My Daily Day

Saturday, January 31, 2004

On Saturday, January 31, 2004
he froze to death in a cow pasture. In the afterlife, he lived the experiences of each person with whom he'd known any contact, even those who merely passed him on the street; he saw himself through the eyes of others. He now understood his effect on people, he understood every response of various girlfriends, lab partners, teachers, strangers in elevators. He saw with painful clarity his weaknesses, and strengths, his failures and arrogance, alongside his accomplishments and empathy. He realized he knew nothing of himself, and had never bothered to ask those who did.

Friday, January 30, 2004

On Friday, January 30, 2004
he drowned in a shipwreck. In the afterlife, he was forced to live through the experiences of everyone he’d ever ridiculed or offended in life.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

On Thursday, January 29, 2004
he learned that certain ant colonies "herd " caterpillars. These caterpillars secrete honey dew, a sweet sugary substance, which the ants devour. Every night, the ants herd said caterpillar into a pen sewn together from leaves, where it is safe from predators.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

On Wednesday, January 28, 2004
he spent two hours at Helen C. White library, in the third floor quiet study section overlooking frozen Lake Mendota and downtown Madison. He read several chapters from Mark Twain's Roughing It. This is it, he thought, my last semester. Here I am at the library studying. He nearly laughed that the predictability of it. This moment is a cliche. A college student studying at the library? Isn't that a little too precious?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

On Tuesday, January 27, 2004
he listened to Either/Or by Elliot Smith.

Monday, January 26, 2004

On Monday, January 26, 2004
standing outside a (type of building), he got into a discussion with (local Irish rock band) about (noun). Nate, our (musical instrument) player, who is a (noun), was talking about the difference between (type of religion) and his brief stint as a (food item). Kari, our (musical instrument) player, who enjoys (gerund), (adverb) interrupted. "Nate, just (imperative verb) the (noun) you (adjective) jerk. "

Sunday, January 25, 2004

On SUNDAY!!, Sunday!, Sunday, January 25, 2004
monster trucks! Exploding army tanks! Motorcycle Mayhem! This Sunday at the Civic Center, Get Wet Wild and Muddy when Machines with Really Big Tires Rock Your World! See ex-convicts impaled on Authentic 13th Century Pikes! Imported from Medieval France! See baby cows SET ON FIRE and RUN OVER by MOPEDS WITH RAZOR TIRES!

Saturday, January 24, 2004

On Saturday, January 24, 2004
he ordered bacon when informed that fresh fruit was not available.

Friday, January 23, 2004

On Friday, January 23, 2004
he was pleasantly surprised when his friend Emma showed up at a gig near Minneapolis.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

On Thursday, January 22, 2004
he entered a conversation with Trixie Bangs, a female adult motion picture starlet. "Be honest," asked Pete. "How often are you faking it? Most of the time? All of the time?" "Well, let me tell you sweetie," she whispered, "these men are trained professionals. They've spent years and hairstyles refining their skills in the art of copulation. Practice making it makes perfect." "This is ridiculous," said Pete. "Here I am having a fictional conversation with a probably non-existent porn star, and I don't know where this is going." "Damn it," she screamed, "don't ever break character again! You started this journal entry, you finish it! Don't tell me you're in over your head!" "I can't," he cried, "copulation? I'm not even sure if I used that word correctly! I must pull out!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

On Wednesday, January 21, 2004
he decided to reveal his telekinetic abilities to the world once and for all by levitating a 9 foot concert grand piano before a crowd of hundreds.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

On Tuesday, January 20, 2004
his professor moved through the classroom, passing out syllabi. When he came to Pete, he asked, "Why is your hair yellow?" "That's how hard your final was last semester," replied Pete, confident of his inherent comic brilliance. The professor just squinted in confusion and moved on.

Monday, January 19, 2004

On Monday, January 19, 2004
he stifled a sharp retort to the white supremacist in his cab. Later, he regretted swallowing his words, wishing he'd kicked the jerk out on the curb instead.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

On Sunday, January 18, 2004
the Earth lurched to a stop in mid-orbit. Cars swerved, pedestrians stumbled, housed crumbled. And with a second sudden jolt, the Earth resumed motion. A series of stops and starts continued over the next decade, until astro-physicists realized the Earth's erratic pauses in orbit fit a pattern of Morse code. "This is God. You must . . ." it read by 2012. All humanity waited anxiously for the completion of the dictate.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

On Saturday, January 17, 2004
he vomited in the early morning after the prospect of mortality tore through him. Faced with death and isolated in the long dark corridors of an exhausted mind, he collapsed beneath unanswerable questions, reeling, sobbing, listening to Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley over and over on his discman. When he couldn't take it anymore, he switched to Eureka by Jim O'Rourke. He woke at 2:00 PM, ears pierced with a screeching hangover, guts wrenching, confused by the wads of tissue on the floor and the despondent, cryptic notes typed into an open Word document on his computer. But he pulled together and drove a 10 hour shift for Badger Cab, and after a long night's work, he returned home and sipped a warm cup of hot chocolate in his room. Periodic bursts of January wind shook the window panes. He listened calmly. Sip. Rattle. Sip. Yes, we all have our bouts with the greater unknown, the suicide "whys" that mangle rational thought. We all have these nights where our minds close in on themselves, tattered and choked. We see the emptiness and it destroys us. And yet we choose to live. To see tomorrow. Somehow we pull ourselves together and put another day behind us, and in doing so deny mortality once more. His mind drifted to the Madison streets he navigated for 10 hours that night, all those dark windows holding in the sleepers, and those cold sidewalks where drunks huddled in their jackets and cigarettes. Thousands of lives, each one finite and waning. Tombstones waiting to happen. And yet each will wake up tomorrow, we hope, and life continues. He marveled at the human capacity for survival. The will to live. To live even as we question the value of life and doubt our future. Persistence in the face of uncertainty. Our greatest hope. Sip. Rattle. But it is not an easy hope. It does not come automatically. It requires effort and patience, cultivated by by continual choice.

Friday, January 16, 2004

On Friday, January 16, 2004
the Kissers took him to a comedy show on State Street. He drank too much.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

On Thursday, January 15, 2004
he enjoyed a long walk home from an origami/margarita gathering at the White Horse. Colored squares of paper gave way to several miles warm and comfortable inside his jacket and scarf and sweater.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

On Wednesday, January 14, 2004
the sun didn't come out. "Where did you go?" asked Pete the following morning.

"I'm busy," said the sun. "I have business besides southern Wisconsin, you know. You should know this."

"Do you remember the time when I stopped to watch you set over the farm fields south of Merrill?" asked Pete. "Way back in 1999?"

"Yes, I remember it fondly. You were driving north on County K, on your way home from a piano lesson. You pulled over to the shoulder on top of a large hill."

"That's right. I could see forever from that hill. Fields and forests for miles around, houses tiny as fingernails."

"You looked quite confident, leaning on the hood of your mom's Saturn. But kinda weird. The passing cars kept slowing down and staring."

"I didn't mind. The air was perfect, like a warm bath. And the colors . . . you really outdid yourself."

"Thank you."

"And it wasn't just the sky. The grass, the trees, everything looked beautiful, every color took its cue, vibrated, and pulled new life from the inside. The grass glowed. The trees bathed. The hay shone."

"Do you remember it that clearly? Perhaps you made up those colors, not me. This was a vital time in your life, you know. Everything would change."

"The Madison brochures were already pouring in through the mail. I'd talked to my roommate on the phone. My friends were leaving and returning from orientation at various schools. We had only weeks. That's why I stopped. That's why I pulled the car over to the shoulder and got out to watch the sunset. It was my way of affirming who I was and where I'd come from, of assuring myself that I would not forget. I loved my friends and I felt the impermanence. An urgency coursed through me, an urgency of pulling every last moment from our waning time together. I stopped to watch the sunset, I drank it in. It was war against time."

"Did you win?"

"Uh, no. But I have good memories. Like this sunset, thousands like it. They provide comfort and reassurance."

"But Pete, you should not always look back. You must not ignore me, here in front of you right now. I am still here. You can still get something from me to carry. You can call it a war against time, though personally that's a bit melodramatic for my taste. But I know what you're trying to say. As long as you live, keep your affirmation potent, your assurance fresh. You may draw blood from the present as well as the past."

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

On Tuesday, January 13, 2004
he spent a mediocre day accomplishing nothing. The dull day was occasionally interrupted by moments of boredom.

Monday, January 12, 2004

On Monday, January 12, 2004
he discussed classical piano with a passenger in his cab.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

On Sunday, January 11, 2004
he came off the stage at the Metro riding a tide of exhilaration that even the loss to Philadelphia couldn't quell.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

On Saturday, January 10, 2004
he drank no coffee and spent the evening battling a fierce headache. Renunciation. "I will not go quietly into the night!" he screamed at the coffee maker. "I will not passively accept this loss!"

Friday, January 09, 2004

On Friday, January 09, 2004
his sisters took him to a hair salon. For his birthday, they were giving Pete highlights, which were very much in fashion at the time. The hairdresser had never done highlights before, however, and Pete ended up with a solid chunk of highlighter yellow hair on the top of his head, and his normal greasy dark blonde on the back and sides.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

On Thursday, January 08, 2004
he sat in a Dunken Doughnuts in Milwaukee for two hours reading Steppenwolf.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

On Wednesday, January 07, 2004
he broke his promise to meet Matt at the coffee shop at 6:00 and give him three CDs.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

On Tuesday, January 06, 2004
he burned three CDs.

Monday, January 05, 2004

On Monday, January 05, 2004
the newly emptied room floored him. He sat in the corner where the bed once stood. The walls asserted themselves with new angles, clean lines, the closet loomed arrogant with empty possibilities, free from decades of accumulated order. He turned to watch the sunset through the window, screaming yellow, tearing the sky apart, washing the snow with soft light. His breath clouded the window.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

On Sunday, January 04, 2004
he drove a taxi cab in the worst snow storm to hit Madison in recent memory.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

On Saturday, January 03, 2004
in a vision, he saw himself on a hollow winter night. His face was pale in the glare of a single hallogen barn light. The empty light gave out halfway across the snow covered field, where shadows gave way to starlight.

Friday, January 02, 2004

On Friday, January 02, 2004
he walked through the cemetary at the top of Highland Ave. because it was foggy and he knew the tombstones would look absolutely perfect in such weather.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

On Thursday, January 01, 2004
he slept until 1:00 in the afternoon.