Tony Fitzpatrick and Spring

Last night I attended part of a Words+Music event at the Empty Bottle. Unexpectedly, the event seemed to had started on time, so I missed readings by JR Nelson and Jim DeRogatis. But I did see Jessica Hopper read her review of Miley Cyrus's Bangerz, and manage to hear the illuminant Tony Fitzpatrick read some recent articles of his that will appear in the forthcoming book Dime Stories that collects his column from New City over the past few years.

I've seen Fitzpatrick read at one of these events before, and have seen him perform elsewhere. He is a Chicago writer through and through: Nelson Algren and Mike Royko have undeniably left their mark on Fitzpatrick. If, as Ernest Hemingway states, "you should not read [Algren] if you cannot take a punch," then know that Algren's protege is an even more formidable wielder of the written word. His vulgar wit and sardonic humor are instantly recognizable, and have little match in the ring of literature.

And yet, Fitzpatrick seemed a little off his game this evening, as if the gloves weren't on as tight as usual. True to form, he was conscious of this unlikely wavering in his reading. He reminded the audience of his heart surgery a few months ago before reading a post-surgery reflection on life (appropriately titled, It's Spring).

The piece he read aloud has been on my mind since I first read it a few weeks back. The main point of it is to not let the little bullshit of life stack up and distract you from what you want to accomplish. This doesn't mean over-worry yourself with work however. For Tony, it means going to more baseball games, spending more time with his family, going for more walks, enjoying every breeze, the flowers, the birds; "put your cell phone in a drawer." It's a transition for Tony, even so late in life, from hanging up the gloves to finding more poetic ways to reassert how necessary it is to stop and smell the cliche roses; a lover yet still a fighter.

For my part, I've been creating a list of new places - restaurants, art galleries, bars, cultural institutions, old buildings - that I want to explore in and around the city, in neighborhoods I'm already familiar with and ones I've never stepped foot in. It's easy to get comfortable going to the same bars, seeing the same bands, biking down the same boulevards and streets, seeing the same people, eating the same things. This easiness leads to routine, and routine will make your life pass by quicker than you intend to. I'm 27 and I already know that. You can't have new thoughts and new feelings if you don't go to new places.

Of course, here's the dilemma. Routine, repetition, schedules - these don't necessarily lead to stagnation of the mind. These can lead to strong community building, whether that community is in a neighborhood, in artistic, or business. But the best way to help strengthen that community is inevitably to get outside of it, to introduce an outside perspective, and perhaps even bond your own community to another one. This is called growth.

So this year, I'm going to new places and new spaces, to get to know this city even more outside of the bubble I've grown familiar in. Yesterday, this included: a visit to Open Books in River North before they move to the West Loop next week; a small tour of the Midwest Buddhist Temple in Old Town, hosted by Jesse; hanging out at Oz Park in Old Town listening to a trombonist practice his scales and dog-watching; buying even more books at Bookworks in Wrigleyville; hanging out on the patio at Sheffield's than catching the first half of Reading Under the Influence; and then not something new but something always enjoyable, the aforementioned Words+Music at the Empty Bottle.

Onward to spring, and to life.

(note: this wasn't my exact route, but changing things on Google can be such a pain in the ass)


Literary Chicago - Gabi Gliechmann, 'The Elixir of Immortality'

Literary Chicago is series where I try to capture the essence of the city by how it is described in fiction, primarily from books that don't take place in Chicago.

"Shortly after the death of my mother I traveled to the United States. While I was changing planes in Chicago I happened to catch sight of an article in the city's leading newspaper, The Morning Star:"

pg 174 The Elixir of Immortality by Gabi Gleichmann (2013)


Random notes from a trip to NYC / DC, February 2015

...except in a legible format. Words are unedited [save for clarity] but I did rearrange the order of things: 

Traveling alone. What a trip. Not literally. From everyone to no one to everyone again. 
I'm lost and not lost.

The parks here advertise wifi. Parks.

Everyone is talking. To each other. On the phone. To themselves. On the phone but looks like talking to themselves.

Seagulls dine on the garbage on 3rd avenue / sparrows dine on a fell pizza slice

Gay ketchup marriage.

I noticed your lipstick. You don't need lipstick.
I do feel less self-conscious here. Is it the city doing that? Is it me being a tourist anywhere? Is it a growing personality trait in general? Sorta sick of being alone and left to my own thoughts. At the same time, sick of talking about myself. I've never asked myself what am I doing here as much as when I'm in NYC.

Has being sarcastic fucked my life over? No, not being sarcastic has fucked other people over.

I'm way too aware of how I look for not caring how I look.

Whatever this state of mind is, I feel the opposite of present. I have to remind myself to exist. To be.


The Rothko Room

My experience at The Rothko Room at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC. You should go to there. 

"No more than eight people at a time. No strollers" a sign commands. A dampness pads the nostrils as you enter the room. You are introduced to four giant canvases on the white walls: red and orange; green, red, and blue; yellow, orange, and red; forest green and orange. Of course, these are not the only colors present. But they have the most presence.

A lattice of wooden floorboards creaks beneath your feet. Have a seat: a creakier bench feels like it may collapse beneath your weight, despite how weightless you feel in this room.

The room. It's quiet. It's calm. Are you calm? It's how Rothko's paintings make me feel. Forget that he's the posterboy for how silly abstract expressionism is represented in the mainstream (maybe behind Pollack). Rothko's paintings outrage many, but they are calming to me. To sit in the Rothko Room, alone, is as close as I've felt to a meditative experience in awhile.

I feel small but I don't feel insignificant. I feel free of desire, but not overwhelmed. I also feel a bit overwhelmed. There is me, four painted canvases, a sliver of a vertical window facing north, and I feel something that not a lot of people have the chance to feel. Does the fact that abstract expressionism creates a serene feeling in me add to my privilege? Should I just lean into my privilege at this point? Stop running away from what I am?

A man walks into the room. He takes one picture. He leaves.

A man walks into the room. He takes four pictures. He stands for a moment. He leaves.

Were these men even in the room?

I sat in this room for five minutes. I spent some time walking around the room, looking at the paintings up close and from afar. I took a selfie with each photo. I left the room. Was I any more present than the previous men? Was I ever even in the room?


Ear Relevant 4.10.15 - 4.17.15

You've probably seen that Chance the Rapper video for Sunday Candy by now but just in case you haven't...the choreography is beautiful.

Baltimore-via-Chicago keys and drums duo Wume announced a new album, Maintain, coming out May 19th on Ehse Records. Their bandcamp has a couple songs to tease ya.

I wrote about Liturgy's new album The Ark Work and why they're the only black metal band I like for Since I Left You. They played at Subterranean last week. Baltimore's Horse Lords opened who are just as worthy of your attention.

Strawberry Jacuzzi released a new song called 'Bitch Jam' on Midwest Action.

White Mystery made a film and it premiers at CIMM Fest on Monday. Check out the trailer below. The movie looks...it's...just watch the trailer.


Ron Currie Jr. - 'God is Dead'

My friend Keith Meatto loaned me this book while I was visiting New York a couple months ago. We swap books as often as two people who live in different cities can. Additionally, Keith was my editor while Frontier Psychiatrist existed, and it's safe to say he has a pretty good idea of what I like to read. Case in point, Ron Currie Jr.'s debut book from 2007 God is Dead.

Spoiler alert, God dies in the beginning. The Almighty takes the body of a woman caught in war-torn Darfur, who is killed, eaten by dogs, and leaves the world wondering what to do now that he doesn't exist. Teens fulfill a suicide pact, ideological wars breakout, children are worshipped, people are accused of theism, kids text too much with people who never respond...all this and more.

Despite what the title may suggest, Nietzsche is never mentioned once throughout. In fact, the book doesn't necessarily aim to be philosophical at all. It doesn't really concern the matters of which religion was "right," or about atheism vs. agnosticism. It instead investigates the sunken corners of Currie's imagination of the world the way it actually would be were it to be found out there was no God. It's a world where people realized "God had created the universe and set it spinning, but it would continue chugging along despite the fact that he was no longer around to keep things tidy." The world doesn't end. CNN and Magic Bullet still exist in a post-God world. Hypocritical wars and angsty teens still exist. People are loathed, people are loved. Not much has really changed. But yet, things are irrevocably, if intangibly, different. 



Wrote the majority of this a week ago. Better late than never. Better luck next time, Chuy. 

The skies are spitting at us trying to deter us from voting today. I say us but I mean you. I voted when it was sunny a week ago. Early voting lasts for two weeks and we can still barely get one third of the city to vote.

So that's why the skies spit at us. Because we get the weather we deserve.

I'm sitting at the bar at the Hideout waiting for Mick Dumke and Ben Joravsky to woefully announce the imminent results of Chuy Garcia's loss in the mayoral runoff, the first in this city's history. It's only a matter of time. The bar being out of Daisy Cutter is a sign. That scattered laundry basket on Elston Ave. is a sign. My flat tire last night was a sign: Chuy won't win.

It sometimes feels like I live in a bubble. I saw exactly one (1) sign in someone's yard supporting Rahm Emanuel in my neighborhood. Logan Square is populated by Chuy. My social media is nothing by Chuy supporters. My hood has more 'Raht' stickers than 'Rahm' posters. Creative signs and wheat-pastes have sprouted on brick walls like buds on the trees along the boulevards are about to.

And he's still going to lose.



Finishing a book is like being in the shower for a year and a half. You hear this constant stream of rushing water, no sounds outside of it really seem to matter, even if you have other fleeting thoughts or hear sounds from the apartment above you.  The shower is your only reality.

And then you turn the shower off.

And it's silent.

And you wonder: "Why the fuck did I just take a shower for a year and a half?"

At least that's how it feels for me.

I just submitted my first ever novel to a publisher. Do I expect anything to come out of this? Of course not. Even right before I clicked submit, I hesitated, wondering if I should even bother. It's nerve-wracking. Worse than being rejected is being accepted, and then actually allowing people to read all of these inane thoughts that have been cultivating inside of my head, especially the real weird stuff within the past couple months. And hope that I was able turn these thoughts into a literary format at the same time.

Either way, it's done. When it's inevitably rejected, I get to submit and submit and submit again. Eventually, I'll start a new one and start the whole process over. Gee. Can't wait...

In the meantime, I'm glad to finally have enough time to read someone else's work. Maybe start posting on here a bit more again. I'm proud of what I accomplished, but I just read the same damn book four times in a row. From now on, instead of editing so much, I think I'll just do it correctly the first time. Makes sense, right?

And don't worry, when it's ready, you can read it. I won't shut up about it. I'll make sure this thing, in whatever final form it ends up in, will end up in the hands or tablets of every last one of you.


Size Doesn't Matter

You know what's fucked up? I've been working on this book for over a year and a half. I'm almost at 64,000 words. I entered super hibernation mode and ignored the entire world for three weeks to write the bulk of this. I've grown narcissistically insane thinking about what a great fucking writer I'm turning into and how this thing is going to change lives.

And this whole document, all of it, all of my random and twisted thoughts, all of the name-dropping and cultural references, all of my pseudo-philosophical meanderings on how technology is threatening (dismantling?!) free will, a fuckton of obscenities, all of it occupy an open office document of 175 KB.

That is such an incomprehensibly tiny speck of data on this machine that can hold 500 GB.

It's nothing.

Now that's what I call an ego killer.

I think I needed that.


Back to editing.


Jami Attenberg - 'The Melting Season'

I feel conflicted. Not about the book. I liked the book. Attenberg is a great writer and I was engaged in this story all throughout.

I'm conflicted because it was a good book and I don't know why. Which is a good and bad thing. It's good, for Attenberg, because it means she writes so naturally and effortlessly that its just second nature for her to create a unique work of narrative fiction (which is not to say this required no effort; I know that's not true for any writer). It's a bad thing, for Attenberg, because I wasn't stirred as much as I'd hoped to be.

It's a good thing, for the reader, because it's an effortless read. You can fly through this thing, not being able to turn the page fast enough. It's a bad thing, for the reader, because you're not sure how to describe why this is so good.

The story involves a woman, Catherine, who is running away from home in Nebraska. She took all her husband's money, over six figures, and is driving, and eventually hits Vegas. Her marriage was falling apart (not just because her husband has a really small dick), her life itself was falling apart. Her little sister, a teenager, is pregnant, and her alcoholic mother beats on her all the time. Sheltered Midwest people living sheltered Midwest lives (Catherine comments more than once about how her family is trailer trash). But they have complex feelings and complex relationships that inform their complex feelings and cannot be reduced to issues such as pregnancy, or alcoholism, or domestic abuse, without taking into consideration the whole story.