I woke up in a strange place

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

June 9, 2006

Some readers expressed concerns that I went silent because I was beating myself up over the Caroline thing. I wasn't, honestly; I was just going through an uncommunicative phase. (Too bad she got fired, of course, but in retrospect, my boss made the right decision on that one.) Moving to Texas became a disaster with remarkable speed and uncanny precision, and it wasn't until early the next year that I managed to turn the whole experience around into a good one. It took me ages to find any kind of work at all, and expensive things kept breaking or getting stolen; the three-legged cat never came back, and all I ever wanted was to be alone. By October, I was so fed up that I grew a beard, got fat and spent entire days indiscernible from late-period Jim Morrison. I felt uneasy and paranoid outside of my apartment and low-rent Mexican restaurants. (Not the good ones, mind you. I got the fear in those.) So I was fairly uncommunicative for a while, unless you were a heavily made-up waitress asking if I wanted more salsa. (Why, yes! ??Si!)

In October, I received an email from a man claiming to be Howard Hong. Last summer, after he spent $26,000 on artwork by Congo, a famous painter monkey, suggestions were made on this site that Howard Hong was a visionary genius and a shining light for humankind. I was going through an uncommunicative phase when the email arrived, unfortunately - this site was on hiatus, but even if it hadn't been, I'm not sure I would have even known what to say to a man I held in such high esteem. I mean, do you think any of these people knew what to say to their visitor? It gets overwhelming sometimes.

Howie (as he referred to himself) said that my "blogs" about my "obsessions" with his paintings were interesting, and he wanted to know what my obsession with monkeys is. Look, if I could articulate that, this would have wrapped up back in 1998. Sometimes art is like that. A great composer lives by the sea and tries for years to express in music the feeling in his soul from the perfection of the water; nobody, upon hearing and enjoying his work, understands that he is utterly failing to express it.

(news) Gypsy (L), a 50-year-old orangutan, draws a picture with crayons as her grandson Poppy watches during a Sunday afternoon drawing session at Tama Zoo Park in suburban Tokyo January 29, 2006. Three female orangutans at the zoo have taken up drawing with crayons since last December and Gypsy has completed about fifteen drawings using a combination of different colours, especially with her favourites blue and yellow, zoo officials said.

So that's your legacy, Howie. Pretty good, I'd say.

Near the end of the summer, I exchanged emails with the woman who bought the Emil Bach House, subject of an entry earlier last year. She told me about her plans to restore the house (a monumental task) and perhaps run a selective mini-bed & breakfast there; she invited me over for a tour, but I was already in Texas by then. She did say that the local urinating crackheads were apparently urinating somewhere else, because she hadn't seen them, so that's good. If I've ever implied that urinating crackheads do not appreciate classic architecture, let me take this opportunity to apologize. (According to my server stats, urinating crackheads account for about 14% of my traffic. Hey, I'm not shy about playing to my audience.)

A couple months later, the granddaughter of Emil Bach himself sent me a nice email to say she'd enjoyed the follow-up post about Frank Lloyd Wright and my old shoes. I was on the web back when it was a few people shouting into a large, cavernous, uninhabited space. Other than the occasional email, there was no way to tell who was reading the site - where they were from, or more importantly, how they were responding to it. Then server stats became easy, and you knew the numbers and you could even do some back-and-forth with other sites, but the non-corporate internet was still off in space, still inescapably separate from the world off-line. Now, if you conjure the right spirits and conjure them well, you might find yourself talking directly into the historical record. Perhaps I'm irrevocably old school, but I think that's splendid.

(Unfortunately, by the time she emailed, I was in the aforementioned uncommunicative phase, so I never replied. But thanks, Robin.)

In the winter, I received a legal threat from a lawyer who was angry about something I'd written several months before, and claimed that he could prosecute me under new anonymous internet harassment laws. The correspondence was strange: it was like trying to reason with a man who was angry that you were standing on his lawn while he was trying to mow it, even though you were actually sitting on the beach and his riding mower was a rusty pole with a cardboard box trailing behind on a string. Dude knew a lot about lawn mowers, but that didn't change the sand between our toes. I was kind of surprised and asked around for some advice before deciding to ignore it. The site was already on hiatus by then; even though I'd posted as recently as the end of December, it had effectively been out of service since the end of July. (I had to do the December updates because I was so amused about the hand-modeling thing, but I probably should have left it blank; as any English teacher will tell you, it's confusing to use the present tense to talk about something from the past.) So it was weird to get threatened over something that felt so distant by then; it was like someone calling you to account over an English paper you wrote in high school. What's the point? What are you doing, guy? ??Donde esta tu pantalones?

More about all of that some other time. Now I am back in shape and bowling well, so things are all right.

January 12, 2006

Here is possibly the worst thing I've ever done: on the Friday morning before Christmas, at the end of two weeks of training on a large suite of proprietary hardware and software, I was in a good mood. Holiday spirit was in the air. I was the only member of my training group to have mastered the material, and the company was so pleased that they decided to buy out my contract from the temp agency and give me benefits for the rest of the job (until the end of March), as well as a completion bonus of staggering proportions. Also, there was to be free pizza for lunch. I walked past the boss's office and saw a woman from my training group sitting in there by herself. They were all nice people, and we had developed a pleasant camaraderie during training. So I walked into the office, sat down in the empty chair behind the boss's desk and said, "I'm sorry, it's just not working out." She chuckled and said, "Are you firing me?" I nodded. "You're being fired into outer space, on a rocket-ship," I said. "Good luck up there." We laughed. At that point, the boss came in, so I left. I learned about an hour later that he then proceeded to actually fire her.


The MECHANIC steps out of the car and indicates the NES controller that sits next to the steering wheel.

MECHANIC: Play a lot of Nintendo, huh?
AUTHOR: That's the auxiliary control.
MECHANIC: The what?
AUTHOR: In case the steering wheel goes out. It's the back-up.
MECHANIC: Whoa. Are you serious?
AUTHOR: No. No, I am not.
MECHANIC: Oh. I was wondering how you could hook that up...
AUTHOR: No, that would be a bit beyond my expertise.


MECHANIC: Welcome to the jungle, motherfucker. You're gonna die!

The MECHANIC pulls out a machine gun and shoots the AUTHOR, who falls, but then re-appears in a standing position. The MECHANIC shoots the AUTHOR again with the same result.

MECHANIC: What the hell?!
AUTHOR: Too bad I never leave the house without hitting Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start, chump!

The AUTHOR leaps into the car, taps the A button to get a turbo boost out of the parking lot, circles around and strafes the garage with missiles. All of the evil aliens inside are destroyed. The aliens have killed hundreds of people, but the aliens had been holding a puppy prisoner and he survives, so everyone feels good about that.

Well, that was nice.

December 21, 2005

I did some hand modeling today. Soon, poll workers in some counties will receive a manual instructing them on maintenance of their new printer modules, which are designed to print voter-verifiable receipts for electronic voting machines. It was pretty dry material, so I sexed it up a bit, and the finished product was dynamite, aside from one extreme close-up of the tip of my index finger, which was a bit ragged. "I'll Photoshop you a manicure," the photographer assured me.


1. Do you detect a certain sauciness about the hands in question?
2. Does the left thumb have a freckle below the thumbnail, off to the left?
3. Are the fingers shooting lightning at their target?

If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are 'Yes', then those are probably my hands. However, if the answer to question 3 is also 'Yes', the hands are more likely to be Emperor Palpatine's.

That's not okay. Stop that.

September 12, 2005

I'm away for a while, and I completely forget how this thing works. What sort of words go here? What do I write about? When I'm trying to remember what's on my mind, where do I look?

I have a new computer, which is nice. It's an iBook. 14+ years of PC usage make this feel like a pretty transgressive act. It's like being in a new and unfamiliar place, actually, not as overwhelming as Japan but more than Texas. I'm fairly astonished by how well this thing works. It's just really very pleasant. I guess I sort of lost perspective on how certain stupid shit is not inherent to computing, but merely to Microsoft. I had to get a new iPod after the theft as well. It's nice that its battery works as long as it says it does and it's cool that the iPod gets along fine with my computer, but this click-wheel stuff is for the birds. I liked my third-generation iPod with its four buttons up top and touch-sensitive scroll circle at the bottom. This is probably the point at which I should acknowledge that Hurricane Katrina happened.

I still ain't got no job and the Texas experiment is going to be replaced with a Japan sequel if this goes on much longer. I like being able to buy veggie burgers at the grocery store and watch football on the television but I also like getting paid. I wouldn't put it on a top ten list or anything, but getting paid is pretty awesome. If you've never tried it, you should. I know how big this webpage is among hoboes so I do feel like I'm tipping off my readership to something they might enjoy.

It remains to be seen how catastrophic my old computer's hard drive failure was. After a couple days' worth of combing my online galleries for replacements and giving the corrupted files a Photoshop massage, I wound up losing about 90 snaps from Japan and 4 from Russia. Not awful, really, although it did mean the loss of my entire unpublished "Monkeys operating vehicles they are not licensed to operate, in summer" series. I really had to put myself at risk to get those photos, but it's my own fault for not getting them online by now. I haven't gone through my massive set of text documents, of course. God forbid I should lose any of them:

I'm always on the train platform before 7:00 am, and if you've seen any CTA Transit Guides (read: propaganda), you know that these trains along the Orange Line (read: now that it is old, it is rotten, mushy, gross, smooshed, and sour) are supposed to arrive every 3-4 minutes. This is only the first in an innocence-shattering serious of vicious lies that the CTA cheerfully propagates. Because the hard-working CTA workers cannot be denied their right to have a 20 minute coffee break every 5 minutes, trains are regularly circa 15 minutes apart, though they have been known to be twice that late on many mornings. When this train finally does arrive, I and other passengers are led to the Howard Street station like lambs to the slaughter. This is where the Linden-Howard train line is run from, a line so vicious and brutal that the CTA hasn't even given it a cute nickname.

Here one can see such wondrous sights in the morning as three transvestites on their way back from a night out, or the occasional spontaneous combustion.

Apparently I didn't lose any of the articles I wrote for the high school paper, so that's a relief.

Nobody can say that I haven't been using my unemployment wisely, though, because I have totally achieved 'regular' status at the convenient store beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt. It strikes me sometimes that I have to walk five whole minutes to get there, and they would never stand for that in Japan. But that's all right. If the bill comes to 99 cents, I hand over a dollar and leave, and if the bill comes to 96 cents, I get a nickel back. That's how you know you're down with the guy at the convenience store. Life does have its rewards.

August 24, 2005

No computer for another few days, but things are better at present. I have a library card now, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

August 19, 2005

Also, my computer is dead, dead, dead. Massive hard drive failure shortly after I wrote that most recent entry. Whether the volumes of data can be recovered is an answer that will not arrive for some time. I am in a halfway state; everything is bad.

August 16, 2005

Man, someone stole all of my shit. Again. I went swimming and some fucking daylight ninja broke into my car in the middle of a crowded parking lot and took all of my shit, which due to an unfortunate quirk of timing was in my car at the time. (Wallet, two digital cameras, iPod, accessories.) I don't even have a job, for fuck's sake. I'm telling you, I've had it. Meanwhile some fucking restaurant I had lunch at a month and a half ago accidentally re-ran all of their charges from that day, a month and a half later, and over-drafted my bank account. Everyone says they're sorry and they'll take care of it within a couple of weeks. Fuck that, actually, because this is it, this is the end. I'm selling the rest of my stuff and moving to a goddam trailer park and going on welfare and not owning anything that didn't come from the dollar store because this ain't worth it. Negotiations with responsibility have failed and that's the goddam truth.

August 10, 2005

I'm on my way toward a better mood. I'm not there yet, but I'm heading in that direction. The weather has been kind of crazy for the last couple of weeks, and I'm really starting to enjoy it. The sky has that "aww, damn" apocalyptic tinge. If you don't have anything at stake, the onset of armaggeddon can be kind of relaxing.

I haven't made any noteworthy progress toward getting a job. A place I applied to in Connecticut last December called this morning and hung up as soon as I answered. I called them back and hung up on them, because my vengeance is swift, and precisely measured.

Brought to my attention by the good Mr. Sacki, here is the single greatest photograph ever taken:

"An orang-utan plays on water skis at an event marking 100 days to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Pusan, southeast of Seoul, August 10, 2005. The APEC meeting will be held in Pusan in November."

My guess is that picture will be able to restore eyesight to blind people, so if you know any, bring them up to your monitor, position their heads and just stand there, saying "...well? Eh? Eh?"

If that's how they commemorate 100 days left until the conference, the mind boggles to consider what they have planned for the conference itself. Monkeys in spacesuits floating around in zero-gravity is basically the starting point for what it's reasonable to expect. Meanwhile, here in the US, on the very same day, the Department of Defense announces that the fourth anniversary of 9/11 will be commemorated with a march and a country music concert in D.C. I want so badly to believe that there will be at least one orangutan wearing a cowboy hat onstage, but the fact is, our nation has lost its way.

But this webpage would not be what it is without a fair dose of self-criticism:

(news) NEW YORK - A fan who plunged from the upper deck at Yankee Stadium onto the screen behind home plate during Tuesday night's game between New York and the Chicago White Sox was released from the hospital into police custody Wednesday. The game was delayed for four minutes in the eighth inning after 18-year-old Scott Harper of Armonk, N.Y., plummeted about 40 feet onto the large net. Harper told three friends he was sitting with that he was going to test whether the net would hold his weight — and then he jumped, police said.

"The next thing you know, you don't see him anymore. You saw him on the net," said 18-year-old Mike Spadafino, one of Harper's friends.

Obviously scared and shaken after he landed, Harper sat with his head in his hands for a few moments before climbing on the net back up to the middle level of seats as players watched and the crowd roared. Harper then was hoisted over the railing and led away by security.

"They claimed we were saying, `Sit or jump, sit or jump,'" Spadafino said. "It was everyone in there, in the basic area."

"People think we threw him off, but we're all best friends, so I don't think that would ever happen," said 20-year-old Giusseppe Tripi, another one of Harper's friends.

Best friends don't throw each other off buildings? Jesus, I have some apologies to make. Let me start with Saul. What I was trying to say when I grabbed you by the arm, spun you around and hurled you from the upper deck of the United Center was "I'm glad for the good times we've had together, and I really respect the way your shoulder has healed."

Sometimes, I despair of ever really managing to communicate with anyone.

August 8, 2005

I've given it a lot of consideration, and based on the state of my job search and the economy as a whole, I've decided to take a new approach and post a picture of a monkey wearing a tie:

Sometimes, it helps to re-assess the situation. He's sitting in the mailing cart! Is that other monkey mailing him somewhere? What is going on? Suddenly, uncertainty is delightful.

(Tecmo Bowl) The Race-Changing Injury
This one happens only during seasons (obviously). When a black player gets injured, he appears white on the screen where he's lying on the field and the paramedics are rushing in to help him. But then when he's being carried off he's back to normal. I don't know why this would be, since it doesn't seem like it would take any programming effort simply to leave them in the same state they were when they went down. For some reason the programmers decided to make it so that everyone who gets injured looks white from afar.

Madden '06 is coming out, and a severe test of my self-restraint will begin tonight at midnight. I could be putting all of this idle time to good use building a franchise, I will tell myself. The little digital men will thrive with the attention I will be able to give them as an unemployed guy. Beaming, their skill ratings will increase, and I will use the joystick to increase the amount of imaginary money they receive. It all seems so reasonable. Everything works together; nobody is on their own, unless their skill rating drops under 60 or so.

In the meantime, I've been trying to make a contribution to the store of knowledge on Wikipedia. It's slow going, because I'm not feeling very communicative right now, but I've left a mark. For example, I wrote exactly one line of this entry. Can you guess which one?

August 5, 2005

Things aren't going very well for me right now. Apparently, what I bought was bleach, not laundry detergent, and a number of my t-shirts now reflect that fact. Who knew? Contextually, based on where it was in the store and the shape of the bottle, that stuff should have been laundry detergent. Why would I even want bleach? A number of my most-beloved Japanese t-shirts were turned into hippie rags by the confusion. The thing is, if you strike them down, a hundred more will take their place. My chest shall wield incoherency such as this nation has never seen. Just you wait until I get a job.

I'm planning to devote this entire entry to things that aren't going very well, as a nice change of pace from the triumphal march that this webpage usually is. That first paragraph made me think about money, and how I'm not sure that there's any point in being fiscally responsible while I'm unemployed. It has never worked in the past. I haven't bought anything fun in months, and I haven't put anything on a credit card since January. I'm on the special edition Casino DVD, so I bought that, but otherwise, an end table is a sexy as it goes for my spending habits. Why bother, though? I'm going to be broke and buried in debt by the time I get a job no matter what I do. Am I wasting an opportunity here? Let me explain. The common view of money, which involves balancing checkbooks and keeping receipts and freaky leopard people, is that you have money (or assets) as represented by a number which can go up or down depending on the decisions you make. Imagine, though, an alternative - and this has proven far more realistic in my life - that money exists in one of two states, a binary proposition, if you will: either it is there, or it is not. Either you have a surplus, or you are in debt. That has always been the case for me. If I am in a debt-state, then it is going to be a long time before I get out, regardless of how I behaved an the outset of the debt-state. And if I am in a surplus-state, the money will be gone, eventually, regardless of the wise or un-wise decisions that I make. I can either spend it in lunatic flings or wait for crises to emerge and suck it all away. It is a childish fiction to pretend that there is a permanent surplus-state. This has been proven true so many times over that to believe otherwise is the intellectual equivalent of the dried soup in this man's moustache.

Not everything is going badly. I was hesitant to make an emotional investment in a new appliance, but I bravely tried using the dishwasher anyway, and it worked a treat. I should get back to the stuff that's going off the rails, though. In retrospect, it appears that what I put my outgoing mail into was not a mailbox. Oh, again, there were several reasons to believe that it was. Contextually, this was absolutely a mailbox. There was a red plastic thing on top that could be moved up and down, like a flag, and it was attached to an incoming mail kiosk; furthermore, there was a little sign on it that said 'outgoing mail'. Admittedly, that sign was handwritten, but you can see why I thought it was a pretty good bet. Well, one week later, none of the Netflix I put in the mail have reached the Austin distribution center. This is the beginning of trouble. At this rate, 2013 is a generous estimate for the point at which some guy with a shotgun and a receding hairline is going to show up with your Pier One catalog and assume all the widows in town are interested in his 'seed'.

Who can you trust? Who can you believe? When I was a child, my image of myself as an adult was that of boxes of Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry on top of the refrigerator. I wonder if I would even recognize myself now. I was in the store and saw Chocolate Lucky Charms on sale. "That has to be disgusting," I mused, so I bought some and I wasn't wrong. Did you know that Boo Berry has no fiber at all? Not even a bit. That fucking ghost! He's all right.

August 2, 2005

I want to thank everyone who sent kind words about the three-legged cat. He's still gone, but he is not forgotten, and as far as I can tell, he did not, in fact, have fleas. I have established a scholarship in his memory for other animals who are missing a leg and don't seem to give a shit about it.

(news) TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - It may not rival Sundance or Cannes, but Michael Moore says the film festival he conceived with other movie lovers in this Lake Michigan town was a bigger hit than expected and has a bright future.

"By all accounts it was an overwhelming success," Moore said Monday. "It was a movie junkie's paradise."

The festival ran from Wednesday night through Sunday, concluding with "Casablanca" under the stars by the Grand Traverse Bay waterfront. It featured 31 films, most of which sold out, and panel discussions with Hollywood insiders. About 20,000 tickets were sold for the indoor showings. Moore estimated total festival attendance — when the outdoor movies and panels were added — at 50,000. About 115 businesses signed on as sponsors. Anecdotal evidence suggests the festival was an economic boon for downtown — particularly motels and restaurants, said Doug Luciani, president of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Not everyone was pleased. Genie Aldrich, a local conservative activist, and a Dallas-based group organized a shorter rival festival with movies they said conveyed "pro-America, pro-family" themes. One of them, "Michael Moore Hates America," was cut off after about 10 minutes because it contained profane language. Aldrich acknowledged crowds were sparse, with only 20-40 people attending some movies, although she said several hundred were on hand for the opening night.

"It's not about a body count. It's about the message, and our message has reverberated around the world," she said, adding that the Traverse Bay Freedom FilmFest would return next year. "They've awakened a sleeping giant. Michael Moore should be feeling like Custer at Little Big Horn."

Yes!!! Their message has reverberated around the world!!! You guys feeling it?!?!

"Ohhh, SNAP! I can't even believe how bad Michael Moore just got TOLD! She likened his ass to a 19th century American general who killed and then got killed by the people indigenous to his continent! I may not have any of my shit any more after that tsunami, but at least I ain't got a big analogy saying 'bitch' hanging around my neck!"

"I'll drink to that! Should we survive to maturity, every one of our offspring will be told to expect any film festivals organized by filmmakers with liberal political views to be countered by another, smaller festival with crappier films that the organizers haven't watched all the way through, somewhere within a hundred miles or so! Holla back, Cambodia!"

"The Khmer Rouge knew a thing or two about dealing with dissenters from the dominant political ideology, but even they were inspired by the way Genie Aldrich gets her message across. For these guys, it's all about the body count. But hey, you can't argue with her results. Unfortunately, having fallen out of favor with the government, I'm about to get a proverbial counter film festival to the head."

"YEAH!! We got all our shit packed up in here and we're on our way to the next pro-America, pro-family counter film festival. When we get there, some time within the next twenty years or so, there's gonna be 24-34 people at some of those showings!! All around the world, Genie! All around the world!!"

August 1, 2005

In another setback for my pro-reform agenda, the three-legged cat is gone. I'm kind of broken up about this. We spent most of the day hanging out together on Saturday, and then I booted him out around eight so I could go to a bookstore. I knew that he had some kind of an affiliation with the balcony across the way, because he often lounged there when he had nothing else to do, and there was a litterbox up there for him to use, although that hardly seemed important for a cat with free reign of a forest. (He could climb down from the balcony to the sidewalk fairly easily by a small hill.) When I left on Saturday night, the balcony doors were open, and I could see a guy cleaning up in there as a big dog walked in circles around him. The three-legged cat stayed by my door. I noticed that his litter box was gone from the balcony. For some reason, I didn't think much of it. He never seemed to be allowed into the apartment, so I didn't think he was very closely linked to it.

Well, the apartment is empty now, and it's been two days since I've seen the three-legged cat. I'm not going to pretend that I don't open my front door once an hour to see if he's there. It's hot, and I have little doubt that he has some shit to say about it.

Goodbye, three-legged cat.

July 30, 2005

It's hot again, and the three-legged cat was waiting outside my door with a bunch of things to say about it. I let the cat in and gave it some cold water. My mother says it probably has fleas, since it spends all of its time outside. I told her I think she probably has fleas and hung up. Actually, I just asked to borrow some money.

So, here's the news out of Jacksonville:

A gorilla and a chimpanzee are both recovering after a fight at the Jacksonville Zoo. They live just across the moat from each other, which is usually a good barrier, since both fear the water and neither knows how to swim. One of the largest gorillas at the zoo, a 24-year-old male named Quito, either fell into the moat or tried to cross it, and ended up on the chimps side.

Dr. Nick Kapustin is the Zoo's Veterinarian. He says, "There was an altercation and we have a chimp with Quito going into his territory and the two got aggressive with each other."

Chimps are more aggressive, but much smaller. A 150-pound chimp named Jackson went up against a more than 500-pound gorilla, named Quito, and the chimp lost.

Kapustin says, "Jackson the chimp sustained some bite wounds and lacerations and he was treated immediately."

Quito didn't have any physical wounds but apparently went underwater when he was in the mote, which left him very sick.

Kapustin says, "He likely inhaled water into his lungs. That can create some respiratory problems and that's what we're dealing with now."

Both Quiot and Jackson are recovering in their indoor habitats and both are expected to be okay.

What in the hell was the chimp thinking? That gorilla had 350 pounds on it! I guess everybody has to defend their territory, but let's face it, if some 550 pound guy showed up at the door of my apartment, I would make certain strategic concessions and perhaps devise a plan involving running away with the remote control. That's not what the chimp did, though, and fortunately his unrealistic assessment of his own fighting ability did not prove fatal. An exhaustive two-minute search of the Jacksonville Zoo website did not reveal any updates about the condition of the combatants, although apparently a bonobo had a baby last year, so that's nice.

Anthropological studies tend to focus on social interactions and hierarchies within the individual species, but I've never been able to accrue as much data as I'd like regarding what different kinds of monkeys and apes think about each other. Now, we know that when a chimp sees a gorilla, he thinks, "I can take that guy." So that's good to know. It's a start.

Obviously, I ain't got no job, and I've been playing this game called Facade over the last couple of days. It's unique in the sense that the goal is not to defeat someone or win a contest or wrangle shapes; you play a character who visits his married friends one night and observes their marriage falling apart, and then you either speed the decline or try to save the marriage. It's done in the style of a one-act play, complete with curtains. (In a nice touch, it generates a 'stageplay' based on what happened during the game.) The characters speak out loud, and you talk back to them by typing. They're meant to be able to parse complete sentences - you don't select from a set of responses, like most RPGs, and they remember what you've said before. There are a few things that come up each time (a bad trip to Italy, the decor of the living room), but otherwise, each game is intended to come out differently depending on what you do.

Well, apparently, I am the last person you want to save your marriage, because I fucking suck at it. On the few occasions that I haven't been kicked out of the apartment, one of them has declared the marriage a sham and stormed out. I'm getting nowhere with this. The best I've managed to do is get them united in being pissed off at me, which hopefully leads to, I don't know, angry denunciation sex later on. One problem is that I don't type fast enough to break into the conversation, but more than that, I'm frustrated because I can't tell what portion of the blame falls on the programming (it's a college A.I. project, not a professional venture) and what is the fault of my various emotional inadequacies. I guess I'm bringing this up in the hope that someone a little better-adjusted than I am will give it a go and let me know. 'Mark' is one of the names they offer - the characters address you by name rather a lot - so I use that one when I'm doing my best (and things inevitably fall apart at the end), and 'Gonzalo' is the name I use when I'm getting frustrated.

(A bit of web research has at least revealed that Grace will not run off with you, no matter how much you make out with her, so at least I'm not the only person who has tried that.)

July 28, 2005

I bought some apple juice and found a slice of an apple floating in it. This means that I am going to die, I thought. There are probably at least six primitive cultures in which finding an apple slice floating in your apple juice means that you are going to die. The slice crumbled slightly as I sipped from the bottle. Revulsed, I hastily jammed the cap back on and put it back in the refrigerator. I can't die now, I pleaded, silently. I'm too young and too reasonable. I went back to my computer and applied for a few jobs, but it all seemed futile, now that I knew myself to be locked in some strange mythological death spiral. Finally, I set the laptop aside and took a nap. My sleep was troubled and geometrically awkward. When I awoke, I stumbled to the refrigerator, ready to curse my fate. But the apple slice was gone. The bottle held only juice.

So it seems that I will live. I sold out the Empty Spaces movement and filled my apartment with furniture. The platonic perfection of it disturbs me. This looks like a place where a man with a job lives, except along the wall, where the books sit in semi-organized piles in lieu of a bookcase. I am not a man with a job, though. Re-training myself to sleep in a bed has proven more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I wander aimlessly between the couch and the mattress, turning the ceiling fans and air conditioning on and off as I go, fumbling for the right combination of cushion and climate to sleep until 11am in peace.

Oh, things are all right. The three-legged cat spends a lot of time hanging out at my apartment. It likes to come in and check the place out, maybe pick up a few treats while it's here. Fresh water is always good, and I bought some food for when it's hungry. It's rolling around on the carpet right now, showing me its belly and enjoying the hell out of my ceiling fan. I leave the door open when it's inside so it can take off whenever it pleases, although it certainly doesn't seem inclined at the moment. Good times, indeed.

To follow up on an issue from last week, I have a signed affidavit from actual Texans verifying the "firing two guns in the air to express happiness" thing, so if you thought I was making that up, you're wrong, actually, and you need to start taking this shit seriously. Also, I found an NPR interview with good old Howard Hong, our next president, and not only did he say that he borrowed money from his friends to buy the chimpanzee art, meaning that he is a man of vision who will risk everything for what he believes, but he also eschewed the obvious impressionist comparisons to link Congo's use of color to the Japanese ukiyo-e masters Hiroshige and Hokusai.

Furthermore, I've been seeing a lot of commercials lately, and if you believe that there is a substantive difference between the Church of Scientology and eHarmony.com, you are wrong. I registered at eHarmony.com as "Church O. Scientology" and answered every question as the actual Church of Scientology would, and when the results came back, the eHarmony.com website matched me with itself based on 29 dimensions of compatibility. This shit is scientific and you need to focus if you think otherwise. Later, when eHarmony.com discovered my deception, it sent back all of my emails and said I matched 29 dimensions of compatibility with a heartless jerk. Look, I can't be held responsible for hurt feelings caused by my journalism.

Furry cat sprawled out on my carpet, happily asleep and pawing at the air? You know I'm going to have to tackle it.

July 20, 2005

I made an empty box into a desk!! I have decided to start emphasizing some of my positive attributes for the benefit of hiring managers who receive my resume and head straight to Google in order to find out what I'm all about. Well, let me tell you, I emptied the books out of that box and turned it upside down like a frown, and I've got myself a desk now. My laptop is sitting on top of it and I couldn't be more pleased with how it's working out. Previous desks in my apartment have included a pillow and the floor. This box, however, combines the firmness of the floor with an even greater elevation than the pillow. It's excellent and provides a sterling example of the problem-solving capability I can bring to your office.

Wait!! This has to be casual, or the hiring managers won't believe it. They are a cagey bunch, able to see through elementary deceptions, and bless them for it. One casts an eye over the carnage of the last century and notes, sadly, that's what happens when you just go by resumes, cover letters and an interview. Do you really think the Bolsheviks would have hired Stalin if they had looked at his LiveJournal? "What? The wholesale slaughter of his political enemies is one of his Interests? And the Peasantry is conspicuously absent from his Friends list? Fuck that guy! Let's hire someone else instead." You have to check that shit out. Sometimes you post a job and you get someone who looks like a real winner, has all the skills and work experience, but then it turns out Pol Pot is in his extended network on MySpace, so kick that ass to the curb and call a fucking temp agency.

I parked like an asshole a few days ago and I haven't had any reason to move my car since. I feel sort of bad about it. It's not intruding on any neighboring spaces, but it definitely tests the diagonal limits and brings disorder to the area. Everyone else has jobs, so they move their cars more often. My car sticks out of the crowd because it's still rocking the Illinois Lincoln plates. I don't know what the laws are in Texas about switching your registration. I'll get to it, eventually. Did you know that everyone in Texas carries two guns with them at all times, and whenever they get excited, they jump from foot to foot and fire the guns in the air? It's true! Before I came here, I thought that was just a cartoonish stereotype. I was in H.E.B. last week and I saw that ice cream was on sale. Sweet, I thought. I'll buy some. I reached into the freezer and an old lady, adjusting her glasses, asked me if the ice cream was on sale. I said, yeah, it's two for $5. And then she started cheering and shooting guns in the air! I took cover behind my shopping cart as chunks of the ceiling rained down upon us. The manager came over and looked angry. He greeted the old lady by name, and then he turned to me. "Look," he said. "I reckon we're offering a square deal on this here ice cream." I told him I thought they were offering a very square deal, and that's why I was buying two. "Well, you look like you're about to shit a horned toad," he said. "Most reasonable folks'd let a few bullets fly for a deal like this." I assured him that I hadn't meant any offense, and that I didn't have any guns, or I certainly would have fired some right then and there. He was shocked to hear that I didn't have any guns and asked me how people in other states communicate their excitement. The old lady said she felt sorry for me and gave me one of her guns. "Go right ahead," she said. "I've got a basement full of them." I thanked her and left the store.

My concern, though, is that I'll have a job interview and the hiring manager will offer me the job but when I don't start firing guns in the air, the hiring manager will assume I don't want it and withdraw the offer. I'm going to have to see if my neighbor will loan me some, should I actually get a job interview. (Hopefully, the clever strategies employed in this entry have made that more likely.)

July 14, 2005

Perhaps the most frightening thing about moving so far from Chicago was the realization, while watching television around 2 AM last night, that if I get into trouble, Peter Francis Geraci is not going to come and bail my ass out. In my moment of fear, he appeared to me in a vision. "I'm attorney Peter Francis Geraci, and you're on your fucking own now," I could hear him intone, his thick, dead eyes pummeling the camera lens as he spoke. "If you've been injured in a recent accident or you need to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy, don't come running to the law office of Peter Francis Geraci, with over twenty-five years of experience, dickface." I shuddered as the vision dissolved. What if I do need a lawyer? Where, other than the spine of the phone book and commercials at 2 AM, do you find them? I am going to have to stay on the straight and narrow until I work out some of these issues.

Because of my recent move from Chicago to Austin and the complicated process of cramming shit into my car in such a way for said shit not to obscure the windows, I've been long overdue in reporting this exciting follow-up to a story previously covered on this webpage:

Chimp's paintings outsell Warhol, Renoir
12:24 PM CDT on Monday, June 20, 2005

Associated Press

LONDON - Monkey business proved to be lucrative Monday when paintings by Congo the chimpanzee sold at auction for more than $25,000.

The three abstract, tempera paintings were auctioned at Bonhams in London alongside works by impressionist master Renoir and pop art provocateur Andy Warhol.

But while Warhol's and Renoir's work didn't sell, bidders lavished attention on Congo's paintings.

An American bidder named Howard Hong, who described himself as an "enthusiast of modern and contemporary painting," purchased the lot of paintings for $26,352, including a buyer's premium.

The sale price surpassed predictions that priced the paintings between $1,000-$1,500.

Initially, I had hoped that "Howard Hong" was some kind of complicated anagram for "I'm giving at least one of these to Heiden", but it appears increasingly likely that he is planning to keep them for himself. Fair enough, they certainly were expensive paintings, and beyond my credit limit, which helps absolve me of some of my guilt over not putting in a bid. I've now moved on to hoping that Howard Hong intends to run for President some day, because from all the available evidence, he would do a great job.

I guess I'm settling in okay. I still don't have any furniture other than the office chair out on the porch, but I made a point of sitting on that for a few minutes today so I don't forget how. It's quiet around here. There is a three-legged cat who lives in the area. I don't know if he's stray or if his owner lets him roam, but let's face it, the list of things that are cooler than a three-legged cat who doesn't even care that he only has three legs is a pretty damn short list, and basically none of those things are even native to North America, so this cat is awesome. I keep some food handy for whenever he's hanging out by my front door. He's not always hungry, but he's always got some kind of trouble on his mind, and he's always ready to talk about it.

July 11, 2005

Every day is like camping when you're unemployed and you have no furniture. My comforter is spread out like a sleeping bag on the living room floor, carefully positioned underneath the ceiling fan, and there are two pillows within a three-foot radius of it at any given moment. I sleep there, serene and untroubled by the heat. I'm concerned that I might develop a complex about the bedroom, which I haven't used. I put the alarm clock in there to stake my claim, but there hasn't been a reason to wake up yet. I could drag the comforter in there to sleep at night, but then I'd be sprawled out on bare carpet when I watched television in the living room by the light of day, and that seems uncivilized.

(YO, the alarm clock represents the Spanish flag, in case my metaphors are too DANGEROUS for you!! And civilization is a Ronco showroom!!)

I saw an ad on craigslist about some office chairs that you could go and pick up for free, so I kicked my car into action and headed over to the driveway in question. Sadly, though, I failed to fit any of the nice ones into my two-door Civic. I guess I overestimated how much it can hold. I mean, until recently, I had basically everything I own crammed into it. Books, mostly, and some incoherent t-shirts. A television, a laptop. Some stuffed monkeys, some Russian military gear. An autographed picture of Manute Bol. And I can't fit an office chair in there? I'm about to roll up on the space-time continuum with some what discount outlet sold you that internal logic?! type shit. Anyway, I did manage to squeeze a rolling chair into the front seat. I brought it into the living room, but it was ruining the feng shui, so I put it out on the porch. It has kind of a 1970s home office feel, the chair does, and now the porch does, too, by extension. But inside, the camping trip continues. Except when I'm thirsty, I can get some root beer out of the refrigerator, which you can't do when you're camping, unless you brought a cooler, but electricity is a kind of ice that never melts, nature boy!! Holla back now!!

Everything is going well. My rent is paid until August, and there is a pool within twenty feet of my front door. I'm paying for an internet connection, too. This is the first time I've paid for an internet connection since I was in Japan, and since everything ran through the yakuza in that neighborhood, who knows if we were even paying for it, or if it even was the internet. At my last apartment, my upstairs neighbor was letting me use his wireless network. I baked him some cookies, and later I bought him a case of High Life. Does that count as paying for it? (YO, High Life represents the champagne of beers, in case my metaphors are still too DANGEROUS for you!! Or at least that's what the packaging said. I don't know. I've never tried it.) Anyway, if there's one thing I fucking love, it's paying bills, so that's working out, too.

I guess I'm already leaving my mark on this apartment, because there appears to be a brown spot on the carpet over where I was sprawled out on the floor earlier, eating chocolate ice cream. I'm going to start eating well tomorrow. Today has been a shameful day in nutritional terms, dominated as it has been by cookies, ice cream and, for reasons that are still unclear, two pickles. The food in Austin is amazing, though. The worst thing I've eaten so far, a soggy eggplant sandwich, would have been cause for a triumphal march in Chicago. It occurs to me now that I can't remember if any of my friends in Chicago cooked for me this year. In case they did, let me say that I was not including your cooking in that generalization, because when you cooked for me, it was in a city called love. See? Nobody's offended! Are you amazed by what I can do with words? God, sometimes I sure am. I have ironclad strategies to mask my emotional inadequacies, in print at least.

Tomorrow I will start making phone calls to ask people why they have ignored the friendly cover letters I sent them in response to their job postings. I realize that my resume doesn't make a lot of sense. I mean, I wrote it - heck, I lived it. But I feel like it has character, and it's all true, so that has to count for something. Nobody will hire me, though, that much is clear. I've moved on from my old theory, which held that my first employer, Beelzetron, was maintaining a blacklist, and every company in the United States was abiding by it - especially with the names that were in bold, at the top, in an eye-catching font, like mine surely was - Comic Sans MS?! Doris, somebody got a coffee ring on my tie!! My new theory is much more complex than that. So, as it turns out, purely by accident, there's some kind of a Da Vinci code in my resume, and I can't see it because I haven't read that book, but all of the hiring managers eat that shit up, so they see it right away, and the code says, STARVE THE BEAST. That is what is causing all of these problems. I will find a way to get paid, though. I always do.

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.