Journal Entries. (March 16-31, 2012.)

Friday, March 16th–I dreamt that an overweight Elton John was sitting in a Rascal wheelchair scooter and driving it at top speed, in circles around a swimming pool, while yelling out orders and complaints to his underlings.

I woke around 4am, after less than three or four hours of sleep. I walked and fed Belle, puttered, and posted a sign on my front door (in English and Spanish) that if anyone opened my door and my dog got out, I would sue him and his employer. Then I talked to a friend on Instant Messaging, and left the house around 8:45am. I took one bus over to Target, waited about thirty minutes or more, then took another bus to a new clinic on Braker for a getting acquainted visit with a doctor.

Both a nurse and the doctor asked me if I wanted to take an HIV test. It was all I could do not to laugh each to scorn and say, “Lady, you might as well give me a pap smear while you’re at it–I have about as much need of one as the other.”

They made initial arrangements for me to return in two weeks for a follow-up, and possibly get psychological counseling (although I don’t know when the latter will be, since their counselor is there only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays–when I’m in class). They also insisted I get a tetanus shot. I just managed to get out of the clinic in time–I didn’t want to have to wait around for the bus, since it only comes by once an hour.

I was afraid I’d get rained on. I heard the “Intermezzo” from “Cavalleria Rusticana” on my I-Pod, thought of Fred, and began crying a little.

I got back to the neighborhood, went to Randall’s, looked at magazines, grabbed a big stack of free newspapers (to spread on the floor for Belle to piss on), then went home. Belle was safe!

I showered.

Work was going on in full swing on my building. Around 2pm the workers took off for lunch right by my bedroom window, yammering and listening to Mexican radio. Some guy ripped the old plywood off the exterior of the cantilevered window, then later hammered in new plywood. By late afternoon I could stand no more and went to bed. I was so tired I actually fell asleep, despite the hammering just a few feet away from me. I managed to get about three hours of sleep in.

I miss the good old days, when people with IQs of 50 to 69 were rated “morons,” people with IQs of 20 to 49 were rated “imbeciles,” and anyone below 20 was called an “idiot.” [Insert Republican/Tea Bagger joke here.]

During one of our late night walks, Belle sniffed the ground, then fell onto her back and began to gleefully wallow in something that was either stinky, dead, or both. Once I got her back up, I tried to see what she had rolled in, which wasn’t easy to do because of the bad lighting. It turns out she was wallowing on a small snake, and a snake that didn’t even seem to be dead yet! I poked at the snake with a stick and tried to ascertain the markings. I think the snake was non-poisonous–but this was something of a scare. I monitored Belle the rest of the night and since she didn’t act oddly I concluded she’d not been bitten.

Saturday, March 17th–I dreamt it was World War II, and some asshole had come up with a plan to kill Nazis by strapping explosives onto dogs, then sending them through the lines. The explosives would detonate, killing both the Nazis and the dogs. Naturally I loudly objected to any plan that would result in the loss of canine life, for whatever reason, even if it would kill Nazis.

But the plan had already been implemented, with the result that many of the dogs used had left behind many puppies. At that point, a panel in a wall opened, and a large herd of puppies tumbled out and began running towards me, trampling me. I fell to the floor, laughing and giggling with delight.

Then my Bassets, Belle (living) and Fred (now deceased) came to rescue me from these puppies. They were very serious about this, but a Basset being serious about anything involves howling and baying, as well as a lot of drool being slung, heads being butted, and massive feet getting in the way.

Slowly but surely my living room is beginning to resemble the home of a civilized person, if only because I transferred some little-used winter clothes out of the hall closet and into my main closet, then started stacking stuff from the living room in the hall closet. It would be nice if I had a second bedroom to use solely for storage, or at least more shelving, but one does what one can.

I finished Hilaire Belloc’s “Shorts Talks With The Dead And Others” and began Christopher Isherwood’s “My Guru And His Disciple.”

Sunday, March 18th–I woke around 3-something in the afternoon. Much of this short day was spent scanning certain pages of the library books I’m returning tomorrow. I got to bed around 10:45pm.

Monday, March 19th–I woke around 4am, needing to piss, and was unable to get back to sleep. I dreaded the day ahead, and the threat that some stupid worker would let Belle out of the apartment, and I worked myself into a state. I had two strong cups of coffee with breakfast. I got downtown okay, went to The Hideout, found they were out of $2.00 Mexican Coke and had to settle for the grossly over-priced $3.00 root beer.

At the [Tek Skilz] offices, I continued to be plagued with the need to shit and fart. We started a new topic–Fundamentals of Microsoft Word–which was quite involved. I wasn’t thrilled to realize today is the first of five uninterrupted weeks of classes. But overall, the class portion went well. I was getting more and more worried and upset over Belle, though, and dreamed of her.

I walked, with some difficulty, to the Library, turned in some books and checked out seven others. Then I was so worried and upset I paid extra to take the express bus home. Belle was fine and dandy, I’m pleased to say, though, as usual, upset by my absence. I took her for a walk, only to find to my disgust that the fucking grounds crew has cut more tree branches and underbrush. They’re really fucking up the natural appearance of the grounds. I hope they keep their filthy mitts off the ravine behind the complex.

I took a shower and finally lay down for a nap around 4pm, sleeping until almost 10pm. I woke, exhausted and very sore, as if beaten with a stick.

From before midnight until well after 6am there was heavy rain.

Why do the idiots who manage my apartment complex always schedule roof and siding repairs at the one time of the year it regularly rains in Texas? My front window and part of my living room ceiling have sprung leaks. I had to climb up on my step-ladder and remove my complete Dickens from the top of a bookcase to keep it from being dripped upon.

This also means I’ll have more annoying work crews coming in to fix the leaks. I really, really, really don’t like workmen, or anybody else actually, in my apartment.

Tuesday, March 20th–I woke a little before 2pm. The weather had cleared up, but there were no noisy workmen about. Much of the short day was spent reviewing Monday’s lessons. I retired around 11pm, not having had any chance to read in Isherwood.

Wednesday, March 21st–I woke around 2:38am, and was horrified to find myself up so early, so far from the time my alarm was set, and with so little sleep obtained. I got up and pissed, then managed to fall asleep again, thankfully.

I keep my clock radio tuned to the local classical station, so I can wake with as little of a jar as possible. At 5:30am I was awakened by the overture to “The Barber of Seville,” which meant my first conscious thoughts were of Bugs Bunny. On the whole, not a bad way to start a day.

I scratched and massaged Belle, got up, got ready, headed off, had a Coke at The Hideout, then went to class. There was one section today that confused and frustrated me, and some other material that just bored me. I had to wonder if I’d ever have use for it. The instructor’s favorite expression–“Are you kinda comfortable with that as an idea?”—which he utters about every ten minutes, is beginning to get on my fucking nerves.

I got out of class about 12:48pm, yet missed the bus by seconds, and had to wait around another goddamn half-hour for the next one. Once I boarded, I had to sit behind some young man who was wearing gallons of stinky cologne. He got out after a few blocks and was replaced by a young man who smelled as though he’d shat his pants. He stayed on board almost my entire way home. I wanted to burn my clothes because of the odor.

Going to class thrice weekly has in no way improved my agoraphobia and social anxiety. It has in fact made it worse. I rush home in order to lock myself away from the outside world.

I finally got home. Belle was safe and sound, though she was beside herself and had shat all over the bedroom. My apartment had not been molested by intruders.

It took Belle quite awhile to calm down, but eventually she dropped into a heavy sleep filled with snoring and flatulence.

I took a shower. I got very stressed out and almost started crying.  I did, however, have a few tears well up in my eyes. I was ready to go take a nap when I discovered I’d gotten a phone message from my SNAP case worker. I called her back, and she said she was leaning against renewing my benefits.

I explained all I’d been doing and all the run-arounds and assurances I’d been given. I think I pretty much convinced her, but she wants me to fax her documentation of this computer school I’m attending, and have Belle’s former owner Kathi call her to verify that she sends me $75 for Belle’s care and feeding monthly.
I called Kathi, discussed the matter, and our various problems of late, then, very depressed, I lay down and napped from about 6 to 11:30pm or so. I got up a little while, walked Belle, ate toast, and still felt very tired, sad, depressed, and on the verge of tears, and went back to bed around 2:15am.

Thursday, March 22nd–I got up early enough today that I should have no trouble getting to sleep tonight. I seem to think I may’ve had a minor crying incident when I woke up. Around 10am, I went by the UPS Store and faxed that info to my case worker, then I went to the dollar store for some supplies. The weather was nice, and I had the patio doors open, but my allergies were killing me. I went over all the course notes for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I only got one chapter of reading in before getting tired. I retired an hour or so earlier than usual, and had little trouble getting to sleep.

Friday, March 23rd–I woke a couple times in the night, but was eventually able to get back to sleep. I finally woke with my alarm at 5:30am, got up, got ready, but left later than usual, so I could spend more time with Belle. I caught my first bus around 7:16am, and entered into a period of stress and misery, upset about the commute, worried about Belle getting out of the apartment through the carelessness and stupidity of construction workers, and worried that I’d be denied the extension of my Food Stamp benefits….

I got downtown without having a big block of time to have to kill at The Hideout. Instead, I went straight to class. Though we didn’t have much material left to cover, the instructor dragged it out for all four hours. We were handed correction sheets pertaining to our future course plans and how we wanted our names listed on our attendance certificates. My name was misspelled, so I corrected it in the line provided for corrections.
We had our break. We had lunch. I was getting bored, tired, and stressed. The instructor kept using his catch-phrase, as well as the non-word “irregardless.” When the class finally ended I was handed my certificate–with my name still misspelled.

I had a wait of about fifteen minutes for my bus, and though it was well after lunch and before the five o’clock rush hour, and it wasn’t the Friday before a holiday, the traffic was awful, and it took over a fucking hour to get from Second and San Jacinto downtown to my neighborhood at Braker and Jollyville. I was so upset by the time I got to my neighborhood I completely forgot I needed to go to HEB, and headed straight home.

Belle was safe, albeit beside herself. It took her awhile to calm down. I didn’t lay down for my nap until 6pm, and then I wound up sleeping all night.

Saturday, March 24th–I woke at 3:49am, very tired, very heavy with sleep. I probably could’ve slept a few more hours had I not needed to piss. I got up, walked Belle, and breakfasted on tostadas and lunched on Asian stir-fry. I did some reading, though I didn’t get as far as I would’ve liked. I stayed in a reasonably good mood. I tidied things up a bit and walked and played with Belle. I retired before midnight.

Sunday, March 25th–I had several weird dreams last night, and woke a couple times. I listened to my friend Don’s new CD several times. (I got it in the mail Friday.) I began writing a rebuttal to a bad review the CD got in a magazine. I cleaned more on the kitchen, because of the abundance of gnats flying around. I slipped into some depression and discouragement for awhile. I had toast for breakfast, and baked potato slices later in the evening. I did some reading…..

Monday, March 26th–I somehow got up. I went through my morning rituals quickly, poured some coffee down my throat, and managed to get out of the door. Two buses later, I was downtown. but once we got into downtown proper, the driver started driving at a glacial pace, hitting all the red lights, the way some Capital Metro drivers do. When she finally stopped to take on a guy in a wheelchair, I, knowing that getting a person in a wheelchair loaded onto the bus and strapped in can take for-fucking-ever, just de-boarded and started walking.

I was trying to cross Fifth Street at Congress when a couple of vehicles pulled up rather quickly, just barely managing not to get into the cross-walk and hit me. The second vehicle was a truck. The driver: Kinky Friedman.

I got to the [Tek Skilz] offices. Class went okay, but the instructor got long-winded and our breaks were late, which was especially a problem since I really needed to piss. I also asked him a couple questions that stumped him. That pleased me.

I got back to my neighborhood in decent time, then went to HEB for bread and Cheetos. At home, Belle was fine, if beside herself….

I posted a notice on Tumbler about tainted Chinese dog treats and it got over 4,700 hits and reblogs in the first 24 hours.

I noticed some new spamming in my e-mail inbox, so I unplugged the computer and ran a scan.

I showered, then napped from about 5 or 6pm until after 9pm, then woke exhausted. I found a little wooden end table outside while walking Belle and brought it home. I got some reading done, and retired around 4:30am.

Tuesday, March 27th–I got up around 11am. After getting ready and eating I talked to a friend on Instant Messaging, then studied my course notes for the week. I finished and e-mailed off a Letter to the Editor of “Austin Monthly” (a letter I’d started Sunday), about their short and negative review of Don’s new CD.

I took Belle out for a walk at one point in the afternoon and saw some girls letting their dog run loose, so I told them the horrific story of Bruce the Pit Bull, and how he was killed while running loose.

I watched two short videos on SEO. I tried to get into an online computer course site that [Tek Skilz] uses, but didn’t have the right log-in information. I flew into a rage about a post I read by the founder of Wikipedia about the passing of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica.”

That Tumbler notice I posted last night had over 5,300 hits by the time I went to bed.

Wednesday, March 28th–I got up, got ready, and to class with no trouble. I’m pretty confident already I have Power Point mastered. It began raining as I was getting home. I napped from about 6pm to 9:30pm. I made some comic memes, then read for a bit.

Thursday, March 29th–I woke around 9 or 10am. The rain last night meant that there would be no construction crews around today. I had no trouble with my allergies. I talked with a friend on IM, wrote the narration for my Power Point presentation tomorrow, then got very ambitious, and moved around a bunch of boxes in my bedroom, blocking access to the patio windows (I can still access the balcony from the living room), but gaining about ten or some more square feet for Belle and me to move around. I hope the effort won’t fuck up my back.

Friday, March 30th–I slept better than usual last night, and only got up to piss once, and then before I’d actually fallen asleep. I did indeed fuck up my back moving things around. I got up, ready, and out in time, and deposited a check in my bank, but my first bus was late. I got downtown, went to the CVS pharmacy, had a devil of a time finding little chocolate doughnuts, then headed to class. I finished my big project and was the first student in the class to present it: a Power Point presentation on reasons to vacation in San Antonio. I did an excellent job, if I do say so myself.

I was freaking out while waiting for a bus downtown. Some woman was walking her Chihuahua, but the dog was walking alongside her, with his leash dragging the ground. The woman just walked on, swinging her arms, and the little dog kept trotting along. But the dog could have, at any second, made a fraction of a turn into the traffic or gotten smashed in the construction up on the next block. The woman didn’t even grab the leash when they crossed the street.  I was so scared for that little dog.

You can always tell when summer officially arrives in Austin because the winos start vomiting on the city buses, as one did today. It’s a sign as sure as the swallows returning to Capistrano.

I stopped off at the dollar store before going home. Belle went bananas, as usual, and it took her a long time to calm down. I showered, then napped from about 6 or 7pm until after 10pm.

I finished reading Christopher Isherwood’s “My Guru And His Disciple.” I’ve been reading my way through most of Isherwood’s works over the last year. Many of them are autobiographical. (I can certainly understand a writer being so self-absorbed–I also find it hard to write about anything other than myself.) The book documents Isherwood’s relationship with his guru, the Swami Prabhavananda, from 1939 to 1976. It depicts, though not to the degree I would’ve expected, the rather peculiar situation of Isherwood being a devotee of the Vedantic religion on the one hand, and on the other being a very worldly person, enjoying fame, celebrity, drink, and promiscuous gay sex.

Several problems present themselves. As with many of the books I’ve read lately, I thought this was about one-hundred pages too long. I really didn’t need a meticulous account of every visit and conversation Isherwood ever had with his guru over the course of thirty-seven years. After awhile these stories got rather repetitious and dull, and over the last few days I kept saying aloud, “Just wrap the fucking thing up already!”

Isherwood sometimes explains Sanskrit terms and Vedantic beliefs and rituals, and sometimes he doesn’t. That carelessness slows down the flow of the narrative.

I’m still not clear as to what exactly Isherwood got out of his religion. Throughout the book he’s on such an emotional roller-coaster–filled with joy and devotion on one page and annoyance and indifference the next. (Though I’m sure anyone who has followed any kind of spiritual path can identify with those times Isherwood describes merely going through the motions of devotion and worship.) The main thing I got out of all this is that this particular guru was what drew Isherwood to Vedanta and kept him there; I got the sense that all the rest–the rituals, the holy men, and so forth–were all elements that Isherwood could’ve just as easily have done without.

Isherwood does not proselytize. This is not one of those “Here is my religion and this is why you should follow it” sort of books. If anything, Isherwood undersells Vedanta. Its chief function seems to have been to introduce colorful people and exotic situations into his life.

Another thing I found confusing was how quickly Isherwood went from being a confirmed atheist to a devoted Vedantist. But having read so many of his other autobiographical works I’ve gathered that he was, for lack of a better explanation, a bit wishy-washy, very much a follower rather than a leader, very easy to persuade, one who would go along to get along, who just allowed things to happen to him rather than taking an active role in directing the course of his life. It’s an attitude that I, as a pushy, disagreeable, anti-authoritarian person, have difficulty understanding.

Later on, I began reading Dorothy Sayers’s “Hangman’s Holiday.”

Saturday, March 31st–I was awakened at 10 am by someone ringing my doorbell. No one EVER rings my doorbell or knocks on my door who values their good health.

It was a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there to hand me a flier for a service Thursday.

Lucky for them I was still half-asleep and struggling to hold back my barking Basset Hound or else I’d have stuck a crucifix in their faces and splashed them with the hip flask of Holy Water I keep by the front door.

So a call just came across my answering machine. (Yes, I still have one.) It was some guy from the place where I’m taking my computer courses. He began, “Yes, my name is Fernando. I’m calling from [Tek Skilz] about the courses you’re signed up to take….”

It was all I could do not to pick up the phone and sing forth, “Can you hear the drums, Fernando?”

I spent the day puttering. I watched some tutorial videos on SEO, and read in Sayers.

I doubt that there’s another man alive who has received as much stupid and useless advice as I have.


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