- sent to press July 31, 1998


Flu Dream #2: You're at a table in a dimly-lit bar that is vaguely reminiscent of the original Park Tavern. You are surrounded by the leering, cruel, red drunken faces of what you used to call "preppies." They have squat necks, short hair parted on the side, collars turned up. Your hair is slicked back, you sit slouched, fronting your best James Dean/Bob Dylan slouch; wearing faded jeans, thick tee-shirt, and blue workman's jacket. Huge 20-oz-plus tap beers sit in front of you all. You are trapped in a hostile situation - the preps refuse to let you leave the bar until you finish your beer.

Besides being flu-stricken in the dream, you are also drunk and cannot drink anything more. Your head is swimming, you stay clutched in your jacket, shaking off the chill, exchanging mean barbs with the preps, who resent being called "fucking prep bastards" and "frat fucks." Calmly, you tell your main antagonist that you will name the results of the last twenty college hockey championships, and if you can't, you will attempt to down your beer in one drink. If you're successful, you can leave. He scoffs, saying that not only can you leave if you name them all, he'll give you five dollars for each correct result.

Flash ahead...you are trying to maintain your focus and keep your dinner down as you speak... "1989 Harvard over Minnesota in overtime, 1988 Lake State over Saint Lawrence in overtime, 1987 North Dakota over Michigan State, 1986 Michigan State over Harvard, 1985 RPI over Providence, 1984 Bowling Green over Minnesota-Duluth in four overtimes..."

You awake from the dream in a sweat, stumble to the bathroom sink to get a glass of water, and begin reciting to yourself in the mirror: "1983 Wisconsin over Harvard, 1982 North Dakota over Wisconsin..."

You crash back into bed and are immediately back in the dream - the entire bar is cheering you on, the money is piling up in front of you, you are smiling a tired, wicked fuck-you smile..."1981 Wisconsin over Minnesota, 1980 North Dakota over Northern Michigan, 1979 Minnesota over North Dakota." The dream fades out as you, in the midst of well-wishers and back-slappers, manage to raise an arm in triumph.

You sleep a rested sleep the rest of the night.


You take an IQ test on the Internet and then later that day weigh yourself at the YMCA. The two numbers are the same. You're not sure if you can deal with the pressure of being the zinester whose IQ equals his weight, so you decide to drop a few pounds.


He told you that his favorite band "gives the people what they want," implying that this is something extraordinarily special. You wanted to say that art is not democratic; that the artist should trust their muse, not the ballot box. You wanted to say that if all artists gave the people what they wanted; no envelopes would ever have been pushed; that there never would have been a Nebraska or a Metallica's Black Album or a No Code or a Bringing It All Back Home or a There's a Riot Going On or an Achtung Baby or an In Utero.

You wanted to say a bunch of stuff, but you usually don't think of the smart stuff until an hour or so later.


You make a mental note that when talking to attractive blondes at work, saying the following things DO NOT impress: "Chow Yun-Fat", "working on my zine", "thirty-box of Schmidt", and "Dylan bootleg."


It's Sunday night and you go to the bar, because that is what you do. You bring your notebook and pen and the remnants of your weekend fun money. You took forty dollars out of your paycheck on Friday and you now have thirty-two dollars left. It hasn't been a fun weekend. You order two-dollar-and-forty-cent Schell's Dark taps. In the back of your mind, you think maybe you'll wake up Monday morning, look at the stash of cash you have left, and say "damn, that was one cool weekend."


She agrees with everything you say. You decide that not only is that scary, it is also no fun. You avoid her whenever possible.


On Wednesdays, you don't do any anal-lytical work and instead stay home to write and read. You call this day of the week Starving Artist Wednesday, mostly because you pound coffee all morning long and don't eat anything until early afternoon. Food ruins your concentration and makes you tired, so it's best avoided until you get some work done.

It's Starving Artist Wednesday, and you've had two bowls of cookie dough ice cream, then a handful of pretzels, then a can of Leinenkugel's. It's two in the afternoon; and now that lunch is over, you think about going to the library.


You come up with the idea that all Gopher hockey apparel should be on sale this season for the price of $19.79.


When the ex-girlfriend whose Neil Young
albums you didn't return is back in town

Plan A is to go to Milwaukee for the weekend. 
If you decide to stay in town to watch the World Series 
from the comfort of your futon
with your five remote controls and popcorn, 
remember that:

The first three steps are crucial, 
(if you have evaded her grasp
by the time you have three steps under your belt,
your longer legs will win out in a sprint)
and she always wears those
retro shoes
which aren't exactly made for running. 
Don't forget
that if she comes at you head-on, 
your best running move in backyard football
is fake-left-and-run-hard-right. 
If you run out of beer
like you always seem to on Saturdays,
the store on the corner delivers,
it's only a dollar charge. 
Comb your hair the way she liked
as you never did
when you were together: 
this will make it tougher for her to recognize you. 
Always wear a baseball cap and sunglasses in daytime,
keep the shades drawn when inside. 
The phone is to be used for outgoing calls only. 
Practice saying: 
"My new girlfriend's name is Nikki, 
she's a ballerina." 

Remember that:
when people get closer to you, 
they ask for more of your time. 
If you must absolutely leave the apartment, 
park your car on the next street over, 
a block north, 
and take the back alley 
to and from your vehicle. 
The alley is a great escape route unless she's in a car; 
if you turn to bust a move
into a neighbor's yard, 
beware of the fences. 
Don't turn an ankle while climbing. 
Your goal has always been to be anonymous,
no matter what she may have said 
about you wanting to be the center of attention.

If all else fails: 
give up Harvest 
don't tell her it skips on side two, 
but say you lost 
After the Gold Rush 
the last time you moved.


They make little comments on the way you butcher the language and imply that writers should speak proper English. You want to tell them that many times good writing has little to do with proper English. Instead, you tell them that you speak in the vernacular, and they leave you alone. When you're not around, they look up "vernacular" in the dictionary.


They tell you that soccer is popular with kids. This makes you think that soccer is to blame for all those damn minivans on the road, which are no doubt carrying all those kids to soccer practice.

On the Fourth of July, you were the Ugly American - you made fun of soccer. When someone pointed out that the rest of the world loves soccer, you didn't feel guilted or shamed into liking something you find boring. After pointing out that Canada isn't big on soccer either (thereby refuting the "rest of the world" argument on a technicality; and besides Canada is the only other country you've ever been to, so in effect YOUR world doesn't like soccer), you said the most American thing of the day: "I don't care about the rest of the world."

The year was 1975, you were ten years old, and you played soccer in a league somewhere in the Denver suburbs. They told you that in The Future, soccer would be the most popular sport in your country. They also told you that your country would be using the metric system by the time you would be an adult. Your family moved back to the north country, you began watching hockey, and you never cared much about soccer again. You haven't seen a kilometer distance sign on the highway in years.

You read in the paper that English soccer fans celebrated in the streets of France after a World Cup victory. They told the French that if it wasn't for them, the French would be all be Krauts. You sure are thankful that England was twice able to protect France from Germany this century. Instead of watching the World Cup final, you watch some Glidden latex dry faster than the comparable Sherwin-Williams brand. You're happy, because you like Glidden paint. You decide to call some friends up with the suggestion of starting a post-drying riot, but no one is home.


For the past six months, every time you've been in the Seventh Street Entry you see who you swear is your first love. You go through a routine in your mind every time you see her of Is that her? That can't be her...looks exactly like her...is that her? Finally, you figure out that although she does look exactly like your first love, she is the image of the twentysomething that you last saw all those years ago. Your first love is by now much older.

That's great, because this doppelganger dresses kind of like a stripper on her night off, and you'd hate to have to hate her guts.


You have a fantasy where you're in a brown-and-orange booth at Burger King eating 99-cent Whopper Junior after 99-cent Whopper Junior in front of a bound and gagged Paul McCartney. You decide not print the fantasy in your zine, you'd be an insensitive prick to do so.


You go and see Lifter Puller open in the Entry. You don't think they should open in the Entry, ever, unless somehow Hendrix comes back and decides to play a small room. You have to get up for work the next day - so you tell yourself you'll go see Lifter Puller, head for home, and still get to sleep on time. You leave the Entry right after LP, head for home, and then stay up late writing about how great they are.


An oh-so-professional-and-considerate manager on your floor is fascinated with your Finnish pedigree. She speaks Finnish and once asked you if you can speak it. You said you know maybe ten words. She waited for you to say some of them. Against your better instincts, you smiled and said oluta, which means beer. She doesn't talk much to you anymore.


You worry about the millennium. A big part of you wants to send the Twentieth Century out in a grand, majestic way. A bigger part of you says "but wouldn't doing that involve being around other people?"


Somebody asks you who Lilith was and why would they name a music festival after her. You say "she was the first woman to write a check in a convenience store for two dollars worth of purchases," and think you're a pretty funny guy. A week after saying this, you're in line to buy a bus pass and the two gals in front of you both slap down twenty dollars in green to buy their passes. When it's your turn, you have to write a check.


You wake up in the morning. You hit the snooze button. You wake up in the morning. You hit the snooze button. You wake up in the morning. You hit the snooze button. You wake up in the morning.

You sit on the bus, thinking about writing in your notebook. Instead, you watch the girls who get on the bus. Some chunky guy sits next to you. Seven-thirty a.m. and he has already broken a sweat. He stakes out territory one soft elbow to your ribs after another. You want to tell him to mix in a salad, but you don't.

Last week, some sixty-something fem sitting next to you asked you what you thought about some situation. You said you didn't pay attention to the matter, and he said people in Minneapolis walk through life like they have bags over their heads. You said you were desensitized by a lifetime of watching television. He took you for your word, and proceeded to go on and on about how in the paradise known as Europe they banned some television channel that they deemed too horrible for viewing. You wanted to ask if that was part of the Marshall Plan, but didn't get a chance. You wanted to point out that the paradise known as Europe hasn't started a world war in this half of the century, so maybe they're onto something. Instead, you kept your mouth shut.

You get to the office and make the coffee. You got moved to another cube again and can't get AM radio stations in. You listen to the FM oldies station and hear the Beatles ("she was just seventeen and you know what I mean"), Van Morrison ("I saw you just the other day, my you have grown"), Gary Puckett ("young girl get out of my heart") and Ringo Starr ("she's sixteen, she's beautiful, and she's mine".) It seems like every other golden oldie is oozing in appreciation of a little girl. You finally switch over to NPR, which doesn't ooze anything, ever.

On the bus home, you think about writing in your notebook. Instead you read the daily blues. You read an article about Ticketbastard, the nation's ticket-selling monopoly. Ticketbastard's CEO, Fred Rosen, is justifying the hand-over-fist-should-be-illegal profits his company makes on 25-percent-plus ticket price markups. A bell goes off in your head - you know this Fred Rosen guy and you've heard his shtick before. At the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, you were informed that Mike Damone went on to work at 7-11. That, however, was fifteen years ago. You know damn well that Mike has since reinvented himself and is now Fred Rosen. Now Mike/Fred spends his time once again saying: "Scalper? Did you call me a scalper? Listen gentlemen - I perform a service here and the service costs money. Now do ya want the tickets or don't ya?"

You get home and listen to the radio. There is some announcement from your utility company, urging everyone to conserve electricity due to the heat wave. A few weeks back you didn't have power for an entire weekend after a storm knocked it out. You've conserved enough for the summer. You crank up the air conditioner, turn on the TV, and leave the stereo on. Monopolies should always have ample supply of what they provide.

You look around the tiny apartment as if you've never seen it before. As if taking stock of your life. Racks of CD's mostly filed chronologically, Robert Johnson through Rancid. Some disc cases lay on the floor, some mingled with tapes on top of the stereo. Your TV sits in the middle of the music collection. In the corner, a bookshelf full of favorite books. On your desk are notebook after notebook of writing, reference books, some old Hungry Mind Reviews, guitar tuner, miscellaneous office supplies (some stolen), The Wyman Weekly collection, binders full of notes from writing classes, Cormac McCarthy's novel The Crossing, globe coin bank circa 1950's, drafts of poems and essays, guitar slide, No Depression issue #16. On the windowsill, a Sagrado Corzon De Jesus candle you bought for sixty cents. It's unlit.

You sit typing the notes you hope will lead to some pieces for your next zine. Your notes define mediocrity, aren't inspired, and bring you down. In every writing class or group you've been a part of, someone invariably says they write because they "hate writing." You wonder if your reason for writing is good enough: you enjoy it. You love the creation, the countless rewrites, the reading, the state of mind you must enter in able to write effectively, and the solitude from which you gather your strength. You wonder about tormented artists and wonder if being tormented is necessary to create art. You are only occasionally tormented, and Violent Femmes songs aren't very long anyway.

You grab your notebook and sit on the futon, hoping to find your muse. She went out for a beer, so you grab one too. As the man once said - a person can work up a mean, mean thirst after a hard day of nothing much at all.


Everything written by me, except where noted.

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