His voice echoes throughout the empty space as he calls out the greeting. The only response is a steady drip-drip-drip from a rusty pipe leaking water.
"Helllloooo?" Still no answer. The sunlight cascades in through grimy windows, illuminating the space: cracked cement pillars, moldy floors, a clutter of old boxes in the corner. Curious, he moves over to the old boxes and kicks them over. The contents spill out into a puddle covered with a skin of slime. The contents of these boxes...are unusual. Curious, he picks one up and turns it over. It is an RT Journal Entry describing his trip to Chicago. "Huh," he says to himself. "I forgot about that."
This is an old place he has not seen in a long time. He abandoned it because he found something that suited his needs better: Live Journal. And posting two journals at two places at once just seemed redundant to him. And then the second thing happened: he moved to Japan. He has been living there for close to nine months now, teaching English and seeing sights, having adventures that he's recorded in his Live Journal, but he never got around to updating here. Why, he's never even bothered to come to this site in the past nine months at all. The only Internet access he's had he had to pay for, and when you're on a time limit you find yourself cutting certain things out of your life.
With his foot he sifts through more of the remains. Old garbage left by a different person. His thoughts return to home, and the person he was back then. He will soon be returning home again. Japan has been nice, but it is time to leave, and by mid-month he will once again be eating tacos and enjoying the life in America, provided his travel plans go well and nothing falls through. Perhaps he will once again devote himself to old habits. Or perhaps he will find himself diverted by new things.
Oh well. He stands up and walks away from the remains of the past, determined to leave one last journal entry to let others know what has happened to him. Maybe they won't care, and maybe no one will read it, but he feels like he must leave something, the same way an explorer will leave a trail for those who may or may not be following close behind.
He also resolves to stop referring to himself in the third person, because it is creepy, and hard to write in.
It's been a while since my last entry, which I believe was the drunken one I did after I went to the strip club. Anyway, I finally have a job. Yes, a real job. Here's the thing: I won't be starting it until probably September, and also, it's in Japan.
The interview in Chicago went very well and Nova offered me a position. I accepted and I've filled out all the paperwork they sent me: the work visa, the health insurance forms, the contract, etc. After they've processed all that and the work visa goes through, I'll find out where and when they're sending me. I'm very excited to be going, tempered with sadness at knowing how much I'll miss my family and friends......that's not going to stop me, mind you. What could possibly stop me is my lack of funds. I need to pay for the plane ticket (though apparently the company has some kind of deal set up with an airline), buy suits, and somehow raise 120,000 yen for setting myself up, the amount the company recommends. That's about $1000. If anyone would like to donate to the Get DancePuppets! Out of America Foundation, please do so generously.
So I've been setting aside what I can from my meager paychecks, except for the last one, which I've been spending like a motherfucker. You see, my friends and I just spent Saturday the 8th and yesterday, Sunday the 16th, shooting a short which I directed. And being director, I had to put up the money for tapes, food, beer, liquid refreshment, etc. And we still have one scene left to shoot because the damn make up girl never showed up yesterday. We couldn't film the scene without me looking like I had the shit kicked out of me.
On top of that, I also had to go on bar crawl last Wednesday, which had me drinking from 2 in the afternoon to 2 at night and by the end of it, I'd spent sixty some dollars, partially because I had to treat a buddy of mine who did the storyboards for my short. Okay, I didn't HAVE to go on the bar crawl, but also, I did. All my graduating friends were going and the bar crawl was our last huzzah. It was a lot of fun, with the only low point being me getting kicked out of BW3's. This happened all because I used a stall instead of a urinal. I went into the stall, saw puke all around, managed to go around it and do my business. When I got out two bouncers were waiting with a mop and bucket. They told me I was cleaning it up. I said it wasn't mine. They didn't believe me. I said be that as it may, it's really not mine. They said either I had to clean it or I had to go. I said well then, I'm going. And me and the troupe that followed me there (some of the others had decided to end their bar crawl at the last bar and I had to urge the rest on for more drunken debauchery) left and proceeded to the next bar.
And on top of that, I owe my roommate sixty dollars for bills, which is more now because we've gotten more bills since I started owing him. So the prospects of me setting aside anything sizable from my next paycheck is slim.
Ah well. I'll probably be able to save quite a bit this summer because it's going to suck hardcore. I'm still up in East Lansing and while I have a lot of friends left up here, a lot of them have gone back home. I'll still see them once in a while, and I'll be going home myself by the end of July (when my lease ends), but until then my fun time will be cut in half. And jeez, I'll be home for August. I hope I get a job down there doing something or I'll have no clue where I'll get the money for a night on the town with my chums. Yeah, I'd save money staying home and reading and watching TV (which I'll no doubt do a lot of), but a person has to get out every once in a while. Especially when they're 22 and living at home. Maybe I can earn some extra cash by transfering to a Hollywood Video down home......*shudder!*
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So maybe it's not PC or Pollitically correct, or one hundred percent what I believe in, but I just got titties in my face. I went to the bar, and then I went to a place called Omar's with a friend of mine and somehow the strippers there got me on stage and put a house speciality shirt on me and put their specialities in my face and Oh God, it was grand. I had a ball. I had a beer afterward and they gave me a t-shirt to commerorate the occaison. It was awesome, I won't lie to you. Everyone makes a big deal about man being bigger than he his, about man conquering his neuroses. Well, man is not bigger than that. Man is small. Man likes titties in his face, and even better, man likes to have sexual favors played out on him. That is the natural truth. Sorry, folks, that's how it is.
EDIT: Usually I spell better than that, but needless to say, I was drunk.
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That's where I've been since Saturday and I just returned home about an hour ago. Why was I in Chicago? That's a long story.....
I applied to this company called Nova, which runs schools in Japan that teach people English. The job involves living in Japan for a year and making swag while you hang out and teach people. I recieved an e-mail back from them, called them up, and scheduled an interview for today, April 5, to be held at their Chicago office, because that's the nearest one to me.......okay, so it's not that long of a story.
Luckily, a friend of mine attends the University of Chicago, so I had a place to stay. I planned on leaving Saturday and spending the weekend there because I'd never been to Chicago. (The typical reaction I get to saying this is a "What?!" face. Please feel free to make one now.) One of my roommates was supposed to come along. Two nights before we were to leave he bailed for reasons he couldn't quite go into. I was irate, because now there was certainly no chance of getting road head.....I kid, I kid (or do I?(no, I do (or do I?))). My problem was that my roommate had been there before and knew where the hell he was going. I was going to have to fend for myself in the mighty metropolis.
So, of course, the night before I leave I get wasted. It wasn't my fault, a friend of mine was having his closing reception for an art gallery show he had here at MSU (he's a Studio Art major). So naturally after the reception we had a kegger at my place. It was a damn good party too, the kind where afterward you don't quite remember the whole thing but certain bits stick out in your mind like flashes in the dark. The next day I woke up and got a call from my buddy in Chicago to work out final details and give me directions. Turned out we didn't quite work it out enough, forgetting things like his address and his phone number.....so yeah.
After a wonderfully greasy shit lunch at IHOP I hit the road. The drive down was surprisingly easy. I made good time mostly because I tend to go eleven over the speed limit. I've blown by cops going that fast and I've never been pulled over (knock on wood). Conclusion: eleven over is acceptable to the fuzz. I made it to the outskirts of Chicago and entered the city on Stony Island Avenue, marveling that yes, this was the city where Perfect Strangers was set. That's where my trouble started. Stony was supposed to become S. Cornell, according to my directions. But it didn't. So I ended turning down one street on my directions, then another when that street ended, and then there I was heading West (though I didn't know that) on Hyde Park.
I drove down that road a long time. A long, long time. The directions said it was a long road, so I stuck with it even while I was beginning to assume the directions weren't quite sufficient. I passed through one neighborhood where I noted the presence of many African-Americans. Then I passed through another one where I noted the presence of many Hispanics. Then I passed into a neighborhood where there were many suburban style houses. None of these seemed like the kind of neighborhoods where the University of Chicago would be located. When Hyde Park dead ended I turned the hell around.
I turned down one street and saw a place in a strip mall called "The City of Chicago". I figured if I couldn't get directions there then something was wrong with this place. So I parked and approached it and...it was closed. Apparently The City of Chicago is only open until 3:30 on Saturdays. I got back in my car and continued blundering around.
I saw a gas station. Surely there I could ask for directions. I went in to find two Middle Eastern men behind the counter, neither of which possessed sufficient English skills for me to get directions. And since I'm not quite up to par on my Middle Eastern, I asked to buy a map. They gave me one which ended up costing me $5. Five bucks for a fucking map. I took it back out to my car and inspected it in the parking lot. For the life of me I couldn't find the road I was on. So I threw the map down into my car and took off back in the other direction on Hyde Park.
I figured maybe I just went the wrong way and all I had to do was get back to where I'd turned down onto Hyde Park. So I did and I discovered the next road I was looking for not far from there. After a couple of blundering turns I made it to the street I was looking for. The directions told me to turn right and on the immediate left would be a parking lot. So I did and I found a parking garage called the Regent Something or Other instead. I tentatively entered.....No, I didn't. First I went down the ramp leading into it, then I second guessed myself and tried to back up. There were doors over the car outlets and I figured the place was locked up or something. Then a car came out of the garage while I was parked across the ramp and I realized the doors go up when you approach them. So I went in. Cars were parked everywhere in no order that I could tell. My directions told me to park in spot #8, but there were no spots. So I parked and got out. An attendant who wouldn't stop calling me "Sir" told me that section was for valet parking. I tried to back up but then he yelled at me to stop before I hit somebody (even though I had plenty of room, jerkoff). He walked up to me and I told him my situation and took note that his name tag identified him as Manny. Manny was not sympathetic to my plight. He got my car pointed toward the exit and I drove out.
Across the street were the Algonquin Apartments and a parking lot. I figured the directions should have said "right" instead of "left" and that I was looking at the parking lot I was supposed to be in. I crossed the street and found spot #8 filled, so I parked in #7. Here's where it gets even stupider: I do not have a cell phone. My buddy's buzzer does not work. So he told me to yell at the windows to get his attention. I yelled. I honked. No response. I asked a couple people entering the building if they happened to know my buddy. They hadn't, but one said I should check the buzzers. So I did. My buddy's name wasn't listed. There were a lot of apartments in the area, so I started walking around looking for my friend's name. Didn't see it. I was starting to get worried, that type of worried where it feels like your chest is about to constrict into your body.
I was fretting over my car being parked in somebody's apartment spot so I decided to move it. I parked at an Amoco station and went inside to ask about a pay phone. They said there was one around the corner at a different gas station, a BP. I made the journey over but didn't see it. I went inside and inquired as to the whereabouts of the phone. I was told it was outside, but people kept saying it was broken. I tested it out by dropping a quarter in, which was immediately spat out by the machine.
I started walking around looking for a pay phone. They're not as common as you might think. I walked by Hyde Park (the actual park) and the name struck a bell. I wondered if that was the place the cops beat the holy hell out of people in '68. Over the weekend my question was never answered. Oh well. I found a grocery store with a pay phone. I picked up the reciever and...no dial tone. Then I saw a second pay phone. Finally: success! I called my roommate, who gave me our buddy's number. Then I called my buddy and talked to....his answering machine. I got more change and called him back and still got no answer so I left a message saying I was at the Amoco with my car and he better come get me when he got the message.
I stood outside at the gas station and waited. And waited. It was windy. I retreated inside of my car. I got tired of waiting and decided to walk back and try calling him again. As I was about to cross the street a previously friendly mechanic from the Amoco yelled "Yo!" Then he said something unintelligible and pointed at my car. I assumed he said something about my not being able to park there, but he went back inside the Amoco before I could ask. So I stood there, defeated, cursing this hell spawn city.
And then my friend arrived. I hugged him. He apologized. I said I was the idiot for not getting his number or the name of his apartment building. We went to park my car. He asked if I could parallel park. I gave an emphatic no. He put me in the spot his car was currently in, which only required me to back up. Then he drove around looking for a spot, talking to his girlfriend on the phone. He found one and we went up to his apartment with my shit, which kept blowing about in the wind. I mentioned something about the Windy City. He said the wind there wasn't actually all that bad, usually.
In his apartment we waited for his girlfriend. When she arrived they asked me where I wanted to eat. "Someplace Chicagoey" was my response. They had gotten tickets to see The Second City ETC in Oldtown so they opted to go there. My buddy drove us down Lake Shore Drive so I could marvel at the skyline at night. It was pretty. We went into Oldtown and he found a parking spot, which to them was some kind of miracle. We walked around looking for a place to eat, asking each other "How about here? How about there? Well what do you feel like?" We ended up at an Italian place that may or may not have been called Traviata, I don't remember. It was cozy and delicious and pricey and we talked history. Then we went to see The Second City.
On the way I marveled at the place. Oldtown Chicago reminded me a lot of Oldtown Lansing, only Older and Townier. There were buildings about four stories tall next to giant ones. And in the background were the downtown skyscrapers, like gods in the distance.
The Second City ETC is sort of a training group that works in the same building as the main group of The Second City. The main group does musical revues, which my buddy and his girl don't like, so we went to see ETC instead. Seating began at 10 with the show starting at 11. It was six people doing a flurry of comedy, most of which worked. I laughed a lot and what more can you say about comedy? After the show they did some improv, which didn't strike me as being all that, you know, improvised. It was still not too bad, even if I think the improv group I'm in is much truer to the art (holds nose aloft in air).
With the show over we went back to my buddy's apartment, where we were pained to discover that with daylight savings time it was an hour later than it really was. His girlfriend went back to her place, I made a spot for myself on his futon, we read a long time, and then we went to sleep.
He woke me up at 12:30. I showered and we took a bus downtown to see the sights and so he could show me how I'd get to my interview while he was at class. Out of all the museums to go to I had picked the Art Museum to check out because I'd been told if you could go to only one, that was the one. So we went there and holy shit, they have a lot of art. We walked around and saw some of the ancient art and works from African tribes, Mayans, Native Americans, Japanese, etc. We went through a room with Japanese woodblocks and I saw one I found incredibly serene to look at. It depicted a river that was colored a blue that was...peaceful, somehow. Another room had sixteen pillars and dark lighting. It was just a room, but somehow it felt like there was a presence in there. The presence of history perhaps, or the presence of sixteen damn pillars in a dark room. Whatever it was, it was there.
We checked out the contemporary art, which didn't impress me as much. Then we went upstairs and traveled back in time with European art. That I liked a hell of a lot, particularly the French Impressionists like Degas, Monet, and Renoir. There were two paintings I had to say "No. That's absurd." One was called, I think, "Two Bathers". I don't know what the other was called but it also had a naked woman in it. And they were almost photographically real. Like I could reach through the painting and touch these women. It was so good it was absurd. My mind couldn't comprehend how good it was.
Time was running short. I decided to go see the Photograph section, which wasn't as extensive as I'd hoped but had some fucking nice photographs. After that, with the place closing in ten minutes, we left. To try to see something else would be self punishment, gaining a mere taste of what must be devoured. I stopped at the gift shop for a postcard and a magnet of two paintings in particular I enjoyed (Two Sisters (On the Terrace) and Paris Street; Rainy Day). Then it was off to Cosi to eat. Not that I particular enjoy Cosi, but by Chicago standards it's cheap.
By the way, there are a fuckload of Cosi's in Chicago. Also Subways and Starbucks. We wandered around downtown to find the building I needed to be at for my interview and also so I could see the downtown area. It's big. I was delighted to find the street (La Salle) on which they filmed part of The Untouchables, and the place where The Blues Brothers were finally apprehended. We moseyed around, crossed the river, saw the Wrigley Building, the House of Blues, the Chicago Theater. I found a place called the Gene Siskel Film Center and had to enter. It was calm and cool inside and showed movies the likes of which you could never see anywhere else and probably haven't heard of. I wanted to stay but I couldn't.
We took the bus back to his place and we were tired so we watched American Splendor instead of further sightseeing. Midway through his girlfriend called to tell us to come to her place to see the moon's reflection on the lake. She lives ten floors above him in the other building of a two building complex, so she has a better view. We went over and there was the moon, sitting in the sky, and there was the lake. On it was a wide swath of moonlight, dancing in the water. On shore lights stretched out into the distance. It was beautiful. She also took the time to show me old postcards and tell me about the history of the Hyde Park area (she's a historian). Fascinating stuff. She mentioned the World's Fair in 1893 and I mentioned a book on that I'd wanted to read (Devil in the White City). When we went back to my buddy's and finished the movie she gave me a book published right after the fair that had photographs of the whole place accompanied by long, extremely flowery prose that used adjectives like "super-excellent". Browsing through the photos I could only think "Holy fuck." They built so much for the damn thing, and it was all so detailed and enormous and beautiful.
We ordered take in gourmet pizza, which was fucking excellent. Then we went to bed because tomorrow would be an early day.
We woke up at 7. I showered and made myself pretty for the interview. My buddy and I loaded my stuff into my car because when I got back he wouldn't be there and giving me a key to his place would be a lot of hassle. I said goodbye to him and told him I was forever indebted to him. He said just rent Final Fantasy Chronicles for him to play over Easter and we'd be even. Fair enough I think. I walked to the bus stop and waited, clutching my portfolio and my bus pass purchased the previous day. The bus came, I got on, I rode it downtown. I went a stop too far but it was no big deal. I walked to the building I needed to be and entered. I told a doorman I had an interview with Nova. He pointed me to some elevators. I rode them up, walked into an office foyer. A secretary asked what I was there for. I told her and she pointed me to a conference room in which sat other prospective employees.
A couple guys came in and told us all about the company and living in Japan and blah blah blah. It all went on for a while. Then they scheduled us for individual interviews. I was the last scheduled with a time of 2:00. It was then 11.
I walked across the street and got lunch from an Irish sandwich place called Dorby's or Dobry's or Brody's or something like that. Then I walked around downtown, first with no purpose, then with the idea to find a bookstore. I had a lot of time to kill and I've always been successful killing it in bookstores. After a lot of wandering I discovered there was one just across the street from the building where Nova was located. There was a sale so I browsed through until I found one I figured I could finish in a couple hours and bought it for five bucks.
I went back up to the office and sat there and read. And read. And read. One of the other guys tried to make conversation with me but I instinctively did not like him and wasn't too friendly in response. He was someone who talked too loud and had to say everyone's name all the time and seemed to demand attention. So I sat there and read and the interviews went long and I ended up finishing my book. It was called Fatal Light. It was about Vietnam. I liked it.
I finished it just in time because at 2:30 I finally got to go interview. I'd been hoping to beat rush hour traffic when I left the city but I figured that was pretty fuckin' impossible now. So I went in there and smiled and mostly answered truthfully. He asked me questions that I had to limit to a three word response off the top of my head. He asked "What kind of people do you hate?" The first response I thought of was "All of them" but that wouldn't do, so I thought about it and said "Bad drivers". That was probably the one question I was weakest on. The man interviewing me was very nice and friendly and we got on well. When the interview was over I felt good about it. I'm supposed to hear from them in three weeks. An envelope will be mailed. If it's a big one, I'm in. If it's a little one, thanks but no thanks, shitbird, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
With the interview done, I hurried to the bus stop. There was still a chance to beat rush hour. I rode the bus back to my car sitting next to a young couple that had the urban youth equivalent of the insipid conversation I usually hear out of frat boys and sorostitutes. I got back to my car and jumped in, figuring gas could wait until I was out of the city and the prices were saner. I drove out and the traffic was no problem. I happened to pass a museum that was the one remaining building from the World's Fair and I was amazed by the size and beauty, but didn't pause too long to ogle. At the first of the three of the toll booths I handed the lady operating it my two dollars and she said "Thanks, babe." I said "Thank you" and drove off, a smile on my face. She'd called me babe. Funny how something so small can cheer up your day.
I drove through Indiana, part of which was obscured by an odd smoky haze that smelled like wood burning. I decided gas could wait until I was closer to the border. When I did stop I paused in the store. Did I want to buy cheap cigarettes and cheaper cigars? Bottle rockets? Everclear? Hardcore porno mags? Condoms from a machine in the bathroom? They all taunted me and told me to buy them. "You can't get us in Michigan!" they said. I resisted temptation and left that den of sin and corn called Indiana.
Back in Michigan I rejoiced at the higher speed limits. I pondered whether to stop for wine (the kind made in Southwest Michigan is pretty damn good). Once again I resisted the urge and sped home and got back and had a rejoiceful homecoming celebration with my roommates.....actually, they were all playing D & D and didn't say much to me outside of asking about the interview, but who needs rejoiceful homecoming celebrations anyway? I'm back and glad to be back. I enjoyed the big city but it was kind of stressful and claustrophobic. Maybe I'm not much a traveller after all.
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That was the year The General premiered. Seventy-seven years ago. I'd seen it two times previous, always enjoyed it but never really laughed or felt moved by it.
Tonight was the second night of the East Lansing Film Festival. I have a short film in so I got a free pass to all the showings. The event this evening: The General, with a band called The Blue Dahlia playing their own soundtrack specifically composed for the film. A buddy of mine who also has a free pass picked me up and we drove to the theater.
Well, it's not really a theater, but it is. The Hannah Community Center has a general, all purpose big ass theater room for film showings, plays, concerts, whatever needs to be watched by an audience. It's nice. Comfortable seating, tasteful decor, all that jazz. As we entered the building two men were handing out flyers for an anti-war demonstration and a Democrat considering running for office. We took the flyers, stuffed them in our pockets for perusal later, and made our way to the theater. In the foyer outside a crowd was gathering. We nudged through until I saw a girl I know who's a festival volunteer. I asked her what was up, made small talk. She told me no one was getting in yet, something to do with the band.
I grabbed a festival booklet, which has the schedule and the descriptions of the films. I looked mine up and read the blurb I'd given them: "A screenwriter runs into a brick wall with his script and all he can do is push delete and start over." Next to it was a picture of one of my best friends who acted in it. The back pages held contact info for all the filmmakers. Of course, mine was wrong. Something got screwed up, they'd been sending things to a friend's e-mail instead of mine. I thought all that got sorted out but there, in the contact info, was not my e-mail, but my friend's. Below it was the address to his webpage. I sighed, not too surprised. I can't say I've witnessed a high level of competance in those that run the festival. I hate to judge and I know if I ran a festival I'd make mistakes too, but come on.
The doors to the theater opened up and my buddy and I waded into the sea of bodies and unnecessarily flashed our passes at the volunteers letting people in. The passes dangle from our necks and we love to show them off. Give us any excuse to grab them and raise them and display them as if to say "Don't worry, we're cool, we're artists. Good ones."
We sat down and talked as we waited. We browsed more through the booklet. I was amused to see that the ad for MSU's College of Arts and Letters read: "Proud Supporter of the East Lansing Fillm Festival". A middle aged lady sat down in front of me and blocked part of my view with her poofy red hair. I scowled and sat taller for a better view.
Finally the woman who runs the festival came out and said a few words. Well, not a few words, way more than was necessary, but I'm sure she's worked hard and deserves to be recognized. She said first up was a "Cell Phone Trailer", a fifteen second piece to say "Turn off your goddamn phone, asshole." They'd selected five or six entries, one of which was my buddy's. We waited in anticipation, hoping his was the one to be shown. It wasn't. Next up was a short computer animated film, which was fairly maudlin but had good imagery. Then the lights came on and one of the band members talked about the film. When she shut up the lights dimmed down and the movie started.
Of course there were projector problems. They kept fiddling with it in the back, focusing it in, never quite getting the vertical frame right. And the film itself seemed wider than it should be, 1.85:1 rather than 1.33, which is impossible because they didn't have anything wider than 1.37 before the '50s (right? I'm not crazy?).
Nevertheless, what I witnessed tonight in the Hannah Community Center was truly moving, definitely one of the great film going experiences of my life. This film, this SEVENTY-SEVEN year old film, had the audience laughing. True, honest to God laughter. It wasn't the most I've heard an audience laugh, and I don't think anyone was in tears, but the reaction was great. They cracked up. And there were a lot of people there, too. A good number of people, regular average Joes, came out to see an old black and white silent movie. And PAID to see it. I saw two young girls throw up their hands and grab their heads in worry and concern over how the hell Buster would get himself out of a particular dilemma. I heard gasps and cries of amazement at the stunts, a man reading the intertitles to his son, the band's great performance as they played along with the movie. One part in particular got an applause. APPLAUSE, for a filmmaker dead since 1966. I heard people APPRECIATE cinema to an extent I haven't even seen in my film classes.
And me? I smiled. I laughed. I was amazed at the stunts, the set pieces, the images. This was the third time I've seen this film and I've never really SEEN it until now. I loved it. My eyes glistened as I sat in the middle of the crowd and felt something akin to hope for the first time in forever. My cold black heart was moved. If a modern day audience could appreciate The General, then perhaps maybe, just maybe, there is some hope for humanity after all.
Afterward there was a standing ovation.
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So I've gone on to the next step in my job at Hollywood Video. I've gone from a mere peon to....a shift leader.
Right now I'm in training for that, which won't require much. Just some things I have to get used to and then that's that. I'm a shift leader. I get a very slight raise and.....well, that's it. Longer hours are my only reward.
I went into work last night and felt suffocated, like a weight was pressed down on my chest and head. Asshole customers didn't help. Then the assistant manager gave me a job. I embraced it. I had to unlock DVDs that were bundled up in their security measures. I dived into the work and went to town, letting it absorb my faculties so I didn't have to think for a while. That seemed to help and when the task was over I didn't feel so oppressed.
While I may be getting promoted, I still need a second job. Hollywood Video is killing me. I can have it as a part time gig but once I spend too many hours there I start to go stir crazy. I need a second job to temper me out so I don't spend a whole lot of time at either one. Tomorrow I'm anticipating an interview for a second part time job. I hope it goes well so I don't end up biting the throat out of an asshole customer at Hollywood.
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It's Valentine's Day
And I am alone.
But I'm used to that.
The sadness I feel
Is not mine
But my friend's.
A white teddy bear
On the kitchen table.
And warm whipped cream
I go to work
He and his girlfriend are sharing a romantic evening.
Much effort has been put into this.
I discreetly make my exit.
Go to the bar
Share some beers
With my similarly single friends.
I come back home.
He and his girlfriend are still here
When I left she had a black dress on.
Now she wears jeans.
I escape back to my room.
Hear the front door slam.
Hear it reopen.
She is gone.
He is still here.
My roommate sits at his computer.
I come out of my room
Gauge his feelings.
I eat the fruit
Listen to his stories
Of a planned pleasant evening
Turning not so pleasant
And I look into his eyes.
I see anger
I know these feelings
But not at the moment.
Not like he does.
I empathize with him
He does not want empathy.
He just wants to sit in his chair
I give him his distance.
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I'm sweating alcohol.
It smells like stale greasy fast food, the way my car reeks after a hellish journey through McDonald's drive-thru.
My life is one of going to work and drinking. I write, I read, I watch movies. Occaisonally I send out a resume. But mostly it's just work five or so days a week interspersed with trips to the bar.
Why so much drinking? Because the friends I usually hang out with go there. You meet people, have conversations, relax and forget that reality is fast closing in. And because there's not a whole hell of a lot else to do in this town. Mid-Michigan is not exactly culturally rich.
But last night was bad.
Harper's is an upscale bar/restaurant in downtown East Lansing. Wednesday nights everything is half off so poor college kids go there to feel like they have more money than they actually do. I met up with some friends, we had some drinks, shared some laughs. Two of them had bought cigars, gave me one. It was thick and long and after a while started making me sick.
Two other friends of mine joined up with us. The table was too crowded so they sat elsewhere. I bounced back and forth, finally staying with the newcomers when the old crowd left.
After that I mostly remember flashes:
Sitting and talking.
Writing a poem that was lost sometime last night, showing it to them.
One buddy leaving.
The lights coming on.
Going to a late night pizza place.
A different group of my friends stopping by there.
The buddy I was with going home, me going back to the new group's place.
Passing around a bottle of wine.
Two guys and a girl stopping me in the hallway, one guy continually whipping out his dick, the tone of whatever conversation we may or may not have had being vaguely threatening.
And then it's 11 in the morning, my alarm is going off, I'm in my bed, clothes still on and contacts still in.
I shower, make an inventory: poem missing, cigarettes missing, undershirt stained with God knows what, my coat adorned with streaks of something crusty. Drinks I remember consuming last night: a Jack on the rocks, at least two double whiskey and cokes, at least two Long Islands, however much wine I drank. I wonder if the guy really did keep whipping out his dick and if the conversation really did have a threatening undercurrent, or whether it was some Lynchian dream.
I go to work still drunk. My breath reeks of alcohol, I try to get rid of it. I eat a candy bar, chew old gum, eat Junior Mints, have a smoke, nothing helps.
My stomach lurches, I fight off puking while wishing it would just come.
Five hours later I go home. My roommate says a friend of mine from last night is looking for me, wants me to clean up my puke splattered all over his bathroom.
The mystery of the crusty stuff on my coat explained.
I call him up, apologize. He's not angry, jokes, not at home at the moment but he'll call me when it's a good time for me to come over.
And now I'm still waiting.
I can't write. There's cleaning up that needs to be done, fixing the mistakes of last night. This fills my mind, makes me tense. I want to get it done, right the wrongs, but I can't yet. I sit and wait and don't expect a call anytime soon.
I occupy my time with sitting in front of my computer. I warn myself, call myself an idiot, say I'll never drink that much again. I'm lying, of course.
I need a steady, nine to five job to even me out, give me something stable to cling to. I need it but I resist. I'm a night person, I like to stay up. I'd have to wake up early in the morning. I could get a night job but then my nights wouldn't be filled with what makes them worth staying up for.
So I work my barely-above-minimum wage-no-benefits job, and drink, and spend the money I should be saving.
And in this fashion my life trudges on.
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It's important I write this while I still smell like gasoline. I've just spent an entire day observing two salespeople go from town to town and attempt to sell cheap bullshit to crackers. It was a day for me to see what the job entails and whether or not it suits me. It doesn't.
I'd been interviewed on Thursday by James (names have been changed to protect the innocent). It wasn't really an interview. I've noticed a pattern in the interviews for businesses: the first one is to get your resume, see what you look like, and then sell you on the company. James gave me the spiel, said if they were interested in having me do a day of observing I'd get a call.
I got the call last night. James asked me if tomorrow was alright for my day of observation. Sure I said, why the hell not? I went to sleep at 2, early for me, and had some trouble staying asleep. I kept waking up in anticipation, mind fuzzy, dreams intermingling with reality. At 8 my alarm shrieked. I hopped out of bed, showered, dressed in my best (and only) suit. The phone rang a couple times: I half hoped it would be James saying "Sorry, kid, we gotta cancel" even though he's never called me "kid." No such luck, it was my mother. They told me to look professional, but I don't have a jacket that goes with a suit. So I opted just to go with the suit and a pair of gloves to protect me against the weather. Out the door goes I.
I drove to the warehouse. Waiting already were five other people, all who were about to spend the day doing the same thing as I. A form shoved into my hands: Do I understand I'm only observing and won't get paid shit? was the gist. I signed it, handed it back. I was the first called into the office where a bunch of mucky-mucks were having a meeting. I was introduced to Dale, who was 34 but looked older. He shook my hand, seemed friendly. We went outside.
The car we were taking was already loaded: trunk, backseat, all jammed full of crap. Dale showed me what we'd be hawking: a voicechanger in the shape of a small bullhorn that made you talk like an alien, you know, for kids; a stuffed duck that said "Quack" to Old McDonald; a small plastic Finding Nemo backpack and a plastic kid that deposited Cheerios out of his dumb head (these went along with the duck); a two watch set that looked impressive enough;and a minivacuum with the power to suck up coins. Dale had a smoke while we waited for a third person, Katie, who was on the phone. She was on loan from another district, still in training, on the job only nine days but full of pep and talking like she'd been there forever. When she got off we piled into the car, Dale squishing into the back, Katie driving. It was her car, it looked like it needed work but it ran alright.
On the way Katie proved herself to be quite the shitty driver, though she claimed to have only gotten into two accidents, and those while she was 16. She let the car drift, she speeded, she changed lanes with abandon. We made good time. We got to know each other. Dale was single and smoked a lot of cigarettes. Katie had a daughter, almost two, who was the light of her life. Dale told us a story of a trucker friend of his: the trucker was driving his big rig down the road. A family of four got onto the expressway, cutting in front of him. He could either slam on his brakes and jacknife and possibly cause a major accident, or smear the family of four across a mile of pavement. He smeared. It fucked him up. I listened, horrified, but the bastard part of me filed this away, musing that it would make for good script material.
Our first stop was Parma, a one horse town if there ever was one. Like all rural small towns in winter it stank of gasoline and cigarettes. Katie walked around to all the area businesses while Dale went into the Parma Cafe to see some of his regulars. Here was where I first witnessed the type of people we were selling to, at least today: salt of the earth types, AMERICANS who fly flags and support the troops, rural shit kickers who, you get the idea, wouldn't have Internet access even if they could afford it. I enjoyed them, people I'd never meet in the city, simple folk who were full of life. There was an old lady there smoking Monarch Lights who viewed all the crap as crap. A younger counterpart sat next to her. A waitress played with the stuff and seemed delighted with it, but opted not to buy.
We left. Katie was almost done with the town. We piled into the car and drove a street over, where I waited while they went in and hawked. They came back empty handed, Dale saying it just wasn't a good day. They remained upbeat and positive. I remained quiet, thoughtful. They talked in a businessman lingo that wasn't hard to interpret.
Backroads led us to Concord. On the way we passed a carload of fellow coworkers hopelessly lost. Directions were given. We went into Concord. Katie and I went into a laundrette, run down but operating. A family and a woman were there. Katie announced her intentions. A chorus of "no"s. We went to the auto place next door, similarly run down, a similar no from the old man working there while cats slunk around the corners. A gas station next door, my feet in their thin shoes sinking into the snow as we cut across property, wind howling. The gas station was not run down, but we still got a no. A phone number was given, a corporate man to call to see if the crap could be placed in the store.
Into Concord we went. Dale went off on his own, I went with Katie. We passed from shop to shop. One lady let Katie run through her spiel, seemed interested, but didn't buy. Katie would wonder if she was doing something wrong. She remained upbeat and positive, striving through to make a better life for her little girl. I admired her resolve and her love while masking that I hoped for an accident, a fuck up, anything to make us go back early. I thought maybe I could do a sales job like this. I quickly realized I can't.
We went in to the Silver Spoon Cafe. Like the Parma Cafe, the people who worked there were sitting around, smoking, customers eating, regulars who needn't be bothered every two seconds with "More coffee?" One of the waiters there bought the duck-Nemo-Cheerio sets. We met up with Dale, who sold a couple vacuums. We hit more stores, went back to the Silver Spoon, and sold two more ducks, one to a waitress who wasn't there but her coworkers knew she wanted one, the other to a customer who saw the waiter fucking around with his.
Back into the car. We drove to a different part of the small town. Katie went into an auto place to sell to some guys who turned away salesMEN. Dale and I talked while she was gone. He had a laugh that he loved because it sounds evil. It sounds like the laugh of a man I once knew, who used to be my friend before I found out what a scumbag he was. Nothing against Dale, but that's what I kept thinking. Katie came back. The men in the store had bought some the watches earlier and said they broke. She gave them new ones. No sales.
We drove to the M-60 Grille, a regular spot for Dale. He made some good sales there to people who knew him, delighted in his crap. Hey, it's good for the kids. I stood by the side the whole time, smiling stupidly, observing.
A few more places were hit. We started on the way to Homer, behind schedule. When they reached a place they went in while I waited in the car, heater blasting me. I nodded off, they woke me up. We went to a gas station/Chester Fried Chicken (I've never heard of it either) where we got a quick meal of a chicken salad sandwich. Not bad for shitty food that dropped into my stomach like a greasy turd and curdled.
On into Homer. Katie and Dale repeated the mantra of JUICE. "Who hates Jews?" A joke cracked inside my head for an audience of one. Katie and I went off as a team again. She asked me if I knew what JUICE was. I said I got the idea: positivity, enthusiasm, general cheeriness to spread to others like a nasty VD. She said it's an acronym: Join Us In Creating Excitement. I smiled, suppressing a reflex to gag.
We hit a couple stores, a library, a pretty nice one for a small town. We hit a salon, where a cute little girl toddled around. The people there bought lots. Back to the car. We passed a school. They wanted to go in but it was time for school to let out and it would be a pain in the ass. We hit a doctor's office and an autoparts place instead. The lady at the autoparts said someone had just been around three days ago: overlap in the districting.
On to the final town: Litchfield. They were upset (though still upbeat and positive) that they wouldn't be able to hit all the places. Time was running out. We parked, split up again. Katie I encountered a bunch of stores all closed. She entered a place where there was a "Not interested" right away. She stayed perky and positive, and oh yes, upbeat, because the more "no"s you get, the closer you are to a "yes." A florist's: a buy of a voicechanger for a nine year old girl. A pizza place: despite buying similar watches from Dale earlier that ended up breaking, a guy there still bought the two watch set. We hit some more stores, met up with Dale again. One last stop: a bar where Katie pitched to a crowd, using the same persona she did for old ladies in salons. Another watch set sold.
We stopped in the parking lot of a gas station and inventoried. My feet got cold yet again. I wanted to go. I stayed quiet. They told me I can ask all the questions I wanted. I said I was soaking it all up. We left for East Lansing. They talked shop. I nodded off. Dale told me what I needed to know to ace a questionnaire. I wrote down the answers next to all the notes I'd been making all day, notes related to writing this and not related to learning the job.
Finally East Lansing again. I said bye to Katie, hoping for the best for her and her little girl who I'd never met but still felt like I knew. Dale led me back inside the office where I'd started. I filled out the questionnaire. Nothing I'd said or wrote led anyone to believe I didn't want the job. I was still mulling it over. I could never be happy doing it, but Christ, A JOB. Dale talked to some people. He came out and led me to a room where he said he put in a good word for me. I went into the room. I was introduced to Sam. He shook my hand, asked me questions. He said Dale had said I'd asked a lot of questions, a lie in my benefit. He asked if this was a job I wanted. I chose the opportunity to jump on a grenade and sabotage myself: I said honestly, not really, I couldn't see myself doing it. I praised Katie and Dale, truly impressed with them and their energy and positivity and all that jazz, but it wasn't for me. Sam said he was sorry to waste my day. I said I had fun, call me if you need a secretary. We shook.
I emerged from the room. Dale was waiting, talking with other people. I didn't have the heart, or the balls to tell him what I'd said. I think he got the idea anyway. I said That's that then. We shook, he said See ya around or something like that. I got into my car, wiped the snow off, and drove back home. I'm glad I went, but now I'm tired. I'm still wearing the suit, still smelling the gasoline. I want to relax, play some video games to make my brain mush for a couple hours, but roommates are playing D & D in the living room. I'm trapped in here for now, planning an escape.
Damn it's been a while since I updated this. Why the laziness in posting? Because nothing has really happened in the last couple of weeks.
Actually, that's not true. Plenty has happened. But I guess I didn't feel like writing about it. A lot of bad stuff has happened to me, but a lot of good as well. My life has taken on this weird yin-yang give-and-take quality.
The bad? The next day after my car went into a ditch, I discovered I have an eye infection. So I went to an Urgent Care clinic and they gave me some drops. That helped but then I ran out of it the next week and the infection was still there. So the day I drive out there to get more, whoops, the right front tire on my car is flat. How it got that way is a myster. My roommate and I put on a spare and I drove it to a repair shop, where I got charged $93 for a new tire. Then my parents yelled at me, it being their car and all, because goddammit, you're supposed to get new tires all at once and you better at least replace the other front tire! So I finally make it to the doctor and he gave me more shit and told me to see an opthomalogist. My mother makes an appointment back home and I drive there and see the doctor who takes a thirty-second look at me and gives me a prescription. Which is what I'm taking now and I have to go back next week. I'm told this new stuff has steroids in it, but for some reason I'm doubting it's bulking effects. On the job front, still squat. I've sent in some new resumes and went to an interview for a job I knew I'd never get, but figured I may as well make the journey anyway. When I got there they basically told me you don't have what we're looking for, but you make a nice presentation and good luck to you.
What's the good, you ask? I'll tell you. I turned 22 on the 13th, which isn't all that exciting, but that was the day I officially heard my short Backspace had made it into the East Lansing Film Festival. I'm looking into posting it on the Internet. I got some cool gifts for my birthday and partied it up, all of which has been fun. I wrote a couple shorts, one of which is my entry in the Superhero contest taking place at the VPL. And that interview I mentioned? It took place at the Boji Tower, formerly the Michigan National Tower in Lansing. It's an elegant old building (how I love those) that normally I would never have gotten the chance to go to. I rode an elevator to the 21st floor, then had to find ANOTHER elevator to take me to the super-secret 22nd floor. I entered a room that featured a vista of the entire Lansing area and it was gorgeous. Well, Lansing isn't all that gorgeous, but a high up view of anywhere is pretty impressive. I have a special place in my heart for that type of thing, traveling to new places to see things I would normally never have seen. And then last night I went to the bar and got a phone number (from a girl no less!), which ain't exactly an everyday occurence for me, not being a lady's man and all.
And that's been my life so far. Heaven and Hell fighting for dominance. I wouldn't mind Hell so much if it didn't have such a diminishing effect on my already skimpy wallet.