Length of official day: 17 hours, 36 minutes.
States visited: 1.
Cities/towns visited: 1.
Miles travelled: Approximately 5, plus or minus 2.
Official events: 2.
Main message: I voted.
6:45 a.m. Wake up to a brand new day.
7:20 a.m. Drive with Monique to the Christ the King Moravian Church. Wonder what or who a Moravian is. Should I know what a Moravian is? Cast ballot. Receive, in exchange for completed ballot, one red, white, and blue sticker that reads, “I voted.” Walk out with sticker stuck to the tip of my right index finger, wondering what in the world I’m supposed to do with this sticker.
7:25 a.m. Car won’t start. Not to worry, it sometimes does this after short trips. We sit in the car and wait a few minutes. Monique describes why she prefers the classic voting booth, with the heavy polyester curtain and all the levers next to the names as opposed to the plastic things that are made to collapse and fold up into narrow silver briefcases.
7:27 a.m. Seeing that Monique has stuck her “I voted” sticker on the dashboard, I put mine beside it. Together they look like a slightly unsettling pair of patriotic eyes.
7:45 a.m. Home again. Monique leaves for work.
7:49 a.m. Write long e-mail to the students in my on-line fiction workshop, on the subject of why they should please reconsider their position that stories with very little detail and loads of ambiguity leave things “open,” thus “reaching a broader audience,” thereby achieving “universal appeal.” Ask them rhetorically what in their lives actually can claim universal appeal. Some band I haven’t heard of? A pasta sauce? Coca-Cola? Posit that nothing whatsoever can be said to have universal appeal, except—and here I’m employing an absurdist pedagogical technique that I have no idea where I picked up—gravity and air, and gravity and air only matter to the living. Ask them about what this goal of universal appeal is all about, anyway? Do they really want to create something with universal appeal? Why? I can’t imagine.
Gesture obligatorily to the current story under discussion, the story that brought all this up to begin with. That story is about an Arabic boy going to school somewhere in the U.S., who is taunted with racial epithets and, in one very, very detailed scene, sits stoically on the school bus as the bully, his nemesis, hawks up buckets of phlegm and spits it at the back of the boy’s head, coating him. Well, the boy with the phlegm on his head grows up—very, very quickly, as it happens, and less than convincingly—and conspires with Mike and Richie, his only two friends ever, to attack their school, Columbine-style. Mike is described as a “mulatto,” Richie has “a lot of tattoos and piercings,” and together the three of them are “teenager philosophers” surrounded entirely by superficial types. The philosophers set off simultaneous pipebomb explosions, spread noxious gas through the ventilation system, and then, armed with their “glocks,” shoot up a cafeteria’s worth of students and teachers.
I suggest that I’m pretty sure this story would not be helped by, of all things, a lack of details. Maybe different details, yes, but not a total lack. Illustrate this by stripping every single one of the details out of the first paragraph. No more school bus, no more spitting, no more racial epithets. Everything is ambiguous, nothing is specified. Now all we know is that the narrator is afraid. Why? We don’t know. Of what? We don’t know. Someone says something to him. Then someone does something to him. The story is actually unintentionally funny without details, but that’s beside the point. Ask if the story now approaches their standard for universal appeal.
10:15 a.m. Bowl of cereal and glass of orange juice. Read article in free weekly about technicalities of registering third-party candidates in the state of North Carolina. Pretty interesting, the state-by-state comparison. I study this chart they publish and get momentarily fired up over systemic inconsistencies and bureaucratic hurdles.
11:28 a.m. Receive group e-mail from Neal Pollack about yet another story suggesting that he is not real, that he is in fact Dave Eggers. Question asked: How can he put a stop to these stories and prove once and for all that he’s real? People, look, Neal Pollack is not Dave Eggers. Give it a rest already.
11:40 a.m. Take a brief, desultory spin through various Web sites for magazines and newspapers, looking to see if anyone is posting results of exit polls yet. Wonder why I’m wasting my time looking for exit poll results, of all things, and stop, immediately. For good measure, I turn the computer off.
11:41 a.m. Read yesterday’s New York Times.
12:05 p.m. Warm up left-over zitti. Slice mushrooms, mix with pasta, allow to simmer, and serve with large glass of water. I drink a lot of water.
12:30 p.m. Think about turning on NPR while I eat, to, you know, see what people are talking about today.
12:31 p.m. I think not.
12:32 p.m. Have this idea that I should keep a record of my day today and call it a campaign wrap-up, except that it will have very little to do with any actual campaign or any pressing need to wrap said campaign up. But in a way couldn’t it perhaps achieve a certain kind of dogged honesty that more official campaign wrap-ups can never approach? Maybe? Is it possible that it might have something to say about the place of elections in one fairly normal life? I do not know for sure. I do know that of all the kinds of honesty I prefer dogged honesty the very best of all.
12:45 p.m. Manage to recreate first-part of day, more or less, with perhaps only slight inaccuracies with respect to the times when certain events happened. No more than plus or minus five minutes either way. Wonder, as I read over what I wrote and, in turn, what I’ve done, if I ate lunch too soon after eating breakfast. Can’t that be dangerous? I mean, unhealthy? In some cases? Did I actually take that long to write that e-mail? Yes, unfortunately, I did. Does it look as if all I do is eat? Should I perhaps monkey with the chronology to make it so I eat breakfast earlier, say, before writing the e-mail to the class? No. I must maintain accuracy. This is a campaign wrap-up after all. Objectivity is desirable, if not required.
1:04 p.m. Look up “Moravian” in the dictionary. I’m still not sure why a church has that word in their name. May have to call their offices and ask. Is that rude to ask? That’s not rude. However, I probably shouldn’t ask today, lest I interrupt them while they’re busily rigging the election to favor all their full-blooded Moravian candidates.
1:41 p.m. Not a single student has responded to my e-mail. Only two students responded to the initial questions I wrote yesterday about the story about the boy with the phlegm on his head. There has been next to no discussion this week. I have the growing, not entirely paranoid suspicion that nobody in the class reads my e-mails anymore. I picture students merrily deleting all my messages. Of course, I can’t actually picture my students, having not ever seen them to begin with.
Then again, sometimes I wonder, and this is one of those times, if the entire class is fake, that I’m earnestly doing my part, teaching, while everything else is an elaborate charade.
3:02 p.m. Not much has happened to me so I’ll write about last weekend. Last weekend I hung birdfeeders outside our windows. Three birdfeeders, to be exact, one that’s a plastic tube and two that are disguised as small wooden cottages, the sort of cottages made expressly to be filled with birdseed. I also hung a slightly porous bag of thistle and a ball of nesting material, consisting chiefly of small lengths of colored string and thread. Each positioned now outside a separate window. No birds yet. No birds, no students.
3:59 p.m. I have to go to the post office. The post office is actually a small private-sector enterprise that calls itself “The Packaging Store.” The Packaging Store is located in a shopping center across the street. I haven’t been there before. I will admit to being not a little curious to see what sort of packaging and mailing services they offer one such as me at The Packaging Store.
How I enjoy delivering my mail, on foot, directly into the hands of the people who deliver my mail to me.
However, we don’t live within walking distance of a post office.
Still, The Packaging Store might offer an acceptable compromise.
4:14 p.m. They charged at me at least double. I expected there would be some kind of premium—there would have to be, private enterprise being private enterprise—but double? It was at least double. Probably more. It was probably more than double.
5:30 p.m. Nothing much going on here at the moment. Just reading a book and getting ready to check the mail, which typically comes promptly, anytime between 5:38 p.m. and 7:19 p.m. Last week a friend sent me a package of play money, little ones, little fives, and plastic pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Each bill explains that it is not legal tender. Each piece of currency is stamped “COPY.” For $1.58 plus sales tax a person can buy $60 and change in play money. That’s a pretty good exchange rate, provided you can find the land that accepts play money.
5:45 p.m. Nothing much doing with respect to new mail. We typically get as much mail for ourselves as we do for Jaime and Justyn Kasierski, the former tenants who moved out suddenly. I have tried to draw some conclusions about who these mysterious Kasierskis are—what makes them tick, exactly—but all I have managed to come up with is that one of them completed Duke Law school and the other one gets a boatload of medical bills. There is a Kasierski child who a few months ago received postcards from a school teacher, welcoming him into the grade at the school he’d never again attend.
6:19 p.m. Monique’s home from work. She brings delicious food.
6:37 p.m. The Moravian Church was founded by the followers of John Huss (also Jan Hus), a Czechoslovakian religious reformer born in 1372 (?) who was excommunicated for attacking the corruption of the clergy and questioning the authority and infallibility of the Catholic Church. Huss was burned at the stake in 1415. Now that that’s settled.
6.49 p.m. Black bean burritos, salad, chips and guacamole.
7:00 p.m. ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS.
8:37 p.m. I once wanted to write a story—this was years ago—about a tiny village somewhere. Every year the people in this tiny village somewhere gathered together to bake a big cake. This was just something they did, always together. Now it was the custom that the people placed a single bean inside the cake. When the cake was done, all baked and all covered with icing, slices were cut, and whoever received the slice of cake with the bean in it became king for seven days. I think you see where I’m going with this.
10:00 p.m. ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS.
11:15 p.m. Once upon a time, in a tiny village, there lived a people who chose their king on the basis of a single bean….
11:30 p.m. ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS.
11:45 p.m. In the story several characters are vying for the bean, of course. One says something along the lines of, “Aye, but if the bean be mine I’ll rule with a furious passion, you can mark that well.” Most of the story was in dialogue, I should say. Faux Shakespeare. Very faux in most cases. Another character says, “Should the bean be mine, you will pay highly, sir. I’ll extract from your skin the steep price of my humiliation.” A third character, trying to keep the peace, says, “Come, come, such talk is folly and furious nonsense for we both know the bean is not yours. Let’s hear now from others their plans as seven-day kings.”
11:57 p.m. I know this story, tentatively titled “King Bean,” was and still is going nowhere.
11:58 p.m. It just seems relevant is all.
11:59 p.m. I voted.
12:20 a.m. Proofreading is complete.
12:21 a.m. It’s time to sleep.