Sunday, August 17, 2014

Family Reunion 2014 - or - Four Generations In One Creek

It's been at least 15 years since all 7 of the cousins got together.  Can't stress how important it is to do things like this as often as possible.  Not a frown to be found at the Mill.  Cheers, y'all.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Broken In The Summer But Working In The Winter - or - I Can (Not) Fly

I fell over 30 feet this summer.  Broke my foot in seven places, and broke 2 lumbar vertebrae in my back.  I'm mostly fine now, just a little slower than I was before.  I can't fly.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Every Day I Wake Up - or - A Poem For The Last Class With My Students

Everyday I wake up...

Every day I wake up I feel the grind of the gears in my head, in my back, in my shoulders, in my knees, in my past, present, and future, begging me not to throw off the covers, not to get up on my feet, not to start moving, not to face the sun because yesterday beat me down so effectively.

Every day I wake up I promise myself that I will not make the same mistakes I made yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, for days and days and weeks and weeks and years and years and years. Today I will be better. Today I will break the mold. Today I will walk a different path.

Every day I wake up I know I will see smiles on friend's faces. I know I will see my own versions of  inspiration surrounding me, if I can only look at them right. I will be flipped off, honked at, and sworn at by the worst driver in the world who happens to be around every corner, driving to close behind me, cutting in front of me, swerving into my well protected bubble, and following me around everywhere I go.  But I will keep driving and get to where I need to go, undaunted.

Every day I wake up I know that I have a chance to reinvent myself, show off my skills to those willing to see them, polish up my flaws for those exposed to them, scream at the heavens on high, laugh at the untold jokes around me, and show the world just how good it is to be me.

Written in a fire storm during a 5 minute free write session with my south side students during the last day of class.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Why You Haven't Heard Much From Me - or - The Paradox of Posting

There is a certain fear in realizing that you’ve written too much, which is always followed by a certain thrill in holding down the “delete” key and watching that jaunt of truth, no matter how objective or subjecting it might be, vanish before your eyes, word by word. It's fearfully thrilling. If you don't hear from me then someone should break my delete key.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How To Learn Secrets

"She talks. People talk easily to me. They think a bald albino hunchback dwarf can't hide anything. My worst is all out in the open. It makes it necessary for people to tell you about themselves. They begin out of simple courtesy. Just being visible is my biggest confession, so they try to set me at ease by revealing our equality, by dragging out their own less-apparent deformities. That's how it starts. But I am like a stranger on the bus and they get hooked on having a listener. They go too far because I am one listener who is in no position to judge or find fault. They stretch out their dampest secrets because a creature like me has no virtues or morals. If I am "good" (an they assume that I am), it's obviously for a lack of opportunity to be otherwise. And I listen. I listen eagerly, warmly, because I care. They tell me everything eventually."
excerpt from Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Lacing Up My Therapy Again - or - Don't Worry, That Noise You Hear When You Are Me Is Just A Bunch Of Brain Midgets

“The little people in my head” is no way to start any kind of story that you want people to take seriously. That being said, the little people in my head that tell me when things are good or when I’m in trouble or if I might have stepped in dog shit are all having a convention right now. They all have reverbed-out, squeeky little voices that pierce though my thoughts as I try to get stuff done. It’s getting kinda loud up there these days.
“Quit smoking, God damn it.”
“Why are you sleeping on the couch again?”
“It’s really time to get your taxes done, slackass.”
“I like this new scruffy beard look on you, bub. Makes you look a bit wild. Like you don’t give a shit. Yeah, put on that green head band too! Now were are talking serious oddball. Fuck yeah.”
“Thanks for taking us all to the conservatory the other morning. We like tropical field trips.”
“I think that carrots are sweeter than candy, does that alarm anyone else up here?”
“Yes, you did just get a big old paycheck but you gotta pay off that credit card. If you don’t you’ll never be able to afford anything fun this summer, like a root canal.”
“Get off yer keister and go for a run, you damn smoker.”
“That’s a lot of dirty laundry, dude.”
“There is nothing in the fridge for the third week in a row. Brown rice and cauliflower is good and all but damn, mofo, changing hot sauces night after night isn’t the same thing as actual variety.”
“Did you hear that? I think it was the neighbors having sex. Wait. Nope. Spin cycle.”
“Buy a plane ticket somewhere. We don’t need leg room. We are just little people in a bigger person.”
“This whole thing makes me want to scream into a glass full of bourbon. Or maybe just drink a glass full of bourbon. Or maybe just scream. Anyone got a lighter? I need a smoke.”
“Quit smoking, dumbass.”
“Maybe getting a dog is the best idea you’ve had in years. So why don’t you have a dog yet? I bet having a dog would be a lot more helpful to your situation than not doing laundry.”
“I wanna grow some veggies. Hot peppers. Tomatoes. Carrots. Morals.”
“Where are your running shoes anyway, slackass. Do you even know?”

I kinda like it. So many conversations going on up there. So many views of my little world from further inside my little world than I usually care to admit. I like to think of the little people in my head all jammed up in a cosmic fish bowl that is floating through the void of space somewhere in my skull. Almost like a Gary Larson comic strip combined with a Monty Python skit with a good slathering of self loathing undertones to it. Now where are my damn running shoes. I gotta go for a therapy run and listen some more.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


...while we were having that dreaded conversation about not seeing each other anymore, I remember finding a hair of hers tangled in the fabric of my jacket. At the time it meant nothing, but I gently pulled it off of my sleeve, rolled down my window, and let the breeze whisk it away. It means a lot more to me now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Windows In March - or - Cold Toes And Green Thumbs

For the first time all winter, I am sleeping with the windows open. Actually, only one window, at the foot of my bed. I like the feel of cold air blowing over me when I sleep. I don’t like air conditioning. It has an industrial feel to it. Manufactured cold air. And quite honestly there is no way that I am heffing that monster of an air conditioner out of my closet at 1 am on a Wednesday morning in March. That just sounds stupid. But tonight I am sleeping with the window open. The window in question is behind a seven foot cactus, so closing the window in the middle of the night might bring about a new set of scars.
Have my days been so full of fluff and busy work and distractions and lunacy that this is what gets me to sit down for a minute and think? Opening a window in March? It seems that way, doesn’t it.
I hope the temperature drops tonight and I wake up cold and search for my slippers. I am excited about a hot shower in a matter of hours. I am excited about getting my hands back in the dirt and tending some plants that I planted in someone else's yard years ago. I am excited to get on a plane at an ungodly hour on Thursday and fly down to South By Southwest to play music for 45 minutes and then jump back on a plane hours later to get back Chicago and go to work at an ungodly hour Friday morning. I am excited to celebrate this weekend and drink and laugh with old friends and slam my fingers against my bass strings. I am ready for something. That something just might just be cold toes, but my guess is this window means more. So bring on the Fire Truck sirens, the mufflerless cars in the ally way, the gusts of wind from the lake, the restaurant’s roof heater buzzing away at 4am. Tonight, I’m sleeping with the window open.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Pock: A True Story

I was young and stupid. I needed to learn a lesson, any lesson. There is a point at which you learn the consequences of your adventurous naïve curiosity. I hit that point while digging a hole in the woods.
Mac lived on Town Hill Road. That’s where the rich folk of my hometown live, or at least that is how it seemed to me at the time. The winding streets that snake off of Town Hill Road, which connects the homes perched above the so-called city, all end in cul de sacs, not dead ends. Tennis courts and two car garages and finished basements with track lighting and pool tables and riding mowers and American flags and perfectly placed, ornately ornamented Christmas trees are common trophies for most of the houses. It was the summer of who really-knows-what-year and I found myself on Town Hill Road. Mac was there. So was his brother, a straight-out-of-high-school Marine on leave, who loomed over us like a wall of muscle and chin bone. There was the three of us and an air rifle; the kind with an air pump on the barrel. The more you pump it, the more force the BB has.
“If you're gonna shoot someone, only pump it once. After five pumps, you will break the skin and we will have to dig the BB out.” There was more said than just this; some jokes about something I didn't get, some swear words I hadn't heard yet about parts of a girl I hadn't seen yet, some brotherly advice spattered in between. There was more said between all of us than, "we will have to dig the BB out," but I remember being pretty quite.
"If you're gonna shoot someone..." No one said don’t shoot anyone. No one said don't shoot your brother as we were hurriedly tromping out of the house, rifle slug over the shoulder, to hunt down a way to fill the summer afternoon. No one said don't shoot the kid who just biked all the way up Town Hill Road to hang out in woods. I figured that as long as no BBs were being dug out of any part of me, we were going to be just fine. I wore glasses so I knew I wouldn’t lose and eye. Safety first. No one said don't shoot your friend with glasses. I wondered what BB stood for. I still do.
Everyone lives close to the woods in my hometown. There are trees and fields and slate quarries and sledding hills and bonfire pits a minute’s walk out of anyone’s door. “Protected by a wall of wood” is how I describe my hometown to this day. “Nothing gets in or out that doesn’t wear an I’m-Not-A-Deer-Orange hunting vest.” Even the cheese is wrapped up in plaid.
Mac, his brick and bone brother, and I went into the woods with an air rifle and a milk carton of BBs. The barrel makes a “pock” sound when you pull the trigger. After pumping the rifle ten times, my arms were sore and my adolescent muscles shook. I hit a can from 20 feet away. The BB broke through one side of it and rattled around at the bottom when I picked it up. Pretty damn cool.
“Shoot it,” someone said. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was Mac. Maybe no one said it but we all thought it. “Shoot it.” The wall had the rifle nestled behind his chin, pointed up to the trees. Pock.
“It’s not dead. What should we do?” Chickadee. Upside down. Back on the ground. Flapping. Still. Then flapping again. No sound. “Pump it more. We can’t leave it like that.” “Yeah. I guess not.” Pock. Nothing. I feel cold looking down at the bird. We start to walk away.
I say, “I’m digging a hole for it.”
“Why? Something will eat it. That’s how it goes.”
“Cause I feel like we took it away.”
No one felt good after playing in the woods that day. Lesson learned.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Swimming Pandas and Jesus Lembas Bread - or - I Shared This Link On Porpoise

This is the best YouTube wideo ever uploaded since God created YouTube and subsequently, the rest of the world, which took seven days.

Side note. The Creation of the World in Seven Days actually took six days, but for some reason we count God's nap time. Any mother will tell you that nap time is the most efficient time to get stuff done, so, yeah, seven days.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blank Pages - or - An Unmaned Bicycle Ride In A Snowstorm To The White Castle Drive Thru

It is snowing in Chicago. It is cold and quite and crisp. I wore my boots tonight. The big honking winter boots that take ten minutes to get the liners situated and the laces tight and the pants/sock threshold worked out so that no snow will touch flesh and no folds in the pant-leg cuff fabric will leave crop circle marks on my calves. I wore three shirts, two pairs of socks, my wool pants over my cargo pants, my blue fuzzy vest, my snow-ball-proof jacket that I've owned since the early 1990s, my rabbit fur hat, my scarf that matches the hand knitted mittens made by mother, which I wear over thinsulate gloves even though the calluses on my hands are so thick that I couldn't tell if my fingers were frost-bitten or sitting in a pot of scolding water, and my boots. I don't get to wear those boots very often, so it is worth the ten minutes. I wore all these layers and ventured out for dinner, for laughs, for the recounting of memories with friends, and the destruction of new memories by the glass full. On the slog back home many of these layers were either unzipped, unbuttoned, or jammed into pockets while I battled snowbanks and White Castle temptation. At one point I wished I had my bicycle. That thought was quickly followed by the realization that I still couldn't get service at the White Castle drive through on my bike. To me, Sliders get more magnetic the rougher the weather is. Bourbon also helps.

Someone once wrote that a blank page is intimidating. I agree. So many options, so many collisions of inward and outward thinking, so many people to piss off, or impress, or brush aside. The blank page is intimidating. But a blank page has a unique beauty. All the things that have happened since the last blank page was filled up are just waiting to be written down. All the emotions are crawling out of memory, brushing off the cobwebs, and lining up in a cue right behind my eyes, waiting for my fingers to let them return to the present. All the fleeting elation, all the incarcerated fits of rage, all the soft-edged dreams, the nail bending failures, the heart wrenching realizations, the unexpected successes, the gravity-laden guilt, the intrinsic wonder, the bold arrogance, the scaring beauty, the pedestrian complacency that otherwise goes unheard outside of my brain pile. All the 5am twitches that make falling back asleep so much better. All these things beg to get out of us, all of us, anyway that they can. That was what a blank page provided to me once. No doubt, more than once. I haven’t filled a page in a long long time. I haven’t opted to destroy the seemly endless void, the abyss that the blank page presents, in, could it be, years? I have different outlets now.

I don't think they are getting the job done.

I miss the blank page.

Rather, I miss the full page. With all the spelling mistakes and poor grammar that a full page boasts once I have filled it up.

Maybe tomorrow, when the snow is melting, I'll fill some pages.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Potable Quotables II

"We deal with what is. Leave what might have been to eyes that can see it more plainly."
-Ellis Peters

Happy New Year, where ever you are.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Orange Tree - Who'da Thunk It, I'm A Ghost

Paper Thick Walls has a music video. In fact we have had it for a while, I'm just a super slacker when it comes to posting now that I have 4 and 1/2 jobs again. So I bid farewell to my secret identity as I peel back the Obsquatch mask and show you a connection to the real me. The see-through, macabre, unmoving, ghastly, unanimated, ghost-of-a-man that this video portrays me as. Maybe that's not the real me. Maybe... Enjoy this please.
-The Ghost of Obsquatch

Befriend Paper Thick Walls on Facebook? Sweet
Watch out for us on YouTube? Rad
See minutes of video? Shazam
See hours of video? Ka-Pow