Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for December, 2011

Sixty-three

Posted by ilbebe on December 31, 2011

This you already know: I am using words to try and tell you something. Since we are not physically together now, that is all I can do. I could call, but do I know your number? Do I know who you are?

I used to fear you. You were my fear. You were the potential of failure, and for years I did not pursue my art because of the threat I perceived from you. I realize now I was grossly mistaken. The fear is not real. You are not the fear. I should have asked you sooner. Perhaps you could have tried harder to tell me, but all change must essentially come from within. I do not begrudge you this fact. I hope we can make up for lost time, but I am extremely hopeful this can be done, because there is no such thing as lost time.

The only way it would be possible to lose time is if it existed at all. But it does not. As we mark the passage of time, we do because that is how we were instructed to mark the passing of our lives and our course through this world, which we share. I am so glad you are here. You will be hearing more from me as the next year unfolds, but please do not think for a moment that I am not available for listening. Everyone has their own story to tell, and I have identified that my dedication to everyone’s right to the freewill to conduct their life as they see fit is the central passion of my life, from which all of my other passions must flow.

I will use words, as I have done in the past. Perhaps I will acquire new skills, start a band again. I am not worried. I am done using reductive, divisive language. I apologize that I have used the wrong words in the past, and I am sorry that I did not correct my path earlier. But that is okay. It is okay with me, and I hope it okay with you.

This is the last confession I have to make about this year, 2011: It has been good.

It has been the best one yet, because it has not quite ended yet.

And next year, oh boy.

Next year will be even better.

Further, there are many more years to come, and Hot Dawg! If I’m not damn pleased to spend them with you.

I love you, and I wish you a happy and healthy new year. I wish you all the abundance you need, or even just want.

I am doing good, and you can do even better.

I believe in you.

I will be there for you to support you and care for you and provide as much as I can spare.

I’ve got more and more to spare with each of these words.

Enjoy!

Peace-

-Saturday, December 31, 2011, 7:03AM, home, looking to the future with eyes wide open and smiling—waiting until I can see you again…

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Sixty-two

Posted by ilbebe on December 29, 2011

It is with astounding ease that we become invisible in this age. We can drink ourselves thin, or with the aid of the facebook, grow to a point imperceptible by people of the book. Of the book! Of the cloth, of the feather, who are these birds who flock together? What sort of able-bodied member of any flock could ignore the lamb laying down on 38th and Broadway?

Learning to disappear is a progression of the path begun with learning to be late. Disappearing is simply an extension of being late; i.e., disappearing is being so late that you never in fact return. The ability to disappear can quickly be modified into the ability to threaten suicide, and it can be wielded very capriciously if one does not keep a strong finger on their own pulse. It is damn difficult to keep your own pulse while strapped to a gurney and loaded into an ambulance which offers faint and unwelcoming odors of death, present death. A first encounter with living death, in which you must charge yourself with avoiding the ranks of the living dead.

I recently had a bad experience in a restaurant with my girlfriend B. The essence of what made the visit unpleasant was that we were routinely ignored throughout the duration of our stay. Sound familiar? You have a bad flight – have another! You have an unsatisfactory experience in a hotel room – come again! Your burger made you sick? Have another one! Right now! Here it is!

An immediate and caring response is practically the only thing that can resolve dire customer service issues. I have been a worker, and a supervisor, and a customer, and a foreigner. I have done my best to do what is right for everyone involved at the moment. When the most appropriate thing to do is to get a supervisor, that is what I have done in most instances. When there was a way to resolve the dispute more quickly by breaking policy, I have broken policy. I have broken the rules of the workplace, I have broken the rules of society, I have broken the rules of nature.

I would do it all again gladly if the reward was as treasurable as the one I have received: a life on my own terms. Fought for and won. Up and down left and right, entirely mine. Of my own mien. The product of my own accumulated change.

I have to remove myself from the fray occasionally. Things get too loud, too much static builds up. I must become invisible in a way similar to the way I have been treated invisibly too many times before, when I did not want to be treated thusly. I am okay with it now.

I shall continue to be.

You are welcome to join me.

Peace.

–2:13AM Wednesday night/Thursday morning 12/29/11

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Sixty-one

Posted by ilbebe on December 22, 2011

My name is Landon Phillips, and I’m not afraid to tell you that. I offer this informance in the spirit of identification with others, others who may be different than yourselves. You are you, and you and you are you and you, and I am I, and that is that, and the only hope we stand of bridging the gap of self that keeps us on islands of eternal solitude are the stormy seas of misfortune and fame that are the acts of speaking to one another or merely perceiving each other’s existence.

They call boxing the Sweet Science, even though it primarily consists of trying t’ punch yr opponent in the head. Science!

They call psychotherapy a quack science since it involves acknowledgment of the right of natural law of another’s head to exist and the possibility of there being currency in the exchange of dialogue between yr own head and the head of another. Science?

Yr life is yrs, but yr life is lived in a shared world, and mine is and has been full of strange characters and heroes and ordinary people and ordinal numbers. Eleven is the smallest ordinal number, and the hour of decision. If y cannot comprehend the meaning of this coincidence, consider yrself ordinary. Most people cannot decipher the meaning of the ostentatious bullshit that ostensibly informs, elucidates, and enriches our lives. It is for this reason I refuse to change the course of our monocussion to farts. I have farted twice since this informance has begun, well, twice and a half, and I was hoping you wouldn’t notice…nor was I planning to inform you.

This is what I feel is not worth wasting too much time on. I see television commercials telling me to chase what matters, and I get sad, and then angry, and then indifferent, and then here now, telling you that I didn’t need them to tell me that. May the war of the pronouns begin!

They may tell you I am a troubled soul, and a man of darkness, and an agent of war, but I tell you now, in close proximity, that I a man of peace, and I wish peace. Through the knowledge possible, I hope to bring you peace. I hope to be a small part of a new peace. My five minutes are done, but I would like you to think about my message, and if you have any questions, I’ll be at the bar.

Peace.

12/22/11 4:45AM, home

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Sixty

Posted by ilbebe on December 21, 2011

A small package of documents arrived near the end of July 1999 for me at my parent’s house. It contained a cover letter on blue paper signed by a girl named Sarah that explained that she was a marine biology major entering her third year of study at Humboldt State University, and she was excited to be the living group advisor for Hemlock Hall for the academic year ‘99-‘00. There was a drawing at the bottom of the page of a whale swimming in the ocean, smiling and blowing a stream of water out of its blowhole. This was my introduction to the dorm where I lived during my freshman year of college. The summer camp vibe described by the cover letter would continue into practice once I moved up to Arcata at the end of August.

My roommate that year was my good friend from high school G, who had somewhat reluctantly agreed to request me as a living companion. We got along well enough as friends, but he feared that my interest in keeping a moderately clean and orderly room might impinge upon his preferred manner of existence, elements of which included only putting on pants to leave the building, idly poking at the ingrown toenail on his left foot which had been festering for almost two years, and spending hours at a time harassing fellow amateur poets on an internet message board. His suspicions were completely justified; and furthermore, he was not hopeful about me dealing well with the long-distance phase of my relationship with my girlfriend back home that had just begun, which also proved to be well-grounded speculation. In other words, it was an ideal match for dorm living.

We were both rather excited about our first encounters with high-speed internet access, and G took advantage of these newfound opportunities by buying assorted knick-knacks from eBay, including a Dead Poets Society button which read “Carpe Diem”, and an Urkel poster. The button he modified with a piece of bandage tape to read “Carpe Diem MOTHERFUCKER”, and the Urkel poster nicely complemented the Last Supper tapestry we used as an area rug in the center of the room.

It is crucial to note that Hemlock Hall was the Health and Wellness building in our set of dorms. I took this label to mean that although underage drinking and drug use was prohibited in all campus housing, in Hemlock Hall and other designated Wellness buildings, the Housing Office wanted to stress that they were not kidding. It was somewhat of a surprise that G and I had been assigned to Wellness living since we had not requested it, but we soon discovered that an amusing side effect of this status was that tours for prospective students were routinely led through our building. The often-inaccurate assumption was that auspicious behavior would be at a minimum.

The highlight of many strange encounters with housing tours came one afternoon when G was sitting in our room alone and with the door open, the norm in our hall. A small tour came by, and the guide asked if they could step into the room for a closer look, failing to notice that G was not wearing pants. He assented and the group entered, carefully considering the Urkel poster, the curious smell of body odor and sugar, and Garrett’s pantslessness. Moments later, a glance at the floor led a large elderly black lady to exclaim Oh Lord! I just done stepped on Jesus!

One side of the room abutted the stairwell, and on the other side was a single room occupied by a dickhead preppy from Seattle I’ll call T-nuts. Living next to the stairwell was frustrating because it was entirely concrete and glass, and the door to the hallway shutting produced a thunderous echo, which was all the more pronounced late at night when the dorm was otherwise quiet. Our relationship with T-nuts quickly devolved to the point where G stayed up all hours of the night playing bass through a variety of echo, wah, and other pitch-shifting effects with the speaker of his amplifier turned towards the wall between our room and T-nuts’. The aim of his all-night “musical” wanderings was to disrupt T-nuts’ sleep and hasten either his suicide or departure from the university. I was behind G’s effort wholeheartedly.

The room across from T-nuts’ was a double occupied by M the Stinky Native American and Felix. They did not get along well. Felix had turned 21 a mere six weeks into the fall semester and was not amused by our constant requests for his help in getting booze. He was dating a girl who had moved up to Eureka to stat close to him and had taken a room in a house with “two filthy hippies”, as Felix described them. M the S.N.A. was part Native American, enough to qualify for a generous scholarship at least, and a San Jose native– never promising. He smelled bad, played acoustic guitar, and was trying to perfect his rendition of the vapid Goo Goo Dolls hit ‘Name’. Felix had an old office chair on casters that he had brought up from home to use, and he explicitly forbade anyone, not even his girlfriend, to sit in it but himself.

One afternoon G and I were in our room with the door open when Felix abruptly appeared in the doorway clad in nothing but plaid boxers and black leather boots.

“That fucking asshole is in my chair.”

Felix had returned from a shower to find M the S.N.A. in his chair, and was apoplectic. G and I listened to Felix rant for twenty minutes, and when he was done venting, G and I stared at him and went “Uhhh…” in unison.

“He smells bad, and all I ask is that he not sit in my chair, and he was in my chair!” This re-capped his rant very efficiently. On that he turned and left. My new pal C showed up a moment later and asked “Was that Felix that was just here?” C had seen Felix walking back to his room.

“Yeah.”

“Was he just wearing boxers and boots?”

“Yeah. He was really mad. M the S.N.A. was sitting in his chair again.”

“Oh.”

Another newly-21-year-old named B lived on the other side of T-nuts. B was an odd guy who was not hesitant to advise against using the middle shower stall (“That’s the jerk-off shower”) or to reach through the curtain to goose you while showering. He was a good deal more accommodating about buying you booze than Felix, and had an air of Jack-Mormonism about him. He was also a huge Faces of Death enthusiast. Last I heard of him, he was moving up the management chain for a national car rental agency.

Across from B lived DC, a really nice and mellow guy who surfed and listened to Desire by Bob Dylan more than I would previously have dreamed possible, and at either end of the hallway were the four person mini-suites.

The contrast between the two mini-suites was striking. At one end of the hall lived four guys who had met during an orientation weekend over the summer and decided to room together in Hemlock Hall because of its Wellness building status. The leader of this gang was a fearless boho named Anton. He had convinced D, P and J into requesting their suite under the logic that “we can party elsewhere and then when we come home at night it’ll be quiet.” As an aside, I later found out that, if you discounted Anton’s gang’s specious reasoning, only two of the fifteen guys on the floor had actually requested Wellness living. Unsurprisingly, these two people were B the execution admirer and M the S.N.A.

Anton’s and his gang were relentless party animals. D was of all things a huge Pearl Jam fan from Oregon who mistrusted the population of any state that allowed common citizens to pump their own gas; P looked somewhat like Casper the Friendly Ghost if Casper had died a few more times and kept returning; and on the topic of returning, J came back two days late from winter break because in a weed-clouded month at home he had forgotten about being enrolled in college. P almost burned the place down when he left a candle burning on top of the TV overnight, and J is now a cop. But Anton was the craziest. He was fond of the point and shoot hand motion greeting that people often employ when they cannot remember someone’s name. He shaved with a whisk brush and straight razor, wore a beret, and extolled the virtues of farting in class. He banged chicks in the shower several times a week, and not just in the jerk-off stall!

The other mini-suite’s population was less outrageous. Sammy was a mush-mouthed Mormon from Arcadia, a biographical fact that caused him much grief at parties in those first few months.

“Where ya from, buddy?”

“Arcaya”

“Oh, you’re local, huh? I haven’t actually met anyone from around here. Why did you stay around for college?”

(rage growing) “Noo, Orin Cowme!”

It was ridiculous how many times I saw that happen.

Nick was a pretty average dude that was also from San Jose, something I could never really get past. He got in trouble for throwing a football in the hallway that hit and triggered a fire alarm. The punishment for this offense was to draw a series of public service banners that read IT IS NOT A GOOD CALL TO PLAY BALL IN THE HALL. This was precisely the sort of sophisticated message I knew I would encounter in college.

Sean was in his third year at Humboldt State and had every intention of becoming a career student. He was an affable guy with a goofy sense of humor, perhaps best exemplified by the ‘Black Death European Tour 1348’ t-shirt he wore. When I graduated three years later, he had just wrapped up his sixth year, and was looking forward to his seventh.

The fourth member of their suite I can’t recall for the life of me, try as I might. Was he so singularly unremarkable? Did he drop out of school three weeks into the semester like our RA Sarah did? (That’s another barrel of laughs; after Sarah-the-whale-artist’s departure, our new RA came in and turned a blind eye to some activities that would be pushing the envelope in international waters.) Was I distracted by the hours-long phone calls I made to my long-distance squeeze? I’d like to say not being able to recall him will haunt me for the rest of my days, but that would be an exaggeration. Whenever I get frustrated trying to remember his face, I just have to think, “That fucking asshole is in my chair!” and all is right in the world…

Epilogue, 30 hours later, 2:25AM 12/22/11: I have been thinking about the material described previously for the previous 33 hours, a span of time covering when I first started trying to write about the subject thru when I felt I had reached a sufficient stopping point to rest and publish my output. I have since come to remember that there was no fourth person in the second mini-suite, in fact, the character I have described as Sean had no roommate in his be-bunkbedded room. My memory is entire. In his third year of college, Sean had convinced his parents to purchase him a “super-single”- a double-occupancy room just for him- at a slight discount.

What strikes me about this is the totality of my memory. I seem to be unable to forget things, and perhaps this is why it distresses me that so many of my memories are distressing, unsettling-

Has my life been bad?

Will it continue to be?

Do I stand a fighting chance at making it any better before I die?

The end is no end, but this life of mine will one day come to an end, and is there a snowball’s lot in hell for a man like me, whom you don’t meet just every day??

In the limbic system of our psyche exists lymph, bilge– the detritus of the scabs we peel off of our accumulated experience in order to further our emotional development that unfortunately occasionally piles up in nearly unbearable loads, leading to the blockage of our ability to not explode. In these times of overload, some turn to prayer, some turn to drink, some turn to both, some turn to both twice daily. Some explode. Some survive. Some implode. Some shift their focus in the war. Some recover their ability to participate in the struggle.

I hope to feel that I am part of the last category.

Second epilogue, 31 hours later, 9:37AM 12/23/11: I have come to realize I was mistaken about both the factual matter described and the confidence declared in the first epilogue. This in and of itself makes an interesting comment on human fallibility. Even if my memory is entire, is it all accessible, all at once, any time? Doubtful, but man doubts, even the faithful. Around Christmas time, we remember the faithful departed, and must consider the limit of our own existence.

The fifteenth member of the floor, and fourth person in the second mini-suite, was a guy named Luka. I understand now why I found it hard to remember him, which is simply and mostly because we never spoke that much. I remember his face, but not where he was from, his major, his other interests, if he ever dated, what he liked or loved. He had red hair, and was a shorter fellow. That’s about all I remember. I think his last name rhymed with Cloberts, but I’m not sure.

Well Luka, now yr a part of this mess. But the greatest punishment is to be left out of the record, and nothing you did or didn’t do should have led you to that fate. I hope this second epilogue atones for my error. It was unintentional, and if anyone caught it, they didn’t tell me. I’d hate to think I’m in this alone, but I do sometimes. I know I’m not, but in light of continual negative returns, it is hard to keep a positive attitude.

Look-

Here comes the sun!

9:47AM

Peace.

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Fifty-nine

Posted by ilbebe on December 17, 2011

A few months into working the greatest job I’ve had so far at Smug’s Pizza in Old Town Eureka, I realized that for all the job’s virtues, I wasn’t really making enough money. King Cobra forties were holding steady at the same “sale” price of $1.49 that they’d been at for more than three years, but $1.49 being significantly more than free I decided it was time to take a second job. A few years earlier my friend Craig had taken a job delivering a local advertising paper and had quickly realized that no one seemed the wiser when he just tossed all of his route out at the local recycling center. It seemed like a good fit.

I scheduled an interview for an hour before I had to go into Smug’s one day and got ripping high before I left the apartment, figuring that would be a crucial safeguard against taking the job even remotely seriously from the get-go. My strategy proved wise. The interview was one of several I’ve been in where the manager basically described the job and then asked if I felt like I could handle it. With my eyes wide open, I said that indeed I felt that was up to the task of delivering the crucial message of the Weekly. My soon-to-be supervisor sat up a little straighter in his chair and remarked “You seem like a highly motivated individual.” In my mind, I thought “I’m so motivated! Why haven’t I gone to interviews stoned before?”

So I was given the job, and the opportunity to take on four different routes in three distinctly different parts of Arcata. I would begin the following week; on Tuesday, a bulk delivery driver would deliver approximately four-hundred papers to my apartment that I had to fold, bag, and then deliver. The wage differed route to route depending on the size of the route, i.e. how many addresses the route contained. Keep in mind this was an advertising rag that contained no editorial content that was delivered free and unsolicited to every house in the “metro” Humboldt Bay region. I was an independent contractor, so my earnings would not be taxed up front on my wages, and for my weekly efforts distributing this noble compendium of used car and yard sale listings, I would make around sixty dollars.

The bulk delivery arrived as scheduled Tuesday morning, and I set to work folding and bagging the papers in my living room while listening to a Cream album, Disraeli Gears, that I’d bought from the boyfriend of a Smug’s co-worker at their yard sale two weeks earlier. I figured it would take an hour, instead it took closer to three. I started delivering the papers around three and figured it would take an hour to deliver all the papers. It took four. I sighed, realizing this expenditure of my precious time, better spent getting high again and brainstorming other opportunities for grift, was a necessary sacrifice to scout out my routes. The following week’s delivery was accompanied by the desired results of my reconnaissance.

This was the “start/stop” list, which simply listed addresses which had taken the time to call the Weekly’s offices and request one of three things. The first, and most common, note was the stop order, which mean an address no longer wanted delivery. My supervisor, who I saw only one more time after being interviewed and hired, stressed that the most crucial requirement of my post was to obey stop orders. “These people take the time to call me and my staff, and say all kinds of nasty things to me about not wanting this garbage thrown on their driveway, and if it happens again, blah blah blah. They’re sad little pricks, so you just don’t want to deal with ‘em and I DO NOT like taking their calls. So read the list.” Clearly the business acumen that had propelled him to the lofty post of Assistant Delivery Coordinator had been honed at the school of Fuck A Squeaky Wheel.

The other orders were either special instructions for delivery, i.e. “Put it on the porch near the door”, or start orders, where an address hadn’t received the paper the week before and wanted one delivered. This often happened mainly because the Weekly’s crackerjack distribution management team was having a devil of a time keeping a consistent crew of drivers employed. Strange, I know, that a ridiculous minimum-wage job performing an act that a majority of county residents, if they could be bothered to form an opinion, saw as a malicious nuisance would have such high turnover, but these were the wild and wooly times of August 2004. Killboy Fuckbot, an eleven-piece musical collective that my friends had assembled, was on tour in Eastern Washington. Strange things were afoot.

In any case, I had two start orders, three special delivery instructions, and nineteen stop orders. Based on this data, I furthered my investigation, hoping to calculate the minimal amount of effort required to do the job, by delivering only the five papers that had been requested that week and taking the other 395 straight to the recycling center. This took forty minutes, which I took to represent a nearly 600 percent increase in my hourly wage. I was riding pretty high on the hog, and also on marijuana.

The following week the list contained the same two start orders, the same three delivery instructions, and two new start orders. This seemed to confirm that market conditions for the Weekly had gone unchanged in the year and a half since my friend had done the job, which is to say that fully 99 percent of the county was fundamentally indifferent as to whether they received the paper or not. I requested two more routes, raising my weekly pay to about eighty-five dollars.

The scheme proceeded flawlessly for about three months, and could probably have gone on for many more months, if not years, but unfortunately I lost my mind and my job at Smug’s after a disastrous break-up and subsequent trip to Las Vegas. I returned from Vegas completely unhinged by the events of the prior three weeks to find a message on my answering machine from a woman who worked at the Weekly who I had never heard of or met. Apparently she was my supervisor’s superior, and her careful vernacular and tendency to make questions out of statements evidenced an advanced education.

“Hi, I’m calling for Landon Phillips, this is so-and-so with the Weekly, who you deliver for? I’m calling because the Arcata city council will be holding a meeting next week to discuss banning delivery of the Weekly, which would affect your job, and we would like you to go to the meeting and say that like, you like your job at the Weekly, and you do a good job, and you follow all the stop orders, and like, the City Council shouldn’t ban the Weekly. The meeting is next Monday at 7 PM at the Council Chambers, which are at City Hall, and if you have any questions…” and so on and so forth. The message was more than a minute long, and I had to listen to it three times before it started making sense.

The owner/editor-in-chief of the legitimate town newspaper, the Mouth, had been mounting a campaign for nearly two years trying to find a way to ban home delivery of the Weekly, not out of competitive spite, but because he saw the uncollected papers that routinely piled up in the city’s sidewalks and gutters as an eyesore and a nuisance that was costing the city money for waste removal and storm drain maintenance. Popular opinion was relatively indifferent to the issue, but I felt he had the facts on his side. Through his journalistic efforts, he had gotten the City Council to place a discussion item on the agenda considering adoption of an ordinance that would ban distribution of “nuisance publications”, which he sought to define as unsolicited advertising materials. Windshield fliers for a local cash advance business were mentioned in an editorial that ran the week after the meeting, but it was pretty transparent that it was the Weekly that he had in his crosshairs.

I received a follow-up call from the same functionally anonymous Weekly supervisor the day before the meeting, the first Sunday of November.

“Hi, this is so-and-so, from the Weekly? Who you work for? You still work for us, right?”

“Um, yes, I delivered my route last week and was planning on doing it this week as well…”

I hadn’t delivered my route that past week. Before returning to Arcata from Las Vegas, a cancelled flight had triggered a series of life-changing decisions that had seen me shirking the obligation I had made to staff a polling place in Arcata on election day, November 2. Instead I had started the day with a Peach MD 20/20 while en route to Riverside, CA with three friends I was in a band with to meet another friend attending the University of California there who had lined up some gratis studio time for us to record. The evening saw the five of us continuing southward to Tijuana and my attempting suicide with booze and cold capsules. The next morning we woke up and were told that Bush had been re-elected following some uncertainty with the results from Ohio. I couldn’t believe the US had re-elected a killer. I didn’t give much consideration in the days that followed to my small peanuts job delivering a garbage rag.

“Oh, well, that’s good to hear. Did you get a call from someone here about the City Council meeting?”(Yes, from you, in fact. You left a message. You don’t remember, huh? Perhaps that’s because I have no idea who you are and I doubt you have any idea who I am either. It is very odd to get a call from a complete stranger telling you to do something. It seems an ill-considered and desperate act, and sort of makes me wonder if I should do it.) “Yes, I was planning on going.”

It was no problem convincing my friend T to go with me to the Council meeting. “You mean the guy from the Mouth got the City Council to consider banning the Weekly? And the Weekly called you to ask you to speak on their behalf? Don’t you just take the papers to the recycling center?”

“Yeah”

“Meet me at my place at six, we’ll have a couple of beers and walk down there together. I’ve always wanted to go to a Council meeting. This is going to be great.”

The call to order proceeded on time, and the two agenda items ahead of the discussion item were past minutes adoption and a simple proclamation reading, which was all said and done with in less than ten minutes. The meeting had begun, and the battle was on. After reading the agenda item and making it very clear that this item was not a proposed ordinance, but simply a discussion item to consider whether an ordinance should be proposed, the floor was opened up for public input.

The first speaker was the president of the Weekly, who emphasized his Rotary membership and pleaded with the City Council to keep the Freedom of Speech in mind when considering putting him out of business. Groans went up from the audience, but the Assistant Delivery Coordinator, who was sitting in front of me but had not recognized me (since he had met me only once, three months earlier) leaned towards his confederate sitting next to him and muttered “First amendment, motherfucker.”

The next speaker was a local kook who spoke at every council meeting at incomprehensible length about the need for protection against some cosmic threat posed by the Man only tangentially related to the actual idea that was ostensibly the topic of the public input. That guy was nuts. I wondered what grocery stores cashiers thought of him, if they knew his theories or if he was able to keep his gargantuan intellect in check long enough to buy corn flakes without incident.

After five more speakers, it was eight o’clock and a brief recess was called. T and I went outside to make some last-minute adjustments to the statement I was going to make. Then I went back inside, stood in line for another twenty minutes while three more people each spoke past the five-minute time limit, and then the floor was mine.

“Hello, I’m Landon Phillips, I’ve been a resident of Arcata for five years now, and I just wanted to say that it has been a pleasure and a privilege to come to this meeting and see firsthand how the people of this town waste your time talking about extraordinarily trivial matters. I’m moving away soon because of this sort of nonsense, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to come up here and speak pointlessly to you and to my fellow citizens. Thank you for your time.”

As I retook my seat, the Assistant Delivery Coordinator muttered to his confederate “Who the fuck is that guy?”

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