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My Dull Life

Monday, September 15, 2003

 I have a recurring dream.

 Sometimes I go to bed early or I stay in bed late to see if it will come back
 and work itself out, to get itself right.

 There are variations, all of them imperfect. Here's one of them.

 I'm a humble Mexican with a big sombrero and a wicker basket of exotic
 fruit like papaya, jicama, mango and what-not.

 There's a white woman in town who I like but I could never tell her,
 especially in my limited English. I'm thinking, yes, I love her. Now what?

 I take my basket of fruit to her house and I place it on the steps going up to
 her porch.

 Just then she comes out, looks at me, looks at the basket and gets mad at
 me, telling me she refuses to buy any of that stuff. That the answer is no.

 Well, of course, that saddens me. I face her but walk backwards and try to
 motion with my outstreched arms that I'm not selling anything. That this is
 a gift. That it's hers to eat or let rot.

 Then I turn and go.

 It was free. It was so free that I wasn't even going to look and see what she
 did with it.

 That's the dream. Sometimes it's a basket of oranges. Sometimes she
 gets so mad she throws some at me. Sometimes I really don't care if she
 eats any of it or not. Sometimes that's not the point.

 I guess it depends on how I'm feeling.

 I saw Fontaine and Bill in the Mexican restaurant next to the deli so I went
 in and went up to their table but they kept on talking.

 Bill turned to me and said they could use more chips.

 "Hi," I said.

 Fontaine turned and looked at me and said, "I thought you got fired."

 "Well, laid off."

 Bill said, "What about the chips?"

 So I went to see if I could get more chips but they didn't speak English so I
 just took a bowl from another table on my way back.

 And then I just sat down at the table. Nobody said anything, except
 Fontaine who said, "You get my message?"

 I said yes.

 "And you see what an idiot you are?"

 I didn't answer that one.

 Then Fontaine said, "What are you doing here?"

 Well, I just saw them through the window. That was kind of true.

 And the conversation moved back to who was getting action and stuff like
 that. Fontaine said, "What about you, Robert? Get any lately?" Bill laughed
 with food in his mouth.

 "Somebody did express some....personal interest," I said. Bill and
 Fontaine both leaned forward. "But you know, I don't know how to handle it.
 It's not right. I don't know what to do about it. It was this psychologist at

 Bill said, "Nail her."

 Fontaine said, "Yeah."

 I was hoping there would be a little more discussion. I was hoping I could
 sort of work out the right thing to do. Bounce a few ideas off them. Get
 some advice I could go home and weigh. And we were talking about a guy.

 "Hey, I'd nail the psychologist right now." Fontaine said. "That's what I
 would do. It's hammer time!"

 I looked at Fontaine. And then we all laughed.

 I called work to see about having lunch with Fontaine. Marge told me he
 has lunch with Bill now.

 Maybe I'll go to the deli around noon to see if they're there.

 The silence around here is beginning to echo.

 Sunday, September 14, 2003

 John Ritter died. That's one more. Kind of sad. Though it could have been

 Saturday, September 13, 2003

 No more calls today.

 I was thinking about calling Fontaine but I'll have to wait until Monday to call
 him at work.

 The rest of the day was silent. Maybe that's one of the reasons the turtle
 water smelled so bad. I think the senses work that way.

 I hear "You've Got Mail!" and the voice sounds happy and it makes me feel
 happy, time after time, even though it's always junk mail. I know it's junk
 mail, but if I heard "You've Got Mail!" right now, there'd still be a little surge
 of anticipation. It happens every time. "You've Got Mail!" It's a funny little lie. I
 can make my voice sound just like him. But I shouldn't brag.

 I changed the turtle water ten times. I think it's better now.

 It's a hot night tonight and usually my Mexican neighbors have their doors
 and windows open and I can hear their conjunto music. Some of it is kind
 of strange. The coronets blast like they're trying to wake up an army of deaf
 mutes in a comic movie. The snare drum sounds like somebody is
 whipping a dead animal for shear lack of imagination. The accordian is
 played in a frenzy. I don't mind it. I don't grow tired of it. I get mystified by its
 absurdity. It's music that comes all the way from the gates of hell. But
 tonight I don't hear it. Just this silence.

 "You've Got Mail!" No I don't.

 My aunt, not Aunt Betty, this other aunt of mine who lived in San Diego had
 a little dog, one of those cute little dogs that have funny faces. I sat on her
 couch and scratched her belly, the dog's belly, and the little dog panted in
 ecstasy. She loved it. She really got into it and sort of helped me with her
 own hind leg getting into the act. Oh, she loved it. But scratching a dog's
 belly gets tiring after awhile so as I slowed down and was about to pull my
 hand away, the dog started to growl. The slower I scratched the louder the
 growl. So I sped up and scratched her at the regular pace and she went
 back to her heavy breathing, tongue hanging out ecstasy.

 She didn't grow tired but I sure did. But I was afraid of that growl. But I just
 had to stop. And when I did, that little dog bit me. You'd think instead she'd
 lick my hand as a way of saying thank you. But no. My aunt saw her bite me
 and so she whacked her with the back of her hand.

 Maybe I just should have pulled away faster. I don't know. It was an
 endless loop kind of thing. I love you I love I love you. But keep scratching.

 It makes you wonder. Well, it makes me wonder.

 "You've Got No Life!" You should hear me say that one.

 But I shouldn't brag.

 Mail came. A thanks but no thanks form letter from Xerox.

 I heard the phone two or three times this morning. Woke me up. No

 It rang again and I picked it up and it was Ted who sounded happy and
 startled and a loss for words.

 I said good morning.

 And then I let him talk. I guess in his line of work he's supposed to do all
 the listening. It's probably not that easy. I know when I worked I mostly just
 listened but that had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't have much to say.

 After ten minutes he said he had to go. I don't remember what the
 conversation was about but when he hung up his voice was sounding

 I hope he has a good day.

 Friday, September 12, 2003

 "And chase others gone goodbye in my years. Calling after their names.
 Come back again. Where that countryside sings over your grasses matted
 by wind and rains fall in sunshine. Don't fear when some nights rise up
 wild. Go walk in heather along a narrow path. Seagulls glide and curlews
 cry. Reach up and gather all this world. Before dark or any other people
 should ever come. And find you sheltering. As all hearts are. Worried
 lonely. Your eyes quiet. By the waters cold. Where the sadness lurks so

 "It doth make you still."

 Ted called again and he was kind of chuckling. He said it was all a put-on,
 a joke, a test to see if I would respond to inappropriate advances. I
 passed. He would recommend me to Xerox. Now, would I please pick up
 the phone? Please?

 He said please one more time and then he hung up.

 I'm going for another walk.

 I have a certain something. Apparently. But maybe you have to be a gay
 psychologist to see it.

 I'd disconnect my phone but I need a job

 I took a long walk heading north and got to where a couple freeways meet.
 I ran out of sidewalk but I kept walking. I saw a lot of trash along the
 roadside and for some strange reason it made me feel better.

 Ted called again and left a message.

 I almost didn't know it was him. There was a deep sadness in his voice.

 He said he was sorry he called. He was telling me why he got into the
 profession in the first place but the tape only records for a minute and it cut
 him off.

 It left me shaken.

 I've heard my own voice sound like that.

 I got a call from Fontaine. How does he know my number? I don't know his.

 He just left a short message on the answering machine to tell me the
 Asian guy has a girlfriend. Then he hung up kind of hard.

 The psychologist called again but he just left a message on my answering

 His name is Ted.

 What did I do or say to bring this on?

 When he asked me how come I wasn't married, I just shrugged my
 shoulders. Maybe I looked sad.

 He asked me who my favorite author is but I don't like discussing books so
 I said Gary Markbe.

 It had to be something.

 Thursday, September 11, 2003

 I got a call from the psychologist this morning. Oh boy! I thought. But he
 wasn't calling for Xerox. He was calling for himself. He invited me to lunch.

 I said I couldn't. I was going to have lunch with Fontaine. Too bad men
 can't lie like women. I guess it takes practice.

 You know, everybody is liked by somebody. Even me. I just wish we could
 choose the people who like us.

 But how would that be if we could choose the people who would like us?
 Chaos would result. It would ruin the social fabric as we know it. We need
 checks and balances.

 Unrequited love might be unpleasant, but it holds everything together. So
 we can keep on going on.

 Wednesday, September 10, 2003

 That psychologist asked me some personal questions but I guess that's
 their job. One question, that wasn't personal, was this. "Why do people pay
 taxes?" I said they got to. I think I answered that one OK. But climbing the
 rope in gym class when I was in 7th grade, that was a personal one. I said
 nothing happened.

 Since my violin has one more week in warranty, I took it back to the shop
 for them to take a look at because the D on my A string sounds a little
 funny. They told me at the shop it will sound better ounce I take lessons.

 I got home by 3:00 but this was the Bonanza where Hoss falls in love. I
 decided not to watch it.

 Tuesday, September 09, 2000

 As I wait for my next job to become a reality, I've been watching a lot of TV.

 An old "Little House on the Prarie" had Anwar Sadat as a guest star.

 Then I saw a rerun of "Who's the Boss?" The special guest star was Boom
 Boom Mancini.

 He's the one who killed a Chinese boxer in the ring. After that, he made a
 career change. If you watch a lot of reruns, you'll see him on two or three

 I like reruns but some of them feel like bad dreams.

 Friday, September 05, 2003
 Personnel from Xerox called. Before I go in for an interview, they wanted
 me to complete some testing. It was like testing in school. Read the
 paragraph, answer the questions.

 After that, one of the tests was with a psychologist in a little room. He
 asked me if I ever felt like a twig in a stream, randomly moving this way
 and that, bumping off rocks, with no real control as I headed downstream.

 I said no.

 Then he showed me ink blots and wanted to know what I thought they
 looked like.

 I thought the first one looked like a butterfly. He said, "OK," and showed me
 another. I thought that one looked like a butterfly too.

 "You don't think it looks like two angry cats ready to square off and fight
 over the food scraps in the garbage can they're sitting on?"

 I looked at it carefully. No, I thought it looked like a butterfly.

 He gave me a pained look so I added, "A different kind of butterfly."

 Thursday, September 04, 2003

 "We grieve today for the untimely and unnecessary death of Brian Wells, a
 fellow delivery driver working for Mama Mia's Pizza-Ria in northwestern
 Pennsylvania. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and
 co-workers, and we share in your sorrow at his passing."

 That's the official statement from The Association of Pizza Delivery Drivers.

 He had a green Metro and three cats.

 When he was arrested for robbing the bank he said, "This is not me."

 The police found an explosive device bolted to his body so they backed
 away leaving him all by himself.

 "Why is nobody trying to come get this thing off me?"

 The last thing he ever said was that question. Which he said, you know, while
 everybody kept their distance.

 "Why is nobody trying to come get this thing off me?"

 Wednesday, September 03, 2003

 To collect unemployment, I have to look for another job. I've been trying to
 work that around the times that Bonanza comes on.

 I went to Xerox and Ricoh and left my half page resume. I got home just in
 time, 3:00.

 I like the song that comes on. I like the Ponderosa. When I watch Bonanza,
 I pretend that I'm one of the brothers. Hoss, Little Joe, Robert. I'd also like
 Loren Green to be my pa.

 I'd have my own horse. Sometimes I think up names I'd call him.

 I really like the show and I'd write to them, not to tell them that, but just to
 write them a nice friendly letter. But I found out that Loren Green is dead.
 And so is Daniel Blocker and Little Joe. I don't know about the other guy but
 I never felt that close to him anyway.

 It made me think that I'll die some day. I won't have a TV show to leave
 behind or a horse or anything.

 I have no idea what will be written on my gravestone. Maybe:

 "You are no longer connected to America Online."

 Monday, September 01, 2003

 I'm not really unemployed yet because today is a holiday.

 Tomorrow I guess I'll apply for unemployment. And watch TV.

 Today I got an email and I knew it was junk mail. It said this for a title:

 "Your Match is Waiting For You!"

 And the sender was "Find Love"

 I knew it was junk mail but I had some time on my hands so I clicked on
 the link to see who they thought my perfect match would be.

 Error 404.

 Thursday, August 28, 2003

 No lunch with Fontaine.

 I'm kind of on a diet but I went to McDonalds and got a cheeseburger
 Happy Meal.

 I went for a walk. I guess I had things to think about.

 I took a bench at Park City Plaza and broke off little pieces of my fries to
 throw to the pigeons. They weren't interested.

 Wednesday, August 27, 2003

 I was looking forward to today, my first day back from vacation.

 As soon as I got to work, Marge said the boss wanted to see me. I went to
 his office but he wasn't there. I thought I'd wait right outside but first I
 wanted to go to the bathroom. I never had long meetings with the boss, but
 you never know.

 He was in the bathroom at a urinal. He saw me over his shoulder and said
 hi and I took a urinal sort of close to his but, you know, not right next to his.

 He said, "Hey Mike, I wanted to see you." He stood really close to his urinal
 and spoke to me looking straight ahead. "You've been laid off. Corporate
 wanted cut backs. I said they'll be cutting bone before too long. Greenspan
 is an idiot but nobody listens to me. It's happening all over the place.
 Economy's a bitch. See Marge on your way out."

 I finished before he did. I noticed he was holding on to his urinal with both
 hands an he was looking up. It was very quiet.

 Marge said they had sent the layoff notice to my house but it was returned
 for insufficient postage. They resent it but apparently it didn't arrive yet. She
 said there was some more paperwork and she mailed that also. I asked
 her what I was supposed to do now. She said to go home and wait for it.

 It turned out it wasn't a really good day.

 Tuesday, August 26, 2003

 I don't know why I'm thinking about religion today, but I am.

 When I was in the 8th grade I was the acolyte for our church. Our church
 just had one and I was it. My mother was proud. I don't know why. I just lit
 the candles and then an hour later I snuffed them out.

 In-between, I went to Sunday School. It was taught by a tall, thin college girl
 named Leslie. She had the pasty white complexion of somebody really

 Timmy was in our class and he wasn't as nice as you would expect. He
 was the minister's son.

 The lesson was about when Jesus was on the cross and there were two
 thieves being crucified right next to him. Jesus said, "Believe that I am the
 son of God and you will enter the kingdom of heaven when you die." The
 thief on the right said he believed. So when he died, he entered the
 kingdom of heaven. The thief on the left said, "Not only am I going through
 a painful death, but I've got to hear silly stuff like this." So when he died, he
 didn't go to heaven. (Leslie didn't like saying the word "hell")

 Any questions?

 I asked why couldn't Jesus just have taken them both. Isn't that the kind of
 thing Jesus would do?

 Timmy slapped his Bible shut. "Man, he was going to die anyway. He
 should have just said it. I would have said anything." Timmy smirked and
 looked at Leslie.

 I looked at her too.

 Leslie looked at her Bible for more scripture.

 Monday, August 25, 2003

 There's a part in the Bible that says be careful when somebody knocks on
 your door and you tell him to go away because it might be an angel.

 The devil, too, takes many forms. So where does that leave you?


 There's a guy on the internet who says he's Jesus and he's got
 photographs and though I admit he looks a lot like Jesus, I have my

 The site is called "I Am Christ and the Messiah and The Great I Am." That
 doesn't sound like Jesus but I checked it out.

 No. If Jesus had a website it wouldn't have pop-ups.

 Sunday, August 24, 2003

 There are two new things about turtles:

 First of all, don't teach them to do anything because it's probably the only
 thing they'll learn how to do so they'll do it over and over.

 Second, if you run out of turtle food, you can use cat food (though you have
 to break it up into little bits and maybe you need to clean out the filter more
 often because the water, for some reason I haven't figured out yet, gets

 It all started one day when my turtle knocked his head against the glass.
 Since he can't talk, I figured he was telling me he was hungry so I fed him.

 Now he knocks his head against the glass all the time. He still eats what I
 give him but he can't be that hungry. I feel bad about that.

 Now about the cat food. I ran out of turtle food about a week ago and I
 haven't gotten around to buying any so what I've been doing is breaking up
 cat food and giving it to him. I have to break it up because he tried to eat a
 whole one and it got stuck in his mouth. (Boy, that was horrible. He had his
 mouth propped wide open with that Little Friskie and his eyes were glaring
 at me. I got it out but I never want to see that look on his face again.)

 The cat food is not easy to break up by hand so I've been using pliers. But
 sometimes the pieces fly everywhere. So be careful.

 He eats the cat food but sometimes he hesitates so I'm not sure he likes

 But like I said, he can't talk.

 Saturday, August 09, 2003

 I slept in again this morning and I remembered something else.

 When I was in third grade, I went to Great Oak Elementary. It was named
 that because there was a huge oak that was over 300 year old right in the
 middle of the school.

 But the tree died and they removed it before I started going there.

 The school had a custodian who I think was black but he could have been
 Mexican. He had a mustache like Cesar Romero. I forgot his name.

 One Sunday I saw him at our church. He had just joined or something. His
 suit fit funny.

 I wondered how the custodian found our church. Maybe he did some
 freelance janitor stuff for the church and was moved by the holy spirt while
 cleaning up. I don't know. Everybody in our church was white and nobody
 was a custodian.

 Our minister was from New England and his sermons were like college
 papers. There were references and footnotes. It was like, if you want to get
 to heaven, you better be smart. Sometimes he'd quote somebody and
 smile. Not because it made a good point. It was more like, "I bet you never
 heard of him."

 The Sunday after the first time I saw him at our church, the custodian was
 sitting in the middle of the congregation and during the sermon he cried
 out "Amen!" and "Tell it!" and stuff like that about every 30 seconds. Our
 minister pretended not to notice but I could tell he wanted to strangle him.

 I never saw him again after that Sunday, just at school, like always.

 In August before school started I got bored and started showing up at
 school and he was there.

 He was working on something and he asked me to help. Raking leaves or
 maybe it was to sweep the wood chips back into the kindergartan
 playground. I was happy to do something. While I worked, he disappeared.

 When he reappeared it was to lock the gate and close up. He thanked me
 and he whispered that I could have a coke that was under a bench at the
 end of the breeze-way.

 Well, I found the coke bottle but it was half empty. He was giving me the
 rest of his coke.

 Wednesday, August 06, 2003

 I get two weeks off but I don't have anywhere to go so I've just been
 sleeping in.

 The problem with sleeping in, though, is I wake up in the middle of a
 dream or a memory that I wouldn't normally have.

 This morning I was in bed and I remembered the time when I was about 9
 and my parents and I went and visited my Uncle Vance. It was a long car
 ride and I really never looked forward to it because Uncle Vance and his
 wife, Aunt Betty, didn't have any kids my age to play with. They adopted two
 kids who were older. I think one was in college. And one, it wasn't clear
 really if she was adopted. They returned her it but it was too late and she
 just lived with them until she was 18 and moved away.

 There was nothing to do at their house. I couldn't watch TV because, first of
 all, there wasn't really anything to watch way back then, and second of all,
 the TV was in the room where my mother and father and aunt and uncle
 just sat around and talked and drank and smoked.

 How boring to be an adult. You don't play. You talk.

 And I could never figure out what they talked about.

 My uncle Vance had hairy arms and tatoos he got in the navy.

 Aunt Betty was nice enough to let me in the back bedroom of one of their
 adopted daughters who no longer lived there and gave me one of their
 games to play with. It was called Hi-Q and had a lot of litte red pegs you
 were supposed to move around according to rules and if you ended up
 with just one peg in the middle, well, I guess you had a high IQ. After a
 while, I always got the peg in the middle but I cheated.

 The game was missing a few pieces. Maybe that made a difference.

 Uncle Vance had a tiny backyard but it was very clean and neat. The
 garden hose was rolled up in a perfect coil. The lawn was green and didn't
 have any weeds. The BBQ had a plastic cover. It was a boring backyard
 except he had a dog. What do you call them? It was a wiener dog.

 I don't know why people have these kinds of dogs. They don't really seem
 like dogs. I kind of think that Uncle Vance had it because it was small and
 easy to take care of.

 I ran around the yard and chased it and then it chased me and after a while
 that got king of boring. He a little bell on his collar and he yapped instead
 of bark. And he didn't seem very smart.

 I took a break and sat on a lawn chair and the wiener dog came up to me
 and mounted my leg.

 I remember it was a strong embrace, especially for such a little dog. I didn't
 push him away. I petted his rat-like head and watched his tail wag.

 It was, by far, the most interesting experience of my day, but as we were
 leaving and on the long ride back home, nobody wanted to talk about it. It
 was like they were all talked out.

 Sunday, August 03, 2003

 OK. I've now been looking at the Quaker guy on my oatmeal box. He has a
 big smile on his face, but I don't know.

 I like oatmeal but it always gets cold before I finish. Cold oatmeal. Ick.

 Friday, August 01, 2003

 I ran out of coffee so I thought I'd make some tea.

 I have a whole box of Lipton Tea. I think it was here when I moved in. It's
 pretty old.

 Who's that guy on the box with the hat on? Is he a porter on a train? That
 might be one of those things that I'll never figure out. Something else I'd
 like to know is if the clown on the box of ice cream cones is the same one
 that's always been on it or did he go through changes like Betty Crocker
 and Aunt Jemimah.

 Betty Crocker looks like an anchor on Fox News and Aunt Jemimah looks
 like she's the CEO of a start-up.

 You see, I think about a lot of things. But not always the right things at the
 right time.

 Instead of boiling water first and then pour it into a cup with a tea bag, I put
 a bunch of tea bags in the pot and turned on the gas.

 Just then the doorbell rang. It was a salesman. He wanted to sell me
 cable. He said, "You look like the kind of guy who likes watching TV." But I
 smelled something burning so I excused myself. The teabag strings were
 hanging over the pot and the gas set the little paper squares on fire.

 I got to it in time. I don't remember just what I did but the strings and
 burning paper all ended up in the pot.

 I drank some of the tea and it had a faint taste of ash. It didn't taste too bad.