Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tuesday 24 March 1998 — The Lobster Bible

(Note: The Lobster Bible is a part of this journal that is partly fictionalizing my location, pretending to be in Portland, Maine—but otherwise, everything else is pretty much the same.)

I just picked up my coffee mug—I'm at work—on which is printed "Tony" and then "Luck of the Irish" and a bunch of green shamrocks or four leaf clovers or what have you. I'm not Tony—I'm at work and I got the mug out of the cupboard where it sat with hundreds of discarded coffee mugs from past employees. Every time one of them gets fired they leave their personalized coffee mug. So the coffee mug cupboard is like a cemetery of labor—little commemorative monuments to past lives wasted at this hellhole. But to get to the point, I thought my mug was empty and it was not, and coffee flew all over the front of my white shirt. This, I think, proves to myself, and the world, that I'm mentally—what?—disturbed, disabled, nonexistent?—what I'm trying to say isn't that I profess to be hindered by some clinically recognized mental disorder. I mean, maybe I am, but who am I to say? What I'm saying is that I'm completely incapacitated in the mental department—I mean, why didn't I know there was coffee in that cup, or at least assume there might be? You don't see normal people walking around with big coffee stains on their shirts. Why me, and what happened? I figure this is what this journal is all about—I'm going to write down every last thing I think and then submit it to some experts somewhere—hopefully to a research hospital so I won't have to pay anything—and then I'm hoping they can put all this data in the big computer, and maybe DR. FREUD can take a look at the readouts—if he's not too busy being dead—HA! And maybe they can give me a clue as to what's wrong with me—maybe prescribe some sedative or drug or Prozac or rat poison, whatever. Then I can get on with the everyday tasks like boot licking and shit—okay, I'll tell you what I do.

So I'm not Tony, like I said, but I'm not going to tell you my real name because anonymity is important to this project—I have to feel comfortable not holding anything back—no information that might be crucial—no feelings that might be otherwise too excruciating to admit. So let's see—I'll call myself... Norman, you know, after Norman Bates. No, that's too goofy—okay, how about Travis, after one of my all-time heroes, Travis Bickle. Okay, me, Travis, I work at this downtown architectural firm called "The Sky's No Limit." Actually, that's a joke—but it should be the name of this place, because they specialize not only in big (towering, skyline ruining) skyscrapers, but also in big everything—big hair, tall food, and microbrews with the big head. Oh, and that band, Big Head Stud. Entertainment, restaurants, fashion—they have their greedy fingers in everything (and I won't even get into politics right now). But no—these kinds of respectable firms are always named after the owners or partners or whatever they call themselves—skylords—how's that? Like, I read in the Wall Street Journal about this successful company that picks up dog shit for a fee—called "Shit to Gold." Excellent handle. So I call my employer "The Sky's No Limit" when in actuality it's officially: "Leigh Marvin Albert Speer and Simpson, Architects." The "architects" is necessary so you don't think it's a damn law firm or something, or a goddamned talent agency for Christ God's sake. Just the thought of that riles me up because I worked in a talent agency—started in the mailroom, and I was going to work my way up like those guys like David Geffen and then be the most powerful man in Hollywood, etc., and someday have my own personal guru. Well, my plan didn't work out—I was working beside all these other guys who were trying to do exactly the same thing—and they were getting old there fast. Those kind of "work my way up from the mailroom" bullshit stories aren't really that useful to the world at large—and may actually be destructive if you ask me. Those powerful guys were all born into royalty, and those cute little myths are just fabricated to keep the slaves happy.

Everything gets on my nerves some days like today which is one of them. The guy in front of me at lunch with a shirt that says: "Grateful Deaf Homebrew Society." Am I supposed to decipher that? Anyway, what really gets on my nerves is the thought of homebrew societies and microbrew clubs, etc.—and this really brings me full circle in life, since at one time, if I had a religion, that religion was beer. Now it's my worst enemy. I can't eat (or drink) wheat anymore, and that includes barley, oats, and probably goddamned alfalfa. More on that later, along with alcoholism, etc.—right now I'm trying to enjoy my lunch at my favorite Thai restaurant. (I can only eat Thai food anymore—rice noodles, fish sauce, no soy sauce [which is made of wheat, believe it or else]—but that's okay—it's my favorite!) And my favorite Thai restaurant for lunch is a little place called Thai and Randy (it had once been called Thai a Yellow Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree, but business really picked up after the name was changed to honor Randy Russell, the place's best customer before he succumbed to a tragic identity crisis).

Just finished my delicious lunch, followed by a Thai iced coffee which I don't really need, and now for my fortune cookie (which I can't eat, but I observe the fortunes religiously). Oh, that's interesting—here's the fortune: "A liar is not believed even though he tell the truth."

Damn! Does that apply to the subject at hand or what? I think it's prophetic—the mystical fortune—on this day, day one of my new journal, and this new life—it's kind of about, you know, changing the truth to fiction—or telling the truth even with the particulars changed. It's kind of the nature of fiction, and gossip, etc.—I decided that gossip is what is the greatest literature—you know, like The Bible—all gossip. Hey, the newspaper headline this afternoon—something about the "Court"—whatever court that happens to be—decided that it was okay for the Boy Scouts to keep out gays and atheists. As if there's some common thread between gays and atheists. The average guy might not get too up in arms about this because who needs the Boy Scouts anyway—but I guess it is an issue, or precedent, or whatever. What I want to know is what is a gay and what is an atheist? If I am only involved in a sexual relationship with myself, and the past and future aren't taken into account, which they never should be when you're dealing with ideology (i.e. "someday he might become a Nazi!"—not exactly an indictment)—does that make me gay, since I am a man? (Me, myself, and I are all men, all in love with each other—is that some kind of a three-way? Sorry, I know I'm taking this a little far.) On a lighter note, if I believe in God, but I also believe that I am God, does that make me an atheist or not?

Back at work, and I feel better now. Full, and also, I saw a fat man in small shorts on the street, and that always cheers me up (it did at the time, but now it hardly seems worth mentioning, but I made a mental note that I would.)

I'm at home, finally—it was a long day. (Home being a rather complex subject, which I'll touch on later.) I'm watching the Academy Awards, which were on last night—I videotaped it so I can prolong this nausea inducing guilty pleasure, but also to protect myself from the depression danger immediacy of the live broadcast, and also to be able to replay any worthwhile real moments, which they've done their best to iron out over the years, but you never know. Well, it starts right out with jokes about how the Titanic is going to win everything—cynical, but we aren't supposed to care. Why are we not supposed to care? Smarmy host Billy Crystal enters on a set designed to look like the sinking ship. I mean, can it be any more blatant?

I really would like to be watching this with Woody Allen, who cast Billy Crystal in his last movie as Satan—I think W.A. might be nominated as screenwriter. He's not there—it might be fun to be at his house watching it—if he is. It's an interesting idea—you imagine he might make it bearable... Well, anyway—I guess everyone just decided the Titanic will win everything, like I care—but you know—I used to believe someone voted on this stuff. Oh my, this show is just... Why am I watching it? I used to have a designated Masochist Night, about once a week, back in my youth. Why?—just to be silly, I guess—but now—it's like a bad joke gone wrong—it's not even funny anymore—it's any time you turn on the TV, or go to a movie, pick up a newspaper—walk down the street... Well, this just goes to show that Hollywood is just... Hollywood—to clarify things, is what I refer to the popular American motion picture industry as. It is also the name of the suburb where I live—hope this doesn't get confusing—this just goes to show you—Oh, it's sick! James Cameron's acceptance speech for best director—he says: "I'm king of the world!" (It must be a line from the movie, since everyone laughed instead of being horrified.) So much for... whatever...

But I still love movies. All you need to do is think about Robert Mitchum for a second and it brings you right back to why you cared at all in the first place.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Tuesday 24 March 1998

And I'm at Dr. Simon's office... once again in Hollywood. For my thyroid blood test. No what? at the H-wood B. Bar? The interesting girl who works there, who is my favorite reason for going there, isn't there on weekdays. I like them all—and the place—but... I'd rather go there on Saturday when she's there. Where should I go for breakfast, after my doctor office visit?

Now I'm at the Beaterville Cafe—a place I'm at for the first time. It is a place that's been around awhile—and I think they might have moved recently, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's very bright and clean, almost too nice, except the prices seem good. I guess we're in an area of intense gentrification here—N. Killingsworth. The coffee is good—did I say that already? Good coffee is an excellent place to start. Good potatoes, too—the eggs are eggs, but those are the best homefried potatoes I've had in awhile—very tasty, they taste like they're roasted. I sat at the end of the counter and can see into the kitchen to the boxy, stainless steel dish machine. Part of me is disgusted by caring about his—like why don't I just go get a goddamned dishwasher job? Well, I probably couldn't, for one thing. For another, now that I have health insurance, the thought of whimsically dumping it seems crazy. Especially after I just went to the doctor to get a blood test for my thyroid replacement this AM. I don't think that's exactly a shallow desire, to be actually able to go to the goddamned doctor. There's a swell restroom here, big and clean. It looks like a place where you could actually take a shit. Someone's talking about buying their house near here. The buying house obsession in Portland gets on my nerves more and more. Aaron Elliott was right about Portland—about people disappearing into their domestic home-owner life. (Not his words, but I think his sentiment?) There's a bumpersticker on the wall: “I Closed Quality Pie September 12, 1992.” I think that was a good diner in NW—now gone (since before we moved here, quite)—I've heard about it (from Aaron, for one). Probably the last good diner in NW, too—sad (except that Joe's Cellar is really OK).

Thursday 19 March 1998

I'm at the Hollywood Burger Bar for breakfast—it's just so nice out, I had to get out somewhere. Unfortunately there's no—no—I don't know what, because it's now, today...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Wednesday 18 March 1998

(National Pseudo-Irish Hangover Day)

What a load of shit, everything. I'm depressed now, so whatever sorry bullshit I've written prior to this is, it doesn't count. I'm at the Sandwich Experience, a place that is frequented by cops. They have breakfast—so I thought I'd drop in. The coffee is self-serve, and you can see your car in the parking lot from where you sit and smoke—this explains its appeal to cops. There's a complete disregard for any decent aesthetic quality, anything diner-like, etc.—but I guess it's a certain type of establishment that is unique in everything that it isn't. It's cafeteria-style—no counters or booths, just tables, and really pathetic attempts at prettification. The cancer ward is sitting near me, four women sucking down cigarettes like it's the last day it's allowed—the oldest of them with an old man's smoker's voice. They're all overweight, don't smile, and are talking about sick and dying people. Probably nurses. Probably work together at a nursing home or hospital, night shift, and are all having breakfast together after work, discussing their depressing job.

The most disturbing thing about Portland is that there never seems to be any crossover between the different cultures—the yuppies all go to the yuppie places, and the rednecks go to the redneck places, and the “alternative” people go to the alternative places—each place is totally predictable, and there aren't any places where everyone goes—that I've found, anyway. There probably is somewhere. But generally, in Portland, there is the lack of subtlety, sophistication, and complexity that there is to a great degree in somewhere like Ohio—and certainly New York City. But maybe it's not Portland—maybe it's the times. After all, I came here from Iowa City, which is a place certainly lacking in many ways, but is full of crossover, because it's so small and thus you have the rednecks and the PhD's rubbing elbows everywhere you go.

I really love Portland, but sometimes the whole West Coast thing gets me down. The newness, lack of old roads and small Ohio-like towns—and the lack of diners and history. I mean, relative to the East. The whole USA lacks history compared to the rest of the world. I'm just depressed today. A woman was out running as I walked here—and her beating the concrete with her running shoes just depressed me and made me think, “What could be worse?”

Smoking seemed much more attractive until I came here. I don't know. I'm paranoiacally worried about being fired from my job. I won't discuss the reasons, the clues, the history—unless I do get fired, because then I'll be right. If I'm not, it'll just be paranoia. Or employer terrorism—which there is—but I don't know, you can't blame them. What do they have to motivate people with, really, besides fear? It's not like anyone's doing that job because they want to. I've got to take some kind of desperate measures soon to not succumb to depression.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Saturday 14 March 1998 — Hollywood Burger Bar

Moving into my new house—well, everything's moved in, but in a shambles—in boxes—a state that usually takes months for me to get out of—if ever. Of course I hadn't moved for three and a half years, but it seems like yesterday. I'm still, at this point, determined to get everything in the room, and the house—all my stuff, in absolute working order and complete organization! I can do it too, but I'll have to be clever, and it won't happen over night. I need some good solid weekend days all day—and right now the NCAA Tournament is on, so that will either be a hindrance or a good thing—to keep me from being depressed. I like to have basketball on when I'm working on stuff—but those first two days are really intense—my favorite two days of the tournament—the first round—32 games in two days!

Heather and I went over to Cinema 21 on Thursday and saw an old Frank Capra movie from 1933—The Bitter Tea of General Yen—probably one of the more obscure and weird Capra movies, but also one of the more complex and best. Things really haven't changed in Hollywood since, say the beginning of sound in 1927 or so—in 70 years! Things haven't really changed very much at all. It's a diabolically in-place system—I guess anything that is so immensely successful creates an enormous monolith of itself that contains the blueprint and the rules, the ten commandments and the holy grail. You know all that. The actual, appropriate metaphor eludes me. Better movies being made from popular but not very good books of the day. The really good movies being ignored.

I like that monolith—like the one in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a symbol for whatever—it almost doesn't matter. I guess if the monolith is in a movie it should represent the cinema. Or Hollywood (not the same thing). I know—I'll put that damn monolith in everything I do—from now on! It'll represent whatever stupid system that's currently in place that I have to work against, chip away just so I can piss on it. In writing, in movies, in art—the monolith will appear. But not always in black rectangular form, of course—I'm not sure in what form—but that will be dictated by the art form (as in visual art—painting, etc.—the monolith is the four-sided, rectangular frame of the visual piece). (This is all very much coffee thinking!) This is a milestone ***** make a note, mark it here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Wednesday 4 March 1998

I'm at Holman's for breakfast, for the special steak—which I'm sure won't compare to my special steak yesterday at the Sandy Hut. I declare war on the kind of easy listening music that is on the radio and is supposed to evoke some kind of emotion but is totally phony. The kind of song Whitney Houston used to do. This one was Vanessa Williams. Probably written by Baby Face. Not necessarily a young, good-looking singer, but most likely. I don't know what I mean by “declare war”—it's not like I'm going to do anything. It's just that I'm violently opposed to it—but my reaction is not going to be violent, or even writing an editorial about it (though if I was a newspaper columnist I very well might). But it's just a way of saying I have to take action the only way I feel I is positive—and write my own songs. Because the world doesn't need any more songs—but if somebody doesn't do something, that kind of mediocre crap will take over.

“Did you see the Titanic?” is the question of the day. Certainly more people are talking about Titanic the movie than were talking about the boat Titanic when it sunk. Insane numbers. “I don't like movies,” says the waitress—but you know, if she ends up going to one movie all year long... “It's going to make the most money of any movie ever made.” Everyone knows this. “It was the most expensive movie ever made.” It's a pure triumph of capitalism and the USA—the big way of doing things. It's kind of excellent in a way—in a purely artistic standpoint. From a social standpoint, it's terrible—grotesque and ugly—but in keeping alive the big movie—which helps the small movie be small, and its own thing—it's good—it's funny. It's comforting, even. (My expression for everything lately—comforting—I must need a lot of comfort.) Last year, “The Year of the Independent Movie”—that was disconcerting—disturbing. But this puts things back where they were. I suppose I'll have to go to it—add $6.75 to their gross—to see if I can find something else good to say about it—or criticize it as artificial, digitized entertainment—we'll see.