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TD

I got a voice mail from Simms last week, when I stepped away from the desk for a second. Tom Donohue died, he said. Tom was a really great guy who worked at a used CD store back in Bloomington, and eventually opened up his own place. Most used CD places in town are just out to rip off students coming in and going out, but he always seemed to give everyone the “friend” rate. He would talk to you about whatever music you were into, if it was the Flaming Lips or the Beatles or Cannibal Corpse or anything else, and he’d know weird trivia or obscure releases better than you would. He always kept aside weird Death Metal when I was into it, and then cheap Zappa stuff when I was into that. He also did a lot with WQAX and WFHB, and sponsored a lot of local bands. He was a class act indeed.

You know, I even mentioned Tom in Summer Rain, because back in the day, I was in his shop constantly. I went in there last August when I was in town for a split second to have lunch with Alana, and I ducked in and said hi. It was good to see him, and now I’m glad I did catch up with him. Anyway, here‘s another tribute to him, courtesy of the IDS.

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Boat shoes

I stayed home from work today, to ward off this cold and to catch up on a total lack of sleep. The douche crew was outside my window at midnight, talking and keeping me awake until about one, and then they were back after the bars closed. Can’t these people get their own living room to loiter in? Wait, they all live with their parents. Anyway, at about 8:00 AM, I heard a horrible buzzing sound, and in a half-awake nightmare, thought it was a hundred-year old fire alarm for my apartment and that my death was imminent. Instead, it was a concrete truck about ten feet from my head, making some horrible, 110 dB screeching sound as it shot concrete into some slum landlord project across the street. Probably burying a mafia hit. I put in earplugs, closed all of the windows, called in sick, and went back to bed. I woke up at noon with a horrific sinus headache, ate baloney and crackers while watching the windshield murder case on crime TV, then went back to bed. Woke up again at about four and started a day of adjusting fans, being bored of TV, and laying down but not falling to sleep. And here I am. Apartment is 90 degrees, and I can barely see in my left eye from the inflamed sinus pressing into my brain. Let me start over with a story, and stay with me for a bit.

—–

I’ve always worn boat shoes as a standard-issue summer shoe. I wear the Nike high-tops when I’m wearing a pair of jeans, but in the summers when I wear shorts (and I’m not a shorts guy by default, it takes a good hundred-degree wave of Hoosier heat to get me there) I like to wear a pair of old, beat-up boat shoes with no socks. No mess, no fuss, and no complex lacing or socks underneath – I can put them on when I wake up from a nap and need to walk to the corner store for a two-liter or a copy of the paper. They fit well, they matched anything, and they were easy to find on the floor. Those kind of simple qualities make anything a default in my life, from my trusty leather jacket to my trusty Timex watch to my trusty grey IU backpack that lasted me ten years and then some.

I think I got my first pair of the shoes when I started working at Taco Bell back in the summer of ’87. They had a dress code, and most of it was made up of their uniform: the maroon pants, the dumb little visor, the blazer shirt that got covered with beans and cheese during each shift, and the tie-behind apron that wore every ingredient in the place. But we had to wear dress shoes, and that meant no sneakers. And I couldn’t wear the typical black dress shoes that cut off the circulation in my toes after five minutes that I had to wear to weddings and funerals. I needed something as comfortable as tennis shoes, but that looked like a dress shoe. And I didn’t know anything about shoes, but I went to the Thom McAnn and told the dude there all of this, and he produced a pair of low brown shoes with a standard tongue, a laced rim with eyelets around the back heel, and rubber soles that actually gripped the floor, unlike most death-trap dress shoes that were damn near teflon on the sole.

I wore the shoes every day I worked at The Bell, and kept them after I quit and moved on to my short career as a dishwasher and my much longer-term career as a paint salesman at a department store. The first pair wore out, and I found that Payless had the same damn shoes for about $15. (Yes, as a writer, I am irked by the fact that Payless and Pay Less are two different things, and the first one means “without pay.” Anyway.) I think it was when I had a new set in front rotation for the job and an older, more worn set of the shoes as my backup, around-the-house shoe that I noticed how comfortable the things actually were. By the next summer when I wore the old ones without socks, I found that they practically molded to my feet. My soles ground an imprint in the inside of the shoe, and the little ridges and seams and whatnot that had once itched when the shoe was new had now worn away almost perfectly. I kept these old pairs of shoes until I drilled holes straight through the soles and needed to go back to Payless for another $15 recharge.

So I have a lot of good memories of these shoes. Most of my first book Summer Rain, or at least the truth behind the fiction, was walked in shoes just like these. Almost every picture of me from back then had those $15 pieces of leather and fake leather stuff on my toes. I really do miss waking up at 414 South Mitchell, Apartment 13, after a post-work nap, slipping on my boat shoes, and walking over to Lindley Hall for some air-conditioned VAXing. I don’t wear boat shoes that much anymore, and I’ve found they are hard to find these days. In all of my days of driving to and from everywhere, and never having to dress up anymore, I found that I never wore out my one pair of boat shoes; I wore Nikes everywhere. I still had one pair, but I never had the time to wear them.

So today, I had to go to the store for some juice. I was in shorts, and I didn’t want to find some socks and get all laced into the Air Jordans. So I dug out my old boat shoes, a pair that I think I bought when I was interviewing for jobs maybe four years ago. And I put them on, and I found out… they weren’t really that great. My toes didn’t feel right, the finish was too slick, the laces seemed too wimpy or something. The thing that was so great in my head was really not that incredible.

Why the huge story about some fucking shoes? It wasn’t about the shoes. Truth is, I’m sort of pissed off at someone, someone who doesn’t even know I’m pissed off at them. And pissed off isn’t the right word; maybe frustrated, or even jealous. I guess it’s one of those things where you think that something is great and comfortable, and maybe it is. And maybe you think it was right all of those years ago, and suddenly you realize that it’s just a pair of fucking shoes that don’t fit anymore, and it’s time to go find some that do.

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Up

The new Peter Gabiel album, Up is pretty damn good. The music behind it has progressed greatly over the last ten years, although in a strange way, this is not as pop-accessible to me. It reminds me much more of one of his first three self-titled albums, but if they were recorded with incredibly advanced and modern digital equipment. There’s still the world music-oriented influences on there, although in a different direction than Us. But the thing above all of it is that his signature voice is still as pronounced as ever. It’s a very strange experience, and I think it will grow on me even more after I get it on a MiniDisc and listen to it with headphones on the train for a week straight.

I can’t believe it has been ten years since the last Peter Gabriel album. I don’t remember exactly when I bought Us, but I do remember spending a hell of a lot of time listening to it in the 1992-1993 school year. It’s one of those pieces of hyper-nostalgia that ties me into that timeframe. I really remember listening to it a lot when I was briefly dating this girl Kim in January of 1993, because the song “Secret World” really reminded me of her. I also remember a night where I listened to the whole tape three or four times, when I was dragging my laundry from my house on Mitchell Street in Bloomington to the laundromat in Eastgate Plaza. It made me remember the whole routine; I’d drag the clothes there and practically explode the tendons in my wrists from the laundry baskets. Everything went in, then I would walk down the plaza. This was, of course, on a Saturday night, because I had no life. I would go to Morgenstern’s and look at some books or the magazine rack, and pick up some obscure magazine that looked cool. Then I’d go to the cheap Chinese place – was it called Grasshopper? – and order some very Americanized sweet and sour pork, and read my magazine. I guess the Peter Gabriel fit this well; Us was such an introspective and dark album, following Gabriel’s divorce and really picking at various parts of the same problems I was facing. It was such a soundtrack to the strange ups and downs of my life at that point, unlike the steady stream of Death Metal that also shared the CD player around the same time. Death Metal marked the peaks, the energy and anger of being 21 and being in college and everything else, but after that all faded and I found myself sitting alone in an apartment as a 31-year old writer, the Peter Gabriel stood the test of time.

Speaking about thinking about the past too much, I’ve been getting some letters about the NecroKonicon, the glossary about my life. I guess I’m not the only one plugging their past into Google and hoping for an answer. I wish I could do more with this thing, either expand it more or do something fancy with the layout. I also wish I knew of a better way to send this out to more people, or somehow market it or put the right spin on it. I have a hard time even describing it to people. Most of its readership is from Google. If you have any bright ideas, let me know.

I had to move all of my logs off of rumored.com today, so I did a quick report with analog to see how things stood. The directory currently getting the most hits is the Vegas directory, and I suspect that most of the hits are from people googling on stuff like “cheap vegas hotel.” And a ton of them are from google’s image search. I have very mixed feelings about this. For one, I’m running out of space posting photos, and I get no feedback whatsoever from them, they seem like such a waste of time to me sometimes. But, if I had nothing but text, my site would be incredibly boring. So, I don’t know.

 

 

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Back to Indiana

I’m back in New York, and a lot went on over the last week, so I’ll see if I can lay down the bare-bones version of it as I eat my lunch.

On Thursday, I woke up early and caught a limo to LaGuardia. This is a pretty quick trip from my apartment, so I got to the airport about 90 minutes before the plane left. It only took me a few seconds to get through security, and I managed to skip the whole line of people by using Delta’s kiosk checkin. So I had some time to kill, and I read almost all of this biography of Henry Rollins I’ve been working on.

The plane didn’t board until about five minutes before we left, but it was a small shuttle flight on Comair, so that didn’t mean much. The plane, the usual Canadair, was sitting away from the terminal, so when we went down the stairs to the tarmac, a big, square airport bus was waiting there. After the dozen or so people got on, we rode about 30 feet to the jet. I once again missed the perfect photo op, a shot looking down the tubular body of the tiny jet and into the engine from the door. Maybe next time.

Nothing much to say about the flight in, except it was short – about 90 minutes. When I got to the airport and sprinted to the rental car counter, I thought everything looked completely different from the last time I was there, maybe five years ago. Most of this was new stores, new artwork, new signs, and so on. When I descended to the luggage area, I saw the airport was almost identical to the many times I was there in the past, which triggered the strange nostalgia in my head.

So after a few minutes at the Thrifty car counter and a quick shuttle over to their lot, I was in possession of a Kia Optima SE which I’d never heard of before. The thing looked a little off in its shape, and the fake wood and chrome trim inside looked butt-ugly. But it had a CD and cassette, a power moonroof, and a decent engine, so I couldn’t complain.

After I got the car, I went to pick up Alana. I’ve known Alana since 1990 or 1991, I think, when we were both in Bloomington and both on the computers constantly. We’ve been in and out of touch over the years, but she recently found me again and we got caught up a bit. I thought it would be cool to meet face to face, drive around a bit, and see some of the landmarks from Summer Rain again, especially considering it’s been ten years since all of that stuff happened.

It’s always weird to be doing this kind of shit, and it really hit some buttons to be driving on SR-37 again, stopping at the Flying J truck stop just south of Indy again like I used to, and pulling into town again. Of course, it was also cool to talk to Alana, who is both a cool person to hang out with and a strange connection to this past I don’t forget. On the way into town, we drove past all of the big landmarks: my old place in Colonial Crest, the downtown, Kirkwood, what used to be Garcia’s, and Tom’s CD store. We ate at a Tibetan place on 4th, then drove past 414 South Mitchell, the College Mall, and checked out Lake Monroe. It’s all there and very strange to see. The quiet college campus I described in my first book still exists, even though a few stores have changed. It really made me wish I was back in town, even if I did have to starve to stay there.

After a few laps around, we headed back and listened to some Bill Hicks, which is pretty much the default music for many of my roadtrips, and I’m always happy to find a new convert to his work. We headed back north, and after I dropped off Alana, I headed up 465 for the ride to Elkhart.

I’ve made the 465 to 31 to 20 trip so many times back in the day, I knew every damn piss-stop and fuel depot and restaurant on the way. So after a few years of mental rust and constant change, I enjoyed the quick whip north. I found a Hardee’s restaurant, which was a strange thing for me. I ate there a bajillion times back in high school, so it was cool to stop there for a cheeseburger on the way up. I also saw that Grissom AFB is now gone, and they chopped it up into some kind of industrial park. Otherwise, the drive felt just like it did back when I used to make it every other weekend. Of course, the hermetically sealed and highly engineered Kia felt much different than my lawnmower-powered and somewhat shaky VW, but I still enjoyed the ride.

I made it to Elkhart in good time, and pulled in to Ray Miller’s place, where I’d be staying. We went to Meijer to get my nephew a present for his birthday, and I marveled at this cavernous, 24-hour store bigger than many neighborhoods in New York. On the way back, we cruised my old neighborhood and looked at my old house, which was a bit strange. At Ray’s, we watched some Mr. Show episodes, and I had a minor freakout because the jacket I just had pressed for the wedding was wadded up inside my suitcase, and I was almost certain I’d be fucked on getting it straightened out before Saturday.

Because of the paranoia on the jacket, I woke up at about seven and immediately got showered and out the door. I found a cleaner with three-hour service in downtown Elkhart, which was cool except it basically meant I would have to kill three hours in Elkhart. (I couldn’t go back to Ray’s because he sleeps about 20 hours a day and that kept me locked out.) So I drove around pretty much every major road in Elkhart, and did a lot of nothing.

I never had any strong feeling for Elkhart, and never thought I’d miss it after I left. And I don’t really miss it, especially now that half of the stores there have failed and left a big chunk of the city a hollow shell. But way back when I first got a car, I drove around Elkhart a lot, cruising the strip, cutting across the city to go to the malls of South Bend, or hunting down comic books at various stores that are now long gone. Crossing through downtown and other main strips of Elkhart reminded me of my time in high school, or the year I spent going to IUSB. Circling down all of these roads made me realize I could still drive them in my sleep, even if many of the surroundings had changed.

I went to the Concord Mall, which is now nothing more than a fragment of what it used to be. The Montgomery Ward store where I worked in high school is now boarded up and vacant, and the neighboring K-Mart has also vanished. The Osco drugs and Supersounds record store in the mall are gone, as well as many other small stores. But, I stopped in an Athlete’s Foot and found a bunch of plain, colored t-shirts that I could not find when I was in New York, and got 5 for $20. But other than that cool discovery, the mall was a very depressing site to see.

Cycling around, I went through my old subdivision a few more times, and saw that pretty much everybody I knew had moved away. Maybe some people had moved into newer parts of the area, with more updated subdivisions and fancier houses. Or maybe they just left the area. Most houses still looked the same as they used to; although a few had new paint or new trim, I could still cruise up the streets and remember the kids from my childhood that lived there. When I got bored of this, I drove over to Ox-Bow park, which is next to the subdivision and a place that I spent a lot of time as a kid, riding my bike, climbing the wooden tower, and digging around the woods and trails. The park looked pretty much the same, although it seemed smaller to me. And they replaced the old-fashioned green metal pumps on the artesian wells with generic electric-powered water fountains. That was a drag, because I always remember the fun of pumping the water pump and starting the water going, and then drinking this cool and pure water. It’s not as fun when you just flip a switch.

After a lot of driving, I ate at a Dairy Queen in Elkhart, and then got the jacket. It was only like $4.50 and when I tried to give the woman $7 including a tip, she absolutely wouldn’t take a tip. So that was both cool and strange. After I got the jacket, I called my sister and headed over to my mom’s place. She lives in Bristol, so the drive took a few minutes and I got a bit turned around on the way over. I got to her house before anyone else showed up, so I had a few minutes to kill, just standing around.

After a minute or two, my sister Angie showed up with my nephew Phillip. He’s going to turn five next week, and he’s in the stage of development where he’s fully mobile, cognitive, and aware of everything, yet he’s also young enough that the first feelers of real life haven’t reached him yet and his innocence and childhood are fully intact. I still remember that age well, and I’m envious of it, but it also makes it that much more fun to hang around him.

I gave Phillip his birthday presents, which consisted of a Spiderman puzzle, a Star Wars puzzle, and a Lego set that contained two pull-back type cars. I helped him build the Legos as my mom and her husband Jeff arrived. We hung out for a bit, but most of the time consisted of everyone else getting ready for the rehearsal dinner while I played with Phillip. After a bit, I suited up in my dress clothes for the dinner, and everyone split to go register at the hotel before then. I didn’t have a room, and I knew Ray would still be asleep, so I drove around for a while longer, and headed into South Bend.

I took the same way into South Bend that I took every day of the 1990-1991 school year. Once again, a few things were different, but I drove the stretch like I was on autopilot. I cruised through Mishawaka, into South Bend, and stopped at IUSB, mostly to use the restrooms but also just to see what was up there. The campus has changed pretty radically, with the old Coca-Cola bottler gone and a brand new building in its place. Also, the strip of pavement and parking that led up to the library as I knew it was now a grassy pedestrian mall. I stopped in the main administration building, which looked largely the same. I thought about walking around more, but the whole thing freaked me out enough that I had to get the hell out of there.

I don’t even remember where I went next, except that I had hours to kill and I was so damned bored, but I didn’t want to go to University Park Mall or the Notre Dame campus because, well I don’t know. I headed down 31 toward Plymouth and looked around for some place to kill some time, like a book store or something. No luck on that – the small Indiana main street didn’t have anything promising, so I went to a park and wrote in my paper journal for a bit. Then I cycled back to the place for the reception dinner and hung out for a bit. This was a small bed and breakfast where everyone looked at me like I was a drug dealer as I sat in the car for an hour playing games on my Palm Pilot.

Finally, everyone showed up, and we filed into the dining room of the place and sat down. I can’t say too much about the dinner, other than it was strange to see both my mom and my dad in the same room at once. Phillip was there and since he was in the wedding, he got a gift of a bunch of Star Wars Legos. I finally saw my sister Monica for the first time, and also finally met her fiancee Derek. I didn’t actually go to the rehearsal, so this dinner went by pretty quick.

After dinner, Monica needed a ride back to Walkerton, so we headed back there to her house. She bought a place a few years ago and I hadn’t seen it yet, so I wanted to check it out. When we got there, we met up with Angie and my cousin Cathy, Phillip, my sister’s friend and coworker Maggie, and Sheila, a friend of Monica’s from our old neighborhood that all of us have known forever. Her house is pretty decent, a hundred-year-old two bedroom with nice wood floors, high ceilings, and a very quiet neighborhood in a tiny Indiana town. I like it, but I also understand why she wants to eventually sell and get into a bigger place. Anyway, the bunch of us sat around and talked for a long time, mostly a bitch session about various families and relatives. Between the stories of past weddings, my grandfather’s thriftiness, and various people at Monica’s school, we were up for hours until everyone had to split. It was weird to be the last one there and tell my sister goodbye, knowing it was the last time she’d ever be a Konrath. But I got a good drive back with Henry Rollins in the player, and met up with Ray for a 7-Eleven run and some episodes of Mr. Show on DVD before I had to collapse.

I slept in, got dressed, and shot down to Plymouth again for a 3:00 call. They reserved a new convention hall at the Swan Lake PGA golf course, and by the time I got there, people already filled the place. I saw a lot of folks that I hadn’t seen in years; all five of my mom’s sisters were there, and a lot of my dad’s family was around, plus a bunch of Derek and Monica’s coworkers. My old Bloomington pal Julius Cooper, who previously worked with Derek, was there with his fiancee, so I sat with him and chatted in between rounds of hellos with other people. Once the food got started though, I sat between my dad and Phillip.

The wedding was one of the best I can remember. The hall looked great, my sister had a great dress and both her and Derek looked pretty happy about the whole thing. I expected a lot more tension with both of my parents there, but everyone on both sides got along well, and people from opposing families who hadn’t seen each other in decades talked to each other, which was great. Phillip, Derek’s son Ethan, and the handful of other kids were running all around but were pretty well-behaved and entertaining. And everything in general fell into place without incident.

I felt very strange during the wedding, for a few different reasons that are hard to explain. Going to a wedding alone can be an uncomfortable experience, especially when the dancing starts, and it made me wish I had more people to hang out with during the whole thing. My family members were there, but sometimes talking to that many distant family members at once is more like a press junket than anything else. I don’t mean that I don’t enjoy talking to people, I just mean that I wished I talked to them more often so I had better topics of conversation than “so what’s been up the last three years?”. And the strange thing was that I actually enjoyed seeing a lot of family members, but I felt uncomfortable knowing that I wouldn’t see them again for a long time, and I didn’t know what the next occasion would be. Part of me thinks I should see my family more, but it’s difficult to simply climb in a plane and meet up with a hundred people on a whim. And of course, I hate to admit the slightest amount of jealousy. I mean, I am very happy that my sister is happy, but of course as a single person with no real prospects on the horizon, at least part of me wished I had a person I was happy with. These aren’t things I can simply dismiss, so they tugged at me a bit as the reception went on.

A small pet peeve: if you know someone who was in or near any of the attacks in 9/11, don’t ask them about it as a conversational icebreaker. I got really fucking sick and tired of telling the story over and over. Maybe some people are into it, but I’d rather not talk about it. So if you go to a family reunion and meet someone from New York or DC, ask them about baseball or something. The Yankees are a much more socially acceptable disaster to discuss.

The whole thing was over quick, even though I was there four or five hours. I stayed while everyone rounded up the last of their stuff, and made the drive back to Elkhart, where I met up with Ray and his girlfriend Maria and we went to Perkins for some dinner.

Next morning, I drove to Edwardsburg to see my Uncle Jim, who was not feeling well and didn’t make it to the wedding. He recently had angioplasty and a pacemaker, and he’s still fatigued from it. My Uncle Jim was a career Navy man, who returned to live with my grandma and take care of her until she passed away a few years ago. He was everybody’s favorite uncle and spent a lot of time with all of us kids. I always realized this, but really saw it when some of us grew up and had kids and he also nurtured them the same way. The positive experience of my Uncle Jim has really motivated me to be the same kind of role model for my nephew Phillip, and it makes me happy to see Phillip enjoy his time with me.

I talked to Uncle Jim in the kitchen at my grandma’s old house, where we spent so many Sunday afternoons with my parents and many of my other relatives, reading the comics pages and playing with the box of toys my Grandma kept there. The house is a Konrath museum of photos and other keepsakes, and it was great to be back after so many years and to talk about everything with Uncle Jim.

After about an hour, I took some pictures, then headed back to Walkerton. I drove past my old old house on Redfield Road, where I spent my time from infancy to the end of the first grade. The tiny pine tree my dad planted in the front yard now stood twice as high as the old house, and everything else looked close to the same. I drove down state line road and took the old route to the University Park mall. The strange thing is that on a spot on Cleveland Road, a good friend of mine from childhood, Peter Elias, was killed in a car accident in 1991. And on SR 23 just south of the mall, my grandfather was killed, also in a car wreck, long before I was born, when my dad was a kid. That only adds to the strangeness of this trip, the roads I drove on so many times ten years ago.

Back in Walkerton, I headed to Monica’s to watch Mr. and Mrs. Owens open gifts. She told me to be there at one, but everyone checked out of the hotel early, and by the time I got there, everyone was gone except her, Derek, and Maggie. So the four of us piled into Maggie’s car and drove to the Scottsdale Mall for lunch at Hacienda. It’s really weird being in that mall, given that I used to go to that Target all the time when I worked at IUSB. Service at the Hacienda SUCKED, and they took about three times as long to get us through lunch, finally culminating in us tracking down the server for the check and leaving in disgust. After a quick run through Target for some last-second vacation stuff and Maggie’s wedding party gift (a croquet set), we got back to Walkerton and said our goodbyes.

By the time I got back to Elkhart, I was hungry again for dinner, so Ray, Maria and I piled into the car and drove to Great Wall for some Chinese food. The food was so-so, but I like that restaurant because the big sign has been the same ever since I was a kid, and has that old-school Oriental restaurant look to it. Back at Ray’s, we watched some wrestling, then I collapsed so I could wake up early the next day.

My dad just bought a new boat – it’s a Ranger 16-foot aluminum bass boat. He’s a huge fisherman, and it’s a great size and setup for him to plunk around on some of the local lakes, or head up to Traverse City every year for some more involved ventures. He just had the boat in the shop to replace some decals, and he offered to take me out on a quick run. I jumped at the chance, because I absolutely love boats (and wish I could buy one), but also because it would let me spend some time with him. So despite the 9:00 meeting time in Millersburg, I was excited to get down there.

I met him at his place, and we took his truck out to Ligoneer to get the boat. I have many fond memories of driving around in my dad’s various GMC trucks over the years, including the time all of us went to the Catskills in upstate New York for two weeks. So it felt good to be back in the pickem-up truck and on the road. We went to the boat dealership, and I saw many ways to blow many dollars, like all-fiberglass bass boats with 3.1L, 220-horse engines. My dad’s boat is a meager 40-horse, but it’s set up for fishing, with swivel seats, live wells, a trawling motor, and a steering wheel, electric trim, and throttle for the outboard motor.

We went down to Oliver Lake in LaGrange county, backed the boat down a ramp, and got in. The first channel has vegetation on all sides and looks like something out of Apocalypse Now, but quickly opens into a decent-sized lake with almost no traffic, and lots of big houses on one side. Dad took the boat out and got it up to speed, which brought us up to about 30mph without too much strain. The boat isn’t built to be a demon on the open water, but 30 in an open boat seems faster than 70 in a convertible, so it’s still fun. We then went to the next lake over through a narrow channel, and dropped the throttle to almost no-wake speed. The next lake had no houses on it, just DNR property. They stocked the lake every year, and there was no bank fishing allowed, so there were some great fish to be found. My dad has a great bass hanging up in his house that he caught in this area, and there were probably many more, but the heat kept them to the bottom.

It’s unbelievable to spend so much time in a big city, fighting traffic and fighting noise and everything else, and then find yourself on an open lake with nothing but pure green on every side of you, no noise whatsoever except the occasional trout jumping out of the water. It could have been 1902 or even 1802 on that lake, and even though we weren’t fishing (well, my dad threw out a line a few times to see what was biting) I really liked it. Now, I just wish I could do something like it more often.

It was also good to see my dad in this element, talking about something that he really enjoyed and knew a lot about. I previously encountered something similar in 1990 when I worked for a summer in his factory. I never doubted that my dad worked hard for his money and that the people there liked him, but spending a summer on the factory floor with him really made me realize how true this was. This wasn’t something I could see when I was younger, but it’s interesting for me to watch because I know I have many personality traits of my father, and watching him makes me realize a lot of things about myself. I don’t know if this sounds sappy or stupid, but it is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon on a lake.

We went to the next lake through another big tunnel, then returned to the original lake and swapped places. I felt nervous getting behind the wheel, considering this was a boat so new, it was still on its first tank of gas. But I hit the throttle, and got the boat up to a decent clip. It’s a little weird steering a boat as opposed to a car – there’s a bit of drift or slop you need to take into consideration. But I figured it out in no time, and we circled around a bit more, looking at houses and parked boats. After a lap or so, we switched places, and took the boat back to the trailer. After some slight trouble getting back on the trailer with the semi-crooked ramp, we got back to Millersburg and hung out for a bit before I headed to Bristol to see my mom.

Oh, first I went to Goshen and ate at the Long John Silver’s, which I haven’t seen in many moons. I also circled back to SR15, which has a strange connotation because my first girlfriend lived down there, and 13 years ago, I used to make that drive often. I also used to work in Bristol at the Bristol Opera House, and took the same trip every night. I drove into Bristol and south to my mom’s place.

That afternoon, my mom had all four of her foster kids plus Phillip, and her husband Jeff was there. This meant I got to spend some time with Phillip and help him assemble his Star Wars Legos, but it also meant the other kids were nagging us the whole time. Angie showed up after a bit and took Phillip home, and I spent the rest of the time with my mom, as she herded around the kids. I don’t really want to get into the politics of the whole situation that much except to say that it’s a very rough load of work on my mom and it’s really a difficult battle. I hung out for a while until my mom was getting supper started for them, and then said my goodbyes and cruised back into Elkhart.

Back at Ray’s, Maria was cooking some chicken for us and Ray was preparing to watch wrestling. We ate (the food was great) and watched and made fun of the WWE Raw show. I’m not a wrestling fanatic, but I watch it enough to be able to keep up with Ray’s conversations and make fun of various wrestlers with inside jokes. After the show, I packed up my stuff and talked to Ray more while plotting the final leg of my trip back to New York. Since he would be going to bed about an hour before I’d be waking, we said our goodbyes, and I went to bed.

In the morning, I took a lightning-fast shower, chucked the luggage into the car, and hit the road by 7:15. Once again, this was a strange roadtrip that reminded me of many trips south, reminders mostly of the times I moved to Bloomington. I had to make it to Indy for a 11:55 flight though, so I kept my eyes on the clock more than anything else.

After a fast drive to Indy and the car rental place, I caught a shuttle back to the airport and got checked in with no problems whatsoever. I fell half-asleep waiting for the shuttle flight, then got aboard and drifted off during the 90-minute jump to Laguardia. When I woke up, I saw Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and the now-misaligned New York skyline before we cycled back to the airport. After a $10 cab ride, I got back home, and unpacked to get ready for another day of work.

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1992

It’s still hot here. It is amazing how many times I had to deal with much worse heat than this in my past: the factory jobs, the Indiana summers, my top-floor, no AC apartment in Seattle during the August crawl of 90 degree weather. I’m a complete wimp now. Either I’m getting old, or I have no sense of perception.

I “finished” book 1 of Summer Rain. I “say that” because there are still pieces I don’t like and I’m sure I’ve made some bonehead spelling errors in there. But I’ve messed with these 15 chapters so much, that I don’t want to touch them anymore. The next 15 chapters are watching their intestines spit out of a gaping hole in their abdomen while I’m giving the first 15 a pedicure. I need to go where the real work is needed. And I need to finish this book, and go on to the next.

(If you want to critique or read the book, email me. I can always use another opinion.)

I want to finish Summer Rain, but I want to spend the summer doing it. I enjoy working on this little opus (little – it’s 1200 pages) and it’s a very dear part of my history. Many others from that era need to read the book, to rememberthe times we had together and to see Bloomington in 1992 again. But I know it would never sell, and it’s a first book. So I need to get it done and go on to something which will wow the agents and the publishers and satisfy a greater cross-section of fans. I don’t mean selling out or anything. But Rumored to Exist, the second half-done book in the queue, has satistfied many more fans who think it is genius and funny. I think when it is done, and its sister book is halfway done, some publisher will think it’s the next big deal and get it out there for people to see. I’m not 100% confident, but it’s a decent view to hold when trying to figure out what to work on and how to ration my time.

If anybody ever asked (nobody has, as I’m never on Charlie Rose or NPR or whatever) what my favorite year was, I would say 1992. Everything went wrong that year. I lost a scholarship. I lost my car. I lost three girlfriends and two other women who were mind-numbingly incredible sexual partners, but not girlfriends. I lost a walkman that was like my only child. I lost my first CD player. Me and Ray Miller lost all of our money to a crack dealer in a bad part of Chicago. I lost my mind, many times. But it was my first real year of living. For all of the lows, the highs were incredible. Every one of those problems I mentioned had a flipside that was unsurpassable. I had a scholarship, a car, three girlfriends, two other women into mind-numbingly incredible sex, etc. And I wrote about this whole thing in Summer Rain, or at least the summer part of it. It’s hard to explain, but 1992 was sort of my default year.

And I’ve babbled about 1992 a lot in my writing, and in here. So I’ll stop. It’s still hot as hell. I was going to stay up and work on SR for a few more hours, but maybe sleep is a better option.

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From the IMU

Today’s journal is coming to you from the bowels of the Indiana Memorial Union. Although I’ve written paper journals in weird places (at 30,000 feet, in the middle of the golden gate bridge, at disneyland, at MIT, etc), I think this is the first online journal entry I’ve written outside of Washintgon.

Of course, I have much to write, and little energy. I’ve slept far too little, and done a year’s worth of walking in a day. I’m staying with my former roommate Simms, in my old house, on my old couch. He threw a massive Halloween party last night – more people than I’ve ever seen in that house before. He, Bennett, and Jason played his score to the classic silent vampire film, Nosferatu. The band was in the kitchen, and 3 TVs in various places in the house showed the laserdisc part of the show. Incredible stuff! I also saw many of my old cronies, and many people who knew of me that I didn’t know – Simms tells his Konrath stories to everyone he knows, and he knows many people. My costum- I went as Poison Ivy from the new Batman film. Don’t ask.

I managed to give away a shitload of zines last night – I set a stack of them on a table, and within an hour, a bunch of people were reading them or taking them. Cool.

Yesterday, I saw a lot of the town and realized how small it really is. I took the walk from the IMU to y old place in Mitchell Street. A lot of it looked the same, but it didn’t ring a bell anymore – it seemed distant. Most of my visit sofar has been like that. Things from my past are still here, but it doesn’t feel like it did before. Maybe my brain is telling me I should move on.

Speaking of moving on, I’ve got a shitload to do. Maybe I’ll try another entry while I’m still in Indiana…

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An expensive piece of paper

My diploma showed up this weekend, in a mailer marked DO NOT BEND that was bent almost in half by my fuckhead mailman. After straigtening out the piece of paper, tacking it in a $12 frame from target, and hanging it in my bedroom, it’s a strange reminder that my days at IU are over.

I guess that’s a harsh way of looking at it. But the piece of paper is sort of the official word that on June 30, 1995, the part of my life called college ended. I didn’t see this piece of paper because I owned the bursar some cash, and I never did the cap and gown stuff because at a school as big as IU, it’s pretty worthless. They don’t have every one of the 10,000 people walk down the aisle when their name is called – they say “school of business – please stand – you are graduated – next – school of music – please stand – “.

Packing and moving out here changed things, and I’ve been here for long enough to forget what it’s like to be a student. But the piece of paper is a strange reminder. It’s so official – like something that would be in a doctor’s office, telling the world that this person spent a lot of money doing this and it ain’t no truck driving certificate. I sat looking at the piece of parchment for a while last night, mesmerized.

It reminded me of when I got my first driver’s license. I spent a whole evening staring at it, reading all of the text: the different restriction codes, the organ donor section, my height, my weight, my crappy picture. I drew a handlebar mustache and long hair over the photo with a pencil, which made my age go from 16 to 34. But most of all, I just thought about how strange it was to see an Indiana driver’s license with my name and picture on it. It was also abnormal to be able to get in my beat up Camaro that had been sitting for almost two years, and without a parent or guardian in the passenger seat, pull out of the driveway, turn up the radio, and slam on the gas.

—–

I was watching Larry King Live and he asked some guy in Paris if he had ever seen a car as fucked up as Lady Di’s limo after it got crushed in that tunnel. If Larry King asked me that, I’d have to answer “you’ve never seen some of the shit I’ve done to cars, Larry”. That Mercedes was in much more saleable condition than my Turismo that blew up in the parking lot of a Martins grocery store.

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July 4 ruminations

Chuck Stringer called me from Billings, Montana. He stole his neighbor’s plastic pink flamingo and has been driving across the country and taking pictures of it at national monuments and stuff. When I drove the same route, I didn’t sleep, and I blacked out but kept driving at some point past Spokane. It was the 4th of July and I was hoping to get to Seattle in time for the fireworks.

That was 1995. On July 4, 1993, I was driving my mom’s stationwagon filled with the remainder of my belongings at the 414 South Mitchell apartment in Bloomington. I was headed to Elkhart, and somewhere around Kokomo, I saw a burst of fireworks, and thought of the year before.

It was so weird leaving that apartment. I spent 2 years in that closet of a roominghouse flat. After everything was in the car, I sat on my favorite wooden chair (that I forgot!) and looked at the dirty, wooden paneled bedroom. It looked just like the day I moved in in 1991, but so much had happened. My dating life did a full 180 at least 4 or 5 times, I listened to music, Ray slept on the floor, I froze, I sweated, and bees crawled through the ceiling and evaded three different exterminators.

My phone line was still hooked up that weekend, but I had to bring a phone with me. My girlfriend called me from Florida and woke me up on Saturday morning. I thought she was over in Willkie quad and I told her to come over before I realized she was 1200 miles away.

The year before, Yusef and I drove to Zionsville to sell glowsticks at the fireworks show. We sold almost all of them in about 5 minutes. We left right after the fireworks started and hauled ass to get to a carnival before it got too crowded. We didn’t sell them as fast at the carnival; rednecks populated this carnival, not the rich lawyers and doctors at the Zionsville fireworks show. We had to work people for every sale, and put up with the ridicule of drunken 17 year olds or drunken 37 year olds acting like 17 year olds.

I got dumped by someone at the beginning of summer, and spent two months failing miserably at dating and meeting new people. I watched all of the couples in love walking the concourses, playing the games where you win big teddy bears, buying elephant ears and eating them together. This was the part of Indiana where bringing your girlfriend to the county fair would get you laid every time. Not only was I alone, but I was working as a street vendor, one of the most demeaning jobs that didn’t involve shoveling shit or holding a “Will work for food” sign.

And I heard Metallica’s “black” album constantly that night. The people running the tilt-a-whirl or the gravitron or one of those rides kept playing it over and over. It was the anthem to the whole event.

It felt demeaning putting up with these peoples’ shit. Every time some redneck started with the power trip, I felt like telling them that I was halfway done with a computer science degree, had all of my teeth, and was holding $2500 in ones and fives in my pocket.

I took that money and one Saturday when I was depressed, this little freshman girl called me up and wanted me to buy her alcohol. I bought a fifth of Bacardi black rum and drank most of it myself in about an hour. Someone called and didn’t leave a message, so I called almost everyone I knew, trying to find out if it was them. I kept calling people after I blacked out, and a bunch of people called me the next Sunday to see if I was okay – people I didn’t remember calling.

While I was hung over, I bought the Ice-T “Cop Killer” album, a new pair of sunglasses, and did my laundry. I met up with Leslie Puccinelli while I was at the laundry on 3rd street, across from Jerry’s Liquor’s.

Yusef used to walk to Jerry’s Liquor, buy a 40, and drink it on the walk home. One time me, him, and Derik rented a VCR from Sun Coast, along with all of those Chucky movies. We hooked it up to a black and white 12″ tv, and then realized we needed to get fucked up first. We got into my car and on the hill just before 3rd street, a tire blew out on my Rabbit.

The spring before, Patty and I were at my apartment, and we woke up at like 5 so she could get to her dorm, get ready, take a shower, and walk to her 8:00 music class. It was March and in the 60s that night, but when we went outside, there was a foot of snow on the ground. I offered to drive her home, but when we got to my car, the passenger door wouldn’t open – I had to pry it open. Then, it wouldn’t shut – the latch caught on about the 15th slam. When we were driving up the hill, the door flew open and a sea of moving white and ice and powder appeared and lit the car like a supernova. She grabbed the handle and held the door shut, but on the drive home, the door flew open and shut on every turn.

On the 4th of July weekend, 1991, I was with Jo in Chicago and the same Rabbit got hung up on a manhole cover that ripped off the entire exhaust. We cancelled the reservations, stayed with a friend of hers, and got a new Meineke exhaust for about $160.

I took the Rabbit to Meineke two more times – once when it needed a new flex pipe in the exhaust, which cost about $120, and once when it finally died. The brakes went out, and the frame was so rusted that they couldn’t lift the car on the rack.

Once I was at that laundry on 3rd street with Racquel’s car. I made her a deal that I would wash her car if I could use it to drive to the laundry and do some other shopping. I scraped the spoiler part on the underside of the car, but she never saw it, so I never told her. It’s the part that gets scraped up anyway from the parking lot dividers. I also listened to Cannibal Corpse’s _Tomb of the Mutilated_ while I was driving around town.

Later, I was in the same part of town with her and we went to some kind of company event where there was a generic 50’s band and some catered stuff. It might have been the kind of thing where you buy tickets for $20 and the proceeds to to some schmuck who needs a new kidney. We walked around before then and she gave me a toy puzzle that was made out of a few pieces of metal and a string and you had to move one piece over the other on the string or something.

Come to think about it, I guess some other stuff happened that night, but maybe I should check my diary.

In 1991, Becky gave me a leatherbound diary for Christmas. She destroyed my entire room after we broke up, including my diary. I wrote a bunch of stuff in it the first week, like how I wanted to break up with Jo and how it was good to be with Tom again, even though he lost a bunch of weight in China and now looked like some kind of Vietnam POW from a Rambo movie.

And then I wrote a parser for an adventure game in modula 2, on an IBM-PC with only one 5.25″ floppy drive. And I bought a new keyboard, and I drove on the new US-20 bypass, and I thought about how things would change once I got back to school.