Thursday, October 28, 2004

Strange Things Are Afoot at the Jewel Osco*

Over the course of two visits to the grocery store in the past two days, I have experienced the following:

1. I breeze down the tea aisle to grab a box of Celestial Seasonings Chamomile. (Hey, it already killed one cold that was threatening to manifest.) The woman standing at the end of the aisle notes my purchase and says with a huge smile--the sort of smile you might see on someone who has just gotten engaged or found out that the doctor's diagnosis of cancer of the puppy was in fact erroneous--says, "That's the best stuff!" I nod in agreement. I think she was looking for a high-five, though.

2. As I pull into the parking lot, Wilco's "Theologians" comes onto the CD player. At the same moment I see a nun (habit, wimple and all: what orders still do the dress code?) carrying her groceries to her car.

3. I am waiting my turn for an automatic checkout station with my purchase (a belated birthday card for my sister: I didn't exactly forget, I called her and everything, but I didn't send anything yet). In front of me is a very skinny man in faded, torn jeans and a paint-spattered t-shirt, with a scraggly blond beard. He is next. Around the corner, oblivious to the line, comes a youthful-looking fellow with the sort of haircut that looks like it belongs on one of those Fisher-Price people I used to play with, and a nose that looks like it belongs on a resident of Gormenghast. He steps up behind a woman finishing up her transaction at the auto-checkout. Skinny and scraggly jeans guy marches up and steps in front of Fisher-Price Gormenghast man. Fisher-Price Gormenghast man says something I can't hear, and Skinny and scraggly jeans guy returns immediately to his place in the line. Fisher-Price Gormenghast guy scans his two packages of caramel apples, plucks money out of a wallet/purse thing with so many zippers that even John Taylor circa 1985 would have suggested the designer show a little restraint, pays and disappears. By this time SSJG has found another self-service register. I so wish I knew what was said there.

*Points for the reference.**

**Points have no value whatsoever.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


1. I am, for some reason, obsessed with the Wilco tune "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." (If you go to the website you can listen to the whole album, but be warned. You'll want to buy it.) I don't usually get obsessed with songs this long (it clocks in at 10:48). My theory is that it has to do with the grad school mode; the rhythm line just kind of plugs along for a couple of minutes until Tweedy mumbles a few lines about spiders singing while they do their tax returns, then the guitar does a little riff. Tweedy sings about arachnids on their private beach in Michigan, the guitar answers, Tweedy, guitar. All the while the rhythm line just moves on, and yet somehow it's not monotonous; it's ominous and expectant and tense, kind of like grad school, and then the crunchy chords move in. Head-bobbing chords, telling little stories, pushing the narrative along--assignments due, presentations, papers, all seeming to come at once. Then they fade out, letting the rhythm line pulse under one furiously buzzing guitar . . . release? Frustration? Both? Then Tweedy, then the buzzing guitar, then the guitar again, calmer now, resigned. Tweedy, guitar, crunchy chords. There's something so blissful about the crunchy chords, a sense of happening, and when Tweedy joins in with them it's just perfect. This time the guitar that follows isn't as angry; it's dischordant still, but not unhappy. It's adding its voice to the mass, to the ridiculous and yet somehow exhilarating conversations that go on in scholarly circles. It goes on until it sputters out, then the chords crunch in again; the guitar is still there above, blending without being lost, still speaking. And then it ends, but in such a way that you understand the song could keep going forever. I listen to this song every morning and every afternoon, since it is almost exactly as long as my drive to and from work. It's ridiculously simple, even banal, and yet I'm not in the least tired of it.

2. I've decided that if Bush wins I'm going on a News Fast. I can barely stand to listen to the election coverage now; if the smug bastard gets in I don't think I'll be able to stomach any of the coverage without becoming physically ill. How long? I'm not sure yet--a week, maybe two. No NPR, no TV news, no Internet; that last will be the toughest part, since it's so pervasive. Why am I telling you all this? I have no idea. I just am.

3. Whoops, I have class in half an hour. No more randomness tonight.