Category Archives: My Diary

MY DIARY: Day 18,263 (My 50th Birthday)

This will come as a shock to no one, but I am sad today. I’m not as bad as I was 2 or 3 days ago, where I was just a wreck of a human being, but I have started crying on two different occasions today, and started to tear up on another.  There was also a minor health crisis that made me freak out and go all hypochondriacal. I’ve done well with that of late. I haven’t gotten scared about being sick and dying for probably going on six months. Came back today, though. Better now, but, hey, what better way to celebrate your utter waste of a life than freaking out at a blister, right?  I think Ovid wrote about that. Or maybe it was that English/playwrite who wasn’t Shakespeare, but I can’t remember his name right now.

I suspect my recovery from decades of hypochondria comes from not really caring if I live or die. I mean, I’m not suicidal or anything, but…this is too personal to discuss in a public forum. I’m sorry. I’ve been deliberately wasting your time.

Bacon. His name was Bacon.

My Diary: Day 18,198: In which I realize I’m Overwhelming

I realized yesterday that I’m overwhelming. Not in the “Oh, he’s so wonderful,” sense, but more in the “Randy is exhausting, and I just can’t deal with him,” sense.

There’s any number of examples: I’ve been in and out of bands and writing songs and making music since 1988. Why? When I started out, obviously, I hoped I’d get a big break and be a rock star. Everyone does. By 1990 or 91 I’d realized that wasn’t going to happen, but I kept on doing it. Most of my friends had already given up on that sort of thing by then, but I kept going.

My goal? Never clear. Mostly, I think I just wanted to include a song or two on the mix tapes I sent my friends to let ’em know I was still doing this. I never did, of course, because making music and recording it are very different, and recording it in 1991 was way harder than now.

Oh, and let’s take the mix tapes, shall we? I made ’em. I made a lot of them. I was very interested in very many very different kinds of music, so I made mix tapes that I sent my friends. Two or three a year. If you were unlucky enough to be my girlfriend or on the shortlist of best friends, you got more than that. We called it “The Randy Records and Tapes Club.” Eventually I switched to CD.  I slowed down a bit, to one or two a year.

I got less and less response every time, and had to keep needling people to find out what they though of “Astronauts,” by “Desk,” featuring backing vocals by Aimee Mann, or a long-lost They Might Be Giants B-Side, or a Cold Water Army song or an unfinished Roy Orbison track or my Ska obsession or what have you. Oh, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins! I don’t think anyone on the planet likes him but me, and BOY was I vocal about it.

Finally, around 2007 I sent out a really good double-disk mix, and I didn’t hear back from anyone. Not a peep. When I pressed, I was angrily told that it was just too much, that we were all 30-ish now, and weren’t interested in hearing new crap, and please knock it off. Depressing.

So I knocked it off. I started actually recording my own music, and eventually started putting it on youtube and nobody cares. If I get 13 views, that’s exceptionally popular for me. Again, if I push people, they get mad. “Nobody wants to listen to your stupid songs about Ocelots, or your weird-ass instrumentals, Randy!” Depressing.

Oh, and I write. A lot. I always have. I was head writer for Republibot for five years, and no one cared. When I quit, it folded, and nobody cared. I have this site you’re reading, and I’d be surprised if 5 people read it a month. I also had a fanzine (“Rampant Boingophrenia”) and eventually another one for heretical religious matters called “Sacrilege, Ho!” (Obviously I put a few of these online eventually) and my endless movie reviews and chat rooms and stuff. Nobody cared about any of this. Actually, I was irritating and/or scaring them. Depressing.

Then I started writing books, and NOBODY wants to have anything to do with you if you’re self-publishing books. Seriously: your friends who’ve talked about that novel for 25 years, but never actually got around to it hate you. People who actually write ignore you because they’re busy writing. People who don’t care about such things find it pretentious. People who do care about such things generally have more interesting stuff to check out than my nonsense.

Yeah, you might get a couple people who will buy the first book out of politeness, and never read it, or skim it and give you a nice “It had a good beat, and you can dance to it” review on Amazon, but after that, you’re done. I’ve got, what, eight books, seven of which are pretty good, and one of which is terrible. (No, seriously: It’s my crappy poetry. Stay away from that one) I’ve got four more in various stages of completion that I hope to have out this year.

That’s a lot of stuff! Nobody cares. Depressing.

Added to which I am reputed to be (As one person put it) a “Vigorous conversationalist.” What that boiled down to is (As another person put it), “Requiring way too much energy to talk to.” I can see that. I probably am a lot of work. I never talk about normal stuff like sports. I’m always on about whether or not Saul of Tarsus was part of the Herodian Royal Family, or my latest project that no one cares about, or what I’d do if I was making Galactica for a third time.

So, bottom line: I’m overwhelming. I produce more stuff than people can keep up with. And people don’t want to keep up with it. They want to read Dan Brown novels and listen to whatever was popular whenever they were in High School, and not have me wildly speculating about theology, or the Apollo program, or why Venus is better than Mars for colonization.

AND I CAN NOT FAULT THEM FOR THAT.

Nor do I. Maybe 1 or 2 percent of people are really interested in the giddy thrill of thinking or experiencing or seeing or hearing new things after their 20s. We’re all pretty set in our ways by the time we hit 50. We’re actually neurologically wired to enjoy learning less by that point: We’re supposed to have learned everything we need to by then. I never felt like I’ve learned anything.

This is not arrogance or elitism on my part. I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else. I’m just a flibbertigibbet. I chase after any new shiny object or idea that catches my eye, and I talk about it. A *LOT* Way too much. It’s my failing, not theirs. I don’t have a lot of impulse control in that regard.

OH, and I forgot to mention my mood swings. My mania and depression, and frequent unpredictable behavior. That’s tiresome as well.

So the bottom line here is that I’m just exhausting.

I get that now. I really do. I’m not depressed about it or anything, I’ve just finally identified the problem, and I’m a little excited about that.

The question, then, is what I do about it.

I got no clue. Please sound off if you’ve got any ideas.

MY DIARY: Day 18,214 – A Landmine of Pointless Nostalgia

I cleaned out a storage space this week, and found a shoebox of old crap that had been stuck on the bulletin board above the desk in my bedroom when I was in high school and college. When my mom reclaimed the room and turned it into her crafts den, they took down the board, and (Surprisingly) put all the 20-25 year old crap from it in the shoebox, which I’m now looking through a decade later.

Still rooting through it. A lot of it is standard bulleting board crap: newspaper clippings, old “Far Side” comics, some band pins, concert and movie ticket stubs, pictures of people I can’t recognize or remember, some “Go, Cougars!” high school crap, a couple short notes from friends, a lot of ROTC stuff, a couple things from church that jumped out at me. directions to a girlfriend’s house, a wide assortment of name badges from minimum wage jobs. Also, curiously, my college class ring.

The most interesting thing was a note I wrote the night before I started college and hid inside a fedora that I then nailed to the wall. (I had this cheap fedora that I wore everywhere my senior year. I retired it the day after graduation and nailed it to the wall. At the end of summer, I wrote this note, folded it up, shoved it in the hat, and forgot about it.

I’m not nostalgic by nature, but it is still kind of interesting to know that I saw Howard Jones on Friday, October 4th, 1985 (It cost me 14 bucks. “Go West” was supposed to open, but they didn’t show). Or that I saw the USF Theater Department’s produciotn of “The Poor of New York,” a play I have no memory of, on February 12th, 1988 (That seems like probably a date thing to impress a girl). Or, hey, where were you on July 26th, 1987? Well, I was down in Largo going to a pre-release test screening of “The Lost Boys.” I still have the survey card.

Anyway…into the trash with most of this crap.

RIP Gene Cernan, RIP Apollo

MY DIARY, Day 2096: It was Thursday, December 7th, 1972. My mom and dad and I, and a million of our closest personal friends, were standing along the banks of the Bananna river. It was long after dark. It was cold, the river stank, as usual, and it was crowded. My dad had long since given up me staying awake and standing, so he just carried me.

It was the night of the launch of Apollo 17, the last of the missions to the moon. Gene Cernan, who died yesterday, was in command of the mission. Back then, he was thirty-eight and I was five. (Going on six) I grew up in Cocoa Beach, and my dad worked for NASA at the Cape, so launches were commonplace in those days. I couldn’t really understand why this one was significant, why I couldn’t just go home and go to bed.

Then, around half past midnight: Ignition. The engines were the brightest thing I’d ever seen, brighter than the noonday sun, brighter than anything but a small atomic bomb. It went from a black Florida night to dazzling and hard to focus in perhaps a second. I remember roosters started to crow. I remember fish started flopping around in the river, thinking it was daytime. I remember a million breaths sucking in all at once in awe, and I remember the sound hitting us an instant later.

The Saturn V was – and remains – the most impressive rocket ever built, and the way things are going, it’ll probably stay that way. Tall as a 36 story building, six million pounds, it lept up quick – don’t be fooled by all that slo-mo footage you see on The History Channel, rockets are fast! – and tore off downrange. The intensity of light quickly faded to day-normal, and then we had an odd kind of second nightfall where it all faded to blackness again, with everyone standing around blinking and cheering with purple spots in our eyes. It had been the only night launch of the program. Decades later, I found out that it had been clearly visible as far away as North Carolina,  as far south as Haiti!

APOLLO 17 LIFTOFF FROM KSC. 12/7/72. REF: 108-KSC-72PC-42

I also remember the drive home. We lived less than ten miles from the Cape, but attendance for the final launch had been larger than any in NASA history, excepting Apollo 11, which sent Armstrong to the moon not quite four years before. So quick an age, so long a drive home. There’s probably a metaphor in that if you want to hunt for one.

It was total gridlock the entire way, with hundreds of thousands of cars on roads never intended to hold tens of thousands. I remember the white leather seats in the back of my dad’s car, trying to curl up and go to sleep, but it was so cold, and we hadn’t thought to bring a blanket. That drive seemed to go on forever, stop, start, stop, start, endlessly being jostled awake, irritated as hell.

Though I’d seen all of the Saturn V launches with my own eyes, I don’t consciously remember any of them, except for the last. Again, there’s probably a metaphor in there if you want to poke around.

Decades later, I developed a fascination for Apollo 17 for the same reasons we’re always fascinated by the last of some animal going extinct. In particular I grew more and more interested in Cernan. It was the end of an age. Though there have been sime impressive things in space since, nothing we’ve done in the years since has matched, or even come close to matching, the Apollo program, and that last launch was the most ambitious of all. When it was done, when they returned home about two weeks later, we went from actual physical explorers to voyeurs, gawkers, people who send robots off to do man’s work. It’s cheaper, safer, but dammit, it isn’t sexy. It’s not strapping a rocket to your ass and riding fire. Sure, hundreds of people have done that to get into space, to endlessly tool around in orbit for whatever reason, but even that isn’t nearly so cool as riding fire to actually get somewhere. 

APOLLO 17 LIFTOFF FROM KSC. 12/7/72. REF: 108-KSC-72PC-42

“Everyone remembers firsts, no one remembers lasts,” I wrote in one of my stories, “Everyone can tell you who the first man on the moon was, but nobody can tell you the last.” Well I can, it was Gene Cernan. It’s been 44 years since he left. I despair of anyone ever going again. The past is a country. The past is a lost continent, drowned by seas of time. The brave new world is past, and this timid age dares little.

Gene Cernan died the other day. He was 84, I was 49. A door slammed shut for me. There are other moonwalkers still alive, that’s not the point. Not to me, anyway. To me, Gene Cernan – moreso than Yuri Gagarin or Neil Armstrong – was the high water mark of the golden age of space exploration. He went to the most remote location of any of the six landings, he stayed the longest, he left last. He was the end. The last man, the last rocket, the last to strive, the last to try, the last, period.

Here’s a story about him I’ve heard, which may be apocryphal: He’d promised his daughter that he’d writer her name in the soil on the moon, where it would stay undisturbed for millions of years. In the massive workload and tight schedule of the mission, however, he forgot. He said that for the next 30 or so years, he couldn’t look at the moon without getting angry at himself for not doing it. I always thought that was cute.

Can I tell you a secret? My fascination with him led to me using a not-very-accurate version of him as a recurring character in some of my stories. If you’ve ever read any of my stuff, and noticed a slightly-manic grey-haired old guy named “Gene” turning up, that’s him. None of my characters ever say his last name, of course, though there’s plenty of clues. If you haven’t read any of my stuff, he figures most prominently in my novella, “Home Again,” and in my unexpectedly controversial short story, “The Cetian Sky.” He turns up here and there elsewhere and gets namechecked a few times, but he’s front and center in those two.

In the real world, Gene Cernan was every inch the hero. In my fictional world, where history followed a somewhat different road, I turned him into a full-on Moses of the Space Age. It just seemed appropriate somehow.

MY DIARY: Day 18,138 (Election day)

Me: “Hey, welcome home!”
Her: “Thanks. Well, I just voted.”
Me: “Did you go for the clown or the shrew?”
Her: “Neither. I stood in line for 45 minutes to write in ‘Nixon.'”
Me: [Pause] “Are you kidding me?”
Her: “Nope. I voted Nixon/Agnew.”
Me: “Oh my God, honey, I have never been so proud!”
Her: “I also wrote in my own name for County Mosquito Control Commissioner.”
Me: “Someone gets a hug!”

DIARY: Day 7418

In the summer of 1987 I worked the swing shift at the Home Shopping Network. Start at Midnight, get out at 8:30 AM, get home around 9:30 eat breakfast, and go to bed until around 8 PM.

The only thing on TV when I was eating was “The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin,” which I watched because, much like the target audience, I like bright colors and stories that won’t interest me enough to keep me awake. Now, unlike nearly all cartoons aimed at little kids in those days, it actually had a serialized storyline. Each episode ended in a cliffhanger, which was resolved in the start of the next episode. So I watched this sort of absently while eating corn flakes for, I dunno, 60 days? 90? Most of the summer.

Then one day I missed an episode.

I was livid. I was furious. I was hat-stomping mad (And this was the 80s, so people wore hats) I mean, the Fobs were in a really bad way at the end off the last episode, and Grubby wasn’t able to save them, and it all looked pretty dire, and I DIDN’T GET TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED!

It nagged at me. All day long I was stomping around like I was gonna deck someone. If anyone asked me what was wrong, I’d spill out strings of incoherent mumbles that sounded like “Mumble mumble mumble goddamn mumble f-cking Teddy Ruxpin mumple mumble bastard mumble mumble misterable son of a bitch Fobs mumble mumble mumble sh_t, goddamnit!” And while I don’t think I broke down in tears at any point, the option was certainly on the table.

That night at HSN on the phones, while taking orders, I asked the callers (Mostly 90 year old ladies calling to buy capodemonte soup tureens and what have you) if they’d happened to catch Teddy that morning, until my manager got really really mad at me.

During my 10th or 12th hyperprofane outburst it suddenly struck me that I was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too involved in all this and that, in a larger sense, I was watching way the hell too much TV.

I decided then and there that my new years resolution would be to watch no TV whatsoever for a year. It kicked in four months later, and I actually kept it: I watched no TV whatsoever that next year. Fortunately, it was 1988 so there was nothing good on anyway.

The first time I ever saw Steve McQueen

Day 388-ish

It was probably spring of 1969, or early summer. I was three, and, yes, I can remember stuff from when I was three. Two even.

My step-grandmother got really ill, and no one would take care of her since everyone in the family hated her. So my mom decided to do it. (It was my dad’s stepmother) The two of us flew from Great Falls, Montana to West Palm Beach, and took care of her for six weeks. My dad would fly down from Montana on the weekends, spend the night, then head back again. It was the 60s and you could do that.
Anyway, so she had a small, dark retiree house that I have only vague memories of, which was full of dark child-hazard retiree things (“Butterscotch Candies,” trip-hazards, top-heavy bookcases, etc) I think. I don’t remember details. the lights were always out in there. In any event, there was no room for us in the house itself, so my mom and I slept in the screened-in back porch. For six weeks. On those rickety fold-out old-people cots with springs and stuff. Not like couch beds, but big low metal things that folded in half in the middle and had springs holding up a thin mattress, like you’d see in a hospital drama from around 1940. I used to sleep with my hand between the mattress and the metal edge of the frame because it calmed me down for some reason.
Every morning we’d get up, unmake the cots, fold ’em up and stack ’em by the wall, eat breakfast,and then my mom would take care of step-grandma Lucille while I was pretty much stashed on the back porch, without a lot of toys, if any. (Can’t remember specifically, but I’m not sure matchbox cars even existed yet. Or was it hotweels? I’m pretty sure Hotwheels didn’t exist until 1969) Anyway, I sat out there all day drawing with my crayons, making random patterns of circles and boxes that I called cars. When I got bored, I’d watch TV. I can’t remember if the TV was on the porch, or just inside in the dark house.
Anyway, one day, on a saturday, I turned on the TV and heard this snazzy theme song that genuinely sounded pretty good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK5jyVCdXwc
Yeah! What 3 year old wouldn’t enjoy that?
Then it starts out with a meteor crashing! Even better! Then some gummy old fool pokes the meteor with a stick and it breaks open and the blob climbs up the stick and on to the old guy’s arm. He runs away screaming and Steve McQueen hits him with his car. I screamed, turned off the TV, and hid on the porch, worried that the Blob was gonna get me.
Later that day my dad got in from the airport, and we went for a walk on the golf course my grandmother’s house backed up to. He could tell something was bugging me, but he couldn’t coax it out of me. I was afraid that if I talked about it, it would happen. Later he tried to hold my hand to make sure I’d be safe while we were walking around the neighborhood.
I yanked my hand away because I was afraid the blob would somehow materialize in between our hands and eat us both. My dad was very annoyed at this.
And that is the story of the first time I saw Steve McQueen.

The first time I ever saw Steve McQueen

It was probably spring of 1969, or early summer. I was three, and, yes, I can remember stuff from when I was three. Two even.

My step-grandmother got really ill, and no one would take care of her since everyone in the family hated her. So my mom decided to do it. (It was my dad’s stepmother) The two of us flew from Great Falls, Montana to West Palm Beach, and took care of her for six weeks. My dad would fly down from Montana on the weekends, spend the night, then head back again. It was the 60s and you could do that.
Anyway, so she had a small, dark retiree house that I have only vague memories of, which was full of dark child-hazard retiree things (“Butterscotch Candies,” trip-hazards, top-heavy bookcases, etc) I think. I don’t remember details. the lights were always out in there. In any event, there was no room for us in the house itself, so my mom and I slept in the screened-in back porch. For six weeks. On those rickety fold-out old-people cots with springs and stuff. Not like couch beds, but big low metal things that folded in half in the middle and had springs holding up a thin mattress, like you’d see in a hospital drama from around 1940. I used to sleep with my hand between the mattress and the metal edge of the frame because it calmed me down for some reason.
Every morning we’d get up, unmake the cots, fold ’em up and stash ’em by the wall, eat breakfast,and then my mom would take care of step-grandma Lucille while I was pretty much stashed on the back porch, without a lot of toys, if any. (Can’t remember specifically, but I’m not sure matchbox cars even existed yet. Or was it hotweels?) Anyway, I sat out there all day drawing with my crayons, making random paterns of circles and boxes that I called cars. When I got bored, I’d watch TV. I can’t remember if the TV was on the porch, or just inside in the dark house.
Anyway, one day, on a saturday, I turned on the TV and heard this snazzy theme song that genuinely sounded pretty good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AK5jyVCdXwc
Yeah! What 3 year old wouldn’t enjoy that?
Then it starts out with a meteor crashing! Even better! Then some gummy old fool pokes the meteor with a stick and it breaks open and the blob climbs up the stick and on to the old guy’s arm. He runs away screaming and Steve McQueen hits him with his car. I screamed, turned off the TV, and hid on the porch, worried that the Blob was gonna get me.
Later that day my dad got in from the airport, and we went for a walk on the golf course my grandmother’s house backed up to. He could tell something was bugging me, but he couldn’t coax it out of me. I was afraid that if I talked about it, it would happen. Later he tried to hold my hand to make sure I’d be safe while we were walking around the neighborhood.
I yanked my hand away because I was afraid the blob would somehow materialize in between our hands and eat us both. My dad was very annoyed at this.
And that is the story of the first time I saw Steve McQueen.

DIARY: Day 18,006

My aunt JoAnn died yesterday. She was 90.

I don’t feel much. I should. I might later, but I don’t feel much now. When my uncle Bill died a few months ago I didn’t feel anything – I never liked Bill, honestly – but then 4 or 5 days later, the horror of our last conversation hit me full in the heart, and I was haunted for a day or two by imaginings of the terror he must have been facing. And whereas I used to tell funny, insulting stories about Bill’s bizarre life, now I find I can’t really talk about him at all without feeling guilty about besmirching his memory.

Not that there’s much of a memory. He died friendless and alone.

JoAnn died alone, but not friendless. She still died badly, though.

JoAnn had the constitution of a rhinoceros. She got cervical cancer in 1957, which was a death sentence. She survived it. She’s since had kidney and bladder cancer, both of which she survived. There was another one in there in the ’60s, I think. She also had several strokes. Her resilience was nothing short of astounding. You could hit her with a truck, and she’d shake it off and go home and have a wine cooler or something, then watch the news and be fine the next day.

Ultimately this worked against her. Her one remaining kidney needed a stint in order to function, so stuff could get to her bladder. It caused her constant pain, sometimes bad. She had to have it surgically changed every 3 months for several years.

She got an infection, and had to go into the hospital, where she got very sick, and became too weak to walk. We didn’t expect she’d survive, but she recovered and went into a rehab facility so she could go home. While she was there she lost her home, effectively. She got sick again, and went back into the hospital. She recovered, and they put her in an ALF. She got sick, and they put her in the hospital, then back to another ALF. This was her life: getting a disease that should have killed her, her remarkable constitution saving her life, only to be tortured by yet another diseases, survive, disease, survive. The poor thing went through this for more than a year, and she was just tortured. Tortured by her own body which refused to give up.

Finally it did. Yesterday I was talking to her Physician’s Assistant and her POA and her ex-daughter-in-law and the nice lady who’s been taking care of her for no money or recognition, just because she’s a nice Christian lady. I was trying to get some stuff resolved. Then the call came in that she’d died.

I felt nothing, except maybe relief. I’d prayed for her to die on a couple of occasions. She was saved, so she and I believe that the afterlife is better than this life, and she was in so much pain for such a long time, and she lost everything at the end: Her home, her money. She couldn’t even float the costs of the ACLF. They kept her on as a charity case. She was a pauper.

JoAnn had a pretty horrible life. Working class family with seven kids. Her mom had a nervous breakdown when she was eight, and abandoned the family. Half a century later, JoAnn would get stuck with the job of caring for her mother. They went homeless in the Great Depression, and her and her sister moved in with relatives while the boys lived in a coal cellar.

Eventually she married Bill, though all the family told her not to. Their life was not happy. They had a son. he died about 7 years ago. They had a nice house, but lost it, and moved into a condo 30 years ago. They lost the condo as I already said. She worked hard for most of her life, until she was too old to work, and ended up with nothing to show for it: Broke and in a room all by herself in pain.

I don’t believe there’s any real reason people suffer or succeed in this life. Jesus says I’m right in the Bible. If there were any such thing as divine retribution or some hokey concept of “Karma,” then that would mean everyone who has bad stuff happen to them deserves it. Trump is rich because he deserves it? All those kids who die of cancer deserve it? How horrible would that kind of universe be? My aunt JoAnn certainly didn’t deserve it. She was a kind, and often oblivious soul who never hurt anyone. this is why I take great comfort in the inherent unfairness of the universe.

It is a disturbing thing to pray for someone to die. You do it for the most noble of reasons, but it takes a piece of your soul, I think. It goes against every instinct.

So that’s it. I don’t have a moral, or a conclusion, just that my Aunt is dead, and I’m glad for her sake, and not nearly as messed up by it as I should be.