"Fascinating."

There was a book sale at Bay Village library today.  I am a sucker for library book sales, so despite the fact that I already have about eight boxes of books in the attic of my parents’ house, I was unable to resist the urge to buy more.  Just…

  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (With a newspaper article from March 8, 1966 about a Cleveland Playhouse production of the play, folded and tucked in the middle of the book.)
  • Report of the Warren Commission on the Assassination of  President Kennedy
  • Communion—A True Story by Whitley Strieber 
  • The Portable Mark Twain
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Phillip Roth
  • National Geographic – December 1979 (“Seoul: Korean Showcase” on page 770)
  • National Geographic – March 1965 (“Israel—Land of Promise” on page 395)

“The books were fifty cents each, and the National Geographics were free.  Fascinating, yes?”

“No, not really.”

“Oh.”

“Why do you waste our time with this drivel?”

“I’m sorry.  I guess I don’t know.”

“I mean, what’s next?  Your grocery list?”

“Oh, I would never-“

“Wouldn’t you?  We submit that a person who is listing library book sale purchases on his website is only a stones-throw away from listing grocery store purchases on his website. “

“I did go to the grocery store two days ago…”

“Stop.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.  Please stop.”

“Because they sure had lots of apples there—it was hard to choose…”

“Stop.”

“…like maybe fifteen different kinds of apples…”

“Stop.  Stop.  Stop.”

“…and almost a whole aisle full of toothpaste!”

“We’re going to stop reading now.”

“What?”

“You heard us.”

“You’re going stop reading?”

“Yes.”

“All of you?”

“Yes.”

“That’s an idle threat.  You can’t stop reading.”

“Watch us.”

“I’m not sure if that’s possible.”

“If what’s possible?”

”For me to watch you stop reading my website.”

“That’s an interesting point.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Are you still going to stop reading?”

“No, you were right.  We were just bluffing.”

“Yay!  I win!”

“Yes, you’re the big winner.”

“In your faces!”

“Ok, then.”

“Ok.”

“. . .”

“. . .”

“So, what now?”

“Did they give you a bag to carry the books in?”

“Oh, yes.”

“What color was it?”

“Blue.  Light blue.”

“And the apples?  What kind did you get?

”Gala.”

“Fascinating.” 

Maybe next month.

I went out again tonight.  I’ve been going out almost every night since I’ve been here in Cleveland.  I might be afraid of being home alone late at night, afraid of the inevitable late night and alone thoughts that might come.  There’s books, there’s television, but my mind inevitably wanders to thoughts of my solitude, of what this all means, and my head isn’t ready to confront these thoughts.  Maybe next month.

I put these words on this blog for whoever to see, and it’s a fine line of self-censorship that I walk.  Sometimes I look back at words I have written and am amazed at where I have seemingly placed the line, other times I wonder why I require a line at all.  The other times usually involve alcohol.

This is my last weekend in Cleveland for a while, so I am trying to enjoy it.  Tonight I met some old friends at a bar, played pool, smiled, used the restroom.  It was fun, but I found myself feeling strangely restless for much of the night.

I get this, this restless feeling, but then I also get this feeling that it’d be nice to be settled, but then I realize that I’m restless because I’m feeling settled, and that were I really settled I would probably be losing my mind with restlessness.

I don’t understand a word of that last paragraph.

Keep punching, y'all.

Earlier today, Land of the Anxious Dog got its 40,000th hit.  While I realize that this is, perhaps, a pittance when compared to many other websites, this milestone gives me a strange and admittedly-meaningless happiness during this emotionally tumultuous time in my life.  So, 40,000 hits–yay, me.  Keep punching, y’all. 

Beyond that, this last week in Cleveland has taken on a hurried quality.  Many people I’ve been meaning to see, and now only one more week in which to do it.  Last night I ended up at a karaoke bar in Lakewood with some old improv friends/acquaintances, and it was the same as it was except that I am now more popular than I was when I left.  Before I moved to Korea it was "Hey, Jef…" and last night it was "Jef!" and drinks purchased for me.  If only I could be a perpetual brief-visit returner.

I have overstayed

I have been an emotional one this week, sliding from contentment to despair to confusion in a seemingly haphazard way.  There’s reasons, there always are, but the root of it is this feeling that I have overstayed my Cleveland welcome.  I’m too used to here again, life is beginning to become routine, and out of that comes the return of the inevitable questions:  What is my life?  What is my future?  Where did my past go?  Emotional melee comes hand in hand with these questions, which is why I reckon most people try to avoid them.  Not me, though… I’m a glutton for the emotional melee.

I’ll be moving again in a week, though.  Off to NYC next Tuesday, then back to Seoul on the following Sunday.  I will be returning to Korea unemployed, as my inept and slightly deceitful recruiter has managed to lose both of the jobs I was planning on returning to.  This sucks, but English teaching work is not too difficult to find in Seoul, so I am not terribly concerned… not yet, anyway.

Cost

$40 million: Cost of Bush inaugural ball festivities, not counting security costs.

$2,000: Amount FDR spent on the inaugural in 1945…about $20,000 in today’s dollars.

$20,000: Cost of yellow roses purchased for inaugural festivities by D.C.’s Ritz Carlton.

200: Number of Humvees outfitted with top-of-the-line armor for troops in Iraq that could have been purchased with the amount of money blown on the inauguration.

$10,000: Price of an inaugural package at the Fairmont Hotel, which includes a Beluga caviar and Dom Perignon reception, a chauffeured Rolls Royce and two actors posing as "faux" Secret Service agents, complete with black sunglasses and cufflink walkie-talkies.

400: Pounds of lobster provided for "inaugural feeding frenzy" at the exclusive Mandarin Oriental hotel.

3,000: Number of "Laura Bush Cowboy cookies" provided for "inaugural feeding frenzy" at the Mandarin hotel.

$1: Amount per guest President Carter spent on snacks for guests at his inaugural parties. To stick to a tight budget, he served pretzels, peanuts, crackers and cheese and had cash bars.

22 million: Number of children in regions devastated by the tsunami who could have received vaccinations and preventive health care with the amount of money spent on the inauguration.

1,160,000: Number of girls who could be sent to school for a year in Afghanistan with the amount of money lavished on the inauguration.

$15,000: The down payment to rent a fur coat paid by one gala attendee who didn’t want the hassle of schlepping her own through the airport.

$200,500: Price of a room package at D.C.’s Mandarin Oriental, including presidential suite, chauffeured Mercedes limo and outfits from Neiman Marcus.

2,500: Number of U.S. troops used to stand guard as President Bush takes his oath of office

26,000: Number of Kevlar vests for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan that could be purchased for $40 million.

$290: Bonus that could go to each American solider serving in Iraq, if inauguration funds were used for that purpose.

$6.3 million: Amount contributed by the finance and investment industry, which works out to be 25 percent of all the money collected.

$17 million: Amount of money the White House is forcing the cash-strapped city of Washington, D.C., to pony up for inauguration security.

9: Percentage of D.C. residents who voted for Bush in 2004.

66: Percentage of Americans who think this over-the-top inauguration should have been scaled back.

Let me get you some brandy.

I’m not sick, but I’m not well.

Thank you, Harvey Danger, if that is your real name.  I get it.

Due to an inability to find an acceptable connecting flight from Tokyo to Seoul, I will not be returning to South Korea until the seventh of February.  My recruiter tells me that I will still have one of my hagwon jobs when I get back, but due to extensive past mayhem involving her I remain highly skeptical of this claim.  I shall find out when I get there, I suppose.

Being in the states for two and a half more weeks will be ok, though.  I’m enjoying my time here, despite the fact that my finances are beginning to drip drip drip.  I still have some things that I must do, and some things that I would like to do, and also some things that I may do if I accomplish everything in the above two categories.

I am sitting in a coffeehouse in Rocky River right now, making use of their free WiFi, and there is a row of bamboo growing in two brown pots by the door.  It strikes me as odd–bamboo growing in Northeastern Ohio–and it makes me wish they had a panda bear, too.  A coffeehouse with a panda bear, now that’s a goldmine of an idea.  You could call it "Panda Time Coffee!" and charge extra for the coffee because of the panda bear. 

I watched Brief Encounter this afternoon, and it left me wondering why British people always drink brandy when they are feeling at all unwell.  You have a headache?  Let me get you some brandy.  You’re hungry?  Let me get you some brandy?  You’re allergic to alcohol?  Let me get you some brandy.  Does brandy possess some cure-all medicinal quality that I am unaware of, or are British people just closet alcoholics?  Anyone?  I am too lazy to do an Internet search on this one.

I am feeling lonely, can someone please get me a panda bear and some brandy?

keychain

I have a keychain with her name on it.

Keychain

It resembles an Ohio license plate on one side, and the other has the name and logo of the local amusement park where it was purchased.  She has one with my name on it, too—we bought them together two summers ago at a gift shop at said local amusement park.  Mine has been attached to my keys ever since, and although much of the painted on text has faded with time, her name—inlaid and painted in black—remains as visible as ever.

Everywhere I have gone in the world since that summer, the keychain has been with me.  She has been with me.  When I was riding a train through Southern Thailand, she was there; when I saw Mount Fuji from the window of an airplane, she was there; when I was crying on the floor of my apartment in South Korea, she was there.  This keychain was her saying “I love you.  You are my most special one.” as I traveled by myself all over the world.   

When we broke up at the beginning of last year I thought about separating the keychain from my keys, putting it away in a drawer somewhere so I wouldn’t be reminded of her every time I went to enter my apartment.  I didn’t do it, though, because some part of me understood that to give up on the keychain was to give up on the possibility of us.  I considered it again when we broke up at the end of last summer, but once again the keychain remained as affixed to my keys as the idea of us remained affixed in the back of my mind. 

“Your name is still attached to my keys,” I would email her.

And now, after the seeming relationship coda that she composed over the holidays, I am once again thinking about retiring the keychain.  I saw it lying on my bed yesterday, screaming her name in big capital letters, and I turned it over so her name faced my purple sheets instead.  I have done this many times over the past two weeks, albeit on different surfaces and in different ways.  I want so badly to remember, but not to be reminded.

A friend gave me a new keychain for Christmas—a baby sock monkey—that would make a fine replacement.  Late last night I was close to doing it, if only there had been a bit more beer to numb my memories and a bit less beer to help me remember where I’d put the new keychain.  Instead I fell asleep and woke up after ten hours spent mostly dreaming of her.

This afternoon I found the new baby sock monkey keychain, but in daylight I lack both the strength and the willingness to replace the old.  The act carries with it a combination of acceptance, loss, and finality that I am not ready for.  To continue living with her name tucked into my coat pocket, lying facedown on my bed, or simply dangling while I unlock a door or drive a car . . . I’m not sure what it indicates—an unwillingness to let go, a desperate grasp at possibility, a profound heartsickness—but it’s easier than detaching my keys and leaving her name in a drawer next to everything else she gave me.  This one thing, just let me cling to this one thing.

I wonder if my name is still attached to her keys.

Thorazine to squelch

The desire to post something, but the lack of something interesting to post about.  This usually leads to trouble.

It was in the lower sixties and breezy earlier today, but now it is cold and snowing again.  Cleveland weather is difficult.  I forgot how perpetually overcast it is here between October and March, it’s enough to make one forget what the sun actually looks like.  I recall a shiny round thing in the sky, but memory is highly fallible.

I like America, for all it’s shortcomings.  Or, perhaps, I just like the West.  Things make more sense to me here, there is a larger selection of toothpaste to choose from, and I don’t have to teach Koreans how to speak English.  There’s more to it than this, of course, but I am trying to be both funny and interesting.  The food, too, is also much better — I do enjoy sandwiches and exotic cheese.

I am amazed at how quickly I have fallen back into a sort-of Cleveland-living rhythm.  It was perhaps the first few days that were a bit off-centering, but after that it was almost as if I’d never left.  I still know where my friends and family live, I still know where the big mall is, I still know where to buy the best martini in town.  What’s changed, if anything, is in the way that I find myself looking around at these familiar surroundings and feeling nostalgia pangs for all the memories that I have associated with many of them.  Nostalgia was initially considered a mental disorder and treated with heavy medication — mine would require Thorazine to squelch.