Monday, December 13

status report

It's after midnight on the 13th of December, 2004. I, with a month's worth of untrimmed beard, swollen lymph nodes, and an irrational craving for chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, sit in front of a very old computer monitor (supported by an upside down laundry basket) with a keyboard on my knees and an afghan of many different bright colors around my shoulders. There is also a blue, grey, and black woolen blanket sitting on top of my feet. It is cold in here, for no obvious reason. The floor is covered in books, papers, and dirty clothes.

The afghan came from my grandmother, who insisted that I take it when she discovered that I had neither a blanket nor a pillow in my car. Later, two Japanese girls slept underneath it as I drove them back to Lincoln from Colorado Springs. When awake, one of the girls normally yawned a lot; the other was small and alert. While driving, I talked about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and agriculture with her boyfriend, whose name I forgot for months afterwards.

The blanket on my feet came from the Amana Colonies in Iowa, which were once a settlement of communalist German protestants and have become a tourist attraction and a brand of household appliance. You can get good German/American food there, in a place which sells gum and those corncob pipes with the yellow plastic stems by the cash register. I once cut a hole in the middle of the blanket and wore it, along with a leather hat that I bought in South Dakota, first to stand in line for an hour and a half for a haunted house I never actually entered, and then to a Halloween party at a (nominally) gay bar. The whole time in the bar, I thought that I was going to collapse from heat stroke. My mom later patched the hole with square pieces of old flannel shirts.

The books on the floor include the second edition of Running Linux, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, Gene Wolf's The Citadel of the Autarch (the unread third or fourth in a series which I started once and one day may finish), and River Teeth, by David James Duncan. Properly speaking, the Duncan book belongs to my father, since I bought it for him for Christmas last year.

My bedroom floor, and my bed - and in fact all my available surfaces - are similarly cluttered. I am living in my own squalor, a chronic slob, with the added chaos of being frozen halfway in the middle of moving out. My bookcase and my closet are half empty, my writing table gone, the bank boxes with their filing folders packed up and sent North. I still have far, far too much stuff. (Someday I would like to live in a single, well-lit room with one set of dishes, three changes of clothes, and a mat on the floor. The walls could be lined in alternating stripes of corkboard and bookshelves to hold all the paper.)

In the morning, if I manage to wake early enough and the hold has not expired, I will call a somewhat sketchy sounding flight consolidator company in California and finalize the purchase of a ticket to Christchurch, New Zealand. Then I will begin making serious plans for a trip which I've been talking about for maybe six months now. My plan is that I'm going to go to NZ and subject my whole system to some kind of shock that leaves me far less capable of tolerating bullshit in myself. Then I'm going to come back here, and move into a place where the walls aren't beige and write for a while. I'm going to write about a book's worth of material, and it will be sort of a manifesto, or maybe a set of hypotheses - something like that - and once it's written I'm going to go back out into the world and act upon it.

See, the thing about having a plan is not that you're necessarily going to follow the plan. Not at all. It's more that the plan might stimulate you to motion. And motion is the important thing.