Thursday, May 31, 2007

Imaginary Friends

Justin and I conjured some phony friends in an effort to wax poetic on the rambunctious fraternalis style of partying that we so came to detest after three years in college. Our wholly imaginary cohorts epitomized the popped-collar lifestyle. There were four or five of them (it’s hard to remember exactly how many, because we were so fucking blackout wasted every time we hung out with them).

The main man (not our main man; the main man) was Doogie. He was in charge. Always bought the Bud Light, which, consequently, was what we were there for.
“I’m just here for the Bud Light,” Justin or I would say. In fact, we pretty much started that phrase. The commercials copied us. Seriously, dude.

There was Scooter. No, his name wasn’t Scott. No, he didn’t ride a scooter. He just wanted a nickname that sounded kinda like Doogie. Scootie (his preferred moniker) really liked Doogie. It got awkward at times.

T-Bone was the token black guy. He could be the center of attention or leave whenever the hell he wanted. Pretty babies loved da Bone. He hated it when Justin and I would say that.

It was easy to forget about Kevin. He was completely unremarkable in every way. He was always there, though, and usually brought the Bud Light. Kevin was the transportation, since Doogie got a Dewey driving his girlfriend back to her dorm after a homecoming party.

And my personal favorite, hands down, was Lazy Man. He’s not to be confused with the chair. Chairs were for boys, and Lazy was a man. He was always laying down, always catching some z’s. Dude had a whole couch specifically for himself. Super Bowls, lacrosse parties, mudwrestling, Lazy kept snoozing. He was a rock. Managed to bang more girls than the whole house combined, Justin and me included. Chicks seem to go for the dudes who just don’t give no shits.

These were our bras, our dudes, our servants and our served. The six or seven of us (it’s hard to remember how many, exactly) had what the kids like to call ‘times.’ Can’t seem to recall most of them, come to think about it, but they were there.

It should be mentioned, once more, that these people were imaginary.

As is what often happens with imaginary friends, they slowly faded into obscurity. Justin fell deeper and deeper into his career as a drummer. Before I knew it, he was a member of close to 15 bands. I increased my immersion in student media, juggling roles as popular arts correspondent for the paper, college radio DJ, co-moderator of a creative writing forum, and all-around indie socialite. It became harder and harder to hang with Doogie, Scooter, T-Bone, and Lazy Man. Oh, and Kevin. Always forget about him.

Last fall, Justin came to me with a request. Claiming to be in great appreciation of my writing, he asked me to construct an artist bio for him. This profile would be utilized in the pursuit of sponsorships from drum companies. I graciously accepted this request, thanking Justin for thinking so highly of me.

I sat on the project for a few weeks but couldn’t find the motivation to produce a professional biography for one of my best friends. Justin prodded me for results. I had none to display. He grew angry and threatened to have his sister write the thing. I respectfully asked for another week. Justin allowed it.

Then, inexplicably, on a bus to Chicago, I found inspiration, channeling the long dormant voice of our party friends, our dudes, our bras. In particular, the voice of Scooter seemed to cry out from deep within me. I popped my collar, reached into my satchel, removed my Moleskine notepad, clicked my pen, and began to write while scenic Indiana whisked past.

The letter, the bio, the result, compliments of Scooter:

Dear Drum Peeps:

Justin Housemann, that guy’s a hot shot. I mean, his dick’s huge. And his car is totally sweet. It’s this black civic with a kick ass muffler and a stick. He fucking flies around town in that shit, blasting the turbos. He’d blast the stereo if it had one. But he’s so sweet, he doesn’t need music. He is music. His dick is huge. If his dick was a drum, it’d be, like, a gong or some shit. That’s funny, a dong-gong. Funny shit.

Yeah, he’s a drummer, if you couldn’t tell. Dumb ass. God, what the fuck else would that guy do? Fuck his girlfriend, that’s what. Dude, she is hot. Fucking smoking. Doogie and me were talking about how we want to run a train on her. Justin can join in too, I don’t give no shits. Shit, I’d fuck him. And I only fuck chicks. But I’d fuck him. Justin wouldn’t fuck me, though. He’s too sweet. You know what? If a dude tried to fuck him, Justin would kick the shit out of him. Then he’d fuck his girlfriend in front of that dude, then he’d play drums for 17 hours on his face. Justin Housemann is drums. It’s, like, in his blood or, like, in his dick. That thing’s huge. That means he’s a huge drummer.

Why am I telling you this? Shut up, don’t ask questions, pussy. I’ll tell you why. Because you’re giving him your money. Sponsor him or some shit or whatever. Either way, bra needs money. Else he’s coming down there and making a drum out of your face with his dick. Huge. That thing’s huge.

All I’m gonna say, dude. Justin gets pissed when you talk about him too much. Shit, he’s gonna play drums on my face. Give him your fucking money, d-bag. Peace, dawg.

Much love and peace and respect or whatever,

--Gavin “Scooter” Pierson

Scooter’s voice quickly fled after this outburst. Afterwards, I never could bring myself (though I tried) to write a serious account of Justin’s drumming career. It had something to do with the completeness of Scooter’s account. What more is there to say, really? As an aside, I believe Justin’s sister ultimately wrote his professional bio. I blamed my failure on our party friends. Neither Justin nor I came in contact with this group of friends ever again. That’s one of the benefits of imaginary friends—they’re there when you need them, but not offended when you don’t. Farewell, bras.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Repair work

I awoke with a great revelation.


Despite my hang-over and the steady throb of a rather poor evening, I felt optimistic. My bike was back. I had spent the previous day shaving off the rust, oiling the chain, patching holes in the inner tube. Over the course of last winter, the bike sat neglected below a Kent balcony, slowly rusting away. I rescued it and, following a recent slew of sunny days, garnered the motivation to fix the thing, once and for all.

Following my repair work, I took it for a ride around the block. That was enough to make me winded. My legs were rubbery and I felt, briefly, like the shit had been kicked out of me. But riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike, and it will only be a matter of time before it whips me back into shape. Then the world will be at my disposal. I’ll feel the wind whipping past my face, as my mobility and independence increase exponentially.

All this ran through my splitting head as I rolled out of bed and made my way into the kitchen. I poured myself a cup of coffee. Last night’s failures came flooding forth. Too much beer. Too many damned excuses. Every word slurring into the next. I would have chalked the night up as a loss, but reconsidered. I had accomplished at least one thing that weekend.


Thursday, May 24, 2007



I say it out loud. Don’t know why so much. Just had to say it out loud. Staring at some bocce court, just outside the clubhouse. If it wasn’t the billiard inside during the chilly winter months, when the palm trees would rustle and bend a bit, it was the bocce court in the spring. Always out in this thing, chucking little clay balls at each other, like shot-put upside down.

The court is gravel, grey, and full of divots. There is one obstruction, a pile of pebbles hardened together, that always made him cuss and chomp down on the cigar. I bend down and pick up a few stray hedge leaves from the nearest end board. Kick at a mangled plastic black & mild mouthpiece. Little teeth marks, speckles of dirt, over and over again as it rolls near the center line.

Glance over at the pool. It’s covered. Water pilates won’t start for a few months, once the snow birds come back.

Rick Dino is in the Jacuzzi. He always asks me to join him. 'C’mon Phyliss, you old bird,' he says, 'Drop that old housecoat and jump in.'

I’d tell him he’s out of line, that he’s too fresh for me. Then he’ll say something about the bubbles being good for his angina. I know when they stop, when the soup stops simmering, that I’ll see his little sausage swimming below the surface. It’s no secret. Trunks sit by the step. The water smells like undershirts after too much Chlorox, and I’ll always see, though I’ve never seen, that little finger bobbing up and down. I can climb in with him now, I know, but it’s chilly here in the Winter.

The park is quiet these days, and the trailer lights, set on security timers, burn dim after the sky fades from pink to purple to navy. And black. Right now it’s deep dusk and those poolside lights, burnt orange lamps, they are inviting. The Dino-saur is not, so much, but I think about it. Fondle the top button on my paisley print housecoat. Reconsider. If I drop the thing at tub’s edge, it’ll get covered in all these little leaves. End up looking like the nine hole mini-putt next to the shuffle board courts.

It’ll feel like me, all dirty and used and trampled on. Dried veins clinging to faded fabric. And then there’s Dino’s little package, a surprise over one of the jets. Can’t do it, not yet.

Sofie zips by on her electric Cart-boy.

‘Hi Phyliss, enjoying the night air?’

I put my hand up to wave, but she’s already around the corner, buzzing over the wooden bridge that crosses the pond. No fisherman this late in the season. Or is early in the season? Doesn’t matter either way. The Arbor Oaks Residents’ Committee hasn’t stocked that pond for three years. Never mattered to me. Never mattered to those dumb sonsabitches that stood out there, day in and day out, with fishing poles and limp lines and no bites. Never any biting.

I’ve had enough of this night. A Dino-saur arm comes out of his broth, a hairy trunk making semicircles in the air.

'C’mon over, Phyl-bird.'

Not tonight. I’m heading back to my trailer. Kick another cigar mouthpiece in the middle of the sidewalk. It dribbles into a mossy joint between the cement. Settles after rocking back and forth a few times.



*This was a prompt provided by Charles Parsons of Let's Work With Orphans. "Describe a landscape seen through the eyes of an old woman whose detestable husband has just died. Mention neither the husband nor the death." Give yourself twenty minutes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I realize it has been a long time since last posting to NOMENCLATURE. For that, I apologize. As opposed to posting something of substance, I decided it best to gitchyall caught up on my life, of late.
  • Right now, at this very second, I am compiling one of those iTunes’ "Soundtrack to Your Life" playlists. You shuffle your library and the resultant list (supposedly) tells the story of your life. I caught wind of this via Let’s Work With Orphans, which, in turn, caught wind of it via Kent media mogul William Techmeyer. As opposed to listing the tracks here and now, I’ll instead refer you to the comment I posted on the LWWO site. As a pretentious audiophile, I’ve already mapped my life out via the mixtape, and can say, quite honestly, that I would have chosen differently most of the time. But this list did make me laugh on occasion.

  • Speaking of mixtapes, I’ve been working diligently at my ‘Phenomenology of the Mixtape’ project. The essay will build upon the framework provided by Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, in terms of the correct way to construct a mix and its social properties. Over the years, I’ve made many a mix, and have come to view myself (what with my tenure as a college radio DJ and hopeless romantic) as a preeminent critic of mixology. Stay tuned to rockitecture. these next few weeks for developments.

  • Feist’s new album, The Reminder, is pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me. This optimistic LP is perfect for the warm weather months. My favorite track is "I Feel it All." Keeping in the mixtape spirit, the song fits neatly between Arrah and the Ferns’ “Skylark” and Jose Gonzalez’s “Crosses” on a mix.

  • I’ve been working on some short fiction projects at the request of people who are far more creative than me, and thusly, have more control over my work than, say, I do. The fiction pieces may end up on here, but that will come at the behest of my publisher, whomever he or she may be, as these people have very rigid rules as to who may or may not read their publishee’s work. In all actuality, these short stories could propel me into a new tax bracket. NOMECLATURE may very well become a subscription site—THESE STORIES AND MORE FOR ONLY TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS AN HOUR!
  • Don’t worry, I’ll prorate it for you.

  • The guys at Algebra Teahouse on Murray Hill Road just gave me a free falafel sandwich. This place keeps getting better and better. If you’ve never been, Algebra is an independent coffee shop in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland Heights. It’s replaced the Lee Road Library as my bastion of creativity. And for one reason: milkshakes.
  • Seriously though, the place is really nurturing. The bohemian décor and avant-garde clientèle make it quite the conducive writing space. My heart and soul throb with inspiration. It often feels like indigestion, but a good sort of indigestion, like you know you’ll feel so much better once it’s out of you. There’s something about freeform wood furniture that lights a fire inside me, you know? The contingent of artists that run the place are assembling a creative writing ‘zine called the Cleveland Reader. The free bi-monthly publication is accepting submissions for poetry, prose, photos, and graphic novels. If any writers or artists out there are interested, talk to someone from Algebra; they’d be more than happy to help.
  • I proposed a concept for a Cleveland-based live action comic book. Under the working title “The Adventures of NOMENCLATOR,” the project will deal with finding creativity in a shrinking post-industrial city. Here is an early production panel:

  • Just bought a bag of Reese’s Pieces from a girl that wandered into Algebra. She said it’s for her sister’s new uniform at Charles Dickens. I know who Charles Dickens is, but have no idea what or where. I’m assuming it’s a place, or, maybe, a state of mind. . .
  • I do know that I like Reese’s Pieces.

  • I performed at Carrie Callahan's Chucklef*ck Comedy Show a few weeks ago. No, I am not trying to break into stand-up comedy, though I did read a “humourous” essay on the theft of my car.
  • I’m hoping to perform, with the help of burgeoning urban designer/architectural critic, Theodore Ferringer, a new piece on the re-re-branding of Cleveland. We plan to satirize the Cleveland 2.0 project. This should be ready to launch in two to three weeks.
  • Chucklef*ck: where comedy, urban design, and shoegaze come to hang out and do whatever.

  • And, finally, heading to Chicago this weekend. One of the best parts of living in Cleveland: going someplace else.
  • Kidding, of course.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Man in the Quarry

One warm afternoon in early June, Amy and I decided to go for a bike ride. She called off work, I called off work, and that was that. The day was ours. We stood in her kitchen and drank iced coffee to prepare for the excursion. Planning went no further. We would go where our cycles took us, hell to all.

Amy and I departed with the hope of stumbling onto a paved trail that led west along the Mighty Cuyahoga, toward Stow. Instead we found ourselves ineffectually navigating the back roads of West Kent. Amy couldn’t quite remember how to reach the trail, so we let our adventurers’ spirits run wild. We crossed a dilapidated bridge that had been blocked with 3’ tall dirt mounds at each side to impede the progress of intrepid journeymen like ourselves. Passage was not that difficult. We were able step over the far edge of the mound where the dirt was not piled as high. Then Amy handed me the bikes. The bridge spanned a series of railroad tracks below. We stopped in the middle, hoping to see a train rattle past.

Our attention wavered when a guy on a motorcycle jumped the mound at our left. He had his girlfriend step off the back of his cycle before he did it. He executed the task with aplomb, as the front tire came down with a squeal upon the wooden surface of the bridge. Then he accelerated again and catapulted himself over the second jump. His girlfriend ran after him and became a bit tripped up when confronted with the dirt mounds. She gave us a breathy and uncomfortable “Hi,” as if to say: “He does this all the time.” We wondered how far she would have to run that day.

After about 15 minutes, Amy and I decided to abandon the train idea, and crossed the bridge. Immediately to our right was a tree-lined dirt road that led down a ravine. It screamed for cyclists, so I signaled with my right hand and turned inside. We made sure to casually ignore the ‘NO TRESPASSING: THIS MEANS YOU!’ and ‘HOURS OF OPERATION: [blank]’ signs that lined both sides of the road. I assumed that the signs were geared more towards solicitors than a pair of benign bikers. The road dipped in front of us and we rode down a steep hill and across some railroad tracks. An attractive McMansion sat at the bottom of the ravine. The house butted against a man-made pond. A dozen or so geese relaxed along the water’s edge and I used my momentum down the hill to scatter their ranks.

“Whoa!” I yelled, kicking my legs as if I were out of control.

Amy laughed.

We found a road that led behind the house and began a climb above what appeared to be a rock quarry. To our left, up a bit higher, ran the railroad tracks we had crossed. A few hundred feet to the right, on the other side of the quarry, a red pickup truck sped back toward the house. The dust trail lingered long after the truck had gone. I began to worry about the signs that marked the entrance to this place.

We stopped before the road turned us back toward the entrance. Just beyond the turn, a diesel tractor hacked at high grass in a sloped field. Amy and I hoped to find a path at the tree line bordering the pasture. Very much wanting out of the place, we rode, as best as we could manage, through the high grass. We made it about halfway before the drone of the mower ceased.


I turned and saw Amy drifting over to the man on the tractor.

“How did you two get in here?” he asked, removing his Caterpillar cap and mopping the sweat off his bald scalp.

Amy pointed vaguely in the direction we had come. As she was a woman (and he, an older man; lest a heavy-set older man; lest a lonely, bald, heavy-set older man on a tractor), Amy was better suited to do the talking. “Do you know how we can get out of here?” she asked.

“The way you come in,” he said, irritated at our lack of direction.

“Okay,” Amy began speaking rapidly, as she had a habit of doing. “We just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a path back here that we could take.”

“Uh-uh,” the guy grumbled, “only one way out. I’m surprised the owner didn’t see you. He was just through here in his truck. He doesn’t take kindly to visitors. I’m working. Only reason I’m here.”

“Well, we’ll just be on our way then.” Amy climbed back on the pedals. “So, that way?”

“Yeah, and I’d hurry if I was you. He’ll run you right outta’ here.”

We began to retrace our tracks. Luckily, the terrain allowed us a down slope so we could pick up some speed before passing the house. There would still be that steep climb to get back onto the main road. It could cause a problem if the mysterious owner attempted pursuit. But we’d climb that hill when we came to it. Our dust trails rose higher and higher as we began to pick up speed.

I looked over at Amy.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” she said.

“Full steam ahead, I guess.”

A train whistle sounded in the distance. The flight began. The shifters clicked. The chains shuddered into high gears.

We hit a straightaway that put us in a direct line-of-sight with the house and the red pickup truck that had come to rest beside it. We were exposed for about a minute-and-a-half as we pedaled as fast as we could down the hill. To reduce drag, I tucked my body low to the frame. Amy and I flew past the house and had reached a healthy speed to carry us most of the way up the hill. The problem was that a passing train had cut off our intended exit vector.

The road forked at the crossing: turning right would run us into the train, turning left, though potentially dangerous, would afford us some more distance from the house. Instead of waiting for the train to pass, we continued our burn past the crossing and along another dirt road, which continued to leave us exposed to the man in the truck. We were still making good progress, but had begun another climb. Our momentum waned. We were in uncharted territory. My legs burned and I turned back to see how Amy was faring.

The red truck, right behind her, spat dust trails at it approached. The cab bobbed up and down in a frenzied rage. I stopped. It pulled alongside Amy, nearly knocking her over. We had been caught. The old man in the truck wasted no time.

“What the fuck you doin’ here?” he belted at us. “Can’t you read or you just ig’nant?”

Amy was a woman—he, an old man. I thought it best for her to field this one. She shrugged jokingly. “Eh. . .”

He wasn’t laughing. I glanced inside his truck. It was covered in dust: caked across the dashboard and steering wheel, the inside and outside of the windshield, obscuring the mirrors, over the visor of his John Deere hat. I imagined a permanent layer smeared against the walls of his nasal cavity and lungs and innards.

“Well, we got lost in the woods,” she lied breathily. The recent exertion had caused her to speak even faster. “We found a path that came out over there.” She gestured vaguely in the direction from whence we came.


“Over there, by the guy on the tractor. He told us to come this way.”

“Didn’t fucking think to go back, or you just stupid? You from ‘round here?”

“We go to the University. We didn’t know—“

“You fucking kids think you can go wherever the fuck you want. Just do whatever. So fucking free and easy. I’m just some fucking asshole who lives down here. Don’t give no shits about nothing. Never—“

Amy cut to the quick. “Sir, how do we get out of here?” She said this quickly.

“Fuck you.”

“So, straight then?”

He gestured in a way that could be vaguely considered a nod. “Get the fuck out of here.”

“We were leaving anyway,” Amy said. “So, this way?” She pointed more directly.

“Get out.

Get out.

Get out.

Get out.

Get out.”

The old man in the quarry faded into the distance, as we spit our own dust trails back at him. A hundred feet later, we reached a locked gate that led onto the main road. I bent low and crawled beneath the rusty arm. Amy slid the bikes to me.

“Another hundred feet and we would have made it,” I said.

“Yeah, fuck that guy,” Amy said after she slid out.

Our bikes had become covered in dust that dried out our chains, gears, and bearings. Our throats were dry; our zeal was dry. The dust had inundated every facet of our beings. It had settled into our innards. Amy and I squeaked and groaned the whole way back to her house. We sat on her front porch, drank iced coffee, dusted each other off, and reflected on living life free and easy.