Friday, August 27, 2004

The subdued chatter in the office and the click-clack of typing had the effect of a mother's lullaby on Palermo as he struggled to do his work.  Every night this week, his precious dream-time had been whittled down more and more by all the mundane tasks that accumulated during the 12-13 hours he spent away at work and school.

He half-rose from his seat with the intent of defying convention and purchasing a cup of coffee from the vending machine.  A paper cup on the corner of his desk caught his eye and he settled back down with all the grace of a perplexed sack of potatoes.

Oh.  He had already purchased a cup of coffee.

He reached for it slowly, as if the cup was a mirage that might disappear when he came too close.  It remained real.  He was glad.  He wouldn't like it if he had spent 65 cents on an imaginary cup of coffee.

He peered into the cup and saw his own face staring back from the inky, black swirls.  The quality of the vended coffee reminded him disturbingly of machine urine.  He took a sip.  It was no longer steaming, but just warm enough to make his analogy even more accurate.  He grimaced.  His ink-self grimaced back.

He downed half of it.  Grains of instant-coffee-mix that had stubbornly defied the dissolving process staked a claim at the back of his throat and made themselves comfortable.  

Palermo almost wondered why he was taking such great pains to stay awake when all he really wanted in the world was to go to sleep.  Fortunately, he was able to suppress the thought before it surfaced and wholly depressed him.  

He lifted up the cup in a silent toast to the coming respite of the weekend.  He suppressed another thought about how busy he would actually be during the weekend by downing the rest of the bitter coffee.

If life is rounded by little sleep, then Palermo's life was going to be very well-rounded indeed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

My day began, (as I see it) after I left work. I hopped into my trusty Tercel and sped despondently in the direction opposite of my home. No, I had an Italian class to attend on a campus I had never been to before.

The class was being taught on a high school campus. I found the school with relatively little trouble. Er, I found it with relatively little trouble after I had called Beno and he had gotten online to find directions.

I pulled into the parking lot. Shading my eyes against the sunlight, I could see the sihlouette of a cross atop of a small, domed building. I made my way towards it to investigate further.

Shortly after stepping through a gate painted the color of rust, I was hailed by a small, wizened man. He had the uncertain bearing of a campus security guard. A badge shined dully from the shirt of his unkempt uniform. "Excuse me sir, where are you headed?" he asked.

"I am here to attend Italian 201," I said.

He seemed to relax. He pointed out a building and told me class was in there. I thanked him and continued on my way. I noted that the only footsteps I heard were my own. I approached the classroom and through the large windows I could see that a class in session. Not my class, though. I had arrived very early.

I turned away. "It's right in there!" the little security guard yelled, pointing again. He hadn't moved from the spot where we had spoken, as I had assumed, and was still watching me.

Annoyed, I looked levelly at him. He continued to point. I turned away from him and walked over to a small, concrete amphitheater, where I sat down and began to read my copy of Starship Troopers.

A half-hour later, I stood up. I stretched and returned my book to my satchel. The nagging guard was nowhere in sight.

Time to affirm his fears.

No, I had no desire to wreak havok on an unsuspecting preporatory high school. I was merely curious.

As I walked among the cluster of small buildings, I noticed a sign that read "Christ Is The Reason For This School." I walked on. The next sign I came upon read "Landscaping Donated By..." and then listed the names of a presumeably generous couple.

Passing by the parcels of well-manicured grass, I noticed more signs. Posted to each tree was that disheartening sign of civilization: "Keep Off The Grass."

* * * * *

Class began at 7:15. Almost every student that walked in the classroom door was greeted with shouts of greeting and surprise; camaraderie not uncommon among language students.

I sat quietly, feeling very out of place seated among this large family.

I remained quiet, listening. I could picture the little bursts of light in my brain as old, atrophied synapses struggled to understand this very strange, very familiar pattern of sounds.

To help everyone become better acquainted (i.e., myself and a couple of others that didn't already know everyone) the professor asked us to write three sentences in Italian. Two sentences would be true and one would be false. Heads went down and the familiar song of frantic scribbling filled the air. I took longer than I thought to produce sentences shorter than I hoped.

The class went around reading theirs aloud and guessing. My turn came. I read out loud.

"One: I don't remember much Italian." There were murmurs of agreement. "Two: I anger very easily." A few people looked skeptical. "Three: I hate cold mornings," I finished.

I avoided their eyes and looked down at my paper.

There was half-interested discussion about which was the false statement, if only because I was a stranger to them. In the class was a guy who called himself "Santiago." By the way the other students would dismiss most things he said by smiling and saying, "Oh, that's Santiago!", I guessed he was the class clown. Knowing this, I waited for the inevitable.

"Number 2!" Santiago shouted. "It's number two!"

I jerked up at him, halfway out of my chair, and shouted "WHAT?!"

Even though he was safely across the room, Santiago still jumped back. The rest of the class reacted in a similar fashion. I lowered my head again. "Yeah, it's number two," I said softly. There were chuckles around the room. Either they liked my rather lame joke or they thought I was manic-depressive. Neither would be too far off, I guess.

I made it home from class around 9:30 pm. Just another day.

As it stands, I'll have three nights a week in which I'll be at work by 8 am and return home at 9:30 pm. I'm wondering why I chose this insane schedule in the first place. I suspect I know the answer.

I've been reading Starship Troopers. The book goes on about military life. The tediousness, long hours, abuse, sleep-deprivation. All the stuff I used to do. Used to be pretty good at enduring, too.

The single greatest external influence for me has always been whatever I'm reading. Smoking because Spider Jerusalem does it. Drinking because hell, all the best writers were alcoholics. (Movies have their place, too. I know that if I ever lose a hand I'm going to replace it with a chainsaw. (Oh, and music. Once I quit my job because I had been singing along to Monster Magnet ("I'm never gonna work/another day in my life")))

The problem is that I'm almost finished reading this book. If I'm not careful about what I read next, my whole plan could collapse around me. We'll see. For now, I had better stick to my work.

As of this moment, I have officially overcome all the technological obstacles that have been preventing me from utilizing Blogger's e-mail posting capabilities.

I've figured out that I have to enter the correct "address" for it to be "sent."

At least, I think I've figured it out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Week Ends, The Week Begins

"One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn't be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn't know what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid.

He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so-but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence the act. He preferred people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous. This above all appeared to Trillian to be genuinely stupid, but she could no longer be bothered to argue about it."

-The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

* * * *

Today almost wasn't my first day of school.

I hadn't slept very well. It had been a fitful night of dreaming; happy dreams that nonetheless left me emotionally drained before I even began to fumble for the snooze button on the alarm clock.

The drive to work was pleasant. The air was cool and the skyline offered only the tease of sunrise. I didn't need my sunglasses but I wore them anyway so the wind wouldn't dry out my contact lenses.

Mondays are my long days. I slurm into the mail-room by 6 and I am not released until 4:30. I manage to stay upbeat for most of the day, but by the last couple of hours I begin to flag noticeably.

I left work and drove to campus. The morning coolness had long since fled. The radio stated that the temperature was around 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Oddly enough, even in my un-air-conditioned car and my business casual attire, I was barely breaking a sweat.

I am a desert rat. Well, I'd say more of a desert shrew. They're feistier and not as intelligent.

I start to shiver when I get into cars with air-conditioning.

But there was no lack of warmth this afternoon. I parked my car and sauntered into alien territory. I had only been on this campus once before when I registered for my classes.

Unfortunately, this was of little aid since none of my classes were going to be held in the Advisement Office or Cashier Services.

I humbled myself and studied a campus map on a kiosk. I decided that I should pick up the textbooks since the course description referred to them as "required." If "required" held the same meaning as the "Shirt and Shoes Required" signs displayed most public eateries, purchasing the books would certainly save me time and bail money.

I found the first book on my little list. It was very easy to find since the book was right next to the sign that displayed the section number of my class along with big, yellow letters that read "Class Cancelled."

My hand instinctively went to the hunk of pewter around my neck that happens to resemble an albatross.

This would be an inconvenience. I had spent considerable time with a very patient advisor formulating a schedule that would satisfy my requirements while leaving my sanity, (if perhaps not my social life) relatively intact.

But on the other wing, I could just take a lighter credit load. I would have my money refunded, I could focus on my other classes, have my Mondays free.

"Drat," I sighed. I hoofed out of the bookstore and went to wait in line to speak to my advisor. I was glad that I had remembered to bring my copy of Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlen.

Several skirmishes with giant arachnids on alien planets later, I spoke to my advisor. He seemed to remember me. I explained that someone was out to thwart our well-crafted plans and we should act swiftly and accordingly.

We did.

I replaced the Geography class that was Missing In Action with a Biology class that fulfilled much the same requirements and was almost exactly the same time. Which meant I was late.

While I like biology, I had been excited to learn about geography because I know so little about it. It is one of the more glaring deficiencies in my knowledge.

I attended my class, returned home around 7:30 pm, and partook in the abundant spaghetti my mama made.

I ate quietly, trying to feel out what will soon become a routine.

In a final act of defiance, I went out to the bar to meet with Sibbitt, Beth, Donovan, Mai, Lauren, Kiki, and Dana. We watched the Olympics on the many hanging televisions, grappled with the notion of becoming working professionals, and briefly discussed Disney characters.

Now I'm here with my blog, a book, and white shirts with a new, bluish tint because I threw them in with some of my jeans. The drying cycle has completed, and the shirts and jeans are wrinkling as we speak.

I find myself less bothered by the wrinkled, blue clothing than I might have imagined. Whom do I have to impress? The only being around is my bug-eyed dog, whom I call The Noobers. He barely raises his head when I come in this late. Plus, he's color-blind.

Now I must be off. To remove laundry from the dryer, upon removing perchance to hang up in the closet, hung up perchance to un-wrinkle.

To dress perchance to impress. To hope that I become what the eyes make welcome to the heart.

To sleep.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Pay attention, Earth Creatures. I am pleased to announce that Guillermo's sister has a blog of her own. I don't know if you're puny human brains can comprehend this, but a blog is an elaborate communication tool that utilizes the "internet" to publish thoughts instantly. Stop by and encourage her in her new habit. Remember, we smoke while we blog.

Four Lopez's down, one to go. Thousand. Four thousand Lopez's down, one to go. I'm aware that according to your primitive Earth calendar today is Friday. On the moon, we do not encumber ourselves with these "pants," thereby eliminating entirely the need to drop them. Enjoy your primitive Friday, Earth creatures.

* * * *

What's this? That's unusual.

Heh, it appears that someone saved a post as a draft and didn't remember to put it up on Friday. Heh heh. Some foolish human, no doubt.

* * * * *

I'm weary, I'm not sure where my mind is, so I'm going to go now. Sibbitt and I went out to the bar for a couple of hours tonight and had an intense discussion about life, the universe, and everything. We're going out again tomorrow evening if anyone would like to join us.

Seriously, we talked about everything. Close calls with chain-saws, statues of limitations, social issues that arise from the lack of a dominant culture, ancient cave paintings, being drunk on rooftops, forest ecology, writing for oneself versus writing with a group of readers in mind, and our mutual desire to conquer the sea despite an intense fear of it.

I'm going to go now for reals this time.

Oh, NPR hasn't gotten back to me about my ideas yet. I'm sure they will. After all, they're listener-supported. They need me.