Wednesday, December 07, 2005


[1:06 am]

Sitting on a can in Circus hostel fourth floor men’s restroom. As Oscar says, “Just keep going, it’s at the end of the hall, you can’t miss it.” And as I found it the first time, and as I later told him, “You’re right about the bathroom.” You literally walk right into it if you keep heading far enough down the hall.
It’s amazing how many engineers I’m running into here, and how many of them are interested in poetry. In our room are three engineers: Rob, Oscar, & Wayne. [1:11 am]
I told Rob, after an evening of five drinks (one rum & coke, two Cuba libres, another rum & coke, and finally a scotch on the rocks), that among my hobbies—and since he asked—is the act of collecting various scraps of paper, and his response, “OK….” Rob is a nice guy and is staying in our hostel room with us, #410 here at Circus. He is a mechanical engineer.
At first when we entered our hostel room he was in there, as was Wayne (who was sleeping, stayed in bed for as long as it took us to unpack, get settled, and leave)(and who probably with us, esp. Em, will never outlive that first impression reputation). Rob left quickly after we got in the room that first time, and really who can blame him. Later on, after Em & I had dinner w/ Oscar over at Liberta—oh, that waitress! Mexican or Italian, long black hair, strap of a purple bra exposed over her right shoulder, dark eyes, spoke to us in English, poured beers so that much foam remained on top, as if that was customary or as if she just didn’t care, long black dress w/ flowery pink pattern at the bottom—God, who was she, gorgeous!
I’m sitting here half-drunk, dehydrated, pants down around my ankles, asshole spread open above toilet baisn, writing, and occasionally someone comes in for a piss. [1:17 am]
Downstairs after dinner, we saw Rob sitting at the bar when we went & grabbed a table in the corner. And eventually, after Oscar met Emily and I down there, we somehow migrated ourselves to the bar where Emily found a seat near Rob’s, & they talked. I was introduced and when I left I shook his hand & told him it was nice meeting him. In the room we were one-on-one for the first time & I said that my sis & I were going out to a bar & he said, “Can I tag along?” And I said, “Yes, please do.” [1:21a]
So much to write about. A rundown:
—Em, me, and Rob go looking for a club/bar. Set out to find “delicious doughnuts,” a rough translation. I begin as navigator, relying on research I had done earlier in the room w/ city guide map & brochure they gave us when we checked in. I had us going the wrong way & had to hand my map over to Em, who eventually had us going where we planned to go. Rob remained patient, a congenial guest and observer. Virginia something college. Hobbies include computer games, Legos, and he took a poetry class this past smeester that he really liked, said his teacher was really good—he prefers short stories, though.
He’s also very into movies: has a phat set-up that he’s financed himself, including a 27-inch widescreen, DVD, high-quality something or other, VCR, surround sound, front speakers, side speakers, back speakers. An honest, straight arrow guy who said he will not be partaking of coffee shops when he visits Amsterdam at the end of his trip.
[1:30 a]
Incidentally—it is ever really incidentally?—as Oscar & I were reading over the Cortazar novel about Charlie Parker, marijuana came up in the text and Oscar, OSM-Fer, was saying how Charlie Parker was a marijuana addict, and I was asking him to tell me more, more, more: is this a book about Charlie Parker & marijuana? Not really. Did Parker say marijuana was a bad problem for him? Is this book about Parker getting over marijuana? Not really; he said it kept him from using or realizing or acknowledging the talent that he had—but Parker never would have known that if hadn’t known marijuana—it’s such a sweet & noxious paradox! I love marijuana. Love it love it love it. Haven’t smoked now in 9 days, which is probably my longest non-smoking streak in 2 plus years.
Oscar doesn’t smoke. Nor does he own any Charlie Parker records. I asked him about politics as we were down in the bar talking & Em had gone upstairs to put on makeup. He said he had written to President Bush about Kyoto, along w/ 250,000 others in his country, and he said, “President Bush, why don’t you sign it?” Oscar said that the US policy on the environment, as well as the drug problem and the corruption in Mexico made him mad as well as sad.
I asked him about NAFTA and he said: for the corporations it was good. Now they could sell their products to the U.S. But for the small businesses—for instance, his family’s small business was selling meat—and now, with NAFTA, U.S. companies could sell their meat into Mexico & it wouldn’t have a tariff put on it. So his family’s business got hurt bad. But it didn’t always work the other way around with the tariffs, he said, some stuff going from Mexico to the U.S. got tariffs put on it. This, too, made him mad as well as sad.
The drugs, he said, cocaine mainly, went from Columbia to the U.S. through Mexico. The federal police were corrupt & in on it & it was the military that had to crack down. He said Mexican President Fox seemed naïve.
It was weird hearing myself give the U.S. view on why not to do Kyoto. Oscar also talked about how Bush had so many petrol interests. I said they didn’t want to do Kyoto because it would hurt the U.S. economy & I was just saying why the U.S. didn’t do it but I must have sounded like maybe I was defending them—and maybe I was, even —but it was not my intention, a protective reflex. I said it was too bad & hope that counted to something. [1:46 a]
I don’t know where I’m going w/ any of this. As Rob & I were talking about scraps at the bar he asked me if I tried to tell a story w/ the scraps & really it’s a brilliant fucking question & something I have considered but not yet had the sack or gray matter to put together. The way he saw it, the whole scraps thing was probably interesting but altogether aimless, & people like a good story. So this is important. How can I use the scraps to make a story.
I’ve imagined huge bins full of post-it notes & me being able somehow to form logical sentences & ideas by putting the post-its together in a logical way, but I would need serious volumes for that. So what? Spend my days out scouring for post-its? Hardly. Maybe a better catalog & flexibility concerning using what I’ve got.
[1:50 a]
Getting late here. Get up. Pull my pants up. Feel a little exhausted. Woozy even. Rob said he didn’t judge his friend from college, freshman year roomie who smoked pot in high school, but it wasn’t for him. I said Em & I had gone to a coffee shop in Amsterdam but the second night we just drank some & danced, which is what he prefers.
[1:55 a]
For the last drink of the night, I asked for J & B—I saw the faithful green bottle up there—on the rocks & the amicable bartender poured a Jack Daniels on the rocks. I told Rob, “That’s not what I asked for, but I’m fine with it.” As the bartender was about to give it to me he said, “Wait—did you ask for this or J&B?” I said, “J&B, but this is fine.” But he said no no no and looked for the J&B bottle for a bit before grabbing it & pouring me a very nice selection from it for only 2€. I said to Rob, “Drinking straight is much cheaper than getting a mixed drink. This was only 2€ and earlier [shot of déjà vu right there] when I got a rum & coke it was 4€.” It was 4.50€ for the Cuba libre.
Anyway, I was embarassed a bit later when the bartender grabbed the JD on the rocks he poured but scotched and extended it toward me. I reached out for it as if he were handing me a bouquet of flowers & I was about to thank him. I was like, “Wow, this guy poured the JD and he isn’t going to waste it, he’s going to give it to me because he feels bad for pouring it instead of J&B. But then he said cheers & I hurried up & got my glass of J&B in my hand & toasted him & all was peachy but damn I felt dumb for extending my open hand & expecting him to give me the drink.
Much more to say, but gotta do tour, either walking or biking tomorrow morning. Plus, I’m beat. Want to mention how Em, Rob, & I walked to Delicious Donuts, feigned an entrance, walked back toward hotel, stopped after passing Kopier Bar, turned back around & went in—5€ cover (lame to charge cover for empty establishment) and I paid 3 € for a rum & coke; drained it. Em got a Beck’s. Sat at bar, facing out. Black lights showed detergent in my jeans. It was psy-trance playing & we smelled pot in there. People lounging about but by all appearances thoroughly stoned except for guy in all white who looked to be drinking cappuccino and was dancing some. Mushroom motif. Not very hopping though. We stayed fifteen minutes and left.
Outside I said I thought I would have liked it if I was really fucked up on something. Mushrooms I guess.
Oscar snores I found out when I grabbed my journal before coming in here. So we’ll see how this goes. Now someone has come into bathroom and I’ve got to play it cool (but made noise turning that page!)
All of the random stuff slipping through the cracks….
Em passing on Delicious Doughnuts because she thought they were playing James Brown & saying, “John if you want to go in, fine, but I’m going back to the hostel.” Person coming to door & looking out as if to say, “Are you coming in or not?” Rob said he thought she cocked her head like a dog.
Ummmmmm…guy at Circus reception desk was from Milwaukee. I need to rehydrate but have no water. Em’s alarm is in my pocket. Something else…

Got up at the sound of Oscar getting up & ready. Went for a walk looking for ATM Rob had pointed out to me yesterday. At first I went down the wrong street; the Circus is near a 5-way intersection and viable orientation took two tries. It was on the second street I hit and I took out 50 €. I still plan on visiting American Express today, however, because the bar club goin out it’s gonna take a good four drinks before I’m ready to dance gets expensive.
Oscar yesterday said he visited a supermarket around here somewhere and I looked for it on our street, WanderWeg, only briefly. I’ll have to ask where it is. I am in small café/breakfast place on the same street, a few foors down from the hostel. I needed some coffee and the breakfast buffet in the coffee’s—no, the hostel’s café doesn’t open until eight o’clock. So I got “ein stück” of a cake dish I pointed at—it’s good, a pound cake with cherries or maybe plums on top in van Gogh sunny dishware. And of course I got some coffee. There are two other customers in here at the moment & I suspect that they did not sleep last night. A guy & a girl.
Guy is wearing grey collared shirt w/ both sleeves rolled up to just below elbows; and girl has on a purple dress slit up one side about to a bit above the knee, affording me a fair view of her finely soft-tanned calves. She has long hair and her face reminded me of Abby Dumes’s, which is to say an unblemished complexion, dark around the eyes, blue irises; an energetic smile.
They are leaving now. Some ciaos exchanged. The girl also wore high-heeled black shoes w/ straps & they made knocking sounds against the floor as the couple walked out. They left in a snap; I did not look up.
A woman who works here came & cleared the table. It was a Turkish man who maybe owns the place & certainly served me my coffee and cake. He was sitting at a table smoking cigarettes.
If the now exeunt couple had been out all night, they were still in good spirits as they sat here—the guy at least brought out some delightful giggles in his companion and I imagine they will go home and make love with the windows open to the sun and the air of the world. Afterward, they will sit in wicker chairs out on a balcony, overlooking an ancient out of the way plaza, w/ a fountain in it, pigeons pecking at the ground, jumping a few feet into the air as laughing men and women come swinging through on bikes. They will sip espresso and smoke cigarettes. Then they will shower, make love again, and then sleep until about four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s Saturday after all.
A group of British men, at least one German speaker among them, has come in & ordered “fihr coffees, bitte.” My most pressing question of the morning so far—do I leave my done dishes here, on the table? Or do I take them up and set them on the counter? I’ve been rather satisfied with my breakfast here but I’ll probably fork over 3.50€ for a least a little more coffee back at Circus. The hour is approaching
I took a shower when I got up this morning but will probably take another this afternoon, especially if I take the bike tour. Rob is going on it & I’ve got to ask Oscar about it. I think it will be fun.
Getting ready to go on a bike tour that leaves at 10:15a. But want to jot down flight-back info:
Tue 04 June 2002
US Airways flight 43 (Non-stop)
—12:40 pm
—Confirmation code: HUDHJG
—Arrive terminal A
• Tue 04 Jun at 3:21 pm
US Airways flight 776
—Depart PHL Terminal B
• Tue 04 Jun @ 7:40 pm
—Arrive StL 9:18 pm
[10:00 am]
Sitting on toilet again. One of most private places to my avail I suppose. Just through a grueling session, talking a lot about writing—the industry as they say—with Kenny, the 29-year-old Scottish bike tour guide: an MFA; as he introduced himself he said he was working on a novel.
Nothing still that gives me any confidence but maybe I have to think on it for a bit; miss Brook passionately; have had two beers; Kenny told me about absinthe bars; an info overload today & I’ve no idea how to sort it all out; ready to head back home, a place I now rega…[pen runs out]
[5:40 p]
Pen ran out. Back in room now, on bed. Em & Rob were napping but now Em is up. I got one of my pens back from Em. I couldn’t find my spare.
As I was saying anyway. Doug & Kenny. Beers after bike ride tour. There’s plenty to say about the tour and it was a very applicable use of my time. Learned so much! about the history of Berlin. The monument on Bedenplatz, no—Bebelplatz to books burned by Nazis in ’33 was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen all trip. The Nazis burned 20,000 books that night, grabbing books from the Humboldt University library (there on the platz) and tossing them down out of the windows to be burned. Einstein, Freud, Brecht, Isherwood, maybe Marx & Engels (because the Nazis & the communists did not get along). The monument, a square floor of glass built into the middle of the platz (2 x 2 ft.?), looked down into an empty room and…[pen runs out]
Another dead pen, another one, this one, too borrowed from Em, this one really hers—but the buying of new pens a sexy proposition!
[5:51 p]
…an empty room…
Doug spoke of the situationalists of the 60’s—Debord, earlier Goddard who did Breathless which Doug recommended; Creeley & Trocchi both correpsponded w/ DeBord.
…with an empty white bookcase, in an empty square room, the bookcase could hold 20,000 books. Awesome!
So the bike tour went from 10:15a to about 3:00 pm total and riding on bikes through Berlin was a brick shithouse full of fun.
I could rundown, try to piece together the history that Kenny imparted on the tour but that’s available in many a book so I’ll see what else there is. The bikes were not freestyle; that is, pedaling backward meant braking and I had a hard time keeping myself from doing it because it’s so natural to me & many other bikeriders I’m sure, as I think I heard a girl from CA who’s staying here in the hostel, Brianne is the name, remark to her boyfriend: Greg, also on the tour, not long after we left.
Rob was on the tour. It cost 17€ and I tipped Kenny 2€ afterward. I rather like the Scottish accent. I waited in the Circus lobby for him & guide-in-training Doug to get back from guiding a trio of South African travelers back to the shop from which they rented their bikes on Friedrichstrasse or platz or something. The South Africans were friendly and at lunch at Schlotzsky’s Deli I chained up my bike with the guy-in-the-group’s bike and he said, “Do you think maybe I could lock my bike up with yours?” A delightful accent. His girlfriend was extremely cute & was a mix of Brook, Courtney, & Megan McCreery. Great hips she had. Freckled skin, at least on what I could see of her calves—she wore jeans but had rolled them up to about mid-calf. The guy had a hairy upper back & wore a hat that I think had a cannabis leaf on it though I’m not sure.
I was sitting in the lobby in a very comfy chair, had taken a sip of the Evian I had in my fanny pack. I had a 2€ (for tip) coin in my hand, which was a bit sweaty because I was nervous. The chair was leather; I was looking at a maroon leather couch right there in the lobby, at how long & roomy it looked & thought about how much I would like to lie on it w/ Brook and roll around and screq and then pull a blanket on ourselves afterward & fall asleep there. [6:13] But eventually Kenny & Doug came back & I caught them maybe right as they wer e leaving & told Kenny how I was impressed with the tour, and it was much more educational & historically informative than I thought it was going to be.
Later he said he had been doing it only a month & this surprised me; I told him it seemed like he had been doing it longer than that because the story he told had been very coherent. He said thanks and remarked on how you have to sound like you really know what you’re talking about; he included a lot of dates, he said, not necessarily because people would remember them but because of the enhancing effect it had on his presentation.
He ended his speech kind of heavy I said. By saying how the people of Europe had warred over this ground for the last 50 years of relative peace has actually been an exception, not a rule (although there was a quiet period from say 1400-1600 that gets summed up in the tour as, ‘and for about 200 years nothing happened”; we aren’t interested in rest, it’s not news, and this is why Berlin is such an interesting city. Kenny said the most influential of the 20th century & you could make a good argument.
He gave a great fucking rundown about the building of the wall at the wall—it was an American idea; Kennedy, ‘better a wall than a war’; Communists didn’t really even want a wall but they were losing so many East Germans, so much of the work force into West Germany that even war did not seem like an answer. So the wall was an idea of U.S. Senator Fullbright…and Kennedy having back pain, on opiates for that but amphetamines to combat the opiates, inviting Kruschev to Camp David but they had a falling out & Kruschev was ready to go to war so maybe the Americans made a sacrifice, maybe they stood down, maybe they prevented global nuclear war, who the hell knows, these are all just stories but good ones. [6:28p]
Berlin divided into four parts after Berlin fell. Cold War begins, East & West ideologically separated, then physically separated, slaughter of uprising in ’58 or so w/ red army tanks, then wall comes down in ’89 when German Chancellor gets in front of Western journalists and they say what is going on, he says we will issue visas to cross over, they say when, he says…baffled, confused, on the spot, to anyone…they say when, he says immediately, and so word spreads like ball lightning & people come to the wall, climb it, take pick-axes to it and it’s really a beautiful story.
Kenny tried imagining how border patrolmen saw the whole thing transpire (on East side): what’s that guy doing? And: what’s that guy and 50,000 other people doing? Broadcast comes over communist radio & that’s as good as official so the guards don’t shoot anybody.
[6:32 p]
Well, plenty of history to re-tell, like Hitler bunker story, Hitler a drug addict, marrying Eva Braun, blowing his brains out as well as taking cyanide…
Getting hungry. Lunch a slight sandwich & water w/ Rob at a table inside Schlotzsky’s. I aksed Kenny when he got his writing done and he said, phew, well it’s tough, I haven’t done any writing in a month. I had just given him the 2€ coin tip—others in the group, two of the couple in the tour had slipped him fives I think, bills anyway, & I wasn’t gonna go that high but it was worth it.
Doug, it seemed, was also a writer and, as I later found out at the table over beer, is in a doctoral program in creative writing at UEA (somewhere in Oxford?) He did a one year MA program. Doug is into the literary zine world a bit & gave me a copy of his “Things to do today when you’re bored in Europe” zine. I said I worked on a zine of my own but left it at that. He puts his together on MS Word.
Really, I don’t know if the lit world is what I want to get into, I mean I want to do the lit without having to do the lit world if that is possible because…well, not know. Doug, it turned out, knew Allison Trombly, whom I know from working at River Styx. Allison I never was really crazy about. But he even had some River Styx w/ him in his bag so we had a big-time small world moment. He said he was editing, collecting stories, material, for some established lit review that’s published maybe in Chicago; he had a friend there, anyway, who is working on the same thing w/him, getting paid. He gave me a rundown of places that had good MFA programs & later Kenny said that my biggest, best chance to get into the industry would be to get into one of these programs because once you get accepted & complete it, you’re pretty much “plugged in” to the network that you’ll need to get anything done.
But I don’t know if this is what I want to spend my life on any more than I’d want to spend it being a stockbroker. I don’t want to schmooze I don’t want to be an intellectual I don’t want to play inter or intra departmental politics. Is that something that “you just have to do” if you’re going to do it? Perhaps.
But—! I notice that when people talk about this shit, gossip, dept. politics that all becomes paramount to the writing, to the reading, to the teaching, & what gets people up in the morning isn’t their work, but the latest scandal or hiring or firing or who’s poet laureate or who got this or that published and I couldn’t give two shits especially if I’m spending more time playing the game than I am spending writing, reading, learning, teaching. I’ve realized that if I’m I’ve plugged in I’m never going to be plugged in the way the system wants me to be plugged in & if that obstructs me from success or big-name recognition, so be it.
I don’t want to spend my life living a soap opera; or if I do spend it that way, I don’t want to have to watch it. No games. Ideas. Writing. If you’re good enough you don’t have to play by the rules, & if you don’t believe in the rules, & you don’t give a diaper what anybody thinks, then fuck it and do your own thing.
[6:55 p]
I don’t want my life to get bogged down by politics & antics. That’s not how I’ll spend my time. I’d rather starve than schmooze. I don’t think I’m even capable. I talked to them tonight but I didn’t really talk, I didn’t open up. I was in my shell the whole time. I didn’t feel at ease—it was grueling after a while as I said, and I can’t imagine I made much of an impression. What will they go away saying about me? …Does it matter? Is it any way useful to wonder?
Don’t think I’ll ever be able to be at ease, to share the part of me that I consider to be my true self, in that type of situation. It seems to be my nature to clam up, & I’m ready to be content with it. I don’t think I’m because schmoozing & playing along won’t get me what I want. I’m completely free, you see; I don’t depend on anybody to get what I want; and, how could I not be content with that?
Where’s the line, though, between being content w/ what’s happening, & complaining, demanding a different lot. Emerson said discontent is the opposite of self-reliance & I hear that, but I say: when somebody shits in your shoe are you supposed to just say thanks & put the gooey shoe back on; or are you suppose to fling the shit back at them?; are you supposed to find new shoes? What if you haven’t got any spare shoes, & don’t have the money to buy new ones? When is enough enough? When & where do you draw the line? No codes. On-the-spot decisions. Character. Choices. Tough. Life.
[7:01 p]
[8:32 p]
What can you do, man?
Man I really hate this table. In the café in Circus. It closes at nine, unfortunately, but I need to take a shower anyhow.
[8:33 p]
I never learned how to play backgammon. “Maybe they can teach you—oh wait, you’ve had your social activity for the day.”
“I didn’t say…I said I wasn’t going to seek any more out. I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it if it sought me out.”
The Notwist is playing. Having a milchkaffe; Em working on her second cappuccino. Had dinner at Vietnam bistro right across street. I had a twice-fried chicken dish w/ assorted vegetables & rice, in a peanut & garlic sauce. Quite agreeable. Talked the German (Berlin) history I learned today. Said I might not do a club tonight. I want to be up & at ‘em tomorrow, hitting the museum beat.
[8:44 p]
Kenny said, “You know, if you’re interested in the literary scene you should see about going to an absinthe bar while you’re here.” I thought back to that shot of something packaged as absinthe that I had at Ultra Schall. It definitely put me over the edge. “Just cause it was a shot, that’s why.” For a number of reasons, perhaps none related to its being absinthe. Anyway he suggested it & said I could look it up under “A” in the phone book.
We’re all tourists everywhere.
Inscription on book-burning monument came from I think German poet Karl Scheine (Heine?) around 1810 (1820, 1880?). He said, “Those who start by burning books will end by burning bodies.” This is incredibly apt, konsidering it prefigured the Nazis.
There was one time I considered burning not books but newspapers; the papers of last year’s WU Student Libel. And certainly it’s one of the most radical ideas I’ve had recently. And had I done it I would have regretted it and felt like a real dumbass standing on top of the empty book-case room. A real sanity, viability check.
[8:55 p]
Aww fuck. Just had a dumb little spat with Em. Came on too strong about how she shouldn’t make a big deal about people in Korea eating dogmeat. Saying they can’t help it; it’s meaningless; it’s just like being born with blond hair, etc., etc.
[8:56 p]
[9:01 p]
So I’m back in the room now. Em just came back in.
“No Oscar.”
“Yeah, I think he musta left. You goin’ down to the bar?”
“Yeah, I guess. It still feel too early to go down there.”
Don’t want no coffee, don’t want no beer, just want a place to sit & read & write quietly & don’t know where that’s at. Maybe here in the room. Don’t want to go to bed early, though, ‘cause people coming in will annoy me even though they’ve got the right. It’s just my inclination to agitation & indignation while trying to sleep.
I’m not hip. I’m not cool. I admit that. Maybe I’m ready to settle down. Work full-time. Raise a family. What the hell.
The coffee is giving me a headache & the pot stopped working a long, long time ago (how long ago?) Can’t find no acid no more either. Absinthe? Shiiiiit.
Really regret my little spat with Em because I way/overreacted. But she did, too, probably.
Says Kenny, “If you really want to make some money, (you) gotta write a novel.” Which, at the beginning of the tour, is what he said he was trying to do. Spent some time up north as a wind-surfing instructor and he had been writing about that. Trying to recreate the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the light. Water on skin, sun, sand, salt. Said that if you send unsolicited manuscripts to publishing houses your shit just gets thrown in the trash. It’s not easy to get read, but that’s what you’ve got to do = get read. No agents for poets. For short stories, novels. I indicated some unease about dealing with an agent but apparently it’s just part of the biz. Well, as a poet what I’ve got to do is win some competitions—he said this was a good way to get the ball rolling—and get published in some lit mags, which I can do in time. But if you graduate from Iowa Writers Workshop w/ a degree you pretty much have the agents coming to you—and that would be nice.
[9:16 p]
Doug is teaching & really likes it. He suggested trying some substitute teaching, which apparently pays OK, & doesn’t require certification—you just have to sit by the phone at 5:30 am in the morning every morning waiting to see if you get called in. I could do this I think. Go and sign on at a local district—he had a friend who was doing it at the high school level—and who knows. It’d be a good place to start & if I wasn’t getting called in I could work & go back to bed. Something to do in the meantime, while I plan ahead toward applying to graduate programs.
I stressed my desire to see if I couldn’t travel a bit more first. Check out spots in Canada. This is where Doug lived when he was young (Toronto) and he suggested U of Toronto or McGill (Montreal) or British Columbia. McGill might be fun to visit at least because I could see Derek Webster while I was up there; secure a recommendation.
[9:20 p]
Emily has been coming in & out, getting ready to go down to bar. As conciliation, I’ll say I’ll go out with her tonight to wherever if she doesn’t pick up a companion in the meantime.
This room would make a phat-ass bedroom. Beautiful wood floors. Cool lime/pastel green walls. White border trim color around top. Blue door.
“I’m tired, too, but I’m going anyway.”
What am I up against here? What societal tidal wave says I’m odd if I don’t want to go out & drink & have my ear-drums knocked around tonight? Am I a geek? A loser? Anti-social? A-social.
“I’ll go out with you but I don’t know what I’ll do there.”
“What do you mean you don’t knowwhat you’ll do there? Dance.”
“Well I’m fairly tired so I don’t know if I’m going to be in the mood for that.”
“Well I’m….”
This burns me up a bit but I choose not to respond to it. Label me defective I guess.
[9:30 p]
Found the last of the three choice pens I brought on this trip. It was in the jeans I wore yesterday.
Emily notes that one of our roommates has a flashlight on his bedstand, touches it, & wonders why.
“Em!” I say.
“Why does he have a flashlight?”
“He could have problems seeing at night…. I had a friend like that in college. He just couldn’t see well in the dark. It could have been that his cones—cones? or is it rods? the cells that are sensitive to low light?”
“I don’t remember.”
“I think it’s the cones. He carried a flashlight around with him. We were in Cancun together & he had some trouble down there.”
“Does he wear glasses?”
“Can he drive at night?”
“Yeah but he has special headlamps on his car—or, he bought an Audi because it had special headlights, the kind that are tinted blue, not regular lights.”
“Like an old man….”
Em is ready & goes down to the bar.
“Bye.” I look up to see if she is shutting the door all the way or not—
—It requires a good pull/slam.
“You can close it all the way.”
She does; and with that she’s gone.
[9:44 p]
[9:56 p]
Talking some with Wayne. What we’ve both been doing. Friendly talk between two people sleeping in the same room who don’t know anything about one another.
Kenny has a good story when I asked him or Doug if either had spent any time in Amsterdam. Part of reason I asked was because at one point early on Kenny asked Doug what he had done yesterday and [Wayne heads out] Doug said, “Smoked some dope…didn’t really do much of anything.”
Ahh: the life! We did all toast each other on our first drink.
[9:59 p]
Someone behind me today in Schlotzsky’s turned to someone else behind me in line & said, “Angela, what’s speck?” She didn’t know. “Speck,” said Kenny, “speck is bacon, except: little bitty chunks of it.” At the time I was considering ordering the Putemitspeck sandwich but I didn’t. Went for the Texas sandwich because it was part of a meal deal combo which really saved me nothing.
Had two drinks with Kenny & Doug. They paid me & I paid the bill.
[10:02 p]
Now might be a good time to imagine—just because I’ve thought about it before but usually amid bouts of stellar madness—what my life back at home would be like without me there. Rather grim thought, and I don’t know whether I want to go through with it. Scrooge-like. Jacob Marley. What my funeral would be like. Grim because, with time, everything would be pretty much the same? No, grim because you can’t imagine life without you in it because one constant of life has been you. Impossible then? Meaningless? Irrelevant? Maybe Ray would resolve to stop smoking. Brook would mourn but find someone else to be happy with. Parents would move south. Horrible depressing thoughts!
[10:10 p]
Thinking about what it means to have dignity. Dignity is like this: you have a job to do, & it’s to vacuum a carpet. Not a shag carpet, but a very thin, inexpensive carpet that’s laid right over concrete. It’s not a heavily trafficked carpet & from 50 ft above it looks brown, but if you get down on knees and hands (this is tough on your knees) you see that the brown color is just an average of all the colored fabrics that have gone into the carpet: blacks, tans, brown—a spectrum of colors albeit not very bright ones.
Little white pieces of lint or paper show up on this carpet rather well. And it’s a large piece of carpet, an area larger than you feel you have time to vacuum at the moment. Really, though, you do have the time. But you’re lazy, just like anyone, and who wants to spend any more time vacuuming than he has to? And besides, no one gives a shit what this carpet looks like anyway.
But someone might be coming by to examine the job you’ve done on the carpet. It is clean? Have you cleaned it or do you need to vacuum more? Is it possible that it was passable before before you started on it, so that you don’t really even need to vacuum it at all? There’s also the possibility that the inspector might not come by to check it anyway. (And different checkers have different ideas about what looks clean & what doesn’t. Sometimes you’ll go over white little pieces of paper, or a penny, or a paper clip, or some staples in the rug, and the vacuum will fail to pick them up. Do you stop & pick these pieces up one by one & hold them in your hand until you find a trash can? Is picking stuff up by hand necessary, or as long as you’ve gone over it w/ the vacuum (since this is what they’ve given you to clean with) have you done your job? That is, even if it’s not quite clean, do you feel satisfied as long as you can say, “Well, I went over it with the vacuum, what do you want from me? It’s clean. Look. See? Clean.
[10:25 p]
Don’t really know where I was going with that. I think there is a line which some people are willing at times to cross which is a line separating out those who are willing to clean the carpet beyond what is passable because if there are little white morsels of paper on the floor, even if there’s just one or two & their existence wouldn’t negate a passable grade, some people sometimes will bend over & pick up those little morsels because to them it makes a difference. One reason, though, why it’s so hard to justify doing this is because no one will ever notive what you’ve done, the extra effort you’ve gone to—it’s a thankless effort. Because it’s easy to fail the inspection: too many visible bits will get you failed & so you clean—you don’t want to fail—but as long as you pass, you pass, it doesn’t matter if the floor is spotless or not. [10:31 p] So it’s like, the amount of work separating a superior effort from a passable effort from a failing effort is from one to the other to the other abou the same…
…bogged down and unclear…
Does it all make a difference to you or not, & why? Sometimes it makes a difference to me. Why? Perfectionist? Afraid of failure, so afraid that I will go beyond passable? Fearing anxiety of failure & trying to appease that fear (this creates more anxiety). Or, because I know I can do better & if I don’t do my best I’ve failed myself somehow.
Standards. Whose standards are higher? Mine or yours? Willing to let your standards go unacknowledged, to let your effort go unthanked, there’s dignity in that. It’s being humble. It’s a damn good quality to aspire to—and only you can know when you’ve achieved it. Then confidence comes in somewhere. Imagine: despite your efforts you don’t get recognition and/or thanks—can you maintain the desire to keep doing what you were doing? Don’t you have to be commended every once in awhile? Who do I know with these qualities? (Brian Ebel was a good man.) What does LSD have to say about these qualities?
[10:40 p]

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