Tag Archives: McKaren

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!

Making a text is strange: Monday 18 July 2016 journal

Lately I’ve been thinking of texts that are written to be published, written for an audience, as performances, and as performances, these texts have a level of artifice that I’d like to question. So what follows below is selections from a text I wrote for myself in my journal. It’s not organized by topic, and it doesn’t fit a typical nonfiction form, but it’s an experiment in editing, in seeing how what final shapes a minimally shaped text can take. I’m wondering why someone might choose to read such an unlabeled, unformed text, and what someone would get from having read it.

At home, a little after 8 a.m. — It’s humid. There’s still much dew-fall on the sliding glass door. More light comes in from the lower half of the door, where rivulets have run.

Just read a piece at New York Times’ The Stone that talked about how brain science seems to suggest that we use the same faculty to look into — to model, presume — our own minds the same way we try to read and model others’ minds. There is no 1st person, the writer says. This piece didn’t upset me in the way that some new theories bother me. I hadn’t thought of it before, but this idea goes along with my previous ideas about the unknowability of my own mind. For example, I don’t know where my ideas or the words that I write come from. “The Greeks” Episode Two talked about Greeks taking ideas from other cultures they met while trading and making colonies. “Ideas” is a word that comes to English directly from the Greek. It suggests that an idea is what could be taken from others without them getting pissed. An idea is not property like a ship or a pot is. Of course, you’re not taking at all but making, making your own concept of what you see others doing.

And perhaps an idea isn’t property (a copyrighted work is “intellectual property” in legal terms, but an idea-qua-idea can’t be copyrighted). But maybe the idea of “the idea” is itself Greek. The notion that we can form ideas, that ideas are things that can be labeled, identified, as much as “rock” or “tree” can be. Though, of course, we still can’t see, touch, or taste ideas.

A dog sticking out of driver's window of this van. This is from my McPerspective at my McSeat.

A dog sticking out of driver’s window of this van. This is from my McPerspective at my McSeat. (This dog is different from the the RCA dog mentioned below.)

At Oregon, Ill., McDonalds, seated alongside the wall of windows along the south side of dining room, with a view of cars leaving the drive-thru, about 10 a.m., after dropping my wife off to conduct a real estate closing —

At the diner yesterday, talked to Ashli Waitress’s husband, Jason, who’s working to demolish a building in the Chicago suburbs. There’s a steel structure for moving product inside this old warehouse, and he’s using a hydraulic shears for cutting this steel. The shears can cut steel up to 2 inches thick, he said.

Jason also told me about a former job delivering and repossessing furniture for a rental store in Rockford. How he once had to step over a passed-out dude in the hallway of an apartment building, and how he once got intentionally hit by a woman in a car and he was carried along until his feet got loose, and how he got shot at. Once sofas were repossessed, the employees had a way of opening them with wedges so as to not get stabbed with drug needles. Employees also called cops after discovering certain images on repossessed computers, he said.

“… 40 years old, dropped of a cardiac arrest … they revived her in the hospital after shocking her seven times … she passed a month ago — had her 42nd birthday” at the hospital, said a 60-year-old-ish man to an 80-year-old-ish man sitting at the table west of me.

“I couldn’t hold a frickin’ gallon of milk,” said the 60-ish man, who had slipped and fallen during a winter and thought he’d have to get rotator cuff surgery, but he didn’t.

“Could I get a discount, please?” said McSally. A dark-haired 30-ish McManager came over to a register where another McWorker was on the client side of the counter.

“I’m gonna run up to Rockford. I gotta jump on a conference call,” said 60-year-old guy. “Alright, pop,” said the 60-ish guy. “Alright, kiddo,” said the 80-ish guy as both left their table.

A certain customer will “ask for a senior coffee. He can’t hardly hold it … he should NOT  be driving,” said McSally to McKaren, who responded that the old man might cause an accident and not even get hurt himself.

Dark-haired McManager said, “lunchtime” at 10:30. She said it in a low-energy shout, like “Lunch. Time.”

I was thinking this spring that it IS hard — emotionally upsetting — to have one’s beliefs challenged, as I was challenging my high school students’ beliefs during our philosophy unit.

“Can I help you, hun, now that I’m done complaining?” said McKaren to a customer about how she thought the humidity at 6:30 this morning was bad but it’s worse now.

Not that the statement above is such a great quote. Rather, it was a little distracting, so I wanted to get it out of my mind. But also, there’s something about how she really said it — it’s somewhat banal (not entirely, since it does reveal character), but also … I don’t know. I just wanted to record it as a real statement that was really said, a small moment but now it’s recorded. It was made a “moment” by my recording it? That maybe there is something special about me writing real things down — that writing them down, that making a text, is an act that is strange — estranged from? — living life, regular life. It’s normal for me to write, but maybe I forget how weird it is to write, actually.

There was a short-coated dog hanging out a passenger window of an SUV — it looked a little like the RCA Victor dog.

“They got it off Pinterest or somethin’,” said McSally. Pinterest is a thing, now.

I try to figure things out sometimes and shut out — mentally shut out, ignore — my surroundings. Yet, why bother? So many texts are written that way. And when I read, I like to shut out outside input — like, just now, the horn solo of Little River Band’s “Reminiscing” and like McSally saying, “What are cheeseburger cupcakes?” and McDark Hair Manager saying, “They look like cheeseburgers.”

Ogle County soldiers' memorial, in front of the county jail and, further back, a church spire for the First Presbyterian Church of Oregon, Ill.

Ogle County soldiers’ memorial, in front of the county jail and, further back, a church spire for the First Presbyterian Church of Oregon, Ill.

Shutting out one’s surroundings, being able to focus on the text, both as writer and as reader, can be really nice at times. But also, it could be nice to read texts where (like this text), the writer is out in public and includes what he hears and sees going on around him while also writing whatever ideas come into the writer’s head.

A dude asks the McCounter workers — he’s new to the area, he says — and he asks how to get Internet and/or cable. They name some utilities for him, fulfilling their community-information function.

What I write — I’m of this area, this county. I publish on my own blog rather than submitting my writing to edited websites. There’d be a sense in leaving my community, of having to go away to make it big, in submitting my work to others. I saw corn plants in a certain field on the drive to McDonald’s today — Ogle County is cornfields, and is not people and culture. I’ve developed as a writer while living in this rural area, without much influence from other writers, and that lack of influence is perhaps a result of, a mark of, having developed while out here in this open place. Sometimes this place can feel desolate, empty of smart people who share my interests, but this morning I wasn’t feeling that. I was feeling that there’s something meditation-promoting about this cornfield. I didn’t feel desolate. I felt that this corn — tassling out, the row curving — was as good as any. That I could stop and meditate there.

“Do we have cookies back, Sal?” asked McKaren. “I don’t think so,” said McSal. “I’m taking the last of the chocolate chip,” said McKaren, as a client stood at the counter. The client wore pajama pants printed with what looked like heart-shapes with sashes across them, with the sashes reading “LOVE” — upcloser (I used the ruse of getting napkins), I saw that there was a sword through the red shape and a flower and that some of the designs were mirror-imaged (or flipped?) so that “LOVE” was spelled “backwards-E,” “O,” “V,” “backwards-L.”

There’s a sense that people who write about rural areas have to do so in the forms approved y city-dwelling editors — intellectuals, in other words (although right-wing propaganda, less so, I’d think).

Having my own website is less glamorous than publishing with the imprimatur of an imprint, but publishing on my own website is wonderfully direct.  These are the words coming directly from this author, without intercession.

At the Diner, noon:05, after having picked up my wife after her real estate closing and taken her to lunch — I could post this day’s writing. I don’t need to write on a topic, so I could put up whatever. But I also don’t need to blurt.

But if the point of publishing isn’t to tell a message but just to share my mind, share a text that comes from my experience, to share a bit of my mind — a mystical aspect of a text.

“I don’t think Lucinda cares for him too good,” said a 60-year-old-ish woman to another woman eating across from her in the booth behind my wife.

Back at home, 10:45 p.m. — I typed in some, not all, of today’s journal. I was tempted to cut down what I entered — I had the idea to take just one paragraph’s worth of idea out of any one day’s journal. But then I thought, I’m not sure I should cut down. Give it a try, type in a long piece. There’s no need to include everything from the journal entry, yet I wonder if I’m judging by traditional, too-narrow standards if I cut down my texts. Leave it long, don’t talk yourself out of doing it before you try it.

Of course, what I like is to write. I write for the engaged writing experience — publishing comes second as a priority. But maybe what I want is to have a text that reveals a nimble mind — maybe that’s my organizing guideline. I could even have a long version and a short version (an Abstract, or a “TL;DR” section).

At Mick Donald’s: Arm Tatts, Beardy McTankTop, the Pretenders, and me

Today, at Oregon, Ill. McDonald’s Restaurant, 9:04 a.m., I sat down with a coffee and wrote stuff down, including:

The old white man I held the door for got out his change purse to get the two extra cents — it was “24,” not “22,” the clerk corrected his earlier pile of bills and change. A gray-haired lady at nearby table has butterfly tattoo on her upper left arm. Rod Stewart’s “if you want my body” plays on the overhead speaker. At another table, a dude with two kids has forearm tattoos, and also words tattooed on his neck.

Where I’m sitting, I get to see the drive-thru drivers [“Rocket man, burning through the tree tops, everyone” (maybe?)] post-food reception, as they’re throwing out garbage and/or peeling straws. [“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.”]

“The older I get, the better I was!!” [2 exclamation points included] states the back of a t-shirt worn by an adult (40-ish?) woman. Sleeves have been severed from the gray shirt, and lettering’s in red.

“I’m free this afternoon,” said one older lady to Butterfly Tatt, who’s just leaving a table of women drinking coffee. “Well, call if you go out for coffee,” said B.Tat., who was throwing out her current coffee cup.

Arm-Tatts has tattooes on his left calf and on both forearms, crossed Texas flags, it looks like, on left forearm. And now I’m nervous he’ll read this writing. [“Sweet dreams are made of these” is done, onto “ch-ch-ch-changes” from speaker broadcasting a local oldies station.] Arm Tatts points out, “there’s a dog! In the car” to his kids. I see what could be a Golden-doodle in the back seat of a lime green new-Beetle convertible.

“C’mon, baby, sit right,” Arm Tatts says to his little (3-year-old?) girl. They’re done eating but still sitting — waiting for someone to arrive?

A woman’s voice: “It’s nice to see the water-table level come up, but now it can stop? [her vocal inflection indicated interrogation, and she laughed.] Have a nice day, honey,” said cashier McKaren to a white dude in a Pioneer Seeds-logo golf-shirt. I’ve heard her called “Karen,” and since she works here, I shall append the “Mc” prefix to her name.

To some other customer, McKaren says, “Nothing, zero, zip. I didn’t move off the sofa. … ‘Top Chef.’ … I watched that … [I] didn’t budge. … pulled 10 weeds. No, no, no, no, I did not come to town.” [There were more words in that speech, but I put ellipses for the words I didn’t catch.]

Later, I think I heard Arm Tatts say to one of the kids, “Mommy’s coming.”

Now there’s a white-haired dude with a fixed-handle knife (bone- or antler-handle?) in his belt loop, in a sheath, but still, I’d probably not be able to react in time if he decided to stab me. That’s a fairly paranoid thought.

“You don’t like him? Oh, I love him,” said one of the coffee ladies. Another lady said “he ruined” something.

Arms, to his boy in high chair, “Eat!”

I guess I hadn’t realized before that there was a garbage can after the drive-thru. I don’t normally think about making space after getting food, though I can imagine the process that leads to that. Just as I wrote that sentence, a woman stopped at the can to throw away a straw wrapper crumpled in a napkin.

“…why he gives me a hard time …,” says one of the coffee ladies. Meanwhile, a ragged burrito hits the floor beneath baby-seat boy. “Minachur pinchur,” I hear from one of the coffee ladies. It sounded like that, but I’m assuming she’d prefer I’d spell it (if she knew I was transcribing it) as “miniature pinscher.” Then, two more of the ladies’ snippets come to my mind: “…it’s why they say don’t take a bath…” and “…people DO, but …”

Almost every one of the 30 or so times I’ve been to this McDonald’s in the last 4 years, I’ve seen a dude who consistently sports a beard and wears a tank-top, and I’ve named him Beardy McTanktop in my notes. (I mostly come here in the summer; I’m not sure if Beardy layers the tank-tops in cooler months.) I’ve told my wife about this guy, and she’s seen him — she can verify he exists — and she lately told me I should ask him just how often he eats McDonald’s. But this would perhaps be mocking him, and it would perhaps humanize him to me. He’s better as a character, a part of what we like to refer to as “Local Color.”

Anyway, I now note that Beardy was here when I got here, talking to some dudes in the parking lot, but now he is gone. And Mr. Bone Knife is leaving and I seem unstabbed.

McKaren told one of the coffee ladies that she dropped her phone, and Arms gets up and gets it for her (I think — I didn’t see the end of the interaction).

“Good seeing you again,” said Phone-Dropper lady. “You, too, you, too,” responded Tight Curls, whose permed hair seems her most descriptive characteristic. A lady with short, straight hair is still at the table, talking to Tight Curls.

A dude driving thru drive-thru had his head out his car window as he was leaning to his left, to put his wallet into his back-right pocket, maybe?

[Bob Seger: “Hollywood nights.” Sam and Dave: “Hold on. I’m comin.'”]

For a moment, the only ones here are the two remaining coffee ladies, Arm Tatts, and me, at our three nearby tables. I couldn’t tell if any customers were in the booths back by the restrooms. I start to wonder if this sitting at McD and writing, which seems so normal to me, isn’t kinda a strange thing to do — but before I can recall why it seems strange, I forget the reasoning I had just thought of.

[“If I was the king of the world, I tell you what I’d do … joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea.”]

Now there are two more people, plus McKaren’s taking her break at a table behind Arm Tatts. McKaren gets up at 4 a.m., she said.

[“A little ditty ’bout Jack and di-AH-ann” — I wrote most of that in anticipation, before the words were sung — “suckin’ on chilly dog, outside Taste-FREE-ease” — but I modified the “Diane” to three syllables after hearing how it’s sung.]

McKaren has her glasses on and her book open. Some white lady is talking to Karen about how hot it is. Karen still had her book open, but didn’t seem to mind the conversation.

“Oh! She hasn’t been home yet,” says T.C. (Tight Curls) into phone, as Straight Hair lady shakes a tilted cup, as if to get a piece of ice to chew. “Alright, honey, well, we’ll talk to you later, thanks. Buy,” said T.C. Perhaps “buy” was “bye” or “by”? We’ll never know.

“Where you wanna go? Wait, mommy’s coming. Where you wanna go, where?” says Arms to Lil’ Girl, who’s speaking so high-pitched, it’s like a whiny song, not unpleasant, like a sung note, or a wind-whine, almost.

Across the Route 2 road from Mick-Dee, a dude — white hat, belly, cuffed jeans — is carrying baskets of laundry from his car to a Laundromat . Again, THAT’s happening, it’s real, it exists.

[“Hold the line.” Guitar: whah-NAH-nah-NAH. “Love isn’t always on time.”]

A dude at a table to the west of us all has a yellow pad of paper on which he’s writing.

Arm Tatts is patient.

“…lunch time and we’re still here, talkin’ ’bout it,” T.C. said. “…Gary likes watchin’…,” I hear, but gauge that the context is NASCAR.

[“Make you, make you notice me,” sing Pretenders.]

Karen uses a clothes pin in her book, pinning some pages together. That reminds me of the summer, 20 years ago now, I worked at a different small-town McDonald’s, and I’d bring Thomas More’s “Utopia” to read on my breaks, but I never read much of it, and partly I was being pretentious, or amusing myself by incongruously bringing lit(erature) to my McJob (nobody uses that term as much these days as I recall it being used in the ’90s.).

[“Baby, hold on to me. Whatever will be, will be. The future is ours to see. Baby, hold on to me.”]

Arms to little girl: “SIT DOWN. SIT DOWN.” [Cap letters there represent the gritting of the teeth I heard.] Now, girl is pushing around the little boy in his high chair. Arms: “Want me to hit you?” He swats her playfully with a rolled-up piece of paper. Then, “nah-TAHN-ya” is the name I think I hear him yell as the girl goes barefoot toward the bathrooms. Arms to boy: “Don’t start.” To a woman who has just entered: “Jeez, you’ve been gone two hours. Did you find someone?”

[Instrumental: “T.S.O.P.”]

“I guess it’s time to go back to work,” said McKaren to some old white guy with a cane. Karen took off her glasses. She has three books with her? I don’t think I was aware, 20 years ago, that it was ironic to be reading “Utopia” at a McD, either because [a wasp lands on the outside of the window frame] McD isn’t a perfect place, or more literally — “utopia” as “no-place” — McD is no place. On the other hand, it’s easy to mock McD, and I don’t know that I’d now see the irony there. It’s irony based only on a subjective interpretation — but maybe all irony requires a perspective to be from?

A dude in a “Duck Dynasty” t-shirt comes in — “hey,” said t-shirt on its front. “Hey,” said the man himself to somebody else, “how ya doin’?”

And now it’s 10:30 a.m. — end of breakfast season at McDonald’s.

What I’m writing doesn’t have to have much to do with what’s before me — but I’m not lying. But, OK, I’m just telling what I see. But maybe it’s weird also that I’m just making a text — I mean, it seems normal to me. Others look at me a little, now and then. They may suspect I’m writing about them, but I’m polite enough not to stare, and also not to narrate real life (which narrating of things as they happen gets weird, not to mention socially straining).

Now the wasp’s inside — my comment from earlier has become foreshadowing! But I see a wasp outside still, too. [“I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade”]

And how my life outside doesn’t change much from doing this writing. I’m not gonna go sell it and become famous. (Though I could post some of it, as an editing experience.) Karen, to someone: “Yep, you’re good, you don’t have to worry.”

And to the same, or a different, customer, McKaren says, “Me neither — I don’t move without air conditioning.”