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March 23 1998, Monday


ondays are special in our household, since it's the only business day that Deya has off of work. On lazy Monday afternoons, Deya and Jessika frequently go on a series of excursions to antique stores and the recycling center. Today, Jessika sold me on the idea of coming along, telling me about lots of free stuff available at the recycling center. Also, we eventually planned to go visit Monster Boy for the first time ever. He'd specifically called to invite us. I took my laptop along, since I was pretty far behind in these musings. Saturday night was proving to be a complex and somewhat humiliating thing to describe.

First we went to the Salvation Army to see if they had free bread (they frequently do), but they didn't. I'd been there not long ago and knew there was nothing much there to interest me, so I immediately went back to Deya's car. There was nothing to read there except a road atlas, so I found myself mostly studying Canadian geography. I especially liked Manitoba. As usual, Jessika and Deya took an extremely long time in the Salvation Army. In the end, all Jessika got was a Cyndi Lauper record, and Deya didn't get much more.

I'd never been to the recycling center before. It's a long skinny place tucked away between Macintire Street and the railroad tracks. In the recycling center are several dumpsters for the various kinds of things that people conventionally recycle. Jessika led me to the place where paper is recycled and showed me that it was a good place to find back issues of Rolling Stone and other magazines.

In addition to the dumpsters, Charlottesville's recycling centre is endowed with an exciting extra, a couple of sheds containing various objects that you'd normally have to buy in a store but which were here available free for the taking. It was a higher form of recycling, one that completely short-circuited capitalism, and amazingly enough, it was all being underwritten by the City of Charlottesville. It was enough to give me a measure of civic pride.

In one of these two sheds is a small library of books, categorized by subject in a hasty working man's variation on the Dewey Decimal System. There were several books on psychology, sociology, consumer art, and my ever-favourite, computers, that caught my hungry eye, and I snagged an impressive pile. I even got a free CD ROM.

The guy who runs the recycling center has a small office in a little munchkin shed which he has decorated with the prizes he has collected from the waste stream. A neo-existentialist oil painting hangs near the door, as does a little toy truck. Small plastic American flags fly from the roof (like everything else, even American flags are regarded as trash once they've done their duty and demonstrated some scoundrel's patriotism). On the door frame of the munchkin shed in crude magic marker are the words "THANKS FOR RECYCLING!"

From there we went to Bodo's Bagels where we randomly ran across Peggy and the Baboose. All you people who wrote in to warn me about what dire things might happen if Peggy didn't fix her brakes can rest assured, her car had already been fixed. That's record time when you consider the pace at which things like this normally get done in my little world.

The next stop was a dismal little shopping center in the heart of Charlottesville's North-Central industrial district. The stores looked more like factories than they did retail outlets, but for some reason we simply had to go to yet another antique store. This one was called Aaron's Attic, and since it is owned by the same guy who owns Rebecca's Natural Foods where Deya works, she had an automatic discount there. That was okay to a point, though it seemed most of the stuff there was way out of my price range. In fact, this was the first time I'd ever been to an antique store that actually charged more for things simply because they were old. After I'd wandered around for what seemed like a sufficient time, I returned to Deya's car and read from one of the many books I'd snagged at the recycling center. After what seemed like a very long time, Deya and Jessika emerged from the store. Deya had bought two stuffed animals, a horse and an enormous yellow cat with faceted cream-coloured insect eyes.


e had to return to Kappa Mutha Fucka in order to track down Monster Boy's address. This gave me a little opportunity to work on the musings, using the laptop in this case. I'm trying to develop all the habits necessary for completely mobile computing, but at this stage I still find myself accidentally hitting the wrong key sequences and forgetting essential power cords. Another problem is that Windows 3.11 is more trouble to use than a dip pen on homemade parchments.

We had an answering machine message from Deya's mother Marianne saying that, after many phone calls, Farmer Jack had agreed to refund $3 or $4 for the defective box of vino that exploded all over our kitchen. We'd given up hope, of course, but Marianne, incensed after reading my account in the musings, had taken matters into her own hands. She'd called an ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) store and they'd never heard of the supposed "new Virginia law" that prohibits the return of alcohol purchases. So she called up Farmer Jack again, asking what gives. According to the answering machine message, they'd finally caved in, at least a little bit.

So on the way to Monster Boy's place up 29 North, we stopped at the Farmer Jack to pick up our refund. The guy at the customer service desk wasn't the guy we were told to talk to, but he handled the matter anyway. He told us to get an identical box off the shelf. Whoah, it seemed we were getting a complete and total replacement! I didn't believe it, though, until the customer service desk guy affixed a green "paid" sticker to the box. Whoah, a good ending to a tragic story. Vino-wise, see, we were making out like bandits. We'd drunk two thirds of a box for free, although we'd lost a microwave oven in the process.


he dismal apartment complex to which we'd been directed looked like a little piece of Columbia, Maryland. Following a minor misreading of Monster Boy's address, we zeroed in on his apartment. It was around on the backside at the corner of the complex on the bottom floor. The topography of the complex had been arranged so that apartments on the bottom floor could be reached from the ground level on one side, and, up an artificial hill, apartments on the top floor could be reached from the ground level on the other side. Leading to Monster Boy's door, a little dirt rut that the complex planners had never anticipated formed an alpine trail over the ersatz topography. Like much that exists in this country, everything had been designed with the car driver in mind. The planners had never imagined that pedestrians would live in any of these apartments. Their needs had been simply ignored, and any infrastructure necessary for walking had to be "built" by the walkers themselves. Monster Boy has no car and relies exclusively on car pools and buses. A spiderweb of dirt trails lead from his door both into the heart of the complex itself and up a steep bank into the adjacent K-Mart-dominated shopping center.

Monster Boy greeted us at the door, and we were a little surprised to discover that there were actually people hanging out with him in his little place: Kirstin the Eco-radical and Beth, a girl who at one time had some sort of relationship with Zachary; I've known her for almost three years now, but I only see her on very rare occasions. Monster Boy's apartment has been suitably decorated to fit his taste. Though the carpet was that especially hard-to-clean colour known as cream, black lace hung over the windows, and weird little altars and sculptures were everywhere. As usual for Monster Boy, some fucked-up movie was playing on the teevee. Kirstin, Beth and Monster Boy were drinking a coca-nut liquor, the kind of comfortable drink a booze hound such as myself finds mildly irritating.

In addition to the beheaded dolls, purloined medical equipment, and weird movies, Monster Boy has a good collection of creepy toys, the sorts of things that suggest disturbing sexual purposes. One of these was a bed of nails that was actually made of rubber, another was a little latex bag of sand that felt like a lump of cold tenderized meat. The most creepy of all was a "water snake," a water-filled latex balloon forming a hollow cylinder, topologically congruent to a donut. You could put your finger in there and it felt kind of good, and I thought I could have had a lot more fun with it if no one was watching me. But thinking this made me feel kind of dirty after I'd been handling it for awhile.

We had a number of interesting conversations, but the best part of our yacking came when Monster Boy told us what he and Tasha had done after I became separated from them both on Thursday night.

    Like me, Monster Boy had rapidly become bored with the conversation in the upstairs frat boy room in which we'd first found ourselves. He wandered out and was soon apprehended by two suspicious frat brothers. After a little negotitiation, they bought his story about being friends with a friend of one of the brothers. But the experience left Monster Boy in a bad mood, so he snuck into the bathroom with a fire extinguisher and set it off. It rapidly filled the bathroom with white powder, and that drifted like smoke out into the hallway, causing some of the brothers to panic.

    Later, still bored, Monster Boy went downstairs to the party, but it looked so ridiculous he shrugged his shoulders and headed back upstairs. When he got back to Tasha's friend's room, however, Tasha had vanished.

    Trying to leave the party, Monster Boy jumped over a fence onto the roof of a shed, but the roof was rotten and he fell through. One of the brothers witnessed this happening and, bewildered yet angry, came over to investigate, but one of his friends told him to leave Monster Boy alone.

    Back on the Corner, Monster Boy found Dempsey but no Tasha. Dempsey was worried and insisted, "We have to go back and get her."

    Returning to the frat house, they found Tasha all fucked up on alcohol and cocaine, hanging out with the band. Monster Boy learned the next day that it took Dempsey three hours to get her back home; she kept breaking free from him and knocking on random doors insisting that she knew the people there and that either Monster Boy or I could be found there.

I was drinking the vino at a brisk pace, but in addition to that, there was marijuana on tap. Marijuana is best smoked around good friends, so I thought I'd have a little. We smoked it out of a bowl that Monster Boy had fashioned from a piece of glassware designed to be used in connection with the lower intestinal tract (how? I didn't want to know).

Monster Boy had a beautiful syringe that, unlike most syringes, had been designed so it could be reused. Instead of the usual rubber-tipped plunger, it had a precisely-ground frosted glass plunger. It was so precise that when I draped one of my hairs down into the barrel of the syringe, it was impossible to insert the plunger. I said that a syringe so beautiful and precise almost had me wanting to develop a heroin habit.

We were all feeling pretty merry, and Monster Boy thanked me for coming along, saying that otherwise "I'd be the only boy here." For my part, it was sort of a relief to be hanging out with a guy for a change. It just doesn't happen very often anymore. So said, "It's nice to hang out with a guy for a change." I was just being sincere, expressing my true feeling. But of course, in this world it's not always appropriate to express your true feelings. Jessika and Deya were staring daggers at me as if I'd horribly insulted them. I didn't really care; I figured it was better for them to find out in this context than it was to read about it in the musings. Suddenly, though, the beautiful syringe exploded in my hands in a shower of tiny glass fragments. I wasn't doing anything weird with it, just pressurizing it with my thumb over the little needle portal. I was pretty stoned at the time, and it seemed somehow possible that Jessika and Deya, reacting to what I'd just said, had focused their energy on me and caused the syringe to explode. As I continued to handle the broken remains of the syringe, it started cutting my hands, and I became paranoid that it was performing some sort of continued administration of justice. I took it nervously across the room and put it down. Monster Boy wasn't upset; he knew he could always get another.

The conversation quickly turned to the subject of communication patterns among men and women. Deya has occasionally made the observation that Matthew Hart and I often engage in a certain kind of high-speed banter that is neither interesting nor subject to any kind of control. "You miss Matthew, that's what it is," she said, referring to my just-expressed fondness for socializing with Monster Boy. "You never leave spaces," Jessika added, pointing out that it was definitely a boy thing. [She used to think it was an Aries male thing, but she realizes now that it transcends astrology.] I protested that at times I take measures to encourage the participation of girls in a conversation being dominated by boys. For example, I not infrequently invite someone who has been quiet to add their two cents to an ongoing discussion. I do so in a mocking, sarcastic kind of way, but I'm actually being sincere. The sarcasm is a "cloak" designed to keep my invitation from sounding patronizingly school marmish. Jessika said she hadn't known what to make of this behaviour at first, but now she's used to it. I said that it wasn't anything I'd ever been taught, it was just a pro-social technique I'd invented on my own. It might be insulting and perhaps even kind of stupid, but it's what I do.

It turns out that the tape was rolling when we discussed this matter! Listen for yourself to this 190K RealAudio file. The male voice is me, the first (and loudest) female voice is Jessika, the other female voice is Deya, and the laughter in the background is mostly Kirstin the Eco-radical.

Suddenly Kirstin started reading aloud from a book (I forget which) by William S. Burroughs. Such things do not happen often in my circle of friends. I was impressed, but it also made me feel a little uncomfortable, since it didn't seem to fit in with my mental map of the program. But what the hell, it was cool. We started a tape rolling to record her reading as well as the ambient conversation. When Kirstin was done, Monster Boy read for a time, then me, then Jessika. When we got sick of Burroughs, we started reading from one of those little religious tracts made in the style of a tiny comic book.

For much of the evening, Monster Boy was playing a documentary about the life and death of G. G. Allin on the television. I felt that the documentary helped me better understand what exactly was wrong with the man. It featured some especially disgusting footage of G. G. eating and smearing himself with his own feces, and drinking urine as a girl pissed in his mouth until he puked up his dinner.

Monster Boy cooked us all up a bowl of spaghetti; that was pretty much all he had in his pantry (except the vegetarian burgers with which he fed himself). His bank erroneously thinks he's been bouncing checks or something, so despite his job, he's had trouble getting the cash with which to go shopping.

I find that I'm more musings-aware than ever before these days, and I include my friends in the "verbal first draft" of the evening's account even while we're still living it. This is less irritating than it sounds. Anyway, I found myself rehashing the conversation we'd had earlier about conversational spaces, attributing the comment "you and Matthew leave no spaces" to Deya. Jessika, with a clearly irritated tone to her voice, immediately piped up that it was her, Jessika, who had made this comment, and that I only wanted Deya to have said that because it made a better fit with the pre-conceived character I was trying to portray in my musings. Jessika further resolved to spend the rest of the evening acting out of her musings character. Unfortunately, though, she couldn't help but act exactly the same as she always does.

Beth went home, and those remaining were fairly drunk, so we decided to go "do something." We climbed the bank behind the apartment complex and explored the dumpsters behind K-Mart. We were completely unprepared, of course, so we had no flashlight and even if there was cool stuff in those dumpsters, we couldn't tell. We spent much of our time jumping on piles of compressed cardboard and trying to use a huge rolley thing as a skateboard. Finally a guy in a pickup truck drove up and told us to move along.

There was a part of the evening where it seemed Deya became upset. I guess she was talking to me as I washed some dishes, and I was nice to her at first, but then I got bored with the conversation and just kind of sighed and left her in the lurch, and she could be seen pouting the rest of the evening. Jessika commented to me at one point that Deya wasn't acting normal. I don't know what it was about the evening that kept afflicting all of us with these strange boy-girl conversational dynamics. I kept trying to do the right thing, but it seemed no matter what I did I always ended up being judged and convicted by my female housemates (but not anyone else).

Listen to this 88K RealAudio recording of us discussing the use of marijuana to counteract feelings of excessive motivation. I'm the loudest male voice, though you can also hear Monster Boy saying, "It's still early!" and "I have the perfect song for it, for what we're talking about." Kirstin the Eco-radical can be heard quoting her hippie friends with the line, "'We'll play guitar for awhile!'" and Deya can be heard saying, "That's what most people do, they say, 'Oh I don't wanna...'" The music is the X-Ray Spex doing "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!"

The evening wore along, and finally we decided to head home. We took both Kirstin and Monster Boy with us, dropping Kirstin off at her home (Abundance House) and allowing Monster Boy to sleep on our couch. He had some sort of meeting bright and early at the hospital the next morning, and it was more convenient for him to sleep at our house than way up 29 at his.

one year ago
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