"So we were Yard Sailing yesterday," she said as an introduction to her story. "And we ended up at one house that gave me pause."
I leaned back in my metal folding chair, as she sat upon multiple cushions on my broken couch. "Go on."
"So." She exhaled nervously. "I had made myself a promise a few years ago when I started going to these yard sales, and that was that I was going to buy you a painting of Uncle Scrooge on black velvet."
I nodded. Everything about that promise made sense to me.
"And then I immediately pushed it out of my mind because it seemed like a preposterous thing to find. I don't know anything about finding original artwork or about the good duck artists. I wouldn't even know where to start. So that's right out. But then I ended up at this house.
Her arms started swinging animatedly. "There was a bunch of music and books at this estate sale but then I went out to the garage to look around and there it was."
"A painting of Uncle Scrooge on Black Velvet," I surmised.
"Exactly. And the guy there, he comes over and he's all 'I see you've noticed my painting of Uncle Scrooge. It's a dollar fifty. We picked it up in Mexico in '66.'"
My mind reeled with possibility. "'I see you've noticed my painting of Uncle Scrooge' is quite a fucking sentence."
"It really is! But I was stuck. And I stood there for five, maybe ten minutes, trying to decide what to do. And, I mean, I don't have a painting for you, so I guess you know what I decided. But do you know why?"
I shifted in my seat. "To recap. You made a pact for an outlandish thing, the immediately discarded the pact because it was so outlandish. And now, years later, you were being presented with exactly what you wished for."
"Either you lost yourself in an existential crisis for a full ten minutes because you were now unsure of the nature of the universe, because this was beyond coincidence, beyond serendipity, beyond good fortune, and was, in fact, a confirmation of predestination, a bold statement by the architects of fate that there is no escaping destiny and that your initial pact was a glimpse of the script of time itself and that now, presented with this undeniable truth, you did the only right, just, true, and, above all, human thing you could do and that is spit into the eye of god itself and exercise your free will by not buying the painting."
I turned to her. "Or it was ugly as fuck."
it is raining outside my window. it's also raining down the street and across town, probably, but the water is dripping right outside my window, rolling out of the gutter that runs along the roof and splashing onto the already pooled up mud beneath my windowsill. each oversized drop making a satisfying sploosh as they rhythmically fall. i want to soak in this moment. i want to live in this moment. but instead i'm writing this, to you, about this moment and two others.
i am walking home from elementary school in the fifth grade and the rain is coming down. it's not a hard rain but it is steady and it is unrelenting. it has been raining for a while now and the parched pavement and soil in the desert has already had its meager fill. everything is rushing down the street now, heading towards built-in overflows and road dips readymade to splash poor pedestrians.
i'm walking home with my friend and my neighbor chris. we're racing, not by foot but by boat. we've fashioned discarded cigarette packs and other detritus into makeshift boats and have set them to sail along the temporary rapids that make up the street. it's an eighth of a mile from the school to the gutter outside the church and my marlboro skiff stays neck and neck with his newport yacht. when i get home i'm surprised to find my mom there, off of work early, with a warm change of clothes and a cup of cocoa. it's a perfect day.
i am in japan with my parents and my brother. unlike my previous visit, this trip is entirely west of tokyo, in osaka, hiroshima, onomichi, and, today, okayama. we've been staying in Toyoko Inn hotels and i find their Super 8-style frugality charming. we're over halfway into a weeklong stay and, though i've been fortunate enough to go to a concert and see some splendid sights, i'm itching to do some shopping. that's what today is for. i go to a record store with my brother in the morning and stop in an animate on the way back to find some copic markers for my friend. when we meet up for lunch at a tempura restaurant, the weather has turned. a typhoon is coming later that afternoon. we should probably prepare.
instead i head back out to the shops and spend an hour just walking around bic camera as the wind rises. i cross thru the train station just as the lines shut down and i leave the convenience store with some string cheese and saltines. i walk back to the hotel with my arms full and my legs damp, water pelting me at ninety degrees. in the hotel, designed for businessmen on day trips, our large foreign family takes turns on the self-service laundry machines while the news shows highlights of the storm's conquests. eventually, near midnight, it's dry enough that i put on clean clothes and head out to eat curry by myself. it's a perfect day.
It's 4:50 in the morning on Wednesday the third and I've finally finished splitting the backlogs of my ongoing archive of recordings of the 80s Japanese pop music show on this particular internet radio station into separate mp3s for each song. If that sentence doesn't make any sense to you, congratulations. It barely makes any sense to me.
In my senior year of high school, in my Computers in Multimedia course, my friend Devon and I ended up working a lot with another kid from a different school (we were, ourselves, at a different school, having driven there during our lunch break to take this course). We got along pretty well with him and ended up doing a few videos and projects during the semester, like stop-motion Lego videos, proto-flash animations, and even what would, I guess, be considered Anime Music Videos. While making those nascent AMVs, I learned that this kid was quite into Dave Matthews Band, which was fine. It was early 1998 and none of us were old enough to be anywhere near a hackysack circle on the quad, so it was almost innocent. But we were friends and so I did what a friend would do -- I gave him a VHS tape of Dave Matthews Band performing on Leno that I had, because I taped basically every music act on late night shows at that time. He was perlexed, almost angrily so, and he finally told me, "I'm not like you, Matt. When I like a band, I don't have to track down all their b-sides or trade tapes of their shows. I just like them, like a normal person."
So that's the essence of the story of how it came to be
2017 2018 and I am cataloguing 30+ year old songs from another land because I will, statistically, like about 4% of them.
New Year's Resolutions are not for changing what we can become, but for learning to live with who we are.
When you decide to buy a carbon monoxide detector to put in your car because you feel kinda funny, don't leave it in the car for six months.
When you leave the carbon monoxide detector in the car for six months in the summer in Arizona, don't be surprised when it starts chirping intermittently for a new battery.
When the carbon monoxide detector starts chirping intermittently for a new battery after you've left it in your car for six months in the summer in Arizona, don't be surprised when the heat and leaking acid fuse the battery compartment shut.
When carbon monoxide detector's battery compartment is fused shut, don't decide to stuff it in an old McDonalds bag in your car and throw it out in a public trash can.
When you decide to stuff the carbon monoxide detector into an old McDonalds bag and throw it out in a public trash can, don't forget that there's no way you aren't going to be the center of a bomb squad manhunt after panicked real estate agents enjoying their patio latte hear a chirp coming from the trash can that some schmuck just dropped a bulging McDonalds bag into.
When you remember that there's no way you aren't going to be the center of a bomb squad manhunt after panicked real estate agents enjoying their patio latte hear a chirp coming from the trash can that you just dropped a bulging McDonalds bag into, don't walk down the rest of the strip mall looking for a trash can adjacent to a different store that no one would care if it exploded.
When you walk down the rest of the strip mall looking for a trash can adjacent to a different store that no one would care if it exploded, don't give up and pull out a chirping electrical device in broad daylight with people around and start attacking the back of it with your keys to get the battery compartment open.
When you give up and pull out a chirping electrical device in broad daylight with people around and start attacking the back of it with your keys to get the battery compartment open, you are living my life.
I'm not a very good person to recommend movies to. A co-worker, a film major, recommended me Inside Llewyn Davis, and it was on sale, so I bought it. I sold it to the used bookstore the next day. I turned back and forth on the office chair at work when she asked me what I thought of it. "I thought that the Coens could make me like folk music," I mumbled through clenched teeth, "but it seems no one can."
In an attempt to make it up to her, and because it was also on sale, I bought Ex Machina. It is beside me on this large kitchen island, also waiting to be sold to the used bookstore. This is, ostensibly, why I am writing this.
I watched it over the course of two nights, splitting my viewing at about the halfway point due to narcolepsy. When the film ended, the second night, I made the cursory read of the Wikipedia entry for the film. If I'm being honest, I made that Wikipedia read about twenty minutes before the film ended, as it was ending. An interview is referenced saying that the concepts of the film started when the writer/director was twelve years old. As I watch while a room full of lifeless, yet lifelike, robotic women is revealed to be kept in bedroom cupboards, I think I know which parts a twelve year old came up.
In the end all I can think of the film is how little it actually had to say that I hadn't already heard before. I am reminded of reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, paging through chapter after chapter of a dark and terrible secret being alluded to, a secret I had assumed was open from the get go. I am trying very hard not to fold my arms and demand to be impressed, but when you point to a sunrise and exclaim as if you are the first to have discovered it, forgive my eyes when they narrow and my brow when it furrows.
But halfway through the film, when I had to stop it to sleep in a bed, instead of on a couch, that is when the film was most affecting to me.
I have spent the last month house-sitting for a friend while she is in Japan. This is a new house, both in ownership and construction, and somewhat of a smart house, in marketing terms. I'm not unlocking doors with apps or anything, but only because I have discerning taste in friends. The reason I'm sitting the house and not merely letting it sit on its own is because it also has two dogs in it, a larger Australian Shepherd and a smaller terrier mix. I am here because the dogs are here and because friends help each other out and because kennels are expensive.
But make no mistake: I am not a dog person.
I've lived with a dog before. The same friend, back when we co-habitated, had a dog, her childhood dog, with her from before her mother passed, from the time when her years were in single digits. By the time I met him, the dog was already old, old, old and by the time we lived together the dog was older still. He huffed. He had scruff. He had enough teeth to eat food but not enough to keep his tongue in his mouth while he slept. He was a good rebound dog for me, the boy who grew up scared to death of dogs.
INTERLUDE: You are at the house of a neighbor, who lives one street over. Other neighbor kids are there with you as the afternoon turns to early evening and you are all crammed into his bedroom. Their dog is there too, and you haven't been around dogs much, but a dog is just a louder cat, right? For some reason, everyone else in the room decides a fun game to play would be to throw pillows at the dog. The dog that is standing right next to you. The pillows go flying, the dog is being pummeled. How are there so many pillows? Does this kid sleep like a sultan? Days pass, seemingly. Finally the dog, knocked out of its wits, lunges out and bites the closest thing to him: your leg. You cry the entire run home.
It would be nearly twenty years before I was around a dog regularly after the bite and though I grew to love him and care for him after my friend had moved out of the country and looked in his eyes as he was put down at the ripe old age of twenty goddamn years, I was still not a dog person. "I like this dog," I said. "I do not like dogs."
But here I am, again, caring for two dogs this time though, at least, temporarily. And unlike the previous dog, these two are full of energy. They break out into runs in the backyard when I let them out to pee at four in the morning. They tug relentlessly at the leash when I take them for walks around the empty neighborhood, still under construction. The big one raises up her front paws to stand up and punch me in the dick when I come home. It's a much different experience. And I like them, again. I like these dogs. I do not like dogs.
But that first half of Ex Machina, swimming in my brain as I dozed off on the couch, in a strange house with technology I was unfamiliar with, confronted with creatures, females, that were not inhuman but were not human. I turned off the tv and rolled off the couch onto the floor in a sleepy haze, trying to muster up the energy to go to bed. This was an invitation for the dogs to approach and lick my face. I took off my glasses and tried to stifle my ticklish reflexes.
"What if," I thought. "What if these dogs just bit my face off instead?" I opened my eyes to look at them and got a tongue right in the eye. I sat up and looked into their long faces as they looked back at me. "I don't understand you, dog." I think I said that out loud, to the big one, the Australian Shepherd. And she did what she has done for the past couple of years, for as long as I've known her, for nearly as long as she's been alive. She lifted up a paw and set it down on me, as if to say, "Hey.
"Let's go to bed."
The first day of vacation. I woke up after four hours of sleep at 10am to oppresive summer heat and a pool of sweat on my pillow. I fell back asleep for another four hours and woke up to what felt like cooler temperatures. Stark was awake and fiddling with a 30+ year old receiver & tape deck he'd rescued from his dad's garage. He talked at me for over an hour while my finger hovered over the checkout button on the Steam store. I finally bit the bullet & bought both The Witness and American Truck Simulator. The former just barely runs on my machine and the latter continues to be impenetrable from a control perspective. I got an itch to look at CPU/motherboard deals at Fry's Electronics - just look, no buy - but I only made it as far as taking a shower. At 7:30 Stark returned home making noise about All-You-Can-Eat sushi, so we did that instead. That was my only meal today.
Afterwards I played a little Rocket League but got upset with myself when I realized I had launched Terraria and had been playing it for an hour. Then I went to bed and watched the first episode of a Netflix Japanese Drama about an aspiring Manzai comedian. It didn't look like any other TV show I had ever seen, American or Japanese. I don't know what that means.
3:24 AM 6/8
It's been a while, hasn't it? It feels like it's been a while, which means that in reality, it's actually like fifteen whiles. I think that's the exchange rate. It keeps inflating.
The boss's boss's boss was supposed to visit at work today so I had to spend a lot of time making sure everything was clean and in place last night. I wouldn't have minded, but one of the employees there with me needed a ride home so I had to make him stick around helping. As I drove him the mile and a half home, I tried to make light conversation. Apparently in his CSE class he gets to learn four different programming languages this semester. "I can barely remember HTML," I replied, and he laughed, remembering how he had to learn that for a class in high school.
There was a pause in the conversation as I made the turn into his apartment complex. "I learned HTML in high school too," I said, "except it wasn't part of a class and it was twenty years ago," which was an amount of time I realized might encompass his entire life.
I don't have much time to write this because I came home to a petulant, whining housemate who had the audacity to a) ask me for rent and b) want to actually eat a meal with me. We failed in the meal-eating because, for some reason, noodle shops can just decide to be closed on New Year's Day like that's a thing. That's a thing? That's not a thing. Come on noodle shops. Step up your game.
We ended up at the Asian supermarket right before the closed so that he could buy some frozen noodles, but all they had left were Korean brands and I'm inexplicably noodle racist after a bad experience at a Vietnamese place ten years ago. So now we're home and he's eaten like a pound of noodles and I'm still hungry. But that's not why I don't have time to write this.
I don't have time to write this because my Christmas gift from Deandra this year was a copy of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the Wii U. She got me this because she discovered you could play the game multiplayer with owners of the 3DS version of the game, and so she and Mark are about to show up at the house so that we can play this game I've never been interested in. If I'm lucky I'll be able to steer them over to Gang Beasts. If I'm really lucky, I'll fall asleep on the couch watching Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
January 1, 2015
It's around one hundred and fifty minutes until 2015 begins and I'm incredibly tired. Theoretically tired, I mean. I should hope so. I haven't been sleeping very well. Lately sometimes my heart seems to beat so loudly, as if it's warning me not close my eyes. Maybe I have sleep apnea -- I've been told lately that I snore a lot. Maybe it's nothing. Maybe I have Grinch Heart.
I got one of those 642 Things to Draw books for half-off back when the Barnes & Noble store I was working at was closing earlier this year. A new year seems a good a time as any to start drawing in it. Hopefully I'll keep at it.
I'm very close to doing one of those crazy Noel Murray Popless-style year-long retreats into my collection, with a moratorium on buying new games. As it is I have nearly 200 titles in just my Steam Library and I can tell you that I've significantly played only an embarrassing fraction of those. I'm sure there will be games that come out in 2015 that are better than Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils, but... well actually that's it. God, I hope there will be games that come out in 2015 that are better than that.
What other garbage I will attempt? If history is any indicator, nothing!
It was my birthday today. I'm now thirty-four years old. It's also the first time in ten years, I believe, that I had to work on my birthday. With that in mind, it wasn't too horrible. I am, however, still wearing both shoes and pants and it's after midnight, so that's usually an indication that I'm too tired to disrobe and/or expecting to walk to the corner store to get a soda. Let's not.
I'm also going to type, right here, so that I don't forget it, that I've had a sore throat on the right side of my throat off and on since last Wednesday morning. If I take some ibuprofen it goes away for a while, but I'm considering maybe making friends with a tiger and letting him rip it out with his teeth.