Explain you to you: Random bits from Journal 265

Saw: (1) Over summer saw squat buildings at Superior, Wisconsin–not sure why that’s on my mind. (2) Saw big pile of cheese on my rice–the last of the zipping plastic bag. (3) Zipping bag whose zipper had broken, and I used a twist tie to keep it shut. (4) I moved green beans from freezer to fridge to thaw for dog dinner tonight. (5) I saw all the dog’s carroty poops, as I tried to pick them up in the zipping bag. Might as well use that bag first because [as a former cheese bag] it’s likely to smell good to pets and they’d pull it out of the pocket of my [dog-walking] vest. [Page 49, Mon. 25 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

Did: (3) I like the idea that I’m writing (in my journals) some of what happens between the stories one tells. Saw: (1) [A woman teacher] tell some girl in hallway before 7-8 period that her shirt was inappropriately sheer–and of course I don’t know how the teacher was made aware of this. [Page 165, 31 Oct. 2017, 10th hour]

What else would you describe to someone who hadn’t done it–for example, eating a Snickers? Let’s think about this hypothetical other–someone who really is limited–or, maybe the real (likely) audience is people who already know what it’s like to eat Snickers and you want to impress them with your cleverness or make some philosophical point about comparisons, or about real, lived experience. [Page 71, Thurs. 28 Sept. 2017, 10th hour]

Invisible–like a freshman boy at a dance! Ha, you still may be a little bitter about that, eh? You don’t need to be bitter. There were reasons why you didn’t ever date much–namely, you didn’t want to. [Page 88, Tues. 3 October 2017, 10th hour]

Part of nonfiction writing is getting to know yourself and expressing that–figuring out who you are as a person, as a writer. … An essay defined as your thinking on paper–but unlike an assigned topic, where do ideas come from? From who you are, what you’re interested in, how you see the world. I wanna suggest to you that getting through to yourself is a life-long process. Getting to know yourself may take years, decades. I know myself better now than I did five years ago–and this isn’t just therapy. Knowing what I want to do has changed what I write, well, or at least what I want and try to publish. OK, so, today, write who you are–a self-definition. What interests you? What parts of your life do you enjoy more than others? Write a who I am nonfiction. Now, go question yourself. Why do you like each of these? Why do you say that? Explain you to you. [Page 23-5, 20 Sept. 2017, 7-8 period]

Today’s journaling topic: How’d you get home without using roads or bike path? I’d leave school campus walking northwest … I’d walk from field to field (if there were, say, some kind of military invasion?) … bearing west, and I’d go through the woods there … and  (at 3 miles/hour, 24 miles would be an 8-hour trip!) I’d eventually get to creeks–ford them. Rock River at Byron–I’d take train trestle over–or if not that, a canoe? Or a log? I’d be fearful of the currents. Maybe they wouldn’t be too bad. But what I’m thinking is that there are too many variables–I mean, why would I be doing this without roads? I’m a fugitive? Cars don’t work? Three are foreign invaders? So, would I want to travel without being seen? At night only? Would they be tracking me–in which case, use the creeks, staying away from mean dogs at farm houses. What time of year–iced-over river? Are crops harvested? How badly do I need to get home–or would I meet up elsewhere? How communicate? How important is my escape? Am I a spy? Or could I just die? [Page 57, Tues. 26 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

Drawing from page 125 of Journal 265

Verbing nouns. Then you’d have to say there’s a common judgment–like if you say, “you really did that like a freshman would–you freshman’d that quiz,” you’re implying connotation–though I don’t know if “to friend” something connotes. [Page 126, Mon. 16 October 2017, 10th hour]

I read [in a local businessman’s autobiography] his list of things that seem good to have–family, business, lake house–but I don’t get a sense of why he liked any of these, other than that he was proud to have them. Why’d he have a Wisconsin farm, anyway? It’d be a pain to truck equipment there. Was there some tax break or something? It’s as if the world beyond business were invisible to him–and maybe it was. He went to sports events–that’s about it? I mean … I guess I gotta go–Justin’s under his desk with leg screw out. [Page 105-6, Tues. 10 Oct. 2017, 3rd hour]

[Random technique, in contrast to the technique used here, was that the first and last pages of writing in this journal were entered as the range into a random number generator, and the generated numbers were page numbers I looked up.]

Becoming useful to yourself: Random moments from Journal 265

Topic for journaling freewrite: What’ll you be at age 33? Well, for you, do 15 years in future–shoot, 58! Damn, I’ll be nearly retired. I may not live, of course. But say you do, you’ll probably still be here, teaching. That’s not so bad. In 15 years, I hope I’ll still be married to M. I pretty much would like my life to be then like my life is now–journaling, dog walking–though my poor Sammy likely won’t be around then. It’s not stasis I want but routine. I like my life. What could change it–deaths, crises, problems–it can only get worse? Ha! [Page 22, Weds. 20 Sept. 2017, 3rd period class. I write daily journals in my creative writing class  as my students also write so I can model journaling for them.]

Ceiling detail, Cherryvale Mall, Cherry Valley, Ill. 29 Sept. 2017

Have them write about reality. So, yesterday, we went to a place and wrote about what we really saw, heard, felt, [movies leave out smells because smells can’t be transported via wire (media) so it’s not a priority for those actors/producers] and so, let’s talk today about what you really think real is–how define it, what is it and what it’s not, how can you tell. Let’s do a definition of real: what is real matters for you as an individual because what you regard as real is what you think matters. If zombies don’t exist, you don’t have to prepare for zombie apocalypse. But if you fear nuclear war is a real possibility, you act differently. [Page 23, Weds. 20 Sept. 2017, 7-8 period class]

♣  So, what do I value? Gardening. I want to live in a place where I can garden, not just for the fresh food but also for the experience of growing and caring for things, digging in the dirt, weeding, etc. I value having some time each day to journal, to create. I value not overworking but keeping my work confined to my workdays, as much as possible. I value being aware of my thinking, aware of my distinctions. I value being honest–not blunt, necessarily, but honest. I value, sure, freedom, accountable government, etc. I value not-knowing, uncertainty, not being over-confident. [Page 33, 21 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

  Some things I saw this morning: Saw flea-like bug, 2nd day on a row. Saw solid-color sheets for senior toga day this year: Maria, red toga. Jessie E., sage green. Justin, Jessie G., Karly: black. Jocelyn, red. Mychaela, teal. Gwen, burgundy. Saw my dog poop twice, and saw and heard him bark at neighbor. Looked at my red canvas-covered 9 by 12″ journal–nice journal, though corners weren’t completely covered. Saw cut-up green peppers for lunch and washed tomatoes.  [Page 39, Friday, 22 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

  Topic for journaling freewrite: You go to school to make yourself useful to others, but how can you be useful and interesting to yourself? Well, the first part of that was a problem for me. I didn’t want to be interesting to others. I programmed, liked it, liked having the skills, being known for that, but I never thought much about jobs I’d work–not ’til I got to college, not ’til well into my year of  Computer Science. I never thought about job as being useful so much as finding my work satisfying. Thus, my philosophy major and my teaching job. [Page 52, Mon. 25 Sept. 2017, 10th hour]

  I said on drive in to work today that I might as well look at myself as the calf in the pasture–as not really in charge. [Page 55, Tues. 26 Sept. 2017, 3rd hour]

 OK, it’s now 8th hour, noon:58, and I’ve been reading online and getting bored with that, and I’m sleepy and I don’t feel like grading and it’s Friday, so push stuff off to the weekend, or to next week, huh? [Page 74, Fri. 29 Sept. 2017, 8th hour]

Building labeled 102 State Street, Madison, Wis. My great-great-grandfather H.I. Gibson practiced dentistry in this building a century ago. Photographed 1 Oct. 2017.

 Mitch Hedberg is dead. 59 people died at that Vegas shooting. To be alive, and then dead. Tom Petty’s dead of a heart attack–66 years. And to be alive and then dead. My uncle works out–his dad had a stroke in his late 60s, right? … Today’s a new day in which to live. [Page 85, Tues. 3 Oct. 2017, 3rd hour]

Topic for journaling freewrite: What’s the least-loved thing you own? Well, that’s a good question. The cat, I’d joke, or the cat’s shit, but I don’t hold onto that. Maybe broken garden tools–that one-prong cultivator, or the rake with broken-off head. Papers I can’t give up but don’t really want to look at often? What about clothes that I don’t like wearing but haven’t discarded yet? Or maybe gifts (like now there’s a blender thing around kitchen) that we don’t use and can’t get rid of ? What about all the stuff I’m saving to use “in case”–like old shoes I’m keeping just to wear into a creek or into cement (like if I’m helping work it) one day? Or for “least-loved,” what about this: pants that are still in good shape but which I’ve grown too wide-waisted to wear? [Page 100, Fri. 6 Oct. 2017, 3rd hour]

[Today’s variation of a random-page-number look-up: I’m getting a random number for the first 20 pages of writing, then adding an additional random number of 1-20 to that page, and repeating until the end of the notebook.]

What’s it feel like to be alive? Random bits from Journal 263

I got somehow transfixed on a red (L.E.D., probably) sign showing “P L A” and then “LOTTERY” in bigger font. And as I stood with my back to a freezer case watching this flashing at service counter, I somehow felt–it felt deep. I felt I had some insight–more a feeling than an idea–into time, maybe. One flash of a word followed by a second-long flash of the other word (a second or two), with moments of blank between–I’m not sure. [Page 92-3, Thurs. 23 Nov. 2017]

Up-close pumpkin. 23 Nov. 2017

Two water streaks just appeared on deck-door glass. They appeared so suddenly that I immediately wondered if they had just appeared or had been there for a while. I paused there to look out [“there” being at the beginning of this paragraph] and I noticed the battery-powered lights M brought out to deck in the summer and I see some bulbs have water inside. [Page 36, Sat. 18 Nov. 2017]

I’m back after having eaten a Nature Valley bar and having put on my green jacket because my back of neck felt cold. Maybe I should move socks and t-shirts into dryer and start another load. [Back at 9:12 a.m. after moving socks to dryer, starting new load of pants and button-shirts (woven, not knit, fabrics, so they can be dried in dryer).] * And I had a 2nd bar and I switched from green jacket to gray so’s I can zip it. And the cold air coming in through dryer prompted the thought that I’m cold sitting here because of the northwest wind making this corner of house colder than other sections. [*This asterisk marks where I got up and poured 2nd tea and came back.] [Page 46, Sun. 19 Nov. 2017]

That is the question I often return to: what is it, what’s it feel like to be alive? And so when I write about history, it feels a little like I’m wasting time besides the point. On other hand, I know that this question–“Existence?”–persists. [Page 43, Sat. 18 Nov. 2017]

The history-as-accomplishments idea was in contrast to just looking at, say, the field I was driving past when I thought this last afternoon. My point is not just to celebrate small things, but how being alive is so much more than accomplishing things! That it’s wondrous to be alive, just to be able to see and smell and touch and also to think — being alive is great! (Though I do also acknowledge the feeling of a 76-year-old with cancer being tired of fighting it.) [Page 9-10, Weds. 15 Nov. 2017]

How strange to me it is that someone would be willing to do that for the fame, or, I mean, maybe I see the choice. Though it’s not like I was directly given the choice–“be famous or not”–but it never occurred to me to choose something where I’d sacrifice my own interests. Now I sound self-righteous–I don’t mean that. I mean something more like: maybe there are social/societal paths that are available but damaging? [Page 205, Thurs. 30 Nov. 2017]

Maybe these people who are ambitious enough to climb to the highest levels of business organizations, government, etc., maybe they are unreflective people. Maybe the positions–the power and influence and etcetera of their positions–corrupt them, but maybe a lot of people are already warped and that’s why they rise to that level? Why they sacrifice other parts of their lives, why they do whatever the networks tell them to do, why they sacrifice ethics for going along? [Page 198-9, Thurs. 30 Nov. 2017]

I’ve sometimes–OK, often–thought it’d be a good life as an artist to sell one’s work. Yet maybe there’s something insidious about selling art at all. Maybe there’s something corrupt about that. I’m not sure if I can say why it’s corrupt–maybe because it’s selling not a product or service but merely an  idea (in the guise of an experience?). I’m not sure. But maybe it corrupts both commercial artists (who try to amuse, please, pander to fans) but also the fans, who think that there is something special about buying books or records/music as compared to buying other things. Maybe what’s insidious are the expectations and reputation around an artist and art work. [Page 182, Tues. 28 Nov. 2017]

As adults, lotsa people seem willing to run things, to represent their business or institution or party or whatever, and not fret too much about their own personal opinions. Or, it seems they don’t care too much about that. It seems as if they get ego-strokes by being seen as a leader or a role-filler. Didn’t these people have rebellious thoughts when they were young? Maybe they didn’t. [Page 144, Sat. 25 Nov. 2017]

After we got home, I pulled (and tin-snipped) a C-shape metal piece from around the driver’s side (left) rear axle. It’s maybe a shielding for the disk-brake or something, but it seems to have rusted loose. That explains the rattling and backing-up noises I’ve heard lately. I noticed it under my car when M went into her office to get papers (which she said she didn’t find) and then I took the loose disk off when at home. [Page 146, Sat. 25 Nov. 2017]

Idea-Realm: Random bits of Journal 175

§ I’m just so tired. Oh, M and I had Mexican food about 4:30 til 5:07. We were too late afterwards to go sign stuff at bank. M didn’t mention it ’til 5:07, and we had to be there by 5–and blerg. And blerg again. This is a blergy mindset I’m in. Blerg blerg blerg. Moving on. [Page 294, Thurs. 25 April 2013]

§ Sam’s adorable. He so deliberately takes the mostly empty cottage cheese container from his food spot in pantry over to the carpeting–just because the carpet’s easier to push against. My dog’s a tool-user? Woah– [Page 256, Tues. 23 April 2013]

§ Garbage morn. Escapey cat silently (well, I didn’t hear him) pulled the unlatched door open and got into garage. I got him back with a cheese treat, though he didn’t eat sprinkles (“cheese from Heaven” or “it’s raining cheese” — how does M say it?) [Page 510, Tues. 7 May 2013]

§ I had a thought last night that I don’t really care so much about posting stuff to my blog. What I said yesterday about my process–my lifestyle, my way of life being a writer–was that I don’t care so much about external [things], and the blog is mostly external. Main reason I’m keeping it going is as a place for my students to read my work. [Page 549, Fri. 10 May 2013]

§ Some dude on TV gave the argument that Illinois should have concealed carry since every other state does–as if that were a good argument. That same person would likely not use that same argument (the “others do it, too” argument) if he disagreed with the policy. Maybe an argument is invalid if it can also be used for opposing policies? [Page 27, Weds. 10 April 2013]

§ Maybe language is great for criticizing, or better for criticizing than praising? There’s “damning with faint praise,” and there’s implicit criticism of those who are not praised while others are. [Page 214, Sun. 21 April 2013]

§ Now I’m much less stressed than I was Monday about dog walk, but it still feels like a burden to have to think about this other dog. [Page 273, Weds. 24 April 2013]

§ When I question ideas and theories, when I say things like “we know nothing,” then that can sound nihilistic (and get into that paradox of knowing that we know nothing). But I had the thought yesterday that I’m not being nihilistic. Rather, I want to keep an open mind–a mind not limited by what others have already said and proclaimed. Not nihilism but openness, a sense of possibility–possibility comes from not holding onto our ideas too tightly. [Page 435-6, Fri. 3 May 2013]

§ Now, this particular moment, I feel tired. Feelings are mainly–only?–in the present.  If we remember how we felt in the past, that’s a memory of a feeling. And we can think about distant times and places and feel, but those feelings are still in the present. Well, for that matter, everything is in the present. [Page 423-4, Fri. 3 May 2013]

§ And what else? Ah, probably nothin’! It’s just another rainy day in April–no farmwork yet. Our forsythia hasn’t yet bloomed, though it may soon. And what else? Well, there isn’t–doesn’t need to be anything particularly new to say. All the houses today seem to be in the same place they were yesterday. [Page 297-8, Thurs. 25 April 2013]

§ I was reminded of that place when I read parts of Journal 66 that mention it. I liked some things I read in there–what I wrote about visiting Art Institute, and what I wrote about how kids know their mothers’s body better than their father’s — or certainly we did. I did in my family. [Page 597, Sun. 12 May 2013]

§  Somehow it seems silly to just worry about making things–ideas–to tell other people, to be a good operator in this idea-realm. … Idea-realm as this multidimensional space where, as a person growing up, you don’t understand. Idea-realm is an unknown territory to you. But now, age 39, I feel like I’m mostly familiar, at least with the common ideas. [Page 51-3, Fri. 12 April 2013]

§  “Chewing gum goes in the waste basket not in the urinal” says a taped-up piece of paper above the men’s room appliance named above. In Times New Roman font, 12 point or so size. [Page 470, Sun. 5 May 2013]

§  Last night I went to bank, post office (mailed nine bills), and then Walmart to get snacks–candy, mainly, including chocolate milk, Twizzlers cherry bites, a sleeve of Breath Savers mints, Quaker Oats granola bars, raisins–let’s see, also chocolate chips, Brach’s “bridge mix.” I’ve had desire lately for root-beer barrels sucky candy (“sucky sweets,” as that one theater professor called them). Maybe that’s it– oh, two boxes of multi-fruit Tic Tacs. A lot of crap there. Each different one a different taste/texture of candy: sucky sweets (mints), granola, chewy (bites), chocolate (bridge). And also got shaving cream and hand lotion. [Page 322-3, Sat. 27 April 2013]

 

 

To hope without any real reason for the hope: Random bits from Journal 58

 Maybe I have been thinking, maybe I am still thinking, that I have to write something great. Why not write about Charlie? Having worked for others since, I’ve seen how unique he is. … What do writing teachers do on the days they’re being observed? I’ll ask [my colleagues]. M suggested taking time in each morning to write for others, too, in addition to my Morning Pages. I’ll have to get up earlier, go to bed earlier. I can’t be losing sleep over this. Oh, well. I have no direction with this writing. I have my ambition to write a book, and that’s about it! OK, well, that’s a good place to start. [Page 354, Tues. 25 Oct. 2005]

All distinctions are also merely ideas? Distinctions between people, between things, etc., are all essentially arbitrary? [Page 219-220, Thurs. 13 Oct 2005]

I’m glad it wasn’t a more-serious trial. There were no great stakes either way here. In voir dire, prosecutor asked us if we could sign our names to a guilty verdict. We were deciding between stories. We never decided Truth. The court system is there to deal with problems. It’s not going away; there’s no done, you know? For the judge, the prosecutor, they just need to be there and show up every day. The judge has to be more serious than I do. She has to follow more of a role as judge than I do as teacher. That’s sorta the whole point of justice system–that even basically goofy cases, absurd cases, like yesterday’s have to be treated seriously [Page 283-4, Tues. 18 Oct. 2005]

My first reaction to lots of people’s lives is that I wouldn’t want them. When I say life, I mean where they live, what sort of house they have, their lifestyle. … I felt bad for [my brother], living out there without drinkable water in a trailer. … I don’t really know what I’m expecting–not just newer or fancier, because those houses can seem cold to me. … And funny, too, because it’s not as though our apartment wouldn’t be depressing to someone else who just saw it. You get comfortable wherever you live, I presume. Maybe it’s simply unfamiliarity that’s off-putting to me. [Page 316-7, Sat. 22 Oct. 2005]

♦ Before you can have new thoughts or allow new thoughts to enter, you first have to let go of the old (or at least be willing to let go the old) assumptions, loosen your grip, be willing to give up your current assumptions/worldview for the possibility of something better, broader, more workable/useful in more situations. And maybe you have a teacher who loosens your grip, or maybe you have some eye-opening experience or crisis with your current ideas that reveals to you their inadequacy, and then you might start seeking new, better ideas, or at least be receptive to them when they arrive. But maybe some people never get to that point (or maybe it takes them much longer, or much greater crises) of being receptive. I’m thinking of anyone who’s deeply certain of the value of their beliefs–activists and advocates of all stripes. Pretty much anyone who forwards a position without any doubt, or refuses to consider they might be wrong. If these people haven’t had a crisis, they might not be able to see that there are other ideas out there. And also this gives me a new dose of humility–who knows where the next lesson will come from? The thing to watch out for is certainty. At any point in time, you just know what you know and you can’t know what you don’t know. All you can be is receptive to/accepting of possibilities, the possibility that something I now judge to be wrong might be correct from a different point of view, to admit that I have things to learn yet, that I’m far from being done learning.  [Page 33-35, Sun. 25 Sept. 2005]

Last week showed how much difference rest/sleep makes. Tuesday, I felt just like shit, hated job, wanted to win the lotto, was obsessed with being in debt, but later in the week, forgot almost completely about all things having to do with money. (Was that Dale Dauten’s book where it says to pay your employees well, then help them forget about money?) [Page 253-4, Sunday 16 Oct. 2005]

Why do so many teachers feel they have to be hard-asses, to “make kids learn responsibility,” when really what kids need to learn is adaptability, the ability to recognize what each teacher–whether an asshole or an angel–demands of them in order to get the grade? (Whom did I hear say “I don’t give grades, kids earn them”? What a load of shit.) As teacher, you are the gatekeeper, you decide whom to let through and why. And this is training for employees, no doubt. Whatever the particular jobs you take/do as an adult, you’re nearly always reporting to a supervisor or satisfying a customer–other people are always telling us if we’ve passed or not. In many contexts, they are, anyway–maybe too in relationship contexts? The thing is, art and innovation in any field are different. You sorta need to please (in art) or convince (in science, biz, etc.) others of the value of your new idea, but actually having/producing that new idea requites you to take a real individual step–to go out on a limb, as it were–to create, which is always a lonely process, and to hope without any real reason for the hope that what you’ve done will be found satisfactory (or better) by others. Maybe that’s why art’s hard, and/or why it’s hard to get my creative writing students to break free of the social pressure, even a little. [Page 177-9, Sunday 9 Oct. 2005]

“Bubbly ruptures” of fathers, children, homes — Random text bits from Journal 142

I wrote Saturday, I think, or Sunday, that I might need to wrestle with my ideas about Dad. Today, I don’t think I need to be so deliberate as that. Clearly, I have lots of questions still. Since I didn’t — don’t — feel like I knew/know him, since he’s a cipher, an enigma, to me, I’ll have plenty to ponder for, maybe, the rest of my life. [Page 66, Mon. 13 June 2011]

Neighbors — how one is distant from them, one may not like them, even, and yet, in living so close, one is naturally bound to them. They’re gonna see and hear (and smell, potentially) how you live. They’ll see you unwashed, mowing your lawn. … All of one’s home-living — showering, shitting, getting sick, eating, having sex, playing board games, scolding one’s kids — these happen in proximity to others.  [Page 81-82, Thurs. 16 June 2011]

My wife, M, has been saying lately that she’s not sure she wants a kid. She said yesterday that it seems exhausting. But then she smiled at a kid in a cart while his parents weren’t looking, and a couple had a little girl in checkout line ahead of us, and the girl had a little doll she kissed, and the parents didn’t want to take doll from her. They tore off the doll’s tag instead — pretty sweet. M said after that that maybe she could have a kid. [Page 217-8, Sun. 3 July 2011]

It felt really good to be going home to apartment. In my tired state, I’m starting to feel I don’t have a home, that homesick feeling of not belonging anywhere. Woke up overnight not sure where I was for a moment. I’ll probably feel that a few more times in coming days. It’s the end of an era of sleeping here, in this hot, dusty, crowded apartment, but it has been home for quite a while. I’m glad our new place is nice — makes it easier to go than if we were moving to a worse place. [Page 111, Sat. 18 June 2011]

As a teen, I found each book was, in a way, a door to a room I hadn’t known existed –– for instance, I liked Maynard Ferguson’s covers — “Chameleon,” MF Horn 1 & 2 — but I didn’t know the original versions. I didn’t know the influences, tradition, or history. And now that I see this, not all of history but the pattern of influences and contexts, now I’m less likely to experience any new thing (music, building, book) as entirely new. … So I probably won’t have that sense of wonder, of the possibility of finding a new realm in a magazine, that I had as teen. But I don’t feel inferior to others or their writings now. [Page 89, Thurs. 16 June 2011]

Why’d my dad leave the security and relative prestige of the bank — where people came to ask him for money–and go to sales, where he had to sell to some of these same people? I’d never thought of that, but, no doubt, some clients may have enjoyed that turn of tables. They used to ask him for money; now he was asking them. [Page 61, Mon. 13 June 2011]

They — my cousin’s kids — have to come to terms with that, have to figure out why their dad did what he did so that their own lives had to change so greatly. Shit, I’m still trying to figure my old man out–the divorce, but also his character. Maybe it’s all funneled thru the divorce question: what made him the way he was so that he would do what he did? Or maybe it’s sappy to think it’s only the divorce I see as the frame. It’s everything: his jobs, his depression, his basic unknowability.  [Page 164, Sun. 26 June 2011]

I was over at the house, packing canned food into bags and wiping the brown rings of what seemed to be–by deduction–sauerkraut juice from a can that had a pestilential-looking greenish bubbly rupture — botulism? Some nasty thing that indicates it wasn’t processed properly. [Page 164, Sun. 26 June 2011]

Sometimes I like to write down the words I hear, and I’m fascinated by the transition from vocalization to marks on page. But today, that doesn’t necessarily seem to fascinate me. That’s OK, too. I mean, sometimes, I think that these expressions of my soul–these writing sessions–have a a certain value in themselves, a scream from the void, as it were–a sign I existed. I’m not sure that that matters, either, really. After all, only other people can make sense of these things (and that’s only if they can figure out my handwriting), and each person’s interpretation of this text might vary, anyway. [Page 32, Thurs. 9 June 2011]

You don’t think of others as dumb just because they haven’t thought of the things you’ve thought of. Anybody over 30 — well, most people over 30 — are fairly competent. So you can think of yourself at 30 as competent, too — not lacking or callow, as you tend to think. [Page 209, Sat. 2 July 2011]

I found this note [see note contents in paragraph below] someplace while cleaning and moving. I’m not sure the date of this note … I’d guess last 4-5 years. But somehow it seems neat to find ideas I had written down before. These ideas don’t seem so special at the time I write them — they’re simply “what I’m thinking now.” But then, later, they seem interesting. [Page 209, Sat. 2 July 2011]

What do you take seriously? My daily journals. Life is serious, naturally, but also joyful, playful. [Page 209, Sat. 2 July 2011]

Submission to the unknown: Random bits from Journal 284

I could say — write, I mean, and post — something about how I will post fragmentary, incomplete pieces of text — my journal — because I don’t have answers for people (Clooney’s character in O Brother: people are looking for answers, he says a couple times). The GMA show today said Michelle Obama’s upcoming book tour is selling out stadia — woof. 23,000 seats at United Center (though maybe not all seats are being used). J.K. Rowling only sold out Radio City and its 6,000 seats. I don’t suspect I’ll ever write anything that would sell out anything like that — I’m not otherwise famous, as Obamas are, and I’m not likely to offer escape, absorption in story, or laughter as some authors do. But I’m OK with that. [Page 117, Sun. 23 Sept. 2018]

I don’t feel there are stories in my life — traditional stories, where a character is presented a situation and has to make choices. But maybe I’m just not framing my own experiences properly. Think about those times you did make a decision–like, OK, when M got sick and I chose not to run away but to get married so I could get health insurance for her. But running away — though it was an option, I guess, it didn’t occur to me as a legit option. And I left MTU after a year — that was a decision. So I suppose I could tell stories that way. Of course, I don’t make momentous decisions every day (though maybe I’m not seeing the momentous in the decisions I make — eh, I don’t choose to see life that way). When I’ve make choices. it’s because I followed my intuition, feelings, not because I followed some moral principle. I’m not sold on the idea of picking out moments of choices–much more of my life is spent just being. [Pages 168-170, Thurs. 26 Sept. 2018]

But I somehow also (in a vague sense) like this model of looking in my own life and my own memories for moments of inflection. It points out problems in the model of daily life as being this smoothly ongoing thing. There are these evaluations all the time/very often, and sometimes moments become intolerable — like, say, my needing to pee. [Page 212-3, Sat. 29 Sept. 2018, writing at coffeehouse in Rockford, Ill.]

Now there are the Knausgård  novels, which are deeply personal and whatnot. And he has gone in-depth — lotsa details, reviewers and readers say, but the few excerpts I’ve read haven’t been — they’ve been neither all that nor a bag of chips (excuse the lameness of that last line — the cheesy cleverness still amuses me at times, and it’s better to write that shit in journal rather than say it to a human. See, I still will/would edit my journals before publishing them). No, I don’t want to piss off my brother or uncle or others by my writings, as Knausgård did. I started reading an excerpt from his most recent (6th? 4th? I’m not sure) book, where he talks about the blowback to the first book — though he is an asshole, you know?  [Page 132-3, Sun. 23 Sept. 2018]

I read some students’ “Poetry is” statements — yes, from back six weeks ago — and when kids were saying things critical of poetry, I didn’t push back. To “poetry is boring” or “poetry is confusing,” I would comment: “sometimes!” I don’t want to pretend that all students are gonna like what I like. To be a fan of intellectual culture is to accept that not all others will get it — that many won’t get it. [Page 198, Sat. 29 Sept. 2019, writing at coffeehouse in Rockford, Ill.]

When we get down to freewriting in my creative writing class, as I did this week with the fiction freewrites, it really can be hard to make that change, that submission, submitting to the open page, to the unknown. Submission seems required for the new thing, the new text, to happen, to be born. [Page 82, Sat. 22 Sept. 2018]

A view from near the spot in Magnolia Bluffs Park in Rock County, Wis., where I met two plein-air painters. 30 Sept. 2018

The ladies had painting stations. The one who left first (the one whose station lacked an umbrella) showed us three of her recent paintings as she had backed her car out of her parking spot but she also hadn’t left yet. [Page 232, Mon. 1 October 2018]

At Magnolia Bluffs Park, Rock County, Wis. 30 Sept. 2018.

5:55 a.m. smart cell (phone) time: so, yes, here I am. Here we are — the cat’s on my lap after he jumped on. Had a dream my friend D somehow gave us his chocolate Lab — which was, in the dream, my uncle’s bloodhound, old with some grommets in his flesh — 2 up by shoulders, 2 by his hips. And so there was that. … The kitchen’s a mess. We made burritos early, before 5, and I walked dog [about 20 minutes] — too tired for more. Came back, put away the remaining burrito meat (Grillers meat) and was in bed just after the Entertainment Tonight show started at 6:30. [Page 239, Tues. 2 October 2018]

[Post above made using same process as the previous post, getting random numbers, going to those pages in my Journal 284, and finding a bit of text there.]