Category Archives: Nonfiction

‘Look at these things that are where they are’: January pocket pages

Snow drift as a moon rise. 20 Jan.

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Everything lasts just a moment — specifically, here, I mean the laughs after a joke, the cry after a drama scene, the blown-mind after hearing a new idea. These all last only briefly. After that moment, I might remember that an artwork is good without feeling that first-moment reaction. 6 Jan. 2019.

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“I’m bad at walking, buddy,” I told my dog, Sam, when I slipped on the hardwood floor near our blue couch and he, on the couch, looked up as startled. 6 Jan.

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Lights around a city-owned treetrunk. 2 Jan.

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If “I don’t care” means almost the same as “I don’t mind,” then “care” would be a synonym for “mind” — caring is akin to paying attention? (In the movie “Lady Bird,” a character says that paying attention is the same as loving something.) 7 Jan.

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As of this January 2019, I have outlived Thoreau,who died at age 44. Fitzgerald was 44, also. I learned this weekend that I’ve also outlived Kierkegaard, who died at 42. George Gershwin didn’t make it to 40. Of course these people are each more accomplished than I am, but, in a petty way, I feel good about having outlived them. I have a chance to keep thinking, keep learning, and perhaps to become more wise, more thoughtful than any of these dudes were. I also realized recently that Heidegger was only about 38 when he published Being and Time. I was intimidated by that work when I was an undergrad, but now that I’m older than he was when he wrote it, I feel I might have enough wisdom to understand it — or to dismiss it as not all that important!  9 Jan and late Jan.

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Sharply drifted snow. 20 Jan. 2019

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We don’t get to make many choices about our families. We don’t get to choose our parents or any other ancestors. We get to choose our romantic partner, and we choose to have kids (but we don’t get to choose the kids’ personalities or other qualities). And the choices we do make, we often make at a fairly young age, and then live with the consequences the rest of our lives. 9 Jan.

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An aspect of being in a location near-but-not-within a town — for example, being a couple miles outside of a small prairie town — is that distance, seeing that distance one is away from the landmark, is part of the experience of being at that location. When you’re in the town already, or when you’re in a forest, or other vision-limited place, you don’t experience distance. Also, when I’m looking at a town from a distance, it might as well be a landscape painting — it’s not real from a distance. Work happens up close. 10 Jan. & 16 Jan.

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The process of memorizing a poem — all these quasi-thoughts, demi-thoughts. On my my way home from work today, I memorized Shakespeare’s “When in the chronicle” sonnet, and in the act of memorizing, I noticed many things: there are maybe many views, concepts, of the poem helping me get it into my head, such as a four-line structure (from “when…” to “then…”); how “praise” is in there three times; the dismissive tone of “wasted time, … ladies dead and lovely knights; the contrast of “our time … you prefiguring.” Basically, memorizing is a way to get a close reading of a text, but also, it seems my memorized version might subtly include some of these structural pattern realizations/insights listed above. 11 Jan.

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As a real middle-ager, nearing age 45, maybe I should challenge myself to do things beyond my routine — read philosophy, memorize poems. My routine may not be satisfying enough. 11 Jan.

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Snow drift topography. 20 Jan.

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“God, use common sense,” said a high school student to another outside after school. She said “God” more as an interjection, but I thought of it, amusingly, as direct address. 14 Jan.

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I’m tired of meaning things, asserting things through public writings. Don’t preach — let cool ideas seep through your blog posts of journal texts, off-handedly. I don’t have anything that I need to say to a general audience. Also, I don’t have to have a certain tone — just be interesting, no? Switching topics is OK! I do look forward to the regularly published columns of a few particular writers, who tend to be interesting on varied topics. 15 Jan., 17 Jan.

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Ice melting off my car’s windshield. 22 Jan.

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Because I have lived in small Midwestern towns where there are few myths/characterizing stories about the places (as opposed to, say, the idea about NYC that it’s exciting, or that San Francisco is artistic — simplistic stories, yes), I wasn’t distracted by these stories — I paid attention to what was here. 15 Jan.

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My career as an example of not setting goals, not being ambitious (which word has a negative history). I don’t need to portray myself as a hero or as a model. I live for me — to see how my life turns out! 16 Jan.

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I think that people who might like reading blog posts of my journal texts would be readers who might appreciate not knowing what I might say. Publishing my journals is a self-centered act, but it’s also being honest, open, maybe vulnerable — not seeking that authority that journalists and most nonfiction writers seek by trying to seem normal and reasonable in their narrative voices.  16-17 Jan.

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View of sun on a snowy day in downtown Rockford, Illinois. Church Street at Mulberry. 25 Jan.

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My lyrics to “Feels So Good”: “Feels So Good — IT feels GOOD, IT feels GOOD, you know it FEELS, FEELS, FEELS, so GOOD…” 17 Jan.

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I feel that I finally have the confidence to (publicly) be my own kind of writer, and I feel I could be satisfied being my own kind of writer. It makes sense that I wouldn’t be sure of the public value of any of my atypical, idiosyncratic writings. But I am choosing to be idiosyncratic in my publishing of my journal texts, and I’m not trying to fit into mainstream publishing. 17 Jan.

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Ronald Reagan’s 6th grade classroom, Northwest Territory Historic Center, Dixon, Illinois. 25 Jan.

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Hallway poetry, overheard before 5th hour: “My locker,/when I open it,/is gonna smell like crap,” said a sophomore (I think) girl to another girl. 17 Jan.

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What portion of all my thoughts are written down? Most of the new insights, yes, but not the daily, getting-around thoughts. 18 Jan.

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A celebrity — having celebrity-level fame — is a business opportunity for the celebrity person as well as for others. Media fame is about and for making money, not artistic quality. More to my point, if I’m not trying to sell (my writings, say), I don’t need to be a celebrity (nor try to become one). 18, 22 Jan.

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(During my morning commute, after crossing railroad tracks) Look at these things that are where they are — road signs, tree limbs, crossing-gate posts. They’re not imagined, remembered, or dreamed.  18 Jan.

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Detail of 2nd floor of a building in downtown Rockford, Illinois, on Main Street, I think. 25 Jan.

A slick ‘sh*t show’ synergy: A journal text

Thurs., 28 June 2018, 9:09 a.m., at Meg’s Daily Grind, southeast of Perryville and Riverside roads, Rockford.

I moved to one (the south of two) stool-height table just a couple minutes ago. There’s a table of three women behind me, formerly just to my east, who are talking kinda loud about 8$ beers at Nashville, and one says that where she works, the mail situation is a “shit show” when they’re expected to cover coworkers’ mail. And a fourth showed up now, and also some “bad people” — she repeated it a few times — have applied for something.

OK, so, let’s get into this, after reading online a few minutes in Facebook, messengering with L. about Rochelle history.

And there are smells. I smelled, near a blue spruce, a smell like 7-Up gone bad. And I smelled a bad-deodorant smell, and a dank basement (like ours at Ashton, the smell).

“Is the east side the nicer side?” asks one lady of the four women, one who used to live in Rockford but who got lost recently, maybe this morning. “Oh, yeah,” said the one who lived here. 

Candice King last night on her 6 p.m. show had a graphic — I took phone pic and am copying from it now — that June rainfall so far (for Rockford, I think) was 14.23 inches,  over the previous record of 13.98” in August 2007, and that there were six rainfalls over 1 inch in accumulation in June: June 9th, 1.97”; 10th: 1.52”; 15th: 2.59”; 18th: 1.98”; 21st: 2.36”; and 26th: 2.20.”

So there.  And I walked Sam — I tried to keep him on the pavement (a road is just an idea?) to avoid ticks. There was one roadkilled critter I couldn’t identify: woodchuck but small? Muskrat but large? My car’s now at Toyota dealer — M’s dental bill yesterday was $650. I put it on my credit card. We may get some of that back if insurance pays. And then we got home and made calls whether her spine surgeon needed official clearance from the oral surgeon — nope, none needed. I left a little after 1 p.m. and went to Rochelle City Hall, photographed pages 383 to nearly 800 in the 18601893 book of city council minutes — exhausting, my back felt stiff from all the bending over. I’m not sure that the Nikon cameras pics are better than cellphone’s — the focus is better, more assured, reliable, but the pictures seem grainyer. I left there, went to Rochelle post office to mail four packets of commented-upon writing to four creative writing students from last semester. I had to wait behind two dudes at the windows and  one lady ahead of me. One dude had a lot of questions to answer about a package he was trying to send the $20 cost might be worth more than what he was sending, clerk commented. The disheveled-but-tie-wearing clerk-dude was checking a dozen or more packages dropped off by a dude (from a business, maybe). Soon after, I was facing south to take pic of downtown from north, across Lincoln Highway from post office, next to o Masons’ Hall, and former student Z. rolled up in his car.

A robin outside has something in its beak, like a bit of dry grass, maybe — it was in the sidewalk and in the red-mulch-chips planter-space in sidewalk.

“One of my files is in a shit-mess because of her,” said one of the four, maybe same one who said earlier that one could tell exactly what’s going on in each of her cases from the case file.

Just got voicemail from Toyota at 9:40. They tried to call, it said. I’m not sure why I wasn’t getting the ringer — I got it earlier today. Weird. 

A small, trim woman driving a Honda Odyssey came in with two girls a few minutes ago and met with someone already here.

I somehow feel a little uncomfortable in this chair now, a little too warm, maybe — and my right wrist has a dull ache now, not a big deal, but there was tingling again this morning when I woke — a carpal tunnel problem? I do use my wrists a lot.

“The arbitrator’s changed and that makes a huge difference!” the “shit show” lady, I think, just said animatedly.

It’s predicted to be hot again this weekend. I went to Walmart to get bars (Nature Valley) and “Ice” drinks for M. (black raspberry flavor, no sugar) and yogurt. M. was supposed to eat cold soft foods yesterday (while mouth numb, so M didn’t burn her mouth) and warm soft foods today. Those were oral surgeon’s rules, but M.’s also supposed to eat soft foods after neck surgery.

“I like him as a person,” said one of the four ladies.

Last swallow of my latte. I also had bagel and cream cheese this morning. My back’s little bit tight today. I wonder if I shouldn’t go to City Hall today but take the day to just blog, instead. I haven’t yet blogged in June. I answered a question in a Rochelle Museum post on Facebook about whether Central School was located in the same place as the 1869 building — was the high school in that location, too?

Here comes a stooped (a little), older dude with long white hair, long white beard, three layered shirts, long sleeves pushed up, short sleeves, and a vest, and a ball cap, sunglasses, and an earpiece, as if for a Bluetooth connection to a phone.

Sketch of the white-haired man.

“I’m trying to work smarter, and not harder,” Shit Show cliches.

“We had to live in foxholes. We didn’t have [something]. You civilians crack me up,” said old white hair loudly, almost as if he’s getting pissed at them almost as if he’s getting pissed at the two counter girls, who are at work, not talking back, as he keeps talking. He also wanted a straw. He had some kind of name tag on a lanyard.

People get old and live as they can, and sometimes people have to live with changes — my daily back stretches as an easy example. M. posted to Facebook that she’s going to surgery — she posted it on her business page because clients were Facebook Messengering her. I saw it also on her personal page with 80(!) comments, many well wishes.

“Here you go,” a third worker says as she delivers a pink drink to the white-haired, self-declared veteran.

There’s a romance to the image of the young military dude, young male rockstar — or at least, there sometime seems an ideal there. But I suspect that a lot of young men are awkward, like I was, and that we don’t make good images, don’t seem like Romantic ideals when young. I think I work better as an older, more experienced person. I was —  what’s the word — young in the sense of being ill-shaped, unformed, lacking experience — “callow,” maybe? (I say, after looking at synonyms for inexperienced.)

“Uptown Lanes”/“Back Alley Bar and Grill” says a gray t-shirt (front and back, respectively) worn by a woman in here who just left with her son — that’s the Byron bowling alley, I think.

As I stood there in Rochelle post office, three or four people queued up behind me, I thought about the place being 80 years or so old, and the counter being established back then probably (though with some changes in lighting, etc., no doubt, over the years) and there were windows I could see through the counter cut-out, windows that could still be single pane, and half-round windows above the rectangular part, and there an old door not far behind (a few feet north of) the east side of counter —

“This is a teaching moment. Take the value from it. Don’t get mad. This is a teaching moment. That’s what it is,” says the Shit Show lady (I think it was her voice).

a door to an inside room — not the high ceiling of most of the room behind the counter. And dude moved one big rolling bin next to other bins behind the west side of counter.  And I wondered if I could work at the post office instead of or after teaching — there seems something nice in the routine, though the customer service part might not be great.

The white-haired dude went to counter and said some stuff and again, “You civilians crack me up,” and leaves. He’d sat on a cushioned chair and was quiet while here. Out in parking lot, now he holds arms out to side and limps a little as he walks away from me. Dude talked at the worker who looks like a dark-haired student of mine. Other worker was a tough-looking small blonde. The one who brought him the pink drink was a taller, older (30s?) lady. This reminds me of

“I totally agree. I think that’s a big part of her problem,” says Shit Show,and when I look over, she’s making a big eye-roll, sour-mouth gesture.”

the “START WORK NOW” sign I saw at “Workplace” temp office on East State, east of Alpine. I think I’d feel shitty about my life if my job were less than a career. I mean, teaching’s not prestigious, but it’s respectable,  and the work is safe and clean — we’re not working with dangerous, cancer-giving chemicals or arm-chomping machines. Here, if they want to make money, they have to be busy, which means they — I, if that were my job — wouldn’t time to read or write or do anything but work. They work for the short-term to make things people need or want now: food, medicine, toilet paper,  etc.

“Mommy?” starts a whine-sounding question from one of two girls (probably both under age 6 or so) who came with the made-up, tiny woman.

I wonder why those four women are still here — it’s 10:29, and they’ve been here — the two who were here when I got here about 8:40, and the two others who got here before 9. I wonder why they don’t have work today.

You know, my job’s short-term need is supervising kids and helping them learn some skills. The longer-term things are both the writings I do and they do, and I’d hope that some of what I say and what I model sticks with and inspires the students.

I hear soft jazz and wonder if it’s been on the whole time.

But lots of jobs are about taking care of short-term needs. There’s that line in “Hello, Dolly” about selling something people need everyday and thereby getting rich. Fewer people get to do longer-term things like writing or making other artworks.

I sneezed a moment ago. A recently arrived lady working at a laptop blessed me. I could  make a document recording, say, when I’ve got allergies, which sneezes get blessed and by whom. Of course, such a document would seem to be of little value, little long-term value. Eh, you can try it. It’s no big deal. It could be mildly amusing. There’s something fun for me about looking at pocket pages and seeing bits of things I’ve recorded that we did or heard or said — a bit of bringing me back to me, well, kinda — but maybe it’s also fun to see writings about my life even if I made them. Littler of the two girls with mom,  as they were leaving, she put her hand up against the glass near what’s a metal outline of a woman’s face, and she’s a stand holding a quart-size bucket of what looks like coupons. The little girl, who reminds me a little of pics of my friend’s daughter H., put one hand up to the glass behind the wire woman’s head, and the girl’s other hand was holding a cup and straw and she had bangs and long dark hair and she seem to smile — at the wire woman, or at herself trying to touch the wire woman — kind of sweet but also a kind of sneaky moment. [I say the wire woman, not man, because the sculpture has outline of a bow tie in hair and wavy hair and rounded shoulders. The man sculpture around the corner of the vestibule has mustache and square shoulders and is a couple of inches taller and no hair.]

The wire woman decoration/bucket holder.

Lady to my right greets a dude who brought a case, about the size of a trumpet case but shallower and longer — and he said (and maybe she did too) “nice to meet you” and she lays a vertical-oriented card on the table so he can see it, and he hands her a sideways- (horizontal) oriented card. He gets out something — a “relatively new brochure” of  switches (I see, in open page, silhouettes of switches) “organized by toggles, push buttons” — “It’s the next best thing to having a switch in front of you,” he says — a sample switch, maybe?

And I don’t recall where I was but it doesn’t matter — I’m floating along, or bobbing along — on the waves of consciousness. Or my consciousness/awareness bobs along on waves of moments — moments as waves slapping against the buoy of my consciousness/awareness — eh, metaphors.

So there’s still background chat and, off a ways, mixer sounds — and that mixer ends —  and this cafe as a business-meeting place. This place and other cafes aren’t planned to be biz-meeting places.

A white-haired lady, a fuchsia-dressed mom lady, and two teen or near-teen girls just walked out. It’s 10:53 now. I could go soon and do the shopping. I told M. I’d be back noonish. You know, I could go back to City Hall, but maybe I should process and post some of the info I’ve already gotten. I’d have liked to have linked to my blog when I answered that question about Central School on Facebook this morning but I haven’t posted that map yet.

“ … digi-key, now there’s not much support there …,” dude says in a list of distributors. “… I’ll take what’s there…” I’ve been here a year in August, he says. He said, “my territory’s so large.” He’d earlier said Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio Valley —  including Kentucky, Missouri, Dakotas.

And, yeah, I think I was going to say something earlier about my writing about the “Shit Show” lady (they’re down to two? I didn’t see the other two leave).

“Being in the audio broadcast market, they’ve driven us to [high quality LED switches?] … They’ve driven us to these high quality standards. We’re a Japanese company, too — …  the synergy’s there,” says the lightly bearded young fellow. He gets out his case. “I’ll show you the technology … [if she wants to do something] I have no problem with that. … I work from home.” His panel says “illuminated switches.” I wonder what her business is.

I’m out of my tea now, too — two drinks down, some water to go.

Sales dude laughed — “Don’t get me started” — he’s listened to sports radio all morning. 6-70? she asks. “E.S.P.N, 1000,” he says. He likes Dave Kaplan. “…price point …,” he says, higher or lower price point, I’m not sure. A certain switch is “quite slick.”

I don’t know that I needed to talk about why the lady uses how many cliches — doesn’t matter. You know, I like that I don’t have to use cliches.

When I told M. yesterday on drive up that she needed new topics, she said I did, too. I spend an hour each day thinking up new stuff, I said. You repeat a lot, M. said.

“The world’s smallest toggle switches,” I hear. It’s hard to tell from my angle how small it is. He’s got kids ages 2 and 4 and lives in Winthrop Harbor, on Illinois side, right on Lake Michigan. His wife is “school teacher.” I think he said “school teacher,” as if there were some other kind of teacher.

I like this green pen against this green cover material.

“And I have a sheet on this, too. I can send it to you,” dude says to the woman who must have asked a particular question. I can’t hear her voice as well as his. He says he needs to distinguish his company — they want to be about “solutions,” I think he cliched. Biz cliches — business, maybe most of interpersonal professional talk is cliches.

“So the brains [are] … right here …,” dude points to something in an opening on back of his tilted demo panel. There’s a small, squarish screen in middle of his demo panel.

There are 3 ladies at the table of 4 — maybe I miscounted before — but they’ve been here almost 3 hours! As have I, I guess.

M. said her surgeon seems impressed some things M. has said — like Tuesday, when he said many people who get spine surgery need it again later but it’s because their spines have bad genes, not because of the surgery. “Correlation, not causation,” M. said, and the surgeon seemed impressed. He must be used to dumb patients, we said.

“This is one of our highest sellers, as far as revenue goes,” and he lists functions including “error number two-four-five, whatever they program whatever they program into it.” She: “So it’s not a switch at all?” He: “No functionality.” “It’s just a display,” one of them said, she, I think.

I did take him some news yesterday but news was focused on union Janis Supreme Court decision or on the Justice Kennedy retirement. I felt bad when hearing about both stories. I try to remind myself that there is no winning permanently in politics, that it’s silly to think that way, and I thought of that story from Charlie Wilson’s War, that we don’t know what’s good or bad but “we’ll see.”

He said something about 3 million switches,  how does he sell that? They gave him something and then “‘Here you go. This is it. This is it.’”

“You have all of Wisconsin?” he asks her. “Well, I share with Mary [something],”  who’s based near Milwaukee. “She has a lot of the drives companies, like Eaton, Magnidev (?) …” she sais. “Is Danfoss in Rockford?” he says. Yes, “but they have a location in  Milwaukee as well,” she says. “That would be why I target Milwaukee,” she says.

So, yeah, I did hear some news yesterday but hearing it exhausted me, so I turned off radio, didn’t read much online, but did read some in 9 p.m. hour.

He: “A lot of our [somethings] can be cross-sold to other customers.” He’ll send her what they have now, and what they make new. He’ll send email to marketing to say “this is important to our distribution partners.”

Last night, I watched PBS on pets, the second half of last Wednesday’s Nature show on pets, and some of Nova on 2017 hurricanes, but M said it was making her anxious, so I turned to Malcolm in the Middle and tidied up the blue bedroom, washed sheets — and I turned off TV about 9:30 but didn’t get to bed till 11. I mean I don’t know that I fully stay away from dudes but it was a little easier yesterday.

Dude seems to say Madison’s big for startups.

It isn’t always easy to turn off my attention off of news — it’s turning from something to, well, nothing.

That dark-haired worker leaves out the north side door. It’s 11:35.

To have nothing in particular for my attention to focus on right away after I turn off TV or radio or set down my phone. But that’s okay. I can focus on getting attention back to my own thoughts — and, yeah, I’m leaving.

Sales guy said he’s got an “office day” tomorrow. He’ll follow up on some things for her.

11:54 car time — My wrist pains — I could type and that’d be easier to read later — but it wouldn’t be mine, in my handwriting — and typing’s tough on wrists, too.

4-something p.m. Not sure I said this in the freewrite above — I may have looked overly precise in citing 1872 map and explaining school location in my Facebook comment,  but I also get tired of people saying the historical stuff without reference to sources. And maybe somebody finds there to be, as I do, fascination (or further interest, at least) in the particulars of there being an 1872 map (and what else does it show) and of there being different names of streets, etc.

Milkshake song and more: 2004 May 12 journal

“My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard/

damn right, it’s better than yours”

That song is used in Mean Girls to illustrate the Plastics walking down the hallway. Damn, it’s a great image — makes them look so damn cool. Just something about the arrogance and lust-object of that song fits perfectly. If we each could only have our own soundtracks, especially as we went through high school — though I recall hearing my own theme song in my head as I did walk down halls, and it did help, yes. Peter Griffin in Family Guy wishes for his own theme song — he hears it when he moves.

But that’s why movie high school is cooler than real high school. It’d be funny to make a movie using all of those cliches: soundtracks, really old people (40s) playing teens, on and on. Yet there is no spirit to satire, no “emotionally engaged” storytelling. Why is that? Are none of our creative centers ever really satirical? Satire comes from that clever place, cerebral, but not feeling like The Onion, my police reports, Family Guy, etc.

Such weird pressures inside my head/sinuses — blowing nose doesn’t make it feel any better this morning. Hope this still goes away on its own. I guess I could go get antibiotic, but I’d rather not — haven’t had one of those in years. Those things do something all the bacteria alter all the bacteria everywhere in your system. I recall hearing not too long ago that it’s better to not blow your nose at all, that blowing forces crap further into sinuses, but how can you not blow your nose? That’d seem to be pretty uncomfortable.

The soundtrack again: your image then is better than your reality. No one can possibly be as cool as on a continuing basis as they are in an image.

Saw J. yesterday at Aldi’s. I was getting eggs for school, egg drop lab; he getting gallon  milk. Not much time to talk, so not much to say. I said, hey, let’s play golf this summer — kind of a goofy thing to say, a “let’s do lunch” thing. Oh, it’s alright. He drives a Camry. It would have been nice to talk to him longer, but we both had places to be —  well, certainly he did — what, three kids now?

Just before that, I had been practicing mindfulness — there-ness, being there in that place at that time — in Aldi checkout. It helped to recall that feeling I had just had a few weeks ago, that feeling about why feel grief when someone dies? It’s really just the same as them not being with you now, just as when you two part company, and that’s OK. It’s something like: when you live in the present, you have no fear of the future.

Packing old-RTHS physics room for moving to new school, May 2004, view from near teacher desk looking back (toward west).

And I’ve been getting frustrated with the packing for the new school move, how I was counting on moving my fragile equipment and bulky, hard-to-box stuff myself, but the time frame’s all f**ked up — they won’t let us do it on the 24th, etc. …

View of old-RTHS physics classroom from back, looking east. May 2004.

View of oldest (1922) part of old RTHS building from physics classroom. May 2004

Damn milkshake refrain is so catchy — it sticks in my head. M’s, too, she says. On way home from movie, we had to ban each other from singing it so it wouldn’t be in our heads keeping us from sleeping that night. I mean, it’s really an odd song — it’s not at all clear exactly what milkshake is. But oh, well.

Had first asparagus of the spring last night, out of our own patch we started — was it three years ago already? At least two, anyway. Really good stuff.

It’s funny: I ate lots of sugar for a few weeks. Now I’m actually sick of it. Didn’t feel like eating the protein bars or getting a snack last night, though for some reasons I did anyway, got a bag of Kit Kat bars, regular and white and dark chocolate. I feel guilty, like I gave in, like this was one of those tests in life — will power or temptation — and I gave in. I’m sure this is a form of paranoia, but sometimes I see these purchasing and eating decisions as connected, signs of weakness leading eventually to obesity or diabetes or something. Why do I worry so much about diabetes? It’s the fear in back of my mind, though I’m not quite sure why. But lately I almost can’t enjoy sweets for thinking they’re permanently damaging me, the same type of feelings I have after smoking for a couple days — the body’s guilt defense?

That’s what my lungs have felt like the last day or so. Crap in my tubes feels like the crap I get there after smoking for a few days, that dry, hard cough.

Remembering that feeling of not fearing the future I described last page — there’s a good argument for compiling some of my best insights into some kind of handy (at-hand) reader just for me to re-read and remind myself of some of these valuable insights — here’s the argument against forgetting all I’ve already written. In a way, I can’t forget all anyway.

As I get older, I’m not getting more conservative, but I’m getting more tolerant, more accepting, relativist and less rigid and judgmental.

Growing around obstacles/challenges versus growing out in the free space: teachers can force kids to grow by presenting an obstacle for them, like forcing a root to grow around a rock or forcing a tree to grow tall to get sun. But take away other trees, you’ve  got a tall, skinny tree that can’t stand on its own, blown over in a breeze (though tall trees good are for lumber, what industry wants, commercially good) or you can grow a tree out in the open, give it full sun, good soil, just let it grow — an interesting analogy.   To continue it: growth is inevitable, kids will keep learning things, learning how to get by in the world … what they learn depends on their circumstances.

Journal from Weds. 12 May 2004, in notebook J35.

How to Write Creatively

Eight of the journals I bound over the recently concluded winter break.

After nearly 30 years of doing creative writing and over 15 years of teaching it, what I can profess are the following guidelines, which I still think about sometimes as I freewrite:

How to Write Creatively: Keep your pen moving across the page as you

1. Let go of ideas you already have. Ideas are arbitrary — there are at least 13 ways of looking at a blackbird. Making art is playing with ideas. You are not your ideas. Nobody knows what things really are. Question expectations. Release ideas you’ve heard from others or had yourself. Steer from others’ paths, others’ models. If you think you know what you’re making, change what you’re doing. If you’re not surprising yourself as you write, your readers won’t be surprised, either. There’s no wrong way, and other writers are your peers, not your idols.

2. Follow new ideas arising by your inner voiceKey to creativity — we’re NOT in control. We DON’T know where ideas come from — but we can just let them show up! Keep writing til the new ideas come. Write at the edge of thought — follow feelings and whims, get it all on paper, edit later. Ride your mind. Overdrive your headlights. Let the dog of your consciousness lead you astray. Write like you talk. Let your inner voice lead. The E.M. Forster quote: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” If you have something to say,  just say it, and move on — the point is to find an idea you’d never thought before. Learn from yourself by writing to the edge of your thinking. You’re smarter than you consciously know.

The point of writing is to write, to enjoy the act of writing — find what’s fun for you to write. Writing doesn’t have to be about the tedious process of scraping words together to meet an assignment. The resulting text isn’t really the point. And yet, if you’d like to share some of your freewritings with others, you may want to 

Edit by Discovering:

Get time away from texts so you can see what’s there on the page and forget what you were trying to do — that’s how others will see your texts. Pick out your favorite parts, like taking a bunch of photos and choosing the ones that turned out the best. (There’s a W.D. Snodgrass essay in American Poetry Review a few years ago where he describes this as panning for gold.) There are many ways to tell a story — there is no perfect way to tell a story. Accept what you do, what you did, and move on. Your writings are not you — they are separate from you. Your consciousness makes the art but doesn’t appear with the art. Your art will be rooted in you being you. No one’s ever had your mind, your sensibility (as shaped by your experience, your influences, feelings) before. When you write through a persona, you’re not being original — the only way to be original is to be unselfconsciously, intimately yourself.

Parade at 14 degrees F: Journal of Saturday, 13 March 1993

Sat. 13 March 1993 (written on 20 March)

Got ride from John L. over to Hancock for St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sunny and very cold day — 14 degrees during parade. All my valves stuck after about half the parade, when I stopped blowing into the horn. Quite the wacky experience.

Came back and monkeyed around – did CMJ over at WMTU, went downtown with Andy and Tim for just a few minutes, went over to Jay’s and took my stuff up to the attic, then walked down to Readmore bookstore and bought the U.S. News and World Report college guide.

Home hockey again tonight. I didn’t really want to, since hockey games are so long and sometimes boring (w/ the repeated riffs). Tech won, so we at least didn’t have to play Sunday.

Went over to broomball party at Jay’s after game. Not much going on — as usual, another dull night at Jay’s. There were a lot of people, and a keg of beer, but still, not much was happening. Mike gave me a ride to campus.

Made list of qualities I want in a college today:

– 15000 or more students

– within 3-4 hours of home

– good academic rep

– more girls

– good computer science and liberal arts

– near large city

– more smart kids

– fewer engineers

As I wrote the journal entry above, I was in my first year of college, at Michigan Tech at Houghton, Mich., in the Upper Peninsula. I was a computer science (CS) major, and I also played sousaphone in the MTU Pep Band. I DJ’d a jazz radio show at the student radio station, WMTU — by “did CMJ,” I mean that I sent in a list of jazz songs I considered my most-frequent plays (mainly just my favorite songs) of the week to the publication. Andy and Tim were friends from my dorm, and Jay was a friend who had an off-campus house where he let me store some of the too-many things I had brought to campus.

‘How to Survive a Life’: Pocket pages of October so far.

Maple tree-sky. 4 Oct.

I’d rather inspire my students than instruct them. What teachers who focus on instructing miss is the joy — the glee! — and the mystery and the new and the undefined and the sense that I don’t know everything but that there’s a big world out there to experience. Perhaps it takes some courage to teach without certainty. 3 Oct. 2018

The wise voice is not one that takes easy positions (advocacies). I’m wiser when I question my assertions. 4 Oct.

Maple leaf up-close, near Jarrett Prairie Center, Byron, Ill. 4 Oct. 2018.

Maybe I used to think I could learn something about writing and publishing from reading writers’ biographies. Now I think all the magic is in the writing process, not in writers’ lives’ details. 10 Oct.

I didn’t really need to know the condition of Richard Brautigan’s corpse, as it’s described in the opening pages of Jubilee Hitchhiker, which pages I read in recent days. (A review of that book called the opening “the needlessly lurid.”) It was enough for me to know just that it was a suicide — it’s not meaningful to know more. The problem with biographies — I just don’t need to know all the details of a writer’s life. But giving the details of his death makes that seem important, and I’m not sure it was. 10 Oct.

Jack Kerouac, Richard Brautigan — two writers whose work inspired me — didn’t have careers besides being writers, and they seem to have had money problems at some points. I’m not a career writer, but I don’t have money problems like they did. In other words, both JK and RB wrote stories and poems about sweetness and spiritual quests, but in real life, they had practical problems. Perhaps I’m being more honest in showing my whole life — they were making texts as products. JK’s road trips — those were vacations for him, not his ongoing way of life. 11 Oct.

My writings generally seem to be about getting by. They could go by the title, “How to Survive a Life.” I know that’s dramatic-sounding, but this is the big question, it seems to me: how to live — how to survive, and also, how to live well (when you have a choice!) 11 Oct.

Corn plants along Weld Park Road, Ogle County, Ill. 4 Oct. 2018

The analogy in Postman’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity of teachers to doctors ignores (if my memory serves) the fact that doctors seek to get patients restored to a default of health — but (as I’ve read somewhere) teachers see students by default as inadequate, as not knowing enough. There’s a difference here in motivation — patients want to get better, get back to feeling good — but students don’t necessarily want to live up to some teacher’s idea of what they should do or be. 12 Oct.

Sammy dog’s nose almost never breaks the plane of the open window when he sniffs. 4 Oct.

I’m thinking I need to respect all the work of all the people over the years — the meatpackers, the farmers, the construction workers — how seldom I’ve considered all the hours and efforts of labor that have gone into maintaining human life. 12 Oct.

Which of my writings might reveal a work-mindset — the nature of being at work. Work may be a relatively undiscovered part of human experience for writers. 12 Oct.

Last sweet peppers of the season. 11 Oct. 2018

I keep crossing two-lane roads successfully, it seems. I look both ways and when I think I don’t see any cars coming, I cross. I seem to see traffic competently — I have so far, anyway! 12 Oct.

 

Thoughts come when they will: 30 May 2010 journal

Sunday, 30 May 2010 (MMX), 5:24 a.m.

[“M” is my wife. “Blerg” is a Tina Fey word from 30 Rock.]

There’s no reason to be up this early, except to give the mosquitoes a crack at our flesh. They are numerous and determined this morning. It’s time to wear pants, I guess. I killed several just on the walk down the drive this morning.

That was just a couple minutes ago, but the way I wrote that sentence, it could have been any time in history.

I was super-annoyed by these mosquitoes. It’s too bad we don’t have screened-in porches around here and central air — both would make summer more livable, enjoyable.

Anyway, mosquitoes — there are many of them, but you don’t have to overreact and not want to go outside at all. Damn, I’ve got a bump, a scratchy, well, itchy, bump behind my left ear.

Anyway, we went out yesterday late morning. M dropped off dry cleaning.

5:44. I’m back after second Sammy walk. I thought maybe he had to poop, and he did poop, and a few mosquitoes swarmed him as he pooped, and I wore my sweatshirt jacket with hood pulled tight around my face, which helped.

M. dropped off dry cleaning and picked up prescription and got cash at bank and ate breakfast at diner, and while there, we looked through a real estate guide, and saw a church and parsonage on sale for $160,000-something. I don’t have the money, of course, but I liked the idea of having a church for performances. But it freaked M out a little — church guilt, ideas of what should and shouldn’t happen there.

And later we drove past 721 Kristi in Rose Meadows (south of Mill Road) in Byron and 301 South 2nd in Oregon. Why did we go to Oregon? Oh, M wanted to drop off jewelry at jewelers at Conover Square, and I went for groceries, and in the cheese section, I thought, if I don’t want anything, I could be pretty mellow, laid-back. Wanting a particular house makes me less so.

A dream this morning that I went to a house under renovation. My brother Nace was working there (I sorta felt I should be helping Nace, but I didn’t. He was wiring a sound/electronics system, though he admitted an electrician should have done it. There were lots of tools around.). There were also some acquaintances of mine from high school with whom I talked. Somehow it turns out Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, was stepdad to a former student of mine, and this was his house — a barn-to-house conversion on Flagg Road, couple miles west of high school (not modeled on any particular house).

How houses grab my attention now. I thought yesterday how I used to be obsessed about something else — cars, I guess. I used to check out car ads in Rockford Register-Star newspaper, which mostly made me feel bad — I couldn’t afford a nicer one. But then I did get my cars — they have been good and not so expensive. Ah, well. I don’t want an older house now because of the lead paint and all that other old shit — old wires, pipes, insulation, all that necessary stuff.

Thursday, we saw a local lawyer hauling trash bags near the high school and railroad — Byron Community Revitalization (or some group-title indicated by “BCR”) clean-up day. An old dude on a little motorized seat — Ron Millard, M said later — saw me with Sam and asked if I take a bag with when I walk him.

And so yesterday, we came home after Oregon, hung up underwear, put socks in washer. Then I slept in TV room from 2:30 or 3 till 6 — woof. Then I hung up socks and we went to Dos Amigos in Byron, Family Video, and Sam’s for ice cream, and then we ate it over at that Byron park on Mill Road. There were some old dudes there and a few teens, boys and girls, horsing around — they probably live nearby. Rose Meadows is south and Fawn Ridge is east of park.

Skeeters weren’t so bad during the day yesterday. They’re worse at 5 a.m., apparently. Today is the first day in several that I have done journals before watching TV. My friend Dave’s play is today — I wouldn’t mind seeing him do an Italian-American accent (in “Italian-American Reconciliation.” M said she, with her Italian background, might be offended — partly a joke).

Well, here I am. I slept (napped) for 3 hours yesterday, and I am starting to feel more rested, less mentally exhausted. My low back has been tense and dully painful the last two evenings. I took Advil at bedtime and that was okay. Yesterday afternoon I felt it threatening to tense up.

Anyway, yes, here we are. I’m starting to get tired now. We did watch Secretary on IFC — it’s a story of dom/sub relationship — and then some of SNL before bed at 11. That movie was a little odd, so dark, a bit foreboding. It made me a tad anxious, but not a big deal. I remind myself sometimes that it’s okay to be anxious now. It’s no big deal. I sometimes tell M: it’s okay to feel bad. You (and I) don’t have to fight these feelings.

We argued — mildly — over “What a Fool Believes” by Doobie Brothers after hearing it on radio as we drove down Cox Road and up the driveway. M says the line “What a fool believes he can see, a wise man has the power to reason away” means that the man reasoned — overthought — away his desire to go after the woman who, we are told, is leaving. I was sticking to my earlier interpretation that the guy is a fool for believing something false about the woman that prevents him from going after her — maybe he believes he has seen her be unfaithful or something. But then I got sick of arguing it.

See, we really do just think a lot.

And I’m tired of pretending to like camping — not that I never did, but Dad and I even stayed in hotels half of our trip out west. How I smoked in front of dad, my buying into that mythology, that image of the West. How dad had intended Nace to go instead of me.

No, I’m just not too excited to go camping. And I’m comfortable with the fact that I would prefer sleeping indoors, on a good bed, to camping (lumberjacks would burn the straw from their mattresses and refill them every week, I saw on TV on some show about lumberjacking and Paul Bunyan. 1880 to 1890 was the height of lumberjacking in Wisconsin, said some guy from Eau Claire museum of lumberjacking (is that the verb form?).

So, yeah, I don’t need to go camping. I mean, left to myself, I just don’t.

Something about the lime smell in my Negra Modelo yesterday (which went better with my Combination C than soda does) reminded me of Terranea vacation — something about that smell — and M’s pina colada — and we reminisced, though thinking of going to ocean still made me think/prompted worries of what I’d do to hide the hotel room key while we swam. And how funny, too, that I also had a thought of Denver vacation, and the thought that came first was: should we really get another dog? We had reserved Sam but hadn’t picked him up — and of course I’m glad we have him — but that’s what I worried about on that August ‘08 trip.

I do think a lot, not always original things. In fact, as I go through my daily life, many thoughts aren’t original at all. I’m not saying all my thoughts are interesting, but I do have a lot of them.

Take a pic of that green house on Route 2 near Supervalu in Oregon, and that tall house in Kings — collect pictures of houses you like.

No, what did I want to say about all my thoughts — not all of them — but when they occur?

My clothes dried quickly on the line yesterday, and I brought one basketful up, but the other I left at bottom of inside stairs — and just now (okay, a couple moments ago, before this paragraph, as I was advance-numbering the next few pages), I realized that basket is why the dog couldn’t sleep down there last night, as he often will, especially when he’s hot. I saw him coming back up from down there.

The psycho-sexual stuff in Secretary, how tedious that seems. Maybe that’s why I’m not a sadist. It seems to weigh on Spader, too, though there’s also guilt there.

But, yeah, the thoughts come when they will. When I’m examining pre-cooked bacon with thoughts of it as a dog treat, or heading to get string cheese — that’s when I thought yesterday (actually, after bacon, before string cheese) that I could be more laid-back if I had less desire. If I didn’t care, I could be a cool hippie.

Eh, this still isn’t catching my attention. I mean, I don’t think it’s remarkable or interesting in itself that I had that thought then. Reminds me now of something I read a while back, that in a literary novel, a character may learn a little insight — or maybe not — over the whole novel, which is in contrast to those movies or TV episodes where a lesson is learned (or maybe nothing is learned — that “Family Matters” episode I saw recently where Carl and his son were dealing with the son’s dealings with a racist cop. No lesson was solved there, but it still didn’t quite work dramatically).

Blerg, see, spitting stuff out of my head — that’s what these journals are for. It’s 20 till 7 now — I wonder if mosquitoes are less bad.

I nearly constipated myself by having ideas I didn’t want to write down — none were great, but now they’re dispersed. Maybe they lead to something else? Maybe there was a thought that I had quite said anything interesting about all the thoughts I have, or how I didn’t seem to have much to say, or how I don’t really need to watch the houses on TV real-estate shows this morning, or how I could pick out a topic from pocket pages but I’m about getting too tired to write just now. It is 6:45, and I have been writing for more than an hour.

But I think/feel there was more to say, something new to say, about the ideas — the insights. I have more insights than I have experiences — in Hollywood movies, there’s more of a one-to-one correspondence of experience to insights.

Narrative: why does so much have to be narrative? Jeez, I even saw a movie labeled “National Geographic Entertainment” yesterday — why not a documentary? At least Linklater doesn’t seem so devoted to narrative — Waking Life, Slacker. Movies, huh? We rented 5, including Being There and My Man Godfrey* and Bamboozled and The TV Set, and Avatar* (*These movies were M’s choice; other three were mine). Some of these we rented because we had heard they were good movies. But no movie really solves anything, does it? It is it really possible for a movie to even change/influence one’s life? Maybe books have more power that way.

Blerg. I’m done for now.