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Wednesday, December 22nd, 1999

Got good news today. perhaps my job will continue in 2000. Tomorrow Eckhard will come and we will discuss this and other things like the report we have to make for the government.
Well, what started as a test-mail (I did not think that it would really reach the Undertow, since the meer.net server did not work at the time I sent it off) triggered some responses. Positive, fortunately.

     Subject: test
        Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 11:36:25 +0100
        From: Philipp Hofmann <philipp.hofmann@mail.uni-bielefeld.de>
Organization: Entropic Empire
          To: Undertow <undertow@vega.net>


I cannot not write. That's what's getting clearer and clearer without being anything like a solution, though. The sound of pen on paper, the clicking of the keyboard - this noise soothes me, it calms me down, it is the familiar & the loved. Like Inga's smell. Like Suzanne's voice.
It's a strange x-mas this year. And it's a strange end of the year. On nights like tonight all the strain of the past 14 months falls apart, vanishes and leaves me empty like a chocolate Santa. Empty and numb. There's no emotion left but an infinite weightlessness and the strange sensation of being the center of gravity at the same time. It was hard to keep up with all these changes that have happened this year. And on New Year's Eve we will have the year 2000. New Year's Eve: the strangest moments of the year when the clocks are ticking backwards and this moment has come, this folding, this crack - 0 - the blank, the empty timespace which is ending and beginning at the same time. Travel. Arrival. A stopping and starting. And my life is turning to ash as it hits the air I know I should be going somewhere but I just can't see anything that gets me forward, that is a way, that looks like secure ground. Everything is afloat - and there is this irritating feeling of missing you although I've never met you. The feeling of being part of the parting ... "and that lost sound is my voice among the buildings" which echoes back to me like a message from the past like a message from somebody I once was but am no more. And I dread that moment on New Year's Eve when people will be starting to count backwards and the old will end without something new to begin while the fireworks shoot the light through the air. You are now here. You are now here. You are nowhere. Broken tongue. Broken lung. Bleeding with the screaming and the hidden crying I did all year.
All year long the year has been dying. 99 had no chance. Everybody is waiting for its end. It will be remembered for its end, for its change into something which has always already been the future, science fiction, charged with possibilities and spaceships dancing to Strauß. "I don't know how to suture what I read and what I write. Still I know that the future will be beautiful and bright." How could I ever be so sure. I had hope in songs. They failed. I had hope in words. They failed, too. Now the only thing I'm left with is the hope in you, my friend. So many broken things around me that I do not dare to make a single step. I'm frozen, disappointed, tired. Last Saturday when you were not home I cried for two hours. Without break. Without reason. Without end. "So far from where I intended to go..." All year long the year has been x-mas. I've been listening to Suzanne's recording of Coventry Carol in spring, I listened to it in summer, I listened to it in fall and I'm listening to it now, surrounded by annual anticipation and anxiety on TV, in the shop windows, in my lover's eyes...
I'm sending this now and it will return to me later and I will not understand anymore what it was I wanted to say. This is the present. The x-mas present 1999 which is here only for a moment to be swept away by the future which will spit me into 2000. The present I cling to because I don't see a future. The present I send back to me to keep it forever. The famous undertow-time-loop-present which will make you shake your head in wonder and disgust. You, the involuntary audience. And maybe what keeps me going is this question which has tattooed itself
into my bones: I wish I knew what you meant when you wrote:
          "Thank you!"

remember me,


Subject: Re: test
   Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 09:02:49 -0500
   From: Gerlinda Grimes <tucker-mott@mindspring.com>
     To: Undertow <undertow@vega.net>

<and there is this irritating feeling of
missing you although I've never met you>

i'm sure many people will agree that phillip's post is a beautiful one. the other thing i'm sure people will agree on is............it absolutely breaks my hear the way you end your posts, phillip.  "remember me."  it just reminds one of, oh i don't know.  new york in november, when its almost raining & the holiday decorations have just gone up.

anyway.  just wanted to thank phillip for his post.  the part quoted above especially.  it reminded me of an adrienne rich poem called "trancendental etude."  there's a line in it that goes something like "...the loss of that ground-note echoing whenever you are happy or in despair..."  which, in the context of the poem, feels the same as what phillip said.

happy holidays everyone.


Subject: Re: test
   Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 09:28:22 -0500 (EST)
   From: Electrngun@aol.com
     To: philipp.hofmann@mail.uni-bielefeld.de


you make the top of my head come off.  songs and words do not fail; it's just that our expectations don't match up to the reality.  don't give up.  you are a burning light.


Well, so much for now. In two days it's christmas. I'm listening to Joni Mitchell. I haven't played the guitar for two weeks. I haven't written a song for four months. Looked through the piles of photos Daniel gave me for the nerve bible-website, and there is a nice one of Rob.

Rob, playing my accoustic guitar for Disneyhead

December 27, 1999
You have never questioned it. You've never questioned songwriting. But that's what I'm doing more and more. What is it good for? I'm asking myself and thus stop before I start. We will never make it. We will never be more than a local band, than four people playing for fun. It will never pay. That's the harsh truth: IT WILL NEVER PAY. You did not mind. But that was two years ago. Now I am here with this uncertain future and I feel like I am not allowed to put to much into something that won't pay. Writing does not pay, too. That's the problem. If I knew that it would pay, but it doesn't. I'm listening to Element of Crime and I feel like I would like to write, like I would love to take all those sheets of paper with single lines scribbled on them, take them and sit down and make a real good song out of it. But the second I feel this longing my mind says: stop it! You will only be disappointed. And that's the other point: I will be disappointed. If I put as much effort into it I want it to be a success. I want it to be appreciated and recognized. But this will never happen and this certainty stops me from doing anything because it's hard to put so much into something that will never leave the rehearsal-room, will never leave my computer, will never pay.

X-mas was disillusionating again. It all comes down to    All this writing is in vain. And all this singing is in vain, too. But perhpas the fact that I'm doing it although I know that it won't pay, that it is in vain, perhaps this fact is my only advantage. And my weakness.
We will rehears tonight again. We didn't play for about a month. Daniel had his exam, I was sick and already one month has gone by.

Wednesday, December 29, 1999
Well, these are the last days of 1999. The last hours. Inga is not home. She's visiting Antje. I'm sitting here listening to "Element of Crime", rather to one special song which is repeated endlessly - "So wie du".

Strange things are happening at the end of the century. I've received an envelope today which contained a ten dollar bill. Without a letter and without a sender's address. Just ten dollars in an envelop. I have no idea who sent the money and why. It's not that I wouldn't appreciate it. No, keep it coming! It's just that I would like to know who s/he is and where does s/he know my address from. It must be somebody from Undertow. Probably.

While I was writing to Paula the other day, this old üoem came back to my mind. Beautiful Losers. I wrote it six years ago:

stirred up by the noise I saw
my clumsy words were worn out fast
when the tower fell I knew
they were not built to last

so get me out of babylon!
lead me through this ruined town
where people scream, lie lame like me,
spitting on your gown

they snatched at me, they whispered loud:
"split your tongue so you'll have two!"
I did and now I cannot but
cry "help" out to you

help out to you who read me today
help out to you who put my heart down
help out to you who sighed without hurt
that in the beginning was the word

you took my tongue to make it one
and from my lips you washed the dirt
you cut away the sore and sang
"a word is a word is a word"

welcome to you who read me today
welcome to you who put my heart down
welcome to you, teacher and slave,
who kept me in verses so silently save

when you went you kissed my tongue
"don't get lost in the phrase" you said
you left me, you left me at peace with the word
and I'd like to thank you for that

so thank you to thee who read me today
thank you to thee who put my heart down
thank you to thee, darling and friend,
who miss me forever in your trip to the end

Hmm, as I said: strange things are happening. On Friday Uwe and Christiane will come by and we will wait until 1999 turns into 2000.

Great, the programme just crashed. Just when I was writing about not having a story and that this is the reason why I#m doing this journal, because I don#t have a story and I don't have a plot and I don't have a plan. And that I was wondering what happened to "48" and why I wasn't happy with it anymore, with its story, with its plot and then the programme crashed. Anyway, I checked parts of "48". It's almost or over a year old. Why can't I get myself to working on it?


Es klopfte an der Tür und No. 49 hatte keine Lust, hatte keine Lust jetzt jemand zu sehen oder mit jemand zu sprechen also ignorierter  er das Klopfen, doch das half nichts, unverschämter weise öffnete sich die Tüt trotzdem und herein kam eine junge Frau, seriös aussehen, etwa Anfang dreißig mit einem großen Ordner unter dem Arm. Sie blickte sich kurz im Zimmer um, sah 49 auf dem Bett hocken, lächelte (und schon dieses nette Lächeln hätte ihn Verdacht schöpfen lassen müssen) und nahm sich einen Stuhl, setzte sich neben ihn und fing gutgelaunt zu plaudern an. 
„Schön haben sie es hier." log sie und wartete wohl auf eine Antwort, doch No. 49 war nicht nach einer Antwort zumute, darum schwieg er, sie nahm es zur Kenntnis, geduldig und immer noch lächelnd und fuhr nach einer angemessenen Pause fort: 
„Professor Le Canot hat mich gebeten, mit ihnen zu sprechen. Er sagte mir, daß sie mit der Therapie große Fortschritte machen und er ist der Ansicht, und ich darf sagen, daß ich mich seiner Meinung anschließe, daß es nun für sie an der Zeit wäre, den Aufbau emotionaler Bindungen zu fördern." 
Mit diesen Worten schlug sie den Ordner auf und blätterte durch die Seiten. 
„Mein Name ist Keller, ich arbeite hier in der Klinik für das Stu-Pet Department..." und sie kramt einen Ausweiß aus ihrer Jackentasche, hielt ihn No. 49 umständlich vors Gesicht und ja wirklich, da stand es, No. 49 konnte es unter der Schutzfolie des Ausweises lesen: H. Keller, Stu-Pet Dep., dann steckte sie ihr eingeschweißtes Selbst wieder weg, sprach weiter. 
„Wir vermitteln Haus- und Kleintiere an Menschen, die gerade in einer Phase der Selbstfindung sind, da wir aus der Arbeit mit unseren Patienten wissen, daß ein solches Haus- oder Kleintier beim Aufbau von emotionalen Strukturen und Bindungen äußerst hilfreich ist. Ich habe ihnen hier unsere Angebote aus dem Bereich Haus- und Kleintiere einmal mitgebracht und vielleicht können wir ja zusammen entscheiden, was für ein Tier wir in ihre Obhut geben..." 
No. 49 nickte jetzt zustimmend. Das ermutigte sie. 
„Also, ich habe hier einen sehr netten Hamster; HAmszer werden immer gerne genommen, der Hamster ist sehr pflegeleicht und er ..." 
Sie zeigte ihm ein unterbelichtetes Bild von etwas, das ein Hamster hätte sein können. 
„Natürlich haben wir noch keinem unserer Haus- oder Kleintiere einen Namen gegeben. Sich einen Namen auszusuchen ist schließlich eines der schönsten Momente bei der Pflege und Versorgung eines Haus- oder Kleintieres. Und da wollen wir vom Stu-Pet Department ihnen auch nicht den Spaß verderben, nicht wahr?" 
No. 49 nickte noch einmal zustimmend oder zumindest verständnisvoll. 
„Ich kann ihnen auch einen von unseren kleinen Hunden anbieten. Wir haben hier ein paar wirklich guterzogene und stubenreine..." 
Noch mehr Photos von noch mehr Haus- und Kleintieren, unter jedem Bild stand eine Nummer und eine Jahreszahl. No. 49 nickte noch einmal und so langsam wurde H. Keller mißtrauisch. 
„Aber vielleicht haben sie ja auch einen ganz speziellen Wunsch? Solange es sich um Haus- und Kleintiere handelt versuchen wir vom Stu-Pet Department natürlich, ihre individuellen Wünsche zu erfüllen." 
No. 49 blickte sie kurz an, lächelte schwach. Einen Wunsch hatte er. Einen Wunsch schon, aber so einen Wunsch, ob das ging, er traute sich nicht. 
„Vielleicht eine Katze?" versuchte es H. Keller „Oder ein Kanarienvogel?" 
Einen Wunsch hatte er wohl, aber er traute sich nicht... 
„Seit letzter Woche haben wir auch eine Schildkröte...Wie gesagt, wenn sie einen Wunsch haben, was hätten sie gerne..." 
Er traute sich nicht, obwohl der Wunsch jetzt immer großer wurde, ein unheimliches Gefühl beschlich ihn, und dieser Wunsch wurde zum Verlangen und er bekam Angst davor und traute sich nicht. Keller merkte, daß irgend etwas ihn No. 49 vorging, doch mißinterpretierte sein Fingernägelkauen und seinen ängslichen Blick als Zeichen seiner Schüchternheit und beugte sich vertrauensvoll nach vorne, sprach mild und leise: 
„Hören sie, Nummer ..." sie schaute auf ihren Ordner, „...Nummer 49, ich arbeite jetzt schon seit über zehn Jahren für das Stu-Pet Department und habe schon alle Arten von Haus- und Kleintieren vermittelt..." das Verlangen fuhr in seinen Bauch und machte das Atmen schwer „...sie können mir gegenüber ganz offen sein. Vielleicht ein Häschen?..." er wippte vor und zurück auf seinem Bett und zog die Beine an und wußte nicht was passierte es war so stark plötzlich Oder ein Goldfisch? und wurde zum einzigen Gedanken, der ihn befremdete aber auch faszinierte Oder Kätzchen? und er schaute sie an und sein Mund war trocken Was hätten sie gerne? darum krächzte er nur heiser. 
„Ein Rudel Ratten." 

„Das wirft die Therapie weit zurück! Sie haben mich sehr enttäuscht, No. 49! Ein Rudel Ratten! Hat die Welt so etwas schon gehört? Und Frau Keller hat sich solche Mühe gegeben und dann sagen sie: ein Rudel Ratten! Also, das macht mich wirklich traurig, No. 49!" Le Canot lächelte ihn vom anderen Ende seines Schreibtisches an, lächelte streng und unnachgiebig.