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.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaBeGroMo Update

As far as beards go, it's not a very good one. It is very patchy, and I am still puzzled by a patch on the left side of my cheek that will not grow facial hair. I think it is because I took severe acne medicine in high school because I was a pizza face. The Accutane treatment, I think, messed up my facial hair follicle growth. . .maybe. But at least I don't have too many pimples these days.

Anyways, I checked up on the side effects and didn't really find too much about facial hair, at least with men (women actually grow facial hair when on the stuff). But the side effects list is crazy long. Read it here. I can't believe I took this stuff for like a year. Nasty.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Business Trip

Part of NOMENCLATURE's Travel Series Nov. 16 - 19

Pt. 1

Business. I was there on business. In New Jersey on a business trip. The Harborside Financial Center, to be exact. The night before, I had flown into Newark and taken a cab into Jersey city, which cost about $50. The cabbie did not accept credit card, so I paid in cash, though I had only brought about $60. This did a good job of wiping me out, though I would eventually expense the whole trip of course. It made me extremely nervous that I might not have enough money for a cab ride back to the airport. And I did not want to have to withdraw cash from a non-Ohio ATM.

But at least I had made it to Jersey City, and I checked into the Candlewood Suites there, learning, as I stepped into the room, that it was an extended-stay hotel. I was only there for one night of business sleeping. Of course I did not commence the resting immediately, though I probably should have. I drank down a glass of water for I was very thirsty.

I phoned my old friend Amy and attempted a rendezvous somewhere on the Lower East Side, a convenient mid-point between my Jersey and her Brooklyn. So I took the PATH train over, around the hulking core of the World Trade Center -- a great divot within the earth. I spied a welder spewing sparks down into the abyss. The train arrived at the WTC stop -- end of the line -- so I ventured up to street level to connect with an NYC metro train. I should have paid more attention to my surroundings, for the drunken return trip later, but due to the construction, I wandered along with everyone else through a corral-like system of plywood walls to a Manhattan metro station in the Financial District.

I took a blue train to a green train and then got off on E. 14th St. I met Amy at the Beauty Bar and we had some drinks there, then went over to the Crocodile Lounge, which gives a free personal pan pizza with every beer you buy. This transaction is executed via raffle tickets. You buy a beer; you get a ticket; you go to the back and give the ticket to a guy at a pizza oven; he holds up a coffee tin labeled 'TIPS'; you ignore that gesture; later, he gives you a pizza. Amy managed to hide her ticket and we got an extra pizza because of that little sleight of hand. At one point she disappeared around a corner and came back with 2 slices of cheesecake.

--It's someone's birthday over there, she said. This is Carnegie Deli cheesecake. It's phenomenal -- like $10 a slice phenomenal.

I'm not much of a cheesecake fan, but it was pretty much the best that I've ever had.

Nearing one a.m., I decided I should head back to N.J. So we parted ways. I think I got on a grey train going East. Then I got on a blue train going South. But the stops did not match up. A recording said something about not going down to WTC after hours. I estimated the next comparable stop, as the line veered off toward Brooklyn. But the map was hard to decipher, for it was horizontal above a door, but I knew we were moving vertically. This confused me to no end. Plus, the little dots marking transit stops -- they are not to scale, as I found.

Not exactly sure where I was, I stepped up to street level. Despite being lost, I was glad I got off because I had to take a leak real bad. So I found a dark alley and did my business through a chainlink fence. Much relieved, I focused more on my place in the world, and how to use that to get me to the PATH train. None of the street signs rung any bells (McDonald? Feltcher?), so I wandered -- more or less aimlessly -- through the Financial District, as so many investors had over the course of this recession. Difference: I was literally lost in the financial district.

So I dialed Amy again, hoping that she could zero in on my coordinates and get me to the PATH station. She answered almost immediately, which proved very promising. I told her the intersection at which I stood. I saw not one person in either direction, as if I were back in Cleveland. Except that New York has 50 ba-jillion people or something. That made me scared. Amy quickly logged into her computer and told me to walk straight. I trusted her, even though I failed to mention which direction I was facing. 200 paces later, I came to an intersection and Amy, my Eagle Eye, guided me right. And so it went: me calling out intersections; Amy saying right, left, straight.

Suddenly my phone blared in my ear, alerting that its power had run low. A single solitary bar flashed red in the far corner of a battery frame in the far corner of my screen. I needed to pick up the pace, for I remained as lost as ever. I began jogging. My breathing became strained. My voice wavery. Amy asked if I was running. I told her that I was, in fact. But I was out of shape and had to slow down, eventually reaching a pace that was perfectly between walking and running -- power lunging.

Eagle Eye said that I was almost home free, having walked nearly two miles with her on the line. Straight ahead, said Eagle Eye, you will see a sign that says PATH. Was she looking at me through a series of realtime cameras? Or was it Google Street View? Either way, within steps I saw PATH: NJ Transit and a rightward-directing arrow. It was stapled rather inconspicuously to a plywood wall. I had reached my destination and thanked Amy profusely. I was out of breath, but had plenty of time to catch it, in that I waited about a half hour for the next PATH train to come. And I had to take another leak.

As I stood there, I considered the implications of 9/11. Had it never happened, I would have had a much easier time finding the PATH station, in that searching the sky for two enormous twin refrigerators is much easier than trying to find a gigantic pockmark.

I made it back to the hotel around two in the morning and slept rather restlessly til seven.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The following is my submission for POST's All You Can Eat exhibition, held Oct. 30 - 31 at the Sculpture Center in East Cleveland. The idea was to utilize vacant land in the City of Cleveland in some (any) way, to presumably make this a better city. Thus, I proposed moving a piece of Pittsburgh to Midtown -- the MIDTOWN IGLOO.


This proposal suggests relocating three failing, Southern-based NHL teams to Cleveland. The franchises with the lowest attendance, and most dire financial straits -- Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and Atlanta Thrashers -- will contract into one team, the Cleveland Barons. These teams have had limited playoff experience, and as such, would have the least impact on their respective fanbases should they relocate.

The second aspect of this proposal sees the site of a new arena to fall at the intersection of E. 55 and Euclid. Located along the new Health Line public transit system, the area of Midtown is easily accessible via public transit and Interstate and heretofore underutilized. The proposed location stretches north from E. 55 and Euclid to E 55 and Chester, and East to E. 61. The real estate is currently vacant and abated, save some service business located at the Northwest corner of the site.

As the City of Cleveland cannot realistically afford construction costs of a totally new arena, an existing one, soon to be discarded, can be acquired and repurposed for the Barons. The Mellon Arena (fka Civic Arena) in Pittsburgh is slated for demolition following completion of the Penguins' new arena. An architecturally unique structure, with a stainless steel retractable dome, the Mellon Arena has seen 42 years worth of NHL games and three Stanley Cup Championships. Aesthetically, the interior lacks certain amenities of its contemporaries and is extremely industrial, with exposed utility systems and narrow concrete concourses. It is a perfect fit for Cleveland.

The arena has been repurposed in the past, having initially served as a venue for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. The retractable dome makes it an appealing venue for concerts, or potentially for open air hockey games in the winter time. A professional hockey team and arena could greatly benefit Midtown, as much of the new development on the Euclid Corridor in that area has yet to be occupied. The possibility exists for a variety of bars, restaurants, retail and surface parking. Easy links via the Health Line to University Circle and downtown, along with Cleveland State and Case Western make it all the more appealing of a location.

The NHL would also benefit in that it is adding a market that has the potential to grow the game. Instant rivalries would be established with Columbus, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Buffalo.

A new arena could be the anchor tenant to shore up Midtown development.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Finding Blue Bob

--What do you mean you lost it? Erich's father yelled, pounding a low-hanging duct in their cellar, near the table where the two of them worked on the remote controlled plane.

Erich's voice wavered for he was already crying. The tears started just as he began explaining the story to the old man, after he had gone down to the basement to check on the plane. Erich's dad found the thin felt blanket they used to cover it, but no plane underneath. The old man's voice then thundered up the cold air return into Erich's room on the top floor.

--I, Erich sniffed, I was up at Edgewater flying it on the beach, but I had to pee, so I left it on a picnic table just outside the bathroom and when I came out it was gone.

He was crying a lot now. His throat hurt. He felt pathetic because he was.

--So someone stole it? Erich's dad said.

--Yeah. I don't know. I guess.

--You guess? said Erich's dad.

He picked up a bottle of Tri-Flow lube and slung it against the cinder block wall of the basement. He pounded his fist on the table.

-- All that work, he continued. What a waste. What a fucking waste.

The old man kept lifting up the blanket, as if it were a magic trick and the plane would appear below it if he tried the right number of times.

-- I'm sorry Dad, Erich said.

--Just stop. Shut it. I should have never let you take it up there. You're just not ready yet, plain and simple.

Erich hung his head, because he knew his dad was right.

--I'll make it up to you somehow.

--Too late. It's over. You really messed this one up.

Erich sobbed. They said nothing for a long time. It was getting dark.

-- You want to make this up to me Erich? his dad said. Then get Blue Bob back.

His dad's voice was eerily calm and it startled Erich so he cried even harder. The sobbing became uncontrollable.

--That's all it takes. Get the plane back. And we'll be okay. It'll be okay then. But you have to get it back for me.

Then he walked past Erich and up the stairs and slammed the door. Erich walked over to the garage and opened it. He hopped on his bike and rode north to the lake. About halfway, he realized he forgot to shut the garage door, which always pissed off his dad. One time he did that and someone stole all his dad's tools. But Erich kept moving forward.

Earlier that day, Erich did not want to watch the Ohio State game on TV so he pouted and by the second half his father had allowed him to take the plane up to the lake to fly it. The air was unseasonably welcoming for mid-November, and Erich wished for nothing more than to take his dad's plane, Blue Bob, a scale model Spitfire, and fly it around the beach beside Lake Erie.

There were not that many people at the beach that day so Erich was able to fly the plane for a while, even daring to take it out over the water, which he was never allowed to do with his old man. He loved banking it inland, so he could see the circular logo of the RAF on the wings. But then he had to take a leak, so he skillfully landed the plane, retrieved it, and walked over to the public restroom. He sat the plane and remote on a picnic table and did not really think too much of it, taking note of the sparse beach population at the time. Two minutes later, Erich walked out and Blue Bob was gone. He ran directly home and up into his room, counting the seconds until his old man found out.

Now, the day was waning and here he was, riding his BMX bike up to the lake again - hoping, just hoping, it would turn out okay. The odds of that happening were slim. Erich reached the end of W. 65, where a serpentine path led underneath the Shoreway and down to Edgewater Park. He heard the wheeze of a single propeller model plane. Looking across at the Shoreway, he saw a bright blue RC plane with RAF markings spiral up in the air, bank wildly back and forth, then disappear from sight behind some trees near the beach.

Erich pedaled as fast as he could down the sidewalk to the beach, nearly hitting a professional dog walker head on. The lady yelled over a dozen barking dogs for Erich to wake up. He then cut off a motorcyclist that was exiting the Shoreway. That guy gave Erich the middle finger. Erich again caught sight of the Spitfire near the shoreline. The thing was dangerously close to the deck and if he saw it wreck his life would be over. The old man would never forgive him.

The beach was deserted save for two guys in very baggy pants and black hooded sweatshirts. Both had the hoods up. One of the sweatshirts had a skull and cross bones; the other was all flames. Their backs were to Erich as he approached. The guy on the right had the remote, holding it with one hand and smoking a cigarette with the other.

--Hey! Erich yelled.

They took no notice so Erich continued.

--Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

The one without the remote turned around. He had a scrappy goatee and two black eyes. One of his eyes was dark red where there should be white.

--The fuck you want nephew? he said, then spit.

--Where'd you get that plane? Erich said.

He was shaking and too quick for this sort of exchange.

--It's my dad's, Erich followed up, not waiting for a response.

The other one turned around. He had a tattoo on his neck that said: Stefff?

--I bought this off some dude up on 65th. He said it was his granddaughter's and she needed to sell it for money for school clothes. I ain't never had no plane before so I bought this one.

--Yo, this your dad's plane? said the guy with the red eye.

--Yeah, Erich said, he really likes it. I said I'd get it back for him. Then everything'd be okay. Can I have it?

The sound of propeller filled the air and Blue Bob buzzed just above the three of them. Erich ducked but the other two did not.

--Shit, the tattooed man said, this thing's dangerous. I better be more careful.

He laughed.

--Man, give me that, said Red Eye.

He reached across at the remote and for a moment the two were drawn in a tug of war. Erich watched breathless as the plane piloted toward a hillside.

--Hands off cousin, said Tattoo.

He pressed his cigarette into Red's hand. This ended the feud. Tattoo corrected the trajectory and swung the plane 180 degrees so it was pointed for the lake.

--This kid wants the plane? Red said.

--I don't know man, Tattoo said. I can't just take a loss on this. I paid good money for it. How much you got kid?

Erich fished out his wallet. The Velcro crunched as he pulled it open. He had thirteen dollars, all in ones.

--That ain't gonna cut it man, Tattoo said. I gotta break even on this deal.

--How much did you pay for it? Erich asked.

Tattoo looked at Red.

--75, Tattoo said.

--You mean 85, Red said.

Erich did not have this money and there was no way he could get this money on his own.

--I don't have that much, he said. But I could ask my dad for it. He, he might pay it if I said it was for the plane.

--Ain't no dad coming down here, Tattoo said. You probably go up the hill and call the police. I ain't dealing with no pigs and no dad. You get me nephew?

--It's getting late, Red said. Let's get outta here.

--How the fuck I land this shit? Tattoo said.

Blue Bob passed over top of them. It sounded ill, sputtering and coughing. Erich knew it to be running out of gas.

--That thing sounds like shit, Red said. You got ripped off cousin.

Blue Bob crossed over the shoreline and continued over the water. It bobbed and dipped, propeller unable to keep a steady rhythm.

--Little man, you really want this thing? Tattoo asked.

--Yes! Yes! Erich said.

He felt himself beginning to cry again.

--Trade me your bike and the money, Tattoo said.

Erich's bike was a birthday gift from his dad and pretty much brand new. But he thought the loss of the bike would be offset by the gain of Blue Bob. He agreed.

--Cousin, Red said, I think you losing on this deal. No way that bike is worth 85. Probably not half that.

--Shit, you right, Tattoo said. Little man, you just have to owe me. Next time I see you. Otherwise, we kick the shit out of you.

--And your fucking old man, Red said, shoving Erich off the bike.

Red climbed on.

--Yeah man, this thing feels cheap as shit, he said.

--Here, Tattoo said. Fuck off.

He tossed the remote control in the sand and climbed on the bike's rear pegs, holding onto Red's shoulders. The two rode off, spraying sand up over Erich.

Erich rolled over and grabbed the remote, hoping Blue Bob had enough fuel to make it back to land. It was way far off. Erich jammed the rudder joystick left, but the plane did not respond. He slammed his wrist on the side and sand poured out through vents in the bottom. He tried again. No response. Erich ran toward the water, trying ineffectively to reroute the plane. It kept going into the distance, sputtering, dropping.

Erich hit the water flailing. He was not a strong swimmer and the waves, septic in nature, flowed over top of him. He drank in a mouthful and it tasted of locker room smells. Colder than November air. He reached and kicked past drift wood and non-organic flotsam, beyond where his feet touched. Blue Bob wobbled inches above sea level, gliding incrementally into oblivion.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaBeGroMo Update

There is some definite progress this week vs. last week. Though I think it may be premature to call this a 'beard.'

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Part of NOMENCLATURE's Galleria Series: Nov. 9-12

This day, I ride around the Galleria on my bike, trying to track down a bike rack. I am too late for the food court, as it usually closes around 4:30, but I have prepped by picking up Jimmy John's from the Euclid Ave. shop. I complete a lap of the building, but find no bike racks, which is odd, for it is a retail site in a city adjoined by a large office tower. How could there be no bike racks?

I eventually chain my bike to a bronze railing on some stairs leading to the rotunda. The bike cascades down 4 steps. I enter through the food court and the mall is already uncomfortably dark. In reality, I am in there beyond operating hours, but the door is open so I go inside.

I notice that the Cleveland Bar Association is having some sort of mixer in their office. I do not belong there. Taking my place at a table on the upper level, I unwrap my submarine, dial Charles Parsons. We discuss getting together Friday for the Kent State Folk Festival and living our lives like we are 22 again. He asks if I have paid off my Flaming Gyro debt. Not yet.

To my right, a couple of guys in one piece coveralls stare into a small art gallery. They are possibly in HVAC or pest control or escalator repair -- it is hard to say. But they stare for a long time at one painting -- a 4' x 6' canvas of fanciful humans with a great splotch of red in the middle.

-- I guess, one of them says, that most of these stores are for people that work in the office.

-- Yeah, says the other, too much bread for me.

But they continue to stand there, and eventually walk inside the space for it is very small and not staffed. I don't believe it even has a name. I continue to munch on my sub, glancing over from time to time to see the men gesturing wildly at the great red painting with the gold frame. They demonstrate lines of articulation.

I check back and they are gone. Time to leave I guess. I descend into the rotunda food court, now pitch black, and walk outside into the chilly November air, back toward my bike on the stairs.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Part of NOMENCLATURE's Galleria Series: Nov. 9 - 12

I buy a gyro from Flaming Gyros and attempt to pay with my debit card. The large man behind the counter says that if I pay with cash, he's willing to give me the gyro combo for $5 instead of $6. He mumbles something about the card not going into his account until Monday. I fish in my wallet, knowing I only have $4. I tell him this. He does not say yes or no, but goes about making my meal. He comes from the kitchen with a nice looking sandwich. I give him all my money but he asks for fifty cents, something to get a little closer to the $5. I don't have it. I just don't. Then I tell him I can pay him the other $2 next week. He does not say yes or no but gives me the food and a small drink.

From my usual table in the upper middle of the Galleria, I look down on Dario Fashion Group. Yet another day where not one soul will even give the place a glance, I think. Today, though, an old man in a trench coat and large plastic rim glasses walks along the outside perimeter of Dario. He cases the suits hanging side-by-side-by-side in the display window. He ponders for a long time in front of the sign advertising a ridiculous sale on fine suits. He walks to the entrance and stares inside for a while longer, then decides to keep going, it seems. He walks past the door.

I deflate a little, disappointed that he did not take the leap. Then, inexplicably, the old man turns around and walks into the store. I am shocked. The hair stands up on the back of my neck. I expect to see the man come out any second, but no one else comes in or out.

This signifies a golden opportunity for me, as I have wanted to browse Dario for some time, but have always been off put that no one is ever in there. Today, though, I could walk in and overwhelm the clerk with business.

-- Two in one day, he would say, must be Black freaking Friday.

But the gyro has left me feeling greasy and nebulous. Beard month has me looking haggard, listless, like a derelict. This is not the day to shop for suits.

More time passes and I realize it is time for me to return to work, so I toss my pop in the trash can, take a quick look at the Lakefront Hullet Plan and mosey out of there, gyro shifting back and forth inside me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Arcade Tour

Part of NOMENCLATURE's Galleria Series: Nov. 9 - 12.

After yesterday's post, I decided today to partake in an 'Arcade Tour' of Cleveland. I walked to Superior and into the Euclid Arcade, then crossed over to the Colonial Marketplace. At that point in the day, most shops had locked up. Hunger rang within me, and as all the food vendors had closed or were emitting disinfectant smells, I decided to try another place for food.

I ended up walking down E. 6 and over to Au Bon Pain in the Fifth Third Center. The place was virtually deserted at 4:25 pm. One cashier stood post, talking to a man with a coffee. Occasionally, a cook would appear from the kitchen. He said he'd be right with me.

I ordered a chicken sandwich, asked the guy how his day was going. He seemed preoccupied with a cart that held several dozen containers of dressing.

-- I'm just trying to get out of here, man, he said. 6:30 and I am out that door.

He slapped both hands, clad in rubber gloves, then pointed to the outside. I noticed that he had a tattoo the upperside of his wrist that read: Shelly.

I nodded in commiseration, though I knew it to be no earlier than 4:30. I thought, am I the last person to order for tonight? Do you always start your closing work at 4 pm, when the place closes at 6?

I paid for my sandwich and a bag of salt and vinegar chips. The clerk tried to upsell me on a cookie and a drink. I politely declined.

With last night's post still on my mind, I walked up E. 9th to the Galleria and took the escalator to the second floor. For the last month, the down escalator at the E. 9th entrance has been busted. The guts of the movable stair are exposed like a war casualty in a film.

The spot I always sit at is located near the center of the mall and looks up at the Erieview Tower and down onto an open space. On this day, a book seller had set up a series of tables with sash that read: Reading is Fun. I also looked down upon a suit maker named Dario -- a shop in which I have never seen a customer. The same sign accosts me: 1 suit: $99 ; additional suits: $1. Behind me was the Friends of the Cleveland Hullets display space. An older couple walked past me. They seemed to recall when there was legitimate business in the retail space. They noticed the Hullets store and decided to take a look inside. It was the first time I have seen anyone in the hullets store beside me.

I attempted to write in my comp book, but I could not find a pen. So I read a little of the latest A Public Space. By the time I needed to head back to work, the sky had mostly gone dark and the Galleria took on a dimness that astounds me each time I see it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Galleria

Oftentimes, I take my lunch at the Galleria at Erieview, on W. 9th and St. Clair in downtown Cleveland. As I work second shift, my lunch often falls around 4 or 5 pm, and I can catch the tail end of food court shops before they close. My personal favorite is the Greek place, Flaming Gyros. I might be reaching here, but Flaming has the best gyros and the best lunch deal in town: 1 gyro; fries; pop - $6.

The cheap lunch is one benefit. The other is the serenity of a near dead mall. After researching a tad, I found that the Galleria had it's heyday in the late '80's (it was built in 1987) and early '90's, when it actually functioned as a shopping destination for suburbanites. The multiple, offset glass barrel vaults add a level of class to the place, as well as a reference to the system of arcades that connect Superior to Prospect.

The Galleria has definitely seen better days. On a weekday at 5 pm the place is virtually deserted. The only sound is the constant hum of HVAC and the occasional cough from a person at the other end of the mall. At this time, most shops are closed, closing, or never actually close -- the Galleria has lots of gallery spaces, the gates of which never seem to come down. My personal favorite is the Friends of the Cleveland Huletts. The organization has a small corner shop on the upper level that displays pictures of various huletts and their idea to move the huletts to the lake shore near the Rock Hall. I recommend checking out their scale model of the plan. The Huletts' friends have excellent model craft.

A smattering of offices have taken residence in the section of the mall closer to the Erieview Tower. Walking past, I havae considered entering into one of the design offices -- particularly StudioTh!nk -- but decided against it, for it may be awkward. I find the occupation of former retail space with office space quite interesting. I am trying to get my friends at POST to lease a storefront in the Galleria and for use as a makeshift office. A vacant food stand with red and black checkered tiles would be great for their needs.

More than anything, I appreciate the Galleria because it provides a quiet respite from the city outside. I understand that quietness and desolation is at a premium in Cleveland. But as far as a place to go downtown, to consider Cleveland's more recent history, and to explore one of its forgotten nooks, come to the Galleria.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

VIDEO: Cleveland 3.1

The following video was initially presented at last February's Pecha Kucha Night Cleveland, held at the House of Blues. Thed Ferringer and I (acting as fictitious urban design consortium FABNEO) collaborated to produce this satirical solution for all of Cleveland's problems.

Thed and I have not gotten together to present this since the initial Pecha Kucha Night. This is the first time that the content has been replicated in a complete format. To the best of my knowledge, a
full recording from P-K Night does not exist. My lady friend Alex did capture a significant chunk of the P-K presentation, which may be added to YouTube at some point in the near future. Though the version below provides a great example of the Cleveland 3.1 plan, it maybe lacks the immediacy, desperation and hilarity of P-K night.

If anyone out there has a full recording from that night, please reach out to me or Thed.

Thanks and enjoy.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ohio City House Fire

Last night I was riding down Franklin, on my way back from the Happy Dog, I approached a haze in the distance near W. 30 and the field at which we sometimes play kickball. Entering the cloud, I was inundated with the reek of woodsmoke. This triggered instantly the notion of fire. I turned down W. 32 to see about 10 firetrucks lined up along the entire length of the street.

I rode down to a hydrant with fire hose attached, living the dream, spraying streams of water down the street gutters. I stepped off my bike and crossed to the other side of the road and onto park space adjacent to the burning house.

A man in sweatpants and a white undershirt came to stand at my side. He said that it was a boarding house, and one of the tenants had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette, and there you had it. I simply nodded.

As a matter of coincidence, I had my digital camera and immediately took photos of the blaze, despite my better judgment. Then came memories of my old man and I, late into a night of my youth, on a street with a house burning down, opting to stay in and not rubberneck -- a term I heard for the first time then, in reference to those that glean inspiration and reality from tragedy.

I was tipsy, my judgment markedly skewed and I did not feel much guilt at my decision to record the event. Shortly thereafter, I witnessed several others snapping images or capturing video on cell phone cameras or more sophisticated equipment.

Scanning the crowd that had gathered, I began to posit those that have been a tenant in the house. A man in a football jersey, pajama pants and no shoes shifts uneasily back and forth. Bides his time between the sidewalk and a cab of a Cleveland pump truck.

I noticed my friend Dan with a few other guys on bikes. I drew alongside him, stated something about how crazy the whole thing was. He said that a friend of his had called earlier, told him to call the fire department as a house was definitely on fire. Dan's friend then rode down the street and roused the residents of W. 32. He was a hero.
* * *

The next day, I learned that two people perished in the fire.

UPDATE - 11/08/09 - 10:47 PM: Four people have perished in the fire. (Thanks to Thed for the update.)

Rest In Peace.


Friday, November 06, 2009

NaBeGroMo Update

Nothing more than stubble at this point. But I think big things await this beard.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

In a Nutshell

Tonight I rescued a stolen bike that belongs to my friend Abe.

Thed and I saw some kid riding it up Detroit as we were leaving the Happy Dog.

Unmistakable: sky blue Schwinn Madison with a dowel rod for handlebar.

And the helmet -- Abe's helmet: stark black with no decals -- hanging from those handlebars.

We followed, down to 65th and then a right.

The kid stopping at a house.

Side door opens and the bike begins to disappear.

A confrontation, brief, not particularly heated.

A walk then an exchange.

The bike is returned.

Thed and I walk back with three bikes.

Now I own Abe's bike.

In a nutshell.

---------story to follow---------

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


They day they find 11 dead bodies in a house near Kinsman, I take my lunch during the evening rush and go towards CVS to buy my mum a birthday card. Crossing over St. Clair with no Walk sign, a few pedestrians and myself make our way South down East Ninth Street. I pass alongside the ING building, where an old woman in a puffed up white jacket begs people for money.

--Does anyone got a quarter? she yells while slamming fist into palm.

She accosts the walkers in front of me, and I try to sidestep her pleas behind a column of the ING Building. Very spry for an old lady, she notices my maneuver and catches me as I emerge from the other side.

--Can you spare a quarter or let me use your cell phone? she expells, both arms extended and fingers wrenched.

I just shake my head, continue onward, hands-in-pockets.

--I just need one quarter!

Nearing CVS, a man sits on the sidewalk with his back against the building. His legs are splayed nearly into the street. He clutches a styrofoam cup, shaking change and bottlecaps. This method is far less obtrusive and easier to ignore.

The woman in front of me also enters into CVS. She does not make any attempt to hold open the door for this is not a city of people.

I make my way to the card section and pick out a rather standard card for my mum. On the cover, a turquoise cake sits below a bow. Above, text in Garamond: A Wonderful Birthday for a Wonderful Mother. Enjoy Your Day.

Standing near the front counter, I wait for maybe thirty seconds for the clerk to acknowledge my presence. To my right, a customer examines wristwatches for $9.99. The clerk is glued to a 3.5" portable television hooked to an obnoxious antenna. The County Coroner says during a press conference that the identities of the victims will need to be determined using DNA evidence. A flyover shot shows a bunch of people milling around a backyard riddled with holes -- graves.

The clerk notices me, motions me over to the register. He says a price and I scan a credit card. The machine spits out a receipt. He uses the edge of the counter to tear it and gives it to me. On my way out, a man clearly shoplifting exits behind me, undeterred.

The man with the cup still plies his trade. No luck again from me.

Coming back to the ING building, I search for the Quarters woman, and am relieved to see her not there. A nicely dressed woman leaves the ING building and then Quarters is on top her, having materialized out of thin air. The ING woman is trapped within a web of wrenched fingers and outstretched arms and puffed up jackets.

--Can you just give me a quarter? Just one quarter?

The force of the sound echos between the columns and lifts shreds of newspaper off the ground.

ING woman is despaired, she says that she cannot -- ahem -- cannot help. Though she wishes against wishes that she could. She says that Quarters should go to Prospect because some there surely will help. Surely. She digs around her purse for quarters that aren't there.

I poke around in my pocket and my thumb and forefinger collect one single, solitary quarter. I take it out and approach Quarters and her puffy coat. My hand lightly grazes her elbow, to garner attention. I drop the quarter into the palm of a hand with wretched fingers.

--That's what I'm talking about, says Quarters.

The ING woman says that it is a blessing and she thanks me, she thanks me. She is so damn happy. I wave and continue back to my job in a brown-and-glass midrise to heat up some Ramen before my lunch time expires.

From behind I hear:

--Now I just need another quarter!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Contest Entry

Controlling idea: Tell us what you are most excited about this Black Friday. (250 words or less)

My heavily-insulated back leans against cold precast concrete. I am in competition and in cahoots with the dozens of shivering souls that surround me. Together, we are a force with which to be reckoned. But at the same, we remain a force of good. We sacrifice a day of rest for a frigid, impossibly-early awakening to stretch our legs and stretch our budgets, to try to provide the best holiday for our loved ones. I bond with perfect strangers over hot coffees and Pop Tarts, hoping that I can wrangle my purchases quickly and retreat to the warmth of my bed by mid-morning. I hope that my newfound friends can do the same.

* * *

In keeping with said controlling idea, possible Black Friday Brunchy(TM) at either my place or KateSpace's (Kate'sSpace?). Get in line early folks -- Thed's making pancakes!

Monday, November 02, 2009

I Don't Need That

After tossing back some cafe Americano and some life issues and big old ideas, Charlie and I left Gypsie Beans in pursuit of a smoke shop. We passed the glistening new storefronts and restaurants indicative of a neighborhood on the rise. We also passed a few indicators of a not-so-ebullient and not-so-distant past. While Charlie was looking for smokes (I was helping), we sought a vendor more upscale than CONVENIENT STORE FOOD MART. So we continued down Detroit Avenue, beyond where the redevelopment was most noticeable.

--I think this part of the neighborhood is still looking for development, I said
--We might have to go to Little Italy, Charlie said, removing the last Nat Sherman from the pack.

We passed a Save-A-Lot, then a Family Dollar, where a young boy emerged, shopping bag in hand. He reached inside to remove a new AM/FM walkman. Charlie and I stepped past, and I thought the boy called for us, about 20 steps behind.



The calls were ignored.

The chapel at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel let loose a volley of bell chimes, either recorded or the real deal. I did not believe it was the turn of the hour.

Charlie and I had reached a block of apartment buildings to our left. Beyond the apartments there appeared little in the way of retail, let alone a high rent tobacco shop, though the Golden Arches were appealing. We stopped. Twenty yards away, a middle aged woman in curlers and a housecoat sat on the front stoop of an apartment building. We turned back the other way.

--Excuse me, she said.

We began walking.

--Excuse me, she said.

--Excuse me.

--Excuse me.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel continued Her cadence.

We approached the child again. He walked toward us holding out the radio, still in the package.

--Hey. Hey you. Can you open this?

I said sure and took the thing off of him. It was encased in a bubble of plastic, fabricated in China or Taiwan, more than likely, and would serve the kid well for about two weeks, when it would either be lost, stolen, or deceased of natural causes. I took out my apartment keys and used one to saw through the container.

The shopping bag that had once contained the boy's purchase fell lazily from his hand and began to waft down the sidewalk. Charlie lurched with his left leg and stepped on the bag before it could float further away.

--You dropped your bag nephew, Charlie said.

--Huh? the kid said. I don't need that.

I managed to cut a healthy gash through the packaging, and used my hands to separate one half of the shell from the other. Our Lady signaled the fifteenth hour, roughly. Or maybe the sixteenth. Daylight savings had ended just that morning, and it takes the world most of the day to adjust.

--You better pick up that bag, said Charlie.
--But I don't need that, said the child.

In seeing him speak, I noticed that his teeth were stained orange -- a gradient moving from dark to light as the tooth descended from the gum.

--Look, Charlie said, foot still resting on the bag -- you throw this bag into a trash can.

--I don't need it!

The kid, maybe 10 or 11, took a wad of cash from his pocket and quickly ran his fingers across it. All singles amounting to maybe eight dollars. He slipped the dough back into his jeans.

--Trash can! Charlie said.

The kid stared from me to Charlie, then back again. I noticed that he wore glasses. He bent down and picked up the bag, eyes appearing perplexed behind wire frames and lenses.

Through it all, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel continued her song.

Undoubtedly, the youth dropped the bag as soon as we turned our backs. But Charlie had won a small battle. I would not have said anything, had it just been me. I would have pretended to have not noticed the blatant display of laziness. My day would have moved on, and I would have made no effort to address the issue or correct it. But I would have complained about it later, no doubt.

As we made our way back to Gypsie Beans, Charlie and I greeted every piece of flotsam on the sidewalk -- usually near public trash cans -- with I Don't Need That.

Burger King cup: I don't need that.
K-12 RTA bus pass: I don't need that.
Funions bag: I don't need that.
Cash explosion lottery ticket: I don't need that.
Empty pack of Winstons: I don't need that.