Thursday, October 17, 2002

Got to escape these four walls. It's a dreary cold wet day in the Rock River valley, and I'm broke and unemployed. Called Adecco, the temp agency that works with the substitute school teachers in Rockford School District, and the main lady there confirmed she sent an e-mail to all the sub callers saying I'm on their list now. But I have received no call for work. Today I feel like I'll probably feel when I'm old. Or if I ever starve (not bloody likely). I'm just despondent, listless, joyless. Not sad or happy. In a limbo state. The apartment is small. I'm going stir crazy.

Just had a visit from the upstairs neighbor, Melissa, who spoke in tongues for a long time, but now just sings loud along with her gospel tapes. She asked me to turn up the thermostat because she's cold and her sick niece is coming over to take a shower and she doesn't want her to freeze. Yes, Esther and I control the heat for all four apartments. Last winter we never even touched it. Settled on a comfortable temp for all and just let it ride. Until just moments ago I'd never moved the thermostat. Something Esther always did, she being more temp sensitive than I.

Our first apartment in Sycamore, (funny, we are just as poor now as then, no progress) the neighbor across the hall controlled the thermostat. He was a little crazy, harmless but touched. Lived off SSI and had these goth makeup freak friends come over at all hours. One night I came home from classes and the apartment's roasting hot. So I knock on the door across the hall. And the guy opens the door and looks at me all wild-eyed, hair hanging over his face. Could you turn the thermostat down? I said. But the lizards, man. The lizards need their heat, he said. I wrote a short story about that confrontation, not an especially good one, my attempt to be Bukowski, in which I go into the man's apartment and turn the thermostat down. The man comes after me with a knife and a fight ensues. And I break his arm trying to disarm him. The knife is not even considered by the police and I am arrested. No justice in this universe.

So if I don't get a call for tomorrow, or Monday, I'm going to get a temp job. It would be easy, easy, easy to get a newspaper reporter position again, but want to really give this freelance thing a try. Last night had a good creative writing session, lasted 40 minutes. Tonight I'm stretching it to an hour. Desperation breeds action. I've been too much a coward, afraid of poverty, to make a serious effort making this freelance thing work. You need motivation. Need to be hungry. I seen enough Rocky movies to know that.

The rest of the day I'm all about going to the YMCA, dinner with my woman, typing up three query letters, including one to a Minnesota publication re: The Superior Hiking Trail and another e-mail query to the Beloit Daily News about a couple articles I wanted to write when I was a reporter. My one grand idea is to explain where the water that flows from your tap comes from? Do you? I don't. Where is it treated? What's the history of fluoridation? I do know that my old hometown, Antigo, WI, was one of the first places in the country to have fluoridated water. And there were nearly riots in the streets in protest to its implementation. Another story I'd like to do will be a general feature on squirrels, pointing out their range and which ones are largest, smallest. Squirrel habits, what they feed on. How to keep them out of your bird feeder. Nothing earth-changing. Just fulfillment of my own curiousity. And for the query letters I will do a little research on the Internet and come up with a two-page or shorter summary describing what I want to do. I do not have much experience with query letters, but they are vitally important to getting this freelance ball rolling.

Got to also find some way to catalogue all of my freelance submissions. Where I send my query letters and on what topic. I don't do organization well. Must keep it simple, but accurate. Maybe there are some web-based programs to help?

Earlier, I watched military movie "Black Hawk Down," about a failed military operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. Lots of pining over dead American soldiers. Drama and tears. And rightfully so. These are the ones an American audience can relate to. But funny how at the end of the movie it says that the military actions of Oct. 3-4, 1993 claimed hundreds of Somali lives, and 19 American soldiers died. Kind of like Vietnam. The war America "lost" in which 60,000 US soldiers died and 500,000 Vietcong. But because our military objective was not fulfilled we lost. Last night we watched the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No," starring Sean Connery. And so began the Bond saga. The DVD has all sorts of extra features, including trailers and radio spots, still shots and a documentary on the movie. They probably had to add all that extra crap because TNT and TBS play Bond movies ad nauseum. I know this, and I don't even own a TV.

Last night went to the library as a security guard lady was leaving. The same security guard lady who read a poem last week about wishing she could show the real her, and how she's risking all, safety and happiness, by coming out from behind her masks. I felt sorry for this lady when she read, empathized with her and how we all wear masks, play certain roles, to get through life smoothly. I've said before that's why I like crazy people so much. They're genuine. They wear no masks. But this poor, deluded security guard lady's car kept stalling as she backed out. And I figured, wow, I'm lucky. My car starts and drives no problem, and I got no beefs with who I am or what I may portray to people. As far as I know I'm genuine. I don't conscientiously try to fake people out. And, yeah, sure, we all act different around different people, but that is just naturally adapting to different circumstances. I ain't gonna treat my mother the same way I treat my buds. But I'll be honest and genuine with both parties. Honesty's never been a problem for me.

Yesterday managed to get over to the Rockford Arboretum and take pictures of old growth sugar maples in red rust regalia. These maples are so big and solitary the area around their trunks are a separate shady kingdom eco-system. And some of the lower branches grow out so far they dip to the ground. Think of all the labor and energy these branches put into their search for light. In a way it's like the tree is doing battle against itself. As the top branches grow and shade the lower ones, the lower ones have to grow out. And so it goes. Trees are like communism. They need to keep growing to survive.

There was this young woman sitting between two of the ancient giants, and as I was putting my camera gear away she passed me by. I guess she must be 19-20, a young, idealistic college student. She left because a professional photographer taking pictures of a young couple and their baby, invaded her territory. I told her sorry your peace has been invaded by photographers. I asked her what she was drawing. She said, no, I was writing. Then said a line like, "Well, I've got to go pick up my boyfriend now." And I wanted to say, "Well, I've got to go make dinner for my wife," but didn't. But her line ruined a perfectly pleasant exchange, made me feel as if I was threatening to her, or worse, was so unattractive to her she had to instantly deflect any possibility of a pass. And what is it with even slightly attractive woman (this one was no head turner). Why do they believe every man is after them. I agree men are pigs with one track minds. But I don't undress women with my eyes. And so what if I did? There's no harm in that. I don't say perverted things and never stare. A quick recognition of a woman's fine features is to be expected. Natural behaviors should not be perceived as perverted, lecherous or weird. Vanity, sweet vanity. Time will erase your conceit. You'll someday wish more men would stare.

People aren't like trees. The older we get, the less we are valued.

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