Observations 7-17-18

  • The round man with a white handlebar mustache, wearing all brown, walking through the park eating a sandwich and whole dill pickles out of a ziplock bag. He had three pickles.
  • The gang of daycare toddlers playing in the park, yelling “byeeee” at us and waving as my coworkers and I drove past them in a forklift and golf carts. Us, mimicking their shrill voices, shouting “byeeee” back.
  • The coworker mad, even disgusted, that managers had ordered a paper product in yellow instead of blue.
  • I’ve heard multiple groups of twenty-somethings talking about their favorite Spongebob episodes/moments in the past week.
    • Also, autocorrect error: SpongeBOD.
  • The team of kids’ entertainers (imagineers?) rehearsing as excitedly and sincerely as they would if kids were actually there, playing tag and talking to each other like toddlers. My coworkers and I working on a fence nearby, ogling them, feeling a mixture of wistfulness at a more playful kind of work, judgment at what seem like impossibly chipper demeanors, happiness at the reality that people dedicate their lives to helping others feel joy, and pride that all of us—them in their rainbow parachute, us with zipties and Leathermans—were adding value to life.
  • The young Buddhist monk (shaved head, robe, etc.) tending to the garden outside the Buddhist temple, crouched and slowly picking berries/vegetables, talking to an older woman standing on the other side of the fence, living an extraordinary life nestled in a mostly white, very Western neighborhood.
  • The massive, college-football-shirt-wearing dudes who moved out of the way when I walked past them on the sidewalk, reminding me that we’re lucky to have such an elaborate system of rewards and punishments that make it possible for me (or people with advantages like mine) not to feel scared, generally, when confronted with people who are bigger than me… Nietzsche hated that shit.
  • The same lesson, learned again, that excessive self-doubt doesn’t right wrongs, doesn’t protect you, doesn’t help others, doesn’t help anyone. It’s just a drag and it can actually put emotional pressure on the person you sought to protect.

Observations 7-18-18

  • The park district employee who noticed me struggling to re-secure a fence that I had opened for him and came back to help me with it.
  • A red balloon!!!!
  • The stage assemblers grunting with every lift, feeling it but also almost certainly exaggerating. Sounding like (they want to be) a pirate crew.
  • The signage material that smells like really bad ramen and sweat. The truck full of porta-potties that went by and smelled better than the signage material.

Observations 7-19-18

  • The badass, stark red type on the side of a box truck for a chemical company.
  • The neighborhood burger joint that announced itself, in neon letters, as “HOME OF THE BURGER.”
  • The bus ad for a gym that said “Man boobs are sad,” shaming (some) trans people and potential customers all at once.
    • The realization, later, that the ad might be better if it were, “Man, boobs are sad.”
  • Moving a pyramid of oversized Legos, losing bricks along the way, reattaching them, losing more, reattaching, losing… until, at some point, just playing with Legos.
  • Doing a tight turn on a golf cart, a high-school-aged coworker saying, impressed, “You nice for that.”
  • The temp worker complaining to a friend on the phone about making tacos for her boyfriend, who came over to eat them and then left.
  • The truck exhaling like a horse, but more so than a truck usually does. It was cute.
  • The work cart shaking the farts out of me.
  • Nothing makes fatigue surface like talking to a stranger.
  • The older black woman security guards who called me “Tweedy,” whom I brought leftover pizza for the night shift, who told me they’d write me into their wills (as a thanks for the pizza).
  • The Pace bus entirely full of middle-aged, white Cubs fans, brightly lit and blue against orange-gray Ashland.
  • The niceness of the “R” in some versions of Smirnoff Vodka’s logo.

Observations 7-20-18

  • “Tourists” as a way to refer to touring musicians.
  • Being saved by a friendly dog-walker from parking in a street cleaning zone where there was no notice.
  • The highway sign that read “Posen / Harvey / Midlothian.” The sound of “Midlothian.” On the way back, a bonus: “Dixmoor.”
  • The warehouse attendant who says “have a good day please.” The forkliftist who treated me like I knew what I was doing.
  • The terror of driving a big box truck that I had backloaded with weight.
  • The garbage removal contractor who drives a tinted-window Cadillac with a vanity plate. His employee, whose face looks exactly like a French Bulldog, who speaks in an indecipherable Caribbean (?) accent.
  • The high-school-aged coworker, who had been a fan of my tight golf cart turn yesterday, getting fired for making a homophobic comment. Feeling disappointed that he said it. Feeling temporarily hopeless against the huge system of beliefs and norms that need to change in order for him to know better. Feeling uncertain about the degree to which he cared about the incident. Hoping it would be a lesson.
  • The big, uncomfortable-looking dude wearing a mall-type airbrushed hat. The questions it begged.
  • The mismatch of gruff, bald stagehand and old-school, satchel-on-head ice bag.
  • The way artists/art almost become secondary, an afterthought, from the perspective of people who really run an event.
  • The ornate, curly tattoo of a woman’s name on the arm of a super young coworker.
  • Farting in a freezer truck. On accident the first time. On purpose subsequent times.
  • The tight Q resonance of walkie-talkies. The fun of driving back into radio range.
  • Confetti in a puddle.
  • The streetcar rails paved over, but peeking through, on Lake Street.

Observations 7-21-18

  • The former Ohio country GOP chairman breaking my brain by resigning in (seemingly sincere) protest of Trump’s Putin stance, then saying, right afterward, he might still vote for Trump in 2020.
  • The security guard wistfully recounting a story about a super skilled chainlink fence assembler: “The guy was a legend.”
  • The merch sellers preaching: “When you wear a beret, you want it to fit right.”
  • Seeing a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, being glad that he seemed happy and centered.
  • The high school interns shooting hoops with ice cubes (basketballs) and CO2 tanks (nets).
  • Being loudly and long-ly honked at by an ambulance because my work golf cart blocked its path, scrambling to start it up and move it, feeling startled and embarrassed, but also defensive, because I had parked it reasonably, had been focused on a task, had heard no siren, no onlookers had warned me.
  • Learning more about my coworkers, their marriages, solo projects, non-summer-festival day jobs. One works in ads and is fulfilled by it because copywriting is like poetry. One proposed at 21 without a ring. One dumpster dives, but I already knew that.
  • Stage strobe lights flashing in daylight.

Observations 7-22-18

  • How backup toilet paper holders are, mainly, a measure of defense against freeloading roommates, one or more get-out-of-jail-free cards from leaving others without toilet paper.
  • How every construction rental company has its own unique flavor of fence base type and sandbag shape.
  • The barometric pressure doing a number on my sinuses.
  • The hustle-obsessed coworker throwing ice bags off a truck onto carts, singing NSYNC, refusing a food vendor’s request for help in a really rude way, making her cry, making it up to her. Later, joking to other bro food vendors about it, talking about fucking her. Also later, telling me he still felt bad about making her cry.
  • The French-Bulldog-faced garbage removal man (7-20-18) telling me about his old life in the Caribbean islands, moving to the U.S. in the ‘60s (”for the pussy”), becoming a computer repairman, owning fifteen rental buildings in Chicago, selling them all to avoid dealing with “lazy” black tenants (he is black himself), retiring in 1999, working garbage removal part-time, quitting last September but coming back because his boss (7-20-18) needed him and, apparently, because he likes it. His in-laws who stole watches from him. Pointing to the gold watch on his wrist, shrugging, “I only need one.”
  • Feeling proud that a good chunk of the lineup here has performed before at shows I booked in Wisconsin.
  • My big, 40oz, stainless steel water bottle, the one I’ve had for two years, that rolled over in my car with me in May 2017, getting stolen from beneath a tree.
  • (Sandy) Alex G singing through closed teeth.
  • It is amazing how much heavier used porta-potties are than fresh ones.
  • The Lauryn Hill fan lingering in the park for hours after closing, stopping every staff member who happened to pass her, talking about meeting Ms. Hill like a disaster victim in shock. Me, politely trying to figure out how she happened to have an All Access pass around her neck. Her, responding, “I’m very well-connected.”
  • Hammered barbacks on a seesaw.
  • Delirious hugs and beers after festival teardown at 4AM, the familiar buildings off I-94 in pre-dawn.

Observations 7-23-18

  • Getting home from work at 5:30AM, being due to be back by 8AM, waking up for all my alarms but then falling right back asleep, waking up again at 10AM, heading directly from bed to car.
  • The temp worker afraid to get garbage juice on brand-new designery jeans, spilling garbage ketchup on them, being good-natured about it.
  • The temp worker who quit because our sleep-deprived boss didn’t respond to his request to borrow a dolly quickly enough.
  • The beautiful, old, hand-painted bathroom signs in the park district field house.
  • The directness of the Metra slogan, “Next time, take the train.”
  • Having been at a music festival for days colors your perception of music for a while. Lackluster music becomes more exciting imagining it outdoors, live, and heroic.
  • The fucking drum sounds and drumming on Howlin’ Wolf’s The Back Door Wolf. Badass no matter where you spent the last week.
  • Driving on Elston, watching a funeral home worker wheel a coffin through a narrow doorway, bump it into the door frame, disappear into a dark room.
  • The scary-looking white dude, wearing a track suit, staring at me while I walked up to the studio.
  • Trying to make an almond milk shake, making chocolate ice instead. Snowball-, not food-grade.

Observations 7-24-18

  • Emailing, writing, watching baking shows with Casey.
  • The yummy eggs she cooked.
  • Switching to Siteleaf so I don’t have to git commit every new post like an NSA contractor.
    • The Siteleaf website being so clear and humane it makes me wanna cry.
  • Casey’s microwave with time preset buttons (1 second, 10 seconds, 1 minute?) instead of a number pad. Wondering which interface is more useful, tentatively siding with the presets.
  • The phone call with a friend who sounded somehow weary but still optimistic.
  • Shopping for pet cowboy hats, finding the world’s most important dog-in-wig portrait instead.
  • The summer smell, better than usual.
  • The Elevator Constructors Union Local 2 license plate frame. Learning that there’s an Elevator Constructors Union Local 2.
  • The Costco shrimp that Mom brought home.
  • The ‘80s plastic rocking horse that Mom brought home.
  • Having hardly moved at all after seven days of constant physical work.
  • Vacuuming the pieces of protein bar I left while frantically eating, post-festival-teardown, at 5:45AM on Monday (7-23-18) morning.

Observations 7-25-18

  • The window curtains clichédly blowing in the wind, letting in a sliver of bloomy light every time they split apart.
  • Eating mashed potatoes right after brushing.
  • The ice cream distributor workers wearing winter parkas between walk-in freezers in 80-degree weather.
  • The professional mover with a bald head who looked like Furiosa from Mad Max.
  • The shrimpy, older Hispanic dude wheeling a library ladder down the street.
  • The deep, deep relief of shaving an itchy rat-beard off my face.
  • Mojitos and guacamole with Casey.

Observations 7-26-18

  • The badass, tiny, older white lady, crossing the street and stopping traffic with her cart, wearing pink shorts and a big sun hat, enthusiastically waving thank you at the cars she stopped.
  • Her moon, the overweight, bearded white dude with stains on his shirt, wheeling a cart with three thirty-racks of Busch Lite and Little Debbie’s snacks in it.
  • The construction worker whose beard looked dyed black, repairing a sidewalk seemingly by himself, throwing two-by-fours off of a tilted dump truck and grimacing.
  • The dental surgeon’s office.
    • The moody lighting in the waiting room.
    • The nauseating, textured, brown vortex commercial painting in the x-ray room.
    • Accidentally insinuating that my mom might not want to call the administrator because she was black?
  • The shirtless biker wearing a bandana, looking exactly like David Foster Wallace.
  • The way digital highway signs emulate the physical ones.
  • My underwear, from the batch I bought at H&M in Canada when I forgot mine at home on a Blisters tour, working in tandem with my pants to make it hard to play the drum beat I was playing.
  • The four-dollar Indian food from Devon, spicier than I bargained for, making me think I was gonna puke.
  • The guy at the bar, smiling all night, happening to use a wheelchair, ogling girls’ butts.

Observations 7-27-18

  • Tracking drums with one of my favorite bass players.
  • Eating Indian food leftovers (7-26-18) outside under one of those gray summer skies.
  • Accidentally falling asleep while others were recording.
  • Re-watching the N.E.R.D NBA All Star game half-time show with Liam (an all-time great, but on a much smaller scale than Prince Super Bowl XLI).
  • Listening to part of Nathan Salsburg’s beautiful new record for the first time, on a run.
  • The young girl on a purple bike, giving me the stink eye every time she passed me on the track.
    • Wondering whether she was (justifiably) afraid of me because I’m white. Imagining how a Proud Boy-type might pervertedly see that as “reverse racism.”
  • Out of all the new-fangled things we have, HQ (the iOS game) feels like maybe the most movie-like one, like a benign Idiocracy.
  • The baby silverfish bug I found in the closed Q-tip container. Successfully completing a capture-and-release operation.

Observations 7-28-18

  • The apartment building with an adorable little walkway straight through the brick.
  • Going to an estate sale on a purchase mission from Mom.
    • The cool-looking, middle-aged woman leaning against a tree, wearing aviator sunglasses, friendlily telling me I looked “too young to be into vintage.” Me, explaining my purchase mission from Mom, but also that I do like old stuff, mostly music instruments. Her, saying, “They don’t make ‘em the way they used to.” Me, saying, “Except microwaves.” (They’re made better now.) Her, agreeing. Admiring the house’s architecture together.
    • The white-haired guy who arrived on a bike, talking to himself about the house’s nice tuck-pointing. Structurally sound, great brick work…
    • The mom calling after her son, Orion.
    • The most Chicago-looking dad of all time, with a gray mustache, and his happy, shy, schlubby son, dollying away a piece of furniture they bought.
    • The house, frozen in 1900-1950.
      • So much wood, so much wicker.
    • The sadness of dismantling someone’s home, piece by piece.
    • The happiness of giving each little thing a new life, like scattering a bunch of seeds to maximize the chances of survival.
    • The racist “mammy” statues.
    • The model trains.
    • How, on the one hand, people buy junk that will get sold in their estate sales, later.
    • How, on the other hand, that doesn’t make the time they spend with the stuff they buy any less valuable.
    • The employees of the sale with stupid, toylike walkie-talkies.
    • The excited crowd of buyers in line CHEERING ME ON when I got out of the house with the stuff I bought. (The purchase mission: failed. Mom’s targets already sold.)
  • On the highway, the boxy, green Volvo station wagon with a massive dog in it.
  • The extra toll machine crossbars stacked in the tollbooth, like reinforcements in waiting.
  • The poor lighting in a video of Trump from the White House. How just about every creative asset his admin, campaign, or the RNC produce is tasteless or nonfunctioning (e.g. the Obama-joke 404 page). How it seems to show, in a trivial way, that creative, curious people don’t want to work for them. How, also in a trivial way, it’s a breakdown in the Trump-Fascist parallel, since Fascist iconography was disappointingly great.
  • The dozens of sunburned, white families tolerating a two-hour wait at the vacation food hotspot.
  • Falling asleep and stretching my skin on a blowup vinyl raft.
  • The possibly Mennonite women on the beach. The bearded man reading the Bible behind them.
  • The group of twenty-year-olds smoking cigars and drinking Fanta (glass bottles).

Observations 7-29-18

  • Walking to the tiny cafe on the corner, running into two friends from Chicago along the way.
  • The massive, industrial, metal door, painted pink.
  • How, for years, one-touch automatic window buttons have been reserved for front seats. The renewal of faith I felt at being in a minivan with one-touch window buttons for the back seats.
  • The paintings of eggs on the wall of the breakfast restaurant.
  • The paintings-come-to-life in an egg and gouda cheese sandwich on a carrot cake waffle bun, one of the best things I’ve eaten in my entire freaking life.
  • Trying to read Asimov’s Foundations, struggling to get into it, falling asleep by the pool instead.
  • Dinner with family friends, music friends, neighbor friends, and girlfriend colliding.
  • Listening to Beatles the whole way home.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen getting bigots who would balk at men who wear dresses to wear dresses on Who Is America?
  • How the hell do you fold a fitted sheet?
  • The consistency of Kanye’s Twitter profile picture in the greater inconsistency of his life. Feeling surprised and confused that he hasn’t impulsively (or calculatingly) changed it over the years along with his music, clothes, and politics.

Observations 7-30-18

  • The plainclothes cops on the street, who happened to be women, which seemed unusual to me. (It turns out only 13% of U.S. police are women, according to DOJ.)
  • The amazing archival folk footage on Dust-to-Digital’s Instagram (thanks Dad).
  • Vacuuming schmutz out of my car.
  • The Susan Alcorn pedal steel performance at Experimental Sound Studio.
    • Arriving late and watching via live projector feed on the gallery wall.
    • The daunting complexity of the pedal steel.
    • The Band-Aid on Alcorn’s left wrist.
    • The audience seemingly looking back at me and other viewers through the cameras in the live room.
    • The bathroom, in a tough spot (next to the projector wall, with a silent, attentively listening audience).
    • Afterward, the Q&A with Ken Vandermark.
      • Vandermark’s kind manner of speaking.
      • Alcorn’s comment about the “deceptive simplicity” of country music.
  • The laundry exhaust of neighboring homes reminding me of my childhood best friend’s house.
  • The apartment with stock travel photos taped on the windows, facing outward.

Observations 7-31-18

  • Waking up at eleven and staying in bed till two, a first for the summer.
  • Accidentally spelling “font” as “phont” more than once.
  • The impromptu Jackson 5 dance party with Mom.
  • The new Bernard Purdie record, so good and inspiring because it’s better than what one might expect from ‘60s veterans’ new records (thanks Billy).
  • The infant’s play gym strapped to the roof of a Forester.
  • The bank teller who acted like my request for change was some bizarre, new form of performance art.
  • The purpose-built, yellow Kodak photo-processing PCs at Target.
  • Recycling printer ink that had been sitting around, waiting, for years.
  • Getting a professional massage for the first time since past festival seasons’ fancy backstages.
    • The masseuse’s cigarette tar sniffles.
    • My Adam’s apple pressing so hard into the face hole I thought I might choke.
    • Smelling like a delicious, chemical version of cucumbers for twelve hours afterward.
  • Hoping Fig Newtons stay afloat in this new, fig-unfriendly world.