Read this, and chances are you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about

The signal:noise on this #instapo­et ker­fuf­fle has sum­moned the chron­i­cal­ly lame “poet­ry is/was dying” revenant art takes.

Poets: your cho­sen art has nev­er been & will nev­er be pop­u­lar. This is fine!

You can­not argue whether some­thing is or is not art. There is no pla­ton­ic form for this abstrac­tion. You may choose to dis­cuss the phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of a work of art, but once wrought, it is immutable, warts & all. I might even argue that life begins at con­cep­tion for art & sim­i­lar abstrac­tions.

I once had a spir­it­ed dis­cus­sion about Crime & Pun­ish­ment with a pro­fes­sor. We were dis­cussing Raskolnikov’s guilty con­science & the pro­fes­sor asked me to iden­ti­fy the moment that this guilt man­i­fest­ed. After a bit of study I deter­mined that it occurred before he even com­mit­ted his crime.

He gave a sud­den start; anoth­er thought, that he had had yes­ter­day, slipped back into his mind. But he did not start at the thought recur­ring to him, for he knew, he had felt before­hand, that it must come back, he was expect­ing it; besides it was not only yesterday’s thought. The dif­fer­ence was that a month ago, yes­ter­day even, the thought was a mere dream: but now… now it appeared not a dream at all, it had tak­en a new men­ac­ing and quite unfa­mil­iar shape, and he sud­den­ly became aware of this him­self.… He felt a ham­mer­ing in his head, and there was a dark­ness before his eyes.Crime & Pun­ish­ment, Fyo­dor Doesto­evsky

Art has nev­er had any­thing to do with taste. Art is descrip­tive. Taste is pre­scrip­tive. If you are argu­ing whether some­thing should be “con­sid­ered art” you are gate­keep­ing via taste, and you are not talk­ing about art, or poet­ry, or punk music. You’re talk­ing about how cer­tain peo­ple are worth less to you. That’s cap­i­tal­ism, not artistry.

Will his­to­ry care what hill you chose to die on when it #instapo­et­ry came knock­ing at the gates? Should you?

The time of get­ting fame for your name on its own is over. Art­work that is only about want­i­ng to be famous will nev­er make you famous. Any fame is a by-prod­uct of mak­ing some­thing that means some­thing. You don’t go to a restau­rant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.”
Banksy

(Here’s the video)

Why Do Anything?

My increas­ing mate­r­i­al nihilism has result­ed in pre­dictable exis­ten­tial nihilis­tic philoso­phies. The fun part is that there super­fi­cial­ly clear con­tra­dic­tions between what I enjoy mate­ri­al­ly & what I think exis­ten­tial­ly. There’s a part of Cities in Flight by James Blish, where he describes humans as “local anom­alies in the sec­ond law of ther­mo­dy­nam­ics” which, for years, I thought was a pret­ty excep­tion­al way to describe the unique­ness & impor­tance of human­i­ty. How­ev­er, the more I observe human­i­ty, the more mis­an­throp­ic I become. I guess we are unique & impor­tant, but in vice, not virtue. We’re less anom­alous, but rather more effi­cient at con­tribut­ing to the entropy of a sys­tem. Earth was doing fine until colo­nial­ism & the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion basi­cal­ly trashed the place in a cou­ple hun­dred years.

How do humans make the uni­verse a bet­ter place? This is a fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed qual­i­ta­tive ques­tion, philo­soph­i­cal­ly (what is ‘bet­ter’?), but nev­er­the­less quick­ly gets to the point of con­tention. The typ­i­cal mit­i­ga­tion offered to bal­ance the entropy we con­stant­ly impose upon the mate­r­i­al world is our achieve­ments of con­science. Our work in phi­los­o­phy, art, lit­er­a­ture, music, sci­ence. The results of our sen­tience, sapi­ence, and sagac­i­ty are all of these great things!

This is an almost tau­to­log­i­cal self­ish fal­la­cy. We aren’t bad because we do good things. But the good things we do can only be appre­ci­at­ed by oth­er humans (who might not!), while the bad things we do affect our entire world. The pas­sen­ger pigeon will not feel tran­scen­dent when it hears music because 1) as far as we know, crit­ters can’t expe­ri­ence that emo­tion and 2) we killed them all. Polar bears will be extinct in my life­time because of human-dri­ven cli­mate change. Do the sum of the achieve­ments of human­i­ty bal­ance the harm we do? I’d rather have polar bears than poet­ry. Even our achieve­ments are an increase in entropy.

Why do any­thing, then? It doesn’t mat­ter either way, real­ly. What­ev­er you do is going to end up dust. An eth­i­cal nihilist, I guess, would be some­one who attempts to lim­it the entropy they add to a sys­tem, even though they know it’s a futile task.

Checkpoint

This past year was a tough one. The first half was spent on high alert with a project that went wid­der­shins & the sec­ond half was spent fail­ing to recov­er from being dumped by the woman I want­ed to mar­ry. Rela­tion­ships with my mom & a once good friend are now soured because they con­sis­tent­ly pro­vid­ed the oppo­site of emo­tion­al sup­port after this occurred. My kid has some behav­ioral issues at school & com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his mom remains close to non-exis­tent.

I know that many oth­er parts of my life are just fine & that I’m priv­i­leged and ahead of the game com­pared to many oth­er peo­ple. I have excep­tion­al cowork­ers & an intel­li­gent & sweet child. I can pay all of my bills, donate to char­i­ty, and vol­un­teer with a non-prof­it. That doesn’t change the fact that I can’t sum­mon the ener­gy to seek hap­pi­ness any­more. Get­ting dumped broke my heart & it still hurts too much to poke around inside to fig­ure out how to fix it.

I’m try­ing to find some goals to grasp on to for 2018 where suc­cess and fail­ure are in my con­trol. I’m hop­ing that will help me feel bet­ter.

  • Lose 20 pounds, get into shape, & com­plete a sprint triathlon
    • I plan to track diet & exer­cise to reach this goal.
  • Learn the basics of machine learning/neural net­works to build a poet­ry gen­er­a­tor
    • There are online tuto­ri­als to get me through the first part, the sec­ond piece will be a bit more seat-of-the-pants, but I look for­ward to some cre­ative prob­lem-solv­ing.

That’s all I have had the ener­gy to come up with. Sor­ry for all of the com­plain­ing.

Throne of Blood (1957)

Justice, Trauma, & Healing

Man. I don’t know how to clear­ly write about this; it will be long & messy. I’ve spent a few weeks think­ing about the gestalt of the sex­u­al assault & harass­ment sto­ries that have per­me­at­ed the news. At first I was hap­py to see that ser­i­al offend­ers, who had used their pow­er cor­rupt­ly, were receiv­ing actu­al con­se­quences for their actions. At the same time, I felt like the con­se­quences were being enact­ed by unin­volved, non-author­i­ta­tive par­ties. I think now that my per­cep­tions there we formed by the way the sto­ries were framed in the media. To be hon­est, I think the deci­sions were made because it’s just good busi­ness to virtue sig­nal in this way. They are shocked, shocked to find gam­bling going on here!

Justice

I’m still unsure how I feel about this kind of moral jus­tice. I go back, again and again, to my Catholic upbring­ing:

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And ear­ly in the morn­ing he came again into the tem­ple, and all the peo­ple came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Phar­isees brought unto him a woman tak­en in adul­tery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Mas­ter, this woman was tak­en in adul­tery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law com­mand­ed us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempt­ing him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his fin­ger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they con­tin­ued ask­ing him, he lift­ed up him­self, and said unto them, He that is with­out sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being con­vict­ed by their own con­science, went out one by one, begin­ning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman stand­ing in the midst. When Jesus had lift­ed up him­self, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man con­demned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Nei­ther do I con­demn thee: go, and sin no more.

John 8:1–11, KJV

And now see that I’ve prob­a­bly missed a few points in this les­son. I’ve always tak­en it to mean sim­ply: You, a sin­ner, should not con­demn oth­ers who sin. Yet this is only a wise moral func­tion when you have the pow­er, and the accused does not. With­hold­ing con­dem­na­tion of those who abuse their pow­er per­pet­u­ates that abuse.

I do not begrudge the anger and sense of vic­ar­i­ous vengeance that women are feel­ing as these pow­er­ful men are held to account. Injus­tice should always be appro­pri­ate­ly addressed. Yet at the same time, I am look­ing for, but not see­ing a path of mer­cy or restora­tive jus­tice avail­able here. Maybe it’s there and I’m miss­ing it? More like­ly, I think, is that this is just white guys final­ly get­ting a taste of what women & minori­ties have lived with for thou­sands of years. If I under­stand this par­a­digm cor­rect­ly, I am wor­ried about it. I want to assume that our goal as eth­i­cal, empa­thet­ic beings is to cre­ate a soci­ety where insti­tu­tion­al­ized forms of oppres­sion cease to exist because all peo­ple are look­ing out for all peo­ple. That’s tough though, because we’re trib­al & clique-ish by nature. Vengeance and vig­i­lan­tism are trib­al behav­iors. So while I do not begrudge the feel­ings, I also do not know what goal they progress us toward.

For chil­dren are inno­cent and love jus­tice; while most of us are wicked and nat­u­ral­ly pre­fer mer­cy.

G.K. Chester­ton, On House­hold Gods and Gob­lins, 1922

Trauma

Of all the pow­er­ful or car­niv­o­rous ani­mals… the wolf seems to have been the most impor­tant for the Indo-Euro­pean war­riors. Reflex­es of the old word wlk­wo, “wolf,” are found in lit­er­al­ly hun­dreds of prop­er names, and [in the names of] numer­ous peo­ples, such as the Luvians, Lycians, [et cetera]…Stories of lycan­thropy are well known among the Greeks, Romans, Ger­mans, Celts, Ana­to­lians, and Ira­ni­ans, and these would seem to be trace­able to these ancient war­rior prac­tices.

In Ger­man­ic myth and leg­end, say Brown and Antho­ny, these fer­al war-bands “are called Män­ner­bünde… a label often applied [by schol­ars] to all sim­i­lar Indo-Euro­pean insti­tu­tions.” Män­ner­bünde means “men-league,” league of men.

Toward their con­clu­sion, Brown and Antho­ny spec­u­late on the psy­cho­log­i­cal ben­e­fits of a sym­bol­ic trans­for­ma­tion into a beast of prey. The wolf war­riors, they sur­mise, “would feel no guilt for break­ing the taboos of human soci­ety because they had not been humans [at the time].”

Find­ing some way to deal with guilt must have been cru­cial, not only for indi­vid­ual mem­bers of the leagues but for their soci­eties as a whole. This is because mem­ber­ship in the Män­ner­bünde last­ed only for a set peri­od. If you were still alive at the end of that time, you had to inte­grate your­self back into your old com­mu­ni­ty. In order to per­form the roles soci­ety now need­ed you to per­form — fam­i­ly man, work­ing stiff — you had to shed your taint­ed and bloody sav­age iden­ti­ty.

For some, this would have been impos­si­ble, no mat­ter what psy­cho­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms were deployed to help. But many oth­ers must have man­aged the rein­te­gra­tion well enough. The rota­tion back into nor­mal­cy is doc­u­ment­ed in the Vedic texts: “At the end of four years, there was a final sac­ri­fice to trans­form the dog-war­riors into respon­si­ble adult men who were ready to return to civ­il life. They dis­card­ed and destroyed their old clothes and dog skins. They became human once again.”

Eliz­a­beth Scham­be­lan, League of Men, N+1 Mag­a­zine, Spring 2017

A few days ago, on my 37th birth­day, I woke from a night­mare into a pan­ic attack about my father’s emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal abuse. Stuff that hap­pened 24 years ago! I chose to not inter­act with him after I was 13. He’s dead now. I haven’t con­scious­ly felt any need to deal with it for years. But that trau­ma is still inside & hops out always unex­pect­ed. So while I might not be able to empathize with the par­tic­u­lars of a trau­ma, I know what it is like to be sub­ject­ed to it in gen­er­al.

There’s no time lim­it on trau­ma, and peo­ple don’t seem to be very good at acknowl­edg­ing that or help­ing oth­ers deal with their own. The entire­ty of the arti­cle I quot­ed above is worth read­ing. It offers a well con­struct­ed anthro­po­log­i­cal argu­ment that humans have essen­tial­ly been punt­ing on how to deal with the trau­ma caused by “men as wolves” for longer than record­ed his­to­ry. Soci­eties give men tac­it per­mis­sion to inflict any man­ner of destruc­tion, but no tools for pro­cess­ing what they inflict or receive. I have shared deeply held, vul­ner­a­ble feel­ings with close friends and fam­i­ly this year, and have been told by on mul­ti­ple occa­sions, by women, to suck it up and be a man.

I also see the ampli­fi­ca­tion some­thing like this receives:

and the pop­u­lar­i­ty of #menare­trash and I get real­ly frus­trat­ed. This kind of behav­ior is func­tion­al­ly no dif­fer­ent than per­se­cu­tion that’s been direct­ed at women for­ev­er. It comes from trau­ma, but just cre­ates more. Everyone’s life is a teach­able moment. If men are trash, and not sup­posed to learn from the expe­ri­ences that women have, then how are we sup­posed to get bet­ter? Many men are not equipped to fig­ure this out on our own. Many of us lack any sort of emo­tion­al sup­port net­work for our own trou­bles, and typ­i­cal­ly peo­ple don’t look to men to pro­vide emo­tion­al sup­port. I don’t know how else peo­ple are sup­posed to grow and under­stand each oth­er as a com­mu­ni­ty, if not by learn­ing about each other’s lives, being open to that shar­ing, under­stand­ing that harm will hap­pen, and being will­ing to accept and work through when it does.

Healing

I don’t know that any­one is good at inter­per­son­al heal­ing right now. The trend con­tin­ues toward polar­iza­tion in all things. I am nat­u­ral­ly inclined toward coop­er­a­tion & peace­mak­ing. I want to wel­come the repen­tant & prodi­gal back into the fam­i­ly. But heal­ing & for­give­ness can only occur when all sides want it. While I’m quite moti­vat­ed to cre­ate accord in most things, I have almost zero inter­est in heal­ing & for­give­ness when peo­ple hurt me deeply. At the same time, I have no desire to call them out on it. After I jumped out of my dad’s car, he was dead to me. It’s been the same way with any­one who has betrayed my trust on a fun­da­men­tal lev­el: friends, fam­i­ly, & part­ners. That’s prob­a­bly not healthy, it’s def­i­nite­ly not heal­ing, & I think it relates direct­ly to what peo­ple refer to when they speak of tox­ic and/or frag­ile mas­culin­i­ty. But I’ve got no oth­er tools to deal with it.

I like to think I’m pret­ty good at solv­ing prob­lems, but not in this case. I’m unsure what tools I need, and have not had good expe­ri­ences when I have asked for help in learn­ing to be more deft with the ones I have. I’m not even sure most folks are inter­est­ed in devel­op­ing restorative/redemptive meth­ods to heal divi­sions of any stripe. It’s way eas­i­er to just say ‘fuck ‘em’.

I have no con­clu­sions. I don’t even know where to go from here.

Heartland Roadtrip

My 9 year old son & I final­ly took a fam­i­ly vaca­tion back in August. I’m hop­ing he’ll remem­ber this trip, unlike some of the oth­er adven­tures we’ve been on. We were gone a week, put 3330 miles on my car & had a pret­ty awe­some time. I left my work phone at home; I couldn’t tell you the last time I was ful­ly unplugged from a job. I can tell you the last time I took a vaca­tion that wasn’t to spend time fam­i­ly: 1998, when I took a week long school trip to Mex­i­co over spring break. Maybe I’ll actu­al­ly take an adult vaca­tion one of these days.

Trip Prep

  • The dog went to my friend for the week.
  • I obtained a cit­i­zens band radio, anten­na, & a copy of the same CB slang dic­tio­nary I had as a child.
  • I obtained 2 dis­pos­able col­or cam­eras for my son, & 1 dis­pos­able black & white cam­era for me. The pho­tos in this post are from that cam­era, except for the ones at the end which are from my smart­phone.
  • I made a bunch of sand­wich­es & filled a cool­er with those & water bot­tles. Eat­ing on the road is expen­sive. Also plen­ty of snacks.
  • Tent, sleep­ing bags, changes of clothes
  • A flask of bour­bon

The Trip

Day 1 — Chicago & Westward

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I got up a bit after 5, loaded the car, & woke up the kid about 10 min­utes before 6. He got dressed, used the bath­room, & we were on the road by 6:05am. Dri­ving from Cleve­land to Chica­go is expen­sive. A tank of gas & $20+ in tolls lat­er & we arrived at the Sol­dier Field park­ing garage ($22 base rate) to vis­it The Field Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry ($36). Abra­ham & I enjoyed the large col­lec­tion of mete­orites & look­ing at a full Tyran­nosaurus Rex fos­sil, but both of us felt a great pres­ence of colo­nial­ism, as much of the muse­um con­sists of arti­facts “dis­cov­ered” & trans­port­ed from their point of ori­gin. En route to Chica­go, my son got on the CB as “Kung Fu Kat” & request­ed a traf­fic report using the slang dic­tio­nary. It was hilar­i­ous.

Back on the road & head­ed toward Wis­con­sin. Abra­ham was just hap­py to vis­it a bunch of States he’d nev­er been in before, but I was eager to get to some sort of Wis­con­sin Cheese House™ so I could obtain, if I was lucky, some New Glarus Brew­ery Wis­con­sin Bel­gian Red ale, my favorite beer of all time. We stopped at the Mouse­house Cheese­haus & my dream came true. I pur­chased the 3 bot­tles they had left in stock & kept them in the cool­er for the next 6 days.

Right after Abra­ham fin­ished one of my sand­wich­es, we got pulled over. We got out of a tick­et, I think, because my son had dried mus­tard all over his face & was cute & chat­ty with her about going to South Dako­ta. A few hours lat­er (15 hours after leav­ing Cleve­land) we arrived the Jack­son, MN KOA, where an out­door karaoke night was in full swing. This day wasn’t bad, I just knew it was going to be long & nut­ty — it did not dis­ap­point. We passed out.

Day 2 — Tourist Trapped & Okay With It

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& were up at 6 & back on the road to South Dako­ta. South Dako­ta is a mag­i­cal land where the speed lim­it is 80mph. Don’t go over the speed lim­it or you’ll get pulled over. I got a warn­ing here as well; the troop­er said since the speed lim­it is 80, they don’t give any lee­way. It was real­ly cool how cross­ing the Mis­souri riv­er result­ed in an imme­di­ate change in the land­scape as well as an imme­di­ate pres­ence of bill­boards & their siren songs for all the var­i­ous tourist traps that we end­ed up vis­it­ing. This includ­ed:

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.

This appears to be a city hall cov­ered in corn cobs & shucks.

The Badlands Petrified Gardens in Kadoka, SD

We stopped here on a whim — I love their old school sig­nage. Epit­o­me of a mid­dle-of-nowhere tourist trap, but we received some amaz­ing intel on how to spend our 2 days in the area from the old cou­ple run­ning the place. If it weren’t for them I might have skipped the Bad­lands or Devil’s Tow­er, and that would have been a huge mis­take.

Some Prairie Dog Place That’s Not on the Map

My pri­or expe­ri­ence with prairie dogs was an old-ass video game shoot­er. They are basi­cal­ly blonde ground­hogs. We stopped here so that my son could take a few pic­tures.

Badlands National Park

I had no idea this was so close to Mount Rush­more, or I would have put it on the list in the first place. Thank­ful­ly the folks at the Bad­lands Pet­ri­fied Gar­dens encour­aged us to take the scenic route. After so much prairie, dri­ving over a hill into a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent land­scape was a moment of unex­pect­ed awe. We’d been through an awful lot of dri­ving and seen an awful lot of stuff, but this is when Abra­ham said “Dad, this trip just went to the next lev­el!” The Bad­lands are not a place I would want to be lost and with­out water.

Wall Drug in Wall, SD

If you took all the signs for Wall Drug scat­tered across South Dako­ta, and assem­bled them, you might end up with enough to make anoth­er Wall Drug. Wall Drug is huge, so imag­ine how many signs we saw? There’s no real rea­son to stop here, oth­er than to say that you stopped there.

Mount Rushmore

We were worn out by the time we stopped here. All there real­ly is to do here is the pho­to op & it was near­ly impos­si­ble to get a good pic­ture out of either of us do to worn-out-ness. The most inter­est­ing part was learn­ing that the site is also known as Six Grand­fa­thers & is sacred to the Lako­ta Sioux. They are not pleased with the guys carved into it.

Whispering Pines Campground

We spent a great two nights here, def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend it as a spot to camp if you’re in the area.

Cousin’s

We stopped into to this piz­za shack for din­ner, it was full of bik­ers from the Stur­gis Ral­ly. One of those spots where peo­ple write notes on $1 bills and sta­ple them to the wall. Notable only because the table we sat at had a $1 from some­one from my home­town.

Day 3 — Devil’s Tower, WY & A Hail Storm From Hell

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Abra­ham some­how knew that Devil’s Tow­er was out this way & he talked me into the 3 hour round-trip dri­ve to see it. I was about dri­ven-out by this point, but I’m glad I took his advice. It was an amaz­ing piece of geol­o­gy & unfor­tu­nate that the name is a mis­trans­la­tion. This site is like the Vat­i­can for the Lako­ta Sioux & 22 (?) oth­er indige­nous folks. It’s real­ly called Big Bear Lodge (or some­thing to that effect, the word for bear & the word for evil spir­it appar­ent­ly sound sim­i­lar if you’re not pay­ing good atten­tion). We spent most of the morn­ing here & got back to camp in the ear­ly after­noon. We’d main­ly been eat­ing out of packed food from a cool­er, but went to a restau­rant near­by for din­ner.

As we left, a hail storm hit the area. This was some­thing very dif­fer­ent from every oth­er hail storm I’d expe­ri­enced. I thought it was going to crack the win­dows on our car. It end­ed up leav­ing about 110 dents & doing $1500 worth of dam­age to the vehi­cle.

We arrived back at camp & my awe­some tent had with­stood the storm with aplomb. We hur­ried inside & it grew dark and stormed all night long. I’ve nev­er expe­ri­enced a storm of this feroc­i­ty. My son slept like a log through the whole thing, but I don’t know how. I felt like we were inside the thun­der. It inspired this poem. I’ll nev­er for­get it.

Day 4

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We drove all day. South Dako­ta, Iowa, Nebras­ka, Mis­souri. Camped in Mis­souri and had some of the best south­ern food I’ve had at the Tin Kitchen in West­on, MO. Took our first show­ers in 4 days in the nicest show­ers I’ve ever seen in a state park. Hap­py Cen­ten­ni­al Mis­souri State Parks!

Day 5 — Saint Louis Pizza & New Harmonie State Park

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We went to the arch, of course, but the real rea­son we hit St. Louis was so I could have a St. Louis-style piz­za, which is the arche­type of piz­za. The quin­tes­sence of piz­za remains Piz­za King, but as for its prog­en­i­tors: the moth­er is clear­ly St. Louis & the father like­ly Chica­go. It was about 95° & 90% humid­i­ty, so we head­ed over to Indi­ana, where, if not any cool­er, was at least shadier. New Har­monie State Park remind­ed me very much of White­wa­ter State Park, where I spent much of my child­hood. We fol­lowed the sounds of a barred owl deep into the woods. It start­ed to rain, but the tree cov­er kept us dry & we saw a cou­ple of deer who didn’t see us.

Day 6 — Mammoth Cave & Wigwam Village #2

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Mam­moth Cave was the last big stop on our trip. The boy was too excit­ed to real­ize how tired he was, which is good, because we explored all around the cave and man­aged a great tour of the best bits of the cave before we spent the rest of the day lay­ing in bed at our motel. Wig­wam Vil­lage #2 was built in 1937 & the ceil­ing fan almost elec­tro­cut­ed me. The show­er was like a pres­sure wash­er, and much appre­ci­at­ed. Although the tack­i­ness of the motel now is quite clear­ly polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect, the place is owned by Indi­ans. From India. Can you taste that fla­vor? That’s the fla­vor of Amer­i­ca.

Day 7 — Harveysburg, OH & Home

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The final day was just a 6 hour dri­ve back to Cleve­land, with one stop on the way, in Har­veys­burg, OH. We cov­ered over 3000 miles in just about a week, with not even the small­est dis­agree­ment, until about 3 miles from home when I made my son try to do the math on how many miles we aver­aged per day. He sat next to me in the front seat almost the whole way, and every­thing we talked about was impor­tant. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Storify

Roadtrippers Itinerary

View Full Trip

Sundry Digital Photos

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(The rea­son this took so long to post is that get­ting the black & white pho­tos devel­oped was a com­plete dis­as­ter & took sev­er­al months to get done cor­rect­ly)

De rien

I’ve lived in Cleve­land for near­ly 15 years now, & in all of that time, the city & its peo­ple have been, through exis­ten­tial tri­al & error, try­ing to tax­on­o­mize what it means to be Cleve­land. All of them should have vis­it­ed Steve’s Lunch before it burned.

There are a few who have me beat, but, for the most part, I’ve been to more places in more neigh­bor­hoods than peo­ple who’ve lived here their whole lives. The com­mon denom­i­na­tor, when you wipe away all the brand­ing & inter­net-era pos­tur­ing to reveal the rust­ed heart at our core, is a mod­er­ate­ly exas­per­at­ed politesse. Cleve­landers are busy, we’re in a hur­ry, we know what we’re doing, we don’t have time for your shit, but we aren’t gonna be jerks about it.

We’ll hold the door just long enough for it to not close in your face; we’ll throw up our hands at a senior cit­i­zen who prob­a­bly shouldn’t be on the road, and impa­tient­ly give them the right of way. We’ll serve up a com­plete­ly unpre­ten­tious hot dog, on a cheap plas­tic plate that’s been cur­so­ri­ly washed 10,000 times in 15 years, that changes your life when the sta­di­um mus­tard smears across your tongue.

Steve’s Lunch is where I went when I had $20 to spend on a night out & could buy a hot dog with my last two dol­lars at 3AM. It burned before I could intro­duce my son to the place, but we’re reg­u­lar enough at Steve’s Din­er that the staff knows us on sight & the Pep­si is wait­ing for us when we sit down. We grouse with the staff about weath­er & home­work & bills & split a plate of fries. Steve’s is where I go when I’m lone­ly or in need of com­fort, & where I head when all I have time for is a hot dog.

That hot dog could be dim sum; or piero­gi; or ribs bar­be­cued in a con­vert­ed 50-gal­lon drum & served up with­out a per­mit at an aban­doned gas sta­tion. The core of Cleve­land, that no amount of lux­u­ry con­dos or new coats of paint can obscure, is a lack of pre­ten­sion. Dan­de­lions like Steve’s are in every neigh­bor­hood; lift­ing their yel­low heads & growl­ing at what­ev­er Cleve­land sup­pos­ed­ly is this week.

We’ve seen so many grand ges­tures & prophets of pros­per­i­ty descend from the clouds to save Cleve­land, using mon­ey & influ­ence to change entire swathes of our neigh­bor­hoods. The loud­est sto­ry is that we need to be saved. We do our best to obscure the fact that we serve up lit­tle bits of sal­va­tion every day.

You want anoth­er hot dog?

A Short List of Things I’ve Failed

  • Devel­op­ing con­sis­tent­ly healthy eat­ing habits
  • Fig­ur­ing out a reg­u­lar exer­cise sched­ule
  • Dri­ving below the speed lim­it
  • Patience
  • Home own­er­ship
  • Long-term roman­tic rela­tion­ships
  • Invest­ing
  • Weight loss
  • Scram­bled eggs
  • Good pos­ture
  • Beat­ing the orig­i­nal Super Mario Broth­ers
  • Going on vaca­tion
  • Not being weird
  • Pub­lish­ing my writ­ing
  • Being respect­ed in my com­mu­ni­ty
  • Learn­ing gui­tar
  • Being qui­et
  • Express­ing emo­tion
  • Lis­ten­ing
  • Hav­ing con­fi­dence
  • Ancient Greek 103
  • Mak­ing bis­cuits from scratch
  • Writ­ing reg­u­lar­ly
  • Main­tain­ing friend­ships
  • Doing dish­es in a time­ly man­ner
  • My son
  • My mom
  • My dog
  • You