Saturday, March 13, 2004


Ever have a week that seems to have been utterly bizarre, but, regardless of how much one thinks on it, there's no event or adjustment that can truly be said to distinguish said week from any other? It's unsettling; I get the walkies* when I roll into moods like these, and one has arrived in full force over the past few days. It makes for a difficult time studying the generalistic approach blather for the fast-approaching GRE when one can't sit still from some nebulous distraction. Even further, I'm sure my flightiness seems agitating for Andy as this is, as of last night, his first full week out of prison.

Hence, when Stuart called me at work yesterday and offered to have me down to Mandi's Lake Catherine house, I instantaneously accepted, knowing that variety is the surest cure for anxious location boredom. Lake Catherine is only about an hour or so south of Little Rock in the vicinity of Hot Springs, but even that short of a distance is sufficient to completlely remove me from my element. Realizing that detail on the drive down last night I could feel my lungs sighing out all the weird tension that had been mounting (is that what that was? it looked smoky...). I couldn't bring them everything I wished, but the guacamole and pico de gallo they offered (and peanuts, and chips, and beer, et cetera) made me feel a little less like a burden. Mmm, guacamole...

Driving back early this morning, I spotted a street sign that made me realize one of the benefits to living in a state that prides itself on the more natural wonders of the world... and the enlightened population that that gasconade attracts. If you don't know much about the late Ms. Carson's ideas, perhaps you should read Silent Spring, or just visit the website established in her honor.

I raked leaves when I got home to prepare for the massive reseeding effort that I need to mount. I like my patchy, leaf-carpeted lawn, but so does this guy. While whipping all of the small leaf piles into one big one, I apparently caught this little snake with the hooked end of one blade of the rake--when I thrust the loaded rake in an upward arc, I noticed that, in addition to sending a mound of leaves to the top of the big pile, I'd also rocketed this poor little snake through the air as well. I thought it was a dog leash or something, but when I went to pick it up, it coiled in response, staring at me with an open mouth. I'm glad it had survived my vicious raking, it probably wouldn't have had it been any larger. I took his picture and carried him off behind the house, sound as a pound in the undisturbed underbrush.

That's all finished, and now I have the entire rest of the afternoon to myself (well, unless Andy wanders back in) before the Runaway Planet show tonight. I'm in too much of a good mood already to even think about spoiling it with GRE review shit. I think I hear a nap coming...

*-- Aah, pardon my use of family slang. The walkies are any physical expression of anxiety, stress, or discomfort, most often manifest as an involuntary, uninstructed pacing. I suppose it's an example of the relationship between the body and a steam engine: when one rakes the coals, vapor pressure increases, and the pistons have to go somewhere.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Free champagne at the AAC 

Last night we got to use our membership cards for the first time at the Arkansas Arts Center. Well, use is a bit oblate, as we didn't even have to present them... I suppose we simply cashed in on the confidence of not having to crash an expensive party. Megan's students have some incredible abilities, but I was most impressed by the kindergarten-aged artists, specifically the magenta donkey-monkey (pictures to follow, hopefully). In the goldsmithing section of the museum, the new-ish curator demonstrated her fancy for all-out craftsmanly bling, of which there was plenty. Of special interest to Megan were the Kandinsky earrings, featuring squares of finely-grained intensely brilliant grey topaz flecked with dark obsidian-like intrusians (all in the space of about a quarter of a postage stamp), while I leaned more toward the esoteric victorian neck cuff sculpted out of high-guage brass wire. Waiting for Megan to arrive before the show, I took dual advantage of a hyperactive sunset and her amazing perch of a sunroom in photographing the open scene of downtown Little Rock, not yet obscured by opening buds and full leaves.

Friday before Spring Break, 2 pm 

Campus is suddenly a deserted human void. Walking documents across campus, I note that the ubiquitous crowd static is replaced by my footfalls, clicking nickels in my pocket, and the near hiss of University Avenue. As a student I never noticed this sensory shift; as an employee it dominates my outlook. I can listen to the fountain.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Ger'Shun le Conqueron 

It just isn't fair when a black student, who works like a fucking mule and heads every committe and publishes papers on Joyce and applies to a dozen schools on time and rocks the GRE and becomes faculty at AGS, gets a full ride for a 5+ year PhD position at Penn, and I, lazy work-averting caucasian, don't. Hats off, 'Shun; thine ivory tower (limousine?) beckons.


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Oh, snap! Abstinence got played! 

It turns out that us advocates of sex education probably have the right idea, what with all the fucking in which abstinence-pledgers seem to engage. It turns out that 88% of American teens who disavow pre-marital sex (you know, "American" is probably redundant in this sentence) break their vows in addition to marrying earlier, having fewer total sexual partners, and being ignorant/unaware of protection strategies from pregnancy and STDs. The rate of STD transmission has now been demonstrated as not being significantly different among populations advocating pre-marital abstinence and populations that take no measures to discourage pre-marital intercourse.

I should take this opportunity to say "Thank you, scientific process", for finding the evidence necessary to, yet again, slap the living shit out of church doctrine. Now with confidence the world can address Catholics, Southern Baptists, and other right-wing traditionalists who turn to the Bible for medical advice alike: keep that mess at the altar, we don't want it.

Perhaps this will be the study that exonerates our misunderstood progressive Dr. Jocelyn Elders, who was practically excommunicated for suggesting the notion that, for the sake of public health, it might be beneficial to let kids know that, hey, you don't have to fuck to make yourself come.

Additionally, since I mentioned Dr. Elders, take note that, as of 1998, Traumatic Masturbatory Syndrome (TMS), in which one masturbates prone (face down on a bed, floor, or whatever), has been classified as a disruptive behavioral disorder that facilitates the association of stimuli not achievable during sexual intercourse with the ability to orgasm. Youths who learn ("incorrectly") to masturbate in this fashion are much more likely to experience anorgasmia during sexual intercourse, a condition that, by making orgasm effectively impossible to achieve with a partner, leads to dysfunction and distress on far greater scales. As estimates place about five to fifteen percent of the American male population as prone masturbators, this signifies that, yes, people, we need to educate pubescent lads on how to wank in a heathful way. Grip that cock, soldier!

All of this and all I can think about is our superstitious attorney general who draped the exposed filthy, dirty titty of the Neo-classical statue of the feminized Spirit of Justice in order to eschew to contamination of impressionable, lustful minds that said tit would inspire (and don't you dare try and give me that shit about how Ashcroft was the dumb outsider on that decision; the JD doesn't decide anything without the approval of the Att. Gen.). Oh, America...

The big image 

This is the most mind-bogglingly beautiful single image I have ever seen. It is the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the processed image of which was only released about 45 minutes ago, replacing the former (and now low-res by comparison) Hubble Deep Field image in its magnitudinal increase in sensitivity.

As a matter of nerdy interest, people who wish to obtain the master file from which this image has been reduced might be a bit confronted by the file's size: a whopping 0.5 terabytes. As a result, the Hubble team is releasing the information in DVD format. That means that the raw information necessary to view this single image occupies about 205 standard-density movie-grade DVD discs.

The image, created by parking Hubble on a single point in the sky for an approximate three month exposure (!), reaches back to light emitted from galaxies around 13 billion years ago, a period during which the universe, at five percent its current age, finally started cooling enough to allow for matter to condense and, gradually, coalesce into the first galaxies, some of which are seen in this image.

It isn't time travel, but it's certainly close enough for my tastes. Ogle, ponder life, sip coffee, enjoy.


Monday, March 08, 2004

A toast 

Sui generis becomes suicididaire; farewell Spalding Gray.


Sunday, March 07, 2004

The third day 

Lest I get to flowery and sensitive, allow me continue the description of reality that is constantly flowing under the bridge of yesterday's cheerily optimistic post. It isn't yet two in the afternoon of my brother's third day living with me, and I already know that this is a doomed project. It isn't so much that I couldn't live with him as it is that I won't live with him.

To understand the straw that broke the camel's back requires a bit of backstory. I'll try to condense as much as possible.

My brother, eight years my senior, had been the typical C average high school student, never terribly motivated to do anything, who had gone to college and joined a fraternity with the support of my parents' meager bank account. Although I was only eight at the time, I remember the oddity of the situation and the tension it caused between him and my sister; my sister, who had gone to college two years earlier, had been forcibly disallowed to join a sorority. The outcome wasn't surprising. It took a single semester for Andy to run his grades into the ground and, although he kept registering for expensive screwball amounts of courses, it took him another two years to get cut off and forced to leave the university... and only at the urging of the university, not my folks, who were now holding out empty pockets in my direction, shrugging.

Thus began the pattern of Andy's adult life as I can remember it. The frat introduced him to easy pussy and loads of weed, in which he would indulge until, frustrated by his lack of funds, he would scamper home to be welcomed back and coddled by my parents. My sister's attitude of disjointed disaffection was the only response that even felt rational, so as I grew older I took her rationality as the tint of my outlook; Gina's separateness led her into a much more independent direction, and, once she found a happy relationship, she stuck to it and got the hell out of Dodge. I was left in the mire with Andy and his constant half-lidded influx of skanky girls under my parents' noses.

At some point, Andy would scheme his way into an apartment situation with a few frat roommates, none of whom had ever actually finished anything resembling a university degree. I remember visiting one of these apartments when I was about thirteen. As my parents nervously sat in the living room, I wandered the house and found a three-liter Coke bottle (top cut off, all classy like) full of condoms, a handgun, and, on a roomates bed, my first actual sorting plate with obvious residue in several paralell lines. Even then I knew that Andy had fucked up.

I gradually forgot about Andy. I would see him at Christmas, and sometimes around my birthday he would bring me a stack of CDs, so I couldn't complain. He was more like an associate of one of my parents, not really a chummy brother type.

About five years ago, I was not yet a sophomore at university and I was still living with my parents. I hadn't seen Andy in about a year, a fact I didn't realize until my parents let slip their worry for his condition one night. Even they hadn't heard from him in several months, and the last time they had seen him he was looking gaunt, angered easily, and displayed significant paranoia (which was, in all liklihood, probably well justified knowing the sincerity of the violence and betrayal in the local meth circles). Over several nights, my parents did the only thing they could think of in their state of parental desperation: they drove the streets of Little Rock looking for Andy. Eventually they found him, living out of his car, weighing about 150 pounds instead of his average 200.

They brought him home. He set up shop (pun not intended, but serendipitous... more on that soon) in my old bedroom, and within the week I was noting an array of strange smells emanating from his room. Sometimes the odors were quite acrid, and I can remember one night waking up in the pre-dawn hours coughing like mad and trying to relieve an intense burning sensation in my throat. I had to run outside to get fresh air, at which point I also noticed that my eyes were burning, and the skin around my nostrils. It smelled like bleach and acetone, and the next morning I told my parents that something was going on, and it was serious enough to have manifest itself physically.

Here's the kicker: my parents shrugged it off, telling me to "keep quiet or we'll lose him." The logic I was given was along the lines of 'he can either manufacture here in our care or out there where we'll never see him again.'

I was absolutely dumbfounded, disgusted, crushed, startled, fearful, and hurt. It took an instant, a single brief conversation with my mom and dad to destroy my faith in their wisdom, to shake the shell of childhood off of me, to make me trust none but myself, to incite an intense hate of them all.

A few weeks later, my parents left the state to take my grandparents to visit their distant relatives. About two days into the trip, I was on the telephone with Steven when I heard an explosion from my brother's room and a cascading stream of obscenities peppered with my name and calls for help. I ran to his room, flung wide the door, and saw the floor engulfed in tall, foul flame, but it wasn't just the floor, it was the walls, the desk, the bed, the lamp, Andy's arms, fucking everything was burning, and Andy was whipping at the flames with a (burning) tee shirt, sending an arc of burning fluid spattering across every surface in the room. I snapped into ultra efficiency. I ran, grabbed a towel, doused it with water, and lay it over the biggest burning spot in the room. I took Andy into the bathroom, filled the sink with cold water, and had him immerse his hands in it, keeping the water flowing. Closing him in the bathroom, I ran and got more towels, soaking them and smothering the flames, one by one. Within twenty minutes, the flames were out, but the fumes were so strong that I kept having waves of intense nausea, and I could tell I was going to pass out. After opening all the windows and doors to get the fumes out, I went to my broither again, screaming in pain in the bathroom. The skin on hishands, up to the middle of his forearms, had been so badly blistered that it had peeled off under the running water. It looked like shredded latex gloves had been draped over his hands.

I wrapped his hands in a wet towel, got him into my car and pushed the pedal down to it's maximum point, rushing him to the emergency room. When I told him that I'd call the fire department to come check out the house, he protested, "NO! NO! NO! I was making meth! Don't tell mom and dad!"

I knew he'd been cooking. But, in the hubbub, I hadn't had time to think about it, about what had actually caused the fire. I slowed down. I wanted it to hurt.

They gave him morphine. They said he'd have to go to the burn unit, and that they would call me when he was out of the emergency state and could be trasported. I went home to survey the damage. Before I got home, Steven had come over to make certain that nothing reignited. I was glad someone was there. I called Gina to ask what to do, numb and shellshocked by the smell and appearance of the house, everythign still in utter disarray from the confused rush. Andy's room was a total fucking travesty. Gina was livid, but in Lousiville, so, against my wishes, she called my parents and they drove the 21 hours back to Arkansas without having ever reached their destination. I'm still bitter that my grandmother will now die without having seen her sister in over twenty five years, all thanks to Andy.

My parents talked to me like a ten year old. How do you know he was making drugs? You're overreacting. Don't call the fire department, you'll only get us all into trouble. The fire probably didn't mess up the electric outlets, just leave it alone.

When they arrived and talked to Andy they didn't even consult me first on what had happened. To convince him to stay under their watchful eyes, they agreed to let him bring his girlfriend into the house to live with all of us. They were both in and settled within two days.

They lived there, unemployed and constantly costing money, for the better part of a year before Andy's arrest. She would sequester herself on the phone in that room, two liter bottle of vodka in company, and come out only to eat our food or smoke cigarettes on the porch. When they would get jobs it would last a day, as they simply wouldn't show up or someone would leave work midday without giving notice. It was a common ritual that, as I was getting up to go to school at six in the morning, I would bang on their door to get them to shut off their fucking alarm or just to get up to go to work. One morning Jennifer's mother called, around six a.m., and asked me if I could wake them up for work. "Sure," I said, pounding on the door, loudly, repeatedly, to no avail. Finally I told the mother, "They won't get up. Sorry. Want to leave a message?" I then got a nice lecture, something about how irresponsible it was of me to not persist and wake them up, about how I was going to make them lose their jobs and that I was a terrible, self-centered young man, about how her daughter didn't need to be living in such surroundings.

That's what did it, that's where I snapped, tearing into that presumptuous bitch like the nineteen year old debate champion I was, setting her face on fire with my reasoned fury, only allowing my temper to boil near the end when I abaondoned reason and simply let the rage all meld into a forcefully projected stream of obscenities not directed just into the phone.

Soon after, I showed up at the house to find a drug enforcement team at my house. No surprise there, I thought. At last, I thought.

The first question my mom asked me when I walked up to the house: "Did you turn your brother in?"

One of the cops found my missing wallet in Andy's room.

I lived in my car for about a month after, refusing to sleep in that house. These are the resentments that are waking up, specifically this afternon, when Jennifer called.


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