31 July 2006


the futility of urban living #4
the d.m.v. queue

[click image above to watch ]

The title for today's post comes from the sign above the number queue at the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Sometimes one simply must love the bureaucrat's usage of the English language.

30 July 2006


Today the wife and I indulged in one of those classic American activities: The County Fair. Since it is late and I am tired, I shall forgo extensive commentary for the evening, leaving the more philosophic reflections on this cultural event until tomorrow.

Tonight, though, I give you the highlights of our slice of America in video form.

Just click on each of the images below to experience, well, the experience.

The Tilt-A-Whirl

The Swing Ride

The Mixer

The Really Big Slide

The Demolition Derby

29 July 2006


I, dear reader, have a confession to make. It relates to something you may already suspect, but I feel it is perhaps time to get this out in the open. I, the narrator that is, am a fiction. No, not entirely so, as in being completely non-existent, but certainly I cannot be said to exist. But, I must admit, I am something of an invention, though the identity of the inventor, I must say, is equally problematic; since I cannot but help speak here for that inventor.

Thus, you see the problem I am facing – though I chuckle to myself a little at this phrase, at this I that I keep claiming for myself, at the thought of actually coming face-to-face with anything. But, then again, I cannot help but claim to be an I; it is, perhaps, all that I have.

To borrow once again from dear Virginia “‘I’ is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being.” And similarly I implore you, dear reader, to be cautious around me. Do not treat me as nobody, for I am far from that, but be ever vigilant in your awareness that I, too, have “no real being.”

At times – here comes the Woolf again – “Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them, it is for you to seek out this truth…” I – and perhaps this is both I the narrator and I the author this time – wish that dear Dr. S were here with her long-studied expertise in the field of the auto/biographical. I am sure she would have ready at hand any number of illuminating comments on the subject. Or, if the wife were readily available she might offer further insight on the relationship of author to narrator to character when all three are purportedly invested in a singular personage.

But, alas dear reader, you are left with me, that dubious I, to justify my presence here, to explain my relationship to this word I use so readily: I. I find it difficult to inform you precisely as to who I am, of what exact admixture of person and personification comes together to establish me, that is I.

Perhaps, though, I can offer a modicum of insight into what I am not. First off, I am not me, by which I mean him, that author writing through me, or of me, or perhaps just writing me. I am not not him, but he, most certainly is not me.

Unlike good old Ralph Waldo, I am not nothing; I do not see all; the currents of Universal Being do not circulate through me; I am neither part nor particle of God. Whatever it is that I may be, in this oblique state of being that I may be considered to possess, I most certainly have never imagined myself a “transparent eye-ball.” It is impossible that I could ever transcend my role as narrator; it is what I am written to be. I am not Being itself, but a variable vehicle for ideas that are other than me, though, unlike dear Ralph Waldo, there is nothing transparent about me; I am resolutely opaque.

But, dear reader, there are every so many things that I am not, most specifically, in that I am not, I am not, in fact, the author himself. I would not know, nor could I properly conceive of, how I would even begin such a project as being my own author, if such a thing could ever be done.

I am that which is written, for one purpose or another, but I am never, as far as I can tell, ever transparently me, by which I mean him. Or, more accurately, the I that I am is never, and never can be, the selfsame self as he that is writing this me. I am sure there is a nearly endless array of configurations of I, me, he, and us that I could be written into bringing forth, but I imagine – is this an imagined imagining? – that you have, by now, gathered my meaning. Thus, I invite you to continue reading me, as you have assumedly done before, and to know that you are quite definitely reading me, though never quite reading of me.

Note: According to One Letter Words: A Dictionary, it has been “reported that the less one uses the first-person pronoun, the less one’s risk of coronary heart disease.” I find this rather distressing since, in this space, I am little more than I, and cannot but refer to myself as such.

28 July 2006


I have been greatly troubled by this whole I/We thing as of late, by how it is that one fits into the world, performs that subtle transition from the singular to the plural, transmutes from this individual to a part of a group, class, or genus of things. This seems to be the pervading question of my world, both on the personal level and in terms of my nearly incessant watching of CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN or whatever other news outlet I can actually find broadcasting something worthy of calling news.

If you haven’t gathered this about me yet, dear reader, I worry. Plain and simple, I am prone to anxious fretting, circular thinking, and continual pacing in small rooms while putting in more futile effort than should reasonably be expended over the smallest of details and/or things profoundly out of my control. Someday I will surely be that grandmother who worries that you have not had enough to eat ever after your fourth helping of stuffing at Thanksgiving.

[Biology issues aside – as they should be – I think it inevitable that I shall be among the dearest of grandmothers. I shall probably even learn to knit slippers.]

But, back to the point of today’s writing…

It amazes me how poorly adapted humanity seems to be – whether through millions of years of evolutionary process or by “the Measurer’s might and his mind-plans,” as Cædmon would have it – to transcending the gap between I and We. And no, dear reader, this is not a flaw I would only impute to only those others around me. No, I too confess the singular difficulty I have with this act of pluralization.

Certainly this is nothing new, not even in my own activity. It has perhaps been the central occupation of my, well, occupation for nearly a decade now. But, as of late, it has again returned to the fore. Why is it that we, I included, are so bad at being We?

Sure, one could chalk it all up to power, economics, belief, fear, any number of these much written about concerns that are manifest in the struggle to become a We. But, why then, do I seem to be so bad at it individually. These concerns are already on the order of the We: religions, monetary systems, land-claims and ownership, governments and their purview, all of these already presuppose We, and usually vast systems and substructures of We. Am I as awful as I am at talking to people on the phone because of the economic disparities between classes, or due to some set of schisms within accepted articles of faith initiated centuries before my birth? If not – and I find these unlikely causes for my stutteringly feeble efforts at We formation – then why should they be accepted as root causes at the larger level?

Perhaps this is the old Husserlian training, with its perpetual need to bracket things off, returning like an undesired Santa Claus dropping off neat little presents of doubt in my stockings, but in the process of pacing off my hour or so of laps around this small apartment I cannot help but wonder what lies beneath, what may be common to, all of the difficulties of becoming a We.

We certainly seem to have a solid grasp on the basics of being I – at least I do. I am not talking about those existential questions that are best left to metaphysicians, or of the complexities of ego formation surrounding the loss of a childhood toy. No, I refer to those basic concerns that I have, or, better yet, that are required to be I.

For example: right now I want a cup of coffee. Hence, I must get up and get the necessary things to achieve this goal and perform the requisite actions to bring this about. I have already established, in this simple process, a wide array of activities and understandings that presuppose and bring about a highly effective I. Not so hard, eh?

Why is it, then, that when We want to get coffee – whoever that We may consist of, but assuming that part of that We is I – it becomes a minor production often including costuming, makeup, and many rounds of script revision?

Yes, yes. You can bring up the whole mind-of-the-other problem. Obviously this is a complexity that makes We formation problematic. And of course social and cultural pressures come to bear. All of that brings us back to power, money, fear, etc., but brings us no closer to explaining why we are so poorly made for the task of being We.

You see, dear reader, that is what I want to know. Why are we so ill-constructed when it comes to becoming We that we must resort to bomb-dropping, name-calling, or, in my case, neurotic hand-wringing while wearing the finish off of the floor-boards in the course of pacing yet another mile of laps around this room?

You see, if it were a case where I thought that I was particularly bad at performing the leap from I to We, and the rest of you, dear readers, were somehow expert – not that I wish to impugn your individual social skills, I am sure you are quite popular and the apple of everyone’s eye – then I would readily separate these two concerns, that of why I, any I really, am so ill-suited to become part of a We, and why we are seemingly even worse at producing those even larger systems of We. But, since I seem to be doing every bit as crappy a job at it as We are, collectively speaking, I cannot help but look either skyward or back to those amoeboid ancestors with a complaint or two about our general construction.

Perhaps if we took to beginning every conversation with a confession of awkwardness things would go a little better, or preceded every act of We with an admission of ineptitude, then things might go along a wee bit effectively. Actually, that might not be such a bad idea. How about it? What if we were to call for, say, an International Day of Ungainliness? Perhaps a UN resolution to that effect? Sure, it may slow things down a little bit, but would that really be such a travesty? Perhaps we would end up with one less sexist commercial, one fewer grenade propelled at another I in negative We construction, and one more sweatless palm extended in the process of a handshake.

Alas, I know this to be a futile endeavor; otherwise I might have ceased leaving my chair in order to pace in ever-shrinking circles throughout the process of dispatching this missive and attempted something more likely to bring about such an effort – perhaps a phone call to the UN. But, alas, it seems inevitable that the weapon launching shall continue, as, assuredly, shall my own personal awkwardness over the course of our continued inadequacy at becoming We.

Regardless of any larger, nay global, effort to bring this about, I, dear reader, wish to confess to you in advance of any further communication that I am not so sure of my skills when it comes to the whole Us thing. And no, this isn’t the precursor to an uncomfortable “it isn’t you; it’s me” breakup – we have never really thought about each other in that way, have we dear reader. Much to the contrary, I intend to keep trying despite this unavoidable gangliness – verbal and otherwise – to move beyond this fragile frame, to become We, even when you don’t call me when you promise to, or ignore me when you see me in a parking lot, or even if you, for some strange reason I cannot even begin to imagine, decide you simply must launch a rocket or two.

You may ask, dear reader, what this all has to do with yesterday’s photo of a sign fragment on a derelict brick wall near the Utica DMV. Not much really, other than the coincidence of its last three letters further impressing the first-person plural conjugation of to be into my mind, thus prompting me to finally write out some of the nearly perpetual discourse going in circles within my brain as of late.

27 July 2006

I AM. WE...

More on this topic tomorrow...

26 July 2006


At last, I have finally found an issue about which I agree with the president. I am loath to admit this, but it is true. In vetoing the recently passed stem cell research bill George Bush has finally begun to make some sense. No, not for the specific application to stem cell research – I must admit I am a supporter of both stem cell research and a woman’s right to choose – but because, in his justification for his veto, he has finally said something I can whole-heartedly get behind.

In explaining his decision to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 President Bush stated, “If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And I'm not going to allow it.” If we read “human embryos” as human life – as I cannot help but do based on his past presidential proclamations – then I wholeheartedly stand behind the president’s words. I too believe it is unconscionable to use taxpayer dollars – my tax dollars – to fund the “deliberate destruction” of human life.

No longer should my taxes be used to pay for the execution of prisoners; not another one of my tax dollars ought be spent on new and innovative military systems designed to more efficiently kill other human beings. At last the president has stepped forward and made official what I have been saying since I first became aware of the taxes I was paying.

I concur with Press Secretary Tony Snow as well – I was shocked, dear reader, to find myself in agreement with the ex-Fox News mouthpiece. But when he confirmed that President Bush indeed believes that it is “inappropriate for the federal government to finance something that many people consider murder,” I nearly jumped for joy. If this was not a explicit recognition that support for this and any future acts of war is unethical, then I don’t know what is.

At last, I have a reason to be proud of the American presidency, or at least I have a statement that does not force me to shrink beneath the shame when faced with its manifestations of power. And I, dear reader, implore you to join with me in support of this new policy in opposition to the destruction of human life.

This surely must signal the dawn of a new era of peaceful engagement with the world around us, must present a future stretching before us in which we settle our disputes though civilized means, must herald, at last, a world in which the military-industrial complex will once and for all be replaced with socially beneficial programs and initiatives. Finally, the president has come to his senses and stood up in support of peace and the value of all human life…

Oh crap. I was dreaming, wasn’t I?

The killing is going to continue unabated, isn’t it?

But at least those unwanted embryos are safe from those merciless and murderous scientists.

25 July 2006


Finally, dear reader, things have returned to normal – whatever that may be. The wife and I are settled in to the new temporary abode and external communications have been re-established. Hence, I shall resume my earlier practice of writing, the one so attentively followed before the fixated ramblings about real estate miseries.

Though, as I sit down to write, I find it once again difficult to write, as though some practiced muscle memory has been forgotten. The words feel far more elusive than they did two months ago, before the world began interfering with my newfound writing space. In fact, I fear I am grown a little afraid of writing, as I was five months ago today when I first started writing here.

Actually, the circumstances seem somehow similar. That first day I was stuck in the apartment – snowed in by a February blizzard – feeling a bit scared to be alone. The wife was off at a conference and I was alone in the apartment for the first time since moving back after the stint in Iowa. My environment, both outside and in, seemed daunting and somehow ominous. I, to put it plainly, was a mite twitchy.

On that night I was frightened because I was snowed into a strange place, but today, as I sit here struggling to induce these words into being meaningful again, I find myself feeling oddly similar. It is not due to the new surroundings of this two-room apartment; it is more elemental than that. While the environment is no longer foreign – quite the opposite, it may be too familiar if anything – I again find that all too present tic that alerts me to my own discomfort.

As I am attempting to write today I find myself taking frequent breaks to forestall the awkward battle with syntax and grammar by reading Virgina Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” A while back, as the walls of the last apartment were closing in on me, a good friend – the one you, dear reader, may know as the Houseguest – suggested I read this essay. And, perhaps, my using it to defer writing only underscores my affinity Woolf’s assertion regarding women and fiction, that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

You see, at the moment I have neither of these. In this case I mean that I have neither money nor a room of my own, but I suppose I also do not fulfill the bases for Woolf’s writing in that I am neither a woman nor am I particularly attempting to write fiction, though that is a word – fiction – that I am never quite sure about. Or, more to the point, I am seldom positive whether or not I am writing fiction, whether I intend to or not, or rather, whether I can help it or not.

Though, perhaps I should not be writing about this anxiety that I feel. You, dear reader, may be someone looking to employ me, or might be some day down the road. Perhaps it would be inopportune for you to read of my doubt, of this tremble I feel when I sit down to write, of the paralysis that overcomes my limbs as I worry myself sick in cycles of self-censorship because of what you might think of me and the fact that I internalize my unemployment so.

But no, this writing is not meant to be a diary. I don’t think my anxiety is any of your business, nor do I believe it is of any particular interest, in and of itself. But today it is my writing: that is, the very act of writing this afternoon is so fraught with doubt that my very fingers jitter to the point that I am finding it difficult to hit the “I” instead of the “U” on my keyboard.

It is not that I have no money, or that I have no room, but they are not my own; I am reliant upon another for this space, this keyboard, these words. It is not that I wish for anything that is wholly my own: a super-individuality, a hyper-possession, or some ur-ego space; I have quite happily attached myself to another with whom I wish to share my life, my things, my space. I do not wish to make a complaint; my life, by all reasonable standards, is rather extraordinary, in fact. But there resides within me this doubt, this concern, a lingering need for that room of my own, or at the least to contribute to the retention thereof.

But now I fear I veer too close to complaint yet again. This is not about my feelings of fiscal impotence; today I write about writing as I return to writing again. More and more I find myself conflating my career concerns with my writing, exerting a pressure from the former upon the latter, and it is not just my fretting whether you, dear reader, may have some form of authority that you could lord over me, or that you may think less of me for these lapses in resolve and manly bearing. Now I find myself sitting down to write with pretensions, or at least ambitions. Perhaps this or that piece will be The One. As I shape out a thought, a sentence, I wonder if this one might be publishable, and if that might be enough to alter the direction of the path I am on—not that I can see particularly well where that path currently leads.

But here I am anyway, stutteringly pressing forward with rebellious fingers and uncertain mind, writing. The room will come, as will, undoubtedly, the ability to contribute. I will remember how to write; I will grow far nimbler in thought and act. The anxiety will pass and new ones will rise before me for reasons that have little to do with any particular job or room. Today, though, I will focus simply on finding the right letters on the keyboard.

24 July 2006


the futility of urban living #3
intersection anxiety

[click image above to watch ]

This one can be an endurance challenge, but, then again, so can my anxiety. I also suggest to turn the volume up for this one.

21 July 2006


So, the wife and I woke up on Saturday morning, at the start of our sixth year of marriage, in what I now call the interregnum apartment. The Houseguest – the remarkable and altogether fascinating character that he is – was safely snuggled under blankets in his bed/couch in the guest bedroom/living room/dining room/office/library. All that remained was a bit of tidying in the old apartment. Thus, we breakfasted, gave the old place a quick scrub final pack up, and we packed our bags and took off for Ithaca. We decided it was time to visit some friends and get away form it all.

I shall largely gloss over the trip – which was entirely pleasant even though it was dotted by a steady influx of anxiety on my part. I shall make brief note of the fact that I soundly defeated both the wife and the Houseguest at a Johnny Depp-themed miniature golf course. Actually it was a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque thing, but, when it really comes down to the essentials, isn’t Johnny what matters?

But, on Monday, the three of us found our way home to return, once more, to the realtor’s office to finalize the paperwork on the new house. With only a minimum of grammatical, mathematical, and/or logical assistance for the often inappropriately dressed realtor, the wife and I finalized the contract for the new house, and, assuming the inspection would go well, were on our way to buying a house, yet again.

While we were quite happy about having a new house to look forward to, the outstanding issues with the Douche-Nozzle were still nagging at us. Exactly how much money were we going to end up losing because of the Douche-Nozzle and the Ass-Clown? How long was all of this crap – legal filings, subpoenas, court dates, etc., etc. – going to take us? What would happen if something went wrong? And, of course, the ever popular favorite, with its assumptions of metaphysical interventions, why us?

But, dear reader, Tuesday brought a ray of sunshine – on top of the continuing radiance of the Houseguest with his glorious visage and countenance – into our lives. You see, beyond all expectation, the wife and I received a phone call Tuesday morning informing us that the Douche-Nozzle had, finally, signed the release that would free us from the damnable contract. All we had to do was swing by the unremitting Ass’s office – for all of you not paying close attention, that would be the Douche-Nozzle’s realtor – to sign the document as well and the sword of Damocles would disappear in one of the puffs of smoke only seen in pre-anime cartoons.

We are not quite sure why he had chosen to sign at this point. The wife called the Litigator to inform him that we no longer have to go through with the protracted court proceedings and their associated Law and Order melodrama. While she did not actually talk to the Litigator himself – or as we had begun calling him at this point, Fat Tony [it should be noted that he isn’t actually fat, but once in a phone call he referred to himself as “the Gravedigger” with reference to his litigious prowess] – his secretary was surprised since she would not have expected Fat Tony’s threatening letters to have arrived yet. Perhaps the letter arrived more rapidly than could normally be expected of the postal service, perhaps the Douche-Nozzle simply came to his senses, but, just maybe – and this is how I like to think of it – my phone call to that recalcitrant Ass of a realtor had some effect. I have no evidence to particularly support this, but, since I feel compelled to hold on to some sense that I am not entirely impotent, I shall believe that I scared the hitherto contumacious Ass, thus causing him to apply pressure to the Douche-Nozzle.

[As I now fear that these characters’ nicknames are producing an unfortunate linguistic situation, I shall quickly move on.]

On Wednesday the wife and I went to the Ass’s office, walked in, and explained why we were there. The receptionist gruffly shoved the release forward and requested our signature. We both signed the release and expected to receive our Good Faith Deposit check in return. After we stood there for a silent moment, we inquired of the seemingly disinterested receptionist about the thousand-dollar check that should now be released from escrow. She informed us that the Check-Writing Lady – whoever the hell she is – is out of the office, so we shall simply have to wait until later to get the check because she is the only one capable of authorizing checks, or perhaps the only one there who can write. Another silent moment transpired before we finally asked the obvious question: “Do you know when she will be in the office?” A bit of confused discussion in the office ensued, and we were finally told that she should be in on Friday.

We left, some what pissed. We left a message with our realtor. We moved on with the rest of our appointed rounds. As we drove about doing this and that we discussed a peculiar element of the release with the Houseguest. You see, dear reader, the Douche-Nozzle had apparently signed the release several weeks earlier, but had only deemed it necessary to fax it in that Monday. Why all of a sudden? Why the delay? Between the three of us – the wife, the Houseguest, and I – the only definitive conclusion is that he is, well, a Douche-Nozzle.

That night, the three of us took a small adventure to the local casino – the Turning Stone Casino and Resort. To be honest, it was surprisingly nice. We had an enjoyable dinner at the Chinese restaurant at the casino – probably the best in the area, though rather overpriced. We went on to gamble, and each lost twenty dollars playing video poker. At one point I was up ten dollars, but then got reckless and lost it all. But, seeing as that was exactly what I anticipated, I was pleased with the several hours of entertainment garnered for my twenty bucks. The wife experienced what would probably be best described as an unabashed losing streak. The Houseguest, on the other hand, had “a system,” but nonetheless lost his twenty dollars as well. [Further information on “the system” can only be supplied, alas, by the Houseguest himself.]

The real tragedy of the evening, though, was that by the time we had completed our flirtation with the life of a gambler, the casino’s pastry shoppe had closed for the evening and we were left with no dessert. Mmmm… Yummy, yummy dessert.

The next day we rose to a phone call from our realtor informing us that the check was waiting to be picked up at the evil real estate agency's offices at our convenience. Assumedly she had made a call and things were done. Huzzah, at last, for the slightly tartish realtor. But, alas, this was also the Houseguest’s last day. So, we struck out on our way, stopping by that unholy office where we were silently and brusquely handed our thousand-dollar check, which we immediately deposited, not trusting the long-term validity of anything the uncooperative Ass or his associates did. Early that evening, we sadly dropped the Houseguest off at the airport, a moment that was attended by much weeping, wailing, and rending of hair on the behalf of the wife and me, and, alas, our lives have not been the same. Why have you left us, Houseguest? Why?

But that pretty much brings us up to date. The house made it through inspection with a minimum of fuss. The wife and I just received the final inspection report this morning, and we must discuss the final details of the contract with the realtor this afternoon. There are only a few, minor things that we would like to have taken care of. Thus, it seems that everything is moving forward with the new home. [Though, now that I have said that, the seller will most likely go crazy and screw everything up. Thus, dear reader, I wish you to once again cross those fingers until further notice.]

Hence we come to the end of the Saga of Real Estate Woe. Perhaps, since it seems to have turned out well in the end, it does not properly qualify as a Saga of Woe, but, seeing that there was certainly a rather higher than average quantity of woe racked up during the short duration of this Saga, I feel that special dispensation is due, and that the Saga of Woe status is due to this tale.

So hopefully, dear reader, we shall move into our new home by the First of October, and once we do a bit of landscaping, apply a new coat of paint to the exterior [the color of which we have generally determined: a nice turquoise-ish color for the second floor], and give the kitchen a bit of a remodel, we shall have a quite wonderful home in which to live, and, if you are indeed among those we call friends, you will be more than welcome to come over for a cookout, or dinner, or perhaps a weekend visit.

Thus ends the Saga of Real Estate Woe, except for the much sought after Appendix from the perspective of that universally acclaimed character: the Houseguest. I, along with you, I am sure, dear reader, await said Appendix with bated breath. But, until then, the Saga closes.

19 July 2006


Ever have one of those days when you play fourteen consecutive hours of computer solitaire, when it gets to the point that you can only hope to remember how to blink, when you can only vaguely manage a meaningful grunt in reply to the questions in your own head?

I can now say that I have.

Eventually, though, I shall fall asleep – probably face down on this infernal keyboard – and hopefully reclaim my soul from that wicked game while I dream.

Alas, for now I must figure out which of those damned red queens to play.

Just a few more games, I promise.

18 July 2006


Late last night, after posting yesterday’s segment of this Saga of Real Estate Woe, the wife informed me that I am getting a few of the dates and detail a bit off. It is not that events are fabricated, but, perhaps, the sequence is not as strictly accurate as one would hope for in an ideal historical model. This is how chaotic those first few days following that fateful Friday really were. Activities, problems, decisions, and pretty much everything else were a gigantic blur even as we were living them. There are even chunks of activity one or the other of us simply do not recall.

Thus, dear reader, I present this disclaimer: although the absolute veracity of this history is not necessarily precise, it does, I hope, capture essential events and relationships as well as the sense of the emotional state in which the wife and I were existing while the Saga was unfolding around us.

I have also somehow failed to mention the fact that during these early stages of the Saga of Real Estate Woe the wife and I were being visited by my mother and my new stepfather – a man I was meeting for the first time. They were originally expecting to stay with us in our new home – as was the soon to be arriving Houseguest – but they instead stayed in their RV at a campground forty-five minutes away.

Thus, for the four days the mother and the new stepfather were with us they spent most of their time stuffed into the backseat of my car as the wife and I drove from appointment to appointment, house to house, crisis to crisis. Much to their credit, they were exceptionally understanding – they even departed a day early to make more room for our efforts. But, it must be said, it was certainly a bit of an odd circumstance leading to rather unique phrases like “Pardon me, would you, new step-daddy, I have to talk to this lawyer a moment about suing a Douche-Nozzle in Syracuse.”

That said, I move onward to what I think of now as Stage Two of the Saga: the Houseguest and the new house. In many ways this period moved far more smoothly than we could have expected based on the previous week. Stage Two of the Saga essentially covers the second week of the story – in fact it is rather impressive how closely this Saga traces calendric cycles.

Part two of the Saga begins with us, on the morning of Friday June 30th, in our realtor’s office looking at the prices of houses comparable to the “perfect house.” After about a half an hour of this we settled on what we thought was a reasonable offer to make – though, since it was well below the asking price, we did not particularly expect the seller to accept it. But, since the whole real estate buying process is a bit on the odd side, the only way we could find out how serious the seller was about his highly inflated price was to actually write up a contract, this time with an oddly convoluted contingency clause engineered to protect us in some way from vague possibilities of impending legal doom resulting from the contract with the Douche-Nozzle.

That accomplished, there was very little to do other than wait. Much of that weekend was comprised of email and voicemail checks to see if there was any contact from the realtor. By Sunday the seller had made a counter-offer that indicated he was indeed ready to wait perhaps forever for someone to match his asking price, an event that shall probably never happen, but one he is sentimentally tied to in the extreme. [We have it on inside information that there has been a series of offers on that house, most of them probably not too far from our offer, all of which have been rejected.]

Anyway, that taken care of, we were left to prepare for the Houseguest’s arrive – essentially we thought it appropriate to shove some of the boxes into the corners of the apartment so he could have a place to sleep until the move actually began. On Tuesday, the Houseguest arrived, fresh from his own housing woes since he was searching for an apartment in the city he will be moving to shortly. There was a modicum of celebrating, but mostly exhausted falling to sleep that evening.

The next day was a bit of an enforced pause – it was the Fourth of July. Seeing as no one was in their office, there was little that could be done about any of the outstanding issues – i.e. we still wanted to buy a house, and the Douche-Nozzle was still out there somewhere refusing to release us from the now dead contract and thus threatening to interfere with the forward progress of our lives. I am not sure if I am doing a terribly good job in conveying the rather elevated level of background anxiety the Douche-Nozzle situation was causing for the wife and me. Yes, it was in the lawyers’ hands – both the friendly original lawyer and now the Litigator – and there really wasn’t anything in particular the wife and I could do anymore, but it was an omnipresent disturbance. Think of the grimace on Yoda’s face when he senses that some planet or another has exploded, causing a disturbance in the Force.

Anyway, on the Fourth we took the Houseguest to the quaint local fireworks display. As evidence of this pause I offer you these pictures taken that evening.

The next day, with the Houseguest in tow, the wife and I returned once more to the real estate agency to write up yet another purchase offer – this time for the house on Genessee, hopefully the last real estate contract we would be dealing with for quite a while. At this point the whole paperwork process was old hat to us, so we flew through all the signings and initialings, occasionally having to correct or prompt the perhaps less than brilliant realtor.

This contract took on a double bit of intrigue. You see, on top of our needing to make our offer contingent upon successfully getting out of the unresolved contract with the Douche-Nozzle, this seller – Ms. Unrealisitc – did not want to close until two weeks after the still uncertain closing date of the house she was buying. Thus, at the end of this contract session we were armed with a many layered contract which demanded a closing date on or before the first day of October. And this closing-date clause, since we had to be out of the new, temporary two-room apartment we were moving into the next day by mid-October, was a deal-breaker.

That afternoon and evening were spent boxing up possessions with the exceptional assistance of the kind, understanding, and emotionally supportive Houseguest. After a less than adequate night of sleep, early the next morning the wife and I went off to pick up the moving van and began the move. Over the course of the day great progress was made (thanks, again, to said Houseguest and a particularly helpful classicist) and the whole moving into a small two-room apartment thing seemed far from unimaginable – in fact, once all of the furniture was in place, it became evident that the new abode might be quite lovely, even if it did require a bit of a stripped down existence.

About mid-afternoon, though, we received a call from our realtor. Ms. Unrealistic was unwilling to accept the firm closing date clause. She was still insisting on being able to simply sell the house sometime later. When? Sometime between September and January. I, both physically and emotional exhausted, informed the realtor that this was insane, I was sick of the whole process of dealing with Douche-Nozzles and unrealistic twits, and that no, we were not flexible about this need for an actual closing date. I furthermore hinted that the wife and I would be walking away from her services as a real estate agent to find someone I felt to be, well, competent.

The realtor quickly back-pedaled and vowed to work on it and see if anything could be done. Calls would be made, faxes would be checked, perhaps even a church bell or two would be rung in case the Red Coats were coming. I then indulged myself in a bit of a rant in the company of the wife, the Houseguest, and the helpful classicist.

By then end of the day we had essentially moved. There were still a whole lot of things to deal with, mostly boxes and boxes of things – not yet boxed up – to put into storage. But the core of the move was complete and, along with the Houseguest, the wife and I had moved across the street to the new apartment. At midnight that night I gently kissed the wife once and said “Happy Anniversary.” It was now the seventh day of July and it was the fifth anniversary of our wedding. Perhaps this was not how we expected to spend our anniversary, but we were together. Thus, despite all of the complications, there was happiness. Huzzah for the wife!!!

The next morning we awoke late, wished each other happy anniversary again, and headed off to have breakfast in town with the Houseguest. Just after breakfast, as we were perusing the annual book sale on the village green, the realtor called and informed us that the seller had changed her mind and we had a house – assuming that none of the myriad complications reared their ugly heads along the way. But, perhaps, we were getting an anniversary present: a house to buy.

Unfortunately, the seller – Ms. No-Longer-Unrealistic – did not like the us getting out of the other contract clause – who can blame her – thus the wife and I decided to attempt to make contact with the Douche-Nozzle’s realtor to see if there was a way to resolve this without going to court. We stopped by his office; he wasn’t there, so we left a message.

A few hours later he called us back. Let’s just shorthand this since the call, essentially, went to crap. He was an Ass – and I do mean a capital-A Ass, an unremitting Ass – I got pissed, I informed him that we would be filing a grievance with the Board of Realtors against him [we had already contacted them and they felt we definitely had cause for grievance] as well as probably suing him, he call me an imbecile and hung up on me. I ranted and raved again, and then we got back to a bit more work. The wife called the Litigator to get his advice on the problematic safety clause and to update him on my rantings. He was not pleased with my conversation with the Ass – I didn’t particularly care – and he advised us to go ahead and drop the clause from the contract. While this was theoretically dangerous, for all practical purposes the contract with the Douche-Nozzle was dead. So, the wife called our realtor, dropped the offending clause, and we went forward with buying the new house.

Since it was our fifth anniversary, the wife and I called it an early evening and went out for a nice dinner with the Houseguest and celebrated. Thus Stage Two drew to a close. The next day promised a small amount of finishing up in the old apartment, but for all serious purposes we were safely ensconced in the new apartment, and we had entered into an agreement to purchase another house – one that was rather lovely. All that remained to be dealt with was the Douche-Nozzle.

Damn you Douche-Nozzle! Damn you to Hell!

[To be continued…]

17 July 2006


Thus, later that same Friday [see yesterday’s post], the wife and I sat looking at a whole new batch of potential homes, a process that had been so far from our minds only five hours ago. With the scope of our search greatly expanded, we came up with about a dozen prospects to consider as replacements to the home it seemed we were losing. Thus over the next few days we recommenced the process of visiting other people’s homes, of kicking their proverbial tires and sussing out what may have been swept under their carpets.

In the meantime we were frantically searching for ways to resolve our more immediate need: a place to move into, since we had given notice on the apartment we were living in. The wife and I were negotiating several problems on this front as well. First off, we needed a place ASAP; a mere seven days lay between us and our promised departure date. After that we had a larger dilemma: if we still wanted to buy a house, then we needed a short term lease, but no-one in the area seemed to offer anything less than a six-month lease, and those places were all dire little beige boxes. Further, there was the problem of all of our stuff. You see, the wife and I had just made a visit to her mother’s house from which we brought back a large rental truck full of furniture with which we were going to fill our new home, the home we no longer had. This was all in a colleague’s garage – originally it was only supposed to be there for a few days, but now it, along with all of the stuff overflowing our small apartment, was in limbo.

Hence, we seemed to be facing a decision: to buy a house and scramble for temporary housing, or give up the house thing for another year and find a large three-bedroom apartment or house to rent. The wife and I weighed the pros and cons and resolved to find and buy another house. Thus, we were left crossing our fingers and frantically calling the woman in charge of the college’s rental properties. For the past year the wife – and since my arrival, I as well – had been renting a college-owned apartment near campus. Our last best chance was that there would be some unoccupied apartment available for a while in which we could squat.

The Monday following the weekend that followed the woeful Friday was spent trying to make contact on this front while still getting around town to flirt with a few more homes. Monday also developed into a day for serial phone calls with the lawyer, searching to grasp just what was going on with the Douche-Nozzle. Perhaps more than any other day in this unfortunate saga, this day was a process of keeping all of the many balls in the air. Alas, neither of us have terribly impressive juggling skills.

But, at last, we made contact with the property manager and there was indeed an apartment available, at least until mid-October. The only drawback: it had a mere two rooms [assuming we don’t count the galley kitchen and the bathroom, which featured a glass block wall facing the kitchen].

More on the apartment in a while. In the meantime, let us shift over to the lawyer’s office.

Monday brought about the realization that the Douche-Nozzle was positively a Douche-Nozzle. By Monday the evidence showed conclusively that there was no way that he was ever going to be able to sell the house. Unfortunately, being the Douche-Nozzle, he did not want to accept this. So much so that even when his lawyer explained this to him in no uncertain terms, he refused to sign the damned release that would free us from our contractual relationship and let us move on with our lives – as well as return our thousand dollar deposit to us. Yes, that good-Faith deposit we had made when signing the contract was caught in escrow limbo – not his because the sale was not going through, but not ours because the contract had not been terminated.

Making this even worse, the Douche-Nozzle’s lawyer, since the Douche-Nozzle wasn’t listening to or following his advice, had terminated his relationship with the Douche-Nozzle. Thus, we had no longer had a means of contact shy of a subpoena. You see, if the Douche-Nozzle’s lawyer gave us the Douche-Nozzle’s contact info, that would be a breach of ethics and could get him disbarred. Further, if our lawyer contacted the Douche-Nozzle directly, that, apparently, would lead to problems for our lawyer. In other words, the Douche-Nozzle was going silent, with the only remaining means of contact being the listing real estate agent, who, according to our lawyer, was already being a recalcitrant ass.

Pause for a moment to sidestep to the house search.

The search for another house was not going well. We saw many, but only one seemed to have any promise. It was quite lovely, and fit our size and budgetary requirements. Unfortunately the seller – let’s call her Ms. Unrealistic – only wanted to sell the house two weeks after she closed on the house she was buying, the problem being that she did not know when she would close on this other house. To make this simple, she wanted to close some time later. When might that be? Well, later. This was no good, especially since our best apartment hope was one we would have to vacate by the middle of October.

At this point we decided to take a flyer. One afternoon some four months early, in fact the first day we ever looked at houses, we were shown what we called the “perfect house.” It was lovely, but way out of our price range. Late Friday we started considering it. Perhaps we could make it work. A little scrimping here, calling in a few chits there, and maybe, just maybe, it could work. Especially since the house had been on the market for nine months. Surely they would be willing to deal.

At this point it was sometime well after midnight, the wife and I were both exhausted, and we had an appointment to see that college apartment early the next morning. Thus, we shuffled miserably off to bed, though rather happy to fall under the covers and into each other’s arms.

Tuesday morning we scrambled across the street to see the apartment [the major bonus of this place being that the move would only be across the street rather than a couple of towns over]. The apartment was really quite lovely, the rent was cheap, and since the utilities were included would have all the air conditioning one could want through the dire heat of July and August. But, it is amazing how small two rooms are in person, especially when seen by a couple who just six months earlier had two entire households. But, we took the plunge. We signed on the proverbial dotted line and problem number one – avert homelessness – was solved. Huzzah for us!!!

But, alas, the celebration lasted little longer than the time it took to recross the street and return to the other apartment – or as we were calling it by then, the storage facility, since it was half-packed and piled with all manner of stuff. For, when we arrived home, there was a message from the lawyer waiting for us. Things over the past twenty-four hours had continued to spiral downward and he was waiting to hear back about some last ditch possibility for resolving the situation with the Douche-Nozzle. Hence, that afternoon we were in somber spirits as we went off to see the “perfect house” one more time.

We met the realtor – not the recalcitrant ass, but our realtor, the one who is good-intentioned if not the sharpest of tacks – at the house, and it was still the “perfect house.” Though not actually perfect in every way, the name has simply stuck. The problem here was price. It was priced way too high, thus explaining why it was still sitting on the market after nine months. We knew what we thought it was reasonably worth, but that was well under the asking price, and the only way to find out what they would take was to formally write up a contract [our realtor inquired about verbal offers, but they were a no-go].

Therefore, after spending a bit of time wandering through the house’s many “perfect” rooms, the wife and I went off in search of dinner with one of our lovely faculty friends, from whom we sought both solace and advice, and discussed what we should do about the whole house buying thing.

That night, if memory serves me, was a much earlier evening. The exhaustion of the previous days settled in now that the impending homelessness was bypassed, and the wife and I fell into profound slumber, one which led to an unplanned morning of sleeping in because we could not rightly think of any urgent reason to get out of bed that next day.

Eventually we did get up and left the house in search of breakfast and the mail. In doing so, we stopped by the lawyer’s office to check in and, well, everything was shit. The lawyer had done everything he could possibly do and there was nothing for it but to sue the Douche-Nozzle to get out of the contract. This, unfortunately, would lead to great legal expenses with very little likelihood of recouping said expenses, but that was what it came down to. The lawyer, unfortunately, no longer does litigation; thus he referred us to another lawyer in town to take up our cause. All efforts to remain civilized had been expended and now the wife and I were left to join the litigious rabble that overpopulate the streets and the afternoon lineup on the WB or UPN or whatever station it is that has all the People’s Court knock-offs these days.

Thus, Wednesday brought into our lives yet another character – the Litigator – and left us no closer to the resolution of either of our remaining problems, the two of which were becoming ever more entwined. You see, one is ill-advised to enter into a contract for buying a second house when one is still technically entangled in a contract for a first house, no matter how implausible the first one might be. One certainly does not want to risk being stuck with two houses; thus one is best advised to protect oneself somehow when moving forward on another purchase contract, but in doing so one jeopardizes the likelihood of forming a successful second contract. Let me put it this way. How would you feel about accepting an offer on your house with the contingency that the contract is only valid if I can get out of this other crazy legal thingy over here which may or may not be resolved at some unspecified date? You would probably put me over in a group with Ms. Unrealisitc, wouldn’t you?

Wednesday came to a close without a great deal of promise for the future, but at least we did not have to move the next day. The property manager at the college had called to let us know that we could stay in our apartment an extra ten days before we had to move. Thus the wife and I shared a collective sigh of relief and began to ready ourselves for the impending arrive of our first houseguest, or at least intended houseguest. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that a dear friend – henceforth called the Houseguest – was scheduled to be the first person to visit our new home and stay with us for a week and a half. Instead, he would be spending his visit helping us frantically move and crashing on our futon in first a small, and then a smaller, apartment.

[To be continued…]

16 July 2006


It all began on a seemingly harmless Friday – the twenty-third of June, in fact. After a bit of a hassle, the wife and I had finally obtained our homeowners’ insurance binder. While we were confused as to what this actually was – perhaps a Trapper Keeper? – we eventually ascertained that it is just a promise to insure the home to be purchased. Thus, armed with said binder, the wife and I strolled hand in hand to our lawyer’s office to arrange for the much-anticipated closing date for the purchase of our first home.

I do not mean to intimate that this has been a process without the occasional hiccup – the seller disappeared for a while and took forever getting agreed-upon repairs done to the front porch – but, we both thought, all was ready to go and we were prepared to move into our new home the next week.

We had already given notice to our landlord that we would be vacating our apartment at the end of the month, and the hassles with the bank – a hitherto unmentioned mandatory five-day wait for a closing date, as though we were purchasing a firearm – and some annoyances with the homeowners’ insurance – the company I had been with for years had problems with the difference between the house’s selling price versus the cost to rebuild it, as though we were purchasing it with the intent of arson – left us with precious few days remaining to close and move in.

Thus, the wife and I were both jubilant and a bit on edge as we walked into the lawyer’s office on that fateful Friday. Little did we know, as the lawyer requested we sit down, what was to come to pass. Even as he began the meeting with telling us about the PBS series he had been watching the past two evenings – a special on doctors who have to tell parents that their children have terminal illnesses – we remained unprepared and simply commented that that must be awful, in no way connecting this show with our plight.

And then it happened.

When we asked how early in the next week we might be able to close, the lawyer told us that we had a problem. We threw our hands up in exasperation at another possible delay, and asked how much longer it might take. The lawyer leaned back in his chair, opened our now rather large file, and exhaled a long, slow “Well…”

That is when it began to sink in, and we entered into the saga of real estate woe.

It was at this point, dear reader, that the lawyer explained to us that the seller – henceforth to be referred to as the Douche-Nozzle – did not in fact have marketable title, and was thus unable to sell the house. Or, more accurately, our title insurance company found some serious problems with the title history that rendered it uninsurable despite the fact that the Douche-Nozzle’s lawyer had done a title search and had somehow missed the gigantic, enormous, problem that was now staring us in the face.

For those of you who hate details, now might be an appropriate time to avert your eyes. Indeed the next few moments in the lawyer’s office felt rather too similar to that scene in Raiders of the Lost Arc with all the melting faces and the wrath of the Lord and the suffering and misery and all. You see Douche-Nozzle has a partner – let’s call him Ass-Clown – and in late 2004 Ass-Clown transferred his half of the ownership of what was to be our house to the Douche-Nozzle, purportedly in return for receiving 27,000 dollars. At the same time the Douche-Nozzle took out another mortgage on the house for 54,000 dollars, and shortly thereafter the Ass-Clown declared bankruptcy.

In theory this is okay, except that the Ass-Clown did not declare the 27,000 dollars he supposedly received in exchange for his half of the house as an asset when he declared bankruptcy; thus it seems that the title was transferred to the Douche-Nozzle to shield the house from bankruptcy proceedings. This, unfortunately, is a squinch illegal. Between the transfer of title and the bankruptcy there is a missing 27,000 dollars and thus bankruptcy fraud that directly impacts the status of the house. In order to clear the title, the bankruptcy must be reopened, but if it were reopened, the bankruptcy trustee would most likely take possession of the house and sell it off to recoup the money due to the creditors involved in the Ass-Clown’s bankruptcy.

Thus, the wife and I found ourselves in a situation where we could not buy the house we were about to move into. You may ask yourself why this only came out days before the closing – a question we have asked many a time. The only answer I can give you is that that is the way it is done. Not a very satisfying answer, is it? I still do not think so, and I really didn’t then.

One would have thought actually having the legal ability to sell a house would be a precondition for selling said house. A reasonable person might expect a realtor to look into these things to cover themselves, but no, checking whether a house can be sold is not the first step in the process, but the last, one which follows a rather extensive series of costly procedures including mortgage applications, structural inspections, and legal fees, all of which the buyer is responsible for. The first question I would ask, if I were a realtor and some came to me to sell a house, would be “Is the house really yours?” But, apparently, all that is really necessary to list a house with a realtor is a rather cursory disclosure on which it is perfectly acceptable to guess, and the ability to supply a key so it can be shown. So, theoretically, one could enter a house, murder the owners, bury them under the basement floor, take the keys, and try to sell the house. While obviously the whole murdering thing is a crime, and assumedly the title search would show you don’t own the house, the realtor would go ahead and throw contracts to sell the house around like nobody’s business. While the Douche-Nozzle did not kill anyone – we hope – he had little more right to sell the house than the hypothetical murderer.

Hence, once all of this came out, I slipped out of the lawyer’s office to make a phone call to the realtor. This, perhaps, was ill advised, but there it was. I called and pretty much told the realtor – though, to be more specific, it was the closing specialist at the agency the wife and I were working with – what I thought of what was going on. While I was not precisely insulting, I must admit that I made some specific demands in a rather elevated tone of voice.

Following my vociferous phone-call, I re-entered the lawyer’s office where I had to explain my departure, for which I received a stern tongue-lashing and was made to promise to make no such calls without permission in the future. At this point there was very little left for us to do; it was now in the lawyer’s hands. You see, we had several choices: one was to sue for specific performance – i.e. to have the Douche-Nozzle clear up the bankruptcy fraud issues – or, two, to terminate the contract, and this is where things really revealed themselves to be ugly. The Douche-Nozzle still claimed that there was no problem with the title, that the bankruptcy thing was not a problem.

Of course, he was wrong, but there it was. Apparently, even though he could patently not fulfill the requirements of the contract – that is, to provide marketable title – the contract is not necessarily nullified automatically if he cannot. You see, he claimed the title was good, and thus, in his opinion, the contract was still valid. Hence, the contract could not move forward without the title insurance company’s consent, but could not be fully terminated without the Douche-Nozzle signing a release form, thus ending the contract. The wife and I, dear reader, were in limbo.

One could conceivably excuse the Douche-Nozzle’s actions as ignorance. Perhaps he did not realize that what he and the Ass-Clown had done was bankruptcy fraud. He may have indeed thought he had done everything properly and was now entirely entitled to sell this house. Under normal circumstances one might extend this courtesy towards his motivations, except for the fact that the Douche-Nozzle and Ass-Clown had declared bankruptcy a total of three times over the past ten years. They also, as we found out that sad Friday, had taken out three different mortgages on the house totaling well over the price we had agreed to pay them. Indeed, someone, quite innocently, could have been as mistaken as the Douche-Nozzle was, but, in this case, it seems entirely unlikely. The Douche-Nozzle was being, quite simply, a douche-nozzle.

Thus, the wife and I left the lawyer’s office, a mere hour after we entered, to find ourselves in a changed world. Stunned, we walked to the car and began to drive home. About halfway through the short drive to our soon-to-be-no-longer apartment, the wife began to cry and I completely lost it. I mean I cracked. I no longer felt safe driving. I was losing control of my limbs. I pretty much just went into shock. I pulled the car over, stopped, got out and walked the rest of the way home. The wife drove the rest of the way after I assured her I would be okay and just needed to walk. When I arrived home I just collapsed in the kitchen while the wife, over the next half hour, pulled me back together.

After a bit of ranting, and then some laughing, and following the composition of the first of the real-estate haiku, we decided we needed to get out of the apartment and do something, anything. So we stopped by the post office to check the mail and then decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to apologize to the closing specialist at the real estate agency. Seeing as she was not, in fact, the Douche-Nozzle or the Ass-Clown, she had in no way earned the right to be yelled at. Thus we drove across town to see if she was in her office. Upon our arrival both she and our real estate agent came out to the foyer to meet us – the closing specialist had apparently relayed the problems to our realtor. I apologized for the yelling and the hysterics, and then the wife and I went upstairs with the realtor to begin the whole house hunting process anew, this time with the fact that we were to be without abode in a mere seven days hanging over our heads.

[To be continued…]

15 July 2006


Until recently Ratty was a lone traveler. He simply sat upon my dashboard day in and day out pointing the way he was going – though not necessarily the way one should go. That is, as I said, until recently.

The other day, after the wife and I had a farewell breakfast with the houseguest, as we were driving through the vast parking lot the IHOP shares with the local Home Depot, I espied an odd bit of discarded yellow along the end of a row of parking spots. As I sped past I mumbled uncertainly, “Was that just a rubber ducky?” The wife and the houseguest turned in their seats, stretching their seatbelts, to confirm my sighting. Yes, indeed, in a seldom-used corner of the parking lot was a small rubber ducky toppled to one side. Of course, I put the car in reverse and maneuvered the automobile so that the wife could scoop up the orphaned bath toy without the inconvenience of leaving her snug passenger seat. And hence, Ratty was given a companion on his endless journey forward.

You may well wonder why Ratty himself perches on the dashboard of my Ford Focus, and how he came to be there. In short, what is Ratty’s story?

In the fall of 2001, as I was in the second year of my second MFA at Cranbrook, I accompanied a group of friends and colleagues to a bar – coincidentally named Ducky’s – for a bit of Halloween reverie. This bar, in getting into the spirit of the holiday, had covered nearly every available surface with – hopefully – fake spider webs, and peppered the establishment liberally with rubber bats, spiders, and, you guessed it, rats. One of the colleagues, after generous lubrication with festive beverages, decided that she simply had to pilfer a bit of the decoration. Thus, she slipped the nearest rubber creature into her jacket pocket, where it remained until it was unceremoniously left behind in my car – though not my current car. Several days later Ratty was found as I was cleaning empty paper coffee cups out of the seating areas. Seeing no other evident course of action I placed Ratty on my dashboard with a prime view forward, and that is the position he has occupied ever since, only changing position to cross over to the new vehicle in 2004 or after the occasional tumble during a particularly abrupt change of automotive direction.

You see, I have something of a history of collecting of discarded objects. I am not talking about your typical trash; I don’t just pick up anything off the street. No, I am somewhat obsessed with items that appear to have an unusual, though currently hidden, history. I collect paint-by-number paintings, but only ones that are framed, indicating that they resided on someone’s wall, that they have been cared for at some time.

Most commonly I find these things at thrift stores or antique malls, but occasionally I encounter them in unexpected spaces – as in Rubber Ducky’s case. In thrift stores I am fascinated by the uncertain existence of these things, the reality that someone, some time, cared for these things, placed them on walls or shelves in their homes. When I find them they are obviously no longer so important. They have been removed from their positions of honor for some reason – changes in interest or fashion, perhaps; sometimes they are unwanted gifts, though far too often these are the painfully discarded remnants that follow a death in the family. These objects that I collect, even though they are discarded, remain too important to throw away. Thus they end up at the Salvation Army or Goodwill in search of a new home, one I am all too ready to provide.

But it is not just any one of these objects that makes it into my collection. Perhaps I am not so much at odds with Walter Benjamin’s writings on the aura of the original art object as I would normally consider myself. Well, actually I am when it comes to Art, but in the case of these objects I make an exception. I cannot always explain why this particular tchotchke calls to me and another doesn’t. At times there are specific aesthetic criteria at play, but at other times I simply respond to an ineffable impulse to rescue.

I have even gone so far as to incorporate this practice into my teaching. Occasionally I give senior design students an assignment titled “Found Lives.” For this they have to go to a thrift store, purchase some odd thing or another, invent the unknown history of that particular object and incorporate that text and the object into a unified design. This assignment has produced some of my favorite student pieces, such as “Typewriter” by Jes Sokol and “White Shoes” by Angela Cook.

[click image to enlarge ]

[click image to enlarge ]

While some people find this obsession somewhat distressing, I believe my results with my students through this project point to a larger understanding common to many people: a recognition of the history of things, of the unavoidable past of everything around us, of a sense of community formed through the interchange of objects. Perhaps we are all historical pack-rats, accumulating stories as we go along, enshrining them in objects for as long as our environment can contain them, only relinquishing the memorials as our spaces become too crowded or when we need to make a break from the overwhelming detritus of our pasts.

Hence, as I drove through the nearly empty parking lot, I simply had to rescue little Rubber Ducky. Perhaps there was someone who might have returned to recover him – I worry about that, but I think it rather unlikely. For now, though, he has joined Ratty in his stalking of the road ahead. Rubber Ducky seems a little less placid at the moment, as he is more apt to slide about his new home during my bouts of more aggressive driving. Yet, I do think I can see a certain gleam in Ratty’s red eyes that reveals newfound prospects for the distant roads now that Rubber Ducky has joined him.

[On another note, the writing will now recommence in its accustomed frequency. I would also stay tuned for the saga of the real estate woe if I were you. I promise I shall begin the writing thereof now that resolution seems to have arrived.]

06 July 2006


As today is the day that the wife and I move from our small apartment to an even smaller temporary apartment – thanks to our unfortunate real estate woes, the full story of which is still forthcoming – I offer you a small diversion to replace my prose ramblings: a delightful blend of needless destruction and general misanthropy.

[click image above to play ]

05 July 2006


My last two posts, dear reader, have revealed the second of my recent obsessions – the first being the one involving the whole real estate thing and its accompanying woe. This obsession, to get to the point, is observing, watching if you will, how you, my visitors, manage to arrive at this blog. I spend perhaps too much time making such observations, checking my site statistics several times a day. It is not that I am concerned about the number of visits; I am simply fascinated – more so than I probably ought to be – with where you all are, or, more to the point, where you are coming from.

You see, since the last post, you, my readers, have followed two more intriguing routes to this blog: an MSN search for “slutty girl blogspot” and a Google search for “caught in my bed room masturbating at 13, boys.” While I am rather interested in the fact that there is a constant stream of viewers from Mongolia coming to the site, I find the search permutations [and perversions] that lead to me to be of the greatest of interest. The paths to my blog lead to so many questions, such as “Why are you looking for that?” “Haven’t you someone near to offer sage advice?” or “Why don’t you put your searches in quotes?”

It is not that every path to this blog follows a lurid trail; it just seems to be true for the last several days. I am quite pleased that many of you arrive here after searching for information on Dawolu Jabari Anderson, and I hope those of you following that path are pleased with the essay you find. Writings on Duchamp and being liberal also seem to be frequent routes, but, lately, you readers seem to have far smuttier concerns at hand [pardon the pun].

So, I offer this bit of exposition as a waning; I am much like Santa, I know when you’ve been bad or good, though I don’t really feel compelled to judge, so continue to go about what you were doing.


I hereby amend the claim made in the previous post. A startling new visitor has clearly upped the ante in unexpected and vaguely creepy Google search pathway to my blog category. I offer you today's visitor:

search.msn.com/results.aspx?q=train my slut wife

To this I believe I need add no more.

04 July 2006


The wife, the houseguest, and I are in the process of making dinner before heading off to view the local fireworks display, after having attended the town's quaint little Fourth of July Parade, but I feel, dear reader, that I must pause a moment to share my new favorite Google search that led to this blog:

www.google.com/search?q=is 4 inches too small

So, today, on the anniversary of the birth of this nation, take a moment, my dear reader, to celebrate and revel in the wonders which it has brought forth.

01 July 2006


[Hold on a moment while I check my cell phone to see if the realtor called.]

Okay, where was I?

Oh yeah, just starting out.

So, as I said yesterday, the wife and I made an offer on another house.

[Oh. I should probably check the landline for messages. Perhaps the realtor called that number instead of my cell. Hang on a sec.]

Sorry ‘bout that.

The new house is really quite lovely. At least we think so. It is amazing the amount and variety of opinions that arise when one brings up buying a house. Especially when it comes to feelings about neighborhoods.

[I should probably check my email again. All three addresses.]

[The wife’s too.]

[Cell phone again, just in case.]

Unfortunately, since it is a holiday weekend, the usual procedure for making an offer is a bit off. Since half of our sadly necessary legal team is away, the listing agent left town this morning, and we have no idea if the seller is available, we have given them a week to respond.

[Was that the landline ringing? Pardon me for a moment.]

Hence, I am somewhat obsessed with my communication devices. There was an hour or so this morning when I just sat at the kitchen table staring at the silent cell phone that lay there inert next to my morning coffee.

[Email again. Cell phone?]

[Crap. How long has it been since I checked the wife’s email? Better do that again too.]

This, somewhat pathetically, is my day. I expect the next several days will follow in much the same path, though with ever increasing anticipatory angst.

[Still no messages. Ring you damnable phone!]

Okay. This typing is seriously cutting into my phone watching and email checking time.

[Good idea. I’ll just make a quick round of all the devices. Be right back. I promise.]