Thursday, December 05, 2002

The children were whiny little brats today. One class so unruly I gave them a speech about how some of them were heading for punkdom and if they didn't turn there lives around they'd end up like those druggies hanging out on the corner a couple blocks away. But, God, these kids are so mean to each other, petty and cruel. And so it has always been. Like the time Esther and I saw a couple pre-pubescent black boys outside Goat's place swearing up a blue streak. Esther was appalled at what she heard. I said they were in a period of discovery. The words were new to them and they were trying them on for size. I did that when I was their age, didn't you? No, I didn't, she said. And when I was in elementary school all was drama and cruelty, tantrums and yelling. And so it is today. Problem is I'm an adult now and all that noise and bother gets on my nerves.

The apartment's cluttered, especially the desk that is littered with papers, receipts, wrappers, books, notebooks, DVD's, and hidden behind the monitor, a framed photograph taken of Esther and I Thanksgiving Day 1997 that I used to have with me at the Antigo Daily Journal, but never took to the Beloit Daily News. I tell myself that I need to have some order to this chaos, clean the ring spots off the corner, throw away the Eastwind Nut Butter wrapper, fix the printer ($70 to replace color and black ink cartridges), put the cereal bowl and spoon next to the sink, put the manila envelopes under the desk, get a mousepad instead of using a comic book. We don't even want to delve into the drawers. The desk is the center of activity. The whirlwind of detritus surrounding my life settles here, eventually, for a time. Clutter is fecundity for creativity to grow.

I had a conversation with Andy Sunday night. He told me about his father meeting a nice woman and how happy he is for his old man. He said he spent Thanksgiving at the woman's house. His sister and her husband are due with their first child in February. I asked Andy if seeing his dad hook up makes him want to find a woman. He said he needs to love himself before he can love another. So true. Andy has little self-confidence. He's also got a bit of a misogyny problem, an old world belief in putting women in their proper place. No doubt tied to the confidence issue. Andy wants to be a great musician, but has very little to no proficiency on his keyboard. He has managed to arrange a bunch of 80s-ish synthesizer songs and seems to have fun with it. He holds fast to dreams of rock stardom, but is so far from it, employed as a janitor, a union man, making $14 an hour and able to finish his 8-hour day in five hours. His life holds no challenge. He lives as a hermit with few friends, drinks too much beer, alone, on the weekends. His persona is a black hole that sucks all light and positive energy from anyone else into it. Yet he is a nice guy. Just morose and deluded. He is very skinny, but his face is getting puffy from all the beer. I've known him for almost 17 years. He and Goat are the only two friends I have in this town.

Goat said he is depressed because he doesn't have enough social contact. I find this surprising because when we go out he knows everybody in downtown Rockford. I know nobody.He said, "But you've got Esther. You live with somebody." I said, "But you've got family." He said, "My mother always finds ways to be criticize me and tell me how disappointed she is in me." I said, all pragmatic, "If you're so lonely, join a church, get involved in a club, find people with similar interests." Blah blah. I couldn't believe myself. I sounded like a high school guidance counselor. "I get lonely, too, sometimes." I said. "But I'm too lazy to seek out more friends. I've got enough friends spread out all over that I don't feel so lonely. I don't want what we had in college. Friends bursting out everywhere. A burgeoning supply of amicas. I'd never get anything done." He said, "I just need more feminine contact." I said, "Oh, you just wanna get laid." He said, "Well, yeah."

Today I did my hair different. Per Esther's suggestion I put gel in it, but did not comb it. The curls are wild, haphazard, Appollonian. A bit too feminine for my tastes. Maybe it's cool. I have a now-legendary insensitivity to style. The students said nothing, but when I got back to the car after a day of teaching I looked at myself in the rear view mirror and got all embarrassed. What have I become? Gone from suave, stylish reporter to goateed heavy metal band roadie. Also have not shaved in a couple days, so have stubble on cheeks. Totally unkempt. So euro trash. Reminds me of the bum downtown who always hits people up for money or cigarettes. He approached me, and before he could get a word out, I said, "Hey, man. Got a cigarette? Got a dollar?" The bum just looked at me all quizzical, and I could see all the creases on his weather-worn Nubian face. And in another climate maybe that face could pass as noble and he'd be a village elder. But in this capitalist Americana culture, his innate nature sensibilities are dulled, the visions have left him, in droves. All he's left with is a gnawing need for food, booze, cigarettes and warmth, in that order. Tomorrow I eschew gel and embrace the razor and brush. Don't want to lose my senses and start foaming at the mouth.

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