One Hand Clapping – July 2004
The purpose of this daily journal is to see if I can find a way to unclench my fist and turn it into an open palm — a palm of generosity, understanding, compassion — and to see if I can capture, in words, the thunderous sound of one hand clapping. To put it another way, it is my publicly insane response to a world gone mad. It is also a way of reminding myself, and anyone willing to listen, that the madness will someday end.
— William Michaelian
Note: Each month of One Hand Clapping has been assigned its own page. Links are provided here, and again at the bottom of each journal page. To go to the beginning of Volume 2, click here.
March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003
October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004
April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004
October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005
July 1, 2004 — No one tells me to write. Should I decide not to, no one is going to fire me or threaten me with legal action. I write by choice. When I get up in the morning, I know I am going to write. When I go to bed at night, I know I will write again the next day — assuming, of course, that I wake up. Some might call this self-discipline, but they would be no less accurate if they called it stupidity. Others might actually envy my situation, lacking this sort of freedom in their own lives. But there is a good chance they are unaware of what this freedom costs. It has nothing to do with bravery. I am not brave. Stubborn, yes. Hard-headed? Absolutely. And we mustn’t leave out selfish. I also write because I don’t know what else to do. Writing is what I like. Why should I spend my time doing something else? And yet the pay is lousy, the hourly wage is comically low, there is no retirement plan, and there are no health benefits. Financially speaking, it is like being aboard a slowly sinking ship with land on the horizon. Will the ship stay afloat long enough for the crew to swim ashore? Because, the funny thing is, a writer’s fortunes can suddenly change. After enduring years of poverty, he can awaken to find himself adored by millions, sought after, listened to, admired, and appreciated — for about five or ten minutes. Then, just as quickly, he can enter the realm of disappointment and disgrace, for which there doesn’t have to be a good reason, only that someone in New York took exception to something the author said or wrote, or didn’t say or didn’t write, or implied, even though, if the truth were known, the author was homesick and had gas from eating in too many restaurants. And then the whole thing unravels, and he finds himself back where he was at the beginning, back at getting up in the morning and doing his work, and by this activity he is restored to his healthy nose-thumbing self. No wonder so many critics and media people are jealous. As fun as it must be to destroy someone’s career, it must be frustrating when they can’t destroy the person himself, and the person goes right on with his work. It takes a small-minded individual indeed to think it is all about money, and that by preventing a hard-working writer from earning a living, that he or she has actually accomplished something. And yet I can’t help feeling sorry for people like this, because they are servants of a cold-hearted corporate system that murders potential in favor of short-term gain. This is part of what makes my choosing to write so important. I am free — to work to my own standards, to recognize and overcome my own weaknesses, to have my own say, and to do something about my ignorance. Who is going to stop me? An unscrupulous publisher? A literary agent? A magazine editor? A critic? A talk show host? No. It will take a lifetime to put this fire out, though I have already been charred and burned in the process. And I am free to laugh at this ridiculous image of myself, and what I have become, and the circus that is my daily life. How many people can say this, or are willing or foolish enough to admit it? Therein the secret of survival lies, the secret of the flower that blooms and dies, and yet is not forgotten.
July 2, 2004 — Since everything having to do with the presidential debates — including time, place, format, and who is and isn’t included — is controlled by the republican and democratic parties with the goal of protecting their candidates from public relations harm, the debates are just one more meaningless step on the road to yet another bogus election. Even using the word “debate” for this kind of show is ridiculous. What would happen, for instance, if the current president actually had to sit across the table from someone and respond to his unrehearsed questions? He would be tied in knots. What would happen if his opponent was Saddam Hussein? Judging by Hussein’s court appearance in Iraq yesterday, Bush wouldn’t have a chance. Hussein is a criminal — he would have to be, having been used and encouraged by the U.S. for so many years — but it’s obvious he is not dumb. Whereas, Bush is a criminal, and it’s obvious that he is dumb, because he can’t even string together a few intelligent unscripted sentences. I’ve read where the press is forever having to edit his comments to make him sound less stupid than he really is — and he still sounds stupid. So, what would happen if these two criminals had a legitimate, open debate? What would happen if people could see them as they really are, and not as they are safely presented by the media via carefully selected images and sound-bites? Unfortunately, this question will not be answered, as it won’t be answered later during the presidential debates. We will have plenty of entertainment in the coming months, but no real substance. Meanwhile, you have to wonder why more people can’t simply look at these pretend leaders and see them for what they really are. It doesn’t take a debate to know what these monsters are up to. Their records are already clear, and are also written on their faces.
July 3, 2004 — Now Marlon Brando has made his final exit. Fortunately, the Bush campaign won’t try to hijack his image as they did with Ray Charles when Reagan died. I don’t think “I could have been a contender” and “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” are statements the current administration wants to be associated with. Nor would they touch Brando’s activism or lifestyle with a ten-foot pole. Oh, well. It’s their loss. Brando once said he didn’t have the moral courage to refuse Hollywood’s money. If a politician said something like that, he would instantly gain respect, and would probably be reelected in a landslide, or, at the very least, a mudslide. But of course this is all beside the point. The real point is that Brando’s death is a reminder that when someone dies, famous or not, the biggest part of him departs unknown. Like everyone else, Marlon Brando had his own life, and his own private questions and understanding. In this way, he was no different than the anonymous man on the street, or the hermit or monk or forklift driver. To think a famous person is either above or below the average person who isn’t famous is a mistake. He might possess an outstanding talent or ability, or a fortunate combination of personality and luck, but this doesn’t make him any more or less human. Indeed, some of the motivations of famous people have been grounded in the basest of desires, or have been the result of their trying to overcome feelings of inferiority, disappointment, loss, anger, or just plain fear. This doesn’t mean their talents and accomplishments aren’t to be appreciated and enjoyed. It means the people who appreciate and enjoy them shouldn’t sell themselves short. To idolize others is to denigrate oneself. Everyone is famous in one way or another, whether they know it or not. The pay might not be as good, but that is no reason not to celebrate.
July 4, 2004 — In his fascinating introduction to Shakespeare’s Complete Works, editor G.B. Harrison mentions a clever money-making scheme hatched by Will Kempe, the clown of Shakespeare’s acting company, the Chamberlain’s Men. Kempe bet that he could dance from London to Norwich, a distance of about a hundred miles. Says Harrison, “He set out on February 10 and reached his destination in nine stages. On his arrival the Mayor and chief citizens gave him a civic reception. It was a triumphant progress and was talked of for years. Kempe was so greatly elated by his success that he planned a much more ambitious venture: to dance over the Alps to Rome. He therefore sold his share in the Globe Theater, left the Chamberlain’s Men, and set out.” A couple of pages and several months later, Kempe turns up in London again after fulfilling his Rome bet, somewhat down in the mouth because his accomplishment didn’t generate the fanfare he’d expected. Unfortunately, Harrison gives no other details, though it’s likely there were none available to give. But this is still quite an episode, and one, it seems to me, that could be turned into a very good short story. Imagine the thoughts that pass through the clown’s mind during his strange journey, and the kind of person he must be to pursue such an idea. Think of the sun going down at the end of a lonely day’s dancing, and doubt creeping into his mind as daylight fails. A clown on the road, laughing, dancing, driven by silent grief. . . . Ah, well. Who’s the clown now?
July 5, 2004 — Beginning at about nine o’clock last night, our entire neighborhood for blocks around was transformed into a major firework battle zone. A surprising number of the fireworks were the large, airborne, illegal kind once reserved for displays at small town football fields. Such explosives are forbidden in Oregon, but they are sold in Washington, only an hour’s drive away. As always, it was hard to relax as showers of sparks drifted over dry rooftops, pine trees, and fir trees. Every year we keep our fingers crossed as ambulance and fire truck sirens wail in the distance. Until about eleven last night, there was a steady sizzling, cracking, popping, thundering din; but the final deep explosions didn’t come until around one in the morning. This childish show of patriotism while people are enduring the real thing made me sick. I can’t help wondering how these local heroes would enjoy spending a few such nights in Iraq, each morning to find buildings gone, vehicles burned, and the bodies of loved ones lying in the streets. But maybe I am being too harsh. After all, isn’t it fun to watch the bright, colorful lights? And isn’t it thrilling to feel the explosions vibrate against your sternum, and to smell the gunpowder in the air? For me, no. I hate it. I am angered and embarrassed by it. I cannot separate the images and sensations from what they really represent. I don’t believe in the rockets’ red glare, and the bombs bursting in air. I think people should ask themselves why they are mimicking war, when war solves nothing and is our very undoing. But, again, maybe I am missing the point. This nation and countless others were founded on war, and on the willful destruction of other peoples and cultures. And around the world, enough human beings are still willing to sacrifice themselves, their children, and the future for reasons they have not fully considered, or, more often than not, for reasons of which they remain blissfully unaware. So why shouldn’t they celebrate in this way? Granted, a more fitting way to celebrate the birth of a nation would be for the people of that nation to declare an end to war, and to see to it that the money formerly spent on destruction be used to feed, educate, and care for people. Then, each year on the birth of their great decision, they could go outside and look up at the stars and listen to the sounds of the night instead of setting off fireworks and scaring their pets to death. Yeah, yeah, I know. Just listen to him. What an idiot. Well, fine. I am an idiot. That’s hardly news. But I’ll tell you what: at this very moment, a street sweeper is coming up the street, cleaning up the debris left from last night. Very early this morning, as I was taking our son to his first day of work on his new job, we looked at the filth people had left behind, the casings, the canisters, the fuses. Some people had cleaned up after themselves, but many others hadn’t, or had done a careless job. Everywhere, there were burn marks on the pavement, and on the houses behind where the burn marks and the messes were the most, flew the biggest flags. It makes me wonder: do the owners of these flags think a street sweeper comes through each morning in Baghdad, to clean up the mess from the night before?
July 6, 2004 — When I picked up our son from work yesterday at five, he was tired and caked with dirt, but obviously pleased with the way his first day had gone. Naturally, it didn’t hurt that his ten hours of farm labor had earned him seventy dollars. He isn’t crazy about math, but he has no trouble figuring out what he’ll make doing this six days a week for the rest of the summer. When I suggested this morning that after awhile he was going to be hooked on getting up at five a.m. and seeing the sun rise, he seemed skeptical, then mumbled something about it being awfully cold at that hour. But we’ll see what happens. We’ve only been twice, yet I’m already looking forward to our morning trips to the iris farm. I noticed activity in one blueberry patch this morning, as pickers were getting ready to make another pass through the field. And I was pleased to see that most of the grass seed fields have been cut. At one point along the way, there is a sign by a pair of birch stumps that says “Free Wood,” but there is no wood, unless they are referring to the sign itself. There are also a couple of big walnut trees by the roadside, a scattering of barns and houses, and a nice assortment of flowers and weeds. In one place, the newly rising sun is temporarily blocked by a small stand of cottonwood trees. The whole scene is quiet and calm, and the atmosphere of early summer is full of promise.
July 7, 2004 — Later this morning, I have an appointment with the eye doctor. It has been over two years since my last exam, and I know my glasses will need to be replaced. Anymore, I can hardly read without them, and in some cases I can hardly read with them, especially when my eyes are tired, which they often are. In fact, they are tired now, and it’s only seven in the morning. It might have helped, though, had I slept more than four hours. I tried, but the neighborhood refused to cooperate. I had already fallen asleep when a couple of kids set off a loud firework in the street not far from our open window. That happened at ten-thirty, and nearly sent me threw the ceiling. I jumped out of bed with my heart pounding and slammed the window shut just as a cloud of smoke was drifting in. After that, each time I managed to relax enough to almost go back to sleep, firecrackers were lit somewhere nearby, a house or two away. Between times, small herds of children thundered by, laughing. I don’t blame them, because it was a beautiful, cool, breezy night. But I do blame their parents, or at least those who are still around, and their parents’ current boyfriends and girlfriends, some of whom by daylight pretend to be adults. Perhaps I should have knocked on their doors this morning at five, and invited them to join my son and me for breakfast. Or maybe tonight I should set bags of fresh horse manure afire on their front steps and ring their doorbells. The county fair is about to begin. The horses are arriving daily. I’m sure they’d be willing to oblige. Of course, we don’t really call it horse manure. We use the same name our family has always used, beginning back when my father was a kid and his uncles used to visit from Fresno and stay at his house during the summer. It is a wonderful term comprised of two words that I am proud to reveal here: road apples. Once, when my father was very small, his uncle, Archie, told him to go out and look for road apples. Dad happily set out, having no idea what road apples were. He looked and looked, then finally came back in defeat. When Uncle Archie showed him a real live road apple, the revelation set something profoundly important into motion that strengthens and guides us to this day. And so, thank you, Uncle Archie. The exact date is lost in the mists of time, but today can’t be too far from the seventy-fifth anniversary of my father’s discovery of road apples on Road 66 in Dinuba, California — unless it was around the corner on Avenue 404.
July 8, 2004 — Lately we’re not sure when our telephone is ringing unless we’re in the same room, because more often than not the ringing sound we hear is being made by a bird in our backyard. Several weeks ago, this bird, which we have yet to identify or catch in the act, learned to imitate the telephone. “There’s the phone,” one of us would say. “Do you want to answer it, or shall I?” And then another of us would say, “Are you sure that’s the phone?” And someone would reply, “What else could it be?” The answer: a bird. This creature not only sounds like the telephone, but the rings it makes are of the proper interval and duration. “Hello?” Well, I’ll be darned, no one’s there. As if that weren’t enough, more recently, the bird has taken to imitating the rapid-fire action of a lawn sprinkler — the agitated kind that clicks its way across an area, and then, once it has made it all the way, quickly returns to its original position and starts clicking again. I guess this is what happens when birds spend too much time in the city. It makes me wonder if half the racket I hear every day isn’t being made by these demented birds — the lawn mowers, the leaf blowers, the air compressors, the jackhammers, the staple guns, the news helicopters, the hydraulic lifts, the radios playing country music. By the same token, maybe the tweeting I hear isn’t being made by birds, but by cats trying to hypnotize their psychotic prey. And maybe the human voices I hear are not human voices after all, but the voices of trees speaking through their leaves. . . . There they are now. They’re saying, “Hey, aren’t you going to answer the phone?”
July 9, 2004 — Is this really me, or is it just an approximation? Is what I leave out more important than what I leave in? Do I even know what I am leaving out? For that matter, do I really understand what I am leaving in? And what about these questions? Are they of any value, or are they a substitute for substance? Are they just a clever way of saying I have nothing to say? If they are, wouldn’t it be better if I simply said so? Wouldn’t it be more honest? For if I come right out and say I have nothing to say, can it not at least be said that I said something worthwhile, however brief? Can I not in fact be admired for making such a statement? Wouldn’t I be deserving of thanks? Shouldn’t my accomplishment be publicly acknowledged, and shouldn’t I be rewarded with a modest stipend? By disentangling myself from pointless, weary discourse, will I not have made a great contribution to the world, and to my fellow human beings? Would I not be lighting the way for future generations, and opening the door to peace and harmony throughout the ages? Or would I still be just an idiot? Would I be laughed at and spit on — or, even worse, ignored? And, finally, having said I have nothing to say, how would I feel if ten minutes later I suddenly had something very meaningful and important to say? Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to come back and say I have something to say after all, and that what I said before should be disregarded? Isn’t it best, therefore, to say something, however trifling it seems, and hope some good will come out of it? And isn’t that approach just as worthy? Might it not be said of a man who doesn’t say he has nothing to say, and who instead says the first thing that comes to his mind, that here is a man who means well, and who carries on despite his limitations, or, perhaps more accurately, his afflictions? Well?
July 10, 2004 — It’s early yet, but it feels like a good day to spend at the public library. It feels like an even better day to spend hiking in the mountains, or playing solitaire on a rough wooden table on the porch of a remote cabin beside a clear, cold stream. None of these things, though, will happen. What will happen instead? Uh, well, not much. But I do hope to eat a piece of watermelon. What has happened so far? So far, I’ve made our resident farm worker a big breakfast and hauled him off to his job, taken a shower, made coffee, and tried to work up enough energy to stay awake. And just now, right outside our open window, a woman walking her dog blew her nose like a trumpet. . . . There they go, continuing up the sidewalk. In my experience, women seldom blow their noses like trumpets in the street later in the day when people are around. Men will do it, proclaiming their presence like proud elephants. Men are crude, and take pride in their crudity. Women are refined. They wait until they think no one is listening or watching, then they sound their horns a few feet away from open bedroom windows: Feevoooop! Actually, this Feevoooop! is borrowed, again from Uncle Archie, who frequently made the sound to represent the call of a wild elk. Among other things, Archie, who had a tremendously loud voice, used to call my father “old elk.” This dates back to the Sixties, when my father was younger than I am now. Back in junior high school, an Armenian friend and I would call out to each other from down the corridors and across the school grounds, “Feevoooop!” To this day, I still unleash an occasional Feevoooop! in honor of the past, and to keep in shape. The stress is on the last syllable. It is also on my loving bride, and on neighbors foolish enough to leave their windows open.
July 11, 2004 — Ah-ha! I just had a brilliant idea: One Hand Clapping needs an advertising spokesman, like the dynamic TV nerd who turns up in all sorts of strange places with his cell phone and says, with a self-satisfied smirk, “Can you hear me now? Good!” Except my nerd wouldn’t be carrying a cell phone, he would be clapping with one hand. Swish, swish. Can you hear me now? Of course, most people would think he was waving at flies, and would wonder what it was he was selling. That part I haven’t worked out yet. Note: Someday, if this document survives, people will wonder what I’m talking about. What is a cell phone? they will ask. What is a TV? What is a nerd? Scholars and historians will devote years of their lives to sorting this out. For that matter, people might also want to know what scholars and historians are, and there might not be any scholars and historians around to tell them. Am I concerned about this? Not really. If it doesn’t matter now, it probably won’t matter then, either.
July 12, 2004 — For two and a half hours yesterday afternoon, my dear wife and I sat in the hot sun watching a friend’s son play baseball in Amity, a small town twenty-some miles northwest of Salem. His team won the first game of their double-header, 7-6. Our arms already burnt to a tingling crisp, we didn’t linger for the second game, though we would have liked to. Most of the players were in their twenties and played together in high school. They wear uniforms, but the league is casual. The Amity team has no coach, and I’m pretty sure the other team didn’t either. His first three times at bat, our friend’s son hit singles; he flied out his last time up — a successful day, except that he had promised me the week before that he would hit a home run. As if that weren’t enough, he said it would come in his first time at bat. And so I told him how disappointed I was, and how I didn’t appreciate being lied to, and that even though he pitched two innings in relief and struck out four batters and saved the game, I knew he had done it not to help his team, but to distract me. As it happens, Amity is surrounded by grass seed fields, almost all of which have now been cut. Even so, I spent the evening sneezing violently, until I finally collapsed in exhaustion and despair and fell asleep at about eleven. What seemed like a few minutes later, the alarm clock went off, telling me it was time to get up and make breakfast for our iris laborer, who has the luxury of sleeping in until five. Lucky guy. How he can eat a big breakfast within three minutes of waking up is beyond me. When I was his age, it used to take me at least five or ten minutes before I could face a stack of pancakes or several scrambled eggs and toast with butter and homemade boysenberry jam.
July 13, 2004 — At about three-thirty this morning, a feeble thunderstorm moved slowly through the area, like a coughing old writer on crutches. The lightning, I suppose, could be likened to brief flashes of insight, but that’s probably carrying the analogy too far — or maybe not far enough. Poor guy. He’s worked hard. Let’s give him some credit. Altogether, I think I counted twelve drops of rain. But the storm was enough to sweeten and lighten the air after a hot day yesterday — a welcome relief, though in reality it has so far been a relatively cool, dry summer. Now the old writer is in the hills somewhere, leaning against an oak tree and reading the work of eighteenth century rhyming poets. Most likely, he will be dead by this afternoon and forgotten forever, even by his fellow writers, who should know better, and perhaps would if they weren’t so busy working at doughnut shops and seeking publicity. Wait. Whose voice is that I hear? Ah, ’tis only the wind. Only the wind.
July 14, 2004 — Yesterday afternoon, while exchanging sarcastic pleasantries with a store cashier who, owing to his current status as an underpaid, underinsured corporate drone, appeared to be hanging onto his sanity by a thread, I said, “Well, it’s either laugh or go crazy.” Since he readily agreed with this statement, I added, “In my case, though, the order is reversed.” This earned a genuine laugh, albeit a sad one. For the life of me — which I recognize isn’t worth much — I hated to leave him there, wearing his demeaning uniform and standing bravely at his post. On our way out I said to my wife, “It might be tolerable if he was earning a living, but he’s not. The whole thing makes me sick.” Indeed, what has happened and what is still happening to the people of this country, and to the people of the world, is enough to drive anyone mad. While monsters like the Bushes and their Saudi oil buddies conduct business as usual, and while their mutual buddies in the arms business make money hand over fist, and while their other buddies get paid exorbitant amounts to rebuild what they have destroyed while killing poor innocent people and creating untold misery, the people are kept poor, ignorant, and entertained. Confused unemployed young men are actively recruited by slick members of the armed forces telling lies and bearing business cards. Those who choose to enlist are then chewed up and spit out either dead, maimed, wounded, or with other health or psychological problems, and then abandoned by the government, which during the Bush regime has quietly slashed veteran benefits. There are only two kinds of people who agree with what the Bush family and their partners in crime are doing: those who are ignorant of the truth behind their dealings, and those who stand to gain monetarily. There is also a third, or at least a subcategory: those whose ignorance allows them to believe they and their country are superior, and that this gives them the right to kill perfect strangers in their own homes, on their own land. This kind of ignorance is more dangerous than the most drastic form of mental illness, because it is deadly, and because it is a disease passed from generation to generation.
July 15, 2004 — To attract people downtown, the City of Salem closes two blocks of Chemeketa Street to traffic on Wednesdays during the summer and hosts an outdoor market. Since we were in the area yesterday morning, my wife and I decided to stroll through and see what was being offered. Vendors were selling flowers, fresh produce, homemade food, pottery, soap, and other such items. When we stopped at the booth of a local bee man, he gave us samples of vetch, blackberry, and wildflower honey. Then we bought a big bunch of flowers at another booth, returned to the honey booth for a small jar of wildflower honey, and then bought about two pounds of string beans and three large ripe apricots at another booth. It was a nice atmosphere, though being early it was still on the quiet side. There was a sign on one corner that said live music would be starting in about an hour, but we didn’t wait around to find out what kind of music it was. Instead, we put our stuff in the van and headed for a small bakery about three blocks away, where we bought a loaf of sourdough to go with the lamb stew I had made the day before. Then we drove the back route through the country to Independence, a small town a few miles away on the west side of the Willamette River. We looked at the fields, orchards, and surrounding hills and sighed, glad to be away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, even though Salem is relatively small and tame, with only minor bustle and even less hustle, generated by locals tending to their affairs or engaged in various time-honored scams, or by people like us who suddenly find themselves with a couple of free hours they weren’t expecting and so decide to take a mini-vacation. There were flowers along the roadside, some kind of wild sweet pea that seems to be having an excellent year. There were big old houses with long, shady porches and overgrown yards surrounded by oak trees and wild blackberry growth. There were dips and cracks in the road, and then further along as one approaches the river the road had been scraped to the bone and deeply grooved in preparation for being repaved. We ate one of the apricots. It wasn’t as sweet and juicy as the ones we used to grow in Dinuba, but it was still good. It was real. And so were we.
July 16, 2004 — The adventure continues. Yesterday we enjoyed a long, windy ride in a tow truck, all the way from Silver Falls State Park to our friendly neighborhood auto dealership and garage, where a mechanic will try to figure out why our van won’t start. Recently, I had noticed every so often when starting the engine that it seemed like I had to hold the key down a little longer than usual before the engine turned over. Most of the time it was normal. Thinking it might be the battery, I took the van to the shop on Monday. They tested the battery, the starter, the alternator, and so on, and everything was normal. I left on a we’ll-see-what-happens basis, right after the mechanic and service advisor both said, “Well, I don’t think it will strand you anywhere.” When my wife and I appeared at the garage in our windblown glory three days later, the first thing I said to the service advisor was, “You said it wouldn’t strand us. That’s what you said.” At first, he thought I was mad. Every so often, I will run into a person who thinks I am mad, when in fact I am joking. My wife says it’s because my beard and mustache cover so much of my face, rendering my mouth invisible, and leaving only my eyes to go by. “If he could see my eyes, he should’ve been able to tell I was smiling,” I said to her later, after our complimentary ride home — which, incidentally, was given by one of the most obnoxious men we’d ever met. Anyway, after I’d made a few additional comments to put him at ease, the advisor finally realized I wasn’t mad. I was hungry from going without lunch, but not mad — partly because the tow truck driver was a nice guy and had laughed at all of my bad puns, though he did groan a couple of times. The driver who took us home from the garage, however, was another case altogether. I will do my best to never ride with him again. Among other social infractions, he was stupid enough and coarse enough to comment on a woman’s weight as we passed her walking toward the entrance of an ice cream parlor. His exact words were, “You don’t need to go in there, lady.” A legend in his own mind, the driver was in his sixties and old enough to know better. They say it’s never too late to learn. In his case, I wonder.
July 17, 2004 — Like the great Willie Nelson, we’re “on the road again.” The van has a new starter, my wallet is empty, the sky is blue, and however far our remaining gas will take us, that’s where we’ll go. What will we do when we get there? Ha! That depends on where it is. We might gather some dry brush and build a fire, take in a little league baseball game, or huddle in our van in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The possibilities are endless. We could even drive home and stay there, like we usually do, and try to figure out a way to make some real money, and thereby leave Wal-Mart behind forever. Have I mentioned that I despise that place and everything it represents? Everyone there, employees and customers alike, are thinking about one thing and one thing only: money and how to get it. Or is that two things? All other thoughts are subsidiary and beside the point. People don’t go to Wal-Mart because it’s romantic or fun. If they do, then they are in serious trouble. Even so, on occasion I am able to rise above the hideous economic manifestation that is Wal-Mart and see the entertainment value, but only after several days of meditation. Usually, though, I am angry at the thought of millions of people dancing on the rim of the insatiable Wal-Mart volcano, especially since they are cutting their own and their towns’ financial throats in the process. But things are so much cheaper there. Twelve bars of Ivory soap cost $1.50 less than they do at the grocery store. A jug of dish-washing liquid is half the price. Light bulbs are even less. Isn’t that great? No, it is not great. It just means that wherever you go, you get cheated. Buying cheap light bulbs and working at Wal-Mart wages doesn’t make people happy or give them a feeling of hope and security. The whole setup is demeaning, unless you have piles and piles of money, and if you do, chances are you are still feeding and furthering the system that leaves millions without proper medical care, and with an ever-eroding form of education in an increasingly lifeless and pointless environment that ensures mediocrity. But it’s not my fault. I didn’t invent the system. Maybe not. But the system is invented and reinvented with our every move, as we wiggle and squirm our way to higher ground, all the while looking for some sort of advantage. That is why, from this moment forward, I will leave my room only when it is most drastically necessary, and will subsist on whatever forms of life I can find or cultivate in the backyard. No more light bulbs. The sun is enough. No more soap. I don’t like my neighbors anyway. No more pleasure trips to state parks, unless I walk, no more juvenile frolic at the expense of my fellow human beings, no more vans, no more starters, no more gasoline, no more ———
July 18, 2004 — The humidity was so oppressive yesterday that we were surprised to learn it was only eighty-three degrees. There were even a few drops of rain, the first couple of which startled the cat when they landed and made it jump in the air and look around with suspicion. Then, in the evening, the sun came out with incredible, blinding ferocity, nearly breaking up the whiffle-ball game the boys had going with a couple of their pals in the driveway. Luckily, the clouds returned, and finally, at about nine o’clock, a nice breeze came up and cooled things down. What a relief, especially since the house was an oven. This morning it’s cloudless and cool, and not nearly as humid. It’s eight o’clock. The boys are still asleep, and will be for at least another two hours. What a gift they have. Since today is Sunday and I didn’t have to get up to make breakfast and take our youngest to his job, I was free to sleep in. I got up at five-thirty. And though I’ve since showered and had a small bite to eat, I have only now gotten around to my morning coffee. Until that begins working, I still feel like I was dragged around the block behind a dog sled. The question is, why am I in such a rush to get this all down? Wouldn’t it be better if I waited an hour, and then started writing? I don’t know. An hour from now might be too late. A lot can happen in an hour. What if I’m called away on an emergency? What if an old friend I haven’t heard from in thirty years suddenly appears at my door? The whole day could go up in smoke. Not that it would be unpleasant. It would be great. Hi, how are you, good to see you, my god you haven’t changed a bit except your hair has fallen out and you’ve put on a few pounds and I hardly recognized you, come in, sit down, tell me all about it, tell me what you’ve been up to, do you remember the time we — and the other time we — and how so-and-so always used to — holy cow I still can’t believe you’re here, how long will you be in town, can you stay awhile, say is that your mother in the car, why don’t you tell her to come in, oh it’s your wife, I’m sorry, where has the time gone, so tell me all about your career in real estate, me? oh, same old same old, you know me, I never grew up, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, it’s a shame you have to leave so soon.
July 19, 2004 — It ended up hotter and every bit as humid yesterday as it was the day before, but once again we were bailed out by an evening breeze. Then the clouds deepened and it sprinkled during the night, wetting the street and perfuming the air. Now it’s completely overcast and not a leaf is stirring. This is a bit different than the situation in Maui, where an old school friend is currently vacationing. In an e-mail message from him that I read this morning, he said he was bored to death by the sunshine, the steady breezes, and the girls parading all but naked up and down the beach. Had he asked me ahead of time, I would have steered him away from Maui and recommended several fine museums close to home, such as the Museum of Raisin History, or the Museum of Early Plows and Wooden Handles. Instead, he allowed himself to be victimized by tourist propaganda. Poor guy. I feel sorry for him. Meanwhile, I emptied another can of coffee this morning. The next can isn’t a can at all, but one of those new stupid plastic containers with a screw-on lid and a magic freshness seal. We had one of them before and found that the coffee becomes stale much sooner than in a regular can. Besides, I like coffee cans. Not only have they been around for as long as I can remember, I have long regarded them as a minor art form — behind bottles, of course. Old bottles and old labels are great. But traditional coffee cans seem to be on their way out. Many brands have disposed of them altogether. And, as usual, the companies say they are doing it for the customers’ benefit, rather than admitting it helps their bottom line. It would be easy enough to step up my coffee consumption and use the stuff before it loses its zip. But that would be playing right into their hands. As it is, we are already victims of the Great Mayonnaise Scam, which involves selling mayonnaise in narrow-mouthed jars, thus making it impossible to scoop out the last of the mayonnaise, which in turn makes you buy your next jar sooner. Oh, how I hate the people who think up things like this. And does the Common Man rise up? Does he revolt? No. He hangs his collective head and goes right along with it, and acts as if mayonnaise is supposed to come in narrow-mouthed jars. No wonder we can’t solve our problems.
July 20, 2004 — Is life just a battle to survive, marked by colorful, poignant episodes, or is it something grander, better, more meaningful? Are our personal victories and defeats of any value beyond the narrow definition we give them in our quest for security and sanity? What about people who don’t have proper medicine or enough food to eat, and who die of starvation and disease? Do their lives mean anything beyond their own circle of grief? What must it be like to open one’s fly-covered eyes to a new day and not have the strength to lift oneself up, or to even understand or care? And yet, is it not equally tragic to be a bored, self-satisfied, well-fed bundle of petty concerns, selfish thoughts, and unexamined beliefs?
July 21, 2004 — At this very moment, my blushing bride is in the kitchen making a batch of apricot jam. She’s doing it early in the morning to beat the heat, as temperatures will be near 100 for the rest of the week. She has already made strawberry jam, strawberry-raspberry, and marionberry. And now the first peaches are appearing, so peach jam isn’t far off. Yesterday afternoon, she made a peach pie and a boysenberry pie, and we have been eating peaches every day for about a week. The variety available in fruit stands is called Early Red Haven. They are sweeter and juicier than usual. Last night a friend called and said someone had brought peaches into his place of work, and that they were so good he could hardly stand it. Actually, he only had one. The rest were devoured by his co-workers within a few minutes. When I told him we had fresh peach pie, he cursed and said he wanted some. Then I cursed, and he cursed some more, then we spent several minutes cursing, and blaming each other for every problem we’ve ever had and will have. To top it off, it was his birthday. “I don’t like birthdays,” he said, and I answered, “That’s just because you’re old. If you weren’t old, you wouldn’t mind them a bit.” My friend, who is eight years older than I am, thanked me for this reminder. “Tell you what,” I said. “Since it’s your birthday, I will bring you some pie. I’ll stop at the grocery store and get you a frozen pie, or maybe a chicken pot pie. How about that?” He cursed at me again, and told me he was going to fix himself another margarita. As we were both tired after a long day, we decided to call a temporary truce and hang up. Awhile later, I had a piece of peach pie. I didn’t feel guilty at all.
July 22, 2004 — In a letter to the editor a couple of days ago, someone suggested that the president’s daughters, who have been trotted out on the campaign trail in another attempt to humanize their daddy, should be wearing military uniforms rather than evening gowns. I disagree. While the idea holds a certain sick appeal, the girls shouldn’t have to pay for the crimes of their father and his family any more than the good-natured unemployed kid up the street who can’t afford college. Instead, let their old man go to Iraq, and let him take his brothers and business cronies with him, along with the people’s so-called representatives in government who approved the war. In other words, let those who profit most pay the most. If they don’t like the idea — and of course King George II made this clear when he disappeared from duty his first time around — then no one should go. No one. If the president isn’t eager and willing to die in his own war, then he shouldn’t expect anyone else to die in his place. And if he is eager and willing, then he should be locked up. That’s the trouble with money and power — it’s impossible to have too much, because what you don’t have, someone else will grab, and the next thing you know, you don’t get to be emperor anymore, and then you have to cry and go wee wee wee all the way home. I suppose I could have put this more intelligently, but the truth is, like the president, I am the victim of faulty intelligence — my own, not someone else’s. The buck stops here. Unfortunately, it stops only long enough to rest, then it moves on, and I have to go looking for another buck. Buck, buck. Buck, buck. Now I’m a chicken. And we all know how intelligent chickens are.
July 23, 2004 — The big story — or, rather, the big complaint — at the moment is the extreme heat that has engulfed the region. Today’s temperature is predicted to be in excess of 100 degrees, and the same is expected for tomorrow. Yesterday was ninety-eight, and it was a warm, gummy night. I woke up at two with a headache, fell back asleep, had a bad dream, and got up at four with the same headache. It has since subsided, with the help of aspirin, breakfast, and coffee, but it hasn’t left completely, and I don’t expect it will. It’s a matter of surviving the next few days until the weather breaks. Air conditioning would help, but most homes in the area, except for those built recently, are without. The number of extremely hot days here is generally limited. A typical summer averages about a dozen days of ninety-plus-degree weather. Temperatures in the mid-eighties and cooler nights are most common. I realize this is dull. But, thanks to the heat, so am I. At least that’s my excuse this time. But I did pick up two more books the other day: Mademoiselle de Maupin, by Théophile Gautier, and The Reivers, by William Faulkner. So far, Gautier’s preface has been interesting. It’s main purpose is to rake critics and journalists over the coals — a cause as worthwhile now as it was in the nineteenth century when the book was written. It seems Gautier might also be preparing readers for his novel’s racy content, but I won’t know for sure until I’ve finished the preface and read the story. Other than that, there is nothing new to report. Life, in all its insane variety and splendor, continues. Predictably as the 2004 presidential “election” nears, the headlines tell us that we aren’t safe, and that evil terrorists are lurking. After all, a scared population is a compliant one. Never mind that this country’s actions around the world are generating more enemies every day. It is a strange logic that says if we are to be safe, we need to kill people, steal their resources, and set up permanent military shop on their land. One would think it would be the opposite: wouldn’t we be safer if we helped people and encouraged them to help others in turn? Or is such a thing impossible because we have hated each other, and have been told we hate each other, and have been told to hate each other, for so long? Who would trust us now if we were to lay down our weapons and tell the world we want to heal instead of kill? And if we set such a glorious example, wouldn’t it spell our doom? Maybe it would. But, as I see it, we are doomed anyway, just as all nations throughout history have been doomed. One of our most basic human failings is our short-sightedness. We think only of ourselves, here and now and a few years hence. We don’t concern ourselves with the common good and our common future on this planet. We want what we want now, and leave the future to our unknown progeny, even though it destroys the planet and makes us miserable in the process. This is why we are constantly at war, and why some of us have far more than we need while others needlessly suffer and die. The most amazing thing of all, though, is that countless millions of us don’t see it, and don’t care enough to see it. We are surrounded by beauty, and yet beauty is not enough. Life is a miracle, but not a big enough miracle to satisfy us. We want more. We want convenience. We want what someone else has, and we don’t want someone else to have what we have. And yet we already have everything. It boggles the mind.
July 24, 2004 — This morning’s paper arrived in a colorful plastic bag advertising a well known over the counter pain killer. There were coupons to cut out, and in a specially sealed pocket there was a package containing two sample pills. I took them and began to feel better immediately. A short time after that, I realized I was hooked, so I sped to the store with my coupons and bought the largest box of the pills I could find. When I got home, I took another pill, just to be sure. It worked. I felt even better. I woke everyone in the house and gave them pills. They were hooked even quicker than I was, so I raced back to the store — this time without coupons — and bought another big box without looking at the price. “Have you tried these?” I asked the cashier who took my money. “They’re great.” The cashier smiled. “Of course I have,” she said. “I take them every day, several times a day.” In the parking lot, I gave pills to some people who had just arrived and were getting out of their car. “Aisle Nine,” I said. “You can’t miss them.” They thanked me, and actually seemed to do a little dance on their way to the store entrance. Back at home for the second time, I had sat down and started to work when I realized I felt a little too good. Just to be on the safe side, I took another handful of pills. That seemed to help. I began to feel worse immediately. A few minutes later, I was completely ill. I began to sweat. Thinking it was a fever, I took two more pills. The sweating stopped. I felt better again, so I took one more pill. This went on for some time — taking pills, feeling ill, taking more pills, feeling better — until finally I had run out of pills. But don’t get the wrong idea. I didn’t take all of the pills. The family was taking them too. For awhile there, the container never touched the counter as it was urgently passed along. It wasn’t until after we’d run out of pills that I noticed the sound of sirens, and that ambulances and fire trucks were parked in front of several of the neighbors’ houses with their lights flashing and their drivers calling for assistance. Wanting to be of help, I rushed outside and ran toward the nearest ambulance. Later, I awoke in a hospital bed. A nurse smiled at me. Then she filled a glass of water and handed it to me with two more of the pills. And, wouldn’t you know it, they turned me right around.
July 25, 2004 — It looks like the worst of the heat is over. After days of 104 and 99 degrees, the wind came crashing in from the west, bringing with it cool, coastal air. This morning there is even a thin layer of ocean clouds, and the temperature is in the lower sixties. When I got up, I found our tired farm worker sawing logs on the couch with the light on, where he had fallen asleep many hours earlier. I addressed a few kind words to his sleeping face, but my voice didn’t penetrate his slumber. So I looked at the Sunday paper to the accompaniment of his steady breathing and occasional snorts, had a small bite to eat, and washed the few dishes and glasses that had accumulated since yesterday’s evening meal. Then I took a shower and made some coffee. Now I am sitting here drinking the coffee. And I just heard something — the kid just got up and went to bed. It’s almost eight o’clock. All is well. Not counting the cat, I’m the only one up. Poor Joe. He suffered in the heat. But now he’s happy and full and outside licking his paws. And I’m stupid and dumb and tapping on my little keyboard. But at least I’m clean and the dishes are done. Just think how many people there are who would love to be able to say that, but can’t. And just think how many other people there are who would consider what I am doing right now to be a complete and utter waste. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Who would have thought I’d be so important to so many people? The fact that they don’t know it doesn’t change a thing. They are still under my power. Now they are growing sleepy, very sleepy. . . .
July 26, 2004 — Due to the heat and the strange hours I’ve been keeping lately, I’ve fallen even further behind in my reading. This morning at about a quarter after six, I finally finished Théophile Gautier’s preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin, and went on to read the first few pages of the novel itself before having to tend to a few household matters. The opening paragraphs were appealing and had a nice rhythm. But I definitely need to read the book in larger chunks in order to enjoy it and do it justice. Assuming I survive the day and am not detained by Homeland Security for unspecified charges, I will continue this evening. If I don’t survive, then maybe I’ll be permitted to read the book in my next life, and also to catch up on other things, such as understanding how the president balances his Christianity with the maiming and murder of small children and the steady production of war widows. Not that I question his deep belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ his savior. It’s his interpretation I wonder about. Since he has so much trouble with English, it’s possible George the Good has been reading a new translation of the Bible rendered in Republican Twang, with the words of Jesus printed in red, white, and blue, otherwise known as the Abridged Cheney Edition, containing a special key to mispronunciation and astute commentary by Donald Rumsfeld, and featuring a new map of the Bible Lands showing redrawn borders, military installations, and retaining walls, as well as a diagram of heaven that specifies parade routes and the number and placement of flag poles and Ronald Reagan statues. Verily I say unto thee, it is easier for a president to pass through the eye of a camel, than it is for a needle to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Dick, 9:11).
July 27, 2004 — This might sound strange, but part of me wonders if I shouldn’t drop everything and become a folk singer. I’ve always loved music, and music continues to play a profound role in my rather odd existence. I already know how to read music, having had five years of piano lessons as a youngster — not that not knowing would make any difference if I actually made such a decision. I’ve always believed that I can learn whatever I need to learn, when I want to learn it. More likely — and there is already ample proof in other areas to bear this out — is that I would have trouble unlearning what needs to be unlearned. In any case, I have long been aware that I possess a strong musical instinct. And I have mentioned before how music plays an important part in my writing. For me, words on a page are far more than the meanings they represent; ideally, they should have a certain appearance, rhythm, and sound that makes what they mean more accessible intellectually, emotionally, and physically. This might sound like bogus, egotistical garbage, and maybe it is. But I really do feel this way. And of course when I said I wonder if I shouldn’t drop everything and become a folk singer, I didn’t mean necessarily that I would drop writing. If it hasn’t already, writing might drop me somewhere along the line, but I’m no more capable of dropping it than I am of dropping — well, you name it. I wanted to come up with something clever or poetic there, but the heck with it. What I mean is, that whenever I decide to do something, I go all out, to the point that it appears I have dropped everything, when the truth is, I already dropped everything long ago, at least in the realm of common sense. Now that that’s been cleared up, I think it might be worthwhile to examine why else I wonder about becoming a musician. One reason that springs readily to mind is that a musician or singer can deliver his message anywhere, including on street corners, at most any time, whereas a writer’s options are more limited. It’s true enough that I could write a story and read it on a street corner, but I don’t see writing as a performance art. When I write something, I write it to be read — not by me to others, but by others to themselves. For my work to be read, it must be published, and even publication itself is not enough; there is the whole rigmarole involved in telling people that the book exists, and is available at all the usual outlets. The publication problem is partly solved by making use of the Internet, but the problem of publicity remains. If I were a folk singer, on the other hand, I could take my guitar and my songs anywhere. If I finished a song that I especially liked, I could go and sing it this afternoon in front of one of the coffee houses downtown, and no one would think it strange. They might think I’m strange, but I’m used to that. Moreover, I could sing for drinks in taverns all over the great Northwest, little by little making a name for myself, and coming up with new material along the way. As a writer, I can’t do that — though I’ve long thought it would be fun to visit taverns and later write about them. Likewise, I could attend poetry slams and yell my streetwise insanity and grief into a smelly microphone, but it’s just not me, and it certainly isn’t writing, though writing is occasionally involved. For me, it wouldn’t be much different than writing ad copy for real estate companies. Although, I must say, I have nothing against people who do either, as long as they enjoy it, in which case I’m all for them.
July 28, 2004 — The days are growing shorter. Now our early morning trips to the iris farm take place before the sun is up, and here and there a vehicle has its lights on, though it isn’t really necessary. By the time it’s over, this summer will be known as the Summer of Scrambled Eggs, as this is has turned out to be our son’s pre-dawn breakfast of choice. I offer him other things, but he’s not interested. He says there is no way he could face French toast or a bowl of steaming mush at five in the morning. There are times, though, when I think he might not recognize the difference. This morning, he ate most of his breakfast with his eyes closed. For the sake of efficiency, I eat with him. In self-defense, I try to vary what goes in the scrambled eggs, by using different kinds of cheese, adding mushrooms or a small amount of fried potato, and alternating between seasonings. I always use tabasco, and rarely skip dry purple basil. I don’t know if the kid notices, but having been up awhile longer, I do. And for whatever odd reason, I am still able to convince myself that I am inspired by what’s on my plate. When we first sit down, I usually say something like, “Isn’t this fantastic?” or, “There’s nothing better than scrambled eggs first thing in the morning.” The kid’s eyebrow goes up, but that’s about it. He’s used to me being a blowhard, even at that hour. One evening, I suggested I make both pancakes and eggs. He said, “That’s a blowhard’s breakfast.” I took it as a compliment. The following morning, I made scrambled eggs. If my calculation is correct, with Sundays off, there are thirty-three days of scrambled eggs to go before school starts. Maybe I should remind my breakfast partner of that when he comes home this evening. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t.
July 29, 2004 — Ongoing Torment Department: It is impossible to respect a man who early every morning coughs up a lung for the entire neighborhood to hear and then spits several times on his concrete driveway where his wife and son cannot avoid either seeing the result or stepping in it and carrying it elsewhere on their shoes or bare feet. There he goes again. It’s absolutely amazing. He’s dressed neatly and respectably for work, he has a new minivan, he flies his flag on the Fourth of July, and he spits. He can’t do it in his house, in his bathroom. He has to come outside and let his hideous gobbets fly, and the people who live around him are subjected to the sound of his phlegm hitting the concrete — splat. I am not exaggerating. How his wife remains married to him or doesn’t kill him is beyond me. I couldn’t stand his spitting, Your Honor. So help me, I was sick morning, noon, and night. What else was I to do? I had my son to think about. Very well. Case dismissed. You have done us all a favor, my good lady. You are free to go. And if you like, the bailiff can recommend a reliable pressure washing service to clean your driveway.
July 30, 2004 — Last night a man named John Kerry accepted the Democratic nomination for president. We watched his speech on television. It lasted forty-six minutes, and was frequently interrupted by applause. It was a pretty good speech as speeches go, and typical in that it painted things in broad and predictably safe, patriotic terms. I do believe the United States and the world stand a chance of being slightly better off if Kerry is elected instead of Bush, who was never elected. The all-out assault on the environment will be slowed somewhat. As for the corporate rape of the population, that remains to be seen. The war in Iraq will continue for some time, and if and when it ends, the military will remain, as it always does. One thing that is refreshing is that Kerry actually seems to be a functioning human being, one capable of independent thought and intelligent and coherent speech. It’s probably a little old-fashioned, but I can’t help thinking that a president should be able to speak the language of the country he supposedly leads, and that he shouldn’t have to rely on a script from the moment he gets out of bed in the morning until he lays his empty head on his freshly laundered pillow. As if he were running through a checklist, Kerry systematically addressed Cowboy George’s failings and crimes — an easy enough thing to do. Personally, I have no faith in anyone for president, or, for that matter, any other office. I still believe our only hope lies in our willingness to be completely honest and accountable in our daily lives, and to recognize that how we live has a direct effect on people not only next door, but around the world. This doesn’t require legislation or leadership, it requires a personal, private revolution. This cannot happen as long as we are wearing buttons and waving flags. One can and should love his home, but he must also recognize that the entire earth is his home, and that the people in it are his neighbors. There is no political or religious system that is capable of bringing this about. There is only one person at a time getting up in the morning and doing his best work, and doing what is honest and right for the benefit of everyone and at the expense of no one. When we refuse to be satisfied until hunger is abolished, and war, and the rape of the environment, and ignorance, then we might call ourselves truly blessed. Then government will be an instrument of prosperity and continued accomplishment and improvement that benefits everyone, as well as the earth and all other species. I know in my heart that this is true, and that it is unlikely that I will ever live to see the day. But I do feel there is hope. Yesterday, while spending a few minutes in a waiting room with my mother, a young mother and father sat down nearby. With them was their little boy and a newborn, and the girl’s proud mother. The family was speaking Spanish, but it was clear what was in their hearts — the father’s pride, the mother’s shy strength as she covered herself with a small blanket to preserve her modesty while she nursed her baby, and her mother’s amazement in finding such a wonderful moment had arrived in her long and difficult life. I felt lucky just to be sitting there. These were real people, living — not mentally ill celebrities or politicians afraid of losing their looks or their advantage. This family doesn’t need speeches and flags, it needs honest work to do and a clean, safe place to sleep and wholesome food to eat, and the adults need to know that their children won’t grow up to be used in someone’s evil war. Imagine the world if this were so.
July 31, 2004 — Yesterday afternoon at five o’clock, a local printer I’ve known and worked with for many years closed his doors. Despite being one of the best, most efficient, and hardest working printers in town, he can no longer afford to keep his shop open. The primary reason is the economy; because of this he has also been unable to keep up with changes in technology, further compounding his problems. And so, come Monday morning, he will go to work for a larger, more modern shop nearby, taking his experience, service ethic, and wounded pride with him. Visiting with him in his shop yesterday was a painful experience. From the beginning, he ran the place by himself, capably handling all aspects of the business from A to Z. Now there were price tags on his equipment, two or three pieces of which he had managed to sell. Chairs for his customers to sit on while looking through sample books were stacked near the door and also for sale, as was his desk and the clock on the wall. He asked me if I needed some paper for any of my projects; I said no, and that anyway, even if I did, my heart wasn’t in it. Knowing me as he does, he would have been surprised if I had accepted his offer of free paper and started pawing through his supply. Bah, what a life. We try, try, try, but often it just isn’t good enough. In many cases, our trying amounts to less than that achieved by someone who is mentally lazy and basically corrupt, but who just happens to be engaged in a bit of timely commerce. Not that bums like that don’t fail too, but at least they deserve to fail, since they think only of what they can get and not of what they can give. Bah, and again bah. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.
March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003
October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004
April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004
October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005
Also by William Michaelian
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
80 pages. Paper.
Signed copies available
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