by j-a

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July, 2003

7-1-03

Anti-Suckholes and the Theory of Waiting

You can't always get what you want.
But if you try some time,
you just might find,
you get what you need.
The Rolling Stones
I wait for suckholes to appear. But there are two kinds: those described by Jim Paul, which divert you in a way that, probably, you didn't want to be diverted; and those that you wait for, that you allow (even enable), while your life otherwise goes along on an even, if low-key, keel, putting in the time with scheduled, token activity, believing that you are supposed to experience something, or get something, or meet someone, that it will happen, but otherwise, your life will go on along the way it always does, like a monk in a mountain hermitage, and your role in life is not to want things you can't/choose not to have, but to appreciate that which you do have and, further, to delve into the apparent "barrenness" of your life to see that it is really very full, and getting fuller as thing come to you of their own accord, not what you want, but what you need. [To this end (or probably it's more like I developed the theory of anti-suckholes as a result of this), I had the dream below.] I call the events that interrupt this developmental token routine 'anti-suckholes' because I want to be interrupted, theorizing that when that I am, there is a "cosmic" reason for the information or encounter--although, at any given moment, I may regret the interruption (e.g., yesterday's math problems, which turned out to be a pleasant experience, despite my initial reaction), so that there is not any real distinction to be made between suckholes and anti-suckholes, especially since it's a distinct possibility that every suckhole is a cosmic event (as is every phenomenon in the universe).

The dream: Cindy (transforming early on into Susan) and db at 640: I'm getting ready for work; hurrying, but not, because a semi-lucid part of me knows I'm lying in bed, asleep, not having to get up. Finally, though, I give in to the imperative, unwillingly, and I get up and make a half-hearted effort to get ready to go to work. Susan and db both cater to me in the way they used to do; that is, they think of me, like getting me breakfast and packing me a lunch with nice little treats in it, etc., without actually believing me to be important [as if I am the disenfranchised old man (later).]

The scene seamlessly transitions into a different home, but it's still the same place. Lots of others involved now, as if we're some kind of a coincidentally-collected extended "family," i.e., not related by blood (except for Susan and db).

[interlude: Susan has been talking about having met a guy, a member of a band, and she and db have intentionally not told me this; we go for a walk around "the block" (similar to the Rosedale "plan" neighborhood) and with a series of pointed questions I unravel her "mystery," that a guy has sent her flowers (this is the reason I became aware of/interested in this topic) and has taken an interest in her. She avoids telling me about him, but my questions subtly but succinctly keep bringing her back to the issue, diverting her avoidance ala the Socratic method, i.e., without doing it in a "confrontational" manner.]

Slowly, everyone is getting ready to leave the house, i.e., there's a gradual, logarithmic increase in preparatory and "leaving" activity centered around the kitchen, the end of which finds everyone putting on coats, grabbing lunches, etc. I keep getting (being given) the wrong coat, which I have to remove and help someone else (a girl/woman) get into (Sue? Beth Hollander?) An old man, the disenfranchised patriarch of this clan (me?) sits in the kitchen at a food bar empathizing with me--and earlier, we both happily enjoy the breakfasting antics of a six-year old girl. Finally, everyone is gone, even the old man. I manage to get ready (but I don't feel like I'm ready) and I go outside into a city street of three-floor apartment buildings that sit close to the curb with no trees or shops, nothing but the gray-like buildings--except for the one I came out of, which is a church-like building. The street is completely deserted. There aren't even any parked cars. I think to run up to the main street to try to catch the bus, but I get the distinct feeling that I am too late, that it's already gone [I've "missed the bus."], and with it all of my "family." I go back inside, because I see a lot of older girls standing in the "vestibule," and I kind of assume that they're my "family," but when I am inside, I see that they are just school girls preparing to go to class somewhere on the upper floors of the building. I can retreat back into the depths of this "church," which is my "home," or I can go back outside, where there is no one, not even any traffic, not even up on the main street, but in either case, I am alone. I'm not sad about being deserted, but neither am I happy. I miss the family, but not affectively. It's like nostalgia stripped of its affect. [Repressed?]

Earlier dream - D's bedroom: rabbits found abandoned; babies that are brought to a kind of nursery school/mini-wild animal shelter where they are "cared for" (i.e., loved) by the kids. One of them dies, the smallest one, but it's after the kids have left for the day



Another trip to Big Lots, to get two extension cords for the sheds and the patio; and while I'm there, I find a set of rabbit ears for seven bucks, and a plastic sink strainer that'll fit into the sink drain better than the metal one I bought the other day; and a can of black spray paint for the rusting mailbox.

But while I'm in the food store, before I went to Big Lots, I felt a wave of extreme physical lethargy wash over me. I dragged along thereafter, and by the time I get back home, I am exhausted. This comes after several days of mania, working on projects around the house and gardens. Is this the end of a nice long productive period?

First thing when I get home I lie down on the bed. I feel okay when I'm completely inactive, but as soon as I get back up, wham. It hits me again. But I decide I can't lie around. Too much going on in my head. There're too many things to do. I try to push through it, but as I'm outside working, I drag, just moving along slowly, completing minor tasks. Maybe cutting the hedges in the heat this morning wore me out.

I thought about doing away with that major monthly summer task by tearing out the hedges altogether. I like the hedges, but they're a lot of work. They extend 100 feet along the property line on the north, fifty feet in a three-sided square in the front yard on the south, and my newly planted privacy hedge (20 feet) in the back to the south of the patio. But that one I don't mind so much because I'm thinking of letting it grow wild and high and never cutting it.



This evening the lethargy dissipates slowly until I am almost normal again (whatever that is), except that I don't want to go to bed, even though I know I'm tired. I want to get more things done. In the summer there's never enough time to do things. I want to do things outside, so I skimp on computer work in the morning to get out there, thinking I'll catch up on it later in the day, which I never do. In winter, though, there's plenty of time, but never any motivation. It's all I can manage to do just to write.

Early this evening (and late this afternoon) I transplanted the coleus cuttings that I'd planted in Styrofoam cups after I'd hacked them off the previous cuttings, now well rooted, that I'd hacked off the large plants [four of them remaining out of the original nine planted from seed three years ago] before putting them out on the porch for the summer. And I got out the long hose and watered the pine seedlings that were looking a bit brownish. I wonder of they're going to make it. I think I might have neglected them too long.

Next, and most importantly, I Gonzo-wired the shed. I think I have to admit that I'm a Gonzo electrician. I disregarded codes completely. But, it's only a shed and it's well-separated from the house. I ran an extension from the small shed (halfway between the large shed and the house), an old heating oil storage shed that I no longer use, having converted the house to natural gas. This shed itself had been Gonzo-wired by the original owner. I ran the wire out the door and around the shed along its side behind the perennially cut-down sassafras stumps. Later I'm going to bury the extension beneath the slab walkway between the sheds. But for now, I stapled it in place up the inner wall inside the woodshed and across the doorway header. Then I ran another six-foot extension back across the header and into the main shed immediately adjacent to the woodshed. Tomorrow (or sometime), I'm going to wire up some rubber light sockets that I have in the basement (just like the one in the oil shed is now wired (I didn't do that one) and the one in the basement, midway between the door and the back (I did wire that one); that is, two wires out of the socket wire-nutted to an old extension cord, or maybe some insulated copper wire, the other end of which is wired to a plug, and hung in whatever way is most convenient, the wire wrapped several times around a hook or bent nail, perhaps. Down and dirty. It'll work. Maybe I'll even put in crude switches so that I don't have to twist the bulbs to turn them on, like I have to do with the one in the basement.

7-2-03

Strong backache (not "pain") upon getting out of bed this morning. Too much activity over the past few days. I agree (sometimes) with the theory that activity is generally good for you. But for some people, it aggravates joints and causes difficulties. As with everything else, there's a balance to be drawn between activity and rest, and for some people the line is a lot closer to rest. I am naturally lethargic anyway, so maybe I'm one of those people who should rest more. All my young life I've been active and on the go, but most of the time because I had to be, instead of wanting to. Now, I'm balancing out the act, out of a physical necessity. Nice excuse for being lazy, huh?



I put in the fence posts I bought last week up behind the shed and I straightened the fence that I took up there last year. Looks good. Then I wired brushed the mailbox and sprayed it with the rust converter I'd bought for the car that didn't work. It didn't work on the mailbox either, and I'm thinking that maybe it's like that other stuff I had, that the rust converting component has precipitated out and all that's being sprayed is the solvent. Could be.

And I washed the glass louvers on the screen door, because when my brother was over the other day, he pointed out how dirty they were. I closed the inside door and hosed them off. And while I was at it, I hosed off the porch and took all of the superfluous garden tools, etc., and put them all away. Now the porch is clean and orderly.

And I even managed to check the oil in the car, after having forgotten it on several previous outings.

For a long time I've been motivated (obsessive-compulsive neurosis) to keep a list of tasks I'd completed, but it always seemed like a useless activity. I'd start a list, arranged by date, and then after a few days, I'd say to myself "This is stupid," and I'd crumple up the list (or, later, delete it from the computer) and throw it away. Now though, with this journal method, I realize that I've found a way to accomplish this activity in a more sensible way. It's still stupid (cf. boring blogs), but what the hell. It works.

7-3-03

I painted the mailbox with the good rust converter, but it didn't change color like it's supposed to. I theorize that it couldn't get through the oily spray residue that I'd put on yesterday. Fuck it. I'll prime it and paint it tomorrow, and when it rusts again, I'll go out and buy a plastic mailbox. It's not worth the time and trouble.

And I painted the screen door (touched it up where the old paint was coming off the aluminum) with an old can of black spray paint I had. The new can I bought the other day is for the mailbox. And I used up an old can of green spray paint to half-paint the porch bench. Now it's two-tone green, but it looks okay, and the worst spots, the bench, where the old paint was worn through, is covered again.

7-4-03

Today we celebrate our independence from mother England. (And she was a mother, wasn't she?) But I see the holiday more narrowly. Although I appreciate the sentiment and especially the freedom, I'm not much for patriotic celebrations. Instead, I recognize my own personal freedom, independent of governments, which tend to be repressive, no matter what "democratic" form they take.

Freedom of thought is what I most admire. And thought is free only if you yourself personally choose it. Plenty of free people right now work for "free" governments whose thoughts are so bound up by national, regional, and religious loyalties that they are captive within systems that prevent freedom, despite the rhetoric they summon to assert that their imprisonment is nonexistent.

Today has been packed full of tiny freedom-robbing suckholes: the tape in my portable cassette recorder started to bind up, which they tend to do from time to time, so that I've learned how to open them up and apply an absolute minimal amount of Vaseline (because Vaseline will erode plastic and mylar, or whatever they're making recording tape out of these days) on the inside surfaces where the tape edges bind against the plastic walls--which of course took me away from whatever it was I was doing;

Then, while I was watching a movie on tv, after I had just finished programming the vcr to record a movie at midnight, the electricity went out. I lit candles and putzed around the kitchen until it came back on about fifteen minutes later, when I had to reprogram the vcr and go about the house resetting all the clocks and electronic devices. The whole day and evening has been a series of false starts like these. Time to go to bed and wait out this period of cosmic turmoil.

7-5-03

I'm looking at baseball caps in the garage of a building. The garage opens into an alley and all of the several garage doors are open and tables have been set up ]as if this were a "garage" sale]. The hats are being thrown out and people are looking through them and taking the ones they want. But apparently some of them are not being thrown out, but sold. I only learn this after I have taken some of the ones for sale, so I have to hide them under my jacket and tucked into my pants behind my back. I go upstairs via an elevator to our sleeping quarters, a single narrow room on an upper floor. This is a kind of cheap hotel/apartment building. One long bed sits in the middle of the room, twice as long as a normal bed. Dad and another guy sleep at one end, and I am to sleep at the other. But I don't like this arrangement, so I go out and begin wandering around, feeling/becoming more and more isolated from the "social group" back in the room.

On the second floor, I am a teenage girl, but I experience this as if I'm watching a movie: I am ostensibly accepted into a cliquish, posh clan, a kind of upper middle class remedial or reform school, ala the movie Lost Angels. The girls (and a few guys) are all light haired and blued eyed. Someone, meaning well (I think), tells me to take out my contacts, so that everyone can see the amazing true color of my eyes. I remove my contacts, thinking they're going to appreciate me for my eye color, which instead of blue turns out to be a brilliant red-brown. Immediately, I am shunned and relegated to the upper floors, which are lower class. [Maybe the girl who told me to remove my contacts was impressed and wanted to share the experience, or maybe she was just like all the rest; or maybe she was a dream character who represented my expectation that others will be as impressed with my eyes (my "sight," or "insight") as I am. Probably the latter.]

When I awaken, I am struck by the dissimilarity between the dream state and reality, and even though that place in the dream was not so nice and nothing bad is happening here in my present life, I would rather be there. There have been times when sleep and dreams have been a haven, a place to escape to, during bad times, when my life was miserable, usually because of a job I was working at, or when I was having problems with a woman, or when I was on the road with nothing going for me and no place to call home. Then, a small corner somewhere, safe, asleep, was a far better place to be.

But even now, safe and sane and content, unsettled dreams are a better and more interesting place. Even when real events are pleasant and there's something to look forward to, the ambiance and the mystery is far more profound in dreams. The only real-world experiences that equal them for me are a few I've had on LSD or mescaline. There's something about the dream state of mind, the magic, the familiarity of strangeness, that's appealing to me. I'm at home there, in a way I can never be here. It's me, my inner self, a place where I belong. And writing about it and analyzing it is a good second best experience, a transition between the two worlds, where I escape to for varying periods of time while I'm awake. When I write, the real world ceases to exist, and I resent its interruptions.



I'm still struggling to get my news/journalism act together, but it's coming along. I worked with it all afternoon while sitting out back enjoying the weather, and now it's early evening and I got it all down on paper. The theory work is done. Actually, most of it has been done for a while. I just had to put it all together, from ideas written on scraps of paper over the past few weeks, and coordinate my old work procedures with these proposed new ones, eliminating the discrepancies between them.

Now I'm ready to kick it into high gear and actualize my potential. (Yeah. Right.) But I am starting to make some progress, now that the spate of suckholes seems to have come to an end. I create procedures very well, when I'm in the right mood, which is precipitated by caffeine, a substance I cannot allow in my diet too much any more, so this organizing state of mind has been somewhat missing from my life compared to the more distant past. But that's okay. I need some calmer times.

But sometimes I wish I were more mentally stimulated, like I used to be. I create procedures that allow me to advance without having to think too much about it when I automate a goal or state of mind and allow the day-to-day routine to achieve it or bring me nearer to it without my conscious attention. But I don't achieve results so much any more since I don't often enough sit down and reason out procedures like I used to, preferring, unstimulated, to lay back and take things as they come.



This evening I got a pair of work gloves out of the basement and pulled all the poison ivy out of the terrace beds by the patio at the back of the house. Then, later, between tv programs, I went down to the basement and I replaced the light that was hanging by wires from an open electrical box. (I wired it that way "temporarily" when I moved in here in 1979, just to have some light in that section of the basement.) I replaced it with an old ceramic fixture that's been lying around unused. The bulb still has to be screwed in to turn it on (no switch), but at least you can turn it with one hand now. Before, you had to grab the socket with one hand and the bulb with the other to avoid twisting the wiring and socket. And it's safe, all wires being contained within the box.

Back upstairs and bored with tv, I begin to study shorthand again, as a step in my developing "news" routine. I'd learned about half the system [actually, it's two systems that I'm combining, choosing the shortest/most logical (to me) forms] many years ago, and now I'm trying to learn the rest, to increase my writing speed. Lots of things accomplished today. I even made a tray for one of my planter, because my coleus plants are still out back on the wall and when they run out of water, they wilt and threaten to die. And since I don't have a tray large enough to accommodate the long planter, I took three smaller Styrofoam trays, cut one end off of two of them and both ends off of one, fitted them together, lined them with a doubled-over plastic bag, and held everything in place with several layers of tin foil. It works!

7-6-03

Jim calls this afternoon. He says he has a business proposition for me, and then he tells me he's sent away for the Carlton Sheets program that he's seen on tv. I tell him he shouldn't have done that, that I bought a similar program years ago. But he said it was only ten dollars for a thirty-day trial period.

Normally (or previously, years ago) I would have jumped at an opportunity like this, going into "business" with my brother. But events over the past few years have made me wary, of him, and of life more generally. I don't trust my brother so much any more, mainly because of his drinking. But it's even more basic: I've come to realize that he's pretty much out for himself and doesn't so much care if other people are treated fairly. On the job, given a bit of difficulty, he opts for taking the simple way out and short-circuiting (heh; he's an electrician) quality.

And he's done the same thing to me, in more subtle ways that he thinks I don't see. And anyway, he's owed me over $400 for going on three years now. $400 is nothing, but suppose we got into real estate big time? $400 could easily become $4000, or even $40,000. If I did choose to work with him in real estate, I'd have to be very sure that we had a system where profits were accessible directly by me. I'd have to insist that I hold the purse strings. And even that would be iffy if he had access to the funds too.

But over and above all that, I don't really want to work. He says he wants to do this type of thing because he doesn't want to do physical work any more. It's getting too hard. I tell him I know what he means. If I go out in the yard to work for a day, I ache for several days thereafter. (We sound like old men complaining about their age, and I guess we are, but we're not that old.) But, reading between the lines, I understand that him not wanting to work can just as easily mean that he doesn't have any.

I'm not very receptive to his ideas on the phone. I point out all the difficulties of working in real estate, which, I think I hear in his voice, is putting him off a bit. I think he expected to hear enthusiasm from me. I tell him about the continuing maintenance, the necessity to find qualified renters, etc. But he counters me with the fact that we wouldn't hold the properties long, just long enough to turn them over and make a profit, having bought them for "no money down." (He realizes, he says, that we'd have to find bankers, etc. who would "go along" with us.) He isn't seeing the practical side. He's being taken in by the ease that the Sheets' commercial is promoting in order to sell its product.

I agree to listen to his ideas when he gets the materials in the mail. He says we'll get together at my place and "meet" for several hours a day and "plan it out," because, he says, we can't do it at his place, by which he means that there will be interruptions, but I interpret it to mean that he will be ridiculed by Joyce, which is probably true. He's using me for self-confidence because he doesn't get support from Joyce.

He needs me because he lacks the confidence to do it himself, and I think that as soon as he finds the confidence, through experience, he won't need me any more. But until then, he'll put all the "contact" work onto me, and if he is true to our past enterprises together, he'll take the lion's share of the profits, rationalizing that it's his business.

But the worst omen that I see is the reason for his motivation in the first place: why is he so enthusiastic? Is he sitting up late at night watching tv infomercials again? This is something he has done in the past when he's been on a binge. I don't like the signs. I'd love (or at one time I would have loved) to be his partner in a business venture. But not now. I don't trust him any more. Maybe I never should have. Sad.



This evening I moved the video player from the computer in the office to the bedroom, because the vcr has been acting up and occasionally eating tapes when I press rewind or fast forward. So, since I haven't been using the player on the computer anyway (not enough disk space left to transfer videos to disk), I figure I'll use the player to watch tapes and the vcr just for recording.



1:00 am: I'm watching a stupid Rockford movie on Hallmark and I happen to walk out into the dining room and notice that a cable truck is parked out front. Immediately my paranoid sensors go on alert, and I hurry into the bedroom to turn off the tv. (Hallmark is the one channel I still get via cable after I cancelled it, because, I theorize, since it's on channel 2, the lowest frequency, that it is "broadcast" across any "gap" that has been created when the cable was disconnected. Cable channel 4 is almost "broadcast"; that is, there's a very faint, fuzzy picture that can't quite get through because it's a higher frequency.)

Anyway, I watch the guy outside, but he isn't doing anything. Just sitting in his truck--for a long time. Then he pulls down to the end of the street and sits there for a long time too. I wonder what's going on, and I go into the bedroom and read. About half an hour later, Steve from across the street comes out and talks to the guy, but I don't realize this until too late, when I hear the voices from the bedroom and go out to see the guy up on the pole and Steve heading back into his house.

Then, about fifteen minutes later, my next door neighbor comes home, and this time I'm in the front of the house when he does, and I hear him ask the cable guy what's up, and he tells him that he's replacing boxes on the line, and they do it late at night so as not to disrupt tv during the day.

Paranoia over. Not that it mattered. I'm not doing anything wrong here. I cancelled the cable. If they don't want me to watch their channels, they should keep their signals off my system. After the guy leaves, I turn the tv back on to see if anything he did interfered with my Hallmark channel reception. It did not.

7-7-03

"Memory is a creative event, born anew every day. You fill in the holes every time you reconstruct an event in your own mind."
Elizabeth Loftus, UC psychologist
Here's a perfect metaphor for my journal writing experience. According to memory-reconstruction expert Charles Weaver of Baylor University, we change the particulars of our memories each time we remember them early on, editing them until they are more interesting for us (or more in line with our beliefs and attitudes, I say).

We re-edit our memory until it suits us, which is what I do with my journal entries. I try to get at the "truth" expressed in them, to make it more precise and cogent. But am I succeeding, or am I carrying out unconscious agendas as I make them ready for public viewing? Probably a little bit of both. Memory and journal writing are tricky undertakings. Anyway, we're all fiction writers in the end so why worry about it?



Little by little I'm expanding the scope of my less than perfect tv broadcast reception system. Today I added it back to the computer by junctioning the cable from the living room with the antenna from the four inch screen tv that sits on top of my old computer (where I used to watch it as I worked, before I installed the AVI tuner in the new computer). Now I have Hallmark and two local channels on my computer.



This evening, as I'm work at my desk, I hear Steve yelling at the top of his voice from inside his house across the street. I don't pay much attention, because occasionally he exhibits that kind of verbal abuse. But curiosity eventually gets the better of me, and I try to hear what he is shouting. But I can't quite make out the words. This goes on, off and on, all night long. Near the end, I think I hear his wife, Marcia, uncharacteristically yelling back at him, but I can't be sure.

About 11:30, Jody (Terry's new housemate) comes home and walks across the yard past Steve's front door. Someone must have called to him from inside the house, because he doubles back, shouting "Yeah?" Later, as he's walking away, back to his own place, I hear him say "It ain't worth it, Steve."

Now I'm hooked. I want to know what ain't worth it. I make a cup of tea and go and sit out on the front porch, thinking I'll enjoy myself awhile before I go to bed. A few minutes later, Jody comes darting out of his house and up to Steve's door. He seems upset. He says something to Steve, and then he enters. He says something else, in a kind of condescending or patronizing tone of voice, about giving him twenty. (I assume he means dollars.) Then he says he's sorry. He must have done something to offend Steve, which seems not so hard to do when he (Steve) has been drinking, which he has.

Pretty soon, they're laughing together. And then they come out onto the porch. At one point, directed toward Marcia, who is inside watching tv, Jody says something like, since she's on vacation, how about he comes in there and tickles her bottom with a feather, a remark that's followed by drunken laughter from the porch. Then Steve adds "On my tongue." More laughter. I go inside and go to bed, before they get around to noticing me sitting out and decide to include me in their raucous behavior. I don't need drunken friends with whom I have to guard myself, lest I accidentally say the wrong thing and offend someone. I've had to do enough of that kind of negotiating in my life. I'm done with that kind of scene.

7-8-03

There's something about the magic of the night, especially the warm summer night, that's akin to the dream state. Sitting on the front porch after midnight, I hear a motorcycle rumbling up the two lane in the valley and I'm reminded of that particular summer magic of years ago, returning home at one or two in the morning from a night out with friends or with a girl, maybe having been drinking, but maybe not...it all comes back to me in the recognition of that sound, combined with the otherwise quiet ambiance of the neighborhood. This is a dream I once had. I wrote the other day that the dream state was a more welcome place for me than the waking state. Well, it seems, the waking state used to more readily serve that purpose, when I was living more in a dream world, before I chose to educate myself into waking up.



It's just occurred to me that this tired, almost foul mood I've been in recently could be minor caffeine withdrawal (since I haven't been consuming enough to go in to major withdrawal when I refuse, as I have lately, to drink it, in a fit defiant good-sense). This theory is supported by the fact that a cup of "decaffeinated" coffee or tea boosts my spirits temporarily, by virtue of their minimal amounts of residual caffeine. You know, hair of the dog stuff.

7-9-03

I keep trying to expand into other formats (news, painting, etc.). But each time I venture out to learn new things and develop new skills, I find myself subsequently retreating back into this same old journal method, perhaps incorporating those new skills into it, but never really switching over. I keep re-realizing that this journal is the format that seems to be best suited to my sense of expression, no matter what else I may want to do.



9:00 pm - I'm trying to watch a program on PBS about Martin Luther, but I can't stay awake. After forty-five minutes I fall asleep. I have a dream about fantasy characters that I've created and have been working with for almost ten years now. I awaken, realizing that this is the first time that I've ever dreamed a fantasy. Interesting. Charlie Rose is on tv, interviewing Andy Grove. Fascinating stuff. I'm in a very receptive mood tonight. I get up and go out to the computer and get a whole lot of work done, including rewriting a short story I wrote a few weeks ago to submit to Glimmer Train magazine, improving it significantly (the story, not Glimmer Train--well, maybe Glimmer Train too, if they accept the story). Five a.m. Signing off. Time for a cup of tea on the porch to watch the dawn. And then some music, I think.

7-10-03

Trying to Fit a Square News Format into
a Round Story with a Gonzo Hammer.

I know that title seems counter-intuitive, or ack basswards, or something. It's the story that should be going into the format, isn't it? But I think the metaphor is appropriate as it stands. It seems that difficult. The parts I'm working on do not belong together because the format doesn't fit the content. Any content can be made to fit the format. Any round peg, as long as it's small enough, can be fit into a square hole. But fitting the wrong square format into the round content is impossible--unless the hole is so much bigger than the... Oh, never mind.

A new national assessment study claims that high school seniors cannot communicate in writing as clearly as their predecessors (but fourth graders are better). I remember when I was in high school. Man, could I organize a written assignment. I was a whiz at essays. I may not have had anywhere near the command of grammar and vocabulary that I now have, nor the ease of expression that I have developed, but I could organize thought into clear and coherent logical text.

Now, instead, I look for ways to express myself in a more "poetic" (for lack of a better word) fashion. I want written language to express more than just the linear logic of a situation or an experience. I want a more densely compacted format. This is why I'm always struggling to expand my technique, to include other formats within my own--after learning them and trying to incorporate my format into them, and failing.

As for clear and logical thought--well, it's in there somewhere, obfuscated as it is by the other thing I'm trying to do. It's just doesn't seem so important any more that I be so accurately understood.



I went into the basement tonight and was surprised to find the floor flooded with water. It's been raining at lot and sometimes the runoff can overwhelm the system I have for keeping water from leaking into the basement at floor the cove: I have a line of bricks cemented with roofing asphalt onto the floor, creating a trough to the front drain. But when it rains exceptionally hard, the trough will fill up before it can drain and overflow the bricks. If I keep a close watch on it, I can prevent it, or at least stay ahead of the overflow; but it hasn't happened in so long that I've gotten lax.

So I spent the whole night sucking up the water with a wet/dry vac and drying the place out with a fan and a dehumidifier, and meanwhile organzing stuff and generally cleaning up. I hung two of the three ten-speed bikes on the walls in the garage, thus re-opening the entryway into the basement. Now I can walk right in without negotiating my way through. And I put a lot of things away and came back upstairs feeling pretty good about what I had accomplished. Not bad, considering all I started out to do was go outside at two a.m. to get the mail.

7-11-03

Today was one of those rare days when everything seemed to come together. First of all, a front came through and the humidity dropped significantly, which caused me to realize a good hair day. Now I'm not one of those people who worry, at all, about what his hair looks like. If it doesn't look good, well then, it just doesn't look good. I follow George Carlin's advice: "Don't be such a superficial cunt. Put on hat and go to work."

But when I do look good, I might as well take maximal advantage of it, and today I did look good. It has to do with the humidity, I think. I think that when people (mostly women) declare a bad hair day, they're responding to a high humidity, which weighs down the hair and causes it to look flat. And if that is true, then there's nothing you can do about it, so just accept it and get on with your life. Oh, sure, you can wash your hair and use creme rinse and conditioners on it, and then load it up with a lot gel or mousse or whatever, and then when you get it just the way you want it, hold it in place with a half a can of hair spray so that you might as well be wearing a plastic wig--or a hat! But why go to all that trouble for a few hours of "looking good?" I mean, what are you anyway, a movie star? Fuck it. Wet it down, plaster it to your head, and go out as a greaser. There'll be another day with lower humidity when you can play the movie star role.

Well, today was one of those other days. I went out shopping and every woman I passed was looking at me. It got to be almost embarrassing. I started to think that maybe they were looking at me because of my swelling head. I was feeling hot. At one store a bagger in a checkout line, a big tall girl with a roman nose, who looked like she should have been in an Amazon beauty contest instead of bagging groceries, kept staring at me across the aisles. She lost contact with me as I was leaving the store, and as I passed behind her, I saw her looking in the direction I had come from, desperately searching, trying to find me. (At least thatís what I imagine.) It was all very good for the ego.

Back at home, I ate three bananas and three-quarters of a pizza. Then I took a four-hour nap and dreamed two dreams. One was about that girl:

She was dating me, and she told me, standing in front of me in a kind of nondescript place, as if we were off in the cosmos somewhere apart, that she would do anything for me, since she was trying to attract me since I was being resistant to her charms, knowing she was not quite right for me, since she was young and full of naive assumptions about life and love and all. But I started to give in, figuring the least I could do was to have sex with her. But then, when she thought she had me hooked, she told me straight out that we weren't going to have sex. I pointed out to her what she had earlier said, that she'd do anything for me, but she'd changed her mind. We fool around, even to the point of rubbing genitals together, and I almost managed to stick it in a few times, but not quite. That's the promise of a good woman. They want more than most men are willing to give them, and they hold out for it, some of them, the smart ones.

The second dream was about my brother. We're in my old workplace downtown, but as if it's been abandoned (it has) and is in a different place. We're working on a very complex problem (real estate?) and using my laptop. He's tracing out patterns on the screen with a sharp object, treating the device as if it's a glass screen, when it's plastic, and he ends up scratching the screen. I get pissed at him. He's, like, ten years old. I know he didn't mean to do it, but I'm very protective of my possessions and am completely angry with him, and thus pissed at everyone. I start to pack up my things: the laptop, books, my daytimer, etc. I put on my coat and carry my stuff, all arranged in a pile descending in order according to size. In reaction to my anger, he states that he's not coming home. Mom and Dianne (and Dad?) are here, trying to make peace. I show Mom what Jim did to the laptop screen. It's even worse now than it was before. The scratches are all the way through it and the plastic is shattering and falling out. I know that I am unreasonably pissed, since he didn't mean to do it. He feels that, because he has been wrong, he cannot come home again, being too embarrassed. But his ostensible mood is to act pissed too, but this is only a superficial emotion, imitative of mine, belying his true feelings of inferiority.

I awaken, fascinated with my emotional state, which is totally detached from reality. I mean, where did that emotion come from? Obviously, it's buried deep inside me, locked in a place that is normally inaccessible, but why now does it surface? Maybe it's a "psychic" event (over and above the dream being a "normal" kind of psychic event). Maybe it's something he's going through right now, unknown to me. Maybe he's feeling this re the real estate venture he thinks that we are about to set out on...or maybe I'm feeling this re same. Who knows?



According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the Internet growth rate has slowed significantly. Reason: dropouts roughly equal new subscribers, according to a CNN article. The author says "The flattening growth didn't surprise me, but the dropouts did. The Internet is not nearly as novel as it once was, and most folks who want to log on have probably done so by now. I had never considered the possibility, however, of logging off completely."

But I have. Just as I've canceling the cable, I can foresee eventually canceling the Internet, when the disadvantages (over-commercialization, pop-ups and other insidious forms of advertising, bland and repetitive monocultural content, reduction of interesting personal sites caused by the commercial/monocultural squeeze) and the cost start to outweigh the benefits and begin to piss me off.

7-12-03

For three nights in a row I dreamed about being back in an old workplace trying to "control" the work production and quality with new employees I did not know and old ones whose skills and standards had slipped so far that I had to start all over again. I didn't want to be doing this work, trying to upgrade the old workplace, but I had no choice. No one else was going to do it. Most of the supervisory staff was not there, and those few who remained were unconcerned with the work being done. It was all up to me, and I knew I had to do the job while accepting the employees for what they were and working with them rather than compelling them to do the work correctly.

When I awaken, I interpret the dream to mean that my standards are slipping, or that I no longer want to control the false standards that I maintain, but feel that I must; yet my lack of motivation allows them to erode anyway, despite myself.

7-13-03

We eat too much. It's an old complaint about fat Americans. I eat too much. I readily admit it. And I eat the wrong things too. I eat massive amounts of proteins to lose weight, and then, when I get to my ideal weight, instead of maintaining it by eating reasonable amounts of vegetables and grains, I "celebrate" by consuming massive quantities of sugar-based processed foodstuffs. It's a sin. I should eat less to begin with--you know, Zen detachment and all that rot. And I should modify my weight-loss ritual with small amounts of carbohydrate "treats." But I'm an American, goddam it! I'll eat anything I goddam feel like, when I feel like it! It's not like I'm one of those fat slobs walking around with an extra 100 pounds of fat hanging off me. And anyway, get off the fat American stereotype, already. I see an awful lot of fat Greeks, and Italians, and French, and, yes, even Asians. Every nationality has its share of fat people, because it's not Americanism per se that is the problem. It's affluence. Sybarites exist universally. It's a natural human trait. We all get it if we can. Can I help it if my nation happens to have an expertise at living well?



Peace and contentment on the patio: even the wind is quiet. Soft billowy clouds hardly drift at all. It's more like they hang in place and kind of generally swirl, moving only slightly ahead as they backtrack only slightly less so. And the weather is coming in from the north! When the wind picks up, it's only as a gentle breeze; but that is infrequent. The sun shines brightly, but through the trees, imparting a golden green glow to this mild summer day.

7-14-03

What is life, if not knowing, we are the purpose, animals are here, evolving. I owe everything, to an ape that yearned, to free his fingers, to gather more food. Together, we both make sense. Separated, we are lost.



Saddam Hussein is looking pretty clever right now, isn't he? It would have been the height of incompetence to go up against invading U.S. troops. And to run away in the face of an invasion looked, to all concerned back then, to be intelligent, but cowardly, and typical of a tyrant. But now, given the significant and obviously coordinated resistance that the Iraqis are mounting, it seems like there had been a plan all along to go this route. It's the U.S., now, that looks incompetent. Yeah, we "won" the war, easily. But it's not over. All we really won was the invasion. And now we're losing the lives of our troops resisting the resistance.

7-15-03

Cut the grass, putting in time, and thinking about what I'll do when I get (really) old, how I'll cope with things like cutting the grass, and especially, the hedges. I hate these activities so much now, how will I feel when I am old? I'd consider moving into an apartment, but I hate the idea of impermanence that that kind of lifestyle implies. I know it's just as impermanent here, but owning a home seems more stable, although it takes just about as long to evict you from your house for non-payment of bills as it does for a landlord to break a good lease.

Wait a minute! That's not necessarily true. If you're nearing the end of a lease (usually contracted yearly), then it can happen quite suddenly. And if you do not have a mortgage, or you keep it paid up, then it can be quite difficult to seize property for other debts. So, I guess I am far better off owning than renting. Nothing is so permanent that it can't be taken away from you, but home ownership is one of the more permanent possessions. But what a hassle it is, having to do the yard work, house maintenance, etc.

Getting old's a bitch. You'd think that the human race, as intelligent as it's supposed to be, would have come up with a solution to the problem of old age by now. But it's a class issue (like everything else). If you have the money, then, hey, no problem. But if you're financially not so well off, then too bad. You better have a family with excellent values, or else. Lawmakers, "responsible" citizens, et al. do not care if you do not have the resources to support yourself in your old age. And it's getting worse every year as liberalism wanes.

Whatever happened to the liberal principles I learned as I was growing up? Oh, well. Why dwell on it? The Clinton era was a brief throwback. And he really wasn't all that liberal anyway. But at least he had the personal vision, if not the political one. Will that kind of liberal mentality ever return? I want to think that it's a pendulum effect, but I have to wonder. Maybe it's a matter of entropy within any given nation and the only way to get it back is via revolution, which hurts just as many people all at once, as opposed to how the "entropy" of repressive and unresponsive government hurts slowly, over time.

7-16-03

The limbic system [of the brain] appears to generate strong or particularly vivid emotions.
...

Electrical discharges in the limbic system sometimes result in symptoms similar to those of psychoses or those produced by psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs. In fact, the sites of action of many psychotropic drugs are in the limbic system. Perhaps it controls exhilaration and awe and a variety of subtle emotions that we sometimes think of as uniquely human.
Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden
Feeling very lost and confused after waking up out of a dream about being in a motel room with my brother and my (now dead) father [pretty much both the same person], and neighbor kids who are also my nephews, and who aren't supposed to be there because this is a working weekend where we (as cops, my father and I, he as a sort of retired Sean Connery-type who's there as an "advisor," and me as the young cop trying to make a case) are there (in Erie, PA) to contact a mobster named Manorelli. But instead of actually going out to do the cop work, I'm watching it on tv where the "real life" drama we are participating in is being shown as a movie. A character, missing from the movie, played by Jason Alexander, is off at a bar meeting underworld figures that need to be contacted prior to meeting Manorelli; yet as if I'm watching what he's doing on tv, although I'm not, I know what's going on [as a scene in the dream]. But the movie gets sidetracked and Steve Guttenberg shows up (on the screen, not in the room--actually, it's several rooms, at least three, more like an apartment than a motel). I become totally engrossed in the movie; but the kids, teenagers (who show up around this time; they weren't in the dream at the beginning), want to watch other channels and they keep changing the channel with multiple remotes. I keep changing it back, but I'm missing critical parts of the movie until, at some point, it makes little sense to keep watching, except that I am determined to see it through until the end. I complain to my brother, who's watching another tv in the other room, because they are his kids, some of them, and he commiserates, but does nothing. rai: In an awakening attempt to rectify the situation, I end the dream by deciding to move to another motel. The kids complain because they will not have a car available to them; but I don't care. All I want to be is away from all of them. My father (a separate character now from my brother) says he'll come along with me, and I agree. I'm glad to have him come along. He's as fed up with the kids as I am.

I'm lost and feeling out-of-sync again. I've been feeling this way a lot lately. I feel absolutely nasty, like I did in the dream. This is the dream affect leaking out into the waking world. This is another case of "where did these emotions come from?" There is something I have to learn from this experience, but I can't figure out what it is, something to do with my father, his relationship to me and my brother and my nephews. Something about how he is (was) like Sean Connery, whereas we are not, and so we need his sage advice, in order to manage the "kids" (those parts of ourselves that we can't control, those affects.) Hmm, not bad for not being able to figure it out. These affects are the result of the limbic system activity during dreaming. I knew this a long time ago, I learned it in school, but I'd forgotten it until I started reading the Sagan book. The emotions are stirred up by neo-cortex content or are otherwise stimulated in the limbic system and filter back up through the neo-cortex, assimilating content, and appear as emotions in dreams. So what? Who cares what the mechanics of it are? I want to know the meaning. What's the sense of being human if you can't know meaning? If it's all a matter of stimulation of the lower brain functions, then we might as well be lizards. I'm too sensitive to dream content--everyone is, probably, but I make it all too conscious (though nothing can really ever be too conscious; it's our inability to deal with the unconscious that's the problem), having a lot more time than most people to dwell on these kinds of things. Most people forget about their dreams soon after awakening, or else they never remember them in the first place, and so they relegate the dream activity/meaning to their waking unconscious lives and carry out their agendas in secret, even from themselves. I do this too, I'm sure; but I try to make at least some of it conscious every day, and this is what I'm trying to do here.



I go and sit out back after I finish cutting the hedges on the south side of the house, thinking I'm going to spend the rest of a quiet afternoon peacefully reading and writing. But I'm only out here ten minutes when the kids next door come out and fill up their wading pool and start splashing around, out of sight behind my patio fence. One of the little girls, the bossy one who shouts at everybody at the top of her voice like she's practicing for when she grows up to be one of those fat arrogant bitches who know absolutely everything and isn't afraid to demand that you acknowledge her superiority, has a high-pitched squeal, which she uses at least once every thirty seconds. It's very disturbing and it goes on and on. I think, sooner or later, she has to strain her vocal cords and it'll stop, or at least tone down to a quiet rasp. But, no. It just goes on and on, and every time she does it, it shoots right through me. I'm sitting too close to them, I think, and so I go back inside. But even inside, I can still hear that piercing squeal.

It stops after about an hour. They must go back inside for awhile. Since I only had six hours of sleep last night, I decide to take a nap about four o'clock. But throughout my three-and-a-half-hour nap, off and on, I am awakened by the squeals. This could have been going on continually again, or I could have been exaggerating the frequency, being in sleep/dream mode. But even though my bedroom is immediately adjacent to the neighbor's back patio, and the window is open, still it is not so piercing a sound as it was outside, where there is so much concrete to reflect the sound and nothing to absorb it. And it is also filtered by my sleep state, so that it seems less disturbing to me. And yet, in my waking moments between naps, I can't avoid the fantasy of taking that little girl by the neck with both hands and telling her that if she squeals one more time, I'm going to pop her head like a large ripe pustule on the face of a teenage virgin.

7-17-03

Beating Cancer the Hard Way

Frequent masturbation, particularly in the 20s and at least five times a week, helps prevent prostate cancer later in life... Apparently the more men masturbate between ages 20 and 50, the less likely they are to develop the disease. Scientists suspect that frequent ejaculation helps protect against the cancer by preventing carcinogens from building up in the gland. Previous studies found frequent sexual activity could increase the risk of prostate cancer by 40 percent. But that research concentrated on intercourse, and infections from sexual activity could account for the different findings, said one of the scientists. "Men have many ways of using their prostate which don't involve women or other men," he added.
Wired News
I've been trying so hard to be so good for so long now that the most minor of "infractions" seem so terrible to me. Over the past several months, I've been slacking off, first on diet (it's taken huge efforts of will to re-maintain my ideal weight), then on alcohol and caffeine. Today I almost made myself another cup of (real) coffee, which would have been the third cup in three days. I remember back when I used to be addicted to caffeine. I feel that same urge now, after only three days steady on it (and a less dense usage farther on back). And the same with beer; three in three days. I feel like I'm backsliding.

Okay. That's one side of the equation. The other side is health concerns. Maybe coffee and beer are bad for me. But, maybe in small amounts, they're not, or not so much. The deciding factor in this matter would be, I guess, whether or not I had heart palpitations (precursors to an arrhythmic heartbeat). Or, maybe, in small quantities, these substances are actually good for me, at least mentally, when beer allows me some freedom from my restrictive, domineering superego and caffeine some reprieve from the decline into a non-creative (minimally associative) state of ennui. Or else this is all rationalization, and the first premise, that they are unhealthy, is the case. Who can say, really? Certainly not the experts, who disagree.

Well, I can say, at least in some limited sense: whether or not these "substances" are physically or physiologically unhealthy for me, there is no doubt that at least caffeine is mentally beneficial. Alcohol may not be so important. Really, when it comes right down to it, I have no real problem relaxing when I want to, or even when I need to. I've become quite adept at detecting stress and slowing down to avoid the least little bits of it. I have a number of benign activities to unwind that have nothing to do with any substance and which I readily use even to avoiding winding up in the first place. And at least one of them over the years may be keeping me quite healthy, prostate-wise.

But caffeine has been a significant force in my life. It has gotten me to where I have wanted to be, financially, intellectually, and socially (although it may have taken an emotional toll at times, but always only when way overused; I would balance caffeine and alcohol use, using one to counteract the other). Without it, I would never have developed the resources to live the kind of life I'm now living, and I would never have developed the expertise to artistically create, even these meager passages. It stimulates my brain to push on and associate ideas in a way that is very much diminished much of the time when I am not using it. Even now, in its absence, I am having a hard time putting these thoughts together. It would be so much easier had I chosen half an hour ago to have made a cup of coffee instead of a cup of Postum, which I did in a fit of desire to be "good," worrying that was heading off in the wrong direction, especially since I am three pounds overweight and a burst of caffeine would have broken the eight hour fast toward a state of ketosis that I plan to begin to induce with proteins later on today.

But this is the heart of the matter, isn't it? Is it so important that I maintain my arbitrary states of existence: an ideal weight, a passive, take-it-as-it comes mentality, a caffeine and alcohol-free physiology? The big fear here is that, once I let the "rules" slip, there may be no stopping. One pound, one cup, or one can a day might lead to two, then three, then look out. I'm right back where I started. I doubt that I would ever go that far, though. My heart wouldn't allow it. I doubt very much that my heart would allow more than one per day of each (of coffee and beer; pounds are far more forgiving; weight is more of a vanity thing with me) and it may even disallow that limited amount over the longer term.

So, the big fear is not that I will backslide, I will not, but that I will end up in the hospital, which I cannot afford, not physically, and certainly not financially. And yet, that very sense of freedom, especially during these warm summer days, is a thing that I'm missing from my life right now. I so much want to be on "vacation." I tell myself that I am on vacation all the time now. But it isn't true, really. Vacation is not freedom from work or stress or whatever; it's a state of mind. And a beer now and again helps me to induce that state of mind, and even a cup of coffee will help me to maintain it.

What I'm trying to do here is to put this whole matter into perspective. I'm trying to establish new guidelines for the use of at least coffee and alcohol, if not food. I didn't have a cup of coffee today because I wanted to first work this out. But as I have done this, I'm realizing that I've "psyched myself up" to a point where I might have gotten to more easily with a cup of coffee. I no longer feel groggy from having slept late into the day. All that was necessary was to begin working and wind myself up. Now, I'm speeding along, working at as rapid a rate as I ever do, and associating well. I really don't need the caffeine. But I like it.

And that's what I'm really talking about here. Desire, not practicality. I don't need the beer either. But I bought it a month or so ago for those few rare occasions when I do need it, when my back pain gets too bad and the naproxen by itself won't relieve it. So, by the definition that I used to buy the beer in the first place, I'm abusing the substance.

I don't know where I've gotten to here. Am I saying that I'm going to allow myself a few small vices, or am I deciding to generally prohibit them and reserve them for those rare occasions when I truly need them? Right now, after this prolonged explicative, I'm leaning toward the latter. But who can say what tomorrow (or even later tonight) might bring? I think, after all, that it's matter of balance (setting aside for the moment the ideas of Zen detachment and the fact that reduced food consumption, especially of the processed kind, can result in a longer, more healthy life--or so they say). When everything else is in line, when I'm at my ideal weight and am having no palpitations or physiological inklings at all in that direction, when I'm calm and running on an even, steady keel, then a small bit of abuse may be a welcome change. And when I'm feeling low and need a boost, everything else being as above, a bit of caffeine may be just what is needed. Or when I need a short "vacation," a beer may be in order. Or as a reward for having attained or maintained my ideal weight a pizza may be just the thing.

The problem here is that I have a hard time moderating pleasure. It becomes habit, rather than a reward or the application of remedy. It's a counterintuitive conclusion to reach that pleasure is a state to be moderated. The organism seeks a state of pleasure. It's the id factor. But we learn, early on, that pleasure is one side of a spectrum and, if we are intelligent, we will see that the longer we remain at the pleasure side, the harder and faster we will eventually slide toward the side of pain. But I'm wondering if this is really true, or if we can learn to live a modestly pleasurable life by avoiding the substances and situations with the noxious side-effects and limiting ourselves to small quantities of those substances and situations that are relatively non-deleterious. I think we can, but look at what I'm saying: limiting. My original strategy, I think, is correct, though as usual I went too far in the other direction. I'd concluded that none was better than a small amount, which is sound theory for highly toxic substances, but maybe not for mildly stimulating ones.

So, 'limiting' is my new catchword. We all have limitations. Mine seems to have been self-inflicted: a back that requires attention and restraint, lest I misalign it and cause myself a lot of pain, a heart damaged by abuse when I was young (or was it after all purely congenital? or entirely a result of my back problem?), a vanity that causes me to desire to remain light-weight and young-looking, a personality/psychology that dictates that I remain aloof and reticent. These are not such bad limitations as limitations go. I could be far worse off. I could be an alcoholic like my brother and my father. (It's not hard to imagine myself having become such.) I could be obese and suffer from many associated diseases and disabilities. (Also not hard to imagine, were I to have wantonly given into the pleasure principle.) I could have venereal diseases. (Also not hard to imagine for the same reason, although my psychology has held me in check in this regard.) I could be in prison, having become a recidivist criminal. (I got lucky a number of times when I was young, and managed, after all, to get a good education and develop some eventual intelligence.) I'm pretty well off, considering. So, by continuing on the way I have been going, I hope to remain so. Limitation. Either you do it for yourself, or an outside force will do it for you.

A dream from earlier that seems to be driving these kinds of thoughts: I'm in a car at the edge of the city with a kind of seedy guy who's driving into a prison. He's some kind of a lawyer, but in a sense he's also an inmate, and I'm with him for the purposes of counsel. He's counseling me, I think, but it could just as well be the other way around. He drives past the guard station and pulls up to a building where he parks. The place is dark and very film-noirish. Everything is in black and white. As he goes inside the building, I get out and walk back toward the gate, which had been our plan all along. But I start to worry that they won't let me out, now that I am no longer with the guy. But when I get to the gate, the guards recognize me immediately and let me through. I walk up the street where I see a guy in car hovering over the body of a woman. He explains to me, without my inquiring, nor even caring, that she's just passed out from drinking too much, that she's not dead. But by his unwarranted explanation and his furtive behavior, I know he's lying and that she is really dead. I look back as I pass the car and note its make and license number, a yellow Continental with an unusual plate containing only three numbers on the left and a kind of company logo on the right. I memorize the numbers [since forgotten]. I cross the street and walk down a side street, looking for a phone. I'm planning to call the cops and report this guy. But the pay phone that I find is out of order and it has a note explaining such attached to it. I open the coin return and a whole lot of large denomination change, like the new dollar coins, pours out. I pocket it all. It's quite a bit of money and weighs down the left side of my pants. A young, virile black guy comes up to the phone, wanting to use it. I tell him it's out of order, hiding from him the fact that I've gotten all that money. This is a bad part of town and the guy is a hoodlum type, but he accepts me as belonging there and doesn't hassle me. I walk back out to the main street. I give up trying to call the cops and decide that I'll mind my own business. I try to find my way into the main part of town, but every street I turn down is a dead end that terminates at a huge building blocking the street. This turns out to be Forbes Avenue [in the area where Mayor Murphy is trying to steal the properties by eminent domain so that he can rebuild his "corridor into the city" and displace and further disenfranchise the minority businesses and residences there, thus pushing the impoverished people back up onto the hill where they have been spreading out from for many years]. Trying to get into the city, I walk up the huge front steps (several stories high) of a large cathedral-like building at the end of one of the dead-end streets. It turns out to be an elaborately decorated esoteric kind of church, like a Shriner's building maybe, except that all of the people inside are black, as if they were high-order Baptist or Evangelical church people. This place is huge. The main room is several stories high and ornately decorated, and it is surrounded by small "vestibules" separated off by huge columns and decorated stone buttresses. I feel completely out-of-place, although no one pays the least bit of attention to me. Everyone seems to accept my presence there without question. Yet, despite the fact that I like the place a lot, I decide to leave because it's quite intimidating. On my way out, I see the preacher talking to some of the parishioners and to avoid him I head off along the high portico above the steps rather than to descend to the street. Here along the way I see a number of white people, appearing to be quite comfortable as they walk along on self-guided tours. This makes me feel more at home. rai:
"She's not dead. I didn't kill her. She's just unconscious."
"I don't care what she is. It's none of my business."
Thusly I negate the fact that I tried to call the cops.
I police myself and thus have no need for policemen.
But I am my own policeman. I restrict my id.

7-18-03

Kid, you better look around.
How long you think that you can
Run that body down?
How many nights you think that you can
Do what you been doin'
Who, now, who you foolin'?
Paul Simon, "Run That Body Down"
There is one bad thing about the Internet: from time to time I'll come up with what I think are these great ideas, usually a (catch) phrase or a cleverly worded short passage, and I'll document them in a story or a novel, or in my journal; but now, I can research them to see if anyone's used them before, and typically they will have, and often frequently. In fact I can't think of a single instance over the last several years when any one of them I've researched turned out to be original. The Net sure takes the some of the fun out of life by relieving one of one's delusion that (s)he is original and/or clever. It can be a real ego-buster.

After a two and a half hour nap in the evening, I worked throughout the night last night, coding a new JavaScript menu for my website intro page and populating it with all of the links. This was a first step that was holding me back from changing my website from frames to non-frames. After I finished that, I began to format the new front page. Looks good. I'm almost ready to post it, as a first step to eliminating frames. But working all night took it's toll, and in the morning, although I didn't feel like it, neither did I feel like going to bed, so I went out and finished trimming the hedges. By the time I finally decided I needed sleep, it was one-thirty in the afternoon. But as soon as I lay down, my stomach started to rumble and I started, half asleep, to imagine I was about to have heart palpitations. Lack of sleep will do that to me, and combined with the beer and coffee I'd drunk, I just might have an episode, I thought. But I didn't. My heart was pounding, but it never skipped a beat. I'm going to have to be careful though. I'm not a kid any more.

7-19-03

They [scientists at U.C., Berkeley] maintained two different populations of laboratory rats--one in a dull, repetitive, impoverished environment; the other in a variegated, lively, enriched environment. The latter group displayed a striking increase in the mass and thickness of the cerebral cortex, as well as accompanying changes in brain chemistry.
Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden
It's getting harder and harder to get in eight hours of sleep any more, not because there's so much to do, like the way it used to be when I was running around all the time sleep deprived because I worked at a job and was trying to live my own life too, but because I just wake up after four or five or six hours and can't get back to sleep again. They say that as you get older, you don't need as much sleep. Maybe that's true, but why then do I always feel so tired when I don't get eight hours? It's more likely, I think, that older people need as much sleep, but can't manage to get it, as their physiology will not permit it. This is why you always catch older people napping. They don't sleep well at night.

When I was in high school, I used to get nine hours of sleep a night and think it normal, the amount I needed to feel awake and refreshed. Now I lie in bed and try to go back to sleep after awakening after four of five hours and I can't. I struggle to stay asleep, awakening every fifteen to thirty minutes, not like in the past when I would relish an extra hour or two. Now I begrudge the fact that I'm actually having to force myself to sleep, on the theory that I need the rest, which is probably true, because the only time I seem to get anything substantial accomplished is when I've had a full eight hours. Otherwise, I laze around all day, wanting to do things, but never motivated. But when I'm well rested, I'm a spark plug, usually--unless I'm on a jag of ennui.

Brains that function (read, study, learn, think, etc.) grow. It behooves me, as a matter of health, maintenance, development (maybe even evolution), to engage in these kinds of activities, as opposed to vegetating in a bored state of existence. But I don't, typically, unless I get a full night's (or day's) sleep. This is why melatonin is so valuable to me. But only when I'm sleeping nights. I don't feel that I should take it during the day, in case, for some reason I have to get up, but don't want to be awake feeling groggy and lazy. But maybe I should take it anyway, just to get a full day's sleep.

For the past several weeks I've been forcing myself to sleep nights so that I can enjoy the summer weather. But yesterday I started taking long afternoon naps again, and it seems like I've suddenly become more productive. I theorize that it's because I've allowed my sleep pattern to sync up with my (out-of-diurnal sync) body rhythms. You'd think I'd have learned this lesson by now. Melatonin taken over several days can reset my sleep pattern, but it canít reset my body rhythms, which is probably a lot more complicated than a simple sleep/awake cycle.

7-20-03

Yesterday evening, bored and wanting to do nothing, I decided I might as well go shopping. I took a run out to Home Depot and bought a few things on my remodeling list: three inline switches for the new lights in the sheds and on the back patio, a pull switch socket for the new basement fixture, a new stopper for the sink to fit the new strainer, and a new toilet seat, because the existing one was starting to split again, after I'd repaired it--because I have a smaller than normal toilet that will not accommodate a normal-sized toilet seat, and so when I replaced the seat the last time, I had to remove the hardware, cut the back edges off the lid and seat, and replace the hardware; but that made it too weak, since the remaining strip of wood along the back was too narrow, and it had cracked.

I was amazed to find a toilet seat for only $4.77, so although it was white and my bathroom is all blue, I decided to go for it, since cutting up a twenty-dollar seat seems like such a waste.

When I got home, I started on the toilet seat right away and worked for several hours until it was done, thus breaking my spate of boredom. Instead of cutting it off at the back this time, I notched it so that the hardware mounts fit into the seat. I ended up having to cut some of it off at the back anyway to prevent the lid from binding on the seat and the seat on the enamel base, but it only had to be trimmed about half an inch, so it'll be plenty strong enough. Now I'm considering how I'm going to dress up the lid, with paint or stencils or applique or something so that it doesn't look so goddam white. It stands out like a sore bottom against the blue porcelain and floor.

I feel great now that I fixed that toilet seat. I awoke today and entered the bathroom to be greeted by its stark whiteness, and I actually felt proud. I always feel so good when I get things done, and so lousy when I don't. Or else I always get things done when I feel good and nothing when I feel lousy. Which came first, the cart or the egg? (Isn't that putting the chicken before the horse?)

I took an afternoon nap today (four to eight pm), and I awoke raring and ready to go. And I had a cup of coffee before I started. So I got all kinds of things done: I rewired the basement light to fix the problem caused when I wired it the first time (a wire had pulled out of a wire nut). I put switches on the lights I installed in the shed and on the back porch. I raked the yard of debris from having cut the hedges and grape vines the other afternoon. I schlepped all of the tools back to the basement that I used to fix the toilet yesterday, and some other stuff besides. I brought in all the coleus plants, in order to take cuttings and transplant them into my planter (with the new homemade catch basin), and because the bugs were starting to get to them (Over the last several days I've been watching the leaves become eaten, and tonight I saw two of the guilty culprits on them. They were little all-black beetle-like creatures, about a quarter of an inch long. I should have looked them up in my bug book to see what kind they are. Wait a minute. I'll go and look them up now. [The closest thing I can come up with is something called a Wheat Wireworm. Maybe, maybe not.]

While I was installing the switches in the shed, a wasp came out of nowhere and stung me on the forearm, the little bastard. I was right in the middle of taking one of the switches apart, and it hurt like hell and distracted me, causing me to drop the tiny nut that held the switch together. After a few minutes of carefully poking around on my hands and knees, I located the thing in a pile of soft dirt between two bricks. It's amazing to me that I found it at all. I thought I was going to have to improvise with duct tape or something.

Anyway, now it's dark and I'm back inside and speeding away on the computer, still getting lots done. That's the value of only one cup of caffeine. It breaks that serotonin depletion cycle. And if you've been reading this journal for awhile, you know what the downside is. (Health concerns.)



Re inundating representatives, etc. with e-mails and faxes about issues that we citizens are concerned with: lawmakers and (other) bureaucrats seem to have no problem at all with inundating congress or codes with bills and regulations that potentially damage the environment, lifeforms, etc. or disenfranchise citizens while enabling the rich and powerful to become more so. But when we e-mail them to complain, they say they are overwhelmed and can't deal with the overload of public opinion. They wish we wouldn't send them messages, especially via activist websites that provide an efficient way for our voices to be heard. Well, I'm not going (to be made) to feel guilty about sending a lot of e-mails (nineteen yesterday alone) to my legal representatives. Their entire purpose is to represent my views in congress, isn't it? Maybe not. But at least it's their obligation to hear my opinions, and it's my obligation to render them.

7-21-03

I'm all right.
Don't nobody worry 'bout me.
Why you got to give me a fight.
Why can't you just let it be.
Kenny Loggins,
"I'm All Right"
To tell you the truth, I thought I'd have to go back to work long before this, but my net worth keeps going up and my expenses, as a result of my Zen goal of detachment, keep dropping. The benchmark that I set for myself when I "retired" early so many years ago measured my net worth. I would track it monthly, and when it stopped rising and began to fall, I would begin to think about going back to work to boost my financial buffer. When it dropped to a pre-determined point based upon the amount of money I had, divided by five years (i.e., x amount per year, calculated by averaging my expenses over a year), then I would start to look for a job again. But it hasn't happened yet, even though times have gone from bad to worse as interest rates have drastically dropped, and with them my interest income.

It's sad, though, that there have been unforeseen results of this strategy: I don't have a woman now because I feel that I don't want to submit any woman to my austere lifestyle, because I'd feel sort of guilty (sort of? Yes. I wouldn't really feel all that guilty) that I couldn't buy her expensive presents, take her out, treat her in the way she obviously deserved (because if she otherwise met my high standards, she'd certainly deserve to be treated like a queen)--there's a lot of posturing going on here on my part: in a certain sense, these are excuses for not doing what I wouldn't necessarily want to do anyway. Although if I had more money, it wouldn't seem so important, it wouldn't seem like such a compromise that I'd have to make to my "beliefs" and practices, to live more affluently.

For example, for the last few days I've been repairing one of my favorite shoes with silicone. It has a small split on the side, and I don't want to discard the shoes for so small a flaw, and past attempts at repair have failed due to, I surmise, too thin a silicone coating. So I've decided to build up the coating over several days, layering it on until I've got a thick but evenly applied gob of it well-cured and bonded to the material. Now, I ask you. What self-respecting housefrau would allow a shoe to sit on the kitchen counter for three or more days while layers of applied silicone dry and cure? I could, I know, move it somewhere else. But I like the project out in front of me and in my way, so that it stays well in mind and doesn't slip from my attention. A small point, I know, but illustrative of the kind of casual life I lead that I could not if I were woman-bound.

And then there's the idea that all of this is just a reaction/cause of low self-esteem, that I don't have the psychological wherewithal to withstand the "social" pressure of the conventional attitudes that most women bring to a relationship, when they want you to treat them in a certain deferring and opulent way, to prove to themselves, their families, and their cunt friends that their man is worthy of their time, attention, and devotion, that he can be domesticated and caring and thoughtful and... on and on and...

I need an unconventional, understanding woman who will allow me to be my radical and idiosyncrasy self, but any woman who would "lower" herself to my (Zen) standards without the accompanying spiritual purposefulness in her own right [these women are very few and tend to be rather independent themselves and really don't need the likes of an independent asshole like me cluttering up their lives] wouldn't be worth my time and patience, let alone my physical attention.

Of course, there are other reasons why I don't have a woman now, one of the most important of which is that I don't want to be subjected to that nagging that most women will instinctually resort to, to get me to do things I don't really want to do and to act in ways that I really don't want to act, and actually be (yeah, they go as far as to want to control your very existence) things I don't really want to be. I want to do what I want to do, I want to act how I want to act, I want to be what I want to be, and at this point in my life I don't need someone hanging around pouting her life away because I don't want to do things exactly the way she wants me to do them.

Still, though, I like (some) women and... Well, it's more like I like the idea of (some) women, and I want to worship them, but from afar; that's okay with me for now, and maybe for always from now on. Too much is made, I think, of being in a "relationship." We are all in relationships anyway, always. Physicality is a highly overrated perspective.

I'm disgustingly hopeless. I don't so much mind being alone and passing my life in relative obscurity and isolation. But sometimes I catch a sideways glance of myself, perhaps as I'm passing a mirror, real or metaphorical, and I think that it's such a shame that I'm depriving some woman of my presence, selfishly keeping myself all to myself.

As I said, This is sad--or it can be, at times. Any more, this is all I have, what I have right now. My life and this journal, and my various projects, and the news, and the rare occasions when I actually encounter someone other than the figments in my imagination. But it's enough, and it's exactly what I set out to achieve, this independence. In a sense, it's been my unseen purpose throughout my life, to get myself to this point where I can reflect on the causation and control that is my life. It's okay, now, to be exactly who I am, with hope of maybe changing if I decide to, but without any specific long-term imperative to do so. That's all that needs to be said. Mine is a comfortable existence. Everything is fine. Don't worry about me. I'll do that worrying myself from now on, thank you.

7-22-03

This morning, not wanting to go to bed, despite the fact that I felt tired and had been up all night, I fixed the long extension cord that I'd cut while trimming the hedges the other day. Actually, it'd been a borderline case for long time, apparently, judging by the corrosion that had been spreading from a different partial break that I found while repairing the more recently one. I had to cut out about ten feet of cord to get to a place where corrosion hadn't spread to. All tolled, I had to make four splices, shortening [typo here in the original draft: "shorting; don't want to have done that] the cord by probably fifteen feet. It probably wasn't worth the time and electrical tape. But what the hell. What else have I got to do? (Actually, a lot, if I could only motivate myself.) I decide that this cord will become dedicated to indoor use from now on. Too many splices. I saw a cheap ($6) 75-foot cord at Big Lots a few weeks ago. I hope they still have some left.

Earlier in the morning, before I repaired the extension cord, I started to rearrange the houseplants for better efficiency and light. I started with the long vine that is root-bound in a large (eight inch) pot that used to hang in front of the front window, but which I moved down onto the wide (30 inch) recessed window shelf because it was weighing down the valence over the window and causing the shelf above it to start to sag. The vine extends (at least eight separate vines, actually, as I try to count them now from this vantage point) from that window up to the right along the ceiling along the divider between the two rooms that have since been combined into one, past the light fixture I installed several years ago (and still have to put in a box for; I better get around to that one day before it sparks and burns my place to the ground), and almost to the other side of the room, held in place along the way by appropriately located cup hooks.

I had to separate each of these vines when I moved the pot off the shelf and onto a high cylindrical wicker basket (that I got from mother's house when she died in '94) that sits below the window. But that extra little bit of distance would not allow the vines to reach, so I had to take each one down from the cup hooks, unraveling each from the others as I did, because they have all grown among themselves, wrapping themselves up into a matrix of twisted growth.

This process took a while, but I found myself enjoying it immensely. There's something about taking care of plants that's very satisfying for me, and if I ever have to go back to work, working in a nursery or garden shop might be a good possibility. Unfortunately, except for watering them, I neglect my plants for long periods of time, thinking that I have more important things to do. But maybe, after all, there is not too much that is more important than life itself, even in the form of plants.

After I untwisted the vines and got them rerouted, I turned my attention to the other plants. I moved the last remaining African Violet (one of three that I also got from my mother's house, which had divided, been separated, died off, divided again, and so on) to the kitchen sill behind the washer. During the summer there are no plants there because I put the four large (eight inch) pots containing coleus that usually sit on top of the washing machine (to be temporarily moved to the floor when I do the laundry) out onto the front porch for the season.

Next, I removed all the spent flowers and dead leaves from the strange, twisty sub-tropical greeny things with tiny leaves (transplanted from an arrangement from my mother's funeral). Two small branches fell off during that process, so I planted them in miniature pots and placed them on the kitchen sill as well. Then I went down to the basement and got a four inch wide board to put on the sill to extend it, so that the plants will fit better onto it. I had to prop it up on the back of the washing machine until I get around to putting a few screws into it.

Finally I rearranged all of the coleus cuttings that I'd transplanted over the last several weeks into three pots and two planters. They'd been outside, but the bugs were starting to get to them. Now, all of the plants are in order, except the two in the back room, which I hope to get to soon, a large one with elongated green leaves that shoots out leave-like white flowers every year near the end of summer (one is just coming out now) and a gigantic fern, almost five feet high, that takes up almost all of the three-foot window space and drops seeds all over the place every year. I've collected these seeds and will plants some of them soon, though I have no idea where I'll put the plants if they sprout. Maybe I'll give them away, or restrict their growth in small containers by root-trimming and drastic pruning. I have two books on how to do this and have always wanted to get into the art of miniaturizing plants (you know, bonzai and all that crap), but my enthusiasm wanes as winter nears and I always let the poor things die off rather than put the time into taking care of them.

Which brings me to my horticultural strategies (a paradigm I've been sketching out to try to deal with the profuse growth of ideas about plants that I've been experiencing; my window space is severely limited and I've often wished I had, and even drawn up the plans for, a patio enclosure off to the south of the house that I can load to the max with plants):

  1. Coleus (or any plant, but coleus happens to be my current favorite) maximums and transplant tactics:
    • cuttings from the eight-inch or four-inch pots to planters as space become available--if ever. Coleus are such hardy specimens. I've had the ones in the eight-inch pots for four years now.
    • cuttings from wherever to small pots to fill in minimal shelf spaces.
  2. Full utilization of all available light space.
  3. Pruning for maximum advantage:
    • of width, to gain shelf space
    • of height, to limit growth and for a "tiered" effect, some plants growing low and some high so that pots can be crowded onto shelves.
[The above is an indication of my rapidly-proceeding mind, a summer phenomenon accelerated by caffeine and lack of sleep, and an expression of my love for plants, which I often will suppress, for lack of a year-round motive.]



Still earlier (last night), while sitting at the computer working, I found myself absently scratching my left arm. After a while, I turned my attention to the discomfort and discovered a small patch of poison ivy. And I thought I had been so careful when I cut the hedges over at the place where the stuff grows between the houses. Now, as I get ready to go to bed, I resist the urge to scratch. It's driving me crazy.

Even earlier than that, after working half-heartedly for a few hours, I decided to forgo my forbearance and I made myself a cup of coffee. Ten minutes later, I'm speeding away productively, making creative associations, outlining my work for the next few hours as I complete the immediate tasks at hand. Suddenly I have the realization that this is the way I am supposed to be. I mean, I should be like this all the time. This is when I'm at my best. The caffeine, which wears off after not so long a time, provokes me into a state of mind where I want to work, and do, efficiently, for a long time thereafter.

7-23-03

We have all had the experience of awakening with a particularly vivid, chilling, insightful or otherwise memorable dream clearly in mind; saying to ourselves, "I'll certainly remember this dream in the morning"; and the next day having not the foggiest notion about the content of the dream or, at best, a vague trace of an emotional tone.
Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden
This morning, under the same conditions as yesterday, I repaired the other outdoor extension cord that had stopped working. At first, when I tested it, it worked, which was a mystery because I had actually seen the break when I was outside trying to use it the other day. But the break turned out to be intermittent, sometimes making contact, sometimes not. I fixed it and now I have two long cords dedicated to indoor use.

My poison ivy is worse today, and I found a new spot on my left arm and another on my right. They itch like hell, but I discovered that hot compresses seems to work to relieve the itching, somewhat.

Last night, I dreamed about my old dog, Slim. I'm walking through the house, wondering whatever became of him, and I call him, but he doesn't come running like he usually does, so I look around, and there he is, tucked in tight between a tv stand and a chair, cowering. I realize he hasn't been out in days, maybe even in weeks or months. And I feel sorry, even thinking I have been cruel, that I haven't been paying any attention to him. I start to coax him out from his hiding place, and he's starting to respond, when I begin to awaken (or become lucid) and think better of it, realizing he's dead and better off left alone. [I clearly realize at this point that I can experience that "psychic feeling" that Slim is here with me in the room, awaiting my attention, like he used to do when I slept and would become conscious, even while remaining asleep, that he was waiting for me to wake up so that he could go outside. Maybe I'm a bit afraid of this experience, that it might be real; or worse, that it might be delusional, but that I will become convinced that it is real, thus paving the way for more serious delusions, like alien visitation and abduction, or being "touched by an angel."] Instead, I go outside. The next door neighbors to the south (not the current girl who lives there now (well, maybe her, but well-disguised) are two lesbians who are playfully arguing in bed, and I can hear their banter clearly through the open window, so I position myself at the corner of my house and listen for a while. But they become aware of my presence and stop talking. The older one is a bit disgusted at me [real time interruption: as I'm typing this, I get a big-time heart palpitation. I just had a cup of caffeinated coffee. I've been rationalizing that I can have a cup now and again, trying to believe that it doesn't affect me all that much; but it's not true, I guess. I better back off for a long, long while], but the younger one is appreciative of my attention. [parallel: younger woman and Slim; or Slim and I paying attention to the younger woman]. The dream turns into one of those recurrent episodes of an extended garden cultivated back up into the woods. (The imagery, this time, isn't apparent, but I recognize the feeling of the dream.) I am cultivating a small patch of ground on the north side of the lawn that had been left unattended for several months after it had been carefully planned out and planted in the spring. My neighbor to the north, someone I don't know, again not the real life neighbor, comments on how well the garden is doing, or something like that, but I feel I have to apologize for it, because it hasn't been attended to. [The theme of attention and inattention predominates here: people, animals, plants; attention as it applies to the supposed "presence" of spiritual existence.] db is here, almost incidentally, as if this inattention has occurred as a result of her absence, which feels just about right. I go back toward the south side of the house, where the younger lesbian is now out in the yard, just over the property line and in my yard. Just as I see her, I hear a voice, not from the dream character, but as if it's a flashback, or a voice-over, and as if it is her voice (maybe) that states that she is a lesbian, almost as if it's warning me away, but also because it [the voice] feels attracted to me (or vice versa) and doesn't trust itself. She calls me over to her with one definitive motion of her right hand, reached out in front of her and pulled back toward her. It seems to me to be a very warm and inviting gesture [although as I recall it now, it's a simple gesture, almost devoid of affect, so that I have to think that the feeling is my own. Well, of course it is. It's my dream, unless you admit to the possibility of psychic contact, which maybe I do and maybe I don't. This is the whole point of this rendering, I think. I'll get to that later.] I go over to her and stand close, and she asks me something. [Can't remember what it was, alas, only that it was intimate and seductive] We share a close moment, and we almost lean together and share a parting kiss. Our faces are about [another heavy heart palpitation] four or five inches apart, and I can see her wet open mouth clearly anticipating a kiss. But we miss our moment, each of us having doubts, and we separate. [Another more minor palpitation; I'm getting scared. I'm really walking along the edge here.] (By the way, this girl was a young Melinda Dillon.)

Okay, so the whole point (well, maybe not the whole point) is that I come close to being affectively engaged with people (or dream characters, i.e., aspects of my own psyche), but I just miss the intimate contact and back away: Slim, db, the lesbian. Well, it seemed like an appropriate revelation at the time. It loses something in the translation. The significance of the encounters has slipped away. However, I did awaken to voices outside, on the patio of the neighbors to the north, and, earlier, in a temporary state of awakening, from across the street. So I can conclude, perhaps correctly, that the voices in the dream that I had overheard (the lesbians) were a dream translation of what real people were saying as I slept. Maybe. Maybe not. Were they talking about lesbians? And yesterday, as I was trying to find an almost forgotten image on my old computer (486SX), I ran across a pic of Slim that I'd made for a T-shirt a short while after he had died. That could have prompted the dream about him. Here it is:

I fondly remember how we used to dress Slim up in various types of "clothing," rarely in one of db's old wool sweaters that had shrunk due to a careless washing, and a pair of her old jeans shorts (she was quite thin in the hips when she was young); and at Halloween we would get him up in various disguises (antlers; a wig; pig ears--he wouldn't wear the snout; he'd wear anything that would fit tightly and not slide around on his body; if it slid, he'd tear it off). But most typically, simply, he'd wear a bandana around his neck, nearly every day, which gave him character and sort of changed his appearance in the same way that our human clothes do for us. We had assembled a rather large collection of bandanas: the typical red and blue "paisley" ones, a similar pink one, an American flag, a Confederate flag. [No, he wasn't a "white dog," he was black and white, by which I mean the color of his markings, but maybe he did harbor an unconscious agenda, but an unbiased one, I think, equally applied to everyone, in that he was fiercely loyal and obstinate, as is typical of the breed (German short-haired pointer.) Hmmm. Oh, no! Is this a retro insight? Did I once own a Nazi dog?] The neighbors never liked him too much and were always wary of him, because, specifically trained for this purpose, he would bark and growl at anyone approaching the house or property, though when they arrived, he couldn't prevent his tag from wagging as he eagerly approached the visitors who, if they were not dog-knowledgeable and able to read the body language, might think he was ferocious. He was not, usually. He was a pussycat, except when you would approach him while he was eating, which I loved to tease him about, sneaking up on him and taking his food (slowly and carefully, so as to guard myself against injury, but also to prolong the moment and extend his nastiness). I did this mostly as training and as a test, to make sure I had control over him, to prove to him and myself that I could take his food away any time I wanted to, whether he liked it or not, to prove to him and to myself that I, not he, was the dominant dog, all of which probably served to reinforce the growling behavior, and perhaps even initiated its onset. I actually taught him to growl on command. He obeyed the commands 'growl' and 'bark' in addition to all the standard ones. (He even learned to sit by the door and say "rowl-rowl" in a soft and plaintive "voice" when he wanted to go outside.) But these kinds of growling cues made the neighbors less than trusting of him, which was okay with me. It served to keep people at a certain distance and I felt that he protected us, especially at night, which was frequently punctuated with short, tentative whelps when he heard, or thought her heard, some noise outside. I was always half-awakening to monitor growling situations and ascertain that all was okay, and then sometimes having to tell him so, because he'd keep it up if I didn't.

7-24-03

Got up at five-thirty pm after seven hours of sleep, worked for a while (until nine-thirty), ate, watched a bit of local tv, the local news, and then went back to bed, trying to catch up on sleep and adjust my sleep schedule to a daylight one, because each day this week I've been telling myself that I would go out shopping in the morning after working all night, and each morning, with rain threatening, I've decided that I was too tired and would postpone the outing. Not this time. I forced myself to go back to sleep, after I awoke several times during the night, wanting to get up. (It's actually not today, but tomorrow, that I am writing this.)

For the last several days I've been awakening out of dreams to the quasi-imagery of an HTML editor, as if my dreams were coding and editing my daily life like I would code and edit a web page. Strange.

7-25-03

Shopping day finds at Big Lots: A 25 ft. self-coiling air line that'll be perfect for my airbrush setup ($2.99); Wire strippers ($2.88)--no more stripping wires with an Exacto knife; a surge protector for the computer with a $50,000.00 equipment warrantee (so they say) ($5.99); two 50 ft. extension cords ($4.99 ea.); a circuit tester ($0.88)--good deal; a ratchet drive to replace the one in my socket set that takes forever to switch between ratcheting directions because you have to play around with it so much to make it catch hold ($2.99); and, an air brush [single action, with two feed bottles, air line, fittings, etc.; $7.99. This last item is completely unnecessary, and I feel like I shouldn't have bought it, but it's such a good deal, and I need a less exacting one that the double action I have, for certain types of work (I really don't need it, if I'd learn how to use the double action properly, but the subtleties of that movable (variable feed) trigger elude me]; and I need a more exacting one that the cheap brush I have that is nothing more than a simple spray paint gun.

While surfing the net, I ran across a Cambridge University site that explains cosmology. Now, I realize that scientists are not so educated in letters as other lower forms of life may be, it hardly being a concern with them, as long as they feel they can communicate adequately. But when bad grammar gets in the way of the point you are trying to make, well, maybe it's time for a remedial English course. There are many instances on this site where simple grammar and the writing style interfere with the comprehension of the text. It's hard to believe that such a prestigious place as Cambridge would allow a document this riddled with grammatical error (and typos) to appear before the public. I can understand the typos (well, maybe I can't, really), but bad grammar is unforgivable. Don't they have a Department of English tucked away in some dusty corridor somewhere that could proof these pages?

Other than the grammar problems, though, this was a good source of cosmic information. I was looking for an explanation for why cosmic background radiation hasn't yet passed us by and been lost in the reaches of space beyond us. This is an understanding that has been eluding me for quite some time. But I think I got it (sort of) figured out now, thanks to this site. It's still a little nebulous (heh!) in my mind, but I'm starting to grasp it. Part of the difficulty, I think, lies in the fact that I want to think of the background radiation as being an "event" that happened ten billion years or so ago, now sitting "out there" beyond the field of deep space objects, way back in cosmological time; and it is that, but only by virtue of the fact that the radiation created by the event [which is no longer extant in that place, perhaps unlike at least some of the deep space objects, which may still actually be there, if only in non-luminous, i.e., dead, form] is traveling away from us and thus constituting a ever-receding radiation belt. But, the belt is also traveling toward us and beyond us, and in fact is spread across the whole of the universe; the background radiation that we are able to perceive is not "out there" at all, but here, and everywhere else, speeding past us every day--and for how long? When the "event" happened, it happened everywhere, and the radiation from it spread, just as our stars and galaxies are spreading yet today, along with it. The radiation that we experience doesn't come from out there (beyond the deep space field) any more than it comes from other locales. When will it end? When will there be no more of it remaining? Whew! It boggles the mind. It's like trying to think of light as both a wave and a particle. It doesn't make sense, but I keep thinking that it should. I'm missing something. I can't get a perspective on it. But I'm getting closer. I can just feel it.

7-26-03

Back to sleeping days after the several brief shopping excursions. It's hard to resist that long afternoon nap when you haven't had all that much sleep the night before. I tried to resist it, staying up far too long this morning, occupying myself with routing an air line from the compressor in the basement to the studio upstairs so that I don't have to keep running downstairs to fill the portable air tank, a practice that has been discouraging me from doing much airbrush work.

This afternoon, before I fell asleep, I outlined in my mind a correspondence between (my) visual art and writing: when I was young and writing, drawing, painting--creating, I stumbled along then, expressing myself, sometimes well, often inadequately. I created stories, sometimes all at once, sometimes painstakingly; but always, after their creation, I worked painstakingly at them, to improve them, bit by bit. And I did the same with visual expressions. But they were a bit different, mostly by virtue of the fact that they were more "visible." There was not so much an all-at-once process that could be later refined. I stumbled less because I took my time more, never proceeding on to the end until each step of the way had been full and more perfectly realized. So that I looked as if I were a better artist than a writer--to someone more objective than myself, because I thought that what I wrote was just fine and I only see it more objectively now in retrospect; whereas in retrospect, my paintings still look okay to me, well-done, well-formed.

But as the years went by, still stumbling with method, I learned how to write more effectively, as I developed my style. But I stopped drawing and painting and only went back to it for very brief periods, only to become increasingly frustrated with it because I could not do it fast enough, like I now wrote, but had to plod along, a perfect bit by bit at a time.

So this is the conclusion I come to: since I wrote, nearly every day, in my journals at least, if not in any other way, I developed the speed of written expression that I now enjoy; but I never developed a speed for visual art, because I didn't practice it. Therefore, if I want to develop a visual artist, I must do two things: 1) practice, every single day--and I will slowly grow in speed and style. This is obvious. What is not so obvious (to me) is 2) decide that I really want to do this. Art is a rendering of the experience of the artist. An artist turns his environment/experience into art. I do this naturally with words. I've always used words to render my experience, even when I didn't call it art, back before I knew what art really was, when I was very young and thought that art was a product an artist created, instead of a process an artist engaged in.

I do not, however, render my environment/experience so naturally with images. I can remember back to a time when I had almost started out in that direction, but I continued on with words instead. This false start was with photography, when I could frame a scene and make it express something I was seeing/feeling. I can still readily do this, but I disregard the talent, mostly for lack of accessibility to a medium. Darkrooms are so cumbersome, and developing services even more so and without the immediacy of control. But with digital photography, I might pick up on this natural talent again: 1) if I had a camera, which could be somewhat expensive, given that I would want one with the most advanced properties and controls; 2) if I had adequate an storage facility, because I would want to take lots of pics and do lots of editing, and probably, at least for a while, keep the intermediary stages of the editing process; 3) if I could justify the expense of equipment and supplies to make high-quality prints and/or: 4) if I could maintain (at a cost) a large capacity website to display my work. Lots of conditions in this direction prevent me from pursuing digital photography like I might want to.

Anyway, photography aside, images constructed in other media do not so much reflect myself, mostly because of the translation effort, which changes the original insight/experience. Not that I dislike the results; I like them very much, and appreciate the (accidental) talent, and the time and effort that I put into them. But in every case, my works of visual art are never quite what I started out to do (as opposed to my photographic art, which always turns out to be exactly what I wanted, and sometimes even more than I expected).

The discrepancy between the vision and the finished product is significantly reduced by practice. A daily routine could take me where I want to go, if I decide that this is really where I want to go. Visual art is space-consuming. You have to have a place to put the finished work and the developing projects. (Words are space-efficient.) I don't have (so much) space. I could make do, in some esoteric way, piling it up like the lady (in the Midwest) who bought an old bank and decorated it with her art, which she has piled up along the walls and incorporated into the design of the building and its furnishings. I could manage something similar; but it would take a lot of time and patience and daily application. Then I could begin to communicate in images as well as words, and I suspect that, then, I might have something very different to "say."

So, anyway, after trying out the new airbrush by connecting it to the portable tank and ironing out the bugs (air leaks), I started to think about how I would get a more reliable air supply. I thought about bringing the compressor upstairs, but it's too damn noisy, and there isn't the space anyway. So I turned my attention to the airline. I had a line in the basement I could have used, but I had it permanently connected to an impact gun, and I didn't want to break the connection, remembering how difficult it had been to get a good seal in the first place. I thought I remembered seeing an airline at Big Lots and I decided that I'd buy it.

But I was feeling pretty tired by this time, so I thought I might take a nap first. But after I lay down, I found myself unable to sleep, so I got up and went up to Big Lots, got the airline ($8.99 for 50 ft), and returned home and began to install it.

I ran it through the hole I drilled in the concrete floor for the tv cable since I won't need that any more. I was surprised that it fit. I thought I might have to enlarge the hole and I didn't really want to get into that. It had been such an ordeal to drill it through the six inch concrete slab in the first place. But when I tried to fit the extension cord through the same hole, it wouldn't fit.

My idea was that I would run an extension upstairs from the basement so that I could turn the compressor on by plugging it in up here. To this end I had cut the end off the smaller extension that I had just repaired the other day, because the plug was definitely too big to fit through the hole. But since even the cord wouldn't fit, side-by-side with the air hose, I looked around for another solution, in the form of a hole through the floor. The only likely candidate was an unused gas line that used to feed a space heater in the living room that I had removed when it stopped working. There was absolutely no space along the gas line to fit the extension, but I discovered that I could easily unscrew the metal pipe connections and pull the pipe up through the hole to clear it. I wouldn't even have had to cut the cord, the hole was that big.

After repairing the cord again, I routed it down into the basement and made the connection. Now all I've got to do is get the adaptors to make the air brush a snap-on air connection, because I'm not about to go unscrewing it every time I want to change air brushes. And while I'm at it, I guess, I'll invest twenty dollars in a good regulator, because I'm tired of playing around with trying to find the exact lowest pressure point where the brush will work without losing its pressure every time I want to adjust it back down from a higher setting.

At this point, I want to run out to Home Depot to get all the stuff I need. But I can't make it. I need sleep. I crash.

7-27-03

Life is my addiction and words are my fix. Dreams overtake me and life brings me back, trapped into a present that will not let me go. I say that this is what I want, an eternal momentary release, but it's not, really. It's a theory that I relieve through meditation, but then I return to a different present that I choose not to see as such, but as a prison, from which I escape via words, as if they are a solution, when they're exactly a part of the problem, just as if I were addicted and had to relieve the withdrawal with more created concepts, which make me feel better, but which leave me wanting after a while, when I will leave them.

I love to write, and to read what I have written. I call it editing, and it is, but it's so much more. [Often, when I'm re-reading what I've written, especially the stuff I've posted that has been re-written a lot, so that I don't have to make so many corrections to it, I find myself rocking back and forth in front of the computer screen as if I were an orthodox Jew standing in front of the Wailing Wall. It's therapy, and prayer.] It's self-inflicted feedback, the knowledge that I have written, that I am so clever for having expressed what was on my mind, or purged what had accumulated in it, much like having consumed the meal of a world of input and excreted the residue after having taken nourishment from it. (I'm going to stop here now, before I mix any more metaphors.)

7-28-03

Whatever it is, I'm against it.
Groucho Marx
Revolt. Rebel. Vote No. Vive La Revolution. I awaken this evening feeling particularly ornery. Contrariness for its own sake. I rarely suffer from matutolypea1, my sense of rebellion being not so organic as cerebral and neurotic, re-defined each day, if it will be activated, after I am awake and functioning. So this awakening state grabs my immediate attention. I think I'm going to create a website devoted to this topic. But maybe not. It seems like there should be a lot of sites already with more devotion to it than I could ever maintain. I'm going to go and research it now.

Nope. Not too much out there that's immediately obvious and available. Lots of lame commercial enterprises using the concept of rebellion, and a few "legitimate" social activist sites, like The Struggle Site. And some personal sites, like Revolt Dot Com. But nothing dedicated to the pure aesthetic of being ornery or contrary in a general sense and for no apparent reason or purpose other than it's a way of feeling/being. And nothing at all that I can find re feeling this way upon awakening. Hmm. Maybe I should do this thing.

Names Not Yet Taken:
http://revolt.tripod.com/
http://rebel.tripod.com/
http://against.tripod.com/
http://contrary.tripod.com/

Already Taken:
http://revolution.tripod.com/
http://ornery.tripod.com/



From time to time I experience a difficulty of deciding how to present myself to the public [which aspect of my personality to first expose (first impressions are everything, so they say; they're not, except to narrow-minded morons), how to prevent being too readily classified, even stereotyped, before I can manage to reveal enough of myself to convince people who don't know me--or even those who think they do--that I am (like every other person) far more complex than an instant and superficial judgment can determine] sometimes overwhelms me. And so I want to hide away. And I do, often, physically, staying inside and/or away from people, or inside myself when I am out among them. And yet I continue to put myself "out there" via my writing. This is compensation. It's a schizoid reaction. I hide away, and so I try to communicate in an effective way; or I communicate in an effective way, and so I hide away. It's a futile effort, but I can't give it up.



I got a postcard from my sister today from Oahu. I'd forgotten that she and Frank were going there. It says "Aloha, Joe, Do you remember this bay" [The one pictured on the card. I do. We used to go snorkeling there.] We haven't made it there yet--it was full on Sun, when we tried. Hope to try again tomorrow. [You have to go during the week.] This place really is paradise. [It certainly is. I really miss it.] We're staying at the Hale Koa (military hotel @ Fort DeRussey) right on Waikiki. It's really fantastic. [Yes it is. I remember it well.] Been thinking about you a lot since we got here. I could live here if I didn't have to work. [And if you had a lot more money.] Saw the Arizona today. Love, Dianne and Frank.

Now, I'm envious. I should have stayed there and never come home. But I was too concerned about getting the hell out of the army to realize what I was leaving behind.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. YourDictionary.com defines this word as meaning "ill-humor in the mornings, getting up on the wrong side of the bed," and then goes on to qualify it by stating that it is not a real word, that it has been invented, constructed (incorrectly) from Greek and Latin, and is "not authentically derived." They recommend not using the word, but "waiting to see if this word sticks." But if everyone would take that advice, then the word would in fact not stick. It is through use that words become accepted. So I'm using this "non-word."

7-29-03

Why am I allowed to live a life of ease when so many people have to struggle for existence? Sometimes I start to feel guilty about this sane life I lead while others must suffer the insanity of a hostile and uncaring world. But usually I take this life for granted (which I shouldn't do). But I have created this situation I am in. I've put it together over a long stretch of time, by hoarding and forgoing a certain decadent affluence and making do with a minimal (though comfortable) existence, when I could have been spending freely and squandering my resources like everyone else I knew. And/or I've established a positive karma (perhaps over many lives, but probably not), struggling in my present, deferring to my future, trying to be always as careful as possible not to do things that I would later have to pay for (although not always succeeding, and thus limiting the success that I have had), always looking to make a better life for myself somewhere down the road.

And so, despite these infrequent doubts I may have re why I am able to live the way I do, relatively free from the harsh realities of the world, still, I am able to get up late in the morning, make a cup of (decaffeinated) coffee, sit out on the back porch, and write out these silly notes, while the world pushes itself, out beyond me, striving so hard to improve itself that it often gets itself into trouble by having pushed too hard; meanwhile, I strive too, still, but in a different way, internally, as I have always done, rearranging myself so that the big bad world can't so readily and cause me to become (too) upset.

I look up at the treetops now, glowing green in the morning sunlight, towering around me on three sides with the house at my back, and I think "This is my cathedral." I have no real need for a church when the universe has provided me with such a glorious place of worship, the spaces between the trees like huge halls and small alcoves, leaves lit by sunlight like stained glass windows, birdsong like a choir, and those two poplars over there in the neighbor's yard like steeples. But I can become so forlorn in the depths of winter when I am not outside. I know that I could find an equal solace among even leaf-barren, ice-bound trees, but I get so cold. It's better that I remain inside and search for a spiritual nature there, and rediscover the nature of reality anew each spring.

7-30-03

It's 8:46 am. I've been up all night. I just got offline about forty-five minutes ago and I decided that I'd take a brief look through my old notes (they're all in one big box on the bottom shelf of one of the cabinets in my office) to see if I could find my notes on dream states, because I've just come across some information that is pertinent to my web pages on dreaming and I thought that if I could find that old stuff and integrate it with this new stuff [It's not really new. It's from an old book (Sagan, 1977), and it's not even new to me. I learned this stuff a while ago, but forgot all about it], I could make a final exhaustive effort and finish up the dream project that I started and abandoned so many years ago.

So, I'm looking through the old notes box, amazed and a bit disgusted at all of the abandoned work that's there, when about two-thirds of the way down one side (the box is stacked full, about a foot high, with two side-by-side piles, one side 8x11 sheets of paper, the other side, small 4x6 notebooks and assorted smaller-sized individual notes), there it was: the dream notes. I wasn't really expecting to find them, thinking they were probably in one of my old journals, and I was only going through the box to eliminate it as possible place where the notes might be before tackling the journals themselves, a much more formidable undertaking. So now I'm ready to begin the final spurt to the finish line--but not now. Now I think I need some sleep, or at least some time away from this kind of thing.

[I go and take a four-hour nap.]



H.M., a patient with a long history of seizures and convulsions, was subjected to a bilateral extirpation of the entire region [of the brain] about the hippocampus in a successful attempt to reduce their frequency and severity. He immediately became amnesic. He retained good perceptual skills...but essentially forgot everything more than a few hours old... He described his life as a continuous extension of the feeling of disorientation many of us have upon awakening from a dream, when we have difficulty remembering what has just happened.
(Sagan)
What was the name of that Dana Carvey movie about a guy with a dog who had to record messages to himself before he went to bed because every morning when he woke up, he'd forgotten everything he'd done before in his life? Oh, never mind. It's not important.

I often feel like a different person for a while after awakening.
I like this time, if I don't have to get up and do something.
This transition period can be a magical time for me.
I try to carry this experience into my waking life, but I don't.
I want my real life to be more like a dream, and my dreams to be more like my real life. Why? I think I may have stumbled onto an answer here: outline for the completion of the website page on dreams:

  1. old notes - dream categories
  2. various theories in Sagan's book
  3. schizoid orientation: we each have (at least) two brains, an old one that has been superceded by the newer neo-cortex. While the new brain functions, i.e., in order for it to function, it must repress the old brain awareness. We call this waking consciousness. But the old brain will have its moments. We call this sleep, and dreaming.
  4. my (futile?) lifelong goal of integration of all things (ideas, events, etc.): I've (always) striven toward a nebulous sense of unity that I just know (intuit) is a possibility. Yet I seldom experience this sense, outside of dreams and meditation. Dreams are a means of unification, if only we will pay attention.
  5. the "mystery" of what I am (we are): my "other self" (dreaming and awake) is a part of others, or vice versa. We are all one thing.
  6. a captivating, exciting, in-the-moment kind of life, where everything is now, like being on an eternal acid trip: release the dreaming brain waking into the world and watch the magic come alive. This is what my art (visual and verbal) used to do for me, before it lost its newness and became a chore, this is what writing used to do for me before I got my method all worked out, rationalized and proceduralized to the point where it seems to have lost most of its magic. I don't pay enough attention to the fun any more. I've locked the old/right brain magic up inside a new/left brain box and excluded the former from my consciousness effort--except in dreams and for a few brief moments while awakening [at least that's something] to a left-brained world where a bleed-through of the reptilian magic exists for a brief time before the rational self can re-establish itself and regain full control. I write out my dreams to try to hang on to this short space of vision, to extend it in time, out of the timeless dream state and into a consensual world, where it may, perhaps, alter perceptions enough to make life a bit more interesting by bridging the gap between the two halves of the schizoid brain I've inherited by virtue of the fact that I am only human. Here, all along, I thought I was neurotic, and it turns out that I'm merely highly sensitive to (i.e., partially aware of) the human condition of having a layered brain that hasn't been very happy not being able to dream when it's awake or to think very well when it's asleep. I may never resolve this issue, but I will keep trying. It's a noble and worthwhile effort, I think. But that's a part of the problem. If only I didn't have to.

7-31-03

I've had occasion to wonder recently why I never want to sit out back any more like I used to and make extensive notes that I will later transfer into the computer journal. I use to do that all the time, weather permitting. But I'd thought recently that it was due to the winter effect not having worn off so readily this year as in the past, until I began to notice that summer was high and still I didn't feel like doing it. Then I realized what the missing factor was--caffeine. (I had another cup of coffee a short while ago. This is getting to be a habit--again.) Here I am now, sitting out back, making extensive notes; I'm on my third page now. I never write that much any more at one time, usually rather inputting a few small things at a time into the journal on the computer as I go along and happen to think of them. And now, it's mid-evening, almost dark, a time of the day when, typically, lately, I'd be moping, trying to avoid getting started on my work. (I've been sleeping afternoons; I just got up an hour ago.) I could go on for hours making notes like this, now that I've started, now that my brain is working overtime, but I better go inside and start to transfer some of this material to the computer. Don't want to get too far ahead of myself here.



I remember, when I was a kid, that I was always impressed when I would see my mother jotting down notes in shorthand. I thought that talent was so cool. But I never realized how cool she really was until I learned the skill myself. I look back and see how, hidden by her matter-of-fact manner, she was so proud of herself. She was, after all, only a high school graduate without any real academic qualifications, and yet she commanded a high salary with her confidence and abilities. Or else I am projecting backwards my pride onto her. Or both. Both, I think; because I empathize, and to have empathy, there must be a reality with which to identify, mustn't there? Maybe not. Maybe you can empathize with your own imagination. Well, either this is true or it isn't. Either way, I'm proud of what I've accomplished, learning entirely on my own how to take shorthand. I'll never use it as a job skill--well, who knows; maybe I will some day--but I use it all the time for my own benefit. "Take a letter, jai."