Tag Archives: random journals

I have no evidence or reason to think my view is best

M just said how there are so many skinny people in the city; it made her feel fat. What they are is young people, M said. I said, in light of my recent writing about ambitious people, “they haven’t yet learned to give up their dreams.” (I said it in a tone that was a bit sing-songy, indicating I knew it was a bitter sort of sarcasm. M said something like”nice.”)

But maybe I once thought I needed to compete with those go-getters, and now I see that we’ve chosen different paths through life.

Well, it’s 10:44, and I’m back from peeing and putting on pants and I’m probably done writing for now. M is too tired to go to diner, which is fine with me, but I’ll go get eggs—maybe take dog with for a ride. I was just petting him as he lay right-side down on carpet and I brushed him slow so he wouldn’t mind, and he didn’t.

And I guess I don’t really have much more to say about these kids and their careers. They are what they are now—I don’t need to criticize them. It’d be presumptuous (and worse—false!) to tell them that my view of the world is also how they should view the world. I have no evidence or reason to think my view is best, or would fit everyone else or anyone else, or, hell, even me, really. I don’t know that my understanding of the world, the way it works, the way lives and careers play out, is even necessarily working for me—I mean, it seems to be working for me, mostly, but it’s not like every aspect of my life is perfect (whatever that even means).

[From journal of Sat. 16 Dec. 2017, Journal 266, page 173-5]

They seem to me to cohere

The whole point of creative poetry is to do things that aren’t commonplace, so maybe I leave those lines as they are—they seem to me to cohere, though I can’t explain why by reference to narrative completion or formal completion (14 lines in a sonnet). Richard Wilbur tends to be a formal-poem poet, and that’s fine for him—and his example has no purchase on me and what I do.

Ah, well. Yes, it’s a slightly unnerving feeling to realize the standards of doneness, of “poem-ness” (as in, “is this really a poem?”) are up to me—but also, how powerful a feeling, and how heady—confidence—well, I was gonna say confidence-building, but I’m not sure that’s true, and I’m not sure confidence matters in what I’m talking about today.

I don’t know what more to say, but most everything else I did yesterday seems to pale, to blanch, to fade out, in comparison.

It’s not overthrowing an army or something—but just to realize that I’m free of social/artistic strictures, that’s powerful. You have freedom but you don’t have the safety/protection/public identity of formal poems (or any recognizable art form, anything socially accepted as art. Rap wasn’t, at first, but now its place is pretty secure. Miley Cyrus rapped on a YouTube video about why she will cancel her Twitter account. But that’s still a pretty safe place.)

And If I read my poem to others, I don’t know that they’d see what I see. I’ve spent more time, and now, the parts that I feel cohere don’t obviously cohere. If the listeners’ brains are looking for logical or narrative connections, looking for my poem to fit a pattern, it won’t—not an obvious pattern, even the parts feel to me to cohere in an emotional/tone sense? They share a mood, maybe? Or they share a sound commonality, harshness, or whatever.

[From journal of Tues. 20 Oktober (Augdopour—on whiteboard this morning) 2009, Journal 119, page 191-2]

‘Now’ is still an abstraction

Yes, it’s nice to have Internet, but it’s also nice to have physical stores. There’s so much change. It’s a little troubling how much change, and how fast. AOL was a huge company in 1999—it bought Time Warner—and now AOL is small and getting smaller. Its biz model of dial-ups is obsolete (in an era of high-speed Internet).

Ah, well. You just can’t think about that too much—it’s an abstract worry, and easily released (though M said abstract worries are also easily held onto). I mean, sh!t, I don’t know. I don’t know where things are headed. I’m glad I’m not trying to make money on my own.

See, just shift focus—this is what you were talking about Friday (see these pages for Fri.). I mean, sh!t, focus back to your life—not even on your “life,” which is also an abstraction—just today—no, just, you know, “now”—not even “now”— “now”‘s still an abstraction. Just write some sh!t down. Go to work because you don’t have anything better to do …

Eh, this is getting practically nostalgic for Fri.—so, yeah—what’s new? It was cold yesterday—16–18° about 4 p.m.—and then about 4–7° when we let the dogs out (us—us—us-us—in answer to that Baha (?) Boys song-question of a few years back—my dumb joke to B.A. of a week ago). You know, these pages—once I’ve written them, today’s pages will be as done as those pages of years ago.

[From journal of Sun. 23 Jan. 2011, Journal 137, page 73]

Maybe be skeptical of those impulses

Back now, at 7:26 stove time, from pooping while looking at little books I kept in book bag from 2007 ’til 2013 (since then, I’ve filled a book a year). I couldn’t find the [boss’s] jellyfish story there in that notebook, or in the 2001-2007 Moleskine. And I had some other thoughts I wanted to write down here, but they seem gone for now.

Here’s a note from my bedstand notebook dated 5 Mar: “President Baker” (a name I read or heard somewhere) as if Baker weren’t a name but a description of someone who turns presidents into potpies.

And so, I guess today will be a grading day, maybe also a posting day. Yeah, you don’t need to look at stuff and think whether or how you could post it, and to blog or Facebook—maybe be skeptical of those impulses, as I have been lately, those impulses (I saw two robins fighting moments ago, and I noticed that the grass—a strip of grass just south of neighbor’s house seems far greener than most of the other grass around) those impulses to publish right away (Ms. ___ roared past a couple minutes ago. M’s shoes are leaving little indentations in the hardwood—M says she walks on tiptoes) are from ego, are small, closed ideas. I would rather share open ideas, like not telling people what to think. Don’t compare Byron’s beaches to Cancun’s—but just look for a moment at what’s here.

(Dog pulled the leash away from me yesterday, when I’d stopped along rec. path to photo a small, solitary piece of snow—and dog usually stops when he’s not attached to me but he kept going into the prairie. He seemed pretty excited to smell, to hunt.) (Also, my phone did some odd things when I put it in pocket yesterday while I was logged in—it took me a while to figure out how to get the date and weather “widget” back.)

Maybe I can show my pics just as they are, without much comment, and maybe my poems, like the ones I made last week with magpo.com, are, or can be, similarly open-ended. That I don’t gotta tell people what to think about my pics or my poems—

And I don’t gotta tell them what to think about education or anything else in the present tense—in those essay-type things I write where I explain something I’m thinking now—that that’s OK, too, if I do that.

There can be many ways of reading my blog–by chrono, or reverse chrono, by category, to topic—search, etc. etc. The whole document is hypertext—there’s almost no one way to read it—though I guess older to newer is the structure of the blog—the blog’s structure’s suggestion/implication.

[From journal of Thurs. 26 March 2015, Journal 206, page 83-4]

How much change she had to adjust to, live with

5:56 a.m. smart-phone time. Dateline: [my address], kitchen (well, dining room) table. One (Readers) can assume all of my journals written since July 2011 were written at this address, at this table, unless otherwise stated. I should pro[cat in lap]bably include this more often. What to draw today—let’s put it in lower left corner so it can run onto blank facing page. Back at 6:03 after visual-arting. It’s done with my chalks—it seems a bit ominous—but then, I never know what things will look like when I just start with a rough idea (the squares close together) and go from there. So, yeah, napped noon, well, about 1 (M & I were cuddling in bed and I was thinking about getting up at 1 but I pushed alarm back) ’til 2 and then went to [county historical museum] (after getting gas first) and there was a couple researching family there and the woman part of couple said some matriarch had lost her husband and also a son in months’ time—and how horrible—well, OK, but I was thinking of that scenario less as horrible (or whatever word she had used) and more just lonely—how much change she had to adjust to, live with. I told my cemetery (“Burying Grounds of Hickory Grove”) story to [historical society member], who said it’d be good for a Halloween newsletter or something.

From journal of Mon. 30 Sept. 2019.

[From journal of Mon. 30 Sept. 2019, Journal 309, page 87]

As if somehow people were shirking their duty in buying the crap houses

I talked to mom on phone yesterday morning for 83 minutes (so said the phone’s display when I hung up) and Mom said she thought it silly that people were saying consumers just need to go buy more stuff to help economy. And I heard somebody on CNBC yesterday morning saying that refinances were up but the market needed to see more home buyers—as if “The Economy” needs individuals to burden themselves with these ridiculous things called mortgages. I mean, what he says sounds absurd if you think about it from an individual’s viewpoint. It seems like a normal thing to say from the view of the whole economy or from the view of the stock market (traders), but if you take what he’s saying as advice to individuals, it’s absurd. He makes it sound as if there are buyers just sitting there with cash, waiting—or as if somehow people were shirking their duty in buying the crap houses the developers build. …

Again this winter I’m noticing how much those bright, fluorescent pinks, limes, and oranges stand out against snow—as if they glow. …

[From journal of Thurs. 25 Dec. 2008, Journal 107, page 123-4]

Tornado half a mile wide: Rochelle-Fairdale 2015

So, yesterday was 150th anniversary of the Appomattox Court House surrender. It’s also the date of the Ashton-Rochelle-Fairdale tornado—about 7 p.m. The sirens went off about 6:10 and dog, cat, and I went to basement. I called M at her office—she came home about 6:30 or so. About 6:50, TV upstairs (Candice King, Channel 17) was talking about a tornado spotted at Ashton, where it damaged Crest Foods building (the one along Rt. 38, I’m guessing), then destroyed houses at Skare Park (went just south of Mom’s) and also the house at SE corner of Queens and Bethel, according to T.G. on Facebook. M said E.D. reported that her house is gone, one dog dead, another needing to be put down. Then tornado severely damaged (not actually “leveled,” as Whitney Martin on Chan. 23 said) Grubsteakers at 251 & 64, NE corner. Weird to see national media—Weather Channel—talk about “Grubsteakers.” And I’m wondering about Maplehurst facility near there. Tornado half a mile wide, a “wedge tornado,” wider than tall—more common in Great Plains (Tornado Alley) than here.

Then, media reports say, tornado took out Fairdale (killed a woman [actually, two women], damaged every building in town) …

Sheriff Brian Van Vickle made a brief press statement. TV people were saying tornado was E.F. 2 or 3, but that National Weather Service damage estimators would be looking at it. Someone also said winds of 91 mph, I seem to recall.

And so, BVV also said there’s a check-stop at Flagg and Skare as of 5 a.m. and people need to get credentials at RTHS west lot, where Red Cross is set up. This was on Facebook this morning. I also shared an Ogle Sheriff notice from last night that said to “stay out of these areas!!!!” (Always good advice—a joke I’ll make later, you know, when there’s “plus time” added to this tragedy).

My student J.P., her name was attached to a video of tornado shown on local news—I think it was there. It was also online at, maybe WIFR page? Facebook damage pics were better than those at WIFR or WTVO websites. M said she was so tired but she was on her phone about this from 6:30 til after 10.

[From journal of Fri. 10 April 2015, Journal 207, page 99-100]

We get offered candy: 28 August 1995 journal

28 August 1995, early Monday morning, 3 a.m.  [in my Urbana apartment?]

There are two options for me in my academic calendar—I can either take English 248 and not read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Lawrence, or I can not take the class and not read those books, but it’s not as if actually reading them is an option.

Real interesting conversation with Ryan E. and Jordan tonight about Daily Illini [newspaper staff] personalities. We dropped (late) about 1 a.m., but the three of us talked til about 2:15 or so while Ryan printed out the separations of the cover of Touch Down Times. We talked about mostly personalities and people—and the way—(I’m losing interest, picking up the Urbana Park District leisure guide).

The thing is: Ryan and I were sitting, chatting, on Green Street Pizza Hut front stoop, across from his Skylight apartment when this tall (6’6″ or over), lanky man came across the street aiming towards us, a lavender/dark shirt, long-sleeved, and I noticed him stop three lanes from us as a black limo sped through. I looked at him, he wasn’t approaching real fast, but to diffuse the situation, to understand what was going on, I said, “Hey.” He responded, “Hey, you guys want some candy?”

I jumped in, “No, thanks, man,” and Ryan had chimed in before I finished with a similar response. But it was like he wasn’t sure what to do, or was it all fast and so not a real pause from him? I don’t know.

I’m not sure he was looking to sell us anything so much as rob us. Here we sit at 2:45 a.m., but it was on Green Street—surprising how that familiar, near environment can become so threatening. I felt open, raw and exposed the entire 15-20 minutes we sat there, not comfortable at all like sitting outside in Urbana. I don’t fear for my life in Urbana. But he turned and watched these three young college girls, followed by a couple guys, walk down Green then go north.

I turned to Ryan and did the brow-wipe and the “whooo” sigh, silent a moment, then I said, “this has been a cool chat, but I think I’m going to leave before we get offered candy again.” So I left and walked the south side of Green Street back to the dark safety of Urbana. The guy ambled along, really seeming to look for mischief—really looking, searching, looking into windows, following the girls with his gaze, seeming every minute to pause for the crime calculation of risk over return.

He was slow, looking into buildings, and I was a “spirited” walker, to say the least, so I soon lost sight of him behind, last seeing him peer through the front glass of Deluxe pub. But the night walk home was interesting—not the general paranoiac fear of darkness unknown, of the possibility of bushes pregnant with full grown men—but the specific one thought-fear of the Lavender man. Is he behind me? Did he run and sneak around front of me ? No, probably not. I left him behind. He didn’t seem the running type.

It’s funny, though, how people ask about drugs—this guy calls it “candy,” the Fallout [club in St. Louis] Longhair asked for “snort.” It almost made me later want to find out what he meant by “candy,” but I have a feeling I was correct to do what I did, not even get involved with a ne’er-do-well such as himself. I thought about starting a conversation and backing out—did he mean coke/crack? But it was probably better not to even get involved—and he wasn’t selling anything, not near so much as he seemed to be of the other persuasion, the Aggressive Consumer (when you take the goods without sharing your $). …

The other thing I was thinking about was the bricks on which we sat. I’ve walked by those bricks hundreds of times, so they were a part of Matt’s Campus Realm map, but now I have played out a scene of my life there. I am making use of the whole of my stage. All gets acted in at some point, all that I occupy is a setting for some incident/conversation/thought/recollection, etc. But there is a lot of the campus in which I don’t go and which is superfluous to my existence. This is my image: the places I go are created to a certain depth—a 10-yard tube along the roads I walk, the tube being the scenery I see and occupy. I don’t need what’s behind Pizza Hut until I go by there.

But standing at the sea coast, say, the Gulf of Mexico, you only see the coast near you, and it doesn’t bend much, or maybe it bends a lot at any local area, but the map makers give us these shapes of land viewed from some weird above-and-away-from perspective—the philosophy of calculus. But how do you know, how do they know how far out to draw the boundary, at what angle, to accommodate a bulge in the coastline? Where are they that they can see the coast as they draw it? Nothing at the point can tell you the overall shape of the coast.

But I guess I wasn’t all that into “learning from conversations” tonight because I didn’t question Ryan, find out what he thinks; he told me or I told him what I think. …

Before the Candyman’s arrival, I mentioned how I had worn one pair of shorts all last week, expecting, I guess, for Ryan to laugh. But he called me on it and said dirty laundry is something you don’t talk about—and he’s right. I don’t like to hear about how others are dirty, how they don’t shower. Why did I say it? …

Ramen’s boiling!

I like this kind of writing like tonight—just jotting down all the odd stuff that happens to me, which is inherently odd (to me) in that it happens to me (and seems odd). I’m not sure if that is clear—pretty sure it isn’t. But just this type of writing, not fiction, no pressure to find a plot to fit tonight’s anecdotes into. It’s not all that useful as prose on its own—but it’s fun. It’s fun to write. I like to write, not only to record it and not forget it, to possibly use it in fiction later, but also just to write it—it’s fun to put my words on paper, to shape a story, relate a narrative, and it makes me proud if it has a good overall image, or even just a good sentence/turn of a phrase.

No pressure here to be good. I don’t plan to edit/rewrite—no pressure to finish, even. But I do. It feels good, but also feels like an accomplishment—it’s satisfying to flip through all the pages I’ve filled with blue ink, adding a thousand facets and rippling to the paper, make it crinkle when turned in the writing process. …

[From Journal 11, pages 85–92]

Thinking that I’m not-normal

I thought this morning about my own social awkwardness—how it doesn’t hurt [There was a weird “Ooaah” loud, high-pitched, then declining, sound from the direction of the counter-worker {at this coffeeshop} telling an old man in teal sweater and white pants that there was a help-yourself water station—this could be dude who sneezed earlier] to think of myself as not-normal, or not quite normal, in the sense that thinking that would keep me from judging other socially awkward people. Thinking that I’m not-normal reminds me to be patient, accepting [and accepting the cold I just felt pour down on me as a person left the store—maybe from air coming up and over vestibule’s glass walls]. [Pages 124-5, Sat. 16 March 2019, Meg’s Daily Grind, Rockford, Ill. See random-selection editing process here.]

I lived my life in a different context: Random bits from Journal 234

There’s something about the new concussionball season—that it’s pretty much just like all the other seasons. There won’t be much that’s brand new—which, I know, is what fans like: minor variations within known and set rules. But I’d like some novelty, I guess. My old joke: “Hey, there’s football game on–wanna watch?” “Nah, I’ve already seen a football game.” Not a hilarious joke, or even a funny joke, but comic in that it misunderstands the fan mentality. And of course, the business of sports requires multiple games, multiple seasons for revenue and, of course, there’s some value in the tradition. Winning the Superbowl in its first few years probably didn’t mean as much as it does in the 50th year of that prize, once the prize is known. Of course, by year 50, your team’s win makes it only one of 50 winners. [Page 96-7, Sunday, 4 Sept. 2016]

The school days make the day go slowly, in a good way—to be alive each day at work, to know I’m alive. Sometimes the amount of work seems overwhelming. Neighbor Beth walks Lou-dog just now. A student wrote that his dad beat his dog after the dog chewed the dad’s boots. That’s probably not great (an understatement, and I’m not sure why). It makes me feel bad, when jackasses beat dogs. Dogs are so wonderful—and it’s not like beating them does anything but make the beater into a monster. Dogs as nonviolent protestors? [Page 68-9, Friday, 2 Sept 2016]

I feel bad for how busy students taking A.P. courses are–take a study hall instead! Ah, well. I lived my life differently, in a different context. There weren’t A.P. courses offered to me. But, you know, these kids could—but don’t have to—max out on stress here. I’m pretty happy with my life. It is a little odd that we make choosing a career such a big deal when, frankly, we all get to a point of settling. Maybe that’s cynical to say, but I don’t say it out of bitterness. I mean it in the best way possible—not even “settling” but letting go of ambition. Ambition  belongs to the young, and even there it might not be so great. What if following your goals (your usually arbitrarily chosen goals) is exhausting, doesn’t make you happy, anyway?

I read or saw something—the statement that someone (the “I” speaker) was willing to do anything to reach his/her goal. But why, I thought? As I’ve said before, how do you really know you want that goal you’re working so hard for—how do you know you’ll be happy in that job? I had a thought last night—got a fortune cookie message last night: “Learn Chinese: Still, Hai” and “Lucky #4, 7, 34, 22, 50, 32,” but also, “Your dearest wish will come true,” and I actually felt a little hopeful—”Maybe I will publish a book of my own writings, done my own way, and it’ll be popular!” But I also (or later) thought: maybe what maturity is is getting what you want while also being wise enough to know how to take it, how to receive it, how to react to it—which is to say: maybe I publish a book only once I’m also aware that doing so won’t be all that big a deal. That even if you published and won a Pulitzer, you still have to live your life, deal with dog poop and back pain and daily classes—new students won’t care who I am. [Page 22-43, Sabado, 27 Augustus 2016]

What matters is a focus on my own life, interests, being alive, thoughts and feelings, writing what I want to write. Living in a way where I choose what I want to do, you know? I mean, instead of doing things for others, to try to impress others. The last thing I’d want right now (well, OK, not the last) would be to be nominated for the Man Booker prize—who wrote the best example of the novel genre. I don’t want to write to those standards, to that outcome. Teaching poetry, sometimes I do read kids’ work aloud to the class (anonymously) and maybe this gives them a notion that there’s a standard for writing poetry, that they should be externally focused on product rather than internally focused on process, on their writerly experience. It’s hard to focus on internal/personal/individual experience in the classroom setting, which is kinda outwardly focused on doing what teacher asks, earning the grade, though I do try to focus on process, on having them try, on giving them some leeway.  [Page 170-1, Weds. 14 Sept. 2016]