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Day 957 [Jul. 24., 2019|05:35 pm]
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Today's been a weird day. Originally my plan was to get coffee with a friend, but when he offered me an out last night, I seized it. It wasn't that I don't want to see him but I felt uncommonly tired didn't fancy getting up early (though I did manage to force myself to take a good long stroll through the neighbourhood).

I woke up at 5 a.m. feeling like I'd hardly slept at all. So I willed myself back to sleep and was rewarded for my bullheadedness with unsatisfying sleep and disturbing dreams. I finally got up and went through the steps of my routine but having my tea made me feel too oogy to eat. Remembering that I had nothing scheduled at work and a fair bit of sick time to burn I crawled back into bed.

I woke up again at 10:40 feeling considerably better, lounged for a bit, and then hustled to make the 12:25 shuttle. On the way in, I stopped at TJ's for snacks (finally running into an old pal in the parking lot) and then at Sea Ranch before finally strolling around 2 p.m. I was lucky; I hadn't been at my desk long before my boss brought by a colleague visiting from another university and I spent the next hour helping her navigate our system, which they're migrating to soon.

I decided to stay at work an extra hour and now I'm killing a little time before the next shuttle. Something in today's lunch didn't agree with me; my stomach is more upset than it was this morning and I can't really think of anything I want for dinner. I just tried snacking on some crackers (perversely, an upset stomach often makes me crave something savoury) but that didn't help.

Really, this entire day I've felt somehow...superfluous. Like someone already dead just performing the motions of somebody living. It's a state that comes and goes but it's been visiting a bit more than usual lately. I don't know any cure for it but to push through until it fades again for a while.
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This kiss is for someone else [Jul. 23., 2019|04:17 pm]
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More reading! On Saturday, I started on another Woodrell novel, Give me a kiss; I finished it Monday night. (And that's with Sunday being mostly a lost day due to my stumbling home at 4 a.m.)

It's a very much a transitional novel from the period where he was reinventing himself as an Ozarkian author. The subtitle is even "A Country Noir". The protagonist is a Mary Sue: a rural writer whose work is pigeonholed as "genre" but who still hopes to break into the world of respectable fiction. He returns to his hometown on an errand from his parents where he gets caught up in his brother's get-rich scheme.

There's a lot of wish-fulfillment in these pages: His brother's girlfriend has an impossibly gorgeous and precocious virgin(!) daughter who just happens to fall head over heels for him. The scheme brings our man the notoriety he's been chasing, with profiles in Esquire and cash advances for his next novel.

The writing, too, made me cringe at times. There's a surfeit of clichés (some of them cornpone enough to be dad jokes) and a lot of folksy asides on Ozark history and customs. Worst of all, it's littered with gratuitous references to the first-person narrator's past-life regression therapy. I guess Woodrell was trying to give voice to his atavistic hillbilly side, the sense of connexion to place that drew him back to where he grew up, but all it does is grate and distract.

It feels like a lot of this is padding to compensate for the thinness of the plot, which could be adequately explained in a sentence. There are more violent scenes than in other Woodrell novels but they have less impact; that pervasive sense of dread, the omnipresent feeling that something awful could happen at any moment that I get from his later novels just isn't there yet.

All in all, the novel is mainly interesting for the insight into where he came from, both as a writer and as a person. It's a snapshot of him going home to cultivate an authentic voice. Most of the biographical details check out, so I feel fairly comfortable assuming that most of the narrator's musings coincide with Woodrell's own take on things (at least circa the early 90s).

Still, it's not a terrible novel, so if this is the nadir of his œuvre, I'm pretty square with the notion of becoming a Woodrell completist. I've already read his trio of early noir works (set in the more marketable boondocks of Louisiana) and he hasn't published anything new in six years, so that leaves me just two historical novels: The maid's version (which I own already) and Woe to live on, the basis for the film Ride with the Devil (which I watched long enough ago now that it probably won't colour my reading of it too much).
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La muerte de la Muerte de Artemio Cruz [Jul. 22., 2019|12:39 pm]

Saturday morning, as the temperature was already hitting 30°C, I finished reading the Fuentes. Fittingly, it concluded with a rhapsodic description of the jungle, though it was set at night, which made me somewhat wish I'd pushed through and completed it Friday night.

Regardless, I feel like I deserve a medal. Tuesday I showed my copy to Uncle Betty and had him read about a page of descriptive narration. He's probably the best-read Spanish-speaker I know and even he had trouble with some of the vocabulary. Fortunately, the last couple sequences weren't as hairy as a lot of what had come before, though I often was a bit confused as to what exactly was happening to whom.

Now that I've read the whole thing, it's easier to appreciate the structure. The flashbacks seem random in time, but eventually you notice that Cruz is going both further back and further forward. The last two extended narratives are of a New Year's party where he's already geriatric and of the end of his childhood at about 15 or 16; the brief concluding passages are his birth and his death itself.

All in all, I think it holds up well despite being nearly 60 years old and having survived to see many of the techniques it pioneered adopted by other (often lesser) authors. I may even read it again someday, but first I'm looking forward to something a little easier. On a whim, I picked up Bolaño's collected short stories and promised I wouldn't read them until I was finished with Artemio Cruz. I read one Friday night and found it refreshingly comprehensible without resorting to a dictionary.

Coincidentally, I finished two other books at the same time: a collection of short stories by the Iraqi diaspora writer Hassan Blasim and a compilation of contemporary Vietnamese short stories by writers born since 1965. The latter wore out its welcome; despite the diversity of authors, it felt repetitive, lacking both stylistic and tonal range. Most of the stories were tragic and focused on protagonists (often first-person narrators) who wax nostalgic for the rural villages they were forced to abandon. After a while, they became hard to distinguish.

The Blasim went much quicker. I was worried I would find the casual brutality exhausting (there's a lot of rape in these stories, some of it presented with disturbing off-handedness) but there was enough humour and fantasy to prevent that. Sometimes I feel like he was going for shock value, sometimes I just didn't know what his purpose was. At least it felt like a good corrective to God in pink, the debut novel from a Canadian-Iraqi named Hasan Namir that I finished three weeks ago, which I found contrived and unconvincing.

Maybe now, with summer nearly over, I'll have the time to read the Tove Janssen I acquired back at the beginning of May. I've tried reading a few pages and it's made me feel dumb. Hopefully the vocabulary will come flooding back, but for now it's like, "Did I really used to be able to read Swedish?"
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Clouds of metaphor [Jul. 18., 2019|12:47 pm]
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It was so dark when I woke up this morning I thought it was at least an hour earlier than it actually was. I wasn't expecting rainclouds, and certainly nothing on the scale of what showed up. It was a huge storm system bearing down on us and I decided to get myself out of the house early in the hopes of beating it to work.

Right as I was on the brink of leaving, however, it began to rain. The radar showed a gap between this advance thunderstorm and the greater mass behind it. I thought I'd aim for the gap and took things leisurely. At one point, I even took my clothes off and climbed back into bed to read a bit more Fuentes (only 22 pages left!). But when I rechecked the radar, my gap had closed up and it was just rain, rain, rain until midday.

I actually considered just calling in and going back to bed for a little while. After all, I've got personal hours to burn before the end of the fiscal year. Unfortunately, I also have a ten-session training course this summer and I'm only allowed to miss one. So I resigned myself to getting damp and at least waited out what seemed to be the worst of it.

I didn't do too badly. The rain dampened my sleeves and parts of my backpack, but I stayed mostly dry. I decided to give up on the shuttle (since rain plays havoc with its on-time performance) and actually had decent timing with the CTA. The rain was even lighter from the station of the library. Then I got into work and saw that my training session isn't until mid-afternoon.

Ah well, at least I won't have to water the lawn tonight--which is good, because Hump Day is belatedly coming over. I'd prefer to have him tomorrow so I could spend this evening doing laundry and recovering from back-to-back dinner dates (Uncle Betty on Tuesday and Big Red last night), not to mention a coffee date yesterday morning, but this works better for him.
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A candle in the darkness [Jul. 15., 2019|04:35 pm]
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Saturday was a scorcher and I wanted nothing more than to laze in bed and read. But it was also the day of the largest anti-ICE rally downtown and I told myself that if I can't drag my ass downtown to march for a couple hours against putting children in concentration camps then what fucking good am I.

Even so, I almost didn't make it, but I made a leap of faith and hoped that the pains I was experiencing would subside. Worst case scenario, they wouldn't and I'd just have to get back on an air-conditioned train and head back home. Fortunately, it didn't come to that and I found [profile] innerdoggie and [profile] tyrannio with very little trouble.

I don't know much about Indivisible Chicago, but both the organisers and the crowd skewed older in a manner that's become familiar to me over the past couple years. I found myself wondering, if street protests don't appeal to young folk (and they appeal little enough to me), then what might be forms of direct action that would? I hope someone hipper and more motivated than I is working on this question.

In any case, it was the usual mixed bag of speeches punctuated with a sub-sub-Dylan protest song while various shades of Reds circulated among the crowd hoping to make recruits. We warded them off for the most part, though we did allow ourselves to be accosted by an earnest young man canvassing support for granting refugee status to a Lithuanian dissident. He was quite happy to hand us some pre-printed letters to send to our Congresscritters (and which naturally haven't left my bag since).

After a bit more than an hour of this, we headed off south through the financial district (deserted on a Saturday, of course) towards ICE's downtown office. "Close the camps (now)!" and "No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!" were the most popular chants. I thought we'd circle the office for a bit but after passing it we were being routed back north--presumably back to Daley Plaza--so I proposed to [profile] tyrannio ([profile] innerdoggie having left already for an art class) that we pop into Native Foods for lunch.

There was a brief cloudburst as we talked about food and books and then we went our separate ways. He headed back to Hyde Park, but I decided I needed to get some errands done first. The Verizon staff were very kind but ultimately couldn't do anything to help me close Monshu's account except hand me a phone number. Between the Rack and DSW, I spent over an hour trying things on and left with only two new pairs of shorts.

After that, it was a quiet evening. My neighbours made a brief appearance after sunset and I ran into the Ghostbuster from across the road who needed to borrow a pair of shears. Did any of it make a difference? It's hard to feel that it did. I made a social media post and it got likes, so I guess virtue was signaled adequately. But I crawled into bed under the oppressive status quo that will continue until regime change. And that's the best case scenario.
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Resting beach face [Jul. 15., 2019|03:44 pm]
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I know I say this every other week nowadays, but I really think I've reached a point of overextending myself socially. Saturday I checked Messenger and saw that a new person had accepted my friend request. The only trouble is I don't recall sending any such request. My first reaction was: Is this some kind of new scam? Is there a way of hacking FB in order to friend you without your consent?

But I looked at his profile and he seems real enough. We have 15 mutuals, there are pictures of them with him, and his profile says he lives in Chicago. But I don't recall ever meeting him, let alone sending a friend request. So I did what seemed sensible at the time and sent an apologetic reply asking, "Where did we meet again?" No response, so I'm still in the dark, but I guess we'll run into each other again somewhere?

Oh well. I made yesterday a beach day and met a bunch of new guys anyway. But the one I spent the most time with was Hildy, who looks so changed I didn't recognise him at first. Still cute as a button, though, and almost flirty with me. We took a couple dips in the water together and during one of them he confided in me that he didn't really find me handsome until I cut my hair. Pretty much everyone seems to feel that way, so it doesn't bother me to hear it (even if it does make me think slightly less of the complimenter).

I gobsmacked him by reminding him that it'd been five years since we met. He's still just shy of 30, so that's like a huge chunk of his adult lifespan. Since Necessary Evil ended, we see each other very sporadically and generally don't have a great deal to say. But he confided some other things in me which made me think that we might have some unsuspected points of commonality.

It was as close to a perfect summer day as you ever get in Chicago and the beach was packed for at least 30 meters from the water. Several friends said they were there but in the crowd I must have missed them; I only found Pasillero because a mutual friend saw and grabbed me. His husband was there so that made the task of concealing our intimacy even more burdensome. It makes me value even more the rapport I once had with Rubeus where the two of us could flirt openly without discomfitting our partners.
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Dream dilemmas [Jul. 10., 2019|10:57 am]
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Last night was a rich one for dreams for some reason. I find that often happens after gaming, even if there's no apparent collection between what was played and what I dream about. It could be as simple as going to bed wound up means disturbed sleep which means I remember dreams I otherwise wouldn't have.

In any case, I finished off with another Monshu Is Alive dream. It was another case of him being inexplicably back, although this time he was actually in a hospital bed instead of just walking around the apartment. I distinctly remember thinking it was sloppy of me not to be recording every detail of his treatment and writing it up like I used to back in the day. We were discussing how to break the news to our friends; I told him I wanted to hold off a bit "just in case" and he understood what that meant.

Then I went on to tell him excitedly about some of the people I'd met while he'd been gone who I was looking forward to introducing him to. They were all fictitious and had appeared in previous dreams that night. In fact I had a moment of lucidity where I hesitated to tell him about someone because what if they were just someone I dreamed and not a real person? But I decided they were as real as Monshu was now so it made sense. Unlike the real Monshu in his final months, he actually sounded interested in getting to know them all.

(The hospital setting could have been inspired by a conversation with JB earlier last evening. His husband is going in for surgery tomorrow and I was trying to think of things he should prepare himself for or which might mitigate his anxiety somewhat.)

The other dreams were kind of a mess. There was a fair bit of navigating public spaces. At one point I was supposed to be camping but had decided to go home and sleep in my own bed (and left some valuables behind at the campsite). At another point I was in a sort of common room and a friend was complaining about how someone had damaged the the shared fridge.

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Hot Wet American Summer, pt. 1 [Jul. 8., 2019|03:57 pm]
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My Fourth of July weekend started Wednesday evening with a viewing party at Marina City. Ostensibly, the object of our collective gaze was the City of Chicago fireworks display. From that point of view, it was a bust. The weather suddenly turned cool, transforming the humid air into fog. At one point, the Hancock Building a mere mile to the north nearly disappeared from view.

But I've seen enough fireworks in my lifetime. I came to view the apartment--and that surpassed my hopes. As I told anyone who'd listen, this is a building I've wondered about for literally forty years. Long before I'd ever visited Chicago, back when the name itself hardly even meant anything to me, the Childcraft children's encyclopaedia featured a two-page spread on the complex. It seemed impossibly grand and futuristic, like something out of The Jetsons.

Once I'd lived here a while, I heard that the towers were not all that. The flats were rumoured to be cramped. The building had structural problems (particularly involving those striking balconies). Certainly the shabby, tucked-away ground-floor lobby promised nothing impressive. It also proved difficult to navigate, as despite being a single condo, each tower has a separate security desk and the attendant at one has no listings for the other building.

A realtor might euphemistically call the apartments "cozy"--and they are, by the inflated standards of new construction; to me they seemed plenty spacious. The kitchen, for instance, was surprisingly easy to prepare food in (which I ended up doing, having brought a couple things for the grill). But it's the balconies which really shine. Given the unusual design, they're twice the depth you'd expect and my friends own two-and-a-half of them. One they don't even use!

It was such a good crowd, I really didn't want to leave. A friend of a friend was telling stories of his stoic Midwestern Methodist father, repressed and retiring almost to the point of caricature. (He would literally rather not eat than half to tell a waitress what food to bring him.) And I got an earful about the owner's historic Baltimore residence and the joys of a century-and-a-half of ad hoc retrofitting.

The next evening's gathering, despite a clear few to fireworks in three directions, could only suffer by comparison. The crowd was smaller, older, and on the whole less interesting. The balcony was so narrow it was difficult to slide past anyone. And the alcohol, although perfectly fine, had trouble standing up to homemade stock.

But it ended much the same: with four of us sitting around swapping stories like we could keep going all night. In truth, though, I was like a toddler fighting sleep, literally struggling to keep my eyes open and my head held high. Eventually--maybe an hour after it really made sense--I had to call a Lyft and head home.

As a result, Friday was something of a recovery day. I was trying to get some cleaning done so I wouldn't have too much to do the next day but it was steamy and sultry and I was too stubborn to turn on the AC so I ended up having to retreat to the inner sanctum for regular recuperative visits. I did eventually get everything done, even pushing myself to clean up areas (like a tragic corner of the porch) that I'd been neglecting for over a year.

Saturday I was ready to be social again, so I tapped a friend for brunch at Bongo Room. Afterwards I discovered the new location of Uncharted Books, a store I'd visited only once at their Logan Square location. As I told the owner after buying a volume of Iraqi short stories, the collection was surprisingly deep given its size. After that, it was Middle Eastern and Andersonville Liquors for necessities like ice, tonic, and Turkish delight.
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Hot Wet American Summer, pt. 2 [Jul. 8., 2019|02:34 pm]
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So it's not often you'll hear me complain about not having enough bad weather, but I was really hoping for more rain this past weekend. Not only would it have spared me having to water several times but it also would have made it easier to stay in and do the laundry. As it was, I found myself last night trying to split my time between the downstairs, the front lawn, and the back porch and was a bit hectic.

I also screwed myself by, once abed, making the mistake of calling a potential trick. It was his idea; he asked me to talk him through while he wanked. But it ended up being an awkward mix of sexual fantasy and interview for a job I wasn't particularly interested in. Then I compounded the mistake by reaching out to Pepperoni right afterwards to talk through my discomfort only to have him tell me rather bluntly that he didn't want to hear it.

His attempts to backpedal only made things worse, since after four attempts on my part to end the conversation he still felt the need for a shitty parting shot. I'm still not sure what set him off and while I appreciate his need to set limits I'm disappointed to find out that someone I thought I could talk to about anything isn't. I'm torn on whether I should tell him this which probably means I should just shut my trap and deal with it if it comes up.

But enough dwelling on the negatives, since it was a very good weekend overall. In fact, if it had gone a bit less well, Sunday might not have been so stressful since one of the positives kept me up until the wee hours. I'm talking about the guy I took home from Bear Night.

In an odd bit of synchronicity, I'd been thinking of him earlier in the week. I say "odd" because nothing specific reminded me of his existence, just the vague realisation that I'd been so happy to finally meet him months ago and then we hadn't interacted since. I'd barely made it to the bar when I ran into him. "I knew the moment you said 'hi' to me," he told me afterwards, "that I was going to have sex with you."

Still, I had people to greet, so I did that perfunctorily and then dragged him back to my place. He was very sweet and the whole experience was very balanced: vigorous without being too athletic (I thought I'd be much more sore the next day than I was), chatty without being to talky, tender without being falsely sentimental--you get the idea. We both agreed it was something we'd like to do again sometime.

Before that it had been a great cocktail night. I was worried I'd have too many guests but somehow it was just the right number again. Several people cancelled, but one of the visitors brought a friend and then summoned two others (any one of which I would've been happy to show a good time). I probably had one gin too many but it ended up not really mattering.
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SAH Gay [Jul. 1., 2019|11:27 am]
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While most queerfolk were celebrating Pride yesterday, I was celebrating Sloth. I had a couple instances of FOMO from pics friends posted of themselves enjoying Pride North, but they were more than outdone by the JOMO on the major thunderstorm that swept through and put an early end to the parade.

My first hint that this was happening was the curious behaviour of the cat, who--like me--was in full siesta mode at 2:15 in the afternoon. The thunder came a moment later, by which point Boobers was already under the bed. I'm sorry I missed watching the front come through; it looked very dramatic in the photos. But listening to the rain fall while shielded from its effects felt even more indulgent than an afternoon nap.

I still had a chance to overcome my inertia and make our little gay street fair but between six hours at the picnic and another four at Bearracuda, I felt I'd been quite social enough the day before. I also didn't expect the BOMB party to be as uncoordinated as it was which led to me being underhydrated for most of it. I tried to catch up before going out but I still ended up hung over enough that the thought of going out and drinking more wasn't enticing.

Nevertheless I might have yet made the effort if not for my boozerific week ahead. I have a fireworks-watching party on Wednesday, another one on Thursday, drinks at the Anvil on Friday, and of course my own cocktail event on Saturday. I don't expect to make all of these but even half would be a lot compared to what I'm used to.
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