I woke up in a strange place

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

April 21, 2003

In my failure to provide a sustained narrative for this web-page, small but relevant details are being omitted, such as the fact that, due to his voice-over work for SBC, Tommy Lee Jones is dead to me. It goes without saying, of course, that all others involved with the making of those commercials are also dead to me, but I do not know their names, and I am not aware of any history between us, whereas Tommy Lee Jones and I go all the way back to The Fugitive, which makes it all the more regrettable that he pulled this crap.

April 15, 2003 Jesus! Does no one realize that this is the part where a deep rumble is heard from beneath Baghdad, and then a two-hundred foot tall Saddam Hussein rises from the ground with beams of concentrated chemical weapons shooting from his eyes, screaming "How, how, how will you stop me now?!?" Get out of there!

In paranoid states, I fall into a sort of pop culture kabbalism, wherein apparently coincidental news in the world of arts and entertainment can be interpreted and cross-referenced in such a way to reveal a code that underlies the direction of future events. So, you can imagine how I reacted to the death of Edwin Starr, writer of the song "War". ("War! Huh! Good God, y'all. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again, now.") Fucking two hundred feet tall with chemical-beam eyes, and suddenly Syria is in the Axis of Evil, and I still have to pay my credit card bill no matter what happens, but they won't accept yen, and yesterday, a random homeless person called me an alchemist in an accustatory tone, which is the third time that has happened. Fuck it! I'm done.

(Fametracker) Charlie Sheen has gone on record to say that his prayers are only with some of the U.S. troops, and he refuses to say which ones.

And now, for the touching story of a monkey living the good life.

(news) PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Cheeta lives in this desert resort town like a lot of old movie stars, painting, playing the piano and watching his old movies. But as one of Palm Springs' only retired chimpanzees, he stands out. The last actor to have played the lead chimpanzee role in the Tarzan movies of the 1930s and '40s, Cheeta is 71 now the oldest chimp in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. "He's just part of the family," said Dan Westfall, who saved Cheeta's life when he adopted him from Tony Gentry, an animal trainer who worked in Hollywood. Westfall and Abe Karajerjian care for Cheeta and other animals, including orangutans and monkeys, at a house they have nicknamed Casa de Cheeta. Cheeta spends his time playing with preschool toys, thumbing through magazines including National Geographic and playing the piano. In addition to his old movies, he likes watching Animal Planet and cartoons on television. Cheeta's handlers hope to sell some of his paintings which they describe as "Ape-Stract" to raise money for a sanctuary for homeless primates.

Two new office buildings are being constructed on previously vacant lots in the diagonal between the rabbi's office and my old digs at Beelzetron. Presumably, they will house homeless office workers, and that will be nice.

I now have a firm date of departure for Japan: May 21. I'll be in the Kansai region, which has the old cities (Kyoto, Nara) and Osaka, which, as anyone who has played Destroy All Monsters with me will tell you, has the long red boats that I like to pick up and throw. The Summersonic Festival presents itself as a good time for cowboys.

Thanks to the angel of death and his decision to pass over the Israelites, I have the next three days off, and two more days next week. Thanks, angel of death! I bet I'd get arrested if I tried to send him a thank-you card through the U.S. Postal Service, though. Not like Santa.

(news) A $1,400 monkey suit is on the loose somewhere in Champaign-Urbana. On Friday, April 4 the Xtension Chords, a student-run a cappella singing group, was selling tickets to their biggest show of the year, Acappellalooza X, when the suit was stolen. Because of the rainy weather, they had put the monkey suit near the stairwell in the southeast corner of the Illini Union. "They got sick of moving it in and out. When someone went to grab it, they saw it was lost," Eric Horng, treasurer of Xtension Chords and junior in LAS. The group rented the monkey suit from Dallas & Co. Costumes and Magic, 101 E. University Ave., Champaign. "I don't know why anyone would want to steal a monkey suit, Halloween is half a year away and it's hot in that suit," said Horng.

This is the part where I recline in my chair and shake my head as the sole candle flickers and rain batters the walls of the remote mountain hideaway. I'm retired. I don't do that any more. Plenty of other people can catch this guy. You don't need me. What's that? Johnson is lost in the field? Damn it. You don't understand what it takes out of me, to get into the mind of a criminal. To become him! I can't do it again. I...can't. But I must.

Because I like talking and writing, I am extremely disturbed by the current political and intellectual climate in America. The blacklists that have been launched against every celebrity who has spoken against the war are bad enough, but the nearly complete lack of outraged response is even worse. It's reported so casually, offhand, among items of society gossip. (Why can't we retroactively blacklist Donald Rumsfeld for shaking Saddam's hand and giving him weapons, or Dick Cheney for doing business with him less than five years ago?) Honestly, though, the incredible surge of internet fandom for former Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf gives me sincere hope that the America I love is still there, waiting out the storm, and will return stronger, smarter and funnier than before - hopefully, no later than November 2004.

April 8, 2003 I have been sick. The rabbi said something or other about mold spores and weather getting warmer, but I was spaced out at the time. His daughter married a doctor, so he is never short for an opinion on health issues. I am still cranky about the onset of seasonal allergies shortly after I turned 20, as I had previously thought such weaknesses to be the exclusive province of chumps, but here I am, running through tissues like it ain't no thing. I hid my tiger-striped kleenex box behind some books because I was tired of people gaping at its vaguely pornographic splendour. My mother bought it for me a couple years ago, when an insurance investigator came to check out the recent break-in at my apartment. She thought it conveyed an affluent lifestyle, which would make the investigator more likely to believe I once owned the items I was claiming were stolen. My mother, like the rabbi, was born without a crucial signal receptor in her brain that tells her when she is out of her element.

(profile) Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day. His history degree from Yale makes him mindful of the importance of the moment. He knows he's making ''history-changing decisions,'' Evans says.

Didn't he get a C- while earning that history degree? We are so fucked. Or, to be more precise, you are so fucked, because when the day comes, I will be in a remote monastery in Asia with some monks and some monkeys, playing catch.

I had some Chinese food last week and was accidentally given two fortune cookies. Both of them had the same fortune: "The weekend ahead predicts enjoyment." I decided immediately to spend the entire weekend in a bowling alley, hoping that said enjoyment would manifest itself in the form of breaking the 200 barrier, but at some point between then and the weekend, I got distracted and forgot. I can't even remember what I did that weekend.


Snow-women want to hop my jock. But they only love me because I will not melt.

In advance of moving to Japan, I am selling most of my non-portable possessions. If anyone wants to own the partially-melted area rug of a legend, please contact me at the above address.

April 1, 2003 Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and each has its own character -- and its own way of expressing a sense of community. My friends in the Ukrainian Village have pleasant weekly traditions such as movie nights and breakfast-for-dinner get-togethers. In Rogers Park, affectionately known as the RP, we have weekly hobo knife-fights. That's just what works for us. The hoboes spend all week getting riled up, and by Tuesday, they're good and ready to have a go at each other. Afterwards, everyone sits around tending to their wounds and telling stories. Last Tuesday, one of the older hoboes told me that Dick Cheney used fly in for the fights each week, attempting to pose as a hobo by spilling mustard on his suit coat. It's considered a major faux pas to enter the fights by posing as a hobo, because that violates the purity of the tradition -- really, it's a night for the hoboes -- but Cheney did it anyway, even when people recognized him as the chairman of Halliburton, which continued doing business with Saddam Hussein through its subsidiaries as late as 1998. The hobo said that Cheney was a really dirty and bloodthirsty fighter, and he'd stand over his fallen opponent, bragging about how well-fed he was. Supposedly, everyone was quite sick of Cheney, but he'd come every week anyway, claiming executive privilege to turn an innocent community tradition into a sick spectacle of bloodlust. The hobo shuddered as he recounted Lynne Cheney's frenzied shrieks at the sight of hobo blood, which she'd claim for use as clown make-up. I never got to see it myself, but the hobo seemed quite serious as he told the story, and he was one of the best knife-handlers, so that does lend some credence to his story. Just as the tradition was about to die out, Cheney stopped coming. He seems to have found another hobby, although no one knows what it is.

In more personal news, I am ready to admit that I live in fear of the day when a slip of my finger leaves one of my emails signed 'Marv.' The 'c' is so close to the 'v' on my keyboard, and there is no barrier between the two, no fail-safe for a split-second when I am a shade below the top of my game. The thing is, were I to slip once, I could never be taken seriously as 'Marc.' again. To the recipient of that email, I would become 'Marv.', once and forever. I can't risk that. I'm considering remapping my keys to the Dvorak layout. The 'c' and the 'v' aren't even within a row of each other in Dvorak. But it's not likely that I'll make the change, because I have all these rag-dolls trying to wrap me up in drama. Fuck drama! That is my credo for the present.

The rabbi has begun to grow paranoid about what I will say during my exit interview at the end of the month. He called me into his office for a private meeting, and opened by announcing his agreement with what he believed to be my list of complaints about the other workers in the office. (He and I have virtually nothing to do with them professionally, but I'm out among them nonetheless, and for the most part, they are a fairly obnoxious bunch.) The rabbi stressed that I should 'pull no punches' about them during the interview. Then he began dropping hints about what he called 'giving a certain someone ammunition'. Like all decent cartoon characters, he has an arch-enemy, a rabbi who works upstairs in human resources. The other rabbi is constantly out to cut his funding and catch him in violation of various rules and regulations that he is frequently in violation of, such as dubious expense reports and falsified time cards. (I have met the arch-enemy rabbi, and to be fair, the guy is a jerk.) In a clumsy attempt to be subtle, the rabbi hinted that I shouldn't complain about him during the exit interview, lest his nemesis get access to the notes and use them against him. To be honest, I hadn't started thinking about the exit interview yet. I was planning to exact my grudge by making absolutely sure that my successor knows the score before they take the job. But perhaps I should make the most of the occasion. Perhaps I'll rap the whole thing. I just need to assemble a list of rhymes for 'cut his funding'.

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.