The Unknown: The Orange Line.
  08/04/98 10:07 A.M.

Dear Kendra,

I am writing you this letter from the 34th Floor of the Amoco Building, the second tallest building in the city of Chicago, and the fifth tallest in the world. I really shouldn’t be writing a letter to you now, at 8:27 A.M., but I have already run out of work to do. I am here to occupy corporate space. I am awake, so I am doing that fairly well. Shortly, I will go make my rounds, asking if anyone has any photocopying, filing, alphabetizing, or data entry to be done. They will think on it for an hour or two and then give me something which will fill the time for a half hour or so. I think they want me to stop asking, or to stretch the projects they do come up with for hours and hours, or days. This is the kind of thing you do when you work for a big corporation. Most of the full time employees here are very good at it. They screw up on purpose from time to time just so that they will have to go back and correct whatever it was that they screwed up. This fills up time when you are working for the man. There are nasty black clouds rolling in over the lake now. It looks like it will be a humdinger of a storm.

I’m getting settled in my place now, relatively. I have too many books and not enough shelves. My cat, Maestro, is finally getting used to the place. His social life has dwindled since we moved to the city. He’s used to interacting with other felines, which we really don’t have the opportunity to do now, but I bring him downstairs from time to time, which he likes, and I had people over Friday night, which he was crazy about. He’s a very social animal, that cat. He doesn’t understand the work thing. He’d gotten used to me hanging out around the apartment, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and reading books and hacking away in front of the computer. Which I now spend all day not doing, except for the coffee. But I’m enjoying the City.

The grass has come in now, really it came in the day after I emailed you. It only took like four days. Which was amazing. The kids are nuts about it. I get off work and they’re waiting for me, arguing over who gets to water it first. Which is also amazing. The gang bangers, on the other hand, don’t like the grass. Or me. They put a rock through my window Friday night. I’ve begun to call the cops habitually. But the house across the street that used to be a crack house now has a new wrought iron fence in front of it. Which keeps them out of it. I know that “gentrification” (not that I’m exactly gentry) certainly has its evil side, and I feel bad for the gang bangers, who have nothing apparently to do but do things that will help them go to jail sooner (like breaking windows, kicking cars, even, last Friday night, climbing the tree in front of my apartment to strip bark and hack off branches), but I’m nonetheless helping them get to jail. Jail won’t help them at all. It will only make them more angry and more violent. But it will keep them from breaking my windows, if only for a time. It all makes me think that maybe something is wrong with our society. But the little kids are cool.

I’m working on getting my plays into shape, so I can send them out and maybe get one of them produced here over the next year or so. I’m really looking forward to Oct. 1, when I can pretty much bag all jobs and just write for a while (part-time work maybe, but mostly just writin). A headhunter called the other day, though, which was nice. She had a job that I was really qualified for at Ameritech. But it was a full-time career type gig. She said she’d probably be able to line up some work for me which will pay better and use a few more brain cells than what I’m doing now. The boredom has become a problem here after 3 weeks. Even though the cafeteria is excellent, and the corporate campus (between and around this building and the Prudential Plaza) is amazingly well-groomed. I just need to get off my butt and fax her my resume. I’d guess I’m doing about 1 1/2 weeks more at Amoco before it’s completely bagged, and I’m off to some other multinational corporation.

I’ve begun to think of summer as a special kind of vacation: Corporate Tourism. Like those people who go to the Amazon to look at spotted butterflies with huge wing spans. I’m checking out what happens to people when they become part of a huge system, a company which has become so large it no longer really has bosses. People gets their jobs, occupies their cubicles, does their eight or nine (not that they actually do much) and goes home, and then does it again. They worry about things like their 401K and Dental and Stock Options (Amoco is down, way down) and Golf. Nobody here is evil. Just bored. Not good for their brains. Nice people though. I get the sense that all around me here, people have these exotic fantasy lives. There is plenty of time for the imagination at Amoco corporate HQ.

Anyway, I could go on for hours (I really could). But I don’t want you to get bored.

I have a ticket to the Cubs game tonight, but I think it will get rained out.

I think I’m going to go home early today (I have Wednesday and Friday afternoons off, but since there is absolutely nothing to do, maybe I’ll take the afternoon today—Tuesday, instead, and stay here until a fairly late hour Tomorrow).

Did I tell you about the hypertext novel I’m writing with a couple friends? We decided that, instead of sending out all our stories, poems, etc. to these little journals, we’d just publish our own book, The Unknown Anthology. And since critics can’t be trusted, we’re also going to write a book called The Unknown Criticism, in which we will all respond critically to each other’s work. The hypertext novel that’s about 2/3 finished, The Unknown, is basically a roadtrip-with-drugs choose-your-own-adventure type of arrangement about the Book Tour that we went on after we published the aforementioned books. It’s pretty funny. It’s not yet available for public consumption, but I can send you the URL if you’re interested (and promise not to spread it around until the official launch). I’ve also got a story coming out in cool new magazine called No Time, which I will send you when it is published (either next week or the week after).

I’m crazy about you, Kendra. You’re a cool chick. You should move back to Chicago. We’re starting a literary movement here and we need someone to do Art.


Scott Rettberg, New Office Temp, subleased to Kelly Temps, hired out to the Compliance Group, Human Resources Department, Shared Services Sector, Amoco Corporation


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