July 8 1998, Wednesday
wasn't pleased this morning to discover that I had developed a pronounced hickey on my left cheek from all the weird things I'd done with that blue turkey baster bulb I was playing with yesterday.
At around 10am, Matt and I woke up and compared notes on our sleep deprivation. Probably owing to the ephedrine in last night's tussin gel-caps neither one of us had slept well last night. But life isn't always comfortable and today was a working day for Matt. We drank a little coffee and headed off to Ann Arbor. He dropped me off near the Fleetwood and continued on to work, being an Oberlin-educated bus boy at the snooty restaurant, Sweet Lorain's.
I went to the University of Michigan's Angell Hall compuer lab to take advantage of their facilities. "You must be an authorized user to use these resources," says the customized start- up message on the Macintoshes. In this town it doesn't take much effort to break the rules and be a James Deanesque bad boy.
don't know why I'm still on the diary-l mailing list; surely it's a firm indication that I am some kind of lonely loser. But while I still am, I floated this idea I've been developing to form a collection, an anthology, of exceptional journal entries from the online journal world. The way it would work, to my way of thinking, is that periodically a "dictator" would be either appointed or elected to serve a brief term during which he or she would root around through journal keepers' archives, looking for good pieces of writing, and exposing them to the world in a respected forum on a regular basis. The "dictator" would serve a brief term and then be replaced with another "dictator," someone with possibly completely different tastes and standards. The idea was well received, overall, but there was a disturbing tendency among certain people to morph it into an awards program or else replace my single "dictator" with a (shudder) committee. If there's anything I've learned in my thirty years on this planet, there's no better breeding ground for apathy and no better dying ground for creativity than a committee. The dedication of individuals to singular rewarding tasks is what makes anything happen in this world at all. If there was a staff of five hundred people working on a newspaper somewhere, surely it wouldn't have nearly the productivity of the combined output of the 500 hundred person online journal movement.
And it really has become a movement. Its size and collective output has reached a critical mass, large enough now I think, to justify the anthology idea.
hile I worked at various tasks on the computer before me, large numbers of teenagers descended on the lab, talking loudly, giggling, flirting, squealing, and otherwise causing me unpleasant distractions. These kids were evidently the smart ones from some high school, on a debate or gifted and talented field trip, sent here to be enriched like the white bread they were.
t a certain point I just needed to get out of there and walk round. It's not difficult for me to kill a whole day in front of a computer, but I'm sure doing so is anything but healthy.
The streets of Ann Arbor were crawling with all kinds of people. Near the University, there was a large rowdy group of very stylish white teenage kids being shepherded around by what looked like an overworked sergeant from the U.S. Marines. I overheard someone say that this group was on some leg of a nationwide road trip.
Somewhere down Liberty Street I came upon Vanessa, Matt's friend, walking around with a girl she'd eagerly told us about yesterday. This was a date and Vanessa couldn't be distracted by the likes of me.
After walking "my" bike all around the downtown, feeling much like an alien space probe among these unknown faces, I stopped in at the Espresso Royale coffee franchise for an overpriced cup of what I should have had hours before. I drank it while sitting in glorious anonymity on some concrete bench-sculpure in front of a glorious Greco-Roman edifice in the center of campus.
hile putzing around a bit more in the computer lab, I was surprised suddenly by two familiar people who materialized out of nowhere and sat next to me. It was Molly Pasco and Chris Pranger, neither of whom I have seen since 1992 in Oberlin. Last I'd heard they were about to get married. Back then Chris (or "Pranger") was this charismatic but very unpretentious member of the local music scene. He was so cool that the year after he left town there was a band named "Pranger" in his honour. Molly was this shy, serene girl (similar in some ways to Deya, actually) who was a part of the Harkness scene in which I illegally dwelled. We became good friends back in 1990, a rough time for me, since I was always on the run from Oberlin Campus Security in those days.
Chris explained that he'd found one of my flyers in the nearby "galleria" and had started reading the musings, though it wasn't the first time he'd encountered my website, having done Internet searches in the past for such mutual friends as Heather Bissel. They said that they'd been living in Ann Arbor for quite a few years while Molly went to graduate school, but now she's graduated with a PhD in Classical Studies. In a month's time they'll be relocating to Tacoma, Washington, where Molly will be a university professor.
What can I say, it was a strange meeting. We all look older now, but not much different. I've gone through some changes, but I'm still living as I was when I last saw Molly, on the margins of society, but here she's gone from being a shy girl drinking cheap beers with the crazy kids to being a genuine university professor!
When I said I didn't really have any special plans for where to spend the night, they encouraged me to come over to their house to sleep on their hide-a-bed, so I said I'd be over shortly.
Shortly after they left, the hour grew to eleven, and the computer lab people started shutting the lab down. After fighting through these final minutes with suddenly extra-slow server connections, I managed to extricate myself from the world of technology and hit the streets of the city. I went to one of those "party stores" and looked around for some suitable alcohol for an evening with Pranger & Pasco. Michigan sin taxes being what they are, I finally settled on a six pack of Strohs, which cost $5. In Virginia, that's practically good beer price.
ranger & Pasco's cozy little one-bedroom $500+/month apartment was spectacularly decorated with a faded and dirty plastic-framed Hieronymus Bosch triptych print rescued from the Oberlin Art Department's dumpster. It looked like it could have been the original stolen from the Prado in Madrid. We three sat around drinking beer after beer, talking about Ann Arbor mostly, but also some of the things that have happened during the missing years. Pranger is now a librarian, having studied considerable "library science." I asked him what library of Congress number would be affixed to my Strohs, and he said he only knew about the Dewey Decimal System, adding that it would have to be in the 300s somewhere. Considering this classification gave him a sudden idea for a themed party store, one in which all the beverages and junk food are organized on shelves with librarian rigour, complete with numbered tags and a card catalogue.
We talked about all the things that makes Ann Arbor a place worthy of being missed: the Fleetwood, the stylish highschool kids and the Eightball (Pranger & Pasco's favourite bar, the closest thing to a dive in town). Just talking about the Fleetwood and the weirdos who frequent it made Chris hunger for a basket of its famous chili fries. So after we'd drunk at least three beers apiece and the clock struck three, we decided to walk over there and bask in some of that greasy alternative ambiance. I hadn't known that the Fleetwood was open 24 hours; as if the place needed more reason to be the coolest greasy spoon in town.
The place was packed when we got there, and the waiter (a mop-haired Asian dude) was just about to completely lose his shit. He snarled at one of the inebriated post-bar customers, "I'll get to you when I can. Just hold on!"
Pranger and Molly each ordered fries, but only Pranger had his slathered with chili. For my part, I ordered a Coney, which is Michiganese for a chili hot dog. When it came, it was a marshland of greasy chili that I was forced to eat with a fork. Like I've said before (and as we three discussed intensely tonight), Michigan is a very different place from the rest of the United States. It's the only place in the world where a chili hot dog is called a "Coney."
A couple of surly gangster-dressed black guys came in to the Fleetwood, and when they realized how flustered the waiter was, they seemed to take special delight in baiting him, calling him, "that Chinese guy," making gratuitous loud remarks and begging for service. I thought for awhile somebody was going to get stabbed, but I didn't know just who.
On the way back to Pranger & Pasco's apartment and after several failed attempts, I finally was able to launch a plastic cuplet of half and half into a doorway with my blue rubber turkey baster bulb. Kersplash! Oh, the punkrockitude.
one year ago
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