.journal 2000.12.01
Driving and shopping by myself, the new stereo and chess.

Now listening to: Sarah McLachlan, Touch
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Wormwood
Now playing: NHL 2001 (Playstation 2)

Hi all. Pardon the musky smell; there seem to be ghosts from bad situations past around these parts recently, and I'm trying to exorcise them.

So Tuesday I finally got my photo driver's license, and even looking at that I'm starting to see how much fat I've lost over the past couple of years. There are a few photos of me from around when I was 290 or so, and for a while I really had to look at those to see how much fat I've lost - I really couldn't notice it while I was losing it. Now that more and more bones on my body are becoming visible, though, the loss is becoming more tangible, more profound.

Of course, it is still a driver's license photo, so it's not what I would call "flattering." Actually, the photo card I got with my temps was decent, but on this most recent photo the DMV worker wanted me to smile and I kind of quarter-smirked to make her happy, and it made me look as perturbed as I was. I never really liked the shape of my mouth anyway, and this photo somehow makes it look worse. Oh well, the bottom line is I have the card, I have insurance, and I can drive all by my little self.

And, just as I figured, my first solo driving experience started with me going down to the nearby Speedway to put some gas in the tank because the folks didn't leave me with enough. Don't think I didn't get the message from that. Driving on my own was strangely liberating at first, almost unbelievable, but by the time I'd gone to the store and over to pick the folks up at work, I'd already gotten used to it to a large extent. Though I'm still worried that without a "co-captain" to help alert me to my little lapses, I'm gonna do something stupid. Good thing that minivan's as tough and reliable as she is.

Actually, I spent a good chunk of the afternoon today out on the road, partly for practice but also because I had places I wanted to go. The first place I went to was our local Starbucks wannabe, Sufficient Grounds, for a double mochacino and some quality time reading and writing. To give you an idea of how bad Toledo is, Starbucks actually wants nothing to do with us; there are more restaurants per square foot in Toledo than in any city in the world, but no Starbucks. But at least we have our own knock-offs, so I have someplace to go. I hadn't been to a coffeehouse in my life before Antioch, but the student-run coffeeshop in the student union building there was a real eye-opener. I guess I'm a real coffeehouse kind of person - I certainly have the makeup for it.

Anyway, I finally got another poem written at Sufficient Grounds; I've been meaning to write more poetry recently, but all the Poppy Z. Brite I've been reading recently has gone to my head, and I've been possessed by this short story that I'm hoping to complete in a week or two. I really like where the story's going, and at first I even thought about trying to pimp it out to some larger sites once I got it done, but in the end I think I'll just post it here and see what comes of it. I'll want to run it by my friends first, do a bit of an edit based on their feedback, but following that I'll have it all up here for you to see.

I also got back into Wormwood while I was at Sufficient Grounds; I'd actually put the book aside for a bit there, as I've had other things on my plate, but now I'm back reading it and absorbing Poppy's work into my mind. I really like her stuff, but I'm worried that I might run out soon, and I honestly don't know where to go from her work. As I've said before, normally I loathe horror, but there's something about Poppy's style of writing that sucks me in, makes me forget I'm not a horror kind of person. I've thought about maybe trying another modern horror writer like Caitlin R. Kiernan, but I'm not so sure. Hey, I'm still not accustomed to this concept of recreational reading, what can I say.

But since I was already out, and since I felt the need to celebrate this newfound freedom of being able to drive myself wherever I wanted, I decided to celebrate by, what else, shopping. I went to Media Play hoping to pick up Poppy's first novel, Lost Souls, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. (And since Exquisite Corpse is so hard to come by, that's the title I put on my Christmas list.) But a quick glance over at the discount rack yielded a hardcover copy of Courtney Love: the Real Story for six bucks. I've never had more than a cursory interest in Love, but from flipping through the book before sitting down to write this update it's interesting to see how Poppy's writing style translates to a non-fiction setting.

I also found the import CD single for Sarah McLachlan's Hold On while I was at Media Play, then after a trip to Toys 'R Us where I almost picked up RPG Maker then thought better of it (gotta start saving for my own car), I went over to Best Buy so I could finally pick up the 24 Karat Gold remasters of Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and The Freedom Sessions. The only 24 Karat Gold CD I'd seen up to that point that I was even slightly interested in was Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, so I'm really keen on these, and loading them into my new stereo.

Oh yeah, the new stereo. I've had it for nine days now, and it's just now that I'm getting around to writing about it. Hey, I've kind of had a lot of things happening this past week and a half, cut me some slack.

Anyway, it's an Aiwa, and good grief is this sucker heavy. I like to think of myself as a fairly strong person (I got into weightlifting for a couple of my teenage years), but trying to get this thing out of Best Buy was a struggle and a half, even with a shopping cart. I looked at a few models, but the Aiwa seemed to give me the best bang for my buck, and all stereos look the same these days anyway. With tax I paid $310, but now I have Dolby 5.1 to help enhance my PlayStation 2.

Oh, and I finally have something else that I've never really had in a stereo system before: BASS. LOADS AND LOADS OF SCREAMING, RAGING BASS. That's what's made the stereo worth its cost, because now I'm listening to my old CDs and it's like they're all new again. Even when I boost the bass all the way up and play the most bass-intensive songs I have, like the Orb's "Toxygene" and Fluke's "Atom Bomb" and Portishead's "Glory Box," this thing handles all the volume I care for in my tiny little room and I think it can probably handle about triple that. This thing shakes the floor, the bed, my computer desk, the bathroom floor, and it's pretty freaking awesome.

Even with my crappy VCR's output, the stereo has made watching my anime DVDs and playing video games a whole new experience as well. Kessen used to be like playing a Kurasawa movie; with the bass turned all the way up, now it's like being in a Kurasawa movie. I've yet to test Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (I haven't had my Dreamcast on since I got my Playstation 2), but I just know that'll rock the house as well. Now I need to get a good VCR so I get maximum output from it, but with the need for my own car casting a pall over my future spending, that may take some time. I'm happy for now, though, yes I am.

Oh, and it would figure that now that I finally have a decent radio antenna, the one good station I can pick up in town (actually it's from Windsor, Ontario) changes its format and is now running two parts lite rock to one part of the music I like, the music it used to run. Sigh. Oh well, at least Toledo has a decent public radio station (although its PBS television counterpart bites, because they pulled Chef! after local protests).

I've been listening to a lot of public radio recently, because I need something instrumental going while I'm playing chess. My father taught me how to play chess when I was very young, and in high school I really got into it, spending most of my free periods playing against other students (yeah, like I had anything better to do). I even played on chess club, getting all the way up to second board for a good portion of my senior year. But then after that my interest died down, and my skills went away. But now all of a sudden I'm really getting back into chess. I don't know, maybe my brain's just trying to tell me it needs some exercise.

And now that I have the ability to drive myself around town, I've looked into the local chess club, and I'm even considering joining the United States Chess Federation and really testing my skills. I'd play online, but from previous experience I know most people online just want to play real quick games, and I prefer a slower, more deliberate style of game. And hey, it's an excuse to socialize, and I certainly need to do more of that. Giving up a Saturday every month for the local tournaments may be a bit too much for me, but I figure I should at least give it a try. If I don't like it, there's no law saying I have to keep going.

Things just seem so weird right now. Having the weight loss and driver's license things hit me in such rapid succession really threw me for a loop, turning my planned Mystery Science Theatre 3000 marathon into a single showing of Manos: the Hands of Fate, turning my conceptions about my own abilities upside down, and turning my brain sideways. And I don't think I've got it quite repositioned yet. But I'll be okay, really I will be. Okay, maybe not, but I'll get back to being as close to okay as I was before all this stuff hit.

That's it for now, but I hope to have that short story for you all to read here fairly soon. Keep coming back to the site for all the latest developments in my mixed-up life and all the creative work I care to share with the world, and I'll see you all soon.

- Sean