Tuesday, April 2nd–I was awakened, amusingly enough, considering my bedtime reading, by a major rain storm. I finally got up around 6pm, but the rain was so hard and steady I didn’t immediately take Belle out, so she peed and pooped on a pile of newspapers. I cleaned that up.
The storm ended, I took her out for a short walk, fed her, walked her again, took out three big bags of garbage (they FINALLYemptied the over-stuffed dumpster today), showered, walked Belle again–and this time I saw some scary-looking gang-banger thug friend of the thug downstairs sitting on the curb directly facing my house, apparently waiting for that thug to come out so they could go steal cars or sell drugs or whatever it is they do for fun.
The storms returned shortly thereafter–this time with lots of lightning and thunder–but they did not dissuade the gang-banger. I heard the two thugs talking outside–probably on the balcony.
Belle was desperate to go outside again, but I wasn’t going to go in that heavy rain, so she peed and pooped again on the paper. It does seem to bother her to do a heavy-duty poop indoors, and she made agitated sounds to try to convince me, but the weather was just too bad for it. Afterwards, she finally calmed down and went to sleep.
I spent most of the night working on my photo files.
[There was more controversy with DARS today.]
Even though the city is much more to my liking, and I tend to be bored out of my mind in the country, I spent part of my childhood and adolescence in the country, so it feels strange not to have a vegetable garden to turn to for an unending supply of food. For much of my adult life I’ve been under-paid, and have had little to spend on groceries, so I’ve often thought of how nice it would be to have a garden again. And working in a garden is a great stress-reliever, I’ve found.
Wednesday, April 3rd–The night dragged on. I continued re-arranging my photo files.
Just before bed, I finally finished Beverley Nichols’s “The Gift of a Garden, or Some Flowers Remembered.” This is actually a condensed omnibus volume, containing chapters from three of Nichols’s books: “Down the Garden Path” (1932), “A Thatched Roof” (1933), and “A Village in a Valley” (1934).
In his long life, Nichols wore many hats, but he is best-remembered today as a pioneer in that genre of writing I’ll call, for lack of a better term, the “vacation-house book.” A hugely popular modern example of this would be Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” and its successors. The premise of this genre is that the narrator buys a house in the country, either at home or abroad, has troubles with the renovations and landscaping, meets the charming, eccentric locals, is transmogrified by his encounters with nature, and comes to experience real peace of soul.
This is a quiet, gentle, peaceful, contemplative, warm bath of a book. The style is breezy, witty, and readable; indeed, I wish some of the other writers I normally read had Nichols’s light touch.
I retired around 11:22am. I think it was beginning to rain then.
Belle woke me around 6pm. I could easily have slept much longer.
Belle was rambunctious tonight and wanted many walks….
Thursday, April 4th–Wednesday flowed into Thursday. I spent the night online, mostly re-arranging my photo files.
I prepared some rice and some heat-and-serve Indian food. The former was on a smoky burner, so I turned on the kitchen exhaust fan, which helped only slightly, then after finishing cooking, opened up the patio door a crack. Belle pushed her way out onto the balcony, and when I went to get her she was starting to growl at the white trash thug and his gang-banger buddy, who had just pulled up. I pushed and dragged Belle inside and locked the patio door, and the thugs stayed out in their car, no doubt staring at my apartment for who knows how long.
I warmed up some soup for Belle. She lapped up some, knocked the bowl over and spilled the contents onto the floor of the entry hall, carried the bowl into the living room to lick, then returned to the hall to lick up some of the soup she’d left on the floor.
I started reading Dirk Bogarde’s “A Postillion Struck By Lightning” and Beverley Nichols’s “Garden Open Tomorrow,” and retired around noon or thereabouts.
I dreamt I was in a leafy, green part of Houston, possible Spring Branch, but as it was about forty years ago. I forget the early events of the dream, but I wound up at a little cheese shop that looked like an old two-story English cottage or village shop, with lots of woodwork. I went inside. There were two main sales rooms–one downstairs to the right, and another smaller room upstairs above it.
The shop sold cheeses, as well as gourmet and specialty foods. Oddly enough, the cheeses weren’t refrigerated or cooled, but merely stored on the wooden shelves that lined the sales rooms. The shelves were maybe six to twelve-inches deep. At waist-level, the shelves ended and counters extended out another foot, and I think there may have been storage shelves, drawers, or cabinets under the counters.
I believe two older ladies ran the shop.
I was tantalized by the offerings, but remembered that I was a vegetarian who is working on becoming a vegan, and looked around rather frantically for vegan cheeses. Finally, I went up the steep and narrow staircase, which was to the left of the main room, on the end. An older female customer, who was probably in her sixties or seventies, went upstairs with me, though I forget if she preceded or followed me.
The upstairs room was, as I said, much smaller than the main sales room. There were one or two ladies shopping up there already.
Two tall, lanky young white men came upstairs and went directly to the counters on the back wall. The whole back wall was devoted to sweets and candies. The young men dug their hands very purposefully into two deep wicker baskets which were filled with hard candies in cellophane wrappers. From under the piles of candies they produced revolvers and began waving them around. They were planning to rob the store.
For some reason I had a large basket or bag on my left shoulder, and I looked down to the floor, making a point of not looking directly at the young men. They got loud and threatened to kill us. They wanted to know why I was looking away.
I think I burst into tears, and explained that I was looking away so I wouldn’t see them, because if they knew I’d not seen what they looked like, they’d have no reason to kill me. This seemed to satisfy them and they ran downstairs, and possibly out of the shop as well.
It seems the shop also served as a bed-and-breakfast. I started poking around and exploring. Both the old lady and I needed to go to the bathroom at the same time.
I think there was a fairly nice bathroom elsewhere in the building, but the one upstairs was very basic. I walked down a rather primitive hallway that ran parallel and behind the staircase and had windows looking out onto the back yard, where I think there were other buildings.
At the end of the hall I turned to the left and entered the bathroom. The bathroom was long and narrow, and occupied the space between the hallway and staircase. At the far left, in a dark and narrow corner, was a toilet. Another toilet and the sink were hard to the right by the door.
The old woman walked into the bathroom shortly after I did. We both needed to use it badly. I suggested we take turns, for the sake of propriety, but she said after what we’d just been through it didn’t matter, and she walked down to the toilet at the end of the room, and suggested I use the one by the door.
I woke at 8:36pm, very tired, and wanting to go back to bed. During my first few hours awake I was beside myself with stress over all the bullshit I needed to get done but didn’t want to mess with.
As is often the case, when I tried to turn on my computer it wouldn’t let me do anything because it was going through ten or fifteen or more minutes of updates and shit. I finally lost my patience, tried to save my documents, then re-booted the fucker.
I wrote J___ D.:
“I’m overwhelmed with all the shit I have to do. Jury duty summons. Have until 11th to get excuse from doctor, but my appointment with her isn’t until 23rd, and I doubt she’ll be of much use.
“I should’ve mailed a bill days ago, but haven’t gotten across the street for a stamp.
“I need to go buy dog food in a few days. I have the money–it’s just hard getting out of the house.
“And there’s that goddamn permission sheet. My Case Worker wanted me to come by the other day at 9am and I said that wasn’t good for me.
“Just pretty much been beside myself….
“I’m having trouble enough just getting through the day with all these little fucking fires to put out….
“I’m sick of this fucking release form bullshit.
“Goddammit–lost a fucking document. I made a point of saving the fucker before I re-booted.
“And I saw a report where Austin is one of the top 10 cities where rent is going up this year.
“So I’m beset with bad news on all sides and stress and shit….
“I was reading up on London–as if i’ll be able to go–and it might be a good idea to take a half-day or a day just riding one of those buses that takes me past everything. It will be painful not to go inside, but I’d hate to pass through and not lay my eyes on some sites.
“But considering how tired I get after just 4 hours of the Blanton…and if […] tries to move me to the ghetto I won’t be up for a trip….
“Just physically and emotionally exhausted right now….”
J___ told me to relax and said I probably ought to get some sleep.
Friday, April 5th–Thursday flowed into Friday.
Roger Ebert is dead.
When I was in high school some friends and I would use the old “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies” movie review show to help us dupe our parents about our weekend plans.
We’d be at one guy’s house or another and the parents would ask, “Well, what are you boys planning on doing tonight?” We’d tell them we were going to see the latest movie that was opening, when in fact we were going out drinking.
At some point during the week we would have all watched “Siskel and Ebert,” because in addition to a detailed discussion of the films they’d show two film clips. So the day after our drinking expedition the parents would ask, “So, how did you boys enjoy that movie?” And one of us would say, “Oh, I really liked that scene where so-and-so did this-and-such.” And another would say, “That was cool, but I liked the scene where they did this-and-that.”
It fooled everybody’s parents every time.
(And the funny thing is that most of the time I would’ve preferred going to the movies than drinking, but I felt I had to do what my friends wanted in order to prove myself as a man.)
I took an empathy test. The results weren’t all that surprising:
Your score: 21
0 – 32 = low (most people with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism score about 20)
33 – 52 = average (most women score about 47 and most men score about 42)
53 – 63 is above average
64 – 80 is very high
80 is maximum
Why haven’t humans evolved out of toenails yet? We still use fingernails to scratch where it itches, but toenails are utterly useless.
Forget bringing sexy back. Let’s bring back the term “sexual congress.”
I’ve known so many people who talked of taking the Great American Road Trip, and none of them ever did.
There were these two classmates of mine in high school who enthusiastically talked of their plan to get motorcycles and ride up to the Alaska Highway during the summer after we graduated. I was fascinated by their idea, and wanted to hear how it turned out.
I ran into them a year later, and of course they’d failed to do it. I’m sure they went on, like everyone else I went to high school with, to useless, pointless, wasted lives.
Their failure was one of the first indications I had that adulthood was going to be a big, hot, streaming pile of shit.
Every time I come into my apartment from the outdoors I’m always spitting out obscenities, blasphemies, and profanities, because I hate going outside so much.
I’m not even sure my problem is with going outside so much as the fact I hate the climate I’ve been trapped in my entire life. I’ve always been physically uncomfortable in Texas.
Do you ever ride the bus and look around at your fellow passengers and then the people in neighboring cars and the pedestrians and try to decide if there are any at all you would spare if you got a chance to push a button and blow up the world?
I guess that’s just me, then.
(Well, in fairness, I would spare the people I found attractive, but they seldom ride the bus anyway.)
My errands today will take me 15 minutes at best, and yet I’ve been dreading them and putting them off for days because I don’t like to leave my apartment.
I puttered around online, growing very tired while waiting for the shops to open. Finally, at 8:45am, I put on my shoes, grabbed some bags, walked over to the UPS Store, mailed my late washer/dryer check, then went over to Petsmart and bought three bags of dog food and a bag of chews. Then I hastened back home.
I read some in Nichols and retired a little after noon, I think.
I had yet another Half-Price Books dream. D__ was back, trying to convince me to take up the life again, but I explained that I couldn’t handle the physical strain of being on my feet all day, and all that lifting and hauling. Yet I think I agreed to go back to it, and actually seemed a little bit happy to be doing so.
D__ and I went back to the old building where our store used to be. (This building looked like a cross between the old Bryan store, and the old Austin flagship store on Guadalupe.) Most of the exterior and interior walls had been torn out. All that was left were the roof, the floor, and the load-bearing posts.
The amazing thing was that this partial demolition revealed two hidden staircases on the north wall that led down into a basement. After all of those years I’d spent in that building, I’d never noticed any secret doors or structural peculiarities that would indicate hidden passages or staircases!…
I looked at the clock around 9:11pm, then I gave Belle and lengthy rubbing and scratching, and finally got up about 9:21pm. I went through the usual rituals until midnight.
Saturday, April 6th–I think one of the reasons I could never become a first-rate novelist is that I don’t understand human motivations and behavior. I cannot fathom, for example, how someone could ever be so desperate as to have sex with someone who’s unattractive. How do they even get aroused enough to do it? The prospect is as repugnant to me as eating road-kill.
Sunday, April 7th–I dreamt I was watching a music video. A short, skinny, young hippie guy with long, dirty blonde hair, completely covered in ugly tattoos (which included a tattoo of a necktie and collar), was hopping and prancing about a field, singing to some hippie chick…. At the end of the video, he and the girl went scampering off across the field, away from the camera.
The odd thing was the video was narrated as if it were an NFL football game film, with a sportscaster using a stentorian voice, although the narrator in this case was definitely not the legendary John Facenda–“The Voice of God”–who died in 1984.
I turned to the right. I was in a car. To my right was my buddy C__. I said, referring to the hippie, “You look just like him,” and he laughed….
Then I noticed that though the video had ended the narrator was still talking. He was the sports guy on a local radio/TV station and he was talking to the main news reader. Suddenly, the sportscaster seemed a lot less impressive. He didn’t even have national standing; he was just a local guy.
I was in the back seat of a car, being driven around a small city. I noticed, with interest, the studios of one of the local TV stations down a side-street as we passed it. I wondered if I’d be happy living there, but then soon decided there wasn’t enough of interest there to keep me happy–inadequate shops, restaurants, museums, and libraries.
I forget the earlier part of the dream, but I’d been staying in a house with several other people in this town, for a week or two. It seems we were getting ready to leave, though I wasn’t dressed for it. I was shirtless, wearing a blue bathrobe (the one Laura Bush saw me in all those years ago?), shorts, and either shoes and socks or maybe just slippers.
In the car was a woman who was supposed to be my mother, but really didn’t look like her, several older people (or “adults” as I thought of them, because I seemed so young), and a doughy, bespectacled man who seemed to be in his late fifties or sixties. He wasn’t exactly effeminate, but he definitely wasn’t manly, and he was quite ineffectual.
We pulled up at a convenience store and I think my mother and some man got out and went inside. I wanted to go in and buy a paper, but some of the others suggested I stay in the car. This annoyed me.
Someone started asking questions about my mother’s doctors, and mentioned several names. The name of my mother’s main doctor was on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t think of it, and I gave up without too much of an effort and said, unemotionally, “Sorry, but I have no fucking idea.” My use of profanity greatly upset the wimpy man, and he protested and tried to correct me, and I got angry and made it clear that I was an adult and would speak as I pleased.
Then my “mother” got into the car and we were about to pull out and leave, when I pointed out, “Are we actually gonna leave ____ in the fucking store? Aren’t we gonna wait on him?” And then the wimpy guy protested again, and I started yelling at him, and then my mother and everybody else in the car got involved.
Belle tried to wake me several times during the course of the evening, and though I could’ve easily slept a lot longer, I finally got up at about 12:36am.
It was Food Stamps day. I found out HEB opened at 6am, and would’ve loved to have gone shopping then, but I felt I had to wait, because when I left and when I returned Belle would bark loud and long, and my stupid neighbors would probably bitch about that. So I dawdled the morning away.
I got into an IM discussion with J___ D., and before long he started nagging me about getting a lawyer for my SSDI, after I told him two law firms had turned me down. He kept at, and wouldn’t let it go, and I blew my top and “screamed” at him in all-caps online.
Then he went back, looked at the thread, and realized he had been nagging. He told me to warn him about that in the future. I said that anything that happens more than twice, be it a noise or someone making a point, or whatever, will push my buttons and cause me to blow my stack.
He said he had only a 10% chance of coming into town today, so I went off on my errands. First I went to grab a bite to eat at McDonald’s.
I noticed the clientele was almost exclusively Hispanic, but I wasn’t sure why, since there aren’t any Catholic churches nearby. I saw one man with four sons, and was tempted to say, “You must be proud, sir–you could start your own polo team!”
Afterwards, I walked past an Indian restaurant, just as the door opened, and I took deep breaths of the aromas from within. The Indian family that walked out must’ve thought me crazy. I grabbed some free Indian publications from the rack outside, then went on to HEB.
I tried to keep my purchases to a size I could carry home without too much trouble, but as usual, I failed. When the sacker grabbed my mesh bags I told I wanted to keep them double-bagged, just as they were, and goddamned if she didn’t start taking them apart. I rushed over there with the annoyed voice you use with a stupid child, and snapped, “NO! DON’T TAKE THEM APART! I WANT THEM TOGETHER LIKE THAT! JUST LIKE I SAID! JUST THE WAY I HAVE THEM NOW!” I was beside myself on the way home. Belle greeted me with loud, ceaseless barks. I walked her, put up the groceries, and had just sat down at my desk when I noticed I had a message on my answering machine. It was J___ D. He was coming to town after all.
Belle was not happy to see me leave again.
J___ and N___ (especially J___) were making a big deal out of the fact that there are in their opinion so few restaurants where I “can” eat. I explained, that no, just because I’m a vegetarian, it isn’t hard to find a place that serve at least one or two vegetarian dishes. But the fact that I hate their two favorite places, Chuy’s and the Mr. Gatti’s pizza buffet, and find the food there bland and boring, shouldn’t make it all that hard to find somewhere else to eat.
J___ had his heart set on Indian food, but absolutely refused to eat at the Indian restaurant I’d walked past a few hours before, because it was strictly vegetarian.
Eventually, I suggested Newk’s, a place in my neighborhood that I’d not been to in a few years. Everybody seemed satisfied, but as usual, I could tell that J___ and N____ were looking for flaws, something to hate, so they’d have an excuse to never return.
The guy that took our order up front was a very short young Yankee with a loud, brassy voice, and an awkward way of talking. I made a point of picking a table as far away from him as I could get, but then he also turned out to be our waiter.
After this, they wanted to go to Dragon’s Lair, which has just moved to its fourth home since about 1998 or 1999. J___ warned me that the place would be full of geeks, and there’d be author signings, and gamers, and “cos–players” in silly costumes.
He said that while Austin Books has an emphasis on comics, graphic novels, and books, with some gaming, Dragon’s Lair has become more about gaming and less about comics. He knows I hate gamers and people like that, and I was also concerned we might run into some of those friends of his I hate. We decided I could prowl around the shopping center if I got bored or uncomfortable. When I asked him how long he expected to take, he said he couldn’t tell–as if he had absolutely no control over such things.
As we approached the center, I pointed out to him a grown man–easily in his thirties or forties–walking down the sidewalk in a “Star Trek Star Fleet” uniform. We parked, and headed to the new location, which for some reason is almost completely invisible from the street. (Why would anyone rent a space like that?)
It also looked smaller than the last store on Burnet Road. But when we opened the doors we found it was pretty huge. I commented, “It’s bigger on the inside–just like the TARDIS,” but my science fiction geek companions didn’t get the “Doctor Who” reference.
As is always the case, I found the geeks in the store horrific to look upon, with distorted bodies and faces, repulsive hygiene, no sartorial sense, and speaking English as if it wasn’t their first language. Geeks always sound as if they taught themselves English by reading a book, but have never actually heard it spoken before. They tend to emphasize and de-emphasize the wrong syllables, and have no clue as to the proper modulation of volume. Their laughter is always a manic, abrupt eruption.
At one point I turned to J___ and muttered, “I daresay I’m not even the oldest virgin in the room!”
I made the circuit of the store, stealing only the most brief of glances at the slovenly geeks sitting around the tables, either playing silly games, or crafting and painting game pieces. I felt as cool, suave, sophisticated, powerful, well-dressed, handsome, sexy, and manly as a tuxedo-clad James Bond swaggering into a casino. Indeed, I’d felt that way before, back in the 1990s when I’d attended a few sessions of the Aggie Con science fiction convention in College Station.
Within ten minutes I was totally bored, told J____ I was going to Terra Toys a few doors down, and put on my I-Pod. I skipped the camera store next door–I had no idea what to look for there, and no money to spend on anything, so there seemed no point in going in. Terra Toys was delightful–the cheap impulse-buy toys, the retro items, the stuffed animals, the doll house furniture, and of course, the children’s books. I had not even gotten all the way through the latter section when J___ and N____ came to get me.
J____ was on some medication that made him nauseated as a side-effect, so he vetoed my request to go to the Asian supermarket. (Funny how he’s always sick any time I want to go there.) But I did get to go to Sprouts. I bought coffee, trail mix, and Indian heat-and-serve food…. On my way out to the car I was hobbling, having trouble walking.
I was sore and exhausted the rest of the night.
I finally retired about 10pm.
Monday, April 8th–There were several dreams, but I’ve forgotten most of them. In one, I ran into the now-dead B__ T___. He occupied two rooms, which, though they were side-by-side, didn’t connect, and which were located off a hallway that branched off of a living room or lobby. But a lobby for what? An apartment building? A frat house?
Either I was sticking notes under his door into his room or he was in his room sticking notes under his door out into the hall–I think it was the latter. That was how I noticed he was around.
The first room was sort of his office/living room, and the second was his bedroom. Both were furnished in a style stuck very much in the 1980s. In the living room, there was a long, low cabinet that ran the length of the right-hand wall, on top of which was a huge artificial Christmas tree, the tip of which scraped the ceiling.
He seemed a bit anxious that no one see inside his rooms, yet left them open and unlocked while he went down the hall, presumably to the bathroom. I assumed he didn’t want anyone to find clues to his secret homosexuality. But I found a large, black address/date book of his, which was jam-packed with names, addresses, notes, and journal entries, written in an almost indecipherable scrawl that seemed more typical of a child or seriously unbalanced person than a responsible adult.
I was impressed by the number of his contacts, which seemed to run into the tens of thousands, but many just seemed to be names, with no addresses, phone numbers, or e-mail addresses to go along with them. I thumbed through the book eagerly, looking for clues to his secret life, but I don’t think I found any. I’m sure he would’ve had a fit had he known I was going through the book.
In another dream, I was in a large old house, which seemed to date back at least a century. People were gathering outside for a big outdoor party or fair for which my friend M___ was, I believe, Master of Ceremonies.
I was upstairs in the furnished and finished attic, in a stair hall and in an adjoining bedroom. I found a great quantity of old books for sale, but was upset that many were in poor condition and that I had almost no money. When I was finally left alone, as the people with me went out to prepare for or attend the party, I began to explore the books in earnest, though periodically I looked out the window and down to where the party was to take place, and the big stage where M___ was milling about.
The rooms were rather dark, so I tried at least a half-dozen lamps in the bedroom–extraordinary that there were so many–and every one of them had either burned-out light bulbs or were without bulbs entirely. I then went out into the hall and found several candelabra with lit candles in them. I brought one or two into the bedroom, but a draft kept threatening to blow the candles out.
The books? They mostly dated from the mid- or late-Victorian period to the 1930s or 1940s. There were a couple large nineteenth-century travel books–blue, and part of a set–but only two of three or four volumes were in evidence. There was a very worn children’s books from the 1920s that felt thicker than it should have. It turns out the book had great hunks of dog hair, some with clumps of scabs, stuck in between the pages!
I found a great many old children’s books, including a few “Raggedy Ann” titles. I think they were mostly out in the hall.
There was a hardback double book, with the boards shaped rather like an “S”–on one side the front cover opened from right to left, and the pages were numbered accordingly. Flip the book over, and the cover opened from left to right, and the pages followed that system.
I thought all of the books were over-priced, even after extensive mark-downs, and I was tempted to erase some of the pencil prices and mark them down, but wasn’t this outfit somehow affiliated with Half-Price Books? I knew the pricing and mark-down scheme, having worked for the company, and knew I’d get caught, so I decided not to dare it.
I was also annoyed at how worn and dirty most of the books were. I noticed on shelves over by the stairs a full set of an old children’s encyclopedia–or was it just a collection of classic children’s literature? I think it was the latter, because I’d never seen all the books form that collection gathered together in one place before.
When the set was complete, and shelved in the proper order, the illustrations on the spines formed a long, elaborate, multi-volume picture. The picture seemed familiar to me–a classic image from the world of art–and I think it represented some scene in classical mythology, as rendered by some Pre-Raphaelite artist.
There were a number of people on a dark, rolling landscape–the people on the left side coming towards those on the right.
About three-fourths of the way across the picture were about three maidens, with long, wavy, and enormous heads of copper-colored hair, which of course flowed behind them dramatically and parallel to the ground. And the maidens were reaching out with their arms, either behind them, to the people on the left, or to whoever was at the far right. Sadly, most of this imagery had been stained by dirt, mildew, and rat shit.
I woke about 8 or 9am, feeling wonderful after such a long sleep. After performing my usual rituals, I sat down and tried to get some work done. I e-mailed the County to get either excused from jury duty or get it postponed.
I drafted an e-mail to […] about… SSDI/DARS matters. Then I got tangled in long IM-conversations with M__ and J___ D. After a shower, I looked up lawyers and shrinks to help me with my SSDI case.
I stayed pretty mellow all day long. I didn’t really get angry. I didn’t feel like crying, not was I overcome by suicidal despair. I cherished the decent mood while I could, knowing it wouldn’t last long.