alley pastorIt had been a quiet Sunday afternoon. But the sound of a stereo at full tilt was washing over my apartment, the bass gently vibrating the floor. And then- *thunk* *thunk* *thunk* And then a shriek, and then a wave of laughter. I peered out of my window, and into the alley. Neighbors directly across from me had their back gate open, pickup parked in the grass, doors open, and a cooler full of what appeared to be Miller Lite. The guys were wearing large jerseys, the girls in tight tshirts and short shorts. They had set up a game that appeared to be a drunk-friendly approximation of bocce- colored beanbags, and a backboard with a hole in it. The beanbags were tossed at the board, and whichever team got closest or in got points for all the bags closer than their opponents'. It's important to have a game that can be played without putting down one's beer. They were playing across the entire alley, but as long as nothing hit my car I didn't particularly care. Some of the guys from next door had drifted over with their 40s, and the next game the girls sat out and the guys all played each other. Miller Lite suburbs meets Steel Reserve alley. It was kind of sweet, actually. I didn't particularly want to interrupt, but I'd left my wallet in my car. I was going to have to wander out there, if I wanted lunch. I went out and fished it out from behind the seat. Z and a guy I didn't recognize were leaning against a bumper, waiting their turn. "Hey, man. How's it going." I didn't expect an answer. In this neighborhood, 'hows it goin' isn't really a question that anyone expects to be answered. It's more of an extended greeting. I used to think that it was a rhetorical question, but that would imply an irony that- well. I don't go looking for irony here. "Jaaaaane. How ya doin', Jane?" I still hadn't figured out how one was supposed to *end* the conversation, though. Nodding seemed impersonal. Saying nothing would lack acknowledgement. Saying "Good" would make the conversation lopsided. It bothered me. "Pretty good." I turned to the guy next to him, nodding genially. "Hey." He stood watching the game, and nodded. Interesting fellow. Glasses like cokebottles, eyes going in two different directions. Hair a dark frizzy cloud above bushy brows. I suspected he'd just wandered through, but- I took a tentative sniff- he seemed to showered this week, at least. The suburban transplants were studiously ignoring me. That's fine, I didn't particularly want to talk to them. They'd be gone in a year, hardly worth expending effort on. At least the weather was nice. I said as much to the stranger. "Lucky weather for a party, ya think?" "Oh no," he breathed. "It's the Lord's doing. I thank the Lord for the beautiful weather we have- I just got back from church. You go to church?" He turned to face me directly. Z, the coward, had drifted off. The bastard owed me a ten-spot, least he could do is bail me out of conversation with a strange religious nut- but no. "I uh-" "It's ok. We aren't all called to the Lord's House at the same time. I know. I wandered a long time- done things I ain't proud of, but then my Pastor- my Pastor told me as how I could be reborn in the Lord's name and forgiven. It's a beautiful thing. I'm a new man. And I go and sing His praises every week in the choir. God, I love singing-" He broke off, "you sing?" "Well, no-" "Oh, I love to sing. And those songs- they speak to me. God, He speaks to me. He done told me that I'm an instrument of His grace. I'm just waitin for the right time. I love singin in that choir. 'Cause people *hear* me, you know?" I nodded. I was fascinated. The capitalizations of God, they fairly floated out of his mouth. I could see them, the Hises and Lords and Pastors, titles all there in bold typeface streaming out of his mouth, mottled gums and rotten teeth gleaming in the bright sun. How did he do that? I wondered. He'd stepped closer to me, testing to see if I'd flinch, or tune him out, or turn away. But I wanted to hear this back-alley philosopher, I wasn't going anywhere. "I know people don want to talk to me. I know people look down on me. But my Pastor, he told me I'm meant for better things. That there is a bright shining soul in me, and I been Saved. You people, you think you're so much better than me. But *I* know- One day," he thundered, "one day, Satan, He gonna take over this country. He gonna do terrible things. I can see that. I Know. I got things in my head." He tapped his forehead for emphasis, one eye staring directly at me, the other looking somewhere over my head. "I know, cause the Lord, He tell me. And it's ok. 'Cause I'll be waiting. I got the spirit of the Lord in me, and it don matter that people, they ignore me and look down on me, cause I'll be there to LEAD them when everything gone to Hell. I'll look that devil in the eye and do BATTLE with him, cause I done filled with righteousness and the SPIRIT!" I nodded helplessly. I didn't quite know what else to do. I really needed to get lunch, though. God, was I hungry. "You don't believe me. I kin see it in yer eyes. People think they kin ignore me, that I be talkin nonsense, but I KNOW. In the end, they'll see. You'll see. You think you can ignore me, not listen to me, but *I* know." This was too much. I interjected. "Oh, but I DO listen. Aren't I listening to you now? What have I been doing, standing here, if not listening? I've been standing here listening to you instead of getting my own lunch, for crying out loud!" He deflated a bit. "Well, you remember then. When the time come, I be ready." I looked him full in the eye. "I'll remember." He held out his hand, and I took it. "God bless," he said, covering my hand with his other. "God bless." I slowly walked down the alley to the sandwich shop, lost in thought. How many of us, I wondered, nurtured a secret hope that somehow, we had a destiny that would transcend the awful reality of our mundane lives? How many people think that *they* would somehow, someday, be transformed into the hero, the saviour, the underdog, the David, and- lauded? I felt my own secret shining self crumble into sand, at that. Felt the sun on my neck, and saw the trash, and graffiti, and rats, and finally understood- this is all there is. Potential is ephemeral, a chimera. There will be no shining moment of saving. His god may speak to him in choir, in church, in his head. But mine- mine speaks to me through indigents in back alleys, and I can't say as that I like what He says.
faces of dcThe rat inspector was in my alley. Well, actually, he was parked in cecilia's parking spot, but as long as he wasn't writing us a ticket for our frequently-overloaded dumpster, I wasn't going to say anything. I glanced over at the dumpster. Whew- the trash company had come early for once. On a whim, I wandered over to the truck and asked him how things were going. This guy... it was inexplicable. This guy loves his job. He's been ratting DC for 15 years, and he loves it. He was so happy to talk about what he was doing- it seems our alley has gone from 48 burrows to 12. (I can affirm that the lower half of the alley no longer has a moving, living carpet at night.) The alley was bad enough that it was featured on National Geographic, of all things. He was over the moon to have been interviewed for that, and almost as happy to talk to me. I have his card, a brochure on a "Rat Free DC", and instructions to call him *any* time I have a problem with any of those rats. Holly Golightly never had it so good. ---- Mark, I never know when or where I'll run into him. It used to be in Tryst, but not for the past year. Once in Kramers, a few times at the Dupont Market. Sometimes I'll just see him, shuffling along, the omnipresent newpaper tucked under an arm- on connecticut, or 18th. He used to have an array of suits- he was always wearing suits- a snazzy red one came into the rotation a couple of years ago. One looked like the skin of a 70's sofa, and another was shiny and blue. But last night he was wearing a short-sleeve shirt and trousers. It was a little strange, to see him without a suit. He glanced down the street with his awkward sideways look, head cocked to one side, and I said hi, like I always do. And he stopped, and looked confused, and said "I'm Mark". Like he always does. "Yes, I know. I'm Jenn." "Hello Jenn!" I don't know his story. I don't really want to pry. He's clearly sometimes homeless, by choice, but sometimes not. He seemed pretty lucid and relaxed, last night. We talked for a while, and while it's really hard for me to follow the leaps and bounds of his wandering thoughts, I didn't say anything to annoy him. Some part of him knows that we go through this ritual every couple of months- that I say hi to him knowing he's forgotten who I am, and I think it's *that* that makes him happy. We both needed to be somewhere, but as he took his leave, he put out his hand. I put my hand in his, and he clasped it. "I don't know when I'll see you again, Jenn, but- be well. Take care of yourself." I looked at him, arrested for a moment. "I'll try." --- I've never exchanged words with her. She's claimed the nook in the side of CVS as her own, and defends it ardently. She's got a cart, and an umbrella for shade, and a radio, bright plastic jewelry, and an astonishingly varied wardrobe. I'm not sure I've seen her wear the same outfit twice. Some days she's happy, others defiant, others angry. One day, she'd left her homestead, and was hurrying across the street with a lilt in her step- an older woman in a straw hat, white skirt and sandals. On first glance you'd merely register a spry senior- it would take another to see the mis-buttoned shirt, the smudges on the face, the mania in the gaze. I'd recognized her on the first glance, and smiled and nodded at her. She paused- a bird in flight, looking at me in surprise- and then she nodded firmly and went on her way. Yesterday she was pacing, agitated. Once again I smiled and nodded, and once again she paused. The terrifying thing is in those brief pauses you can see the ghost of another woman, intelligent and fierce. And I want to ask that woman- why are you here? What drove you to this place, so far from the recesses of your mind, and not far enough? And then the moment passed. The ghost nods in acknowledgement and then she's gone. The delicate filiments of the mind, laid open and exposed and raw in her and Mark- they scare me. I don't know where they've gone to, but it's not so far from us. We've all got the same fragile stuff in our heads. How do I not wake up one day with nothing but a cart and a bag of crumbs, talking to pigeons? And once one's gone over to the other side, is it possible to come back?
the fortunetellerSometimes, she sits in a chair on 17th street, somewhere between Trio's and Komi, as if every day were a gay parade for her delectation. She sits, chatting gaily with passerby and family, and then every so often will catch your eye and smile- a real smile, like she's recognized a long-lost friend. And your step hitches involuntarily, and you search her face, that open, welcoming face, and in that moment she inquires "would you like your palm read?" Other times, she's walking along, sometimes on connecticut, sometimes on P, in a long luxurious fur coat, and she'll stop and look around, brow furrowed. And then she'll turn to you, head slightly cocked with a look of expectation, like she's lost and knows you can point her straight. But instead of the expected "Do you know where the Phillips is?", she issues the (always surprising! why?) query "would you like your palm read?" Today, making my way to Columbia Heights, she was travelling in the other direction, laden with shopping bags from the grocery store. And she stopped, with that blossoming smile, and a look of concern, directly in front of me. "My dear, would you like your palm read?" As I shook my head and walked on (I didn't even hitch this time), she called after me "I feel good things, very soon for you!" "Hmmmm," I snorted to myself, still shaking my head as I took another sip of my coffee. Highly unlikely. I know all of my future I need to know. It's inscribed on my face, my palms, the lineaments of desire and expectation and fear. I am my future and past, and if she had even an ounce of prognostication in her soul she would be able to see that I am the last person that needs someone else to interpret the medium of her own flesh. And yet, I keep running into her. My future, in a fur coat, lost in the streets of DC. ... In missed futures, two people were shot on my street on saturday afternoon. Had I been in DC, perhaps I would have been intercepted in the trajectory of that lead and powder. Perhaps I am held, still, in stasis... each erratic beat of my heart a mere illusion of time extending beyond that moment. They didn't even hit the person they were shooting at.
malt porch philosophyIt was after midnight last night... I hadn't had dinner yet, and was walking out to procure some when my neighbor called out to me from where he sat in darkness, clutching a 40 wrapped in a brown paper bag. "You talk to him yet?" he called down. "You let him know I told you, right enough." "Not today," I called back. "Maybe tomorrow." This building is the last bastion of low-income housing on the block. I'm not welcome to climb these steps- invisible fault boundaries of class, color, and occupation all lie between me and these stairs, and retribution would be bound to follow. Their stairs, their corner. They might let me pass by unmolested, on sufference, but it would be unwise to tresspass, even when we two were seemingly the only ones around. I leaned against the brick wall, down on the sidewalk. Z seemed morose. He'd been drinking, clearly, just enough to make him loquacious. Our friend had finally been released from the hospital, with oxygen and low-cost outpatient chemo. It's not likely to help long- a lifetime of smoking will catch up to you. Z had been giving me updates every time I ran into him. "Can't tell a man what to do," he muttered. "You don't know- easy to say, don't do this, do that- but you ain't the one living it. You don't know why. Everybody's doing what they gonna do. Gotta just do what you do." His voice rang with anger. "What's the point? My cousin, same thing- taking chemo, and he not smoked in 20 years! When something from 20 years ago can kill you now, and nobody doing a thing to fix it. No one gives a damn about anyone else. Everybody out for their own good, don't think I don't know that!" I just looked up at him, waiting. He was going somewhere, but I wasn't sure where. "All that money for a war, what good is it gonna do? Who is it gonna help? They say they're terrorists, but I say we're on their land. They gotta do what they gotta do. What's terrorists? I read that we gave them the the weapons in the first place. Our own damn fault. Now we should tell them what to do? What's terrorists? What's killing us? Crystal Meth, we made that. Here, in the US of A. We did it to ourselves. We made it, and it's killing folks. But ain't nobody going to do anything about it- no one gives a shit about us. Ain't nobody can help everybody. So who are you to tell me what I should do? My friends, they don't want me drinking. And I don't drink liquor no more. But they can't tell me what I should do. I'm my own man. I make my own decisions. I do what I do, that's that. No one can do it for me." I was distracted, briefly, by the lurid sexual behaviours of the cockroaches on the stairs. Everywhere I looked, cockroaches. Ugh. I swatted at my legs. "No one can do it for you, Z. And I don't think I could tell you what you should do- just what I think might be better for you." "Better for me, sure- but what you going to do if I don't, eh? Can't make me do something." "No- all I can say is that I'd *hope* you'd do it, and accept that you might not. I can say- Z, I like seeing you around, and so I'd be happier if you took better care of yourself." "Well, yeah. There's always hope, I guess. Just not much around here. I got hit by a car, 20 years ago. They cut me up the center, and up the side, and tubes any which way. I coulda died. You just don't know. Every day, you just don't know." He took a long swig. "You just keep doing what you do, you know? I don't know you. I don't know what you do- you're dressed up real nice, I bet you going out to party. You do what you do, just the same as all the rest. I don't tell you what to do. Those kids, they party, they do drugs- they do what they do. Ain't no one telling them what to do. They know what's gonna happen- consequences. Be stupid to not know the consequences. They know. They do what they do. I could have died, but I'm still here, stronger than any of them. I'm 47! They can't get close- these kids, they just care about being pretty. They do what they do, I do what I do." He cocked his head. "What do you do, heh?" "Me? I don't do much at all. Not much." And then it occured to me. "I listen." He laughed. "And I talked a lot. Everyone says I talk too damn much, but if I don't say something right then, when am I gonna say it? Maybe I won't be here to say it tomorrow. Maybe I won't remember. I figure, if I think it, I gotta say it. You don't know." Just gotta do what you do.
rain sheets over the cityDined last night at the cordon blue, a tiny vietnamese eatery that serves up huge plates of chicken, rice drowned in meat sauce, and cha gio fried to a hearty flaky crunch for insanely low prices. There are maybe 10 stools arrayed along the counter that corrals the stove and frier into place. Tea is plunked down in sturdy discolored anonymous white mugs like coffee would be at a slum diner. The rain drips and the sound of frying overwhelms the solitary experience of each diner. Another stranger will stumble in and bring with them a gust of the elements, and find a stool to perch on. There aren't many choices. You want the chicken, which has a nice complex spice going on- maybe you also want the slices of marinated beef kabob, and a cha gio. It's not expensive, and it's more than you can eat. Give the rest to one of the panhandlers littering the street. Everything is monochrome, in a way. It feels new york, or vaguely bladerunner- a tiny hidden place to warm up before you engage in the misery that is your life outside that door. You nurse your tea, and eventually you force yourself outside. ... Have realized that contemplating this world, myself, humanity and inevitability have made me an incurable cynic. Yes, it's true that there is a brighter tomorrow ahead. But that, too, is frail and tenuous, and why should I look forward to it? It's merely events and dopamine firing in beautiful synchronicity inside this wet processor in my head. It's no more solid and lasting than the grey currently enveloping my soul, but it is how I take my input. I am an organism that will eventually drown in a sugar solution; and all actions are merely passing time. Will I, in the end, be True, or False? There is no abyss save there is yet a deeper abyss after it. I do not need to plumb the depths of my soul to determine where the end is; without a reference it will merely be useless trivia, drifting 3cm a year into infinity. ... A homeless man accosted me on Friday; after 12 hours of travelling I was exhausted, and just looked away. He harangued me- "Can't speak? Too good to say hello to me?" I looked at him. "I'm tired." But he told me a story, and so I relate it here because stories are all, in the end, that we pass on. "I can always tell who is from here, and who isn't. People that were born here- I been here 50 years, 50 years, can you believe that?- they're good folks. They always have a hello. But those folk that move here, they turn up their noses, they've changed this city, and it's no good no more. You know what I call them? yuppies. They've ruined this town. 30 years ago, I lived in a real nice home- 5 bedrooms, two baths, and one of them gizmos you could talk into and yell at the person in the other room and they could hear you- all that for $80 a month. $80!" "My mom had me when she was 14. In those days, you couldn't be having babies that young, it was a scandal, and she ran away from home to escape the shame, and had me here. Towards the end, that 14 years weren't much difference- she was more like an older sister to me than a mother. But she died when I was 15. I was all alone. I got into trouble- fightin, well, I was the only white kid in school, so I was always fightin. But I did pretty well- became a pro, and stuck it as a featherweight until some car ran me down here on Mission. That was the end to that. I tried to come back, but got laid out flat in my first round back. Just couldn't do it no more. And yeah, I did drugs, and I went to jail, and my wife left me. And I'm not telling you no sob story because I want something- I ain't asking for nothing, I just want you to know it's been hard. Want you to know how it's been. I'm just trying to make it through the day." "I remember when this town was different. Rock and roll, motown, blues, it was all good. There was real music being made, everywhere you looked. It was true what they said. Free love, and beautiful girls just walking along with flowers in their hair. I remember, just down there, some of the bands I saw... the best though, I want to tell you about this one. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas- you think you'll remember that? God, the voice on her! You go look her up. The music she made... you'd like it, I know you would." "You've got a beautiful face. I'm not sayin that to be weird. It's just... it's a happy face. Makes me want to smile. My face... it's always frownin'. I'm not really a happy guy, I guess. Just my nature. But your nature... it's good. I wish I were a rich man! I'd take you out, I'd show you a real nice time. Not for anything- nothing like that- just because you deserve it." "You'll look her up? You really will? God, that'd mean so much to me. I mean, I'll never know if you do or not. But just the thought... You don't know how happy you've made me. God bless you. Really. God bless you. You'll look her up, you'll listen to those songs. Thank you, so much." Martha and the Vandellas.
food, food, and a side of savant The other week I was heading through town, and was hungry. This was a perfect excuse to drop in on Sweet Mango for some jerked chicken with rice and beans and collard greens. The jerk doesn't have a strong heat, like some might crave, but it is expertly *spiced*, with a party of flavour for the mouth. I sat at one of the small tables along the wall and dug in while watching the flow of people in and out. EMT workers, firemen, construction workers, preacher men in vivid suits, they all streamed in. And they all had a curious halt in their step, just as they walked in, to see me sitting there digging in so enthusiastically to my food. They'd check, and then smile, and nod- and I'd grin and nod back. Sweet Mango is just a happy-making place. And I finished my food, and bounced out of the restaurant, holding my soda top and bottom like a roll of paper, perhaps, or a twirling baton, and I was so gleeful I hovered on the verge of skipping. I moved to the side and nodded to the three men ambling towards me. And then one turned back. "Girl, why you clutching that soda so? I'm not going to steal your soda. It's *your* soda, no one gonna take it away from you." "I didn't-" I was facing him now. "I'm not going to steal your soda. Why you hold it so tight?" And he shook his head gently at me. "Here, hand me the soda." Amused, I handed it over. "See? It still your soda. For all that I'm holding it, it still yours. I'm not gonna hurt it, I'm not going to take it." He turned and whisked his coat over the bottle. "Oh no! My soda's gone." "No, here, see girl, it's *your* soda." And he handed it back. "I see you. And I hope I ain't scaring you none. Sometimes I just gotta say things, I don't know why. I just saw, you, you clutchin' that soda so, cradlin' it. You carryin' it right by your heart. You have a heart. You holding it so tight, so tight. Ain't nobody gonna take your soda. I see you and I see, you got so much love in you, you love and you take it right into your heart and you hold it there. You love the whole world. But you don't have to hold so tightly, see? You hold it gently, it still be yours." He started to walk on, and then paused. "I'm Samuel," and he held out his hand. "Hi Samuel, I'm Jenn." And he put his other hand over mine in a clasp, and then bowed gently. "I hope I didn't scare you none. You take care now." And then he wandered off.Prof xxxxx- The summary is that I will be missing class today, and would also like to request more time for the homework assignment. You indicated that requests for extensions must be accompanied by an explanation/story. It should begin, I think, with my ex, who left -- well, it was a good while ago now, but it's really not important when he left, or where he left to (the land of milk and honey, the land of sunshine and storms, san francisco, the valley, land of the kool-aide that must be drunk in order to turn a profit), but in fact, what he left behind. He left behind his car, an impractical car made even more impossible by the addition of a roll bar which removed the ability to, say, put anything in the back seat, or recline. Not that I recline when driving, but as a passenger reclining is perfectly acceptable and even desirable but still-- not something a passenger of this car could ever do. And it, the car, hereafter referred to as Scum, broke. Often. I had my own car, of course, that also broke often, and the multitudes of breaking were more than one person should reasonably be expected to bear. Also, and this part is somewhat inexplicable, but it seems that Scum had a sort of magnetic personality, or perhaps a kick-me sign. Men would drive into this car. I went from never having had a collision with another person, to three collisions, all in one year. First, there was the pastor, who decided to take his New Beetle right, at a red light, and around a bus that admittedly had pulled rather haphazardly into the bus stop-- but still, if the pastor hadn't taken the right at a No Turn On Red red light this would not have been a problem-- so, widely around the bus, and quickly, and really, not quite considering where he was going but happy he was Past That Bus, and oh- right into the side of my car. Rather than moving his car out of the street, he instead wanted to stand and lecture me, as clearly Scum should not have been there, in front of his car, and he was a pastor, and really, if I didn't give him $20 for his cracked license plate frame right then I would be Going To Hell, yes I would, no he did not want to exchange insurance information, no, he would leave it up to my conscience for being in his way, and kids today. (He drove into my wheel, which bent the tie-rod into a very interesting shape- the car would only drive straightish if the wheel was cocked at a 45 degree angle, and then would shuffle in a manner reminiscent of charlie chaplin because the wheels were now pointing at each other rather than straight ahead. Turns, when attempted, would make the tires scream faintly somewhat like a baby might, if it had been locked in the trunk. Fortunately, if one is so inclined, it is possible to replace the tie rod in a driveway, but one must still obtain a new tie tod, and that cost $200.) And then there was the businessman in the BMW, who thought that rush hour traffic in Bethesda was a fine time to stare at his radio, or his lap, or nosehairs, I wasn't really clear on what, but whatever it was it was more important than the red light. Or Scum, in front of him. I got out of the car, and looked at our cars, kissing-- fortunately he'd run into the license plate-- but still, there he was, in his car, refusing to look up as I banged on his window. Finally, he deigned to push the button, and still, not looking at me but rather somewhere in the vicinity of his A pillar, remarked that surely he hadn't hit me that hard. Since he refused to talk to me or give me his name and I was late to dinner I took down his vin and license plate as I'd already noted the shop he took his car to. Mechanics, I've found, are almost always very friendly to me, and it's amazing what information can be had just by asking nicely. After I got back into my car (we'd been blocking traffic on 355 all this time) he tried to speed away from me, perhaps in embarrassment or just annoyance, but this was rush hour and as it happened (not my fault) he was going to the same neighborhood I was. On the side streets, he was clearly desperate to lose me at this point, but every route he chose just brought me back behind him eventually. If I hadn't been late to dinner I might have followed him just to see what he would do. But finally there was the guy in the gas station parking lot who decided that he wanted to back his large truck up, without looking, and ignoring my horn and his own beeep-beep-beepbeepbeepBEEEP of a dipshit-there-is-something-behind-you warning system, and drove straight into the side of Scum. The door was badly dented, and as I got out and looked at the door and then walked over to the truck, he looked at me and then peeled out of the gas station. This was stupid, as I both knew what truck he was driving and his license plate and we were in a gas station for pete's sake where there are cameras everywhere. I felt somewhat bad for him later; his name was Snodgrass, and honestly if I'd been stuck with a name like Snodgrass I might well go around driving into things in anger, but stupidly he lied about it to the police despite the clear video of the entire event, and it took many many months for the police to track him down. All of this for a car I didn't even willingly take. And then the engine light came on, not the cute one that says 'oh, you forgot to tighten the gas cap' but the one that says 'oh, you have to rebuild your engine and that costs as much as a semester of tuition'. That light. Except, these are in fact the *same* light, and one must take the car to a mechanic who will tell you which it is because it is not possible to have a car computer tell the *owner* what went wrong. So, really--and I think anyone who knew these things would be hard-pressed to disagree with me-- Scum had to go. Fortunately, another ex was enchanted with the idea of taking on an accident-prone, broken, impractical car (I really hope I can avoid drawing the obvious parallel of having dated me), and somehow he convinced his fiancee (a lovely girl) that this was a brilliant idea. Thus I got rid of Scum and had money for another semester. I told my other ex, that I was ditching his car, but he seems to be not talking to me, at least not answering my email, perhaps because I am not holding on to this reminder of all we shared or perhaps because I call the car Scum, and perhaps he's always felt that the name is a reflection on him somehow. But I'm not the one who stuck a "Die yuppie scum" sticker on the back. Somehow the obvious irony was lost on him, even when he put the sticker on. So mostly Scum refers to the sticker, and only rarely to the person who placed it there. But I suppose even the rarely would sting. However, selling Scum left me without a daily driver. I was done with complicated cars, I just wanted a nice inexpensive reliable car that I could use in winter to visit my family in Cold Places, I definitely didn't want another car with a silly engine computer that I couldn't even talk to. And I found one, and his name is Hans (he reached his majority named Hans, it seemed impolite to change his name at such a late date), and while he's a venerable old chap he does have a few problems. These I can forgive, though, as I can fix many myself and it won't cost a semester's tuition to do so. In any case, we did know that the muffler had to be replaced, and so over spring break we attempted to do just that, but ... there were problems. Among other things, rust can be an extremely effective welding agent. There was a 12 hour marathon of cutters, welders, grinders, hammering, cursing, and standing under the car trying to hold the muffler up while gingerly reattaching the rusted support system (date of last tetanus shot was important). The end result is that perhaps it was the standing holding the muffler or perhaps I did it some other way, but my neck and arms have been in somewhat endless nonstop pain since then, and I really hoped that if I slept alot and took many painkillers of different types I'd find one that made the pain dull or made me be able to think properly but so far... that has not happened. I've given in and am having someone look at my neck/shoulders/arms tomorrow. In the mean time, my brain seems only capable of churning out the sort of disjointed rubbish you have displayed across your screen at the moment, which is not at all appropriate for homework, and honestly if I thought any harder about my inability to think I'd probably cry but it's the thinking that is the problem. So I'll be at home with painkillers. Please let me know if you would like a different story.