Friday, January 31, 2003

The Insomniad (Con't)

I'm trying to skate by today on a slim 2 hours of sleep. That's to go with the slim 45 minutes I got on Tuesday night. Fortunately I got a solid 5 hours on Wednesday night. Instead of falling asleep early like I'd planned, I just lay in the dark, mind awhirl, thinking the usual, unprofound, irrational thoughts that I couldn't recall anyway even if you wanted to hear them (which you don't) and even if I wanted to write them (which I don't). I had to get up this morning for an early morning independent study meeting.

When I finally fell asleep around 5:30 I dreamed of my father. I dreamed he was strangling me. He's got longer arms than I so my choke-back wasn't particularly effectual. The altercation was long and tense and characterized more by a sense of tragedy rather than fear or anger. The reason he was trying to kill me was because he had grown old and become demented while I was away on the East Coast -- he didn't recognize me and was afraid of me, a stranger. In real life my alarm went off at 7:30 and here I am with meetings all day, nodding off at my desk. Good thing there's no heavy machinery around requiring my attention.

Despite crushing fatigue my mental state is often improved on such days: the sheer act of lifting one's arm -- even of drinking coffee -- requires such effort that there is simply no time to dwell on the less managable issues of life: i.e. will I have another cavity next time I go to the dentist, am I neglecting my duty to my family/friends/self, will I ever get the hook to Marshall Mather's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" out of my head or will it simply bounce around my skull until I sink a golf tee into the soft jelly of my eye? Maybe this increased sense of narrowness, of clarity (however dull and uninspired) is *why* I'm an insomniac. The mind gets too frantic and the body says "slow down, dude. Here. I'll help you. Just lie there for 7 hours and focus on the hook to this Emenem song:

say goodbye say goodbye to hollywood say goodbye say goodbye to hollywood say goodbye say goodbye to hollywood (hollyWOOOOOD) [repeat]"

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I'm watching a TV show with a guy in a beret and a paisley vest saying "the thing I love about (painter x) is his use of light."

God, that's an awful cliche. Someday I'd like someboy to say "you know, (painter x) might be famous but he understood light about as well as a retarded mole locked in a hardshell suitcase at the bottom of the Mariana trench."

I am enthusiastic about Sex McGinty's latest idea of publishing his novel "Free Lunch" on the web. In these troubled times the world is long overdue for some Fabian Rourke. (see for full description)
In a moment of nihilistic housecleaning I blasted my bloggerel blog "The Days of Silent Radio". Torpedoed it. It sunk. Vanished. Vamoosed. Vaporized. Into the ether. Goodbye. Kaput. Its amusing how quickly months and months of doggerel can dissappear. Why do something like that you ask -- it wasn't hurting anybody. Well, such a question presumes a reason beyond simple nihilism, which celebrates (or at least endures) destruction for its own sake. Actually, my motive is mixed, as motives usually are. Mainly it was just a distraction with no real purpose other than to deposit aimless ramblings... (Hey keep your eye off my delete button you little bastards -- you can't have Panacylum!)(Sorry, I'm talking to the little mischevious elves that live in my brain and coerce me into wreaking pointless havoc for the sheer glee of it. Don't worry, everything is under control. I have to throw them a bone now and then just to show I'm "down with that". I believe the impulse has been satisfied. For the moment.)

Its 2:16 p.m. You know what that means. Its time for COFFEEEEEEE!

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Yesterday a very lovely female friend of mine shared an intimate secret with me. It came to me in the form of a carefully handwritten note on a single sheet of college-ruled notebook paper. Before I continue I must tell you that this occurrence was in no way solicited by me or encouraged in any way, but once my eyes fell upon those carefully scripted syllables, arranged for eyes none other than my own, I knew that the future of my very life would be from that moment forward altered, my daily path of drudgery transmuted into a road of unexplored promise.

With a realization that the absence of my wife from the country afforded me a unique opportunity whereby every spare minute need not be accounted for, I took full advantage of the situation (as did she, in her own particular way). Yes, yes I abandoned -- nay I veritably flung aside -- my native caution and embarked upon a wild ride the likes of which none other than Mr. Toad could appreciate. I am not beyond such adventures. Did you think it was otherwise with me? Did you think that my recent matrimonial embarkation had washed me upon the brackish shoal of some bland and unremarkable continent? I assure you it did not and sorry do disappoint you if you had hoped that it did. I am always ready for the new. Out with the old and good riddance, I say! No amount of years or faithful usage induce me to feel even an ounce of loyalty. Why should I?

It is said that the passageways that link two people together are often hidden from view -- this is the lesson I learned last night as I wended my way through the dim avenues of newfound territory. Of course in the interest of preserving my friend's confidence there are secrets within secrets that must remain unto themselves but seeing as how caution has already been dashed upon the pneumatic hammer of my delight, I shall reveal that which is most revelatory indeed: the very contents (in summarized form) of that slim and singular parchment to which I previously referred and which I am sure you must be aware initiated this whole affair:

The note contained nothing less than a set of directions detailing an obscure route across northwest D.C...

Yes yes, friends. As of 8:30 p.m. last night I came into possession of one such document with all of its incredible implications. Now before your forehead screws with sullen incredulity, allow me to account for the enthusiasm I have previously alluded to regarding the utilization of this selfsame document.

You see, Washington D.C. -- our historic national capitol -- is arrayed along a series of spokes emanating from the national mall. Although this looks very nice on paper, the reality means that except for the relative calm at the center, there are 360 degrees of mayhem radiating in every direction. The spoke theme was repeated throughout the city with a series of centrally located traffic circles which must have been murderously dangerous even in the horse-and-carriage days of the 1790s when the city was designed. Today, with the roads choked by literally thousands of free-wheeling taxis, heedless diplomatic entourages, lost tourists with unintelligible maps, and buses crammed with abusive conventioneers driven by sleep deprived drivers, the roads of D.C. are positively murderous. And the fact that all roads connect at circles means that at one point in the city you must turn right to get to go from...say...Massachusetts Avenue to Connecticut Avenue. Just a bit farther up the road (without you having to change directions) you’ll have to turn *left* to get from Massachusetts Avenue to Connecticut Avenue. The Circles do another thing, as well. Since often five roads come together at a single circle, if there's an accident or a heavy volume of traffic at any spot near the circle -- all roads leading to and from the circle will be blocked. Tack on a few rambling neighborhoods built after the circle-craze (whose streets go generally cockeyed to the main arteries) and you have a recipe for a huge mess. That's what D.C. traffic is like.

So in order to avoid the whole morass of city traffic, some genius decided to make a road that circumscribes (i.e. goes around) the whole city. This road is called "The Beltway" because on the map it looks like a big donut and donuts look like belts. (Although if you eat a lot of donuts you won't need a belt, but like I said things around here are a bit screwy.) *Anyway*, the point of the Beltway is it gets you around the City.

This of course presents a problem because occasionally people don't actually feel like driving around the outside of the city. Sometimes they actually want to be taken somewhere *in* the city, which the Beltway is of course utterly inadequate at accomplishing.

So to summarize: on the one hand you have a giant, fast road that only goes outside the city, and on the inside you have horribly tangled, confusing streets clogged with innumerable taxis (etc.) inside.

Enter Clay Sails, student and daily commuter to D.C. from the northern suburbs, veteran driver from a large Southern California city where the freeways actually take you to locations you might actually want to go (albeit occasionally at a reduced speed due to excessive SUVs).

I am forced to utilize this Beltway against my will every single day. I skirt the outside of the city for a certain length of time before plunging in at a point closest to where I need to be and work my way along roads that seem to go in every direction but the one I actually need. Every time I have sought to find a direct path across the city I have been stymied by a profusion of obstacles both temporal and permanent -- many of which I have previously mentioned -- but one significant one that I have not: Rock Creek.

Rock Creek which, for those of you unfamiliar with the area, is in a long, skinny mill valley surrounded by a municipal park. For you Civil War fans, Rock Creek was the waterway Confederate Jubal Early followed on his famous 1864 raid. For Early it pointed like an arrow straight into the guts of the city. He was going from North to South. For commuters trying to cross the city West to East, it sits like an impassible wedge right across any street you might conceivably choose to follow. It is in fact its very obstinance that earns it the derision of activists and urban planners, for it acts as a nearly insoluble wall between the rich neighborhoods of Northwest and the poor neighborhoods of Northeast.

So you can see how a route through this formidable terrain would be to a D.C. commuter something akin to what the Northwest Passage was for Henry Hudson (not quite a quicker way to get to Asia -- but a quicker way to get to Columbia, Maryland).

My lovely female friend had to write her secretive instructions by hand because an electronic copy could be too easily copied and distributed, which would attract the attention of other commuters and diminish its utility. Since she uses this route every day -- even last night I suppose -- I am honored at her confidence and will guard the details of her secret jealously.

The park itself is populated mainly by trees and -- my friend says -- "deer" which I understand to be a type of skinny cow that doesn't produce much milk. Sometimes the park is populated by cops hunting for corpses, such as in the recent, tragic Chandra Levy case.

There are other things to do in the park besides merely drive through or hunt for corpses. For example, you can supposedly ride "horses" along the creek. (From what I gather "horses" are very tall cows that can run very quickly.) Why anyone would want to ride a horse instead of a a car through this park is beyond me -- the sound-system on a horse leaves a bit to be desired and you never have to put a diaper on a car. But who am I to judge what people do with their time when they're being obdurate and old-fashioned? The park is a wonderful vestige of what the area used to look like before progress wiped it out. It provides, as my friend says, a "moment of zen" in the midst of her daily commute. In addition to this, of course, it provides her -- and now me -- with an alternate route for my daily commute.

When I first moved to this area, well I first lived in Baltimore, but *then* moved into this funky old mansion in the country owned by Guy Brashears: a lovable, gun-toting, tanning booth brown, Reagan-loving nudist. That's a different story. Quite a good one, too. Remind me to tell you sometime. But the point is, we moved to this mansion and I had to commute across D.C. to Georgetown. It was a long, arduous way down country roads and Constitution ave, past the National Mall, the White House, etc. until the road dissolved into the remnants of the Foggy Bottom river shanty, at which point I was forced to take an inordinately intricate and very likely unknown passage through side streets and shady neighborhoods until I reached my place of employment. This route of mine, developed over several weeks of trial-and-error (with more error than trial) was subject to change at a moments notice due to road closures, timed one-ways, and civil demonstrations -- but it soon developed into a beautiful, elegant, passage that got me where I needed to be and avoided the hellish mess of Pennsylvania Avenue, K Street and DuPont Circle. There was no comparable "moment of zen" in this route of mine -- and it was in fact a highly precarious negotiation of quick lane-changes, backtracking, and aggressive driving (I was the "anti-Taxi" -- I never let those fuckers push me around). But it was still a beautiful thing, that route. Almost brings a tear.

Big, puffy snowflakes have been falling all day. I will soon test my new route in inclement weather. If you don't hear from me shortly, its safe to assume I'm lost but don't call out the dogs. Chances are I'll just be settin' down there by the riverside skipping stones (which is very easy to do on a frozen creek). Ciao.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

So on the good advice of my upcoast homie in the NYC, I spent a portion of my precious procrastination last night recording bits of "The Big Lebowski" to import into Fruity Loops. Of course my carpal tunnel syndrome seems to be coming back with a vengence every time I tweak on the computer but who needs hands? Actually I do -- at least until my wife gets back...*bad-DUM* (note: that's a channel 3 tom with 57hz reverb) Enough of my off color humor. Blame the Vietnamese coffee I just snorted. What was I saying? Oh yeah -- someday they'll actually perfect hands-free computing technology. Won't that be great? Not for most of you. Fingers are fairly pliable -- they can get the job done pretty well, better than using voice alone.

Maybe the computers of the future will be ESP-powered. We'll have screens on our eyelids and ethernet cables sprouting from our ears. God help us and me especially. I know my computer would jump around from program to program like a dust mite dying and going to the giant vacuum bag in the sky. It would be sheer chaos. All the caffeine and natural ADD in my head would ramp the operating system up to warp speed: straight into the pornographic nether regions of the web where it would reflexively remain except for the rare occasions when force of will and socialized sheepishness would yank it out and force it to behave itself. My brain would become so cluttered with pop-up ads and jerky Flash animations my hands would twitch continuously with the autonomic vestiges of past mouse usage (my carpal tunnel syndrome would become worse). Then I'd just sit there like a stone, dribbling from the corner of my mouth until I died from lack of water. (If anyone ever finds me in that condition will you please devise a way to re-circulate my drool? A working dribble circuit would drastically reduce my dehydration rate).

But "The Big Lebowski"... That's a movie. I have to state for the record that "Barton Fink" is still my favorite Coen Brothers movie, but BL comes close. It gets better and better with each subsequent viewing. Here's a scene between Walter and the Dude after Walter has pulled a gun on Smoky at the bowling alley for stepping over the line in his lane.


Walter and the Dude walk to the Dude's car. The Pomeranian
trots happily behind Walter who totes the empty carrier.

Walter, you can't do that. These
guys're like me, they're pacificists.
Smokey was a conscientious objector.

You know Dude, I myself dabbled with
pacifism at one point. Not in Nam,
of course--

And you know Smokey has emotional

You mean--beyond pacifism?

He's fragile, man! He's very fragile!

As the two men get into the car:

Huh. I did not know that. Well,
it's water under the bridge. And we
do enter the next round-robin, am I

No, you're not wrong--

Am I wrong!

You're not wrong, Walter, you're
just an asshole.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

I wouldn't ordinarily engage in a direct political debate with a fellow blogger, but since Jack will be getting my vote for President in 2004, I might as well chime in again. (See Jack's recent defense of Capitalism in "Oh, My Hell")

I am hardly a defender of socialism. The record is pretty clear on that. Unrestrained, both systems suck. Put together, they can sometimes achieve surprisingly humane and (economic and socially) progressive results. I fear capitalism in its rawest form -- its "free market" form -- because it has historically proven to be a poor way to ensure the broadest and best quality of life for the most people. Any examination of periods like the Gilded Age with its robber Rockafellers and Hunnington's and various nefarious sodium bicarbonate barons adequately show the problems of unrestrained capitalism. This being said, I fear market-directed communism (the purest form of socialism) much more because it is impossible to retain the flexibility necessary to address the continually changing needs of a society. Efforts to effect top-down direction of an economy requires a monopoly on power, which virtually ensures totalitarianism. If you thought Camp X-Ray was bad, try the Gulag.

Socialism as it is currently practiced in Europe is actually a hybrid of capitalism and communism. America, too, falls into that continuum with our various 30s-era saftey-nets. We're not as socialistic as Europe, obviously, and our economy may have benefited from having less restraints on it (i.e. lower taxes), but (Western) Europe has actually done quite well for itself over the past 50 years. It is impossible to judge its entire system based upon a decade or two of lackluster growth since "growth" itself is the ultimate capitalist fetish. Growth is capitalist crack: it gives a quick high and then leaves everybody with a nasty hangover in the form of drastic swings in employment, environmental degradation, overconsumption, and a quality of life that is ultimately unsustainable in the long term.

A better way to compare the two systems is to say: which society, ours or theirs, is more content? Statistics show that Europeans feel more secure about their jobs and are still able to concentrate on the things that make life good. Alternately, Americans are obese, stressed out, and extremely defensive about their "superior" position in the world. Give me a daily siesta and 6 weeks of vacation per year. Give me the knowledge that if I crash my sweet German car into a barricade of striking French trucks I'll go to the hospital and be taken care of without having to take out a third mortgage on my oversized house. For that I'll trade you my SUV and all my Worldcom options.

The argument that Europe is going broke and therefore sucks is simply not convincing: the United States is by far the largest debtor nation on Earth and if our economy ever really dives we'll be fucked much harder than they are -- especially since we are systematically dismantling our depression-era saftey nets.

I know its not fashionable to point at the long-term failures of NAFTA etc. but America's manufacturing capabilities are truly going to shit in face of cheaper foreign competition. We think we're so sophisticated, so "globalized" and on top of the "service economy". All of our edge relies upon two things: a fundamentally flawed belief in American exceptionalism, and an undeniable but extremely tenuous position as world economic leader. The problem with our current position is that, as companies globalize, they stop being "American" in anything but name. The wealth they generate ends up in the hands of international consortiums operated overseas. As globalization continues, there is downward pressure on wages since competition won't only be from traditional domestic sources, but will include workers in places where $1.50/hour is a good wage. The net effect of this expansion will be either a direct loss of jobs in this country, or a steady erosion of the of the middle class -- and its the middle class that has sustained America's economic buying power all these years, not some superior ability to exploit capitalism.

We must avoid listening to the radical free market capitalists. The Chileans listened to them in the 70s. Their economy tanked. The Argentinians listened to them in the 80s. Their economy tanked. The Thais listened to them in the 90s. Their economy tanked. The Russians listened to them in the early 90s. Their economy tanked. The American's listened to them in the 90s and last time I looked we weren't looking much better than the French, who never listen to anyone.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

I get this thing I've started calling "wintermind". Its this slow, but increasingly perceptable ache that rises from somewhere squarely in the chest. It feels like sorrow and it lasts for days sometimes, but what do I have to be sorry about? It feels like loneliness, but I'm never really alone. It feels like missing someone, but no one specific -- I don't indulge in that anymore (its painful and useless). So anyway this feeling -- its exacerbated by cold weather, stripped trees and particular music. The other night I was speeding through the town I live with Tom Wait's "Invitation to the Blues" scraping against my eardrums. I was peering into car windows like I always do but I couldn't make out any faces. The streets were full of yellow light, and every red brake light was too bright. Columbia is full of empty office buildings lit up like layer-cakes in the night. I've worked in some of those buildings: they are full of puffy CPAs and bland, pretty women without imaginations. My own head that night was full of the usual desire to drive too far to be found, or to meet beautiful strangers in places I shouldn't be and do things I shouldn't do. No harm in that, I suppose. Good plans never die, etc. But the general feeling -- this "wintermind" thing -- it can actually come at anytime. In the spring its "spring fever", in the summer its often at its worst -- especially in L.A. when the Santa Annas blow in hot off the desert and nothing is still (least of all the mind). On summer nights like that I used to go with friends up into the hills behind my folk's place or drive up Mulholland to where the road ends just to look out over the city. Nothing ever really resolves looking out over cities, of course. They're simply too impossibly huge to fit the mind around, but the effort always seems to be worth something. Even if its just a shrug and a newfound resolution to get the hell out of your head and get down to Denny's for midnight french fries and hot coffee with your friends.

I had to write this thing the other day for class -- an assignment to explain why I'm getting a history degree and why I'm in D.C.
Its never difficult to lay out the bones of my story: had a nice, normal childhood; had a lot of odd jobs; traveled the world, had some adventures; met women, lost women, got married, etc. Whatever. Here I am. There's no grand trajectory to it all, unless shuffling off to my grave with a look of bewilderment and wonder counts as knowing one's fate. I feel the same way about history: we're all just folks full of grand ideas but with impossibly finite lives. We make sense out of the things we do by following what people before us did and believing the things they believed, and by loving one another, of course, and by working to make things better or at the very least tolerable. Things always takes some sort of shape given enough time and though and so we tell stories about it, pat ourselves on our backs, nod wisely and assume we know what's going on. The stories become "history" even though collectively they tell as much about us by what we've forgotten to include than what we've remembered. And maybe we do or maybe we don't really know what's going on, but even our remembrance doesn't last forever. There's no immortality -- even for the famous. We might remember a quote or a decision, but once people are gone they are gone. The famous just take longer to dissappear. In the end we're more like Roy Batty in Blade Runner saying "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the Shoulder of Orion, I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost..."

Well damn. Didn't mean to get so morose. I'll just huddle down here by the space heater and warm up a bit. And don't worry about me. Life is grand and beautiful -- sometimes more so -- for all of its apparent brittleness.
I spoke with my wife yesterday. Somehow it is cheaper to call Maryland from Australia than it is for me to call Washington D.C. (20 miles down the road). The other day it cost me $7 to make a collect call from Washington D.C. to my house in the Baltimore suburbs. All you free-market yahoos oughtta come over here and see how well deregulation works. The problem with the free market is it:

a) assumes that every problem will be fixed by the market which assumes that
b) every problem somehow contains within it a viable vehicle for turning a profit which
c) turns every act of policy into a product to be bought, sold, and consumed which
d) in addition to wreaking havoc on the environment undermines any incentive to directly solve problems and
e) it assumes that the quantity of money in the world is sufficient to address all the problems that need solving which is
f) patently rediculous, just like free-market capitalism which (goto A)

At the moment I am currently sitting here hoping that the free market will solve the problem of snow, which was not predicted by the weathermen but is nevertheless falling very gently outside the window. Ordinarily this wouldn't be a problem but I have to go to school and get business done. There are students to meet, permits to acquire, books to skim. Hopefully the government will have cleared the roads. Probably they will have. They have an incentive: if they don't they will be ousted by voters as has happened here in the past (according to legend). If we left road-clearing to the free market we would end up with skyrocketing prices at crucial moments just like with the ol' California energy "crisis" of a few years ago. See, free market capitalism works great for capitalists: they can gouge us at crucial moments and use the threat of cheap overseas labor as leverage to keep domestic labor prices low. In the end the rich folks win by saving themselves money and the rest of us get the shaft. But we're supposed to be too impressed by their supply-side snake oil to notice the splintery but decorous 2x4 edging toward our collective anus. "Oooh, shiny," we're supposed to say.

But don't mind me. I'm just ranting because its cold outside and I don't really want to go anywhere. I think I'll get in the shower. I love my shower. It is so warm and toasty. I often take 2 showers a day. Behind my ears is so clean you could eat off it. I don't recommend that. It is difficult enough for me to sit still and it would be harder still with someone smacking in my ear and dribbling sauce in my hair.
A very dear old friend of mine called tonight -- a woman with whom I shared some very precious years with. It was really nice to hear from her. Although much time has passed, its nice to know we can still talk on the phone. Hell, its nice to know *I* can still talk on the phone. Usually I'm a troll on the phone:

Good Friend: blah blah blah
Me: Uh...
Good Friend: blah blah blah?
Me: Uh-uh.
Good Friend: blah blah blah
Me: Oh. Me hungry.

Anyway, three cheers to you, old friend. I was just sitting down to write some sort of self-pitying, morose and hopelessly affected doggerel which would bore me instantly and remain interesting to read for exactly .17 seconds until it became clear that there would be no wacky troupe of giggling clowns on trikes to save the day, no sorority girls superglued to surf boards, or post-apocalyptic mutant toilet brushes banding together to secretly devour the last toilet paper on earth. Instead I ended up yaking up a storm on the phone. Its good for me. Really.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Clay Sails' Abbreviated List of Party Etiquitte:

1. Minimize TV talk. No re-living entire episodes. The only thing duller than watching a bad TV show is listening to people gab about it.
2. No bitching about "the music". Parties are about people, not music. People who share their music with you at a party are taking a risk. If you don't like it, don't listen to it the other 99.99999% of your life you aren't at the party.
3. Always drink.
4. Always dance.
5. Do not pour beer on expensive furnature.
6. Do not pour beer on your cheap friends.
7. Do not expect approval for knowing the significance of "42", or for sucessfully quoting the "Knights of Ni".
8. Everybody agrees that politics are worth fighting about. Just fight about them away from the cheese bowl.
9. Always wear a bullet proof vest if you're going to play with guns at a party. Bring extras for your friends.
10. If you think a party sucks because nobodys there, it probably sucks because you're there.
I tried smoking a pipe last night. Failed miserably as usual. Am I the only idiot who can't properly smoke a pipe? Ok, here's the theory as far I understand it, tell me if I'm doing anything wrong:

1. Load pipe with tobacco.
2. Insert little end of pipe in mouth.
3. Light big end.
4. Leisurely inhale smoke into mouth.
5. Repeat step 4 until tobacco is entirely consumed.

Here's what I do:
1. Load pipe with tobacco.
2. Insert little end of pipe in mouth.
3. Light big end.
4. Hastily inhale smoke into mouth before pipe goes out.
5. Pipe goes out.
6. Repeat steps 3 - 5 several times until accumulated smoke causes gasping, at which point accidentally *blow* into pipe.
7. Heedless of personal safety, hastily snatch burning cherry from carpet. Rub charred spot in carpet with shoe to remove hole whilst simultaneously sucking fingers.
8. Repeat steps 3 - 5 until accumulated blood-nicotine levels far exceed FDA recommendations, at which point abruptly drop pipe and stumble into bathroom. Press face against cool tile floor until nausea passes.
9. Do not repeat step 8.
10. Sell Pipe on ebay.

One might ask why I was even trying to smoke a pipe to begin with. Its obviously stupid to cultivate another dangerous addiction but crank just isn't doing it anymore and heroin is getting expensive. The whole "pipe smoke smells good" thing only works for the first 5 minutes, then it starts to smell like shit just like cigarette tobacco. Actually, I try to smoke that damn pipe every other year or so (with predictable results) because I actually enjoy the physical act of smoking. Plus my wife is out of the country for a few weeks so I can get away with it. She'll come home smelling like smoke, too: an area the size of Switzerland is burning around Canberra. Apparently the Aussies are getting hit by the biggest forest fires they've had since last year. Something like 400 homes have gone up already. Sucky.

On other fronts: on the recommendation of many I watched "The Sopranos" first season last week. A most excellent show. Tows the line between pathos, sensitivity and humor very nicely. I also watched all 10 episodes of "Band of Brothers". Despite it being yet another retelling of the same tired WWII drama (in which the US single handedly smites the Germans) it was also quite good. Not as moralistic as many war movies (either pro or anti war). In fact, it avoids making a statement about war and concentrates on making a statement about warriors.

I intended to go to the protests yesterday but it was too damn cold. Somewhere in the 20s. I'm a fair-weather activist, I guess.

Last night I finally got a good nights sleep. Went to a mellow but fun dinner party. Fell asleep at 2 after the pipe fiasco, woke up at 9.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Well, I'm back. I would have been back sooner but the incoherent, sentimental blog I wrote the other morning after my 4th sleepless night vanished when the laptop battery died. So much for sentiment. Last night I managed to slip into half-sleep for a few hours around 3 a.m. At least I guess it was last night. (What day is today?)

Yeah, sleep is a luxury for me, not a necessity. Lack of it makes me dull and humorless. Ordinarily I'm droll and sharp as Big Bird's beak. The first night of restless sleeplessness is usually accompanied by frenzied scribbling in various spiral notebooks I keep handy for such occasions. My midnight journals. I guess its probably doggerel but I've scored a hit or two when the house is quiet and the mind is hooked on beta waves. I'm often more raw and honest. One night of insomnia is no big deal. Often I'll fall asleep as the sun comes up -- somehow first light relaxes me. If not, the second night of sleeplessness is usually met with resignation. "Here it comes" I think, cuz Day Two is usually followed by a Day Three. Often I'll fall asleep during the following (third) day, which has a tendancy to reverse my sleeping schedule. And if I wake up at 4 in the afternoon after tossing and turning in bed for two nights the last thing I want to do is jump back into bed at 10:00 p.m. and try to get back on schedule. Day Three is just a day of coping. I run on adrenaline just to plod through. Simple chores are momentus tasks. Light hurts. Speech is slowed to a slur. All thought is reduced to simplistic, forebrained (i.e. short term) stuff. This week I stayed awake straight through to Day 4, catching two hours of shallow sleep yesterday morning before class. By Day Four my emotions start to fray. I get depressed. Strange colors explode in the corners of my eyes. My ears ring. Daylight dims and brightens outside as if the sun were perpetually moving among clouds.

When I was a kid with insomnia I used to quail and fret and get angry. It rarely gets to that point these days. Its not as frequent as it once was, besides. My senior year in college I was a ghoul. I never slept.

So whats it all about? Nothing specific, but I have a feeling its about ennui, existentialism, and the ephemerality of life. Its about making big decisions, figuring out what to do with myself, etc. The usual unanswerables. So what, can't do anything about it, get over it, right? Sure. That's a normal response. That's normally my response, too. I hate self-pity and to be honest, I'm not as concerned about myself and my own encroaching middle-age or death, I just like life and I hate missing it and I hate missing people. Sleep is some form of surrender and I'm a gritty old bastard. I fight even when there's nothing to fight against, even when its patently self-defeating. Heh. You'll see me in a coffee shop in ten years, unshaven, raving. I'll give you a thousand-yard stare and ask you obscure things like: did you plant the moon on time? what about the violets, Ms. Andrews?

What have I been up to besides not sleeping? Lots of stuff. Last week I wrote a 46 stanza story-song called "The Ballad of the Cimarron Kid". (The Cimmeron) is a river in Texas. If you think the lyrics are weak you should hear the song! Nevertheless, I quite like it and when its in slightly better shape I'll share that with you. In the meantime, find the lyrics on the Days of Silent Radio.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Its January 8, 2003, somewhere around 3:53. The U.S. has just deployed B-1 bombers to the Persian Gulf. Despite Rumsfeld's incredulity that anyone would have the audacity to suggest that war is "inevitable," we will soon be at war. Yes, troops have been deploying for weeks, yes we've been stockpiling equipment "quietly" for months, etc. but when the B-1's go they will be especially vulnerable to enemy attack. No commander would deploy them and then leave them exposed while other preparations are made. I believe we will very shortly now be at war to spank Saddam, our disobedient child. We might win. After that will it be North Korea? Last time we tried to spank North Korea we got swatted by China. I guess the hawks will leave North Korea alone awhile and let it implode of its own volition. If it does, the South will dominate *and* have nukes, and we'll have another ally in our growing, unspoken containment of China. At least thats how folks see it. I suppose. Or it could lead to another global war and the further erosion of our relations with most of the rest of the world.

This is depressing-talk. I think I'll just sit back, crack a beer, and pop on CNN. I hope I'm not late for the war.