Tuesday, November 16, 2010

There's always one more town a little further down the track.

I'm thinking I'm done with Seattle, soon. Like, maybe in two or three weeks. I've got some offers to room with a couple of friends in California, but I am in no position to make that decision. Suggestions?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

warm up. melt down.

I'm trying to use this stupid blog to do something that NaNoWriMo has called "silencing your inner editor." I find that my own inner editor is a mouthy little fucker, even if I'm just writing random nonsense in a notebook or posting inane status updates to Face Book. I am my own worst critic in every sense of the term, and couple with my crippling self esteem issues, I cannot simply write a single paragraph without revising it a thousand times. Subsequently, I've decided to treat this blog as a "dear diary" type of thing. I might not necessarily have anything of significant import to say, but in the interest of channeling the spirit of Ezra Pound and simply letting it all hang out, I'm going to try to post something on here every day. I'm extremely undisciplined by nature (unless you consider tacos, cigarettes, and coffee a discipline) and my hatred of authority figures extends even to myself. If I tell myself to do something, I probably won't do it. I am allergic to rigidity. But the whole NaNo experience, maddening as it is, has been a good first step in simply paying slavish devotion to writing, even if it doesn't amount to anything. I'm firmly convinced that when this experience is over, I will lock the manuscript away in a lead lined box and not look at it for at least six months. But that's fine. If I can log 50k words in a month, that will be a big accomplishment for me, and I need that. The last three months have been a period of my life where I've seen more losses than gains, and I need something to help pull me out of this morass.

On an unrelated note, I applied for unemployment today, and it looks like I might get a tiny, tiny stipend. It's better than nothing, and at least I'll be able to eat.

The column I'm writing doesn't pay squat, but again, it's a good experience. Some day, perhaps, in the not too distant future, I'll have a big boy life.

play on repeat

I haven't left the house in weeks. When I do, it's to walk to the corner for an occasional coffee, or go up the street to the 7-11 for beer and cigarettes. I'm not eating much. I can't sleep very well, and when I do, my dreams are absurd and I wake up struggling for breath. I'm writing more than I ever have in my life, partly to give myself some semblance of control, and partly because it keeps me from considering the reality of my situation. I've been nursing an awful fucking toothache, my jaws throbs with the suggestion of a pending infection, which I'm almost welcoming at this point, promising as it does the extraction of the offending tooth and if I'm lucky, a prescription for Vicodin, which I've only taken twice but know enough to understand that it makes everything feel like a tropical breeze has taken residence in your head. I'm terrified of what the future holds, terrified beyond belief, actually. Taking up a piece of cardboard and a magic marker seems like a legitimate possibility. I keep hearing the Tom Waits lyric in my head: "Pregnant women and Viet Nam vets, I said beggin' on the freeway 'bout as hard as it gets." My girlfriend has been as supportive as I can expect her to be given the circumstances, but I know the strain is getting to her. It would help if I had any sort of outlet, a friend in the neighborhood, somewhere to go, enough money in my pocket to just go see a movie or have a beer by myself, but I don't. So I'm sinking even deeper into myself, writing like my life depends on it. I think it does. It's hard for me to muster the energy to shower, to take care of myself in the most basic ways. I've gone days without brushing my teeth lately. Even if my girlfriend wanted to kiss me, I'd probably hesitate. I feel disgusting and useless, utterly devoid of talent or ambition. I've been rejected outright or simply never received a response for the most menial of jobs. Taking stock of the situation I know I've got some good stories to tell, but most of them could be filed under the "dire warning" or "basis of comparison" variety. I try to commit them to paper but they all come out sounding incredibly self pitying, like this post. But I can't help it. I'm fucking drowning. All I can do is keep writing. Leonard Cohen said "I hope that you're keeping some kind of record." I am, Leonard. The notion that all this suffering will be in vain is sad beyond words. It makes it impossible for me to speak, actually. How can you articulate all this fruitless agony? What am I supposed to do with this? I'm thirty four and have no savings, no career. I'm frightened beyond belief. My truck is broken, and so are my teeth, and so is the rest of the whole mess, I guess. I don't think there is any bravery in soldering on. I'm just too big of a coward to kill myself.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hello again.

I had honestly almost forgotten that this blog existed. Truly. I only have about six followers so far, and you all know me, but in the event that some hapless stranger stumbles upon this blog, I'll point out that I've recently moved to Seattle. I've been so busy over the last three months with relocating and all the attendant agonies that I haven't had any time to post, or really even give a shit.
Leaving Minnesota was hard. It was hard on me, and it was hard on my family. But when I got a job in Seattle and the opportunity to start over, I jumped. Some would say without thinking. I admit it was done hastily. I still have unfinished business in Minnesota, and I'll get around to it eventually. But at the time, getting out was all that mattered. Minnesota was killing me. Going from one dead end job to the next, struggling financially, and moving every six months was taking it's toll. As is characteristic of me any time I find myself sinking into the morass of late summer Minnesota related depression, I was becoming increasingly alienated from my friends. I was broke. I was fucking miserable. Suicide was looking like a real option, and not in the high school sense. I legitimately wanted it to be done. I didn't have a lot of fight left in me. Someone once said that if you're desperate enough to kill yourself, you're desperate enough to stow away on a container ship bound for Hong Kong and take your chances, and that's basically what I did.
Then I lost my job in Seattle two weeks after moving here.
The ride out here was intense. As a younger man, I thought nothing of jumping into a friends car with a change of clothes and a couple of hundred bucks, destined for parts unknown. But I was driving solo across the country for the first time in my life, behind the wheel of a leaky ass, busted old Dodge that was almost as old as I was, with my dog and a cargo of books and clothes. It should have been a grand adventure, but it was the loneliest three days of my life. I asked myself the whole way if I was doing the right thing, plunging, as I was, headlong into an uncertain future. The weather was atrocious, my brakes were bad, and I had just enough money to get me there. I had no contingency plan for what would transpire if I broke down somewhere in Montana. By some miracle (or perhaps by the magic of the knit Cthulhu doll that my friend Tammy made me and I used as a dashboard ornament) I made it out here. After unloading my truck I realized that some of my prized books had been destroyed in the rain, but no matter. I soldiered on.
Then, the lay off.
I love Seattle, but one thing the locals have warned me about is the difficulty of meeting people. I'm finding it to be true. I have thirty dollars to my name and no friends to speak of, but I'm hoping against hope that I can either find a job within the next week or qualify for unemployment, which looks dubious at best. In the meanwhile I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month, an experience which is both a blessing and a curse. It gives me something to do while I vainly check my g-mail every five minutes, hoping that someone has taken an interest in one of the thousands of applications I've sent out. On the flip side it's frustrating and I feel like I'm going nowhere with the narrative.
My brain is melting.
I promise a more detailed account of my adventures soon.
It's been a long three months. The longest of my life, perhaps.
Now give me a job.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How do you define "Dickensian?"

An article in the Star Tribune online caught my eye today. It seems that creditors are using an unusual loophole in Minnesota law (Minnesota being one of the most creditor friendly states in the U.S.) to send debtors to jail. That's right: Jail. Generally the bail is set to match the amount of the debt owed, and upon payment, the charges are dropped. This worries me, not just because of the fact that I owe every living person on earth a sum of money, but moreover, for it's far reaching implications. As if we don't have enough obstacles in our path to achieve the great brass ring of a "comfortable life" (whatever that might be) we now have to worry that we'll face jail time for accruing debt, which, I have learned the hard way, is an absolute necessity if you want to do anything other than live in your parents basement or, if you're lucky, a weekly rate motel room.
I'm fucking done trying. I've jumped through every hoop that society told me to jump through. I went to college, got married, worked at a steady job, and tried to put some money away for the future. Along the way, I found myself in debt, not unlike everyone else I know. Jobs were lost, bills went unpaid to facilitate the purchase of little niceties like food and gas, and before I knew it, I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. Ten years ago I was married, living in a four bedroom house, had two (operating) vehicles in the garage, and even dental insurance. As I write this I have twenty bucks in my pocket that I "earned" by selling some books, and a car (thankfully paid off in full) sitting in the garage (which does not belong to me) that will not run. I'd go on and on, but we all know about the banal details of the daily struggle. It's tedium unto death. First, toil. Then, the grave.
I'm hoisting a flag. I'm going to start cutting throats. I'm declaring war.
I flatly refuse to sit on my hand while a bunch of rich, white bloated plutocrats make millions by offering credit to poor prospects and then eviscerate the nation when these struggling people can't pay up, and then have the balls necessary to ask the Federal Government for a bailout so they can continue wiping their asses with 100's, and then jail me for their own oversight. I'm okay with being destitute. I'm walking away from this whole mess. I'm burning all my outstanding bills. Fuck this.
I've tried playing by the rules, I really have. I've done everything society deems necessary to live a full productive life. I voted. I paid my taxes. I applied for the necessary permits. And it got me nowhere.
I'm lucky that I'm childless. I can't imagine how my friends with children manage, period. I often joke about earth being a "slave planet" but it's really begun to feel like that to me. Just absolutely stifling and suffocating. There is no room for creativity or idle speculation. Any attempts to develop these powers will be snuffed out, likely by the time of high school graduation, and if through some miracle you manage to maintain your individuality throughout the re-education camp of public school, you will face an adulthood of degradation, menial labor, spirit crushing poverty, and constant need, lack, want.
In hindsight I'm embarrassed by my decision to study advertising. It seemed the perfect career choice for me then. I could channel all my loathing towards the human race by using the powers of my literary persuasion to get them to buy things they never wanted or needed. After a few semesters I realized that I was targeting the wrong enemy. It's not the "people" I hate, it's the man behind the curtain, the man who manufactures need, the man who sold us "cool" or "new." My dislike for people in general stems from their seeming inability to see past this charade, this manufacturing of fads that leads directly to a manufacturing of consent and a loss of your identity. But I can hardly blame them. In a world this shitty, what else is there to do but get excited when your corporate masters tell you to? It sure beats giving a long, hard stare at our current circumstances.
Do well in high school. Get good grades, thus ensuring your attendance at a reputable university. Do even better in college. Get married, Reproduce. Consider stock options. Invest wisely. Reproduce again, if possible. Maintain employment at a reputable firm. Save for the future. Go on fulfilling vacations to places that maintain the illusion of distance and exotic charm, but make sure that there is a McDonalds and that at least some of the natives speak English. Post photos of this trip on a social networking website so that your friends will know you are successful enough to afford leisure. Find a safe hobby. Maintain a healthy, verdant frontage. Retire.
I am constitutionally incapable of doing this. Even if I had the necessary emotional and psychological make-up to perform this amazing feat of self denial and oppressive regimentation, I would still flatly refuse. It sounds melodramatic, and it probably is, but the world at large has made it abundantly clear that I don't have what it takes to live a normal life, and subsequently, it no longer wants me. That's fine. I no longer want IT.
How are we supposed to find the time to ask ourselves important questions, even if they are ugly ones who's answers we might not want to hear? How are we supposed to develop not just ourselves as individuals, but more importantly, ourselves as a species, if our trajectory through life has already been described for us, using the most narrow, restrictive, and threatening terms imaginable? I don't want to be chained to expectation. I want what Tolstoy wanted...a job that is meaningful, the ability to do good, a quiet life with time for speculation, space, both emotional and physical, and someone to share all these things with. I see no way that nay of these things are possible without sacrificing the most important thing, our ability to think for ourselves.
I'm so frustrated I can barely think, let alone articulate the nature of my frustration. As Bruce McCulloch would say "I'm in a rut so deep I could hang up posters." It's easier to just put a match to this whole mess and walk away. There is simply no place to start "putting it back together." Putting what back together, exactly? I had nothing to begin with. I have nothing now, and that's just where I need to start, to begin making a future towards my new life on the rubble of the old.
I'm reminded of Chris McCandless, a man so driven (some would say suicidally so) to understand himself that he followed that urge literally to death, dying alone in an abandoned school bus in the Alaskan bush. Say what you will about his motivations, his idealism, and his starry eyed innocence, but whom among you can say that you're prepared to die for your principles, when the powers that be have mandated that the only principles we need concern ourselves with is our fucking credit score?
I'm a bad prospect for banks, landlords, credit card companies, and prospective employers. I get it, I understand the joke. So what's next?
Someone once said that if you're desperate enough to commit suicide, you're desperate enough to stow away on a ship to parts unknown and start over wherever you happen to land. That someone was right. I'm doing this my way. I'm liberating myself from all this nonsense about what amounts to success. I'm already successful. I made it to my thirties with a rebellious streak a mile wide and a complete and absolute unwillingness to conform in any sense to the notions prescribed to me by a faceless bland mechanism that wants only my obedience and my blood money. I'm going to finish my book, make obscene amounts of money, and give it all to my friends and family so I can live out of my car. I'm going to grow a beard down to my waist. I'm going to sleep on the dirt. I will never have a cell phone again. I'm going to change my name, burn my birth certificate, and rejoice in the fact that I have never had a copy of my Social Security card. I'm going to walk around in a fucking Jedi robe if I so choose. I don't give a shit anymore. I have utterly given up trying to adhere to the clauses inherent in the human social contract. I'm not even a part of the human race anymore, as far as I'm concerned.
William S. Burroughs once said "The revolution will come when we ignore all others out of existence." Amen, brother Bill. As of this second, my life prior to this was a fiction.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

snack cake hell

I'd like to thank Lee "Baby" Brennise for unearthing this old post from a blog I abandoned ages ago. I think it was LiveJournal, but I can't be sure. In any case, this is the first installment from what was intended to be a three part tirade against Little Debbie. Now that this rant has been resurrected, perhaps I'll finish the other two. Enjoy!

[In 1960, McKee Foods founder O.D. McKee was trying to come up with a catchy
name for their new family-pack cartons of snack cakes. Packaging supplier
Bob Mosher suggested using a family member's name. Thinking of what could be
a good fit for the brand, O.D. arrived at the name of his 4-year-old
granddaughter Debbie. Inspired by a photo of Debbie in play clothes and her
favorite straw hat, he decided to use the name Little Debbie and the image
of her on the logo. Not until the first cartons were being printed did
Debbie's parents, Ellsworth and Sharon McKee, discover that their daughter
was the namesake of the new brand.

The first family-pack was produced in August of that year and consisted of
the original snack cake, the Oatmeal Creme Pie. Family-packs were one of the
first multiple-item baked goods available with individually wrapped
products. The cost per carton was only 49 cents. By combining a quality
product with outstanding value, Little Debbie quickly became a member of
America's households. After its initial introduction, more than 14 million
cakes were sold within 10 months. while the Oatmeal Creme Pie was the
original Little Debbie snack cake, there were 14 different varieties by
1964 including the ever-popular Nutty Bars Wafer Bars and Swiss Cake Roll.

Since 1960, Little Debbie products have remained a value leader. Currently,
they sell for less than other leading brands while providing quality
ingredients. More than 75 varieties are available with suggested retail
prices ranging from 25 cents to $2.99. Little Debbie products are available
in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico.]

It all seems pretty rosy, right? A doting Grandfather devises a marketing
strategy on the basis of his adorable granddaughter. As American as apple
pie, right? Think again. I intended to prove that beneath the wholesome
image of Little Debbie (henceforth referred to as LD for the sake of
brevity) lurks an evil so insidious, so vile in it's scope as to defy logic
and reason. Buckle the fuck up, dear readers. Here comes the carnage.

Let's begin with the obvious. Firstly, we have a Grandfather who doesn't
even tell his OWN child that his granddaughter is being used as an
advertising icon. For a company that attempts to present itself as a
wholesome, all American snack food manufacturer, this lack of communication
between family members seems counter-intuitive. Perhaps Granpa got a little
punchy on his long drives across the country, peddling his inferior wares.
"Whoops." He most likely said to himself, knuckles white on the steering
wheel, a cheap cheroot smoldering in clenched teeth. "I suppose I better get
around to mentioning that Debbie is currently having her image reproduced
hundreds of thousands of times an hour by massive printing presses. Maybe I
should have mentioned it when the image was being proofed, but what the
hell. They'll find out sooner or later. That little bitch never sent me a
thank you card for her birthday gift anyhow. Fuck them." Grandpa was clearly
a man with, shall we say, an inaccurate moral compass.

Moving on, we take note of the longevity of LD, and, for the sake of
argument, one of it's competitors, Hostess. LD was founded in 1960, an era
ushering in my most hated of societal plagues, the hippies. Doubtless they
employed a few as well, and we are all aware of the personal hygiene habits
of the standard hippie. Can you imagine the unspeakable filth that fell in
the vats of batter and cream filling, long greasy hairs trailing through
chocolate sauce and entire populations of body lice leaping into vast pools
of raspberry flavoring or oatmeal creme? It is images such as these that
wake me at night. Moreover, LD prides itself on the "value" of it's
products. anyone who has at least an eighth grade education would be aware
that in a free market economy, you get what you pay for. If the most
expensive item on the nauseating LD roster clocks in at a whopping $2.99,
you can bet you're the one getting the shaft. And most likely it is coming
to you, sealed in cellophane in the form of sawdust, bone meal, FD&C Yellow
5, and an unusually high tolerance for rodent feces and fingernail clippings.
now take a good long look at Hostess. Founded in 1925 (that's right,
asshole. 1925. Your GRANDPARENTS ate these things) Hostess began it's
illustrious career right as the dust was settling from the first world war.
These badasses not only weathered the depression unscathed, they introduced
the Twinkie right in the thick of it. They took one look at the faltering
economy and said: "Suck my fat yellow cock, wall street! Here comes a banana
filled treat that will get your mind off all this Steinbeck bullshit!
Twinkies! Fuck yeah, America!" And when World War two began and a banana
shortage occurred, do you think the CEO's locked themselves in the office,
quivering in their wingtips, lamenting the loss of a snack cake that brought
joy to millions of starving, unemployed, homeless Americans? Shit no. they
worked double time to create a new creme filling, the one still in use
today. Hostess is the gruff, crotchety grandpa who would castrate a bull
single-handedly, get kicked in the ribs, chase a hobo off his property with a
shotgun, paint the barn, and still ask for seconds of everything at dinner.
Hostess doesn't take any shit.

Furthermore, has anyone heard of Wonderbread? Suck on THAT, Debbie. I doubt
anyone thinks "America!" when they hear "cosmic brownie."

As most of you know, I thrive on predictability. I like my coffee black, my
cigarettes filterless, and my bourbon on the rocks. I take a dump promptly
at ten thirty a.m., never a moment sooner or later, and I alphabetize my
books by author. Consequentially, when I am seeking a snack cake, as I often
do, I want to encounter the same packaging, the same soothing, familiar
brand names, and expect the same delicious flavor, bite after satisfying
bite. Again, take the champion of snack foods as an example. Hostess is
primarily known for about eight products. Twinkies, Hostess cupcakes,
Ho-Ho's, Suzy Q's, Ding Dongs, Frosted Donettes, Mini Muffins, and fruit
pies. Elegant. Simple. Refined. No gimmicks needed, just a smiling, edible
yellow Sheriff with a lasso and a pair of cowboy boots. Hostess need not
introduce any new products because they have earned my trust, you fucking
asshole. When has Wonderbread ever done me harm? Never, mister, and that's
the gospel truth. Even though the bread itself was used as a vehicle to
convey massive amounts of artery clogging mayonnaise and processed meats to
my mouth, I myself made the decision to abuse the power of Wonderbread. They
even include a food pyramid guide on the packaging. LD? You might as well
receive a deadly staph infection with every bite you are brave enough to
take. Oh, I remember when LD was relatively static in regards to releasing
new products. The Star Crunch sat on the shelf, as ominous as a dark spot on
a chest x-ray, a malignancy deep in the torso of snack country. I swept it's
malicious influence deep under the rug. but now? Take a look at the "Cosmic
Brownie." I remember eating something by the same name in the Netherlands,
and when I woke up I was wearing a wig and a homeless man had taken my pants
but inexplicably given me back my wallet. Is this the kind of influence we
want our children to be subject to? And furthermore, the cosmic brownie is
nothing but a brownie...with sprinkles. Isn't this just a fucking cupcake?
What the Christ is so "cosmic" about it? No sprinkles for Hostess, mister.
Just that smiling, yellow Sheriff, lasso at the ready to lynch Debbie and
her cohorts.

Let's look at a few hard facts. Snack cake technology has come a long way
since the days of the banana creme filled Twinkie. After what I imagine to
be exhaustive research, Hostess, in it's glorious, magnanimous wisdom, has
determined that packaging their wares in twins would provide the optimum
amount of snacking pleasure. Taking a page from the ancient Greeks, they
wisely understood the concept "Nothing in excess." Two Twinkies. Two
cupcakes. Eat them both, or share one with a friend. Granted, you can
purchase bulk quantities of any fine Hostess snack cake, however, you will
find the familiar twin pack in most convenience stores, which is where snack
cakes belong, god damn you. What does LD do? How do they respond to this
tried and true method of snack cake presentation? I'll tell you how. A bunch
of passive aggressive, penis-envious, neurotic pencil dick middle management
motherfuckers got their collective panties in a twist about this shit and
devised a strategy. A) Sell these shitheaps in CASES of ten, or even twelve!
B) Make some of the snack cakes seasonal items,and C) Rip off ideas from our
snack cake overlords. If I were Hostess, I would kick a mud hole in Little
Debbies ass and stomp it dry. Look at item A. What fresh hell is this? Who
in their right mind could endure 12 stomach churning forays into the
nightmare world of Swiss Cake rolls? What sick, diabetic fiend would delight
at the prospect of suppressing the gag reflex long enough to consume not ONE,
but TWELVE Nutty Bars? As if this weren't an affront enough to basic
civilized behavior, we are now forced to confront the horror of item B.
Seasonal snack cakes? Really, Debbie? Do you actually believe people will
line up between the months of January to June to stuff a revolting
"strawberry" cupcake into their snack holes? Why don't you just package
used, sugared tampons, you vile fascist? Or perhaps wait with baited breath
until July, when you are free to buy the abomination that is the "orange"
flavored cupcake. At least until December. C'mon, Debbie. The jig is up.
With the advent of mobile refrigeration, nothing is seasonal anymore. And
since when does artificial "orange" flavor go out of season? What the fuck
is going on here?

I'll tell you what's going on. Yup. I'm going to say it. It's the homosexual
agenda. LD actually markets a snack cake known by the thinly veiled name
"Fancy Cakes." Well, Debbie, you might as well emblazon a big pink frosted
triangle on these things. Fancy Cakes? Who are you fooling? The next thing
you know, you'll be peddling "Sectarian Violence Fudge Whirls" or some other
decidedly un-American snack cake. Perhaps "Anti-Imperialist Apple Turnovers"
or "Lemony Left-leaning De-lites." Be assured that Hostess is looking at you
with a cautious eye, Debbie. Beneath that straw hat we are likely to find a
hand grenade and a copy of Mao's quotations. What you need is a good, stern
talking to by some members of the John Birch society. Well, that and some
jumper cables attached to your nipples and a thorough beating with a length
of garden hose.

Just when you thought this cavalcade of sub-par, Lovecraftian horrors could
get no worse, enter "Raspberry Angel Food Cake." It is difficult for me to
express the horror, the intimate knowledge that something was so terribly
wrong as to defy description when I first encountered this product. I will
cut to the chase. A Twinkie. Filled with Raspberry filling. Same loaf shape.
Same three filling holes in the bottom. What malicious ghoul dreamed this
abortion up? How foul must a human be, to what extent are you crippled by
character flaws of such epic proportions as to foist this charade on an
unsuspecting public?

Owing to the limited attention span of both myself and my loyal readers, I
will thusly end this installment of my snack related tirade. Stay tuned for
chapter two, when I draw parallels between genocide and the Star Crunch.

John Wreisner

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hot down, summer in the city.

From a journal entry a few days ago:

It's almost June and it already smells like squamous cells and artificial fruit. With summer comes an exponential increase in panic attacks or at least the likelihood of them. The air is dense and the people are too eager. Every summer it's as if I am incapable of having thoughts, plural. I have a single thought I cannot identify save for the fact that it involves such a horrifying sense of surveillance and the need to escape that it chokes me. This sensation grows all summer long like a tuber, underground, and come autumn, all that suspicion is ripe, and it's what I will eat all winter."

I hate summer. I don't deal well with the people, the heat, the urgency behind everything, that primordial urge to stockpile both material and experience to get us through winter. When I sit out on my deck at night smoking I can hear small things being eaten by larger things, I can see the insects dumbly crashing into the porch light again and again...it's fucking depressing. I'm going to close my eyes until October.