Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

I am a year older today.  I had a rainy day off of work today, hanging out here in Oakland and listening to the sound of gravel-like downpours smashing against the skylight.  I will be getting on a plane tomorrow morning and heading to Vegas, for a long weekend with Bill Perry, Marc, and Tom.  No immediate plans, other than gambling, eating, and maybe some comedy.  (I don’t think we’ll be trying to steal anything from Mike Tyson’s house, for example.)

This birthday has been pretty mellow.  It’s the last one of my thirties, and I’m sure next year when the big 4-0 hits, I will be much more freaked out.  At least I did not have to work today.  But Sarah had to go out of town for work on a last-second trip, and that was a bummer.  She did get me a very nice gift though: a Canon Digital Rebel XS.  It’s my first SLR, and my best camera to date.  But it’s going to force me to actually learn about how to take a photo, and learn all of this nomenclature like aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and so on.  It does a good job with the auto settings, and it’s cool to have something that can shoot three frames a second.  But I need to buy a book or a DVD or something.  If you have any good links to things I can skim online that don’t read like a college physics book on optics, please let me know.

I went to Denny’s today, as usual.  This time, it was the one in Emeryville.  I had their new Grand Slamwich, and it was fairly horrible.  It has too many things going on at once – a McGriddle-like maple syrup bread, eggs, bacon, cheese, sausage, mayo, and maybe nine other things.  I dunno, I am not that crazy about Denny’s anymore.  Every once in a great while, I’ll want to go there to get some pancakes, but in general, I am pretty much over it.  But it’s one of those time machine things, a direct portal into so many eras from the past.  I’ve gone there for pretty much every birthday for almost twenty years now.  It’s weird because my big memory today was Denver.  Before the big weight loss thing, I used to end up at Denny’s a lot, and maybe part of the reason it was so big to me then was I spent almost ten years without a Denny’s in my backyard, in New York.  Then I move to Colorado, and I can go anytime.  And then no wonder it takes me sixty pounds of weight loss to get down to an average BMI.

(Tangent: if you write a product installer that has a “thermometer” status bar, it should go from 0 to 100% exactly once, and then be done.  Going from 0 to 100 to 0 to 100 to 0 to 100 and then staying at 100 100 100 100 and then going to 0 and then 100 etc etc is not helpful to me.)

(Tangent #2 – OK I was too lazy to go downstairs to get my iPod, so I installed iTunes, and I’m streaming music from my laptop on my desk downstairs to my laptop in bed upstairs.  Years ago, I would’ve accomplished this by stringing a fifty foot length of cord over the loft.  This is magic.)

Anyway.  I keep thinking back to old birthdays now.  Like I keep thinking about my 23rd birthday.  Part of that memory has to do with just touching a short story that took place in that era, one that might or might not get published in AITPL #13.  I was deathly sick on that birthday; I went to this girl’s party maybe two weeks before, and it was damn freezing outside, and I caught a cold that gradually became pneumonia.  I spent a good chunk of the day in bed, but I remember looking at my birth certificate and realizing both of my parents were 23 when they had me on that day back in 1971, and on that day in 1994, my life was so far from being together in any adult way; I was on my way out of a computer science program and struggling to identify myself as a writer for the very first time.  I was still moping around after a breakup that happened months before, one that I wouldn’t pull out of for a long time.  I was in debt; I was not making any academic progress; I was making only a few bucks an hour taking peoples’ shit on a phone support line.  I didn’t have a car; I lived miles out of town and off campus; I felt like I had nobody and nothing, and couldn’t even fathom being married and having a kid.  It was just one of those mind-blowing moments of time for me, and not just because I was coughing my lungs out and taking cold baths in the middle of January to try and break my fever.

Man, I am listening to Husker Du’s Candy Apple Grey right now, and the song “Hardly Getting Over It”, and it fits the feeling of the above paragraph so much, it’s absolutely uncanny.  This is such a god damned good album, I can’t believe I didn’t worship these guys back in the day.  I was probably too busy trying to find Grim Reaper bootlegs or whatever.  But CAG is such a fully mind-blowingly emotional album to me now.  It seems like every third review of it online says something like “this album got me through a lot of hard times”, and I could completely see that.

(I thought it was hilarious when “I Don’t Know For Sure” showed up briefly in the soundtrack of the movie Adventureland, BTW.)

Okay, I need to pack and wake up in a few hours.  Just wanted to get something in while it was still 1/20.