vr

a novel

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

September 1997

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

From: SAGReiss
Date: 2 September 1997
Subject: Crumbling empire

I don't know why the web site (over twenty-two hundred sold) and Dreamscape/Eudora e-mail haven't been shut off yet. The MOO will go down. I can't pay for it. We have fifty dollars to eat for the next two weeks. If I don't get a job on Thursday, I'll have to sell blood to buy a carton of cigarettes, probably even if I do get a job, since I won't be earning tips immediately. The landlord, utilities and phone company from Syracuse have all got collection agencies writing me rude letters. I feel good. I worked thirty-eight and a half hours this week-end. It was fun and exhilerating. The sun is shining. It's a beautiful day.

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Murder
Date: 2 September 1997
Subject: Hey, Gabe...

Gabe,

I made it back to New Jersey! My addressbook crashed when I was trying to print it back in June, so I hope this is the right one. I would like to get back on the list again using this address (and hopefully this account is better than the last one--if not, let me know and I might be able to get an RCI account).

Please tell Nichelle hello for me and I will be in touch with her as soon as I either get the address from you or find it in my folder of old messages, whichever comes first.

Thanks, Gabe.

John "Murder"

From: SAGReiss
Date: 4 September 1997
Subject: Relax, John

That sound you heard wasn't the swan song of our list, but the nasal whine of Miss Double-Reed screeching to an A443. It turns out I can't sell blood without a Washington State ID, which I can't get because I have to take a driving test, which I can't do because I haven't got a car. So much for private enterprise. Tomorrow I'll apply for food stamps. Fortunately I sent a blind copy of that letter to the Archfuhrer and he's agreed to loosen the noose around RL MOO's neck. negatron is holding out on us. He's conducting an illicit love affaire with a new neighbor, Miss Thing. I know this because he's cleaned his flat, in case she stops by for tea and crumpets or, more likely, pizza and beer. I know the feeling, the monastic life of the modern intellectual: "Well, I sometimes go to the pub." I've lived in dives with no toilet and/or no bath. I've navigated floors piled a foot high in bills, books, bottles and, in recent years, computer print-outs. I'm told that geeks don't print anything, but I am the Antigeek. I don't read on-screen. I print everything. After all I'm a man of letters.

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Murder
Date: 4 September 1997
Subject: New Joisy

Just got done with my orchestra audition, a fifteen-minute ordeal consisting of: Beethoven Leonore #3, Debussy Faun, Bizet Carmen Entracte, Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis, and the Nielsen Concerto. The orchestra program here at Rutgers is very strong. The string section is on the level of a professional orchestra, and the conductor is a prof at the Manhattan School. This term the group will perform Mussorgsky's "Pictures" in NYC. So now I am making my return to this list which, judging by the last letter, may be in its final stages. I was finally able to access my e-mail the first day of classes. The last several weeks have been spent doing menial-bullshit-tasks like finding a bank, unpacking all our shit, finding a Planned Parenthood, etc. Only 12 credits this term, so my schedule is lighter than at Central. Hallelujah! I'm still teaching the same number of students (3), working basically the same number of hours (10, compared to 12 at Central), and playing in three ensembles (if I make orkestra). More time for composing. Haven't eaten all day (it's almost 4:00). My stomach hurts.

Murder

From: Nichelle
Date: 4 September 1997
Subject: Chill, Gabe

I wear a size nine shoe and I prefer to own at least one pair of brown shoes and one pair of black. I went to work at 11:30 today, but had to walk because I missed the bus. I don't print out my e-mail because I haven't got a printer, we haven't got two phone lines, and Gabriel doesn't bother to provide me with a printed copy of the day's mail so that I can read it while he's hogging the internet all night. So what? Who cares? I haven't seriously listened to "Pictures" in several years, maybe not since I my high school crush on Mussorgsky, and of course I never listened to anything seriously then. I still haven't found the Planned Parenthood in Seattle, but I have three more months of pre-purchased birth control pills, and I'm waiting for my period to hit anytime now, in case you want to know, which you don't. John, you ought to eat more. You're too skinny, and I only like being friends with people who are bigger than I am so that I look lean. I have no idea what Gabriel's letter meant. I've quit my job, so it's a good thing that Gabriel "got some". My mother has already started to call him Pizza_Boi, god he's shredding carrots again. I have never seen anyone who likes shredded carrots as much as he does. I should decide to eat everything from a box or a can just like Michelle at work. Someday maybe I'll be able to reach her level of conversation "Gee the water that comes out of the tap is really hot, huh?" And Jason wonders why I'm quitting. I'm too smart for this. Besides, Gabe isn't going to apply for food stamps tomorrow. He's going to Sears to buy uniforms and some underwear for me. I tried to explain to him what kind to buy. "You want the little white ones with the flowers on them?" "Sure honey. Something like that." OK, can I go now? I'm going to play some more solitaire.

Nichelle

From: Nichelle
Date: 4 September 1997
Subject: Dumb Letter of the Century

>Congratulations, Nichelle, you have just won the dumb letter of the
>century contest. Please come to pick up your prize at the ladies' restroom
>in the downtown Seattle Library, last stall. Come alone. And wear some of
>those little white panties.

Nichelle

From: SAGReiss
Date: 5 September 1997
Subject: Would you hire this man?

"May I try these in a size seven, please?" "I'm sorry, Sir. I don't go down that far." "Don't go down... What a shame." I smiled. "May I try them in a seven and a half then, please?" So I unsheathed my wallet full of credit cards with other people's name on them. I was amazed when the first one worked. I remember trying to authorize it by telephone: "The principal account-holder's name? April Reiss [...] No? Try Ruth Siegler [...] Her maiden name? I think it's Levine [...] Her mother's maiden name? I'm sorry, Ma'am, but that's my great-great-grandfather's name. I have no idea." The boiz, Eric et Axel, whose nickname appears to be Lulu, are in way over their heads. The place is a fucking wreck. I helped correct the spelling on the menu. I wanted to take a copy home. It's so stupid to allow mistakes to go through. I'll bring the P'tit Bob tomorrow. I washed mirrors, cleaned walls. Everyone speaks French, except the wives, which is probably just as well. There's even a Haitian dishwasher, Amadou. When there were too many suppliers and accountants milling about, Eric gave me twenty bucks and told me to go to lunch. I hesitated, but fuck it. I walked across the street to the Pike Place Bar and Grill. I had a crabcake sandwich and two pints of Henry's. I paid for the beer and tip out of pocket. I may live to regret it. After the long treck to and from Sears, where I also bought two white Oxford shirts, two Italian-made silk ties, three wife beaters, mink oil, shoe polish, and three pair of ladies' briefs, I stopped by the corner grocer's: "May I please have twenty-seven dollars worth of Camel cigarettes before I do something reckless like waste the money on food?"

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 6 September 1997
Subject: Sixty-twelve hours

Nichelle doesn't like French people very much. She thinks it's very silly to say: "sixty-nine, sixty-ten, sixty-eleven... sixty-nineteen, four-twenties, four-twenty-one... four-twenty-nine, four-twenty-ten, four-twenty-eleven." I can't say I blame her, but she's going to have to learn: "one-and-twenty, two-and-twenty, three-and-twenty" in German anyway. Today we tore apart dry and cold storage. The place hadn't been cleaned or inventoried in thirty years. It was disgusting. There was slime, grease and crud everywhere. Vinaigre bottles had long since turned. We threw out bottles of marinated condiments, such as pickles, olives, onions, capers, because the brine had literally eaten away the vegetables. The solids were gone. Only the liquid remained. Axel told me that the restaurant had been running on thirty-nine percent food costs. That's a chapter eleven number, if it's true, which I don't doubt given the state of the stock. Thirty-five percent is about average. Thirty is excellent. Anything under thirty is outstanding. Under twenty-five and either you're selling shit, ripping off the guests, or doing a lot of business under the table. Eric's brother Laurent helped us. He spent the summer here waiting tables on a temporary work visa. He just got out of jail. His story, which I don't believe for an instant, is that someone saw him taking cash out of the till and putting it into his pocket. Of course, he says, he was about to go back to France and was cashing in his small bills. No one who handles other people's money, particularly not someone whose brother is a trained restaurant professional, would ever do something so stupid. One holds onto his money and asks the boss to buy ones. Whatever he may have done, he earned himself three free nights at the King County Shelter for the Indigent and Legally Challenged. No charges were filed. As he said: "Habeas corpus mon cul."

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Laurent
Date: 7 September 1997
Subject: Re: Sixty-twelve hours

soixante douze is a symbol of happiness in french military lingo..it means you have been a good boy and you get a 3 days week end..

From: Nichelle
Date: 8 September 1997
Subject: cybersex signup sheet

It's my day off, and nobody has even had the decency to have cybersex with me. Not even Laurent, who is secretly quite hurt by the fact that I hate the French. It's true that sixty-twelve is assfucking-redickulous, but as long as sixty-nine is still the same, why should we quarrel? Not that it matters now. He thinks I'm a brute. I'm going to sell my plasma tomorrow at eleven-thirty and again later this week for a total of sixty dollars cash. I went to the grocery store this afternoon, finding the local library branch by mistake.

Romaine $ .99
Dry Yeast $1.29
Unslt Butter $2.09
Celery $1.29
Vitamilk 8oz $ .39
Vitamilk 8oz $ .39
Bananas $ .48
Peaches $1.50
Nectarines $3.16
5# Flour $2.19
Gold-del Apl $1.96
Smkd Turkey$1.25
Roma Tom $1.41

TOTAL $18.39

It's a good thing we had cheese, because I would have been afraid to buy it. "Every night I come home and you want something new. WE CAN"T AFFORD CHEESE!" or something horrible like that. Being poor makes me cry. I made two loaves of bread today: one long and one round. Gabe always makes two round ones, but he doesn't like variety. He doesn't NEED things. He doesn't like cookies. Oh yes, we got in a fight because I suggested that I could make cookies. WE CAN'T AFFORD COOKIES. OK, wahtever, it was just an idea. Calm down. Relax. I didn't like cookies anyway. They're bad for you. They taste yucky, and they lower your sex drive. Nothing is better for the sex drive than a nice tasty pizza. We're having pizza tonight. Maybe we'll do It. God I hope we do It. Mmmm, boy do I love pizza.

Neg, I have just kicked your ass severely, and I hope you liked it because I shall really whallop you sometime soon, and probably again and again for as long as we know one another. Yes, I have broken the solitaire barrier. 97 seconds, with a score of 7919 (I'm not sure what that is in French). I deserve the solitaire medal of honor. It is with a mixture of pride and embareassment that I make this announcement, since playing solitaire is a little like masturbating, I suppose, only in solitaire one loses more often. Oh, and I can't masturbate in 97 seconds either. So maybe I can't kick your ass at everything, who knows? What a cruel-hearted woman I am. Forgive me, please. I promise to be good next time.

Nichelle

From: Nichelle
Date: 11 September 1997
Subject: review of Maximilien from www

After 23 years of owning Seattle's longest-standing French cafe in Pike Place Market, François and Julia sold Maximilien in the summer of '97 to former employees Axel and Eric.

Axel (who's been the restaurant's general manager for more than seven years) and Eric (the previous chef) plan to continue serving some of the restaurant's favored dishes, like moules mariniere, when they reopen in mid-September.

Of course the restaurant's fabulous Eliot Bay view and its convenient Market location (near the pig) will assure the establishment's position in Seattle dining — a prime downtown spot to steal away for a strong cup of coffee and a simple breakfast, or for a velvety glass of wine and an approachable French meal.

Nichelle

From: SAGReiss
Date: 12 September 1997
Subject: Tipping out at Maximilien

Sales: $335.20

Tips: $65.00 (20%)

Standard tips: $50.00 (15%)

Tips paid to pantry, bussers: $15.00 (4.5%)

Declared tips: $33.00 (10%)

Declared tips paid: $10.00 (3%)

IRS tips: $23.00 (7%)

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: SAGReiss
Date: 20 September 1997
Subject: Unemployable
Attached: Pulcinella.doc

Breakfast and lunch were mercifully slow. It's hard to work while choking back tears of shame and yellow stomach bile, with every instinct crippled by guilt and self-doubt. I've been fired again. This time en douce. I've got two weeks to find a job and I'll be paid for the days I worked for free scrubbing and painting and correcting the French on the menu. My boss thinks I'd be a good diner waitress. I've just got to learn how to chew gum, which was never a strong point of mine. Last night I made a point of walking through the drug-addict park by the Apple Theatre, the most expensive in Seattle, showing you know what, with two hundred and fifty dollars in my pockets. I was hoping some AIDS-fucker would stab me in the kidney and have done with it. No such luck. (Actually this is a lie. I probably had no more than two hundred on me, but I needed the extra syllables for rhythm. That's why I have a problem with the fiction/non-fiction distinction. I am very scrupulous about facts, but I can also disregard them if they fuck up my sentences. Random thought about the erotica/pornography distinction: let's we make an analogy to food. The menu attached, which is for a hypothetical restaurant named for Nichelle if we win the lottery or I can con my mother into investing her tens of thousands of dollars in unreported cash hiding from creditors and the IRS in safe deposit boxes, contains no information about hunger. Why then confuse a text about sex with desire? On the other hand, ample space is given to drinks, appetizers [I'm still looking for an Italian translation for "hors d'oeuvre" or "foreplay". I also once invented the term "aftplay" with respect to the "perfume of the past tense" passage in Henry Miller's Capricorn, and someday I'll look up Columbine's e-mail text about feeling less desire than her partners and not liking the messy aspects of sex.] and deserts, whose mark-up is much higher than, say, Lasagne's. Why not just admit that one likes pictures or text about fucking, cunt and cock? There is a problem concerning the moneyshot. Aside from Bernini's Saint Theresa there aren't too many good representations of woman having an orgasm. I remember negatron's reasons for not liking Anais Nin: "What SAGReiss said." I'm too depressed to go on. I just want to get drunk, eat and go to sleep. I was going to say something about sex fucking up people's thinking. I failed my driving test and got fired on the same day. Not even Beethoven can cheer me up. I'll try Charles Ives during dinner if Nichelle is willing.

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 21 September 1997
Subject: Twice Sold Tales

We walked into the bookstore, and the first thing I noticed was a glass case at the counter filled with books by Charles Bukowski. No, wait. At 5:59, the waitress seated us at Charlie's, took our orderes, "Do you want any other drinks, or just water?", and we sat down to dinner. Then, after calamari, soup for him (clam chowder) and salad for me, two charbroiled salmon dinners, dessert, various J&Bs, club soda, wine, more J&B, coffee, etc. we walked into the bookstore, and the first thing I noticed was a glass case under the counter filled with books by Charles Bukowski, and I guess Gaby said something about them first. "Oh, see, they've got Ham On Rye." and I said something like "Oh yeah, I almost bought that in Syracuse for some outrageously low price and decided not to for some reason."

Enter Evil Booksalesmistress, Stage Left. "I don't like Bukowski."

(silence)

"I like real authors. Like SHAKESPEARE."

(Gabriel and I exchange glances and stand there looking stupid.)

"I only carry it because it sells. The people who come in here looking for it are all junkies. There was a shooting and a hold up, people with knives and Guns Holding up the Store down the street, ask them, They'll tell you, I live five blocks from here, and I WADE through the inhumanity the FILTH and decadence, horrible bodies on the ground, like YOU WOULD EXPECT in... CALCUTTA!!!!"

SAGReiss says, "Charles Bukowski is dead."

I'm beginning to perspire.

"Bukowski has nothing to do with this."

Let's back up. Did I mention how much we both had to eat and drink? He was staggering, we were both waddling, I've had three Tums already, and I've just started.

"They come in here with tracks on their arms, they want handouts..."

Nichelle says, "Well, at least they read."

"Come on, Gaby, let's go over here and see if we can find anything by William S. Burroughs."

SAGR: "I just want to go home."

We didn't go straight home, and Gabriel wouldn't let me buy a one-dollar copy of Confessions of an English Opium Eater to piss the woman off. As we approached the counter (the owner was yelling at somebody else) Gabriel mentioned to the boy at the register, "Your manager told me we get 10% off if I don't buy any pornography."

Nichelle

From: Nichelle
Date: 22 September 1997
Subject: solitaire

Did I mention that I won at solitaire in 84 seconds? Is this a world record?

Nichelle

From: SAGReiss
Date: 27 September 1997
Subject: The AntiMOO

John, can you make a copy of RL MOO? I can't afford to be fucking around for fifty dollars a month any more on a senseless luxury. I'm going to have to take it down. I'm sorry. I'll write more when I have time and the disposition.

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

August 1997

October 1997

vr: 1997

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