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September through December, 2003    

My Dull Life

Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Janet from Oxnard writes that she finds the monotony of my life
kind of soothing and she wants to say thank you. After reading my
online journal, she feels better about her own life. Janet, you’re

Carl Wright of Farmington, MA, wants to know if I’m related to the
Wright Brothers because if I am, I’m related to him. Wilbur was his
great uncle. No, I’m not. Sorry.

Janet writes again, but this time to say, “Why in the hell haven’t
you updated your journal, you jerk!” Janet, sorry.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

I woke up this morning and felt good. It was Christmas.

Albertson's was closed so I was on my own for food.  I could only
fix what I had and it reminded me of camping. If I didn't have
something I needed, I improvised. I won't tell you what I had for
lunch, but I will tell you that Campbell's doesn't make it anymore.
It was fun. I used up some jello too.

Christmas is a special day and it comes to us all.

I kind of like how quiet it was. People don't call you because they
think they might be interrupting some special family gathering or
ritual. I usually don't get calls anyway, but today there was that
added reason.

Except I did get one call. It was Ted, that psychologist who took
a liking to to me. Because it was Christmas, I tried not to mind.

He said he called to wish me a Merry Christmas but then he
started talking about growing up in Madison. His mom wanted him
to have a healthy attitude about female anatomy so when he was
four she showed him certain parts of her body and explained what
they were for. Breasts are just for milk, she said.

I don't know. It was Christmas so I didn't want to hang up on him
but this didn't sound like stuff I wanted to talk about, especially
on Christmas. But I listened. And because my mom gave me a
cordless phone last year, I got a lot of cleaning done.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I went to St Joseph's Basilica again last night. It's walking

I had my stocking cap pulled low and a long scarf wrapped around
my neck. I got bundled up good and tight.

I got there late again, and this time even later than before.

Tonight was Opera San Jose and everybody had left, everybody
except for a few people and one well dressed guy who stood in
the dead center of the church.

The very second I arrived he started singing, a capella, Oh Holy

I don't know if I'm stupid or if that's just a really good song.

His loud notes bounced off the stations of the cross and filled the
dome and when he sang, "Fall on your knees," I felt like doing it.
I had to try not to do it.

I don't think anybody saw me, and I don't think I made very much
noise, if any, but before he even got to the end, I burst into tears.

It got my scarf all wet. And no, I don't know what that's all about,
but I felt better and I went home.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Memory is mixing with desire and it's probably out of season.

Outside, the sky looks like one big gray cloud. I'll get up. I'll fix
coffee. I'll stand over the floor heater and my boxer shorts will

I'll turn on a light or two. It's morning but it feels dark.

The house is awfully quiet.

I remember what it feels like not to feel this way. Maybe that's
the problem.

I miss it.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Downtown, in St. Joseph's Basilica, I caught the last ten minutes
of a jazz pianist. It was  part of their Performances for the Poor
they have every season. A musician plays and then the ushers give
you an envelope.

At the ice rink, people were going around and around having a
good time. I stood there and watched. I guess there are places you
can learn to skate if you're from California.

The two best skaters were two 9 year old girls who looked like
they both must have been skating since the day they were born.

Both of them wore braces and bright blue mascara.

Lots of people were wearing Raiders jackets.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I've been a little down lately so I walked downtown to see if
some of the Christmas festivities would cheer me up.

Can you find love or happiness or peace if you go looking for it?
I don't know. But nothing good was on TV.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I'll never get good enough on the violin so I can join the San Jose
Symphony. On the other hand, I won't have to play the Nutcracker
every year.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

In the parking lot at the mall, there was a guy who was sitting on
a concrete retaining wall and he was talking into a bull horn and
saying stuff about Jesus. This was right at the crosswalk so he
had a captive audience every few minutes until the light turned

I listened to him. People say some pretty scarey things about
Jesus but I like Jesus and I thought maybe I'd learn something

I don't think you can always tell when you're going to hear the
word of God or how it's going to be, so it's probably a good idea
to listen up when you can.

But this guy, I'm pretty sure, was just totally out of his mind.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I went into the 7-11 on 6th Street. It has American flags
plastered all over the place.

I thought I'd try their coffee because I noticed that their cups
now look like they're from Starbucks. I found out the coffee is
pretty watery. What was I thinking? But there's something else.

When I pulled out a cup from the dispenser, two came out. I didn't
know what to do with the extra cup. I mean, if put it back, it
would have my germs on it, if I have germs. So, I threw the extra
cup in the garbage.

The Arab guy behind the counter started shouting at me. They keep
track of how much coffee they sell by counting how many cups
they have at the end of the day, or something like that. It would
mean missing a dollar.

I said I would give him a dollar for the extra cup and that I was

His partner, another Arab guy, quickly said I didn't have to pay an
extra dollar. That everything was all right. And then there was
a strange silence.

I paid for my donut and coffee and newspaper and they both told me
to have a nice day about two or three times. Maybe four times.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A friend of mine is in the hospital but I don't know where.

Monday, December 15, 2003

He could have asked, what kind of friends are these? But he knew
the pain of loneliness all his life, and enough was enough, so
forgiveness was for his own benefit.

Still, it's pretty low not wanting to play with somebody because
of a birth defect.

They used to laugh and call him names.

There's a happy ending, but I'm not sure I like it.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sometimes my bedroom seems pretty dark and cold and small.

I wake up and I listen for sounds. Sometimes I'm glad it's night
time and I don't hear any voices.

But sometimes I do hear voices. People arguing. Or lots of people
crying in the distance. But I think I hear that in my sleep.

Sometimes it's so dark I wonder if I'm just dreaming about nothing.

Last night I had a dream that somebody came in and startled me
awake. The next thing I knew, somebody was pointing a pen-light
down my throat.

It was a dream but it was sad.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

On the flight back from Reno we ran into a lot of turbulence and I
thought I was going to die just like Aunt Tilly, though she died in
her bathrobe in front of the TV. I don't know what's better, but
that plane shook so much I thought it was going to come apart.

The stewardess was strapped in at the front of the plane but I
remembered what she looked like.

She had short hair that bounced when she walked.

She smiled at me a nice smile like she had so much happiness that
it cost her nothing to share a little bit of it with me.

I think if I told her a joke she'd laugh a real laugh because she'd
find at least a little bit of humor in it and that would be enough.

She wasn't going to die like Aunt Tilly and she wasn't going to die
like me. That was calming.

Friday, November 21, 2003

So I went to Reno to have Thanksgiving with my Aunt Tilly because
she had all kinds of medical problems which prevented her from
flying. The whole family decided to have Thanksgiving there this
one time.

But when we got there, we found out she was dead. Maybe the stress
was too much for her or maybe it was just her turn to die.

Nobody had time to stay for a funeral so we just got a guestbook and
let people come over and sign it.

I stood around and drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

You know that 13 year old girl who got her arm bit off by a shark?
I felt really bad for her. But then I heard some things she said and
now I'm not so sure.

She said, "If I don't go back into the water, then I'm not a real
surfer, am I?"

It reminds me of Reverend Pete who needed just one more baptism
before he became associate pastor for youth ministry. He told me
a story about these Christians who were given the choice to
renounce Jesus or be thrown into the fire. Well, what they all did
was walk into the fire as they sang hymns. They burned to death,
singing. The guy in charge of the fire was so moved by their faith,
he stepped into the fire too.

You know, I just don't have what it takes to be a Christian or a

Friday, November 14, 2003

I called Marge and she put me straight through to Mr.

"Hey Mike, how you doing?"

He always called me Mike. I said I was fine.

"You didn't get a job at another place, did you Mike?"

"No, Sir." I remembered he liked being called Sir. "I'm
as available as can be."

"Good! Well, that's great. I've got a job for you."

"Thank you, Sir. Thanks! But, Sir, I hope you don't mind
me saying, but if there's something other than office
machine repair, I think I'd be interested. You see, I
didn't really...."

"No, Mike. Don't worry. It's not office machine repair."

"Oh, good."

"It's a lot easier."

"Oh, good."

"Something came up and your name came to mind."

"My name?"

"Yeah. Here's the deal. The wife and I are renting a
villa in Tuscany and we'll be gone for two weeks. We
need somebody to feed Miss Wiggles twice a day and
our damn housekeeper refuses to get near her.


"That was a shock, her telling me something like
that. Who in the hell is in charge around here? So I
said she might want to look for employment
elsewhere, but she didn't care. She doesn't like
Miss. Wiggles. Hell, I don't like Miss. Wiggles, but
she's got to eat and the wife doesn't want to put her
in a kennel. The last time, she got kennel cough, and
she damn near died. You would not believe the vet
bill! Too bad the damn bitch didn't just die. But she
didn't die. And like I said, she's got to eat. So, I
thought about you. You've got to eat too"


"So, it's only temporary, but I figure in your position,
that's better than nothing. Right?"


"I always try to look out for my people. Just because
you no longer work here, that doesn't mean...."


"Good. And you'll need to pick up after her too. But I
gotta run. I'll transfer you back to Marge so she can
tie the ribbons. Ciao."


"Oh, and Mike. I don't want to get your hopes up, but
if everything goes OK, I might have something else
for you down the road."


"Yeah. We're thinking about going to Hawaii."

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I got a call from Mr. Ratliff, my old boss. Well, it was a
message on my answering machine from Marge. Isn't that
great? What they say about the economy picking up must
be true. There's more business, which means things need
to be photocopied, which means those machines need to
be repaired, because, if you've ever worked in an office,
you know they're always breaking down. They need me

I knew I shouldn't have given up hope. In the landscape of
every life, there are peaks and valleys. There's wet
weather and there are dry spells. Shoot, I don't know
what I'm talking about. I'm too excited! I'm calling back
the first thing tomorrow.

Sunday, November 9, 2003

I’ve been reading up on the nematode, which is a worm
about the size of a human hair. I thought it was about
time I cultivated my mind a little and I decided to start
with something small.

The nematode lives in the soil and eats bacteria.

Researchers really like the nematode because it has clear
skin and they can see through it under a microscope and
study the biological processes.

The nematode’s real name is Caenorhabditis elegans, or
C. elegans for short, but I prefer nematode.

The nematode matures into an adult in just four days.

Only .01 percent of the nematode population is male but
that doesn't mean that they're in great demand. All of the
females are hermaphrodites which means they don't have
to have sex with the males in order to have babies.
Consequently, they almost never do.

Margarite Gusano, an associate professor of genetics at
Texas Woman's University in Denton, says,

  "I wonder why they even have
   males. They serve no purpose whatsoever."
I'm no expert, but I thought that was a little harsh.

Friday, November 7, 2003

"The world, like a bitter coquette, spurns our attempts to
be close to her."

Thursday, November 6, 2003

I keep thinking about Mary and the missed opportunity of
that totally dark mirror, but I think I did the right thing.

I remember when I was in Kindergarten, there was a girl
named Ann. Her face was pretty but serious and she never
said a word. Not a word.

I wondered what her voice sounded like. If she did talk, I
wondered what she would say. After a long time, I started
to wonder, maybe she couldn't talk?

Then one morning, when we were hanging up our coats at
the same time, I reached out and pinched her.

She said, "Ouch!" And then she looked straight at me and said,
without any trouble at all, that I was a very, very bad boy.

And that's all she ever said to me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

It was the middle of the night and I had to go to the bathroom.
No need to turn on the light, I thought. I do this often. Anyway,
what if some day I go blind?

Over the sink in the mirror I saw absolutely nothing because
it was totally dark. I had to reach out and touch it to be sure
it was there.

That made me think of a story I heard at camp. If you look at
a mirror in the dark and say "Bloody Mary" three times, then
you'll see her in the mirror.

Some kids tried it but nothing happened. Then I heard it was
was because it wasn't totally dark.

Mary was a girl who was badly disfigured by a car accident.
There were scratches all over her face which never completely
healed. She used to be a popular girl,
and then she had that
accident. Old friends, who weren't really
her friends, would
taunt her and say things like "Bloody Mary!"
It wasn't nice.

I was going to try it, saying "Bloody Mary" three times. But
why?  If she appeared, what was I going to say? "Excuse me.
I'm just seeing if this works."

Gosh, the things we do when we can't see ourselves.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

I saw Eye-Gore at the mall today. I went up to him and said,
"Hi, Eye-Gore."

He said hi back and he was smiling his crooked smile and his
fake eyes were popping out like they're supposed to . And then
in that funny voice of his he said, "It's nice to SEEE you!"

I laughed. And this time I didn't ask if he remembered me
because I was pretty sure he didn't. And I was glad. But then
I wasn't.

Eye-Gore smiled at me and said nothing and waited for me to
say something. He didn't know what I was thinking.

Heck, I didn't know what I was thinking. So I said, "Bye." And
then I went looking for an escalator.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Cleaning out my closet, I found a shoe box of cards and letters.
Some of them were letters I had written myself but never
mailed. Four of them were for Sylvia.

Sylvia was a very attractive young woman. She was always
chewing gum and smiling which made her seem casual and
confident like a movie star.

But the gum was doctor prescribed because she had a severe
case of halitosis. It was so bad, even with the gum, that she
tried to keep her distance. If you didn't know about her breath,
you'd think she was just being a snob for being so pretty. 

Guys stayed away because they didn't feel like they were good
enough for her. Other guys stayed away after getting too close.

But then there was me. I could tell she was lonely.

So one time I called her on the phone, after I devised a pretty
good excuse, and it turned out she really liked talking to me. So
we talked a bunch of times more. The phone worked out well for

Sometimes I closed my eyes to better remember how she looked.
And, once, in a lull in our conversation, I told her I liked her hair.
It just slipped out.

"What do you like about it?"

"The way it's connected to your head."

I knew what I meant. I just didn't know the right words. I was
hoping I'd find the right words if I sat down and wrote her a
letter. I wrote four of them.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I saw Gus at Costco and we decided to split a pizza. He had a lot he
wanted to tell me.

After separating from his wife, who he discovered was a lesbian,
after she discovered it too, Gus finally found a woman he liked--
a lot. He fell in love.

But ever since he fell in love with her, she feels like she doesn't
even know him. Or, she knows him and doesn't like him.

"Time to move on," I said. "There's more fish in the sea."

Gus bared his teeth like he wanted to bite me. Then he called me a

So much for active listening.

He went on to tell me that falling in love is like falling in a pit.
It can happen because you're not watching where you're going. You
can't fall out of love anymore than you can fall out of a pit. You've
got to climb your way out. You look for a foothold and there's none.
You clasp the earthen walls and the dirt just crumbles in your hands.
You pull on roots. That just hurts. No, you don't fall out of love. You
claw your way out. Your hands get dirty. All of you gets dirty. And
it takes a long, long time.

I decided to try some more active listening. I said, "The pit is dark.
It smells."

Gus nodded

"The pit is deep. The only way out is up. But it's night time. You're
blinded by your own ignorance of why in the world God has decided
that men desire women in the first place."

Gus was looking straight at me so I continued.

"The Dark Lord appears in a vision. You fall at his feet. In one hand,
he holds a bottle of Detachment. In the other hand....something else."


"I don't know."

Gus thought a moment and then he remembered a couple more
household items he needed. His wife, he said, took everything.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

It was cold and overcast when I got up and it stayed that way all day.

The mail came. A credit card offer with a very low introductory
interest rate, only 1.2%.  Good for three months.

I walked to the market to buy a can of Dennison's chili con carne and
when I got back I saw there were no messages on my answering
machine. I microwaved the chili and had it for lunch along with a
couple bread rolls and some milk.

Looking for something to do, I found little things to do, and the day
just slipped by.

I checked in to the computer chat room called Fan Bonanza but only
SaddleButt69 was there and he was lofting.

Around dinner time, I decided to take myself to Denny's. The place
was packed so I took a seat at the counter but it must have been
homecoming week or something at State; they were really busy.
After 30 minutes they still hadn't taken my order so I left and went

No messages.

I looked in the newspaper for the horoscope section because
sometimes at the end of the horoscopes they have a special
paragraph titled, "If Today is Your Birthday." And since today I
turned 50, it would apply to me. But they didn't have it.

Friday, October 17, 2003

This is the note that the assistant medical examiner found in
the small San Francisco apartment.

I'm going to walk to the bridge.
If one person smiles at me on the way,  I will not jump.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

In my senior year of high school I was on the dance committee.
That can't be verified because our photograph didn't make it in
the yearbook. You'll just have to believe me.

What I did was put away all the tables and benches in the
"cafetorium" and then when the dance was over, I helped put them
all back. We still had to pay to get in but I liked being involved.

The Sadie Hawkins Dance had a big turn out and when the band
took a break, thick lines formed for the refreshments window
and the Marryin' Sam booth. They were next to each other so it
was just a bunch of people all crowded together.

I was in line for punch. I think I was in line for punch. Anyway,
suddenly, somebody grabbed by hand.

I turned to see who it was and it was a pretty girl with gold hoop
earrings. She had on a low cut top and her skirt was short. Her hand
was warm. She didn't just hold it like you would hold a child's hand
when walking across the street. She was squeezing it a little. She
had a really nice smile. I was able to notice all of this because she
wasn't looking at me.

I didn't know it would feel quite so nice.

After a really nice long time she jerked it away and said, "Oh!
Excuse me!" And she laughed, and then she took her boyfriend's hand.

I don't know who her boyfriend was, but I bet he doesn't remember
her earrings.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Uncle Pete used to come over on Sundays to watch The Ed Sullivan
Show with us. Totie Fields said that she knew that all the men in the
audience wished she had on a see-through dress. We all thought that
was funny and I loved the loud way that Uncle Pete laughed.

My dad wasn't a laugher. He giggled when something was funny and if
it was really funny it was a long giggle that included some strange
sounds toward the end. Mom didn't like it. Uncle Pete thought it was

I remember one time Myron Cohen came on and Uncle Pete laughed at
everything he said. I didn't get it. As far as I could tell, this guy just
looked down at his shoes and mumbled and said regular stuff with his
hat pulled down low.

When he was done, Uncle Pete wiped his eyes and he caught my puzzled
expression and said to me, "He's a Jew."

Thursday, October 9, 2003

You know, Rumplestiltskin?

I don't think he really wanted to take that woman's first born. I think
he was just upset that she didn't know his name.

You see, I think he must have told her his name while he was spinning
straw into gold. I bet he told her a lot of things during those long nights.

He saved her life, but she didn't even remember his name, and yet
she marries the king who, on two occasions, threatened to put her
to death. What's that say about her?

Gosh, and what a name to forget. It's not like Mike or John or Robert.

OK, so he was short.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

A woman in Santa Cruz was searching for something but she found my
site instead. She doesn't think it was an accident. She doesn't think
anything is an accident.

She sent me a link from Amazon for 50 Self-Help Classics. It's a collection
of bite-sized wisdom from the world's greatest sages and gurus. Marcus
Aurelius, Dale Carnegie, Dalai Lama, Benjamin Franklin, M. Scott Peck,
Anthony Robbins and Lao Tzu.

She seems nice. She told me about her latest divorce and her solidarity
work for the people on Pacific Avenue who just want a place to sit down.

She said she was "rich with the rage" before Alan turned her on to aroma
therapy and after studying my photograph, she knows that it would be
right for me.

Who's Alan?

She says I should start with  The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils.

Maybe I'll write her back. I could use a friend, especially a woman friend,
but not if it's going to require a lot of reading.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

No call back today.

I decided to clean the kitchen a little bit.

I bought a sweet potato a couple weeks ago and put it in a jar so I could
have a lot of vines growing and make things look nicer, but so far, it
hasn't sprouted. I thought, well, maybe I have it upside down, so I turned
it around. I've done that 3 or 4 times now and it's getting kind of soggy.

Maybe I'm supposed to use a yam.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I got called back.

I didn't see Mr. Corn Nuts but I got the work station he had yesterday.

There was a big box of powder white donuts on the table in the middle
of the room. It looked like leftovers from a celebration that didn't
concern us.

Every now and then, guys would get up, walk over to the table, and help
themselves to a donut or two. That's what we did all day. That, and look
at our screens with the dots, and chat in the chat rooms.

I got an IM from the guy sitting next to me. It was "Wassup?" I typed
back, "Fine." I never know how to answer that.

I was glad when the day ended even though it didn't seem like work.
My keyboard was oily and by the end of the day it was kind of gummy.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I signed up with a temp agency and they sent me to Norman Y. Mineta
International Airport for a job to work in the redundancy monitoring unit.

A long time ago I loaded precooked meals onto cross country flights.
Dad got me that job through his Bird's Eye connections. Maybe that's
why they sent me.

It was in the basement. Red tape on the concrete brick wall spelled
"DUNDANCY." There were no windows.

I'm not sure what we were supposed to do. They assumed I had done
this before. I sat in front of a monitor and watched blinking dots move
across the screen.

The guy to my right said if something looked wrong, we were
supposed to wave over a supervisor but nobody did the whole day so
I sure as heck wasn't going to.  He told me this while he stared at his
screen and ate chili corn nuts. And I didn't see any supervisors.

The guy to my left got AOL on his screen and he was in a chat
room. I asked him how he did that and he showed me. He made the
chat screen small and in the corner so he could still see the dots.

I spent all my time in Fan Bonanza but all they talked about was
sex and they swore a lot at each other.  I was in a pretty good mood
but didn't know what to say so I typed "lol" after every third comment.
That pleased some people at first but it got to annoy everybody after

Some blinking dots moved under the chat window and out of sight.
I'd feel better if they moved over it. If I'm called back tomorrow
maybe we can figure out how to do that.

But I don't know. Chat can get pretty addictive.

Friday, September 19, 2003

I walked downtown to go to the post office. The stamp machine
wouldn't take my dollar. There was nothing wrong with it that I
could see. No dog ears. Nothing. One time it took it in half way but
then gave it back. So I left.

I had to go to the bathroom and my choices were the Fairmont or
the new city library. I chose the library. I felt like pretending to
be smart instead of rich.

There wasn't any graffiti in my stall except for one line that
somebody wrote:

"Here I sit, broken hearted"

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The job search is not going well and I'm afraid to call my
bank's automatic teller to see how much money I
have left. I'll put off the bad news and deal with it later.
Why not? If I call or I don't call, it won't change my

I'll just keep writing checks and see what happens.

Unemployment Insurance hasn't kicked in yet. I wonder
if work was supposed to send me severance pay? I
don't want to call and ask.

In order to keep getting unemployment, I have to keep
searching for a job in my field. But I'm thinking I might
have to switch careers.

What can I do?

The grocery clerks have those scanners but they have to
know the price of the produce, right? How do they
remember all those prices? When I ask what aisle the ice
cream cones are on, they say 7A. They know. I don't
think I'd be good at that.

Security guards, the ones that get semi-decent pay, are
licensed to carry guns. I can't see myself carrying a gun.

Delivery is out, of course.

I could see myself in some sort of low level government
job. Something under florescent light.

I think I can do most things, just not very well. In my last
job I fixed copiers, and I couldn't do that at all. So,
maybe the possibilities are endless.

I feel better already.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I remember one time I heard Marge and Janey talking about how all men
are dogs. It didn't matter to them that I was in the room. (They were like
that. They didn't even say "feminine problems" one time when they were
talking about feminine problems. Well, I'm pretty sure that's what they were
talking about.)

Hortensia passed through and said something in Spanish that sounded
like she agreed.

Janey broke up with a boyfriend she met at church.

Marge said to me, "There's no such thing as a vegetarian dog, right Robert?"

I said I didn't know. And that's too bad because that's all they asked me.

Since then, I've given it more thought. If my dog was smarter, I'm pretty sure
I could teach him to eat carrots. But I'd have to reward him with ground