Saturday, January 31, 2004

My Traffic School Experience
By Paul Mathers

I feel like I should write about this before I make like Little Nemo. Everything seems like it's about two hours later. It seems like it's about 12:30 which means I should be asleep. But I'm not. Yet.

I want to start off singing the praises of slippery elm. It's a grey powder and it smells kind of like a campfire. Last night I made myself a tea bag with mint, valerian, chamomile, and 3/4ths a teaspoon of slippery elm. I started drinking it at 9:40. At 9:45 I thought, "I wonder how long it takes this stuff to kick in." I was unconcious by 9:48.
Once again, in my experience God put everything medicinal we need on this planet. When you need to go to sleep at a time you're not used to, I highly recommend slippery elm.
And there were no after effects. I woke up at 6:00 feeling as totally rested as I usually do. I've never felt so rested waking up at 6 before.
I chugged down breakfast and made off for the court house.
I got there early enough to stand outside the doors with many people who avoided eye contact. A cop came out and told us that no food would be allowed in the court house. I thought, "screw that. I'm keeping my peanut butter and forrest honey sam'ich secret and safe."
The instuctor used to teach comedy traffic school (which I suppose was a special service but I'm unsure if it was for people who wanted to pay more for the privledge or for people who deserved greater punishment.) He looked kind of like Daniel Stern and, if I closed my eyes, he sounded exactly like Alan Alda (you know I've been listening to a stand up comic all day because I'm describing things in terms of pop culture. Sorry about that. It's a pet peeve of mine and now I've got to wear the red "H" for hypocrite on my chest.) But he could be funny and he certainly moved the day along quickly.
Anyone who has worked with me knows I'm a focused, nose to the grindstone type of worker. I'll work until I collapse or somebody comes and tells me to stop or pays me. I remember when I first started working for other people I was amazed by the concept of fifteen minute breaks. They were wonderful. They made the eight hours fly for me. Broke the continuity. Of course, people would usually have to make me take them, but I always loved them when they came.
The same happened today. I'm not used to doing anything besides sleeping for eight hours straight anymore. When I work I go buy books, I put them online for a while, I'll go out and put books in boxes, I'll get things ready for shipping for a while, all over a ten hour period while I also do laundry and dishes and sometimes sunbathing. So when I had to sit on a courtroom chair for eight hours it threatened to seem eternal.
But I got through it with ease because:
1) The instructor was funny and interesting
2) There were breaks
and most importantly
3) I had a good attitude and a good night's sleep under my belt.

It was a sign of the times and the place I live that we spent most of the morning talking about the new cameras they install at intersections to take people's pictures as they wizz through red lights. We also watched the boon to the traffic student from Walt Disney which is the Goofy cartoon about the inconsiderate driver.
At lunch I was instantly aware of what a great idea I'd had in walking to the courthouse. By the time I got out the doors the parking lot already looked like a battlefield. I ate on a park bench, then looked at the names of the roses they had planted, watched a bird in the tree for a while, walked around the block. Lunch went on for a long time for me. When we got back the instructor said, "It was an hour, but didn't it feel like five minutes?"
Everyone else said it did. I didn't say anything.
One of the strange parts for me was the prison mentality I got from snips of other people talking. I mean to say the mentality of innocence and being set up. Everyone seemed to feel that they suffered unbearable wrongs when they were cited. I sped and I knew it was wrong. I did it anyway. I totally deserved that ticket. But I'm also thankful for the opportunity to keep the ticket from laying in my insurance company's cancerous arms.
There were many questions about certain rules of traffic, a long brimstone sermon against DUIs (which I enjoyed listening to and felt compelled to yell "Hear hear" at certain points.) And then we were finished.
On my walk home, I thought about some of the feelings I was feeling and realized that I never wanted to sit down again. I walked for an hour and a half before I finally got home and felt okay with sitting. Then I ate a whole pizza and some root beer and curled up on my futon to read for three more hours. I've had better Saturdays, but I've also had worse. And being able to say that is a glowing review of my traffic school experience.

Friday, January 30, 2004

I'm making breaded cod with rice and green beans.

I'm very tired. I had one of those nights where you get up in the morning thinking you just rolled around awake all night but then realize that there were dreams somewhere in there.

For lunch I made an egg, garlic and tabasco sandwich.

Tomorrow I'm going to sneak a peanut butter and forest honey sandwich and some plantain chips in with me so I don't have to pay for lunch.

Thinking on a very gut, survivalist level tonight. Means I'm sleepy.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

And since it's going to bug me until I mention it, I've got a typo that I noticed today. It's C.P.E Bach. Not C.S.

They promised me those synapses would repair themselves when I stopped dropping acid. They lied!
I forgot to mention that on the top of my to read pile is the new novel by Alan Moore. That's right, that Alan Moore. He's written a novel and it looks to be right on that psychotically high bar he's set for himself. He's certainly in my top 25 favorite story tellers and I'm really looking forward to it. Gives me a push to finish what I'm reading right now which I haven't spoken of because I've got a big review brewing.

Nissa called today. She had the brilliant solution to the problem I've been trying not to dwell on this week lest I birth anxiety. The problem is how to get enough sleep to go to traffic school on Saturday. I'm usually in bed before one in the morning or by one in the morning and I get up before nine or by nine. Yeah I know. But you'd do the same if you didn't have a time that you had to be at work. I mean, the post office doesn't even open until nine. This is part of why I'm doing what I'm doing.
Anyway. What was I talking about?
Oh yeah. How do I wake up by six a.m. and still have had enough sleep to get through eight hours of grueling boredom in traffic school? Nissa said when she gets up at six she's usually in bed around nine or ten. I said that will not happen. My body wont allow it. Then she suggested that I still have that large package of slippery elm from when I tried to make the tea that Tori Amos drinks. Remember that? I made it in the afternoon and got slammed into a long nap that I didn't want to take and had no idea was coming. Apparently slippery elm has a strong grip on me and I haven't touched it since.
Problem solved.

The news of the night is that there was a fatal accident two blocks from my house, right in the middle of my walk route. A car hit a motorcycle cop and then slammed into a telephone pole. The people in the car died and the cop is in the hospital. It might have been the cop that wrote me a ticket because it was on the same stretch of road. I hope whoever it was is alright. They closed off the whole street for hours and news helicopters circled during the dinner news hour scaring the flying wilheminas out of my cats.

The only other news of the moment is that I'm tanning. Remember how Phish suggested I get some sun to clear up my bronchitis? Well, it worked wonders and now I've got some lovely warmth in my appearance. I'm usually somewhere between Snow White and Gollum this time of year. So that's nice.
The Arts Council keeps pushing for more art education by pointing out how rich, interesting, passionate, and enjoyable art can make one's life. Which is true, but I think they keep missing one benefit of an art education that is important to most people's everyday lives. I think they should focus on how one learns to communicate and change perspectives with art and how that can function in regular, non-art related jobs. They might get more funding that way.
My modest example, and what got me thinking about this, is that I had to take my car back to the mechanic today because it was running rough. My mechanic asked what the problem was. I told him that when it idles it runs like a Volkswagen and when I'm accelerating it's like the engine is bungee corded to a slow moving truck behind it. And he knew exactly what the problem must be.
That's a benefit of art. That's communication through heavy metaphors. "My engine has a monkey on crack with a rubber mallet in it." "Oh, must be your distributor cap."
Things like that.

I don't remember who said, "The most evil and destructive invention man has come up with is the internal combustion engine."
I keep thinking it was Booth Tarkington, but it seems like it was probably somebody more contemporary.

Booth Tarkington was a heck of a writer. He wrote about the shift from the Victorian/Edwardian eras into the modern age and how a lot of people got stuck in between. He wrote about this very well and with heartbreaking insight. He was a writer with great awareness.
But nobody reads Tarkington anymore. I don't. I have but it's been years and I'm not anxious to read him again. It's not because he isn't good. It's because his work is extremely dated. That's not to say it has nothing to say to us today. He's just one of those authors who got trapped in time. Makes me wonder if, in a hundred years, people like Hunter Thompson wont be treated the same way.
But there's always hope. Look at Antonio Vivaldi. He died in the 1740's and his music faded into the ether of time as people became interested in Mozart and the many many Bach kids. Weird times. J.C. and C.S. were much more popular than papa J.S.
Nobody played Vivaldi for nearly 200 years. In the 1920's, maybe 1926 I think, an Italian music school was trying to raise money, so they went through their attic to find things to sell. They found a trunk full of music. Nobody knew what it was or where it came from.
Turns out the trunk contained 1/2 of Vivaldi's known works. It was another good ten years before Vivaldi had his revival. We can largely thank the poet Ezra Pound the revival. Now every music store's classical section is lousy with Vivaldi. The market is flooded. Riches to embarrass.
Maybe someday the hip bookish crowd will all be aquiver over Booth Tarkington.
There's a lesson in there to artists. Whoa, I made it full circle on this thought train!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

By the way, the reason I've decided to walk to traffic school on Saturday is because I learned something last time. I had a speeding ticket about 10 years ago, so I can probably get away with speeding for another 10 years. When I had traffic school that time I remember when it was over the parking lot was all jammed and people kept almost hitting each other in a rush to get out of detention for adults (which gives you an idea of how effective the whole thing is.) So I'm going to walk home after I'm done.
It's just started raining, which is very nice. I can't say I haven't enjoyed sunbathing in January over the past few days, but I'm a big fan of the rain. On my way home it started just enough to make me turn my windshield wipers on. In Oregon we would call this a dry spell. I always enjoy watching the rain move in the wind down the windows of the car almost so much that I get in an accident. But this time I had to hurry because I had a steel microwave stand sitting in my backyard waiting to go to Chico with me and I had to move it into the garage.
Let's see. Today I walked to the Westminster Courthouse to see how long it will take me to walk there at 6:30 on Saturday morning for traffic school. Then I fell into another person's library for my inventory. This time it was a chemist from some sulfur company. Many books about sulfur. One was written by the guy whose library it was. More about sulfur than I ever would have thought to ask. A good fifty books or so about sulfur all from pre-1970.
Then my car came out of the shop. It needed brakes, a new fan belt, a tune up and some fluids exchanged. Good thing December was such a good month for me business wise.
I've still got a large number of books to package. I've still got to figure out how to get a printer for my computer that I'm taking up north with me. I've got to see if my space heater works. Tomorrow looks to be about as busy as today.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Oh, and I wanted to say a few words about the Farley Maloris (that's the correct spelling of his last name) tape I found the other day. I've been listening to it in my car. He talks a lot about where the planets are at the time of the broadcast, which means nothing to me now. He also talks a lot about how he's not getting enough orders to support the radio show, which also means nothing to me now.
But the reason I'm remarking on it is that on this particular episode he wasn't getting any calls so he decided to talk about astrology in general. I'm not much of a follower of astrology. I am not a skeptic, but merely a disinterested party. Rather a no longer interested party. Obviously at one point in my life I was interested enough in it to tape his shows.
But he started talking about the major misconception about astrology. He said that people put way too much importance on one's sun sign. A sun sign is what people respond with when someone asks what their sign is. Farley says the sun sign is only 1/12th of your chart.
He then went through each of the planets and indicated what their significance was (I remember very little save that Saturn has to do with our life's major karma and Neptune had something to do with illumination. That caught my attention.) Exactly where the universe was at our birth has meaning, but the planets in our solar system are the main focus. Stars far away could be charted, but are too far from the natal event to hold much significance. Asteroids could be charted too, but having Toutatis in Aquarius is probably something mundane like ordaining that your second to last toe will be pointy on the bottom.
He goes back a ways to talk about how the universe shifts and conspires to get two people to copulate and have a baby. Then, when the baby is born, the universe is set in a specific place to form the event and sort of measure out the thread of the person's life with the meaning of where their planets lie. Just like Seabrook is in New Hampshire, the moon is in Capricorn, except that the moon is going to move through twelve different "states" (or signs) depending on the time and Seabrook is, if history is any guide, going to stay in New Hampshire.
And in the astrological reality tunnel, all of these gears are turning at all times to create a universal path. You've got your imprinted astrological chart from your birth which determines how you're going to interact with the infinite other astrological charts walking around out there. Also which signs the given planets are in based on your astrological chart versus where they are at the given moment will determine how things are going for you and how you're dealing with them.
I should probably point out that I'm not saying I cotton to all of this nor am I saying I don't. I found it very interesting. I learned a lot about a universal structure I hadn't thought about in years. And no knowledge is wasted.
But what I really learned from this, and what's driven me to remark on it, is that there's a simple accepted norm and then there's the complex structure behind it.
Actually, this reminds me of a conversation I was having with Yod. One looks in a newspaper and sees the astrological forecast. "All Tauruses should deal with their finances right now and get to bed early tonight." It's a load of crap and frankly kind of insulting. I mean I'm a completely different being than any other Taurus on earth. Now Farley, speaking to me through the mists of time, channeled through the medium Memorex, has pointed out to me that astrology agrees with me on that. It's this blanket mentality, this boiling everything down into the stupidest and most general terms that's causing us to fall apart as a civilization. The sooner we stop seeing others as groups to be tolerated and begin to see others as being as complex a life form as ourselves the better.
I like the astrological universe view as Farley laid it out. I'm not sure I'm ready to put a lot of belief in it, but I like it. I like it because it breaks from our society's tendancy to view each of us a cog. Farley's view teaches us that each of us is quite unique and important.
I wish I knew where that cat was today so I could thank him. But since I don't, I pass this experience on to you.
It feels good to get things done one by one that I need to do. Today I got a haircut and took my car into the shop to make sure it's good to go 500+ miles.
It also feels good to work my fool butt off. Record number of orders today.
Also feels good to lay in the sun (sorry to my east coast readers, don't mean to gloat) in the middle of the day with no regrets about giving the sun 40 minutes of my time.
Things are chugging along before the great unknown. I don't know what this move is going to bring. I keep saying that. I'm nervous, but not afraid. It will not surprise me if it works out, nor will it break my heart if it doesn't. Heck, it isn't even going to cost me that much.
But there's really no use in putting much more thought into it at this point. I don't want to wander into the realm of hand wringing. My job is to put books in boxes for the next three weeks. And between now and the move I still have taxes and traffic school. Also neither are things to wring hands over.
There's really nothing to worry about at all. I'm going to die some day and that doesn't even bother me so much. So why should any of this?