2000 Notebook: Transition XXXII
12 September 200021 September 2000
Haile Selassie Shoebox Fragment
Raymond, the homeless man who resides in a doorway near the laboratory, is always trying to sell me something. Sometimes it’s a piece of obsolete technology, like the eight-track tape player he rescued from a dumpster. Other times, he tries to sell me a newspaper he may or may not have taken from a nearby doorstep. Even though he’s never tried to sell anything that costs more than the price of a beer or two, I always declined his offers until today.

Raymond stopped me en route to the lab, and told me he had something “extra special” to offer me. Before I could remind him that I already have every thing I need and quite a bit more, he showed me a dirty scrap of cardboard.

Since I never know when to keep my mouth shut, I asked him what it was.

“It’s an actual piece of one of Haile Selassie’s shoeboxes,” he said in a lowered voice, cradling the fragment in two cupped hands.

“It’s obviously very dear to you,” I observed. “Why are you selling it?”

“I’m havin’ a bad, bad time, man, a real bad time. I hate to lose it, but the situation’s desperate, man, desperate. The pawn shops won’t give me nothing for it, so I gotta sell it. It’s yours for a c-note.”

“A hundred dollars!” I exclaimed. “Are you kidding?!”

“Perhaps you didn’t hear what I said,” Raymond said slowly, looking me in the eye. “This once belonged to Haile Selassie. The Ras Taffari Makonnen touched this relic.”

“I’ll tell you what,” I said, “I’ll give you five dollars for it.” I don’t know what got into me; this was the first time I’d ever seen Raymond so desperate.

“To hell with you, man!” Raymond shot back as he quickly put the precious scrap back in his shirt pocket. “Don’t insult me like that. Do not insult me like that. It’s a steal at a couple Benjamins, and you know it. You just better know it. Babylon comin’!”

As Raymond stalked away, I wondered whether he really did own a piece of Haile Selassie’s shoebox. Oh well, better him than me.

22 September 2000
Dreaming Dreams and Seeing Visions
In the book of Joel, Yahweh is quoted as saying, “Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” This seems a rather limiting and unambitious admonition for an all-powerful omnipotent being. On my good days, I usually both dream dreams and see visions. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s hard to have one without the other, or because I’m both old and young. Or, just possibly, my good fortune may in fact be attributed to my reluctance to take advice from anyone, including deities.

gratuitous image
23 September 2000
Big Gun Fun
For many years, I’ve been planning on making a number of artworks involving firearms. These nascent works, like the other hundred pieces in my “work in progress” [sic] hard drive, are nothing more—and nothing less—than ideas. Many of the works are in various stages of gestation, but some of the pieces are in aesthetic purgatory simply because of my sloth and lethargy.

The gun pieces, though, are in a unique category. I haven’t made them because I don’t have a single gun. And even if I did, I wouldn’t have a place to fire it. Until now.

I’m visiting Russ and Betty, my father’s brother and sister-in-law, at their home in Oregon. Russ has a few rifles and pistols, and he’s agreed to help me with my gun work. Tonight he’s introducing me to the family, starting with Mr. Smith & Wesson. I like the .44 pistol, it looks just like the gun cowboys and cops used to use before they switched to automatic weapons. Although Smith & Wesson’s classic design makes it feel like the Leica of small arms, there’s a problem. It turns out that .44 bullets are rather expensive compared to .22 cartridges.

I don’t have a problem letting monetary considerations affect my aesthetic decisions. I spend money when I need to, but I also like to use economics as a chance element.

Russ showed me the .22 semiautomatic pistol, and explained that all I have to do is squeeze the trigger, wait a zillionth of a second for the big bang, then I’m ready for my next shot. I suppose it’s kind of like using a Nikon with a motor drive, albeit just a bit noisier.

This is going to be big fun, big gun art fun.

gratuitous image
24 September 2000
Oakridge Gun Club
After Betty fixed us a lovely Sunday morning breakfast (juice, tea, coffee, fruit, homemade pastries, coffee cake, toast, a huge omelet, bacon, and an acre of hash brown potatoes), Russ and I threw enough guns and ammunition to take over a large shopping mall into the back of his car and headed for the Oakridge Gun Club.

I like the Oakridge Gun Club; it’s my kind of organization. There’s no dress code, although I borrowed Russ’s National Rifle Association hat just in case any of the locals looked askance at my San Francisco laboratory attire. The Oakridge Gun Club consisted of an old, stationary mobile home, complete with battered couch out front, in one corner of a large field. One side of the field was littered with targets: a few wooden posts, a couple of rusty trash barrels, and a curious assortment of tin cans, bowling pins, and other miscellaneous detritus. If the Oakridge Gun Club only had a drooling, old, yellow dog, it would be the perfect shooting venue. For just twenty-five dollars a year, though, it’s a fantastic bargain.

Russ drew a hundred-millimeter red circle in the middle of a paper plate, then attached the plate to a big sheet of cardboard. After walking ten meters away from the target, Russ handed me a loaded semiautomatic .22 pistol and reminded of the basic safety consideration, i.e., don’t shoot at anyone unless s/he fires at you first.

After taking almost a minute to aim at the target, I gently squeezed the trigger, then BLAM. I was surprised at the noise, followed a fraction of a second later by a huge cloud of dust behind the target where the bullet smashed into the ground. I thought I’d missed both the target and even the sheet of cardboard, but then saw I had a bull’s-eye. I shot twice more, and got two more bull’s-eyes.

After putting a few clips through the pistol, Russ gave me the .22 rifle with a scope. My first three shots were all bull’s-eyes from thirty meters away. Russ was quite chuffed; he thought I was “a natural.” I attributed my accuracy to decades of shooting with cameras. After learning to hold a camera motionless for half-second exposures, it was relatively easy to hold the firearms steady.

My initial sketches with guns suggest that I may have a tapped a rich, loud, aesthetic vein.

25 September 2000
Make My Noise All Day!
Liza, the six-year old daughter of some old friends, performed a wonderful song for me when I visited.

    Clang clang,
    Rattle and bang,
    Make my noise all day!

    Clang clang,
    Rattle and bang,
    Make my noise all day!

    Clang clang,
    Rattle and bang,
    Make my noise all day!

    (repeats endlessly)

After she repeated it a few thousand times, I decided that the silly song she’d written was incredibly annoying. I couldn’t stop thinking about the grating lyrics, and got a headache. Ouch!

There’s only one thing to do with a horrific song penned by an unknown author: plagiarize it! From now on, I shall claim that I wrote Make My Noise All Day!

Sorry about that, Liza. It’s like Jimmy Carter said, “Life is unfair.”

26 September 2000
In Touch with Reality
After discussing matters of consequence with Hannah, she opined that I knew “nothing about reality.”

I disagreed, and gave her proof. “Reality is where the pizza delivery people come from,” I said.

Hannah couldn’t argue with that, and didn’t.

27 September 2000
Drink as Much as You Want And Live Longer
When I returned to my laboratory after a brief trip to Oregon, I found a copy of Frederick M. Beyerlein’s book, Drink as Much as You Want And Live Longer, on my desk. Despite the laboratory’s rigorous security procedures, no one could explain where it came from.

I briefly skimmed the two-hundred page volume, then threw it away. And when I did, I thought of Henny Youngman, who said, “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.”

28 September 2000
Humane Goldfish Considerations
Eddie and I were discussing the humane aspects of keeping goldfish in captivity. It’s just great to live in such a wonderful world where we have the luxury of debating such matters.

I told Eddie that I thought it wasn’t really fair to keep a fish cooped up in a relatively small container. (I failed to add that I’m considering setting up an aquarium, and that I eat fish at every opportunity. This was a theoretical debate, and so my hypocrisy was irrelevant.)

Eddie disagreed. He claimed that a goldfish has a memory span of three seconds. Therefore, he maintained that by the time a goldfish has swam slowly to one side of a large bowl, it can simply turn around and rediscover the bowl, over and over and over again.

We concluded that our attention span wasn’t much longer than that of a goldfish, and turned our discussion to successful taco strategies.

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©2000 David Glenn Rinehart