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I've finally got steady Net access, which means that updates will probably be a lot more frequent in the future. In the meantime, though, just as I'm getting used to Portland, I've rediscovered copies of a bunch of letters I sent back in the early '90s, which I may excerpt occasionally for everyone to snicker at quietly. They are... very early-'90s (note, for example, the nonexistence of the Web). This one's from February, 1992, when I had been in New York City just about exactly as long as I have now been in Portland (curiously, I just got my library card here today!):

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This week was the first temp job I've had where I didn't get to sit around and read for money. It was at some conglomerate faceless enough that I don't even remember its name, and I worked there two days ago. I'm not sure what its business is, either - the only clue I got was a report I typed on a survey of small bookstores (it had a lot of graphs with prolix names), which concluded that some of them make money and others don't, and there's really no way to predict which will and which won't. The atmosphere, though, was pretty tense. Overheard dialogue at 10 AM: "JUST START FAXING! NOW!! THE FAX HAS TO BE THERE IN FOUR MINUTES OR WE LOSE THE ACCOUNT! I DON'T CARE IF YOU HAVE TO STICK THE GODDAMN FLOPPY DISK IN THE FAX MACHINE! JUST START FAXING! START FAXING!!" Fax machines, I know from having used one for about an hour and a half Thursday, are the slowest essential component of office technology. It takes about thirty seconds to fax a page -- thirty seconds in which an entire corporate revolution can take place. I've noticed that people do all sorts of things within their desk areas to reduce stress, or rather to provide suggestions of reduced stress. Elizabeth pointed out to me that many office-workers, especially women, have bottles of hand-lotion at their desks, just to give them something soft and smooth to touch in order to relax. The desk I was at on Friday had a big computer-printed page that said something like "BY THE WATERS OF THE RIVERSIDE I WILL LAY MY BODY DOWN/AND LET SWEET MUSIC SOOTHE MY ACHING BONES."

Culinary pleasures of New York: the honey-roasted peanuts and cashews you can get on street-corners; the ridiculously cheap Indian food at a couple of the places on 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Aves.; the combination Chinese restaurant/video store a couple of blocks away (free video with $20 delivery); clementines at the little corner grocery here in Hunters Point... Culinary disappointment: the suggestion by Gerry and Nancy that I might do well to invest in some bottled water, given the fact that the tap water here is occasionally opaque. Also, it took me a while to figure out that the bathroom taps are not in their usual positions. Few things are grosser than warm Gatorade. (I live on Gatorade--I can drink gallons of the stuff--so I brought from Michigan a canister of enough Gatorade mix to make a few boatloads.)

I applied for my Queens library card yesterday, and checked out Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor. The librarian at the local branch likes to intimidate patrons who try to pull one over on her (pulling out gigantic pairs of scissors and snipping their library cards in half, that sort of thing). I like her.
[...]
Thursday night Azalia and I went to a birthday party for her friend Althea down in Alphabet City, on the Lower East Side. Althea is an artist who has a book coming out in a couple of weeks, done in collaboration with a poet friend of hers, also in attendance at the party. Althea herself is about the thinnest healthy person I've ever seen, with all-black clothing (I was wearing tan pants, which were the only item of non-black clothing at the party) and straggly short bleached-white hair. One wall of her apartment is covered by a poster with the words "ANAL SEX" in bold white capitals against a black background. Boy, do I ever feel like a bohemian now.

1 Comments

David Lee Roth said:

Thomas Mann eat your heart out. Those lean years after private school must have been rough.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on December 15, 2003 5:11 AM.

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