Category Archives: From the journals

I used the word “clear” instead of “black” for coffee, as that Toronto hairstylist told me in NYC

$62—the cost of our stay tonight. We passed by numerous small motor-inns, a la the Rip Van Winkle Motel and the Blue Sunset (or something thereabouts) Motel to get past Buffalo.

Zen talk tonight at the Niagara Falls Terrapin Lookout Point over the Canadian falls.

Deciding to limit myself for rest of trip to one roll—24 exposures—of film so as to (1) increase the value of each image, and (2) so also as to not be concerned about “taking” these images and these experiences back with me, as much as experiencing/observing these things in a more observational, egoless way (my words as I’ve described it before: the opening up/flowering of the observations such that some observations give way because they aren’t necessary first steps or a progression—but are merely more, and in numerous perspectives and areas—to many more observations). When in this mindset, I can go from not noticing anything about a person to noticing 500 separate characteristics/attributes.

So I told D__ my dissatisfaction that every place I go, I feel like it’s just a change of an image, like I’m in an IMAX (realistic) theater but the scene is never real, only a different movie.

But then D__  reminded me of Zen thinking of living in the moment, no goal, no materialistic/Western-style thinking of “seeing it all” (which means, of course, never really seeing fully anything).

But I came to live in the moment, calmly, observationally, and not feel the loss of the moment, but the real moment itself (and cast off nostalgia). The rays of the sun through the clouds became for me not the loss but them in their glory—and I felt good.

And though our conversation had come to feel tired, our conversation had “plateau’d,” then it rose to new level and it felt energetic and refreshing.

And I want to maybe get pastels—art supplies (D__’s quoting of van Gogh—why paint if not actually looking at the subject itself?)

We were at Niagara for, like, two hours or so, until 9. It was good to stop for a while and relax, observe. It’s that demi-meditation time (for looking or writing, etc.) that I require.

Me thinking of how an intellectual, D.F. Wallace-sort of writer might connect in a story the mist rising from the foot of the waterfall to the water dripping from the raincoats in the Cave in the Wind tour office, to the wash water on my hands after washing them in the bathroom—thinking that there’s any real meaning there, unless it’s merely descriptive of my experiences/perspective, but it seems I’m reading crap like that in writers like D.F. Wallace (such as his “Adult World” haughty-joke story).

D__ on there being no meaning (he wonders if he’s using this search for meaning to ease sadness).

Writing the moment of men/women/eye contact/passing, the tension there.

We had another laughing fit in a Tim Horton’s, the first being last fall with R__ in Leamington (“The tomato capital of Canada“). (Also, as far as “of Canada” towns, we passed through Brandstad or something, the “telephone center of Canada,” and “St. Catherine, “the garden city.”)

But this one—I used the word “clear” instead of “black” for coffee, as that Toronto hairstylist told me at that Italian restaurant in New York City—and so we avoided that problem of “black coffee.” That tripped us up at the first Tim Horton’s. But this “scene” (as in, we “caused a scene”) grew out of our having a bill of $4.97 or something and D__ lobbing two-dollar coins on the counter. Also, a “I have this, too” and tossing a 10-dollar bill on table, and we started cracking up, strong stomach-clenching fits of laughing, and over-mascara’d clerk smiled but was true to D__’s theory of the abrupt, terse Canadian idea of politeness (which he had discussed earlier on the road).

Left R__’s today after helping him move until 4 a.m. and (for the list of adventures) riding in a tall moving truck yesterday. D__ decided we should leave before we were roped into more moving labor.

Got $10 U.S. changed into $14.20 Canadian, and I commented to one of the girls how the money looked fake. I agreed with her that it was more colorful than the tired old American greenback, but it still looked fake, not having a money-value.

But somehow I was glad to be back in the U.S. today (at Niagara). Canada kinda boring—the road too far away from cities to see them. We only saw signs proclaiming their existence, but no real cities. And walls blocked off the few houses we saw.

[From journal of Sun., 12 July 1998, Batavia, N.Y., Super 8, Room 181, Journal 22, page 1-5]

Awaiting wisdom to come to me as I write

Even if I keep the Ashbery book this weekend, I’m not sure I have time, inclination, or mental energy to read it. On other hand, I did feel last night that maybe there was something the book could teach me. And I so seldom feel that about most books these days. On third hand, maybe I just buy a copy of book. And yet, the book is here, now. But if I’m more prepared to clean up than read—oh, and we gotta go get me a tux, and maybe I go to Ogle Co. Historical Society.

Dog tapped for in, after he was rolling on his back on the deck in the sun not more than couple minutes ago. (I’m back after letting him in (and then peeing)).  He tapped a 2nd time. I said, as if I were him, “I know my rights, I know the procedure.” He waits a certain number of seconds, then taps again to be let in if I haven’t moved fast enough to get him. He was all roasty from being outside.

I mean, my question about this Ashbery book is whether it really does have wisdom for me. So many books don’t seem to these days. I mean, most assertions seem banal to me now. I’m 45, and not that I know all languages or other esoteric systems (like modern physics), but I’m, well, am I looking for wisdom in other authors’ texts? Or maybe I’m just awaiting wisdom (good title, that phrase) to come to me as I write.

I heard a bit of music as I walked dog at about midnight last night. And that reminds me that I’m glad I’m not working at Byronfest this year.

[From journal of Sat., 13 July 2019, Journal 305, page 184-5]

All we experience are particular moments, of course

Weds., 24 June 2020, page 167

I’ve drawn for a while. It could be 9:30 or after by now. I should probably make lines darker here so I can read them more easily later. Ah, well.

So, walked dog west on Water and back on Breckenridge (I thought what I’d read last week, about the Colorado town changing its spelling to “en” instead of “in,” once its namesake became a Confederate traitor).

And so, D__ was here and we decided we’d replace whole deck.

I blogged six pieces yesterday—I’m up to 47 for the month, that 2/day average for the month so far. …

We walked past—well, she passed us on west E__, then met us on Water near Blaine.

I mowed and showered last evening and was in bed, ready for bed (except for last walk of dog and last scoop of cat-crap) but stayed up watching Youtube videos—comedy bits, mostly—’til late, about midnight.

It’s the pathetic fallacy to say that weather predicts or matches someone’s feelings, and it’s a cliché to have “a dark and stormy night” in a spooky story. But the particular day’s atmospheric conditions do affect our choices and actions at particular moments (and all we experience are particular moments, of course).

[From journal of Weds., 24 June 2020, Journal 326, page 167-8]

Finding and becoming, sorta simultaneously, who I was

Will Leitch praised three people he knew in their pre-success days. He quotes something as saying how your adult life is shaped by choices you made as a teenager—well, sure, but I don’t feel I was blindly holding on, in years after, to some dream I had as a teen. I feel more like I was becoming—well, finding and becoming, sorta simultaneously—who I was, and sure, I write, as I did in high school, but not the same thing, nor the same way. But somehow I wasn’t jealous of these people Will praised—even if he almost seemed like he was jealous, his praise too effusive.

Journal 310, page 3, 5 Okt. 2019

Anyway, yeah, this notebook’s paper definitely isn’t as thick (or ready for water color) as the 130-lb. paper of previous journal. But that’s OK, too. I went really light on the water today, too, and still it seeped into page below.

Will’s formulation that these three he praised kept going when others fall away from their early plans seems a little facile, I’d say.

I walked dog to park on this chill morning—we left here about 7:40, breeze from east, I had my C____ coat on and put hood up. And I got a little upset in my own mind about a dude—the owner of ___ …, letting his dog off leash (as I’ve seen him do before), and I saw his dog poop in northeast corner of park as dude walked ahead, not picking up the poop nor even seeming to see it.

And I’m venting here in journal rather than yelling at dude in real life. And I could let this whole thing go, but let me say this: I talked myself down from being upset. What worked best was to note that I felt upset and not try to say I was wrong. I was bothered by the thoughtlessness—others use this park, too, buddy—and the unfairness—I pick up my dog’s poop—everyone should do his and her part.

But I didn’t really wanna cause a scene. We all live together. I don’t want to dread seeing him in park in future. Also, my yelling at him—or even any gentle correction of him—wouldn’t likely improve his behavior. So, yeah, I debated this as I walked the last 2/3 of the trail. On the first third, I’d picked up (in a bag already containing some Sam poop) some small-dog-asshole-gauge poops. And I started thinking I was a good person for picking up after that neglectful dog walker. But I told myself to do the good deed (if you choose to do it, do it) without condemning (mentally to myself) the person who did the wrong thing.

[From journal of Sat., 5 Oktober 2019, Journal 310, pages 4-5]

Heard a knock at faculty men’s room metal door

Heard a knock at faculty men’s room metal door just after I’d sat to poop. And I said, “YES?” in a way a little, but not quite, like the unctuous salesman says, “Yes? YAYSS!” on Simpsons.

I suspect the knocker was ___, who probably thinks my answer ridiculous, but I also think his knock ridiculous—it expects an answer. When I’m outside that bathroom wanting in, I just try my key without asking first. Maybe __ thinks that rude.

[From school journal of Fri., 26 Oktober 2018, first hour, Journal 289, page 133]

I was waiting, partly/mostly, to want to do something

Even this paper can’t quite convey what it was, what my experience was, as I lay there in library—I was waiting, partly/mostly, to want to do something, to feel I wanted to do something—even to feel what I want to eat (I had a vague idea of that but it wasn’t grasped—something like maybe Brussels sprouts and sushi—a sushi made of B-sprouts? I wasn’t sure—and I don’t really know what dish that would be, or where to get it).

But I’m here, I’m alive. That’s good. This is where I’d return if I were rich and famous and went off to do rich and famous things—I’d return to a place where people don’t care about my mythic origin story or my public image. Let’s say I was friends with Norman Mailer’s grandson or granddaughter. I’m not sure why he came to mind, but I’d also been thinking how dude had many wives and probably affairs and he was probably a scoundrel (what’s the Charlie Harper term—a “rascal”?). Hell, he even stabbed his wife! But he got away with all this bad behavior, or, he seemed to get away with it in court of public opinion (which isn’t a court at all—it’s just whether certain producers and publishers and talk-show bookers think people in the general audience would want to see a person and would want to pay for an actor’s movie or an author’s book).

But of course those close to the person know the person behind the B.S. persona, and the family members did get hurt by their famous person’s f**king other people and ignoring his kids.  (C__ made some connection between E. Hemingway and some H-way descendant who’s on Fox News. I was thinking of how little care H-way gave his kids while he was off fishing or reporting from war zones or whatever).

(M’s playing something, I assume, as I hear clapping and chanting, audio from what sounds like a political speech, maybe Sanders’ last night. But why haven’t we gotten beyond the rally and the protest in our political-acting?)

So if I were friends with a grandson/daughter of Mailer’s, that’d be fun to know, and then we wouldn’t talk about it much, though, of course, it’s the kind of thing I might use to introduce that friend to my other friends. It’s a thing by which we’d know him/her, which is a label, a tag, but also meaningless. But perhaps so much of what we do and say socially is meaningless?

[From journal of Sun., 23 Feb. 2020, Journal 318, pages 70-2]

I don’t want to get angry—that would change the whole dynamic of the class

My modeling doesn’t seem to work. I don’t want to get angry—that would change the whole dynamic of the class, and I just don’t want to do that. But then, this leaves unresolved such a class as this. How would I handle such a class in the future—a class of kids who aren’t disrespectful but also are talkative and not workative. Maybe there’s just not much to do about that. Just chalk it up to the mix of kids. Or maybe I just get a bit more serious on them, with them, these last few weeks. Many of them do have work to do—like S__, like A__—maybe have a little chat with them Monday, get just a bit more seriuous with them.

[From journal of Sat., 24 April 2010, Journal 126, page 94-5]

He came back from literary fest seeming rather down

He came back from literary fest seeming rather down. His poem didn’t win a prize, and [my teacher-colleague] said he was pouting. She said she had a talk, or needed to, with him about showing character when you lose. But some other kids’ poems got honorable mentions, she said. So this judge [seemed] more amenable to my students’ types of poems than last years’ judges were—not that it matters much.

[From journal of Sat., 24 April 2010, Journal 126, pages 89]

Very dramatic skies to the north—painted roughly, with wide brushes—bruise-blue and white

Well, hot yesterday afternoon, humid. Dinner at Olive Garden because I didn’t know what to make and the thought of sitting in kitchen to make it was no good. And so, there we were, Olive Garden, then Office Max, and when we came out of there about 7:10, very dramatic skies to the north—painted roughly, with wide brushes—bruise-blue and white, etc.

My elbow aches a bit—too much writing? It’s OK to rest it when need be. So, anyway, the clouds came eventually over Stillman. They were coming from the west, moving toward northeast, the news at 5 said, and so we got rain here at 8:30–9. I had walked Gracie briefly because it was already lightning in the distance. When I got home at 8—bed at 9—forgot her pills, though.

Oh, well, I needed the sleep. So here we are, ya know. New journal—it doesn’t say “acid-free,” maybe it isn’t, but oh, well. So, I’ve got some papers to grade quickly this morning. I didn’t feel much like grading yesterday during study hall or 10th hour prep or after school, so I’ll do it this morning, before school and during Morning Pages [writing time in class]. And so, there you are.

I’ve been tired last two days, not sleeping so well, but I slept well last night. We watched TV 8–8:30, but then satellite started going out at 8:30, so from 8:40 ’til almost 9, I just sat here, in this chair at this table, watching the skies light up. Didn’t see many strokes of lightning, but whole-sky stuff. I’ve probably taken some risks in walking dog, etc., when there’s been lightning out. You don’t think about a lightning strike being a real possibility, but then L___’s dad—she was a student last semester—her dad was killed by lightning., and now I’ve got her brother T___ in study hall …

So there you go. Anyway, there we are—two storms last night, 8:30–9, then another one about 2:30, with closer lightning. So 1.75″ of rain in gauge out by the garden, which may or may not include the 1/4″ yesterday. And I watched a couple minutes of morning TV, local. They said there could be more rain, same pattern as last night, tonight. Already the second wettest month on record (since 1906) in Rockford—the wettest month on record in Madison, 11″+ in Madison, and still a week to go! Rain seems so commonplace now when two years ago we hardly ever saw it.

So, I’m writing in this new journal—maybe I’ll only get to three pages today. I started later than I did last two days. I got up 5:20 last two days, but today, dog came by my bed at 5:31 on clock, two minutes before alarm. She’s good at her timing, that dog, and she had to pee right away, out by peonies. And there’s the Grace dog.

[From journal of Thurs., 23 August 2007, 6:09 a.m., Journal 89, pages 1-2]

We made good time down Michigan Avenue, parked in Grant Park North garage

We made good time down Michigan Avenue, parked in Grant Park North garage under the street and got up the stairs at about 3:30 at 30 N. Michigan. The Writers’ Museum (nope, no possessive) is at 180 N. Michigan, 2nd floor. We paid $12 each to get in. It was OK. The best parts were the typewriters. M had conversation with a law student over the typewriters while I communed with Kerouac’s scroll: I noticed places where it seemed he adjusted the scroll so it didn’t go off the—so typing didn’t go off the paper. And edges were ragged in spots and there were handwritten corrections and also—

what—I’m not sure I have any deep thing to say. I’m feeling a little tired now as I write. I could go nap. Cat’s on back of dark-blue couch. He was lying on my hi-viz vest (“Ogle County tuxedo”) and I put the blue blanket under him, and he settled in, and later I folded blanket over him, leaving his head and a strip of his back visible.

And the scroll—I guess I don’t have any deep thoughts there. Maybe just that I was seeing the creation of these stories, this story that became mythic. I was seeing the foundational layer between his experiences and published book.

Back with a third round of tea. I’m not quite sure what it means to say a “foundational layer,” except maybe that this was the first putting-down of Kerouac’s thoughts into words.

The old advice about writing—show, don’t tell—but my journaling voice shows by telling—and Kerouac, too—his narration is a big part of the fun, the joy, of On The Road.  I recall now seeing “OTR”—over the road—on trucking mags at Petro and wishing these things were more hip to Kerouac. Of course, what do trade publications care of personal narrative? I’m trying to imagine my mind then—a mind that would want that kind of, of what, society-wide awareness of Kerouac? Or just some cultural writing? I’m not sure—things that get popular tend to get dumbed down. Not all people get them as I do in my way. But now that I’ve been a teacher, I’ve seen how I can’t expect others to be what I want—others have very little interest in doing what I want them to do.

M said she’s proud of me to being open. After Writers Museum (the typewriters and the typed pages hung on wall clips, and a [fill-in-blanks game] computer screen and a Magpo screen), we ate at Noodles & Co. (is name correct?) next door, walked south. We were met by a lot of people crossing Michigan—I thought how rural types need to see this city-humanity richness.

We walked over east but not alla way to lake, over the twisty bridge over Columbus, and back and sat at the Grant Park MusicFest orchestra concert. [end of page 45]

Journal 257, page 46

Journal 257, page 47

[page 46] This page is one article—it (and the earlier one about restaurants) reminds me of how a city has so many cool places—and I underlined pieces here as an erasure-type poem—read just the underlined parts—there’s the poem (quasi-poem, anyway)—

[Underlined phrases conjoined:

Take grown-ups only. Try to cool yourself down.

Nothing says “1950s” like Honor the Midwest.

Keep it Heavy.

Is there such a thing as Joy credit?

Nostalgia makes for a visit. Take your notch, recently opened.

You can also add.

No dairy necessary for a regular, and boy, do they. Trust us on this one. Dabble with pecan. You can keep creative.

If your’e OK sharing your experience with a flood fudge, staple flavors like Raspberry. You haven’t lived.

Did we mention there’s a top?

Nobody puts a corner. This local killer count out Options.

What pairs better with a window: hole-less?]

[Page 45’s text continues onto page 48]

I’m just gonna leave those previous two pages with minimal additions by me, word-wise.

So we left after two songs—a Rimsky-Korsakov [Overture: The Tsar’s Bride] and [another song, unnamed]. Left garage about 7:30 or 7:40. Minimal traffic. Got to Woodman’s at Algonquin at 8:30.

[From journals of Sat., 12 August 2017, Journal 257, page 42-8]