Wednesday, August 30, 2006

who wants to open a bagel joint with me?

i tell you, gourmet bagels are an untapped venture in champaign. i've kept the idea of opening a bagel stand in the back of my mind since visiting my buddy dave in carbondale, where they have this guy who grills bagels and fruit/veggie toppings outside the bars when they close. i thought it was genius. the guy's been doing it for a long time, too, and at five bucks a bagel and an endless supply of drunken clientele, he has the right idea. and the things are delicious, too. right now, i'm resting my dogs after a long afternoon of walking all over san francisco at caffe sapore, a little coffee/cafe spot in the bay area, and i swear i just had the best bagel of my life. wheat bagel, topped with avocado, tomatoes, swiss cheese, red oninos, basil, olive oil, dijon and za'atar*. fucking delicious. let's take this shit and run with it! who's with me?

that is, if i come back to champaign at all...

part of the reason for visiting al in austin was to check up on the way they run things at that dell center. since they're just setting up camp, they have openings for supervisors, which is what i've been doing for the past year and a half. i knew going into it that they wanted to interview me for the job, but after so long in that hell of a factory, the idea of sticking with staff management in any capacity wasn't high on my list of things to do. but after seeing the place, and especially after coming to san francisco and comparing this sense of estrangement here to that at-home atmosphere of austin, i started thinking about the offer a little more seriously. the guy i was to meet with in austin ended up flying out for the weekend, so we missed each other. but since bringing all of this to the front of my mind (maybe six hours ago), i've set up a phone interview for tomorrow during my layover in atlanta, and have spent my lunch hour looking at places to rent on craigslist. so, uh...

what am i doing? i have no fucking idea. but it's funny, that when i called my dad today from the top of telegraph hill and told him what's been on my mind, he said our friend amanda had told him just the other day that she knew i wasn't coming back. amanda's always had me pegged, whether i like to admit it or not. and as much as i love proving her wrong, i'm a little anxious to see how this one pans out.

i don't know if you've seen the trailer for the wild parrots of telegraph hill or not, but i set off in search of these birds today. i'm down to my last seven bucks, and i decided to trade my bus fare for a coffee and just foot it today. these hills are no joke, my legs are exhausted. but i did it, trekked across the city and ended up at coit tower, at the top of a hill overlooking the bay on one side and the city on the other. beautiful. i heard the parrots first, then ran for somewhere i could look up without seeing trees, and there they were. twenty or more of them, all flying together, squawking loudly. and then they were gone. i tried following them and ended up seeing them twice more, but for no longer than i did the first time. it was still perfect, and made me miss my lovebird, calvin.

well, i have a long, hilly trip ahead of me, and hopefully a nap at the end. i have a playlist to finish and a sushi dinner to scout out. you know, on a sunny day, san francisco is goddamn lovely.

tamarindus indica

a few weeks ago, ryan heindl gave me a copy of tom wolfe's the kool-aid acid test. i haven't really had time to read it since then, but i took it with me on the trip, and am almost knee-deep in the thing now. it's crazed, drug-addled, mad -- so much that it might help to be a little fucked-up yourself when you read it. i, however, am not, and the damned thing is only good for me in small doses. it's holding my attention, though, which is more than i can say for any other book i've started in the last year.

i raise my window shade halfway and look out over the soft tops of clouds. it's cold on the plane. i've been cold a lot, lately -- unspoiled by a life without air conditioning. texan sun is perfect, hot but not humid, and usually on its own in a blue-eye-blue sky, with clouds for neighbors rather than enemies. the soft sea of white outside my window has broken into big, friendly puffs of cotton, casting fluffy shadows on a dry, desert floor as they shuffle by.

it's the reading that has me writing, i'm sure of it. one can't be in my life without the other, and both have been absent for a long time. wolfe's manic prose has me probing through this cobwebbed brain for better words and more poetic punctuation than i'm used to using. not poetic, that's not the word. it's the word i want to use, but not one i trust myself to back up. not anymore, or at least not yet. not yet.

i'm also partially inspired by this exotic-looking woman sitting at the window seat opposite mine. she's writing in a journal with a design on its cover that reminds me of the dress rachel was wearing when i saw her last. this girl reminds me of rachel, too, the tone of her skin and shape of her face. she's curled up, cold too, against her window, the pale skin on her arms showing through to tiny, purple veins, working to keep her small body warm. i wonder what she sees out of her window -- nothing, now. her eyesed are closed. asleep? i wonder if she's dreaming.. outside my window, the cotton puffs are giving way to wide, open stretches of sky. the brown, texas earth lies still below.

her dress sparkles -- the way she moves, so fluidly. she might be an alien. a beautiful alien.

some nonsense notebook rabble i wrote on the plane from austin to phoenix. san francisco's been really nice, kinda chillly, but carissa and emily have been wonderful. i'm working on stretching $40 over three days, and so far, it's been a successful challenge. more on that, them, and california, after i spend some quiet time with carissa's new mix and this cup of coffee.


Monday, August 28, 2006

run, run, rudolph

i couldn't have scripted it better myself. in those early, restless hours of the morning, i could have written a choose-your-own-adventure short story depending on when i thought i'd wake up. when i was downstairs for breakfast, i balked on asking for an 11:00 wake-up call -- it sounded silly, and besides, i wasn't even staying in my own room. as far as homewood suites austin knew, i was al jones of staff management office 32 in detroit. i didn't even eat downstairs, but filled a plate and took it back up to my room. you know what they say about hindsight being 20/20? well...

despite having set three alarms, and i KNEW three alarms wouldn't be enough, your wannabe hero rolls lazily over to check his phone at exactly 11:50 a.m. -- just like any hotel, checkout is at noon; more importantly, last night, i'd booked a shuttle to take me to the airport at noon, as well (there's another minor, head-aching story involved with that, which i'd promised myself i'd forget in the morning, so we can't go there).

11:50 A.M. -- i knew it was going to happen, i knew it i knew it i knew it i knew it. like i just whined about in the post previous, i've been working overnights, i KNOW my body and i know how much sleep i need and i know how little i usually allow it after i get off work at seven every morning. i know how many alarms it takes to wake me (five, no less) and i know how often even that doesn't work. so i knew, crawling into bed at 6:30 a.m., that there was a chance i'd be finding another way to the airport and possibly another flight, if waking up went as horribly wrong as it could have. i knew this.

still, i thought the importance of waking up on time would somehow worm its way into my brain and, when those three ringtones sounded off at 10:25, :35, and :45, i would wake up bright-eyed and raring to go. even then, i could almost see it...

running around the hotel suite like the crazy-ass i am, mapping out in my mind where everything was in the place, where i'd thrown my socks and where i'd used my phone charger last, my shampoo was in the bathroom, toothbrush by the sink, six-pack of lone star in the fridge for mark when i get back, clothes in here, clothes in there -- i was even humming "run, run, rudolph," humoring myself by thinking i was in a home alone movie.

but i made it downstairs in time, van was outside, filled up my travel mug with some coffee in the lobby, grabbed a newspaper and threw my room keys on the counter. i didn't have time to explain how i wasn't al, which was good, even though they didn't ask anyway, but only wanted to know if he had left or not. he had. they -- oh, you don't even know about al! well, long story short, i'm a stupid, funny fucker who can neither sleep nor wake, currently sitting safely and soundly in austin's bergstrom airport, typing away on my lovebird-defaced laptop and watching beautiful women walk right past me. my flight doesn't start boarding for another hour and a half. i can't even get through security until i finish my coffee, anyway. we're on orange alert, you know...

i met al jones when he came down to work at plastipak, for staff management, the staffing agency from which i've recently resigned, while plastipak served as our site of operations in champaign, il. staff sets up these on-site offices, so every SM office is unique and devoted only to its home factory or warehouse, or whatever the client is. al had come from detroit, through a rather noble move on his part -- corporately (a 22-year-old should never have to be so familiar with the word), staff was having to cut some corners, and most offices evenutally downsized. well, at office 32, they eliminated an entire shift of workers and, consequently, a supervisor's job. rather than see his buddy lose his job, al volunteered to travel with the company and let this other guy fill his own spot. he came down to champaign to help us fill the vacant supervisor's spot on the overnight shift opposite mine. so we worked together. i showed him the lay of the land, the way we run things down there, how to handle plastipak's asshole personnel and when and when not to make exceptions for our own. it's a god-awful job, don't even get me started. point is, al and i worked together for a month or two before they found him a permanent replacement, and i got to thinking al was a pretty cool guy.

well, now, al is part of staff management's "new business" operation. kind of. new business is in charge of rolling out new staff accounts across the country. i say he's kind-of part of it because he's actually still a supervisor in detroit, waiting for his old spot to open back up, but in the meantime he's traveling with new business. a bit of a rotten deal, seeing that new business makes considerably more than us little guys, but then, staff management's a bit of a rotten company. corporation.

al had just spent six weeks in nashville training at one of the new dell accounts SM had somehow sweet-talked their way into. well, actually, i know they'd been trying to secure these dell accounts for over a year and finally did, so they must be doing something right because it's a pretty big-stinking-deal. the nashville account was the prototype that worked, and now, new business, and al jones, were rolling out the rest of the dell accounts nationwide. al came to champaign shortly after i had come back from my first round in austin, so he called me almost as soon as he touched down: "hey man, i'm in austin! you should come visit!"

i told him, matter-of-factly, i was planning on leaving the place soon and was looking to get away for a while, and i'm sure i could pencil austin into my plans. in the following weeks, we'd even set up the possibility of my getting a job down here -- other persons involved had some last-minute schedule changes, so i didn't get to meet with the guys i was to meet with, but al's been hyping me, so we'll see if i can't get a phone interview or something later this week. i wasn't thinking seriously about the offer until now, though, all these gorgeous women walking by...

so yeah, that's al. we had a great time, schmoozed with some of the people he works with at this little dell community down here, got drunk and got lost, and talked our ways into as many free meals or drinks as possible. peas in a pod. he had to leave yesterday, but told the hotel his flight had changed and he'd be staying an extra day, and left the room to me. a free night on staff management, i figure they owe me at least as much, since i'm not so sure my vacation time is going to pay out as accurately as i'm hoping.

anyway, that's my story. my battery is running low, so i'm going to try to post this and pack up, and try finding another starbucks in this place. i'm still sleepy-eyed. i need to wash my face and brush my teeth, too.


insomnia, you cocksucker

so i expected some recoil from trying to readjust to a normal, daytime schedule, after working an overnight shift for a year and a half. i never even had that much trouble doing the day-to-day, work one night and have the next one off, be up with everyone else in the a.m. and take a nap before going to work again. i'd sometimes work part-time from noon until i had to go work overnight, making for around an 18-hour day, only to do it all over again the next. but this... maybe it's jet lag and the long drive throwing my circadian rhythm for one final, conquering loop. i don't know. but this is ridiculous. five-fucking-thirty in the morning? ten hours ago, i was toying around with the thought of going to bed early and hitting up the continental breakfast before checking out. at this rate, i could probably shower, dress and beat everyone else down there...

the night started well enough, working on a new playlist for carissa, a kind of postlude to this amazing day: slept in, spent the afternoon by the pool, caught up with mom and dad on the phone, got a greasy bite to eat at "sam's boat" across the parking lot, and left myself exactly enough time to catch up on my deadwood episodes before the season finale at 8p. it was a truly spectacular day. i was even going to go back over to sam's to hang out on my last night in town, but decided to forego that in favor of... well, getting to bed early. looking back, i should've just gotten drunk and passed out.

i laid in bed for a while, carissa's new playlist playing from the living room -- could not fall asleep. when the mix stopped, i gave up and came back in the living room, messed around on the computer for a bit and finally caved, made a grilled cheese and sat down to catch up on my other-new-favorite show, weeds, of which i'd only earlier finished downloading the rest of season one and as many episodes as have been aired for season two. see, carissa has already packed up her television and is on withdrawal, so i promised her i'd find tomorrow's (today's, fuck!) episode as soon as i got out there. she's amazed at my downloading wizardry. and you know, sometimes, so am i... anyway, i'd only seen a few episodes of the show, all said, so i figured two a.m. on a monday morn was as good a time as any to catch myself up. on every episode. jesus.

but if you can't lounge around naked and smoke cigarettes and watch tv through all hours of the night, then what the hell good is vacation for?

how about some goddamned breakfast??

Saturday, August 26, 2006

austin, tx: still cool

i know i said i'd post during this trip, and i haven't done a very good job of sticking to that. in my defense, it's been pretty hectic. left champaign around 7:00 wednesday night, made it to boston sometime around noon Thursday. met up with elizabeth in boston's beautiful downtown, took a stroll through the commons and found our way to her place, where nick was crashing for the night. from there, i painstakingly found my way to clay and guillermo's loft just outside of the city. boston is too fucking confusing for an innocent midwestern driver. and i thought manhattan on a saturday night was bad. boston has enough tolls and one-ways for everyone. i must have paid the same toll at least three times, as turned-around as i was. and at three bucks a pop, i think i should get some kind of consolation prize. but i finally stopped at a hotel and asked for directions, and found the boys' place on my next try.

and talk about beautiful. these guys' loft -- they just bought it a couple weeks ago, had some work done on it and are still putting on its final touches, but man -- it's incredible. 14-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, all industrial-like-yet-simple. and not to make a stereotype, but they're gay, so the place is naturally, immaculately well-kept. they ordered in chinese and introduced me to their mini-bar, and we watched a couple episodes of showtime's weeds, which all three of us just happened to have recently fallen for. i started nodding off during family guy afterwards, so they set up the air mattress for me in the living room and we all crashed. they left me a copy of their keys for when i get back in boston on thursday, since they'll be in new orleans that weekend. arranged for a driver to pick me up at the airport and everything. too cool.

woke up early yesterday morning, made some coffee, threw my shit together and met the driver downstairs. i had a nasty head cold or bug or something (still do, but it's a little better), so i picked up some sudafed at the airport and downed it with an iced americano -- for as corporately awful as it may be, starbucks does guarantee the same price for a drink in champaign as it does at an airport in boston. perfect.

the flight was okay, i really just wanted to sleep but couldn't. my plane had tv screens in the backs of headrests, with 36 channels of direct tv to watch. pretty cool, if you ask me, but there wasn't much on so early on a friday morning. i chilled out with some of the indie channels on their xm radio, though, and flipped through a shitty issue of esquire to pass the time. i don't usually read magazines, they usually piss me off with their barrage of advertisements, and i usually end up tossing the thing to the floor and quoting tyler durden: "is that what a man's supposed to look like?" daniel craig was on the cover of this one, though, so i let myself be a sucker just one more time and bought it for the trip. suckered, indeed.

coolest part of it was that jenna fischer had a page all to herself. jenna fischer, who plays pam on nbc's the office. jenna fischer, who has changed my personal taste in women, single-handedly. an excerpt from "10 things you don't know about women," by jenna fischer:

4. when we say, "i don't feel connected," the only appropriate response is, "i feel it, too. let's go out for a nice dinner and reconnect." try it. you will get laid.

i love you!

[EDIT 10/17/06: youtube has a video of the entire cast of 'the office' reading jenna's article! iloveyoutube.]

there's also a pretty hot one-pager with mary louise-parker (that "-parker" implies she's taken, yeah?) and her "rock me, baby" playlist. if it gets me the chance to "rock" someone like mary louise-parker, i'll try anything. there's gotta be a photo shoot online for this feature. somewhere. somebody google "mary louise-parker" and "esquire" and let me know what you come up with.

right now, i'm sitting in an austin, tx hotel room, watching nickelodeon and trying to download the newest mountain goats album. one of my blogs pointed me toward an article written by the band's lead singer about how the album came to be. i love the single we've been playing on wpgu, so this should be good.

what else? still have the head cold, am very low on cash, partied in downtown austin last night, slept in today, would like to go swimming but didn't bring trunks, would like to bring a pretty girl with me next time i adventure like this, hope everything is going well back home, kind of already can't wait to get back...

found this when i went to post today. it's an unpublished draft from after my first austin trip.

back in town, safe and sound, as of late last night. i stopped in taylorville first, to take advantage of home-cooked leftovers and soak up some much-needed family time, before beating out a snowstorm heading east across the state. i don't think it was, but could have been, the incredible storm i dealt with all the way from south of dallas through arkansas. it wasn't only one of the worst storms i've driven in, but it was heading northeast just like i. so instead of passing through it or it passing over me, we stuck together for almost eleven hours. lightning, hail, brimstone -- the works. at the time, i thought to call it "apocalyptic," although that seems too dramatic in hindsight. but it was a plague of sorts, keeping my speed way below the posted limit and my hands gripped tightly on the wheel, as if god was testing my commitment to finding "peace within madness." i could almost picture him saying, "let's see you and your little automotive sanctuary find peace in this, you fool!!" i ran into the bottom of the storm around 8:00 p.m. sunday night. when it finally let up, just shy of 7:00 a.m. the next morning, i was pretty frayed. i pulled into an off-ramp mcdonalds lot and fell into quick, deep sleep.

the snow today, however, didn't leave much damage on champaign. i hear springfield may have gotten the worst of it, and i know my brothers are enjoying the day off from school in taylorville. so if it was the same storm, i guess it dumped its worst on me down in texas. it makes a little more sense if it wasn't, though.

aside from the storm, the drive was, again, wonderful. i left houston reflecting on my day and, in my exhaustion, began to really, finally take the whole week in. i caught myself tying parts of it to memories made over the past year, or ones from years ago... the "revelation" i had after leaving rothko's chapel was not my own, nor did i find it myself, in that southern state. it's been presenting itself to me for years, and with more intent each time it echoes by. the magnet on the fridge, of course. my talks with mark these past couple months, and talks with my father for years. in fact, when dad took me in a little over a year ago, to shape up from a bad bout with depression and drugs, the bukowski book i brought along

that's where it ends. i don't even remember writing it. interesting, though.

and this is where this post is going to end, too. i'm going to make some of this crappy hotel coffee and maybe take a book out to the pool, catch some sun. hundred fucking degrees down here, it's wonderful...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

dusting off the blog

i only intended to keep a blog for my austin trip, because it made me feel a little like hunter s. thompson. i've had blogs before, and read plenty more. i'm well-acquainted with the initial, intense burst of writing, the following drought of thoughts and words, and the giving up completely. in the austin trip, i had a complete story arc: beginning, middle and end. and i wanted to leave it that way.

but it's the time of summer when frustrations build, and the longing for something more or new kicks into overdrive. i look back on the past year and a half of working two, three jobs, and see no money saved, no progress made -- a pocketful of good ideas and daydreams, but nothing to really say...

i'd planned on enrolling in parkland this fall, just to take a couple of classes and find my way back into the scholastic vein. that fell through today. my high school transcript isn't enough to get into any classes, it seems. and my academic history at the university is on hold until i take care of some fines and debts. which, up until this point, i had assumed was an accounting error leftover from when i dropped out. but it's not. and i can't afford to pay off my balance before classes start at parkland.

so that's my current, and most brain-consuming, frustration. at the moment. i realize it's not the end of the world, but with the end of my run at plastipak coming quickly and nothing but this head full of ideas and plans to catch my fall, i'm feeling a little lost today.

we'll see.