What I read in 2003

What I read in 2003

This is a mostly complete list of the books I read in 2003. I compiled this list at the end of the year from my Amazon purchases, things I mentioned in my journal, and by going around the house and looking at the books on the shelf and floors. It might not be complete, and it doesn’t include travel books or anything that I started to read and didn’t finish, or books I only browsed. Most of these reviews are fairly positive because I have a tendency to quickly abandon books I don’t like.

The list is in no particular order. Links go to Amazon pages for the books, when available.

An Act of Contrition by E. Greenwood

A friend of mine wrote this book under a pseudonym, and I was glad to finally get a copy after all of the trouble she had with her Print on Demand publisher. It’s full of solid writing about personal experiences, and pretty dark stuff.

B-52 Stratofortress: Boeing’s Cold War Warrior by Robert F. Dorr

I’m glad I found a copy of this out-of-print UK book, because it’s absolutely the best book on the B-52 I’ve ever seen. There’s a model-by-model breakdown, excellent coverage of the initial prototypes, and many, many photos. All of the attention to detail, like the appendix that details where every B-52 has ever been, is incredible.

Cloud Dancing: Your Introduction to Gliding and Motorless Flight by Robert F. Whelan

This is a well thought-out book about gliding that is more in the form of long essays, telling you not only how flight works, but also what the culture and color and feeling is like by example. You should read it from start to finish, but it does have some figures and reference material too. It’s very dense and contains a lot of information and inspiration for only $14.95.

Dirty Little Secrets of World War II : Military Information No One Told You by James F. Dunnigan and Albert A. Nofi

This book was nowhere near as good as their similar title about Vietnam, which is incredible and I could probably randomly read it for months on end. But it’s still not bad; it contains a lot of random trivia and factoids about the war, and works best if you open to any old page and start reading.

Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota by Chuck Klosterman

Julie told me to check this out when I was thinking of writing a heavy metal-based book. I bought it, but thought it would be a fiction story about some dudes that listened to a lot of metal, set in the 1980s or something. So I was slightly bummed to find that this is actually a book of critical essays and discussion of the heavy metal period. Klosterman is a good writer, very funny and can capture the moment very well, which made me really like the book, even though our music tastes did not entirely overlap. He absolutely loved Poison; me and my friends absolutely loved to make fun of people who liked Poison. But I agree with a lot of what he has to say as a near-past anthropologist, and I look forward to checking out his other work.

The Joy of Soaring: A Training Manual by Carle Conway

This oversized book is pretty much the bible of glider flight, and has been around for ages. The large-format photos are great, and there’s excellent advice and terminology to be found. It’s almost more of a history of soaring since the end of World War II, so things might be dated, but it’s still worth reading. It’s been out of print for a while, but if you can hunt down a good used copy on Amazon, it’s worth it.

Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S. Thompson

Here’s more good work from the Doctor of Journalism. This book is essentially a memoir, telling about his run-ins with the law and the establishment. But the stuff that I enjoyed the most is when he goes off-tangent and gets in a long, fueled run about some crazy encounter that builds up like an old-fashioned story on methamphetamine. Although I liked his books of letters, it was good to get a “real” book from Thompson to enjoy.

On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn

This book is impossible to find, and more impossible to read. It’s a text that came out of the Rand Corporation think-tank back in the early 60s, and was one of the first to coin terms like Massive Retaliation, Mutually Assured Destruction, and Nuclear Winter. This book is dated enough to suggest that the world could survive an all-out nuclear war, but it doesn’t advocate it, either. If you’re ever at my house, ask to see my copy, but don’t expect to find one at your local Borders.

Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend by Jeffrey S. Victor

Remember when Geraldo said that a million Satanists were in America, and every other day care center in California was getting shut down because the owners were into black magic, based on witness testimony from little kids? This book talks about the modern “witch trials” having to do with cult crime in the 1980s, and largely talks about urban legends from a sociological point of view. Of great interest is when he debunks and documents a rumor about “some witches” who want to “kidnap” a “blonde girl”. Hey wait, didn’t my cousin’s friend’s brother tell me about that?

The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

I was an avid reader of alt.folklore.computers for years, and I love a good story about old technology. This book, like Steven Levy’s Hackers, describes the beginning of Data General, a once-great computer giant that has since been devastated and all but forgotten. I enjoyed reading stories of people designing and debugging hardware and software for these “old iron” machines. Great stuff – I’d love to read every similar book I could find in this genre.

The Rammed Earth House (Real Goods Independent Living Book)

Here’s another pretty house-building book to add to my collection and further aggravate me that I can’t start any sooner on constructing some shelter. I thought this book would be more about underground stuff, but it covers mesa-type buildings built with molds and pounded earth, in more clay-centric soils. That’s interesting and all, but if I went through all the damn time of setting up those forms, I’d just shoot some concrete in there and call it a day. This was a good book, but not as compelling of a construction type.

Ultralight Airmanship: How to Master the Air in an Ultralight by Jack Lambie

This trade paperback book contains a lot of drawings and diagrams on ultralight flight, which is good. It covers mostly flight concepts, like simple navigation, cloud soaring, cross-country flight, and emergency procedures. I would have appreciated more technical information about flying hardware, but that’s something that advances so fast, this 2001 revised edition would probably be out-of-date already. Overall, a good book to read cover-to-cover, but even better to browse randomly and read over and over.

Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987 by Bob Woodward

This is a well-written history of the CIA that covers some of the details you won’t get from their web site, but isn’t a total X-Files conspiracy spin, either. Most of this book deals with Iran-Contra, and allegedly Woodward got a “deathbed confession” from William Casey. which his wife disputes. Still, interesting stuff, and essential reading if you are researching The Agency.

Tell Me A Story About The Devil: Selected Journals, 1997-1999 by Jon Konrath

Hey, that’s me! I published this book of my old journals at the beginning of the year, and ended up re-reading them again. I like that after walking away from this writing for several years, I came back to it and it still felt very fresh. I hope all of my writing has this quality in the future.

Pandora’s Keepers by Brian VanDeMark

Here’s a book very similar to Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb. How similar? Turns out parts of it were a word-for-word copy! VanDeMark got raked over the coals after plagiarism claims were made and proven, and this title never made it to the bookstores, although review copies did go out, and a later, revised paperback edition was promised. I got a copy from Marie (who works at Little Brown) and it wasn’t a bad read, although it seemed fairly similar to the Rhodes book. It was like watching a special on the Manhattan Project on PBS, then watching another one on the History Channel; there were a few points that varied, but they were basically similar. The story about the book’s demise is probably more interesting.

Jarhead by Anthony Swofford

This book was a pleasant surprise. Swofford didn’t write a gung-ho military memoir about how he kicked some ass and did some pushups. Instead, this is more of an essay on the person behind the Marine: how they grew up, how they got talked into enlisting, what defect or dream made them volunteer for the most physically demanding branch of the armed forces. He does talk about his service as a sniper during Desert Shield and Storm, but his chapters have more detail about how his parents didn’t want to enlist, how his drill instructor was physically abusive, how his comrades watch war movies like hard-core pornography. This is more of a coming-of-age or memoir than it is a war story, but the result turns out to be a very compelling book.

I, Robot by Issac Asimov

I haven’t read this classic Asimov since high school, and when I was contemplating some sci-fi writing this summer, I thought it would be good to get back to basics. I’m surprised I remembered as much of this as I did. This book contains a bunch of short stories originally published in pulp magazines, mostly detailing Asimov’s three laws of robotics, and also covering other “robot ethics” issues. The stories seem dated and always make me think of old Twilight Zone robots, but it was still a good read.

The Caves of Steel by Issac Asimov

After reading I, Robot, I had to continue with Asimov’s stuff by cracking into his famous robot trilogy with this first book. It depicts a futuristic, underground world where robots aren’t trusted and human settlers on outer worlds are even less revered. A police detective must investigate a murder and is assigned a robotic partner that is so human-like, he’s virtually undetectable as a machine. This is an excellent mystery/spy novel, with some noteworthy yet somewhat dated descriptions of a future Earth that has grown too big for its own good. I especially liked the descriptions of a massively multiplied New York in the future, seeing as I live in a pretty crowded version of it myself.

The Naked Sun by Issac Asimov

The next murder-mystery book in Asimov’s robot series takes place in a distant world where detective Elijah Bailey suddenly can’t deal with the open space after being cooped up underground in New York for so long. While Earth people are smashed into small spaces underground by the millions, Solarians live on giant farms in the open, and seldom see each other except by projection. Taking the two extremes and playing them off of each other sets up good tension in this straightforward crime thriller wrapped in a heavy layer of solid scifi technology.

In the Company of Heroes by Michael J. Durant

Durant is the Blackhawk pilot in the movie and book Black Hawk Down that survived a chopper crash and then was captured as a POW by the Somalis and endured a broken back and compound fracture in the leg with almost no medical treatment until freed from the Somalis several weeks later. His story is moving and much more personal than the aforementioned book, but what really makes this a good read is all of his personal history, and how he got started as an Army aviator and graduated to flying top-secret covert ops for the Night Stalker squadron. It’s a very motivational read, and also one of the more personal stories of the Somalian conflict.

Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden

If you liked the movie version of this, it’s worth checking out the book. Bowden does an excellent job of reconstructing this bloody battle in Somalia from eyewitness accounts and official reports, probably detailing it far more than any other combat event in history. Heavily footnoted and researched, it contains great details from the troops, and is even more energetic than the film.

Somalia on $5 a Day by Martin Stanton

Unlike Black Hawk Down, this book talks about the occupational duties of the US Army in Somalia, largely detailing the day-to-day running of a base abroad. It talks about various efforts to clean up the country, and covers the nation building and famine relief in a personal and sometimes humorous tone. It’s an excellent look at Army life, showing that sometimes the GI Joe stuff takes a back seat to the betterment of our fellow man. I’d highly recommend this book if you think the Army is nothing more than shooting guns and killing people.

War in the Pacific by Jerome T. Hagen

I bought this book when I met General Hagen at the USS Arizona memorial, and he’s a great guy. The book is a series of articles he wrote for a local newspaper about the history of the war with Japan, going back to the 19th century and continuing through World War II. Hagen, a Vietnam Vet and professor at Hawaii Pacific University, manages to capture the personal aspects of battles. This isn’t a good start-to-finish history, but the fact that it contains a lot of background material on Japan and keeps a naval focus makes it very noteworthy.

Skunk Works by Ben Rich

Rich wrote a very detailed look at the history of Lockheed’s famous secret aircraft factory; so secret, that the government wouldn’t let him publish part of it for several years. This former Skunk Works chief tells all about planes like the F-117 stealth fighter and SR-71 Blackbird, and some of Lockheed’s failures, like a giant hydrogen-powered plane that never happened. He tells the tales of what it was like the work in a top-notch organization where the engineers came right down to the production floor and worked with the builders to tweak out the best airplanes ever made, and he adds in lots of information about old secret missions, like all of those U-2 flights over Russia. This book is a must-read for airplane and aviation geeks.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind by Chuck Barris

I didn’t see this movie, but I liked the premise to the book. Barris claims in here that he was a CIA spy while he worked on many famous TV game shows. It’s debatable whether this happened or he really used this fiction as a strange metaphor for the frustrations of his life, but I like the idea that he did and I wish I could write a book like that, too. He also writes with this seventies LA grit, like Charles Bukowski, that I enjoyed. Good stuff.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

When I’m jonesing to go to Vegas and I want an all-out manic burn through craziness, I reread this book. And every time, I realize that it’s probably one of my favorite books of all time. I pretty much have it memorized by now, but it’s still worth it to tear though it once a year or so. This is a classic!

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

This trilogy of hard science talks about the colonization and eventual terraforming of Mars over the period of a few hundred years, and is the perfect read for those who remember going through the slightly hokey old Bradbury book about Mars. Every detail is covered, from politics to geology to technology to interpersonal relationships. The first book (“Red…”) starts with primitive colonization by the first hundred settlers, and deals more with technical issues, exploration, and the initial political schism of the people who want to preserve Mars and those who want to re-climate it to be more suitable for Earth dwellers. As the other books progress, Mars fights with Earth to gain its own political independence, as the Earth collapses under its own massive population. The trilogy follows several of the original colonists, then covers their children and grandchildren as the population grows. If you’re into scifi or space travel, these are excellent books, and I enjoyed them. The only drawback is that they are incredibly dense, sometimes going off on major technical tangents, and there’s a few thousand pages of reading, so budget a lot of time for these ones.

The Runner Up by John Sheppard

This book is a new concept compared to Sheppard’s usual fiction, in that it’s a short book, almost like a long zine that you can buy for cheap and read in one pass. I read this during the New York blackout, and it hit the spot because it immersed me in another world, of a Navy dropout at the end of his rope, drinking mouthwash for alcohol and trying to think back as to what went wrong. It’s like a good short story, but long enough that you get some detail and depth. I also like how he tied it into his book Small Town Punk, but also described another side of the Sarasota world. This is great stuff and well worth the sub-$10 price.

Small Town Punk by John Sheppard

This was a second read for me of my friend John’s excellent book, and it stood up well; I even found some details I missed the first time. I’ll paste my Amazon review here:

Did every town have a punk rock Pizza Hut? I know mine did, and when I read John Sheppard’s book, I realized it wasn’t an anomaly. This tale of a Reaganism-infected Florida and the lack of a punk scene features a band of outcasts that anyone with some Black Flag or Dead Kennedys in their record collection could identify with. But the book isn’t really a punk rock anthem as much as it is a tale of small town boredom and the desire to get the hell out and do something other than mow lawns and play football and go to church. There’s a lot of great humor in the situations these characters go through, but the authentic details of this era sold me on the story. This is a great book to read if you’re an old-school punk, a recovered small-town escapee, or just anyone who appreciates a great story.

You really, really need to check this book out. Go to John’s homepage and you can download the whole thing as a PDF if you can’t afford one.

Meat is Murder by Joe Pernice

This small-format book is more of a short story, and is meant to be themed around the same album by The Smiths. Larry Falli sent it to me because it was a lot like Small Town Punk, and he’s right. It’s about a kid in high school that wants to be in a rock band but is stuck practicing bass through his sister’s jambox and listening to The Smiths obsessively. He’s in love with a girl in his study hall but too nervous to talk to her. The story starts and stops abruptly, but there’s still a lot of detail. I wish he would actually write a whole full-sized book based on these characters, because 100 small pages weren’t enough.

Soft! – Rupert Thomson

Thomson usually writes these borderline gothic tales, so it was a real change to see a book set in modern London that more or less had to do with the evils of advertising than anything else. A soft drink company decides to subliminally hypnotize a group of people who respond to an ad for a sleep study clinic and make them the perfect customers for their new drink, with disastrous results. It’s more of a thriller than anything else, with a few intertwined stories that pull you through fast and keep the pages turning. Good stuff, even if it does make me thirsty for orange soda.

A Stranger in this World – Kevin Canty

I don’t always go for the Raymond Carver-esque collections of short stories, but for some reason picked this up years ago, and have enjoyed re-reading it. I even met Canty back in Seattle, and he was a pretty nice guy and gave me a lot of encouragement to keep writing. The stories contained in this book are very memorable and have a lot of “hooks” in them, even if they are sparsely written. It’s good stuff – I hope he comes out with more book-length stuff, or maybe another collection someday.

Ghost Rider – Neil Peart

Neil Peart, the drummer of prog-rock band Rush, lost both his wife (to cancer) and his daughter (to a freak car accident) in a year, and was pretty much ready to hang it up. Instead, he loaded up his BMW cruising motorcycle and set off on a giant trip alone, to think through everything and try to heal. His solo mission headed across Canada, into Alaska, down the west coast into Mexico, across the US, and more. I was more interested in the travelogue than the healing part of the book, but both themes are there. I am a huge fan of Rush, but I found myself much more interested in the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance sort of essays about where he was going and what he saw. He’s more about voyaging than travel, and his essays show more interest in things like Jack London’s writing on the territory and what nature exists in the desert of the southwest than what foodie food is available or what Four Seasons hotel is best. Neil’s a great writer, and the only problem with this book was that it made me want to quit my job, buy a bike, and hit the road.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

This was a reread, but a very enjoyable one. Most people remember Bourdain’s big book as the “don’t eat fish on Monday” tell-all, but there’s much more to the story than that. He describes well the back line of the kitchen, the secret society of the low-life cooks and chefs and busboys that nobody sees, the misfits that could never work a straight job but manage to kick ass at a prep table, even while loaded or hung over. There’s a whole mafia-like hierarchical organization behind the double doors of an eatery, and his portrayal of this life is excellent. He also goes back to his childhood, why he likes good food, and how he burned out in college and got into the chef’s life. The writing shows he’s a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson, and shares some of that manic enthusiasm that made this an excellent read for me.

Quiet Days in Clichy – Henry Miller

A short book reading more like a couple of short stories mashed together, this writing took place back when Miller was in Paris and was living the bohemian life that eventually unwound into his more famous Tropic of Cancer. However, it was edited together when he was in Big Sur, so it reads closer to Tropic of Capricorn‘s style. I’m a bigger fan of the latter than the former, so this is a good, quick escape into his world of screwing random women and living hand-to-mouth with no money. I got through it fast and it made me want to dive back into ‘Capricorn, and move away somewhere and starve a bit so I could get back to work.

Women by Charles Bukowski

Bukowski’s the classic. This and Post Office are the two books I read any time I’m stuck on writing and need to see how a master takes their real life and captures it on the page.

(that diary of the doctor in the civil war)

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Great book, great movie, great guy if you ever get a chance to meet him. I re-read this to give myself a kick in the ass to get some of my own writing done. It worked.

The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly

I (re)read this while I was sitting on jury duty, and it worked well in killing the time. This book is pretty underrated, probably because of Farrelly’s movie career. It’s a great little story, with some really funny scenes in it, and a couple of hooks that keep you going. What’s bad about it is that almost every secondary character is either very believable or very lovable, but you wonder why you are supposed to like the schmuck of a main character that doesn’t really have a good motivation or anything. The book reminds me a lot of the movie Swingers, which I love, so it made for a good read despite its roughness.

Super Flat Times by Matthew Derby

It’s hard to explain this newcomer’s first book except that it reminded me of Mark Leyner: the Next Generation, and I mean that in the good way. It’s a collection of bizarre short stories in the future that juxtapose strange images with a certain blended jumble that really works. I can’t explain it, so go to superflattimes.com and experience it there. This is probably my year’s best fiction from a new author.

Baghdad Without a Map by Tony Horwitz

What an excellent travel book! Tony Horwitz describes his travels in the Middle East in a series of essays that almost made me want to get a passport and head off to the land of Islam, just to get into some of the same fucked-up situations he saw. He got whisked around by Quadaffi’s PR team in Libya, who promised to bring his junket to some neato factory, only to get lost or hold them in the middle of nowhere forever. He saw battles of the Iran-Iraq war and got to see Baghdad before Desert Storm, filled with giant murals of Hussein, eight to an intersection. From Egypt to Israel, he tried to get around any state censorship and talk to actual people about the conditions of these strange lands, and he did an excellent job of capturing everything. Not only was this excellent journalism, but his humor and wit make this a must-read.

Kiss: Behind the Mask by David Leaf and Ken Sharp

I’ve read too many official and unofficial biographies of Kiss, and this is no exception. This tome consists of a book written by David Leaf back in the day (’78 or so, I think) that got shelved without publication for whatever reason, plus a new book by Ken Sharp that describes the band history and walks through each and every album and song they released, with comments from every band member. There are a ton of new photos, and this book seems to go behind the kayfabe and party line to tell differing opinions (instead of the sometimes revisionist Gene Simmons story.) This book is probably essential to the Kiss fan, interesting to the general music fan, and otherwise passable, except for maybe a flip through the pictures. I’m surprised I got through all 400-some pages, but I did like some of the details about the old recording sessions and the genesis of the band.

The Future of War by George & Meredith Friedman

If you were ever curious to learn about the history and theory of warfare, this is the first book you should read. It covers in great detail how various types of military might and power were formed, and how they became obsolete with the advent of newer weapons. This sounds like a simple premise, but it’s amazing how much detail and theory can be covered when you start talking about the advent of mechanized infantry, or how the ratio of weight to speed of armored vehicles makes them obsolete over time. The predictions about future war are mixed, because things like smart munitions are in the spotlight now, as they predicted, but other thoughts from this 1991 book are shaky. I’d highly recommend this to anyone interested in military systems, but I’d also tell anyone who is a pacifist or against war to read this to understand why things happen the way that they do.


New York Omega Man

New York looked like the fucking Omega Man today. Nobody was out on the streets, and a lot of office buildings were locked down for the holiday. I got a whole subway car to myself for part of the way in, which pretty much matched my pissy mood. I don’t entirely want to get into it, but there are times when I feel like I’m the last person alive, which is a bit strange when you’re walking around a city with ten million people in it.

The Las Vegas birthday trip of 2004 is taking shape. It will be me, Bill, Lon, and Jaime, a guy I haven’t met yet. Larry just started a new job, so he’s out. Ray’s a pussy, so he’s out. Todd handed in his pair when he had a kid, so he’s out. We have rooms at the Boardwalk (not in my name, though, since I destroyed the last one) and we have tickets to see Dave Atell and Louis Black at the House of Blues. No idea yet on the car scenario, and I’m vaguely thinking about getting a big suite to hang out in, but they seem to be way more expensive than last time. (Except for at the Sahara, which is like two miles away and has the NASCAR cafe to deal with.)

I’m bored, and I’m too depressed to write. Here’s part of a chapter on diets and food that I was writing for my anti-self help book. Comments welcome.

Most diets reduce a person into a weak, sniveling, calorie-counting excuse for a human being. Any time you go out to eat with a person like this, they cause a huge commotion by requesting food with the sauce on the side, or with no salt, or the meat removed, or something else to hold up the kitchen and guarantees that a line cook is going to take a piss in your soup. They will go on a huge diatribe about carbs and processed food and vegan philosophy any time you come back to the office with a hamburger. They may have a lower body fat percentage and better cholesterol numbers, but they’ve done this at the expense of becoming an annoying prick, and that’s no way to live.

My diet ideas are not about watching your waistline or bulking up your pecs or anything remotely health-conscious. These suggestions are designed to help you live your life and nothing else. We live in a modern world, and you shouldn’t be reduced to watching that fat fuck Emeril reduce some sauces just so you can impress some chick when it’s much easier to call Domino’s and get back to your life. You can eat what you want, drink what you want, and live whatever life you want. Sure, you may die of a coronary at 45, but who wants to live to be an old fuck driving at 35 miles an hour in the left lane, anyway?

Pizza and Beer

This is a simple diet, and the name pretty much describes the whole thing. You eat pizza, you drink beer, and the simplicity of the whole thing leaves you a lot of extra time to place _Grand Theft Auto: Vice City_ or watch porn. The beauty of the diet is that pizza is one food that you can get by calling a delivery place on the phone in almost every civilized place in the world, and you can get the beer from pretty much any grocery or liquor store and stockpile the stuff by the pallet in your kitchen, now that you won’t need it to cook.

As far as the specifics, stick with a basic pizza place, and don’t spend a lot of money on gourmet toppings or other bullshit. They will try to sell you various buffalo wings, chicken kickers, crazy breads, dessert pizzas, and other useless crap at premium prices. Stick to your guns and get the tried and true large pepperoni, maybe with some mushrooms if you’re into that shit. And if you really don’t care, go to the grocery store and pick up a dozen of those frozen pieces of shit for 99 cents each. They’ll taste much better after five or six beers. And about beer, I don’t need to tell you to go for the cheap shit. Don’t be annoying and go for some lite imported hefeweizen that costs twenty bucks for a twelve, and don’t buy PBR or Miller High Life because they’re the new trendy thing with fashionable geeks. Beer is beer, Schlitz is always on sale, and Milwaukee’s Best may taste like cardboard to the uninitiated, but it’s brewed in the same damn vats as MGD and only costs .99 cents a fourty.

The main problem with the pizza and beer diet is that you’ll gain about ten pounds a year, until you drop dead from a heart attack at the age of fifty and they have to cut you out of your house. In the meantime, you will have many interesting and colorful tales of alcoholism as you drive away everyone in your life with violence and aggression. Also, your daily shits will run like water and burn like pipe cleaner, so make sure you have a heavy-duty throne in the reading room.

The Amphetamine Diet

This diet is incredibly simple. For breakfast each day, you cut a yard-long line of bathtub crank on your kitchen counter, and snort all of it at once. When it hits your system, you won’t even think about eating for the next four to six hours. This will save you a lot of money on groceries, although the constant feeling that spiders are crawling on your skin may be a problem for some people. You also may have issues when you start thinking the government is tapping all of your phone calls and your heart rate goes up to about 400 beats per minute. But you’ll quickly drop below a hundred pounds and look like one of those Calvin Klein models.

A steady supply of crank won’t be cheap, but it will cost less than buying ten cases of Atkins bars a week. A good supply can be found via Hell’s Angels, or if you live in the Midwest, you won’t have trouble finding someone with a Meth lab. For those with basic chemistry skills, you can probably find lots of information on brewing amphetamines on the internet.

The Amphetamine Diet is a good combination of total weight loss and antisocial behavior. It’s very easy to melt off fat, and you will have plenty of energy for antagonizing neighbors 24 hours a day from your porch with a sniper rifle. Aside from the delerium, hallucinations, dehabilitating paranoia, and the fact that your heart will probably explode after a few years, it’s an excellent lifestyle suggestion.

The Ray Miller Diet

For this diet, you go to Subway every day, and if anyone else tries to get you to go to another fast-food restaurant, you go on a huge diatribe about how only illegal immigrants work at McDonalds and that Burger King fries are made out of wallboard. There’s no real plus or minus to this diet, I just wanted to put it in here to give my friend Ray Miller some shit for making me eat at Subway every fucking time we went to lunch during college.

There is a Subway diet, where this loser named Jarod (who coincidentally, went to college with me) ate only Subway and lost about 200 pounds. I imagine he also lost all of his friends and family in the process, but they don’t tell you about that in the ads. They also don’t tell you that in order to make this diet work, you have to stick to the shittiest four or five sandwiches there, and avoid putting cheese or mayo on them. The only things worth eating at Subway contain as much fat as about ten of those Jarod sandwiches, but are on the same shitty bread. So steer clear of that urban legend.

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Eliminator porn

I’ve always talked about the virtues of the ZZ Top album Eliminator, about how it is the perfect desert island pick, and how you could bring it to any party and make someone happy, as it is simultaneously an 80s classic, and a country album, and a disco/dance album, and a bit metal, too. But a secret I have not mentioned is that the same album always reminds me of pornography, because at the time when I first got a copy of Eliminator and listened to it pretty much constantly on a small, one-speaker tape recorder like the kind they use in labs in elementary school in the 70s or whatever, but it was also the first time I ever saw a naked picture. My buddy Jim Manges came over one day with a Hustler ripoff magazine, some kind of third-tier skin mag like Oui or something, stuffed inside of his coat, claiming he had naked pictures of Princess Diana. Him and his brother used to go to this dump to steal wood to make treehouses and soapbox cars (even though we never really succeeded in building either) and they would occasionally find some nudie mags, drenched in rain and then re-dried so the pages were all shaded and warped and smelling like a worst-case scenario basement. But lo and behold, he pulled out the pages from this magazine, and there was this chick with short blonde hair who vaguely resembled Lady Di, and Jim was whispering, “see, it’s really fucking her!” as we both stood against the door to make sure my sisters or mom didn’t barge in to see what the fuck was going on, because every time we ever shut a door for like three seconds to play some D&D and maybe listen to the new Ratt album, someone would fucking barge in like it was a fire drill and bother us. I stared at the photos, both amazed at the female form, and the fact that I recently thumbed through a Life magazine special containing pages and pages of glossy, formal photos of the royal wedding, and now Manges had a picture of her bending over backwards and displaying her vertical hatchetwound for all to see. It wasn’t until years later that I put two and two together and realized it was probably just some 19-year-old heroin addict that had a similar haircut. But now, twenty years later, I put in “Got Me Under Pressure” on the way home from work, and that was the first thing that crossed my mind.

That also reminds me that I’ve had a great appreciation for drummers who tap out time with their hihat cymbal. I thought of this on the way to work, because I listened to a Chris Poland solo album and it ended like one subway stop before mine, and I needed some tracks of pure energy to get me out of the tube, across the street, and up two blocks to the office and somehow get me awake and ready to roll. So I put in this Grand Funk live album (just called Grand Funk Live), something I learned about ages before when I was going through all of my stepdad’s old vinyl and trying to find the hard rock that influenced the stuff that I was already into, the stuff like Hendrix, Zeppelin, Cream, and so on. In retrospect, I probably found a hell of a lot of pot in those albums, twenty-year-old stems and seeds and crap that I probably thought were parts of houseplants or something. Anyway, I memorized that album back when I was a teenager, so I skipped right to the song “Mark Say’s Alright” (their misuse of the apostrophe, not mine), which is an instrumental jam right before Don Brewer goes into his drum solo. This album was minimally produced, like they dumped the original tapes straight to master, with the bass rumbling and tearing through stacks of amps and the guitar thrashing out tons of feedback and pulling it back into the nonstop soloing of Mark Farner. But as Brewer flails away on a tiny drum kit, swapping back and forth between cymbal and snare and throwing in the occasional odd notes just to make it sound a little more complicated, he keeps tapping his left foot to close the hihat and it puts down this constant click that is almost like it’s telling people, “this is the 4/4 and look what kind of shit we’re doing outside of it.” It’s so cool, and the other time I really remember it is the first time I really knew I’d love the CD.

Okay, it was 1987. The CD had been out since… what, 1982? I guess they were just starting to get big, though. Like, SuperSounds in the Concord Mall had two whole racks with long boxes of CDs, mostly crap like Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson and Wham, but there were a couple of ‘Floyd CDs, and both Metallica and Iron Maiden had stuff out, plus all of the old Rush albums were rolling out. I decided that summer, the summer of my first car, that I absolutely had to find out how to get one. I got a shit job at Taco Bell, taking shit from customers at the front register while I wore a maroon apron and one of those stupid visor hat things over my uniform. I cleaned bathrooms, cooked reconstituted bean paste, swept the dining room, took out trash, and made a solid $3.35 an hour. After two weeks, I cashed my first check, and ran across the street to K-Mart, where I bought my very first CD player. It was a Toshiba toploader model that was roughly 1.5 times wider than a portable, but it was hard-wired to an AC plug. I think I paid $110 for it, and then had to go home and take a bunch of quarters and change from my asshole stepdad’s change box to get the $17 or whatever to buy my first disc. I had to think hard about it, but I picked up Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time. About six months before, Derik Rinehart loaned me the tape, and it really got me started on Iron Maiden and “heavier” metal stuff, after a long period of being stuck on stuff like GTR and Yes. So I got home and wired the little black box into my home stereo, and listened to the album (I’m still stuck on that term…) and was simply amazed at the small fact that I could PAUSE and REVERSE and SKIP TRACKS! I went to the second-to-last track, called “Deja Vu”, and there’s this part where the drums sort of stop and it’s just a snare drum bit, a “da da dada da da da dada da da” sort of thing, and I listened close, and their drummer Nicko McBrain was KEEPING TIME with his left foot! The cymbal wasn’t even audible at all on the cassette version, but there it was, clear as day and straight as a 4/4 arrow. It both made me love the fact that not all complex drum things need to be an all-out Neil Peart artillery attack to be good, and that this compact disc thing would consume every fucking dollar I ever made because I would need to get as many of them as possible.

And I was right!

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Speakeasy, acid

I forgot to mention this, but Speakeasy tried to fuck me out of $200 while I was on vacation, and of course I found out about it when my phone and internet were destroyed last weekend. See, a little while ago, they offered to switch me from a straight-up connection to a linesharing connection, and the two things that made me hesitant were the startup costs, and the fact that if something ever happened to my phone, I would also lose my internet connection. They got me to pay $200 in startup equipment costs at a time when I was saving every penny for vacation and eating easy mac for lunch and dinner because I really fucking needed the money, by promising me a refund on all of the equipment costs. I got fucked on that. And the second point, well within a month or so, I did lose both phone and internet in one swoop, probably because the fuckos at Verizon got a disconnect order on the old straightup line and he accidentally disconnected both because as he was leaning over the frame rack, he was simultaneously getting fucked in the ass by another Verizon technician, and as he was giving him a reacharound, he bumped his arm and it disconnected both lines. That’s my theory anyway.

The rebate signup page reminded me a lot of the old Juno DSL rebate page, which I think got customer complaints at a ratio of maybe 1 to 1. I filled everything out, and I think they said they would pay me back in 8 to 263 weeks. That really pissed me off, as I thought maybe I could get a check before xmas and spend it on presents, or at least buy myself like four or five of the new Criterion DVDs that are out. So I get back from vacation last week and find a postcard in my mailbox that says “the address submitted on your rebate form did not match your DSL service address.” So if my rebate address is so wrong, why the fuck did they send me a card there? Of course, it’s addressed to John Kenroth and they omitted the hyphen and changed the Street to ST and the apartment # to apt# or some other shit that is obviously going to break a diff script or whatever.

In all fairness, I shouldn’t blame Speakeasy. I have had accounts there since 1996, and although they’ve had some fuckups over time, they have also been fairly cool, both at the larger corporate level and at the tech support level. Also, from my experience at Juno, I know that they probably don’t personally handle these rebates. They probably hired some fulfillment center with an office in Delaware or whatever who they subcontracts all of the postcard sorting and data entry and complaint hotline answering. Back when I was at Juno, they mostly farmed this stuff out to high-security prisons, mostly because of a lack of organized child labor in this country. But now, it’s even cheaper than the standard 85 cents an hour to send this stuff to prisoners of death gulags in India or Pakistan. Aside from the obvious language issues, it’s sometimes very difficult for these people to type in addresses because they have lost hands either from prior shoplifting convictions or various gangrenous disesases contracted from drinking all of your water from the same river in which everyone shits and buries their dead. (Of course, I don’t need to explain the difficulty of typing with stumps to those of you like Larry who spend a lot of time on amputee porn chat rooms.)

I managed to call someone a couple of days ago, and he didn’t sound as indecipherable as the dude at the Indian restaurant down the street (although I am actually getting a lot better at talking to that dude, partially because I order a lot of Indian food, and partially because I got a menu with numbers on it.) Anyway, he managed to get my shit straight, and said I’d get a check to me in two weeks. I’ll hopefully have that money in my hands before I go to Vegas in January, so I can rent a fast car, some automatic weapons, and lots of ammunition. End of story.

I bought another quart of sulfuric acid and dumped it down my tub drain yesterday. That shit works wonders – I know how I’m getting rid of any bodies The Cleaner-style if it ever comes to that (and I don’t have any quicklime.) A quick aside, speaking of John Wayne Gacy – does anyone remember how the Blimpie’s in Bloomington had that weird, animated clown statue in the front window that looked exactly like JWG? I remember driving by there at night, and this animatronic killer clown was sitting in the shadows, and it always used to be really freaky. That’s my only Blimpie’s story, although everyone in my office has a better one: back when we used to be temporarily located in a bunch of apartments near Penn Station, a bunch of people from the office went to lunch at Blimpie’s, and everyone got totally, completely, shitting-blood-and-praying-to-die food poisoned there. So Blimpie’s isn’t a good word around the company. Anyway, the acid – a while ago, I went to this local hardware store and asked if they had any Drano or Liquid Plumber in like a gallon size, or something cheaper than the grocery store, where it’s like ten bucks a pint and you need to buy like 13 of them to clean even a slow drain. So the dude looks around, pulls down a shade over the front window, and asks, “Are you a cop?” and I say, “no dude, I just want some liquid plumber!” And he knocks me on the floor, and starts checking my jacket, and yelling, “ARE YOU A FUCKING COP? ARE YOU WEARING A WIRE, YOU MOTHERFUCKER?” And I’m screaming, “No! Get the fuck off of me!” So he goes back behind the counter, and says “Okay, check this shit out…” and pulls out a bottle with more warnings and disclaimers on it than a fucking nuclear warhead. “You ever see this shit before?” he asks. “No, what is it?” And he’s like “Forget it man, maybe you should go to the Key Foods and buy more foaming Drano.” And I’m like “No dude, let me have it! Nothing else works.” And he’s like, “Okay here’s what you do. You don’t have a weak heart or anything, do you? Anyway, put on some goggles and gloves and a rubber suit. Then open this shit with a knife, and then throw away the knife, but not in your own trash can, or it will eat through it – put it in your neighbor’s shit at like three in the morning. Then pour it all in the drain, and run like a motherfucker to the subway and get on a train and don’t come back to your house for like three days. AND DON’T TELL ANYONE YOU BOUGHT IT HERE!”

So anyway, I got some of that shit, and my drain is still slow.

And yes, I am going to Las Vegas in January for my birthday. I think it will be me, Bill Perry, Lon Tierney, maybe Todd Duffin unless he pusses out again, and maybe some other Aventail people I don’t know. So once again, if you are also interested in dropping in, let me know…

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The Hunter S. Thompson memorial pharmacy

I’m watching this Paris Hilton show – not the one where she answers her cell phone while taking a huge cock from the rear in night vision, but the one where she is with Lionel Richie’s mongoloid heroin addict daughter, terrorizing this small town. I don’t really know which one is worse: Hilton dressed as a high-rent stripper and giggling in this cross of ValGal slang and stuck-up, vapid monotone, or the fact that all of these dumb rednecks act as if their town was invaded by Nazi stormtroopers who are setting up a Dachau-style concentration camp for any citizens who like country music. What’s even worse is that I’m wasting my time watching this show while I sit at the computer, and I find it vaguely amusing that these two girls would do shit like tell their 15-year-old TV-brother’s ex-girlfriend that they were double-teaming him just to make her jealous.

Crap, ER is a rerun. I guess I had enough medical bullshit this week by trying to get my god damned prescription refilled. I think the pharmacy by my house would operate much more efficiently if Hunter S. Thompson and a group of three meth-addled model glue addicts ran the place. Ironically, HST just broke his leg in Hawaii, where he was attempting to cover the big marathon. I never seem to get any news on him, and then in one article, I found out he married his 30 year old assistant, and he’s frantically trying to get the Rum Diary movie done. He’s a guy that’s really in need of some kind of web page, but I could see how that goes against everything he stands for.

I wanted to write more, but got attacked by the telephone. Now it’s too late to do any more work, and I’d like a few hours of sleep. Goodbye, farewell.

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Drunken exploits

People really look at me weird when I explain to them that I never, ever drank alcohol until I turned 21, except for first communion and maybe one time I drank some punch that had like a capful of gin in a two gallon bowl at my cousin’s for new year’s, especially if you’ve ever seen me drink like 26 drinks in a row and then try to start fights with total strangers while throwing a restaurant’s tables out of a window and eventually getting ejected by the cops. But it’s true. Sometimes I think I didn’t drink because I came from a long line of alcoholics, and I assumed that at my first drink, I’d go completely apeshit and wake up six months later in a ditch with my car keys up my ass and a $47,000 bill on my American Express card. (That did happen once, but it had nothing to do with alcohol. Okay, maybe partially.) Anyway, I did get all of the Alcoholics Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics bullshit about how alcoholism is a disease, and you can be a “dry drunk”, and how it can be some sort of genetic latent thing, and you could take one drink and then it would suddenly compensate for all of this fucked up brain chemistry and you’d end up sucking down two cases of Red White and Blue beer a day until your liver looked like a steak that’s been on a hibachi for about seven days straight. Today, I personally believe little that twelve-step programs preach, but that’s the topic of another sermon. The point is that I only partially invested in these scare tactics as a basis for my abstinence from alcohol.

And as a side note, I should probably also mention the point that few will also believe that I’ve never done any sort of illegal drug. Part of this is because of the Just Say No scare tactics mixed with the aforementioned genetic addictive personality bullshit, but the main reason I never did any drugs in high school was because they were impossible for me to find. I know some reefer floated around Concord High School, and probably a few athletes and cheerleaders were able to score some blow, given that this was back in the Eighties. But the truth of the matter was that I was a pencil-necked geek that built model airplanes and had a GI Joe collection well past the age when I had a driver’s license, and even with a Camaro and a part-time job, I really didn’t float in any social circles where drugs were freely passed around. If I really wanted drugs, I could have talked to the headbangers and shop class graduates, but most of these guys were getting high on black beauties and minithins and model glue, and the best they could do was a miniscule amount of ragweed or a few sips of Boone’s wine on the weekend. In fact, I don’t even think I SAW any drugs of any kind, outside of health class textbooks, until my friend Jia once produced a joint about the size of a paper-wrapped toothpick, and I don’t even think I saw any weed again until college. And by that point, being drug-free for so long made it much harder to suddenly decide that I wanted to start, so I didn’t.

Alcohol was everywhere, though. My stepdad was a hardcore alcoholic, and went through a case of Haam’s every day after work, and this was after he went to the Eagles lodge to have a dozen or so drinks. I always thought it would have been easy to nick a few cans from him, especially since he had a fridge from a previous marriage in the basement just outside my bedroom door. But he was a real asshole about things and the kind of guy who couldn’t spell his name while that drunk, but he’d probably still notice the beer gone. And I didn’t like beer back then, or at least I thought I didn’t. His parents (step-grandparents? Is that a word?) always offered me a drink ever since I was probably 14, because they were also continually plastered on Manhattans and Tom Collinses. I suppose it would have been rather European or something to agree and have a drink or two, but given that my mom was a recovered alcoholic by then (and married to an alcoholic – how ironic in an Alanis sort of way) I probably would have gotten my ass kicked for pulling shit like that.

I remember a few times in high school that people offered me alcohol, and all of them in retrospect were probably just older men trying to fuck me in the ass or something. One time me and Tom Sample stopped to help some dude with a broken car on Cleveland Road (actually almost exactly where my neighbor Peter Elias got killed a few years later) and he couldn’t get the car running, so we drove him to this Marathon station. He offered us some beers, and maybe that was just a friendly gesture, but it also sounds like how Ted Bundy started every one of his special relationships with a hitchhiker. I also remember this dude that I used to work with who in retrospect reminded me a lot of Will Ferrel, except about 1 in 10,000 things Will Ferrell does are funny, and this guy’s ratio was much lower. He was a big party animal and went to Ball State and had a shit apartment over at Old Farm, and a few times I ended up at his place like to drop him off after work or some shit, and he was always offering me beer, and in retrospect I thought maybe he was going to ask me to watch The Exorcist with him and sleep in his bed ala Michael Jackson. What was even more fucked up was that this guy was also a second or third grade teacher.

And then I got to college, and spent a year trying to not drink because I thought I would flip out and end up looking like that Nick Nolte mugshot. Then I moved back home for a year and had no problem not drinking because IUSB sucked ass and I spent all of my time in a computer lab or trying to find sluts with Ray, which we never found. Then I turned 21, and it was all legal, and I decided as long as it was legal, I might as well chug about two liters of vodka and start sending emails to total strangers telling them I’m Jesus Christ and I want a handjob. And it all went downhill from there. But I never said I was an alcoholic, and I never got arrested, and I never lost a fight. So there.

Just for fun, here are my top six (was going to be ten, got bored of this) drunken exploits, not in any order:

  1. Getting drunk at 414 S. Mitchell from a pint bottle of rum. Some girl invited me to Teter to watch a movie with her, mostly because she thought I would keep drinking and then do Bad Things to myself. So I walked over there in the rain, and thought I found this new shortcut across campus. I ended up walking into the construction site for the new Education building, and the whole place was covered in mud, and I was walking around the pit of the foundation and got so fucking lost, it took me an hour and a half to walk about ten blocks.
  2. Last year on my birthday, we were ordering shots while waiting for seats at Smith and Wollensky steakhouse in Vegas. At the table, I started ordering Singapore Slings with mezcal on the side, and Mai Tais, and the waiter kept bringing over stinger shots by the trayful. After about two dozen drinks, I puked all over the restaurant, and then got dragged back to the hotel, where I proceeded to black out. I woke up at 3 AM on the floor, unable to get up, with the hotel room completely trashed, the toilet broken, my knee completely knocked in, and puke completely filling the toilet and sink, plus shotgunned all over every wall and mirror. Four hours later, I had to get on a plane and spend about ten hours flying home.
  3. Bill Perry’s wedding had an open bar, and all of us got tired of filling up our tiny beer glasses at the keg, so we started filling large iced tea decanters with beer and running through the Student Union in tuxedos with giant glass pitchers of brew. I stood outside the reception saying hello to everyone walking by and inviting them in. The cops later broke up the reception.
  4. Went to a really rough bar in Seattle with a couple of Spry friends, and drank about eight double shots of rum in about 20 minutes. I was trying to tell an involved story about a blind date and couldn’t talk, so I started drawing hieroglyphics. Woke up blacked out in my apartment with my door open, keys in the lock, heater on full blast, a bunch of show fliers in my jacket, which I was still wearing, and immediately started puking for about a day straight.
  5. At a Juno going-away party, about 13 of us ran up a $2700 bar tab and eventually got ran out because one of the managers ran back in the kitchen and started cooking food and yelling at the cooks in spanish, and I was doing the Aliens-knife-and-fingers thing over and over.
  6. One time when I lived at Colonial Crest, I managed to puke into my keyboard, and then couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t log into my account anymore. The next morning, I saw that half of my keys were stuck together.

I don’t really drink anymore.

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There has to be a better way to wash dishes

Jesus fuck, I hate washing dishes. There has to be a better way. And don’t tell me “a dishwasher”, because I had a fucking dishwasher in Seattle, and I had to wait until I had a full sink of dishes before I ran it, and then it ran like as loud as a god damned Harley with straight pipes for an hour and a half straight, and I spent just as long rinsing off the dishes before I put them in, and then half the time I had to rinse them before I put them away because they reeked of lemony fresh calgon scent or whatever the shit was, and all of that water and energy was wasted and it would have been easier just to hand wash the god damned things. What I’m looking for is a machine where you just put the plates right in it, and it blasts away everything, like the kind of machine you use to take the paint off of car parts before you chrome or paint them.

Okay, here’s the deal. And don’t fuck with me about this, because for six weeks, I washed the god damned dishes at Columbo’s in Elkhart, and I spent about a semester cleaning the shit off of dishes at the Collins lunchroom when I was in college. So I’m a professional here. Anyway, I only have one sink. And the usual procedure is that I stack up plates and shit in the sink until I have completely run out of plates. At that point, because I have like 16 or 20 sets of Faberware, the stack of plates has like the fucking Swamp Thing growing on it, with all sorts of slime trails and other growths that a god damned biologist could write a thesis on. Then I get out one of those little things with the sponge and the handle and the dish soap in the handle, and I wash like one or two plates when I get some delivery food, then throw them back on the pile when I get done eating. So it’s like a stack in computer programming jargon, which means the bottom plates are fucking fused to each other like some sort of natural cement, like what some ancient Indian tribe would use to build a fort or a teepee or some shit. Plus the stupid handle always leaks the soap all over the place between uses, so a bottle of Dawn washes like four plates total, and costs like $6.79. (I know it costs like a dollar out in Indiana at Kroger, but you have to realize that the stupid, tiny, piece of shit grocery stores here overcharge you on everything and only have the smallest size possible, and like no variety, so like out there you probably have 863 different flavors of Dawn with various antibacteria, antivirus, antigrease, antifood, anticarb, or whatever else, and we only have the old-school blue shit.) Also, the sponge tore off of the handle, and now I will have to buy a new handle and a new set of sponges, since there is no compatability between sponges and handles, because that is how they fuck you.

So here’s a system for washing dishes the old-school way. Sink A has the dirty dishes, with hot water and dish soap. Sink B is clean and is the “rinse” sink. Then there is a strainer, where you dry them. You soak and scrub the shit in A, then move it to B and queue up a bunch of stuff there. Then when A is done or B is full, you rinse off the items and put them in the strainer thing to dry. Easy enough, right? I used this method at the fucked-up Italian restaurant, and it worked fine (although sometimes on Saturday nights, me and the other guy John used to have contests to see who could go the longest without changing their water in sink A, because you’re continually adding new dishes to A, unlike your situation in a domestic environment, because unless you have a fuck of a lot of dishes, sink A is like a one-shot deal. Anyway, we’d go for hours, and sink A would look like the Exxon Valdez crashed in it, with oil slicks and chunks of pizza crust and pasta and cigarette butts and who knows what floating in it.)

Well, I DON’T HAVE TWO SINKS. So here is my system. Sink A: water, some dirty dishes, soap. Then a wash tub as sink B. I can stack stuff in there, but I can’t rinse into it, as it doesn’t have a sink or drain or whatever. So I stack shit in there that is cleaned but not rinsed. Then I take the shit out, one at a time, and rinse it as I am overflowing sink A and water is going all over the fucking floor and flooding my kitchen, unless I pull the plug and lower the water level and dilute the soap in A. So it works better with less shit in A, and all of those dishes stacked on the floor and the stove and the living room and whatever else. So I did this for a while, and it sort of worked, but I only got like 3 plates cleaned and then all of the bowls and silverware and stuff. Tomorrow, I will put away all of the shit, and then start over.

I bought a box of brandy cherries from the discount wholesaler store, which is right below where I worked. They were horrific. They tasted like they were filled with kerosene. I ate one, and even the faint thought of it makes me want to go hurl chunks. I am never, ever eating another alcohol-based confection again in my life. I am also never drinking any hard liquor again in my life, as I overheard a completely stupid conversation today about the merits of hard liquor because of its lack of carbs. I realize I do not eat that healthy of a diet, but I am hoping to improve it to the point where in ten years, I will be fairly healthy at the same time that everyone who was preaching Atkins is on an organ donor wait list.


Sadaam is back, and so am I

Sadaam is back, and so am I. I, however, feel a lot worse than he looks. I’m still trying to kick the last remains of whatever I caught from that flu shot, and a week in Indiana didn’t exactly help me shake it. I got back last night at about 8:00, and found that my phone and DSL service were tits-up, and I didn’t even have a dialtone. I suspected either that Verizon had randomly disconnected my service, or my stupid fucking landlord decided to snip some copper pairs in the basement and sell them on the black market or something. After a week of getting by with my Sidekick, I was looking forward to some real web browsing and email catchup, but no dice.

Verizon got a guy out to the house at about 10:00 thismorning, and he had to go through the usual bullshit shuffle because out landlord doesn’t have a super (which is against the law) and the phone closet was locked. After a few hours, the repair guy got in there and determined the problem was in the CO, and the pair was fine at my place. He phoned it in, and within an hour or so, I had service again.

But the fun part was that I sat on the couch during the whole repair procedure, flipping through channels and watching the zoo of reporters with the latest in Iraq: Sadaam had been captured, and was in US custody. This whole thing is a weird twist, especially since I didn’t think he’d ever be found. Well, part of me thought maybe he’d surface in 20 years in Argentina or something, but I thought it was also even money that he’d be found dead in a ditch and nobody would ever be able to 100% verify his identity, especially the same camp of conspiracy theorists that deny that Hitler’s corpse was ever found. On the other hand, I think that all of the far left anti-war camp deserves a big “I told you so” on this one. But, just as it happened when his sons were found, I doubt they will say much about this, other than “this doesn’t mean the war is over,” etc. I don’t think the violence is over in the area, but it’ll get better.

So about the trip… the whole thing was very subdued, and I didn’t really do a lot, so there is no trip report and there are no photos. I did see all of my family, see both of my sisters’ new houses, and hang out at Ray’s place. Elkhart in general hasn’t really changed much, at least in my view. Some stores are new, and some buildings have been built, but I had an incredible sense of deja vu for most of the trip. So much of the scenery reminded me of my time driving around Elkhart and South Bend in 1990, 1991. I had this incredible nostalgia, this feeling a step above depression but still a strong pull back into the past. I did not like the year of college I spent in that town, but I wished I was still in that timeframe, maybe so I still had the friends, the job, the old favorite restaurants and hangouts to return to. Being there without any of those things made it all seem like a huge daydream to me, and very unsatisfying.

I also had mixed feelings because everyone had houses, new houses with full basements and spare bedrooms and giant kitchens and lots of closets and driveways and garages, and here I am in a tiny one-bedroom apartment overrun with DVDs and books. When I see this, it makes me wish I could settle down into 2000 square feet and a decent mortgage. But there’s no way I’ll find that in New York for under a half a mil, and there’s no way I could move back to Elkhart. If I could keep my current salary, and keep my current DSL connection, and have a house, and find the perfect woman there, I would move back. But those are four things I don’t think will happen in Elkhart.

I read a big chunk of Summer Rain while I was gone and decided that while I still like the book, it would be a waste of time to try to correct or reissue it. I really need to write another new book, and it won’t be some straightforward, sappy, nostalgic thing. It needs to be Rumored to Exist times two. I don’t know beyond that what it will be, though.

Okay, it is almost 6:00 and I have not eaten all day, so either I need to stall a bit, or think about an early dinner…

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Snow pussies, don’t ever get a flu shot


I was supposed to fly to South Bend this afternoon. Adding to the stress of this family visit was the fact that I’d been sick all fucking week due to the stupid flu shot. DON’T GET A FUCKING FLU SHOT. EVER. Especially don’t get one if you have an immune system already deeply weakened by the fact that I drink a lot of Coke, don’t eat right, and don’t happen to be a marathon runner or mountain climber like everyone else in my office. I’m not going to lay out any kind of fucked-up conspiracy about the shots or anything, it’s just that the dead flu stuff got on top of me quickly, or maybe they just took out my defenses and I got infected by some other shit. Either way, I spent all week completely laid out by some kind of fast-acting and brutal flu or viral infection or something. Leaving the house and trying to breathe the air during my quick run to the subway made my chest feel like I was breathing pure kerosene. Sleep helped a lot, but you can only sleep so many hours a day, especially with the whole job thing. I went to a doctor to see if it was maybe some Chernobyl strep throat, but after a swab, he said it was viral and told me to fuck off. As of today, I’m slowly getting better, but it’s not done yet. I had to cancel a date on Friday which really, really pissed me off, and on Thursday I thought it would be even money that I’d have to cancel the whole trip and spend the week in bed.

So I was sick, and to add to that the fact that organizing anything with my family is like trying to organize a labor dispute between the Teamsters and the WTO or something, and every 7 seconds, I was getting another phone call from another random person wanting to know the obvious. And then, to spice up the whole thing even more, it started fucking snowing.

First, let me say that New Yorkers are FUCKING PUSSIES when it comes to snow. Yesterday, the stuff was barely coming down, and the ground had the consistency of a Slurpee you left in your car for a few hours in July, and people are fucking running to the grocery store to buy like ten loaves of bread and a few gallons of milk. Why do people buy fucking bread and milk? How much of the shit do you go through in a weekend? You’d think these Atkins-obsessed, metrosexual motherfuckers would be buying power bars and backs of bacon or something. Anyway, the stuff was barely dusting down, and I bet some dumb pieces of shit were abandoning their Hummer H2s on Houston or something because they were “snowed in”. Anyway, all day people were giving me shit about how I would miss my flight, and I ignored them, or at least tried to.

I woke up thismorning: flight cancelled. I spent about an hour on hold with Delta, hoping they wouldn’t pull some bullshit and say my ticket would not be reassignable and I’d have to pay $27,000 for a new ticket to leave within the next month. Finally, I got an agent, and she was nice enough to push me to a flight that left at 7:00 tonight. So I was happy, it didn’t cost anything, and I went back to bed.

So I woke up at about 2:00, and guess what? That flight got cancelled too. After another hour on hold, I ended up getting on the first flight back I could get, which is… MONDAY. So I get two days trimmed from the vacation, and we have to reschedule christmas, maybe to Wednesday. On the plus side, I get to hide in my apartment and have some time alone to get over this fucking sickness, and maybe if I feel better, I can reschedule the date for tomorrow.

BTW, the whole low-sodium new diet thing did not work out. It’s impossible to keep on any kind of diet when all you can eat is soup and grilled cheese. I’ve been reading more about low sodium stuff, and it’s all very depressing. It’s amazing how so much stuff can have sodium in it, even if you don’t know it. I’ll worry more about this when I get back from this trip.

OK, now it’s time to relax…

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