Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Everything I touch breaks

Sometimes, it seems like everything I touch breaks. Almost three years ago, when I first moved to Seattle, I went through a period where I never wanted to leave my apartment, because I was certain I would accidentally do something that would cost me money. My salary looked decent on paper, back in Indiana<, but once I got a car, an apartment, and got hit by all of the nickel-and-dime real world expenses, I had way less in my pocket at the end of the week than I did at my poverty-level hourly job back in Bloomington. And then every time I moved, I got hit with another asinine fee or bill – it felt like these people expected me to have a few grand in the bank for idiot expenses. So on Saturdays, when I was alone and had nothing to do all day because I was so broke, I feared going downstairs to the mailbox, because I knew I’d find some new bill awaiting me. And I feared leaving the house, because I was certain I’d either get in a car accident or in a breakdown that would cost me tens of thousands of dollars.

I’m beginning to feel like this again. Today, my VW started making engine noises that sound expensive. It actually started on Tuesday, but today was the first time I opened the hood with the engine running and gave it a good listen. I talked to a friend of mine who says it might be something like the water pump or timing belt, and that makes more sense – it will also be a hell of a lot cheaper than a complete engine rebuild to fix a knocking rod or something. Either way, I don’t have time time or money to deal with it right now, so I will switch back to driving my Escort full-time.

I spent part of last night watching old Twilight Zone episodes. The day of the last Seinfeld episode, I got on a major anti-TV rant, tore my cable out of the wall, and cut it so I wouldn’t be able to watch any TV again. I’ve since found that I can barely get a decent picture of channel 5, the local NBC affiliate, but it’s so fuzzy and screwed up that I can’t focus on a TV show. Life without TV has been more lonely than exhilirating. I’ve realized that it opened me up to a whole different world of people and experiences. Granted, most of them made me feel like shit – everyone on TV is thin and in shape and beautiful and together, and after watching for 3 or for hours a night every night of the month, you wonder if you’ll ever be able to find a woman as beautiful as Monica or Phoebe or any of Jerry’s girlfriends, and you’ve become programmed. You can’t buy the cars or the clothese they advertise, so you revert to buying the beers and pizzas, and soon you’ve gained 50 more pounds and you’re less together and less beautiful than when you started. It’s all a trap.

Background info: I grew up on TV, like the rest of you. We only had 5 channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and a neo-nazi religious channel) until we got cable around 83 or 84 (my parents were late adopters on most things – we didn’t get a VCR until about 1988. We did have a microwave oven around 1980 though.) I got out of TV when I was in high school – by the time I had a car, a job, and friends who were interested in anything but TV on a Friday, I stopped watching. And when I went to college, I didn’t have a TV to bring with me. In my first year of college, I watched maybe 4 hours of TV. But in my second year of school, I lived at home. I worked, but there was usually a night a week where I watched every show – the first semester it was when LA Law was on. And I watched a slew of stuff on Sunday night – it was part of the routine, to go to the grocery with my girlfriend, and then watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. Somewhere in there, I realized that I didn’t do anything outside of work anymore – I didn’t write, or play bass, or get into music that much, or go to movies, or anything. I also gained 30 pounds from sitting in front of the tube with a bag of chips or some candy or a pizza. So I went off of TV again, for almost six years. I didn’t own a set, and when my roommates did, I seldom watched. I did watch movies on VHS, but I think that’s a different experience. Movies aren’t written to draw you in and herd you toward a sponsor. The only TV show I watched in that timeframe was Beavis and Butthead – I taped a bunch of those when I was home one summer. My TV celibacy continued until the end of 1996, when I bought a TV and a VCR to watch movies. At the start of 1997, I bought a cable to hook up and watch the free cable in our apartment. Then I got hooked again. I got locked into must see tv, saturday night live, syndicated seinfeld, abc’s wednesday lineup, and late night talk shows. Any time I didn’t feel like writing or doing anything creative or productive, I would channel-surf. And about two weeks ago, I stopped. It was weird at first, like I had a lot of extra time on my hands. I used to watch TV and eat, and eating in silence or with a CD going seemed weird. I usually start writing at 9, and that used to mean I’d eat, finish my shows and go to the computer. Now I sometimes have hours between eating and writing, and I don’t know what to do. Anyway, it’s weird. I wanted to give you the background so you don’t think I’m an anti-tv nazi or a devout couch potato. I’ve lived both roles.

Anyway, I was watching Twilight Zone last night. I have a bunch of them on tape, and sometimes I watch tapes or movies to get over the eerie silence of the evening, or when I have writer’s block. When I was a kid, we watched these every night at 10 on WGN. After a few summers of this, I thought I saw all of the episodes. Maybe I’ve forgotten some, or maybe there are ones that weren’t in syndication before, but many of these seem new to me. I wish I could’ve written some episodes for Serling, because I bet I could bang out a bunch of weird ideas that would’ve been great. Other odd things I noticed – have you ever noticed how many Twilight Zone episodes had a wild west background? I bet they used the Universal Studios wild west lot to shoot all of them. Also, ever notice how many times Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space appears in Twilight Zone episodes? They must’ve had some kind of loaner program.

I don’t remember what the hell I was going to say about the Twilight Zone. I’ve been watching in an effort to pick up weird ideas for the now-almost-stalled work on Rumored to Exist. I’m in a weird sort of funk and I can’t write anything new or unique. I’ve been pushing around old ideas, and cleaning things up, but there’s no energy behind it. I’ve also been having a series of weird dreams, 2 or 3 a night, that all have to do with women. They are completely different dreams, but usually involve falling in love with somebody or chasing after someone, and the women are all composites of various ex-girlfriends or other women I knew in Bloomington. The dreams are vivid and lifelike, and I wake up wishing they really happened.

This is the first journal entry I’ve done for a while. Now I need to get the archive of old stuff and get this site going again. Maybe I will journal for a few more days first….