make art! make art!

well, what do you think?
what do you mean what do i think? i think it's obvious. he's sorely unhappy.
how can you tell?
he's being really quiet.
but he's always been quiet!
well, maybe he's always been sorely unhappy. ever think of that?

i knocked on the door. she was home. we greeted each other, but we did not hug. we decided we would just get to where we were going. the first house we looked at was really cool. a yellow fixer-upper, dead smack in the middle of watsonville. and at $1150 for a 2bd/1b, it was a steal. a steal for that area, anyway. we peeked in through the windows to see the spacious bedrooms, hardwood floors, and newly remodeled kitchen. the backyard was basically an endless field, nothing but hay and grass and weeds. i pictured the two of us throwing parties, having people mingle on the porch with drinks in their hands. "yeah, we live here," we'd brag. "we're awesome."

i asked her if she'd like to go to manresa beach, where my cousins were holding their bi-annual camping trip barbecue extravaganza. "yeah, but do you think we should check out this house off freedom first?" "sure," i said. we drove along freedom, the scenic-country drive that runs parallel to highway 1 for a good twenty minutes. "it's on a christmas tree farm," she said. "so if you see christmas trees, we must be close." we drove and drove, but there were no christmas trees. at last, we decided it was time to give up.

we headed to the camp site. "it's at manresa beach," i told her, and she told me how to get there. we got to the beach, but i had forgotten where the camp site was located. "do you mind if we wait for david (pronounced, "dah-veed")?" "no, not at all." i got out of the car to trim my fingernails. "the last time i saw you, you were trimming your fingernails," she said. "yeah," i said, "i was." david didn't show. he had gotten to the camp site before us. i began to head toward the camp site, at first in the wrong direction, but i finally realized my error. at last, we found it. we parked in the twenty minute parking area.

david, aimee, and i walked. "they're at site 37 and 38," i said. the year before, meagan and i had tried to visit my cousins at the camp site, but i didn't have the foresight to figure out where exactly they were located. i had no idea the place was so widely spread out, and when i tried to call, my bars dropped, and the "emergency calls only" sign flashed. this is an emergency, goddamnit. we paid $6, we're starving, and we have no idea where we are. this time, though, i learned from my mistake. while aimee and david used the restrooms, i interrupted some campers to find out where to go.

and so david, aimee, and i walked, but this time, in the right direction. marie was the first to greet us. "you found us!" she exclaimed. "yeah, ha. we did." david looked visibly uncomfortable stealing hot dogs from off the picnic table, even when i tried to encourage him. "you can have some more," i said, "there's plenty." he refused. i'm like constanza, i thought, i can always sense the slightest suffering. david and aimee clung to each other, as i thought about what to do. i knew i had to move my car. one ticket, the slightest infraction, the slightest fee, would be a loud, fateful rap on the door of my undoing.

aimee and david decided they would leave, using the cold as an excuse. i had no excuse, and anyway, i genuinely wanted to visit with family for a while. i moved my car and trekked back to the site. my cousins and i sat and chatted, and by cousins, i mean mostly eric. i felt bad when i noticed my cousin, francis, was left out of the conversation, so i tried to start something up. only thing is, i never know what to bring up. i guessed that i could bring up the nba playoffs, but i think that we generally discussed that earlier. "so, have you been busy at work?" "oh yeah," he said, "especially now that the weather's been better. we're seeing all kinds of trauma emergencies. bike accidents, water-skiing accidents, stuff like that." "oh. wow." at this point, this guy named kelsey intervened. "have you guys seen the movie once?" "yeah!"

i couldn't believe this guy, kelsey. he didn't look a day over eighteen, and already he was engaged to this girl, jess, who was sitting next to him. she looked younger than he did. they mentioned things like modest mouse, you and me and everyone we know, and they even looked slightly interested in the bogosian play i returned to my cousin. well-adjusted namedroppers. where do they come from? what makes them think that things will work out?

do you think it's going to work out?
i don't know. he seemed interested over the phone.
but now?
but now he's acting really aloof. like he's not trying very hard.
did he call anyone?
no, i made most of the calls.
what's he gonna do?
he said he was going to sub, or try to work at a co-op.
hmm, that might be good.

eric and i walked down to the beach with uncle nanding and marie's son, eli. "i have to go to the bathroom!" eli said, as we stepped into the sand. i had to go, too, but knew better than to try my luck in a dark port-o-potty. "looking at this really puts me in my place," eric said. i agreed. the dark water seemed like it could rise any moment, and cover the entire world. i thought about that walk rachel, meagan, glenn and i took down the beach, the one that seemed would never end, until finally someone spoke up and asked glenn where he was taking us. "nowhere," he said. "i was just walking with you guys."

the four of us walked back to the camp site. i decided it was getting late, and that i'd better go. in the dark, i walked back with eric's parents, my aunt and uncle. "where's your girlfriend?" he asked. my aunt answered for me: "she's in school." this is all anyone asks me. with no job, no grad school, no conceivable plans for the future, in the words of neil young, "i have a friend i never see." so how about those hornets, uncle?

today, aimee, david and i drove around to look at apartments in the santa cruz area. we went to an open house that had two upstairs bedrooms available. the owner, a short, older woman named patricia showed us around. there was significant water damage to the wall in one of the closets. her house was kind of messy, and there was some old music playing loudly on the radio, like a true deranged artist lived there. she also said that she didn't want us to bring any kitchen supplies. "what did you think?" aimee asked. "i thought it was okay." "she seemed like a bohemian." "yeah." "she's like an artist or something." "yeah." it boggled my mind how a struggling artist could afford to keep a four bedroom house to herself in santa cruz. i voiced this query aloud. "old money, probably," david offered.

we went to the river arts festival. i walked behind aimee and david, their arms interlocked with one another. suddenly, i realized that we were the only three minorities within miles. then came more and more white people. tie-dyed t-shirts. people playing guitar. rasta hats. hookah, whatever that is. soy nuggets. eco-friendly. hybrid cars. tie-dyed dresses. co-ops. veganism and bikram yoga. organic drinks. 420-friendly. community bulletins. a group of four college girls laughing together over coffee. i suddenly thought of that scene in into the wild where the main character decides he's going to get an i.d. card and a social security number, and return to civilization. it's obvious his adventure is over. but then he sees a well-dressed guy his age, sitting in a restaurant, laughing with his girlfriend. that's all it takes. he decides that he doesn't want to have anything to do with society anymore.

sometimes i worry that i'm that impulsive, that isolated, and that the only thing that sets me apart is that i lack any spirit of adventure. it was probably then that i realized i didn't want to live in santa cruz, or san francisco, or anywhere, really. i would like to learn to "live off the grid," as my cousin put it, but i just don't know how. not yet anyway. all that's certain is that i don't fit here, and that my attitude about everything always sucks, and i don't know how to fix it. all i can do is ask you about work, and all you can do in return is ask me about a friend i never see.

so, what do you think you're gonna do?
hopefully i can find a one-bedroom.
you could always live in the dorms.
yeah, but that would be expensive.
i don't think it's that much.
we'll see. anyway, here he comes.

i decided i wanted to take a nap. i had a headache. "it's probably the heat," aimee suggested. "yeah, could be," i said. "i was thinking about taking a nap, too." "okay," i said. i awoke an hour later to the buzzing of my cell phone. surprisingly, the caller was identified as dong. having turned down my last four consecutive requests to hang out in san francisco, i figured he was finally calling to tell me that our friendship was over, and that actually, we never even were friends. "i've found someone cooler," he might say, "someone who can think positively about everything." "that's wonderful," i would answer, "i'm going to remove you from my phonebook now." in reality, he was calling with a guitar question. "is it bad to take off all the strings at once?" "no," i said, "it doesn't matter." goodbye. goodbye.

my phone rang again. i heard only mumbling. "who's calling?" "amy." "oh. hey. how's it going?" at this point, she realized she called the wrong person. "oh," she said, "i was trying to call my friend, james." i hadn't earned the title of friend yet. "no problem." goodbye. goodbye. then my mom called. "when are you coming home?" sigh. "tonight, probably." i have accomplished nothing, mom. i may never accomplish anything. you have raised a son who will forever remember that he was born on a wednesday, the day of sorrow, and he will never do anything with his life. i'm sorry it had to be this way.

it was too bright and sunny to sleep, so i decided to read some more schulz and peanuts. after a few pages, marianna and her betrothed, jerry, arrived. she was pretty, just as everyone had built her up to be. she looked like the girl who worked the bellarmine desk, the only girl my roommate, tony meatballs, and i could agree on. they introduced themselves, and i went back to reading.

from schulz and peanuts:
- he himself would assert only that there was 'something wrong with somebody who has thoughts like that.'
- question: why is it that as soon as a person states his ambition, everyone tries to discourage him? answer: because you're stupid, that's why!
- you didn't think well of yourself, and if you did, you didn't show it.
- almost all of us, if not all of us, have the desire to be somebody. this doesn't mean that you necessarily want to be rich and famous or anything like that, but you want to be somebody.

i read for an hour or two, then decided i would wait until aimee woke up before i left. she caught me reading. "i heard he (schulz) was depressed." "yeah, i think so," i said. my mom had said the same thing. i don't think he was depressed, though. he simply had schulz syndrome: an inability or unwillingness to find his place among others. i think any thoughtful person who is willing to slow down his life will find that he suffers from schulz syndrome. but i don't know. maybe it is depression, what do i know?

i told aimee i was leaving, and that it would probably be easier to find a one-bedroom. i made up excuses about state jobs and uncertainty, and all that other crap that had been weighing on my mind all weekend. she understood. of course she did, she was aimee. jerry and marianna appeared, too, saying that they were going to go play tennis. two people in love, going to play some tennis. i left before them, and filled up my car. gas was $4.11 a gallon. i had no idea until i started pumping. as i drove deeper into the santa cruz fog, i was overcome with a great sadness. i couldn't identify the source.

all i could think about was a line from schulz and peanuts that i had just recently read: "he later recalled a wild sense of drawing close, of being whole and complete, instead of feeling, as he so often did, lost and alone."

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