Thursday, June 21, 2001

Outbound, a goodbye.

Only when we lose everything, are we free to do anything.

By the time you read this, I will be riding South, alone, on a half ton of steel. I will have the windows rolled down, and the air of almost every state on the East coast will be whipping though my hair. I will be eating at roadside restaurants and stretching my legs at rest stops. I will be stopping at sunset to let the engine of my old car rest. I will sit on the hood and write my journal not online, but in a little black ledger with an elastic closure and with the fountain pen I used to write every test I ever took at St. Lawrence University. I will probably play my guitar and take naps in the back of my car amongst all of my worldly belongings. I will reach my destination after at least a day and a half on the road, and locate one person in a city I’ve never even driven through before. I will sleep for about six hours on my arrival.

When I wake up, I will start my life again.

We might still have time, we might still get by…

That is, at least, how I hope it will go. There’s many a slip twixt a cup and a lip. I’ve allowed myself extra time and money in the case of my car breaking down or me driving into a tornado, or even being waylaid at the bridge in Sherwood Forest by Little John. Nonetheless, the basic idea remains the same. In a week, my life is going to be drastically different. I do not expect to have Internet access where I am going. Given the fact that I will be living less than 20 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, I do not expect to have a need for vicarious entertainment. Thus, I probably will not bother to get Internet service even when I do get settled.

Hence, this is my last message to you and my last post on DyingDays.

Cathy, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh, Michigan seems like a dream to me now. It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw. I’ve come to look for America.

In my time at DyingDays, which amounts to just short of one year, I have seen a minor and unlikely idea turn into a phenomenon that carries not just the interest of its participants, but also a host of fans and readers. To those of us who must pass through the dimly lit realm of being twenty-somethings, those of us who know plenty of things that are wrong, but have yet to discover what is right, those of us to whom hope seems like a wasted firing of a synapse, the Dying Days are very troubling, very provocative, and above all, very real.

When you woke up this morning, everything you had was gone.

That can only be the way of life for a while though, as I am only now beginning to learn. From the inside of such a turn, it looks as if the twilight will never make up its mind to go either to full darkness or light. Those around me are making their bids for freedom, and I have come to the firm conclusion that it is my turn. As is often the case, such a rite of passage becomes a parody of itself and is only truly knowable in retrospect. I hope in the next stage of my life, I decide that I did my best.

Have you ever loved someone so much you thought your heart would break in two?
I didn’t think so.

Today I went and test-drove a new Mustang. It was an ethereal experience. Not sitting in the sparkling metallic bulldog, listening to the custom 460 watt stereo, and putting the pedal gleefully to the floor as soon as I got out of sight of the dealership. That was pretty much the experience you and I both imagine it was. The bizarre thing was looking at the payment information and realizing that if I get the job in Florida, I can actually afford something that nice.

Bravely I look further than I see, knowing things I know I cannot be.

Poverty is like an addiction, I’ve realized. Once you get used to being helpless and a social parasite, once you become comfortable living on the dime of others, it becomes easier to just accept it and not bother to wonder if there’s anything else out there. It’s easy to be sarcastic about the dreadful nature of being twenty-and-change because it appears at first as though the poverty and forced deceleration of your life will go on forever. It’s easy to hate a life that is full of disappointing paychecks, shitty cars, and windows behind which lies a life of capitalism that is utterly unattainable. It becomes easy to be reckless and destructive and interestingly-dark because you don’t give any more a shit about your life than anyone else does.

We’ve got one last chance to make it real, to trade in our dreams for some wheels.

I think I am entering a stage in my life where the best parts of capitalism are just becoming apparent. I’m entering the stage where I can take pride in my own life for simple things. I can take pride that I’ve come through a four year private school and have an apartment on the Gulf and drive a Mustang and wear suits to work, and have younger men call me Mister. It’s easy to be edgy and intellectual when just living quietly is misery. I think perhaps I’m passing into a phase where life is about to become far more comfortable and interesting on a day-to-day basis.

You’ll say “Did they love you or what?” I’ll say, “They love what I do.” The only one who really loves me is you.

Given that essential change, the lives that we all lead on the Internet, sending little streams of ones and zeroes over fiber optics to the furthest corners of the world, seems a bit unnecessary. I take with me on this journey an important memory. A memory just as vital to my success as the memory my body has of how to walk or of how it felt to lose someone I loved. I take with me the memory of what it was like to not-live. I take with me a distinct impression of the desolation that I will most likely spend the rest of my life trying to stay above, and that a return to is imminent should I fail. It would seem, at least at the moment, that the rewards outweigh the sacrifices.

Maybe you can keep me from ever being happy, but you’re not going to stop me from having fun.

That, and from what I hear, there are alligators living in the pond next to my apartment complex.

Goodbye, everyone.

Monday, June 11, 2001

GMR/Dead End show

Another stellar weekend of doing absolutely nothing.

I had a little bonfire Saturday night and stayed home Sunday to watch "Sex and the City" and "Six Feet Under". I couldn't have gone out anyway. I don't have any money. I don't get paid till Wednesday, and even then, that's my Freedom Money. I'm thinking once I have a grand or so, I'm just going to hop on route 81 one day like I'm going to work and then just keep on driving. I can fit everything I need to live sparingly into the back of my car. Everything that's important is mobile. I just need some traveling money and something to catalyze it. If I get a rejection notice from the NYS Police, I'll consider that a catalyst.

Good Morning Reality and Dead End played a sweet four-hour show practically in my backyard. That was entertaining. They sound much better live than they do on the album, and the album is good. I was impressed. They even let me introduce them. Maybe I should be a roadie.

I'm going to widen my job search to something sociological as well. Working with kids or teenagers wouldn't be bad, I don't think. I wouldn't want to work in a prison, but a juvie facility wouldn't be bad. At this point, anything that pays better than $30,000 a year and is more than an hour from where my parents live is a possibility.

I wish I was five years older or five years younger. This has to be the shittiest time of my life.

Cooking three hotdogs and waiting for my life to begin

Cathy, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve come to look for America.

Define a disheartening experience.

I drove almost an hour today to apply for a position as a park Ranger at a State Park. This is not a fantastic job. This is, in fact, one step up from being a rent-a-cop. It is, however, security work and in that, is one step closer to the actual career I want to enter someday. So I applied, I schmoozed with politicians, I even called my local representative and got interviewed by him, the regional director, and the park director. Three interviews for this piddly little summer night security job.

I drove out for the final time today only to be told that the guy who had been doing it for 20 years decided that he wouldn’t retire this year. I was offered a $5.45 an hour maintenance job. Here I was, resume in hand, with eight years of quality take-no-prisoners education behind me, including a degree in two fields, and this guy actually had the balls to offer me a maintenance job for $5.45 an hour. I told him the factory was paying $6.20 an hour and I might consider it if he could offer me more. He politely declined. I left not five minutes after getting there (having spent almost an hour driving to the interview) disgusted with myself, my education, and New York in general.

I’m getting to the point where drastic measures are the only ones that seem appropriate. Every time I get into my car and drive to work, I hit the Coffeen Street exit and for a moment contemplate the consequences of just driving past it and not stopping till I hit Florida. Every day. One of these days I’m not going to be able to turn the wheel anymore. I’m going to get up an hour early, load a bag of clothes my guitar, and a backpack full of odds and ends into my car. I’m going to close my account at the bank and get a wad of cash and just drive till the car falls out from underneath me.

I can feel it coming. It’s not here yet, but it’s coming.

Friday, June 08, 2001

(Picking slivers of metal out of my fingers.)

Steel work is something I think everyone should try, at least once in their lives. I've been thinking of how easy it was for guys like me at SLU to talk in sociology classes about the decline of manufacturing jobs in the United States over the past thirty years. It's almost as if we used it as kind of a cop out. "Everything would be better if we just had those jobs back..." and so forth. To be honest with you, manufacturing is NOT easy. Uncomplicated, yes. Simple to learn, yes. Easy to do for eight hours a day, definitely not.

My sister mentioned to me this morning that they are considering asking me to work the night park Ranger job that starts the week after next. That would certainly be something, I think. I would like that job more, I imagine, though the times I would work would be slightly different. Coming home at 3AM would be a new experience. But then, I wouldn't have to leave for work till six. I think I could deal with that. Besides, it's security work. I LOVE security work. And it's next to the water and outdoors. (Removed final sliver) I think I could get used to that.

I've been corresponding with my friend Crystal from college pretty much daily this week. It's nice to hear from her again. I guess it just goes to show how much bigger people can be than problems that sometimes come between them.

I've begun a new tradition of stopping at Taco Bell on the way home and buying a single soft taco. It's just a way to give myself a little pat on the back for having completed a full day of work. It's actually quite funny how much $0.79 can brighten up your day. I love tacos.

Wednesday, June 06, 2001

Message in a bottle

Dear Crystal,

I guess I'll start writing to this address, if it will get to you quicker. Thanks very much for the words of encouragement that you sent me. I don't have many optimistic friends around here, and certainly no one I trust. The dating scene in this area is a little bleak because of the army base so nearby, so I haven't gone out at all. I live my life during the shifts when my parents and sister are at work, so I guess it's almost as if I have this whole house to myself. They leave before I wake up and they go to bed before I get home. It's peaceful, but very lonely.

The people I work with are interesting. Small-town hicks, the lot of them, and all the pretty ones have diamonds on their hands, but they're still more interesting than talking to myself. There are a couple of girls who have shown interest in me, but I haven't heard from either of them in a week or so and when I tried to visit them at work they weren't around.

When I got hired at the plant, they told me three to five weeks of employment was all they could offer at the moment. They hinted that if my production was solid, they'd consider keeping me on longer, but I'm not optimistic. The other people there have been doing it for upwards of fifteen years. If someone gets laid off, it's going to be me. I'm still waiting for word on the Park Ranger job, which, if I get it, will take me to the end of the summer. At which point I'm going to be out of this house, no matter what. I'm sending in applications to take the written tests for some Florida police departments, and I'm in the process of getting in touch with a recruiter for US. Customs. If I were to get that, I'd be headed for Quantico Virginia where they train FBI. That would be sweet.

Once again, though, I'm still in limbo where jobs are concerned. My goal is to make a move sometime in the next two months. I've begun quietly selling off things I own in order to raise some cash. I don't have much at the moment, but like I mentioned before, I've got about $2000 in credit and I'll have a grand or so traveling money. How much do you think I need? Is that enough?

I crave meaningful friendship. I crave meaningful work. To be honest with you, nothing terrifies me more than hearing those people talk about how they've been working in that plant for 10 years or more. If I worked there even one year, I'd be ready to shoot myself. They have me working on a stacking machine that laminates the cores of these motors, and they're just low enough that I have to stoop in order to do it correctly. After about eight hours of doing that, I could already feel the pain in the middle of my back set in. I really think I can only handle three to five weeks of this stuff before I'm going to need to find something else.

Do you ever read my online journal? It's on my webpage, and I try to update it every day. I hope someone reads it, otherwise why the fuck do I bother? I got a new guitar for graduation and it sits in my room, pretty much unplayed. I haven't had much reason to make music lately, and certainly no one to make it for. I miss sitting on that old couch with you in your room that was always too hot, and playing everything I knew how to play so you would buy me some pizza and teach me how people work. I miss that feeling of having someone tell me I was full of shit, and then trying to understand their idea. Around here, no one has anything good to say. No one has anything new or interesting to talk about. Their lives revolve around how hard it is to find work, and how much harder it is to keep it.

I've got to go to work again, soon. I need to pick up some earplugs so I don't lose my hearing from being too close to the damn machinery. Thankfully, it's a safe job. All the machines have double and triple safeties, which is nice for me and nice for my hands. I got so sick of getting grinded and cut up at the orthopedic lab. The only thing that's a little unpleasant is that they have everything lubricated with this weird grease that smells like rotten vegetables and by the time my shift is over, I'm pretty much covered in it. That shit never seems to come all the way off. It is nice to drive home at night, though and know I actually managed to get a day's work in, even if it is only $6.20 an hour.

I hope you'll write me again, it made my day to hear from you.

Mark

Tuesday, June 05, 2001

Dreadful

My job is pleasantly mindless and free of responsibility. There must be seventy or so people there every shift as well, which makes for a fairly diverse bunch of coworkers. One of the guys that works with me is a member of the band that my friend Jacob is in. Their music was the theme to my spring break, basically. We both work in Armatures, which is basically the electromagnet that sits inside the motor and rotates with current to make the gear shaft move. I made a shitload of them yesterday. Well, parts of them anyway. It's not a bad place to work.

My Spyderco knife finally returned yesterday (joy) although the new belt clip they put on it is a metal one. I'm not sure how much I like it, but I'll probably get used to it. I'm just glad to have it back. I wear that more often than I wear a watch, and every time my hand dips for my pocket, it's like looking for time on a watch that isn't there.

I got a call from my friend Crystal, who no doubt received the letter I sent her. Unfortunately, I wasn't here to get the call.

I didn't lift this morning because got up too late. I thought it appropriate, somehow, to stay up chatting with friends and toss down a few mixed drinks. I need to start getting up at like 7 AM. It's been shitty weather here for days, though, so I'm not particularly enthusiastic. I haven't seen the sun in days.

Still no luck on replacing my car stereo. As it turns out, after paying my bills I don't have enough cash on hand to cover it anyway. I've considered getting one after this coming paycheck, but I should probably wait till I have a good-sized nest egg with which to move out of this dreadful part of NY.

Monday, June 04, 2001

Working

I've discovered that I don't really mind getting up in the morning relatively early as long as I don't actually have to DO anything. I would normally go for a run and work out and then take a shower and go to work, but I decided to skip the workout routine today in order to go to Watertown for a bit and get to work early for instructions. Hopefully it will be a simple process.

Jill cancelled our dinner again yesterday, predictably. At least she called this time. My parents cooked spaghetti and meatballs, a dish which they do particularly well, but hardly ever trouble themselves with. It was delicious. One positive outcome of my new job is that I will be working during the hours that my parents normally eat dinner. Not that I particularly mind the food, but I just usually prefer to eat alone. In fact, SLU was the only place I can ever remember not liking to eat alone.

More work done on The Harvard Club. It's getting to be quite a story. I think I need to write a few more situational sections, and then there's going to be a large piece of dialogue between the two main characters to sort of lay out the dilemma of the story. Then the real fun begins.

I'm going to go see if I can find a new stereo before work, and maybe get some chow. The girl at the vitamin outlet in the mall was flirting with me last Friday, maybe I'll pay her a visit.

Sunday, June 03, 2001

General deterioration

Don’t you wish you didn’t function,
Don’t you wish you didn’t think,
Beyond the next paycheck,
And the next little drink,
Well you do so to make up your mind to go on,
Cause when you woke up this morning, everything you had was gone.

Has anyone else noticed a marked deterioration of life in general lately? Now that I’m home and comfortably settled into a fast Internet connection, Napster goes balls-up. It’s nearly impossible to find anything good on it any more. All of the major names have been either bastardized or blocked. In addition to this marvelous piece of news, gasoline is $1.71 a gallon for regular unleaded. I will have my Spyderco knife back soon, which I sent in for repairs after the fireproof composite handle snapped off in my hand. The stereo in my car is broken, the front two speaker channels aren’t putting out any sound. After an afternoon of rewiring, I discovered it was the actual deck and not the speaker wire that was at fault. I won’t have any money to get a new one for a while. I have to go to work tomorrow and I have no idea what to wear or where to go or even what time to show up. The office is closed for the weekend and I lost my boss’s home phone number. My workout had been curtailed by employment, my will to live has been sapped, and I have no friends that live even remotely close to me with the exception of out fearless editor. There are a million things I’d like to do and see and buy and become, but I’m stuck here once more, in the limbo that is living with my parents.

About the only thing that is going right in my life right now is that The Harvard Club is progressing nicely. I’m sorry to disappoint any of you who would have cared to read more. I’m going to finish it before anyone else reads it. At which point, you’ll be able to buy it in novel form, probably. Until then, you’re probably going to hear more bitching. According to the hit counters on the individual pages, you didn’t care much for the Harvard Club anyway.

Saturday, June 02, 2001

Got a job

I got a job, finally. Stature electric. $5.85 an hour. It's dogshit pay, but the work doesn't appear too bad. It looks like a lot of people work there, as well. Maybe I'll meet some new friends. No word from any of the other employers. I don't really expect any either. At least for a while.

Tonight's entry is particularly late because I just got done talking to my long-time friend April. We've never actually met, but I've known her and talked to her online on and off for about four years. She's one of the few women that doesn't ever bore me, and I cherish her for it. I wish I could get all the women like that I know (there's only about a half dozen) and move them into the same town so I could go visit them all at once. Right now they're all over the place. Oh well.

The stereo cassette player in my car finally gave up the ghost. I have to go out tomorrow and try to find a replacement. There's a place in Theresa that sells them used. I'm going to try there first. I put the truck box speakers in the back of my car. If I can get them to run correctly, they'll thump nicely. I know it's a little overkill, but what's the point in having them if you're not going to use them, right? At least that's the excuse I'm going on at the moment.

I had to send my beloved Spyderco pocket knife back to the manufacturer last week because the belt clip snapped in two. Funny, really. The composite material it's made of is actually fireproof, and it just snapped off one day randomly. I had to send ten bucks for insured shipping, but the actual repair was free and as long as it was there, I had them sharpen it too (also free of charge). I suppose most people wouldn't really bother, but the damn knife is like a hundred bucks plus new, so I figure it's worth it. The Spyderco reputation is built on its warranty.
I had Tacos for lunch. God they tasted good. It's been two weeks since I've had fast food.