I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

February 27, 2003 Under these circumstances, spending more time with the obnoxious, egomaniacal rabbi than I do with anyone I like or love, America cannot possibly expect to retain my services.

I'm worried that my right shoulder muscle is becoming overdeveloped from the massive amount of writing I have to do for work in the cock-eyed posture demanded by this office equipment. The left is relaxed, but the right is constantly worked. Will I have to spend half of my day typing upside down to rectify this? Can I even do that? All I am asking is for some peace of mind, that is not so much.

Fans of Alan Greenspan's renowned come hither looks will want to check out this new classic out. Throw some water on that sizzler! Hoo-ha.

February 20, 2003 Presidents Day is past, and America did not do an especially good job of honoring its presidents. The Chester A. Arthur 19 cent piece, for example, remains but a twinkle in the eye of the caretakers of the Chester A. Arthur Historic Site and Birthplace. The working men of this land, of whom President Arthur was frequently aware, continue to be forced to pay for purchases that cost $1.19, such as a bottle of soda, with the laborious combination of a dollar bill, a dime, a nickel, and four pennies - and that's the best case scenario. (God forbid the dollar bill be replaced by four quarters.) Where is the Ronald Reagan Negative One Dollar Bill? We owe the American worker a better way to tell his fellow man that his fellow man owes him a dollar. Slapping down a Ronnie will do just that. Above all else, when will the new national justification, "That man tried to kill my daddy", take its rightful place on our currency? If we don't love our presidents, they will go away, like the dolphins in that one book - or perhaps it was the whales, and perhaps it was actually Star Trek IV.

As for the upcoming election, I am throwing my initial support behind Rep. Dennis Kucinich. He is not a handsome man, but he is an eloquent and intelligent speaker, and I think that if being allowed to call him "President Kooch" were a condition of his being elected, he would go along with it. Also, he went so far as to include links to his favorite bowling alleys on his congressional website. How could the nation go wrong? How, indeed.

(interview) Interviewer: Your characters don't seem to have personalities.

Burrows: This was a novel of ideas. I didn't go into personal relationships.

Interviewer: You have people speaking in paragraphs, using words like "indeed" in casual conversation. After your protagonist, Joan Milton, watches the planes hitting the World Trade Center, she turns away in horror and says to her friends: "What an almost unbelievable tragedy! It will take a great resolve to overcome this terrible blow." My question is, have you ever heard real human beings speak?

Burrows: This is the way I speak. In my circle, I am regarded as a fascinating conversationalist. I have a dinner group that has been meeting for maybe 30 years. I admit that may be a little limiting.

Interviewer: Your only black character, who is named Jesse Jackson Jones, expresses his concurrence by saying, "Right on!"

Burrows: Yes.

The Morning News should give me a Ronnie for that fine link.

I had a good birthday. Thank you for the emails!

February 18, 2003 I had a nice Mike Saul's Birthday on Friday. His roommates made tacos and invited people over. Saul regaled the dinner party with stories of knife fights from his smuggling days in the South China Sea. The only unpleasant moment came midway through a story about a one-armed card shark he once knew. Without explanation, Saul stopped talking, became possessive of the ground beef and grew belligerent towards anyone who asked for it. He never finished the story. In time, he released the ground beef for general consumption, but by then, the ice cream cake had been delivered. Later, we went to a bar, The Hideout, where they were celebrating some other, obscure holiday. We leaned against the wall and discussed who in the crowd would last how long in Okinawa during a full moon.

Tomorrow, the 19th, is my own birthday.

(news) Aspiring British artists are being offered the chance to head south and chill out creatively in the world's last great wilderness, Antarctica. British Antarctic Survey and the Arts Council of England are offering to take two selected artists free of charge down to the frozen continent to spend two months working during the southern hemisphere summer. Places are open to painters, poets, photographers, film-makers and writers with the condition that they produce works inspired by their experiences and underscoring the scientific significance of Antarctica. "We are trying to spread the scientific message of why Antarctica is so important," a BAS spokeswoman told Reuters. "These people might go on producing works based on their experiences on the ice for years to come," she added.

Obviously, I am raging. Why am I not British? I plan to indict some motherfuckers in the present criminal conspiracy to classify me as not being British, and I plan to hand down those indictments with a fury. I will raise that question with my family when we get together later this week for me and my brother's birthday. At first, they will think that I am joking. In the meantime, someone has to begin petitioning these people to drop the 'UK Nationals' requirement, thereby ending their obeisance to this goddam conspiracy against my peace of mind. Either that, or I need a quick green card marriage. Do they have those in the UK? Somehow, I doubt it. This is very complicated. Damn it.

I realized, while talking to a long-time reader in person for the first time at the aforementioned Hideout, the good Ms. Haffner, that I never finished the story of my retarded plant from last spring. I thought that other readers might also be wondering, so I will belatedly conclude the tale now. The Human Resources department here at RabbiCo likes to hand out presents to every employee whenever a Jewish holiday comes around. I'm generally aware of when Passover or Rosh Hashanah is on the docket, because I suddenly have triple the work load, but holidays like Shavuoth and Tu B'Shevat tend to catch me off-guard. The latter, Jewish Arbor Day, provided occasion for Human Resources to deposit a potted plant on everyone's desk. I like plants well enough, but I have never claimed to be able to take care of one, let alone one with the severe developmental disabilities that my plant turned out to have. This was a slow plant, a special ed plant. This plant could not do much on its own. To make matters worse, the rabbi hates it when Human Resources gives out gifts, so he waited until I went to the bathroom and then put his plant on my desk. We had a furious row about whether his plant was my responsibility. I lost, of course, because I have a shred of human decency. So, now I had two plants, one of which was clearly stealing light and nutrients from the other, retarded one, and the entire situation was bringing me down. The rabbi's plant got tossed in with a communal bunch of plants that I found in another part of the floor. The janitorial staff takes care of those. The ultimate fate of my own plant is somewhat harder to talk about. It was not doing well, even during a trial residency in the communal bunch. They were doing some landscaping across the street at the then-new UBS Warburg building, and I carried my plant over there. What happened next is too personal to talk about. Have you ever read or seen Of Mice and Men? Oh, poor, sad, retarded plant. Oh, poor, sad, retarded world.

February 17, 2003 Here is news, cross-referenced and investigated for you:

(last week's news) The first building ever erected on Antartica is being lost under mountains of Penguin excrement. Around 100,000 Adelie penguins live beside the hut built by Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink, the first person to land on Antarctica, in 1895. Unfortunately, their shit is at least three feet deep around the hut, and is destroying the fabric of the building. (see also.)

(this week's news) "We organized a rally (against the war) here at the US Amundsen-Scott Station, South Pole, Antarctica. We were only five rallying, probably the smallest protest in the world. Antarctica is the only continent where no wars ever happened and where all countries recognise that the only way to survive is collaboration."

The price of militarism has reached the most remote corners of the world, as a massive onslaught of penguin shit goes unattended in five peoples' desperate attempt to pull civilization back from the brink of disaster. Should the penguins be seen as engaged in symbolic protest against the war - mistakenly blaming Norwegian aggression, but you cannot expect accuracy from their critiques, they are, after all, a species that tends to fall over backwards when they try to watch planes flying overhead - or are the penguins merely naked opportunists, seizing a moment when the rest of the world is distracted to act on a long-held grudge? Do they next plan some vicious act of historical revisionism? These are questions. We read further into this Carsten Borchgrevink:

(biography) Both (Henrik Johann) Bull and Borchgrevink went on the lecture circuit in Melbourne and Sydney but could not raise enough interest to finance a second expedition. Falling on deaf ears, Borchgrevink left for England. He presented his study to the Geographical Congress in London which resulted in Dr. H. R. Mill declaring "His blunt manner and abrupt speech stirred the academic discussions with a fresh breeze of realism. No one liked Borchgrevink very much at that time, but he had a dynamic quality and a set purpose to get out again to the unknown South that struck some of us as boding well for exploration".

And the results of his expedition:

The average age of the wintering party was 27 years old. A number of measurements were taken at the start and conclusive evidence showed that the three Englishmen were, on average, taller, stronger and heavier than the Norwegians while the two Finns, although small in stature, were slim and capable of withstanding any amount of cold. Until winter arrived on May 15, various members of the party surveyed the coast of Robertson Bay and collected specimens of birds, fish, seals and penguins. Then the blizzards hit. On July 24 the huts were nearly destroyed by fire as a candle left burning in a bunk set the structure on fire. A great deal of damage occurred before the flames were extinguished. On the night of August 31, Hanson, Ellifsen and Bernacchi were nearly asphyxiated by coal fumes as they slept. Coal had been left burning in the stove and luckily Bernacchi woke up in time to throw open the door before they all died. One of the Finns fell to the bottom of a crevasse. Fortunately he had a knife with him and, by cutting toeholds in the ice, he was able to climb out to safety. Hanson, the expedition's zoologist, died on October 14.

Who would the penguins have liked among the crew? Who would have been their friend, understood then, turned them upright when they fell over? That's right: the zoologist. The suddenly dead zoologist.

The cause of his death is still a mystery. He was buried at the top of Cape Adare and Bernacchi wrote "There amidst profound silence and peace, there is nothing to disturb that eternal sleep except the flight of seabirds."

Do you have chills? If not, ask your momma if you a robot, because this shit is chilling.

February 12, 2003 Last weekend in my life, as told by those who lived it:

For three consecutive days, I had less than five hours' sleep. On Tuesday, always a late night, there was no parking when I came home from bowling; On Wednesday, I was preparing for a job interview by trying to coerce my new computer and old printer into entering a fruitful, loving relationship in order to print my resume, which I then had to recreate from memory, having left the latest version at work; On Thursday, I was a fool, spending two hours past bedtime waging a brilliant internet checkers campaign against a French fellow who requested several rematches after his initial defeat, most of which he lost, and the rest of which ended in stalemate. I should have walked away from the Frenchman, though, and slept. Therefore, as the record shows, I was sleep-deprived and paranoid.

I had a busy evening ahead of me: Andrei Rublev at the Siskel Film Center downtown, four hours of hijinks with Tatar Mongols and Russian monks; a midnight show I was scheduled to perform at the ImprovOlympic; long-standing plans to join some friends for a nice weekend in the frozen Wisconsin air, many miles north of my home. By the time I arrived home after the movie, I was absolutely convinced that I would be mugged as soon as I stepped outside. I had $40 in my wallet for use in Wisconsin. Planning to foil these schemers, I took the cash and my ATM card out of my wallet. I was going to write an insulting note and put it where the money would be, but then I became distracted by the overwhelming certainty that my apartment, too, would be robbed. So, I hid the money and the card in the couch. Chalk one up for planning ahead, fuckers.

The show was pretty good. It started late, around 12:30, but my jittery delirium calmed once I was out on stage. I don't think the show began well, but we had done some good things by the end. There was a bit of change in my wallet, and most of it was used to purchase Spearmint Altoids, for reasons that escape me. I got a ride home from friends who had come to see the show, and came home to a pleasant, warm, secure apartment.

A fourth night without much sleep didn't seem wise, especially with a four-hour drive ahead of me, so I slept in and dozed off in the shower during my first, half-hearted attempt to wake up. I had found a sack of cookies on my way out of work on Friday - I don't know where they came from, but they were sitting right there in the break room, and if there are five things that are true about me, one of them is that, yes, I would like to have a cookie - and I had a lovely milk and cookies breakfast, while televised NBA stars tried to sell me on reading as a means toward achievement. Finally, around noon, I left.

I was mighty chuffed at the way 'The Seed 2.0' from the Roots' Phrenology kicked in just as I hit full speed on the highway. I hadn't planned it like that. When the CD had run its course, I tried to eject it. It would not come out of the CD player - only the edge emerged. This, I noted, was empirical evidence that the music of the Roots is phatter than the music of any other musicians, because no other CD has ever been stuck like that in my car CD player. It just couldn't fit back through. I pulled off at the next exit to buy some tweezers. Don't truckers need tweezers? Evidently not, because the road mart did not carry any. Baby alligator clips - whose intended function, I do not know - seemed likely to get the job done, so I brought them up to the counter. The clerk requested $1.40 in payment. I reached for my wallet.

In my paranoia, I had hidden the cash and ATM card pretty well, so I did not remember them at all when I got home that night, nor did it occur to me to recover them before I left. I was momentarily grateful that I had not written an insulting note, because if I had, that bell would toll for me. But now I was stuck. I had a seldom-used credit card with precious little remaining balance, so I used that for the alligator clips, no cash could be made to come from the credit card, and I was down to the coins remaining in my car's change dish to make it through the remaining highway tolls. I was too far to turn back. This was no good.

I had 76 cents left, which is good enough to pay one toll and possibly a second, if the batting of eyelashes is accepted in lieu of four cents. I paid the first toll, but the joyless harpy at the second did not respond to my eyelashes. She gave me an Unpaid Toll ticket, which requires that one leave the highway at the next exit, placing me square in the middle of Rockford, a town as musical as its name suggests.

The woman claimed that it was illegal to have multiple 'Unpaid Toll' tickets, and that my ass would be thrown in the clink. (That was not her exact phrasing.) Later consultations have revealed that one can get away with that sort of thing. I didn't know at the time, though.

I headed into downtown Rockford. My plan was to raid the fuck out of any and all 'Take a Penny, Leave a Penny' dishes that I found. Trips to Citgo, Mobil, Dairy Queen, New York Bakery, IHOP, Burger King and some pizza joint established that Rockford is keeping its damn pennies, thank you very much. At this point, a lot of time had passed. I had some vague memory of a Borders Bookstore in Rockford from the Michael Moore movie The Big One, so I went looking for it. My plan, loosely, was to steal popular books and set up my own bookstore out front, asking only for toll money in exchange for the bestsellers of the day. I had seen homeless people try things like that, and I had only found one salt-encrusted penny on the sidewalk after over an hours' wandering, so I was ready for anything.

Borders has a discount table in the foyer between the outside and inside doors, so I stood there for a moment to gather my thoughts. I saw a big oversized book about Rodin, so I picked it up, because Rodin is part of my posse. A middle-aged woman entered the store and began looking at the discount table. She glanced over at what I was reading. "That's a lovely sculpture", she said. I smiled and replied, "Yes. Can I have fifty cents?" She was startled and didn't know what to say, so she gave me the money. Home free! I thanked her and left. A homeless guy asked me for change on the way to my car. I had to respect his timing.

They don't charge highway tolls in Wisconsin. Cheese subsidies take care of that sort of thing. Free from the toll system, my vehicle felt swift, weightless. I did not get lost at all, and the rest of the drive was a breeze. There was shouting and merriment upon my arrival, for everyone else had arrived long ago. We played cards, ate dinner, and went separate ways: bowling for some, skiing for others.

Although it was relatively crowded, there were remarkably few people actually bowling in the bowling alley. Most were teens who kept wandering in and out, occasionally ordering family-size fries or cheese curds. Drunk women in the next lane kept falling down, bellowing, flirting and bowling poorly. We had a good time. I took my watch off at one point and set it down, but I did not remember to pick it up later.

They don't make watches like it anymore; they make better ones. I bought it in college at the 24-hour store. I needed a watch, and I didn't have enough velcro in my life, so I bought a velcro watch. My late-night purchasing decisions are often ill-informed like that. The velcro fuzz is no longer much to speak of, so the watch flaps around a lot. But it still tells time.

We met up with the skiiers in our party, and headed to the Ho-Chunk Casino down the road. The idea had been proposed early, but some of us were hesitant because all of us were poor and no one knew exactly where it was. We found it without trouble, though. It's pretty big. The Ho-Chunk are an Indian tribe, and in one of those half-assed apologies for genocide that America does like no one else, Indian tribes are often given license to run casinos in places where others are not. Having known a few members of the Ho-Chunk tribe when I was in college, I felt bad for what happened next.

Holy shit. Let me tell you, in all honesty, that I walked into that place with three borrowed dollars to spend. Let me then say to you that I walked out of that casino, one hour later, with nine dollars and seventy cents. I am not fucking with you. After struggling so mightily for toll money earlier that very day, my eyes bugged the fuck out when I beat the Monopoly slot machine to the tune of fifty-three nickels. Fifty-three! They rained down, these nickels, and for so long it seemed as though they would never stop. I was intoxicated by my sudden wealth and almost stopped there, but I thought I saw something vulnerable in another slot machine, called "X-Factor". I stepped up. I pulled the handle. As the last of twenty quarters rained into my bucket, the machine spoke 'error', and it was shut down. The bank was broken. I did not bother to conceal the strut in my walk as I headed to the cashier. I was a rich, rich man.

1. Casinos will pay me to spend time in them;
2. I am the master of slots;
3. Hard work is for shit.

After a hearty breakfast on the Ho-Chunk Casino's dime, I headed home the next afternoon. I was well-prepared for the tolls. The money and my ATM card were still safely hidden in my couch. Most surprisingly, the watch had improbably wrapped itself around the tag hanging from my bowling ball's bag, and the velcro had remained attached throughout the trip to the car, a drop to the floor, a trip from that car to my car, and the walk back to my apartment. As it turns out, the velcro had a little bit of life left in it after all. I was quite pleased.

February 7, 2003 You will forgive me, I hope, if I am brief in this entry. I finished a lengthy essay on the incredible stealth techniques that I have devised for my current job search, intending to stay ahead of my enemies, who wish for me to remain in the rabbi's employ forever - and then my computer crashed, and I lost the unsaved entry. Clearly, I have said too much already. For my own safety, then, I may say no more, other than that progress is being made and that there are circles within circles in operation here - also, that according to EW.com, the Kids in the Hall are planning to make another movie.

Now, I am off to the frozen north.

February 4, 2003 I have a letter from the monkey house! The Oregon Zoo was quick with their response. They are all class at that zoo.

>>> "Marc Heiden" - 2/3/03 1:49 PM >>>

First, please accept my condolences on the passing of Hugo, the elephant.

I read with great interest of Inji the Orangutan's Super Bowl prediction a couple weeks ago. I, too, thought that the Raiders would win. Although Inji did not succeed, I have great respect for her courage in going out on a limb (no pun intended) with the prediction. My question is this: Has Inji been informed that the Raiders did not win? If so, what was her reaction? Do you think that the news was / would have been especially disappointing to her, given her excellent 4-0 track record in the past?

Thank you very much for your time.

Best wishes,
Marc Heiden.


Thank you for expressing your sympathy regarding the loss of Hugo. He will certainly be missed not only for his genetic importance, but his mischievous antics.
Inji has not been informed of her prediction error,nor was she informed of her success in the past. She is a wise matriarch who is not into the prediction process as much as she enjoys "working" the media that come to watch. She fully understand that she is the center of attention and loves watching the photographers follow her every move.

Linda D'Ae-Smith
Public Relations
Oregon Zoo
(office phone)

What a fine zoo! I am glad that someone prioritizes mischievous antics over genetic importance. You'd think that would come naturally, but then you look around, and the rabbi's hollering about how American Airlines is trying to screw him again, and somehow it's your responsibility to be the intermediary.

Should monkeys be taught success from failure? I don't see any reason to get up in their faces about it. The world will not be a better place if orangutans learn to second-guess themselves.

I noticed this weekend that my new computer has an Internet Checkers program. To begin a match, one need merely be connected to the internet and launch the checkers program; an opponent of the same skill level is then found, and the game begins. Players can only communicate with each other through two dozen catch phrases such as 'Yes', 'Nice move' and 'I'm thinking'. I am attempting to carve out a reputation for myself in the Internet Checkers world as the 'It was luck' guy. In any event, I would like to use this forum to decry the cowardice of the Dutch player from last night who, after being lured into a triple-jump, immediately resigned, even though he had at least five pieces left. That is not the response of an Intermediate-skilled competitor, sir, and that is what you explicitly claimed to be. It is not bad to have received such a beating from my crafty checkers tactics, because they are indeed crafty, but to forfeit the match with so much still at stake speaks poorly for you. I call upon all Dutch checkers players of conscience to disassociate themselves from this cowardly act and restore dignity to the Dutch checkers world, and I further demand that the Dutch player from last night re-assign a more accurate rating, such as 'Beginner', to his or her checker-playing abilities. He or she can do so through the menu on the top left, under 'Skill level'.

Also, to the player from Taiwan, I would like to say, 'It was luck', 'Yes', and 'It was luck'.

February 3, 2003 For a moment I thought it may have been shuttle debris, but no, the rabbi is back at work. Before he left, he and I jostled over the wallpaper on my computer desktop. Seeking simple joy between plunges into Microsoft Word, I had the classic Lee Harvey Oswald Rock Trio running. Seeing it by chance one day, the rabbi chuckled, and then announced that he was deeply offended, that he had watched the event live on TV, and that Jack Ruby was Jewish. (He dwelled on the last point the longest before hastily reiterating his horror.) I kept the image and turned off my screensaver in order to ensure that the image was on-screen more often. Figuring that one of the first things he would do after returning to the office would be to check whether it was still there, I used this fine entry from The Boondocks to further my entries in passive-aggressive arts.

Here is the reference for the football gambling monkey, courtesy of Mike Saul:

(news) Inji the orangutan is the Oregon Zoo's resident gambler, and she has a 4 and 0 track record for past football predictions. Inji's keepers lay out a Tampa Bay t-shirt and a Raider t-shirt. The primate then decides who will win and puts on the appropriate shirt. "We've got a pretty clear pick here: Raiders. Her grandson there picked the Bucks, but he doesn't have her proven record," zoo director Tony Vecchio told KOIN 6 News. Keepers say orangutans are naturally attracted to reds and yellows, and Inji purposely picked the black shirt.

I have sent an inquiry to the zoo and hope to have more news about the orangutan's reaction to the Raiders' defeat (and her own fallibility). Someone said, "Your website is funny, but it could be more poignant." Well, shit is about to get mighty poignant around here.

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.