Nancy Drew was just figuring out who the bad guy was. Once again I was nestled far into the top bunk with blankets thrown over my head and my flashlight in hand. I was visiting the mysterious world of Nancy Drew with my latest adventure being “Nancy Drew and the Twisted Candles” with Nancy just being kidnaped by the “bad” guy. I was at the edge of my wits trying to figure out the mystery before even Nancy herself, when I heard it.

It didn’t usually make me jump these days, not anymore. I had heard too often to count the times. I tried to sink further underneath the covers but it never helped. It was too loud to drown out this time or anytime before. I struggled against my soul not wanting to depart the warm bed for the cold of what lay below but I knew enevidably I would get up and go and watch the spectacle from the top of the stairs. I fought the urge for as long as possible. Then I jumped from the top bunk to my sisters bed and then finally to the ground and quietly opened the door to the hallway not wanting to be seen quite yet. I played Mission Impossible as I snuck to the stairs, not that they could have heard me anyway.

I wasn’t going to cry this time. Crying only gave him the satisfaction that he was hurting us all of us.

I passed the bathroom and the sensor light gave my position away. My sister was already at the top of the stairs, she turned to me with her already tear stained face and motioned for me to stay quiet. We were soon joined by our one of our brothers the other being the object of the spectacle. I watched the tears pour down my mothers face and I almost lost it. I had to bite my lip to keep from crying but I wasn’t going to cry this time.

I wondered why the fight had started. They were shouting so loud that I could hardly understand what was going on but then I began to piece together the story. Tephi, my oldest brother’s girlfriend had called to tell him that an ex-boyfriend of hers was throwing rocks at her windows and she wanted Steven to come over to “ protect” her. My dad was trying to stop him because he was afraid the other guy had a gun or that things would get out of control and someone would get hurt. Steven being the strongest willed person that I knew at the time was of course fighting back in every way possible screaming, yelling profanities and hitting.

About 10 minutes into the yelling, Steven seemed to come to the realization that he was bigger than my dad and all he had to do was get to the door and out and then there would be no stopping him. He shoved my father against the nearest wall and proceeded to the door but my father having a parents intuition seemed to sense something that the rest of us did not. It almost looked as if my father felt he was fighting for his son’s life, that if he let him out of that door he would never see his son again alive again. Strength that I have never seen in my father seem to come from him. He wrapped his whole body around my brother’s legs anchoring him to the ground and preventing him from his planned escape. I watched as my brother kicked and hit and drug my father along the floor trying to get loose and tears pricked my eyes but I wasn’t going to cry this time. Steven didn’t control me and I wasn’t going to cry this time. I watched my father hold on to Steven’s legs until Steven became so physically exhausted that he stopped struggling, my father let go and both sat on the floor too exhausted to move. Steven proclaimed a few more profane words and then declared that he hated all of us and took off downstairs to his room.

My mom slowly calmed down and my siblings stopped crying. We all went back to what we had been doing before and I tried to return to the mysteries of Nancy Drew but I was shaken from the inside out and as I relived the moments of the night.

My soul crumbled and I began to sob. I had lost, once again I had lost, there was no beating him no matter how hard I tried. He always made me cry and once again I had caved in but I knew the next time I wouldn’t cry. No, Next time I wouldn’t.

You know those people who complain about how their neighborhood is going to shit and how it just isn't the same as the good old days of yore and all that? I think I'm one of those, just backwards.

There's this block of stores on Third Avenue between 23rd and 24th. Two bars, an organic market, a newsstand on the corner. They all occupy the first floor of a large tenement-style apartment building. Neighborhood stuff, you know.

The roommate and I were walking home from a party two nights ago and she told me that they ALL were going out of business. That particular night was the last night of one of the bars and there were people spilling out onto the sidewalk, neighborhood types, all a bit weepy and, well, plastered.

The only thing they had in common was that they were all in the same building - either the landlord raised all of their rents or the building got bought, probably by one of the schools in the area, either Baruch or the School of Visual Arts.

I'm annoyed, not because the block is getting seedy or rundown or anything - that's what they were like, to be honest, but because I just know somebody's gonna put in something...shiny. Shiny tends to lack character and as far as I'm concerned the new stuff can stay on the other side of Lexington Avenue where it belongs and leave my little neighborhood alone.

Or maybe my distinct lack of affinity for change is breaking through. And man, I really liked those bars. Gr.

Though this is Tuesday, February 8, 2005, this log refers to the events that transpired on Sunday, February 6, 2005 -- the end of my work week.


Last night -- well, technically two nights ago, but I haven't yet slept -- I had an interesting situation. Around 5pm, I was working with a customer on wrapping up the final details of her kitchen. Another couple showed up and asked me when I would be done. I vaguely recognized the male half of the pair. Being rather busy with the first part of finalizing a major sale, I told them I had no idea when I would be done, and would they like to make an appointment with a kitchen designer for another day? No, they wouldn't. They wanted ME, and they wanted me that SAME DAY. I told them I'd try. I was supposed to clock out at 7pm. Moreover, though I didn't tell them this, I had the following day off, and I really wanted to get out on time.

I finished up with the woman at around 5:30pm. That sale will probably happen this week, to the tune of about $18k US, not including countertops and other items. All this time, the other folks had been hovering about. I yanked off my apron, told them I'd be right back, and scurried off to the restroom for a badly needed break.

Once I got back to my station and re-aproned, I re-greeted my new customers and rapidly remembered who they were. I'd worked with the man before but I didn't recall his wife at first. She spoke with an interesting accent I couldn't identify.

This was one of those classic situations: Okey initially came to me in mid-2004, wanting a kitchen design for some new construction he was planning. We laid out a design, but he didn't have his final measurements and would not have them until all the drywall was up. So, bye-bye for then.... As I said, once I heard the name, I actually did remember him and was very pleased he'd come back -- I thought I'd lost him. Of course, by then the design had been automatically deleted from the computer, and I had to recreate everything. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but this guy wanted me to lay out and sell an entire kitchen, PLUS sell him a bunch of appliances, PLUS sell him his granite countertops...all in one and a half hours. The sink is going to be an issue and will have to be sold later.

I have developed a talent with design in the last two and a half years, and I am lightning quick with the computer so long as it is behaving itself, but there was no way I could do all of that in an hour and a half all by myself. I told them this from the outset. There was no one scheduled in appliances who could help me out by working up a separate appliance order while I was working up the kitchen, and it was sheer luck -- no, wait, hard work on my part! -- that I knew how to order appliances, even though that's technically not my responsibility.

So, I recreated the kitchen design from scratch, which I needed to do anyway since he now had new measurements. Surprise, the walls were flipflopped left to right since the last time I laid it out. And yes, ten foot ceilings. High, short windows wouldn't impact the design. And there is a totally weird (and semi-genius) 1-7/8" recess into the wall for the refrigerator. I wonder who thought that up, and why they only pulled it back two inches. I've recessed fridges into walls before, but I've never seen a house plan with a recess already there. And if they're going to all that trouble, then why so shallow? Base cabinets are 24 inches deep. Refrigerators are typically somewhere around 32 inches deep. So why recess it 2 inches, and not 6 or more? Door clearances will apply, of course, but still... wild... but weird. Very weird.

No, they don't want a microwave hood anymore as my ancient notes had indicated; they now want one of the fancy wood hoods. But the wife turns out to have a fixation on ease of cleaning. They dither a while and finally pick a rather simple wooden hood. Easy to clean, I guess; it seems plain to me, but the crown moulding will help, and it's their kitchen, not mine. We continue with a discussion about the oven/microwave combination and the cooktop. Do they really want that? Yes, they do. (Some folks just want two ovens, in which case something like a Gemini range, or a standard range and an Advantium hood will do, and it's a nice solution if you aren't lacking in counter space.) Back to the hood again: recirculating or ducted? Ehhhh...... they dither, and finally decide on ducted after I show them what it will look like it they make it recirculating.

They have one of those nasty, nasty setups where sink happens to be in an island with a raised bar, in which the kneewall is "bent" into two forty-five degree angles, sort of like this:

------- 
       \
        \
         |
         |
         |

Why is this nasty? (And I don't mean the feeble ASCII art.)

  1. It wastes cabinetry space. There's a lot of dead space created as you go around the corners.

  2. Cabinetry installation is more difficult.

  3. An island (or anything else bent like this) will significantly raise the cost of the countertop.

Architects ADORE putting these damnable things in, but they rarely, if ever, have a clue about kitchen design. If you see a 45 degree angle in kitchen cabinetry, island or not, beware! Whether or not there is a sink in such an island doesn't mitigate any of the above factors, but it may well limit the size of your sink, which did apply in this case. We then had the discussion about how we'd have to pick a sink very carefully, since there was not much room, if any, for a double bowl sink.

It was not a large kitchen, despite the fact that they wanted all the bells and whistles: All plywood construction, buffered self-closing ball-bearing glide full extension drawers, and drawer front upgrades, too. Oh, and yes, please, they also wanted to open a store credit card. Hurrah!

All of that would take time, however. At 6:15pm I called up the manager and warned him that I was likely to go over. He asked me how far I thought I'd go over time. I told him I had no idea, but probably not too far over. He told me to go ahead and do what I needed to do, but that I should call him about 15 minutes before I actually went overtime.

I tried to work at a rate somewhere betweeen lightspeed and making sure I wasn't screwing up. There is no point in not going into overtime at the expense of making a mistake that could cost us hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I filled out the measurement waiver (since the customer would be installing this), counted up all the crown moulding, light rail, and toekick by hand, and then printed out elevations and the parts list. Then we began the tedious but necessary game of cabinetry bingo, in which we identify every single last part and where it goes, and make sure nothing is extraneous or missing. We did find one issue: Countertop supports for the raised bar at the sink area. He didn't know if he wanted to paint his supports to match his drywall, or get fancy ones to match the cabinetry. We agreed that he'll get back to me later if he wants to order them from me.

By this time, I'm well over time and have already made my call back to my manager. It's about 7:30pm. The store closes in half an hour, and now the race is critical: If I don't finish in time, the customers won't be able to make their purchase. I call my manager again and ask him to hold a register open for my customer. I prepare the cabinetry order for the register, have my customer sign off on assorted things, and breathe a sigh of relief.

After all the kitchen stuff, they wanted to order appliances, too. They wanted the cooktop and microwave/oven combo to arrive sometime in March, but wanted the dryer this month. (It is, in fact, the ganormously huge Maytag dryer that has room in it to hang stuff up or use the shelves to dry sweaters. How cool is that?) In bisque, please. I worked that up, and it took a while as their billing address and the new construction address are different. I staged the order for the dryer. Then I went into a different part of the computer and processed their application for a store credit card. I convinced them not to put her name on the card, because they might be able to get a future deal by getting her her own card. At the appropriate spot, it asked me if a sale is pending. I entered the combined sale total (kitchen plus humongous clothes dryer). It approved him and spat out a credit total rounded up to the next thousand dollars. It was now about 7:55pm.

Then they said... "Wait, we wanted a washer, too!" I cursed under my breath... bad me. They heard it anyway. Bless them, they were cool about it and understood we were out of time. We agreed that they'd come back on Tuesday to buy the remaining appliances and the granite countertops.

I was now an hour overtime. I packed my customers up with a folder full of the floor plan and all the annotated elevations and such that they'd need, we signed everything that needed to be signed, and we shook hands, warmly. I directed them to the one counter that was being held open specifically for them, since the store was now closed.

After clocking out, and on my way out, myself, I stopped to make sure my customers were getting through the purchase alright. They were. They were especially happy, in fact, because it turned out that they got a discount with the new credit card. And they were even MORE happy with me, since I'd advised her NOT to put her name as an additional approved user on the card. Tuesday, they'll get another card under her name, and get another discount off the rest of their purchases.


First: a farewell to my longtime headbutting partner and champion yogurt-eating cat, who passed away yesterday morning at the approximate age of 12 or 13 years old. I'll miss you and our winter nights basking in front of the woodstove. I'm sorry I wasn't there to nuzzle your forehead one last time.


A short reading list from the last few days:




Three Philosophical Concerns

On Love

If love with/of another (romantic love, specifically) is, as I have often thought, a continually interrogative mode of being-with-the-other/being-for-the-other, then what is the love of another that is never given voice in the dialectical movement of reciprocity and mutual recognition? Is so-called unrequited love deficient - an "inauthentic" love? Here I am thinking "unrequited" not as the advance that is rebuked (although this certainly figures in, as does everything),but loves whose trajectories pass one another or which are out of joint when superimposed on each other. Are these not valuable in their own right? To whom do they speak?What do they say in their own voices? Are these loves not different intensities that speak care in splintered tongues? Are they even fragmented in comparison to the love expressed in the classically formulated romantic relationship? "I love you, but we pass each other at a proximity that is an irreducibly vast non-distance." This resonates on its own lines: to use Deleuze and Guattari's vocabulary, they are assemblages. Different speeds - not slower or faster, but adjacent or parallel, secretive and playful, mournful and syncopated. Different speeds. What do I say to you? I must circumvent the old roads and reach you across an ellipse, finding other lines of articulation. Not saying, but showing in sayings. Traversing the surface of you-us-me, skirting its borders and scaling its walls; showing the fissures at which other non-deficient intensities resonate and inherit the word "love". Confounding the chivalric-platonic-romantic-fraternal-familial-sexual grid by never coming to rest at any of its points ... loves whose movements elude capture because their arcs are arrested in all directions before reaching a destination. The arrest creates retreat and reorientation - but only momentarily. Multiplying lines, re-deploying utterances and acts in new ways. Do these intuitions feel familiar to anyone but me?



On Writing

Why do I do this? Because life is terrifying. It feels like I can only outrun in writing what I am headed for in reality. Life's routines and events are not terrifying, it's the sense of indeterminacy. That haze at the limits of what you can predict and what you can remember, that feeling of disjunct between what you have been and what you're not sure you'll be. Those days when you can't even make the world look smooth and sensible (if those ever really happen). Writing does that: simulated stability. Living confusion expelled onto the page as dead sense. But is it not only momentary? Thus the desire to write further, to go back and revisit and rearrange what won't leave us alone. At the same time, writing prolongs one's sojourn on earth in advance. We set aside fragments of ourselves that will survive our passing. If writing from the living consists of small pieces of death, then writing from the dead consists of small pieces of life. "To live without a lifetime––likewise, to die forsaken by death ... to write elicits such enigmatic propositions" (Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 136).


On Names (Preliminary thoughts to a larger project)

I suspect that names operate schematically (Kant). The name of a person provides not only the signification that calls into view the site at which the person (as some kind of subjectivity: more or less unified, continuous, and more or less intentionally acting) functions, but also the content that is schematized/synthesized by that person-function. This includes not only a person's current mode of being-in-the-world (Heidegger), which is indicated by his/her age, tastes, relationships, cumulative history, and so on, but also all of the former arrangements of that mode (in the form of memories/memory-images as well as tertiary memory-markers like a photograph, a physical scar, a gift, a love letter). Also accommodated by the name is the already-prepared structural openness of that site at which the person occurs, thus allowing the possibility of future modes of being (given our assumption that the person -embodied and in the world- identified by his/her name will persist in the world beyond out ability to predict his/her cessation).

How else can we describe the way in which the name operates? I am led to suggest that the name is a conceptual space/site. When I perceive myself, I do so conceptually. I synthesize myself as a whole retrospectively, according to things that have already happened to me. Even then, when I perform this synthesis (and here we might digress into a discussion of the will, but we will not), it is somewhat approximate: I do not call to mind every single aspect of my life up to this point. Furthermore, I may appear quite differently to myself (as well as others) under different circumstances and different times. Thus, every view of myself is a concept of myself. How do I think myself now? How did I do so ten years ago? The same event in my life can mean two different things from two different vantage points. I am in no more of a position to see myself outside of all possible bias and confusion anymore than anything else in the world. What I mean is that I am not certain of myself; I am opaque, even to me, even when I am living interrogatively (Merleau-Ponty).

Returning to the name: what role does it play in my self-conceptualization? It seems to me that my name is the flashpoint, the site at which I am assembled as "myself". This holds not only for the proper name "Matthew" but also for the pronouns "I" and "me". Additionally, how attentive am I in saying "I" - thinking myself? It seems that every instance of this is partial; thus, the non-occurance of my totality as a self appears again.

Interlude!

I've often been troubled by the apparent uselessness of my chosen career, while also being troubled by the fact that I do not think that it is useless. Only as I've gotten older and started to think more about the uses of words have I seen the problem with judging this activity or practice 'useless'. In a day and age in which "use" refers mainly to "instrumental use" (that is to say, the means-end employment of tools and resources), certainly the practice of philosophy is useless. It's indirect. It can only have any effect on anything through the lives of those who practice it, and even then it may not be immediate. The way in which we generally think about "the self" and the self's engagement with the world in every day life is largely Cartesian; his ideas took a few hundred years to become as deeply ingrained as they are. Even though they are being academically disputed today, their replacement(s) may not become our ontological backdrop for hundreds more years. The point is that even though I love what I do and take it very seriously (and not as an opportunity to 'talk big' or 'look smart' or be condescending to people, which I see in a lot of people in my field; those people should just join a debating club and get it over with, as far as I'm concerned), I have to continually resign myself to the fact that any contribution I make will be a raindrop in the ocean. Any ripples I create (if there are any) won't be felt until after I'm dead. The only possible immediate effect I can have is on myself, in the form of constantly problematizing and reconfiguring my attitudes towards the world and the people around me. Heidegger writes that "philosophy is essentially untimely because it is one of those few things that can never find an immediate echo in the present. When such an echo seems to occur, when a philosophy becomes fashionable, either it is no real philosophy or it has been misinterpreted and misused for ephemeral and extraneous purposes". I'm inclined to agree. Particular philosophical doctrines can only be the product of philosophy itself, which is far less determinate. I guess that's why it bothers me when people refer to themselves in terms of a particular school of thought. It kind of misses the point. Anyway. Yeah.

A short playlist:



Whatever little time we live, time
in the end, adds up to no time at all.
Sadly and gladly there are things
to be seen in the sun and missed
in flight along the way.

We take to wing, fly a while, ponder
all that circles below us and descend
to earth. We look up to see where we've been. We measure the spaces
we inhabit inside, out and about.

The ground beneath our feet
is our foothold for as long as we
can stand and hang on. The sky
is where birds and angels dwell. We've all been visitors there and come
back home to the back yards of Heaven

The sky is where we've been when
we've gone to sleep undreaming
or been wide awake, night and day
alert to our own mortality.

But however low below the slow clouds
we strive to thrive, the sun burns above.

And keeps on burning.


-Al Pittman, "Rites of Passage", from An Island In The Sky: Selected Poetry of Al Pittman (Originally published in Thirty-for-Sixty).

Before I die, I want to do philosophy like Al Pittman.

"What does this mad myth signify?"
- Milan Kundera




This daylog is a stylistic homage to my man cab!

Smoking (cont.)

I bought a pack of Djarum Lights from one of our Corpsmen who got some in the mail and I really like them. I just finished the pack and now regular cigarettes taste like, well, smoke.

Hedonist Matt (from McCarty/McMahon) used to smoke cloves and always had a pleasant incensey smell about him, and I used to go out and hang out with him while he smoked (after they locked our balcony) just 'cause I liked the smell.

Everyone keeps telling me, though, that cloves are so much worse for you than regular smokes. But, hell, I didn't start smoking because it's healthy.

I occasionally suspect that I'm enjoying it too much, the smoking, but then, can you really enjoy anything too much?

Things I like about smoking that are probably not very interesting or novel:

  1. How it can be equally enjoyable as a social or solitary activity.
  2. How I am never waiting for more than ten or fifteen minutes for anything (after that I'm not waiting, I'm smoking.)
  3. How it can augment an already enjoyable activity to make it more enjoyable, or make a miserable one tolerable.

For an example of 3, I like to smoke while reading, smoking on the shitter is great, and smoking while playing Poker is the best. I almost look forward to getting up in the middle of the night for post, now, because I know I'll take a few minutes to smoke a cigarette. Often I'll smoke two.

And this is already the second time I've written about smoking.

I also like the peripheral aspects of being a smoker, like carrying a lighter, and packing cigarettes.

Jake sent me the first volume of Lucifer comics, and though I was skeptical about a Gaiman spinoff written by someone else, it had his endorsement of it right there on the cover (I suppose for people just like me), so I gave it a shot and rather enjoyed it. Some of the stories seemed a bit rushed, but I'm looking forward to checking out the rest of the series.

I'm now reading some of EB White's collected essays that my sister sent me, though I don't think I've ever read Charlotte's Web. So far I quite like it. I'm sure I've mentioned before how much I enjoy reading essays, and these are of perfect length, which is to say: short.

Most of the essays seem to be about either living in the city or living in the country, and though I like them both, I come to the country ones more as a visitor or a tourist than as someone who identifies with what country life is like. I guess that informs what kind of person I am.

One of the best essays a reflection on a dachshund he used to own named Fred, who I think is pictured on the back cover. On the front cover it shows White with a cigarette smoldering between his fingers, and I realize, as with everything, I've arrived extremely late to the smoking scene. I sometimes wish I had lived during a time when smoking was more acceptable. As it happens, smoking is becoming less and less popular (I think), places in which to smoke are becoming scarcer, and cigarettes are getting more and more expensive. I read the other day that Bhutan has banned smoking in the entire country.

Because of the circumstances in which I started smoking, I am anticipating something of a culture shock when we get back Stateside. That is: I imagine the rules for smoking are different at home. Strangely, I'm looking forward to the novelty of learning these rules.

At the same time I'm looking forward to aspects of smoking away from the Marine Corps. Smoking while walking, for example, is against Marine Corps regs. Ridiculous, I know.

Anyway, I like to smoke.

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