what I’m doing now | virtual book

what I'm doing now

#journal #life #travel #books #reading #tv-shows #movies #writing #health #immigration Mentioned in what is this site? #2

Losing weight, playing soccer, developing this site, reading books, and more.

Life

Preparing green card papers for my wife, Z. We probably won’t get them until early 2025. Sigh.

Enjoying the fall. Except for the short days. Sun sets at 4:30pm nowadays. Blehj.

Playing soccer. I’ve noticed in the last several months that I’m scoring more goals from longer range, 20+ yards away from goal. I’m delighted that it’s turning out to be one of my strengths in the game. I’d gotten used to thinking that headers and penalties were my only goal-scoring strengths. (And, actually, I’ve gotten worse at penalties in the last several years.) I think I’m reaping the benefits of the hours I spent in my late teens (and perhaps early twenties) practicing long-range shooting.

Losing weight. I’ve lost ~11lbs in the last 5 months, an average of 2.2lbs per month. If I can keep up that rate, I’ll reach my goal weight of 189lbs in 13.6 months. Geez, that’s January 2025. Sounds like early 2025 will be cathartic time for me.

I’ve noticed my attitude towards money has shifted recently. For years, I’ve wanted to keep open the option of taking a major career risk, so I wanted to save as much as possible. But nowadays, I’m pretty happy and could see myself staying at Microsoft for a few more years, at least. I am fortunate that money is not a scarce resource for me and I can use it to save time and make my life better. I still try not to overspend, but I don’t let it dominate my decisions as much anymore.

Work

Software engineering for Microsoft Loop. We just went to General Availability!

Travel

Went to Mexico with Z: Ixtapa, Mexico City, Queretaro, and San Miguel de Allende.

Coding

Mainly working on this site, okjuan.me/vbook. It’s been tricky because I don’t know any Ruby and don’t want to invest time into learning it right now. So far, I’ve gotten by on documentation and other people’s examples. Most recently, I added backlinks, with some help from Daniel Miller. I also made tags the main way to navigate the site by folding ‘categories’ into them. Not only is this cleaner and more uniform, but it also allows me to assign multiple categories (now tags) to the same post. For example, a post can now be ‘filed’ under both #essays and #journal. See Folders kill creativity.

I still really want to make and deploy a front-end for music-lib-bot. A web app would make sense, but I also like the idea of an SMS interface or something of the like. Maybe even something integrated into Google Assistant.

Writing

Focused on posting here, okjuan.me/vbook. Not working on anything for okjuan.medium.com or okjuan.substack.com, although I can cross-post like I did for

learning to dress

learning to dress

#journal #soccer #clothing #fashion #popularity #shopping #brands #hand-me-downs #vintage #regret Mentioned in what I'm doing now, nyc trip

In elementary school I chose my outfits for one thing: recess. And recess meant one thing: soccer. Indoor soccer shoes, soccer shorts, and one of my soccer jerseys. I didn’t need pockets back then. I took those games during recess very seriously. One time after scoring a goal I took off one of my red and black Adidas Predator indoor cleats to celebrate like Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Instead of a crowd of fans I looked up at a big vine-covered wall. Getting back up I realized one of the girls in my grade was looking at me. She looked bewildered.

But the outfits weren’t just a practical matter. I loved how they looked. Especially when they had three stripes on the sleeves. My snooty snot-nosed self looked down on anything with four stripes. Or, God forbid, five. Unfortunately, Club América – the Mexican soccer team I supported and the one Cuauhtémoc Blanco played for – wore Nike. I dreamt one day they would return to Adidas. But then Nike started designing retro-inspired jerseys that caught my eye. Intrigued, but devoted to the three stripes, I drew and colored imaginary Adidas-branded Club América jerseys and tacked them up on the corkboard above my desk. I can probably still draw both logos from memory. The Adidas one is trickier than you’d think.

Then I found out about Abercrombie & Fitch. We didn’t have one in Mexico, so the prodigal sons strutting around in their branded polo shirts must’ve gone shopping in the States. I wish I could remember what I thought about it at first. Did I care? Some part of me must’ve known that little moose was bull. But at that age intuition gives way easily to the cool kid decree.

Before I had a chance to buy into the hype, my parents announced that we were moving to the States. And right in time for me to experience the fabled American institution of middle school. That summer, while our parents dealt with the logistics of moving a six-person family from Mexico City to the suburbs of New York, my siblings and I watched nauseating amounts of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. This time it was my older sister staring at me as I took diligent notes from Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. I loved neat and simple rules, and relished the idea that they codified everything.

Ned’s tips were good, but not nearly as influential as his outfits were. Now it would be my turn to strut through the hallways in an open button up with a t-shirt underneath. And if the button-up were to have a little moose on the chest, then so be it. (It’s fortunate I didn’t discover mirrored aviators until later. I would’ve been too powerful.) I recreated it with Abercrombie button-ups and striped sweatpants from The Children’s Place. (One big stripe was an admissible, if humbler, alternative to the three.) On more modest days I wore one of my graphic tees, like my navy blue long-sleeve that read, in letters stylized as ice cubes, COOL AS ICE. Another favorite was a black short-sleeve with The Dark Side of the Moon album cover on it. I knew nothing about Pink Floyd but it seemed like a cool thing to wear. Plus, the material was so soft, it was like wearing a pajama top.

On those first few weeks, I swaggered through the halls in my new outfits, savoring my authentique américain lifestyle. But the quippy repartee that I anticipated happening in the busy halls wasn’t as natural in the secluded corner of the school, where the sixth grade lockers were. Plus, opening a locker wasn’t the 3-second operation that TV had assured me existed mainly as backdrop for flirting between classes. I don’t know at what summer camp all those Nickelodeon teens and teens got their bank-heist finger agility.

Even lunch time was a sobering affair. My idealized vision of middle school suffered a severe blow when the ever-grouchy ketchup-haired lunch lady rung up my lunch food at more than the three bucks my mom gave me. Apparently I was supposed to look at the prices and add them up to a total, like an adult at a grocery store or something. I figured the transaction was more cultural than monetary. You give me lunch, I give you lunch money.

But the cool kid crowd whose law I now observed wasn’t concerned with button-ups, graphic tees, moose, or even stripes. It was all about the shoes. Skateboarding shoes, specifically. Etnies, DCs, and, for those with bolder taste, Osiris high tops. (Other cool kid crowds were innovating in different directions, with Ed Hardy t-shirts and such.) I wasn’t confident about how I’d look in a pair of chunky skate shoes, but the allure of the group convinced me to take the leap. I vied for membership with a respectable bid: Nike SB 6.0s, the ones with the thick tongue. At first, they felt like part of a costume. For years, my criterion for shoes had been that they would allow me to play soccer at a moment’s notice. Even dress shoes had to be conducive to good ball control. Nonetheless, my chunky new SBs became my main pair of shoes, even though they’d often fly off my foot after kicking a ball. I loved how they looked. At some point, despite my scandalized father, I took a black Sharpie to them and drew flames and other bits on the side of the soles.

In high school, one of my best friends was very amused by the semi-formal attire I changed into after class one day, hoping to impress an exchange student at a group dinner that evening. (This was in the early 2010s, before “looking like a dad” could be positive.) To be fair, my outfit was nearly indistinguishable from our private school uniform. I didn’t look like I was going out with my fellow 15 year-olds, but like I was going to evening mass.

It was tricky to dress my age given my dad’s impulse to impress his preferences on me and my brother during our gender-segregated trips to the outlet mall. (Pobre niños, I only took them to Tommy Hilfiger, Lacoste, Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein…) The boys enjoyed an efficient tour through the collared, emblemed world of business casual while the girls enjoyed going shopping. (The gleeful shopping spree where I realized my Ned outfit for middle school was casually sponsored by my mom on one of the days where a breach opened in the gender divide, leading into a world of abundant oks and yeah sures.) Luckily for me, my dad also highly approved of Adidas. Actually, it was he who gave me the Impossible is Nothing poster that hung on my bedroom wall, featuring a looming Muhammad Ali, an arm-slinged Beckenbauer, and various other figures of iron resolve.

My dad would never have taken us thrift shopping, and yet he supplied me and my brother with some prime vintage pieces. He kept some of his clothes for decades, despite the fact they didn’t fit him anymore. I suppose he foresaw the possibility of their inheritance, or maybe he collected them for no practical reason like he did his military school uniform and racecar magazines. In our late teens and early twenties, my brother and I mined my dad’s store of 80s and 90s attire for bona fide retro items. It was like going thrift shopping, except the old man was no stranger. And it was free. I guess thrift stores charge for the mystery.

My kids are unlikely to enjoy the same luck. At the peak of my “minimalist” phase in my late teens and early twenties — as my mom admiringly called it — I got rid of a lot of stuff. Probably too much stuff. My dad had to talk me out of getting rid of my school yearbooks. One of the things I regret getting rid of is a Club América t-shirt signed by a teenage Memo Ochoa, the talented up-and-coming Mexican goalie who, ten or fifteen years later, made outrageous saves at the 2018 World Cup in Brazil to deny the likes of Neymar. I got to meet him when I was eight years old and playing in the Club América youth academy, which was real enough to summon a couple first team players for a meet-and-greet after practice one day. Actually, I even got to stand on the field at the legendary Estadio Azteca – site of Maradona’s infamous Hand of God in the 1986 World Cup – before kickoff at a Club América game. My teammates and I were lined up to high-five the players as they came out onto the field, but most of them didn’t stretch their arms far enough to make contact with us. I remember feeling quite annoyed. I guess that was easier than feeling disappointed.

I also regret getting rid of a particular red polo shirt from my childhood. I had no shortage of embroidered polo shirts, but this one was special. It was the one I wore on the fateful day I crossed paths with none other than Cuauhtémoc Blanco. It was orchestrated not by the academy but by chance, and by the universal appeal of Six Flags. I came off my second ride of the Superman rollercoaster to find out that my friend’s chofer, who was accompanying me because none of my friends wanted to go on the rollercoaster, had seen Cuauhtémoc. I couldn’t believe it. Why didn’t you get his autograph? Because I know him from back in the day, I used to play soccer with him. Where did he go?

Sure enough, there he was – standing in a crowd of parents watching their children on one of the kiddie rides. Some of the parents were wearing Club América jerseys, but none of them were looking at him. I couldn’t believe nobody recognized him, but then again I barely did, in his dark sunglasses and white t-shirt advertising a splashing Aquafina water bottle. A shrewd disguise. I guess it also helped that he naturally looked less like a Mexican soccer star and more like a Mexican Tony Soprano. I waited for the kiddie ride to end and, as the parents dispersed, I approached him, heart thumping. Straight to the point: can I have an autograph? He paused, said nothing, glanced quickly over his shoulder, took the pen my friend’s chofer had given me, found the top corner of my shirt, and signed it. When I got back to my friends, they couldn’t believe it.

In my university years, some of my friends developed a special affinity for Four Horsemen (4H), our local casual-yet-high-end clothing store. (Street wear?) The walls were all white, the clothes were expensive, the music was hip, and the employees even hipper. I browsed often but rarely purchased anything. And yet I spent hundreds of dollars there. All I remember buying is a pair of New Balances 999s, two pairs of black Chapter pants, and a pair of roomy, pleated, grey, speckled 4H pants, which I still love.

The special emphasis on pants is due to the difficulty I have buying pants that don’t smother my thighs. In fact, it was from one of the Four Horsemen workers that I first heard thick as slang, when I was trying on the grey pants. I laughed nervously before escaping back into the fitting room. I bought a size up and got a tailor to shorten the waist. After years of tapering the end of my employee-discounted Tommy Hilfiger chino pants by folding the hem, those grey pants were a departure. Looking at the loose hems in the fitting room, I was doubtful I could pull it off.

During a day trip to Vancouver with that same friend group, I ended up splurging on an olive-colored John Elliott Hooded Villain sweater. The side-zipper design surged in popularity, high enough for H&M to mimic, and then crashed back down. Ritchie with a T, in the outro of Injury Reserve’s “All This Money”:

I don’t even know who’s idea it was to put a zipper on the side

Like what…

I wore it religiously for at least a year, most often under a vintage Tommy Hilfiger jean jacket that my smiling dad let me steal from his collection. I still have the hoodie in my closet. Maybe I’ll keep it for my kids to gape at in a couple decades. If it’s not cool again by then, at least it’ll be novel.

. Nothing currently in the works for 206 Zulu either. I worked on a second piece for them earlier this year, but that stalled. Ended up posting it

here

first thursday at metier brewing

#journal #seattle #central-district #live-music #brewery #places Mentioned in what I'm doing now

As Daudi Abe tells in his 2020 book, Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, the city’s black folks first set down roots in Central District (the CD) in the late 1880s. After World War II, during the Second Great Migration, Seattle’s black population soared into the tens of thousands, 80% of which lived in the CD by the mid 1960s. In recent decades, the portion of black residents in the CD has declined due in part to gentrification. Nonetheless, the black community’s influence on the life of this neighborhood remains alive and well.

Cherry Street runs down one of Seattle’s many hills, past 206 Zulu headquarters at Washington Hall, up another hill, and down again into a cluster of Ethiopian restaurants and other black-owned businesses. Among them is Seattle’s first black-owned brewery, Métier Brewing Community Taproom, which opened last summer here in the CD, which Métier calls “the heart and soul of Black Seattle”.

I had never heard of Métier Brewing when my friends called to invite me down. They had come to Métier for a drink and found a jazz trio performing for free. It sounded good over the phone. I arrived in time to catch only one song before the band took a break. I recognized the tune, but couldn’t remember what it was. Masego, maybe? While I ordered an IPA and a kimchi pork okazu pan at the bar, I got a chance to ask the keyboard player, Brandon J. Young. The song was Footprints by Wayne Shorter, the jazz giant who passed away that very day at the age of 89. I realized later that I recognized it from Madlib’s Shades of Blue, an instrumental hip hop album assembled from the archives of Blue Note jazz records.

On the way back to my table, I passed a wall emblazoned with the brewery’s promise: Brew Damn Good Beer, Build Stronger Community, Inspire Bigger Dreams For Everyone. In keeping with their mission statement, Métier had recently partnered with NW Folklife to offer free live music every first Thursday, and this month’s artist was the Chris Patin Band (pronounced Pot-tan). The trio’s drummer and leader had attended high school down the street at Garfield High thirty or so years ago and played in their winning Jazz Combo. Longer ago, Garfield’s jazz program educated a young Quincy Jones.

Soon, the band settled back behind their instruments for the second half of the set, this time joined by a singer and Freddy ‘Fuego’ Gonzalez on trombone. Freddy introduced the singer and warned us we didn’t know what we were in for. Seconds into “Feeling Good” it was clear that Freddy wasn’t talking her up. Here was not only a talented singer but a performer with a presence befitting a stage the size of this whole taproom. And yet here she was singing among the wooden benches where we sat drinking. Singing for free, for the community.

Next, the band launched into a version of “Fever” infused with a Buena Vista Social Club-style rhythm. The singer swayed and stepped as she sang, but the small crowd was too shy to be beckoned up onto their feet. I grooved in my seat, head bopping, foot bouncing. The song ended but the singer hadn’t given up on us. As the band started playing the slow, unmistakable intro to “Stand By Me”, the singer started recruiting us one by one.

And you, you’re bopping your head, that means you have rhythm.

She lined the four of us up side by side as the intro came to an end.

Just dance til your soul is happy!… When the night… has come…

.

Reading

I just finished 2 books: The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga and Into the Abyss: A Neuropsychiatrist’s Notes on Troubled Minds by Anthony David. The Courage was thought-provoking and written in a novel form. See Derek Sivers’ notes on it. Into the Abyss was full of fascinating cases and some good insight.

Recently read Anthony Lane’s hilarious New Yorker article, Can Happiness Be Taught? It’s a review of recent best-seller Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, written by a Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School and sponsored by Oprah Winfrey. One of my favorite bits:

…imperative reigns supreme. “Start by working on your toughness.” No sweat. “Take your grand vision of improvement and humble ambition to be part of it in a specific way and execute accordingly.” Check. “Rebel against your shame.” Done. “Widen your conflict-resolution repertoire.” Ka-pow! “Treat your walks, prayer time, and gym sessions as if they were meetings with the president.” Which President? “Journal your experiences and feelings over the course of the day.” Since when did “journal” turn into a transitive verb? “Dig into the extensive and growing technology and literature on mindfulness.” Sorry, I was miles away, what? Above all, “Remember: You are your own CEO.” Holy moly. Do I have to wear a suit to brush my teeth? Is my dog a shareholder? Were last year’s migraines tax-deductible? Can I be fired by me?

Last month, I read the first part of Jane Jacobs’ famous The Death and Life of Great American Cities. To my surprise, it’s great so far. I expected it to be much drier, as I’m sure many books about city and neighborhood planning are. I bought a copy and intend to read it over the next couple months.

While traveling in Mexico, I read a bit of Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs. It was really good, too. Not sure if I’ll be able to continue though.

Last month I started listening to Stephen King’s

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing (2000)

A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King

#reviews #books #memoir #nonfiction #writing Mentioned in what I'm doing now, where do ideas come from?, where do ideas come from? #2, Stephen King's writing advice, what I'm doing now

Half memoir, half advice for aspiring fiction writers. Both good.

I enjoy and mostly trust his writing advice.

This is yet another book that should be made virtual.

It consists of three distinct parts: a memoir of King’s life; advice for fiction writers; and a vignette about King’s near-death experience. (Really, it consists of two different types of writing: memoir and practical advice.) King claims that he included the memoir to contextualize his fiction, but I don’t buy it. I suspect he set out to write this book without a coherent vision for it. In fact, that’s how he usually writes!

I am glad he wrote all three parts. And they don’t go terribly together. But they’d go better with many other things, too, including things written by other people.

The simplest way to make this book virtual is to publish it digitally as three separate pieces that readers can choose to consume as they see fit. This is already an improvement. Aspiring writers could jump directly to the second piece – the one that is actually King’s thoughts “on writing” – and King’s fans could hear about their beloved author’s background and personal life without having to hear his opinions on grammar and diction.

Each of the three pieces could be divided into smaller chunks. The piece about writing, for example, could be broken down into King’s thoughts on dialogue, his thoughts on grammar, on character depiction, plot design, etc. The book is already organized into chapters, but they cannot be consumed independently of the book. If the chapters were designed to exist independently, they could be easily linked to by other works: books, articles, websites, videos, etc. King’s book would be only one of many pieces that contained his memoirs and his thoughts on writing.

and was surprised at how entertaining it was. I might keep listening. I like reading

books and

Daring: My Passages (2014)

by Gail Sheehy

#reviews #writing #books #memoir #new-journalism #magazine-journalism Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Awesome read about an accomplished writer’s career and life. This book piqued my interest in magazines – I wonder if current ones are as interesting as New York magazine sounds like it was in the 60s and 70s.

My main complaint is that Sheehy could have delved more deeply into her emotions and those of her loved ones. This book doesn’t rival the intimacy of Patti Smith’s Just Kids. But then again it would be hard to, since this book describes a whole life and Just Kids focuses on a certain chunk of Smith’s life.

memoirs

Wounds of Passion (1997)

A Writing Life

by bell hooks

#reviews #books #writing #poetry #relationships #abuse #trauma #memoir #feminism #misogyny #racism Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

Really beautiful. Poetic. A bit repetitive. Experimental – written non-chronologically and in two voices. More about bell hooks’ “emotional landscape” than the trajectory of her life.

Small picture: Persistent omission of commas. Little-to-no dialogue.

Topics: feminism, misogyny, racism, intersectionality, childhood trauma, abuse, the craft of writing, poetry, aesthetics of life, relationships, “free love”.

Related works in my eyes: Just Kids by Patti Smith and

Educated

by Tara Westover. Like Patti Smith’s Just Kids, this book tells of artists building and mutually nurturing each other’s lives as artists. Like Tara Westover’s Educated, this book tells of the labor of carving out a woman’s career in academia and the related development of her intellect and personhood; of journeying towards the light of independence and self-actualization out of the shadow of childhood trauma.

about

Draft No. 4 (2013)

On the Writing Process

by John McPhee

#reviews #writing #books #memoir Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

Any aspiring non-fiction writer should read this. If you disagree, please please please share with me the other books that somehow make this book redundant.

Great if you’re interested in learning about the profession of non-fiction writing.

Interesting anecdotes. Great tips on the writing process from a hugely experienced writer. Lots of inspiring and thought-provoking reflections on the craft of writing.

writing

Several Short Sentences About Writing (2012)

by Verlyn Klinkenborg

#reviews #writing #books Mentioned in how to coordinate metaphors, how to revise a sentence, I'm Glad My Mom Died (2022), what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

This is my second review of this book. I have to say – it won me over, big time. This time I read a physical copy, and it was worth it. The spacing and formatting of the print gives the book a mysterious aura. You feel you’re conferring secretly with the author about a strange magic that hides in prose. He reveals what he’s learned about teasing this elusive substance into the right configurations. In the same words he explains to you and shows you. Some books about writing are sterile and tedious, but this book is on the other end of the spectrum.

Some of its advice has lodged into my writing brain:

Keep the space between sentences as empty as possible… Most sentences need no preamble - nor postlude.

Avoid writing your sentence. Play with it in your head. The range of possible sentence structures narrows after every word you put down.

Don’t be afraid that you’ll forget a good sentence or a good idea. Trust yourself. If it is important, you’ll remember it.

Lots of worthwhile ideas, many of which aim to loosen rigid rules and challenge habits taught in school. Are transition words and sentences really necessary? Do you trust your reader so little? You can get anywhere from anywhere. It also challenges conventional wisdom regarding “inspiration”, “natural” writing, and “flowing” writing. It gives interesting writing exercises like putting sentences each on their own line to compare structure, length, and rhythm.

I realized on second read that the author asserts in the introduction that this book is not dogma, but a collection of starting points. Also, my prayers were answered: the book contains a healthy share of sample prose.

Very glad I came across this book.

.

Last month (whew!) I also read a bit of Gloria Steinem’s Revolution from Within, which I found on one of my dutiful visits to my local Goodwill. It’s pretty interesting. The story about the Royal Knights of East Harlem was really moving.

I plan to listen to another chunk of Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity to get some health tips. See Derek Sivers’ notes on it.

Flirting with starting

Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest (1996)

by David Foster Wallace

#reviews #books #fiction #literature Mentioned in what I'm doing now, Sing Backwards and Weep (2020), what I'm doing now

My first attempt to review a book while I read it instead of waiting until I finish it.

YEAR OF GLAD

Main character: (new) Hal Incandenza, reading savant and tennis prodigy.

I’d actually listened to this chapter on audiobook years ago. My friend Jon told me about this book long ago, before I knew of its literary renown (or its notoriety as a status symbol for intellect-signalers.) I remembered it being funny and very absurd. Indeed it is.

Wallace’s descriptions are inventive.

..the air of the room, the bits of dust and sportcoat-lint stirred around by the AC’s vents dancing jaggedly in the slanted plane of windowlight, the air over the table like the sparkling space just above a fresh-poured seltzer.

Another bit stuck in my mind is his description of the conference room being “double-windowed against the November heat.” It’s late fall in the US, but it’s hot? This is said in the third sentence of the first chapter, laying down the first brick of mounting absurdity. Or maybe I just don’t know US climate that well.

My only problem with this chapter is that it’s hard to keep track of all the characters and names. I prefer being able to picture the correct number of people. I don’t think quantity is the problem though, because I am quite content, for example, keeping track of the dozens of characters in The Sopranos. I am much more comfortable doing it with visuals.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT

Main character: (new) Erdedy, isolated man with marijuana addiction.

I enjoyed this chapter more, I think because it was much easier to follow, but also probably because I read it when I had a lot of mental energy.

I assume Wallace’s obsessive personality and problems with addiction helped him create this very vivid scene where Erdedy meticulously arranges another “final” binge of marijuana, junk food, action movies, and masturbation. Wallace uses transparent narration and stream-of-consciousness to put us inside Erdedy’s head. It feels like we have access to the character’s thoughts because they flit between subjects without transition:

He had not sat down and outright bold-faced lied to her, it had been more of an impression he’d conveyed and nurtured and allowed to gather its own life and force. The insect was now entirely visible. It was on the shelf that held his digital equalizer. What looked like its reemergence might just have been a change in his attention or the two windows’ light or the visual context of his surroundings. The girder protruded from the wall and was a triangle of dull steel with holes for shelves to fit into. The metal shelves that held his audio equipment were painted a dark industrial green and were originally made for holding canned goods. They were designed to be extra kitchen shelves. The insect sat inside its dark shiny case with an immobility that seemed like the gathering of a force, it sat like the hull of a vehicle from which the engine had been for the moment removed. It was dark and had a shiny case and antennae that protruded but did not move. He had to use the bathroom. His last piece of contact from the appropriation artist, with whom he had had intercourse, and who during intercourse had sprayed some sort of perfume up into the air from a mister she held in her left hand as she lay beneath him making a wide variety of sounds and spraying perfume up into the air, so that he felt the cold mist of it settling on his back and shoulders and was chilled and repelled, his last piece of contact after he’d gone into hiding with the marijuana she’d gotten for him had been a card she’d mailed that was a pastiche photo of a doormat of coarse green plastic grass with WELCOME on it and next to it a flattering publicity photo of the appropriation artist from her Back Bay gallery, and between them an unequal sign, which was an equal sign with a diagonal slash across it, and also an obscenity he has assumed was directed at him magisculed in red grease pencil along the bottom, with multiple exclamation points.

All throughout, ideas branch off in unorganized directions.

The redundant descriptions – like the insect’s dark, shiny case and the woman spraying perfume up into the air – suggest what the character is focusing on, in his head. Particular details like these make their corresponding images more vivid not only for the reader, but also for the character whose mind we are seeing them through.

The excerpt above is only a fragment of a paragraph four pages in length, which follows a paragraph almost five pages in length. These two uninterrupted streams of thought have the effect of submerging us in Erdedy’s neurotic consciousness as he waits for and obsesses over an expected delivery of marijuana.

1 APRIL – YEAR OF THE TUCKS MEDICATED PAD

Main character: (recurring) Hal Incandenza, reading savant and tennis prodigy.

Another funny and absurd scene featuring Hal. Confusingly, in this one, he is articulate and witty. There is reference but no evidence of his being nonverbal.

Following his dad’s instruction, Hal meets with a self-proclaimed “professional conversationalist”, who is obtuse and confrontational and who turns out to be Hal’s dad in poor disguise.

A slightly annoying aspect of this chapter is that it jumps between seemingly random topics with no apparent point.

Hal’s dad says something about his wife cheating with lots of people.

For some reason, Hal calls his dad ‘Himself’ and his mom ‘the Moms’.

In this chatper there is first mention of some topics that come up in later chapters, including a medical attaché and Byzantine erotica. There’s also mention of Quebec, which, unless I’m hallucinating, is also mentioned once, in a throwaway comment, in the first chapter.

9 MAY – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT

Main character: (recurring) Hal Incandenza, reading savant and tennis prodigy.

Hal packs his tennis bag in the darkness of 6am. The phone rings and wakes Hal’s brother and roommate, Mario. A brief, mysterious phone call from Orin (new character). Hal seems unbothered.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT

Main character: (new) medical attaché, special ear-nose-throat consultant to the personal physician of Prince Q—-, the Saudi Minister of Home Entertainment.

Another funny and absurd chapter. Our anonymous main character’s job is tending to the yeasty sores that regularly break out on Prince Q—-‘s face due to his compulsive consumption of Toblerone. The doctor earned his post because he’s so skilled in dealing with the condition:

A veritable artist, possessed of a deftness nonpareil with cotton swab and evacuation-hypo, the medical attaché is known among the shrinking upper classes of petro-Arab nations as the DeBakey of maxillofacial yeast, his staggering fee-scale as wholly ad valorem

His work, however, is so exhausting that every night he follows the same decompression routine – an unsettling variation on the familiar TV dinner routine – that his servant-wife orchestrates.

He reclines before the viewer in his special electronic recliner, and his black-veiled, ethnically Arab wife wordlessly attends him, loosening any constrictive clothing, adjusting the room’s lighting, fitting the complexly molded dinner tray over his head so that his shoulders support the tray and allow it to project into space just below his chin, that he may enjoy his hot dinner without having to remove his eyes from whatever entertainment is up and playing.

This chapter and Erdedy’s earlier chapter are my favorites so far. (Maybe I enjoy detailed scenes that focus on a single character?)

PS – This man must be somehow relevant to Himself’s mention of medical attachés that the Moms supposedly had affairs with?

YEAR OF THE TRIAL-SIZE DOVE BAR

Main characters: (new) Wardine and (new) Bruce Green.

It consists of two, unrelated vignettes of unfortunate people living pitiful lives.

First vignette – Wardine is a teenage girl who is being horribly abused by her mother and uncle. The characters in this vignette are coded as being black and from a poor area. They talk in really basic pidgin English. It’s uncomfortable to read.

Second vignette – Bruce Green is a high school student who manages to attract the attention of a “fatally pretty” classmate, Mildred Bonk. He gets her pregnant and they drop out of school to live in a housetrailer with their baby and three other people, one of whom keeps “several large snakes in unclean unconvered aquaria.”

The most unexpected chapter so far. Inexplicable by itself.

YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT

Main character: (recurring) Hal Incandenza, reading savant and tennis prodigy.

Hal chats with his older brother Mario. Even though Hal is younger, the dynamic is palpably reverse. Mario asks lots of questions and Hal calls Mario Booboo. Mario asks Hal why he doesn’t believe in God if he is so good at tennis. Hal says:

God seems to have a kind of laid-back management style I’m not crazy about. I’m pretty much anti-death. God looks by all accounts to be pro-death. I’m not seeing how we can get together on this issue.

Mario then asks why the Moms didn’t get sad about Himself’s death. Hal tries to persuade Mario that she is sad, but Hal doesn’t seem sure of it either.

The chapter ends with reference to the medical attaché, who is watching an unmarked video that was delivered to him seemingly by mistake.

OCTOBER – YEAR OF THE DEPEND ADULT UNDERGARMENT

Orin. Perhaps he lives in the same condo complex as Erdedy?

. I don’t have a very good reason to do so, though. So we’ll see.

TV

The Sopranos for the second time. Amazed at the writing, once again. They follow so many characters and develop so many dynamics at the same time. Many story lines don’t build to a climax and exist instead to develop characters and prepare future story lines. Some just exist because they’re true to life. Like when Carmela and Tony struggle to keep their rebellious daughter in check.

Couples Therapy, season 3. So insightful and fascinating. Orna is an amazing therapist.

Welcome to Wrexham, season 2. I don’t think any other show has made me cry as much as this one, and I don’t think it’s because I love soccer so much. The show has so much heart.

Movies

Rewatched Roma and Coco with my wife, who hadn’t seen either, while we were in Mexico. I love doing activities that thematically or topically match other things I’m doing in life.


What’s next?

File my wife’s green card papers.

Keep reading, keep writing. Holidays are great for this. Or so I always think.

Keep improving the design of this website. Allow people to subscribe via RSS and email. Add ‘last updated’ timestamp per post. Tweak padding in title-subtitle-date-tags section of posts.

Keep losing weight. Not so great for this, holidays. Or so people say.

Holidays in Victoria. Time with family and friends.