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March 11 1998, Wednesday


  had a strange dream last night. I was helping an unknown father with his son. The son was practicing for some sort of championship that involved racing down a steep slope on a huge skateboard. My job was to give him the initial shove. When timed in a practice session, the son was clocked at 114 miles per hour, a possible record if he could repeat the feat in competition. The father and son had a number of very strange people in their family, including a young woman who looked very old and spent most of her time comatose but alive inside a coffin. There was also a burly little baby who was actually a 35 year old man.

I tried to fix things today, mostly without success. I had lots of trouble with old power supplies, one of which could produce all the voltages but -12 volts. Another power supply was entirely broken but I didn't know this until I installed it in a possible future experimental computer.

Then there was the microwave oven, which hasn't worked since a space bag of vino spilled into it. I determined that the problem was the keyboard, a cheap membrane device that is now evidently waterlogged. Trying to peel the layers apart to allow it to dry out destroyed it entirely. I was able to simulate functionality by jumpering the keyboard connector in various random ways, which made me think of substituting in some other kind of keyboard. I tried an old telephone keyboard, but of course the keys didn't match at all, and I could only imitate a few of the functions. I'm thinking of building a little keyboard from tiny momentary SPST switches for only the odd numbers and essential functions.


eggy and the Baboose came over for awhile, and Jessika and I went with them to Whole Foods (the big natural foods store on 29 North) to do a little shopping. Jessika dropped an application off at the Comfort Inn on the way home. She feared she looked kind of weird to be applying for a job; a horizontally-striped black and white shirt and two layers of skirt that were both actually slips, one black and one white. Oh, and let us not forget the combat boots with blue laces.

Jessika and I spent some time cleaning up the living room in the late afternoon. It had become strewn with newspapers (part of the ongoing job hunt) and dumpster-dived and semi-functional electronics.

The day is incredibly cold, especially given the recent warmth we'd been enjoying. Clothes I put out to dry yesterday were as stiff as boards before dark.


t's 7pm now, and again the boy Jesse and Morgan Anarchy have come over. They'd been planning an inexplicable trip to Philadelphia, but the cold has made them reconsider, and tonight they're going to Richmond. It looks like Jessika, Deya and I are also going to Richmond to see David, Deya's brother, play at some sort of nightspot. He's a drummer for some kind of electronic band. The joke I've been telling is that his job is to change the batteries in the drum machine when they get weak.


  returned home from a trip to Olssen Hall and found everyone was out on a beer run. I fixed myself a pot of spaghetti, flavoured (as is my custom of late) with a can of vegetable soup.

When the others returned, Jessika gave me a 32 ounce bottle of malt liquor (euphemistically referred to as a "forty"). We watched part of a stupid little movie on premium teevee, and somehow the amusing notion of me giving fashion advice came up. It had been a recurring joke all day that the two things I like are "computers and chickens." Out of this idea came an idea for a new kind of print fabric with little pictures of chickens and computers. "Zach would wear it," Deya hypothesized.

It was getting late, time to head to Richmond to see Deya's brother and his band. Morgan and Jesse said their goodbyes (the weather was so bad that they'd even canceled their plans to go to Richmond) and we headed out, still drinking our "forties."

n the way out of town, we stopped for gas at the little convenience store on the corner of Ninth and Cherry, near the Brick Mansion in the 'Hood. I'd been to that store once before on a Jen Fariello-sponsored mission to buy "good beer." As you may recall, that particular store, located as it is within its particular demographic area, does not offer much in the way of microbrew. It does, however, offer a great diversity of forties. "They have everything!" Jessika exclaimed when she looked in the cooler. I picked up two 32 ouncers of Mickeys.

The road to Richmond always seems longer than it should. X was on the stereo and I watched the brake lights wink out and then back on again as they crossed below the crests of hills and horizons and then resurfaced. I wondered if I would remember this specific aspect of the drive the next day. [It looks like I did.] Occasionally snow fell from the sky.

Deya isn't especially good with directions, and we got lost several times on the way to our destination, a Tokyo Rose-type place called Alley Katz. By the time we arrived, Deya's brother's band, named "Q," were already done. At least we were on the guest list.


he second band, called Grouser, was very good. They were three ugly fat guys with no charisma whatsoever, which led me to believe that they had to be especially good in order to succeed. They kind of reminded me of one of Bob Mould's various bands, but they were faster and their drummer sang as he played, sometimes doing lead vocals.

But I did not like the last band at all. I can't remember their name, but they were influenced by all the music genres that I try to avoid: especially funk and blues. The singer had a whiteboy hip-hop thing going on (complete with rockstar attitude) that left me cold. I was miserable the whole time they played. Deya liked them, but Jessika agreed with me that they sucked.

Deya reacted to my attitude by continually bothering me about it, telling me I didn't have to come if I hadn't wanted to. I just wanted to be left alone for awhile; something about her reaction intensified my feelings of existential anguish. Later on, though, I came to sort of enjoy my hatred of the last band. Jessika and I even had a goofy sequence of mock violence.

After the bands, after a seemingly endless period of not leaving, we finally left, this time on a mission to visit Deya's brother David at his place, a house in the Richmond 'Hood that he rents for only $100 per month. He says most of his neighbors are drug dealers, welfare recipients, and other varieties of burden to society, but he gets along well with them and they know enough not to cause problems in their own neighborhood. And anyone from outside his neighborhood would consider the place unworthy of any sort of criminal exploitation.

Deya got lost (again) several times on the way, but finally we were parked out in front of David's house. David lives without any human housemates, but this is not to say that he lives alone. Indeed, I finally got to see what happens when Deya's animal-collection gene is allowed to romp around unbridled. Here's a list of just the animals I remember seeing living in brother David's house.

  • An enormous native North American Opossum. "He sure is boring," David observed, "and they only live two years." "But he has two penises and fifty teeth, more than any other North American mammal," I replied.
  • A prairie dog. "He's kind of boring too," said David.
  • A trio of ferrets. They squirmed in his arms like a three-headed mythical animal and then boop-boop-booped around David's bedroom, one taking up temporary residence in the layers of Jessika's clothes.
  • A turtle whom I did not have an opportunity to meet.
  • Two dogs, one of them enormous. Both kept barking even after we'd petted them. In David's bad neighborhood, they earn their dog food.
  • At least two cats, one of them missing an ear. His name was Vincent, of course.
  • A big white Cockatoo named Shelby. She was the most interesting of all the animals. She had a dignity and complexity about her that I've rarely observed in animals. Some of the time she babbled incoherent English vowels that would briefly coalesce into words. Her voice reminded me of a disturbed angry little old lady. Other times she'd whistle like Wilbur, Deya's Cockatiel. Most impressive of all was Shelby's ability to learn. She could repeat whistled notes back to me on key, and began to master a bob white quail whistle with which I badgered her. She also had a sense of humour, going from calmly observing us to swinging upside down or fluffing out her crest and pumping her head up and down with a cluck-cluck-cluck. At one point I let her grab my finger with her beak. I could feel the power of her massive jaw muscles, but she didn't injure me. Later, though, David showed me the damage she's inflicted on his room. All the wood surfaces had been splintered and chewed, destruction throughout the room on all levels beyond any that even Shira the Dog could ever inflict. Deya joked that Shelbies had been responsible for the loss of rainforest throughout Australia.
  • There was also a fish somewhere.

David told us some dramatic stories of life in the bad neighborhoods of Richmond (he's lived in several). One time a guy directly behind him was gunned down as they both walked down the sidewalk. Another time he saw a car-to-car shoot out. He's been cautioned by these experiences, but he doesn't appear to be frightened at all. He evidently has that "calm gene" that seems to also affect Deya's behaviour. Tragedies come and go but life must go on.


fter I'd been suitably impressed with Shelby the Cockatoo and the hour had grown ridiculously late, we headed back to Charlottesville. I slept for most of the drive after helping Deya find the correct interstates upon which to drive.

We came home to find our front door wide open with a note from Peggy and Zach saying the two had gone to Philadelphia to visit Peggy's father in the hospital. Evidently they think our heating bill is too low on this the coldest night of the year so far.

one year ago
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