I have worked an honest day today. Nowadays it is a rare day that I stay at work for what used to be my usual twelve to fifteen hours, but I have had to deal with many, many setbacks over the past six months and it is beginning to push my hours up. My son misses me though we still have our morning commute in papa's red car and I still get home in time to tuck him in.

What capped the day though was an extraordinary stretch of late night home improvement. When I arrived tonight there was a box waiting for me containing a set of door handles as part of my final push in the total eradication of tacky faux brass fixtures from the house. I could not resist and ended up doing all the doors on the first floor, hinges and all, before sitting down to copy edit my lovely bride's program notes for the Boston Symphony Orchestra's upcoming performance of Manuel de Falla's El retablo de maese Pedro, and now this.

As I was doing all this and congratulating myself on my industriousness, the image of my father suddenly came to mind. He's been dead now twenty-three years and the stretches of time that go by when I don't think of him can now be measured in days and sometimes weeks. I was suddenly hit by the realization that I had never worked so hard as when I worked alongside him as a youth. My work is intellectually and emotionally draining and I have to swallow more than my fair share of bile on an almost daily basis, yet, I have never worked as hard as I did then, waking at 4:30 am to go to the market to buy the daily supplies for our short lived experience as capitalist owners of a working man's cafeteria. We would often be there still at ten PM, cleaning up and fending off the roaches. He never complained that I remember, he never faltered. I am a cocky son of a bitch, I always feel that no matter what I have my education and experience to fall back on and will always be able to provide for my family, no matter what comes. But what was it like for him? Not knowing whether he would be able to make ends meet. What does that feel like?

I wish I could ask him, I do miss him so


I've been listening to Such Great Heights by the Postal Service a lot lately; it's a really great song. But there's a line in it that really struck a note with me "I tried my best to leave this all on your machine...". And the more I thought about it, I realised I know several songs which romanticise answering machines and messages in this way: In Nice Dream by Radiohead, Thom Yorke sings: "I called up my friend the good angel but she's out with her ansaphone". Mark Linkous's aunt leaves a message on his answering machine about a dream she had, which Linkous incorporates into the song Spirit Ditch on the Sparklehorse album vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot. The Replacements have a song called Answering Machine, Pulp have a song called Ansaphone. And, as DejaMorgana pointed out, Green Velvet also have a song called Answering Machine, which is a week's worth of answering machine messages. Anyway, it all just got me thinking about the answering machine, and what it is that is so romantic about it.

I suppose everyone must still get a little thrill on coming home and seeing the light on the answering machine blinking back at them letting them know that there are mysterious messages waiting to be listened to, holding who knows what news from whom? Old friends? family? long-lost lovers? who knows what new and exciting opportunities and proposals might be waiting coiled up on the tiny magnetic tape in the machine? What familiar voice might bring the past flooding into the present?

The day before a friend of ours died, he left a message on my sister's answering machine asking us if we wanted to go for a drink. My sister has never deleted this message, and often, if she is thinking about our friend, she will phone her service and play back the now several-years old message, just to hear his voice. It's no different to looking at a photograph I suppose, but it seems more intimate because it's his voice, dynamic, just as we always knew it, not a frozen image in time. People often save answering-machine messages for these kind of reasons; to have someone's voice cheer them up on a dark day.

Who amongst us isn't guilty of deliberately waiting until we know that a person will be out; specifically so we can choose that time to phone, so that instead of talking to someone we can just leave a message on their machine?

Although I've started to wonder if mobile phones aren't ruining the romanticism of answering machines for us? Ruining all this? Because there is little need for answering machines when callers can just try cell-phones when they can't reach someone at home. Thus killing the innocent thrill and anticipation of an un-listened to message.

It took a talk...

And a little music, I guess...

I want to give my thanks to everyone for caring, I do appreciate it, but it wasn't really all that serious a situation. Although I was very depressed, I just wanted to show it in a subtle way. I ended up getting a tremendous response to such a small amount of expression for my problem. Yeah, I know I ended that node with a plea, but I wasn't really thinking of everyone actually sending me advice.

The irony is... I'd really hate to join the vast ranks of sad kids everywhere, the same type of person I've pitied and given advice to for so long, though I guess I'm the right age for it (read: 19).

My solution: The Flaming Lips and a long, long talk with an old friend.

Again, thank you to those who had advice for me. I appreciate it more in this mood I've risen into than I would have when I was blinded by certain old emotions.

Thank you Everything2, you kick depression's ass.
So yesterday, I'm at the gym, working out with a friend. This friend is a lot . . . how shall I put this . . . "prettier" than me, and I guess some people might say he's "obviously" gay. A few other friends, with other hallmarks of gayness, approached to say hello to me as well. I guess they had effeminate demeanors. Their hairstyles were obviously maintained, one of them with recently bleached-blond hair, another with an intricate crown of spikes. It's a lot more attention than the average guy puts in to his appearance before going to the gym.

Now, personally, I don't think my non-straight orientation is obvious to anyone, because I really don't go to any great lengths to share my sexual orientation in my dress. In fact, I go to some lengths to make my appearance 'normal', and consistent with the gender expectations of my college's culture. This may be -- no, is -- somewhat contrary to my deeper beliefs on what should be the case, since I don't intellectually view the American (or even global) binary gender paradigm with favor. But it is obvious to me that I participate in it nonetheless.

Of course, the way my gay friends chose to dress and present themselves is no less consistent with cultural expectations. Be not fooled; gay culture has similar demands of its members. There is a (rather annoying) pervasive mentality among the self-identified homosexuals I know, to arrogantly abjure nonconformist, less-fasionable, or differently-fashioned gay people, while all the while decrying the imposed-norms of "mainstream culture" on them in the arena of their sexual behaviors and preferences. The irony is, apparently, lost on them.

All of this is to lead to a baffling comment I received from another guy at the gym yesterday. This guy and I have seen each other regularly in the weight room, and we are both frequent gym-goers. He's twice my size (and I'm already quite well-built), and he has a bit of an aggressive demeanor which, because it intimidates me somewhat, has inspired me to keep a solid distance from him.

So he comes up to me, asks about using the inclined rowing machine that I'd been occupying and using along with my gayer, prettier friend, and when I replied that I was done right now and he could have it all to himself, he said:

"Oh, OK. You know, I don't care what they say about you guys; you're alright."
To which I replied, confusedly, "Oh? What exactly is it that 'they' say about 'us'?"

"I don't even care," he said, "you guys are alright."

So I shook my head and walked to the water fountain, thinking that he was talking about my race (as I appear "white", and he, "black"). Then it occurred to me that this was unlikely . . . and that he was talking about 'the homosexuals.'

I asked myself, (and ask myself even now), many things. Is it that obvious? Should I wear looser shirts? Quit styling my hair? Should I even attempt to hide it? Was he talking about my sexual orientation, (at least, what he perceived it to be)?

In any case, the comment bothers me, because in a way, I found it condescending, pitying, and patronizing. And it makes me wonder more than ever, 'What DO 'they' say about me when I'm not around?' . . .

She sat in a small room at the side of the party. The guests were all lining up outside her door - waiting for their turns. I was patient and watched each one carefully as they walked out. Then I chatted to some of them casually about their Tarot cards. I wanted to ask her... about love. A funny guy with puffy, curly hair and an always-stunned expression joked that he would listen in to my whole fortune. Hahaha - we all laughed, to be polite but not much of a joke. It was my turn finally.

She was small and round with grey hair and a French accent. She had a black shawl on with a bunch of crazy, flashy butterflies on it. I cut the deck of oversized cards in three and made a wish. She turned over the cards with childish symbol drawings, explaining them with surprising detail. I liked her - she genuinely believed in what she was talking about. My belief is in rationality and tangible reality - but I'm basic, like everyone else. I make choices based on the same things as all of the other animals.

"Tell me about... love" I urged...and she did. It sounded really nice.

I walked out and the funny guy looked at me up and down and said that I was pale and sweating. Everyone was suddenly looking at me.

"It is really hot in there." I said, embarrassed. The lady, still in her little room, did an exaggerated nod in agreement.

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