I woke up in a strange place

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

August 10, 2010

The back wheel of my bicycle has been damaged by what is either normal wear-and-tear (I ride to work most days) or a shocking act of violence that was extremely limited in scope, being directed exclusively at bicycle spokes. Until some sort of final determination can be made, let us assume there is a madman out there targeting bicycle spokes, and proceed accordingly.

This article is worth reading, printing, laminating, and possibly tattooing, listing as it does the locations of all Mold-A-Rama machines in the Chicago area — either your eyes just closed and you were overcome with the glorious smell of hot plastic, or you have no idea what I am talking about — but you should go further, to Mold-A-Rama.com, where (under 'What's New') you can actually see a picture of the green gorilla in question. It's phenomenal. You can also apply for a part-time job servicing the Mold-A-Rama machines at the Oklahoma City Zoo, and you should, because it's a good opportunity and you don't have much else going on right now, as evidenced by the fact that you just spent the better part of an afternoon thinking about a green gorilla.

March 9, 2008

(I started writing this a while ago, but then I sold all of the jokes to gypsies, so now I must furnish the entry with new ones.)

An old friend of mine won an Oscar recently, which is excellent, and much like the crafty Ms. Passion, I had an influx of traffic on this here website due to a link on said friend's old blog. Given the, uh, adult nature of the traffic, I am feeling a certain amount of pressure to adopt an intriguing pseudonym like "Lorenzo from Accounting" or "Lunch", and posit scenarios which might better fit the expectations of these new visitors.

Yes! Us, together

I never thought it would happen to me! Despite his incorrect and shameful choice of headgear, the professional affiliation of great service toward our corporation was overwhelming! Together, we searched very much to achieve bare financial milestones established with great knowing by the regional management for whom effortless brilliance of leadership and strategy is infinitely disappointed by our meager abilities and profound inadequacy. But yet we both felt great seriousness toward our professional responsibilities!

There is an article coming in a local newspaper about the travel book, so I am looking forward to that. In the March edition, upon much consideration, we decided to change "Birdgeport" to "Bridgeport" on the map for that part of the city. One bar on the south side closed, so that came out, and a Neapolitan pizza place on the north side went in. But we haven't done anything about the somewhat daffy computer-generated index, which has to be seen to be appreciated.

Reports have it that Cheeta was featured on Episode 350 of This American Life. I haven't listened yet, but I am always excited for the old fellow to get some of the recognition he so richly deserves. His masterwork "Green, Brown, Yellow" recently had its first formal exhibition in my living room during a party, and I think everyone was very impressed. (I should note that I had it framed at The Practical Angle in Chicago and they did a fine job.)

The ecstasy of monkey (I)

I never thought it would happen to me! I was just sitting there on the mountain, on the lookout for peanuts or old fruit, when...

February 25, 2008

It is not entirely accurate to say that I have been up to my old tricks, for among the tricks were new ones, such as the publication of a goddam book. I have never done that before, and now that my author copies have arrived, it is delightful to see words that I have written in print. The book is a travel guide to the entire city of Chicago; I covered the north side and most of the west, and shared duties on the center of town. It was written with another fellow whose talents complemented my own, under contract to a publisher overseas. The idea was for us to write a book, and then post more or less the entire thing online for people to collaborate upon in wiki-form; whereupon we, as editors, will incorporate any quality submissions received into the text of the book, which is printed on demand whenever someone orders it, ensuring that it is ruthlessly current.

The publishers received some coverage on the blogs last week, most notably on boingboing, where a commenter named JOE had this to say:

"Their Chicago guide is 468 pages? That's not a travel guide, that's a travel novel. You'd spend the majority of your trip reading the beast."

Damn right! Thanks, guy.

This kid will rule the world

So that's what I did with the latter half of 2007, and also the first month of 2008. It was a lot of work, but I am pleased with the finished product. I did rather a lot of writing, of course, and plenty of walking around to find things and telephone calls to confirm other things; two of my photos adorn the cover, and there are a few more scattered throughout the book in black and white. Rogers Park receives an entire chapter, and although travel literature is a form simply not equipped to capture the sweet, savage nature of the old stomping grounds, I did enjoy the chance to write about my ancestral land in guidebook form.

You can buy a copy of my book here; and I leave you with that.

(Obviously, I haven't written an entry for quite a long time. Both my day job and the aforementioned travel guide require sentences that do not wander too far into the labyrinth of alarm and excitement and halfway state that is the mark of my usual prose, so it is kind of enjoyable to stretch out with all of these clauses.)

October 24, 2007

Certain promises were made with regard to an update of this here website. My thoughts are not yet gathered, though. Books line my shelves but plastic frogs and capsule hotel boxers clutter my featherweight desk, and also my concentration. (The new apartment has a lovely meditative sunroom, but it's dark as I write these words, and I do not yet have a bulb for the eagle lamp I bought from the Salvation Army. An eagle lamp is to a sunroom like a floor is to the rest of the apartment: really a fine thing to have.)

I will gather my thoughts in time, though; all is well. Cheeta's masterpiece is away, being framed by experts. I am in agreement with my cats about the cool autumnal air.

June 1, 2005

They're almost finished building a new porch outside of my apartment, and although I won't know for sure until I'm out there, it looks like it's going to be more or less identical to the old one. Was I foolish to hope for something new? Triumphal arches, flying buttresses? Give me a fucking gargoyle, at least. I've never been clear on why things are ever built without gargoyles. Pretty much all I have to ward off evil is a plush gorilla on a shelf. It does all right, but still.

(If I was head of the city building commission, I would have a big red stamp that said "Get yourself some gargoyles or go back to your lego set, chump", and many architects would feel its wrath. Everyone says that Frank Lloyd Wright was so great, but how much better would the Prairie-style have been if he'd been forced to come up with gargoyles to fit with it? Far better, actually. I've seen that alternate universe and it rocks the pants off ours.)

(news) An Iraqi soldier died from poisoning and nine others were in critical condition after they ate free watermelon handed out at a checkpoint in northern Iraq, police said Wednesday. "A vendor offered a poisoned watermelon on Monday to Iraqi soldiers manning checkpoints between Shorgat and Kiyara," said police Colonel Fares Mahdi. "One soldier died and nine others who were rushed to the hospital are in critical condition."

I'm not sure I want to live in a world where you can't eat free watermelon given to you by complete strangers. I don't know if I've made my desire to be fired into outer space explicit, so let me go ahead and do that now. Can a weblog serve as a living will? How pissed off do you have to be to poison a watermelon? According to this, Iran sends 70% of its watermelons to Iraq. And that's to say nothing of this guy, the four-time greased watermelon champ of Wisconsin, who was killed in a roadside bombing in February. I keep thinking about the square watermelons in Japan, and I wonder how I'm going to make it through this summer.

But! You know this publication too well to think I would end an entry on a note of despair. Like everyone else, I was surprised when Deep Throat turned out to be some old guy. That really turned my head around about what old people can accomplish, and I'm optimistic that we'll start to see a more "can-do" attitude from our nation's millions of idle oldsters. I mean, look at this guy! He's old as dirt! Have you ever seen anyone that old? It's time for the rest of the elderly to get up and get the remote themselves.

However! I bring news of an alarming nature as well. We hoped this day would never come, that they would never fall into the hands of a rogue nation, but recent reports confirm that North Korea has command of long-range tactical insults, as shown by their explosive use of "balderdash" in an article about something or other. Furthermore, according to the Korean Central News Agency, we are getting absolutely destroyed on the battlefield of rhetoric. Apparently, we haven't managed to put forth a single plan that hasn't been assailed, rebuked, refuted, or come under fire. Worrisome, that. Now this is where I come in. Do you think I could single-handedly win a war of rhetoric with North Korea? Remember, we only won Vietnam when Rambo went in by himself, free of the chain of command and all of that other nonsense. My suggestion is this: hire me at once. Evidently, this is the eternal sun of humankind we're dealing with here. Well, I am a blackbelt in the English language. I will take him apart. The man will barely qualify as a night-light when I'm through with him. Put me in, coach! Just don't make me spend all day in these damn offices any more.

May 13, 2005

Another job for which I am better qualified than the man who currently holds it is the job of CTA President. Residents of the city of Chicago know that our public transportation system is teetering on the verge of collapse, and the minions of Kruesi claim that jacking fares to $3 while cutting service is the only way to save it. I, on the other hand, am possessed of wide, staring eyes and a strong urge to fly, and I have insights that the minions do not. For example, one way for the CTA to save a lot of money would be to cut down on the number of guys in green vests wandering aimlessly back and forth at the Division subway stop. Prior to this week, there was already a surplus of those guys, and now their number has doubled. The only thing they do that can be construed as work-related is getting out of the train's way when it finally creeps into the station.

Now, lest someone sneer and call me a consultant, let me clarify that I am not proposing layoffs. Workers are valuable assets, but they must be deployed correctly. These men should not be fired; clearly, they are well-versed in the art of bamboozlement, because they get paid to wander around in green vests, and their bosses think it's a good thing. They are experts in techniques that the CTA can use to get out of paying its debts. Put them in a room with, say, this month's electricity bill and a telephone. They know the weaknesses of middle management; they they know how to deal with that shit.

Kruesi is a weak little man who instead chooses to whinge about the state legislature.

(news) COVINGTON, La. -- Officials captured 47 monkeys that had escaped from the Tulane Primate Center, but six remained on the loose Tuesday and seemed to be hiding out in a heavily wooded area near the site. The monkeys escaped Monday evening. Officials said the monkeys got loose because a cage was not locked properly. The monkeys had observed how the cage was opened and closed and apparently used that knowledge to their advantage.

Mike Aertker, spokesman for the Primate Center, said the monkeys were being used solely for breeding purposes, and had not been subjected to experiments of any kind. Aertker said the monkeys are not aggressive and pose no threat to people.

The interesting thing is, when given a choice, 38 of the monkeys who were recaptured by the breeding facility chose to listen to Pinkerton.

Following up on my last entry, Arden, our remote correspondent, reported that Letterman had a bit on Tuesday night where he and Paul Schaffer tried to guess whether paintings were by an ape or an artist. According to Arden, the one by the ape was "quite a good painting". Frankly, when an ape paints well, I think he or she deserves some credit. The critics who derided Congo's exhibition in 1957 probably did so from a position of defending art; to admit that an ape could paint well would, they feared, open some kind of fissure beneath the integrity of modern abstract art, revealing it as a con along the lines of all those lame jokes and commercials where aesthetes mistake a common object for a masterpiece and shower it with pseudo art-speak. But it wouldn't. Some people paint better than others, and some monkeys paint better than others, too. Congo happened to be a fucking good painter. As the article said:

He painted within the boundaries of the sheet of paper and never allowed the paint to spill over the edge. He also appeared to know when he had finished a painting: He refused to pick up his brush or pencil over the work.

Could any monkey with a paint-brush produce great art? Of course not. I strongly doubt that this monkey's work would be anything other than an empty exercise in form, and this monkey probably lacks the discipline to go beyond surface assumptions about his relationship with his art. But, for fuck's sake, if you gave this monkey a canvas, he would come back to you with some fucking intense reflections about where he's been and what he's seen. And you can't tell me this monkey doesn't know some shit about life.

It seems to be raining very hard right now. But, seriously, if anyone thought that would prevent me from hitting all the locations on my carefully-drawn map for the first day of Free Frosty Weekend, they are fools. I guess I should take this opportunity to thank the crazy chili finger woman for her diligent efforts towards embarassing a corporate monolith into giving me a free lunch. If someone could get Pizza Hut to do the same, that would be great, because I don't feel like cooking tonight.

May 4, 2005

Some readers may have reached the perfectly reasonable conclusion that my kidney stones were fatal, or that they caused an explosion in my urinary tract whose shockwaves led to my arms to falling off, and that my insurance had not yet agreed to cover new, robot arms, forcing me to spend several months trying to peck out an entry of typical length using a stick held between my teeth. Really, though, all that the kidney stones did was usher in an era of discontent in which I slept face down on the couch a lot and avoided my computer. Pissing into a funnel will do funny things to a man's state of mind. When I started feeling communicative again, I put together this new design and then became distracted by the Bulls' playoff run. (I added the link to the Bulls usenet group to the sidebar so that people could see what I was up to and decide if they would like to lobby their local paper to hire me as a sportswriter. I find that Chicago is beset by crappy sports columnists. The beat writers are all pretty good, but the columnists are vile men who believe in nothing and would rescue their hair-care products from a hotel fire before they'd help an orphan who just needed to know where the stairs are. Except Sam Smith. As far as he's concerned, the mustache combs the paper keeps sending over can get fucked, and so can the orphans, too.)

It takes weird things to spur me to write. I'm not very busy at work right now, so I focus most of my energy on throwing notes to the neighboring cubicle and making viciously disparaging remarks about the warrior spirit of the Washington Wizards to whoever is willing to listen. But just a moment ago, as I went through another round of obsessively checking websites that might have been updated, I noticed there was a new photo up on Yahoo's news page for the Lynndie England trial. That in and of itself was not remarkable, because they've been running that as the lead story all day, but here's what caught my attention: in the morning, they showed her arriving for the hearing clutching a Pepsi can in an oddly conspicuous manner. (The mind is trained to think of Abu Ghraib endorsement deals, but the fingers know better than to bother typing them.) In the afternoon, however, after the judge had ruled a mistrial, the photos showed her walking out of the courtroom with a similarly conspicuous can of Dr. Pepper.

1. Why did she switch? Did someone pressure her into it? Who wanted her caffeinated and why?
2. Did she brush her teeth? Does she even know what guzzling soda all day will do to your teeth? What kind of a dental plan does the army have, anyway? And are you still eligible for the dental plan if you are photographed messing around with prisoners' genitals?
3. Does the experience of having your guilty plea overturned cause one to subconsciously desire prunes? Can this be cross-referenced with others who have had their guilty pleas overturned?
4. One book about the Kennedy assassination claims that Lee Harvey Oswald was a "habitual" Dr. Pepper drinker, but that he bought a Coke right after he left the book depository. The anomaly has been explained variously as nervousness and as the vending machine being out of Dr. Pepper.
5. I could take that Atkins fucker in a fight if he wasn't already dead.

Hopefully the media will pursue this line of questioning and we should have some answers early next week. (Or, alternatively, the media could ask why none of the officers who ordered these hicks to torture prisoners will face any kind of discipline other than a firm and decisive promotion.)

(The mind is trained to generate a cheap movie reference joke involving Mountain Dew: Code Red. The fingers know better than to type it.)

I had to go over to the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital yesterday for the initial visit in a study I'm participating in. Basically, you agree to stop eating tomatoes for a month or so and then you get paid. I will miss the pizza, but otherwise I am willing to accept those terms. I paid off all of my credit card debt while I was in Japan, and then I ran it right back up by spending a month in Russia and then being unemployed until right before Christmas. It was frustrating, but it will give me a lot to talk about with Yakov Smirnoff next time I'm in Branson, so I know I made the right decision in the end. But for now, I am trying to get back out of debt as quickly as possible. I've heard all about responsible financial planning, but that shit is too slow. So is laundering money for Nigerian bank officials who have discovered an account belonging to a German man who died in a car crash, leaving no relatives to claim his $3.4 million dollars. (Seriously, have you ever tried it? It takes months!) I want to get out of debt now, now, now. I headed over to the hospital after work, listening to a recently-acquired copy of the audio-book of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" on the way - it didn't occur to me how stupid that was until I noticed that I had pulled into a parking garage at fifty miles per hour - and then let the doctors run me through various paces. I told Dr. Wu that I had been living in Japan and he tried to sign me to China as a free agent. I told him I'd think it over. First I have to get paid.

I will try to return to this web-page more often in the days to come.

March 11, 2005

So, I have kidney stones, and I've had them for damn near a week, and I've got Slade's "Here It Is Merry Christmas" all cued up for when the bastards finally pass. This is a fairly incontrovertible sign of age, I guess. In those quizzes about how old you really are, admitting to kidney stones immediately sets the base to 50. I'm thinking if I could take one of the judges to go to a monkey park with me, I might be able to negotiate that down to 40, but if they take a close look at my diet, they're going to declare me legally dead and call it a day. I have to keep away from those quizzes.

I don't have a problem with every sign of aging. I thought I found a grey hair in December and I got all excited, but I couldn't find it again when I tried to show it to someone. I assumed there would be more to follow, giving me a distinguished salt-and-pepper look and, with it, increased credibility for my schemes. As it turns out, however, that was merely the first signal that my body has decided to launch a full-scale campaign of betrayal. Does it really think it can win this battle? Too-mortal flesh, I will fucking transcend you. Alas, for the moment, I am out of pills for these kidney stones, and disinclined to pay for another bottle. I don't even know what those pills were doing anyway.

One thing that I should mention is that the Frank Lloyd Wright house in Rogers Park sold this week. So that's good news. I did not manage to submit my bid for the house before the auction was over. My idea was to attach retro-rockets to the sides of the house and use it as a space-ship. I don't know if that would have been acceptable. Still, everyone seemed happy with the results of the auction. This Frank Diliberto character clearly knows his business; I have an old shoe that I would like for him to market as a condo, and I think that he could do it. If we brought the same reporter out to do a story, it might look something like this:

Frank Lloyd Wright House M. Heiden's Shoe Is No Easy Sell
By Don Babwin, Associated Press Writer by M. Heiden

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

After several months on the market, a 1915 Frank Lloyd Wright house 2003 M. Heiden shoe 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 Heiden shoe sold at auction in Cincinnati was left in a dumpster in the alley for only about $400,000 free.

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

But the hard sell on Wright houses Heiden shoes runs deeper than their historical lack of appeal.

First, owners often can't remodel or even paint the homes the shoes without permission from some government official being crazy.

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 shoe is really intended to stay that house be an expensive condo," said Frank Diliberto, senior vice president of Inland Real Estate Auction, which is handling the sale.

Then, there's the way trips Wright Heiden laid out wore his Prairie-style homes basketball shoes on and their size how they smelled afterward — usually on the small stank side.

"His philosophy was different," he said.

In the Emil Bach house Heiden shoe, the kitchen foot-space is bigger than in most Wright homes shoes, said Inland Real Estate spokesman Darryl Cater. Still, he said, "Frank Lloyd Wright some Malaysian child designed kitchens this shoe for servants for basketball players."

Some of Wright's early homes Heiden's shoes also have developed expensive structural problems, such as sagging roofs visible toes.

The biggest problem greatest asset the Emil Bach House Heiden shoe might have is its location.

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

If the home the shoe were in were taken to Oak Park, a Chicago suburb with a large concentration of Wright homes, it would have sold for about $2.1 million be near a house that sold for about $2.1 million, said Ken Goldberg, a real estate agent who tried to sell the house shoe for months before Inland Real Estate stepped in.

"Nobody pays that in East Rogers Park lives in a shoe," he said of the house shoe. It sold two years ago for $1 million $75.

But Inland's Diliberto says the neighborhood fact that it is a shoe won't dissuade people who want to own one of just 380 two Wright houses Heiden shoes in the United States. The company has heard from prospective buyers across the country.

"This," Diliberto said, "is a chance to buy a piece of history."


I can't believe I just wrote that. Jesus, what will be the third entry in this strange trilogy?

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 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.

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 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.

October 27, 2003 How long does a bicycle have to sit in the river before it's considered public property? I am one of the few in this land without a bicycle to call his own. (I had a borrowed one before, but one of my housemates loaned it out to a shady character who returned it all fucked up, which is another reason to pass legislation against shady characters.) There are so many bikes here that they're nearly disposable, and people keep telling me just to take one that looks abandoned, but I've seen The Bicycle Thief, and I can't take that risk. However, since Wednesday morning, a nice-looking silver bike has been lying on its side in the Takase-gawa, a river / canal / lengthy puddle near my house, and no one has touched it. The Takase, rarely more than an inch deep, is about eight feet below street level, so the bike clearly wasn't parked there deliberately. Hopefully, there are some Italian neo-realist film experts reading this web-page who can help me determine at what point it becomes unreasonable to speculate that a poor, honest worker may have pawned the family linen for the bike and left it in the river while he hangs some movie posters nearby. I mean, it's been at least five days.

Tonight is Game 7 of the Nippon Series. The Hanshin Tigers, hapless perennial losers, are trying to cap their dream year with a championship. They lost the first two games, won the next three, and lost last night. No matter what happens tonight, Osaka is going to explode. (Some of my students, upper-middle class types, named the Tigers' home stadium the most dangerous place in Japan, simply because of the lunatic fans.) I have noticed that they win when I wear my Tigers t-shirt, so I am going to do my part by wearing it today, even though it really ought to be washed. Japanese baseball fervor can match any city in America. A number of serious financial publications have credited the Tigers' success with the recent signs of recovery for the Japanese economy (since the last time the Tigers were any good was 1985, in the midst of the "Bubble Era" in Japan). The Tigers even have a curse of their own that's every bit as good as (if not better than) the stupid goat in Chicago or the Bambino in Boston.

Several people are walking around the neighborhood right now, chanting in long, deep tones. It is 8:50am.
Outside is Japan.


I am having a spirited discussion with Takahiro, a high-level student, about medical care in countries around the world, comparing the insurance schemes of the United States, Japan, England and Canada. I note that one drawback to the sexy Canadian system, as told to me by an actual Canadian, is that doctors' salaries are capped by the government payouts, and according to the Canadian, a lot of the good doctors are moving to the U.S., where the real money is. (I have no idea whether that is true or not. I am certain, however, that my source was, in fact, from Canada.) Takahiro becomes interested in the issue of doctors' motivations for becoming doctors, whether pure altruism is a relevant consideration in the present age. We mull it over. Takahiro makes this observation about the current generation of Japanese doctors:

TAKAHIRO: Some of them are a little bit crazy. There have been some scandals recently.
TEACHER: What kind of scandals?
TAKAHIRO (excited): There was a very crazy doctor in Tokyo recently. It was a big scandal. I read it in the newspaper. He was saying to provide medical care for many patients. But actually he did experiments on them!
TEACHER: He did?
TAKAHIRO (in horror): Yes! He used his patient as a kind of marmot !!
TEACHER (after a long pause): I'm sorry, what?
TAKAHIRO: As a marmot! For his experiments!
TEACHER: Do you mean a guinea pig?

I gave him a level-up recommendation because of that. As a teacher, I tend to reward brilliant mistakes more often than mediocre successes. I asked Yoshiaki, the gravel-voiced, hard-living tennis coach, about his recent vacation trip to Okinawa. His eyes lit up. "I met the manta," he said. He'd gone scuba-diving, apparently, and seen a manta ray. I cheered and gave him a level-up recommendation. However, I merely winced when Masako, the elderly housewife, delcared that, after a stressful week, "I relieved myself this weekend".

I've been meaning to photograph this for quite some time. This is a popular pizza chain in the Kyoto area. I haven't tried their pizza, so I don't know if they're any good. But I do know one thing. Chicago, this is you:

Come on, Chicago. Don't deny it. That is you. (Especially you, Gianni Cutri.) Japanese pizza delivery places deserve credit for their cool delivery scooter-bikes. The pizzas go in the hatch in the back (visible on the right bike), and there's a roof for some reason, but it's on two wheels, so they can park on the sidewalk if they like. I haven't had any pizza here, as it's rather expensive and bound to be a disappointment. I miss it quite a lot, though. I haven't decided whether my first meal upon return to the U.S.A. will be a fucking gooey deep dish pizza or a mad blowout at a Mexican restaurant. All I know for sure is that you people in Chicago are in the mob and you wear striped suits with hats so quit pretending you don't.

Here is a threat:

They're serious. They will sticky about their favorite things. God help me, I've seen them do it.


1. 99 yen is roughly equivalent to one dollar, at least in conceptual terms. (The actual exchange rate is more along the lines of 110 yen to one dollar. This raises the interesting point that, in theory, we should be able to exchange 50 Cent for a Japanese rapper named 55 Yen.) There are several '99 Yen' stores throughout Kyoto. Unlike their American counterparts, the Dollar Stores, 99 Yen shops are full of useful items. They carry every manner of food and non-alcoholic drink, and although the dairy section should be avoided, it's really quite a good value in most respects. The other items on sale vary from store to store. My friend Nora reported seeing a vibrator at one; I did not doubt her for a moment. That all items within the store are priced at 99 yen is a moral absolute for these stores, a religiously-held founding principle from which they never, ever stray. It's strange to walk around a store where you can afford everything. One grows accustomed to approaching purchasing decisions through the schema of hierarchical price structures. At 99 Yen, though, all things are equal. Thankfully, their cookies are kind of shitty, or else I'd never buy real food.

2. Although the physical plant of the 99 Yen shop is roughly equivalent to just under half that of a Walgreens or Osco in America, there are five distinct music 'zones' within the store. The area near the cash registers is reserved for upbeat pop hits, while the strip at the back of the store, where pasta and canned foods are kept, broadcasts adult contemporary ballads. The two thin lanes on the left are silent, but the large center aisle alternates between two long jingles, "(Honky-Tonk Love Theme From) 99 Yen" and "99 (Girl On The Verge of a Funky Breakbeat Mix)". The former is in the style of Sonny and Cher, and the latter is a recording of a woman experiencing the Biblical Rapture while chanting the number 99. (The names are my own. You can trust me, though. I know of what I speak.) The side entrance and the front half of the far-right produce aisle feature a jaunty, cheerful march that would not be out of place in Bridge on the River Kwai. I spent a bit of time trying to locate the sonic no-man's-land, the point at which the maximum number of jingles converged into one. Surprisingly, the best I could do was to get the high notes (Honky Tonk Love Theme From) 99 Yen" to bleed meekly into the march.

3. Tight-Arse is a student at our school who only attends the Voice Room. It's a lounge where students can go -- at a lower cost than actual classes -- and participate in open discussions with other students and one teacher per class period. If a student is lucky, there might be no other students present, and he'll get the equivalent of a man-to-man 'class' with the teacher for a fraction of the price. (The teacher will be annoyed at him and is unlikely to teach him much, if anything, but value is achieved.) Tight-Arse, a salaryman in his late twenties, has been dubbed as such for a number of reasons, chief among which are his plans for his upcoming wedding: hire his friends as photographers and honeymoon in Osaka (30 minutes away on the train). Recently, he told me about the guilt he feels for buying most of his groceries at the 99 Yen Shop. (He buys his dinner at a normal grocery store every night, always waiting until that day's lunch food -- sushi, sandwiches, etc -- is marked down 20% right before the store closes. But he buys everything else at the 99 Yen Shop.) He wonders if he is doing the economy great injury by saving so much money. He also noted that his fiancee seems much happier when she is eating food that comes from fancy packaging (on instances when his mother buys food for him). He said that he did not plan to change, but he wanted my advice as to whether he should be feeling shame at the cash register. I pointed out that anyone who was there to cast shame upon him must also be guilty of savings, as they too were shopping at 99 Yen. He seemed pleased. Probably I should have encouraged him in the shame direction. I told him that it was fine to shop there now, but he better not do it when he has children.

4. In normal grocery stores, it's unnecessary but not deeply problematic when the cashier calls out the price of every item as he or she scans it. But I don't understand why the 99 Yen Shop does it, let alone why they do it with triple the fervor that anyone else does. Everything in the store costs 99 yen, from things that cost more than twice as much elsewhere to things that actually cost much less than 99 yen in other stores. Nothing is ever "on sale" for less than 99 yen. If the it is present in the store, then by definition it costs 99 Yen. And so, if the only possible price is 99 yen, why must the cashiers shriek out the price ("KYU-ju-kyu no kaiten" -- literally, "you purchased this item for 99") as they scan every single item in the purchase? They never, ever let an item pass without shrieking its price. (And 'shriek' is the word for it.) Does Japanese people appreciate this service? Gaijin certainly don't; some days, the sheer dread of it is enough to make me shop at another store. The repetition can't be good for the workers' mental health, either. If I worked there for a week, I'd bug out every time I saw the number nine for the next several months. (Perhaps that's how triskadekaphobia gets started.) One of my students works at one of the major department stores, standing by the escalator and yelling for people to come to his floor (women's lingerie). He says that his boss considers escalator-yellers to be absolutely critical for sales success, and he was in disbelief when I told him that not only do we not have escalator-yellers in the United States, but such people would actually hurt sales more than they'd help. I quickly changed the topic to the success of his favorite baseball team before feelings were hurt.

5. I think that the majority of Westerners would not expect the Japanese to be as into potato salad as they are. My students never mention potato salad when discussing their favorite foods, but it must be intensely popular, because 99 Yen and its competitors always have hundreds of potato-salad lunch packs ready for sale in the morning, and there are never more than a few left in the evening. I never liked potato salad as a child, thinking it a bizarre misuse of potatoes that were clearly meant to be mashed, but I never viewed it in the same way that I did the Satanic abomination of macaroni salad. (Why would you do that to macaroni? God damn, it still gives me chills.) I was starving one winter in college, and my friend Jenny Carroll gave me a huge vat of potato salad that she had made for her ROTC Christmas party. For reasons that were never made clear, the ROTC hadn't eaten any of it. So I lived on potato salad until the next semester's student loans came in, and now I'm down with it. One of my former housemates made potato salad for our Fourth of July party over the summer, and it was very good, so I traded CD-burning for more potato salad a few weeks later. Japanese potato salad is thin, less chunky than most American varieties. But it's okay.

Let me give fair warning that the next entry will be the most powerful in the history of this web-page.

May 6, 2003

I went to Wisconsin for the weekend. I am now back in Chicago, aimlessly stacking things near my luggage and making the occasional trip over to the Japanese consulate, just a few blocks away, right next to the Museum of Contemporary Art. With my apartment lease now expired, I am living in my mother's penthouse downtown, always a curious transition no matter where I'm coming from. I never know what to do about the doormen. I really prefer to open my own doors, but it seems kind of vicious to disregard the only thing they are being paid to do. They always get up from their chairs before I can open the door myself, so it would be a shithead move to wave them off when they're already on their feet, but then I have to wait for several seconds until they reach the door, seconds in which, as an able-bodied human being, I ought to be opening the door for myself. It's all very awkward, and I am tired of hearing about the suffering of Iraqi children when I am made to endure such things.

Last week was quite busy. Tuesday was my last day at work. Because he gave me a bonus check, I allowed the rabbi to recast our mutual history as one of shared prosperity and joy in various reminisces public and private. My replacement at the job is an excellent fellow who stands as good a chance as anyone at succeeding in the job. He was beginning to look quite overwhelmed by the time I left on Tuesday, but that will happen to you around the time you encounter the seventh alternate spelling of Hanukkah and begin to wonder if you're responsible for knowing which fits which context. My only concern is that I'm not sure if he has the ruthless streak that allowed me to handle those situations (immediately ceasing all work until someone comes by to explain it to me, or simply writing I DON'T KNOW, THIS WAS SECRETLY WRITTEN BY A GENTILE instead of the word). But they certainly did reduce me to a formula in the hiring process, because they chose another non-religious white kid with a Germanic last name and a background in literature from a state school. So I hope it works out for everyone. I keep meaning to call over there to find out how things are going, but then I keep not doing it.

The exit interview was tame. The HR director pre-emptively announced that the rabbi was a pain in the ass and that I'd done a splendid job with him, and also that my replacement was making $4000 less than I started at, so they'd prefer if I didn't mention that to him. (Did I fuck! Homey don't play no conspiracies of silence.)

The day was chock full of poignant moments. The rabbi announced that he'd be taking me to lunch, and then he didn't. He implied that my replacement would be far easier to deal with than me, and later he whispered that he wasn't sure if my replacement "was all there" and wanted reassurance. People with whom I had no relationship whatsoever began chatting with me about the trip to Japan as if we were old friends. They did the same thing when I grew a beard. Then, I replied with some of the most powerful set of blank stares yet unleashed within city limits. This time, I just shrugged and agreed that, yes, it was pretty exciting. (I mean, it is.) Several people requested that I speak some Japanese for them. I don't know any, but rather than take the time to explain that the job doesn't call for me to speak the language, I got in the habit of stringing together the few words I know, like dorobo saru no kansai, and claiming that I'd complimented them on their clothing, when in fact, I was referring to a thief monkey belonging to the region south of Tokyo. They tended to think it was great. I do what I can. The rabbi announced that if I ever got into legal trouble, I could call him and he'd help me out. (Everyone thinks I am always on the verge of trouble. Four people contacted me to make sure I behaved during the exit interview.) He thanked me for two and a half years of remarkable service and said that, from a substantive perspective, I was the best help he'd ever had during his thirty years in Jewish communal service. In truth, I was only there for one and a half years. As for the other statement, I will allow it to stand on its own. I hope things go well for my replacement. He really seemed like a great guy.

As I walked out of the building, people kept coming up to me and telling me what an amazing job I'd done handling the rabbi, and how I was the best they'd ever seen at it. It was all very surreal.

There were no such poignant goodbyes on my way out of THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ, although they made their peace in ways traditional to the neighborhood, such as double-parking alongside the moving van (thereby blocking the entire street), continuing to holler at each other at all hours (yelling through windows: the original cell-phone), and, perhaps sweetest of all, making off with my toaster. I left it on a box near the dumpster because I wasn't planning to keep it, and sure enough, the toaster was gone less than an hour later. God bless Rogers Park.

And so, as I sit here in my mother's place downtown eating applesauce, writing out in the dining room because all of the other phone jacks are blocked by bookcases, I am led to reflect upon the time, many years ago, as an angry young boy, I spooned a bunch of applesauce into one of my stepfather's books, closed it real fast and replaced it on the bookshelf. It was never mentioned. Has he not opened that book in the seventeen years since that act of guerilla vengeance? I don't even remember which one it was.

I leave on May 19 for San Francisco and May 21 for Osaka.

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'.

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.

January 6, 2003 Did you know that wombanization is synonymous with 'feminization' and does not, in fact, refer to the conversion of a person, place or thing into a wombat-like state? What a crock of shit.

I want to take a 'sick day', as I have enough hours on my timesheet to do so, but a minor problem delays me: I have gift-certificate-purchased packages arriving from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com, and if I am not here when they arrive, the rabbi will assume they are his, open them, become bewildered, and do whatever makes the least sense at that point in time. I don't care what the Torah says: that guy is no good.

(news) Chicago seems to have shrugged off the dubious title of "Murder Capital of the Nation"--with Los Angeles posting about a dozen more killings through the final days of 2002.

Yes, but it still leads the rest of the nation by a significant margin in an equally dubious category, suckers who owe me five dollars. In fact, Chicago outpaces most other metropolitan areas by such a distance - with the only significant challenge coming from Champaign-Urbana, where the per capita owe-five-dollars rate is even higher - as to make comparisons basically irrelevant. For fuck's sake, Chicago. Why must you underachieve?

December 10, 2002 Last night, I was unnecessarily terse with a hobo who wanted to know what I was reading. Even at the time, I knew I was making a mistake. How often do you get a chance to chat with a hobo about the Jazz Age? But I wasn't much talkative, and rather absorbed in the narrative, so I brushed him off and he disembarked at the very next stop. This morning, there was some bad craziness between two hoboes on opposite sides of the train car, one of whom was babbling like a demon and the other of whom was chanting at him like a shaman.

December 4, 2002 The recent fall of snow has brought about a welcome detente in the fierce battle between the local College Socialists and the erstwhile residents of THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ, a half-block territory that lies between my apartment and the train station. The dispute began over display rights on a choice lightpole inside THE LAND and has escalated into full-scale passive aggression. The College Socialists, who seem to have identified the side entrance of the Morse el station in Chicago as the key to worldwide economic overhaul, hold frequent demonstrations and newspaper sales there whenever weather conditions are more or less favorable. Then, when the evening rush dies down, they plaster the area with flyers for their upcoming meetings about Israel, George W. Bush and whatever else happens to be on their minds. Lately, the possibilty of war with Iraq has ratcheted their energy to new levels, leading them to widen the geographic reach of their flyers. That, unfortunately, is where the conflict comes in. As long-time readers know, THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ is a half-block territory where apartment windows are always open for yelling back and forth, hoods of cars are outdoor couches, and at the corner laundromat, chillin' and the occasional threat come in first whereas laundry ain't even top ten. People know they are in the LAND because they see the lightpole that proudly bears its name. The lightpole serves as a valuable community meeting-place, where residents can share information on how tough they are and who has done them wrong. Needless to say, its loyalists did not take kindly to the first College Socialists flyer that appeared there, denouncing Bush as a war criminal. Someone wrote 'FUCK Y' on it, and someone else tore off the middle, untaped half of the flyer. Amateur observers might wonder if the DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ lean rightwards in their political ideology, but I knew the answer had more to do with the fact that the flyer obscured the bejeweled crown that someone had drawn on the lightpole. The College Socialists are a plucky bunch, though, and they kept up with the flyers. Retaliation spread beyond the half-block LAND, and soon, someone was making a point of tearing through every flyer in a two-block radius. It was swift and decisive. As soon as a flyer went up, it was torn through. The Socialists offered what could be perceived as an olive branch with flyers for a seminar entitled "Why Are There More Black Men In Prison Than In College", but that did nothing to ease the anger they unleashed. The College Socialists are not much for inclement weather, so they have not been around since the first snowfall last week. We who are caught in the middle can only hope that calmer heads prevail when spring arrives.

(email) I feel obligated to notify you of a recent Manute Bol reference on the visionary interior decorating program "While You Were Out" (The Learning Channel, 5pm EST, M-F). Upon the alteration of a divan, the host remarks, "Why is it so long? It looks like Manute Bol's cot!" Although I found it a little insulting that she would assume Manute sleeps on a cot - true he has been through a few rough years, but with the Celebrety Boxing appearance and all I would hope that he could afford a specially and finely tailored bed - I was nonetheless excited by the reference and glad to see that he is getting some much-deserved exposure.

People I know have mostly grown accustomed to my endless musings about the suitability of furniture for Manute Bol (or Wilt Chamberlain, if I was trying to establish a frame of reference about how tall Manute is). It's just such an intriguing question. Beds, in particular, are a major part of Manute's inexplicable mystique. Where does a 7'7" shot-blocking giant sleep? I am only 6'3", and I didn't have a bed that fit me until I was 23. Other, less selfless tall men such as Georghe Muresan and Andre the Giant could spend their professional earnings on custom sleepware, but Manute gives all of his money to war-relief in his native Sudan, making one wonder how the poor guy ever gets a decent night's sleep. I have wondered aloud about this many times, and have been told by ex-girlfriends to stop talking about Manute Bol in bed many times, but I remain without an answer. I used to be similarly stumped about how he ever got a decent shower, but I did eventually work that one out.

November 26, 2002 If your ex-girlfriend leaves a lot of tea at your apartment, and you are a student of history, and as an artist you are interested in the deliberate miscontextualization of dominant symbols and memes, and your ex-girlfriend lives down the lakefront from you, if that is the situation, is it mature and appropriate to re-enact the Boston Tea Party with that tea? My instinct is 'yes', but I thought I would ask.

With the first major snowfall of the season, holiday lights are up around town. In years past, the early appearance of Christmas decorations was mocked as a symbol of encroaching commercialism, but this year, as with 2001, I get the feeling that people have just had a shitty year and want to fall into the embrace of the holidays as soon as possible. The threat of war and the torrid, cynical decline in economic security has worn us out, as has the law passed by the Bush administration that every American over the age of 16 must be involved in the production of at least one (1) baby per ten month period and must then feed that baby to members of the Bush administration for undisclosed reasons relating to 'national security' and keep the law a secret from the rest of the world. Those, among other things, take a lot out of you. This year has worn me out.

But although people may be tired, monkeys have reason to celebrate. In Lopburi, Thailand, it is once again that special time of year known as monkey buffet fair:

In the words of Eumporn Jirigalwisul, regional tourism director for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, "it's like we have many, many friends." Other benefits, spiritual and tangible, accrue to the town. Spiritually, the monkeys offer the citizens of Lopburi wonderful opportunities to tum boon (make merit). According to Thai beliefs, donating food to the monkeys is a perfect way to accrue good karma. Judging from the hundreds of healthy monkeys scampering about, Lopburi residents are assured places in the highest levels of Buddhist heaven. As business grew, Yongyuth decided 11 years ago to show his gratitude and make merit by sponsoring an annual monkey feast. Employing three tonnes of food, four chefs, 30 food bearers, and 25 traditional Thai dancers, the monkey feast has grown into Lopburi's most lavish and photogenic spectacle. As spectators watched from the ground and monkeys watched from high up on the ruins, the town's high school students marched to the temple carrying brightly coloured banners. When the magic moment arrived, the single giant plate was unveiled to reveal a bounty of brightly coloured fruits arranged in enticing patterns around a centre of flavoured rice. The Thai dancers danced, the photographers photographed, and the monkeys seemed unsure of what to make of it all.

Photographs of monkeys chowing down at this year's buffet fair can be found here, here and here. The entire article above is, of course, tremendously important reading (and splendidly written, at that). A religion in which salvation is earned by feeding monkeys makes so much sense. I am aggrieved at how I was raised and I am now ready to declare the existence of an anti-monkey conspiracy at the highest levels of the world government based on the fact that a perfectly viable system of belief exists in Thailand and instead we are carrying on with this Jesus shit.

I am looking for trouble.

While the total amount of food was the same as the previous year, a single table is more symbolic of the continuing economic difficulties in Thailand. Another factor is monkey psychology. Tourism director Ms Eumporn notes that with smaller tables, larger monkeys take ownership of an entire table, refusing to share even though the table has more food than they can possibly eat. "Just like humans," she says, with a sigh.

Be careful, monkeys. Don't get mixed up in evolution. There is a downside to what we do.

If you have ever had a bullshit fatwa called against you, you can surely relate to this:

(news) "What we are saying is that the Holy Koran has clearly stated that whoever insults the Prophet of Islam, Mohammad, should be killed," Zamfara State Commissioner for Information Umar Dangaladima Magaji told Reuters. Asked to clarify the government's pronouncement, Magaji said the state had "passed a fatwa. It is based on the request of the people," he said, adding that this did not contradict the authority of Islamic clerics who have the powers to decree death sentences. "Being a leader you can pass a fatwa," Magaji said.

Can you call a fatwa on people who call flimsy fatwas? Because Magaji is flailing about for a fatwa worse than anyone I've ever seen. "Being a leader you can pass a fatwa", indeed. Raise your hand if you're buying into Magaji's ability to pass a fatwa. Because I'm not. You can't just blow right by the clerics, shithead. Being a guy who writes on a webpage you can pass a fatwa, that's what I say. Fatwa on you, Magaji. See how you like it.

One positive to ending a long-term relationship is that I can go back to my previous plan for what to do if I turn 25 and don't really having anything going on, which is to rob a bank and either make off with the money or get sent to jail and have some quiet time, write some memoirs or perhaps join the Nation of Islam. This, I think, is as flawless a plan as has ever been developed.

As I write this, I hear an imbecile across the way calling someone else a 'stinkerpot', and I wonder if I made a mistake blowing my fatwa on Magaji.

October 18, 2002 On my way to work, I passed a parked car with a bumper sticker that read


And I had to marvel at the way certain things look better in Spanish.

September 30, 2002 I am tired of scaffolding! And people whose stereo headphones tell them that they have a bootycall, when in fact they are just another guy, riding the train to work.

May 24, 2002 I have a new coping strategy for job stress: I changed all my computer passwords to obscenities. It helps. The job could very well be worse. The traffic hasn't been terrible today. I hate answering phones, though, and I am constantly being asked questions by easily-angered, senile old people that I cannot answer. I do what I can:

1. Transfer to voicemail;
2. Deny all knowledge.

The new union contracts were delivered today. Inexplicably, I have to belong to a union to have this job. I feel guilty being annoyed about the dues, admiring the early American labor movement as I do. So, I just shake my head and go along with it.

The Ombudsman has a surprise waiting for him when he comes back. I FOUND YOUR COOKIES, SUCKER!

Synchronicity strikes. This morning, for no apparent reason, the CTA ran three trains right after each other. I saw the first two from the street and just barely arrived for the third. Naturally, it was nearly empty. A nervous guy boarded with me and headed to the other end of the car. There was only one passenger already present, a guy about my age, in standard unconventional idea-havin' wear (olive army jacket, patches, scruffy pants). He looked furtive. I noticed that the window next to me had large, swooping symbols carved into it. The nature of the glass was such that remnants hung down like string. The symbols didn't seem to follow any pattern, just standard, ugly tags. I started reading my book. I heard a scratching sound coming from the guy's direction, but couldn't see any source. I went back to my book. A short while later, I noticed him stand up and head to the doors, and the same sound ensued. He was scratching on the door windows, too. He gave a quick look around to see if anyone was watching him, and I rolled my eyes. He finished his work, and then he spoke:

- Does graffiti hurt you?

I was reading, and it took a moment to register that he was talking to me. I looked up, and the nervous guy was watching us, terrified.

- What?
- I said, does graffiti hurt you?
- Nope. Never seen someone do it in person.
- You shook your head.
- Yeah, because I think it's kind of dumb.
- It's better than doing drugs. It's better than being in a gang.
- Sure, if you're working in some paradigm where you have to choose one of the three.

The train stopped and the doors opened. He spoke as he exited.

- It's an escape route.

I noticed as he walked away that his front bottom teeth were badly aligned.

After he was gone, I noticed that almost the entire train car had been carved up. There was no design or idea behind it. I like watching for creative graffiti, especially in hard-to-reach places. But this just made the train car look like shit. I came up with a good line about the distinction between art and dogs peeing on trees, but he was gone, and the guy had a sharp object, anyway.

May 23, 2002 (late) Risks of the business: It's really irritating to try to recreate an entry that was accidentally erased. In this case, the hasty first draft got uploaded instead of the finished product. Curses.

I brought my camera to work this week in order to catch a favorite piece of graffiti on film. It was written in black marker on the upper left-hand corner of a sheet of grey-painted plywood, part of the scaffolding for a building which is no longer there. Unadorned, but with tangible excitement, it read:


It was just nice to see at the end of every work day. I don't know how they managed to achieve what they did right in that spot, because it's not especially conducive. But they did, and they did it the American way. The graffiti was there for at least six months, outlasting union posters and spray-paint alike. The fact that it lasted so long implied something slightly wonderful about the passers-by, that they were choosing to react to the loopy joy that it offered instead of the lazy condemnation as obscene. Well, you can guess where this story is going. The day I brought my camera was the day someone painted over it. Seb and Marie's democratic, truth and justice, red white and blue sex on a street corner was like a butterfly, torn apart by the attempt to preserve it. So it goes. Seb, Marie, thanks for letting me know.

May 9, 2002 Various ogres stand against me.

I have a show tomorrow at the ImprovOlympic, for the second week. It's an event called the Cagematch. Two groups perform, and then the audience votes upon which one was better. The winner comes back the next week. We won by a healthy margin, having earned the adoration of the several dozen prom kids up front, but this will be our last week, because, after several years running, the Cagematch is being retired from the theater. (Something or other to do with someone throwing a chair a few weeks ago.) Unfortunate timing on our parts, but so it goes. I am still refining my pre-show rituals. The night before every sketch comedy show in college, for example, I watched The Big Lebowski. It was bad luck if I didn't. (Although I think I always did.) Before plays I directed, I always listened to the Rushmore soundtrack, but only the instrumentals. I feel that a new era should have new rituals, but I didn't have anything much for this show (or the two History Channel films), other than dozing off on the couch, which was not deliberate, and lacks that certain Rosicrucian something.

I've thought about acupuncture, but I can't take that risk right now, what with the ogres standing against me and all.

(music review) Perhaps When I Was Cruel's sweetest punch is that, at 47, Costello sounds pretty much exactly as he did at 27. Unlike Dylan, Springsteen, Wilson, or (Tom) Waits-- or, god knows, Lou Reed-- he hasn't had to compromise his music to fit his aging pipes.

Yeah, Tom Waits used to be able to hit those high gargling-a-dead-frog notes, but now his voice is wrecked, as opposed to how it was before, and that one song where he tries to apologize for having peed on the rug last night is really compromised by his pipes not being what they used to be.


TOMMY is playing with his toys. He is a small boy, wearing overalls and an orange t-shirt. TOMMY's MOTHER enters, with RONNIE in tow. RONNIE is also a small boy.

TOMMY'S MOTHER: Tommy, this is Ronnie. He is your new playmate.
TOMMY: I do not want a playmate. I want to have all the toys for myself.
TOMMY'S MOTHER: But games are better when there is another person.
TOMMY: That is where you are wrong. I will not share my toys with this Ronnie.
TOMMY'S MOTHER: Ronnie is a nice boy. You are only five years old. I am your mother. You will do what I say.

TOMMY'S MOTHER exits. TOMMY begins playing with his toys.

RONNIE: May I play also? I have an idea for a scenario with the army figurines.
TOMMY: No. These are my toys, and I alone am entitled to play with them.

TOMMY'S MOTHER returns with milk and cookies. She is angry to see that RONNIE is not being allowed to play.

TOMMY'S MOTHER: Tommy, will you never learn?
TOMMY: I stand by my principles. The toys are mine, and therefore solely for my usage.
TOMMY'S MOTHER: Perhaps you will learn a lesson if I take away all of your toys. Now no one can play.
TOMMY: No! But a child must have toys. A young boy of my age, five years old, will grow restless without toys.
TOMMY'S MOTHER: That is how Ronnie feels when you will not share.
TOMMY: I reject that analogy.

TOMMY'S MOTHER takes away all of TOMMY's toys and exits.

TOMMY: Now what am I to do? I am unrepentant, but I have no toys, and I grow restless.
RONNIE: Would you like to share my toys?
TOMMY: How is this! You have toys?
RONNIE: Yes. I will share them with you.
TOMMY: This is an act of kindness. I decline to reconsider my position regarding my own toys, but I will play with yours.
RONNIE: I see. Well, here are my toys.

RONNIE pulls out his toys. They are trolls, with knives!

TOMMY: Aah! Trolls, with knives!

The trolls, with knives, stab TOMMY many times.

TOMMY: With my dying breath, I admit the error of my ways.

TOMMY dies.


Fucking train driver. You saw me on the platform and you pulled away anyway. Well, here come some passengers who are trolls, with knives. Chew on that, shit head.

May 7, 2002 Last Wednesday, standing on the street corner opposite my office, there was a tall, somewhat dirty man in a trench coat shouting "Home entertainment!" and handing out pamphlets. He lost interest as I walked by. That's when I knew that day was fucked.

The rabbi came in to work on Monday over the objections of his wife. Everyone was mad at me because he wouldn't use a wheelchair and insisted on hopping around with his walker. They must have felt I wasn't selling him on the virtues of the wheelchair. It wasn't my fault. I can't talk that guy into anything. He kept telling anyone who'd listen that he broke his leg playing football for the Los Angeles Raiders. I told him that the Raiders weren't in Los Angeles any more, so he switched his story to the New York Giants. By Tuesday, he had careened over to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I guess I do wield some influence.

Anyone who has read this webpage for any length of time will have noticed that I am really only interested in six or seven things, which are duly alternated to create the illusion of a diverse range of subject material. Former XFL star He Hate Me is, of course, one of those things. While most of the nation noticed He Hate Me during the one weekend that anyone took notice of the XFL early last year, laughed, and moved on, I remain committed, like Baudrillard's slightly retarded pool boy, to the notion that He Hate Me represents the key to a vital, unspoken question about American life and cultural materialism. It was an important development when he was signed by an actual professional football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and that turn in the saga has proven to be rife with data; however, it meant that He Hate Me himself, Rod Smart, would no longer be wearing the "He Hate Me" jersey, because real football teams make the players use their actual names as identifiers. (And let me tell you, a hundred pages in the book will be devoted to his identity transition from "He Hate Me" to "Smart".) The mantle has fallen, and it is much like the flag falling on a battlefield, in that, for some damn reason, someone has to go pick the flag back up and wave it around some more. When, as time passed, it became obvious that no one else was going to carry the mantle, I decided to do it myself, and began a long, frustrating search for a He Hate Me jersey to wear around all the time. I have not found that jersey. But the important work continues.

Las Vegas Life: Most Intriguing People 2001 "The league said we could put whatever name we want on the back of our jersey. Right then, I was like, ‘I'm going to do something different.' I said, ‘They hate me, so, He Hate Me. I'll put that on my jersey.' The league didn't approve of it when they first saw it. I guess when they saw the word ‘hate' they thought it was something negative, but I explained to them it was from me and towards the defender, towards anybody against me. When I go out there, my opponent hates me, and if he doesn't, he will, because I will always beat him. So I had to break it down to them."

At the moment, I am angry because we do not have Photoshop on our computers at work, and I want to make old Manute Bol trading cards look like plate drawings from "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". I have all of these important projects, and no one will leave me alone to work on them. It's always Judaism this, Israel that.


RICHARD is sitting in his office. On his desk are pictures of young children, but they are dusty, and they are overshadowed by file folders. It is closing-time. TODD enters.

TODD: Richard, it's closing time.
RICHARD: Not for me. I am going to work.
TODD: But you have finished all of your projects.
RICHARD: Yes, I have. But I am going to get more projects.
TODD: Will you never see your family?
RICHARD: My family can wait. I must impress the bigwigs.
TODD: But the only projects left involve trolls, with knives!
RICHARD: I will do those projects! The bigwigs will be impressed.

TODD exits. RICHARD surveys his desk.

RICHARD: He was right. I am all out of projects. But I will go to the room where I can get some more.

RICHARD rises and goes to the room where there are more projects. It is dark. He turns on the light and closes the door. Inside, there are projects, yes...but there are also trolls, with knives!

RICHARD: Aah! Trolls, with knives!

The trolls, with knives, stab him many times.

RICHARD: Shit! I was wrong to choose professional ambition over family!

He dies. The trolls, with knives, exit stage right.


Charlie was a big city reporter who'd do anything to break a big story, no matter the consequences. But he was about to learn that some stories, especially ones about trolls, with knives, carry a deadly byline...

April 29, 2002 My work situation has again become dodgy. The rabbi will be gone for two months or more, unable to walk and having various fluids pumped into him, and while he does phone in some writing assignments, I do not have what is considered a 'full' workload. At Beelzetron, I was allowed to go for 50 billable hours at a time without activity, but they must think it's bad for morale for me to be playing like that around here. So, without consulting me, the rabbi told people that I can be rented out, and the only other things that go on around here involve answering phones, typing labels and stuffing envelopes. Sorry. I have listened to way too much Public Enemy to be cool with that.

I was flipping through television channels this weekend during one of my occasional fits of not wanting to have anything to do with my computer, and some station was broadcasting an NFL Europe football game. The players looked helpless and disoriented, like modern man.

(news) A controversial computer reconstruction of a 36,000-year-old Neanderthal skull has revealed that the individual was violently bashed with some sort of tool. But the wound was not fatal and shows signs of healing, say the authors of the study who also suggest that the individual was nursed back to health. But not all anthropologists agree with [Project Leader Dr. Christopher] Zollikofer's interpretation. Tim White, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, vehemently disagrees with Zollikofer's findings. "The paper does not provide convincing evidence that this is a healed head wound," writes White in an e-mail. "Arguments of 'lesion' depth are made based on a drawing, but the conclusions are not even supported by the drawing. The Zollikofer paper is a perfect example of what I describe there—a physical anthropology driven by arm-waving, hi-tech, and headlines, rather than by critical analysis. These guys are creative but not critical," says White, adding that the bone lesion could just as easily have been caused by a bump on the head.

Methinks anthropologist Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, protests too much. Seems he's raising quite the hullabaloo to sell the press on a bump to the head. What, exactly, scares him about this dead neanderthal? Does Tim White have an alibi for where he was during the Châtelperronian period? I'll lay a bet right now that all the razzmatazz is cover for the fact that Tim White is capable of using tools, just like the one that took an innocent neanderthal to his end, and he'd like to keep that a secret.

Ah, I never even managed to get that sinister monkey at the zoo convicted (011209), and I never figured out who the Monkey Man in India was (0105). I am a shitty detective. Tell me you love me.

I was happy that Wilco chose those two buildings for the cover of their latest album, because, growing up in Chicago, those particular buildings represented a certain state of mind for me, and based on the contents of the album, it is nice to know that someone else feels the same.

I stayed home all night on Friday because I felt like I hadn't been spending enough time with my cats. Man, I'll tell you about punk rock.

It rained on Saturday.

March 25, 2002 And, on top of everything else, they cut down the fucking trees in front of my apartment. Most have been uprooted and taken away, and the others have had their branches burned off and will probably be removed in time. I really liked those trees. Most of the branches weren't strong enough to support squirrels' weight, but squirrels would try anyway, and my cats liked watching it. The trees in the fall at night with the pale orange courtyard lamps was what drew me to rent there. You can't just go in and take out the trees and act like it's the same place. That has to be a violation of the lease. God damn it. It seriously looks like the end of "Full Metal Jacket" out there.

It's snowing today. I want to go outside and use my new lomo for snow by the lake. By the time I get home from work, feces will probably be falling from the sky instead of snow, and I do not wish to take photographs of that.


1. That Dismemberment Plan is a good plan. They play the hits.
2. Long-time friends got engaged. They are cute together.
3. Got to see the Journey arcade game. It's from 1983. They digitized the heads of the members of Journey and put them on tiny bodies, and then each band member has to go to a different planet to recover his instrument. The piano player's level is really hard. Tinkling MIDI versions of many Journey hits run while you play, such as "Who's Crying Now" when you die.
4. Have not had to wait long for trains.
5. Cats like the tree thing I bought for them.
6. Food has tasted good.
7. Have time off coming up.
8. Made out onstage twice on Saturday. Hottest action since the Clinton era.
9. Slurpee made my tongue blue.


1. Fucking cold.
2. Guy I knew in high school died. His name was Pete.
3. Held up at gunpoint.
4. Oscars crap as usual.
5. Have to listen to idiots talk about Oscars. "I won't see movies with that Russell Crowe. He hates America. Show some gratitude!" "(hushed tone) Denzel just won because he's black."
6. No access to money for a few more days while I wait for new cards to arrive. Only have a dollar.
7. Friends' favorite basketball team lost.
8. Long-standing sore throat.
9. Hottest action since the Clinton era was had onstage.

It's an oddity in my perception - or perhaps it's not unusual - that, on an instinctive level, I think of these things (the trees, the gun) not as the acts of lone individuals or small groups, but as the consensus decision of the world, arrived at through due democratic process. For the first few days after I was mugged, I felt as though everyone was looking at me strangely, wondering what I was doing out again, as if I didn't get the message.


Civility has failed. The police have failed. Batman has failed. My shit is being taken by unauthorized motherfuckers with guns. Here, then, are methods by which we can frustrate muggers to a point at which the consequences of their work will outweigh the benefits, and they will stop.

1. Carry a second wallet as a ringer. This wallet can be given to the mugger instead of the primary wallet, which will have money, IDs and such. The second wallet will be empty, save a piece of paper where the money would be, which will say "Sucker." Hence, nothing of value will be lost.

POSSIBLE DRAWBACK: The mugger opens the wallet while victim is nearby and takes offense to the insult, reacting irrationally.

2. Carry a second identity as a ringer. This is somewhat more complex to assemble but solves the problem posed by the first solution. The second identity should have its own identification cards and money, but it should be Canadian money, forcing the mugger to go all the way up to Canada if he wants to use it. Also, the second identity should be that of a very sad man, so the mugger is stuck with the existential emptiness, which will come as an unpleasant surprise, seeing as how he was expecting money.

POSSIBLE DRAWBACK: Frantic, the victim mistakenly switches the wallets. Now the victim is the sad man, and must go all the way up to Canada even if he only wants to buy some gum.

3. Carry a fierce bear as a ringer. The drawbacks and practical difficulties of this strategy are numerous, but its upside is too great to be dismissed.

(news) Forward Eddie Robinson, who has been sidelined with a sore big left toe, got cleared to play. The point became moot when Robinson, who has appeared in just 23 games, succumbed to bad fast-food chicken and food poisoning and didn't dress.

He succumbed? Do not go gently into that good night, forward Eddie Robinson. Rage, rage against the bad fast-food chicken.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away


And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my 180, ye Mighty, and despair!
Shit! I am a powerful bowler."

Then, instead of yammering on about sand and decay, the observer would say, shit, that king was a good bowler. I've only ever bowled a 150. Boy, you can extrapolate a lot about the grandeur of his kingdom from the words on this pedestal.

March 21, 2002 So: I got mugged last night. Gunpoint and everything. Right there in THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ. Man. I thought I was down with those guys. I was walking home from the train a little after midnight, thinking about a book I've been reading about a family who are shocked by a death of someone close to them, and how awkward grief can be, and I was trying to remember how I'd acted during the two situations in my life when someone close to me died. If I hadn't been trying to improvise the eulogy I never delivered for a friend who died years ago, I probably would have had better composure when the guy in the ski mask leaped out of the alley and jabbed the barrel of a gun into my stomach. But, you know, maybe not. I don't even remember what he said. I just remember thinking that he seemed to be more interested in killing me than anything else. I said, "Shit!" Then I gave him my wallet, hoping he would prefer that to shooting me. He told me to run. I did, although it was more of a lope, because I was too distracted to run. I heard him go back into the alley, laughing. I was about halfway down the block when everything finally registered, and then I nearly lost it. I spun around so fast I almost fell down and I said, "I'll tell you a joke", and I started looking for a weapon. But there was nothing, and I could no longer hear him laughing, and people walked by, and suddely my anger was without anchor, everything looking quiet and normal again, so I hit the wall, and I trembled, and then I went home to make all the necessary calls.

I only had five dollars in my wallet. I'd spent the rest of a twenty dollar bill bowling. But there were all the standard ID cards, which are annoying to replace, and a brand new $75 CTA monthly pass. And my grocery store cards. That guy is probably saving big on the fresh values at Jewel with my damn grocery cards. It should be me who is saving big. Me.

I have a slight pain in my stomach from where he hit me with the gun. My right hand hurts a little from the wall, but that's my own fault.

It's things like this that really make you question your belief in Batman.

March 19, 2002 Here is the bio that was used to announce the news of my hiring in the quarterly RabbiTech newsletter:

M. Heiden, Assistant Judaic Scholar in the Centennial Campaign, is a many of many artistic interests. He has acted in A&E productions, plays bass guitar, studied silent film, learned "improv" with the Second City ensemble, and can tap dance! He also chaired a radio station's programming committee. While with (Burblemeister Consulting), he was on the team to re-brand the firm as (Beelzetron).

Oh, fucking blame me for that, why don't you.

I have important news about geography. Long-time readers will remember that, a couple months ago, I noticed that one of the light poles a half-block from my apartment had been designated as one of the boundary points of THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ. Of course, without a corresponding boundary, the information was more confusing than anything else - which end of the LAND was did it denote? The far east, or the far west? Well, there is a newspaper box about four feet from that light pole, and I am happy to note that someone designated that newspaper box THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE HARD NIGGAZ. Now we have a better idea of where the BONE HARD territory is: either in the four feet between the light pole and the newspaper box, which would be rather small, seeing as how they say they'e double and all, or all the area going in the other direction from the light pole, setting those four feet up as disputed territory, a no man's land, a veritable West Bank for the DOUBLE HARD and the DOUBLE BONE HARD.

Man, whenever I walk by that corner, it's just guys hanging out on the stoop of a laundromat yelling to people in windows upstairs. You wouldn't know from looking at them.

I converted the spare room in my apartment into a study. All of my bookshelves are in there. I try to make a point of going in there from time to time and considering issues. It's nice. The cat litter used to be in there, so they wander in, get confused and leave. For me, however, it is a place for clarity of thought.

Here is a place for your thoughts. I made a poll for you:



Either way, I respect your privacy.

March 5, 2002 Another birthday present received from a generous benefactor, after several months of my yapping about it, and it has already had a profound effect on my perspective. The present sat on my desk for a couple days after I received it, and then I came in from the snow late on Saturday night, saw it, felt the adequate heat from the radiators, and decided, shit, I need to establish a scholarly context in which that present can be considered. I need a study in my apartment. I had been planning to move when my lease was up in May, out of boredom mostly, but my current apartment has a spare room that I never use, and I have decided to stay in my current apartment and begin to base my operations out of the study, which I will set up in the spare room, and when my new lease expires in 2003, I should have some real answers about the shattering questions posed by the birthday present.

There has been a lot of work to do lately. I have been trying to convey to the rabbi in clear and constructive ways that my attitude becomes bad when I have to do more than a certain amount of work, which can be measured as 'some' or 'any', depending on conditions at equilibrium. But these men of religion do not seem to understand my science.

Falling asleep with my contacts in always fucks up my dreams. Last night, I dreamed that I was walking through a grove with strange, fantastic architecture, like melted conical Louis Sullivan buildings. They were inhabited by a small group of dwarves, who interrupted their picnic to have their savage dog try to steal my nose. Upon escaping, I was roped into performing an improv show for a bunch of pirates in Alaska who got angry if you called them pirates. Later, I dreamed that I read a nasty review of one of my old plays ("Monks in Trouble") by a post-modernist fireman who wrote in the style of the Chicago Reader's film critic, Jonathan Rosenbaum, a shithead of some renown. The fireman was angry that there weren't any firemen in the play and thought that I was implying something about firemen by leaving them out. I went to his office to talk with him about it, and he made fun of me. I was happy to wake up when I finally did.

This is the one-year anniversary of my having had a nasty case of chapped lips, having spent two full days doing nothing but wandering around London by myself in the cold, and, oddly enough, my lips are fiercely chapped again from having walked to the hockey game, though not silently this time, as we were yelling for the hell of it. Free tickets were given in fairly random fashion at a party. Crazy. Aw, let's make out anyway.

January 23, 2002

There have been some complaints recently that my fighting prowess is scaring white America. I thought that it might be good to use today's entry to talk about some of my faults, calming everyone down a bit. Once I started writing, though, I realized that the list could do with some nice fonts and pictures and samples of dialogue from old science fiction movies, so this webpage isn't really the place for it. Therefore, if white America would like a copy of the list, it should send me a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I will be happy to mail it to them free of charge. Okay. I am very helpful.

Here is the substance of a highly effective anti-drug PSA:

(news) The alpha male in a group of monkeys gets the best banana, doesn't have to fight--and is less likely than subordinate monkeys to use cocaine, scientists have observed. Dr. Michael Nader of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and colleagues found that animals who became dominant after moving from solitary housing to social housing showed changes in brain chesmistry that made them less likely to use drugs.

I am among those who believe that shitty PSAs are the major, hidden culprit in causing drug use among our nation's children. The only person I can speak for is myself, of course, but playing the 'alpha male' card would have totally sold a young, impressionable me on the virtues of a drug-free lifestyle. (I don't use drugs anyway, but that has more to do with the necessities of my fighting prowess than communication received from society on the point.) They could show a weak-ass beta male snorting coke and then getting his ass beat because he couldn't smell the stench of the alpha male's urine on a favored tree, for example. All they have to do is illustrate that something truly valuable, a shot at the alpha male-ship, is at stake. ("Cool" and "your life" are too abstract to have any real sway, but alpha-hood? Shit.) This idea could potentially save millions of lives, and if even half of those lives buy me a milkshake, it will have all been worth it.

Possibly the best part of that study is the fact that the lead researcher's last name was Nader, which allows the reader to imagine the yearly updates at the Nader family reunions. What have you been up to, Ralph? Ran for president, lost, wrote a book. And you, Michael? Got a bunch of monkeys hooked on crack. Well, bravo, kids. Bravo.

I have a problem with some of the graffiti in my neighborhood. On a light pole at the corner of the block that lies between my apartment and the train station, someone wrote - in clear, block letters - WELCOME 2 THE LAND OF THE DOUBLE BONE HARD NIGGAZ. Okay, fine. Good to know where I am. But there is no corresponding boundary marker for the other end of the land. I have looked quite carefully, and I cannot find the opposite border. Look, guys, one marker does not a territory make. I have no idea whether I'm on my way out or on my way into the land of the double bone hard niggaz when I walk past that light pole. For all I know, my apartment could be smack dab in the middle of the land of the double bone hard niggaz, and, as a resident, I think I ought to know that sort of thing. Do we have a national anthem? How do we feel about the cops? I have no idea. I am sick and tired of this lazy map-making. Amerigo Vespucci would never have tolerated such sloppy work. The double bone hard niggaz need to hire a qualified cartographer and set some proper borders. And that's that.

I figure they read my webpage every day, so this is a good way to communicate.

Here is a play for three women:

The WOMEN stand near an author's cubicle, talking as he is trying to work.

WOMAN: I read the sad article about the little boy.
WOMAN: I haven't read it yet.
WOMAN: I left the magazine in California.


January 10, 2002

After serious consideration, I have settled upon a resolution for this year. My plan is to win the Comeback Motherfucker of the Year Award. All but seven votes will go to me, which will be a record for margin of victory. I will accept the award, and I will place it in the arms of the gorilla I received for Christmas. The doubters will say, "Damn." I will sip a milkshake.

Until then, though, I am legally required to be sad. And so it goes. I'm working, so I won't have to try so hard. I have a job. I write long essays and letters for a rabbi. He's a great guy. He gives me notes, and I try to make them into something. Frequently, I construct entire paragraphs that I find completely incomprehensible. The job, while interesting, is having a serious effect on how I react to language. I can form sparkling passages of prose without knowing what any of it means. I think that's how James Joyce happened. So I have to watch out for that.

In the morning, I find it hard to wake up until I know I am supposed to have left. I spend a lot of time listening to "The Lindbergh Suite" from The Royal Tenenbaums. I have been doing well as far as eating potatoes goes. I don't think Cornel West should get fucked, like the old guys behind me on the train did. I dress better than I used to. My hair cooperates. I don't have any money, but I will. I am not sure if I enjoy any of the goals I have set out for myself. Writing is still the only thing that lets me relax, and I am still terrified every time I think about doing it, because I am scared that I will discover I'm not any good at it any more. I drink mostly water. I still don't get enough sleep at night, and I stay up late wishing I did. I still like the rattling noises that my radiators make. I have found new and vivid reasons to find every member of my family disturbing. I want to go somewhere, but I can't. I wish I was still in college, not because being a student was easier, but because I think now I'd actually enjoy the classes I took. I still don't enjoy talking about myself very much. I am still in exile. They still haven't fixed my apartment's buzzer. I don't have much going on these days.

The rabbi thinks I am very smart and likes me very much, but he gives me a lot of shit for not having any religion. I hum "Welcome to the Terrordome" whenever he gets on my nerves.

So, we in Chicago are robbed of snow. If I wanted a mild winter, I'd live in fucking Florida. I do not want a mild winter. I want snow all over everything, several feet of it, so deep I can't see anything except streetlights and my front door. I want to fall into snowdrifts at night.

RabbiCo offered me health insurance along with my paychecks, which was nice. That kicks in at the start of March. God damn. I am an intellectual mercenary.

Arden, who would be expected to respond if I were to call out, "Where my dawgs at?", sent along the valuable information that Dave Thomas was a Freemason. The good news is that his Freemasonry makes it somewhat more likely that his intentions regarding the preservation of the Frosty - if, in fact, he did have any intentions - will be respected, because the Freemasons get their way. The bad news is that his Freemasonry also makes it somewhat more likely that his head will, in fact, be grafted to a giant lizard body. And, for some reason, I feel certain that a giant lizard Dave Thomas would come with a biological imperative to wreck all my stuff.

Next time I do not have enough money for a Frosty, I am going to go into a Wendy's, hold out my hands, palms open, and ask, "Will nobody help the widow's son?" If he was a Freemason, that should get me a free Frosty.

Dispatches From the Tenth Circle
The Onion

A worthy successor to the monumental Our Dumb Century. Although this one is another hits collection, it follows Our Dumb Century in using crafty design to fill every available bit of space with content, and excellent content it is. For me, having a new Onion collection at hand doubles the length of any given trip to the bathroom, but that's okay. I am that much better a person for the time spent.

Incidentally, it is a dream of mine for Our Dumb Century to assume its rightful place as a school textbook by the time I have children.

December 9, 2001

I read the news every day, searching far and wide for stories that are overlooked or underserved by the mainstream media and require the attention of a news outlet such as this one. I read a lot of stories, good and bad. Most are filed away for reference, and a select few are used on this web page. Every once in a while, though, a story comes along that chills me to the bone. It is my responsibility as a reporter to face these grim incidents with objectivity and clarity. This, unfortunately, is one of those times. Material contained in update may not be suitable for younger readers. Parents, please be advised. (1)


Monday, December 3 was a day like any other in the primate house at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois. Gorillas trumbled, orangutans lolled, bonobos wanked -- and chimps swung, leaped, played their part in the grand pageant of life. There were six chimpanzees in that primate house: two males, M'Chawi and Keo, and four females, Donna, June, Vicky and Kibali. Most of them were older apes, save M'Chawi and Kibali, who were both in the prime of their lives. M'Chawi was the resident alpha male. He lived above the rim, as it were. On that morning, like so many others, any lucky visitors in the early morning would have been delighted by the sight of the magnificent M'Chawi on the upper monkey bars.

None of those visitors could know, though, the secrets that lay within that primate house. M'Chawi's was not a democratic alpha male-ship. From the moment he arrived, he wanted to be the alpha male, and he got his wish...but at what cost? What enemies did he make along the way? Not the females, to be sure. They enjoyed his hot monkey (attention). But questions lingered...

On December 5, 2001, readers of the Chicago Sun-Times received sad news in their morning paper. I was one of those readers. It was not my morning paper; it was someone else's morning paper, and it probably passed through many hands before arriving in mine. It was my afternoon paper. Giving nary a fuck about the other stories, I headed straight for the monkey news. And what I found there shocked me.

(news) M'Chawi, a middle-aged male chimpanzee born at Lincoln Park Zoo in 1978, has died. The chimp collapsed about 11:15 a.m. Monday, during a routine morning with the exhibit's four females and the other male. "It certainly was a shock,'' said Lincoln Park Zoo primate curator Kristen Lukas.

My first reaction to the news was self-centered. That monkey could have been me, I thought. He was born in 1978. So was I. Twenty-three years old? So young...

The 23-year-old, 240-pound chimp had seemed in good health, she said. His family history suggests he might have had a heart attack. Chimps can live into their 40s in captivity, but M'Chawi already outlived his father, Sam, who died at age 19, and his mother, Shauri Jet, who died of cardiac complications when she was 21, zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath said.

Surprising as the death was, the zoo already seemed to have a pat explanation in place. Heart problems. Sam, gone at 19. Good old Sam. But something didn't add up. My grandfather has serious heart problems and I've never had any. Maybe that's what bothered me. Maybe the pieces just fit too easily together. Either way, I didn't buy that an otherwise healthy chimp, an alpha male at that, would suddenly drop dead. You don't fight your way to the top with a ticker that's about to blow. There had to be something else.

I read a little further...and suddenly, it all came back to me.

The chimps were together in the Great Ape House, when M'Chawi, on the upper level, "appeared to get still and got weak'' and collapsed, Lukas said. The other chimps "went up to him and touched him, almost like they were expecting a response.''

M'Chawi had fathered several offspring, but none is now at Lincoln Park.

The remaining male chimp at Lincoln Park, named Keo, is 44.

Keo. Oh, shit. Keo.

Flash back to November 5, 2001:

(news) Keo, the extroverted, swaggering showoff chimpanzee at Lincoln Park Zoo who loved to hoot and scream as he marched in front of the public with his shoulder-rolling, bowlegged gait, has changed. Once loud, he's quiet. Once extravagant, he's deferential. The 43-year-old even looks smaller than he was just four months ago. In short, Keo is now behaving more like a chimp in the wild.

It's a simple numbers game. Before M'Chawi could take over at the top, someone had to move down and make room. Keo was that someone.

That was precisely the zoo's goal when keepers decided to combine their two chimpanzee groups into one. M'Chawi, a big, virile 23-year-old male, and two females, Donna, 36, and June, 34, joined Keo and two other females, Vicky, 37, and her daughter Kibali, 21, in July. The move was difficult for the keepers, who watched uneasily as M'Chawi bloodied Keo to establish his dominance. But the resulting social structure, now quite peaceful, provides zoo visitors with a better picture of how chimps interact under natural conditions.

It isn't easy to let go of alpha status. Clearly, Keo liked the limelight. Before M'Chawi arrived, he was alpha with a capital 'A'. Maybe it went to his head a little bit. A little too much hooting, a little too much shoulder-rolling. Being dethroned had to sting. But how much?

The question wasn't whether they would fight, but rather how badly Keo, a relative shrimp at 135 pounds, would be hurt by M'Chawi, in the prime of his life at a very fit 260 pounds. "This is how chimps do it in the wild," Lukas said. "The competing males fight to the point of drawing blood, but once dominance is established--and usually before someone is killed--peace is made and a sort of social equilibrium takes hold for the entire group."

On July 19, a Thursday, they shut down the ape house, separated Keo and M'Chawi from the females and placed the two males together.

"We expected the worst," Lukas said, "and at first there was a little chasing and nipping, but by early afternoon, Keo was grooming M'Chawi's face with his lips."

The two seemed content and peaceful together until the following Sunday, when, during feeding time, M'Chawi attacked Keo, biting him in the butt and on a forearm with his razor-sharp canine teeth.

"There are a lot of blood vessels in the rump area, so there was a lot of blood," Barbiers said, "but the injuries weren't serious."

M'Chawi bit Keo in the ass? A lot of blood vessels in the rump area, indeed. Anyone who's ever had a big, red, inflammed monkey butt knows that it's fun to show off -- but once your ass takes a bite, it's never quite the same. How are you going to show off a butt with teeth marks? M'Chawi had crossed a line, definitely. And Keo had to be pissed. But Keo was no dummy. He had to have known there was nothing he could do against the larger, stronger ape. Keo got a raw deal, but it was all part of the game. In "Chinatown", Jake can't touch the real bad guys. And in the primate house...

The move was difficult for the keepers, who watched uneasily as M'Chawi bloodied Keo to establish his dominance. But the resulting social structure, now quite peaceful, provides zoo visitors with a better picture of how chimps interact under natural conditions.

Everything, justice included, takes a backseat to the almighty How Chimps Interact Under Natural Conditions. Chimp bit you in the ass? Sorry, pal. Got to look like natural conditions. And nature says he gets away with it.

"What we see is M'Chawi sometimes slaps others on the back hard just to show that he is boss. Then, in the next few minutes or hour, he'll make up by hugging, to show nobody is angry anymore."

Now the other five chimps show their obeisance to M'Chawi daily. The four females literally bow and scrape before him, seeking his approval before they eat or seek a favor from him.

M'Chawi knew how to smile for the cameras, but he had a dark side, all right. He liked to be worshipped. Power went to his head. The future belonged to that monkey. Dig a little further, and check out this nugget:

The merger was also the first step in bringing more attention to the zoo's chimps, which have always had a sort of second-banana status to its world-famous gorilla collection. Next year the chimpanzees will be moved to another zoo so the Great Ape House can be torn down to make way for a much bigger facility. When the new ape house opens in 2005, the zoo believes its chimps may be just as big a draw as the gorillas.

M'Chawi wasn't satisfied with being the alpha male of the chimp section. He wanted it all. He wanted to take his act on the road, and then he wanted to make his triumphant return in 2005, free of competition, and take a shot at the gorillas. M'Chawi wanted to be the number one monkey. All the pieces were in place...

But he forgot about something.

Keo is now much more subdued. He looks like he has shrunk, since his hair now mostly lies flat. "Keo spends a lot of time observing everything the other chimps are doing. You almost see him thinking about how he fits in," Ross said.

Fuck's sake! Who are they talking about there? A monkey...or Iago? Yeah, Keo did some thinking, all right. He did a lot of thinking.

Now, flash forward to the present:

The chimps were together in the Great Ape House, when M'Chawi, on the upper level, "appeared to get still and got weak'' and collapsed, Lukas said. The other chimps "went up to him and touched him, almost like they were expecting a response.''

Donna may have been expecting a response. Vicky and Kibali, too. But not Keo. He knew exactly what happened. Keo knew that it was a little something called murder. He had the motive. He had the smarts. And now, he had what he wanted.

"I think he's probably surprised by all the attention he's getting from the females,'' Lukas said, noting that "when you're not the alpha male,'' you don't get noticed as much. Now, Keo might be promoted.''

So, there you have it. A chimpanzee is dead. Another chimpanzee has what he wanted: one more shot at the big time. The zookeepers were oblivious, thrown off by the 'heart attack' ruse. Keo committed the perfect murder. Oh, sure, M'Chawi was a first-rate bastard. But did he deserve to be murdered in cold blood? Jesus, I don't know. Is the primate house a better place now that M'Chawi's tyranny has come to an end? Does that justify what Keo did? I ache to blow the lid off this whole sordid mess and tell the zookeepers what really happened on December 3rd, but that won't change anything. In the end, I, too, am bound by the damned Natural Conditions rule. My hands are tied.

But I'll tell you what I will do. I will visit the Lincoln Park Zoo this winter. You can come with me, if you want. I will head to the primate house, and I will go to where the chimpanzees are. I will find Keo strutting his stuff, and I will lock eyes with him through the glass. I want him to know that I know what he did. One guy didn't fall for it. No winning streak lasts forever, Keo. And everybody pays up some time.

(1) There are parents reading this webpage? What the fuck?

November 29, 2001

I am now entering the tricky stretch at my current job. I've only been hired to do one project, and I need to squeeze as much time out of it as possible while still making perceptible progress. Meanwhile, I have to turn up the charm angle, hoping on a long shot that they will come to see me as essential to their own happiness and decide that, like a friendly hero pup, there's no way they could ask me to leave. And, like a reluctant werewolf, I have to struggle against turning malicious. Since I was so happy when I got the job, the normal 24 hour waiting period was delayed a bit. Yesterday, though, I caught myself listing George Wendt as the contact person for several venture capital firms. I have no idea why I did that. I don't even remember making the decision to do it.

One of the temp agencies called and asked if they could pee in my eye for ten hours on Monday. I said yes. What else could I do? I need the money.

(news) Two suitcases containing 30 pounds of dynamite were found near downtown Chicago on Sunday afternoon, spurring police to evacuate the area. There was no detonator, and the dynamite did not pose a danger, police spokesman Matthew Jackson said. "It appears it was dropped off there and had been there a while," Jackson said. Local authorities across the United States have been on heightened alert since the Sept. 11 attacks by hijacked airplanes on New York and Washington that killed several thousand people. A homeless person rummaging in the area on State Street just south of downtown found the explosives and flagged down a passing police car, Jackson said. Police bomb and arson specialists cleared the area, halted nearby Chicago Transit Authority rail lines and removed the dynamite, he said.

Homeless people have been all up in my face of late. On Sunday, I was riding one of the aforementioned halted rail lines. We were several miles away from the area with the dynamite, but they stopped the train anyway, and wouldn't even pull into the nearest station to let us off. It wasn't that cool. The pressure started getting to people after a while; one man started muttering and then yelling at people to "keep your secrets to yourself", and just after the train started moving again, he pulled the emergency doors and jumped out.

The thing I like about that article, by the way, is how it implies that the careful handling of the dynamite is a result of the September 11 attacks. It brings to mind an image of carefree times before then, when people would find sacks of dynamite and, instead of calling a bomb squad and evacuating the area, they'd make fake hot dogs with the dynamite and play pranks on each other by saying, hey, free hot dog. Those days are over. Please leave a message at the tone.

Here is the second way that homeless people have been all up in my face: I was in a gas station, buying a snack, and the bus I wanted to ride passed by. It was fucking cold outside, so I didn't want to wait for another one. I grabbed my change and sprinted after the bus, which was by then two blocks ahead of me. I chased it for another two blocks, but we were in a deserted area now and there were no passengers to slow it down; all seemed to be lost when a homeless guy spotted me from a block and a half away and decided to run out in front of the bus in order to stop it for me. I made it. As I boarded, he stepped out from in front of the bus and asked if I had any spare change. I gave him a dollar (1), and then I turned to face the furious bus driver.

I need a fucking fantastic redesign like this. My design skills are only current through 1997 or so, though.

Here is the third way that homeless people have been all up in my face: I was walking down the street by the Thorndale el stop, which is a shitty el stop but was closest to my destination, and a homeless guy was sitting on the sidewalk. He started pointing at me. You!, he said, his expression filled with delight. He grinned and shook his head. Yoooouu! I smiled and waved, having no idea what he was on about, and kept walking. Once I was past, I heard him say to no one in particular: Something's wrong with that white boy.

I watched a program about the silver mines. It's important to remember the contributions that men with fucking huge sideburns made to our country.

(1) Which, factoring in the rest-of-world to me exchange rate, is approximately $67 in my currency.

October 31, 2001

I read something about 2AM being the devil's midnight, so I headed down to the lake to see if I could find anything spooky under the radiant white full moon. During the middle few months of the year, the beach is a family friendly fun zone; in the fall and the winter, though, it gets back to the important business of looking like the surface of the moon. The park district has a big bulldozer that they use to build a large ridge of sand between the sidewalk and the water in order to stress the point that people are not supposed to go down by the water. You can kind of tell from looking at the tracks that they just like to drive the thing around, though, and they're probably not too worked up about the access thing. I outsmarted that sand ridge in no time flat. My spooky finds included a spooky dish scrubber - but no dishes!, a spooky plastic fork - way far away from the scrubber!, a spooky empty bottle of wine - where did the wine go? did a ghost drink it?, and a spooky hubcap. Once upon a time, the devil enchanted lost souls on All Hallows Eve; now, he just leaves his shit lying around.

Tomorrow, I will be appearing in the studio audience for the taping of several episodes of the syndicated daytime television series Judge Mathis. I find strange and ridiculous ways to make money.

October 22, 2001

I have no computer access at work and no window in range of my desk; therefore, the only stimuli that comes my way are the ringing phones and the conversations of co-workers. Having nothing else to do, then, I decided to write a play using only things that people in the office said to each other. As an added stipulation, no consecutive lines from within the same conversation were allowed, and the lines could not be re-arranged. (They appear here in the chronological order that they were spoken, over the course of two hours.) It starts out slowly, but stick with it.

(The setting is a laboratory. A, a brave and noble scientist, and B, a melancholic and remorseful scientist, are taking a break.)

A: I'm going to get that cup of coffee now. Is that okay?
B: He gave me one, too!
A: Oh! Thank you very much.
B: I'm a little early, twenty minutes. Tell him, no hurry.
A: We're just going to leave this here until I can figure out where it goes.
B: It's Monday.
A: Who's that little guy with glasses?
B: There's no answer.
A: I'll put one in for you.
B: Well, I don't have time.
A: I'll put a ticket in now. Oh, you know what? No change.

(The nefarious C enters, menacing B.)

C: I'm taking this lease stuff right here.
B: I don't mind.
C: Light out...where?
B: Would you like voice mail?
C: I have some work for you to do.
B: It's Monday.
C: You look like you're looking for something to do.
B: Just one second...
C: Where's my little stamp-er-ooo?

(B gives a muffled shriek. Lights down. A and B are onstage.)

A: What did you do to your finger?
B: Let me think back now, with my brain here.
A: Did you do any filing at all?
B: You jogged my memory here.
A: Did you make any folders at all?
B: I told Juan 'no'.
A: Where are we going from here?
B: I never had to do this before.
A: What is the problem now?
B: It's John Chesna on the stairwells.
A: What you've done over there, I don't know.
B: His family was there.
A: This feels funny.
B: Out of three bathrooms...
A: Oh, shit.

(Lights down. C and B are onstage.)

C: Slap him upside the head.
B: You're sitting on my papers.
C: It's a little messed up in the boiler room.
B: Oh, this is a bad day.
C: It's Monday.
B: It's Monday.
C: Can I get a letter?


C: I need it now.
B: Go ahead.
C: It is a wonderful life. And it's a wonderful month as well.
B: I have John Chesna...
C: We have another person.
B: Oh.
C: They started today.
B: I wouldn't call this fun-time.
C: That's a shame.
B: All these people...
C: It's Monday.

(Lights down. A and B are onstage.)

A: Would you like to stay in this building?
B: I don't know.
A: That's the thing. You could just go bonkers...
B: I know.
A: I am a mother to four little boys...
B: Five or six...
A: And they encourage you not to...
B: I don't either.
A: That's not what I see.
B: The rush is over.
A: I think I should buy some bran cereal.
B: I'd suggest that.
A: Because if they release it in the air...
B: I'm sorry.
A: I have to go to the bathroom.

(Lights down. B and JOHN CHESNA, a derelict, are onstage.)

JOHN: I'm looking at these pretty women...
B: Hello.
JOHN: Not into those kiddie parties?
B: All right.
JOHN: But they love their Uncle Happenin', though.

(Lights. A and B are onstage.)

A: I have a new list.
B: I'm doing my best...
A: Oh! I bet he's on here now...

(JOHN is revealed.)

JOHN: You shouldn't hurt the one you love.
A: Is that gentleman still here?
B: You're right I, uh...right. That's right. It's too bad that happened that way.
JOHN: Some lingerie or something...
A: I have to go to the bathroom...

(C enters, cackling nefariously.)

C: You didn't even miss me, did you?
A: Hello.
C: It's October. Anything can happen.
A: Gosh. You're funny.
JOHN: I went to a party this weekend...
A: What have you done?
B: I don't know.
A: Is there someone on the other line?
C: Is that enough?

(UNCLE HAPPENIN' emerges. He is everything that his name implies.)

C: It's just the easiest way.
A: No, no, no.
A: Ah.
B: I'm sorry.
UNCLE HAPPENIN': Monday, Monday, Monday.
A: Did you work with him on this?
B: I'm the contact person.
UNCLE HAPPENIN': It's Monday! How do you think I feel?
A: We're done. Done, done, done.
C: Just pop your head in my office...
A: I have to stop saying "good morning"...
A: There's so much left to do.

(A dies. B answers the phone.)

B: Someone just called. It's the entire grain floor.
C: You can take as long a lunch as you like.
B: Thanks.
JOHN: I'll get right on that.
C: Heh, heh, heh.
B: Is this how you wanted it?


C: No!...stalled at the tollbooth.

(C dies.

B: I can go any time.
JOHN: Strictly for the ladies.

(JOHN CHESNA and UNCLE HAPPENIN', momentarily sated, exit.)

B: Come back! Come...back.


You had to figure, in an exercise like that, a diarrhea monster (Uncle Happenin') would get involved at some point.

October 6, 2001

Baby, won't you be my Tet Offensive?

I have been trying to make a point of bowling more often. I believe that bowling is a very important survival skill; as a member of an early human society, though the hunters and gatherers would get all the press, I would be a bowler. I would tell the gatherers to see what they could do about gathering me up a big soft pretzel, and I would go about the work of bowling. I am, admittedly, not a very good bowler. I get rattled easily: whenever a baby shows up, I'm useless. And people are always bringing babies to bowling alleys. What the fuck? That doesn't make any sense. I have found a new bowling alley to call home, the Diversey River Bowl in Chicago, so that's nice. No one brings babies in there. They turn the lights down low and play ludicrous rock hits. That's all I ask.

I bowled poorly during this last time out. The tribe would be pissed at me. I would shake my head and say, who can quote The Big Lebowski as well as I can? Can you, Grog? No, you can not. Grog would shut the fuck up, because he'd realize that I had him there. And I would get back to the business of bowling.

Filming on "Helter Skelter: the Charles Manson Story" takes place over the next two weeks. I will be playing the police officer who stumbles into the crime scene and then later takes a bold position against multiple homicides while interrogating suspects at the police station. I am being fitted for a real uniform, and I have to go study some real police officers. Presumably, they behave differently than I do, so I have to figure out what those differences are and incorporate them into my behavior. I have decided to make my character gay and French. I haven't told the director yet, because he probably won't realize that the film needs wacky comic relief until he actually starts filming it and realizes it's all blood and murder and how are you going to sell that in Kansas City? Also, my character used to be a hairdresser before he joined the force. And he likes to paint. And he's actually Fidel Castro in disguise. The director will be so pleased with all the thought I have put into my character. I will shrug and say, well, that's what I do. I am an actor.

The first few sentences of that paragraph are true, so I've got that going for me, which is nice. And I'm getting paid for the film! Fat cash on a per-day basis, and free meals to boot. Fortunately, nobody told them that I will do more or less anything for a free meal. I appreciate everybody keeping quiet about that.

I have a perfect feedback rating at Half.com, and it occurred to me to wonder why my enemies have not managed to sabotage that yet. My enemies manage to ruin everything else - as I mentioned before, they like to intercept my resume when I apply for jobs and write "FAG" all over it before sending it along - so why have they had no success in their attacks on my e-commerce bidness? The answer is quite simple: fortunately, Half.com rates sellers in numerical form. My enemies buy things from me and keep hitting the 'F' key when they are asked to rate my services, but the system only takes numbers, so they get stuck and curse my name. Again, I appreciate everybody keeping quiet about that.

October 5, 2001

Oof! What a month.

I have a bad habit of turning everything into my own personal Vietnam. Unemployment has become my own personal Vietnam, as was employment before it, and college before that, which is not to mention most of my summer vacations. Whenever I forget to update this webpage for any long period of time, it usually winds up becoming my own personal Vietnam as well. Keeping track of them really wears me out.

Mostly, I have been sitting around. I worked for a couple weeks as a security guard at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and that sucked. Worse than that, it sucked in twelve hour shifts, and at a low rate of pay. The owners of the building felt that it might be a target for terrorist activity, so they called the temp agency and asked for college educated security guards to make a show of how much they cared about safety. One of my co-workers had been yanked out of a job in desktop publishing to be there. On the first day of any given temp job, I am generally cooperative and can be relied upon to get the work done well and on time. By the second day, though, I turn actively malicious. I can't help myself. It used to take as long as an entire week for me to start trying to destroy everything around me, but now it's less than 24 hours. In this case, I was supposed to be checking the IDs of everyone who wanted to enter the building and calling up to their offices to make sure they were supposed to have access. By the second day of the job, I started "remembering" people from some mythical "before" and waving them past without checking; by the fourth day, whenever I was the only guard on duty, I just asked entrants if they were the Mad Bomber and waved them past if they said no. The people usually laughed and assumed that the security guard had a sense of humor, which is of course untrue, as I have never told a joke, ever. I firmly believe that the Mad Bomber's system of ethics would require him to admit to being the Mad Bomber if I asked. As a veteran of many deadly games of cat and mouse, I feel qualified to say that.

I am working on a project, and you are invited to help:

While bowling last week, one of my friends, who is forced to listen to classic rock all day at work, noted that ZEPtember was almost over. ROCKtober, however, was just about to begin. It occurred to me then that every month on the calendar should have a classic rock equivalent, because the monsters of rock are the closest thing we have to Roman emperors, and as the designated bloated empire of the present era, America must impose its crap upon everything. Here, then, is what we have so far:

SANTANuary (January)
ZEPtember (September)
ROCKtober (October)
R.E.O.vember (November)
AC/DCember (December)

PRIESTer (Easter)
RUSH Hashanah (Rosh Hashanah)

Pending Approval
ELTON June (June)
The Fourth of JOURNEY (the Fourth of July)

Rejected Proposals
April FLOYD's Day (April Fool's Day)
MOTORvember (November)

So, if you have submissions, let me know.

It occurred to me, while walking in the rain, that I have no idea where my umbrella came from. I figure it originated with an eight year old Taiwanese boy, but I am completely lost on the stages between, as I have never owned an umbrella of my own until now and I do not know how I came to own this one. So let me just say, if you are reading this webpage and you have been angry all this time that I showed no apparent gratitude for your gift, thank you for the umbrella. It kept the raindrops from my head.

September 16, 2001

I nearly slept through the evacuation. On the day that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, I was late for work, as usual. I was in the middle of a two-week temp assignment at a telecom joint in the Sears Tower. I was having fun. There was free soda and food for the employees, there was no direct supervision, and there were free pinball machines. You can guess, then, how I spent my time. The company laid off a full third of its employees on the day before I started, and one of my favorite pastimes was keeping track of the euphemisms that the remaining employees used to refer to the ones who were gone: the funniest were the people who would meaningfully intone "Yes, he was affected by the layoffs" - presumably, themselves unaffected and resolute - and the creepiest were the people who, with a tentative giggle, would refer to the former employees as "the departed...(giggle) the deceased." They'd always look up for confirmation that I liked the joke. Their heads would arch slightly forward as if representative of their entire venture into risky comedy, their sly metaphorical link between death and unemployment. (I could keep going, but to deconstruct the expression further would constitute brutality.) They'd look at me for confirmation that I liked the joke. What do you want me to say?

I was half-asleep as I entered the building. I remember noticing that the lobby was unusually chaotic, and I remember thinking that these (several hundred) people must be a high-strung tour group or something. In the chaos, I managed to slip past the security guards and make my way to the elevators, somehow oblivious to the fact that I was the only person headed into the building. Once upstairs, I took a roundabout way to my work area - hoping to avoid detection - and, once there, scattered a bunch of papers to make it look as though I'd been working for at least a half-hour. (It was 8:35am.) Then I went back into tardy ninja mode and, still undetected, hid in the executive lounge with a newspaper and a soda. I didn't see a single person on my way, and I chalked that up to exceptional ninja work.

At one point in the blur of that morning, it was being treated as a certainty that the fourth plane - the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania - was headed for the Sears Tower. It made sense at the time; it's the tallest building in the United States, one of the best-known, and architecturally vulnerable in all the same ways as the WTC. There's currently no reason to believe that it was a target, of course, but at the time, the building's management had been informed that they were the third target by someone sufficiently high-ranking as to have them treating it as a fact. I wasn't aware of any of that. As I gradually awoke in this strange place, it finally occurred to me to wonder why there was absolutely no one around. I had some good patter worked up for explaining my presence in the executive lounge, should anyone have asked. I may never have found out that the building had been evacuated - and, honestly, had I not been told, I would probably have just dozed off there for a few hours - had some goofball executive not come racing back into the building for his briefcase.

So that's where I was.

I feel uncomfortably conscious of how badly I wanted that day off from work. I needed the money and couldn't justify calling in sick, but I was tired and I had a lot of writing that I wanted to do. I spent most of the train ride to work scheming for ways to get the day off. That sticks in my head a lot. On the way out of the building, I saw one of the Partnering With Change packets that I'd helped to assemble the day before. I cut two of my fingers while doing it, and I wound up bleeding on the backs of all of the stress worksheets.

On my way home, I stopped at the grocery store to buy milk, bread and veggie burgers. While there, I decided to canvas the delivery guys for their opinions on the day's events. Three out of three felt that immediate military action was called for; one said that "we" should "kill all the bastards", and another added that "we" should "go over there and level the place".

What do you want me to say?

I saw three old ladies playing poker at a bus stop on Thursday. On Friday, I received my first paycheck in four months. On Saturday, a mute man of Arabic descent tried frantically to tell me in sign language that he (point to self) would (point to wood paneling in the train car) fight (machine gun) but (point to butt) he wasn't allowed (shrug) but he (point to self) hated (finger across throat) Osama (trace letters in the air with finger) very much (finger across throat again). The homeless guy behind me kept yelling Hell yeah!, but the mute man wasn't interested in him. He wanted my understanding. I didn't want him to feel like he had to hate to be accepted by me, but I didn't want him to be afraid. I didn't know what to say. I went blank.

July 20, 2001

I will tell you nothing but sweet lies.

(news) For an hour and a half, Chicago's Sewers Department held a pep rally for virtually all of its employees, who flooded the streets afterward with the words of Vince Lombardi dancing in their heads and, ostensibly, newfound resolve to give it up for a dirty, thankless job.

Great, bizarre article that reads like an Onion story. Today's sewer workers are tomorrow's mole men, so I'm all for keeping their spirits high. The football metaphor is kind of questionable for these purposes, though:

"Winning is not a sometimes thing. It's an all-the-time thing," the city's new sewers commissioner, John A. Roberson, 32, told those gathered, quoting the late, hard-driving football coach as he stood at a lectern glaring out over the packed auditorium. "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour ... is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious," the commissioner said.

What this strange little man appears unwilling to process is that if the sewer-worker team is to "win" the "game" they are playing, they must have opponents. The sewers are not their opponents - merely the field on which they play - so who is the other team? It's entropy, the inevitable breakdown and decay of all systems, sewers included. Should we be teaching our sewer workers that they can overcome entropy? I find this especially problematic because, if the team metaphor is carried through to its logical extreme, the individual positions on the entropy team are being played by poop.

(news) The Republican Party on Thursday launched what it called an aggressive new effort to attract more women and address a persistent gender gap that has plagued the party in national elections. In the Winning Women Initiative, women who hold public office, will promote a message that women have a political home in the party, said Republican National Committee Co-Chair Ann Wagner.

Ladies, just like a real "home", you have a place in the "political home" of the Republican party: the "political kitchen". Won't you come in for a while? The "political spice-rack" has ever so many delightful "political ingredients" for you to "politically bake" with in the "political oven", and the "political illegal minorities" will be right there to "politically clean up" after you're done. No "political muss", no "political fuss" ! And won't you "politically love" seeing your "political husband" light up when he comes home from the "political office" to a tasty "political dinner"? He only "politically smacks" your "political face" because he "politically loves" you and you make him so "politically crazy" sometimes when he has a "politically hard day" at "political work". That's "politically all". So come on down to your "political home" in the Republican party, where the "political cooking sherry" never runs dry. (1)

You should see the press release they sent out to court the test-tube baby vote. They promised us like four hours of womb-time per week. Man, those guys will stoop to anything for a vote.

(1) If you can carry that metaphor through to the end, you "rule".

December 18, 1999 I have found that all of the New Year's 2000 hype is infinitely more bearable and in fact rather entertaining if, whenever you see something that mentions it, you mentally replace 'the millenium' with 'humanity's descent into cannibalism'. "the Clarion Hotel is the only place to celebrate humanity's descent into cannibalism!" it's okay, at least. well, nothing can redeem "Millenios". don't worry, it'll all be over soon.

everyone queue up: who will be the first person to do something that critics call "post-millenial"?

so, where do you plan to be when humanity descends into cannibalism? I know several people who are heading up to a house in rural Wisconsin, which seems a very sensible thing to do. personally, I'm curious to see what's going to happen. I can't imagine that much chaos will be visible from the quiet street in Urbana where I plan to be, but some trace elements should be within a quick walk. I do feel like I should be in Chicago, perhaps looting a bookstore, but there's going to be a lovely party down here. we're going to dress up nicely and have a formal dinner to make the upcoming barbarism all the more poignant. if you're reading this, you're invited. (I've found myself repeating that line several hundred times and I want to assure everyone that I'm aware of its only moderate degree of cleverness. I just haven't found a better way to phrase it.)

why am I so excited about New Year's Eve? partly because of the distant potential for total social collapse, but mostly the atmosphere. one of the best nights of my life was spent walking the streets of Chicago right after the Bulls won the NBA championship. everyone was outside, and although society wasn't overturned, there was this implication hanging in the air that certain rules didn't apply anymore. everyone knew what the laws were, but they seemed like a suggestion more than anything else. it was electric. that's what I'm hoping for here. I've considered all of the angles. I've never had much of an objection to getting maimed. I am, however, against anyone eating babies. that rule should still be respected.

you may remember that I mentioned my action movie a couple updates ago. the latest development is that the bad guy will die at the end when the good guy punches him off the roof and the bad guy gets impaled on a clown who happens to be standing on the ground below. my action movie is going to make a billion dollars at the box office.


I don't have a bible on hand at the moment, so I can't remember exactly how Jonah got out of the whale. was it through the mouth? did it poop him out with some taco bell? since I can't recall the key details, I'm going to have to abandon that metaphor and just say that I had a whole fucking lot of school work to do. two theses and several papers, something like 120 pages in two weeks. all of it was research, too. (whatever happened to good old english papers where I'd get to ramble about some guy's poem until I'd met the required page length?) to complicate the entire thing further, I developed a massive stomach disorder that had me vomiting nearly everything I ate and left me anemic from lack of ability to keep anything with iron down. the low point of the entire episode involved a man named Santiago putting his finger impossibly far into my arse with extremely tenuous justification. he claimed to be a doctor. I don't know. eventually I went to a real hospital, had some surgery, and kind of sorted things out. it was a mess. I managed to do fairly quality jobs on all of the papers aside from one. we performed one of my favorite Potted Meat shows somewhere inbetween. when it was all over, I slept for about a week.

so, in theory, as far as I know, I graduated with my three degrees and I'm done with school forever. no one has told me otherwise. the rest is a blur.

Christmas was alright. low-key, like Thanksgiving I didn't do much because I didn't have much to do. not many people are in town at the moment. a few of the ones who are did quite nice things for me and I was unprepared as usual. I'm terminally crap at the gift-giving routine. I never know when to do it and have like two ideas, both of which are a gift certificate. (in one version, I include a card.) I'm constantly tempted to buy abjectly terrible gifts for people, like a Stryper album or a book about living with herpes, just to see how far politeness of reaction will stretch. then I remember the lesson from Sesame Street about how you shouldn't perform cruel psychological experiments on your friends, and I buy some gum instead.

I did my best to foster panic in the area by playing the famous Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" broadcast on the radio. I don't know if it worked. I live in a test tube and I don't get out much.


I plan to stay in Champaign through the duration of my lease, which is mid-August, and then move up to Chicago to do god knows what. I want to keep writing/performing comedy, which means that my next few years will probably be spent working crap jobs and looking for rich benefactors. a witty dental assistant said that it sounds like I'll be a waiter. she must be a Hollywood insider when she's not busy cleaning people's teeth. I'm polishing my resume for a position as a trophy-husband. I could do that for a while.

I often have dreams about bread.

for now, I plan to find a job in the decent-to-poor range, produce a ton of theater over the next several months, read some books, continue the radio show and do whatever it takes to get a milkshake. in the long term, I plan to keep on with the creative end and I don't know what else - or where, which leads me to:


these are the ideas I've had so far. as you read the following list, you may ask: where's Champaign? my answer is complicated, but it does involve kicking you very hard. moving forward, then, and clinging to the illusion of choice in the matter:

Chicago is where I'm headed initially. I know lots of people there, best place to do comedy in the nation, and jobs would be easy. there's always the desire to go somewhere other than where I've been for my entire life, though.

Cincinnati is a dead gorgeous city. I don't know anyone there, but it's the hometown of the Afghan Whigs and that has to mean something. nice compromise between east and midwest. "scene" may or may not exist.

Boston is out east, covers a decent amount of space, has lots of history - all of which are good. on the down side, people talk funny and the job market sucks (according to sources). don't know anything about the arts.

Philadelphia seems to have all the advantages of Boston, but a little less of each. people do not, however, talk funny and that is important. arts are good as far as I can tell. don't know about jobs.

Toronto has a Second City which is a huge plus and is supposedly a very nice city. I don't know, I just have a good feeling about the place. it's in Canada, though, and I don't know if I could ever get over that.

Tijuana for when I decide comedy is bullshit and surrender to the drunk revolutionary inside of me.

I always thought it would be a longer list. I'm always the last person to get these memos, anyway. Juneau, Alaska will probably be added when I'm 30 years old. I suspect I'll be moody and nomadic around that time. if you have inside information about any of those options, please pass it along.

Curtis Mayfield died a couple days ago. I hadn't known that he was ill. he was one of those people who genuinely made me feel better about the world by virtue of his being alive somewhere in it. he wrote and performed volumes of beautiful soul, r&b and funk music from the late 50s (including the soundtrack to 'Superfly') right through a couple years ago - even after an accident at a concert with a collapsed lighting rig left him quadripelegic. I highly recommend his two disc set 'The Essential Curtis Mayfield' if your music collection hasn't already been enlightened by the good Mr. Mayfield. to quote Kurt Vonnegut, speaking about the recent death of another great artist, Joseph Heller: "That's terrible." and it is. there are, however, many good things that he left behind. praise be.

no angry polemical ranting in this update. I'm tired, and I'm feeling all of these late nights. try this, though; perhaps the most fantastic and disturbing website I have ever encountered.

I love winter. it's my favorite season, easily. driving sucks but everything else is good. I love the way air tastes in cold weather. it's much easier to warm up than it is to cool down (e.g. you can only get so naked). winter is the one time of the year when my imaginary war with the universe really seems to make sense. and snow is wonderful. it's a kind of freedom. some of the old French anarchists felt confined by history itself, and when it snows you can imagine yourself anywhere you'd like to be - like not in Champaign, for example, and not in 1999, and not 21 years old. this photograph was taken by Alfred Stieglitz in New York in the 1890s. beautiful, isn't it? that's how it looked like when I was driving home alone the night before Christmas Eve this year. (I had a stereo playing a song about a bullfrog named Jeremiah, though, which sums up the difference between 1890 and 1990 rather nicely.)

the end, then, to "lost like this". it's kind of an artificially imposed ending because nothing major has changed in my personal life - the end has arrived cos I graduated and am losing UIUC net access. but it's an end nonetheless, and that's okay. I don't know. I guess I don't feel all that lost any more, either. I have a fairly good idea where I am. (next to a tree.) I plan to write a new webpage in a couple months. it'll be smaller, tighter, and no less charming. (I've always been in it for the charm.) when I know where the page will be, I will put a link to it here. this page will remain on UIUC's server for a long time after I've lost access to change it, so it's not going away any time soon. if I forget to post the new address, email me here or there.

lost like this, found like that.

January 21, 1999 classes began for me today. the rest of the campus began theirs yesterday. that's how much of a badass I am. looks like a peachy keen semester. I have a neat-looking Shakespeare class early in the morning. the professor asked the class about the relative virtues of seeing Shakespeare performed versus reading the text, whether one was inherently superior to the other. After listening to a few answers, I raised my hand and announced cheerfully that "I don't think actors can be trusted. I mean, they're always trying to pull something. You have to read the play first so that you can figure out what their agenda is." This, like every single other joke I have ever made in any class anywhere at any point in my life, was met with confused silence and finally the professor changed the subject to his lengthy background as an actor. so the class is off to a more or less typical start. should be as fun as...well, other classes have been.

all of that is irrelevant right now, though. I've known about what I'm about to announce for a few days, but I didn't want to mention it in the last update because it was already full of stuff. I wanted this to have a column to itself, the echoing sweep that it deserves.

Scott Adsit left Second City. I had the good fortune to witness one of his last performances, and it was an exceptional one - the cast was in preparations for a new revue, and though the overall presentation was as sloppy as previews would be expected to be, Scott singlehandedly carried the show. He filled the silences with more manic energy than I'd ever seen him perform with. A few days later, he was gone. I could rhapsodize for pages about the brilliant dynamo that is Scott Adsit, but instead I'd like to do it in song. It originally appeared in a play that I finished writing with Rory Leahy the very day that Scott left Second City. When I first wrote it, it was for Charlton Heston, but he doesn't matter anymore. so, with no apologies to Elton John, I present for you:

A Flower in Any Soil '98 (b)

Verse 1:
Goodbye, Willy Licious, may you rave on in our hearts
You were the old bluesman who wrought genius from the lost and found
A moment later a monk, the Weasel, young Hemingway or someone new
Now your crusade moves on to Hollywood and nationwide television too.

Chorus: (repeat after every verse)
And it seems to me that you would be
a flower in any soil.
Never fading with the house lights when the improv set comes to a close
And your voice will always echo even if you've now settled for a mere writing job
The sound died down before your manic glory ever will.

Verse 2:
Truth and innovation your art, cowardly yuppies and frat boys on spring break quaked in the dark
At the towering brilliance of our mentor and creative patriarch.
And even though boring people tried to put predictable words in your mouth
You continued to define "cutting-edge" with your every breath.

Verse 3:
Goodbye crazed Saturn salesman, bringing them into the family whether they liked it or not.
Goodbye Mr. Grissom, IQ of a raccoon and struggling with the roundy-roundy tupperware.
You were the force that mocked convetionality, shitty improv suggestions, and blandness masquerading as art.
Goodbye Scott Adsit, from an audience lost without your inspiration.

(Final line)
We will miss your rendition of the American Dream for the rest of our theatergoing days.

see, I'm all emotional now, so I'm going to leave it there. check out the updates throughout the rest of the site.
additional massive respect to Junior Wells and Carl Perkins, two very cool people who died in the last couple of days.
and a hearty "fuck you!" to el nino, who I blame for all this shit.

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.