Cleaning as a Way of Life



I’ve been living in my modest domicile for like what? A year? Two? (Christ, it has been two years!) And though it is not large enough or even remotely roomy, sorta more what money guzzling
San Francisco landlords in a cruel attempt at deception tend to describe as cozy or compact, so consequently there really isn’t that much to cleaning it and for the most part I do it on the regular and all. But a real problem has recently arisen and that has to do with the 6 by 8 foot section that I’ll designate as the “Bedroom” and its carpeting. This is in fact how I can distinguish it from the rest of the apartment: The rest – all five feet of the kitchen being laid out in a parody of tile inscribed linoleum or the institutional yellow non-slip surface of the bathroom/shower area, but that thankfully is behind its own imitation laminated wood door.

Now I’ve tried to keep up in a cleanly sort of way against the infernal soot that the elevated freeway spews in from the window as well as the dust that creeps in under the door from the hall. But after all this time, with nothing but a small brush and dustpan to sweep with the floor, well, the carpet to be exact has suffered. You can brush a carpet all that you want but there are fibers and twills and layers to contend with and it really doesn’t get very clean, and it’s not like I’ve been hovering over it with happy fingers as I eat tortilla chips in an imitation of a desert sandstorm or that I gleefully spit cherry pits across the room once I am done with the fruit, but the carpet is sort of thick with bits you might say—little strange pieces of life that have strayed on my foot from outside and landed here on my floor and into my rug. The question of what to do with them has now materialized.

You would think that in an apartment building whose numerous hallways are entirely covered in carpet, the management would see fit to lend a resident one of their many industrial grade vacuum cleaners. But no, apparently it’s against management’s wishes and there is what was described to me at the front desk as a “no go policy” which I can only interpret as that they are not going to lend one to me and anyway seeing what shambles my neighbors make of their own belongings not to mention their lives, I can hardly protest that I’m what? Different? And they should bend their rules and make an exception. But the idea of going out and buying a vacuum seems absurd just to clean a 6 by 8 foot section of floor, not to mention like just where in hell I am supposed to store the damn thing when it’s not in use. And for a quick second I thought that others in the building may be experiencing this same dilemma and that maybe I could organize a vacuum coalition where we as neighbors communally shared the use as well as the storage but then I’m back contemplating what neighbors are at hand and I think we’d have problems even deciding if we trusted the first one of us to store it or, as is my fear, just expect that person to go down to Sixth Street and pawn it.

At this point I am really nowhere near solving my problem, a problem that I never thought that I’d ever have. Who would have predicted that in the year 2004 that I’d have cultivated such a need for a vacuum or even be presiding over a rug in need of vacuuming for that matter? It wasn’t like in the years past I kept the cleanest of houses – all spotless and pristine with everything in place, nor had I pitched a tent in the midst of the city dump! However the acquiring of household appliances was never a forerunner of my unmet needs or something that I perused the Sunday paper’s ad supplements in order to obtain the best deal while going all ga-ga over the Millennium Hoover Model and checking its dirt absorption ratios and dust bag capacities.

This is just not how I saw my life back in the nineties. But then again I really didn’t see much of a future in the nineties, let alone do I really remember them either! It’s just all a sort of murky blur where I kinda recollect the highlights — if that is indeed what they were. But I’m pretty sure that I can safely say that vacuums were not on the top of my list of must-have items and that cleaning rugs was at best something that others did – those of whom actually had rugs and felt the need to clean them. It’s pretty safe to say that my priorities were a tad screwed up but does an obsession with a clean carpet necessitate that one’s life has taken a turn for the better? Or am I just bowing down to the accepted norm?

Meanwhile at this moment in time I am forced to take a look at just why this bacteria infested fiber floor covering annoys me so? Is it my urbane upbringing coming back to haunt me or do we all get overly fastidious about cleanliness once we’ve reached a certain age? And if the truth be told there were times not that long ago when I did actually have a spacious almost trendy garden apartment with wall to wall carpet and a vacuum and a girlfriend and a different life. But all those bits came unglued and sorta went their separate ways and who knows where the vacuum is now, let alone the girlfriend and besides I was sharing the apartment with someone that I thought was in love with me. So the reason to keep a clean environment was the mutual coexistence of sharing space with another not like now where it’s just me and the microwave watching DVD’s and me writing about shit all on the internet!

Ok, so obviously there’s a morsel of discontent here and the vacuum just sort of got stuck in the crossfire. And it has become all too apparent once I started conversing on the subject and after I announced that I didn’t have or need a vacuum or a future and then I allegedly did but it was in a life that I no longer have and now I seem to be endlessly lamenting and somewhat bitching about the pathetic bit of life that I do have. Could it be that obsessing over the floor is really a misplaced fixation in the name of cleanliness as a way to not address what is really screwed up in my life? Or more to the point – what I have screwed up in my life!

Damn I hate the soul searching drama of self-discovery that precedes an overt observation on my part. It would be so much easier to absent-mindedly come to the same conclusion while drinking coffee and reading the morning paper instead of dissecting my life one layer at a time until I expose the wounded interior to the bright light of day. It’s like waking up and realizing it’s morning and time to get up and start your daily routine and then just giving up to turn over and go back to sleep knowing that you’ll enjoy dreaming life a little better than the real thing.

But getting back to the matter at hand – I’m starting to get the feeling that in setting up my apartment, my life yet again has reached a rather repetitive and tedious point and having to buy things like a dish drying rack or a cutting board for the twentieth time is apparently taking its toll on my psyche and coming to the surface evolved as a soiled rug complex. What an analogy! Messed up life – dirty rug! Internal change – cleaning! It is a tad bit more acceptable intellectually to think that I’m preoccupied with the encrusted carpet because it is an exercise on getting my life together rather than admitting to an obsessive-compulsive disorder of the mind. But if that is so, well herein lies the rub – what exactly is the vacuum representing in this equation? The Eureka Whirlwind Bagless Cyclonic 4880D of self awareness or a little personality overhaul from the good folks down at Royal – “the first name in home care”?

I have often heard it said, well truthfully I only heard it said once and that was in some arcane foreign movie, but anyway here goes – that your home is the mirror of your soul. It may be way past time for some house cleaning on the galactic scale yet it is never too late to put in the work. Which brings to mind that esoteric Zen proverb “Chop wood, carry water” or the long explanation in English – find inner peace in the ordinary routine and once you have attained enlightenment life doesn’t stop. Obviously I still have so much work to do here and in the end my carpet is still as complete a mess as I am.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 24th, 2004 at 2:26 am. 3 responses. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

The Substance of Revelations

The mini-half fridge in my apartment has two kinds of water staring me in the face, bubbly and flat and only the wilted cilantro wedged between the hand-pressed organic mustard seed mustard and the very un-organic high in cholesterol Best Foods brand mayo in its squeezable tube resemble anything edible. The cantaloupe has been there for like what? Three weeks? Hovering in a depreciating shell and really do I think that what’s inside is going to be any different than what’s growing on the bottom of it in light shades of blue?

In the apartment upstairs from me they’re drilling a hole in the floor with an immense auger, so for now to stay here and think about what to eat is a futile proposition. But none the less I am hungry and there are only two places in this neighborhood to buy groceries – Jack’s Liquors or Whole Foods. Now Jack’s, for a liquor/porn store and only a mere half block away, has an amazing amount of really strange dusty canned goods and an un-amazing mixture of discount two for a dollar cookies, puffy loafs of generic white bread, off brand toilet paper and those suspect triangle “deli sandwiches” that Ahmed’s got tucked away neat in their little wedge shaped packages behind a refrigerated display case. This veritable plethora of culinary delights pales in comparison to the two shining racks of porno magazines and half priced “Adult” videos that take up the front left-hand side of the store’s space. There is a small badly printed sign proclaiming this part of the store off limits to those that are not 18 years of age or older and then two or three larger ones stating that there will be no overt fondling of any of these items unless you absolutely intend to buy them! In the back of the store below the giant concave anti-pilfering mirror are the real necessities – the beer and wine, while behind the checkout counter the various sized bottles of hard liquor sit awaiting purchase. Thus have I mentally toured Jack’s before even going over there and came up with the same conclusion as always – that there is nothing to eat there unless one is so inebriated that booze or pornography no longer holds sway and any thought of avoiding what does indeed keep these foods from rotting after years of sitting on these shelves is a dietary concept that one doesn’t adhere to.

As an alternative there is, of course, Whole Foods, an actual organic grocery market chain store that just put down roots not a block and a half away from my apartment building. Yet in substance and appearance it is another world apart from Jack’s. There are no racks of magazines with naked women shoving their breasts together as they stare out at you nor are there any microwave and serve frozen chiliburgers to be found. However, there are many organic or at least somewhat humanly processed food stuffs from throughout the world and a rather large take-out/self-serve/salad-bar area, while the rest of the store has its fresh vegetable, meat and cheese sections. There is quite the au courant bakery as well. And right about this time you might be asking just why anyone would waste their energy going to Jack’s if this seemingly tempting wholesome emporium were available instead?

And I think I can answer that sorta.

If it’s real early in the morning or after nine at night then Jack’s be it as far as stores for this neighborhood and if you’re a bit down on your luck and a tad short on funds then Ahmed will put it on the tab until the end of the week and besides as overpriced as he is Ahmed’s a local. He lives upstairs from his store and from what I can see all he does is work and sleep and scream at the Crackheads while waving a baseball bat! Now none of the employees over at Whole Foods even lives in the neighborhood and besides all the people who work at Whole Foods, except of course this one girl with the short black hair who sorta smiled at me once with this lopsided smile of hers… But anyway, all the stockers, the fishmongers, the cheese slingers and even the cashiers all look like they just finished shooting dope in the bathroom and afterwards either were busy piercing each other’s bodies with the used hypodermic needle or tattooing one another with the same needle dipped in organic day-glo goo! Not one of them appears destined to be a professional clerk in the same sense that those guys who bag your groceries at the mega-markets in the suburbs do. Not that I’d wish that kinda existence on my worst enemy and really I got nothing against junkies – hell I was one for ever and ever! But at least I had the decency to not touch food stuff and be a parasite for a living while I was one! I mean what happened to the days when any self-respecting junkie committed petty crimes for their daily fix by shoplifting in places like Whole Foods – not working in one!

Then again it’s not like Ahmed over at Jack’s actually washes his hands after he pees and then prepares you a tasty Cup-O-Noodles™ in the store’s seldom cleaned and much abused microwave. But at least I know that he’s there exploiting the neighborhood with his over priced transfat saturated garbage and makes no pretense about doing it. Hell for all I know he’s selling crack to the kids from the elementary school around the corner!

So I guess that my ire is somewhat misdirected and what I resent the most isn’t the slovenly Whole Food’s workers themselves but their complacent engrossment in this invasion of my neighborhood by the likes of these alternative lifestyle franchises with its “for the community/for your health” bullshit and all. Like how dare they come into this grimy repressed area and try and help us out by placing quality edible food within our grasp! And maybe the overly pierced youngsters behind the tofu counter just happen to remind me a little too much of myself at their age and ok, maybe I do need to take a look at that and stop blaming them for things that are beyond their ability to change. And so what that in my day tattoo scrawled junkies had scruples and boundaries as to what they’d allow themselves to be exploited with and that now these kids will just about do anything that bucks the old trends in order to survive.

Jesus! How could they be drilling for so long above me and not come through my ceiling yet? And I still haven’t had anything to eat though a double latte sounds just about right to get those digestive juices flowing. But don’t get me started on Starbucks vs. the little Russian guy’s espresso shop up on 3rd Street!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 31st, 2004 at 5:41 am. one response. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

To Health



Ah, that comfortable tinkling sound as the ice cubes flow to one side of the coffee mug and who’d a thought that the Scotch Whiskey of years past would be replaced with the Ther-a-flu of today? No longer “medicating one’s self” in the language of addiction, but actually medicating one’s self in a constant battle to stave off whatever germ/virus/dementia is threatening my immanent fragile state of being.

It’s noon on Thursday and I’m hoping that this week I can find my way to indeed stay out of the emergency room, thus breaking my own record for four consecutive Friday afternoon visits in a row. I really don’t know what’s going on here but as intricate as my health is nowadays you’d figure that I was dying of something. Yet every time I endure another régime of tests I come out with a clean bill of health and no real answers as to why in hell I can’t go for more than a week before being laid out with some debilitating aliment. It’s been more than a blessing to finally for once in my life have health coverage, but sort of strange that before without it I was never sick. Well, minor sniffles, a major drug habit and a few stitches here and there. But not: Pneumonia, Walking Pneumonia, Severe Allergic Reaction to Unknown Substances, Emergency Dental Gum Surgery, Acute Infection due to said Emergency Dental Gum Surgery, Shingles, Major and Minor Bouts of Depression, Third Degree Sunburn, Questionable Skin Detritus of the Extremities and too many colds, flues and assorted aches and pains to mention.

If I were to check off all of the ailments that I have endured in the last year you would think that it was from a detailed list of some adolescent teenager’s imagination who’s only wish was to miss another week of high school in order to hide from an agonizingly obscene dose of the zits! But given my age that is hardly the case and in reality I would gladly take on a ravenous acne attack rather than have to politely entertain what has been knocking on my door as of late.

My standard issue all American white metal and chrome with the mirrored front door medicine cabinet is filled full to capacity with prescription bottles of: Azithromycin, Amoxicillin, Ranitidine, Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride, Zovirax, Fluoxetine, Hydroxyzine and industrial strength Motrin. These of course are being forced to share the space with the usual assortment of normal personal hygiene items and an unusual amount of prescribed tubes of lotions and creams, like: Clobetasol Propionate, Betamethasone Dipropionate and least I forget the Hydrocortisone, Traumeel and Desonide ointments.

But what really amazes me is that I was able to exist for this long in my life without all these pills and medicated goo. Then again I wasn’t dying of an “as of yet diagnosed” Malicious Malignant Mental Melanoma, or is that Manitoba, a province rather than a state of mind? Who’s to say? And even if I was I didn’t have the medical coverage that I do now in order to be treated for all these maladies. So I probably wouldn’t have an overly stocked medicine cabinet or a continually rising co-payment to shell out at every convenient hospital visit either.

It’s just that Friday is looming closer onto the horizon and its kinda exciting trying to predict the next disorder—physical or mental. Hell, surf’s up! Maybe it will be something really exhilarating this time like an attack of Appendicitis! Whatever, as long as I get to lie around the emergency room watching Telemundo soap operas and writhing in pain.

Of course that this seemingly temporarily distracting existence could one day result in my inconvenient demise leaves me with nothing but to think about what it is going to be like—this morbid death of mine. Will it be like that moment when you’re getting photographed and of course you are busy looking at the floor or at a bit of crud hanging off of the person next to you? Your head a-tilt and what can be seen is a grimace across your face as the smile sorta fades and what is left can only be described as an expression of great pain. That one last “oh, what have I forgotten” look that makes me hate the exercise of being the victim of another photographic experience, yet still I try to accommodate those that attempt it whenever they chose to invade my life.

Will there really be that much time—that millisecond that it takes for the shutter to click open and then close? Is death really comparable to posing for your required “having fun on holiday” photo or is it much more of a mechanical equation more like simply flicking off the switch to the overhead light? Will I linger on one last wheezy whisper and then the entire seemingly wasted existence that was my life will play before my mind’s eye like a forbidden secret that only I get to witness this one last final time? Nice questions I know but what else is there to do but contemplate a grateful finish as you watch the flickering digital screen for your intake number to appear in a waiting room full of injured people vying for the triage nurse’s attention? Ah, emergency rooms—how I spent my summer vacation!

It’s kinda like watching this summer’s Olympics with the sound turned down. Physical records of endurance are being made but you have no idea as to the effort that is being put into it as you cannot hear the sounds of exertion emanating from those doing the record breaking deeds. Except when the guy in the next seat over who is holding what’s left of his face together stands up and cheers for the Cuban boxer who’s punching the hell outa some other steroid damaged kid from Poland! Where he gets that kinda strength I can’t fathom but hell if he’s in that good a shape to stand up and yell, well, then I should be seeing the doctor before him! Don’t you think, admittance nurse?

Anyway back to reality here, some might say that what I’m going through is strictly psychosomatic; meaning its all in my brain and I manifest it with physical symptoms that mimic real or perceived real diseases but that are really just me acting out sort of willing them to come true! Whoa! Now hold the frigg’in phone here a second! Seems like a lot of time and energy wasted there, huh? I could only prescribe to this chain of thought if it were indeed possible to accomplish this and not be aware of it at the same time. Which I am only too sure that it is as we are a sick bunch—that is we as in the human race. But no! I’d rather be banging away on my bass guitar and watching morally degenerate DVD’s than hacking up phlegm balls and getting my internal organs felt up by a practicing intern and even the draw of pharmaceutical highs isn’t the case here either as I decline such offers as more trouble than it’s worth if ya know what I mean and if you do than you do.

So aside from meeting exciting yet for the most part injured people for a few fleeting seconds or gaining the undying pity of all kinds of folks in the medical profession or getting to know the surly pharmacist on a first name basis, then there is really no reason as to why I would mentally will myself to go through all of the excruciating episodes that I have in the last year. Or for that matter taken all those liver debilitating drugs or in the very least smeared any of that antibacterial germ-destroying slime on the prescribed parts of my body! None, and I do mean none of this would I have done willingly if I did not feel that my very life depended on it and that very fact brings us around full circle to the original question: “What is going on with me or the universe that I live in that has been making me the sick person that I am at this moment in time?”

Ok, there I said it! No actually I’m shouting it out to the heavens above! But the answer is still obscure and unattainable and even if I was to suddenly get religion or irrationally join the US Army to kill for Saudi Arabian oil I know that I’d still be having these times of trouble during this year of technical difficulties and I’d still be stuck contemplating my hardships whether on medication or not. And of course none of this vague obscure reasoning really addresses the problem for what it truly is.

Maybe I have to look at it in more of a metaphysical light as in: Did I during the duration of any of these disorders find a place of peace or solitude, or at anytime did I gain any insightful wisdom while momentarily disabled by these wretched affliction’s relentless grip? Now while I am currently entertaining an above average case of “The Shingles”, which I’d have to say has been one of my least favorites, I think that I can safely say that while enduring everyone of these said ails that not one of them was an amiable state of being that I found comparable to how I feel when I am not under the weather and that no circumstances of sainthood, martyrdom, or inner peace have I, as of yet achieved. Due of course not to any lack of out of body experiences or mind altering antibiotics but mostly to a lack of consciousness as I prefer to sleep through it all when I don’t feel well.

I only bring this salvation/retribution-type matter up because oddly enough only yesterday on my way home I was talking to this intense Claretian Missionary guy on the 3rd Street bus about the good old days and I was telling him some of the frightful stuff that I used to do and he said, “That, my friend, is why you get things like shingles. You’re paying for your past sins.” Whoa again! So like what? I am forever in disfavor cosmically for having been an insufferable cretin? And if that is indeed the case then should I even continue to go on living or should I just cash my chips in now while I still have the chance? Or is there possibly someway to find out when I’m gonna be done paying for my past sins. Like a cosmic invoice of penance duly paid for past transgressions—sort of a barter system towards karma on the installment plan if you will? Hmmm. Pass me the Motrin I feel a soul cleansing Grand Mal seizure on the way!

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 26th, 2004 at 7:29 pm. Leave a comment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.