meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. xiii

When I stopped in Ellensburg, getting the coffee I'd neglected to at Liana's rest stop, the girl at the counter asked me about the notebook. "That's a really neat notebook," she said. "Where'd you get it?"

She'd read it? I thought. I smiled at her. She shied away--my smile must have frightened her. "You know Liana?" I asked. Or exclaimed. The words just came out. The poor girl didn't know what to do. She thought I was crazy.

One day you'll understand, I thought. Or did I say it? She nodded at me and told me to have a nice day. One day, I thought, you'll find a little scrap of paper written by a man, a desperate man, a man who has 'hopes of getting out of here, out of this, out of everything'. It might be here in your gas station. You'll feel like you're intruding. You'll find out that he's living your life, be afraid he doesn't like you, trust you--he's living your life and he's better at it, and you love him for it. Love. You'll feel like you didn't know the meaning of the word before. Because you don't.

"Will that be everything, sir?" Her voice was quaking. I smiled and left. Maybe she could borrow my notebook when I'm done with it.

meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. xii

I kept telling myself I'd meet her there. I was so sure.

I imagined the scenario, played it out in my head dozens of times. "Liana?" I would ask, my voice smooth, calm, confident. I'd tap her on the shoulder. She'd turn around, smile at me--I still remember her smile, that beautiful smile--and say nothing. She'd put a finger to my lips, so I'd say nothing. And she'd wrap me in her embrace. We'd stand there, at a rest stop on I-90, somewhere between Ellensburg and Seattle, and everything would make sense.

I was so sure.

Well, as you might have guessed, no such luck. I missed the fucking exit. I can't tell you how fucking stupid I feel right now. Not like I missed it because I forgot, I missed it because I couldn't bring myself to hit the turn signal, to turn the wheel, to pull off, stop. The scenario in my head shattered into a million tiny pieces, each one of them razor sharp, piercing my ego, my heart, lacerating my psyche with a thousand little cuts. I nearly screamed.

And I'm not even sure how you pronounce Liana, anyway.

I can't sleep. I haven't slept since I got here. Or shaved. I only shower when I remember. I look like shit. People notice. I'm muttering her name, now. Liana. Such compelling beauty, such maddening beauty. Like an addict craving his fix, or maybe like a man from the darkness who's seen sunlight once and wants more, it burns him but he wants more, more. So beautiful.

Just one taste. Just one drink. Just once more.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. xi

It's ironic, me getting a notebook for Christmas. It was one of those gifts where the label came off, so nobody remembered where it came from. I said 'thanks' even though I didn't know who to thank, but I think I know. Maybe the label didn't come off at all.

I looked for her name among the scraps of paper, just in case. Nothing. Just a lot of text wishing the recipient a merry Christmas, or a happy holiday season.

If you were wondering, I checked. The notebook is conspicuously lacking an entry for the Christmas season.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. x

I'm home again. I figured I should get out of the hotel before the management came back. Nobody seemed to notice my return. I went back into my room and lay on the bed, looking at the notebook. I felt guilty. I'd gotten distracted. My focus had been on the notebook, on her, and I let a bit of cheap wine and a pretty face distract me.

It was the guilt that kept me from opening it again. I couldn't bear to read her words after I'd done this to her. I don't really know how to explain it. It's like betraying someone who doesn't even know you're loyal to them--but she knows. She must know. Everything she writes, it's like she's living my life. And it's like she's better at it than me, somehow.

I'm going back over the mountains this weekend. I hope, pray, that she'll be there, when I stop.

Looking for encouragement, I opened the book and read a page. 'It seems like I'm never in the same place twice. I'm always on the move, never satisfied. I bought this as an anchor. I want a place to come back to and it'll be the same every day.'


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. ix

She asked me if I was a writer. She said I had a notebook, carried it around, had the band sign it. We were maybe halfway through the wine. She was drinking more than me--I was busy brooding. I think she noticed at first, but eventually she was talking and laughing and I barely had to maintain our conversation.

I stopped and stared at her. In the candlelight she looked like a painting. Red wine, soft light, red hair. Laughing, but sad.

Why did she want to know about the notebook? I told her it was nothing. She asked to read it. I was reluctant, but I said it was okay.

She read aloud from one of the pages. "I'm half drunk. Probably more than half. Took some fellow home after a show. I wasn't too interested in conversation. Just wanted the companionship for a night. So I took him back here, that little hotel on 99. The light burned out as soon as we got in." She laughed. Sounds like us, she said, and put the notebook aside.

And she asked if that was why I took her back here. I didn't write it, I said. I hadn't read that part. I was looking after that for a friend, I said. "Her name was Liana."

She did not, I noticed, care. We finished the wine. She finished the wine. We made love in the flickering candlelight, intertwined like characters in a tawdry romance novel, and she was gone in the morning. It was raining again. And the lights were back on.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. viii

I'm still staying at the motel. They think it's weird, but I guess it's not too uncommon for a man who's down on his luck to spend a few days there. The place finally lost power in the storm, still doesn't have it back--they suggested another hotel. I asked if I could stay, just at a discount. They said I could stay for free.

I swear, I saw her at the show tonight. She looked at me, even. Smiled that smile I know I saw at the rest stop. I froze, just stared blankly. Someone walked in front of me, and she was gone. Or maybe she was right there and I didn't recognise her.

After the concert, I talked to the band, but I was really looking around, looking for her. I was fidgeting with the notebook, hoping I could hand it to her and tell her it was hers, tell her I was hers, tell her something. She wasn't there.

The singer asked me if I wanted him to sign the notebook. I said no, probably a little too sharply. I explained, it's not mine. I wouldn't want--and then I stopped. "Sure," I said. "Make it out to Liana."

"Okay. Friend of yours?" he said. "Girlfriend?"

"No," I said. I told him I'd never met her. He gave me a look. He thought I was crazy, I could tell. He dismissed himself. I'd said her name loudly, hoping she'd show up. No luck.

One of the girls from the show invited me to the bar after. I declined, but offered to take her back to the motel. I had a bottle of wine and the power was out, I said. It was seedy and everyone else had left. She said that sounded exciting, told her friends, came home with me.

Well, 'home'. I've been here too long, I'm starting to call this damn place home.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. vii

Listen to this:

"There's something exciting about this--the wind's knocked out the power. I'm writing this by candlelight. I wish I had something more to say, something profound or desperate that justifies writing in such an environment.

"I've always bought these notebooks and journals, thinking they're pretty, wishing I lived a life that justified using their pages. Wishing my handwriting looked just so, wishing I lived the sort of life you see on movies. I used to think maybe I wanted excitement, but I think what I'm really looking for, what I really, desperately want, is resolution. I wish that rainy days were for those times I'm feeling sad, and that storms were for the tense and exciting moments in my life.

"Today? Today I went to the store and bought groceries. Isn't that exciting? Don't you wish you lived my life? There's a terrible storm and the power's out and I went to get groceries. Chew on that."

I know how she feels. Flicker. Flicker.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. vi

I don't know what I was thinking. Yeah, people hang out at rest areas all the time, right? The only person there was an old man giving out free coffee. He looked at me like I was going to rob him. I gave his little donation bin a dollar. I drove off, feeling like I was missing something.

My coffee--the coffee of disappointment--tasted like ash. I didn't drink all of it. By the time I got back home it was tepid. I threw it out the window. I didn't even undress when I got home, just came in and went to sleep. What was I thinking? I almost asked the old man if he'd seen her. I could almost hear him say, 'Kid, I've seen a lot of people.' So it goes.

A little independent theatre premiered my film today. It was a little theatre in a quiet part of First Hill. By the time it was done it was dark out and it was starting to rain. I stood around for a while, chatted with some people. I felt like I should contribute something worthwhile, but I had nothing to say. I never do, in times like this.

I drove back on Aurora. Something about the neon lights, the cheap motels with their flickering signs, the seediness of the street, appeals to me, on some level I can't begin to identify. It's straight out of an old movie. This is where crime happens. This is where suicide happens.

I didn't make it back. Some impulse or other struck me. I just turned into one of those motels. I walked in and rented a room for the night. The room was a poor excuse for a living room, even by my standards. It was dingy, felt like a hotel room out of an old movie. Countless hundreds of discount liaisons and forbidden affairs had taken place here. What happened here was either secret or desperate--and very often both.

I reached into my bag and pulled out the journal, stared at it for a while, and opened up to a random page. "Checked into a motel on 99 tonight. Couldn't stand it at home any longer. The place is seedy as hell but I don't care. Have to get away for tonight. This is where you go to get away, isn't it? And the bridge is a few minutes' walk from here."

Clutching the pen desperately, I scribbled the word 'why?' on the page. I started reading over what I'd read before, looking for some hint of a reason. I pored over every word. Asking her why, what, who, constantly. As if she could hear me. As if this was something more than just some coincidence.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. v

I slept fitfully yesterday. I had a dream, a terrible dream. It was about her. I didn't recognise the face but I know it was her. We were friends, in the dream. Walking, laughing. I parted ways with her, left her to walk home, went home whistling. When I got home I learned she'd died. Drowned. I felt--there aren't words. I was angry, confused, empty. I'd just found her. In the dream, even, I'd just found her. Now she was gone.

I didn't wake up in a panic, as one might. I woke up in utter despair. I'd lost something beautiful. I could--can--still feel it. I've resolved never to lose her again.

I opened her notebook again. There would be no closing it, not even if she said something I didn't want to hear. This time, her words were comforting. "I had a dream tonight." And so did I! She didn't trust me, that's okay.

She wrote words I didn't really understand, but I felt like I would later. They were cryptic. Images, symbols, half-finished thoughts. I caught a thread of the same despair I'd felt when I awoke thinking I had lost something beautiful--something that never came to fruition, something that existed only in potentia, but something.

Listen. I'm getting on the freeway again soon. I want to go back to the rest area I first met her. Or didn't meet her. I want to do this right.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. iv

Have you ever fallen in love with someone just by reading their signature? I thought it was some empty scrawl. Still can't read her last name but who cares? Such a beautiful name. Liana. It's one of those names that makes me want to use tacky phrases, like 'like poetry'. Liana. Who are you, girl with the beautiful name?

If you haven't guessed I had someone read the name to me. He asked me why it was so important. I made up some story about hoping to be able to return it to the owner. I could tell he didn't believe me, but he apparently didn't care enough to investigate the lie. For a while I merely stared at the page, running my fingers along the notebook's edge. It felt alive, somehow.

I sat, basking in the moment for a while. My pulse quickened, my head felt light. It felt like a high school crush, and this was a book. I've seen her, what, once? I barely remember her face, now. I think she had brown hair. Maybe blonde? One of those lightish colours. Did she smile? Was I imagining that?

I finally opened the first page. The first real page, I mean. The ones where she's writing down all of her beautiful words. (Did I just say that? I've read maybe two dozen words she's ever written. Beautiful? I'm using the word beautiful. Something is up.) "I had a dream tonight.

"It's why I bought this notebook. It's why I know I'm going to throw it away, probably burn it or something. I'm not saying what it is. I don't trust you yet."

You don't trust me? I shut the book. She doesn't trust me? Why? Have I done something wrong?


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. iii

I can't figure out who wrote this damn journal. I opened it up today. Looked at the front page. It's just a single line of text: 'In hopes of getting out of here, out of this, out of everything.' It's got a signature underneath it, and I can't read the fucking thing.

Could be a chronicle of her life. All her hopes, dreams, fears, doubts. All in a little leather-bound notebook, and here's me not even sure what her goddamn name is. I think maybe there's an L in it.

I'm gonna show it around. I don't want to read this if I don't know who wrote it. It's the least I can do. But really I think I'm just afraid to read it. Reading a stolen notebook is something you sort of put off.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. ii

Listen. Someone came back and started looking around for the notebook. Or I think that's what it was. She walked up and looked at the spot it was sitting, smiled, and wandered off. I think she looked right at me as I was watching. She might have even winked.

I still haven't looked at it. I'd been wasting too much time in that rest area and I still had a trip to make. When I got back to Seattle there was so much going on it slipped my mind. It was added to my stack of books--Zarathustra, The Devil's Dictionary, Fear and Loathing. I haven't thought much of it, to be honest.

I slept in late today. It's been getting later and later in the mornings. And whenever I talk to people, I forget what I was going to say. It's not like I'm grasping at words, it's like I was never going to say it. We have lots of chili? Who cares?

And the dreams are getting worse. I feel like I stole that notebook.


meditations on a leather-bound journal, pt. i

I'm writing this from one of those rest stops with the 'wifi hotspots' along I-90, somewhere between Ellensburg and Seattle. I wanted to use the restroom, maybe purchase a can of Coke. In front of the vending machines, something caught my eye. A beautiful leather-bound notebook. I haven't opened it yet; I'm waiting here to see if someone comes by looking for it. I always hate it when someone reads something I'm writing, and I'd hate to do the same to someone else.

It's got me wondering, though, whose it is, what the story is. If nobody comes in an hour or so I'll take a look. The thing about it that really intrigues me, is it looks as if it was placed there intentionally.


friends like these

A few weeks ago, a party was thrown in my honour, to celebrate my last day in town and bid me farewell. At first, everything went well; I enjoyed the company, the food was excellent, the drinks plentiful, what more could a man desire at his going away celebration? But, whether fueled by drink or merely bitter, one of the guests began to denounce me. It was small, at first; everyone felt that, perhaps, he was merely joking with me. Only I could detect the insults. I privately asked him to stop, and he seemed offended that I thought he was insulting me. It was all meant in good fun.

Another friend of mine, upon my return, began accusing me of insulting him. He seemed deeply hurt at the words he felt I had said. At his side, the girl to whom I had idly mentioned him, was grinning smugly. I informed him that I had never said any such things, and he pretended to believe me, that he was joking, but I knew he was lying. She had turned him against me.

From this point on the party seemed in a constant state of decline. In every jest I heard the seeds of truth, of long-held qualms against me finally surfacing, now, as I was leaving. In every whispered conversation I heard my name. I grew angry. I knew the guests would soon notice my temper, begin talking.

I think what troubled me the most is not that they seemed to dislike me, to mock my habits, to find me irritable, irrational, impulsive. What troubled me most is how true I felt every insult and jibe to be. I have always asked my friends for honesty, always suspected they never delivered; perhaps, in retrospect, they were only refusing me something I could not handle.



I'm sitting at a coffee shop. A man handed me a leaflet as I was walking here today. I thanked him and put it in my pocket, with no real intention of reading it. It's not as if he really knows me. Sure, he took the time to give it to me, but did he write it? Are these his words? Did he give me one because he thought I'd care or because he hoped I would?

It's probably political. I'm tired of politics. Who is he to assume I ought to care whatever he's talking about? Am I not my own person? Am I unable to be adequately informed in this, what we are arrogantly terming 'the information age'? I have Google, CNN.com, Wikipedia. I'm a short walk away from a decent library. This little poorly made leaflet is supposed to tell me the truth. It's not going to.

I crumple the leaflet and throw it in the nearest trash receptacle, single-handedly discarding the work, hopes, opinions and beliefs of the man who met me in the streets, deeming them all irrevocably useless without so much as looking at it.


she blinded me with science

(AUTHOR'S NOTE: You knew it had to come sooner or later.)

I have had the distinct pleasure of studying with my love in the laboratory. I find myself amazed as she quantifies various exotic and dangerous chemicals, mixes, heats, experiments, measures. And mundane chemicals, as well! She is measuring and analysing the world around her, explaining how every aspect of everything that we see works.

She shows me what happens when she puts this metal in that beaker, and what happens when she applies this concoction to that compound and adds heat, or electricity. I can't help but feeling that something is missing, though, something important. Eventually I ask her what it all means--we know how it works, but what's the point? She smiles and draws me into her arms, kisses me, deeply, fully.

"Does that answer your question?" she asks, smiling. I nod and hold her tight. Here in the laboratory, I can understand the world.


you ought to be in pictures

I am taking a break from my normal updates to provide you with a link to a short film for which I have written the script. It is claymation, about two minutes long, and the first of a four-part miniseries. It is called Sophie Swanson, Titular Heroine, and chronicles the adventures of Sophie Swanson, star reporter for the local press. If these do very well we will continue the miniseries and begin a full-fledged series of claymation shorts.

The link, once more, is http://www.sophieswanson.com. I am very pleased with the results, and I am working on legislation to make it illegal for anyone not to be.


brevity is the soul of desperation

I slaved over this poem for days, spent every effort trying to make it absolutely perfect. She is unhappy with me, feels I don't care. She said she's going to leave me. I told her I'd write her a poem, and I swore it would be the best I'd ever done. She said fine.

I couldn't count the poems I've written in the past, poems of longing and desperate pleas. None of them are good enough for her. She deserves the very best, the very most that I can offer her. There is no question of failing. I think she understands, in a sense. She has left me alone, hasn't bothered me about it. Some might think she's given up, that she's already gone, that I should save myself the effort. Some would no doubt give up, but not me; I'm a poet, a hopeless idealist. I don't know when to quit.

It took days, but I finally finished it. I only hope it's good enough:

don't leave.


this bruise is probably symbolic

I have always prided myself on my peaceful ways, on using words and eloquence as a solution for all of my problems. I always felt that violence was the solution of the weak of mind, the silly, the barbaric. I am an educated and civilised man; I can solve my problems without raising a fist against my enemies.

Yesterday I started a fist-fight at the bar. It was barbaric, silly, and stupid. It was everything I felt. But I felt I had no choice in the matter. It had nothing to do with the man I fought; I barely remember him or what he did. It was everything to do with me. If you take away my education, my intellect, my civility, what do you have left? And even with all of that, what difference am I really making?

I allowed my confidence to waver. I wanted to make a difference, any kind of difference. So I hit him. I expected that I'd feel alive and empowered, that my ideals were nothing. But it was only when he'd walked away, leaving me on the wet pavement, did I realise that I had accomplished something far more important than that.

I got in a fist-fight with society, and society won. Society is remarkably resilient like that.



I'm having trouble with words lately, among other things. I walk out of buildings and I don't know which way to turn, where I came from. I stand outside and stare, hoping that a directional sense will return to me.

But it's the words are what bother me the most. Words are my life, my livelihood, my . . . here I am, looking for a triad of words, and I can't find the third. Source of pleasure? I can't find words anymore. I end up saying the wrong words. Not just wrong, completely opposite of what I intended. If I disagree I accidentally laud my opponent's arguments. When I agree I insult them. It is really quite distressing.

I wish I could blame something. Insomnia, drugs, alcohol, women, anything. But I've been clean. I've been working out. I've been eating healthy, sleeping well, and generally just keeping myself in shape, for what good it's done me. And what's worse, I can't express what's wrong with me when I need to.


i've been here before

The radio was playing this very song yesterday morning when my alarm went off. My morning routine felt somehow more familiar than usual, as though it were not merely a set of actions that I repeat but as if I were performing the very actions I performed yesterday. I got on the bus and noticed that the faces were all familiar. The driver said the same thing, in the same tones. I think I gave him the same dollar bill as before. The woman across from me smiled the same smile at me, and returned to giving the scenery the same wistful gaze as she did yesterday. The cars were the same, the traffic lights the same, everything, today, was the same.

I said "I've been here before" as soon as I walked in the door to my office. The receptionist gave me a look and said, "No shit, idiot, you work here."

I don't think she gets it.


dreaming of heaven

As soon as I died, I was quickly escorted to heaven. I've had the opportunity to meet all of the important residents, talk with them, discuss philosophy over coffee. The people here are all very friendly and all of them have the exact same beliefs when it comes to philosophy. Some of them emphasize different aspects, but nobody disagrees with anyone. There's no conflict.

I was invited to a wonderful dinner. The food was divine (ha ha), but the entertainment, I found, was lacking. Not a single song the band sang had any trace of darkness. It was pure, unadulterated happiness. The speaker was not so much encouraging as he was simply flattering the audience, telling everyone how great they are, and especially how great the host was. His jokes were flat and lacking in variety or edge.

After the dinner I accompanied some of the greatest minds of heaven to a small lounge where we continued our philosophical discussions from earlier over drinks. They had nothing new or interesting to say. Eventually I spoke up, and they were, of course, polite enough to listen.

"Why is it that in heaven, all the interesting people are missing?"

Thanks, Nietzsche.


of restful sleep

It must be ages since I've last slept. And for what? My waking hours I've been slaving over it, and when I try to sleep my mind is restless, thinking of it. And why? For art's sake? This isn't even my best painting.

Alcohol doesn't help, and sleeping pills only make the insomnia less bearable. At least the alcohol lets me enjoy myself for a time. But I still can't sleep. It won't leave me alone. Even when I'm so drunk I can't form a coherent sentence, I can still see it: the Painting. I've started calling it with a capital letter now. It doesn't have a title. It's not even untitled. It's just the Painting.

It's big. Bigger than anything I've ever done. I rented a studio just to paint this one. I don't even go to my old apartment anymore. They might have evicted me. The Painting is taking all of my money, all of my resources, all of my life.

I've stopped trying to sleep. I used to think maybe tonight would be the night, but it never will be. Not until I've finished the Painting. I only pause to eat, and then only every couple of days. I look like shit. I probably smell. But the Painting needs to be finished. I don't know why, I'm not sure I even understand what it is, but I can't do anything until I've finished the Painting. My mind won't let me.

If nothing else, I need to finish it just so I can get some sleep. I will rest eventually. Soon. But not yet. Not until I'm done with the Painting . . .



I fell asleep on the bus today. When I awoke, I found myself in a neighborhood where nothing looked familiar. The driver was not the same man, and even the bus seemed to have changed. I thanked him and got off as quickly as I could, and began to walk the streets.

It was nothing like home. The buildings were tall, dark, and ominous, blocking out the stars, their cold lights illuminating nothing. The people walked as though afraid that the world might close in on them or the buildings attack them--shoulders hunched, swift strides, heads down. As I wandered, I eventually noticed that the streets themselves were very similar in layout to the neighborhood in which I lived. I kept walking, down blind alleys and curved streets, and my suspicions were confirmed. Someone had built some twisted shadow of my neighborhood. I found that my steps were drawn to the place where my house should have been. It was there, dark, perverted, twisted. I knocked on the door.

A girl answered it--if she did not look so obviously evil she might have been beautiful. She leered at me and asked me what I was doing. I could take it no longer. I shrieked, drew the knife from my pocket, murdered her, and entered the darkness of my shadow home.

As I shut the door, I looked down at the body of the girl who had answered me and realised, to my horror, that this was not some evil woman, but the body of my love. I curled up in the corner and wept for a world that could make my home so unlike home.



I had a dream tonight. I recall little of it, except for a feeling of intense nostalgia and a long corridor through which my voice echoed, as I called a name I've forgotten.

What I remember is the feeling when I awakened. It was not the typical feeling of awakening, as if suddenly the thing which once held my mind in thrall is now nothing more than a fleeting and fading image. I felt as if something was missing from the world--as if there were no more colour, or as if a white noise in the background shut off. I tried to form the name from my dream on my lips, but I could not form the words. If I heard the name I would know it, but I have forgotten it.

I feel that I have done more than merely forget something from a dream; I feel as if the person from my dream, for whom I am certain I was experiencing nostalgia, has ceased to exist, and indeed never began to exist. I have read through every journal entry I have. Some of them are nonsense. Some people that I know, I cannot recall how I met them, why I know them.

I am increasingly certain that if I could recall the name, everything would make sense, that perhaps this really is just a lapse in my memory, but it seems that when I ask about it, people just give me dull looks, as though they have no idea of what I am speaking. Worse, I fear the dream will escape me forever if I return to sleep.

So I am writing this down and committing it to memory, if I can. Nostaliga. A hallway. A name. An echo.


victim of circumstances

It's not my fault.

People think it's a bit suspect that I say that more often than other things. But it's true. I'm not the one who thrust me out on the street with nothing more than my shattered dreams and the clothes on my back. Yes, it's very melodramatic. I don't care. People also think it's a bit suspect that I have a vocabulary. He's supposed to be stupid, isn't he? Not a brain in his head? Well, maybe I like to wax poetic sometimes. Maybe people ain't always what they seem.

So when I tell you it's not my fault, I want you to know I mean it. So when I lift someone's wallet, I want you to understand that even though I'm doing it, it's not my fault. I didn't choose a life of crime. I'd stop it if I could. I don't think it's right or anything--my parents raised me to hate crime, after all--I just have to. The choice to do otherwise has yet to present itself.

Sometimes they ask if I want revenge. If I'm trying to revenge myself on the society that did this to me, so that's why I steal and lie and cheat and otherwise 'make a nuisance of myself'. I tell them no, no I don't. Why should I? I love this place.


a startling discovery

Ever since my clock broke, I've been unable to keep track of time here in the lab. The sun never reaches my sanctum, my little shrine to science, and there's not even the constant sound of the clock keeping pace to give me the faintest sense of time. I don't know how long I've been here. Hours? Days? It must be days by now. I feel exhausted. But it eats at me. I'm so close to something important. I can feel it.

I must sound like a madman, but I swear by whatever is holy, the universe is actively changing, just to prevent my discovery. Any time my mind begins to wrap around something and it seems as if it must work perfectly, something goes wrong. Something changes. Some problem that never existed before arises, and I am forced to start anew. Progress is slow and tedious, if it even exists. Every time I find out about some new problem, I learn that it's been this way for all of history. There are scientific laws. Some of them bear the names of famous scientists.

I'm not an absent-minded man. I've studied these scientists, I've looked in the books that the laws are in before, and I swear they were not there before. I discover these laws as if for the first time, only to discover that someone else discovered them for years ago, that it is an elementary principle of science, that I somehow never learned in my studies. And before I have discovered these things I know that it was merely not the case.

Somehow, here in my lab, I alone am able to recall a time before such laws existed. I am not impervious to the ill will of the universe, but I am impervious to the wool it pulls over the eyes of the rest of the scientific community. I continue my study, knowing that perhaps it is all in vain, and suddenly I realise I have forgotten what it is I am looking for.


random and humourous asides!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled angsty microfiction pieces to bring you A LINK TO ANOTHER BLOG. Also you should read toothpastefordinner. It is good for you!

It is mostly images and random thoughts and generally speaking is probably the antithesis of this blog, which is mostly words and purposeful thoughts which may or may not have anything to do with anything that have ever happened. I am mysterious like that. (The Sprite thing I do not deny, but I cannot give sworn testimony to my sobriety at the time of the Spritewriting.)

the limits of a distant sky

They tell me the sky is open, limitless, free. I would be glad to agree with them, except I cannot find it. Ancient mariners navigated by the night's stars, but I cannot see them. No clouds, no rain, no wind, nothing. I have travelled in quest of the sky for months and still it eludes me. I cannot find it. Everywhere I go, no matter how far from civilisation or how exposed, I feel as though a cage is closing in on me. I can even see it at night, little pinpricks of light coming in through the bars. There is no time I feel more desperate for the sky than at night, as I wander aimlessly, staring up, feeling my breath come short. The more I pace the more restless I feel.

I can only sleep when I have finally and completely cut myself off from the light. Still I dream of the sky, and when I cannot see it, sometimes I can imagine that there is still a sky outside. The irony has not eluded me.

When I turn my back on the stars, I can finally see them.

In my dreams.


the wrong character

It was one of those nights that everything was cinematic and symbolic. It was raining. It was dark. Even the city lights blurred like they do in pictures, making it all look unreal and unclear and most of all uncertain, just like the cinematic effects do.

She was even dressed for pictures. She never dressed like that, but tonight she was dressed for a cinematic confrontation, beautiful but deadly. I found myself in a suit--and I never wore a suit--and I looked good in it--but none of my suits looked good on me. I had a fedora to keep off the rain, and an overcoat, and I'm not sure I'd ever seen an overcoat that wasn't a prop for a high school play. In my hand I was carrying a briefcase. I didn't know the significance, but I knew it was important.

"So, is this it?" I asked as I entered conversational distance. I knew she was waiting for me, though neither of us had arranged the meeting and I didn't know I'd find her here. We'd never talked here before, as far as I knew.

She blew out a stream of cigarette smoke--even though she'd quit smoking a few weeks after we met. "I guess it is," she said coolly, as though the steady beat of the rain falling were actually the constant tick-tick-ticking of film reels rolling away.

I stepped forward, my face grim--for some reason I was aware of the grimness of my fate. She was perfectly lit, and I sensed that I must have been as well. "I brought this for you." I held up the suitcase. She nodded. I approached and set it next to her. "That's everything. We're done."

"How about you hold me one last time? For memory's sake." Another stream of smoke.

I embraced her, glad for one last thing by which to treasure her memory, glad that the moment was so cinematic and otherwise perfect for memory. Then, with cinematic realisation, I felt the knife in my back.

"Sorry, Mason," she whispered in my ear, then released me and backed away. I watched her drop the knife on the sidewalk--it must have fallen in slow motion--and then watched her lean against the building and smoke her cigarette. She watched me slump to the ground next to the knife, watched as I struggled to stand up, struggled to say something. She watched as I wondered whether the police could make a chalk outline on the sidewalk. She watched as the light left my eyes, so I couldn't watch as she walked away.


under lock and key

I can't sleep at night anymore, ever since I stopped locking the door. The fear is overwhelming. Someone might walk in at any time, and I could do nothing about it. I lie awake staring at the door, waiting for it to fly open, though I am no more sure that it will happen than I am when it will happen, or even why.

I know, of course, that I could stand up and lock it. I'm not a fool. Sometimes at night I stand up and approach the door, vowing to myself that I'll lock the door, but I lose my nerve. My hand is trembling so violently by the time I reach the doorknob that I could scarcely operate the lock even if I still wanted to. I stand there, hand trembling, pulse rapid, gasping for breath, and black out. When my mind returns I find myself back in bed, the door still firmly unlocked, everything unchanged except for my growing fear.

But I can't lock it. The fear, the uncertainty, are nothing compared with the absolute terror that accompanies the certainty that if I lock it, no one will come.


caffeine free

As sleep eluded me once again, I found myself pacing an unfamiliar house, as though in search of something--though rather than searching I merely walked the same path many times, hoping something new would come along. I was seized by a fit of some morbid version of inspiration, seized a pen, and looked for the nearest scrap of paper on which I felt I could safely write.

The only thing available was a box of sprite. I ripped off a corner and began to scrawl my dark thoughts, pondering on death, on darkness, on shadow, on cold. My words twisted down labyrinthine passages, barely linked, making little sense unless perhaps viewed from above. As I ran out of space I wrote along a margin that my pen had formed: i wrote this on a scrap of a box of sprite. my despair is lemon-lime, carbonated, CAFFEINE FREE.

I hid the scrap in my pocket lest someone find it and read it. I was afraid of their reaction, but I wasn't sure if I was afraid they would think I was serious or joking.


morning music making me sick

I was awakened this morning; why I was awakened is irrelevant, merely the fact of awakening. I stalked out of my room, and sat down only to find, a few moments later, the sound of generic bad metal (complete with Cookie Monster vocals) coming from my roommate's room. I might have forgiven this, but some of the other people present decided to take up singing old theme songs badly out of tune.

I was awakened and immediately assaulted with bad music. I withdrew to my room and turned on my music collection, hoping the sound of melody and good vocals and happiness would somehow repel the bad music and unpleasant start to my day. When I left later, there was still bad music going on outside. They had clustered around it like some cluster of heathens worshipping their baby-eating god.

Like a good virtuous listener of music I informed them that their music was horrible and withdrew to my cavern of safety and virtue, and I wept for them. I wept that they did not understand what good music was. Perhaps they never would.


what the fuck am i doing?

Lately I have found myself increasingly lethargic. I lie in my bed, trying to find a comfortable position, baking in the heat, unable or unwilling to do anything about it. I go to sleep later and later each day, and wake up later still, unwilling to get up and start my day. When at last I do wake up, I barely actually start my day in any real sense, so much as I now have my eyes open and can sit and waste my hours.

It was early evening when I finally got around to taking a shower this Saturday. Before I did, I walked back into my bedroom in quest of something--but it had eluded my mind when I walked in the doorway. "What the fuck am I doing?" I asked myself aloud, and found that I was not asking what I was looking for in my room at all. I was asking something a lot more significant than that.


the little engine that was filled with existential angst

Once there existed for the purpose of analogy a steep hill up which a train track ran. It was very steep; observing it one might have questions whether the trains could reach the top.

The first train to attempt the ascent might have questioned whether it could reach the top, but it lacked the mental capacity to do anything other than what it was designed to do. There was no "I think I can" as it mounted the peak; it merely did, and did well, and that was all that was important to it. That was also all that was important to its masters.

The second train to attempt the ascent lacked a sense of duty; when it doubted whether it could drag its load to the top of the hill, it merely abandoned its load on the tracks and continued on its way. This saved it a lot of time and effort, and freed it from the heavy burden of doing someone else's labour.

The third train to attempt the ascent attempted to drag the abandoned cargo as well as its own to the peak. It failed in this attempt, and rolled back down the hill, applying its brakes the entire way so that when it reached the bottom it would not continue going anywhere. It stayed there, dejected at its inability to actually make a difference.

The fourth train did not even attempt the ascent. When it saw the abandoned cargo and the train that was unmoving, it despaired of any attempt and immediately gave up, heading the other direction to report its failure.

The last train to attempt the crossing, while disheartened by the evidence of failure, did not give up there; it instead attempted the crossing. "I think, therefore I am," it repeated to itself, uncertainly, as suddenly it began to experience dread. It knew that it could make the decision to climb or not to climb, to surrender or to be like the first train, and that its decision would shape the course of its future. It found itself wondering what the purpose was of the hill, of the cargo, even of the track, whether it was the pawn in some greater scheme or whether it was alone in a great dark expanse of universe--whether this hill was a trial made to test it or whether it was all without meaning and all full of despair and hopelessness. As it crossed over the hill, it learned an important lesson: it's always easiest to continue what you are doing, because that generally doesn't involve making a choice.


a happy ending after all

One might have thought that with such an ending ("Everything's going to be all right now") the story had a happy conclusion. The irony, of course, is that nothing could be further from the truth. The real story ended in decline, the heartbreak much more poignant than the most beautiful and touching scenes from the text.

For a week or two everything seemed all right. But he was full of his own private doubts and fears, plagued as he often was by doubt when things were going well; she was waiting for it to hurt again and for things to go wrong. None of it felt right. And eventually when she gave voice to these confusing feelings, all of his private doubts and fears were realised. Thus they signed the death warrant for their happy ending.

All of his fleeting happiness escaped when she eventually left him. He took to alcohol, the age-old panacaea for the freshly broken heart; she returned to the world that she knew of abuse and pain, feeling alone and unloved, but at least she was familiar with that.

He pursued several fleeting relationships, each of them short-lived and miserable, serving only as reminders of what he was certain was his one true shot at happiness. Eventually he died alone of alcohol poisoning; his then-girlfriend discovered his body a few days later, called the police, and went home and committed suicide by mixing vodka and prescription sleeping pills, sure that she was responsible for his death.

After a string of abusive boyfriends, she finally found one that she was utterly terrified to leave. They married after a few short months of dating, and she has developed a talent for lying about the bruises. She has little joy to her existence, but is convinced that she ought to be happy, because she believes that most people are entirely unhappy, and at least, she reasons, she has something to be happy about. She is not sure what she has to be happy about, except perhaps that on the surface, if one ignores all of the facts, she is married and on the right track to raise a family, and she always dreamed of getting married and raising a family when she was young. She just didn't want it to happen in hell.


new heights of absurdity

If you have not seen one of those trendy patriotic 'support our troops' ribbons, or their derivatives, you are a blessed soul. Allow me to explain. There was a time when people would wear ribbons on their lapels to indicate their support for a specific cause. They were colour-coded, and most important, they were not terribly gawdy. They did not have text on them. Someone might ask 'what's that ribbon for?' and you could converse about the cause of your choice. This was the extent of it.

Following the terrorist attacks of 11/9/2001, plastic patriotism became trendy. By plastic patriotism, I mean the kind that is entirely insincere. At the time, the popular sticker was 'we will never forget' or something like that, and various incarnations of the red, white, and blue. (As an aside, I must note that the French flag is also red, white, and blue. Irrelevant to my point, but worth remembering as you celebrate America Day.) They were everywhere. In a town such as my own, predominantly Republican and predominantly uneducated (the two tend to go together, but we will pretend that these numbers are separate), there was nary a soul that did not demonstrate their patriotism with the purchase of such lovely stickers.

Fast forward a few years. George Bush II, some time after the terrorist attacks, invaded Iraq, war was declared, etc. As is always the case with wars, the nation was divided into those who opposed the war, and those who believed that to do anything but support the war was to hate America and everything that it stood for. (One might notice how this sort of thinking reeks of groupthink and propaganda. I leave you to consider this on your own.) The popular bumper sticker quickly became a little yellow 'support our troops' ribbon.

At this point, ribbons took off. There were red, white, blue, and yellow (an ugly combination) ribbons, camouflage ribbons, and even some ribbons for other causes (POW-MIA, breast cancer, etc.) Some of them said 'god bless America' and some remained 'support our troops'. I cannot speculate as to how it went from the point of lapel ribbons to quietly show your support of something, and gawdy yellow magnets to slap on the back of your SUV. The shape is the same. The meaning is not. One of them says you support something; one of them says either that you are caught up in some form of patriotic hysteria that can only exist if you purchase goods which say that you are patriotic, or that you were feeling generous when a fundraiser, hoping to exploit this consumerist patriotic hysteria, passed by.

I am telling you this not because you do not already know, however, but because I recently saw something which puts this absurdity to shame. It was a yellow support-our-troops ribbon, on the end of an antenna. A ribbon antenna ball. Truly, some people know no shame.

If you would please join me in a moment of silence for human dignity. . .


a confrontation of fates

Dramatis Personae:
Combatant #1.
Combatant #2.

Act I, Scene I. A crossroads.
[Enter COMBATANT #1.]
COMBATANT #1: I hope that I do not meet my sworn nemesis here, at the crossroads.
[Enter COMBATANT #2.]
COMBATANT #2: It is you, my sworn nemesis!
[They fight.]
COMBATANT #1: You have gotten the best of me. [Dies.]
[Exit COMBATANT #2.]


talk to me

I handed her a scrap of paper with a line from Shakespeare on it written in script. The letters said, It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I asked her, "What does that say?"

She read it to me. I shook my head and took it back. "It doesn't say anything," I said. "It's just lines on paper. I'm not saying anything. Just making shapes with my tongue. It's just words."

"You are saying something. You're talking to me."

"When I was a kid, I remember seeing cursive writing and thinking that it was just a lot of curvy lines strung together. They were shapeless to me. Just lumps. Somehow those lumps spelled out words and sentences and phrases. Then I learned to write it and it all made sense. I don't see it like that anymore." I crumpled the piece of paper and tossed it aside, then stared at the ground in front of me. "But that's all it is, isn't it?"

She nodded. "I get it. It's just curvy lines strung together. But when you learn to read you learn to give it meaning. Now we can talk, and share all that. It's all contrived and artificial. Without us, that's no more than curvy lines."

"Doesn't that bother you?"

"Not really." A dreamy look entered her eye. "That's humanity, isn't it? Making things up, giving them meaning. I like it more that way. It's like writing you a letter, or talking to you, or whatever, is the most human thing I can do. I think it's words that make us human."

"But they don't mean anything."

"That's right. Until you learn how to make them mean something."

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing--except to the storyteller and his audience. To them it signifies everything.


Sleeping the Clock Around

"Looks like we both got stood up, heh?" Her hand was awkwardly and half heartedly gesturing towards the menu and empty chair tucked under the table across from me. She was cocking her hip, shifting her weight as if saying "want me to sit here?" In fact that's what the expression on her face said too. But her symbolic motion became the effigy of one when it became clear I wasn't going to ask her to sit.

"It was that way when I sat down." Her half smile faded and she looked confused, I had broken the social script.

"Sorry," said she. I said nothing. She got the idea and walked away.

The ice in my guest-not-to-be's glass had already melted. A lopsided ring of condensation circled the glass. I *had* been stood up, but be-damned if I was going to let her sit down. She was a real tusker.


the young and the restless

Last October I attended what I still consider the finest concert I have ever attended: Harvey Danger at The Vera Project in Seattle. I was unable to make any other of the shows in that tour, which was somewhat on the brief side. I remained content, but I watched Harvey Danger for any possible updates on future touring dates. For a time nothing happened. A new show recently appeared, however. It was in Auburn, at DeVry University: 107.7 'The End' presents 'The Young And The Restless,' featuring Harvey Danger, Speaker Speaker, and Mountain Con. It promised to be all ages, and, I eventually learned, it would cost one dollar at the door.

I knew that my roommates would wish to attend, and informed them of any potential updates--the last one we'd planned on going to sort of fell through due to a lack of interest. I also informed my sister of the forthcoming concert, and she expressed interest. My compact car was somewhat lacking in further room, and I was concerned I had already overfilled it, so I didn't ask any other interested parties if they would be interested in attending. As it turned out, the space arrangement we had was just maxed out.

Upon arrival in Auburn, we had no difficulty finding the concert venue. Somewhat to my surprise, we found it to be an outdoor concert. It looked very much like a music festival that was significantly toned down--a few tents, a small stage, and the venue was a small portion of parking lot. We did not enter immediately, however. Doors were at 3 and we were about half an hour early, and two of our party needed money from an ATM. So we boarded my compact again and drove to find one--in this case, it was at the Wal-Mart near the Supermall. This was probably too much driving and frustration, but no trip seems to be complete without a little driving and getting lost. Ultimately we received the necessary funds and returned without a hitch, parked, and wandered up to the entrance.

As I said, it was a one dollar entrance fee. The concert was a fundraiser for the Make A Wish Foundation, and I hope a successful one. I gave my fee and walked into the little parking lot. The tents were giving away free vitamin water and chips with some form of cheese salsa, and there were a few contests et cetera that avoided my notice. After receiving polaroids from a lady with a camera, we sat down in the grass by the parking lot and watched the people.

At a Harvey Danger concert, one does not get floods of any form of scene kid. But one does get a fairly eclectic mixture of individuals. There was a girl dressed in pirate regalia, and a few people in light emo garb. I only noticed a few sets of emo glasses, and the majority of the crowd wore jeans (often with keys hanging from them) and a t-shirt, but there were some who wore them in the emo fashion. We watched the people and commented on the very laid back nature.

Sean Nelson himself was walking through the crowd prior to the show. Nobody seemed to run up to him and demand autographs. It was very low key and he stopped and chatted with some of the individual there. Eventually, one of our party decided that he wanted to get the photograph of our party signed. So he walked up, introduced himself, and had a brief conversation, and returned bearing a signed polaroid. The caption read: 'This doesn't look like me,' and bore a vaguely legible signature and the letters 'HD' (for Harvey Danger, naturally). We enjoyed a good chuckle and continued to sit idly.

Fortunately, before and between bands there was radio playing, so we had music to listen to while there was not music to listen to. But at last, Speaker Speaker came on. Their sound quality, as is typical of opening acts, was not very good, but I felt a good vibe of good frivolous listening music. At their act's conclusion I purchased a CD and a button, and received a free poster signed by two thirds of the band.

What struck me about this show at this point was the atmosphere. It was warm and sunny out. We sat and listened in the grass off to the side, and there were no more than fifty people present. Nobody was utterly entranced by the music. Instead they were sitting aside and idly listening, enjoying the weather, et cetera. It was not so much that people didn't care, as that things were very relaxed.

Speaker Speaker concluded, and the next act came on, Mountain Con. I don't have much to say about their music; they seemed out of place. I won't say that they were bad music; it was at times funky, at times bordering on hip hop, and ultimately simply not my style. It had a catchy beat and was not bad for idle listening music, but I didn't purchase any of their merchandise and I doubt I would go to see them in concert if given the opportunity.

At this point the clouds were beginning to roll in and we were concerned that there would be rain. The temperature oscillated from warm to cool. Harvey Danger's imminent performance quite literally had dark clouds on the horizon, and we were concerned that it might start raining.

Fortunately, it did not, and at last Harvey Danger took the stage. The MC invited everyone to come closer, and as we approached, the band already beginning the opening song, Sean Nelson took the microphone and asked how much we paid to get in here."One dollar" was the ragged cry of roughly half of the fifty or so voices present. People held up their index fingers to indicate the number. At this point he promised that they would give us two dollars of entertainment. Such a bargain! I informed my sister that Harvey Danger was getting ripped off.

I don't have a set list for this evening, but if and when I find one I shall link it immediately. I shall instead touch on the highlights. The second song, I had not heard before. It was mostly piano. It was a pleasant surprise, but I am uncertain of its title or lyrics--I shall hunt it down if possible. Later on in the evening, the band played 'Little Round Mirrors', a truly brilliant song, and preceeded the second verse with the famous Guns 'n Roses chorus: 'take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty'. A nice touch. At the end of the song 'This Is The Thrilling Conversation You've Been Waiting For', he read a passage from something--I couldn't quite catch most of the words, but it was interesting, and I will attempt to find a text and information if possible.

The rest of the set list was, as always, brilliant. Sean appeared as if he might have been contracting some form of illness, however. He was not entirely on top of things, and mostly failed when trying to sing falsetto--he complained of a sore throat and asked for lozenges at one point. His occasional errors were easily overlooked, however--not a perfect show, but far from a disaster. Though his throat may have hurt it did not affect his singing enough for it to be noticeable.

Possibly in order to save his voice, he did not speak much between songs. Instead, he played clips from other concerts of other musicians attempting to rile up the crowd. It was quite amusing, though the Sean Nelson witticisms of the Vera Project show were sadly lacking, for the most part. (There were a few moments, but in the interests of brevity I shall omit them.)

The show concluded with 'Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo'. No encores; the stage was tiny and outdoors, and I think he was in something of a rush to depart. At this point we walked over to the merchandise table and purchased our various swag. I acquired a T-shirt and a poster, for myself, and stood around for a while, expecting that Sean would stop by to sign autographs. The crowd was small enough that it wouldn't be much of a problem. I was carrying on me a Lipton's tea bag (unopened), and thought it would be amusing to have him sign it. When he arrived, I walked over and waited through the brief line. He signed my poster, and when he was done, I said, with a wry smile, "Would you mind signing this teabag as a quaint souvenir?"

He looked at me sort of strangely and said, "Sure." He looked for a likely spot and signed it, then handed it back. As we walked away, I showed my curious autograph to the party: the text "ah, tea," and Sean Nelson's signature. I think he'll remember that.


cold out again

I was supposed to meet her to camp. It had been a long day. Things never quite work out the way they are planned, though, so I found myself wandering around aimlessly. I found the campground's office and asked if they could help me, and they said they couldn't.

There was another man in the office who was just there to warm up. He said he didn't have any of his sleeping bags or anything and he was simply cold. We talked for a while. I knew we were so different it would merit a cliche, but we were in the same boat. He knew where I was at. He told me I could use his tent if it came to that. I said thanks.

It all worked out in the end. But what I'll really remember is that it was cold out.

Funny thing about fires

So, a funny thing happened the other day. I was driving from Moses Lake to Ellensburg early in the morning (like ~4), having been spending time with the Echo Base crew. Well as dawn started to break I saw smoke coming from the little town of Vantage on the far side of the Columbia River. I stopped by to gawk and perhaps take a nap when I realized I was the first person at a little eatery.

As I slowed down to call 911 a pajamaed woman in a golf-kart yelled at me to get out of the way of the firetruck. Not being one to argue with a firetruck I did so and the firetruck pulled up to the fire.

I jumped out to see if I could help, and ended up hauling around hoses. Once the truck's water supply was set up I was given a hose and the west side of the building to spray.

None of this is particularly funny, but what is interesting is that I had brought my fireman's jacket, or as I now know are called 'turnouts'.

I am not a fireman, nor do I really have any good reason to have a flame retardant jacket.

Although I do like to run around in it yelling “I'm retardant! I'm retardant!”


existential angst in a coffee shop

She was too bored to be nice. I was too tired to be affronted. She took my money and turned away. I took her coffee and sat down somewhere I wouldn't have to listen to any of the other patrons, nor be in danger of falling victim to their conversation. The nearest patron was a girl, probably in her early twenties, with a figure just this side of attractive, pretending to be absorbed in a Dostoevsky novel. I wondered if she wasn't simply hoping to attract some mature intellectual or some pretentious artiste. I didn't wonder for long. There were more important things to worry about. I picked up the newspaper and read more evidence that the world was going to hell.


this blog is mostly about lies. dreamers lie, and what is life if not a dream?