by j-a

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September, 2003


I awaken (out of sleep, and during the day and night already awake) to the idea that I am (now and in the past) ridiculous, that the way I have been living is not only absurd and pathological, but also simply wrong. I get this idea often, but I always quickly put it out of mind with this simple counter: "Yeah. It's true. But look at all these other assholes, even (or especially) the ones who hold themselves up as paragons of virtue and proper social conduct. They're just as ridiculous and absurd as I am, if not more so; and sometimes they are seriously pathological as well."

I know that this is not so much of a good argument, that I should hold myself to a higher standard than this. But I can't help but see myself in light of the foibles of other humans, if only as a defensive reaction against my super-egoistic inklings [which would be far more nagging and inclusive if I would allow it, driving me not only to conform (to what? to the equally ridiculous way that other people live?), but to abandon my own, long-developed, unique personality--even if that development was the result of my neuroses.]

I, like most other people, have done a lot of stupid things, things that I am not proud of now, things that I did out of ignorance, things that will haunt me in moments when they catch me off-guard, remembering. But they are human things, embarrassing, but not all that bad in terms of the wider range of human conduct, not nearly so bad as things that other people have done, even other "normal" people.

So, the only rational conclusion that I can come to is: we're all ridiculous, every one of us, and when I (or you) see myself (or look to me) as an example of a flawed human lifeform, I am (you are) projecting. (You are projecting your own flawed nature onto me.) I am introjecting the flawed nature of the human species onto myself; or more correctly, I am assuming the burden for the whole of humanity. And as noble as that may be, I don't think I want to do it (any more). I'm tired of being the scapegoat, and I'm especially tired of seeing myself in that way, because however it is you see yourself, eventually, other people are going to treat you. They can't help it, most of them, because they're at least as ridiculous as I am.


I finally went out to the Aldi food store this morning. I hadn't ever been there before as it's kind of far away, but I get ads for it in the mail every week that make it look enticing. It lives up to its promise. I'm amazed at the prices. Got a lot of cheap food. And the aisles are wide, and the products are not jammed in, and everything is labeled in large letters above the products. A very efficient operation. And I got a new cheap CD player to replace the Panasonic that's been skipping. That's the real reason I went all the way out there instead of shopping locally. And I got the last one they had too. And it works great. And it has a full one-year warrantee with a toll free phone number. And...(Gasp for breath.) [I'm feeling rather manic at the moment.]

A big month for website visitors last month. Traffic way up. Maybe it's my new e-mail campaign where I've been spamming spammers. I'm considering going out of my way to actually attract spammers, get myself on a lot of lists, etc., so that I can "justifiably" reply to them with my own spam campaign without feeling like a spammer myself. The human mind is a hotbed of rationalization.

Since I only had five hours of sleep last night and since it's been raining all day and I can't do anything outside, speeding like a mother-fucker, I crash at six p.m., only to discover upon awakening at ten that it is still raining. I go down to check the basement and discover that no water is seeping in. I'm amazed. It's been raining fairly consistently and not so lightly for days now. Then I remember the concrete patchwork that I did on the back porch last week and I wonder if that break in the concrete pad was the cause all along of the water leakage. Hmm. Could be.

I had a dream again about my old workplace. The supervisors and the plant manager are sitting in the conference room going over the production schedule, and I discover that I am eternally bored and really don't care at all if any of these jobs get shipped or not, except that I have to pretend that I care and can't allow my blasé attitude to show through.

I awakened with the realization that it was such an effort back then to pretend I cared, maybe more difficult that caring would have been--but maybe not. Maybe this was the unconscious attitude I'd had all along. Well, of course it was. It was the attitude that everyone had. I mean, how important is it, after all, to make a good loose-leaf binder?

This is the attitude that most people have toward their jobs in an industrialized society that makes products and renders services that they hardly care about at all. But the corporations insist that everyone pretend that they care, because it's the pc thing to do these days. Business has managed to tie job loyalty to the current pc trends in politics and culture.

But it's a tentative attachment. Emollient managers ply workers into thinking that their jobs are important functions within the larger social picture and so workers must not only like these mundane, essentially meaningless job, but they must promote the company that employs them as being a great and caring place to work. Most employees fall into line, in a token manner, because not to do so would endanger their jobs. Employees who see and state the truth are quickly, or eventually if the employees are otherwise good workers, gotten rid of.

But an undercurrent exists, seldom stated, among the workers: the "good attitude" they (try to) maintain is a lie. We get more schizophrenic every year as a nation in this regard. Mendacious executives and board chairmen manipulate the government and public opinion so as to negate the complaints of disgruntled workers that discommode the organization's bottom-line intent, to make (more and more) money. Overt rebellion is always in the air, but corporations have become highly sophisticated in their approach to workers and the public and so are able to maintain a stasis, slowly and subtly replacing disgruntled workers with employees who are more desperate to keep their jobs [which is why owners and CEOs like lax immigration policies] and so will toe the line.

And this affliction is spreading across the world as third world countries like Afghanistan are gobbled up by the American fever. No wonder the rest of the world hates us. They see themselves becoming sucked up into the same schizoid trap that Americans unwittingly submit themselves to, and they want to avoid it while they can, before they become so caught up that they are no longer able to see the truth. I have managed to extract myself from this trap, but I still pay a price for having been in it for so long: I dream about it--still. [Just because I'm projecting my own schizoid nature onto this society is no reason to believe that this analysis isn't true.]

Each month when I finish a
j-zine, I get a minor rush of self-fulfillment, very much the same feeling I get when I finish writing a story, except the story experience will always be undone when I reread a story and discover that it needs to be revised, and again each time that I reread it, whereas the zine feeling is more permanently consistent. I understand that the zines have become over the past several years my primary work and that stories are like a bonus, a reward for having persisted through the tendency toward daily avoidance of rewriting.

All my good work is done on a daily schedule. Marathon work episodes are valuable, but they always leave the gaps that only persistent daily revision can correct; and the content that the zines point to is, of necessity, done daily. I like the stories when they're finished, but I don't so much like doing them. But I like doing the zines. They're each a monthly project, a summary of the previous month's thought process. I "process" each day (usually; or I work ahead or end up catching up) the journal work of the corresponding date of a month earlier, abstracting the "best" of what I'd written (i.e., that which I am happy to have written that I feel is adequate for public consumption) into published website form. It's like I'm working on a somewhat flexible daily deadline, getting ready for each firmer monthly edition deadline, which will also tend to slip from time to time, except that this month (i.e., last month, August; I'm always working at least one month behind) I finished exactly on time, at 11:45 p.m on August 31st, a very satisfying feeling, having met the deadline.

It's a great therapeutic practice to review your written thoughts a month after you've committed them. [I was going to write "committed them to paper," but they're not on paper, are they? And anyway, I like the truncated sentence better. This is what I do, commit art, in order to prevent being otherwise committed, at some other kind of less than satisfying work, or to an institution (which is also what working at a job is like).] I find that just as the concepts I've written out are about to disappear from memory, or shortly after they already have, they're revived again, so that I see a kind of threadwork running through my work from month to month, threads that I otherwise might allow to unravel for years before picking them up again. I am motivated by my monthly review of the work I did the month before to maintain the same themes I've been working on.


My thought process today is a meander of long proportion. I can't seem to get it together enough to straighten it out. This is the kind of day when it would be better to give up all mental activity and go and do some physical work. But I persist, plugging away, registering small bits of accomplishment amid the divergent neural activity. I force myself to live in a Cockaigne of encouragement, when the hard facts indicate otherwise. Take this paragraph, for example. I mean, how important is it that I've written out this crap? Maybe it's not a matter of how my mind is working so much as it's a matter of a jaded outlook that needs to be refreshed by a different kind of diversion. Or maybe both conditions are the same thing.


Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.
Yogi Berra
I feel a bit forlorn this morning--not in the sense of the word that means sad and dejected, but in the sense that it means feeling deprived of something; but I don't know what that something is. I'm not unhappy, I'm just forlorn. Hopefully I'll pull out of this mood soon. Maybe it's the weather. It's still overcast, despite the forecast for today, that it was to be sunny.

As a society, we have people vested in these occupations that on the surface seem quite legitimate, but when you look at them up close, you might get the idea that they are not so aboveboard. In olden times, it was the medical profession, when they used to bleed people for their health, or when they used to promote herbal cures and patent medicines that were not much more than snake oil. [In fact, maybe the olden days have not quite ended, considering the practices that doctors engage in for the pharmaceutical companies, when they develop and sell new drugs as replacements for perfectly good older ones whose patents have run out so that they are thus able to be manufactured as generics.] Or it was the city cops on the street who had very little to do with public protection, but were there to protect the moneyed interests and the mob rackets. [In fact, ...oh, never mind.] Today, maybe, it's the television meteorologists.

It's not that I don't consider meteorology a (fledgling) science. There is probably some good science being done in universities in meteorology. It's just that the television variety might just be a lot of hokum. Sometimes tv weathermen get the forecast right for the following day. [Not for today, though.] But out beyond that, they might as well be using a crystal ball or a divining rod. Weather is not a phenomenon that lends itself well to prediction. All kinds of unpredictable errant forces can affect the weather. Yeah, weathermen can see general trends, sometimes. They can tell when the season is ripe for tornadoes, for example. But then, so can a lot of old timers who've seen enough of them. But when it comes to rain and shine, well, they just don't know.

Take, for example, the typical indicator for rain. It's expressed as a percentage. But it's not a percentage of ground area that rain clouds will cover, projected as a possibility that some of those clouds will release their moisture content. It's a percentage of how many days in recorded weather history that it rained. What kind of an indicator is that? It's not a prediction, it's a gamble. And even if taken on that level, it's pretty much meaningless. If I live in the North Hills area of a city, did it rain thirty percent of the time here in the past, or did it rain thirty percent of the time in the South Hills? More likely, it rained something like forty percent North and twenty percent South, or some other combination thereof. (And that's only two areas of a city that will have many.)

But we, as a society, have vested so much authority and prestige in the job of tv weatherpersons that we ignore their continual inaccuracies and hang on their daily predictions as if they were the gospel (which is dispensed by another of those dubious professions; but I'll leave that controversial subject for another time). Weathermen, like many preachers, are entertainers, and not much more. They tell us what we want to hear re good weather [via emphasizing good weather trends beyond even their "accurate" prediction. Compare, for example, a local newscast with it's own "meteorologists" to a forecast generated by the national weather service; the temperature predicted by the local source is always three to five degrees higher that the weather services prediction] or they hype bad weather, overemphasizing high wind, rainfall amounts, et al. in an attempt to make the mundane news of the weather an interesting new spot for the viewers. I'd rather watch a dancing monkey on tv.

For two nights in a row I've had the same dream. Last night's version was a brief form of the previous night's, which was an intricately plotted police drama about a woman detective who unwittingly gets herself into a lot of trouble with the powers that be and is being setup to take the fall for something she didn't do. She spends the entire dream trying to resolve her dilemma and establish her innocence. I know that much about the dream, but that's all. I have no recollection about any of the details, which upsets me, because it would have made a great novel. All of the components of the plot were there. It was all worked out. But I can't remember it. [Apparently, it's another episode of my scapegoat theme; my anima is taking the blame for something society is guilty of.]

In Italy, they call yesterday a "ponte," a day added to a holiday to include or extend a weekend. Although it's not official, this must be the case, because they didn't pick up the garbage this morning, and each week they always pick it up at five or six a.m. But each and every holiday weekend, when the holiday is on Monday, it takes them two days to catch up to the schedule instead of the one that you would logically expect. I always wonder why this is. The only possible explanation I can see is that the garbagemen get an extra day off every long holiday weekend. What else could it be but a ponte?


Yesterday, again, the predicted weather was for a mostly sunny day. But it's been completely overcast. I've seen the sun only once so far. I want to go outside and paint the shed doors that I finished constructing yesterday, but I'm afraid that if I do, it'll start to rain.

Today I realize that the older I get, the less anxiety I feel about the future. As the inevitability of death becomes more and more real, it hardly seems so important that I might suffer less significant ordeals. [Wow, was I ever wrong about this. See next month's journal.]

I finally got around to painting the shed doors. They look good. It never rained, but it never sunned either.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
Martin Luther King
I have a dream that one day the people of the world will be free to use thought generated by their fellow humans as they see fit and that society will have decided that copyright and patent law is an affront to human dignity, that token economies are the primary source of evil among us, and that the corporations that promote pecuniary practices over a genuine concern for the welfare of the masses who struggle for existence and even affluence shall perish from this earth.

Martin Luther King's high-minded relatives insist that they hold the copyright to the words in the epigraph and will not let anyone used them unless they pay a licensing fee in the thousands of dollars. This is what is wrong with the world today: the words of a great man (or woman) are held in abeyance and the greatness is besmirched and belittled by niggardly people who want to hoard and monopolize the produce of genius. It just goes to prove that for every great man there is a greedy family looking to get over by riding on his (or her) coat tails.

Dr. King's speech is not proprietary material, or rather, it should not be; this is history. Greatness does not belong to one family; it belongs to world, and all people should have equal access to it. You can find the text of the whole speech here or here. As for the quote above: fair use. Let them sue me if they think they can win a judgment against me. I can use the publicity. A few thousand dollars for some national publicity, that's not bad. C'mon. Bring it on. I'm game. You file the suit, I'll notify the press.


Ah, it's good to be working outside on my laptop again. Finally, the weather that's been predicted for three days has arrived. Five days (or so they say) of sunshine. But I notice that the clouds are moving due west, which is not the predicted weather pattern. I wonder what that means.


I set the b&w tv up outside again this Sunday afternoon to watch The Gingerbread Man on a local UHF channel while existing outside, taking advantage of what remains of the nice summer weather. It's like I'm on vacation, making do with minimal comforts at a beach house. That's what my house is like all year round, a beach house, warm and inviting in the summer and in winter drafty and inadequately insulated against the bitter ocean winds. But this is not a complaint. I actually like this characterization. It's a fantasy, an attempt to make my life an inveterate vacation, when otherwise I will forget about the ideal attitude for long periods of time.

Something is seriously trying to become expressed; something is resisting that attempt for all it's worth. It's six in the morning, essentially tomorrow, but I haven't been to bed all night, after a three-hour nap last evening. Every time I think to want to either go to sleep or work, I'm put off by this vague idea that's been haunting me ever since I dreamed about it twenty-four hours ago.

[I reach up onto the shelf at the side of my bed to pull some of the power cord to the laptop free to give me a little bit more room to maneuver. I tug at the cord, not noticing that it's wrapped around my cup of tea, and I pulled the tea off the shelf, spilling it onto the floor and down the side of the bed. Is this that second something in me trying to divert me from writing this stuff out, setting up yet another distraction?]

Since it's now starting to get light outside, I'm switching to a new journal day--since my new day begins each dawn (as opposed to the arbitrary clock time of midnight).


So, anyway [re yesterday's beginning], I had this cryptic dream: I'm sitting on the curb at the East Hills Shopping Center with a huge open package of Swiss cheese, each slice about six inches wide and ten inches long. The cheese is stacked irregularly, and I'm obsessively and ineffectively trying to restack it in a neat stack. My brother shows up. He has an old car, a '56 Chevy. [Our dad used to own a '56 Chevy.] (db is here too, but she doesn't seem to figure into the dream plot.) Since I don't have a way to get home and am stuck here, I ask my brother if I can borrow his car. He tells me that it's in really bad shape. He's trying to indicate to me that he doesn't want me to borrow it, but I ignore him and get into it and start to drive it. It chugs along, making a lot of noise, especially when I shift gears. It has a bad transmission. But it runs. It's adequate transportation, but for how long? When I awaken out of this dream, although the imagery seems to have nothing to do with this subject, I think immediately of my brother's financial situation and how he lives precariously, essentially without money. (He still owes me over $400 for work I did for him.) He's not destitute because his wife makes a good living; but as far as his own work goes, he lives from job to job and no longer works so much any more. [His money, from his work, is his own, his wife's money is used to pay household expenses, and their retirement funds are entirely provided by his wife's work efforts. At least that's the way I understand their financial arrangements to be.] I suspect that his reputation has been essentially ruined due to his problems with alcohol. I understand how he (unconsciously?) feels re this situation because this is the feeling (sans imagery) in the dream, and because I have felt this way myself (insecure, that is--unjustifiably; I have adequate money, and interest income--and in my own name only). But I will sometimes feel, especially at this time of year when the nights begin to get cold, that my future is in doubt, that I don't know from one day to the next how I will be able to continue to survive. In fact, I do know very well how I will survive--financially. I have it all mapped out on paper. The car in the dream probably represents our security, our means of traveling into the future. It's an old car, barely able to make the (ever-shortening) trip. But the cheese? Whatever it represents must have a lot of holes in it. Maybe it's this interpretation.


It's been a dull couple of days, with perfectly calm and mild weather and an uninterrupted existence. I've been possessed by the idea that I want to do something, but every time I begin, the same idea dictates that I want to do something else, but not in that manic, disturbed way that I will sometimes get where I start to do anything and everything just to be busy; rather, I'm sedate, in harmony with the psychic weather, not doing much of anything, but only wanting to.

Yesterday, to temporarily break this attitude, I abandoned my usual writing ritual and went up back and cut up all the remaining wood into firewood and stacked it all neatly inside my shed with the new doors. All that's left to do is split all the logs that lay against the side of the shed and I'll be ready for winter--well, as ready as I ever am, physically but never mentally. Maybe I'll go and split that wood this afternoon. Physical exercise is good for the body and soul.

I made myself a cup of coffee, despite my diet and the fact that I had palpitations last night while watching tv. I've got to break this attitude and if anything can do it, caffeine can. Anyway, the palpitations could have been caused by the strain on my back from cutting up all that wood yesterday, since my spine's been aching a bit and I was half-lying on the bed with my back in a position that makes it conductive to sending erratic signals to the heart and causing palpitations. It's a theory, and a rationalization.

There's a lot of serious humor being generated by the large number of candidates signed on to run for governor of California. The buzz is generally negative, considering the plethora of candidate as ridiculous. This is evidence of the brainwashing of the American masses by the Republicans and Democrats and their two party system. In fact, what's happening in CA is exactly how the democratic system of government is supposed to work. Huge conglomerate machines comprised of biased politicians whose candidacy is paid for by self-interested corporations are not supposed to be able to dominate elections. But they do.


I really don't want to be doing any writing at all. Each morning that I get up I balk at beginning, until I have a cup of coffee, and then I'm okay for a few hours. Today, in order to avoid writing and since it was a beautiful day, I took another trip out to Aldi's and bought two more eight ounce jars of coffee ($1.99 ea.), four four-ounce jars of decaffeinated ($1.69 ea), and six jars of (real) mayo ($1.19 ea), great deals all. Might as well stock up. I only bought one of each them the last time I went out because I wanted try them first to make sure they didn't taste like crap. I was most concerned about the mayo, because off-brands tend to have a strange after-taste; but this one, Burman's, is as good as Hellman's. When I got home, after breaking my diet and consuming huge amounts of cheap sugar products, I forced myself to sit down at the computer and do a modicum of work; then I listened to the BBC for two hours while I played video games; and then I lay around for the rest of the evening and watched crap tv. What a waste.


I got this zit inside the corner of my eyelid, and it's irritating me to no end. I felt something wrong several days ago, but I couldn't see anything; and then the irritation went away. But yesterday, it returned, and all night long I kept awakening to feel it while my eye oozed and dried, producing further irritation from the crusty residue. In the morning, when I pulled back my eyelid, I saw the whitehead. I was able to remove a piece of residue from near it that it had apparently discharged. It looked like a miniature maggot, so I imagined that one of the flies from several weeks ago had deposited eggs in my eye while I slept and now I'm growing maggots in my eye. But close examination reveals that it's just discharge from the zit. Life is a tricky business.

I had this strange dream last night about this really cute and petite girl. We're in France, in a bar in Paris, and I was dry-humping her on the table while our friends sat around us, disconcerned. I really liked the girl, who was my girlfriend, but I got the idea that she wasn't all that attracted to me, that anyone at all could have been in my place and it would have been fine with her, that she was more interested in sex than in any guy who could provide it. Then the dream turned really strange: after we got off the table, as I was associating with our friends, a guy grabbed her and pulled her down onto his lap. He was a small dark guy, kind of mysterious, and she objected to his actions, so I went over to her as she began to scream. I pulled her off of him, and (no imagery for this, just the knowledge of it) she has been "impregnated" with a "device" which had been attached, externally, to her vagina [ala the thing on John Hurt's face in Alien], but with the assumption that it is injecting something into her. When we discover this, I attack the guy, but he "disintegrates" into a pile of empty clothing; all that remains is a collection of box-like electronics that is where his head would have been. I smash the devices into small pieces with my foot. Then I turn my attention to the girl. She is beginning to sort of "fade away" into a kind of tree-like structure. I take her outside into the alley, but by the time we get there she is gone and all that remains is a green, vegetation-like imprint of her head and shoulders, expanded out flat on the ground with the rest of her being only straw-like residue. I really miss her. Now what the hell does that mean?

People, with their games and their little tricks of ego, have twisted me around and, for their own betterment and/or aggrandizement, made me feel less than good about myself [I know that I'm responsible for what I feel, that it's up to me to protect myself against the manipulative behavior of others; but I'm very vulnerable in this regard, always ready to allow transference, even when I don't especially like the people with whom I have dealings; it's an unconscious weakness], until I learned that the best way to keep my personality stable was to avoid others much of the time.

Working for a Living

Cutting wood, repairing the house, etc. is like doing subsistence farm work, a more direct expression of survival behavior than working at a job to earn money to keep the wolf from the door. Writing is more like working at a job that you (I) like, when you don't so much want to eke out a physical living from the land, but would rather sell your talents to someone doing something that you like and using the money earned to pay others to provide your subsistence needs. Except that no one will hire me to do writing, which is all I really (have ever) want(ed) to do. Actually, I've never tried to get a job doing it, because it would be too hard, to try to write the kinds of things that other people want (to read). I know. I've tried to do it. It's a bitch. I'd rather dig ditches for a living. If I could make a living writing books, that'd be ideal. But I can't, because the kinds of books I write are not commercial. So I choose the next best kind of lifestyle. I write the kinds of books I want to write, and I reduce my living expenses by doing all my home repairs, cutting wood for winter heat, etc. In other words, I am subsistence writing.

Dennis Miller used to be so cool. What happened? How did he become so slimy? He's like a well-groomed Mort Sahl of the Right Wing now. It's sad.


What I thought yesterday was a zit inside my eye turned out to be an eye infection, the "whitehead" being puss not fully discharged from the tear duct. My eye is all swollen and almost fully closed this morning, but the worst is over, I think, because the tear duct no longer hurts like it did for the last two days. I hope this is true because I don't really want to go to the doctor, especially since my doctor moved away over five years ago and I haven't had one since and I don't feel like breaking in a new one. I'm taking massive doses of garlic and Vitamin C in an effort to prevent the infection from spreading.

Boobs, bazooms, cajungas, tatas, chi chi's, melons, hohos, casabas, jugs... The American psyche is obsessed with breasts. Men lust after them [which is kind of sick in and of itself. I mean, it's understandable that men desire the comfort of a pair of breasts as a pillowy substitute for a mother's love and tenderness, but it's gone way beyond that in this country. We're talking about sexual obsession here] and women enable the male obsession by wanting implants, the ostensible motivation of which is to attract men, but again, it's gone way too far so that women now desire to look like big-breasted freaks, independent of whether they are attractive to men or not, which is ironic because it's a transference they have contracted from men to begin with, a kind of contagion that is spreading. [I guess though, to be fair, there are those men who like big breasts, the bigger the better; but again ironically, are these the kinds of men that any self-respecting woman would want to please and/or satisfy? I don't think so.] Huge breasts are about as attractive to me as huge body-builder muscles on a man would be if I were a woman. In fact, there is a direct analogy between huge breasts and the striated, overly-defined muscles of bodybuilding women. Both extremes are not only tasteless, but also appalling examples of an addiction to physicality. I thought we were supposed to be spiritual beings, or at least striving in that direction? I guess the Christian era truly is over.


The eye infection has all but cleared up. It may have been the garlic and vitamin C I took, or it may have cleared up naturally, on it's own. But it had me a bit worried for a while. Yesterday I remembered that a few days ago a tiny bug flew into that corner of my eye, but when I tried to get it out, it wasn't there, so I assumed it had just hit my eye and flown away. But maybe it got stuck in there somewhere. I hate bugs.

What I am about to write is disgusting, and I am not proud of it; but these are my true feelings, so how can I not express them? Let me premise my remarks by saying that in no way do I advocate anyone taking another person's life, even "legally." I am against the death penalty, and I believe that it is possible to construct a society where people die only of accidents or natural causes, although we are not likely to ever live in such a society because our values would never support it. All of that said, let me get to the point of this piece: if John Ashcroft would ever die, for whatever reason, I would be so happy. I would celebrate his death, and the anniversary of it each year thereafter. He has become, for me (and for many others, I'm sure), the symbol of all that is currently wrong in this country. He is Big Brother. From his (and that of that cold bitch Buchanan--no, not lovable Pat, but the local one here, the anti-babe, the federal attorney who speaks for the FBI in Pittsburgh) harassment of Tommy Chong, through his pursuit of all of those relatively innocent people who smoke a little pot, to his persecution of the supposed supporters of Al Qa'ida who have done nothing wrong except to perhaps express belief in a religion different than the particular superstition that Ashcroft advocates, the Man is a menace to freedom. He casts a wide net that catches up a lot of innocent fish, except that we are not porpoises, but people. He is the antithesis of what this country stands for, yet in his dedication to his "cause" he cannot see the truth about himself. He is the personification of evil, and his death will represent a great victory over the forces of Satan in this part of the world. When Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden call America 'The Great Satan,' they are talking about the activities of people exactly like John Ashcroft. And he will eventually die. Of that we may be assured. The only question is, will it be soon enough to keep us out of jail on trumped up or petty charges?

I stopped at Big Lots last evening and a bought a huge waterproof plastic fifty gallon Rubbermaid container for the back porch in which to store all of my equipment and supplies so that I don't have to carry all my stuff in and out of the house all the time. It was a great bargain, only $12.99, so I couldn't pass it by.


I've been eating cheap sugar products for days now and it's time to bite the bullet and go on a crash Atkins diet. I've been putting this off for too long. I'm not looking forward to eating only protein for the next few days, but it's a price I'm going to have to pay for overindulgence.

I had a recurrent dream, but with a different cast of characters than usual: I'm in my bedroom, which is exactly the same in reality, but different in perception; that is, everything is exactly as it is, physically, but I perceive the environment as if different. It's a difficult experience to describe, and maybe is tied to a past perception of this place. I'm in bed, naked, with R, and despite myself (because I recognize her duplicity), I'm quite turned on by the prospect of sex with her, especially since she's trying to initiate it. But people keep walking into the room and interrupting us, until I have to start instructing them that when the door is closed®, they are to knock first and wait until they hear me say that it's okay to enter. From below in the living room (through the other door) R's mother echoes my sentiments, verifying that I am correct in what I'm saying. The impact of this dream is not in the imagery, or even in the prospect of sex, but in the perception of the house as an arcane and retro place, the way it used to be, or rather, maybe, the way I used to perceive it (I guess; I don't quite remember), especially re the living room, which is open all the way back to the bedroom so that people sitting there can communicate directly with people in the bedroom, the way it used to be before I built the extra back room and divided it off.


In the film Lawrence of Arabia, when they are crossing the desert toward Aqaba, Peter O'Toole on camelback depicts Lawrence going into one of his supposed trances (I empathize) and Omar Sharif accuses him of "drifting." At first O'Toole denies it, but then he admits to it and says it won't happen again (which, of course, it does--repeatedly throughout the film). In The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Vivian Leigh moves to Paris after her husband's death and not wanting to return to America or associate with anyone, especially her former friends, she accuses herself of drifting. In both these cases, others see the behavior as a character flaw, which is justified and even glorified by the character who does the drifting.

At the beginning of every day, I go through the same routine: start up the computer, establish a schedule that I will all but ignore, write in my journal and edit the previous entries, and then post one or two entries from my previous month's journal to my website. Usually I enjoy this activity; but lately I haven't really wanted to do this and I do it only out of habit. I'd rather do something else; but what else am I gonna do? I'm drifting. But why does this have to be such a bad thing?

Typically, people, especially Americans (who pride them- selves on their sense of accomplishment and production) criticize this apparent inactivity and seeming lack of purpose as if it's a fault. But I see drifting more as an adaptation to a fickle society that provides me no adequate (or maybe I mean sane) debouch into a "real" world of social affairs. What I really mean to say is that I do not get myself "up" high enough to provide myself with that debouch. It's not society's fault that I do not choose to participate in its folly. I must take the responsibility.

And so it's my own fault that I feel like a baby pinniped awaiting the Al Qa'ida fishermen to come and club me to death, insouciantly going about my daily life, swimming in my isolated tidal pool as if nothing is wrong. Yeah, I drift, on the redirected currents of the same ocean that feeds my little pool. But at least I know it. Everyone else seems to think they're going somewhere, doing something important with their lives. We're all fodder for the corporate and governmental entities (the subjects that the Al Qa'ida represent in the metaphor, lest you think that I was being literal there) that prey on us, using us for mere manpower at the lowest wage possible (when they can't get enough immigrants to accept even lower wages).

We are each nothing more than a reflex of our immediate ancestors, thinking what we have been conditioned to think, acting in the same ways (liberally or conservatively) that our people have thought in the past. That's as much a drifting mentality as is appearing to be going nowhere, but just "going with the flow." (Remember that brief period of time a while back when that became a positive value?) I even fleer at people in the same way that they fleer at me. I'm just like all the rest of the people in this country, except that I know it, while they think they are somehow different if they would criticize me for drifting and wasting my life, as if it were their concern as to how I'm supposed to be living it.


I stayed up all night and watched taped movies after a brief hour-and-a-half nap at eight o'clock (thus missing the original movie-length pilot for Little House on the Prairie--not a big loss). The big loss is that in the morning, just before noon, before I finally fell asleep, I broke my three days Atkins' all-protein diet and ate the three remaining bananas and four ounces of chocolate. Shit. But I only gained one pound, so right back on again. (I had been eating huge amounts of protein: sausage, steak, chicken; but eating all that protein only causes you to lose weight if you avoid carbs; otherwise, it only adds more bulk to your diet.)

I awaken at 4:33 p.m. out of a dream about Paul E. is running a new automated press at my old workplace, and he's screwing up a short press run (half the print is missing) because he isn't paying attention. Steve is there, observing and commenting in his superior-minded manner and I am advising and counseling Paul, while I analyze in a kind of semi-lucid state how the way I point out errors in the print allows Paul to unconsciously give himself the message that he is absolved from finding any further mistakes, because my body language and verbal approval of his fixing of the mistake can be read as a tacit go-ahead to finish the job without looking for further mistakes. I wonder if Steve engages in the same kind of behavior toward me, so that I unconsciously assume that I can go ahead with what I'm doing (the way I am handling the situation/work crew). Probably. (I reason this all out within the dream.) Most of the older equipment has been removed from this production floor, replaced by the automated machine, and I comment to someone (another supervisor?) that maybe Steve's longer-term intention is to get out of the printing business. The other person concurs with my potential conclusion. I think that maybe it's time to move on, long before the ax falls when we are dismissed (as we eventually all are, everywhere, as "productivity" is increased, which it always eventually is). I awaken wishing I had engaged in my fantasy job-hunting/progression strategy while I was still working full-time, thus allowing myself to move on from job to job instead of staying in one place, each time taking a higher level position and advancing myself up the corporate ladder instead of having remained loyal to a thankless employer. But it's too late now. It's not, really, but I don't want to work that hard any more, unless I ever really have to. I resolve that if I ever do have to, this is the way I will approach it: forgoing all company loyalty (after all, they're not loyal to their employees, are they?) and skipping out as soon as the bloom wears off the rose and things begin to get difficult and the scapegoating begins to escalate to a point where you can't shield yourself from it without engaging in similar behavior as self-protection; because meanwhile I will have been looking for a better job all along, this time aided by the Internet. It's a good plan that I may never get the opportunity to implement. And if I don't ever have to, so much the better.

Now, as it is, in my real life, I see two alternatives: give up writing in my journals and abstracting content from them to the website and go and do something "important" with my life; or decide (once again) that the way I'm living now is a sanity I've found after having tried to conform to the social and business expectations of a world gone crazy. As much as I might like to do the former, if for no other reason than diversion, I suspect that the latter is the proper way to live.


I've been doing the absolute minimum that still allows me to be able to say that I'm progressing. I guess, judging by the symptoms, that I'm depressed; but I feel just fine. I've been watching a lot of taped movies, which is maybe a sign that my mental state is not so healthy as it might otherwise be. I put off all but the simplest decisions. But I ran out of the regular one gram dose of melatonin and have been taking the time release stuff, which keeps me asleep for long hours (I'm averaging nine or ten a night), so maybe this is what is causing me not to want to do anything substantial. Maybe my body can't get rid of the residue time-release stuff. Maybe.

In any case, I've been moping through the days in the same way as old timers with Alzheimer's do, as if I can't remember who I am or what my purpose is, even though it's quite clear to me; I just don't seem to want to act toward it. Maybe Alzheimer's patients actually feel this way, competent inside, but ineffective within a social setting, a kind of old-age autism. Who knows how they feel, really? They can't tell us. Even if some of them go in and out of the state, how can we trust the reports of their socially consensual consciousness that wants to comply with our expectations of how they really are when they are mentally not "with us?"


Jesus said, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed."
The Gospel of Thomas
As a species we hold ourselves to such a low standard that we want to believe is so high, especially in America. Don't get me wrong. America is a great place to live. I don't think I'd ever want to live anywhere else, no matter how much I bitch and moan about this country and it's churlish policies and practices. Yet still, every single day it seems, when I'm checking out the local news, I read about a murder. And we treat our poor so poorly. We make only the most minimal effort to help them, and we think ourselves so great for having done so little, calculating that we don't have to do anything at all for them, not recognizing that we are the ones who create our poor, in ways that we will never know, because we don't want to know.

When I say that we don't help our poor and disenfranchised citizens (the mere concept of disenfranchisement indicates that the condition is the responsibility of the enfranchised) I'm not talking about giving them money; that's the least of it, and probably the most ineffective way to help them. I'm talking about enabling them to become valued citizens by doing whatever it takes to accomplish that objective. We don't do this; we don't even want to do this; we are Christian, those of us who are, in name only.

I awaken this morning at nine a.m. after only six and a half hours of sleep, but for a change I feel quite awake and ready to get up. (The last few weeks I've been sleeping nine or so hours a night and awakening very groggy and uninterested in doing anything at all.) But I still experience a confusing mix of motivation and ennui:

I want to work, at writing and at my list of physical tasks, including art; but at the same time (or alternatively, rapidly switching back and forth) I feel doubtful and precariously fragile, mostly because of (or, more probably, as represented by) this dream:

I'm in college, living in a dormitory that is like an army barracks, i.e., no rooms, but rather long lines of beds and lockers, except that there is no hint of that recurrent army barracks dream-agenda. It's the end of the school year and we're getting ready to pack up and go home. I'm trying to locate my car [the parking lot is inside the dorm and integrated into it, as if the beds are both beds and cars], a new Chrysler sports model (does such a thing even exist?) that has been the subject of past dreams, wherein I have felt fortunate to have owned such a vehicle, except that car ownership is such a transient phenomenon, because they deteriorate, no matter how well you take care of them. But I can't find my car¥, after having initially located it and loaded it with my belongings prior to returning home for the summer; retroactively, I determine that I haven't seen it since the beginning of the school year when it disappeared. I'm also having a similar problem with my clothes, which at first are immediately available in a locker/dresser, and then have also disappeared, and then are piled up in my car/on my bed, which also then disappears. Also early in the school year, I deposited a large portion of my clothes in a locker only to have the locker commandeered by someone else, my clothes mysterious vanishing. [bed=car=locker] This and numerous other personal slights I've taken in stride, which is to say I tolerated them without complaint, because that's the way I was back then, too afraid of personal confrontation to register complaints. I have been living near the south end of the dormitory. I walk to the north end and out the door, accompanying a friend who claims he's found my car. We walk north out into a huge dayroom (the same size as the large dorm room), with large windows that extend from the ceiling to near the floor and all the way around three sides of the room. The room is filled with small tables, each with four chairs; it is empty of people. We exit this room through a glass door on its east side into the parking lot, which is now external to the building (previously the dorm had also been the parking lot). I experience the slightest hope that my car is there, almost as if I can see it, except that my friend disappears before he can show me where it is. Retracing my steps, I find that he has fallen (not quite the right verb; it's more like an intentional act) into a hole in the pavement and exists below the surface of the asphalt in a kind of air/water environment. At a break in the asphalt a few yards farther north a black girl is also under the surface, but she is less than willing to be there. Roger, an old, ineffectual boss, is with me now, and he walks farther east to a much larger break that has steps down into the air/water mixture (which is much more purely water now, and soon will be all water). He intends to walk down the steps and "rescue" the girl (ineffectively, as it will turn out). At first, caught up in Roger's agenda (finding a circuitous route to the solution of the problem), each time the girl surfaces, I inform her that there are steps in the direction in which I point, and I try to direct her toward Roger and the steps. She makes a feeble effort to understand and comply, but she's too weak and confused, and I realize that if I do not act, instead of awaiting Roger's lame (in)action, she will drown. So I reach in and pull her out. She's naked except for a heavy wool coat that she's half-wearing, which Roger, now returned to the surface without ever having reached her, or even having gone all the way underwater, directs that she not be allowed to wear, despite the fact that she wants it for warmth, because, says Roger, it will rob her body of heat; instead, he says, she should leave her skin exposed to the warmth of the sun. I agree, perhaps because I love looking at the beautiful bronze skin tone of her torso, her firm, well-rounded breasts, and her dark pubes, and I rub her body between her chest and her pubes to stimulate warmth. But I think that I should find her something warm to wear, because although the sun warms her skin, the gentle breeze equally cools it so that she wants the coat we removed from her. (Again, Roger's agenda, even if it is "logically sound" is just practically wrong.) CUT TO (but with a smooth transition):

The beginning of the following school year. I am in the huge day room, sitting at a table at the end near the dorm. A few other people are in the room now, scattered about. Roger sees me and we talk. He asks me how my "career plans" are progressing, now that I am a sophomore. So I begin to explain my problems to him, how I lost my car, how it "disappeared" early in the last school year, how I lost most of my clothing, and how my school "records" seem to have been lost ("I surmise," I say, basing my conclusions upon circum- stantial evidence). He doesn't seem to quite understand what I'm saying, and in any case, he isn't prepared to deal with these kinds of "serious" problems. He asked me how I was doing out of politeness, expecting a polite and superficial, "sociable" response. I observe his awkwardness as he squirms to try to come up with a plan to refer me to someone else who can better deal with my very real problems that are beyond his area of expertise (which is to maintain a veneer of respectable social conformance, I guess).

I awaken with the awareness (that I discovered quite a while ago, but have been dealing with more and more recently) of how ineffective people (nearly everyone, not just certain specific people) are who appear to be [i.e., have cultivated the appearance of a] professional--people who are instead, beneath the surface (I see now, but not back then when I knew most of them) quite insecure in what they are doing, and thus perpetrate a gross injustice on the people they serve/supervise, in that they make their decisions both unilaterally (i.e., without the awareness of the person whom the decision/action is directed toward, but probably with the advice and consent of more elite members of the organization) and surreptitiously [i.e., without having gathered adequate input from and without involving their victims (which is what their clients/workers in fact are, or soon will become) in the process, i.e., without "counseling" them competently beforehand, which they always say they do, but which they do in such a superficial, and in Roger's case, enigmatic way that effectively no counseling is done at all. In other words, the victims are stereotyped/scapegoated/mani- pulated and dispensed to their "fates" (meaning that the outcome is predetermined, not by any universal principle or deity, but by the demigods whose social roles allow them such arbitrary powers, which they can either use negatively or ineffectively, or not at all) on (a series of) decisions based more upon the mental states of the deciders than upon the facts of the victims' "cases" (so determined so as to pre-establish the need for action in the first place)]. The whole point here is that those who decide on the fates of the victims (lower echelon individuals) are just as ridden with insecurities, faults, unprofessional attitudes, etc., as are the victims of the decisions/actions; it's just that the deciders have the power to decide and act, whereas the victims do not, or have so little room to maneuver re the decisions made that they might just as well have no room at all. For example, the decision to continue working for a disreputable and/or overbearing company or to quit and find another job is not so clear-cut a choice for someone who is desperately surviving, perhaps as a single mother with three kids in school and no real social support except for the minimum wage job she holds down, at a great cost to her self-esteem and self-respect.

There are very few true professionals in every profession. I can see quite easily now the weakness in people that they will reveal when they are working quite hard to present an appearance of professionalism and competence. I've seen it in President Bush for example, when he will stumble over words, so that what apologists say is a mere fluke of (mis)education and/or weakness at language and self-expression is actually an unconscious revelation of hidden insecurity and fear. I've seen it, at times, in almost everyone I meet or see, private and public people alike. Ordinary people, typically, when they act within the scope of the social role that they've adapted to, that is, when they are being their real selves, do not display this kind of behavior. Most ordinary people are quite competent and secure within the scope of their limited ordinary lives. (Some percentage of the population is not comfortable within their ordinary lives, and these are the people we label as "insecure," meaning that they suffer to some degree from pathological anxiety.)

But when ordinary people extend themselves into areas where they must perform above their heads or out of their comfort zones, they usually become insecure. (Of course.) Most professionals fall into this category. These are the people who reveal most obviously (if you will look closely; if you will "know what is in front of your face") their insecurity and fear. Some very small percentage of professionals are so good at what they have learned (as opposed to have come by congenitally/intuitively) to do, have assimilated into their profession so well and additionally have learned how to compensate so well for their personal weakness (we all have it, somewhere deep inside), that they do not reveal the insecurity and fear and have even, for all practical purposes overcome it. (It never really goes away, once it's formed, in childhood; but it can be compensated for and "put behind" oneself.) Bill Clinton comes to mind. They don't call him "Slick Willie" for the sexual innuendo alone.

[I readily see insecurity and fear in people because I am highly sensitive to the state, being just as insecure and fearful as everybody else, if not more so. You might think, then, that my "sensitivity" is merely a matter of projection (which may well be quite true), but projection without the denial that will typically accompany it can be an excellent mechanism for discovering traits in others that might otherwise remain well hidden.]


The remnants of Hurricane Isabel blew through overnight and by noon were gone on their way toward Canada. I slept (ten and quarter hours total) through all but the beginnings, awakening now and then to hear the wind howling outside my bedroom window and the rain pelting the patio furniture. Now, at noon, it's a calm but overcast day with prospects for a nice tomorrow.

But the wind stirred up a desperate dream this morning. I was in a strange city, maybe a Canadian one, My father was in an expansive city park, large enough that in most places it would be considered a rural area, except that it was immediately adjacent to this city and even, later in the dream, included within it. The park contained strangely growing plum trees, where the fruit was bunched together on branches, one for each tree, that both grew up from the ground (i.e., were rooted) and hung down from the higher trees, awkwardly, as all of the trees' other branches grew upwardly in a normal manner; none of the other branches of the much larger trees bore any fruit, only these dwarf adjunct branches, as if they had been grafted scions. [Maybe I am such a scion; maybe these branches are a symbol for the type of person I am, having been grafted onto a family (or a father) that was so much unlike me--except that there is a certain feeling of propinquity in this dream between my father and myself, an unstated kinship that I feel, not of relation so much as of identity; perhaps it's simply that his dream character represents more an aspect of me than of his own self.] He is buying a hearing aid battery, because his is going bad; but he can't find one that will work, despite the fact that the one he tries is specified as being the correct type. Someone is helping him in this endeavor (my sister? my mother?) early on, but then I alone remain when he is finally left without an ability to hear at all because he drops and loses his good, but failing battery while he is replacing it with the others he is trying. I go away for a few minutes and when I return, he has become involved in a fracas in which he has been defending himself against muggers (or he and another guy had been defending themselves against one mugger) and they all lay on a tree-covered hillside in a "wild" part of the city/park to the south, each having suffered severely from the encounter. Dad is at the top of the hill, lying apparently dead; the other two guys are strewn farther down the hill among the trees, each definitely dead. It's impossible to determine which guy was the mugger and which was the "good guy" (if that were the case), and although the guy farthest to the south is dressed in ordinary street clothes while the guy nearest to Dad is dressed in a suit, this is not definitive evidence. The cops have already checked out the scene and have marked the location of each body with round red markers about a foot in diameter in preparation for taking the bodies away. But I go to the top of the hill and discover that Dad is not dead. He awakens groggily as I arrive at him. I get him up and secret him away before the cops see us. He is unable to hear and so (illogically) also unable to speak. I support him on my left and half-carry him out to the street where I unsuccessfully try to hail a cab. So I half-carry him the long distance (which becomes very short) into the heart of the city, where we find a hotel that is also a hospital. I manage to get him admitted despite the fact that neither he nor I have any identification. I tell the reception- ist/nurse that I'll go and get it later and bring it to her, knowing full well that I will not. Identity, in fact, seems to be the central issue in the dream, but I can't quite get a handle on it.


Existing. Doing the bare minimum.


And I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time.
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home.
Blind Faith
I'm lost again. I hate it when I'm not productive. I fell asleep at six-thirty this morning after spending the entire night watching crap tv, listening to CDs, and fantasizing--sure signs that the winter mentality is on the way.

I have recurrent dreams where I am some distance from home without transportation, and trying to walk home only ends up taking me to other places and experiences, when all I want to be is in the relative safety and security of my own home. But on rare occasions, I do manage to get home, when the distance becomes foreshortened in that efficient way that dreams will sometimes provide; and on these occasions, I always find different a kind of home, a more interesting one, the same home, but changed, usually in a perceptual rather than a real world way, but sometimes in an actual physical manner. I assume that these dreams mean that I am lost and searching for a purpose, which I find, not in something different, but in the same old thing, viewed differently, from a unique perspective.

Today I want to continue to watch some good films on the UHF channels (The Confession, A Gathering of Old Men, Gunshy, etc.), but I just can't bring myself to waste the minimum amount of productive attitude that I manage to summon up each day just after I awaken, and I can't tape the movies because the UHF signal is too weak.

And that brings me to another lame problem: I'm up against the wall of running out of blank tape space again. I thought this problem would have ended when I canceled the cable. To erase or not to erase? That is the question. I want to preserve a lot of movies I tape, in order to watch them again, or just to have them, for reference purposes, or for mere additions to a collection. But the line must be drawn somewhere. Movies with commercials in them is one line. Only the most appealing movies make this cut. But this is not enough. [Okay. I give up. This content is lame. Who cares about this stuff anyway? I'm done writing for today (and I only just started).]


Some dreams are just too appealing: I'm in my childhood home, in the upstairs back bedroom. A Rita-like character is with me on the bed. We're making out, but we are interrupted by Geena Davis, who takes over from Rita, who becomes discouraged (not angry, but dejected and defeatist) and goes downstairs to sleep in the living room. CUT TO:

Current home: there are a lot of people living here, several sleeping in every room so that there is no sense of privacy. I don't know most of these people, yet they are "familiar" in that I don't feel like they don't belong. A family-like atmosphere prevails, yet still I bemoan the lack of privacy. I'm in my bedroom, trying to sleep, but the doors don't close® and conversations/banter from the other rooms keep me awake. CUT BACK TO:

Old home, same bedroom, as if it's the next day, in the morning: Rita has returned to the room, but she's different: she doesn't look like herself at all, but rather is slim and trim. She looks really good and almost looks like a young db, but it's her "personality" that is most striking, a mix of herself, db, and Jennifer Aniston, with maybe a little bit of Courtney Cox thrown in. It's a difficult perception to describe. I see her as a young, good-looking woman whom I've never seen before, but I "perceive" her as a psychological mix of the most attractive elements of herself and these other women. She's dressed in a blue and green jumpsuit-like pants suit, but it's more elegant than a jumpsuit. It's more like an evening dress, but also similar to lounge wear, the kind of thing that a woman might wear around the house when she wants to feel dressed up. Observing her from across the room, I ask her why she's dressed up. She replies with some cryptic remark designed to be evasive, which I intuit to mean that she wants to look good while hanging around the house, that she doesn't intend to go out, as my remarks had seemed to her to mean to imply, although I had no conscious intention of implying that. Then, in the next instant, I get the idea that she has gotten all dressed up to attract me, to begin from where we left off yesterday, but this time with more success on her part. I'm flattered and very attracted, not to her so much as to this "new" woman, this conglomerate of personalities, as well as to the simple elegance of her appearance, and I look forward to carrying out her agenda, which is to get me into bed. But a few more simple exchanges of words result in her (not directly as a result of what I said, but more as if it's an undercurrent in her mind that she can't resist attending to, despite her conscious agenda) concluding, verbally, that what I say confirms her fear that we will be interrupted again by Geena Davis (or, actually, that she's getting pissed that I allowed Geena to replace her), when what I'd said had nothing at all to do with the previous day's experience. She indicates this abrupt attitude change in so few words, which are something like "Oh, like Geena Davis." [In other words, she defeats herself in her conscious purpose with her own jealousy, which she has driven into her unconsciousness, but which she cannot keep repressed.] I am not entirely unhappy with her change of attitude from positive attraction to jealousy because although I'd like to jump into bed with her, the idea of it is more powerful than the actual experience would have been. [Well, maybe not, really, but that's the feeling of it that I had in the dream.] I am at least as much turned on by the idea that she was attracted to me enough that she went to all the effort to get all fixed up and prepared to spend the day in bed with me as I am with the anticipation of the actual experience, and even though it doesn't happen because she becomes pouty and begins to play games that are meant to interfere with intimacy as they attempt to prompt me to chase after her and to prove that I really love her and want her (the exact same behavior that she displayed the night before when she retired to the living room and hoped that I would follow her, which I did not), I am not at all hurt by her rejection and remain content with the idea that she had wanted me enough to have gone out of her way to attract me.

This dream has all the earmarks of being great content for a short story; but I just don't feel like working so hard right now at doing the conversion. I slept for nine hours last night, and all I want to do is go back to bed--if not to sleep, then to daydream. I'm hopeless. I really need to get outside and become active, to drive away this ennui. I should go and cut the grass and hedges and clean up the yard and porches in preparation for winter; but I just don't care enough to go and do it. It looks like it's going to rain; and although the activity would probably stimulate me into a different mood, I can't manage to rouse myself to do the work. All I want to do, instead, is to entertain myself with the imagination of stories, rather than with the actual stories themselves. I've been ruminating on this idea for days: stories as a purpose in my life. This is an old idea that I've started writing out a number of times; but I've never seemed to deal with it adequately before:

Stories [dreams, news, movies, novels, short stories, fantasies...] dominate all of our lives, at least unconsciously. I seem to be more conscious in this regard than most people. [Our entire existence is a collection of stories, some of them overt and obvious, such as in dreams or on tv, but many of them are encoded into unconscious personal, familial, social, and cultural scripts.] I see the story formats every day, from the moment of my first awakening, as I analyze my dreams, which are my most interesting (to me) stories. I document them and try, via analysis and interpretation and association with my waking life and ideas, to turn them into one or another form of art, all of which is some form of story. And then there is my everyday experience, story fragments at least, which I document in my journal as the antics of my family and neighbors, or as the mere ideas that I have on an ongoing basis, story fragments disguised as philosophical, psychological, or political agendas, all of which becomes sources of raw material for my art. And of course there is the news, a different kind of format whose bottom line purpose is to tell a story. I am preoccupied with (the) news and with gleaning the "truth" of it from multiple sources. And after all of that "work" is done, I pursue stories further via novels and short fiction, and via movies and tv

This brings me to near the end of my waking day, when I will entertain myself before falling asleep with fantasies (usually based upon movies or books) and reverie--more stories. And then I go to sleep and dream up even more. Of course, when I am not able, for whatever reason, to maintain a "normal" day, this natural progression of story pursuit becomes all mixed up and I become lost in a phantasmagoria of story fragments from all these sources intermixed. I become confused and lost sometimes, sometimes often, amid the many fragments of stories that I can't manage to get sorted out. I watch movies while reading books and switching to the news or other stories during the commercial breaks and jumping up to (try to) do some work on the computer when I get a half hour or an hour break from tv when the content becomes too lame; or I become distracted by neighbor's antics and must interrupt the stories I am watching or working on so that I may observe these other story sources--all of which is continually interrupted by my idea-engendering mind. Life is an infinite provenience of stories, and I am in direct contact with the overabundant flow. The only way to stop it is to meditate, correctly, when the flow will become transformed from the derivative material to the pure essence of life that will continue to flow freely devoid of content. It's a tricky business, to strip the flow of content. The human mind continually tries to slip the content in. But it's possible to remain "in the gap" between thoughts for long periods of time and thus to stop the stories for a while. This can be refreshing. But so long as we remain human, we will never divorce ourselves from the stories for more than a few hours at a time, at most. Stories are the essence of being human.


I awaken a bit piqued toward a certain exquisite sadness (ala Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson when he describes a Russian's 'misery'). I try to intentionally provoke this minimal feeling so as to examine it more closely, because only last night as I was falling asleep did I rationalize that my "depression" never incorporated "sadness" and that my symptoms, if that's what they are (ennui, doubt, worry, anxiety), are not necessarily an unwelcome state, that my laid-back lifestyle is conducive to weathering these minor quirks of personality, that when a long time ago I smoked marijuana daily, it was an activity that negated (at least an awareness of) depression by matching my outward behavior more closely with my inner state, giving me an excuse to see myself as I truly am, the symptoms being attributable to the pot, when they were actually being merely illuminated by it, that I was stoned and therefore otherwise okay, when I was probably in fact not so good beneath it all (the residual effects of the drug never allowing me to come to a fully "sober" state of mind and thus never requiring me to have to deal with the "problem" of social anxiety, ennui, etc.)

My lifestyle now serves the same function as pot did back then. Then, smoking marijuana and drinking beer when I was at home, and plying out my productive attitude/behavior with caffeine when I was at work, enabled me to balance the two states of being, up and down. But now, I can no longer drink beer with impunity (heart problem), and I shouldn't even be drinking the one cup of coffee I'm back to having every day. (I'm an addict again.) So the only recourse I have to dealing with my "problem" is analyzing dreams and writing (which is what I'm doing now), because the "problem" (perhaps a complex of "problems"; or perhaps merely that complex of more "normal" traits that is the repressed "me") is most prevalent, and often only extant, when I awaken out of dreams, even when the dreams seem to have nothing to do with it.

But this morning I actually feel the sadness, and I think to examine it and so I provoke it to that end, but with little success, because as I begin to "think it out," my mind wanders through a related series of topics that I've been dealing with over the last few days and suddenly I am motivated to document them, thereby dispelling the affective state, which will almost always happen shortly after I awaken, but is most often so short-lived so as to quickly fade away, so that I have to act quickly myself in response (as if I exist in counterpoint to my mind, as a kind of external objective reporter of it) to get the bare facts down on paper or on tape, keywords and phrases to remind me where my mind has been, so that I may then push myself over the next several hours to get the whole of the text written out, so that the text that I am is available, if not for further personal study, then at least as evidence that I do in fact exist as a thinking human being.

Usually, this initial pre-documentation is a precursory process, and often it is entirely mental, as I repeat a few catchwords and phrases to myself over and over as I wash my face, turn on the computer to allow it to boot up, and make myself a quick cup of coffee (or some non- or decaffeinated substitute). Then I type the keys (heh!) into my journal and begin the process of expanding upon them. But sometimes, when the subjects are multiple and complex, I must resort to putting them down on paper, or at least on tape, immediately upon awakening. And at other times, which has been the case most recently and for some weeks now, I do none of this and allow my mind to either remember so that it may document, or to forget and allow myself to drift through my life, "unproductively." (Ideally, this would be a spontaneous state of serendipitous existence in the moment, responding to the immediate provocations of my mind; but life is never ideal and when I am non-rational(izing) I am seldom in a state of momentary bliss, except when I am meditating.)

My rational productive life is never better when I will think to make a morning list, follow up on it by writing it out, and making something more than mere journal entries out of what I have (previously) written. My life is seldom more abject than when I will not do this, but allow myself to drift. One might think that this is a matter of choice; but it is not. It is (pre?)determined by my state of mind, which seems to be (pre)determined by my dreams and/or physiological state during the night, which, I theorize, is (pre)determined by the activities/ conditions of the day(s) before, although it may be entirely a matter of psycho-physiology, the existing condition of which is probably determined by pre-existing psychopathology and/or diet. It's a complex matter, life and mind.

Today's Brief List

1a. a pique of sadness
(see above)

1b. a pinch of a problem

For a while now I've been reading a collection of (long) short stories by Thomas Mann. Usually I read only a few pages per day (usually at night, unless I happen to be sitting on the porch with nothing else to do) because his style is so ponderous and the reading is slow and sometimes difficult to remain focused on, although his ideas are welcome enough. For example, the other day I came across this passage:

Bashan is a short-haired German pointer--speaking by and large, that is, and not too literally. For he is probably not quite orthodox, as a pure matter of points. In the first place, he is a little too small. He is, I repeat, definitely undersized for a pointer. And then his forelegs are not absolutely straight, they have just the suggestion of an outward curve--which also detracts from his qualifications as a blood-dog.


A man in the Isar valley had told me that this kind of dog can become a nuisance, by always wanting to be with his master... It is a deep-lying patriarchal instinct in the dog which leads him--at least in the more manly, outdoor breeds--to recognize and honour in the man of the house and head of the family his absolute master and overlord, protector of the hearth; and to find in the relation of vassalage to him the basis and value of his own existence...

Thomas Mann, "A Man And His Dog"
Mann describes other traits of his dog, some of which apply in a minor way to what I am about to write, and some of which do not. It doesn't matter. He has captured my attention, because in the above passage he has exactly described
Slim, a dog I once owned.

[As I was reading the passage, I had been out on the back porch and the guy down the street is in his back yard calling his dog, a huge black and brown Dobermann/Rottweiler mix. His voice starts out low and stretches out long into a higher register, shouting out the dog's name that I can't quite make out, sounding like an Indian Thug crying out in tortuous ecstasy as a supplicant to Kali asking to be allowed to do the bidding of the god, however evil an act it may be.

I wrote this previous paragraph then, motivated by Mann's dog prose. It has nothing to do with my memories of Slim, Mann's work, or what I am about to write. But it's about a dog and his owner, so I include it here.]

I only bring up Mann now in order to contrast him with Kenzaburo Oe, whose writing style is fluid and easy to read and not at all slow going. It's as pleasurable to read Oe as it is cumbrous to read Mann. Last night as I was preparing to go to bed, being bored with tv and pissed because some of my favorite stations were suffering from bad atmospherics, I decided to read myself to sleep; but I wasn't in the mood to struggle with Mann. So I went out to the office where I stage, on the bottom shelf of a small antique table that that my father made way back when, the books I intend to read. Most of the books there were too heavy to suit my casual mood, I thought, but one jumped out at me: A Quite Life by Kenzaburo Oe. I love Oe's style, but I'd been saving this book, because it's the last of five by Oe that I bought at deep discount. (I'd happily breezed through the first four as soon as I received them in the mail.) I began reading this last Oe book and was surprised when I discovered that, after what seemed like a few minutes when I decided it was time to go to sleep, I was already on page thirty-five.

Mother's laconic explanation for all this [traveling to California with her husband and leaving the nearly adult children at home to take care of themselves] was that Father was in a "pinch." She also said that Father himself had admitted to her that it was a "pinch" such as he had never experienced.

Mother had already filled me in on Father's condition by first telling me he had previously experienced several "pinches," each of which he had managed to overcome.


Having seen Father confronted with similar predicaments even before their marriage, Mother said she was used to it, but she gave me no concrete clue as to what the new "pinch" involved. And so mingled in me were the fear and the sadness that, despite all the "pinches" Father had overcome by himself, he was now facing one in which a mere seclusion of his person at a place of shelter offered him no solution at all.


From Mother's letters, I feel that she's been trying to convey to me more about Father's "pinches" than she did when they were here. "When I thought about it, " she wrote in one of them, "I had to admit that Papa's depression--I use this word although I don't like it--started with the sewer-cleaning incident."

Kenzaburo Oe, A Quiet Life
That's exactly it, I thought, when I awoke this morning out of a "depressing" dream, remembering Oe's description of depression as a "pinch." Life narrows down and you become overly worried to the point of obsession about insignificant matters, which take on majestic proportions and become symbolic of the whole of life, so that you don't want to deal with life itself, but rather feel that if you can just master this one small aspect of it, you can, by default, master the whole. And if you do manage to master that small aspect, a magnificent mania results; but if you don't, it's feels like the end of the world is at hand.

Existing outside ameliorates this phenomenon. Being outside every day is conducive to dispelling that "closed in" feeling of winter. Only fifteen or twenty minutes a day works to keep the winter wolf at bay, off in the woods, away from the door. But I have to admit that although I like the sun and the open, outdoorsy feeling of summer, I don't so much mind the internal pinches (when they are relatively small, which mine usually are). I don't mind the closed-in winter either as long as I can maintain a progressing attitude with the ultimate objective of an inevitable spring thaw. I think of it as a retreat (as if my whole life now is not this same thing), a kind of test I must endure, but not so much a trial (which might find me guilty, despite the excellent evidence I present); rather more like an effort I must expend for four to six months out of a year so that I may enjoy the remaining year in easy freedom. And that nether time of year, winter, is in harmony with my personality, or at least half of my personality, the winter half, the summer half being reserved for summer. (Of course; but sometimes I feel the winter half in summer too, when I find myself for periods of summer time avoiding people and wanting to exist on my own, alone. But I am more flexible in summer, and far less stressed as a result of social contact.) When I used to work at jobs, I would always suffer less from stress during the summer, because I could go home and appreciate the great outdoors.

2a. friendship and attraction v. obligation

I see many robust boys, in their twenties...while commuting to classes and on campus. I won't say this for all of them--in particular, I don't feel at all this way about my fellow volunteers--but now and then I detect in a boy's stare a radiation that seems to emanate from something sexual deep inside him.
Kenzaburo Oe, A Quiet Life
At my old workplace, Cindy R. is wandering around at the back of the print shop on the fourth floor as if she is lost. I watch her. I study her. I like the way she looks and acts. When she looks at me, I think she sees something in me that she doesn't see in other guys, as if I radiate "something sexual from deep inside" that she feels deep inside herself, and I don't mean psychologically. Even though she isn't working, but instead wandering around, I don't care, because she takes a distant interest in me. I go up onto the sixth floor and find Cindy working up there at a machine. Bob K. works at a machine next to her. I half awaken and realize that I am not feeling at all well. My back hurts and has been hurting all night, and although I don't realize this at the time, the next day at the computer I understand that my back pain is beginning to cause me to feel nauseous, a rare symptom that I haven't felt in a long time now. And after awakening I will recognize that this physical pain may be also be symbolic of and even the cause of or caused by psychological pain (depression?). I roll over onto my stomach, thinking that if my back is going to be hurting anyway, I might as well get some psychological comfort1, and besides, I can stretch muscles and flex my spine by lying on my stomach. [This is the briefest semi-waking state of perhaps only seconds.] I lie down on the floor beside the machines with the idea of stretching out my back, and I fall asleep for a short time, and when I awaken, I realize that Cindy and Bob are talking about me critically, because I allow myself to take a sleep break while they have to work. But I justify myself by maintaining that I wasn't sleeping, but only stretching out my back to relieve the pain. I don't say this to them, I only think it to myself, but they get the idea anyway, although I'm not sure that they believe it. CUT TO:

Downtown streets between department stores. I follow a good-looking girl into a store and onto an elevator. She meets a girl she knows and they talk to each other. They work in offices on an upper floor and have been separately on their lunch breaks. I am standing behind them listening to their conversation. When we first got into the elevator, the first girl made eye contact with me. In the course of their conversation, the second girl, who gets the idea from the first girl that I am behind them, even though no words to that effect are exchanged, turns around and looks into my eyes. She is immediately attracted to me, and I to her. Spontaneously, with no prior thought of it all, she says "Would you like to go out with me." I say "Sure." When she said it, she didn't think it'd happen [having been more flippant than serious, meaning the words to indicate not so much that she wanted to go out with as to mean that she liked me] and neither did I, and so I am as surprised as she is that I said yes. We both hesitate, but then we agree to meet later. I worry that, when she compares notes with the first girl, she will think differently of me and not show up for our date because that first girl and I felt the same way about each other. I get out of the elevator before the doors close and wander toward the east and end up on the docks of my old workplace. I'm feeling ill and want to lie down again. I go inside the shipping area and meet Steve, my old boss, who is happy to see me and asks how I am. I tell him that I'm not feeling well. He asks me if I want to go home. I tell him, "No, I'll stick it out," because I know that he admires such courage and work dedication. He hesitates for a bit (he wants to help me out, but he doesn't want to allow any non-work ideas to become spread around) before he suggests that what sometimes helps is to lie down and take a brief nap (his exact words have something to do with "barrels," i.e., 55 gallon drums, which he suggests as a bed. In other words, he wants to get me over a barrel?) I myself hesitate to do this and do not say to him that I will do it, but after I walk away from him, I realize that his suggestion justifies the nap that I took earlier on the sixth floor and that the implicit threat that Cindy and Bob's attitude toward me represented, that they would report me (which upsets me [maybe this is the sickness] because earlier I had ignored Cindy's wandering, non-work attitude in favor of her attractive personality and now she does not reciprocate) [thus I become sick, i.e., depressed, because I can find neither a sense of fairness, nor of friendship in the people I know; but if depression is repressed guilt, then maybe I am projecting and this is the other way around, that others befriended me, but I was required by my job to "report" them, i.e., make them work and administer reprimands when they didn't] was negated by Steve's suggestion. And yet, I feel uncomfortable with his permission, thinking that, if I would take advantage of it, he would somehow hold it against me. I awaken to the idea that although I think that Steve was a nice guy, I could never trust him, and never should have (even to the small extent that I did) when I worked for him. Even though he supported me, ultimately he deferred to others who wanted me gone. [This is the same dynamic that I find in myself above, that although Steve may be a friendly and caring guy, he requires me to work and not waste time, the same way that I related to my employees.]

2b. a narrow v. expanded view

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.
When I worked at a job full time, I never understood world events very well, because I had never had much time to dwell upon their operations or upon the machinations of the people who executed them. I did however understand a small corner of that world, which readily generalized to the larger arena when I stopped working and devoted my time to a contemplation of the "news."

Now, I see how world events unfold, whereas before I was pretty much oblivious to all but the headlines. I see how, for example, the president is still the same fuck-up he had been in the past, before he became president; but on a larger scale now. And yet, I have a lot of trouble motivating myself to criticize him, despite the fact that he blatantly favors the oil companies and, more generally, corporate greed and repression, strips efficacy from the laws that protect the environment so as to favor that same corporate motive, irresponsibly spends the taxpayers' money as if he were a Democrat (except that his pet projects are not liberally oriented, but involve the military and corporate welfare), favors Ashcroft and his attack on the privacy rights of individuals, bases his politics on cronyism, eschews diplomacy in favor of a caustic and divisive foreign policy, continues to ruin America's image overseas, and is a consummate solecist.

But despite his flaws and his disgusting record, I can't get out of my head the positive (to me) cowboy image of him sauntering along on his Texas ranch in Levis and a suede work jacket, cool and unsophisticated. He's about as un-duded as you can get and still exist in the modern world. I still like him, as a person, no matter how much I despise him as a politician; and I think the reason I like him is because he is me, a goof-off and a fuck-up who managed to get it together after a while. When I criticize him, especially when that criticism involves his past, which inevitably it must, because his present position is a definitive product of his past, I see a definite projection on my part. I was a rebel who was (figuratively, like Bush) dragged kicking and screaming into the world of business, finance, and politics. We both did what we had to do, made the changes in our social and political behavior, in order to survive and prosper, recognizing that if we had gone on the way we had been going, we would have ended up as losers. This is why, when Bush first came onto the national scene, against my better political judgment I immediately liked him. I unconsciously recognized the identity. I still do. But the repercussions of his philosophies are taking a serious toll (as did mine) and I better get my opinions together and fight what he is doing or I'll lose my self-respect. Maybe he, like I, will have an eventual change of heart; but I doubt it--although a big loss in '04 could precipitate it. He could end up being devastated, walking around forlorn on his ranch like Nixon on the beach at San Clemente.

It takes a loss to force you to recognize the error of your ways. Believe me. I know. On the other hand, even when you see that you are wrong and manage to change your beliefs (in my case back to the ones I had before I became such a goddammed upright citizen; and maybe in Bush's case it could go similarly), it doesn't do you any good to realize that all of your (former) associates were wrong and leading you along by your nose. After his presidency, Bush should go back to Crawford and hide out on his ranch, hunt armadillos, shoot at trespassers, and ruminate on the state of the world that he helped to create, mostly for the worse. If I can do it in my small corner of the world (hiding out, hunting truth, and using words as bullets), but with a wider awareness, so can he, on a much larger scale. I can't wait to read his memoirs.


A Pinch to Grow an Inch

When we were little, on our birthdays we became fair game for our family and friends to punch, each to his or her own chosen level of harshness, depending on the location that each existed at along the spectrum between empathy and disconcern for the feelings and discomfort of the victim, a practice not inconsistent with the relationships and discourse of everyday adult life. Added after the punches, whether hard or soft, was a "pinch to grow an inch," the severity of which depended upon each kid's sadistic tendency. It's interesting that some boys would punch hard, but pinch only in a token manner. (Some would not, of course, the coarsest ones, the cruel ones who enjoyed inflicting pain, probably because it was what they knew best, suffering themselves.) But girls, even when they would punch only in token manner, would almost always add a painful final pinch. It suited their nature, I guess, and perhaps was indicative of what was to follow in the maturing years.

I consider this "rite of passage" phenomenon re Oe's "pinches." These little episodes of "depression" (if that's what they are) that I suffer (if I really do) seem to be positive rather than negative occurrences [in me. The word 'pinch' describes them perfectly, because they are not depression per se, not as I know it in a clinical sense. In fact, Oe's use of the word 'pinch' seems to overemphasize the concept; but maybe that's what he intends to do, having the character intentionally tone down a serious problem with the use of a littler word; or maybe it is being used sarcastically; or both].

Each of my pinching episodes forces my attention inward in order to (try to) examine the causation. This is my therapy, which is pretty much synonymous with my writing. And almost always I will learn from this procedure. I come out of these pinches discovering, if I will only look closely enough (which I have to admit that I do not so much do, at least at the time), that I have grown, each spurt of growth commensurate with the harshness of the pinch. Pain teaches you things, psychological pain, being of a higher order, tending to make the lessons more profound. So when the girls pinch harder in childhood, the lesson to be learned is that their adult behavior toward you will hurt more. And when boys punch harder, they are signaling that you better be quite wary as you grow, for they are prepared on occasion to deliver significant blows. In this sense, it might be said that in childhood you suffer a punch to grow a bunch, so that the increasing number of punches that you get as you grow older may really be teaching you something.

But here for me the metaphor seems to break down, because I have learned far more from the pinches of women that I ever learned from the punches of men. The punches seem more like inches, while the pinches seem more like miles. But, back to the original logic, the pinches (ala Oe) are merely affective passings, the little day-to-day occurrences that I am able to weather; I come out of them to elucidate their difficulties via writing/therapy, resulting in the proverbial inches worth of growth, while the punches of my life that I will from time to time suffer can result in spurts of growth that can far exceed the symbolism of the childhood ritual.


Summer is a cruel and happy joke, filled with the excess of false hope. Winter is a desperate reality. The transition between them is a game of waiting for the high and low points to become manifest. Life is cyclical. So who didn't know that already?

I've started moving back into the living room today. Quite a while ago, I'd moved my base of non-writing operations into the bedroom (and even had started to move my writing operations there, via my new laptop), entirely unintentionally and so gradually over the years that I hardly noticed what it was that I was doing (further isolating myself from the hard, cruel world). This move further inward began when my couch began to deteriorate until, one fall, in a fit of energy and organization, I tore it all apart and burned it up in the fireplace. The subsequent reorganization of the living room left me with nowhere to sleep. Prior to burning the couch, I had been sleeping on it, having developed the habit after my divorce, falling asleep there while watching tv and remaining there all night. The dog would crawl up onto the couch with me, which I found comforting; and there was no way I was going to allow him on the bed. So I began to sleep full time on the couch.

But the living room is drafty, which I compensated for back then with an electric blanket. Now I plan to insulate it better to eliminate the drafts. I used to eat my meals in the living room in front of the tv because I'd moved my office from the back room to the dining room, eliminating the rickety metal table that I used to have there. So when I started hanging out in the bedroom instead of in the living room, I'd carry my meals back there and eat them while I watched tv. Slowly, my off-time focus became the bedroom, which somewhat later I realized was a kind of further retreat, especially in winter. I was heading toward a Brian Wilson kind of existence. And since the bedroom is somewhat insulated from the rest of the house, I discovered that I could shut the doors and run a space heater in there and turn the thermostat way down, thus saving on natural gas expense, which further extended my bedroom life.

After I stopped hanging out in the living room, the room slowly began to accumulate stuff that I had nowhere else to put. Over the years it became almost uninhabitable. So yesterday I started to clean it out and rearrange the furniture. And today I've begun to live in it again (after all, it's a living room), shifting my center of focus back from the bedroom. I saw a small space heater in the Big Lots flyer that goes on sale on Sunday, so I think I'll go and buy it and put it in this room. Maybe I'll even move the color tv and vcr down here, since reception is poor in the bedroom anyway, although it could be that the b&w tv is the reason that I get better reception and that the location has less to do with it. I'll have to do some experiments.

Maybe, I'm thinking, this move back into the living room is a move back toward normality (oh, I hope not), since if I'm watching tv there in the evenings, I'll have to make a more conscious decision about getting up and going to bed, instead of falling asleep gradually with the tv in sleep mode. I'm going to miss that if I make this lifestyle change.


Today I started changing the curtain rod in the front window. For many, many years I've had these two rods with drawstrings on them that I've always planned to use to replace the simple, non-drawable rods that were in place when I moved in, but I never got around to it. And so, as a consequence, I never close the drapes at night on the two windows in the office/dining room, because it's too difficult to bother with, trying to get them fully closed without gaps when the drapes resist and bind and will not move smoothly. But after I get these new rods installed, it'll be an easy process. I'm motivated, at last, to do this by the rising natural gas prices, which are expected to double this winter. I'm also making plans to insulate crawlspaces and concrete block walls, windowsills, etc. If it's going to cost me money anyway in higher gas prices, I might as well spend the money on insulation.


I finished hanging the curtain rod on the front window this afternoon. Not bad. It only took me a little over twenty years to get it done. Now I can draw the curtain closed without any difficulty at all and maybe save a little bit of heat from escaping this winter. Next, I'm going to do the side window. But that'll have to wait for a bit because I got a lot more important things to do and besides I hurt my back when I was twisting in a weird position up inside the valence screwing in the screws for the rod. And my eye infection is back again. Shit. What's going on? I hope I don't have to go to the doctor's. I'm becoming a basket case here. Maybe I'll go to bed and stay there until I fully recover.


I'm beginning to feel quite empowered in my story writing from having been reading Kenzaburo Oe's novel A Quite Life. I see how I write like he does, sort of,2 as I incorporate my life, disguised or not so disguised, into my fiction, to include real incidents, dreams, and mental preoccupations, obsessions, difficulties, and/or anguish. Combining this motivation with my recent revival of interest in stories, I want to start to write them full time again and continue to combine them into novels. I can do this quite as well as Oe (or anyone) can, and the only things that keep me from being as well-known as any well-published writer are a frequent loss of focus on this motive/purpose, a definitive unwillingness to promote myself or my work with the kind of dedication that it takes to become (at least somewhat) famous, and perhaps a lack of content appropriate to the Zeitgeist, although this last point is probably not true and, in any case, if the first two points are firmly in place and functional, any writer may, at least to some small extent, determine the content of the Zeitgeist.


"He has got lovely books. Does he lend them?"

"We had a friend, Hopworth. And he got a book from Denys and he didn't return it. Denys was furious. And I said to Denys 'You wouldn't lose a friend for the sake of a silly book, would you?' And he says 'No. But he has, hasn't he?' "

Meryl Streep & Michael Kitchen, Out of Africa
My sister-in-law borrowed a book a year ago, and she hasn't yet returned it. When I was over at their house six months ago, I asked her if she'd read it yet; and she said she hadn't, but that it was right there on the table, which I already knew because I had seen it. She said she hadn't gotten around to reading it yet because she hadn't been reading much lately, and yet on the kitchen counter was one of her women's fantasy books, a romance novel, which she was in the process of reading, because I saw her several times while she was preparing dinner reading short passages reading from it while she waited for something on the stove to be done. I asked her if she was going to read it, or should I take it back, and she replied that she definitely intended to read it. I think she truly does intend to read it, but always postpones her decision to do so in favor of reading romance novels. I think she only borrowed the book from me to prove to me that she likes to read "serious" stuff too, because I'd said to her once that a book I was reading wasn't her kind of book. She asked me what I thought her kind of book was, and I said romance novels. I think she took this as a criticism, although I hadn't consciously intended it as such. Or else, she felt that she needed to live up to my higher standards.

It's been over a year now and she hasn't returned the book I'd lent her yet. If she doesn't want to read it [A Personal Matter by Kenzaburo Oe, a book that I know she'd be interested in, if for no other reason than she's a nurse, and a woman], okay, I don't mind. Just return it. She needn't feel any obligation to me other than to return the book. I want it back. I want to look up something in it, and even if I didn't, I want it back anyway, because it's one of those books I want to keep in my collection.

So, anyway, last night I decided, after starting to get pissed off about it again, that I was going to do something about it, and I got online and found the book for sale for $2.95 and I ordered it, along with five others so that the shipping cost would be significantly reduced per book. This tactic makes me happy, for several reasons: 1) It adds that book back to my library without me having to ask her for it again; 2) It's a proactive stance I have taken, to actually go out of my way to solve a stupid little problem that's been bugging me for nearly a year now. 3) It teaches me a lesson that I'd learned a long time ago but keep forgetting: never lend books that you want back, to anyone, no matter how much you may trust that they will return them. Most probably they won't.

Every time I've lent a book, this last time to Joyce included, I always preface the loan with the proviso that I want it back, that I need it for an important reason having to do with research in my work (whether I really needed it or not). Yet every time I've lent a book, I've never gotten it back. This can only mean one thing: the people I've lent books to are callous people who don't give a shit about my feelings and sensibilities. So, fuck them. And fuck every other potentially callous person in the future who will have the audacity to want to borrow a book from me. I've learned my lesson this one final time. Never again. When it comes to my books, no one is to be trusted. My new rule and my response to people who ask is "I don't lend books."

As far as Joyce goes, when I have this new book I bought in my possession, I will have freed myself from Joyce's obligation to return the book to me; but I will not have freed Joyce from that obligation. I choose not to do this. She must live up to her promises independently of me. As far as I am concerned, though, she can go along with her life and be the kind of person she is (one who feels it is not necessary to follow up keep her promises and commitments and assure that she does not negatively affect those people that she deals with) without any concern on my part for how she is, because her actions (or rather inactions) will no longer affect me (at least in this regard).

And speaking of books, I sold a book at! My second copy of The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer. It's the first online sale I've ever made (excluding my own books), and I only put it up for sale last month. Since they don't give you a whole lot of time to get it in the mail, and since I downloaded the e-mail one day late anyway, I dropped everything I was doing and packaged up the book. But it's too late to go to the post office today. I'll have to go out first thing tomorrow.

This sale prompts me to want to revive my fantasy of going to garage sales and buying up books at ridiculously low prices and reselling them on the Net. I should do this. But then, I should do a lot of things.


We all know the ordinary ubiquitous stories, the ones that report and then go on, perhaps, to define our consensual existence. When we read or watch or hear these stories, we feel satisfied at their outcome, because they verify our expectations of what we are and/or what our culture/society is. These stories delineate our heritage. And these stories bore me.

When I pursue stories, I'm searching for a different take on life. I'm looking for stories with a different point of view, atmosphere, and especially, a resolution that I don't expect, one that does not confirm my consensual existence, but rather disturbs it, and thus, one that offers the possibility of change, both personal change and a broader social change, a story that has the potential to shake up mass mentality, to wake the social participants up to the fact that there are other kinds of stories than the ones they are locked into; and therefore, there are other ways of being.

I like these other kinds of stories because they wake me up, when I will otherwise fall into the habit of thinking that the human race is nothing more than a collection of disgusting, decrepit, morally bankrupt, or thematically deprived citizens who rationalize their meager (affluence included, as meagerly hedonistic) existence through thinking that in their hearts and souls they are just like Mr. or Mrs. Average Citizen, even though the facts of their lives may vary significantly from that fictive norm. We are a race of individuals who come together by creating fictions designed to allow us to pretend that we share common values, when we don't; or perhaps more accurately, we share a commonality that is only half expressed in our consensual stories, the other half of which is repressed, the things we don't talk about, the stories we don't want to be true, the ones that disturb our social equilibrium.

This past week I saw a program about modern day slavery on PBS that fits into this category of disturbing stories. We are a world society that believes that the idea of slavery is passé. Yet the practice exists still to this day and even proliferates. Last year in the U.S. alone over fifty thousand slaves were imported! No self-respecting American could ever believe that this was happening and continue to believe in this country's professed ideals. And yet it's true. And we live in a country where the least of the problem exists. Millions of men and, especially, women and children are kidnapped every year and forced into camps or sweatshops for their labor or into brothels to be sold as sex slaves. It's a growing industry. This is a fact of the human species. But we ignore it in our consensual existence.

This is one kind of story that has the potential to disturb the status quo. And I appreciate its broadcast. But I'm looking at least as much for stories with different form and structure as I am with different content. In order to break ourselves out of the box in which we think, we've got to widen our repertoire of storytelling. Our standard narrative form has become overused and well serves the purpose of the corporo-governmental machine to keep us all in line and generating the cash flow as good little consumers, thus empowering the existing bosses to continue to carry on their personal and social perversions without interference. A different kind of story, especially one whose form is different, could shake up their power structure for a while and allow a more enlightened system to take root. [If you want to disturb the status quo, alter existing structures; altering content only sets up conflicting issues.] I'm not holding my breath until this happens; but I am on the lookout.

When I went up to the post office to mail the book I sold on, I pulled into a parking space and hurried inside, intending to get it over with and get back home before my motivation for writing waned. I mailed the book and started back outside, when I realized I didn't have my keys. After checking all my pockets, I went back inside to make sure I hadn't set them on the counter and forgotten them. Since no one else was in the post office, I announced to the three workers there if anyone had seen my keys. One lady said, no, they hadn't. As I turned to leave she said "Maybe you locked them in your car."

"Oh, I hope not," I said as I departed.

Then, as I arrived at my car, looking in through the side window, I saw the keys in the ignition. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, the car was still running! What is the matter with me these days? Am I beginning to suffer from an early onset of Alzheimer's or something? Fortunately, I never lock the hatchback unless I've bought something and am going to leave the car unattended, so I crawled in through the back, reached into the front seat, turned off the ignition, and extracted the keys. Then, when I went to open the door, I found it was unlocked. If things keep going on this way, I'm going to be writing and posting this journal from a senior citizens center. I wonder. Do those places have Internet access?

A new fruit fly study may indicate that higher intelligence may interfere with survivability, at least in terms of natural selection. It's theorized that more intelligent flies devote more brain processing time to intelligent decision-making and so have less available for more routine, everyday tasks. That sounds like me all over again. Each year that passes brings me closer to the stereotype of the absent-minded professor. Incidents like the one at the post office seem to be getting more predominant; but actually I can think back to when I was young and realize that this (anti-)agenda has been with me all my life. Whether it is getting worse (or maybe it is better to be less affiliated and/or coordinated with a "real" world) is a matter for debate. In any case, I am less adaptable because I am (even if I myself say so) more intelligent than the average citizen. (Actually, it's a matter of fact; my I.Q. is 140, if that's a valid standard, which is also a matter for debate.)

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
One large hotel group...commissioned sleep expert Chris Idzikowski to identify how common sleep positions correlate to personality traits. The fetal position is most popular and is favored by shy, sensitive folks, Idzikowski said, while the least popular position, lying on the stomach with hands at one's ears -- what he calls "freefall" -- reflects a brash, gregarious personality. Other positions -- the log, soldier, yearner and starfish -- reveal the sleeper's nature as social, reserved, suspicious or attentive.
Wired News
While I agree that sleep positions can be revelatory of one's psychology, I'm not sure I agree with these conclusions. When I sleep on my stomach, a position I usually avoid because it aggravates my spinal problem, it is because it makes me feel more secure and isolated. I can see how more gregarious people might be more prone (heh!) to adopting this position because they are more trusting of the world and its people and thus can allow themselves to turn their backs on it while they are unconscious; but not me. I don't like to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings and will always secure my sleeping area in unknown places before I fall asleep. In other words, my sleep position becomes a secondary psychological expression. On the other hand, as far as sleeping on my side in a fetal position being an expression of a sensitive shyness, well, that's what I am, and sleeping this way is my second choice, and the one I most always choose because it is least detrimental to my back. But I'd much rather sleep on my stomach and so secure myself psychologically and comfortably (in the moment; but not long-term).

2. This is a lame little bit of wit, sort of. Oe uses the phrase repeatedly in the novel, the narrator appropriating it from her brother's repetoire of pet sayings. I have an inkling that it might be a mistranslation of the preponderant English colloquialism 'like,' in that it seems to serve the same non-grammatical, meaningless function. But it could also be an intentional construction on Oe's part to mimic that word without actually using it.