Review: The Punisher

Movie Review: The Punisher

I hate people. I mean, I hate them a lot. It’s not that I only hate people who bring strollers on escalators or bring screaming kids to R-rated movies or stand in the middle of the god damned sidewalk and don’t move or pretend to be rapper gangsta wannabes and yell at each other at the tops of their lungs on the train so the whole car can hear about their bitches and how they’re going to become the next big gangsta rapper. I mean, I hate all of those people, but I also hate everyone. I hate people so much that I would see absolutely nothing wrong if some political official would give me diplomatic immunity, an extensive armory, unlimited ammunition, and full blessing to simply shoot dead anyone in my path I saw fit. In fact, at a time when the NYPD is looking at over $100 million dollars in cost cutting measures, I’m almost certain that if they gave me about a half million a year and blanket immunity, I could cut crime more than any after-school basketball program, simply based on my pure hatred for everyone. (Actually, one of my first experiments would be to start an after-school basketball program and kill everyone that shows up.)

Because of this, I decided I wasn’t going to go to any movies this year unless I was forced to. But then my favorite comic-book antihero was brought to the screen, and it looked like it would not suck, as pretty much every other movie about comic book heroes has. So I fought the crowds and idiots to the theater, got a ticket, and luckily got that one handicapped seat that’s front and center with no other seats around it so some dumb fuckhead wouldn’t show up ten minutes into the movie, kicking my shins and dumping popcorn everywhere and sit his sweaty, fat, unshowered ass right next to me.

The Punisher is, for those who don’t know, a character that appeared in Amazing Spiderman. Like pretty much everything that Stan Lee and his employees has ever done, The Punisher was wholly and completely ripped off from somebody else, in this case from Don Pendleton and the Mack Bolan series of books. Basically, the story is that a guy is a big-shot special forces, secret ops soldier who has his whole family killed by the mafia, and he avenges their deaths by going totally fucking medieval on the enemy with about twenty of every weapon known to man. Marvel beat the story to death and put all kinds of weird spins on it, but in the most basic sense, this guy Frank Castle is a normal human with no radioactive spider bites or radioactive gamma ray poisoning or radioactive ballsac creme or whatever else caused guys to grow third eyes or fire vision or any other powers which normally cause you to drop out of academics or a blue-collar career and consider superhero crimefighting as a day job.

Director Jonathan Hensleigh took his damn sweet time reeling out how much Frank loves his wife (played by the very porkable Samantha Mathis, who I last saw in American Psycho) and then destroying them. I was actually getting pretty bored during this part, but Hensleigh had to really build up that sappy emotional crap so Castle would have a good reason to finally go apeshit. And just to hedge any bets, he made sure to have every living relative on both sides of Frank’s family at a vacation dinner when the bad guys show up with guns.

The nemesis in the movie is Howard Saint, a mobster type played by John Travolta, who loses his son at the start of the film and decides to take it out on Frank Castle by erasing his entire family tree. This film confirms without a shadow of a doubt that John Travolta simply cannot act. At one point in his career (before he made Battlefield: Earth) Travolta earned $20,000,000 a picture, so it seems a bit odd that he’s working on a $33,000,000 action flick that’s not an artistic endeavor or an overt advertisement for Scientology. Anyway, he’s here, and he’s basically reading shit off of cards like he did in Broken Arrow, Face/Off, or Swordfish. But he’s always wearing a nice suit. And if you’ve been jerking it to Mulholland Drive, Laura Harring plays his wife. Unfortunately, her role does not require her to jump on a trampoline topless for fifteen minutes, so I would say her abilities as an actress were underutilized.

The film picks up when Castle starts his one-man war against Saint’s crime syndicate, and it had enough machine gun fire, explosions, knife fights, violence, and hand-to-hand combat to score almost an 8 on the Konrath 10-point scale of ultra-violence. Some of it was a bit hokey, like the fact that Claymore mines don’t explode like a high-explosive charge as pictured in a key scene (they shoot ball bearings in an arc from the front plate.) However, I was able to overlook this because of cool scenes like when he super-armed his house by hiding grenades and pistols under sinks and drawers, or when he decks out an old GTO with a full-on race engine and straight duals, plus shuttered armor plating on the windows and more hidden pistols inside. The movie is practically an instruction manual for going apeshit and making your house a fortified compound, but most of us who have been reading the comic for decades knew all this shit already.

And of course, Rebecca Romijn plays Frank Castle’s neighbor in his dumpy studio apartment. As you notice, I do not use the hyphenated S-word at the end of her name, because just a few days ago, she has split from the no-talent, phone commercial jerkoff. I don’t know the terms of her divorce, but I’m hoping it’s because she got that copy of Rumored to Exist I sent her, and she’s on her way over to my apartment right now to bear my children. I have to admit that I can’t speak much for her acting in this film, because every time she was on-screen, I was distracted with the lingering image of her in Victoria’s Secret french-cut panties, high heels, and nothing else, scrubbing my kitchen floor with sponge as I walk in the door after a long day of writing fiction and cashing checks from the large number of book sales our celebrity marriage has produced. “Oh honey, I’m so glad you’re home!” she says, throwing down the cleaning equipment. “I missed you so much while you were gone producing the best writing known in the world,” she says, throwing her arms around me. “I haven’t had sex with you in hours. Do you want to go to the bedroom, or can you just savagely fuck me from behind and pull my hair while I cook you dinner?” And so on.

The movie pulled in the wrong crowd for me, though, and what ultimately bugged me was the fact that people are so fucking stupid. The movie is about a guy who did RIGHT, who was a law enforcement official, and who was wronged by EVIL. And he ultimately decides that he must go above the law to avenge the death of his family. And when the voiceover of The Punisher in the final battle says something like “when laws don’t go far enough, sometimes you have to take things in your own hands,” and all of the fucked up whigger idiots in the audience are yelling “Hell yeah G!” The contradiction is that to most of these people The Punisher is a hero and what they want to be, because they live above the law in that they smoke a lot of pot and drink too much and steal car stereos to supply their cocaine habits. What I see as wrong is that these are the kind of people who I would kill if I was The Punisher. It’s simply inexcusable that this point was explained to the audience in the simplest form possible, yet everyone in the audience but me simply did not get it, and after this weekend, you will see dorks wearing Punisher skull shirts everywhere, acting like a bad-ass. Now, I haven’t gone all wacky and armed myself to the teeth, and to be serious, I haven’t decided to go out and kill people vigilante-style, because I have nothing to avenge. The fact that the dumb high school dropouts in my neighborhood spend all of their time smoking pot directly under my bedroom window and listening to bass-heavy violent rap on their shitty jambox is bad, but it’s not bad enough (yet) for me to start wiring up Claymore mines. To me, the punishment is that in twenty years, they’re going to be the fat men in undershirts walking around this neighborhood with nine kids and no money and still working a job unloading trucks even with a bad back that they can’t get fixed because they have no health insurance, and they will ultimately die in the same apartment they were born in. That might not be as spectacular as shoving a big-ass Rambo knife through someone’s heart, but it takes a lot less effort on my part, and I won’t end up in prison.

Anyway, good movie. Not great, but worth watching.

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Media format history

Let’s wheel out the way-back machine, boys and girls, and set it to about fifteen – no, seventeen years for today’s history lesson, as we talk about something called media formats.

Don’t run off to another random website because you think I’m going to get into some Noam Chomsky, FAIR media studies bullshit. What I’m talking about is how the music gets from your favorite band to your head. Now, I know most of you kiddies nowaways use something called MP3s, which enable you to steal all of your music from the intraweb thingee through a program that lets you immediately download that one song from the album that your friends say you should listen to. This lets you immediately type “that milkshake song” into your music-stealing program and download the one song from the album, ignoring the other dozen that don’t matter, so you can listen to it over and over and over until the powers that be tell you to move to the next trend. And that’s fine, but I thought I’d take a moment to riff on some ancient, archaic formats that were around when your grandparents were in high school in the mid-eighties, and the company that made iTunes had a game called Breakout as their cash crop and all of this interweb stuff was just a wet dream of nuclear scientists hidden away in a DARPA laboratory, spending money on new ways to digitally transfer porn into MX Missile bunkers deep below the earth’s surface and transferring the cost to the taxpayers in the form of $670 hammers.

You may be familiar with the Compact Disc. It’s the recordable format you use when you want to get a whole bunch of stolen MP3s from one computer to another. There’s also a lesser-known form of this that comes from the factory with the songs already on it. And instead of being packed 50 to a spindle, each individual “album” comes with a tiny booklet that has the names of the songs and sometimes pictures of the band, which are for people who don’t have cable TV and can’t see videos on MTV. It sounds very wasteful and old fashioned, and even counter-intuitive that people would *pay money* to buy one of these “albums”, but these are also the same people that bought games like the Atari 2600 for hundreds of dollars and thought it was neat when two different blocks moved around the screen and shot at each other. And what’s even more strange is that there were actually more formats of music before the digital age, in something called analog.

Okay, I’ll drop the facetious trip and get to what I really wanted to talk about, which is the whole analog versus digital format. I know that analog and vinyl are back in the sense that everyone is spinning records in clubs, but playing records is music about as much as mixing housepaint is art. I know everyone is into the whole trip of house music or DJ music or whatever the hell you call it, but I think there’s pretty much an unwritten rule that if you have any Ted Nugent or Grand Funk Railroad in your collection, you can’t be into DJ-type music. Maybe I’m wrong, and I guess I do have at least a couple of BT albums in my collection, but that’s about where the story ends as far as I’m concerned, and if you’re looking for my weigh-in on the debate, you just got it.

Back to analog. I have an all-digital setup here in the pad: Dolby 5.1 and DTS if needed, fed out of fiber from a DVD player and with a 6+1 changer riding shotgun and the PS2 optically hanging out in case I need some backup (like when I get some fucked-out DVD-R-Audio-G from Taiwan that the mailman fucked up in the envelope or whatever. Sony put some mighty drives in those PlayStations – they can crack almost anything that spins and is five inches across.) There’s the iPod to go with me, and a stack of (legal) MP3 in my home PC and at work. I’ve even got a CD player alarm clock to tell me to get the fuck out of bed every morning. The analog gear has long left the rack, though. My circa-1993 dual-deck tape recorder lay disconnected by my never-played Korg M1, and I don’t even know what happened to my tape walkman, but it’s probably in a shoebox under my bed with my Pez dispensers and collection of broken Sony MD recorders. I think my collection of Iron Maiden albums on vinyl might still be at Marie’s place – not that I have a turnable to listen to them. I still have a few shoeboxes of tapes that were too good to get rid of, but since I sold my VW with a tape deck five years ago when I left Seattle, I haven’t had much use for tape, and even less for vinyl.

But I thought about tapes the other day, when I was listening to the new Queensryche album on headphones. One of the songs, “Desert Dance” has this really weird filter effect, I think it’s called a comb filter, on a verse as the first few lines are sung, and then the music almost stops but comes to a head, and then the filter vanishes and the whole thing charges on. It’s the kind of thing that’s indicative of when a band like QR or Dream Theater self-produces an album because of whatever ego trip they happen to be on, and everybody ends up twirling every knob in the booth just because they happen to be there. While the effect is cool, it’s also disorienting, because it’s the sort of thing that makes me think that my batteries are dying or my headphones have taken a shit yet again or… or…

The tape is fucked up! Man, how many years has it been since you’ve thought about that? It almost slipped my mind, the decades of capstans getting a bit too gummy or reels not being tensioned correctly, or slight folds on the tape from the whole thing getting vomited out of the player while you were doing 90 down the road and you threw the whole thing into the passenger seat and told your shotgun officer, “find a pen and fix this fucking thing!” Everything is digital now, and while I’m constantly running into problems like MusicMatch fucking up and putting all of the tracks in the wrong order, or finding out on the train to work that some fucking idiot on FreeDB has tagged Venom’s Black Metal album with the “Native American” genre label or something. But that’s the kind of thing that you fix on the fly or edit later or, god forbid, re-rip the album on another computer to get the shit straight. It never alters the sound though – every bit still ends up the same from the factory to your ear.

But remember when tape made this the exception rather than the rule? I know every time I listen to the CD for ZZ Top’s Eliminator album, I expect this low warble at about three seconds into the first track and three seconds before the end of the last track, because the felt pad had some kind of oxide on my old tape copy from 1983 and sat for a decade before I got back into the tres hombres in college. Every time I hear the Rush song “Witch Hunt”, I think of the copy my friend Derik taped for me; we used the stereo down in his basement, and when I was fucking around on his drum set, it vibrated the turntable’s needle, and left a slight audio ghost in the background of my C-90 copy that I heard again a million times, until I upgraded to CDs. When I listen to Electric Ladyland, I still expect the needle to jump just like it did on side three of my stepdad’s old copy, which became permanently recorded on my tape. And remember XDR tapes? I think only EMI made them, but they had this sweep of five tones at the start and finish, an indicator that their jazzed-up bullshit Dolby ripoff was giving you superior sound when you popped in that Pink Floyd tape. All of these artifacts became permanently engrained in my unconsciousness as I listened to these tapes over and over through my teens and college years, and I never thought of it, except the distant thought that “I wish these fucking Compact Disc players were smaller than a kitchen appliance so I could fit one in my god damned car and get rid of these tapes.”

I lived through the change from analog to digital, which in fifty years I hope to be some smaller version of some other great technology handoff, like the people who grew up riding horses and then graduated to the Model T. I remember first seeing a ten-thousand disc player in Omni at a time when I barely had experience with the cassette tape, maybe around 1982 or so, and thought, “that might be cool, if you were Howard fucking Hughes or something.” (Actually Hughes was dead by then, and I don’t know who I thought was rich back when I was ten – maybe George Lucas, or the members of Kiss.) Anyway, I think I’ve told the whole story of me buying my first CD player at some point in the past (sorry, no link.) But I remember the growing pains of the media, the long box era gradually being replaced by the shrink-wrapped jewel box (but sans the fucking security stickers). I remember when everyone was way too concerned about upgrading to digital, and there was a flurry of digital-ready analog cables, analog speakers, analog tuners, analog power strips, and everything but carpeting. I remember once, while buying one of the Aiwa tape walkmen I had during college, that a salesperson at that snooty audio store out by College Mall in Bloomington was telling me that Sony had a discman coming out that would read ahead a CD while playing it and store a few seconds of the tune in RAM memory as a sort of skip protection. I was looking at the guy like, “you are fucking high, my friend! I just bought four measly megabytes of memory for more than the cost of two Sony Discmen!” and he’s explaining the future of portables to me like the Navy explaining the USS Nimitz to a bunch of 1940s dimrods in that movie The Final Countdown (or insert your own favorite time-travel machine movie.) Lo and behold, a few years later, every single pink disposable portable CD player available at Target for under $50 has like an hour of skip protection built in. It’s like the CD was a big deal, and then I woke up one day and everyone had a hundred of them. And every car came with one, standard.

Weird, wild stuff. And that, kids, is a quote from this guy Johnny Carson. Believe it or not, Jay Leno was not the creator of the Tonight Show, you see… Oh, nevermind. I’ve got new CDs to rip.

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I hate grocery stores

I hate grocery stores in New York. I know I’ve said this a million times, but it’s true. The grocery store, as the provider of food and foodstuffs, is probably one of the few things with which I require regular interaction to survive. Record stores in New York suck too, but I can not buy records. Cable TV in New York sucks, but I gave up on that after they pulled my bootleg connection, and it’s probably better that I don’t watch TV. Booksellers in New York – well, there are many good points, but they can also be run by snooty pieces of shit, and I can always take my business to Amazon.com. But aside from eating food off of a cart or ordering delivery every night, I need to eat. And it would be nice if this interaction was a pleasant, helpful, quick, and value-added experience. But it’s more like having a metal bucket full of feral rats strapped to your ass and heated with a blowtorch until the rodents seek escape by tearing through your anus and into your intestines. Well that, and they require you to carry a plastic card for a 1% discount.

I’ll admit: I’ve been spoiled. When I was in college and had my first real experience with buying groceries with my own money, I used to shop at Kroger all the time. Kroger went 24-hour when I was in high school, and around the same time became pretty much the first place to take credit cards. That meant it was no big deal for me to go in and buy a two-liter and a frozen burrito for $1.37 and put it on my Visa. Plastic was the lifeblood of the student, and Kroger made me a loyal customer (until Marsh showed up by my place in Colonial Crest.) Kroger also started building these mega-stores, that contained everything from fishing gear to bulk foods to fresh seafood to stationery supplies. Many a night, I would go to the Kroger at College Mall at three in the morning with a UCS paycheck burning a hole in my pocket and fill an entire square, top-heavy cart with everything you’d need to make two back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners for twelve with groceries left for the next week.

In Seattle, I had my choice from two major chains: Safeway and QVC. Both were open 24 hours. Both had sizeable stores with full-service delis and giant freezer sections. They offered a wide variety of health foods and veg-friendly stuff (I wasn’t vegan or anything, but it was when I had stomach problems and tried to watch what I ate.) The help at both were pretty friendly, and I managed to know cashiers who remembered me by name. Credit card payment was quick and easy, and sales and specials made a good dent in my bills. I shopped at Safeway a bit more, because they always sent very good coupon books, and some weeks, every single item I wanted to buy was on sale, and I’d end up getting $47 of food for about $16. Later, the Safeway closest to my house closed down to get knocked down and rebuilt as a super-Safeway, but at about the same time, QVC opened a new mega-store with an underground parking garage and a produce section bigger than most grocery stores overall. The two kept each other in check, and overall it meant that a trip to the store, be it for a single item or a trunk full of food would be enjoyable.

Okay. Fast-forward five years. I’m here in Astoria, and there are two stores near me. One is C-Town, the other is Key Food. There are also a lot of tiny groceries and bodegas that old ladies shop at, but I don’t speak Greek and I would rather not shop at a place where they’re going to avoid every health precaution available and spray my food with Windex. Neither Key Food or C-Town have around the clock service, but that’s typical, seeing as we’re in the city that never sleeps, and every fucking person who has ever used that phrase to describe New York has not tried to do something like buy a case of Coke at 1 AM, something that is even trivial to do in Goshen, Indiana.

To get a good picture of what Key Food looks like on a Saturday morning, watch the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. To imagine the same at C-Town, do the same, but on one of those 2″ Sony Watchman TV sets. Much like a quick drive just outside of Tripoli will confirm that there are no traffic rules except “he who has the biggest gun welded to the back of his Toyota pickup truck has the right-of-way”, you will see people who obviously have no idea what the normal flow in a grocery store should be. I thought this was something you learned at an early age from sitting in the cart with your mom, or maybe the grocery store chain pays some Pavlovian psychiatry think-tank design firm to put up the signs and aisles and dividers in such a way that people could instinctively tell that you step in the front door, take a cart, go toward the aisle with the salad and crap, and then corkscrew through the store. Not so. Most people flail in every direction, as if a boxcar of geriatric prisoners were pushed out of a boxcar and into some Nazi maze of death while SS officers shot machine guns over their heads. It’s always a total clusterfuck. And to be fair to the people who are lost and confused, the stores here don’t always follow the smooth intestinal track of back and forth and back and forth, calmly oozing customers with full carts toward the multiple anuses of the cash registers. There are always protrusions and extra counters and racks and bizarre design issues made largely because square footage is so limited and they can’t simply put in twenty foot aisles with lots of breathing room in between.

The total lack of square footage means a radically reduced product line, of course. An Albertson’s or Safeway may have twenty feet of ketchup in an aisle; ketchup products that are hearty, light, lean, dietary, squeezable, industrial-sized, single-serving, kid-friendly, eco-designed, spicy, low-sodium, or even various non-ketchup colors, such as green. There may be different brands of ketchup, from the store brands to the generics to Heinz or even some organic hippy brand that substitutes agave juice for the sugar that gives most ketchup its flavor. But the bottom line is, you’re going to have a shitload of choices, and that always helps the consumer. You buy what you want, you try other options to find the ones that make you happy, you meet your dietary needs, and you probably save money, because there will be competition between the brands and they will strive to make you happy.

This, of course, is not true in a New York grocery store. More often than not, certain products will have a “family line”. For example, the Frito-Lay family has several brands of snack chip, such as Doritos, Ruffles, Chitos, and so on. At a smaller store, one or two big family lines, plus the shitty generic, will push out all other products. So, for example, Key Food might not have Kettle Chips. You might say “tough shit, Jon, they don’t have the space.” But my bitch is that because they don’t have the space, they can’t meet peoples’ needs. And if I want Kettle Chips, I’ve gotta rent a fucking car and drive to Rhode Island and buy them. How is that “the city that has everything?” Why doesn’t the store just sell everything that people want and then build a bigger store from the profits? Or spend some money to design a better store where the cashiers can ring people up faster and it’s harder for people to rip them off and less food is damaged while it’s on the shelves and everything else that would make them more money? Because they don’t give a shit.

This is usually evident the first time you get rung up at a Key Food or a C-Town. Anywhere else in the country, the cashier usually gives you a fake, forced smile and asks how you are, or maybe if you have anything on the bottom of the cart. While she rings up the shit, it goes to the other end, and a dude puts it into bags. Then she announces the total, and you pay her. Then she says thanks or have a nice day or whatever, and you go through, and the dude has put all of your bags on the cart, and sometimes they even offer to put it in your car if you drive up.

Okay, here what happens is you put all of your stuff on the belt. The woman acts as if you aren’t even there. In fact, she will try her hardest to not look at you, as if you are some kind of crazed sexual pervert with his cock out, jerking off to the Young Miss magazines right there in the checkout line, attempting to reach a climax and spray her face with your evil seed. She does not say hello. She does not greet you. When your total comes up, she does not annouce it to you, and chances are that the register does not contain a readout that is facing you, so you have to ask her what the total actually is. If you attempt to pay with a credit card, she will act as if you have attempted to insert a large household appliance in her rectum with no lubrication. Meanwhile, there is no guy bagging your shit – it is just sitting there, and most of the time, you have to bag it yourself. She does not say goodbye. Many times, she will not give you a receipt. And god fucking forbid one of your items does not come up in the computer during a scan.

People who work at grocery stores do not give a shit. The customer is never right. When you need help, they are not there to provide it. It is never their job to tell you where something is, and there’s also no system of telling where things are anyway. Need a corkscrew? In Kroger, there is a whole section of Aisle 8 dedicated to housewares – choose from any one of eight different models. At Key Food, tough shit. You’ll need to go up and down every single aisle to find that they have one sitting under the maxi-pads, and it’s probably broken.

The deli at any one of these stores is proof positive that these people are fucks. Well, first, if you ever have to get into line at a deli counter at one of these places and any more than, say, zero people are in front of you, it’s recommended that you carry a Japanese sword for your ritual suicide at this point. Any person ahead of you in a deli line is guaranteed to be a problem, with some serious OCD issues and a project that involves 37 different kinds of sliced meat, because they will spend all day ordering shit you’ve never even heard of and then bitching because the fixed-blade slicer is making the stuff too thin or too thick or whatever. Then when you get to the front of the line and you ask the guy, who you assume speaks enough of some dialect of English that you can at least point at something and scream an approximate weight at him and he will understand, won’t. The most simple order for, say, a half-pound of cheddar cheese (which you have to buy from the deli because they don’t even have the most basic Kraft shit you’d normally get) is a huge fucking ordeal, and he has to go into some meat locker dungeon that, based on the time he is gone, must burrow straight down into Middle fucking Earth. And even then, you’ll pay like $16 for a slab of shit that tastes like the government cheese they dumped off of Long Island back in 1982.

I don’t even know where I was going with this except to say that I went to Key Food tonight and I was really pissed off because I wanted some frozen corn dogs and they didn’t have any. Now I’m bored with this, so I’ll stop. I hope they get freshdirect.com here soon.

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5th grade teacher sadist

Back in the fifth grade, I had this sadist sociopath of a homeroom teacher who, in the interest of not getting sued if his kids ever decide to google his name, I’ll simply call Mr. Cool. Mr. Cool was not, in fact, hip or neat or whatever; I chose the somewhat ironic name because his real surname is a phonetic synonym for cool. In reality, Mr. Cool was a high follower of one of those overly zealous splinter factions of Christianity like the Mennonites or Quakers or something, the kind of we-think-the-bible-is-a-literal-document idiots that people in New York cannot fathom actually exist when a discussion on gay marriage or posting the ten commandments in courtrooms.

As an aside, I am still so fucking sick and tired of people who live on one of the two coasts who consider the entire country between LAX and JFK to be a “flyover zone”, to think they are the authority on what these people actually think. I recently had to sit through a discussion where a bunch of metrosexual hipsters were exchanging “No, these people against gay marriage believe…”, silently trying not to throttle the involved persons and start screaming “THAT IS YOUR FUCKING UNINFORMED OPINION! YOU HAVE NEVER TALKED TO A SINGLE PERSON WHO DOESN’T BUY EVERYTHING AT THE FUCKING GAP!”. PLEASE, people, try to liberally ad the words “I think that” or “it’s my opinion that” when you open your pie-holes, and the world will be a better place.

PS, that rule doesn’t apply to my journal entries, because my opinion is right. Back to the story.

Okay, Mr. Cool. He looked like Les Nesmond’s older brother, with a bad comb-over and a lot of generic clothes and everything but the bow-tie. He came from Kansas or Iowa or something, and like I said, was really religious, but also had a short fuse, and while Jesus may have said to turn the other cheek, this guy would rather put his foot in your ass when you crossed him, and that’s a talent that seldom works out in a fifth-grade classroom. Other than flooring the whole group of us in science class by pulling out a fucking bible and reading Genesis when we got to the part of our book about how the world was created, he also had a bad habit of going completely apeshit when you fell short of the stature of, say, a military school’s ideal behavior model. So pretty much everybody in my class got yelled at or shook or smacked in the back of the head, and regular hellions like Gary Rink got beaten within inches of their lives on a daily basis. In the fifth grade, I was old enough to know that something was wrong with this guy, and it probably wasn’t right for him to be hitting kids in class. I mean, I couldn’t look up the exact law or rule or anything, but I knew the guy was whacked, and I dreaded every day of the fifth grade because of him.

Another reason the fifth grade sucked is that instead of sticking to the books (or his god damned bible), Mr. Cool used to have us do these asinine projects that were meant to broaden our horizons. The most corporal of these was the 50 states and capitals book, which was a thing where we had to draw a picture of each state with its capital and three or four major cities and all of the rivers and stuff, and then list its resources, populations, and other interesting and/or useless factoids. To a fifth grader, fifty pages is a damn book, so this took more than a Sunday night to prepare. And Mr. Cool knew what encyclopedia we had in the school library, and would bust your ass if you simply copied shit out of there. I’m sure he meant good by this sort of thing, and probably got the idea because some Jesus magazine like Reader’s Digest had a fear-inducing article about how kids couldn’t name more than five states or their major cities and the Russians would be using that to our advantage and killing us all Real Soon. And I guess it was better than the fact that my dad had to memorize all of the states and capitals, and could still rattle all of them off faster than I could currently name off a random list of, well, anything. (To be fair, there were only 13 of them when he was in school. Sorry dad, old joke.) Anyway, he was always coming up with dumb shit like this for us to do, little take-home projects which would have been great if we all had Beaver Cleaver families, which none of us did.

So one weekend, he came up with this great project: to prove to us that TV was warping our minds with Satan, we were to completely abstain from the glass teat for the next 48 hours. The project was to tune out and then see what we did with our time when we didn’t rot our minds with cartoons. And in some fit of stupidity, I actually mentioned this assignment to my mom when I got home, and she thought this was a real great fucking idea. So I had both parents lording over me about this stupid assignment, and instead of watching the usual cartoons, I went outside and tear-assed around the neighborhood on my BMX bike.

Granted, I watched a fuck of a lot of TV back in the day. In fact, since we only got five channels and didn’t have a VCR, I watched pretty much every damn thing on, even if it totally didn’t appeal to me. I mean, I remember religiously watching Barney Miller for the plot, because I was too young to get any of the jokes in it and I needed a way to kill time until WKRP was on. (And it’s not like Johnny Fever’s dope addicts or Herb’s attempts to diddle Loni Anderson would have been that funny to a completely uninformed ten-year-old like myself.) BUT, I also spent a lot of time away from the tube, too. I had a regular gang of friends, and I rode my bike around a lot and killed bugs in jars and buried army men and played out Star Wars episodes two through ten with the unending amount of 3″ tall plastic figures I had and everything else. So I guess I could survive a lack of TV with no problem, except one:

Superman was premiering on TV that Sunday.

Fuck! This was the original Superman movie, with Christopher Reeve and Margo Kidder and live action and all of that shit. I never saw it in the theater because half the time when I asked to go to a flick, my parents would say “god damn it! That’s going to be on TV for free next year, why do you need two bucks to see it now?” And not only that, the network was going to show an extended version of the film, with all kinds of scenes showing Clark Kent growing up and pushing ten-ton locomotives on tracks and bending shit and using his heat vision and everything else. And my sisters were going to get to watch it, even though they didn’t give a fuck about Superman at all. I loved Superman! I had a paperback book of all of these old Superman comics, and I could tell you backwards and forwards every plot of every one. That January, I even had a superman CAKE for my birthday. And I couldn’t watch it because of that stupid Quaker Jesus freak motherfucker and his stupid assignment! I was so god damned pissed that Sunday night. And the next morning, when I got to class, every fucking person but me had completely forgotten about the assignment about an hour after they got home, except me.

Anyway, I haven’t watched TV in a week now, and I’m back to being TV-less thanks to, not a Jesus freak, but a lack of cable TV. (OK, maybe the people who found out I had illegally had cable and cut it worship Jesus. Maybe it’s even Mr. Cool, fired from teaching and working a minimum-wage job at Time Warner. Who knows.) It hasn’t been that bad this time, though. It’s just a matter of not caring anymore about the regular shows. I will miss ER, but that’s about it. I also miss the background noise, like during a meal, but I have DVDs for that.

Fuck, I feel like there’s more to talk about, but I’m tired and want to do nothing but read for a while.

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There has to be a better way to wash dishes

Jesus fuck, I hate washing dishes. There has to be a better way. And don’t tell me “a dishwasher”, because I had a fucking dishwasher in Seattle, and I had to wait until I had a full sink of dishes before I ran it, and then it ran like as loud as a god damned Harley with straight pipes for an hour and a half straight, and I spent just as long rinsing off the dishes before I put them in, and then half the time I had to rinse them before I put them away because they reeked of lemony fresh calgon scent or whatever the shit was, and all of that water and energy was wasted and it would have been easier just to hand wash the god damned things. What I’m looking for is a machine where you just put the plates right in it, and it blasts away everything, like the kind of machine you use to take the paint off of car parts before you chrome or paint them.

Okay, here’s the deal. And don’t fuck with me about this, because for six weeks, I washed the god damned dishes at Columbo’s in Elkhart, and I spent about a semester cleaning the shit off of dishes at the Collins lunchroom when I was in college. So I’m a professional here. Anyway, I only have one sink. And the usual procedure is that I stack up plates and shit in the sink until I have completely run out of plates. At that point, because I have like 16 or 20 sets of Faberware, the stack of plates has like the fucking Swamp Thing growing on it, with all sorts of slime trails and other growths that a god damned biologist could write a thesis on. Then I get out one of those little things with the sponge and the handle and the dish soap in the handle, and I wash like one or two plates when I get some delivery food, then throw them back on the pile when I get done eating. So it’s like a stack in computer programming jargon, which means the bottom plates are fucking fused to each other like some sort of natural cement, like what some ancient Indian tribe would use to build a fort or a teepee or some shit. Plus the stupid handle always leaks the soap all over the place between uses, so a bottle of Dawn washes like four plates total, and costs like $6.79. (I know it costs like a dollar out in Indiana at Kroger, but you have to realize that the stupid, tiny, piece of shit grocery stores here overcharge you on everything and only have the smallest size possible, and like no variety, so like out there you probably have 863 different flavors of Dawn with various antibacteria, antivirus, antigrease, antifood, anticarb, or whatever else, and we only have the old-school blue shit.) Also, the sponge tore off of the handle, and now I will have to buy a new handle and a new set of sponges, since there is no compatability between sponges and handles, because that is how they fuck you.

So here’s a system for washing dishes the old-school way. Sink A has the dirty dishes, with hot water and dish soap. Sink B is clean and is the “rinse” sink. Then there is a strainer, where you dry them. You soak and scrub the shit in A, then move it to B and queue up a bunch of stuff there. Then when A is done or B is full, you rinse off the items and put them in the strainer thing to dry. Easy enough, right? I used this method at the fucked-up Italian restaurant, and it worked fine (although sometimes on Saturday nights, me and the other guy John used to have contests to see who could go the longest without changing their water in sink A, because you’re continually adding new dishes to A, unlike your situation in a domestic environment, because unless you have a fuck of a lot of dishes, sink A is like a one-shot deal. Anyway, we’d go for hours, and sink A would look like the Exxon Valdez crashed in it, with oil slicks and chunks of pizza crust and pasta and cigarette butts and who knows what floating in it.)

Well, I DON’T HAVE TWO SINKS. So here is my system. Sink A: water, some dirty dishes, soap. Then a wash tub as sink B. I can stack stuff in there, but I can’t rinse into it, as it doesn’t have a sink or drain or whatever. So I stack shit in there that is cleaned but not rinsed. Then I take the shit out, one at a time, and rinse it as I am overflowing sink A and water is going all over the fucking floor and flooding my kitchen, unless I pull the plug and lower the water level and dilute the soap in A. So it works better with less shit in A, and all of those dishes stacked on the floor and the stove and the living room and whatever else. So I did this for a while, and it sort of worked, but I only got like 3 plates cleaned and then all of the bowls and silverware and stuff. Tomorrow, I will put away all of the shit, and then start over.

I bought a box of brandy cherries from the discount wholesaler store, which is right below where I worked. They were horrific. They tasted like they were filled with kerosene. I ate one, and even the faint thought of it makes me want to go hurl chunks. I am never, ever eating another alcohol-based confection again in my life. I am also never drinking any hard liquor again in my life, as I overheard a completely stupid conversation today about the merits of hard liquor because of its lack of carbs. I realize I do not eat that healthy of a diet, but I am hoping to improve it to the point where in ten years, I will be fairly healthy at the same time that everyone who was preaching Atkins is on an organ donor wait list.

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Lead paint is the breakfast of choice for TV ad executives

I am watching TV, eating a bad hamburger, and doing this at the same time. And let me tell you, TV commercials during Must See TV are as dumb as a kid in an all-lead paint house who eats a hell of a lot of wall candy. Let me bitch about a few of them:

  • There’s a McDonald’s ad that’s heavily ebonified, I think with a slogan like “Livin’ it Large” or “I’m Lovin’ Shit” or something, which is appropriately tacked into the middle of a Friends episode, which has a demographic of like 98% white. That doesn’t entirely bother me, since pretty much no ad runs in a realistic timeframe (like someone watching the history of the machine gun on the History Channel is going to buy a medicated douche. Well, maybe they’d use it to clean out a really dirty gun.) What does piss me off is that the commercial has a really annoying hip-hop song in it with a drum track, and one of the angsty teens in the commercial is playing a set of drumsticks on the dash of a car. WHY THE FUCK DID THE KID HAVE THE DRUMSTICKS IF HE ONLY LIKES RAP MUSIC? They should have showed him programming a Yamaha drum machine or something.
  • There is a commercial every five minutes for this Alicia Silverstone TV show, and while she’s fairly hot, every time I see her, I wonder, WHAT IS THAT PIECE OF SHIT ON HER FOREHEAD? It’s like a freckle or a pimple or a wart or SOMETHING. I want to meet her just so I could fucking scratch it off with my leatherman knife, and then tell her I want to fuck her.
  • The little news “bumper” after each commercial break tonight is saying “Gargantuan earthquake in Japan! Killer Tsunami waves! Are we in danger? News at 11!” FUCK! Just TELL US NOW! I don’t want to have to stay up to find out Godzilla has been awakened or anything. If some rogue, ex-commie state was going to launch all of their missles at Manhattan, they would have a bumper that would say “Nuclear missles, will they rain upon our city? Should you kiss your ass goodbye? We’ll tell you after the game.”
  • Target might be nice, but STOP RUNNING ADS BASED IN NEW YORK ON NEW YORK TV STATIONS! There are no fucking Target stores in New York City! Don’t rub it in that I’ve got to go to a shithole bodega and pay $20 for a six-pack of warm Coke when it’s five bucks a case back in the Indiana Target.
  • I can’t wait until Kelly Clarkson has three bad albums in a row and starts doing porn. (Just an aside.)
  • What’s the deal with Fran Drescher checking out and hanging all over guys old enough to be her sons in that Old Navy ad?
  • That Final Fantasy ad with the wizards online to talk to you on the phone – I thought that was a public access show for a second.

OK, I’m bored of this, and my hamburger’s cold. I’m going to go work on the glossary.

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Hobby shop nostalgia

It rained all weekend. Poured. It’s always good to have the two days off, but I get a bit restless when I can’t go to a store or a movie or whatever without dressing in a scuba suit. While I was dodging to get some lunch on Saturday, I decided to duck into this hobby store that’s about a block away from me. Like a lot of other businesses in Astoria, it’s run more like a hobby than a regular place with regular hours, and pretty much every time I walk past it, the gate is down and lights are off. But I saw the doors open for business, so I decided to duck in there.

I’m no stranger to hobby shops. As a kid, my interests ran from trains to planes to cars to pretty much anything else you put together with plastic cement and little glass jars of paint. I built military airplanes, 1/48 scale plastic kits with way too much detail, at an age much later than I’d probably like to admit. When most kids were off trying to chase after girls for the first time or sneak into their parents liquor cabinet, I was in my parents’ basement, sitting at an old card table, listening to a Rush cassette and painting each individual dial on the instrument panel of a 1/32 scale F-15. My room had two walls of shelves filled with planes, and I had a workbench in the basement filled with half-built kits, tools, and supplies. I don’t entirely remember when I stopped or why, although I’m sure a lot of it had to do with a driver’s license and the desire to fit in. I don’t regret the time I spent doing this, although there is a certain shame factor, thinking about the geekiness of it. I mean, working on a computer – at least that could eventually lead to a job and money. But model airplanes don’t have any analog.

Walking into the old shop was like a flashback to me. It was a narrow, run-down little spot, but the walls were filled with shrink-wrapped cardboard boxes of many different areas and scales. Even the toy stores have the typical stuff, the half-dozen Testor’s kits that are made for kids with little patience. But when you get to a REAL hobby shop, they have the Pacta paints and the Tamiya kits and the sheets of custom metal foil detail pieces that cost more than some models. And this place had all of this – some older, almost vintage kits, and all of the heavy duty planes: the 1:48 B-1 and B-52 models, the 1/32 MRC planes, the Hellers from France, the DML armor kits from Hong Kong, the Paula and Antares resin kits from the Czech republic. It was all there, and I spent an endless amount of time looking at all of the kits, looking at the revised versions that had been re-released in the almost 20 years I’d been away from the hobby, and the new kits with generations of improvements in details, and technology. It made me really think about a lot of things, about life.

I’ll admit – I don’t really know where I’m going with my life these days. I’m punching the clock, eating the meals, sleeping when I can, but that’s about it. I haven’t been writing, and I haven’t been thinking about other projects. But I’m always hit with the whole “what am I doing?” volley of simultaneous and confusing emotions. I look at the people around me, the people my age, and they’re married, with kids, working, saving, buying houses, and in the conventional sense, they are DOING something. And then I look at what I’ve accomplished (which isn’t NOTHING, but…) and I look at my apartment full of toys and computers and DVDs, and I think I am not a grownup. And I think that if I was grown up, I would buy a new suit instead of buying a Slayer box set, or something. That I’d get my priorities straight. And maybe that would start the domino effect, of respect in my career, and meeting new people, and settling down, and everything else.

But then I also think that all of this is bullshit. I can’t – I don’t know, I can’t get up on a building and shout THIS IS BULLSHIT! and really fly my freak flag and… whatever. It’s more like a soft decision. But the decision is that I don’t really care. I don’t want to be a “grown up”, whatever that means. I can’t write the sequel to Rumored while I’m changing diapers, or busily shopping at The Gap, or whatever else. I care about eventually meeting someone, but I don’t care enough to ignore the opportunities around me that I’d rather pursue. I’d rather travel alone, and buy lots of DVDs, and stay up late at night playing video games. I don’t need to defend that against any other standard.

So I bought a model airplane. It’s a B-25, in 1/32 scale, and it’s a balsa kit, which I’ve never tried before. You actually cut out all of these balsa pieces, strigners and keel pieces and formers and stuff, and pin them to this big blueprint and glue it all together, so you get a skeleton of balsa. Then it is covered with a tissue paper and glue, and plastic pieces like windows and engine nacelles are included. It’s designed to fly with engines or be a static model. I’d like to build an RC plane, but I decided this would be my “learn from my mistakes” model, before I sink any money into a bigger plane.

I bought glue and knives and sandpaper and some other small tools, and also got a big piece of foamboard to use as my “table”. While it poured outside, I sat on the couch with the board in my lap and pinned down my pieces, cut out rib holes for stringers, and had the TV on in the background. It reminded me of what I really missed about building models, which is the almost hypnotic effect of working with your hands, going through the steps, trimming and eyeballing and test-fitting and inspecting, and actually building something that passes the time in such a different and more fulfilling way than just sitting on the couch and watching SuperStation reruns.

So that was my weekend. I mean, I went to dinner at Kiev on Saturday night in a short break of the rain, but I came back and kept gluing and cutting. I mostly finished the fuselage frame, then took a long walk to Home Depot and bought a Dremel MotoTool so I could cut things up a bit faster. But it was a good weekend overall, despite the shitty weather.

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Peter Gabriel at MSG

I saw Peter Gabriel last night at MSG, and it was… interesting. It was excellent in many ways but also really depressing in many other ways, and the whole thing really threw me by the time I got out of there. It’s strange to say that going to a show full of people and energy and music that I essentially enjoy would make me leave in a deep depression, but there were a few nerves to be pinched.

To first get this out of the way: I like Peter Gabriel’s music, but I don’t think I like people who like his music. I think it’s a very personal thing to me, and the songs of his that mean the most to me aren’t the ones that have supported his livelihood. So to go and have the guy sitting next to me yell “SHOCK THE MONKEY! SHOCK THE MONKEY!” after every other song really made me want to sell everything I own, put a unabomber-style shack on my property, and never talk to another human again.

The other thing that bothered me is that although I go to a lot of shows alone, I really don’t like doing it. And this is probably the first non-metal show I’ve ever attended. So not only was there no chance for me to talk to some other dude about the band, like I did when I went to see Rush or Fozzy or whatever else, but pretty much every guy there was with a woman, because this is the kind of show you bring your girlfriend to and hope they play “in your eyes” or whatever. And, not that I haven’t noticed this before, but I’m getting extremely depressed about being alone. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but then there are these breakthrough points where I suddenly realize that it’s been months and months since I’ve dated, and I’m currently sustaining no relationships, and I have nothing going on where I’d potentially meet people, and I have no energy to seek out people, and things won’t change themselves, and I have no energy to try to change things. And I can push this stuff away enough to get up every day, and go to my job every day, and maybe put in a little bit of writing on my books or whatever, but when I really think about it, it completely fucking demolishes me. And that happened.

So I’m sitting there for this whole show, essentially spending the whole thing not thinking “wow, I have all of his albums, he’s great”, but rather “I wish this show was over so I could go home and completely reinvent my life.” And the show wasn incredible, but the thing is that a lot of Peter Gabriel songs mix happiness and depression in such a strange way that they totally pulled me further into this. When I’m alone, when I’m depressed, I listen to his music, and that helps me write and create. And that means I’m not a fan of “Sledgehammer”, but if you’re depressed and you listen to “Mercy Street” or “Red Rain”, it’s not going to snap you out of it. And my whole career of depression has bookmarks in it via his songs. Even the happy songs remind me of failed relationships, like when they played “Secret World” and it reminded me of the girl I dated back when that album was out, the girl that put “In Your Eyes” on a mix tape for me and now even the first two notes of that song practially exorcise her to me again.

The concert “ended” in a very strange way. They played the song “Signal to Noise” from the new album, and it’s very heavy and deep and dark and forbearing, but absolutely incredible. It’s primarily a more tribal drum sound and some symphonic synth. As the song approached the end, each instrument would finish playing their part and the person would just put down their stuff and walk off the stage, until finally it was just the drummer and a synth playing a sample on its own. Then he got to the end, and the lights went off, and that was it. It was such a heavy and strange ending, watching everyone just walk away, and it struck such a strong impression on me that it completely blew me away.

(Of course, they came out and played a couple of radio-friendly singles as an encore, which sort of fucked it up for me, but still…)

So there it is. I have a lot of thoughts and a lot of plans, but mostly I just want to go home and sleep and sit in bed and read and just try to figure out what to do next. I have a hot idea for a new book and I’ve been letting it fester in my head. I think getting onto something real in the writing department would help, but it’s also one of those times where I know that writing isn’t the answer for me and I need to figure out what is.

On that note, I better go home.

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Saw a ghost

I saw a ghost today. To me, a ghost isn’t a dead person dressed like a Klansman, making weird noises and scaring people. It’s when one or more of my senses receive input that matches some other point in my history enough to make me think I’m there again. It can be a perfume, a song, a place, a car, a picture, or anything else that strikes a chord and really tears into me. Smell is my strongest sense, but a combination can really freak me out. An example – I used to drive a silver 1980 VW Rabbit diesel, back in 90-91. The smell of diesel fumes, like when a bus goes by, reminds me of my old Rabbit. Now I drive a silver 1978 Rabbit with a gas engine, which sometimes reminds me of my old Rabbit, but there are enough differences and I’m used to it, that it’s a different car to me. But, one time I was driving and I stopped at a light behind a big construction truck, and the diesel exhaust huffed away that familiar smell. And I saw a ghost. For a few seconds, it totally made me think it was the summer of 1991 again, like I was working at NIBCO and dating Johanna down in Bloomington.

Maybe I shouldn’t call it a ghost – maybe it’s more like a wormhole, a way for me to peer back into the past that’s triggered by external events. Like deja vu, but that’s more of an unexpected thing, like you’ve been at the current event before, not like the current event is a weird shadow or afterimage of a past event you know you lived. I guess this happens to a lot of people, and it’s simply called nostalgia. But I think it’s more for me, because I have such a strong memory for the past. Sometimes, when I’m hanging out with friends and talking about old times, I’ll rattle off a story from 5, 10 years ago with such precision, and everyone else says “I totally didn’t remember that until now.” Other people forget the past, and think it’s a curse. I think remembering the past is the real curse. I can’t put ex-girlfriends out of my mind, or forget my stupid mistakes. I wish it all faded away, but I think some people and places will chase me to my grave.

Today’s ghost was nothing tremendous. I walked to work and back, to time the distance (~40 min each way) and the clouds, the smell of the wind, the temperature, and the Rollins Band MD all made it feel like the fall of 1993 again. It wasn’t a total sensation – I was walking in downtown Seattle, not from Wrubel to Colonial Crest, the Rollins album in question came out in 94, and I didn’t have either the black leather jacket or the Aiwa walkman that were Konrath trademarks at the time. But it felt like time skipped for a second, and it lurched back five years.

That’s all I did today. I slept in, went for the walk, and by the time I got home, it was like 5:30. Then after I drank 2 gallons of icewater, passed out, and dealt with an incredible headache focused in the center of my left eye, I got my dinner, and here I am. I wish I had more stories for you about street festivals and shopping and contra dances and mountain climbinb and running in the park with puppy dogs, but I don’t.

I should be working on the book…

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Drinking to Good Morning America

You know it’s been a long night when you’re drinking your last beer, the sun is up, and you’re watching Good Morning America. I had a rough one last night, and the sad thing is, it didn’t take that much to send me over the edge. I wish they had an alcohol vaccine, so you could drink 28 beers and it wouldn’t do much aside from make you piss a lot. I’ve heard that if you can eat a pound of butter before you drink, you can consume about any amount within a couple of hours and still drive home, but it would be the most discomforting gastrointestinal malady you’ve ever felt.

Actually, that’s what it felt like all day today. I tried to go see Armageddon, and I stopped at McDonald’s to eat first. Half of a chicken mcnugged meal produced a new world record stomach malady, and I was almost certain I would end up in the hospital. In fact, I was driving faster than hell down I-5 toward the hospital, vowing that if I was still in pain when I got to the James St. exit, I would drive straight to Harborview ER and check in. It calmed down before that – it usually does.

Ray Miller says he wants to write a book about me writing Rumored to Exist. Not a documentary, but a weird through-his-eyes postmodern tale of horror. I am flattered, but aside from that, I think it’s one of the coolest ideas I’ve heard before. On the tale of my failed attempt at book3, it’s not so shocking, but this was completely out of the blue. Just the other day, I told Michael that I wished Ray quit everything else and started writing books. It’s not that I dislike the music stuff and the zine, but I could really see Ray turning into some kind of all-out Burroughs-esque skullfuck of a writer. So I hope he does a little work on this.

I think I’m back on Rumored to Exist now, but not at this second. I need to keep working though.

And I need to eat now. Chicken noodle soup, maybe? We’ll see.

07/04/98 14:31

It’s the Fourth of July. My opinion:

I’m not anti-society, society’s anti-me
I’m not anti-religion, religion is anti-me
I’m not anti-tradition, tradition is anti-me
I’m not anti-anything, I just wanna be free

I’m hoping that while all of the idiots are watching fireworks, I’ll be able to watch movies in an empty theatre.

It’s been three years since I pulled into town, which seems sort of weird. It seems like thirty years ago in a way, but sometimes it doesn’t. Last night, I was watching old episodes of ROX, a show that Bart Everson and a few other people made for public access. The shows I have on tape are from 1994, and remind me a lot of that summer – that era: running around in my Mustang with Larry, working at the support center, trying to find a comfortable spot in the mediocrity of Indiana that I could call my own. The ROX gang seemed to have this weird pseudo-hippie commune of cool people doing cool things, and I was always envious of that. It seemed like both me and Larry tried to find other things or activities that would make our pathetic lives seem more Kerouac-like (or GG Allin-like, or Irwin Rommel-like, or whatever.) The ultimate act of adventure finally happened when both of us left town, sick of Bloomington and eager to find that safe haven in a real city.

I guess I haven’t found that yet, although I haven’t tried as hard as I did in the summer of 1994. My life here in Seattle could’ve probably happened in Bloomington, except for my job. I don’t leave the house much, and I could easily type away at a computer in the Varsity Villas as I could here. Bloomington now has a Barnes and Noble, and there’s a few places to buy CDs. But I do like it here better. It’s just a matter of getting out and doing stuff. I think next year, I am moving into a place in the student ghetto near UW. I want a single apartment or maybe a 2-bedroom house, with no roommates, but I want to be close to the action. I want to be able to walk to the Ave on a Saturday afternoon, eat some shitty Chinese food, and buy some good used books and CDs, while checking out the sights and sounds. That’s what I miss about Bloomington, and I want to be close to it. Close to all of the wannabe poets and people in weird grad programs I’ve never heard of, studying dead languages and talking about postmodern deconstrution as flippantly as an Indiana resident might discuss NASCAR.

It’s 2:46 and I haven’t eaten or showered. Time to get on it.

07/04/98 22:45

The rockets are red glaring over lake union. I just went on the deck here at the apartment, and I had a beautiful view of the shitty dreariness of skyscraper park, which blocked my view of the aerials. Oh well, saw ’em last year.

Three years. I never celebrated anniversaries when I was in Bloomington, since there were so many gaps of living in my mom’s basement here and there. When I started my first good run, it ended and I moved here. But three years ago was The Big Rebirth, when I planned to change it all – write books, meet women, buy stuff, live the life. And now, 1096 days later, I’m depressed as hell because I haven’t.

The only other anniversary that causes me this much grief is October 30. That’s the night, in 1993, that Tanya left me, and started what became a minor Big Rebirth. Every year after that, I celebrated another year of singularity – not just to whine “I still don’t have a girlfriend”, but to signify that I was drifting deeper and deeper into the abyss. And even in 1997, when I had a girlfriend, I celebrated in the strangest way possible – I flew back to Bloomington. Yes, when I planned my fall visit last year, it wasn’t scheduled because of my new nephew or Simms’ kick-ass party or the weather or my work schedule. I specifically flew back so I could be in Bloomington on October 30, 1997. And each year, no matter how far I’ve gone, I haven’t done anything if I still think about that date. I don’t even remember what she looks like anymore, but I still have to stop and think about how much things have changed since.

July 4 is different, usually because I’m around other people and watching fireworks and eating barbeque and I don’t think about this stuff. But this year, I didn’t have any plans and it rained, and I sat in my apartment eating a turkey pot pie and replaying the last three years in my mind. I never wrote the books – I’m still stalled with the same two that are always on the roster. I’m single, through no fault of my own, but I don’t think that was in the original plan. I’ve bought some stuff and paid some bills, but I’m probably just as much in debt now as I was in 1995. I can count my friends in this town one one hand, and I don’t feel like I’m part of some tight-knit community or even a loose circle of friends. I could go on like this but it gets ugly – the point is, it feels that in three years, I’ve accomplished what the average human could do in a few days. It makes me wonder what I should do in the next year to change that.

Whew. I saw Armageddeon today. I could see why reviewers are panning it, but I thought it was a pretty kick-ass movie. Very funny, very edge-of-the-seat, and it really pulled at your gut. It was way better than Deep Impact, in my opinion. Of course, Deep Impact didn’t have Liv Tyler…

Time to get to work. If the fireworks traffic wasn’t blocking the whole damn universe, I’d go for a little midnight drive. Maybe I will a bit later…

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