Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

kitchen, 30 years, mall dreams, algorithms

I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel, allegedly halfway through with two weeks down, two to go, but you know how these things are. I don’t want to get into details, because this isn’t HGTV, but aside from not having a kitchen, having a house full of dust that has horribly triggered my respiratory problems, and the occasional pounding and sawing, we have the house sealed up into three zones with airtight plastic walls so they can keep the kitchen in negative pressure via a fan and hose going outside. That’s good, except my office is sealed off from the outside, so it’s twenty degrees hotter than usual. And the weather has been in the eighties for the last few weeks. So despite the traffic, I’ve been going in to Palo Alto a bit more recently for work.

I’ve also been eating a lot more out of the house, which means a lot more fast food, which isn’t good. I’ve miraculously lost weight somehow, although a negligible amount. I can’t imagine the time back in New York when I would eat fast food for every meal, like either fast food burgers or delivery food fourteen times a week (and no breakfast). And I’m not sure if it’s from taking ten years off, but the quality of fast food now seems really, really bad. I’m not saying they were four-star back in the 00s, but things seem more rubbery, knuckly, poorly made, hastily assembled, and “value engineered.” A downward spiral. It’s similar to how Macy’s is now basically Sears; Sears is basically K-Mart; and of course K-Mart is basically dead. (They just announced the last four K-Marts in Indiana are shuttering, which isn’t surprising, but is somewhat sad.) Anyway, when I get my kitchen back, I think I will become a raw food vegan to get all this shit out of my system.

* * *

I ran across a picture in FB memories which reminded me that it’s been exactly thirty years since I left for college in my freshman year. There’s a lot to unpack there, but mostly, it’s shocking to me that this was thirty years ago, because it seems like it was a few months ago, and in many ways, I don’t feel that much different. I mean, I am — I weigh like 80 pounds more, and I’m losing hair, and my resting heart rate is twice as much, and all that good stuff. (See also previous paragraph about fast food, but it amazes me that I was trying to gain weight back then, and I could eat half of a Little Caesar’s pizza right before bed and end up losing weight.)

I guess there’s this expectation that I would reach a certain point along my timeline where a switch would be flipped and I would suddenly be “old” and I don’t know when that is. Maybe it’s because I never had kids, but I never reached that “OK, I’m an adult” moment. I mean, there were various milestones: I could buy alcohol; I had a college degree; I finished paying for that degree; I was completely out of debt. But there was never a magical “that’s done, this has started” moment. And I have gradually changed a great deal, so it’s weird to look back at these pictures and think back to those times.

* * *

Weird fact I just realized: I left Indiana when I was 24, and I’m now 48. The obvious math there is that I’ve lived outside Indiana as long as I lived there. But I lived in North Dakota and Michigan before I moved to Indiana when I was seven, so I actually crossed that threshold in like 2012.

* * *

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I keep having this dumb idea for a book where I (or a “character based on me”) goes back to Indiana after thirty years, antics ensue. Or maybe I go back thirty years after the events of Summer Rain. This is an enticing idea for that nostalgia itch in my brain that I can’t seem to scratch. And it sets itself up well in the sense that almost everyone in the book ended up on a radically different path than they were back in 1992, most of them tragic.

But there are a lot of issues with me writing this. One, I don’t have a story. If this was an Eighties feel-good movie starring Tom Hanks, it would be easy: guy from the big city goes to backwards-land, shocked and dismayed, meets some woman that convinces him that it’s a better place, and in act three, all is resolved and he stays with her, happily ever after. I definitely don’t want to write that book. Also I also don’t want to spend four hundred pages shitting on the post-apocalyptic landscape and the various people who are left behind, especially because it would offend them. Also the book would be about as funny and entertaining as reading a phone book. So, maybe not

* * *

I’ve been having a lot of crazy mall dreams. They almost always involve being in some bizarro version of a mall, not a real one, but an amalgam of several other malls that feels real and when I wake up, I wonder where it really was, like if it was some forgotten shopping center in Southwest Washington that I went to twice on the drive from Seattle to Portland and can’t fully remember. Or I frequently have a dream that a new venture cap company has bought Montgomery Ward and I’m back at my old store, and they’ve torn out the Hobby Lobby and ABC Warehouse that currently occupy that building, and they have opened a new/old Wards there. And the other night, I had a semi-lucid dream where I was at the Concord Mall, and I thought to myself, “this isn’t just a dream about a mall that half-looks like the Concord Mall; I am in the Concord Mall.” And it wasn’t; it was a fully-populated place that looked like if Concord had received an early/mid-00s expansion/reno and had thrived, instead of the opposite.

I’ve largely been avoiding malls, and I am 100% not following any dead mall groups, because they have all become insufferably stupid. Everything has become insufferably stupid. I can’t read news anymore; my condo’s Facebook page is an idiocy chamber; most of Facebook itself is falling apart. I don’t have a new book coming out any time soon, but I am very fearful about the next one, because it seems like every algorithm is working in tandem with the general uselessness of the internet, and I won’t sell shit.

(Also, semi-related, but since CreateSpace merged into KDP, I have sold no print books. Zero. I realize, my books are horrible and I’m a shitty writer, I don’t do promotion right, etc, but I am talking zero books. Also, my books are no longer available for immediate sale. Most of them say “Available to ship in 1-2 days.” I said a long time ago that Amazon is going to become a self-pub monopoly, and then they’re going to tweak things and completely kill self-publishing just like they killed the mid-list, and here we are. Maybe I’m the only one seeing this, and your horror and murder mysteries are doing better, but don’t quit your day job.)

* * *

OK, time to go for a walk. It’s theoretically a four-day weekend, but it sure seems shorter when it’s a hundred degrees in your office.


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