The 2003 Daybook

    Yes, it's been another two weeks since the last update. Christmas was busy, as you likely know, but it's been busy since then too. Just yesterday, for example: I was cleaning a library until the wee hours and got home at 3:30am, set my new probe thermometer/timer for 3 hours 26 minutes, got up at 7:00am to go to jury duty, thereby skipping my day job (yaaay!); I sat twiddling until 2:30pm and at 4:15pm had convinced a judge and both attorneys that they didn't want me to participate in particular case (when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, it's said – I pulled a lemon out of my ass and squeezed hard), then when I got home I had two hours to prepare for my parents coming over (for those keeping score at home: this is the first time since my marriage five years ago and the second time in the ten years I've lived in the Puget Sound region they've paid me a social call), and mere minutes after they left I had to head to a library to work again... and it began snowing hard in that few minutes. So to say a few words on Christmas: I had a great time. Paige and I have switched roles this year: historically she was the lavish one and I was the frugal one, and I usually get passive-aggressive about the lousy gifts I get while she's good with whatever is in the boxes; this year I liked everything I got, even the pointless things, while our sister-in-law got Paige some real freakishly useless items in addition to the gift card she asked for (the ONLY thing she asked for), and I'd collected goodies for her all year while she was hesitant to spend any money due to our bad finances and eventual bankruptcy. Oh, and the lights around the edge of the house [see last entry, end of the first paragraph] are now clear purple and blue, I replaced all the white lights for originality's sake.
    As I say here every year, I don't make resolutions. The things I would like to accomplish I don't say out loud, since I believe those hopes are similar to the wishes one makes on birthday candles (make a wish, close your eyes, blow out all the candles in one go, and don't tell anyone what you wished for, then you will get your wish). But for 2003 I did actually make one promise to myself, again which I kept to myself, and for the most part it worked: I wanted to lose some weight, since I had gained a pound a month for the three years I was at Earthlink. I made the pledge to myself that in the new year I would go out on my Kangoo-Jumps more often and do something about my shape. Knowing that the biggest hinderance to any resolution is how the time it is made is during the holidays, I chose to start acting upon the resolution when it would be nice outside so I could bounce around, April 1. A week after I made the resolution, I lost my job, which one could say reduced the amount of sitting and regular eating I was doing. I started bouncing and walking nearly daily for a few months, then found myself tapering off as autumn approached. I had lost 20 pounds, or roughly 2 pounds a month! But life being full of balances, I got the job with in October and thus have been eating regularly and sitting a lot, but I haven't weighed myself so don't even want to consider whether anything's come back and if so how much. I don't have any new goals for 2004, but I think it would be nice to finish what I started and lose another 15-20, and the main goal from 2003 still holds: to get a gawddamn job!
    The R.A.T. honorable mention of the day goes to the anonymous woman who left a pair of diarrhea-streaked grey maternity panties in the tampon disposal bin at the South Hill Library. I'm not a scat fan (I will admit a pregnancy fetish though) and women have told me that accidents do happen when one has a baby pressing up against their excreatory organs. The honorable mention is because I found myself laughing hard at the concept of a pregnant chick shitting herself messily, ditching the evidence where anyone could find it, then going home 'commando'... possibly on a city bus. Or maybe I needed a good nonsensical laugh after jury duty; while I was there I kept thinking about the book/movie "Twelve Angry Men" and looking around the room at my fellow jurors, captioning them "Seventy Bored Stiff People."
    Today's R.A.T. anecdote, as a way to close the year, is supposed to be a lesson in simplicity: the story behind the statement, Cold cookies and warm soda are good for you. Several times while I lived on the lake, Chrome and I would get together to talk or write philes, and there was a new supermarket which had opened four miles down the street. It didn't seem like four miles, but mathematically if I had a North First Street address and the store was on 40th, it had to have been that far. We'd go there, sometimes on foot and sometimes on bike, to purchase what sounded good to us and we had the change to afford: a bag of President's Choice chocolate chip cookies and a box (one dozen cans) of President's Choice cola. [This isn't intended as a plug for the 'PC' brand, which is best known as a store brand in Canada, and the local market chain has renamed their store brand... but 'PC' cola is good and their black cherry cola is excellent.] We'd take the goodies back to the mobile home I was sharing with a teacher and get ourselves loaded up on sugar then try to write coherently. There was one day that we decided to go on a run for cookies and pop, and what was significant about this day was that there was a foot of snow on the ground, the lake behind my house was frozen solid, and the only way we could get there was to brave the elements. Dry cookies and room-temperature soda, were they worth the risk? Something internal to us determined it was integral to the day, a part of our friendship, a voyage we needed to make. We bundled up our overcoats, walked out of my trailer and down to the dock, then traversed the lake. The symbolism of walking on water didn't escape us but it felt more to us like the scene cast by Kate Bush's song "On Ice" – the staccato of your life crossing a surface you can't predict the thickness of, pleasure awaits at the far end and peril lurks underfoot. We continued off the ice shelf onto the frosted landscape and forded through snow to the road less travelled, followed up Fruitvale for three and a half miles, and purchased our bounty, then returned in our footsteps in the biting yet gentle wind and subzero cold. And the meal was good; the soda colder than when it had left the store but still tepid enough to give us a warming lift inside, and the cookies were more than a mere snack. This is all the moment required, store-bought machine-made cookies and cheap-yet-tasty soda. It wasn't until the next month, after a few crossing of the lake on other trips, that we discovered this was the third harshest blizard in the last century, and we'd gone out in it, on thick and thin ice, like it were nothing special. In the decade that has followed, I've never seen that lake so solidly and quiescently frozen, and the friendship between myself and Chrome endures with the occasional cookie and warm soda (usually Mountain Dew straight from the box in my pantry) though not as many of our discussions and noodlings wind up in typed form for public perusal anymore. Someone told me years ago that a true friend is someone you don't have to clean house for, which is akin to the thought that a friend is someone you don't have to go out of your way to impress. I apply the thought to entertainment, since some people get so wrapped up in "what are we going to do? where will we go, what movie shall we see, how much will this cost?" KISS - keep it simple, stupid. Honestly: Cold cookies and warm soda are good for you. Some people have known this for centuries, using tea and whatever confections, but we moderns sometimes forget.
    From the Reality Avoidance Therapists to you and yours, may your 2004 be blessed and bountiful.  --#2

    Hi-eye, I seem to be a week behind in the Daybook and two weeks behind in the Rant. But that sort of thing happens during the holidays (yeah, that's my excuse...) and things have been fairly nonstop here. It's the most wonderful time of the year, so they say, and everyone wants to get you involved in whatever happening they happen to be hosting. Last night, for instance, I went to my former coworker Peggy's place for an ornament party while my wife went to a baby shower for my lesbian sisters-in-law. Chrome — R.A.T. #1 if you recall him — has been in my area for awhile doing Guard duty and at this writing should be wrapping up a six-day "camping trip" which I'm sure didn't serve s'mores around a gathered-wood fire. (Yes, he keeps referencing the fact that he hasn't offered up any Daybook goodness but does have plenty to say about recent stupidity in his life. He is happy to announce he's finally got some help with his assisted-care facility job so he will actually get a little time off weekly.) I got an email from Emmer — R.A.T. #3 if you recall her — with a job announcement for Chrome and little about herself, so I can at least confirm she's alive. I'm not unwell myself [thanks for asking, Wayne] and it seems we did get the display case at the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library again this December, but we decided instead of putting in antique ornaments like last year we would fill it with Paige's collection of Christmas-themed M&M's stuff. Drop in there if you're in the Tacoma area and see far too many tins, toppers, stuffed characters, and other merchandising. Today's accomplishment was putting up the 7' artificial tree and the blue & white lights around the edge of the house.
    Usually what I write in the Daybook as the second or third paragraph is an anecdote of the recent past or a story (clean or sordid) from the distant past. Today I wish to confess something that really bothers me and can make some people's opinions turn yet has nothing to do with sex. (That's a change for me, I realize. <g>) Part of this comes from living near a couple military bases, part is from living near a metropolitan center, and part of it is simple human nature, but there are a lot of black guys who have white women on their arms locally. Some women who date black guys are what are known as "whiggers" (white people who wish they were black and try hard to act like the black stereotypes, including the negative ones) and those aren't the people I'm speaking of; as they saying goes, "you can have 'em, I don't want 'em." (I say the same about otherwise-intelligent white women who go out with white men who are "whiggers" because it shows a serious defect in the women's thinking process; to me it's like the women are trying to insult their own intelligence by association... presuming they had any.) Some women who date black guys are average to good-looking, well-dressed, fairly intelligent and upright, and to their credit the men they're with are also good-looking, well-dressed, fairly intelligent and upright; I don't have much of a problem here because both parties are functional members of society and it just so happens that the man is not white (and I'm told the guys sometimes hear from other blacks that they are "acting white" and are called traitors, but I've also been told that the guys respond, "Why do you feel that way... because I'm successful?"). The people that have me irked are the fashionable, good-bodied, pretty-faced, darned-hot white women who choose stereotypical blacks or black guys who dress and talk like urban youth. And before you say anything, this is the point where I explain my reasoning by saying that many black women express a similar point of view when it comes to the aforementioned successful black males (and worthwhile average black males) choosing white women over black women: It bothers me because there are fewer beautiful people of my fleshtone to chose from. Never mind that I'm not on the market myself so I couldn't ask these chicks out anyway, it's the principle of the matter. (And if you have never seen a sistah go off on a black male who has forsaken sistahs, it is quite hilarious to witness.) I want to clarify, I'm not stating any form of prejudice against African-Americans whatsoever and one of my dearest friends in the world is very much a black woman (functional, successful, speaks English properly, dresses very stylish, and gets aggrieved about how she's still single at age 30 because all the best black men she knows personally are either married, gay, or only date white women). I am however loudly stating my prejudice against those stunning svelt blondes, brunettes and lily-white redheads in curve-hugging shirts and hiphugger pants who can have anybody they want, and pretty much any Caucasian male would eat shit off of china to get close to, yet those women choose to go gheto. There, I have said it. I feel better.
    The shindig, well, I think it went okay. I say 'think' because I missed it. I thought it started at 3 p.m. so that's when I showed up, but no, it ended at that time and started at 1 p.m. So I didn't get to talk to anyone beside the curator, though a couple of the visitors were still there and they gave me their appreciation. I celebrated the event by, at soonest ability, taking Chrome to Renton to visit the Fry's Electronics for doodads and the IKEA for some awesome STRÅLA light strings. (Hey #1, they finally got the long strings of blues in a week later... told ya they existed!) Am I ready for Christmas? Pretty close, I do need to buy a couple more things for my beloved then wrap and I'll be done.  --#2

    Here in the United States, Thursday is Thanksgiving. A day of food, family, and (in theory) fun. I'm dreading my day, not just because I'm working at a library until 4 a.m. so won't be fresh as a daisy when I have to face anyone, but because I have to spend it with my wife's family. Now don't get me wrong, I like them. But I don't want to be with them tomorrow. This is once again due to my sister-in-law Anne having gone lesbian a year ago, because she's attempting to get every male in her life she isn't related to by blood (and some she is related to because she begat them) out of her life, and will resort to any sort of trick and fabrication to do it. And since the oldest sister is between husbands, she herself is divorced and living blithely, and her younger sister's widower doesn't venture over here very often, the only unrelated guy left is... me. Having Anne's disapproval wouldn't be much of an issue if her oldest sister and her brother hadn't decided, "in order to stay on the girl's good side, we need to shun him too." They've flat out told Paige that "although he's never been a problem to us," they don't want me over at their houses... how fuckin' Christian of them. Thanksgiving is at their mother's house, and Mom likes me plenty because I make her daughter happy. She's still in the minority and I hate being outnumbered, no matter how pleasant the rest of the crowd chooses to act tomorrow.
    Thanksgiving in younger years was spent at Aunt Mayme & Uncle Frank's house, and they were truly wicked cooks. Christmas was also spent at their house, whether it was the two-story old creature in downtown Wapato, the little mobile unit out toward Ahtanum, or the four-bedroom off Yakima Avenue which Aunt Mayme bought off of one of her sons after Uncle Frank passed on. I had my first taste of buttermilk under their auspices, and not the modern kind where an acid is added to lowfat milk to curdle it – this was the real deal with little blobs of butter in it. Damn near curled my toes in shock when I drank that. Every year at eating holidays I'd ask if she had any pickled lemon rind or pickled watermelon for the hors d'oeurve tray, and about ¾ the time she did. Those were the days when I'd fill my plate immoderately at Thanksgiving and basically have to shove the rest of the food down my throat with my foot to not waste what I'd taken. The tradition of spending the holidays at their house started falling apart after my grandmother, Aunt Mayme's sister, passed on, because my family didn't feel as attached as they had been, or maybe it was just too sad to my mother that her mother wasn't there, plus one of my cousins had grown up and started a family so she was inviting her immediate relatives to come spend the holidays with her... and as my aunt got older the family of one of her sons took over the Thanksgiving duties most of the time though my aunt's last Thanksgiving was spent at my parents' house. Uncle Frank died of old age in the late 1980's, while Aunt Mayme suddenly developed ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) which progressed extremely quickly and left us in the mid-90's. With the exception of Uncle Frank's sister Lenora "Smitty" Smith, all of the relatives I had any deep respect for are gone, and I haven't seen Aunt Lenora in a long time. Holidays aren't a sad time for me, I want to clarify; holidays are just a time when I don't know where I'm supposed to be anymore.
    today's story...  Some things make your head spin a little when you think about them years later. The popular image is going to your high school reunion and discovering to your surprise who had a crush on you that you never knew about, and then you can't help thinking how much different life would have been had you known about it when it mattered. It wasn't high school that produced that sort of moment (darn it), it was college. I spent five years at a nondenominational Catholic college on the outskirts of the town I grew up in – and met the woman who became my wife there, as well as the girl who nearly became my downfall – and when I arrived the average student age was 42, and when I left it was down to 36. There were few people I knew of who were approximately my age, but I did recognise Gracie Serrano as being an agemate, who I don't recall ever having a class with but she would always greet me happily and I guess you could say nervously. Five years we passed each other in the hall, made chit-chat on random occasions, and did little more than acknowledge one another's existance. I graduated in 1991. In the Fall of 1993 I visited the school with the kindred spirit from the opposite side of the state I was hanging out with at the time, just to see how the place had changed and pick up some free computer equipment from my old mentor, when there she was in the library... Gracie was still there, now working for the school. (That was long a joke at that place, that people would graduate then move to the other side of the counter they'd been standing at.) We greeted each other happily, and she was one of the only familiar faces seen. And that's when the moment transpired: nervously (as always) she suggested that if I was in town for awhile I should come have dinner with her family. Where did that come from? I wondered, since we'd never so much as had lunch together in the cafeteria when we were students. I was only at the school for maybe an hour, drifting around quickly, so I didn't get any time to further that conversation, but once I was in my friend's vehicle going toward our next destination I couldn't stop thinking: Where could that have gone? If only I had more time to ask... I realized somewhere down the road that the answer to the question of "why didn't we investigate the possibilities when we were around each other daily" was simply, because we weren't who we are now. We weren't ready. And once we were ready, we weren't able. I haven't been back to that neighborhood during school hours in a long time so that day in October 1993 was the last time I've ever seen Gracie. I'm writing this to blow a kiss on the wind to someone whom I never realized was interested in me when it mattered, and as a karmic means of finally acknowledging her warmth since I didn't do it once I realized it.   --#2

11/19/03 and yes, the museum is decorated, go see it - open house on Dec 7!
    The next step in the process of declaring bankruptcy transpired yesterday: we went to the courthouse to stand before the trustee. If you've never been around a bankruptcy, here is the visual... Instead of a judge, there is a trustee sitting at the bench. In front of him is a table where the applicants sit on one side and their attorney sits on the other. Contrary to a trial, the attorney acts on the court's side and asks all the questions of the applicants, unless the applicants choose not to hire an attorney and then it's the trustee that asks the questions. (Okay, so why would anyone hire an attorney then?) After the basic questions are asked, the trustee then asks the courtroom if anyone has anything to add, at which time the representatives of any creditors owed can come forth and try to negotiate something for their interests. So on with the story. We got to court and were the eleventh case on the docket, so we got to sit and watch the procedure. I felt for the trustee, he seemed like a nice guy who was frustrated by other people's lack of preparation or lack of competence, and that frustration showed as he chided the attorneys who failed to prepare their clients (or themselves) in all-but-"you dumbshit, you're wasting my time!" tones. He was a lot of fun to watch. In the seats on the right side of the courtroom were some representatives of businesses owed money, and the two people most often seen waiting to get their digs in was someone from Citibank on behalf of Sears and Pam from the Les Schwab tire store here in Spanaway. (No wonder I never see her behind the counter there anymore!)
    We got called forth and since we represented ourselves, we got right down to business. The trustee asked Paige all the pertinent questions, then turned to me and asked "do you agree with everything she said?" I gave my uh-huh. I saw the Sears representative pacing the aisle, and we do owe them for some large appliances. Our counselor had told us awhile back Sears would be a sticky one because they actually show up to these hearings. But the trustee did something unexpected: he didn't ask if anyone wanted in on the act. So he dismissed us and we went down the hall, remarking among ourselves how well that went. We should be receiving word through snailmail about the next court date soon.
    Sordid story time... Years ago one of my favorite loose-moralled Mormon girlfriends introduced me to her friend Loree. She warned me before she brought her over that this chick would "stick to you like gum on your shoe." I thought she had to be overstating the case, so I said 'bring her on.' Loree and I hit it off pretty well. She was a blonde with a pushed-in nose and a nice enough body, who loved to talk – and had one of those complexes where a person speaks disrespectfully of their friends and constantly asks if you think they are 'better' than other people. (For the record, insecure people who diss on others and fluff themselves up make me itch.) She started coming over and hanging out with me, and would call daily. This was all very amusing until I realized she didn't really listen to anything I said. It was particularly amusing the time we were discussing, oh, I don't know, probably auto parts or something as impersonal, and she suddenly replies with "You want to see me every day?!" Uh, where did you get that response from? I also came to figure out her game, which is something I called "flying under the radar." Being a church girl, there were a lot of things she couldn't ask directly for, but if she talked around the subject things would be fine. Like she'd ask me to close the curtains so it would be dark, then ask me to lay down on top of her, and as I would be moving my body to the horizontal one of her hands would slide her dress up and panties down. But under no circumstances was I to see the goods, I could only touch them in the dark. Any attempt to see the goods, try another form of amusement such as oral, or rework this scheme in any way would result in her standing up and walking out of my apartment. She also asked me to drop my pants while I was laying down (not before, when it would be convenient – she'd see my body and that likewise would be bad) and "scoot forward" with the intended result being that our genitals would interlock. She couldn't ask for a screw, but she could arrange things physically so that it would happen. But this amused me more than it aroused me. That's my way of saying I purposely stayed flaccid when she'd pull that manoeuver, I didn't want to Do It with her. This happened a couple times, and after the second she never came back to my apartment. But I more or less sealed that fate anyway: After she'd see me, she'd call our mutual friend and tell her a few things, some which were true and some which were wishful thinking, then that friend would call me to ask what really happened. Well, the second time I spurned her desires, she left and it was I who called our friend to tell her what transpired. Later on she called me back to say that Loree had claimed that I attacked her and tried to give her the bone, but the girl already heard my side of the story so she knew what was what: that giving her the bone was the complete opposite of my intentions. Loree called after she found out our friend already knew what happened, angry that I'd blabbed to our friend (in the same manner she had always blabbed first) and I said I was just making sure the true story got out, and that I knew she was telling the story backwards about who threw themselves at whom. She never called again. I've seen her a couple times since then, and in both cases she ignored me outright. She also doesn't talk to our friend anymore, heh. She also gained about fifty pounds and may have gotten married to the first guy who'd have her. My sympathies to that guy; the sex couldn't possibly be worth it.   --#2

    Tonight I am decorating that tree at the Prairie House Museum, so you are all welcome to visit and see the wonderment. You know your collection of anything is out of hand when you can fill up one 50-gallon tub with something you fancy and yet it doesn't make a dent in your supply. I'm doing okay at my day job, as I suspected I would be once the brain-busting training was over and I had learned some practical stuff by doing it, and still getting some hours with the library. I was surprised to get a rebate check from my mortgage company, which says it overestimated how much tax we paid – read: acknowledgement that they're charging $10 too much per month, heh. I was also surprised by something that happened the other day at a craft fair: Years ago, I hung out with this woman by the name of Jynnifer who worked in a thriftstore, and thereby met her sister and her sister's two children. My friend moved away several years ago and I only see her sister at random intervals; her sister's kids and I haven't really ever had much of a rapport. I saw the oldest daughter, now 19, working at the 'photo with Santa' area which I have seen her at in previous years, and she greeted me excitedly with open arms. Gee, I never knew you cared, Sarah... :) For even more surprises, I went to this Christmas boutique called Sleighbells which is located in a house on the Historic Register in Sumner WA, after procrastinating about visiting since July. Oh. My. Gawd. It's like all the Christmas shops of of Leavenworth WA all rolled up into one small building, but without the yearly visits from Christopher Radko I always miss by a few days. It's a beautiful house that is jam-packed with Christmas clutter of all varieties, most of which is tasteful (I hate 'country' Christmas kitch, I'm a classicist, and this place specializes in classical). I picked up some colored reusable tinsel and blown glass ornaments. Now, all I need to do is shop for other people...
    Today's anecdote, speaking of Jyn, was actually a R.A.T. function. I believe it was New Year's Eve of 1995... Chrome had come over for the passing of another year, and we were sitting around sort of bored. Around 10:30 p.m. the phone rings, and it's Jynnifer, inviting us over to her house for the event. Sure, no problem! We go over to her house, and she's got a flock of youth over. They reportedly were on acid, but they weren't really acting like it though I recall the pipe being passed so there was something in the air. Someone gets the bright idea to go to the minimart on the next block, so we all go out as a herd. Jyn is wearing one inline skate and one go-go boot. We push her like a dolly to the market, her hanging on myself and Chrome (we're looking at each other like "wtf?"), and when we got back to her house she put in the videotape of Pink Floyd The Wall and we absorbed that. Being sober made it less exciting for us than everyone else thought. Eventually he and I went back to my place and drank some carbonated grape juice that had fermented, no complaints, wishing we could have brought a couple of those creatures we were laughing with home with us. Days later I was talking to Jyn and she said, "I was dressed in a drillteam outfit, wearing a go-go boot and an inline skate! I was with nearly a dozen people! Why didn't anyone tell me I looked cheap?!" I said, "We thought you knew." :)   --#2

    Greets, cybernauts. Before I go much further, I need to right a wrong. In the last entry, I said that my birthday went by without much notice, including by me, and I was oddly comfortable about that fact. My friend Gabriella pointed out that my phrasing implied that no one took notice, which wasn't true and isn't fair to those who did remember my birthday and took the time to acknowledge it. In thinking about the matter, I figured just putting an "almost" in front of the words "no one noticing" wouldn't be enough because people who have already read something don't backpedal to see if something changed. So to clarify: Most of the world was blissfully unaware of my turning 36, which has always bothered me in the past but this year didn't seem to be an issue, and I'm always happy that a select few (typically those who mean the most to me) took notice. I'm sure that's how it is with everyone, so I'm not special, but at one's birthday they want to feel special, right? My wife and my good friends make me feel special on a daily basis, a fact that shouldn't be overlooked. I think I've figured out why this year I was less bothered by doing nothing: Most years my birthday falls on a weekday, so anyone I would want to spend the day with is unavailable, therefore I don't take the day off from whatever work I'm doing and feel upset that I'm not out partying with the gang (not that I've ever really had a peer group). This year, it was on a Saturday, so I was empowered. And it seems my choice of things to do with that power was... nothing whatsoever.
    As a token of friendship, or as a sweet birthday present, Gabriella sent me some Krówka tejkaramella (milk caramels) which are simply out of sight. I'm not positive they arrived from the week or two of transit in perfect condition, since they look like regular caramels when unwrapped but have the consistancy and flavor of a Vermont maple sugar candy, like the repeated temperature changes messed with the crystal structure of the sugar – but this does not matter because the candy in the form I have been eating it is shocklingly rich and amazingly good. Thank you, Gab... I can honestly say that I did receive a birthday gift this year, and one beyond compare.
    I received some good news to put me in the Christmas spirit and to give me the opportunity to once again share my antique Christmas ornament collection with the world! The Spanaway Historical Society contacted my wife the other day, asking if we'd like to set up a display tree at The Prairie House Museum [924 East 176th Street, Spanaway WA; (253) 536-6655; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every third Sunday or open by appointment] which is on the grounds of the Fir Lane Funeral Home. We need to call them back to set up a time to get in there and decorate (as you can see, they have wonky hours!), but we intend to be there this year. You're all invited to go visit once we get our stuff arranged. I have lived in or near Spanaway (yes, the place immortalized by a Seaweed album) for the last nine years, and even lived 2½ away from the museum, yet I didn't know the place existed until now.
    I want to get this posted and go to bed (ahh, the many joys of having a day job) so today's weird anecdote isn't one of my own per se, but a story told to me by Robin Gordon years ago. She's the daughter of the minister my church had when I was a teenager, a very conformist rebel – that means that she talked like a free spirit but was too entrenched in her station to actually act like one, which is a different beast than today's 'rebel conformists' (today's youth who all wear the exact same 'alternative' gear, proving the statement "You are a unique individual, just like everyone else") – and about the edgiest thing I ever saw her do was wear a robe which had been cast off from or was stolen from a mental hospital, that she had found in Goodwill. (And underneath that robe, she wore a tan bra that resembled fleshtone. Trompe l'oeil!) Robin was the girl mentioned in my special 'how Mushy lost his virginity' Daybook entry awhile back as standing in the bedroom doorway as Things Transpired Inside, crying "When I said `what's a little sex among friends?`, I didn't really mean it!" Her complaint about the summer camp we attended was that the people weren't the same way the other 359 days of the year as they were when they were at camp, and I said that's what I liked most about the place – you could be who you wanted to be, not who you had to be. Anyhow... She told me that she had gone on a double-date with her truly rebel friend Jaleh, and both of the guys were bisexual. At the beginning of the night, Robin and one of the guys were in the front seat and Jaleh and the other guy were in the back, but by the end of the night the two girls were in the front seat playing cards and the two guys were in the back seat, hmm, let's just say they were having a better time together than they had been having with the girls. That has got to be the worst date imaginable, short of your date running off with your younger sibling. (I have had dates run off with my best friend, but I've never lost a woman to one of my brothers.)   --#2

"All these people that you don't like – aren't they happier than you?" -- Sarah (Vera Stough), in the 'mental hygiene' school film The Snob (Centron Corp., 1958)
    Man, I had a flock of things to say about my birthday and life in general, but I've misplaced most of them. The birthday itself went differently than usual; there were no gifts, there was cake (carrot, with cream cheese frosting) and a tea-light candle on top, we didn't really go anywhere because we got up and organized so late, and I didn't feel the usual grey clouds of having a birthday or the dismay of no one noticing. That fact is surreal; I'm not used to not feeling bad. A week later, once my bride and I both were paid by our usual jobs and I'd finally received a week's pay from that online bookstore thing, so now we could afford to get a rack of ribs at Pete's BBQ and buy a few niceties (primarily a National Lampoon cartoon collection and the fixin's for cornbread). I have attained my stated goal of surviving the two-week training class for this holiday job (so now I can delay getting up by an hour!), and though I haven't taken a call yet I get the feeling that it's a good thing this is just a holiday gig. I have the worst desk in the building, it's literally Grand Central Station right behind me, and no amount of polite discussion (or, to be fair, outright usurping of prime real estate elsewhere) will convince these folks that they should allow me a different seat, one where concentration is an attainable goal. Someone speculated that the management knows that corner is shit, and it's a test of my character (I have found myself humming Recoil's "Edge To Life" when pondering my placement, yes) to see if I can survive; this is what Mushy gets for asking questions since questions are, afterall, a challenge of established authority. [And it must hurt to have tits so saggy or a weiner so short, yet be so young and powerful. My sympathies to your families.] There was one glimmer of sunshine: Dionne, whom I worked with at Earthlink (started in customer service, came down to tech support), is one of the next wave of trainees. I figured I'd see more Blinky-expatriats already working there, but belated is fine too.
    I'm holding a few eBay auctions on behalf of my dear friend MeLissa, and one of the books is this 1905 anti-masturbatory tome steeped briskly in religious fire & brimstone called What A Boy Ought To Know. (It's also been released as What A Man Ought To Know I've learned, since now other people are listing their copies of the book...) The first week, there were no bids. So I submitted the listing to as the auction was closing to amuse other people. After the next update, I got email from six people asking if I'd relist the title. Of course! Three days into the second auction, I got an email from my ISP saying that 800 megs of traffic had passed through (courtesy of the first listing, which had 1800 hits when I looked at it before relisting) and I'm only allowed 1 gig of webspace downloads per month. And I have five other auctions running right now (ending tomorrow, though) and five more I should start soon; I need that webspace to not be shut off (which is what will happen once the limit has been met). I've attempted to remedy the situation by editing the graphics so one view is worth under 125 kilobytes instead of four or five times that amount. Give me a month and I'll share the direct links to the pictures with you kind folks, m'kay?
    When I remember what great stories I was going to tell here, I'll post them. I just need to get into the groove in this new shindig. So far I've ascertained that just because a company's corporate beliefs say that work should be enjoyable, there's nothing written therein which says it's supposed to be fun. And that a number of my coworkers have been convinced that's how it's supposed to be. (This is a big shift for me, see, because my last job was fun and yet stuff still got accomplished, and the founder of that company left because he was no longer having fun. The founder of this company is still having fun, but he's one of the only people allowed that priviledge, likely due to lack of supervision.) I somehow survived 72 hours or so on only 5 hours of sleep – I was in class from 8am to 5pm, then in a library from 10pm until oh-dark-thirty, on Monday and Tuesday of this last week, so when I got home on Wednesday evening I hit the sheets in a big way. I'd never done that much time without sleep before, and I hope that I won't soon repeat that madness.
"Hello, I'm: Totally Bored" -- name badge seen on a cashier at Big!Lots    --#2

10/17/03yes, tomorrow's my 36th birthday
    I'm a little behind in writing because I've spent the last week training. I'm sure that my supervisors would consider a quantity of what I could say about the place "proprietary" (it is no breech of confidence to say that some of the folks who oversee me are nice to look at from the front but appear to have spent too much time sitting from the back, and some pray to their deity on a regular basis that He/It will grant them the gift of being interesting on a personal level), but I will say that it's surprising the number of tools good e-commerce requires and how intricate they are in use. That's the real uphill battle to a job in customer support where the supported base of items is pretty broad, as was the case at the ISP job I had for three years and the impression I get from this thing I will have for around three months: so much to know, so many things to learn, and there will always be some new item or procedure to be introduced to as situations develop. Even my instructors are still climbing the learning curve since stuff keeps changing; I can think of two items we learned in class this week which will have significantly changed by the time the class ends in a week, for instance. Will this turn into a solid job come January? I really can't predict, because a gaggle of people were trained two weeks earlier and another gaggle will come along as soon as this group is done, and judging by the cattle-call we received in email (a nice bonus for recommending new trainees) there will be more still. My biggest criticism of this job says more about me than whomever I'm working for: I'm starting at 8am every day, and when I hit the floor as a real temporary Amazonian it will be either 8am or 9am – which neigh unto kills me since I'm anything but a morning person. But could be worse, I could be working nights cleaning libraries in addition... which I'll be doing later today (but tomorrow starts the weekend) and Monday (oy vey! I'll get home from Gig Harbor around 4am then have to get up at 7am for class). No rest for the wicked, and some would say I've got 'wicked' down pat.
    I was thinking about a short chapter of my life recently, which I'll title the "H.O.M.E. BBS" story. Back in the old 'hood a lot of people ran computer bulletin boards (BBS's), since the public Internet was still five to eight years away. (And from whence R.A.T. gets the notion that a system operator – sysop – is anyone who has a computer, a modem, a phone line, BBS software, and a smart friend to set them all up. Nowadays one only needs half of that list and one can earn the title "webmaster.") One of the most popular boards around was Dyk's Data Works, a BBS which had three nodes (phone lines connected) so people could go to a chat area and talk to one another. People really dug this, and wished there were a way to get more than three people to conflab at a time. Steve Dyk eventually closed his board (to be truthful, loaned it to a school which only had one phone line available, then it went offline without fanfare) which left the community with plenty of places to post messages and one or two BBS's with two nodes and a less simple means of chatting, but nothing really comparable. One to two dozen people who frequented the local BBS's were discussing the absence of good chat systems in some online forum, and out of this a guy by the name of Michael (actually his middle name) got the bright idea that he'd put together a mainframe – not merely a desktop PC, but a six foot tall PDP-100 mainframe – and write some BBS software for it, plug in 20 modem boards, and give the people what they wanted. Michael was this buff guy who was built just like his white Marine dad but had his mother's Japanese eyes, and he was engaged to this green-eyed beautifully-busted red-haired earth muffin named Jodi who worked at the YWCA. (She was the first person that I constructed one of my mantras of life around, the one that says "this drop-dead cute girl shouldn't be with the guy she's seeing, but if that's the kind of person she's interested in then this says a lot about her mind and I wouldn't want to date her.") Enough people had used the magic phrase I'd pay for a service like that! and he took them at their word. He formed a work party, and he started digging up his hardscrabble yard with the help of myself, Chad (the author of a poem about me, I'm Very Breathless), and this other guy whose name escapes me (whose house was so unliveably immaculate that it was like something in a magazine) that had a thing for duct tape. We spent a week digging a two-foot deep trench from the phone juncture at the street to his office, a good eighty feet since we did it rectilinear to the edge of the driveway and then alongside it instead of running directly across the yard (he was renting, and that configuration was what his landlord would agree to). Chad, what's-his-face, and I came up with a bit in honor of the project, patterned after Mike Meyers' "Lothar Of The Hill People" themesong from Saturday Night Live: "<chanting four times> Michael of the Trench People...   <self-narration voice> I am Michael, of the Trench People! Many beers have I drunk and many cigs have I smoked. Join me now, will you not? For I am Michael, of the Trench People!" He laid eight lines initially and figured upon putting in more as soon as he had cash intake from users to support it; meanwhile he and a programmer-dude were writing code for the BBS, and after he'd tried to keep his project secret from the general public until things were in motion he finally came out and said: you all asked for a multinode chat board, I've got the multinodes and the chat board is being cobbled together as we speak... so everyone kindly put your money where your mouth is because this board ain't free. Crickets chirped. One person out of the throng ever sent a $20 check. You can guess just how pissed off he was, as well as envision how impoverished he'd become since he put forth a few hundred dollars to build this when he didn't really have visible means of support other than his computer consulting business (back before the masses had computers) and his girlfriend (who had nothing to do with the project except to occasionally interrupt him while he was barking orders with some trivial question, to which his lion voice would go lambish: "honey?" in this rediculously nasal voice that Chad and I imitated for a long time after). It was only a month or three later that he and Jodi picked up stakes and moved to Arizona or something, since they couldn't pay their bills anymore... he stuck his neck out and in return the BBS'rs cost a guy his home. Sad.
    Since some of R.A.T.'s fans claim that no entry is complete without some sordid story (bless you for seeing things my way!), I do have a quickie to pitch out, one of those things I don't think anyone back in the old 'hood ever knew... It was the last day of school, 1985 (the end of my junior year), and one of our classmates is driving a pickup around with a dozen or so of us in the back. Sitting on the wheelwell across from me is Randy, and in his lap (as much of a lap as one can have when sitting on a wheelwell) is his girlfriend Sylvia in blue shorts. [aside: they had two kids together by the time they graduated, and they were still together when I saw them at the class reunion seven years ago.] The truck went over a pothole or bump, and Sylvia slides off Randy's lap sharply to the bed, and she decided to just remain sitting like that with her legs apart to bolster her. She now has a frontal wedgie. Her pubic region and labia are in plain sight from where I sit. I wanted to take in as much of this as possible, while trying not to make it apparent that I'm staring (I put my arm up across my eyes so they wouldn't see where my gaze fell), but Mother Nature did Sylvia a favor; with the wind one encounters in the back of a moving vehicle, my eyes were watering so bad that I couldn't focus on anything! That's about where I realized that it's not always what you saw or did which makes life memorable, but that you can truthfully say you saw or did it. And that one should take a camera to events to make them even more memorable! :)  --#2

    I have some good news! The world's largest online bookstore called to offer me a holiday customer service job, which I'll be starting this Friday. Good karma prevails afterall! I'm not quitting my night job, the occasional janitorial gig, because it pays much better per hour and usually doesn't conflict with Amazon's hours (plus the custodial job will still be there in January, there are no guarantees about Amazon). I should be getting my paycheck from the Fair in a day or so, then... we file bankruptcy!! That may sound bad (it's surely not a great thing), but with the loss of income in January we've gotten so behind in our finances that we're out of options. We get called 20 times a day by money collectors (no exageration), according to the Caller ID box and the answering machine. This will make much of the noise go away so we can get ourselves established again, and judging by some sleepless nights we've had this year it's overdue.
    This afternoon I felt this pain in my midsection, similar to having an arrow splunked through me (a mental image of Saint Sebastian came to mind but without the justified martyrdom), which came from someone telling me a few facts I already knew but with a subjective statement thrown in: "And you're ugly." I don't claim to be anything special outside (you can check the Gallery for proof), but that was unnecessary and unChristian, even if it was said jokingly or in the heat of the moment. Once I'd tugged that arrow out – "I saw you laugh when the knife was twistin' / It still hurts but the pain has shifted" [Martin Briley, "The Salt In My Tears"] – I thought about a previous time when I felt punctured much worse by someone with whom I was emotionally involved, who I refer to as 'SFZ' and which I wrote a little about in the fourth ever Daybook entry (June 28, 2000). She had gone from "I need you beside me" one day to "I don't want to be your lover, I want to be your friend" after three days [as seen in the entry] to her mother finding her typing a page full of the phrase I hate him! after seven days. She had a case of buyer's remorse; she got what she had specifically asked for, what she had wanted either consciously or subconsciously (else she wouldn't have asked), and discovered after a few days that she either couldn't handle what she'd received or the fact that she had desire for it. I was nice about things, since I believe it's truly wrong to be hateful toward someone you have warm feelings about, and told 'SFZ' that while to thineself she had to be true (getting me out of her picture) there was no going back to where she had been she'd been so eager to leave (and no amount of hatred could turn back the clock). It took me a few months to get my head on straight again after that girl did a 180° on me, but situationally I had little else to distract me at the time (and washing dishes at a Pizza Hut gives too much time to think/stew). The current piercing, an unkind word from a respected and previously kind stranger, will heal long before that person's dislike of herself for ever giving her respect and kindness to me fades away.
    Yeah, I wrote a new Rotating Rant at last, it's political an' stuff but there are some things that really need to be said (at the least so that search engine spiders can lay their eggs on them). And speaking of writing, I've been asked if I would be willing to work on a newsletter which is being started by a guy whose writing and websites I admire; details as they arise, I know nothing further at the moment. "Anything to extend my ego another seven inches," I told him. I don't have any other big announcements to make except that I officially cross the midlife line in two weeks, and I have no idea how I shall celebrate my birthday. At this point in my poverty and with the happy moments of the last few weeks, I'll probably have to be happy with the nonmaterial gifts I've received recently... and I admit that memories mean more to me than mere possessions. Well, that and I can't think of any music I need other than store-bought copies of a couple albums I've downloaded, heh heh!  --#2

There was one t-shirt slogan that I forgot to put on the 9/22/03 entry. You ready?
  • WWJD for a Klondike Bar?
It's only blasphemous if you somehow believe that He would want us to write "WWJD?" on our clothes and stuff. That wasn't in the Book, as I recall... Oh yeah, another item I was going to bring up, tangentally. Every year there's this booth run by some holy roller church which asks people, "Are you going to Heaven? Take this two question test." (The two questions are intricate enough that it's actually like 20 if the first answer isn't Yes.) I saw someone from that stand wearing a T-shirt that said, "I'm going to Heaven! Ask me how I know." My instant response was: whoops, pride is a mortal sin; BEEP, you're disqualified, drive through please. And I honestly looked skyward and said, "Lord, protect me from your followers." (Yes, folks, I do believe in the existance of God and that Jesus died for our sins. Don't chase me with torches and pitchforks. But someone's right to swing a Bible, Qu'ran, Torah, or Necromicon at me ends at the tip of my nose.)  --#2

    There's been a spate of celebrity deaths lately, all from natural causes, which has a few people I know of a little wigged out because this has exceeded the "3 person rule" which says that if two famous people pass on it'll only be a matter of days before a third goes. I'm not that sentimental about any of them (though I do feel something about the losses of Johnny Cash, Robert Palmer, and possibly John Ritter – they contributed something to my little world at one time or another), but there was another loss I just found out about which affects me... a soon-to-be-famous writer.
    My wife is always talking about this member of the Library Friends group who has been very generous and kind to the library staff. It so happens she lives a block away from us, and a month ago she called me to get a little help with her computer so I walked over to see what was the matter. It wasn't anything crucial, there was this page break that kept coming up in the wrong place in this 24-page document she was working on and wouldn't go away. (The 'Dummies' manual for the word processor came right out and said there was no way to remove a page break once it has been added. Very bright, Microsoft.) I did some jiggery-pokery and got rid of it, and she was very happy. I couldn't accept money for deleting one errant character, so I accepted a rootbeer, an Olympia beer (it's the water...), and a Diet Pepsi for my spouse (who refused to drink it because the expiration date was October 14 1996!). We sat down and chatted for about an hour about dozens of things. The document she was having trouble with was a chapter of her autobiography. She was in a writer's discussion group, and when she revealed that during World War II she was a young female taxi driver [she was born in 1924] the other members demanded that she write a book about the experience. She didn't take to the task immediately, but as the anecdotes came back to her she realized they were right, this is a book that must be written. She was just putting the polish on the work, as far as I know, when my assistance was requested, and was consulting with a publisher. I didn't read much of the chapter that I was fixing, but it seemed a good work. As we sat in the livingroom petting her attention-hog dog she told me a few stories, some from her days as a taxi driver (and how she identified a couple German spies to Federal agents and received only verbal thanks when they were captured) and others from the other things she'd done in her life, like being part of an inspection group that toured sweatshops in Third World countries. I noticed the Puyallup Fair badges pinned up on a corkboard and mentioned I work there every year too, and she told me she works in the art building so we might see each other sometime. I made it a point to go looking for her, and I never did see her the entire Fair but I didn't think anything of it; it's a big place, hours are staggered, and it's not like I'd go visiting the arts building frequently (most people don't visit it at all!). She's a neighbor and a Library Friend so I'd find out what was up sooner or later.
    I saw her obituary on a counter in the backroom of the library she was a Friend to while I was cleaning the place. She had passed on September 11, a week into the Fair; I didn't find this out until September 25. I'd just made the acquaintance of this amazing woman, touched the tapestry she'd spun, and expected to see her again because she didn't look like she'd be leaving anytime soon... so as you can guess, this came as a surprise to me. I hope her family sees to it that her manuscript gets published; she had the sense to make record of her life, managed to get what she was trying to say complete, and intended to share with the world, and in her honor they should make sure her wish came true.  --#2

Top 10 Customer Questions At The Mad Greek - and notice that only one relates to gyros:
  10 - Where can I find [various descriptions of a pirosky]?  (At Kaleenka's, down yonder. I don't recall anyone directly asking "where is Kaleenka's" this time.)
   9 - Do you have spanacopa / falafel?  (No. Want a soggy baklava?)
   8 - Where is the Blue Gate?  (By the bathroom... pointing left)
   7 - Don't you find the air horn on the ride next door annoying?  (Fuck yes. But not as annoying as their habit of playing "Wanna Be A Baller" by Lil' Troy once every hour, or putting CCR/Petty/Skynyrd CD's on loop.)
   6 - Do you have beef/lamb gyros?  (Yes, stupid. It's the first thing on the menu. Why is it the only thing you see listed is chicken?)
   5 - Where is the bathroom??  (By the Blue Gate... pointing left)
   4 - Where can I get elephant ears/latte/scones?  ("right there," pointing to the booth that is mere yards away and in plain sight)
   3 - Where is the nearest ATM?  ("State Patrol office wall," pointing right)
   2 - Have you gone on the SuperSling?  (Not this year, thanks, but the previous four)
   1 - Do you have lids?  (NO!!!!)
Top 10 Other Questions, Asked Of Me Or Asked By Me
  10 - Can I buy your t-shirt?  (No, despite my having six. Even a coworker with two asked me this.)
   9 - How can you be tired? You haven't done anything today.  (Suck my beef gyros and just cook, bitch!)
   8 - Did you tell me the customers at your window were being served already?  (Yes, twice; not that it's your concern...)
   7 - That's the head manager of your company??  ("Yes, but only because the real one is 9 months pregnant and couldn't fly in... and as soon as the Fair's over, he's getting his walking papers. He doesn't know this yet.")
   6 - Aren't you sick of making tortilla soup?  (Tanya at Vita-Mix: "yes!!")
   5 - Are you gellin'?  (I'm so gellin' I'm smokin'.)
   4 - Why are you wearing those beads?  (Me smart, me potentially get flashed. Why Anthony ask? [My boss replied, "because he's Anthony."])
   3 - Could you rub my feet please?  (Could you change your socks, please? Nurse, rubber gloves...)
   2 - Sign in the Charmin-sponsored bathroom: "No tips, please." For what?  (No, the attendants do NOT wipe for you. And what exactly does chamomile-treated toilet paper do, put your ass to sleep?)
   1 - Are there any morbidly obese women who do NOT come to the Fair?!  (I've only met one, and I'm guessing it's because she's a workaholic so is too busy.)
Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul has been updated early so go look at some funny photo captions already.  --#2

    Welcome to the inside of my friggin' skull. It's the day after the Fair ended and I have a little headache. I'm a little better rested, not as bilious or sanguine as I was mere days ago (thankfully), and I think waking up to a furry orange cat and four episodes of Good Eats on tape (I can't get enough of Alton Brown sometimes) helped immensely. Life is indeed resuming its speed: in a couple hours a friend is coming over with a computer that is having issues, and then I'm going to clean a Library building later on. I didn't come up with any workable job leads in the last week but there's a job fair coming up on Wednesday which hopefully will offer something. To my surprise I had a good time at the Fair afterall; I guess it was a matter of patience, I had to get over myself and just let the good times roll, and the rest would come on its own terms. This paragraph is where I tip my keyboard to the people who some people who saved me from myself: Carl and his mother (they can walk upright now, or just lay down and stay down), Nancy of the funnel cakes (a woman without a plantar fascii tendon?), Tonda (kindness and sisterhood when I didn't expect it), Janelle (a blast from my past in more ways than I'd ever admit, thanks) and even Kyle (attention Chris Elliot: You will not be back, surprise!! This makes many people's days). I didn't work directly with any of those folks, that's why they were so helpful. Special thanks to Rich's for the hottubs and stoves, I enjoyed both more than a person is entitled to... I can go happy now.
    As for my own work environment, as usual I had a good time with the worthwhile folks: Crystal, Jackie (#9), Lura (she's gellin', not cornin'), Vickie, and of course the big guy Erik. Other comments I have to make include: glad that you only worked weekends, Bree; step off, Rae; you've really gotta set your chickens free, Desiree (a contradictory naming if you ask me); it'd be nice if you actually were fun, Stephanie; the best karma I can think of for your asshole personality, Jimmy Jam, is that you married a fat bitch a few months ago; one day you'll realize you're not alive, Pricilla; you're latent, Jeremy, just let yourself dance; and to the fun guy across the way at the cotton candy stand whose name I never caught but talked to frequently: Teach Jeremy how to dance. I was good about my goodbyes and such, but I pretty near lost it when I decided to bid adieu to Basil Anton, the man who had employed me for six years (who is leaving the Fair biz after 36 years)... He's been married forever to a lovely and charming woman by the name of Thalia, the company bookkeeper (who was at orientation this year, glad to see her active) and for the past couple years she's been fighting a battle with two kinds of cancer. She's not winning, and there's no secret about that fact. I went to his office to shake his hand and thank him for the fun, and he was surprisingly chipper (he's usually so gruff). I told him to give my love to Thalia, and he said something which hit me blindside: "Be good, or my wife will come back to haunt you." I think that was the most meaningful, heartbreaking, final thing that's ever been said to me at the end of a Fair.
    In the next Daybook entry, coming in a day or three, I'll post two Top Ten Questions lists: Top 10 Customer Questions At The Mad Greek, and Top 10 Other Questions I've Asked Or Answered. Surpringly, the location of the deep-fried Twinkies/candy bars wasn't on the list this year! In the meantime, here are three statements seen on T-shirts which bear repeating, out of the hundreds seen and rare few jotted down:
  • It's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.
  • Pigeons should never eat chili.
  • All bigots will be reincarnated as gay homeless people of color.
Stay tuned for the next installment. This year I don't plan on disparaging further on the stupid or shortsighted people I encountered; this year my philosophy was to live like this was my last Fair, and actually see things instead of pass them by, even if it won't be. It's said that there is a buyer for the booth I work in, some company based in Oregon that does fairs but doesn't have a presence at the Puyallup yet, but no money has changed hands yet, and while I didn't meet the investor other people did (and Jackie gave them her name and number, and I told her that if they do call to make sure my data gets mentioned). The stupid I just kind of blinked and continued on my way past; the shortsighted got an eye-roll and an "it's your loss", which for me is pretty mild. I didn't want to bring any further baggage. I've discovered that I know when I'm upset by what someone has said when my scalp tingles and I can feel a bloodrush to the inside of my head, like this is the precursor to a stroke or (to be less extreme) this must be how a cat's flesh feels when kitty raises the hair on its back in defense. It's not as though I'm going to drop dead or turn into the Incredible Hulk, but it'd not a feeling that I want, and mere unwisely-chosen words (even the ones I'm just thinking about later on!) bring it on, and as I recall it was one of the things I feared most about working in tech support because it happened every so often from strangers – at the Fair, it happened nearly daily from coworkers who should have focused on their own tasks instead of guiding me at mine. (I also was reminded that coffee is a strong diuretic in my system.) There were bright points and wonderful people, make no mistake, and I thank the Fair Committee, the people who attended, and the people who worked it (especially certain ones, you know who you are) for making this a good thing.
    My final comment here is a micro-interview with a woman by the name of Trish, who has been with the Fair for many years according to the stickers on her nametag; she's instrumental in orchestrating the talent that performs on the small stages or walks around the grounds, and as I was leaving yesterday I saw her office (this closet of a bulding that forms half of an open stage area between two buildings) and I was granted permission to admire the wall of autographed posters and promo photos. She said she doesn't quite understand why all these performers believe they must give her thanks – heck, hypnotist Travis Fox has five different signed photos up in there from his ten years appearing in the space facing her office, and the array of performer images goes back at least fifteen years – but they indeed do feel the need. Seeing her space was the last thing I did at the Fair this year, about 45 minutes after the Fair officially ended, and that was actually the best display I saw the entire 17 days.  --#2

    I'm 5 days into the Puyallup Fair. So far things have been okay, fairly slow, and I've seen some of my favorite people. At the same time there are periods where I have bouts of anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure)... "I'm experiencing dopamine deprivation," I thought to myself yesterday. Every year I look forward to the fun of the Fair, but every year I forget one small detail: that there are a lot of people who are younger and prettier than myself, who would be (at first thought or glance anyway) wonderful to know either personally or Biblically. And it's just an illusion, I can't have any of them. I was talking to my friend LaRoy (a camp counselor from my Lazy F summercamp days 20 years ago and a counter guy at Earthquake Burgers), who is fifteen years older than me, and he was speculating about whether he could make any time with these females around him if he were age 20 again. I thought it over and decided that even if I were 20 and/or single again, girls wouldn't be so quick to ignore me but yet by the end of the Fair the result would still be the same: I'd get nothing from them. You can call that pessimistic if you must, but remember that that's what I lived the first time around, I didn't just pull that guess out of my ass to be mean to myself. What a drag it is getting old, as Mick Jagger sang before he got old himself. I realize the solution is to do a priority shift – to be happy with what you have and to enjoy what you get, instead of focusing on what you don't have and can't get, afterall this is supposed to be FUN. I do have fun, when I'm too busy acting for others to think about myself. I don't know how to do a priority shift consciously. A shout out to a couple coworkers of mine who look great but like to flirt with guys with rediculous hair and piercings by holding up signs: You wouldn't know a good time if it bit you on the ass, and even if it did you wouldn't know what to do with it. Hopefully you'll learn something valuable in college in the near future, if you can be coaxed off the pedastal for a few minutes.
    A quick plug for Karen Quest and her cowgirl rope tricks. She's really good with a whip and a lasso. 'Wierd Al' played the Puyallup tonight but since this was my day off I wasn't there. And what is looming on everyone's mind at my stand: the folks who employ me and have been at the Fair since 1968 are giving up the restaurant and concessions biz, so I for one have no idea what I'll do next year. It would be nice if my booth (which isn't physically connected to anything, and I believe the name and logo are franchised for Fair use) got to change ownership and not close, and would invite me and others back. A lot of people like our gyros and salads! I need my summercamp afterall. And on that note...
    I grew up going to Lazy F, a Methodist Church camp outside Ellensburg WA (maybe you've read my talk about it a dozen times before?), and I cherished it for a few reasons, including that it got me out of my house for a week and that it got me out of my life for a week. How does one escape from one's self? Put the static and noise behind them, drop all the concerns, and be who they believe they should be? That's what I did at Lazy F; all the sexual thoughts and secular nonsense got ditched on my front steps, and while I was there I was able to think clearly. The Fair has become a substitute of sorts for the camp I became too old to attend the regular sessions (and they stopped offering the Young Adult 18-30 sessions right before I was at the age I could attend them, so I was outta luck), but it's not quite the same. Not only is this secular, it's commercial. Sexual thoughts are encouraged, not eradicated. I sleep in my own bed so I'm not escaping all of my life. It's about 3 times as long as camp and I get paid to attend, which as a grownup is a good thing (and impetus to attend) but on thinking about it that's tantamount to being a counselor instead of a camper; I'm often too busy directing traffic to stop and smell the roses. There is no escape from my head, which is what I need more than money or time off from whatever job I'm holding. And I miss that.  --#2

    The most R.A.T. thought I've heard in a long time comes from Cryptozoa, a comic by Androo Robinson. The image (of someone in glasses getting really close to a baby dandelion coming out of a sidewalk crack) is something I'd need permission to share, but it's the text that matters anyway:
  Over the summer I met a freelance tourguide. What she does is, she takes you on a tour of the street where you live, but first she ties your shoelaces together and gives you these crazy frosted goggles, so you're forced to walk slowly and get really close to things in order to see them.
  Laugh all you want, but this was the best vacation I've ever had.

    My bride, her aunt, and myself went to Packwood yesterday for the annual citywide swap meet, and it was the largest rendition of the event I have ever seen. There were more vendors than ever before, and it was a great day for a yardsale. We tried to be as conservative with our money as possible, which we usually are despite ourselves, and this year we made quite a killing in our shopping. I came away with a lot of antique Christmas clutter and seven undated photos from the 1940's-1950's (courtesy of Hunter's Antiques out of Seattle) for the Spackle site – which has the September update posted already, go check it out. And I bought some rope so hopefully I'll be able to yank out the dead rhodadendron in the back yard with my car. Most of my purchasing was done up the road at the Randall firestation before we got to Packwood, so all that tramping around town in the hot sun was just for exercise. There was one uplifting karmic note to mention...
    When I was in college, I typed papers for a few people, including this nice older man by the name of Emil. He was a Native American of the Swinomish tribe and quite proud of his heritage, a renewed bachelor in his 50's (and was still on good terms with his exwife Elizabeth until she died shortly after he graduated), and always cleanshaven and sober (though this wasn't always the case earlier in his life); he was a Job Corps counselor who commanded respect merely by his strong yet unintimidating presence, and his heart belonged to a woman called Blue. She was also a student in social sciences, a woman without eyebrows who had parted from her coffee magnate husband (I don't know if they divorced or not) in a nearby town. He lavished her with gifts, revamped one of the two bedrooms of his humble home to be their lovenest (the other was his 'solo' bedroom, which was so tidy that you could see exactly where he slept since that side of the bed was the only thing out of place in the entire room), and if I recall correctly they were engaged. Then came an entire year that their schedules never quite meshed so they didn't see each other except for over coffee, which didn't make much sense to me because I knew their lives were not that busy to not be able to find an hour a week or a night a month to be with each other. But he was blinded by love, and after a friggin' year of this game she finally confessed that she'd gone back to her husband. He didn't take this very well, and I've disliked her ever since. It seems she and her husband have some summer property right on the main street of Packwood, so every year I see them behind the house in chairs selling some items (the back of their house faces a field where vendors congregate) and try not to make eye contact. This year, I noticed two things about her: first, that her hair has gone completely grey; second, that like some older women she's started to retain fluid in her legs " her hips, thighs, and calves have swollen up massively, and while the thickness of her ankles hasn't changed yet you know they will swell up too, and eventually she might not be able to walk. I tried to keep myself from laughing; in my mind Emil has been avenged for her coldheartedness.
    You know your financial situation is bad when you finally follow the advice of those advertisements and go to a credit counseling place, and after they've told you about how they work and have tallied up your bills, they dejectedly tell you that they can't help because your income only covers your living expenses (house, auto, food, utilities, etc.) thus there's zero funds left for your credit card bills. Well, nertz!  --#2

8/25/03 We have to find a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Though I don't have to apologise for there being 11 days between Daybook entries – the contract I made to do this once a week was with myself and no one else – I have figured out why I've been irratic at it lately: I work better with a routine. Before I lost my job seven and a half months ago, I had a system. Once I lost my job, I updated more frequently because I had more time and more things to get out of my system. But once the shock of that wore off, and my usual complacency about having nowhere to go and doing nothing practical (I didn't say 'having nothing practical to do', which is seldom true for anyone) set in, then I lost the routine and haven't thought "hey, it's been a week as of tomorrow, I should write something tonight" like I used to. So to segue from there, I haven't any new work prospects lined up, other than doing the Puyallup for seventeen days, come Sept 5. The citywide yardsale in Packwood, WA is in a few days, over Labor Day weekend.
    One bug I have to pull out of my ear is this, and don't sweat it if this makes no sense... I found out the other day that the biggest dick I've met in the last few years has indeed gotten married recently to the chick who ditched him and moved a thousand miles away a year or two ago. I read about it on a message base, and it was posted by one of their new neighbors (the couple lived with her folks until they got this apartment last week) who said there'd be some wife-swapping in the works. I read that and thought, "dickweed hasn't checked his mail lately, has he?" He'd shit through his pants when he read that, he's just that jealous sort (and the track record proves such). I suspect she'd jump on it with both feet without inviting him, but she just seems that devious sort (and the track record implies as much). Sure, possibly they'll live happily ever after in gamer-loser & ugly-shrew land, but I can't help but smile and think, "karma is a bitch when it hits your doorstep, and yours is in transit right now."
    I remembered one of the stories I was going to tell earlier, at last. I was walking home from school in the seventh grade with a friend or two one afternoon, and this group of upperclassmen girls was on the same route. You'd think it would be us younger guys thinking dirty about the older girls, but actually that day the tables were turned. The girls, all ninth graders, were going to the house of two of the girls, and they kept imploring my friends and I to "show us your 'fluffy'." The two lived two houses away from Jay, so he was able to get away. The women had set their sites on me for some reason, and Johnny (who lived a block away up a side street) was trying to persuade them to leave me alone, but it was no use. And they surrounded me and took me back to that house. And they kept requesting to see my 'fluffy.' (Years later my boss at the Internet provider was nicknamed 'Fluffy', and I couldn't help but think of this day. The thing they were asking for, and my opinion of that boss, were the same dingle-dangling item.) At that time, there wasn't much that was 'fluffy' about my genitalia, though I know I'd attempted to stretch it out while thinking about one or two of the women present previous to that moment. For some reason I was refusing to play along, this bevy of wenches scared me. (In retrospect, that sounds pretty stupid. But only one of the females, "Juicy Judy Jugs" as she was referred to by the boys, was blatently worth the effort, though the girl with the facial portwine splotches wouldn't have been bad and probably would have liked the attention.) Things came to the breaking point, and Sheri the blubbery bossy house resident decided to take action; she shoved me into a tool closet with one of the girls and said that I wouldn't be coming out until I'd shown her my 'fluffy.' I was a little more comfortable with this arrangement for some reason, but by some twist the girl shoved into the shed was the other house resident, Toni (who had more peach fuzz on her face than I did and her normal disposition wasn't what you'd call sunny). Toni was fine with the taunting of me, but once she found herself involuntarily imprisoned her opinion of the situation changed; you could say her sudden situation had her on the verge of panic. She whispered to me that I was to make it sound like I was whipping my gear out, and then she'd say I did it and we'd both be freed. That's the plan we followed, with me thinking "you show me yours and I'll show you mine" but figuring her suggestion was a better idea since the room was fairly stifling, and it worked. (I would have played the situation out a little more, possibly, if the person in the closet was a willing participant or had been one of the other girls. My biggest fear was that Sheri would want in on the act!) I don't recall coming in contact much with any of those girls again after that, which is just as well though once I got to the local high school (having been sent to a different school in my sophomore year) the girl with the portwine dapples had graduated so by the time I could appreciate her she was gone. :) That day was the sort of thing guys like me dreamed about constantly, yet it was also another instance of the old saying, "be careful what you wish for, because you may actually get it."  --#2

    Today's movie review: American Wedding. The weakest link. Sure, it had the requisite funny stuff and grossout humor, but it didn't have Sherman and Nadia, no matter how many father-son speeches there were none ended with a zinger, Michelle didn't call Jim her bitch even once or mention band camp, and I didn't hurt from laughing even though I laughed a lot and found more jokes in the movie than the other dozen people at the matinee I went to. Most other elements of the formula used in the American Pie movies stayed intact in some form, and the soundtrack was pretty good. I know, movie reviews aren't what you came here for but the part of the experience which applies here, being the fact that MeLissa was supposed to go with me (we've seen the previous two together) but did not, was too short a story. We were to go last Friday afternoon; she calls that afternoon to say she has to take a friend to the doctor, so we'll go on Sunday morning. Sunday, no call. It's Wednesday now and no call. I was pretty bothered by this all until my vacationing friend Gabriella said something to the effect of, "you act as though having promises broken by some of your friends is unusual." Indeed it ain't. On that note, my ol' bud Wayne is due to come to town in a week, and I await to see if he actually stops by.
    I made $50 today just for running the LovSan/Blaster removal tool from Symantec on someone's computer, then the Microsoft patch to fix the gaping hole which allowed the virus in. (Thanks, Microshaft! If you won't employ me directly, your customers will.) I finally got inspired – which is to say that I remembered a few songs I had forgotten about from 20 years ago, and located a couple songs whose titles/lyrics I couldn't remember correctly enough to do a successful Google search a year ago – to put together Bitten By KATS compilation CD volume 7, subtitled While On Bucket Brigade. ('Bucket brigade' was the term folks at Toppenish High School used for the vice-principal's afterschool campus cleanup program for naughty students. I explained here previously that KATS, 94.5 FM "the Valley's Best Rock", is the radio station I listened to as a youth, which was mighty awesome in the first half of the 1980's but since they're now owned by ClearChannel they suck dead mule. So does their overbusy website so no link.) You could say it's eclectic; along with stuff they played for a couple weeks to a few months which never gets airplay anywhere anymore, I put in tracks by The Village People ("Can't Stop The Music") and à;GRUMH... ("Ich und meine Ananas") for variety. Is it still piracy if no one is selling what you wish to buy? Chrome #1 has called me a couple times from the road to The Windy City, but I don't have any news (reporting is his job anyway) because the last one was from the motel room on the night before he was to meet these strangers. I guess by interpolation one could say he made it there safely without any hindering automotive troubles, and that's good news.
    When I was running around with Chrome last week, trying to find a faster processor and more RAM for his notebook computer, a couple of stories came to my mind from some part of my past I hadn't previously broached before. Of course, now I can't remember what part that was or what stories those were, but I'm hoping to get those thoughts back soon. In the meantime, I did think of one ribald tale which always raises my eyebrows when I think of it. I worked at a Pizza Hut in downtown Yakima for all of two weeks, before half the crew staged a walk-out (on a Friday night at 5 p.m.!) in response to the other half being canned without just cause. (The manager of the store understood. It wasn't him who did the deed, it was his boss the district manager, who was no longer working for the company when I went back to work for Pizza Hut a year or so later.) There was this young woman working there as a salad bar arranger, who was 17 and lived in a cheap motel room. She was from somewhere else, and she was a big girl with the sort of complection I could take a safety pin to for hours (zit removal fascinates me). I sometimes put her on the back of my motorcycle and gave her a ride the 4 miles back to the motel so she wouldn't have to walk through the night. There was one night when I gave her a lift home and she invited me in. She showed me her room, and after the tour we were sitting on the bed talking. She pointed to this electrical cord on the floor under a chair and informed me that if she had her druthers, she'd tie me up with that cord, throw me in the bathtub, and have her way with me. After the moment of shock (no pun intended) from her words and the mental image of the act passed, I told her I was quite flattered. If ever there was a time to go running screaming into the night, this would be it, I thought to myself. Not content with my amused response, but possibly sensing that I was trying hard to keep my wits together, she opens up her little refrigerator – one of those small square ones people keep under their desks at their cubicle-based jobs – and pulls this butter knife out of the freezer tray. The knife was solid stainless steel, but its handle end was shaped like it was made of bamboo; the metal was supposed to resemble jointed canes for whatever style reasons. She introduces the knife to me as "her boyfriend" and made a comment or two to clarify that she didn't need anything that went buzz in the night, this frigid utensil was dildo enough for her. After the initial surprise and another mental image which alarmed me, I asked if that would cause one of those "tongue on the flagpole in December" moments in an area of anatomy one normally prefers not to jeopardize. It was getting to be time for me to leave, being nearly midnight, so I was trying to bid her fond farewell, and I consented to a hug. It became one of those silly rocking hugs, and we fell onto the bed. Then rolled off the bed onto the floor, which terrified me for an instant because she was a big girl and I was the one whose back went off the bed thus would have been landed on... but to the surprise of both of us, our combined weight had crushed the mattress so much that there was only an inch or so between the bed and the floor, and we made a soft landing; no lives were lost. I left with my head spinning a little, and for the next couple days she called in sick at work with a cold so I didn't see her. Finally I drove over there after work to say hello and see if she was serious about her earlier statements. She was happy that I came over because she was quitting the Hut and leaving town in a day or two; she'd found someplace to go, and this was just a brief stop along the path. And before I could find the words to ask if there was something grin-inspiring I could do for her before she left, she cheerfully told me that while the guy next door was taking care of her during her bout with the cold he'd "sucked my clit for two hours solid" the evening before. Looks like I'm off the hook, I thought to myself slightly disappointed but moreso relieved. It was only a few days later that I quit that job and a couple weeks after that I gave up driving a motorcycle (the police figured out I didn't have an endorsement), and I've never resented either of those 'quittings' or what I didn't do with that girl. I figure all three of those things would have shortened my lifespan if I'd stayed with them.  --#2

Two bits of amusing reality avoidance to share...
• First, my grandparents had this 78rpm album (it coulda been my mom's?) of Arthur Godfrey's "Slap 'Er Down Again, Pa" – a song that may have been funny in the 1940's but sends your average feminist, battered women's advocate, or politically correct person into conniptions. I'm certainly not recommending knocking your kid around for choosing her own boyfriends, or knocking anyone around at all, if you needed a disclaimer. You want mindbending? I found the lyrics on Bob Vila's website. The song is just a blast from me past (now if I could just find "In The Doghouse Now" and "I Get A Kick Out Of Corn" by a pair whose names I don't remember, which we had on 78rpm picture disks, things would be awesome) and as I recall a Mormon schoolteacher with a flock of kids of his own used to lip-synch this song with some other guys, back in my old backwater town...  *lyrics*  *sample*
• Second, I finally saw a license plate frame I could agree with:  Don't let reality wreck your day.  --#2

8/07/03 in which Chrome #1 and Mush #2 write in tandem:
    [1] Yawning... So we've been lamenting the state of the world and spewing verbiage over our woes, present and past. So we've been reminiscing & ruminating & prognosticating upon the ruination of the world. In short, we've been pissing and moaning about anything and everything... and it has mostly felt good.
    [2] Reminiscing is a good way to find one's laughs and one's biggest gripes about what we have become in our lives. "The past is just a goodbye," as CSN said. Sometimes we don't realize what we learned and how until much later, when we wish we could have unlearned them. Our families play into this heavily, and it's kinda tough to be removed from them when we're in the formative years. I'll not begrudge mine right here (I do that constantly, as longtime readers know!); let's just say that I try to make good on the thing I've said since age seven: I never want to be like you. Am I? Once in awhile I realize why things happened. Most of the time, it still eludes me. And when I understand why things happened, I try to figure out if that's good or bad.
    [1] Ah yes, family ... the reason why Mush & I have had the opportunity to catch up these last couple of days. I'd made arrangements to take a few weeks off and depart from Yakima to Chicago for the sake of meeting my younger half-brother. It was about three years back when he found out that he had siblings of any sort, and we tried to make arrangements for me to come visit. No dice. Now I'm in a position where this is possible. Arrangements have already been made and paid for, but it's hard to be sure if this is a good idea. Brother wants to go visit with our father, who has been (partially) responsible for the ongoing trainwrecks that are my sisters' and mother's lives. Bah. Somewhat more immediately, what will we have in common? What will we have to talk about? What reasons will we have for associating other than (half of) a common bloodline?
    [2] Holidays were always when I got that sort of feeling... my sister (4 years my junior) and I were the only ones in similar age; my brothers played with the younger boys (they were all boys in that family) and anyone older than me was a grownup. Then once I was grown up myself, the question became: should I visit my parents? What do we have in common? What do we have to talk about? What reason is there to associate beside the fact that I sat in their nest for nearly 19 years? Pthhht, I can't name any anymore. As said, I'm not going to rant about all that, it's been done before. When not telling stories about myself, I am telling stories about other people. Chrome and I were sitting around discussing teachers we would have slept with if the chance came up, classmates and coworkers from a ways back who did crazy things, and a particular girlfriend who was the epitome of "you are what you are raised as"; it makes me smile when I discuss these folks (and he laughs along 'cept about that girlfriend, too busy wincing) because they're someone else's problem. Our own lives are the crosses we bear, not always proudly.
    [1] meandering further afield Crosses. What crosses we bear. What crosses do we bear? Neither of us needs to look far in order to see those who bear crosses that crush them. We know some of the burdens we bear are inconsequential in the larger picture, or even completely self imposed. Yet I still feel this burning (as in acid reflux or bleeding ulcer) desire to drop the cross and leave. It's nothing like the desire in the last eight months or so prior to leaving Ft. Lewis, yet it is still there, undeniable and unwilling to be ignored. So I feed it small parcels by doing things like taking a (very probably) completely pointless cross-country trip.
    [2] My solution to the issue of the pointlessness was to escape from the folks who created the issue. Call it running, call it walking away, call it giving up on an unbeatable battle, but if someone doesn't accept me for who and what I am, I don't stick around. (Part of why I took the name 'Mushroom' was to separate the wheat from the chaff. Call me what I want to be called and you're in.) Family is a slightly different story because, well, they're family, but I've applied the theorum to them too. I talk to my sister once in awhile because she is a great person and she lives within 30 miles. Everyone else... out of sight, out of mind. This became important about ten years ago, when I was raging on about some injustice my mother had committed on me half a lifetime prior, and she wisely said, "But that was so long ago! She's not here to hurt you now!" I hadn't thought of it that way, I'd been too busy over-thinking about what went wrong so often. Have I forgiven? Nah, no point, but by the same token I don't leave myself open to repeats of the past either. I was wondering the other day just how much R.A.T. (Reality Avoidance Therapy) is still a part of my life, since it's not like Chrome and I talk as much as we used to and the Daybook gets filled with anecdotes instead of examples, as it had been in the early days. It occurs to me now: what was once a vice is now a habit; what we had to do to survive tricky days by invocation now is first nature on a daily basis. I have become that which I have espoused without realizing it. And for a reason.
    [1] It's true and possibly lamentable that we don't chat enough anymore. The last time I updated site links here was over two years ago, and you probably have to look that far back to find a daybook entry. My last two visits to the Mush/Gigi homestead were almost a year apart. Why does so much time pass without me really noticing it anymore? Why is it that the things we used to converse about and get excited over simply don't matter all that much anymore? We still see same examples of mass stupidity. We're in a handbasket, descending rapidly. Now we don't scream as loudly anymore. I don't really try to deny the reality around me, it's just that I seem to have used up my capacity to care (or do anything) about anything that doesn't directly affect me. Lately, when I hear bad news about family members or old friends, my response is indifference or annoyance rather than asking what I can do about it. Why? Can't say really. Maybe it's been too continuous. No time between disasters? That's not it. I think. Maybe. There's also the knowledge that with some of them, a real offer of help will do nothing but suck you down their vortex...
    [2] Many years ago I had a penpal by the name of Vickie D. Webb (VD Webb?!) and she seemed to be a tragedy magnet. There are some people who invite/invoke bad things unto themselves, like they get into bad relationships or what have you, and then there are people who are honestly trying to get through the day or their life and yet shit falls from the sky like there were winged cattle. She was always a popular target; she always sounded so sweet and innocent when she'd write about how it's taken a bit longer to reply because ___ [fill in the blank with some of the most terrible stuff imaginable] and yet she still seemed to have some aplomb. I see some of that locally with friends, including Chrome (especially Chrome?), where they would just like to get through the year or the next decade without any problems – and OTHER PEOPLE hurl incontinent cattle through the skies at them. And then I feel kind of bad since I have met a few of these catapult-loaders, and wonder WTF is going on in their heads, "if anything is going on between their ears" as some would say. I'm a big believer in 'to thineself be true' and that everyone has the right to fuck up. But I also believe that you shouldn't strafe others with the splatter of your falling body, that shit is hard to wash off fine linens. And when it's family or other people who are dear to you, you can't help but get some on (or impaled into) you. I stood back. :) But other people are right there within range, no matter how physically distant they may be. To thineself be true, but for gawd's sake, to the survivors be merciful!!
    [1] Yes, we're not in a Happy Place for now, yet we'll keep plugging along. We'll try to make others believe that we believe it'll get better. We'll smile and nod instead of telling the idiots to go rot in hell. Beyond that, I can't see yet. Perhaps it's getting close to time for a change of location and/or vocation again. Maybe not. I need patience, and yesterday, damnit! Yes, maybe it isn't self-delusion to think thinks should be getting better. My job isn't bad nor is the work difficult. The worst of the people I have to deal with have been given the boot or put on notice. The lingering stench from associating with the Guard will be gone in six months. I've got a few good friends within five minutes drive to escape with once in a while. A few of my better friends will be moving back into the area soon. The only unaddressable complaints about job and home life stem from these two things being inseperable. By neccessity I live and work in the same place, and therefore only have "off" time by prearrangement. It becomes difficult to find a balance. Let's continue to ignore family for now, it seems to have been working recently...
    [2] There's a lot of bitching I can do about the state of my life: the cable company doesn't want me, I found out today; I work 24 hours (in a week or in a pay period, depending on others); we have stopped answering the phone because the bill collectors call no less than 5 times a day (or in the last 24 hours, 25 times after telemarketers); and the mortgage is due and we don't know where that extra $200 is going to come from to pay it. But if financial matters are the only issue in my life, this is good. (Sure, financial matters can translate into other realms we'd all prefer not be meddled with...) I have my health, I have my wife and my cat, I have Chrome sitting here showing I'm still a part of his life and I have friends near and far whom are glad to see me when we make contact, and I have this computer and my Internet connection. And plenty of minutae that I wouldn't want to be without, in the "without which this moment would not be possible" vein. I just need better work and mo' money. And a bit more sanity but people in Hell want ice water. And a different government but that can be arranged in a few months if other registered voters do their part. Still, bottom line and the crux of today's dual rattling: we have seen happy and we have lived sad, and it'd be nice if the happy were in the now and the sad were in the long past.
  --#1 & #2

    Pardon my tardiness... there were operating system issues here. Normally a geek says, "cheese this noise, I'll just wipe the hard drive and reinstall, stuff'll be better." But that's exactly what I did, and after seven attempts to get the installation to finish in the span of nine hours, it still kept crashing or rebooting spontaneously before the end. The next morning I turned on the computer, it began the setup procedure on its own, and it finished without an error. What the hell was up with the day before?!? Shannon Morrell was right: computers are diabolical! So I'm back up now and have invested in some drive backup software to fix this thing instantly the next time it mistakenly claims a vital driver is missing.
    There have been other days at the beach with MeLissa and even one where we dragged her friend Angela along, and I'm told this is an accomplishment – something about how people who have known her for ages can't convince her to get into a bathing suit and hit the water. I'm nicely tanned now, and almost done peeling. After a week of not getting called to work, I finally did get conscripted into a couple days (one of which with the simpleton to the easiest and most distant places because, in the boss' words, "you'll go with accompanyment until I feel you're ready", thhpt)... I figured the silence was because the other position he was hiring for closed and he needed to train someone new but, well, no one has said a peep about him actually hiring anyone. Moving along, last Thursday I interviewed with Comcast for their call center section titled "the people cell phone users call to bitch about their bills to." This ought to be interesting since there are 200 jobs and they received 1000 applications. I should hear on that in a few days, I'm told. I'm also expecting to hear from my Puyallup Fair boss soon. Mushy's adult autumn-camp starts September 5!
    A shout out to the fine folks of the Nile Valley, upstream from Naches WA. There's an annual festival in that neighborhood near Chinook Pass the third weekend of July, and every so often I manage to make it there. I give this shout out because as far as I can tell they don't have a website (ergo when I was looking up the date online, it was the site of a band which played on Sunday which had the location and date information). It's your average lumberjack affair, with crosscuts and spike-driving but no pole scaling like they have at the Sultan Logger Festival (second weekend of July, Sultan WA, which we didn't attend this year). We caught the egg-toss, and it's apparent some people need more practice while others (the mother that put her 18-month-old daughter in the 7-years-and-under event) could use a clue. The food is good and inexpensive, there are no rides, and everything is punctuated with the sound of muzzle-loader fire from the target range behind the main event. (I haven't shot one of them in about 20 years.) And bless the two girls, ages 8 and 11, who played guitar and banjo very well, but coulda peeled the paint off the new restroom facility with their screechy voices. Maybe puberty will do the older one some good, as would some more sheet music (some people should not sing "God Bless The USA" [oddly that includes Lee Greenwood] and it's not often you hear anyone at all sing "Tin Man" by America). From Tacoma to Upper Naches is one big loop; from my house one can go left then over White Pass or right then over Chinook Pass, and the two roads meet at a place known as The Y (there used to be a minimart there, now they sell chainsaw art). It took 3 or 4 hours to get to Nile Valley via White Pass but only about two hours to get back home over Chinook... so we took the scenic route; no hurry on a Saturday, right? We stayed about 45 minutes, and yes, all I got (beside a burger) was this stupid T-shirt. Next event? We're game to anything but at this writing I believe we're spending Saturday at the Ethnic Fest, at Wright Park in downtown Tacoma. It's probably a good thing that "Out In The Park," a celebration of gay life, was last weekend because Wright Park is best known for its cruising. (And bocce-ball.) Sunday, we might go to the Highland Games in Enumclaw (the King County Fair was last weekend) for the haggis. But $10 admission!? As for the Pierce County Fair in Graham? That's August 7-10, thanks for asking.
    I know, you came here for funny anecdotes from the past. These will be quickies. While I was attending Toppenish Junior High in the eighth grade, a couple girls from the journalism class were meandering around pulling people out of classes to ask them survey questions for an article they were writing. One of them was holding a clipboard to jot down opinions and such. I was in Mr. Miner's intro to computers class, and was behooved to give my two cents on whatever the question was, along with another person or two. We're standing there talking outside the classroom and the girl with the clipboard has it pressed against the wall by the classroom door as she writes our words down. The other girl finally said, "Uh, [girl's name], move the clipboard." She goes 'huh?' and slides the clipboard to the right... and under where she'd been doing her work, there was a pencil drawing of a huge winged boner on the stained-red wood wall. Her reaction was similar to if she'd seen the real thing, oddly. I've always thought huge winged boners were funny, even before then (the year before I'd revised a poem about the Space Shuttle in Science News to be about them). They've been around forever, even Hitler got one in de bum in a 1940's anti-Axis propaganda cartoon book. But 'tweren't me who drew that beastie on the wall, and it disappeared soon after. And just down the way (no, not another flying cock story)... The next year I was sitting in Ms. Buoy's Washington state history class, along with a couple dozen other people, reading about some historical thing silently to ourselves. One of the kids from the Title I (read: special ed) class, who wasn't 'differently abled' but just lazy and stupid, decided to skip class and work on his belching skills. And he chose the end of that building as a place to practice. This building was a long row, and there was a narrow courtyard between that building and the one we're in, so he's basically burping into an echo chamber. We can see him right there, he wasn't as hidden as he thought he was. He's standing there going "uuuuuuurrrrppp. uuuuuuurrrrrrppp. uuuuuuuurrrrrrppppp." We're breaking a sweat... Rheta Buoy was the frostiest turd in the school, someone who could have used one of those huge winged things; no way were we going to let ourselves laugh lest we be punished, and it was difficult. And it was harder still when we watched the vice-principal walk out the end of the building we were in and patiently stride over to where the dimbulb was standing, seemingly unaware of what was coming in his direction. And speaking of stress-testing in Buoy's classroom, there was one afternoon that three dogs were in that echo-chamber corridor; one was copulating with another, and the third was calling cadence. Arf! Arf! Arf! Arf!   Right outside the classroom window, in plain view of several classes and earshot of half the school. I don't recall any adults going out there to break up the party, but by the same token, I think this was the only class resembling sex ed I ever attended the entire three years I went to Toppenish Junior High. (Which is probably why that town has such a high teen pregnancy rate: not enough information at the time the fruit starts ripening, and no one keeping time, "Pump! Pump! Pump! Pump!")  --#2

    So far I'm learning a lot about how the well-oiled machine known as a library system's cleanup department works. I've been paired with an older woman who sometimes smells like a distillery but has a good heart about her (when not telling anecdotes to my boss that he eventually calls me about), a guy who hasn't touched a bar of soap in many moons and never shuts the hell up (ever needed to hide during your 15 minute break just to find silence?!), a loud woman who knows her job very well and lets you know this, and a storybook simpleton who gets a lot of slack because he's the boss' brother-in-law. No joke, the other day he hummed "If I Only Had A Brain" the whole shift. It was too perfect. I'm enjoying the work somewhat, which is a good thing because I haven't found anything else in the last couple weeks... I did interview for a page position last week but didn't get it, no surprise, and not much else has become visible on either. And at last the bills are getting paid. On that note, have you submitted your phone number to yet? I have, but I don't think there'll be much change. The way the system is supposed to work is, if a telemarketer calls after you've signed up then you submit their phone number to the DoNotCall website. First: most telemarketers don't have their numbers listed on Caller ID, so you don't have that information. Second: charities that call every three weeks are exempt. Third: businesses you already have dealings with, such as Texaco/Shell or Sears, are also exempt. So how many calls does the program cover in my home? One per week from the local vinyl siding/energy efficient windows/new roof package dealers and one per month from windshield replacement businesses. The four calls a day which do not come from friends, family, or employers are untraceable or exempt.
    Half a lifetime ago my sister and I were hanging out in our grandparents' basement one afternoon, as we sometimes did (it was cooler in temperature, there were good books and things to explore, and the furniture was nicer), when it occurred to us that the bedroom which our mother grew up in had one small window(?) high up the wall and no bathroom nearby. The only plumbing to the basement was that which is associated with a clothes washer. So we asked Grandma about the potty situation, and she said that our mother didn't come upstairs in the middle of the night to pee – she used a coffee can. And there was indeed a Folger's can in the corner of the room. We couldn't wrap our minds around that image, possibly because we didn't realize she was a much more petite girl in school than she was when we met her, and she'd always been so fussy to us about bathroom habits. What brought this memory to mind was a female friend who told me about having to use a chamberpot when she'd stay the night at her grandmother's house (which was also low on plumbing), and how it is hard to aim correctly since half the time she'd miss; we had been discussing the basis of this month's Rant shortly after I encountered the situation.
    Since I'm a week late in updating this page – I'll blame my night job – I should tell you about my Fourth of July (that's the Independance Day holiday to those outside the States). My wife stayed at home with a stack of good books, in rememberance of her youngest sister Amy who died ten years ago that day, so with her blessing I went to the Tacoma Freedom Festival with my friend MeLissa to watch fireworks and odd people. Yes, I put on SPF 50 sunscreen, which was good since we were there from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m., but I missed a spot on the back of my left arm (you can *see* the finger marks where I did get the lotion!) and parts of me got rather cooked (and two days later, highly itchy) anyway. The Freedom Festival, as far as I saw, was a long series of booths and bands placed along the waterfront of Commencement Bay from downtown Tacoma out to Ruston, and a lot of these booths and some of the entertainment looked familiar to us – we both work at the Puyallup Fair every year, just like they did. Despite the long expanse of places to go and things to do, we mostly stayed on my blanket so we could protect our viewpoint and our goods; we brought a couple coolers and found a spot with a good view of the barge where the fireworks would be shot from. This afforded us also a good place to watch ugly guys, cute girls, mixed-race families, gays and lesbians, and the occasional overdressed dancer go by. My fear when we went to this was that we were going to hear a lot of patriotic talk and such, and you should know from reading my Rants this year that such praise of current administration (along with bright sunlight for extended periods of time) makes me itch; I was thinking this was a rememberance of when we had freedoms, since the boobs in charge presently are taking them away. But we lucked out; the section of park where we were audibly serviced by Bahamaian group (two sources of music: a steel drum band which did extended covers of popular songs [ever heard Don McClean's "Starry Starry Night" last 10 minutes and sound upbeat?], and a sound system which played Christian reggae and 15 minute instrumentals with annoying beats) so there wasn't anything vaguely patriotic until the fireworks started... or anything we'd recognise and want to hear until they needed to clear the crowd out after 10:45 p.m. A Jamaican marking of an American festival was certainly different, I'll grant that. The fireworks were pretty good. Getting out of the place was kinda bad but this is to be expected; we had found this perfect and really close parking spot, but it was on a one-way street so we had to follow traffic slooooowly to get out. But it could have been worse: on the way in people had parked on both sides of some nearby narrow side-streets, but on the way out the police diverted traffic through those neighborhoods, so anyone who was pointed downhill was facing traffic with no hope of escape for an hour or so (unless someone stopped and waited so they could whip a U-turn, I suppose). We had a great time. Of course, days later she and I went to a beach to frolic and I skipped the sunscreen completely... the burned parts I missed on the Fourth are now brown, and everything that was itchy and pink is now lobster red and starting to peel. But hell yes, the sunburns were worth it, and we're working on that list of Things To Do Differently Next Year for a better outcome in the future.  --#2

    Truth is still stranger than fiction. I went to an interview with the local library's janitorial supervisor last week and he pretty much hired me on the spot. I sat there with a dropped jaw, wondering how THAT happened since everything else I've ever seen from this place required rumination and time to jog through red tape. I won't complain about the expediency, the job seems to be pretty mellow. It's a substitute position so I'm on-call, but since it's summer (and people get hurt from lifting stuff wrong) there are indeed hours for me. I'm still looking around, and haven't heard anything new from the two places within my realm of talent I'm most confident of getting an interview with in the last week or two (when one acknowledged the two things I applied for with them a long time after I applied, and the other hasn't peeped but the position's supervisor lives 3 houses down the street so I can check up on it).
    Every payday when I worked at the Pizza Slut in downtown Puyallup, I'd deposit my check then take a little money to the Pioneer Bakery a couple blocks away to get treats for my coworkers on the morning crew. And this typically was baklava, which was my way of showing a little more taste than just cheap donuts, as well as my way of finding out who had good taste by their eating my goodies. But also found in the bakery was this cute girl with glasses, whom I never quite knew how to flirt with effectively but I tried. After awhile, school was out so she left the bakery and I figured she was going off to college or something. Some months later, I'm at work and she walks in with this dopey-looking big guy. She introduces him to me as her fiancé (and I knew she'd broken up with some guy months earlier so I was wondering how this came about so quick), and they bemoan that they have nowhere to go: he's from Oregon so he knows no one, and when she introduced him to her family they told her to get out of their house. Me being a nice guy, I suggest they come stay with me for a few days, while they prepare to get her moved to Oregon or whatever their next step was. The first night was fairly nice – he fell asleep and snored on the floor, she and I sat up and talked into the night and this is where she replied to my coy question "so when you became available, did you ever think about ME?" with a surprising statement, "you were never far from my consciousness." She fell asleep mid-sentence in the wee hours, it was the damndest thing. The next morning had its possibilities to be good too: I woke up and was going to write something, but realized my pen was in the kitchen so I walked through the house and picked it up, and it wasn't until I was almost back to my room that I caught out of the corner of my eye they were naked and screwing on my living room floor. They weren't aware of my presence until that almost-passed moment either. Man, I gotta open my eyes when I get out of bed; that would have been the only renumeration I received for the week they stayed with me. Day by day, things went downhill with those two; you can imagine what two hungry people without money will do to a person's cupboards, and they had no compunction about skulking through my stuff. Some would say the road-tar on my white comforter should have been the last straw, some would say finding this trinket I've had in a little red safe in my room since age 10 in the livingroom under a pile of their clothes should have torn things, but the thing that twanged me (other than never seeing the chick naked, which the guy said "if it were any girlfriend previous to her I'd be cool about helping you out but this one I care about", or any other sort of rent payment / food replacement plan) was finding my bottle of Ostheimer Cellars grape juice opened but put back like it never happened. [Tangental story about why this matters, you can skip what's between brackets if you want: Long ago I was in a band called the Out Of Time with Jimbo and Adrian, and our sacrificial wine to friendship was this non-alcoholic stuff produced by my dear friend Alene's family. It was vintage and limited in supply, and had sentimental value because of where it came from and what I'd applied it to. It may not have been fermented but it was carbonated and bottled like wine, so when the seal was broken it quickly became garbage.] They started to see that I was getting upset with their total lack of respect, and left before I could say anything harsh or discovered the extent of their doings. Someone shortly after that asked if I had learned any lessons from the experience. I tried not to list any that they wanted to hear; I said that one can easily overestimate other people's maturity, and that while the girl was a known quantity I would have gladly had stay at my house (but preferably with me) I didn't know the other person so I took a chance on him and I got what I got. As they were getting their goods into his car, I asked her about the plans she'd told me she was going to pursue when we'd originally lost contact months earlier; she intended to sign up with the Navy and fund schooling that way at that time. She said that she did indeed sign up but now "I'm getting out of that," she said as she patted her belly in a loving manner. She wasn't pregnant. That's what stripped the last shred of respect I had for her away... that she was determined to throw away her future for a handful of nothing. I've long suspected that within a week or two of leaving my house she caught a clue about him, once they had to fend for themselves, and long hoped that it wasn't too late for her to get back on track. It's your hell, baby; I ain't in it. — Pretty & Twisted, "No Daddy No"
    My latest jones is Television Without Pity, a site for talking about TV shows and commercials, both old and new. Excellent snarky reviews of show episodes. It's hard to keep up with the chatter, there's so much posting in their forums! And the guilty little secret I have is that I'm a fan of Date Plate on Food Network; I wonder how they audition that show to get the most flaky women possible to be the date bait. Like last week, the woman does not eat fruits or vegetables and was won over by a chocolate brownie in the shape of a dog bone (sure, she has a Rottweiler, but chocolate is poisonous to pups, yo!). Anyhow, continue wishing me luck in finding a real job, and you can sleep better knowing that more of the bills will start getting paid (so stop calling me every morning, IKEA, we know! we know!).  --#2

    In the Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction department (and no, I'm not referring to TNN, of all stations, broadcasting the not-for-kids reanimation of "Ren & Stimpy")... I haven't heard back from Lynette about my past revelations, but I did get an email from someone from my waaaay-past which asked the same questions. It seems a girl that I haven't gone to school with since the fifth grade looked me up on, and updated me a bit as to her life. At age 35 she's a grandmother, so you can guess why we weren't in school together come junior high. I hadn't heard a word from her since the early 1980's, when last we saw each other at the old school yard and she gave me a photo of her baby daughter, who is the spitting image of her mom and now has a baby of her own. Good to see you around, Lisa, and thanks for thinking of me to my eternal surprise. I had this mad crush on her in Mr. Hall's class, where I proclaimed I'd never fall in love again since she didn't see me the same way. From the mouths of babes, I tell ya...
    A few bonus words in regard to last week's Daybook entry: First, I took the library page test and didn't miss any math questions, hurray! Which left me free to mess up two questions in alphabetization, erk! Pardon my pessimism, but c'mon, 2 other people tested with me and they were running tests all week... one job, dozens of applicants. But in better karma, I have an interview with them tomorrow for an after-hours cleaner-upper position. It's something, right? Second, the day after I did that cell phone support test fiasco, I checked my work-related email box and there was a note in there from that company, telling me how to get back into the test if I wasn't able to complete a section. And this is where I find out that after one passes the personality fraud, er, assessment, then the questioning goes to stuff that matters like experience and customer service skills. Which as noted, I can't take because I've already been precluded for not matching their profile: it appears they initially seek someone who will say they strive to be leaders, yet when it comes to actually working they want someone who will sit down and shut up and do what they're told. Aren't those sort of opposites? But anyway. I thought that re-entry email just rubbed it in that they suck. I'm still waiting for something, anything, from any other employer and I've even changed the batteries in my Caller ID boxes awaiting their calls. (Lithium 9-volts will last nearly 7 years in those things, I've discovered.)
    Steven Sak and I used to play this game every day in Mrs. Davis' seventh period English class during the seventh grade: As the teacher was taking roll, we'd be gazing around the room to figure out how many girls were wearing bras and how many were not. I'd say it was about 60% yes and 40% no. But did we do anything with this knowledge? Nope. It never dawned on us to keep a tally of who needed one but didn't wear one (which would be pretty important later on in life, once the numbers became 98% and 2% except at outdoor events during the summer in larger cities), we could have gotten through puberty a little quicker. Though according to Steve (who had Mrs. Davis for sixth period too) one of our classmates reached it quicker than expected; one of the girls in that class suddenly broke into tears and ran out of the room, and the rest of us were like "huh?" The teacher blew her cover by saying, "Don't be mad at her, she's just growing up." Ahh, Aunt Flow showed up... thanks for the information, ma'am, and thanks Steve for sharing that. Steve and I had a lot of fun in that class, beside girlwatching. He had this book-cover which was made by some educational supply company, and it was this series of small drawings of teenagers doing fun activities. There were so many pictures, in fact (mostly duplicates in the middle but around the edges were unique ones), that he never finished coloring them all. The reason why this book-cover was so cool was because we'd put captions on the pictures... like the two kids in the canoe had one saying "Damn birchum bark canoe sinkum!" and the other shouting "Saveum wampum!" (Today you'd get booted out of school for writing something so un-PC, especially when the school is on an Indian reservation as ours was.) Steve and I had a class together a couple years later, Mr. Plemmons' Modern Math, and we continued from there by writing "Slop Operas" – I'd fold these paper cubes, he'd enlarge the hole end so it would look vaguely like a TV set and write the details of a scene on the inside. They were pretty rediculous and I don't remember what he wrote in his scenes, but my writing contribution was the advertisements: Steve had created a sponsor called Uncle John's Mush, a breakfast product, and I wrote the commercials with it. You could almost hear the harmonica or wood whistle music playing as you read the text of my ads aloud in an Uncle John-esque voice. Inevitably at the end of each ad would be the tagline: someone would fall backwards off a cliff shouting "Uncle John's Muuuuuuuuush!" I think that was Steve's idea. Steve was a kick in the pants because his brother 'Beeshmeister' Kevin was two years older, meaning that there'd be one year in a three year school (Mt. Adams Elementary, junior high, senior high) that he would not swear at all (not even Heck and Darn), for fear he'd be heard by his brother who'd tell their mom, and the next two years he'd swear like a sailor. Since I met Steve in the fourth grade, I got to see that transition happen 3 times. He was in the junior high band (and was one of the three Trom-boners in Kilgore's class; the other two being wacky Jay and 'corny/horny' Richard) so I got to spend a little quality time with him until I quit band as described last entry. When we graduated in 1986, he'd gotten himself through the airplane maintenance program at the Skills Center. The last time I saw him was in the Toppenish 7-11 parking lot in the late 1980's; he was walking out of the store with his tiny-toothed girlfriend as I was walking in, and we chatted for a minute... I wonder how he's doing nowadays; he was one of the quiet-cool ones. I salute you, Steve; thanks for keeping me sane during those formative years.  --#2

    Here's what's caught in my craw today: Faithful reader Black Spiral Dancer emailed with the job link for a well-known cell phone network (hint: three letters, two are unique, and an amperand between the duplicated letters) so I followed it, and after the usual who-is-ya questions it asked some general purpose questions to see if the applicant had any smarts, like "which version of Windows have you used? 96, 98, 99, 2002". I filled those out, and it announces that I'm just the kind of person they seek (a smart monkey, as Troy from my old job said) so here, c'mon and fill out our personality inventory for the next half hour. Errg, you know how I feel those favor the dishonest. So I fill in the 106 questions, and it announces that I'm unfit for a call center environment (this is a surprise, since I worked in one for three years) and while I'm now disqualified from applying for a job in my interests and skills, I'm welcome to apply to any other type of position they have. Predictably they don't have any others beside the one I clicked on. But I reasoned this was no biggie since the call center in question is pretty far out of my ballpark, yet still it's annoying that a computer program tells me that I'm not qualified for the job I've already been doing based on whether I say I'm a born leader (no) or avoid crowds (yes). Ethical question, all: Is it a sin to lie about something that has nothing to do with one's job in order to get the job? I mean, I don't see where in taking customer calls my relationship with my parents or whether I like to be the center of attention at parties would come up, certainly not in a way that would have any effect on how I handle call issues. It should be a crime for a business to exclude a person for their answers to those questions (hell, make it a crime to ask!), and no HR person is going to walk up to your desk and say, "I'm sorry, Joe, we have to let you go; we found out that contrary to your entrance exam, you really don't prefer to spend an evening at home reading instead of going out to join a loud group." Do I have to lie about pointless things to get a damn job?
    In other news, I have a test for a page position with the local library system in 12 hours (as I write this). I've taken this test a couple times before, with my only real issue being I can't fucking add. I don't mean I don't know how; shit, I got a 630 on the SAT in mathematics. But every time I've sat down to that test, I've blown brain-busters like "63+38=__" because I forget to carry a 1 or something. I hope to do better this time; the person who tested me ages ago died of cancer last year so maybe no one remembers me. Beyond that, I've not seen any new prospects; I need to hunt the summer schlepwork listings, wherever those are.
    I'm a Libra, which means that while I know art when I see it, even if I'm incapable of producing it. That's more or less been my attitude about the years of piano lessons I took. It's sufficient to say I wasn't enjoying myself during that time, and no amount of protest would convince my mother that I had no aptitude for the subject. At first it was tolerably neat – going to Mrs. Egan's house to get gold stars and Brach's treats after playing some hits from the Jane Smisor Bastien Very Young Pianist songbook (and my first experience with the stuff that makes the water in the toilet bowl turn blue). Then the jaunts during school time to some old lady's house to take lunchtime lessons from Mrs. Prochnow, which was only amusing the day I had to wait for my lesson to start and during that time I'd withdrawn $2 in change from all the couches. (I don't recall if I was able to keep the money. I remember people being rather upset that I'd hit such a jackpot, though.) But I had absolutely no talent, and my goal was to be playing something by a classical composer yet my curriculum seemed geared to getting me to play a chord with one hand and one note at a time with the other – which I never could master. My mother finally got the point roughly six years into my piano experience when it would take me 45 minutes to get through a song because I'd play two notes, itch, play two notes, itch, and she knew those were supposed to be four quarter notes per bar instead of a gracenote and a whole note. The only one of my siblings who didn't take piano lessons was my youngest (10 years my junior), and I asked my mother why he wasn't subjected to the torture like the rest of us. She said something to the effect of "I'm tired of fighting you kids." My younger brother wasn't too skilled either but he was less itchy; my sister did start getting into classical pieces [envy] but she didn't continue lessons into junior high. Right about the time I was getting out of piano lessons, band class started, and there I was playing my mother's Buecher True-Tone trumpet. I had no talent for that either, but at least a trumpet can only play one note at a time so I didn't have to worry about chord formation. This was fun until I discovered computers, and at the same time Mr. Kilgore (not Trout) was trying to get us whipped into shape to join the school marching band. You know it's bad when the teacher himself says you have a "clown walk." I bailed out of band in the middle of the 8th grade so I could spend a quarter in Ms Simmon's art class learning about pencil shading and Mr. Miner's computer class (yaaaay!) discovering how to load programs like "Fire Fighter" off tape cassette then edit BASIC on a Commodore PET computer [mention the PETSCII character set to a real geek and he'll grin]... and I never had to deal with a faculty member dissing my "clown walk" or play 3rd Trumpet sheet music again.  --#2

Everybody's had to hurt about it / No one wants to go without it
It's so hard to find it / Sentimental hygiene
  Sentimental Hygiene, Warren Zevon
    Greetings, true believers. The Mushroom's health has been in limbo the last week, plus I was waiting for a couple bits of news before speaking, so here I am and there you are and welcome to the Daybook. I'm not in past-history mode today (other than reciting past details as a lead-in to a current event) because the present tense has enough words to fill the gap...
    Last Friday and through the weekend there was a lot of laying around the house moaning. Paige and I both had soreness of the joints, headache, and tiredness/loss of energy; she additionally had swelling of the hands and skin rashes, and I had soreness of the kidneys and loose bowels. Being as she's employed and insured, she went to the doctor, who informed her (ergo us) that the rashes, tiredness, and joint aches were due to what is known as Fifth's Disease (or as I call it, The Fifth Element: Aziz, light!) which is human parvo virus. One is contageous before the rashes appear, then after that one is safe to be around... sneaky bastard disease it is. Despite dogs and cats having a dangerous disease called parvo which they can be immunised against, it's not the same and doesn't transfer between species. (One pet website says that cats get really sick and depressed. Cheddar is neither, he's a meatloaf with aggressive ball-chasing tendancies at random intervals.) But this doesn't explain what's been happening with my excreatory functions, and yesterday my kidneys were at a new low in comfortability. I seem to be mostly fine today, possibly due to a pizza, a quart of cranberry juice, 15 hours of bedrest (without trying!) and a really big ibuprofen pill, but I'll believe it when my tummy stops making those gurgling noises.
    Previously I mentioned employment possibilities, so here's the update: nada. The local transit authority "went forth with other candidates" (eee-yeah, Office Space is real life), and while my interview with the local library system seemed to go well they "offered the position to another candidate and he accepted" (I liked the phrasing of that, even if I don't like the result... inside sources are going to see if my suspicion that they hired someone from within the system is true). I haven't heard a peep on anything else I've inquired about, no matter how much of a shoe-in I seemed to be. But I'm still swingin'.
    And I finally did something to exorcise a demon in my head. Here in this Daybook a year ago (5/13/02, click 'Days of 2002' at the bottom of this page if you need ketchup) I blathered on about coming to a fork in the road one night in the Manastash Ridge, and which choice I took and I came to regret. It wasn't so much the later regret that made me uncomfortable, since a person has to live with their choices and there's no going back, but rather how I made my choice that night. I didn't flip a coin on July 27, 1983 – yes, I remember the date, though not the exact time but it was shortly after midnight – or even take five minutes of solitude to consider things carefully. What I did was jump when my name was called. And my philosophy back then (and often still is now) was that I honestly don't know if someone is interested in me until they say it in words instead of merely actions; I'd hurt myself a few times from assuming I was liked just because things resembled liking. That five minutes of solitude I didn't take could have made a difference... one party wasn't nearby, the other was millimeters away, and I should have turned to the closer one and said that I needed a moment (not lie and say I was going to the john, but tell some quantity of the truth and name the geographic location I was going to visit for thinking purposes, like the outdoor chapel) and ask, will you still be here when I return? The romantic in me believes that if things were meant to be, I would have looked up from the thinking place after five minutes and she would have been standing in the entryway. So to the present tense. Recently I was sorting through my boxes of crap accrued through years of packrattery, and found her letters, including that senior portrait with her cello. So I Googled her name and found out her high school had an alumni page, wherein she'd left an email address. Yay! I spent an hour writing a carefully-worded email, mostly referencing my blather from last year, and spent another hour trying to scan a photo I'd mentioned in that entry. (I had the lighting scheme described in the entry backwards, yeesh!) The email bounced, the address was no longer valid. But the local online phonebook had her number, so I left a couple messages asking her to drop me an email. She did on Monday. And I sent what I've needed to say for twenty years. Oh, oh, oh, oh what a feeling!
    I discussed the above with my wife, since that's what husbands are supposed to do and I'm definitely not trying to get back to the garden / the upstairs of The Barn at Lazy F (the subject is married too). She proposed some possible reactions one could have in such a situation: not remembering me, not remembering the night, not being interested that night so it was all in my mind, not wanting to talk to me, or harsh words in response, or even worse - no words at all. I said that I have got my priorities as such: My only make-or-break goal was to give the woman the apology, and that I have done. It'd be great to know how life has treated her since 1986, the last time we spoke, and I'm not adverse to staying in touch but "how ARE you?" is the only question I asked in the email. If there be adversity, or a different view of something that's been a certain way in my mind, then so be it, live and learn... I hate to say "the content of her reply, or even the lack of reply, doesn't matter" but those aren't the foremost issues in my head; I expressed what I needed to express and she read my words, so now I've got one less thing on that list which dying people in the movies refer to as never having said when there was time. (I'm not dying to my knowledge but why wait? It could happen anytime, right? Plus with the state of my guts at the moment, anything could happen, heh.) And if you do happen to be reading this, Lynette: Whatever you say in your reply email, if you send one (none received after 3 days), won't be shared here. I'm glad to see you're out there somewhere, thanks for responding to my phone call.  --#2

5/31/03  Paige's birthday
    A friend noticed that I haven't ever mentioned that I spent my first seven years of life in Sunnyside, Washington, so I'm rectifying that right now. The first two years were on Snipes Mountain, the local hillside, and the next five were down on the farm in the valley outside Outlook. I remember nothing of the first house :) and I had a idyllic youth until the summer between second and third grade on the farm. I enjoyed trying to break the ice that would cover the cattle's watering troughs in winter, and came to enjoy roaming the far pasture in the summer. I found out there was truth to the statement, "never piss on an electric fence," and the worst thing I ever did was cut the wires hanging out from under the dashboard of my father's red Ford pickup. (Why'd I do it? I didn't really know then, and I can only assume I was protesting some farm-based activity.) The second worst wasn't me, I swear – I had a collection of Dixie Cups with jokes on them, and my sister flushed them down the back-room toilet... it took some heavy machinery to clear those out of the pipe to the septic tank. We had a strip in one section of pasture near the house we'd fenced off for gardening and I liked playing in the rows of corn, or until enough pollen had gotten down my neck that it gave me a rash, so after that I built igloos out of tumbleweeds (which are just as dusty, I learned). The most disturbing thing I ever did was the time that the girl next door, Kerrie Ann (3-4 years younger than me), and I were playing doctor while sitting on the stoop of her family's house's side sliding glass door, and this involved a rectal temperature reading. You can tell how young and innocent we had to have been, since this was in plain sight of her mother. I recall the lecture my mother gave me when I got home later about why it's not permissable to play with a girl's "buttie." Yes, that's the word she used. Kerrie Ann's grandparents would come up from Florida every summer and I adored them, they lived in this Aljo camper in the back yard; they were pretty neat and taught me to appreciate leaf lettuce vinaigrette. The most disturbing thing that ever happened to me was the time I was in the back of Alber's Feed Store playing on sacks of assorted beast chow when a young man who worked there asked me to come back to this nook near the back office (which is where my dad and Karl the owner were), gave the front of my pants a firm tug, and we both stared down at my 5-year-old penis for a moment. I never told my family — I tried once, that night at dinner I believe, but I couldn't seem to get the words out of my mouth. My father's sister, her husband, and their two boys who were roughly my age but treated as being much older came to visit for a couple days once, and that was the only time I ever was able to ride my quarter-horse, Jacques. (Not JOCK, like my parents believed, but Jacques, as in oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau, the inventor of the aqualung and drinker of the world's oldest bottle of wine. I also had a cow named Shirley Temple, and it sort of fit that that cow was black... get it, Shirley Temple Black, the child star who grew up, married, and became a UN Ambassidor? I was so precocious.) Jacques wasn't completely broken, you see, so the game was that my dad would ride Jacques and whatever relative was going to ride my mother's horse, Cherry, from the barn to the haystack where myself and one of my cousins were waiting for the steeds... Dad got bucked, which I didn't see, so when they reached the hay his arm was bloodied and I think my ride lasted about ten seconds out of safety concerns. And I wish I could find Adam's Sour Grape chewing gum, like my cousins chewed by the case. Leaving Sunnyside for me was done in phases; it happened during the summer so there was no abrupt stop to school, but of course I didn't know anyone in Toppenish yet, so my parents arranged for me to be in Toppenish's summer league baseball to make some friends. (Which is where I met Elliott, mentioned awhile back in the Daybook under the heading of "sadistic bastard who liked frogs, humping Playboy centerfolds, and punching Mushy" as well as "would later move to another town where they didn't know he was a sadistic bastard so he could get girls, and grew up to sell appliances at Monkey Wards and used cars, which he probably is still doing unless he got his Realitor's license.") We moved to a house next to the schoolyard where I practiced, so I already sort-of knew the neighborhood. The last memory of Sunnyside was when my mother brought in two large boxes, and said that I needed to put the stuff from my room and my toybox into the boxes so they could move it. I put all the cool stuff I wanted to keep into the boxes and left the broken crap in the bottom of the toybox, especting they'd dump it out or move it intact now that it weighed less. And once I arrived in the new bedroom, that's when I discovered they left my toybox intact and gave both of the boxes to Goodwill.
    Okay, I promised the Cassie In The Bushes story a couple entries ago. I'll skip most of the history because there are some things I'm not proud of (and some things I am proud of, nyhh, which are best not repeated): The short version of the background is that I went to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church with my neighbor John a few times, he was sweet on this girl by the name of Angie, she was friends with this tall and saucy redhead by the name of Cassandra, so the four of us were hanging out one summer day and it was fun; Cass started attending the public high school shortly after that (the only year she was in public school), so we got together for a short time, and this was at a time of teenage evolution for me so I wasn't good boyfriend material just yet (but you wouldn't have known it at that Halloween carnival, we were downright embarassing the way we were makin' out in public! hoo-wee!). I was a junior, she was a freshman. So now for the story. My school district would sometimes have these big assemblies where the idea was to watch some silly presentation or, as I believe the case was on this day, to watch a Disney movie which was along the lines of "Hot Lead & Cold Feet" or "The Apple Dumping Gang." And attendance was manditory unless one managed to sneak away before the faculty noticed, which we managed to do... I don't remember how, but since my family's house was just across the schoolyard from the high school we had a place to go (the challenge was getting there!). We managed to get away from there unnoticed, so we went past my house to one a block away with a big yard, the McGuinness place. This house had a ring of ivy and trees separating the schoolyard from their property, a second layer of ivy and trees separating their lawn from the outer perimeter, and between the two layers sort of an ivy-covered trench. That's where we went, into the span between via a gap next to a tree, since I knew no one lived in the house and we couldn't be seen from either the house or the schoolyard. We had an hour or two to kill. So we're in there sitting around talking about a thousand things, and at some point I'm sitting flat on my rear with my legs going up the embankment, and she's reclining across my lap (my right leg started to fall asleep but I wasn't going to complain!). Nonchalently my right hand is stroking her face, her arms, and G-rated so-forth, and I got increasingly bold and run my hand across her B-cup breasts. Mind you, she's on her back so there's not much of a feature here, but the fact remained. No reaction from her, hmm. So I did it some more during the conversation, not getting grabby as far as I recall but I'm touching her titties, and since I was there I start doing figure-8's with my index finger around them, sometimes as a general motion and sometimes to see if her peaks had raised (they were somewhat on a couple passes but not on others). And that's as far as it went, actually. Either time passed so we decided to head out so she'd get home on time, since we'd be walking across town instead of her taking the bus to the junior high like usual, or my right leg was unbearable and I had her move so I could walk it back into sensation and then we left. And I was thinking the whole rest of the day, "wow, she let me play with her boobs!" A couple years later I was visiting Cass when she was on summer vacation from the Adventist Academy, and I brought up that time in the shrubbery, then asked, "Why did you let me do that?" Her reply surprised me because I'd never thought of it that way (or realized it was that way for her): "Remember that I was 14 or 15 at the time... my hormones were racing just as hard as yours."
    And if you happen to be reading this, Cassie Garnes, please let me say what you've known all along: I was young, I was stupid, I was wrong in so many ways, and I was very glad to call you someone dear to me and wish I would have been wiser back then (but who is very bright in high school?). I recall in that timeframe my being really upset with the state of my personal life, either because of your breaking up with me or because of Karen breaking up with me six months later (she was mentioned earlier in the Daybook under the headings of "I've kept my promise never to speak ill of you" and "she said 'you can come out and play, Mush, or you can die with your head up your ass and no one will care' so I chose the former"), and my mother said of my writhing in pain, "You're being immature," to which I replied, "That's because I am." I was, and you had the dubious honor of being there while I tried to grow up. Yes, by the same token, there I was nudging you into adulthood too, and I still smile when I think about your telling me that. Drop me an email and tell me how life has treated you, Big Bird, and say hiya to Crystal; oh, and I really admired your mother, and I hope she was able to forgive me for melting that Tupperware lid onto the stove element...
    A local transit system position I've applied for closed yesterday so I hope to hear on that soon, I have an interview with the local library system this coming Thursday, and a cable TV/Internet giant is opening a call center in the industrial district on the outskirts of town so I've applied for something there and hope there are others to be announced soon. Otherwise, I'm still here, barely hangin' on; thanks for asking.  --#2

    I went to the South Hill Mall today to investigate a job. There was a listing over the weekend for something that was supposed to be fun, $7.01 an hour (that's minimum wage in these parts), 20 hours a week, and call this number. Rather than call, I did a reverse lookup on Google and found out the name of the business. Hmm, not familiar. So I go there and my eyes rolled: it's a kiosk, filled with the kitch, tschotchkes, and krap that makes American living so much fun. Admittedly I didn't see any NASCAR merchandise but I didn't look that close; they did offer "Iraq's Most Wanted" playing cards for $10 and hundreds of items no white-trash home should be without. (Whatever was missing from this collection, the semi-utilitarian, could be found nearby at As Seen On TV so this was practically one-stop shopping.) The owner-manager was sitting on some benches within sight of the stand, interviewing this Methodist woman who had three small children and no visible means of support. As you can tell, I sat down at a bench perpendicular and listened in, learning more about the job and the boss before raising my hand to say "Me next." High traffic, high theft rate, extremely low pay, few hours, and... hmm, he says one has to have a cell phone, which would wipe out a week's pay every month. I decided not to speak, this job just didn't pencil out. So as I'm sitting there one of my former coworkers from ISP Hell walks in, so I said hello and asked how goes the job search. "I'm not looking," she said without slowing down, "the tech sector really sucks right now, so I've gone back to school." Good on ya. And it was time for me to drift, too.
    I recognised another person who prodded by with a baby carriage, but the first time I saw her I thought she just looked like someone I knew. The second time, once I was unbenched, it dawned on me who it was... Before this Internet thing caught on, there were computer bulletin boards (BBS's) and I'd become frendly with a redhead through email. She worked at another mall at the Orange Julius, so I got to meet her a couple times. Circumstances for her shifted around so she was no longer near a computer and was pregnant the last time I saw her, which would be about five years ago. And there she was, with children, but I didn't speak to her because it was enough for me to just recognise... sort of like the Joe Jackson line, "Look over there! (where?) There, there's a lady that I used to know; she's married now or engaged or something, so I'm told." I walked around for another couple minutes to see if anyone bearable had Help Wanted signs (neither anyone bearable nor anyone with Help Wanted signs were seen), and going in the other direction was another person I half-recognised; the front half I didn't quite place but for the face because the hair had been dyed, the back half I would recognise in a split second. She half-recognised me too, and smiled back. This was Angela, the daughter of a minister and the spitting image of her mother, who last time we actually talked was working at the Kay-Bee Toys that I was walking past at that moment about five years earlier. We worked together at a theatre previous to that, that's how we met, and since the required black slacks for the job left few details to the imagination, and her hinder was perfect... like I said, I recognised it was her in a split second. Once again, no conversation and no stopping. I can only assume by the hair that once she got to college she discovered there was a world beyond her father's church, one that I'd fantasized about taking her to visit a few times a long time ago. That smile of recognision implied to me she knew I would have, and that smile was all I would ever get. I left the mall with more than I came with yet without what I came for.
    Word has come from R.A.T. #3, Emmer, that she's still alive and well-enough, and is also trying to find some menial labor in the podunk. I keep saying to myself when I'm not near the computer that I should find out how R.A.T. #1, Chrome, is doing since the last time I saw him there were some unanswered questions in his life... I never seem to remember to actually write him, or most anyone unless they've written me first, when I'm at the keys. Recently someone said something in email to the effect of, "I'd like to see you this weekend, and I'm having some car trouble (even though you intend to drive over here to see me, this is relevant); let me write you in a day or so after I find out what's up with my transmission" and that was about two weeks ago. Anyway... I've staged some nice eBay auctions lately, and need to start a few more; anyone reading this need some old Little Golden Books™? That's all I have to say for myself tonight, and if you hadn't already guessed it: There isn't going to be a May rant. I couldn't afford one.  --#2   p.s.: thanks, Mom.

    Not only does the gas-wash think I'm inferior (that's gotta sting, when even shit jobs don't like you), I emailed my mother for money – one of those things I had pledged not to do ever again about five years ago. Shit, so much for pride and other valuable things that go before the fall, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do: run to his mommy when the wolf is at the door.
    One of R.A.T.'s beliefs is that truth is stranger than fiction for two days out of a year and you can't predict when they'll be. I've forgotten what the other instance would be for the following story, but this one beat all for many years to come: This was in the summer of, ugh, 1979 let's say (I could be off by one year in either direction), which would make me about 11. I was at the Toppenish Swimming Pool hanging out as I did every day of the summer, and I got to talking to some girls that I halfway knew... Kurstin was 2 weeks older than me but a grade higher and went to my church a block away, Sharri was her younger sister about two years my junior, Lori and Laurie were stocky and in my grade but one wouldn't assume they'd even talk to one another or to the sisters – Lori was an outgoing blonde wild-child and Laurie was the wallflower brunette daughter of the strictest teacher I ever had. After I got done with my swim I was going to walk home, and was just entering the park-area next to the pool when the girls caught up with me. And they had plans, or Lori did anyway and dragged the rest along (which again was sort of a bizarre concept, considering who they were). The plan was to kiss this boy, repeatedly. This truly was the stuff that preteen boys dream about once they get over their fear of cooties, and as my best friend from Outlook Elementary pointed out I never had that fear (chasing Sylvia around the schoolyard, and she'd get picked up by the arms by two sisters/cousins and carried so it was totaly not fair!). Lori backed me up against a tree and kissed me, probably about 20 times all told. And in the back of my mind I was thinking two things, "why are they doing this?" and "ain't it weird that as fantastic as this concept is, I want to get away from this action?" Kurstin was not your average silly girl, in fact she was quite the stick in the mud in real life. (Possibly because she knew she had to face me in church. That'll wilt your daisies.) She kissed me once out of peer pressure. Her sister, however, was less inhibited, and kissed me 6 times, just to show it won't kill a person (namely her big sis). As for Laurie, I honestly don't remember if she kissed me at all, but probably did it once out of saidsame peer pressure. Okay, so after this kissing banditry I got free and went home, wondering what it all meant and if it meant anything. I suppose I'd forgotten about it by the time school started and didn't ascribe any meaning to it, which would be fair since it was never mentioned again... though I could tell by the look on Kurstin's face for a long while after that she never forgot and would be ready to defend herself if I brought it up. Sigh, I wonder what ever became of them all. Last I saw any of them, Kurstin had grown up and gone off to start her life (as stodgy as ever), Sharri became a fun person and we were in the same group during my last summer at Lazy F, Lori failed a grade and got married to a simple car-guy they called Cooter from that grade, and Laurie moved during junior high after her mom remarried (another thing I can't picture, eww). Want the stranger-than-fiction moment from a couple years prior?
    Now we're talking 1977, I believe, when I was 9-10 and in the fourth grade. I lived five houses down the street from Kristy, this straight-haired blonde girl whose parents and brother all worked for the family motorcycle shop so they were gone all day. We'd get out of school, which was right behind my house, and walk over to her place to hang out for a bit. Kristy was a kick in the pants because we'd go into her kitchen, and she'd pull out a cigarette from the drawer and light up. (I refused to try it; I'd spent too much time trying to convince my father to quit a few years earlier.) Then she'd grab a couple of Twinkies out of the fridge, we'd go to the den and plop ourselves down in these beanbag chairs (the first I'd ever encountered), and she'd crack a beer (again I turned that down, figuring my folks would smell it on me). Recall that we're 9 at the time. And this happened a few times, not just once, though not all elements were in every visit. Those were the days; I wondered at the time if she was trying to seduce me (yes, I thought "seduce" even back then) but she never played her hand if so. Around sixth grade she linked up with Tony, the only kid who had bushy pit & chest hair at age 10, and to my knowledge they've been together since then (both dropped out of school in junior high to raise their daughter); the last time she and I spoke, in the sixth grade while she was in Tony's arms in some bushes, she denied that she'd ever invited me over for beer and Twinkies. Heh, right, I said, I was there. Not all my stories have to be sexy to be racy, and as off-the-wall as either of the two stories may be, by today's standards it seems youth those ages today would have done a bunch more so mi vida loca is pretty darn tame compared to recent headlines. (Next episode: Cassie in the bushes. Now we're cooking with... er, a damp kitchen match.) --#2

    Greetings, docile natives of Earth. It's been exactly 4 months (and two days) since I met the pavement, and still nothing good has bit me on the ass. Don't think I haven't sucked it in; I did an interview on the anniversary of my termination with a filling station/carwash at the end of the street. I think I've done well in the face-time part, but the real determination is made by a computer – I had to take this personality inventory survey on the office PC. I'm always wary of those things, not because I have anything to hide (I've never been accused of any financial dishonesty in any of my previous money-handling jobs, and I've had several: three Pizza Huts, two minimarts, five stints with the Puyallup Fair, and others I'm forgetting) but because you never know quite what they're expecting, since it's neither the gawd-honest truth nor the straight party line. I once interviewed with an electronics repair firm locally that used one of those, which I'm positive the guy didn't actually grade – he was the sort who reads every management book that comes out and treats them like gospel. One of his tricks was to make mention of a job I'd listed on my application, asked "what was the manager's name again?" like he had forgotten, and when I said it he remarked casually "Oh, I know him" and went on with whatever question he was going to ask about that job. I thought it over quickly and realized this was an honesty test, since who is going to lie about something the interviewer can easily check up on since they know the person? The past job in question was 100 miles away from where I was sitting. And I made a slight mistake in the manager's name since it had been awhile, and the guy didn't flinch so I won the honesty test: he wasn't honest. And I didn't get the job, the personality inventory wasn't high enough (for him to fax it anywhere to be checked). I don't think the firm exists locally anymore. But back to prospects... I changed the "i" in Toppenish to "ï" (with the diaresis/umlat) on my résumé so employers' spam filters won't twit my applications, this should help.
    I've also been selling a flock of stuff on eBay with good results. I think it's amazing how you can be paid by PayPal (via someone's debit/checking account) within seconds, yet the transfer of funds from your PayPal 'bucket' (they credit the funds to this buffer that when you later buy something it can be drawn from) to your debit/checking account takes five days. Seven of the latest auctions have been groups of matchbooks from the 1940's and 1950's, and there seem to be a few matchbook collectors in the world so that's a good thing. I used to be one until my brothers showed up; my grandparents had a pretty good collection and I tried to maintain it once they were gone, but my brother Owen decided to start one himself by pirating from mine. Oh well, all in the family. It's when I came home from wherever and found out my other brother Tyler had pyromanial urgest – within 3 feet of a gallon of gas, I should add – using the only pack of matches left over from my grandparents' restaurant, The Crossroads, that I lost my cool and my interest. (There's a balance of power: children always wreck the valuables their parents had, and parents always throw away the valuables their kids had. And no, Mom, I haven't forgiven you for throwing out my Atari 2600 Crazy Climber cartridge.) I was party and witness to a similar feat some years ago: awhile back I mentioned Jay in the Daybook, and he and I were pyromaniacs who played with gasoline but had the sense not to be anywhere near the can (and we used hypodermic syringes to play 'flame-thrower' with green army men). His grandparents lived about a block away, and their house was the ultimate rat's nest. Somewhere from this pile Jay withdrew a pack of matches from World War II, where the matchsticks were decorated to look like Japanese soldiers. And one by one he plucked the soldiers, lit them (and whatever we were burning that day), and eventually torched the whole pack. That pack of matches, intact as it was when he laid his hand on it, would have gone for a lot on eBay. The one pack which seems to have gotten the most attention in my auctions was from a barbecue ribs place on "Capital Drive at Teutonia" somewhere in Wisconsin called Mammy's, and their logo was an Aunt Jemima-esque woman's head. Totally wouldn't fly by today's standards; it would be funny if that place had been near a Sambo's Restaurant [and once again, stupid people, Little Black Sambo in the children's story WAS NOT a negro, he was a dark-skinned Indian (everyone was pitch-black by Brit standards), which still ain't politically correct but has nothing to do with Africans!].
    Pardon me while I yammer pointlessly for a moment, I need to improve Google's search skills: Sambo's Restaurant was an eatery chain with great burgers, which was similar to Denny's but wasn't open in the middle of the night. My grandmother said that the most mortifying moment she ever had was the day that myself, my sister, and my brother crawled into Sambo's in the mid-1970's. I don't recall why we did that, but it was probably my idea. The place had cute cartoons everywhere of a happy boy, Sambo, from India and a hungry tiger walking around a jungle, and they offered those two characters as stuffed toys. They had a birthday club for kids too, that was pretty cool. Little Black Sambo was the pancake-loving protagonist in a series of children's stories by Helen Bannerman. Due to the onslaught of political correctness, headed by some African Americans who thought Little Black Sambo was actually black, the chain changed their name to Seasons, and after that ceased to exist. But wait, there's more. VIP's was another restaurant chain which, like Denny's, was open all night. My wife's older sister skipped school there with her friends. Their food was pretty good, and they liked children too... their mascot was a rabbit called Vippy Bunny, and it was available as a stuffed character as well (my wife's younger sister won one in a contest). I mention this because I tried to look up VIP's Restaurant the other day and found zilch, and the one reference to Vippy Bunny had nothing to do with the character. The chain went away too before 1990, and my wife has one of their coffee mugs which we found in a thriftstore. Okay, a blank in cyberspace has been filled, carry on.
    No, I haven't written a Rant yet. There are things that I'd love to complain about (unemployment) but promised myself I wouldn't. There are things I would love to complain about (my lying hypocrite lesbo sister-in-law) but I promised others I wouldn't. And there are some things I would love to complain about (political) but that's already been done and you should get the picture by now. I'll rant yet. No swell story tonight because I can't think of one, other than the fragments above which I'm happy to have gotten out in some form.  --#2

    The first eBay auction was so much fun I'm running another one, and I'm surprised no one wants my Earthstink t-shirts. And the Ched-boy figures prominently into this one too. I woke the other day with the need to hear "Don't Sleep In The Subway" so I found Pet Clark's vocal rendition online and now have heard the words. Okay, so the older among us are saying, "what else is new?" and the younger among us are saying, "huh? whazzat?" Let me explain: People my age, which is 35, heard that song a lot during the 1970's (or on Easy Listening stations in the 1980's) but primarily in instrumental form, along with Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror." I'd never heard the words to either of them until recently. And the rendition of "Don't Sleep In The Subway" I heard most used coconut shells clapping together like hoofbeats during the chorus. That's something you don't see very often anymore, the instrumental remake of a song getting more airplay than the original vocal version – for that matter, the last instrumental song to make the charts that I can think of was "Axel F" by Harold Faltemeyer from one of those stupid Eddie Murphy movies, back in the 1980's. Can't people today handle a song without words?
    The latest iteration of the Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul page has been posted. I got an email from a woman by the name of Toby recently proclaiming her love for that page, and I found out from her that there's a discussion on a bargain-deals website's message base about my site. (The laughs are cheap, that's the only connection I can find.) Finally I got to see some praise for my work, since nearly no one ever emails or scrawls to my guestbook! And speaking of comments people should make: When Emeril tells you to use muffin cups when making those sinful Ooey-Gooey Cupcakes (the chocolate ones filled with cream cheese and chocolate chips, look it up on Food Network), you really should because they do stick to everything, no matter how nonstick the surface supposedly is. Or as my wife said, just grab the tray and a spoon.
    If you were the average person during your teenage years, there was a 90% chance if you were a boy or a 50% chance if you were a girl that you played with yourself. (Those are round estimates, I'm told the real numbers are higher. And one of my deepest beliefs is that if a man says he's never jacked off, you can't trust him to tell you the truth about anything else either. I've only met one who made that claim, but he also said he's been sexually active with females since age 13... does it figure he worked in retail electronics?) And if one enjoys one's own company at all, one runs the risk of being caught in the act by a parent. That can be pretty harrowing, if you didn't already know or suspect. I always smile when I think of this female I met through the computer many years ago who said that since her family was rather intrusive, her self-pleasure location was the bathroom (the door locked) and her method was to "ride the drawer by the sink horsey-back style" – and the mental image blew me away, cuz this chick had thighs which were at least 30 inches around (how do you explain splinters There or why the drawer gave way?), and I asked whether that behavior wouldn't stain the wood and make people wonder where the smell came from when they went for the toothpaste. I'm not sure what my mother thought about my bedsheets being crisp and crunchy, but eventually I realized I needed to do my own laundry. Both of my parents caught me once each that I can recall (Mom walked in on me a few times but only one story stands out): The mommy story goes that I came home from school one afternoon and before getting into my homework I decided to sit in my orange beanbag chair and have a wank. I had this brown afghan which I kept on the beanbag, so I had the means to keep covered Just In Case. So I'm going at it, probably thinking of the girl on the swim team who wore a solid red suit that when wet made her look like she'd been dipped in red food coloring (thank you, Terri, for getting me through puberty), when my mother barges in as she was wont to do. She can't see what's going on due to the afghan, but she is cognascent that my pants are below my knees. She turns toward the hall and shouts to my father to "come see what your son is doing." For the life of me, I am not sure if I said it aloud but I'd be damn surprised if I didn't: "I think he knows what it looks like already!" The daddy story was one of the few times I have blushed. Months earlier we'd gone to a gun show and I bought a deck of cards which had pictures of topless women on each of them. It wasn't terribly exciting, the models were probably photographed in the 1960's and none were undeniably under age 30, but it was something. Dad found out and stored them in the locking drawer of his gun cabinet. One night around 1 a.m. I went to the familyroom, found the key and unlocked the cabinet, and pulled out the cards. So I'm sitting on this chair with the cards in my left hand, you don't need to guess where my right hand was, filing through them looking for anyone who didn't look like someone's mother. And my father walks in, which was odd because he'd never got up in the middle of the night before, and I don't remember what his exact words were but they were rather definite about what I was doing. This was the first time I can recall holding my tongue, since my natural instinct was to lie when confronted, because he was a guy and he knew what teenage boys do. I think he was probably more upset that I'd opened up the locked drawer, and I must emphasise to all you whippernappers to never screw around with a gun cabinet, you could be seriously hurt or cause other people to get hurt, but the cards would have gone right back into the drawer and been locked up safely without incident. [I give my father credit on one thing: he taught us kids to respect firearms and how to handle them correctly. We never touched a weapon without his consent, and I wish to God that all other parents were so persuasive and all other children so well-instructed. Nowadays the concept of four children and a dozen rifles (let alone just one gun) coexisting in an American home scares the piss out of cityfolk. He shouldn't have hid the porn in with the ammo, that's all I'm sayin'.] I never saw those cards again, which was fine since they were pretty lousy by a 16-year-old's standards, and the capture was never mentioned again. And if only I had known how bad whacking off is on one's mind and health...
    Okay, so today's entry wasn't among the best (though anyone who's ever been caught with their genitals in their hands by their folks might be laughing right now, that's something), but I'm still unemployed and have no visible prospects. There's a credit card payment due tomorrow that is in competition with the mortgage payment, and that's what has me distracted. There'll be a new Rant posted sometime soon; I'd like to complain about something trivial instead of critical since my troubles lately are too real. On a brighter note, I've added a new thought to the list of R.A.T. concepts: Life is like a Ming vase filled with urine – the item itself is priceless, but what is found in it is mostly useless. TTFN!  --#2

    Once in awhile, these thoughts and memories come back to me unexpectedly over the span of a week or two. Sometimes it means something, like a psychic vision, such as the time I was walking home from school and thought about Karen [discussed here before]. Sometimes it's a reminder of stuff I shudder to think about, like the time after a basketball game I lit an M-80 by the school's front door, and the fuse burned down to the casing – I tried to light it again but wasn't successful, but I wouldn't be typing this with both hands (and have sight in both eyes and hearing in both ears) if I were. Maybe there really are guardian angels? But lately the flashbacks have been just random moments that weren't bad per se but not great either, where the outcome could have been better... sort of akin to how we think of the perfect response at least 10 seconds (and up to 80 years) after we needed it. It's making for a sporadically fun mental film, with a focus on How To Not Get The Girl.
    No, as yet I am not employed. But I did apply at Kinko's, which gives me that warm, fuzzy, post-highschool "I'm gonna skip a year of college to find myself, and I don't have to make french fries or bag groceries" feeling. (My parents didn't allow me to actually do that, thankfully. I did indeed find myself, I was right here in my pants where I had left myself; having any idea what I should do with my life, however, took another 5 years, and that's why I wanted to take a year to figger it out. The bagging and frying came after college.) One of the possible reasons why I haven't been getting calls on those applications I've submitted came to me the other day, and I hope it's not affecting me as I fear it is: You know the town I'm originally from, the fun place called Toppenish WA 98948, which grows plenty of asparagus at this time of year which in turn causes plenty of noncitizen Hispanic youth to come to school late. I'm told that the high school track team would scratch the first three letters and the last letter off the name of the town on their practice uniforms, then the first letter of the word "track", resulting in the shirts saying PENIS RACK. Now, to me. Earlier this week I got a bounce message to my "please hire me" email box, saying that this application had been rejected by some potential employer's server due to exceeding spam filter quota. Er, how is that? So I called the number in the header of the message for that company's helpdesk to ask what to do. The guy immediately figured out that their spam filter was pulling the penis out of the names of my high school and the city in which my high school and my college (Heratics College, where financial aid brings us together) are located. Tangental thought: Years ago when an overly Christian woman who ran a BBS in New Jersey (Schloss der Mama, sysop=Mama Roach, DTJ-BBS author Andrew's mom) had twitted me due to the town's name, she looked it up in the atlas and found out I wasn't trying to be nasty, then changed the name of my town to "Lower Yakima Valley"... that's not an option here. So after he did a few mechanics on his end and I resent because he couldn't get it out of the filter, all presumably became well. But most spam-blockers don't tell you you've been blocked. How many of my applications are getting bounced because some software thinks that the place I grew up is tantamount to a grow-a-big-wang mass mailing? (yeah, if only that town sprouted bigger dicks on its residents, instead of simply residents who are big dicks...)
    I'm holding three auctions on eBay right now (click View Seller's Other Items for shirts) and my furry creature, Cheddar Meatloaf, is prominently displayed. No, he's not for sale. I couldn't do that. My family always had cats when I was growing up, but they were always outdoor models. Cheddar is an indoor model, protecting us against flying insects and (he's very vocal) the evils of sleeping in past his breakfast time. There was Delilah back in Sunnyside, a shorthair grey tabby that sometimes reproduced. There was the shaggy orange one we always called Becky's Cat, from one of Delilah's first litters, who survived many years after a forray into Dad's tackle box as a kitten – he had to clip the fishhook out of her nose, and she lost an eye from the experience. (Hey, the hooks smelled like fish, I don't blame her. Her black and white sibling who also got a hook through the nose died of the infection within a short time.) There was Suzette, another grey tabby in Toppenish, who liked barbecue potato chips. And there was my favorite cat of all time (no offense, Ched), Bit. Bit was an It. Bittycat was named by my youngest brother – further proof not to let the 2-year-old name the housepet, just ask my neice who named her father's cat Damage – and it was a longhaired dark grey and white mongrel critter who licked a lot. We always thought Bit was a girl, but she was spraying stuff in my bedroom (but not with urine apparently, my room did not stink) so this put Bitty's gender into question. I walked into my room one evening after a shower wearing a towel, and Bit was sitting up on my bed. I removed the towel from my waist and started to dry my hair, and Bit licked that thing that was hanging before it. I instantly sympathized with the cat from the Warner Bros cartoon that would cling to the ceiling when frightened, that tongue blew me out of my socks (er, I wasn't wearing any at the moment, made it easier). Bitty was sitting there looking up at me like, "what'd I do?" Bit was a wonderful cat, and it knew when it was going to die. Apparently it had been in a fight, or maybe it had that feline illness where it can't eat (Paige's grandma's cat Piss King, another adorable longhaired creature with green eyes, went to death's door from it years later) and I hadn't seen it in a few days. Then I see it walking rather tenuously toward some shrubs in the neighbor's yard. I went over there to see what was the matter, but I just looked over this cinderblock wall down at it behind a young juniper, and Bitty looked up at me with that look like, "Please leave me be, remember me as I was." I didn't argue; I'm human/humane enough to respect a furry loved one's final wish. So I got to say my goodbye, and I never saw Bitty again (making me wonder whether cats have a secret graveyard like elephants do). Cats are, as the country-kitch folks say, angels with fur, and it was Bitty's turn to ascend. It would be years before my family got another cat, by which time I was grown and gone. Cheddar, the shorthair orange tabby from the Humane Society whose original people moved to the East without him, turned 6 this month.  --#2

    I don't have a story proper, just fragments that keep rattling through my brain lately. I don't claim this is coherent or cohesive, just true. The year was probably 1988, which would have made me 20 years old.
    I went out to the local high school track, which was located at the junior high and had been the site of the high school before it burned down, one summer afternoon during college for something to do. There must have been something that attracted me there since I wasn't a jogger and there weren't any sporting events. And there she was, a woman my age from another college sitting high up in the aluminum bleachers, name of Diane who was writing poetry in her journal. I don't recall who the extroverted one was that started the conversation, but we chatted for a bit. And somehow two strangers agreed to meet up somewhere so we could go to the river and hang out in the water. She left for her Great-Aunt Lil's place in her blue '68 Mustang and I got back on my moped. It wasn't patchouli she smelled of, it was sandalwood, and I must have complimented her taste.
    The day and time arrive, and we met at the location. She drove me out to the river. I was hoping beyond hope that this would be a skinny-dipping excursion, but no such luck. We were under the remnants of a trestle, jagged-yet-worn cement pillars that went up five to eight feet yet went nowhere, situated in the middle of a river which must have been bridged when my mother was growing up a couple miles away. The hair under her arms was light brown and longer than mine, and this fascinated me somewhat because this was the first free-range female armpit I had encountered at age 20. She was singing single notes randomly, to feel the acoustics of our location, and I concede there was some ghost of the hollow echo one would hear if the road were over our heads. We didn't seem to stay long, and I never got rid of my nasty thoughts but also didn't see fit to impose them. That was a strange yet comfortable circumstance, and this was probably brought on by her occasional mention of her boyfriend Tristan. (Someone actually named their kid that? And was she Isolde?)
    Some time passed and I wanted to see her again, but I couldn't seem to locate her. I knew where her aunt lived but due to her fear of males I couldn't go there. Summer was closing and I figured she would leave without another word; it had been 3 weeks since I last saw her and September was looming. Then one evening I was coming home from being out with a friend, and he dropped me off at my front door and left. I turned on the light once inside and looked out the back window... and there she was, sitting in the tall back lawn (my backyard faced an alley so the yard was accessable from both sides), writing in her journal again. I walked out and joined her; she was a couple minutes away from leaving me a goodbye note, her school was about to begin as well. I asked her about her aunt, and she said that her family's plan to put her into a local nursing home was kaibashed (and they went looking for another, since none of them lived nearby) for a fascinating reason: "The first thing you see when you walk through the doors is a mural, which was nice until you look closely and realize this depicts two young, strong men sawing down an old, gnarled tree. What is that saying about the people who live there?" Wow, how many people had missed the symbolism?
    We talked for a few minutes as dusk descended, then she went to her car and said goodbye. "Oh, I have a gift for you," she said, and from the passenger seat she picked up two sticks of sandalwood incense, and handed them to me with a smile. I wanted to hug her, but her firm handshake and the sparkle of her eyes was enough of an ending.  --#2
[This story was originally posted to a messageboard called "The Activity Enthusiasts' League" in a slightly less refined form.]

    I have a bunch of snippets to toss out. First thing I need to say: If a certain software industry giant happens to be looking at this page in the course of evaluating whether I'd make a good tech-router: why? This page has nothing to do with my skills, other than my ability to code HTML by hand. Content irrelevant to your job offer. Gimme the job and be done with it. For the rest of you, the explanation: I interviewed with a huge firm the other day, and was told I should hear from them yesterday but alas have not. During the interview, the guy with braces and the big grin asked me what accomplishments show my passion for technology, and I named my websites (the mastered-for-pay ones and the fun ones like this) as proof of drive and fire. So I have this fear that someone would drop in in the course of checking out my passion and miss the medium for the message. If it's illegal to discriminate in hiring based on certain factors like religion, ethnicity, and association with clubs and organizations, it shouldn't be permissible to say "We don't want this guy who is skilled and knowledgeable to tech Visual Basic calls because his personal website few people have seen gushes on about getting a couple blowjobs from a neighbor as a teenager." Like they didn't?
    Sign held by a homeless man on a median outside Issaquah, WA: Need a hug but $ will do. Depending on how long it's been since his last bath and laundering, chances are passersby would agree. I was too busy laughing as I went around the corner doing 35mph.
    My favorite lyric from a song by the Screaming Trees [UK] rings true lately: Victims of bullets and propaganda, the bodies fall just the same. Does Saddam, or his information minister who always speaks the opposite of what is visibly happening, know that he has been put out of power? I'm sure he'll be figuring it out soon, once the locks on the castles (the ones still standing) have been changed. It'd be way cool if those palaces were turned into Boys & Girls Clubs and senior centers, and the dissident and child jails were turned into parking lots for those new public facilities. And FWIW, the local country station played a Dixie Chicks song (semi-appropriately "Long Time Gone") so some sensibility does survive – or did until the DJ, a born-again Christian, asked the traffic reporter (someone I admire from her TV days as "Capable Woman" on Almost Live) what a "wanker" is. Kudos to her for not either saying "look in the mirror" or explaining what wanking is.
    So a friend from the old 'hood emails to say he's coming through town on business, but did he think to call? Noooo! He drove right past to go to a casino (he lives on an Indian reservation, don't you think he's seen enough casinos?) instead. Then he gets home, sees my reply, and says something to the effect of: Duh, I never thought of calling while I was there...
    I did such a number on the aphids which have swarmed on the roses out front that I'm sneezing pyrethrin. Oddly enough, it's only the three roses (the nice ones I brag about) in the picture window that are infested to density – the others elsewhere in the yard have gone unnoticed by the buggies. Those of you without plants and yards can just roll your eyes, but those of you with green thumbs heed my call: It's time to spray for bugs, they appear to be pretty virile so far this year.
    I got my new CPU and it's jazzin'. As for the scanner, uh... So I called the manufacturer today, two weeks from the last time I talked to them, to ask about the replacement which should have been here already. They have my credit card # in case I don't return the old unit, so it kinda matters to me that I get this thing. The woman looks up my stuff and finds out out it was never shipped because they wanted some trivial information the previous tech had not asked me for; she pushes the order through and says I should have the package in a couple business days (it's Thursday now so that would be next week), and that I can call tomorrow with this RMA number [also not offered last time] to get the UPS tracking number. Sigh...
    Once again, the site is up and ready. Yesterday I fixed a few spots per owner request, and two things are yet to be done: a photo of the vehicle fleet hasn't been taken, and descriptions for the photo gallery haven't been written (by the people who know the wood used, not by me who wouldn't know larch from birch from beech). A friend and co-conspirator in lost memories informed me that where he lives, a site like that would have cost 25x as much as I charged. Man, the things we learn...
    Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll eat some worms. Long slim slimy ones, short fat juicy ones, itsy-bitsy fuzzy-wuzzy worms. First you bite the heads off, then you suck the juice out, then you throw the rest away. Long slim slimy ones, short fat juicy ones, itsy-bitsy fuzzy-wuzzy worms. Down goes the first one, down goes the second one, oh how they wiggle and squirm. Up comes the first one, Up comes the second one, itsy-bitsy fuzzy-wuzzy worms. (Who said my mom never taught me anything useful?)  --#2

[Addendum 4/11: The scanner has arrived and works... but the job went elsewhere because according to email the second person to interview me "didn't feel that you were a good fit for her team." I was expecting a "have a good day!" after that but there wasn't one. You know it's bad when you check for the jobs in your skill area for your geographic area and there's *one* listing total. I'm still trying to get back on the horse but the damn thing keeps jumping fences.]

    Hello, R.A.T. fans... It's another beautiful day in the neighborhood. I've been making good on my New Years resolution to get back on the Kangoo Jumps (see the Likes page for more info) – that's one way to make a resolution work, schedule it to start 3 months later. I fabricated by hand a website for a local business,, in the span of one week. I underbid the thing, compared to some webspinners, but it's an addition to my portfolio so maybe someday I'll get a job someday? Yeah, it hasn't happened yet, but Microsquish called (where have they been the last five weeks?) and I did a telephone interview yesterday, so I do have an iron in the fire again. I've heard from a few friends in the last couple days who have been silent for various spans, so I'm sweetness and light today. (Most vitrol was stuffed into the Rants page half an hour ago.) And yesterday David Gahan's solo album Paper Monsters and one remix made it to the P2P file sharing networks... so this is what Dave's had swimming around inside him for twenty years? He should have let it out sooner, this is awesome shit!
    It's time for the Puptent Pandamonium story. I was reminded of this by a conversation in email with the person with whom this transpired, and I couldn't help but wonder if he remembered the event but I wasn't about to ask. Certain environmental details have been slightly altered because the guy has a better income and more limelight than me, heh heh, but the story itself is intact. I lived near this guy by the name of Daniel, who was popular with the ladies and sort of a class clown. We got to be friends since our parents partied together. There was one afternoon I went over to his house to hang out, and he and I put up this orange tent in his side yard. We climb in and lounge around, playing the radio. We're talking along and somehow we got to discussing some stuff where I said that the most frightening phrase one can hear when they're alone with someone is, after a pause, "So what are you thinking?" He laughed in agreement, and we talked on for a bit. Then came this pause that was growing more pregnant by the moment, it was getting noticeable. And he broke the silence: Mush-guy, what are you thinking? In a quivering voice, exactly fitting the described fear. I laughed and said shaddup, but then he followed though: No, I'm serious... what are you thinking? I knew he was serious, this was indeed a proposition. Uh, hmm. You just stay right there and close your eyes, he said, and just pretend it's a chick. Er, easier said than done. I laid on my back and stared at the orange canvas inches over my face while he pulled the leg of my shorts aside and wrapped his mouth around my potty-parts. I'd never suspected he was that way, though later on myself and a neighbor would see a friend of his storm out of the house and walk away quickly like he'd been made a move on, but we never found out what that was about. So Daniel is giving it his pornstar best at his task, but I couldn't get it out of my mind that he was a he. Eventually he gave up and we went about our usual lives. And yet it doesn't stop there. [Hey, if these two stories sound familiar, like I've told them before, I probably have but I can't find them in the archives. Some of my best work, like the story about accompanying Alfred & Jill to the Castle Superstore for sex toys, seems to have vaporized off the pages.] Some months later, for situations I won't discuss, he came to know an embarassing secret about me. He could have leveraged me to do many things, but what did he choose? He had me lay down on his parents' bed, one day when his family was gone, and watch this porno movie while he took a second attempt at granting satisfaction. The porn movie might have helped a little had it not been narrated by a woman who was using both hands, in a twisting and together-apart manner, to jerk this guy off. That looked painful! So again, he's slobbin' me knobbin' (and my secret on him was now greater than his secret on me) and nothing was coming of it so he eventually gave up. Some months later he moved away. I wonder now... Would he have swallowed?
    Coming soon to a computer near me: an Athlon 1200 (200MHz FSB) processor – the fastest this thing can handle is a 1300 or 1400 but it's nearly impossible to find those in the evenly-divisible-by-100 FSB flavors, and the ones on eBay are 133/266. And a new scanner, since it seems mine went wonky on me 2 weeks before the end of the one-year warantee. Good timing! Actually, if I reinstall the software three times, unplug the thing for a minute, and face due north while chanting "so advanced, it's simple" I can get the thing to work, oh, once. Or in the case of last night, twenty times in a row doing 1½" x 1½" sections and two business cards but don't expect results on the next reboot. That should be arriving soon; I don't have a tracking number to follow the box through the web. That's my report; there's a new Rant and a Laughter Is The Spackle Of The Soul page you can check out for more yuks, and you're welcome to browse the Old Town Hardwood page if you're into (huh huh huh) wood.  --#2

3/30/03 and April Fools comes early
I got a forwarded letter in my box today from a friend, bless her heart. Maybe you've received it too? And when you think about it, doesn't it sound like it was written by a competing oil company's pseudo-grassroots PR department? (Pardon the small type, I'm just trying to get it all in without scrolling the page to hell.)
   We are approaching $3.00 a gallon by the summer. Do you want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. Phillip Hollsworth, offered this good idea:
   This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last year! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read it and join with us!
   By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. It is currently $1.97 for regular unleaded.
   Now that the oil companies have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP, at $1.50-$1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace.... not the sellers.
   With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.
   How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.
   Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.
   But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, at this point... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!
   I am sending this note to about thirty people. If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300)...
The buyers don't control the gasoline market, but they can influence it. So I wrote back this, which you are all given permission to share in email and so forth. (Again, pardon the small type.)
   There are no Mobil stations here, and the company lives on merrily. No one should be buying Exxon gas after the Valdez accident and their record of NOT reacting to the environmental damage, but people still put tigers in their tanks and the company lives on. The author of that piece should rather be targetting the price bilkers (which possibly those two are) found in most neighborhoods: Chevron and BP are out of control, while ARCO and remarkably Shell/Texaco are trying hard to hold the line. Tesoro is competative with ARCO but that's because they let the garden hose run into their storage tanks.
   I'm not conditioned to think gasoline over $1.20 is cheap; that's what we considered a high price when I started buying it in 1986, and my view hasn't changed because nothing significant has changed about how gasoline gets from dead dinosaurs in wastelands to the pump. 99 cents is a low price now but that's roughly what it actually costs. Most people weren't paying attention to the fact that while the price of gasoline went up after (not during, not before) the last Gulf War, the price of a barrel of crude oil went down to a rockbottom $25. How exactly does that work, raising prices of the end product while the price of the raw material was lowered? So now, even before there was a war, the price doubled. DOUBLED. Supply didn't change. Remind your associates that while the PSA's on television inaccurately say that drugs finance terrorists, the gawdhonest truth is that *you* are supporting terrorists by buying gas at artificially inflated rates and driving an SUV. 5% of the world's oil supply comes from the Iraq/Kuwait area, and none of it comes to America... only the Europeans get that tap, and even then not by legit means since there's a worldwide ban on the sale of Iraqi crude. American oil comes from Saudi Arabia and Mexico, with small amounts from Texas (to keep certain elected officials provided for) and Alaska. Presently the consumer is giving twice as much money to unfriendly governments and greedy petrodollar-funded politicians, which is a blade that gets turned back us occasionally. And 2 months or so after the war is over (the 'Bilk' sign is quick to come on and slow to turn off), you know what the price of gasoline will be? 99 cents at the AM/PM, just like it was 2 months ago.
   The gasoline cartels are not going to notice either a "don't buy gas today" (because people will the next) or "don't buy from these distributors" (almost moot point in this area since they don't have a presence). They'd notice if people drove fuel-efficient cars, took public transit, and remembered that artificial 'gas crisis' from the 1970's where the price of petrol actually went up from 60 cents a gallon to a dollar – the gas stations were not ready for a third digit, so gas prices at the pumps and on signs was measured in half-gallons – wherein people started behaving more earth-friendly and before long the gas companies realized they did not have such a tight grip on people afterall, and it was discovered there was no shortage at all (the "we have too much gasoline because people aren't buying it!" drop in prices was titled a "shortglut").
   There is no shortage now, there's only more consumer complaicancy to be reliant on fossil fuels. How exactly the 1980's revolutionary 35-50 mpg car (which trumped the 1970's 15-30mpg car) has been replaced with Road Rangers and Caravans (the return of the 15-30mpg vehicle) is beyond me. Honestly, instead of boycotting two players out of a dozen, how about changing how the game is played by leaving the car at home one day, and making sure the car gets 40 miles to the gallon? Change comes from within and from going without... as we learned in 1978. Anyone remember 1978?
I had to share that with you all, since notes like that one circulate fast and furious. We need behavior modification, not brand modification. It's like losing weight: you can either keep eating and sitting in front of the TV, but make sure the prepackaged food is less fatty (their suggestion) and lose a pound eventually, or you can get off your duff and exercise, then eat vegetables and grains (my suggestion) and see the difference soon.  --#2

    I decided to step out from under my shell for a bit to see what was happening with this war. I'd heard from a friend in Europe that the al-Jazeera TV network was showing dead US soldiers and an interview with the POWs, about a day before the local papers mentioned either existed. I knew it was only a matter of time before that film made it to the Internet, and I found it on one of my favorite places for shock & awe. So I watched the 11 minute 26 second video for myself. Half of it was a camera just moving around trying to focus in on dead men in green from a safe distance; this would have made plenty of people run screaming, even though there wasn't much detail in the small window on my screen. It's the concept of them laying there lifeless, American, and bleeding from visible head wounds. The other half was interviews (such as they were, with the limited English skills of the guy holding the mike) with the soldiers from the 507 Maintenance Company who were captured, and all they were asked was their name, where they're from (America, then what state), their age, and "why do you come to Iraq?" The answer given was pretty clear: Because they're following orders. One private was asked what he thought of the Iraqi soldiers, and he said "they don't bother me, I don't bother them." He was also asked, "You come to kill Iraqi people?" He said, scared and reminsicent of Tommy Smothers in tone and appearance, "No, I'm here to fix broke stuff." They all looked a little dirty, in good spirits as much as one can be when they have no idea what's going to happen to them in five minutes or five days, treated civilly up to that moment, and in a word: they looked like caged mice who know there's a boa constrictor in the next room. Grace under fire, bravery tempered with uncertainty.
    Now that there's a face on this war, several faces in fact (PFC Miller from Kansas, Specialist Hudson(?) from Texas, Edgar from Texas, Sgt Riley from New Jersey, Shawna from Texas) who spoke and a few more no longer capable of voice, the war has become real to me. [Apologies to you if I got your names wrong.] I didn't want that to happen; I like the separation between my world and less comfortable places, like most people do. It no longer matters as much to me who is wrong or right (though I still hold fast to the fact that war is wrong and W wasn't justified in declaring it), all that I can think of right now is that these people need to find their way back to Kansas, Texas, New Jersey, and anywhere home and heart is – and immediately.  --#2

A friend pointed out that for such a long entry the previous one was, there was no sex. Okay, let me fix that. :) I was working on this guy's new computer to get stuff from the old machine onto it plus install some new programs. I kept having to go to a certain web page to get more information on how to make things work (who knew one of those DVD-to-CDR programs could be so involved?), and every time the page would come up a female bedroom-voice would materialize: "Hi, boys. Are you stroking your firm, hard cocks? [blah blah blah] If you want more, press the 'P' key on your keyboard. That's 'P' for 'pussy.'" There was nothing pornographic visually about this page, not even the banner ads. Happily the speakers on his computer weren't amplified and he's a little hard of hearing so he only noticed that voice once or twice of the half-dozen times it cooed at us, but that was wigging me out. Another reason to hate Internet Exploder.  --#2

    I was called upon yesterday to solve two issues for a local wood flooring company: build them a website, and get the stuff from the old computer onto the new one. The first matter got minimal discussion. The second matter was pretty easy. The third, yet overriding issue which hadn't been broached before, was setting up a network between the two office computers. This proved to be amusing, because 3 years of tech support for Blinky didn't prepare me for this. Why? Because we didn't support routers. But I had the general concepts down so it wasn't anything I couldn't figure out. I went back this morning and what I couldn't get going in two hours yesterday I fixed in one gawddamn keystroke today. Getting the second computer online, once the first one was there, wasn't nearly the challenge, and within half an hour and tweaking some settings the two were sharing files between one another and on the Net. I'll explain why a little dab'll do ya; you choose which version your knowledge of computer stuff you'll best comprehend:
 • [novice]  This network was comprised of a box that connects to the phone line and brings the Internet in, which is linked to a box that splits the Internet signal so two computer can use it, and there are wires from that splitter to the computers. The problem was that the two boxes were not communicating with one another. After wrestling with the problem for a couple hours, I went home and tried to do some research. The website for the company which was gave them the Internet connection box and were sending the Internet signal to it did not say anything about how to get it to work with the splitter box. The maker of the splitter box gave instructions on how to set things up for use with 10 other Internet providers but didn't mention the company my friend was using, which was odd because this Internet provider is a major name. So I did a search on Google, arguably the best Internet search site in the world, and it immediately told me that other people have had the same problem, and that the fix was relatively simple. Why didn't the Internet provider or the splitter's maker make any mention of this issue or its simple fix on their sites?
 • [geeky]  One Win98 machine, one XP machine, both have NICs. Router is a LinkSys 4-port with all the goodies. Plug-and-go DSL connection is "MSN provided by Qwest", using one of those MSFT-branded Arescom 1000 modems they provide. Running the install disk would crap out at the point where the router was to talk to the modem. Tried the built-in setup, no dice. Came home and checked Microsoft's site... they'll tell you how to fix password problems and what to do if you can't shop, but nowhere does it ever say anything about using a router 'cept with an Xbox Live. Checked out LinkSys' support site... they list how to use the router with 10 different ISPs but never mention MSN Broadband, a glaring omission. Google search: a DUX Computer Digest article which says the router and the modem are hardwired to IP, so the fix is to set the WAN address in the router setup to something else. A link at the end of the article to a discussion some years ago on confirmed this miracle. So today I changed the router's IP to, rebooted everything, and voilà! Why the hell don't either party mention this on their support sites?!? ...and you know one would tell you to call the other, then the other would claim you should call the first!
    And what's the first thing the guy does, 15 minutes after I've got both computers to share files? He begins installing Windows XP on the Windows 98 computer I'd spent half an hour configuring, no warning, he just sat down and did it while I was chatting with his son about how their QuickBooks files and other mutual interests should be stored in a shared directory. Happily this didn't screw anything up, or I'd-a been pissed. It did, however, cut his system's speed down by 1/3, which amused me greatly. I'll be out there again tomorrow to answer any questions they have, and they will have them, as well as to show the guy how to duplicate a DVD to regular CD's (no, sir, you can't 'download' a DVD-RW drive off the Net, it's hardware).
    And now for something completely different. I've had an urge to write some blank verse tonight, partially because James Lileks' Daily Bleat for March 21 is really good and partially because the whole concept of going to war (there, I said the W-word like everyone else) – or more accurately, the variable reactions I see around me from people about the concept, and how the concept and resulting actions are reported on variably, making me wonder what is truth and what is convenient fiction, and what is the best response and how many people aren't doing whatever that response is – make my Muse feel like clearing its throat and raising its hand to be called on, even if she doesn't know what she should be saying. One of the things stuck in my craw is the recent reaction people are having about a comment made by Natalie Maines of the country group The Dixie Chicks to a British audience, where she said she was embarassed that the unelected President of These United States was from her home state. Country music fans are shitting their pants. Fellow Texan political critic Molly Ivans has been saying the exact same thing for years, but is there any hooplah? Here's my point of view, which explains why the subject bothers me: I'd like you to draw a Venn diagram, you know the one; you draw a circle and say that everyone in this circle is people who have been calling GW Bush an idiot since at least mid-2002, then you draw another circle and say that everyone in this circle is people who have been claiming for the last month that everyone should respect the President's authority and judgement since there are troops deployed to the Gulf. There's an overlap between the two circles. In an oddly symbolic gesture, you should lightly shade in that football-shaped intersection; it's this grey area I'm concerned with. How many millions of Americans are in it?  AÇB=H where H is Hypocrites, and that's my issue.  [A tip of the hat to Marv Miner, everyone's favorite Hitler look-alike, for the math skills. Despite that X you gave me for not showing my work in determining "given 2x=4, therefore x=2", I was paying attention and learned stuff. Though I don't take back being miffed at you for not actually reading homework but grading by whether the homework looked like it had been done; seems that for every two times I did the work and you marked that I didn't, there was one assignment where I wrote a lot of bullshit that looked like 'showing my work' which had nothing to do with the problems, and you marked it as having been done. The knowledge that appearances mean more than results would benefit me later in life as well.]  Never mind the French government's stance on getting into the fray; it's the local people who had no faith in the man's judgement until he picked up a club, then suddenly they have blind faith in him who are irking me. I'm also a little bunched up over how "patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels" (Dr. Samuel Johnson) as people equate being against warfare as somehow being against one's country; there is middle ground between "love it" and "leave it", and some people (those typically NOT doing the fighting and dying) miss that fact, and the incident that really struck a nerve with me was the note a baggage inspector at Sea-Tac left in someone's luggage, calling the 'No Iraq War' signs the person had packed an "anti-American attitude." My opinion on war in general: As a woman by the name of Laura Lindberg told me, war does not determine who is right – it only determines who is left. My opinion on this one: I haven't tried to form one, but I can't say I'm in favor of it, especially when there are much more dangerous parties such as North Korea to emasculate instead and we haven't finished the war on Al-Qaida terrorists yet. Is there validity to the notion the Junior is finishing what his daddy started but didn't complete? Sometimes that's the only theory that makes sense, beside the usual petroleum-based one (but that one alone is too simplistic an argument, regardless of how valid it may be). Okay, enough jibber-jabber. Let's see what comes out of my cyber-pen...
        the true shekinah
I can't fight that sense of wonder
as I stare at the orange sky from the grass,
why the river of time has flown over the jagged rocks
and how many people will slip into the undertow of a moment
which would pass and be forgotten if allowed
and try to find the island between apathy and interest
   sensual overload and realistic helplessness
   since we all have no control except over our ears and eyes
some people are out of their minds in fright
others are merely out of their minds for the time
and according to the loudest speakers
being out of one's mind is in fashion, join or you're wrong
but I'd rather lay here watching the orange sky
because I know where it goes: it goes on,
and stay here on the green earth
because it is right here under me solidly, which I can prove
so if there's any useless worrying to do
other people are doing it for me
and other people are rafting the rapids of time
   wondering where and when their ride ends
   and if everyone will get their minds back then.      -m³, 3/21/03 2am
Say something cryptic, then leave hoping for the best in the future days. I don't claim to know what the best is, though I suspect it involves not living under a cloud of tension created by people who cannot get along or respect one another. It may not solve any crises, but please show your support (etc.) for bringing an expedient end to this conflict.  --#2

    The last week has been depressing. On Monday I had my interview with the local branch of a large pizza chain to become a driver. Well, it seems that the 5 tickets I've had in the last 3 years preclude me, so I won't be allowed to work for them until mid-December 2004. I can't wait that long, and I'm not interested in cooking. I came home sufficiently disgusted and pored through the jobs on and the local paper, and wound up applying for four things. Later that same day, I got a reply back from the one I found in the paper, a computer shop a few miles away, and they asked for a little more information with which to evaluate me. So I answered their email, waited a day or two, then got an email back saying they were passing me over for other people, but remarkably offered to tell me why I'd been passed over. Yes, please. They said it was because I have a support background, and while I would be fine for testing or field repairs they had something else in mind (if they meant sales, why did the ad use the word "tech" not "sales"?). And for $7.50 an hour, I'd have to imagine they indeed have something else in mind: they seek a naïve person with pimples who will be asking "Do you want a CD-RW with that, sir?" and if they want to supersize their hard drive, and is unaware that every other computer store in the area pays at least a dollar more.
    So for fun, I've been trying to come up with alternate names for Avlimil, "the female Viagra." That name isn't very memorable at all and doesn't come trippingly off the tongue. Mine included Clytera, Clyterex, Gimidic, Valvex, Vagewake, and d-Xirex. I'd even made up an advertisement for Vagewake: the commercial starts with a closeup of a woman's eye and it snaps open suddenly with a hushed voice chanting "Vagewake!" and the female voiceover starts, "Wake to the dawning of a new sensuality." We then see a couple rolling around playfully on top of silk sheets while the female voice gives the usual advertising copy and disclaimers. But there are rival products on the market, it turns out. None of the female stimulants require a prescription because they're herbal (Avlimil is sage & blackberry leaves, and some of the others are L-Arginine) and all of the products are lotions, not pills. These include Vigel, Niagara, Vitara, Viacreme, Stimula, X-cite, Ultimate Libido, and Climatique. Funny how Vigel rhymes with Di-Gel, the antacid. And do you have to go to a counter at Nordstroms for Climatique? The company marketing Vigel also has a lotion called "Vigel for Men" – my guess is that action of a woman applying her lotion and/or a man rubbing the cream on his member, and most definitely watching one's partner put the stuff on, would be quite enough to get the parts in question to respond.
    Every little kid is asked what they want to be when they grow up. What did you say? My two choices were a geologist or an astronomer. Rocks interested me and I liked stars. I still admire stars but don't really want to know the intracacies, I like them just as they are before me. Rocks interest me more but I figured out from the books I was reading that there wasn't much of a life in the career, so I decided that it was good to know schist from rhyolite from granite but I wasn't much into a sedentary life. And I got that notion from watching palentologists on TV (I liked dinosaurs too) sift through sand quietly for years on end to find things, and realized geology was similar. Around junior high I thought about careers again, though this time not because anyone was asking, and I derived that my two interests were psychology and computer science. My friend Carrie Cockrell (yoo hoo, where are you?) who was working on getting a psych degree a decade ago said it didn't seem fair that I'd choose computers over psychology. I replied that I like to be able to fix whatever is malfunctioning, and while one could try helping someone's mind there were no guarantees... with computers, you can just pull out a processor that is not working right and drop in a new one. And I knew that computers would be much bigger in people's lives by the time I got a degree, so I was investing in my future. I wasn't wrong about the future though I may have overestimated my role in it. When I was out of college with my interdisciplinary Bachelor's degree in computer science and English (I liked words too) yet no prospects for work in either field – a recent CNN survey found that Yakima, Washington is the 9th worst place in the country to try to find a job – it was time for more soul-searching, because I was nowhere and I was going nowhere. My choice of field was still computers, but my specialty was drifting; I didn't want to program, the desktop publishing market was being overrun with programs that made turds into treasure (so there were a lot of pretty turds marketed, and layout and English skills were secondary), and no choices to do anything at all beside sell and maintain them existed where I was (and even those niches were dominated). Ergo I moved across the state and eventually did better. But the bottom has dropped out of the tech market and no one is returning my calls. So here I am again, as I seem to be every ten years, asking myself what I want to do with my life? And damned if I know. For what it's worth, I keep the Eichenbach 10× hand lens from my college geology course right next to my monitor.
    Oh, I've added something to the Other Philes department, again... Cool pictures to use as backgrounds on your graphical operating system or to admire.
    A few days ago there was a knock at the door around 11 a.m. It was Chrome! He came to town do do some Army Reserve duty-related nonsense, so I got to hang out with him for a few hours. He's supposed to be in Seattle this weekend doing an actual training, first time in four months or so, but he hasn't tried contacting me again as far as I know. I won't go into much detail about him without his consent here, except to say life is giving him a bleeding ulcer and a few extra pounds – and R.A.T. #1, please read the CNN link above and move the fuck out of Yakima immediately! (Dude, it'll help your longevity, and if you come this direction you may be able to work in a field suiting your intelligence.) That's the news, folks. Continue wishing me good luck, praying for me, willing me good karma, or whatever other positive energy things you can direct at me... I'm still not back on that damn horse and I feel like it's been dragging me around behind it during a moment of equestrian gastric distress.  --#2

    I had the need to call a large money-handling business the other day to ask a question about the payment of a bill. After sitting on hold for about ten minutes, listening to hold music – "Royalty-Free Semi-Familiar Melody #15" followed by "Generic Smooth Jazz Ditty #7-A" – I had a moment of a customer service rep's time, in which she told me that this is another department's matter so she'd transfer me. So off I go down another pipe, listening to "Coincidentally Similar To A Pop Hit #23" and the rather inspiring "Nearly Patriotic Song #B3" when there's a ring. Hope? No, oddly this was a tangent of the call queue which doesn't have its own music. Just empty air, punctuated every 10 seconds with a message about how valuable my call is to them. I said aloud that I wouldn't mind hearing "Indistinct Lavatory Background Music #62" right about now, but no one with that sort of power heard me, apparently. (Do you suppose that Muzak™ tunes actually have titles like that?) Five minutes or so later, I get a human who tells me that my concern is the customer service department's doings. I look at the clock: I've been wading around in Vanilla Soundscapes for 45 minutes. I told her that's from whence I came; she gives me the information I was seeking anyway, and that ends that.
    I made an update to the Paigeroo Hand font, found on the Other Philes page. The metalheads were screaming they wanted a ÿ, the legal eagles were saying the © and similar were too small to read and the ones dealing with music piracy asked that I add a circled-P (copyrighted sound) to the set since very few other fonts have it yet, the folks from wanted to see a yen sign and the Brits complained there was no pound-sterling, and the purists from alt.binaries.fonts had gripes about the kerning of the vowels. (You know who you are.) So I've fixed all that and more; if you've got the font installed right now you're seeing this in use. To test, the circled-P is on ALT-0208 and at the end of this paragraph it is between two dots — you've got the new version if you see the character, you see nothing between if you have the old version, and the rest of you see a D with a horizontal line through it:  •Ð• 
    In public school I was always the one to talk about sex. Recall that I was a virgin until nearly age 19, so you can see just how well all that went; and for the record I never claimed to have gotten any, unlike some classmates who said they did but had not. I had one chance to change that in my senior year, and her name was Rae. She was from Chicago but had been sent to her relatives' house in my town for being such a hellion. I first met her at an after-game dance on a Friday night, when she was all over this Hispanic guy. Somewhere during that night, we struck up a conversation and exchanged phone numbers. Saturday, we talked on the phone for a bit and got to know each other better, and she was pretty interesting. On Sunday, I went over to her house and we were standing around out front talking. She lit up a cigarette and I said something about how kissing a smoker was like licking an ashtray. In a graphic display, she flicks the cigarette out into the street and wraps her arms around me. Mmm, yeah, the old saying was roughly true I discovered as we kissed, but it didn't matter at that moment. Or until she jokingly complained about tossing a perfectly good smoke. We sat down on the front stoop and were talking about who-knows-what, and her hand was on my knee. And running up my thigh. Okay, what now? I thought, seeing everything I'd said since third grade about such a moment get put to the sort of test crash dummies go through. Metaphorically my head hit the windshield, and I put one hand down on my thigh an inch away from my groin (thumb on one side of the thigh, four fingers on the other) to stop her progression. After a couple seconds she got the message and stopped. We carried on the conversation somewhat normally from there on, and I went home as the dusk settled. The next day at school, she was back to hanging on that Hispanic guy, and started spending her spare time with the stoners in the smoking section at the edge of campus. I tried talking to her but she sort of stubbed me out. At first I was a little bothered how she could shift gears so quickly, and that who she was with before the weekend was who she was with after the weekend, but then I found reason to smile: I would have only been a fling, a piece, a tool. I would have felt like sheiß had I done her then been dropped like a hot rock a day later, and vaguely I recall that at that particular time I was in an uncomfortable emotional space anyway so I would have been even more succeptable to pain. And I reflected on what the voice in my head said while my brain did that impact-test: don't put her near your vitals, you don't know where she's been. Which was very much true, and why she'd been sent to The City of Murals from The Windy City in the first place. I've forced myself never to regret what I turned down that day, I was better off without it. (Yeah, yeah, my first three sex partners were not terribly clean or trustworthy either but they weren't so blatant about their mileage, and those were in college...)  --#2

  Warning: This is going to be a stream of consciousness thing. If you have trouble following or taking sharp turns, stay close to the guardrail and keep hands within the ride.
It's a new month and I'm still unemployed. I'm going to visit the computer place up the street, which I applied to by email *and* submitted a résumé to in person, and if they don't say what I want to hear then I'm going to a pizza delivery place to become a driver. Not a cook or dish-wench again, a driver. The natives we owe money to are getting restless since they haven't heard anything from us since mid-January. For some reason, my cat likes to watch me urinate; he'll hop up on the vanity and crouch at the edge to my left like there's something fascinating going on. I have to be careful not to let him paw the stream because he likes water. My bride thinks it's odd that I'll let him watch but won't stand and tinkle with her present (I have no reservations about sitting if I'm not already dressed, it comes from how my mom would shout "FLUSH!" if I tried to pee in the middle of the night when I thought no one was awake) but I reason that Cheddar's a guy so it doesn't matter, guys whip it out at the trough or row of urinals all the time. To update you on the 2/23 4 a.m. posting, those folks at Microsloth done gave me the brush-off. They didn't call Monday either, so I called them, got voicemail so I asked them what's up and provided two means of contact – and they haven't attempted to contact me in a week. <Insert whatever phrase you use asserting your personal beliefs about living up to the promises one makes.> This house came with a fenced-in section on the right side of the yard, a narrow strip which had been used as a dog storage area as well as a garden and a place to throw the yard waste, and for two years I've wanted to do something gardenesque with it but kept putting off clearing the land because of weeds or the infestation of English ivy. I took the time and effort yesterday to clean it up, and was happy to see that a rototiller was not necessary to break up the dirt (knowing the last two years that I'd have to manually remove roots and vines before I could use gas-powered tools anyway) and it's early enough in the year that there are no weeds. The ivy maintains it wishes to keep one end, about 1/5 or so of the area, for its own pagan purposes and I'm inclined to let it for lack of machinery heavier than a spade to convince it otherwise. I had realised the other day I hadn't seen Indian corn – that multicolored maize most often seen around Thanksgiving, if the politically correct crowd had removed that name from your cornucopia – in about ten years, so went to Watson's Nursery and invested in two kinds: the pretty ornamental, and a colorful sweet corn so I can surprise guests at barbecues. As a kid I recall there being multicolored popping corn, but I'm unsure if that was ornamental or someone put good ol' yellow hulls into food coloring. I'll plant those when the frost passes, which I though had a couple weeks ago but was sadly mistaken when a day or two after I hung out the Tasmanian violet the sucker froze to death. It didn't go below 40°F all winter, then when spring is supposed to be upon us what does it do out there? Between them I'm planning on putting some little white squashes, the ones Jamie Oliver refers to as "Patty Pan" (right, 45 days and Bob's your uncle). The sudden cold also killed off the schizanthus, which I honestly didn't expect since they'd been out there the whole time doing fine and are Canadian, eh, so I'll have to replant those. Chrome's alive, says a change-of-email-address note, and that's all I know since he doesn't reply to his email. Martin Gore (the brains behind Depeche Mode) has a second solo album coming out in April but it's already found its way onto the Internet; “Counterfeit²” is pretty darn spiffy, similar in some ways to the first Counterfeit e.p. and different in others. David Gahan (the brawn behind Depeche Mode) has his first solo album coming out in May, “Paper Monsters”, and I haven't heard anything from it yet but the name of the first single is very intreguing. Anyone else here think it really rediculous that gas prices have doubled without there actually being a war? Anyone else here realizing that the oil companies, a.k.a. the countries and organizations we're supposed to be fighting against, are getting funded by us? Somebody finally put out a PSA emulating the stupid "when you buy drugs, you're funding the bad guys" spot that tells a more accurate story: when you fill up your SUV, you're supporting terrorism. Oddly enough, I haven't seen it broadcast widely; we need bumperstickers! And speaking of stories that haven't been shouted loud enough, did you file for the $5-$20 refund from the RIAA for their monopolistic practices on music bought between 1995 and 2000? Did you know about the refund, which had a deadline of 3/3/03? Funny, the site for filing said there was a lot of promotion in all the media, and even named some (just how many savvy music fans read Parade?), but I don't recall seeing anything about the matter 'cept the initial announcement as reported on and a news item a month or so ago on another news site saying the folks behind the refund were surprised how few requests they'd received. Oh yeah, and on March second, one of the local stations mentioning it during one (of three) of their news broadcasts and instead of telling the site name they said to go to their convoluted webpage and look it up. Didja know that in Sweden, if a cab driver has the radio on he has to pay royalties on the music the radio station plays because the local guvmint considers that "public broadcast"? I was a few days late in updating the Laughter Is The Spackle Of The Soul site because I sorta forgot to rename a file last week; I have updates through May waiting there and have since late January, but I hadn't made the latest page visible yet, which I normally do the last week of the month. If you hadn't noticed (or if you had), click away and have a few laughs at Shilerean's mom. You're welcome to answer your email, Mysti. The most recent Rant is really brief because the thing I have to complain about (see the first two sentences of this paragraph!) is so huge it only needs mere mention. Why are you sorry, Amanda? No intreguing story this time; I was reminiscing yesterday about someone I could tell some tales on but due to what she meant to me all that thinking broke my mind. And finally, me to you: Case fans are our friends. --#2

2/23/03 11pm
    We made it to Dennys at 11 a.m., but so did the ladies, and found a table despite the huge post-church crowd. Sometimes it is hard for me to eat because of other people; I prefer my meals and my freakshows to be separate entities. No, none of the freaks were at my table (despite anyone's first guess). To my right was this black woman who seemed very nice, but she had the most enormous overbite imaginable. It was fun watching her drink coffee but I had to turn away when she sunk into her food, some things are a little too traumatic at that hour. Facing me were two Caucasian women – one who seemed to have been soaked in a big vat of peroxide from head to toe overnight, the other was so obese that she had no facial features of her own left – and their three pickaninnies. (Now there's a word you don't see much anymore, it's not in most dictionaries anymore so I probably misspelled it.) I'm not prejudice but I reserve the right to think, "and just what were you thinking when you chose to go out with him?" Or in the fat woman's case, just what was he thinking? No accounting for taste in this world. Various other people drifting in and out of the place had my tummy turning, or maybe it was just that the turkey sandwich in the menu was three times as stacked as the one I received. And where were the dishes that George and Weezie were eating in the ads, since I didn't see anything resembling a meal under $5 on the menu. But here's what had all four of us in a quandry...
    There were at least two suspended televisions, one facing me on each free side. (Mental image of Max Headroom.) And since they have to be tuned into something, what channel would suit all members of the family? Sure... Animal Planet. Which would have been great except the program on during our entire meal was "Eaten Alive", which was about a variety of parasites that like human hosts. Oh yeah, that's just what you want to see over your Slam: tapeworms in jars and roundworms being surgically extracted from a guy's leg and held to the camera. I love invertibrates as much as the next person and really enjoy medical shows, but the timing and placement of this one was just a little off kilter... and the Denny's staff never seemed to notice. Probably because the show wasn't Closed Captioned but all the ads were, so the only things they could follow were the dogfood pitches. And once every minute, there was an animated graphic promoting the show "Pet Psychic" – which should say something about the station's perceived demographics. Geez, why couldn't they have tuned into Food Network instead? That would have promoted their pies, I'm sure. Next time I go to Dennys, I'm bringing a programmable remote, dammit. --#2

2/23/03 4am
    Sorry about the lack of updates recently (and some people thought with my unemployment all I ever did was write!), but I have been busy. Not employed-busy, just busy. The juggarnaut Microsquash and I have spoken a few times recently, culminating with an appointment to go visit their Bellevue campus on Feb 18 for an interview concerning an escalation position with their Internet content provider arm (the one with the butterfly). This was to commence at 3:30 p.m. They called me at noon that day to call the whole thing off, citing a change in the requirements and description of the position. Gee thanks, no reason to get out of bed today, is there? They said that there would be another support position opening up on Friday the 21st (coincidentally the last day my former employer would be in existance, though they were barbecuing out front instead of working since they all had to hand in their badges the day before), so they would be calling on Friday or Monday. Well, it wasn't Friday. So let's see what happens on Monday. And so what have I been up to lately, then?
    My sister-in-law Anne is in town with her beloved Carmen, so we have been spending pretty much every moment we're not in bed with those two... and it's a quarter until 4 a.m. right now, I should be in bed right now because we have a 10:30 a.m. date at Dennys down the road (and plan to be up an hour before that to replace a light switch in the livingroom; for some reason the dimmer has suddenly become an on/off and that has to be a fire hazard). Mushroom has gained two sisters-in-law. I commented to Paige as we were leaving her mother's house after a rousing game of Scrabble™ come 2 a.m. that the last few days have been like it was when I was in college: the party doesn't really end but rather continues again in a few hours. This is why I've been away from the website and my email. Not really away from the computer, since I created a font and shared it via the Other Philes page here and a posting to Usenet's alt.binaries.fonts, but I have not been online and social. (In fact, a former coworker called to ask whazzup since I haven't been on AIM either.) Anyway. Things have been bizarre on that account. For five years, as noted in October 2002's Rotating Rant, we hadn't had any contact with her and what few words had been exchanged hadn't been happy ones. She did, happily, come to see the error of her ways, and now Paige is her best friend it seems. It's been pretty nice to spend time with Anne and Carmen, not only because they're both kicks in the pants to talk to, but because they're so happy. Gay, even, in the classic sense of the word. A year or two before I met Anne, she'd married this guy who, well, it was easy to find faults with, and leading the pack was the fact that she was 16 at the time she was pregnant & married (in that order). So I'd never seen her as the happy-go-lucky, bouncy, spirited, energetic, zany person her sisters had told me she was, because her own off-the-wall personality went into hibernation. Once or twice when Anne was having a good time at a family party, Paige would note that she was "more like her old self." Blah, blah, blah, stuff happened a few years ago and is just now getting back to normal, and here she is: joyfully loud, passionate with her woman (I don't think I ever saw her and her husband touch each other in 15 years), effervescent, talkative and zany. What a difference a new love and a change in her life's direction has made. Paige said that she's so bubbly because the two of them have five years' worth of catching up to do; someone else suggested that it was more like nearly twenty years, since she sort of dimmed her light at a time when your average person is just starting to embrace the fires of life. Welcome back to age 17, Anne! And welcome into her life, and into ours, Carmen!
    I got a hiya message from Emmer #3 today, good to know she's still kicking. I haven't spent any time on lately so I should wave (~~~~~) to my friends there; I'm still trying to get back in the saddle and have something to complain about there, folks. And I repeat what I usually say when timewise I don't have any reason not to be communicative or get things done, but for some reason I don't write or do those things I need to do: When I don't have a schedule to work around, I don't accomplish much 'cept stuff that wasn't on the list. In high school I could knock out one or two letters a night on top of homework and other duties, but when I'd have a lull in school (like Spring Break or three months of summer) I'd spend every day, nearly all day, sitting under the maple tree out front or up in the willow tree, and the only way you'd know I was still alive was by driving past the house. I don't know what to do with myself when I can do anything I want, though I seem to find things outside what I normally do... like the souvenir Windows boot screens I made recently for the Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul site. So I'm letting you, the reader who wondered about me, know that I am still fighting the good fight and staying optimistic despite there being nothing worth sharing beside I hate being strung along! and All the world loves a lover. Continue wishing me well, I still need the good vibes. --#2

    I met this girl in a Toppenish Junior High home economics class by the name of Francis when I was in the eighth grade, and she and her younger sister Margaret seemed like pretty nice people. The two things I gathered from talking to Fran and hearing about her (and meeting her mother) were that her family belonged to a rather uptight church which prohibited dancing, and that word had it she'd spent a little time in the psych ward. Only the first part mattered to me, because I was trying to get her to go to some school party and her mother politely told me Fran couldn't go. Five years later as a senior I was working as an afterschool tutor and near the end of the school year Frannie was coming in to get a little assistance with her math. Her family lived out in the country, so after the tutoring session would end at 4 p.m. she'd sit out front of the school under a pine tree waiting for her ride, and sometimes I'd join her under the tree to pass the time. One afternoon I sat down in the shade of the tree as she waited, and we were talking about any old thing and swapping anecdotes, when she told me this story...
    When she was 9 years old, she lived in a more residential area. There was some adult male neighbor who had a van, and one day – I don't recall if she said she was lured in or was grabbed – she found herself in the van with him. I completely missed where she was telling me how long she was with him and how the police found out, because my mind was racing. The three screaming thoughts were How did we get to the point in the conversation where this story would come out? and Why is she telling me such a highly personal story?... and most important to me, Can I handle hearing this? I was determined to listen, and I replied to those voices in my head with Obviously she trusts me with such information, there must be a reason why she is confiding in me. I was focused again when she told me that when the police found them, the inside of his van was covered in blood, and it was also running down her thighs. Holy shit!, my inner voice said, please tell me my interpretation here is wrong. "And a month later," she continued with her unflinching resolve, "I found out I was pregnant." Damn, I wasn't wrong. The only thing I could muster saying was, "So you had an abortion at the age of nine?" She said yes (which was surprising due how conservative Christian her parents were, but I was aware that sometimes one's karma runs over one's dogma), and she told me that the incident was a lot of why she seemed so much different than other people – her family's no-fun-allowed churchiness, her being so reserved, and why that rumor years ago of a classmate making a pass at her struck more nerves with her than anyone understood why. I didn't know what to say, but I finally had some idea what to think. I don't recall if she swore me to secrecy on her candid tale. She didn't need to; I knew other people wouldn't be able to handle the story, and she'd given it to me in confidence because she believed I could. Her ride showed up a few minutes later, and I walked home with my head in a fog.
    About eleven years ago I came across Margaret at a yardsale, and she told me Fran was back East playing nanny. At our ten year high school reunion (seven years ago), I found out that she was still over there and making a life of it; she wasn't in attendance but she had sent a letter to the reunion organizer telling about the last decade. I got her address from the letter, but never got around to writing her and I've felt a little sheepish about my failure. We only meet so many good people in our lives. We might not have been meant to be anything more than friends, for whatever incomprehendable gallactic reasons we joust with when we're facing them, but I look back on those people I've met who qualify and think, "but why couldn't we have been better friends?" It's like an opportunity to be a better person, to have known someone past the surface to the heart and soul, got away and the moment is gone. My friend Gabriella said that it's not wise to mourn for things one never tried to find; what is important is what one did find. I'm happy that I've had moments of being appreciated, of appreciating others, albeit fleeting. And if Frannie or Margie happen to read this, they're welcome to drop me an email: I thought you were very cool, I just never tried (or a second time) to know you better. Youth is wasted on the young. --#2

    Spring has sprung. It's partially sunny, mid-50°F, and the lily of the valley and crocus (heck, even the ranunculus that did nothing last year) are coming up. I'm still going to wait another couple weeks before putting the hanging pot of Tasmanian violets back in the carport – it was hard enough bringing them back from the dead last year – but it's ready for some outdoor action. I've already planted some schizanthus seed and am hoping I can get some catgrass to come up, and I'm taking a chance on growing quince from seed to augment the stand I already have (which made all of five fruits last year, what the hell?). The mints out back look good when not being investigated by squirrels, the horehound has grown a lot (and I removed and emptied the seed pods so I can plant more), the rosemary tastes good, and the sweet violets are yawning and stretching. The roses are waiting patiently for more sun, and I'm happy to see the orange poppy which came up volunteer last year has returned for another round. [stepping away from the keyboard to add some red poppy seeds near it, I never have enough luck with that variety] The catnip and catmint are doing nicely, since the local furballs haven't noticed them. And I'm sure my betroughèd would like me to remove the stevia from the kitchen window, which I'll do when I take the Tasmanian violets and quince out. Another sign of spring: the Tampax "Dancing Tampons" screensaver which I accidentally installed the other day. Why didn't the writer provide some way to turn off the sound?
    Okay, so I wrecked whatever mood I set with the rest of the first paragraph. :) I'm surely not the first person to be curious about the things; maybe you've heard from me before that the whole line of hygiene products geared toward feminine concerns eludes the average male due to plumbing differences. What IS that 'not-so-fresh feeling'? I've asked a few women, and half say they don't know while the other half describe different (yet related) aspects of vaginal ownership. I once joked to a girl about how there are no singing douche ads, then the next day she corrected me that there IS one... "I'm dreaming of summer; cool breezes, fresh air / When I want that feeling, Summer's Eve takes me there / That clean, fresh feeling keeps the good times on my mind / Summer's Eve brings back freshness anytime." (Mental image of a Pauly Shore bit from some movie, where he's revised that Seals & Croft song: "Summer's Eve makes me feel fine...") I like bringing up the concept of photonegatives in casual conversation, how if you blink the phosphenes you see for half a second are the inverse color of the original (blue is yellow, green is red) and thus if you work at it, you can see those demonstrations of products in advertisements (tampons absorbing green liquid, diapers being filled with blue liquid) a little more realistically. This point is where half of you are saying "ewww!" and the other half are going "right on!" So for the latter half, I'll continue. There was an ad on TV some years ago where this woman in a workout suit puts one foot up on a locker room bench and says, "Does your life change once a month because of your period?" I always replied, "no, should it?" One of my favorite high school journalism class stories was the time I walked into class and greeted Shirley, Rosa, and Cheryl as they sat in the far row, and Shirley snapped back at me. I was like, huh? Shirley said, "You'll have to pardon me, I'm on the rag." Rosa chimed in, "So am I." Cheryl added, "So am I." I responded, "I'm not, should I be?" And I'll never forget the time that my English teacher in the seventh grade blew the cover of a girl who ran out of the classroom crying, much to everyone's unwitting surprise, by saying "Don't pick on her, she's just growing up." I know I'm not the only one with sanitary napkins on their mind: Joan Rivers told a story at Comic Relief about going into the ocean wearing a super-absorbant tampon and the tide went out. Marsha Warfield talked about swiping the booklets found in tampon boxes out of her mother's underwear drawer and reading them in the bathroom while holding a hand-mirror to verify the booklets' diagrams. On the Yeasty Girls' "Ovary Action" single, one member plays a classical song a capella on a tampon applicator, like a slide whistle, after telling the audience she'd been fascinated by these things for a long time. It's just not often I ever hear males discuss feminine hygiene products, and I give a kudo to the folks (male and female) behind the movie "How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days" for showing that one way to scare a man is to fill his medicine cabinet with feminine hygiene products. Usually guys will discuss a lack of hygiene, though I recall the late Gilda Radner doing a sketch on video where she's advertising a douche and uses the descriptive phrase "a bucket of carp guts, rotting in the sun." Look at enough advertising, and you wonder how women could possibly get through a month without offending everyone within a mile of them without a crate of high-tech and usually floral-scented products. Women have assured me that's not true (a plus-sized relative was semi-insulted when she got a free sample of a larger-sized panty-liner in the mail, and her exact words were, "My twat isn't any bigger than the average!") and yet... I'd never trade in being a boy, it's cheaper.
    So for those of you who were repulsed by the previous paragraph, all apologies, maybe I'll be less candid next time. As Marsha Warfield said amid her discussion of such issues, and it became the title of her comedy album: "This is not gross, this is important!" --#2

    I think it's pretty odd that none of the folks that I have applied for jobs with have given any sort of response. I'll admit my nervousness; I need an income now since if I got a job today the month's bills would be due at the same time I got my first paycheck, but no one has said a word even acknowledging that I've answered their ads... and my former cohorts are starting to answer ads and get prepared for their own being dumped. I heard from one guy I respect that this whole thing came as a shock and surprise to even the highest officials where I worked, but ya know what? I don't believe that for a moment. And I'm waiting to hear from friends about other people getting the bum's rush before they can be paid a bonus or severance; one person said that he was handed a waiver, saying that he wouldn't sue if they didn't pay him severance at the end of the road. Gee, why would they need to cover their ass if they're being fair and honest, like they insist is a core value to them?
    Four years ago I was hanging out with this guy by the name of Edwards, who was living with an ex-girlfriend's family. The ex, Shelly, was pretty nice to talk to, and her mother was kind of cute too. So one day Shelly meets this guy whose family lived out in the bhummphuque, 300 miles away, and after a week of knowing him she has a lapse of good judgement and goes to stay with him for a little while. And pretty soon, the week or two has expanded to over a month. This is where Shelly's mother calls me and asks if I'd be willing to do her family a favor. Sure, for the right price. She tells me that when I get to Tonasket, Shelly has $70 she'll give me. "And," her mother said, "I'm sure she'll flash you out of gratitude." Sold out by her own mom! I figured her tits were worth the trip, so I agreed to be by the house to pick up Edwards in the morning.
    I had never taken a road trip across the state like that before, and I'd never been farther north in the central part of the state than Wenatchee, so this was sure to be an adventure. Edwards and I were all geared up in my 1980 Subaru stationwagon for the trek, which managed not to overheat completely during the trip but it certainly wanted to at times. The only pitstop we took was a lunch break at The Squirrel Tree in Leavenworth (finally, a feature on Highway 2 that I recognised!), which at that time was owned by some of my wife's relations. We'd told Shelly that we would be along in the early afternoon, but little did we suspect how long it would take to drive 300 miles, so we finally show up at the Tonasket Texaco around 5 p.m. She wasn't too pleased about our late arrival because, well, the shine of her new lover had worn off (that'll happen to anyone when you're stuck in a cabin with a redneck and his parents 20 miles from civilization!) and she wanted out of there right now!!, so the extra four hours was a great imposition. She hauled her stuff in while I gassed up and added more coolant to the engine, she gave me $50 (she bought herself lunch since she had to wait for us), and we headed west. We took a quick stop at the minimart between Leavenworth and Wenatchee around 7 p.m. to call our homes and let everyone know we were fine. So of course they expected us to roll in around 11 p.m. – but this was a roadtrip (hadn't they ever read Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas?) so we were gonna have a little fun on the way! We took a little detour through Snoqualmie, site of where the TV show Twin Peaks was set, to check out the waterfall and take in some nature. And as we frolicked along the river in the shadow of Mount Si, I mentioned to Shelly what her mother had pledged for her. She wasn't up to it since she wasn't sleeping with me (her exact words); she said she hasn't any qualms at all about whipping them out, but she just needed some passing emotional attachment to make it happen. Well, shoot, shorted $20 and a pair. Anyhow, we got back on the road once it was too dark to see any nature. I missed the exit to SR 18 so wound up having to go all the way to Seattle to get back in the right direction, putting us a little further behind schedule. Shelly was sad and hurt when she got into the car hours ago, having been totally repulsed by the experience of the previous five or six weeks and the inevitable "it's over, let's still be friends" speech that terminates the moment, but by now she was quite lively and happy to be in familiar company. And we had such fun that it took until after 2 a.m. for us to get back to the house.
    I was about to leave after dropping them off, just needed to park on level ground to inventory the car's status and regather all my stuff to the front seat, so I parked across the street from her house where there was an apartment complex and asphalt. I look up at her bedroom window, which faced the front yard, and she's got Edwards in her room to tell him more about her time. I saw her lean over and grab a nightshirt off the bed, turn her back on Edwards (thereby facing the open window), and... whoof! there they were. I considered myself paid up. She told me later that her hick former boyfriend was supposed to send her some money (the $20 which was owed me plus a little more that he'd promised to make up for some debt incurred during the stay) but she didn't honestly expect him to follow through, and to my knowledge he never did. I see her and her mother about once a year anymore, usually when they bring Shelly's new husband and child by my booth at the Puyallup Fair to say hello. --#2

    Just a few snide words in response to today's announcement (3 weeks after my termination) that the Earthlink call center I worked at is being closed down as of Feb 21 after repeated offical proclamations that it would not be closing this year, if ever. I've been screwed out of my unemployment payments, I've been screwed out of my bonus, and now I find I've also been screwed out of a severance package (those still working on 2/21 who aren't being punished for petty crimes will receive payment through 3/31). I can't take credit for any of this, of course, and I certainly don't wish any ill upon my bretheren in the trenches because now there are 1,300 people suddenly looking for work (200+ of which may be competing directly with me for the local jobs), but I have to say it: The dickhead who fired me and the dickhead who whined about me to get me fired suddenly have lost their primary income, and while better provided for they too have to come up with something new in a shitty job market. All the rest of you Linkers and Springers across the country who are watching the second (no, says third) largest ISP in America abuse their employees, their customers (all calls go to outsourcers), and their JD Powers rating... I wish you the best of luck. Just don't steal my next job from me, I applied first.
    And in more pleasant affairs... I've taken a little of my free time to twaddle some graphics, as you may have noticed (assuming you don't just link to the Daybook page). Milo Lum's dance studio has been replaced with some advertisements from the 1950's. Milo's ad and a better rendition of the thing on the front page are now located in the Other Files section. --#2

    The other day, I had just turned on the shower and was about to go get the cat -- he had toothpaste on his tail and he couldn't get it off -- when I see the mailman walking up the driveway. I immediately dart to the bedroom to put my robe on because I was naked, and I get to the door just as he is knocking. He handed me the mail and the box (22x17x18 cm, 5 pounds, and cost $14.05 to mail) I'd been waiting for! (That's two or three times the postage I had expected. But the box contained five times as much material as I had expected!) So with the box in my possession, which I cut open immediately, I was able to retrieve the cat and get in the shower.
    Why did Cheddar need a bath? The night before, I went to brush my teeth, opened the cabinet to get the triple-protection AquaFresh, and while the door was open Ched jumped up on the counter. He likes to watch hygiene, it's a cat thing. So I had to convince him to duck his head so I could close the door and... his tail hit my toothbrush, taking most of the dentifrice with it. I couldn't get enough of it off him at the time, since he became a moving target when I expressed interest in taking a washcloth to him, and apparently he didn't lick it off himself overnight, so I figured I could finish the job in the shower. He's an odd sort; he'll play in a sprinkler, lounge in the sink, climb into the toilet to have a drink and leave footprints in the bowl, and I've seen him come out of the bathtub a couple times half an hour after a shower has taken place... but he doesn't want to get wet on anyone else's terms than his own. This was no exception, but I did manage to scrub enough crisp fur to make his tail soft and smooth again so he should be happy (and cavity-free).
    So after my shower I sat down on the couch with the box, still nekkid but wrapped in a comforter (with the cat looking at me like, "that's my blankie, bitch"). It contained a lot of random photos destined for the Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul website, and I divided the stack into four sections, then looked at each picture. I divided these pictures into four groups: that which made me LOL, that which made me :), that which made me say WTF, and the group titled 'this can wait'. There were no unclothed women, but judging by the number of wedding and Christmas photos therein that's to be expected. And bridesmaid dresses are pretty darn tasty so I don't feel too bad. There was a guy showing his behind with his fraternity buddies encouraging him, a woman whose dog was pulling down the neck of her shirt to reveal a good quantity of cleavage, some people who were photographed first thing in the morning before coffee and grooming made them attractive human beings, and... A boner. Fifteen photos from the end of the stack, this one of male genitalia (which appears to have been taken in a car) comes up in my hand and I break out laughing. The phone rings at that moment. I was laughing so hard I had to hang up on the telemarketer who couldn't pronounce my name right (yeah, that's why I did it...). I've scanned 80 and have another 35 to go. You'll see them on the site eventually; the monthly update happens next week.
    So today I did my (un)usual bit of job-hunting online and came across one listing that didn't say much: they're asking for someone who knows computers and Windows 98, please call this [small town down the street] number to apply. It's 5:45 p.m. on a Friday so I don't figure they're going to answer the phone if they're your average business, and I'm not jumping without detail about who this is. I run the phone number through Google cuz I gots mad skillz, and the response is... it's an adult bookstore in a town I didn't think had any porn available (except for that Korean minimart downtown but they only have one large rack, with recycled magazines in sealed bags – 3 in the bag, and the outer two are enticing while the middle one is complete crap). I have enough issues as it is (personal issues, not magazine issues) so I'll pass on that one. I scrolled down the listings page and noticed they put the same ad in the paper every week. Good help is hard to find.
    And speaking of my unemployment, I'm not getting paid for it. The State sent me a letter saying that making a coworker become insecure (that photo of the woman that looks like his girlfriend only better has moved here) qualifies as damaging office morale and imparing work, and most importantly I had acknowledged that I broke the rules about using the computer knowingly, so they're not obligated to pay me. Also... A former coworker confirmed that an email sent recently, which doesn't tell when the annual bonuses come out, said what I already knew: one has to be employed at the time the bonuses are paid (which would likely be mid-February) in order to receive their bonus, so I and however many other people who left the company between Jan 1 and Feb 15-or-so don't get any of the money which was earned. Probably saves the company $20,000 at least; "we are frugal," as Mindspring founder Charles Brewer said in a previous life. And to that end, I'm keeping the shirt he gave me but selling the six received from the revised company on eBay in an attempt to recoup 1/30th to 1/60th of the bonus they're denying me. (Those auctions end on Jan-30-03 20:13:17 PST.) My betroughed said, "Are you mad at them?" I sighed and said this was a messy breakup of a long-term relationship, so I'm doing what any jilted man does: I'm cleaning house of the little reminders.
    My spirits are still high, friends and family. My skin is clearing up and my neck isn't stiff, but then again I've probably driven less than 50 miles in the last two weeks instead of my old routine of almost 90 miles round-trip every day. I've lost 5 pounds in those two weeks, which I consider a good thing since I was gaining a pound a month sitting in that cubicle the last three years. I'm not any more exercised (it's rained on and off nearly the entire fortnight) but that will happen. And I've made great strides to kill the moss on the roof and in the lawn, and I do have a bag of grass seed ready when the lawn moss is completely done for. The relief Dana told me I'd be feeling seems to have slipped into me, though I'm still airborne with my arms out and hands open, waiting for the bar to come within grabbing range... yoo hoo, over here, quicklike... And as a closing note, I have heard from the other two R.A.T.s so they're still alive and kicking. That's all I know presently since neither spoke of their own daily lives, but the simple acknowledgement that one exists (them to me and me to them) means a great deal in the grand scheme of things. --#2

"I do not weep at the world. I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife." – Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
    I'm impressed at the outpouring of empathy, sympathy, and good wishes from you, the readers of this tripe. It's been a week and I haven't found a new occupation yet, but I'm still upbeat and submitting applications to technical places every couple days. (Not Adobe yet. For some reason their jobs webpage doesn't list anything in Seattle, yet people working there have let me know through that they are hiring; will have to print a résumé and go search in person. I know a couple of you were wondering.) Thank you, one and all, for your support. And speaking of support, I got a call from an old friend who was supposed to link up with me between Christmas and New Years but, uh, forgot. I hung out with her today for a couple hours, and we commiserated about people we work(ed) with that the other person doesn't know, then laughed about the rediculousness of old friends, so that was pretty cool.
"Sorry, we don't have medium 3-topping pizzas for $8.95 anymore; would you like a large 3-topping for $8.99 instead?" – Pizza Time operator
    I'd been thinking about sharing a certain sordid story for a long time, but it wasn't until I made oblique reference to it in the last entry that I remembered I was going to tell it while being at the keys. If you're not into a few laughs about venereal disease, bail now. Okay, the rest of you gather 'round...   Moving very quickly through the background information: July 1983, met a girl. Should have pursued Lynette instead [sigh]. 1986, she married some Middle Easterner so he could keep his green card. 1987, she realizes what everyone else knew (the visa thing, and that he was cheating on her) and moves back in with her mom. Then dumbly goes back at his whining. Then leaves again when she finds his crotch cream in the dresser, indicating he'd caught a disease from his philandering. This brings us to June 21, 1987, when she showed up on my doorstep after a drive from northern California to central Washington one day. The next month was pretty much a poorly-scripted comedy featuring Bob Denver instead of Hugh Grant in the lead role, and Margot Kidder off her meds (or a pissed Sissy Spacek with a boob job) instead of Julia Roberts opposite him. Most of the incidents from this time period are irrelevant, such as how I'd read her diary to appear psychic (well, if you don't tell me anything...), or how she gagged giving me oral service then vomitted in my lap ("hey, some guys would be flattered," I said) then we slept for the next week on the pillowcase she used to wipe that up without washing it, or how she worked at the local A&W for a month without ever filling out a W-4 form with them so she never got paid. So she's making her plans to continue north to her grandparents' house in a few days, and we did the act one final time before her period started. This was the day that her cervix had opened up in response to her cycle and all the nasty stuff further up her plumbing – oh, it didn't ring a bell in her head that if she left her husband because she could prove he was cheating on her (again) because she found his medication, maybe possibly she'd been exposed to his disease – made its way to my anatomy. So about 48 hours later, the day before she left, I was asking that question made famous by Frank Zappa: "why does it hurt when I pee?" I douched myself twice daily with Lysol ("I really can't suggest that treatment," said my doctor a couple days later) but the damage was done: I had contracted a case of chlymidia. Happily that's all it was, something bothersome yet cureable. Off to the doctor's office, following that memorable appointment call: telling the nurse for the doctor who lives across the street from my folks, "I think I've got a venereal disease." Getting that diagnosis was a comedy more along the lines of Jerry Lewis than Chevy Chase (some slapstick, no pratfalls, same dialog minus shouting Laaaady!): The doctor asked for my male parts, he inspected them, asked some questions to which the answer was OWWW!, and then he stuck a cotton swap up me drainpipe to get a culture. Standard procedure is to twist a little going in then twist a little coming out. I can hear your toes curling, my male readers, so let that be a warning. (Guys, take Brother Sam Kinison's advice: "if you don't trust the pussy, don't fuck the pussy.") I got my prescription to tetracycline, and my wee-wee boo-boo got better. The only contact I had with her after the diagnosis was a letter telling her what's up (4 out of 5 women with chlymidia don't know it, according to a health department brochure) and to get medical attention before it busted her female organs permanently. Oh, and that I could not get her paycheck because they didn't feel obliged to cut one, and kindly never speak to me again. I can only presume that the dingle-damage donor got help because my bud Wayne saw her in town a year later with her new husband. Stuff is fine below my belt buckle.
"I long suspected penises came in larger sizes." – my friend Jill, after breaking up a 3 year relationship with Alfred.   --#2

    Now, for any perspective employers that could be reading this page (and I've only applied to one or two so far, naïvely believing in my skills and outright chutzpah), I want you to know that I have every intention of getting back on the horse that bucked me: I belong in the tech sector. With that said, having enjoyed a Monday without a stupid person within earshot for the first time in years, I'd like to share some sage words from the movie Office Space (required viewing for anyone who sits in a carpet-lined box, especially those who work at ISP's dealing with nonsense at both sides of the headset). Ahem...
  …We don't have a lot of time on this earth. We weren't meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles, staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.
    Today I got a physical exam for the first time since 1988. That's one thing I'm doing with my new free time and the insurance coverage I still have until the end of the month: I'm looking out for numero uno at last. This was the oddest visit to the doctor I've had (aside from that visit to the proctologist [see the 4/9/02 Daybook entry], or when it hurt when I made weewee but that's another story I haven't told yet) because it was nothing like what I'm used to experiencing. See, every other time in my life I've gone to see the doctor for a checkup, the protocol was this: After sitting in the waiting room for a bit, someone leads me to a room and gives me some instructions, such as "wait for the doctor." After no greater than five minutes, someone will walk in and ask me questions then gather some basic data (back me against a ruler, invite me onto the scale, and stick a thermometer in my mouth) and give me some more instructions, such as "undress, the doctor will be along." Then whenever he makes it, along comes the doctor and we take it from there. Not this time. I'd never been in this office or seen this man before so of course the only important info he had about me was my name, my address, and my Ætna policy number. So now the new protocol... After sitting in the waiting room for a bit, ignoring the year's worth of Golf Digest to work on my middle-distance staring, someone takes me to a room and tells me the doctor will be along. And about ten to fifteen minutes later, after I'd inventoried his rubber glove box collection, he steps in and we start discussing my health. Do you notice we skipped the whole information gathering phase as well as a request to get naked? He did get me to drop my drawers so he could jostle my testicles (tangental thought: I don't recall any other general practitioner checking me for rupture before, score a point there), and happily I wasn't still aroused by the only female under age 30 in the building. My blood pressure is 120/80, but he couldn't say whether my weight is normal for a man my height because he gauged neither. Maybe the assistant who drew my blood once I left that room – and let me say right here that I have been very squeamish about watching my own blood flow since that hand sickle accident last August – was supposed to do that, but she probably was busy phebotomizing others or putting on that blue eye shadow which sharply constrasted with everything else about her plain features. (Not as bad as Mimi from The Drew Carey Show but in a way we all thought went out of vogue by 1982). I should have stepped on the scale for shits & grins since I had the idle time, but instead I read a pictoral representation of a couple dozen horrible things that can happen to someone's gastrointestinal tract. A couple of them made me think of my sister. Once I'd become sufficiently dizzy from donating roughly 20cc of blood – I told you I was squeamish! I'd make a lousy woman at 'that time of the month' – I was pushed forth into the world to go face my day. I instead went to bed to sprout some more corpuscles from my long bones. Oh, and... Fourty-seven boxes of gloves, by the way.  --#2

    I remembered something I'd left out of the previous entry, which should have been the second paragraph: There was a Dilbert strip awhile back documenting the phenomenon where when one person has been terminated, or is about to be without duties, other people won't look at him. It's like they're afraid whatever that person has (a terminal case of downsizing) is contageous. Or my pet theory, it's something learned as a youth when a neighbor-kid was getting into trouble with his/her folks or one sibling is getting punished while another wants to play stenographer to the act – there's the fear, usually because the adult said this was a possibility, that you will be next. I witnessed this on Tuesday. Mine was the first public execution I'd seen, and oddly enough it was my own. I can't think of any other person who had been dismissed in the middle of a shift that was made to box up their shit right then and there; all the other people I can name (half a dozen off the top of my head) just left the building immediately without another word, and collected their belongings when none of their coworkers (but obviously some supervisor) was around. I guess in that respect I was lucky because I did get to shake people's hands and fair thee well. Management must have trusted that I wasn't going to burst into tears, rant and scream, or explain the gaping details to people who would have had to decide if they wanted to call 'bullshit' on the situation. Conversely, it was a public spectacle, an act most would consider unprofessional, an object lesson without a clearly stated object. My fellow techs could have used a little explanation (and an accurate one), since a day or two after (even with my goodbye note posted 4 times to the internal list) they didn't have enough of the story right... not that some of them ever had any story about me right in the first place. Anyhow. The phenomenon mentioned turned out to exist (many people are now chanting "duh!" but as I said, it had never happened near me). I'm pulling tape off of the amusing things on my cubicle with a pushpin, and none of my coworkers are looking at me. Or for more than a couple seconds to take in what I'm doing, compute a little math, and get back into their prairie-dog holes before they were seen. The ones within sight didn't need any sort of explanation; I went to their cubes once my stuff was in the box and they extended their hand to shake first. The ones who weren't witness to the spectacle needed me to say "goodbye, it's been fun" and extend my hand first, and only one (have I mentioned I have the greatest respect for you, Leon? you made me smile the entire time I knew you) was completely oblivous to what was happening. Well, him and the manager of the group next to mine who is usually the last to know what's happening (I adore and respect you greatly, Rupa; sorry if my sense of humor wasn't always in line with your sensibilities) that I told to have a nice life. Everyone else would have to read their email the next day, catch the rumor wave, assume or guess, or whatever. I was surprised by the phenomenon; I had hoped for a "what are you doing?" or a "but whyyyyyyy?" (which I got later from friends in Customer Service who weren't working at the time) but no, they laid low lest they get any on them. And I probably would have done the same if it were someone else.  --#2

    Things took a turn for the worse. It turns out that the person who tattled on me for showing him someone who looked like his girlfriend (but with a clear face and actual boobs) sucking a small cock got the last laugh. I was escorted out of the building, with some management parties claiming this was "the end of a series of offenses" though none of the things cited ever netted me so much as a documented verbal warning; they chose to terminate rather than write me up, the first time apparently they've done so for p0rn (I've heard stories about other people who did get a written warning for naughty pictures). Harrumph. So what do I feel? At first it was sheer numbness. Once I got sensation back in my limbs, it was hunger because they decided to hold the tribunal during my lunch period. Okay, after that... Dread that I was going to have to tell Paige what happened, and bless her heart, I know from having been around her for the last sixteen years it's never a pleasant situation to give her bad news because she tends to say the first thing that comes to her, things that I've heard from myself plenty and however many other people along the way, and really don't want to hear from my significant other. This night was no different. Once everyone was civil again, I was okay though knew I wasn't going to be sleeping. So now what? Coworkers who left that company (typically by being fired for something other than poor performance) have proclaimed happiness at their new jobs at a couple local firms, so I will be investigating the options. Biggest question I'd have is, do I want to work with these people since I was happy to see them go? Ah, sure, it's good to know someone in a new place already. People in the know tell me I should start feeling some relief that I am free. I've determined I won't feel that relief until my hands catch the other trapeze bar I have to take on faith swings in my direction through the darkness. And I now have the time to pursue a doctor's checkup, since I haven't had one since... shit... 1988? The Christmas stuff was put away today, and unemployment benefits have been applied for online. And I'm now paying for my Internet access (from my former employer) like a normal human being, mostly because you wouldn't be able to read this if I weren't. [On that note: This page as well as Spackle may be down for a day or two due to the technical nonsense behind going from a comp acct to a paid one. It'll be back, ph34r not.] My attitude is good and my fellow geeks (both the few that like me back at the old place and the regulars on wish me well; yes, I will be getting back on the horse, pronto – no other choice exists. I have a mortgage to pay, a spouse and a cat to lavish with baubles, and a lifestyle to support.
    I was able to send my goodbye note to my fellow techs (four times even – for those who have read it: I hit Submit on the form and it said 'cannot contact DB' so I tried a couple more times, thinking the connection had been lost, and even closed the browser then opened and pasted the content back in, same deal, no indication it got sent, ergo duplicates! Sorry!). I was nice to everyone, and didn't write any of the snide things which I'd thought about at one time or another (like "Jenessa: You are so not the shit" or "Gigglefist & HorribleTerrible: How exactly did you go from thinking I was cool to totally ignoring me like a pariah while I was out on vacation?") because being negative has few long-term benefits. Feels good, sure, but spouting off eventually nips you in the behind. Just like karma, but that's somebody else's issue now. :) I won't reprint the whole letter here because it was written for a specific audience, thus you wouldn't get it unless you were in a position to read it the first time ("or the second or the third or the fourth time," as A House said on their first album). But I will share the last two lines:
  To anyone who thought kind of me: It was a pleasure to have made your acquaintance.
  To anyone who did not like me: I'm sorry to have burdened you with my presence, I probably thought good things about you or your work skills... you get only one Hurray!, now get back to work.
And truly, it was a great ride. Too bad it couldn't have been longer, but they say when one door closes another one opens, and there's a grand scheme to things thus a reason why I'm out here groping for the next doorway.  --#2

1/2/03  Happy New Year, everyone!
• Number of licks to get to the Tootsie-Roll center of a Tootsie-Pop:  3
    A day or two after Christmas, my spouse and I decided it was time to go tree shopping. Artificial (doot! doot!) that is, because her allergies have become that intense. And after seeing the various stores didn't have any, or in the case of Sears not at that particular store, we found some to our liking – at The Bon Marché. We bought one of their display models, a really thick one with multicolor lights that was about eight feet tall. They were to have it ready for us to pick up the next day, but of course they hadn't touched it... Paige and her mother spent 45 minutes trying to dismantle the tree enough to get it in her Geo Metro. And once home and reassembled, this is where we discover the tree really is eight feet tall, and our ceiling is seven and a half feet high.
• Number of strings of lights found on an eight foot tall fake tree:  20
    For those who wondered, and this is one of only two things I'm going to say about the holiday (if you want a "Lookie what I got!" account, see some other 'blog), yes I did get a DVD player from my sister-in-law. Not the one I had requested (which was based on price and portability) but a different one (nicer features, thin enough to fit on the spare shelf in the entertainment center), so way to go Gwen! I took the cheap Plan B model back to the drugstore and got credited back to my Visa. I should have had it credited to my ATM card instead, because we kind of overspent in our post-Christmas bargain shopping.  :)  Now, for the other, much more exciting thing to say: I'm driving across Snoqualmie Pass. Paige is in the passenger seat, playing backseat driver. Her mother and her aunt are in the back seat, trying to catch some sleep. We're at the summit of the pass, the sky is clear without precipitation, and road conditions are snow and slush. I'm in the center lane of three, and not far ahead of me to the right is a sedan. I'm trying to ease up to pass the guy in the sedan, but I can bide my time because the road isn't in a state condusive to competative driving. And the guy in front of me starts weaving a little. And a little more. And more. I'm off of the gas and gently applying brake to put some distance between him and us. It is unrealistic how long this guy fishtails until he totally loses it; he veers from the far right to the far left with a 115° rotation in front of us, and the front edge of the passenger side of his vehicle crunches into the cement attenuator, spinning him nearly facing the oncoming traffic. He looked okay as we passed, and my mom-in-law was certain that the driver of the semitrailer a ways behind us had witnessed the whole thing and was calling for help. That was fun.
• Number of light strings that work, out of 20, now that we've removed them from the tree:  0
    So now I must tell you about my New Years, one that indeed started with a bang but didn't end the usual way. I was at work, as I usually am until 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night, and it was around 10:30 p.m. – I'm looking at nekkid people on the Internet and contemplating taking down the string of lights on the back of my cubicle in a couple minutes, when (as Frankie Say) there came a bang. A nearly muffled one, from ground level, and then I could hear the elevator rattle with the shock. Hmm, what to make of this. It wasn't until a manager took the elevator down to the basement parking garage that we found out what the noise was: some schmuck had planted a "sparkler bomb" in the corner of the basement (whatever that is; I'm told it's supposed to not cause serious damage), and it went off with more ferocity than anyone would have expected, leaving a blast mark in the far corner. And they just repainted down there a couple weeks ago, too. The fire alarm didn't go off for another 10 minutes, partially because the ventilation system is based in the basement so it took awhile for the smoke down there to be carried upstairs and partially because my coworker Don pulled the alarm handle after he'd seen what happened (the only injury in this whole event was him hitting the ground when he was pulling the alarm, and needed a gauze for his right elbow). So it's now 10:45 p.m. and I'm in the parking lot with the Customer Service crew and a couple techies (they took this as their call to go home so they flat out left). Three fire trucks, two police cars, a bomb squad dude, two security people, and eventually a structural engineer to check out the building's stability were in attendance. Four people who'd parked down there while watching a movie next door had to wait in line to get their cars out, because they were being throroughly checked by the police for damage and hidden nasties. An hour later the customer service folks and I were allowed to go upstairs to get our stuff, so I took down my lights and rejoined everyone in the parking lot. It's now 11:50 p.m. on New Year's Eve and I'm 42 miles from home, and the temperature outside is like 45°F. This is where we made the best of a situation: Jessica from Customer Service had bought supplies for whatever wingding she was going to be attending after work, so she pulls out of her car a stack of paper cups and a bottle of champagne. There are eight of us gathered at her car, so we each got a small sample (about the token quantity I'd normally have at a New Years party so this was great by me). So I got to spend New Years with friends, but I should have been home with my wife and catbeast. I reached the house at five minutes until 1 a.m., and the three of us sat on the couch watching the four shopping channels intermittently for laughs. At the stroke of 2 a.m. I said "Happy New Year, in Hawaii!" and my wife and I kissed.
• Do artificial trees shed needles as profusely as a real tree?  Almost...   --#2


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