Tuesday, May 31, 2005


my last few days in madison. this is it. what a strange, strange week it's been. sun rises and nonstop social-izing. i can't put down derrick jensen's words and the reality of my departure seems just as surreal as the events of the past week. the summer is afoot. don't lose the magic...

"the idea of north"
by defiance, ohio

the idea of north was frozen like some glacial ice, so large and imposing - but quickly thawed by words of secrecy and thoughts of northern lights and polar ice and things i can't quite understand. not some cardinal point on a map, but a feeling that takes me where i meekly stand - an idea so exciting that suddenly i'm not content with running wild and playing games with friends in streets of this old college town.

i wish i had a magic compass. to tell me that adulthood's corrupt and there's more to this world than that which meets the eye. it could tell you the truth but to read it, you'd have to leard for yourself the meaning. to meter means to measure, and measures are what i'm so afraid to take.

they say the powers of this world are very strong. that men and women are moved by tides much fiercer than you can imagine. that they sweep us up in their currents, icy waves - the most terrible of lies. could we be much bigger than this with no forces to force us to decide?

Monday, May 23, 2005

today, i woke up and...

less than two more weeks left in madison. last night was my final house meeting at friends' co-op. i'm really bittersweet about the whole thing. i'm going to miss a lot of people here and all the good things about madison, but i know this just isn't the place for me right now and i'm looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead.

i have a place to live for (part of) the summer! it's a beautiful one bedroom apartment in northampton. the woman subletting it went to smith and knows one of jo's friends so it all works out quite well. the search is over. august is up in the air for me, which i'm kind of excited about. i'll just see what happens. i really should settle down in the fall though....right? isn't that what i said a year ago?

anyway, this weekend was a lot of fun because rachel jacobs was in town with lemuria, from buffalo, ny, and the show on saturday was a blast. sunday was a day off from their tour so they hung out in madison. they got tofu scrambler (which apparently doesn't exist in buffalo) at monty's blue plate diner and then played frisbee golf...as i partcipated in the house workday. not exactly what i wanted to do on a gorgeous spring day. but then we all went to the aftershow for the mad rollin' dolls, madison's all-girl roller derby league, final bout. it was the most crowded i have ever seen the high noon saloon. screamin' cyn cyn and pons rocked the werewolf's ass.

it was a good weekend overall. so nice to see rachel again and catch up, and to meet the friendly lemuria kids. they were really cool and put on a fine live show. yay to new friends! i was sad to see them all leave today. back on the road toward davenport, iowa. i should've gone with.

Friday, May 20, 2005

gossiping about how great people are

i survived my stint as a temp-slave at the univeristy bookstore. the job itself wasn't so bad after that awful supervisor left me alone. but i was sick the whole time i worked there, coughing and sneezing all over the text books. it was one of the last places i wanted to be. but i survived.

this is partially due to a few amazing people who passed through town during this difficult moment in my life. first was david rovics, a political folk-singer from boston that i've known for several years and brought to bard college a few times. he played in madison just as i was starting my job and i got to interview him about following his passion as a full time job. hearing him play "minimum wage strike" brought me back to my senior year in high school when i first heard him play, but also deeply resonated with my current situation. he had no idea that i was in madison so after his performance at the memorial union terrace i tapped him on the shoulder and said, "hey." he was totally surprised and gave me a big hug. so nice to see him.

and then last thursday in the midst of the week from hell, peter linebaugh unexpectedly descended on madison. his wisdom and radical spirit provided me with the hope and perseverance to make it through the week. he reminded me that the most effective way to fight power is get together with other people and organize because you can't do it alone. peter continues to be an important mentor of mine and a true friend.

after working 6 days in a row, i enjoyed a much-needed day off on sunday. it was anne's birthday so we all went to the glass nickel and stuffed ourselves with delicious pizza. it was also the day of allison's graduation at the UW so her whole family came along too. before i left my house to celebrate with them i got a phone call from meredith informing me that she was in town from los angeles! she had written me a couple weeks ago to let me know she was gonna be around for a couple days later in the month, but i totally forgot. it was such a lovely surprise. meredith is one of the most wonderful people i know. she is a dear friend, an incredible conversationalist, and a radical, compassionate, musicologist visionary. i feel more hopeful about the state of the world when i remember that meredith is out there.

so, we met up that night after i returned from the glass nickel. walked down to michaelangelo's and drank tea until we were the last ones there and they were mopping the floor. unfortunately she had to leave the next day and i had to work, but we had lunch together on my break before saying goodbye. those brief moments that we share with people in our lives are so precious. you never know when you'll see each other again so you need to make the most of it. i hope that our paths cross again...soon.

so all of these special visitors helped me get through the week. and tomorrow i get to see another old friend from college. rachel jacobs is on tour playing her amazing acoustic songs and i'm setting up a show for her in madison! i can't wait. oh, and jo is back from india! yaaaay!

these are the moments.

Friday, May 13, 2005

small defeats, large visions

held like water in your shaking hands
are all the small defeats a day demands
10-6 or 9-5 trying, dying to survive
never knowing what survival means

i have spent most of my time this week with the likes of upton sinclair, virginia woolf, mark twain, max weber, juliet schor, and william shakespeare. although this sounds like great fun, it has been one of the most miserable weeks of my entire life. i fucking hate my job.

my time as a temp-worker sorting books at the university of wisconsin bookstore will end only a week and half after it began. i can't imagine doing it any longer. it's funny because i love books and i always enjoyed putting books away at rainbow bookstore cooperative on my volunteer shifts. but this is different. the university bookstore is a corporate factory surrounded by a much larger bureaucratic monster. it is a plantation of text books. thousands of students who are done with their spring semester courses are selling their books back this week. as the bookstore's temporary slaves we are responsible for sorting, alphabetizing and organizing the returned books. as the week progresses the space is closing in on itself, like a basement quickly filling up with water. all we can do is tread as hard as we can until we can't breathe anymore. then we leave.

the work itself actually is not that bad. i work at a pretty leisurely pace and i don't smell when i get home. it's the workplace that is oppressive. my supervisor is little rat named terry doyle. a small fish in ginormous chlorinated lake, trained to micro-manage us plankton that are temporarily floating below him. i don't do well with supervisors and their dubious mission to reinforce the myth that there is one correct way to do everything.

when i registered with the temp agency i decided that i would go by matthew; to assume a different name and identity for this strange, disjointed experience. "hi this is matthew dineen. do you have any work for me this week?" undercover, selling my labor...the ultimate alienation. i was introduced to terry doyle as matthew. when he approached me early in the week to assign me a "project" and accuse me of taking an extra break "at 10 of 3," he had forgotten my name. after uselessly speaking at me, without my acknowledgement, he finally submitted to requesting that i remind him what my name is. "matthew," i responded, still sorting books. "oh yeah, matt," he shot back. he's on to me. he reminds me that there are cameras. cameras. watching.

so, it sucks. but these kinds of experiences are important and stimulating. it has helped me put a lot of things into perspective. it has crystallized my politics and reinvigorated my commitment to particpatory democracy and collectively decision making. to creating a society where people truly have control over their lives. one that can cultivate lives worth living for. and i realize that i have it better than most of my fellow plankton. they are stuck in this temporary economy in madison, moving from job to job just to survive. some have families, some are alcoholics, everyone is miserable doing this work. by the end of the month i will be moving on with my life, away from madison and it's lakes (both real and metaphorical).

* * *

amidst my week of hell at the book plantation (and having a cold on top of it), i had a wonderful experience yesterday evening that helped me get through all of this. riding my bike to ambrosia co-op for dinner i discovered a very special person on the corner of state and w. johnson. seeing peter linebaugh, a professor and close comrade at bard college, standing on that corner was like biking through a dream. those ones with someone from your life that you haven't seen in a while because they mean a lot to you and you miss them.

there he was. visting madison from ann arbor, michigan with some students of his from the university of toledo. they were on a road trip researching landmarks relevant to the magna carta. it was cold here and they were going to camp, so i offered my house. we all hung out and engaged in stimulating conversation. mostly about how much my job sucks. and strategies of resistance.
they were grateful to have a warm, dry place to stay and i was excited to have the company. and peter showed his gratitude by donating a copy of his book to the friends' co-op library.

it was so good to see peter. we went to 2 degrees coffeeshop this morning before i went to work and they heading back. we hugged goodbye and he looked at me and said, "don't let the bastards get you down." that got me through the day. thanks peter.

i am gonna make it through this year
if it kills me

Saturday, May 07, 2005

working again

do we only need to keep working because it pays rent?

i started working again yesterday. i finally got a job through the temp agency. so, for the next couple weeks i will be sorting books alphabetically at the university of wisconsin bookstore. i'm a booksorter, an alphabetizer, a temporary wage-slave. i'm working again.

the thing about the job that i feared most was the red vest i was told i had to wear. at the end of the our group's tour through the bowels of the store the human resources manager brought us to the closet where the red vests live. "here they are." just before we tried them on, another university bookstore employee appeared, to inform her that the policy had changed. "they don't have to wear the red vests....well, unless they want to!" sigh. now i can just blend in and do my thing. no uniform. no name tag. And for some reason i have equated red vests with facial acne; as if they are related somehow or wearing the vest causes acne. so, no facial acne too.

i have the weekend off but will be working all next week. my manager, terry, who reminded me of a used-car salesman with a stutter, replied bluntly when i asked about the schedule for next week as i was leaving: "just show up."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

questions to ask

"in general, what direction do you think your life is heading?" i paused before answering her. my brain froze and i felt my heart collapse into my feet. this is the big question, right? the one that i've been obsessed with for the past couple years: what we do with our lives; how we live in this illogical society. so why was i drawing a blank? is it just this week of upheaval where everthing in my life seems uncertain?

i'll drown the urge for permanence and certainty...

what direction is my life going? i think i do know this. it was just that initial pause that sort of frightened me. that moment where nothing seemed to make sense. i want to take on the world with as much ambition as i can possibly create in my head:


the other question that tickled our minds that night seemed mundane, but in actuality is just as provocative and revealing: how do you feel about eating alone? the variety of responses this invoked made me realize how important this question is; how it can function as one of the most accurate measures of one's personality. so, what's your take on eating alone and why do you feel this way?

this is the most interesting question you can ask someone when you meet them.

Monday, May 02, 2005

snow in may?

may day was always such an important event when i was in college. the first of may: the history of workers' struggle and a current vision for a new society weighed down on me each year when i would run around the campus greeting everyone with, "happy may day!" it was such a special occasion. a time to celebrate the revolutionary spirit that was inside us.

yesterday was may day. for a brief period of time it snowed in madison. snow. in may. snow. it fucking snowed on may day. did i mention that i am leaving wisconsin soon?

the snow was something of a metaphor of my recent apathy. i didn't have the same intangible feeling that i usually do on this usually magical day. but i can't blame it on the snow. the snow was just symbolic for the way things have been recently.

that spirit is still there, inside of me. i just need to become inspired again, to get off my ass and do something. to stop the damn snow. i can see the light shining ahead...

happy (belated) may day.