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June 10 1998, Wednesday



ast night as I was drifting off at the house shared by Wacky Jen and her housemate Paul, I could hear Paul's weird little dog Fly Boy tick tick ticking across the kitchen floor to get a mouthful of dog food. Then he'd tick tick tick back to the place he liked to eat it. Then there'd be a crunch crunch crunch, a swallow and repeat. This lasted ten good minutes before he decided to lie down on the couch and at last I could fall asleep. Then this morning at one point Fly Boy needed to bark out the window at some imagined foe. He continued barking until I insisted that he shut up, at which point he considerately fell silent.

Then there was the freight train on the nearby Lynchburg line of the railroad tracks over by the University Hospital. The train's whistle was particularly noisy at Wacky Jen's place this morning, but there was no telling it to shut up. Later Paul theorized that the train is louder these days because an old "tennis ball factory" that used to block the sound has been torn down.

By the time I finally struggled to a full state of awakenness, Quiet Andy was busy trying to prepare coffee, a basic morning necessity for most people, but a vaguely understood rite to the likes of Wacky Jen and Paul, who keep almost no coffee paraphernalia in their abode. Andy was struggling along with whatever he could find. Unable to find a filter, he used a knife to poke tiny holes in the bottom of a cup. Then he struggled with heating the water and pouring it into his makeshift filter. For some reason this task seemed to take him a very long time. When he finally handed it to me, I commented that it was the most labour-intensive cup of coffee I had tasted in my entire life. This experience induced Paul, Jen and me to talk about instant coffee. I related my experience with it, that my parents are big instant coffee people, that it's kind of embarrassing only being able to offer instant coffee when friends come over to the old childhood home. Paul or Jen brought up the somewhat similar subject of teevee dinners, and suddenly it occurred to me why some of these ill-considered inventions are still with us: there's a whole subset of the American public just tasteless and lazy enough to maintain the survival of something that long ago should have met the same fate as the automatic gutter cleaner. Then I remembered a more recent invention of a similar kind. "There's always the clapper," I said.


he Dart was hopelessly blocked into the the driveway out front, so I simply abandoned it. I walked to the bank and converted a hundred dollar bill into a pile of twenties. It was the same hundred Morgan Anarchy's mother had given him last night, but it had proven worthless in the Lucky Seven convenience store when Morgan had wanted a couple bottles of Catawba vino. I'd had to use my fifty and promise to give him the other fifty tied up in that hundred today.

At the Wertland Mansion, I dropped off the fifty with the girls. Jessika and Deya were still in their respective beds, rather groggy but still sociable. In stages they got up, made coffee and hatched plans for the day. Jessika decided it would be cool to go to Fox's Diner, the little greasy spoon on the edge of Belmont. She put on her oufit for the day: red stockings, several layers of slips (outermost being red), a blue plaid shirt and clunky blue shoes. The blue-red back and forth (her hair is red, remember) made her look like a singer for an early-80s girl shock-pop band.

On the way, we stopped at Wacky Jen's place to see if she and Quiet Andy wanted to come along. The cars were all still blocked in, so we continued on and said we'd meet them at Fox's.

Fox's is one of those down-home blue collar diners, the kind that's been around for a long time and probably will remain for a long time (unless Walmart gets around to building a super-mega-über purchaseplex on the south side of Charlottesville to complement its not-especially-vast store on the north side). I've written about Fox's before whenever I've been there, but it bears repeating. The customers are all really interesting looking. Some are really fat, some are really skinny. They're never very young, they're never very attractive, and the food they order is never very healthy, though it never costs very much. The waitress never takes long to get to their tables, even though she was only waitress and the cramped dining area was crowded to near-capacity. It's hard to find a waitress as dedicated to her job as the one we had today at Fox's. If she was gone from our table for more than a couple minutes, she'd be sure to apologize profusely. She was from the waitressing old school, no doubt about it. We ordered the usual greasy food: fries, various kinds of sandwiches with lettuce and tomato. No one was being especially vegetarian except for Quiet Andy. These kind of restaurants aren't good places to be vegetarians, though they usually have good french fries (more fry, less french).

Afterwards, I went to get the Dart from Wacky Jen's suddenly uncongested driveway. I relocated it to Deya and Jessika's place and then headed to UVA's Cocke Hall for glorious internet related fun. All the Macs at Cocke Hall are running OS 8.1 these days, but there's some kind of glitch in the recognition of Windows 95 file names, and it's causing me a certain amount of difficulty. I don't see why it gets confused between "04.htm" and "index.shtml," but it does. One thing you expect from an operating system, at the bare minimum, is to know you're working with the file you think you're working with, and with this set up, I don't really have that.


  returned to Deya and Jessika's place in the evening while they were sitting around watching Harold and Maude with Quiet Andy. The movie is just the kind of strange that Jessika most likes, and she's been trying to get everyone to watch it with her, despite the Cat Stevens (Steven Katz) soundtrack. As we watched the movie, Quiet Andy would slip out every now and then for a cigarette. Eventually he disappeared entirely, sneaking off to go participate in a drum circle he'd heard about. This even though he's become increasingly irritated with hippies from working at the übercrunchy Integral Yoga.


hen the movie was over, we decided we should all drink tussin, our hard drug of choice. We hadn't had it in awhile, and we're not always going to be together in one place like we were tonight.

We set off for the Barracks Road CVS store to get our generic-brand Dextromethorphan-containing cough syrup.

CVS is a typical-sized drug store, but throughout the entire space there was only one sign that read

Out of concern for our customers and to keep our prices low, some products had been equipped by their manufacturer with electronic anti-theft devices.

That sign was directly in front of the 12 ounce bottles of generic-brand Tussin DM, the favourite target of shoplifting back a month or so ago when the New Orleans gutterpunks were in town to visit Morgan Anarchy. Not only that, but it was obvious that a large fraction of the store personnel had their eyes on us. One of them was even in the aisle with us, pretending (perhaps) to be sorting items in a display. But, of course, we did kind of stick out. Deya and I looked kind of normal, but Jessika had that crazy bright red hair of hers and wore a little dress covered with bright orange and red flowers. We decided it was best to just buy the tussin and not obtain it for free as is our usual procedure.

Back at the Wertland Mansion, though, Jessika was having second thoughts. It was already late, 10:30pm, and she didn't want to stay up all night on tussin. Deya had vanished for a time and suddenly appeared with a big smile on her face saying she'd just drunk her tussin, and "I held my nose the whole time!" That cinched it for me. If Deya was going to tuss, I didn't think she should do it alone. I went down to the kitchen and gulped down my five or so ounces in about two seconds. It's a misery you have to get over with quickly.

We all sat around working on various projects while Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 blared on the stereo, a tape Jessika had made of my CDs.

I can see the bare end of it sticking out!
It's completely lodged inside you now!
-Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

Jessika was drawing or colouring in her black increasingly non-blank book, Deya was making a strange alien hat out of brown paper, and I was working on my musings (the early part of this entry) using the laptop. Quiet Andy was also there, doodling fine little textures on a piece of paper with a pencil. When he got up to have a cigarette break, I looked at them and Deya thought I said he'd been "drawing taxpayers" instead of "drawing textures."

As the tussin started working its magic, I went through a mild phase of nausea that was heightened whenever Quiet Andy would return from a cigarette break with stale smoke lingering in his clothes. The nausea proved too much for Deya, and she went off to vomit, but returned, again with a big smile on her face.

I lay around for awhile with a sense of nausea-tinged total comfort in Jessika's bed. One of the gutterpunks told Jessika that tussin reminded him of heroin, and that's probably how it felt for me in this phase. It wasn't an amazingly good experience, but I felt no desires at all. To sit perfectly still seemed like the best course of action, although conversing with the others was kind of fun. Eventually I decided I needed some kind of prop so I began drinking a Schlitz, but it really wasn't much to my liking and it took me well over an hour to fight my way into, at which point I gave up and dumped the warm flat stuff out onto the concrete.

Concrete? Yes, concrete. Deya wanted to go for a walk, an activity that usually goes along with tussin drinking, so off we went. We walked through the Corner, finding it mostly deserted. A little drizzle wafted down from the still skies, as usually seems to happen whenever I take tussin.

At the west end of the Corner, we turned into the campus. A set of steps seemed to resemble a lava flow, and we climbed them for that reason alone.

Near the center of Grounds is Thomas Jefferson's original campus, the landscape you see depicted on a large fraction of UVA's post cards. It consists of a long lawn with, on either side, two rows of brick buildings containing simple residences connected by rooved walkways. These residences lack individual bathroom facilities, but they are much sought after by students as dorm rooms; they're only given to the highest-achieving of ass kissers. Behind these rows of elite (though primitive) dorms are rectangular "gardens" divided from each other by sine-curve-shaped brick walls (a Jeffersonian invention to maximize strength and minimize bricks). We walked through a few of these gardens and ended down near an old Greek-styled amphitheatre behind Cocke Hall. On the way I picked up a bunch of balloons, which seemed like a third person who had joined us as we walked along.

In the amphitheatre was some equipment being used for an ongoing renovation program, and we took the time to explore it as we never would have had we not been on tussin. A security guard came upon us in the aftermath of a loud sword fight we'd conducted with sabers of rebar, but by that point we looked like a couple of Wahoos out in search of privacy. It's possible to conduct crimes as man-woman teams that would be overly suspicious if conducted by a single man acting alone.

I can't say things were profoundly different under the influence of tussin. The ordinary seemed more interesting, and the boring seemed less so, but still not especially exciting. I kind of wanted to return to the Wertland Mansion to maybe watch teevee or listen to music.

A strange physiological side of effect of tussin these last few times has been swelling in my hands. My fingers became visibly bloated, especially around the joints, and hands became difficult to firmly close. The palms of my hands itched uncomfortably. I wanted to go soak them in warm water.

But on Wertland Street who should we come upon but Utkan, the enthusiastic Turkish guy we always see when we're in the weirdest, most tranquil phase of any evening. He was in a big hurry, making haste to the Buddhist Biker Bar to be there in time for last call. He wanted us to come along. At first I didn't want to, but Deya was going after Utkan, so I came along too.

The Buddhist Biker Bar was remarkably well-stocked with fashionable 20-somethings for a Wednesday night. Upstairs, a band was playing. The guitarist was the big hippie dude who runs Main Street Guitar and Drum, and he even substituted my name in for some other word in his lyrics when he saw me. That girl Beth who had recently been doing stuff with Monster Boy (after a long and illustrious dating career that back in 1995 included Zachary) was very happy to see me. She knows I'm a big Internet gossip and usually, especially when (as tonight) she's very drunk, she likes to either add to or take away from things she's heard about other people reading on my web pages. Tonight, for example, she claimed to be doing stuff with Tall Brook. Hmmm, she's not much more than half his height.

I hadn't been too aware of how messed up I was until I went into the bar, but once I started socializing, it became clearer to me that something was strangely awry. I had none of the social inhibitions that normally accompany sobriety. But I still had a great clarity of mind; things were vivid to me, especially things like other people's drunkenness. Yet drunk people weren't irritating me the way they usually do when I'm sober. In short, I'd say tussin is a good "beverage" to drink before going to spend a long night at a bar. You're not going to want much beer, and you'll be sociable without being obnoxious. Best of all, you'll remember everything you do.


ack at the Wertland Mansion, Jessika was mostly asleep while Quiet Andy was watching yet another bad action adventure. I sat down and watched along as well. The images flashing by were kind of entertaining, more like watching scenery go by as a passenger in an automobile than the visual channel of a consistent narrative.

The television, despite the car chases, explosions and gunfights, didn't distract me from my thoughts, which I followed as if it was yet another channel of entertaining sensory input. Not all the thoughts were entirely pleasant, but the fact that I considered them in the first place seemed to be a refreshingly good thing. One of the thoughts I was having actually concerned these musings. I was considering the bigger picture of what was happening during the recent Bethesda trip, with a focus on the various subtexts behind the scenes that I described in my entries. I realized that I had left out the most interesting material in describing almost every scene. What I'm referring to here is all the stuff that would have to appear in any historical reconstruction of the event. Why did I leave out so much I consider (in retrospect) to be essential? Because it would have been improper to include it, because even I know better than to let events enter into that kind of feedback. Of course, the Bethesda trip isn't the only time this has been a problem. It's been a problem with the musings from the start, and it seems impossible to overcome.

In considering all this tonight, I suddenly realized the intrinsic imperfections in this kind of creativity. It will always be stilted, it will always lack bits of essential material important to the telling of the story, things you expect to get when you read books or see movies with a narrative to relate. I felt like my efforts in the real time telling of my life story were but a sham, a superficial shell, incomplete at best and a problematic lie at worse.


essika wanted to go to sleep so Deya and I went out to sit on the balcony, where Quiet Andy was already quietly puffing on a cigarette. Within the shifting mental states of our tussin experience, Deya and I discussed a number of things, particularly early childhood beliefs. By saying "beliefs," I wasn't talking about the dictionary-definition of the word, but rather a level of truthfulness unique to children: a hypothesis that fits some of the most immediate evidence, goes along well with whatever fantasy-play is happening at the time, and is believed on a superficial faith-like level even if it is not firmly believed. A child may have many such "beliefs" that are contradicted by other beliefs that they also hold, beliefs instilled by parents, religious leaders, teachers and books. They live together like toys in a toy box, fished out and used to suit the occasion. Examples of some "beliefs" that I held for a time as a child include

  1. The Sun turns into the Moon at night. (I entertained this theory as a fantasy as late as the age of eight, though I knew better.)
  2. Trees in America are the roots of trees growing on the other side of the World (which is shaped like a two-sided disk). (This was more of a fantasy than anything else.)
  3. The sky is a hard blue bowl placed over the ground. (A belief from when I was about 5, though I was aware it wasn't completely true; I knew about space flight at the time.)
  4. Children are kept by parents as pets but are an entirely separate species, like cats and dogs. (I believed this fairly firmly at the age of 4.)

All these theories were ones which I came up with on my own spontaneously, though belief #3, I subsequently learned, was widely held by those who subscribed to the "flat earth theory." Deya claimed she hadn't had many of these sorts of "beliefs," leaving me to conclude that perhaps it was a unique aspect of my neural wiring. I doubt that's the case though.

I ended up sleeping on the green couch in Jessika and Deya's room. Since I was still on tussin when I went to bed, I experienced lots of especially crazy dreams. In one of these, I was a sphere, with a "vortex" of energy (though it shined and moved like metal) issuing from my side. To keep up the energy flow I had to do all kinds of bureaucratic procedures, filling out forms in just the right way and filing them in just the right places at just the right times. It's hard for me to really explain the dream, it was too weird and disconnected to be summed up properly without expending several thousand words, and no doubt I've forgotten lots of essential details.

Read more tales of tussin.

See some photographs taken today.


one year ago
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