Adieu Apartment

And so we come to the final blog post I shall write in this apartment. As others nimbly perambulate through airport security gates, their rucksacks and tote bags brimming with books to read on the six hour flight to Los Angeles for the annual cacophony to score galleys and gratis cocktails, I shall be driving a van in New York, negotiating the BQE and doing my best to remember that you can’t make a right turn on red. The desk is half-disassembled. Twenty boxes of stuff reside in the other room. You can wander through the apartment and experience a slight reverb colliding against the barren walls whenever you recite half-remembered lines from Shakespeare or sing pop song lyrics you hoped would snap and crackle out of your brain.

I read 117 books while living in this apartment, but I may be missing a few. My hairline receded quite wonderfully! I shall be a full-fledged chromedome by 35! I grew many beards. I shaved my hair off six times. I negotiated the celerity and terrain of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and offered a dear goodbye (with the promise of a return visit) to the folks at my neighborhood cafe, where I often holed up with my laptop. Last night, I purchased my last beer at the bodega run by a friendly racist. I battled cockroaches and a few mice and lived to tell the tale. I lost weight. Whether it was the walking, the frugal living, or the freelancing, I cannot say. I became more cheerful and got a little crazier. I survived the chilly winter and the humid summer. I put up 90 installments of The Bat Segundo Show. I made friends and became closer to acquaintances. I sent 10,032 emails on the main account. I banged out around 80,000 words (not counting the blog) for fictional and professional endeavors.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad run. I don’t know how much the topographical and spatial dimensions of this apartment factored into these activities. This is a strange but serviceable apartment that I hope will offer similar feats for the next tenant, whoever s/he may be.

Literary Skeleton Crew

There remain four books in the old apartment: Iain M. Banks’s Excession (which I am currently reading), Steven Gillis’s Temporary People (which I hope to get around to reading quite soon!), a galley of The Letters of Allen Ginsberg (which I hope to read after all the other books I have to read, which are now sitting in the new apartment), and my trusted Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. There are a handful of oversized volumes now in boxes, but I choose to leave these contents alone. Cardboard bottles for makeshift vintners, ready for an odor tendered by topography and not by time.

The dictionary, being a dutiful and invaluable companion, will most certainly be the last volume transported. You never know when an impulse to flip through the seven crevices might kick in. I’ll feel sufficiently settled in once dictionary and desk have migrated. They remain attached not so much at the hip, but certainly with an invisible tether. I now find myself pondering this old apartment denuded of books and remain preternaturally excited about these preternatural limitations: a veritable jig and tonic! A mere four books sitting in for a cast of thousands! A skeleton crew! I’ve opened up the Ginsberg book and located this one-paragraph letter that Ginsberg wrote to Eisenhower:

Rosenbergs are pathetic, government will sordid, execution obscene. America caught in crucifixion machine, only barbarians want them burned I say stop it before we fill our souls with death-house horror.

This was 1953. It didn’t do any good. No doubt a present Ginsberg type scribing a current message to the President along similar lines might become a “No Fly” list candidate. Unless, of course, the President has received a remarkable spate of hate mail. This remains unknown. He’s certainly not sharing with us.

Did Ginsberg have only four books to work from? Probably not. Did he consult the books he had to write this letter? Probably not. But he did read newspapers.

There remains, for the present time, an Internet connection. But Bartleby is no substitute for a good book. Control-F makes everything too easy. Better to plunge into textual anarchy and unferret some strange passage, such as the one above.

And what does Mr. Gillis give us? A random flip to page 102:

The machine was an old ink wheel mimeograph, silver-grey with a smooth metal cartridge and a round plastic bottle of blue ink loaded into the underside.

I approve of the E over the A in “grey.” I was terrified of reading beyond the word “blue,” for I had hoped that the “round plastic bottle of blue” might connote bottled water, some eccentrically designed machine. But with “ink,” this ambiguity was sullied!

The unabridged points out that the word “mimeograph” was “formerly a trademark.” One of Edison’s lost patents, now liberated into the lingua franca. Even though nobody really uses a mimeograph machine anymore. Will LaserJet suffer such a fate? Will there come a point in which nobody will really remember HP and the word “laserjet” will become released from corporate avarice? A hundred years from now, some amateur etymologist will flip through the unabridged dictionary and see “formerly a trademark” for “laserjet” (with the crude caps humbled), with the meaning somewhat transmuted and no mention of the parent company. But today, we must tread carefully. LaserJet is a registered trademark.

If America remains “caught in crucifixion machine,” then certainly there is hope within the native tongue. And would such a line of inquiry have been pursued had I been surrounded by all of my books? Perhaps there is something to be said for Spartan literary studies.

Contents of Box

  • A yellow legal-sized writing pad containing mysterious ideas and plans.
  • An issue of Mike Hampton’s Hot Zombie Chicks.
  • Minidisc case reading “Babbling — Raw #7. Also, The Babbling Project #1.” (No minidisc.)
  • Minidisc case reading “1. Babble 2 6/6/00.” (No minidisc.)
  • Mindisc (with case) reading “Babbling #8.”
  • Y adapter for telephone line.
  • Minidisc case — scratched and unmarked. (No minidisc.)
  • Floppy disk with label scratching out Intellipoint driver, reading “ME — Startup.”
  • Floppy disk (unmarked, unlabeled).
  • Various audiocassettes from November 2004 containing interviews that I conducted to research a still unfinished polyamory play.
  • Minidisc, with case reading “The Babbling Project #2.”
  • Blue Sharpie
  • Box of Bostich No. 10 1000 mini staples
  • Unlabeled green floppy disk
  • Floppy disk reading “Creative stuff began @ work I”
  • Damaged minidisc with Chet Atkins and mysterious “Test 7/21/00” label.
  • Blue Pocket Etch A Sketch
  • CD — containing driver for Olympus digital camera I no longer own.
  • Unusued Ampex magnetic tape still in shrink wrap.
  • 3M Recording Tape containing audio for uncompleted film.
  • Many business cards.
  • Many mysterious microcassettes — what’s on them?
  • An incomplete San Francisco Secondary Schools Pass.
  • A minicomic — Melina Mena’s Sour Milk Sea.
  • A 2004 monthly calendar designed by my friend Tom Working.
  • A strange package containing an adaptation cable for a video card that was fried sometime in 2005.
  • A small bottle of Advil PM. (It’s still good! The expiration date is 10/09.)
  • Many 3×5 index cards.
  • A red Bostitch mini stapler.
  • Many VHS videotapes containing (among many movies) Soapdish, episodes of the animated Star Trek series, episodes of Blake’s 7, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python, Twelve Angry Men, Sullivan’s Travels, Miracle Mile, episodes of The Simpsons, episodes of The Prisoner, Quick Change, an HBO special starring Rowan Atkinson, Suspiria, and Poison Ivy (recorded, no doubt, because of the promise of Sara Gilbert and Drew Barrymore naked).
  • A pair of red scissors.
  • A small journal I had forgotten about that contains the sentence, written in 1999, “I am slightly fearful of being laced with Judeo-Christian nonsense.”
  • A CD containing photos of a play I wrote and directed many years ago for a small venue.
  • An additional CD containing the sound cues for Wrestling an Alligator.
  • A mysterious 5 1/4″ floppy — what’s on it? how to transfer?
  • Numerous writing instruments.
  • An unopened box containing a corner brace — 1-1/2 in. x 3/4 in.
  • A student ID from 1991 in which I actually had hair.
  • A Swingline package containing 5,000 standard staples.
  • A floppy labeled, “YES! 4/97 Job Search.”
  • A floppy labeled, “Servant of Society.”
  • A receipt from Stacey’s Bookstore, dated 05/04/07, for Bleak House. (I still haven’t finished that book.)
  • The Fat Camille Omnibus 2007 by Camille Offenbach.
  • Another minicomic: Nitsy and Bitsy.
  • A CD labeled “80s MP3s.” (Shudder.)
  • An undeveloped roll of Fujicolor film from who knows when. (What pictures are on this?)
  • Julia Wertz’s I Saw You…: Missed Connection Comics #1.
  • A handout for an improv class that I took in 2005.
  • A handout from MUNI on “Ballpark Service Tickets and Fares.
  • A spare serial drive cable.
  • 2 AA batteries — still good?
  • A UHU STIC gluestick.
  • Many DV tapes — containing what?
  • Two VGA to DFI adapters.
  • Printout of Segundo scheduling spreadsheet from 2006.
  • 16mm yellow leader tape.

Most of this will probably be thrown away. But unfortunately, I’m too curious about the data that might be on some of these tapes. I’m additionally curious as to where I obtained some of this stuff. This curiosity, I suppose, is the problem with moving. When setting up in the new digs, I will likely expend a considerable amount of time trying to find a use for nearly everything on this list.