Not home for Halloween

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It’s fall. The weather’s cool, I’m wearing my leather jacket every day, and I’m listening to Type O Negative’s October Rust album a lot more. That album, and Metallica’s Master of Puppets always remind me of the fall, like listening to Pink Floyd reminds me of being depressed in high school. I used to say fall was my favorite season, and it mostly still is, except I hate it in New York. There are no trees, it’s when everyone gets sick and inevitably I get sick, and I hate dressing for the cold, then boiling in the subway, then going back to the cold, and eventually making the cold even worse. The one thing I like about the fall is that I usually leave town for a week. And one of the best parts of New York is that it’s very easy to leave, with three major airports right in my back yard.

Earlier this week, it came up that I’d be in Germany for Halloween. When I thought about it, I couldn’t remember the last time I was home for Halloween. Turns out it was in 1996. For prosperity’s sake, here’s a list of where I was for all of the rest of the 10/31s.

1995: Boston. I went for a trade show, maybe Internet World. I was there for a whole week, staying in Cambridge, and pretty much every night was a blackout-level drunken rampage. By about the 30th, I was sick as fuck, and we had a big party on the 31st. I bought a bunch of dayquil and took way too many of them, and thought they weren’t working enough, so I took double that, and by the time we left for the party, I could pretty much see through walls. A woman was dressed as Catwoman in the whole leather costume (before the Halle Berry box-office bomb) and every guy in the place was hitting on her with the same typical pick-up lines (“I’m batman”, etc.) Someone dared me to try something fucked up, so I went up to her and told her that I had all of the Batman toys from McDonald’s and the batwoman one worked the best in the bathrub. She sort of freaked the fuck out. We then went to a gay bar, possibly called the Ram Rod, and checked out the most bizarre tranny Halloween costumes you could possibly imagine. Like, I saw a dude dressed up as a nun in a mini-skirt. Then we flew home a day or two later, and I found that you should never, ever fly with a head cold.

1996: Seattle. I was home. I was also horribly depressed, and did nothing.

1997: Elkhart. I went home for xmas the year before, and it was a total waste of time and money to pay highway robbery rates for mid-December flights. So I made a pre-emptive holiday visit. This was the first time I ever saw my nephew Phillip, and it was the last time I ever saw the inside of my old house in River Manor.

1998: New York. I still lived in Seattle, but I visited Marie in Washington Heights. Went to tapings of Conan (back when it was still funny) and the Daily Show (also when it was still funny.) We watched the parade live on NY1, and it was funny because this guy was with someone dressed as Mickey Mouse, and when the reporter asked where Minnie Mouse was, the dude said “Oh, she’s fucking Goofy” on live TV.

1999: Bloomington/Cincinnati. My uncle died, and I decided to go to the funeral, which involved renting a car and driving about 13 hours to Ohio. I drove all day on Friday, and then the funeral was very early Saturday morning. They blew through the viewing, mass, and burial, had a meal, and all of my relatives scattered, leaving me there at about noon, with nothing to do. I called A and she told me Bloomington wasn’t that far of a drive, so I headed west. I caught up with Bill Perry for a bit, then found A. The plan was to go to a party where a bunch of former UCS geeks would be. But first, I bought one of those rubber halloween masks with a wig glued to it, so nobody could figure out who I was. Had a great time.

2000: Ithaca. I dated this girl from Cornell for a bit, and took the train up to spend a week with her. The train was slow, uncomfortable, boring, and while I was in the bathroom taking a piss, the door flew open, and the entire car saw my junk. I stayed at a Best Western or Motel 6 or something, next to a Wegman’s. Every day, she went to classes, and I said I was going to be editing my book. Instead, I wandered around on foot, spending as much time in the grocery store as a homeless guy looking for warmth. I broke up with her shortly after that, but not because of the Wegmans, the hotel, or the train; it was just a bad idea for a 29-year-old on the verge of a midlife-crisis to date a 21-year-old who is going through all of these “what am I going to do when I graduate” issues.

2001: Las Vegas. This was the weird, post-9/11 trip where nobody was in town, I rented an Audi TT and got a speeding ticket, and not much else.

2002: Las Vegas. On this trip, I was a little bit sick, had this huge money snafu because the Stardust took a huge deposit out of my debit card, and I went for one of the longest walks in my life. And crap, I just realized I got home on the night of the 30th, so I guess I was in New York.

2003: Las Vegas. I was wrong again – I actually got back on the 29th for this trip, so I guess this whole theory is fucked up.

2004: Indiana. I was the only person in New York City that didn’t believe that John Kerry was going to sweep the election with 100% of the votes, and I decided to leave town and avoid the shitstorm. This was also another pre-emptive holiday strike.

2005: Amsterdam – Once again, my memory has failed me on this, because we actually took this trip on the 9th. On Halloween itself, I was in the middle of moving.

And that’s it. Time to go watch Six Feet Under.

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Winter, sort of

It’s winter, sort of. The temperature has been consistently under 60 for about a week, aside from a weird day where it was 70. The 50-ish temps mean I switch coats to my leather jacket, which is always exciting to me, for like a day. I’ve written about this before, but I’m too lazy to look up the old posts. It’s always interesting to me, because after months of no jacket or a light jacket, the leather jacket feels like home to me. It’s so heavy, it feels like putting on armor. And the smell of the leather always brings back the memories of all these other points in my history, back to when I first bought my first leather jacket in 1993. (I’m now on my third.) So I like that, but in a few weeks, I’m going to wish I could trade the thing in for one of those Arctic parka things.

It’s really odd that New York has the most people wearing black leather motorcycle jackets compared to anywhere else I’ve lived, but I’m also given the most unending shit about my jacket, especially from people I work with. If you think it’s odd that a person would wear a black leather jacket, you’ve spent too long in the fucking Hamptons. Seriously, check out the other 40-some states some time. And yesterday, I was at a health food store (believe it or not, I take a shitload of vitamins and supplements these days, for fear that my immune system will slow down more and I will be exposed to all of the viruses and parasites in this city) and I completely forgot that I was wearing the hide of a dead cow in a place full of level 7 vegans.

And it’s weird that I even give a shit about that, and I think that the fact that I do is one of my biggest weaknesses as a human, because I care far too much what people think of me or my writing, and almost none of those people really give a shit about me at all. Like I spend a lot of time trying to contact authors of books I have read and enjoyed because I think that they would care about the opinion of a reader, and almost 99% of the time, they don’t even answer their mail. And I do that because I would hope someday that people would write me letting me know if they enjoyed my books, and that also seldom happens. There are times I believe in karma, mostly when a bunch of bad shit happens to me in one day, and I’m convinced that it’s all because I cheated on a precalculus test in 1989 or something. But then I think about the above construct, and realize that karma can probably be safely shelved away with all of the other religious theories in which I don’t believe.

I read a Jonathan Ames memoir called What’s Not To Love?, which was pretty hilarious and also made me think that maybe someday I’d like to write a straight-up memoir (as opposed to the Summer Rain-type autobiographical fiction thing.) And then we went to see the movie Running with Scissors last night, and that 90% unconvinced me. The movie was not bad, but it wasn’t really that funny to me. There were a couple of good lines, but all of them were in the trailer. It was an interesting movie, and some of the acting was great, but it just didn’t blow me away or anything.

This convinces me that I really don’t get the entire memoir genre that’s so popular, with Augustin Burroughs and David Sedaris and so on. I’ve tried to read their books, and they sort of drone on to me like a shopping list, but whenever I see a video or hear a reading of them, people laugh at all of these points that are supposed to be funny, and I don’t get it. I mean, the funny parts are amusing, and some might make me chuckle, but it’s not ha-ha funny to me. I’m sure it’s some sort of demographics thing, like the same reason that I find almost all of NPR completely unlistenable, but tons of intellectual types enjoy it 24/7. And the flipside is true – I don’t think it’s technically possible to be a fan of both this memoir genre and, say, Andrew Dice Clay. I absolutely fucking loved Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I know a lot of people who thought it was about as compelling as films of botched colon surgery.

And I don’t give a shit in the sense that I bear no hostility towards that genre, and I can keep reading my stuff and ignoring their stuff, just like I do with country music, Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings films, and whatever Disney/Pixar animated film of the month has talking fish, toys, cars, or whatever. But the problem to me is that I really do want to write a memoir in some sense, and just by picking that type of document, I’m instantly compared to these writers. And I simply don’t know how to write stuff that would appeal to that audience. I seriously think it would be easier for me to lay down a dance single in a studio, or maybe paint a modern art masterpiece than it would be for me to pen a memoir that was compatible with those standards in any way.

There’s also the issue that I’ve never been beaten, in rehab, on the streets, or sold to my mother’s shrink. I grew up in a tri-level house in a sea of tri-level and ranch houses, all with identical aluminum siding. There’s a part of me that thinks that because I haven’t lived a really out-there life, I couldn’t write a book about my life that would be interesting. But another part of me thinks it’s not the events, but how you frame them and write about them that makes it interesting. So who knows.

The zine is almost done, sort of. I have enough submissions to equal 170 pages, which was the length of #10. I have a few pending submissions that will maybe bring it up to 200. The cover’s not done or even thought about (I have the idea, just haven’t done it yet) but each story is already laid out in FrameMaker, so I don’t have a huge project ahead of me. I got a couple of last-second stories that were absolute fucking genius, so I’m happy with what’s going into this one. I am still nervous that I’m going to have to mail out more free copies than I will actually sell, and that’s a pretty legitimate fear, since it always happens. I want it to sell a lot of copies, and not because I make like 34 cents a copy, but because I want a lot of people to read some of the good stuff in it. And I want all of the authors in it to get some more exposure. My hope has always been that Y number of writers comes to the zine with their own audience of size X (the people who buy their shit no matter what), and so Y times X buys the thing, but some of the fans of one writer say “hey, that other writer is pretty cool too” and they go out and buy their books or read their web site or whatever. Last time, a couple of people posted links to the zine on their blog, and one person actually went out and pasted the press release into a jillion discussion boards and web sites. But yeah, not as much synergy as I’d hoped for. We’ll see how it goes this time.

(I’ve vaguely thought about writing a press release for the zine, mentioning that this guy used to write for my last zine, just so it shows in a million web searches. I’ve wasted a ton of time talking to the press about the guy, which converted to about zero book sales. If some idiot can get a book deal because they’re a 17-year-old blogger from Harvard, it seems like the distant zine buddy of the FBI’s most wanted might at least get me a column in Salon. But, I know I mentioned above that I didn’t believe in karma, but I think trying to huckster the terrorism angle would probably be a bad idea in general.)

I’m leaving for Berlin on Saturday. I have not done a single bit of preparation. Sarah picked out a bunch of restaurants. I bought a book, but read like a page of it. Time to get busy on that, although I’m now reading a bio of a Vietnam helicopter pilot, which is a bit more interesting…

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Psychosomatic water consumption

I think I’m sick. Either that or I’m drinking ten glasses of water an hour because of some psychosomatic disorder, but I’ll probably stick with sick. It will be a nice weekend to do little, though. Too bad I have four new books that will get here after the weekend. I should time the Amazon purchases a bit better.

So I’ve been keeping a paper journal since 1993, and after a few odd-sized books, I finally settled on the Mead 120-page college rule 3-subject spiral notebook. I have about twenty of them filled with scribbling from years ago. I have been working on one at a slower rate, since life has changed and my routine has changed and I spend more of my time recapping my day and my thoughts with a person rather than with a page. My current one was started in January of 2005, and it’s just finishing. In comparison, I have one from June to December of 1996, same number of pages, all written front to back. Okay, I was more depressed then, but I’m also depressed at not writing that much.

So, I’m down to the last two pages in the 2005-2006 model, and it’s time to buy a new one. I went to the drug store next to work, and… they don’t have them. I went to two more stores, plus an Office Depot – no dice. They have heavy-duty, dayglo color, 18-pocket, super laminated, dinosaur and robot-themed, extra pages in the front and back with maps of the US and multiplication table notebooks. Not the regular, two-armed two-legged ones I have been able to find at every damn drug store from sea to shining sea over the last decade and a half. I looked on Amazon, and found that I could order them in cases of 24, or just one for $2.99 plus $5.99 shipping and it would take two weeks. And oh, every notebook on the market now has microperforated pages. Easy to tear out when you hand in your algebra homework. Easy to tear out on accident when you’re in bed writing. Easy to tear out when you even look at it on the shelf ten years from now. I’m certain the microperforation was pushed through by some legislative act of a California-based concerned parent group that are worried that children are going to tear out nonperforated sprial notebook pages and tear off the perforated edges and use it to choke themselves or possibly manufacture methamphetamines. I JUST WANT A GOD DAMNED NOTEBOOK, NOT A FASHION ACCESSORY!!!!

(I just found them tonight at the Rite-Aid by our house, though. $1.99 each. Only red or green, though. I bought three. That should last me until 2021 at my current rate of decay.)

I did a bunch of the zine layout tonight, while a marathon of “That 70s Show” ran in the background. Sarah is on her way home from a meeting in Chicago. I guess there were delays involving O’Hare, if you can believe that. I think I laid out 110 pages, and I have maybe 30 or so more in the hopper. I think my email and posting a week ago asking for more stuff actually just pulled in a lot of shorter bits. I really need some quality, 5000-word stories. I was thinking about posting to the Bukowski group on LiveJournal, but that would get me inundated with horrible poetry. If all else fails, I will just pad the thing with a bunch of my own short stories, and it will be a Jon Konrath reader that happens to have a couple of other stories in it.

I’m reading the Neil Peart (Rush drummer) book about when he went on a bike tour in Africa in 1988. It’s an interesting description of the people and problems, but it’s also a lot about his own problems with the people he toured with. I wouldn’t mind seeing a country like that, although I don’t know if I could ride my bike down the road and back these days with this knee. I’d also be afraid of eating pretty much everything one could find in Cameroon, unless I packed about five pounds of Immodium tablets in my saddlebags. Still, it would be pretty damn interesting, especially with a digital camera, and a couple of the aforementioned notebooks. His book is also interesting because he talks about how you see a country so much more on a bike. It’s funny to me, because when I was a kid and riding all the time, I was listening to his music, and seeing Indiana in a much different sense than I would in a car.

OK, too tired to keep messing with this…

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Journey of major dental restoration

I had some dental work done yesterday. Nothing serious, just two fillings, one that was very minor, both were re-dos of older fillings. I started this journey of major dental restoration ten years ago, almost to the day, and I’m now finding that some of those fillings are at the end of their lifespan. I always thought of fillings and crowns as permanent, but now I’m seeing it’s more like working on your house, and having to repaint or reside or replumb every decade or two. At least my new dentist is okay, and cheap. He’s also about 100 yards from our apartment, which helps.

BUT… last night I had an extremely horrific dental trauma nightmare. I dreamed that some of my front teeth were fucked up, and I didn’t have the money/time/gumption to go to the dentist. So I took some of those gold-colored helical roofing nails, and nailed them into my mouth, so the rounded heads of the nails would look like a gold tooth, ala Flavor Flav or whatever. Then I got really nervous that I did permanent damage (no shit, I had nails going into the roof of my mouth) and was freaking out trying to find a dentist before some bacterial plague would set in. Then I woke up and ran to the bathroom faster than a Taco Bell-induced colon explosion, so I could look in the mirror and see if all of my fucking teeth were intact. I hate that feeling, but also love it – the feeling that you’ve dodged a major bullet, missed getting killed in a major accident. I’ve heard that it’s similar to doing cocaine, which is why I’m glad I don’t, or I would have cashed out my 401K long ago and bought stock in a Columbian processing plant so I could buy direct.

Speaking of unending nervousness, I am still working on the zine, trying to get the next issue squared away. I have some very good stories in the can, and I’m trying to finish my own story, which might be pretty good. (It might be horrible, nobody’s seen it yet, so who knows.) I am nervous about pagecount, though. It was about 57,000 words last time, which is about 170 pages. I wanted it closer to 200, maybe more. I have 10 stories, 35,000 words now, which is about 100 pages, plus another 7500 words in my story. I guess I want like 20 stories, and I need some killers as far as length, because I have some shorter pieces, and only a couple of longer ones. I realize all of this nervousness is completely masturbatory right now, but I’m always nervous about this shit right down to the point where I send in the PDFs.

I bought this pencam thing for like $30. It’s about as big as a snickers bar, maybe a little smaller, and takes 1.3MP pictures, albeit with a shitty plastic lens. I bought it thinking maybe I could hide it in my bag and easily get it places my current huge camera wouldn’t go, like in museums or something. Or just so I could walk around with the big fucking tourist cam out. But I’ve found that the pictures are mostly awful, unless you’re outside in broad daylight. They do have a sort of artsy-fartsy lo-fi thing, though, like an old 110 camera. The other problem is that it beeps incessantly and loudly, when you turn it on, off, take a picture, low light, etc etc. I wish I could crack it open and cut the fucking speaker out of it. Maybe I will.

Going to brunch in an hour. I should probably work on my story more and then find some shoes and socks.

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King of Scotland

I can never justify writing in here anymore, because if I had the time to write an update, I would have the time to work on the zine, or finish the story I’m trying to write for it. There are five stories now locked in for the next issue, two from old regulars, and three from new people. I am hoping for more stuff this issue, maybe to press out the length a bit. Last time I think it was 168 pages. I could go up to about 200 pages and keep the cost under $9.99. I think I could push 300 pages and keep the price around $11.99. I’m still making absolutely nothing on that, but I’d rather make nothing and have a great read versus make money and have a piece of shit. Anyway, I’m still taking submissions for another month, so if you had something in mind, get cracking.

We went to see The Last King of Scotland last night. Very fucked up movie. It was well done, and I’m almost certain the story was fictitious in the sense that it was maybe biopic and the doctor character may have been largely invented to carry the narrative. But the Idi Amin stuff was real, and it’s one of those things that was largely ignored by the press here in the US while people made fun of Jimmy Carter or wringed hands over the hostage situation. Meanwhile, he kills 300,000 people, and it’s mostly brushed over in the history books. It makes me wonder what is happening now in some of these shithole dictatorship countries that is largely ignored by the media while they quibble over what the president ate for lunch. The other thing that surprised me about the movie (other than the gore) was that they shot in the capitol of Kampala, and it looked surprisingly urban. The film starts out in the sticks, where there’s nothing but dirt farmers and lean-tos, but the city of Kampala was bigger than pretty much every city in Indiana. (Shit, I just looked it up, and Kampala is almost twice as big as Indianapolis!) Anyway, I thought the whole movie would be in mud huts and straw roofs, but it’s a real shock to see such a big city with modern buildings and cosmopolitan looks. Sure, you’ll see the occasional Range Rover with a dead elk strapped to the hood, but it’s still a strange contrast to what you’d expect. It’s also a good example of how the wealth is concentrated, and the people that farm and live out in the rural areas are truly fucked over by those in power.

Not much else. It’s pouring rain outside, so maybe I will sit here and get some work done later. Most of my work lately has been focused on cleaning off my damn desk, going through bills and papers and filing them away, and throwing out or recycling what I don’t need. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. Maybe I should take a picture some time. Anyway, time for lunch soon.

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