Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Screw the Olympics, we took Bronze at the Saratoga!!!

Monster Mike says, "Eat your heart out lemmings!"


So Friday night Beth and I went to the Rams game.

We had great seats…

Saturday we decided on a BBQ (imagine that) for Hannah’s B-day

More pictures to follow… am I subjecting you to a family slide show?


Monday, August 30, 2004

Having given fair warning, the Gods decree that I shalt exercise; like it or not:

I went home for lunch – a standard thing – put the dog out – made a fried egg sandwich – put on a load of laundry – did a little more cleaning here and there – headed back to work. Not five minutes from the house the check gauges light comes on. The engine heat is over 265. I pull over and kill the engine on Forsyth, just shy of Washington University. The coolant tank is dry. I let the car cool and call into work telling them I will get the car home and make other arrangements to come back in. I get the car home in one piece and search the basement for coolant. I find no coolant, but I do find bike chain lubricant and a hacksaw.

Right after Brad moved in, just shy of two years ago, he chained a bike up to the back porch that I believe he had ridden around Forest Park Once. He eventually lost the key, and there that bike has sat until today. I cut the lock off with the hacksaw, greased up the chain, put on my new Jensen bike radio arm strap set to NPR, pulled my tire pressure gauge from the car, and walked the bike up to the gas station to put air in its tires. I guessed at 30 PSI but think I could let a little air out given the current shape of my spinal column.

I chose the worst possible route with the maximum number of hills. People on bikes in spandex with camel packs sailed past me as though I were an exercise dinosaur sinking into the LaBreya tar pits. On some hills I just got off the bike and walked. I had to learn how to shift on this new bike and popped the chain off once in the process. I am sweaty and my lower back hurts because the seat is way too low for me and I didn’t think to bring any simple tools with me. Honestly I feel great – it took a little more than a half hour and weather permitting I am going to ride my bike to work everyday this week. I haven’t “felt the burn” like in an all over body way like this in years.

The weather seemed tailor made for my adventure. After work I will leave my bike here and walk to the Saratoga for bowling league. The car can slumber until I get paid. I imagine there is a leak in a hose somewhere. I am due for an oil change, I have a back tire that needs a new valve core, and I have to get an inspection for my news tags anyway so this temporary grounding is timely. Paul will be staying with us this month for an internship, he arrives tomorrow, so the extra rent will take the pressure off whatever hit I take on the car. We generally have what we need, even if a little improvisation is required. .


Sunday, August 29, 2004

As free human beings we can use our unique intelligence to try to understand ourselves and our world. But if we are prevented from using our creative potential, we are deprived of one of the basic characteristics of a human being.

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama


If you don't like the photo essay format that is evolving on this blog, my sister has a short but succinct message for you!

We are a family of crazies there is no doubt about that. Our recent appearance of domestication is a thin veneer at best.


My friend Tim the alien had an odd affect on Bob and Michelle

but after all, we were in Roswell and Roswell is his town. Where are you Michelle La Valle? Still in China? Any signs of Michelle wide world?


Ok, I must admit that the book has gotten a great deal better. Alobar’s encounter with Pan was a weak bit, but things have improved markedly from there and we have an odd passage that is in dialogue with my Buddhist musings, which were mused before Buddhism appeared in the text – but the theme of desire and the relationship of desire to individuality was there from the outset. Alobar’s lover Kundra responds to his rather harsh critique of Buddhism as a half-life in search of no-life with the following, “The word desire suggests that there is something that we do not have. If we have everything already, then there can be no desire, for there is nothing left to want. I think that what the Buddha may have been trying to tell us is that we have it all, each of us, all the time; therefore, desire is simply unnecessary… To eliminate the agitation and disappointment of desire, we need but awaken to the fact that we have everything we want and need right now” (pg.115). What I really need is a job I can accomplish in a single hour everyday that pays all my bills, so I can spend the rest of the time reading and writing. Can I be Borges when I grow up? Karl, please awaken to the fact that you have everything you need and want right now.


Today’s post in which unfortunately my bathroom read, Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, creeps into my writing style, doing for the fine art of junk shopping what Roland did to the World Wide Wrestling Federation:

What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours. It is Dina Washington’s Birthday today: Queen of the Blues and the Juke. She had a short life, dead at 39 from an accidental overdose of diet pills. The biographers have weighed in and all sides concur, it was a sad but not a desperate mistake. She would have been eighty. This little morsel came from my NPR breakfast, delivered on the platter of my new Jensen AM/FM stereo armband radio that I purchased yesterday while rummage sale surfing with Angela.

This gismo holds the promise of exercise, a habit I have yet to master. I also nearly bought a Trek mountain bike, a clock, a standing ashtray, a set of plates, a light for a fish tank sans tank, a bread machine, two tiki mugs, a penguin style ice bucket, and a few other odds and ends, but I am cash poor at the moment so ah well. I did buy the radio, a thermos for my coffee, and a universal remote for the VCR. Angela bought two puzzles for the girls at her work who do puzzles on their breaks. I am going back to one of the junk shops for the clock, which I shant describe as I will be gifting it, but the other maybes are still simmering.

It feels good to junk shop in the homogenized world of pop-and-fresh houses and cookie cutter people, bouncing around the easy-bake nightmare of Sims suburbia where it often seems that living has in fact been reduced to the level of a game. There is more personality in junk; that may have originally been aimed at, but clearly has missed mass appeal. As you hunt and gather you wander the philosophic shoals of identity, wetting your ankles on the irrefutable truth of who you are reflected in the mirror of what you like. The sea is of course the nature nurture battleground of aesthetics, a sometimes province of truth(s). Junk shopping uncomplicates the debate through the powerful unseen hand of the pure market, “I like that enough to buy it.” “I am someone who likes this.”

By the same measure, you might also consider what you are willing to part with, what you are done with or no longer need, and gain on identity that way. One of the rummage sales we went to had the combined detris of a neighborhood poured out onto a single lawn to raise money for a sick child, whom everyone in that neighborhood seemed to know. We didn’t find any junk to buy there, but we bought two hot dogs to contribute to the cause. I’m sure if you’re listening for them you’ll hear in my thinking the echoes of Plato and Kant as regards the fallen forms and reflections of what is true. All the objects on that lawn were perhaps useful to someone, even abstractly useful to us in that self definition functions through exclusion much more than inclusion so identity becomes an I-am-not more than an I-am, but none of those items are as necessary to anyone as the health and recovery of that child.

From that perspective it’s of course dangerous to equate identity with consumption lest we value the thing more than the person or treat the person like a thing. Or, as was pointed out by E.M. Forester in the novel Howard’s End, we say want, want, want and thereby obscure the “I” that wants, denying both the responsibility to know yourself and the complicity of any materialist in the cost of their privilege. There are good Buddhist objections here too, such as the assertion that desire is the root of all evil. Though I suppose for Buddhists desire is primarily a problem because it reinforces, rather than obscures, the illusion that there was an “I” to begin with, all other consequent suffering caused by desire stems from the false assumption that there is a sustainable ego that might benefit from selfish behavior. Then you get into chicken and egg applied philosophy, do we lose our ego to live better or do we live better to lose our ego.

In junk shopping we at least avoid Forester’s problem by humbly acknowledging at the outset that everything we are looking through is always and already someone else’s trash. As for the Buddhist concerns, most junk shops sell white ceramic Buddhas of some form or another, it’s up to you if you want kill the Buddha, buy the Buddha, or drop ashes on it when you meet it on the road. Ultimately, I think Junk shopping is a humble pursuit. The needle in haystack, the diamond in the rough is what we’re after on the shelves and in ourselves.

In other rough diamond news, yesterday we celebrated Hannah’s 30th birthday. “It seems like you’re always having a party,” Donna Jean Antoinette (my mother) with more than a little concern in her voice. It’s true that we are always having a party.

“For while we must go forever in despair, let us also go forever in the enjoyment of the world.” The God Pan to the wandering Alobar in the Tom Robbins Novel Jitterbug Perfume, a novel which is not as good as I want it to be, but is better than nothing at all and seems germane to today’s line of thinking.

Reading it, and writing this, is what I am doing today. I am finding Tom Sophomoric and must admit that I liked him best when I was in High School, when his challenges seemed daring. Currently I like his gift for description and surprising metaphor and I must assume he’s gotten much better than the writing in this book. I own some of his more recent work but haven’t cracked it. I suppose this book will be a way in.

I feel on this fine Sunday like a king at his leisure. I have feasted and all is well. Left over brats and BBQ chicken have constituted both my breakfast and my two-am post bar cravings. We went on what I used to call the long haul last night and just as I have outgrown the writings of a young Tom Robbins, so too have I outgrown the long haul. I expressed it to Hannah this way, “I like this bar well enough and I am having a good time, but you have to remember that while you were getting married and raising a kid I was doing this. So it doesn’t have the same newness or appeal to me.” That said I did have a good time, and more importantly Hannah seemed to have a great time. Details to follow………….


Thursday, August 26, 2004

I am a scheduled person – weekend preview:

Friday night I am taking Beth to the last home preseason Rams game courtesy of Angela’s parents.

After we get back Beth, Angela, Vick, Camilla and whoever else wants to, are meeting at the Tivoli for a midnight showing of The Princes Bride – Angela’s favorite film.

Saturday Morning Angela & I are going junking to find Hannah a gift for her 30th birthday and possibly something for Dan and Yumi’s upcoming wedding.

Saturday evening is dinner at an as yet unspecified restaurant for Hannah’s birthday followed by dancing at several clubs with a much larger group of friends.

Sunday is recovery, reading, writing, and bat gammon with Smurfs.


Can your browser handle this panoramic shot of Bob and my brother Kris on our famous Milwaukee pub tour?

As you can probably tell, this is bar #1.


When I was a younger man most of my friends were aliens,

This is Tim and I on our trip to Roswell.


A fellow anti-Bush voter sent these to me and I pass them along for your amusement:

Hey fellow election watchers: Here's a few disparaging quips about the
President from some late night TV hosts. I deleted the ones I didn't
think were especially funny, so I hope you enjoy the abbreviated list.
"President Bush has unveiled his first campaign commercial,
highlighting all of his accomplishes in office. That's why it's a 60-second spot."
--Jay Leno

"President Bush says he has just one question for the American
voters, 'Is the rich person you're working for better off now than they were four
years ago?'" -- Jay Leno
"The election is in full-swing. Republicans have taken out
round-the-clock ads promoting George Bush. Don't we already have that?
It's called Fox News." -- Craig Kilborn
"There was a scare in Washington when a man climbed over the White
House wall and got arrested. This marks the first time a person has gotten
into the White House unlawfully since President Bush." -- David Letterman
"This week, both John Kerry and Wesley Clark are making campaign
appearances with the guys who saved their lives in Vietnam. Meanwhile
President Bush is campaigning with a guy that once took a math test
for him."
-- Conan O'Brien
"It's weird watching President Bush struggle with excuses for why we
went to war. As he struggles, it reminds us all what a terrific liar Bill
Clinton really was."
-- Craig Kilborn
"The U.S. army confirmed that it gave a lucrative fighting contract in
Iraq to the firm once run by the Vice President Dick Cheney without
any competitive bidding. When asked if this could be conceived as Cheney's
friends profiting from the war, the spokesman said "Yes".
-- Conan O'Brien

"Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has unveiled a new color-code
system to warn the public about different states of danger. Red is the
highest state of alert, and it means that Dick Cheney is about to eat
a mozzarella stick."
-- Conan O'Brien
Back in 2000 a Republican friend warned me that if I voted for Al Gore
and he won, the stock market would tank, we'd lose millions of jobs,
and our military would be totally overstretched. You know what? I did vote
for Gore, he did win, and I'll be damned if all those things didn't come
-- James Carville


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Mercury is in retrograde until September 2nd:

I got an automated message on my cell phone yesterday telling me that the automated repair system had fixed my home phone at 2:30. I got home from work to find that it hadn’t. I called SBC for the third time and finally got a person who scheduled an actual – rather than an automated repair for today. The repairman called me at work to inform me that the problem is not inside my house, but on the top of a pole in my neighbors yard. He can fix it fast, but the gate is locked and even though the car is in the driveway, no one is answering the door. “What I’d like from you is to contact the people at 7256 and ask them to leave their gate open tomorrow so I can get at the pole. I’ve had to work on their phone before and I’ve had trouble getting them to leave the gate open when it was their own phone.” He must have grown up in one of those places where people know their neighbors. Three years in and I know the people in the bottom units to my right and left, but that’s it. He wants me to what? I don’t know their name. I don’t have their number. He, as a representative of the phone company has access to their name and number. “Well I left a note on their door so that might work, but still I’d really like you to try and get in touch with them.”

Hold the presses

Greg, the repairman, just called me back, “Hey, you seemed a little bummed out after I talked to you so I went down to the next pole and got a good signal on your line. I just happened to have some extra wire on the truck and so I ran you a new line out to that pole and I’m talking to you now on your phone line. You still might want to check in with the neighbors if you have any more trouble, cause I’m not going to be able to do this for you again.” If he ran a new line circumventing the neighborly contained one, why would I need to? Who cares – score on the Greg the repairman extra line hook up!

Apparently regardless of “utility” the universe would like me to meet my neighbors to the back and west. Maybe they hold the key to unlock my current funk – an unspecific malaise that has grayed my perceptions of late.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Here’s an odd one, we had a huge storm yesterday and I got home to find a distraught Mary Beth without phone service. MB spends a fair amount of time in our kitchen on the phone with her long distance thang. We had no dial tone, just silence and some faint crackles on the line. When I tried to call us from my cell I got a busy signal. I called SWB and went through their automated help line to schedule service. The computer promised me that service would be restored by six pm Tuesday. I then left for bowling.

Some time after I left the police arrived at our house, knocking on the door and informing MB that our non-working phone had called 911. While containing Sebastian, who unfortunately hates all people in uniforms, she explained our phone situation. This happened two more times with two additional sets of cops – that’s right, three visits from the U-City cops for the non-emergency called in by the non-phone. They weren’t surprised; apparently this happens more than you might think. We had a dial tone this A.M. so I guess it got fixed over the course of the evening, has anyone ever heard of this happening? Is it possible that I made a false assumption that the lack of service had to do with the storm? My computer was on through all this, could a virus have hijacked my dial up modem to make 911 calls just to screw with me?

In other news I bowled a 189 in my first game last night, which is the best score I can remember from recent history. I bought The Magnificent Seven on DVD and kept MB up late after bowling with this fine classic Western. She kept getting up saying, “I am not staying up to watch this,” only to return with some new beverage, actually making a pot of coffee to make it to the 1:30 A.M. finish. Westerns are childhood popcorn with my dad, and while not always having their gender issue ducks in a row, they certainly present a fascinating set of archetypes. In some future incarnation I intend to do scholarship on them, as the widely read West Of Everything by Jane Tompkins is more anecdotal than rigorous. Ah well – to work I go.


Monday, August 23, 2004

I am out of the habit of the morning write. I was up at six am today though, so I have the time window if not the drive of familiarity. I am sleepy and alergized so don’t expect much more than the sometime recap. Friday night Angela and I had V, Taylor, and V’s new charge Camilla over for a sit down meal. Camilla brought me a bottle of high end Pisco from Chile and thereby made the exact right impression.

Later Angela impressed us with her Spanish over a Hookah,

Saturday was the moving of Beth and Brad followed by BB King on the riverfront, which I heard rather than saw as I spent most of the concert in line trying to buy us kabobs. The event was insanely overcrowded and poorly planned, probably twice as many people showed up as were expected, but it was enjoyable anyway. The kids and Camilla got to touch the arch, throw rocks into the Mississippi, ride a congested Metro Link, see a great fireworks display and generally experience a lot of new things. When we first arrived downtown and got off the train in the innards of Eades Bridge, Camilla looked left through a brick archway and saw the steel monstrosity that is the “gateway to the West,” she had that “holy shit” look of wide-eyed inhalation that such monuments can inspire. V took one look at her and asked me if I’d brought a camera. I had, but it’s old school so we must wait on the developers.

Sunday Derek, Jen, the gaggle of kids, Angela and I all went to Six Flags, arriving shortly after it opened (11 am) and departing shortly before it closed (8 pm). It was one of those days when the weather is perfect and everyone else who normally goes to Six Flags found something else to do, so we were able to ride any ride with virtually no wait. We did the water park in the morning and the coasters in the afternoon and evening. It was fun to get to know Jen’s kids as they are all now of an age with distinct personalities etc. D calls them ID, Ego, and Super Ego – which is pretty accurate. They also had a friend Caleb along to “liven” up the group. Caleb mastered his role as the wild card kid – alternating between annoying instigator and terrified hand holder. It was a good balance of kid and adult fun that ended with the adults begging the kids to let us ride Batman one more time, which of course we did. Angela triumphed over her fear of coasters by ridding Batman three times, and the second two trips she even opened her eyes! Jen and I got over our attachment to gravity by getting shot 270 feet into the air at 90 mph in a small gyroscope looking capsule. Think industrial slingshot attempting to hit the moon and then picture us inside the projectile. Ah well, time to recover from my weekend by heading off to work.


Hanah's new house couresty of Van


Saturday, August 21, 2004

When Mary bought her house it was a drab winter day...

But spring has come and gone and summer wanes in spledor...

What you plant today will clearly flower tomorrow.


So Gunter has to make a dramatic entrance, being a sacred critter and all...

His hat shall arrive first as that is the way gnomes prefer it...

We moved Brad and Beth here today - note the many steps

Gunter meet world...

world meet Gunter...

and never forget the bar's advice,

Clearly what you plant today will flower tomorrow.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Wind up toys are decelerating, but clearly I am still tightly wound:

Not much posting beyond the memes of late, many factors there. The blog and IMing are increasingly frowned on at work so I have been keeping a low profile there, I will probably remove the IMing software to eliminate the temptation. I am also long term dog sitting with Paul and Caroline in NYC, so my mornings are taken up with dog rotation, as they need to be fed separately lest doggy jealousy lead to an incident. I like having Zoe here though, and am seriously considering a second dog. They get along great unless there is food around, theirs or mine, and then not so good.

I am also just kind of tired, returning from vacation and trying to amp yourself back up to the pre-vacation pace can take its toll. I only get one week of vacation per year, yup that’s America for you, no mandated five weeks to slide around Europe here. That week is now behind me, and an infinite number of labor’s circumlocutions stretch out before me like the thousand miles of a journey that I am only two steps along. Where am I headed on this journey? I am actually headed to the mysterious land of debt relief. I set myself a goal of necessity two years ago that I would be debt free in five years, and I am making painful but steady progress.

I spent more than ten years as an underpaid academic with no health insurance, and then was out of work for a bit making the transition out of academe and I racked up some impressive stacks on the plastic plates of legalized loan sharking, now a little less than half of my yearly income goes to pay the piper. It makes me feel sometimes that I am just renting this life. But as a friend John told me last year, “You have a nice place, your car works, and you don’t live in your parent’s basement. I think you’re doing ok.” When the resumes start to roll in for any minor position we have in the bookstore I get some perspective on being grateful for the job I have. Missouri’s economy is in the tank, despite what the pro Bush idiots have to say, and for white collar liberal arts folk like myself a good paycheck is hard to come by. Sure, I can always bartend, but that life is even more a somnambulance than this one.

When I first got back to work after my vacation I gritted my teeth and jumped in for all I was worth, turned the crank on the wind up frog just as tight as that spring would get and let it jump like it was from
Calaveras county, but that energy is winding down and I am just letting it. All my playground games are just inventions to pass the time between scheduled moments when I am expected to arrive and depart, I go the way of most men, quietly desperate, bowing to the current calculus of indentured servitude knowing that any Samson like move, while momentarily satisfying or impressive, will just bring the roof down on my own head.

“Awe, buck up little camper. It’ll be ok,” croaked Froggy. “Thanks Froggy, have you met Gunter?” asked Karl, while motioning Mary’s guard gnome to come over and meet his grandfather’s wind up frog. “It’s starting to remind me of the Brothers Grimm around here, if your personal mythology gets anymore juvenile this place is going to be a veritable zoo of animism enlivened junk store trinkets, frickin toy story for the gin inclined” grumbled Gunter, while extending a stony handshake to the tin toy. “Try and get a handle on your hallucinations would you Karl, frickin mad hatter wanabe, not so brillig around here is it?”

“I assume that’s a rhetorical question Gunter, don’t bite the imagination that feeds you.”

“Look, just because I’m lawn art doesn’t mean I don’t have some insights into the whole human thing. What do I do? I stand and I watch. I grimace a little to keep away the riffraff, but basically I have a lot of time on my hands to think about poor saps like you. You’ve bought into that Freud crap about cultural pressure leading to the subversion of desire manifesting as art. You think you need your boring job in order to allow creative pressure to build. You’ve got some Myth of Sisyphus chip on your shoulder about this rock you’re rolling and have missed the existential boat out of fear. Redefine your existence. Get a freakin clue. Stop being afraid of getting wet and give us that fucking cannonball already. Christ you piss me off.”

Gunther is a little ass kicker isn’t he.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Another fine film from our friends at Angry Alien:

(possibly the best one yet!)



Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Public Plan # 374.4-2

Friday night still open to negotiation – (sip cocktails – fall over)
Saturday Day help Brad and Beth move
Paul and Caroline return from NY to claim Zoe (I’m dog sitting)
Saturday Night free concert downtown BB King and Dr. John – metro down with Jen – Derek – kids and all other comers – food on the Eades bridge – concert – fireworks
Return to Back yard (sip cocktails – fall over)
Sunday Day Six Flags water-park to exhaustion
Find new location to watch six feet under (Angela’s?) (sip wine – fall over)


More memes - the kids seem to like the memes

MAY:Stubborn and hard-hearted. Strong-willed and highly motivated . Sharp thoughts. Easily angered. Attracts others and loves attention. Deep feelings. Beautiful physically and mentally. Firm Standpoint. Needs no motivation. Easily consoled. Systematic (left brain). Loves to dream. Strong clairvoyance. Understanding. Sickness usually in the ear and neck . Good imagination. Good physical. Weak breathing. Loves literature and the arts. Loves traveling. Dislike being at home. Restless. Not having many children. Hardworking. High spirited. Spendthrift.


I was reading an interview with Tom Robbins yesterday and it raised some issues for me. I had done a web search on the anniversary of Elvis’ death to determine whether or not he had died in the can while reading Robbins’ book Another Roadside Attraction. There is an apparent case for this being the King’s final read. Anyway, the interview is fairly interesting and raises a point I have been considering as regards the activity of blogging. William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, was maintaining a blog and discontinued it as he began to write a novel, stating that bloging undermines the building of pressure needed to write a novel. Robbins makes a point about the importance of anonymity and suggests that if he had it to do over he would write/live like Salinger or Pynchon so that biography would not overly inform artistic appreciation. He wishes he knew less about the biographies of his favorite writers. If I do want to write longer pieces should I tank the blog and redirect my energy, while at the same time erasing my personal history as Robbins advises, obscuring the facts of my life to elevate the images of my fiction?

In other news Hannah bought a house this week and after bowling last night she dragged me to several lesbian haunts where we found very few lesbians, but several gin and tonics and even the occasional Budweiser.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

You'd turn into a Snowleopard! Like a snowleopard
you are quiet, shy and not seen much and find
it hard to talk to people, but dont really mind
being by yourself. However once you have gotten
over your shyness and are relaxed you are so
different it can be scary! You have a few close
friends who can grasp your strange ways. You
are generally laid back but when you get angry
you get angry and can be very vicious and a
force to be recond with, though few people ever
see this.

What animal would you turn into?
brought to you by Quizilla


Ah nostalgia, the shoebox of pictures has kicked out a few topical shots for Jen.

Karl & Dr. Bob hit the log flume in the mall of America

“What are you doing tonight?”
“I’m going to a party at Karl’s.”
“Oh Yeah, maybe I’ll see you there.”

The J & D hook up – “Hey this guy can dance!”


Friday, August 13, 2004

Boredom is a sad and dangerous thing that sometimes results in couplets:

(Though not surprising when working late on a Friday night in an empty store)

My friend Jason is a new father and I imagine that he is wide eyed trying to soak up as much of the reality of this new life as his vision will allow. My sister has a foreign exchange student living with her, who arrived earlier today. They came by my apartment to buy my roommate Mary Beth’s old futon for her to use this academic year. She was calm and at the same time immersed in the unfamiliar with a year of insanity and experience stretched before her, luxurious and unimaginable, painful and forever. Mary has her possessions at last from the storage unit, each box a glimpse into some corner of her past and a possibility for future sharing with students and friends. Instead of unpacking all that is old, she spent today painting her new gnome Gunther the Grunter that we purchased outside of Oklahoma City on our recent road trip from Stockton California along the mother road: historic route 66. This gnome’s future rests in semi-permanent attachment to Mary’s front porch, where he will greet all comers with a grimace owing to the two large planters under either arm. These have rendered his imaginary spinal column crooked and suggest the grunt that might be escaping from his frozen lips. The gnome’s ensconcing may render all of Mary’s many youthful abstract aspirations “concrete” and ideologically anchor her to her new home in this new city.

I am in an old home cluttered with Richard and Ruthann, a three year old job that reminds me of the parable of the talents. I disappoint the king by burying his money in the basement, risking and thereby gaining nothing. The fall air of our unseasonably cool St. Louis seems, in contrast to the newness I sense around me, as stale as the haze of cigarette smoke that I meet at eye level most mornings when I descend the stairs for my coffee. Some satirists and cynics conclude that all of life’s games are equally foolish and so why not be the clown. Were I a vaudeville act, or a TV time filler awaiting the inevitable gong, I would be the plate spinner; the man with junk shop china and dime store doweling wowing the crowd through his imitation of perpetual motion.

“Doctor, I sense a psychic wound. I suggest we apply humor in some sort of annoying rhyme scheme to undercut the patient’s attempts to take himself and his life seriously in a patently ridiculous world.” said Nurse Allen to Doctor Burns, eyeing his cigar with the innocence of a foregone age.

All my dishes are stationary wishes that go round and round like the eye of the storm. Be it window or door I am looking for an opening, a chance to find something more.


Gunther the Grunter, that grimaced old Gnome, has some words for fools such as me. Discounting his visage as signs of impaction we take satisfaction walking past his illustrious perch. Herniation? Constipation? A clear intoxication! That gnome is headed for the floor. Yet by the twinkle in his eye I bet he just sighed with a smirk that expressed some old lore, “Your rhyming’s a bore, now come help with my chore. I’ve a basket for each (your calling’s to teach), now go quick and knock on the door. Remember that angst is what drinking's for, but drinking too much becomes such a crutch you’ll forget what the fuck you’re here for!”

Thanks Gunther, I needed a kick in the ass.


Plans & plans within plans.

I need to reread the Dune Series – to which the above is a reference – always a great pleasure read. For several years I would read all or part of the series every Christmas break as a college ritual.

The Metro Link was sardine city last night, both going and coming home, due to the football game and the Riversplash concert. The game was just ok, as a last minute flag on a touchdown run cost it for us, disappointing to loose a very winnable game in overtime, but it was preseason so it’s not like it matters. It’s not like it ever matters beyond the bread and circus, but if this sort of thing will keep St. Louis from being invaded by the hearty Visigoths of the windy city, then I’m all for it. Unleash the animal totems and dancing girls! The best part of the game was the halftime pewee football games, one on each end of the field, which most of the nearly packed stadium watched with more than a little enthusiasm, going nuts for a hail Mary throw from a ten year old and volubly wincing at various fat kid crunches.

What’s next? I have to work tonight as we are letting Leland and his partner go ride the roller coasters of the west. I might do that myself next weekend if Jen and fam come down for the six flags – what are the six specific flags I wonder? So after work… laundry, a rented film, something.

Tomorrow – lunch with Angela’s family, followed by dinner with my family and V’s new foreign exchange student, followed by free Lyle Lovett concert, followed by midnight show of The Dark Crystal at the Tivoli (any takers?), and what mischief will Sunday hold – that’s anyone’s guess. I suppose I am not so planned as I first thought. There’s a directors cut of Donnie Darko that just came out as well that is calling my name, perhaps that’s later tonight.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

A few weeks ago Angela’s Mother’s SUV had a flat not far from here, they were on their way to Angela’s nephew’s birthday. I grabbed my tools and headed up to where they had pulled off the road and got the tire off no problem. The spare tire was another matter. In this particular make the spare hangs under the car and needs to be lowered by a cable pulley system, the directions for which are quite incomplete. One is expected to remove a small plastic cap in the bumper, extend the jack handle two and a half feet blind in the under carriage of the car and magically locate the winch by feel – it does have a small cone in front of it like the dog collar they give to animals who lick their own asses too much, but even that genius addition wasn’t much help. One cannot eyeball it from underneath as the tire is in the way.

Eventually I figured it out (got lucky) and with daylight to spare they were on their way. Yesterday I got a call from Angela, “My mom wants to know if her daughter and favorite mechanic want 20th row tickets to the Ram’s home opener against The Bears.” Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!! Let the endless parties with crap food and much beer resume. May The Packer’s number four press you all to the earth under that fucked up thumb of his. I am locally a Ram’s fan of place and necessity, but I was wearing Mean Joe Green pajamas (with the feet in) long before the Cardinals moved to Phoenix and am a cheese head through and through.

Ram’s tickets echo our roadside attraction. Belington Realty sent the boys out yesterday on my lunch hour to de-sewage the basement. I networked the new work printer yesterday and got everything up and running there. Ahhh Mercury with your imperious radiation of reversal, my war on your emanations of entropy proceeds undaunted. Like the reed in the wind I roll with your punches even as the mighty oak is toppled through the obstinacy of resistance, felled by Shiva’s swords of change.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I awoke to discover that my basement is flooded with sewage. I have long viewed this Mercury retrograde business as yet another foibile of my new age cohorts, but I am beginning to wonder.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I've been hanging out a fair bit with my nephew Trev of late

Obviously our first hang out was more subdued.


Seth wanted me to post pictures of my "biker" youth on the firetrails of our north Wisconsin tree farm - so here you are - various shots with young Karl, hipster Karl, and uncle Karl and nephew Taylor (he's fourteen now so these are old shots).


Congratulations Jason & Tif on the birth of their daughter Triton

7lbs 4 oz, 18 inches
born Monday 7:53 am


Mercury in retrograde hits with a vengeance:

(Mercury went retrograde Monday)

MB blew out her front left tire while being run off the road onto a curb by some asshole. She has thrown out her back somehow as part of the impact. She has the spare tire on a different wheel to replace the tire she lost two weeks ago and she is having to take the bus to work. Her vehicle flounders in the backyard next to the dog tether that stopped working as the only moving part, the spring in the tie-out catch, has broken.

Yesterday at the end of my workday the office printer was making icky “I can’t advance the paper cause I’m broke” noises. I was on the way out the door so I cancelled all print jobs, shut off the printer and figured I’d deal with it today. Over the course of the evening all of the ink leaked out of the printer such that when I picked it up to take a closer look and set it on the carpet, I managed to ruin my clothing and the carpet. We have the carpet mostly clean, but rather than fuck with my destroyed pants I just went home and threw out everything I was wearing, after lobbing the ink spewing fucker into the dumpster.

If creativity and destruction are two sides of the same coin this current little phase promises to be quite creative.


Monday, August 09, 2004

I'm in print again workin for THE MAN.


The downside of taking ten days off of work is that when you return your desk is overflowing with one million three hundred and seventy eight things that need doing YESTERDAY! My to-do list just keeps getting longer even as I multitask through many immediate threats. I will not be caught up for several days I imagine. Deby handed me a folder when she walked in the door and we haven’t stopped adding to it – job security is evidenced by how much work is considered your province and yours alone. It will be a bit I am sure before I work up the notes that I took while traveling into something to post here, as we have rejoined a life that was already in progress. We also have to wait for the film to get developed as I did not take the digital camera with me – it belongs to work so I only get to play with it when they don’t need it – I was of course disappointed to see that it hadn’t moved from where I left it ten days ago, but there you have it, not my toy.

Since I got back I’ve hardly been home, doing dinner last night at Angela’s and then making it over to the kids for Six Feet Under. I will henceforth refer to Brad Beth and Erica as “the kids” when I need to refer to them as a group, though soon Erica will be moving in with her friend Sarah when Brad and Beth move to their new place in the city, so kids minus one.

I just got a call from one of my college roommates, Jed, poorly timed as he lives in San Francisco and I was just there. It would have been great to get into the city and hang out. He must have felt the psychic force of my nearby presence and thought to get in touch. Jed’s life update in brief for those of you that know him: still a lawyer working and living in the Marina area of San Francisco, younger siblings in Thailand teaching English – Jed just visited them – personal trainer who tattooed Jed’s name on her foot (The meaning anyway – beloved of the lord) is still in the picture though they no longer live together – Jed is after a girl he went to law school with, she owns a house with someone else, but is still returning Jed’s calls so this is viewed as a challenge not an impossibility. Jed continues to destroy his body through the cunning use of a mountain bike, shattering several vertebrae over the past few years and later today he is buying a motorcycle which I would also like to do, but can’t due to complications with my lottery winnings – there aren’t any. I am insanely contemplating the purchase of a KIA, which is apparently not a product of Korea, but a GM vehicle in disguise. Thoughts?


Sunday, August 08, 2004

Home to St. Louis safe and sound, off to burn my clothing and hose off, much more later.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

I am half a country away from my own bed, I have 130 dollars to get me home and last me until the fifteenth of the month, my nephew will be here at 9:30 to ferry me to Stockton and Mary and I hope to be on the road by noon. We have no intricate plan beyond aiming ourselves in the direction we need to go. We are, as I always do, winging it.

Some thoughts about my brother that I had last night while falling asleep:

Andy is seven years older than me, when we lived in Brillion Wisconsin in the early eighties and PM magazine was all the rage Andy bought a Rubix Cube. Andy went to the library and checked out a book on how to solve the cube. He photocopied the book and read the copied pages through several times. We kept those photocopies pages in the coffee table for years. He was soon able to solve the cube rapidly, but not so rapidly as my method. After playing with my cube for a short time I discovered that you could take the cube apart with a screwdriver and reassemble it correctly, without having to learn “the method”. I would simply and effectively break the cube and then fix it. Andy and I have a great deal in common, he’s reminded me about so many things from our shared childhood that I had completely forgotten, but a key difference between us would be his propensity to plan (and to stick to that plan) over my propensity to deal with what is strictly immediate. These are of course only general distinctions, but I am amused by this childhood story illustrating them, leading into the current manifestation of my seat of the pants return to St. Louis. Andy is a planner and I operate strictly on the whim principle.

Well grasshopper, the summer is here, break out your fiddle and hop yourself over to Amarillo for a rattlesnake appetizer and a bucket of Lonestar beer. As is typical of late with your tailspin gyre, you’ve made this trip before. Please take a minute to note the shape of the galaxy later tonight when you are pissing by the side of the road in the middle of the Mojave, the nearest light pollution will be the trailer park two hundred miles to the east. Dear reader, if you ever get a shot at that starscape I suggest you take it.

Hiatus until arrival home I’d assume, sometime in the next four days, but as I said we’re not on much of a schedule.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I actually didn't bring a camera on this trip so I am going fishing for links. We are really close to Folsom and my first day here we ate at The Balcony breakfast place pictured here and I faced the red painted wall that you also see in these pictures.


In this vacation I have just offered myself and accepted the position of visiting scholar. There is no pay but room and board has been provided as well as some transportation costs.

Today was field trip day. Vick and I took the boys to a firehouse this morning for a tour as part of their twin’s playgroup. There were fourteen plus women with at least two children each, two firemen and me. I felt more than a little out of place as the only male out of uniform, but I did learn that while stopping, dropping, and rolling one should also cover ones mouth because of the fumes (they’ve added that bit since I was small) and that while most fire alarms are now hard wired to the house, those with batteries should have them changed in accordance with the “spring forward fall back” time changes, just so you don’t forget.

I learned the difference between a fire truck and a fire engine; the engine has a ladder while the truck does not. We were given fire truck and engine “baseball” cards to illustrate this key difference. A fire fighting Hummer was alluded to, but unavailable for inspection as it was out tending to a brush fire. Sadly there was no pole; the station occupies a single level, but they are moving soon and may have a pole at the new facility. Fireman Steve showed us the kitchen, the TV room, the lockers where he changes his clothes and then he showed us where he sleeps, “It’s hard to make noise in here because everyone can hear everything.” Jan, a random mother, was fanning herself during this portion of the tour. Stuffy little cubicles, its no wonder she was feeling the heat.

Steve also wanted the children to know what to do if someone has been shot, the house is on fire, they are on fire, mommy or daddy have fallen out of a tree or off the roof and hurt them selves, broke something or several somethings. Call 911 and know your own address. Some of the children are still on language acquisition so they were simply encouraged to become familiar with what a crawling fireman looks like, should they ever see one then they will know he’s there to help. Really it was a contingency workshop more than a fieldtrip. Overwhelmed by the possibilities, most of the young ones took their red plastic hats and kept a tight lip, reluctant even to climb through the driver’s seat of the truck, filled as it was with portents of disaster and the potential for their own or their parent’s demise.

After we took pictures with the engine of doom, and we convinced Nick and Jake that they weren’t going to fire it up for us, it was my turn to have a field trip all my own. I went and visited Andy in the land of corporate America. Marble entry and security guards, flags and food courts. Like a high school really, complete with basketball court, air hockey, and a putting green. He works on the fifth floor of six in the company headquarters, which is one building in a complex of several. This is the marketing division where he works as an analyst. It’s a nice complex and I met several of his coworkers. It actually reminded me quite a lot of my job on a much larger scale. Though our divisions consist of one person each with a great deal of overlap and little to no oversight. He trouble shoots like I do, but his area more specific. I spent a half hour watching while they resolved a computer problem that looked all too familiar. Action in the service of a corporate entity the end result of which is improved vision for people – they’re a vision company.

Andy has good vision insurance as a consequence of this job and he gave me his old pair of Maui Jims so see my eye through the trip back to St. Louis. As you may have inferred from yesterday’s comments I will begin the road trip portion of this adventure tomorrow morning. The Big Texan awaits us with jackalopes aplenty.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I just did something that I haven’t done in years. I exercised. Of course I walk the dog and do other things that are technically in the vicinity of healthful activity, but they do not compare to riding a tandem beachcomber style bike for miles and miles while pulling two forty pound twins behind you in a cart; brothers pulling brothers, sort of fun both conceptually and actually.

We biked from Andy’s place in Rancho Cordova, past my old apartment circa 1991, to the shore of the American river, which I used to walk down to and swim across with my then roommate Jason and my friend Kate, when she would come over from Berkley. Jason, now going by his first name Tom, claims to still be in love with Kate. His wife left him last summer, taking the new truck and leaving him the house. When people leave you it’s easy to foster love for all your ex’s, even those of distant and naive youth, just ask Julio Iglesias.

We then biked along the river to the Sacramento damn, past lake Nacoma up to the bridge into Folsom and then back again. Vick, my sister-in-law not my sister, met us back at the dam and took the kids home just to make sure they hadn’t had too much fun. We had picnicked on the cliffs over Nacoma, under a chestnut tree, and we threw many stones into the lake to watch them disappear in the clear, green hued water.

I always loved riding bikes and this excursion may well prompt me to track down a bolt cutters when back in St. Louis, so I can rescue Brad’s once used bike from its’ rusting inactivity under my back porch (he's lost/fogotten the combination). I could zip about forest park in search of a mugging.

As I often am in the homes of my siblings, I am know in this household as “Uncle Karl” – run together just like that. St. Louis friends first encountered this moniker when Taylor moved back in the Vicky and found it quite unsettling – they were at first uncertain that I was uncle material. It turns out I am. Andy and Vicky thought I might find staying with twins in their terrible twos sufficient evidence for more drastic forms of birth control, however I am finding their tantrums, only occasional ones at that, don’t really phase me at all. Scary stuff to consider, but I may have finally accrued some patience such that parenthood, while generally an unlikely scenario for me, might not be wholly unwelcome. So look for that sometime in the next twenty years (does he have a bridge to sell us?).

I thought of a chapter title when I first arrived here related to my moniker:

Uncle Karl in the land of the DTs

This has not proved to be the case. My brother and I are after all both -------, and booze and BBQ are as ubiquitous here as you might expect (as is the right glass for every beverage). As I looked through their stemware the other night I told Vicky, “You like to think that you’re an individual. That you have your own unique perspectives about the world and then you visit your brother and discover he has the exact same pilsner glasses, the same martini glasses, the same silver rimmed rocks glasses.” Genotype or phenotype we ended up with similar taste and similar perspectives. This is a good vacation and a good re-acquaintance. You’ll be happy to know I am memorizing some of my brother’s best recipes, such as the currently marinating Carna’ Asada, which I’ll make for you all in good time.


Monday, August 02, 2004

the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to
completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long
way to go.  You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each
other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of
beating each other about the head and torso.  Sometimes it works and sometimes
it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result.  But your heart
is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.

face="Times New Roman">Take the Country
at the Blue Pyramid


Yesterday we went to the Jack Russell brewpub and got sloshed on scotch ale – here’s a review. When we got back I made a vat of gumbo, which I don’t think was a big hit, as neither of them had had it before. I had three bowls and think it was one of my best batches in some time, I hope they don’t just pitch the leftovers. The kids had eggs. Andy and Vick were polite about it, but anyway maybe I’ll make something more mainstream tonight if they let me near the kitchen. Andy and I got up early today and golfed eighteen at a local course, vacation=golf. We’re in the process of making breakfast burritos and the kids are at the park with mom. Soon I think a nap and then I’ll earn my keep later today by gardening and hanging some valances.


Sunday, August 01, 2004

Tales of vacation:

The weather here is perfect – last night was seventy and breezy. Actually unseasonably nice I am repeatedly being told. I am reliving Kirksville by reading Richard Russo’s Straight Man, just finished the passage in the Dean’s office where he alludes to Robert Pirsig’s last book – from which he apparently took the name for the main character’s wife. Many of the characters seem to have something in common with those of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I took the scene as a lighthearted jab at writing late books for a paycheck and an acknowledgement of parity in milieu, “I’ll name a yacht after her (Lila).” Yesterday was mostly getting to know my twin nephews Nick and Jake who will soon be three years old, born on September 12th 2001, and they have a third sibling Michael due September 27th. Andy, my brother, and I finished getting the nursery set up with painting touchups and the re-assemblage of furniture.

This trip has details worth sharing, but I am taking the unusual step of writing in a journal so ya’ll will have to wait for the transcriptions. My brother lives just off HWY 54 on the way out of Sacramento towards lake Tahoe, just a stones throw from my old apartment, which we went by yesterday. Right now we’re on our way up into the mountains to picnic at a micro brewery and I must dash as the car is loading.