August 1 1998, Saturday
gutterpunk on the tracks
felt like I had paprika-flavoured concrete hardening in my head. It didn't hurt so much as weigh me down and affect the gentle flow of my thoughts. Hangover is more than a physical illness; it's partly a mental condition. Sometimes it's a pleasant mental numbness, but not so today. I was full of anxieties and regrets, none of which objectively made any more sense this morning than they would on any other day.
I was at Wacky Jen's house sleeping on a mattress that, judging from all the wiry dog hair, had served mainly as a bed for Fly Boy. I got up and tip-toed out the door so as not to awaken Jen. Outside the sun was bright but the air was somewhat cool. I had no clear sense of what time it was and knew only that I had to get down to the Omni Hotel before Hoagie had to evacuate her room there. First, though, I had to recover my bike from Beasly's house.
The shortest way to get there was to walk down the Lynchburg line railroad tracks. As I was passing a parked freight train, Morgan Anarchy suddenly appeared between two of the cars. Morgan is to trains as ducks are to water, so it seemed quite natural, even as early as it was. He said he'd just spent the night in jail and was on his way to Beasly's to see if there was any beer left over from last night. The first thing Morgan thinks about every morning is a cigarette, and once he's had that he starts his search for his breakfast beer.
I asked Morgan how he'd ended up in jail, and he explained that he'd gotten in a fight down on the Corner. The other day, you see, some big multiply-piereced alterna-dude provoked an incident with Morgan's German Shepherd, Spunk, was bitten, and now the dog is on probation in a kennel somewhere. Last night when Morgan saw this guy, he flew into a whiskey-intensified rage and attacked him. By the time the police showed up, the big guy was bleeding, but he didn't want to press charges. But since Morgan was an under age person in possession of alcohol (it being in his blood) he was thrown in the drunk tank for the night. That was fine for Morgan; all he'd wanted to know as he was being hauled off was, "Do I get an omelette in the morning?" It doesn't take very much to make Morgan happy, and he said of the experience, "The cops were really cool."
The shortest route between the tracks and Beasly's house would have been up an incredibly steep kudzu-covered railroad bank. I'd thought originally I was going to cut through this way, but Morgan pointed out that it was impossible, especially under the increasingly hot Sun. So we continued all the way to the Shamrock Street crossing and doubled back.
Morgan was sure that there would be some kind of beer at Beasly's house, especially after he learned Tall Brook had been in attendance at last night's party. Morgan knows that Brook makes a point of hiding lots of beer in various places whenever he goes to a party. Cans of beer end up hidden under couch cushions and in unexplored nooks of the refrigerator.
As Morgan expected, Tall Brook was still at Beasly's, stretched out on some couch cushions placed on the floor. (Tall Brook is way too long to sleep on a conventional couch.) But Brook had bad news. All the beer had been drunk. I hate to see an alcoholic suffer, so I offered to go pick up a forty for Morgan down at the JPA Fastmart. He had the necessary funds from panhandling he'd done last night; he always plans ahead enough to have cash for the critical first forty of the day.
You should have seen how Morgan's face lit up when I returned from the store and handed him that cold forty ounce bottle of Hurricane.
rode my bike down to the Omni and tracked down my mother in room 710. To remember her room number, I'd written "710" on the back of both of my hands. Some people had seen this and thought I'd written "OIL."
The seventh floor is the top floor of the Omni, so Hoagie had a commanding view over southern Charlottesville with a clear view of Carter's Mountain on the south horizon, its radio antennas bristling unexpectedly fascistically from the tranquil fields, orchards and forests at the ridgetop.
I didn't like the smell of whatever fragrance the Omni uses in its non-smoking rooms. It smelled unpleasantly hospitalesque, with a dash of eau de grandmother. The decoration was unnecessarily pastel and folksy. But it was a weird kind of folksy, a kind that appeared to have come by way of Pop Art, but with neither sophistication nor kitsch value. All possible levels of interpretation had been flattened down to the simple justification of decoration, the supposedly least provocative kind.
I don't know what is wrong with my mother, but there is a strong connection between her lower intestines and the stress of travel. She must have gone to the bathroom a half dozen times before we finally got in gear to go. I loaded my bike into Hoagie's Subaru and we headed back to Staunton. It was a beautiful day and the skies were devoid of both clouds and haze.
We stopped on the way to pick up a manifold gasket for my Dodge Dart. I was starvin' like Marvin by this point, so we stopped at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Staunton. It's called the Baja Bean, perhaps a member of the same franchise that runs a restaurant by the same name on the Corner in Charlottesville. Not long ago, this Staunton Mexican restaurant was called Rosa's Cantina, but we Muellers had long ago stopped going there because of their unconcern for non-smokers and their seeming inability to thoroughly wash their dishes. Now, though, there's a big non-smoking section and Hoagie said the food is good and the dishes are clean. We were served by the same bleach-blond gay guy who has worked in all of downtown Staunton's restaurants at one time or another. Either that or he has numerous clones and/or wanna-bes.
ack at the house, I was in the stream again, mindlessly shoveling gravel up against the upstream side of the dam and thinking with my hangover-limited mind. I was thinking about this online journal thing and how destructive it's been to my social relationships. There's a reason people keep their mouths shut and don't say exactly what they think of everyone. We all have horrible thoughts about everyone, but chances are pretty good that most of mine end up published online. I hold back a few of the most outrageous thoughts, but I work them in somehow anyway, sometimes in the subtleties of the things I say about people. It's a problem. I need to find a way to get at the essential truths of the human condition without making everyone hate me. I need to tell parables. Parables are great, because you can substitute pigs for your enemies, tell a tale that exposes them for the fools they are, and then go devour a ham sandwich.
I took a big long nap in the afternoon and woke up feeling like I was on the surface of a neutron star under the gravitational force of thousands of G.
hen I'd mustered some strength, I went down to look at the Dart and considered installing the manifold gasket. The car has had an exhaust leak for months and Miller (my mechanic) said the other day, "The gasket's all blowed out of there." But I took one look at the bolts holding the manifold to the engine head and gave up. They were rusted on wild style.
I looked around for some WD-40 but could find none. I was hunting around for white gas and oil to make my own WD-40, but Hoagie (always nervous when I attempt chemistry) offered to run me into town to pick up some of the real stuff.
I sprayed all the nuts down with with the stuff and gave a turn to one of the corner nuts holding down the exhaust half of the combination manifold. It went real hard, but it was going. Then it just snapped off. This wasn't good. I'd broken the first manifold stud I'd attempted and there were ten more to go. In disgust, I gave up on the Dart for the evening.
that was dull, how about some false modesty?
ut good news came via the internet. Scott Anderson had sent word that there was a special about online journals on the front page of the weekend art section of the Globe and Mail, Canada's premier newspaper. Not only that, but my journal was featured, along with a good part of my "online journal clique." For whatever reason some webcam wench was tossed in, perhaps for good measure. Reading the article, you could almost trace the reporter's surfing behaviour. He started out with a quote about my hitchhike from Michigan and, somewhere in there, he encountered a lonely link to Rory's page (I made one of my hitchhiking signs on the back of a printout of an episode of Down the Rubadub in a Terry Nutkins Stylee). Rory has had some rather compelling entries of late, so the reporter must have been impressed. Reading Rory's dream of Nancy Firedrake, he followed a link to her site, where it wouldn't have been difficult to find references to Scott, Andrew Denyes, Metajournals and perhaps Grinder (and Isaac, Cut While Shaving, Spaceman and Nova Notes; but those routes weren't pursued). It's funny how the reporter's analysis of online journals, with the exception of obligatory references to online journal pioneers OpheliaZ and Carolyn Burke, never sloshed out of this very small bucket of linkage. I'm not complaining; I'm delighted by, among many other things, Charlottesville's new reputation in Canada as a Mecca for online journals. The article could have used a little better editing though; there were two paragraphs about me that said almost exactly the same thing and links in the online version were mostly non-functional. But the reporter did seem (unlike whoever did the recent Salon article) to have actually read the journals he was writing about. His remarks about Andrew Denyes, Nancy Firedrake and Grinder seemed rather well researched.
one year ago
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