Nightcaps and allergies

It’s been one of those weeks, where I perpetually feel like I am two hours behind on sleep, and doing anything, even something as simple as pulling a book off a shelf, takes two or three tries. I’ve had allergies pretty much since we moved to the bay area, really weird ones that predominantly have to do with a sore throat, and I think I do more harm than good with allergy medication. I think Zyrtek-D works best, but it is as 12-hour medicine, and if I take it, at exactly 12:01 in, I completely shut down. So I just stumble through the week, and then the weekend comes, and I sit down here to write about the week, and the most interesting thing I can write about is… um…

We finally booked a vacation. We have not been on a “real” vacation since we went to the Bahamas for our honeymoon in 2007. There have been a couple of trips to see the family, a weekend in Denver, another in Vegas, and various tag-a-long trips I took when Sarah was going somewhere for business. So over the week of thanksgiving, we will be going to Ixtapa, Mexico. We’re staying for eight nights in a resort where we have our own private terrace that faces the Pacific ocean. No cell phone coverage. No ideas on what we will do, other than eat, sleep, and not work. Like, I haven’t figured out if I should start a book-on-tape crash-course in Spanish, or if we have to deal with pesos or just spend greenbacks everywhere, or what to do to avoid the “don’t drink the water” issues. (I’ve heard that a month of heavy acidophilus supplements will skirt this issue.)

This wiki writing project has fallen flat. I feel like the amount of time I’ve taken since I’ve written anything of substance has put me back to zero, that if I wanted to write something like Summer Rain again, I’d have to start from a dead stop and re-do all of the years I put in back in the early 90s to get to the point where I finished that book. And for the record, I think I started considering myself a writer back in the end of 93; started SR in 95, published it in 2000. Anyway, I’m back to trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be working on, and trying to find time to work on it. Part of me thinks I should try to get figured out on travel writing, if only so I can properly document the trip to Mexico. But I haven’t done any proper writing-up of a trip since, when? Florida in 2004? I should know this, because my migration of the photos pages on rumored have broken every travel page on the site, and fixing them all by hand has been a painful process.

BTW photos from Denver are here, unsorted, uncaptioned, un-everything.

Also, I made an appearance last week on the Nightcap podcast, run by J and B. It is an hour fifteen and I am probably rambling, but it was a fun experience, and great to talk to those guys again. So check it out.


Leaving home

Yesterday marks the 20th anniversary of when I packed up my dad’s truck and left Elkhart for Bloomington to start my freshman year at IU. Twenty years. Two decades. It’s a hard number for me to wrap my mind around. And this is the part where I’m supposed to say it just feels like yesterday, but truthfully, it feels like it wasn’t even my life, it was so long ago. And there have been so many stops between then and now, I don’t get as nostalgic about Bloomington. But it still pops in my head every now and then, especially when a nice round number comes up in the anniversary column.

I think I spent a good part of high school wishing for some kind of mulligan to let me start over socially, and hoped that college would be a clean break for me, to leave behind the people I’d known since grade school and junior high. I mean, it’s not like I killed a hooker and needed to start over with a new name and identity, or even that I did something horrible like shit my pants during speech class or date someone who later became a female to male transsexual. But I always felt like I needed to get out of Elkhart and around a different crowd of people. Even when I hung out with people not from my high school when I worked at Wards, I felt like I did better than I did at Concord.

And college was that clean break. I mean, I still had most of the same problems, the same social awkwardness and depression and other inner torture, and I didn’t suddenly transform into Brad Pitt (or whoever women like now – that dude from Twilight, whatever.) But it was a huge change of scenery for me, and the beginning of my first time away from home, my first time on my own, and the very beginning of the end of Indiana in my life.

I also broke up with someone, or rather they broke up with me, the night before I left for college. It was my first ‘real’ relationship, and although looking back, it was in general a pretty stupid situation, I seriously thought it would go on for longer than the summer. In reality, it couldn’t have been written more exactly as an only-for-a-summer type of fling, even if it was a script for an 80s movie. And it was one of those things where it was the end of the universe for me, but in retrospect, you don’t get much cleaner of a breakup than this one, unless you’re dating someone on a space station and they accidentally get sucked out of a broken airlock ten seconds after you split. I would never run into her again at the mall or at work or in the halls of school, because we were 250 miles apart. And I entered a much larger pool of potential dating scenarios, with thousands and thousands of other people away from home and their crappy small towns for the first time.

But yeah, 20 years ago. And I feel like I should have some heavy insight on the whole situation, but when I try to dig for any specific burst of memory about that era, I get a couple of things:

  • The smell of the powdered laundry detergent I used during my freshman year.
  • The smell of Collins when I first got there. I spent most of my life living in a prefab tri-level that was maybe five years old when we moved in, and this was a 65-year-old museum of a residence hall, with all wood everything. Like, when I wanted to make a private phone call, I would go to these wooden phone booths built into the wall of the downstairs lobby. They were little booths with heavy wood doors that looked like the confessional in a Catholic church, but instead of the little screen window and kneeler, they had a tiny bench and a pay phone. Anyway, the place was loaded with plenty of ornate darkwood trim, and the first time I went in, all I could smell was this wood smell. Same thing when I moved out and came back to visit the next year.
  • Some girl called my room in like the first week of classes trying to remember some dude’s number, and I ended up talking to her for like three hours, and after like 20 conversations, I hung out with her and her roommate at McNutt, and then kept running into her on campus for the next year. It was not a romantic thing – she was from South Bend, and for whatever reason, we became friends and used to talk a lot, although I have no idea what about, or even what her name was. But now I find it so random that a wrong number would turn into a marathon phone conversation about nothing.
  • One of the first times I went to the main library, I got overwhelmed with all of the books there, because in high school, I basically found a spot in nonfiction and one in fiction, and spent most of my study halls reading every book outward from those two positions that made any sense or was at all interesting to me. And I realized that with a ten-floor undergraduate stack, it would take me four years to even find anything, let alone read a tenth of the books on a single floor. So I randomly decided to read Slaughterhouse Five, because my school never had any Vonnegut and I was too cheap to buy any, and I heard he was from Indiana. And I stayed up almost all night reading it cover to cover, and loving it so much, that a couple of night later, I stayed up almost all night, writing (by hand), this giant science fiction story, because it somehow got stuck in my head, and I thought it would be great to be a writer like him. And then I promptly forgot the writing and the Vonnegut, until maybe four years later, when I became once again obsessed with both.
  • I used to take this bass guitar class that met at night in the basement of Read hall, and I would get there early and sit around one of the TV lounges until class started. Anyway, this was the tail of baseball season, and there was this kid in a wheelchair who was an obsessive Cubs fan and I always remember him planted in front of the big-screen TV, watching every Cubs game. I always perceived the Cubs as being a really bad team back then, but I knew nothing about baseball, and other than the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, and Astros, probably could not have named any other baseball team. And that year the Cubs won the NL East by like six games, before losing the NLCS to the Cardinals. So maybe that’s why I half-remember watching the games.

Not much else. A lot of time is going into this new wiki, but it’s nowhere near enough started to open it up to the public yet. Soon…


Julie, Julia, Queens, 2002

I’ve been back from Denver for a week now, sorry about that. We had a good time, and went to two baseball games – won one, lost one. We also took a trip to the Denver Botanic Gardens, which I drove by a million times in 2007 but never visited. And that’s partially a good thing, because if I had, I would’ve spent ten thousand dollars on pieces for a geodesic dome garden for my land in Colorado, or at least spent a month googling plants that survive well in a high mesa desert.

We’re back, and it has been busy, and my arm is almost better, but I got new glasses and they are bugging me. One window closes, another opens. I have also started a new writing project that promises to suck the life out of me, although there isn’t much of it after work and everything else. But it’s good to have something churning that has me awake before 9:00 on a Sunday morning, wanting to get the words into the screen.

I saw the movie Julie and Julia last night. Overall, it was a decent movie – yes, a chick flick, and no explosions or Real American Heroes (TM), but entertaining. The film had two stories going on in it, which means it hit on multiple levels for me. One was the Julia Child story, which has always fascinated me, or at least it has since a few years back when I saw a show on her, maybe an A&E Biography. I also later read a book about her that Sarah had lying around the house. She’s interesting to me because she was nearly 40 and couldn’t boil an egg, and she suddenly started this passion and empire from scratch. That’s appealing to someone who is almost 40 and has sold a grand total of about seven books in their lifetime.

The movie also made me wish I cooked more. Granted, I think we cooked dinner every night last week, and I think only one of those recipes was one of our standards, with everything else being something new. But it makes me wish I could try more new things, and it makes me want to reorganize this kitchen a bit more. Yes, it’s a brand new kitchen, and we just moved in. But we did a lot of “just throw this crap in this drawer, and we’ll figure it out later”, to the point where it took me 45 minutes to find some oatmeal the other morning, and it was exactly where I thought it would be when I started the hunt.

The bigger resonance for me was the fact that the story of the blogger Julie takes place in 2002 in Queens. And for those of you who are new here, I was blogging in Queens in 2002. (Hint: See the link on the left that says 2002 archives.) Of couse, this meant I spent half the movie looking at billboards and subway stops and Queens-style addresses, trying to determine continuity errors. (There were plenty.) But it also greatly reminded me of that era, and what things were like for a struggling writer-type in the general ecosystem of 2002.

First, 2002 was a standout year for me for whatever reason. I published my magnum opus; I travelled more than I ever had before (three trips to Vegas, one including a roadtrip to my land in Colorado; a trip to DC, a trip to Pittsburg, and a return to Indiana.) I struggled in the dating world. I tried to lose weight and I didn’t. I tried to grow a garden and I didn’t. I converted my bike into electric and never rode it. I bought 40 acres of land in Colorado. It was one of those years where a lot happened, and maybe it wasn’t as much as other years, and it was just a nice, round number. And at the time, I certainly didn’t think things were better or worse than other years, but it’s one of those dog-eared eras pf time that my brain easily flops back to without much trouble.

The Julie/Julia project blog brought me back instantly to 2002, because it was a huge meme in New York City for whatever reason, and I think every person I tried to date that year was interested in it. It had huge resonation with the crowd I was on the outside of looking in, the people who think Dave Eggers is ha-ha funny and thought blogs were invented in 2002 by It was the tipping point for blogs in some weird way. I’d been doing it for years at that point, but suddenly, an army of yuppie scum started blogging, and monetizing blogs, and turning blogs into books and movies and careers. I blogged almost 60,000 words in 2002, and looking back at it, it’s not that bad a collection of words. But I felt like a purist acoustic Bon Dylan in a sea of gone-electric, commercially commoditized Bob Dylans. Maybe that frustration turned me to do some good work, but at the time, I felt like I was treading water in an ocean of shit with no land in sight in any direction.

And it feels like 2002 is so god damned long ago, and it feels like yesterday, and I had to subtract 2 from 9 and think about it, and it baffles me for whatever reason. And what happened to all of those people from 2002, all of the wannabe writers and fuck-Bush revolutionaries and artists stuck in secretaries’ cubicles? I can answer my own question – they’re all on Facebook, posting pictures of their kid every god damned minute of the day.

I just got distracted by reading old journal entries from 2002, and I need to get my day started, and I need to make a grocery list for all of these giant cooking project disasters I won’t do this week, and I need to work on the aforementioned secret writing project, so I better get to it.


One mile high

Hello from Denver. It’s a cool 66 degrees at a one-mile altitude, but it’s expected to jump to 90 by lunch. But right now, I’m at the pool on the roof of the Warwick hotel, looking out at the skyscrapers of downtown, and suffering from a very severe case of Deja Vu, and a minor case of altitude reacclimation.

Our trip went fine, with the only minor hitches being that Sarah’s ATM card got locked yet again by an overzealous Bank of America anti-fraud robot, and a 45-minute delay in the air due to some stupendous thunderstorms around Denver. The weather cleared by the time we touched down, and my suitcase was already on the conveyor by the time we took the little train to the baggage area. We also got stuck with a little Kia with power nothing, but it also has XM radio, which is a new itch that’s developing in the consumer area of my brain. (There is an endless array of metal programming, and maybe that would be a good way to eat up my two hours a day in the car.)

It is weird to be here. WEIRD. We went to the Rocky Mountain Diner last night for dinner, and it felt exactly like it was the summer of 2007 again. The place hadn’t changed at all, aside from the fact that our favorite waiter (the guy that looks like a young Ed Harris) was not there. We drove around last night, looking at our old neighborhood and our favorite haunts, and everything was the same. The two big changes we noticed: one, our old Safeway (The “unsafeway” on Clarkson) got completely facelifted, and looks like every modern Safeway now, not the early 90s ghetto look it once had. And the vacant lot caddycorner to our old place on 22nd and Market is now a super-huge townhome/loft place, much like the place we lived in. It’s freaky to see that vacant lot transformed into a giant community.

Probably the biggest weird thing is that after we finished our dinner, we had tons of time to do anything, and we realized that in our year here, we went to a lot of baseball games and movies, and ate a lot of food, and that’s it. We don’t really have any friends here that we wanted to visit, and we had no real hangouts, aside from the Target store at the Stepleton mall. We have an afternoon to kill today, and don’t know exactly what we want to do. I feel sad about this, but it also makes me realize that when we get back home, I need to get off my ass and make sure we don’t do the same thing in Oakland. I don’t know what we need to do, but we need to explore more.

It is nice to be here, though. I think we need to take more of these mini-vacations. And I am really looking forward to tonight’s game. Wearing my Brad Hawpe t-shirt today, and one person already came up and asked if I was going to the game tonight. I am hoping to hook up with a couple of people from high school that will be at the game too, and I plan to do some serious damage at the clubhouse store.

It’s getting hot here, and I didn’t fly out here to sit on the computer, so I better get to it.


Catsitter preparatory cleaning

I’m going to Denver this week. We booked a four-day weekend – flying in on Thursday morning and back on Sunday, although I won’t actually believe that we’re going until we step on the plane, given our insane work schedules and demands as of late. I’m always worried that days off and trips won’t happen, because of some last-second work screwup. I had Friday off, in exchange for working a Sunday a couple of weeks ago, and up until I left the office on Thursday, I was fully expecting to come in.

It was nice to have a Friday off, too. I spent the day running errands, getting my oil changed and going to the eye doctor. It reminded me of last summer in LA, how relaxed things are during the day, when I’m not working. It was one of those days that made me mentally tally up the 401Ks and wonder how possible it’ll be to cut out early and do something other than fill out TPS reports for twelve hours a day. There was this discussion at work, because something like ten years ago, the company had such a good year that in Korea, they paid out the typical mid-year bonus (which can be roughly a month of pay) and then because there was a record year, they additionally paid out another THIRTEEN months of pay to everyone working there. The discussion among coworkers was pretty much about what car people would buy with that kind of cash. But I was thinking about how much closer that would get me to quitting the rat race and buying a sailboat to live on forever.

Anyway, Denver. It will be weird to vacation in a place where I’ve previously lived. I don’t think I’ve done that before, unless you consider going back to Indiana a vacation. I haven’t been back to Seattle or New York since I left. I did go back to LA for work, and Denver for work a couple of times, and those were all pretty weird. We’re going to two baseball games, and I think the rest of the time will be spent going to restaurants we miss, which pathetically sums up our time in the city. Most of our year there was spent going to the Target at Stepleton mall. I always wonder if we both had better job situations going on back then, and if we would’ve met more people, if Denver would have worked out in the long run. I always kick myself for being reluctant to take a job in Boulder because of the driving distance, given that my current drive is roughly double the commute. But I do like seeing water.

I’ve been tearing up for the last few days. I’m in the process of moving all of my pictures to gallery2, and it has temporarily broken a lot of images across the site. I’m also trying to tear up old pages and make them somewhat more XHTML-compliant, so there will be broken stuff everywhere for a while. I also recently bought a 1-TB NAS drive, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to set that up and back up my machine remotely, so I’ve had a lot of screwing around with config files in the last week.

Otherwise, a quiet Sunday morning here. We have a catsitter coming over, and I need to start cleaning soon. I had high hopes to write something more interesting here, but I keep wanting to get back to the monotonous fixing of every image on the site, so I will get back to it.