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My Tribute to My Latest Literary Hero: Chuck Klosterman

My Tribute to My Latest Literary Hero: Chuck Klosterman

May 4, 2010 at 12:41am

These 23 questions were found within the pages of Chuck’s “Sex, Drugs and Cocopuffs: A Cultural Manifesto” Here are my answers:

1. Let us assume you met a rudimentary magician. Let us assume he can do five simple tricks — he can pull a rabbit out of his hat, he can make a coin disappear, he can turn the ace of spades into the Joker card, and two others in a similar vein. These are his only tricks and he can’t learn any more; he can only do these five. However, it turns out he’s doing these five tricks with real magic. It’s not an illusion; he can actually conjure the bunny out of the ether and he can move the coin through space. He’s legitimately magical, but extremely limited in scope and influence. Would this person be more impressive than Albert Einstein?

ANSWER: Although he’s not applying his talents in a more expansive way to make more money, expand his audience or help the world, I still have to say that the magician is more impressive for the sheer fact that he has REAL magic. I have always been fascinated by illusion being reality. Granted, Einstein spent a lot of time and cognitive energy, which displays motivation, tenacity and drive, all of which this magician clearly lacks, rendering Einstein the better PERSON. However, I definitely more fascinated and impressed by the fact that real magic really exists. It opens up the possibility that us humans have more capacities that thought before. That is, the magician represents something bigger about humans that I would enjoy pondering and writing about much more than I would about Einstein.

2. Let us assume a fully grown, completely healthy Clydesdale horse has his hooves shackled to the ground while his head is held in place with thick rope. He is conscious and standing upright, but completely immobile. And let us assume that–for some reason–every political prisoner on earth (as cited by Amnesty International) will be released from captivity if you can kick this horse to death in less than twenty minutes. You are allowed to wear steel-toed boots.

Although I’ve realized in my life that I, too, have the capability to harm another being even till death, I would not kick this horse to death. I could do the political prisoners more service by signing petitions and being a voice for them via grassroots and community organizations, meetings with Amnesty International, etc. Furthermore, they should be released on their own recognizance.

3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler’s skull. You have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the turtle, you can’t give it away and you have to keep it alive for two years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you select Hitler’s skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical. Which option do you select?

Aside from the sheer fact that I would enjoy caring for a turtle, and if I’m fined so be it, I would NOT put any skull, much less Hitler’s, in my living room or anywhere in my house for that matter, for any amount of money! (Although we can talk if I’m really really broke). Therefore, I would go for the turtle.

4. Genetic engineers at Johns Hopkins University announce that they have developed a so-called “super gorilla.” Though the animal cannot speak, it has a sign language lexicon of over twelve thousand words, an I.Q. of almost 85, and –most notably– a vague sense of self-awareness. Oddly, the creature (who weighs seven hundred pounds) becomes fascinated by football. The gorilla aspires to play the game at its highest level and quickly develops the rudimentary skills of a defensive end. ESPN analyst Tom Jackson speculates that this gorilla would be “borderline unblockable” and would likely average six sacks a game (although Jackson concedes the beast might be susceptible to counters and misdirection plays). Meanwhile, the gorilla has made it clear he would never intentionally injure any opponent. You are commissioner of the NFL: Would you allow this gorilla to sign with the Oakland Raiders?

ANSWER: Ok, as little as I know about sports, I feel I do have a say in this since I am a human being that respects healthy and fair competition among human beings. Furthermore, aside from the fact that I strongly oppose GMO anything, especially bipedal mammals, if this really actually became a reality, I would have to say NO. I would not want to allow the gorilla to be a part of any competitive sports team because it would not only be dangerous to the players, but it would simultaneously give an unfair advantage to any opposing team, while giving a disadvantage to its own team from its counters and misdirection plays. Above all, having these unfair advantages and disadvantages would be extremely dangerous to the ethos of the game, and competition in general, in the first place. We just wouldn’t want to open that can of worms.

5. You meet your soul mate. However, there is a catch: Every three years, someone will break both of your soul mate’s collarbones with a Crescent wrench, and there is only one way you can stop this from happening: You must swallow a pill that will make every song you hear — for the rest of your life — sound as if it’s being performed by the band Alice in Chains. When you hear Creedence Clearwater Revival on the radio, it will sound (to your ears) like it’s being played by Alice in Chains. If you see Radiohead live, every one of their tunes will sound like it’s being covered by Alice in Chains. When you hear a commercial jingle on TV, it will sound like Alice in Chains; if you sing to yourself in the shower, your voice will sound like deceased Alice vocalist Layne Staley performing a capella (but it will only sound this way to you). Would you swallow the pill?

ANSWER: I would not swallow the pill. I would better be able to help this soul mate by letting him free. I would be doing the soul mate a disservice anyway by not being able to diversify my listening and always be bitching and complaining about Alice in Chains until he finally exclaims “I would rather have my collarbone beaten by a clavicle once every three years than listen to YOU caterwaul about Alice in Chains!”

6. At long last, someone invents “the dream VCR.” This machine allows you to tape an entire evening’s worth of your own dreams, which you can then watch at your leisure. However, the inventor of the dream VCR will only allow you to use this device of you agree to a strange caveat: When you watch your dreams, you must do so with your family and your closest friends in the same room. They get to watch your dreams along with you. And if you don’t agree to this, you can’t use the dream VCR. Would you still do this?

ANSWER: No question! Get out the jigsaw puzzles, my family and I would thoroughly enjoy watching my dreams for days on end and analyzing and discussing all the possible meanings and symbolisms therein. Nobody would be offended; after all, you can’t control what you dream, and there are SO many possible interpretations that it would be fun!

7. Defying all expectation, a group of Scottish marine biologists capture a live Loch Ness Monster. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, a bear hunter in the Pacific Northwest shoots a Sasquatch in the thigh, thereby allowing zoologists to take the furry monster into captivity. These events happen on the same afternoon. That evening, the president announces he may have thyroid cancer and will undergo a biopsy later that week. You are the front page editor of The New York Times: What do you play as the biggest story?

ANSWER: The president story, obviously. You gotta give people what you think they want. The typical “American” has very little interest in the lives and lore of other people and cultures.

8. You meet the perfect person. Romantically, this person is ideal: You find them physically attractive, intellectually stimulating, consistently funny, and deeply compassionate. However, they have one quirk: This individual is obsessed with Jim Henson’s gothic puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal. Beyond watching it on DVD at least once a month, he/she peppers casual conversation with Dark Crystal references, uses Dark Crystal analogies to explain everyday events, and occasionally likes to talk intensely about the film’s “deeper philosophy.” Would this be enough to stop you from marrying this individual?

ANSWER: Obviously this individual is NOT intellectually stimulating nor consistently funny if they are constantly referencing that inane movie and doesn’t have any “ganas” in expanding their universe beyond it. Therefore, he would consequently start looking less attractive, too. It all points to not having the longevity that a married couple needs to have in order to be successful.

9. A novel titled Interior Mirror is released to mammoth commercial success (despite middling reviews). However, a curious social trend emerges: Though no one can prove a direct scientific link, it appears that almost 30 percent of the people who read this book immediately become homosexual. Many of these newfound homosexuals credit the book for helping them reach this conclusion about their orientation, despite the fact that Interior Mirror is ostensibly a crime novel with no homoerotic content (and was written by a straight man). Would this phenomenon increase (or decrease) the likelihood of you reading this book?

ANSWER: Ok, this book sounds interesting, but once anything becomes a mammoth commercial success, I am MUCH less likely to read anything, regardless of the phenomenon it involves or its genre. However, the fact that it has middling reviews may entice me enough to peruse the first five pages to see if I like the language, style, tone, etc, since reviews tend to stray from my own opinions at times. That is, if it only had middling reviews, I would be much more likely to check it out. However, the mammoth commercial success turns me off to it.

10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City: “You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning.” Think about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you’ve read it). Now go to your CD collection and find Heart’s Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the opening riff to “Barracuda.” Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?

ANSWER: The Barracuda riff is no questionably the higher form of art. It has passion and intensity under which is influenced by the title, genre and emotion of the song. It has spawned dozens, and maybe even hundreds of ripoffs and knockoffs, heard on today’s tv shows and movies to punctuate them and tell us how to feel. It’s like some of Shakespeare’s lines; so over-emulated that they have become cliché. McInerney’s line, on the other hand, is inorganically trying to pull you in by starting the book with—essentially—its thesis sentence.

11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is mediocre, you find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with twenty minutes left in the film, you are struck with an undeniable feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has just died. There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of it. You are overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that — somewhere — your mom has just perished. But this is only an intuitive, amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this, and your mother has not been ill. Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you finish watching the movie?

ANSWER: I would not be voluntarily watching this sort of movie in the first place. However, if I were held hostage by some date or someone, I would probably welcome any excuse whatsoever to leave the theater, primarily because I would be bored out of my skull. However, what a horrible, dreadful feeling!! If something happened to my mom….!!! I can’t deal with that kind of reality. It’s emotionally safer for me to hide my head in the proverbial sand to not have to face that kind of information, so no, I would not leave the theater. I would ensconce myself in the darkness and empty plotline and the big noises.

12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The wizard says, “I will now make them a dollar more attractive.” He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different. But–somehow–this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but you can’t deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This wizard has a weird rule, though–you can only pay him once. You can’t keep giving him money until you’re satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front. How much cash do you give the wizard?

ANSWER: I give the wizard $3: one for my nose, one for my fat, and one for my gray hair.

13. Every person you have ever slept with is invited to a banquet where you are the guest of honor. No one will be in attendance except you, the collection of your former lovers, and the catering service. After the meal, you are asked to give a fifteen-minute speech to the assembly. What do you talk about?

ANSWER: Ok, my outline would go as follows:
A: Thank them for coming, glad they all could make it
B: take a verbal opinion poll of all on the food: good/bad/excellent in taste, texture, freshness
C: take a verbal opinion poll comparing my cooking with that of the catering co; same criteria
D: verbal survey: how would you change the dishes? Can you guess how I would rate them?
Obviously this would take more than 15 minutes, but that’s ok. This is the one instance that I would NOT want to respect the time; after all, this is about me!! 
Furthermore, I value all these guys and their opinions; otherwise I would have never slept with them in the first place (except for those with which I had less of a choice. Do they count, too?) This sentiment would also be shared in the intro.

14. For reasons that cannot be explained, cats can suddenly read at a twelfth-grade level. They can’t talk and they can’t write, but they can read silently and understand the text. Many cats love this new skill, because they now have something to do all day while they lay around the house; however, a few cats become depressed, because reading forces them to realize the limitations of their existence (not to mention the utter frustration of being unable to express themselves). This being the case, do you think the average cat would enjoy Garfield, or would cats find this cartoon to be an insulting caricature?
ANSWER: The cat would definitely be insulted by Garfield, just as any person would be insulted by someone trying to make a joke of; and generalities of human behavior. It would think “how dare them? I’m not Garfield and it’s unfair to assume that just as he’s a “cat” that he has nything in common with me?! I eat spiders, I hate lasagna, and Garfield is fat and lazy… and I definitely have never seen a female cat with a space between her teeth with breath clean enough that I would want to get close enough to to hold a conversation with.

15. You have a brain tumor. Though there is no discomfort at the moment, this tumor would unquestionably kill you in six months. However, your life can (and will) be saved by an operation; the only downside is that there will be a brutal incision to your frontal lobe. After the surgery, you will be significantly less intelligent. You will still be a fully functioning adult, but you will be less logical, you will have a terrible memory, and you will have little ability to understand complex concepts or difficult ideas. The surgery is in two weeks. How do you spend the next fourteen days?

ANSWER: I’d rather die! But I guess I will not get bored if my cognitive capabilities are significantly reduced, although a lot of meaning of life will be stripped down and I will thereby be an official member of the average U.S. culture! Therefore I will spend those two weeks celebrating all my cognitive abilities by observing, critically analyzing and writing about every social interaction with people, animals and nature; every movie, tv show and text I see and hear. Process and synthesize all my notes into a cohesive and coherent text. Can I do all that in 14 days?!

16. Someone builds an optical portal that allows you to see a vision of your own life in the future (it’s essentially a crystal ball that shows a randomly selected image of what your life will be like in twenty years). You can only see into this portal for thirty seconds. When you finally peer into the crystal, you see yourself in a living room, two decades older than you are today. You are watching a Canadian football game, and you are extremely happy. You are wearing a CFL jersey. Your chair is surrounded by books and magazines that promote the Canadian Football League, and there are CFL pennants covering your walls. You are alone in the room, but you are gleefully muttering about historical moments in Canadian football history. It becomes clear that—for some unknown reason—you have become obsessed with Canadian football. And this future is static and absolute; no matter what you do, this future will happen. The optical portal is never wrong. This destiny cannot be changed. The next day, you are flipping through television channels and randomly come across a pre-season CFL game between the Toronto Argonauts and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Knowing your inevitable future, do you now watch it?

ANSWER: Ugh. I’ll put that off as long as I possibly can! I hate sports, especially football, and especially watching it. And all that memorabilia is just tacky and ugly!!

17. You are sitting in an empty bar (in a town you’ve never before visited), drinking Bacardi with a soft-spoken acquaintance you barely know. After an hour, a third individual walks into the tavern and sits by himself, and you ask your acquaintance who the new man is. “Be careful of that guy,” you are told. “He is a man with a past.” A few minutes later, a fourth person enters the bar; he also sits alone. You ask your acquaintance who this new individual is. “Be careful of that guy, too,” he says. “He is a man with no past.” Which of these two people do you trust less?

ANSWER: The no past guy: it is evident that there are plenty of resources regarding the man with the past to inform, thus protect me from possible emotional or financial harm.

18. You have won a prize. The prize has two options, and you can choose either (but not both). The first option is a year in Europe with a monthly stipend of $2,000. The second option is ten minutes on the moon. Which option do you select?

ANSWER: I would choose going to the moon because it is obvious this prize is worth more; I could sell the prize and buy a new car AND a nice Crate and Barrel furniture set.

19. Your best friend is taking a nap on the floor of your living room. Suddenly, you are faced with a bizarre existential problem: This friend is going to die unless you kick them (as hard as you can) in the rib cage. If you don’t kick them while they slumber, they will never wake up. However, you can never explain this to your friend; if you later inform them that you did this to save their life, they will also die from that. So you have to kick a sleeping friend in the ribs, and you can’t tell them why. Since you cannot tell your friend the truth, what excuse will you fabricate to explain this (seemingly inexplicable) attack?

ANSWER: Well if s/he never wakes up it means eternal peace that person WON’T have if s/he wakes up with broken ribs. However, I would be loathe to having their dead corpse laying on my living room floor, so I probably would kick ‘em hard to wake their sorry ass up and go home, no explanation necessary!

20. For whatever the reason, two unauthorized movies are made about your life. The first is an independently released documentary, primarily comprised of interviews with people who know you and bootleg footage from your actual life. Critics are describing the documentary as “brutally honest and relentlessly fair.” Meanwhile, Columbia Tri-Star has produced a big-budget biopic of your life, casting major Hollywood stars as you and all your acquaintances; though the movie is based on actual events, screenwriters have taken some liberties with the facts. Critics are split on the artistic merits of this fictionalized account, but audiences love it. Which film would you be most interested in seeing?

ANSWER: I would definitely be more interested in seeing the Hollywood version. Even though it’s kind of predictable as to which caricatures I would be pigeonholed into (naif slut with Homerian adventures), I would be entertained watching a brunette Reese Witherspoon (again) with fuzzier eyebrows getting into these comical situations with sex, drugs and dead car batteries. The documentary wouldn’t be accurate anyway because there is no one person (much less my family and friends) that REALLY knows me; they only THINK they know me. Therefore the documentary would be just as inaccurate—if not even more so—than a fictionalized account of my life written by people who read my own works. Obviously the best movie about me would star Parker Posey in an under-budgeted movie, because under-budgeting is the backbone to my life story.

21. Imagine you could go back to the age of five and relive the rest of your life, knowing everything that you know now. You will reexperience your entire adolescence with both the cognitive ability of an adult and the memories of everything you’ve learned form having lived your life previously. Would you lose your virginity earlier or later than you did the first time around (and by how many years)?

ANSWER: I would definitely lose my virginity at the age of 15. Then I would know what it was all about and the taunts of others would more easily roll off my back and I would be able to put more energies to the things that REALLY matter (music, writing, etc.). Also, it would definitely give me inspiration to write much earlier, and with more focus. I would also feel more “normal” as in a typical member of teenage society, and thus feel more socially accepted and have that comfortable feeling of belonging.

23. Consider this possibility:
a. Think about deceased TV star John Ritter.
b. Now, pretend Ritter had never become famous. Pretend he was never affected by the trappings of fame, and try to imagine what his personality would have been like.
c. Now, imagine that this person—the unfamous John Ritter—is a character in a situation comedy.
d. Now, you are also a character in this sitcom, and the unfamous John Ritter character is your sitcom father.
e. However, this sitcom is actually your real life. In other words, you are living inside a sitcom: Everything about our life is a construction, featuring the unfamous John Ritter playing himself (in the role of your TV father). But this is not a sitcom. This is your real life.
How would you feel about this?

ANSWER: Ok, I cannot express in words what I feel about John Ritter. After studying him as a comic and actor for many years, I feel I know him as a person and would be completely honored to share the same space with him no matter WHAT purpose , content, or genre. Furthermore, this wouldn’t be so much outside of reality since MANY times I have felt that I am living inside my own sitcom or the body of a sitcom star and soap star at respective points of my days.

Please feel free to share your OWN answers…and pass them on!


Chicago ’93: A Direct Excerpt from my Journal (re-edited a bit)

Chicago ’93: A Direct Excerpt from my Journal

posted in Facebook July 10, 2010 at 6:16pm

Monday, August 2, 1993 9am

I got back from Chicago last night. I didn’t get home till 10.   Anyway, we ended up bringing the car back a little late and charged $11 for it. I almost forgot my house key and I left toll change in the ashtray. But… here’s the recap. 

Wednesday night: drove with Kevin to the airport, got the car. I’ve never rented a car in my life so I really didn’t know what to do. So he went with me in the bus then he drove out so they wouldn’t know what we’re up to. Then I was on my way. I was a little nervous; I hadn’t driven since like New York! (I wish I got a Hard Rock tee in New York and a Planet Hollywood). But I stopped at Target and got travel size things, stopped at home, loaded up the car, failed to think to bring my journal like a dumbshit, so here I am. It’s a beautiful day out! So I accidentally opened the hood, thinking it was the trunk. I left my water in their cooler! Lessee… gotta go downtown post office and Rainbow. Pay rent. I was running late, but I got to Cheryl and Colleen’s before 10pm, and we ended up waiting till 11pm for Cheryl to get home so we could go to Haskell’s. Dana came out and now I’m not as wary about him as I was when we were conversing on the phone for a long time. I think he just wants to be friends with his girlfriend’s friends cuz he seemed to be pretty familiar with the guys. I sang When Will I Be Loved and kicked to New York, NY, and did another When I’m 64 with Prill. I kept calling her Prill the whole trip, and it was hard to call her Cheryl when we were with Mike. We got home around 12:45, but Colleen and Dana were up all night eating soup so I don’t think I got to sleep till like 2:30am. 

So we got up around 7:30 and packed, loaded up the car, and Cheryl drove to pick up Lisa. We got the wrong house first and a guy was putzing in his garage and saw us like we were part of the scenery and kept putzing till I craned my head out of the window and asked him if his house was Lisa’s address-it wasn’t and as we were turning around in his driveway and going up the road he drove past us and waved.

So Cheryl drove first half, then we stopped in Wisconsin for gas and Dairy Queen, even though we were stuffing our faces with junk food and Pringles between making the cassette intinerary. They were playing stuff and I was totally giving in, not saying anything cuz it wouldn’t’ve been fair if I hogged all the decision making for the music. But I totally blew up on the way back, verbalizing my opinion on Singles. Then I drove all the way into the city, we parked, and went to the train station where Lisa was meeting her fiancé, Scott. His train was supposed to come in at 6:30, and we got there about 5. (We left from her place between 8:30 and 9am) So we parked the car and went to the Sears tower and paid $6 to see a 5 minute long commercial for Chicago, then go to the top and look at the skyline. It was ok, maybe worth $2, but not $6! I didn’t use the lens thingys. They’re probably like a quarter for 30 seconds or something.
The city was packed with people; especially women wearing tennis shoes with their office wear. It was just like any other city, only different. It was on Lake Michigan and a river – the Hudson, I think. I think I’d really like living there. There was a train-Tram system and buses like you wouldn’t believe. Colleen was saying how the city was built and made famous by gangsters like Al Capone, Scarface, Bugsy. We noticed how old the buildings were, how a guy looked like Bill Clinton. I couldn’t believe I was there in Chicago! We went to the train station and waited and waited and finally found out his train was an hour late.  Lisa seemed depressed and anxious.  We were all singing, “isn’t it romantic” “the love train” (instead of “the Love Boat”) etc. It was sweet. The place reminded me a lot like Grand Central in NY. But it was all very suspenseful waiting for Scott. But he finally go there and they hugged; he dropped his bags. We should’ve gotten a pic; it would’ve made a neat wedding gift. So then we parted after Scott gave Cheryl directions and we found our hotel and they told us to go to Giordannos for pizza, and the Hancock for a drink. So we put them on our itinerary. Cheryl checked us into the hotel, we unpacked, and went to Bennigan’s for a drink, and talked about 70s and 80s shows and commercials the whole time. People seem to not like serving food in Chicago. DQ girl was grumpy, the hostess at Giordanno’s was. So we went back to the hotel and slept. The first night I slept with Cheryl and Colleen slept alone. 

FRIDAY: We decided to use today for sightseeing and Saturday for Six Flags, so we got up around 9ish. I didn’t take a shower cuz I took one Thursday night. I feel closer to Cheryl and Colleen. This is quite an experience. We laughed almost all the way here yesterday. So much has happened in this city; gangsters, movies. It shows in the old buildings. It kept reminding me of San José by the outdoor vendors, the craziness, the individual stores instead of malls, and busses and taxis. It reminded me of Mpls by its familiarity; same shops, banks (some), cash machines, but it reminded me of NYC by its proximity to the large body of water and the huge, many buildings.

Lots of pictures already. The aquarium, art institute, John Hancock building, Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, and the pizza place were on our itinerary. We parked under the art institute and went there first and spent a good couple hours there. I was getting antsy cuz Cheryl and Colleen were spending a lifetime there and we didn’t get out till like 3:30pm. Colleen got an architecture book for Dana and Cheryl got a picture for herself. Then me and Colleen got cash, we changed a few bucks for the bus, then bussed up Michigan to Ohio, I think and went to the pizza place. Took more pictures. We got lost and confused looking for Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock Café, but we finally found them. We went to Hard Rock first and I got a black tee. Then we went to Planet Hollywood. It was neat; it had stars’ signatures and hand prints in cement tiles in the wall. It wasn’t nearly as neat at NYC, but the wait staff had really cute shirts, but they were $56. So I got a white tank. 

Now we were gonna bus back to the aquarium. So I thought we’d walk up to Lakeshore and bus from there, so we walk up there and it was weird, so I asked a lady at the hotel how to bus down there and she said to take it from Michigan, so we had to walk all the way back down there. I started walking that way and Cheryl and Colleen said I was walking the wrong way, that it was South (my word of course) and I said I remember passing it, but they didn’t, and were mad that I didn’t say anything when passing it cuz I guess they planned on taking Michigan when I thought it was verbalized that we’re taking Lakeshore. So I’m looking for that Walgreen’s—I saw 2 on Michigan cuz I needed a notebook—I forgot my journal. Never did get one, so I’m writing all in Mpls. So the hotel lady said # of blocks and the girls are going, “oh it’s been a LOT more than x blocks” and we don’t see Michigan. So I finally ask a security guard and he said x blocks that corroborated and the girls again: oh it’s been more than x blocks, I think he lied, blah blah. Well, it was one block ahead. So we finally hop on the damn bus and it passes like 5 Walgreen’s and 2 Woolworths and we get off by some stadium, thinking it was the aquarium and wasted time by walking around the wrong building. So we finally find it; right by Grant Park. Take pix. It’s 7:30 or 7 or something and closed. It was beautiful! People fishing, jogging, biking, blading right on Lake Michigan. Took more pix. Sat and bullshitted a while. Walked down Lakeshore, through Grant Park, took pix of Married with Children fountain. Real pretty. Took a pic of the girls and a statue surrounded by pink flowers; the film was at 5 pix and the camera rewound! So now I needed film AND a notebook. I should’ve bought that journal at the art institute. So we finally made it to the car and Cheryl “burned” and got us to the right side to take a left, but we had to go around the block to find the freeway entrance. So we got back, got some Wendy’s, took a shower and took a nap. Colleen was supposed to call her friend Steve, who was gonna escort us to the hot spots in Chicago. But we didn’t wake up till 11. So we ate munchies from the machine and watched Showtime. Went back to sleep. I slept with Colleen this time.

Saturday: We had intentions on leaving for Six Flags around 10am, but we didn’t wake up till 9am, got our free continental breakfast, and took sweet time getting ready. We didn’t’ get out of the hotel till a little past 11am. Traffic was awful. It took us 2-2 1/2 hours to get there. We weren’t parked till about 2 pm. 1:45 or something. So we were there till about 7:30 pm. We got on 3 rides. The Batman was a 2 hour line. The American Eagle was like 1 ½ hour, and the first and most eventful, the Shockwave was about 1 hour. The Shockwave was the most eventful ride. First, the line looked mega-long, so Colleen went to the bathroom and Cheryl got some ice cream. Well the line moved pretty fast up to the maze and they still weren’t there. So I sat on the maze and waited and waited. The guy was like “yah, you can’t do this again.” There was a gang of 4 guys-3 black and 1 Spanish in front of us. The Spanish guy was eyeing me eating Cheryl’s gargantuan ice cream/funnel cake/whip cream/strawberries. Then I made a killer bee comment and the Spanish guy laughed. Then they were—well mainly one that was wearing a tag on his head—being pretty gross. First he was convinced some chic was looking at him, then he’s checking out the scantily dressed girls and making comments like “whatsuname?” Then the Spanish guy asked if we were from Chicago and I said we were from Mpls and he asked about the drive and I said it was long and Cheryl asked what he said and I told her and she goes, ‘how did he know we were from Mpls?” and I go “cuz I told him.” This was when we were waiting for the front seat. Then moments later, after the black guy was really going off about if so and so from high school could slam dunk or something assinine, the Spanish guy told him we were from Mpls and another black guy from their 4-some said he knows people that live by 60th by a big cemetery, so I think they’re by Richfield, or by the airport (Fort Snelling). I thought he was gonna say the Lake-Nicollet Area. So then I had a cigarette lit and the mother f#$%er asked for a cig, and I said for a quarter and he’s like A QUARTER! So I finally said I’d give it for a nickel after haggling, then he handed me a quarter (30 cents) and I go “a tip!” That got a laugh. Then a minute later the ride guy told him to put it out. 

It was a fun ride. There was a part of the ride where a camera took pictures–good close-ups, but kinda fuzzy of everyone on the Shockwave and they sold the pictures for $5. So me and Cheryl each got one. It was pretty nuts trying to walk through the crowd. So I drove back which only took like 40 minutes or something. We showered, got Wendy’s again, and got ready to go out on the town. I wore my striped mini-tank dress from the Limited. So we went down the block to get gas and asked the taxi driver filling up where the best area was to go after asking at the Hampton front desk. So we kind of knew what area we were going. So we’re exiting onto the road to go to the highway and we had to turn left and there were no left turn signs and we couldn’t figure out why. So we’re sitting there and the guy behind us came up to our car and I thought he was gonna start pissing that we were just sitting there. So I “roll” down my window and he says he’s from MN and we look lost, so we told him we had bar hopping plans in the city and he told us pretty much the same thing the taxi driver said. Then he said he’d escort us to our turn off. So we start following him, then at a red light he came back again and said he didn’t have anything to do, he’ll go with us. So he asked which car we should all take and I’m like, let’s go separately; what if one of us wants to leave sooner? He said he just got off work and he was wearing shorts and a tee. So we followed him downtown and he paid for our parking. Then he said since he paid for parking, we can pay taxi. No prob. Colleen said she’d get it. We were going to Rush Street. So the taxi stops at a red light at some isolated intersection and he’s going “we can get out here and walk two blocks” and Colleen’s going “I don’t see Rush St” and I go “I don’t see a cash machine” cuz Colleen and him needed a cash machine. So we drove to Rush and Colleen didn’t tip him—she’s like “do you tip taxi drivers and I go yes, but it was too late. So Colleen’s behind him in line and he’s looking forward and she’s looking at us, mouthing “I don’t know about this guy.” Cheryl said Colleen said his name was Dwight. It was Mike. We got a good laugh from that. 

Mother’s was really packed, so we went into this pub—forgot it’s name again. Mike said he lived on 36th and Colfax and had a “special friend” that worked at the Rainbow uptown. So I took a picture of him and promised him 5x to bring it to Margaret Tues, Fri or Sat nite and say he misses her a lot. He said that sometimes you just know it with special people—you just know when you belong together. But she has a house there, and his job transferred him to Chicago. And he kept laughing that Colleen didn’t tip the taxi driver and he’s going off on it. Then, when it was my turn to buy the round I didn’t tip her cuz I figured I’d do it at the end of the nite. So he laughed at that. He’s all, “wait till I tell the guys at work.” He bought the first round and we’re all exchanging glances. Then we bought one round each, but he was buying his own drinks. Then, before we left, we were dancing to 60s tunes and UB40. It was quite fun. Cheryl put our names on the bathroom wall! It was quite evident that we were movie buffs and he didn’t see them much. But it was fun. We took tons of pix, and I showed him the cigarette in ear and nose trick that Illya taught me. 

Like a dumbshit, when we were following him, we went through a tollway and he didn’t have exact change, and on habit, I went through the manual – car with exact change lane and realized I lost him, so I pulled to the shoulder and put my emergencys on, and a cop pulled up behind me without lights flashing and just then we saw him waiting for us ahead on the shoulder and Colleen’s going, “don’t drive off with fuzz behind you”, so the cop walks to the car and asks if we were lost or what, and I said we were waiting for the guy up ahead, and he’s like “oh, sorry” (!!!) and walked back. Then I put my brights on for some reason as we entered the city—Colleen told me to to communicate, but I forgot why. So I put ‘em on, and brights were — lights were always confusing in that car and I inadvertently turned the lights off when I turned the brights off. And I didn’t want to tailgate him, so traffic came between us on the Kennedy. But going back wasn’t bad. I had been drinking but wasn’t drunk and I was going like 75 mph almost all the way home and it was a tad intimidating at that speed; I felt the speed but it was a thrill at the same time. I slept alone that night.

SUNDAY: We got up around 8-8:30, got free breakfast and got ready. Scott, the lovebird, finally called around 9:30 and gave directions. So we get on 94 West like he told us. He said they were by the O’Hare. So we’re driving for like 15 minutes and not one sign for the airport, then I’m looking at the map and saw the airport’s east of Shaumberg. So we turn around at a cornfield, then got lost and confused in the area of their hotel, and didn’t get there till around 11-11:30am. So we finally pick them up and by now Cheryl and Colleen have serious plans for Scott! So I was bitchy the whole time I drove home. Traffic, people hogging up both lanes going home, bitching about their music. Scott and Lisa I think were offended by my mouth and I feel bad. I prob’ly won’t be invited to their wedding. Tho’ it would be fun. So we reach the Twin Cities area about 6:45pm, something. So we’re on 94, planning on taking 394 West to 494 South to 7 to Cheryl’s. Well, traffic is so bad on 94 by West St. Paul/U area that I exited to go pee; I had been holding it since the large diet from Hardee’s, like 4, 5 hours. So we finally get back on 280 and 94 West and traffic was really held up, and it’s like quarter to 8. So we get to Cheryl’s, unpack, and there’s a message from Kevin. So I go park the car, come back, and he called, so I call him back. 

The only thing I left behind in the car is change in the ashtray. (Me and Ber had a system; we got exact change for each other so we had it ready for the toll). So I drive Kevin’s car, and I thought it was stuck in some funky gear cuz it was going real slow and he said the brakes were bad. But I made it to the rent-a-car return. He went in and paid and it turns out we were $70 short, plus I almost forgot the house key from the key-chain and he was pulling out with the car, so I just barely got it. They put a $11 charge for being an hour late.(9p) So Kev had to return videos he rented before 10p, so we went all the way to the Video Library by Grampa’s – Andy’s Tap. Then he drove me home and it was like 9:50p. Cheryl called to ask the price, so I called her and told her and she was shocked, too. I had had my arms full, so I dropped the bag by the stairs, with all the film, the Shockwave picture, my new tee and tank, my only sandals, my fanny pack, Visa- both, all my clothes-navy shorts, sweatshirt, tanks, groovy shorts, Lite tee, minidress, new Victoria’s Secret tan shorts, Clete’s navy pinstriped boxers that I wore to the train staion and Sears tower. My toothbrush, Trésor, make-up, trial sizes, powder, powder brush, bags from Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood. So I was tired and wanted to go to sleep and figured I’ll get the bag and unpack and clean the next day. I kept determinedly thinking “my bag’s downstairs—I need to get it” Well, it was gone the next morning. It’s Tuesday night now and it’s just gone, disappeared. I told a cop lady and she filed a report. I’m real upset; distraught. Dad’s STILL tripping way hard. I sent my film express and it was $10!! Never again.


Beginning my Last Days! June 26, 2011 at 5:10pm Owed to My Place (“Hotel Los Dominicos”, Talca Chile): It did not start with The Night of the Salmon As many would like to bet Nor did it start with the … Continue reading

It Doesn’t Matter if You’re Black or White

Some people view the world as black or white, while others look at it in shades of gray.  Many people I am quite close to are the former, whereas I pertain to the latter.  When I was younger, I let this really bother me, and come between me and those I love.  I couldn’t and didn’t want to relate to those “evil, black or white” people.  The more I searched like-minded people to cohort with, the harder time I had finding them.

In recent years, I thought I had become less obsessed with this.  I never really thought about it much anymore.  Just because of my lifestyle, I have coincidentally become surrounded by fellow shades-of-gray people; the places I work, go, shop, etc.  Some of the above mentioned important people have become more “gray” in recent years.

So in a relatively recent conversation with a black-or-whiter, it surprised me to hear that I am a judgmental “gray”.  Not having thought about it for so long, I was quick to defend myself, and ended up in a semi-altercation (it wasn’t huge).  However, this conversation got me ruminating about things, and it made me realize that in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter.  It is what it is, and it is exactly these kinds of variations that make us unique human individuals.  It’s not just in having different points of view, but more about how and why we have them.  Which glasses or prisms are we looking through, and at what angle?  I mean, I don’t think ANYBODY would say that it’s a crime to not be a Democrat OR Republican, for example.  Issues such as racism, sexism and the countless other -isms come in varying degrees and levels and should be looked at on a case-by-case basis, each opinion depending on the context and situation.

I suppose that the previous paragraph is the ultimate illustration of shades-of-gray thinking.  For the most part, I see most things that way.  However few, there are instances that I can be very black-and-white.  For example, either it’s benign or cancerous.  There’s really no middle ground.  Killing is killing, no matter who is doing it or who is the victim.  When [anybody] says no, they mean no… don’t push it.  If he’s not John Lennon, he’s not a genius, and if everybody agrees that it’s a cat, it can’t possibly be a lemur.  (Reality based on collective perception; see the movie Blow Up for an amazing realization of this concept applied.)  In a nutshell, I would be a hypocrite if I were to continue challenging black-and-white people since I have the ability myself.

So to fellow shades-of-gray readers of this blog, hello, and glad to be one with you!  To all black-and-whiteys out there, hello, and nice to meet people just a little like me.

After all, the last definition of a shades-of-grayer is that we are not the polar opposite of black-and-whiters as you black-and-whiters may believe.  Let’s all celebrate the whole color (and non-color) spectrum together!!

Lessons from The Middle School

So I had to be a hall monitor the other morning in a middle school somewhere in the nowhere part of North Carolina, smack dab between the two metro areas.  Little did I know that this place would borne me several epiphanies, one of which I will share with you here.

My mouth was agape, watching a bunch of 6th, 7th and 8th graders enter the school and follow the halls to their respective classrooms in a neat, single line that would make carpenter ants envious.  My attention was disrupted when I saw a deviant cross the path and catch up with two of her girlfriends, almost right in front of me.  “Hi Kaylee, hi Ashley.”  The concept of the one girl’s response was simply alien to me: “Oh, you’re not mad at me anymore?”  It was said in a sullen way, but the point was not lost on me.

Just a few days earlier, it seems, I was in a conversational tangle with someone important to me.  I finally exclaimed in exasperation “I really hate having to deal with this tension and everything!” 

The response?  “That’s what people do.”

Really??!!  Ugh.  I’m not used to it.  Being a primarily only child with not many friends and people that have swung in and out of my world for 40 years, this concept was completely foreign to me.  If people have to work this hard to sort things out, then what is it worth?  As much as people come and go, then why bother? Nothing is for certain, even if you CAN find a win-win solution at the end.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that the only person you can truly depend on is yourself.  Ultimately, nobody else gives a rat’s ass about you, you are just a speck of dust in the cosmos.  Buck up and get used to it.

Anyway, I didn’t believe him when he told me this during that sunny car ride, but when I saw this concept in action among 7th graders, that was my moment of epiphany:  oooohhh!  Yes, that’s what people do.  How could I misunderstand society and finally grasp it while monitoring ants marching down their graded hallways?  Is life really that uncomplicated?  You can argue and defend big theses like ‘why you think the government is or isn’t corrupt’, ‘what love is, really, if monogamy is rare among animals besides the field mouse’, et cetera et cetera, and still be friends and hang out and have other thick conversations at the end of the day?

Well hell, I wish someone told me this before!  Maybe I would have never fallen out of love years ago!!

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Why I think Camila Vallejo is full of crap…

imgresI was in a conversation recently with someone who was extolling the virtues of Camila Vallejo, the student “body” that somehow got millions of Chilean university students in the streets demanding free education.  I have to admit that I was honestly confused about this movement when it first began, being a naive gringa who was at the time still working on paying back the student loan on my own Master’s degree.

Is there anywhere in the world besides California (whose taxes and living expenses are one of the highest in the United States) where post-secondary education is free??  If there was no tuition, how would the professors and administrators get paid?  What about the library and information systems, the operation systems, the bathrooms, the property taxes the edifices sit on, the IT support and their “housing”, the comfort levels of all in centrally heated and air conditioned rooms that we as gringos take for granted, the solid walls and doors that keep all distracting noises of construction and student groups and socialization out of the learning-centered spaces?  If all this was subsidized by the government, what would happen to students of universities sitting on lower-tax-bracket property?  What would happen to the quality of education once the professors and support become underpaid and overworked (as if this hasn’t already happened…)?

Ok, I have to give Camila some credit for getting millions of students behind her.  They managed to forestall the beginning of the “FAll 2011” semester in Chile (I’m re-translating the season for North American viewers) by about two months.  They also managed to destroy countless windows, fences and campuses; entire buildings completely destroyed and/or graffitti’d over, almost like a smaller earthquake.  Protests on the street left litter and trash everywhere, and closed down transportation for people needing to get to places such as their jobs.  However, protests are always good because they provide an opportunity for the “pacos” (Chilean for “cops”) to showcase their student-grabbing strategies on the international news, making Chile look like some kind of war state with their military-colored police vehicles and uniforms running around with a caveman bat stick in one hand and plexi-glass motorcycle sheilds in the other.  Oooh, the world should fear Chile the way they used to alternatively fear Russia, China, Germany and the U.S.  Because if we can’t be proactive with future problems, then the next best option is to instill fear in all that pertain to our world.

Anyway, you go, girl, stay skinny and fashionable so you can keep your face on tv… you will make diputada someday, sistah!

Sorry for my cynicism, but what did all this serve the students as much as it served Camila?  They didn’t get their free education.  In the end, everything went back to normal as suddenly as it all started, with a pushed back calendar for all due to the semester forestall.  Someone had to work overtime to get the campuses cleaned up and fixed up and ready again, and it sure as hell wasn’t the very people who trashed it…

Did Camila serve the students?  Did she serve the Educational System of Chile?  Well, let’s see… what happened? The students went back to paying their tuition for primary, secondary and post-secondary education.  No free tuition, discounts or tax breaks… not even new/improved scholarships.  No changes in the Chilean educational system; not that I’ve heard about anyway… Some universities are working hard to improve various departments, but those are on a more individual level.  So in the end, who got their needs met?  Ohhhh, it was Camila!  She managed to keep her face on tv even after all the shit went down and out then disappeared into hopefully some annals of historico-political obscurity.

…Or am I missing something?  Did something good for the students or Chilean education come about from all the drama?  Usually protests and mass marches first draw social and media attention and thus turn into the first drop in a large bucket for change.  Look at the protests in Vietnam and how they threatened Lyndon Johnson’s intentions.  Those marches and protests in part killed Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, but it was the price paid for the eventual birth of desegregation and civil rights laws.  And of course it took time. So maybe Chilean students just need to be patient and continue (peaceful and clean) protests. The question is, do they need Camila Vallejo to do that?

But please, if I am missing something, misinformed (I think that I must be–extremely!), not getting the whole picture, I would love to learn more about this situation and what is happening for all involved, so PLEASE post a comment, send a message, whatever and enlighten me!

Happy Spring!

Yes, that’s right.  Well, almost; it is officially unofficially the first day of spring here.  Technically, I think it’s September 21st; something like that.  But the sun was shining, I was going through my summer clothes (already!) and the pooches were even getting hot and thirsty, running around without the accompaniment of the usual barking-out-of-boredom thing. Oh, they were soooo happy!  They kept running in to get me to come out and play.  I think it reached liked 62° F!  Yay!! My energy is renewed, my spirit…  The only conclusion to it all is that Spring is Here.

Anyway, looking at the 84° in MN tab on my desktop, I feel like it’s “catching up” to Minnesota weather, although I know how things really work; the world keeps turning and the seasons, like life, just continue in their cycles.  A mouse that doesn’t ever leave the wheel… the ever-producing cockroaches of a ghetto flat.. you get the picture.

Well in order not to leave things on that last note from that last paragraph, I will just say that I wish everybody a beautiful, bountiful spring, full of surprises and love, no matter what season it actually is where you are in the world.