Ten things

  1. I have this horrible urge to switch this site from WordPress to a static site generator. I’m most familiar with Jekyll, but I also know it would be slow as hell on a site with 1200 long posts. Maybe Hugo. Maybe this is a stupid idea, because it would involve typing metadata by hand and screwing up tags in every post. But it means I could use a regular text editor instead of this piece of garbage in WP. And I could work offline. And I wouldn’t have to worry about break-ins constantly, because WordPress is basically a virus injection device that happens to have a blog engine in it.
  2. I have to take a week off next month. I spent a lot of time researching places to go so I didn’t end up sitting around the house like I did when this happened in November, but I just narrowly missed the window on deals, and airfare is stupid expensive right now. I had about a dozen potentials that I was running the numbers on, and either because of price, distance, weather, or comfort, they all fell out, and I ended up booking another Vegas trip.
  3. I haven’t thought much about it or planned anything yet, but I mostly want to be able to write, take pictures of ruin, and have a car so I could drive out to surrounding areas easily. I also wanted a kitchen. And this seems counterintuitive, but I hate daily maid service. I spend all morning waiting and wondering when my work is going to be interrupted by housekeeping. So I booked an extended stay hotel, similar to the one I had over Christmas. It’s about a mile east of the strip, has a kitchenette, and no daily housekeeping. No casino, no spa, no magic show, no attractions, but also no resort fee, and free parking. That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the trip planning.
  4. I did spend too long shopping for a new laptop bag, because the one I got for free at a 2009 Microsoft trade show has finally fallen apart. After much hemming and hawing, I got this one and it seems good.
  5. The GNC at Concord Mall closed. And it wasn’t part of GNC corporate shuttering stores because they’re going bankrupt or whatever; it’s because they are moving the store a mile or two south, into the strip mall next to Wal-Mart. I found this sad for weird nostalgic reasons, because I had a girlfriend in the summer between high school and college who was a manager there, and I was working at Wards that summer and when we both closed, I’d go over there to meet her and we’d drive around the Michiana desolation all night, looking for 24-hour diners or places to park. That was a big backdrop to a book I’ll never write about that summer. And that was thirty years ago this year. Ugh.
  6. I went to Hilltop Mall in Richmond and they are starting renovation (or not) and have half the stores in the mall covered in plywood and sealed off. It’s really eerie – check my Instagram for a better look. This mall is sort of trapped in time, with a lot of Seventies look to it, lots of brown tile and brick. That will all be gutted and it will be turned all white and generic like an Apple store. I don’t have deep nostalgic feelings for this mall, but I do have a weird connection, and it will be sad when it’s blanded up.
  7. I think my weird deja vu connection to this mall is that it partially reminds me of the old Scottsdale Mall in South Bend, the double-decker design with the open top deck, and the general decor. I used to go to Scottsdale every other Friday morning when I got my paycheck at IUSB, and I have a lot of strong memories of wandering the halls when it was completely dead in there during the day, and Hilltop has a similar vibe. (Scottsdale is long gone, demalled in the early 00s. Very little about it online, too. I already know about the deadmalls post and the South Bend Tribune slideshow.)
  8. I am getting really sick of the whole dead mall thing. Part of it is the inevitability of change that I have to disregard when I pine for the old days of malls. Part of it is that almost everyone in social media groups about malls are absolutely insufferable. Part of it is that many of them hold this MAGA-like belief that we need to go back to an old time that didn’t really exist. It’s all just depressing to me, and I need to get past it, but I can’t.
  9. So yeah, I’m going off to take a bunch of pictures of dead malls in Vegas. And I will walk all of the non-dead malls underneath the casinos. I think if you walked the perimeter of every floor of every Simon mall in Las Vegas, you’d essentially walk an entire marathon, except it would be air conditioned to 61 degrees and full of people drinking yard-long frozen margaritas.
  10. I’m also stuck on the idea of buying a new camera before I leave, and I need to shut that shit down and burn through the large cache of film I haven’t been shooting all year.
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Teeth, SSF, etc.

For whatever reason, I recently went back and read Air in the Paragraph #5. (I need a better place for these to live, especially since Scribd has turned into a paid-service scam. I’ve temporarily put it here.) A lot of my writing from 1996 is pretty cringe-inducing, but I always liked this particular issue of the zine, because it was a seamless narrative from start to finish, with a solid through line that pulled you through the trip report, book reviews, writing news, and day-to-day stuff of the last month or two. This was just before I started an online journal, which later took the place of this for the day-to-day stuff. Now, I don’t do that, either. I should, but not a lot is going on outside of work.

I’ve had a bunch of dental malady stuff as of late. First, I can’t find a good dentist that takes my insurance in Oakland. The dentist I’ve had for the last five or six years isn’t that great, and sort of pawned me off on his new partner, who rushes through procedures and completely triggers my dental trauma anxiety, and is completely drill-happy. Last time I saw her, she immediately priced out two dozen things I needed done, so I walked. I went back to my old dentist in South San Francisco, who is much more low-tech, but very relaxing and low key, does good work, and has Saturday hours. It’s a drive to get there, but whatever. He also takes my insurance.

After a routine cleaning, he told me he’d have to root canal and crown one of my front-ish teeth. If you think of what tooth would be a vampire fang in a Dracula get-up, it’s the tooth immediately behind that on the bottom. This was, unfortunately, a three-step process. One Saturday, he tore off the top of the old tooth and started the root canal, then sent me home with a temp crown. Next week, he did a post buildup after more root canal work, and once again, temp crown. Then two weeks later, I got the replacement crown.

This essentially meant I could not eat solids for three weeks. That’s not entirely true, but the bulk of my diet was meal replacement shakes. I later found I could eat macaroni and cheese if I let it cool a bit, and I could eat various puddings and cheeses and whatnot. Oatmeal was problematic, because it was too grainy and had bits of nuts in it. Soup is sort of bullshit. Boiled eggs worked. Those shelf-stable pad thai noodles worked if I left off the toppings. At some point about a week and a half in, I sort of snapped, went to Burger King, and smashed a thing of chicken fries to a paste-like consistency and ate it without chewing. It was horrible. The whole thing was horrible. All I could think of was the time in LA when I had the tooth next to it on a temp crown, and on the first day, it popped off, and I spent two weeks fucking around with drug store adhesives, which only half-worked and lasted a day max and made me realize why everyone with false teeth is a grumpy piece of shit.

Anyway, the crown is back as of yesterday. Still a little nervous eating on it, and the gumline around it will take a few days, but it’s pretty solid. The only hard part will be paying  the bill, which will probably be like a grand after insurance.

(There’s also an AITPL connection in there, sort of – after I wrapped up that zine and started blogging online, I had a ton of dental work done. I have horrible teeth, go ahead and be classist and make fun of me now, but I survived a childhood of well water, an addiction to soda, and a long run on lithium, and that was the magic trifecta to fuck me up dentally. So the first time I had real dental insurance, I found a (crappy) dentist, and we went from 1 to 32, drilling and filling and bonding. It’s probably the reason I have such a high tolerance to novocaine these days. I usually need five or six shots to get any work done. Anyway.)

Another bit of nostalgia overload is that this dentist is located at the Tanforan Mall, in my old neighborhood where I lived from 2008-2009. I haven’t gone back there in a while, and even though I only lived there less than a year, there’s a really strong set of memories there. It was my first place in the Bay Area, and it was also the same apartment company as my place in LA, same exact buildings, same blueprints, pretty much the same apartment, but flipped the opposite way. Being in the area reminds me a lot of that era of working for Samsung, driving back and forth from SSF to San Jose every day, spending the weekends running errands around Tanforan. I had an old Weight Watchers meeting there; I saw a lot of movies at the big 20-screen at the small mall; I went to the drug store and the Blockbuster (RIP) and the Safeway and the Target and all the other routine stuff I could see in any other city, but for whatever reason, that layout triggers memories and makes me think and feel and blah blah blah.

Yesterday, it was insanely sunny and warm — maybe like 72 degrees — so I took a long walk before my appointment. There’s a movie theater there that died right before I moved there in 2008, and has been sitting vacant since then. It’s called Century Plaza 10, and it’s a weird little abandoned vaporwave slice of time. (Go google street view it.) There are palm trees out front, a big red movie sign that’s faded to a magenta-pink, and these domes at each corner, like a miniature Taj Mahal, minus the main dome. The first film shown there was Back to the Future, and the theater totally captures that 1985 vibe. The outside is very well preserved, but the inside is toxic, infested with black mold so dangerous. you’d need a full moon suit and respirator to survive. The whole area is mostly low-rise, office parks and big-box stores, gentle hills in the background. A lot of it hasn’t changed since I left (except the Arby’s with the old-school hat sign is gone) and it not only reminds me of then, but of the first time I visited the bay in 1996. (Another callback to AITPL, although I think that was issue 4.)

Anyway, nothing else going on but work. I’m trying to take a week off next month, and haven’t booked anything yet because I was expecting the plans to collapse. Should get on that.

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Various Long Reads 2/19

Haven’t done one of these in a bit, so here’s more:

  • The Bloomberg Keyboard – back before PCs and the internet, Bloomberg used physical terminals to connect traders to stock market information. These terminals all had weird keyboards. A fun look back if you’re a mechanical keyboard nerd.
  • You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann – I’ve slowly been working through his back catalogue, but it hurts my head. Vollmann is a seriously weird guy, and I do like some of that. Didn’t realize he had a Bloomington connection, either.
  • Blast From the Past: Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan – Here’s another Bloomington connection, although this is about an Illinois location. My favorite pizza place in college, before it vanished.
  • How Texas Lost the World’s Largest Super Collider – Spending a few billion dollars building a huge o-shaped tunnel underground and then saying fuck it and shuttering the place. I wish this article had more pictures, though.
  • Dahmer’s Inferno – A k-hole I frequently fall down. This article is from 1991, and I remember reading it at the newsstand, but haven’t seen it since, so it was good for a revisit.
  • Follow the Path of Least Resistance: An Oral History of ‘Office Space’ – This movie holds a strange nostalgia for me, because I think I’m the only person I know who saw it in the theater on opening night.
  • Flag Man’s Last Stand – Or, “I’m so glad I spent all this money on 40 acres of land in rural Colorado and now the whole area is infested with live-free-or-die assholes that shoot up abortion clinics and live off the grid.” (BTW, does anyone want to buy 40 acres of land in rural Colorado?)
  • The toy of tech: The Mattel Aquarius 30 years on – My first computer, which I’ve written about before. I wish I could get another, but I know I would lose interest in twenty minutes.
  • “The Linux of social media”—How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging – I should write more about this at some point, but this article covers a lot of the main points.
  • VAX Notes remembered – Now we’re going even deeper in the “pre-social media info exchange” rabbit hole. I remember VAX Notes having a particularly horrendous interface that was very non-intuitive, but it was the best way back in 1989 or so of hosting your own forum without installing anything.
  • My Street Photography Workshop With Garry Winogrand – There’s a doc on Netflix that I liked about Winogrand, although I do see how he’s so polarizing in the photography world. To me, part of the mystique is that he died with half a million undeveloped pictures from his regular street photography, which sort of dovetails into how I’m amazed that Vollmann cranks out another 3400-page book every other month or whatever.
  • The year we wanted the internet to be smaller – Old, but another bit on weird, ultra-focused communities. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here.

I haven’t plugged a book in a bit, so go get my latest if you haven’t already.

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