Friday, November 28, 2003

when you travel for long distances by yourself, you wonder about strange things. you wonder why swell words like foxy aren’t used more often. you wonder what a cross-section of the runaway truck ramp would look like. you wonder if one of the layers could possibly be densely-packed straw. you wonder, how, after all these years, you remember the words to 'church of the poison mind.' more importantly, you’re thankful that no one was riding with you while you were just belting it out along with the radio.

i arrived in northern virginia on wednesday afternoon and spent the holiday with family. i’m back in charlotte now, only because i work saturday morning.

my mother has wood floors. they are remarkably free of dust. you know how in movies, when there is a lab, there is that anteroom that the scientists have to stand in? a mysterious breeze from above and below sanitizes them and there is sticky paper on the ground to pull dirt particles off the soles of their shoes. this ensures that the main room they are about to enter is, at least in theory, completely free of dirt. that main room is my mother’s house. i spent three days in stockinged feet with the constant feeling that i was about to slip and fall. that feeling always reminds me of home. the feeling of imminent bodily harm. well, imminent bodily harm and pie. both of those things remind me of home.

the trip was great, though much too short. my drive back was fine. as i crossed the state line, i picked up the NPR station out of winston-salem and was treated to terry gross’ interview with blossom dearie. as i’ve mentioned here previously, blossom dearie possesses one of my all-time favorite girl voices. even if you’re unfamiliar with her great jazz albums, i’m sure you know her voice. she sang a bunch of schoolhouse rock stuff including ‘unpack your adjectives’ and ‘figure eight.’ the interview was the perfect cap to my three days off.

last seen: when harry met sally, hunted, power and terror: noam chomsky in our times
last heard: erik satie 'six gnossiennes'
last read: A girl rode out on a horse holding the American Flag, then the anthem began. I was impressed that the horse had been trained to straighten up, sticking its head and tail up, for the anthem.
bonus: She was the daughter of an Italian singer and a French circus acrobat...

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

oh, that every workday could be like today-- put in five quiet, but productive, hours and then cut out early to spend the rest of the day watching movies. my aunt invited me to dinner at six; so, with a hefty chunk of empty afternoon to fill, i decided to take in a matinee in her part of town.

i went to the cat in the hat. there was a genuine interest, but mostly i had a morbid curiosity to see the film that currently holds an overall rating on metacritic lower than that of gigli. i went because i knew that it would be a pretty film to look at and i’m not above forking over six bucks for a pretty film. the sets for the city, the neighborhood, and the office were great in my opinion. that’s me focusing on the silver lining; we won’t discuss plot.

this was the first kids film that i’d been to in a really long time where there were actually kids seated all around me. i knew this, not only because the air was a heady mix of twizzlers and fake butter and giggling, but also because the entire theater went ape-shit when the trailer for shrek 2 came on. i wish adults would get that excited for movie trailers. wouldn’t it be great if you saw a middle-aged woman start to bounce in her seat and talk about how dreamy ted hughes is, whilst the first few frames of the sylvia trailer began to whirl?

[sidebar: in case you’re wondering, the grown-up excitement that surrounds LOTR trailers doesn’t count, in my opinion, because, having never seen the big deal with those films, i can’t share the enthusiasm. let the flame wars begin!]

last seen: cat in the hat, whale rider, umberto d.
last heard: chet baker 'i get along without you very well'
last read: In mid-air I hear the creak and groan as the rope snaps. I am hurled to the ground, ensnared in the swing. I feel a rollercoaster-type rush before I crash to the earth.

Monday, November 24, 2003

the holiday season is officially upon us. i know this because i had to avoid eye-contact with my first salvation army bell-ringer on saturday night.

tah-tink. tah-tink. tah-tink.

high and steady, coming from the front of the grocery store. i was walking there to get milk. even from a couple hundred yards away, the sound was clear, um, a bell.

i wondered, if i had that job, which would happen first: would i get a cramp in my arm or would i get a headache? also, i wondered, would that happen after five minutes or after ten?

i prefer volunteering to the handing over of cash; still, i’m easily guilted into giving fistfuls of spare change to folks who ask for it. doesn’t have to be christmas. they don’t need a special red bucket, neither. i haven’t lived in big cities long enough to become immune to the pleading or the hastily-scrawled signs, even if i suspect the stories are complete fabrications. i have a newborn! sure you do, sixty-year-old toothless man.

the salvation army is a whole other kettle of fish though. for one thing, the junior league smile of the bell ringer doesn’t give you the same sense of urgency that a sixty-year-old new father who is manically waiving his arms in your face does. something about hearing that bell almost a full week ahead of thanksgiving, just didn’t seem right.

last seen: woman of the year
last heard: isobel campbell 'johnny come home' [want a taste?]
last read: orchid; it’s a good life if you don’t weaken
reading: philip roth portnoy’s complaint

Saturday, November 22, 2003

some folks have already written about how wonderful thursday evening was. the button-cute ms. vowell was charming and funny, as were all of the people i shared vietnamese food with beforehand. the only thing that hasn’t been mentioned on those other pages was how well-behaved ann is on long road trips. that makes her sound like a small child or a medium-sized cocker spaniel; she is neither of those. in fact, for those who don’t know her, ann is a woman. a woman who, as i only just mentioned, is great company on road trips.

see, we have this mutual friend, tom, but we hadn’t hung out with each other all that much prior to the big trip. so, it was my first time travelling with her and you never can tell what’s going to happen in situations like that. a low-grade trepidation is understandable when you expect to be trapped in an enclosed space with someone new for three hours. i wondered, will there be long, awkward bits of silence? will her music contributions be horrid? will her snacks involve many, many small plastic containers and stink up my crappy teal escort? thankfully, none of this was a problem. she shared interesting anecdotes and didn’t ask for an inordinate number of pee breaks and, most importantly, brought a cd with rufus and chaka khan’s 'tell me something good' on it. this last fact alone moved her from three to four-star status in the little leather-bound book of travel passengers that i keep in the glove box.

last seen: 28 days later
last heard: i heard 'baby, what a big surprise' at a diner this morning. who knew peter cetera’s voice complemented bacon so well?
last read: francis davis afterglow: a last conversation with pauline kael
bonus: it's a jewish tradition; it's always been like that.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

...nothing brings kids together like hate. the one thing the band kids and the orchestra kids had in common was a unified disgust for the chorus kids, who were, to us, merely drama geeks with access to four-part harmony. a shy violin player wasn’t likely to haunt the halls between classes playing 'eine kleine nachtmusik' any more than a band kid would blare 'land of 1000 dances' on his tuba more than three inches outside the band room door. but that didn’t stop the choir girls from making everyone temporarily forget their locker combinations thanks to an impromptu, uncalled-for burst from brigadoon. -sarah vowell

two days off, starting...NOW! hooray, no work! hooray, road trip! in a few hours, i will head out of charlotte in my crappy teal escort bound for raleigh, where tonight, i will get to see sarah vowell. her nasally voice is enough to start me smiling. i’ve been to many lectures and shows by myself, but this time will be a pleasant change as more than a few friends are also planning to attend, including one birthday girl and her husband, neither of whom i've ever met in person.

this will also be an enjoyable trip since tom has graciously offered the two visiting charlotteans, ann and i, a pet-free place to crash after the lecture. i can’t count the number of times i’ve driven to atlanta or asheville or chapel hill for some show and had to drive home the same night, my eyelids heavy, my head tilting forward every five minutes, my whole body jerking back into consciousness as i realize hey, i just dozed for a minute back there and i’m driving 70 miles per hour. it will be much nicer to sleep in raleigh, wake up whenever, and drive back during daylight hours.

last heard: henry’s dress 'target practice'
last read: "Across the Universe" is the same (slowed-down) vocal and guitar from Let It Be, but with more reverb and soft sitar-like sounds.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

we always lived around families that were pretty much the same as ours. the dad was a soldier, the mom stayed at home, and i didn’t know any kids whose parents were divorced. so, it was a big deal when my parents decided to buy a house and move us off-base to live around civilians.

i was young, so i don’t remember much about the suburbs. there were some mormons who lived across the street. this was the time in my life when i still believed that most people were catholic like us, so the mormons fascinated me. i also remember the wienerschnitzel on lee trevino avenue. they had pole position. my mom would give me quarters to play it.

our subdivision sat on, what was then, the far eastside of the city of el paso. it was on the edge of town. if i rode my bike a few blocks from where we lived, there was the spot; if i looked to my left, i saw lawns and kids and houses. if i looked to my right, i saw an expansive desert. the wind coming from that direction carried sand, a little at a time, down over the curb. it would form piles on the opposite side of the street. these piles grew into small dunes that, i believed, threatened to take the neighborhood back.

when it was really windy, strange things blew out of the desert. we would find large tumbleweeds in our yards. once i found a piece of old newspaper with box scores on it. i swear that one of the teams was the brooklyn dodgers, but maybe i’m remembering that part wrong. i kept a piece of that brittle, yellowed newspaper in my wallet. yes, even though i was in elementary school, i had one. it was mostly empty. the paper crumbled not long after i put it in my wallet.

one time, an enormous desert turtle wandered up to our front door. my mom and sister and i returned from the store to find it there. i had no vocabulary to describe it. it had to be a thousand years old. it had small horns. its shell came up to my knees. i thought, that’s what lives in the desert and i never wandered past the spot.

last seen: notorious c.h.o.
last heard: mos def and talib kweli 'astronomy (8th light)'
last read: larry brown father and son
reading: francis davis afterglow: a last conversation with pauline kael
bonus: the brick testament [via TAL]

Monday, November 17, 2003

have any of you ever written a book? i think i need to do that. was it hard? i haven’t given much thought to what my book will be about yet. maybe you’ll be in it because, man, you are F-ed up. the books i like don’t have any dialogue on the last page. at least, not usually. i could write one like that. i’m not saying it would be worth a damn or any publisher would want to buy it, it’s just something i need to do. i think i’ll feel better after i’ve written a book. maybe i can take a week off and outline some ideas or at least sleep in late and hang out, reading the paper and listening to records.

i have good days at work ninety-nine percent of the time. today fell in that other one percent. i can’t talk about it here because work-people read this and i like being able to pay rent and buy groceries. the main thing is if i wrote a book and people liked it and miramax bought the rights and we got antonio banderas to play the main character, there is a good chance i wouldn’t have another day like the one i just had. also, i had to stay at work an extra two hours past when i was supposed to leave.

last heard: elvis costello 'our little angel'
last read: Mockbee...inspired students to create vanguard designs and utilize an array of innovative, cost-effective building materials that included tires, recycled license plates, shredded cardboard, and scraps of carpet baled into building blocks.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

i am not an impulse shopper. unless, of course, you count things like tiny plastic cars in the shape of sushi which you put on the floor, pull back, and then watch speed away. i impulse bought a handful of those a little while back. when it comes to everything else though, i am not an impulse shopper.

it isn’t that i’m cheap, i just like to buy nice things and, since nice things are usually expensive, i figure, if i wait long enough, the urge to buy an item might pass. this strategy has worked many times and kept me from buying a lot of unnecessary things. if, however, after several weeks or months, i still want a thing, only then will i venture out to purchase an item to fill the thing-shaped void in my life.

today, i decided to look for a medium-weight jacket. i have a heavy peacoat for january days. those days when it is cold even while the sun is out. i also have a light jacket, i think it once belonged to a gas station attendant. i wear that one on summer nights after the sun goes down, taking most of the warmth away with it.

what i seemed to be missing though was a coat to get me through late fall and early winter. there were two jackets that i’d been considering. the first was a black fleece coat from the phylum patagonia or north face or LL bean. the other was a denim jacket. no, not an acid-washed one, you ass. nor one with an iron maiden bandana sewn onto the back. just a simple denim jacket like you see the kids wearing. i went to (unnamed store in the mall) today and tried on a few. they had some that looked brand new, made of dark navy denim and others that do you say in america? ah, yes...distressed.

neither one looked any good on me. the first made me look like i was trying really hard to get a part in a high school production of grease and the other made me look like the kind of guy who wakes up under an overpass and will drink things from half-empty bottles that he finds in parking lots.

i guess i’ll be buying a fleece jacket soon.

last seen: drugstore cowboy
last heard: the decemberists 'grace cathedral hill'
last read: Housed on a couple of racks of thin-client servers tucked into a corner of the University of North Carolina's huge computer room... [link via jean]

Friday, November 14, 2003

a note to future library managers

dear future library managers,

hi. put down those photocopied articles from the harvard business review and listen.

you’ll need a mop, a bucket, paper towels, and, hopefully, some gloves. you’ll need them for the men’s room. you’ll need them because someone got sick on, in, and around a urinal. you’ll need them because your cleaning team comes every other night and tonight is not one of those nights. you’ll need to get down there and really scrub, because some of the large bits have already dried.

here are some reasons why you’re doing this:
no one reported it to the desk earlier. your entire staff is female and so they, quite understandably, never had a reason to peek into the men’s room. you’re on the management track. you give 110%. you like cleaning up vomit.

oi! watch out for your tie, if you’re a man. (watch out for your girl clothes, if you’re a woman.)

i’m glad i could help. you can go back to reading about paradigms now.

your pal,

last seen: elf, and an uncanny phil collins impression
last heard: april march 'Laisse Tomber des Filles' [thanks pinky]
last read: ...beaten about the head two hours later with an empty gatorade bottle containing seven coins

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

my car’s cd player has refused to play, or, more importantly, eject, aden’s topsiders. so, for over a week, i’ve had to listen to the radio during my commute. here are some things i’ve heard recently:

car on its side
car straddling guard rail
car on fire

in the morning, in charlotte, you can’t drive fast. maybe you can drive 35, but that’s only under certain conditions—driving in specific parts of town, headed away from the city, listening to sammy hagar. in all other instances, you crawl from stoplight to stoplight. i don’t understand how vehicles are flipping over or how they are combusting.

one time, i was in the parking lot of mid city lanes. i put my car in reverse, let my foot off of the brake, and eased back. i swung my arm over the passenger seat and, as i turned my head to look over my right shoulder, my girlfriend planted one on me. i closed my eyes and backed into the side of a minivan.

still, i have never flipped my car over or had it catch on fire.

last seen : blowup
last heard: belle and sebastian live in vancouver
last read: Later, Spot went number two a lot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

i’d never seen spirited away. neither had juicy fruit. so, we made plans to screen it together. maybe i’m a troglodyte but, besides being pretty to look at, i didn’t see the big deal about that film.

we stopped off for dinner before the movie. yes, i know, chain restaurants are generally a bad idea, but this particular one was on our way and seemed the quickest non-fast-food option. as we strolled across the parking lot, juicy fruit said she was here a few weeks back and the place was overrun with children. they couldn’t even find a table and ended up getting their food to go.

indeed, i think last night was kids eat free again. kids eat free are three words that when strung together should produce heart palpitations in single people with even a tenuous grasp on their own sanity. i wouldn’t think it so. when i break the equation down into its simplest parts, i like each one. kids, food, free stuff, all good things, but they are like three innocuous substances that when mixed together form something toxic.

we could already see the mayhem as we approached the plate glass windows, but resigned ourselves to it. you know when those big trucks full of chickens overturn out on the highway and there are chickens everywhere. some lying in shock on the ground. some jumping crazily in the air and into each other. some running in circles. it looked exactly like that only this overturned truck was full of children and it wrecked in the middle of this restaurant. they were hanging over the other sides of booths, jumping into glass display cases over and over again, running around, crayons clutched in their small meaty fists, bellowing.

we ate quickly and then did the only thing we could do, grabbed two large styrofoam coffee cups, filled them with soft-serve swirl ice cream, and hightailed it out a side door.

last seen: spirited away
last heard: the psychedelic furs 'the ghost in you'
last read: I almost always believed that temps wore fuchsia-combination blazer and slacks and drank Crystal Lite.
bonus: that new gallery smell over at the everyman

Sunday, November 09, 2003

the preview for love actually came on before mystic river last week and, as soon as i saw it, i could tell it had my aunt written all over it. she loves movies, but will not tolerate films that have violence and prefers not to watch movies where even a non-violent death occurs. yeah, i know. you try finding an american film at your local giganta-plex that fits the bill and you will get a taste of what i’m up against.

still, i enjoy hanging out with the aunt, so when i hear about a film that i think will fall within her narrow guidelines, we usually go. if all of this sounds vaguely familiar, then you might remember when she was choosing the films, all those months ago, and i had to watch snow dogs with her. ah, the things we do for love.

it is always a bonus when we both enjoy the film and love actually did not disappoint. sure, it was a bit sappy. sure, it appeared to be frumpy-single-women-bring-your-moms-for-free day in the audience. sure, mr. bean was in the movie. despite all of these things, i really enjoyed it. i laughed a lot and there were even a few moments when i teared up. there, i admit it. [spits, starts talking about engines despite being alone in the room, and runs outside to punch a random jogger in the arm to avoid further emasculation]

last seen: love actually
last heard: sleater-kinney 'words and guitar'
last read: The text is a single number 500 pages long. [link via tracy]

Saturday, November 08, 2003

it’s official. i am old. at least, tonight, i feel that way. while both of us sat wishing the last hour on the desk would pass more quickly, a co-worker and i planned our saturday nights aloud. when she got home, she told me while rubbing her aching leg, she was going to just lay down for the night. not wanting to be outdone, i saw her just lay down and i raised her a buy some groceries and maybe watch bogart in the african queen.

we finally shooed the last guy out of the library at exactly six o’clock. i told my co-worker good luck with that just lying down thing and she told me to have a blessed night. she’ll do that. she’s free and easy with the blessed nights, also with the blessed days. you can try to jump out of the way, but with her, they’re tough to sidestep. i didn’t say that’s ok or that’s alright. i wasn’t a wiseacre. i just said thanks.

now it is a little after ten o’clock on a saturday night and i’m ready to go to bed. i would say go to sleep, but i already did that. i started the african queen and woke up on my couch somewhere in the middle of the film. the last thing i remember was, about ten minutes in, bogart’s stomach starts making all kinds of racket while he sits drinking tea with hepburn.

that’s right, ladies, i’m ready to call it a night at ten PM on a saturday...form a line to my right for make-outs. it’s official. i am old.

last seen: matrix revolutions, three kings
last heard: spanky and roy 'do nothin' till you hear from me'
last read: Forbidden words? Forefathers. Victim. Snowman. Warrior. Stereotypes to shun? "Boys expressing anger." "Caucasians living in affluent suburbs." Topics for exclusion? Junk bonds. Junk food. Rap music. Yachting.

Friday, November 07, 2003

i just got back from a long walk. PS- fire engines are loud. i was ankle-deep in yellow leaves on many of the sidewalks in my neighborhood. there was a lady dressed as a chef waiting for the bus. i saw a black man in a wheelchair. he was wearing a striped bathrobe and a red ball cap. a young woman had wheeled him onto the porch and into the sun. one of those old ford passenger vans passed by me while i was walking, the kind that kidnappers used to use in 70s shows like CHiPs except this one didn’t have the teardrop window or the plexiglass bubble on top for a lookout. the van smelled like wooden matchsticks right after you shake out the flame. weird. also, someone left a condom wrapper on the sidewalk just to remind me how much sex i’m not having these days. and, another thing, these people...are they having sex out in public or in their cars, just flinging contraceptive wrappers out the window like so many styrofoam McD-L-T boxes? i digress.

i’m sitting here now, trying to write, listening to henry mancini’s lujon on a loop. i think gal and dee dee slow-danced to it in sexy beast. the strings are round-sounding. they rise and fall and make it hard to discern a beginning, middle or an end, especially when played like this- obsessively. this bad habit is all michael’s fault. what he does is he finds a song, puts it on repeat and just goes about his work. it might play thirty times in a row. it’s madness, i tell you, and now i’ve started doing it.

lujon is only the most recent example. michael’s past selections have included pharoah sanders’ 32 minute creator has a master plan, senor coconut’s cover of trans europe express, or who could forget the night i crashed on his couch and we listened to green arrow until morning. some friends will get you hooked on less insidious things like smack or whores, not michael. i have to listen to crickets chirp and echoey guitars for ten hours.

last seen: real women have curves
last heard: henry mancini 'lujon'
last read: It's funny, there are times you want to remember books as you remember them and not go back and reread them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

when my sister was quite young, she was invited to tour europe with a chorus for several weeks. she’s a mezzo-soprano, if i remember correctly. even though i’ve never heard you hum three bars, i know she can sing better than you. don’t feel bad, she can sing way better than me, too.

her group was in a different city every few days which meant lots of bus travel and not too many opportunities to take pictures. oh, and i should mention that one of the other vocalists on her trip fell off a mountain in switzerland. he had to stay in a hospital there. i guess they drew straws to find out who would be stuck singing his part.

when she finally came home, i remember looking at the pictures she shot...of europe, not of the kid who fell off of the mountain. though, those would have been cool, too. besides a handful from venice, the rest of the photos all ran together for me and just became europe, instead of five shots of germany and three of france and seven from some place else.

i came across my favorite photo from her trip this evening in an old shoebox and i’m staring at it right now. in the foreground is a street and sidewalk. there is a woman in a yellow hat walking out of the right side of the frame. beyond this woman is a short fence and a long grassy field and, in the distance, an old cream colored building with columns. the only words written on the back of the photo are ...across the street from the eiffel tower.

lisa is my only sibling and we are very close, so she knows my sense of humor and took that shot especially for me, knowing only i would appreciate it. i’ve never been to paris, so i don’t know if the photo and caption are one big joke but i can't help but smile everytime i see it. when i went to new york a few years after this, i sent my sister just one photo from my trip. the sky at the edges is clear and blue and taking up the other two-thirds of the frame is the back of the statue of liberty.

last seen: breathless
last heard: versus 'radar follows you'
last read: we simply do not have the funds or infrastructure to cope with our disastrously overcrowded classrooms. we can chip away at the problem only so much by relaxing immunization standards.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

how come it took an ad on my stats page for me to hear about the library of congress' wise guide? hours of time-wasting fun await you, here.

one day per week, i have to work the night shift. i don’t stand guard in a museum, nor do i press sheets of metal into giant weird shapes through the wee small hours. the closest i ever came to late-night work was a job i had in new orleans, where, five nights a week, i locked the enormous wooden doors behind me a little after midnight.

with the job i have now, even the term night shift is kind of a joke. i’m a librarian and the public library closes at 9pm. still, night shift is what we call it when we have to work until 9. sometimes in the summer, when the daylight stretched further and further into the night, i would drive home from the night shift and i could still see a thin band of daytime holding onto the edge of the horizon, coloring the sky purple and red and yellow and, sometimes, right before the sun went away completely, light, light brown.

i don’t mind working the night shift once a week. it means i’m justified in staying up past my usual bedtime on mondays and sleeping in without an alarm on tuesdays. plus it means i get to hear the neighbors scurry off to work, while i sit here in front of the computer in my underwear, listening to ac/dc and leisurely eating a bowl of boo berry cereal.

last seen: faces
last heard: ac/dc 'you shook me all night long'
last read: Following a quick hitch in the Air Force and a tempestuous marriage to a Native American woman...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

i hate quitting things. it makes me feel like such a...quitter. when i was kid, i quit a lot of things— cub scouts, hobbies, wrestling, boy scouts, football. one year, i even made it through two sets of cuts for the JV basketball team and, once i finally secured a spot on the team, i quit that, too. i never seemed to stick things out, preferring instead to walk away as soon as things started to get a little difficult.

as i got older, i quit things less and less or, maybe, i only tried things i knew i’d be really good at which is kind of like pre-emptive quitting except it just doesn’t look as bad.

this weekend, i decided to quit my italian class. you might remember i started taking it about three months ago for fun, not because i was planning a trip to italy or because i’d started dating a girl from there. simply, learning for learning’s sake. i’ve been struggling now for weeks. each homework exercise served only as a reminder of how little i was retaining every week and i couldn’t figure out whether it was the once-a-week meetings, the immersion method, or, simply, my inability to grasp a foreign language.

if you want to know specifics, it was the goddamn conjugated prepositions what killed me. there are 40 of them—FOUR-ZERO— and, before you even get to one of the 40, you have to remember the noun in italian and its gender and how many you have because, of course, if you have one book (m.sing.) that you want to place on the table, you need one preposition and, if you have a pile of books ( that you want to place on the table, you need another preposition. with all of my manic page turning and dictionary flipping, every homework session left me feeling as crazy and mixed-up as faye dunaway at the end of chinatown: she’s my sister, she’s my daughter. my sister, my daughter. she’s my sister AND my daughter....and since jack nicholson isn’t here to smack me around, i just decided to quit italian.

last seen: poltergeist, mystic river, superman, blind spot
last heard: april march and los cincos ‘the moon is blue’
last read: They miss what David Foster Wallace has described as "the central Kafka joke--that the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey towards home is in fact our home."