Boundaries and bouncy balls: A college Saturday

This is another journal text from my first year of college. This day, I played in the Pep Band at a football game where the lopsided score was caused by, as I recall, the Canadian football team executing plays that had them running out of bounds on the narrower American-football field. Then I returned to my dorm and read some of my world-history class textbook, and then later went to hang out with friends I’d made who were a year older and lived at a house off-campus. I’d met these friends through my dorm roommate, Gerrad. I can also remember who Chad, Trisha, Darrick, Gramps (actual name: Glenn), and Jay were, but I don’t remember Dan, Marty (Matt), nor Jay’s girlfriend Carrie. 

The talk about superballs below is about finding actual bouncy rubber balls (in order to throw them at each other, if I recall). This journal reminds me that I enjoyed spending time with this group of guys because they did not drink (because, according to lore, they had gotten sick as dogs from one drinking spell the year before). I wasn’t interested in drinking then either, and these were smart, fun-loving guys who had also grown up in small towns as I had — I felt lucky to have fallen in with them. 

Sat. 10.24.1992

Warm day–in 50s. Cold at top of football stands, though. Wore extra sweatshirt, but not enough. Tech played Manitoba–Tech won 76-34 . We got so sick of fight song. Played it over and over–once for each of 11 touchdowns, and at beginning, end, halftime, etc. Came back and read SS120 book. Dan was over studying for a while. Music from next door rattled walls, as always. Went over to Jay’s at night, 10:30. Marty (Matt), Gerrad, Darrick, Gramps, and I went on a ‘commando run’ for superballs. Our efforts were thwarted, however, by the famine of superballs in the Copper Country. Only store that even had them was Pat’s, and their machine was broken. Gramps said it was as if Jay – who was home with Carrie–was watching over us. Went back to house and rough-housed and watched SNL. Chad’s woman Trisha was over. We had good behavior, for a while. Later we walked down to Subway and left barf–Chicken Tonight– on sidewalk by hotel. Played euchre later.

‘I’d like to become an intellectual': From the Writings of Younger Me

Below is a journal entry written when I was 18 years old and in my first year of college at Michigan Technological University. I’d been keeping a journal for a few months before this, but on this day I typed my journal on the laptop computer I’d just received (which, for the record and to make this seem an eon ago, was an IBM-brand with 2 megabytes of memory and a 120-megabyte hard drive, a computer that cost nearly $2,000). I was a computer science major then, and I was living away from home–eight hours north of home–for the first time. 

When I think now of how I felt then, I remember being lonely and overwhelmed, but I remind myself that there were good times, too. I’ve at times thought that I could write a memoir or a bildungsroman about those experiences, but whatever I’d write would be more artificial than the for-myself texts I wrote at that time. Reading this today, I’m struck by how much this does sound like my writing voice, albeit a less-experienced version of me. (I edited the journal entry below only minimally, to make reading smoother and to explain contexts.) However, I’m distant enough from these events that I feel like I’m reading someone else’s journal.

But this is what I wrote about my life at age 18 when I was age 18. I didn’t have the wisdom of looking back from an advanced age, but then, none of us have that wisdom as we are living our lives. These journal writings, then, are nonfiction that may have the flavor of a character monologue about them, the character being a me who is now distant from me. I have always (I think!) attempted to be honest in my journals, and as I publish these writings from my current perspective, I present them for readers to take at face value. I do not mean to endorse or criticize what these texts contain; I see these texts as valuable in their honesty of revealing a particular mindset from a particular time.

October 23, 1992

I got this awesome computer today and flunked my calc [quiz?] I was so excited. Pretty good day, but flawed. The bell of my tuba [the sousaphone I played in my university’s pep band] was bent when it fell off the bleachers [where we stood and played]. Some people got extensions on their program due dates–which bothered me a little, since I worked all last week on my program, but I guess it’s no big deal–I’ll have a chance to work on my program some more, too. This weekend is to be spent on homework. I’ll be glad when I go home – not so much because I get to visit the metropolis of Rochelle, but because I won’t have to do homework. Like I told mom the other day, I always have homework, or am feeling the constant threat of homework. Maybe I worry too much–I should probably relax more. Ran into Cute Trombone Girl tonight when a few of us [pep band members] went on a trip [stopping and playing] around the stadium. I thought about apologizing again, just to talk to her, but that seemed kinda lame, and it was (or would be). I’m not real worried though–I just try to put women out of my mind. It’s easier that way. First hockey game of the year tonight. I got tired of standing w/ tuba, but i’d better get used to it. I called home and talked to [my two-years-younger brother] Nace–still a slacker. I’m getting to be more of a slacker in calc. I almost want to get a ‘D’ so I can repeat it. A ‘C’ would be alright, too, but I’m going to drop down to regular calc 151 [from the honors calculus class I was in] anyway. Mom called back, but there was not a lot of time, and the hockey game was imminent. Not a lot of news, either. Homework is all I do, it seems. I do slack off sometimes, like today, when I played with my new computer and read [a magazine] instead of studying. I was just fried, however, from my whole week of constant homework. Next week won’t be much better. I think I’d like to become an intellectual. College sure has made me think more, about humans and life in general. I know I’d like to write fiction. Right now, authors seem demi-gods to me. I’d like to try writing anyway. I’d like my contribution to society to be something of art or literature, as opposed to the contributions of technology which surround us today. Well, I’d better go to sleep so I can get up tomorrow and do more homework.

My students put me in pictures

Two of my creative writing students from last semester also got creative with a photo of me from this blog. Here, Sam M. puts my face (from this post) into a charming/creepy holiday depiction:


and Mark B. put my face on currency,


and in my own trading card (Mark also decided I was “secretly … president of the United States”),


and in Mount Rushmore (to my left is my teaching colleague Mr. Fonfara).


I appreciate the wisdom that I, a Humble Genius, should be given the spot of Thomas Jefferson, the president so smart that he was an “extraordinary collecti0n of talent, of human knowledge … when [he] dined alone.

Hanukkah card, anyone?

Before the holiday season gets too far past, I’m posting these photos of the greeting card aisle from my rural-town’s drugstore. Specifically, I’m posting photos of the Christmas card section:

Snyder Pharmacy, Byron, Illinois, 6 Dec. 2014. Look carefully, all the way to the left, for Hanukkah cards.

Snyder Pharmacy, Byron, Illinois, 6 Dec. 2014. Look carefully, all the way to the left, for Hanukkah cards.

And, down at the very end, a closer-in shot of the entire Hanukkah card section:

Note that the entire Hanukkah is all-but-hidden behind another Xmas display.

Four choices! Note that the entire Hanukkah is all-but-hidden behind another Xmas display.

What I’m debating: Whether it’s better for there to be a pathetic selection of Hanukkah cards, or none at all?

I Write for Me: A Manifesto Of My Self-Importance

I write a lot, but not for other people.

I write mostly to and for myself: journals, poems, notes, etc. I enjoy being engaged in the writing process, and I want to write about what I want to write about, and these aren’t always things that I think other people would care about.

I write these blog posts to be read by others, whoever you are. I mostly write these for myself as well, but I want to let you know, Readers, that at least I’m thinking of you. The thought is what counts.

For years, I’ve wanted to turn the things I wrote into things that others would want to read. But that hasn’t been going so well. I mean, unless I’m writing to a specific person, I don’t know who I’m writing to. I suspect that I’m writing to others like myself, which could suggest that what I’m already doing is pretty great! I needn’t change a word! But do others who are like me need to hear what I’m saying, or do they already know it?

So, I’m considering changing my approach and just embracing whatever the hell it is that I do. I mean, if there are no standards — and in creative work, why would there be? — then I can do whatever I like.

I have, over recent days, been reading some emails I wrote 5 and 6 years ago to a friend, and while I was conscious of writing to him, I was also just writing to air my own thoughts, explore my own ideas. And I remarked, in an email, upon that tendency of mine. And as I read that remark today, I thought, hell, why not?

Why not come out and embrace what I have been doing, but not acknowledging to myself, all these years? For years, I’ve been thinking that I had to be something other than what I was: I still expected myself to one day write things that would be for other people, wonderful, witty texts that would impress, entertain, and instruct my readers, and that would establish my reputation as a Writer Worth Reading.

But I’m not sure I need that kind of validation anymore. Or, let’s say, I’m not sure that I want to work for that validation (but I’d take it if it came!). I’m coming to terms with who I am: a self-centered writer. I love to write about my own ideas and experiences. I want to write whatever I want to write and not worry (as I so often have) about whether a text is good enough or not to share.

Some of this worrying has prompted me to write merely charming or clever texts, and some of this worrying has prompted me to overedit the texts that I share. I’m not sure these are what I want to be doing.

I will accept that I may never sell a book, or even write one, and that such a lifestyle is gonna be OK with me. I don’t have to achieve Authorhood. I am already a writer. I don’t gotta sell nothin’. I’m willing to be subversive, as described in a recent New Yorker article by Andrew Marantz: “In our data-obsessed moment, it is subversive to assert that the value of a product is not reducible to its salability.”

My books won’t be salable, because I won’t sell them — or, let’s say, I’m not sure why I myself would care about sales, since publishing is not a creative act but is a business act, an ego-act, and it’s also a business that seems terrible for a lot of writers now. I’ll give away on this blog whatever I feel like giving away. If I feel like it, I’ll make single copies of books.

I don’t need to sell products to strangers in order to feel good about myself (or so I’m still trying to convince myself — maybe I’m not quite there yet, and maybe this mini-manifesto is pushing me to get there). How wonderful that we live in a time where we do have this Internet available for instant, world-wide distribution! I’m not gonna fret about getting paid — I’m an Artist, dammit!

If you liked ‘Great Gatsby,’ you’ll love …

It’s so thoughtful of retail stores to put up book suggestion displays that are so easy to mess with:










Harmacy: When your pharmacy’s out of P

Missing letters can kill.

When the ‘P’ went dark on this sign outside of a Target store, the mood inside the store got dark, too.