a novel

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

April 1997

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

From: Nichelle
Date: 5 April 1997
Subject: the baseness of the body

I was going to call this letter "Beauty and the Yeast", but I've used that joke twice this week already. Saturday, April 5th turns out to be a really shitty day, which I know already at 9:03 AM. I threw a quasi-tantrum this morning at about a quarter to six when I discovered a hole in my only decent looking pants. We're such fucking slobs that I couldn't find a needle and thread for about ten minutes. Managed to get everything ready in time for the bus, thanks to a quick (cold) shower. Arrived at Le Moyne still a little breathless at 6:25, worked for thirty minutes off the clock (I punch in at 7:00), watched cartoons from 7:30 to 8:00 (register opens at 8:30). Drank coffee feeling like a toad, but at least I remembered to grab my various medications as I bolted out the door. I even remembered to give Matilda a treat. Forgot breakfast (well, didn't have time) but ate a bagel while watching "Rocko's Modern Life". This is a simple job. I make coffee. About 40 pots of it, two at a time, which takes about 30-45 minutes if I'm being ruthlessly efficient.

I'm sick and I'm not getting any better. My ear infection makes it a little tricky to play the clarinet, since I hear almost a half step flat in my left ear. I called in sick for rehearsal yesterday. (What the fuck? I just saw somebody walking off with the coffee pot from the 8:00 delivery I make (which was there at 7:00 today). Everything vanishes, so even when I check they've taken the coffee pots, baskets, extra cups and napkins, plastic knives, etc. Whatever.) Anyway, it's really beginning to depress me- this cycle of ear infections (I cunt hear you, I've got an ear infucktion.) and colds, taking pseudo-sudafed and antibiotics which gave me a yeast infection. On with the sanitary napkins and in with the Monistat 7. Believe me, it's gross. It's no wonder I'm grumpy. Once you add up all the symptoms it starts to look kind of grim. The only thing that cheers me up is the thought of moving to Seattle.. I'm excited by the idea of both of us being students. If that doesn't work out, maybe Gaby can get a job translating at Berlitz.

Quarter to ten already and I'm starting to resent the fourty pots of coffee I made and haven't sold. I've been lucky, though. The fuse only blew twice (so far). I don't even like coming to Le Moyne when I'm being paid for it now. I would enjoy majoring in English if English majors weren't so stupid. If we studied something. It's the same as last semester- the cycle of enthusiasm turned apathy turned 0.0, which was never my style as a music major. I'll try not to abandon all hope and squeeze something out of the remainder of the semester. A few Cs that will transfer to the University of Washington. Whenever I regain my good health (as good as it gets, anyway) I'm back to my music history review and my new professional jump rope (with weights in the handles and ball bearings) on the back steps where nobody can see me. It's not an exercise program for just anyone, I'm sure. I imagine it gets harder and harder to jump up and down the fatter you are. It isn't just the pull of gravity you've got going against you, but all the jiggly stuff: boobs and stomach and thighs and all that. Still, there's something appealing to me about my nice professional jump rope and my stylish new tennies out there hopping around on the back porch until I'm out of breath. (Won't take long, I fear.) Maybe Gaby will take a picture of me jumping up and down and post it on the web. Shit, I should go out there nekkid (W/ tennies and sporty socks) and we can make a little video (MPEG?) to post on the "Big Beautiful Women" newsgroups.

Now I'm feeling silly, but it's only 10:10 and I haven't got a paperback book in my backpack. I should make a rule that there will always be an unread paperback in there for emergencies like this one. I won't apologize for not writing. I do feel a bit guilty about it, but I've been a pile of doo-doo for over a week, not to mention that I've got two new obsessions: a video game (kind of a bouncy-ball thing) and Frank Zappa. No offense to Mr Zappa, but it doesn't sound too bad simultaneously out-of-and-in tune. Besides it helps to cure me of my boredom and grumpiness.

Twenty minutes more (of the current boredom and grumpiness) and I get to do some work again (lifting those heavy bins of juice bottles that tear off my knuckles), more TV, public restrooms, public transportation, Shoppingtown Mall, the search for a decent lunch and all of the horrible teenagers and old ladies who spend every weekend at the mall. Voluntarily. (amazing and perverse) Then the usual battle with the money drawer (ten paces and fire), the long wait for the bus, the agonizingly slow ride home, the brisk walk to the apartment. "How was it?" "Long." The usual conversation. I keep hoping to win the Bavarian Pretzel gift certificate (ten bucks anywhere in the mall) again, but also try to avoid buying anything (particularly Bavarian Pretzels) there like the plague. With my luck, I'll probably get the fucking plague.

Murder, how was your audition and where will you be next year? Where will you be at the end of June? If you're in WA (Spokaloo or Ellensburger) we'll take you to lunch. Your treat. Mmm, lunch. Guess who's hungry. I'm calculating the chances of finding a respectable bowl of soup at Shoppingtown. The odds are against me, but who knows? Maybe I'll get lucky.

From: Nichelle
Date: 7 April 1997
Subject: Rockin' Road Trip
Attached: Trip Plan.doc

Here's our trip plan for RL MOO bash 97.


From: SAGReiss
Date: 8 April 1997
Subject: $10, two pets

A new way to make artichokes more user-friendly: trim with scissors before steaming, cool when cooked, remove purple inner leaves, scoop out fuzzy shit with a teaspoon, stuff with bread crumbs, sausage and parmesan if desired. It was lovely last night despite our bickering. I guess I'm just beat, worried about money, waiting to hear from the University of Washington. I've sent a curriculum vitae to Berlitz in Bellevue. I would feel fine about the whole move, if only they would hire me. Otherwise I like the itinerary. In Minot (which Nichelle tells me is pronounced like "MY not" though I think it's "me NO") we can just pay ten dollars and say we've got two pets, Murtilda and negatron: "From the look of his eyebrows he may be hairier than she."

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 9 April 1997
Subject: Opus One

I think I've firgured out why I can't understand Amerikan wine lists and shops. We picked up this booklet: Wines and Foods from France http://www.frenchwinesfood.com and there is not one bottle I might actually have bought in France. It's all either table wine or, worse, shit that's packaged for export, which means they remove all the information from the label and add some Impressionist artwork. When I picked grapes in Bourgogne, I worked on a man's land in a tiny village called Nuits-Saint-Georges. So a bottle of good wine from grapes that I picked back in 1981 would say Appelation Nuits-Saint-Georges controlee. It would also have the name of the viticulteur, Monsieur SUK_MI_DIK, and the name of his propriete, Chateau SUK_MI_DIK. Georges Duboeuf and Baron Philippe de Rothschild are not viticulteurs. They are wine salesmen, capitalist dogs, parasites of the marketplace. So anyway, the lady bartender comes to work at half past eleven complaining about a hangover. Eventually she began to annoy me, so I said: "What did you drink to make you so wretched?" "Me and my boyfriend shared a big bottle [that's magnum for those of you in oenology class, plural magna] of Opus One." "What the fuck is Opus One?" "Robert Mondavi, two hundred and fifty dollars." "So it's the price that's making you feel bad?" No, the white trash bitch drank six glasses of wine and she's crying. This is a barkeep?

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Columbine
Date: 9 April 1997
Subject: Re: Opus One

I keep telling you, there are some of us who do know how to buy real  French wine in this country. (One of them ain't me; I buy the German  wine, the significant other buys the French wine.) But Gabriel, without a  second mortgage the good stuff costs so much after those capitalist  resellers have gotten their hands on it that the point is moot: doesn't  matter whether you know how to buy it in this country or not; no one can  afford it.

The significant other looked over my shoulder as I typed this, saw the  heading, and said "Anyone who knows anything about wine knows that Opus  One is overpriced and overrated."

Me: "He knows that. That's the point."

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: SAGReiss
Date: 10 April 1997
Subject: Potential New Member

I'm too fucking tired and disgusted to write. We need some good news in our household. I've had a very fucking bad day. Allen Ginsberg is dead. Here's the Lambda description of a fellow I might add to the list:

I am not on the left or right, right or wrong, don't ask and don't tell,
know the truth from what's fucked, don't like much beer and don't care where
it's made as long as it doesn't serve me some kind of elitest bullshit about
being a microbrew.
Don't mind fast cars but won't buy one until i am rich enough to give
food away, want to help but got enough shit on my mind to make me try fix
myself first, anything played with a kazoo is wacky even 'Ode to Joy' or a
funeral dirge.
Tie me up set me free the struggle within is strongest when the outside
is bound but don't play a game and don't say its the same as when you hurt me
and called me an asshole as we fought in the kitchen over love and clean
Don't tend to like country don't tend to like jazz and with all these
in-tensions i like some things i don't like so play what you want and i'll
like it if i do and i'll sing it with you and i won't slam a soul for
listening to tripe or hype or hip
hop, no i can't stop, but i do rock, but i won't roll, to collective soul.
I ramble and rant, rave and take a slant, don't mind if i babble and love
when i chant.
If you made it this far and still have a question i guess you'll have to ask
it or die with a ponderance.

no shit about formatting...i don't need it...this aint a publication.
no matter how public it is.
turn off your tv
turn on your SO
but don't turn on your friends

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 11 April 1997
Subject: (no subject)

Work has become a war zone. One girl quit and/or gave notice. There are once again conflicting rumors, which makes my decision easier. When the time comes, I'll ask for my vacation the last two weeks we plan to be in Syracuse, and, once I get my last check, I'll quit. Fuck them. They screw everyone who tries to leave properly. I owe them less than nothing. I think Joey will go first, though. He was so mad today he was openly talking about: "The cunt said blah blah blah." "Joey, man, keep your voice down." We both made a hundred and thirty dollars today, but I have no idea how. This asshole wedding has booked a hundred rooms for the week-end. Before they're through these bastards will blow ten or twenty thousand dollars on a fucking party. Why not just give the couple a five-figure check and say: "Good luck"? Anyway some of them came in for breakfast. They straggled in, which makes good service impossible. I would get the drinks for four of them and by the time I got back there'd be five more. I managed to drink nine of them and take the order. One little anorexic-type slut ordered something weird, and I gave her one of those can't-you-just-order-something-off-the-fucking-menu looks. She got frightened and ordered toast. After I had sent in this first order, four more sit down. I get them drinks and ask to take their order: "What are you having?" "The same thing as you." "Gentlemen, I'll be back when you've made up your minds." As I'm piling the nine orders onto a tray in the kitchen, Slammy comes in and tells me they want to order. (I guessed it was them since she still doesn't know the table numbers.) Anyway I get them all taken care of. At lunch Slammy asks me what happened. I had no idea there had been a problem. I hadn't even written in the tip and got twenty percent, so I thought everything was fine. There was some shit about coffee not being hot and a banana. They must have been taking notes because Slammy asked me about the girl's order and Joey about the other shit, which must have happened while I was in the kitchen. All of our coffee pots are cracked and broken. Besides, the motherfuckers pour half a cup of cream in the shit, talk for ten minutes, then complain it isn't hot enough. So the complainers come back for lunch. Slammy tells Joey to take it and comp it. I see him carrying a sandwich back into the kitchen. Something about chips instead of fries. Then the old fuck beckons to me: "Is this shrimp?" he asks pointing to the chicken on his salad. I bend low over the table and study the plate, trying not to burst out laughing: "No, sir. I don't think that's shrimp. It looks like chicken to me." I bring it back to Joey: "Man I already fucked up their breakfast. You can't take their lunch order right?" "Did Slammy see that?" "I don't think so. Just get the fucking shit right before they cancel the whole God-damned wedding." As I was cleaning up I went by their table. It's this fat old couple of assholes: "Are you the happy couple getting married?" I say in my brightest, cheerful, mocking waiter voice. The old lady looks at her fat, cheap prick of a husband and says: "Oh, sure." Joey was falling down on a table: "I can't believe you said that, you asshole. We're all gonna get fucking fired." To go back to the wine question. Good French wine is not expensive. It costs thirty to fifty francs a bottle in a supermarket in France. Add a little for the shipping and take a little off because one orders by the case and it can be had in the States for eight to twelve bucks. All you need is a few addresses of wine makers, farmers. Georges Duboeuf and Rothschild never see good wine except on their tables. They sell table wine. They buy the shit grapes that the farmers won't use for their own wine. I doubt many of the farmers are on the web, but a little research would find them. What I used to do in France was order directly from the chateau, a few cases at a time. I didn't even know that Opus One was wine. It sounds like a music classification to me. A wine is called Chateau Eat_Me 19** mis en bouteille a la propriete. Of course I drink Valpolicella from the gallon jug, but that's a habit I acquired working at the Farfalla, where we needed a bottle of Ricard and two bottles of whisky a day just for the two of us. Andre doesn't drink Bordeaux. We usually drank Rouge d'Otrott, a rose-colored red Alsace AOC from the tiny village of Otrott. The farmer's fucking name is on the bottle...

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 11 April 1997
Subject: Switter Swatter

I'm just surprised we didn't have the argument last night. To say we should stay an extra month and that you feel like you're working in a burning building in the same night is a little strange to me. I don't care if it's a difference of $400 or $4000. I want to get in a car in June and go to Seattle. I got upset when he turned off the computer. "Good night." I got on my things, "I'm going up to [sob] buy some Molson and something to [sob] eat [sob] so that all of my jumping rope wasn't [sob] in vain." "We just ate." I eat when I'm hungry like you drink when you're thirsty. Came back with a six pack, having felt better by the time I got up to the store. The walk did me good.

I've been reading My Secret Life, which is a little sexy, a little funny, and a little offensive. The women are always "spending" exactly at the same time Walter does, sometimes before, rarely after, but they always get their pleasure, and always during intercourse. I've never had an orgasm during normal "doodle in the cunt" sex, to quote Sweet Sir Walter. And we must be saving up for the trip, since we haven't done much spending at all lately. Still, some of it amuses me:

"It would have been a fine sight for the women had they looked down, but women rarely did. They stood over the gratings with the greatest unconcern, looking at the shop windows, or only glanced below for an instant, at the dark, uninhabited-looking area.

"This was the beginning of a new state of things. We got reckless; Henry had business to attend to, I none, - I ceased to think about what might be said of our being so much in the store-house; and used to go by myself and stay there two or three hours at a time. Then I gave way to erotic excesses. My prick would stand as I went down the stairs. I used to wait prick in hand until I saw a pair of thighs plainly, then able to stand it no longer, frigged, hating myself even whilst I did it, and longing to put my spunk in the right place. I used to catch it in one hand, whilst I frigged with the other, then fling the spunk up towards the girls' legs. It was madness; for although the feet of the women were not three feet above my head, yet the smallness of the quantity thrown (after what stuck to my fingers), and the iron bars above, seemed to make it impossible that any should reach its intended destination; but I think it did one day. A youngish female was stooping, and showing part of her thighs. I flung up what I had just discharged; suddenly her legs closed, she stepped quickly aside, looked down and went away. I am still under the impression that a drop of my sperm must have hit her naked legs."


From: SAGReiss
Date: 12 April 1997
Subject: Hell Regained

Today was living Hell. I was on room service. The girl who had quit actually came in. Slammy had left a note on our respective duties. I was, so I thought, happy with mine, room service in the morning, a party of thirty in the bar for lunch. The Mad Greek Woman explained to the girl who had quit that she was doing this, staying to the end, no explanations. Five minutes later she put her coat on and said: "Have a nice day." I did room service. I worked the floor. I waited on the party in the bar. The big fat gay boy came in to help with room service. He got so fucking furious with those motherfuckers, I saw him talking on the phone to a guest, face red, shaking, cheeks puffed, eyes closed in hatred. He finally walked out with one order left to do. The people were filing into the bar. An hour later I found out I had an open room service check. He had been using my card. We searched all the garbage cans. We called him on his cell phone. Once I had finished in the bar, I thought of going up to the rooms, getting the housekeepers to let me in, and looking for a receipt. I managed to find the check. Joey got completely screwed. That wedding party came in at eleven o'clock because Slammy hadn't told them that their breakfast lasted only until half past ten. They tried to argue about the price, despite the two-dollar discount she had already stupidly given them. Joey got raped. He rang up two hundred dollars in checks and made about five dollars. There was no break. We never stopped screaming, laughing, cursing and serving. It was the Inferno. I am so fucking tired and disgusted. I've just rang up Nichelle and told her I cannot pick her up at the bus stop tonight. I hate everything. I just want to sleep. I don't have Monday off, don't have a day off until Thursday, if I'm lucky. My driver's license expires on my birthday, 26 July 1997. See if you motherfuckers can do better than last year, when no one wrote. Here is our itinerary. Fuck you all. I take my two-week vacation on Saturday 31 May. We rent the car on Monday 16 June. We leave Syracuse on Tuesday 17 June. We sleep in Ohio that night. We sleep in Minnesota the night of the eighteenth. We meet negatron in Minot, North Dakota Thursday evening the nineteenth. We sleep in Montana the twentieth. We arrive in Washington the twenty-first. If there are any arguments, please consult Murtilda, my travel secretary.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Kate
Date: 13 April 1997
Subject: what fresh hell is this?

i've been bloody useless.
sorry about my recent silence.
i've been busy hibernating and getting a divorce.
i'll write and tell you all about this thrilling life. tomorrow.


and gabe, i should be able to remember your birthday because it's 2 days after mine.

From: Nichelle
Date: 12 April 1997
Subject: dull grind

I know better than to fight for blankets or bed space tonight. No, I didn't have a day in hell. Far from it, not that it was pleasant. It was the same monotonous saturday routine. I fell asleep at the cart, woke up in time for the rush at break, drank coffee but it didn't help much. I walked to Shoppingtown early, though I'm not entirely sure why. I was bored to pieces. Today was a big day for minor injuries. I banged the shit out of my hand on the latch to the wheelchair lift I use to get the cart upstairs. I iced it for about an hour while I was sitting there picking my nose, and now it's barely visible. I feel cheated, since it was an enormous blue and purple welt when I hit it. Some lady came up to the cash register (other job) today with her hand in a tissue. "I just wanted you to know that there's a very sharp edge on one of your shelves. It's chipped and I've just cut myself on it." She actually did have a pretty deep gash on her finger. I put seven layers of tape over the glass, which was all I could think to do, gave the lady her card for free. I just hope she doesn't try to sue the store. Shit, I was listening to two ladies talk on their break from saturday classes about their jobs in an insurance office- various claims. One was by a person who claimed that his hemorrhoids were work-related. (No I don't know how to spell homorrhoids, and it took me five minutes to figure out where the dictionary was.) I asked what his job is. The girls just laughed. I hate it when I can't get a straight answer. Apparently, some other guy used Mop N Glo (some kind of floor cleaner/waxer) instead of vegetable oil while cooking hot dogs (This claim is called The Hot Dog Files. Nobody mentioned what the previous claim is called.) and 16 people got sick. "Well," he said, "the containers weren't labelled."


From: Columbine
Subject: Re: dull grind
Date: 13 April 1997

Gabriel: My friend Eric and myself have been having a conversation about online services which you might find interesting. He tried the Palace for the first time recently. Eric used to make a living via computers, but these are his first forays into the online world in a long long time.

Double-quoted >> or nonquoted items are me; single-quoted > is him. - columbine
>> Hang out on the Palace for a while and see how long it takes for you to
>> hit your saturation point. It won't be long, I wager.

>I agree. Can you suggest other places on the Web where I'm more likely to
>find some reasonable conversation? I favor conversations about personal
>matters (as opposed, for example, to positions about Star Trek, programming languages,
>and the weather), including conversations about sex (though I'm not particularly
>looking to *have* sex on-line).

I'm not entirely sure that there are any. There are a variety of MOOs and MUDs which are not dedicated to role-playing or a "purpose" per se, but are merely rooms to chat ... with or without a stated theme. But based on the excerpts Gabriel posts from LambdaMOO, one of the largest, most well-known, and presumably most "open-minded" of these "conversation" MOOs, idiocy runs rampant everywhere. This is not just the 15-yr-old problem as noted below; grown adults who have perfectly normal conversations elsewhere give themselves over to juvenilesexbabytalk when online. I don't understand it, despite a fair amount of discussion on the subject. I mean, *I* sound basically the same. You know me in person; you can verify that I really do talk like this! (I stammer less on-line :)

>I have no need whatsoever for pretty backgrounds, ornate avatars, or playing
>dress-up [....]

I don't *need* them per se but I am apparently alone among the people I talk to in thinking that they add to, rather than distract, from the experience. On the other hand, the chatrooms I've been in most lately (Firefly - see below) are text only ... and the chatrooms I spent the most time in, as a part-time admin as well as a participant (on the ill-fated ImagiNation) were all-text as well.

>> To quote Tallulah Bankhead: "There is less there than meets the eye."
>> Pity. A nice technology wasted by an utter lack of content. I won't bore
>> you with theories on why; Gabriel and I have had long arguments by email
>> about it. He blames the pictures and the clientele; I agree only with the
>> latter half.

>From my brief experience, it's both. All those commands to change your
>avatar's appearance beg to be (ab)used. Though I do think that pleasant,
>calm backgrounds could make chatting more pleasurable. For example, I think it
>would be nice to chat with someone (using cartoon balloons -- I like that
>visual metaphor) in a dark field with a few constellations in the sky. But
>almost every Palace room I saw was way too gaudy, and only detracted from my

There are a couple of very plain rooms in there. I think there's one with just a cloud background and a couple more with just plain one-color backdrops. I think the "props" are supposed to be conversation pieces, and I admit that once or twice I have played off them (in the swimming pool, for example).

I tend to think of the pictures more as wish-fulfillment, and if you can't indulge in that vice online, where can you? If I want to give myself huge breasts, that's my business: a contract between me and my id. It *should* have no effect on the way you talk to me ... yet it apparently does, which makes me wonder. If you talk this way to someone because her picture has huge breasts online, what kind of things would you say to a woman who looked like that when you met her in the flesh? Rudeness is rudeness, and I don't understand the double standard here. Or, put another way; if people acted like that in public, they'd be arrested.

>Remember, though, I'm an intensely auditory person, and often find visual
>input distracting, rather than enhancing. That's a major reason why the
>telephone is still perhaps my favorite medium of communication, even after 27 years.
>Lying on a couch in a pitch-dark room with my headset on, eyes closed, and
>nothing in my world except the voice in my ear: *that* is the closest I'll get to
>heaven on this earth.

Whereas I go out of my way to avoid talking on the phone and will take the written word over the spoken one (in all non-sexual situations) every time.

>You sure are right about the clientele. I saw more "lol"s and "hehe"s in
>one session in the Palace than I've actually heard in my entire real life! A
>huge part of the problem, of course, is that most people aren't that wonderful at
>conversation. Particularly most 15-year-old young men.

Hmm. Half agree. The "emoting" (LOL, hehe, *g*, ROFL, various smileys) is a convenient shorthand to replace vocal nuances that you can't get verbally. Which, I suppose, sort of contradicts what I said a second ago ... that's one big disadvantage of written speech. In a novel you have other devices for getting inside the speaker's head; in a conversation you sometimes need help. So I don't mind that stuff so much.

Actually, one of the nice things about MOOing is that it's an accepted convention to sometimes "emote" quite literally and specifically:

SAGReiss says (to Columbine), "You're being unusually silent"
Columbine: is still pondering SAGReiss's last non sequitur

I do that sometimes on Firefly and everyone seems OK with it, but I notice few other people do it.

>I just had a brilliant idea. Take it and make your fortune:
>You know all this agent software, like Firefly? The elegant idea is to
>have a bunch of people rate something (records, movies, etc.). Then the software
>looks at your collection of ratings, finds other people with similar tastes,
>and recommends things they like that you haven't mentioned. This only
>works if you make certain assumptions about personality theory, but it feels like a
>reasonable approach
>Well, my idea is this: have people also rate each other on various skills:
>conversation, Net sex, politeness, spelling ability, whatever. Then have
>software connect people who get similar ratings, so the good
>conversationalists can talk with each other, the good sex people can have sex with each
>other, and so on. I can immediately see some problems that would have to be solved,
>and perhaps someone is already working on this (if so, tell me where to sign
>up!), but I see no reason there could not be a Web registry of ratings (suitably
>anonymized, of course) so that I could log on and say, "Take me to some chat
>room where there's a good conversationalist."

Too late, it's been tried. Or at least, half of it has.

Firefly: The rating service that grew into a chat room, ostensibly so that other people could look at your record or movie picks and have some conversational common ground to warm up with. Only problem: no one uses the ratings services anymore. They just use the chatrooms. Firefly's new interface even tries to BURY the chatrooms to make them harder to get to; all this accomplishes is annoyance. Even I go straight for the chatrooms. What is it about us humans? I'll tell you my theories: we're all either scared to strike up conversations with people in the flesh, or we've forgotten how, or the venues where those conversations used to spontaneously occur no longer exist.

But there's no conversation on Firefly either. On an average afternoon, some 700 people are on the service. Firefly doesn't offer you a way to track where a given person is, but there are numbers on who's in the chatrooms, and it's usually not more than 50 or so of those. What the rest are doing, I have no idea. Rating records maybe. Of the 50 in the chatrooms, about 35 will be in the Sexual Desires room, being very banal. I hang out in the OUTPost room (which is a largely gay/lesbian area) simply because the conversation, while still often obsessed with penis, cunt, and scatology, is usually at least a little more witty and a little more intelligent.

Note that, based on member pages I've seen, the membership of Firefly is YOUNG. If you are 30 or up, you're an old fogey on Firefly. This makes me despair for the next generation. The literate ones are usually college students, and even they can't spell. (We have traded articulation for technological awareness; I am not entirely convinced this is a good thing.)

As for rating other members, heh, well, even if we stipulate that a provider is willing to stick their neck out far enough, that's a notoriously subjective scale. You may have had a great conversation with me, but someone else thinks I'm a dud (or is nursing a grudge because I wouldn't have earsex with him and is giving me a bad rating out of malice) ... or maybe you have a good chat with me, give me a high rating, and discover the next day that was a fluke, I had taken my lithium that day or something and was not my usual sullen self ... you get the idea.

And as I say, many of these people who are in these rooms being juvenile ARE good conversationalists. I had an interesting experience with someone where, not to go into it too deeply, we had never had conversations on anything more than a groin level (this was back when I was more willing to flirt) until I discovered ... by sheer chance ... that we were both Animaniacs fans - which is not nearly as inexhaustible a topic as sex, but never mind that. It turns out we both were devotees of Warner Brothers cartoons and bad Nancy Friday-style pornography. Had some very interesting conversations!

Ah, well. The final thing I have to say on the matter is: sex really is a great topic. It IS nearly inexhaustible and everyone seems to want to talk about it. So why no really good sex conversations? Not even among the gay contingent (who are normally somewhat more willing to discuss, say, bondage, than your average straight white male).

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: John
Date: 14 April 1997
Subject: Pueblo

i've been geeking all night, and the basic stuff for pueblo is done. there are a few things i'm not quite sure how to you want, so we'll have to talk about it. about the only thing you can do right now is set your @url message, which makes your name a hyperlink when somebody looks at you. (@url me is "http://www.pornpalace.com/") there's also a thing to imbed pictures and sounds into descriptions, but it's too complicated for me to explain right now.
i put a sound in Limbo, and one on angry johnny. limbo has a pic I stole off your web page. my ugly mug is in my description. take a look and let me know what you done.

From: SAGReiss
Date: 14 April 1997
Subject: F&M

Yesterday, another nightmare, I walked up to the banquet room to see how they were handling the white-trash Jewish wedding from Hell. Joanne, the head waitress, wasn't speaking to anyone. Melissa, her daughter, had this fearsome scowl on her face. Rebbecca, the punk rock waitress, was snarling at everyone. Julie was leering through the wrong end of a hangover. Stan, the executive chef was white as a sheet: "They're brutal. They've eaten six hundred dollars of lox." There was bedlam, two hundred and thirty people screaming: "Where's the KAWffee?" "Is that SKIM milk?" "You can't toast the BAgels?" "I need more ARenge juice." I smiled benevolently: "Good luck, girls." I got off a good line a few weeks ago. Actually I stole it from John Fante. The Mad Greek Woman was berating our vicious generation. I said: "When Angie was young all she had to eat was bread and onions." "You laugh. Good. I don't drink whisky for breakfast. I don't sleep with F and M." We all burst out laughing. The room service gay boy said: "I'm going to go home and ask my significant other if he wants to try some F&M." Today was easy, a mad rush between eight and nine, and I did twenty-one Unix professional geeks for lunch: "You ladies and gentlemen work in computer security systems? Great. I'm learning to become a hacker so I can break into porno sites." I like what you've done, John. We're still learning about Pueblo. I've got the Limbo sound to work, but not yours. The URLs seem to be working fine. BTW, Columbine, you might tell your friend to try RL MOO. We'll give him a special 99% discount. Slammy was officially stressed out today, we were told. Um, she took the week-end off while Joey and I worked twenty hours with no breaks. I did fucking room service, the floor, the bar. I had about a thousand dollars in combined pre-tax sales for three consecutive days. Today was s'posed to be my day off. I'm going in three hours early tomorrow. And she's stressed out?

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Columbine
Date: 14 April 1997
Subject: Re: F&M

I considered telling Eric to get on RL MOO, but real-time environments are difficult for him, because he uses a voice-recognition system and the response is too slow for things like that. He doesn't type anymore. Medical reasons.

He's more of a voice person anyway. Our next round of the conversation will probably be conducted via telephone, which is unfortunate for me because I can't stand telephones. I am not a verbal person. I don't like the way I sound, don't like the way I phrase things, I always think I'm coming off as a complete and utter loser and as a result become so inhibited that I don't say much of anything at all.

I don't go to parties much either.

From: SAGReiss
Date: 15 April 1997
Subject: A US$ 2.00 bonjour

The fat gayboy wrecked another car today, so I stayed a little late to cover room service, after watching in horror as the hot faucet in our bathtub broke this morning at four and the water wouldn't shut off as I hurried to work by half past five for the devastation of bug day (everything removed from kitchen and dining room). The front desk called around three and asked me to bring a pot of tea to the VIP in 631, the ex-Prime Minister of... "I know who the fuck he is. I'll have to charge him." So I prepared a tea tray for the former leader of the free world, at least that part of it perpetually covered in snow. Actually it was for his "assistant" or Mr Bufu for all I know. I walked into the room and said: "Messieurs, bonjour." Brian Mulroney answered: "Vous etes du Quebec?" He has a faux-French accent and didn't say "tu" to me, which was lucky 'cause I probably would have dropped the fucking tray. I hate it when Quebeckers do that, even though I know they mean no disrespect and expect me to do the same. I just can't do it. I say Mrs and Mr, Ma'am and Sir, Ladies and Gentlemen, to people I don't know. He asked where I had learned French, and we chatted for a minute. I gave him the bill. He wrote on it, then said: "[to Mr.Bu_Fu] I just added a fifteen percent tip, but the bill is only three sixty-one. That's about fifty cents." He crossed it out and wrote in two dollars. Long live the ex-leader of the snow-covered free world.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 15 April 1997
Subject: Mr Antigeek

After trying in vain to do something slick and clever to surprise you, I'll have to ask someone more competant than I to do it for me. Since I don't know how to use a split screen with Pueblo, it would be useful for me to have another character, Gabriel, so I could log on twice at once. I tried @request, @create, fucked up a new file on MUSHclient etc. I give up. Can someone do this for me?

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 17 April 1997
Subject: Busted

The doorbell rings, insistantly. Two tall guys at the door, one a uniform cop. They want to know where Michelle is and clearly think I've killed her. I thought I was going to get arrested on the spot. Of course I was gripped with fear, unwilling and even unable to answer their questions. They asked where she was. I didn't want to say: "At work at Lemoyne." The cop is a Lemoyne cop, and the civil is a security higher up. As I resist questioning, he gives me more information. She is NOT at work. And he's asking me where the fuck she is. I have no idea. She left for work this morning. He has her mother's name and whatnot on his information pad. She hasn't been to class since... or work since... I don't fucking know what she's doing, where she is. They suspect foul play. It got ugly. They didn't take kindly to my diffidence. The harder they pushed, the less willing was I to answer. When the motherfucker asked for the third time if she was upstairs, I said: "Would you like to look?" The words were not out of my mouth before they were walking past me. I'm still shaking. I hate the fucking pigs. "Where is she?" "She's out." "Can you have her call us?" "I'll ask her to call you today or tomorrow." "Tomorrow isn't good enough." Why the fuck not, buttbreath? They inspected the flat. Asshole_Cop looks under the bed. [to Security_Higher_Up] She's not here, boss. I was hoping Matilda would attack the bastards. I'm lucky I washed the towels this morning. It's that time of the month and I think they would have drawn their guns if they had seen blood. "Have you two argued recently?" "When was the last time you saw her?" When was the last time you saw your mother's snatch, you pervert? "She wasn't feeling well on Friday." "I didn't know she worked on Fridays." "Did you know she was ill?" What the fuck am I s'posed to say? Yes, no, maybe, I can't remember. Where the fuck are my rights and my lawyer when I need them? What is this Nazi Disneyland we live in?

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 19 April 1997
Subject: The Ungraduate

In France administrative letters often begin: "Monsieur, j'ai l'honneur d'accuser reception..." That usually means you're fucked. I knew what the letter said before I opened it. They don't send job offers in one-page form letters: "The number and quality of graduate applications to the University is extraordinary," and yours was sadly intraordinary. Oh well. Seattle boasts a dozen beautiful hotels I'd like to work in, places where the food is delicious, and perhaps we wouldn't have to fight over steak knives or soup spoons. And of course there's Berlitz, where I could work for the rest of my life anywhere in the world. I just hope the university accepts Nichelle or I really don't know what we're doing. No matter. Tuesday I'll ask for the first paid vacation of my life. We plan to leave (for those of you who don't know how to open attachment files) on 17 June, meet negatron halfway there on the nineteenth, arrive on the twenty-first, find a flat on the twenty-second or twenty-nineth and a job soon thereafter. I just hope our money holds out, and that I can deal with Nichelle's mother and step-father.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 21 April 1997
Subject: FWB vs WTM

I worked fourteen to twenty-three Saturday and eight to twenty-three Sunday. We got slammed, senselessly, from nine to twelve Sunday. Once we got things cleaned up, around fifteen o'clock, it died. I stood around basically until twenty-two, which I didn't really mind since I had already got my hundred by noon. I got two big orders at twenty-two thirty, and this nigger motherfucker brought down this huge cart of shit. I went crazy. I screamed at him, talked to his supervisor, broke the shit down, did my late orders and went to Lou's. I drank a quick five or six Pinch whiskies and went home. There was a mess in the sink. I began to clean it up. Nichelle, drunk on Amaretto, pushed me out of the way: "Fuck you. I'll do it. Go play with your cybergfs." Of course I couldn't really do that because there are no fs on RL MOO and the fucker has been down again. I don't know if I should ditch this asshole server. I like the idea of going with the little guy, but fuck, I could probably work out a deal with Eskimo in Seattle for the MOO, my e-mail and the web for a very reasonable sum. We might even get professional service. I find this hard to believe, a world-class scholar (WTM, that's white trash male for those of you in the television studios) and a potential world-class musician (FWB, fat white bitch) working as a waiter and waitress, getting drunk, fighting like dogs over nothing. Nichelle said: "It doesn't matter. I'm going to be miserable wherever I go." "Be miserable and play your horn." That's the only thing that matters to me, honey. I can type. I do my work. The girls, tbelton and kate, can say what they think of the sustained quality of what I write. I have my own opinion. I play the keyboard. I can play. I wish I knew what you can do. I don't care if it's Seattle or Boston. It's all the same shit to me, unless we're in Strasbourg, the only place I was ever meant to live. I hope you get in to Washington. Play your fucking horn.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Kate
Date: 21 April 1997
Subject: mundane hell

the most interesting thing i did today was buy a toothbrush. it's red and green.
fuck, my life is a thrill.
since i last sent mail everything and nothing has changed.

no work. but i may end up in Arizona, running a web company by July. it's
too soon to tell at the moment. ask me in two weeks.

a week from now i'll be sitting on a portland bound plane. an escape. i
need a break from all this mundane shit. no, i can't afford it. i'm skint
but i'm going anyway.

i'm getting divorced. this is a good thing. matt's moved out.
we had the ceremonial division of the stuff of seven years together.
we bickered about the toaster.
it is so impossibly amiable i want to hit someone.

to get a no fault divorce in this country takes two fucking years. or, two
no fucking years. i'm letting him divorce me on the grounds of being a
crabby bitch. anything. just to get it over with faster.

the rest of the stuff is bits from my journal and letters. i'd sum it up,
but i too bored by the last few weeks to do so.



tuesday 18th march
I got twitchy and nervous waiting for M to come home. i read ballad of dr richardson and sniffled happily. sat and read calvin and hobbes, twitching, unable to sit still, chainsmoking. i barely gave him time to get through the door. sit down, i have to talk to you. wash of panic across his face. i couldn't think of a gentle way to tell him. i want a divorce and i want you to move out. his jaw fell. surely it can't have come as such a surprise? surely, surely not. we talked. well, i talked and he cried. he agreed. said he couldn't argue with anything i said.


but it's over. it all starts now. and i feel great. scared. scared. i have to be so careful with him. i don't want to hurt him any more. but i can't stay with him to make him feel safer. that would end up destroying both of us. matt sat, silently, for ages. he had no words. i told him to go to bed.


i crashed at around 2. slept on the chaise in the study. matt woke me to say goodbye as he left to go to spain at around 7am. it was awkward. call me if you want to talk. talk about what? on the phone? no fucking way. fell back to sleep. calmer, deeper sleep than for a long time.

i did nothing much when i got up--bank. food. walking through the market, found some womderful vine tomatoes and they smelled like summer. not like the cold dead perfect red globes in the supermarkets. these were garden tomatoes, sweet smelling and rich. almost spent a huge amount of money on flowers, but developed sense at the last moment. bought the tibor fischer book and lurked about in a few bookshops. tried on some shoes--all awful. most shoes have these ridiculous clumpy great heels added onto them. i loathe heels. and these rarely suit the shoe...but, it's the heel of fashion. i'll stick to my old shoes till they fall apart. bought some blue hair dye.

went home and got blue gunk everywhere--trying to spread it evenly on the hair at the back of my head with mirrors balanced around the bathroom, using a toothbrush to smooth the gloop through each layer of hair. wet blue locks falling onto my face and leaving stripes of colour. splattering stuff around the bathroom. sat, frsutrated and impatient for 40 minutes, before washing it off (turning the shower blue). my hands were tinted a smooth even blue, but there was not a trace of it on my hair. my scalp is a glorious colour. my hair is unchanged. fuck! even the lighter, redder parts are exactly as before. wildly annoying, i so wanted to change hue.


there was a message from louise on the phone when i got home. just calling for a chat. odd. she never calls. haven't spoken to her in well over six months, probably more. ring tonight...

too tired to make sense by 4 so went to bed.

there was a drunk in the LR last night, when i was waiting for sal. he realised no one would, or could, give him any money, but his approach is honest: "can you help a raging alcoholic buy another drink? give me a cigarette and i'll go away." he makes me uncomfortable, though because he wants to touch or hug or kiss or shake hands with everyone.

a week of drinking and dinners and clubbing with girlfriends. noisy, drunken morale building stuff. traditional closing of ranks and drink-buying for the splitting up.
i'll spare you the details.

7th April
Yesterday was hard. matt and michael [his father] came round to move his stuff out. i sat there, stunned and i couldn't watch. i felt like something in me was being disected. inexplicably, i welled up with tears. for the first time since i told matt. i escaped to patisserie valerie and wept all over the sunday papers. everyone studiously ignored my histrionics in a terribly english way. when i came back, the flat looked no different but felt tatty and scattered with junk. i started painting today--just slapping white over the stained paper in the kitchen. the paper is so awful, it looks lumpy even in the places without air bubbles. but it's less yellow grease streak stained now. i'm tempted to strip all the paper down, reline the walls and do the job properly but it hardly seems worth it if i am moving this summer. if i am moving this summer.


saturday 8pm
stir crazy. ack. i'm bored. no idea what to do with myself. do i have so few resources?

song in the cafe reminds me of being in acme, skipping around the shop, complaining about the awful dark paintings of deformed superheroes on the wall, chasing mark around the shop with the feather duster when he was being arsey. and the bagging--the hours of counting comics and smoothing them into slick plastic, sticking them down with a small scrunch of tape. and sitting on the counter getting excited about panel transitions. and staring through the plate glass window between the gaps between posters of batman, watching broken down tired people with half shredded plastic bags in bundles and cans of extra strong lager welded to their fists.

sat around and read cynthia heimel books and chortled in a heap of cats. did the cat litter. ugh. revolting job. pottered. read some more. decided against cleaning. jumped about online playing the fool. went out to tescos. oh joy. but where else can one buy cat food with a credit card round here? oxford street on a saturday is a nightmare. hoards of people "up west" shopping for fun. the shops are so tawdry, chain stores and bargain shops and only selfridges has the last traces of the elegance for which the street was once known. supermarket scramble, seething as people stopped dead in aisle staring blankly at easter eggs and shampoo.

came home, made soup and sat on the sofa staring at the window. drifting slightly out of my head. shot at some robots and realised i'd go nuts if i didn't go out. sudden wave of lonliness. i did nothing groovy today. should have gone to the british museum. another day.

the guy from upstairs banged on my door yesterday--the landlord seems to be whining about unpaid rent. but the rent has been paid, and the cheques have been cashed. confusion. confusion. don't want to get booted out of here. he told me that the building was being sold, by the landlord to the acting landlord. he is far far from pleased about this. he's been here three years, but now he wants to go. he has heard that one of the office spaces (or maybe the signwriters') is being turned into a "working" flat. fuck! this means that all sorts of low lifes will be traipsing through the front door day and night. he muttered angrily about drug dealers and pimps in the staircase and stomped off to feed his pregnant cat. bad bad news. especially now that i'm here on my own. i am not easily spooked...but it's a small building with which to share a brothel. fuck.

talked to [my sister] louise on thursday night for the first time in an age. strange timing. she asked about work--it seems m&d hadn't told her about question imploding. i told her, and she made sympathetic noises. she asked if matt was coming to granny's 90th birthday extravaganza, so i told her what was going on. ah...she was wonderful. she suggested i come and stay with her a while, understanding that i'd probably want to escape. be nice to talk to the chickens and watch the river go past. hell, i can even tolerate her children as long as Louise is on good form. she changes so much. sometimes i adore her, just for being herself. other times she is infuriatingly parent-ish.

my relationship with louise and sara has always been a volatile one. there were times, as a kid, when they were horrible to me. other times i thought the sun shone from every one of their teenage-oily pores. but, as i got older, louise in particular always accepted me on my own terms, let me stay with her when i couldn't handle yet another weekend at school. treated me as a friend, not as her little kid sister. i thought she was the bee's knees. but, when she had hannah, she changed. no surprise, she went through 27 kinds of hell in a short time. but 2 years living with my parents did strange things to the way she acted. she became all the things she wasn't--short tempered, intolerant, close-minded. i couldn't bear to see it. but my mother loved her for that. she is happiest when we toe her line. i don't. i can't. i am never in favour. so--this will be seen as yet another fuck up on my part. a failure. i have never really forgiven my mother for turning to my father with a wry smile and saying "that's fifty pounds you owe me--i told you she would not go back to college."

fuck it. it's not a failure. it would be more of a failure to stay married when it's not a real marriage, and brings me less than no happiness.


people are flocking into lorelei across the road. just looking at it, all i can remember is the vast roach that scuttled over my foot. i kep my feet on the bench for the whole of the time there and couldn't wait to escape. feeling my skin crawling, phantom movements on my skin. cockroaches. one thing that really bothers me. send a cold chilly creep up my spine and a faint shiver of nausea. not fear. revulsion. the ones in hong kong were big, and they could fly. that was the worst thing--they would buzz past your face, not touching but close so you could feel the movement. and they would lurk, of course, in the bathroom. you soon get into the habit of banging your shoes upside down before putting them on. living in the ymca didn't make it easier in new york. the place was infested. the awful scurrying rattle as you turn on the bathroom light. having to whisk back the covers, fast as you can, to dislodge and startle them if they have creapt into the sheets. flipping the lights on and off before coming into the room, worried that you'll put your hand on one as you curl your hand through the door to the light switch. the one crawling across the television screen. for all the sordidness of the place, the dark brown corridors and smell of industrial cleaning and sticky carpet, i grew fond of the place. but i couldn't wait to get out and spent many nights in other places rather than staying there. i used to sleep with the lights on to discourage the roaches, but that was before i noticed the two men in the window opposite. one fat, one thin. same height, and the same white vests. standing still. stock still. in front of the window, staring across at me. i had no curtains. they did this night after night. i bought some roach poison and turned the lights out.

oh, and the man who would hammer on my door at 3am, demanding i have breakfast with him. he would wait in the lobby. i had to sneak into the lifts behind taller, fatter people so he wouldn't see me, as he leant against a pillar, eyes scanning the room. he would sit in the corridor one door up from my room. i don't know why.


last week, some time...

tucked up reading sensationalist novels from the 1860s. long time ago i found a terrific gothic schlocky book called 'lady audley's secret' by mary elizabeth braddon. dark secrets and less than wholesome pasts...cracking stuff. she was really popular at the time, but until a month ago none of her other work had ever been reprinted. i'd read one in the library, but had never had time to read more. but joy! 2 more have been reprinted. so i am drinking green tea and sighing with heaving chest and fluttering eyelids as our gallant heroine tries to uncover the mystery of her father's death...

tuesday i cleaned and shopped and cooked. all very domestic. sorting out papers and books and general desk garbage. scrubbing the butcher's block with a handful of steel wool, scraping away old traces of garlic and tomatoes. re-oiling the wood till it was clean and smooth.

i wandered through the market, tutting at the traders when their hands hovered over the less than perfect vegetables. they are getting to know me know, and they just grin, recognising that i know what they are doing, and call me little un. i've had my share of over-ripe fruit tucked into the bottom of the bag. tomatoes. courgettes. basil. parsley. dark red onions. paperyskinned garlic. my hands and black tshirt getting covered in white flour as i poke at the bread and the pasta in camiso's deli, darting behind the counter to sniff the chocolate and taste the olives. bundles of paper bags home, stopping to buy wine and cream, plunking bunches of herbs into glass jugs of water to keep them fresh.

making the chocolate truffle cake was a chore. once i had started to melt the chocolate, i couldn't find the whisk thing for the food processor, so had to pour the cream back out into a bowl and beat it by hand, till the muscles in my arm were tight and painful, and the kitchen was covered in specks of thick white cream (to the cats' delight). i love making this cake...the contrast of the dark glossiness of the chocolate as you fold it into the heavy cream. couldn't find a cake tin, so poured it into a lasagne dish and left it in the fridge to chill.

wash up. wander round. check mail. read.

chop onions, frying them till they are soft and translucent, the red skin colouring the flesh. fill the pan with sliced courgettes, chopped parsley, crushed garlic, stirring it in a sparliking green mess with a woosh of cooking smell and steam. unable to hear anything but the food filling the air.

opps. i couldn't hear liz and ellie and sal banging on the door. 3 guests. all bearing wine. good guests! cigarettes lit, glasses filled, stock added to the soup. chatchatchat. talk of ellie's flat mate and her new conquest. she pulled at maths club. beware of geeks bearing gifts. we drink to them. we do again, because drinking is a good thing and the talk is easing into the evening. later, we talk about liz's boyf. he's horrible, he says all the wrong things, he hates the way she 'looks like a lesbian'. but he's 'a stud muffin'. she's trying to dump him. she dreamed that he he turned into a white bull. we all yell 'pasiphae'. we talk about europa, and flick through books of mythology and history to look for other references to white bulls. he's god, a sacrifice, or just an arsehole. we can't decide. i mentioned my dream within a dream. ellie looks serious and tells me it's stress. i didn't tell her that it was one of the sweetest dreams i have had in a while. we ate, we talked, we ate more. we compared notes on who we thought was sexiest. ellie told tales of bridesmaid hell.

all three left early. by half past eleven i had done all the dishes and cleared the kitchen. this worries me. this means that i must be a grown up, or something.

wednesday. nothing day. reading. cafes. sleeping.


From: Columbine
Date: 21 April 1997
Subject: Re: FWB vs WTM

I don't understand a relationship conducted at such a high level of vehemence. That's not a criticism, I just don't understand it. When we f**k with each other's heads here, we are both aware, unspoken, that this is only a big elaborate game, that if there were ever a real crisis we would be on the same side of the fence. I can't recall a real fight. We've called each other names and such, but damn it, I'm qualified to know a real scream-and-throw-things fight when I see one. I've instigated several of them. Broke up a three-year relationship with one. I was too young for it anyway.

Never mind. It's none of my damned business anyway and I should keep my mouth shut.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: SAGReiss
Date: 23 April 1997
Subject: Jeff Tenhat

I have to work again on my fucking day off. This is bullshit. We've got our new fucking supervisor. I've baptised him "waterboi" since that's about all Slammy can train him to do. He's a fucking ex-punk-drill seargent. Perhaps we should call him "Seargent Waterboi". And they complain about overtime. Well, fuck you. I was scheduled for seven shifts this week and now I have to work another. I didn't ask for this shit. What is this shit I've received from you, Columbine? I've changed the e-mail address in our list. Whatever. Ah, fuck. I'm a little tired and maybe a little tipsy. So anyway Garth Brooks couldn't stay at the hotel because of security concerns. This morning on the guest list we notice the suite 931-933 with a special king-sized bed for Mr Tenhat. Um, I s'pose that's another nephew of Sadam Hussein. And I have to do room service for these motherfuckers tomorrow on my day off? I know Slammy-cunt doesn't like me. So? I don't like her either. In fact I hate all people with bleached-blond hair. (Whyever did you want to colo(u)r your hair blue, Kate?) I'm happy that Batsheva (bat7 #258) is interested in our MOO. She knows a lot of shit and is a tough bitch. I have decided on our new ISP. It's blarg.net. I think we'll stick with assfuck a little longer for the MOO. Call me sentimental. The slut doesn't even want to give me my God-given vacation. Fuck that. It's six weeks from now. She can't find some asshole to hire? What does she want, a virgin SU student. Es gibt ke mehr. Sorry. That's an Alsatian song: "There are no more virgins in Strasbourg". Fuck this. I'm going to abuse people on Lambda. Why doesn't anyone but me write? I know there are some smart motherfuckers on this list. Fuck you. Just wait till I make some money at this "vehement" game. Then everyone will want to play...

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 23 April 1997
Subject: random thoughts

It's so hard to know what really goes on in a relationship when you're in it, let alone when you hear about it across the internet. Vehemence is a pretty strong word, and it has a lot of e's in it. I don't believe in the "it's none of my business and I should keep my mouth shut" policy. First, you chose to send the message, so obviously you didn't feel your mouth really needed to be closed, and second, what is the appropriate response to a letter like "FWB vs WTM"- posted to a group of strangers... It's a real roller coaster ride sometimes, but if nothing else, it gives us something to write about. Not that any of us do. Oh lord no. Only SAGReiss is always write.

Shall I quote from my unsent response (which I haven't looked at since I wrote it) to this letter? Might be fun, let's see what it says...


The great mystery of life has been solved, brothers and sisters. There is a Hell, and I'm living in it. Men *are* pigs, it's not a lie, not something the feminist nazis made up. They are selfish, they rape, and there is not one who will ever love me. How many nights do we have to fight with each other? Are we going for a world record? Fuck you, fuck the clarinet, fuck the MOO, the web, the World. Fuck my life. I never asked for it, never asked to be raped, and now when I ask to be fucked I can't even fucking enjoy it.

(Yikes, man. Yikes.)

Back to our regularly scheduled e-mail. Relationships are fucked. I'm convinced that (with possibly a very rare exception) one party loves the other more. This is true in friendships and other relationships, though the roles sometimes change. On rare occasions, I've had a kind of equality in friendships. Never, I think, in a sexual relationship.

As for the rest of my life, I've taken a job as an assistant in a grocery store bakery. Of course the shit all comes in frozen, which ruins part of the fun, but it's still pretty interesting. The only problem is that I'm working like a dog for $4.80 an hour. I didn't even make minimum wage when I was sixteen, and now I'm only 5 cents over it.

Definitely the most exciting part of my job is the location- in exactly the right spot to hear all of the store's muzak and advertisements. "Don't you just love the chewey taste of Kellogg's Rice Crispy Treats?" "How about some great tasting pasta secret recipes from Kraft?" But my favorite is a special in-store advertisement for Crowley Yogurt.

"Open up, Daddy."
"Mmmm, delicious. Can Daddy have more?"
"It's smooth, creamy Crowley Yogurt. But I thought Daddy didn't like yogurt.
Do you like it because it comes from Crowley?"
"Yes, honey, but mostly I love it because it comes from you."

My supervisor and I run around the bakery cooing "Open up, Daddy." to each other while we're working. She's a tough hag. An ex truck driver who split open her ear flying over a barstool two days before I started. She's got a mean disposition, a foul mouth, and an offensive sense of humor. I got on her good side the first day, when she told a co-worker, "I ain't talked no trash or sex to her yet." I grinned and asked sweetly, "When do we start? Tomorrow?"

So come on in
you can always depend
on P&C
Your Closest Friend....


From: Columbine
Date: 24 April 1997
Subject: Re: Jeff Tenhat

Gabriel, I think "vehement" frequently pays well when done with humor. The problem is when you slide into "abusive."

There, is that inflammatory enough? I haven't been writing on the list because I don't have anything to say which I think is appropriate material. I could bitch about my life for 1000 words, but fuck that. I could write about the excesses of advertising for 5000 words, which I do, but that's better suited for my website. You tell me what you want me to bullshit about and I'll see if I can put together a few column-inches. No pun on my name intended.

And speaking of my name, I figured you'd be at least interested to have some of the veil lifted. The message meant what it said. No more, no less. You weren't the only person to get it, if that's what's confusing you.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: SAGReiss
Date: 24 April 1997
Subject: Calamity Kate rides again

I was about to take an order up when I heard Slammy's whiny nasal voice: "Beth, this is Katy. She'll be working some days and some nights." I turned my head while reaching for the tray. Looking lovely as usual there stood Calamity Kate. Neither Slammy nor Beth could see me so I winked, picked up my tray and walked out of the kitchen. I had no idea what to expect when I came down. I was prepared to shake her hand: "Pleased to meet you." Whatever. She was nowhere in sight. Slammy walks up to me and says: "I didn't know you were a French teacher." "Yes, I was." "What can you tell me about Katy?" "She was an excellent," I said "student." I had no idea what weird-ass lies she might have told her. I think Nichelle's answer, Columbine, is best: "Vehemence is a pretty strong word, and it has a lot of e's in it." You see both of us, Nichelle and I, play both sides of the fault line between art and life, fiction and non-fiction, if you prefer. When I'm writing wild, screaming e-mail, I'm not screaming wildly. I'm quietly writing, thinking about my syntax, word choice, punning etc. The letter on the web called "9532 dicks" is as mean an e-mail as I've ever written, yet it's full of etymological jokes, rhetorical asides and literary allusions. I remember once writing a ferocious text a couple of days after the fact. Nichelle was stunned. If I have no time to write, I save up my anger to use later as fuel, grist for my mill. The events I describe happen seldom, accidentally perhaps, exactly as I write them. In any case they are arranged into some kind of literary document. I admit that this is somewhat duplicitous on my part. On the one hand: "This is not a toy. This is not a game. This is real life." On the other hand, I know it's not. We're all going to be dead soon. So in the meantime, as the man said: "Thus, great with child to speak, and helpless in my throes,/Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:/'Fool,' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart, and write!'"

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Kate
Date: 24 April 1997
Subject: blue hair and other failed attempts

why colour my hair blue? the only obvious answer is 'why not?' the day after matt left all i could think about was changing everything i could, everything that could be made to appear different: i started to paint the flat; i rehung all the pictures; i cut a hundred stars from silver paper and covered the walls of the study; i made a mobile of broken lightbulbs; i wore clothes i haven't worn for years; i put big bunches of herbs in vases to change the smell of the rooms; and i wanted to change the colour of my hair. i had blue hair a long long time ago--a few years before i met matt. not solid blue, but blue and orange patterns painted with dye on my hair and i thought i looked fucking gorgeous. i probably just looked strange. oh, and matt hates dyed hair. so it made perfect sense for me to attempt to paint my hair the least natural colour i could find (and green doesn't suit me, i have tried that before and i looked as if i was abot to expire at any moment).

i had my hair cut on friday, instead. this cheered me up. i decided to be all girly and spent shit loads of money on a decent cut. what are credit cards for?

i have a face that changes by the day, and more extremely over the last year. a friend of mine saw a recent picture of me, and assumed it was of someone else. when they last saw me i was working 20 hour days and fighting a horrible legal battle. perhaps it's just the ebbing away of stress.

i got my notice from my landlord today. the fucker wants to kick out all the tenants so that he can sell the building to someone who, it is rumoured, plans to convert the whole building into a brothel. this pisses me off more than a little. luckily for me, the landlord screwed up my original lease and by an odd loophole in english tenancy law it looks like they may be screwed. i'll spare you the details of the 1988 housing act, but having waved the papers at my lawyer it was nice to see an evil grin spread across his face. if i knew if and when i was moving to AZ, i wouldn't care so much, but this is the worst fucking time for me to have to move out. and it is next to impossible to find a place in soho (no surprise, seeing as they are steadily converting every damn flat into a a work place for "models".)

matt came round today. we had coffee and he sighed a lot. it was tiresome. but we are being so horribly responsible and grown up and amicable i am starting to wonder if i have been replaced by an alien pod.

nichelle said:

"I'm convinced that (with possibly a very rare exception) one party loves the other more. This is true in friendships and other relationships, though the roles sometimes change. On rare occasions, I've had a kind of equality in friendships. Never, I think, in a sexual relationship."

and i am sure she is right. being a callous bitch, most of my relationships have ended when i couldn't deal with being over-loved. i'm claustrophobic. matt tells me he still loves me, and the question i can never ask him is 'why?'


From: Nichelle
Date: 24 April 1997
Subject: hair

I've heard many times that women in crisis or at times of major shifts in lifestyle tend to change their hair.


From: Kathleen
Date: 25 April 1997
Subject: Re: Calamity Kate rides again

Dear Gaby,

we'll start a new - i won't hate you.
I'll wake up every morning and pour orange juice.
It'll be nice - but trytorefrainfromfreakinmeout. kay?
I'll do the same.
But why on earth are you still here?


From: SAGReiss
Date: 25 April 1997
Subject: Welcome

I have done nothing to make you hate me, nor did I do anything to freak you out. I saw you and I winked at you, discretely. You told Slammy we knew one another. I was ready to keep that between ourselves. I'll help you as much as I can. It's a good job. Why am I still here? Where would you have me go?

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Kathleen
Date: 25 April 1997
Subject: Re: Welcome

No no no - from before - you did plenty to make me hate you. I appreciated the wink. Thanks - i'm sayin. France.

From: Nichelle
Date: 25 April 1997
Subject: Gabe rides Calamity Kate again

There was a guy named negatron in one of the IRC sex rooms last night who was hitting on me. The IRC boys are a little more aggressive about needing to know what you look like. I told one of them, "I'm fat, bald, and ugly." He didn't like my answer- wanted the truth. "Well, I lied. I'm not actually bald." "Have you got a picture?" "Only my graduation photo, but I don't look anything like it anymore, so what's the point?" "Send it anyway." I did. "You're beautiful." "Used to be, not anymore." Ask Murder. He knew me when I looked fairly respectable. Couldn't access my e-mail account, checked the stack of printouts and glanced through the secret love files of Mr_Antichrist and Calamity Kate. Nothing that exciting, but anything having to do with women makes me jealous. I am constantly asking questions. "Is kate your new girlfriend?" I hate other women because I know that no matter how brilliant and charming I try to be, they are more beautiful than I am.

I've got penis envy. My friend Dawn and I discussed sexual relationships on the MOO last night. She said women should have 3-4 orgasms to every one the man has. I didn't say what I was thinking- that a one to one ratio would be nice. Oh, I have them. But I have them alone in the shower after the act. Sexually satisfied women probably feel less jealous of other women. I can already hear the response: I'm just not interested in sex anymore.

So I came home, woke up Gaby, tried to figure out why my computer was on. He rushed off to work, saying something or other about music files and coming home at nine o'clock. That's about three hours from now, and my stomach feels sick. Don't know what I'll do with the time. Tomorrow's going to be a long day.


From: SAGReiss
Date: 26 April 1997
Subject: Hat(red)

I still do not know what ("plenty" no less) I may have done to make you hate me. We parted on fairly good terms in May 1995. On 22 February 1996 I included you in an internet project which has become the listserv, web site and MOO listed below. When Jeff informed me that you were no longer at SU, I took your address off the list. I have no idea whether you ever got the dozens of messages we sent. When we met on 9 September 1996 I was happy to see you and naturally wanted to invite you to participate in our work. It was an extremely odd day. You could find some explanation on our web site or by rereading the e-mail of that time. I won't bore you with too many details. On that day we received a log (text copied from a chat room or MOO) of mea (dis)culpa from the man whom Nichelle accuses of raping her. I wrote a letter in the ironic vein simply suggesting the underlying uncertainty of memory's witness of the past. You were not alone to be offended. Others understood my point. No one except me, so far as I know, thought it was funny. I see here no cause for hatred. The timing may have been unlucky, but I planned neither to meet you nor to receive that log, still less to do both on the same day. I was a little puzzled by your answer, but respected your wishes and apologized for any misunderstanding. I had neither seen nor heard of you since until you walked into the kitchen Thursday morning. I had more reason than you to be surprised. Anyway, as I said, it's a good job, and I'd be happy to work with you. I just thought we should clear up any confusion lest it clutter up our workplace.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 28 April 1997
Subject: 4-28

smoking a cigar again tonight
too much fighting, I want to leave the instant it starts
and so after a few moments of silent backwatching, I took the money from the
desk corner and left
drizzling rain on my bare arms and face
shirt and jacket slung over my left shoulder
they keep falling down as I try to light the cigar
I'm no good at it
sitting down on the wet cement block
walk into the store with bad cigar breath and walk back out again with a six
pack of upchuck cider and a bag of bugles

won't trouble you with the details
I'm not sure why I'm so sad
god didn't you know I was fucked up when you mailordred me?

This is how Miles Davis teaches trumpet players to tongue:
you imagine you have a piece of cagar stuck on your lip and you
try to flick it off with your tongue

Sorry, Miles.

in such need of attention
it would be a good time to take advantage of me
laurent, bring your big baguette, but try not to give me a yeast infection
this time

trying to remember how many times my mother accused me of smoking when I was
a kid
I think she did that a lot
I never even tried it until college
big bad cigar smokin mama
and my bf Don used to think I was smoking pot all the time
said my breath smelled like it
but really, it was just the peppermint tea
well, apparently there's something about the combination of my mouth and
peppermint tea that smells like pot
I don't know. I've never smoked pot.
but I think I want to sometime
with somebody who won't laugh at me, since I'm not very good at inhaling smoke
my virgin lungs only know dmitri and igor

i know you're tired sweethart but i need you now
it's not fair it's not right but i still need you
in some ways i'm a tough bitch, i take no shit and no prisoners
please don't write a tough letter
i'm not toughabout relationships
just tell me it's going to be okay
and i'll believe you

fuck you must have been really fucking tired
here i am smoking your camel cigarettes at my desk
and i set off the fire alarm
cracked open the door waiting for a torrent of obscenities
but only snores
"my god are you dead?"
i actually checked to see if he was brething

been on th e moo a lot
drunk of upchuck sider and tired
but going to keep going until all sex are gone
want to beloved
love you gaby
no criticisms
i am happy to be libing with you here
but better sopmewher else thatn here
don't want to cr y any more
just want to love and eat and sleep together
drive to seattle together
start something better
love you gaby


From: SAGReiss
Date: 28 April 1997
Subject: OT

My normal work week is thirty-five and a half hours long, three days six to two and two days eight to three with half an hour break. I have worked overtime (more than forty hours for those of you who have never had a wage-slave job) seven of the last eight weeks. I am exhausted. No surprise I have been quarrelsome and an indifferent lover. I have no idea what I said Friday night, but my thoughts could only have been: "What can I say so she will let me sleep?" Two shifts Friday and some crazy argument keeping me awake. Two shifts Saturday and I have to wait for the bus until twenty past ten. No wonder I, who am never late, was late two days in a row. Since my academic future is apparently in the past, I shall not be able to make my own schedule for the foreseeable future. The food service industry is known for irregular hours. If, as I hope and expect, Nichelle is once again a student, perhaps she can arrange her classes and practice to fit my new job. I hope to work room service nights, especially since it gets late early in Seattle. I'm sick of hearing: "KAWfee and ARenge juice." I'm sick of cheap fucks arguing over ten-dollar breakfasts. I'm sick of serving shitty food to people in a hurry.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Kathleen
Date: 28 April 1997
Subject: Re: Hat(red)

no clutter

From: SAGReiss
Date: 28 April 1997
Subject: Soy sauce

On another note, have you perchance a copy of that soy sauce parable e-mail you sent to me in April or May 1995? I don't know if you keep very careful records. I usually do, but I seem to have lost this one.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Kathleen
Date: 30 April 1997
Subject: Re: Soy sauce

I don't have it. BUT i do have a job at the Sheraton. She called me this
morning - happy as a lark. I go in tomorrow at the crack o dawn. I have a
question for you. You were telling the class once about some grand
philosopher - the answer was - "you don't have to repeat the question". I
forget what the question was - and the context of the conversation. DO you

From: SAGReiss
Date: 30 April 1997
Subject: My memory

I remember everything. The author in question is Paul Valery, poet and amateur linguist. I can't find the text in question right now in the hideous bordel of books and papers. He seeks a purely linguistic definition for the success or failure of communication. He takes as an example the question: "Avez-vous du feu?" He claims, in a beautiful but fundamentally mistaken reasoning, that the non-repetition of the question is confirmation of successful communication, that the cigarette was lit. See you tomorrow morning.

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

March 1997

May 1997

vr: 1997

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