Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Slippery Slopes Of Fondue Mountain

I nearly forgot about this thing. Today is my first day back at work since last Friday, and it'll be the only one until next Monday. For this job, that is. Y'know, the office one with the computer on my desk. On this site I've read about a lot of misery, heartbreak, wonder, discovery, and confusion. To all of you out there living: I hope you enjoy turkey day. For me it's a quiet day to eat and spend with my family. I'm one of the lucky ones who has supportive parents and agreeable siblings, so there won't be any mental torture or obnoxious arguments to taint the day of eating. If I'm not eating, I'll be revelling in the luxury of watching football or movies while curled up in blankets, pretending to go to sleep.

I won't be thinking about my impending financial doom. I won't be thinking about the car, which has broken down again. I won't be thinking about my dead-end love life and the silent vanishing of each girl I've pursued after two weeks of contact. I won't be thinking about anything except for french onion soup, pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cheese dips, and possibly some beer.

My little sister is always good to get slightly drunk with, so I'll probably indulge with her when everyone has gone to nap on Thanksgiving night. The next day we're heading north to Milwaukee to see Counting Crows. They're a guilty pleasure of mine.

Stay warm, and latch onto whichever little pleasures you can wrap around you. Tomorrow is meant to be a band-aid for the soul. It won't heal the wounds, but it can cover them up for a little while.
2:34 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, November 21, 2002

Limited Time Offer At Sally Gangbang's House Of Haircurlers

I'm still grumpy and irate. Makes me want to write poetry. Put me out of my misery before I rhyme. Anybody. Here, take this crossbow.

I've been thinking about advertisements lately, particularly those on the radio. On most stations, between the music and patter you'll get commercial breaks. On the oldies station, however, the DJs themselves hawk the products and in many cases broadcast from the store or car dealership they're promoting.

This made me think of the DJ as a filthy shill, and I wondered why the station would stoop so low to have the on-air personalities that I "know and trust" sell me cars and stuffed animals.

Does the older crowd that listen to oldies like having somebody familiar speak to them on their own level? Does the folksy, homely endorsement help them feel comfortable with a product? Do they feel that the quality of a product is reliable if good old Dick Biondi tells them how his arthritis pains are now a thing of the past?

At this point I began to like the idea. I hate commercials, you see, and it's sometimes difficult to tune them out. They're bright, loud, flashy, obnoxious, and clever. They fight so hard to get my attention and keep it. They pretend to sympathize with my frustrations, make me laugh, appeal to my self-image, and appeal to my integrity.

With the personal approach, however, the DJ's voice drones on and there's no rape of protest rock songs or twinkly jingles or mealy-mouthed children cute-ing me to death. It's just like listening to your boring neighbor talking about the weather. You don't really hear it. When I have paid attention, I've discovered that the incentives are actually real. In some cases I can get a free t-shirt, kitchen magnet, or pair of raccoon slippers for visiting said store and saying hi. Hell, they even fed people hot-dogs and sauerkraut one day just for looking at some nice wooden furniture. Cheap and pathetic, I know, but at least the bribery is up-front and honest. It's a hell of a lot better than hearing that I'll get $1000 cash back on a car that's just been marked up by $2000.

Yeah, I hate ads.
12:51 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Tumbleweed

Yesterday a goose died in the parking lot. Apparently it died of natural causes, as there was no evidence of a car hit or a coyote attack. It was prodded and flipped into a garbage bag and deposited in a dumpster. Generally I would allow nature to finish the job, but the human traffic would be disturbed by the scavengers' carcass raids.

This morning I walked past a large grey wooden box that houses recycling for sensitive documents. I have the only key and I empty these giant boxes quarterly for the shredding company. Sitting atop the box, next to the paper slot, was a large kitchen knife on an unopened box of Kleenex. I don't want to know the explanation, as the mystery is far more satisfying.

I have a bolt stuck in my tire. That's the third one since April. Am I lucky that I have not blown a tire, and that each mishap has plugged it's own damage until the removal and repair? Or is this bad luck due to the repetitive punctures?

I am moody and contemplative this week, and most of it is negative and pessimistic. During such times I try to peer into the kaleidescope of the strange that laces the everyday mundane, much like above. Somehow, the oddness this week has been grey and grim, much like both my mood and the weather.
1:04 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002

All Quiet On The Western Front

It's been a useless few days for me. After work each day, I've been getting stoned, watching movies, eating too much, and passing out early. M works unpredictable hours, so I've been awaiting her call each night in case she's free, and then once I've decided that tonight is not the night, I go ahead and get stoned and then sit in mortal fear that she'll call while my brain is out to lunch. When I'm stoned, I can't finish sentences, my confidence in my communication is nil, and much of what comes out of my mouth makes a vague kind of sense to me but is a total non-sequiter to those subjected to it, including longtime friends who should be able to connect the B,C, and D between A & E. I should join a church.

Furthermore, I have not worried about my impending financial doom during this small hibernation period. This may be a good thing since if I begin beating my head against the wall too early I may fracture my skull or pulverize a necessary brainspongeportion. All of my luck in life has been timing and coincidences, and my gut tells me now is not the time to leap.

I am currently the subject of a fraud investigation. I have been suspended by paypal for this incident for months now, and ebay is finally getting around to taking action as well. I made the foolhardy mistake of neglecting to use a tracking number on an item I sent, and the buyer has taken full advantage of this situation. Without that number, I have no proof of shipment, so I am shit out of luck even though he has since turned around and resold the item for a higher price on ebay. Fuck me gently. This will impact my credit report no doubt, but on principle I refuse to refund the bastard his $200 because I know he got the goddamn merchandise. He could just realize I'm playing hard to get and that I will not bend over, and just drop it, but no, because he couldn't screw me he's fucking me instead. I hope you die cold and alone you vile scumslathered leech.

I'm in a good mood since I'm leaving work in one hour. Have a nice day, everybody out there.
6:02 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, November 11, 2002

Hey Rube

I've been schooled, I've been fooled. I knew better all along, but I gave in anyways. Here's what happened:

I was arriving home at 12:30 am from a beer and DVD run after work. As I slithered my car gently across the apartment complex, a guy yelled for my attention as I passed him. "Yo, yo man! Hold up ! I gotta holler at ya!"

Being a curious cat, I reversed and met him halfway.

"Whassupman, you need any weed?" I did, and I requested a dimebag. After assuring him that I am not a policeman or otherwise, he asked for the money. I said no, let me see it first.

"Don't you trust me?""

No, I don't, I just met you, and trust is earned, not given away." I spoke this in the tone of a confidant, not a scolding. He came around and I let him hop into the passenger seat.

He was drinking a can of Budwesier. I thought he had a dime with him, so I pulled up in front of my building and asked to see it. He instructed me to go to another building where his girlfriend lived, where he stayed at.

When we arrived, he asked for the money again. An eighth for twenty. I refused a second time, and said I'd wait here while he got it. He said "My girl will want the money first."

"Doesn't she trust you?", I asked.

"We've had some problems.", he explained with an embarrassed half-smile. He put keys in my hand. "I'll leave these as collateral, they're my house keys." I looked. They were indeed the style of keys issued for my apartment complex, one for a front door, and one for the back door, but no back stairwell or mailbox key. "How will you get inside without your keys?" "My girl'll let me in. Come on man, I ain't trying rip off, I'm looking forward here to your clientele."

I should've insisted to see it first. I know never to hand over money until you've at the very least seen what you're buying. But I did it anyways.

I now have a $20 set of keys. I only waited for seven or eight minutes, but that was plenty of time.

I am such a dumb rube.
5:07 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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All Press Is Good Press

I have been labelled a freak, a loser, and a liar. How very flattering. It's certainly a bit condescending coming from someone who has transformed a public eulogy into petty bickering and then screeds on the nature of perception and the unreliability of the internet. I'll try my best to lead a wholesome and believable life for you.

At least you're reading, Tim.

I went on my second date, ever, last Thursday. I rang Jenny's doorbell and her mother reached it despite Jenny's lunge to get there first. While she sympathy squirmed, I spoke to her parents about my job, my family, my favorite foods, my hobbies, and maybe my shoe size, too. They were very kind and sweet.

We went to play pool and bowl, at which both of us were rotten. We both had fun, but there wasn't any spark like there was with M. She and I share some mutual friends, so I'm sure we'll hang out as buddies sometime down the road.

Speaking of M, I haven't seen her since last Monday, and I was getting worried that she decided not to see me anymore. My fears were unfounded. She had hidden away on Saturday with a migraine, which I can understand completely. We're going to see each other again sometime this week! Ringling Brothers circus is in town, and I told her I'd like to take her there, but we decided that with our hectic work schedules that something easy and relaxing is in order. We'll go to movie theater or maybe stay in and rent one. I still haven't been to an improv show at Second City yet, so that's a possiblity if I have some free weekend time.

Today I am stealing little naps whenever I can. I am tired and useless, and my list of tasks are piling up while I procrastinate. Laziness is a temporary luxury.
2:43 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, November 08, 2002

You Dirty Rat

My first car was a grey '86 Lincoln, a huge boat. I got it for free in the fall of '01 from a coworker who has always been generous and helpful to me. I drove that sucker all over the place and learned how to navigate narrow Chicago sidestreets without bumping anything. Thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

I was driving through a snowstorm late in January when my gas pedal stopped repsonding to pressure. I passed O'Hare and coasted into the tollbooth on I-90 towards Chicago. I paid the forty cent toll, but I could not move. I pushed my car through the snow and traffic to the breakdown lane, and I went into the Tollway Authority building to find a towing service. When they arrived, about 30 minutes later, I asked them to tow me to the BP/Amoco service station at Lawrence and 90. I left my car there and walked to my new home about 4 blocks away.

They called me the next day at work. I'd taken a cab to the Harlem and Higgins bus stop, and bussed myself out to Woodfield and legged it the remainder of the distance to work. I was cold and my jeans were soaked nearly up to the knees. When I finally got their call at 4pm, they told me that I needed a new fuel pump, and that they'd fixed four other problems. I had authorized no repairs at that point. I told them to stop what they were doing and wait for me to visit. They'd done $500 in repairs that hadn't even fixed the problem. I knew I was being fleeced.

Being ignorant on the subject of mechanics, I enlisted my dad to drive me there and help me handle the situation. We arrived at the station at about 6pm on another snowy, slushy night. I put on my mean face and strode into garage.

"I didn't authorize any repairs yet, and I was told over the phone that you did $500 in repairs that didn't correct the problem, and that the repair I actually need is another $400!"

Enter a big fat sleazy greaseball, Tony. "Stop right there kid, hold it, hold on, okay?" I stop. "When did you last buy gas, and where?""

Here, on Tuesday morning, five dollars worth.""

Okay, okay. Don't worry about a thing. You're not gonna pay a red cent, kid. It's on us."

"Huh?" I looked over at my dad. He was chewing on air, trying to find words.

Tony continued. "There was a little mixup. Some BP stations in the area, seven of them, sold some bad gas. We had some diesel mixed up with the regular unleaded. But you didn't buy it here, got it, kid? You bought it at the BP on Lasalle. I want you to call this number, but you gotta call it before it hits the news, or they're gonna think you're bullshit, see? How'd you pay for it?""

Debit, Mastercard." I paid cash, but I wanted him to think there was proof."

Well, you tell them you paid cash. Tell 'em you bought it at the Lasalle station and brought it here for service. Take my card. Your car'll be done tomorrow at this time, and bring your towing bill, too."

(yer car'll be done tamarra at this time, and bring yer towin bill too)

Tony, the owner, got to fleece his franchise parent, BP, instead of me for the unneccesary repairs. I'm sure they reimbursed him for for all $900 in repairs, and the towing, which he paid me in cash, which went to my dad. I made the call as he instructed and got a fax number from them, and then I got in on the fleecing act, too.

I'd kept a copy of my towing bill. I submitted that as well as my cab and bus fares. They sent my a check for $115 to cover that. A few weeks later BP sent me a card loaded with another $100. I came out on top.

I was lucky that I brought my car to the scene of the crime. I would've been capital S shit out of luck otherwise. I was also lucky that the first major breakdown wasn't dangerous, and the worst that came from it was a lot of hassle. There were other breakdowns, but the final one almost took me and several other motorists with it. That happened during bad weather, too.
6:12 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Thursday, November 07, 2002

Support Your Local Gunfighter

Rich turned down the deal. He will remain a free man. Good on him.

Shortly after the robbery, Steve began threatening Mikey through his phone tag middleman and former roomate Dustin. Dustin passed this along and now Mikey has been calling me to find Steve. Steve only stayed with us for two days, but Mikey doesn't believe me and he may come over with weapons. I truly hope he doesn't. I have no idea how I'd react and whether I can handle him. He prefers big sharp knives and that makes me nervous. If anything happens to me, and the police find this journal, go ask my mom for my 7th grade yearbook. She has it on the top shelf of her closet. There's a guy in my class named Rob who shares the same last name as Mike. Not Robert, just Rob. (I think) Mike is also the guy you arrested for credit card fraud and the stolen Mercedes, I think it was. He's a big fat fuck who wears basketball shorts all the time. I gotta call Steve and have him threaten Mike from somewhere else so that the roomie and I will not be bothered. I don't think anything will actually happen.

I told you in a previous entry about the snaky police charity and the huge "administrative costs" the salesmen take out of each donation. Tonight there's going to be a huge investigative report on NBC 5 here in Chicago about it called Pros and Cons. I heard about it on WGN 720 this afternoon while driving to my folks' house. The journalist told how nearly all of the employees are criminals and he said that a certain state government agency even funnels parolees the job. He said that the few legit operations still only hand over one dollar of every ten to the fraternal order of police. He says that he's sharing info with the cops and many arrests will be made. In some cases they'll have to legislate some news laws, because some of it is only morally wrong but not illegal. One of the broken laws involves felons taking credit card numbers on the phone. It's a good thing Steve left Chicago, even though he still works for one of these places in Westchester. The guy on the radio specifically mentioned Six Corners, where two of the offices Steve has worked for are located. Six Corners is the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue, Cicero Avenue, and Irving Park Road. It's on the north side of Chicago, and there are lots of Cubs fans there.
6:44 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Waving The Red Cape

A friend of mine, Rich, has been jonesing for a fat bag for a few weeks now. A guy visited his work for a two week project setting up some sort of server modules for a Starbucks project, and learned that Rich is a stoner. That ended a few weeks ago, but out of the blue the guy called today.

I talked to Rich today, who told me that he might be getting a pound tonight. I pried from him the following information: 1) the guy mentioned in the past that he's friends with cops and ATF agents 2) Rich barely knows him 3) he said there were five pounds so his guy would sell each one cheaply to move them fast and 4) the guy offered to have it delivered tonight, on the same day he made the offer to sell. Rich was very happy, even though the quality would be poor.

I spoiled his day and saved his ass. I related a story to him that my neighbors had shared with me a few months earlier. A guy they knew, who was a medium level dealer, had been raided. Agents in ATF hats, kevlar vests, combat boots, and cold eyes had busted his door open, guns drawn. They cuffed him to a chair and took his money, his drugs, and his dignity. I can imagine the sounds in my head. "Where's the shit, asshole? Talk or I'll blow your fucking head off!" Typical police threatening, including the awkward and unimaginative swearing. They told him to stay put when they vacated, telling him that if he attempted to leave the agents outside would shoot. They'd be back to finish the arrest shortly. He stayed put, cuffed, until his girlfriend had come home to the mess.

I don't know if he was calm enough to think about it, but police do not leave suspects unattended. Even supposing that he had known, what could he do? The guys had guns. He was ripped off, either by imposters or off-duty agents making some hay on the side. This happened nearby, not in some faraway never-neverland. Recently, too, about a year ago.

After telling this to Rich, I began to hypothesize. Why would this guy sell a pound to someone he barely knew? I connected this with the recent rash of arrests. Most dealers are very suspicious and cautious, and they don't like to sell to people they've never met, or barely know. What if the guy was trying to take Rich's money? What could Rich do, call the cops? What if the guy's ATF buddies are setting up an easy bust? What if they're using evidence they never booked to pull in some spare cash on the side, like what may have happened in the above incident? A dealer is suspicious of customers, but if somebody offers to sell, and it's a good deal, I personally think he's more likely to drop his guard and go for it. Drooling over the big take. The classic donkey and stick manuever, with a slight variation. Instead of dangling the carrot so the donkey follows it, the carrot is bait on a fishhook.

I told Rich to think very hard about it, and please don't be the donkey. Don't be an ass. A fool and his money are soon parted. If it's too good to be true, it probably isn't.
6:00 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Better Ask Questions Before You Shoot

Let's go back to April again. The apartment warming party, where I left off, at about 4 am.

I was drunk enough to appeal to Chris' sense of macho drinking endurance. Idiotic goadings like "Can't you handle another?" and "Show me what you're worth" were uttered, I recall vaguely. We drank two or three doubleshots each of Ten High bourbon in rapid succession.

I began to fall asleep sitting up. My head teetered, then gently fell towards my shoulder as my posture melted and the couch absorbed me.

Somebody was slapping my face, gently but firmly. "Dude, your friend is going crazy, you gotta do something." My eyelids fluttered and unglued themselves, although the cobwebs sewing them shut resisted this in concert with the pulse running up and down my scalp like Bugs Bunny burrowing his was to Albequerque, constantly getting lost.

Here's what I missed: Chris and the roomie got into a bullshit arguement about something. The roomie doesn't know when to say when, when to drop it, and he probably was pointing and poking Chris is the chest while bitching him out with righteous indignation for some perceived disprespect. Chris, like a bull, began to slowly work up a head of steam. I know he stood still in the kitchen getting angrier as the roomie continued to whine his way down the hallway to the living room. Then, he moved. He charged down the hallway, swatting Megan out of his way, knocking her violently onto the floor.

The roomie had been slapping me on the cheeks. He stopped when it appeared I was down for the count, and he returned to Chris, who had now reached the living room. The roomie continued his bitchfest. "Dude, settle the fuck down. This is my house, this is fucking NOT cool, and show some fucking respect and calm down." Somebody should've told him the old maxim about catching flies with honey instead of vinegar. Alas. Chris began pushing the roomie, and as the thud of him meeting the wall reached my ears the scene came into focus.

The room was still full of people, maybe ten or eleven, all unmoving, staring, rapt and wide-eyed at the spectacle in the center of the living room.

I tell this portion of this to you as the crowd related it me, upon my return.

I leapt up from the couch, using the coffee table separating me from the two of them as a launching pad. I landed on Chris, knocking him off balance towards the wall. He definitely hadn't seen me coming in time to stop me. As he reached out for the wall to steady himself, I reached under his armpits from behind him and locked my elbows at a right angle in them. I threw myself backwards with all of my weight, and I began to scream.

He writhed and shook on top of me, trying with all his might to get loose. His problem was that, despite his massive strength, he lacks both flexibility and speed. It took all my might, but I kept him pinned above me. People told me I was screaming things like "Don't you dare touch my roomate! What the hell is wrong with you, Chris? Why are you doing this!?"

Somewhere around here my memory returns.

The stillness of the room broke. Suddenly, we were surrounded by flying feet. Feet with bad aim. Kicking him in the ribs, kicking him the head. Kicking me in the head, the neck. "Ow fuck! Watch it, that's me!" Many fled from the room, like Darren, the kitchen-pisser, who'd been mauled by Chris once before and did not want to be available as a punching bag if Chris got loose. After they realized they couldn't aim for their target with all the bouncing and struggling on the floor, the roomie knelt down and went to work with his right fist. At this point, the other three or four kickers backed off. Little Greg, a tiny little guy who ends every sentence with "...and shit", took our porcelain toothbrush holder from the bathroom counter and shattered it on Chris' temple.

It was shaped like a frog. I liked that toothbrush holder. At the time, we all thought he used a lightbulb from somewhere. It wasn't until two days later that we realized the frog was missing. But I digress.

Throughout all of this, nobody managed to knock Chris out. I was exhausted, as was Chris, and I screamed everybody out of the room. They took a lot of convincing. They went to my room. Chris settled down, but I did not let go yet. "Chris." "What?!?!?" "I'm letting you up now."

He stood there, furious, facing me, hyperventilating. I tried to reason with him, but there was not much I could say to him. He was angry with the whole world, and life had shat upon him. He began to shove me into the wall, much like my roomate, but there would be no help for me. He was crying. I tried to put my hands on his shoulder to talk to him, to calm him, but he shoved me again, yelling "Don't touch me!"

There was only one thing I could think of. "Do you want a ride home? Get your shoes." As I led the way towards the kitchen exit I could see my bedroom door cracked, and heads peered through the crack like children about to sneak out after bedtime for cookies. Little Greg now had a pan from the kitchen, which I saw gleaming. He was ready to hit a home run, but only if he got an easy pitch. It was kind of funny. Greg is tiny and couldn't weigh more than 120 pounds. At the time, though, I was in no mood for humor.

The drive home took place during the sunrise. Not much was said by Chris, but I tried to tell him that I still considered him a friend and that I felt bad about what happened. He had never landed a punch on anyone, let alone thrown one, but his physical intimidation, yelling, and pushing had terrified everyone. I told him that if I hadn't been drunk, I would've talked him down like I had in the past instead of jumping him.

Chris was like that Michael Jackson video during the ride home. His face kept morphing, swirls of white and red and purple and blue under his skin. Did I mention that he stays bald? Well his head grew during that ride. He had cauliflower head, not just ear.

I offered to try to buy him beer, but he didn't make up his mind until we reached his subdivision, at which he finally spoke. "Stop" At this point I refused. "No Chris, too late. We're here."

When I returned home everybody was relieved. They thought Chris would kill me for sure. I had a slight bloody nose, and I noticed the hole in the wall. To this day we never discovered whose head went through it. It has since been patched and painted.

We drank. Megan and I did beer bongs until noon, long after everybody else had run out of gas. We soaked the kitchen floor.

I spoke to Chris a couple times during the following week. He wanted Daria's phone number. He wanted to talk to her about what happened before she heard about it elsewhere. They're still friendly, which I'm glad about, although no romantic relationship ever grew between them. The roomie had her number and I had a hard time convincing him to let me have it for Chris. He gave it as a thanks to me. The roomie broke his hand punching that thick skull and it took three months before he recovered. Chris and I have not spoken since April. I hope he's doing well.
12:30 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Get Obsessed and Stay Obsessed!

On my way to vote during lunchtime I was stopped at a red light next to the Wacky Wagon. I smiled, the old feller smiled, I waved, he nodded. It was great.

I wish I could get more people my age to vote. (23) Most of them know that politicians are lying, stealing, corrupt scumfucks. They think that's an excuse for apathy, when they think at all. While I don't have the time or energy to be a fulltime citizen, informed and opinionated on all the issues I find important, I do make sure to vote at each election. You have to try. You have to care. The only way to make a difference is to become a demographic. One must band together with those of similar ideals in order to be represented. I know the Green party got notice during 2000, and I think it's important for those of us opposed to the new Gulf war to be recognized as well.

I went on a great date last night. We intended to go to a movie, but M had to work early this morning and we got together too late for the 8:00 movies, and our schedules prevented us from attending the 10:00 shows. We went to a small punk bar in Chicago that was dead and quiet, and that left us to focus on each other and talk. It was my first date, ever. No fireworks, but great conversation and getting to know each other. We'll be seeing each other again soon. I'm happy and cautiously optimistic.
5:17 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Monday, November 04, 2002

Keep On Passing The Open Windows

I hate the opening lines of my journal. "If I can let go of doubt, my gears will be greased for goodness." That is fucking god-awful. (Author's note: Removed from this edition) Yet somehow, it's right. Things are looking up. I may still be broke under the weight of bills, about to lose my job, and unable to keep my car working properly, but I have been very happy during the past week. I am learning in my heart what I've known in my head for a long time: Don't worry.

My dad kicked me out of the house shortly after I learned to drive. It was a couple of days after New Years, 2002. I went to stay with the roomie at his Chicago apartment last January and paid him $200 a month until we moved together to my current dump in Des Plaines. We moved in at the beginning of April, and we threw a party to celebrate the occasion.

We packed the little 2-bedroom full of people. Several cases of beer were consumed, numerous joints were rolled and pipes packed, and about half of the crowd took some weak ecstasy pills near midnight. I invited the neighbors next door to come and that was how I befriended Brenda and Rob.

I'm still good friends with one of the roomie's ex-girlfriends from many years back, Isabel. I invited her and her art school fiance, Ryan, and I left detailed directions with her brother since the two of them were busy upstairs when I visited her father's palatial suburban home. At one point in the evening I hushed the crowd in the living room and played Ryan's cartoon for the audience. He'd brought it to me at work a few days earlier. It was about five minutes long, and I guess you could describe it as an intellectual's offbeat South Park. It went over well, and I led the applause. Seeing him blush, and finally stand and bow before the crowd, and to see Isabel beam up to him, well, it gave me a nice fuzzy glow. Since then they've cancelled the engagement. Isabel got stuck in Sweden when she went to her mother to recover emotionally. Something about an expired visa and her father's refusal to pony up some cash. He's nearly rich and owns a custom oil filter company. I hope she comes back soon.

Before the party started I called Chris and invited him. He had no way to get there due to a recent DUI, so I picked him up. Fast forward to midnight. Chris is whsipering with Daria. The roomie and I exchange eyebrow raisings. Approving ones, of course. They went out into the stairwell and kissed. I was very happy about this because Chris had been obsessing over her ever since they dated briefly a few years past. Chris came back inside with her, striding like a King, his shoulders back, his chin raised. Triumph. He must've set up a date, or reconciled any past differences. She was smiling shyly, clutching her giant teddy bear by the arm.

Daria got very drunk, very fast, and she passed out limbs askew on the couch. Dan and Natalie carried her out and took her home with them. Chris became very quiet.

I'd polished off well over twelve Budweisers. I wasn't slurry or stumbly, but I was giggly and loud. A happy drunk. I remembed the whiskey. Over a year past Chris and I had made plans to have a drinking competition once I got my own place. We'd each get a fifth of Jim Beam and a case of Budweiser and see who could drink the most, puking allowed. Not a race, but an endurance type of challenge. No passing out, no stopping for longer than 10 minutes, stuff like that. Slow and steady longterm drinking. I decided to get the whisky and have a toast to the idea since it was too late to measure such a thing that night, and besides, I didn't want be an embarrassing host.

I was not thinking about Chris' mood change after Daria left. I was not thinking. I did not see that he was brooding and that his jaw was clenched, or that he was staring at the wall scowling. Well, I did see these things, but they didn't stop me from trying to cheer him up with whiskey shots.

That was a very bad idea.
2:33 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Stoplight Gumbo

One of the pizzaboys is a pizzagirl. She's got an exotic name, so I dare not post it here. I'll just call her Z. She woke yesterday morning at a stoplight. Her foot had stayed on the brake. Lucky girl. She remembered leaving before sunrise, and she awoke well past dawn. A woman was knocking on her window. The woman wouldn't let her leave, claimed to a paramedic, and called the police. Somehow Z got off without a DUI or reckless driving. I scolded her.

Other things happened on the roads. I was going through the Dee Road curly-qs last night after scooping the roomie. The car ahead of me was a dingy grey ford escort, and a little scotty dog wagged his tongue out the passenger window. He was on a leash tied to something inside the car. When the woman driving slowed for a tight turn, scotty jumped out and she kept going for a few moments. The dog was straining to keep up and his leash was choking him. She must've heard yelping or saw the leash go taut, because she stopped and retreived her little doggie. She made many apologetic and hysteric arm-waving motions. I was laughing too hard to be impatient or angry.
12:30 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Friday, November 01, 2002

Intermission

Chris beat up one or two more people, but I put out the word that Ray, Alex, and Joe S. were behind the extortion. They quit, immediately. My friend Joe, the one with the heroin problem, saw to spreading the word to people who should know. His brother Rich, who was in jail at the time, had $750 next to his name and this upset Joe.

Despite that bad beginning, Joe and Chris did manage to get along. There was a foreshadowing of the end of my friendship with Chris when the three of us went to a party with Darren, who you may remember from a previous entry peed on my kitchen floor with my hungover father watching him.

Chris got drunk as a freshly grounded cosmonaut in about 2 hours. At the time I was playing chess with a shy redheaded girl, and I was showing no mercy. I had her on the ropes. She made a series of 30 perfect moves, and I made 2 slightly wrong moves. She capitalized and actually won the game, after being down a queen and two bishops. To this day I wished I'd asked for her number. She was amazing.

Chris, drunk as a hobo who spotted a $20 two hours past, was in the garage yelling at people, stalking back and forth bumping his shoulder into whoever was in his path. I think he got shot down by some girl he liked. Darren, Joe and I dragged him outside and loaded him into the car, and off we went to my garage.

Chris kept talking about one person in particular who'd drawn his ire, saying how he'd kick his ass, etc. Darren and I knew better than to push Chris ' buttons when his head was full of steam, but Joe showed no such restraint or prudency. By the time we arrived home, Joe was laughing like an Irishman and Chris was ready to deck him.

They fought in the street. Joe was nimble, quickfooted, and economic. A real old-fashioned pugilist, bouncing on his heels. Chris was a lumbering hulk, throwing his massive hams through molasses in slow motion. He nailed Joe once on the cheek, but the rest was all Joe. Chris earned a shiner and a swollen ear, and he eventually tried to bullcharge Joe. Joe sidestepped and tackled Chris, and to keep the bronco grounded he wrapped Chris' neck in his elbow crook until Chris choked and finally nearly passed out.

Chris protested that he had won because Joe cheated by strangling. We had a very loud arguement over whether there are rules for fighting, all of us vs. Chris. My neighbor railed against our brutish and immature feisitiness, and he stared daggers at me until I raised my arms in surrender and promised him some peace and quiet. We settled down, played cards and drank Bombay Sapphire gin shots.
6:05 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Fourth Amendment

I went to yet another Halloween party last night, my fourth this year. This one was by far the best. I got there first, which is something I loathe to do. Unfortunately I had nothing else to do after eating dinner, a pizza puff and cheddar fry, and the people I was taxiing wanted to go right at 8:00, so we did.

It took about 2 hours, but the party became one of those mythical parties that don't actually exist, the kind you see in Coors Light commercials. There were women dressed as nurses, cops, and pop stars. A feast for the eyes. I love how Halloween brings out the freak in everyone. I wish you all could see the Gwen Stefani ringer with black hair and a Josie Pussycat costume. It was hard to keep my jaw from hanging. I wish I'd had composure, suaveness, a light buzz, and no obligations in the morning. Oh well, at least I got one phone number before I left at mignight.

The guys throwing the party rent the house, four of them. They pay less each than I do for my shitty little apartment and they have more room, and more flexibility with noise. I am somewhat jealous. I wish I had been more ambitious and researched when it was my time to move. Next April, who knows?

I ran into lots of old friends there, people I hadn't seen since elementary school or shortly thereafter. The strangest thing about the party was, for me, the fact that I had a great time and did not drink a drop. I'm rather proud of that. The hosts have parties every weekend, I hear, and I've been invitied to visit. I intend to. These guys know how to throw a bash.
10:35 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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stg-shark