Asking Mom whether it would be okay to open a garlicky pasta leftover container in the car, her replying, affirmatively, “That’s a good stink.”
Singing my greatest creation: a “Sweet Child o’ Mine” / “Sweet Caroline” mash-up.
Eating at Waffle House, a special occasion for us Chicagoans. Loving it and marveling at the behind-the-counter servers’ lane, a clever combination of fast-foodiness and normal-restaurant service. Hearing Tame Impala on the jukebox.
Mom remembering that when websites “came out” in the ‘90s, people said “point com” before they learned (decided?) it was “dot com.”
The mattress on the sidewalk with bullet-hole-looking holes in it.
Opening an old tool box and unleashing a decades-old horseradish smell.
The concept of a “classically trained dumbass.”
The noise floor and weird harmonics of a Farfisa keyboard.
Going to Guitar Center for an emergency studio supply and elitistly joking about needing a belay/buddy system to avoid getting sucked into the store.
Using a Topo Chico bottle as a guitar slide with Topo Chico still in it.
The Judy Collins song “Farewell to Tarwathie” where she sings over whale recordings, a genius but emotionally cruel arrangement.
The Columbia Journalism Review profile of Tucker Carlson: “What happened to make a rich white man the vox populi? How did I, a mom in the Midwest who can’t afford health care, become the humorless, censoring, liberal elite?”
Walking out of my house right at the moment a non-Google Street View camera car drove by.
Learning that the last battle of WWII was fought by the U.S. Army with the German army against Nazi loyalists (via Sammy/Wikipedia).
Hearing an animal-rustling sound in our dining room cabinet but not wanting to investigate without backup or a self-defense device. And not wanting to prematurely terrorize the creature(s) inside.
The blue paint-skin on a convertible peeling off, revealing yellow underneath.
Waiting for my friends on the patio of a restaurant. A couple in their mid-fifties were the only other people there, smooching and drinking BYO-Miller Lite. When one of them went to the bathroom, the other one, a white, blue-collar-looking guy approached me. He showed me the Navy tattoo on his forearm and told me, when I asked what he does in the Navy, that he’s an active duty machine gunner on the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, home on shore leave. I don’t think he was delusional or fucking with me, but I can’t rule it out. Here are some of the things he said to me (paraphrased).
“I like Trump.”
“I like Putin, too. He’s strong.”
“I used to be a Democrat.”
“When we [the Nimitz crew] go back, we’re going to Russia. […] They’re gonna bomb us in Syria.” [I replied in disbelief.] “Well, that’s what my phone [the news] told me.”
“The Cold War?” [I had said the current situation with Russia feels like a new Cold War. He didn’t know what the Cold War was, maybe the biggest red flag that he wasn’t who he said he was.]
“What I really wanna do is fuck North Korea up.”
“Never call it a boat.” [I had jokingly referred to the USS Nimitz as a boat, knowing that’s incorrect but thinking he’d get it.]
“The other day, these three Hispanic guys were making fun of me at the bar. I kinda smacked one in the face. Then my buddy punched the other one. I don’t wear no Band-Aids.”
“That’s my problem with them. They’re violent.”
Me: “It sounds like you just met a couple of assholes.”
Here’s where it crosses a line. Warning. “The problem in this city… [looks over shoulder] is these n*****s shooting everybody. They’re selling drugs to whites. They’re just shooting all the time.”
“The other day, they killed this guy over by the Blue Line. I think he was gay.”
Looking around, my heart pounding, even wondering whether I was on a candid camera show like What Would You Do? (The opening in his Miller Lite box was big enough for a camera.) Weighing the feeling of obligation to respond against the feeling of obligation not to engage with racists.
Me, responding to the word and not the fucked-up notion in general: “I’m really not comfortable with that language. I don’t think it’s okay to say that word.”
Him, deciding whether to be pissed at me or keep his white-guy camaraderie going: “You know what, you’re right. I shouldn’t use that word. [pauses] These blacks are shooting everyone and selling drugs.”
Me: “You know that not all black people shoot people and sell drugs, right?”
Him: “You’re right. There are some good ones.”
“I smoked crack twice.”
“You [me] look like a sportster. Do you play baseball?”
“When I get in jail they let me out quick.”
Me: “Why? Because you show them your Navy tattoo?”
“No. They just do [alluding to whiteness, I think].”
Me: “Are you in jail often?”
How it struck me that he seemed desperate for connection with another white dude, even at the expense of his own beliefs. He backed away from talking positively about Trump when I didn’t go along. He admitted he was wrong to use the N-word. None of those concessions really changed the way he thinks or made him less likely to punch a Latino person in the future. But they did reveal this desperate, dumb, borderline pathetic (but ultimately angering, presumptuous, entitled) desire to connect with someone. As long as that someone is a white guy like me.
Playing on my childhood playground [8-26-18] with my friends.
The cat walking alongside us, seemingly showing off by running up trees and then pausing dramatically, who turned out to be my bandmate Henry’s outdoor cat.
Obama’s comments on the anonymous Trump staffer op-ed: “The claim that everything will turn out O.K. because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, this is not a check. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this White House and then saying, ‘Don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10 percent.’”
The Noisey interview with Gerald Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo (via Austin Kleon):
Casale: “I saw the blood running out of Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause from their exit wounds in the noonday sun [during the Kent State shootings]. I was closer to the gas-masked National Guardsmen than they were but the Guard shot over the heads of the crowd I was in and killed and wounded students behind us. Later I would theorize that I lucked out because the Guard was made up of guys the same age as myself. They might have not had the guts to shoot at students so close to them that they could see our faces clearly.”
Biking with Casey in the forest preserve, the same woods I biked when I was little, my end-of-summer goal. The feeling of contentedness from exercise, seeing those woods again, and the mfing pre-fall wind.
Stopping by the lagoon.
Watching people fish for food.
The bench plaque that read “In honor of all those whom [sic] served in Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Watching two young, short kids struggle to use a ketchup dispenser and helping them while their dad watched football.
The two men repairing a washing machine under lamplight in an otherwise dark, empty laundromat.
Collecting signatures to get a mayoral candidate on the ballot in Chicago. Most people being nice, but one guy shooting me down (I’m an inexperienced canvasser so those moments sting).
Adopting a new “no flipping the LP while the turntable plate is still spinning” policy after almost ruining a record (and the needle).
Playing a record I bought based on its album cover more than four years ago, thinking pessimistically that I would never actually listen to it, and loving it (Drums Like Machine Guns / Mincemeat or Tenspeed split from 2007).
Feeling stupid for staying up till 6AM (for no fun/productive reason).
Hearing from Sammy on the phone from college for the first time.
Experimenting with matcha green tea powder in my oatmeal, it being delicious, and feeling like I deserved a Pulitzer Prize for it.
Buying potatoes from Hayden at the Wicker Park farmers’ market. On the ride home, with the potatoes in the backseat (not buckled in), braking quickly to avoid rear-ending someone. Feeling relieved that the potato container didn’t spill (while everything else in the backseat did). Getting home and promptly dropping the potato container, and all of the potatoes, on the ground. (We kept and washed ‘em.)
The NPR story about a doctor who saved premature babies by keeping them in incubators in a Coney Island “freak show” attraction. The host referring to people who were saved by the program as “former babies.”
My great uncle’s Rosh Hashanah turkey.
Feeling relieved at having finally sorted the piles of stuff in my closet that had been sitting there pretty much since my family moved in, more than a decade ago.
Putting a Nerf dart from the N-Strike era in a bin with darts from the Velcro dart tag era and thinking, somewhat insensitively, that I was teaching them about integration.
Investigating the animal sound from 9-7-18 and finding that mice had had a gathering there with Smarties from a nearby Halloween-leftover bowl, leaving wrappers and tiny turd evidence behind. Breaking the news to my mom carefully, like it was a serious tragedy (she really doesn’t like rodents, as least not in our house). Judging that the mice must have done a coordinated, military-style operation to get into and out of the candy bowl, because it was pretty deep. I’m talking mice standing on each other’s shoulders and slingshotting Smarties.
Going without deodorant and smelling my own B.O. for the first time in a long time! Feeling perversely satisfied by it, like, “Oh, I can still do that.”
Clogging the toilet in one of my final acts at home before starting the new (and final) college school year. But plunging it before I left.
Noticing the reverby bongos on “A Day in the Life” for the first time in my life.
Assuming that memorizing lines on Drunk History must be like preparing for your b’nai mitzvah (as a non-Hebrew, non-trope reader).
The jazz vocal student at my school’s conservatory scatting with an old school growl that you don’t hear often anymore.
Vocal students from the conservatory playing choral music loudly from a phone in the school dining hall.
Waiting for a gaggle of geese to cross the road in front of my car.
Googling to find the right collective noun for them.
“Swan Song” by Bee Gees—not even my favorite song from Idea—being stuck in my head.
Deleting Twitter from my phone for I think the first time, to take a breather.
Peeing extra carefully, now living in a house at school with many women.
Staring at the body wash aisle in Target, thinking that the national (positive) trend of tempered masculinity had penetrated the market because all of the soaps were floral… but then realizing that there was a separate men’s section. Buying a men’s body wash because, I think, I preferred its smell and not because I wanted to affirm my own masculinity. But I’m not sure. And ruing adding my dollars to the sales figures that say women buy bright, flowery products and men buy dark, gritty products.
How, in my experience, younger professors tend to have more complicated syllabi and wordier lectures, which might be because they need to prove to students (and to department colleagues) that they know what they’re doing.
The male, cisgendered student who proclaimed, defiantly, during a pronouns-and-names sesh, “I am DEFINITELY a ‘he’.”
The professor who, while explaining an ancient Chinese philosophical concept, said, “Rice hasn’t been developed yet; we’re dealing with millet here.”
The professor of French who accidentally let a door slam in my face.
Putting Burt’s Bees chapstick on while eating Tic Tacs for an inadvertent multi-mint mouth bomb.
Talking to a custodian in Packers Country who is a Bears fan because when she worked at a mental hospital, players from Chicago would visit patients there.
The classmate whose family member recently died from suicide participating in an ethics class discussion about suicide.
Overhearing a student football player on the phone: “He’s the kid with the big thighs.”
Learning a little bit about Chinese: that only 3% of characters in the language are pictograms, contrary to popular Western belief, and that it’s a logographic system, compared to English’s phonetic one.
Ignoring the expiration date on a BelGioioso mozzarella cheese ball—a big step of courage for me—and being betrayed by it. It was rotten.
Noticing (or projecting) disdain on the face of a classmate during a discussion about the “college students are coddled and taught that everything they feel is right” popular op-ed belief. He sides, or would side, with the reactionary op-ed writers.
The same classmate talking about buying cigars.
The mom and her son struggling to fit a massive rolled-up carpet into their mini-van.
The sign advertising “custom knees” (emphasis mine).
The hay wagon crossing the highway, Frogger-style.
Finding myself in a sports bar where a bong trade show was happening. The incidence of caucasian dreads among attendees.
Claes Oldenburg talking about a plastic toy ladybug in a sculpture-in-progress of his, in the New York Times Magazine: “I told her to get lost, but she’s still here. Maybe she’ll stay.”
Waking up in our hotel room to the bona fide smell of poop. Since no one had pooped the bed and the smell was coming from the window, wondering whether an Incredibles-esque super villain had enveloped the neighborhood in a stink bomb.
Watching a guy chug an entire tallboy can of something (probably energy drink, maybe beer) outside of a gas station, and then drive off.
The weirdness of billboards advertising specific surgeons’ return to specific hospitals, like they’re professional athletes. (The problem isn’t the reverence for surgeons, which is probably a good thing, but the sense that there’s a product to lure customers toward.)
Watching Enemy Mine, an ‘80s movie about a war between humans and the reptilian Drac race, on a warbly VHS in a bar. My friend predicting that it would end either with the main reptile character’s giving birth or dying, and him leaving before he could see both parts of that prediction come true.
The mosquitos, who never really came in full force this summer, coming back with a vengeance.
How they penetrated my innermost sanctum: my drum booth.
The crack in the toilet bowl that looks exactly like a smooshed/fossilized dragonfly.
The weird combination of ‘80s dance sounds and high-passed, tinny electric guitar on Prince’s Dirty Mind (thanks Ridley).
Learning about the difference between “hermeneutics of faith” and “hermeneutics of suspicion” and thinking that both concepts can apply to dealing with trolls/politics. Then, the phrase: “ya gotta get hermeneutic on their asses.”
A hearse driving by at the same time as a car with a booming, bassy stereo, and me, imagining that the music was coming from the hearse instead of the car.
Learning about (and using) the “crow’s foot” measurement marking method of carpentry.
Eating little BelGioioso mozzarella cheese balls for the first time since the betrayal [9-13-18].
A professor saying “diven” instead of “dove” for the past tense of “dive.”
Wanting to learn more about how vitamins in energy drinks make us feel more energetic.
The moral dilemma between feeling like I should markup books (as all good readers do) and wanting to give a fresh copy to the used book store when I sell/donate it later, especially in used books that I bought without any markup in them. Using Post-it notes in the meantime.
The conventional wisdom that tells us we should make it as easy as possible to do the creative work we want to do—e.g. put a guitar next to the bed, keep a notebook on the nightstand—in conflict with the poisonous thought that if you do anything to make your creative work easier, it’s a sign of a lack of determination or passion. Deciding, pretty confidently, that the latter thought is misguided, because making your environment more hospitable to work is an act of determination, evidence of your passion. Why should caring about your creative work mean that you should make it harder for yourself to do it?
My M.O. in the sculpture studio, where I’m taking an intro-level course: get out three different rulers, first thing.
The mailbox painted with vintage-hot-rod-style flames.
Writing lyrics while driving with Siri dictation.
The bicyclist with the longest rat tail I’ve ever seen.
The popularity of rollerblading in Madison, Wisconsin, relative to seemingly every other city I’ve been in.
Driving back from my dad’s show in Madison under heat lightning.
A “Let’s Go Rain” moment: the rain stopping when I got out of the car, the second time that happened this week. Me, kinda sorta thinking, in that non-belief-y sort of way, that it was a gift from the god-force. But then the rain starting again during my walk, and me, thinking, “Oh. That was stupid to have thought.”
The waste of spending one’s luck on illegal parking spots, if it turned out luck worked like a bank account.
Katy Kelleher’s essay about ugly design in the Paris Review, one of those awe-inspiring pieces that shows us how to connect abstract ideas with concrete observations.
Laying a pair of socks on a copy of a Kant book I bought for school, then taking them off in case it was a violation of the categorical imperative (would I want someone to put socks on a book I wrote? [on second thought I probably wouldn’t care]).
How it is usually baseball or football players who take the public hot sauce to a table for private use during meals in the dining hall—or else it’s my confirmation bias noticing the times that they happen to be the hot sauce hoarders.
The multigenerational horde of people showing up to play Pokémon Go on our college campus. People walking through the quad. People pulled over in cars.
Reading a picture book about the Chernobyl disaster at a thrift store.
Going for a walk along the river with a friend, an activity I never imagined myself doing on my own volition as a kid but which feels like a vital part of mental healthcare today. How those little things feel more important to me now, even as a very young adult.
The moss, looking abnormally oily and Nickelodeon slime-like just beneath the surface of the river.
The contractor installing a light fixture on a bar patio wearing full Packers gear (athletic shorts, t-shirt) and drinking a Michelob Ultra.
The announcement of my dad’s new solo album, Warm. :)
The student eating lunch in the dining hall with his pink retainer on a napkin in front of him.
The student pop-lock robot-dancing to a jukebox on a platform in the quad, and the other students taking Snapchats of him from far away.
Learning that George Harrison referred to augmented chords as “the naughty chord” from a Rolling Stone interview with Jeff Lynne.
Almost certainly finding a vocal splice in Jeff Lynne’s 2012 version of “Telephone Line” by ELO, at 3:05.
The guitar solo on “Really Love You” from Paul McCartney’s Jeff Lynne-produced solo record, which sounds like it quotes Roger McGuinn’s solo on “Eight Miles High.”
How you can be Paul McCartney and still have only 2,000 plays on the auto-generated (but official) YouTube videos for some songs in your catalog, which is both reassuring and scary.
Playing drums at the weekly student jazz jam and really bombing on a solo.
Realizing that the reason I recorded fewer songs of my own in college than I did in high school (which I beat myself up about, because it’s college! I have my own gear! I should be able to record an album a week!) might not be just because of laziness, but also because free time in high school is in big uninterrupted blocks of time after school each day, while free time in college is spread out into an hour here, an hour there. (Those hours are useful, duh, but not great for deep project diving.) I’m also no longer convinced that I have more free time in college than in high school after all, even if class itself takes up less time. I’ll still beat myself up about it but I’ll try to remember that the only cure is to make some more stuff now.
Hearing my housemate’s phone buzz through the ceiling above me with messages from group texts of which we’re both a part.
Having a glass of almond milk before bed most nights since getting back to college, because my mom sent me here with a Costco case of it.
How everything you need to know about anthropology is in “Plastic Cup” by Low.
Slicing a pretty big gash into my thumb during sculpture class.
Running my head into a nail (hammer-side, thankfully) during sculpture class.
The sparks shooting out from nail-gun nails hitting the concrete floor during sculpture class.
This quote from ancient philosopher Mozi: “What is the cause of great men abandoning the administration of the government and the common people neglecting their work? It is music!” (Apparently he wasn’t against all music, just the elaborate Cirque du Soleil-type.)
This Ursula K. Le Guin quote: “This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”
My friend, who has diabetes, rattling off insulin pump brand names and talking excitedly about the new one she just ordered.
Thinking that my room (and the world) had literally gotten darker to my eyes because I was feeling sad, but then realizing that it was because a cloud had passed over the sun. Classic mistake.
Watching the BBC documentary about Ronnie Lane, The Passing Show, and crying!
How Ronnie’s main bass traveled through the years, played by different bandmates in different bands of his.
Rehearsing with the school’s Afrocuban drum ensemble and being slowly brought back to life with every cowbell hit.
My classmate in the Balinese gamelan ensemble telling us during a break that he was having a bad day, another classmate volunteering to give him a hug (which he graciously accepted), and then all of us standing up to form a hug-line for him.
My mom posting about a kind of unexpected development with her liposarcoma, which had been treated a few years ago, and watching loving comments pour in (to both of us).
Using a power saw, alone, to finish an assignment (a cardboard replica of my childhood “TV chair”) in the sculpture studio at 3AM.
Hope Hall’s (great) advice for emotional health in The Creative Independent reading like Confucian aphorisms.
Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the Mr. Rogers documentary, and feeling, apart from so much warmth and love from Mr. Rogers and the people who worked with him, anger and dejectedness thinking of the people who tell us that it’s not okay to care. As a twenty-something figuring out how to balance gooey emotionality with the realism that we associate with adulthood, it is a noise jamming my signals to hear Fox News hosts or any cynical person tell us that caring is immature, unrealistic, irresponsible. I want to be mature, and I want to see the world realistically, and I want to be responsible, so I take their accusations seriously. I’m even willing to find goodwill in them: they see Mr. Rogers’ way of being as a risk, as something that could harm you or other people. (If you value feelings more than rational thought, they say, you could get trampled or you might demand a participation trophy you don’t deserve.) But the way I see it, Mr. Rogers didn’t ask kids to ignore the harsh reality of the world; he asked them to acknowledge it. He didn’t ask kids to value feelings more than rational thought; he asked them to think about their feelings. So when cynical cultural conservatives say that they’re in touch with reality, and anyone who cares like Mr. Rogers did is a fool, I think—and I say this with anger, and uncertainty—they’re hypocrites. Because only someone who is ruled by self-pity about their own sacrifice of childhood hoping and caring could tell other people to make that sacrifice.
The schmutz on Mr. Rogers’ house sneakers.
“I Can Sing It But I Can’t Say It” by Honeybus and its similarity to “Cold Hard World” by Daniel Johnston (both songs talk about checking out library books to get the attention of a librarian).
The student practicing harp outside on a fire escape.
Being scared, for the second time in a week, by a piece of lint shooting out from a corner of the floor on a draft.
Falling asleep to the sounds of the “Cha-Cha Slide” wafting out of a dorm, across the quad.
Going through my entire Dribbble.com subscription list to find cool designers to send to Sammy, feeling nostalgic both for the heyday of the site and on behalf of the designers who seem to have quit the biz when skeuomorphic design went out of fashion. I think design is better because of the shift but a lot of awe-inspiring illustration skill was left behind (a lot of people have written about that).
Sheepishly ordering a pumpkin spice latte at a coffee shop, only to find out that they had run out for the day.
The screenshot of a monkey drummer from the Kiev National Circus (thanks Uncle Bruce).