My Daily Day

Monday, May 31, 2004

he lay on his bed, tracing his hand against the wall while listening to Beethoven. His fingertips played with their shadows cast by the single bulb in his lamp. He wondered about the importance of physical sensation, whether sexuality monopolizes our sense of touch, at the expense of other sensual pleasures. Like the coarse grain of stones. Or the feel of paper. He remembered once, taking her hand and placing it on a wall and asking, "Why can't this be Jesus?"

Okay. The tone's a little heavy. But what he meant:

- why can't commonplace physical sensation be a sacred experience? Why can't we invest the mundane details of everyday life with a religious intensity? Why can't a bedroom wall be holy? But she misunderstood him, accused him of proselytizing. An argument ensued. That was years ago, and the only thing that bothered him now was that he no longer thought in terms of "religious intensity" with any regularity. His sense of wonder gone complacent.

On Sunday, May 30, 2004
he traveled back in time to 1674, learned the Cherokee language, armed them, and waited for white settlers to stumble into his trap. American history took a different course; his ancestors were slaughtered in the 1800s by Chippewa natives wielding (anachronistically) semi-automatic rifles. Consequently, Pete was never born, and the space-time continuum unraveled on an otherwise innocuous Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday, May 29, 2004
he felt extremely tired.
On Friday, May 28, 2004
he woke at 4 am, hiked four and a half miles to the car, drove 300 miles to Madison, got in a van, rode several more hours to Rock Island, Illinois, and opened for a U2 tribute band.
On Thursday, May 27, 2004
the ninja stood silent on a rock outcrop, his kitana poised above the fish below. Pete approached stealthily, his face disguised by ferns, his wooden spear raised above his head.
On Wednesday, May 26, 2004
he stood in a shallow pool below Shining Cloud Falls, in the Porcupine Mountains State Park in upper Michigan, and watched his friend Ryan fall in a cloud of loose shale and dust ten feet off a cliff. Ryan's leg bled profusely.
On Tuesday, May 25, 2004
after seven long years, the egg finally hit the goddamn sign.
On Monday, May 24, 2004
he sat with a group of friends in the Gesundheit, in Merrill, enjoying a 75 cent tap beer, when a drunk woman accosted the group. "What's the matter, ain't you never seen a grandma drunk before? I can be drunk if I want to. Put out that cigarette!"
On Sunday, May 23, 2004
he stood in a field watching a man playing guitar, singing, "We're the kid who does everyone else's homework."
On Saturday, May 22, 2004
he invented the post-it note.
On Friday, May 21, 2004
he found himself capable of greater honesty, by himself, walking home on a quiet night, in soft rain, than he could be surrounded by friends.
On Thursday, May 20, 2004
he rode home at 2:00 am, blitzed, passenger to a friend who played Irish music appropriate for the wet night and country roads.
On Tuesday, May 18, 2004
he visited the oracle. "What is my destiny?" he asked. "Like all men," the oracle responded, "you must cut your fingernails or buy a house."
On Monday, May 17, 2004
he stood with Hernando de Soto in the smoky ruins of a village. Centuries before this land would become Alabama, a wave of small pox decimated the local population, and their houses still stood, and fresh ash lined their fire pits, in the sweltering summer of 1540.
On Sunday, May 16, 2004
the reality of graduation sinking in, and changes approaching, he found himself emotional, thoughts clouded, a sense of now what?, everything intensely vague in a way reminiscent of his high school graduation, which launched him headlong into a last northern Wisconsin summer. He spent that summer with friends. There were trips, many car rides, hours at the truck stop's corner booth with French fries and cigarettes, picnics and parties, a girlfriend, a job, it all felt desperate and exhilarating, and everyone involved believed their moments full and their lives meaningful. Now past and present felt confused.
On Saturday, May 15, 2004
he listened as a television actor apologized for mentioning Adam Sandler and Nelson Mandella in the same paragraph. "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequete," said the actor, quoting Mandella. "Our greatest fear is that we are powerful. We ask, who am I to be beautiful? Or who am I to be talented? But who are you NOT to be beautiful or talented. You will not serve the world by hiding your light."
On Friday, May 14, 2004
he complete his last final examination. Afterwards, feeling listless and giddy, he wandered over to the University Bookstore and browsed the year end discount novels stacked on tables. He had no money, and a pile of unread books at home already. Why was he there? Because shopping for cheap books here was a regular facet of his Madison experience: he would graduate the following day: it was over and he had no intention of buying a damn book. He just wanted some continuity with the previous five years, an attempt to cling to an already fading past. This was not sentimental; he looked forward eagerly, and the past laid snares of stress, frustration, and failure of character. Okay, it was sentimental. But change, even when for the better, is never easily accepted. Perhaps Robert Frost said it best,

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason
And bow and accept the end
of a love or a season?

On Thursday, May 13, 2004
he passed a dead cat in the street.
On Wednesday, May 12, 2004
he saw a man on State Street playing congas and screaming with a husky voice, "Give me your money! Give me all your money!"
On Tuesday, May 11, 2004
various lies he'd told himself found him in a back alley, pummeled him, broke his knees. This too didn't happen.
On Monday, May 10, 2004
he woke with a wood tick embedded in his forehead.
On Sunday, May 09, 2004
he found himself in a Vail Resort hot tub with Mark Linkous and Mimi Parker. "This isn't right Pete," said Mimi. "You didn't actually meet me. You shouldn't put words in my mouth."

"You may enjoy our music," said Mark. "But you have no right to make us the unwitting victims of your self-projections."

"I know," said Pete. "That you have no lessons for me beyond your music. I must find my own answers."

"You must learn conviction and determination, and not be so easily discouraged by conflicting truths," said Mimi. "Believe that some things are true, and what is essential is invisible to the eye."

"Believe that some things are true, and what is essential is invisible to the eye," Pete repeated, so as not to forget.

"And stop plagiarizing "The Little Prince"," added Mark.

On Saturday, May 08, 2004
he left the book open, face down on her table, hoping she'd read the poem.
On Friday, May 07, 2004
in La Crosse, he announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States, despite being 12 years junior to the constitutionally mandated age of 35. He will run on the Kisser platform, "A chicken in every pot and an accordion in every garage."
On Thursday, May 06, 2004
before his Senior Recital, his years of musical training, effort, doubt, frustration, joy, drive, fatigue, all coursed through his mind in the approaching hours, sifting and tumbling, till he reminded himself of the inconsequentiality of a single evening of music, of the minute gasp of his own life balanced against the perspective of human history's eons and lost stories, and by extension, the transitory beauty and crime of every human individual life, and music became the perfect metaphor and cure for his performance anxiety, and he played guilt free, each discreet wrong note a secret from his friends and family in attendance, a secret that echoed the words of Philip Roth: "Getting them wrong is living."
On Wednesday, May 05, 2004
the man behind the counter at the Open Pantry started dancing.
On Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Pete's wildlife ecology paper came back from the teaching assistant, critiqued as "too wordy." Pete thought, "Well, obfuscate you."
On Monday, May 03, 2004
his day consisted of errands. Pick up a check, go to the bank, sell some CDs, buy groceries, get gas. Days like this always emptied him. Extended exposure to capitalism emphasized the divorce between modern American culture and reality. Especially the grocery store. He stared at boxes of frozen, breaded chicken fingers. Ace of Base played on the grocery store intercom. He remembered a journalism professor, talking about consumerism, who once told him that grocery stores are the most heavily engineered environments in the world. Every box lining the shelves is the result of millions of dollars worth of test marketing, designed to grab your attention, to influence your preference of one brand over another. Everything down to the intercom music, lighting, and store layout is expressly designed to loosen your wallet. The fortunes of food companies hinge on brand loyalty and impulse buys, and nothing prompts an impulse like an attractive presentation. For General Mills and Nabisco, appearances are life and death. So on a day like today, all those desperately controlled appearances amount to an American delusion: that you can buy the answers to your problems. That property matters. From this follows isolation, a sense of drift, if not overt disillusionment because beyond a certain level of material comfort, happiness becomes a different game.
On Sunday, May 02, 2004
he sat at an orange metal table at the Terrace, in sight of Lake Mendota, feeding muffin crumbs to sparrows and wrens.
On Saturday, May 01, 2004
he drank wine and Pabst while a friend revealed a secret.