Our man in Red Hook (II)

I’d recognize the back of Mike Dresser‘s head anywhere.

Our man in Red Hook (I)

Travel Planning: New Orleans, 2013

A friend and I are planning a road trip for August 2013: a drive from Chicago to New Orleans, where he’ll be speaking on a panel at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists.

The other night I dreamt about this trip, dreamt a dream that offered guidance worth sharing with my friend. Here is what I wrote him.

I do hope there’s been no misunderstanding over the business with the rifle. My insistence on retaining it was not motivated by a desire to “teach you a lesson” nor exact a petty bit of payback. Please know that I was not especially upset over your having hustled me onto that express bus at a moment when I was concerned over the fate of my missing wallet. Under the circumstances, your having opted to take the express to the conference hotel made sense, as you had a session you needed to get to, and my negligence, wallet-wise, could scarcely have been a concern of yours. Mildly hesitant though I was about the bus, I did not protest, as I counted on having an opportunity to hop off near that subterranean restaurant where I suspected I’d left the article, claim it, then join up with you later on. Whether or not you were aware that the bus would make no intermediate stops and that it would take us so very far from the restaurant is no longer at issue, being what you might call a “moot point.”

Read more

Crazy Court is back in session –

– at least in reruns.

Hoisting this post is as poignant for me as it is funny. I’ve been in Dallas for a couple of weeks, in part seeing to troubles swirling around my long-time friend Lee, who’s been diagnosed with a form of dementia.

Lee’s last paying job after her formal retirement was a part-time gig writing summaries of lawsuits filed in various district courts of Galveston (TX) County. Before that, she was . . . oh-so-many and oh-so-much. Read more

what it is what it is

For Rick Neece and Dan Jensen

All of us wishing y’all many more years of love and happiness.

Things Behind the Sun

He began singing “Thoughts of Mary Jane,” and you could hear the sound of the buttons on his jacket hitting the guitar, the sound of the chair creaking, and midway through, just as it seemed like he was getting warmed up and settling into the performance, he changed directions, changed songs. No one could tell if he’d forgotten the chords or lost the words or simply grown bored and decided to move on. He settled into a rolling guitar figure, beautiful and stuttered and strangely uplifting, and he began singing the opening lines to a new song, new to me at least:

Do you curse where you come from?
Do you swear in the night?

Read more

Kind of like, but different

The leaves of Yarrow are also more finely divided. In fact, the species name millefolium literally means “ a thousand leaves”. It’s kind of like a millipede, but different.

I had a fright this past week. I was afraid I had made a monkey of myself. Been making a monkey of myself over yarrow. And I have, but not so much as I feared, it turns out.

Charlie had told me last year he did not know what yarrow looked like, and I’d told him I’d point it out once it was in blossom again. And now, even with the drought and the recent heat wave, the persistent weedy things of the world are in blossom, it being high summer and all. So when I saw Charlie at the store the other day, I said, “Yarrow, yarrow everywhere!”

I told him it was that white flowering stuff you saw on verges and at the edges of the golf courses.

He said, “I though that was Queen Anne’s lace.”
Read more

Where I’m Calling From

Here for a long weekend. Celebration of Life for a friend’s mom who passed a few weeks ago. Tonight an early celebration of same friend’s 50th birthday coming in a week or so. We’re north. Some ten to fifteen degrees cooler than at home. ‘Course, when it hits 90 degrees, does it really matter? We’re staying in the pyramid-topped skyscraper just right of center, dwarfed by the buildings around it. Once the tallest building in the midwest. Now the W hotel.

Tigie Lancaster of Marfa

Photograph by Allison V. Smith.

Here’s something that’ll tell you a little bit about who Tigie was — plus a little bit more on Tigie before she moved to Marfa.

I held off on posting this till one of us could sit face-to-face with our friend Lee and tell her that her friend Tigie had died. It was Steve who finally broke the news to Lee.

I never did meet Tigie, but I knew who she was starting from when I was nineteen or so, when I still lived in Dallas, which is where I met Lee. I was hoping that once Lee moved back to Dallas she and I could revisit Marfa (we went there in 2006) and I could meet Tigie.

Well, nothing to stop our going back to Marfa.

File under: Legendary Rowers

Meet my friend Pat Quesnel, the first person to row solo across the Pacific . . .

I was looking around for photos for a project using these terms: man and boat, man and row boat, small boat and man, arctic row boat, Faroes row boat, falling row boat, row boat tiny, row boat at sea, row boat ocean, rowing archive, rowing museum, Faroes metal boats tiny Ocean, skiff, skiff and man, high-walled skiff, and Faroes skiff. This photo turned up on ebay and I thought “Well, maybe. It’s a newspaper photo, rights should be reasonable,” and so I saved a copy in my project folder. I rejected the photo for the job but bothered to read the caption before I tossed it and, fuck a Roosevelt Elk, it’s my old friend Pat Quesnel from Kodiak, the first person to row solo across the Pacific. I have not contacted him in years but I still miss his company.
Read more

The Imaginary Chef (Notes toward a Pilot Program Proposal)

My friend Charlie is assistant manager of a small grocery/deli/”sundries” store catering to guests of a Midwestern resort and nearby residents. This week a customer phoned his store, claiming that the chuck roast she’d purchased had not in fact been handed over with her other purchases and requesting that it be delivered to her home.

Charlie’s store does not sell chuck roast.

Delivery, he explained, was impossible because (a) there was no chuck roast available for delivery and (b) only two employees were staffing the store.

The customer returned the following day to pick up her chuck roast.

Charlie asked whether, if this happens again, he might phone me with a request to deliver a phantom cut of imaginary chuck roast to the woman’s home. I consented, adding that I might even volunteer to prepare it for her. Commandeer her kitchen, imaginary chuck roast in hand, and act out the preparation of Boeuf Bourguignon in the manner of Julia Child.

Sheila Ryan: The Imaginary Chef.

The Cow and the Dog (a Fable)

The cow and dog were best friends. They had been close companions for longer than any of the other animals could remember. Even the draft horse was unable to recall a time before this great friendship.

“I am pleased to see such harmony,” the draft horse said, “but it is unusual just the same. No good can come of it.”

The donkey said nothing and continued feeding. He cared only for fodder and pulling his little cart. The barn cat did not speak—she believed herself to be invisible and did not want to reveal her position. The chickens scratched and hopped around the dusty courtyard in front of the stock barn. They didn’t say anything because they are so incredibly small-minded and stupid.

Read more

dear clusterflock

After a conversation with a dear long-time friend who is descending into the murk of what they call dementia, I’m dazed and confused. One of many cruel details: My fading friend introduced me to the works of Iris Murdoch when I was seventeen or so.

I’m all tore up. Listening to Sandy Denny singing By the Time It Gets Dark and snuffling. But trying to smack some sense into my sorry self-pitying self.

Seeking resources above and beyond the obvious. Most especially, looking for help for LGBT couples and for alternatives to traditional nursing home settings. Where? In or near Dallas, Texas. When? Now.

Grateful for whatever thoughts you may share here on clusterflock or via our contact form.

Ron Finley: Food Forest

After four months in Argentina and places proximate, my friend Charlie is back in the Driftless Region.

He will be tending his garden and selling his produce again this year — and he ordered turkey craw beans especially for me!

Via Charlie, three minutes of uplift featuring a man who tends a garden in south LA.

“I like to live on the edge so I plant mint where you’re not supposed to.”

Offline Friend Request EULA

By my (for reasons that will soon become obvious) Twitter-only friend @ChrisKubica:

For those who asked, here is the EULA to be my friend

If you are my friend offline, you agree:


Your stuff is my stuff. Your food is my food. I can sleep on your bed. I can give you kittens. I can take your kittens. I can play your music and your apps. You will provide cuddling within 4-hour’s notice. I can ride your dog even if he or she is too small when compared to my size. I can eat whatever is in your fridge or on your counter. I can sit on your counter. I can ask you questions. You will provide all answers in writing, orally and on 8-track cassette. I can wear your various clothing. I can has cheeseburgers. I can show you unicorns. I can believe in rainbows. You will believe in rainbows or pretend to believe in rainbows when I am about. I can have your milk and your jewelry. I can call you good and bad names. I can rock in your hammock and borrow your car. You may guard my house. You should buy me marshmallows. You will buy me books, read me books and lend me your books indefinitely. You will lend me everything indefinitely. You will provide me with five copies of the entire universe. . . .

If, having read the EULA, you wish to request offline friendship with Chris: Anyone also not on Facebook, feel free to use my offline Friend Request template (PDF)

Update: Unfriend Request Form

from the comments — dueling banjos edition

Amanda Mae Meyncke:

That day eludes me, the specifics of it. I find myself sleepy after a single glass of whiskey now, so I struggle to recall what strange elixirs and potions we whipped up and slung down for hour upon endless hour. A warm sort of hazy summer day. I remember wild tea vodka and orange juice, champagne and beers, sobering up slightly in the afternoon but not for long.

It literally seems impossible now, and I think it must have been a very very specific sort of order, some magical combination at a macrobiotic level that lead us like a guiding light. A gentle hand outstretched that never became a pounding hateful fist. I woke up ready to do it again. I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

Carole Corlew:

Cumberland is beautiful, in the mountains of western Maryland where it can be very cold even in May and early June. Of course “very cold” is subjective and some might not agree. Midwesterners, specifically.

I was living in Baltimore when I needed to visit a Cumberland newspaper editor. I called early that morning to check on conditions and the editor said, “The weather is great, come on up.” It started sleeting, then snowing as my car began the ascent. I was barely out of Alabama at that point and thought I surely would not survive.

We celebrated my survival with lunch at “the town’s best restaurant,” the bowling alley. It was quite good!

From Fassbinder’s Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte (Beware of a Holy Whore)

Recommended: Both the film and the activity encouraged by Ray Charles in this scene.

Let’s go get stoned.

Tout le monde a ses raisons

Ce qui est terrible sur cette terre, c’est que tout le monde a ses raisons. The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.

An oft-quoted line from Jean Renoir’s great film La règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game).

A line that has been interpreted both as caustic and as one of the saddest, wisest, truest observations in all cinema. I’m inclined toward both interpretations.

“Everyone has their reasons” came to mind this morning in light of the weekend’s public airing of a sad personal rift between people who have been central to clusterflock.

Although I have come to know these dear folks outside of the site’s confines, I’ve not sought to learn what led to the breach. Like Casey, “I figure my knowing about the personal conflict isn’t going to do anyone much good.”

The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.

Final Post

Site Politics. It’s odd to think of how close a group of people can become by way of a site–when so many kinds of distance offer cover, or a new path. One thing that struck home to me this year is the fact that among a small group of friends, several can have the worst year of their lives all at the same time. A person may think he or she is the only one around having it so bad, and then find that others are hurting as well. For me, the telling thing is: what does this knowledge that a friend is suffering do to one who is also suffering? In some, the thought that rises is–nobody could have it as bad as I do, and I don’t have time to take care of anybody but me.

One of the many things that makes Cindy the most remarkable person I have ever known is this: even if she is near death (no hyperbole here; last year brought serious illness and crushing psychological strain), even when she must struggle to meet each new day, she will go to a person in need and do her best to bring comfort and help. What I can’t abide when this happens is the injustice of her being thanked profusely–and then being cast aside, reviled suddenly without explanation. It’s as if such a friend, knowing Cindy’s own pain, knowing of her own fragile grip on life, were to say–I’m hurt, so you can go die now.

Please indulge my relentless aphorizing one last time: Blame is a room that only gets smaller, and the only way out is a desire to treat others well.

I have been so lucky to meet many lovely, bright, and loving people among all of you flockers. I won’t forget the faces that all seem so near me now. And I wish you all good things.

The Amish Project

A 24-year-old student went 90 days without using a cell phone, email or social media. Yahoo News interviewed him about the experience:

I definitely just lost complete contact with people that normally would have been part of my life. I mean it’s also an interesting metric for your life to see who some of your closest friends are, you know, and who’s willing to take the time.

I find it an interesting thought experiment to contrast this idea with Clusterflock, which is the clearest example in my life of the relationship-building power of the internet and social technology. The internet made it possible to seek out an entirely new tribe of people – people with which I have so much in common and so much to talk about, but that I hadn’t realized existed.

But then there are social networks like Facebook, which at their worst takes all of the people who are already part of your life – your co-workers, your school chums, your family – and hands them a level of intimacy about our lives that they haven’t really earned and don’t particularly deserve. I think that’s why it’s so interesting when these online relationships predicated on intimate knowledge but passive communication go bust when one party pulls out of Facebook – we’re just learning a hard lesson about the differences between that kind of intimate knowledge and true friendship, which for the longest time I thought were one and the same.

A couple relatives recently found me on Google Plus (I use it primarily for the sad remnants of what was once Google Reader). I hadn’t even acknowledged their existence before they were already commenting on every single piece of information attached to my name. This, I’m told, is keeping in touch.

Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America

My same friend Susan who brought us the critically acclaimed Omega Institute in Your Pants, 2010 edition today supplied the following list, from the book Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner, Dale F. Schweitzer, J. Bolling Sullivan, and Richard C. Reardon:

Sordid Snout
The Herald
Feeble Grass Moth
Dead-wood Borer
The Betrothed
The Little Wife
Serene Underwing
The Consort
Dejected Underwing
Inconsolable Underwing
Tearful Underwing
Sad Underwing
The Penitent
Sappho Underwing
Youthful Underwing
Darling Underwing
Read more

Repost of a Post Past

Going down the rabbit-hole of Cece’s post. Great rememberies here, following “flockers.”

Carole Corlew.

Stolen Instruments (Public Service Announcement)

This is of primarily local (Chicago) import and is not your typical clusterflock post, but what happened makes me so blistering mad that I want everyone I know to know about it and to keep their eyes and ears open.

STOLEN INSTRUMENTS alert! Violin and 2 guitars stolen from trunk of car outside The Whistler on Milwaukee on Sat night:

VIOLIN — Handmade, bears label: “Samuel Giovanni Casco in Örebro Anno 2010 For Ethan Adelsman”. The back has these measurements: 35.2 cm, 16.5 cm, 11.1 cm, 20.3 cm. The linseed oil-based varnish is a warm orange-brown color on a golden ground. The bow: Handmade by E. Herrmann of Brazilian pernambuco wood with silver mounted hardware. The bow bears inscription: E. HERRMANN *** Violin & bow were in a Bam Lotus case, black with grayish stripes on the top and black backpack-style straps.

Read more

The Mother Courage of Rock

She was skinny, quick-witted, disarmingly unprofessional, alternating between stand-up patter, bardic intonations, and the hypnotic emotional sway of a chanteuse, and she was sexy in an androgynous way I hadn’t encountered before. The elements cohered convincingly; she seemed both entirely new and somehow long-anticipated. For me at nineteen, the show was an epiphany.

Luc Sante on Patti Smith.

Springtime 1976, I was living in the cinderblock building on the glorified median strip there where they split Highway 13, and one day I went over to this one girl’s apartment, she lived right by the guy who dealt me speed, and she said, “Hey, you know who you remind me of? You remind me of Patti Smith!”

Gave her a possum grin I’m still grinning.

« Previous PageNext Page »