Stories and Spiels by Brian Costello

35. Recent Entries in My Dog’s Diary

Thus far, my one New Year’s Resolution—Take the Time to Savor Each Meal—has been an abysmal failure. My mind says, “Baxter, relish each kibble to its fullest extent,” but my body has other ideas, and before I know it? All gone. I know, I know—it’s the journey and not the destination—but why am I unable to liberate myself from my body’s base wants and desires? And if I can’t conquer myself, how can I conquer all the dogs around me?

Licked myself all afternoon. Don’t care.

It fills me with deep shame and loathing how I grovel for Brian and Sara’s food scraps. Last night, I was begging for quinoa—quinoa!—with mushrooms. To my core, even in my domesticated state, I am a hunter, and I am aware of this, but perhaps it speaks to a weakness in myself, a kind of selfishness, for I know that Brian and Sara don’t beg for my food and are quite respectful of the distance I demand while eating, but I am unable to return that favor. And as I ate the tiny bit of quinoa that fell to the floor, a part of me thought, “Baxter, you’re nothing but a pathetic mongrel!” I’ve been beating myself up a lot lately; it’s not good nor healthy. I blame the winter.

It was much-needed bliss to get out today and walk. The urine trails all tell the same story: Sheesh! When is this winter going to end? Glad to know I’m not the only one. Dewey—my upstairs neighbor—stopped by yesterday evening—and the play positions he sent my way could not mask the deep despair in his eyes. I positively despise winter. I walk for five minutes, and the salt gets on my back left paw and I’m hotfooting it home (it’s humiliating!), and Brian gets so impatient to get back to the warmth while I’m clearly—clearly, Brian!—sniffing this incredibly informative clump of yellow snow.

Brian. Don’t get me started. If he wasn’t my best friend, I’d hate him.

Lately, all I want to do is sit by the window and stare at the bleakness outside. It was so cold yesterday. When will this end? I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Things I once found pleasurable no longer please me. Brian and Sara try to pet me, but I don’t want to be touched. Walking around. Sniffing things. Rolling over. Shaking Brian’s hand. Meeting new people. Gallivanting around with other dogs. So growly lately. Nowadays, it all seems so…pointless. I need to keep telling myself that it’s just the winter doldrums, that it’s going to get better, but I’m just one dog in the universe, alone…alone…so alone.

“Belly rubs, Baxter!” Brian and Sara won’t stop saying “Belly rubs!” to me. It’s like they revel in my submission to them. It makes me sick. I’d like to belly rub them, see how they like it.

February: You cruel bitch goddess. Oh, and this chew toy mocks me with its squeaking. DIE ALREADY CHEW TOY. JESUS.

I’m finding it impossible to give two runny poodle shits about this year’s Super Bowl. Two teams I am supremely indifferent to, yet another obnoxious Bud Light advertising blitz, and—oh yes—the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the big halftime show. Brian and Sara won’t be here, and they won’t even have the common decency to leave the game on. Dewey wanted to bet me on the game, but I really don’t care about it enough, even if I had money riding on it.
Oh, and another thing: Fuck the Puppy Bowl. It’s setting us back as a species at least fifty years.

34. At the Post-Game Press Conference

Reporter: What was going through your head when you made the winning play?

Athlete: I must admit that this question has always fascinated me, as it presupposes coherent, rational thought on my part while in the midst of the frenzy of intense physical activity, to say nothing of the incredible adrenaline highs one feels while in the throes of the competitive spirit. During moments of profound intuition–the inevitable byproduct of that old chestnut, “Practice makes perfect,” what does go on in the unfathomable minds of we, the professional athletes? Yes, there is always the standard answer to this query, something along the lines of “I knew that we had to make them play our game, and focus on what we could control, and being surrounded by so many teammates so determined to find a way to grind out a win shows everyone the kind of team we have” is–while accurate–also a sentiment that strikes me as deeply unsatisfying, as much as it surely strikes you that way, gathered members of the sporting press.

When in the act of making these plays, as of late, I have endeavored to take note of my thoughts, and as near as I can gather, while my body and my body’s memory are firmly in the present, my subconscious mind sends a jumbled assortment of bittersweet recollections, of childhood streets I shall never again experience except in the matinee movies of the brain-theater, of friends and family who have passed on, of the truth-beauty dichotomy so eloquently conveyed in the immortal works of Keats.

My childhood years were spent living in a middle class neighborhood in a working class factory town. In this neighborhood, there was a street called Whippoorwill Lane. Whippoorwill. Say it aloud with me. Whippoorwill. Simply repeating that wonderful word evokes the most achingly tender sensations. What I find deliriously odd about this memory is that neither I nor my family ever drove down Whippoorwill Lane. It was a side street, a cul-de-sac, several blocks from our house, and while the first half of the street was visible from the main road we took to get to our street, I do recall that Whippoorwill curved to the right, thus blocking the casual interloper from seeing what existed there in that hidden realm. My childhood imagination was awakened on speculating what existed there, beyond my field of vision from the backseat windows of my parents’ venerable Aerostar minivan. It might have been split-level ranches of the kind that so defined that neighborhood, it could have been the Taj Mahal. Who’s to say, really? Who’s to say?

This was my thought as I strong-armed my opponent before leaping into a backflip, landing on my back in the end zone, immediately leaping onto my feet, then shaking my hips and grabbing the vicinity of my crotch while engaged in my trademark dance of victory.

That is but one example. Winning, truth be told, is a heady mix of victory and despair. In the moments of my greatest triumphs, I must admit to feeling the bleak sorrow the writer of Ecclesiastes expressed when outlining the seeming futility of this too-short life. But there is so much joy…so much joy…a fleeting joy, but a joy nonetheless…be it winning the game, or admiring the works of the Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot while spending an afternoon lost in the myriad reveries of the Art Institute of Chicago. While these two endeavors seem a contrast, the internal result is always the same, that tell-tale spine tingle Nabokov so beautifully delineated as the very definition of artistic bliss.

I hope this answers your question.

33. My New Year’s Resolutions

–Watch VH1 Classic in my boxers at least once. [COMPLETED! 1/1/14]


–try not to hit myself on the head with my drumsticks when I play the drums

–listen to the band W.A.S.P.

–shart, pray, luv

–karaoke the Sarah McLaughlin song “Angel”

exercise more  (stupid…everybody says that)

–listen more and talk less with those who are less interesting than you

–cultivate the image of a “sex symbol”

–when getting together with male friends, sing the chorus to “The Boys are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy

–adopt Steve Sanders from “90210″ as your style icon


32. The Top 13 Gourmet Donuts of 2013 That You Must Eat Before You DIE.

1. The Kurt Cobacon. No one can say “Nevermind” to this loud-quiet-loud tribute to grunge music. This is a bigmuffed glazed bearclaw deep-fried in rendered Applewood-smoked bacon fat and topped off with certified organic evergreen frosting.

2. The Sir Chester Cheetah Chrome. A post-modernist deconstruction of the classic “jelly” donut. Powdered Flamin’ Hot Cheetos(TM) coat the outside, while the inside is a filling composed of locally harvested jalapeño peppers and ethically mongered nacho cheese shipped from the finest dairy farms of Fresno County, California, stirred by hand, melted in Peruvian earthenware saucepots, and simmered in our kitchen for twelve hours.

3. Please Kale Me. Honey-glazed traditional single-holed donut made from kale-infused whole wheat dough, topped off with baked organic kale handpicked from the East Hegewisch Farmers’ Market by chefs who have won some awards, and drizzled in honey developed by Zinnia-fed North American honey bees.

4. Heirloom to the Throne. This is both a reinterpretation of the “Long John,” and the most popular item at Quirk City Donut Factory in the vibrant Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The basil-balsamic crème filling in the interior provides a delicate counterpoint to frosting derived from a medley of Brandywine Yellow, Black Krim, and Green Zebra heirlooms on the exterior. As a foodie, I’m dying to learn where Quirk City procured these heirlooms; as near as I can tell–let’s just say it’s from an exclusive West Loop Black Market where only gonzo pastry chefs and other subterranean rogues fear to tread.

5. Toucan Sam: From 5 to 7. Presented as a humble “Merci” to two Western Civilization’s most inspirational style icons–Toucan Sam and Corinne Marchand–this Froot Loop-encrusted beignet deep-fried in a fragrant rosemary olive oil will have you following your nose as your public persona confronts and contemplates the deeper joys and sorrows of the inner life.

6. Lemonescence. Lemon zest frosting topped with grilled shrimp on a saffron risotto-filled bomboloni donut, yeasted in cast-iron custom-made ovens designed in the manner specified in the work journals of Parisian pastry chef Frederic Perrenoud in April, 1758.

7. A Shroom of One’s Own. Artisanal potato fritter, resplendent in several hundred hand-carved nooks and crannies, dipped in Chef Dougie’s secret Marseille bouillabaisse and sprinkled with a healthy handful of mushrooms–a seasonal medley of Chanterelle, Agaricus, Enoki, and Morel.

8. The Canadian Experiment. Borne out of Chef Randy’s inspiration vacation last year to the achingly bucolic donut shoppes of the Great White North, this homage to bicycling the back roads of a delightfully foreign land comes frosted in Manitoba maple on a dutchie that serves double-duty as both an edible square yeast donut, and a pastry upon which a daring assortment of charcuterie is painstakingly studded: emulsified braunschweiger, spicy pork rillettes with a creamy garlic aioli, and German, dry-cooked smoked ham.

9. The Red Line Passenger. Our nine-grain cruller, lustily troweled with scallion cream cheese, as strips of lox flown fresh daily from the Bering Strait flutter across the top.

10. The Big Belush. Ketchup free, and proud to be. An incredible reinterpretation of the venerable Chicago Red Hot. A Vienna Beef hot dog and dill pickle spear-stuffed poppy seed eclair, garnished on the top with artisanal yellow mustard, hand-chopped white onions, delicately sliced Mesoamerican hothouse tomatoes, locally sourced bright green pickle relish, cage-free pickled sport peppers, and non-GMO harvested celery salt.

11. The Little Leaguer. A playfully irreverent tribute of sorts to the burgers and fries of our childhoods, this is a sesame seed “beaver tail” donut, with a savory mixture of ketchup and mustard at its foundation, with healthy (read: unhealthy, but in a decadently sublime way) doses of 1000% Angus beef and crispy pommes frittes indelicately pressed inward.

12. Sit Be Cider. Farm-fresh Granny Smith apples lovingly converted into a “spirited” apple cider dough-infused with Appalachian bourbon from what they tell me is a licensed distillery contracted to make bourbon exclusively for these donuts, in collaboration with a rich cinnamon and nutmeg counterpoint. Fair-trade Surinamese cinnamon-sugar gleefully adheres to the luxuriant crisp of the mesmerizing cake donut.

13. Chocolate. Yeasted and glazed donut, topped with chocolate frosting. Is this irony? Your mouth will say “No!” but your mind will make devil horns with its hands!


Thanks to Chefs Dougie and Randy at Quirk City Donut Factory in Lakeview for giving this foodie so many incredible donuts to choose from. When in Lakeview, be sure and visit Quirk City Donut Factory, and tell them I sent you.

Oh, and PS: This Top 13 list is in random order, so don’t write to complain that you think “The Little Leaguer” is wayyyy better than “Toucan Sam: From 5 to 7,” please and thank you. The last thing a foodie like me needs is a “flame war!” ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

31. This week. 10/11-10/18

The Cardinals take it back to St. Louis, where Chuck Berry will play the national anthem and the ghost of William S. Burroughs will throw out the ceremonial first pitch….aw, who am I kiddin’? (Not you!) It’ll be some young country turd-tosser singing the national anthem, and TBS, after having so much scenery to film in and around ol’ Chavez Ravine (“Ooooo, Tom Cruise!”), will get some nice shots of the courthouse, and maybe the muddy Mississip. Hoping the Cardinals don’t blow another 3-1 NLCS; I have a good feeling that won’t happen. We’re not the Cubs. (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing!)


Hit the drums last night. New song almost done, should be ready for our Halloween show. On this one, I play quarter notes on a closed high-hat cymbal in the 4/4 time signature with my right hand. With my left hand, I hit the 2 and the “ah” of the 4 beat on the snare. With my right foot, I play on the one and the “ah” beat of the 2 beat. After that, I open the high hat cymbal while continuing that beat. Then I do this fill where I get to do a rim shot on the rack tom (“Rim shot on the rack tom?” I got nuthin..), and switch my right hand to the ride cymbal. After that, I do this fill that makes me laugh because it sounds like something Mitch Mitchell would do if he was phoning it in–not that I’m phoning it in–or that Mitch Mitchell ever phoned it in–but it sounds like that to me. Then it gets into some Nick Mason kinda territory for awhile, and I try not to think about it too much, and so I daydream about the bike paths in my old neighborhood in Florida, how they wound through screened-in patios and the swimming pools and jungles…while still listening to what everybody else is doing. I guess it’s a matter of getting the brain out of the body. Something.


Did some writing, but I don’t really want to talk about that. Writers writing about writing is the worst. Say the word “Yawn,” and stretch the word out so it sounds like a foghorn. Bingo.


This weekend: Spits at Empty Bottle. Bears vs. Washington at Burlington. The new Nobunny is out. I am going to drink beer. I drank beer last night. I enjoyed it. Will do it again. And again. And again.


After Shame That Tune, we went to Cole’s, then to Boiler Room, and we were going to call it for the night, but the men’s room was covered in vomit, and I had to go, and our friend lived around the corner, so as we walked towards her place en route to home I asked to go upstairs to use her bathroom. As I did that, my wife and our friend decided to buy a twelve pack of beer and talked the 7-11 guy out of old tacquitos that were way past their expiration date. They ate those, we drank the beer, played acoustic guitars all night, time traveled, and it’s all the fault of the dipshit who couldn’t hold down his pizza, beer, and jameson, and had to go and get sick all over the men’s room so nobody could use it. Thanks, dude. No, really. THANK YOU. It made a fun night even better.


Ran 8 miles on Monday. Thank you…thank you…but before you applaud, realize–I’m not that fast. I do about sixteen minute miles right now. Power walkers pass me by. It’s pathetic. I’m one step above walking. Planning on running a 5K on Thanksgiving, and hoping to finish it in 35 minutes. Not sure how to make that happen in six weeks, but I’m going to keep trying. Jeeeeez, if I can run 8 miles, anybody can. I could hardly run a quarter of a mile one year ago. It has been a good way to maintain at least a semblance of focus and mental discipline, for once in my life. Needed the challenge.


That’s about it really. I’m basically a hermit these days. I go to teach on Thursday, and that’s my only real face-to-face interactions with anyone who isn’t married to me, or in a band with me, or a part of the comedy show. I’m hoping these get more interesting as time goes on.

30. Overheard

“Sarasota! It’s Sarasota!”–guy at bar’s trivia night, after the emcee asked “What’s the capital of Florida?” (He later amended it to yell: “Jacksonville. It’s Jacksonville, right?!”)

29. Music: 10/9–10/16

Pharoah Sanders: Karma. When I was a kid, the Delta ride at Disney was called “If You Had Wings,” and it was almost the same rhythm as the first few minutes of this one, that “A Love Supreme” rhythm, and it would have been better for all of us if Disney had played “The Creator Has a Master Plan” instead of “If You Had Wings,” but the later, freer moments, would have scared the tourists—but who knows, maybe the European travelers, they with the socks and sandals and the film canisters strapped to their chests like Rambo’s bullets, would dig. I know I do. I’ve been avoiding Pharoah Sanders for the same reason I spent years avoiding Beefheart, among others—I knew I’d like it too much and become obsessed. But now, I’m ready. Nonstop rotation this past month. Picked it up on vinyl (used) at Permanent last night, and the shing-shing of the maracas and the sleigh bells, and Leon Thomas’s singing…this is why we still bother with vinyl—even on this flimsy-ass Impulse!-ABC vinyl…beauty and texture and frenzy, and earnest love. Honest to God self-expression, the perfect antidote to these I-I-me-me egocentrist narcissistic autotuned disco pummel-beats. It’s the most, uh, cleansing album I’ve ever heard.

Captain Beefheart: Ice Cream for Crow. Mark Maron did a nice bit about the Cap’n on his latest special there on the Netflix there guy. The clerk recommended he buy “Safe as Milk,” and that’s the good Starter Kit, the gateway drug and so on and so forth…I hope Maron sticks around for this, Beefheart’s swan song, and the whole oeuvre. To paraphrase that Coca-Cola commercial from the 1970’s: “I”d like to teach the world to sing “Neon Meate Dream of an Octa Fish” in perfect harmolidic dischord…” But this week…it has been all about “Ice Cream for Crow.” “The Past Sure is Tense” has some kind of meaning for me that I haven’t been able to decode, something about other crap that has gone on this week (see below), but Beefheart is rarely far from these ears, so I’ll stop here for now…

Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited. Threw it on the other night, the soundtrack to mourning the recent deaths of two friends, and the news that a colleague’s illness has taken its final turn. The amphetamined funereal imagery was the perfect backdrop to the hazy-random memories of the booze-fueled, Sparks-plus-fueled times I spent with these two friends. Couldn’t get to Side 2. These two knew more about music than I ever will, and the world is a stupider, less fun place without them. Gaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhd-dammit….


Clone Defects: Shapes of Venus/Valentinos: Aerosol Dream. RIP Fast Eddie. I had my fair share of late nights with Eddie—in Chicago and Detroit/Hamtramck—but before I knew him in any capacity, the memory I want to share is of the first time I saw the Clone Defects, in 2001 at Beat Kitchen. Timmy couldn’t tune his guitar, actually gave it to Ross Fisher to tune, and then Ross played, as they tried moving forward with their set, and somehow through this mess, Eddie held it all together, even as he put his head down on the floor tom between songs, through exhaustion, frustration, inebriation, etc. No matter: Solid. Later, in the Valentinos, I was blown away that he could do that “play keyboard while playing drums” thing I’ve only seen one or two other drummers successfully pull off. He was one of the best drummers from the past 15 years, and I was glad to have had the chance to know him in some small way.


Flipper: assorted. Had “Talk’s Cheap” in my head after work, played it three times in a row on the walk from the el to home. Got on a Flipper kick, played “Ha Ha Ha” and “Get Away” a bunch as well…flirted with the idea of starting a Flipper band for Halloween, but then I thought, “No.” But if anyone wants to cover Dragon Sound songs….

 Cajmere: It’s Time for the Percolator. Played at Kevin and Deb’s wedding party. Perculator. Perculator. Perculator. It’s time for the….

Aaron Neville: Cotton, the Fabric of Our Lives. The 25th anniversary is silver, the 50th is gold, and the 2nd is….cotton! It’s a fun song to sing. “The fa-hah-bric of our li-high-hi-hives…” Two years of marriage. “Don’t know mu-huh-huch, but I-hi know I luh-huhve-youuuuu…”

28. On Shouting “Objection!” Beyond the Parameters of the Televised Courtroom Drama Setting

I don’t think James Lipton has discussed this in the ol’ Actor’s Studio, and perhaps it goes without saying, but it has become readily apparent to everyone that the mark of a great actor lies in their ability to shout the word “Objection!” in a convincing manner. It’s true, and if you don’t believe me, try shouting the word “Objection!” and take note of how ridiculous it sounds coming out of your mouth. Do it. Right now. We’ll wait for you…

See? You don’t sound serious when you shout it—you don’t sound like you’re actually objecting to something. You sound like you’re kidding. And you probably are, because the only time you’ve ever shouted “Objection!” is if you’re imitating an actor—a great actor—on a televised courtroom drama.

Because, really, when would you object to something so strongly, you would actually resort to the word “Objection!”? On Sundays, you don’t shout, “Objection! Those glasses do not give Howie Long an air of intellectual gravitas…” When your annoying co-worker who never shuts up starts babbling by the water cooler, you don’t/can’t shout, “Objection! Relevance?” It is just not a word used very often, and when it is employed, it is presented in a more subdued and dignified manner, i.e. “If you would prefer osso bucco instead of chicken cordon bleu for the rehearsal dinner, we have no objection.” “Objection” is not a word in which you turn to when stridently angered.

Outside of the courtroom, it has become an antiquated word. I don’t think actual lawyers use it with the frequency it is used on television. Or, maybe they do. Maybe the first year of law school is nothing but learning how to shout the word “Objection!” in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re joking.

I would like to see the youth of today start shouting “Objection!” at every given opportunity. At their parents, teachers, boyfriends, girlfriends, lab partners. Let’s bring back the word “Objection!” Teens (may I call you “teens?”): It is up to you.Shout, tweet, reddit, google, and ebay the word “Objection!” as often as possible. It’ll be your “totally awesome,” your “whatever!”

But really, age doesn’t matter here. “Objection!” is a fun word to shout, no matter your age. Work it into your daily lexicon, and you’ll see.

I don’t really have anything else to contribute here, except to say that if someone shouted “Objection!” in my courtroom, I would shout back “Overruled!” Oh, and “Overruled!” is also a fun word to yell back at your “Objection!” yelling friends. My friends have included the phrases “No showboating in my courtroom!” and “He’s badgering the witness!” and “Sustained, but watch yourself, Counselor. You’re on thin ice!” as additional fun phrases to bring into your daily life.

Anyway, take it away, Mike Post, and enjoy that sick, sick bass line, and the deft guitar fretwork in this full three minutes and fifteen seconds of our National Anthem:

27. The Six Most Intriguingly Comfortable Park Benches in Palmer Square That You Must Sit On Before You DIE.

You won’t believe these benches! We scoured Palmer Square, in Chicago, Illinois, to find the six park benches your ass is gonna find so intriguingly comfortable, you’ll be glad you sat on them before you DIED! These benches are extremely perfect for observing the change in seasons, contemplating the cycle of life, and gettin’ hella transcendental with some Ralph Waldo Emerson! We’re not allowed to write more than four sentences in these intro paragraphs, so let’s do this!

Bench 1


“Sit on it!”

Bench 2


“Show me the money!”

Bench 3


“I’ll have what she’s having!”

Bench 4



Bench 5


“Hey, I’m a bench…look at me!”

Bench 6


“Horn broke, watch for finger.”–R.W. Emerson

27. Here’s Denis Leary for Monsanto

Look pal: We got a world to feed, and the last thing we need is some hippie-dippie pencil-pushing no-can-do seeds. Who are ya gonna listen to: Farmer Brown puttering about on his Oshkosh-b’-goshd ass all day, or a benevolent motherscratchin’ biotechin’ multinational gigantor of future abundance?! Yeah-yeah, God is great and he accomplished a lot in seven days, yadda yadda yadda, but you really think those Old Testament seeds are gonna feed a growing planet? Guess again, Methusaelah! I think you turkeys hear the winds of change blowing in, and those winds are carrying seeds with balls! These seeds are full of torque, and torque is what you use when you smoke angel dust! Smoking! Yeah! That’s what I do, and these seeds are gonna leave God crying in his Zima. My attitude is my brand! You got a problem with that, high level yoga instructor?


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