From: I Still Am Pretty Damn Sure I Know What You Did Last Summer Even Though I Suffer From Several as of Yet Unnamed Mental Instabilities (a work in progress)

(A Retroactive Journal of Summer 2000, Against the Backdrop of Backward People)

Note: Your radical ideas about this being like David Foster Wallace have already occurred to others.

Section one (1) Title: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Hubris 1

"For a smart material to be able to send out a more complex signal it needs to be nonlinear. If you hit a tuning fork twice as hard it will ring twice as loud but still at the same frequency. That's a linear response. If you hit a person twice as hard they're unlikely just to shout twice as loud. That property lets you learn more about the person than the tuning fork."–Neil Gershenfeld

So, I stood there, thousands of dollars in my hand, and, having just received a credit card statement—Minimum Payment: 32.01—and a statement from my University—Installment Payment 1041.05—at this point, I’m wondering what, precisely, I could do with over ten thousand dollars.


The Boone County Fair2 is the thing to do in and around the quasi-city known as Belvidere, IL. The seeds of suburbia are spread as liberally as the corn that once covered the fields. Farmers in Boone County aren’t exactly rich, but they can be. If you are strapped for cash, there’s always the option of selling a chunk of your land to someone looking to create the newest real-estate hot spot. As farms convert to lawns covered with children playing, I wonder about the rate of seepage the pesticides have from old dirt through to the newly rolled out sod.

This is the town; urbanites’ land that claimed from agriculturists’ that claimed the land from others who claimed the land from no one. The farmers drive around in their pickup trucks, and they’re a friendly folk, willing to lift their index finger a couple inches off the top of the steering wheel, as if gravity was stronger here.

I imagine there may be other things to do besides the fair, but I’ve yet to really see them. A new skateboarding park opened recently, and has actually gained some notoriety as a Good Thing, because the city erected it. A sign at the entrance says something that assumes all skaters are youths.

The skate park is behind the Dairy Ripple, which has, for generations, been referred to as the Hairy Nipple. Police officers patrol the area with stunning regularity, and I’m unsure whether they are after the Mexican-American 3 kids who loiter 4 near The Nipple or they really like the State Street Bridge. 5

The county fair has, traditionally, been held at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Now, aside from the fair, which actually brings a lot of people (approx. 100,000/yr.) and money into the local community, the only thing the police have to do during the rest of the year is to patrol The Nipple.

+++ When you work for a financial institution, you are entrusted with a lot of responsibility and a bit of respect. Often, the former is felt, not a lot of the latter. 6 The only one there to keep you honest from the above theft beside yourself is your co-worker, who looks awfully stressed at the whole affair of working at the Fair and who might not really notice something if you were discreet about it.

"Dan, what are you doing?"

"Don’t worry about it."

The whole affair being that we were assigned, as part of our employment duties, to work at the Change Booth—basically acting as rather elaborate change machines; we dutifully did our job for the pre-defined three hours, often seeing people we knew walk by, smiles on their faces, Elephant Ears and Ice Cream in their hands.


The Fair, in case I haven’t mentioned it, is the thing to do. That’s it. While I attended High School in the town, I imagined there being a thriving house-party scene involving all the popular people. I imagined local music scenes and excitement. The key phrase to all that is that I imagined it. I did that a lot, more than most people realize.

Later I learn that the majority of the people don’t even stay in town during the weekend—instead they head a couple hours north to Milwaukee or Madison for raves, ingesting loads of methylenedioxy-n-methylamphetamine 7 and making rolling buddies and discovering the pleasures of the flesh that I have still only begun to imagine and know I will never experience.

+++ The area I worked in at the first day of the fair was the size of a cell on death row; one window continually darkened by people asking if we can cash checks, 8 take deposits, withdraw funds, etc. 9 and the perk was basically all the Pepsi/Coke/Mountain Dew I cared to drink.

The aisles of the giant outdoor orgy of agriculture are big enough for the same groups to get the same spots year after year, simply tacking on the newcomers at the end of the aisles. One plot a few down from the bank’s is the tent for the Boone County Democrats (See Figure 2); a much larger plot is allocated to the Boone County Republicans. The tents sit on opposite sides of the aisle—local church 10 and pro-life group 11 tents flank the Republican tent; the Democrats have the Culligan Water Company 12 and The Belvidere Daily Republican 13 . Over the tents that oppose me, I can see the Farrissic Wheel, and from there, you can see the entire fairgrounds and town.

I have Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima 14 playing through my laptops’ small speakers. People stopping in to attempt the aforementioned transactions comment that the Threnodyis, in point of fact, not music. I admit, it can be somewhat abrasive, but I think it fits, given the title of the work. Some walk-by critics even go so far as to say, "If it ain’t country, it ain’t music."

All around is the lingering aroma of agriculture. A.K.A.: shit.


I guess you’re asking, at this point, what is the point? This is the point:

When you’re standing there, and you’ve just counted 10,032 dollars and 63 cents, a lot of things go through your mind, including how to escape without notice, just how much is it worth to leave a life. You begin to put prices on friends’ and family’s pain and confusion. The time you’ve put into the relationships. This is scary mostly because you realize that you’re not really that much different than the rest of the people you know. The exploitation and commodification of emotions seems normal, depending who you associate with. These thoughts are not abnormal. Others have thought even your most degrading, violent, and disturbing thoughts. Your radical ideas about killing all of your high-school classmates have occurred to others, and you are simply an amateur at the whole deal. It’s these nasty epiphanies that clear and cloud one’s conscience and judgment.


Back, again, in the change booth and I’ve got my laptop with a pirated copy of Fight Club playing. It’s the scene with the lye, you know? Where Tyler pours the lye on Norton’s character’s hand, and Tyler is talking, and I’m sitting there, money in hand, again, and again thinking about the things in the mail. Federal Student Loans: INSTALLMENT DUE: 35.00. Bounced check notice—it costs 25 dollars to say no. I bought my girlfriend flowers, 80.00 15 .

"Our fathers were our models for God. And, if our fathers bailed, what does that tell us about God?"

It’s easy to leave. I don’t bail. I don’t go. I hold my line. I stay with those I promised. I am, for that moment, better than my father. I am, for that moment, better than God.


It’s not every day you see a garbage can of dead fetuses. 16 The fully loaded “Boy Scout Baked Potatoe{sic} 17” is in my left hand, a fork in my right, and I’m pretending to scoop out some of the former-fetus-meat from the pro-life group’s tent’s barrel and put it on my potato. I get a lot of looks on that one. A lot. Of course I know the can’s contents are fake, and that there’s a lot of Styrofoam and plastic in there. Of course the other people in the booths around me know that the can’s contents are fake. Of course we all know that we all know that the can’s contents are fake. Still, it’s the gesture here. It is, of course, the thought that counts. Besides, a real bucket or can of dead fetuses would surely start to stink. Can’t have that.

It’s not uncommon given the highly religious nature of the folks here to notice the rather large proportion of people I went to school with and almost-children pushing baby strollers—I’m unsure if it’s that ultra-right-leaning protestant morality education or the rebellion against the above. Some wear wedding rings. I imagine them wearing underwear that says, "We weren’t always old and conservative. We were once young and conservative." I know some of them hide scars. I know some of them call their mothers on the weekends to baby-sit their three year olds so that they can have some resemblance of a life. I know I am glad I didn’t know them in the Biblical sense.


Much later, I’m sitting with my girlfriend in the rickety old Farrissic Wheel that I really don’t trust, and we reach the apex of the ride. I look around, and in circles, I see the fairgrounds, the town, and finally Rockford about a dozen miles to the west. The seat descends and the wheel spins, bringing me closer to the ground. I can see the carnies—even their dogs have shifty eyes, like this is some sort of movie starring Mel Gibson. I wonder if my old friend is out there, who joined the carnies after suffering from immanent burnout, shouting for people to try to win the Kewpie Doll. 18

I can see my sister’s old friend, Brandy, hanging out with a carnie, holding his hand. I remember hearing that it generally is a bad idea to date carnies unless you really were addicted to the games they hawked. There’s one where they put a mouse under a bowl, spin a giant wheel separated into dozens of colored wedges, and lift bowl with a simply pulley/string system, and the mouse runs out and goes into a little hole in a wedge and, had you placed your bets on that color, you would win a kewpie.

I have no physical skills; this seems like an easy enough game to play. I put down dimes and misc. pocket change, betting that the mouse will go into red, green, blue, and yellow. After three or four turns, I realize that, before they spin the wheel, the mouse has fallen down, dizzy, and when they lift the bowl, it takes a moment before the mouse rights itself and continues to work.

No dice, or wins, incidentally. We wander around some more, and I Amanda about the people she recognizes, "Weird, huh?"


We don’t talk like normal people talk. The exchange of agreement is often signaled only by the eyes or a squeeze of the hand. We’ve been dating for what seems forever to people my age and “cute” to those who’ve been dating longer. I’ve been dating Amanda longer than my mother has known my step-father. No one cares anymore if we sleep at each other’s house. As far as everyone else knows, we are stable. We are the very definition of a stable, perfect relationship.

Later, at a game of skill and/or chance, my girlfriend pulls out a fiver (the games tend to be expensive) and hands it to the carnie. This is the game where you shoot out a little star using an automatic BB Gun. My girlfriend, unlike me, actually has physical coordination 19 and succeeds in shooting out the star. For this, she gets a red stuffed bulldog with pair of big fuzzy teeth. Its collar looks like it used to have spikes in it but they were removed, leaving holes. We name it “Grr,” because we had been saying it to each-other the whole night when the other one of us makes an off color comment. Grr is stuffed but he is hard. He’s stuffed with foam, like the foam my father’s company made which lines the cement basement floor for the rare exercise event.

The man behind the counter says something like, “I see who wears the pants there.” I give him my best “fuck off” smile and turn around, my girlfriend still holding my hand like she did years ago, holding tighter, even. I pull her closer and hold the dog up in front of me, pretending that it barks. The too-cool 16 year olds look at us like they’re bored and we’re silly senile old kooks even though we’re not legally old enough to drink. We laugh and don’t care and make a scene and it’s funny. Amanda laughs. I laugh (giggle, really.)

"Grr! Grr!" I say. "Grrgrrgrrgrrgrr!"

And she smiles, and again, I am reminded of why I stay.


The next day we wake up around noon and I make Amanda some French Toast.

I touch her nose, and her sleepy eyes go cross-eyed following my finger, "You’re French Toast."


1 Due to some rather sad penis-envy things going on in my psyche, I have included not a drawing, but a photograph of a stapler somewhere in this document. (Photo not applicable on Everything2)

2 The events contained herein refer to the fair in the year 2000 A.D.

3 Who account for up to 50 percent of the population but less than a nickel worth of its money.

4 Not my word.

5 The Bridge is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest bridge with parking available upon it. As far as I know, that is the only place where Belvidere has ever been mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records.

6 The author would like to point out that, as far as he knows, at this exact point in time, he has been fired by e-mail. Actually, the text of the mail was unclear, but the author fears retribution after his boss may have examined the web site visitation logs, and not realizing that the hits were actually because of a picture loaded when is visited. Honest.

7 e. MDMA; extacy, X, XTC; metheylenedimethoxymethamphetamine. An analog of MDA (methylenedimethoxyamphetamine). My mother works in a Pharmacy and I worked in a hospital for a few years. (Best not to ask what as.)

8 We can’t because of federal regulations, which would require us to create, in effect, a branch of the bank I work at for the five days of the year the fair takes place. Not including regulatory fees, this would probably entail paying the tellers overtime for they would have to work a lot instead of just paying the hourlys and not paying the salaried people for simple change distribution, this all would probably just be too much effort and not enough pay-off.

9 Including but not limited to stock trading, new accounts, savings bond purchasing and trade-ins, short term loans, check into cash services . . .

10 (who hand out bags with smiley faces and the church name, address, an Internet web addressadded in the past year, and phone number. )

11 Which has among its repertoire a barrel of what appears to be dead fetuses.

12Hey, Culligan man!” (This space for Rent.)

13 A newspaper I worked at for a while—where I totally got the addiction of writing, but got fed up with the fourth-grade reading level enforced, though I got to ruffle a few feathers.

14 For those not familiar with the piece, I recommend it. Download it on Napster or something. It starts off with really high-pitched and intense sounds coming from the string section, I think. Think of the Atom Bomb, okay? Now think of it blowing up in your hometown or close by. This is the soundtrack to that event: the blinding light, blindness, confusion, secondary explosions, radiation, sickness, death, etc.

15 These were nice fucking flowers. It was a dozen roses, actually and clichély, and they were white, but with dyed red in them, so each one looked like a bloody flower, marble, whatever. Came with a rather nice vase, too. I dunno, I read on the little chart in the flower shop that white means purity and red means, duh, love, so I figured. . .

16 Well, it might be every day; I don’t know where you work. Generally there are a lot of first born sons in the bank exchanged for mortgages, etc., but not a lot of fetuses. I guess the fed keeps a high interest rate on them or something.

17 In case I haven’t said it outright, this is Republican country.

18 During research for this piece, I’ve found out that he has since left the carnies, smokes more pot than all of the Rastafarian religion’s adherents, and is currently dating a stripper and trying to adopt her kids. I wish him well.

19 It probably doesn’t hurt that her father loves trap shooting.