the second interview.

i went in for my second interview at triangle. i didn't understand the purpose of the second interview. technically, they could have just had the other two interviewers sit in on the first interview, and then i wouldn't have had to cancel my plans of sitting around john's house finishing ghost world. i could've finished it, but jacob jew called me around noon to tell me he had scheduled a lunch meeting with his boss in west seattle, and he informed me that he could no longer take me to my interview, as he had originally planned.

i took the bus, the number 174 to be exact. it was filled to the brim with poor folk from the southside coming up to downtown and the international district. there was one young black woman who kept hollering and laughing at random intervals. i think she made the people around her a little uncomfortable. i stood between a curly haired white boy and a japanese girl. they were friends or lovers or both. quietly, they would point to various destinations on a seattle map and would whisper something to each other. i wanted to ask them where they were going, what they wished to see, but i didn't. i just watched them point at little spots on their map.

i didn't really know where to get off, so i just exited the bus when i heard the driver announce seattle public library. since i was still an hour early, i went to the library and got my library card. i pretended that i lived at meagan's address to earn my library card, even though i probably will never check out any materials. i just didn't want to harass the technician every time i wanted to blog. so now that i have my card, i won't have to bug him.

on the way to my interview, a white girl stuck her hand out and tried to shake mine. "how are you, sir?" she said in a loud, overly friendly voice. she was carrying a binder that had pictures of poor black kids on the cover. "i'm late for an interview," i said, even though i wasn't, and i walked away. she shouted back, "i hope it goes well!" what's with these peppy peet's coffee-loving white girls who want to change the world? i thought that after my interview, i would go up to her and ask what the deal was. i mean, she was carrying a binder with some pretty down-on-their-luck kids, how did she manage to stay so enthusiastic when approaching strangers?

i didn't go try to find her after my interview. i was kind of bummed out. the spark that i had in my initial interview had fizzled over the week. the highlight of the interview was the pre-interview, where vickie, the receptionist, and i chatted about her children. i like just hearing about people's lives and what they do. what made her kid want to go into the navy? how did she feel when he was in the navy? how do people stay heroic, or even just cope, in this violent mess we've found ourselves in?

i wonder if what i'm doing now will be heroic or even memorable. that is, getting dumped out of college in the middle of george w. bush's reign. trying to find work in the middle of what we will later refer to as the second great depression.

who knows.
we were just trying to survive.

yesterday, ross called around 10 a.m. to tell me that they had a "crimp" in their plans. his friend, hannah, ended up in the emergency room because her eye was infected. a bug got in her eye, and she hadn't been able to get it all out. "ouch," i said. "is she alright?" "yeah, she should be fine," ross said, "but we won't be able to pick you up for another couple of hours." i used the delay to start reading one of emily's books, kurt vonnegut's a man without a country. i waited around and didn't eat anything all morning. finally, around 1:30 p.m., they showed up. i met ross by the chain-linked fence, and we exchanged high fives. emily's dog, omar, looked like he wanted a high-five, too. "cool dog," ross said.

hannah introduced herself and removed her sunglasses. there was a big yellow stain around her eye. she told me that she had lived in maine, new hampshire, pennsylvania (maybe), and some other states that i don't really remember. she went to oberlin college with ross. we started driving towards ellensburg. it was cool to be in the backseat, as i had a view of the cle elum river and all the trees. the car belonged to hannah, and it was messy. i don't understand people. from about 21 years of age until they are 37, everything about their lives is complete chaos, disorganized and trashed. since i already feel that way on the inside, i try not to reflect it outward.

ross said i could make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if i wanted to. he had a jar of jam and a jar of peanut butter in his green bag. around 3 o'clock, with ellensburg still 82 miles away, i opted to make some. the bread, though, was an oval sourdough, tough to cut. ross handed me his big serrated knife, and i tried to make pb&j sandwiches as best i could, all the while trying not to contribute to the mess.

finally, we got to ellensburg, exit 3, thrall road. the rafting people weren't there, as we were four hours later than our original reservation. there was debate among the three of us, as we decided whether or not we should do something else, since it would be difficult to inner-tube down the river and then have to walk or hitchhike to get back to the car. i volunteered to drive them up the river and just pick them up when they were finished. i did this mainly because i didn't have a wet suit (jacob said the yakima river is essentially "glacier water"); i didn't have swim trunks; i didn't have a life-jacket, and i didn't have the ability to swim.

turns out, it was a good thing. an hour after i dropped them off, they showed up at the car. i was listening to van morrison's astral werks, and i've yet to hear anything past the second song. "hey you! what are you doing?" ross barked menacingly. actually, i had been sitting in the car, drinking his ginger ale and eating his peanuts. i also removed my shoes and socks (which i hadn't changed in two, three days), and i was just taking it easy. he told me that he had a terrible time. "i flipped over like five minutes after getting in," he said. "after that, we were basically just trying to survive." on the drive back, he pointed out a little spot in the river, where a small island had formed. "that's where hannah almost died," he said.

the girl who rented out and received the rafts was a big awkward blonde girl. she told me to pick ross and hannah up at a campsite called big pines. i looked at the girl and thought to myself, "big pines." it wouldn't be hard to remember. ross asked her how to inflate the tubes. she showed him how. he struck me as an into the wild kind of guy, so i was surprised that big pines had to show him how to do it. i was also surprised when he told me that he had only gone fishing two or three times in his life. "ever catch anything?" i asked. "yeah, a fish about this big," he said, holding his hands only a few inches apart.

i drove the three of us back to seattle. the two of them seemed exhausted and a bit frustrated that their inner-tube adventure had instead turned out to be nothing short of a near-death experience. it wasn't the calm, warm, beer-drinking, laid-back adventure ross had hoped it would be. i told him kayaking in westlake would probably be a better option.

since he rode shotgun, we caught up a bit. he told me that he, too, was unemployed for a few months after our americorps year. he ended up watching deadwood episodes and collecting unemployment. "it's tough," he said, "i would just sleep and get depressed." i told him that yeah, that's pretty much how it goes. luckily, though, he found a full-time gig for a salvage company, and he actually enjoys the work. he gets $14.50 an hour with full benefits, and although the work is physically demanding, he said that "being exhausted at the end of the day is more satisfying than feeling tired after a full day in an office. after being in the office, i get tired in a really insidious kind of way," he said. i said i understood.

i told him about my career test, my shitty teaching job, my year of doing nothing. i admitted that i never feel like the type of person who gets to carefully weigh his options. most other people get that, but not me. it's always been that way with me. acceptance to one college. and then i grabbed any job offer i could get my hands on. "why do you think it's like that?" ross said. "i don't know," i answered, "i guess i just don't set many tangible and realistic goals for myself." he said that when he interviewed, he wanted to be honest. he wanted to say, "i want this job so that i can buy food and pay rent. and i'm scared that i won't be able to find a job if you don't give me this one." he mulled this over for a bit. "but you can't really be like that, you know. you have to act confident and basically say, 'i know where i'm going, and you (potential employer) are nothing but a stepping stone on my path.'"

my cousin rich used to prep me for interviews and put it the same way, quoting from swingers: "just act like you don't need the shit, and they give you the shit for free."
plans and backup plans.

i got called in for a second interview at triangle, scheduled for tuesday at 2 p.m. i'm not sure what else i can sell them the second time around.

there's a carpentry apprenticeship that i can apply for on august 4, 5, 7, and 8, but i have to apply in person, and it's in portland. i might do that if i don't get this triangle job. with no mode of transportation, i'll opt for a craigslist rideshare. rides seem to come and go from seattle to portland almost every couple of hours. it shouldn't be too difficult.

i tried to upload my second essay for my peace corps application. i kept getting an error message.

i can't apply for jet until late september. i don't know why that is.

tomorrow, i'm going inner-tubing at the yakima river with ross and his friend hannah.

should make for an interesting story.
my weakness are my shots.

i didn't have much time to blog earlier. the seattle public library only allows non-library members internet access for an hour. this rule is upheld, i assume, to discourage vagrants like me from using the computers all day long. the same reason they painted the restrooms sea-sick green. they don't want anyone in there for too long. it was strange to see the library again. when i first visited, it was brand new and everything looked super sleek. now, though, a few years have passed, and it's a little dirtier, a little more used up. there are streaks of black on the green escalators, and lots of people were at the computers. lots of them. i felt like a rat in an experiment, as i joined them, staring at screens, typing and clicking, clicking and typing.

yesterday, jacob and i played basketball at judkins park, the park near where meagan and i used to live. i like that park. we shot around and tried to emulate nba players like tim duncan, steve nash, and stojakovic. later on, a little black kid approached us and asked if we wanted to play a game. by then, we were already playing horse (i had an "h"), so we just let him join us. each time i made an amazing shot (behind the backboard, reverse layup, etc.), the kid was able to follow through. either he was lucky, or he was hustling us. it was just too bad for him that we weren't playing for money. during the game, we discovered the kid couldn't perform a self-executed alley-oop. basically, i throw the ball against the backboard, catch it in midair, and then put it in the hoop.

he couldn't do it. so, once jacob was out, i just kept doing this until the kid was at h-o-r-s. then, i thought, what the hell kind of a person am i? instead, i just started making simple shots, which the kid could make as well. finally, he made a layup and i missed it. i was at h-o-r-s-e. he asked me, "do you want to prove it? or should i?" i was hungry, and i wanted to get out of the central district before dark, so i said, "you prove it." the kid made the shot, and won the game. he was awfully cocky throughout, though, saying things like, "my weakness are my shots. my strengths are your shots." he would also say, "thanks for missing." i know i'm supposed to be understanding and i'm supposed to be a mature adult, but i never acted like that when i was his age, so why should he able to? maybe i should've just proven it.

afterward, jacob treated me to dinner at fort st. george in the international district, so that i could finally understand the greatness of his spicy fried chicken. he told me that there's usually a tall, hot japanese waitress who works there. "and now i'm brining you along," he said, "so it'll look like i'm down with asians." unfortunately, though, she wasn't there. i asked the non-tall, non-hot waitress if there was a restroom, and she directed me to the restaurant next door. "come on," jacob said, waving me along. two guys leaving for the restroom at the same time? i thought only women were allowed to do that. the asians at the bar eyed us suspiciously. "we're not gay," i wanted to say, "and we're not gonna do coke or anything in there..." as it turned out, it was a single-occupancy restroom, even though there were two stalls, so i let him go first. i waited outside, straight, straight-edge male that i am.

i had my job interview at triangle this morning. i decided to stay over at meagan's, since it was would be less of a walk. i showered in her shower, and i used a dab of joey's anti-dandruff shampoo. i tried to put the bottle back the way it was, to make it look like i hadn't touched it, but i couldn't remember if it was placed upside down or right side up. i went with upside down. after i dried up, i tried putting my clothes back on, but it felt a lot like chris farley changing in the airplane. it's a small bathroom, yes.

on the way to the interview, i listened to the earth is not a cold dead place. i don't know why i chose to listen to that. i probably shouldn't have, since the album makes me feel really dramatic and explosive. i got to thinking, do i really want to live in this city? emily put it best, and even though she was only describing west seattle, i think it applies toward the entire town: uppity white women wearing patagonia. i really feel like i need to take up smoking and get a tattoo and think of myself as really fabulous, really special just to live in this town. people shouldn't have to feel that way.

so, i got a little down while walking. people in seattle either look really hip and attractive, or really down on their luck. there are no in betweens. and they're all super thin, thin from working out and doing pilates, or thin from not being able to eat at all. in my tie and only good pair of corduroy pants that match my only good pair of shoes, i made an attempt at looking like i fit in here, that i could be a potentially good employee for this environmental agency. i started feeling down, too, recalling that emily had said there was another girl they were really interested in. i don't really want to compete with her, or with anyone for that matter. competing for jobs is just an awful thing to me. plus, if i were the employer, i would most likely hire a young, energetic, attractive girl over someone like myself. what do i bring to the table? sad bastard music and a blog.

when i got to my potential future place of employment, i was still about twenty minutes early. i decided to use the restroom, but the door was locked and i needed a code just to get in. i was about to ask someone for a code, but i could hear someone scuffling about inside. i heard the toilet flush, and then the water running. i tried my best to look casual, and i tried to make it so that when the guy came out, i would just be coming in, like i wasn't waiting or anything. it didn't really work. my timing was off, mostly because the guy took a long time washing and drying his hands, or else he was giving himself a good, long look in the mirror.

the interviewer, dennis, was late, so emily had me take the microsoft access test. emily said, "just so you don't have to look out the window for so long." i really don't mind, though. i am at that point in my life where i don't mind waiting, as i have nothing better to do. emily gave me a crash course the night before in microsoft access, but i was still a little unsure about the database program. i tried my best, though, and after about an hour and fifteen minutes, i was finished. not a perfect score, but maybe good enough to earn me a second interview. dennis and vickie sat down with me after i had finished.

dennis struck me as a no-nonsense kind of guy. "so, tell me about yourself," he said immediately. i told him everything. i graduated, i interned, i volunteered. "where do you see yourself in ten years?" in so many words, i essentially answered: i'm 25, i really don't have that answer, but i'm trying. i sold them truths about myself, that i had a really hard time post-graduation, that i honestly don't think most employers care about a liberal arts degree. i told them that the public schools i worked for were disorganized, and that they hired a lot of incompetent people who like to waste time and resources. "how did your idealism hold up in americorps?" dennis asked. i told him it faltered many times. i probably came off as a really sad case, a little too sensitive, someone who carries it all. but i think they liked my honesty, my ability to communicate. "good job," he said.

earlier in the day, i convinced myself that i wasn't going to get the job. and even in the off-chance that i did get it, there was no guarantee that i would like it. but that's the way it is with all things. once i convince myself, though, that something is out of reach, the thought becomes empowering and liberating. it no longer matters. i could make a total ass of myself, and it wouldn't matter. because at the very least, i'd still have something to write about. i'd still have some sort of story to tell. and while everyone else was at work, i had a whole city to explore. being unemployed and bored is so much better in a big city.

i went to half price books and read a graphic novel called paul has a summer job by michel rabagliati. it was amazing. in the beginning, he is 17 and he receives a $6,000 federal grant to paint murals of the little prince all over his high school. but because his grades are so low, he's kicked off the project. he argues that he is the artistic director, that everything was his idea. too bad, they tell him. he says "fuck it" and decides to leave school for good. for some reason, i could really understand what that must have felt like.
i hate california girls.

the flight up north was better than most flights i've ever had. on time, not bumpy, and plenty of empty seats. i trekked to the back of the plane and placed my guitar in the overhead compartment. a girl took the seat in my row by the aisle, and there was a seat empty between us. she put her bag there. i had my record bag and leather jacket at my feet. i didn't think it fair that only she should get to use the space between us. i had to say something. the plane took off, and i watched california disappear below. the girl put her hands to her ears. it looked like she really hated flying.

i didn't say anything for a while. i considered listening to my zune, but i decided that i should be open and start conversations with strangers. it was the thing i did when i was kind of content with all things, so why not try it again. where to start, though? "do you hate fying?" "where do you go to school?" finally, the perfect starter: "do you mind if i put my bag up here?" i asked. she said nothing, and just scooched her belongings to the side. she seemed a little stand-offish. i hesitated to say anything more. but i wanted friends. i wanted to believe i was still capable of something as silly as this.

"do you go to school in seattle?" "no," she said, "i'm still in high school. and i'm not going to seattle; i'm going to spokane." i suddenly felt very old. i am at that age now where i can no longer discern how old members of the opposite sex are. 15, 27, 45. as far as i can tell, any female can pass for any age. i didn't say anything more. i didn't want to come across as unfriendly, but i also didn't want to say anything else to make her thing i was hitting on her, which, of course, i wasn't. i said something anyway. "what were you doing in sacramento?" "i was at church camp." "oh, cool," i said. but i really didn't think it was cool at all.

now i had to know. had she been a part of something similar to the documentary jesus camp? "so, is it the type of camp where kids testify and stuff?" i raised my hand, to illustrate to this naive girl what it means to "testify." "not really," she said. "it's more like a leadership camp. we put on plays and do music for worship and stuff like that." "oh okay." "what do you do in spokane?" "i'm not actually from spokane. it's the closest city to where i'm going." suddenly, it struck me. this girl was from the tri-cities. "do you live in the tri-cities?" i asked. she laughed a little bit. "yeah," she said. "my girlfriend is from there," i said. i was fully relieved that i could slip that in there, as an indication that no, i'm not a dirty old man, and i'm not hitting on you. please believe me.

"what do you do in the tri-cities?" i asked. "i don't do anything, really," she said. "i go to school, go to church, and that's it." she seemed embarassed to admit this. i tried to sympathize. "yeah, whenever we go there, all we do is go out to eat." "yeah," she said, "that's about all there is." when i got to seattle, i didn't feel anything. i wasn't happy, relieved, anxious. nothing, neutral. i realized this girl was right. all anyone does is eat, go to work (well, some of us), sleep. there isn't much to life. it's not complicated. why did i try to imply that being in a big city means something? all i've done so far is eat, fill out applications, and go to one job interview.

yesterday, i decided i wanted to be reckless and push myself a little more. what could it hurt? i spent the entire past year doing nothing but wallowing in self-pity. i decided i would bike from georgetown to the capitol hill area. it's a six mile ride, and i'm sure it's nothing to most riders, but i'm not most riders. i am slow, unconfident, and i barely know how and when to change gears. on the steep hills, i walked my bike on the sidewalk. when i was riding, other bikers would pass me and yell at me, to get out of their way. so, it felt like a huge accomplishment when i made it to meagan's apartment. i decided to reward myself with lunch at jamjuree.

i also made an appointment to take the strong test at seattle university's career center. this middle eastern looking guy gave me my results. i thought he would just say, "here, you'd probably be good at being a writer," but i was wrong. he spent two hours trying to explain that the test was only "descriptive and not prescriptive." basically, he was saying that i shouldn't let the test dictate what i ought to do with my life. but honestly, that's exactly why i took the test. i wanted direction. i wanted an easy answer. i wanted someone to say, "you'd be good at this. do it forever."

the test cost ten dollars. the receptionist said, "check or cash?" i had neither. i just remembered i left my checks in another bag in sacramento, and i deposited all my cash in my checking account. "i could run to wamu," i said. "how long will that take?" he asked. "fifteen, twenty minutes." he frowned. "well, since we're getting started so late, why don't you just pay tomorrow (today). my results came up: 1) musician 2) librarian 3) technical writer 4) translator. i'm thinking about not paying the ten dollar fee.

at the beginning of the test, it asked: how satisfied are you with life? 1 - very dissatisfied 10 - very satisfied. i was lost, obviously, but i was also hungry. i chose 3, closer to very dissatisfied. how happy have you been lately? 1 - very unhappy 2 - not very happy 3 - happy 4 - very happy. i spent the entire morning trying to get emily's dog, omar, to come inside the house, and then i spent the entire afternoon worrying that someone would dognap him, or that he would jump the fence. i chose 2 - not very happy.

afterward, i felt even more lost. i mean, i want to be a musician. no shit. but music isn't going to pay the bills. i told this to daniel, the career counselor. "well, then you have to think about your values. maybe you value stability and financial security. remember, this test is just about your interests." well shit, daniel. i'm also interested in figuring out what i should do my life. how about you make a test that has some real answers? but i knew he was right. no one has that answer except for me. so i'll have to keep interviewing, keep talking with strangers, learning from others, doing random shit and blogging to keep it interesting, to at least attempt to figure it all out.

i walked from seattle university back to georgetown. later that night, meagan googlemapped it to see how far i'd gone. a total of 5.7 miles, and i covered it in about an hour and a half. at one point, i looked behind me and saw the entire city at a distance. damn, i thought, i've walked pretty fucking far. and i thought about walking to portland. i thought about walking and walking and walking to stop myself from thinking. my legs hurt and my feet were sore, but i knew i was going someplace, and i had a destination, so it was okay to just suffer through it.
the female version.

while my cousin browsed the graphic novel section at borders, i found the female version of my blog, but in a much more artful, humorous form. it was way better than that tao lin shit, anwyay.

tomorrow morning, i am leaving for seattle. i don't know what i expect to find there, but obviously, i'm hoping for good things. family made it seem like a big deal, giving me cards and money and taking me out for dinner. talking about good times, as my friend would say.
turn the other cheek.

ross once told me that "turn the other cheek" was actually a subversive act. basically, when jesus said, "turn the other cheek," he didn't mean to just be submissive, or take it lying down. turning the other cheek would cause your assailant to use his left hand to slap your face, and in that time and place, the left hand was viewed as unclean. therefore, using one's left hand to do anything, especially to strike another person, would make the instigator look even more like a real asshole.

on another note, it's a really nice day in sacramento. i just now found out about autumn sky. i just had to take a listen after she was quoted in the paper saying, "when i first started to write 'rockets!,' it was going to be a song about how much i disliked the local music scene and how tired i was of the same old circuit, which never seemed to change. and worse, (it was) filled with people who never seemed to notice or care."

the tentative offer.

i was browsing the vinyl section when my cell phone vibrated. more specifically, i was in world: french: b: bardot, brigitte. there were multiple copies of the recently released picture discs of the 1960's "international sex kitten." "hello, this is sue." the name sounded familiar, but i wasn't sure who was calling me. "how are you?" "i'm fine. how are you?" "good. listen, i wanted to let you know that we really thought you had a great interview, and we'd really like to hire you, but at the time, you're second on the active list." "yeah, that's what i heard." "so, we're asking you to just hold on a little while, and we may be able to offer you a job in the future." "oh, okay." "yeah, we can't offer you anything right now, so consider this a tentative job offer." well, i tentatively accept. "alright. so i should just wait?" "yes, we'll be in touch." "okay, thanks for letting me know." "no problem."

in the state's final showcase of incompetence, they called me to let me know about a tentative job offer. at least they called. most employers don't even do that. most employers don't even pick up the phone to tell me, "we didn't like you. we found someone much more experienced, much more competent than you." i guess i should be happy to have a tentative job offer. but i'm not. "what does that mean?" my dad asked. "it means exactly that. they'd like to hire me, but they're not going to." "that's ridiculous," he said. exactly, dad.

twenty minutes of tiny snippets.

the barbershop had a black shelf full of magazines and children's books. most magazines were for men, stuff like popular mechanics, men's journal, and men's health. on the wall were pictures of people like george clooney and val kilmer. they always have the mix 96.1 playing on their portable radio. today, it was the two asian women. gabe, my usual barber, wasn't there. one of the women once asked me where i was going to school at the time. i told her seattle, and she told me she went to the uw. i don't know what she studied there.

today, i got the older asian woman. she doesn't say anything, and she cuts hair well, which is why i like her. when there's people waiting, though, she does a rush job, and i can feel her anxiety. when she finished, she asked me, "that okay?" i said, "could you make it a little shorter on top?" that's when she busted out the clippers and started going at it like mad. i really hate that moment when they ask, "that okay?" because obviously i just want to say, "yeah, it's fine," and be on my way, but i don't really want to come back for a long time, so instead i say, "a little shorter," even though i risk insulting the work she's done.

i've had barbers in seattle tell me that my hair is the hardest to cut. it's super thick, coarse asian hair, though, so what did they expect? once, i went to rudy's in the broadway market, and the "stylist" made it sound like i had been getting bad haircuts my entire life. he then recommended that i grow my hair out and come back, so that he could fix it. when i found out he charged $30 for a simple haircut, though, i opted to continue getting bad haircuts elsewhere. i started going to another place on broadway, aces, i think it was called, and the big, boisterous woman who cut my hair was pretty good. eventually, though, she left to cut hair some place else for more pay, and another woman took over. a few weeks before graduation, i told this new woman, "just a little off the top," and she practically shaved my head. so, again i had to take my mop of a head elsewhere.

i don't really enjoy getting my haircut, mainly because it costs money, money i usually don't have. maybe one day i will invest in a flowbee, like mr. mcquerry did. it seems to work well. when i stopped caring about my hair, i tried to get my cousin to cut it. she took tiny snippets, though, and after twenty minutes of tiny snippets, she had barely made a dent in my head. "alright, forget it," i said, "i'll just pay for a stupid haircut." i think the other reason i hate getting haircuts is not knowing what will happen. there's nothing worse than a really bad haircut. and the moment you have to hand over $8, $10, $12, $30 for something truly awful is the worst moment of all.

i once heard on the news about a guy who locked himself in the barber's bathroom because of a bad haircut he got. maybe he even held people hostage, i can't remember. he was pretty pissed. i wish i could've seen the before and after shots of that man. how bad do you have to be at your profession to make a grown man cry and shut himself off from the world?
a plate for the steaks.

the three men sat on the porch, drinking beers, barbecuing meat, while the two women sat at the table, talking and not drinking, as both were pregnant. as usual, i fell somewhere in between. i don't drink, but i'd feel compelled to if i was in the company of these men. and age has nothing to do with it. i was around their age, younger than some, older than others. one woman was only twenty-one and pregnant with her third child. her two kids, sonny and stephanie, tinkered with toys in front of me. the boy revved up a small motorcycle to show me. i was trying to watch an episode from season two of this american life, but the children would not allow it. they screamed and cried and fussed over toys each claimed he/she owned. the mothers usually intervened. "play nice," one would say, while the other would plead, "please don't do that." selfishly, i wondered, would i ever really want kids? i mean, they're cute and all, but could i handle it? and i don't want to use the cliche: "i can barely take care of myself" because i know that's bullshit. i can handle myself.

every now and then, one of the boyfriends would open the sliding glass door. "could you get me a plate for the steaks?" "diana, your mom's here." what were they talking about outside? work, maybe. or else it was something like: "the worst is when she just gets really quiet. that's when you know she's pissed. i fucking hate that shit." later, my cousin would tell me that the women talked about particular cravings during pregnancy. "i have the urge to eat laundry detergent. sometimes i'll volunteer to do everyone's laundry, just so i can smell it." "i want to eat paint and sometimes wood chips."

in the episode of
this american life that i briefly caught but did not finish, an iraqi expartiate went around the united states with a booth that read: talk to an iraqi. he met an ex-marine that claimed he didn't regret all the civilians he killed and tortured. he fought for freedom and that was that. it left me feeling helpless, defeated. i looked at the children and they looked back at me. i'm supposed to make this world better for you, i thought. but i have no idea how. if i don't act, if i don't do something, by the time they reach my age, they're going to live in an unspeakably unpleasant world.

so, how is your job, the path you've chosen, making things better for yourself, for anyone? shouldn't we be asking that question everyday, or is it impossible to live in that state of perpetual questioning? while the rest of us are figuring things out, those on top continue to gain. it's so much easier when you just want money, fame, status, stability. what do those who want to do some good get? we get stuck somewhere in between, wondering what could be.

alma mater.

you should have seen her. she was really freaking out. we checked her online account, and the payments had gone up from $274 to $287. "why has it gone up?" she asked. how was i supposed to know? after all, it was my education, but really, her decision. "i'll give them a call," i offered. i pressed all the buttons to get through to an operator, but at the last minute, i handed the phone over to her, knowing that the operator would ask the usual questions: social security number, date of birth, pin, etc.

she sounded agitated from the start. "why have my payments gone up? i'm used to paying $274, but now it says that i owe $287." the woman explained to her that the online debiting only occurs for six months, and then a loan holder must go online to renew the option for online debiting. this proved true, as i signed her up for online debiting back in december, as she had requested. she was excited then, when she discovered that she could save something like 3% if she paid her bills online. i knew it was trouble, but i signed her up anyway.

her voice began to rise as she continued to describe and understand the dilemma she was now facing. "here, let me talk to her," i said. i took the phone. "hi. we signed up for online payments, but the..." the operator, obviously agitated herself, cut me off immediately. "there are no online payments. the current payment is twenty-six days past due." "well," i said, "we signed up for automatic debiting, so why didn't it go through?" "there's no record here for online payments to occur," she said. my own voice began to rise. it's that rare moment where i feel myself getting flushed, flustered, and my eyes begin to twitter.

"can we just sign up for online debiting now, then?" "you can go online to our website and sign up to make online payments there." "but that's what we did," i said. "well, there are no online payments occuring at this time." frustrated, mom began speaking to me. both women were now speaking to me at the same time in awful, angry tones. "just tell them to send me the bill through the mail," mom said. best idea so far. "can you just send us the bill through the mail, the way we used to receive it?" i asked. "when will she be able to make the payment?" the operator asked. "as soon as she receives the bill," i said.

after hanging up, i explained to her that the bills would come through the mail, and she would just write checks to pay them. i half-expected our conversation to turn into something ugly. luckily, it didn't turn to that. i am still conflicted about this awful mess i've gotten her into. currently, she owes $70,000 for my direct student loans. loans that she took out to fund my ill-informed decision to attend a so-so private univeristy in the pacific northwest, to major in something as useless and pointless as creative writing. i just wanted to get away. i didn't plan on financially ruining her.

she's told me, though, that she has no intention of paying off the exorbitant loan. "if something happens to me," she often says, "all will be forgiven." it's her way of saying that when she dies, don't worry, i won't owe a cent to the loan sharks. i feel guilty for racking up the bill, and not being financially responsible. in my defense, though, i paid off my $17,000 loan in under three years, by serving a two-year americorps sentence and saving every cent i had. still, i don't think it's fair that she had to bear the brunt of my wish to get away from home. obviously, had i known i would be paying $287 per month until "something happened" to me, i probably would've sucked it up and gone to sac state.

sometimes i honestly believe that my degree was more important for her than it was for me. whenever a parent accomplishes this, it gives him/her bragging rights. "i put my kid through school. what did you ever do?" additionally, they can hang the alma mater's sticker on the back of their cars and feel proud that their child is educated, unlike so many other uneducated children. i don't want to downplay my education, though. had i not gone to school, i probably would not have seen or believed that there are actually individuals in this world who are trying to better themselves, who are trying to do something good. had i not gone to school, i probably would've continued to believe that the world is full of self-serving, immature assholes. i would not have wished to partipate any longer.

so, maybe $70,000 was worth it.
nothing else to read.

my latest, and sadly, possibly last (for now anyway), craigslist sale was to an older woman named sharice. she said she could pick up my desk tomorrow, but when i told her that there were already two people who inquired about it before her, she changed her plans. "well, i've got a birthday party i need to get to," she said over the phone, "but we could come by beforehand." "that would work," i said. "do you have a truck?" "i have a van," she said, "and i could just pull out the seats."

sharice showed up in her van, her two young daughters in the backseat. the three came inside to inspect the desk. "i like it," the girl said. sharice turned on the light. i noticed it was dusty, and i found a cloth to wipe it down. "you don't mind that it's scratched up?" the mother asked. "no, not at all," the girl replied. "so, you're going to a birthday party?" i asked. "yeah," the girl said, "i just turned nine recently." "cool," i said. she looked at a little cross-stitch pattern (not sure what it's called) that marie made many years ago. "i like that!" the girl said. "yeah," i said, "my cousin made that in the eighties."

i helped sharice carry the desk into the van. "is she a writer?" i asked. "yeah, she's a writer," the mother replied. the two girls hopped into the backseat. "i'm a writer and a poet," the nine-year old said. "cool," i said, then asked, "who's your favorite poet?" "i don't have one," the girl said. "i don't really like to read poetry. i read poetry when there's nothing else to read." "oh." the woman struggled to get the backdoor of the van to close. "maybe i'll move the seat forward," she suggested. it worked. the door closed, and they thanked me for the desk. "thanks," i said, "and have fun at your party."

i think i'd like to do this for a living. i'd like to just find free or cheap used things, maybe fix them up, and sell them to strangers with good intentions. i think the best part about what i've been doing is meeting all these random people who want random things. plus, i wouldn't have to deal with cash registers, filing taxes, or having a set schedule. today, in less than an hour - really only ten minutes of work - i made twenty dollars. i want to fix things up and sell them via a website. maybe i will look into a carpentry apprenticeship. my slogan would be: "if it's good enough for jesus, it's good enough for me."
uc davis workers on strike.

my dad and his fellow employees are holding an "illegal" strike this week. the union is demanding a living wage, just a measly $14.90/hr. it's not much, especially considering some custodians and maintenance crew have been there for over twenty, thirty years. my dad has been there nearly ten years now, but he didn't participate in the actual strike. if he chose to picket, he would've made $8.50/hr. i asked if i could take his place. my parents seemed shocked at my request. "no, you can't," they said. i was kind of disappointed that he chose not to participate, since i've read here and there about workers' strikes both past and present. it's an opportunity to show the assholes upstairs that it's not about them. it's a reminder that the slaves run this country, and that this meaningless system of buying and selling cannot properly function without them.
don't carry it all.

i wasn't going to blog tonight, but well, what else was i going to do? i had dinner at my aunt's house. my two aunts and my aunts' cousin, bing, sat around the dining table, discussing their plans for retirement. "i just want a little shack in hawaii on the beach," my aunt said. "but it'll be a few more years before that can happen." "hennessey (her husband) wants to retire in the philippines," my other aunt said. "that would be nice," bing replied. "do you want to retire there, too?" "oh, of course," my aunt said. i couldn't help but wonder why they don't just do these things now. the same goes for my mom, who says she has to work until she's 65 before she can retire.

really, what's the big deal? you get less money from your retirement fund, but at the same time, your days are numbered. and if the funds do run out, why not just take something with less pay? is it any more glamorous than rotting in a cubicle and counting down the days until you can officially retire? if you want to "retire" in a shack somewhere, or live in a different country, why not do it now? perhaps the facade of security holds people back. but i'm talking like i know something. i don't know anything. all i know is that i'm fucked now, so why would things be any different fifty years from now?

i obviously didn't say any of this aloud. this is the whole reason for keeping a blog. i can't participate in most conversations without sounding like a total fool or impractical idealist. so i type and i type, hoping for epiphanies, hoping for comments, hoping that someone else can relate to feeling utterly lost and alone in this world. feeling this way, i've decided to start walking everywhere. walking allows me to find spare change on the ground, and to contemplate things like why are there so many homes, but never any people?

i walked home in the dark. i suppose i'm looking for trouble by doing this. i've heard all the stories about people getting beaten and robbed and severed to tiny pieces by the likes of ted bundy and jeffrey dahmer. but then i think to myself, these are the suburbs. and didn't people move to the suburbs for the sole purpose of avoiding such violent, horrific things? what is the point of living in suburbia if you're unwilling or afraid to walk around alone at night in your very own middle class neighborhood? elliott smith would walk around the streets of portland and los angeles, and he said that he would come up with songs whenever he did this.

i love the streets at night. there are hardly any cars, and nobody in sight. the air is cooler, fresher, and the moon shines brightly. the light at the crosswalk changes for you almost immediately. and it feels like you're getting a workout, even if you really aren't. most importantly, it feels like the whole world belongs to you, was created just for you. flushed from your walk, you can briefly convince yourself that it's true.
freckled face and green my eyes.

courtney showed up at our school when i entered the sixth grade, during the '94 - '95 school year. she was in the seventh grade, and like most girls in the class ahead of ours, she was a fully grown woman. she had strawberry blonde hair, and she typically kept her shoulder-length ponytail tied together with a scrunchie. she also had freckles and green eyes. in retrospect, there was nothing particularly special about her, other than her physical maturity and natural beauty. in fact, i probably wouldn't have thought much of her, had she not done what she did in the lunch line.

i was standing around with joseph in the lunch line, chatting about the usual stupid stuff we discussed in the sixth grade. we were into pogs, comic books like gen 13 and x-men, wizard magazine, baseball cards and super nintendo. we were probably talking about something like that. joseph's sister was in line behind us, and she and courtney were giggling. i knew it was directed toward us, and i thought maybe it was about how geeky and awkward we looked. i was wearing my big, puffy charlotte hornets starter jacket, which was turquoise and purple. it included a logo of a black and turquoise hornet holding a basketball in his hand. the jacket, even though i liked it, made me look like a fat turquoise ball. i wish i had a better description for myself at the time, but i don't.

so, this was it, i thought. this was the point in life where girls either made fun of you or left you alone. "doesn't he look so much better like this?" courtney said. she had pulled up my hood and covered my head with it. was this flirting? i wasn't sure. i couldn't tell if she meant that i looked good, but looked better a certain way, or if she was implying that i only looked good if i was completely invisible. should i be happy and confident or annoyed and hurt? i was mortified. i turned red and didn't say anything. she kept whispering to joseph's sister, and the two of them would laugh and laugh. joseph just stood there, and didn't say a word, either. courtney grabbed me by the arm and said something else to christine, something like, "don't you just wanna..."

it really wasn't a fair moment in life. mostly because i had no idea if this girl liked me, or if she was just so confident with herself that she knew she could get away with ridiculing people she didn't even know. either way, i liked the attention. the girl was attractive, after all, and even if she was just trying to be funny, i had been a part of her act. it was confirmation that i wasn't invisible. our school made us all feel invisible. we had to wear uniforms, and in class, we were often assigned numbers. i was usually number 38.

the following year, courtney only acknowledged my existence on one other occassion. our class was walking to p.e. she was sitting on the red benches outside the eighth grade classroom, and she stuck out her hand to stop me. "hey man," she said. "hey," i said back. and then i walked away. the following days, and the following weeks, i tried to do exactly what i had done in the morning so that i could recreate the moment, and hopefully have something more to offer her than a nervous "hey." i woke up at exactly 6:42 a.m., showered the same way, dressed the same way, an early sign of obsessive-compulsiveness, i suppose. it didn't work, though. i walked to p.e. and even slowed down in front of her, hoping she would say, "hello" again, but she didn't. she just kept on talking with her friends.

my classmate ryan said that he once saw her undressing in the girls' bathroom. "she's got huge tits," he said, "but they were all freckly." ryan had freckles, too. noel told me that he discovered she had a thing for filipino guys. this gave me some hope. "yeah, i would totally..." and then he went into some lewd detail, which gave me the creeps. i didn't want to imagine his skinny self doing anything sexual. ever. those were mainly the reports i heard back from other guys concerning this girl i never talked to. she might as well have been a ghost, a voluptuous figure of my imagination.

the weeks leading up to her graduation, i knew i had to say something to her. i mulled it over, thinking about what to say, what to ask. i had one more year, and then i was up for a four-year sentence at an all-boys school. i didn't want to serve it alone. get some balls, i told myself, but not aloud. at her graduation, she sang a song in front of the whole school. she was good. when it was finally over, and the class left the church, they were all standing around outside with their families and friends. i knew i wouldn't be able to go through with it.

like so many other moments, i had let that one pass, too.
just leave it there.

after having a meal at a relative's house, i always tend to wash my own dish and glass. i figure it's the least i could do for a free meal. i noticed, though, that everyone always intervenes whenever i try to accomplish this small task, and i don't understand why. does it really look like i'm struggling with the sponge and warm water? is it too much of a hassle? maybe it's just common courtesy for the host to acknowledge that the freeloading guest shouldn't have to do any kind of chore, no matter how small. perhaps each person is secretly obsessive-compulsive, and needs each dish scrubbed, lathered and rinsed a certain way.

this half-hearted command to "just leave it there" always comes as a surprise. it's as though they think i might have something better to do - catch a television show perhaps, or make a phone call - something more important than running warm water over a plate. the thing of it is, i'm weird. i actually like to do dishes. i like stacking dirty plates and lining up cups and putting used silverware in a small pile. and then i attack them, one by one, until the duty is complete. i don't like to iron, or make my bed, or mow the lawn, or clean the tub, but i don't mind dishes at all. there's something about the visual transformation from filthy to immaculate that inspires me, makes me think i can accomplish something after all.
how do you turn this on?

after weeks of deliberating, i finally broke down and bought a zune. it's like an ipod, but not as flashy. to justify making the purchase, i sold off every cd i had, and i even bought a used one off craigslist. i bought it from an old man who bought it refurbished off woot! so, i didn't feel like that much of a sell out. i'm already being punished for my purchase anyway, since the software is ridiculously slow. i started charging the zune and installing the software on my parents' computer around 3 o'clock. it is now almost8 o'clock, and it's almost finished. my cousin shook his head when he saw how slowly it took for the zune software to install. "i don't get it," he said. "microsoft made the zune, and you're installing the software on windows. you would think they would know how to make it go faster." i would think that.

the crappy thing about buying a zune, and buying any piece of new technology for that matter, is that you have to buy accessories and all the other crap just to make the one piece of crap keep going for as long as possible. it's not enough now that i have the zune. now i have to buy a protective case, otherwise it will scratch, and i won't be able to sell it on craigslist for much as i would like when i am completely tired of owning it. a new pair of headphones would be nice, too, since the small ones that come with it are extremely uncomfortable. that's how they get you.

the old man i purchased from was named greg, and he actually lives in rosemont, too, specifically on old placerville road, next to the old mcdonald's with its permanent "now hiring" sign painted on the windows. his duplex was unkempt, and he had two computer monitors running at the same time. the dead grass in his backyard was at knee-level, and his pots and pans were scattered about the kitchen. he was a fat white man with white hair and a white beard. he picked up the zune, and he couldn't get it to work. "now how does this work?" he asked. "i press the 'on' button, but it doesn't turn on. this is embarassing." he scratched at his beard. "how do you turn this on?"

i told him that my cousin owned one, and that he could probably turn it on himself. my cousin tried to turn it on, but it wouldn't go. "it's probably the battery," my cousin said. "it just needs to be charged." the old man charged the zune via his computer. "do you guys mind waiting a few minutes?" no, i actually like standing around in your dark, messy duplex. "sure," i said. my cousin noticed a box that had the word "woot!" on it. "do you shop at woot!" he asked. "yeah," the old man said. "i've been separated now for five years. ever since then, it's been gadget city for me!" another man might've sounded sad, or at least disappointed, at having to admit that he replaced his wife with technological gadgets. i know that i would have.

after a few minutes, i told him that i trusted him that the zune would work. "i'll just pay you for it," i said, "i'm sure it works." "okay," he said. he took my cash and handed me the device. "i wish everyone on craigslist was like you guys," he said. "unfortunately, though, that's not the case."
you'll be treated better.

in my effort to become a wannabe ex-patriate, i scheduled an appointment to submit my passport application along with 2 photos, application, expired passport, and $100 fee. a forty-year old woman helped me. "where are you going?" "i don't know," i said. "oh," she said, "well, it'll be good to have your papers in order if you do travel." her other coworker, also an older female, piped up. "now's the time to travel. gas is so expensive, it's worth it to get a one-way ticket anywhere. i could go to burbank for like $80, go to disneyland or something." "that's true," said the woman helping me.

as she made notes on my application, she told me that she wanted a moped. "i should do it, you know, while i'm young." the other clerk said, "yeah, but you'd have to go down watt. that could be dangerous." the woman helping me agreed. "it'd be so much better, though, rather than spending $300 a month on gas just to get to work!" "yeah," i said. feeling a little stand-offish, i decided to participate, as best i could. "my cousin has a moped. it's not that dangerous, i don't think. he took one spill when he was trying to go over some railroad tracks, and he hit the rails at a parallel level. but he was wearing a helmet, so he was alright." "oh," she said.

she continued to look through my profile. at last she found the employment section, which i had left blank. no work, no travel plans. why is this guy getting a passport? "i noticed the employment section is blank," she said. "are you working?" "no," i said. "that's okay," she said. "are you a student?" "no," i said. "well, that's okay," she said again. she seemed interested in my dilemma, though. what to make of an individual who doesn't work and doesn't study? "well, have you gone to school?" i told her i did, and that i have a degree, but i don't know what to do now. "maybe i'll do peace corps or something," i said. "that would be cool," she said. "you know, missionaries come here all the time and send stuff out to people." "they do?" "yeah," she said, "all the time."

"national guard members come in here, too," she said. "oh." suddenly, she began to whisper, as though some invisible force was listening to our conversation. "you know what you could do...this is what my father did. he had his degree and went into the air force, and he got to go all over the world." "oh. he was in the national guard?" "no," she said, "he was in the air force, the military." i didn't like where this was going. "you're still young," she said, "you could sign up for the air force, travel the world. and because you have a degree, you know, if you go to iraq, you'll be treated better than the other guys. and when you get back from service, you'll still be young!" she stapled my expired passport to my application, then continued. "me, i'm 40. i wish i had done something like that when i was younger." i held my breath, wondering if i should say something, since i was pretty sure that her duties as a postal employee didn't include military recruitment.

"am i free to go?" i asked. "yeah," she said, "you're all done."
this american attempt at life.

my cousin and i just watched the first season of this american life all in one sitting. i knew the moment i saw the first segment, act one, that i wanted to watch the entire thing. the truth is, i could probably watch most, if not all, the episodes all over again, and i told him that he needed to put the second season at the top of his queue right away. there's really nothing that amazing about the show. it's all about ordinary american citizens who try to accomplish something. people like you and me.

my youngest cousin doesn't really like to leave the house. he's kind of a homebody. he plays with this toy called skyline, or skyfair, or something, the type of toy where you build and build these green tracks to make a kind of rollercoaster. then, he drops his little silver marble down the track and he watches the ball go up and down, through loops, up and down again. sometimes, the ball gets thrown off track, and he has to make adjustments to his track. he likes doing this, and his dad helps him. he also looks up videos of rollercoaster crashes (they're not real crashes, but something like sims rollercoaster crashes) on youtube. tonight, he showed me some, and then he said, "isn't that cool?"

we hung out in my bedroom, and since there is really nothing in my bedroom except for records he wouldn't want to listen to, i made him read a section from the slingshot organizer. he's nine years old, and i made him read aloud a section called, "never talk to the police." he had trouble sounding out words like "anarchist" and "oppression," so i gave him some poetry instead. he read a charles bukowski poem called "sweet sound" or something like that, and when he finished, he said, "okay. i have no idea what that was about." in truth, i didn't either, so i didn't try to explain it.

i pulled down jane kenyon's poem, one of four poems hanging on my bare bedroom walls, entitled "once there was a light," and he read it. again, he said he had no idea what was going on. this time, i pretended like i knew what i was talking about. we talked about how the author once envisioned that she was a speck of light in the great river of light that undulates throughout time. i tried to explain how maybe the author saw herself as this tiny, insignificant speck, and then i told him how we really are, in comparison to how large the universe is. he agreed with that. and then there was the part about how she was floating with the whole human family - those who have died, those who are living, and those who are not yet born. i thought he might have had trouble visualizing the "those who are not yet born" type, so i brought up my cousin's child, due in december. he stunned me when he said, "like your friend." he was talking about naomi, who i briefly mentioned earlier when i showed him my facebook page.

maybe i didn't give him as much credit as i thought a nine year-old deserved. maybe i'm always underestimating everyone. i think everyone is capable of these really heart-breaking, life-changing, monumental insights, but they just keep it to themselves. they see these miraculous things, but they keep talking on their cell phone anyway. because that's what we do, and that's what it means to live in the year 2008. i made him read "ignoring buddha," too, the poem about the guy who is on his cell phone, complaining about "the usual indignities," and notices a spring wind which sends cherry blossoms whirling into the air. he pauses for a moment, then continues talking on his cell phone.

again, he said he didn't understand what the poem was "about," so i said the first thing he should do is get a dictionary to look up words he didn't understand. he looked up "patron" and "petulant" and "indignities." i think he really liked it when i told him that figuring out a poem was like trying to do detective work, or solve a puzzle. he seemed genuinely interested in that part. i even made reference to walle-e, even though i wasn't sure where i was going with that one. but once i became didactic, bordering on overkill, asking, "is talking on your cell phone, and watching tv all day, and playing wii, and listening to your ipod really living?" he answered with an unenthusiastic, "no."

spoken like a true poet.
more craigslist transactions.

today, i worked full-time for craigslist. it started when denise didn't actually flake on me. when she didn't call at 11:30 a.m., i expected our deal was dead, but i called her anyway. she was at the airport. "i'm at the sac airport now," she said. i gave her directions to my house. it turned out, though, that i-5 was still being worked on, so she was forced off the freeway, and got lost in downtown. i gave her directions again. finally, around noon, she showed up.

"where are you from?" i asked her. "i'm from alaska." "oh. what do you do there?" "i do tour guides for hikes and stuff." "that sounds cool," i said. "i like it." inside the hot garage, she looked at my bicycle. "you mind if i take the front wheel off?" "no," i said, "not at all." "is it a quick release? yeah, it looks like a quick release." "oh yeah," i said, obviously not knowing what that meant. i asked if she needed any tools and motioned towards my dad's toolbox. "no," she said, "here, i'll show you." and with that, denise pulled on a small silver lever, and unscrewed the front wheel of my bicycle. i felt like an ignorant fool. but at least i learned something.

when we went to her truck, two guys and a girl waited by the passenger door. "these are all my craigslisters," she said, then quickly added, "craigslist party! woo-hoo!" she opened up the backdoor of her truck, and it was practically overflowing with bags, bicycle parts, boxes, and other miscellaneous stuff. "where are you guys going?" i asked. the girl said she was going up to seattle. the guys said they were going to vancouver. i asked the asian guy where he was from. "san francisco," he said. "cool," i said. they asked me why i needed my bike shipped. "i'm going to seattle, but i'm gonna fly there," i said. "for good?" the asian guy asked me. "i hope so," i said. he stretched out his arms, looked at the smoke-filled sky, then said, "come on. you want to leave this?"

denise pulled out her empty water bottle and asked, "could we have some water?" "yes," i told her. the others asked if they could have water, too. i obliged. while this might have irritated most others, i was perfectly happy to help. i wanted these people to be my friends. i wanted them to take me wherever they were going, and i wanted to do whatever it was they were going to do in vancouver. "i have to go potty," the girl said. "sure," i said, and i lead the whole group into my parents' air-conditioned home. "james is gonna feed us!" denise said, then she added, "james, do you have cable?" the three of them stood in the hallway, while the other girl used the bathroom, and i filled up their water bottles. i put ice in the big nalgenes, since denise requested that i do so.

one of the boys spoke up. "we're really just stalling so we can stand here in your air-conditioned house." "no problem," i said. i filled up their bottles, and i wanted to do more for them. i wanted to feed them, and ride bikes, and start a traveling hippie vegan commune. it reminded me of the david sedaris story where he meets that poor panhandler girl, and so he takes up panhandling, too. i will beg for change. i will be a busker with my untrained voice. i will go places just for the sake of going and going and going. "can i soak my bandana in some cold water?" the guy asked me. "go for it," i said. afterward, they thanked me, and then they headed out the door. as the girl put on her slippers, she said, "maybe i will see you in seattle." "yeah," i said, knowing that she probably wouldn't. did she not know how big that city actually is?

my cousin and i headed to dimple to sell the rest of my cds. before doing so, he shook his head. "i can't believe you're doing this," he said. "i was looking at some of them. you're selling sigur ros?" "yeah," i said, "everything." "i don't want to think about it," he said. it suddenly occurred to me that i should've offered them some discs to listen to on their long drive. oh well. maybe i will look up denise and meagan's dad in alaska, and have my own great alaskan adventure, if there is such a thing.

my cousin and i decided we needed to get passports. there has been a lot of talk in our family about visiting the philippines, and i decided that i need to go at some point. mostly because our aunt, ate, works for philippine airlines, and she can easily get any of us a roundtrip ticket for $500. even if i don't end up going, i will do peace corps, or jet, or geovisions in paris, or see tiffany in chile. i need to do something. because if i don't, i will sit here, and i will suffocate. literally.

passports are expensive. having not left the country in over fourteen years, my passport was long expired, and i was shocked to discover that it cost $100 for a new one. but it is good for a whole decade, so essentially, it's like paying $10 a year for the opportunity to leave the greatest country in the world. there is also the option to get a passport card rather than a book, but the card can only get you to closer places like canada, mexico, and bermuda. i need a book.

today, i also sold my ipod shuffle ($10) to a black woman at the jamba juice in howe bout arden. and then morgan stopped by my house and picked up a bike rack ($30) that i never used, one i purchased on craigslist last week for $20. that's a $10 profit! my cousin said, "man. you majored in the wrong thing. you should've majored in business...with a minor in craigslist." he was right. well, there's always the possibility of getting an mba.

but i'm 25. what's the rush. school, no school, work, no work. does it really matter? why was i so set on working right away and finding a career? most people hate their careers. maybe it's my calling to be an expatriate, a lifelong volunteer. maybe i'll start my own co-op house in some small town with friends with lots of time on their hands, and anyone else who's down. why get caught up in any one thing? it's all just one big racket, anyway. a giant fucking headache. make art, travel, sing songs and hitch ride with strangers. it won't all be good - you'll definitely hit some bumps along the way - but hopefully, it will all be worth it. it's certainly better than giving in.
things we lost in the fire.

i wonder if it will hit me later. but since i've parted with all of my possessions except for a guitar, typewriter, stereo, dozens of lps, a bike, and clothes, i don't really feel anything. i thought i would've felt some sort of emptiness. people tend to hold things for nostalgic reasons, but so far, i have no remorse parting with anything i've sold or donated. i've always thought about what i'd miss most if everything i ever had burned to the ground. i think i wanted to be mentally prepared, and not care if the worst happened. during my stint at the red cross, i saw people really broken up when their shit was lost in a fire. i don't want to panic. if i panic, i will drown.

during our eighth grade retreat, or maybe it was just in class, our teacher asked us, "if there was a fire in your house, and you had the chance to grab just a few things, what would you take?" i don't remember what i said. i think i said that i would take my boombox or something. i felt pretty stupid when one of the girls answered, "i would take photo albums with me." oh yeah. photo albums. sentimentality. duh. but what's really important? pictures of moments that have already passed? family heirlooms? expensive technological equipment?

rojelio bought my desktop computer today for $80. he drove a really beat up white car, and seemed like he definitely had his fair share of hard times. his two buddies were in the car, too, but they did not get out. rojelio lives in galt, but works at a restaurant in lodi. i couldn't believe that he drove so far for an old hp pavilion for $80. he didn't even try the damn thing out. i could've just sold him a shell and a nonworking monitor. but he looked so destitute and grateful for what he was getting that i almost hoped his $50 was a fake.

tomorrow, denise from craigslist is going to bring my bicycle up to seattle in her truck. i asked her, "how much do you want for the favor?" she said, "i don't know." i said, "does forty dollars sound alright? or is that too low?" she said, "yeah! i mean, i know that's much cheaper than shipping..." and i said, "yeah, it's sixty dollars just to have the bike shop take it apart..." she jumped in and said, "yeah, and then you have to find a's a real hassle." i said, "definitely."
more musings from a malcontent.

while waiting for the people at mel rapton honda to change my car's oil, i was forced to watch some daytime talk show. the show featured a white man and white woman, and the topic they discussed was online child sex predators. i should say that i'm pretty sick of all this "to catch a predator" bullshit. we get it. the average american would like all the online predators to be locked up forever. in fact, the female host even went so far as to call one sex predator "a creep...a monster," adding, "i hope he commits suicide in prison." even the rape victim looked pretty damn shocked. can people be this ignorant, and say things like that? i guess they can, considering we have "the freedom of speech." even though the freedom of speech doesn't cover subversive culture jammers who want to run thirty-second ads that denounce capitalism.

the news reports showed little colored dots for sacramento and the surrounding cities, and the darker the dots were, the worse the air quality was for that particular area. sacramento was a red dot, meaning that the air was extremely unhealthy. placerville, though, was so bad that it was a purple dot, and purple didn't even have a title. if i worked for the station, i would label the purple dot: "get the fuck out of here."

recently, i got rid of all my cds. every single one. and i had over 700 of them, maybe even over 1,000 at one point. i don't know why i do dramatic things like this. i think i have to occasionally prove to myself that i truly am an anti-matieralist, even though i'm planning on getting an mp3 player with a lot of memory in the near future. but driving back from davis on highway 50 with my cousin, as los campesinos came on the shuffle mix, i had this liberating insight: i hate music. or rather, i hate what music has become. these days, it's just a popularity contest. if you're cute and white, have a hipster haircut, a string section, seven other band members, and you're from canada or spain or brooklyn, you've got a record deal.

but really, what's the point of hoarding any one thing? is it so that when others visit your home, they will say, "wow. that's quite a collection you have there!" i've come to realize that i want the exact opposite. i want people to come to my house and say, "where the hell's your furniture?" i like the scene in volver when penelope cruz yells at her unemployed husband for watching a soccer match on cable: "we're a poor family, and we're going to act like one!" according to mom, my dad doesn't act like he's poor. recently, when he dropped a dollar at the toll booth in san francisco, he refused to pick it up. and sometimes, he'll throw away the end piece of a loaf. this irritates mom to no end.

me, i'm not so ashamed of picking up a dime off the hot pavement. i scatter my coins all over the floor, and i roll them. and then i go to the bank, and i make a deposit for $13.50. "into my savings account, please," i say.
mini-battle with wamu.

i have this thing set up with my free checking account, where on the first of each month, wamu deducts $25 from my checking account and deposits the cash to my savings account. however, being unemployed, i haven't kept more than $25 in my checking account for more than three months. this month, though, i did have more, since i took money from my savings account and transferred it to my checking account, so that i could write my mom a check for my recent trip to los angeles.

so, like clockwork, the automatic savings happened, which caused an overdraft fee of $12. i was pretty furious, since $12 is, to me anyway, a whole day's worth of work. wamu has already written me three times to inform me that there was no error, and that the check, even though my mom cashed it on june 30, caused an overdraft. i've written them for the fourth time to tell them that they are in error, and that the automatic savings shouldn't have gone into effect this month, since i had no money in my checking account to save. at this point, i'm just doing it to be a dick. i'm sure those wamu workers are bored anyway, and are just dying to participate in some quasi-logical argument.

unfortunately, for them, they're not gonna win this one. i have too much time on my hands. i'm like the kid in better off dead. give me back my $12!
the fledgling drummer.

today was another attempt to chase away the dissatisfaction and restlessness that comes along with being unemployed and having nothing to do. my latest harebrained scheme was to create a zine, but when i screwed up the folding, and really disliked the written content, i abandoned it. the first zine i ever read was an anthology called doris by cindy crabtree ovenrack. meagan got it for me, three valentines' ago. i really liked the stories in doris. sometimes i felt like i was reading a really politically charged essay, and other times it felt like i had stolen someone's diary. always, though, i was entertained and felt like she was writing directly to me.

i found out that cindy keeps a blog, too. i commented once, and even made reference to one of her earliest zines, but she never wrote back or anything. i think it's now my mission in life to become well-known to the point where she writes me, but i will never have to write her back. other zines i've read are on subbing, invincible summer, and currently, dishwasher. i'm pretty jealous of dishwasher. through his dishwashing zine, pete jordan made contacts all over the country, and was invited on many road trips, alaskan boat trips, summer camps, even the letterman show. i thought about creating a zine strictly for this reason. but like the one red paperclip, it was probably just a fluke.

damn these assholes and their harebrained schemes that actually pan out. i've had a bunch of ideas. sometimes the ideas keep me up late at night, and sometimes i write them down, but mostly, i don't. one of them was to create a correspondence with the author of blankets, craig thompson, and have him draw a cartoon that i had in mind. the cartoon was going to feature a different band for every segment. for example, one four-panel cartoon would feature john lennon and paul mccartney practicing the song, "octopus garden." they would agree that the song was shit, absolute rubbish, when all of a sudden, ringo starr would walk in. john would say something snooty like, "ringo, we've got the perfect song for you!" and that would be the punchline. zing!

but unlike me, craig thompson probably has a life. no artist, i don't think, would be willing to spend time on something so frivolous. but hell, even harvey pekar got someone to do the ink for him. i'd really like to know how that got started. there's nothing in any american splendor issues, or even the autobiographical graphic novel, quitter, about how he convinced nationally renowned artists to draw his stories. how does anything get started, really? i've been playing guitar for twelve years, and jammed for five, but what do i have to show for it, other than a handful of mediocre instrumental songs, and two gigs in the span of all that time?

i think my problem is that i went to school for too long, and i actually believed the underlying message: you're too stupid to figure things out, so you have to pay us to tell you how it is. sixteen years of schooling, and i don't know how to swim, silk screen a t-shirt, change a tube on a bike, or even land a shitty, non-retail job. so, what can i do? i can learn to wander aimlessly. i can learn to take all the time i need. screw "carpe diem." all "carpe diem" got us was an unsustainable, blood-thirsty civilization. maybe if more people learned humility and rejection and at least questioned, if not fully accepted, the meaningless of life, the absence of god, we might possibly be in better shape today. who knows.

today, i met a 40-ish woman on craigslist who posted a "fledgling drummer available" ad on craigslist. her name was roxane, and she used to be a teacher. she taught english to high schoolers, and said that ten years of doing that was enough. she got her m.a. from sac state in creative writing with a poetry emphasis. the "fledgling" part caught my attention, as most sacramento musicians in the craigslist section write shit like, "please know how to play your instrument," or "for people who seriously want to gig only," and then they cite musical influences like fall out boy and paramore. for once, i'd just like to see a realistic ad, one that reads: "we aren't that good. we are just a couple of ordinary, forgettable musicians, and we play music, but the music isn't that great. we might gig, if we're lucky, but we will definitely never get signed or anything like that."

who are these people who still have goals and dreams and huge ambition? have they not read the news? did they just choose to ignore the giant number of layoffs and foreclosures? i guess one could continue screaming, "the american dream is over! dead! long gone!" from all the rooftops, but no one would listen. they're too doped up on paxil and zoloft, or else they've got their ipods and zunes on. so yeah, i'd rather play my simple, repetitive songs with a retired schoolteacher. just like a motherfucking episode of pete & pete. the songs, like my stories, like myself, will go nowhere, become nothing.
silk screen my t-shirt.

if anyone in northern california knows how to silk screen t-shirts and has the equipment, please comment so that i can meet you, learn the process, and possibly create a talkingabouthardtimes t-shirt.