I started writing something

but it was too depressing.

On the bright side, weather has been warm. The tortoise keeps eating the lupines, but they keep growing back. Not too many slugs on the lettuce yet, and nothing ate the radishes this year. Not much, at least. I mean, there’s still a little radish left this year, after you cut out the eaten parts.

Release the Ardbeg, said Sauron, desperately.

My wife and I attended the final concert of this season’s Klangforum subscription at the Konzerthaus last night. I was early so I went for a walk and then waited for her in the bar at a nearby hotel. It was a sunny, warm evening, so it felt good to be sitting in a comfortable chair at a table in a dark bar next to the whisky cabinet.

It took the waitress a while to find me, but I was in no hurry at all. I used the time to observe a couple guys at a nearby table and when that grew too depressing I looked at the single malts in the cabinet. They were beautiful and alluring, but when the waitress found me I ordered a gin martini. As I have mentioned before, I specify gin when I order martinis but that was unnecessary this time. Maybe they know me there by now. She asked if I wanted ice. This time I said no. She asked if I wanted olives or a twist of lemon, I said olives.

My drink came. I sat there and meditated on the single malts.

My wife called and said she was almost there. I considered ordering her her frankfurters and the glass of mineral water she wanted, but decided to wait until she arrived, to avoid the frankfurters getting cold and wrinkly. Service is fast in that bar anyhow. It was the right decision because she called a few minutes later, in tears. Right after she had called me the first time, a police officer had knocked on her window and pulled her over and gave her a €50 ticket for using a mobile phone while driving, but she was unable to pay because all she had was €40 so now she was wandering the streets of Vienna looking for a cash machine and the one the policeman had directed her to was closed and she didn’t know where another one was.

I said okay. I expressed sympathy and told her no problem, we have plenty of time and so on and I’ll be here when she gets here.

We did have plenty of time.

All the single malts, or many of them, had names that reminded me of Tolkein characters. “The leathery wings of the Laphroaigs beat the darkling skies like a drum, and their screeches turned Frodo’s bones to ice.”

“He is an archer, of the Lagavullin tribe.”

“And the race of the elves abandoned Tallisker, and sailed to the Western Lands.”

“Betrayed by the treacherous traiter Auchentoshan, King Glenfarclas died a hero’s death beneath the Giant Elm in his beloved Glendronach.”

“Is it a Cnoc? You have a Cnoc in your pocket, amirite?” hissed Gollum.

My wife called after a while and interrupted an epiphany I was having about Tolkein. She changed her order to champagne, no sausages. It was on the table when she arrived a few minutes later. As was my second martini.

The waiter also brought more nuts, dispelling my fear that they had my picture behind the bar with the note, “don’t give him too many nuts, he’s like a goldfish and will absent-mindedly eat them until he bursts.”

My wife was a bit stressed but in a better mood because she had been so miserable when she finally returned to her car that the police officer, who had been abandoned there by his colleagues, standing guard with her registration in one hand and the ticket in the other, took pity on her, tore up the ticket and told her to have a nice evening. So champagne was a good call, I guess – to take the edge off the stress, on the one hand, and to celebrate not getting a ticket after all on the other.

Something you should know about my wife is that she gets out of about half of her tickets by winning the sympathy of the ticketing officer. Not always, but more than me. We both have the same approach – throw ourselves at their mercy – but maybe she looks unhappier. I have, in fact, never gotten out of a ticket.

The concert itself was, as always, good. I didn’t fall asleep until the last piece, when the hall ran out of oxygen, despite having two drinks in me. As always in this series, they performed compositions by modern composers. All but one were living, and present, and took bows on the stage afterwards. We especially enjoyed the first piece, and the penultimate one, which featured electronics and a burping soprano (an idea I had considered for a composition, but discarded out of pity for my singer. I guess that is what separates the men from the boys in the world of composition).

Needless to say, we have renewed our subscription.


Our home wifi went out so I told my wife to fix it. She spent several hours on the phone with our provider’s tech hotline and they ultimately told her to reinstall everything. To do this we needed an installation CD-ROM, which she asked me to fetch from the shop.

The first shop I went to, after work, was the second-nearest to my office. I thought the nearest, which was downtown, would take longer to get to due to city traffic. So I went to a mall, despite my dislike of malls. This one was huge and I found the maps confusing but managed to find the shop without too many detours and no tears. The saleswoman at the shop was kind and friendly and phoned around to the other shops to see if they had installation CD-ROMs, because this particular shop was fresh out of them.

I had a choice between the shop clear across town, on the far outskirts of Vienna, or the one in Lugner City, an inner-city shopping center I had until now avoided. Since I would basically drive past that one on my way to the one clear across town, I had her reserve me the last installation CD-ROM they had at the Lugner City shop. Forty-five minutes of congested streets later, I parked in space #712 at Lugner City and went inside. The air was stale, the quality of light in the parking garage was calculated to resemble that in horror films or action movies that begin with a crime in a parking garage. Nothing changed upon entering the shopping center, either, air-wise although the light became harsher, like when a crime is committed in a tacky shopping center in an action movie. I stopped and stood in front of a map, trying to figure it out. It was not drawn to regular map logic, unfortunately.

“What’s your problem?” asked an old man.

“Kilgore Trout?” I said. “Are you my guide here in the underworld?”

He nodded silently and pointed at a small square on the map. I could not tell which floor it was on, though. So we wandered all the floors.

“Answer my question,” he said.

“Yeah, well,” I said. “You know the Buddhist thing about no hierarchies? We’re all the same or something like that? I try to subscribe to that, and the social hierarchies implied by shopping malls freak me out. The last mall I was at I thought was bad, you know, the, ahem, low-class people you see at malls? I am not referring so much to income as aesthetics, education, curiosity, that sort of things. And this mall makes the other mall look like heaven.”

“Purgatory, actually,” he said.


“The other mall was purgatory.”

“And this?”

He pointed at another map. “First circle, second circle. Et cetera. Okay?”


“Okay. Your shop, it says here, is on the first circle. The circle of hell for people who can’t read maps.”

We went there. I had passed there before. It was now a shop selling faded plastic suitcases. Kilgore Trout pointed at a sign, ink-jet printed on green paper. “We’re Moving!” It said until they had finished moving, another shop was covering their business.

A few minutes later we were in the other shop.

“It’s like a zombie movie, you’re thinking,” Kilgore Trout said.

I nodded. Everyone looked like a constituent of the radical-right party, or one of the foreigners they hated so much. They all wore jogging suits and gold chains.

In the shop that was covering for the other shop while it moved, I waited for twenty minutes. First I waited behind a mother and her daughter at one cash register, but I guess I was standing too close and creeped them out so I moved to another cash register where a young man, his mother and his girlfriend were explaining smart phone reception problems to a clerk who told them that was the first time he had heard of that particular problem.

“Really?” said the young man.

His mother gave me a look I could not gauge because my glasses were smeared and I was standing at an angle from which, when I looked at something, I saw three versions of it in different focii.

“Really,” said the salesman. He sold them a SIM card to get rid of them.

“Finally,” said Kilgore Trout under his breath.

I told the salesman I was there for my installation CD-ROM. He asked me which one. I told him.

“Oh, you have to go to the other shop,” he said.

“Wut?” I said.

He pointed across the shopping center. I could see the other shop from where I stood.

“Hrm,” I said. “The map still has the old location, and at the old location there is a sign saying to come here.”

“Oh, is that sign still up?” he said.

I went to the other shop and spent ten minutes listening to one salesman selling a smartphone to a woman and her daughter, and another sell something else to what appeared to be a twenty-something heterosexual couple.

“I’m here for my installation CD-ROM,” I said, when my turn came.

“For…?” the salesman said.

I told him my name.

“Exactly,” he said. “The saleswoman at the other shop had trouble with it,” he chuckled.

I began to tell him she wasn’t the first to have trouble with my name, but then I just took the CD-ROM and thanked him because I wanted to get out of there.

At the elevator a man in a dirty sweat suit stood in front of the button. He appeared to be waiting for the elevator, but he looked even gimpier than the other patrons, as if it were totally possible that he was just standing there. So after this Schroedinger-like period of time in which we were both waiting for the elevator and just standing there, the elevator came, with piss inside.

We got in, he on one side of the piss, me on the other.

The elevator stopped at every circle of hell on the way down to the parking garage, and everyone who got in said something about the piss. Every time I had to fight the urge to say, “sorry, couldn’t hold it any more.” The urge was made easier to fight by the fact that it took me forever to figure out a suitably coherent, idiomatic way to say it. The elevator reached the final circle before I had figured anything out, and by then the moment had passed.

Turned out the elevator didn’t even go to the parking garage, I had to wander around more to get there. I took this ramp thing that led downwards. Since the parking was underground, downwards seemed good. The ramp also went past restrooms and was covered with toilet paper and other debris, as well as regular dirt. The light dimmed until it matched that I remembered from parking my car, and sure enough I was in the garage. I said “bye” to Kilgore Trout, gave him a couple drachmas and took my leave.

Then I realized I was in the wrong circle of parking garage hell. I wandered around that level for a couple minutes, but the validated parking ticket in my pocket wasn’t getting any fresher. I went down another level and finally found my car and drove home, although it took a while due to all the traffic, and listened to some Arvo Pärt because, come on.

The moral, I guess, is I need to get out more but geeze.

The people I usually hang out with, you take them for the norm. All you classy people, my cello teacher, musician friends, artist friends, wife, kids, all that stuff. People who make me feel like a Morlock among the Eloi. But I guess I am, instead, a Time Traveller somewhere in the middle. Assuming a non-Buddhist world view.

The other moral is, our wifi is working again, although just as buggy as before, and I don’t know who to get mad at, our provider, or the router/modem thing.


Long shot: residential Vienna street. Blue compact car turns into street. You can hear the music through the closed windows. No wonder he has tinitus.

Medium shot: car parks. Man gets out. Man looks down.

Close-up: Ant.

Medium shot: Man takes big step to avoid stepping on ant. Steps on other ant.

Close-up: reaction shot.

Long shot: Man enters building.