Saturday, February 28, 2004

i woke yesterday to a foot of snow. in charlotte, north carolina, that's big news. work was cancelled for the second day and so, when i wasn't napping, i spent most of yesterday reading. i'm about halfway done with middlesex and i really like it. the best thing about this book is what happens when i'm reading it out in public and strangers try to make small talk. first, there was a too-perky girl in her mid-twenties and then there was a hispanic gentleman. each of them innocently asked so, what's that book about? and then i got to say so far, it's about a greek-american hermaphrodite, her parents, and her grandparents. i'm always unsure which pronoun to use because the adult narrator, Cal, is presently living as a man; however, at this part of the book, the story is about his childhood, raised as a little girl named Calliope. i don't think the strangers really care which pronoun i use though. they are usually too busy recovering from the fact that i just said hermaphrodite really, really loudly in a crowded restaurant.

tired of being cooped up in the house, i took a short break from reading yesterday afternoon to go for a walk. had i been thinking, i would have remembered that (A) i live in the southern united states and that (B) the city road crews plow the snow from the streets directly onto the sidewalks and that (C) none of the homeowners around here owns a snow shovel. so, after half a block of trudging through knee-to-thigh-deep snow where i remembered the sidewalks were supposed to be, i ended up walking down the middle of street. when i heard a car crunching toward me, i would hop back into the snow on the side of the road. despite how not-fun that walk was, i'm glad i went out because i spotted a guy whose car was stuck in the snow. an old man walked by at the same moment; he put his plastic bag full of beer down in the snow and the two of us managed to push the stuck-car guy out.

last seen: the secret lives of dentists
last heard: elliott smith 'happiness'
last read: "We believe that this is a sweeping invasion of medical privacy. Ashcroft has subpoenaed hundreds of confidential medical records and we're taking every step within the law to resist this," said Elizabeth Toledo, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

snow fell in fat, wet flakes this morning. the heavy kind. it had already covered my car in just a couple of hours. i was scheduled to work at noon. with no phone call about the cancellation of work, i headed up to that part of the county a little early. i decided to get an oil change and besides i was familiar enough with charlotte winter drivers to know that it would take a while to travel the short distance. as i turned onto the interstate, the traffic had already backed up because of two separate car wrecks within 500 yards of each other.

i made it in-and-out of the dealership fairly quickly. with the oil change complete, i wandered into work about a half-hour early and was only in the building for five minutes before we got the call to close the library. i got back on the highway where traffic had slowed to 20 miles per hour because visibility was so poor.

my apartment is very close to the downtown area and as soon as i exited the highway, i got snarled in all of the downtown traffic. every office in every skyscraper had decided to shut down at noon, too. it took me two hours to travel the ten miles from my work to my house, but i'm home now, changed into my civies about to make a dent in the netfilx/library DVD rentals. there might be a walk through the neighborhood sometime this evening, but mostly i'll just be camped out on the couch praying for work to be cancelled again tomorrow.

sidebar: in other movie news, i went to see mel gibson's the passion last night. after reading ebert's review, i was interested. mostly i went for the same reasons i went to the LOTR movies; everyone was talking about it, so how could i not?

my extremely vague review is that there were some parts i liked and a few scenes that i thought were poorly done. it could have used more historical context or spent a little time on the man's teachings. on the other hand, i realize that it was a passion play and maybe all of things i thought the film lacked were exactly what mr gibson wanted left out of the movie to begin with. besides, the folks who are going to the film probably already know the backstory, so maybe i'm crazy. my other main criticism, and this is really kind of minor, is that danny glover and joe pesci weren't in this one.

last seen: the passion of the christ
last heard: langley schools music project 'desperado'
last read: we have no plans to do anything. By that, I don't mean we have no plans. Obviously, we have plans to do everything in the world that we can think of. But we-there's no intention at the present time, or no reason to believe, that any of the thinking that goes into these things year in and year out would have to be utilized."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

the other night, as i'm leaving work, i slip into the crappy teal escort and click on all things considered. the story coming through the speakers was somewhere near half-over. it was a piece about haiti and the possible wave of immigrants that might arise from people fleeing the trouble. the reporter was interviewing a man from the coast guard. as i turned right, out of the parking lot, i thought to myself this voice sounds really familiar. when i got home, i found the story on the ATC website and listened to it again; this time in its entirety.

it turns out the person they were interviewing was one of my best friends from high school, a guy named tony. within a few hours, we had traded emails and, for the second time in a month, i found myself talking to a friend i hadn't heard from in many, many years. he is doing very well, has a wife and child.

in a fleeting glass-is-half-empty kind of moment, i secretly wondered whether all of this reuniting, finding out how the various intertwined personal narratives wound up, meant that something truly horrible was about to befall me. that's kind of morbid, i know.

instead, let's all think about those orange-and-white push-pops that we used to buy from the ice cream truck when we were kids. mmmm, push-pops.

last heard: tullycraft 'sent to the moon'
last read: I have peed in one million pools and I am not sorry.
bonus: Instead, he says, one should become a satisficer, content with the merely excellent as opposed to the absolute best.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

five reasons why i'm grinning

-my entire neighborhood smelled like cookies when i went for a walk this evening.
-my taxes are finally done and i should be receiving two nice-sized checks in the mail. thank you, student loan interest deduction.
-i just finished watching meatballs, the bill murray tour de force.
-season one of what's happening was just released on DVD.
-there's still time to read before lights out.

last seen: meatballs
last heard: go sailor 'last year'
last read: Camille Paglia, a feminist scholar who has criticized Ms. Wolf in the past and was also a student of Mr. Bloom's, said she was outraged by the accusations.

don't let anyone tell you different; there are benefits to procrastination. i never found time yesterday to post about saturday's show and, then looky here, jean went and posted a great review of the proceedings. her post even includes a link to a video by da hawnay troof who were really more of a force of nature than an actual band. while they played, i'd look back over my shoulder at the faces of strangers standing nearby. everyone was smiling. they were so different from the other two bands that played that night, mates of state and the like young.

say, that reminds me, you should try to catch the like young if they come to your town. a husband and wife team from chicago, she played the hell out of some drums. i believe those kids are going places. the other thing i enjoyed was how they would rock out and, before the reverberations had even died away, people would start applauding, then you'd hear the drummer, in the smallest little girl voice, say thanks. that happened after every single song and it was probably my favorite part of the night. well, aside from when baby donut of da hawnay troof did cartwheels on stage.

last seen: pather panchali
last heard: heavenly 'it's you'
last read: Besides, we'll add a line that says, 'WARNING: NO THREE BUCKS, NO PIZZA!' Which should do the trick. Furthermore, all of the donated cash goes into a government 'lockbox' ? I don't want this money squandered on crap like farm subsidies or missiles or schools.

Monday, February 23, 2004

the woman working the counter at bill's truck stop in lexington looked pensive on saturday afternoon, like she had been the once-beautiful valedictorian of their small local high school and was wondering how she ended up stuck here, twenty years later, selling buck knives with pictures of long-dead movie stars on them to people like me and mark.

the lunch menu at bill's was a single sheet of paper, a long list of meat-and-threes paper-clipped inside of the dinner menu. it had been lovingly rendered in a neat and proud script which i imagined belonged to the pensive woman working the register. mark ordered the chicken fingers, assorted vegetables, a cup of cherry crunch, and a buck knife with john wayne's face on it. i ordered the chicken fingers, white beans and rice, a cup of the cherry crunch, and a buck knife with elvis presley's face on it. we got back on the road debating which knife would be better in a knife fight and/or paper-cutting contest-- the duke or the king? each of the knives had been made in china, probably by child laborers, and came in a handsome wooden box which would be appropriate for displaying in your home, right beside your franklin mint heirlooms.

we were happy to have the buck knives to play with and discuss during a particularly horrid stretch of gridlock. all of northbound 85 had been smooshed down to a single lane. they were installing one of those huge green and white highway signs above the road. it took us two hours to move ten miles, but, at least, we had knives.

[editor's note: i also met friends for dinner and went to a concert this weekend. maybe i'll write about those things later.]

last heard: club 8 'baby, i'm not sure if this is love'
last read: On the way to our car we saw a white mustang with a painting of a horse kicking its front legs in the air, artistically.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

the best time for museum-going is weekday afternoons. i like having the huge silent rooms to myself, standing in front of each piece for as long as i want to and reading every single word that is stencilled onto the walls. i like listening to the floorboards creak as i slowly shift around the room. a new margaret bourke-white exhibit opened at the mint last week and i found time yesterday to go see it. there were many images of large-scale construction projects like skyscrapers and dams and, also, pictures taken inside of huge factories. i liked those black and white industrial prints a lot, but this photograph was probably my favorite.

well, i have to get up and shower now. mark's saturday class lets out in a short while; after which, he's heading here to pick me up. we're off to chapel hill for the mates of state show. it should be a pleasant drive as mark has a sunroof and today is a typical carolina winter day-- forecast says 63 degrees, clear and sunny. we plan to leave by noon, so there will be a good long time to wander around town and even meet some folks for dinner before the show.

i hope to return tomorrow with many adventures to write about.

last seen: jeremiah johnson, the watermelon man
last heard: joy division 'love will tear us apart'
last read: Spring 1971: Bush is hired by a Texas agricultural importer. He uses a National Guard F-102 to shuttle tropical plants from Florida.

Friday, February 20, 2004

there are these two guys who come into the library to use the internet everyday. they look italian or, maybe, greek. i'm not sure which. i think they work for a local karate studio; this is only a guess. they wear red, white, and blue track suits everyday and emblazoned on the back of each one is the silhouette of a guy doing a flying scissor kick. how rad is that?

my library is in a growing suburb of charlotte, so all manner of businesses are cropping up. really, if you're an urban planner and you already have a grocery store, a gas station, and a chik-fil-a, then it only stands to reason that a karate studio run by swarthy looking men is number four on your things we need to build list. really what town couldn't use one? but i digress.

this post comes to you courtesy of a pit stop i made at home in between errands. i've worked the last six days straight, so today is all about catching up on things like laundry and cleaning and groceries and such like. i just returned from the laundromat. the one i go to is run by a kind middle-aged korean couple. they also run a laundry drop off service. i watched them smiling at each other, as they stood about six feet apart holding opposite corners of a sheet they were folding. i felt warm and thought about how nice it is to have a partner to shoot coy smiles at while sheet folding.

last heard: danger mouse the grey album
last read: The name "the Blow" had been floating around in my mind for years, ever since my three year old friend said it in reference to the cold wind that was coming in through the door. His mom told me that he had said something like,"Close the door! The blow!"

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

when i'm at work, clicking around on everybody's weblogs, i notice when folks haven't been updating as much as i'd like. i'm a once-a-day kind of fella. if i ruled the weblog universe with an iron fist, i would leave that fist on my lap because it would be very heavy to lift, but, the other arm i would raise into the air and, while making a fist-shape, decree everyone post at least once per day. it would be just like making your bed or flossing, no one's going to force you, but it's probably a good idea.

if i'm at the reference desk, it would look unprofessional for me to be working on mad libs. that's why i read everyone's weblogs, making sure to have that look on my face, part-introspection, part-constipation, that says i'm reading the electronic version of a popular scholarly journal. i like to read fresh content that's witty or sad or tells me about some book or piece of music that i've never heard of before. either that, or fart jokes.

the people listed at right are clever and interesting. most of them update regularly. this is something i haven't been doing a lot lately. i wish i could say that my scattershot posts are because of something cool, like falling in love or amnesia due to blunt head trauma, but it isn't so. the truth is work has spilled over into at-home time, so i've not been able to post.

yesterday, i worked a halfday and then spent the next eight hours reading the final 200 pages worth of my book club book for tonight. the discussion was great by the way, thanks for asking. i've also been trying to get things together for this book talk i have to give at another branch tomorrow. they told me i could talk about whatever i want. i haven't thought of a snappy title for the talk yet, but it will basically be first fiction by young contemporary writers, many of the titles are culled from my book club's already-read list. i figured the older adults who usually attend these lunchtime discussions might appreciate, for once, getting introduced to authors who don't write books about cats who solve crimes.

last heard: i know what you did this summer
last read: louise erdrich's last report on the miracles at little no horse
reading: jeffrey eugenides' middlesex
bonus: Rats can be conditioned to prefer particular types of partner- for example by pairing sexual reward with some kind of cue, such as lemon-scented members of the opposite sex.

Monday, February 16, 2004

inquisitive is just the nice way to say what we were. it is what you would call us, if you didn't know us too well. when my sister and i would visit my grandmother in south florida, really what we were was nosy. we would dig through closets and peek into dressers and shake up glass jars in the garage that were full of random metal objects. as i think back on it, i'm kind of embarrassed, but my sister and i are older now, my grandmother is gone, and we never got yelled at for any of this innocent nosing around. we couldn't help ourselves, my grandmother just had so much cool old shit.

for example, in the guest bedroom, in an ornate metal tray, handfuls of coins from other countries. in an endtable, a copper whistle on a long chain; she would blow it into the phone when teenagers called. in the hutch, half-full, years-old, limited-edition, porcelain-looking jim beam bottles shaped like the heads of presidents or the USS arizona memorial. in the bottom of a closet, my mother's childhood rock collection, little pieces of stone glued onto heavy card stock, each one labelled turquoise or agate or quartz.

my grandmother had the big C for most of my childhood. it would just move from one part of her body to another. she had a pretty large collection of wigs. i guess the wigs themselves lived in some drawer we never found, but all of the styrofoam display heads ended up in a closet in a guest room. i don't know why she kept them. when my sister and i found the stash, we spent entire days making scary fangoria heads, coloring each one with an assortment of magic markers that smelled vaguely like fruit. really chemically fruit. after we finished, we put them under beds or in different closets.

last seen: new york in the fifties
last heard: beatles 'martha my dear'
last read: My bed, with the old headboard that would crash into the wall and wake up the downstairs neighbors until we duct taped the dishtowel to its back.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

working all weekend, there hasn't been much time to write anything. most of the pockets of non-work time have been spent trudging through my book club book; there's still two-thirds left to finish over the next three days. i always think i'll have time to finish a personal selection and still get to the book club pick before the meeting and everytime i'm killing myself to finish in the final days.

friday evening, i had dinner with the jen(n)s. we had not seen each other in over a month. jen cooked, jenn brought wine, and i made a salad. i also brought a set of large, red-foil wrapped, solid chocolate lips for each of them, since it was near valentines and i'm a swell guy. we watched manhattan after dinner.

you really can't lose with woody allen, mid70s to mid80s. you knew that already though, didn't you. annie hall devotees are sure to throw produce at me, but manhattan is still my favorite. it is all because of that last scene where he is lying on the couch, talking into a tape recorder, listing the things that make life worth living. [here, scroll to the bottom] everyone has a list like that which is why i appreciate the scene so much, music or people or art that inspires or makes us smile or reminds us that everything is not so terrible. [**this is the part where we all hug**]

the only other thing i did this weekend was sharpen a pencil with a pocket knife which, while being kind of tricky and dangerous, also confirmed that i am indeed an old man now.

last seen: days of heaven, manhattan, paper moon
last heard: wu tang clan 'clan in da front'
last read: Evangelism was the purpose behind movies by Eloyce Gist, a Howard grad and a Bahai recognized in Movies of Color as a pioneer. She was America's first black woman filmmaker.
bonus: i didn't want to get all gay and say anything at the time.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

i just read that the zombies will be in town tomorrow. really, it's only two of the original members who are touring under the name, but i still got kind of excited when i read the article. i won't pretend to be some kind of purist who has loved them for years. in fact, i only stumbled onto them last year while reading about the clientele. it seemed every article i read would invoke the zombies as the womb from which the clientele sprung. you should seek out recordings by both bands, if you haven't already; they are equally great...but i digress.

today, as i sat reading about the upcoming zombies show, i didn't get far before i made that face that dogs make, the one where they stop smiling and cock their heads to one side. i just had so many questions.

first off, the tickets are 25 bucks. let me tell you, on a meager public librarian's salary, that is a lot of green. so, right away, i knew i'd been priced out of the game, but still i read on. the show itself is going to be at this smallish club in town that usually hosts horrible cover bands. i went there once to see a friend's band play. the sound is terrible. it is all concrete. look, even if i won the craps game that we have in the library's breakroom every thursday afternoon and miraculously ended up with an extry 25 dollars, i wouldn't spend it to stand in that club. for $25, i want a seat in a nice theatre where people aren't smoking or drinking red bull or high-fiving. i guess i'm getting old. finally, the last thing i thought about was-- how in the world did a dinky town like charlotte end up on this band's touring schedule? we never get anyone good here.

last heard: philip glass 'symphony no.3' [editor's note: it's hard to listen to this without thinking about people moving around at double-speed or half-speed.]
last read: Does India really want the world to equate the status of Kashmir with that of Palestine?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

i know everyone has stories like this but i'm going to tell mine now, so get a mug of cocoa and just sit. you know how the internet is really cool and you sometimes hear from people that you haven't spoken to in a really long time? well, last thursday, that's what happened to me.

sometime, almost ten years ago, a group of us used to work the night shift at our college library. if i remember correctly, the librarians went home at 9 o'clock and the rest of us stuck around until the building closed at midnight. many, many nights, we spent those last three hours huddled around a pair of desks, laughing and talking and making fun of strangers.

after i left new orleans, i really only kept in touch with one young lady, my friend erin. all of the other folks kind of fell away, the way that they do when you are the one who moves away from some place. recently though, a person from our cadre of late-night library workers relocated back to new orleans and ran into erin.

matt was this kid who always made me laugh. we didn't hang out much outside of work, but i like to think i knew him pretty well, since we spent all of those hours working together. one time, it was a thanksgiving holiday, i think, we carpooled to saint louis. he and a friend were heading back to spend the holiday with family and i was going to visit my girlfriend who, after graduation, had moved back to saint louis. it was a long, fun car-ride. i remember matt's story about how he and his housemates were building a schmidt-amid, a pyramid made of schmidt beer cans that took up part of one room. i remember lots of billboards for the home of throwed rolls which we stopped at but the line was too long.

after i left new orleans, i never really kept up with matt, then, last week, i was surprised to receive an email from him. we exchanged those long-type messages that catch other people up on the last ten years of your life.

[sidebar: in his most recent message, matt asked what 42short meant. was it a play on the words far too short? admittedly, the lack of an about page is one of the shortcomings of this humble, little, low-maintenance weblog; so, for matt and anyone else who might not have read the casual explanation i threw out in a single post many, many months ago, the name comes from my suit jacket size. at the time i began writing this weblog, it was a 42 short. i'm pretty sure i've bulked up to a 44 short by now, because i'm so damned manly, but i'm not planning on changing the name. i hope this also clears up any confusion about this page being an online shrine to an 80s rap legend.]

last seen: grey gardens
last heard: the pacific ocean 'there's no one you won't walk past'
last read: if theory is so profoundly flawed in its inability to address the ideas and emotions that not only make us individual but also allow us to marry, build communities, and undertake the countless transactions that would be impossible without basic shared assumptions, how did it ever become so popular in the first place? [via arts and letters daily]

Monday, February 09, 2004

i'm not a young adult librarian, but there's this one kid who always peeks through the stacks or pokes his head into offices looking for me when he visits the library. i kind of feel like his own personal YA librarian.

over a year ago, he came up to the desk and asked one of my co-workers about chuck palahniuk. she knew that i had just returned from seeing him. she'd even been privy to the photographic evidence of my adventure. she told the young man, oh, you have to talk to james.

what i found out is that this kid's parents didn't think he was old enough (middle teens) to watch fight club, so he wanted to get his hands on the book and learn more about the author. i was happy to oblige. he eventually worked his way through all of palahniuk's oeuvre with the exception of invisible monsters which we curiously do not own.

he comes in every few weeks. we discuss whatever he is reading at the moment. he just recently got to watch fight club. we both agreed the book was much more graphic than the film. when the library started collecting comics and graphic novels, i asked him what he'd like to see in the collection. he was so charged that a grown-up was asking for and valuing his opinion about something.

this afternoon, he talked about screenwriting and david lynch films for a little while. he brought up delillo; so i made sure he left with white noise under his arm. i should read it, too, someday.

just before he left he mentioned that he had read the whole of survivor aloud to his girlfriend over the course of several weeks; i beamed like a proud papa, reminded, for probably the third time today, that i have one of the coolest jobs in the world.

last heard: all girl summer fun band 'million things'
last read: vogel's passion engaged him, mind and heart. he now prepared himself. having dragged army caissons through hip-deep mud after the horses died in torment, having seen his best friend suddenly uncreated into a mass of shrieking pulp, having lived intimately with pouring tumults of eager lice and rats plump with horrifying food, he was rudimentarily prepared for the suffering he would experience in love. -from erdrich's last report

Sunday, February 08, 2004

this underaged girl came up to our table at the bar last night. i had to tell her no. no, i couldn't call her parents up and pretend to be her friend's father and say that she was still at my house. mark and i felt really old after she left. i declined not only because it would have been an unethical thing to do, but, as i explained to her, i sound like a girl on the phone and didn't think i would be very convincing. she thanked us anyway and went on to ask the next table. i don't think she really thought through her plan as, i imagine, her parents might hear all of the background bar noise, if she ever did find someone to make that call for her. we saw her in the parking lot as we were leaving and she told mark he looked like conan o'brien.

it was a long night and that was how it started. i opened my eyes this morning hesitantly, not wanting to move or wake up the rest of my body until i was sure that my head wasn't going to be throbbing or my stomach flying around. luckily, i awoke in perfect health.

it was a weekend of reading, mostly. i spent several hours over the last two days in a neighborhood coffee place, sitting in uncomfortable wooden chairs. it always takes me longer to read non-fiction for some reason, even if it's well-written which this book was. after the final one hundred pages worth of rwandan genocide, i am happy to be moving back to fiction. now, i have to start this month's book club selection and finish it in the next nine days.

one thing i figured out after spending so much time this weekend reading in public spaces is that nothing makes me feel more naked and alone than when someone steals the other chairs from my table. it is perfectly innocent, i know, but it still makes me feel very by-myself. a stranger will approach me and ask if he can take the empty chairs at my table for their large study group a few tables over. rather than shooting my legs out onto the empty chairs, i always give them up. so, there i am, sitting at a table, occupying one lonely chair; the empty space at my table only made more obvious by the lack of other chairs.

last seen: lost in translation
last heard: bjork 'so broken'
last read: philip gourevitch's we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families
reading: louise erdrich's the last report on the miracles at little no horse
bonus: We had the usual Mensa-like conversations that readers of this site have come to expect.

when i need company to drink off the latest heartbreak, mark is always there. sometimes i just need him to take me driving in his car, so that i can scream along to bon jovi, whitesnake, or lita ford. he is also good about babysitting when you are four beers past your two beer limit. tonight was one of those nights and i just wanted to write the following before i went to sleep.

mark described a recent conversation which i found very funny. it took place between himself, his brother michael, and their mother. they were talking about michael and christine's upcoming wedding and my name, apparently, came up.

mama [to michael]: you should write something to read at your wedding.

michael: nah.

mark: you should have james write something.

michael: nah, because then it would be something like-- love is like this time when i was a little boy on a tire swing and i found a nickel.

last seen: capturing the friedmans, gigantic
last heard: belle and sebastian 'i'm waking up to us'
last heard: Because it [the Office of Special Plans] operates in the Pentagon's policy shop, it is not officially part of the intelligence community, and so it is seemingly immune to congressional oversight.

Friday, February 06, 2004

my stomach is famous. it is famously bad. most of my friends know this. if i try something new the first time i go to a restaurant and it doesn't have me curled into the fetal position after a few hours, i usually end up ordering that same dish everytime i go back. it wasn't always this way. my stomach used to be strong. gatorade gum and cold, day-old fried rice and boone's farm and whole bags of rock candy, all of these things found their way into my system when i was younger. alas, not anymore.

this afternoon, i was reminded what youth means. it means having a stomach like a lead box. while little girls might also come equipped with such stomachs, what reminded me was watching a pair of eleven-year-old boys.

a library, two towns north of my own, was short-staffed today and i helped out there. it was a tiny branch library and there was only one person working when i arrived. one of my tasks was to serve as the projectionist for an afternoon screening of disney's the sword in the stone. the rain was horrible all day and they weren't sure if anyone would show up.

just before 4pm, two little boys ambled through the front door and asked about the movie. together, we walked to the community room. as i stood there trying to figure out the VCR and huge TV, one of the boys started unloading food from his backpack. the other went to the adjoining kitchen and started to pop some popcorn. during the next 70-odd minutes, these two little boys consumed an entire bag of popcorn, some beef jerky, a couple of chocolate bars, half a box of cheez-its, and two bottles of root beer.

i sat in the back of the room, smirking, knowing that they'd walk home after the movie and their mothers would wonder why they weren't hungry for dinner.

last seen: the sword in the stone
last heard: stereolab 'changer' [editor's note: the groop will be visiting on april 21st.]
last read: "If the vice president is the source of generosity, it means Scalia is accepting a gift of some value from a litigant in a case before him," said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

it really depends on when you visit. some days i pen odes to the american south. how hard it would be to leave. how the women are very kind. maybe i make up little songs about rural electrification or other WPA projects and sing them quietly to myself as i scrape out an old softshoe, smiling.

on other days, hard as it is to admit, i think about leaving. it's happened a few times lately. i watch something like badlands or tender mercies; the screen fills up with wide-angled shots where the horizon is a thin line that divides a huge field of green below from a huge field of blue above. when i lived in kansas, i can remember seeing things like that in real life. large sheets of space that were empty and beautiful and made me lose my breath.

as i mentioned yesterday, i rarely live in one town for longer than three years. this month, i've been in charlotte for two and a half which may explain why this ache has come on so sudden and strong. i hope it goes away soon, i can't afford to leave right now.

last seen: open range
last heard: gladys knight 'neither one of us (wants to be the first to say goodbye)'
last read: Other people are always busy doing big and important things, like running for president, or inventing Ping-Pong. I sell meat out of a bus.
bonus: Steve and I were tired of hanging out in campaign offices or talking to other journalists, so we said, Fuck it: let's drive up north and go play us some Burgertime.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

sometimes it's nice to have conversations with people who are different than you. i just had a conversation with an older gentleman who was wearing a sweater with a black labrador stitched onto the front. i don't usually get to talk to people like that. he was also wearing some very smart wool-blend slacks. he started off by telling me never to get old because then my knees would start to hurt. i knew he wasn't lying because other old men had told me the same thing, even some old women, too.

he was flipping through the most recent issue of popular photography which he turned over and placed on his lap when we began talking. i like it when people do that-- ask you some question and then stop what they are doing to really listen. he asked me where i was from, probably because of the way i talk or maybe he was just taking a poll. i always answer that question in the same meandering way. my dad was in the army and we moved around a lot, so i'm not really from anywhere. it turns out he wasn't from anywhere, too, because his dad was a preacher and they moved every three years. we talked some more about knees and the calcification of joints and how, when we were kids, moving to a new town was great because you got to start over every few years and were exposed to all kinds of people and ideas.

i like talking to old people.

last heard: the decemberists 'california one/youth and beauty brigade'
last read: who's annie key? [via kottke]

Monday, February 02, 2004

they just reopened the knife and fork here in town. you should go. when it was under the old management, i never had a chance to eat there. longtime residents tell me it was a dive, but a kind-of landmarky dive which, in my book, means it was probably good and, likely, had one of those old style cigarette machines with the plastic pull knobs that are yellowed by years worth of hands. a local magazine had a nice review of the place and an interview with the owner/head chef. tonight was the first chance i had to go and i dragged tiff with me. many of the dishes were familiar things just classed up a bit. for example, he makes his mac and cheese with bechamel sauce and three cheeses; that's what i had and it was really, really good. our waitress was swell. she had a nice ring on the index finger of her right hand. she told me it was handmade and that she bought it at a junk shop.

after dinner we stormed target so that tiff could get a few more things from her peace corps checklist. i never realized how much gear you need/money it costs to be a volunteer in another country.

i have to confess that i have a soft spot for target. everything is always clean and nice and in the right place. it is the absolute opposite of real life. while walking around the store though, i noticed these large posters hanging from the ceiling that were a little unsettling. each one of them had a gigantic photo of a seemingly random, though well-dressed individual and emblazoned across each one was a single word. on some of the posters, the word was WANT and, on the others, the word was NEED. i don't know why this troubled me so much, but the first thing i thought of was how replacing those signs would be a really great assignment for project mayhem. late at night, they could install huge photos of famine victims or homeless men with WANT or NEED over each one.

last seen: amelie
last heard: beatles 'dear prudence'
last read: Across this majestic landscape, this melange of plenty, this confluence of all the rivers of the breakfast world...

Sunday, February 01, 2004

sitting here in the quiet and dark, like most of my town i'm sure, nursing the wounds of our super bowl loss. some are probably doing that with bourbon and wondering how they will settle gambling debts. trying to figure out what they can hock, which major appliance their spouse will miss the least. i'm repairing the emotional damage with a mug of tea and some stella d'oro breakfast treats, two things that have been with me since i was a tiny boy and have always made me feel better.

i can remember my grandmother and great aunts sitting around kitchen tables in bloomfield, new jersey drinking coffee out of red plastic solo cups and eating stella d'oro or some baked item from a blue and white entenmanns box. they would call and invite each other over for coffee and.

i don't know if that expression is unique to our family. it could be that all older yankees use it. for those who haven't heard it before, the phrase means:

coffee plus cake/pie/cookies shorten the phrase, the baked good in question is dropped and implied. you often hear it in this context:

[said in old lady voice] why don't you come by for coffee and?

...but, i digress.

[ok, back to sports-related talk]
i can't claim to be a football superfan, but you couldn't help getting caught up in it these last few weeks. it was nice to live in a town with a pro-team that was winning for a change.

on a long walk this afternoon, a friend and i noticed how almost every single car had a little flag on it proclaiming their allegiance to our sports team and how this allegiance knew no race or class lines; all manner of folks had on matching sweatshirts. it really felt like a community and that's a rare thing in this town, i'm afraid.

suddenly, it felt a little sad because i wondered aloud why people couldn't get that motivated and excited about something that actually mattered. wouldn't it be great if everyone in town would put little nylon flags on their car that said something like no racism! or hooray, reading!

last seen: wild angels, three days of the condor
last heard: django reinhardt 'ou es-tu, mon amour'
last read: In truth, America has no consistent political center. Polls reflect little more than reflexive responses to what people have most recently heard about an issue.