Freaky dream

I had this dream Monday night that I had some kind of weird, parasitic, fungal growth under my fingernails. These little black dots, like tiny seedlings, were growing in a sort of paisley pattern that sort of reminded me of some sort of henna tattoo. But it was UNDER the nail, and was fucking FREAKING ME OUT. Any kind of fungal growth like that really bothers me. A friend of mine once told me she had some kind of infection or bacteria on her tonsils, and it was growing like little flowers on the back of her throat and it FREAKED ME OUT for like a YEAR. So I was going apeshit in the dream, trying to stick an x-acto knife under my nails to scrape away the stuff, and considering just going to the hospital and having them peel back my nails and then wear band-aids for weeks until they grew back. I was in a total frenzy, a shiver running through all of my skin, every pore itching every time I looked at my nails and saw these little creatures living under there.

I woke up, and looked at my clock, and it was about an hour until the alarms went off, so I turned on my desk light, and looked at my fingers, and THE FUCKING STUFF WAS UNDER MY NAILS!!

Then I really woke up. Holy shit, I hate dreams like that.

The Boston trip is planned and ready to roll, although I am no longer taking the last-minute special through Delta because they wanted to screw me into paying double for a hotel because I was traveling alone. So now I have another hotel booked, and I am taking the bus there, which only costs like $20 but involves four hours of sitting in a bus. I’ll bring a book, a gameboy, and the iPod.

What am I doing there, someone asked? John Sheppard is reading on August 1st. You can read more about the reading here. I am tempted to sign up for the open mic before the reading and rattle off a few pages of Rumored, but I don’t know if I will or not. Maybe, though. I will also be meeting up with a couple of other friends from IU, and I also want to check out the USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young, which are both a stone’s throw from my hotel. And I want to enjoy being out of New York for a long weekend.

Not much else to report, just playing Tribes: Aerial Assault constantly, and trying not to think about bugs under my fingernails.

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I just watched the movie Sneakers, which is probably one of my favorite movies of all time. It has a nice, twisty plot, and even with the fake crypto technology subplot, it’s a very memorable and fun movie. I actually saw it in the theater three different times with three different dates when it was playing in Bloomington back in 1992. It’s another piece of proof that maybe that year was my high water mark, as I could get three different dates inside of a month or so, and I don’t think I’ve dated three different people in the last three years. Anyway, the movie reminded me of that era, not only in reference to who I saw it with, but also the look of things. The toy company-slash-enemy hideout is decorated in that early nineties tech look that existed in Lindley Hall and other newly remodeled buildings when I was on campus.

Not much is up here. I have been borderline sick all week, so I haven’t been in the mood to write. I’ve been falling asleep after work, eating dinner late, having the whole evening collapse onto itself, and then oversleeping in the morning. It’s a bad pattern, and hard to break. I slept for almost three hours after work tonight, but luckily, it’s Saturday tomorrow (today) and I’ll be able to sleep in. I have planned another weekend of nothing, except maybe getting work done on this (still untitled) book.

So the Hussein brothers post-mortem photos are all over the internet, which is cool. I prefer the pre-internet method of hanging the bodies from a lamppost, but call me old-fashioned. What’s amazing is the fact that no matter how much the government tries to verify the identity of the bodies with DNA, dental, x-ray, tattoos, photos, height, weight, and everything else, there is still a plurality of people who call bullshit on the whole thing. Ever since JFK and Watergate and everything else, people would not believe it if the government told them that the sky was blue. If a leader is not captured or killed (like Osama), people say the government did kill them and are stringing it out to justify their funding and stuff. And if they do kill them, and they put the picture on every Reuters-powered news source in the world, people say “it doesn’t entirely look like him to me.” And I guess if we did capture Sadaam and put him up in Attica or something like we did Noriega, people would probably say it is his body double or some shit like that. Yet OJ’s golf score gets better every week, and I don’t see any people saying shit about him walking. I don’t get it.

I got a bunch of books this week, including an old (and somewhat mite-smelling) copy of On Thermonuclear War, the book published by a Rand think-tanker that coined the term “Nuclear Winter” (and later used as a cool band name by yours truly.) I also got a great B-52 book with lots of old and new photos, and tons of details on the differences between models and even upgrade blocks. There aren’t any pictures of my dad’s old plane, but it is mentioned in the text, and lots of other Buffs of the same vintage are pictured. It also has pictures of all of the B-52D planes that were stored in the desert and later destroyed with a giant chopping machine, which is pretty sad. I wish I could order one of those things surplus and park it on my land out in Colorado. The cabin would make a kick-ass bedroom, and I could set up a living room in the bomb bays. The fuel tanks could be replumbed into septic tanks, or maybe water storage. And maybe a little guest bed or observation deck in the tailgunner’s capsule.

I’m very tired and it is almost 2:00 AM, so I better split.

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2.4 Mhz of raw computing power, in the palm(s) of your hand(s)

Still hot as hell here. I think I hit my upper bound on hot food, too. I never really got used to spicy foods, as I lived in the Midwest and ate a lot of really bland stuff. In college, I worked with a lot of people into the cult of the chile pepper, which seems to be prevalent in computer geeks for some reason. I had horrible stomach problems for years, so I didn’t get started on this, though. Since I moved to New York, I’ve slowly tried to introduce hot food to my diet, but I can only do it to a certain extent. I do okay with a chicken vindaloo, and I’m to the point where Tabasco is pretty middle-of-the-road. But I’m nothing like a coworker who is both New Mexican and of the aforementioned chile/tech geek cult, who can put ten ounces of pure nuclear habanero sauce on a single taco without flinching.

I don’t know if I mentioned that I bought a Tandy 102 from EBay. They are very neat little machines, especially given their mid-Eighties vintage. They have a full keyboard and a 40 by 8 character LCD display. Their 8-bit processor and up to 32K of RAM ran a tiny OS with BASIC, a text editor, and some other basic stuff like an address book and calendar. What’s cool is that the whole thing ran on 4 AA batteries for twenty hours, and when you hit the on switch, the thing immediately came on, more like a calculator than the five-minute wait on a current Windows laptop. It has a serial port to connect to a real PC, and should be a neat toy to play with on the train or while sitting in bed. Maybe I’ll run a serial cable from it and use it as a dumb terminal off of my Linux box. Of course, I have a real VT240 collecting dust in my closet, so I probably won’t do much with it. And the size on this places it smack-dab between my SideKick and my laptop. But for only $45, it’s not too bad.

I’m currently in the process of re-reading a bunch of Asimov stuff in order. In my senior year of high school, I only had to take a couple of classes in the last semester, so I had a few study halls, an hour that I worked in the theater, a piano class, and a lot of other filler. I had high hopes of reading every book in the library, or at least the ones I found interesting. After I read every World War II book cover to cover, I started reading all of the SciFi they had in the place – Bradbury, Orwell (okay, not really SciFi) and I worked through a lot of the Asimov. I don’t think they had any PKD, which would have been great too, although it seems like all of the good anthologies of his stuff have come out in the last decade or so. Anyway, I am reading through the robot books (I, Robot,The Robots of Dawn, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun) and I’m considering going into the Foundation books, but it depends on how I do on the other stuff. I did some digging around, and I never knew that Asimov actually died of HIV complications. He had a heart bypass in 1983, and he got a bad blood transfusion. It was kept secret at his death, until a biography that came out last year. Pretty weird.

OK, I need to go write, if that’s at all possible in this heat.

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New Coliseum

It’s hot as hell, still. The only constructive thing I’ve done all weekend is watch the History Channel. Mail Call is on, live from the gulf, and it’s nice to see that the bridge of the USS Nimitz (“The Most Dangerous Four and a Half Acres on the Earth”) has a pair of fuzzy dice mounted inside.

I did manage to get out today and find the new location for Coliseum Books. This was a pretty cool, non-chain bookstore up on 57th Street where I spent many a dollar on new books back in the day. Not only did it have a good location, but they had a cool selection, especially of history and literature. Unfortunately, they lost their lease, and the location is now a Fleet bank. I thought that was that, but on my walk the other day, I found they have a brand new store on 42nd Street, near the public library. I went in today and dropped about $50 on some new stuff, including a John Fante reader and a bunch of Asimov that I read back in high school, but really want to re-read. So that was nice, as was the air conditioning.

I thought that maybe eating hot foods from hot regions would maybe help me out here, so I had Mexican tonight and Indian the night before. I figured if they ate hot food all of the time, maybe they knew something that I didn’t. It didn’t help much, though. I think I really need to move, or build some kind of astronaut suit that has air conditioning.

Oooh, they are blowing stuff on TV. Gotta go.

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The 4th

When I got out of Terminator 3 tonight, I felt like walking, even though it felt like it was about 95 degrees, and the air was thicker than oatmeal. Even with the humidity and heat, I wanted to knock myself the hell out of Times Square as fast as possible. I pushed myself from a fast walk to a slow march, and jumped off the sidewalk and into the curb to get past the slow-ass tourists in town for the weekend. The quick walk pushed my body more than two hours in a seat, and I hoped the pain in my bum legs and the huff and puff of drawing in bad air would make me stop thinking about what was in my brain.

No, I wasn’t pumped up about the movie. It was good, but not great, and the ending was dumb. It was weird to hear the name John Conner said over and over, for reasons obvious to anyone who’s read my books. And I guess I still want to fuck Claire Daines, but that’s pretty much a given. I guess one reason I wanted to walk was because I felt depressed and sort of out of it. Maybe it was the fact that all I had to eat all day was half a bag of artificial popcorn and a bagel. Maybe it was being alone for the holiday. I don’t know.

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the Fourth of July. I’ve had a lot of dumb shit happen on 7/4 in the last decade or two, stuff that had little to do with the birthday of our country. Really, the Fourth has almost nothing to do with our country – I doubt a single person in my neighborhood could tell me what the holiday is really about. (I thought it was bad when I saw a bunch of dumb-ass guidos wearing American flags as capes. Then I saw one wearing a Mexican flag. Pretty sure they don’t celebrate the Fourth of July there…) I’m a patriotic person, but I have this theory that it’s better to celebrate something at a consistent level every day rather than pour on the fake bravado for one day a year. If you’re going to drink, drink every day instead of being a sloppy drunk on New Year’s Eve. And don’t be a piece of shit 364 days a year and then pretend you are the best fucking Catholic in the world on Christmas and expect me to believe you. So I don’t wave flags, and I don’t go barbecue on the beach on Independence day. I usually sleep in, and I watch some TV.

Actually, I read for most of last night, then woke up early for no reason and read some more. I just got (and finished) the book Jarhead by Anthony Swofford, and it was the kind of thing I crack open and don’t put down until the last page. It’s an excellent account of his time as a Marine, leading up to his service as a sniper in the Gulf War. It isn’t gung-ho, Semper Fi bullshit; this is about how he hated being a Marine every single day, but that made him the best damn Marine ever. It’s how he was born in a military family and signed up at 17 and a half and wanted to quit during boot camp, but kept with it even though he hated all of the other Jarheads, until he realized he was every other Jarhead, and it was something he could never leave.

Part of me read the book and made me think of the few little strands of my life that followed his, and how I wished I could write a book like his about some great event in my life, but there isn’t one. Part of me wished I would have done a million situps a day since I was 14 years old until two blinks of an eye later when I was behind a Barrett sniper rifle dropping three .50 cal rounds into a dime-wide grouping at 1800 yards. Part of me wanted the kind of life where everything is so clean-cut, you can look at a man’s shirt and scan his ribbons and see everything he’s done in his life, and everything you’ve got to offer the world is based on your MOS and not what you want to do or what gets given to you or anything else. At a time in my life where I don’t really know what I want to do or where I should go or who I should meet, the thought of having someone come in and hand me papers saying I have to move to the Phillipines at 0800 sounds appealing, almost reassuring to me.

But all that’s crap. I know I’d hate the Marines. I washed out of the Cub Scouts after the first year because I didn’t want to learn how to tie knots anymore. I don’t know what would happen if I was fucked over at every turn by The Suck. I had enough problems working for a university and dealing with their bullshit hierarchy. At least they didn’t make me do pushups when I fucked up.

So I walked. It felt good once I got going, and when the small trickle of sweat on my back became a completely damp t-shirt. After the crowds, I made it up Park place, the area north of Grand Central where there are no pedestrian signals and every hotel and deli became a cloud of sub-arctic air condidioning against the city heat. I saw an indoor Audi dealership, and that big Met Life building that looks like the bottom twenty stories were eaten away by beavers preparing to tip over a tall tree. Armies of homeless slept on streets in front of banks with glass-walled lobbies bigger than my apartment building. There weren’t many people on the street, but those who were there blocked my way. I knocked over a guy at about 52nd Street who talked on his cell phone and blocked my path as I blazed past; he even looked at me the entire time, somehow expecting me to jump on the side of the building like spiderman or something. Finally at 59th, I got bored of walking, bought a giant bottle of Dasani, and got on a train. Two miles, and about 35 minutes. That was okay.

Oh, and I found out a weird thing about the 59th and Lex train station. If one train comes through the station, and you stand at the right place at the other side of the platform, there is a weird vacuum suction effect as the 8 cars displace their volume of air and dump it into one spot on the platform. It’s like the most powerful air conditioning burst in the world, especially when you’re covered in sweat.

Not much else. I went for another walk after I got back, to go get food. I put in earplugs instead of a walkman, and spent the whole time hearing my own body instead of the noise of the city. Each footstep echoed through my bones and to my inner ear; each breath of heavy, thick air pulled through my brain. Almost nobody was out on Steinway, and it let me walk even faster, just hearing the cadence of my shoes hitting the concrete, my lungs trying harder and harder to get more air. I’m so out of shape, and I almost wished I was that Jarhead running 19 miles in a MOPP suit in the desert, just so I could have my whole body and nothing else under me, instead of a set of creaky legs with corrective lifts in my shoes, a bunch of spare weight on my gut, and a trick neck that locks up after a 20-hour session on the monitor. I’d promise myself to work out, but in a life where I only have a few hours each day after work and sleep and commuting, buying a gym membership is a death sentence.

Anyway, happy birthday, USA.

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