Old Boy in the Mother Country

I had the good fortune of spending some time in Ireland last month, which right now is about the weirdest place in the world. Not weird as in eccentric, but weird as in everything is entirely confused and absolutely confusing.

In Murrisk, a tiny village (pop. 235) in County Mayo, I was advised to be careful in the larger Westport (pop. 5,000) because I “might get stabbed.”

In Westport, a kind old couple said not to hang out in Castlebar (pop. 17,000) after dark because there was a good chance someone on drugs would stab me.

In Castlebar, the common wisdom went that I should avoid Galway (pop. 70,000) due to a preponderance of folks getting stabbed in that fair city these days.

Once in Galway, bartenders, wait staff, hotel owners and total strangers alike all said to stay out of Dublin at all costs. “It ain’t safe there,” one said. “Someone’ll stab ya, take yer quid ‘efore ya even know they done it.”

Dublin, I am sad to report, did not live up to any of its mythology. Certainly a fun city, but not at all what you’d expect. Ireland’s having a tough go of it these days, nowhere moreso than its capital city, and to walk its streets is to walk through the ruins of a boom unlike any other. Gorgeous Gregorian taverns covered in graffiti; Victorian rowhouses hiding behind mountains of garbage; an ever-increasing tension between haves and have-nots, the former growing in stature while the latter grows in number.

I asked the owner of a coffee shop near St. Stephen’s Gate about the state of his city, and he just shrugged it off. “If we weren’t mad about the bad news,” he said, “we’d be mad the good news weren’t good enough. ‘sjust Irish, that’s all.”

“At least we’re not Mayo,” he added. “Go out to the country these days, who knows what could happen. You’d probably get stabbed.”


Heads-up to anyone in Chicago: I’ll be hitting the stage again with 2nd Story Wednesday, September 30 at Red Kiva, 1108 W. Randolph. Tickets will be on sale here at some point.

So a Guy Walks Into a Bar…

A man, me, walks into a bar in South Philadelphia and orders a beer.

“Lemme see some ID,” says the bartender. The man reaches into his wallet and hands over his Illinois drivers license.

“Dis you?” asks the bartender. The man nods.

“Heheheyy,” he calls out to the guys at the end of the bar, “we got Illinois in here!”

The guys at the end of the bar just kind of shrug collectively as the bartender pours the Kenzinger.

“So, what brings you here?” the bartender asks.

“Usual vacation,” the man says. “See some baseball, maybe check out some shows or museums. Get to know the place, you know?”

“Whoa!” the bartender says. “Hey, fellas, look at this. Illinois here goes to museums on his vacations!”

The barflies, again, collectively shrug.

“I’d heard your art museum was pretty nice,” the man says, slightly perplexed.

“Oh what,” the bartender says, “you think yours is better? You think we like you coming in here telling us what we should be seein’ in OUR city?”

“No,” the man says, “I don’t, and that’s why I’m going to yours.”

The bartender stops what he’s doing. “Listen, Illinois. That crap might go over in Chicago but Philly doesn’t take it from Chicago, you got me? So either shut up about how great your town is and let us love ours or get the hell out of my bar, okay?.”

The phone rings and the bartender walks over to answer it. The man looks to his left for support but the barflies, as they often do, simply shrug. Not knowing what else to do, the man finished his beer and, indeed, got the hell out of their bar, having at once learned everything he needed to know about Philadelphia.

Heavy Metal Hitting Machine

Howdy there, dear readers. Just a quick clip roundup to break the silence:

OSI: Fascinating.
Wolves in the Throne Room: Not bad, I guess.
White Sox: Yikes.
Pegboy: Timeless.
The Bird and the Bee: Okay.
BPA: Surprisingly awesome.

In other news, a pair of fundamentally different yet ultimately excellent sites have brought me aboard, and for similar purposes. Look for me Monday mornings at The Beachwood Reporter with the weekly White Sox Report, and again a few times a week at upstart Mouthpiece Sports talking (you guessed it) White Sox baseball. That’s a lot of baseball, isn’t it? I need to get better about these updates, I suppose. Or just write about more prog-metal and folky songstresses.

Also as promised, issue three of Normal Words is finished and available for your viewing.

On a side note, I’d like to thank everyone who made it out to the 2nd Story Festival on the 7th. I killed my voice doing it, but the chance to tell you all my grizzled cubicle stories was easily worth whatever ailment came my way. I will keep you posted on when the next reading happens; probably not until sometime this fall. You will know as soon as I do.

Alright, that’s enough for now. Thank you as always for reading.
Chicago, IL / May 19, 2009

Pictures and Words and the 2009 2nd Story Festival


Thanks for asking. I mentioned it last time, but I’ll be reading at this year’s 2nd Story Festival. Specifically, I’ll be reading a new story, “Incapacitator,” an epic tale of desk jobs, pants, unpleasant co-workers, crawling through mud, drunken jerks, video games, high-velocity vegetable oil, denial, self-esteem, pizza, weekend warriors, a south suburban farm and a good-looking girl. Rated R for comedic violence and extreme, pervasive profanity.

WHEN: Thursday, May 7, 7pm
WHERE: Webster’s Wine Bar, 1480 W. Webster, Chicago
TICKETS: $16, on sale March 26 at storiesandwine.com. This one will definitely sell out so take care of this in advance if you think you can make it.


Lots! The second issue of Normal Words launched last week, featuring the amazing photography of Erin Drewitz and an excellent essay by Lisa Gus. My long-promised last word on Led Zeppelin’s heavy metal credentials is online at MadeLoud, and baseball is just a few weeks away. I also contributed to RedEye‘s Five on Five column last week, and even after all that still managed to stop and take a picture.


We’ll talk about it when it happens. Until then, check out the Steven Wilson album. Like I said, it’s pretty good.

Thank you as always for reading,
Chicago, IL / March 23, 2009

News, News and Other News

Three items of interest to report.

First off, it is my great pleasure to announce the debut issue of Normal Words, a new online literary project based right here in Chicago with yours truly (sort of) at the wheel. The first issue is a quick read but still entirely awesome, and you can just assume subsequent editions will follow suit.

Second, I have been writing about media for the Chicago Examiner, and you can read all that here. I keep some pretty good company over there – Rob Duffer on the lit scene and my esteemed blogger-in-arms JJ Stankevitz on the White Sox – and so far so good. It’s a bit more newsy and business-oriented than a lot of my other work, but it’s interesting stuff all the same. At least I think it is.

Finally, I’ll be reading at this year’s 2nd Story Festival in early May, and will post more details about that as they become available. I promise nothing short of a great time and some highly entertaining words. Which, if you think about it, is kind of the point.

Anyway, that’s that for now. I’ll do a clips update soon, because I know you are all just dying to know what I think of the Steven Wilson album (hint: it’s pretty good).

Thank you as always for reading.


February 18, 2009