Saturday, September 1st–I woke around 7am or so, well before my alarm, but I knew it was going to be a long, troublesome day, and since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I might as well get up.
[There were complications with my rent check.]…
I called [Paddy] and left a message, saying I had a time-sensitive problem. He didn’t call back then, and 24-hours later he still hadn’t called back.
I did get ahold of James, who said he was planning to come to town anyway.
All the while I was having trouble with my piece-of-shit phone, with the push-buttons that no longer work….
James called a few times from the road. I got ready, and James and Nyssa came and picked me up. James gave me money to cover the bank, and extra for Belle and bank fees. I got my cashier’s check and we went back to my apartment complex. I was kept waiting about ten minutes, until finally some plastic bitch from the front office condescended to stop and wait on me and check to see the information on my check was right.
While I waited I watched some freakishly obese guy at a computer in the “business center” of the apartment office. For a few seconds I thought he had a backwards goiter or something on his neck, but then finally decided it was some sort of neck brace to keep his massive head raised up.
James and Nyssa and I discussed their planned trip to LA, which they hope to take soon. They wanted me to come along, but it soon became obvious that wasn’t going to happen.
First off, they plan to drive. Even if they took the most direct route from Austin to LA, that’s be four to six days round-trip, not counting the time in LA. While I’m willing to stay in LA a week, I’m not willing to be away from Belle longer than that. It turns out they plan to be gone a month, and James can’t understand why I’m not up for that, or why I would be unwilling to be separated from Belle for that long. He thinks of her separation anxiety as something I need to “break.”
Then James explained that not only are they driving, they’re also going via Utah, to visit a young relative. Now I like this young woman. I last saw her about six years ago when she was a teenager, and there was a surprise farewell party for her, when she decided to move from Austin and her mom’s house to go join her dad in Utah. I took a rather ham-fisted, unprofessional photo of her and her mom (that I’ve always wanted to re-do), but which has become beloved amongst the various member of her family.
Now all that said, I’m just not interested in “visiting.” I’m not interested in visiting my own family or anyone else’s. I travel to see things, not people.
Furthermore, there’s almost nothing in Utah I care to see. Though I have friends who are Mormons, I think Mormonism is a white trash cult, and my contempt of it has gotten worse with the rise of Romney, so I don’t want to waste time in a state filled with Mormons. About the only thing I might remotely be interested in seeing in Utah are, oddly enough, Brigham Young’s Beehive House and the Mormon Tabernacle, and I could get those out of the way in a couple of hours, after which I’d be bored, irritable, and fuming, which would cause problems with my traveling companions and their friends and relatives.
Also, though James has said he’d cover my bills on such a trip, I doubt I’d enjoy his low-budget methods of traveling. I’ve had a taste of that before and hated it.
So he’s suggested that he could buy me a cheap web-cam, have me get on Skype, and guide them along during the whole trip, telling them where they need to go and what they should see.
While we were having this discussion we took a back route from my neighborhood over to Anderson Lane. We ate lunch at an Indian food buffet. After we finished, I showed James and Nyssa some cartoonish maps of Austin from 1987, that formed, and still to some degree forms, my concept of Austin geography.
From thence we made our way north, through eyesore after eyesore of recent suburban development, up to Round Rock, to the IKEA Store. This was probably my first trip in two years outside Travis County.
It was funny. I started railing about how “desolate” I thought the area was, and James got all worked up, saying, “Desolate! They’ve got everything here now–all the stores you have in your area, only better and larger!”
But, I explained, it was all desolate to me. Ugly buildings, cheaply-built. Ugly apartments and houses. Everywhere I looked were eyesores. James, who understands aesthetics in photography and nowhere else, didn’t follow me.
James, for all his oh-so-tiresome political correctness, also hates homeless people and panhandlers, and makes a big show of locking all the car doors and rolling up the windows whenever we approach intersections where panhandlers are begging. At one we saw an older man, in a wife-beater T-shirt, his chest and arms covered with tattoos, stumble towards us carrying a squeegee, offering to clean windshields.
James offered a rather weak and not-too-convincing bromide, “Well, at least he’s trying to work—not just trying to bum something for nothing.”
Then I, using a particular voice James and I both adopt when imitating certain annoying people we know, said, “He obviously has enough money to keep getting tattoos, though, doesn’t he?”
And after we all laughed, James added, in that mocking voice, directing his barb at me this time,”Yes. He could be using it to buy collectible antique children’s books.”
I laughed at that for several minutes.
So we finally arrived at IKEA, and they let me go on inside ahead of them, since James had to meet a client in the parking lot to sell him some gadget or other he’d made. I walked in with wide-eyed wonder, grabbed a store map, and tried to navigate in such a way as to see everything.
I was in design heaven, though I’m surprised how few photos I wound up taking. I suppose it’s a good thing I didn’t have a penny to spend there, since had I had money with me, I’d have certainly gone nuts.
James and Nyssa soon found me–it turns out I missed a whole section we later went back to see. I have no idea how long we were there. We wrapped things up with chocolate cake in the cafe, and then Nyssa decided against buying the item she found because she didn’t want to wait in line. (As it was the Labor Day weekend, the store was jam-packed.)
After all that, we made it out to the parking garage, and got into a huge elevator with a reflective floor. The elevator stank of road-kill, which James tried to explain away by saying the elevator wasn’t air-conditioned, but I knew better. Something dead had been in that cab.
I commented in the parking lot, “Goddamn, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fat-assed women in one place, at least this side of a Wal-Mart.”
James said, “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?”
“No, but seriously.”
“Well, IKEA is not for people who are courting. It’s for people who are nesting and settled down.”
“So when women land a man they just let themselves completely go to pot?”
James wisely let the matter drop.
We then headed west and south, through lower Williamson and upper Travis Counties, areas with which I was mostly unfamiliar, filled with more ugly, generic developments, apartments, tract houses, and strip malls.
Now I have very poor vision, which is made even worse out in the sunshine. On our way home we drove past a restaurant named “Morelia Mexican Grill,” but because of my lousy vision and the sign’s odd font, that’s not what I saw:
“What the fuck? Is that restaurant named ‘Foreskin’s Mexican Grill’? What the fuck kind of Mexican restaurant is that?”
And James quipped, “You have to leave a really big tip.”
I got home a little after 5pm or so, walked and tended to Belle, took a much-needed shower, cooled off, farted around on the computer, but retired exhausted about 8pm.
Sunday, September 2nd–I had one dream in which I was to write a book about a great tragedy that had befallen a prominent Southern family. I was staying in the grand home (or at least nice home), of the main character in the tragedy. My host was a rich young man, albeit a haunted one.
Late one night he came to my guest room, wearing pajamas, got into my bed, and began telling the story. I was walking around the room, which was poorly-lit by one lamp, asking questions and taking notes. He told me about his mother’s part in the story, and that was apparently agonizing enough for him, and then I crossed over, past the lamp, into a dark corner of the room, which in the language of the dream film was an indication that the story was about to get even more serious.
He started talking about his father as a young man. I forget whether his father was born in the 1930s, flourished in the 1930s, or died in the 1930s. But just telling the opening scenes of his father’s tragic history (did his father commit suicide?), took so much out of him, that he passed out and fell asleep across the width of my bed, rather like a dog, with the cover wrapped around him.
As a result, I had nowhere to sleep. I could feel the heat radiating from him out from under the edge of the cover. (This may be real life influencing the dream, with Belle’s bodily warmth seeping under my cover.) Anyway, I didn’t bother turning off the lamp. I remained seated in my straight-back chair next to the bed, but bent forward and tried to sleep or rest with my face buried down into the mattress.
In the next dream I was, I think, in Paris, with a young woman–perhaps a friend or girlfriend. She was to meet another young woman at a cafe and was rather nervous about it, for some reason. I agreed to accompany her to the cafe, then return at a pre-arranged time.
We got to the cafe, and because it was so crowded and my friend was so nervous, we had a lot of trouble deciding on a table. She finally picked a banquette, just as the other young woman appeared. The latter had white blonde hair, cut at mid-length, and was apparently wearing a dress underneath a black raincoat which she wore buttoned to the chin. She looked a cross between Kim Novak and Myra Hindley.
When I returned, summoned, possibly by the cell phone I don’t have in real life, the French cafe had turned into an American supermarket. As I wandered down the aisles, I passed Jake Gyllenhaal, who I knew somehow. He may’ve been an ex-boyfriend of this gal I was going to see.
He was in a terrible state, wearing only a grey or black T-shirt and boxer shorts. He looked as if he’d just jumped out of bed and run over to this place. He had a cell phone to his ear, and looked as if he’d just stopped sobbing and was about to start sobbing again. His hair was badly dyed blonde, and his eyes were hollow, sunken, and exhausted-looked.
I only recognized him when I looked back over my shoulder after passing him, and I mouthed, “Are you all right?” It took a few seconds for him to recognize me.
I kept walking, and located my friend. Either she or some other young woman was talking to someone else about her experiences working in this supermarket. Apparently, once a cow had gotten loose in the store and run amuck, knocking things down and shitting everywhere. The cow was caught and killed, and the employees were forced to eat parts of the cow, and also, I think, the cow’s shit, during their breaks for weeks to come. (That should tell you about how I tend to regard the workplace.)
I had to get up a couple times in the night to piss, but I was so exhausted from Saturday’s exertions and stresses, I was determined to get as much sleep as possible. Plus my back hurt as if I’d been carrying a heavy load in a backpack.
I got up around 5:43am. I walked Belle, and discovered my checks still haven’t arrived. Not long thereafter, I went into a panic when I saved my blog document, and the fucking computer wound up wiping the whole fucking text.
I decided to take an outing. I discovered that there’s an open market on Sundays from 9am to 1pm at the Arboretum in the parking lot, selling mostly jewelry and produce, and cursed, as most events and venues are in this benighted city, with a fucking live band. Of course, there’s no reason I should’ve heard of this to-do before, occurring as early in the day as it does.
I went to Barnes and Noble for the first time in many months.
There’d been some changes made–for the worse. There was more room for toys and Kindles and stuff, and less for books. Some sections had been re-arranged. (I hate when stores re-arrange things.) I bought two magazines, then went over to the Arbor Cinema. I’d planned to go inside, use the restroom, re-arrange my shorts and boxers, which invariably get jumbled and bunched-up uncomfortably when I walk outside in the summer, wash my face, cool off, and go through a stack of index cards I’d brought along, looking for the steps I thought I’d written down once for retrieving lost documents.
But when I got to the theatre I saw one of the front doors ajar, I reached for it, and almost tore a fingernail off, because it was chained-up. I was hot as hell and had been from the minute I stepped outside my apartment. The only outside bench that was in shade was already taken by an old couple. The others were in direct sunlight.
A manager stuck her head out to say they be open in fifteen more minutes. I was looking the other way, so I didn’t get to give her the murderous look I was wearing.
When I was finally let inside, I did all the things I’d planned to do, but for a shorter amount of time. And I got a coupon for a small drink, which was, in fact, huge.
I went to see the latest Wes Anderson film, “Moonrise Kingdom,” which I greatly enjoyed, except for the fact that Anderson kills yet another dog in this film.
I returned home, and right before I showered I tore out a painful in-grown toenail from my right big toe. (The in-grown toenail on the left big toe is a work in-progress.) I did a set of tutorials for Skype, but didn’t get any reading done. I think I retired around 8pm or so.
Monday, September 3rd–I think I woke sometime after 7am, pissed, then saw Belle going back to bed, and then I tried to do the same, but my mind started working, and I started thinking about how I’d teach James and Nyssa where all to go in LA, and I was unable to get back to sleep, though it was around 9am, I think, when I finally did get up.
I scanned some from the library books I’m turning in tomorrow, put off messing with finishing my SNAP application documents, got distracted listening to the “Moonrise Kingdom” soundtrack over and over, and re-arranged some boxes and stuff in my living room, something for which I know my back will suffer tomorrow. I gained a little more square footage–very little–and blocked out the left third of the lower part of my front window by setting up some boxes to use as buttresses, so the main body of stacked boxes won’t slide and fall down onto Belle. I also tossed my two broken wooden chairs (one I’ve had for twenty years), a broken plastic parson’s table I’ve had for thirty years, and a huge sack of garbage.
Later, I showered, finished my SNAP application, and did tutorials for Mac OS X Mountain Lion.
Tuesday, September 4th–I got up around 9 or 10am. I already had three e-mails and one phone message waiting from my mom.
She had called her local post office, as well as one in a neighboring town, to see how I should go about tracking my missing letter full of checks. They told her I should try to speak to my postman about it.
[I began to panic.] I already had other things to do today, so I got very upset. I didn’t even have a chance to make or drink any coffee. I tried to get ahold of my local post office on the phone three times, but no one answered. I e-mailed my mom [and] said if I had time I’d try to go by my neighborhood post office, and if not today, then tomorrow.
Finally, I got everything together and headed out. My first stop was the UPS Store, where I made some needed copies for the SNAP folks, then mailed all of the SNAP material off.
I decided the only way to get everything done today in time would be to take the express bus, which, at $2.75 for a day-pass, was a bit more than I could spare, but I wanted to put this [business] to rest.
I got into town quickly, dropped off all the stuff that was due, amassed a huge pile of library books (which were painful to lug around), and picked out some DVDs, checked out, and got to a bus stop just as another express bus was pulling up.
I went up to the Pavilion Park and Ride Center, and soon got very hot walking the short distance to the post office. A postal clerk checked the regular, certified, and express mail sections, and found no sign of the letter, and said it was probably sent back to the sender.
It was so incredibly, painfully hot, I headed back across the road to a Sonic, picked up a dollar bill that I saw on the ground, then ordered a large cherry Slush and some fries. Since they don’t have a dining room, I had to eat outside. The awning and the ceiling fans helped not at all.
Early into my meal I got a weird brain freeze, which clashed so badly with the extreme heat of the rest of my body that I thought for a few minutes that I might be dying. I decided to take my time to finish the drink, and stayed there about thirty or forty minutes doing so.
Then I walked over to the transit center, waited twenty or thirty more minutes for a bus, while being stared at by some scary-looking criminal types, as well as a yoga instructor. I got a bus, got stared at by my fellow passengers, got off, and went to Petsmart.
I wanted to get some chews for Belle, but they didn’t seem to have any for large dogs–only for medium-sized ones. The packages were displayed on a shelf that was a little too low for me to reach easily, but everything I saw was marked “For medium-sized dogs.” I noticed some back-stock of these packages above the shelves, way over-head, but they were too high for someone my height, and I didn’t care to go looking for a foot-stool.
So I grabbed an over-sized chew bone, like the ape in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and used it as a tool to push around the packages stored up top, so I could get a better view of what was written on them. I suppose I looked peculiar, because a store employee came over to see what I was up to, and she confirmed that they don’t have (or maybe the manufacturer doesn’t make) chews for large dogs. Anyway, I made my purchase and headed home.
I made a bee-line for the mailboxes, opened mine, reached in, and felt nothing. Then I had a hunch. The box was too low for me to bend down and look into it, but I reached all the way to the back of the box, and felt the edges of the back wall with my index and middle fingers. And I felt the corner of a small envelope sticking down along the back wall from the box above it. I pulled it out, and it was indeed the letter with the checks.
I was very angry and upset and uncomfortable from the heat by the time I got into my apartment. Belle was barking her head off. I took her for a short walk, then came inside, gave her a chew, e-mailed my mom, and lay down on my back on the living room floor, trying to calm down and cool off. Then I took a shower….
I had tostadas for dinner, and started on a set of tutorials for Microsoft Paint, read a little in Jones, and retired fairly early.
Wednesday, September 5th–I forget when I got up. I decided to put off running any errands today, preferring to recover from yesterday’s exertions. I finished the Microsoft Paint XP tutorials, and puttered around.
I made a big pot of pasta and listened to the speeches, some good, some dull, some outstanding, from the Democratic National Convention. My friend D___ made a couple political posts on Facebook that enraged me.
I started tutorials for Word Press 3.3, and watched a very radiant Vanessa Redgrave in the film adaptation of “Mrs. Dalloway.”
Right before bed I began “Siren Land” by Norman Douglas.
Thursday, September 6th–I woke around 2pm or so, walked and fed Belle, mailed off a check at the UPS Store, got some dog food and ear wash at Petsmart, and some items for myself at the dollar store.
The clerk who rang me up at the dollar store, a fairly young guy, commented that I was buying Goobers (a snack of chocolate-covered peanuts), and said it was his father’s favorite, then added his dad had died just two months before. I offered my condolences and we actually got into a discussion on the matter.
I explained how every night, at least on week nights, my father would come into the kitchen a little before 10:30pm, get a glass of milk and a piece of pie or cake, then go into the living room and watch a “M*A*S*H*” rerun for a half-hour before going to bed. So now any time I see a “M*A*S*H*” rerun I think of him.
He went on to say how he’d been with his father in the hospital there at the end, and had even gotten him a bag of his favorite things–candies and such–and that after his dad died he found about half of the items in the bag had been eaten.
We discussed how little things like that remind us of our fathers. I said how mine had died in May of 1994, and that in December of that year I was at a mall helping a friend with his Christmas shopping. While I was waiting in some store I saw something and thought,” Hey, this’d be great for my dad. He’d love this!….Aw, shit.”
The kid said that’s exactly the sort of thing that keeps happening to him, but that no one else has really understood this.
Well, by this time, my eyes were getting moist (odd, considering the troubled, love/hate relationship I had with my father), and the kid had sacked up my purchases, and the line was beginning to grow. I was getting ready to leave, but he’d not finished ringing up the transaction yet. He did so, and I wished him well. I feel sure we could’ve easily talked ten or fifteen minutes more had there not been customers on hand. It was peculiar to bond unexpectedly with a complete stranger like that.
Later on, I began a set of tutorials for Word Press 3.3, listened to the Democratic Convention, and read possibly in Jones and definitely in Douglas.
Now for several years, I’ve been hearing ignorant, mouth-breathing Tea Baggers reciting the bromide about giving a man a hand-up instead of a hand-out. Tonight, however, in a campaign film featuring Vice-President Biden, he said something similar, but with an important variation. He said people today “aren’t looking for a hand-out–they just want a shot.” For some reason that just caught me the right way, and I began sobbing violently, albeit for only about 30 to 45 seconds, rather the way small children do. His observation distilled a problem I’ve been having for decades, but especially these last eleven years–that I’ve been needing just a shot to get back into the game, to make something of my life, yet I’ve been stymied at every turn.
Friday, September 7th–I got up in early afternoon, or was it late afternoon? ….[I got an e-mail that] made me sick to my stomach. I discussed it on IM with James.
Today was the day I was to get my latest Food Stamp payment, but it was too hot and I was too dispirited to mess with going grocery shopping. I did, however, make arrangements to order Heardguard and Frontline for Belle from the Drs. Foster and Smith vet supply house.
I did a great deal more on my Word Press tutorials, though I had problems with my own Word Press blog not publishing. Later on I read in Jones and Douglas.