[Updated June 6, 2007: I added a footnote.]
Up on schedule at 5:10, but I hadn’t been able to fall asleep until one a.m. or so. I guess there just won’t be any more sleeping. Amazing how you can just bully yourself into feeling awake. Actually, I guess it’s really true, what they say about exercise giving you more energy. I’m definitely getting more physical activity than I’ve been getting for a while, and I must say that I can tell the difference – especially in the long dull sleepy hours of the afternoon – between four hours of sleep when you’re exercising and eating decently, and four hours of sleep when you’re, um, not doing those things. So I’m hanging in there so far. I’ll let you know if I start dreaming while I’m awake. Actually that should make for some good posting material, so I win either way.
At the gym, on the gerbil stepper, I read about Turkmenbashi, the former leader of Turkmenistan, who blessed his people by finally dying in 2006, although it remains to be seen if his successor shares the same outsized, deranged tendencies (like renaming March after his mother and scattering massive gold statues of himself around the country, not to mention the standard disappearing of political opponents, etc.). Back home I typed at the dining room table while Zuzu howled her rage about not being the only cat in the world out the front window at the big-eyed calico who likes to stand silently on the ground and stare at her. The calico and a little black cat seem to have teamed up; I’ve started seeing them together, which is interesting, because I didn’t think felix domesticus formed strong family units or felt an instinct for pack behavior. They definitely feel an instinct for s***ing in my garden. I’d like to catch them and take them for a long ride. I think they’d like Elk Neck, up by the Pennsylvania border, maybe. I’m fairly certain they’re strays, but whether they are or aren’t doesn’t enter into the equation, as far as I’m concerned. After all, there’s a law that you have to clean up after your pets. Cats who are allowed to run free (and s*** in my garden) are patently obviously not being “cleaned up after.” And that subjects them to Street Justice.
And get off my lawn, you lousy kids!
In other cat news, Her Highness Miss Zuzu does not seem to like “fish and shrimp medley.” Can’t say I blame her. Doesn’t look near as appetizing as the “beef giblets in gravy.”
There was no morning paper. I guess you have to keep paying them, or they stop delivering. On the other hand, I haven’t gotten a bill in about three months that I’ve noticed.
Rushing out the door, I forgot to make a sandwich from the two pounds of smoked turkey I ordered from Safeway.com. (I always seem to run out part way through the week, but, as I was unpacking the groceries and came across these two brick-sized ziplocs of poultry flesh, I couldn’t help but think I may have gone overboard.) So I had to go buy a sandwich from Safeway dot brick and mortar. In the checkout line, I was relieved to see on the cover of Star that “Finally!” we will be able to read “Jen’s $5 Million Tell-All! How Brad Told Her About Angelina. His OTHER Women. Day She Went Face To Face With Angelina.”
Every few days, the cashier puts the squeeze on.
“Would you care to round that up 38 cents to help fight prostate cancer?”
How are you going to say no to that? (Randians, put your hands down. No one wants to hear it. And no we don’t want to read that book, either, any more than we want to read The Washington Times.)
The gleeful project at work finally drew to a close yesterday. (That is, we submitted something. There is another shoe yet to drop. That will be the fun part.) I was a little late leaving for home because my boss and I were making some final adjustments to this project, specifically to a memo that I’ve informally titled The Hammer of Vengeance, and I needed to meet the estimator from the moving company at 6:15, so I walked fast the whole way, my shins on fire. As I passed the 7-11 parking lot on 33rd, a man whose aimless movements signaled “panhandler” almost let me get away before deciding I looked nice or soft or gullible enough to tap for money.
“Hey, excuse me, buddy!”
The jocular tone, the false friendliness. Possible things I could have said:
“Do I know you?”
“I think I would recognize all of my buddies, so who the f*** are you?”
“Sorry, the ATM is closed.”
But I just kept walking, fast, and called over my shoulder, “sorry, I’m in a hurry.” As sick as I am of these guys (pretty sick), I can’t ignore the fact that they are human beings. [FN 1] It pains me that I live in a time and place such that it is naive to believe someone when they ask for my help. But it’s hard to believe them, after a while. I mean, do they realize how many times the average mark hears the same stories? Maybe they should form a trade guild, get together for some strategizing sessions, so they aren’t stepping on each other’s toes with overlapping tales about starting a youth football league or needing to get to D.C. for a job interview (“just got out of prison and I’m trying to go straight”) or being late for a meeting with their parole officers. The ones who really irritate me are the ones with the practiced-sounding “don’t worry, I’m not a murderer or rapist” line. This is a good tactic on their part, since it throws the middle-class white person into a sort of defensive mental posture. Oh, no, I would never assume that. Only racist a***holes wouldn’t give you a chance to explain yourself. I will singlehandedly counter centuries of oppression and racism by assuming that you’re just like me. Never mind the fact that, in a city like Baltimore, it’s often just a bad idea to let someone slow you down on the street (those guys wouldn’t let someone do it to them), or let’s just say, if you do stop walking to tell someone the time or where exactly Old York Road is, you’re not taking every safety precaution that you can. When you get the gun in your face, you won’t be able to say, “I did everything I could have done to avoid this.” I’m not saying don’t tell anyone the time, I’m just saying keep walking while you do, and ignore the follow-on “hey let me ask you something.” Anyway, sometime I wish I could get through these guys’ heads that I’m less worried that they’re a murderer or rapist than that they’re a time thief, and they’ve already begun wasting my daylight.
Actually, if you are as conflicted as I am about what to do for guys who have the relatively plausible story of having just been released from prison and needing to get to a relative’s house in the suburbs (because it’s true: we don’t really do much of anything for people on their way out of the prison gate except hand them their expired driver’s licenses – if they ever had one to begin with – and tell them not to come back anytime soon, and it makes sense that there would be a lot of these guys, given that some 5,000 people are released into Baltimore City each year, and it really is wise thinking on their part to get the hell out of this hellhole of a city, if that is in fact their plan), you can tell them about the transportation services offered at Our Daily Bread’s Good Samaritan Service Center down on Franklin Street, around the corner from the soup kitchen, near the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. (Donate money here, if you’re so inclined.)
I mean, there but for the grace, and all that.
The estimator from the moving company was a brisk, pleasant man who moved through the house like a wind,making little marks on a form on his clipboard. He told me he’ll have the estimate for me early Wednesday morning. I told him my parents raved about the service (really, I want him to go look up the glowing letter of recommendation my dad wrote them, so that he’ll give me a discount in hopes of more of the same – we don’t have much stuff to move, so we’ll be all right on weight, but I cringe at the thought of all of those miles at this, the highest point in inflation-adjusted gasoline prices in U.S. history). He said, “if you like my price, you’re gonna love our service. Our guys are the best.”
FN 1: In case this needs saying, I hope you realize that I’m talking about the professional street grifters who seem to be doing all right for themselves (just look at their shoes for a quick estimate of this), not the pathetic nutters abandoned to the streets by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s as part of his abdication of the social contract.