The Unknown: The Orange Line.
  November 1996

Dear Frank,

There has been this strange cat hanging around my back porch. Sebastian went after it, a blaze of Halloween fang. Listen, though, seriously, almost all of my friends in Chicago have gotten into weird drugs and disappeared. Just move out of the city, okay? Please please please don’t take X and go to a rave. Ever. That’s what my friend David did and now he’s in Texas doing experimental theater. Instead of with us. In Urbana, making experimental theater. And don’t move to NYC and shoot smack. No no no. My friend Keith did that and joined a rock band and got a job in a tudor-nightmare hotel. You can do that here. Also, if rioting sweeps through the city, stay indoors. Or at least take notes. Rioting swept through St. Petersburg Florida the other day when a white police officer shot an unarmed motorist. Rioters trashed the Salvador Dali museum. Someone threw a chair through Through The Hallucinogenic Toreador. The TWA flight was shot down by the U.S. Military. Of course, that was already in the British newspapers before it briefly resurfaced on the news here, then sank again. Of course, the local paper’s main story is about a rest area opening on I-74. The city of Farmer City paid about $750000 of the cost. Mayor Maurice “Pedo” Miller solemnly flushed the first toilet 9 AM yesterday. As he emerged from the stall, belt buckle glinting, a few flashbulbs popped. $750,000 out of more than $8,000,000. I’m in a bit of a pinch myself, moneywise. Like wondering how I’m going to pay for my next staple and stuff and stuff like that. I work in a used bookstore. Yesterday someone came in and tried to sell us the rosetta stone and the dead sea scrolls. I gave them five bucks for them. I make five-fifty an hour though last Sunday after I closed I vacuumed the whole store and paid myself overtime. In books. I got a copy of Anton Weber’s letters to Richard Strauss and a copy of Anna Mahler’s prison notebooks. I don’t get out much. I think I was meant to be a housewife or on home electronic detention. I think I was meant to be a butterfly or fixture. According to legend, I was born with a typewriter correction ribbon in my hand. I gotta figure out someway of getting more money. Marijuana doesn’t grow on trees you know. Wait a minute—it does grow on trees. Right now I’m drinking a Saki screwdriver sans orange juice. I’m trying to grade 34 6-page papers which is like trying to read 204 pages three times each which is a lot like trying to read 612 pages. Nothing political usually, nobody is going to touch East Timor or Iran-Contra or even the Mitsubishi Plant right there in their hometown. Remember that time we were drinking in that weird bar—the Aviary—and were served gin and tonics in coconut-wide champagne glasses along a birdshit splattered bar. Shrieking cockatiels fought for your cocktail onion. A family of mallards wandered past our ashtray and plunged flapping into the bar sink. I was poor then but now I’m just textual. I don’t get old I just get more predictable. My life remains interesting. Pastors for Peace is crashing on my couch tonight—their school bus full of sandwiches and medical supplies for Chiapas in the backyard parked between The Newspoetry Mobile Cow and Mark’s Toyota Planter; and Rick knows Moxy Fruvous. I have one student writing about his lobotomy and another writing about her golf game. Getting along with people is at least as difficult as grading their papers. Like sometimes someone will ask you to drain a swamp, and you try but maybe they’re hurt by your failure to drain the swamp, and you’re digging and digging but the hole keeps filling up with sludge and they’re getting angrier and angrier. Or when someone asks you to build a dominochain on a movingtrain. Or build a house of cards in a revolving door. Did I mention that that was my hobby? Most people don’t appreciate the politics of such a futile undertaking. It is the politics of hope and sunflowers. I have given my class (English 145— RhetComp 2000—the use of definite articles in Medieval Textsetting) nearly complete freedom. They merely have to write forty polished pages in the next month at the last minute. CIA chief braves South-Central’s anger and suspicion: At unusual community meeting, people demand proof the agency didn’t sponsor drug trafficking. In a move described as unprecedented, you had your phone number changed, even as the head of the Central Intelligence Agency on Friday fielded questions from a mostly black group of about 500 people at a community meeting in South-Central Los Angeles. “I did not come here thinking everyone here was going to believe me,” CIA Director John Deutch said after an often-raucous session that began with a mix of applause and boos, and was punctuated by heckling; unlike the standing ovation the Kronos Quartet received as I scrawled your ephemeral phone number on the back of the program.

“(But) I go away with a better appreciation of what’s on your mind . . . (and) a conviction that we’re going to do more to stop drugs coming into the United States.”

I snorted near the end of the concert: I don’t know what I was thinking. Show me your art. Call me please please please. And put all of my writing in glass sculptures. I’ve already signed the copyrights into your name in hope that you will.



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The Unknown at Spineless Books.