Observations 8-1-18

  • Rehearsing with two groups from ten to six.
  • Revisiting that viciously sad, beautiful Mary Lattimore record.
  • Moving my record player to a more convenient location, so I’ll actually use it.
    • Listening to Dusk’s and Buck Meek’s new LPs.
      • Buck’s record has one of the best covers ever.
  • Using my grandpa’s little, green, plastic pocket knife for the first time since I got it from his workshop after he died last summer. I watched him use it in that workshop when I was little.
  • Finding my cousin’s old, bedazzled Sidekick in my closet, worrying about unleashing a pent-up Sidekick spirit by flipping it open.
  • The New York Times article about Ryuichi Sakamoto asking a restaurant to let him curate their music playlist because he was so annoyed by what they had been playing (via Billy).
    • “Mr. Sakamoto objects to loud restaurant music, and often uses a decibel meter on his phone to measure the volume of the sound around him.”
  • How my perspective of food changes in light of pharmaceuticals’ outsize impact on our bodies. If such a tiny dose can affect us so profoundly, isn’t it scary to put many more times that amount, in the form of bread and cheese and sauce, in our bodies all the time? I understand that drugs are precision-focused to do certain things, and foods are made of basic parts whose impact we can generally predict. But the comparison still freaks me out.

Observations 8-2-18

  • Breaking my key off in the studio door.
  • The Geraldo Rivera lookalike, wearing a black button-up (chest visible), ribcage-height jeans, and Skechers-ass sneakers.
  • That crazy, new Holger Czukay retrospective box set (thanks Billy).
  • The fence painted with “fallen soldier” silhouette art, then the pickup truck with “fallen soldier” window art.
  • The parking garage door with a little pedestrian door in it, like an industrial version of a hobbit home.
  • Walking down a not-moving escalator.
  • The strobing building lights.
  • The strobing license plate light.
  • The automatic sprinklers watering the DMV lawn.
  • “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah poking through the bagel shop radio.

Observations 8-3-18

  • The Sysco restaurant supply truck that says “Follow me to your next great meal.” What if someone really did that?
  • The “Speed Monitored by Aircraft” signs, but never seeing a speed-monitoring aircraft.
  • The race for sheriff in Rock County, Wisconsin.
    • Judging by lawn signs, the race is pretty close.
    • The old, country church marquee: “GARY IS THE ONLY CHANCE 4 CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP.”
      • Gary may have an edge.
  • Getting lost in Albany, Wisconsin.
    • Stopping by the river and a tiny thrift store.
    • The comforting, mysterious marquee outside the fire station: “DON’T WORRY.”
    • The disappointment I felt when I saw the other side read “BE HAPPY.”
  • The badass vibraphone player, looking and acting like Will Forte if he became an experimental musician.
  • The danger of using the word “tight” to describe bands, since laypeople may hear the general definition (like “sick”).
  • The band Dehd, playing with matching green guitars, inspiring me and everyone else with their simple, energetic thing.

Observations 8-4-18

  • The refreshing, muddy water of the creek.
  • Riding in Hayden’s pickup truck bed.
    • The wind drying our hair.
  • The army of plastic snowmen lawn ornaments on a neighboring farm’s lawn.
  • The diversity of folding chairs at the festival.
    • Two with hydraulic rockers.
    • Two with headrests, reclinable.
  • The band members sluggishly carrying gear to the barn.
  • It’s possible that blues scales need to be banned, at least for white people.
  • Eating Avrom Farm chicken, my only allowed chicken.
  • The father-and-sons punk band.
    • The bassist son reminding me of Steve Albini and my friend Gabe.
    • The guitarist son reminding me of young Dad.
  • Al Scorch commanding the audience in a special way, singing new, sadder, slower songs.

Observations 8-5-18

  • Fitting my sleeping bag into the carrying sleeve on the first try, a task that used to take two or more desperate attempts.
  • The bible study coffee shop advertising an “Everlasting Youth Initiative.”
  • Re-realizing that there is no perfect run through life, no perfect career, no maximum potential to meet, and how soothing that is. It discourages some people from trying (if I can’t “win,” what’s the point?) but it encourages me, because it means that work is still worthwhile even if we miss some opportunities or if others are impossible to meet.

Observations 8-6-18

  • The toy store with a security camera monitor over the display shelves.
  • The tidy workshop, with little spectacles and vintage stone grinders, in the jewelry store window.
  • The two older women with matching, laminated lanyards: “Celebrating 50 Years of Friendship!”
  • The electric wheelchair on its own, dedicated carrying trailer, brand name: “Jazzy Select.”
  • Singing “Immigrant Song” in a seductive, cabaret voice.
  • My pants cuffs, at their highest of the summer.
  • Johnny Cash, in Neil Strauss’s Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, affirming rap music: “I was working with Elvis when all these older people were saying that he’s leading our kids to hell. I thought that was the strangest thing I’d ever heard […] Then all the rock artists that came along, they said that about them, too. But it doesn’t bother me. Maybe gangsta rap does have some [bad] influence on young people, but damn, I think the six o’clock news is probably the most violent thing we hear today.”
  • Bruce Springsteen on therapy, in the same book: “I found [therapy] to be one of the most healthy experiences of my life. I grew up in a working-class family where that was very frowned upon. So it was very, very difficult for me to ever get to a place where I said I needed some help. […] But all I can say is the leap of consciousness that it takes to go from playing in your garage to playing in front of five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand people—or when you experience any kind of success at all—can be very, very demanding.”
  • How, sometimes, parents who are social workers end up with the most challenging kids of all.

Observations 8-7-18

  • The nerdiness of people who travel with, and set up, slacklines.
  • My earache, hopefully from a sinus infection and not from blasting monitors or naegleria fowleri in the creek (8-4-18).
  • The older couple on the beach, in non-beach clothes, listening to oldies on an iPhone, taking pictures of the water with an iPad.
  • The learner sailboats trailing the bigger, teacher sailboat, looking like ducklings following their mom (Casey’s aunt’s observation).
  • The eighteen-year-olds reminiscing about the blogging era.
  • The twenty-two- and -three-year-olds (Casey and me) reminiscing about Palm phones, especially the Palm Pre, whose UI was more modern-looking than iOS’s at the time.
  • The little kids carefully handling cash at the beach snack stand.
    • The kid who found $6 left on the counter and shouted to everyone, “Did anyone lose $6?”
  • How lisps and other, more subtle speech idiosyncrasies travel across generations in a family.
  • How some people, particularly older people, can sit and do nothing but think for hours at a time. I can sit-and-do-nothing-but-think pretty well but I’ve got a long way to go compared to 93-year-old pros.
  • Nile Rodgers talking about how Bernard Edwards died while on tour in Japan, and the gratitude he felt for the Japanese authorities who respected Edwards’ body and gave Rodgers time to be alone with him, in Strauss’s book (8-6-18).
    • “So midway through the concert, we were doing ‘Let’s Dance.’ And all of a sudden, the bass dropped out at the beginning of the verse. I thought, ‘Damn, that’s clever.’ I went, ‘Good job, ‘Nard!’ And I turned around and didn’t see him. He had passed out, and the roadies had picked him up and placed him behind the stage. And he was just sitting there playing.” The beauty of Rodgers assuming the best, and being excited by Edwards’ talent.

Observations 8-8-18

  • The tiny little tree with a tiny little stabilizing brace on it.
  • The antique and junk metal store.
    • The 19th-century-lookin-ass wooden hut on its campus.
    • The lawn full of rusting industrial equipment.
    • The leather saddle, mossy from rain.
  • The RVs towing SUVs. Feeling like it’s both cute and excessive to do that.
  • Leaving the house in ripped jeans (from natural causes), having just showered, thinking it’s generally a good bet to look disheveled but smell nice, or at least a better bet than the opposite.
  • Playing at the Empty Bottle with Hue.
    • The friendly and competent soundperson, Shay/Shae. Soundpeople are so often jaded or bad (or both), it’s really nice when they’re nice.
    • Heading to a seemingly usual, bemuraled corner store for a snack, finding a portal into a Ukrainian super market instead, complete with produce and a seafood deli. Buying imported, peanut-flavored Cheetos called Flips, a sesame sugar cracker, and an apple.
    • The band that left three nearly untouched salads in the green room.

Observations 8-9-18

  • The two Canadian motorcycle couples (Ontario plates), riding together on 94, one with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.
  • The catfish delivery truck. A truck just for delivering catfish.
  • Drumming for a friend’s beautiful, Skip Spence-esque outsider country songs.
  • The ghoulish wall painting, including pointy nips, of a dancing woman at the Mexican restaurant.
  • The dad jogging, doing jumping jacks on the corner while his infant lay in a stroller.

Observations 8-10-18

  • The businessman wheeling a whiteboard across the street.
  • The painted notice, “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR BROKEN GLASS,” on the back of the plumbing company truck. Doubting whether that’s a legal rejection of responsibility.
  • Continuing my closet cleaning project (8-1-18).
    • Finding a strip of paper from middle school on which my best friend and I had written the calculation for conception: PENIS^(2^3) + ∠VAG(10!) = |SPERM|^(2+(7^0)) ± EGG^3(3/4) = BABY
    • Putting a box for a Western Digital external hard drive in the box for a Seagate external hard drive and feeling like I had made a turducken, a disrespectful, blasphemous dish.
  • The memory of pacing around the classroom, crying, after drop-off in preschool, stopping at the mirror of a toy kitchen set to watch myself cry.

Observations 8-11-18

  • Recording more songs with my Skip Spence-y friend (8-9-18), getting blasted by a loud burp through the vocal mic into my headphones.
  • My nine-year-old cousin reciting “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” and “Für Elise” on piano, playing guitar along with him.
  • Standing in a cardboard box and feeling surprisingly comforted by it.
  • Eating noodle kugel while driving.
  • The subtle, editorial taste that pokes through on Vine compilations.

Observations 8-12-18

  • Waking up with “Blue Sky” by Allman Brothers Band stuck in my head.
  • The WWE figurines at Walmart.
  • My heart pounding while I watched an older couple fall over on a stationary motorcycle. (They were okay.)
  • The 1921 book, How to Psycho-Analyze Yourself by Joseph Ralph, my uncle gave to my mom for her birthday.
    • The amazing gold lettering on its cover.
    • The Psychoanalytic Review review that criticized it for being too prude and celebrated it for “aid[ing] the great work of mental hygiene.”
  • The young relative announcing, at the perfect comedic moment, that he hated all of us. (It was a temporary, Mountain Dew-induced tantrum.)
  • Watching stars, and satellites, and meteors during the Perseids shower with family.
    • How it seems like most of the time spent watching a meteor shower is actually spent complaining about the meteors you missed while you looked away.
    • The wonder of spotting satellites, which seem somehow more distant and foreign than visible planets.
    • The campaign merch boondoggle of Trump’s Space Force.

Observations 8-13-18

  • Smashing my thumb in the car door.
  • The light scorn I felt toward the teenager with a valet key on his keychain in the case that he chose to carry it, adding needless weight and jingle to his keychain, or the pity I felt in the case that he never learned a valet key is removable.
  • Another truck notice, “NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR OBJECTS COMING FROM ROAD.” Doubting again (8-10-18) whether that’s a legal rejection of responsibility and, in this case, whether it would be necessary even if it were one.
  • The shirtless punk (classical definition) with a barbed wire tattoo that wraps all the way around the chest.
  • The can design of Parson’s Beer (a Revolution beer for Parson’s Chicken & Fish).
  • Holding a friend of a friend’s six-week-old baby.
  • Listening to a relative talk about a song through the lens of a breakup (“this has to be about heartbreak”), remembering the way they talked about music at the beginning of a relationship (“I understand all the songs now”).
  • Considering that so much of the art-making we look up to as kids, especially in photography, is the product of an adult’s ability/privilege to travel and to stumble upon unusual situations and interesting people. The excitement of being an adult and getting to stumble upon your own unusual situations and interesting people.
  • How deciding to poop without a phone in-hand is a modern form of ascetic practice.

Observations 8-14-18

  • The weathered pregnancy test packaging on the ground.
  • The sunflowers growing in the tiny strip of soil between apartment building and sidewalk.
  • The robin’s egg blue propane truck.
  • The joy of my cousin’s piano-playing (8-11-18) emanating from the basement.
  • Working on Sammy’s beautiful new music.
  • The photo portfolio of Whitten Sabbatini, timeless and tasteful and communicative.
  • Watching mind-boggling Aretha Franklin videos with Mom and relatives.

Observations 8-15-18

  • Pulling one of my own eyelashes out of my mouth.
  • The guy walking two dogs with a graphic Band-Aid over the bridge of his nose.
  • The quasi-art of choosing Pro Tools track colors, making a palette out of a song.
  • The humidity.
  • The sunset, already an hour and a half earlier than the peak of the summer.
  • Staring up at Trump Tower.
  • The artist space in a former auto repair shop, its kind/cool owner, and eating a squillion-course, delicious meal together with a really generous, hard-working friend.

Observations 8-16-18

  • Flying to San Francisco.
    • Feeling naked without my backpack.
    • The airport employee who emerged from a rolling overhead door, driving one of those three-wheel, electric carts, eating a banana.
    • The announcement over the gate PA, “Looking for San Francisco flight passenger Morrissey.” (Not that Morrissey.)
    • The older passenger who accidentally started playing music (Indian pop) through his phone speakers instead of the headphones that he had requested from a flight attendant earlier.
    • Having drink-cart Diet Coke and feeling like a debauchee for it.
    • Reading Neil Strauss stories about Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne’s pee-licking and Jack Daniels-chugging at the same time as feeling like a debauchee for the Diet Coke.
    • At the end of the flight, trying to get out of my seat with my seatbelt still on.
  • The SF MUNI logo (I had forgotten about it!). Almost illegible but worth it for the fun.
  • The startup billboards.
    • LA has Emmys, SF has startups, Chicago has pizza and lizard-like injury lawyers.
  • How, even though it’s also summer (and warmer) in Chicago, it somehow feels even more like summer in California.
  • The sun-faded Shen-Yun 2017 poster in the donut shop.
    • The name, “Happy Donut.”
    • The owner, recognizing a man who stole a dollar from her tip jar two days ago, annoying him into giving it back. Him, limp-running away afterward.
    • The awning, “21 Varicties.”
  • The man wearing a suit and a six-inch-wide, red button: “It’s My Birthday!”
  • Entering a weed dispensary for the first time, for an acquaintance’s comedy show.
    • The headlining comedian, a kinda melancholy, young substitute teacher, calling me “half Michael Cera, half Ichabod Crane” and “heroin-chic.”
  • The contractors installing new strands of crystals in the Swarovski store ceiling after hours.
  • The psychedelic Dee Dee TV public access show re-runs.
    • The Pride footage of lots of naked wieners and even people touching them.
  • The Wired story about how Cloudflare uses a 24/7 video feed of shifting lava lamps to generate random cryptographic keys for its cybersecurity tools (thanks Uncle Bruce).
  • Jenn Pelly’s great piece in the Guardian about the final traveling Warped Tour.
    • Wondering whether bands on the lineup like being described by the head of the festival as part of a “nostalgia tour.”
    • The two clear proposals she presents: keep Warped alive but make it more inclusive (Pelly’s preference), or “burn it to the ground and start something new” (a fan’s punk AF preference).
  • Paul Ford talking about web/app development as a reliable, old-school craft on his podcast, Track Changes.
  • The Ray Kroc quote about paper cups in that Atlantic piece about disposable straws: “I don’t know what appealed to me so much about paper cups. Perhaps it was mostly because they were so innovative and upbeat.”

Observations 8-17-18

  • Reading Craig Mod’s newsletter about his 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat and thinking, for the first time, that I might like to try something like that one day.
  • Staying indoors in beautiful, sunny San Francisco until 2PM and feeling bad about it.
  • The street-performing duo playing wooden flutes through belt-clip amplifiers, phasing against each other.
  • The sixtyish man with a European accent, waiting for the bus, helping a blind woman navigate past a cable run on the sidewalk.
  • The homelessness, way more apparent and concentrated than it is in Chicago’s downtown.
  • The custom-painted, tiger-stripe motor scooter.
  • The guy doing tricks with his hardshell suitcase like it’s a Tech Deck skateboard (e.g. bouncing off of tree, spinning around).
  • The guy wearing a head-to-toe, pink jumpsuit with matching pink shoes, who happened also to be in a wheelchair.
  • The local-cultural thing of playing music through big, battery-powered speakers on the street, something you virtually never see in Chicago.
  • The white-goateed guy at the bar, friendly-drunk, raving about Anchor Steam beer, telling me about his dream to make a shirt with an upside-down eye of the pyramid and the word “REVOLVE” on it. Me, correctly guessing that it was meant to represent the reversal of the world power structure.

Observations 8-18-18

  • The otherwise cool boutique selling vintage-stylized 1984 shirts.
  • The Keith Haring art on luggage.
  • How every Lyft driver we met lived outside of the city, in Oakland, Sacramento, or the mountains.
  • The parade floats, sitting alone (but together) on the pier.
  • The tiny little micro-bar, a maybe twenty-square-foot hole in the Mission. Too crowded to enter.
  • The dismal, narrow thrift store, more cluttered than they usually are, like every donation just gets plopped on top of the stuff that came before it, and its owner, an older woman who derisively refused to haggle with a calm dude for a hat (~$20 down to $8), “[I’d] never do that. Never do that.”
  • Walking past and peering into the evening services of Catholic storefront churches. The fluorescent overhead lighting, the bars on the doors and windows, the unattended drums and conga sets.
  • Watching a second-floor house show from the street. Looking for a door and a friendly attendee on a smoke break to let us in, but finding no one.
  • Seeking out the most Chicago-esque bars in the Mission (ones with regulars, without a schtick, with naturally occurring grime).
  • The older couple in formalwear—a three-piece suit, a dress—sharing a chocolate sundae at 11PM in the diner.
  • Eating tater tots and ice cream, packing for our 5:30AM wake-up.

Observations 8-19-18

  • Flying home.
    • Waking up before sunrise, riding to the airport in foggy, predawn San Francisco.
    • The super low, gray clouds hanging over the bay.
    • The former Marines who happened to be next to each other in line, talking about their Pentagon office days.
    • The rumbling of the airport floor.
  • These Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead stories:
    • Pharrell talking about “The Flower Called Nowhere” by Stereolab being the best song to get a blowjob to.
    • Neil Young:
      • saying, “I’ve been singing the same song for thirty years and I just sing it differently every time.”
      • setting the record straight on his “better to burn out than to fade away” lyric, that it was meant to encourage people to live and to create, not to self-destruct.
      • modeling a good attitude on criticism: “People are liking the record now, but I’ll have more peaks and valleys. I’ll put some other record out and people will say it’s a piece of shit. They’ll laugh. It’s inevitable. It just goes up and down, and the tops are not really that much better than the bottoms. So long as you’re moving.”
      • acknowledging “it’s not as easy to grow up now as it was in the sixties. The world is a much more dangerous place. There are a lot less dreams being realized,” making me feel even more sheepish about my interpretation, in a Talkhouse article, of his stance on my generation a few years ago.
    • DJ Jubilee teaching special education, watching his catchphrases get co-opted by Top 40 artists, still feeling fulfilled by teaching.
    • Walter Becker illustrating a question I’ve wondered a lot about: “We’re getting a lot of credit just for surviving and persisting and doing more or less the same kind of music, which, depending on who you talk to, is either considered a kind of integrity or a failure of imagination—or both.”
  • Learning, from the How I Built This interview with the founder of RXBAR, that fruit processors are dedicated to specific colors of fruit, e.g. a “red fruit processor.”
  • Wanting to learn more about CrossFit, guessing that The New Yorker would have a poetic deep-dive about it, being correct.
  • Bouldering with Sammy at the new indoor climbing place.
  • Starting the Ken Burns Vietnam series.
  • The Peter Garland / Ahi Takahashi album, Another Sunrise (via Sammy).
  • How, in the SiriusXM satellite radio channel guide, “Howard Stern” is its own category.
  • Attempting a capture-and-release operation of a kitchen fly with Sammy, and aborting mission (target escaped).

Observations 8-20-18

  • Running in the drizzling rain.
    • Noticing that no earthworms had surfaced on the sidewalk.
  • How my bug bites, from a forest trip at the beginning of August, form an almost symmetrical pattern on my thighs, like a stigmata.
  • Eating a great shrimp taco at Chicago Taco Authority.

Observations 8-21-18

  • Responding to a booking request the Blisters received a year ago, for an infeasible show, and getting an auto-reply that said the venue had closed.
  • Playing Hideout with Hue, on a bill with Jungle Green.
    • Jungle Green kicking ass like they always do.
    • The soundman, Jordan, being nice and patient and competent.
  • Alex Chilton’s Bach’s Bottom (via Sammy).
    • Thinking that Paul Westerberg is probably the same age that Chilton was when Westerberg said, “[Chilton] doesn’t need our help, he doesn’t want our help, but, damn it, he’s going to get it whether he wants it or not,” but being wrong about it (Westerberg was ~28 and Chilton was ~37 when he said that, and he’s 58 now.)

Observations 8-22-18

  • Finding a dead bird in the middle of the street, moving it beneath a tree.
  • The New York Times story about an English professor who translated and rearranged an epic novel so that it used every word in a dictionary exactly once, making it a “complete reordering of one entire English dictionary into a single work of art.”
  • The Tested story about how Rolls-Royce worked with a Detroit automaker to help make Merlin plane engines during WWII.
    • Rolls-Royce had been making every engine by hand until that point.
    • The Detroit company, Packard, adapted to British metrics and tooling to fit their parts. They did such a good job that Rolls-Royce honored warranties on engines made by Packard decades later. It was cute.
  • The Reader story about Jungle Green! Specifically, about how Andrew put up hundreds of handwritten flyers around town advertising his records, and the responses he got from those.
  • Alex Chilton’s Bach’s Bottom again:
    • Chilton stopping a take to tell Richard Rosebrough, actually really sweetly, that his drumming was lacking spirit. “The shoulders! That’s where it lies.” (I’ve been there.)
    • Imagining that critics were probably pretty pissed at the ramshackle nature of the record, but appreciating that it’s basically a rehearsal recording with moments of great music interspersed. That’s kinda bold and it’s fun to listen to.
  • The bathroom rug, red, blue, and sinewy, like dyed veins and arteries.
  • The best friends with matching Adidas water shoes (wearing as everyday shoes).
  • The black latex glove on the ground.
  • The coconut Italian ice from Miko’s.

Observations 8-23-18

  • The outside smell and feel at 6AM reminding me of biking to high school in the mornings.
  • Accompanying my grandpa to a civilian national security meeting.
    • The county government official who used the word “preponderance” five or six times in thirty minutes.
    • The prospect of DNA as a digital storage medium.
    • The FBI SWAT agent, who walked and talked kinda like Colonel Erran Morad, describing a people-sniffing dog as a “full-time dog” (in contrast to part-time human SWAT agents), claiming gangs protect Chicago from MS-13 and crystal meth, talking about blowing shit up and about finding Fentanyl laced in weed.
  • The super nice parking garage attendant lady.
  • The day’s lessons from my grandpa “Zaid”:
    • about the sheriff who, while evicting Zaid and his mom from their apartment when he was four years old, noticed that he had no toys, and gave him a nickel to buy himself one;
    • about walking into a bar that served free hot dogs to customers instead of the usual nuts and pretzels, and the bartender who let them stay and even gave them cash when he noticed they were homeless;
    • that “some people are just good… not everyone is a bastard.”
  • The cigar shop with a poster in its window, “15 BADASSES WHO SMOKE CIGARS.”
  • Rehearsing in a dark bar and watching a little sliver of light come in through the door’s skinny window and dance on the walls.
  • Mark Borchardt’s North of the Internet interview: “I don’t waste too much time thinking about the abstract, because then, all of a sudden, what is tangible will get swept out from underneath your feet.”

Observations 8-24-18

  • Sitting outside with Sammy, working on our laptops.
  • Closing the screen door so that the cats don’t escape, then remembering our last cat died in 2012.
  • Finding my first skateboard in the garage.
    • The heart cut-out in the grip tape.
    • The fake scratches I made in the bottom of the deck so that it looked like I knew how to grind.
  • Riding Mom’s scooter around the neighborhood.
  • Playing the Hungry Brain with Warner Brownfield.
    • Doing the age-old can’t-find-the-opening-in-the-curtain thing.
    • Warner’s beautiful, free, fun, outsider country music, like Michael Hurley meets Skip Spence.
    • The friend’s mom who told me “you kept the band honest.”
    • Having a conversation with a person I look up to, “drummer to drummer.”
  • The Lyft driver, Luis, who loves the Doors, telling me about the time he saw Robby Krieger at City Winery; about almost getting kicked out for yelling all the song titles after Krieger played the first notes; about meeting Krieger afterwards and asking him four questions (“What was it like to hang with Jimmy? How much acid did you do? What was it like being in the time with all the hotels and stuff?” [I can’t remember the fourth one]); about Krieger smiling and laughing at most of them, but responding to the acid question (paraphrased), “We did more acid than you can fit in a ten-gallon bucket.”
    • I have to say, I’ve never liked the Doors, but the version of whatever song Luis was playing sounded haunting and kinda cool at 3AM on the empty highway.
    • How Luis has collected more than thirty versions of “Light My Fire.”
    • How Luis is disgusted by the grave-robbers who stole Jim Morrison’s head. (I found no evidence online of people stealing Morrison’s skull, but someone did steal a bust that sat on top of his grave.)

Observations 8-25-18

  • Taking a shower for the first time since Wednesday.
  • The subtle difference in pretzel taste, plumpness, salt concentration, and texture between two different brands in identical plastic barrels.
  • The middle-aged, classic-Chicago-looking brothers smoking cigars in the nature preserve.
  • Talking about renaming myself Spencewatt Tweedy.
  • Ohmme’s record release show, in the round, at Thalia Hall.
    • The Hecks wearing matching white polo shirts and reminding me of Devo circa their 1978 Paris concert footage (check YouTube!). They would just need to choreograph a little bit more.
    • Ohmme kicking ass.
    • The fan with neon-green hair glowing in the dark.
    • Ken Vandermark waiting for the cue to join Ohmme on stage, but with no backstage, standing in the crowd with his bass clarinet.
  • The condensation on the windows.

Observations 8-26-18

  • Mom checking to make sure that the bunnies on her graphic tote bag weren’t doing anything “bad” before heading to a wedding with it.
  • The playground in the park of my old neighborhood, renovated so that it’s soft and accessible now.
  • The man with a pistol and two clips in “We the People” Constitution-themed graphic holsters.
  • The sound of CTA trains going by near the backyard wedding.
  • The former neighbors talking about home improvement projects.
  • Austin Kleon’s roundup of quotes about holes on his blog.
    • After a visitor at an art museum fell into a work that was a giant hole, Gizmodo wrote, “Attendees of previous showings of the work have questioned ‘whether there really was a hole in the floor or whether it was simply a circle painted with an extremely dark black paint.’ Presumably there will be no doubts going forward.”
    • Kurt Vonnegut: “You will see this story over and over again. People love it and it is not copyrighted. The story is ‘Man in Hole,’ but the story needn’t be about a man or a hole. It’s: somebody gets into trouble, gets out of it again.”
    • The Looney Tunes episode “The Hole Idea,” which aside from its hilarious hole-related quotes, features completely overt misogyny.
  • Eating a fortune cookie with a Capital One ad on the back of the fortune.

Observations 8-27-18

  • Accidentally looking directly into the flash of a camera.
    • The orange Strobies logo.
  • The parent who had clipped a big, plastic portable fan on to her baby’s car seat carrier.
  • The planetarium.
    • Museum smell.
    • The flickering of the plastic planets in a solar system display.
  • The flyers, everywhere on the North Side of Chicago right now, advertising “$1500 CUSTOM WEBSITE,” from Edgewater to the Loop.
  • The Korean spa.
    • The laminated signs above masseuses’ stations: “ANDY,” “JAKE,” “DANNY.”
    • The wooden foot rests with wood-burned, script warnings: “Don’t take it.”
    • The blood vessels in my butt cheeks pulsing after sitting on a sauna floor.
    • Eating hard-boiled eggs cooked in a fire sudatorium.
    • The video of a chef cutting beef with scissors.
    • Talking about a smell with Sammy, referring to it as part of “the smelltrack of our lives.” (I’m proud of that one.)
    • The miniature staircase leading up to the dumpster outside.
  • My discomfort with the word “last” (as in “last decade” or “last work”) since it can be taken to mean “final” instead of “most recent.”
  • Learning that Marimekko is a Finnish brand, not the name of a single Japanese designer.
  • Wondering whether the temperature of water affects plants when they slurp it up.
  • How the leaves have started falling already.

Observations 8-28-18

  • Seeing the remaining cicadas in Chicago in terms of Ken Burns’ Vietnam (which I’ve been watching with Sammy), like they’re soldiers trapped behind enemy lines.
  • Holding a door open for three young sisters and each of them saying, sweetly but Stepfordishly, “thank you” to Sammy and me.
  • How the start of the school year coincides with SAD.
    • Wondering whether students would “perform” better if that weren’t the case.
    • At the very least, the school day should start at 9AM.

Observations 8-29-18

  • Waking up to the news that Shabazz Palaces are opening for Lauryn Hill on her upcoming tour.
  • Remembering the fear I felt, circa 2009, about accidentally scrobbling pre-release Wilco music to my Last.fm account.
  • The postal worker with mismatched shoes.
  • “Saint” by Blood Orange.
  • Heading out at 2AM for Sammy’s and my last meal before he heads to college: Impossible Sliders at White Castle.
    • The super sweet drive-through cashier.
  • Arm-wrestling with Sammy, a rare alpha activity for us. Winning round one and feeling survivor’s guilt; losing rounds two and three and feeling happy for Sammy and scared for myself.

Observations 8-30-18

  • Mom insisting, “I’m a millennial.”
  • Opening a salt packet with no salt in it.
  • The Indiana literary/feminist history text decals on the window of the state-run rest stop. Appreciating the effort but judging the cheesy copy and bad typography.
    • The pretty blue-green rust/spill on the concrete.
    • Walking laps around the stop to stretch our legs.
    • The guy changing his bunny carriers’ litter in the parking lot.
  • Listening to Jimmy Carter talk about housing as a basic human right on public radio.
  • The small-town law offices of Spike Meckler.
  • Vaguely misremembering the promotion for a TV special revealing the subject of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” (it was actually a memory of the promotion for her memoir in 2015).
  • The moon, huge and orange behind clouds, getting higher and lower, bigger and smaller as we drove through the mountains.
  • How I swear the bananas we brought on our road trip got brown since we left Chicago (less than 24 hours).
  • Staying in the hippest cheap hotel with the most rambunctious lobby attendant. You would think coke was in play.

Observations 8-31-18

  • More mountains.
  • How old-school, state-run rest stops include portraits of their administrators or state officials on the wall.
  • Listening to Aretha Franklin’s funeral on the radio.
  • Mom demanding that someone hand her a (proverbial) joint every time a song from her teenagehood came on ‘70s radio.
  • The attended gas pumps in New Jersey (still weird to me after the Rubber Band Gun NJ/PA/NY tour in March).
  • The Red Lobster employee in line at Chipotle.
  • Watching parts of John McCain’s funeral on C-SPAN, and the contrast between its somber, joyless tone and Aretha’s funeral earlier in the day. Each is an okay way to honor someone depending on their wishes, but I couldn’t help but feel like Aretha’s was more in touch with something fundamental about humanity, based on the parts I saw of each.
    • The frustration of Aretha’s legacy being entangled with McCain’s, at least in the press. People inappropriately drawing equivalency between them.
  • The error on VH1 TV that placed a historic civil rights photo over the audio for a Papa John’s commercial.