I woke up in a strange place

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

January 29, 2005

It's a shame that babies don't like old people as much as old people like babies; I was thinking about that as I took my one-and-a-half year old niece to visit my great-grandmother at a nursing home. (Add another 'great' to the title from the niece's perspective, and slap a star next to my family's name on the Early Procreators Award.) Fate and fading memory have conspired to trap babies and old people in an adversarial relationship. Were babies a little bit smarter, they might be able to better interpret the approach of these frightening spectres whose kind words, not their state of decay, represents the truth of their intentions; were old people a little bit more lucid, they could hold seminars and lectures, brainstorm all of the ways they were creeped out by old people when they were young and discuss ways to avoid them now that they are, themselves, old. But no! Babies, old people, j'adore, terror.

I had to keep busy to avoid thinking about how the soft-brained old people were probably just merging me and my mother and the baby into two generations as opposed to the three we actually are.

I started a semi-permanent job yesterday, although it's really just an on-going temp job, so there's no saying how long I will carry on with it. The work is not really up my alley, as it were, but the people there are as nice as you could ask for from a place of employment. I'm not going to say much else, because I have this theory that my tendency to talk shit on my webpage may be costing me jobs. My friend Fritz asked me to remove mention of him from a very old archives entry, more than seven years old, in fact, wherein I had used his first and last name in the context of describing him as a giant walking nipple; he was worried that a potential employer might do a background check on him and take that in a bad way. (Because he kept clicking on the link in Google to see if I had fixed it yet, Google naturally assumed that that was the kind of page that people wanted to see when they wanted to see something about him, so it shot right up to the top of Google's page-rankings, the reverse of the intended effect. I finally removed it and he did get a job that he was happy about.)

It really annoys me that employers would do something like that, though. It is a dirty, under-handed trick and it should be roundly rejected by all good and decent men. In comic books, only the most depraved villains attempt to target the hero's family. Targeting my innocent puppy of a web-page is, frankly, on the same level of depravity. Had Beelzetron been keeping a weblog in which they admitted that they were keeping me in a cage and they had tiny men with forks jabbing at me throughout the day, among other vicious and reprehensible practices, and were prospective employers to read Beelzetron's weblog from the same period of time and hire someone - a Comparative Literature major might do well, and it would be the first known professional application for that degree - to prepare a report juxtaposing the two, then I would say, by all means, judge me, for in the end my hands shall be found to be righteous. But that is not the case. In our deadly game of cat and mouse, I was the only one to speak, and although I did not start it, I am judged for it, while Beelzetron continues to roll around in cash and throw orphans through windows. You tell me how that's fair.

This web-page began in different times, back when Chuck mocked the idea that anyone would be interested in a 'text-based' webpage, and I went daily with it when we were still rolling our eyes at the obnoxious new term 'blog', assuming that no reasonable culture would adopt a linguistic fart like that. (Oh, well.) But damn you, you barons of capital, you stick to grades and job references in your consideration. There is a meaning to the entries in my archives that is more than base malice, even the entries where I leave strange and ominous messages by the copier and dump out all of the white-out. It is restlessness, the fevered rush for something greater, and you must understand that, and how it can benefit you. And if not - if you peruse my excellent resume, nodding approvingly at the tasteful use of Futura font, and you note how well it fits the description of the job you have listed - and then you read my webpage and cross me off the list because of what you read here - well, you're either semi-literate or you're a dick, and fuck you all the same.

The other possibility that I have considered as to why I don't get more jobs is that the number of deadly martial arts that I know has crossed a certain threshold and prospective employers are concerned that novice fighters who wish to make a name for themselves will interrupt the work day by challenging me. That is a fair concern, and if you contact me, we can discuss it.

January 25, 2005

And now I am back in Chicago. I was in Japan, and then I was in Russia, and then I was in Las Vegas, and then I was in Connecticut, and now I am here, again, in Chicago. I will write until this album is over, and then I will go for a walk, because it is sunny outside and it makes me kind of crazy to sit up here in this spare bedroom all day surrounded by my handful of possessions and the adjunct thousands of my stepfather's video collection.

"Did you know that you have two copies of Desperate Journey?" I asked.
"You can't have that one," he said.
"I wasn't asking for it," I said. "I was just making note of it."
"No, I need two copies of that," he said, eyeing me suspiciously.

I will do a brief job taking notes on a focus group on Wednesday, and then I will start working in a longer-term position on Friday. Over the weekend, I will move my stuff into a new apartment, and on Tuesday, I will move my self into that apartment. After that, I don't know. I have to go ahead and turn 27 in a few weeks. At some point, I should put together the Lego set of the Mos Eisley cantina scene that I bought on sale at a Target on New Year's Eve, allowing Lego Han Solo to shoot Lego Greedo first. I'll have to make a few phone calls and see if they offer memberships for discounted admission at the Division Street Russian Bath House, whose walking-distance proximity to my new apartment will be frequently exploited if they're willing to drop below $22 per visit. The yakuza baths in Kyoto only charged 300 yen. Even with the falling dollar, that's still pretty cheap. I miss the yakuza baths. I'll never know if that one guy got the yellow added to his full-back dragon tattoo. You could see where it was going to be, but...

(news) BASRA — As Iraq’s election campaign enters its final stages, most candidates are more worried about staying alive than canvassing for votes. Even the few like Shia politician Mansour Al Tamimi who have openly joined the electoral race are avoiding debates and rallies at all cost. Fears of assassination loom so large that most of the 7,500 candidates taking part in the January 30 poll are keeping their names secret, denying voters information normally considered fundamental to the democratic process.

Do you have to be a born or naturalized Iraqi citizen to run in their upcoming elections? If Nader had any kind of foresight, he would have ditched the U.S. presidential election and run in Iraq. He could have diverted all of his money from campus copy-shops to security and then won debate after debate just by showing up. He'd have achieved all of his purposes. Sure, there is the risk of getting blown up, but since when was that a concern? Come on. I am the only person who has vision.

Below, you will find a new set of photos, rather a large bunch, taken on my way up and down Mount Fuji in Japan over the summer. I discovered some interesting things on the trip, such as the fact that you should not attempt to climb a mountain in old basketball shoes, and also that my fear of heights, previously so slight as to be nothing more than an amusing footnote, becomes a major issue when it's dark and there are no lights or fences or handrails and I'm coming down a steep, smooth slope at an elevation of over 3000 meters, in old basketball shoes. But, really, it was fucking awesome, so please enjoy the photos. I didn't photograph the way that life-saving chocolate bars kept getting more and more expensive at each shack I passed, or that Coke and cans of hot corn cost about five dollars each at the summit. I had been in Japan for more than a year at that point, and the omnipresence of vending machines had ceased to be in any way remarkable by then.

January 11, 2005

Today is the same as yesterday, only with snow outside. My project manager is out sick again and she is the only person I have been working with. I called the temp agency to let them know that I am just hanging around here with nothing to do, because I like this company and I do not wish them ill. No problem, said the temp agency, go back tomorrow and get paid some more. And so, my last day lasts another day.

I bought an interesting book called Lenin's Embalmers, written by the son of the doctor who figured out how to preserve Lenin's body for public display and then was in charge of keeping it in near-mint condition for the next thirty years. (Until Stalin, in a reach even by his own standards, charged him with conspiracy and sent him to Siberia.) In the book, there are a couple of photos from right before Lenin's death, when he was recuperating from a series of strokes, and I found the degree to which he looked bat-shit crazy to be rather striking, so I decided to spend some of my idle time trawling through Google to find the most deranged Lenin pictures available on the web. There weren't many, unfortunately. People who created or distributed images of Lenin looking anything less than dignified were generally shot. But you may enjoy these:

Light-bulb Lenin;
Spar'anything Lenin;
Melting Lenin;
And, on the bottom right,
Holiday Lenin.
Which is awesome.

You may also enjoy this statue, although it is from a different, less deranged area of Lenin iconography, namely the 'half-amused and implacable' school. I saw it when I was in Moscow and thought it was great. Most of the collection found here is pretty good stuff, actually.

January 10, 2005

This was supposed to be my last day at work, but my supervisor called in sick, so I'm not sure what to do. Just hang around, I guess. But do I come back tomorrow? If they wanted me back for the finite period of one day, presumably there were tasks to complete in that day, and I have completed no tasks today, so the 'day' has not actually taken place, although I fully intend to get paid for it. Semi-employment is confusing.

As soon as the work dries up here in Connecticut, I will move back to Chicago, probably in the next couple of days. O, city of my origin! I know what lies in wait for me; Chicago will have a raft of truly shitty weather ready when I tramp around in search of an apartment. The vicious ways of Chicago weather define my sense of season, and since I have been away for a while, my internal thermometer is screwed up. With only one day of snow last year, Kyoto never really made it out of late fall for me. Eventually, winter had to be crammed into three hours at the monkey hot springs at the beginning of March. I was almost back on track after a blistering summer, but then I went to Russia for a while, and Siberia was in deep autumn. As you can probably imagine, that place is fucking emphatic about autumn, so it was pretty well fixed in my head. But then I landed in Connecticut, which was having a warm, balmy fall. There has been no serious weather up here, and Chicago reliably provides at least one screaming motherfucker of a scorched-earth snowstorm by this point in the season. I am disoriented; although I know where I am, my sense of when I am is shot. It'll come back, eventually.

(news) Civil War buffs are getting access to a treasure trove of information — thousands of original maps and diagrams of battles and campaigns between 1861 and 1865, all posted on the Internet. The items depict troop positions and movements, as well as fortifications. There also are reconnaissance maps, sketches and coastal charts and theater-of-war maps.


The multi-purpose room is a-buzz. JEFF, an accounts manager from Naperville, throws open the doors. The crowd gasps as he points an accusing finger at TED, vice superintendant of the public works department in Downers Grove.

JEFF: You've got a lot to answer for, Ted.
TED: Is this meeting in session?
JEFF: You're damn right it is. You --
TED: Then you will address me as General.
JEFF: Now, you listen to me --
TED: You're out of line, Lieutenant.
JEFF: Don't you try to --
TED: You will address me as General Early, do I make myself clear?

JEFF turns to the crowd, waving a sheaf of papers.

JEFF: I just downloaded these from the internet. It is my sad duty to inform the Society that the troop positions and movements from our re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville - drawn up by this man - were completely fucked!

The crowd cries out. Two men faint.

JEFF: What do you have to say about that, Ted?
TED: I've already told you once.
JEFF: What about the Battle of North Anna River?
TED: You will address me as General Early.
JEFF: What about Wauhatchie?
TED: You listen to me --
JEFF: Was any of it true?
TED: I believe I portray someone who has earned the right to be called General!
JEFF: What about Antietam?

Furious, TED stands up from his folding chair.

TED: You have gone too far, sir. You have said enough. You have questioned my integrity, sir, and I will not have that. This is altogether too much.
JEFF: I've said --
TED: No, you've had your turn. Now it's my turn. You have called me a liar, sir, and you have made accusations that are slanderous in nature, and now I will answer them. I have given my life to this Society. More than that, I have given my honor to this Society. My life is a small thing, and I surrender it gladly for the work of the Society. But my honor is altogether another thing. No, sir, I will not sit idly by as you trample upon it. You have accused me of violating the principle on which this great Society is founded, the principle of accuracy. That is an insult, sir, and it is a vicious slander. I drew the plans for the re-enactment of Chancellorsville with the greatest commitment to accuracy using every resource available to me.
JEFF: Look...
TED: It is my great honor to portray a great General of the South, and it is my great honor to have the trust of this Society when I plan our re-enactments. Like you, I heard of the new documents on the internet. For my turn, I rejoiced, and I felt great, calamitous excitement at the prospect of integrating them into our re-enactments. I approached those internet documents in a spirit of accuracy. You, sir, however, went to those documents in a spirit of distrust. Not every man can portray a General, but he can conduct himself with dignity, unless his character explicitly requires otherwise. Your character does not. It is you who have failed the Society. Not I.

TED addresses the crowd.

TED: Mistakes were made, my fellow Society members. But I ask you once again for your trust. Let me examine these new internet documents, and let me build with them. Let us not tear down with them. Let us build with them. I cannot do the work of this Society if every man runs to the internet to fact-check every decision I make for every re-enactment of every incident of the War Between the States. I ask you to place in me the same trust that you would feel for Jefferson Davis, or for Abraham Lincoln, as the case may be. Let me hold that trust, and I pledge to you, I will make the necessary corrections, and I will use these new documents to lead the Society unto an era of untold accuracy in re-enactment, for that is the goal we share, is it not?

The room is silent.

JEFF: It is...General.

There is a murmur of agreement, which builds into applause. TED nods, wipes his brow and sits down.

TED: Thank you. Now, to our first item of business. The First Baptist Church of Westmont has sent us their rental charges for next weekend's re-enactment of Grant's surrender at Appomattox, and I believe they are reasonable.

End scene.

January 9, 2005

My New Year's resolution is to quit signing my own name on my credit card receipts. I've had it with that; it is a sham and I renounce it. Leon Trotsky, Jean Valjean, Mookie Blaylock, Dingus McGee and Batman have recently made purchases that were charged against my account, and none of them were challenged. Come on, Trotsky (a diner) believed in the revolutionary overthrow of the entire system on which the card is based. Valjean (Citgo) is a convicted criminal and parole violator. Batman (Citgo), I can understand. Maybe he needed some gas to drive across town and stop the Joker, and you didn't want to stand in the way of that. But Mookie (Toys R Us)? Do I look like I never averaged more than 5.3 rebounds per game? Frankly, that's insulting.

That is my only resolution. I believe in keeping things modest.

The new photo gallery below is from Japan. Although only one of the two castles is found on the Osaka map of Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters, the presence of ninjas at Himeji-jo make it a more than acceptable substitute for its lesser counterpart in Osaka, which can be picked up and thrown by any monster worth its sea-salt.

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.


January 2012, December 2011, January 2011, September 2010, August 2010, June 2010, March 2010, October 2009, February 2009, January 2009, September 2008, August 2008, March 2008, February 2008, October 2007, July 2007, June 2007, January 2007, September 2006, July 2006, June 2006, January 2006, December 2005, September 2005, August 2005, July 2005, June 2005, May 2005, March 2005, February 2005, January 2005, December 2004, October 2004, July 2004, June 2004, May 2004, April 2004, February 2004, January 2004, December 2003, November 2003, October 2003, September 2003, August 2003, July 2003, June 2003, May 2003, April 2003, March 2003, February 2003, January 2003, December 2002, November 2002, October 2002, September 2002, August 2002, July 2002, June 2002, May 2002, April 2002, March 2002, February 2002, January 2002, December 2001, November 2001, October 2001, September 2001, August 2001, July 2001, December 1999, November 1999, October 1999, May 1999, February 1999, January 1999, December 1998, November 1998, October 1998, June 1998, May 1998, April 1998, March 1998, February 1998, December 1997, November 1997, October 1997, September 1997, and the uncategorised wilderness of the Beelzetron era: 010622 - 010619, 010615 - 010611, 010608 - 010604, 010601 - 010529, 010525 - 010521, 010518 - 010514, 010511 - 010507, 010504 - 010430, 010427 - 010423, 010420 - 010416, 010413 - 010409, 010406 - 010402, 010330 - 010326, 010323 - 010319, 010316 - 010312, 010309 - 010307, 019223 - 010219, 010216 - 010212, 010209 - 010205, 010202 - 010109, 010126 - 010122, 010119 - 010115, 010112 - 010108, 010105 - 010102, 001229 - 001224, 001222 - 001218, 001215 - 001211, 001208 - 001204, 001201 - 001124, 001124 - 001120, 001117 - 001113, 001110 - 001106, 001103 - 001030, 001027 - 001023, 001020 - 001016, 001013 - 001010, 001006 - 000927.

Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.