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{Thursday, September 30, 2004}


by Sharon 3:10 AM

{Wednesday, September 29, 2004}

Nobody ever wants to talk about the heavy tree machine. It just sits in the corner, collecting dust, which is something Sam's sure none of the ads ever showed it doing. A thousand and two different uses. A must for any home. These are the things the ads said. The ads had pictures of the machine puffing smoke, shooting sparks, practically repelling dust. Sam could never quite figure out what the machine was supposed to be doing in any of the pictures, and, at a thousand dollars, it seemed pretty steep, but Mary said they needed one, which at the time was good enough for Sam.

It had taken five men, not including Sam, to install the heavy tree machine in the basement, and, although each of these men in turn expressed their admiration or jealousy of Sam for having purchased such a fine specimen of machinework, none of them could actually tell him what it did -- or even if it was already doing it.

And so the machine sat, for all appearances doing nothing but sitting, making it very difficult to maneuver anywhere in the basement except directly near the door and necessitating the removal of more than a few of Sam's old boxes, which Mary had insisted he would be able to keep but which she now admitted probably ought to go anyway.

The only thing Sam felt confident that the machine was doing was eating up space and electricity. It wasn't plugged in at all, which was odd, since Sam could not have said how the machine was getting its power. But he knew that it was. The periodic flicker of the lights in the kitchen above was enough evidence of that, and if he needed further proof there was always the monthly utility bill -- which Mary naturally insisted that he pay.

by Fred 7:25 PM

Because it caught my eye, and because I'd hate to see a day pass with no topic, here's one from my search referrals yesterday:
heavy tree machine
C'mon, write somethin'. I dare ya.

by Fred 7:08 PM

{Tuesday, September 28, 2004}

Hand puppets, apparently. Or, really, hands without puppets. Naked sock puppets, we call them. Or Manual Americans. The Hensons have always been great advocates of Manual Americans, giving them leading roles in movies and television shows. The contributions Manual Americans have made to the Addams Family franchise cannot be overlooked either. The Tony award for the musical Avenue Q shows how far the fight for Manual Americans' rights has come, and the ensuing flap over the award's validity shows how far there is to go.

Mostly, though, it's Jon. Jon makes me laugh. Holding his own three-way conversations--and sometimes four-way, where he fills in my part, too--he's as entertaining as my own personal performance of the Muppet Show.

It's weird, for outsiders it may be cloying, it just might be the harbinger of complete mental collapse, but it's damn funny. You should see the way a hand will stick out its thumb at you.

(Oh, dang, now I have the internet-is-for-porn song stuck in my head.)

by Sharon 11:59 PM

What makes you laugh?

by Fred 1:24 PM

{Monday, September 27, 2004}

"No," the clerk said, "that's not the model you want." His eyes, I swear, flashed red -- as did the iPod he showed me -- but just long enough to make me question my sanity briefly. It's not like I didn't question my sanity many times a day, but there were certain instances that rang truer than others. Instances with color, for instance. "This is the model you want," he said, and I found myself nodding in agreement. Of course, I agreed, the model he held in his hand was most assuredly the model I wanted.

"You won't even have to spend all that time downloading music with this model," the salesman smiled. "Everything you want is already here."

He pressed the smooth, oblong piece of plastic into my hand. "Just listen," he said, nodding slowly yes to me; "Listen to this," he said again, his voice deep and slow, sounding like red silk being pulled through still water. I listened. Through the earphones came soothing, mellow jazz sounds, Coltrane and Davis; rocking cadences, Beatles and Stones and Who; blues from Robert Johnson and Howlin' Wolf to Muddy Waters; big band and reggae and country and soul and folk; everything I could have thought of and everything I did think of, sooner than I thought of it, it was there.

Every song I wanted was on this small rectangular piece of plastic. As was, at least in my ears, a voice urging me to commit horrible crimes -- murder, mayhem, manslaughter. Kill them, the voice urged me, kill them all. Blood. Dismemberment. Veins in my teeth. Eyeballs and brain matter. Spurting arteries and blueing skin. That's what the demon iPod whispered to me, under the lyrics of Mick Jagger and Marvin Gaye. Die, it said to me, die and kill and destroy. Kill. Kill them all.

I snatched my credit card, fast, from the clerk, thanked him for his time, and walked rapidly down the stairs. Every person I passed, I breathed a sigh of relief at his or her continuing presence among the living of this planet. They had no idea how close they had come. As I skipped down the staircase, I just hoped against hope that no one walking up would be seduced by the flashing red iPod the way I had almost been.

"Rape, murder.... it's just a shot away, it's just a shot away..."

by Generik 11:30 PM

New Toy

by Generik 9:39 AM

{Saturday, September 25, 2004}

I don't know about you, but when the zombie penguins attack, I'm going to be very far away indeed. Well, as very far away indeed as I can manage, that is. You know, on my salary. It isn't much. It barely covers expenses. Quit looking at me like that. It's all fine and well for you to say go very far away indeed if the zombie penguins decide to attack somewhere a thousand miles from here. Then we're already far away. But I can't exactly go galavanting around the globe on my civil servant's income, now can I? Even if it is to escape the mad hordes of bloodthirsty undead water fowl who even now the radio says have taken most of North America.

And you see now, that's cheating, isn't it? Because it all but ensures that there isn't anywhere very far away if they do get here. If Europe falls to undead penguins and we can't hop across the pond to America, where do we go? Japan? Australia? On my stipend? I don't think so. And what if, sneaky buggers, they decide to attack there first, cutting us off? That hardly seems fair, even by nightmarish post-apocalyptic standards, but that's probably what's going to happen.

Now, if there were only a couple of them, and they attacked, say, the post office in town, and I took a week's holiday as very far away as, say, the next room, then I think we'd be okay. Because it's not as if the zombie penguins are going to reimburse me for cost incurred, is it? Not bloody likely. Bloody penguins.

by Fred 11:59 PM

Where will you be when the zombie penguins attack?

by Fred 3:58 PM

{Friday, September 24, 2004}


In honor of my beautiful daughter, who turns one year old today.

by Nyssa23 10:43 AM

{Thursday, September 23, 2004}

Am I a giraffe? Now you're just being silly. You know I'm not a giraffe. A giraffe is an African ruminant mammal having a very long neck and legs. It has a tan coat with orange-brown or black splotches and short horns. I don't have any of those things, and neither did Uncle Olaf. You know perfectly well that the splotches on his coat were green and gray, and he bought it for a dime at a yard sale that wasn't anywhere near the plains of Africa.

What? No, a giraffe is not someone who robs at sea or plunders the land from the sea without commission from a sovereign nation. That's a pirate. I already told you that. There's no such thing as a pirate giraffe, no matter what Uncle Olaf wrote in his journal or what you think you saw in his books. He was a thief and a liar and a liar and a thief, and you'd do best to stop reading that kind of nonsense and concentrate on your homework.

No, your homework does not have anything to do with giraffes or plotting a course to a planet in the Camelopardalis constellation where you think Uncle Olaf hid his evil army of giant robot giraffes. Your homework is algebra. One-x plus two-x plus three-x plus nothing about giraffes. You should stop reading those books late at night. Don't think I don't know. Uncle Olaf never had a robot army and you're just going to have to accept that.

No, you can't have a raise in your allowance so you can buy spaceship parts. Did I or did I not say there is no robot-giraffe homeworld? I don't care if Uncle Olaf drew you a map. It's not going to happen. Don't make me lock you in the room with the spotted leopard again.

No, it's not a giraffe either. Do your homework.

by Fred 3:11 PM

Are you a giraffe?

by Fred 1:38 PM

{Wednesday, September 22, 2004}

[removed by author]

by Fred 6:10 PM

under the stairs

by Sharon 9:48 AM

{Tuesday, September 21, 2004}

listen, then write

by Fred 1:58 PM

{Monday, September 20, 2004}

The trouble began when they started shooting.

"Hang 'em high!" someone shouted, and before we knew what had happened, that's just what they'd done. Of course, the ceilings are pretty low throughout the building, except in the corporate offices. I've always thought that would be a bone of contention for the union, if we had a union -- but if we had a union, they'd probably have advised against the whole shooting and hanging business in the first place.

Not that I can say I'd blame them. I mean, it's one thing to craft an effigy of your corporate taskmasters and set fire to in a sort of desperate glee in the cubicle at the end of the row. Who hasn't done that? But it's a whole different kettle of fish when you start actually hanging and shooting people. It's going to come out of somebody's paycheck, and I think you can pretty much guarantee it won't be management's.

Or, at least, what's left of management. Before I'd really known what was happening, I'd heard somebody shout, "Head 'em off at the pass!" -- which, as it turned out, was my cubicle. (I always suspected I worked in a pass.) I'd poked my head out for only a second when I heard what sounded like a "Yeehah!" and saw one of mail clerks ride by on a horse. He shouted to his compatriots, fast behind him, and shot his pistol in the air.

The union probably wouldn't have liked the horses either.

by Fred 4:39 PM


by Sharon 1:16 PM

{Friday, September 17, 2004}

It's strange, how you integrate new social customs.

My first introduction to Camfield's friends was a party at which 6 of them took a shower. I thought to myself, "Alrighty, then. Loose whackos. I'll just keep to myself, then." When really, I just didn't feel pretty enough or glamorous enough or interesting enough to fit in with them. And I mean "fit in" kinda literally, given the size of the shower.

But all lines lead in spirals in this town, and it turned out that the biggest Invisible City fan, my friend Mo, was dating the cute red-haired one in the shower, and they were part of the "friends who game" group that the girl who made my kitty hat was trying to invite us to. Don't try to sort it out. Point is: Small world, and I had an invite.

We didn't go to Farm Party that first year. It sounded like Camping in Texas in July (right.), and a lot of pudding. With the shower people, after all. So we declined, and just stuck to our board games on Monday nights.

New Year's Eve was different, though. I was starting to feel welcomed, starting to feel missed when I wasn't there. So we went to the party, and how can you not love people after singing the Rainbow Collection with them? That, and a clever little game designed by one of the other guys called "Drunk or Nude?" (and should be called "Both").

Tonight, I have an invitation. Frank is christening his new hot tub. Tomorrow's party is clothed. But tonight, I might as well go swimming.

by Sharon 5:52 PM

might as well go swimming

by Fred 9:23 AM

{Thursday, September 16, 2004}

The connections between things are whispy today. Thin gauze, bits of fluff, not even spider silk, just tufts of ephemera connect the ideas in my head today. Conversation is indistinct, and I'm not quite awake. Blame it on weird sleep patterns last night, or post-vacation ennui, or first-day-of-period blahs, or support-pager blues. Any or all, but my skin is a mess and my head is full of gray smoke. I wore cute shoes to counteract it a little, but that has sent me on a shoe mania. I found a good website that carries large sizes and has a good return policy. I didn't place any orders. As with relationships, never make any major shoe decisions on the first day of your period. I found a pair of Kangaroos sneakers, though. Remember those, with the zipper on the side? I had a pair of those when I was a kid. You could fit, like, a penny in the pocket. Expensive, obtuse penny loafers, useless but stylish. But I was shopping for strappy, comfortable, dressy, promotable sandals that wouldn't chafe, flatten my arches, or make my feet sweat. Preferably for less than $100. In size 11. I don't ask for much, do I? I wouldn't know; the connections between things are whispy today, and my head is full of fluff.

by Sharon 6:00 PM

the connections between things

by Nyssa23 10:10 AM

{Wednesday, September 15, 2004}

"What have you brought me?" the queen asked.

"Cartsalian spider jewels," the lackey said. "Very rare. Priceless. These are two of only three known to still exist in the entire universe."

The queen yawned. "What else?" she asked.

"Sands from the deserts of Dragosh-4," the lackey said. "Thought to possess incredible healing powers when mixed with emdahlia root, also from the Dragosh colonies, all of which were destroyed over twelve centuries ago in a fiery war."

"What else?"

"Twenty metric tons of adamantirium, strongest metal known to man. Said to be of alien origin, indestructible. Enough to equip ten thousand armies."

"What else?"

"The seventy thousand different names of god compiled in secret by the Order of Kelth prior to their execution on Earth. Scattered throughout the universe and thought lost for millenia. Said to grant eternal life and wisdom when invoked in the order in which they are listed here."

"What else?"

"Ronberra fruit from the dead world of Antal'za. A delicacy and aphordisiac of unprecedented power."

"What else?"

"The final recorded transmission of Earth military prior to the invasion of the planet and its colonies by hostile forces never yet identified four hundred years ago. Said forces are discussed at length on the recording, giving history, their future pontential targets, and how they may be defeated."

"What else?"

"An unfinished and never before published poem by one Emily Dickinson in which she rhymes quite admirably a Jamacian spice dish with a part of the female anatomy."

"What else?"

"A rookie baseball card for one Mickey Mantle, accidentally misprinted backwards and upside-down, with the wrong year, the wrong name, and surprisingly the names of the dread Old Ones listed across the back."

"What else?"

"Um..." the lackey stammered. "What else? A -- an empty bag?"

"Ooh," said the queen. "I've never had one of those before!"

by Fred 3:44 PM

There is a secret place. It is arrived at by walking down the hill, beneath the trees, walking towards the unassuming door in the side of the classroom building, and turning left towards the bank of grass just before you get there. There you will see a doorway that you had walked past every day for three years and never noticed. It leads into the hillside beneath the road, and it is dark.

If you enter this doorway, you will find a mural of geometric shapes and ancient buildings, wrought in ocre and earth tones, faintly lit by gritty light slanting down through the grates in the sidewalk overhead, painted here for the sake of the office-dwellers with the otherwise worst view on campus.

One night, there was something on the windowsill. It was an ornate painted box with a small clasp, perhaps a child's jewelry box. Inside the box—because I had to open it—was a note, marked only in symbols and stick figures. Also inside the box was flesh. White and pink, knobby and gelatinous, it glistened. It was still wet.

I shut the box, hoping that, if I had disturbed a curse, I had not caught its attention. I left the secret place and have not been back. Years passed, and I mentioned this to my husband, who knew the origin of the box. It was a clue in one of Weird Ian's weird scavenger hunts. The contents, in addition to the instructions for finding the next clue, were pickled pigs feet. I never did find out who Weird Ian was cursing.

by Sharon 3:07 PM

scavenger hunt

by Faith 2:55 AM

{Tuesday, September 14, 2004}

What most captures sailing for me is the sounds. The clock of the water against the hull; the mournful tones of the bouys; and, above all, the conversation of commands between the captain and the crew.

I love vernacular; I love learning the argots of different fields. I will listen at length to a conversation in a field about which I know almost nothing, just to let the strange terms wash over me. I love pulling the woolen corners of sailing jargon around my shoulders and getting lost at sea.

"Ready about?" cries the captain from the aft quarterdeck. "Ready about," the crew members echo as they run to stations at the fores'l, the mains'l, and the mizzen. "Helm's to lee," the captain calls, once the aft has swung out of the wind. The sails begin to luff thunderously, spilling wind onto the deck. "Helm's to lee!" the crew answers, pulling ropes that creak through pulleys that squeak and clunk against the deck, and then the booms swing to the other side of the boat and snap tight. A day of tacking is a day of call and response, and of moving to stay in the sun.

During tacking, it's best to stay out of the way, but for raising the sails, we get to help. "Ready on the throat?" "Ready on the throat." "Ready on the peak?" (That's us.) "Ready on the peak!" "On the throat and the peak, heave away together." And we pass rope through our hands faster than we can grab it, because the two crew members at the front have been hauling line all summer. "That's well, peak. Stopper and belay." A clever sailor's knot holds the sail fast, and we're told to drop our line: "Up behind!" *thunk*

Then it's time for napping until lunch. Hard work, this sailing stuff.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

I'd rather be sailing, but instead I'm stuck in the harbor. And that's about as far as I'm prepared to take the metaphor.

I don't know what I expected when I returned home to New York. I think I was doing my best not to expect anything. It was never my plan to return here. It was just what happened when I ran out of plans -- or, maybe more accurately, when I recognized that I'd run out of plans a long, long time ago, or maybe that I'd never had a plan to begin with.

Whatever it was, I'm here now. And I've been here now for...well, let's do that math: going on eight weeks. In that time -- two months -- I've had three job interviews, two quick discussions over the phone about potential temp jobs, and not one single job offer. My days are spent doing not much of anything. I watch TV. I play with the dog. I fiddle around on the computer. I read, not enough. I write, not nearly enough. And I look for work. I send out resumes, letters, faxes and e-mails, and wonder if how long I can go before I decide that I'm not going to get any of those jobs and I need to examine other options.

I don't know what those options are. Grad school, I guess, although that leaves me with the question of what to do between now and next semester. Actually, that leaves a lot of questions, some maybe more important, like what the hell am I going to do with a Masters? Do I want to go to school for two or three more years? Do I really want to let my parents pay for that? Because I can't afford it -- what little cash I have is going mostly towards car insurance, which skyrocketed when I moved -- and my parents will probably offer to pay for it. (They've hinted as much.) That's a lot of money and time to invest in something that I don't know that I want and worry I maybe can't use.

Because, if anything, I think my greatest weakness resume-wise is not lack of advanced degrees but lack of practical publishing experience. Which makes finding a job in the publishing field, even entry-level, tough.

All of this is tough. A couple of weeks is a vacation. A month is "taking some time off". Two months, though? What's that? They have names for people who sit around, not working, living off their parents.

Right now, I'm stuck in the harbor, tied to the dock. I'm hoping someone will come along and help me get untied and start sailing, but I may have to go below decks and see if this ship is really seaworthy after all.

Now do you see why I didn't want to take that metaphor any further?

by Fred 11:59 PM

*tsk* I'd rather be

by Sharon 11:46 AM

{Monday, September 13, 2004}

I've been running for what seems like months, I hustle my way into banks for the free pens and leave before the security guard can get to me because my face has been on a million security cameras since it happened, a thousand newspapers, a hundred weekly newsmagazines, and the only channel we have left. I've been photographed more times than I can count, but nobody seems to recognize me until I'm already gone, though I'm carefully nondescript so it's impossible for people to pick me out of a crowd unless that's what they're trying to do and the only people who do that are the feds, and avoiding them is easier than cracking a dozen psilocks.

Sometimes it seems like there's nothing left but I know that's not true because if that were true I would be able to go home and instead I am constantly running, always searching, never stopping, not even for a minute or a second or just an iota of peace. I only have some many of these things so I can't use them all today and my pens are running out so I'll make this last as long as I can before I have to get moving again, because once you stop moving they start locating and once they start locating your time is cut short because even though they're not bright there's strength in numbers and as soon as I put punctuation to page they're already on to me. When everything's tracked, when everything is noticed and when everything is moving too fast to slow down who needs punctuation? Isn't it funny that punctuation could be banned simply because nearly everyone believes they have too much to say and not enough time to say it? That's what they'd have you think, that nobody has time for a simple period these days, that everyone's much too busy to take a breath for a comma much less the two beats a period takes much less the inanity that comes with removing the ambiguity that is an apostrophe because honestly did you mean will not or would not and what's the difference and why did they stop saying "wiln't" all those years ago?

I can sense them getting closer because my ink is drying up so I'll cut this short, or as short as we do things nowadays, or as nowadays as I've been told because I'm relatively new at this guerilla editing and I find myself going back and adding punctuation or removing punctuation until I think it's just right but who can really be sure these days and if I made any mistakes I'm sorry but I'm trying and please help.

Please. Help.

by rocketo 10:10 PM

"I would kill that man if he didn't pay the damn rent," She thought as she bustled up the stairs in the old Victorian, from the kitchen to the living room where he slept. She had the rat poison in hand and knew where the ax was if it came to that. It wouldn't come to that. The vermin always have the decency to die when you poison them, at least in this house. He was a different story.
She'd been poisoning him for, oh goodness, nearly six years now. It started easily enough, just a little drop of poison in his coffee in the morning, and another in the mayonaise jar every day when he left for work. He drank his coffee in one gulp and never noticed that it was poisoned. She smiled on the outside, but withed with anger inside. He just didn't have the decency to die.
But she knew where the ax was, if it came down to it. In the mean time, she bent over and poured the rat poison into the small saucer of milk they'd been keeping filled for the last two weeks. The trick, she'd decided, to killing rats, was to get them used to finding food in one spot every day, domesticate them a little, and then just mix in the poison. This method worked marvelously in the garage, and she was sure it would work in the living room.
The house attracted rats. He seemed to attract rats. But his health never failed and he never even noticed the taste in the coffee or the mayonaise or on the bread or in his glass of water over night or on his toothbrush. Eventually, almost everything in the house had at least a little poison in it. She had to be careful, as she started being tempted to poison the things she might use as well.
But it never seemed to effect him. He kept bolting his food and coffee and water and brushing his teeth sometimes for twenty minutes at a stretch, but to no avail. She guessed he must eat about four tablespoons of rat poison a day, enough to take out a whole nest of adult rats each and every day, and he just didn't die. Until he did, she'd keep poisoning the rats everywhere she found them. She'd killed them in the garage, the attic, the kitchen, the pantry and now the living room, and on several occasions in most of those places. She put out the milk every morning, washed the bowl every night and refilled it, and poisoned it a week later.
They had the decency to die, though. At least something in this damned house did.

by MisterNihil 11:08 AM

Brother, you got to
run on

by MisterNihil 11:07 AM

{Sunday, September 12, 2004}

Think you've got issues? Try being an elephant.

Not that you could, of course. I mean, sure, obviously, that goes without saying. It's not like there's an elephant union somewhere you can join, free trunk with your membership, cash on delivery. If you're not born an elephant, you're not going to become one. I'm not trying to suggest that. All I'm saying is, elephants, they've got issue, and maybe you should try walking a mile in their shoes before you start bellyaching to me.

No, of course, I know elephants don't wear shoes. Not often anyway. They'd look pretty silly out there in the jungle or the forrest with slippers on their feet, wouldn't they? And who's going to make shoes in elephant sizes? Do you have any idea of the kind of overhead that would involve? No, I don't know either. I'm not even sure I know what overhead is. All I know is, elephant shoes would take up a lot of space, use up a lot of stuff, and cost a lot of money. And elephants don't walk around with that kind of pocket change.

Well, no, of course I know elephants don't have pockets. That's my point. No pockets and no shoes. No money for shoes and no pockets for money. It's that simple. I don't know, maybe that's why elephants have issues. Barefoot and poor -- that's got to be a lousy way to go through life, even if you are a pachyderm.

Yup, that's all I'm saying. Elephants, they've got issues.

by Fred 11:59 PM

Send away now for your
Free Elephant Issue

by Glen 2:18 PM

{Saturday, September 11, 2004}

You know what pisses me off?

by Generik 1:30 AM

{Friday, September 10, 2004}

avoiding the issue

by Fred 2:23 PM

{Thursday, September 09, 2004}

Any day now, I'm going to write something. I keep telling myself that so it must be true. I'm just waiting for inspiration to find me.

I ought to know better. Inspiration isn't even looking for me. It has other things on its mind, if inspiration can even be said to possess a mind. The muses are a fickle and inscrutable lot, and they withold inspiration as readily as they dispense it. Writing is hardly about inspiration. Writing is about words, about putting one in front of the other and hoping that at least a few of those chains of words are worth reading, that one has something to say.

Writing requires that one take some things on faith: that there is a destination, and that, although one may not know it at the outset of the journey or recognize the distance between oneself and it along the way, it is there to be reached, and the only means one has by which to reach it is to write, and do one's best, and hope.

Writing requires also that one forget about perfection, that one put it down as the impossibility that it is. Writing requires that one write, and be willing to write poorly (at least in hindsight) if such a thing is necessary. Writing isn't about getting the best words down on the page. That's what editing is for. That's why there's such a thing as a second, third, fourth, or five hundredth draft. Writing is about getting what seem like the best words down on the page, in what seems like the best way to tell your story or relay your facts, and having the courage to move on. Even if -- especially if -- there's a nagging doubt that some of those words aren't quite right. Stories are built on details, but writing isn't about details. Get lost in the details and one can lose sight of the big picture. One can spend hours on a paragraph, a sentence, a word, while the story around it languishes and never gets written.

That's my biggest problem as a writer. I agonize over words. Even with something as throwaway as this, something that's supposed to just be ten minutes of putting one word after the other -- something that I know isn't the best thing I'll ever write and doesn't need to be -- even here, I worry and revise as I'm going. Even though I know that that way lies madness...or at least stagnation. I have so many stories that aren't stories, that are just beginnings, because I won't let myself write them poorly, because even if I know what comes next, I don't know how to write it. But the problem is, that's how to write it: to just write what comes next.

With that last paragraph, I tried not to worry about revision. I'm not worrying about it now. And I'm sure it shows. Not that the paragraphs that preceded it were finely crafted works of genius, honed to perfection, god in his heaven and every adjective and adverb in its place. But here, I'm just trying to put words down. Because I'm often harping on this, that the best way to write is just to do so, to put one word in front of the other. I'm something of a broken record. Any day now, somebody's going to tell me enough, we get it, we understand, just go write something already. But I keep at it, I keep repeating, because I need to hear it. I need the reminder that writing isn't about inspiration. It isn't about any day now. Writing is about right now, one word and then another. I have to give myself license to write even if some of the words I put down are the wrong ones.

Any day now.

by Fred 7:51 PM

I remember sitting in my room as a child, looking out the window, thinking how much I wanted to be anywhere else than where I was. Any day now, I thought, things will change. Any day now, I'll find out this is all a mistake, that I'm supposed to be somewhere beautiful, with a family that understands me. Any day now.

It never happened, of course. That would be silly.

But these days, I find myself sitting in my house with the windows open to receive the oven-air breeze, my daughter sweating in her crib because we can't afford to run the air conditioning, preparing to serve another sumptuous meal of dollar-store ramen, thinking, any day now, things will get better. They have to. Don't they?

At least I'm in school now, which theoretically means I'll be able to get a job someday that will earn enough money for us to get a reliable car, a nice house with a yard for baby, all the things I wanted when I was a child and never got. Although with the economy the way it is now, who knows? Maybe things never will be any better than they are now.

In which case, I suppose I'd better learn to stop wishing I had other things. People always say you should be happy with what you have, but maybe they're stupid. Or can afford to run the air conditioning.

by Nyssa23 1:44 PM

any day now

by Fred 9:44 AM

{Wednesday, September 08, 2004}

how it's going

by Nyssa23 5:45 PM

{Tuesday, September 07, 2004}

Who are you?

by Fred 4:14 PM

{Saturday, September 04, 2004}

It's been said that dead men tell no tales. Well, let me tell you, that's a load of crap. Dead men tell lots of tales. You can't shut them up sometimes. It's just most people can't understand what they're saying. Most people never even hear them. I mean, dead men don't talk the way we do. Tongues, lips, larynx -- these things just aren't part of the equation anymore. You can't really talk if you can't breathe. And a corpse can spend a real long time trying to figure that out. Hell, just figuring out you're dead and how to deal with that can take years, and by that time you're contending with a whole bunch of other problems like worms and rot and cold and dark. It's hard to let go. There's a whole lot to learn, and learning to talk without your voice, to move without your body, that can't be easy. So it's a damn shame they never have anything interesting to say.

I'm what you'd call a receiver, if you were into labelling things and thought something like this needed a name. It's not like it's something I'd put on my resume if I had one. "Attention to detail. Works well with others. Can hear the dead calling at night." No thanks. They'd think I was crazy. I know because I thought I was crazy that whole first year, when it first started, when the voices or whatever they are first started coming into my head. That's back when I lived just a block or two from Holy Grove. People like me, some of them say we're drawn to cemetaries, places like that. But I'll tell you, the day I figured out that's where the voices were coming from, that's the day I moved out of my apartment and left town. Every place I go to, I've got to make sure I'm nowhere near a cemetary or a gravesite or a county morgue. That buys me a little time, at least until the more persistent ones -- the corpses that've been there for decades, centuries, with nothing to do -- redouble their efforts and start broadcasting again. I don't get to stay anywhere too long.

There's probably a better way, but I sure as hell don't feel like being a conduit for the dead or whatever you want to call it. I've tried. I've tried listening to their dumb, stupid stories, their laundry lists of petty gripes and troubles. "She murdered me in my sleep." "They left me there to die." "I swear, I was innocent." All of them, calling out, trying to talk to me with images, telepathy, whatever. All of them wanting justice, revenge, closure. How the hell am I supposed to give closure to somebody who died almost two hundred years ago because he choked on a chicken bone? Kill that chicken's descendant? If somebody's murderer is also dead, why can't they just shut the hell up and leave me alone? What's the point in bothering me?

Dead men tell tales, sure. But that doesn't mean I have to listen.

by Fred 2:34 PM

Deathly Quiet

by Glen 12:31 AM

{Friday, September 03, 2004}

It started when I was about 7 or 8, and would take my red plastic transistor radio to bed with me in order to listen clandestinely under the covers to whatever station I could pick up without either of my parents hearing me. Those were essentially pre-Beatle days, before the British Invasion had hit US shores in earnest, and the air waves were filled with luminaries and lesser lights such as Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra and Elvis, Johnny Mathis and Glenn Yarborough and Andy Williams and The Kingston Trio, Henry Mancini and the Ray Coniff Singers. Rock and roll was still the Drifters and the Coasters and other '50s acts, girl groups like the Shirelles and the Ronettes, and new acts like the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean. I'd press the radio up to my ear and end up falling asleep that way, waking up hours later to static or talk shows.

As I grew older, I still found something connective and comforting in the glow of the radio dial in the dark. I listened not just to rock stations, but to whatever I could find in many cases. When my friends and I would go camping at Joshua Tree National Monument, one of the things we looked forward to was going up and down the AM dial at night, picking up stations from Dallas or Albuquerque or Salt Lake City. How amazing, we thought, to be able to listen in to foreign cultures from exotic lands!

Another foreign station from an exotic land was the mighty XERB, which broadcast with a huge 50,000 watt tower from just over the border in Mexico, and featured as its main attraction the legendary DJ Wolfman Jack. I can still do a passable Wolfman imitation, and I just loved the great rock and roll he spun for all the kids within about a thousand miles of his tiny, occasionally busted and shot at studio down there near Tijuana. He was a genuine legend in his time, as much as Murray the K or Cousin Bruce on the East Coast.

I remember listening to country music and gospel after midnight, the syndicated Hour of Power that ran on a number of LA stations in the wee hours, and one of my very favorites, tapes of Alan Watts expounding on existentialism and the Tao, broadcast in the hours just before the sun came up on KMET for a few years while I was in college.

Even today, there are times when I want nothing more than a ghostly green glow from my tuner spilling out into a darkened room, a disembodied voice speaking to me, introducing music that I've never heard before and never will again (or, that I have heard a hundred million times before and will always want to hear again), or just talking, talking, talking about something, anything, until the dawn. Somehow it makes me feel safe.

by Generik 5:19 PM

A radio in the night

by Generik 12:02 AM

{Thursday, September 02, 2004}

Those who know me and my knack for amazingly horrid nightmares probably think I was pitching to myself with this topic, but I assure you, no. If I were setting up a topic with a story already in mind, it would have tied into electric brain stimulation as a substitute for enlightenment, since that's what I've been reading about. (I figure, there's a business where you can buy a conversation with god (left temporal lobe stimulation) or communion with a dead loved one (right temporal lobe stimulation) or integration into the unity of creation (posterior superior parietal lobe stimulation), and after hearing about the great experiences you could buy, you, gentle reader, get a glimpse at the heartless, capitalist electrode technicians who are getting rich off of people's thirst for enlightenment.) But that's not what today's topic is about. (How many minutes has it been? Oh bother. I should write a JavaScript timer for this page, or something.)

One of my dreams last night was judging a Toastmasters contest (which I did yesterday, and will do again in a few weeks), but the contest was at an advanced level, and an officiant was questioning whether I was qualified enough to judge at that level. Beyond that, there were ten contestants, instead of the usual two to four.

But that wasn't half as stressful as the reanimated corpses. We had four young, attractive adults, laid out and naked, intact but clearly dead. I remember the vitality of their smooth, plump skin. And then one of the girls opened her eyes and sat up with a desperate, startled gasp. I feared that the last stage of the lethal injections hadn't worked. And then the boy next to her awoke, and the rest of them. And they assured us that, oh yes, they were quite dead.

by Sharon 1:50 PM

what I dreamt last night

by Sharon 1:36 PM

{Wednesday, September 01, 2004}

I'm leaving, on a jet plane, Sunday. Actually, first I'll drive to Houston, then the plane, then a rental car from Portland to Rockland, Maine, then a ship for a week. (And do note, it is a ship. I've been informed: Ships carry boats.) Ground, air, and sea. And oh, the Wind.

I plan to sleep a lot, and once I'm all slept out, write a lot and read a lot. I figure I'll bring my indestructible, ever-running, light, and non-heat-producing AlphaSmart and pour words into its four lines of LCD display.

Sitting on the floor of Book People on Sunday (hiding from my fritzy air conditioner and coming home with an arm-load of books), I was captivated by the art on the cover of a book. The description sounded like the Never-Ending Story, but with the book seller as the hero instead of the little boy. It was too strange, so I picked it up. The girl at the counter effused about what a wonderful book it is. That's the second time in as many visits to Book People that the clerk at the register gushed about one of the books in my stack. I'll be bringing the second one on the trip as well.

So I'm off soon to get lost for a while. We've mowed the lawn and stopped the mail. I will miss at least one of my 600seconds topic days. Part of me worries I'll suffer from internet withdrawal (This is the part that can usually be found carrying a laptop, a wireless PDA, a cell phone, a pager, and a tall soy mocha.), and the rest of me is confident I shan't miss it at all.

by Sharon 10:55 PM


by Fred 7:00 AM


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