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29 March 2010 @ 04:07 am
There's this real goofy guy at work, Bob. He works kind of the night shift and has a reputation for just being strange. He sings and dances a lot. Makes dumb jokes like when I went out on the barge and asked him "are we going yet?,"  he took off his hat and said "going? no it's gone" and rubbed his baldness.  This morning in the course of conversation about the state of television he says almost out of the blue "Every day I go home and for an hour I watch fox news and get indoctrinated. Just gotta get my hour of indoctrination." I thought "Wow, so this weirdo hates fox news and is probably one of  those serious union democrats. What a bad face for liberalism." But I didn't say anything about it.

Later when we were tying up the barge back at the berth I asked him real cautious like I always am about politics at work: "So you're happy about this whole health care thing?"

"Happy? Hell I'm not happy. That's gonna cost this country a lot of money we don't have." I said I thought it would actually save money. He said "I don't know believe that one." I said it was because it would put a new payroll tax on people making over  250,000.

He said "Well, that's gonna cost a lot of jobs. It's the people with money that create all the jobs."  I gave him back something like  "well that's trickle-down theory but a lot of people believe it's the other way around. His reply: "That's a fact. People with money create the jobs. I only deal with facts. Not opinions like that." I left it at that. I'm not sure if I regret not bothering to explain what indoctrination means.

I don't believe Democrats will ever be able to pass something really difficult like climate-change legislation or single-payer healthcare, if they can't get the support of the people the party really helps, the lower and middle-class and the unions, and all the morons living off of unemployment at the tea party rallies and watching fox news. A little populism now and then wouldn't hurt.
30 December 2009 @ 01:38 pm
So the gist is this: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

1. The Lord of the Rings     the number of times I've read this is shameful
2. The glossy covered creamy papered Edgar Allan Poe collection I read when I drove to North Carolina with my family in 7th grade    killing the cat was pretty disturbing then
3. Lolita   motel names
4. Happy Times in Norway Sigrid Undset       cuz I was raised to think the blonde haired blue-eyed nature-loving Norwegians were the superior race...and Germans were assholes
5. Catcher In the Rye    I'm just one of those goddammed people    pretty treacly these days but I can't say the large imprint it made at the time can ever fade
6. Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories   Joseph Mitchell   best journalism/end of the world kind of nostalgia/NY book which also does more than due diligence on Staten Island
7. Tale of Two Cities   I cried hard.
8. Nick Adams Stories    still want to fish like that
9. Gravity's Rainbow     thought it was cool as shit...total intellectual genius when I first read it. Still think that but am  more open to bloated turgid hugeness incoherent indulgent accusations
10. 60 Stories  Don Barthelme       postmodern as you can get with the minimum amount of pretentiousness and most fun
11. in a scanner darkly    philip k. dick   really good tricks, best depiction of drugs,  paranoia
12. war & peace      big enough to get lost in
13. Lanark      Alisdair Gray      I really like to get lost  and I like organized labor
14. Winesburg, Ohio        I like to pretend I grew up in small-town America in my mind (not being redundant)
15. The Big Sleep      been on a Chandler kick lately but odds are it'll stick subgroup of my detective story kick and Chandler is tops     I guess this one's my favorite of his novels

A little more careful than the first fifteen but halfway there
07 April 2009 @ 01:36 am
Today I felt the need to write more in this. A friend reminded me that five years ago we didn't speak for almost a year. At first I didn't believe him but it came back to me. He brought it up because he saw parallels between then and now. It troubled me that I forgot. It troubles me more that I might hurt people not out of my own immorality but out of sheer forgetfulness. There are other reasons sure, but to be literally forced to relive a part of my life because I forgot it. That's horrible. Fortunately, it didn't happen.
05 April 2009 @ 01:20 am
I feel as if I have been fucked by a god. My lips are tingling, my cheeks are flushed my nose is running, and I was so completely unaware and uncaring of how violently I was shoving food into my face that I discovered a whole new feeling in the joy of eating alone. I recommend the food at Chavella's on Classon as pretty much the best Mexican food to be had in this world or the next, or at least Brooklyn, specifically the potato & chorizo taco and the chicken chipotle one. Please remember to put on the sauce as this makes all the difference.

My Uncle Mark called me earlier today, drunk. It's what he does. Calls me up a little tipsy, sometimes so much as to be a little offensively dumb, other times -like today- just enough to make him voluble. I guess he's sort of a lonely guy. I'm sure he has friends but he doesn't have any kids so I think that puts a lot of extra time on his forty-something year old hands-as well as the hole my grandfather very visibly left in his life. But he does things. He said today he was trying to figure out why his tractor suddenly didn't want to go into reverse. I guess he was taking a break from working on it to call me. Anyway, he called up to ask if I had finished a book he gave me, Grey Seas Under, which is the story of a salvage tug in the mid-20th century that reads sort of like a badly put together series of newspaper articles with lots of meaningless names and dates.

This brought him to talking about as he has told me more than a few times, the fact that him and his brother rebuilt the engine, drive-shaft, and all the accessory bearings and gears on a tugboat from the 1920s when they were kids. They did it for Jack Drury, whose family has been friends with mine since the 1940s, and owned a dairy equipment company and large industrial yard on the Kill Van Kull, and they were paid $1.25 an hour. "Not much money, even then" I said and he said "Yeah, but we learned." And then he talked about kids these days. One facet of the "kids these days" um...discourse...is that they don't have any mechanical skills, which seems pretty valid to me. Not literally, but I think the gap between the regular college-educated person and a person who "works with his hands" is a lot wider than it used to be, because of specialization, the income gap, divergent technology and much else. It's something that bothers me a lot because I'm on one side of it and my family and co-workers are on the other. Not that I seem to them a clutz or a spazz or an total moron like some people. I can change my brake-pads or run a bobcat and I have some idea what journals and bearings are but I don't know what a crocus cloth is and I can't tell what my uncles are talking about when they get into an hour long debate about tractors. So it fascinates me and I do want to learn more.

Today in the shower (of course) when thinking about what my uncle told me, I realized a good opportunity has come up. He and my uncle David spent a whole summer taking the bus across the island and then coming home covered in grease with towels wrapped like turbans around their heads. By an odd coincidence it  was the same one my great-great grandfather, Emil, had worked on for over a decade as the engineer. The interesting thing I found out today is that Emil would not set foot on the thing. It can pay to hear the same story told over and over again. You think to ask different questions.He would tell my uncles stories like how he took down all the plumbing, wiring, gears and whatever else from the ceiling of the engine room and replaced it so that it was just one foot higher so that he didn't have to bend his head when walking around, and he would give advice, but he adamantly refused to go near it. Even when the boat was part of the regatta in New York Bay for the nation's bicentennial, he refused to go. My uncle just said "You could never tell with those old-timers. Sometimes they worked for sixty years on the water and they never wanted to set foot on a boat again." It could make a good story with a little digging, and gives me a chance to learn about more what tugboats must have been like to work on when the work was a little more serious and dangerous.
18 February 2009 @ 02:44 am
And of the captain: today the deckhand related an excellent story, not at all unusual or out of character. Leaving the parking lot of the supermarket, they were blocked by two trucks. The captain slams on the horn repeatedly, but one of the truck just backs up toward him. He manages to pull around the truck but stops next to it and asks the deckhand to roll down his window.  and shouts in his heavy New York accent    " 'Ey what the fuck is wrong with you?" The driver says ""-Eh! Fuck you!" The captain, who has a heavy New York accent, shouts "Fuck you and fuck your mother!" The driver, an Albanian, comes back "Fuck your mother!" The captain then tells him "Fuck your mother again and go fuck a donkey and go back to your motherfucking country you fucking raghead" and drives away. The deckhand asks the captain who is pale and overweight and probably covered with sweat because he sweats when he exerts himself in the least like when he's eating, "Why do you do that? Don't you think he could have a gun or something? You could get shot." The captain, is still pissed and yells at him "You don't think I have a gun? You think I would drive around without a gun? You fucking moron, of course I have a gun."

I asked him about later on and he told it again. He added "With those foreigners you gotta bring their mother into it. Something about their mother really gets them."

He grew up with my dad. We talk about the joys of having Norwegian ancestry. Of course, he terms it "Superior Aryan Blood."
11 February 2009 @ 02:22 am
I said Kavalier and Clay was "pure fun." The starting point for this novel is the Holocaust. What I mean is: there is not much thinking involved. Or meant. Because we are delving deeper into the Holocaust, folks. And it is not all candy and marmalade. Originally, it felt like it was just background. This is the part of W.W.II that's "pure fun." You know who the good guys are and you root for them.  But once you get into the feelings of helplessness revolving around tolerating atrocities it is more morally ambiguous. Less pure fun.

The record is corrected and now I can sleep.

10 February 2009 @ 11:35 pm
Haircut today. My beard is thinned down to almost nothing and my haircut is boyish and clean. The barber took liberties like always but I let him. It is me being a women in a novel, like what I was reading today in the diner, a feminist novel Pig Tales, which made me feel gross so I had to switch to my other new book. It felt good to cut my hair. To have my hair cut. Beards have pros and cons, sometimes they are the tangible evidence of sloth and filth and insecurity. Though mostly it is purely functional-my winter sweater. I wonder often about people's comments: "Nice beard" "It suits you" "I wish I could grow one like that." Do you really think that much about beards? Do you want one that much? Beard is something to be grown between twenty-one and thirty.

I bought a bunch of stocks recently and now have to check them incessantly. It is time for another internet fast. This technology is creeping forward too quickly recently. A bunch of people sitting around an apartment, it is only a matter of time before the laptop is taken out. How many iphones are whipped out in bars? Rising on par with the weather for conversation filler is the latest youtube phenomena. (I don't get the Christian Bale one. I have played through many sides but it is still weird and pointless. I prefer Alabama Leprechaun or Otto the Cat anyday. Guilty as charged.) It's all fine but I wonder if its penetration is too viral, too quick, too fast for the losses to be noticed. I think about the very deep loss of literacy and focus. Of course this is the story of the past century but we had that whole postmodern dash which in some ways acted against it. That was a constructive self-consciousness which is no longer active, shot itself in the foot. At least I think it did. But we must be always vigilant.

Pop culture and the co-opting of it is sort of the answer but I am the least knowledgeable person in the world when it comes to this. I can't remember the words to any song-To Happy Birthday. I am a very blind man. It leaves me quiet at parties with geeks that I like.

There is dangerously little breathing room between the baby-carriages and me. There is the mass of rich people in Park Slope who have slowly but surely taken over Prospect Heights and there is just the few blocks of Carribeans mixed with Yuppies between me and them. I felt this today when I was assaulted at the closest coffee shop to me by a number of small German-speaking children. Small children. My stop, Franklin Avenue, is the last for white people. It is embarassing. Segregation is rotten.

Took the train to Bay Ridge because I was already drifting out into that part of Brooklyn to get my haircut. The black barbers in my neighborhood would surely make a disaster of my hair which is straight as spaghetti. One day I should try it for kicks. Southwest Brooklyn is nice. The idea of being in a corner, of it being a neighborhood with a more permanent family-centric feeling, and the lack of any dominant ethnic group or race. That place, at least, is not segregated. But there are no blacks, though many Arabs. Recently, I have consciously tried to lay off the driving and it pays off. To sit and read and stare at people and figure out what books they're reading themselves leaves me much calmer than driving down the same streets alone even if it takes much longer.

I will take the bar of Norwegian chocolate I bought in Bay Ridge out of my jacket pocket and get a glass of milk and take myself to bed and finish reading Kavalier and Clay, which I got today at the library. It is so good and soothing because it is pure fun and well-written. I will do my best to wash away the chocolate with the milk but I will still go to sleep without brushing my teeth for once because today is the last day on earth. I go back to work tomorrow.
19 January 2009 @ 04:30 am
And also:

I did the forty-eight hour internet fast. It was good. It was right after I got back from work when I keep myself busy catching up with friends and alcohol, so the effect was dulled. I do think I am more impervious to the hankering to constantly check my e-mail and the New York Times website (bless them, they don't get blessed enough for their free services and they will soon be null or close to it).
31 December 2008 @ 06:32 pm
Today was a nasty day to come back to work. Its New Years in Gravesend, its not very nice. It started snowing as soon as I got back and as I went to bed at nine am it turned to ice. Pleasant. And when I woke up at twelve I spent almost two hours outside because we had to breakdown after making up in push-gear. The mate didn't realize that the barge was so high up in the water. That particular barge, the DBL 31, is more difficult to handle in wind, he says, because its short and high and so has less...I forget the word. Train? And then we came out here and I spent another hour and a half outside except it was worse because its not so protected outhere and the spray was coming over the bow of the barge and then ten feet in the air when it was compressed between the barge and ship where I was standing as we landed. Like jumping through a waterfall. The wind is really not very nice to us today. And hot dogs for dinner. Hot dogs are gross and should be abolished. Chocolate Cannolis from Renato's, however... I was so happy to finally get out of my wet clothes and into my sleeping bag to go to bed, now, at six thirty.
30 December 2008 @ 02:35 am
We need to have destructo-books. Books that intentionally take themselves apart so they can't be resold on the internet. Not that they should necessarily be shoddy. More like something you will want to take apart and eat or give to your friends. This is my plan to save the publishing industry. I will start with Steven Millhauser's Dangerous Laughter. Reading it halfway, I had already thought of three chapters to give to people. I almost want to eat some of them. It will be the revival of the short-story to boot.

Such dreams.

More on Steven Millhauser later.