Reason #8,234,123 New York City Sucks

Reason #8,234,123 New York City Sucks:

June through September.

Seriously, summer blows here. Find me a person that thinks it’s great to live here in the months between spring and autumn, and invite them to my place for an hour, and they will cry faster than those pieces of shit in Guantanamo after the CIA torture technicians crank up the Britney Spears albums. This city is a giant heatsink, and all of the office buildings that need to keep their giant unused conference rooms at a frigid 56 degrees are pumping out even more heat that gets absorbed into the concrete. Add to that the fact that people here shit, piss, and vomit pretty much everywhere as if it’s Calcutta, and the streetsides are giant open-bake ovens for garbage that is put out on Mondays and then possibly picked up a week later. And if you have the wise idea to get the fuck out for a weekend, forget it. Central Park is a baby festival on the weekend, intermixed in with the occasional gangbanger race war. And that’s on the weekend when there isn’t a culturally aware pride parade-slash-rapefest. I’m not trying to sound like I’m starting a Klan chapter in Astoria or anything, but I think if you have a whatever-day parade for your race or creed or religion or whatever, that’s fine, but after you have, let’s say more than about zero rapes or murders, it’s cancelled forever. Of course, maybe these people are pissed off by the heat, so maybe it’s justifiable. Who knows.

Before you start, here are the ground rules on what is known as the misery of my apartment:

  1. Bars on windows. No way to put in an AC unit.
  2. All wiring is from about 1812. We’re talking about that cheap aluminum, paper-wrapped, total catastrophe stuff, with the whole apartment hooked into two 10A breakers, which are conveniently located in the basement in a locked utility room, meaning if I trip a breaker, I have to get the landlord to come over (we have no super. yes, that’s illegal) and he’s out of town for months at a time sometimes.
  3. Yes, I know they sell free-standing air conditioners, fucknut. I have one. It’s the most expensive one that the most expensive Italian company produces. It barely works. It’s like making ice with a toaster.
  4. All of the windows are on one side, so there’s no breeze, and no real way to get one going with fans.
  5. I live on the first floor, so when I leave all of my windows open, I am treated to the sounds of the Caucasian-d/b/a-ebonically challenged neighbors, who are typically dealing drugs, screaming at the tops of their lungs, or smashing cars in the windshield with a brick to set off alarms and see which ones they can steal.
  6. For the 347 reasons outlined in Konrath publication 456-763-2A, entitled “why I cannot up and move at a split fucking second like all of you cocksuckers in towns in the Midwest with a 47% occupancy rates and rents under a hundred dollars for a 4-bed house”, I can’t move in the near future.

In another futile effort to make the situation better, I spent $100 on a Vornado fan. Oh wait, I mean “room air circulation unit” or whatever they call it. I just got it set up a few hours ago, and it’s actually working slightly better than my regular high-volume fan, but it’s much quieter, and doesn’t knock this high stream of sickness-inducing air into my face. (Yes, I know that allegedly, exposure to a draft or cold air or whatever isn’t supposed to cause a cold. But gee, whenever I point a fan right at my head and go to sleep, I wake up with a cold. And when I don’t, I don’t. That must have to do with Jesus or dinosaurs or my Tarot card reading or something else, right Mr. Scientist?) So maybe the Vornado will help. I’m hoping if I fire up the anemic AC unit and put the Vornado right next to it, I will get some kind of better cooling. And if all else fails, I will just spend way more time at Sarah’s, since she lives in an apartment built within the last two centuries that actually has AC units, ceiling fans, and no Eminem-wannabes three feet from your head playing with their shitty ringtones on full volume at three in the morning.

I have been working full-time on Air in the Paragraph Line (aka “the zine”), or at least as full-time as I can with a real job and almost no energy from constant heatstroke. But the layout is looking good, a lot of the text has been placed, and the guts are close to ready. The one person holding up the issue is, of course, me, because I can’t decide on what to include, and I think everything in the current inventory kinda sucks and I need to write something new, but any new effort is basically a tone poem that goes like this: “MUST / DRINK / MORE / WATER”. But seriously, everything is looking good and it’s a good read, with a lot of decent fiction, some longer stuff, and I like it.

You’ll also notice some slight changes to the layout here. I’m just trying to make things look a little better, work better, whatever. If you see something horrifically broken or wrong, please let me know. And if you have any ideas or thoughts on the look, I’d love to hear your thoughts. So drop a “you should have an xyz” comment if you have any wise ideas.

Kid in a vending machine

So those of you who are up on your news of the weird probably heard the story about the three-year-old kid who got stuck in the crane game vending machine at at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, right? (If not, read here.) Well, I wasn’t sure at first, but I found out that the kid’s dad was actually a good friend of mine back in school, Jim Manges. And there are some weird twists to the story, too. First, the family went on the Today show, and it turns out that mom Manges was on probation at the time (grand theft auto), and doing stuff like crossing state lines when on probation is a no-no. Second, a few days after their appearance on TV, Jim was arrested for allegedly breaking into a factory or warehouse or something and trying to take off with a cash drawer. So he’s got some legal “issues” coming up soon, too.

I’ve mentioned Jim before in the NecroKonicon and maybe he’s come up in stories, but he’s an interesting character. It’s too bad that he got in all of the trouble he did, and that pretty much everyone in the world thinks his wife’s a fucking idiot for getting their kid stuck in a vending machine or whatever, but I met Jim way back in the sixth grade, and despite his problems, he was one of the few people I could really sync up with mentally. I don’t believe in souls or any of that, but I think we had some kind of ethereal connection there, because despite our difference in background, we got into some very heavy discussions back in the day, and he could grok the ideas from my head better than almost all of the other idiots in our redneck, backwater, Indiana town.

I first met Jim from his brother Brian, who wandered around the subdivision on his Huffy bike soon after his family pulled into town. He talked a lot about his older brother, who I mentally depicted as looking like Angus Young from AC/DC or something, based on his tall tales. A few days later, I actually met Jim, who was nothing like the stories. He was my age, maybe a year older, but he seemed more than that. He told me I should only call his brother Booger, and for the most part ignore him, and I did. We became quick pals, and over the course of a summer between sixth and seventh grade, became quickly cemented together.

Jim had deeply fundamentalist Christian parents. His dad worked constantly at some slave labor job, and his mom, much like the universe, was infinitely large and expanding at a rapid rate. She tried to rule the family with an iron fist, often banning Jim from all kinds of things in the name of Jesus, but that meant he was just that much more rebellious. Our big vice back then was Dungeons and Dragons, a game that could kill days of time spent in my basement or at my kitchen table. His parents thought this was highly satanic, meaning Jim often had to leave his books and dice and whatnot at my place, and playing at his place was out of the question. The other evil we discovered was metal music, and although now it seems silly that we had to hide our Van Halen tapes from his mom, given that the once-mighty VH is now lamer than Tiffany.

In junior high, Jim slowly became involved with a rough crowd, started smoking pot and popping speed, and spent most of his time shoplifting and trying to score low-octane weed. We drifted, and I didn’t keep in touch with him for a while, but I did know he somehow ended up in rehab. In my sophomore year, he suddenly reappeared, sporting a ripped-up jean jacket covered in Suicidal Tendencies lyrics penned-on during study hall, and an impromptu mohawk. This was Elkhart, Indiana in 1987, long before the faux-hawks of today, and wearing a mohawk was a pretty big “fuck you” to the rednecks and jockos of the era.

We started hanging out more, and it became a new era of Jim. He was in NA and AA, trying to wrestle with the deep emotional ties with his addiction and his family. That’s tough to do at 40, but at 17, when you’re supposed to be worrying about acne and talking to girls, that’s a real ball-breaker. I drove him to meetings, spent many long nights talking to him about the theories of life at the back of a 24-hour Perkins, and tried to give him an alternative to drifting back to his old life. We drove around a lot in my old Camaro, listening to Metallica and talking about some grand plan to get the fuck out of Elkhart someday.

Jim did relapse, and I didn’t hear from him for a while. I caught up with him once when he was living in a shithole apartment downtown, dating a 14-year-old, dealing speed, and looking like death. He had long since given up on school, and we mostly talked about old times and pored over a video of a Charles Manson interview. Then he vanished for months, again, continuing the cycle.

In my senior year of high school, he came back again, living at home, clean, working the program. The old Jim was back, and we went to meetings and talked about Black Sabbath and metaphysics, and damn near kept that Perkins in business, a pitcher of coffee at a time. But this time there was a secret, a problem that hit just before we found each other again. Jim had been hanging out with a couple, a man and wife who were low-end dealers, and everyone was fucked up. One thing led to another, and somehow Jim got ahold of a two by four and beat the shit out of the guy. He didn’t remember any details or anything, but he was certain that the law was only a step behind him. As I applied to colleges and finished my last semesters of high school, waiting anxiously to leave this cesspool of a town, he nervously awaited that one traffic stop or search warrant that would bring him to meet a different kind of destiny.

The next spring, I guess the pressure made him snap. He hitchhiked to Florida with about three bucks in his pocket, and then made his way all the way to Las Vegas, mostly sleeping in shelters, on beaches, in the desert, or wherever he could find a flat surface. He met tons of strange people, smoked a lot of dope, and then called his grandma and got a Greyhound ticket back from Elkhart. He was pretty much on the run from there, and I went off on my own to college, always wondering what happened to him.

On my first Thanksgiving break home, my mom gave me the newspaper article that answered the question. He got arrested on attempted murder charges, and when put in the county lockup, his parents wouldn’t make bail, so he spent months in the horrible temporary holding cells, awaiting his trial. He got four years in prison, and served a couple before coming out a much more hardened and bitter guy.

I don’t mean this to be some huge eulogy for Jim. I saw him once or twice more, and I know he’s been in and out of prison, in and out of rehab, married and with kids. I think I last talked to him a little bit before or maybe after the vending machine kid was born; he isn’t consistent with having a phone, and I guess trying to call him now would be futile. I guess I just find it odd that a dude that I used to dungeon master has gone through all of this. And I still do have some pretty good memories of hanging out with him back in the day. I think if I was with him now, sitting in a Perkins (not the same one – it went out of business, maybe because we stopped going there) I would have a good time with him. Who knows.

Okay, gotta go get my laundry, and then maybe a pizza…

Summer Rain flashbacks

I’m having a total Summer Rain flashback right now. It’s hot and muggy outside, about twenty degrees warmer inside my apartment, and I’ve got a box fan running on overdrive. I’m listening to Chick Corea and eating a bacon double cheeseburger meal from Burger King. It makes me think I’ve got a radio show shift coming up at WQAX and it’s going to start pouring rain two minutes before I have to leave. Although I don’t enjoy the weather, I do enjoy the temporary glimpse back 13 years. For whatever reason though, I don’t look back at it as fondly as I did before. I mean, nothing’s wrong with it, but I’m just getting bored of looking back and being nostalgic. It’s something I do too much, and I’d rather look forward. And that means I’m sick of writing these books about the past and about my life, because they always seem mediocre to me, and there are too many problems involved. I try to write something that’s a metaphor for youth and age and whatever the fuck, and the only comments I get back are “D00D MY CAR HAD 15 INCH RIMS, WTF?” and it makes me wonder why I don’t just take up golf and fucking give it up.

That’s why I haven’t been writing here. I don’t know what you expect out of me, but this isn’t a blog. And I wish it wasn’t a “here’s the latest news on Jon’s personal life”. When I first envisioned this, I thought it would be just a bunch of writing exercises; a chance for me to sit down for twenty minutes during my lunch break and hash out some writing. But then it became a personal journal, but not really – I don’t like to write about all of the intimate details of my life online, unlike many LiveJournalers out there. For example, I never, ever write about my dating life here. That’s pure suicide right there. And I never talk about my job. I also don’t post the kind of pure brain diarrhea that most blogs do, like a bunch of links to other content, or political links, or whatever else. A blog is a (we)b log, or basically just a list of favorite bookmarks you see during your daily surf. It isn’t content, it isn’t creative, and it isn’t art. Okay, there are some good blogs that consolidate content and showcase news stories or whatever, and I read them, but I’m not a new-age journalist. I’m a writer.

I also recently discovered that I’m really sick of writing travel journal stories. The Hawaii one just about broke my back, and I think about three people read it. Writing about my own life has become akin to eating my own shit. It’s something I really hate doing now. And it sucks because I have almost an entire book done, a bunch of short stories about Bloomington, and I don’t even want to share them with anyone because I already know what the reactions will be, and looking at them makes me retch as much as if you somehow turned up a Dungeons and Dragons-themed paper I wrote in the 7th grade and then forced me to read it to a stadium of people holding cartons of rotten eggs.

I think that Rumored to Exist was/is the one book that I am truly proud of, although I see that as my first real book, and the next one needs to be more of the same, but exponentially better. And I’m working in that direction. But it makes me wonder what I should be doing with this journal. I see the marketing potential of having a little thing where I can tell people what new book is coming out, or where I am reading, or what friends of mine have released new stuff worth reading. But I feel like there’s a lot of bad energy in having all of these archives of old shit, with people coming here thinking I’m going to write some giant diatribe about my girlfriend or whatever the fuck people think blogs are supposed to have on them. And I worry that people see this thing and think it’s my life’s work, much like how every hipster doofus starts up a blogger page and then that’s their big project, and that’s going to get them a hundred grand publishing deal. This isn’t my life’s work. For every word I write here, I probably write a hundred in my real books.

In the last month, I’ve thought about entirely removing this thing from the web, and leaving a big 404 sunken crater to greet all of you. I’ve thought about making this page a symlink to a livejournal with only the occasional update. I’ve thought about scaling everything back, mothballing the archives, and coming up with something stripped down to put in its place. I still don’t know what the solution is.

I do know that I need to clean all of the Burger King wrappers and bags off the desk, start up another fan or two, and start work on the layout for Air in the Paragraph Line, which will be coming out soon…