31 October 2009


Two years ago tonight, Janelle & I were married in front of our fire place. One room over, a four month old Eleanor slept soundly. Here's a secret: I had a lucky buckeye in my pocket. (Shhhhh...don't tell a soul!)

30 October 2009

Mixed Emotions

Okay. Hopefully - for all of us - this is the last stye picture I'll post. The damn thing just won't let go...so I went back to the opthamologist a few days ago and had it, um, drained again. And drained means that they put your head in a plastic stirrup and say "don't move while I stick this hooked needle just below your eyeball and tear a small gash in your eyelid." That's the easy part, though. What comes next is excruciating: They take two Q-tips and press the stye between them. With enough pressure, all kinds of gunk starts to flow out of the gash, but until it does, the stye is screaming shockwaves of terror and agony into your ocular brain pan, the sweats begin, and a voice in your head advises you "Now would be the time to disociate as much as possible - just divorce yourself from this physical reality. Think of anything but what's actually at hand." But your nerve endings won't let this happen. Satan is burrowing his way into your stye, so you dig your fingernails into your thigh and breathe really deep yogic breaths, so now your funky assed coffee breath is flooding the opthamologist right in front of you, and it ain't like she's used to patients practicing the "funk breath of yogic fire" in her clinic, but whatevs - that's how it is, so she stirs a little and tries to reassure you (per the Bedside Manner 068 elective she took in med school), "You're doing great." Oh, really? I'm doing great? Breathe it all in, Jon-dog. All of it. All the pain, suffering, agony of it, let it bleed and explode garmonbozia, welcome the honesty of the moment, what it can show you, etc. etc. the fact of our tenuous human physicality, blood pressure soaring - see how this is nothing compared to what some people have to live with and- Aaaahhh...soft warmth streaming down my cheek. "Oh, there we go. Now it's flowing," she says. Trail of tears. I'm a pressed grape. And I'm having these bizarre, endorphin/adrenaline mixed impulses of genuine-gratitude-for-the-bloodletting-satyagraha transcendence-meets-lady-if-you-don't-get-those-goddamn-qtips-outta-my-face-I'm-gonna-clock-you-in-the-mouth. And the whole time a young, pretty honey of a Japanese resident is observing & wincing at it all, scribbling notes. You too, Sweets.

26 October 2009

The Ultimate Cave

How To Blow A Child's Mind: (Assuming said child is two years old, currently obsessed with caves, forts, the ideas of caves & forts, and has been building makeshift "caves" all over the house utilizing various quilts, blankets, throws, pillows, and so on.) [1] Wait for child to leave the house (while said child is out with Mother, say); [2] Erect tent in child's bedroom, filling it with various blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, books, etc.; [3] Upon child's return, inform her the Ultimate Cave awaits her in her very own bedroom; [4] Enjoy.

21 October 2009

O'Keefe Elevator Co.

I keep a baker's dozen of these handy whenever I'm out and about in the world, 'cause you never know when you'll need to stall someone who's tailing you - and these little signs always do the trick...just take a quick turn, duck down an alley, hop onto an elevator, and just as the door closes, slap one of these bad boys on the door. They won't know what happened!

Contending With The Stye

I went to the eye doc last week. She leaned in close and stuck her needle right into my stye. I didn't flinch, either. Not because I'm a badass, but because she warned me three seconds earlier, "Wince and this needle could end up in your eyeball...ha-ha...but, no, seriously." Ointment, compresses...still the stye persists. It's a fighter, this stye. Yup, a reeeeeeeal contender.

What I've Been Reading Lately

Porcellino, Crumb, Groening...tellin' it like it is.

20 October 2009

Albino Pumpkin Knows All

Today marks the last CSA dropoff of the season...and it was a good run. I'm gonna miss my fresh, local produce this winter season (and winter's surely a-comin' soon). The pumpkin you see here came in last week's shipment. It enjoyed a day or so on our kitchen table before Janelle put the craft to it and rendered it into a readily edible, pumpkin-muffin form.

Did you know that muffins were invented in 1842 by a runaway slave named "Tink?" No, wait. I mean: Did you know that pumpkins were first discovered on the rim of a collapsed solar system six million light years from our own? Er...no. I have no idea where anything comes from, really, except that some things seem to arrive in envelopes and packages while others do not.

13 October 2009

The Stye

This photograph was taken four days ago. Look closely under my left eye and you'll see the beginnings of a stye. The stye has prospered considerably since this photo was taken, however, and is now approximately the size of New Hampshire. I've tried every home remedy listed on the web, but it just keeps seething and festering. Last night I applied garlic juice directly to the stye and - there's no other way to say this - it felt like a g.d. cow ant was burrowing its way into my eye socket. After about ten minutes of crying actual tears, the pain subsided. "It must've been doing something good if it hurt that bad," I said to a horrified Janelle. So now I have a garlic clove taped to my lower eyelid and am in a constant, prolonged state of agony while I work on my story for workshop. What is this world?

12 October 2009


Mid-October is a busy time for teachers. If you're a grad student/TA, it's a doubly intense crunch-time (as not only is it mid-point in the Fall semester for your students, but also for you, as a student and a teacher). Add the midwestern insanity for football that sets this town on fire every weekend and you've got a fairly bubbling cauldron of things to write, grade, turn in, critique, navigate, avoid, eschew and so on. Right now, for example - what should I be doing? I should be writing a mid-semester eval. of each and every one of my creative writing students...or reading manuscripts for workshop...but I can't. Know why? I'll tell you.

I'm working down to the wire on a story that's due this Thursday. It's about a Coney Island street vendor named "Ellie" who gets served a hell sandwich by life. Also, yesterday I stumbled upon Jim Woodring and his "Frank" comics. Today I checked out every Woodring book I cd find at the local library. I read The Portable Frank over lunch and it's been rocking my freaking hell sandwich world on an Inland Empire-level of experience and magnitude.

And so let me apologize, Students Who Want To Meet With Me This Week To Discuss Your Writing - it ain't gonna happen. This is self-care week for me. I'm calling in sick and pulling out stops. In class, on Thursday, I'll surprise you all by canceling workshop and having you watch Born Into This instead. And what'll I be doing while this film screens? I'll be reading Frank comics on the back row, and finessing my manuscript for workshop next Tuesday...

09 October 2009

Iowa's Indian Community

As I type this, it's 3 a.m. Today I'm going to my first sweat lodge in well over six years. It starts around sunrise, at an Ojibwe Cree dude's lodge, somewhere near North Liberty. My friend Sterling, from the Writer's Workshop, invited me. Sterling grew up in Montana & feels like out of place in the land of corn. Said, "Want to come to a sweat?" I said "Sure. But, damn, I didn't realize there was an Indian community in Iowa City." He said, "Yeah, I'm it, I think."

05 October 2009


While autumn settles down on the hemisphere, Eleanor communes with Billie Holiday...

01 October 2009

Total Sexual Fulfillment

Two weeks ago we journeyed to Madison, Wisconsin, where we spent a couple days in avoidance of a big U of Iowa football home game weekend. Of course - 'cause what were we thinking? - we landed in the midst of a magnificently horrible U of Wisconsin football home game catastrophe instead. It ended up being okay, though. We just stuck to the places that sports fans tend to avoid - the botanical garden, the Indian restaurant, the farmer's market. Places like that. It was awesome, actually...Anyway, we're back on the road again this weekend. Tonight we'll drive all the way up to Minnesota for a grand, autumnal Minnesota-type getaway. And, yes, we'll stop to gas up along the way. And, yes, washing my paws in filthy sinks, I'll glance over at the novelty condom vend machines and laugh (Achieve Total Sexual Fulfillment Together!) and maybe take a photo or two.