Stories and Spiels by Brian Costello

Baby’s 1st Rock Concert: Pink Floyd. Orlando Citrus Bowl. April 30, 1988.

“Hey, are you going to the rock concert?” That’s the way we talked back in my day. And parents scratched their heads, just as they do today, confused by all that teen lingo and how it didn’t even sound like the English language.

And if you said, “Yes, I am going to the rock concert,” you would have to prove that you attended said rock concert buy purchasing the band’s tour shirt.

The tour shirt had the band’s logo on the front and maybe something that had something to do with their latest masterwork, or some sexually charged drawing (objectification at best, or at worst, that one t-shirt Guns n’ Roses had of the girl in the alley with her panties around her ankles looking like she was the victim of an assault with the spraypainted words “Guns n’ Roses was here” or some shit…kids actually wore that to my high school and administrators didn’t do anything, and if they did, it was more about the almost nudity rather than the rape, but I digress!) or more often than not, just a bunch of pastel lines and squigglies and Mondrian squares with the rock group’s logo somewhere in this day-glo nightmare. And on the back of the tour shirt, there would be the band’s logo, with the name of the tour, and then all the names of the cities and the dates and venues in which they performed and you would look at the back of that shirt, and get just a twinge of the ol’ hometown pride when you looked and saw and exclaimed, “Hey! Orlando! Citrus Bowl! Take that, Jacksonville! No Billy Joel for you! Hahahaha!”

You should have seen my alma mater on the next school day after the rock concert. 2000 teens in a building only meant for 800, and my God! Was I the only one who didn’t make it to see Genesis?! Look at all these Genesis tour shirts worn on the backs of all my fellow teenagers stomping, shuffling, weaving through these overcrowded hallways. Black t-shirts with fluorescent green. Was it the “Invisible Touch” tour? I’m not exactly sure and it’s not worth googling. Is “Invisible Touch” even a Genesis song, or is it a composition from their hitmaking drummer, Phil Collins? Again, I’m not exactly sure, and it’s not worth googling. But there were so many of those tour shirts, and there I was, not in a tour shirt, most likely in maybe the black Zeppelin Swan Song shirt (with the runes on the back and everything) or perhaps the blue WDIZ (“Orlando’s home for quality rock and roll!”) t-shirt with the left breast pocket for to put your Marlboros (even though I didn’t smoke, didn’t hang out at “the wall,” which was where the smoking headbangery kids all hung out before and after school due to being just on the other side of Sand Lake Road from good ol’ Lake Brantley (go Patriots!) and those kids, they all had Genesis t-shrits. Why didn’t I?

I didn’t because by that point I fucking hated Genesis, and like so many rock groups who had been in existence since the 60’s and 70’s, they seemed to just exist in name only–compromised artistes deep in debt to the record labels or something and so hit songwriters were brought in to rescue their careers and/or keep them relevant in the midst of all this Madonna and Run DMC and hair metal and synthpop. It’s impossible to put into words what a horrible time the years 1986-1990 (hs years) were for music. Hardcore and punk rock and all that seemed like music for asshole bullies–I mean, there were real deal honest to Jeebus skinfuckingheads in my school (ok, not that honest, but it wasn’t for lack of trying) who sieg Heiled and everything and they even got in a huge fight with black teenagers in a nearby field around that time. And besides, I liked “real music” because I played drums in the marching band and needed to hear bands who could actually play and sing and had things to say about the world like Led Zeppelin’s earnest messages about squeezing lemons and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” (“Because that’s how I feel, Lake Brantley! You’re all just another brick in the wall.”) and, oh yes, The Doors. We looked to the past because the present was mostly garbage–and the classic rock stations like DIZ still proudly boasted that they would play “the new rock,” but the new rock would be like The Smithereens. Yeah. Great.

But the old bands would come back, and they’d put stuff out, and you’d hope it would be good, and you’d want to believe that it’s good and then you’d sit there in your dumbass knee-jerk teenage brain and go, “No. This isn’t good. ‘The Flame’ by Cheap Trick is not good. Fuck. What happened to Cheap Trick? They were one of the first bands I ever liked as a little kid, and now? What the fuck is this ‘The Flame’ bullshit?” Heart…Moody Blues…Starship….Boston…to say nothing of bands who at least had some you know heaviness to them like Def Leppard or Judas Priest or even Ozzy…everything was so damn cheeeeeezy…Rob Halford singing, “We don’t need no—no! no! no!–parental guidance here!” Yeah. Take that, Tipper! Fuck, man. What horseshit. Iggy was doing duets with Kate Pierson. Lou Reed…too young for that just then, and “New York” wasn’t exactly the proverbial gateway drug.

Enter The Pink Floyd into this MTV shitshow.

That line from the kid in line for the rock concert in “This is Spinal Tap”–“Heavy metal is deep. You can get stuff out of it.” While not heavy metal, that’s how I felt about Pink Floyd. With nothing but MTV, the radio, and trips to the Altamonte Mall or Peaches Records and Tapes (or, even more likely, the cassette selection they had at the Albertson’s supermarket on 436 in Apopka, which is where, much to the dismay of Dad, I blew all the money I earned scrapping drywall for him on all the Led Zeppelin albums on tape), Pink Floyd was the weirdest thing around. Sound effects! Recordings of people talking! Synthesizers! Gongs! Pompeii! Acid! To think about it now….these identifying with all these limeys as I reclined there in my teen Florida bedroom, and there was a swimming pool right outside and aside from that nowhere to go and nothing to do and no way to get there even if there was something to do (oh, to be 15 again…pshaw)….to identify with art schoolers who came out of the Swinging London scene, and not just Pink Floyd, but to identify with “Quadrophenia” and “Led Zeppelin II” and to even identify with anything churned out of the music industry…how did that happen? How could we possibly have anything in common except for lowest common denominator shit like the need for love and sex and acceptance and figuring your shit out and what does all of this mean, anyway? But it was more than that, it was having the imagination to try and picture a reality so different from the reality I lived. How far could I get from suburban Florida? England? Great. (Which might be our subterranean cultural exchange program, if you think of how all these bands had similar thoughts and imagingings while in their bleak 1950’s post-WWII homes listening to Little Richard or the blues of the American south.)

I loved it. Floyd. They took musical risks. They tried new things. They had so much to say. It was so complex and lush and layered and scary and unafraid to be depressing, unlike all those Top 40 odes to cold hearted snakes, and the like.

That said, as the rumors began to surface–would they? Could they?–that Pink Floyd were reuniting, it was the absolute best news. Those of us who drew spectrum triangles with the light coming in from the left and ROYGBIV shooting out of the right on our Trapper Keepers….did ya hear? A new album! A tour! No Roger Waters? Whatever!

The album was released. I got it for Christmas. It was called “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.” Ooooooooo! What a Floydian title! What do you think it means? Is this another concept album? The song premiered on DIZ–“world premiere video” on MTV–“Learning to Fly,”–“and I think those of you who really enjoy David Gilmour’s guitar work are gonna love this one” promised the Lucky Striked raspy contralto of the only/token female classic rock dj, and we heard it, and… was good! Yeah! Great! It sounded like Pink Floyd, alright. That guitar tone. Enough whooshiness and ethereality…that “space cadet glow.” It’s a hit, boys!

But deep down, we knew. This would not be a “classic” by any stretch, and like so much of this era–from the Ramones albums of that time to the last two Replacements albums to so much of the “college rock” to Van Hagar’s stabs at Lennonesque lyrical idealism–this wouldn’t last. There were the videos… “Learning to Fly,” “Dogs of War,” “On the Turning Away.” They weren’t “Astronomy Domine.” Like so much of that time…so much overproduction and excess…the kind of excess employed when one knows they are polishing the proverbial turd.

To pick up on something discussed earlier: I have friends who, when each new Rolling Stones album comes out, or have come out for the last pert near 30 years, will engage in a riff on the theme of, “It’s their best one since [“Sticky Fingers” or “Exile on Main St” or “Tattoo You” or “Some Girls”]…yeah…it’s really good…it’s not bad…you just gotta give it a few listens, and…aw, who am I kidding? Not you. It’s not that great.” That’s what so much of going to high school when I went to high school was like. C’mon, guys! You know a group like Yes would never put out anything crappy! Hahahaha….so yeah, “The Delicate Lapse of Thunder” or whatever fuck that album was called…it was better than most of what was out there, but you’d see these videos, and 3/4ths of the post-Syd Pink Floyd were there and present and accounted for, but there were all these singers and sesh musicians and the guy who was featured more prominently in these videos than Richard Wright even was this saxophone player with the stupidest mullet hair the 80’s ever wrought. I bet that dude is ashamed of that hair nowadays. As well he should be. Not to stereotype, but he just looked like one of those musicians someone like me has always been predisposed to dislike…like keyboard scarves were invented for cats like these, and they sincerely use the word “cat” to describe a fellow musician, and sincerely use the phrase “tasty lick” and this was in a time when it was cool to dress like Arsenio Hall.

But no matter! They were calling this Pink Floyd, and this was the closest our 80’s teen asses were ever going to get to Pink Floyd. What the hell do we know about law suits and counter lawsuits and song rights and whatever beefs Roger Waters had with his former bandmates?

I don’t recall buying the tickets. I know we didn’t camp out or even wait in a line that was the least bit memorable. There was a kiosk at the dear old sweet old Altamonte Mall. It would be four of us–me, Pat, John, and Lance.

Lance was probably my closest friend at the time. We played in the drumline together and were both obsessed with The Who. He was a year older, was from New Hampshire. (Everyone was from somewhere else in Florida) We’d go to his house and one of the first things he’d say to his mom was “Hey Mahhh! Weh ah thah devil dawgs?” (A New England accent…not Boston per se, but close, and my spelling ain’t doing it justice.) and she’d counter with “Laiiince. I’ll getcha moah devil dawgs when I get to the stoah….” and we were so far from what we thought were our homes–exiled in this weird place when I should have been living in Peoria!–and all of us emigres stuck together…and there was also Pat, who I got to be better friends with as Lance moved more into the burnout/hair metal clique and I “went punk,” as the after-school special classified it, and Pat inherited his family’s brown Dodge cargo van and christened it “The Battle Wagon” and it was perfect for piling in all of our friends (and girls!) to go to New Smyrna Beach and act like the idiots we were…and for a minute he had made what he called “pedestrian kill signs” on the side of his van, silhouettes of the “pedestrian xing” person in a row to resemble how World War II airplanes had mini swastikas or rising suns to tally how many enemy planes they had shot down. Pat got me into Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and gave me rides to school and to the mall, and we did goofy shit like pull into the school parking lot listening to “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees at full-blast in a scene filled with lowrider trucks with the bass booming the latest Two Live Crew masterpiece, or “Corporal Clegg” by Pink Floyd and we had some dorky dance we’d do when the kazoo part kicked in. And John was in the marching band with Lance and I but was about to quit to be a track and field runner and we parted ways sooner than later as he got to be “too cool” and razzed us for being “band buddies” instead of doing something more worthwhile with our time like running around and round on an oval track. (Decades later, I was “friends” with him on FB for a day or two until I realized he had turned into one of those Obama-hating tea party joyless ding-dongs and promptly unfriended him without any care or sentiment whatsoever.)

My parents…I was the oldest, and the “rock concert” was uncharted territory for them. They were a little concerned. This was also a time when some still saw rock and roll as something threatening rather than the soundtrack to passive consumption….news programs would seriously devote time to alleged “backwards messages” on albums, for instance. Satan was real, and was speaking through one Ozzy Osbourne. And my mom did find the Pink Floyd song “Mother” to be a bit disturbing. She was a bit dismayed on how I spent way too much time listening to “The Wall.” This is Florida! Get out in the sun! But there really was nowhere to go.

Let’s say there’s a Parents Spectrum where on one end you have the bad mom who lets her kid and her friends drink and smoke weed in his room “because that way at least I know where he is” and the severe Southern Baptist parents who forbid anything more extreme than lukewarm coca-cola. My parents were somewhere in the middle, but leaning more towards the southern Baptists. Because, you know, at the end of the day, they were 37 when this story takes place (37!), and Pink Floyd had been around for almost twenty years by that point, and even in the mid-80’s were pretty fuckin’ ubiquitous. But yeah. While other kids’ parents from that era were contending with their kids blasting “Too Drunk to Fuck” from their bedrooms, mine had to deal with the Floyd. I remember my Dad, responding to my Mom’s concerns by saying, “Well, I’ve heard they’ve won a lot of awards for audio recording.” Very clinical. It was enough to mollify Mom, but they did ask if Pat’s parents would talk to us before we left, since Pat was driving us into the ugly heart of urban danger that was Orlando, Florida. Maybe we were young enough to warrant this talk, maybe not, and I don’t even really remember what his Dad said as we stood on the driveway by the Battle Wagon…some riff on peer pressure and not drinking and driving and to make like Nancy Reagan and just say no if some unsavory characters try to sell you this crack stuff I’ve been reading about in “US News and World Report.” We were teenagers and therefore weren’t paying attention.

In the van, Citrus Bowl-bound. Lance and John are lamenting that they didn’t have any “TF for our P,” and eventually my genius mind figured out that they needed some tinfoil for the marijuana they purchased. I wanted nothing to do with it, and I’m not kidding and–spoiler!–this isn’t going to turn into a “baby’s first drug experience” story, as much as it perhaps obviously should have been–Pink Floyd and all.

And when we do get there, it starts to rain. Not a drizzle or a “steady downpour,” but like that Florida torrent of huge-dropped nonstop near-hurricane precipitation. It doesn’t faze us and the idea that the concert might be cancelled never crosses anyone’s mind. I buy a tour t-shirt, natch. Can’t wait to wear it to school! We get our seats. Upper deck. The stage is down there, way below, to our left. But we can see the circular movie screen with all the lights around it. Oh man! It’s gonna be so weird and crazy and awesome!

If memory serves, the people behind us had panchos or plastic covering of some kind, and they took pity on us and got us under their shelter. To think about that now…I get cranky and irritable if I have to wait more than two minutes to get a beer at the bar at a show, but that cold-enough Florida flash-floodesque rain didn’t bother me in the least. And what also sticks with me now is the image of Lance and John trying to smoke what was most likely the shittiest kind of dirt weed through rolled-up Reynolds Wrap, trying to keep the magyvered pipe smoking in the midst of all that rain. I don’t think it even worked for them.

Finally, Pink Floyd–aka Gilmour, Mason, and Wright, along with a whole coterie of backup singers, percussionists, and that goddamn mullety sax player–took the stage. Cue the stadium cheering—ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!–and cue the music, and cue the light show and the images of clocks and people walking in slow motion and the land and the sea and the sky and eyeballs and animation and bricks in the wall and pigs on the wing and diamonds shining on crazily and how I wish how I wish you were here, and as regards to the latter, one must ask, would they wish Syd Barrett had been there? In Orlando? In the rain? In the 1980’s music industry? I don’t mean to sound glib here in the sense that they lost their friend to drugs and we’ve all lost friends, but what I mean is: did David Gilmour even wish he was there? If the big bucks hadn’t been involved…what then? It took many years to comprehend the disconnect they felt that inspired “The Wall,” after starting out in Swinging London, playing shows, not concerts–because in shows as opposed to concerts, the energy a mutual exchange and an active experience and it isn’t the we-play-and-you-cheer fascism that really is so inherent to concerts, and “The Wall” (and David Bowie) seemed to be the first to really see that connection in terms of what’s needed to get masses of people off their feet and screaming, not so much in terms of message but in energy, in the lights, in the alternate reality created, and perhaps even in the cult of personality. An energy that, when unleashed, can bring tens of thousands of people together to take off their shirts and sing along to the songs and hit a beach ball and be happy, or used to riot and break the windows of the homes and businesses of The Other…and much much much much worse.

And Dear Lord: From our way-the-hell-up-there seats, I could recognize the mullet of that sax player.

A bed flew over the crowd from one end of the stadium to the other. And this image in the rain stuck with me: The “Animals” Pig on the Wing–flying around above the audience members who managed to get onto the football field itself. Lights from the pig’s eyes–shining down upon them, and they responded by raising their hands in triumph and screaming and waving to the pig. The Pig-on-the-Wing, by the way, had huge balls. I recall that being discussed amongst those of us who showed up to Brantley with the Pink Floyd tour t-shirt, and it was teenage crackled voice and greasy-pimpled har har funny–“Didja see the balls on that pig?”

No, even then, I had zero illusions that this version of Pink Floyd were going to uncork some vintage deep cut off of “Obscured by Clouds.” No “Nile Song” or “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk.” It was a Greatest Hits Gig, just like The Who’s would be when I saw “them” about a year later at Tampa Stadium. We wanted to see the hits, and we wanted to tip our proverbial caps to them, as raindrenched as all of us were. It felt like going through the motions, even then. They didn’t veer off from how the songs went in the studio, which made them releasing a live album from this tour really odd, because it just sounded like a more bombastic live band playing familiar songs coupled with the background of the stadium cheering.

When it was done, David Gilmour thanked us for attending the show under such wet conditions. He was very polite, like how John Cleese would say, “Thank you” in Python sketches. It was very unlike the all-too-typical, “OH YEAH! HOW THE FUCK YOU MUTHAFUCKAS DOIN’ HERE TONIGHT IN MUTHAFUCKIN’….OR-LAN-DOOOOOOOOOOOH!” on-stage spiels we had grown accustomed to.

The night’s entertainment complete, there was noplace to go but home. Home to Altamonte Springs…the mall, MTV, WDIZ, algebra, World History, flamadiddles on the snare drum, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, Cheers and Night Court. There would be other concerts–The Who, Rush, the first Lollapalooza–but the concerts gave way to the shows, and there was a huge difference and I preferred the latter, and I still do.

To think about it now is to think about a time when so much was a foregone conclusion, something that wasn’t questioned. Watching hour after hour of television, for instance. The spectacle of it all. Superstars. Sex symbols. To really have no clear conception of a reality outside of high school and the suburb surrounding said high school. To think about it now, after decades of playing literally hundreds if not thousands of shows (and only two concerts), and how nothing is a foregone conclusion and I don’t have nostalgia for that sense of certainty, but I understand why people do.





My Life (In Book Blurb Form)

“A dazzling display…shocking…incandescent…Costello’s sheer mastery of checking IDs in a bar setting is truly a wonder to behold, and we as a society are the better for it.” –Rebecca Sharp-Sandoval, author of “Period Blood of the Eisenhower Administration: A Memoir”

“Oh happy day when Brian Costello finds a way to get out of bed and actually take a shower, brew coffee, walk his dog, and watch documentaries on North Korea on Netflix. Long-awaited and much-overdue, his is the kind of day like a warm blanket and hot cocoa in the winter time mixed with the rich tapestry of a multi-faceted summertime cocktail.”–Sadie Zmith, author of “Gosh, The 21st Century Sure is Rich with Sociocultural Complications!”

“Hellllooooooooo baaaaabay! Humina humina hotsie mamma! Big Bopper boppity doo dah day (morningnoonnightynight) comin’ atcha, this adjunct perfessah professionalizin’ the Scooby dooby yabba dabba doo is livin’ and lovin’ while trynta navimagate these tricky-dicky-sicky tymes!”–some 70’s rock critic loaded on Quaaludes

“An occasionally interesting and atypical all-too-typical portrait of the Grub Hub Generation.”–Farkus Reviews

“With two worst-selling novels under his belt, Brian K. Costello has proven himself to be an able and competent ID checker at two Chicago bars. While he proclaims grandiose ambitions–write a third novel, run a half-marathon, karaoke “I Can’t Drive 55,” the hit 1984 hit song by Samuel R. Hagar–the obvious question is if Mr. Costello has the drive and determination to actually follow through with his stated goals, or if he would rather simply hang out and drink.”–The Prospect Heights Review of Books

“While not laugh-out-loud, per se, if you were to somehow imagine Holden Caulfield going out on a Tinder date with Mrs. Dalloway that led to the birth of triplets named Kilgore Trout, Alexander Portnoy, and Lady Constance Chatterley…then you still would not get an understanding of the intimately disparate desperate disconnect in this somewhat compelling and arguably unforgettable existence.” –Carmela Kraft-Redenbacher, author of “My Totebag Runneth Over: Reflections on the Art of Artistry”

“Enchanting. A lepidopterist’s sun-dappled birch-treed fever dream.” –some dick who read too much Nabokov

“I have often wondered what it would be like to be a man who lives in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois in the year 2015. I never had the chance to explore this theme in my own novels–“The Elastic Colons of Springfield,” “The Magical Charcuterie of the Sedentary Bee Keeper,” and “Alejandro’s Calamitous Journey to East Moline”–nor have I had the opportunity to explore this theme in my short fiction that has been published in the journals “Apple Sauce Quarterly,” “Peppercorn Thistlequeef,” “Bubbleforest Trailmix,” and “Scuttlebutter,”–but in this collection of days, nights, and even early afternoons, I feel as light as a feather and as free as Canadian Geese on the wing in those melancholy autumnal twilights where all one can do is simply sigh and say, “Thank you.” –H. Lloyd Blanckenship-Meadowlark, Shmerdlap-Nominated Author

“Fuck shit fuck tits ass sex condoms fuck sex dating casual sex ass tits boobs–vajayjay!–swearing swearing swearing hey look I’m yelling and swearing isn’t this so great look at meeeeee meeeee meeeee!”–some Chicago performance-writer-essayist-whathaveyou

“Two thumbs up. Not way up, but up enough?”–Siskel and Ebert from beyond the grave (via magic 8-ball)

A Brief Excerpt from the Work Journal of George Tinder:

Fall 2011

“I want to create something like OK Cupid, only shittier, and by that I mean this: What if there was a phone app that made dating in in the 21st Century an even more horribly awkward experience than it already is? How can we make people even more cynical and jaded and depressed than they are already? How can I create yet another way for men to send pictures of their penises to total strangers? I know I’m just spitballing ideas here, but what if this was an app where women could post pictures of themselves binge-drunk while wearing green Blackhawks jerseys, an app where they can quote their favorite excerpt of “Eat, Pray, Love?” The kind of app where hope goes to die? A place where people looking for long-term relationships can meet people looking to, as the kids say, ‘hook up’? God, I love crystal meth. It’s how I get all my great ideas.”

The Book of Genesis in a Creative Writing Workshop: Student Feedback

“First of all, I think you have something here. Keep going!”

“Do you really think “In the beginning” is the actual “beginning” of this? The action is flat and static, until you get to the part with the snake. Start it there, then go back to those seven days of world-building.”

“What’s at stake here for these characters?”

“I’m really intrigued by the cherubim with the flaming swords, and yet, they’re dispensed with in just a few lines. I want more cherubim! 🙂 What would happen if you had the cherubim use those swords on Adam, Eve, and/or the snake? To paraphrase what Chekhov said: If there are cherubim with flaming swords in the first act, those cherubim with flaming swords better be used by the third.”

“This could use some tightening. Does your audience really need to know about all this ‘begating’?”

“This God character feels a bit heavyhanded and hamfisted. Eight chapters in, I felt like screaming, “OK! We get it! He’s the all-knowing and all-powerful.”

“I don’t really identify with these characters. I’ve never created a universe in seven days, so it’s hard for me to care about what’s happening.”

“I feel like I should feel more when Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt. Why salt, anyway? The action in that scene has so much potential to be heightened, exaggerated. Lose the salt pillar, replace it with something bigger, more dramatic, more menacing, like a zombie or vampire.”

“This has a really good flow.”

“Have you ever read the short story “A&P” by John Updike? There are parts of this that really remind me of that.”

“With the ark, I’m getting a sense of the size–although I’m not familiar with cubits–but I want MORE MORE MORE! More sights, more sounds, and–especially since we’re dealing with animals here–more smells. The audience needs to feel like they’re right there in that arc with Noah.”

“If this is set in the beginning of time, how come the narrator and all the characters talk like they’re medieval?”

“With the Cain and Abel fight scene, it’s not enough to tell us about the smoting. SHOW the smoting.”

“Abraham was a total bad-ass, and that’s really coming through.”

“What if Sodom was changed to Chicago, and Gomorrah was changed to Las Vegas? That would be cooler in a more contemporary setting, and then it would be easier for people to relate to.”

“Too much summary.”

“Concubines are sexist and gross.”

“Dude almost kills his son because God asked him to. WTF?”

“Have you attempted any of these stories in first person?”

“More Methusaleh, por favor. :)”

“You really nailed the feast scenes. It reminded me of feasts I went to in high school, only we had beer bongs instead of fatted calves.”

“Good shit.”

“This is pretty fucked up. But that’s cool. I like fucked up.”


the last hot tub sesh

is bittersweet and all but

I got shit to do

48. I Would Never Leave a Plastic Bag Filled with Dog Shit in a Red Eye Newspaper Bin

I would just like to make on thing perfectly clear: If I was walking my dog, and my dog did his “business,” and there were no garbage cans to be found on the sidewalk, and there was nothing but a Red Eye newspaper bin, there is no way I would ever in a million years simply leave the plastic bag of dog shit in said Red Eye newspaper bin.
The Red Eye provides an important service in the cause of a functioning democracy–the dissemination of important information required to keep the public informed and educated about current events that have a direct and lasting impact on their day-do-day lives–and what kind of message would I be unintentionally sending by leaving a plastic bag filled with dog shit on top of a stack of Red Eye newspapers? I suppose someone would see a direct correlation between the plastic bag of dog shit and the content of the newspaper, and that would be a terrible correlation to make, and that’s why I would never in a million years do such a thing.

And what about the loyal readers of Red Eye in my neighborhood who turn to Red Eye to get their journalistic who, what, where, when, and why? They probably wouldn’t want to grab a copy of the paper if there was a plastic bag of dog shit in the bin. They’d spend the day clueless and ignorant to what’s happening in the world they live in. They’d go an entire day without seeing those great punny headlines on their front page. It wouldn’t be right, so, again, let me just stress: I would never leave a plastic bag filled with dog shit in a Red Eye newspaper bin.

The freedom of the press is sacrosanct in this country. Without newspapers like Red Eye keeping our leaders’ feet to the proverbial fire, this would be a really messed up city filled with leaders who think they can get away with pretty much anything. I guess all I’m trying to say here is that–hey–maybe you have a dog, and–hey–maybe you’ve been in the situation where your dog does his “business” and there aren’t any garbage cans around and all there is is a Red Eye newspaper bin. I know what you’re thinking, and let me tell you: No. Don’t leave a plastic bag of dog shit in a Red Eye newspaper bin. I’m begging you. Don’t. Do. It.


36. Just Sayin’ (A Poem About Pizza)

I ate

alla the pizza

that was in

the fridge


the peetz

you was probably


for brunch and shit



it was pretty good

so extra cheesy

cold and pepperonific

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.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!