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Day: Jun 15

1 interval from 15 Jun 2001 (Provokes Unforgiving Polices Fewest)

3:14 am

I am back in the swing of things, despite a New York mugginess so profound as to make the world seem like a huge Jello salad, despite being sexually alone, despite being lost and a slow and heavy pit-of-the-stomach depression which nags at me like a bad cold. Still, both the heat and the sadness will break, and while I can't do much for the temperature I can cruise along inside the gloominess.

I've been thinking a lot about personal ads, for some reason. Not in any obsessive way, but the topic is on my mind. I wrote a piece (Canon of Classifieds) trying to boil down canonical literature to comical personal ads; it's a fun game, because you must address the core of the narrative, the part of the story which is about human desire and wishes.

It would probably be good practice to do this with any story I'm writing, to try to get those 20 words of hope and loneliness out of the narrative. Writer seeks audience. Child seeks father. Musician seeks fame.

Placing one of my own doesn't strike my fancy; how can I put myself into 20 words when my site is currently 350,420 words, spread over 25,000 paragraphs? That's a compression ratio of over 17,000::1. But I have had people link to Ftrain as one of the three sites that they like in their Web-based personal ads; I find these through the referer logs and read them with avid interest. A lesbian in Washington, D.C. uses my site as a reference to her personality, to interest a potential mate. Perhaps it was a good thing, perhaps Ftrain helped two people find each other and they made love somewhere, quiet, and I had some penny's-worth of influence in their decision to meet and flirt and kiss. That makes me happy, uncynical, to think of myself in that role. What a nice side-effect of all the language.

Meeting strangers is difficult; I've done a lot of it now, people asking me to coffee or lunch, or business meetings where you have a phone call and an email and you show up at some office, following the signs and speaking with the receptionist, and then a new face emerges from a glass door and a body follows the face out to shake your hand.

Scott Rahin is working on a personal ad as a literary experiment. The representation of self in search of mate is of course interesting to me, now that I'm single, and thus it's interesting to Scott as well.

If it goes well for him - not in the results, but in the effect of the prose, we'll all do personals, Scott and I and Rebecca. Rebecca's will be a sort of love letter to Eileen, I'd imagine - they're happy together.

Rebecca is also thinking about a series of pieces called "Rockstar and Elephant Destroy The Apartment," the illustrated story of Rockstar, her cat, and Elephant, her German Shepherd, and the way her various boyfriends and girlfriends deal with them, the way the act out and fight, how her lives are centered around these animals, the urge to care for things.

In my spare time a month ago I made a new map for my life, and for Ftrain.com, and I am now fairly practiced at keeping expectations reasonable enough to actually implement the map, and so now there is writing, small and spread over my days, and I am excited about the spaces inside and around the prose and thinking about the needs of an elderly biologist as he speaks with the young woman, and his sense of pain in the loss of his wife. They are created by me, but also real. I am terrified of them, because they're coming along and I'm going to show them to people and ask for feedback, try to drive some stories to publication.

I erased all the links and bookmarks which suctioned my time; I prefer to see people than Web sites.

I have atrocious hair, puffed in the back, and I must do something about it.

That is all.


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Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.

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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.

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