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December 2001

Getting Back to Normal

After a day of slowly replenishing my electrolytes, I’m ready to head further back into the world of solid foods. Maybe today I'll get some rice cakes to supplement the banana that I ate last night!

Still, I managed to get an awful lot of sleep, which was nice, and I had time while loafing around the house to deal with the ongoing eBay garage sale I’ve been conducting. I just sort of wish that the free time hadn't been forced upon me in quite such a brutal way. Oh well, my natural pluck will get me through this, too, and I'll still get to enjoy the weekend's visit from Eddie and Rachel and a New Year's Eve party at Adam and Jennifer's.

Happy Goddamn New Year

For the most part, 2001 sucked — really sucked. There were plenty of wonderful moments and scores of wonderful people around, but it was also the worst year of my life, without compare. Death, disease, destruction of a massive scale happening right in front of me, untold hours of loneliness, and plenty of financial stress. A real doozy.

But things were calming down, and the new year looked like it would be starting off with a batch of friends I missed, warm puppies, and even a shockingly pleasant date. But no, 2001 wasn't going to let go without a fight.

Which is how I found myself puking for four hours straight in the middle of the night last night, bent over in agony cursing the stomach virus I seem to have picked up from my brother-in-law. This morning, I have just enough strength to see if I can keep a few sips of water down before dehydration really kicks in.

Whee! Happy New Year! I'll see you in hell, 2001.

Merry Goddamn Christmas

Okay, time to shut down the factory for a few days and go dispense goodies to the siblings and nieces and nephews and what have you. Smell ya later!

The Martha Stewart of Hipster Brooklyn

All that paper has just been a side project, of course — a little experiment that went well, the makings for a few small, gorgeous presents. The real effort this week has been hand-binding books to give away to the kinfolk. Lovely, tactile little blank books, made up of some cardboard and some fancy papers and lots of glue, thread, and loving care. Here's what I’ve got so far:

And, yes, this sort of thing is a wonderful morale booster. The shift of concentration involved in making things, or drawing things, or photographing things, or designing things puts me in a very particular mindset where all I think about is how satisfying the process is, not how much things tend to suck otherwise. It involves all the parts of me that I have no misgivings about.

Artisitic Inclinations

I was flipping through some old work, relics from my undergraduate days, and was reminded that I once had some clue what I was doing. I’m rusty, heaven knows. Ya think maybe it's time for me to get some more drawing time so I can get back to my old skill level?

Hi-Fashion Model

The realy cold weather will be here soon, which means that the gas bills for the large, drafty money pit that is the Rumpus Room will go up by about 200 clams a month. Hoping to set aside a little nest egg for this, I’ve been putting a bunch of old stuff up for auction on eBay.

Looking through the rejects of the pictures I took last night, I noticed two things:

Bah Humbug

As if there wasn't enough to hate about the Christmas season, yesterday was the dreaded company holiday party. Since I am once again a full-time employee here, I wasn't able to squeasle my way out of it the way I have for the last few years. As I was saying to Beau, I would rather stick pins in my eyes than go to the party — not only do I hate mingling under the best of circumstances, but there's only a small handful of people at work who I’d want to hang out with anyway. Even drearier, the Society opted to make a large-ish donation to the September 11th Fund instead of put as much money into the party as usual. that’s a gesture I approve of wholeheartedly, but it meant that we didn't even have a big lunch as compensation for suffering through the forced cheer and the tedious speeches. Still, going to the party instead of staying in the office for the day meant getting out 2 hours earlier, and I really needed a nap.

Two Things

There are two things I don't like to talk about that keep bubbling up in my mind. Both are open secrets of a sort: one a detail that lots of people know and keep to themsleves on my behalf, one that seems painfully obvious to me but that no one will just acknowledge. Both are like forbidden books under lock and key: there are covers there for people to see, but inside are more layers and details that no one knows, even details I'll only think about under duress. They both fade into the background when I’m busy or distracted, and both threaten to overwhelm when I’m left to my own musings. Both take the edge off some of my happiest moments if something pings me with just the right kind of reminder. One's an injustice, one's a mystery that I can't explain any more easily than anyone can. One makes the other seem much worse. That other feels much worse when I’m around a lot of the people I love the most.

One of them might sort itself out if I just get a lucky break, or if any of a small handful of people weren't so god-damned out of reach.

Type Freaks

Yes! Someone finally gets it! Someone understands. This is the best essay I have ever encountered about the peculiarities of the typesetting world, which doesn't quite exist anymore the way it used to. It's a strange world of marginalized freaks and perfectionists who always seem to have gravitated toward the profession and gotten stuck there for one reason or another, learning to take great pride and joy in making all those letters look nice.

Artsy Craftsy

Things here in Sparky's Workshop are off to a good start. And here we see the first tangible result:

that’s a close look at some of my schwanky homemade paper, the result of last night's labors. It's made of reconstituted cream-colored stationery, maps of Paris and Hong Kong, Chinese train tickets, a program from some Beijing opera, and an old pair of Diesel jeans. For my first time out, my papermaking was a pretty big success. A little labor-intensive, but now that I better know what's involved, I can get my groove going on and speed things up a bit.

Part of my satisfaction about switching into factory mode comes from thumbing my nose at some naysayers I overheard while I was taking a nap Friday afternoon. The windows of the Rumpus Room are at ground-level, and while I lay in bed I could overhear some snotty Williamsburg hipster types standing by the window, looking inside and exclaiming, "Just look at that! There's no art in there! Why are they here? Where's the art?" Oh man, I was so pissed off. Sorry guys, I guess I’d have more credibility if I worked on enormous, ugly paintings that could be seen from the street, proving to the entire neighborhood what a hack I am, just like so many other people in this area. Would that be better than having a decent-looking place to live in where I can work when I need to? I guess that’s not arty enough.

The beauty of this place is that it's big and comfy, but is easily adapted to whatever I need it to be. It's been a photo studio, a bindery, a design workshop, a papermill, a drawing studio. No art inside? (Oh god, and don't even get me started on how I hate the the generic use of the word "art" for any random piece of creative work.) Even when we haven't moved shit around to make room for a current project, Ralph an I both have computers, sketchbooks, and boxes filled to bursting with the product of our creative efforts. Hell, we've even been paid for a lot of it, making us...you know...arts professionals.

Maybe I'll just cover the windows with some hack drawings to get a little respect and privacy.

Christmas in the City

Christmas just isn't one of my favorite holidays. As far as I’m concerned, it's all just errands and hassle and financial problems. Still, having been raised in a predominantly Christian western tradition, the social pressure to celebrate ChrismaChanuKwanza is there, and I feel compelled to go along with it. Just in case the errands and the hassle and the financial problems get the best of me, I try to take the heat off a little by spreading the love around as much as I can the rest of the year, but the one thing I don't really begrudge Christmas is the opportunity to do something special for people I love.

Note that I say "do." It really is the thought that counts, folks. It's just that a shitty Christmas comes across as the manifestation of a shitty thought. This year, to get around the financial problems (and at least half the errands and hassle), I’m making all my own Christmas presents, cutting costs and doubling up on the personal thought and effort. Yes, it's about to become a veritable Sparky's Worshop here in the Rumpus Room, with bits of paper and board and and all manner of art supplies scattered around the joint. Luckily, a long background of art and handicraft skills allows me to make a decent batch of stuff, at a fraction of the cost one might pay for the same stuff at some frou-frou boutique or crafts fair. (Yes, I’ve had the glimmer of inspiration to peddle my wares if all this goes well.)

Filled with excitement about the prospect of making tangible goodies for once, instead of just puttering around a keyboard all day, I set off to Pearl Paint on Canal Street. I put myself into a state of zen-like calm before getting on the subway, reminding myself that I was in no rush and patience would only serve me well as I made various stops around the store, where you have to pay separately in each department. It was a breeze. I was cheerful, patient, and happy to get my hands on all kinds of beutiful papers and goodies for my master plan.

Leave it to the New York subway system to ruin it all for me. Let me preface this by saying that every time over the last 15 years or so that I’ve had to buy large pieces of paper or board from an art supply store, it's been rainy or dangerously winding, and yesterday was no exception. So, shielding my fine things from the rain, I fought my way through the Canal Street crowds and onto a crowded subway. A little irritating, but so far, so good. I switch to the L train out to Brooklyn, getting a prime spot by the front so I could zip out of the exit at my stop. Then I hear the dreaded "shuttle bus" announcement, forcing me to get out four stops early and hop on a bus/cattle car with every other living soul from the crowded train, since the next few stops were closed for track work. It took about ten minutes of pushing and shoving and swearing to get us all off the platform, with me using a lot of elbow action to make sure no one crushed my paper and boards. And yes, it was still raining as we waited outside for the buses to get us, and yes, getting on the bus involved more pushing and shoving and swearing. Zen-like state of patience, my ass. I was finished.

But I got home, and everything was perfectly safe, so phase 2 of the holiday production push can now get underway, at least.

Just to make sure the MTA was working my last nerve, however, I went back out into the rain to wait for the shuttle bus to take me to the subway so I could meet M-Lo and Simon for a movie. (Which was sold out, forcing us to wander in the rain to another theater because god damnit we said we were going to see a movie and we were gonna go see a god damned movie!) Afterward, I got on the subway and saw the not uncommon sight of a bum stretched out in his own filth along one of the benches. I went to go sit on a empy bench nearby, only to see that the rank smell wasn't coming from the bum, but from the spot where someone puked all over the door to the motorman's area. Ah, Saturday night in the big city. I walked to the front of the train, preparing for the great push onto the shuttle bus, which only meant that I got to stand outside in the rain a little longer waiting for the bus. Which, fortunately, was not waiting for us. Or the next train. No, a couple hundred of us stood around the Lorimer Street corner in the rain, getting wet and angry. Of course, the two chattiest numbnuts in creation were standing behind me, making sure I had to listen to annoying dumb jokes the whole time. Bleah.

Today's errands better go a little bit more better, or I’m gonna go completely hermit.

Powers of Perception

As a general rule, the more I’m into someone, the less I think it could possibly be mutual. I know I’m funny smart and interesting and even halfway decent-looking, but when I’m really attracted to someone, I just assume I’m outclassed, out of my league. Hell, I can't even figure out if it was a date or not.

Sick and Tired

I didn't feel like linking and thinking, because I think about things a minimum of two times a day, and generally much more. Frankly, all the linking has been making me feel much worse, and not a bit better. The links usually go to places that don't say quite enough about what my experience has been, but say enough to make me feel rotten about it. I’d like to stop thinking for a while, but that’s not a luxury I'll ever have.

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