Diary, 2/9/19 to 3/7/19

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

Black Book

{2/9/19}  Weight 220.0.

At Dagny’s for Writers Writing at 8:26 am.  Now on to KM.

Well, my computer says it’s connecting to the Internet, but it never arrives.  WTF?  Now on to KM.

Writers Writing was not very productive, though rather better than last week’s.  I got sleepy after almost two hours, and came home.  At home I made “poached eggs” in my new “microwave egg poacher” plastic thing that I bought.  It turns out that it makes lousy pseudo-poached eggs.  I threw it in the trash, $4 poorer.

Watched Sylvia, Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath.  She was beautiful, it was adequate.  That’s it.  Made me think, though, and perhaps not for the first time, that suicide is a profoundly selfish act.  It’s like saying, “Only my pain is important.”

Wrote in my “100 Ideas” notebook:  “For half my life I’ve been drowning and not waving.”  I believe that this is more “accurate” than “self-pity.”  But:  so what?

I am seriously regretting that I called Salomé, because what’s the fucking hurry?  But, the die is cast, and I will pay her out of my next check (the 27th).  I will not mention this regret to her.  I don’t know why I’m always in a hurry to spend my money.  Still, the portrait will be a nice thing, I’m sure.  [3/8/19:  Didn’t pay her, told her “March”; the 27th of March is my birthday, too.]

I just spent about an hour working on KM and it’s 4:40 pm; when am I entitled to relax and just have fun?  Given that this is what my life has been about, having fun, I suppose I’ve totally exhausted my “entitlement.”  In any case, I’m knocking off for now.

“What’s the fucking hurry?  You’ll find out.”

That’s what I don’t want to find out, the hard way.  Like, dying before my book is published?


{2/10/19}  Weight 221.0.  Erk.

Long, unamusing dream this morning about Cary Grant, Everett Sloane, and two other men in suits, moving among a large group of offices, Grant being the Charles-Foster-Kane-like boss, the others trailing after him like the scene in Brazil, Sloane bringing up the rear, getting constantly impeded by other staff, etc.

Otherwise solid sleep last night, with only one interruption.

Watched most of Toy Story 3 last night, enjoyed it very much.  I’ve been watching a lot of movies lately.

Back to my reading style:  it’s like I’m not interested in the author, not interested in getting a feel for how the author thinks, or even writes, but instead am seeking a kind of profit for myself.  Okay, so what?  Is this an insult to the author?  Or, is this even an accurate description of how I read?  This really isn’t worth talking about.

Regarding my “thoughtful” self-portrait, I should do a sketch of it to include on my business cards.

One movie I didn’t enjoy at all was Gauguin:  Voyage to Tahiti, a dismal and thoroughly joyless picture of a man sacrificing everything for art.  Regardless of the quality of his paintings (which generally don’t excite me), that he would abandon his wife and five children to do what he did marks him as thoroughly despicable.

The Hemlock Club today was pretty dull, too, and the ride home was cold and rainy.

Well I’ve given up on Don’t Hide the Madness.  Virtually the only good thing about it is the title, and some lines recited from Sara Teasdale.  I stopped at page 256, leaving about eighty pages unread.  Just completely boring and useless.  What a waste.  Twenty-six bucks.

One movie that I thoroughly enjoyed is the joyful, heartbreaking, hilarious My Life as a Dog, which I watched on DVD this evening.


{2/11/19}  Weight 220.6.

I have been thinking about and wrestling with shyness my whole life.  How does it happen, then, that I’ve gotten it wrong?  When I was growing up, my female cousins were frequent companions.  I was comfortable with them.  What, then, was this “shyness”?

Well, it was shyness, but not “shyness with women.”  It was “shyness about asking,” specifically, about asking for a date or making any move to reveal my wants or needs.


{2/12/19}  Weight 220.2.

Three separate dreams last night.

First, I was walking down a long cave with a group of prison inmates.  This was a very long dream.  The way was twisty and often very steep.  Much of the cave was empty, but there was a kind of gift shop laid out in one area, with one woman as clerk.  Some time after that, I and some others took off our boots (like army and prison boots, i.e., black) and put something else on our feet, then continued walking.  Perry Smith, who I knew from Terminal Island, said something about “painted with light,” then we arrived at two large crystals in the cave.  These crystals looked like glowing metal.  Then we took another route out of the cave.  Again it was a long walk.  As I was near or at the end, I remembered my boots and said that I needed to go back for them, I would get in trouble if I didn’t have my boots.  Three or four others said they would go with me, and we started back, climbing up high in some kind of scaffolding, then entering the cave again, following the first route.  We walked and walked, and I kept trying to remember the route and to guess how close we were to the boots.  We encountered the gift shop again, and the woman said, “We have a whole box of boots.”  But we kept going, and at one point I found a few dusty boots scattered in a corner.

The second dream involved a sketch of a car that I had built or modified or imagined.  In the sketch the car was jacked up on one side, and the jack was resting on top of a wheel off the car.  The car had sails like wings, one on each side, very like the sails that the old man had installed on his house in the Pixar movie, Up, which I watched for a while last night.  I was showing the drawing to a guy, explaining the details, so that he could paint it.  (He was not Salomé, but I have the feeling that he was someone I knew from prison.)

The third dream, which I had just before getting up, I’ve completely forgotten.  However, thinking just now of returning today to the library book sale that I had visited on Thursday, I remembered a book that I had seen, and wondered if it would still be available today; and I had seen this same book in the third dream.  Perhaps I dreamt that I was at that book sale…

The book in question is a pristine hardcover copy of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, which I already have in paperback.  I didn’t want to buy it on Thursday, since it’s a very large and heavy book and would have been a pain to carry, and I didn’t really want to spend the money just to get that copy since, as usual, I’m a bit short this month.  But today is the “half-price sale.”

Last night I played the shakuhachi/koto CD that I’d loaned to Pablo, but turned it off halfway through because I thought the compositions stupid and worthless.  The CD starts with a long stretch of silence, then a single high, eerie note on the flute coming out of the silence, sustained with slowly increasing volume.  I found this annoying and pretentious.  I don’t remember anything about the rest of what I heard, but after fifteen or twenty minutes of nonsense I turned it off, having decided to give it back to Pablo (he said he liked it).

This kind of thing always makes me question my openness to new kinds of art, question the seeming superficiality of my response to something that doesn’t immediately grab me.  Why didn’t I let the rest of the CD play out?  Shall I play it again?

I’m doing just that.  I skipped track one; track two starts rather similarly, with about twenty seconds of silence, then a slight sound, more long pauses and faint sounds, one strum on the koto, all of this well spaced out, and about three minutes into track two I’m more than ready to jump to track three.  But I’m determined to hear this track to the end, which, after four minutes, has amounted to not hearing most of it.  At 6:45 I’m rolling my eyes.  The track runs to 18:13.  At 11 minutes in, I notice that I’ve stopped actively listening, having given my attention to playing with the cursor in Word.  It’s clear that this CD is never going to earn a place in my limited shelves, unless possibly the last track charms me as much as does the “Song of the Blacksmith” on a disk of music for winds by Gustav Holst (Reference Recordings RR-39CD).  But track two is almost over and cannot redeem itself in my estimation.  Just waiting for track three.  Track two is about 80% of complete inaudibility.

I guess I can see why Pablo likes this disk.  He can play it while meditating, because it’s hardly going to be a distraction.

Track three starts like track one did, with silence, then slowly growing audibility of a single note on the flute.  I’m about ready to start screaming, “Come ON!”  More minimalism, though one minute in, it’s starting to sound almost like normal music.  I guess that the composer didn’t “dare to be dull” a third time.  Oh, wait, yes, he did.  Nada save me from these people who expect me to be entertained by their “expressive silences.”  A few flashes of interest in track three are not nearly enough.

The composer is Somei Satoh, who was born in 1947, the year of my birth also.  This Sun-Moon album is published by New Albion Records, Inc. (NA069CD)  According to the liner notes, he has “approximately 50 compositions” and is “primarily a self-taught musician.”  A composer I’ll be sure to avoid in future, despite his “prize” and “grant” from some fools.  I can only guess that he’s a persuasive talker.


{2/13/19}  Weight 221.2.


{2/14/19}  Weight 221.0.

Yesterday I returned to the library book sale and acquired a very heavy bag of books.  The bag seemed to me ridiculously, impossibly heavy as I carried it to the bus stop, then, later, home from the bus stop.  When I got home, I weighed this “impossibly” heavy bag, and it was 22.2 pounds.  It is shocking to me to have this proof that I have become such a weakling.  When I was in high school, I was no great specimen, but I worked out with an eighty-pound barbell (curls) and thought nothing of it.

Perhaps this makes clear why I am afraid of riding a bicycle.  In the past year I have fallen twice, once while riding a bicycle and once while walking, and in each case I ended up with a skinned knee (I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but at the time it seemed like a “big deal”).  In the first case, the “riding” was actually “standing.”  What will happen if I am riding at moderate speed and take a tumble?  I figure it as a broken arm and multiple contusions.  I’m not nearly ready to risk that.  I want that third wheel, even though the trike will be much less convenient than a bike.  But maybe I just need to work out and get some minimal strength built up, eh?  If I am even capable of that.

Given my track record of such efforts, I will never be ready.  The whole bike/trike idea, which had seemed so easy, now looks like fantasy.  Yet, this fantasy was supposed to “fix” me, physically.  So, now what?

If I want to be as realistic and unsentimental as possible, I have to say:  “forget it.”  I am not ready to “forget it.”

If I want to be as unrealistic and optimistic as possible, I would say:  “let’s try it.”  I am not ready to “try it.”

The compromise position is to “work out as best I can,” and don’t spend any more money on this stupidity.

Here’s the second compromise:  buy the trike, and ride it, as I had planned all along.  There is no other option, really, and if I get broken bones out of it, so be it.  That won’t kill me, but inactivity will, and is.

I feel better already (joke).  In fact, this will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Voluntarily, that is.  But seriously, folks, this is the defining choice of my dotage.  That, and I must get over to the VA and see a doctor.  Tuesday.


{2/15/19}  Weight 219.6.

Pablo’s birthday at Olive Garden, with Salomé.  Total tab was $111, including $15.99 tip, of which [meaning, the total] Pablo paid $20 (for Salomé, whom he invited with my permission).  Salomé, it turns out, is not a “cheap date.”  Perhaps it’s churlish of me to observe these details, but I will.  She wanted an appetizer (I asked), which we all shared ($11.79).  Her entrée was $19, drink (cranberry juice) for $3.50, dessert for $9 (shared), after dinner drink (cappucino) $4.25, total $35.75, plus tip.  Just noticed that I was overcharged for my entrée, I think by $3; but the birthday mini-dessert at $3 was made complimentary, so, the bottom line was “right.”

At the end of the meal I filled out the electronic survey on the table-top device.  I rated everything at 4 out of 5 or better, but I added a comment:  “Service was too quick, we wanted more time with our appetizers.”  Apparently our server was given this feedback immediately, because I got the cold shoulder from her afterwards, and she walked around with a grim look.  I felt bad about this because, although I was completely honest, I imagine that most patrons don’t bother completing surveys, and I suppose very few add comments (the interface is primitive, therefore tedious), so my relatively innocuous comment probably looms as a large blot in her world.  In fact, we were there on the day after Valentine’s Day, so the place was really packed, making the too-fast service all the more understandable.  Fact was, though, that we were enjoying ourselves and would have preferred slow service.  Or, so I presume.

I totally stuffed myself, and had a black russian to drink.  On the walk from the bus stop, I picked a violet pansy for Salomé.  It was totally wilted by the end of dinner, but she liked it.


{2/16/19}  Weight 221.6 (?  The decimal might be .4.)

I woke up last night around 4:00 from a dream in which I was setting up an Excel spreadsheet to track my stock purchases, dividends, and so on.  I have never bought stock.  When I began wondering how I could go about buying a single share of Amazon stock, I was puzzled, and perhaps this is what woke me up.

Now I’m at Dagny’s for Writers Writing.  J is here.  We talked briefly about Pablo and about J’s friction with the manager of Dagny’s.  Worked for an hour on KM and am now returning to that task.  I just wanted to make sure to record the unusual dream.

Reading this evening, Nietzsche:  The Will to Power; Bartley:  Wittgenstein.  And given the state of the world—by which I mean, climate change and political inaction regarding climate change, i.e., that we’re doomed—are these books not completely irrelevant?  Are not all books, all entertainments and pursuits, irrelevant?  Am I not irrelevant?

Irrelevant to what?  Irrelevant to what must now be done:  fighting climate change, fighting political inaction, surely.  How can I fight this doom?  I don’t know, but I know it’s not by reading Nietzsche or Bartley.  I must make signs, talk to others, persuade and inform, right?  I could begin by writing letters.  I could begin by becoming better informed, specifically about “the green new deal,” right?

I want others to take action; surely, then, I must take action.

I believe that people who deny climate change are terrible.  I believe that climate change will be a disaster for the species; if I do nothing about this, then I also am terrible.  To know, and do nothing—that is terrible.


{2/17/19}  Weight 221.4.

A rarity these days:  I slept straight through for eight hours.  I also had a dream that my nose was covered in white, apparently dead skin.

Watched the movie Kinsey.  Excellent, and a surprising, mature love story along with the obvious.  And what changes have happened since Kinsey’s time!  I am so glad for that.  But what changes are still needed!


{2/18/19}  Weight 221.8 (at 5:00 am); 220.8 at 7:45.

Replaying the Olive Garden experience in the middle of a bout of insomnia, I realized that I committed a bit of a just-injustice on my charming server.  Not only was she your basic excellent server, she also went an extra mile in writing “Happy Birthday” in chocolate syrup to accompany the mini-dessert served to Pablo.  At least, I presume it was her, because it wouldn’t have been the chef.  Doubtless this added a sense of betrayal to her understandable outrage at my whiny-but-accurate comment.  The service was really exemplary, including two timely servings of breadsticks without salt, in addition to the regular, per my request.  This attention to detail makes the five-minutes-maximum that we were allowed for our appetizers that much more egregious.

Other memories:  Salomé was unfamiliar with O.G. practices—after the salad was served, I found her eating from the serving bowl, having put aside the serving tongs which she had reacted to with puzzlement.  And Pablo scarfed up all the extras in sight without so much as a by-your-leave, including the last of the calamari, dessert, and all five of the mints (until I made him put back three).  However, he did give my wallet a bit of a break by ordering the very cheapest lunch entrée, which I appreciate despite my annoyance at this unnecessary self-sacrifice:  “Don’t worry about me, I’ll just get a drink from the hose.”

Too Much Information Dept.:  I’ve taken to highlighting in my calendar the dates when I have masturbated.  Which dates did I highlight?  Never mind!

Okay, I’ll tell you:  the 14th and the 17th.  So I started doing this before I saw the Kinsey movie.

Why don’t I own a tricycle today?  $181 spent on books, DVDs, and CDs this month, that’s why.

The chaos on my bookshelves is just about under control, however; now I have piles of books “waiting to be donated” in my closet and on my stepstool.  Some of the books in those piles I also bought this month (of the five I bought at Barnes & Noble, I gave one to Pablo, and two others, half-read, are sitting in the piles).  I’ve been taking a look at some of the more questionable volumes, and finding many that I don’t want, or perhaps wouldn’t mind keeping except for the space problem.  I took five useless volumes of poetry criticism to the Hemlock Club yesterday to get rid of, and Pablo, he of the book hoard that he calls “The Library of New Alexandria,” took them all, plus the paperback Oxford Guide to Philosophy that I had replaced with the hardcover.

I am keeping John Ciardi:  How Does a Poem Mean? and two others that passed muster; one is a critical anthology (i.e., a textbook) which I wouldn’t care about except that it has a CD of poets reading their works, including Sylvia Plath, if I remember correctly.  Is that really worth keeping?  Well, maybe.

What does an asshole do at 5:00 am?  Judging by my example, they work on their book-in-progress.  Am I really still an asshole?  I want to say, “less so every day,” but that’s probably too generous.

Certainly I was insufficiently thoughtful about the feedback I left at Olive Garden.  I think this kind of thing always comes back on the staff, and provides ammunition to a perhaps foolish management to mistreat employees.  In future, I resolve to leave only positive feedback about staff.  Honest, accurate feedback should be given only in a perfect world.

I am thinking now of my criticism of Mark Castro’s novel, and am thinking that I did right.  Perhaps I could have omitted all advice, however, since I found Pablo’s advice so odious.  Unpublished writers certainly want feedback from readers; but nobody wants to be instructed unless they ask, and maybe not even then.  For one unpublished writer to offer unsolicited instruction to another surely marks them as an asshole.

However.  If Mark so took my criticism to heart that he never writes another line of fiction, I’ve probably done him and the world a service.  Though, if he indeed did that, he’s surely bitter about it, and that would be a bad result for him and the world.  Just adding my bit to the paving of the road to hell, it seems.


Damn it, I meant well.  Doesn’t that count for anything?  (no)

Caught a few minutes of the Lonesome Dove miniseries yesterday and was thoroughly captivated.  I’ll need to watch that again, even though it’s six hours of time spent on irrelevancy.  I also plan to finish reading Naomi Klein:  This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs the Climate.

At the HC yesterday I brought up my realization about priorities, and how climate change needs to be “way up there.”  In discussion with D I recognized the importance of multiplying my efforts by getting involved in a group, probably the Democratic party, possibly by volunteer speech writing, possibly by donating cash, certainly by donating time to whatever seems relevant.  I’m thinking “Green New Deal” and working for candidates who are working for the GND.  About as important (because related) is the “Move To Amend” movement that I’m seeing on Free Speech TV.  They’ve got 300,000 members, which certainly is both a lot, and not nearly enough.

I’ve used almost all of $350 cash that I withdrew this month.  I would really like to know where that went.  I know that some of it goes to convenience stores for snacks; some to panhandlers; $10 went to groceries; a lot goes to Dagny’s; I think $28 went to the SW Library for the book sale; $21 for the bus pass; some goes in tips to Leo’s and Lorene’s.  Many small “cuts,” and I don’t see much wiggle room there.  I can reduce the convenience store dollars by keeping the right kind of sodas (i.e., caffeinated) in the fridge and remembering to take them with, because most of that happens when I’m going to CPC (a probation requirement).


{2/19/19}  Weight 220.8; BP 126/90 67; second try 123/86 67.

Watched the DVD of Venom last night.  It was decidedly peculiar but quite funny, at times even hilarious, and overall I liked it.  The first half hour was slow.  It was somewhere between Men in Black and a “typical superhero movie.”  The special effects were good overall, but the initial crash of a rocket ship looked rather cartoony.  So, it ranks right down there with Ant-Man.  Interestingly, no effort was made to integrate Venom into Marvel’s Infinity War series.  Captain Marvel is to be released in a couple of weeks—that’s one that, unlike Venom, I want to see in the theater.

I learned a second time yesterday that eggs contain sodium, so my breakfast all together has been running 222 mg of sodium plus whatever I’m getting from salsa when I use it.  This is higher than I’d thought, but seems low enough.  I often include a small handful of raw cashews in the eggs, and always follow up with an ice cream sandwich (95 or 105 mg sodium).  So I’m getting a lot of sugar (banana and orange juice) every morning.  I was thinking of cutting down to two eggs rather than the three I’ve been doing, but the weight problem is not that third egg, it’s bingeing, sodas, snacks, and eating out that keep me fat.

A most pleasant surprise:  Black Book, a WWII thriller with a stunning, charming, gutsy performance by 30-year-old beauty Carice van Houten.  Very tense at times, with lots of twists and turns, lots of death, lots of bare bosoms.  Good recreation of ’44 Holland.  Happily, no concentration camps.  Directed by Paul Voerhoeven of Starship Troopers … fame?  I picked up this DVD somewhere cheap, perhaps the last library book sale.  This one really got under my skin, well, she did, especially.

Now, a more important thought.  I’ve been sleepy and napping, seemingly all day, though I found time for a shower and laundry.  But I’m thinking that the large doses of sugar I had, made me sleepy.  A diabetic thing?  I slept well enough last night, too.  Maybe I’d better err on the side of caution.  If I can.  Now, tomorrow, the VA for sure, right?

And I think I’m coming down with a cold.  Damn and double damn.  It’s been a while.

Reviewing a bit of Lisa Feldman Barrett:  How Emotions are Made:  The Secret Life of the Brain.  I was very impressed with this book a few months ago, and I need to make some of this my own rather than just letting it fade into the mush.  I didn’t read every chapter last time, and the pages on depression look pretty important, so I’ll need to do some work on this book.

Did not work on KM today, however.


{2/20/19}  Weight 220.4.

Since it’s clear that I’m now in the middle of a cold, I won’t be going to the VA today.  This cold may be why I was so sleepy yesterday.  I need to go out, however, to call HP tech support about getting my Wi-fi back.

Well, that was annoying.  HP wants $35 plus $15 a month to fix my computer.  I suppose that Apple would have wanted the same thing, more or less, but somehow I was enraged by this “extortion,” as I saw it, and refused.  I suppose I was just being cranky and stupid, and will eventually be forced to go back with my debit card between my legs, so to speak.  I guess the next try is Mesh Cowork on Monday, followed by many “I told you sos” from Pablo.

The remaining alternatives are to forget about Wi-Fi, my Twitter account, my blog, and so on, or to buy another computer for about $300.  Fuck.

Reading Naomi Klein is depressing work.


{2/22/19}  Weight 218.4.  Being sick has its good points.

Coming down off the worst part of a terrible cold.  For two days I’ve been fit for nothing except sleeping, eating, and a little reading.

The reading was mostly A. E. van Vogt:  The Changeling, an eminently forgettable novel and one his most sexist.  Otherwise, a little of Naomi Klein.


{2/23/19}  Weight 218.8.

A dream around 4:00 last night:  Walter Cunningham (a minor character in To Kill a Mockingbird) and a grown son die in a fire in their home.

I’m not going to Writers Writing this morning because I am still suffering from a cold and it’s 31 degrees outside.  I intend, however, to spend two hours on Kick Me.

Well, it ended up ninety minutes.  I’ve been over the first 22 to 25 pages a number of times and still have some doubts about the structure.  I also thought that the Table of Contents is entirely too long, it’s off-putting, and not such as to encourage reading.  That’s how it strikes me.  I’m thinking now that a different approach might be better:  keep the same titles, but reduced in font, and have no TOC.  This should encourage browsing, at least.  It’s a thought.


{2/24/19}  Weight 219.2.

My cold, terrible at times, is nearly gone.  I know from experience, however, that the “nearly gone” stage can linger for weeks.  I’ve had very few colds since my release, maybe one per year.

Last night I read to page 58 in Fat Girl:  A True Story, by Judith Moore.  It starts off with page after page of what I might call “self-hate.”  It was funny and inspiring.  When she got to describing the lives of her parents, however, it became dull.

Trying to work on KM this morning and feeling discouraged by the chapter called “I am a Loner.”  I had moved a bunch of text into it that talks about my shyness, so I’ve retitled it to “I am Shy.”  I tried making the changes to format that I talked about before, decided that I didn’t like the new look, and so went back to the old look because the format isn’t important enough to worry about at this stage.  It’s the writing that needs work, but I’m floundering and discouraged.  I need increased dedication and more hours spent in the pursuit.

I should be going to the VA tomorrow, and calling HP about their crappy computer.  Why does everything have to be so difficult?  Which is just mood talking, and there are ways of dealing with mood.  I could, for instance, just close the computer and go look at my books; but that doesn’t address the problem, whatever that might be.

Fat Girl has a good quote:

“It’s good when your conscience receives big wounds, because that makes it more sensitive to every twinge.”  Attributed to Franz Kafka, letter, 1/27/1904.

Maybe I’ll just read for a while.

The Hemlock Club meeting was missing D, and most of the time was squandered on the usual pointless squabbles that Pablo, and lately J, seem to enjoy.

Bought six pieces of See’s candy on the way home, plus the usual free sample, and have eaten all of them.  In future, I think I’d better limit this splurging to three pieces at most.  That would amount, more or less, to a normal candy bar, and that will be enough to satisfy the worst of the craving.

Judith Moore:  Fat Girl:  A True Story, Plume/Penguin Books, New York, 2006, is sensational, incredibly intense, and thoroughly horrifying.  A childhood as bad as anything in Dickens.  The effectiveness of Fat Girl persuades me that the right structure for Kick Me is chronological.  That will fix any structural headaches, and it makes perfect sense.  It’s obvious, of course.  And stylistically, it encourages me to think of metaphors and fictional techniques.  I need some of the stylistic daring of this brilliant, courageous writer, Judith Moore.  Quotes:

“That’s what it was like to be a fat girl.  But that’s not all, that’s not even the worst or biggest part of it.  Being a fat girl was as much about wanting more than my mother had to give me and about wanting my father, not having a father at all.  I cannot pull the stories apart; they reach out for each other; they grab on and bite down.  They hold tight to each other.  I imagine passengers aboard a sinking ship, grasping each other for dear life, and think that the story of my fatness and the story of my longing grasp each other for dear life.”  p. 85.

Quoting Augusten Burroughs, Dry:  “Think of your head as an unsafe neighborhood; don’t go there alone.”  p. 91.

Quoting Albert Camus (no ref.):  “I stand before all humanity recapitulating my shames…and saying:  ‘I am the lowest of the low.’  Then imperceptibly I pass from the ‘I’ to the ‘we.’  I am like them, to be sure; we are in the soup together.”  p. 125.

“He spoke in hushed tones.  The only reason we could hear him was that a microphone was rigged up on the pulpit.  Out in the congregation you could hear us young people breathe.  We were one starving animal, waiting for our master to feed us.  He let out his sentences slowly.  He let his thoughts uncoil.  He opened his hands, palms up, and his hands offered infinite tenderness, a tenderness that I desired.  He said, ‘Jesus suffered.’  He said in a moaning way that made me feel close to him, ‘Jesus suffered because he loves you.  Because the Father loves you.’”  p. 150.

The relevance of some of this to KM is apparent.  Now I know what to do with my book.  The work should go more easily now, especially the reorganization:  strictly chronologically.  And drop all the warnings and apologies, just tell it like it is, how I lived it, and make stuff up as necessary to make the scenes live.


{2/25/19}  Weight 219.6.

A curious idea from a dream.  A competition among some number of teams to see how far they can tunnel, while carrying all their supplies, food, and water with them.  This requires some explanation.

Imagine that a team of five persons wish to tunnel through the earth, using only the supplies that they can take with them from the start.  That is, they could not replenish from the outside once they’ve started.  The earth they removed from the tunnel would be pushed to the outside.  No one would be permitted to starve themselves (i.e., all would be required to consume a day’s worth of food and water each day) or otherwise sacrifice themselves “for the good of the team,” and no one could leave until all were ready to leave.  What would be the optimum team size to maximize the length of tunnel, and how far could they dig under these conditions?  I am not smart enough to answer these questions.


{2/26/19}  Weight 220.2.

Dream fragments this morning:

1) I buy a dozen ballpoint pens, and offer at handful to someone.

2) I am receiving slow, shy, gentle kisses from a beautiful girl.  I question her seriousness, wonder why she would kiss an old man this way.  This was a rare and precious experience.  Part of this dream involved a deep, rocky pool of great clarity—I can see to the bottom, and a large rock slides into the pool and down to the bottom.  Anything else is forgotten.


{2/27/19}  Weight 218.2.  Surprising.

Long, silly dream this morning, mostly forgotten.  I had offered eye drops to someone, and reached into my pocket looking for the bottle that I usually carry, while telling them that “it’s just saline” that I mix myself.  I saw that inside the bottle the solution had formed crystals of salt, so I said that I could filter the solution, and I began searching for filter paper.

Now, the situation was that we were in a Hollywood-style “jungle” in which various cabinets and chests of drawers were scattered.  I went looking through these storage areas, knowing which three drawers I needed to check.  I found chemistry glassware in three, but no filter paper.  In one of the drawers I had found a miniature funnel of a type that might be used for filtering, but it was very dirty and I didn’t take it.  So I told them that it didn’t matter, I could filter it anyway, as we were walking back to our previous location.  That’s where it ended.

I cannot explain the jungle angle, but chemistry I was thinking about last night, thinking that I probably should have gone for a degree in chemistry rather than what I did.  I would have been happier and more interested in my classes, and perhaps would have finished the BS degree.

I was thinking about this because I was working on KM.  The eye drop bottle is something I carry with me almost always (I fill it with saline).

At the Beale Library a few days ago I bought six old copies of Games magazine because they have good (i.e., difficult) cryptograms in every issue, and last night I tried to solve one of them.  I was shocked to discover that I had forgotten some details of the system I had worked out while in prison, based on a method I’d learned from a book when I was a teenager.  I had spent many hours working out and writing out this system, so it was disturbing that I apparently had thoroughly forgotten it.  However, as I worked on the cryptogram, I discovered that I in fact was able to remember all the steps.

I think I did not save the data I gathered on the English language while in prison, that is, the data that I wanted for working on cryptograms.  Now I’m thinking that I wish I had that data, and that I could write a program in Visual Basic that would give me much better data.  But that would be a fairly big project that would eat up several days of my time, and I would almost certainly be duplicating work that is available online.  It would be smart to look first online, and I know that there are cryptography groups online also, where I could get the kind of difficult cryptograms that would challenge me.  And while this would be fun and get my mind working hard (for once), isn’t it just a distraction?  What about KM and climate change and volunteering, you know, the “important stuff”?

Payday today, yay!  After commitments, including $300 for groceries and dining, I have over $700 disposable, according to my budget.  It’s astonishing that I can spend all this money and have nothing much to show for it, though this month I intend to buy the tricycle for $220.  Last month I got $410 in cash, of which I have about $40 left.  Here’s the breakdown:


Rent $800.00  
Groceries $146.69
Dining $171.46 +$20/wk Dagny’s
Cash $410.00
Books, DVDs $174.29 +$23 cash library
Merchandise $80.28 Bus. cards & bike stuff
Other $58.56 Spectrum, MS Office
Total $1,841.28  


Absurdly, the table doesn’t include my phone bill and bus pass, predictable monthly expenses (amounting to $46).  Some of that cash went for food and books, but much of that is recorded (Taco Bell and the like); I think I went to See’s three times (for about $15 total), not recorded.  Some went to panhandlers and $10 to Pablo.  $21 for the bus pass.  The rest ($300?) just gets sort of pissed away on minor purchases, I think mostly sodas and snacks.  I should try writing down all cash outlays ($1 or higher) for at least a couple of weeks, though a month would be better.  Otherwise, this is an itch that I’ll keep scratching (i.e., keep writing about here).  I’m going to do this.

Now, today being payday, I have an urge to go out and spend money.  I need some clothing—I “wear out” pants rather quickly, meaning that I wear them for like two weeks straight, and they get discolored on the front of the thighs and around pockets.  More frequent laundering would likely reduce that effect, but that’s not going to happen, now is it.

I’ll definitely go to the bank and get $400 cash today, because I need $220 and a bit for the trike.  I should stay out of Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and Michael’s, places that get my impulse buying into high gear.

After weeks of cold and rain, today is looking like spring again.  Perfect biking weather.

I went back to the Beale, hoping to get more Games mags (they had about fifty when I bought six), but they were all gone.  However, I got six books that are good, but that I’ll perhaps never use.  Briefly:

  • Michael Grant: History of Rome; I might read this when I finish Judt’s Postwar
  • An old textbook of invertebrate zoology
  • The Oxford History of the Biblical World
  • French Philosophers (an anthology, only through Sartre and omitting Camus)
  • John A. Williams: Islam, a volume of the Great Religions of Modern Man
  • A graphic novel, I think a biography of Oscar Wilde; this one I might actually read

Testimony from Michael Cohen to the House Oversight Committee ate up a lot of my time today.  The Republicans on the committee were, predictably, worthless.


{2/28/19}  Weight 218.4.


{3/1/19}  Weight 219.2.  Disappointing.  I should’ve skipped that last ice cream sandwich.

Went to Bookhounds yesterday and bought stuff that I perhaps shouldn’t have.  I bought three CD packages which were all disappointing in various ways.  The Boris Godunov, though monaural, is okay; the Carmina Burana is also monaural, but the opening “O fortuna” cut is far less vigorously played than I’m used to (though I enjoyed the rest of the album).  The third, which was supposed to be a Richard Strauss (Don Quixote and Death and Transfiguration) had the wrong disk inside, a selection of Debussy piano music which more or less duplicates what I already had.

The books included Einstein’s essays which have bored me before, so that was a stupid purchase which may end up donated, and a huge, modern Philosophy of Science anthology which may or may not ever be of value; that, at least, I don’t regret buying.

Pablo was with me and I bought him one book; altogether it came to $23.

Since I no longer have home Internet, I now have more time for reading books.  This is good.  I’m also contemplating resubscribing to Foreign Affairs, despite their recent mailer being so annoying (they act like I owe them money).

None of which is helping slow the approaching catastrophe of climate change.  I’ve started reading Naomi Klein, as mentioned previously.  This Changes Everything is undoubtedly an excellent, even invaluable, book, but the story is hardly good news.  We’ve already lost the war (my opinion), and while I expect that the species will survive for a while (unless atomic war), civilization a hundred years hence will be unrecognizable.  The problem is, these things always work out worse than one hopes, by which I mean that we’re not going to be politically smarter or juster in future, we’ll be just as stupid as ever.  Which I suppose is just my natural pessimism talking.

But we seem to be unable to rid ourselves of the old stupidities.  What has soured my opinion of the species most recently is Oscar, a new acquaintance of Pablo’s whom I met a few days ago.  I asked him if he was interested in philosophy, and he said he was, so I gave him a HC card and so on.  Then, moments later, he and Pablo were agreeing about “synchronicity” and I realized that he was just another new-agey idiot.  Hopes raised and dashed, all in five minutes.

Now, it’s possible that I’m wrong about all this.  But I should not put in the diary things that I don’t believe, so I really should delete that.


{3/2/19}  Weight 218.8.

Many dreams last night, but only a fragment remains:  violence between competing Italian restaurant owners.

At Dagny’s for Writers Writing.

After an hour and twenty minutes, I’m itching to quit.  As it happens, Pablo is here, so I’m knocking off.  I did some good work, but the next chapter requires major reorganization.

Evening.  Can anything be more important to a person’s life than their level of self-mastery?  I seem to be mostly lacking in this ability or skill or wisdom, whichever word applies.  Weeks pass and I accomplish little.  Years pass and I accomplish little.  While I have goals, serious goals, I neglect them because I follow my moods rather than my goals.

Today I managed to get myself out of the house at 7:30 in the morning, as planned, and got down to work at Dagny’s when I arrived, as planned.  I worked for an hour and twenty minutes, which is little more than a good start; but at that point I was tired of the work and somewhat dismayed at the direction the text took at that point.  So I stopped work and wrote above, “requires major reorganization.”  It would not have been difficult, it seems, to have continued working, but I didn’t try.  I got a little nudge from somewhere, and I went with it rather than making any attempt to resist it.  I had resisted such nudges earlier.  I’m not sure that this picture, however, is either accurate or useful.  I hardly know how to think about this problem.

Managing myself, managing my energy, time, and money—it’s hard even to think about these problems, or tasks.  In fact, I do manage, generally.  I don’t miss appointments, I don’t run out of money before payday, I don’t run out of food.  What leaves me dissatisfied is the perennial problem of getting the writing done and some other tasks.  I have these few continuing frustrations.  But let’s assume that I have sufficient self-mastery.  It is, in fact, just a label for tasks accomplished or not.  It’s not a thing that I can increase in general, it’s a judgment.  I am just dissatisfied this evening, but this dissatisfaction is probably unreasonable.

Regarding work on the book, it seems that I must be content with two-hour efforts, because the will weakens quickly; but I could increase the number of those efforts, increase the weekly commitment to a twice-weekly commitment.  This is easy: let’s add Wednesday mornings to the schedule.  I resist this kind of commitment, because I hate failure, but it’s time to brush that aside.  The biggest achievements result from small daily or weekly commitments.  I tend to be very good at following this kind of commitment—I’ve missed only one Writers Writing meetup since I started it two months ago or so, and that was due to real illness.

One change I will make in priorities:  I will go to the VA before worrying about the tricycle or the lack of Internet.  I have put this off for too long, it needs to be number one right now.  So, Monday morning, regardless of other siren songs.

Food and weight loss are a more persistent problem, one that cannot be solved by that same kind of commitment.  One thing that might help is to stop buying chips.  I don’t know what I could substitute as a “healthy snack,” though applesauce is working well as an accompaniment to my usual dinner.  Beans with salsa should be tried, too, a “bright idea” I had this evening.  Dinner tonight was made of snacks, mostly chips.  That’s bad in several ways.  The oftener I can avoid such lapses, the better.  What’s needed is a couple of thoughtful alternatives that I can live with, that will solve most of the problem.  Whether it will lead to weight loss is uncertain, but it’s certainly the right step for this time.


{3/3/19}  Weight 220.2.  Up and down.

A long dream about experiments with bedbugs, all but forgotten.  Odd that I should have this dream now, when the actual situation is the best it’s been since I discovered that I had a problem.


{3/4/19}  Weight 219.?

Spent four hours this morning, traveling to the VA, waiting around, and traveling home, all to get them started again on my paperwork.

Pablo haranguing me about his latest squabble with J and how I failed to defend him (Pablo) when J interrupted to disagree.  Remarkably tedious.

A day without cooking—granola bars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with other crap, including lots of chips.  This is stupid.  I do stupid things.  But finally getting the VA moving again is not a stupid thing.

Saw the Mia Wasikowska Jane Eyre this afternoon, which I’ve been wanting to see for some time.  I think it’s the weakest of the JEs I’ve seen, though I like MW very much.  The use of candle and fire as sources of light was very effective, but MW often looked sweaty for no apparent reason.  Meh.


{3/5/19}  Weight 219.2.

Pablo thinks everything is simple because he thinks he understands; but he doesn’t understand.  I think everything is complicated because I know I don’t understand; and I don’t understand.  When Pablo is challenged, he responds with rage.  When I am challenged…well, I’m so rarely challenged by anyone other than Pablo that it’s not worth talking about, because he never understands me well enough to challenge me in a sensible way.

This isn’t quite right, but I’ll leave it so I can perhaps comment on it later and maybe make it better.

Going through books, looking for those I can get rid of.  Bill Moyers’s World of Ideas II is remarkably bad because Moyers asks awful questions.  At least, that’s my impression based on about five minutes of browsing.  This is disappointing because I liked the first volume.

A book on Cezanne, musings of Andy Warhol, the Library of America volume of Benjamin Franklin, Huizinga:  The Waning of the Middle Ages, something on early American foreign policy, and books by Carl Rogers and R. D. Laing are all getting the axe.  These are not bad books, it’s just that I’m unlikely to read (or reread) them.  Oh, also Wolfgang Köhler:  Gestalt Psychology, which I read and commented on not long ago, and didn’t dislike—it just wasn’t really useful.

Tomorrow will tell the tale regarding my laptop and getting back on the Internet.  It quit on me way back on 2/2.

Reviewing the “world history” section of the World Almanac is very interesting, and I would do well to study it repeatedly until it becomes pretty familiar.  It’s just a very few pages, like about 2/3 of a page per decade of the late 20th century.


{3/6/19}  Weight 219.2.

A long dream this morning:  I was reading a biography of Henry Thoreau, written by two women, one of whom lived in Maine, the other I think in Massachusetts.  I described the book as “plodding,” possibly in my diary, it was an old library book with green covers, and I recall saying that the one who lived in Maine should have written about Thoreau’s visits to that state.  I remember interrupting my reading to check out the authors in whatever was available in the book itself, and looking at the title page, which was somewhat elaborately engraved and decorated.  That’s about all.

As far as I know, there is no such biography—I have read several bios of Henry, and owned even more.  I can’t imagine why I should have such a dream, and the only thing I can point to is that last night I spent about an hour looking at some of my books with the intention of getting rid of them.  Some were library books, but none was remotely like the book described.  I think I haven’t read anything by or about Henry in the last year or more.

Today I am supposed to go to Dagny’s for early work on KM, and I guess I’ll do that; it’s 6:54 right now, but I won’t be able to leave until 7:30, early enough.

Worked at Dagny’s until 10:00.  Now waiting for the call from NCPTC.


{3/7/19}  Weight 219.6.

They didn’t call, nor did they return call on my two messages.  Back to square one with them.

Bought and watched DVD of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind yesterday.  It was less good than I remembered, actually rather disappointing.  I might get the books, though I think I’ve read them three times.  This was $10 of the $140 I spent at Walmart, mostly on bike stuff, with a few odds and ends.  It seems that I have decided to go ahead with the trike rather than waiting another two or more weeks to get an okay from a doctor.

I think I rode nine buses today.  That’s a lot.  This involved a trip to Barnes & Noble, then a trip to Valley Plaza to get my Internet access restored (Yay!), then to Taco Bell, then to my probation group, and finally home.  Somewhere in there I stopped at Food Maxx, too, but that didn’t require any extra rides.  Here are the books I bought:

  • Noam Chomsky: What Kind of Creatures are We?
  • Aaron James: Assholes
  • Steve Silberman: Neurotribes:  The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
  • Lawrence Dorfman: The Snark Handbook, Insult Edition:  Comebacks, Taunts, and Effronteries

The second and third are relevant to Kick Me, the fourth, which is one of a series, is just for laughs (and was heavily discounted).  I went there looking for something on autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, because I said in KM that I might have been on the spectrum.  I also wanted the most recent book I could get about climate change, but didn’t find anything.  I’ve since seen someone on TV who has such a book:  David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth.  I’ve also come to realize that a B&N membership would probably pay for itself in the long run, year after year.

Had a two-day-long argument with Pablo about whether the Soviet Union “collapsed.”  I told him that I considered the use of the word to be a judgment, but he argues that it’s a fact.  I also told him, in essence, that I didn’t know what the word meant in that context.  Presented this baldly, it may seem that he’s absolutely right, and that I’m just picking an argument (as he claims); but I don’t care to go into detail, because it’s just too stupid.  The argument came up because at the Hemlock Club he made his statement and J interrupted loudly to say, “It didn’t collapse, it was betrayed by capitalists.”  I have no idea what J meant, but Pablo got all butt-hurt because I failed to “defend” him (he wanted me to shut J up, a thing that is very difficult to do, and seemed to me unwarranted at the time).  Since Pablo was complaining to me about my behavior (or lack thereof), I was uncautious enough to express an opinion.  (Word advises me to use “incautious,” and my dictionary backs it up—but I don’t want to and so, won’t, which is childish of me, too bad).

I told him straight out that I “don’t respect his judgment” and that he “doesn’t know how to argue.”  This was offensive, too bad, but so, so true.  He wastes his time reading nonsensical books, the latest excrescence being Bible Codes!  One is never quite sure that he really means what he says, when he says that he believes in angels, for instance, or that he “has a demon inside him.”  He also calls himself an “irrationalist.”  When he makes a “statement of fact” and someone disagrees, he quickly gets into a rage.  When arguing with me he constantly, constantly misunderstands my position and misstates my position to my face.  It’s just very tedious and I often end up saying something like, “You win, I withdraw my statement” or whatever, just to shut-him-the-fuck-up.  It often doesn’t even work.

At one point he said that he didn’t want me as a friend any more, because of that stupid argument.  Apparently the crux of the matter was that I hadn’t “defended” him.  He has complained in the past about my not defending him, but he’s a big boy and we’re all adults—I don’t need to run the group with a tight control, I don’t want to, and I’m not even the sort of person to do that.  We’re all over sixty, FFS.

Admittedly, we’re also all about half nuts.

Copyright 2019 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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