Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sunday 8 November 1998

I'm at my usual breakfast haunt, The Hurst, and I'm haunting it. Dragging chains across the attic floor and such, the attic being my mind, and the chains are those chains that keep me from moving forward to an interesting and new place.

Much later. Now I'm back at the same place as for breakfast, but it's now converted to a bar, a night club—with a live band playing—virtually no cover charge ($2.00)—almost empty—9 piece jazz band—a handful of paying customers—they're essentially playing for free. My handwriting has deteriorated beyond all recognizability—hopefully I won't have to read it later. My all-day headache is a little better.

It's really difficult for me to get to the real reason for this journal anymore. It's not so much that I'm afraid that it will fall into the wrong hands, it's that I'm afraid that I won't be able to fully explain the full expression of how I feel and it will thus be a watered-down version. That's what it is, I think—it's that I'm afraid of feeling, afraid of jinxing myself, superstitious of talking about anything because then it won't happen, that nothing will happen and all I'll be left with is a bunch of sorry-ass fiction. But it's getting to the point where I can go no further the way I am going without some major changes because I no longer know what I'm talking about. Seven patrons left at the bar to 9 musicians—that's a fraction that very well represents my life, 7/9. Don't ask me how or why. No. What I'm saying, what I'm trying to say, anyway, is that I need to do something to be able to write about. Otherwise I just write about writing (like I'm doing now)—which isn't that interesting, ultimately. Or at all, maybe. So I've got to pick a direction and reel it in. I've got to pack my bags and check my maps. I've got to create another, make it happen, get a job on a lobster boat. It's a matter of life and death. Not really. But it's a matter of the life of this stupid journal. I've come to the end of my notebook and have to get a new one now, so I'm vowing that this will be the new way—the new changed life reflected in this new fresh new notebook, and that it will be actually interesting to read.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Saturday 31 October 1998 – Renner's Grill

It's like, I don't know, a while since I wrote last. That's the thing about time—you can just leave it alone and it'll do its work without you. Very much unlike people—we can't leave anything alone. I mean, you can, but it'll go to hell. That's essentially one definition of hell—that which is neglected. To be a good Christian it takes constant, never-flagging, unrelenting, narrow-minded, psychopathic maintenance. The scriptures must be repeated endlessly; but that goes for anything—any conviction, like “art is good,” or “I'm a fine person.” Neglect of any convictions, any information, even—your own history, your past, even—and you'll lose it. Hell, if you don't keep repeating the most basic things to yourself—your phone number, your address, even your name and birthdate—you'll forget it. That's the definition of hell, maybe—not the creeping sexual and intoxication and forgetting urges, but the mold growing on even your basic convictions, the cobwebs around what you've always taken for granted, but what no longer functions, due to neglect.

I'm at a place I've never visited before—never saw it until today. Tucked into the west suburbs on a tiny commercial strip, it's an old bar that serves food, including Saturday morning breakfast—and a good breakfast, too. I don't even remember the name—I'll look when I leave and write it on the top of this entry. A good looking diner is across the street, but it was cock full of yuppies, so I came over here with the real people—like this excellent traveling salesman sitting next to me at the bar drinking a red colored cocktail and eating a bloody steak.

It's a dark place—very dark, with red lampshades on the lights over the bar, and the corners probably obscured. It's not that old, but it's as good as a place as you'll ever find in the suburbs. Too bad about the TV and the lottery machines.

It's a good time to start a completely new start completely new start completely new, without any reference to the past, 100% uninfluenced by anything that has come before—a completely severed, sterile, cauterized, lopped off—sorry! I'm just trying to get some momentum. The reason to have a fresh start is so you don't have to refer to anything in the past—because that takes work—so it's easier for me to write than it is to read and make sense of what I've written. I know that makes you think—“Well, what about the reader?!” Yeah, well, it's a good thing this is my super secret private journal, and not for publication—as if anyone would want to!

Not me—that's for sure—unless, of course, I found it somewhere—not knowing who it belonged to—then I might be intrigued. Especially if it contained “good stuff.” And just what is “good stuff?” Well, I guess it'd be anything that the person writing the journal would be mortified to have anyone read—even someone not acquainted. I wonder why that is? I guess because we're talking about sex—what else? There's plenty of private stuff—but the fascination of reading someone's bowel movement diary would wear off pretty rapidly. Oh my, now that I think of it, isn't that exactly what this is? I've been calling it The Lobster Bible, but maybe I should change the name to “The Bowel Movement Diary”—or else start writing some interesting shit. If I am going to call it anything “bible” I should at least read over my own scriptures and learn something.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sunday 18 October 1998

It's Sunday morning and I'm at breakfast at The Hurst. The World Series is underway. Fall is underway, and this morning I am facing an extreme crisis, though one so low key that most people wouldn't identify it as a crisis, but just “the way things are,” or Reality, or that's life—the phrase “general malaise” sits itself in front of me, but I'm not sure what that is, exactly—it's not one of the 100 or so words in my vocabulary. Malaise, not general. General, I know, is one of those words that means anything you want it to. Malaise, for the longest time, I thought was something you put on sandwiches. Not really. But I don't really know what mayonnaise is, either—I mean, I know it's white and creamy, and what it tastes like, but I don't know where it comes from or what it's made from. I mean, I know it doesn't come out of a milkweed plant or anything, and I know it has eggs in it, but then there's eggless mayonnaise, so how important can the eggs be? I guess I never really cared, but now I'm interested. It can't be anything too weird—it's like oil and vinegar, maybe, and eggs sometimes—but then there must be some kind of alchemy to get it to be mayonnaise! Hellmann's Malaise. You can't get Hellmann's on the West Coast—well you can, but it's called Best Foods. It's a hell of a difference between those names. I really don't know why they just don't call it Hellmann's—Best Foods sounds like a generic brand. Our friend Despina from Conde Nast, who's an East Coast person who moved to LA, insists the Hellmann's and Best Foods aren't the same. Who am I to argue, not being a connoisseur? If mayonnaise symbolizes anything, what it it? Maybe blandness, maybe middle-class, white America—though I don't know. Mayonnaise is kind of exotic in its own way. For that matter, the middle-class is kind of exotic, too, seeing how it seems so elusive, so unreachable to me. I was driving through the suburbs yesterday morning, and I got this fleeting feeling I sometimes get—a yearning, or fantasy desire to move to the suburbs—to be married to someone I have little in common with, to have a normal-looking, personality-less apartment in a complex, a TV, etc., to eat normal meals, go out to Friday's and Tony Roma's (a Place for Ribs) and have no aspirations, or goals bigger than that next little one—buy new sheets, wash the car, go to the movie that just opened. Of course this fantasy ends with the thought of children, a reality that hangs over us the same way death does. You know, certain romantic artists, usually young people—my younger self included—used to excite themselves with their obsession with “sex and death.” The way the two where intertwined was interesting, and certain poets, etc., got a lot of milage out of this. But that was before AIDS. Now “sex and death” has an entirely new meaning.

Hey. Where the hell was I? I wanted to get back to my condition, how I felt, or feel—though now, I'd have to say felt, 'cause how I feel is all coffeed up. Anyway—anyway—you know, I used to be a good writer. I didn't get off on tangents; I was concise, to the point; I had standards. I can trace the beginning of my bad writing back to whenever it was that I started starting every sentence with the word “well,” and every transition began by “anyway.” I remember in some Kurt Vonnegut book how he says he feels like “Philboyd Studge.” (I don't remember where it is, or know if that spelling's correct, and God knows I'm not going to look it up.) I'm not sure if this is even in relation to writing, but it probably is. Anyway, that's what I feel like, about my writing these days—like “Philboyd Studge.”

To get back to mayonnaise—what a great word—I guess it's French—mayonnaise sounds French, but “Mayo” sounds totally New York. Back to mayonnaise, you know the cure for mayonnaise is simply a few drops or dashes of Tabasco sauce. I wish it was so easy for general malaise. I guess I say general malaise as opposed to a particular malaise. But if it is particular, it has to do with the feeling of blandness, not getting anywhere. I wouldn't say boredom, but ennui might be appropriate. It's probably, when it comes right down to it, just the feeling of not being in love, of having so many crushes that it becomes clear that they're all just a smokescreen, to try to keep yourself from seeing yourself actually alone. Anyway, the way to get out of this condition—which maybe I should call Hellmann's Malaise—is by drinking. Drinking was always the cure, the antidote, the smokescreen, I guess, that worked very well in conjunction with the uncontrollable crush smokescreen. Drinking was the Tabasco to the mayonnaise/malaise. Hellmann's Malaise + Tequila = equilibrium. But now, without drinking, I have nowhere to go but church. And I can't get myself to go to church. So I check in here, my own convention, my name-tag reading: “Hello, My Name is Philboyd Studge."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Saturday 17 October 1998

I'm at the Polar King in Gresham, just outside of Portland. You don't have to get too far out of Portland to be “out of town.” There are little buildups of civilization by the side of the highway, but I don't know if you'd call it a town, unless you consider a strip mall a downtown. It's amazing how driving for a few minutes takes you to a cultural another world. It's all Middle-America—everywhere that's not the very urbanist urban. And in Portland it's just a few block area—you can walk it—and outside that little oasis where they're challenged to make good coffee, and the waitstaff can get away with unusual body piercings, you get to Middle-America—bad coffee, bad grammar, non-dairy creamer, TV culture. This is a great place—an old, probably post-war diner or hamburger joint, fixed up probably in the 80s—ruined, really, but time has done its job and put some personality back into it, with its forces of decay and the mellowness that comes from day in and out use. To everyone here it's just a restaurant, but to me it's an interesting artwork, one that changes with time, and even though it was once almost a (DQ or something?) (after the remodel)—now it's interesting again.

Like I was saying, back when I was trying to recover, and backpedal (does the word “backpedal” come from the bicycle world?—certainly it must not—as you can't backpedal a bicycle—with ten speeds, or whatever they are now—28 speeds—you can pedal backwards, but the gears are not engaged unless it's forward—you can't ride backwards anyway—maybe it's just “ped” as in walk—pedaling meaning walking, then, and backpedaling meaning retreating—look this up).

Places like this, as much as I like them, freak me out because they have all women working at them (unless there is a man owner present). Only women working, and all men customers. I mean, totally only 100% men in here. This is total, without exception. All women working. All men customers. I must admit, that kind of freaks me out.

As I'm leaving I see a big family with a couple of young women and one older one—so it's not absolutely true. And then I see the oddest thing of all (this place is quite busy). There's a woman leaving, paying at the register (she was here, somewhere, the same time I was)—a woman by herself! A middle-aged woman who looks neither to be a mess or all completely together. Someone who may be an alcoholic, or maybe a recovering alcoholic. Definitely not one of those scary perfect businesswomen from Mars. But someone who looks really self-sufficient, independent, I don't know, pretty together, but not too much, you know. I mean, her just being here, at a place where like no women come in, for breakfast, anyway, especially by themselves—that makes her essentially—I mean she was just a human being on Planet Pod, and for that reason I would have really liked to talk to her, but until I get to the interview portion of this project (which I just made up just now) I won't be able to do anything like that—and I need some kind of journalistic credibility to do that—more than just a fake press card—I need a good reputation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Wednesday 14 October 1998

I'm at The Hurst for breakfast on a Wednesday, trying to backpedal and recover form the travesty this journal has become. Instead of an _____ for mental illness, it has become mental illness itself. [_____] [connected][by backpedal theme]

Friday, January 4, 2019

Monday 12 October 1998

I'm sitting on the front porch to continue this story, evening coffee time—a soft rain falling. It's nice not to be in it, and it slows down the world a little. What happened to me after I was smashed like a tick and scratched like a flea, and forgotten like a _____. Well, nothing. Nothing Nothing Nothing. That's the worst thing that can happen. And then... nothing happened. If I was a song, I'd be silent. If I was a book, I'd be blank pages. If I was a TV show, I'd be cancelled. If I was a movie, I'd be the trailer. If I was a marriage, I'd be divorced. If I was a painting, I'd be gesso. If I was a poem, I'd be blank verse. If I was a...

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sunday 11 October 1998

At The Hurst for breakfast—is this my Sunday Project? Not really—it's not really the right place—I can't go into it really—I probably have, actually, well, when it's right, I'll discuss it then.

What do you do to a threat? And what am I talking about? An example from the Seafood Kingdom—there's a lobster, big and black (they turn black after they reach a certain age) (it's like a hundred), and it's become so big and old, it's cannibalizing other lobsters (thus cannibalizing the lobster industry). It got so big it was overturning lobster boats, regularly. So, what did they do about it? They fed it. Whale blubber, and grouper, and beef. Everything. Eventually it became so fat that its exoskeleton collapsed. It washed up on the beach in millions of pieces and we could smell it for like three months.

The same technique is used on humans, but generally feeding their ego or power cravings until they are full of themselves like a bloated tick. The examples are many: Francis Coppola, Bill Clinton, James Brown, Kurt Cobain, Jack Kerouac, Jack Nicholson, Jack Kennedy, Jack & The Beanstalk. I don't know about him. I guess that beanstalk is nothing but a giant penis. That story is nothing but saltpeter for pre-adolescents. Certainly Pinocchio—also, with that penis thing—the story of fattening up someone to turn him into a slave. Hell, with Hansel and Gretel they're just eaten—or should be. (Or is that Little Red Riding Hood?) Anyway, in my case, it's a sad story about my countercultural, revolutionary magazine that threatened to blow the doors off of American culture—well, to make a long story short, I was heaped with praise, good reviews, and fat-dripping accolades to the point that I had a bigger head than Jeff Goldblum. Just at the point when I couldn't walk down the street without doing an interview—it just stopped. Now, there was no conspiracy—no one planned it—it's just the way the system is set up. The system that has been refined over ___ years of human civilization—and I suppose ___ years of life on Earth before that. Essentially the same thing happened to me as happened to the Roman Empire. In my case, I lived, but went into seclusion, started drinking—well, picked up the pace of my drinking—and didn't do any art for years. Well, I did, but I kept it to myself, put it in my drawer—filed it under “work on later.” You know that “Work On Later” file is the same as “File 17,” or whatever the other name for the trashcan is (the “Circular File”—whatever). I could have been somebody, the next Jann Wenner, certainly, but here I am in Portland, Maine, writing about lobstering. Fuckin' lobsters, man, interest me like not at all.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tuesday 6 October 1998

I got to a certain point with that shit—and then I left wherever it was that I was at (The Hurst) and I don't remember where I was going with it—but it's just as well—because I don't want to get into it. I feel like I was on the verge of revealing too much. Who cares, anyway? Everything's made up, everything's true—it's for the geeks of the next generation to figure out—and that's only if they care, and they only care if you become a celebrity or a mass murderer or something along those lines. I'm at The Hurst again, this time for dinner—coffee, live music, and personal psychodrama. It's the broken heart Martian open mic and end of the century open mic death celebration.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Sunday 4 October 1998

Hey, why is the clock round, with the hands spinning around, and the calendar square, or rectangular, with seven days in a row, and then—next row, next row, next row? It's all just time. The days of the week could as well be placed in a circle, with Sunday on top, and that hand would just keep coming around to Sunday again and again and again. Like with, certain hours, certain days—it seems like they keep coming up, like a game of crooked roulette. I used to have a car with a broken clock—back when the clocks in cars had hands, not digital, but of course always broken, never saw it work. Anyway, since it was just an ornament, and always said the same time, I just set it at seven o'clock. Seven p.m., preferably, time to party! You know, I just thought of that, about the round week clock, but in this world there's not a stone untouched—I'm sure there are alternative time expression freaks somewhere, who have calendars in the shape of clocks, and clocks in the shape of God knows what. Fortunately, until we have internet stations implanted in all of our brains, we can disregard the existence of so many things. The world keeps getting smaller, by exponential leaps, but it's still possible to keep your world small, just for your own sanity.

Ahh, this week the smell of the salty ocean, unblemished by the heat of summer. No more rotting seafood, now it's all crisp and clean until spring. Except for Indian Summer, of course. Which I always welcome. I really should get back to one of my previous topics. Particularly that one about putting things into code, disguising things in order to tell the truth. The definition of fiction, after all—telling lies to be able to tell the truth. My friend Randy has, or used to have, I don't know—I haven't heard from him in awhile—a small (small) press publishing company called T.B.S. Publications. He won't tell anyone what the T.B.S. stands for (except that it doesn't stand for Turner Broadcasting System or Syndicate or whatever). But he told me the secret, which is that it stands for True Bull Shit, which, he says, is the definition of fiction.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Friday 2 October 1998

Well, it's October—a month that always looms big for me for some reason—just the name. It's like, different than all the other month names. The first letter, that big “O”—I always visualize as either a big orange pumpkin or the big orange full moon. It's a month I always remember has 31 days without doing any of those cute tricks.

Talk about cute tricks—Oh, I mean because Halloween is on the 31st, of course. That was always our favorite holiday, where I grew up. Anyway, about cute tricks, I've been thinking—we celebrate our First Amendment and all, as we should, but it's definitely—our right to free speech—something that's constantly being defined. I think we're at a point now where about the only place you can get into trouble is with child pornography. But, the thing is, in the past, trouble and art have always gone really well together, hand in hand, even. Once it gets to the point where art is concentrating too much on “taboo breaking” it starts to be too contrived, and not born out of some kind of passion (except in some cases). What I'm saying is, there's just been a great history of putting things in code that is really fascinating, and adds a dimension to art that I think is lost when it's possible to be right up front with everything. Now, I'm not saying that is not a good thing that say a love story involving two men can be matter-of-factly what it—and then can get to further depth than when the whole thing has to be in code. But it's just that there's a certain elegance and mystery and exhilaration that comes from not being able to be forthright and upfront and honest. There's something exciting about trying to express something so dangerous that you can't be open about it, and have to veil the recognizable parts—because if you weren't you'd be held back by fear—but in the act of changing the names, changing the places, disguising one thing as another, you can feel more free to get to the depths of whatever it is that you are obsessed with.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sunday 27 September 1998

Another Sunday, the day for... whatever. A good day to go to church, and listen to someone tell you what you should remember and what you should forget, rather than sitting in a bar listening to The Velvet Underground tell you what you remember and what you forget. I'm at The Hurst for breakfast, writing in my therapy notebook, and well, I feel kind of well-adjusted. I guess I'll just concentrate on eating, and looking around. Really, if all of life could be like that, looking around I mean, it would be okay. But all of life can't be all of anything—that's the trick. That's why you have to quit drinking, at the point that all of life becomes drinking. Which it will, after awhile, if you're so inclined. And I guess I'm so inclined—but, hell!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sunday 20 September 1998

Another Sunday—is there any other day? I'm at another bar for breakfast, one where, if I was so inclined, I could order up a shot of Maker's Mark, and then a Drambuie, and then an Ouzo and then a Campari and then a cheap Tequila and then a Jameson Irish Whiskey, a Midori Melon or a Pistachio liqueur to bring back that year in New York, and a Malibu Coconut & Rum liqueur to bring back high school spring break. Just for color, in clear glasses, Crème de Menthe, Crème de Banana, Blue Curacao, and Crème de Noyaux. All neat, no ice, and why in the world would you want to mix anything? It all gets mixed soon enough in your stomach, anyway. If I want to bring back high school, I'll have a Crème de Cacao. Always had it around. No one drank it, except me.

It's a place, this place, The Wheel of Fortune (Holman's), that reminds me of Ohio. Just the taste of the food and the badness of the coffee. The owner, Bill Bankule, also owns a chain of funeral homes. One restaurant and bar, and a chain of cut-rate funeral homes. Five bucks for the breakfast “Special Steak.” It's good, too. We're all in denial about where this meat comes from because we just don't want to know. We're hungry!

The waitress is standing in front of me with a metal bowl of lemons, slicing them into drink-size slices. For countless drinks. I'm close enough that an invisible spray of lemon peel oil is probably floating into my hair. You could pay $100 for this treatment at a spa.

It's almost the first day of official autumn. Today or the next day or the next. It feels like, and may well be, today. It's cold, and I got out my fall jacket for the first time last night. Isn't it Rosh Hashanah or something, soon, like today? I'll look at my calendar. Just saying the word “Jewish” makes me want to eat rice pudding. The only place pretending to be a Jewish deli that I've discovered (never forget to take into account the undiscovered) is this overpriced place in the theatre district called Cats Deli—run, no doubt, bu someone with a Jewish grandmother, and whose claim to fame, and this restaurant, was a small part changing the litter box on the Broadway musical by the same name. I've sent food back at restaurants only a couple of times in my life, and the chicken rice soup at Cats was one of those times. I think you accidentally ladled this out of the mop bucket. That's okay—it's a mistake anyone can make. But the rice pudding—like a melted vanilla fast-food milkshake with barely cooked white rice mixed in—confirmed my suspicions. Maybe these people can sing, maybe they can dance, but they can't cook. I could only be thankful I didn't order the gefilte fish.

I'd like to take this dreary, gray, Sunday morning first of autumn to ask you to please indulge me in a little indulgence—every fall I can't help but to try to start this project which I call my Sunday Project. It's based on a project I had some ten years ago, where on successive Sunday mornings I would adjourn at a particular place—a family restaurant, a particular one with a name like Country Cousins or Chicken Kitchen—very down-home and backwoods and fast-food and manufactured at the same time. An awful place, but somewhere, on those particular Sunday mornings, where I found something I an't forget, and thus keep trying to relive. I can't relive it, but the point is in the trying, the search, the failure, and finally the sitting, the eating, the drinking coffee, and the writing. It should be a place I can walk to , and have a good walk to on the way. And it should be warm and it should be tasteless. Well, in the last few years I haven't really found the the place but I'll keep looking, and the important thing is that I try, and go somewhere , and write about my observations, and it's the fall—that's the important thing—it's really just an autumn ritual. And as rituals go, I have a lot of them. They're important to me, yes.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sunday 13 September 1998

I'm eating breakfast at The Hurst (Laurelthirst Public House). I'm in the middle of moving—or almost done, actually. Moving is such an absolute pleasure that I never am compelled to write here in my therapy notebook. If there was ever a way to just be moving all the time, my problems would all be solved.

But then you wouldn't have this—this document of descent (descent into madness)... and recovery! Descent and recovery. Recovery and descent. An endless cycle. An endless journey—at least we wish it was endless. It will all end only too soon.

I'm sitting in front of a bar mirror, with a wineglass where my head should be. An upside-down wineglass. A whole rack of upside-down wineglasses, actually. If you took all the wine I've drank in my life and put it into various glasses and bottles, and spread them all out on the floor, in a bar and breakfast place like this one, what kind of grisly scene would that be, huh? Each of these 30 or 40 people in this place, this morning, represent just a mountain of consumption and excrement. To become fully aware of what your body costs the world would surely lead to a hasty suicide, so I won't think about it.

Something they're cleaning with here is making me powerful nauseous. I think it's the automatic dishwasher detergent. So, I'll try to pretend that I'm giving something back to the world, as ever, as always, and go into my new apartment—and new blank canvas to cover with my own shit. Do art! Do do art art art. Huff puff cough up phlegm. Stir the soup. Flush the toilet. Come to the end of the page. Buy a new notebook.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday 31 August 1998

I kind of trailed off there two weeks ago—down the long trail, looking back, the trail back, the last two weeks, a lot has happened, and I haven't been able to finish that last sentence. That sentence is a lost cause, but maybe I can finish the thought. I guess what I was getting at is that it's the most amazing thing I've ever experienced, that there could be a perfect (interior-wise) 1940s diner in my home town, hidden from me for 38 years! I mean, it had the dining car manufacturer company plate over the inside door, it had the old Formica-top counter with boomerang designs and smooth white crescents worn in from decades of forearms resting on it. There it was, all along, and I never saw it, simply because I didn't go in the door. So what is so great about this discovery—it's not that I'm going to move back to Sandusky, because that would surely be the cosmic force to make the place close—no, what's great is that now I have reason to have hope, here in Portland, Maine, a place with a real drought of breakfast spots—at least in my experience here this far—I have hope that I might uncover the hidden secret greatest place ever—behind the facade of something I've passed by a million times even.

But it won't be here, at the New Crystal, another downtown, uninspired, overpriced, cafeteria-style, no-personality place—a place that only exists because it can, because so many people work nearby, have few choices, and don't like to walk more than two blocks. There's a guy in a booth next to me who's just chain-smoking at an alarming rate—I guess not that amazing—the cigarette just never goes out. I didn't actually notice if he lights one cigarette off the last one. Which, if you think about it, is an incredible practice, but he's had cigarettes going the entire time I've been here—like a half hour. He's an old 90 pound bald tan grizzled guy who laughs like his lungs are full of water, and his general appearance is really that of a human cigarette. I mean, this guy has actually turned into a cigarette!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Saturday 15 August 1998

(How in the world did it get to be 15 August already! The cruelty of time and August!) At a traditional Saturday AM breakfast at Hollywood Burger Bar—how scary it is when you get a cold Saturday in August, when you're this far north—you see winter waiting down the road, impatiently. I'm still threatening to move closer to the equator—maybe to Florida to work in the burgeoning artificial community industry.

More on my trip to Ohio—now, nearly a month in the past—since I left—scary! Anyway, the big and weird thing that happened to me. I was visiting my parents and brother and his family in Sandusky, Ohio, my hometown. A place I grew up, and lived in for a total of about 20 years, all added together. A place I know pretty much inside and out, except for all the new bullshit. (Of course, no one really knows any place inside and out.) A place with an enormous tourist attraction, Cedar Point, an amusement park, which is open only seasonally—summer. It's a place, Sandusky, because of the seasonal nature, that has the highest number of fast food restaurants per capita of any place in the United States, ad thus the world, I would assume.

I went for my class reunion—the 20th, and also to go to Cedar Point, which I do every 10 years or so to see how much has changed. Of course, by now, it's more like to see what's stayed the same. A remarkable number of things actually stay the same—each one of them being like a little miracle—because for the most part, the old gets moved, torn down, eliminated, to make space for the colorful, hi-tech new rides that seem to be influenced by the extreme sports fads—everything is either the fastest, tallest, steepest, etc., or based on white water rafting, skydiving, and bungee jumping.

Anyway, around back around the time I was in school, about 15 years ago now, I got really interested in diners and was taking a filmmaking class, so I did a documentary portrait of diners in Ohio. Of course I didn't presume to find them all, but in my hometown, Sandusky, I felt like I knew what was there. The old diners that were still operating had at one time or other been remodeled—usually the exterior, usually in the Sixties or Seventies, to keep up with the times. So I know that around the eastern United States especially, there were many old stainless steel train-car style diners hidden in bricked-over, shingled over, contemporary facades. My friend Sean started a diner appreciation magazine and we wrote and talked about this endlessly. Also, my film was partly a defining of what a diner was, which has to do more with what's on the inside than the outside—more with atmosphere, history, function, and especially personality—both in what it's become, as well as the people working and the customers—than architecture.

So I'd be the first one to say that you should look inside a place before you make any judgments about it. So I was completely floored when I went with my dad out to this donut shop where he told me served breakfast and he went occasionally. It's a place called Jolly Donut, and it's been there for as long as I can remember, probably all my life. It's connected to this little motel called The Sands, on the main long shopping strip outside of Sandusky city limits. I've just always assumed it's a donut shop, which it is, and never realized they had a counter and booths and served breakfast and lunch. The place, for as long as I can remember, had a brick facade and a mansard style roof, which matches the motel. So when we went in and it was a classic stainless steel dining car company diner—! These classic dining car restaurants were prefab structures, manufactured by several companies, mostly in New Jersey, mostly post-war—they resembled the train dining cars, and because of their long, thin design, they were easily transported—carried behind trucks to anywhere in the country you wanted. They're mostly in the East, then here and there throughout the Midwest. People returning from war, presumably, wanted to start a new life, work for themselves, found this a good way to start a restaurant. So they're associated with the Fifties, mostly, and have made a comeback in today's nostalgia market but...

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tuesday 4 August 1998

It's morning before work and I'm at “Patty Kakes” restaurant, a place I've walked by many times. It's connected to Patty's Retreat bar, the kind of place where Irish is a euphemism for alcoholic. A lot of old guys here, not necessarily alcoholics, but men. Everything about this place is wrong, from the mismatched chairs, to the seriously stained old brown carpet, to the orange tables placed in dehumanizing rows, to the ugly dropped ceiling painted brown, to the only décor: travel posters that are so faded and wrinkled that they make every place look as ugly as this place. Japan, Canada, Venice, China, Greece, San Francisco, Yugoslavia, Mexico, France, Germany. (Alt. order: Germany, France, Mexico, China, Greece, Japan, Canada, Venice, Yugoslavia, San Francisco.) Who'd want to go there? Not when you can just stay here, in Little Ireland.

Sitting at each of the tables against a wall is an old man—some really old, some made prematurely old by alcoholism. I'm the youngest one here—the oddball—but no one acts like they notice—we're all sitting with our backs to the wall, facing the middle of the room, the empty tables, each other. A couple of the old guys talk to each other—they probably see each other every day, yet they don't sit together. Some of them live at the residence hotel upstairs, and another up the street—places with nautical names, The Commodore, The Admiral's Nest, etc.

A big, noisy fan is on, everyone is smoking except me, and the men who talk, talk about the heat even though they still haven't got the feeling back in their limbs since last winter. It's just wishful thinking, an actual heatwave here in Portland, Maine, dying like they are in Dallas this summer. I was in a used bookstore yesterday and a young man & woman were in there complaining about the heat—it's 180 degrees everywhere you go, she said bitterly, not realizing, of course, that 180 degrees doesn't mean “really, really hot,” but “turned around in the opposite direction,” or a “complete reversal.” It's this kind of abuse of the common language that I have to endure every day. No, I'm just kidding. I find that kind of thing endearing—it's just a matter of not thinking things through. It doesn't get on my nerves nearly as much as abbreviating, leaving words out, and especially using adjectives as nouns. That's what gets me to being homicidal. All this complaining about the heat, though, it just cracks me up. It's not hot here. Someone said, after about the third straight day it hit the nineties—“I had enough of this, already.” Right! Bring on that 10 month winter!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday 3 August 1998

Back to work after a vacation—one of life's greatest pleasures. Actually, the way you feel, going back to work after a vacation, is very informative. If you never take a vacation, you might hate your job and not ever know it. You just go on and on. Maybe I should be happy I just have a job I don't hate, and can just go on and on. But on any vacation I get a feeling of what life could be like if each day I was doing only what I felt like doing. I would find it necessary to eventually impose structure on my days, but the difference from that, and having to be, in twenty minutes, to a place I don't really feel like going to, for a set amount of time, to do tasks that, while not unpleasant, don't inspire me—the difference is staggering. And I'm staggering under the heat; heat which is quite welcome by me, and exciting and summer-like and necessary—but is making me stagger, no less.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday 11 July 1998

I'm having a contemplative breakfast at Hollywood Burger Bar, taking stock of my life on another overcast day in July. It's not raining and it's not cold and I should be happy, but the winter here is just so fucking long and cold and I'm thinking about it already in July. That strikes me as pathetic. Maybe I need to move, but then I'd have to give up my quest for the elusive essence of the lobster. I made a pact with myself when I started this job at “The Sky's No Limit,” my humble architectural firm employer, that I would stay at that job and its humane health insurance, paid holidays and vacation, and 30 hour a week schedule, until I finished my projected 1000 page novel, tentatively titled Seafood. It's been two years now and I haven't written a word.

I really had something particular in mind when I started this cup of coffee and the above paragraph, but I guess I got sidetracked on this crucial subject of the weather. That's the thing about taking stock—it only lasts as long as there's nothing going on—once you get involved with something like a book or a movie, grocery shopping or deciding on what color to paint something, you're right back in the business of living your monumentally insignificant life.

I've been reading this book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” about the “New Hollywood” of the Seventies. I'm always reading stuff about Hollywood lately, trying to draw parallels with where I live, the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, which I call “The Other Hollywood.” Basically, there are no parallels—but anyway, the book is quite engaging. Actually, I had something to say about it earlier, before I was floated out of the diner in a sea of coffee, but now I can't remember and it's much later. Time passes within the same paragraph. I've got to tell you, whoever you is, that I don't use the word “basically”—that was a joke. Not a very good joke—but a joke.

Anyway, I thought of what I was trying to remember earlier. I accidentally wrote the date wrong—the year—I wrote 1989 instead of '98—which made me think about what was I doing in 1989? It doesn't seem as interesting to think about now, as it did earlier.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday 1 July 1998 – Grand Cafe

It's the first of July and we're expecting snow. Not really, but you know. People who live in Florida wouldn't be surprised, and I shouldn't be either. The days are getting shorter, and I'm depressed. I haven't worn a short-sleeve shirt yet this summer. Sometimes I think Portland, Maine is just too far from the Equator to do anything but promise warmth once in awhile. People who can afford it move to Florida when they get old, and maybe I'm getting old—I can't afford to move to Florida, but I can't afford to live here, anyway. Yesterday was payday, always the most depressing day of the month (there's two of them, both depressing).

I sat down at the counter here at the Singing Lobster where I could see the TV screen (one of six) that has an old movie, probably AMC, black and white, I'm not sure what it is, but it looks like The Bad and the Beautiful (crossed out). Is that Lizabeth Scott? (Check this!) I think so. There's no women in the world, actually, who look like Lizabeth Scott. Well, one or two. But that's why she's there on the screen, the object of cinematography where any shot could be frozen and it'd be as spectacular as anything in this place—including the fabulous array of liquor. Why not just film movies like that now—they did it 40 years ago? Well, look at the buildings that are being built and the cars that are on the road.

The other TV, probably on CNN, is showing weather atrocities all over the East and Midwest—flooding, tornados. The weather has shown no sense of fairness this year, I don't mean fair weather, but fair play. The laws of averages don't apply. The laws of common sense, of compassion, whatever. The weather is not a person, mother nature isn't really a mother, there's no one even there to care what we think. All over the country—there's just no cooperation. It makes you think—if the weather decided it just wants to kill us all, it can. But there's not even a decision and whether it does or not is based on nothing.

Now there's a police artist's sketch on TV, what's that all about? Maybe an artist's rendition of God? Police artist sketches always look like space aliens—never like anyone I've ever seen. Email God! Make your voice heard!

To see the TV with the b+w movie I have to look over the top of a new addition at the end of the counter here, some kind of gambling or video game. Maybe it's not even gambling (implying you can get something back)—all I see is a place to insert dollar bills, or fives. The machine is called “MEGATOUCH XL—Extreme multi-game video!” I guess to play you touch the screen. Every so often a naked woman or two are on the screen—I guess you're supposed to touch them in some capacity. Also a lot of numbers, jokers, game stuff—I'm not going to look at it any more. The juxtaposition of this and the movie are too much for me. Or just enough. I was walking home from work yesterday thinking, if I had to buy a new car, and money wasn't that much of an object, what would I buy? I started imagining myself buying each car that passed. Not one—not one single car appealed to me. The only car I've seen in years that inspired me to the smallest extent are those new VW's—they at least are a little bold—you know you're not looking at a Chevy or a Toyota. It's its own design. Cars have taken over our aesthetic landscape and it's an absolute crisis. It's killing us, and we don't know it. Hey! An idea for a movie—but later.

I walked to work through the industrial area between the cheaper housing and the docks—this half mile wide strip where no one lives and there are no walk-in businesses—just warehouses and those kinds of specific businesses where you have to know where you're going and why. Very few actual signs. No advertising, no enticements, very little traffic except for trucks delivering and pickup. The cars that are parked are the people working here, not living, not visiting. No one's trying to sell you anything, and the arrangement of objects are all arbitrary—set here and there. Practical—a stack of pallets here, some giant mysterious metal thing there. Without trying it's the best art I see all the way to work.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wednesday 10 June 1998 – Grand Cafe

Ten years ago, or so, I was at a crossroads in my life, which is like, no big deal—you come to a crossroads like, every block. Anyway, so I moved into this house in Kent, Ohio with five other people, some who were my friends, and some I didn't know too well. By the time I moved a year later, I considered everyone in the house my friend—but not the politician/business/California definition of friend—I actually really liked all these people.

Oh my, because I'm sitting here at the dark bar of the Singing Lobster Karaoke Lounge (Grand Cafe) or because of a Laphroaigian slip (phrase I just invented) I accidentally wrote, in my notebook, that I “licked all these people.” The text will no doubt be corrected by the time you read it. This reminds me of something I just saw on the internet—I actually use the internet at my job now, not much, but when you're researching something, looking for a phone number or product information, it's the first place you look. And in my spare time (I don't take breaks anymore) I sometimes do a little research for myself—when I was looking up a concept I had thought up to see if it was original, or based in any heinous current marketing or entertainment scheme. It's kind of complex—I put out a sporadic small 'zine of serial fiction called Mickey Rourke (more on that later)—and one of the continuing stories (the magazine is all serial fiction) is called The Endless Party, and one of the concepts I invented for The Endless Party was the concept of Pyramid Sex. I had and have no idea what that refers to, I just thought it would be a funny ongoing reference that the reader can grapple with (it just occurred to me that this sounds a little too much like that show, Seinfeld—(which, by the way, I watched like one episode of, but couldn't deal with the laugh-track, and that stupid bass wanking they have between each scene. It just said sit-com to me, and I just really hate the sit-com form—it's like the only bad memory of my childhood—TV sit-coms—so we'll have to be careful of that). Anyway, so I was looking on the internet to see if there was anything about Pyramid Sex—some heinous concept that I never suspected. I didn't find anything as such, but I did see one of the weirdest things in recent memory—an oral sex pyramid internet chain letter. Apparently, it works like this: there's a list of names and addresses and you put your name and address on the bottom of the list, and then you go to the top name on the list, or top five or something and drive to their house, and give them oral sex. It seems a little impractical to me, as these names are all over the U.S. and Canada—but, well, I don't know? Maybe it works, but... it doesn't sound like a real good idea to me. But who knows?

The dude here, the big guy, owner, whatever, just came in and replaced the lightbulb above the bar where I'm sitting. That's why it was so dark. I like sitting at the bar, which faces an incredible array of liquor. I like looking at the liquor—even though I can't take a drop—literally not a taste. This year, 1998 (though not this date) marks, I guess, five years since I quit drinking. Definitely the hardest five years of my life. I don't really keep track—like how many days since I quit or anything—like some people do. I don't think of it as an accomplishment or a record. If I start to drink again I figure it'll be about the same thing as putting a gun to my head or jumping off a bridge.

About a year and a half before I quit drinking, I found out that I had to quit eating wheat (and all of its insidious forms) which was eroding my small intestine faster than road salt eats a muffler. No guarantee from Midas. But instead of having to replace my intestine with a rubber hose, simple abstinence was enough to cure me. I had been so sick—I felt like like by simply changing my diet I was able to grab my hat and turn my back on death, waltz out the door, “see you!” For now, of course, nothing's simple. Wheat seems to have infiltrated all strongholds of the American diet. More on that later.

But my point here, is that here I am on what is starting out to be a very strange day, staring down a bottle of Laphroaig Scotch while Scotland and Brazil are tied 1-1 in the first game of World Cup soccer on one of the many TV screens in this place. The last glass of alcohol I ever drank, I believe it was on Nietzsche's birthday, was a glass of fine port, from Portugal. When I found out I could no longer eat wheat, I decided that I would start the next day, but that night I would taste my last wheat. I went to a place called The Sanctuary, and with religious appreciation, consumed a good pizza, a Guinness Stout, and a glass of Laphroaig Scotch. (Scotch, Bourbon, all whiskey, as well as gin and most vodka, all distilled from wheat grain, and thus off-limits.) Kind of a European smorgasbord. I guess I could have added more countries, but I was too happy to get drunk—I had been sick for three years—and now I had found out why. I probably had some Bourbon because it's my favorite, but I don't remember now—what I really remember is that glass of Laphroaig Scotch which tasted like nothing I've ever tasted. I won't even try to describe it, and I can't remember now anyway, but anyway, it was the first time I'd ever tried it, and the last, and that's for life. It's now entered the realm of mythology.

I'm sitting here at the bar facing the esteemed single malt Scotch shelf, and I'm admiring the bottle of Laphroaig, which is in the middle. It's green glass with a simple white label with black print. Nothing overly fancy or design-y, very traditional, simple, and excellent. If I was still drinking, and eating wheat, this would be my drink. It would. Ten years old—there are other Scotch's 12, 15 years old, but ten years old seems like long enough—it's a hell of a long time.

Which brings me back, at least I hope, to ten years ago, Kent, Ohio—what was my point? Oh yeah, crossroads, and all that, my high school class reunion at which I drank way too much. Now I'm facing my 20th high school class reunion this summer—without drinking. Scary. Anyway, when I was living in this improbable living situation house in Kent with five friends, we got heavily into making beer—something I had done since high school. We had several five gallon jugs, vats, going at any given time in the basement, and cases and cases aging and waiting to be consumed. We experimented with flavored beer, high alcohol beer, stout so thick it made Guinness look like Lite, garlic beer, chamomile beer, and just ordinary, good, robust, real beer that we were able to make—I'm not kidding—for about $3.00 a case. Beer making is a lot of work, but it's like cooking or canning—it's satisfying and fun. We felt we where on to something, making our own beer, and people all over the country were doing it to an increasing degree. But, not being of the entrepreneurial bent, we didn't look at it as a future business opportunity. Actually, at one point, when I opened one of my many small magazine stores that have failed over the years—places whose main function was to be an outlet for small magazines like you're reading now—I considered selling home brewing supplies to the local collage student population, especially those who are in that twilight age category between 18 and 21—I could sell the brewing supplies legally to these people and then let the miracle of fermentation do the rest. But the thought of going through with the marketing, advertising, and promotion to make my wares known, and the thought of my clientele possibly being beer-progressive fraternity brothers, nauseated me just enough to not have the energy to go ahead with this endeavor.

It's much later in the day. I haven't been at the Singing Lobster for quite some time, actually. I came to work to find one of those FAXs with a little advertising, human anecdotes, celebrity birthdays, and milestones on this date. It's Judy Garland's birthday! And this is the date Ben Franklin's kite was allegedly struck by lightning, being the popular discovery of electricity. Quite important to most of today's world. Also, a committee was appointed to write the Declaration of Independence, and the Girl Scouts were incorporated. I guess that means that's when they started selling cookies. Also, Bill and Dr. Bob formed Alcoholics Anonymous! A very big day. Also, Kennedy signed an equal pay for equal work bill. And the biggest milestone of all, Subway opened its sandwich business. In commemoration, the local Subway shops are introducing the Lobster Sub and Lobster Bisque—for a limited time only. They should have asked Blimpies how well their lobster sub went over.

The headline news has nothing about the Mexican military attacking alleged Zapatistas in the Chiapas region of Mexico. Around the world, I imagine, governments use the occasion of World Cup Soccer to try to execute heinous acts, figuring the public will be distracted. Of course, in this country, soccer hasn't quite taken hold yet. It's waiting for the next marketing genius to fuck it up. By the way, while I was watching, Brazil scored a goal, went up 2-1, and that game was all over.

Back ten years or so, I drove across the country, then, after we broke up our fine home in Kent, Ohio. Now the six former residents of that house reside in six different states—let's see, Ohio, Washington, Oregon, New York, Maine, and Austria. (I know that Austria is a country and not a state.) Anyway, I was pleased to see the rise of the brew pub on the West Coast—in Berkeley, San Francisco, Arcata, and Seattle. I knew the popularity of good beer would bring the prices up—but at least good beer was going to be appreciated. But—to get back to what I had started to say—I never expected to see what I see now, here in my home of Portland, Maine. There is an actual chain restaurant here—and a new one is just opening—called Barnacle 'enry's Real Dublin Beer Haus's (yes, that's plural). Now, if I'm not mistaken, with that handle they cover nautical (a must here in Portland), British, Irish, and German. Talk about covering the bases. They boast “Hand Crafted Beer” and pizza! They look just like a combination of Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips and Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre. And they're popular.

So back to what I could have just said in one sentence—and I'm sincerely sorry for the digressions—if you would have told me ten years ago that in ten years we'd see the perfect marriage of homebrew and fast food, I would have told you that you were out of your fucking mind. And I would have meant it.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday 5 June 1998

It's a Friday in June and the Lobster Festival is in full swing. They moved it to this week rather than have it at its traditional time in order to coordinate it with the grand opening of the new Starbucks Coffee, much to the dismay of seemingly every local resident you talk to. A lot of the locals, especially the serious lobstermen, hate the Lobster Festival anyway, and refer to it as the “Bug Festival”—but this is too much. The Starbucks PR people are making a big deal about how their company was named after “Starbuck,” the first mate in Moby-Dick, and it's just natural to have a home in New England, but everyone knows that the real Starbuck would have preferred his coffee black and bitter and certainly not with 90% steamed milk and—heaven forbid—not chocolate. The big local homegrown (not literally) gourmet coffee roaster who specialize in mocha this and that—Chocolate People—aren't too thrilled with Starbucks either. I don't really give a shit. I'm not crazy about Chocolate People—I get a migraine headache every time I set foot in one, and small chains are just as annoying as big ones. I just figure Starbucks is another place with a clean restroom that I can use in my ramblings about town.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tuesday 2 June 1998 – a week later

I'm at Denny's out on the state highway on a long walk to work, having breakfast siting at the counter, listening to two guys down the counter talk about “free radicals,” and hearing someone's (original) version of “Spooky” on the oldies station, thinking about how that song doesn't really work when you change the gender from girl to guy, because a girl can be spooky, but a guy would be scary—even though Lydia Lunch did a really nice version of that song. I'm thinking she changed it to “guy”—she'd sell a lot less records if everyone thought she was a lesbian and the boys thought they wouldn't have a chance with her than... as if they did anyway. Everything in our society runs on the concept of fantasy—you couldn't even get people to work if there wasn't the promise of something better. Movie idea: (make a note) a remake of Fantasy Island (while they're still remaking everything) but instead of being like that show, whatever it was like, we'll make it a critique on the fantasy driven enslavement of the American people. The “message” will be that you should be satisfied with what you have. The “secret” message will be that we're all fucked. Cast Ben Gazzara in that main part, for what's-his-name—and that midget guy is dead, but cast, I don't know, Michael J. Fox in that part.

I guess the reason I'm thinking about Lydia Lunch is that she's working here, at the counter. I'm not kidding—I'm sure it's her. No, I'm just kidding.

When I came in here, some high school kids were in front of me, and the cop-like manager wouldn't let them sit in the smoking section, which is like almost the whole restaurant, because they weren't 18 and he said he needed IDs that they were 18 to be able to sit in the smoking section. “State law,” he said. (You always want to be suspicious when someone says something is a “state law.”) Now, I don't know about you , but his is the first time I ever heard anything like this, and it sounds totally insane to me. If I happened to be a young, hot-shot, motherfucking lawyer and was looking for that kind of high profile fame and fortune—I'd concentrate on the area of increasing discrimination of minors. Of course, minors aren't usually the people who can pay that kind of hot-shot lawyer money, so maybe that's why we haven't seen this. I guess I'd have to be a young, hot-shot, idealistic, crusading lawyer, with a second income.

Anyway, Denny's is Denny's is Denny's is Denny's, with that multipage full-color plastic menu and hardly any food on the plate, is Denny's is Denny's is Denny's is Denny's is Denny's is Denny's.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Tuesday 26 May 1998

I'm at the First Sun Cafe, which is a little cafeteria style cafe down by the poor end of the docks that haven't been ritzed up yet, though it's only a matter of time. I guess “First Sun” refers to when the sun hits the United States first, which is somewhere in Maine, though not here exactly. Maybe this is the first cafe in Portland that has sun pass through its windows. I'm looking out the window, which has no sun passing through it as it is overcast, at the Commodore Hotel across the street, which is not a Hotel, but apartments. I'm sure it was once a hotel. There's a nice old sign, and also a sign for a coffee shop. The hotel coffee shop is one of the nicest concepts I can think of, though they're very seldom actually nice. I guess they often feel they have a captive clientele—all the people who won't walk across the street or two blocks to a good breakfast place. But sometimes they're good.

Poor people are hanging around outside of the Commodore smoking. It seems to me you always see poor people smoking more than rich people anymore. Lots of rooming houses and hotels and such don't allow smoking, and people are always congregating in the area right outside. They essentially stand in their own ashtrays. And offices are the worst—people gathered outside of their office building. As squalid as that is, people feel a sense of comradery with the other smokers. I don't know if that's touching of pathetic.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday 22 May 1998

I'm at Guido's Diner—thought I'd try it out, but it looks to me like the place that if you're black and walk in, all conversation stops, not necessarily because they want to intimidate you or scare you away, but because the topic of conversation just happened to be something they would not want a black person to hear. Whether they are afraid of the black person, or the black person walking in is a reminder that there are black people and their conversation assumes there are not, or they are just embarrassed or ashamed, I have no idea. No black people ever come in here anyway, and maybe never have, I assume.

I'm assuming a lot, I realize, and when I go in they are not talking about black people. (When you say “black people” enough times in a short time, you start to see why some people prefer “African-American.” I just have a problem with that term because it would be in turn proper to call myself a “European-American,” and I sure don't want to do that. I'd prefer not to ever call myself an American anything. I guess when pressed, I call myself an Ohioan, because I'm from Ohio, even though that's a political boundary and not very descriptive. There will be a day when this is all just beside the point, unnecessary, and insane, but not in this lifetime.) When I go in they are not talking about black people, but they are talking about women in a degrading way. This is a family owned restaurant, but not a family place. Women barely make their—I'm assuming again—there are no women here except the woman working behind the counter—and two regulars at the counter are talking about how they've been “burned” by women. The woman who's working here and owns the place could kick the ass of anyone here, I'm sure, including her tough guy son, who gives me my coffee and one plastic container of non-dairy creamer. He also gives one of the regulars only one non-dairy creamer, and the regular demands—“One?” To which the son throws another non-dairy creamer at the man's head.

I'm assuming the family who own the place are Greek-Italian-Americans, because they have travel posters on the wall of both Greece and Italy, and you couldn't place them easily as one or the other. They are a mean, humorless, combination of people—I mean those particular restaurant owners. They have signs all over the place—scrawled in magic marker on cardboard—with the rules of the road. “No Credit.” “Coffee includes one refill, you pay for more.” “This is not your living room.” (Whatever that means.) “No checks.” “Cash Only.” “No Loitering.” “No Rest Rooms.” “No Special Orders.” Have it OUR way.” And my favorite—“You don't like your food—you eat it anyway.” Oh, and the craziest of all: “No cigar or pipe smoking.”—because every single person in this place, except for me, is puffing on a foul, stale cigarette, including the father, who has a cigarette expertly hanging from his mouth as he mans the grill and peers out aggressively and wearily down the counter, through the serving window as he cooks.

The two regulars who sit next to me both have their cellular phones sitting on the counter next to their respective packs of filtered cigarettes and colored plastic butane lighters. They are some kind of contractors. They are talking about their respective brands of phone, their good and bad points. The one guy has a new phone, which he likes better than the old one which was identical to his friend's. “I used to have one of those,” he says, “but it made me sound like a 33 1/3 RPM record.” I think he means a 78 RPM record, or a 16 RPM record, or even a record on the wrong speed. A 33 1/3 RPM record? I strongly consider entering the conversation by blurting out, “You mean like Sinatra?” But I don't think they'll get the joke. Sinatra was a pioneer of the 33 1/3 long playing record form, but he recently died, so his death is on everyone's minds. He's always on my mind, anyway, because his songs are the soundtrack to my life. But for this extended media period that's come with his death, I have to share him for awhile with the unimaginative masses. Oh, the unimaginative masses. If I would say “like Sinatra?” to these fellows, they would think I was saying, “Like you're dead?” and not know what the hell I was talking about. People's lines of thought are so dictated by the media, you could pretty much say that it's replaced whatever instinct we once had. If I was going to have to predict one thing that was going to be the demise of the human race (ie., nuclear war, a giant comet hitting the Earth, cockroaches) I'd say it was lack of imagination.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

18 May 1998 – from Dream Notebook No. 1

Two nights ago—dream about being in a convenience store and a guy with a shaved head gets hit over the head with a bottle. It's actually Art Alexakis, from Everclear, and I help him by putting alcohol on his cut head. He's hit by the littlest kid in a group of young boys. Later, I'm in the bathroom trying to pee, and a famous person, a woman, comes in—can't remember who.

Last night—I'm in a radio studio—no, a diner—Jim Rome, the sports radio guy is there, but he's Hispanic—later, Native American—with long hair, very small and frail looking—and he's also this character Smokey from The Big Lebowski—played by Jimmie Dale Gilmore. He's challenged to a fight by this asshole producer—a real jerk guy, who looks like the Dancin' Kid in Johnny Guitar. They're arguing and then setting up a fight. The producer guy is such an asshole, I'm ready to start fighting, too, but they set up the fight in a boxing ring—very official. The producer has an entourage of assholes—the whole group of them are speed freaks. We're sad about Robert Mitchum dying and proclaim him the best actor ever, but the group of producers say that the best actor ever is a guy named Awful Pilgrim who is in some movie I haven't seen. It seems this producer guy knows Mark Eitzel, and I think that's why Mark Eitzel hates so many people—the people he knows are asshole record industry types. The fight is kind of a travesty—with both guys acting up—Rome doing [word I can't read] and some Native American war dance—and the Dancin' Kid wearing a dress and a blindfold and running around.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Wednesday 6 May 1998 – Shaker's

I'm at breakfast again, at a little touristy diner—not really touristy, but close enough to the tourist area to attract them in summer when you can't get in here. It's still early enough, in the year, however, to be safe to come here, and there's a long counter, so it's easy to come in by yourself. Actually, this place is a hangout for the local artists, being in the local art district, where old warehouses have been converted into artists' lofts, which are now really upscale and popular places to live, and out of the price-range of all but the most successful of artists. I guess there must be this brief window of time when the warehouses are being converted from warehouses to places where people can live and work for very little money, but that always seems to be a boat that I miss everywhere I've ever lived. I don't know, maybe it's all a myth. Apparently, many of the artists are now having babies, judging by the people with babies in here—it's their current version of art. Actually, the artist that can now afford to have babies are the ones who are successful, and the ones that are successful are no longer painting but doing video installations and other multimedia extravaganzas. From what I've read about our local art community. There are still the few old timers, the old holdouts who like to go out on the pier with their easel and watercolors and paint lobster boats. They can even make a few dollars during tourist season, but they certainly can't afford to live in this new artist warehouse loft neighborhood.

Even more prominent than berets and babies in this place this morning are cell phones. I'm sitting at the counter looking into a big series of mirrors and I can survey damn near the whole place without twisting around on my stool or craning my neck, and this makes it a good place for observation and reflection, so to speak. And what I see, in the booths and at the tables behind me, are a lot of people talking on their phones. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe it's not even the artists who come here any more, maybe it's just the real estate people.

I suppose there'll be a time not long at all from now that when you get phone service turned on it will be cell phone service—and it'll be the only choice. It'll be as affordable as anything. Why not? It's one of those inventions that just makes sense. It's not like it's creating a need that people don't have, or selling people something that is already free (water, air) like so many businesses—it's understandable that people would like to be able to take their phone with them. You fell in love—you're waiting by the phone—hell, take the phone with you, then the phone is waiting by you. You may be miserable, in love, but you can still go to the laundromat, the video store, and drive around in the car and park in front of her house and will her to call—call! I guess at this point the automobile, and the traffic jam, and the commute are leading factors in cell phone popularity. If I was in that kind of phone oriented, drive here and there business—hell yes. I'm all for useful technology as such, telecommunications, tele com, the future. But right now, the cell phone is still a symbol of ostentatiousness—and it's still a negative thing in Portland, Maine, where there are poor people and rich people, and the poor people are trying to make a living doing art or doing nothing or pulling lobsters from the sea in a leaky boat, and the rich people are people who own the land and own the buildings and rent the living space to the poor people. And in some cases it goes all the way back to the sailors who came here from god-knows-where and killed everyone and started gridding out the land.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

30 April 1998 – from Dream Notebook No. 1

Lots of pleasant dreams lately, but I can't remember them well—but the last part of the one last night—I was going somewhere—on some kind of transit—and I see someone—Pardise, I think—she tells me that David Letterman is having a contest in which you send him one paragraph—and if you win—I don't know, he'll read it, or you'll be on the show. I get started right away. His address is something George Bush Plaza, and I get started writing about George Bush and forget about Letterman, momentarily. Then, somehow, I get caught up in doing a painting of David Letterman—it's with watercolors, because that's what I have—but they have an oil-like quality. It's easy and going well. I end up really getting into it, and it's more of an abstract painting, actually—but I'll send it to him anyway. It's really fun and I really feel like I'm really painting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tuesday 28 April 1998

I've been thinking about that sentiment for a couple of days now—it's on my mind—“You can't take it with you, but you should hide it before you go in case you can come back and get it.” That, for some reason, seems to make more sense to me than it sounds like. I don't mean literally burying a cache of gold, so that when you, hopefully, come back, you dig it up and spend it. You don't know when or what kind of world you're coming back into. Maybe gold will be worth nothing, and old cigarette butts will be the prime currency. So the question is, what could you leave behind when you die that could benefit you if you return to the world? You have to remember that you may not remember anything of your previous life when you get back—so what you leave would be best if it's something that benefits everyone. So, like, to really oversimplify things, Andrew Carnegie might return to the world and be delighted to be able to check books out from one of the many Carnegie free libraries. Essentially this idea of burying something that you can't take with you so you can come back and get it later is kind of a Westernized materialistic version of karma. Of course, you're missing the point if you contribute to the world only because you want to benefit personally somewhere down the line—but maybe that idea—only doing things that we can benefit from in some way—is so ingrained in us that we may well not be able to shake it.

There's one other way of looking at the whole thing that began to intrigue me when I started thinking about this whole subject. That is the idea of doing art—the compulsion to do art of some kind that some people seem to have—and it must be a compulsion, because it's not encouraged or rewarded—could be attributed to this theory—that in a past life or existence on Earth (or elsewhere), the artist was inspired by some form of art above all other experiences in their life—and now returning to the Earth will struggle to produce something that, upon returning once more, can inspire or sustain or console him in some indescribable way.

The whole world could be explained this way—maybe Bill Gates, in a past life, had to type love letters to a distant romance, and couldn't figure out the margins and such. Perhaps the inventor of the photocopier was Bartleby the Scrivener in a previous existence. Think about Picasso coming back to the world that he's changed. There's no reason for Heaven or Hell—Heaven and Hell are here, and satisfyingly complex to suit me. The developers of the motion picture can marvel at the high-tech theaters everywhere, but may have to suffer a bit through bad movies. The inventor of the automobile (who in a previous incarnation had a bad relationship with horses) now finds himself in a world where it's easy to get around, but ultimately is a tragic, hellish nightmare that has deteriorated well beyond the most pessimistic, morbid imagination of any warped science fiction writer.

Me—I'm pretty lucky, pretty well-adjusted. I'm not working on any invention, and art looks like a silly bad habit to me. Sure, in a future world maybe we'll have free or at least affordable therapy, but in the meantime I write in this notebook and it works okay, I guess. The only real compulsion I have is to remove lobsters from the sea and place them into a tank of boiling water. Maybe I was a plankton or _____ (lobsters' fave food) in a past life, or something—there's no other reason I can imagine having it in for these poor creatures.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday 25 April 1998 – Hollywood Burger Bar

It's a beautiful Saturday morning in spring, and I'm at my favorite breakfast spot, Hollywood Burger Bar, which is at the crossroads to the world. I'm looking north up the street from where I sit, and it gives me the sensation of Anytown, USA—that 6th Grade social studies book, idealistic nostalgia that I carry around with me like a well-worn Bible. I don't actually have the social studies book—you know the kind, called “People and Places” or something like that—no crime, no weirdness, and certainly no methamphetamine. The cover of the book is yellow, that's all I know. I'm obsessed with the color yellow lately—probably because I've been reading this “Feng Shui – The Chinese Art of Placement” book from the library, in order to best arrange my things and life in my meager digs. Finally, I've been forced to accept that it's hopeless, but I did learn that yellow is he most important color in China—the color of royalty. Which is really quite the opposite of the perception of yellow here, where it's caution, school bus, cross-walk, “Copies 5¢” (just looking around)—taxi, mustard, and the plastic top to the lemon-scented dish soap. Never a house, seldom a room, and rarely a car (that's not a taxi). In fashion, like never, except for the local anti-establishment raincoats, called sou'westers. (The fishermen, and lobstermen, however, only wear black ones.) Anyway, I can't get the color yellow out of my mind, but I'll try.

Looking north up the street, I can imagine more small towns and rural areas in between, fields of yellow wheat and corn—but this isn't the Midwest, which I idealize. It's colder and more heartless. To the north is Canada, eventually, and then the Arctic. To the south—Boston, small town extraordinaire'—and to the east, over the pond, London, “The City.” To the west, after a three day non-stop killing spree, is our sister city, Portland, Oregon. Occasionally we attempt a cultural exchange with Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses”—we trade lobsters for roses—but this usually leads to conflict as we are never in agreement as to how many lobsters are worth how many roses.

Speaking of yellow—a beaming young father just pulled up on his Beamer, carrying his three year old daughter who is dressed in a bright yellow shirt! She has no choice, and is obviously dressed in reference to her golden blond hair, full and curly, looking like an old-time actress, maybe _____. (Carole Lombard?) Actually, she looks just like that writer, Carole Maso, who spends her summers here occasionally, creating gossip, scandal, and fragmented prose. The mature look of this munchkin human being has me transfixed, but I take my eyes off her before her father notices. He would never notice, however, because he can't take his eyes off her. He is watching her react to the stimulus of the diner, thus experiencing the diner in an intense and fresh way himself. He should pay her at least as much as his favorite musician, author, or filmmaker makes, but he doesn't have to because he owns her—at least until she starts to drive. He should really lessen his slobbering intensity a little bit, though, at least in the presence of us impotent, unemployed lobstermen. Really, fathers shouldn't stare at their daughters like they want to fuck them—not even in, or especially not in private. It's not like the kid doesn't notice.

I'm overhearing the conversation of two guys down the counter—it's one of these seemingly fake conversations that make one suspect that they are space aliens, or perhaps actors rehearsing a script. I hear the one guy say he'd have been executed many times over if he had been living somewhere at some particular time. I can't help but wonder how he thinks he'd be able to be excluded more than once. A little later on I hear the other guy say: “You can't take it with you...” I think about this common sentiment for awhile and I decide it should be rephrased: “You can't take it with you, but you should hide it before you go in case you can come back and get it!”


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sunday 19 April 1998

It's Sunday morning and I'm at The Lobster Shaq where I'm desperately trying to find work on a fishing boat. A lobster boat, preferably, though that is highly unlikely. The jobs on lobster boats are really, really desirable and there's almost no turnover. A lot of lobster boats have been manned by the same few old salts since back near the beginning of the century. I figured that once they started using computers on lobster boats that would create a few new jobs, but these old timers, the real survivors, have had to weather one advance in technology after another over the years, and the onboard computer is just another thing to adapt to. The only new jobs were for the guys selling the computers and the guys teaching the old salts how to use them. I know nothing about computers anyway.

The reason I'm here on a Sunday morning is because it's the one morning the lobster boats aren't all out before dawn. The lobster boat captains are all very religious guys, and they have breakfast and go to church on Sunday morning, and make sure their crew is lined up for the next week's work. If you're in here on Sunday morning and look strong and hardy, have a good tan and some bulging muscles showing, you might get an offer to man the traps come Monday a.m. But like I said, there are hardly any openings on lobster boats, and usually the only job possibilities are on the bigger, more industrial and dangerous menhaden and shad trollers. I guess they net tons of these small, boney fish, which are then ground down and used mostly as fertilizer. Why the world needs so much fertilizer I don't know. Isn't there enough shit being produced to fertilize the entire universe?

I don't feel too muscular, tan, or strong this morning, anyway. They need strong backs, and mine is all fucked up and twisted from sleeping wrong on my borrowed bed in my Hollywood sleeping room. Mrs. _____, my landlady, pulled the bed, the only one available, out of the cellar for me when I rented the room. It's a massive, kingsize model that is so big it takes up seventy-five percent of the floor space in my small room. Worse, it is really two beds—that is, the boxspring is in two pieces—with a giant kingsize mattress over the top—but the boxsprings always separate and the soft mattress sinks down into the crack between them. On several occasions I had dreams that I was being sucked into a crack in the earth and woke up screaming. And it's hell on my back.

The weathered, majestic ship captains sit together at booths and survey the studly young prospects flexing their muscles along the counter, some who are bragging loudly about harpooning whales and such. The captains aren't easily fooled, though, and it's best to keep your mouth shut. I'm sitting here at the end of the counter, my back all twisted out of the straight line it should be in, and I'm scrawling this gibberish uncontrollably in my notebook like some kind of mental patient. I'm aware briefly of the eyes of four captains, sitting at a booth just behind me, scraping over me saltily, and then I can make out, above their usually hushed tones, along with a chuckle, one of the salty old gents cackle, "Maybe for bait."

I finally found out, after no luck reading the paper, what that line was all about, outside of the theatre yesterday. It was a casting call for a TV movie they're shooting here this summer. Pretty exciting—our neighborhood, Hollywood, rarely coincides with the "real" Hollywood—and so every functioning man, woman, and child of the region was there leaving their name and phone number and getting Polaroids taken. I guess it's to be a period drama, set in the Fifties, about a lobster that grows to tremendous proportions after being radiated by a crashed nuclear submarine secret weapon. The lobster terrorizes the town, of course, and gets revenge for all lobsters, I guess. They're filming it here because of the lobster connection, and because a lot of this town really has a fifties look—I mean, it's really stuck in the past in a lot of ways—and that goes for the dress and hairstyles of many, many locals—and there's a huge vintage restored automobile club here as well!

I considered trying out, but I don't see being an extra extra extra—you get paid, I guess, but mostly in bagels and bad coffee. Now if I could have the part of the whale harpooner, out of work and hopelessly out of touch with the times—a broken down 33 year old alcoholic who sits around trying to get through Moby-Dick—who is then called upon to break out his razor sharp harpoon and save the town with an impossible toss while being squeezed to his eventual death by one of the enormous claws—hell yes, that'd be excellent. But I guess Leonardo Hawke, the hot young star, has already harpooned that role. Actually, I just made that all up!

Sunday 19 April 1998

I'm at Joe's Cellar on 21st Street, NW. Happy to find this place is open on a Sunday. It's actually close, somewhat, to my new home. Expensive, but the food is good—so maybe not that expensive. I've got to write in my “Psycho Journal” today, new project—so here I go.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

12 April 1998 – from Dream Notebook No. 1

(1st dream in new house—1202 NE Beech!)

Heather and I are at a roadside cafe in S. Oregon somewhere and the guy working there asks me when I got out of jail—and then I remember that I was in jail—how did he know?—no one knows, hardly—it was last fall. I went to jail for 26 days for kicking a car—someone's car, when I was mad. But I also then kicked a police car. The guy at the cafe says when he want to jail last it was for “plants”—meaning he grows marijuana. When I think back about being in jail—it wasn't bad—I read a lot and the time went fast. (Ha.)

Earlier, dreaming—driving around with someone—in the passenger seat—drinking tequila drinks!—Margaritas—shaken up—keep forgetting we're in a car and it's illegal. Stash the bottles under the seat—only two shots left—one for me and one for the driver, feeling very sloppy, but not drunk—restless and forgetful. It's all very positive.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Saturday 11 April 1998

There's a huge line outside of the Hollywood Theatre this morning—I must find out what it's all about—it's not every day a huge line forms outside of a theater that shows second run movies for $2.50 at 10am. The movies aren't at 10am—they start in the afternoon—and to their credit, they've been showing some old movies, musicals and such. The line I'm talking about is at 10am, which is NOW on Saturday morning. I can't imagine—maybe people are lining up to something else, like a record store next door—trying to get lottery tickets to be eligible for a drawing to be eligible to make advance bids on the new Garth Brooks boxed set that's going to be available soon in a limited edition of one or two million for only like $49.95. When you hear something like that—or when I, specifically, as a struggling country and western artist, hear something like that—I don't know how to react. With numbness—what else? Once in awhile, however, the consumer—the collective, idiotic, misguided mass of them—bites back and says, "Enough is enough—no matter how much you try to sell this crap—no!" Usually it's not right before Christmas—I think they should, to be safe, hold off the Garth Brooks release a few months—but what do I know about "The Industry?" If competing with a similarly bland but even worse "new country" act called Brooks and Dunn hasn't hurt him, I'd say his sales figures are beyond my comprehension. Tammy Wynette recently died. I was not a big Tammy Wynette fan, but that news made me sad—she was very young still. She had a hard life—was married to George Jones, who's one of my all time favorites—but I wouldn't have wanted to be married to him. That Billy Sherrill must be a genius—is he still alive? If I could just get him to produce my new cassette!

The line from the Hollywood Theatre is incredible! It's stretching for like three blocks! One might think it's something Titanic oriented—like outtakes from Titanic? Or one of those Titanic movies made earlier in this century that no one wanted to see, but now everyone wants to see? (Take heart all you failures—you will have tremendous success beyond your wildest imagination—just when it's the right place and the right time!) Maybe it's a movie poster sale—those always draw enormous crowds—which is funny, since I've never been to anyone's house and seen movie posters up.

I must find out what this line is for—I'm obsessed with it now. Whatever it is—I want in. I'll sell whatever it is. I'll get in that business—on the ground floor. Maybe that is how my fortune will be made. Then my bio will say: "Then one day he saw a line from the Hollywood Theatre extending for four blocks at ten in the morning. 'I've got to have a part of that—whatever it is,' he said."

It's a really strange line, too. You can't tell anything from the people—young and old, ethnically diverse—at least for Portland, Maine.

How can you predict something like this? The neighboring businesses must be looking on in envy. Over at Winchell's they're saying, "Why not us? We've got donuts!" Of course not—the owners of Winchell's are far from this scene, and the employees of Winchell's are probably getting worried that all these people are going to get a real hankering for donuts with all this early morning line waiting. That reminds me of when they tried putting a Blimpie's sub shop in Old Town, down by the docks. There's a good example of people not going for it. They made a big deal of their regional compatibility—introduced the "Lobster Blimpie." Whew! "Blimpie—it's a beautiful thing." Not always. It went over like a Led Zeppelin reunion. Hey—maybe I'll look in yesterday's newspaper for a clue to this thing.