Pom nastygram

Just got back from the dentist. I’ve been having some fillings redone, and today was stuff on the back side of my top teeth. I’m totally numbed out, and can’t feel my top lip or the bottom of my nose. It’s very weird. This is a new dentist, which is actually in the building next to ours, which saves a lot of time. He’s also a pretty nice guy, and best of all, he’s in-network for my insurance, so everything is cheaper. While I do not love dentists, this one has been pretty good. My last dentist was a total shithole, and cost me a lot of time and money. Then when I moved and changed dentists, he still called me every day for a month trying to get me to come in for an appointment.

So here I am, a dreary Saturday afternoon, where the sky can’t decide on whether or not to start pouring. I haven’t eaten all day, and I’d love to now, but I’m afraid of chewing off my upper lip and not realizing it. Both Sarah and I have been low-level sick since we got back, probably a cold that was recycled in the plane’s air system, via the 28 unruly toddlers on the flight. I think I’m pulling out of it, though. Maybe I’d drink another orange juice if I wasn’t afraid of spilling it all over my shirt from the lack of drinking skills the novocaine brought on.

Oh yeah, and last night, I woke up at like four in the morning to get a drink. And we have one of those huge family-size jugs of PoM juice, the pomegrante juice that is supposed to miraculously cure your heart, and is overpriced accordingly. So I decide to drink a glass of that in my half-asleep state. And when I try to turn off the factory-sealed cap, my thumb goes through the outside of the shitty plastic jug, and bright red-purple juice explodes everywhere. And my first reaction was ‘duct tape’, but I couldn’t find any, and I also worried that the adhesive would contaminate the juice. So I got a giant glass and poured off the remaining stuff, so the liquid level was below the hole, and then I spent forever wiping up juice from everywhere in the kitchen. So the PoM corporation is getting a nastygram, when I get around to it. I hope at the very least they will send me a coupon, because that shit is expensive. I think it costs ten times as much as gasoline in Manhattan.

I have tickets to two baseball games in the near future. One is the Yankees-Twins game next weekend, and the other is a Mets game about two weeks later, and I forget who they are playing. (Wait, I just looked it up, and it’s the DC Nationals, aka the Montreal Expos revisited.) I don’t know why I’m suddenly so interested in baseball, other than that I enjoyed going to the game last week. I guess I also want to see a game in both stadiums before they get imploded and turned into parking lots for the new billion-dollar stadiums. It’s on the ever-growing-but-it-should-be-shrinking master list of shit we want to do in this city that we never do, even though we’ve lived here howevermany years. Yes, New Yorkers gag and retch at the idea of seeing the statue of liberty, but I don’t want to move away from here someday and never have seen it. There are a lot of things I wish I would have seen in Seattle before I left: a Mariners game in the Kingdome (RIP), the underground tour, about a million restaurants, the Boeing junkyard, and a bunch of other stuff. I can go back to do that, but why didn’t I do it when I lived there, and save me a thousand-dollar trip? So, it’s up to the Bronx to see the bombers, and out to Shea to see the blue, orange, and black.

(BTW, Jesus Christ, tickets are expensive, especially for the Yankees games. You can’t even get seats to the upcoming Red Sox series, unless you want to pay like a grand. The Twins tickets are in the second-to-top tier, and cost $126 for 2, courtesy of an online scalper. I’m fully expecting ten dollar cokes and 12.50 hotdogs when we get there.)

Okay, I need to look into some applesauce or something I can eat, because I’m starving.


Back from Milwaukee

[Before I begin, does anyone know anything about WiFi? I have a router next to my Mac, and when I’m in the next room on my laptop, I’m lucky to have it work for five minutes before the signal drops. When I have a signal, it’s 100% excellent, no problem, but then BAM it’s gone. This happens even if the laptop is physically touching the router. There are a lot of other routers in the building, and I’ve tried fucking with the channel settings a bit, but to no avail. This is extremely frustrating, because every page I’ve found on google says “well, have you tried moving into a cabin in the woods with no walls?” as like step one. I also don’t want to dump a lot of cash into repeaters or antennae just to find out it’s a fundamental problem of living in NYC with too many hotspots. Oh, and I mention all of this because I already wrote this entire entry, and on like the last word, the connection dropped, and then when I went to the other computer to fix it, it overwrote the backup file with a blank file. I was seriously on the verge of smashing my laptop into little tiny pieces with a hammer. I still might. Anyway.]

So I’m back from Milwaukee, and the trip went well. We spent a lot of time with Sarah’s family, and that was all good. We also went to the art museum (where Sarah’s dad works), Irish Fest, the public museum, a Brewers game, and did a lot of driving around and seeing all of the places where Sarah grew up. We also drove down to Kenosha to meet up with John Sheppard and his better half. It was a pretty packed 4-day weekend.

Milwaukee, to me, seems like a Chicago-lite. It’s smaller, and doesn’t have as many of the big things, but it’s also easier to get around, it’s cleaner, maybe a bit quieter, and more relaxed. But a lot of things remind me of the Chicago I knew as the kid, like the little corner bars with the giant Old Style signs out front, the giant, old brick factories and chimneys from the breweries, and the general feel of the place, the way houses are built and how stores are laid out. It really made me think back to my grandparents’ old neighborhood (which is Larry’s current neighborhood.)

The only time I’ve been to Milwaukee was for the metalfest, in ’93. We drove by the big Eagles lodge that was the venue for that show, and I saw the only things I experienced on that trip: the hall, the street where Ray parked and we tried to sleep, the McDonald’s next door, and the quick pick minimart across the street. The other indelible event that I associate with Milwaukee is Jeffrey Dahmer’s capture. I remember in 1991, reading all of the news magazines in the Osco drug at Concord Mall, going over all of the facts of the butchery that he ran in his apartment. Turns out his lair at the Oxford Apartments on 25th and Kilborn was maybe three blocks from the metalfest. Oddly enough, when Sarah was born, her parents lived in a house just a couple of blocks down Kilborn. When we were driving around one night, we tried to locate the spot of his old apartment, but they tore it down years ago, and now it’s just a vacant lot with some old chainlink around it. Driving in the neighborhood was weird though, because I always pictured the area as an ultra-urban slum, like maybe where I lived in Washington Heights. But the neighborhood looked more like the rougher parts of Elkhart, by the projects.

The other big surprise was that I really enjoyed the Brewers game. I haven’t followed baseball since I was a kid, and even then it was only half-heartedly. I’ve never seen a professional game before, and this was my first. It was against the Astros, which is funny because my peewee league team was the Astrobowl Astros, and because of that, I was vaguely an Astros fan when they had the stupid-looking bright orange jerseys, the AstroDome (with AstroTurf), and Nolan Ryan on the mound. Now that all of that has changed, not really a fan, for whatever stupid reason.

We went with Sarah’s sister, and her boyfriend and group of friends that all had season tickets. We first went to their place and did some indoor tailgating, and they had some bratwurst grilling away in a soup of onions and peppers. Those were pretty much the best damn brats I’ve ever had, especially with some sauerkraut and a good bun. We ended up eating and listening to everyone’s bitchfest about the Brewers, and before long, we were into the first inning, but not yet at the stadium. We took off in different cars, and we paid the $12 for “preferred” parking. Dan and the others parked illegally at the back of the VA hospital for free, and we ended up walking up to the gate at the same exact time.

Miller Park is a pretty decent place to see a game. It has a retractable roof, modern seats and shops and all of that (no pee trough in the bathroom), and they have a lot of new LCD screens and score things everywhere, so you can always see all of the stats, and also keep up on other MLB games in progress. Lots of people were there. Lots of mullets. Lots of beer. I think I was the only sober person there, but that only added to the energy. I was surprised at how close we were for $38 seats, and watching a game in person is nothing like TV. In fact, watching on TV really sucks in comparison.

The game itself was sedate – it got tied at 2 by the second inning, and went on scoreless until the bottom of the 9th, when the Brewers got one in. But all of the little stuff made it interesting. Bernie Brewer, the mascot, slides down this huge slide whenever there’s a run. He used to slide into a giant beer mug, but I’m sure some parental nazi group got that taken out. There’s also the sausage race, where a group of people dressed as various kinds of sausages race across the field. (Italian sausage won.) The place went nuts when the first home run went over the wall. And at the very end, when they were getting everyone really riled up, they did this whole “more cowbell” thing on the video screen, playing the SNL sketch intercut with various home runs hit during the season, which was pretty hilarious. There were only 30,000 there, with a lot of empty seats at the top, but the crowd had a lot of energy (and a lot of beer), so it was a lot of fun.

Coincidentally, we were shopping at Target (so good to be out of NYC…) and I found a “more cowbell” CD, which has a dozen or so tracks featuring cowbell. It was a good buy at $8.99, although I’m a little don’t-fear-the-reapered-out for now.

Irishfest was also a blast. It’s the biggest one in the country, and it’s held at these fest grounds that are used for a lot of other festivals. So there were the same food courts and concert venues and all, but also a ton of tents selling Irish crafts and shirts and whatnot. I’d like to say I got some incredible food, but the lines were so long, I used the shortest-wait approach and grabbed a hotdog and fries. We saw two musical groups, one that was more drum-oriented, and we had a front-row seat for the Billy Mitchell Scottish group. They were bagpipes and drums, plus some dancing too. The whole thing reminded me of Simms and all of the times we watched So I Married an Axe Murderer. This alumnus of the group, who was 150% Scottish, was sitting behind us and making comments to a friend in his thick-as-hell accent, and it greatly tempted me to ask him to call Simms on the phone and leave a message on his machine, like “if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!”

In Kenosha, we met with John and Helen at The Brat Stop, which was also had a pretty good bratwurst. I also had some fried cheese curds, and I’m glad they aren’t available here, or I’d be pricing out bypass surgery by now. It was good to see John again, and also good to see tons of cheese and Green Bay Packers stuff available. We also stopped at the Mars Cheese Castle. Unfortunately, this was not a castle made out of cheese, but rather a store that sells a ton of cheese. Fortunately, there were free samples. We also stopped at the largest grocery store I’ve ever seen in my life. It had a beverage section bigger than most groceries in New York. And if you have been to a super-huge Kroger in the Midwest, well this place’s freezer section was bigger than this. It was truly awesome, except I couldn’t bring any of it back on the plane, so it wasn’t.

And that’s all. Well, we went to the museums, and the art museum has a pretty funky building, with these big spines that open and close, and no right angles in sight. And we had a lot of food, which was good. And now I’m back to the daily grind. And no, we’re not moving to Wisconsin. (I still can’t believe I can’t write about anything without someone mis-reading an ulterior motive into it.)

Anyway, pictures on flickr. Back to work.


The TSA and medical conditions

Bags are packed and at my desk, and I’m ready to leave for Milwaukee in a few hours. Sarah is in Philadelphia on business, so she will get back, get a taxi, and then come to my work and pick me up. Then, off to the airport and the hideous security crap. Wish me luck.

You know, I never had a problem with the TSA, until maybe a year ago. Before that, I always got through, no problems. Now, for some reason, they constantly fuck with me. The worst of it was when I was in California earlier this year, and I still had my knee brace. The brace has hinged metal pieces on either side, and sets off a metal detector more than a handgun would. And I can’t take off the brace without completely taking off my pants. Now, if you go to the TSA web site, there’s a lot of nice wording about how to treat a person with a medical issue: they can’t touch the brace, they can’t take off the brace, they can’t ask me to take it off, and so on. Well, on my return trip, they made me go into a little room, undress, and take off the brace so they could test it for explosives. I’m sitting in a back room with no pants on while some dumb fuck is asking me if I follow hockey or not, seeing as I live in New York. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!

So, yeah, I don’t like the TSA. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

Speaking of travel, I’ve been reading this Henry Rollins book that’s a travel journal over a couple of years, both from spoken word tours and from an effort to burn off a ton of frequent flier miles and go to weird places. He goes to Kenya, and then to Madagascar, sleeping in tents and seeing the wilderness. The sights and animals and native people all sound interesting. It must be something to sit on the shores of the Indian Ocean on an island that is almost untouched by man, with no pollution and nothing but green around you. On the other hand, he also did the tour group thing with a bunch of insufferable people, usually old, just wanting to take pictures of stuff they’d seen on TV, not really getting the context.

Rollins is a capable writer, and his life is interesting. This is where the whole “It’s not about what you write, but who you are” thing comes into play. People buy his books because he has this sort of cult of personality surrounding him. People want to be his friend, or be him, and because he’s been in bands and movies and whatever, he has that infamy. He could sell a hundred times as many books as I’d ever sell in my lifetime, even if he wrote a ten-word poem and repeated it for 200 pages. He doesn’t need to write anything marketable, because there are enough frentic completist record collectors who absolutely have to have one of everything he produces. People worship him, but they don’t give a shit about how his writing stands up against David Foster Wallace or Raymond Carver. He’s a celebrity, and people like that.

And Rollins is interesting, but he’s also a bit of a prick sometimes. (To be fair, this is sort of fading with age, though.) And he goes on and on about his need to be alone, how he wishes he could vanish in the woods or whatever, and while I find his life or his lifestyle or his travels interesting, I think a lot of this philosophy of his is bullshit. And I wonder if that’s what he truly feels, or if fame has made him feel this, or if it’s all an act. Maybe he’s a cool guy if you know him, but the closest I ever would be to knowing him would be getting him to sign my napkin and shake my hand after a show.

I think that’s the thing that bugs me about signing books. The people who most want me to sign something are the ones that least know me. How is a squiggle of ink on a page going to change things? Who’s going to rush home with an autographed copy of Rumored to Exist and wrap it up in 10-mil plastic? Maybe people want me to sign books because they think they will go up in value, or someday I’ll be famous, but the truth is, even if I went on a ten-state killing spree and got caught by the feds tomorrow, that book wouldn’t fetch more than $50 on eBay. (All of this is also rather stupid in that if I could sign every book and zine I’ve ever published in about an afternoon.)

Crap. Lunch is over and I need to go work. I’ll be back Monday (although who am I kidding, I never update this thing…)


Raymond Carver rut

A quick update after lunch. I know I haven’t been writing in here at all, and there’s a reason for that, and it’s that I’ve been busy working on my next book. And when I have writing to do there, it’s hard to write here, because every word here is a word that could be there. Or something.

I’ve been stuck reading Raymond Carver lately, although I haven’t been reading at all, because I’ve been walking to work, and I can’t walk and read. I can walk and listen to music, but I’m sick of everything on my iPod, and I don’t want to buy any more music, because everything sucks, and I don’t really know what I like anymore. And I think I have been cured of collecting music, so I no longer have the need to keep buying shit just to buy shit.

Back to Carver, I read his collection The Cathedral, and about the title story, I swear I’ve read it somewhere else. Actually, I swear someone verbally read it to me. Maybe it was in a writing class back at IU. Maybe it was in a movie that I’m forgetting. I’m sure the story was anthologized everywhere, as it’s a popular one, but I don’t remember where I first saw it. Oh well.

If you read the drama on my livejournal about the bad review, I’ve almost completely forgotten about it. The reviewer was an idiot. That said, I wish more people would review my stuff. But who cares. All I know is I have to keep going on the current book. It’s my first book not based on my life, and the first with a real plot. Those are two points of contention, because the two most-asked questions of me are “why do you only write about Indiana” and “why don’t your books have plots like Stephen King”. The answer, by the way, to both of those questions is “go fuck yourself.” Equally annoying are the people who tell me “just write whatever, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t have a plot or structure”, because those people have obviously never written a book. There has to be some structure or it won’t work. Captain Beefheart is a novel gimmick for about five minutes, but you can’t make a career out of it. I think he’s living in a van in New Mexico, trying to sell shitty paintings to tourists.

The weather is very nice here now. It’s good weather to walk home in at night, which I have been. I’m going to Wisconsin next weekend, so lots of cheese.