The Fruitcake Newsletter February 1999

[Authorís note: sections of this newsletter were taken from the following letter:
suzy11.
]


the fruitcake newsletter
vol. 2---issue #5----february 1999

Introduction


Success is a journey, not a destination.


-- Unknown



Lordy, lordy--my god, do I need to vent. What a day. What a week. What a month.
Sometimes I get to thinking that perhaps somewhere along the line, I took a wrong turn.
It sure can be annoying when life denies you the traffic signs--stupid kids keep stealing
them!

First of all, I am going to have to pretty much write this entire newsletter in one
day, which I am not accustomed to doing--I usually work on it in stages over the week
prior to mailing it out. But circumstances, including sickness and too many people
writing to me at the same time (why canít that happen when I have time for it?),
prevented it this time around. Today in particular has nearly taken a toll on me.

I am getting dangerously close to tearing my bossís head off of his body and
cramming it into the trimming machine. And I would be sure to put cardboard both above
and below it, so as not to ďdamageĒ the machine--just like he always nags me to do.
Granted, while he was interviewing two people today to see who he wanted to hire to
replace Angela, the other office assistant who recently quit (leaving me to do much more
than I bargained for), he said to each of them in my presence complimentary things about
me: ďHeís been really diligent about coming in. Heís overwhelmed like the rest of us but
heís doing fine.Ē And here I am, putting up a fake faint smile. Bill doesnít want to let
anyone think he would hire a slacker. Not that Iím any such thing--truth be known, I
probably work harder and with much more reliability than Bill expected. So he expects
me to do more than I am really capable of: this, and this, and that, and this and that--all at
once. I can only do so much, and days like today leave me with an almost uncontrollable
desire to pull his heart out through his ear. I would imagine that would hurt, anyway--that
being the intended affect.

Anyway, I go on pretending like I am not bothered by anything. I can be a pretty
good actor. And as long as he does not ask, I donít tell (that would be a mistake). Letís
hope this pays off in the long run. I canít stay at this job for very long. I started under-
worked and underpaid. Now Iím grossly overworked, but still underpaid. Itís not exactly
what I was looking for. And it looks pretty much like my general duties from now on
with have to do with copying, verifying, binding, trimming, stocking, shipping, filing, and
data entry--usually just about all of the above being done all at once. Oh, and I open the
mail now too. I keep forgetting to get around to that, because I am so busy with other
things. Shipping alone takes up a ton of time. You just have no idea. Bill likes to do
everything the cheap and therefore hard way.

And, of course, he also likes to wait to get things done until the very last minute--
whether any of the rest of us are ready to start early or not. You see, since I am leaving
for two weeks, Bill wants copies of all items in our catalog on the shipping room shelves
before I leave. I had to make a list of all the books we were both low on and out of--
which has now been misplaced and I need to do it again tomorrow. Perhaps four of them
were books that Cleaning Consultants owns the rights to, so I can find the master copy of
them in the filing cabinets and make the new copies right there. The rest will have to be
ordered by Bill.

So: I make about twelve copies each, of these four books we own the rights to
(one of which was written by Bill himself in its entirety--Comprehensive Upholstery and
Drapery Cleaning--donít you just want to curl up in a comfy chair and spend a pleasant
Sunday afternoon reading that?). Hereís the problem: of the dozens upon dozens of book
covers we have in inventory, only one of these four we need are readily available. So now
what? Paul, the lethargic drip of a resident graphic artist, needs to make new ones from
which copies can be made--at an off-location printing place. None of them were done for
me by the end of today.

A similar predicament: I finally finished making twelve copies of the 1000+ page
Comprehensive Custodial Training Manual Chapters 1-4 (which are sold both in
separately bound chapters and, in todayís case, all-in-one three ring binders), at which
point I was told to let Bill know, so I could start making copies of yet another book,
something inexplicably called NISH. Once I went and told him, he said, ďWell Iím not
ready to give it to you yet. So make another twenty copies of Chapter One.Ē I did this,
moronically, even though we already have more than 75 copies of Chapter One. What an
idiot. In addition, he wants me to print more copies of something called Infection
Control, even though we already have a ton of them in stock--but now we have a new
cover, or a slightly revised edition, or something dumb like that.

So thatís been the story today, as well as has been on many other occasions: Letís
give Matthew a ton of stuff to do in a limited amount of time, but withhold half of it until
the very last minute, because itís not ready yet! Whether itís covers or books or preparing
for one of Billís ultimately satisfying business trips (because I am only at ease in that
manís absence), thatís just the way things seem to work in my job.

But, of course, thatís not the end of it. In the middle of all of this crap I was
supposed to work on getting done (and, of course, right near the end of shift), I was asked
to come with them over to ďthe warehouseĒ--this blue building just across the street from
Cleaning Consultants, there in the middle of Seattleís industrial area of trucks and trains
and just plain crap, and the words Australian Sheepskin Seat Covers on it. I had heard
odd stories of this place from Jeff, the resident editor: Bill is such an obsessive pack rat
itís actually sickening. Jeff said he was there once and saw that, for some reason, Bill had
decided to save old toilets. I looked for the toilets when I was over there, but never did
see any. What I saw was a vast array of stacked boxes of files, abandoned empty filing
cabinets, and strewn paper amongst other random chips and pieces of wood and boards of
all sizes. Best of all, it is all in the basement of this warehouse, which you have to go
down an incredibly unstable-looking and thin staircase to get to.

So I had to lug a bunch of boxes of last yearís records down there, with the help
of Tom, the enigmatic senior citizen sort-of-janitor presence where I work; all Angela
could tell me was that he has worked for Bill for twenty years. His name on his box says,
ďTom--#1 man.Ē He does everything that none of the rest of us do--namely, cleaning. And
errands. Angela told me he washes the windows with a toilet brush. I always found the
man incredibly weird, and his randomly missing teeth donít exactly help. He never said a
word to me while Angela worked there, almost as though he was afraid of me, but now
that Angela is gone and I do things that he relies on, he has to speak to me every so often.
I donít much care for it when he does; he talks a lot like heís trying to whisper and
wheeze at the same time, and I can rarely understand him.

Anyway, in the middle of all this manual labor work, Bill decided to have Tom
and me start taking boxes of . . . well, crap, basically--up on our way back to the truck,
which was to later be taken to the recycle bin across the street (why the hell it was taken
down there in the first place if it was always garbage, Iíll never know). The last thing I
had to take up was this big wooden contraption, a sort of grate-like thing that boxes are
set on top of to keep them from being ruined in the case of floods. Once I had the rather
heavy thing up to the truck, I set it against the building, and made the near mistake of
looking down at myself. Of course I was dressed in all black, including my coat. But now
I was half brown, because the dust and dirt on that god forsaken thing had rubbed off
onto me. My god, hasnít bill yet figured out that Iím a pansy who doesnít like to get
dirty? Iím quite sure he never would have asked Angela to do such things. But he simply
assumes I wonít mind because I am male. And itís not like I could just refuse, now is it?

At one point, though, I finally took matters into my own hands--of sorts, anyway.
I said to him, ďIs there anything else? because I kind of need to go.Ē So he just had me
take one more stack of crap up on my way out. I walked back across the street to get my
stuff and turn off all the equipment at work, and just barely made it out of there at my
usual time. I would definitely have missed my bus if I had not said anything. But Bill
wants me to come in early tomorrow--of course!--so he can just deal with this today.

And what do I do tomorrow? Bind twelve copies of two different books I have
already made copies of. Make copies of yet two more books, bind them as well. Put
covers into twelve binders. I think I just may be able to get out of there earlier than usual,
or at least no later than after my usual five hours at work (but if I get there by nine or ten
instead of the usual eleven, I should still get out earlier than normal at the end of a
normal-length shift), provided Bill is not there to keep dumping new tasks on me. The
schedule board says heís doing inspections from seven to seven, and I am praying he
stays true to that. I will be much more comfortable with my entire last day before
vacation if that man is gone the whole time--even if he leaves a ton of assignments in my
box.

Anyway, I have spent three pages venting now, already rendering this the longest
newsletter introduction ever. My apologies if I completely bored any of you who receive
this (yeah, right):

1. Angels come and go and, like the snow, letters melt into oblivion when
expects such things from them . . .

2. Courtney caught calculatedly cryptic concrete compound communication . . .

3. Danielle can yell fan belts cram cells into the ink blots of the dink dolts who
donít write when they say the will . . .

4. Darcy still reads as far as I seehearknow . . .

5. Dawn came and went yesterday today tomorrow . . .

6. Gina ---well. What more can I say? Re: = regarding. I do this to her often. Too
bad itís not reciprocated!

7. Dad and Sherri are omnipresent. Almost donít need to keep in touch. But
that doesnít keep me from nagging. Me? Matthew? Donít bet on it . . .

8. Paul and his red-assed baboons are hopefully as happy as I tried to make
them . . .

9. Raenae is an ant with a tony on the stage of the play of the first and last
chapters of an insecticide heyday . . . watch out for the magnifying glass! Maybe thatís
why all the paper disappeared . . . the sun burned it . . .

10. Rick and Tammy double whammy how uncanny so how many . . . wait--
no, never respond . . . so here we are . . . no wonder weíve come this far . . .

11. Shane on you!

. . . So there you have it. The list has changed little. Grandma McQuilkin; Uncle
Jim; Auntie Rose; Jennifer McQuilkin; Jennifer Miga; Barbara Burnett (of course, and
most of all); even Suzy--they should all be your role models! But, alas, your role models
appear to be a bunch of middle eastern thieves, for no reason other than the fact of their
hands being chopped off--rendering them unable to write! Oh well. Iím getting used to it.
But I have enough energy still, to tell you all-important things like

PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPBBBBBBBBTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




A month in the life of a fruitcake

Do not follow where the path may lead . . .

go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail.


-- Unknown



I seem to be going backwards this time around, at least in a sense. The most
recent news is indeed what I want to begin with: I have been sick. It was a cold. No, it
was the flu. No, it was both. No, it was either in alterations. No, it was all of the above.
All I can say about it with certainty is that it was miserable. Here it is Thursday, and I am
just now getting over it. So hereís the rundown, beginning on the 15th of the month:

Monday: Brother drive me home from Chehalis. A wonderful visit. Grandma
makes us all lunches to take with us, though it isnít really necessary. She includes tubes
of Pringles potato chips in all the lunches. She does not understand that I tend to avoid
potato chips because they--and especially Pringles--are addictive at an inexplicable level.
I take one bite and devour half the tube in perhaps twenty minutes. I feel icky on the
drive home, and do not eat when we end up stopping at the Shipwreck for an early lunch
in Olympia. I get home and eat the rest of that lunch, a cheese sandwich and about five
delicious cookies. I finish the day with the worst headache I have had since the string of
true migraines I had as a child while we were living with those predators we called the
Duffys. My head hurts so bad that I come dangerously close to vomiting--an urge which I
suppress with all my might, because I am not about to cut a seven-year record short. Who
needs puke anyway? Not me. I go to bed, head hurting like hell and for the first time not
feeling much of any effect from aspirin.

Tuesday: Go to work. Feel okay, for a while. Have an average day. Come home.
Have the worst stomach ache known to man--or at least me, anyway. Never felt so much
cramping in all my life. I get pains so bad that I double over. I go to bed an hour earlier
than usual--at ten--and lie still as possible in bed for over an hour, unable to fall asleep
through the pain. My cats, of course, insist on walking on my hair to get to their desired
spots in front of my face so I canít breathe. The slightest movement they make of even
my head sends shots of piercing pain through my stomach. I think back to 1991, when I
was so much more of a moron then than I even am now that it makes me look like
Einstein now--and I thought that taking my stomach and shaking it in and out might make
the pain go away. It did, but only for about two moments before that dayís junk food
binge ended up on the driveway outside Grandmaís camper trailer. This time I keep my
stomach still as stone. Donít move, donít move, donít move. Concentrate. Fall asleep. I
finally do.

Wednesday: Wake up with a mild sore throat, nothing else hurting. Go through
the day dealing with it, fully expecting the sore throat to develop into something else
because thatís just the way it always seems to work with me. Last two sore throats
developed into colds. One of them a cold so bad that my ears plugged so alarmingly I
almost fell over in a restaurant parking lot because of loss of balance.

Thursday: Throat still sore, a little bit worse. Get the sense that it will get worse
before it gets better, so make the wise decision of going over to Bartell Drug and getting
a big bag of Halls and some sore throat spray medicine. Donít use any today.

Friday: Sore throat worse than any such thing I have had since I got Strep Throat
at about the age of eight (that was a joy--all the milkshakes I wanted, during the one time
I didnít want to swallow anything!). God, it hurts. Spray throat with medicine in the
morning. Temporary throat numbness lasts perhaps a half hour. Can only do it once every
four hours. What a gyp. Suck on Halls, which seem to work quite well as long as they are
still in my mouth. Bag says only one an hour. I turn my mouth into a virtual Halls
conveyor belt: one drop evaporates; in comes the next. My god, these things get quite
disgusting after about the fifteenth one. I eat about twenty of them over the course of the
day, most of them at work. Come home and spray throat again. Eat a few more Halls. Go
to bed hoping the rest I get will help me to heal. Please tell me the worst is over.

Saturday: The worst seems to be over. My throat is only quite mildly sore; I donít
quite mind walking over to the movie theatre to see October Sky. I bring throat medicine
with me just in case. I never have to use the spray, but do have a few Halls. On the whole
I feel comparatively well today.

Sunday: Dad and Sherri come to town for the garden show at the convention
center. I go with them, spend a ridiculous amount on a ticket to go with them, just
because I want to spend time with my parents. They told me a couple days ago not to
come with if I am sick. But Iím feeling all right. I eat the last cough drop while looking at
some incredible garden display, hauled in from Tokyo and taken inside a great big
building. God, the world is weird anymore. Couldnít we grow all the produce we need to
feed the world inside a building, regardless of pollution in the outside world? What if we
put a glass cap atop all of civilization, which housed the food we need, growing on top of
buildings instead of on the ground, where the buildings themselves have greedily taken
root instead? What if you looked up and the sky was not blue, but brown and green?
Could this be where weíre headed? REI is on the right track. All the pleasures of outdoor
life without the inconvenience of uncontrollable weather. Who needs the great outdoors
when weíve got climate control? Evidently not bonsai trees. Ah, but I digress . . . Finish
the garden show at about one thirty. Not feeling horrible, but not great either. Dad and
Sherri share a sandwich in the cafe. I get only an orange juice--donít think vitamin C can
screw me up any--and profess that I am simply not hungry. I tell the truth. So go to the
car, and to Seattle Center. Want to see the new permanent butterfly exhibit at the Pacific
Science Center. I foolishly follow suit when Dad decides to leave his coat in the car
because he knows the butterfly exhibit will be too warm for such things. And we walk
through the parking lot in the cold wind and slight drizzle, me without a coat when I am
sick. I am a brilliant young man. Always have been, always will be. I think to myself,
well Iím screwed--but Mother Nature tells me, ďYou beat me to it, son.Ē Wretched
woman. Get into the exhibit. It is indeed rather warm--way too humid--the air seems to
be half water. 75% humidity they said. Donít touch the butterflies, strictly enforced. If
one lands on you, have one of the staff come and assist you. I think they are overdoing it.
But Dad and Sherri can see how they might have had some problems, as they said they
have had. ďYou can only pull so many wings off.Ē Too hot, too hot . . . but long before I
know it, we are out of there. We look around the exhibit, a temporary one clearly meant
for children, but we play with a ton of the gadgets anyway. I take great delight in being
able to hear a pitch too high of a frequency for either Dad or Sherri to hear. I take a color
blindness test. Can see maybe half of the numbers perfectly. Take a smell test. Dad and
Sherri do rather well; I canít smell a thing. ďHis snotbagís full,Ē says Sherri. We look at
naked mole rats. We look at a slew of disturbingly disgusting insects in aquariums.
Wretched. I am not fond of millipedes, I discovered. Leave the Science Center, go to the
Old Spaghetti Factory. The spaghetti is all right. The waitress says, ďNo, unfortunately
the lasagna is pre-made, so they canít take the meat out. I donít eat meat either, but you
could have this or this . . .Ē What the hell does the menu say they make the dish from
scratch for? Are they simply scratching their butts in the kitchen or what? Maybe they
scratch themselves with their horrible pre-packaged bags of meat. Ick. Go back to the
apartment . . . parents visit for about an hour, or long enough for Sherri to listen to the
score to Edward Scissorhands, which she saw sitting out and was very interested in
hearing. We sit and watch the cats play in the center of the carpet . . . I forget my pain for
the moment . . . Batty has not lost any weight, much to Sherriís surprise. Just as 23-lb as
ever. But now heís only three times as heavy as Peng. So give him some credit. Parents
leave; check e-mail, see if Momís online--itís six and she said she would be. She is not. I
prepare myself to start a letter to Suzy. Think I will bitch up a storm about how I am
suddenly feeling like crap, hitting me this evening. My muscles ache. I feel all around
ickiness. Blah. Blech. I have been tired all day. Found myself wishing at one point at the
garden show that I could just lay down on the cement floor right in front of everyone, go
to sleep. It was too crowded, they probably would not have liked it. I want to go to sleep
now. Want to go to sleep, to sleep . . . but want to get some things done first. Now itís
nine oíclock and I have sat on my couch to watch VH1ís Behind the Music on Shaniah
Twain. My, I really must be sick. She seems like a nice person. And then--BAM!--I
completely forget all of my woes for an hour, because by some miracle I happened to be
watching television when a commercial came on and said, Next: VH1 Storytellers with
Tori Amos. Holy cow, is it awesome. I canít even describe it to you. Almost makes the
past week of crapiness from within my body worth it. She is the goddess of all that is
comfortably cryptic and soothing and intense and beautiful. Okay, so her eyes look kind
of weird. Iím willing to overlook that. Itís nine oíclock . . . get online for just a moment,
but end up getting an invitation to chat with Mom. We type away in our first chat since
December, and she tells me I clearly do not have a cold, but the flu. I think perhaps I
have both. By now I really ache. I am thankful when she decides she has to get off the
computer so she can watch The X-Files at ten. I go to bed. I feel like crap. I feel like crap.

Monday: I feel like crap I feel like crap I feel like crap. . . wake up nearly on the
hour every hour, feeling like gravity has doubled only where my joints are concerned.
Look at the clock. 4. Look at the clock. 5. Look at the clock. 6. I just might call in sick
today . . . a depressing first. Should I? Should I? Try to sleep some more. Look at the
clock. 7. Can hardly roll over. Can hardly move. What was it, 4? Wasnít it then when I
had to get out of bed and go to the bathroom? I nearly fell over. I couldnít stand up. Get
up now. Itís past 7. You know you need to go to work. Angelaís last day was Friday, they
need you there now more than ever. Get out of bed. Slow. You can make it to the
bathroom, you know you can. Just do it. Try not. Do. There is no try. Peng and Batty
need to eat; Peng has to eat in the bathroom. They need to eat more than you need to stay
in bed, much as you want to do that. Here now is the odd sensation somewhere between
doubled gravity and actually floating. Which is it? Both in alternations or both at once?
God, I feel like crap. Put Battyís food in his bowl, so he will shut up. His incessant
nagging alone is about enough to make me want to puke. Stand at the counter. Look at
the bowl set out for cereal. Look at the bottle of Robitussin. Look at the bottle of aspirin.
Too much, too much . . . I can barely stand up. Do I really want to go into work in this
state? Put an aspirin into the mouth. Take a slug from the milk carton. Repeat. Put a
vitamin into the mouth. Repeat. Take some Robitussin. Is any of this going to work?
Look at the clock. It took you ten minutes just to swallow three pills, Matthew.
Something is kind of wrong here. At this rate youíll be late for work, and you donít start
for another two and a half hours. Pour the cereal. Eat something at least. Look at Matt
Louer and Katie Couric. She walks down a table with a doctor who looks like Alfred
Hitchcock, talking about all the herbal remedies on display: Gingko Beloba strengthens
mental acuity. St. Johnís Wort helps depression. Ecanacia should be taken at the earliest
signs of a cold. Most conventional medicines are derived from all these things. Consult
with your physician. Take a shower, Matthew. Stand up. You can do it. I take a shower.
Time does not drag much before itís time to leave for work. Walk outside in the heavy
rain, this isnít exactly helping. What am I going to do if I get too weak at work? What if I
collapse into a mud puddle? No one will help me. This is Seattle. Iíll merely blend in
with the other bums. But I make it to work. My first task is to do the mail, which Angela
used to do. I kind of wing it . . . this goes into this box, I suppose; this into this hole, I
suppose. Bill finally comes out of his office and hears me coughing. ďWhatís the
matter?Ē ďIím rather sick.Ē ďOh well, donít cough on me. I need you to do this and this
and this . . .Ē ďI donít know if I am going to make it all day today.Ē No response. I should
have asked to speak to him about a raise, as Dad and Sherri suggested yesterday. I will
hate myself if I go the whole day without doing it. Iím nervous. Never asked for a raise
before. But my responsibilities have increased dramatically since I started. Minimum
wage might as well be slave wage in this town. But he is head of a small business, poor
baby. He can afford it as long as Angela is gone. Keep the copier going . . . pull this file .
. . fax this . . . ship this overnight UPS . . . and the hours go by. Finally I tell Bill I need to
talk to him when he gets the chance. He has to leave for a while, but I canít back out of it
now. Letís hope I can make it the whole day now. Canít ask for a raise and then tell him I
need to go home early. But I find myself having to hold onto this desk so I stay standing.
He does not see this. Then get focused. Focus, focus . . . make a list of all the books
weíre running low on or are out of . . . weíll learn how to order the ones we donít own
the rights to tomorrow. Make 12 copies each for these three we have the masters to.
Focus, focus, keep moving, keep moving--the pain is in your mind, shove it to the back
where you canít notice it so much. This actually seems to work. Busy busy. Have to
answer the phones now. What a pain in the rump. Message after message after message .
. . four of them people inquiring about the publisherís assistant job in the newspaper. Bill
said he wanted to hire Angelaís replacement today or tomorrow. Heís out for the rest of
the afternoon, I can have him call you. Okay, okay, okay . . . hunger strikes me suddenly.
I walk to the building across the parking lot, where there is a vending machine, because
packed with peanuts, Snickers really satisfies. And the vending machine inexplicably
gives me five free pennies in addition to the 40 cents change I get for my dollar bill. ďItís
your lucky day five times,Ē says Jeff the editor. I take a while to figure out the stupid
multi-line phone when I check messages. Look at the directions, dial our own number
instead of the answering service number printed next to it without realizing it; wonder
why the hell the phone rings every damn time I try checking messages--and when I press
the incoming line itís just a dial tone. Same thing happened earlier without realizing it. I
was faxing myself. The mail earlier was Saturdayís; todayís is here. Do that. Leave with
announcement of my departure, as Bill requested: ďMatthew has left the building.Ē Out in
the parking lot, no longer focusing so much. Feel like crap again. All those aches and
pains. Were they there hiding the whole time? Swinging my umbrella back and forth as I
walk hurts my wrist. Switch hands. Other wrist hurts. Get on the bus. Just hanging the
umbrella on my wrist makes it hurt. Walk in the front door of my apartment, strip. Put on
a bathrobe. Feel slightly better. Not so constricted anymore, but now I still feel like
crap--albeit somewhat looser crap. Still: ick.

There was no mail today. What a disappointment. No e-mail either, what a shock.
Seven phone messages, five of them hang-ups--clearly people calling for Tooth and Nail
Records. Itís obviously not yet to my advantage to change my announcement. One
message from Danielle. She wants to see a Sonics game when she comes to visit late next
month. I will actually go, and will probably enjoy it. Basketball is not that boring to
watch--of all sports, itís probably the most interesting. Would never opt on my own to go,
but Danielle really wants to; and it wonít be horrible for me. She picked the right sport.
Baseball would bore me to tears. Football would irritate the hell out of me--where else
does five minutes last an hour? Hockey . . . hmm. Maybe. At least then I could hope to
see some shredded flesh. But basketball is fine.

Peng keeps trying to lay across my arms as I type, and it makes them hurt. Can
you believe that? What a pain. I have been typing so much that my wrists have sort of
numbed. My arms are a different story. Even slight strain on them and I go berserk. Mr.
Hyde throws the cat across the room. And yet Simon and Garfunkel soothe me.

Tuesday: Wake up feeling better than I have in more than a week. What a
convenience, since this is the day I go into work two hours later than normal--so I can
attend the Disney shareholders meeting at the Fifth Avenue theatre, an easy walk from
home. Starts at ten. Be there for seating an hour early.

The line stretches around the building and halfway down the block around the
corner when I get there. Unfazed, I simply go to the end of it. Wait for a few moments.
The woman in front of me just came from another shareholders meeting. Suddenly the
line starts to move--almost alarmingly quickly. Get into the building, my first time inside
this theatre--it is quite beautiful. The design brings dragons to mind. Big time.

The lobby is incredibly crowded. Perhaps half of the people there have to check
in to get their tickets--unlike people like myself, who have brought their tickets with
them. The Disney company sent them to us. Auntie Rose said they will probably give us
something for free. I am never given anything. What a crock. Slowly edge my way to the
doorway into the auditorium. Show ID and the ticket, attached to which is the ballot for
the elections of be held today, for the board members and three initiatives. I took Dadís
advice and just voted for what the board suggested I vote for. But the guy only takes the
ticket, and gives me back the torn off ballot. What am I supposed to do with it then?

Go in and find a place to sit down. I feel like being difficult, so Iíll sit next to the
aisle in this empty row, so everyone else who wants to sit in this row will have to walk
over me. There is a gigantic screen above the stage in front, on which is projected live
images of the crowd in the lobby, and, alternately, live clips of all the people dressed in
Disney character costumes: Pocahontas, her pet raccoon, Donald Duck, an ant and the
ladybug from A Bugís Life, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, many others as well.
Mulan.

Once most everyone is seated, the live images continue--now of people waiting in
line to have the characters sign their autographs onto their booklets the Disney company
has sent us all. I donít even fathom going and asking for autographs--I donít want a
bunch of people to watch Goofy trying to hug me on live video. Watching everyone else
is entertaining enough--incredibly star-struck children and middle-aged women are the
most interesting. One woman tells Goofy to give her a kiss, and she kisses his nose. Then
there is a middle-aged man (perhaps in his forties) who tries to get Donald Duck to sign
his book. The pen wonít work; the mute (probably because itís what his contract
stipulates) Donald simply shakes the pen emphatically, trying three times more to write.
The man crouches down to take another pen out of his backpack, hands it to Donald.
They trade, and Donald starts to try writing again. The second pen doesnít work either;
once again Donald shakes it emphatically. The audience in the auditorium is riveted by
this spectacle. The man crouches once again for another pen--this time a magic marker.
Donald tries this one, and at first it doesnít work--but then it does. Once the autograph is
finished, the auditorium audience breaks out in enthusiastic applause.

After some more time, of watching people sign autographs, the lights finally go
down, and some man high up in the company with an incredibly recognizable name
(which I quickly forgot--still havenít gotten that Gingko Beloba) comes out to a podium
on the left side of the stage. Over the course of the morning, we all see speeches about all
sorts of aspects of the company. Films; television; internet; theme parks; etc. Past,
present, and future expectations. Where itís all going.

Their version of the ďfreebieĒ Auntie Rose was telling me I might get was clips
from upcoming animated feature films. We see a spectacular clip from Tarzan that
demonstrates the unprecedented way in which Tarzan is animated flying through the
trees, not just traveling horizontally (ďgiving the picture the feeling that itís
two-dimensionalĒ) like in all preceding animation, but following him through all twists
and turns, in and out of between the branches and from vine to vine. All with the aid of
computers. I was never all that interested in this film, until I saw this clip--and found out
that all the music is composed and performed by Phil Collins (a video of whom was
shown as the introduction to this dayís entire presentation).

Another clip: from Toy Story 2, which was originally set to be released straight to
video--until, as Entertainment Weekly once said, ďDisney came to their senses.Ē The clip
was wonderful and hilarious, and I canít wait to see the film.

Finally, from the upcoming Fantasia 2000, we were granted three clips. One
which is described as ďwhat would happen if a flock of flamingoes were given a yo-yoĒ
--quite entertaining. Another, of the scene of Noah calling all the animals to the ark (with
a dragon and unicorn on top of a hill, laughing at the rest of them, refusing to tag along).
The final one being about death and life, we being only privy to the ďdeathĒ section, but
itís a stunningly beautiful animated featurette--and at one point the entire audience,
including myself, jumps high out of their seats. All set to breathtaking classical music.
The final film will have three segments from the original, fully restored, with six other
brand new ones. There will be four premiers of the film this winter, being held in
gigantic auditoriums all over the world, including New York and Paris, with the
prestigious orchestras accompanying the film live.

Then, the best part, which leaves me quite excited: the film will be released in
regular theatres in spring of 2000. But as of January 1, they will be in preliminary release
in ďstate-of-the-art IMAX theatres.Ē This is met with a collective gasp from the audience,
which I must admit I take part in. Canít wait!

Then, after that, the boring part: the senseless election hearings. Arguments
presented for and against, even though nearly all the votes have been counted. They say
that they donít really finish counting until the end of the hearing, but they still declare the
winners of each position and issue--the board members remain the same, all of whom
attend this meeting (as does Walt Disneyís nephew, who speaks, but I cannot remember
his first name). I decide it doesnít make any difference whether I get my ballot in or not. I
finally leave in the middle of these horrendously boring and completely pointless election
hearings, because it is time for me to leave for work. So I get up and walk out.

Until now, I have been feeling fine. But as soon as I step outside, I feel like crap
again. The ickiness washes over me like a wave yet again. While at work, Margie the
accountant asks me if I am feeling any better. Not really. But at least I only have to work
for three and a half hours today--but then Bill, bless his heart, gives me some idiotic
thing to do right at the last minute that keeps me working until 4:30, when I usually get to
go home at four. What a pain.

I go home and write a letter to Grandma.

Wednesday: I actually start to feel better, though the head cold aspect of the
sickness still seems to be going strong. I go to Bartell Drug and buy both DayQuil and
NyQuil on my way to the bus stop before work. ďThis is a very popular item today,Ē says
the clerk. I take both some aspirin and some DayQuil while at work. My day fares all
right.

Thursday--back to today. Feeling even better than yesterday, though not quite
fully recovered. Having to do all that physical work in that godforsaken warehouse really
made me think I was going to get a second attack of this crap--I didnít feel quite well
after all that activity (which also rendered my hair into something that made me look like
I was raised by a pack of wolves by the time I got home). But I seem to be feeling okay
now. For the most part.

I picked up my latest roll of film this morning before going to work, expecting it
to be completely ruined. Why? Because when I finished this roll that I began prior to
Thanksgiving, on the Sunday that Dad and Sherri were in town, I put it into my front
shirt pocket--and promptly forgot all about it. I did not think about it again until two days
later, when I heard an incredibly loud clanking noise emitting regularly from my dryer. I
went over to the dryer to see what it was banging around in there, and as soon as I opened
the door, the roll of film flew out and onto my carpet floor. I promptly slammed my head
against the wall.

But when I looked at the roll again, I recalled when I was in graphic arts and had
to learn how to develop film. Those containers are sealed tight enough--could that mean
that no water could get into them either? I called Suzy, who is an incredibly talented
photographer, and asked her about it. She said that the concern was of the heat--film is
supposed to be kept cool. She works at a film developing place, and said one person
came in with a roll that had only gone through the wash. The film was all warped
because of the heat. Here my film had gone through the dryer, so I was pretty convinced
that it was all pretty well shot to hell. But I took Suzyís advice and tried anyway.

Well, I picked up the film today. Thereís good news and thereís bad news. The
bad news is that not one of the great pictures I took while in that butterfly exhibit turned
out. However, all the rest of them did, and quite well at that--with the one exception of
the first, which was of the Seattle skyline at night from a bridge in North Seattle (the
water, I think, left weird streaks all over it--makes an interesting picture, but not by any
means what I meant it to be). The photos I took on Thanksgiving Day itself, and of my
cats later, all of the former of which were meant for talk-tape covers, all turned out quite
well. I was incredibly relieved. Quite a lucky break for such an incredibly dumb mistake.

And now I must move further back from here . . . to the weekend of Valentineís
Day. On the 13th, a Saturday, I was picked up by Christopher and his family, to take me
along with them down to a weekend visit in Chehalis with our grandparents. Christopher
had said that he wanted to leave town that morning at six or seven. I thought, yeah, right
--the last time he told me when he expected to arrive, I waited around for more than
seven hours. So I did not rush to be ready within five hours after seven that morning--
dumb mistake. I was incredibly shocked to find out that they actually left town by
seven-thirty that morning, and when they arrived, I had just barely finished packing, and
still needed to leave food out for the cats and clean out their litter box.

As I rushed to get everything done while Christopher stood in my living room
(Katina and the kids waited in the car), he mentioned that he would like to see the
Rolling Stone cover that showed Rob Zombie without his make-up. I pulled it out of the
bottom drawer of my filing cabinet, turning my back so I did not see Peng sneak into the
drawer and crawl behind it while it was still open. When Christopher finished looking at
the magazine, I dropped it into the drawer and, without the slightest idea of any conse-
quences, hurled the drawer shut with quite a bit of force--only to be met with a quite loud
ďMeeeeeeooooowwwrrrrroooooowwwrr!!!!Ē This just about gave me a heart attack, and I
jerked the drawer back open just in time for the cat to shoot out of there like a jack-in-the
-box. I stood there, stunned, for a few moments, holding my hand over my heart. I was
quite afraid that I might have done some permanent damage, but realized that how easily
Peng ran out of there was indication that he was really all right. So we left.

And we had our wonderful visit in Chehalis. For the first time in years, I hardly
noticed that it was Valentineís Day, and did not feel lonely in the slightest. That night we
all ate a spaghetti dinner at the lodge, which turned out to also have lasagna. They even
made a meatless sauce for both of them for me. The lasagna was actually the most
delicious (except for the added corn, which I just couldnít understand)--but I foolishly ate
the spaghetti first. I was full of Grandmaís cookies, which I canít get enough of
(especially those heart-shaped ones with the icing on top) and I couldnít eat any more.

We spent a lot of time that weekend playing card games. At one point Grandma
paid for two golf balls for Christopher and me to play put-put golf, only to have both our
balls get stuck inside a tiny tunnel full of rain-soaked muck and twigs. Katina finished a
table scarf she made as a gift for Sherri, which I suspect left Sherri somewhat blindsided.
I know she was struck by it, in any case, and really appreciated it.

So . . . now, I suppose, is as good a time as ever to tell you about Matthew
McQuilkin. He has dark hair that he dyed blond, while mine is blond and dyed black. I
went to a high school called Rogers, while that is the name of his schoolís rival high
school. My middle name is Michael, which also happens to be his fatherís first name. I
was born in Olympia; he was born, raised, and still lives in Puyallup seventeen years
later. My birthday is April 30, 1976, and he has a sister named Maria McQuilkin whose
birthday is April 28, 1975. Heís completely into sports, while I detest them. We both
have poor eyesight. Heís obviously straight--and Catholic (I was raised Baptist; am now
technically agnostic). I go by Matthew; he goes by Matt. He was born on May 25, 1981.
His father grew up in Seattle. He works at Jiffy Lube (ďI change oil for a livingĒ), which
is the landmark that helps people find my fatherís house in Olympia.

I told him in a chat online that I must be his evil twin. We are complete opposites
in almost every way. And there does not seem to be any indication that we are actually
related. His grandfatherís name is Jack McQuilkin. Unless Uncle Paul knows of someone
by that name in his family tree research, this must all be one completely bizarre
coincidence.

So how did we find each other? Actually, he found me. I wrote a letter to
Entertainment Weekly--just a two-sentence observation about their previous Jewel cover
story, which they printed with my full name as well as my e-mail address. I did not
expect anyone to write me. But then, about a week after the magazine came out, I got this
e-mail, written rather formally (ďDear SirĒ), asking me if this was my real name, because
it was that of the writerís as well--exactly. So I wrote back and asked if his middle name
was also Michael; but no, that is only his fatherís name.

And then the miracle of technology. Even though I do not connect to the internet
using America Online, I use one of their chat programs, called Instant Messenger--itís
what I use to chat with Sherri, Gina, Angel, and even Courtney on occasion, along with a
few other people I have never met. If I know someone is on AOL, however, and I know
their e-mail address, all I have to do is a search of their handle (that is, the name they
choose to identify themselves with in their e-mail) in the Instant Messenger program,
locate them, and add them to my ďbuddy listĒ--so that the next time they are online at the
same time I am, I will be alerted of this by the sound of a door opening. I was never quite
fond of being able to add someone to a buddy list without their permission, but this time I
took advantage of it. I waited patiently until this other Matthew got online while I was as
well, and then initiated a chat.

We chatted for nearly two hours, and I got all of the above information--and then
some. He expressed interest in meeting me, but that has yet to happen. He has not written
to me in some time now, and I fear he has simply lost interest. Oh well. It was certainly
quite interesting while it lasted. And if he does get a hold of me again, you all will
certainly be hearing about it.

In other news . . . on the 9th of the month, I got an e-mail from Beth, Barbaraís
daughter from Virginia. She said she read my newsletter online, and when she read the
poem Bonus Mom, it actually made her cry. She had to write and tell me that--and she
said that she planned on sending a copy of it to her own stepmother. Can you believe
that? This one poem has turned out to be the single most significant one I have ever
written, touching more people I know than any other. It has a lot more power than I
originally gave it credit for, apparently--Gina even told me it made her want to write a
poem for her recently deceased father. That would be perfect therapy.

I had dinner with Auntie Rose on the 1rst, when she and I decided to celebrate
Groundhogís Day a day early (we even toasted it). We ate at a lovely Italian restaurant
called Il Fornaio about five blocks from my apartment. It was a very nice visit, and
afterwards I visited with her for a while in her hotel room.

I told her about the previous day, in which I took my first venture into the
vegetarian cook book Danielle got me for Christmas. I made a fairly ambitious first
choice: lasagna. Quite a different version of it--and an incredibly expensive grocery bill
as a result, costing nearly as much as round-trip airfare to Spokane. I have not had a
significant grocery shopping trip since, only getting cereal and milk a couple of times.
Part of the reason I have been able to wait so long to go grocery shopping significantly
again, though, is because of my odd work hours, from 11 to 4, with bus rides extending
that more than a half hour on either end. I never eat lunch anymore, really. I have cereal
in the morning, and then have an early dinner--and thatís about the extent of it. Youíd
think Iíd lose some weight. But anyway, that first week, I had made enough for six
servings of lasagna, so I ate it for one meal for each day for the next six days. It tasted all
right the first day, and great the second day. The rest of the days it was just all right
again.

Iíll tell you what was in it--since it contained a ton of stuff I never would
normally eat. But I need to broaden my horizons (which I had to do, since I never knew
what on earth fennel was until I read this cook book). The tomato sauce was made from
scratch, with canned peeled tomatoes and a ton of onions and garlic. That was only put
on the bottom and top layers.

In between the other layers were as follows: a layer of spinach and garlic mixed
with heavy cream; a layer of fennel and garlic with sour cream; and a layer of eggplant
and garlic. That last one was also supposed to have something called ďpetits pois,Ē but I
could never figure out what that was. I later discovered, after I was done making the dish,
that what it actually was, was miniature peas--and I was very glad there were none of
those in there. I usually hate spinach and sour cream and just about any vegetable, but I
was eating them this time anyway--but peas would simply have been where I drew the
line. I do not eat peas. Forget it! I added one and a half times the recommended amount
of shredded cheese. The dish, when finished, really wasnít bad. I wonít make it again
though. Next time I make lasagna it will be with veggie meat, made like regular lasagna.

By the way, the day I made that vegetarian lasagna dinner--which took an
alarming three hours to complete--was the one-year anniversary of the last day I ever ate
any meat. And it was also the day I realized that I needed both kitchen knives and a
cutting board (that day I had to settle for butter knives and a cardboard box). I had to call
Gabe, though, to tell him how excited I was to realize I had made it a full year as a
vegetarian. ďArenít you proud of me?Ē He reluctantly answered in the affirmative.

Just one other thing to tell: in the first week of the month, I bought a scanner. As a
result, I now have images uploaded onto my web site. Other than that, though, I think this
covers all the general news of my life for the month.


The writing history

Judge me all you want.

Just keep the verdict to yourself.


-- Winston cigarettes ad


Gabe recently told me on the phone that he was going to sue me for slander.

This is really the most recent news regarding my writing. This oh-so-wonderful
friend of mine spent great amounts of energy during the beginning stages of this news-
letter telling me what a moronic idea it was, and now he seems to be reading it online.
His reading it doesnít bother me; I have nothing to hide--but I donít quite understand the
hypocrisy. I suppose I should be used to that. I wonder if heíll read this and get all pissed
off at me again. Well, I did not offend anyone else with my writing this month--I guess it
was Gabeís turn.

He said he could credibly sue me for slander for saying unflattering things about
him in a public forum. I told him, however, that I had no intention of changing my ways
whatsoever when it comes to how I write my newsletter. I told him that my mom had
used the words ďslanderĒ and ďlibelĒ in her response to my making fun of her husband in
this newsletter way back when--and he said, ďWell, now Iím on her side.Ē

I asked him for specifics, and he could supply me with none. Iím sure this would
make a rather strong case in court. So, wanting to be objective, I skimmed over the past
two issues of the newsletter--paying particular attention to when I might have discussed a
visit with Gabe and Suzy. I could find nothing that could even be interpreted as offensive.
I did not look further back, but I would be struck numb to hear that heís been reading
back issues.

Neither of them were very happy about the fact that I often paste portions of
letters to other people into this newsletter--including letters to them. So what do I do? I
do it again. I donít have time to re-write everything for this stupid thing! So deal with it.

In other writing news . . . I have written two stories in the past month. One was
nonfiction, which I knew to be one of the worst stories I had written since at least 1995 (a
major slump of a year for me, when it comes to writing). I told Barbara to be honest in
her reaction; she wrote back and said, ďIíve relegated it to one of your Ďlesser works.í
Most of your letters to me are more memorable than this.Ē I quite appreciated her
reaction. But then I wrote some blockbuster fiction in my next letter to her, a wonderful
nine-page short story, which I have not yet gotten a reaction to but I know she will love.

Of course--nothing published. But Iím writing poetry as much as ever, of course.
Barbara keeps telling me to submit poetry to publications, and I keep thinking about it,
and never taking any further steps. She was particularly fond of a recent one I would like
to share with you all now (she gave it a rave review, thatís for sure), a rather blatant ode
to Seattle, playing on its nickname in common with The Wizard of Oz. I call it . . .


Oz


Raindrops standing still in the air
Just for a moment close the umbrella
Cinerge hovers here in the midst
You might get wet just standing there
Take a deep breath and drink something stellar
Feel yourself floating in the mist . . .

This is how I feel in the Emerald City
I-5 implies the yellow brick road
The downtown towers scrape the sky so pretty
Even when the clouds are gray and broad
It feels like a dream in the Emerald City
The king of the land he left his dome
To view all the waters and mountains ready--
Oh yes, Chief Seattle take me home

Lift me up ten miles an hour
Itís not so scary so open those eyes
In here we fly above the view
Peripheral vision ignites power
A needle in space is beyond the skies
Turn round and round to green and blue

This is how I feel in the Emerald City
I-90 flies over the rainbow
Come out of the clouds and we feel so giddy
Walk around town in your own day-glo
It feels like a dream in the Emerald City
My brain, courage and my heart have come
From inexplicable centralized wizardry
Oh yes, Chief Seattle take me home

Thatís right, Iím a friend of Dorothy
Fought the wicked witch, went west of the middle
Twisters in my head were too frothy
And then they dried up and they were too brittle
But now Iíve been watered plenty
Never in every way have I felt so green
Yes weíve all been watered plenty
Incredibly healthy vibrancy
That is our scene . . .
Itís all that it seems . . .
Itís more than a dream, more than reality . . .

This is how I feel in the Emerald City . . .
A vast land of pavement on which to roam . . .
This is how I feel in the Emerald City . . .
Oh yes, Chief Seattle take me home . . .
Weíve all been watered plenty
The people here can weather any storm
Weíve all been watered plenty
The people here are aware of their charm
In the Emerald City . . .
Oh yes, Chief Seattle take me home . . .

(ďcopywriteĒ 8:26 pm monday february 15 1999)


. . . So there you have it: this monthís writing sample. Maybe one of these
days Iíll actually find the time to find some fiction to put into here for you people. But
the poetry has been responded to rather positively, so I seem to be doing all right with
that so far.

Anyway, thatís about it for the month of February--always a quick one, itís so
short. Tomorrow is my last day before a two-week vacation which begins the following
day, and you will all be reading about it in detail at the end of next month. Right now I
am simply glad I managed to get this written on time. But for now, thatís it . . .


this has been presented 2 u by
matthew mcquilkin
on behalf of
fruitcake enterprises
(2/26/1999)

P.S. Donations accepted.