My Daily Day

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

On Tuesday, November 30, 2004
he became the color blue. His friend Matt became the color black. They wrestled each other for possession of the sky.

On Monday, November 29, 2004
snow dusted the furrows in empty fields. Dusk came through pencil sketch trees in an orange wash. Barns with peeling paint and rusted farm machinery. His drive to Madison was a Terry Redlin print.

On Sunday, November 28, 2004
Pete discovered he sucks at Halo 2.

On Saturday, November 27, 2004
He had to get out of the house. The indoors grew suffocating as daylight failed and the rain became heavy snow. He dressed warm and went out into a storm, walking Merrill with a digital voice recorder in his hand. The sidewalks were slush and the streetlights were halos of downward twisting snow. Curtains of back-lit snow.For your amusement, a compendium of the evening's thoughts, transcribed and lightly edited to prevent the author from looking like a fucking moron. (Um . . . ah . . .) And yes, to his surprise, he actually does narrate in the present tense:

"I'm walking down Tee Lane Drive and have nothing to think and am conscious of the sound of my voice."

Caveats to the above selection: Narcissism?

"The entire day it alternated between snow and rain. I took a walk down to Riverside Park around sundown and wandering along the river and back. Everything was dead and dark and wet. And I thought it was beautiful."

Caveats: Brooding?

"So I tried to find someone to hang out with tonight. Van Straten drove up to Burish's hunting shack cause Justin Ellis is there. I was there last night and in any case the roads are shit. Gruetzmacher's up with his family somewhere to the north. Adam Behm's at his girlfriend's mother's house. I called Matt Frederick but he said he just wanted to lay low and stay in tonight. I thought about trying to track down Ryan Kornhurst but I don't have his number. I know where he lives. I could stop by and knock on the door but that might be kind of weird, me just showing up there. I briefly daydreamed about what it would be like if I moved back to Merrill. Who would I hang out with? Probably Burish a lot and Ryan Kornhurst and their contingent of friends, Ike and Steve. Nice people but could I really get that close to them? What would it be like?"

Caveats: Boring? I mean, you probably don't know these people."

That's the key difference between the friends I made in high school and the friends I have now. In high school it felt like there was an element of fate involved. I felt like it couldn't possibly have unfolded any other way. These friends were preordained, predestined, handed to me by God. It was fate. They could have been no one else. That's what it felt like. That's what I probably believed."

Caveats: He still feels a sense of fate in many of his more recent friendships.

"Now I'm crossing over the Center Avenue bridge. So I come home to Merrill and it generally makes me depressed. And I used to think I got depressed coming home because of all the painful memories. But the truth about it is, there aren't that many painful memories I have of Merrill. Sure there's a few acutely painful memories. Family shit, rough break-ups. But these are more than outweighed by all the positive memories of this town. So perhaps the reason why it's so disappointing for me to come home is because all the positive memories of this town no longer really exist. The times that I enjoyed here were built on a foundation of friendship, community, and this evaporated because everyone in town I spent time with has either gotten a job somewhere or gone to college or is still living home with their parents which is just embarrassing, you know? Sorry Matt."

Caveats: Pete can get away with this because Matt doesn't have internet. And he did move to the Twin Cities for a while.

"I think part of the problem too is a lack of motivation. I get home and on my way home I make plans. I'm going to do this and this and this while I'm in Merrill. I'm gonna wake up at 9:00, go downtown and have a cup of coffee, read in the coffee shop for a little bit, get back home, do some promo for the Kissers . . . Of course it never happens that way. I get home, I'm up till three, four in the morning hanging out with friends drinking beer, sleep till noon. At 1:30 in the afternoon I'm still in my underwear, I haven't even showered yet, just kind of walking around the house bored, eating aimlessly, sit down and play piano for a while, read listlessly for a while, go on the internet check my e-mail. Maybe around 3:00 I actually get down to doing some work. So I can't respect myself. I feel lazy and unmotivated. That's probably why I get so down in the dumps when I come back home. Because all the air gets sucked out of me. All the drive and sense of forward moving that I experienced in Madison just evaporates."

Caveats to the above selection: although the author maintained a high GPA in college, and this could be construed as drive, he regularly sleeps past noon on tour with the Kissers, sometimes keeping the band waiting in the van while he showers. Does the drive evaporate? Or is it not there to begin with?

"So probably, of all the Kissers, I spend more time talking about my hometown than anyone else. With Ken and Whitewater, with Joe and Union Grove, with Nate and Janesville, they hardly ever mention it unless you ask questions. So why am I different? Maybe . . . well, I lived here for 18 years. This was a huge part of my life. I lived here three times longer than I've ever lived anywhere else. So it still weighs heavily on my consciousness. All my formative experiences happened in Merrill, in this small town, in this self-enclosed universe. And when I was a child, I thought Merrill was the world. I thought Merrill was an enormous city. I have memories of being in a car and driving over to the other side of town with Kerry and Leah, to the sixth ward. I felt like I'd traveled to the edge of the earth. Merrill was everything. If you traveled to Wausau it felt like you'd traveled to another galaxy. And perhaps I've never outgrown that childhood wonder. I still think about it all the time, I dream about it all the time. I don't know. It's strange to be so attached to a place that makes you depressed whenever you visit it."

Caveats to the above selection: Pete had many formative experiences after leaving Merrill. He dreams about Merrill once every other month.

"So I'm walking down Main Street and I pass by Legends. I look through the windows and know that if I were to stop and examine the faces more closely I'd probably see someone I'd forgotten or maybe don't want to run into."

Caveats: Legends is a bar. Pete has few enemies.

"You know what really tied me to Merrill? The joy of discovery. In elementary school it was the exploration of my neighborhood. Middle school, that expanded to include the golf course, Brose's, the car lot, the farm fields south of the neighborhood, the woods. In high school it was the city itself. I got to know other parts of the city I'd never been before. During lunch hours at high school we'd go eat at restaurants we'd never been to, just find out what they were like . . . and coffee shops. I began to feel autonomous. And then the last years of high school explored not just Merrill but the countryside around it. Newly liberated by our driver's licenses, no longer bound by walking distance, we explored the county highways as far as Marathon and Antigo, and north to Tomahawk, Wausau, until we knew it like the back of our hand. It was that gradual exploration, the confidence of geography that felt so empowering. And hopefully I'll find that again in Boston."

Caveats: Blah blah blah look at me I'm writing about myself la la la.

"I just rented a video. HOLY SHIT was that pathetic! All these people in there looked like they haven't slept in a week, sunken eyes, no one's smiling, fluorescent lights, pasty skin. Oh God. I was in there for like twenty minutes trying to make up my mind. (Laughs) Dollar video rentals. They're so cheap and yet I put so much thought into it, like (gravelly voice here) I really really don't want to rent a bad movie and waste this dollar. (End gravel voice). As if I have anything better to do tonight. That's the thing too, I have the entire fucking night off right? All I have to do is kick back and relax this weekend, sleep and eat at my parent's house. But part of me gets bored so easily, boring and miserable, it's like I always have to be doing something. This isn't necessarily a healthy thing. I mean, if you can't just relax and unwind and be happy doing nothing can you ever really be happy? You know? The Inuit, between their hunting trips, do nothing but lie around and sleep. They learned it from their dogs, they know they have to rest up. Why do I have such a hard time just chilling out, and enjoying it? What the fuck?"

Caveats: Wasn't he just bitching about his lack of motivation, sitting around the house all day in his underwear?

"I imagine myself back in Madison on Monday night. Ken asks me, 'How was Merrill?' I say, 'Same as always.' Every time I get back together with my old friends it's always the same. The only difference this year was the conversations on politics, but other than that it was the telling of old stories, reminiscing, reconstructing the chronology of how we met, various things we did, that happened to us, and in what order. It always culminates in outward affection. 'Man you guys are great, man those days were fun, blah blah blah, look at us, we were kings.'"

Caveats: Pete often has fictional conversations with other people in his head. Don't you think that's weird?

"I don't think I can get through a day without spending some money, without buying something. Capitalism has sunk its claws into me. It feels strange. It's so . . . compelling to be in a store and want to buy something. So intense, the wanting."

Caveats: Pete is especially susceptible in record and book stores.

"Even as I'm thinking these thoughts, I'm aware how universal they must be. How this very moment there's hundreds of people around the United States, walking by themselves in different cities thinking the same things I am. The specifics are different, different friends and a different hometown, but everybody thinks these things. Does this make me part of something larger?"

Caveats: Everybody may not think these things.

"I was at Matt Burish's hunting shack, which is more a corrugated steel tractor shed, up in northern Wisconsin last night until 4:00 talking to Andy and Amanda and Adam and Matt. It's never enough. I felt helpless. I want to live with these people."

Caveats: Pete was only there until 3:00, but it took nearly an hour to drive home in the snow.

On Friday, November 26, 2004
he cradled a double barreled shot gun while watching a History Channel special on colonial Jamestown.

On Thursday, November 25, 2004
he drove from Minneapolis to Merrill, listening to Bob Dylan and Radiohead.

On Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Ken took Joe and Pete for a plane ride over Madison as the sun sank. Joe joked that three musicians in a plane was an invitation to disaster. Pete flew for part of the trip and did not crash into either lake. He looked down on Madison as the sunset faded from the western horizon and the streetlights came on below. All those houses, each equipped with heat, water, electricity, perhaps an internet connection. How'd they do it? He watched the tiny pairs of headlights on country roads, each an unseen car, and wondered how something so small could cost so much.

On Sunday, November 21, 2004
he visited his sister Kerry in Chicago. He took her to "I Heart Huckabees." His head exploded.

On Saturday, November 20, 2004
in a book about Greenland he read the following story of people stranded on an iceberg.

During the Hall Expedition in 1871-1872, meant to find Sir John Franklin and his crew, it was thought that the expedition ship, the Polaris, was about to be crushed by ice, so the crew began unloading important supplies and a lifeboat. During the process, twelve men, two of them Inuit with their wives and children, found themselves drifting on a loose floe. It was October. From 79 degrees, 35' north, they drifted south in the Greenland Current, catching seals on the way and living quite comfortably. Seals provide vitamin C as well as protein, so no one eating the Eskimo diet suffered scurvy. The fat was used for light and fire.

By April they found themselves off the shore of Labrador, but the coming of spring made their journey more dangerous: the pack ice began to break up in stormy seas and the floe grew smaller and smaller. A child had been born and thrived. On April 30, the travelers were picked up in perfect condition. The party had been drifting for 193 days and had covered 1,300 miles.

On Friday, November 19, 2004
it was 5:20 in the morning. He played sparse chords on a piano in an empty house. He didn't want to be that young man, sitting on the shore of Lake Superior, watching the sun set over the waves, dreaming about the right woman, about a great love. Pete knew it was dangerous to wait for someone, to pin one's happiness to future romance. To future anything. He knew that the closet thing to a guarantee lay within. It's something more subtle than self-love. Not narcissism so much as acceptance. Not an arrogant conviction that he could do no wrong, but the acknowledgement that he could be a monster. Perhaps something worhwhile remained, and he knew it all depended on the protection and encouragement of the good that remains.

On Thursday, November 18, 2004
Joy and Sorrow went for a walk, hand in hand, by the Lake of the Human Condition. Where the lake emptied into the River of Time, Joy and Sorrow sat and talked.

-One day you will thank me for this, said Sorrow.
-For what?, asked Joy.
-Trust me, just wait, said Sorrow.

On Wednesday, November 17, 2004
a single blubber lamp lit the igloo. The Inuit shaman sat across from Knud Rasmussen and Pete. The sun would not come back for seven weeks. The shaman said, "All true wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of man, in the great solitudes; and it can only be attained through suffering." The shaman paused to remove his sealskin tunic. "Suffering and privation are the only things that can open the mind of man to that which is hidden from his fellows."

On Tuesday, November 16, 2004
he tossed pennies onto Benjamin Franklin's grave. Then he walked over to Independence Hall. Iron blockades surrounded the building, and the birthplace of "Liberty" and "Freedom" was guarded by armed park rangers. The irony was not lost on our hero.

On Sunday, November 14, 2004
I'm sorry, but Pete's daily day cannot be completed at this time. Please check the accordion player and try your call again.

On Thursday, November 11, 2004
he held his garment bag, waiting to change out of his suit. Both unisex restrooms were locked at the Preservation Pub in Knoxville, Tennessee. A cute woman with dark hair and black frames came back and tried both doors. "You're cute," she said, "I'm gonna pee with you." The door to the bathroom opened up and a man left, and the woman pulled Pete in, dropped her pants to the ankles, and pissed in front of him.

On Wednesday, November 10, 2004
the Kissers played between two heavy neu-metal bands in Spartanburg, South Carolina. To express the disparity in image, Pete wrote in black magic marker, on his forearm, "THIS IS NOT A TATTOO."

On Tuesday, November 09, 2004
he woke at 7:30. He remained in his sleeping bag for an hour, shivering despite his clothes, the blanket, the jacket wrapped around his head. At 8:30, he crawled out of the tent, over the curled forms of Joe and Ken, bundled inside their sleeping bags. He put on his jacket. He could see his breath.

He walked to the edge of the campsite, to the entrance of the park, and then down a wet path to a river. It was light out but the sun was still coming up behind the trees, filtering down through branches and leaves and tangled vine-like plants. Everything in the woods looked crisp and bright and new. He started singing. Making up words, melodies. "You'll never know how much I love you. You'll never know how long I'll wait." Silly stuff. Pop song stuff.

He reached the river and watched the young sunlight cut bright slashes across the water's murky surface. Drunk on solitude, on a riverbank with the bright autumn morning hanging in the Carolina woods, he sang. Do you know how it feels to be young and traveling the continent? Is there majesty in unplanned, blindsided moments? Is there beauty in an unscripted life? To improvise, to court the delayed resolution of open possibilites. Do you know the contentment of chance? The freedom from expectation? Have you fucking seen this country?

On Friday, November 05, 2004
he traveled back in time to 1997 and became CEO of Eastman Kodak. He promptly eliminated 20,100 jobs and received, in turn, $60 million in stock options. Let the good times roll.

On Thursday, November 04, 2004
he found himself in the streets of Virginia, Minnesota, 1912. Millions of tons of iron ore slept beneath the Mesabi Range to the north and west. The miners strike was a week old that night, and thugs deputized by the employers roamed the streets, dragging miners to wagons and hauling them away. When Pete intervened on behalf of a friend, they arrested him too. The judge, one of the few not on the payroll of U.S. Steel, ruled in Pete's favor, calling him "an upright citizen" of "firm principle."

Upon release, redeemed but outraged, he became an outspoken advocate for worker rights and unionization. Two months later, the owners sent thugs to Pete's boarding house, where they pulled him from bed and broke his legs. When that wasn't enough, they hung him from a bridge by his neck.

On Wednesday, November 03, 2004
he watched helplessly. Never before had he felt this alienated from his country. A divide gradually emerged, between his values and those of were the majority of American voters.