If on a fall’s afternoon a reader

In aid of preparing to write the novel, I spent a couple of hours at Victrola today writing notes, re-reading bits of Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar, but mostly staring out the window. I headed over to Horizon Books to browse. A copy of Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler immediately caught my eye.
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The Shortest Path

Shortly after coming across the National Novel Writing Month site last night, I commited myself to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

A little number crunching for perspective:

  • Number of pages: About 200

  • Words per day: 1,667
  • Words per hour: 69
  • Seconds per word: 52
  • Number of Words in this weblog’s 11 months of entries: 22,300

I don’t know anyone. I joined too late for the Seattle gathering and the little single-threaded Yahoo message board for the project is practically unnavigable & overwhelmed with noise. Oh well.

Though writing doesn’t start until Thursday, I’d better start cooking up some ideas.

In-Depth Baseball Playoff Analysis

WGN has their broadcast booth right on street level. They were doing a sports show as we walked past, one of the guys rattled off a few scores from games that were in progress. Seattle was beating Cleveland and I showed some mock-enthusiasm. The Chicago-natives and Parisians in our party were bemused.
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Canvas shoes, wool socks

I met a lot of people, renewed a few acquaintances, and was surprised a couple of times. I was able to explain my presence well enough but occasionally had trouble simply justifying my existence. Too much to make sense of right now.

Now I’m back home in Seattle and my socks are wet.

Slacks Make the Man

At an internet cafe in Chicago Mayor, Richard M. Daley. A few doors down from Quimby’s and its Chris Ware designed sign. Things is good. I like the el, we’re on good enough terms that I can call it el instead of “el”.

I walked around yesterday and what did I think of? Perfect Strangers, of course. I ended up down near the Magnificent Mile where there are all these jazz clubs. And I looked at the people and noticed how “well” they were dressed. In Seattle I rarely feel the need to dress up, even when I go to fairly upscale places. I just make sure my shirt tag is tucked in and I’m not even given a second glance.
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That Little Window On My Watch

I was wondering why I’d scheduled my flight for Thursday instead of Wednesday. Oh well, I thought.

Well, I’m supposed to reset the little date window in my watch after months that aren’t 31 days. I didn’t do that this month. It’s good I figured that out today instead of tomorrow.

I’m spending a couple of days in Chicago, then driving to Wisconsin for Mari and Jon’s wedding.

Dandelion Wine

In kindergarten, those of us who couldn’t tie our own shoes were instructed to ask our parents to teach us how. So at home, I started campaigning for a lesson. My family kept putting me off until later and I was a timid kid, so I didn’t complain. Finally, one morning, I put on my shoes and asked my older sister to show me how to tie them.
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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.


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.

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.