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05.03.02 1:45 p.m.

Those who welcome death have only tried it from the ears up.

 -Wilson Mizner  

Previously in Xenology: Todd committed suicide. My car tended to like dying near shops that could fix it.

Todd has been a preoccupation for me of late. If you missed the entry pertaining to this, I suggest you read it before continuing. I just did, so my face is now soaked with tears.
I decided to order as many bound Sandman comics as I could find in the library system, because I had been thinking about Todd and thought, maybe, reading his favorite comic would help me understand him better. I thought maybe it could bring me a little closer to him.
I have read most of the series and rather enjoyed it.
You are given a life.
I don't think I understand Todd any better than I did a month ago, save a great comprehension why he was so fond of Delirium. The comic was only a piece, of course. It is na´ve to really think the key to a person lies in that which they chose to read. Emily said that she was glad I had a strong enough sense of self to not become a silly goth because I was interested in Sandman.
It also likely doesn't help that I was persuaded by Emily to purchase a comic called Squee! by Jhonen Vasquez. Squee was one nickname for the departed Todd as the protagonist (?) of this comic is a boy named Todd who makes a "squee" sound when frightened. Of course, Todd was fond of this comic as well, though I don't search for keys here. There is less philosophy, less depth.
Last night, when I was hanging out with Melissa, we got on the topic of her friend who had hung himself. It was several years prior to my even having met Todd, thus she was one of the people I most wanted to talk about when I was trying to deal with Todd's death.

Classes end in a week. Technically, for me, a day. There are tests, of course. There are always tests. None that particularly faze me. I tend not to get too stressed out, unless I am being forced to do mindless busy work when I should be learning.
Emily has been in a depressed frenzy over the idea. For me, classes end for a few months. For her, college will be over forever (grad school has a different flavor than any other schooling). I have tried to be supportive, but I really cannot conceive of having to write nearly one hundred pages. Not when I have to, at least. She clearly knows her stuff, all of this opaque religious dialogue that very well may be beyond the scope of most humans. Soon, she will be done with this, she will leave this part of her life for a lucrative career telling people not to rip their hamstrings (though I suppose she knows the proper prayers should they). She has recently been having dreams that she is pregnant, which symbolizes change in some oneiromacy books. So do dreams of death.
Tomorrow, Emily is to take her personal training test in the city. Her immediate fiscal life depends on her successfully passing. Should she fail to do so, and I highly doubt this will be the case, she is unemployed and without a means to support herself (though I find it hard to believe that her parents will not be supportive, as they were when her sister needed to move home again). The test is near five hundred questions and requires knowledge of human anatomy and kinesiology that is extraordinary. The human body has something like six hundred muscles. She must know the names, functions, and locations of each. I do not envy her this task, though I may be envying her paycheck once she passes.

Brief Library Stories
I was working the other weekend and this pipsqueak goth came up to the counter with her mother (who was renting Disney movies, incidentally). She gave me an appraising glance and mewed out, "Are you in a band?" I raised my eyebrows and bit back a laugh. "No, I am not musically inclined," I smiled back. Her mother looked mortified and tried to explain to the wee visigoth that everyone wasn't in a band. She argued back, "But he's got long hair! And a pentacle!" My eyes widened in a disbelieving and vaguely threatening manner. My co-worker is late middle aged and distinctly Catholic, I didn't have any interest in her hearing this exchange. Besides, it is a star of Babylon or a faerie star, depending on who asks. It has extra points. Her mother finally convinced her that people could have long hair or wear pentacles and not be in bands. I know, it is a shocking thought.
That same day, some large man approached the desk and asked if we wanted a box of doughnut holes. I had just started getting hungry and was visualizing what I could eat in the break room when he asked this, so I gratefully took the box off his hands. As I was hungry, I thought little of a stranger handing me food. He was large, thus he clearly would have reverence enough for doughnut holes not to poison them. Shortly afterward, as I was about to go on my break, he came out with a huge cooler and offered us ice-cold beverages. Still not really caring why, I happily accepted his hospitality. One of the librarians asked why this man was giving me food, while I was busy trying to turn my nose white with a powdered sugar doughnut hole. I looked up, confused, as the large man explained that he was running for something or other and these were brib... I mean, treats for his constituents. I nodded, then made a doughnut hole face with cinnamon eyes and glazed teeth. When the large man left, the librarian told me that I was quaffing the corruption of the Electoral College and that I should feel... what? Bad? I pointed out that he didn't bother telling us his name or exactly what he was running for, so I was an unbiased consumer of free pastry goodness and a sugary beverage. Then I offered the librarian a doughnut hole. I don't think he was amused.

Never Learned to Swim
Emily's lovely Volvo pretty much died last week. She coasted it into my driveway before it could strand her, though it did its best to try as it turned off on a major highway going 65 miles per hour.
The next day, a rainy one indeed, we called AAA to tow her car to the mechanic. The tow truck driver was incredibly rude to Emily on the phone, most likely because she bears that horrid double X chromosome that is an anathema to ignorant, repressed men everywhere. Emily was as congenial to him as possible, though I could see she was seething with every snide remark to issue from slightly below his dirty mustache. Her patience was admirable.
She drove my car to her mechanic, with a watchful eye on the tow truck that was supposed to be following us. I sat and read over a Sandman comic. I do not terribly like to drive. (This is Kate's fault. No really. Just after I started driving, she was such an extreme backseat driver that I saw it as a choice between losing her because she was so infuriating when I was behind the wheel or letting her drive my car. It wasn't a hard choice.)
We arrived at the mechanic's with no problems. The tow truck driver left without hassling M about paperwork, which was a relief. All we need do now was hop back in my car and drive to Emily's parent's house.
Problem. My car wouldn't start. At all. I sank my head in bemused frustration. Have you noticed that my car only seems to die when in close proximity to a mechanic? It is a conspiracy!
After a serious of stressed phone conversations, I was informed to just leave my car for the mechanic to look at in the morning and stay at M's house (which was the plan all along, but I like to have options). I assumed, rightly, that getting stressed further about this ridiculous situation would accomplish absolutely nothing.
M's parents appeared on the scene and whisked us away to a seafood restaurant. Cooked fishy heal all wounds. I relaxed a bit, though I wasn't terribly talkative. I much prefer to sit back and observe in the presence of most people, speaking only when I have something definitely of value or amusing to say. It isn't a bad way to behave, though it tends to make people think I am very quiet or shy.
Jill Sobule (c) someone who isn't me, mutilated by me because I didn't like the background
The next morning, she awoke me far too early, telling me she had a surprise for me. I think I was having a dream where I was riding a very clever elephant, so I was half expecting a present of the pachyderm persuasion. Ah, the idle fancies of dreamers. Instead, she shrilled out that Jill Sobule, my favorite musician (at least of the ones I do not know personally), would be playing that night. I asked, incredulously, where this event was taking place, already imagining a harrowing city adventure to some enormous concert hall. She informed me that Jill would be playing at a tiny restaurant not five minutes away. I pinched myself, thinking that the dream elephant was trying to confuse me.
All day, while shopping at an obscenely large outlet mall, I was aglow with the idea that I would be seeing Jill Sobule in mere hours. I largely was unaffected by the painful outlet mall shopping. Emily was in search of the perfect dress to my cousin Avril's wedding on the first of June. It was not to be found, to my great lack of surprise. It would be like searching for a tan needle in a haystack the size of a forest.
My car, it turned out, was not friendly with the idea of driving through large puddles. The mechanic gave it new battery cables and released it to our custody on the way home for the outlet mall.
When we arrived at the restaurant, I was stunned at the utter smallness. It was maybe one hundred and fifty feet wide and seventy feet from bar to stage. I couldn't help but expect a country bear jamboree to appear when I looked at the stage decor. We chose a tiny table that had an adequate view of the stage and was in an aisle. I noticed, with some dismay, that Emily and I were certainly the youngest people in attendance. Everyone else was approaching fifty, clinging to the early eighties, and remarkably unsophisticated or interesting-looking (okay, I can't think of a better word and I am tired. They were the kind of terminally lame adults who think "Bono" is a euphemism for an erection.)
The opening musician was good, albeit somewhat forgettable, folk alternative. She, at least, had a sense of humor about herself and she did let Jill come onto the stage and play for a song. Of course, thereafter, Emily and I spent the rest of her set looking around for Jill. It wasn't as though there were very many places she could be hiding.
The second musician seemed like a mildly pretentious guy. He was a bit like Edwin McCain meets the Crash Test Dummies, but not really meeting either side halfway. He didn't ask Jill up on stage and said that he had once heard her most popular and hardly best song, "I Kissed a Girl," and sort of liked it. Well, there you go. He has to be a prick.
I grew increasingly excited. It was entirely possible that Jill would be passing down our aisle. I smiled peacefully and gasped, "And the hem of her robe shall touch me, and I shall be cured." Emily laughed and reminded me, "You can never be cured."
We turned around and saw Jill not ten feet from us. The happy psychotropic bumblebees that live in my head began humming selections from Rimsky-Korsakov in happiness. My brain could barely process proper words. Emily commented on her shoes, as Jill has a song called "Big Shoes." They were red low tops with a heart shaped opening where the tongue should be. When Jill walked by, I chose to inform her that I liked her shoes. Jill raised her eyebrows, bemused, and thanked me. As soon as she turned back toward the stage, to placed my head on the table and informed Emily that I was the biggest dork that ever was. She agreed with no argument, though she later decided that my statement was sort of cool by virtue that it was exactly what I would have said to anyone.
The owner of the restaurant introduced Jill and said she likely had many accomplishments. When the owner sat down, Jill said that she once won a clock radio in a contest. Jill's set was amazing, as was no surprise to me. She is incisive and hilarious. During the aforementioned song "Big Shoes," she called her mother on someone's speakerphone and her mother sang her rebuttal that the orthopedic shoes were the reason Jill was now a semi-famous musician. It was very cool. Jill also has a song titled "Bitter" about how hard it is to compete against people who have unfair advantages ("And the one who made it, made it `cuz her breasts were really big") and not become deeply resentful. One of the closing lines of the song is "And know the one who made it, / Made it cuz she was actually pretty good." However Jill stated that she wasn't really feeling like that and had been singing a different verse instead. This version substituted "And know the one who made it, / Made it cuz she was a slutty-ass mousecateer." Explain how it is possible not to love this woman?
After the show and the two encores, Jill signed autographs. She standing next to a table that someone had been eating at not an hour ago. She seemed uncomfortable. I had to make my way past her, a small crowd, and the bar to pay the dinner bill for M and me. I accidentally discovered in my squeezing past that my hand was on Jill's butt. With all due haste, I removed it before she realized. Nonetheless, some terribly enthusiastic and juvenile part of my brain gleed, "We just touched Jill Sobule's ass!" I am a small, simple man in many ways.
I returned to M, who was waiting in line with money she just found on the floor to buy a CD for Jill to sign. Emily was flipping out, having absolutely no idea what to say to Jill. I was in a similar boat. In a last minute attempt to seem interesting to my musical idol, I removed my strange star pendant from my under my shirt. Miraculously, this was actually interesting to dear Jill, who grabbed for it and asked what it meant. I explained that no one really knew and she offered that it was a mosque of some sort. Emily offered that is was from Jerusalem, which she thereafter insisted was the lamest possible thing she could have said to Jill Sobule. Still, we had a conversation with Jill and she touched me. A small, simple man.
On the way to M's apartment, I chittered fanatically about Jill being my ideal female. She is kind of dorky, intelligent, great sense of human, small of stature, cute, musically oriented in the right ways. If it weren't for the fact that she is forty-one and largely ignorant of my existence... Emily said that, if I went on this way about a girl at New Paltz, she would be intensely upset and jealous. But it was perfectly kosher to have my one point of fan worship.

Soon in Xenology: Kandahar. Desubstantialization. Blow. Martin Luther King estate. Amelie. ET. Anne and Jerame's party. M tells me not to harass strangers. Veronica is an abrupt faucet. Debating off of paper. DwB and Pine Bush redux. Black valises. Running.

last watched: The Boondock Saints
reading: Good Omens
listening: to Emily sleeping.
wanting: to be captivating from a distance.
interesting thought: it is, theoretically, possible someone might someday react toward me as I did to a musician I didn't know.
moment of zen: Jill touching me.
someday I must: bake a whole meal from scratch.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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