Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tornado, part 2

We went inside and Alex made us a late night snack.  I caught the end of Nightline. A local weather ticker flashed on top of the screen, announcing a severe thunderstorm warning for Cuyahoga and the surrounding counties. All told it was about a 25-mile radius around Cleveland -- a wide swath for storm activity. Rain rattled against the side of our house. Alex and I went out on our front porch to watch the weather as we often do. What began as a steady soak quickly accelerated into a violent downpour. Wind shook the trees on our tree lawn. I realized that the umbrella was up on our back deck. I ran through the house and out back to close it. Rain stung my neck and back as I shut the cranked closed the umbrella. A blinding burst of lightning signaled that it was time to go back in. As I reached for the back door a powerful gust nearly lifted me off the ground. I wrenched open the screen door. It tore from my grasp and slammed against the side of our house. I stammered inside and forced shut the back door. I caught a glimpse of Alex standing in the kitchen wide-eyed. All was noise, like the passing of a locomotive right over top of us. The lights flickered and went off. A tremendous crash sounded outside of the back door. I looked through the blind to see a limb from our centuries-old backyard maple, Broccoli, had snapped and dropped right where I had been standing on the deck. The view through the blind was that of leaves and wetness. Another loud crash, this time in the driveway.

“Should we get in the basement?” Alex yelled.


We ran through the darkness into the basement, smashing heads together when we got there. The freight train had passed. We stood there for a few seconds before I ran up to landing to check the driveway through our side door. Again the view was consumed by leaves and branches and rain. Our cars were mere feet away but we could not see them through the debris.

“Did Broccoli fall?” Alex asked, terrified.

“I think so.”

I pictured the 100-foot tall tree smashed through the top of our house. Defying the storm, I sprinted upstairs. The second floor seemed okay so I went up to the attic. Shining my flashlight back in the eaves, I could see no pieces of Broccoli poking through. Imaging the thing falling at that moment, I doubled back down the stairs. I went into the living room and looked out the front window. Branches and leaves were strewn through the streets, filled with water gushing down. Alex called me to the kitchen window so we could look out over the driveway. We could see the tree limb had torn the gutter off of our neighbor Torry’s house and did some damage to a railing on her back porch.

Alex and I ran next door to check on Torry to make sure she was okay. We were relieved to see her answer the door, though she was quite shocked to see the damage to her house and her car. Now that we were outside, we could see that Alex’s car, a 2010 Chevy Cobalt was totally smashed. Several heavy limbs landed on the roof and hood, breaking all the windows and allowing the rain to leak in. Broccoli was still standing, though the wind had sheared off some of the limbs and caused damage. I tried to call 911 but it came back with a busy signal. I was not sure what 911 could do for us with our cars smashed by a fallen tree, but I needed to report the emergency somewhere. Alex broke down and cried while I stayed on hold with First Energy to report downed lines. Torry comforted her. I was lost in my own chaotic world. It did not help that we were still a little buzzed from the bourbon earlier. After sitting on hold for about an hour, I was able to reach someone at the power company to report the downed lines. By this time, the rain had let up significantly, but there were still eerie bursts of lighting that painted the landscape purple. In the distance, we could see smoke coming out of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, up on Detroit. Silhouetted intermittently by the lighting, fire fighters climbed up onto the roof.

Despite warnings from our neighbors two doors down, Alex and I risked live wires and traversed the short distance back to our house. The next day, we knew, would be to survey the damage and report it to our insurance company. We planned to awake at first light the next morning and take some pictures. Eventually we fell asleep, uneasily dreaming about the rest of Broccoli coming down on top of us.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Bachelor Party

In Winston-Salem, NC for a wedding tomorrow. Much of today spent on the road from sunny Cleve. Then with family for the rest. Not much time left for blogging. Will revisit tomorrow, folks.

Something to chew on: Bachelor party ideas (2 of my best friends are getting married next year).

  • Walking tour of strip clubs in the Flats of Cleveland
  • Bourbon Tour in Kentucky
  • Shiloh
  • Colonial Williamsburg
  • Gettysburg
  • Camping in the Smokies
  • Hiking the Appalachian Trail
  • Celebration, FL

Thursday, November 03, 2011


Alex and I sat at the edge of Edgewater Hill, looking out over our Great Lake, watching a storm roll in. Tendrils of lightning knifed across the sky, behind clouds and clouds of the advancing front. We had been drinking bourbon on our front porch with our friend Kate. She came over in the night to pick vegetables from our community garden. She had pulled her car into the garden, which is against the rules. We yelled at her from our porch, clutching our snifters.
“You can’t park there!”

Engine still running, Kate came across the street to our house. She explained that she would use the headlights to pick out the best tomatillos with which to make salsa. We said that we were drinking Seven Roses Single Barrel and suggested Kate have a glass. Later, the three of us sat with our snifters and watched Kate’s car, still idling precariously between the sidewalk and entrance to the garden. Kate admitted to us that she had purchased a life insurance policy from our friend Charlie, who had given up on teaching English to sell life insurance. Alex and I, too, had purchased a life insurance policy from Charles. He was my best man, how could I say no? I recalled signing the papers that very morning, over a Mr. Nomad skillet from Nick’s Diner in Ohio City. Paid for by Charlie himself. Shortly thereafter, biking to work, I nearly collided with a jitney trying to make a quick left. Luckily I escaped unscathed but I could not help yelling “JESUS CHRIST” into the guy’s car as we passed. I almost made Alex a wealthy woman.

Low rumbles of thunder portended an oncoming splash. I ran in and grabbed a flashlight. Kate, Alex and I went across the street to pick produce from streetlight, flashlight and headlight. The occasional strobe of lightning made things interesting. The flashlight I grabbed proved ineffective for it required constant shaking to keep it powered -- a kinetic motion flashlight. I had stolen it from an old roommate, for I would never buy such a contraption. After much shaking of the light, we gathered a sufficient amount of produce.  Kate thanked us for our help and she left, reversing her car back onto the street and leaving Alex and I in the darkness. We decided to take a walk down the street, towards the lake. 

The wind began to pick up and the lightning behind the clouds and clouds put on a great show. I could not get Alex to look though, for she kept trying to take a picture with her phone. We strolled back to our house, bourbon working its way out of our system. We had no idea what was in store.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

On blogging

My first attempt at blogging in over a year did not go as smoothly as I would have liked. After finishing up my piece on getting back to blogging, I in turn spent an hour trying to format the post to conform to other older posts. It seems that since May of 2010, blogging technology has changed. Now blogger has a spiffier, modern dashboard with tracking (so long, sitemeter) and a simpler FCK Editor for posting content. Gone however, is my standard font, Lucida Grande. Plus I ran into a lot of trouble pasting in text from Word or Google docs into the post editor. Despite the template asserting that all text should be white, the post I put up last night appeared in black -- very hard to read against a dark gray background.  Subsequent attempts at posting the same content wrecked the template even further. After about two dozen attempts, I got the post formatted appropriately a little after midnight. It used to be so easy.

I am considering updating NOMENCLATURE’s template to something newer, to facilitate posting. I always liked the old custom template, but seems as though Google has moved beyond this format, and is not offering much support for the old dashboard or Lucida Grande. This makes me sad, but at the same time, I realize that I have spent the last two to three years trying to drop anchor against the on-raging current of progress. My involvement in social media is pretty much non-existent. Though I possess a Twitter and Facebook profile, I rarely make even a ripple on those networks. My favorite social media outlet, blogging, is now an antiquated platform suited for folks stuck in 2006. Am I stuck in 2006?

As technology advances, I find myself becoming a warped, frustrated old man, clutching my clamshell cellular phone, snapping measly 1.4 MP pics and being able to send them absolutely nowhere, tapping out T9 text messages to folks who are expecting FaceTime(TM). As I sit with five people at dinner and look around to find each one separately on their smart phones, I make a snide comment about not embracing the newest form of communication. I do not post my location; I do not network; I am not the mayor of any place. I wear this like a badge of honor. Am I a retro snob? When will clamshell cell phones be considered retro? Is listening to the Counting Crows August and Everything After on a CD Walkman retro?  Are minidiscs back in yet?

I used to be into new stuff, up to day on consumer electronics. In college, I wrote articles for the Daily Kent Stater about how I wanted an iPod for Christmas. I am not proud of that article. It had no staying power. People called me out on it after I wrote it, as they should have. I got the iPod Classic for Christmas that year, but back then it was just called the iPod. It was not yet retro. People would say, “At least you got your iPod,” or “Hey, the article worked, you got an iPod.” This embarrassed me.

Back then, a friend of mine, J.B. Dean, approached me about another article I had written, this one about a Megabus trip to Chicago (“Chicago on a Dollar”... look it up). He took me to task for name dropping the iPod in the article. On the sidebar, there was a photo of me made to look as if it was taken with a Polaroid. Scrawled on the border of the photo, in a script font as if I had written it: “Listening to Jets to Brazil’s Perfecting Lonliness on my iPod.” J.B. did not like the mention of iPod. Rightfully so, for it did not add to article. It was merely a product plug. I shrugged off the critique by saying that my editor was responsible for the artwork. But it sparked a conversation about materialism, about how much that little $300 hard drive that plays music meant to me. How much it means to all of us. J.B. asked if I planned to buy each iteration of the iPod as it emerged all down the line until the bitter end. Shortsightedly, I said that I intended to have enough money to afford the new ones when they came out. He laughed and shook his head, for I had reaffirmed his assertion that society at large feeds into the cyclical machine spitting out new peripherals.

Ironically, that iPod was stolen months later from a coffee shop in Kent, while I was out of work and flat broke. Being a recent college grad then, a new one would not be in the cards for quite a while. Once I found that elusive well paying job as a corporate news release editor, one of my first major purchases was of a new iPod. It looked roughly the same but had more bells and whistles, a slimmer profile and much more memory. I still have the thing to this day but do not listen to it much anymore. I have not upgraded to the iPod touch or the iPhone. “My phone still works,” I say to my wife when she asks if will buy an iPhone. I hold out my scuffed and tarnished cell phone as if it is a battle scar, an unsightly thing but something I am stubbornly proud of. One day the phone will cease to be practical. It will either break or the wireless company will stop supporting it. At what point do I stop waiting for the other shoe to drop?

This is why I have decided to update NOMENCLATURE’s template. Google is phasing out support for this model. If this blog breaks, I am out of luck. I need to be more proactive and engaged towards technological progress. Will I rush out tomorrow for a smartphone? Not likely, but I will think about it some more.

Stay tuned for a new to this blog, coming in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Oh hi, blog

Oh hi, blog. I didn’t know you were still up here, on the World Wide Web. I see not much has changed with you since I left. I believe it. Me? No, I’m not living in Ohio City anymore. Yeah, I moved on up to the Detroit Shoreway, City of Cleveland. Now I am a married man and a proud homeowner. Have I kept writing, away from blogger, perhaps on some newfangled platform? Alas, no; not really. I have not been writing much of anything. Last November, I pulled away from blog month in favor of National Novel Writing Month. While my output overall was much higher than during the blog months of years past, I felt the quality to be lacking. To be honest, I have not even read the book I wrote almost a year ago. My good friend and writing companion Charles Parsons pushed for me to join up with him for another novel month this year, but I’ve opted to revisit you, blog, once more. As I explained to him, I felt that the quality of work I put on here is on average much better than the novel I wrote last year. Plus I like the instant gratification. Maybe as this month goes on I will ‘debut’ some juicy excerpts from the novel, The Path Between Mom’s and Dad’s.

I know it sounds ridiculous, rekindling a blog that has sat dormant for almost two years.

“Isn’t blogging dead?” Ted said to me a while ago, though at the time we were not discussing you, blog, but a theoretical blog I would write that would serve as a way for the company that I work for to make money and for me to receive restaurant gift certificates in return. Alas, my corporate blog, MultiVieux, which planned to analyze the fad of flash mobs for marketing purposes, never came to fruition. Probably for the best. Along those lines, blog, do you think another good blogging idea would be to examine different advertisements on NHL hockey boards? Do you prefer the traditional, static banners, or the new digital ones? I’m a traditionalist myself; I find something and I stick with it. So old fashioned banners for me. My all time favorite hockey board advertisement? Foodland banner, Civic Arena, Pittsburgh Penguins, 1990-1991. Stanley Cup year. But I digress here.

My wife and special lady friend Alexandra started a vegetarian cooking blog over the summer, Cooking Through Moosewood. This meant that we ate a lot of meals stuffed with random vegetables. Despite a modest following, Alex lost interest in the blog and floated the idea of deleting it entirely. I told her not to do it. For even if she never planned on updating it again, the blog could still stand up over time as a monument to an unfinished masterpiece. Maybe she would get the urge, as I have here, to begin posting again. But then I would have to eat more vegetarian dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I like vegetables, but sometimes a pork chop is good now and again.

So, blog, you may be wondering what the plan is for this month. Me too. I would like for the two of us to catch up. It can’t be done in one post. It might not even be possible over this whole month. But I’d like to think we can help each other out. I need to get back to writing and you need new content. It is pretty much win/win. I can do my best to put up a framework, a plan, a plot, a map, for the next month. If I am getting back to blogging, I might as well start with a bulleted list:
  • Post apocalyptic Cleveland stories. I have at least three that need to be fleshed out. This would be a great place to put them. And yes, I am still obsessed with postmodern dystopia.
  • Permaculture. Did I mention that my wife and I started a community garden? It’s a step in the right direction, but I would like to use this space as a sounding board for larger ideas.
  • DIY Computer Repair. The wireless card on my laptop is not working very well. I’m going to try to fix it this month. It could be a problem.
  • Homeownership. I own a house now. There are some stories there – particularly a nasty run-in with a tornado last August. Stay tuned for local news footage.
  • Marriage. There may be some references to married life, or even to the wedding itself, since it has been that long, blog. I’m afraid, though, that any story about marriage will devolve into anecdotes about our cats.
  • Cats. Our cats. Sarge and Dakota. They suck. But we love them.
  • Cleveland. Our home. The backdrop for this whole thing.
Well blog, it’s been real so far. We’ve come a long way since 2005. It’s almost hard to believe. I’m not ready to give up and I’m glad you’ve stayed with me. I am looking forward to another solid NaBloPoMo.

Let’s do this.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Spare Change

Last night: I parked my car in the lot next to my apartment building. My car has been broken in there already, windows smashed out, CDs stolen, belongings rifled. Along with my roommate's car. And my fiance's car. Market Square is a hot area for theft and vandalism lately, now that warm weather has moved in. A few weeks ago, the side of my building was tagged brusquely by 'ALOT,' a local graffiti artist or artists. The piece appeared to take all of 25 seconds. Surveying the neighborhood later, I found several other instances of ALOT on electrical control boxes, utility poles, and, unfortunately, on the neighboring Hansa Import Haus.

As I stepped out of my car, three teenaged boys walked past, carrying a couple pies from Pizza Hut over on W. 25th. I heard the jangle of spare change cast upon the sidewalk. The youths continued down Lorain. I watched as one of them withdrew more change from his pocket and chucked it at the feet of one of his companions. The jittering of change continued intermittantly, slowly fading as the trio proceeded westward. Looking down, I saw the group had thrown pennies and pennies alone, no nickels or dimes stood out in the amber streetlight. Curious that kids would be throwing money away, though I assumed it said more about the devaluation of currency more than anything. It did seem like an awfully lot of pennies though.

This afternoon: My fiance and I had just returned from the grocery store and were standing in the Dust Bowl, a trash-ridden brownfield next to my apartment. Alexandra spotted an empty jar sitting atop a pile of broken cement block. I went over and retrieved it. Taped on the outside of the jar were a couple of missing children bulletins. Two young girls, missing since late 2009, from the neighborhood, the community. I could have been a fund for the families, set beside a cash register on a local business. Naturally it was empty.

This evening I put the two occurrences together and imagined the three kids with the pizza having swiped it from a counter of the Pizza Hut or a convenient store nearby. Maybe they sifted out the silver change, maybe there were only pennies. Granted, this is merely speculation at this point, but the pieces dovetail nicely. I haven't checked to see if the change was still there, outside my apartment. On the way to the grocery store, a man waved hello then asked me for money. I should have pointed him in the direction of those kids.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Cormac McCarthy Conversation

I walked back from the break room with a copy of The Crossing tucked under one arm. Dave from the LatAm department stepped out of the newsroom and we crossed.

Youre reading The Crossing, he said.

I turned back.


You read All the Pretty Horses.


Youre going to read Cities of the Plain.


Dave nodded.


Good talk.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


EDITOR'S NOTE: I came across this old document while poking around the hard drive of my computer. I wrote this in late 2004, as an exercise for an intro to creative writing course in which I was enrolled. At this time in my life, I was still adjusting to life outside of the architecture program and attempting to digest some of those frustrations. One could describe this flash fiction as 'angsty.'

They sat across from each other at the campus coffee shop.

“So, how’ve you been?” she asked, just hoping to break the akward silence that pervaded their dreary walk to the place.

“Fine,” he said. He gripped the coffee a bit tighter, hoping its mysterious charge would take hold of him and propel him into some type of conversational mode. At least provide anything but more fodder for rest, collapse; anything to wash away the sour taste of defeat and exhaustion.
“I haven’t seen you in, like, two weeks, something has to be new or interesting or anything.”

He shrugged. If only he could tell her all the things: the long studio hours, the fact that his weeks of work were all for naught, the fact that his thoughts were diluted by rapidly fading visions of her, that his life was in a vise that was presently gaining torque from at least a dozen different sources, he and she included. No, nothing new. It’s all the same old shit, it’s just deeper now than before. That doesn’t constitute novelty, does it? At least not the kind of novelty worth discussing with one’s girlfriend.

But that’s upon a completely different mode of thought, now isn’t it?

She presented her all-too-familiar annoyed/indifferent look and proceeded to glance out the window at the drizzly November atmosphere.

What time is it, he pondered intently. The sky is too gray to make a firm estimate, it could be dusk or one in the afternoon. It really doesn’t matter anymore, does it? His watch had slowed to a stop a few days ago, perpetuating a universe where time has no meaning. Only cold, cold logic exists in this place, he considered, allowing a grin and a snicker by accident.

“What’s so funny?” Nothing ever did seem to get by her.

He took another drag of the bitter brew, amazed at how numb even strong coffee now made him. It had taken on a retroactive effect, slowing him down to almost no movement at all. How close can one actually get to absolute zero without actually freezing atomic movement? His mind was now working in a strange new dimension, a bi product of the dimensia brought on by emotional imbalance brought on by lack of sleep brought on by inner turmoil brought on by emotional imbalance. The thing was all a hideous freight train galloping headlong down a valley of calamity, shit.

How deep is the valley?

How close is absolute zero?

He set down his cup of coffee, finally reaching some concept of validity. “I think I’m getting an ulcer. Appropriate, huh?” 
“That’s what you were laughing about? Are you serious?” No smiles, her indifference shifting toward annoyance and eventually, disgust.

“Probably not, but it would just be another foreseen dilemma in my life at this point.” It was a poor conversation point and he knew it, definitely not one to be addressed at this juncture in the interface. He really wasn’t that callous, just too belligerently tired to afford not to be.

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaBeGroMo Update

Eh, I suppose it could be worse. We're nearing the end here. Is this a beard? Or scruff? Earlier this week it was described as 'peach fuzz.' Disappointing to think I may never grow a full beard. The plan for Dec. 1 however: mustache day. That I can handle.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dome Piece

Last night, I read a great story by Chris Balchelder -- "Eighth Wonder" -- featured in McSweeney's 32. The story is set in Houston, in the year 2024, following a series of storms that have left the city flooded and thousands of its residents shacked up in the Astrodome. "Eighth Wonder" struck so many chords for me: apocalypse, abandonment, re-appropriation, urbanism, domes.

The rule of three, as it were, has me writing about domes. First, my All You Can Eat proposal was mentioned on Peter Margittai Architects, LLC Facebook page. Second, I read the aforementioned Balchelder story about the Astrodome. Third, I learned that the Pontiac Silverdome was sold to a property manger for dirt cheap.

Apparently, Preservation Pittsburgh is working to retain the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. My plan came up as an example of adaptive reuse, even though the building program is identical. The only difference is the dome would be in Cleveland instead of Pittsburgh. Cleveland needs more dome, I say. Pop City presents differing views on adaptive re-use vs. demolition/redevelopment. The plan for transforming the structure into a versatile park space is intriguing, but it seems unlikely that the arena will remain past the completion of the Penguins' new facility, the Consol Energy Center. My Midtown Igloo proposal was created for selfish reasons, in that some of my best childhood memories took place in the Civic Arena -- from seeing the place ignite after Lemieux scored a goal, to Jagr winning playoff games in overtime, to buying tickets on the cheap during the down years.

Beyond the nostalgia, I believe it is necessary to attempt something higher than simply razing and starting from scratch. Looking at situations like Houston's Astrodome (abandoned, adjacent to the new Minute Maid (Enron) Field) and Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome (abandoned, blighted), one was once presented with grand utopian vision, civic pride, innovation. Now those sites convey decay.

I learned that the Silverdome structure and 127 acres of surrounding real estate were recently sold by the City of Pontiac at a no-reserve auction for $583,000. The arena was constructed at a cost of $55 million (approximately $220 million, adjusted 2009). As the sale was very recent, it remains to be seen whether the new owner, Canadian Andreas Apostolopoulos, will seek to demolish the Silverdome. It has been speculated that the new owner plans to use the building to house a major league soccer team.

At the end of the domed stadium lifecycle -- and this draws back to "Eighth Wonder" -- is to exist as a civic disaster recovery venue. Looking at Hurricane Katrina's effect on low income populations, forcing thousands of refugees to the Superdome and eventually the Astrodome as 'points of last refuge,' one can argue that tearing down such structures is unwise. The emergency contingency plan could serve as an additional program for adaptive reuse.

Revise these obsolete monuments to civic pride. Create a public space that can also function as a mini-city, should the need arise.

Related Links:
Reuse the Igloo Facebook group, on Silverdome sale

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Night Snow in the Cultural Gardens

The machine maneuvered the road nimbly, despite the snow that had accumulated four or six inches deep, falling steadily since the late afternoon. The car was new to Leo -- he had made much more money at work this year than last and decided to treat himself to German engineering. He opted for a model that was slightly smarter and nicer than his tastes, and he felt the need to impress the vehicle by performing tasks out of the ordinary. Like tonight: staying late at work simply to navigate the snow-covered roads after the sun had gone down.

Leo sped along the Shoreway, rapidly approaching the wake of a mammoth city snowplow. He passed the towering smokestacks that powered Cleveland. Off in the distance, he swore he saw a bright plume of fire between the branches of many many snow-logged trees. Snow lightning sparked with kinetic purple bursts. The spraying salt rattled against the front grill of his car, threatened to compromise the clear coat. Leo signaled left and pressed harder on the accelerator. He swung the car out into the passing lane. The thing held steady and pushed past the plow with nominal effort. Flakes clung to the windshield and wipers with increasing rapidity. The spiraling amber light atop the plow filled the inside of his car.

Soon, the truck was far in his rearview so Leo shifted back to the right lane and awaited his exit. Through the motor and the high velocity winds, Leo thought he heard an aggressive horn from a diesel truck. From behind all he saw was the puny flicker of the plow light, way back. He signaled right with the intent to exit.

As Leo predicted, MLK Blvd. sat neglected, snow-covered, empty, much like the depraved neighborhoods that surrounded it. The road, essentially a trench connecting the Shoreway to University Circle and Cleveland Heights, twisted through the Cultural Gardens. On his left and right sat foreign monuments -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Serbia -- and their flags, obscured despite spotlights by the white-out.

Leo could push his vehicle into the 30s before the traction control light would flash. A pair of serpentine lines would illuminate lime green on the dashboard. At 40, they shifted to yellow and the handling became loose toward the rear. The manual stated that the indicator would turn red to signal loss of control. It had not yet turned red for Leo.

He passed below St. Clair Ave pushing 40, sliding into a shallow turn, letting off the gas enough for the tires to catch and whip him through. In his rearview, he caught sight of two headlights dropping down onto MLK behind him. A rotating orange light signaled that this was another snow plow. Despite being a long distance behind him, the headlights reflected from the mirror into his eyes. Leo held a hand up to his face, nearly skidding into the curb. The mirror automatically corrected itself and with an internal mechanism dimmed the light. Briefly, Leo thought about how intelligent this vehicle was, how it made the decisions for him. He pushed harder in attempt to pull away from the plow.

Passing below a jagged stone bridge, he hit a patch of black ice and slid into the opposite lane of traffic, bounding off the far curb with wheels cut in the opposite direction. The left side of the car lifted off the ground and make a sickening scraping sound along the curb, then came back down in the road with a muffled thud. The traction control light was not on.

"Where were you on that one?" Leo asked, shaken.

The car idled.

Fortunately no one had been coming the other way, Leo thought. Then he remembered the plow truck. He turned around and peered through the bridge as if were a shark's mouth. He saw the thing stopped a few dozen feet back, headlights on, siren flashing. Leo wondered why the driver hadn't come over to see if he was alright. Why was it just sitting there?

For some time, Leo waited, hoping the truck would move past him and clear a path so that he wouldn't wipe out again. The snow continued to fall. The thermometer on his heads up display read -17 degrees. After a while, maybe 15 minutes, his back windshield was covered. Leo switched on the rear defroster. The plow had not moved. Leo saw that he was running low on gas, which was disconcerting because he'd had nearly a half tank upon leaving the office earlier. Maybe, he thought, snow driving consumed more. Either way, he very well couldn't sit there all night, waiting for the damn plow to go.

Leo released the parking brake and swung the car back into the correct lane, proceeding at a more gingerly pace than before. He noticed that the steering was not as responsive and assumed that a wheel had been knocked out of alignment when he struck the curb. He punched the steering wheel, annoyed that he would have to take the thing to maintenance so soon after buying it.

Halogen light pierced into his eyes, this time from the sideview mirrors. The plow gained on him rapidly. Leo pressed down on the accelerator, but the car kept pulling to the left and the traction light fluctuated between green and yellow. The plow kept moving up on him. Leo thought that maybe it was an illusion generated from the magnifying effect of the mirror. He attempted to resume a safer speed. The traction light disappeared.

With a tremendous jolt and clamor, Leo lurched forward. The plow had rammed him. The snow fell away from his back window and Leo's cockpit burned with high beams. The car began fishtailing wildly. Leo corrected and accelerated, still blind from the intense light. But he was fighting the road surface here and his vehicle was fishtailing without help from the truck. The traction control flashed red. An exclamation point framed by a triangle appeared on the heads up display. The plow slammed him again. All things were white and yellow and bright.

To his right, Leo caught sight of a side street and swung the car off MLK. The plow caught the back corner of his car and directed it, sliding, into a telephone pole on a small island. The plow continued on, never slowing, crackling salt in concentric circles, like birdseed littered before a park bench in summer.

Leo hugged the airbag, smelled a combination of ozone, compressed air, radiator fluid and gasoline. In the front of the car, he heard a sort of sizzling, and all around him, clicking sounds. Not necessarily sore, but extremely shaken up, Leo reached for the door and opened it, stepped outside. His leather shoes disappeared into the snow drift, as did his pants up to the knee. He shut the door and trudged over to inspect the damage. As he expected, it was hard to tell where the telephone pole ended and his car began. The thing was lodged deep into the front end. Around back, his bumper was dented and cracked from the plow striking it. Though he didn't know much about it, he knew his car was totaled.

He went to grab his phone out of the console, reached for the door handle. It wouldn't budge. Somehow, the car had locked when he stepped out. He recalled some sort of safety mechanism that would lock the doors if the engine was off and the car was left untended beyond a certain amount of time. Leo thought he had not been out of the car for very long, but then again, the thing may have malfunctioned due to the trauma. Either way, he thought, I'm stuck out here.

He flipped out the lapels on his overcoat and hugged his arms around himself. His adrenaline flow had ebbed and he felt despair setting in. He heard nothing of the plow -- only the high pitch of wind between bare branches. And footsteps. Rapid footsteps. Approaching. A growl.

Leo caught sight of several hunched, four-legged figures descending from the wooded slope to his right. Their eyes flashed yellow in the street lights, the color of his traction control warning beacon. The dogs' eyes flashed of wild. First there were four, then two more, then two more, all as black as the night. They staggered their numbers, split in two groups and approached the car, heads low, ears back. Leo remained cautious, did not panic, not right away. He ineffectively tried to open a back door to his car. The lead dog caught sight of this move, bared its teeth, raised the mangy hair on its back. If the thing barked, Leo would have worried less, but it did not. The silent dogs were the ones to worry about. These dogs did not make a sound.

The lead dog, 4 feet tall and pitch black, approached the telephone pole. It lifted its leg and urinated, then jumped on the hood. Teeth bared, it let loose a growl. The dogs behind it broke into a dead run at Leo. He fled around the back of his car, cutting left across a small bridge spanning a creek. The dogs pursued. Once across the bridge, he drew them into a long field leading up a hill out of the Cultural Gardens and into a neighborhood. The snow had drifted here and was very deep. Leo was having trouble making progress, but glancing over his shoulder, he could see the dogs were likewise, but they were still gaining. Near the summit, he slipped and scrambled to regain traction. He found his stride but the delay proved costly, for one of the dogs had clamped on to the back of his coat. It writhed its head wildly. Tearing the buttons off, Leo allowed the coat to slip over his shoulders and he kept running. Looking back, he saw two of the dogs wrestling over the coat, but the other six were still in pursuit.

Clearing the treeline, he entered into Glenville. Straight ahead, a burning house lit the sky. Its heat radiated and the light shone like a halo around the snow. Leo jumped down into the street, ran closer to the blaze. He turned. The dogs, panting, had stopped at the treeline. The fire must have startled them. Slowly they faded from the light, vaporizing like the steam from their snouts into the atmosphere.

Wearing only his work shirt and pants, Leo approached the warmth. A man stood in the sidewalk staring up at the inferno. The house used to be one of those Cleveland doubles, with a porch and balcony in the front and about six bedrooms, all wood construction. Everything went up. The man had a large wool blanket draped over his shoulders. Leo came to stand next to this man with face covered in soot. The man, never casting a sideways glance to meet Leo's, nodded. He swung the blanket over Leo's shoulders as well and the two drew closer together for warmth.

Leo scanned the distance for a hint of the Fire Department, a red siren, but all he could see were sporadic orange lights -- snow plows.

The roof buckled and collapsed, sending timbers inward toward the center of the building. Red hot embers launched upwards into the sky, collided head-on with stark white snow falling down.

Monday, November 23, 2009

DeBiase Motor Co.

Back in High School -- and Mike Sokol can back me up here -- I started an ironic car company called DBMC (DeBiase Motor Company). It was not much of a company beyond me talking about it to Mike. I managed to spec out a few cars while on study hall at the library. The spec sheets were drawn on lined comp paper and usually featured a poorly drawn profile of the car. DBMC did little more than poke fun at other cars out there.

Example: DBMC Bunyon - a gigantic SUV that requires JATO rockets to get it going, as well as a six-mile long driveway. On the dashboard GPS monitor, 'PURGE' will flash when the correct mixture of jet fuel has been reached. That way, the driver knows to sit back while the vehicle accelerates to several hundred miles per hour. Eventually the Bunyon settles to a normal highway speeds, where it maintains fuel mileage of 4 gallons : 1 mile.

I had another concept car named the Fission that ran on uranium and/or plutonium (I never did well in Chemistry). The car was extremely fuel efficient, in that it could drive about a million miles without replacing the radioactive core, but it was terrible in head-on collisions. Two Fissions, moving at speeds of 25 mph, colliding head-on, could level 20 city blocks. Rear end collisions fared slightly better, with 5-10 blocks damage.

I guess I am not the first one to have stumbled upon this nuclear car idea. Ford had it in the late fifties. Their atomic car, the Nucleon, never got beyond a concept, but it was intended to get a measly 5,000 miles before refueling. Ahem, the Fission fares, much much better in that department. I came across the Nucleon while paging through a coffee table book of mine: Automobile Year 1958-1959. This got me thinking about the Fission -- kind of a postmodern Nucleon, if you will.

The Nucleon:

Here is a preliminary sketch I dug up from the deBiase archives:

And a more recent rendering, inspired by my run in with
Auto Year '59:

I imagine this car doing immensely well in sales in the mountainous region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. For some reason those Pakistanis/Afghans can't get enough of the Fission. Always buying them up in pairs though. We just can't seem to ship them fast enough. Word is Iran is still attempting production on it's own Fission-like vehicle, much to our chagrin at DBMC.

At DBMC, we intend to control all markets, from the Midwest to the Middle East.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

VIDEO: How to Survive a Car Wreck

The following video was presented at Pecha Kucha Night Cleveland on Sept. 25, 2009, as part of The Bridge Project. Turnout was pretty astounding for the event, as the CLE P-K organizers estimate that about 300 people stood witness.

This is actually a condensed version of a story that was published in
Picayune, the literary journal of New Mexico Highlands University. For a while, the full story lived on this site, but I have taken it down to encourage people to pick up Picayune.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Editor's note

I realize I have fallen behind on my posting this week. I took a business trip to Albuquerque (no wrong turns, fortunately) and ended up working some long days. I spent a lot of time traveling and without regular access to the Internet, nor any energy to get something up here.

I do have some posts lined up and I will try to back-log them over the course of the weekend. So, check back often, friends.