by j-a

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August, 2003


Years ago, after I stopped working for a living, for several years I experimented with organizing my life around a scheduling system based, not on our consensual days of the week, month, year, but upon the cycles of the sun and moon. Each week had a variable number of days starting with a new phase of the moon. Each month began with the new moon. Each year began on Dec 22nd. It worked pretty well. I had the system down. But it didn't accomplish what I'd hoped it would, so I gave up on it and, with much difficulty (all of my journals were based on this record system), converted the system back to our consensual one. Most importantly, I had hoped that it would have broken the affect I had for weekends and level it out over the entire the week. But always, I ended up knowing when it was Saturday and Sunday (from neighborhood cues, when people went to work and when they didn't; and from tv) and I affectively responded accordingly. I couldn't overcome the weekend attitude of "off-time" and replace it with an attitude that made work and play time a continuous ongoing event without the need for weekends. So I gave it up. I had managed, almost immediately, to level out my work and play, but not the old attitude that programmed my perception of the weekend.

But now I'm thinking about trying something new: doing away with daily time. I want to shut off all the clocks in the house and base my (sense of) time on the waxing and waning ambient natural light. This idea was prompted by several electrical outages over the past two days, when I've had to reset the clocks so many times that I stopped doing it until I was certain that the power outages would stop. And since I need to change the battery in the stained glass clock that my mother made [it's cool; a pastoral scene with a rising (or setting?) sun that serves as the clock face, the number locations (there are no actual numbers) of which are solder (caning) sunrays that extend out from the yellow circular piece of glass] that hangs above the computers in my dining room/office, I haven't been able to coordinate myself with the consensual time (when I'm not on the computer and can see the computer clock).

The "problem" has been that when I get up from a "nap" (usually four or five hours) and the power is off, I have no way of knowing how long it is I've slept; and I keep a running record of my hours on a spreadsheet so that I can determine if I'm sleeping enough, because if I don't, over a long period of time, I tend to get heart palpitations; otherwise, I couldn't care less how long I've slept--now; although I've kept this record since way back in high school, in the past for different reasons that I really can't quite now remember. In other words, I have (digital and paper) records of my daily sleep times running all the way back until that time. Strange. Very anal.

So I'm thinking as I awaken from a nap this evening, that I could set one of my wind-up travel clocks for 12:00 when I go to sleep, and I would immediately know how long I've slept upon awakening, and be otherwise free of my dependence upon an artificial system of time. This is all about further independence, I am just at this moment realizing, just as the moon cycle time system was about freedom from dependence upon a consensual system of longer periods of time that (I felt) was erroneous (mis-calculated; based upon constructions that deviated from the natural cyclical patterns of the solar system, particularly as it determined the start of the new year and the division of the year into moon months and weeks) and interfered with a correct perception of nature. I still feel this way and am now considering if I should go back to that system. Actually, I still hang on to vestiges of it: I "celebrate" (in my casual, low-key way) the new year on Dec 22nd and for eleven days thereafter, the "twelve days of Christmas," although I don't call them that, usually, preferring to think of them as the first twelve days of the new year, a time for re-assessment and reaffirmation of our purpose here in life.

[People fail at New Years' resolutions because they do not accurately time them with the start of the new year, when the Earth's forces are resetting physiological clocks; and the same is true of lesser goals, when they will not start them at the exact time of the new moon, but choose to begin major tasks at randomly chosen times, thus not taking advantage of the natural rhythms made available to us by our "Creator" (cosmic life).]

We are out of touch with our natural environment; no wonder we feel so lost, those of us who do. Those of us who don't feel lost impose an artificial feeling of foundedness upon ourselves and upon our society. No wonder so many people feel left out. They unconsciously recognize the discrepancy between what they are as determined by nature and how the current culture insists that they perceive that nature and themselves.

So, anyway, when I go to reset the clocks in the house after the power has come back on, since the battery-powered clock is not working, I have no reference--unless I turn on the computer, which is almost always slightly wrong, because it runs fast, or unless I call 1-412-391-9500, the Duquesne Light Company, which provides a telephone time check for people who must reset their clocks and electrical devices when the power is interrupted. This is no big deal, and it's not the point here anyway. The point is that, thanks to the recent unreliability of Duquesne Light, I've been given a taste of freedom from artificial "time" and I've been liking it. Maybe it's time to make a change.


The price we pay for anticipation of the future is anxiety about it.
Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden
I awaken at 11:30 p.m. after a six-hour nap. Actually, I didn't sleep at all yesterday--or rather, the sleep I did get, five and a half hours in the afternoon, was credited to the day before, because the sleep I got the day before was credited to the next day back before that, because... You get the idea? I'm falling behind, going to sleep a little bit later each day until I get so far ahead of (behind?) myself that I have to skip a day to catch up. (Whew! How's that for backward logic?)

Anyway, as I'm awakening, I recognize an old but familiar motivation, probably prompted by a build-up of caffeine in my bloodstream. I actually feel like accomplishing something, something cerebral, but I can see how the feeling could be applied to any chosen realm of activity. But, at the same time, I feel a little bit of doubt, about what I'm doing with my writing and my website (I will feel this occasionally), specifically re how I've been dwelling over the past few weeks on my daily work procedure, on my methodology, trying to get it just right by incorporating new ideas (the news idea in particular) so that, as I expand the scope of my journal to include new(s) types of items, I can continue to work efficiently and not struggle (as I have been) with keeping up with a backlog I'm creating.

[This is what I do, from time to time: I experience a surge of motivation/epiphanies and I document them, by which process I (sort of) incorporate the material into my everyday work pattern, thought processes, and psychology. But the real incorporation takes place when I begin to rework the material, re-reading, editing, and "processing" it (i.e., abstracting and posting it to a developing project or to a website, further polishing as it I do). If I don't do this, it quickly becomes forgotten memories, perhaps dredged up later and re-dealt with, or perhaps left as old journal entries, or even pre-journal entries (notes) never processed into anything more substantial and thus never incorporated into my daily life/mind. This is what will happen if I do too much of this kind of preliminary thinking without the daily procedural follow-up. This is a summer phenomenon; I seldom experience it in the winter because I'm seldom motivated then toward the manic mentality that will produce a plethora of ideas/insights.]

I draw a parallel between the doubt (above) and the doubt and anxiety and worse that I used to feel about life in general, when I was overly-stressed and pushing myself too hard, and especially when I finally crashed and had to spend a long time in R&R, recovering, alternating (less and less as a lot of time went by) between a state of recovery and regression. Actually, it's not a parallel, I guess, but the same damn thing, applied to different areas of my life. Before, several years ago, it was a more generalized anxiety; now it seems to be more benign and less affective.

This is the price I pay, I think, for the ability to anticipate the future, and I am good at that. [Or else, I'm good at it because I have been congenitally anxious and thus developed the requisite skills early on.] A large chunk of my life is future-oriented. It seems I'm always thinking about how my current behavior will affect my future. I have (developed) a really strong forebrain. It'd been relatively strong very early on and as time has gone by it seems to have gotten stronger. My future orientation keeps me from doing stupid things. I've done a lot of stupid things in my life, always (of course) out of a lack of awareness about what it was that I was really doing. If I had known, I wouldn't have done them, which is something I can't say is true for everyone. I know at least two people who know what the consequences of their actions will be and yet they take those actions anyway, taking a chance, hoping that they can "beat the system" just this one single time, every time they do it. That may be stupidity, but it is not ignorance. Risk-taking seems like stupidity to me. I want to protect my future. I am not stupid. Re my past mistakes and foibles, I claim ignorance. I just didn't know. This must be true, because had I known, I would never have done the things I did. It would not be at all characteristic of me to have endangered, even in the smallest way, my future well being.

I'm a writer. It's what I do and it's what I am. I've always expressed myself most adequately with written words and defined myself internally (on paper) with them. I've made serious attempts to express myself in other media. But none is quite so adequate as written words. Words are my orientation to life. Almost everything I do is in words; or else I use them afterwards to document what I've done. So, then, what do I do with all these words that I will generate? Since I write them down, I must do something with them--otherwise it seems like such a lot of wasted time. So I parcel them out to various formats--stories, novels, online journals, news. Thus, I am a writer. Any more it hardly matters what the format is. Whatever fits wherever is okay with me. The format is afterthought; the writing is existence.

What I'm trying so hard to say (and having such a hard time saying; let me try again) is: I shouldn't feel doubtful or guilty or apologetic or whatever when I publish what I write. I shouldn't ever feel I want to take it back. (Sometimes I do feel this way.) I am a writer. It's what I do. It's me. If you don't like what I've written, you don't like me. Too bad. [This is the problem: I want to be liked. It's a part of the reason I write. To draw attention to myself. (But it's not the whole reason, nor the biggest part of my motivation. I write to express myself, and I'd do it even if no one ever read a word. I read it.)] If you don't like what I write, don't read it. But all of that is not to the point. The point I'm trying to make here is: I should want to push my writing. I should go out of my way to attract readers. But I don't. I have this damn Zen "acceptance" philosophy that "interferes" with everything I (try to) do: If people happen during the course of their lives to encounter me or my work, great; it was, then, meant to be. But if I go out of my way to find them, then I'm tempting fate, altering karma, perhaps negatively, given the nature of the ego. It's better that I sit back and wait. So I figure that my compromise position is not to push, but not to doubt or apologize or whatever either. I am who I am. A writer. I am not a businessman (any more; actually, I never was very much good at it). [Or, I don't push myself out of a sense of low self-esteem, which is probably saying the same thing in a different way. I have low self-esteem because I do not assert myself and my work; or I do not assert myself and my work because I have low self-esteem? Both. The compromise is that I will not allow the low self-esteem to impinge further upon the laid-back reality I have managed to establish as my lifestyle. If I settle for less than I might otherwise have, okay; but I will not allow myself to doubt that "lesser" existence. I have to draw a line somewhere, otherwise I am nothing. Yet this is the (anti-)goal of Zen: The Void. Therefore, low (or no) self-esteem is the ultimate conclusion of the (anti-)practice of Zen; or a Zen state of existence is the ultimate conclusion of diminishing self-esteem? Logic can take you to some strange places.]

I write from experience, of waking reality, of dreams, of fantasies... All of what I am is a subject to be rendered, if only I can get to it in the time available before the next series of events occurs, which will tend to supercede the former series, because I can't do it all, each and every day.

I sometimes take extensive notes in the best tradition of a news reporter (because essentially, although in a highly esoteric and idiosyncratic way, this is what I am); but I have no real outlet for these notes, other than the very brief renditions that appear in The Broken News. So lately, rather than allowing these notes to lie around (if it can be allowed that bits recorded on a computer medium "lie"--an interesting metaphor), I've been entering these notes into my journal, much as any good diarist might include snippets of local news, conversations, etc. But still, there is the difficulty of knowing what to do with these entries when it comes time to "process" my previous month's journal. So I'm developing a rationale for this practice, with the hope that it may lead to a new form/format of expression.

The rationale for entering news notes into the journal:


All of a sudden I'm feeling very pleased with the "work" that I'm doing. Usually, I have doubts about it, if only little ones that I beat down immediately upon becoming aware of them. (They function unconsciously.) I like the fact that I can sit down at a computer and read e-mail and surf the net, accumulating raw material and typing away into blogs and journals and, maybe, every now and then, when I'm feeling a bit more productive and motivated, write a story or add some content to a developing novel. It makes me happy overall to work this way, but usually I'm not so aware of the happiness. Our routine lives, even when we live them the way we want to, tend to become, well...routine. It's the nature of the beast that it wants change, even when it is going along so well. I want to change, but I want to stay the same. I'd rather be fully aware of what I am and not be able to change than be predominantly unaware but changeable. But I'd most like to be fully aware and changeable.

I'm happy tonight to realize that what I'm doing now is a genuine and valuable effort, that what I write is, in and of itself, clever and important, even if only to myself. I'm creating an opus here, not the one I thought years ago that I would create, not a unified work of art, a novel of universal proportions, but a mere day-to-day statement of my world and my relationship to it, which sometimes seems iffy uncertain capricious chancey erratic fluctuant incalculable unpredictable whimsical immeaurable inestimable uncountable unreckonable [some of the words from the Lotus Thesaurus that seem to apply here].


You covet that which you see every day.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Silence of the Lambs
I often boggle at the degree to which I will sometimes see into my personality. I can amaze myself, at times. And yet, it's not so difficult to get a small glimpse of an accurate self-image; but it's damned hard to maintain the perception. An exact self-image, even a partial one, is rare and fleeting. A permanently accurate one is an impossibility, if only because we change and any accurate self-image is always going to be an older version. At least this is all true for me; and I am, I believe, a person with better than average skill in this regard. [Actually, a good self-image is not something you have or don't have. It's variable. You might have a good self-image about one aspect of your self/personality, and a bad self-image about another aspect. And these images can change, flip back and forth, run though various degrees of good or bad. A good or bad self-image, then, is one where the "net" at any given time is predominantly good or bad, weighing the positive and negative factors and averaging them out.]

The problem is not that I don't have a realistic self-image, but that I don't pay much longer-term attention to the insights I have had. I frequently see myself for what I am, in some small way, and then I let the perception quickly fade. Then I see myself again, but in a different way, from a different perspective, re a different (set of) trait(s), and then I let the perception fade again. And then, again, I repeat the process, over and over again, each time glimpsing a different aspect of myself, but not for very long. Ideally, these glimpses will eventually take hold and allow me to develop over a long period of time a more accurate self-image. I think that this is happening. I think I have a better self-image than I had, say, twenty years ago. It seems to me that I have, but over the years I've discovered a lot of ways that I fool myself, and this could be one of them.

I find that this same thing is even truer for my perceptions of others. I see people I like and so choose to pay attention to them, to discover who it is that they really are. But the initial perception I have of them will fade as I learn more about them. Often I realize, upon considering people whom I have known (of) for years, that I have forgotten what my first impressions of them had been. For example, I remembered today the first impression I had of a lady whom I observe nearly every day. When I first saw her, she seemed to me to be a sort of "hayseedy" type of person--not in her appearance, which is nearly always clean and well-kept, but in the impression she makes, governed mostly by her mannerisms, her gesticulations, her comportment.

I've noticed re others this same tendency to "gloss over" the obvious (?) initial impression that people reveal and to replace it with a more studied one, perhaps a more accurate one based not upon superficial appearance, but rather upon a more profound perception. And yet, in another sense, the initial impression may have been the more accurate one, in that it is unhampered by familiarity. Yet I will quickly lose that perception as I become familiar with (my developed opinion of) who people really are.

I've grown to appreciate the woman whom I at first thought could have been a farm girl moved into the big city. Now I think that she is just about the most adorable creature I've ever seen--except when I see her smoking and imagine the kinds of lungs she has, how her biology is permeated by the pollutant residues of tars and nicotine, and how much of an addict she really is, her will power and sense of control slowly having been eroded away over the years by a nasty little habit. But never mind. If I can unconsciously ignore the initial impression, I can manage to consciously ignore [Is that an oxymoron?] the deleterious one.

How do you ever get to know the real person? Or do you ever? Maybe it's better to be (physically) blind. And as for self, can you ever self-reveal and maintain an accurate image? Isn't it to the point that image, by its very nature, is a fleeting perception? And self-image even more so?

This morning on the Hallmark channel, on that show about/for women [I forget the name; I'll look it up on the Net: can't find it for sure; it might have been "New Morning," in which case it would not be specifically for/about women, but that was the impression I had of it at the time], there was a segment where a woman had a body cast made of herself (standing), and then, later, another one (sitting). She had this done in order to be able to see herself from "outside" of herself. At first I thought "How can you be so fucking vain? Get a life." But later, thinking back, I realize that this was simple denial and projection on my part. This is exactly what I do all the time, except that I do it in my head. I'm pretty good at moving my point of perception outside myself and looking at who/what I am, except that my orientation is not physical, but psychological. But I never, as I've said, retain the perception for very long.

The woman on the Hallmark channel was physically doing what I do mentally all the time. But unlike me, she has an immediately available permanent record of her new-found perception, standing against a wall, preserved in plaster as a life-sized manikin, decorated "artistically" with paint (and maybe clothing? I can't remember). I kind of thought it looked a little cheesy myself, and I "felt" it looked a lot self-involved, but maybe that's what this whole thing is all about, becoming more accurately self-involved. My permanent record is squirreled away in journals. If I access it at all, it is easily forgotten when I close the cover or throw the switch. The objectification of my self-involvement is not so easily accessible. I need to stand my journals against a wall where I can see them every time I pass on by. Maybe I should record them and play them in the background all day long (and throughout the night), perhaps accompanied by Mozart or Stravinsky.

[If it's true that you covet that which you see every day, then the woman who sees a plaster cast of herself must be developing some severe narcissistic symptoms. Or maybe that's what drove her to have the cast made in the first place.]

The Hallmark woman's second plaster cast, sitting, was the one that really caught my attention, because, after initially fuzzing up the image as they applied the plaster and gauze to her naked torso, they re-sharpened the focus and "revealed" the shape of her "naked" self, covered with a facade of plaster. It was an interesting process that I should have paid closer attention to, but all I could focus on were the pendulous breasts [adjectived perfectly, despite the frozen format]. I'm an incorrigible beast. There's no two ways about it. I could get into that kind of "art," for all the wrong reasons. Does anyone remember the Plaster Casters?

Research: Antidepressants May Help Protect Brain

Scientists find that prolonged depression without treatment can cause the hippocampus, a region in the brain that is crucial for learning and memory, to shrink. But studies show that exercise and antidepressants can preserve hippocampus size.
Okay, my hippocampus has been shrinking, maybe. But maybe not. The NPR audio file said that the most obvious damage was to people (women in particular, according to the study they were reporting on) who experienced "prolonged" bouts of depression. My bouts come and go, generally fairly quickly. And they seem to be not so much depression in the clinical sense, but "demotivation." The only time I would classify them as depression is when they actually interfere with my life...socially... or productively. I'm digging myself a hole here. I'm trying to rationalize that the bouts don't interfere with my "life," when actually they do. I am the way I am because I am sometimes (often?) depressed. I don't isolate myself in order to avoid depression (although that seems to be the effect, because I don't feel bad when I am alone; but then, I don't feel bad when I'm with people either). I isolate myself because I am depressed (I theorize). And I can see how I could get a whole lot more done (unlike now, when I am getting too much done; I can't keep up with the backlog I'm creating for myself, the editing and processing of all the material I am creating). Yet in the winter, and in the transition periods between summer and winter (the false seasons of spring and fall), I am the opposite, hibernating and not accomplishing much at all, unless you consider fantasizing an accomplishment, which I do: it feeds my imagination and provides material for fiction--another rationalization. This is Seasonal Affective Disorder I am describing here; and maybe that is all it is, and not "real" depression. Or am I using SAD as another means of repressing a real problem. I should be diagnosed, I guess. Self diagnosis, like self-image, is an iffy business. But I don't want no psychologist like me digging around inside my head. And anyway, they're all a bit psycho, them shrinks. You'd have to be crazy to want to become involved with that kind of thing.

The NPR report says that "the change may not be permanent" and the shrinkage appears to be mediated by standard therapies, including pharmaceuticals, exercise, et al. Coffee and chocolate are anti-depressants. Do they count?

There are those (I among them) who consider chocolate the panacea of all anxieties; others, prefer music. Some might think that a tax cut is a panacea for our economic ills or nuclear bombs a panacea for international strife. Panaceas thus far, however, have all turned out in the long run to be dreams and hopes, things not of this world.
Dr. Language, WordOfTheDay Newsletter
Okay. Sure. Tax cuts and nuclear bombs have turned out to be mere hopes and dreams, but certainly not chocolate and music. Where would I be now without either one? Chocolate for the physiological effect, and music for the fantasy components that relieve stress and anxiety via catharsis. (Thus, maximal fantasy in the winter and minimal in the summer.)


I find that I'm unconsciously shying away from the inane local tv programming and spending a lot more time on the Net. I don't even watch any of the many taped movies I've collected that I haven't yet seen. So the strategy seems to be working. But this is the summer. We'll see how it goes when winter comes and all I want to do is lie around in bed and hide from the cold and low light levels.

I'm always impressed by the way I can relate to people on tv and those who send me e-mails, even by the "impersonal" ones (ones that aren't directed to me personally, but are "generic," as with newsletters. You get to "know" the authors over time, or so you think. You imagine that you know them, anyway. You develop a kind of one-way relationship with them. Or maybe that's just me acting out a social impulse that I don't so much find in my actual social life (what little there is of it) any more. But no. That's everyone, especially in this postmod society where tv has become the ubiquitous nanny/buddy/companion to the elderly. Now if it could only be programmed to clean the house and do the dishes.


"Aren't you proud to be an American?"

My neighbor has a tacky sign in his front yard, red letters on a white background with blue highlights, that reads

"Proud to be an American."

I'd like to buttonhole him to tell him, no, I can't say that I'm proud; but I don't dare to disturb the quiet serenity of suburban America, even though that's what he's already doing with his tacky sign. But the fact is that I'm not proud. I'm happy to be an American. I'm overjoyed that I can live in the relatively affluent way that I do and not even have to work for a living any more. But I'm not proud that I can live this way while others cannot. In fact, sometimes I feel a bit ashamed of it, and not only because I feel guilty about living affluently in a world where most of the people are underprivileged and many of them are starving and dying in senseless wars. I feel ashamed that I tacitly support a government that in large part is responsible for, or at least plays into the horrible conditions in the world today. But, be that as it may, I am happy that I live here. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else--unless, of course, I had a lot of money. Then it wouldn't matter where I lived. Rich people have political influence and can afford security, even in the worst place. [Okay. Okay. I admit it. I feel guilty that I live the way I do, doing nothing to help others who are less fortunate, wasting a lot of my time and energy projecting my guilt onto the corporations, the government, and the rich, or whomever else happens to be conveniently doing things to deserve it. So what? So I'm a hypocrite. So who isn't?]

I watched Roseanne's new show tonight. It was all right. Not as good, though, as I expected, at least not at first. She came off as a kind of cross between Anna Nicole and Sharon Osbourne. (Did you catch the clever reference to Ozzy as she was driving along in the car?) The first episode seemed kind of laid back and self-conscious with a bit of playing to the cameras going on. I thought it dragged. But the ending was great, where she's walking down the sidewalk after the development meeting, on her way to get some pastries, and she shouts out "It's all about the pastries," and a guy she's passing on the street to whom the comment was half-directed says "I can see that." She laughs. You can tell that she really appreciated the humor, yet when she's out of his hearing, she mumbles "asshole." The second episode was much better than the first, and maybe they realized that and that's why they decided to air them both on the same night.


I haven't been spending so much time outside on the back porch recently, and I know I'll regret it when the temperatures start to fall and I'll realize how I missed the summer. But it's been so unsunny lately and I always feel like it's about to rain, even when it never does. But yesterday, since the coleus in the large pots on the front porch are growing kind of tall and will soon start to get leggy, I went out and took cuttings from them and planted them back into the same pots in the bare spaces. I noticed as I was doing this that a lot of tiny baby plants are sprouting in one of the pots. The plants must have been dropping seeds. I usually try to pinch off the blossoms before they develop to keep the plants' energy directed toward leaf production. I must have missed a few.

Today I'm definitely going to work outside, whether I do yard work or merely work at mental self-dialogue on the back porch. I've wanted to make it a habit to work outside every day during the warm season, and I definitely started out this summer in that direction, scooting out back each morning, afternoon, or evening with a book or two and my daytimer/enchiridion containing all the pertinent info I need to work away from the computer, a blank section for notes, and a small pencil tucked into a binder clip attached to its front cover; but the past few weeks I've kind of lost the motivation. I've got to make a token riposte in my continuing fight with the state of apathy I fall into when I stay inside too long so that I begin to suffer from the absence of the sun. To this end, I forced myself not to take an afternoon nap yesterday so that I would sleep all night and get back on a daylight schedule. (But I ended up sleeping for only six hours anyway, despite having taken melatonin. So I'm going to face the same battle again this afternoon. This continuing repartee with my physiology is wearing me down.

Took a five hours nap in the afternoon, then I went down into the basement to make sure no more water was leaking in since it'd been raining hard all afternoon. It looked pretty much the same, just a small amount of water in the garage, so I wheeled the dehumidifier in from the back room and started it up. When I went back downstairs at about midnight, there was a puddle of water about four feet wide in the middle of the floor. The dehumidifier was leaking. Talk about going from bad to worse. All I accomplished was evaporating the water from where it had been against the wall and dripping it and then some onto the middle of the floor. I had noticed a few days ago in the back room that the dehumidifier was leaking water, but it was a very slow drip, so I hadn't paid any attention to it. But apparently when I moved it, the hose where it was leaking from had loosened up significantly. I tightened the hose and moped up the water and turned the dehumidifier around to concentrate it on the wet concrete floor.

Earlier I had spent a lot of time downstairs jacking up one of the work benches with a long pry bar and 4x4 blocks of wood so that I could put rollers on it. With a lot of difficulty I finally got it up off the floor about four inches (it's a very heavy bench, laden down with electronics equipment and a lot of other stuff). Now all I've got to do is mount the rollers and then work on the other side. I want the thing on rollers so that I can move it easily when I need to get behind it to dry up the water seeping in before it runs out into the middle of the floor. This is rarely a problem, so it hardly seems worth the effort and expense of a more permanent fix. It only happens when there's a lot of rain for a lot of days in a row. Last year, being dry, it hadn't seeped at all. Usually, it starts to seep only once or twice during the spring or summer, and never in the winter.

A two hour nap at two a.m.


For several years now I've been looking for a Roy Harper song with the lyrics "enamel clocks are ticking" and "the number of fireflies that light up the highway at night and make all the piney woods bright out in the county." So I go to Google and I type in the first quote. I've done this before, but I've never thought to put the quote marks in. And I get one hit. It turns out to be my own website. So I figured I must have written about it before and forgotten about it. But when I go to check it out, it isn't there. There's no such quote on my page. Strange that the only site that contains the quote happens to be my own. The only thing I can think is that it used to be there, but I deleted it, and Google or Open Directory, or whomever hasn't spidered my pages since then.

I've complained in the past about how I've had to struggle with my website instead of devoting myself entirely to writing. But I haven't been being fair. There is a big advantage to publishing on a website as opposed to in books or magazines. You have control over the format. Which is exactly what I had been complaining about re the website. I wanted the advantages of website publishing without having to do the work. I no longer need to complain about the unprofessionalism of stupid little things like widows, line length and run-ons, special spacings, etc. that book publishers just hate to make special arrangements for.

And while I'm on the subject of special arrangements, I need to reassess somewhat my opinion of the seasons, summer and winter. It's been easy for me to appreciate the advantages of summer. I'm a summer person. I was born in the summer. I have a better general attitude in the summer. In the summer I'm not cold. In the summer I can lay around and pretend I'm on vacation. (Well, I guess I do that in the winter too.) But the winter has at least one big advantage: I don't have to cut the goddam grass and hedges.

I'm sitting out back after a four-hour nap. It's five p.m. I want to get out the laptop, but it feels like it's about to rain. I try to watch the clouds to see which way they're moving, but they are too high up and very hard to see, not seeming to be so contrasted against the treetops as they usually seem to be. They're steel gray and dull white, and the treetops look more pale-mist green than their usual deep verdure hue. But I can hear thunder in the far distance off to the south. So I dedicate myself to a more detailed and long-term inspection of the distant sky, noting vague cloud-edge positions against the gestalt of treetops that look like a fractal dream-brain image; and I finally detect a slow motion pattern: they're moving in from the south. I recognize a familiar but non-descript hint of odor in the air and a certain indescribable feeling in the gentle wind that picks up a bit on occasion. And then the most positive sign that bad weather is approaching occurs: loud, almost manic voices from out in the street in front of the house, words indecipherable, as if they penetrate through a thick and perpetual fog. The natives are restless tonight. Five minutes later, the thunder is louder, not so far away. Five more minutes and I'm scooting inside amid sparse raindrops. I turn on the computer and begin to work; but it never rains. A false alarm. All of the excitant signals are present, the condition of the atmosphere is predictable, but the phenomenon doesn't precipitate an event.


You wouldn't worry so much about how people thought about you if you realized how seldom they did.
Dr. Phil
I'm struggling to make sense of life. I guess I always do this around this time of year. Today is my annual high point, even more so than the summer solstice. It's the anniversary of my birth. And no one has contacted me to wish me a happy birthday. But that's okay; don't get me wrong. I don't like overt attention (although I love to learn that all along people have paid attention to me behind my back--when it's been the good kind of attention, that is. I am loath to attract attention because I feel it may become the direct persistent kind, which I feel will place too much of a burden on me to relate and respond during times when I feel most like remaining aloof. I'd rather that the attention be indirect, that people think of me without drawing my direct attention to it, while I nevertheless become aware of it via subtle psychological (transferential) means.

But people will only attend to me in this way for so long before they begin to think negatively of me. People do not like to be excluded from overt attention. If I do not respond to their direct or indirect entreaties, they balk, and eventually they give up on me, revise any benign opinions of me, and grow to loathe my reticent behavior. Thus, by remaining aloof, I create the very attitude in people that I want to avoid. I don't want them to become too friendly toward me so that they feel they can access me readily any time they feel the need (to use me as a dumping ground or object of manipulation), but neither do I want them to grow to despise me because I stay so far away and seem to not care whether or not they exist. A middle ground of (indirect) attention is a nice place to be, but I can't seem to maintain it. It always seems to want to migrate toward one extreme or the other. (This is all most probably me, projecting and perceiving my schizoid reaction in the guise of others.)

I guess what I fear most when I engage in this discrete (a nice word for unsociable) behavior is to become the object of direct and overt obloquy. I hate the backchat, but then at least it might be a figment of my paranoid imagination, and in any case I'm not confronted directly by it; but if it would ever become definitely known to me, or worse, directed at me in person, well, that situation would become unbearable. The few times in my life when this has happened, I have felt so hurt as to have to hide away (even more). I have vetted this matter to the nth degree over the years and I have come to the conclusion that the way I am is the only way that I can be, so that if I have to spend my birthday alone, well, that's okay. I kind of enjoy it; but not really. I take a kind of perverse delight in being alone. It's personal evidence that I am independent, which had been a hard state for me to achieve when I was growing up, fraught with many backslides until I learn the skills necessary to be able to reduce my (very unwanted) psychological dependence upon others.

Now I struggle with the problem of others psychological dependence upon me. From what I've been writing lately, you might think that I've successfully surmounted this "obstacle," but you'd be wrong. I can readily perceive in every human contact that I make the readiness of others to jump on any opportunity to use me to their own (pathologically) psychological ends and means. Maybe this is mostly disguised self-perception, but I don't think so. More likely, it is a mutual condition of the human soul that we all struggle with each and every day that we remain together.

I'm just remembering a dual feeling that I haven't felt in a long time. I definitely avoid feeling this, which is a good thing, I guess, being able to steer your way around potentially disturbing affective states--unless it involves repression that causes you problems of adaptation, which in this case, I think, it does not. In the past, especially when I was very young, and very especially re special occasions like birthdays, when I would hide myself away, figuratively and/or literally, so as not to allow so much attention to be heaped on me, I would do so out of a sense of regret and/or... It's a difficult feeling to describe. Dinge or dysphoria come close, but do not quite express the sense of the exquisite longing wish that I remain unseen and yet attended to. It was always, yet not quite, enough to know that people wanted to pay attention to me, if only I would allow it.

I remember a birthday (I must have been about ten or twelve years old) when a girl from up the street, whom I was very attracted to, I would say obsessed with, came down to eat dinner with us, hot dogs cooked out on the grill, in celebration of my birthday, and I spent the whole time pretending to be asleep on the couch in the living room while everyone partied in the back yard. The girl on numerous occasions would ask my mother if I was coming out, and my mother would tell her that I was sleeping. I think my mother knew that I was not, but allowed me my mood, especially since it was my birthday. Once the girl even came to the front window to look in at me turned away on the couch, inquiring in a loud voice of my mother in the kitchen if I were getting up, so as to awaken me, I guess. Meanwhile, on the couch, I wished she would come in and arouse me; yet I couldn't budge. I was saddened when I finally heard her departing.

Now, I skirt the edges of nostalgia. It's not a motive I engage in very often. In fact, in this regard, I'm quite immured in the bubble of protective gel that is my conscious self. There's no time for self-pity here. I've got important things to accomplish.


I've come across an opportunity to publish several collections of short fiction, and I find myself balking at the enterprise, not because I don't want to do it, but because I'm not exactly sure I'm happy with the content I have available. So I start to think: what kind of story would I have to write that I would find acceptable? And my answer: it's not a relevant question. If I wanted to be a conventional writer, if I wanted to use my time in that way, to work at it, I could do it, and easily. I could deliver material with panache and style, every bit as competent as the best of what is being commercially published today. But that's not why I write. I don't want to work so hard, and that kind of writing is hard work. If I wanted to work, I'd be a journalist, or I'd get a high paying job in business. I want, rather, to "express" myself (whatever that means).

It means, I write out of an imperative to do so. It's a catharsis, and a therapy. [I've written this all so many times before, it's getting boring, even to me. But let's try to put a new twist on it here.] My "stories" (as opposed to my more straightforward journal stuff, pastiches, etc.) are extrapolations of the basic (journal) material, when it seems appropriate to me that such material will make a good story, or (rarely) when I am too close to the material (or the material is too close to me) and I want to gain a little bit of distance. Sometimes they are thinly disguised and sometimes they are so obtuse that their origins in my thought/psychology could never be discovered (I hope).

In any case, the stories could be more commercial, sure, and as I'm writing them I come across many instances where I could write and revise them accordingly. But if I did, they'd lose a lot of the original motive for writing them in the first place, a lot of the efficacy of insight/therapy. So I usually leave them as they are. Which brings me to my point: what am I to do with this stuff after the process is over? Only by publishing the material can I justify the time I spend working on it.

[If readers think I'm writing even this explanation for them, they would be very wrong. I'm writing it for myself. Even this parenthetical comment is for my own benefit, not yours. But, magnanimous soul that I am, I let you read it.]


The last goldfish died today. It came as quite a shock because I saw no prior symptoms. Last night it looked fine and ate wholeheartedly, unlike all the others before they died, when they picked at the food, if they ate at all, and swam listlessly for days before languishing in a half-alive state for days thereafter, hanging onto life, refusing to let it completely go, until I gave them a mercy flush. But I found this last fish this morning cold dead on its side at the top of the water when I went to feed him, his once-glorious tail hanging down limp from his still massive-looking body that seemed to have atrophied not at all in the usual way that fish will before they die. Sad. I'd really grown to like that fish. He'd always been the independent one, never coming to greet me like the others did when I fed them. But after the last of the others had died, all of a sudden he became attentive, even almost friendly. He'd return to the side of the aquarium to eye me after gobbling up each morsel of food, even though there was plenty more food floating on the surface, almost as if he were taking the time to thank me for my presence. Yeah, I liked that little guy and I was truly sorry to find him dead this morning. No more fish. I can't stand the pathos. Not really. I just don't want to be bothered taking care of them. It's enough to have to pay attention to my houseplants. They're more forgiving of neglect, and they let you know well ahead of time of their demise, so that you have plenty of time to act to prevent it, if you really care to. (I can't help thinking I did something wrong that caused to fish to die, like not changed the water often enough or something. Guilt prevails.)


This Summer's Weather Forecast
Partly cloudy with an isolated afternoon
or evening thunderstorm. High 80-82.

It's the same thing, every day. I'm conjuring the unknown spirit of the weather, who secretly inhabits this neighborhood and influences its inhabitants to remain forever dull, to change its doleful pattern. Nathan Shakin' and I can't get used to it. I need to be meditating here, accepting the way things are. Peace is a difficult reality to generate, but an even harder one to tolerate. I should be contented right now, but I am not. This is the eternal moment, when everything goes as it is going and nothing is amiss in the world except those things of which I am not apprised. (I haven't been keeping so close a touch with the news lately. The strategy of having cancelled the cable is beginning to take hold.)

This is the kind of psychic weather that I long for. So why am I not contented? This is the millennium. We (or I) have finally arrived. No one running around shouting expletives at each other, no one berating his wife, no malicious militias forming in the back woods, scheming to take power when the revolution starts. Maybe it's because it's not a hot summer. Temperate temperatures temper tempers.

I will report on the goings-on in my neighborhood, and occasionally it will occur to me that, if certain of my neighbors knew of this website, they might not appreciate it that they appear here basically undisguised. But this is my service to society. If anyone should complain, I justify my activities by maintaining my right to report my experiences (as factually as possible, of course) as a witness to what happens in my vicinity--in public! If you don't want it reported, don't let it be witnessed. But for now, there's nothing to report.


This morning I'm sitting out back, enjoying the peace, and just as I'm about to take a sip of hot tea, I catch sight of a gnat heading straight for my face. As I'm sucking the hot liquid across my lips in a manner designed to somewhat cool it before swallowing, the gnat flies straight into it, and before I can react, it is sucked straight down my throat. Ugh. But no gag-response or anything. Nothing. If I hadn't seen the bug, I'd never even have known I'd swallowed it. It probably happens all the time.

In fact, last week I'd harvested some lemon balm and took it inside to make a pitcher of iced tea. I rinsed it off, probably too quickly. Usually I take a lot of time and immerse the stalks into a two-gallon basin before rinsing. But this day I was in a hurry. I stripped off the leaves and put them into a plastic pitcher and poured boiling water over them, and before I set it aside to cool, I decided to have a cup of hot tea. I poured the liquid into the cup, trying to keep the leaves from pouring out. On my first sip, I felt something in my mouth, which I extracted. It was a relatively large winged green bug (about half an inch long), exactly the color of the leaves, dead of course from the boiling water. I'd never seen anything like it. As bugs go, it was rather good-looking.

I continued to drink the tea, because what the hell. So I guess that officially makes me entomophagous. I mean, I had a choice. I could have thrown the effusion out because the essence of the bug was to some degree absorbed into the wild brew and dispersed throughout it. But some of that tea is still left and every time I think to have a cup of tea, I seem to opt for one of the other concoctions in the fridge, spearmint or sassafras, although it's entirely possible that the essence of unseen insects could inhabit those brews as well. And the same could be said, I guess, for commercially made products. Rat feces in cereal is not an unknown occurrence. It's a standard. So much disparate material is allowed in our foodstuff by government regulation. We are a nation of bug and crap eaters. We just don't like it called to our attention.

from the Village Voice:

Unhampered by his inability to draw, [Harvey Pekar] scripts skeletal storyboards and enlists different illustrators to bring them to life, a self-portrait for four or 40 hands. It's a song of himself he's performed over the past 27 years, and it's a self laden with the techniques and inner-directed impulses of the most exacting of modern authors: self-pity and self-loathing, self-criticism and self-reference, self-consciousness above all.

Pekar's work "goes beyond documenting a life, into reflecting the art, reflecting the life, reflecting the art," says Four Walls Eight Windows publisher John Oakes, who has put out two American Splendor collections as well as the graphic novel Our Cancer Year (1994). A nearby object lesson in blurring the art-life border:

And I need this object lesson. Pekar is a great example of what I could be if I could only get it together enough (develop the initial substructure, the work procedure, and basic tools) to start producing an esoteric periodic(al) art. Actually, I already am producing it: my journals/website. I have to keep remembering this: I'm not someone else; I'm myself.

I remember Pekar from the old (NBC) Letterman show. He impressed me. But he did something10, I never knew what, and got on Dave's blacklist, I think. Too bad. I like him. He's one of the few genuine people left in this country. He's a strange guy, but aren't we all, in one way or another? And now they've got a movie out about him, in which he also plays a major role. Will success spoil...

And talking about strange, I woke up this morning (two a.m.) thinking, that this has been a strange life. As I look back over it, I feel like I don't belong in it, that it has been someone else's and I'm just inhabiting it, along for the ride. But I don't know who this someone else has been. He (or she) hasn't been around at all. I awoke out of a strange dream. I can't remember any of the details except being in a theater watching a movie in "Smell-O-Vision" and the movie's contents were about a very noxious place with odiferous materials, which I distinctly smell. Very unpleasant. When I awaken, I check the air for odors, to determine if an environmental cue caused the dream sense; but no scent is available. The only reason I remember "Smell-O-Vision" now is because I taped the words, thinking at the time that I didn't have to tape any more than that single phrase because I'd certainly remember the context. Oh, well. At least, though, I remembered being in a theater--but then that's not so much of a stretch. I think this dream is significant because I just read not so long ago that the sense of smell is not one that we experience so much in dreams. (There's an evolutionary reason for this that I can't remember. It was in Sagan's book.) So, what's happening here? Is my subconscious mind intentionally setting out to disprove the theory?


It's a sunny day, for a change. I'm planning an outdoor bar-b-que for one. Chicken on the grill. (Actually, it's just a small Hibachi.) Watch. It'll end up raining.

Yesterday, it was sunny for a while, but it got quite nasty again by mid-afternoon. I was out in the sun cutting the hedges. I finished the north side of the property before I got too hot and had to go inside. Then I started having palpitations. They weren't the serious kind (as if any palpitation is not serious), just little "baby" ones. (That's what a girl I once knew used to call her palpitations, for which she was prescribed Valium, which she abused). But I continued drinking the beer I had started and I took a shower. The palpitations continued, a missed beat every tenth or twentieth. It worried me, so I lay down for awhile with the fan blowing directly on me on the highest setting. Each time I lay down, the missed beats stopped after a short while. I theorize that it's the humidity, combined with pressure on the nerve bundle through my spinal cord that runs to my heart--combined with having been getting too little sleep lately (last night I got nine and a half hours, the first night this month that I got more than six) and, to a lesser extent, with drinking alcohol and caffeine, both of which I've been consuming recently. I want to think that it is not these last two things--so much; but I guess I'm going to have to be more careful and abstain from them until things settle down. I had gone for well over a year without any symptoms at all, and I wasn't consuming the evil liquids, so...

So, anyway, I'm all hot and sticky, even after having taken a shower, and my hair is bugging the shit out of me, hanging wet down my back and then drying out and flying all over the place and getting in my face and irritating and tickling me. So I confirm my recent decision to cut it short. I'm sick of it. (But I like the way it looks, and the radical statement it makes). I'm thinking about shaving off my beard too, maybe leaving only a goatee, like I had when I was in college, and growing the barbiche way long, too long, so that I look like one of those Chinese guys from the old prints.

I haven't made these changes yet because I want to get pics of what I look like now first, and I don't have a digital camera, and I can't see buying a roll of film just for that purpose. Wait a minute! I might have an old roll of him in my camera case. Let me go look...Yep. And there's a roll in the camera too with only four exposures used. I wonder what they are of. Guess I'll use the rest of the roll and then find out.

But, whatever I do, when I cut my hair, I got to make sure I don't end up looking like one of those unctuous freaks, the kind who wear goatees and short hair and run around trying to con everyone into thinking they're so cool, when all they are are greasers in disguise. Hey. I could go directly to the greaser look. Now there's an idea. Get a few arm tattoos. Slick back my short(er) hair, carry a pack of cigs in my T-shirt sleeve... Hmmm.

Well, I'd like to keep writing, but I gotta go out now and clean the grill for the Hibachi and defrost the chicken parts.

As I'm cleaning the Hibachi grill in the sink, I'm splashing brown spots of rusty water all over the place with the wire brush. This outdoor bar-b-que provokes memories, some fond, some not so.

I'm cleaning one of those plastic crates in the kitchen. It's covered with some kind of a sticky brown/red residue to which gobs of old dog hair are stuck. It doesn't quite fit into the sink and as I'm scrubbing it, I'm dripping water onto the floor and splashing the loosened dirt everywhere.
She says "You should be doing that in the basement."
I say "I know, but I'm almost done," which is a lie; but I don't want to interrupt myself or be bothered to relocate.
Ten minutes later, she's disgusted with me, for the mess I have made. I clean the sink area and the floor, as well as I can, being a guy. Later, she recleans it all herself.
The following day, I get the Hibachi out. It's all covered with sticky grime from the previous year. I squirt it with oven cleaner and let it stew for awhile in the sink. I come back an hour later to find her staring into the sink at it. She doesn't say a word, she just walks away.
From under the sink, I get the wire brush designed for exactly these kinds of jobs and I begin to scrub. I scrub for a while before I notice that I'm splashing small brown droplets over the side of the sink and counter area. At the same time, I notice that she's standing behind me, observing. I point the grill and brush down into the sink and begin to scrub in only one direction, down.
She says, "You should be doing that in the basement."
Deja vu.
I say "Oh, why don't we just move into the basement and get it over with."
A friend, sitting in the dining room, having arrived early for the cookout, laughs, but when she looks over at him, he stops abruptly.
She walks away saying "I got a better idea. Why don't you move into the basement?"


[Dostoevsky's] books form a striking contrast to those of Turgenev in point of art, for they are diffuse, often poorly constructed and incoherent, and without charm of style. But in spite of these limitations, his power of rousing emotion, the grim intensity of his conceptions, and his command of the sources of fear and pity make him a very great writer.
Okay. Here's justification for my poorly constructed and often incoherent [I like to think of them as "obtuse"] (but not without charm of style--I hope) novels. An author as "great" as Dostoevsky writes similarly, at least in this respect. I may have none of the other qualities that make Dostoevsky great, but even just to share his flaws is flattering.

There are lots of ways to keep track of this [i.e., the title "An Eventful Year"] that are happening in your life. You could keep a journal, which to us, of course, means sitting down at a computer keyboard and using a suitable program for tracking journal entries...There are still those who use the paper type of journal, but our image of them would see them sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch with knitting and a glass of lemonade on the table by their side and a pencil in their hand as they peer over glasses hanging precariously on the end of their nose. I for one have been using a computer for so long that I think I have almost forgotten how to operate a pencil!
Vince Barnes, HTML Goodies To Go Newsletter
I think I'd rather use a pencil, but it's too inefficient. I like the characterization that Barnes details of the curmudgeon on the porch. There's something about writing a story out in longhand that attracts me. Maybe it's nostalgic. I don't know. But when I think back to the stories I wrote that way, I know I can never finish any, because I never really did. Until I got my first computer, I never realized how hard I worked at fiction, with so little return. The ability to cut and paste alone was worth the price.

I do not think that any civilization can be called complete until it has progressed from sophistication to unsophistication, and made a conscious return to simplicity of thinking and living.

Lin Yutang
Except for computers. But in terms of social contact, yes. Definitely. I operate in social situations by the principle that, if you don't talk much, when you have something important to say, people tend to pay closer attention. Unfortunately, I don't operate according to that same principle in my writing. Maybe that's why it doesn't get so much attention. At least it's an excuse.


It's time to get serious about my work, again (about my writing, that is). [But it's the middle of the summer, so I don't want to.] Now that another opportunity has presented itself to get my work into (paper) print (you see how, if you wait, they just come to you), I can't be lounging about wasting time. I can get as much into book or chapbook form that I can justify is "good" work. It's entirely up to me; and that's the problem. I'm struggling with the definition of what is good. (Some of) my stories are good enough, but that is a very small volume, barely enough to fill a small book. So, c'mon. Let's go, dude! Get it together! What, out of all of the prolific pennings (digitizings) I've produced over the years, can I commit to permanent paper?

  • poem/story combination formats as thematic chapbook collections
  • short works of 3rd person "fiction" taken from journals (ala Mailer and Pekar)
  • my life (& ideas) as that of another character, ala Kathy Acker.
  • remove any material that gets into print from the website; in fact:
  • use the website as a "preview" site for coming (print) attractions.
  • thus, I can have a series of chapbooks spanning date ranges of my life, and I can collect these into book form as they accumulate.
So, I'm proofing my latest story for publication. It's a long story, or a short novella, that I wrote a while ago, revised several times, and then set aside; and I'm now resisting doing the work at every turn. I go through the whole thing, all fifty-one pages of it, and then I grammar check it and find a lot of things I missed. After some format editing, I half-decide I don't want to proof it again, but just publish it the way it is. But I start reading the first section, and I find obvious mistakes and things that I want to change that I'd missing during the first rereading. So I have no choice. I start the whole process over again. (I'm halfway through it now.) So the question is, after I'm done with it, do I go through it again? And again? When do I stop? (I go through this same laborious thought process every single time before publication.) It's a lugubrious business, editing. But "art is never finished, only abandoned." And so long as I don't abandon it with grammatical errors, I'll be okay. But what if I do? (This is a "no editor" opportunity.)


MacDonald had given the hint that the clue to discovery was not in the substance of one's ideas, but in what was learned from the style of one's attack. (Which was one reason why Mailer's style changed for every project.)
Norman Mailer, Armies of the Night
I awaken at noon with a great doubt: pull all your work off the website and go and do something important with your life. I'm very serious about this thought. But after I'm up for a few minutes and starting to work, I change my mind, especially after I reread this while looking for a reference re yesterday's journal entry.

I'm all geeked out now, trying to apply myself here at the computer, but wanting to get to several projects that I've been putting off starting: adding doors to the woodshed with some composite board that my neighbor Steve gave me (to be burned); making a pattern for a pair of shorts from instructions I found on the Net last night, because my current pair of industrial-strength shorts (made of a near-canvas quality material) that I wear every summer on every outside project (and inside too, for that matter) are beginning to deteriorate, and I can't find a pair of them being sold anywhere. (I'm sure I can find them on the Net, at a place like L.L. Bean or Land's End, but if I'm going to pay that much, I might as well make them myself. I've wanted to make my own clothes now for a very long time, but I've never been able to justify it, the cost of clothing normally being so cheap, if you find the right sales); and I've thought of learning how to knit, because in searching for the shorts pattern on the Net last night, I came across a knitting site and found instructions for a tousle cap I like. I'd like to be able to wear it in the winter and tuck my all hair up under it (if I don't end up cutting it all off). I've wanted to learn to knit, also for a long time; but again, why bother? Maybe I could knit some things and sell them on the Net. (Another idle fantasy.)

I'm currently searching for numena to aid me in my never-ending quest(s) for satisfaction via projects. (Well, I have to do something to motivate myself.) I need a great deal of motivation that I seldom seem to find. Like, right now, I'm all psyched up to do all these things. But after a few hours of working at the computer, I will have lost all of this motivation, written it all out, which is a good strategy if the energy I'm trying to dissipate is trapped in negative phenomena like the doubt that I awoke to this morning. But it's a whole other thing if it involves actual projects I want to do. A long time ago I used to want to find some (self-created, of course, despite the delusional dangers) "spirit of the woods" to use as a guide or muse, some projected numinous presence seeming to be off among the trees that you only see at night and then wonder if you really see it or not, some apparition that tells you what to do and watches over you and protects you from harm by warning you of dangers ahead of time.

Gven the nature of (my) life, I could very easily convince myself to believe in a god of sorts, a kind of imp or trickster that occasionally pops unseen into the hidden corners of a room and arranges circumstances so that events will ensue to upset the status quo--by influencing minor fuck-ups, like mini-suckholes or contretemps that result in things like dropping foodstuff on the floor, or misplacing this or that tool that while in the middle of a project, or accidentally saying the wrong thing, like to a person who will be easily offended, or some thing that will cause you some embarrassment. All sorts of little things may fall into this category, things that while they are not so off-putting in and of themselves, are irritating when they continue to happen sequentially over a short period of time, so that you can either believe that they are truly only coincidental (rational interpretation), or that you are subconsciously trying to subvert yourself (psychological interpretation), or that there is a cosmic force at work, a pattern or influence of time/space that you are caught up in so that it would be better to set aside your tasks and goals temporarily until it passes (spiritualist interpretation), or that a haunting unseen spirit is taking a perverse delight in watching you stumble and bumble your way through an irritating and/or frustrating day (religious/ mythological interpretation). It's better, I think, to be entirely rational/scientific, but it might be a more interesting life if these spiritual kinds of entities existed.

I look at the woods behind my house with the idea of wood spirits in mind. I like the way the trees and bushes box in the yard on three sides. I sit on the porch with my back to the house and feel quite safely enclosed in my agrestal little world, and I think that I could control a vaguely-seen spirit that might inhabit the gentle woods. (I'm currently rereading Marlowe's Faustus.) But being the Schlimazel that I am, I'd probably end up summoning some powerful deity that would overwhelm me and turn me into a bumbling automaton like Rick Moranis In Ghostbusters; or worse, like a fawning Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters II.

It seems to me that the wind would serve quite well as a spirit-guide. It stirs up nicely on warm summer days when a calm mind almost drops down into the doldrums of thought and threatens to stagnate. The wind stimulates thought of a different kind and keeps you moving along. But look at the mental dangers that could befall me in the spring and fall during violent storms, as I hide away in some corner of the house, fearful for my life. (I'm being overly dramatic here, of course. I would never actually do that--unless I lost control and really came to believe that the wind was in fact a living spirit. It's not likely to happen, but, hey, you never know.)

Mostly, I think, I need some kind of a guide to direct me in my search for the perfect(ly satisfying) story format. I continually waver as to how I'm going to express myself. I develop a style and use it for a while, get comfortable with it, and then come across something I like better (usually as a result of reading, which is why Norman Mailer, on a C-Span program a year or so ago, claimed that he'd stopped reading; it overly influenced him and distracted him from what/how he wanted to write, and he didn't have all that much time left) and I'm off in a different direction, probably only to return months or years later to what I knew how to do quite well before, modified slightly by the wayward experience, but essentially the same old thing.

Consequently, I feel lost a lot of the time, aimless in life, like Oe's frotteur in J. I could easily end up like that character, still today, even knowing what I know about the reason behind that kind of "possession." That stuff I wrote about a wanting a dominating spirit was flippant, but the psychology behind it is very real: I am easily led away, like an innocent middle school student at the behest of a sexual Internet predator, into whatever cause or condition is most near and appealing. Spirits, if they existed, could easily control me--because they do. (I'm using a whole different sense of the concept of 'spirit' here, as in 'spirit of the times.') Please, God, don't let me end up becoming a cog in the machine of some fringe organization, like I had been when I wasted that large chunk of life working for that thankless, repressive manufacturing firm that I somehow unwittingly managed to escape from. It took me a long time to get over that experience.


Yesterday I carried some tools up to the wood shed and prepared to do some work, taking measurements and planning out a step-by-step procedure. Today, I carry out that procedure, step-by-step. Never underestimate the value of a well thought-out plan. Everything went smoothly and in less than two hours I finished a twenty-two inch wide left front wall, constructed entirely out of scrap wood that Steve had dumped in my driveway for me to burn this winter. The only problem I encountered was having to stand out in the sun while I worked. I absolutely love to do this kind of work, but I absolutely hate to become overheated while I do it. I never used to be like this. It must have something to do with getting old(er); or I recognize a weakness, that my heart(beat) will become affected if I overly exert myself and become too hot.

Next, I plan out tomorrow's work, and later (this evening), bored, I will go out and begin it by putting up the right jamb for the door. [Previously the shed, an adjunct to the main shed that I built onto its side, mostly with scrap wood (except for the roof) that I salvaged from the place I was then working, packing material from a new huge printing press that we'd purchased, was closed at the front with a plastic tarp, which had deteriorated over the years and was now half in shreds.] Earlier, as I was working, wasps (of the yellow jacket variety) were bugging me. Usually I don't let the presence of wasps bother me, because they're slow-moving and I can swat them away easily if they become too interested. But these are not ordinary wasps. Yellow jackets are quicker wasps and not to be trifled with.

When I was a kid, I ran across a hive in a field and was stung fifty-two times (I counted the stings later) and was taken to the hospital, despite my protestations that I didn't need to go, that I was fine--all of which may have something to do with my wariness of yellow jackets. But they are much faster than ordinary wasps. Anyway, when I began work on the shed, I started to tear down the old tarp covering and I discovered a fledgling hive inside its folds. (This is where the wasp had come from that stung me several weeks ago. It hadn't come "out of nowhere." It had come out of that tarp.) I went down to the basement and got the jet stream wasp and hornet spray and I took great pleasure in dispatching the busy homesteaders.

But as I continued to work, wasps that had been absent when I sprayed kept returning and were not pleased to find their home not only poisoned, but completely missing, since I removed the tarp to the other side of the yard. I had to keep moving away to prevent stray wasps from gathering around me, intent upon driving away the intruder. I zapped them with the spray one by one when I would see them alight. (It's impossible to spray them in flight like you can with an ordinary wasp. They're too quick.) One disturbing aspect of this endeavor is the pleasure I derive out of watching one of God's creatures writhe in the agony of death throes from the poison they encounter. I've got to examine closely this affect in me to see whence it comes. It may be signs of a pathology; or it may be merely a vestige of an ancient neurological pattern, naturally selected at a time when such pleasure was a victory over dangerous elements. (But how could it be? Ancient man didn't have powerful modern bug sprays. Wasps did not writhe in agony back then. But maybe other creatures did and the affect became generalized in the ancient brain.)


The sky is a deep blue between the extraordinarily white clouds (a welcome change from the steel gray ones of the previous weeks). The sun illuminates the treetops from the east, behind the house. (I'm sitting in the back. It's mid-morning, 9:30.) I just had to work outside this morning, even though there's a slight chill in the air. It's supposed to get up to eighty-four today, but it's not quite yet on its way.

I awoke from a dream this morning and lay in bed, savoring the hypnagogic state, realizing the connection between two worlds. In a rare instance of cognitive awareness of this state, I examined how dream reality "mapped" itself onto waking reality as if it were a computer interfacing with another of its kind, each matching up, point for point, like a plug-in device matches its receptor board, except that both the dream and reality [which presented itself as an environment, my immediate environment, except that I understood it to be a generalizable concept, that anyone's dream(s) would exactly match their immediate environment in this way] are each the plug-in (neither is male or female and both map onto each other) and that this is more like a software connection than a hardware one; that is, the hardware "plug-in" is a symbol (a waking symbol; don't forget, this is a waking realization/symbol system, not a dream) for the actuality of the mapping, the interactive "software" being the actual content of the dream and the environment, all of which taken together is the content of my mind/self. [Maybe there is more to me than just this dream/environment content, somewhere; but I am (we are) at least this much, which is so much more than I ever, at least consciously, realize. (In dreams I may realize more.)] I lay in bed for an unusually long time because I didn't want to abandon this more universal awareness.

The dream I'd had was about, among other things, my mother. She was driving my old blue Toyota pickup. I and someone else were passengers. She was supposed to be taking us to work, the other passenger (Alan?) and I. But Mom had an agenda of her own and was driving along Third St. acting toward it. After I am awake for awhile, after I allow the dream/reality connection to wear off, I consider my mother's real nature (as opposed to my unconscious interpretation of it). She was "in control," always. Her awareness, her sense of reality dominated the family's existence. Although I can remember rare days when she'd come home from work and isolate herself in her bedroom, overwhelmed with stress, those times were rare, and she typically presented an attitude of complete and utter no-nonsense aptitude.

When early on while still in a fairly primal state I reject in kind my mother's "inattention" (for lack of a better word), I also unwittingly reject her sense of control; yet I then need it all the more. I try to establish a substitute control of my own, an 'anal' control, a defiance, against my mother, against her society (thus I become a rebel), a control against her control. In other words, I abandon a life strategy that she is competent at (a socially consensual strategy) and which I could have easily assimilated, and so I must then find my own life strategy, which turns out to be of a secondary nature. [This analysis examines the material only from my point of view. In fact, her control may be every bit as neurotic as mine is, but from my point of view (now; unconsciously--until now) it is a realized (by her) ideal (of mine)].

In the dream (subconsciously) I am in awe of my mother's ability to control the "environment" via her driving skill, taxiing us through it (the same dream environment that is later "mapped onto" my present waking environment; or more correctly, that is realized after awakening as having been mapped in the dream, because it is theoretically continually being mapped, in the sleep/dream state and while awake) and of the dominance of her will to make it all happen. She would not have it any other way, at least within our immediate family. It was an a priori condition, and her rare temper tantrums, I think, were a result of her inability to establish this same kind of unconscious domination out beyond the family, at her job. Socially, however (i.e., apart from home and work), she seemed quite able to relinquish the control--although maybe not, really; maybe it was a compromise she made with herself, in order to be "sociable"; she symbolically continued the script/agenda by being the consummate housewife/hostess, requiring herself to be totally prepared to receive guests into her home and being completely attentive to them, at the expense of her own immediate family, who were expected to adopt her catering role and treat guests as royalty, which established her as the "queen" of hostesses. This is the major attitude that I rebelled against (and still do, to this day). I am a lousy host. If you visit me, it's because you want to see me, I automatically surmise, and so why should I go to the trouble of making you comfortable. It's you who should be making me comfortable. You're the one who wants my attention. [This is projection: I'm the one who wants attention, but can neither admit it or nor allow it so much.]

The Chinese concept of "ta" now comes to mind: I can take this whole matter (of mother-rejection) (somewhat) casually now because I (better) understand it.

As I'm heading out the door today on my way to the food store, I hear the little neighbor girl next door emit one of her high-pitched squeals. So, as I leave the neighborhood, driving along, I analyze the motivation behind why little girls squeal like they do. It's a complicated psychology I decide, dependent upon several factors:

  1. They first learn the behavior by accident, when their motivation is genuine, that is, when they are frightened and the squeal occurs spontaneously. But thereafter, realizing what they're capable of, the psychology becomes more complicated.
  2. It develops in a less sincere direction when they encounter no resistance to their squeals, no authoritative reprimand. They do it because they can, because they seem to be allowed to, and because it gets them attention, from (male) playmates and from non-authoritative adults, whom, they intuitively realize, they may ignore.
  3. Women authority figures tend not to act to squelch the irritating behavior because they recognize in it the plaintive plight of the female in society, an expression they themselves would like to have as a part of their vocal repertoire, except that they have grown up beyond such juvenile behavior, some of them. (The ones who still insist upon squealing inappropriately at every little supposed fright, have never decided that they need to grow up.) The ones who have "grown up" transform the infantile squeal into something more adult (if not mature). It evolves into one of two basic forms:
    • a whine, usually heard amid wheedling and/or mildly complaining language, as when they are trying to get something that they didn't earn and/or deserve, like a gift, not for services rendered or payment in kind, but just because they are who they are, superior sorts of beings, like you would offer a sacrifice to a deity. We all know the type.
    • a bitch/nag, as when they will let the verbiage pour out, on and on, with that tiny hint of suppressed squeal running along in an undercurrent, barely detectable. We all know this type too. In fact, are their any types of women other than these two, regression in stressful situations being what it is? Maybe. But I'm going to have to wrack my brain very hard to think of them and I don't want to work that hard right now.


I'm out on the back patio again on a perfect summer morning. Deep blue sky. Deep green trees. It's summer. I celebrate the season. Yesterday as I drove along on the way to the store, the summer attitude hit me full force. I reveled in it's glory, that feeling of freedom that becomes so obvious when, for example, you have a day off work that is not a holiday, when everyone else is working away, and it's bright and sunny out, and everything feels perfectly free.

[Each time the laptop (the Lotus Write software, to be literal) interrupts my writing to auto-save to the floppy (every ten minutes), I redirect my attention to that other environment, the one that contains the world, the one with sun and trees and birdsong and locust buzzing; and each time I'm amazed at the discrepancy between the two very different worlds that I am: internal, where I compose my thoughts and which, while I am "working," I close completely off from the external one, where I am more relaxed and universal, less specifically applied to a narrow task. This discrepancy is not so obvious when I work inside. The house is a symbol for my mind, as I will readily recognize in dreams, so that awakening into it out of the creative writing state is like awakening into a similar place. But outdoors, the difference is profound, more like awakening out of a dream. There's something important to be said for the great outdoors, but I can't think of exactly what it is at the moment. Maybe it's the fact that it's closer to nature. (Actually, it is nature; but then, so is the indoors. But you know what I mean.) Maybe it's as simple as the outdoors is more like another dream that you wake up out of into.]

Last night I went outside at ten p.m. and sat on the front porch just before I went to bed and I saw Mars rising above the horizon. At least I think it was Mars. It looked red. I guess it could have been Venus, because it was where Venus usually is, and I thought I'd heard that Mars was in the southwest in the evening. So, I could be wrong. It did look awfully big; but then it's supposed to be, isn't it, being so close to us now as it is?

Anyway, seeing the planet (it was definitely a planet; I got out my big binocs and checked it out and it was round, unlike a star) made me want to observe the stars, so I went out back where the lights from the street are subdued and I sat in contemplation for about fifteen minutes. I forget this kind of experience, not being out in nature the way I used to be all the time when I was younger. Everyone should live within "nature" always. (Actually, they do, but they are never more aware of it as when they are outdoors--among trees; and out of the city.) It improves the disposition and settles the overactive mind. All of those stars out there and way back when. (The light we see was emitted a long long time ago. When we look at the stars, we look into the past.) At a certain point contemplation of the heavens short circuits the power of reason and we go out of minds for a while.

You spend all this time thinking, meditating, contemplating, learning all these word meanings, developing the subtlety of your thought process, accumulating variations on life's lessons, discovering how to live sanely among the insanity, stupidity, and ignorance that characterizes the developing world, only to end up dying and leaving so very little of what you have become for posterity, if anyone at all cares to take advantage of the little bit you've left behind. I mean, what's the point? I know the answer; I'm just having a hard time accepting it: you do it to advance the human race, the pinnacle of universal awareness. You in particular may have little or no influence, but overall, given the nature of humanity and life in general, the net result is that a voluminous record is left behind, which future (human) lifeforms draw upon to advance the thought even further. Any one instance of life and thought and advanced conjecture may be a dead end, but the accumulation of all life gets transmitted into the future.

But I don't care about all that. I'm a selfish egoist. (Is that redundant?) I see such a waste if everything I experience is not continued on as a permanent record, if not a continuing awareness. This experience has been too valuable, to me, to allow it to fall away, unused, after I will die. The simple awareness of life alone, experiencing the profuse pleasure of summer nature, seems like such a great loss--although many people, no doubt, will experience that, in every generation. But the developed knowledge, the tome of learning from this particular point of view that I am, will be lost forever. How sad--for me. But how great for humanity, that knowledge generally continues on.


I fell asleep at eleven last night. I awaken out of a deep sleep to the sound of breaking glass, again and again. I can't understand what's happening. I struggle to fully awaken, to return to normal consciousness. Waking reality, which is very much with me, is like a dream, escaped from where it naturally belongs. Light shines into the bedroom through the kitchen from outside. I think "It can't be morning." The clock indicates that it is 3:10. But it's light out! Lots of voices and clanging and pounding noises in what seems to my immediate neighbor's backyard. I get up to see what's happening. Fire trucks. One of them has a huge pole raised with a gigantic light on top that illuminates the neighborhood as if it is day. Another such light pole has been set up in the backyard of my next door neighbor's house. Smoke billows out of that house through the living room window. A burning sofa sits on the front lawn. I hurry to dress and get outside. A fire next door is something that you don't observe from inside your house. As I walk down the front steps, Steve rushes over from across the street to greet me. He's all excited and talks rapidly, explaining how he was sleeping with the tv on when...etc. I surmise that it's the same well-rehearsed story that he's used on every neighbor who has gotten out of bed to see the spectacle. We talk for a while, and then he goes off to greet other people. I walk up into the backyard to observe the scene from another perspective. The whole house had been involved. It looks like every room has been burned out. The roof is vented, but the fire doesn't seem to have gotten up to and through it. I go back out front and stand around for about an hour. Terry comes out to the street, so I go down and talk to him for a while. Then the firemen start to roll up their hoses and put away their equipment, so I go back inside. I'm not tired at all. No sense in going back to sleep. An hour or so later, I hear voices outside. It's the fire marshal, an old high school friend of mine. I wait until it gets light and I go next door and talk to him for a while. He asks me if I'm still writing. I tell him, yeah, I am. We exchange a few more comments and engage in some minor badinage, and then he goes back to his investigation and I go back inside. And that's about it, just another day now, early in the morning. Guess I won't have any more new neighbors moving in next door for a while.

I'm thinking back to my brief talk with the fire marshal. When I meet people from my past whom I haven't seen for a while, the conversation always seems to go awkwardly. [There are exceptions.] Although I recognize my contribution to this process, I observe subtle cues that indicate that it is not entirely my behavior. There is an awkwardness on their part too, perhaps prompted by their (unconscious) perception of mine, but perhaps (at least partly) vice versa. In other words, it's somewhat mutual behavior.

I've been thinking lately (as a continuation of a program I used to pursue a long time ago, all but abandoned when I stopped "working" for a living) that I should be an expert at avoiding these kinds of awkward moments, that I know too much to be ill-at-ease in conversation. But I lack the practice, and previous advances I had made in this art have atrophied with disuse.

I had been starting to become fairly comfortable with "social" (they're not really all that social if they're practiced) skills, specifically approach and approachability, friendliness, and "interviewing" skills (talk about them, not myself, etc.) [which, by the way, I failed at earlier with Steve and Terry out in the street. I never think to practice these skills when I have the opportunity. On "social" occasions, I tend to go with the flow and let others take the lead, which is okay; but last night, probably because the whole event took me well off-guard, I kept interjecting remarks about how I had reacted, awakening out of a deep sleep, and about what my perceptions had been, trying to place my reactions above theirs.] But it's been a long time since I've been out hob-nobbing with "sociable" people.

I consider the conversation with my old buddy, the Fire Marshall in light of what I've been reading about (and by) Norman Mailer, who characterizes himself in The Armies of the Night as somewhat of an introvert, despite all documented evidence to the contrary; or at least he considers himself far more "sensitive" than allowed by public perception, which wants to label him as a callous, insensitive lout and leave it at that.

But apparently he suffers from the same kinds of doubt and insecurity in social situations as I (and many others) do--in fact, as everyone does, as a result of the early years of life when we begin to differentiate ourselves, from others; but some of us ease through that period and learn fairly sophisticated ways of smoothing over the rough and awkward edges of personal difference, while others of us struggle with it all our lives. But I wouldn't have thought that such a dignitary as Norman Mailer was one of us, rather than one of "them." I should have thought it, given the man's proletariat nature--but I didn't.

In Armies Mailer describes his meetings with Robert Lowell, Dwight MacDonald, academic liberals in general, et al., as less than spontaneous, punctuated by fits and starts, and stops, and pauses, and self-interruptions so as to prevent revealing too much, or becoming too intimate, or...just like we normal people who have to live in an ordinary world filled with all of the doubt and insecurity that more "polished" people (like we tend to think that novelists and poets are supposed to be) avoid, inherently, via a more congenitally advanced state of being, or via early training.

Of course, this is merely a prejudice of mine; but it's one of my favorites. I like to think that there are people in the world who are naturally free or artificially delivered from this kind of doubt and insecurity--people other than politicians, that is. Because we all know that politicians only do it for the votes. But this is the problem: we all only do it, when we do, for the "votes." The world (of business, or politics, or whatever) is one big popularity contest, and the slickest, most unctuous people always win it, especially the ones who are so slick that they appear to be natural and not slick at all. In fact, it's their very doubt and insecurity, which is perhaps far greater than that of ordinary folk, that drives them to become slick in the first place, as compensation, in order to overcome the ontological malady that afflicts us all.

Whatever can be said of Mailer, in criticism or in praise, slick he is not. I don't remember his style the way I am finding it now. I don't remember it as rambling so much. In fact, I don't remember it rambling at all. I have this (erroneous) impression that he has been a completely "precise" (i.e., anal) writer, like, say, Hemingway. He's an accurate writer, usually. [Sometimes he strays off of accepted grammatical paths, but obviously intentionally. And sometimes, quite often in fact in Armies, he runs his sentences on and on in long adjectival listings and multiplicities of compound/complex sentences, using commas, conjunctions, and dashes in the best tradition of later postmod writers, instead of periods and semicolons (which he also uses quite frequently, as much a throwback to a turn-of-the-century style as the run-on style is a foreshadow of the later one); and he creates long paragraphs, sometimes extending out to a page or more instead of breaking them up into short and pithy segments like the minimalist-tending Modernists say that you should.] Which makes him a 'good' writer. But is he as 'great' as he says he is? Or, more to the point, am I? I'm highly accurate. I even used to be quite precise, although I faltered and began to ramble, which makes me think that I could be better than I actually have been believing, if Mailer writes this way. And I am as topical as Mailer has been, except that my topics are more postmodern and/or personal whereas Mailer, despite a lot of his content, is far more immersed in the modernist tradition, and yet paradoxically personal. (Probably, he has been a writer on the fringe between those two categories.)

I may yet become known as a good writer of prose (which, of course, is a matter for others to decide; and yet, Mailer is a self-defined great writer, so why can't I self-define myself as, at least, good. This has always been a problem with me: I will not promote myself, which philosophy I consider more of a virtue than a vice). But when it comes to that other, more lyrical form of expression, I'm quite the poetaster11. Mailer is a self-deprecating poet too--or he had been. Did he give it up altogether? I'd like to, but I can't. But there's no need for anyone to subject others to their less than adequate expressions, just because they can. Is there? Well, I guess there is, at that. It's called ego.

When I say I'm a good writer, what I'm really saying is "I feel that what I think and feel is so important that I have taken a lot of time to develop the skill to communicate it well in written words." I think that maybe Mailer expresses this same feeling when he says that he's a great writer. He's great, whereas I'm just good, because his ego's bigger than mine is.

Addendum #1: Mailer often uses which when he could have used that, although this may be more a matter of 'old style' usage than of conscious decision. I should check out some of his more recent works to see if he's switched since Armies. I've changed over in this regard. But maybe I shouldn't have. Maybe I should have held out. I mean, after all, Norman Mailer does it.

Addendum #2: I've just learned that Mailer has recently published a book of poetry.


I don't avoid associating with certain people because I hate them or anything. [The list grows longer every year: old associates, neighbors, my sister-in-law; even my brother is on my tentative list. I don't actually avoid him--yet. I'll always return his phone calls. He's family after all, and that's a different thing; but there's a family script (between my father and my uncle)--but that's a different thing too, and I've written of it before] It doesn't have anything so much to do with them at all; it has to do with me. I'm protecting myself, against their unconscious machinations (and against my vulnerabilities--to them and their types).

The above is the idea that I wake up out of a dream with--again and again, perhaps all of my life--without so much realizing it, yet unwittingly setting out to realize it as I translate my dream life into reality.

A feeling in my chest, that certain warmth that you feel when something, in this case summer, gets to you, gets to me. I find myself wanting to believe that this is an advanced form of being, an affect we graduate to after we have sufficiently lived long enough to acquire a kind of wisdom; but it's not. It is in fact quite primitive. Any child can feel it readily at a very early age (most do), and any adult who has not been overly conditioned as a child can feel it too. Regaining the lost affect of youth is decidedly not development; it is merely catching up.

I have not been without this feeling during my adult life; that is, it had not been conditioned out of me--in childhood. But I forget about it often enough as an adult, so that I guess it could be said that my life/work/career has "programmed" (not conditioned; I can call it up whenever I will think of it) me away from the experience.

This is that kind of experience that women will maintain is an advanced form of being; that is, feeling. This is the attitude I automatically at first today adopted toward this feeling in me when it occurred, because we have become a female-oriented society--not that that is a bad thing, per se; but (some) women want it all, now that they have tasted "freedom," at the expense of the freedom and dignity of men. Because they can't accept the fact that thought is a specialized form of feeling, (some) women do not admit that it is the advancement. Yeah, certain feelings are nicer than many thoughts; but they are more primitive. As a species, we were feeling beings long before we ever cerebrated.

I sit here and enjoy the summer breeze. I am affected by it. I am at my best in summer, my most versatile time of the year, when far more of my own internal self is available to be called upon, absent the winter chill that forces me to remain cut off. The winter, more than the machinations of "sociable" people, programs me into a cerebral state of mind. Summer tends to call me out of it.

Later, the sky becomes overcast. So, no longer feeling the imperative to relax in the sun, I go out front with a hammer and knock the old railing top off the left front of the porch, because it's bowed badly and getting more bowed every day, with the topper rail being forced higher while the guide rail below it drops lower down the upright at its right. I knock the railing and its topper apart and begin to reinstall them, awkwardly struggling with the twelve-foot long two-by-fours as I tentatively position them. Jody, sitting out on his front porch, yells over to me, asking me if I want some help. But I tell him, no, I'm okay, but I tell him I'll let him know if I change my mind. I probably could use some help, but I'm too goddamned stubborn. I want to do it myself, because no one, dammit, need do anything for me. I'm self-sufficient (I always automatically want to think). Actually, I might have accepted his offer if I had known exactly how I was going to go about re-installing the railing. But since I didn't and wanted to plan it out first, I declined his offer.

After I excogitate a while, I decide that I have to build a temporary holding platform on each upright from the deck to hold the guide rail in place. (Each two-by-four of the railing is impossible to hold in place and nail at the same time.) And I have to nail a stay to the front of one of the uprights to keep the two by four from falling to the driveway below. Eventually, with enough planning and preparation, I get the guide rail into place and nail it down. Everything goes pretty easily, except that the damn sun comes out soon after I start and stays out the whole time I'm working (and goes back behind clouds half an hour after I am done), and I just hate working in the sun. I'm probably going to have to replace that top rail. It was so bowed and deteriorated that when I bend it back into place, it starts to crumble away at the end. It doesn't look all that great, but it looks a whole lot better than it did.

Later, I walk out front and see the completed project from the street. I'd turned the bottom two by four around so that the bad side was not facing toward the street, and as a result, owing to the bow in the board, the top board was not centered on it. But I went ahead and nailed it in anyway. Now, as I see it from the street, it looks very obviously misaligned. Oh well. It's not like it's new wood. The stuff is falling apart anyway. Who knows how much longer it's going to last? And even from the street it still looks a whole lot better than it did.


The sky is overcast but punctuated with small patches of blue where the occasional sun shines through. A front is supposed to come through this afternoon. Last night's weather report said it'd be here by midnight, but it never arrived, which is fortunate because I'd become then engrossed on the computer by the front cover art for my new chapbook and I lost track of the time. At four a.m. I remembered that...

Wait a minute. I could be doing this outside instead of hanging out here in this hot and humid house, feeling all sticky with the fan blowing on me, but unable to blow the stickiness off. Hold on. I'm moving out.

Okay. I'm outside now. But the sky doesn't look so good and maybe it will rain soon after all. Coming out here may not have been such a good idea. But wait. Suddenly the sun is out again.

Anyway, last night at four a.m. I remember that I left my laptop and my tote bag with all of my supplies out back, so I hurry up and go and get them, thankful that weathermen are so frequently wrong, because even if it had rained, I probably wouldn't have remembered the stuff was out there until it was too late.

Now, the overcast day, with the sun selectively shining through small openings so that if you look out across the lawns you can see sunlight patches on the ground while you are in the shade of clouds, sort of looks like Close Encounters when the spaceship flies over in the dark, illuminating patches of ground with its brilliant eerie light; but it looks more like Hawaii, as I remember it, in the winter when it rains and the sun shines at the same time. That's the memory that's been affectively bugging me that I haven't been able to call forth until now. This day feels just like that. Winter in Hawaii. Except that it's hot and sticky, and Hawaii in the winter is quite pleasant--except to the natives, some of whom run around in heavy winter coats when it's fifty-five degrees outside.

The contrasting elements of sun and clouds create a hazy atmosphere that hangs everywhere around and wraps you up like a warm coat on a hot day, and in the distance it imparts a niveous tiffany to the landscape, as if it were a finely bejeweled desert with mirages of trees and buildings. If this were early morning, it would all be fog.

The neighbor kids, twins, the boy now a bit taller than the girl so that they don't look so much like twins any more, play, quietly for a change, in their back yard two houses to the south. They huddle together over some curiosity, probably an unusual bug of some sort, which the boy pokes a stick at while the girl looks on, crouched in her loose-fitting, non-descript, pinafore-like dress that is probably a hand-me-down from a relative or a purchase from someplace like Goodwill or Saint Vincent de Paul. She looks like an acolytic orphan of one of those mini-cults, like Pamela Smart maybe, dressed to look ordinary, but standing out all the more because of her attire.

The wind is picking up, which feels good, but it portends a change, finally--I hope. This hasn't been so long of a heat and humidity wave; not like the last one. But it is even more unwelcome because it took me by surprise, coming less than a week after the last one broke. I was just starting to get into the warm but dry weather. You can't always get what you want, but who needs this sticky shit?


Got sidetracked (anti-suckhole) into trying to figure out why the CD player in the old 486SX won't work--when I took the side panel off of it to see why the machine wouldn't boot. (Must have been a loose buss; it started working after I 'jiggled' it.) I tracked the problem down to (I think) a missing driver. (The drive has never worked since I took it out of my brother's old computer years ago and installed in it my own. But electrically, it works fine, so I've been assuming that it's a software problem, which seems to be confirmed by the error messages.)

Anyway, that shot most of the evening and what started this afternoon out on the back porch to be a highly productive day fizzled into an evening of video games while listening to the BBC on the Net. I'm going to try to salvage tomorrow by biting the bullet and cutting off my extreme sugar intake in favor of protein and working hard outside cutting up all the wood that's piling up in my driveway (compliments of my neighbor Steve, the landscaper).


Didn't go to sleep until seven-thirty this morning. Tried to crash earlier, but just couldn't manage to shut off my mind. So I did the next best thing: I watched a taped movie: The Fourth Protocol. Not bad, for a cold war type spy flick.

Now I'm out on the back porch after having did a minor bit of sunbathing to increase my vitamin D levels and darken my skin a bit before winter whitening sets in again. Don't know if I'm going to actualize my plans to cut up some wood. Got a lot of stuff to do here on the laptop and some motivation to do it.


A physical (or physiological?) realization that fall is approaching and winter is close behind inevitably prompts in me thoughts of (my) death, which in turn spark pangs of general anxiety. Could that be what my anxiety has always been, a simple fear of death? But, no. It hardly exists at all in comparison to the way it used to, full blown and mostly repressed [or maybe it is still repressed (or rather, re-repressed; or better repressed under the guise of a pseudo-therapy); and maybe ignored is a better word for the past condition, because I knew was scared, of a lot of things, when I was young, but I never paid any real conscious attention to it] when I was a kid (when death was the farthest thing from my mind) and steeled against...against what? Against having to face up to and confront society. Against having to relate. Against having to deal with people in order to assure my existence (or, earlier, in order to fulfill the expectations of my parents, particularly my mother), all of which can be interpreted, I guess, as a fear of death, but I never gave death a thought, back then, when I was young. And yet, we can fear death (Thanatos) without being conscious of it.

General anxiety, whatever specific form it will take in your life, is ultimately, I think, a fear of death, which is a fear of impotence at being unable to competently deal with the forces that might rail against you. But the operational word here is 'might.' Yeah, you might die, you might be taken ill, you might be hurt, or defamed, or ridiculed, or... Thanatos is an ultimate explanation, but it is not a cause. The cause lies elsewhere, in the immediate psychology of the individual whose libido is assailed by the formative coercions that twist us into whatever and create our personalities.

I see two nearly opposite colorations of the concept of personality here. In the positive sense, which has been my primary conscious focus throughout my life, personality is an entity to be celebrated; it is who I am, with the twisted self being all but ignored. In the more negative, Freudian sense, personality is the twisting itself, the neurosis, the way that we have been distorted, departed from the true and proper course of what a life should be toward a deviant set of behaviors that are only more or less correct, depending upon our particular psychology and circumstances. In my life, this latter concept, which I generally (have) ignore(d), takes the form of a generalized anxiety, to which I will assign specific "causes" as the facts of my life play out.

I awaken out of a dream (of course) with all of the above ideas popping sequentially into mind: I'm dropping off a friend at home. (Norman, but it started out as having been John Mongi.) We are in my van driving along the parkway heading east toward the Penn Hills exit after a night out. It's eleven p.m., but Norm lives way up north, almost an hour's drive away. When we get there, inside his house, he asks if I want to stay the night, but I tell him no. I don't like to sleep in places other than my own bed. (I don't tell him that second part, but think it to myself; or rather, I feel it, like a motivation, a driving force that makes me determined to "secure" myself, a defense against anxiety.) The house becomes Rita's [in that recurrent way it has in dreams of morphing itself into different houses, similar in "tone," but with significant physical variations, all of which seem to have something to do with downstairs living room, dining room, and kitchen (what else is there?) and an extensive (several floors) upstairs matrix of rooms] and Norman becomes Rita. He/she goes to bed, and I am left alone. Upstairs and in other rooms downstairs I can hear people moving around (R's mother/sisters/aunts, fat women who make a lot of noise with heavy footfalls and creaking floors as they move--some of this happens later, the next morning, after I've returned several times to this house and they are preparing to get up and go to work, always seeming like they will be coming downstairs, so that I think not to leave lest they discover me in the act of leaving and think I am being furtive, trying to get out of the house without being "discovered," which is exactly what I am doing; but they never arrive downstairs, and so I will finally make my escape--ultimately by awakening), but I never see anyone except Norm's younger brother/sister, who is (a bit) concerned for me in his/her juvenile, innocent, and ultimately less than empathetic way as he/she tries to help me out with directions, which are ineffectual. I keep leaving the house, having trouble with the keys to my van (some of them are broken or distorted (symbol of the personality--see which, earlier) and thus unable to be used to start the truck [the personality accesses the physical "mode of transportation," which is a symbol of my "security," my defense against anxiety, my "freedom" within society, my ability to move around in it without becoming stuck (trapped) somewhere]; but I gloss over this impediment and get the thing started anyway, even though most of the times that I exit the house (another impediment) it's not even there. [This is the old recurrent "I can't find my car" theme, indicative of a loss of control, being without a means of transportation and thus being trapped in an insecure place and left to the mercy of fate; i.e., to the whims of nature and machinations of society, of having to respond to things as they happen in the immediate moment, instead of being in the "secure" situation of having planned ahead so that I'm prepared for "emergencies" (spontaneous occurrences). The van was my old Dodge van, owned at a time when I was probably most consciously anxious; a fortiori to be used as a base of operations away from home, stocked with emergency supplies and equipment, and seen as a means of survival if circumstances turned against me. This is all, as I see it now, a great ongoing battle between preparedness and spontaneity, two ideals I hold in more or less equal esteem, but the former being more practically important to me as I am required to live in a physical and social world. Thus, I define my circumstances: being spontaneous is a fine ideal, but when it comes to the security/anxiety issue, it's secondary. It's an advancement, a place where I would like to get to one day, but only if I can (permanently) resolve the security/anxiety issue.] I start and restart out from Norm/Rita's house, looking for Rte 60/69, the simple, single road that goes--though winding around through the hills, yet still--straight back to my own home; but I can't find it. [I'm lost, even though I know exactly where I am.] [Walking through my house in the morning, taking a brief break from typing this out, taking my coffee cup back to the sink (putting it where it belongs, maintaining order), I look around and am pleased with the relatively orderly arrangement and with, as I remember it, all of the wood that I cut up and stored in the shed yesterday, all of this as a counterpoint to the security/anxiety "problem" [or as a compensation for it; it was only the shortest, smallest twinge, hardly at all noticeable so that I could have entirely ignored it; but as I am discovering through the rendering of this dream, it is rather elaborately drawn out in the unconscious] that I am in the process of documenting. Doing things, putting things in order, finishing uncompleted projects, is a defense against anxiety.] Again and again I start out, taking a different road each time, making a different turn from the first main intersection at the bottom of the hill to N/R's house, traveling through small towns and/or along lonely deserted country highways; but I never find my way back home. Thus I awaken, feeling the anxiety. I did not get back home in my dream. I am insecure.

My defense against anxiety is "control": writing out this material in order to better comprehend it and, in a more rigorous frame of mind, to analyze and interpret it; directed action to "order" my immediate environment, physically and/or mentally (scheduling, do lists, etc.). I get out of bed, continuing my resolve of the previous few days to whip the house and grounds back into an orderly arrangement before the onset of winter, especially to get all of the wood cut and organize the woodshed, because natural gas prices continue to rise and are expected to be double by mid-winter and I will probably need all of the accumulated wood this winter in order to stay warm (secure) while maintaining low heating expenses.

There's a groundhog that's been around here for years. It used to live up underneath my large shed, but last year I noticed that it moved in under the front porch, having excavated a hole beneath the concrete slab. (It's probably warmer there in winter with residual heat from the house.)

This morning as I'm typing I hear a scratching outside the window in the side yard. I try to ignore it, but it goes on for long enough that I have to get up and look. It's coming from inside the (now empty) concrete pool. I wait patiently by the window until the groundhog reaches its head up above the side of the pool to a point where I can see it. I'm downwind of it (I can feel the breeze coming through the open window), so I know it can't smell me; but I think it sees me as it freezes, staring straight at me, although I'm not certain, because I think that certain animals may have a difficult time distinguishing motionless human forms behind windows with screens.

I think this because I had a dog who used to hang out in the side yard and never see me watching him. He would sneak over to the woodpile and select a stick to chew on, which I forbade him to do, because then he'd come in the house and regurgitate wood chips all over the place.

So, one day, as I watched him through the window, he edged his way over to the wood pile as if he were not intending to go there, looking around to see if I were anywhere about watching, even looking directly at the window several times and apparently not noticing me standing motionless there in plain view, and eventually (go ahead and try to tell me that dogs don't plan ahead or possess a superego) he gets close enough to select a stick and lie down on the grass and begin to chew it. Just as he does this, I yell "Hey!" and he jumps up, abandoning the stick, and darts across to the other side of the yard.

So, I have to conclude that the groundhog can't see me standing at the window either, although it may sense a presence, I think, by the way it keeps looking over in my direction. I'd like to think that it's comfortable enough with me that if it saw me it'd go along its merry way, being cautious perhaps, but not otherwise disturbed. But it's not true. Whenever it sees me in the yard, it makes a beeline (hogline?) for its den.

But today, I'm able to observe him clearly from only about ten feet away as it eats apples in the pool that have dropped down from the tree, and as it jumps up onto the side of the pool to try to get to the apples still on the tree that it sniffs at out of its reach above its head. It jumps up on the concrete fountain, up each of three tiers to the top, but it still can't reach them.

I've never had the opportunity to observe a groundhog up close. I never realized how much they look like beavers, even down to the buckteeth, which this one fully displays as it raises its nose to sniff above its head. Its avoirdupois body is well prepared for winter, owing to its sinecure as the resident mammal. Nature provides it with a benefice that humans, at least in modern society, have to work a lot harder for. But then, we are more demanding in our expectations of what nature (in the form of social rewards) should supply. Society, which tends to be a better provider, has replaced raw nature (which we humans used to think of as a god) as our source of sustenance. But society's cost is higher. We have to work longer hours at thankless, unfulfilling jobs, and a lot of the work, being non-physical, is stress-producing; and society's components (people), twisted out of their "natural" orientation, can be terrible taskmasters.

I'm experiencing a conflict (a typical summer phenomenon) between wanting to work on writing projects (I have a number of them lined up and ready for publication, if only I could get to them to put on the final touches) and working outside, physically, repairing and remodeling or simply cutting wood. I love to do this kind of physical work, and it's good for me, reducing the stress that (re)writing seems to produce (when things will not go exactly right, which can be at times fairly frequent; whereas the initial act of writing is stress-relieving, a therapy method where I pour out all the content boiling within, like I'm doing now, so as to relieve myself of its burden. [Freudian typo: relive instead of relieve.] (Re-writing, then, is a reconstruction of that content into a form that is more accurately reflective of the original content before it was (unintentionally?) distorted by the act of writing, a process that tends to reaffirm the original pathology that inspired it, although not quite, since it can be quite satisfying to see it outlined so precisely).

So, I try to write in the mornings and work physically in the afternoons; but I don't seem to get to the writing projects so often as I'd like to (because I must first write, and then edit what I'd written the day before, and then I have to post my abstracted journal work to the website; and only then am I free to work on developing projects--if I don't choose to do somethng else instead), not like I do in the winter when I have the (indoor) time (but not so much of the motivation), so that I get some projects finished, but not so many as I would if I worked at it full time in the summer. Each season has its drawbacks, and I seem to play to them in season as opposed to playing to their strengths--at least when it comes to writing. Oh well, nothing's perfect. Too bad.

My brother, the last time I saw him a month or so ago, questioned my perception that the terrorism that we are currently experiencing in the world and our reaction to it is actually World War Three in progress. So to try to make this idea more precisely clear, I begin to document a collection of world hot spots as they seem to apply to this concept. Excluded are places like Liberia, which are local disputes and do not seem to be related to the developing global conflict (although escalation and/or infiltration may change their nature in the future). Here's a beginning list that I'll add to as I encounter more examples:

  • Palestine (of course)
  • Indonesia (Bali, East Timor, etc.)
  • India/Kashmir
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Chechnya
  • NYC (a one-time shot, so far)
  • discrete bombings/incidents in First-World countries

Iraq is becoming the new lead battleground in the war against terrorism as Islamic militants are being drawn there - a situation more favorable to the United States than having to battle terror at home.
Talking heads debate the claim that the administration became involved in Iraq specifically for the purpose of stirring up dissent and revolt among the Arabs. Conservatives defend the President by maintaining that the backlash that U.S. troops are currently experiencing in Iraq was not, as many Democrats contend, expected and planned for. "Critics" charge that strategists intended to become bogged down in a Vietnam-like quagmire so that Arab dissidents would focus attention on Iraq, thus redirecting hostility away from the U.S. mainland. This situation in Iraq is an intentional effect, they say. Iraq has been seen from the beginning as a major battleground in the war on terror, a surrogate country, the weakest link in the Arabian "confederation," where a war with terrorists could be precipitated. The administration has successfully engaged the enemy, far from home, to prevent their resources from being dedicated here.

Whether this theory is true or not, the administration looks good. Either way. If it was intended, well, it may not have been so above-board a thing to do, but this is war, man. If it is unintended, the effect may not be unwelcome, if the spin is applied correctly. And it seems like that's what going on. The "charge" may not be so much of a criticism as a spin. Republican sleepers may be seeding the gossip mill so that the admin can reap the benefits of having "protected" the homeland by sending our boys out to do battle with the enemy in a foreign land, stopping them short of our shores. Cool. I'll buy it, whether we planned it all along or not. It's a big point in Bush's favor. What better way to use the army (the fascist military machine) than to have them over there fighting for our safety here. It may be a strategy or it may be spin, but it is sound politics. We should send the CIA and the FBI over there too. Ashcroft could be their general.


This afternoon, as I'm finishing up my computer work and preparing to go outside, I notice a plethora of flies at the side window of the office. I begin to swat them as I wonder why there are so many. And then I notice that they abound at the front window too. So I decide that there are too many, that I'll have to go down to the basement to get the bug spray. I look forward to the carnage that is to follow. Meanwhile I walk into the kitchen and discover as many flies at the large side window. What the hell is going on? Where are all these flies coming from? I thought I sealed this house up tight from bugs (to protect myself from West Nile, et al.)

A past incident pops into my agile brain: the dog (Slim) once killed a rabbit and, because I used to leave the screen door open for him so that he could go in and out at will, unbeknownst to me he dragged the carcass into the house and concealed it under the couch where he settled in to guard it against forces (me) that would take it away from him. It lay under there for several days as I noticed the strange habit he'd suddenly developed of crawling under the couch whenever I was in the room, and even growling if I got too close. But since he was not an ordinary dog, given at times to somewhat neurotic behavior anyway, I ignored this manifestation, until I began to detect a foul odor that seemed over the next day or so to be getting worse. Well, to make a longer story somewhat longer, I finally found the rotting carcass populated with maggots in the chest cavity, which had been torn open by the dog, probably at the time of the kill. I carried it out back and heaved it over the back fence where he couldn't get at it, while he followed happily along, after he decided that his initial defense of it was doomed to failure when I pulled him from under the couch and ejected him from the room.

This image of developing maggots haunts me now. So many flies can only mean that there is a pullulation in a dead carcass lying somewhere in the house out of sight. In my best canine manner, I begin a search to sniff it out. I think I detect an odor in the dining room/office. I pull out furniture, expecting to discover a disgusting sight. Nothing. I begin to think I imagine the odor that I smell. If it exists at all, it's definitely subtle enough to have missed if I weren't looking for it.

I go down to the basement and get the bug spray and dispatch the flies with pleasure, watching hoards of them twist and writhe and try unsuccessfully to fly away. Over the course of the day I accumulate at least fifty, maybe even as many as a hundred dead fly bodies on the sills of the office and kitchen. That many flies had to have come from somewhere sinister. I check the garbage, thinking I may have thrown a piece of meat in there. Nothing. This mystery may soon be resolved; or it may not. Two or three years from now I may be doing a complete house cleaning (don't hold your breath) and discover the desiccated skin and skeletal remains of an animal that somehow found it's way into the house, perhaps the neighbor's old cat or a diseased raccoon. Living in the wilds of suburbia can be a uncertain existence.

Between the rains I managed to get the driveway completely cleaned up--except of course for the old Toyota pickup that I've got to get hauled away one of these days (soon). I moved all the wood to the back in preparation for cutting and chopping it into firewood. It's a somewhat perplexing decision to have to make each time I go to cut up wood into firewood. How scrofulous does a piece of wood have to be before it becomes scrapped as firewood as opposed to being saved as construction material? It's not so difficult to determine which wood is good for primary construction; but less than prime pieces may be useful for things like landscaping timbers, shed reinforcement, etc.

I also moved all of the old wooden fence, which my brother had brought over years ago for me to burn, up behind the large shed, where I stacked it neatly so that it would be out of the way and as compact as possible. Maybe I'll reconstruct it later across the back of the property, or maybe I'll just cut it up and burn it. The driveway looks great now, devoid of the refuse and swept clean.

Processing the Past
(a failed poem)

I spend a lot of time, alone, wondering, what happened to the life that I had led that seems no longer to exist, except that it remains, encoded as brain engrams resistant to the pretermission I abhor. I hate this about my self, that I can forget my past for long periods of time (being after all only discrete moments) and then encounter vestiges of it that seem immediately relevant, yet neglected. These vestigial foments spread as combers across my waiting time, creating present content from the manque I thought I had become, macadamizing the rough and dirty road I'd plowed up years ago.


More flies today, as many as yesterday. But the odor, if there actually were one, seems to have disappeared. Maggots that are rapidly graduating into their winged mode of existence have probably already consumed its source, if it exists at all. I quickly spray and swat all of the flies before I begin my daily work. I'm going to have to go back soon and clean up all of the fly bodies and caducous leaves that I've knocked off the lower portions of the coleus plants. Most of them have fallen behind the deacon's bench. If I don't get behind it and clean it out, a rich loam will soon be developing back there. And speaking of caducity, the flies have seemed rather slow to react, which is unusual for having just been "hatched." I'd attribute it to the poisonous spray, but they were the same yesterday, before I started spraying. Maybe it's the heat and humidity.

I'm suddenly struck with the idea that a lot of what I write is codswallop. I mean, rotting carcasses and flies? C'mon. Who cares? But it's my life.

I went down to the basement this evening and removed the hinges from the old doors to the back closets that I'd de-doored many years ago when I first moved into this house. I'd stored the doors in the basement by using them as the shelves for an overhead storage area, because the brackets that were mounted there conveniently accommodated the size of the doors exactly, almost as if they were planned exactly for that purpose.

Anyway, last week when I tried to remove the hinges with a screwdriver, I encountered difficulties. They were too well screwed in (too tight) and the screw heads were not in the best condition, and the doors, although I happily found that I had placed them with hinges facing out, were piled with supplies that, if removed, would have constituted a major undertaking; and as the final coup de grace, the electric drill was upstairs, awaiting my return to another project, screwing down the new plant shelf behind the washer, which project I then went upstairs to complete so as not to have to tote the heavy drill toolbox downstairs and back upstairs again. [Always my mind works in this way, seeking out the most efficient route to project completion without having to backtrack, even when that means setting projects aside for a while.] But the completion of the shelf installation used up my motivation for the day, so I left the hinges for another day and didn't get back to them until today, hoping that the screws were not so well entrenched that the electric drill with a screwdriver bit would not be able to remove them and I would have to take the time to drill each screw out with an 'easy out' (a grossly inaccurate name for so simple a tool). But the screws came out with ease and I am now poised to construct and hang the doors to the woodshed and finish up yet another project. I just love summers.


I have all of these developing writing projects lined up waiting for new material to become available/occur to me, some of them going back years and years, all but abandoned; some of them more recent, yet still waiting, moved along in fits and starts as it occurs to me that material in my life/thoughts as I document them in this journal is sufficiently good enough a match to be abstracted into this or that project, or as I happen into the mood to reread and expatiate upon the content/themes that are begun there.

The most recent of these projects (a ragtag list of both newer ones and resurrected older ones) are short works that will fit into a chapbook format, because I have an opportunity to publish in this medium. I struggle to develop the projects on this list, whereas if I were working in my usual take-it-as-it-comes mode, I'd be easing along, not worrying about what I am "finishing," allowing projects to finish themselves in their own good time.

Most specifically, I'm developing a project I've entitled "The Pilgrims of the Day," a parody/emulation of Mailer's The Armies of the Night. When I conceived of this project in its initial form (before the parody idea occurred to me), I thought that it was a good candidate for a chapbook because I assumed that it was a quick jump to being finished, since the material was already published in a journal on my website. But even before its transformation into parody, the material turned out to be far less extensive than I faultily remembered, and far less detailed in its development. Add to that the further development that's necessary to turn it into parody and I have here just another addition to the list of projects. Thus, all of the work I did on it yesterday (in light of this morning's reassessment) ends in a stall. Yeah, it's a good project; but no, it's not a quick-to-print one.

I now have six projects on my short list, each of which is either not quite developed enough or needs a lot more material (format: collections) added to it. I'm sure I can develop/find this material if I work/search in a dedicated manner. But this is a departure from my piecemeal day-at-a-time/piece-at-a-time routine, a complete change of mentality. Add to all of this the desire I have to work outside while its still summer and the net result is that I'm struggling to apportion my time to my various intentions. I only hope this motivation lasts well through the fall and into winter.

And I have all of these physical projects, too, lined up--on paper and/or in physical fact. But today I made great progress on one of them: the woodshed doors. It was tough going, taking me far longer than I expected, mostly because of false starts as I tried to realign, again and again [it's not redundant, although the actual work of aligning it may have been], the jamb I put in the other day and ended up having to reinforce it because the shed wall to which it was attached was not so sturdy as I had first thought. I had to run a large eight-inch bolt through the entire wall and through a 3 x 3 timber in order to stabilize it. And when I finally got to the doors themselves, I had problems with the screws (the original ones). I ended up having to use them because I didn't have any new ones that were large enough. It was tough going, alternating between the drill and a screwdriver and even resorting to making the final few screw-turns with vice grips locked onto the screwdriver handle, thus marring the one good (Sears) screwdriver I have.

But the doors are fine now, if still incomplete. Next I have to remove them (that's why I opted for door hinges with removable pins) in order to extend them the final eight inches to match up with the jamb that I'd previously constructed on the other side. (It made a whole lot more sense to me to do it this way because:

  1. The wood for the doors had to be extended because I'm using sheets of 32 x 35" scrap particle board that Steve dumped in my driveway for me to burn and the opening is approximately eight inches wider than this wood;
  2. To try to accurately measure the whole door width at various positions and build the door to its full width before I hung it would have been far more difficult because the dimensions are not exactly square and vary significantly from top to middle to bottom;
  3. The door weight is rather heavy, which problem I reduced by building Dutch doors instead of one big one; and positioning and attaching the hinges to the jamb would have been far more difficult with a much heavier full-sized finished door. (Piecing it is going to a require a furring strip frame be added to the inside and additional strips along the edges to reinforce it and to prevent it from warping.)

    Sitting on the front porch at 9:30 this evening watching the ascension of Mars in the east, in order to establish an accurate perception of the event, I contemplate the rotation of the Earth toward the planet. [Planet ascension is a false concept: They don't move re our earth surface location. The surface of the Earth moves re their more stable (from our point of view) celestial one.] I try to imagine the spin of the Earth toward the east, but I have a bit of difficulty actually feeling the motion (as I have felt it in the past).

    But it just so happens that as I'm sitting here allowing my attention to wander, I notice that Mars disappears behind the thick telephone cable that runs between poles along the street. I freeze the position of my head that I have propped up on my hand, elbow fixed on the arm of the chair, and I wait until I see the planet reappear on the other side of the wire. I reposition my line of sight and re-fix it several more times and thus I discover a method for actually observing, not the motion of a planet/star, but the rotation of the Earth. Doubtless this method has been used a multitude of times by a multitude of people over the millennia; but it's new to me. The feeling of the rotation of the Earth returns to me briefly. (I first perceived it on an acid trip on a beach on the north shore of Oahu many years ago when I was stationed at Schofield Barracks when I was in the army.)

    I also realize this evening that the odor I've been detecting that I've been attributing to decaying animal corpses (I also smelled it again out back this afternoon when I was building the doors) is the rancid odor of the burned-out house next door. I only detected it intermittently inside the house because it had to waft in through several small, partially opened windows on that side of the house; and the reason that I'd only seemed to notice it recently was due to the heavy rains that have "activated" the odium by wetting the scorched surfaces, probably mostly of the sofa, chairs, and sundry materials that are still laying on the front lawn where the firemen deposited them.

    So I wonder where all those flies came from?


    No new flies today. But I detect that odor again inside the house, and in a place where the windows are not, as I had thought, open; and it seems to be subtly more heavily cadaverous and not so pungent as the odor from next door that I detected last night while sitting on the porch.

    I got the sewing machine out and sewed the pattern that I made from instructions on the Net. It took me a while to remember how to use the damn thing again, all of the tension knobs and threads guides, etc., any one of which being out of whack resulting in broken or loose threads. But after I finally got going, after about two hours of false starts, everything went fine and I turned out a basic form for heavy-duty canvas hiking shorts (made this time out of scrap material--an old sofa pillow cover with trees in a nature setting in bright orange, yellow, and brown autumnal colors; not the kind of thing you'd want to wear outside, but it's just a trial run). That little project took all evening and late into the night.


    Just after I managed to fall asleep last night (actually, this morning, shortly after four a.m.) storms hit the area. I awakened frequently to sounds of huge amounts of water cascading down over the picnic umbrella just outside the open bedroom window. This happened again and again throughout the morning. Each time I'd awaken I'd think that I should get up and go down and check the basement to see if it's flooding, but I was too tired. I finally got up at eleven forty-five. I think I'll go down to the basement now...

    Only a small bit of water seeping in the garage, and none in the back room. Great. I was expecting another catastrophe. The concrete repairs I did on the back porch several weeks ago must be rerouting the water away from the basement wall--a positive unintended consequence. All activity directed against a specific example of entropy is generalizable to some degree to the larger context.


    Old workplace: Mark & Lloyd are in screenmaking. Mark wants Lloyd to give him some ink for an outside project he's working on for some organization/club he belongs to. (I don't know this--that is, they don't know that I know it. They, especially Mark, think I am "out of the loop" and being snowed, that I am a stupid git. They don't realize how insightful and intuitive I am. If only they understood this, they would be aghast.) I discourage Mark's intent with a discussion of substrate compatibility, how any ink we have would probably not adhere to the material he intends to put it on, and I begin to probe him to find out what that material is; but he is not forthcoming, fearing that if he actually comes right out and admits what he's up to, that I will bust him for trying to steal company ink. But my real concern is to stop him from trying to get Lloyd to give him ink; and not only do I think this is wrong, but Mark isn't supposed to be back in screenmaking in the first place and I'm trying to find a "nice" way of ejecting him. [This is what Roger used to do, instead of coming right out and saying what he had in mind--and often failing to achieve his intent because of his indirect posture--because implicit in this whole scene is the fact that if I come right out and eject Mark and expose the real reason for my participation in the discussion, not only will I be thought of poorly by the employees, but I will have played into the upper management scapegoating process that set me up to take the fall for excessively overbearing policy and procedures by having acted in a heavy-handed manner to achieve ends that management would like to have achieved if only they didn't upset employees in the process. But this is not at all explicit in the dream, whose activity is of a time and place before I realized the company agenda and so worked naively to get the results that I knew that the owner wanted.]

    [In order to "correct" dreams, i.e., in order to do 'therapy,' I decide the way things should have gone in dreams, and then I enact them via rai upon awakening, but also sometimes later as I'm writing out the dreams. Here, writing, I follow-up on an inkling I had upon awakening that something is wrong that should be corrected, but I didn't know then quite what, nor did I feel like (repression?) going to the trouble of figuring it all out and applying it: Instead of trying to uphold the impossible ideals of company policy (which never worked anyway and only served to alienate people toward me as I naively tried to bring them into the practical world, by enforcing procedures I created to enable them, while the rest of management, the owner included, backed off and allowed the status quo to exist, wallowing in an atmosphere of hypocrisy by asserting policy while tolerating deviation and dissent; but not me. Noooo. I had to insist upon conformance to the standards, for which I was singled out by management for being too heavy-handed in the way I dealt with people), instead of being so anal and insistent (like I was in my real life, even apart from work, when I held myself up to my own personal standards, when no one else could possibly have cared), or even instead of being compromising and tolerant (like the plant manager and the owner, respectively), I should side with the employees and allow and even tacitly enable their petty thievery (of both company supplies, ink in this dream case, and time, as they socialize during work time instead of working). I should, without overtly assisting them in their underground deception and chicanery (so as to protect my own position--which inactivity of strict application of work rules and procedures would in itself be a form of subterfuge and sabotage), agree with and abet it, without, of course, actually acknowledging it, so that if it ever came down to being accused by employees that I allowed them to steal or whatever, I could say that I didn't know about it and would never have condoned it; because if they would be so crass and duplicitous as to try to exonerate themselves if caught by sacrificing me (there is no honor among thieves), a person after their own hearts who enables their nefarious actions, then fuck them, they deserve to be sacrificed themselves. It would be the law of karma acting through me in this case. But otherwise, I should turn my back on their operations and act to keep them working as best that I can in my presence with as friendly and sympathetic a nature as I can possibly muster; which is what I did in the dream, except that I harbored the intent to both break them up and stop their underground activities, and which would be the exact strategy that upper management employed. This is what needs to be changed: instead of stopping them, I should secretly enjoy watching their subterfuge.

    I successfully, at least temporarily, foil Mark's plan to "borrow" ink, despite Lloyd's genial and rather competent attempts to counter my dubious arguments, because it's true that Mark could have used almost any ink, that for all practical purposes, most inks would work in most applications, and my argument that there needed to be a compatibility between ink and substrate was applicable under strictest conditions and most rigorous standards only. [A metaphor for my heavy-handed management strategy.] I explain to Mark how if he were printing on a vinyl jacket, for example, polyethylene ink would flake right off it after it dried, and how even if he used vinyl ink, if the material were coated with a finishing substance like Scotch Guard or a sizing substance, that that would interfere with ink adhesion. I go through a lot of other examples, countering Lloyd's amiable counters.

    I go back out into the pressroom (and probably, Mark got the ink from Lloyd anyway after I left). [Interesting. Something happen in a dream that I am not aware of.] I struggle (not so consciously; I'm just doing my difficult job, as I knew it and did it back then) with the practicalities and challenges of printing, scheduling work, etc. Eileen is there, pretending to be helpful, but operating negatively attitudinally among the employees behind my back. Again, something happening that I'm not aware of in the dream, yet know it anyway. And there are some kind of new "efficiency experts" who have been hired (at a higher company level) to do whatever it is they do, and one of them is dealing with a customer who has come in to inspect his huge pallet (stacked four tiers high) of loose-leaf notebooks. I notice that the customer is Milliken, and I go over to him, intending to greet him. But he sees me coming, and he heads me off by leaning over the pallet into a position where the efficiency expert (a self-important asshole who just knows he is so right--a projection of my own self?) can't observe him (an act that would have been impossible for Milliken to have done, because the pallet is too high; he would have had to climb it, also an impossible task, because it would have been too unstable) and he tells me not to acknowledge him because the company doesn't know that we know each other. [He represents my past, my more nefarious background, my underground, inherently anti-authoritarian, rebellious, tacitly sabotaging or enabling sabotage self.] So I play along as he goes back to the Romanian priest accent [an identity he'd adopted and cultivated in our rebel days together] that he was using with the guy. I walk around to the other side of the pallet with them and, out of the guy's line of sight, I point out, gesticulatively, without words [more tacit sabotage of the company's unstated (i.e., operational as opposed to formal) policy of "putting the best foot forward" and verbally and otherwise making itself look good, at the expense of customers and product quality] [I would have thought, even after having had this dream, but especially prior to documenting it, that I had been done with this psychic material, that this was all in the past; but I guess not. These dreams, recurring from time to time, are still with me for a reason. Maybe my new therapeutic tact of "changing sides" (back to the side I used to be on before I became management, and even afterwards, for some time, until I slowly became indoctrinated into it) is the answer to finally putting this "problem" behind me. I've been in the process of changing sides back now for quite some time, having made a conscious decision to do it many years ago after I "retired." But probably it has never been a complete defection; being a conscious decision, it may have needed this much time to percolate down into the unconscious mind and take root, I had been that much brainwashed], defects in the binders, how ink is peeling away from the lower portions of the print where excessive current had been applied in the heat sealing process. And I point out places where the vinyl has been warped and distorted by the current, and where the seals have been visibly burned. Norman points these things out to the guy without the guy knowing that I've showed them to him, but the guy must have gotten an inkling that I have done this [management knows of my inherent unconscious rebelliousness (anti-authoritarianism denied and projected while exhibiting it in my own behavior and repressing what I was actually doing), despite my overt compliance and conscious dedication], because when he thinks that I have walked a distance far enough away so that I can't hear him, he says that Norm should not pay attention to "Jackson," that he's a disgruntled employee who wants to subvert the company, which is true now, but not back then--although it may have been an unconscious agenda--yes, it was, but it was well-controlled and countered and I maintained an active program whereby I strove to improve my attitude (this was all subconscious and very gradual as I became more and more indoctrinated) and become more "professional," "business-like," and "company-minded." But I hear the guy say this and I go quickly over to him to confront him and refute the allegations (too quickly, with too much of a desire to correct him?). But he "disappears" (not literally, image-wise, but effectively, as I am diverted, even consciously within the dream, by a hint of wisdom that I should leave well enough alone and as a result of my desire to confront him in what he said, indicating that I am not so conscious and understanding of my own motives.) I think to go into the production office to complain about him (as a countermotive to the 'wisdom'), but no one is in there and, anyway, I have this almost unconscious idea (the 'wisdom' again) that I would suffer as a result of the complaint, that I would look uncooperative and obstinate (which is how I ended up looking to management anyway, despite myself and my personal improvement program and the intense desire that I harbored to be a dedicated and loyal employee). I go back to the pressroom and begin to monitor the operations, and I notice that, for a change, everything is running very smoothly. No mistakes. No inefficiency. Frann is one of the printers and despite her backstabbing and gossipy behavior, she is working hard and doing well. I think to quit my job right now while everything is going good, before it can deteriorate again (before people can gang up on me and subvert the operations and my excellent reputation. This is not paranoia). But I notice some kind of an undercurrent, a "secret" that I am not privy to. It seems, I discover as I probe into the mystery and try to get info out of the employees, that when I was on vacation over the last week (= my absence over the past years since my retirement), Eileen and some employees were out last Friday night, riding in a car drinking, and when the employees took her home, they ran over her daughter and killed her. I say "You mean Charlise?" At the sound of her name, Eileen sits down on a pallet and begins to cry. Frann tries to comfort her. I ask "What's she doing here? Why didn't she stay home with her family?" This apparently happened sufficiently long enough ago (at least five days, which seems not long enough to me) that she has returned to work.

    Well, I did it again. Yesterday, I dragged the dehumidifier into the garage from the back room to evaporate the minimal amount of moisture there, and the hose must have loosened again, and I condensed and dripped several gallons of water onto the garage floor. Do it once, it's a mistake; do it twice, it's stupidity. I spent about half an hour cleaning up the water and straightening up some of the hardware and junk that I deposited onto the floor at just that spot when I was looking for the pins for the hinges to the doors I put on the shed.

    Then I went back out to the back of the house where I had been working, running in and out during the commercials [because I set up the b&w tv back there so that I could watch some good movies and be outside while I worked (doing this here writing)] to prepare lunch and do some other minor chores. During one such inning (the opposite of outing), I discovered, while setting up the vcr to record a movie tonight at eight, that reception to two of the UHF channels with erratic and all but unviewable signals was much improved due to the connection to the antenna on the tv outside. As it turns out, it was not the tv antenna, but the UHF loop that I'd connected to the outside tv to try to improve the reception. So now I have two more channels in my collection of connections to the postmod world. (Later, when I bring the tv back in, I leave the loop out there. I'm going to have to drill a hole through the wall so that I can close the window all the way in the winter. And I'm going to have to rig some kind of a support for the loop, because it's hanging from the picnic umbrella now and when I move it to a position hanging from the side of the house, I lose the good reception.)

    Now I'm back outside, plugging away, hoping that the storms that are supposed to hit this afternoon hold off long enough for me to accomplish everything I intend to do, so that I don't have to rush to haul all of this equipment around to the front and back inside before it all gets wet. I'm considering the idea of draping a huge tarp across the umbrella and working out here beneath it. I should just set up a permanent tarp as a porch roof--but it'd probably get blown all to hell by the wind. What I really should do is build a porch roof back here. But that's a big project.

    It's turning out to be a real nice day: late afternoon, the sun shining through the trees, peace and locusts. The weathermen got it wrong again. No wonder the Underground failed so miserably. They chose the wrong metaphor for their identity.

    Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
    1. input/output//microcosm/macrocosm: I render both "internal" and "external" "events," which are not so discrete phenomena as they may at first appear to be, becoming all mixed up in the act of "mental" processing. Material comes in, is assimilated, and is spit back out as ideas I seem to create myself. But I want to create this dichotomy, which is a function of my rational, contrasting left-brain, even if it's not so true.

    2. for portability: you don't have to worry about carrying around a lot writing equipment.

    3. for orderliness and convenience: it's nicely bound and contained, and it's divided down the middle.

    4. also convenient, plus it can contain a lot of reference material.

    5. for efficiency: ability to utilize "recycled" paper; but mostly, I use this as long-term temporary storage for staging ideas in outline form, not for notes to be more immediately moved into the journal system.

    6. for interviews, and in bed for recording ideas & dreams.

    7. for capturing serendipitous visual moments, e.g., news.

    8. for more personal rendering of ideas and impressions, where images express affect &/or impress themselves upon me because I identify with what they seem to be saying. (See #1.)

    9. I absolutely love to use virgules. They allow me to express so much of the identity I (want to) find among concepts.

    10. I've since discovered the reason, thanks to Michael Musto:

    Even sadder is that Pekar won't be promoting the movie [about his life] on Letterman. (His last appearance had him cussing out the host as a capitalist pig.) "I'd do it, but he won't ask me," he said.

    11. A word I always want to pronounce poet taster, as if it were a pun in a Shel Silverstein song. This verbal construction is one that I unconsciously try to extend to any number of concepts, as, for example, politicaster, which The Oxford English Dictionary defines as "a petty, feeble, or contemptible politician." Wait a minute! Isn't that a redundant definition?