“I Wish I Was In Heaven Sitting Down,” Parts I and II–(Originally posted in 2007.)

–Part I–

–Tuesday–10/16/07–I had more bureaucratic bullshit to attend to today in East Austin. I had been told weeks ago to apply for a medical assistance card. Because the bureaucracy is so fucked up, I wasn’t able to set an appointment over the phone—I had to go there in person a few weeks back, just to set the appointment! And so the appointment was for today. I was early, as usual. I tried to kill time at the branch library next door. I checked out the architecture of the place. The extent and quality of their holdings left a great deal to be desired; I daresay my own library is more thorough, certainly in many areas. I really wanted to sit down, but all the tables were occupied by homeless people, and I didn’t particularly want to sit next to any of them, so I went ahead and headed over to the medical assistance office.

Like many of the buildings in this public health system, this one was a sty. It smelled badly and everyone was coughing and failing to cover their mouths. Three women had children who couldn’t stop crying and/or whining. My appointment was for 1:20; they finally waited on me at 2pm.

I was granted the card—sort of. There is a sliding scale because I do have an income, albeit a miniscule one. I was told if my income or other conditions change, I’ll have to come by again, set another fucking appointment, and then come by yet again for the appointment. I was enraged to learn this card does not cover my regular doctor or pharmacy, that I am expected to go to their shitty doctor in the middle of God-knows-where, on the other fucking side of town, and also use their remote-ass pharmacy, which means either operation would be an all-day affair for me.

I was in a foul fucking mood after this, having wasted my day on this bureaucratic bullshit, to get a card and sub-standard services I don’t even want. I am getting really fucking sick of dealing with these bureaucracies and hanging out in shitty parts of town, as I knew three months ago I would. Worst of all I am angry that I’ve been in this fucking program three months and have not improved in the slightest. I don’t feel even remotely better than I did in July, my circumstances and income and work situation are still lousy, and I still am as depressed as ever and wish to God I was dead.

I calmed down somewhat after I walked a few blocks down the street. Then I felt like crying. But I was also somewhat hungry, so I stopped in at a little hole-in-the-wall called Las Cazuelas, which specialized in the cuisine of the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.

The waitress addressed me in Spanish. She set some excellent chips on my table, along with hot borracho beans, and two kinds of salsa, one red and very spicy, the other green. Now I’m used to green salsa being mild and creamy; this burned like wasabi.  

I ordered the Enchiladas Potosinas, which included corn tortillas (flat, red, folded over, fried, and somewhat hard—not to mention spicy) topped with Mexican sausage, potatoes, and Parmesan cheese, on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes, and served with rice.

Man, it was hot! I was sure I would pay the price twelve hours later, that all this would burn as much coming out as it did going in. I was unable to finish the plate. I think my problem was I wasn’t expecting it to be as hot as it was, and I wasn’t hungry enough. But I definitely plan to go back when I have more of an appetite. I especially want to try their nopales (cactus). Plus they’re open from early in the morning until late at night.

The décor is cluttered and colorful, and includes the usual paper ceiling streamers, as well as lots of photos of patrons, hanging crookedly on the wall.

Once I got back to my own ‘hood, I was in the mood for some escapism, so I went to see “The Darjeeling Limited.”

I wasn’t sure why I went to see this, as I still haven’t made up my mind how I feel about Wes Anderson. I read a piece on him in “The New York Times Magazine” a few years ago and it said he has his tailor make his suits with shortened sleeves on the jackets and somewhat high-water cuffs on the trousers; that struck me as being unbearably pretentious and affected, that Anderson was being weird just for the sake of being weird, a charge that apparently has been leveled at him by many critics. That being said, I’m always interested in seeing his new projects, if for no other reason than I love how he integrates music with his scenes.

The first Anderson movie I saw was “Rushmore.” I know people who adore this movie. I saw it at home, rather than in the theatre, so I came to it late, on the recommendation of those friends. It was okay, but it didn’t make me laugh. I liked Bill Murray in it and I liked identifying the Houston locations, but that was about it. I found Jason Schwartzman a twerp and still do. He seemed to start his career doing a third-rate impression of Jean-Pierre Léaud, but without Léaud’s charm and talent; Schwartman now seems to have shed those tics to some degree, but I don’t find him at all likable or appealing. I don’t care whose fucking nephew he is, he’s still a twerp.

I’d also been told I should see “Bottle Rocket” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” The former did absolutely nothing for me. In fact I wondered why it had ever even been made. The latter was, well, different, but Gene Hackman was about the only member of the cast I enjoyed in that one. And I flat out despise Ben Stiller, so any film with him in it automatically has a black mark against it in my book.

“The Life Aquatic” was amusing enough, but I don’t own a copy of it.

Anderson movies, though they are presented as comedies, don’t make me laugh, but then again, few comedies do.

There seem to be two kinds of comedies made in the United States these days. One kind is just silly and asinine, and usually stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, or Will Ferrell. The other kind, which usually show in art houses and are blatant rip-offs of the Anderson style, try to be “amusing” without being all that funny.

You see, I have a good friend who is always smiling, always looking at the bright side of life rather than the gloomy and the negative, and he seems to enjoy funny things. Yet when you tell him a joke or make a clever remark, he just smiles and says, “That’s funny!” But in the almost twenty years I’ve been friends with this guy I don’t know as I’ve ever seen him laugh; I just want to shake him and say, “Don’t just say something’s funny—laugh mother-fucker! It’s not beneath your dignity!”

And I feel Anderson has a great deal to answer for for unleashing Owen Wilson onto the world. Indeed, I suspect Wilson’s recent suicide attempt was probably the result of him waking up out of a coke-fueled haze and realizing with great embarrassment how many shitty movies he’s inflicted on the public in the last decade; suicide was in fact the only honorable course of action for him to take.

And so we move onto “The Darjeeling Limited.” I’ve already said how I dislike two of the three principal actors in the film, Wilson and Schwartzman, but I don’t care for Adrien Brody either. He may be a wonderful actor, but I could never tell it. I just can’t get past that freakish nose of his. You’d think now that he has an Oscar he could afford to get some work done. I mean, at the end of “King Kong,” when he swooped in to kiss Naomi Watts I thought her face was being attacked by a giant, carnivorous bird.

So, why did I go see the film? Hard to say. I walked out of the theatre neither liking or disliking it. I didn’t know how I felt. The music was great, and the film was a wonderful travelogue of India—it made me want to go there some time. It even inspired me to drag out my DK travel guide to India once I got home. I thought the scenes in the Indian village were wonderful and very moving—worth the price of admission. Some of the symbolism was a bit ham-fisted and obvious, like the brothers finally ridding themselves of their late father’s luggage (read “baggage”). But I think it may take at least another viewing of this for me to make up my mind.

I will say this—if a movie was ever made of my Paris book (a rather fanciful notion, I admit) I don’t know as I’d want Anderson directing it, because anything Anderson does becomes so very much his—he’s very much the auteur in that way. But then again, he’s written all his films to date. I think his next project is in fact an adaptation; I’ll be interested to see how he handles it.

[NOTE: The funny thing is now I am more of an Anderson fan, and even own some of his films on DVD.]

–Wednesday–10/17/07–Another shitty, stressful day at work. My manager was away on his honeymoon, thank God, but his supervisor was there breathing down our fucking necks. It got to the point, during the afternoon, when I just had to flee to the peace and quiet of the restroom, drop my pants, sit down, and air myself out. I doubt I could get through any workday without getting a little cool air to my nethers at some point.

Still, the days at that cursed little store just drag on and fucking on, with no relief in sight, because I’ve not seen any notices for any other jobs that I could do that would be less of a physical and mental strain.

I think The Smiths said it best:

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die ?

–Thursday–10/18/07–I had an early meeting with my nurse, to try to get her to change my useless anxiety meds, but she just suggested I take them at a different time of the day.

Still, I do love downing all these pills morning, noon, and night. It provides a sorely-needed, seedy, Neely O’Hara-like glamour to my otherwise colorless life. And they make for some fascinating dreams.

After the meeting with the nurse I bused it to the northeast part of town for my therapy session. I was early, as usual, and so ate lunch (fish tacos), then explored a strip mall. As I made the circuit I came across a young man in T-shirt, jeans, sneakers…and a black cape. Now I like capes personally, and wish they were still in style (I hear fashionable men in Spain still wear them to the opera), but why was this geek wearing one without a costume a full two weeks before Halloween? He wasn’t even running around, trying to make the cape billow behind him; he was just attending to his daily affairs.

I then went to prowl a nearby Target. I was wandering through the movie section, noticing how in stores like Target and Wal-Mart, that cater to the general public, the great unwashed, as it were, that it’s next to impossible to find DVDs in wide-screen. Film lovers adore wide-screen, but average schmucks do not. They don’t understand it.

So I was walking around with my headphones on and was listening to the classical station, when they played the Prelude and Chorus of Act II of  “Tannhäuser,“ or as I like to think of it, “The music that cost me my hearing.”

In college I spent an enormous amount of time in the library—almost never for my classes–but rather for my own entertainment and edification. And a good part of that time I spent in the music listening room, which of course back then only had LPs. And about 23 years ago I went through a phase when I was just crazy about this piece from “Tannhäuser.“ I couldn’t get enough of it. I’d play the piece over and over again, getting more thrilled with each playing. I’d take a copy of the libretto into the listening room with me and sing along in German:

Freudig begrüssen wir die edle Halle,
wo Kunst und Frieden immer nur verweil,
wo lange noch der Ruf erschalle,
Thüringens Fürsten, Landgraf Hermann, Heil!

(Joyfully we greet the noble hall,
where may art and peace alone linger ever,
and the joyous cry long ring out:
To the Prince of Thuringia, Count Hermann, hail!)
But the problem was I couldn’t get the music loud enough to suit me, and Wagner usually should be played loudly. I couldn’t get enough music through those tiny little wires into my headphones. And so one day, I had cranked the music up about as high as it could go, when I heard a pop in my right ear, and after that my hearing in that ear was greatly diminished. I am by no means totally deaf in that ear, but if you’re ever around me and try to speak to me on my right side, you’ll notice I turn my left ear towards you—that is, if I am at all interested in what you have to say.

And so, there I was in Target when this music started again. I was enraptured and considered this a very good omen indeed. I was tapping out the time on my left leg, moving around the radio in my right hand, and alternating between humming along with the instruments and muttering the lyrics in German. I’m sure I looked like an absolute loon. I finally ran out of the store so I could exult over the climax of the piece out on the sidewalk without attracting too much attention.

After this I went to the therapy place, but my therapist had left a note to say she was sick. She also called my house, but it was after I’d left for my first appointment. I felt rather ill-at-ease to not get to have a session this week. Therapy is really the only thing I look forward to anymore during the week.

–Part II–

–Friday–10/19/07–I still haven’t shaken my cough. I coughed so hard that at least twice I almost choked.

The manager’s supervisor was still in town. And she proved herself a Grade-A bitch today. She got rather bossy with me. But she wound up getting a lot worse than she gave. It seems she wasn’t ready for the hectic and punishing pace of this store, of working at a cash register and dealing with pushy customers, rather than sitting on her ass in a nice office. So needless to say I was thrilled for the brass to see how rough it is for the grunts.

I kept myself amused trying to think of when I’d submit my resignation.

I quote another very apt song, Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio”:

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.
I wanna bite that hand so badly.
I want to make them wish they’d never seen me.

And for that matter, Costello’s “Oliver’s Army” fits pretty well too:

And I would rather be anywhere else
But here today.

And let’s not forget “Welcome to the Working Week”:

All of your family had to kill to survive,
and they’re still waitin’ for their big day to arrive.
But if they knew how I felt they’d bury me alive.
Welcome to the workin’ week.
Oh I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.
Welcome to the workin’ week.
You gotta do it till you’re through it so you better get to it.

In addition to my cough and that bitchy supervisor, my chief irritations today were olfactory in nature. A co-worker has taken to wearing really strong perfume lately, and it irritates my allergies. And the new guy they hired has a serious B.O. Problem. Everywhere he goes he leaves behind the scent of spoiled lettuce. (I think that metaphor is stolen from Joyce.)

B.O. Dude was also trying to hold his own with me on the subject of classical music, but stumbled badly when he referred to a piece of music—in this case “Trumpet Voluntary”–as a “song,” despite the fact the human voice appears nowhere in it. Anyway, I was explaining to him that the performance on the CD we were playing was a little too schmaltzy and not entirely faithful to the actual composition, as the ending was performed quite differently than I’d ever heard it performed before, not to mention that said ending was played painfully sharp.  

After such a shitty day, I needed a break from the ugliness of this world, and found it in a screening of the “Paul Lynde Halloween Special.” This 1976 campfest includes special guest stars Florence Henderson, Tim Conway, Margaret Hamilton, Billie “Witchiepoo” Hayes, Roz “Pinky Tuscadero” Kelly, Donny and Marie Osmond, Betty White, and midget Billy Barty, as well as KISS, which performed three numbers.

I can hardly begin to describe how deliciously weird this show was. But the highlight for me was the closing number, which had the whole cast singing and dancing to the naughty Johnnie Taylor hit “Disco Lady” (which they refer to as “Disco Baby” here—probably to make it less weird for the female performers—and Lynde– to sing):

Shake it up, shake it down,
Move it in, move it round,
Disco lady

Move it in, move it out,
Move in and about,
Disco lady

–Saturday–10/20/07–I woke up at 7am feeling nauseated and on the verge of a big diarrhea explosion and I called in sick. It turned out to be a false alarm, but soon I was seized with extreme sleepiness and grogginess brought on by taking my anxiety pill 11 hours before. And it made me so tired that even though I’d gone to bed 6 or 7 hours before, I went back to bed and slept 10 ½ more hours. Well, I told my nurse this prescription wasn’t helping me—just making me sleepy….

After I finally got up I moved around some things in the house. The previous night I’d piled some boxes around my computer table to keep the cat out from underneath it, where she likes to play amongst the wires. But this wasn’t good enough—the cat could still slither in by where I was sitting. So on this day I piled magazines up on the last open side, which now means I have to sit in a sort of side-saddle position to write at the computer.

I have really got to get rid of this cat.

I also moved some books and files around in my bedroom, to make more space and to allow the apartment maintenance men, whenever I get around to calling them, to actually reach and replace my bedroom ceiling fan, which conked out a few weeks ago without warning.

And, like Friday, I had coughing fits so severe I thought I was going to choke to death.

–Sunday–10/21/07–I slept late and watched “Blade Runner.”

–Monday–10/22/07–Another day at work with the computers down. After I got home I watched “The 400 Blows” yet again. It dove-tailed in nicely with the Truffaut biography I just started reading.


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