Back From Sacramento, Calif. / 23 September 2002
I took careful notes in Dietzgen Engineers’ Field Book No. S403V, bright orange, a water-resisting surface, sewed with Bing Special Enamel Waterproof thread, a chart on the inside cover (DISTANCES FROM SIDE STAKES FOR CROSS-SECTIONING), other useful information filed in back (e.g., curve and reduction tables, deflections for sub chords for short radius curves, corrections for tangents and externals, middle ordinates for rails in feet, calculation of earthwork), oh hell here’s a photograph. My handwriting cramped and angular, sheepshank’d, like a mouthful of made-up runes if you really want to get right down to it.
READER: [fatigued] But Josh, what did you write in that overdescribed-yet-still-unclear-what-it-looks-like handwriting?
Thoughts, hopes, impressions, caricatures, character sketches of imaginary friends, song lyrics, limericks, formulae, deposits, withdrawals. That was on the first page; the remaining pages were filled with half a story I wrote based on the cover of a book I saw in a used bookstore. (No fewer than five used bookstores within the Nevada City city limits.) I didn’t buy it but here is the cover [courtesy of gigoCorp].
It’s the story of a man-child on the verge of sexual enlightenment thanks to—
“Can you imagine?” I asked one of my cohorts. We stood out behind a bar in downtown Sacramento (famous natives: Tom Hanks, Molly Ringwald, Joan Didion), the patio crowded with a nice combination of communications majors and Renaissance Faire enthusiasts. A bright light shone just on us and I went into one of my on-stage blackouts, absolutely unashamed. “A record that nobody’s heard before.” I was histrionic. “No one on the freaking planet or like even in the history of said planet.”
“I could make that myself,” my cohort said, zero idea where he was at the time. “I got a machine that generates sound. Turn it on, don’t listen, record it for 45 minutes, there you have it. Big deal.”
“But it’d be different if actual human beings made the music, right? That’d be way more intense.”
“I reckon deaf musicians aren’t the most accurate performers of all time.”
“Exactly,” I said, scratching my ear like a Method actor. “It’d be like this personal gift of pure humanity given right straight to you and only you. Me, I mean. I’m thinking about pretending to cry just thinking about it.”
Per my usual, the story got wrapped up in its own gimmick and is yet to be completed. I stopped when I ran out of paper but I wasn’t at the end since there’d been pretty much no sexual enlightenment yet.
I next went to Denver. On the kitchen counter was an article in the Rocky Mountain News about a friend of my brother who was killed in a car accident on 27 August. I got the details that the family hadn’t given me, and when I was done reading it I slipped it under some junk mail to make it less conspicuous.
My other brother left art school this summer and is now delivering sandwiches, including two that he delivered to me, which were yum. He said his interests tended to flit from thing to thing, and it wasn’t always art, sometimes it was writing, or playing hockey. I showed him the Dietzgen No. S403V and said I knew what he was talking about, and he showed me a composition book filled with cartoons, each one labeled with a title or jokey description, just like I used to do in high school.