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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: September 14-September 20, 2003

Friday, September 19, 2003:

Yesterday, Adrienne and I rode up to Ann Arbor. She needed to stop at Shar music to get a violin case and some fiddle sheet music, and she then took me to Urban Outfitters to have a look around for clothes that I might look good in. I'd never been in the store before, and although I liked the way a lot of the clothes and home furnishings looked (and also dug the music they were playing: Stereolab and Ladytron), the whole place struck me as a little oxymoronic. It's a big chain store that's masquerading as a thrift shop, with mass-produced shirts that are supposed to look like great, ironic catches from the Salvation Army. For $24 each. As I said, I really like the look- though I loathe most of the disdainful hipsters who share said look- but a whole ensemble at Urban Outfitters would run at least $100, and you could replicate it at a decent thrift store for about $5. Adrienne did give me a good idea of the sort of thing I should be looking for, though. She's great at giving fashion advice. (The trip to UO wasn't a total loss either, because she bought some cool socks with strawberries on them and some lotion that smells enchantingly like lemon custard.) (And, typing that last sentence, I've realized that the store could probably do some subtle product placement by running a line of Urge Overkill T-shirts, for the band logo alone. That could replace the CBGB's shirt that they're currently selling, which I personally find a little sacreligious.)

We ate lunch at Amer's Mediterranean Deli (or something to that effect; I threw away my receipt), which was pretty good. Their tip jar read, "If you fear change, leave it here!" I gave them a dollar because I thought that was cute.

It took a long time for us to drive home- due in no small part to me once again getting on the wrong highway despite the fact that I have been to Ann Arbor at least a couple hundred times and should really have the route down pat by now- but it was fine because it meant Adrienne 'n' I got to chat the whole way, and I've missed that. I was having so much fun with her that I don't think I even cussed at any other drivers, though Adrienne may correct me on this point. I probably just don't notice I'm doing it anymore. At any rate, it was a great time. Especially considering that I'd spent most of the morning at work fending off tears of rage at how horrible the world is. (I forget exactly what brought this mindframe on, but I remember considering running out to my car for a quick, Holly Hunter-in-Broadcast News crying jag because I was really upset at the fact that at least 90% of the children's books we receive are utter garbage. They're movie tie-ins, they're humorless wads of preachy political correctness, they're disgusting corporate brainwashing like The Cheerios Guide to Math, but they're not fun or smart or interesting. There's no creativity, and somehow I found that really sad.)

Uneventful day at work today. There's an Olivia the Pig jack-in-the-box that's been sitting in the receiving room all week because one of our coworkers labeled it defective. ("Doesn't work," says the Post-It note stuck to the box, but Jon and I determined that our coworker had merely been turning the handle in the wrong direction. There is no qualifying exam to work at Barnes & Noble.) On his lunch break, Jon had the idea to push Olivia's head down into the box while the lid was open, and stuff a bunch of styrofoam peanuts in the box on top of her. Thus, when he turned the handle till the box popped open, there was a fun little styrofoam geyser that burst from the toy! That kept us entertained for a good ten minutes, and would probably have lasted for hours more if we didn't have to receive all those stupid boox.

That's how all the cool people spell "books."

For the past couple weeks, Jon and I have occasionally been passing the receiving time by recounting tales from our respective childhoods that are especially potent in our minds. It's a lot of fun, because the mere exercise of trying to think up new anecdotes to share with each other causes long-dormant memories to bubble to the surface. And Jon suggested I start writing some of them down, so here's one that I liked:

In third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Stone, used to distribute a bunch of blank, 16-page books that she'd mimeographed, so that we could indulge our burgeoning creative impulses by writing and illustrating short stories when we were done with our day's busywork. Every time one of the students "wrote" a book, it would be placed on a rack by our coats, so the other kids could read and enjoy (and/or deface and destroy) them during recess. It was actually a really cool little project that was offered to us, encouraging our writing skills while sneakily posing as a hobby. Well played, Mrs. Stone. Unfortunately, I was ultimately forbidden from writing any more books, after Mrs. Stone became aware that I'd written 20 or 30 of them, the majority of which were about my classmates. The one that particularly drew her ire, as I recall, was about a kid in my class named Jay- an Indian kid, who I actually remember as a very nice guy, all the way through high school. But that didn't stop me from writing a fictional story about a class soccer game in which Jay got hit by lightning on every single page.

After page two, on which I triumphantly employed my non-existent goalie skills to prevent Jay from scoring, the rest of the book basically consisted of Jay falling into a gigantic, lightning-formed crater that extended to the center of the earth, painstakingly crawling back out of the hole, and then getting hit by lightning and falling back in again, over and over, to the delight of myself and all the other kids in my class. Jay wasn't thrilled with it when he read it, for obvious reasons. However, the thing that most upset Mrs. Stone was not the fact that I treated one of my classmates with all the narrative respect of Itchy flaying Scratchy in scene after scene, but rather the fact that I'd colored his skin with a brown crayon rather than the peach crayon I'd used for all the other kids who were depicted in the book. (None of whom, it should be noted, came off particularly well either. Toward the end of the story, my character just started punting the rest of my classmates into the hole with Jay.) Not that I was trying, of course, to say that Jay was different from or inferior to all the white kids in my class; it's just that when all your characters are drawn in a nearly identical fashion that's not much more detailed than a stick figure, you look for any identifying features that will differentiate one person from another. I remember sort of resenting the implication that I was being racist, and I think I started drawing unflattering cartoons of Mrs. Stone soon afterward, for my private stash.

Kitu's favorite song thus far: "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band. She was trying to whistle along with it when it came on the radio. And she's been saying "Uh-oh" over and over at other times. She's the Eeyore of birds! She's so cool!

CURRENT MUSIC: Curtains by Tindersticks.
Extremely premature anticipation for the Ween show on November 5, to which I've just purchased tickets.
Nice and gloomy and cool. Hurricane Isabel rules!
9:00 PM (but not posted till Saturday morning due to ER season one on DVD).

Doot? | |

Wednesday, September 17, 2003:

I sent Jess a copy of that letter last night, and neglected to mention ahead of time that a woman wrote it. (I thought that would come through very quickly, but she quickly scanned it on her initial read, and missed the "golddigger" part.) So when she got to the "I am Ernie- I am master of my kingdom" bit, she thought some guy was writing it about himself. If you go back and re-read that portion of the letter as if Ernie wrote it, it's hilarious. Jess also told me about Found magazine, which is made up entirely of found letters, photos, and other things that people have left behind. Their subscription prices are insane, but it might be worth ordering a single issue to see what it's like.

More violent dreams last night. I dreamt that I'd finally gotten to a point where I'd snapped and gotten in the habit of punching people who irritated me in any way. I visited Adrienne at school and wound up slugging most of her classmates in the face for one reason or another. Or no reason at all! Adrienne seemed amused by the whole thing, because in the dream, I suspected that she'd been wanting to punch most of these people for several weeks herself.

CURRENT MUSIC: Remedy by Basement Jaxx.
FUN WITH TRACKING NUMBERS: According to the Postal Service website, the audio masters and artwork for The Airbag's Lipstick Kiss are now in... Utica, Michigan! Exactly where they were yesterday afternoon, when I mailed them at the Utica post office. Glad I paid for Priority Mail on that!
TIME: 10:13 AM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, September 16, 2003:

Okay, here's the text of the letter Stacie found in the parking lot the other day. It's long. The letter is written in girl handwriting, surprisingly neatly, with no scratched-out words or visible corrections (except one, which you'll see), which suggests that this is the final draft of a letter that was thought through very carefully. I'm just including it on the site here because it's fun to look into other people's lives. Not just to mock them or get any sort of vicarious thrills, but because it's nice to remember that there are millions of other people in the world whose lives are just as complex and convoluted as mine. Sometimes it's comforting to keep in mind that I'm nothing special, and that the world is spinning off in infinite directions regardless of my problems- or involvement. So let's see how this goes. I've added necessary comments in brackets, and changed all the names that pop up. However, I've retained the grammatical and spelling errors because it's more real that way (and, I'll admit, funnier too).

I'm not going to comment on the actual content of the letter, because it was never meant to fall into my hands in the first place, but I will say that it does seem really heartfelt in its own way, and maybe even sweet at points, as perplexing as it frequently is. If you're in the right mood, it's also heartbreaking. (If you like this sort of thing, check out the book I Listen by The Spacewurm. It's a collection of transcripts of conversations The Spacewurm picked up while scanning various cell phone frequencies, and it's really cool.) Here we go. Enjoy!

My Dearest-

I know what your reaction must have been when you saw an envelope addressed to you from me. Uh oh now what?

Well, sometimes, I need to write what I'm thinking in my head, because if I had to look at you and say the things I need to say, I would just cry and cry and the tears would become a waterfall and I just get embarrased, and then I feel foolish.

I've been feeling foolish and embarrased a lot lately anyway, so I'll try anything to save whatever dignity I may have left. It may not seem to you as if I have any dignity left to stand on, but I assure you I do. I am not just a pathetic loser. I don't now, nor have I ever just simply expected people to do things for me, or give (to me) anything without being repaid in return. I have always lived by this thought- a kindness should be repaid a hundred fold, because it is not sought after, but given from the heart. In my lifetime, I have been the recipient and the giver of many acts of kindness. I don't believe any of them has ever gone unnoticed by myself or by those who have received a kindness from me. It's karma. For instance, Alyssa's little smile [Willie's note: name changed.] and her phone calls are worth more to me than any effort I may expend on her behalf. How could I add up hours, and money spent, or effort made and come up with a bottom line that equals her face lighting up with delight and happiness.

It's funny that somewhere deep inside your head, you have come to a conclusion that possibly my interest in you comes from the situation I find myself in. I actually think this rather amusing- if it were not so sad! It's amusing, because in my whole life, I have never been accused of being a "golddigger." I admit that I had opportunities to take advantage of men and what they had to offer, but, I always chose honor and integrity. To my way of thinking, using people would present a burden on me that I don't want to bear. I could not live with the little voice inside of my head telling me that I had given up a principle I live by, and believe in.

You my darling have nothing I want- in a material sense. Nothing! I don't want your home, money, vacations, cars. I don't put a pricetag on our relationship. Having your van has caused me to not be able to sleep well again. I was awake alot of last night- with you next to me. When we were at that dealership, I was thinking, ok, ok, ok. If I can get a job, and still do permanent makeup, and be really careful, I could somehow manage a car payment and insurance. I was running all of these things through my head, but I was feeling so sick inside, I wanted to throw up. I am just not emotionally able to accept anyone wanting to do things for me, just because. It happens so rarely. But, it brings me to the point that I would never just take something from you, or anybody else without being responsible for my share. I thank you so much for being the person you are and for wanting to help me. Everybody who knows me knows that I despise having to accept help. I would rather run away and hide. I hope you realize how much I appreciate how hard you had to work for what you have. Starting over is never easy. It does not matter if you are a man or woman- it's hard to find the energy to begin again. I hope that despite what you may think about me, or my possible ulterior motives, that you will always know I hold you and your work in high esteem. Maybe you don't realize it, but I have so much respect for you, and the person you are personally and professionally too.

You said to me yesterday that I turned your world upside down. You said that you were emotionally involved with me, and now your life was in turmoil because of me. At the time, I felt sorry that I did this to you, but I take it all back. I'm glad I did. I don't want you to be miserable about me, but I don't want you to be dead either. It's good to care about someone. It's good to be emotionally involved. Turmoil and chaos is not always a bad thing. Togetherness is good. Aloneness is lonely. I truly have no hidden agenda. I certainly don't care about you because of your net worth. But I care about you because of what you are worth to me, and, it's a lot more than mere money or possessions.

I don't think you are selfish (as you said) I think you are trying to protect yourself, and trying to preserve the life you have made for yourself, and if that's what you want, really want, well allright you can have it. You can have your peace and quiet. You can have your silence and tranquility. You can continue being Ernie I Am. [Willie's note: Name changed here. His name isn't really Ernie, but it's not Sam either, if that's what you're thinking.]

Here's the scenario-

I am Ernie- I am the master of my kingdom. I am the ruler of my life. My home is my castle. My bed is my refuge and my throne. I have the power because the remote is mine, and I control it. My life is my life, it is mine and mine alone. I say who enters, I determine who leaves and when. I have a place where I go- when I am on vacation from the cares of the world. It's quite primitive. I call it the cave, and God forbid that anyone dare to intrude on the sanctity of my home, heart, or cave.

To those who pay no heed to the great "I Am" I have methods of dealing with you. If you refuse to obey the

Do not enter for long sign

prepare to meet the cave dwelling dragon. His method of battle is fire breathing e-mails.

Enter: Cinderella girl. Great princess potential with the proper care and training. Now residing in the cinders.

Yikes- Cinderella girl meets the great I Am. Falls for his blue eyes. Knows she's in big trouble. She's kind of a friendly lapdog. Just pet me, and love me cause I don't bite.

Well, the plot thickens. She certainly does not bite, but she's definitely trouble. She makes the "I Am" person just a little uncomfortable. She makes him laugh. She talks to him during football games and while he's watching a good program. She makes his kingdom a little noisier. She actually invaded the throne room; (curses) and has kept him awake past his bedtime. Made him lose valuable working time, and caused him severe emotional stress. She dares to go right to the opening of the cave and calls him out to play. She is a little afraid of the dragon, but she realizes that the dragon sometimes likes to play with her.

Well, he (the Great I Am) thinks who does Cinderella girl think she is? She just doesn't have a clue about who she's messing with.

This is my kingdom, my bed, my blanket, my life and my remote. I am the dragon.

The princess in training thinks to herself- maybe love isn't enough. Maybe he would be happier in his right side up world, meeting other princesses people; even if they were not as cute, or funny, or filled with joy or laughter, maybe he would really prefer having his quiet home back, watching Jay Leno alone, sleeping in his cold empty bed. Eating ice cream all by himself- with nobody to share with. Never having his coffee explode. Having sex without love. Never having someone to playfully scold [Willie's note: it really looks like this says "scald," but I'm going to give humanity the benefit of the doubt here.] - Oh, poor Cinderella, she is so confused.

She really want's the Great "I Am" to risk feeling alive. To risk "feeling." She thinks the risk of allowing oneself to "feel" is the greatest fear of all. It can allow us to feel love and pain too.

She, herself has taken this risk. The Great "I Am" has put her on a roller coaster, and forgotten to take her off. But- she would rather feel the fear and pain, because at least she knows she's still alive.

She doesn't feel pathetic and lost, she feels like a princess- so here is the end of another letter. I bet your glad. You know Honey, I really have to disagree with you. I believe our relationship has developed most wonderfully. Just think how well we know one another. If we had just been casually dating with no chaos or turmoil we would barely know one another. But as it is, we know each others flaws, we know all of the good stuff too. We know what's in our hearts and our minds. You know I love your eyes and I love your smile too. I love to cuddle with you, and I'm sure you must at least like something about me too. I'm not sure what, but I think you do.

I can't think of a nicer way to care about someone. Not every relationship can have the wonderful opportunity that ours has had. Just think how God has blessed us by allowing us to be able to work out the rough spots at the beginning of the relationship. Most couples don't have that advantage. Now that we are into our third month together, we can enjoy new and exciting challenges. Isn't God wise? and wonderful to us? Ok Honey, I think things are going well. How about you? Just put my name on the checking account and credit cards and I'll forget about this unfortunate incident. [Smiley face.] L.O.L.

Love you! Bye bye,
[Illegible signature.]

As an afterthought, I want to say that I am terribly sorry to have dragged you into my mess.

I guess I have to look at your point of view- and my darling- I wish I could take it all back except for meeting you.

I'll never regret that. The only thing I can do is promise that I won't hurt you. I don't know if that even matters, I'm just confused by all of this. I guess God thinks I need more character, because all of this is making me a much better person.

I wish I could take back the last 2 months and start over with no difficulties. No- that's a lie. I would never give it back. Ever- ever.

CURRENT MOOD: Voyeuristic.
MY CLEVER/ANNOYING BIRD AMUSEMENT DEVICE: Singing "The Cuckoo" by Hem with Kitu's name in place of the word cuckoo.
TIME: 6:12 PM.

a Doot? | |

Monday, September 15, 2003:

For the next month or so, I'm going to be fostering a mitred conure parrot! Her name is Kitu, she's 30 years old, and her owner recently died, so she's a pretty bummed bird. She seems like she's getting used to me, though. I mean, apart from the fact that she angrily lunges at me every time I get near her cage... I baked her some Birdie Bread earlier today (Jiffy corn muffin mix with eggshells, apples, cayenne pepper, carrots, and a vitamin supplement mixed in), and she seems to enjoy that, so hopefully we'll be making friends soon. I sang her a few Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 songs, too, which she seemed to like.

And in Kitu's big bag of food, I found a four-chambered peanut. Truly, these are the Last Days.

CURRENT MUSIC: Double Figure by Plaid.
"I'm desperately lonely and I'm horny as hell." -Harvey Pekar. Let's see how many American Splendor quotes I can use in the coming days and weeks!
MYSTERY SOLVED: According to Entertainment Weekly, it's spelled tszujing.
TIME: 8:40 PM.

Doot? | |

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