I woke up in a strange place

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

February 28, 2005

I am hell-bent on living in a Frank Lloyd Wright house at some point in my life, so it was with great interest that I read an article published last week about one for sale in Chicago. The headline of the article suggested that the owner had been having some difficulty selling it. "I could probably get about five hundred dollars together," I mused. "More if I buy generic macaroni and cheese instead of the real stuff." Unfortunately, once I read the article, the cause of the owner's difficulty became all too clear: the house is in Rogers Park, neighborhood of my youth and my post-collegiate doldrums. It was with great amusement, then, that I read the attempts of reporter Don Babwin and real estate developer Frank Diliberto to do a little soft-shoe on the reasons why nobody will buy the house. I don't blame them, of course; Frank needs to make a sale, and Don probably flew in from the coast and took a taxi from the airport, leaving him with no time to soak up any of the local character. Here, then, are my helpful revisions to the article, provided in the interest of giving a more complete and informative experience for the reader.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home Is No Easy Sell
By Don Babwin, Associated Press Writer, with additions in bold by M. Heiden

CHICAGO - If you think selling a house designed by the most famous architect in American history is easy, think again.

After several months on the market, a 1915 Frank Lloyd Wright house on Chicago's North Side is going on the auction block, with bids starting at $750,000 — less than a third of the original $2.5 million asking price.

A few years ago, another Wright house sold at auction in Cincinnati for only about $400,000.

"There was always a relatively small market for them," said Ronald Scherubel, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. "Even when he (Wright) was alive they weren't for everybody."

But the hard sell on Wright houses runs deeper than their historical lack of appeal, **or in this case, the lack of appeal of the crackheads urinating in the alley.**

First, owners often can't remodel or even paint the homes without permission from some government official, **unless, of course, they are King Killa or an affiliate of Tha Bone-Hard Niggaz, in which case they are heartily encouraged to identify themselves on whatever public property happens to be nearby.**

Chicago designated the four-bedroom Emil Bach House a landmark in 1977, so both the city and the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois must now sign off on any substantial changes, Scherubel said.

"That house is really intended to stay that house," said Frank Diliberto, senior vice president of Inland Real Estate Auction, which is handling the March 8 sale. **Except for the stuff inside, all of which is intended to be stolen from the house within four months of any resident taking occupancy.**

Then, there's the way Wright laid out his Prairie-style homes and their size — usually on the small side.

Unlike modern houses, with their roomy kitchens and bedrooms, Wright built homes with spacious living rooms and dining areas. Kitchens were simply places to prepare food and bedrooms were just for sleeping, Scherubel said. **Stomachs were just for consuming food, not for getting stabbed by angry hoboes.**

"His philosophy was different," he said.

In the Emil Bach house, the kitchen is bigger than in most Wright homes, said Inland Real Estate spokesman Darryl Cater. Still, he said, "Frank Lloyd Wright designed kitchens for servants." **As a result, the shitheads who break in may feel cramped as they carry your stuff through the kitchen out to their van in the alley.**

Some of Wright's early homes also have developed expensive structural problems, such as sagging roofs. Scherubel said the Emil Bach House didn't appear to have those problems, **though the prostitutes who work at the motel down the block do appear have developed expensive structural problems, such as sagging boobs.**

The biggest problem the Emil Bach House might have is its location.

When it was built, it was a country home with an unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. Today, it's on a busy street lined with apartments and businesses **and urinating crackheads** in the city's Rogers Park neighborhood.

If the home were in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb with a large concentration of Wright homes **and a low concentration of people trying to stab you**, it would have sold for about $2.1 million, said Ken Goldberg, a real estate agent who tried to sell the house for months before Inland Real Estate stepped in.

"Nobody pays that in East Rogers Park," he said of the house. **Because everyone in East Rogers Park has spent their rent money on crack.** It sold two years ago for $1 million.

But Inland's Diliberto says the neighborhood won't dissuade people who want to own one of just 380 Wright houses in the United States. The company has heard from prospective buyers across the country, **none of whom have any idea where this house actually is.**

"This," Diliberto said, "is a chance to buy a piece of history." **And to give your car radio to some jerk with a brick.**


Seriously, who is King Killa? I'm not even sure how the modifier works there. Either we need evidence that God intends him to rule killas by divine right, or we need a notarized list of kings he has killed. Either way, once again, we're just not getting the full story.

February 25, 2005

Some people have written to ask if I knew the Killer Japanese Seizure Robots. Actually, I did. I cannot pretend that their English showed much improvement while I was there, but I miss them all the same. I go to their webpage rather often and feel nostalgic, and also epileptic.

Last week, in the midst of discussing my own impending birthday, I delivered a powerful oration on the nature of holidays in North Korea, noting that, as far as I could tell, St. Patrick's Day was the only one that had not been revealed by the North Korean media to be Kim Jong Il-related in origin. Following up on that, we have the following from our sideline reporter, Arden:

I really am as shocked as anyone about the failure in coalescence of Kim Jong Il and St. Patrick's Day. One upside of flunking out of U of I was my opportunity to study "The History of China and Japan" at the substantially less politically correct Parkland College, where you learn things like, "Korea is known as the Ireland of the Orient, because they also have a history of alcoholism." With a shared culture like that, how could these countries not be attending each other's parties?

I thought about that, and I suppose one reason might be the hair issue. We know, from science, that all Irish people look like this, while the government of North Korea has set clear guidelines for hair and attire. How, then, might a drunken North Korean socialist fanatic judge the Irish?

1. The hair of the Irish is too long in the back, and it is unruly. Although men aged over 50 are given allowed two extra centimeters of hair to cover balding, that is clearly intended for use toward comb-overs. Irish people allow their excess hair to spill out of their hats, and it provides no aid towards concealing their baldness.

2. The nappy ends of the hair and beards of Irish people tends to suggest that they do not get a trim once every fifteen days, as prescribed. That leaves them with undue amounts of free time in which to be infiltrated by corrupt capitalist ideas.

3. There are, the North Korean media reports, civic advantages to wearing smart shoes. Irish people, however, choose to wear long, yellow shoes that are pointy and bent upward at the end. By no reasonable measure are the shoes of the Irish smart. In fact, as one representative from the goverment argued, "No matter how good the clothes, if one does not wear tidy shoes, one's personality will be downgraded." It is a sensitive issue, even among fellow drunks, when one's personality has been downgraded.

4. If there is a link between a person's clothes and appearance and their ideological and emotional state, one is hardly encouraged by the inability of the Irish to put their hats on straight. Are Irish people perpetually drunkenly challenging the world to fight because they favor pointy clothing over smoother, less angular ensembles, or do they favor pointy clothing because they are drunkenly challenging the world to fight?

The sad fact is that while North Korea and Ireland may be able to overlook those differences before the wine starts flowing, it is inevitable that, by the end of the night, someone will have accused someone else of falling short of ideals in accordance of a socialist lifestyle, and someone else will suggest loudly that certain parties appear more interested in socialism than girls and are, therefore, gay. None of that is likely to be taken well; fisticuffs will probably ensue. So maybe that's why.

The skill with which I settle things has to be admired.

(news) But U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci told reporters Wednesday that he was perplexed over Canada's apparent decision to allow Washington to make decision if a missile was headed toward its territory. "Why would you want to give up sovereignty?" he said. "We don't get it. We think Canada would want to be in the room deciding what to do about an incoming missile that might be heading toward Canada."

Fucking hell! Yes, you might think they would...but they don't. That is the central enigma of the Canadian psyche and I cannot believe we have such a hopeless incompetent as this Paul Cellucci contending with it. The Canadians are going to eat him alive, metaphorically of course, there is no telling what they will actually do, but it is not going to turn out well for any of us. God damn. Get him out of there!

To answer your next question, yes, I am willing to take over as Ambassador to Canada. Holy shit! I will be so good at it.

My life has been quiet for the last week or so. Tonight, I will get my car back. My mother went joy-riding in it a few weeks ago and some guy rammed into the back left corner while it was parked, so his insurance is paying for the entire rear bumper to be re-painted. That's nice, I guess, but there is really no point to having a freshly-painted bumper when you live in the city and park on the street. Like moths to flame, degenerates without any semblance of parallel-parking ability will be hypnotized by its bright, unscarred green, given over to the irrational notion that they have plenty of room to fit their rusted-out Oldsmobile behind my car. I will be lucky if the bumper lasts two days before returning to its previous state, or worse. Really, what's the point? Every time I see one of those stupid gee-whiz-so-fast DSL commercials, I shake my fist. Fuck the internet! Where is my rocket-pack? I was led to believe there would be rocket-packs! I am increasingly irate, and a disturbance even to myself.

There is one more thing that I should mention - you have no idea how thoroughly these entries encapsulate everything that is on my mind at the time they are written, so I can't leave anything out - and that is the death of Hunter S. Thompson, the noted American lion-tamer. It's hard to write anything about Hunter S. Thompson because you must constantly check yourself to be sure you are not trying to write like him; perhaps it's not a problem for the old folks, the hardened professionals, but we young'uns have to watch out for it. You either wind up sounding like a pale, mis-shapen imitation of the man or a colorless version of yourself. (Hunter S. Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, and Raymond Carver: read them, but not while you are writing anything of your own.)

There have been many tributes, summations, epitaphs and reflections over the last week or so, and nearly all of them have had a palpable self-consciousness about them in some way, shape or form. You can't be unfair about that, though. Nobody was expecting to have to write these things; everyone was caught off guard, and only the worst among us were glad to have the chance. When it comes to memorials for Hunter S. Thompson, all you can really ask is that they leave you with something. Compare, for example, this one, by Alexander Cockburn, to this one, by ESPN writer Eric Neel. One writer is far more skilled than the other, far better-versed in history and politics and literature, and the other is more or less exactly what I wrote about, timidly placing words next to each other until a column has been formed. And the interesting thing is, the first one leaves you with less than cat shit, and the other one leaves you with this:

The only time I ever spent with Hunter Thompson took place on one strange night at his home outside Aspen. I read aloud from his latest book that night -- Hunter liked that kind of thing, liked to hear his words come alive, he said. I held a number of weapons, the names of which I can't even remember, because he would just hand them to you and say, "Here, feel that." (My friend Daniel carried a sword around for more than an hour for fear of offending the good doctor.)

I was taken on a tour of photographs on the walls (not framed, just tacked up there in little collages), some of the young, fit journalist, some of the baggier, more weathered writer, some of the headlong madman, and all with a half-remembered story. I ate some kind of crackers and cheese and nursed a glass of gin, praying he wouldn't peg me for the lightweight I really am. And for a stretch, I sat next to him on a low-slung leather couch watching the Kings and Lakers go head-to-head in the fourth quarter. Hunter had money on the Lakers. They were winning but not covering, so every missed shout was a wincing blue streak and a chance for him to ask me what the hell they were doing and why wouldn't Kobe feed the Big Daddy?!

Everyone hates on Hunter S. Thompson's Page 2 columns, but I liked them. It was fucking cool when he wrote this, about the 2001 Bears:

"I owe the Bears an apology. I called them "phony," but I was wrong. They are a gang of Assassins and I fear them. They will croak St. Louis in the playoffs."

Even after the Bears got killed in the playoffs, we fans still had that, not the Lombardi Trophy but not that bad either. More than anything else, I liked the Page 2 columns because most of them were evidence that someone to whom I felt a deep sense of gratitude was now enjoying himself with friends watching sports. I liked the Eric Neel column because I wanted to watch football in that room, even though there was no way that it was not going to be awkward as hell for a non-drinker (non-smoker, non-drug user, non-meat eater!) like me. Possibly, I would have been shot. Well, Eric Neel told me what it would have been like, a little.

(Does anyone else remember how, in the days after September 11, 2001, every fucking so-called celebrity in the country solemnly pressed Their Take against our chests, hoping that Theirs would be the One that Was Remembered, that History would Say, This One Commemorated It, This One Defined the Moment? Well, unlike basically all of them, Hunter S. Thompson's column doesn't look like shit when you read it today.)

One thing the man had absolutely mastered as a writer - there were many things, of course, but I'm just going to identify one of them, because this is only a weblog, after all, and you people don't even provide me with an expense account - was the full range of synonyms for the verb 'to say'. Read something he wrote with that in mind. I always enjoyed that about his writing. But, again, be careful about doing it while you're writing something, or you'll wind up having to print out a list from some online dictionary to avoid feeling like a brick-layer every time you settle for 'say'. He opened up one of his books with this quotation from Mark Twain:

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.

Yes. That, exactly.

I keep straying. Here is my entry into the eulogy-stakes:

Hunter S. Thompson could tame lions, fierce motherfuckers with sharp teeth. I saw him do it. He's gone now, but you can bet those lions still see him when they go to sleep, here and forevermore.


February 18, 2005

You can look forward, or you can look to the past; it was Kim Jong Il's birthday on Wednesday, and it is mine tomorrow. Either way, there are going to be a number of wild, unsubstantiated claims about revolutionary feats, glorious historical achievements and the progress of humanity, not to mention the usual manic over-deployment of the word 'powerful'. You would be arriving fairly late to Kim Jong Il's birthday, however. Even the Communist Party of Russia was more on top of the occasion than you were, adopting resolutions of praise for the world's foremost bulwark of socialism that really must have chafed when they sat down and thought about it; the Chinese academics showed up a day late, but they did bring gifts, which you had certainly better do, being even later than they were. (Perhaps you could figure out what the Chinese academics brought, and then buy accessories for it, or batteries.)

Honestly, though, my impression of life in North Korea is that one is more or less expected to celebrate Kim Jong Il at any point in the year, such as lulls in conversation or waiting for the elevator, so in that sense you could probably make up for your absence with a concerted effort to demonstrate links between Kim Jong Il and, say, St. Patrick's Day, which has been largely unsuccessful thus far. Has it been said that my birthday is the greatest auspicious day of the nation and the greatest holiday of the nation and the common holiday of humankind when a triumphant advance of the cause of global independence is promised? No, admittedly, it has not. I am trying not to let it get me down. I have other things to be proud of, and I will concentrate on those.

Interestingly enough, this news release tends to support my theory that while the Bush administration may have viewed shifting from the use of the term 'axis of evil' to 'outpost of tyranny' as an olive branch, it was not, in fact, received that way. Kim Jong Il, you sensitive little bitch. My feelings are far more difficult to injure than yours.

I was writing about the video game Gauntlet last week and one of my friends sent me an email about it, saying that she had just seen the game for the very first time and wanted to know why there was so much ham on the ground. The truth is, I don't know. As someone who doesn't eat meat, I assumed people who do eat meat do things like that, just leaving entire cooked chickens and turkeys and hams on plates around their apartments and eating them whenever they walk by. Apparently, that is not true. As I enter my 27th year, I still have a lot to learn.

February 11, 2005

On my way home from work last night, I stopped by the Division Street Russian Bath House. I asked the man at the counter if they have memberships. He repeated the word, nodded, and wrote down a name and a phone number for me to call between select hours the next morning. Now I am wondering if I just applied for a job with the mob. I haven't called yet. I will think about it over the weekend. Perhaps I should prepare a list of salary requirements, just in case.

(news) The parents of one of the teens asked for a restraining order against Herb Young, accusing him of making harassing calls. He admitted calling the Ostergaards once after hearing the teens were talking to a newspaper, and at one point saying "the gloves (are) off," which apparently was taken as a threat.

This is ridiculous. A person is being threatened when the other party takes the gloves off? Am I the only person who has ever heard of metal gloves with spikes on them? What the hell was Gauntlet all about, anyway? The naivete of the older generation, most of whom have never ventured into a dungeon as a wizard, a warrior, or a valkyrie - let alone as a Quester, the elf - fills me with dismay. Health care costs are going to skyrocket over the next few years when the terrorists get word that they can knock on the doors of older Americans, announce "the gloves are on" and then punch the unwitting older Americans in the face with metal gloves with spikes on them. And I, as a taxpayer, am not pleased.

I should mention the Super Bowl. It was a pleasure to be back at one of my friend Kevin's annual Super Bowl parties, held in scenic Bolingbrook, Illinois. The game itself was all right, and I broke even on the betting in which I engaged, leaving my lifetime earnings as a gambler well above the water mark. (If you are looking to turn your quarter into two quarters, then I am your man.) Although I supported the underdog Eagles of Philadelphia, I was not displeased with the outcome, because the victorious Patriots are a fine team. The real question, though, is whether a series of excellent commercials - in this case, the ones where the one guy was working at the office and all of his co-workers were monkeys - can redeem, in any way, a company whose service is utterly shite - in this case, Careerbuilder.com. It's a bit of a conundrum. In this ideologically reductionist age, does my stand against the cynical, heartless manipulators who perpetrate the ongoing con that is the online job market (Monster.com, HotJobs et al) represent an ipso facto denunciation of commercials involving monkeys? Because it's not even as though this was a poor use of monkeys. They did very, very well with it. So how can I support the use of monkeys in advertising while remaining in principled opposition to Careerbuilder.com? I feel like one of those helpless leftists from the 1930s who feared Stalin but were paralyzed to denounce him because they were committed to the eventual victory of socialism. Well, I am committed to the eventual victory of commercials with monkeys in them. And I don't know what to do.

February 10, 2005

Let me briefly explain the circumstances that led to my silence. I started a new job, temporary but indefinite, working on a two-man Project. One of the two people was responsible for training me, and the other was intended to take the lead once she was gone. The Project is nebulous, with many regulations and procedures, pockets of arcana in scattered locations. Well, fine, I thought. I am just the sort of man you want to deal with that. But my training was about 30% complete when the first day was over and my predecessor left. Then the second team member called in sick, leaving me alone to attempt to make sense of things. Then he called in sick again. Then they fired him, leaving me alone on the Project. In an attempt to make good, they brought in someone to take his place and asked me to train the new guy, mid-way through my own first week, with none of my own questions answered. The new guy arrived and, upon first glimpse of the Project, more or less shut down. He will only handle simple tasks as I assign them to him. I am alone at the front of the Project. I do not fully understand it, but I must manage it as best I can. I am, at times, overwhelmed. I try to visualize a game of whack-a-mole to give order to what I am doing, but frequently the vision changes to one of a dark chamber, with tentacles emerging from the holes in the box, rising until the box can no longer hold the writhing mass within - the only thing that never changes is that I am still holding the same foam mallet, ill-equipped. That is the nature of what I face. This is the first quiet moment I have had to gather my thoughts about the Project, so it is now that I am writing, after all of that silence.

It pays okay, but I probably gotta get some more money at some point.

North Korea announced that they have nuclear bombs today. The first AP article that I read this morning mentioned that Bush had referred to them as part of the Axis of Evil as part of an attempt to get them to cooperate, but later drafts appear to have clarified that he hasn't called them Evil lately and that was the attempt to get them to cooperate. Which makes a bit more sense, although it is still based on flawed reasoning. Generally, in situations where I have told someone that they are evil, I have not had a good reaction from them, even after initiating another conversation wherein I do not make explicit reference to their evil; moreover, in situations where I have told someone that they are evil and that the guy standing next to them is evil, too, and then I have punched the guy standing next to them in the face, I have received extremely poor reactions. I can assure the Bush administration that my clinical trials on this issue were performed with the greatest attention to scientific integrity. I don't know if they will look upon that as a positive, though.

It makes me feel bad for the Japanese, though. They are very nervous about North Korea. An old English teacher told me once about how students would always say they were afraid of going to the beach because North Korean submarines would get them, and the English teachers would make fun of the students, making all sorts of hilarious riffs in the teachers room. Apparently, everyone felt pretty bad when those fears turned out to be well-grounded. I wasn't there at the time, so I was permitted the righteousness of the recent, which is always nice.

Let me describe a little bit more about what we do at the Project. I gave my co-worker a list of people to contact about some classes they had been taking. He went through the list and complained.

"I don't want to contact her," he said. "She failed this Conflict Resolution class she took."
"The conflict must still be raging," I agreed. "No way to know what you'll be walking into."
"I can't send her an email either," he said. "She also failed Principles of Effective Written Communication."
"She'll probably just hit a lot of random keys and then call you a dick," I said. "Well, do your best."

I moved into my new apartment last week. It is a very nice one bedroom apartment in Chicago, in the neighborhood that they call Ukrainian Village. By the time I left Japan, my spatial schema had been re-adjusted to the point where I found shoeboxes perfectly acceptable and always remembered to keep my head down when going through doorways, so my new apartment has what appear to me as vast, untamed areas of wilderness and ceilings that must scrape the very surface of the stars, even though I can clearly hear some guy walking around on the third floor. (Is he God?) But this is America, and we must have places to put the things we are surely going to buy. I am happy in my new apartment. It is relaxing and peaceful there, and I can afford the rent, at least so far.

My birthday is on a Saturday this year (February 19th), which is really more pressure than I am prepared to handle right now.

Oof! Back to work.

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.