Wednesday, June 30, 2004

On Wednesday, June 30, 2004
he became an issue of the Chicago Tribune. Millions sought his counsel, that first day, purchasing his company. For most of June 30 he relished their curiosity and interest, but already at nightfall he lay mostly abandoned in gutters and trash cans, doomed to parrot cages and irrelevancy by the passage of time.
On Tuesday, June 29, 2004
his roommate Pat took him sailing on Lake Mendota.
On Sunday, June 27, 2004
he woke. The orchid had started to bloom. The entire day, even the bike ride through Madison in a soft drizzle, felt propelled, felt intended, felt alive and joyful and hopeful. It was a euphoria he could accept.
On Saturday, June 26, 2004
an older, heavyset woman began shaking and crying at the counter of the yarn store, when informed that she couldn't return her knitting needle.
On Thursday, June 24, 2004
he saw Tom Cruise walk down Vilas Ave. A mob of several dozen followed him, clapping vigorously.
On Wednesday, June 23, 2004
he read Whitman's Song of Myself" as the Kissers traveled through Iowa. He read many Whitman poems in high school, and they profoundly moved him at the time. But now, a lot of it went over his head. As a teenager, he accepted Whitman's unbridled optimism, he shared the fascination and wonder and affirmation. But Pete got a little cynical over the years, perhaps, or pragmatic, or maybe just stupid. He had difficulty digesting exclamation marks at the end of lines like "behold the sunrise!" He missed the ease of hope. Why does he now demand that optimism be qualified?
On Tuesday, June 22, 2004
he visited the oracle. "Tell me," asked Pete, "What is the epitome of physical attraction?" The oracle replied, "Throughout history two features have defined the beautiful people of an era. For women, pink pants. For men, a handlebar mustache."
On Monday, June 21, 2004
a woman in red pleather pants told him, "Don't worry about it hon . . . we all end up with our pickle in the dirt."
On Sunday, June 20, 2004
he wondered about time, and closeness, and memory, about the different sorts of connections human beings have with each other and how those connections change over time. He thought about various relationships he'd been in, how even now, far removed in time and perhaps distance, unsure of the whereabouts or welfare of a dozen individuals, how no relationship really ends. Absence is just another kind of relationship. So is memory. He remembered a quote by Hemingway, "As long as there is one of us there is two of us." Hemingway used the quote in a romantic context, but really it could apply to any relationship where an intimacy is abandoned, a connection disregarded, or a closeness evaporated. Former teachers. Former neighbors. Former co-employees. Former friends. All of these beside former romance in their relegation to memory and imagination.

You! The person reading this! Pick someone, an individual, anyone with whom you shared a connection now lost. You don't know where this person is anymore, how they've grown, whether their values as you thought you knew them remain intact, whether the things important to them have changed. So two of that person exist, side by side. The actual person living present tense out in the world beyond your sphere, and the person you remember and imagine. Likewise, that person carries a second you with them, beside your real life present tense you, a you of their memory and dreams. Think of how many lost relationships haunt the human race on a planet of mortals for whom connection with other mortals is our only joy and cure. Multiply times two, for each person a second of memory and imagination and stalking questions, an entire plant shadowed by ghosts of an impression of a hopefully still living human being who once passed close enough to recognize. Is our responsibility greater to the memory, or to the actual person? Where is the intersection of solitude and friendship?

A priest once said, "God is not a book, not a set of rules to obey or codes to follow. God is relationship." Perhaps this is why historical religious figures time and again have preached love, compassion, and tolerance, because these are the common denominators of all positive social relationships. Maybe we are not saved by romantic love, maybe we are not saved by love of an anthropomorphized deity waiting to reward us with everlasting paradise, maybe we are saved by love of the terror and beauty and vulnerability in all relationships, between all people, between people and the rest of existence, every animal and tree and star, maybe we are saved by love because only this particular form of insanity permits humans to endure themselves.

On Saturday, June 19, 2004
someone hit his car and damaged the axle. If you would like to send Pete money to cover his insurance deductible, address the check to 414 Chestnut St., Madison WI, 53726.
On Friday, June 18, 2004
he slept in his own bed for the first time in weeks.
On Thursday, June 17, 2004
he purchased a cup of coffee at a bar/music club/laundromat in downtown Cincinnati called Sudsy Malone's.
On Wednesday, June 16, 2004
he learned that Santa Fe is the oldest continually inhabited city in America. Jamestown and St. Augustine can go fuck themselves.
On Tuesday, June 15, 2004
he learned that the city of London covers an area larger than Rhode Island.
On Monday, June 14, 2004
he slept in a Harvard dormitory.
On Sunday, June 13, 2004
he fell in love with Dover, New Hampshire. The mayor presented Pete with a key to the city, but Pete committed an irreparable faux paus during the parade by urinating out the side of the convertible.
On Saturday, June 12, 2004
he stood alone in lower Manhattan, leaning against a wrought iron fence on a traffic island, watching the Flat Iron building bask in the sunset, the elaborate trimwork on the upper floors tangled in dying light. Three years earlier, he had stood in the same place under different circumstances. A bittersweet mix of liberation and nostalgia filled him. He knew this city, more so than other cities, is often abused by human projections. If you are young and in love, then New York City is romantic. If you feel lonely, then New York City is cold and unwelcoming. But it's really just several miles of pavement, steel, and glass, with 9 million people crammed in on one another. To say that New York is a different place misses the point. Every place is different. New York is just one more place. And you can go there, and perhaps feel different, and maybe New York enables that difference more than other locales, but ultimately the difference is you.
On Friday, June 11, 2004
he ate a Philly cheese steak at Pat's in Philadelphia. Joe ordered, "Mushroom pepper whiz wit," and received an approving nod from the man at the cash register.
On Thursday, June 10, 2004
he learned that the Great Lakes have a combined area the size of the UK.
On Wednesday, June 09, 2004
a witch laid a curse on mankind. For each sexual partner, you must read 100 good books. Practically overnight, the promiscuous in practice and ambition alike became a class distinguished as much by their intelligence as by their sex drive.
On Tuesday, June 08, 2004
his face became a tennis net. He met a girl whose face was a pair of scissors. It was a horrible relationship and ended in tragedy.
On Monday, June 07, 2004
he interruppted two teenagers making out in a Civil War memorial park, in Richmond, Virginia.
On Sunday, June 06, 2004
he fabricated a ghost story for the amusement of the Kissers. Kari complained, "We heard all these stories last year."
On Saturday, June 05, 2004
on the fifth day of boot camp, Pete navigated the Minefield of the Self. Sgt. Nietzsche spoke through a bullhorn from a tower overhead. "Each step is your choice, your creation, your contribution to the evolving work of art that is your life." Pete stopped and looked to the sky for assistance. "Don't stop Pete," said Sgt. Nietzsche, "There's no answers in the clouds. Keep your eyes to the ground or you're dead as God."
On Friday, June 04, 2004
on the fourth day of boot camp, Pete scaled the Wall of Virtue, while Sgt. Hume stood below him with a stop watch.

"This is all in my mind," said Pete, slipping. "It's just my perception."

"Nevertheless," said Sgt. Hume, "in practice it must guide your conduct accordingly."

On Thursday, June 03, 2004
on the third day of Philosophy Marines boot camp, Sgt. Kant issued him a semi-automatic rifle and stood near the firing range saying, "Remember men, it is not your duty to die for your country. It is your duty to make the enemy soldier act so that the maxim of his action could be universal law."
On Wednesday, June 02, 2004
on the second day of boot camp, he found himself face down in the mud, Sgt. Descarte standing over him, yelling, "You think you're something? I think you're shit! Give me twenty more!"
On Tuesday, June 01, 2004
he joined the Philosophy Marines, and shipped off for basic training at Fort Ontology. On the first day of boot camp Sgt. Plato drove him on a blistering ten-mile hike through the Forests of Knowledge, carrying sixty pounds of True Belief in his pack.


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