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The temperature cycling has begun

The cycling has begun. I’m talking about temperature cycling, a feature of my wonderful apartment. Here’s how it works. It’s colder than hell out, or at least cold enough that being indoors is a better option than being outside. But it’s not snowing or anything – we’re talking maybe 47 and pissing rain. Normally, I’d run my heater a little and keep my room at a nice, cozy temp. The problem is that I live on the top floor of the building. And the assholes below me have their heat on the “solder” setting. And heat rises. So without my heat on, my apartment is about 115 degrees. This means I need to open all of my windows and let my apartment cool down to 47 degrees. And when I close them up again, my apartment is at an ideal temperature for about 3 minutes. Repeat this over and over and over until you feel a great need to buy a firearm and hunt down other people in the building like wild game in the forest.

I spent some time with my friend Virginia, at her incredible top of Queen Anne house, talking about some short stories of her. For a long period of time, she swore she would not be a writer anymore, and stayed heads-down at her day job. It’s good to see her mad at work on a bunch of stories and sending them out. I wish I would’ve brought bits of Summer Rain for her to read. And I wish I could spend more time talking shop with her or talking about anything, really. I think I can count the people in Seattle I’ll miss on one hand, and she’s probably the first on the list.

My day otherwise has been so off-center and odd. Not sleeping (due to the temp. cycling, mostly) threw me off majorly. But I saw the new taco (“El Taco”) at 7-11, which was not exactly as memorable as hearing about JFK or the space shuttle, but now Ray has another reason to drag me there at 3 in the morning. In a city as dead as Elkhart, 7-11 is the nocturnal person’s mecca.

I packed a bunch of stuff tonight. After my Monday drop-off(s) at UPS, the apartment will really start looking bare. Many books are now gone – most bookcases are in the trash, and about 7 big boxes are stacked against that half-wall. Plus, I got rid of another little shelf, and my last two bookcases are down to about 70% capacity. A few more boxes, and all of my books will be on the way. I’m also working on clearing out closets, and that’s more done than not. My next big, messy project will be sorting through CDs and tapes. I want to ship ahead anything I won’t need, and drive with about half of my discs in the trunk. I also need to get stuff recorded onto MD. I have a 45-cassette holder which I will fill with longer stuff, spoken word and whatnot, and that will be the backup to the 80-some MDs I will have pre-recorded. I’m glad I’ll be home all day during the week to figure this shit out.

It’s two and I feel like I’ve been running all day. I’m going to finish recording an MD and then get some shuteye.

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Last day at the job

It’s my last day at this job. Since this is the end of an era, I guess I have a lot of ground to cover.

First of all, I work for WRQ, Inc. It’s a software company that’s best known for Reflection, a line of terminal emulation products. I’ve worked here since June of 1996, when my job at Spry/Compuserve basically fell apart from under me. I started work here on the Macintosh version of Reflection, writing balloon help and other online help. In January of 1997, the Mac team was used as the basis for a Java team, and we started work on what became EnterView, a Java-based terminal emulation program. I was on the team for the first two releases – the second release just went out the door on Monday.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you search my journal archive, you’ll find no direct reference to where I work. I’ve always had a fear that if I offhandedly said something bad or top-secret in my journal about my job, that I’d show up for work the next day and get handed a pink slip. And I don’t really consider this job to be part of my identity or a part of me. I have no need to tell the world about what I do here or my office politics. When I leave this building, I leave behind my job. I never work on weekends. I never spend all evening talking about what I need to do at work. I try not to talk about my job when I’m at parties or other social functions. I work when I’m at work, and I spend my paycheck. As a human being, that’s how I think it should be. I could see why companies would want to brainwash their employees into thinking about their job 24 hours a day – it allegedly keeps them focused, makes them work harder. But my #1 priority is my fiction, and I’ve tried hard to make sure my technical writing does not contaminate it.

This hasn’t been a horrible place to work. It’s right on lake union, in two of the nicest buildings I’ve ever worked in. (Although the Musical Arts Center in Bloomington probably takes the cake.) I made good money, I got good benefits, and the company really took care of me. I got offices with doors, nice computers, free soft drinks, good dental insurance, garage parking, paid vacations, and lots of other stuff I never even had a chance to use. The people here are professional and treated me decently and I have no horror stories about the management or other coworkers, other than tiny pet peeves and boring meetings. No real complaints there.

This is the paragraph where I’m supposed to start the downslide, the one that starts with “But…” I can’t think of many problems with this job that weren’t my fault. Not that there’s any fault or blame, but I never felt like I fit in. I mostly work with people about ten years older than me who are interested in rock climbing and bicycling and saving the environment and doing Bob Vila stuff to their houses and going to little league games with their kids. If you know anything about me, that isn’t me. And I’m not saying that stuff is wrong, if that’s what you want to do. If you are a family person and interested in your community and everything else, that’s fine. But I’m not, and I’ve been afraid that if I didn’t conform to that, and think about my job 24 hours a day and make it the focal point of my life, that things would never work out here. And I was afraid that if I stayed here long enough, I’d wake up one day and have two kids, a minivan, and a Volvo stationwagon. So it’s not the job or the employer or anything like that. I think that most companies this size in Seattle have a similar demographic. And it required a drastic change for me to escape that. So here I am, packing up my shit and moving to New York.

My office is almost empty. It’s pretty new to me – I think I moved in this January. There’s an older building at 1500 Dexter that is very huge, very beautiful, with terrace decks overlooking the lake and a ten story tall atrium in the middle. I was over there until this recent move. My last office was on the tenth floor, and I could see the space needle. But the office pick situation got very screwed up this time, and now my office in the newer 1100 building is in the center of the floorplan, with no windows and no light except for the fluorescents. It’s a bummer, but since I’ve basically been hiding out and counting days since the move, it’s a good place to be. It’s not on an arterial hallway, and it’s rare that you see anybody walking past. It’s been a convenient location for being a short-timer.

When we moved in January, I hadn’t given notice, but I knew I was leaving. So I packed up almost all of my personal stuff and took it home, under the guise of streamlining my move. So my books, coffee mugs, Internet Bowl trophies, photos and everything else I accumulated over the last couple years are at home, waiting to get UPSed to New York. Actually, the trophies are already there. And last night, I brought everything home except my page of phone numbers. The place is now pretty bare.

It’s the end of a long era, and I feel that I should be saying more. The summer of 1996 seems like a hundred years ago. But, I’m excited to get out of here, pack up my shit and hit the road. I guess that’s all I’ve got to say about it. Maybe I’ll add more after I go home. For now, I’ve got to make some phone calls and get ready to leave.

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Written Picture

It’s time to do my next collab for On Display.
“write about where you are. paint a written picture of where you live, and of the random people you meet during a typical day. walk through it, looking with a visitor’s eyes.”

I live in Seattle, Washington, in a small studio apartment in a fairly new building. It’s on the hill between Pioneer Square and First hill, which gives a decent view of the Kingdome and the area immediately south of downtown from my balcony. It’s also unofficially called “pill hill” because it’s right by Harborview Hospital, and near Swedish, Virginia Mason, and a dozen smaller hospitals. That means that at least a dozen ambulances a day pass below my fifth-story studio, and I have the best view in the house of Harborview’s helipad. I’ve lived here since the summer of 1995, so I don’t even notice these things, but if you’re a new visitor, chances are you’ll get freaked out by the incoming choppers and ambulances.

I guess Seattle is beautiful and everything, but I didn’t move here because I’m the outdoor type. I can’t explain the clubs or museums or mountains, because most of my tenure here has been in front of a computer monitor or at a Denny’s. And in three weeks, I’ll be done here, and on my way to New York City. All I can tell you about the outdoors and Seattle is that no matter how far away you drive, the natural scenery will still be overwhelmed with yuppies, driving Land Rovers and Volvos, dressed in overpriced REI gear, and hauling around their precious children in expensive European strollers that cost more than my car. Don’t come here to spend time by yourself.

My apartment is small, and without any of my stuff, it would look more like a hotel room – nice beige walls and light wood trim that looks very institutional. It’s not much bigger than a hotel room, really – it does have a huge bath and a kitchenette that overlooks the main room with a little bar-like counter. There are some big closets, one of which contains a washer and drier. The place is carefully constructed to facilitate a single person who doesn’t entertain much.

There’s one big room, which is my bedroom, office, living room, practice space, and library. It’s nice to have everything combined, really – I love sitting in bed, getting up and taking two steps to get another book, or three steps to go to the computer and log on. It’s a very comfortable space for me to get lost in.

Right now, there’s a lot of chaos involved with the move to New York. About half of the 500 or so books in my collection are either in NY already, or in boxes waiting to be carted to UPS for their shipment. My book collection covered two walls on a ragtag collection of shelves, but it almost looks sad in its current state. There are a lot of other boxes and gear that’s getting ready for the shipping truck, and many storage areas and closet shelves are now bare. In the next two weeks, everything will end up on the truck or in the trash, so it’s an odd picture right now.

Next to the books is my computer. It’s not much to look at, a home-built Linux machine sitting inside a case I bought back in 1992. But the desk under it is like a timeline of everything I’ve been doing lately, covered with all sorts of shit. A 35mm camera – a wind-up metronome – Strunk and White’s _Elements of Style_ – the new Adversary CD – a Timex Datalink watch – a Sony MZ-R50 MiniDisc Recorder – instructions for Shanghai for the Gameboy – a checkbook from 1992 – Burger King Ketchup packets – a ginsu steak knife – Denny’s receipts from last December – a small notebook that I filled with obscene haiku – an address stamp for my zine – two masters from my old band Nuclear Winter – a highball glass from Kilroy’s bar and grill in Bloomington, Indiana – a 1995 promo from the Japanese hardcore band United – a word count log from December for my second book, Rumored to Exist – a ton of notes on index cards from my first book Summer Rain. Oh, and a keyboard, mouse and monitor. The desk is a kitchen table, small and originally from an RV or modular home, not sure which. It’s a piece of shit and will soon be broken up for firewood.

My stereo is almost always on. Right now it’s playing track five of Dream Theater’s latest album, Falling Into Infinity.¬†All of the stereo gear is Kenwood, except for a JVC tape deck and the aforementioned MiniDisc. My “entertainment center” is an endtable, which used to house a TV and some VCRs. The TV got sold a week ago, one VCR got returned to my ex, and the other is packed. Now the table is covered with about a hundred CDs. There’s a rack next to it with another 300, and another 100-odd discs are on bookshelves next to my computer. If you’re feeling industrious, go to my homepage and take a look at my collection sometime; it’s a real study in obsessive-compulsive disorder. I love my CDs though. From Anal Cunt to Frank Zappa, they’re all cool.

On the floor just next to my left foot is a pile of MiniDiscs, labels and cases, in various states of recording-dom. I’m dubbing as many CDs as possible for my two-week roadtrip across the country. There’s also the master pile of notes and sketches for Summer Rain. Oh, and my Hi8 camcorder and tripod are also there. And about five degrees over is a Hartke bass amp and my current bass, a Cort headless with the Steinberger Sound licensed tuner setup. My very first bass was an identical model, although in worse shape, so when I glance at it, I sometimes think it’s 1989 again.

I have a patio door over there which opens to a soot-covered balcony – I live right by I-5 – and I can see the Kingdome and all of that other stuff from there. Next to it is one of those huge sideways-sliding windows. When I open the shades, the place looks more like an air traffic control tower, but it’s a great feeling on one of the three days of the year when it’s actually sunny out. It’s cool to have that much glass facing the sky when it’s a clear night and it’s dark out, or even better, when the sky is dark grey and the clouds are light grey and quickly racing across the sky.

There’s not much more to go – just a bed, endtable, and dresser. My paper journal is on the floor – it is vastly different than this guy, and I’m much more religious about it than this. There’s usually a huge pile of books next to the bed, stuff I’m reading. But I haven’t been reading much since I’ve been so busy with the move. I think there’s a New Mexico tourism magazine and the Rand Mcnally atlas, and the Grimoire of Bass Guitar, a music theory book.

I was supposed to walk you though my day, but there’s not much left. I work for a software company about two miles away, but my last day is Friday, and all week I’ve shown up late, left early, and done nothing. I don’t have much human interaction because I am a shorttimer, and because I have the worst office in the world, tucked away in the bowels of the building. I talk to the guy across the hall, and every day we walk down the road and across the street to a deli to get sandwiches for lunch. Not much of a picture to paint though, I’ve been in my office planning my trip, writing email, and surfing the web.

After Friday, this will be my office for two weeks. When I’m not packing it up or throwing it out, I’ll be at the computer, trying to finish as much of Summer Rain as I can before I head out. That’s cool, though – I’ve done so much writing in this same exact spot, it’ll be good to get a decent run in before I left. I figure I’ve probably written close to a million words while sitting in front of this table. I hope to get another twenty grand in before the 31st.

This is turning into less of a description and more of a nostalgic garbage dump, so I better stop for now.

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Vomit bag storage

The start of a headache. Not sure why I’m at work at all. I want to go home, drag everything I own to the dumpster except the computer and stereo; put the rest in my piece of shit VW and start driving until it breaks down. Then fix it or get a rental car and leave its silver and rust carcass to die at the side of the road in the Nevada desert.

I almost typed Nevada dessert.

More open spaces are forming in my apartment as more stuff goes into moving boxes or garbage bags. I saw the top of my bookcase for the first time – since 1995, it has been a storage area for zines and assorted vomit bags I’ve collected from different airlines. And more stuff in the closet keeps vanishing, so you can actually see the shelves. It’s a good feeling.

I think I made it to bed by three last night. The night before, it was closer to five. That night, I was actually working on Summer Rain and had a reasonable excuse. Last night, I didn’t. I think I opened a file and looked at it, but not much more.

I’ve been feeling what I’d previously define as a low-grade depression for the last few days. It might be withdrawl from not having a TV to fill the empty spaces every night, but sometimes I get like this when there’s a slight gap in life and I don’t know how to fill it. I’m ready to be in New York, but I’ve got time to kill until then. If I was sentimental about this city at all, I’d be going to restaurants and crying about how much I’ll miss Discovery Park and the Space Needle and all of that. But I’m not that kind of person. I just wish I was moving tomorrow. The extra time gives me an opportunity to worry, or flash back to 1995 when I moved here. Then I think about how I first wanted to finish Summer Rain, pay off my student loans and credit cards, buy my Escort from the lease place, etc etc etc. I’d rather just leave in a hurry and not think about any of this.

It’s like the lesson of Summer Rain, which nobody really knows because I haven’t finished writing the fucking thing. But in that book, John (i.e. the fictional me) decides to stay in Bloomington for the summer and makes a bunch of promises to himself about what he’ll do for the summer – the justification – the job, the classes, waiting for his estanged girlfriend to come back to him. Over the summer, none of these happen. In fact, he fucks some of them up in fairly significant ways. But other things happen – he meets other people, he works other jobs, and he tries to start dating again. And in all of this, the book’s moral is that life never goes the way that you want it to, but it goes on. And after it goes on, you still look back at things that are technically mistakes and cherish them, maybe even more than if you hadn’t screwed things up.

And then I think about when Henry Miller left for Paris with five dollars in his pocket and nothing else in the world, and I think that at the very least, I have 550 CDs I can sell for food if I completely fuck things up.

I’m listening to Queensryche – Promised Land, which is their darkest and most introspective album, IMO. Songs like the title track and “Disconnected” have such a depth, but also a certain frequency which makes me want to sit on the deck and look at the traffic jam on I-5 and the red sun creeping through the clouds to vanish for the evening, and just sit there in depression and solitude. I don’t know, it more of a low-level thing like I was saying. Just a deep, heavy feeling. Maybe it’s just anticipation. I think I’m repeating myself.

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War on my apartment building

I have been copying Type O Negative albums to MiniDisc all night long. Working on Summer Rain and writing email to Conan O’Brien. Once I get 1000 messages to him, I am putting them all out as a zine.

I have declared war on my apartment building. It is 2:45 here. In a minute, I am moving my 200 lb dresser in front of the door, turning my bass amp up to 11 and practicing scales to a metronome for about 4 hours. I guess I should go to work tomorrow, though. We had some sort of party today, and the most interesting part were those cans of Guiness beer with the nitrogen widget in the bottom. When you open them, the nitrogen releases and carbonates the beer. I have no idea how much it costs per can, but you can probably charge a lot from people who think it’s important. In my opinion, beer is beer. Sorry.

I should either go to bed or get back to work on the book.

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The cleaning/packing process

Time for an update, I guess.

My typing has been poor all day, for the last couple of days really – I don’t know if it’s a slow net connection or some kind of mental problem on my end, but it’s annoying me. I’ve had a lot to do in the last few days, but all of it’s invisible – lots of emails, moving around files, tweaking websites – none of it real, visible projects. It feels once again like there are about 6 hours in a day. I think “I’m going to get started on my real work any second now” and then I realize it’s 2 in the morning.

Lots of stuff is going wrong. My car stereo went out, but then magically came back. My caller ID is broken, or maybe it’s just that nobody calls me anymore. I went to the dentist and got fillings, and now one tooth perpetually feels like its got popcorn husks stuck underneath it. And my fucking apartment rental company is fucking me over on my last months’ rent. I paid a last months’ rent, and now they are saying I have to pay a last month, and I will somehow magically get that money back when I get my deposit back. But I know and they know that in about 8 years, I will get a check for $47 and a receipt for a new washer and drier or something. The company is Equity Rentals. Never, ever trust them.

I’m trying to get as much of Summer Rain done as I can, given current circumstances. It’s slowly getting there – I have about 6 of the last 15 chapters done now. I’m hoping, as always, for a good weekend. Since I’m close to broke now, thanks to my apartment management, I’ll probably be spending the whole weekend inside, doing nothing but writing and playing bass. The bass is good, but I have a long way to go. Having a good amp helps. Falling asleep at like 7pm for 2 hours every night does not help.

The cleaning/packing process continues. I gave away or sold a handful of items here at work today, which is good – I had no idea what I’d do with a 12″ monochrome monitor. I’m also frantically throwing out everything I can, in an effort to at least make the place look a little more vacant. Because of this apartment bullshit, I won’t be sending out any boxes for a bit, but hopefully I can get a bunch of them packed this weekend.

I think it’s time to go home now.

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TV-free

I am TV-free. For a month. I sold the piece of shit today, and now there’s a gaping hole in the stack of equipment and cables next to my computer. My “entertainment center” is a coffee table, on which the TV, a speaker, two VCRs, a tape deck, a receiver, a CD player, about a hundred CDs, and a dozen or so VHS tapes live. Now it’s minus the TV, since it would cost me about $50 to ship, and that’s all it’s worth. And I sold it for $75. I’m already going into withdrawl though – I got home from work, plopped down on the bed, stared at the blank spot on the way, and… yelled FUCK! I now need to do something creative with my evening, for a change. So this is how I used to write 4000 words a day…

I have yet another stupid nostalgia-trip story. I was at the mall Saturday, and went into the mall music store, which is usually a good place to look at a couple of bad guitars and then leave. But on consignment, they had a white Cort headless bass, with Steinberger tuners. About ten years ago, I bought my first bass, which was identical to this one, except my old one wasn’t wired – the knobs were missing, along with the jack, back panel, wiring harness, and foil shielding. I bought my old one for about $100 or $150 and rewired it, but it sounded like shit and had horrendous buzzing problems. I also painted it all up and put stickers on it. This one was in great shape – the fingerboard and frets were decent, the paint was original and new, and the electronics were pristine. I had to hear how it sounded stock, so I asked the guy to plug in, and a minute later I was going through a nice Hartke amp.

Some background on me and the bass: I started playing in the last semester of high school, towards the very end of the school year. I bought this Cort bass as a graduation present to myself, and took lessons all summer from Jamie Magera, a local guitar prodigy. In Bloomington, I took classes through school, met a lot of other musicians, and never got to the point of being really good, but I did play in a Calypso band in front of a sold-out IU Auditorium, so I did okay. After I got into computers, bass fell by the wayside. I tried to pick it up again in 96 with a Fender Precision fretless, but it felt alien, and I didn’t do too well. I’ve always since wished I could play something, but I never had the time. Every time I see a band live, I want to be the one on stage. I wish I could record a 4-track demo and trade it with people. And when I got that bass in my hands on Saturday, it felt natural again. Steinberger-based basses feel very strange – the body is small, the scale is short, there’s no tuning pegs or headstock on the end, and some people can’t stand them. But since it was my first bass, it felt RIGHT.

A minute later, I whipped out my Visa card and said, “I’ll take it.” I also picked up a 20 watt Hartke amp, which kicks some serious ass – ampmakers have really gotten their shit together in the last ten years. I hauled all of the gear home, unsure of how I’d even start playing or learning. At home, I ran through scales and the riffs that I knew, and things slowly got back to me. And on Sunday, I got a strap, tuner, and one of those “Metallica Riff-By-Riff” books. It might not be a good start, but I used to know more of their stuff, and it’s got my fingers moving again. I think this will be the perfect new hobby to pick up, especially after I move.

Michael Stutz was here all weekend, and we hung out on Thursday and Saturday. I’d write more, but I just ate some really greasy pizza, and I think I’m damaging this computer.