Constant daylight

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I seriously think there’s more open WiFi in Anchorage than there is in New York City. It’s pretty weird. Anyway, morning of day three here, and I’m debating on whether or not to just keep updating as we go, as opposed to writing a giant travelogue when I get back (that noboy will read.)

The sunlight thing is really fucking weird. On our first night, we went to bed at like 10:30, which was like 2:30 our time, and it was broad daylight out. It was seriously like noon. I woke up to take a leak at like 2 AM and it was just barely dusk. The sun was setting and it was turning red on the horizon, but it was still light enough to read a newspaper outside. Last night, I woke up at about 4:30 AM, and the sun was already coming back up.

The night we got here, there was smoke in the air and it made your eyes tear a bit. It reminded me of when I visited my land in Colorado in the summer of 2002, when half the state was a wildfire. I thought maybe it was a preventative burn, but we saw the Sunday morning paper and it was a forest fire that took out 150 acres. You could still smell the burning wood, although it’s about gone now.

We got an early start yesterday, and drove around a lot. We have a Toyota Matrix, which is pretty much the same as the Zipcars we always get in NY. We went to a Denny’s for breakfast, then went to a Fred Meyer. I’ve forgotten how extensive Fred Meyer is – it’s like the nerve center of all grocery stores. We found more forgotten, new, and jumbo-sized products than I’d ever seen. In New York, you can’t even find corn dogs – they had a whole freezer case of them. They had two-liter bottles of gatorade, which I’d never seen. Lots of other weird stuff. They also have Kroger brand stuff, which was a blast. I found a generic package of Kroger sex lube, which was really hilarious for some reason. I didn’t get that, but we did get a cartful of water, drinks, and other crap, which is much better than paying $3 a bottle downstairs for water, and we have a fridge in the room, too.

We walked to a cafe for lunch – I really wish I remembered names or took notes, and I’m too lazy to search. But after that, we checked out a huge museum of Alaskan history. They had a weird bird exhibit, lots of stuffed falcons eating stuffed and viscerated wombats and whatnot. Lots of Alaskan art, ranging from landscape photos to native stuff made from bones and ivory. The ivory carvings were incredible. The general history part wasn’t bad, with a lot about the Aleutians and Russian Orthodox, and some cool stuff about the pipeline. There was also a smaller Russian Orthodox museum across the street, but it was closing right as we got there.

We caught a big mall on the way back, and bummed around more before going on another big drive, checking out more stuff. We found a bunch of houses built in this strange style, with almost flat roofs, a sort of shed-style 80s thing. We also found a lake by the airport that was entirely made of slips for small, one-engine floatplanes. They were all arranged like houseboats on a lake, but the middle part was their virtual runway. The airport itself is a trip too, nothing but huge widebodied jets from the lower 48, or tiny single-props flying to the bush, and nothing in between. We also drove through a huge park that was road going nowhere, maybe a former military base turned public, with a lot of construction but nothing other than this single road. There was a bridge crossing the road at one point, all brand new engineered lumber, but nothing on either side. The road finally emptied out to a big rec area on the shore, with lots of people mountain biking.

Eventually, we ended up eating at a place called Gwennie’s Old Time Alaskan Inn, which was sort of a dive, across the street from a Harley dealer, but it had a lot of charm. They had tons of pretty cool photos on the wall of when Anchorage was nothing more than two general stores and a whorehouse. Their sourdough bread was still being made from a starter they used before the war. And I think my plate of BBQ ribs was pretty much the whole animal with some sauce on it for $12.

I think that was all of yesterday. Today’s Memorial Day, and we’ll see what’s open. It’s my turn in the shower, so that’s all for now.

P.S. I was thinking about this the other day, and realized that Anchorage’s weather is actually better than Elkhart’s in all seasons. Elkhart gets much colder in the winter, and much hotter in the summer. Plus in Elkhart, you pay a lot of tax that goes toward nothing, while here you pay no tax, and the government gives you like a grand a year in oil revenue.

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Hello from Alaska

Hello from Alaska! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I am SSHed to my Mac back in New York, and I’m on the 8th floor of the Captain Cook hotel in downtown Anchorage. It’s 9:12 PM and it is broad fucking daylight outside. I think we have another four hours of daylight tonight, and my body thinks it’s 1:12 AM. This could be a major problem.

Today’s 10-odd hours of flying was made much better by flying in first class. We had seats 1A and 1B the whole way; on the first leg of the flight, we were the first on, the first off, and the first served with every round of food and drink. While the poor schmucks in coach got a micro-bag of pretzels and nothing else, we ate a nice lunch off of china with real silverware and drinks in actuall glass glasses. Quite a nice change. This was slightly distracted by a late departure due to fog, and a required spring across O’Hare from gate C567 to gate B1, but once we got there, we got the royal treatment. Plus I had the laptop with two batteries, and watched about three movies, plus played a monster SimCity marathon.

Alaska’s pretty damn nice. It’s nothing like anything I’ve seen before, although there are hints of previous pasts in there that remind me of things. There’s that touch of Seattle, since they are distant cousins on some weird way. They share some similar regional businesses, and the nature is of the same genre, albeit much more pronounced here. There are some excellent mountains on every horizon, which remind me of my land in Colorado, but things are much bigger here. It reminds me a bit of my time own in Southwestern Washington, the smallness and the industry. But it’s more than any of those, and I’ve barely seen the place.

We checked into the Captain Cook, which seems like an okay place. Some of it reminds me a bit of what would have happened if Long John Silver’s every launched a line of upscale restaurants. Lots of dark wood. The rooms themselves are pretty neutral. We’re right on the corner, so we have huge windows facing both north and east, and have a good view of the city. There isn’t a lot of a city here, but we did go for a walk, looking for some food. We’re just over from the city square, which isn’t much. Things are pretty spread out here. It’s nice though, a nice breeze going through the windows and a very laid back feel.

Fuck, should I stay up a few more hours and push the internal clock? Or do I crash now and wake up at 4 in the morning? And can I even sleep now? It’s seriously as bright outside as it is at noon back home. I guess I should see what’s on the tube.

P.S. Buy the new book!!

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The Necrokonicon

Okay, the big news first. The Necrokonicon is now available! Go to http://www.lulu.com/content/309317 to check it out. I was a little worried about hot it would look, but now that it’s in my hands, I’m more than happy with it. The cover looks sharp, the photo mosaic is great, and the weird little 9×7″ size is very cool. I love the way the inside layout worked, and the fonts and two-column pasteup are perfect. It’s a neat little book. I worry about whether people will want to read a document that lends itself to hypertext in a linear format, but it’s also the kind of thing you flip open to a random page and read. So go steal mom’s credit card, do $10 damage (plus shipping) and let me know what you think.

I’m leaving for Alaska tomorrow. I’m very happy to be getting out, but I still haven’t packed. I have been loading up the laptop with movies, and I have an extra battery to survive the long trip. I haven’t really stocked up on any extra reading material, but I’ll grab some magazines when I get to the airport. I am really psyched about getting up there and taking some great pictures, eating awesome food, and seeing the great outdoors. Okay, Anchorage isn’t the North Pole, but it isn’t Wall Street either.

I got to see my old UCSSC pal Andrea Donderi on Wednesday. She was in town to hang out with her parents and brother, and she crashed with us for a night until everyone else got in town. We went out to eat at Alias, and hung out a bit. It was unfortunately too short of a time, just dinner and bit of walking around the neighborhood, but it was still cool to see her. I think I’ve seen Andrea more than any of my other Indiana friends, not due to any favoritism or anything, but because she’s always catching up to family out here, which is cool.

Last night I started reading Rumored to Exist again, with plans to take it with me, and also to try to get back into that mindset to start work on the next book. I’m surprised at how much I still really like the book. Now that I’ve been away from it for so long, I start to see some of the structure, the lines through the book and the methods I used to piece together narratives. And I thought I would think the book is drivel, but I still really do enjoy reading it. That, to me, is the reason why I write. It’s not a business, or how many I sell, or “how many people I touch” or whatever. It’s whether or not I can come back to something after forgetting it for five years and read it and really, deeply enjoy it. So there you go.

Goodbye, farewell, see you all on 6/6/06. (And of course I know it’s Slayer Day.)

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Another book done

The book is done. Well, maybe. I uploaded the last iteration of the cover and the body, and ordered a copy, and when I get it and look at it and make sure it’s fine, then it’s done. Maybe I’ll get it before I leave next week for vacation, or maybe I won’t. I don’t think a lot of people are at the edge of their seats for this one, except for those couple of people who aren’t going to buy one, but still want to read it just to find my spelling fuckups or whatever. It always amazes me that I ask people to read stuff 28 times before I print it, and the dickheads that take the most pleasure out of finding others’ mistakes always wait until after it goes into print to make a federal case over a transposed period and paren.

This book was worse than the others because I picked this weird 9×7″ size. I could not get the PDF to jive with the printer’s auto-PDF-reader-sizer crap. Distiller would either kick out a 9×7 that looked like an 8.5×11 to the world, or it would print a 7×9 landscape instead of a 9×7 portrait, which are the same size and orientation, but not the same thing. All of my other books are 6×9, and I wanted something different in the lineup. I thought about square, but they just started offering this new size, and it worked perfectly with the glossary’s weird size. So it ended up being 200 pages, and $9.99. No barcode, no Amazon, no stores, just ordering from lulu.

I’m glad this fucking book is done so I can forget about Indiana for a while and work on something else. I’m reading a lot of different stuff right now to sort of relax my mind. I should be reading the book about Alaska I bought last week, but I still haven’t. Something to do tomorrow, I guess. It’s too damn big to read on the subway. I’m debating whether or not I should cut the pages out of the spine and only bring the ones for Anchorage.

So it’s a nice day, and we just got a zipcar to go out and go to the mall or something. More news on the book when I get my copy, etc.

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Writing a book in an empty forest

I have put a small news page for info as I get the Necrokonicon ready for print. It’s located here. I have been incredibly depressed as this book nears completion, mostly because I am almost certain in my mind that nobody will buy it, read it, or even understand why I would do it. And a lot of my lack of excitement has to do with the fact that this isn’t my pride and joy baby or whatever, but just something that I have to do so I can get it done and move on. The reason I am doing this is not so I can be the next Dan Brown. I don’t expect every Oprah-watching housewife in middle america to rush out and buy my book. I’m just doing it so I can stop fucking writing about Indiana. Because as long as the glossary is sitting on my site, every time the IU Foundation takes one of my old favorite places to eat and shop and turns it into a new parking lot or Urban Outfitter, I won’t feel the need to break my train of thought and go research it from the piece of shit Bloomington newspapers that don’t publish articles online unless you send them a DNA sample and buy three subscriptions, and update the stupid site, for fear some dumb fucker leaves me a comment telling me I’m an idiot because I don’t know the facts about a store that I’ve never visited, in a state that I largely avoid, that happens to be built on the ground of a 7-Eleven where I bought a Coke once, in 1989.

I watched that movie Art School Confidential last weekend. The bullet review is that it’s okay – too much of an attempt to slap a serious plot on a Clerks-type film, but some good jokes here and there, and Malkovich plays a convincing weirdo, if you can believe that. There was this whole subplot where the main character was doing what art he thought was best, but was running into problems where everyone else was doing really stupid “art” shit that was essentially worthless, but was praised by the teacher and others. And he goes to visit the Malkovich professor to discuss whether he should change styles or work on finding his own voice or whatever, and he realizes that the teacher has been painting giant paintings with just a triangle on them. And the teacher praises his attempts at work and says that maybe someday, after 25 years of hard work, he can find his own voice, like the stupid triangles paintings that he’s turning out.

I guess that sums up about what I’m thinking now. The Indiana thing is dead and gone for me, even if I have an almost-complete book of stories about Indiana, and at least two half-done, all-dead book maunscripts about it. I’m sick of writing neaty-neat prose because people just look for the plot points and the predicable story, of which there are only about 12 possible ones, total, in the world. I know just about everyone hated Rumored to Exist, or didn’t get it, but it’s the closest thing that I’ve wrote to what’s in my mind. Writing soap opera dreck in novel form is bullshit. When people started inventing cameras, painters stopped painting Polaroid-portraits of people. In a world as fucked up as the one we live in, I shouldn’t be forced to say “Oh, it’s The Sound of Music, but with gay cowboys” when I’m thinking of ideas for a book.

I want to write the books that Kilgore Trout was supposed to write in Vonnegut’s books, and I want to get to the point where I can write them just as fast. I want to write stories that Crispin Glover would say are too fucked up to print. I don’t want to have paragraphs and chapters and lines and arcs and subplots and all of that shit – I want to find a way to make a total braindump of sheer anarchy readable somehow. I want to do this, because I can only occasionally find writing that’s like this, that I really like. Mark Leyner’s books were the first that really made me think the revolution had arrived. And his last book was a stupid worthless trivia book. I want more books like this, and I can’t find them, so I will write them.

So fuck all of you for not buying my other books, and I don’t care if you buy any of the new ones. I am writing to fill my bookshelf. If you happen to look at what I put out there and like it, great. If you write similar stuff, or can point me to some similar stuff that I could buy, even great. If you don’t like it, you’re always welcome to to buy the latest plagarized, fictionalized, non-fiction book from Oprah’s list and act like you’re smart.

Fuck, am I ever glad I’m going on vacation. In two weeks, I will be on a plane (first class, no less), going to Alaska. I bought an extra battery for my laptop so I will have enough juice for the flight, and I’m ripping a bunch of movies from DVD so I can pack those on the drive. I still don’t know what the hell we are doing, but I plan to buy another Alaska book or two when we’re out tonight, so we’ll see. Lots of photos, hopefully. And maybe some flying, like a little seaplane or whatever.

Okay, time to go read…

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Glasses cleaning-related breakdown

Long weekend. Sarah’s sister and sister’s boyfriend were in town from Milwaukee, and that was cool but also kept me very busy. On Saturday, we went to the Bronx Zoo. (Pics on flickr here.) The zoo wasn’t bad, although getting to the Bronx was a pain because of the usual MTA weekend fuckups. The zoo’s big, and I guess I haven’t been to another zoo in recent memory to have a basis of comparison. I think I went to the Seattle zoo about ten years ago, but all of the animals were asleep and the whole place was small, about as big as one of the “worlds” in the Bronx zoo. Everything was cool, though. My personal favorites were the polar bear, the apes, and some of the indoor jungle-looking scenery, which reminded me of the arboretum we saw in Amsterdam, with very high humidity and that jungle smell of very rich soil and plants.

On Sunday, just me and Dan went to see the USS Intrepid museum, while the girls did their own thing. I got a membership, so if anyone’s in town and wants to get in free, I’m your hookup. (Oh, flickr pics here.) The museum was basically the same as last time I went, in 2003, except the planes on deck were moved, and they swapped the USS Edson for a big barge containing one of the Concorde SST jets. We walked through the Concorde – there were jetways on either door, so you could walk into the midsection and then walk up to the front and back down. The inside was all blocked with plexiglass to stop dumbasses from tearing out seats or trays, so it looked a bit odd. The cockpit door was open, but there’s such a long stretch between the plexiglass barrier and the actual seats, you could barely see the gauges and dials. The cockpit had a very distinct smell though, and then I realized it smelled like my old tape player in my first car when it was brand new, and the sunlight oven in the passenger compartment activated the new plastic smell of the 80s technology. It was a very distinct smell, and oddly coincidental that all of the electronics in the nose of the plane smelled the same way.

Anyway, the Intrepid was good, although those Navy ship ladder-stairs aren’t made for a gimp with a bad knee. By the time I cleared the gift shop (got a book written by one of the radar operators on the old ship), got a cab, and got us home, I was seriously hobbling. After some sleep and general rest around the house, I’m feeling fine now.

Re the flickr thing, I’m still not sure if I like it or hate it, but it’s easy to do, and I’m lazy, so I’ll keep dumping new pictures there, until I find something better. I ordered a couple of prints from my last Hawaii trip, blown up to 8×10″, and they looked pretty good, and for an okay price. I like that aspect of the operation, especially for other people who want to print photos, without me having to set up some giant operation and move the sun over 28 feet to get it all to work.

I’m having a serious glasses cleaning-related breakdown right now. My glasses were very easy to clean when I first got them in December, and now it takes me 278 tries with 22 cleaning solvents and 97 sheets of three different types of cleaning pad or sheet to get them even vaguely translucent. And usually on about the 273rd pass at cleaning (and each pass involves me cleaning the glasses; cleaning my hands; cleaning the glasses; cleaning all surfaces of the room where I’m cleaning; cleaning the glasses; cleaning my hands; then seven passes of successive cleaning with additive and subtractive amounts of solvents and water of different temperatures, and if I mess up any of these parts, the pass doesn’t count and I have to start over) one of the lenses smears about to the same effect as emptying a one-pound tub of Vaseline on a contact lens. I’m very frustrated with cleaning my glasses, especially after 30 years of glasses wearing, and I really wish I could get LASIK, but I can’t.

Okay, I must go clean my glasses.

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