Friday, November 30, 2007

NaBeGroMo Update

STATUS: Glad this month is fucking over; my beard is terrible

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Man Under the Bridge

I try to spot something new each time I take the train into town. The stretch between University Circle and E.79 is visually stunning, with graffiti covering vast segments of the cement retaining walls and railroad trestles. Mostly tags, the spraypainted or airbrushed designs are artfully done and sometimes span 30’ segments of the multi-tiered walls.

Lately, I’ve been spotting the creation of new tags. Brief outlines have been appearing around areas previously painted over by the city. I noticed a new design sprouting about a month ago, but the progress has been slow.

Closer to Tower City, around E. 9th, the train passes under a bridge where someone has set up residence. On most days, a solitary plastic lawn chair stands sentinel at the edge of the valley. Assorted trash bags litter the area around the chair – another telltale sign that someone is holing up there.

Yesterday, I saw the man walking around up there. It appeared as if he was hanging pairs of pants from the trestlework. He was at least 50’ above us and the train moves fast, so I was only able to catch sight of him for about a second. He was just a dark figure doing his laundry underneath a bridge. Shortly thereafter, my train disappeared below Tower City and I went about my day as usual.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


That which pulled me out of my annual mid-February slump -- the time of year when winter really gets to me and I seem to strike new lows -- was neither a woman nor a large sum of money. It was not a vacation to warmer climes, or the promise of a job I was pulling for. My hex of ill will and poor attitude was broken when, after two months of unemployment, I took work as a server at a Lebanese restaurant.

I had recently graduated from college, moved to Cleveland, and failed to find a real job. I surveyed my options locally – bakery, bookstore, bagel shop, supermarket. At the month-and-a-half mark for my joblessness, I had nearly drained my bank account, and any purchase of more than ten dollars would have me ringing my neck. I could no longer buy my own food, and realized my life had struck a new low when I had to ask one of my roommates to buy me a loaf of bread. Shortly thereafter, I was offered a job at the restaurant.

I started my serving job on the 15th of February – typically the pinnacle of the mid-Feb. slump. I nodded sternly and politely as various Lebanese entrees were thrust in my face and named. My first day was spent acquiring the nomenclature of the menu – a combination of Arabic and terms the owner had made up.

At the end of the day, in a gesture of immense goodwill, my manager offered me a meal to take home. I had not yet experienced any of the menu items, though I did mention that I liked falafel and hummus. Dany procured me a Vegetarian Combo – a large appetizer consisting of hummus, tabouli, baba, falafel, and dawali. I took it home.

The Combo can easily feed 4 as an appetizer, but for me, having not eaten anything other than cheese and ramen for the last 3 weeks, this was to be my meal. I gorged, mopping up the baba and tabouli with pita, shoving that into my mouth and almost biting off my fingertips. It felt as if I hadn’t eaten in a month. In a way, I hadn’t. I considered leaving a little behind for my roommates when they got home, then reconsidered, and finished it all myself.

Overstuffed and satiated, I stumbled onto the couch and turned on The Simpsons. For the first time in quite a while, I could get comfortable and relax. I was full.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

excerpt from my memoirs, Bocced Up: My Life Interpreted Through the Great Sport of Bocce Ball

The Old Man

Maybe he’d always lingered on the long benches beside the sand courts at the Alta House in Little Italy. As our bocce team, Cinque Piu Uno, began practicing there more and more, the old man’s face seemed to show up with increasing frequency. He was a short man, maybe 5’-4” or so, and usually wore the same clothes, the same shoes – white short-sleeved dress shirt, black slacks, and black tennis shoes.

One beautiful, warm evening in early June, Jdubbs, Thed, and I were rolling back and forth, having a friendly little practice when the old man came over and sat on the bench. He was old as hell, I could tell. Upon seeing him, dubbs perked up and got one of his grand notions, which are very easily discernable if you’ve known him long enough. His eyes flare and he exudes a determined aura, as if nothing can stand in his way. Dubbs made his throw, got his bocce inside and scored a point. Then he went over to the bench and sat down next to the old man.

Thed and I stood around and kicked at the balls while dubbs and the old man conversed. They spoke with brevity and both stood and approached our court. Jdubbs informed us that we were starting a new game.

"This is Antonio," Jdubbs said, "he’s going to play."

Thed and I shook his hand; introduced ourselves.

"You roll much?" I asked, putting on my best bocce pantomime.

"Eh, lil bit," Antonio said with a heavy Italian accent. He moved his hand back and forth in a ‘so-so’ manner.

"Who’s team do you want to be on, Antonio?" dubbbs asked.

The man’s ageless eyes flicked indiscriminately between dubbs, Thed, and myself. Eventually, he pointed at Thed.

"Eh, you."

Dubbs and I had been practicing close to three times a week since discovering the courts at the Alta House and we came to think pretty highly of ourselves. Thed came along intermittently, but was streaky and often skipped out on practice to spend time with his new lady friend. When Antonio picked Thed, dubbs and I assumed he had unknowingly provided us the advantage. As two young, virile twenty-somethings, we would show the old man and the flake who was boss.

During the first frame, our team got inside with a couple marginal tosses, as the two balls Thed threw went wide. Then Antonio stepped onto the court and readied himself with a stance none of us had ever seen before. With his left leg forward, he rested most of his weight on the right leg behind him. His right hand hung at his side, clutching the bocce. He took a two-step gallop and sidearmed the bocce at our inside ball. As the sphere left his grasp, he let out a moan from deep within his Italian soul.


His ball collided with ours and shot it out of range of the pallino. Then he sailed their forth and final bocce safely inside and scored a point.

It can’t be said that Thed and Antonio trounced us, though they did win decisively. By the end, Jdubbs and I were sweaty with shame and defeat.

"You’re pretty good," I said. "Looking for a team?"

"Eh, I play a lil," Antonio said. "Win trophy here long time ago. Friends, eh, they no around anymore to play."

We made sure Antonio knew that he was welcome to roll with us anytime. And that he should think about entering the tourney at the end of the month.

"Eh, I dunno," he shrugged, "I jus’ a old man."

Archive 1
Archive 2
Archive 3

Monday, November 26, 2007

VIDEO: Merely Conventional Signs

Here is a short film I wrote/directed a little over a year ago about the near-death and eventual resurgence of punctuation in the 21st century. The film stars a great many Kent celebrities, including Ryan Downey, Elaine Hullihen, Erin Roof, and Douglas Hite. The film was produced by Laura Hannah and myself, and shot and edited by Leslie Cusano. The concept derived from a section of Lynn Truss's book on punctuation, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. The film was received well by the Fundamental English Grammar class for which it was produced, but was a disappointing snub by the Kent Film Festival in early 2007.

The quality of this version is very poor and for that I apologize. Look for a high res. version in the relative future.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fantasy Hockey Update*

Despite Slow Start, Benign Sharks Doing Swimmingly

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio, Nov. 25 /YahooSports/ -- The Lake Erie Benign Sharks have already suffered through many trials and tribulations during this young fantasy hockey season. After being dealt the last pick in the first round of the draft, their selection, center Jason Spezza, went down with a strained groin within the first month. Round two selection, RW Jaromir Jagr, has impressed few this winter, and continues to whine about his struggles.

A goaltending controversy cost the team many wins, along with inconsistent scoring and a complete lack of chemistry. The Benign Sharks quickly lived up to their namesake.

“I’m not sure where that name came from,” said head coach A.T. Bails, a Cleveland native and bail bonds salesman by day. “I didn’t find out what it meant til last week. Saw a man doin a crossword puzzle across from me on the RTA. 36 down: BENIGN: Gentle; kindly. Ain’t no name for a hockey team, ya ask me.”

Sources close to the organization believe the title was originally meant to be ironic. Now, though, it seems the name may have taken on a literal meaning.

“Yes, if I had say, I might name team Knife Sharks,” said RW Mikael Samuelsson, “or Machine Gun Sharks. Not Benign. In my country, there is no word for that.”

When asked for a close approximation, Samuelsson said, “Oh, maybe ‘limp’ or ‘weak’ or ‘to be like woman.’ When I call home, if I tell family I play for Benign Sharks, they no understand. Think me disgraced.”

All is not lost, though. The level of play has certainly risen over the last few weeks, and the group is settling into their new practice space at the Cleveland Convention Center. However, a few practices were cancelled when a bass fishermen’s convention came into town.

“I came to work, saw all those dead fish, said, ‘you gotta be shittin’ me!’” said Bails. “I coulda been sellin my bonds. Got kids to feed. Shit. But, I guess we better off than last year when (management) told us to practice on the lake. Muthafucker wasn’t frozen!”

The new motto hanging in the locker room is ‘Benign Baby Steps.’ For a struggling team, this is a necessary disclaimer. They can no longer move backwards, or even laterally; it must be forward, no matter how minuscule.

“Shit, I guess a little step in the right direction is aight,” said Bails, “But a 32-51-22 record? Fuck, that’s bad. Ain’t nothing benign about that shit.”

Optimism is not in short supply around the Convention Center these days.

“If I call family to say we win, they happy,” said Samuelsson, “but I say team called Virile Sharks. And that I happy to play here. Sometime, you have to lie to family.”

Great seats are still available for next week’s match-up against the Flying Dutchmen.

*My team is terrible. This was inspired by a post on a fantasy football team from Let's Work With Orphans.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Light Up Night

Riding the train from Tower City,
our feet rest in a pile of unprepared
farina like footprints in sand.
‘This is where I carried you,’
I say, and she smiles.

Front seat, rear car, a window to the right,
a window dead ahead. Reflection
of us – scarved, gloved, overcoated,
your head resting on my shoulder,
my arm across the back of seat.

Rickety train, low frequency of clangs
and pops, like holding your nose
underwater and trying to exhale.
Some cars are louder than others.
This one is not quiet.
Not so much.

Alexandra tells me that the trains
in Japan are better.
She does not elaborate.
‘Things are better in Japan,’
she says as we pass the mills.
A flame, a plume atop a stack
standing vigil over Industry.

Closing my eyes, I consider
The Notion of Japan
going there.
Hassler, at Kent, he did it.
Wrote a book about it. Or two.
Ohio Poet of the Year.
I could do that. Not so much
the poetry but maybe the books.
Fish out of water short stories
Times 10 over 125 pages.

The train shudders to a halt.
I open my eyes. Too dark
to make out anything
but graffiti under the bridge.
Alex asks where we are;
Almost home?
Judging by the artwork:
‘East 105. Ours is next.’

Friday, November 23, 2007

NaBeGroMo Update

So it seems that National Beard Growing Month might be slightly larger than originally perceived. The pool of facial hair talent that was once myself, Thed, Charles Parsons and Mike Sokol now includes at least three other people nationwide. Googling NaBeGroMo produces about 15 relevant results.

So run your combs a little deeper tonight, fellas. Filter out the lint and potato chip crumbs from that upper lip har. There are more of us out there than one might think. We are writers, artists, musicians, scholars and an intermittent weirdo. We all have beards. We all look sweet.

Carry on.


Handy NaBeGroMo Links:


Just A Wee Bit Closer


STATUS: comradely

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pilgrims and Indians

In fifth grade, I performed in a Thanksgiving Play. This grade was really a banner year for me artistically, as I performed in many dramas. The high point was my rousing portrayal of Romeo in the class performance of Romeo and Juliet. I would later go on to date the girl who played Juliet simply because it made sense socially. Before any of that happened, before my flash-in-a-pan stardom as Romeo, I was Pilgrim #2 on the Mayflower as it steamed toward the New World. In a review, The Westinghouse Elementary Trumpeteer proclaimed that “Room 311 Thanksgiving Play was at least twice as entertaining as Ridley Scott’s 1492:Conquest of Paradise.

I don’t remember much about this play, come to think about it, but I know I delivered a riveting performance as bible-thumping Pilgrim #2. Pilgrims 1 and 3 were both females (#3 being a particularly rigid puritan, if I remember correctly) which at the time made me question how succeeding generations were conceived; or rather, how am I bout to get my swerve on with all these Indians hanging around? The Indians were mentioned briefly, at the end, when we got good and hungry and broke. They came to the rescue with hot dogs and Faygo cola. And whiskey. And casinos.

Afterwards, the Indians and my church harem went for joyrides around the Rock in our boat, which was really just painted on some poster paper. The Indians later purchased this piece of paper with real estate that is now Connecticut. Whitey wins!

In another display of the untapped thesbian within me, I signed on for an outdoor performance about the founding of Kent, Ohio, called Dawn Falls. Written by one of my co-workers at the time, the work dramatized the early settlement of the Western Reserve. The writer/director Mr. St. Clair wooed me by saying that I would portray the legendary Captain Brady – explorer, Indian hunter, river-jumper. At a pivotal moment in the production, I came cascading down a tree-lined hill and dove behind a rock to hide from the angry natives in hot pursuit. Then, in a display of cunning, willpower, and the American strive to survive(!), I took a running start and leapt over the Cuyahoga River.

Captain Brady supposedly leapt over the river 200 years ago. This is mostly legend and probably not true. I, however, leapt over the river in present day with hundreds of witnesses and landed safely on the other side. Then I hopped a train to Albuquerque.

Not really.

There was a pivotal scene in which I made like I was jumping over the river while getting shot at by natives. Really, I jumped behind a scrim (which, during rehearsals I kept mistakenly calling a ‘shiv’) and then descended a rickety ladder into the river where a man in a canoe met me. I’m not sure if the canoe guy was actually part of the production or if he just liked to hang out in the river awaiting pioneers to jump into his boat. Either way, he ferried me to safety. This was all executed with the audience above completely oblivious as the action on our grassy outdoor stage had just moved on.

Then came my second scene, this one as injured native Nickshaw, son of Chief Bigson. This role, though no speaking was involved, took a little more effort. In terms of costume design, the crew strove for authenticity, so I wore a leather vest, loincloth and ass-less chaps. The ass-less chaps were actually the selling point for me on the play.

‘Did you say I get to wear ass-less chaps?’ I asked at tryouts. ‘I’m in!’

During rehearsals, the community theater production crew informed me that I was too pale to accurately portray an Indian. They told me to go tanning. I, uh, didn’t do that. So they resorted to Plan B: painting my body.

One of my favorite memories of the production: during the costume change, from Cpt. Brady to Nickshaw, the makeup lady feverishly applying tan body paint to my ass. I felt like a star.

I was on stage during the natives’ big scene, when we showed how wronged we had been by Cpt. Brady (read: Whitey). When Nickshaw (me) was just a baby, Brady threw me into a fire, which left me deformed and very quiet (no speaking lines, remember). This explanation was a pivotal moment in the play. However, the microphones malfunctioned and most of the dialogue from my pretend Indian father Chief Bigson went unheard. More than likely, the audience assumed he was whiskey drunk and rambling about how he wanted to put a casino on top of the Kent Dam.

Afterwards, I met up with friends and family who were all quite disgusted at my ass. Someone took a picture of it. As for the play, I believe the rights were sold to a group of Native American investors in compensation for hundreds of years of genocide and oppression.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Moldy Oldies

Saturday night, I awoke from my early evening nap to the smell of clam chowder simmering on the stove. My tummy rumbled. Bumly-bum, it went. I stumbled down the hallway, running fingers through my nappy hair, to find my roommate Jeremy working hard on a can of New England chowdah. The soup had simmered, per the label, and he plopped a spoon into the bubbly brew. It became quickly apparent, as he dumped a bag of shredded cheddar into the pot, that he planned to handle this meal all by himself.

I went back to my room to get dressed and head over to the Lebanese restaurant around the corner to grab some grub. While searching for a pair of socks that matched, I heard Jeremy emit a frustrated yell down the hall.

‘Aw shit!’

I gave up on my search and settled upon one sock with paisley print and another of square pattern. I went into the dining room to see what was the matter. Jer said that the cheddar was moldy.

‘How could chowder be moldy?’ I asked. ‘It’s in a can.’

‘Not chowder—cheddar,’ Jer said.


‘There was moldy cheddar in my chowder.’

Either way, he had eaten mold. He thought he was going to die. I assumed this statement was hyperbole and invited him to join me at Aladdin’s. He accepted and we enjoyed a wonderful meal with wonderful service. Over dinner, Jer mentioned how disgusted he was at having ingested mold. I said that was nothing, those few spoonfuls he swallowed.

I told him of an instance when I was a college sophomore and living in the dorms. One night, I stormed into my room glassy-eyed and with a mondo case of the munchies. It was late and the room was dark and I didn’t possess the energy to root around for something nutritious or fresh. The first foodstuff that presented itself was a box of twinkies. Without turning the lights on, I tore the wrapping off and slid sweet victory down my gullet. I had to admit that victory didn’t taste as sweet as I had remembered in my youth. In fact, it tasted pretty stale. Maybe even tangy. At the time, I didn’t question the safety of the twinkie, though I did decide to stop at one.

The next afternoon, I rolled out of bed, with the bumly-bums still sounding within me. I grabbed that box of twinkies and yanked out breakfast. When my hand emerged, it clutched a green, slimy cylinder. These sweets had not only turned; they had started to decompose. The verdant shaft staring back at me was not a twinkie. And I had eaten a whole one just the night before!

‘So did you get sick?’ Jeremy asked, setting down his kebab.

‘No, see, I think it worked the other way,’ I said. ‘I’m pretty sure it heightened my immune system. Like penicillin. It made me impervious to illness for like, two years.’

Our super hot server overheard me and said I was gross. I shrugged. Of course, when illness did come back around, two years later, it hit me hard. I was laid up for a good two weeks. My roommate at the time suggested that I eat another moldy twinkie. I couldn’t go through with it though. First off, I couldn’t find another moldy twinky. Second, I didn’t want to try to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Third, I’m pretty sure it’s a delicate equation—eating the penicillin twinkie. You have to be the right amount of hungry and it has to have the right amount of mold.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Treatment for Flood of the Dead (working title)*

*This is an early partial draft of the treatment for a zombie film I've been conceptualizing for quite some time. Stay tuned to Nomenclature for further details.


Where is the absolute last place on earth one would want to be during a zombie uprising? Locked within the confines of a massive cemetery with thousands of corpses animating and looking for human flesh upon which to feast. No weapons, no means of transportation and only one way out, everyday people must tap into their darker sides to fight evil and make it out alive.

Controlling idea:
The cemetery is situated between the upper class neighborhood of Cleveland Heights and the lower class realm of East Cleveland, placing the characters between the proverbial rock and hard place. Despite preconceived notions, fleeing toward the ghetto is really their only safe choice.

General Synopsis:
Following a week and a half of heavy rains, the atmosphere around Cleveland Ohio has finally cleared enough to allow a leisurely bike ride around the historic Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland Heights. MARC ANREAS (25) and ERIN LEE (22) cycle to a bluff atop the cemetery and look out at the distant skyline of Cleveland. Below, a carload of people place flowers on the headstone of one of the deceased. MARC and ERIN bear witness to an atrocity as a wayward derelict brutally attacks the party of mourners. To their astonishment, the landscape is full of these listless flesh-eating vagabonds. They seem to be clawing their way out of recently-covered graves. So begins MARC and ERIN’S long flight towards the gates. Along the way, they encounter other embattled inhabitants who act as zombie fodder. The Ohio National Guard foils their first attempt at exiting at the Cleveland Heights Gate, as the state government cemetery has quarantined the site. With legions of the undead bearing down on them, ERIN and MARC find the safety of a mausoleum right before the National Guard opens fire. There they meet DUANE FARMER, a groundskeeper on the property. He offers a new plan – fight their way back through the cemetery until they can reach the East Cleveland Gate, as it is not going to be as intensely guarded, if there are even troops stationed there at all. But the walking dead are everywhere, and it was a tumultuous and dangerous journey just making it that far. It is their only option, and a desperate one, at best.

Gritty, raw and realistically violent, much in the vein of Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, and Children of Men.

Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio: Founded in 1869, the 285 acre cemetery sits on the border of affluent Cleveland Heights and poverty-ridden East Cleveland. It is home to over 100,000 graves and around 700 people are buried there each year. Lake View contains the final resting place of President James Garfield and his wife. Physically, the site has many peaks and valleys and affords distant views of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie. There are also several ponds and a 90-foot tall dam that spans 500 feet and can retain 80 million gallons of water. The cemetery was designed in a Victorian by Italian landscapers and is rife with flora and fauna. The ivy-laden crypts clad in soot-stained sandstone dot the hillsides, allowing numerous hiding places for the living dead.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bedpost Through the Floor

It was my birthday, one of those monochrome days in mid-April when the wind rattled the archaic window frames in my archaic apartment. The tree limbs, still bare, clawed at an atmosphere pervaded with early spring bitterness. I turned 23—an uneventful age to turn. Likewise ensued an uneventful trip to Applebee’s with the girl I was dating, Deb, and four of my friends. I gorged on chicken parm – to die for! Conversation stagnated; Deb talked a lot about herself. I knew this; we hadn’t dated for long and I didn’t know her all that well, but I did know that she liked herself a lot. It was her favorite conversation topic. She never really stopped talking about it, how great she was at everything. Or, really, how much better she was than me. At everything. Writing. Cooking. Working. Speaking. Being smart. You name it.

My friends and I and the girl I was dating arrived home groggy and ready for a nap, victims of way too much processed food. Deb marched down the long hallway to my bedroom. Not discreet in the least, her Doc Martins resounded loudly against the hardwood floors. My friends canted their stares toward me as I removed my Sambas. A sideways, ‘What the Hell are you Doing with Her?’ sort of gaze. Truth be told, my friends and I liked to do the talking, and it was hard to do that with Deb. She always had too much to prove, though we weren’t the ones to prove it to. Regardless, she was back in my room and had to be dealt with.

I shrugged. “It’s my birthday,” I said.

They shook their heads.

I opened the door to my room. Deb was standing there, fully clothed, with a coy look on her face. I could tell she was trying to act sexual. This effort was straining her, as her brow was glossy and deeply furrowed. She brought my face toward hers for a misguided, abbreviated kiss. This, doubtlessly, was to be my birthday present. Here it was.

Moments later, we both collapsed, overripe from the dinner, onto my unmade bed. I felt like a bratwurst link about to burst in a microwave. The chicken parm turned over and over inside me. In Deb’s mind, I assumed, her job was done: she had kissed me and it had drawn me into the bed. Now I was to get to work. Happy Birthday, Rick, time to unwrap your present. Given the nature of our relationship – an uncomfortable, sideways-glancing sort of affair—we found ourselves cooling the already chilly air.

A draft rattled the window and made me rub my feet together for warmth.

“I’m cold,” Deb sighed.

An early spring squall threatened. Heavy like cold air, I rolled over, bulbous, in an attempt to heat her up. The window snapped rhythmically against the frame. Sleet crackled like gravel against the glass. She sighed again, enough of an escape to crash a blimp, and I rolled back over again. We lay like this, side by side, not really touching, for quite a while longer. Down the hall, in the living room, I heard my friends laughing and carrying on. It sounded like a lamp had been tipped over. Deb sighed. We became frigid and our respective temperatures approached absolute zero. No layers of clothing had been removed. She said something sarcastic about how amazing I was and sighed.

“You’re amazing, Rick.”


I turned my head and began kissing her neck, oddly cold. My hand found itself at the small of her back, as our lips, chapped from the wicked wind, met. The palm made semicircles on her back, wider and wider, with the intent of finding the curve of her ass. Eventually, this quest became known. Deb pulled away.

She scowled. “Uh-uh.”

I gazed back confused, said: “It’s my birthday.”

“Ever hear of foreplay?” She sighed.

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?”

“Too fast.” Sigh. “You don’t understand.” Sigh.

“Oh. Sorry.”

Sigh. “Plus your hands are cold.” Sigh.


“You get turned on so easy. You’ll let me do anything to you. It’s so easy.”

I just wanted to feel something. Anything. Anything other than cold. The damned windowpane hadn’t stopped banging against the frame. I said nothing.

Deb continued: “Here, watch this.”

She slid her hand underneath my jeans and the waistband of my boxers. She reached lower and lower and found her destination. Very quickly she removed her hand.

“See? Easy. You are so easy. Now you try.”

I attempted what I had before, and slid my hand along the small of her back and underneath the waist of her jeans. She jerked away.

“Nope. Not a chance mister.”

“I don’t understand.”

Sigh. “You wouldn’t.”

Just then, a sharp snap sounded below us and the right side of the bed dropped a good three inches.

“What was that?” I asked.

“That was the sound of me winning,” she said.


I rolled over, my back to her. She giggled and pulled me back to face her. She began kissing my neck, snaking her way over the angle of my jaw and eventually finding my sandpapery lips.

I turned away again. “What’s the point? It never goes anywhere.”

She turned away from me; we lay back-to-back. She didn’t say anything for a very long time and kept her face buried in the pillow. I asked her what was the matter.

“What you said, that’s what I’m afraid of.” Deb sounded distressed. “I don’t want this to not go anywhere. That’s what always happens to me.” She sighed. “What you said, that really hurt me.”

Then she clung to me like a mussel. What could I say?

“I’m sorry,” I said.

But I wasn’t. Not even close. This wasn’t going anywhere and I knew it. We were disconnected. I should have ended it right there, but it was birthday and you don’t do those sorts of things on your birthday. My friends yelled again. I could hear them rolling bocce balls down the hallway. I held her for a while longer then we got up and hung out awkwardly with my friends.

She left. My friends left.

Before I went to bed that night, I rolled my bed away from the wall. In the far right corner, one of the wheels had broken through the floor. One of the floorboards angled sharply downward, as if the whole negative weight of our relationship had channeled itself into that one point. Through the floor we went.

I thought, That was the sound of me winning. And sighed.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Job Interview

INT: HAL CARDMAN sits at the desk in his office. His intercom buzzes. The Americards, Inc. office is sparsely decorated. On the wall behind his desk is a poster with the Americards Logo -- a fist clutching a Christmas Bulb. The text below this image reads: “Americards: We Make the Holidays.” His intercom buzzes again. CARDMAN presses the buzzer.

Your interview for 8 o’clock is here.

But it’s 1:30.

Yes, I know. He said it couldn’t be helped. Here he comes.

I’m not even ready for him.

The door busts open and REEVES steps in. His gait is lackadaisical, his appearance unkempt -- grisly facial hair, a half-untucked dress shirt with coffee stains, crooked sock tie, dilapidated denim jacket with one Deerhunter patch on the shoulder. He is eating a chili-cheese dog.

Uh, please (shuffles through some papers on his desk), uh, Mr., have a seat.



Reeves. My name is Reeves.

Oh. Have a seat Mr. Reeves.

REEVES sits in a chair in front of CARDMAN's desk. He places his half-eaten chili cheese dog on a file cabinet to his left.

Just call me Reeves.

This interview was scheduled for 8, originally. Did you get caught in traffic? (REEVES shrugs) Okay. Well, I guess we can get started. So what brings you to Americards?


Oh, I see that you were referred by an agency.


You didn’t submit a resume. What qualifications do you have for this position?


How many positive references can you provide?


When would you be willing to work?


Do you have any outstanding offers elsewhere?


So this would be your first choice?


Where do you see yourself in five years?


Why do you even want this job?

I don’t.

Fuck you. You got it!

The two stand up and shake hands. End scene.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Jacket of Leaves

Still hanging in my closet,
between a tropical shirt and snow pants
is the jacket of leaves.
Its colors have faded,
only the thread and stems remain,
remnants of a grand idea
to wrap ourselves in decay
from September until December.

You call me one morning,
awake me from a dead sleep to say,
that the leaves are changing again.
That you would buy the spool
if I would pick the fabric.

The memory swallows me,
of last year’s exchanges
outside the English building.
Brisk mornings surround us,
pulling on our cigarettes,
looking into the trees, wondering.

I laugh, the red ones are best,
though yellow works too.
We envision the jacket
as a sunset in motion,
a streaking flare through fall.
Passersby will brim with envy.
They are green. We are red.

This is October; umbrage hangs heavy.
The air nibbles at dusk and bites at
leaves and night falling.
Trees expend the equinox
smoldering in fire pits.

You wear Autumn over your shoulders,
your leaf jacket glows like hot coals
until the falling foliage becomes falling snow.
The setting sun fades to brown,
disintegrates in the wind,
leaving only stems and thread.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Maus Haus

Five years and two lifetimes ago, I was an architecture major. Most of my time was spent in a sleep-deprived fog of frustration and passive aggressive turmoil. From the get-go, from the very start, it did not fit with me. I knew this very early on, for within the first two weeks of entering the program, I had pulled an all-nighter. It snuck up on me, the first night of my life when I did not get any rest. Around 3 a.m., things stopped making sense. I brewed a whole pot of coffee and drank none of it. I broke back into the studio after hours to find the place deserted. No one stayed up late at the beginning of the semester. There was no reason to. One would think I’d have come to terms with my short comings and just moved on. But I lived the next two years in denial.

It wasn’t an entirely uphill climb those two years. Some days and weeks were easier than others, but in the grand scheme of things it was never meant to be, nor was there anything I could have done to make it work.

Five years and two lifetimes ago, I began a failed endeavor, but kept on with it for fear of embarrassment or the great what if?!

Four years and two lifetimes ago, I realized it was not going to work, no matter how hard I tried, but I kept on anyway, for the same reasons listed above.

By the end of my third semester as an architecture student, the assignment that defeated me wholly, that completely crushed my spirit as an artist and creator, was not in and of itself very complicated. We had to design a pretty or hip house in a city then multiply that house by four, each residence butted up against one another in a line. It was a rowhouse. You’ve seen them; they’re everywhere. I can practically look out my window onto Cedar and see a whole mess of them. I could have copied one of those designs and probably received a B-/C+ on the project. But I tried (oh, how I tried) to do something a little different.

My rowhouse, much like my life at the time, was misguided; misaligned. The walls were positioned at odd, obtuse angles. A few rooms were shaped like triangles. The floor plan revealed a kitchen with no outside view. Professor Davies, in her infinite spatial wisdom, drew this to my attention on the final ink drawings: a misshapen red oval scrawled around the thick black line that signified kitchen wall. Part of it encircled the sink and refrigerator. Next to the circle, an arrow and text: ‘NO VIEW!’

At the time, I was in a relationship. Or at least I kept telling myself I was. This endeavor also proved itself misguided and misaligned. My life became increasingly tensile, as the two factors seemed to place more stress upon the span than it could withstand.

In the end, everything collapsed. My rowhouse puttered to the finish line with a few botched section drawings leading the stampede of things I never got done. The final project, among a host of other things, called for drawings of aspects of our project we found ‘interesting.’ I sat and I sat and stared and stared and could find nothing remotely interesting about my monstrosity of a design. My residence was grotesque, unlivable, as far from aesthetically pleasing as one could meander.

My rowhouse was a solid D project. At the time, before we received our grades, during long nights that eventually bled into long days that eventually bled into more long nights that eventually hemorrhaged whole weeks, I was of the belief that merely finishing this marathon warranted at least a B. I had been mistaken, I thought, after slitting the piece of drafting tape and opening the grade sheet left on my studio desk. I looked at that D and thought that I had been taken advantage of, that the profession of architecture had victimized me. I had given so much time and effort and had nothing to show for it.

Years later I realized that my professors had been right all along, for I never finished that project and thus never deserved a decent grade. My lady interest left me for greener pastures and that had made me sad. In retrospect, I drove her away because, much like my stint with architecture, I had no idea what I was doing.

I entered a renaissance period shortly thereafter and renewed my passion to produce great things in architectural design. I took the cumbersome rowhouse model back to my dad’s house and locked it away in the shed. It would not see the light of day for four years. I attempted to do well at my design work and improved markedly but fell behind in my other coursework. More conflicting downward forces were affected upon the span.

Three-and-a-half years and one life ago, I was kicked out of the architecture program. I received the rejection in the form of an email from the dean himself. The subject line read: ‘Not accepted into 3rd year.’ I didn’t need to read on, but I did. The explanation was as follows: ‘GPA was a problem, etc. Sincerely, C McW.’ The end. With very little consideration, I scrapped my architecture career and fell back into writing where I belonged. There were some growing pains but I felt fine about the shift much sooner than I thought I would. There were no hard feelings in the end.

One month and no lives ago, my special lady friend and I went home to visit my dad. Towards the end of our stay, I stepped off the back deck and saw that the old man had started a burn pile in the fire pit behind the shed.

‘You wanna burn that rowhouse now?’ he asked as I approached.

Burning the rowhouse had been one of my intentions since leaving the program. My dad and I talked about doing it every time I came back to visit. I had romanticized the act over the years, as the rowhouse not only signaled the end of era for me but also (distantly) a lost love.

‘Okay,’ I said.

I opened the doors to the shed and was immediately overtaken by the odor of stale piss.

‘Had a mouse problem in here for quite a while,’ Dad said. ‘Can’t find where they’re living.’

Our shoes crunched against droppings on the plywood floor as we searched the upper shelves for my model. The shed itself was small and my rowhouse was rather large for a model, so we quickly became confused as to where it had gone.

‘I didn’t burn it,’ Dad said. ‘Must’ve just moved it somewhere.’

‘What’s in here?’ I asked, pointing at a green plastic storage container on the floor.

‘Don’t know. Let’s take a look.’

My old man pried off the lid and roughly a dozen baby mice leapt out in all directions. They scampered along the wall and found the safety of dark corners. A few made a break for the door. My rowhouse sat inside the tub and we pulled it out for inspection.

The family of mice had snuck in through the rear window, which had been widened to accommodate the hustle and bustle of a large family. The kitchen was full of seeds and other munchies. The living room was furnished with fluff and lint and such. It looked like they had spread out into a few of the units. The place had really become a multi-family residence. Most of the family had escaped when Dad pulled it out of the container, but a few kids were left behind in the confusion. They hid in the dark corners of the triangular shaped rooms, safe from our stares and the stick poking of my meddlesome little brother.

‘You still wanna burn it?’ Dad asked.

I thought about that for a while, pacing around the yard, checking back occasionally to see if the mice were still hanging around inside. They were.

Eventually, I said, ‘Nah,’ and we attempted to shoo the remainder of the squatters toward the woods. They would have none of it -- too frightened by my bro’s frenzied poking to venture into the real world.

It was time to go, said my special lady friend in not so many words. She grabbed the palm of my hand and tapped it three times with her finger: our signal for ‘Time To Go.’

I thanked my old man for the effort and for saving my rowhouse for all those years. He said that it wasn’t a problem but asked if I wouldn’t mind if he went ahead and burned it. I said I didn’t mind at all. My special lady friend and I left.

In the end, the rowhouse was livable. It housed a great many tenants. Said tenants affected much change on the structure; put a lot of tension on the spans, so to speak. It was no longer suited for its intended purpose and had to be condemned. The situation reflected that of a great many other buildings: despite one’s better judgment, a project is undertaken and the design is misguided and misunderstood by all parties involved and there is a lot of confusion and too many factors acting against one another and not enough cohesion and you go ahead and build the thing anyway and that’s a whole other headache and then that part’s done and it isn’t received well at all and you wonder if the whole thing was even worth it and people live and work in it anyway and everyday the place is used and inhabited and inexplicably changes people’s lives and then inexplicably it doesn’t anymore and it is empty for a long time and eventually it is condemned and set on fire and extinguished and torn down.

I talked to my dad a few days later and he said the thing went up in flames with little fanfare. I hadn’t missed much. All the better, for I had seen it before and see it everyday -- structures that change lives everyday and then don’t somehow anymore. Dozens of little mouse babies living in buildings completely oblivious to where they’re going or where they’ve been.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

excerpt from my memoirs, Bocced Up: My Life Interpreted Through the Great Sport of Bocce Ball

First Practice

One night in early May, Jdubbs stormed through the front door, right arm laden with a heavy leather sack. He had just returned from his parents' house in Erie and looked like he had ran the whole way back. Mopping the sweat from his brow with his left hand, he released the bag from his right. It clamored to the hardwood floor with a thunderous commotion.

Thed yelled from down the hall. “What the fuck was that?”

I looked up from the Chabon book I was reading. “What’s in the bag?”

“Get up,” dubbs said, “it’s time for practice.”

He grabbed Yiddish Policeman’s Union from my grasp and tossed it into the decorative fireplace. Candles went flying.


“What the fuck are you guys doing?” Thed echoed down the hall.

“Bocce,” dubbs said. “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going to practice?”

“I figure we’ll go someplace close.”

“I’m in,” I said, scooping up my shoes. Chabon could wait. Bocce was now.

Thed came stomping from his room. “Jesus guys, why don’t you make a little more fucking noise?”

“Get your shoes on,” dubbs said. “We’re having practice.”

“Ah dude, I can’t. Working on my blog now.”

Jdubbs and I cast sideways glances at one another. We chuckled.

“Fucking loser,” dubbs said.

“You’re off the team!” I yelled. “Mandatory practice.”

“It’s about to rain,” was Thed’s argument. And then: “I’m tired.”

We refused to hear anymore. Jdubbs hoisted the balls off the floor. We blew through the doorway. The bocce bag collided loudly with the walls of the stairwell as we made our way down. It left divots in its wake.

As we stepped onto the sidewalk, heavy wind and a rumble from far away made us wonder how much practice we’d actually get.

“We still got time,” dubbs said.

“Those clouds are gonna blow over,” I said.

When we reached the end of the street, dubbs said his arm was about to fall off. The wind picked up. We needed to find a place to play. A quick flash of lightning illuminated the swatch of grass dividing the four lanes of Euclid Heights Boulevard.

As fast as we could, we darted halfway across the street and set up a game on the median of the boulevard. The course was rutty and a few times our bocces came close to rolling into traffic, but Jdubbs and I managed to get a game in. Sometimes cars would slow down to watch. One time a guy stopped, smiled, and said, “Bocce.”

Dubbs won of course, for his bocce ability reigns supreme. Right about when he administered the deathblow, it began to drizzle. Thunder beckoned louder. It was time to go. I lugged the sack home. We stepped inside the entryway of our building just before the sky opened up and the rain came. We congratulated each other on a game well played. On the way up the stairs (bag thudding off the wall), we had our first meeting as Don (dubbs) and consigliere (myself). Upon reaching the apartment door, we were still undecided as to whether or not we should let Thed back on the team.

Archive I
Archive 2

Monday, November 12, 2007

Chicago Bar Story*

I like you.
You got intensity my friend.
This guy I don’t know so much about.
He wears a ball shirt.
Don’t wear no fuckin’ ball shirt.
What’s your shirt say, what is that?
Baltimore Orioles?
Don’t wear no Baltimore shirt.
Wear a Cubs shirt.
You look like you’re fucking twelve years old.
I like your shirt.
The Who, who the fuck are you, right?
You got nice teeth.
He’s a got nice smile, don’t he?
Get a beer, a light beer.
Did I stutter, did I fuckin’ stutter?
Get a fuckin’ light beer.
Guinness, huh?
I like your class.
I like you.
I don’t know so much about this guy.
He smiles too much.
I just wanna let you know, when shit goes down, the Quinnster’s gotcha back.
You wanna make $500?
I was a ringer.
Do you know what the fuck that is?
A fuckin’ ringer?
I like you.
You square go?
I’ll take anyone in this bar.
See that guy?
I’m gonna cut that guy with a fuckin’ switchblade.
You Ohio boys, you smoke pot?
Fuckin’ roll me one then.
Yeah that’s right, roll me a pinner.
I like you.
You got intensity, my friend.
Remember, when shit goes down, Quinnster’s gotcha back.
I’m a mover
I’m in the Union
I make $35 an hour
Hard work in this town
I was Golden Gloves
See that, rock hard
I’m gonna cut you with a switchblade
You got intensity
You gonna get the pussy with that
I like you.

*This poem was an assignment from a Poetry class I took in college: write in the voice of another. It is about a man I met in a Chicago dive about a year ago. Many stories linger about this conversation with Rich Quinn, or the Quinnster, as he became known. At some point later this month, I'll try to put together a thorough retelling of that tale. Stay tuned!

NaBeGroMo Update


Sunday, November 11, 2007


The dart arced through the smoky air of the billiard hall. I was one 16 away from taking the darts series from Mike Sokol. One chalky circle from winning the cricket game. Then Mike would owe me a beer. The dart’s trajectory angled high, then quickly dropped off, like a knuckle ball. A tensile thwack signaled that it had collided with one of the metal dividers between the point wedges on the board. Although neither of us could tell where the dart had specifically landed (16 or 7?), it was definitely close.

Mike and I had been trading off wins in our five-game cricket series. It seemed as though I could gain a healthy lead, but Mike would surge back with several triples in a row. He was the epitome of luck when it came to that. I would keep plugging away, playing defensively, picking up my 20s, 19s, 18s, 17s, 16s, 15s and bullseyes in sequential order. I was rather obsessive-compulsive about that sort of thing. Mike refused to go away and by the fifth game, I had to alter my strategy and take my numbers out of order, instead riding the hot hand, as it were. It came down to a Game 5 clincher. One more 16. Loser buys beer. High Life, no less.

Now, Mike and I had drained about a dozen brewskies by this point in the night -- beer and darts, as I like to say, they go together -- and my vision was as crooked as the last knuckle-dart I had fired.

My dart, as it appeared to me, had landed inside the swatch of off-white that I had intended it to. I grabbed a piece of chalk and circled the 16 on the scoreboard and drew a smiley face near the margin. I had won. Under any normal circumstance, I would have removed the darts and my opponent would buy another round and we would play another game. But because this was the end of a rather grueling five-game series, I let sleeping darts lie, and turned to let Mike bask in my glory.

At about that moment, events began to blur. In meeting eyes with Mike Sokol, I became so stricken by his rage as to begin seeing white spots flash before my eyes. It was as if his eyes were about to send lazers across the room and burn me alive right there in the pool hall. He did not speak. He did not yell. He only moved deliberately toward the board. It was as if Mike’s intense gaze drained me of any rational thought. I began to move toward the door. When Mike gets that look in his eyes, it’s best to find an exit.

I recall mumbling something about having to use the bathroom. Still no words from Mike. I approached the corridor leading to the bathrooms. While passing Mike, I noticed a curious bulge at the small of his back; a malignant, angled protrusion that I immediately realized was his Glock. He talked a lot about his Glock. I just never assumed he actually had one. Turns out he did.

As I stepped below the neon EXIT sign that designated the bathroom hallway as a safe way out, I heard Mike yell something about my final dart actually being lodged on the 7 side of the board. He emitted a bestial scream and tore the dartboard from the wall. I did not turn around to see him pull the pistol from his waistband. Instead I bolted for the door, hoping my cyclists’ legs could power me without the locomotion of crankshaft and chain. Some women leaving the ladies room entered my path. I threw them to the ground and kept on like hell. At about 30 paces into the parking lot, the door blew off its hinges and Mike Sokol came barreling after me like an ornery bull with a bazooka. Several reports came from the pistol, thwacking into the building directly in front of me. I dove behind a dumpster. The bum that was living inside stuck his head out to see what the commotion was. He was promptly greeted with the full brunt of Mike Sokol rage. This came in the form of 4 slugs to the chest. Back down he went.

While crouched between the dumpster and a wooden fence, I began to wish that I possessed the skills of diplomacy or a hand grenade. But all I had were my wits and a fence to jump. With calf and shoulder muscles burning, I vaulted over the wooden fence in front of me, bullets sending splinters like confetti through the air as I slid over the top.

I heard more of Mike’s frustration: ‘FUCK, dB! I love you man!’ and the jingle of car keys. Then came the familiar rumble of his truck firing up and then an engine roar and tire squeal and then horns and more yelling that slowly faded into the distance. I stood up and dusted myself off, smiling at yet another victory over my best friend, Mike Sokol. Sirens approached from the distance as I walked the half block home.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Free Ride

There’s always an allure with free stuff. You’re more inclined to take something given to you than spend money on it. This is especially the case with stuff you don’t really need. I’m of the belief that once your basic needs are met, like food and shelter, you can branch out a bit, and don’t necessarily have to invest every nickel and dime into new stuff. You spend your time on shared experience, as opposed to just spending your money on random crap. I’ve come to rely upon benevolence as a means to keep me alive. Likewise, I am rather liberal with my stuff and try to give as much as I get.

And I know a lot people say that nothing comes for free. That there are always costs, and, most of the time, they outweigh the returns. These people are probably right, but I think it’s all a matter of perspective. A little optimism goes a long way.

This is a little story about me trying my damnest to keep the costs of a free car on par with the returns.

A little over a year ago, my grandparents asked if I would like to have their 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity. I had, during my college career, grown accustomed to a carless (read: careless) lifestyle, relying on bicycle, legs, and friends to help me reach Point B. I had even become idealistic over that span, and would frequently decry -- from the backseat -- the use of vehicular travel. However, when presented with a free car, I tossed all that idealism out the window. I’m assuming it landed at the feet of a Native American, who shed a stoic tear. But, then again, that’s an assumption, as I was moving at 70 mph at the time. I tend to only look back at pedestrians after having soaked them with puddle water.

During winter break of my senior year of college, I made the trip to my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh to claim this free ride. It wasn’t the prettiest site—the rust infection was in its infancy, but still rather apparent; two horizontal gashes ran along both sides of the car, as if the previous owner had wedged it between two concrete pylons or, more realistically, two Hummers in the mall parking lot; and the bumpers sat rather askew, probably as a result of another unfortunate run-in with a pilaster or an H2. But still, it was a car. It was free. And, according to the vanity plate, it was a lady -- the Shelia-5. I couldn’t help but wonder at the whereabouts of Shelias 1 through 4.

My Pap expressed a heaping amount of sadness at having to part with his gem. He had bought it used for a song in the early ‘90s, and had kept up on it religiously. He apparently loved the thing, and, as we made our way to the title bureau, tried his best to guilt trip me into reconsidering. I almost did, save for the fact that I needed a ride back to Ohio, and taking this car was my only option.

At the title bureau, Pap asked me if I had the money to afford the insurance, as I sure as hell didn’t have the money to buy a car of my own. The title clerk looked up curiously, judging from my unkempt college appearance that I was destined for a life of poverty. I told them not to worry -- I would use student loans. The clerk looked at me sympathetically.

“I live off of the benevolence of others,” I said.

“Oh, honey, that’s wonderful.”

It was wonderful. I had fallen back into driving, though it took some time to grow accustomed to the mechanic issues. Take, for instance, the BATTERY light that flashed periodically when I applied the brakes. This began to surface about 6 weeks into my car ownership, and I -- quite mistakenly -- assumed that it was far too early for a problem. One night while taking me to the Circle K for scratch-off lottery tickets, Shelia became gripped by a violent seizure and died across three lanes of traffic. I panicked as a series of headlights bore down at me. I got out and pushed her back into the lot, corralling her into a parking spot. She would nest there for another week or so. Staying parked for extended periods of time became her favorite hobby from that point forward.

As opposed to dealing with the problem then and there, such as having it towed to a garage, I opted to have Shelia displaced to the carport of my apartment. Warm weather had moved into town, and I began walking places again. Plus, I didn’t like the idea of my car telling me what to do.

“If you want to play hard to get,” I said to her, “you can just stay there all summer.”

And she did, accruing an attractive layer dust to compliment the rust. Shelia’s ailment was rather tricky to diagnose. Originally, we thought she only needed a new alternator and a new battery. Simple, right? Wrong. At one point, I watched as the positive battery terminal glowed like a hot coal as a friend and I attempted to jump her back to life. Have it your way Shelia.

I left well enough alone.

But eventually, the lease on our apartment expired, and with it went my car’s free reign over the carport. I moved to Cleveland and left Shelia behind. I did not take action until my former landlord, Rillis Moneypenny, called to complain about the squatter taking up residence in the new tenant’s parking spot.

“Ryan, Rillis Moneypenny, I drove past the old apartment today. I see your car is still there. Looks like it hasn’t moved in some time. What’s it doing? If it’s not out of there by the end of the week, I’m going to have it removed.”

Moneypenny’s threat could have been a means to get rid of my car for good -- but I hesitated. For some reason, I was enamored with the idea of car ownership. Shelia had not moved for five months, and had regressed into a rusted-out jitney. But she had rusted out a special place in my heart. I had her towed to a Kent-based mechanic.

Even the repair process became a debacle, and Shelia sat in the garage for weeks. She was acting rather coy, and would not divulge her various ailments. Following several radically invasive surgeries, she was released and greeted me, upon her return, with an abrasively loud engine rumble. Apparently, her period of stasis had withered away the muffler and exhaust pipes and caused Shelia to sound, upon acceleration, like The Incredible Hulk.

As the mechanic backed her out of the garage, I had to comment, “Geez, I don’t remember her sounding this loud.”

The mechanic wiped his neck with an oily rag. “Yeah, there’s a lot of stuff wrong with this car. But let’s take it one step at a time. That’ll be 500 dollars.”

The free gift was becoming less and less economical. But, as I had just graduated from college, I assumed that I needed a car to get from interview to interview. Realistically, to be an adult, I needed a job. To find a job, I needed a car, right? Wrong. I needed a marketable major to find a job. As the only career opportunity that presented itself was a serving job around the corner from my new apartment, I left Shelia to once again relax curbside.

I felt a little guilty, passing her on the sidewalk each day on my way to work.

“I’m sorry, Shelia, I never meant for it to work out this way.”

Then, one day, she was gone.

There were no shards of glass littering the curb around her former home, no crowbar left in haste by the frantic thieves. Police Officer Shwartz of the CHPD arrived on the scene. She told me that the car had not been towed the night before. This left only one other option -- theft.

I was saddened at the loss, but my time with Shelia had been one of abuse and neglect. I couldn’t help but think that her new owners were appreciating her more than I had. I envisioned a utopian world, in which a homeless person had stolen my car, not only as a means to make it to job interviews on time (provided the car didn’t break down, which it had a habit of doing), but also to keep a roof over his or her head. The front bench seat was quite comfortable to sprawl out on. He or she could become more cultured and articulate by listening to my NPR presets on the stereo and slowly reenter society.

P.O. Shwartz said that stolen cars are usually taken on joy rides and turn up abandoned once they run out of gas.

I said that Shelia didn’t have much gas in her, but was confident the new owners would stop to fill her up on the way to getting the oil changed and wheels aligned.

Schwartz asked if there were any distinguishing marks on my car or something that would set it apart from other cars on the road.

“Um, it needs a new muffler, so it’s pretty loud. Like abrasively loud. If you just want to tell your peeps to keep an ear out for it, that’d be great too.”

“I’ll put that in the report, Mr. DiBiase.”


“Oh, you might want to call your insurance company, too. Let them know about this theft.”

“Insurance, riiiiiiiiight. . .”

At three in the morning a few days later, I received a call from P.O. Shwartz. She informed me that they had found my car at a place called the Boneyard in Mayfield Heights. Assuming she meant the car had been found in an actual boneyard, I breathed a sigh of relief: Shelia really did take care of herself. Then came the realization that The Boneyard is actually an entertainment venue, much in the same vein as Dave & Busters. These guys really were on a joy ride. Huh.

Shwartz recited a laundry list of damage to the car. Somewhere near the bottom, she hit the new stuff.

"They punched the passenger door lock and stripped your steering column."

"Huh," I yawned, "sounds like a lot of work."

"Not really. Late model American cars are very easy to steal."

"Well go figure."

The intrepid police officer gave me directions to the Mayfield Heights PD and the impound lot where Shelia had been secured. I needed to procure the vehicle's title in order to receive a release form for the impound.

Upon arriving in Mayfield Heights, I told the officer behind the desk that said title lay in the glove box of said stolen car.

She, in turn, informed me that, "Keeping the title in the car is basically like writing a blank check for it."

I replied, "Maybe, subconsciously, that was the point."

She phoned the impound lot to see if the title could be located in the vehicle. It was, and following a gracious fax of the document in question, Shelia could be released back into society.

I asked the officer what would have happened had I neither reported the car stolen nor came back to claim it. She said that the vehicle would be filed as abandoned and after a few months, I would have been sent an invoice for towing/storage fees as well as criminal charges for having abandoned my vehicle. It seems the system is built to prevent easy disposal of your car. All this time, I had no idea.

The next afternoon, I reached the impound lot and after some failed negotiations, I provided $100 (for towing and storage fees) to have my car released. It felt like I was bailing Shelia out of jail. She hadn't been driven in six weeks, and during that span, she had behaved magnificently. Maybe I had trusted her a bit too much, for as soon as I turned my back, she was off gallivanting with a bunch of dirty crooks and owing money all over town. Who is left to pick up the pieces? Me.

Someone from the impound lot showed me how to start the car, as the column had been stripped and the key no longer worked.

"Just finger the little latch on the left hand side," the guy said, "and she starts right up."

"Well, I guess that’s one less step. To think, the last thing I had replaced was the starter.” I paused. “Do you know of any junk yards between here and Cleveland Heights?"

He shrugged.

I surveyed the flotsam left behind by the assailants: crushed cans of Colt-45, Icehouse bottlecaps, cigarette butts, empty boxes of Black & Milds. Nowhere amongst the vagrancy did I see a job application. My theory was voided. They had even changed my NPR presets to urban commercial stations. Hooligans!

Once again, Shelia came to rest at the side of street in Cleveland Heights. I put a CLUB on the steering wheel. Ironically, it had been under the front seat the entire time. And so Shelia sat again. For weeks, I was torn over what action to take. I could have attempted to fix the damage, but investing money in something you got for free kind of defeats the purpose. I scanned Craigslist for a homeless shelter in desperate need of a jalopy. No such luck.

In the end, I ended up taking her to a junkyard in Parma. As compensation, I was awarded $150. This sum came about after a round of intense bargaining.

“How much will you give me for it?” I asked.

“Uh, $125,” came the gravel-truck response.

“How about $150?”

“Um. . .okay.”

I felt bad receiving money for Shelia, as she was a free gift to me, and I, likewise would have liked to bestow her upon someone else. But given her current state, she would serve society much better from the confines of a Parma junkyard. Divvied up for parts, she could spread her benevolence all over Northeast Ohio. Maybe, even, the world. When a homeless man needs a new alternator for his stolen car, I want him to know that he can break into that Parma junkyard and steal one from my car. It’s okay, Len. You can do it.

Although I was a bit saddened to see the gate shut behind Shelia as she was driven into the yard, a great weight had lifted from my shoulders. Over the last year, she had proved to be more of an albatross than a peregrine falcon. It became too much work to maintain the gift. One problem after another. Now, that problem was gone. I glanced up at the sky, as the overcast parted for just a moment, allowing a ray of sunshine to descend upon the bustling Parma junkyard. I sucked in a lungful of healthy Cleveland air.

I turned to find a bus stop.

I was free.