Tag Archives: journals

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.

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.

The resulting text is beside the point: Journal of 11 September 2016

Dog blur with two tennis balls. 10 Sept. 2016

Dog and I walked the big block through a nearby subdivision and the park to the roads that would get me back home, with an additional loop through another subdivision to see where an acquaintance and her chickens live. We’d left at 5:50 a.m., still kind of dark, and got back home at 7.

I could do some grading today, blogging, laundry, mowing. It’s the first NFL weekend of this season, but I feel guilty now when I watch concussionball (maybe calling it “concussionball” will help me stay away.) I’m fighting my tradition of watching football on Sundays more than I’m fighting some love of the game.

So, M and I went to diner yesterday, got iced cream and fake bacon (for our cuke sandwiches) on way home. We sat outside and talked about carbon and iron in steel, whether that’s an alloy (it is, according to Wikipedia articles), and I wondered about carbon as a semiconductor and transistors. But I did read lots about steelmaking before going to sleep, 2 p.m. to nearly five, and got up and wrote my two paragraphs for a history teacher colleague’s slideshow of memories of the events of 11 Sept. 2001. I copied my text — I liked it, a decent bit of writing about how it seemed the U.S. went nuts after 9/11, and how Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq Wars, these are still going on. And then I blogged that, and I got a reblog this morning.

And we ordered pasta and pizza from LaRosa’s, paid the $36 bill with the $50 bill we got in mail from M’s mom. The delivery person was the slick-hair, rolled-cuffs hipster dude whom I tipped only 10% last week, so I gave him 20% here, $8, plus $4, which makes 48 — and why mess with $2? — so the whole $50. And we had a nice dinner at the table. M cleared off two-thirds of it — the north end, with bills and pens, M said overwhelmed her. And I put on the swing music channel on TV, but too many slow songs, including Harry Connick Jr.’s “Save the Last Dance For Me” and Sarah Vaughan’s “My Favorite Things,” so to jazz channel. At 8, we watched the “Star Wars: Force Awakens” (broadcast on several channels of Starz simultaneously). My reaction to “Force Awakens” — it’s okay but mostly dull because it repeats so much of the first “Star Wars” movie’s plot and character points. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is kind of menacing but also funny at same time, and sometimes uses a Christopher Walken vocal cadence.

Bed 10:35, sleep probably about 11. It’s a lovely, cool day.

Cat rain. 10 Sept. 2016

I’m feeling like I need to address some things I wrote yesterday, but I’m not sure what. I mean, not to make corrections, but I feel I criticized without making the turn toward the positive, by which I mean going beyond the criticism of old ideas to get to a new idea, an idea of how to do things better.

I looked up Auburn University, wanted to know what town it was in — Auburn, Alabama. Got to philosophy department website. Under “What can You Do with a Philosophy Degree?,” the first line is “The study of philosophy is its own reward.” It continues: “It deepens and intensifies engagement with fundamental questions regarding the self, others, and the world that arise in everyday life. But the study of philosophy also offers great practical rewards. It cultivates skills in clear thinking, writing, logical criticism, and it increases the power and discipline of the imagination.” Later, under “Our Programs,” it says, “Auburn’s Department of Philosophy holds to high standards of reading, writing, and conversation.” I like including “conversation.” Further, “It expects students to become adept at criticizing the views of others and their own views,” which statement I love for its “fuck you and your idea of college as job prep” boldness but also because it’s kind of like what I was saying yesterday, or trying to say yesterday, about writing poetry.

Back at 8:18 after copying the quotes above and after 10 minutes or so reading about transistors and semiconductors after M and I talked about them yesterday. I’d said, as we sat on deck and watched dog roll around in the grass, clover, and dandelion foliage, that chemistry class terms like “compound” and “mixture” are vague, and to apply them to what we could see in the yard is hard because we don’t see any elements. We don’t see O2 in the air — and what we do see — the wood of the deck, plant leaves, dandelion leaves, are made of so many compounds (which we also can’t see — what we see is tissue). Anyway, I’ve critiqued science before, and it’s not quite what I want to do right now.

What I wrote for my colleague’s slide — I wonder if she’ll edit it? I am glad the public discourse isn’t so single-mindedly fearful as it was then soon after Nine-Eleven. I saw in Rockford Register-Star Sunday paper I pulled out of someone’s delivery box this morning an article about how there was unity after 9/11 but partisan divide now — but what seeming unity there was after 9/11 was driven by fear.

But also there was the underlying partisan bullshit of Bush Administration, tax cuts and what not, and so here we are now, with Trump as GOP leader, but thank God there’s more dissension, questioning, now then there was then — “then” especially being the lead up to 2003 Iraq invasion. It was creepy how isolated I felt then in questioning that war. Andrew Sullivan was for it, I read later. Hillary Clinton voted for it. Now Trump brags that he wasn’t for it — he’s a liar, but at least we’re against that bullshit now. So much stupid, wasteful, violent, and illegal torture shit was done in the name of 9/11. Yeesh.

I don’t normally want to get political with my blog. But, you know, sometimes it’s okay to just make a point rather than being always aesthetically focused or experimental (as with form and content — blerg, that distinction).

Back now at 8:40 after paging through some of Tristram Shandy to which I saw a reference in the GQ article of Jonathan Safran Foer I saw yesterday, how young man Foer seemed to try things typographically that he wasn’t aware others (Sterne) had done before. Form isn’t my main interest now, if it ever was. Sure, I probably tried a few things with form, but soon discovered I wasn’t all that interested in form merely (and after I wrote my one-memory-a-year memoir thing — in 2005? 2006? — I learned Nora Ephron did a similar thing in one of her I Feel Bad about my Neck essays. How could she be curt with people and also expect their welcome, their indulging of her insecurities, in her essays?)

Form is something anybody can alter. It’s range-bound and, like any limited set of ideas, somebody will try, or will have tried, each of the options in this set — like how people say the multitude of writers on Twitter seem to come up with a common set of jokes for any big event — comedians aren’t all that unique if they’re merely reacting to things.

I put my text about 9/11 up on my blog partly because it’s okay to make a point, partly because the text is well-written, and partly because, well, it’s nice to have my blog as as a repository of my writings — an archive of sorts, and not just a place for recent thoughts (which hasn’t been my use of the blog lately) and recent creative writing pieces. My journals are a level removed from making a point.

From earlier: That Auburn quote — “the study of philosophy is its own reward” — sounds like my idea that the purpose of writing poems is writing poems! The purpose is in the doing! The purpose isn’t to come up with something saleable, or something that will improve my reputation, or even something that will communicate. It’s possible to use writing for these purposes — commercial, career, and communicative — but any of those put the purpose into the product. The goal is outside you. You’re using writing and words merely to accomplish something else in the world — but you don’t need to!

What I realized (or re-realized) last Friday is that this is an attitude/process I can also take when writing poems — is that the resulting text is beside the point. It’s not the point of my writing, but it’s beside the point. The point is to write in a way that’s enjoyable, that’s interesting, and any text that results, it doesn’t matter what that text goes on to do, if anything. Whether something I’d write would make money or get me in trouble or be completely ignored, it doesn’t matter (though I try to avoid trouble) because it’s done for me! It’s over. Something I realized decades ago was that once a journal notebook was filled, it’s gone dead for me. Now I’m not quite going to stick to that because something else I’ve been thinking lately is that editing can go on indefinitely! You can pick up an old text and pick out the best parts and publish these on blog — and even there, you can always go back and keep editing! If you never go to print on paper, you never have to stop editing. There doesn’t need to be one version of a text. This is a striking new paradigm for writing, or at least for publishing. Publishers don’t really care about process at all. They just need product to sell, whether it’s actually all that good or not. Lots of books sell lots of copies, only be soon forgotten. They’ve made money! But see, if you’re like me and don’t need the money, then, shoot, you never have to be done. I’m thinking of Thoreau’s quote: if quality matters, time doesn’t. I took that to be a statement about product, but it doesn’t need to be. And the quality doesn’t have to be a judgment about the text or walking stick (Thoreau’s example) but an abstraction toward which one works, an abstraction that in practice may not be distinguishable from what I called “interesting,” as in, do what seems most interesting with the words as you make poems. You could mechanically put words together and call it a poem. (I have an expansive definition of poem — “whatever words you put together, we’ll call that a poem,” I said in my writing classes on Friday as I assigned magpo.com to them.) I’m even reminded of the Pirsig quote in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance — “The real motorcycle you’re working on is yourself,” something like that. Now, I don’t usually like to see myself as working on myself — that feels like self-consciousness, self-monitoring, exhaustion — but, yeah, if you’re the only thing that’s really alive, you know?

Just moments ago, I saw the “For Sale” sign on a neighbor’s lawn — those specific words sound sad, like the owners are no longer willing to care for that particular property. Whatever feelings they had for it, desires for it, are gone. The real feelings of caring that are gone are their marriage-bond-love. Damn, it makes me sad. I keep dwelling on this divorce — maybe I’ve never quite gotten over my parents’ divorce.

I thought, while walking on Mill Road this morning, of using all four senses during my walk. I saw some dudes get out of a car at the park, and car left, and two or three dudes walked under picnic shelter and then — ? And I wonder a little about whether they’d come after me for witnessing their drug deal — which probably wasn’t a drug deal, of course — but other people could. I need to be aware of others, who could come after us or just accidentally hit us on the roadway. Also I can hear, feel the cool, smell the air — I tried smelling some leaves on shrubs in northwest corner of park — they didn’t smell much. They’re not putting out any volatile chemicals except oxygen and water vapor, which, since there’s already O2 and H2O in the air, probably doesn’t smell. If I crushed a leaf, there might be smells through the release of plant chemicals, but I didn’t want to do that. Tried to avoid stepping on a bug this walk, too.

So I’m back after making eggs, cheese, and rice and starting laundry. I guess I had two things to say/reiterate: one was that I write journals because I like to write, and I do like clearing my mind, etc., the emotional benefits, and I like to document my life, but I also just like to write. My journals are me writing about real stuff, real experiences, as myself. When I write poems, as on magpo.com, I’m less tethered, just going with what I see, more pure intellect, less tied to me. Both are okay, just different.

Sunday evening: I’m having self-doubting thoughts about the quality of my writing. But I can dismiss those. We can ask whether anyone’s (even published writers’) works are all that great.

Byron, Illinois, aerials. 9 Sept. 2016

[Journal Sunday, 11 September 2016, starting at 7:36 a.m. ]

Commencement of journals, adulthood

My journals start with the end of my senior year of high school. I had graduation practice and then went to work at the electronics store where I worked renting videos. The next day, I was awarded the Bronze R for having third-highest grade-point average in my class, but the elderly presenter was off her game and called me by my dad’s name. The following year, she was replaced.

 

29: 1st day out. Grad practice, work after.

30: Graduation day. Got Bronze “R.” Mary Carney called me “Gene” and handed me the notecard she was reading from. Went to Matt D’s open house, then Dawn’s, Chris K’s, Kim’s, stayed late and played volleyball.

 

[Entirety of the 29 & 30 May 1992 journals, the beginning of an informal, personal writing habit I practiced irregularly from age 18 to age 30, then daily since]

How to read a post from my journals or pocket pages

Revised (because when quality matters, time doesn’t.)

If you read texts selected from my journals and pocket pages expecting there to be a “take-away,” a clear message or story, you may be disappointed. But if you read these to get a sense of the presence of my mind (my voice, my sensibility) from these texts, you may find these valuable.

Before I realized this distinction in ways of reading, I looked at my journal texts and judged them inadequate, because they weren’t already in the form of polished narratives or essays. For years, I wondered whether I should go back and craft these raw freewritings into publishable articles, rewriting them as needed until they fit the familiar forms. But this approach didn’t feel right. I usually wrote about my experiences by describing my thoughts and feelings afterwards, rather than writing these as moment-by-moment, show-don’t-tell descriptions. Doing that seemed artificial — I don’t live by narrating everything that happens; I write only after experiences have been had. I write for myself, and not for others, who weren’t there, to understand and empathize with me. I preferred writing down whatever I thought at that time, writing honestly for myself, rather than shaping my words so that I’d be perceived favorably by some unknown reader.

I finally realized that these honest-to-the-moment journal writings had value if the purpose of reading were redefined. I thought about how reading poetry can be different from reading prose. With prose, whether novels, journalism, memoir, etc., readers tend to look for meaning — plot, story, lesson, etc. But with poetry, readers can enjoy other aspects, including the sounds of words, rhythms of lines, images-as-images, etc. I sometimes read poems, such as haiku and Richard Brautigan’s short poems, just to get a sense of mood or a sense of the writer’s voice, his or her particular sensibility. So, too, I have found value with my journal texts, and you may as well.

You can dive in anywhere, even in the middle of a post of journal text, and treat each sentence or section like its own poem, reading just for the experience of reading, of communing with another mind. You don’t have to read the whole post or all the posts. There’s no index of topics, and there will be no overarching message. I don’t wanna write as if I’m some wise person who’s figured stuff out and is ready to teach others. Maybe some text-bits are wise, but some aren’t. Some bits might be funny, and others will be serious. My journals don’t have a consistent tone because, of course, lived experience doesn’t have a single tone. My writing is more a part of my living than it is something I do to make a career or advocate an ideal.

My journals will never have an ending — they’ll just stop when I die — but because they’re not intended to become anything else, they’re also already whole, complete, fulfilled. As a writer, I am fulfilled just by filling the journal pages. And a reader can take an analogous perspective.

By the way, these journals will not be posted here in a systematic way — just the thought of that exhausts me — and that’s OK because systematic is not necessary. These journal texts are as accurate as I can make them (because I can’t always even read my handwriting!), but they are not the entirety of the journals — I’ve tried to include only the parts I think are the most interesting.

Like Spending Time in My Brain: Thursday 21 July 2016 journal text

At home, 7:54 a.m. — It’s humid as hell already . It’s forecasted to be 95° F with “hot steams” index of 109°.

I vetted the cat yesterday. He growled during his exam by a new (to the vet office) young woman vet. She gave Justice cat the ol’ up-the-butt thermometer with a drop of, I’m guessing, lube on the tip, which is a nice touch, somehow — a weird touch, too. Sure, it’s medically useful, but I’m not always sure I’ve seen vets do that.

At Oregon, Ill., McDonald’s, a little before 9 a.m. — A BNSF Railway Police dude is here, with sidearm and bulletproof vest, it seems. “So are you out of Chicago, then?” McKaren asks him. He agreed. I didn’t know railroads had their own police forces.

People can’t be on the right of way at all,” said RR cop. McKaren said something to the dude who’s with the cop about BNSF not maintaining fences and working on a track. “It’s just been nonstop out there, something all the time,” she said, and then the two guys wrap up conversation and leave McD’s.

Dog and I had a “standing salad” last night in our garden — we ate peas, carrots, green peppers, and the first two cherry tomatoes of the year. Dog doesn’t eat peppers or tomatoes.

He was brutally handsome; she was terminally pretty,” sings an Eagle over the restaurant radio system.

Get up, Katelyn, and walk,” said a mom to a young girl, and mom did an open-palms, arms-out-to-sides gesture of frustration.

The place where you live may not matter as long as you’re safe and can find work, etc. So national-pride feelings are mere ideas. The idea of where you live doesn’t matter. I used to have an idea that my everyday life would be better if I lived in a college town like Madison, Wis., instead of living in this rural Illinois county. But my life would probably be about the same: I’d probably be the same person, have about the same mental experience of being alive.

A dude in a Jeep in the drive-thru just now held his black box of Marlboros up to his mouth to pull out a cigarette with his lips. His left hand was on the wheel, his right holding the pack.

There’s the amble of Beardy “Jack” McTankTop, with a white tanktop now and his usual blue shorts. “I’m usually a regular here,” said Beardy to a young counter girl. He wasn’t here with the other regulars earlier this morning.

What a tragic thing for her to deal with all her life, you know,” concludes a McSally story about some girl getting shot in the street and some dude throwing himself on top of her to protect her.

If the lid would be off, it’d be down the front of me every time,” said McKaren to an old couple about Karen’s drink cup, I think.

On my dog-walk this morning, I remembered my old question about what was the first word ever spoken by humans. My thought this morning is that, whatever the word was, meaning must have preceded the first word, since humans, and even animals, can learn to read body language before they can read words.

A 5- or 6-year-old boy has jammed his chocolate-dipped cone dip-first into a soda cup McKaren had given the woman who was with the boy. Karen also advised getting a spoon.

It was hot at 4 o’clock this morning,” says McKaren to a customer dude. It’s the second time I’ve heard her say this. “It hits you right in the face — wham!” she said, after the dude said it’s muggy.

This reminds me how hot it was on the walk over to McDonald’s from the courthouse where my wife and I parked our car. It smelled and felt like a laundromat, the air coming out of a just-stopped dryer.

I’m afraid if I do, I might really, really like it … I can be very impulsive,” McKaren said, I think about riding a motorcycle. Of her daughter asking her if she wanted to ride, horse-owner Karen said, “If it’s too hot to ride horses, it’s too hot to ride motorcycles.

An older man three tables west of me has an oversize nose — he looks like cartoon Jimmy Durante in “Frosty the Snowman” Christmas special.

I’m not trying to appeal broadly. I’m writing who I am, what I naturally do, and I’m not trying to become a writer for others. Yes, I’ve said this statement many times lately but I’m still stating it, I think, because it still feels new and good and joyful. There’s the freedom of accepting myself, that I no longer have to try to fit myself and my writing into some existing cubbyhole (by which I mean a familiar form, genre, etc.). I feel I’ve put, in these recent posts, my mind, my existence, as priority over any particular words and ideas. I’m superior to, have priority over, what I say.

Making each day’s journal text from nothing, as it were. It’s cool that there are no topics beforehand, no deciding what to say before I write. Themes emerge as I read and edit. I’m not saying these recent journal-posts (such as this one) are great — they look a bit text-heavy, for one. But they aren’t organized by topic, and they aren’t merely journals in whole (they aren’t every single word) but they are ideas from the journals — so that reading them might be like spending time in my brain!