I guess I’m already there.

I think that the wall-eyed kooky guy I met awhile back might be homeless now. He’s been hanging out in the park near my building for the last few weeks. He sits on a little duffell bag, among the homeless kids and dogs laying in the grass, staring into space as if he’s waiting for something. Another thing, his conversation is a bit less disorienting than it used to be. I remember that he used to ramble on with confusing monologues that had only their own internal logic. These days, his conversation wanders a bit but there’s usually a hint of clarity in what he says.

Yesterday I had to catch a bus back from the U District after seeing a movie. Bus fare is now $1.25, but I just had a one and a ten dollar bill. I was thinking of going into a store and asking them to break my ten, but everyone’s always so mean about that, plus it was 6:00 and stores were already closing. I paced over to Zanadu Comics and peaked inside as they turned the closed sign around. When I turned around to walk back to the bus stop, I ran into a friend of a friend browsing the dollar book rack outside Twice Sold Tales. We said hello and I continued on my way. After a couple of steps I spun around and asked, “Hey Wayne, you wouldn’t happen to have a quarter would you?” As I was saying it I realized that it sounded like I was spare-changing. He stiffened defensively, started to turn away and ask “What?” Embarrassed, I explained that I just didn’t have the right change for the bus. He was relieved and sympathetic, and fished around in his backpack for some change.

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My viewYesterday, George Bush gave a speech, his voice was steady and his gaze was steadier. No deer-staring-at-the-headlights or afraid-someone-will-ask-something-hard expressions tonight. Bush’s wife sat in between Tony Blair and Rudolph Giuliani.

Monday’s Late Show opened with Letterman sitting stiffly behind his desk. He talked about whether or not he should be doing his show. His expression betrayed fear, creases showed on his face where there hadn’t been creased before, his hands seemed to be shaking, and at one point his voice cracked.

Letterman interviewed Dan Rather, who explained that Bin Laden felt like one of life’s losers. Rather collapsed into an emotional heap, grabbing Letterman’s hand and, gasping, asked him to take the show to a commercial.

Jeff Bezos is appearing in a Taco Bell commercial.

I bought a camera case. I walked into the store and noticed that all the sales people were gathered near the back of the store. The man who had sold me my camera the other day walked behind the counter in my general direction, looking at me suspiciously. He helped me select a case and we went over to the cash register. He pointed at my camera and said, “Those are nice little cameras,” making small talk. “Yep, you sold it to me.” “I thought you looked familiar.” Then he pointed out the window and told me, “I’ve called the wagon to pick that guy up.” I looked and didn’t see anybody. “He’s always there asking for change and sometimes he blows up and yells at customers.” I left and saw the man nodding off against the building with a hat on the sidewalk in front of him.

I’m told that cynicism is now dead.

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Why are the crazy ones always belly dancers?

I was being watched and was therefore self-conscious, eating my coffee cake. She was a presence, two seats over, occasionally peaking at me from over the last few pages of her book. I awkwardly tried to throw out ice-breakers – but my feeble efforts and her brief responses caused only a small amount of information to be traded. She told me her name, hesitated and explained that she’d just changed it the day before when she was making business cards for her belly-dancing work. The name was so new, she said, that she felt she had to qualify her answer. She had six pages to go before finishing and would leave when she was done. I stared out the window, looked at her, tried to read my book. She’d look up sometimes and make a little noise, like a sigh and a giggle at the same time. She stopped reading with two pages left and stared out the window for awhile. I tried to draw her out a couple of more times. And awhile later she said goodbye and I watched her walk away. She turned her head twice and waved before disappearing behind a building.

A happy moment of angst among these strange days.

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A woman in Albuquerque collapsed while testifying in the murder trial of her son’s alleged killer, she died shortly after. It turns out that one of the men who was recently charged with committing fraud in the McDonald’s Monopoly contests had donated a game piece worth one million dollars to a children’s hospital. The U.S. bombed Iraq. The U.S. postal service plans to raise the cost of stamps again next year. A typhoon hit Tokyo, killing five people. An Australian court ordered immigration officials to allow a shipload of Indonesian refugees into the country. Amazon.com and Target announced a strategic alliance. The bankrupt company that manufactures Schwinn bicycles was auctioned to one of its competitors. The third Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire album is really something.

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Bottomed Out

After the last post I remembered this from an old version of this site. I don’t remember what triggered it.

It requires just as much energy to maintain my composure as it does to stop functioning. I assume this applies to other people & that that’s the reason we don’t crumble everytime the ground shifts. It’s almost impossible to hit rock bottom, and that’s just too bad. I’d like to be completely down for the count once every couple of years or so – and I’d like to be able to have minor lapses once or twice a month.

Everytime there’s a change, I hesitate & listen for the world to spin off its axis.

In my world, when someone leaves their job, production will shut down for a few hours while everyone says: “What now?” When world events become unbearable, everyone will wander out into the streets and blink their eyes at the blinding light of the sun (the smokers will take advantage of the situation by bumming cigarettes off of each other; staring at their shoes.)

It’s so easy to swap out the rulers we’re using to measure our returns that it’s difficult to get a score that results in something as low as a draw. You & me, we’re both undefeated. We have bottomless souls. (4/22/00)

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No Concept of Zero

It took awhile for the news of the hijackings and attacks to sink in. I got up late and I listened to NPR – not hearing the words. I dialed-up, checked my email, and launched a browser. I had a message from Fiona in the UK, “All i can say is that we are completley devastated over here, so I can hardly begin to imagine how you and your country are feeling at this moment.” Along the bottom of the usually bare Google front page, my browser’s default page, there was a list of news sources whose servers weren’t overwhelmed. I started listening intently to the radio and clicked through to Yahoo’s newspage.

All I wanted to do after absorbing the general shape of the events of this morning was just stop and shut down. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to answer email or get into something on instant messenger.

I sat and stared at the radio. Then I realized that I could numb myself with the TV news coverage. I watched Peter Jennings – he seemed to be giddy about covering another huge event. He compared it to the Challenger explosion. A bit more prepared, I took a couple of peeks at blog reactions and fueled myself with a couple of cups of tea. Then I decided to face the world, opened my door and jumped, startled, as a neighbor walked by.

I walked timidly through my neighborhood, looked at familiar faces and tried to figure out if they were thinking about these things too. I went downtown. Half of the stores were closed and traffic was light. Pablo stood alone on his corner with his “Seattle police are communist. Jesus loves you.” sign. He was conserving his voice, only yelling when a car went by. I wondered if he knew what had happened.

I had a sandwich at Three Girls, sitting among the tourists. Basically I wandered around for another hour and avoided looking anyone in the eye. I ended up back here at Vivace where I finally shook the trance I’d been in. What in the world am I doing?

I came home and poked around on the web some more. There was an email from Chris, light and jaded: “What’s the news from yer end…RE: massive disaster today”. Doesn’t she know that the world is coming to an end? Then there she was on instant messenger, I could ask her myself. I was put off a bit by our conversation, something left me cold (though when I mentioned a group of people “preying” in a park – she did point out my Freudian slip). Maybe it was just a misunderstanding. She signed-off shortly after.

A bit later Fiona came online. It would have been after midnight her time. She couldn’t sleep. We seemed to be in a similar frame of mind, we sat there repeating how stunned we were – how horrible. We agreed that somehow things are different from now on. I don’t think I can go on with some of my more adolescent attitudes, my undercurrent of negativity.

Funny how this is all about me – how will I react to the world now. But that’s really what it will have to boil down to for any of us.

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. . . and it was pretty good, too.

A Sort of Life
A few notes about the tactile experience of reading my copy of A Sort of Life by Graham Greene:

Greene described particularly adventurous events as “Buchan-like”.

In the upper right hand corner of my copy a previous owner has written his name, “Ross Jones”. On the same page, placed carefully between the Los Angeles Times and Time review excerpts, there’s a pink and white file folder label. Typewritten on the file folder label is, “February 21, 1973 Bellevue, Washington”.

Used as a bookmark inside was a bank receipt for a deposit of $515.13 on May 1 1973 into a checking account at the Bellevue branch of Seattle-First National Bank.

There were a few more typos in the book than one would expect from a book published pre-spellcheck. Among them was “kidnaper”. I notice the same misspelling on the same day in one of the Gasoline Alley strips that appear in the new Drawn & Quarterly.

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Third place is your fired.

The man who sold me my digital camera had the posture of the Jack Lemmon character in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Another customer was paying for his top of the line unit at the same time that we went over to the cash register to finish up my transaction, my salesman maneuvered awkwardly around the other man’s salesman. The second salesman confidently shook his customers hand, passed him his double-bagged box, gave him his card (“I’m the manager.”) and invited him to drop his camera in a sink – they’ll replace it with no questions.

The customer headed out. As the manager (Kevin Spacey in Glengarry Glen Ross) walked away and I signed the credit card slip, my salesman turned toward the manager and said, “Thanks for doing that.”

The salesman saw me notice and confided that, “I was working on that guy and thought I was losing him. But my manager stepped in and closed it for me.”

I nodded my head and said, “Coffee is for closers.” He looked at me quizzically. Handing me my bag, he remembered himself, “Keep the packaging. You can bring it back anytime in the next 30 days and return it for an upgrade.”

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Off the bus

My friend Jessica is doing what I merely dare myself to do. She quit her job, is selling all but a couple of boxes of her belongings, flying down to San Francisco, and taking the Green Tortoise to New York where she’s moving in with cousins.

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