Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Written Picture

It’s time to do my next collab for On Display.
“write about where you are. paint a written picture of where you live, and of the random people you meet during a typical day. walk through it, looking with a visitor’s eyes.”

I live in Seattle, Washington, in a small studio apartment in a fairly new building. It’s on the hill between Pioneer Square and First hill, which gives a decent view of the Kingdome and the area immediately south of downtown from my balcony. It’s also unofficially called “pill hill” because it’s right by Harborview Hospital, and near Swedish, Virginia Mason, and a dozen smaller hospitals. That means that at least a dozen ambulances a day pass below my fifth-story studio, and I have the best view in the house of Harborview’s helipad. I’ve lived here since the summer of 1995, so I don’t even notice these things, but if you’re a new visitor, chances are you’ll get freaked out by the incoming choppers and ambulances.

I guess Seattle is beautiful and everything, but I didn’t move here because I’m the outdoor type. I can’t explain the clubs or museums or mountains, because most of my tenure here has been in front of a computer monitor or at a Denny’s. And in three weeks, I’ll be done here, and on my way to New York City. All I can tell you about the outdoors and Seattle is that no matter how far away you drive, the natural scenery will still be overwhelmed with yuppies, driving Land Rovers and Volvos, dressed in overpriced REI gear, and hauling around their precious children in expensive European strollers that cost more than my car. Don’t come here to spend time by yourself.

My apartment is small, and without any of my stuff, it would look more like a hotel room – nice beige walls and light wood trim that looks very institutional. It’s not much bigger than a hotel room, really – it does have a huge bath and a kitchenette that overlooks the main room with a little bar-like counter. There are some big closets, one of which contains a washer and drier. The place is carefully constructed to facilitate a single person who doesn’t entertain much.

There’s one big room, which is my bedroom, office, living room, practice space, and library. It’s nice to have everything combined, really – I love sitting in bed, getting up and taking two steps to get another book, or three steps to go to the computer and log on. It’s a very comfortable space for me to get lost in.

Right now, there’s a lot of chaos involved with the move to New York. About half of the 500 or so books in my collection are either in NY already, or in boxes waiting to be carted to UPS for their shipment. My book collection covered two walls on a ragtag collection of shelves, but it almost looks sad in its current state. There are a lot of other boxes and gear that’s getting ready for the shipping truck, and many storage areas and closet shelves are now bare. In the next two weeks, everything will end up on the truck or in the trash, so it’s an odd picture right now.

Next to the books is my computer. It’s not much to look at, a home-built Linux machine sitting inside a case I bought back in 1992. But the desk under it is like a timeline of everything I’ve been doing lately, covered with all sorts of shit. A 35mm camera – a wind-up metronome – Strunk and White’s _Elements of Style_ – the new Adversary CD – a Timex Datalink watch – a Sony MZ-R50 MiniDisc Recorder – instructions for Shanghai for the Gameboy – a checkbook from 1992 – Burger King Ketchup packets – a ginsu steak knife – Denny’s receipts from last December – a small notebook that I filled with obscene haiku – an address stamp for my zine – two masters from my old band Nuclear Winter – a highball glass from Kilroy’s bar and grill in Bloomington, Indiana – a 1995 promo from the Japanese hardcore band United – a word count log from December for my second book, Rumored to Exist – a ton of notes on index cards from my first book Summer Rain. Oh, and a keyboard, mouse and monitor. The desk is a kitchen table, small and originally from an RV or modular home, not sure which. It’s a piece of shit and will soon be broken up for firewood.

My stereo is almost always on. Right now it’s playing track five of Dream Theater’s latest album, Falling Into Infinity. All of the stereo gear is Kenwood, except for a JVC tape deck and the aforementioned MiniDisc. My “entertainment center” is an endtable, which used to house a TV and some VCRs. The TV got sold a week ago, one VCR got returned to my ex, and the other is packed. Now the table is covered with about a hundred CDs. There’s a rack next to it with another 300, and another 100-odd discs are on bookshelves next to my computer. If you’re feeling industrious, go to my homepage and take a look at my collection sometime; it’s a real study in obsessive-compulsive disorder. I love my CDs though. From Anal Cunt to Frank Zappa, they’re all cool.

On the floor just next to my left foot is a pile of MiniDiscs, labels and cases, in various states of recording-dom. I’m dubbing as many CDs as possible for my two-week roadtrip across the country. There’s also the master pile of notes and sketches for Summer Rain. Oh, and my Hi8 camcorder and tripod are also there. And about five degrees over is a Hartke bass amp and my current bass, a Cort headless with the Steinberger Sound licensed tuner setup. My very first bass was an identical model, although in worse shape, so when I glance at it, I sometimes think it’s 1989 again.

I have a patio door over there which opens to a soot-covered balcony – I live right by I-5 – and I can see the Kingdome and all of that other stuff from there. Next to it is one of those huge sideways-sliding windows. When I open the shades, the place looks more like an air traffic control tower, but it’s a great feeling on one of the three days of the year when it’s actually sunny out. It’s cool to have that much glass facing the sky when it’s a clear night and it’s dark out, or even better, when the sky is dark grey and the clouds are light grey and quickly racing across the sky.

There’s not much more to go – just a bed, endtable, and dresser. My paper journal is on the floor – it is vastly different than this guy, and I’m much more religious about it than this. There’s usually a huge pile of books next to the bed, stuff I’m reading. But I haven’t been reading much since I’ve been so busy with the move. I think there’s a New Mexico tourism magazine and the Rand Mcnally atlas, and the Grimoire of Bass Guitar, a music theory book.

I was supposed to walk you though my day, but there’s not much left. I work for a software company about two miles away, but my last day is Friday, and all week I’ve shown up late, left early, and done nothing. I don’t have much human interaction because I am a shorttimer, and because I have the worst office in the world, tucked away in the bowels of the building. I talk to the guy across the hall, and every day we walk down the road and across the street to a deli to get sandwiches for lunch. Not much of a picture to paint though, I’ve been in my office planning my trip, writing email, and surfing the web.

After Friday, this will be my office for two weeks. When I’m not packing it up or throwing it out, I’ll be at the computer, trying to finish as much of Summer Rain as I can before I head out. That’s cool, though – I’ve done so much writing in this same exact spot, it’ll be good to get a decent run in before I left. I figure I’ve probably written close to a million words while sitting in front of this table. I hope to get another twenty grand in before the 31st.

This is turning into less of a description and more of a nostalgic garbage dump, so I better stop for now.