Tuesday, May 14th–It’s exhausting to wake up every day and within seconds be filled with rage, knowing that bad situations that are beyond your control still exist and you’ve just got to wait until they run themselves out.
I got up in early afternoon, walked and fed Belle and myself, then packed everything up and went over to the UPS Store to photo-copy some pages from the library books I was about to return.
I had no end of problems. Every fifth page or so kept coming out faint, even though I’d manually set the copy brightness level to “dark.” At one point the whole machine stopped as if I’d finished with my copying job, so I had to re-set it. And I had a paper jam which I fixed myself.
Then some suburban entitlement mom came in with one of those battleship-sized baby strollers. Not only did she open the door to bring the goddamn behemoth in, she propped the fucker open and set the kick-stand at the bottom of the door so it would stay open. I was using a copier right by the door, so not only was I getting hit by the hot winds, but all of my papers were getting blown around as well thanks to this [bitch]. When she finally left it didn’t occur to her to close the door again, so I had to do it.
A little later some other [bitch] came in and stood right behind me, frowning. Now one of the quickest ways to piss me off is to breathe down my neck. I gathered she thought I’d just stop what I was doing and offer her the use of the copier, but I didn’t acknowledge her.
Finally, she let out an annoyed sigh, went over to the copier next to mine, and stared at it for awhile before she realized that she needed to have a copy counter to make it work. She finished copying before I did. (Copy costs: $5.07)
I had a long wait for the express bus, and got very sweaty–especially my balls. When the bus arrived, the driver misunderstood my request for a day pass, and under-charged me. He explained this, in very broken English, just before I got off at the Library.
I looked for a short time at the DVD selections, but just wasn’t in the mood to check anything out. I swiped a stack of city bus maps, then made the rounds of the second and third floors.
Here’s what I checked out today:
+Charles Bukowski–Open All Night: New Poems
+Charles Bukowski–Sifting Through The Madness For The Word, The Line, The Way: New Poems.
+Aldo Buzzi–A Weakness For Almost Everything: Notes On Life, Gastronomy, And Travel.
+M. F. K. Fisher–Long Ago In France: The Years In Dijon.
+Harry F. Gaugh–The Vital Gesture: Franz Kline.
+Helmut Friedel and Tina Dickey–Hans Hofmann.
+Jonathan and Gabrielle Rubinstein, with Judith Choate–Joe: The Coffee Book.
+Uta Brandes and Michael Erlhoff, editors–My Desk Is My Castle.
+Patrick Phillips-Schrock–The White House: An Illustrated Architectural History.
The top four are for reading, while the bottom five are for browsing through.
I had a short wait for the bus home. I got off at the Arboretum and had an unsatisfying dinner of two veggie rolls, a Dr. Pepper, and a stir-fry with fried tofu, spring veggies, coconut curry, and steamed white rice. (Total with $2.00 tip: $13.80.) I picked a tiny table way off in the back corner, so I could avoid people and sit with my back to the setting sun and not be blinded while eating.
Occasionally I’d glance over at a “Seinfeld” re-run playing mutely on a TV over the bar. At one point, one of the restaurant employees, a boy who looked too young to even work there, came out of the men’s room. Only a few minutes before, after I’d arrived and set my stuff down at my table, I went into the men’s room, worried that someone would steal my bag from my table, and saw this boy loitering around.
Was he trying to make a cell phone call? I don’t know, but he left very quickly, only to return to the men’s room after I took my seat.
His uniform was all black, and I noticed that all over the lap area of his black pants, from the crotch down to the knees, there was a big spattering of red chili sauce. He had also not dried his hands after washing them, and was shaking them up and down in front of him as he walked. I was so close to the doorway to the restrooms I thought for sure some of his hand water would land on my food.
From thence I went to HEB, which was the usual hassle. I took the precaution of buying some chew sticks, so I was able to stick one in Belle’s mouth when I got home, thereby cutting down on some of her barking. (Treats and trash bags: $10.08. Groceries: $44.60.)
I’m in such bad shape now that most food tastes shitty to me. I finish a meal and feel disgusted.
Children of the night…where the fuck are you?
I’ve reached that level of degeneracy where I can no longer tell my dog’s farts from my own.
J___ D. is back in Austin from his Italian trip.
Wednesday, May 15th–I dreamt I was at some place out in the country. It was a combination of country college research campus, experimental farm, and a few other things. I think it had been a ranch at one time, and late in the dream I saw some aerial views with all the barns and out-buildings, and even a ruined Spanish mission-era chapel. It would’ve made a great place to shoot Western movies.
I was there in the company of a lot of young people. I’m not sure if I was a prisoner or was stranded out there or what. I explored the rooms of the large, somewhat run-down main building, which was more like a school building or office than a house. It was about three stories high.
The students were preparing for some big, silly to-do, showing off scientific experiments, but also celebrating science fiction and fantasy….
Did I bond with anybody? Was I sitting in a chair or on a bed with white sheets much of the time? What am I forgetting?
I do know that near the end of the dream I saw some students wearing grey and black costumes that were supposed to make them look like classical statues, and I was impressed with the appearance.
I got up in mid-afternoon, and was soon overcome with a low-grade depression….
I talked with a disability lawyer on the phone about his online questionnaire. He told me how to answer it, and said he’d send me some materials, though I’m not sure he’s willing to take my case until I get turned down the first time.
J____ D. got on IM briefly and babbled, but didn’t have anything useful to say about my apartment or income situation.
I posted this after reading, signing, and reblogging a post that included a petition to declare animal rape illegal:
I don’t see how people can see some of the horrific things I see on here, particularly about animal abuse, cruelty, and rape, and yet continue to post all these naive, tra-la-la-la-la “People are fundamentally good” bullshit quotes from John Green and others. Wake up and take a look at the world as it really is and not how you pretend it to be.
Now some may criticize me for taking such a pessimistic and misanthropic view of the world when I attack those who say “people are fundamentally good.” But the problem with the idealistic view is that it assumes that society is on a sort of auto-pilot, that like a TV show everything’s going to work out for the best and get resolved within fifty minutes because at the end of the day the good guys outnumber the bad guys, that we can always count on people to do the best thing for everybody and not think only of their own greed, ambitions, and selfish desires, or that the forces of intelligence and reason will triumph over the brute mob of stupidity and superstition.
Anyone who pays any sort of attention to current events or indeed the world immediately around them will have to admit, if they are intellectually honest, that there is not enough evidence to support the idea that people are fundamentally good.
And the danger of thinking that the good guys are in charge and will always win is that it invites complacency. It tempts us to ignore the flaws in the world and society, to not try to fix them because we assume the good guys already have that covered. Naive idealism absolves us of responsibility for confronting the world’s problems because we assume the game is rigged in favor of goodness already.
I’ve not even been awake for four hours and am already sick of this day.
Reblog if you’ve ever smelled a book. My mom thinks I’m crazy.
I do it all the time.
I can often tell the difference between British and American books strictly by scent.
I walked past a century-old building on the University of Texas campus last week, and as I passed a ventilation duct that was coming out of the basement I smelled old books and papers and received such a frisson of excitement I thought I was going to become sexually aroused.
I looked at more apartments online, but just didn’t see anything appealing, convenient, or affordable.
Thursday, May 16th–I got up after 3pm, I think.
J___ D. had called. After I walked Belle I called him back. He tied me up in conversation, and kept diverting the discussion away from what I wanted to talk about, and eventually I got so hungry and cross that I blurted out that if I didn’t get something to eat soon I’d get a headache.
A few hours later, he IM-ed me, and he wanted to argue about my views on his travel practices. Apparently my views offended him. I only wanted to talk about my problems with keeping a roof over my head, applying for SSDI, …and so forth.
I would gladly support a violent crack-down on such cult groups as Scientology and Mormonism.
Some followers sent me questionnaire questions:
19. If you could change your eye color, would you?—My eyes are the blue-grey of dead fish. I’m not so much interested in changing their color as making them work better. I’m badly near-sighted.
34. If you had to delete one year of your life completely, which would it be?— Most of the years have been awful, but I would delete October 2006 to October 2007—the period of my last major nervous breakdown, after my dog died and I was having one-to-four violent crying jags a day. I don’t know how I got through that period.
35. Did you have a dream last night?— I’ve been dreaming a lot lately, but I don’t remember any from last night.
53. Have you ever liked someone you didn’t expect to?— I’ve definitely made friends with people I would never have expected to like. There was one guy in college who went from being an annoyance to someone I’d probably take a bullet for. As for romantic liking, yes, sometimes I’ve been surprised by where my heart’s dragged me.
I was arguing about travel with a friend a little while ago.
And I think what we agreed was that popping over to a destination for a week or two, checking off the sights from a list, and going back home is no way to see a place. The proper way is to actually live in the place for awhile, get to know the secrets and the rhythms of the place, befriend the locals.
And now I’m even more upset because that takes money and resources I don’t have. So I fritter away my life in a place I don’t want to be.
I felt very much the Tumblerian ambassador today.
A friend has been out of the country for a month and I had to tell him how he missed out on the whole “Bitch, I might be” phenomenon.
It seems that everyone except me is getting their own little “happily ever after.”
Is there any religion that does not regard mankind as the pinnacle of creation, but rather as something vile, base, and disgusting?
If so, I’d love to hear more about it.
I read more in Vonnegut and Rilke and retired close to sunrise.
Friday, May 17th–I got up around 3:30pm.
And there was this–
Someone else–frankly you should go for being Emperor Norton II. I have the feeling you’d be quite comfortable in a similar role.
Me–Norton II? That’s really the only job for which I’m really qualified. Congratulations for your perceptiveness!
Someone else–if you walked into a bar I owned in full court regalia and handed me money issued in your name I would be strongly inclined to consider it legal tender. a tasseled parasol would help.
Will someone please blow up my neighbor’s car with him in it so I don’t have to hear any more of that fucking dub-step and death-metal when he comes home from selling crack and meth with his gang-banger pals?
I watched another episode of “Hannibal.” I again read in Vonnegut and Rilke before bed.
Saturday, May 18th–I had a dreamt of some fancy family gathering somewhere, where Ronald and Nancy Reagan were guests. Ron was still alive, but practically a zombie, and both people seemed nice. I didn’t know what to say, since I had campaigned for Reagan in my youth, but now hate Republicans.
I dreamt that my family owned a sort of department store in a fairly small city. Would I inherit it? Could I turn it into a bookstore? No, it turns out they only rented the building.
The building was about two-stories tall, and seemed oriented rather like the old Penney’s store in Conroe. The back of the store dated to the nineteenth-century, I think, and was made of field stone.
The front facade was red brick with Art Deco detailing. There was an elaborate carved stone frame around the eastern front doors. (There was a side entrance to the north as well.) There were big ornamented stone piers that framed ornamented sloping stone walls which in turn framed the glass entrance doors. Over the doors was a semi-circular fan-light (containing opaque milk glass) which sloped at an angle (like this: \ ) from atop the doors and out to the stone frames.
I wondered if I could at least expand the building a few feet east and make the brick wall flush with the stone frame instead of several feet behind it, but I gathered there were historical preservation laws that wouldn’t allow me to do that.
The eastern entrance opened into a part of the store that was two-stories high. To the north, south, and west the ceiling was a single-story high, but I’m not sure what was above the main floor there.
We sold clothes, gifts, and various oddities, I’m not sure as we specialized in anything.
Along the back, west wall was a line of rather grungy windows that looked out onto an alley. There was a hip-pinchingly narrow flight of stairs that led up to the south, and then hit a landing, and made a ninety-degree turn to the east, stopping at a mezzanine-level passageway.
I climbed these stairs, walked down this passageway, and peered to my left, to the west. There was a small room there, with a dirty red carpet and no furniture. I then turned left, to the east, jumped a couple feet up into the air, grabbed onto a door frame, and hauled myself up into another room which was even smaller than the one on the west, and was also furnished with a dirty red rug.
I then leapt back down to the passageway. The rooms seemed like ideal places for the teenagers who came to our store to go hang out, get high, listen to music, and read.
I woke at 3:30pm, having to piss badly, but I wasn’t ready to get up just yet, so despite Belle’s protestations I managed to get two more hours of sleep. she finally got me up around 5:30pm.
I had a couple IM conversations with J___ D. As I figured, he just wanted to babble about silly stuff and nonsense, while I wanted to discuss my apartment and financial problems….
I was neither happy nor especially depressed today. I was basically in limbo.
I did look up those welfare apartments [others are] trying to get me into. Most of them wouldn’t work at all, were in really bad locations, and consisted of efficiencies that didn’t allow pets. A few were way the hell out of the way.
The only one that looked vaguely okay was brand-new, and was built on MLK Boulevard, a block from where I used to go for therapy, and next door to a Metro Train station. But there are no decent shops or restaurants or anything else nearby, and it’s not a neighborhood I’d want to be in after dark.
I think part of what bothers me about all this, especially the website for the apartment program, is how embarrassing it is.
It’s bad enough that I’m a complete failure at life and have no money, no hope, and no future, but I don’t like having insult added to injury by having other people rub my nose in these failures.
Here are some sections from the website:
“It takes more than a roof over your head to make your dreams come true. We help families end the cycle of poverty through on-site programs that increase literacy and financial stability. Our Community Learning Centers, located right in the center of the community, are open daytime and evenings providing free services like a computer lab, pre-school class, after-school programs, teen clubs, and ESL classes.”
“We’re a national leader in the asset-building movement, offering low-income families and individuals a step up into the economic mainstream through financial education and home-buyer courses, matched savings accounts, financial coaching, finding money for education, self-employed/small business support, and free income tax preparation.”
“Q: I have some furniture, clothing, or household items I’d like to donate. Can you use these items?
A: We appreciate that people think of us when they have nice things they no longer need. Please see our Wish List for the items we currently need. If you have items to donate that don’t appear on the Wish List, please consider donating them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Project Transitions’ Top Drawer. We partner with all of these great groups and your gifts fund crucial services they provide to help people who might just live at one of our communities.”
For Christ’s sake, some of these places even have food pantries. I can’t deal with that level of shame.
Sunday, May 19th–Saturday flowed into Sunday.
I finished “Cat’s Cradle,” started Dirk Bogarde’s “An Orderly Man,” and read a little in Rilke before going to bed around 10:30am.
“Cat’s Cradle” is, of course, typical Vonnegut. If you like the way he writes and the sort of things he writes about, you’ll enjoy this book. I’m a Vonnegut fan, though I admit my mind began to wander once the action of the story shifted to the Island of San Lorenzo, possibly because I think I would be bored out of my mind on a poor Caribbean island. I would not do well in a “tropical paradise.” I don’t like sunshine, fishing, swimming, or being away from civilization.
“Cat’s Cradle” takes me back thirty years to my college days. I was attending a state university and […] was forcing me against my will to take teacher education courses. […] wanted me to be a public school primary- or secondary-school teacher. I wanted to be a college English professor. I didn’t want to have to dumb down my material or talk down to my students, and I knew I’d not be able to maintain classroom discipline. But […] got it into […] mind that public school teachers get paid more than college professors and […] refused to pay for grad school.
As it turns out, there was an exam that one needed to pass in order to get into the upper-level teacher education courses, and another to get a teacher’s certification afterwards. These exams included math, even if the person taking the test was going into a teaching field that didn’t involve math. I had an as-yet-undiagnosed math disability, and wasn’t able to pass the first exam. So I wasted a lot of my time and … money taking, flunking, and re-taking freshman- and sophomore-level teacher education courses.
I never became a public school teacher, a college professor, or anything else. I drifted from bad job to bad job, had a series of mental breakdowns, became unemployable….
I have to wonder if it might not have been easier had […] just gone ahead and let me go to graduate school after all.
Now the university I attended was nothing special. It mostly churned out business, education, and criminal justice majors who would go right back to their towns of origin and re-live the exact same pointless lives their parents and grandparents had lived, and raise another generation to grow up and do the same. They were the civilian equivalent of “cannon fodder.”
The school was not a great place for intellectual curiosity. The few of us that derived actual intellectual stimulation from that place did so almost by accident, and most of us who had aspirations beyond being suburban/small town working stiffs found those dreams crushed scarcely before the ink on our diplomas had dried.
In such an intellectually barren place I found several professors who seemed under-used and under-appreciated. Their talents, their intellect, their humor went largely unnoticed by the redneck Neanderthals to whom they lectured.
There was one professor I liked who looked like Bob Newhart and had a bone-dry wit. He worked in the Education Department–a kill-floor for creativity, intellect, and originality.
When he got bored with his material, or maybe just wanted to amuse his students or himself, he would digress into stories about his own life or interests. He told of his grim childhood as the son of an alcoholic farmer.
One Christmas Eve his father told him to go up to bed and go to sleep quickly “so Santy Claus can come.” The boy scampered up the ladder to his loft bedroom, tossed and turned for hours, but was too excited to sleep. Several hours later, in the middle of the night, he heard a noise downstairs in the kitchen, and he poked his head down through the hatchway to see if it was indeed Santa.
What he saw instead was his drunken father, knocking into furniture as he tried to set up the Christmas tree and place presents around it. His father suddenly looked up, saw the boy’s face in the hatchway, screamed obscenities at having been discovered, and angrily shoved the little tree and all the presents into the fire in the kitchen’s pot-bellied stove.
On another occasion this professor told us of a mother who punished and beat her little daughter because the latter had a habit of examining her feces in the toilet bowl after she’d had a bowel movement. “Can you imagine,” the professor roared, “anything more filthy, more disgusting than someone who would actually look at the excrement that had come from her body? What kind of sick mind would stoop to such a level?”
He went on and on. The students began to shift uncomfortably in their seats, and would steal furtive glances to the left and right. They all had looked at their feces in the bowl as children and as adults, but now this professor was telling them it was disgusting and wrong. They didn’t know what to think.
He kept this up for a few minutes, then shifted tone and changed sides. He said that of course everyone looked at their feces from time to time, it was a natural human practice, and there was nothing wrong with the little girl for doing that. The sick one was the mother, who clearly had mental problems.
Once in awhile this professor would hold forth on his religious beliefs. He said he was a Bokononist, a follower of the teachings of Bokonon.
Thirty brows furrowed. Thirty heads bent down. Thirty hands tried with some difficulty to write “Bokononist–follower of Bokonon” in thirty notebooks.
He prosthelytized for some time about his religion, not once cracking a smile, not even when he came to describe the rite of “boko-maru,” whereby two Bokononists commune with each other by sitting on the floor and touching the soles of their bare feet together.
By this point all of the students were bug-eyed with shock, and the professor would finally confess that he was describing a fictional religion, made up by Kurt Vonnegut for his novel “Cat’s Cradle.” But naturally, since the students were intellectually incurious, they would not have heard of either the book or Vonnegut.
I got to watch this professor pull his Bokononist shtick on several classes full of students, and it always amused me.
A decade later, I was in another town, consumed with depression, working in a used bookstore, when I found myself ringing up this same professor at the cash register. I was too ashamed of myself to say I’d been one of his students. I had gained weight and we’d both grown moustaches, but amazingly enough he recognized me and still knew my name and greeted me.
He asked me what I was doing in a place like Bryan, Texas, working in retail. I told him the basics, and he said I really ought to try to get out of that life and become an academic. Though I had not made especially good grades in his class, apparently I’d made an impression upon him.
But I was unable to take his advice, and so I continued on my downward spiral.
I got up around 7 or 7:30pm. It was a non-descript day. I didn’t actively wallow in suicidal depression, but I didn’t feel especially good either.
Someone should come up with a word or phrase–if the Germans haven’t already done so–for a really annoying custom or practice that most people in the culture have noticed but not yet commented about.
Two examples come to mind:
1) The craze, about twenty years ago, for shooting commercials, music videos, and even films and TV shows with hand-held cameras, and really playing up the herky-jerky movements. This always left me dizzy, nauseated, and annoyed. Yes, I know the French New Wave directors did this in the 60s because they had low budgets, and hand-held cameras freed them up to get shots they couldn’t otherwise have gotten with big, bulky cameras, but when lesser talents were doing this thirty years later with multi-million-dollar budgets and much better equipment, it was just pretentious.
2) Ever since the musical “Annie” debuted in 1977, little American girls with a fondness for singing have tried to sing in the “Annie” style, which is not so much singing as it is belting—a rather energetic, muscular yelping that’s akin to knocking a baseball out of the park using only the vocal cords, a technique that seems to say “Look-at-me!-Aren’t-I-spunky?” Generally, though, the practice doesn’t survive adolescence, because as these girls become young women they gravitate to one of two singing styles—the off-key caterwauling style of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, or the Lilith Fair style, with it’s strangulated, honking peculiarities and weird over-enunciations. and pronunciations.
Monday, May 20th–I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep, and wasn’t sure if I was going to try and meet with J___ D. early that afternoon or not.
Eventually, I fell asleep and dreamt I was in my apartment. I couldn’t turn on my desk lamp of my computer. It was completely dark, indoors and out. I fumbled around and found I’d knocked my desk lamp off of its perch. I turned it on, but it gave a sickly, feeble light.
I imagined myself sucking on the lightbulb, trying to decide whether to chew on it or not, to chew on the glass.
Then I tried to screw the bulb in, but it wouldn’t go in correctly.
A car pulled up outside. Was tonight the night my white trash skin-head neighbor downstairs finally decided to rob me? Would his morbidly obese mom whine at him about that?
I saw a shadow of a potted plant in the window. Was the plant inside or outside? What kind of plant was that? Did I even have a plant of that variety?
I heard footsteps rushing across the wooden bridge and then an abrupt, angry knocking at my door….
I saw a pattern of “NNNNNNNNNNNNN”s on narrow strips of news-print. Rows of these strips going left to right, going at diagonal angles, blotting out my vision.
I woke up and went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet to piss, not bothering to turn on the light. I buried my face in my hands, into the sockets of my eyes, and I saw before them big globs of bright paint squeezed out onto white canvas–bright green, bright yellow, bright blue, bright red–squeezed and flattened onto the canvas.
I returned to bed and tossed and turned for hours. From time to time Belle would join me and get the mattress heated up. Eventually I fell back to sleep.
I woke close to 2pm, and immediately got stressed-out, because J____ D. said he’d be at the downtown library around that time while N___ was doing jury duty at the Court House, and he suggested I be ready if I wanted to get together. I walked and fed Belle and myself and with some difficulty got J____ to contact me.
I was very stressed, because he was rushing me, and I was trying to deal with him, Belle, typing an e-mail… , and eating on a cluttered desk.
J____ D. came and got me. He didn’t bring any of the things he got me in Italy, because he’d completely forgotten talking to me about getting together today.
He took back routes to avoid traffic, and was going to go straight to the library, but I hadn’t had my coffee yet, so we went to the Whole Foods flagship store. Though it was hot as hell outside, I found the store interior uncomfortably cold. The noise also bothered me.
We wandered around, and I wished I had the income to live like a well-to-do yuppie and shop at Whole Foods. I finally got my coffee, and he got some gelato, which, naturally, he complained about, and we sat in the dining area up front. He talked about the trip, and I talked about things that were stressing me out and things and people I hated, such as Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.
Then he wanted to go back to the library. I didn’t want to go there, though, because of the stench and all the annoying homeless people. He was going to let me browse through his 11,000 trip photos on his lap-top.
I wanted to take a table in he children’s section, where the homeless never venture, but he picked a dirty table right in Homeless Central, with a dead fly on it, and wiped it down with the towelettes he obsessively carries everywhere, and obstinately insisted on staying there. I was angry.
Initially I couldn’t even see the screen of his lap-top properly because of the fucking sun, but then we traded seats.
I enjoyed the pictures. It turns out he takes almost as many bad ones as I do, but unlike me, he doesn’t post the unsuccessful ones. In about an hour I got through a couple thousand before N____ arrived. Both of my hands and forearms were sore from the constant tapping on the lap-top.
We had dinner at Mandola’s Italian Cafe. It was rather crowded, and the bread we’d ordered as an appetizer arrived with the entrees. My sandwich wasn’t as good as it was the last time I ate there. It was too oily, and I got a terrible case of diarrhea after I got home.
They let me run by HEB before taking me home.
I read in Rilke before retiring.