Sleeping 20 hours

I took my last vacation day for 2002 today, and I’m glad that I did, because I started to come down with a cold, or at least the horrific sore throat part of a cold that usually happens when you live in a dry heat environment and have to run around in the cold and then get on a crowded subway with a bunch of sick people. So I went to bed at about 8:00 last night (not on purpose) and essentially slept until 4:00 this afternoon. I did wake up in the middle of that to eat a can of Dinty Moore stew and watch another episode of Band of Brothers. And after a shower and about a gallon of juice, I finished the last disc, aside from the special features. Overall, I liked the series a lot, although it’s probably going to be like that Moon series that Hanks did for HBO in that I won’t crack the DVDs again for another year.

The book of journal entries is slowly progressing, but it’s at the point now where I really need to worry about the end-game issues, most of all how I’m going to sell the damn thing. Part of me wants to send it to the publisher and then not tell a god damned person about it. Nobody will buy it, but it will be out there. I still need to finish editing, and then get together the cover and marketing crap. Luckily, the editing is going fast, and I’m not finding a lot of corrections. Of course, if I were to rewrite it, there would be lots of work, but I’m just fixing major mistakes. I’m not even fixing the fact that I used to use em-dashes like a motherfucker five years ago.

Not much else. I feel pretty fucking tired for having slept almost 20 hours, though.

Celebrating the birth of Christ with various war movies

Christmas.

I don’t have any giant, special, holiday issue of the journal ready. I didn’t do much for the birth of the baby jesus or baby santa or whatever. I mostly slept, and had some macaroni and cheese for lunch, and then ordered some Indian food for dinner, and fielded a couple of phone calls, and talked to my nephew about nintendo, and that’s about it. It was a nice day off of work, and I couldn’t ask for anything more, really.

My sister and brother-in-law’s gift to me was the Band of Brothers DVD set, which includes 6 DVDs inside a cool metal box, for a total of about 863 hours of viewing. It’s a Spielberg-produced HBO miniseries about the 101st Airborne in World War II, akin to Saving Private Ryan, but a different story. I’ve watched about six hours of it sofar, and it’s pretty incredible stuff, especially if you are a history buff like me. I look forward to wasting a good chunk of my weekend going through the remaining episodes and all of the special features.

I also got the special edition of Platoon the other day, and spent all of Christmas Eve watching that with the commentary. Between these DVDs and my video games, I know enough about war to start my own army. I’m glad I’m too old and too out of shape to make it into officer’s candidate school, or I’d probably sign up for it.

It’s snowing out, one of those winter white christmas wonderland snows. It was just raining with cold temps, then it started hailing, then slush, and now it’s white enough for Bing Crosby to start singing about it. I went out earlier today to go to the drug store (and the god damned pharmacy was closed even though they said they would be open) and I had to battle through some impressive downfall to get there. The wind is the worst – it cuts through everything when it hits. 25 mph gusts. Not fun.

I’ve been editing and slowly working on the book of journal entries, and it’s getting there. I think I will try to get it to the printer by the end of the year, and then it will take them a couple of months to figure it out.

So that’s Christmas. Back to work tomorrow, then a three-day weekend. Hope your holiday worked out.

Ground zero

I had another weekend of doing almost nothing, and then I decided to go out today and spend a few bucks on DVDs. I went down to J&R’s, and for some insane reason, decided that I really needed to go see ground zero. I’d previously said that I would never go down there and be one of those stupid tourists looking at a hole in the ground like it was the largest ball of twine on display in the middle of South Dakota at a roadside marker or whatever. But I did decide go to once I was down at City Hall, so I walked over there.

I don’t think the site would be that impressive to someone who hadn’t been down there before, when the towers were standing. Aside from the banners and displays and signs hanging on a fence, the place doesn’t look much different than any other construction site. And I didn’t spend a lot of time down there before, but I did have a mental image in my head of the pre-9/11 layout. So when I started walking down Vesey and got my first clear shot of the area, it was like being hit in the chest with a lead plate. It was so dramatic, seeing that big piece of the landscape plucked clean and replaced by a giant pit of nothing. I really wasn’t even thinking that much about the people who died there or the greater symbolism or any of that other shit. I just looked at the surrounding buildings, the things that were made famous by the videos and the news stories; the giant pit of the WTC 7 foundation, the fucked-up Verizon building, and all of the surrounding structures that are now pretty much back to normal. There are still a lot of fences and opened-up manholes and torn-apart sidewalks and stuff like that, and that’s the biggest indicator of the area to people walking by. You can’t really see into the bathtub from the street, and you can’t see the same shot that every aerial photo on the news shows. It doesn’t look that impressive or huge when you are standing in front of it – the whole area is only 17 acres. But it was there. And it was pretty weird.

That was the only noteworthy part of the weekend. Other than that, I sat around, edited this journal book, watched a lot of dumb movies, and that’s about it. I have to work this week, but only Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. No holiday plans, just editing and Grand Theft Auto, which isn’t too bad. Our Xmas weather is going to be in the 40s and raining. I can deal with that.

Dio and Broken Arrows

I had tickets to see Ronnie James Dio at Roseland last night, but I was so tired and miserable by the end of the day Friday, that I just wanted to go home, order some food, and sleep. It was a long week, there’s this looming MTA strike, it gets dark at 4:30 now, and it’s rainy and 40 degrees pretty much all the time, so I didn’t feel like waiting in the rain for an hour to see four shitty opening bands all for Dio.

Instead, I got some Indian food and watched a DVD I forgot I hadn’t watched yet. I got this three-DVD set of documentaries about atomic weapons by Peter Kuran a while back. They’re pretty cool; one is called _Trinity and Beyond_ and it’s your basic “about the atomic bomb” movie, but with a lot of new footage I’ve never seen. It also includes some 3D footage and the red and blue glasses, but it’s not a very good effect – maybe either my TV or my eyes are not calibrated correctly. There’s also _Atomic Journeys_, where they go to various places bombs were tested, including the test sites I visited in New Mexico in 1999.

The third movie, which I forgot about and just watched last night, is called _Nukes in Space_, and it’s all about various high-altitude nuclear tests by the US and USSR, plus a lot about the history of the ICBM and ABM. This is incredibly fucked up stuff and I never knew about a lot of it, but the US did tests where they tried to inject bursts of high radiation into the Van Allen belts to see what would happen. These top-secret tests, called Project Argus, were (at first) from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and they basically found out they could completely fuck up radio waves with the EMP that would be carried through the belts, which they thought could eventually develop some kind of all-out radio and radar fuck-up weapon against the Russians. A later test in the Pacific fucked up radio transmission across the ocean for three or four days and even knocked out the power grid as far away as Hawaii.

Lots of other weird footage on that DVD included LOTS of failed rocket takeoffs, which you can see in _The Right Stuff_, but they had a lot of alternate views and other launches. They showed two launch failures in the Pacific that WERE ACTUALLY CARRYING NUCLEAR WARHEADS! The warheads did not explode, but they did get consumed by the huge fireball of hot-as-the-sun propellant, which probably did something to the value of property within a 100 mile radius. Oh, also they showed the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, better known as America’s only (formerly) operation ABM base. It’s located very close to where I was born, and was in fact designed to protect my birthplace of Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. (They did not build this to specifically guard the base because I was born there; although I’m sure some of you appreciate my contributions to American literature, I don’t think the military does.) The SRMSC is a really fucked-up looking place, and looks more like a Mayan burial ground or some kind of 70s sci-fi movie set, because of the strange buildings and antenna. It was built, but then when Congress was dealing with the 1972 ABM treaty and the fact that newer Russian missiles would probably get around the highly complicated and expensive system, they scrapped the program – exactly one day after it was fully operational. Now, it sits dormant and maybe someday if Dubya decided we need to spend another 40 billion on anti-missile programs, they will reopen it.

While digging around for info on the SRMSC, I found a cool site called Cold War Leftovers that has some excellent pictures of the Safeguard site, plus a bunch of other stuff like abandoned Nike Missile sites and planes stored in the desert. Pretty cool stuff.

Not much else is going on, other than the threat of an MTA strike. If it happens, I will stay at home and work. I have FrameMaker and Windows on another partition, and I have all of my work stuff on a CD-R. I really don’t know if they will strike or not, but everyone seems to be ready for the worst. I really hope they don’t, just for the sake of the city’s economy. Nobody’s getting raises; I don’t see why the MTA should be any different.

Anyway, I’m arguing whether I should go into the city and get something to eat and either brave a movie or pick up some DVDs, or stay here, order some food, and rewatch some old stuff. It’s raining on and off, so it’s a tough choice. We’ll see…

Stone-cold radiators and the threat of a transit strike

I’m in an all-day meeting today and we broke for lunch at 11:00, so here I am, updating early and eating Wendy’s.

I went to bed early last night and woke up at about 3AM, my room freezing. I got up and found all of the radiators stone-cold, and the hot water somewhat lukewarm. This immediately launched me into a severe panic attack, with visions of spending the next week bathing in my kitchen sink with hot water from the stove and running the spaceheater for a tiny amount of warmth. I don’t know how I managed to fall back asleep, especially since the last two nights were filled with insomnia and looking at the clock every hour and hoping I would get in a few minutes before the alarm went off. But I did fall asleep, and at 6:00, I heard the creaking of water in the pipes and when I felt the radiator, it was slowly getting warm again. So the hour from 6:00 to 7:00 was the most wonderful sleep in the world.

The threat of a transit strike still looms over the city. I won’t go into the details, because I’m sick of repeating them, but you can look them up anywhere. Basically, if the union and the MTA don’t agree to a new contract by Sunday, the trains won’t run on Monday. I talked to my boss, and have a contingency plan: I will burn a CD of all of my Framemaker files on Friday, and if there are no trains on Monday, I stay home until there are trains. It actually wouldn’t be that bad, not having to ride the train in the morning and battle the cold; I could sit at home and listen to music and eat peanut butter and jelly every day and get work done in retreat. It would add an extra two hours to my day. And I normally don’t have meetings anyway. So we’ll see what happens.

Still working on the book, slowly. It’s above 60,000 words and my goal is 70-75K. The writing needs a lot of editing, though. I feel like I’ve said this over and over again, so maybe I should stop saying it.

I watched the movie Dark City the other night, at least part of it, and it’s nowhere near as good as I remembered. The scenery didn’t look as stunning as I’d remembered, and the plot was so forced that it seemed silly. I’ve heard the movie is much better if you turn the sound off until the first appearance of Kiefer Sutherland, but I haven’t tried it.

OK, gotta finish eating.

GROVER CLEVELAND WAS NOT TWO PEOPLE

So yesterday afternoon I was watching CSPAN-2, mostly because I couldn’t fathom leaving the house because of weather and lack of money, motivation, and purpose, and also because all of the other channels I get on my half-assed bootleg cable setup were either showing infomercials, college football, or hunting programs. Anyway, I was watching some kind of award dinner where some group was giving George Bush (the first one) some kind of American patriot award. Even though I hate GBI, I was watching because they were showing some historical retrospective slideshow of his life. And the narrator said “Only 42 other people have known what it is like to be president.” WHAT THE FUCK? GROVER CLEVELAND WAS NOT TWO PEOPLE, YOU COCKSUCKERS! I knew about this in the third grade, and someone who makes twice as much money as me can’t look this shit up in an almanac?

Okay, I did look it up in an almanac just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. Cleveland was the 22nd president in 1885-89 and the 24th in 1893-97. Other trivia about Cleveland:

  • He had oral cancer from cigars, and had a tumor removed secretly; an operating room was set up in a yacht in the Potomac, and he had the surgery while he was allegedly on his way to vacation.
  • He allegedly fathered an illegitimate child in 1874 with a woman named Maria Halpin. During the 1884 presidential campaign, he never disproved that the child was his, but he never admitted it either. He did, however, offer financial support to the mom and kid.
  • He drank a lot of beer. He also had gout, which is directly related.
  • He was the second-heaviest president, behind Taft.
  • There’s some conspiracy behind his 1908 death, and some modern doctors think he may have had Alzheimer’s. He had a rapidly deteriorating mental state, but some say it was probably too rapid for Alzheimer’s.

I found an excellent site here that has a lot of information on the health of presidents. After reading it, I think it’s pretty clear that every person who was President had pretty severe medical problems. Even JFK, who was supposed to be a young and healthy guy, was on more prescriptions than my grandma took when she was 72 and months from death. I think Carter is probably the healthiest president. And I didn’t know Clinton wore hearing aids. Guess I missed that one.

Anyway, nothing has been going on here. I haven’t left the house all weekend, although I think I might go to the book store in a little bit here. It’s just been one of those weekends where sitting around and playing SimCity for 7 hours straight is more interesting than getting out. I don’t know if it’s weather or depression or what, but all I want to do is sleep. And read the almanac. It’s the ultimate zero attention span book. I just wish I had a newer one – this one is the 1999 edition, which means it was really written in 1997 and the most important stuff was updated in 1998.

OK, I need to finish my canned peaches and find my shoes. Oh, I’m also pissed and a bit freaked that MTA might strike in a week, because there’s no way I can walk 4 miles to work in December, or pay $20 each way for a taxi. More on that later.

All the people I’ve hit lately

I keep forgetting to write about all of the people I’ve hit lately. No, I haven’t been watching too much WWE wrestling, and I haven’t been picking fights. First, about a week ago, I was coming out of the ATM area of my bank, and as I opened the door, I saw someone was walking right into it. I slightly closed the door, and hoped they would notice it, but they didn’t. He walked right into the fucking metal face-first, fell on the ground, and dropped everything. I simultaneously offered my greatest apologies while trying not to bust out laughing because the guy was such an idiot. Then the next day, I was walking on Steinway Street and adjusting my walkman so my elbow was out. This kid was running at top speed toward me while his head was looking back and he was yelling “Mommy! Mommy! Buy me things! More sugar! Mommy!” in Spanish, and BAM! He ran EYE FIRST right into my fucking elbow, fell to the ground, and had a fit. Priceless.

I haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, mostly because the local news has been flooded with these retarded “problem-solver” shows where they track down someone’s bridal photographer to shake down some money out of them for fucking up their pictures. How this is more important than the city’s money problem or the nation’s wars, I don’t know. And I don’t have CNN, or the time to deal with any national web site. I know there are all of these small sites with various conspiracy theories about how Wellstone’s plane was blown up by the CIA or whatever, but I just don’t have the fucking patience anymore. I know we’re all supposed to be all plugged in and informed and active and think globally act locally and everything else, but I can’t even convince my landlord to turn on the heat most of the time, let alone get Bush to stop a war.

Besides, I’m a firm believer that sweeping changes of any sort, good or bad, simply won’t happen in the world, because even tiny changes take so damn long to get through so much resistance. Pot will not be legalized in my lifetime. We will not set foot on Mars in my lifetime. There’s a pretty good chance we won’t set foot on the moon again while I’m still around. There might be a third party president; there is a small chance that there will be a black president in the next hundred years, and a smaller one that there will be a woman. I don’t say these things because I beliece they are great or because I want to see them. I say these things because these almost no-brainers won’t happen, yet a lot of people think we’ll abolish corporations and pass the 18-week vacation plan and stop consumerism and ban the automobile and repeal income tax in the near future. It’s not going to happen. Life is mediocre, and the mediocrity will continue until we’re hit by an asteroid. Learn to work around that given.

And quit bothering me about the war, people. There won’t be a war. There hasn’t been a war since 1945. There might be a police action, or maybe UN troops will be deployed. But I’m not a policeman, I’m not in the army, and even if I got drafted, I have enough medical problems to keep me safely behind a desk. War kills people, but so do cars. So do unpasteurized vegan juices. I’m not that concerned about sending the lower fifth percentile of high school graduates to go play cards in the desert for six months. The government does much more evil shit than send people to Saudi. But when you realize the government is no hero and no great hope and no perfect system, the easier it is to ignore CNN and live your life.

Sorry for getting all preachy, it’s been one of those weeks.

Baby in Holland, toys in Japan

I forgot to mention that my friend Danielle had her second baby girl the other day, on the 29th. Her name is Delphine Isabeau Mariel Mutsaers. 10 lbs 9 oz. 23 inches! Dani lives in the Netherlands now, so I have not seen her in a couple of years. I want to visit there at some point, although it is about third on my list of countries I want to visit, with #2 being Poland and #1 being Japan.

I had a long conversation with Ray last night about visiting Japan. I know the prices are insurmountable, but they are here, too. If I could get the airfare down, I think I could do it. I’m not interested in the super-high-end restaurants; I would be going to the Japanese McDonald’s and the Tokyo Denny’s, eating in those pork bowl restaurants and from vending machines. The killer would be that I’d want to buy an incredible number of CDs and gadgets. Ray really wants to somehow scam together a trip, and I really, really want to go somewhere significant next year. I think it would cost at least $3000 – a grand on airfare, another thousand on a hotel, and the last thousand on food and crap like taxis and subways. On top of that, I would need money to spend on gifts, gadgets, whores, whatever. I might be able to pull together $3000+ in the next year to blow, but I doubt Ray could. So who knows. It’s something to think about.

I also really want to get Ray out to Las Vegas, but once again, no money. He has a Costco card, or actually I think it’s a Sam’s Club card, from his Mom’s business and he uses it constantly to buy videos and shit when he can sneak them in. I devised this strategy that I think I will use in a story, that he could drive to Las Vegas and just stop at Sam’s Clubs across the country. He would be eating big boxes of pop tarts and nutragrain bars; he could buy one of those camping coolers that plugs in a cigarette lighter and keeps the big cases of Pepsi cool. At night he could pull over and camp out with a Honda Generator and a self-inflating bed. Once he got to Vegas, he could sell us a bunch of stuff for cash, like movies or video games or batteries, and then he would have money to gamble. That could make a good short story.

(The fucking Sam’s Club site won’t give me a national list of all of the locations. I’m paranoid about writing this story, and then it turns out there are no stores west of St. Louis or something.)

I’m serious about the Japan thing, by the way. If you have any stories or tips, let me know. I realize there are a lot of small things I’d have to deal with on such a trip, but I think the biggest would be paying a grand for tickets. And yes, there probably were cheaper tickets at some point, or I could do some crazy courier/supersaver/discount ticket thing, but I think I’d rather pay full price and hold an actual ticket. And tickets are damn expensive these days. I don’t know why, although the mandatory terrorist taxes and increased staffing probably doesn’t help things much.

I wish I was still in touch with my old friend Reece Conrad. He lived in Japan for years and always had info on that shit. Ray has a couple of friends there, so maybe I need to crack down and start writing people…

54,268 words

54,268 words into this book about Bloomigton, I’m starting to get really sick of it. Not the book, but the writing. And the idea for the book. It’s like the old game where you say the word orange 800 times and then wonder what the fuck orange even means. The stories are blending together into a weird murk, and the writing gets to the point where I feel like any sentence that isn’t “I was ______” starts to look funny or sound wrong. It’s all collapsing in on itself, and if I had another feasible project, I’d switch and work on that for a while. But I don’t, and the thought of starting something else up is pure murder. So I’m going to try to keep going as long as I can.

One of the current ballbreakers is that I’m trying to rewrite this story I wrote back in 1996 called _The Merch_. This was a long-running piece of folklore between me and Ray Miller, and I wanted to document and also have him write his version of it. He didn’t finish his version until about five years later, and I knew they would be different. The basic summary is this: in 1992, me and Ray went to Chicago. We were walking off a few beers we had earlier with a guy from a record label, and near the Hard Rock Cafe, this dude came up to us and offered to sell us some portable CD players for an incredibly cheap price, like $20 or something. Long story short, we end up driving this guy around for three hours while he uses Ray’s money to buy crack, smoke it in the car, and then leave us in the middle of the worst neighborhood in the midwest.

Now the thing is, Ray insists that my story makes him look like a dick. But the whole reason the entire incident happened is because he honestly thought he was going to get a CD player. Even after the guy left us and it was three in the morning and we had no money and no gas, Ray was still like “I hope that CD player has a car adapter, too.” It’s just who he is. If you wanted to rob him blind, go to his house and say you have a bunch of Godzilla toys that aren’t out in the US that you will sell for a dollar each, and you need to come inside. If you shoot him and leave him for dead, his last words would be “do you have any Megaman toys, too?” That’s not some horrible character fault, it’s just who he is. And it’s why we spent a lot of time driving around to the middle of nowhere and paying too-high cover charges at piece of shit bars – because he always thought that around the final corner, there would be the holy grail of pussy or something.

So the Merch story has been hard to edit, and it’s all very passive, but to make it active introduces a lot of really retarded dialogue. It’s a lot of work, and it’s hard to motivate myself on this project. I just found out that up to September 30, I sold 34 copies of Rumored to Exist. That’s probably twice as good as Summer Rain did, but when you consider the amount of time I put into the book, it’s not much of anything. I’m hoping to do a bunch of these zines and give away as many as possible, and maybe have a piece of Rumored in there so people will check it out.

OK, I need to get back to editing.