of fire trucks and emergency vehicles were blocking off everything. Firemen were telling us to turn around and go home because there was a bomb threat. What they meant is that we should come back in a few minutes and go about the regular school day. What that meant to me is to get the fuck out of there and do some kind of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off routine. I drove to South Bend, which was our closest mecca away from Elkhart. I went to University Park Mall, which wasn’t open yet, and slept in my car for a few hours. I bought the then-new Joe Satriani EP, walked around downtown South Bend, and then came back to school because I had to work at the theatre that night. Not much rebellion.

The second: I got a speeding ticket one night for going something like 87 in a 35. This meant a mandatory court date, and the kind officer summoned me to appear before a judge on a Friday morning. I should probably mention that the attendance office was run by someone who graduated magna cum laude from the Nazi school of administration. Every parent was called when a kind was gone. Attendance was taken every hour. The FBI crime lab was used to compare handwriting samples from sick notes. I could think of ways to break out of prison, but cutting class was another story. But going to court was a legit excuse. And I figured I would be in a waiting room all day until I got my turn. So I told the attendance office that I’d be gone all day, and they bought it.

I drove to court in South Bend, and within minutes, I was sitting there with the public defender guy and the judge in an insane plea-bargain arrangement, where I must’ve said the word “sir” 900 times in 3 minutes. I thought I was going to lose my license, and the judge made me aware that I could. Then he reduced the charge to 9MPH over the limit, and told me to pay my fine and get the fuck out of there. I budgeted and saved several hundred dollars for a reckless driving fine, but 7 minutes and $70 later, I was free. It was 10:11am, I had an excuse saying I was in court all day, and I had a bunch of money to blow.

I spent most of the day driving around South Bend, which, as I mentioned, was our mecca back in high school. I’m not saying it’s an incredible city (there are subway stations in New York that are bigger than South Bend) but it wasn’t Elkhart, and there were some unique stores and places to eat. There was also Notre Dame, and I was convinced as a high school student that there were dorms full of half-naked nymphomaniacs just waiting for an inexperienced male with a high ACT score. I guess I never thought that one through – Notre Dame is a religious school. Anyway, I spent the whole day gone and I got away with it.

Now, you ask, why the hell am I thinking about this? A new Rush live album has come out, and the last one came out around the time that the second hooky incident took place. This was just after my 18th birthday (1/20/89), a time when I knew I was going to IU, and I was just starting to step out of my shell for the first time. I was having my first disastrous experiments with dating, I didn’t have a curfew anymore, and the end of my high school career was in sight. Not only that, but I wasn’t taking any real classes, so I just had to coast for a few more months. It was one of the first times in my life I had a shred of self-confidence. The whole thing, even though I was getting ready to fuck up in so many ways before I even got out of the gate, is a very memorable era.

As for this new Rush album, I have mixed opinions. It’s not bad musically. I hate the packaging – it’s in one of those cardboard slip-case things that inevitably get worn and torn. I like that they included a third CD with a 20-year old show from the Hammersmith Odeon, and it includes a very eclectic playlist with a lot of songs they don’t play live anymore, at least not in full. (I disclaim that by saying I didn;t see them in 97 when they played two full sets, so maybe they do now.) Anyway, it’s both odd and great to have songs like Xanadu, Cygnus X-1, and Cinderella Man on a live disc.

I’ve been typing and not eating, and now my food’s cold. I better get my lunch finished.


dream journals, old connections

Sunday night, as I was falling asleep, I wrote an entire journal entry in my head, but I didn’t mention any of it in Monday’s entry, because I got sidetracked. (Writing things just before bed isn’t that unusual for me, but the same practice happens more frequently when I am asleep, and most of all when I am in the shower. I come up with all of my good ideas in the shower, which is a reason I’ve been afraid to move to another apartment for 4 years.) Let me see if I can recap the idea.

On Sunday, I called one of my friends in Indiana (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, but it’s obvious to those who know me) and in the course of our long and interesting discussion, a name came up that I hadn’t heard in a while. It was a girl that I’d hung out with five years ago, who now worked with my friend. That’s not too strange, considering how incestuous a social community Bloomington really is. There were many social circles, but they all collided in so many strange ways that talking about any person from our old gang was usually like talking about how virtually any rock musician is somehow related to one of Frank Zappa’s touring or recording bands. And in the usual fashion of our long and winding (yet very interesting) conversations, I started to tell my friend the story about how I knew this girl way back when.

It’s probably a boring story if I just dumped out the facts – girl x emailed me way back in the beginning of 1994, I spent a few months chasing her even though she wasn’t interested in me, she spent a brief period of time enamored in me, even though I had bigger fish to fry. She was cute, and fun to be with, but had some major issues. And hey – so did I; this was only a few months after Tanya dumped me. The spring of 1994 was a confusing time, and telling this story made me think about all of the other things going on back then.

The basic mood of the day could best be summarized by going to your local record store and shoplifting a copy of the Rollins Band CD Weight. It was the CD of the week for about three months back then, and it’s still not a bad little opus. If you put the last three songs on repeat, that would give you a feel for my life back then. The first song would be this eerie, quiet, art-rock-esque number with Rollins quietly talking about despair. Then it explodes into the second song, which is a speedier, pissed-off-Rollins thing, and the last spng is a more laid back song that talks about how you only get one chance so you better not fuck it up/make the most of yourself kindof rap. If you go get that album, listen to it 400 times, and then listen to the rest of the story, it will help, but I’m not going to force you or anything.

So I liked this girl, and we had a connection going, although it was more playful and childlike than anything else. We shared lots of inside jokes and emailed a lot and spent tons of time on the VAX phone talking. But I could never make the transition to real life. And then summer happened, and when she got back, I found out she got married to some dork she just met so she could get financial aid. End of story.

This is another chapter in the seven volume set entitled “Konrath’s lost and missed opportunities”, which, as many of you know, is also the basis of many of my best short stories. In fact, my last two good stories are about missed opportunities from the same timeframe, the beginning of 1994. At the time, I just wanted to get past it. And now, although I’m not saying I would trade my current situation for anything, I often think about those days. But who couldn’t? My writing career was only months old and beginning to grow, I lived in a pretty kick-ass apartment, I was in good shape, and even though I was busy 14 hours a day, I had a certain freedom that you don’t find in a 9 to 5. I’m 100% sure that in a few years, I’ll be looking back to 1996 as my prime, even though I spent half of the year wanting to drink a gallon of Drano and get it over with. I don’t think time heals all wonds – it distorts them.

Nothing else to report except that I actually slept 8 hours last night with no interruptions. I didn’t have as many odd dreams, but I did find my first car, the Camaro, in Edwardsburg, Michigan. I bought it back from the current owner. Then I met at a Long John Silver in Bloomington with my first girlfriend and the guy who split us up (they later married and then split, so I don’t know why they were together again.) I also had a dream where someone mentioned planting an autographed picture of Nixon and a bag of hash on somebody, but I don’t remember the context.

That’s all…


don’t have a theme

It’s one of those days when I don’t have a theme to start with. I’m sitting in my office, eating red bean and rice soup, which is welcome on a Seattle winter day. I’m sure that ten years from now, eating hot soup on a cold day will remind me of moments like right now, just like it currently takes me back to a snow-covered Bloomington, where the streets were rivers of slush and it was just cold enough to keep the snow on the ground. I don’t like the weather we have here, but I don’t miss the snow.

I’m listening to Slayer. More specifically, the soundtrack to River’s Edge. I finally found a copy after years of searching – I think it went out of print about 15 minutes after it was released. I found a copy during my freshman year of college, but stupidly sold or traded it at some point. The disc is an odd combination, with a bunch of old Slayer songs, along with Fates Warning, Agent Orange, and Hallows Eve. I only vaguely remember a Slayer song or two in the movie, but I think I must’ve had the soundtrack on tape back in high school, when the film came out. Either way, it’s great to hear the songs again.

Last night was my first insomnia-free weeknight in a while. I hope I’ve broken myself of the problem. I’m trying to go cold-turkey on caffeine, which should help. I’ve been having weird headaches and some real highs and lows, and I need to even that out.

Today’s not a great journal day, so I think I’ll split.


Piano, insomnia

When I was in high school, I finished all of my requirements except for one English class halfway through my senior year. Since I decided not to go down the Engineering road, this meant that I was in the middle of a bunch of very difficult and essentially useless classes. I somehow managed to con a guidance counselor to let me drop almost all of my classes and exchange them for a lot of fluff. This was a dream come true for me, since I had a serious case of senioritis. I hated my home situation, I hated my home town, and I was under the impression that when I got the hell out of there and went to college, women would be falling from the sky and I’d be recognized as some kind of cult genius for my advanced abilities.

This meant that my schedule consisted of a pre-calc class and a writing class. I had some kind of computer III course, but the teacher gave me all of the assignments in the first week, and I handed them back complete the next day. That hour of the day was spent writing a sport scheduling program, and trying to beat whatever was the hot new chess program for the Apple II back in 1989. My mechanical drawing III class was also humorous, because I was the only student. All of the advanced drafting classes met at the same time, and it was a big rumble of gossip, goofing off, and inside jokes. We did some CAD work, but we did a lot more goading and screwing around. I also got two study halls; I spent one reading every fucking book in the library from A to Z, and the other one working in the school theatre, painting scenery and hanging lights.

But the cool addition to my schedule was piano class. The school just started teaching this, and I was lucky to sneak in, since there were only about a dozen seats. I always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, and this class started at the beginning. Everyone sat at their own digital keyboard with headphones and learned how to read music, play chords, and poke away at various five-finger melodies in C. It was a small class, so the teacher worked with us a lot and we got to practive every day. I even dumped a hundred dollars on a cheap Casio for home so I could practice more.

I got up to speed pretty fast, and once we got to the point where both of our hands were doing different things, we got to pick music out of a few beginner’s fake books and work on different stuff of our own. One of my big projects was hammering out a watered down rendition of Beethoven’s 9th, rewritten for the beginner who has never left C. I’d never heard the real thing – the closest I got to classical music back then was Cliff Burton’s bass solo on the first Metallica album. But I spent a lot of time at it, and got it to a recognizable state. Ten years later, I think I could at least play the first few notes of it if I was in a piano store and wanted to piss off the salesman.

The anticlimax to this whole story is that I was listening to Ludwig Von and his ninth this morning. It wasn’t anything special, just a German knock-off that came in a super-duper-every-classical-recording-ever boxed set. But it was all-digital, and sounded tight. And within the symphony performance were the same notes I’d hammered out on that Casio all those years before. And it made me think of that final semester, probably my best of those 13 years of school, where I had fun and got ready to leave for the first time. It’s corny, but these are the kind of weird tricks my mind plays.

I slept last night. It’s more of an art than a skill to me. I could sleep all day, every day, especially if it’s cold like today. It’s only about 50 outside, but with the gloom and the clouds and the darkness, it’s nice to envelop myself in the covers and stay there, thinking and waiting for sleep. I can tell when I’m about to fall asleep, because my internal monologue becomes irrational and disjointed. I start thinking about multiplication tariffs and drag-and-drop garden plants and secret, transdimensional tunnels and classes I need to study for even though I graduated from college almost four years ago. It’s a nice feeling of confusion, though, and it’s why this insomnia bothers me so much. The self-conversation doesn’t slow – it becomes more of a manic frenzy as I keep looking at the clock. I try to put myself elsewhere and imagine that I’m sleeping somewhere else, like the bridge of the International Space Station, or at Marie’s, with her next to me, Henrey sleeping on my feet, and Mungo sitting on my head or trying to stand on my chest. Eventually I get to sleep, but it’s satisfying when it takes no effort, and the dreams are decent.

I’ve had a lot of weird dreams lately, probably related to the insomnia. The other day, my sister was barbequeing with David Letterman, and instead of his usual schtick, he was talking very solemly and offering her all of this advice and inspiration. They both graduated from Ball State – maybe that was it. I also had a dream that I somehow convinced a bunch of people that I held the patent for fluorescent lights, but when I tried to use it as a physics project, I got busted. Last night I was with my friend Virginia in a national forest that had been turned into a large, refrigerated greenhouse. Elevators and tram cars snaked through miles of tulips and carnations. We were talking about filming some kind of video where various trucks filled with colored chalk would dump the powder on a giant salt flat, weaving and manuvering in some choreographed fashion while a camera truck drove in front of them, and Joe Satriani played guitar. The thing is that these dreams are far more detailed than I can now remember, and I wish I could write all of this stuff down when I woke up.

Lunch is almost over, and I need to find a bunch of art for my January 20 page. I better split.


indexing hell

This is a quick test to see how things have survived the move. Not everything is hooked up yet. It looks like the time is screwed up – I am entering this in PST and the server’s in EST, so it looks like my entries will perpetually be 3 hours off. Bummer. I’ll be back to write something meaningful after I beat the indexing program over the head a few times and make sure everything works.

12/06/98 23:46

That wasn’t fun. My little indexing program written in C was not that portable – it contained a bunch of hard-coded pathnames for speakeasy, and I had to break out gdb to find out why it wasn’t running after I recompiled it (a missing slash.) This system isn’t as convenient as the old one, but I think I’ll eventually get it running okay.

It sure is weird being at bat again. I have many truly paranoid fears about my audience and people running across my writing, especially since I seem to be leading a dual life right now. But, I’m sure about 3 people are reading this, and it doesn’t even look like my site appears on any of the search engines yet, so I guess I don’t have that much to worry about.

All of a sudden, a million projects have fallen out of the sky. I’ve been spending my odd time getting up and running, and I wish I could work on it full-time. It looks so threadbare right now, simple HTML everywhere and almost no color or pictures. But it has some good content started, and I hope to whip up some stylesheets and more universal design and navigation for the whole thing when I get motivated.

Summer Rain still continues. I’ve been working on it almost every night, trying to finish the final third. There are some real problems with the dynamics of the last 15 chapters, but I’m slowly chiseling it out. I never did finish the middle third – I got about 85% done. I wanted to move on to something fresh, so I’ll have to go back and get to that later. The book is now over 200,000 words, and it’s going to need at least another 50K words before it’s close to done. I don’t think that will happen in 1998, but it might by next spring. I love working on this book, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s unsaleable. It has been fun and I think my friends will enjoy reading it, but it’s probably going on the shelf after its completion. I needed to get all of the autobigraphical bullshit and first-novel gaffs out of my system, and at least I’m learning a lot from it.

Rumored to Exist still sits on blocks, as does the unnamed time travel book. I probably worked on Rumored since I last wrote in here – actually, I’m sure I did; I had a pretty good run with it before I went to NYC in October/November, and got it “halfway done”. I’m anxious to finish it and unleash it on the (il)literate world, but I’m not motivated to work on it right now. It takes a special sort of highly focused, almost manic work ethic to drill away on that thing, and I’ve been too wiped out lately to do anything with it.

Other stuff – some potential writing and HTML jockeying for Rock Out Censorship; The next Dear Death column and assorted reviews for Metal Curse. Something else, but I forget what. I have a lot of ideas for various web projects, but no muscle to put behind them. And I’m journaling more than ever on paper – pages and pages a day. I got behind this year, and I’m trying to catch up before the end of the year. It’s stupid to push it when I have nothing to write about, but I’m trying to fill my notebook by December 31.

Life has been somewhat miserable lately, which is slowing my productivity. It’s the part of the year where it’s always fucking dark outside, and we’re getting the Noah’s Ark treatment with the rain out there. My car is about ready to fall apart, and has a substandard heating system in it. Driving a 200 pound VW in the 100 mile per hour windstorms isn’t leisurely. Since I think every car trip will be my last, it means I don’t get out much these days. The cabin fever and lack of any daylight reference means I become completely nocturnal on the weekends, and then during the week I am plagued by horrendous insomnia. This destroys me – last week I was going to bed and then waking up at 1 or 2, unable to fall back asleep. That makes the days a zombie death march, and destroys any work I need to do after my day job. I’ve been trying to get on some vitamins and supplements and adjust my schedule a bit, but it’s hard. I wish I had 30 or 40 hours a day to write, but I don’t. I’m learning the gentle art of scheduling, although I wish I could just write when I want.

And Marie isn’t here, and I’m not there. She will be here on Xmas, for a few days, and I will be there, maybe sometime in Feb, athough it isn’t cleared yet. I was in New York for the first week of November, and we had a lot of fun. I finally saw Conan O’Brien’s show live, and also caught a Daily Show taping, among other things. I miss her and I miss her cats. I can’t wait until we are on the same side of the country together. Plans are afoot, but until they are solid, they are top secret.

New computer. Well, mostly – I tore out the motherboard and put in a AMD K6-2-266 with 64MB RAM; I also swapped up to a 6.4GB drive. I went up to the latest version of Slackware as my main boot, and broke down and put in a second boot with NT 3.5.1, just so I could run Office in extreme emergencies. After some minor snafus, it’s all running fine.

Lots of other stuff, but I feel like I’ve been at the computer all day (I have!) and I think I’m going to Safeway or something, just to get out of here. I hope I can update more, but no promises…