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Saturday, July 8, 2000

When the humorless FedEx guy brought my package at 11:38 this morning, I had a dilemma. I had about thirty pages to go in Dave Eggers' book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which has some magic of its own. As I've mentioned, I'm a _ s_l_o_w _ reader, and I wasn't going to get through over seven hundred pages of anything in one day anyway, especially with a ballgame to listen to and the Freaks and Geeks marathon tonight.

"She did put enough stamps on, then."

I'm not just a slow reader, I'm a re-reader. Passages worth savoring get the full treatment, as if they were poetry. Here's a secret: I like the sound of my own voice, reading out loud. I have no illusion that the sound is pleasing to anyone else, and since I'm not an actor I never considered voice-over work, although my friend Betty seems to enjoy it. But in days when I had a working tape recorder, I would sometimes read poems into it and play them back, just to hear the words out loud.

But I read through the last part of the Eggers book quickly, so that I could get on to the new book. I'll go back and read the other one again when I have more time to devote to it. Then I wasted fifteen minutes looking through my cluttered rooms for the dust cover. When I'm reading a hardcover book, I always put the jacket in a safe place, the better to preserve the edges. This one I'd squirreled away in the drawer with all my unused extension cords and video cables.

By the time the Giants game started, I'd only managed two chapters of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Incredibly, the game wasn't being televised, and I wasn't about to watch the Rockies and Angels when the Giants are on a seven-game inning streak. (Now it's eight.)

Rather than sitting in front of the computer with the game on the radio, I invented a few errands so that I could drive around with the voices of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow keeping me company. I finally used the last few bills in my wallet to do the grocery shopping I put off last night, and I filled the gas tank. I didn't have to drive all the way across town to get gas, but I like the folks and Keith and Don's Union 76 station, so that's where I usually go.

The Home OfficeWhile I was out, I drove past the old place. Remember the Home Office? And all the work the owner was going to do so that he could charge the new tenants double the rent I was paying there? The place looks exactly the same, at least on the outside. It's badly in need of painting, and they haven't replaced the dented garage door, something they've been talking about for years. Instead of replacing the mangled screen door, they just removed it. The yard is about as presentable as it was when I left. I'm sure the house is quite lovely on the inside, but I didn't stop.

So, let's recap: This was a good day because I got to sit down and read for a change, and I got out of the house, and the Giants won. I watched three episodes of the only TV show that makes me laugh and cry at the same time. I also stopped obsessing (for now, at least) about what's going to happen next week, whether or not I'm going to get a week at the lake, and where my next dollar is coming from. I'll do all I can to make things work out, and I trust that they will. Why I can't be this rational and serene about it every day, I'm not sure. But there you go.

If I hadn't committed myself to writing every day, you wouldn't know nearly as much about me. I probably wouldn't write anything on days when I felt as depressed as I did yesterday. But then, I wouldn't get any sympathetic messages, either, if no one knew when I was low, or knew me well enough to care. If impressive statistics were my goal in writing this, I should probably leave out those entries and write only on days when I'm feeling upbeat.

But who am I to judge the quality of my own life? I go from day to day and cope with the stresses and relish the joys, and it all comes out on these pages. I leave myself open to criticism by not censoring my emotional flightiness. It's not that there aren't things I don't write about, just that I don't try to hide how I feel about what I do write.

My lack of modulation would seem to leave me exposed to ridicule and scorn. I certainly serve heaping helpings of those commodities to myself, but the feedback I get is almost always positive and supportive. The relationship I have with the fine and discerning people who read these pages is something I've grown to treasure in the few months I've been doing this. I'll take quality over quantity any time.

And this leads me to Patrick's entry for July 7, Watchful Eyes, in which he uses the popularity of reality-based shows like Big Brother as a taking-off point for a discussion of privacy. He thinks it's overvalued. In fact, the more open his life is to the world, the safer he feels. He's the most direct and candid of journalers, much more so than I just claimed to be about a paragraph ago. He wouldn't mind taking it a step further and making his whole life accessible to anyone at any time.

Before I started writing online, I would have instinctively disagreed with the notion that privacy could be prized too highly. In fact, I wouldn't have given that side of the question much thought at all. But while I'm still creeped out by the total exhibitionism of the folks in the Big Brother house, I find myself agreeing that the more I've let people see of who I am, the better I feel about humanity in general, and the more optimistic I am about the future.

I do know that there's ample evidence to support a more cynical position. I used to subscribe to Diary-l, so I know that journalers are not a monolithic community of mutual love, respect and good will. Some people are mean. Some nice people say mean things. I'm glad to be below the radar when it comes to such matters. Maybe I've just been lucky, but I'll take it.

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Perhaps I should let you encounter kittens and grandmas,
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