Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

  • Chicago, old cow pastures

    I’ve noticed this weird pattern between my online and paper journals. I write about stuff that happened the night before in my online stuff, and stuff that happened that day in my paper one.

    Not much is going on here. I didn’t know it, but Indianapolis is bigger than Seattle. So is Columbus, OH and San Jose, CA. Seattle seems so much bigger than Columbus – I’ve only been there once, but it was like every other midwest city. It had a completely revitalized downtown area with brick streets, artwork, and brand new buildings, and then if you walked 5 blocks it would be all of these abandoned warehouses and bombed out neigborhoods. And then if you drove for another mile, you would be in a cornfield. When you drive on I-405 in LA or Seattle, there are buildings on both sides of you as you circle the city. When you’re on I-465, looping around Indianapolis, there is nothing but fields around you. Now there are a few yuppie suburbs and strip malls, but the transition from city to nothing is very abrupt. Compare that to Chicago – if you got on 72 – Higgins Road, somewhere around O-Hare, you could probably drive 50 miles and see nothing but wall to wall strip malls and subdivisions. The city of Chicago is huge, but the tentacles of the suburbs run forever.

    I haven’t spent much time in Chicago, but I can almost navigate the highways to get around it and through it. Last summer, I flew into O’Hare late at night, rented a car, and drove to Elkhart. Driving through downtown on the express lanes at 100 in a brand new Corolla reminded me of every trip I’d ever taken there. I’d been there a billion times with my folks, visiting my grandparents and family, but that’s nothing like getting in your own car, cranking some music and taking the trip yourself. I wonder how many times I have taken the trip? Can I catalog it?

    89 – w/ Larry to see Metallica
    89 – w/ Steph
    90 – w/ Becky – car broke down
    90 – to drop off Becky at airport
    90 – to pick up Becky, with Tom
    90 – with Tom
    91 – with Jo
    92 – with Ray, merch incident
    93 – with Ray, at least 3 or 4 times
    94 – with Simms and A, from Bloomington
    95 – return from Chicago, Angie’s graduation
    96 – from O’Hare, mom’s wedding

    So, I averaged about a trip a year, except for 1990, when I had nothing better to do. If you count layovers where I was stuck in O’Hare, there are at least 4 or 5 in the last 2 years.

    Monkey see, monkey do, monkey will destroy you. Sorry, listening to Rollins again. I’ve been thinking about writing a bunch of fake letters to people and mailing them (in the real mail) not to be malicious, but to make people wonder what is going on. A sort of art, I guess.

    I’ve been thinking about how much money I’d need to buy some land in the middle of nowhere and build a house. It’s a common recurring daydream for me, ever since I had to watch dozens of hours of Bob Vila videos during architecture class in high school. I’m convinced I could do most of the work on a house except for the foundation and the plumbing. I’m not sure I could do it by myself though, or right the first time, or while working a full time job. But every time I go to home depot, I start having fantasies in the plumbing section, looking at those giant fiberglass tubs and wishing I could start stocking up on 2x4s now while I save up for the land.

    I guess land is a big weird thing here. I could probably buy up a piece of an old cow pasture in the middle of nowhere for under a grand an acre, but there would be no water, power, etc. It goes from $6000 lots on up to $2,000,000 parcels up on the plateau or whatever. But ideally, I think it would be possible to get a good 10 acre, ready to build lot for under $50K. But I don’t know. I’m full of shit when I say I know anything about buying land.

    And when I bought it, I would be out of money and have to save more. It would be cool to buy a fucked up trailer, wheel it onto the lot, and then dump all of my money into the building. I don’t know. My mom is building a giant extension onto their house now. She found a builder who was going bankrupt and payed him up front, and then got the materials herself. And since she works in a giant interior decorating company, she got a lot of shit at cost or below cost. Stuff like cabinets, windows, she got for probably 40% their price from a builder. So maybe it wouldn’t cost $100,000 to build a house, especially if I wired, painted, decorated, and landscaped the damn thing myself.

    Gotta go – must see teevee is on soon.


  • Super Mario music torture

    I left my car at the dealership to get the oil changed, so I walked a few blocks thismorning on my way to work. It reminded me of when I was in Indiana and didn’t own a car at all, when I had to walk everywhere. It sucked, but there were times when it was so relaxing. And you notice all of the details around you, the buildings and people and cars. When I lived on 6th St in Bloomington, my car broke down and I had to walk to and from the car parts store a few times. I usually sped by the neighborhood street at 40 or 50, never looking anywhere but ahead. But on the walk, I saw all of the weird houses, the kids playing, someone taking piano lessons, another person refinishing a porch. A different view.

    I hung out with Daniel last night. He found a Nintendo for free, and had been playing Mario 3 for days. The music burned into my head – I was at my cousin’s once and he played it for about 10 hours straight, programming that song into my brain. It would be fun to do a dance remix of it, or use it for a soundtrack of a movie.

    I got a cellular phone today. It’s charging right now – I have not used it, but I called it to see if it would ring. It’s working, so that’s cool. It will be just an emergency thing, but I’ve said that so many times I am expecting some sort of binge where I run up a $300 bill.

    Lunch is over, time to go…


  • Analog First Third

    I’m taking lunch about an hour late because I got into a rhythm with some balloon help stuff and spaced out the time or something.

    I’ve been thinking more about writing, and what I should do next. I’d like to try another scifi story, some sort of cyberpunk thing that has some weird morality plot or twist of fate, like an old Twilight Zone. I’m not too into SciFi for the sake of creating some giant, complicated world. I’d rather have peripheral details of the future and make it more like the present, and then work on an incredible plot. I’m more of a Star Wars than a Star Trek person, if that explains it.

    I picked up a copy of Analog last night, just to size up the competition, so to speak. Some of it is very cool, but not as much near-future-future stuff – mostly the stuff in the far future, giant starships in faraway worlds, that sort of thing. I’m not 100% into that, but it’s still good. But there’s so much going on in the SciFi world, all of these conventions and new authors and zines and everything. I’m not sure I can just dive into it. We’ll see what happens.

    I also started reading Neal Cassidy’s The First Third. I’m just through the prologue, which was this huge family history. I’m looking forward to actually starting the book.

    I’m supposed to meet up with Daniel tonight for some food. I’ll have to see if I have some rough cut of the video stuff for him to watch.

    Blah blah blah.

  • Teach Yourself ________

    I did a mini-inventory and found I have “teach yourself ____” cassette and book sets for Spanish, German, Swedish, and Italian, yet I speak none of these languages. I have a problem with learning languages. I knew a woman that knew like 6 languages, and learned Japanese in like a weekend or something. It made me vomit.

    I’m listening to Lawnmower Deth – one of their older albums, when they were still okay. I remember them playing a Lawnmower Deth video on MTV like 5 years ago. It seems so alien that they’d just play videos that weren’t somehow part of a game show or something.

    I stayed up way too late last night making a videotape from all of the stuff I taped at Disney. I got through all of the footage, but didn’t have time to run off any VHS copies. It was good, but made me think of what I’d do differently the next time I brought the camcorder on vacation.

    It’s hard to cohesively think about anything today. I don’t really feel manic, but not entirely stable. I’d like a nap, or a few hours with a good book. Maybe later.


  • Not much

    Not much here – watching movies, sitting around. Austin Powers was a good flick. SNL is on now…

  • On writing an email-based porno server

    I can’t remember the name of my contact lens. It is a special kind for astigmatism, but I can’t rememner the fucking word. I hate it what this happens.

    Anyway, the sun is out and it actually feels like a May day. Oh – I guess yesterday was May Day. And the day when the dude in the U-2 was shot down (or crashed, or ditched, or tried to defect). It’s supposed to rain all weekend, though. Oh well.

    The other night I had a rush of memories from like 4 years ago, things I forgot all about. One time I consulted for somebody and wrote a mail server for a porno site in Illinois. You’d mail this account and say ‘send LesbianNurses3’ and it would email back the story. It was all cool, it used compression on the archive and supported a bunch of commands for listing, submitting stuff, and passwords. Anyway, the dickhead never paid me – I charged him like $300, and he promised a check in the mail about 10 times. Either he didn’t have the money, or he showed the thing to someone else because it was embarassingly easy to do – it was all a shell script, less than 50 lines.

    I also remember when me and Andrew lived in colonial crest, and one time the whole gang of CS geeks came over to drink and watch some movie – one of the police academy movies or something. This guy Dave was with us, who just got dumped by his wife. He was drinking schnapps like water and had some low-grade porno book that he must’ve bought at the liquor store or something. He kept reading from it, and we were all laughing. I think Andrew went upstairs and passed out during the film, and missed all of the antics.

    I have realized that if I move, I need to get a couch so a bunch of people can sit on it and watch TV. I wish I had my old couch. Lots of memories about that damn thing – I used to spend a lot of time on it, watching Beavis and Butthead, sleeping, talking on the phone, whatever. Need a couch.

    I remembered I need to get new license plates in August, so I will have that plus moving costs if I do move. So maybe I will have to put off moving a little bit longer. Maybe I will just sign a 6 month lease and keep saving my pennies.

    Blah blah blah blah.


  • Cell phones, drug wars

    More rain, and I’m really tired. Not tired, but compressed and dehydrated from too much caffeine at a late hour. I’ve been drinking 7-UP in an effort to recover. I’m still pretty jumpy.

    I signed up for a cellular phone, mostly as a precaution to my next inevitable automotive disaster. It’s through some freaky corporate plan, so it might be an invitation to something awful happening later. But there was no activation or monthly charge, so my only investment is $60 for a phone, plus .36 a minute if I use it. I’ll just throw it in the glove compartment and never use it until I need to.

    The ACLU annual meeting was last night, and I worked at it, helping people with nametags and setting up food for the reception. The topic was the drug war, which is a pretty ambivalent topic for me. I don’t support civil rights violations, but I’m not a stoner, either, and I don’t really agree with people who waste their lives abusing substances. And I know that people claim to be casual drug users, but in my experience, the worst alcoholics I knew all claimed to be casual drinkers. So who knows. Someday I’ll sort out my political differences, but I don’t think it will be on a usenet newsgroup or with the help of a glossy book from a newsstand.

    It suddenly got really dark outside, it looks like something out of a Danzig video. Maybe the AM and PM are reversed on my watch.


  • It rains in Seattle

    Rain. Despair. Bleakness. Running through the twilight.

    Sorry, just trying to sound all gothic. It really is raining though. It’s almost May and Seattle thinks it’s only February.

    Things are somewhat confusing here, but not things I’d talk about in a journal. It’s hard for me to censor myself about things, since I’m so used to writing everything in my paper journals. But my paper journals are not readable by 50 million people, so I limit myself. Sorry.

    I finished reading that Rupert Thomson book last night. It felt great to finish it with the windows open, the dark horizon of west seattle glowing through the rain. The book itself felt like it took place in the same atmosphere, the same bleakness. I wish the guy had more similar books, but I think he got into historical fiction or something…

    Anyway, I should end the lunch and start the work. Cheers.

  • Pot pies for independence

    I was going to write last night, but by the time I remembered, it was today. The trip back felt like a daydream, the darkness around me. I drove from Longview to Seattle in about an hour 45, pretty good for the slight drizzle that dewed the hills of asphalt under me.

    It was a daydream because it was so hypnotizing. The music and the solitude removed the thoughts from my head, let me relax. I got into a rhythm with the spinning tires, the squeaking wipers, and the passing reflectors marking the road I ventured.

    When I got to Seattle, the tranquility was broken as I checked my mail and removed a pile of bills. My financial situation is so fucked right now – I spent the rest of the night restless, thinking of the things I’d have to give up to keep afloat for the next few months. I figured a schedule that would involve some heavy payments in the next couple of paychecks, and would involve me eating soup and cooking at home pretty much all of the time. I guess it isn’t too horrible – I spent a lot of time last spring doing the same thing while paying off my Visa card. I think I can pay off my debts by the end of the year, and start figuring out what I really want to do with my money and my future.

    Every night I eat 99 cent pot pies for dinner, I am dollars closer to financial independence. Maybe.

    I’m listening to Rush – Counterparts. It reminds me of a strange time – my entrance into exile. Every song tells a story, but “Cold Fire” tells the strongest. It’s juvenile of me to spend an evening listening to songs that remind me of people from the past, but it’s either that or spend the evening thinking about money.

    I should get back to reading…

  • From Longview

    This is my first journal from Longview – I drove down last night. The trip isn’t too bad, but getting out of Seattle was a real bitch. I spent an hour going about 20 miles and then the next two hours going about 100. It’s nice that the trip is all in the daylight now. I really hate the drive south of Olympia when it’s raining and pitch black. It gets so dark out there in the middle of nowhere that you can’t even tell what direction is up – it’s like you’re in a tunnel or something. That’s the area where I had a blowout last month. It was PITCH black, pouring rain, and a narrow, two-lane section of I-5 where everybody is going 80. It took me a few hours to get that little baby spare onto the car, because I’d have to time it with the traffic. I’d wait for a break, run out, loosen one lug nut, and then dive behind the car as a herd of semis drove by, creating hurricane-like winds that would rock my poor little car, almost off the toy jack that comes in the back of Ford Escorts.

    So that was all cool. I saw the show Sliders last night, and had the chance to see where they filmed it last week (okay, I just saw it from the outside). I always thought they filmed that whole show on location somewhere, but if you watch it, you can sort of tell that 90% of it is filmed in a sound stage. We also rented the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High since I saw the commercials for it and realized I haven’t seen the non-tv version in quite a while. I had a carbon copy of Mr. Hand for US History when I was in high school, although we had no Pat Benetar lookalikes. Many of the girls in my high school did look alike, or at least had the same hairstyle, but I don’t know what they were trying to copy.

    I should get out of here. This keyboard won’t let me use the backspace key as a delete – it keeps opening up the emacs online help.