Dial-Up Diva

I am sitting exactly as I was one year ago today. And just like one year ago today, I’m reading over email from you, telling me how you’re doing, and how you feel about my writing. Strange how our lives go in cycles, even when we think we’re doing something unpredictable. I love how there were so many familiar names in my inbox.

My computer crashed on Monday, taking with it the new novel I’d been working on and all of the nice email I’d received since Friday. I spent all of Monday trying to fix it. I called Sony, who basically told me that they don’t care about my problem and have no plans to fix it, even though it was the new battery that they sent me that caused the crash. I woke people up in the middle of the night. I scoured websites looking for someone with the answer to my question. I sat there with a disk that would just wipe the hard drive clean and start over. I made myself stop. I can’t believe I did it, but I made myself walk away from the computer and leave it. I cooled down. Now I have a new plan of attack. A friend is helping me out. I’m glad I didn’t delete it Monday night.

I just can’t stand having something broken like that. Something that I’ve fixed so many times. I understand computers. I’m the one that normally can fix it. I hate it when I have no control over the machine. I just sat there rebooting it over and over again, wishing it would play those soothing notes that mean Windows just started. But nothing. Just quiet and then a churning, and then the computer went into a loop and I would think about throwing it against the wall as hard as I could.

So, I’m staying away from it for now. All this work for thirty pages of a story and a few hundred pieces of email. But it’s right there inside the computer. I can see it; I just can’t touch it. It’s maddening. Like having an itch right between your shoulder blades, right above your brastrap. You can slam your back into a doorframe and rub back and forth, but you never scratch it just right. You can’t fix it.

But hopefully someone’s around to help.

I’m sitting next to my paper journal. It sucks. That’s the one thing I learned over the past year. I can’t keep a paper journal. I don’t know if it’s because it takes longer to write down words, or if it’s because I have no audience in a paper journal. But it’s some boring, boring shit right there.

It might as well be:

Dear Diary,
Today I went to the store and bought some milk. I can’t wait for ER tonight! Luka is so dreamy! Oh, well, gotta go. Laters!

It’s some seriously boring writing. I was pretty good at writing in it every day last summer, when I was unemployed and worried about what was going to happen to me. I was impatient with the pen, and found that I could only get good entries when I was stuck on an airplane. Then I had to sit and write. But if it was any other time I’d rather read a book.

I’d find that I had no real insight to give myself if I was just recording my day, and any time I felt compelled to write something with any meaning I’d choose to write a story or work on my novel or screenplay. I didn’t want to “waste” the words on just myself. I thought it might help if I jazzed up my journal. I chose paper without lines and drew pictures. I typed up my entry once and printed the pages. Then I taped the pages to the inside of the journal and drew all over them. It took two hours to do a diary entry, and it looks like a third grade art project.

I wish I could draw or paint. Play music. Do something expressive that doesn’t involve words. We always admire the talents we don’t have.

No, for real, my paper journal is assy. Here. This is an actual paragraph:

14 May 02

Took 2 walks today — one w/ Jessica and Alex, and the other with Laura. Got my hair cut rather short and layered. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t. I’ll probably have grown it out by summer’s end, anyway. I’m reading Middlemarch. Surprisingly, I like it.

You can’t stand that excitement! What a waste of paper. I’ve got like, five books filled with that drivel. Just me blabbing on like I’m stuck in homeroom, writing a note to some boy on a bus who won’t really read that note anyway.

Oh, Cal told me to tell you guys “Slen.” Before I forget.

So, Men In Black II. Saw that last night. You know, to show that Hollywood machine that we won’t allow ourselves to be dumbed down. If you blink, you miss the entire movie. And the worst part of it is the new “Black Suits Coming (Nod Ya Head)” song. I hate that not only do I know there’s a parenthetical sidebar in that song, but that it somehow has become the only piece of music to float around in my head for the past twenty-four hours. I hate it so much. I woke up this morning bobbing my head. To silence it, I tried remembering the theme song for the first movie. It took almost two hours. All I could remember were two claps, and something like, “M.I.B.! C.I.P.! Don’t you worry, you’re a V.I.P.!” Two claps and then “Bounce with me, just bounce with me, just bounce with me, come on!” And just when I was at a breakthrough, it’d turn back into “Nod ya head!”

I searched for an ice pick for my eye, but sadly, there was none.

Finally, I remembered. “Forget Me Nots.” That’s the song Will Smith ruined to make the original “Men in Black” song. “We are the Men in Black!” Clap-clap!

Yes, this is what I do on a holiday morning. What do you do, Mr. Judgington? The brain isn’t a healthy place before coffee.

I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, but the first scene with Lara Flynn Boyle, when you go see it (and don’t pretend you won’t. I know you.) — right after she goes back into the bushes to deal with her… um… belly problem, as she’s walking away, pretend I lean over and say in your ear, “Story of Lara Flynn Boyle’s life, right there.” Just do it.

Oh, man. I’ve put more thought into Men in Black this morning and this entry than anyone associated with the film put into the sequel. And I’m not trying to brag, but I do believe we’re both making the same amount of social importance and entertainment. And I don’t cost you twenty bucks and a popcorn belly ache.

It’s not that I’m obsessing over the movie. It was the song this morning. I just can’t let it sit there, not knowing the answer. Like on Monday. The amount of time I spent trying to fix my computer on Monday, I could have just rewritten those pages and even added a couple new chapters. I know that. I just can’t let something sit there.

And I’ll tell you why I’m losing it these days with my failing recall. (Is that even a sentence?) My new house doesn’t have DSL. Can’t get it. Nope. Tried. Failed. Men came out with little boxes and punched buttons and made promises and then nothing. No DSL. Never. Not gonna happen.

I’m on a dial-up. It’s like I’m in the past. I hate it. I hate it so much. And it’s one thing to have to wait twenty minutes to download all of your email and then delete 150 pieces of spam. And I’m used to the fact that monitoring my Television Without Pity forums now takes a full hour of my day. But the worst thing in the world is that I’m never just connected to the Internet. No longer do I have a quick question and the world at my fingertips to answer.

Because it’s two people sharing a dial-up. That’s a bowl of ice cream with one spoon. When I need to know who played Hotsie Totsie in Welcome Back, Kotter, I can’t just click a few keys on the IMDB and I’m off.

Do you understand what I’m saying? Now I have to think! I have to try and remember! I can’t just get the answer immediately. I have to burn my brain trying to remember the stupid theme song to Men in Black. There’s no quick relief. There’s no easy answer.

My brain is once again in its Trivial Pursuit fighting weight. It had gotten pudgy and lazy eating Google dripping with IMDB. The lyrics section had gotten kind of dusty. The history zone had been boarded up, renting out room to Bobby Hill impressions. Now I don’t have time for fluff. I have to keep all the doors unlocked and ready for anything. I can’t just slob around like a DSL lady of leisure. I’m a starving artist, a struggling scientist. I’m the crazed mathematician trying to figure out the millionth digit of pi.

Who played the voice of Fiver in Watership Down? Why are you asking me that? Why are you so cruel? Don’t you know I’m a dial-up ho? Slumming it on the 56K?

And don’t start with the cable modem stuff. I’m tired of that. It’s not a solution. You know why? Eight letters. A-D-E-L-P-H-I-A. You know what Adelphia means? “S-H-I-T-T-Y-C-A-B-L-E.” Instead of trying to get me a high-speed internet access solution, Mister Adelph was out buying sports teams and yachts with the million dollars a month I pay to watch Nigella Bites seventeen times a day. I’m dealing with Pac Bell and Adelphia, the pimps of Los Angeles. They’re giving me their leftover crack and I’m trying to make the best of it. I’m trying to play it off like the cool indy thing to do is to be totally retro computer-wise and dial it up.

I’ve just about convinced myself that dial-up is the new dsl. Poor is the new rich. Just don’t ask me to show you my Pop Culture Princess tiara, because these days it’s getting a bit dusty.

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