Thursday, July 24, 2014


Last night, Garrick and I went to a concert.

If you haven't heard of Jay Brannan, you should give him a listen.

He's a melancholy sort of guy. His stage presence is calm, with a certain jitteryness that is so damn endearing. I appreciate his lukewarm demeanor: there's a gentleness to him, tinted with small tinctures of sadness, that give his aura a much more approachable feel.

Compared to his tour-mate, Bitch (seriously that's her stage name), and her partner, DJ Alligator, Jay is far more relatable. With a name like that, though, you can't expect to feel too enamored. Still, Bitch possesses a humanness all her own. She's fun, for one, and more than willing to connect with her audiences. I think the latter is pretty important, especially in an intimate venue like Triple Rock.

My favorite thing about Jay, not counting his soothing voice, comfortable attire, and heart-breaking songs: his barbie toe. Oh, you're not familiar with the concept?

Allow me.

Barbie toe is a term that was first introduced to me via America's Next Top Model. It's a phrase that describes the pointing of one's foot to appear as though it might fit into a Barbie's stiletto shoes. It's an easy trick to elongate your legs and maintain a more poised, high fashion elegance.

And Jay is excellent at it.

Rarely ever did I spot a slip in the barbie toe. Especially in the right foot. It was always posed, heel-up-toes-down, a steep and beautiful angle between his ankle and world.

And, damn, doesn't it make you want to buy those shoes?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day CLVIII: Sickening

Too many days, we fall down and lose the inspiration to stand back up.

It's nice to have the reminder that it's okay to make mistakes, as long as you remember that standing back up is most of the battle.

(If you don't know who Latrice Royale is, I suggest you go here and EDUCATE yourself.) 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day CLVII: Told

It's like walking through the heat all day with no water

Lately, I've had a great deal of success with my book choices. Nearly everything I've stumbled upon, paged through, or picked up has been remarkable.

Still, we have our favorites. And even in the midst of stellar selections, there are titles that are more poignant than others.

For me, Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You is that book. Ng's story chronicles a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio. Immediately--page one--the reader is told that Lydia, the oldest daughter of the Lee family, is dead. The following pages disclose a grieving family, long-kept secrets, and a stunning-sometimes-agonizing portrait of one family's struggle to move on. Filled with distressing family dynamics and several helpings of tragic, compellingly readable relationships, Everything I Never Told You is a thoughtful look at how we break and how we mend.

To me, the heart of Ng's work is the pain of the secret. 

The secret that binds us, that exclude us, that haunts us, that breaks us, that defines us.

Renowned physician Paul Tournier wrote, "Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets."

And I think he had a point.

Or losing in an argument, can't get your thoughts in order

Vulnerability is a word I throw around a lot on this space. And I don't think it's too far removed from "secret." In a sad sort of way, they're opposites. When you're a practicing, vulnerable person, you cannot subscribe to secrets, at least not very often. When you do, there is this immense and painful guilt, a tumor festering inside your stomach, aching to be cut out.

Someone hand me the scalpel.

Oh, the truth spills out

And perhaps I live alone on this planet of secretlessness. 

But I doubt it.

And while there are times I feel that sickening pit swell within me and choose to go on living with its constant, pecking reminder, I'd rather not.

Sometimes, it's hard to open up your mouth and let those around you share in that misery.





Oh, I, I've told you now

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day CLVI: Scout

I was working at Subway when my dad picked Scout up ten years ago.
He was picking me up after a rather long shift, and I nearly sat on top of her as I climbed in to the front seat. I remember how calm and friendly she was sitting there, just a little bundle of love and puppy breath, all nose and ears.

"Is she ours?!"

Of course she was. It was a dumb question and my dad made me feel silly for even asking. It's not like you just take a dog that damn precious on a trial. No, Scout was no trial dog, she was already a member of the family.

The older lab we had at the time, Katie, was my dog. Initially, we picked her up because Erick was dead-set on having a puppy. But as Katie aged and attached herself to the members of our family, it was pretty clear that she belonged to me. So when we introduced Scout to the family, I didn't think we would be particularly close. Katie already had that spot in my heart (and on my bed). 

When Katie passed, less than a year after picking up Scout, I was already exceptionally close to the tiny ball of energy. Like Katie, Scout always had her nose to the ground and a tennis ball in her mouth. If she wasn't in the water fetching sticks, she was tossing her toys around for her own enjoyment, throwing and receiving all on her own. She had energy and spunk, and was exceptionally loyal and obedient. 

Basically, she was ideal. The perfect dog. The kind of animal and friend that you spend a lifetime searching for and happen upon in only the most beautiful twists of fate.

Cynthia Rylant's book Dog Heaven is the sort of text you never want to read, but sometimes need. 

And this Sunday is one of those days.

When I think of Scout, my mind goes right to our very first Thanksgiving with her in the family. 

Black Friday, actually. My family decided to go shopping or were running errands or out on a drive. I can't seem to remember the precise reason I was the only one in the house. Regardless, I walked up the stairs from my room in search of some leftovers. When I reached the landing, however, and glanced over at the kitchen island, I noticed the foil and plate containing the stuffing and turkey was all askew. And there, just feet away, tail-wagging back and forth, paws splayed behind her like a frog, was Scout. 

The only difference? Where her smiling face usually beamed was, instead, a turkey carcass, stuck on top of her head. The poor thing had gotten the turkey stuck on her head. It was straight out of A Christmas Story

I think she was plumper in those two days following than she was at any other point in her life. She basically ate herself to near-death.

Over the fourth, I was lucky enough to see Scout in Walker. I can't help but think her efforts to hold on were for me. And for that, I will always be grateful.

For my baby Scout, my little perfect lab. 

You were and will forever be the best.

And you will be missed beyond words.

Day CLIV: Island

On the second day of our north shore adventure, we were lazy.

No, really, we were. We watched Anchorman and took a nap after lunch. That's how lazy.

But, we were also adventurous. And rather than tell you about how nice it was to be completely relaxed, doing nothing so well, I think it's more fun to talk about a journey Mike and I took to an island.

Standing at the marina in East Beaver Bay, at the very end of the cul-de-sac, you are graced with the above view. An expansive stretch of Lake Superior, cut into by a jumble of massive boulders and rusty, moss-covered rocks. And at the very far end of this path-that's-not-really-a-path: Pellet Island.
The only way to access the island is via these rocks. Getting near the island with a boat proves exceedingly dangerous, and to do so would almost certainly mean the destruction of your ship. So you walk. You hike. You clamber as best you can across the rocks to an island far, far in the distance.

It's too bad it's so ugly out there, right?
When you reach the base of the island, you hop from the rocks and onto a small landing of green and stone. Awaiting you, in a tiny corner of the island, a bundle of downed-trees and rope. Using these, you climb. You hoist yourself up and over the edge of the plunging cliff and on to the top of the island. From there, a path forks and winds across the walkable areas on top of the stony mass. Grasses tower over you, trees ache in the wind, and gulls screech and from mere feet above your head. If you take the left path, you find a small, downtrodden lighthouse.

Decorated in graffiti, the lighthouse is operated by a solar panel that feeds life to the small, minty light atop the crumbling structure. Just beyond the square base, the island stops. And all that exists is the potential to fall to your freezing, rocky death.

Let's pretend you went straight and slightly to the right instead. No lighthouse to be seen from this path. Rather, you're greeted by the most spectacular of views: a comprehensive glance of the Beaver Bay shoreline. And if you could see the resort just beyond the bend in the lake, you'd see the entirety of the town.

At the very tip of the island, the southernmost section, a small mass of rock and seagull poop separates itself from Pellet Island. A quick swim away from the main mass, if Lake Superior were not so damn cold, it would have made for an excellent mini-adventure. Regrettably, after stripping down and bracing myself for the water, I came to my senses--with a little help from Mike--and decided my health was more important. 

It would have made for a great shot though.

Scaling back down the island, with the trees and the rope, was more difficult than the climb up. Just trickier and scarier, I suppose. The sun was a little lower, the water a little calmer. But every little bit was just as remarkable. On the north side of the craggy, man-made path to the island, the water was beautifully still. You could see for yards and yards into the depths just off the edge of the rocks.

We wandered back, quickly and with less time for photographs. The sun set and chilly air coaxing us along at a slightly urgent pace. Writing this, I realize that small sense of urgency was perhaps the only time I felt the sensation of a rush during the entirety of the trip.

And while climbing this little-seen island made us feel like royalty, I have the feeling that on Pellet Island, relaxation is king.

Day CLIV: Billy

It was my mom's birthday on Friday.

And what better way to celebrate with a visit than with a visit from her son?

A road trip was precisely what this weekend needed; the north shore is a pretty phenomenal place to clear your mind and relax. Sometimes, a clear head and a healthy does of doing nothing is all you need for your two day vacation. 
So, following a half day at the office, a few lunch threats from Kyle, and a half-hearted attempt at packing, Mike and I headed up to the North Shore where my mom works as the F&B Manager of Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay, MN.

After a very quick three hours, we arrived at the lodge, checked in to our room--a delightful corner unit with a fireplace and a deck--and, because Beth Wilson is who she is, we began drinking.

A few miles out of Beaver Bay, in a little town called Silver Bay, we visited the local favorite bar. It was basically a cleaner version of any VFW or American Legion, and it was cleverly attached to a liquor store. Great idea, right?

Anyway, after meeting a few of my mom's employees, the lovely Liz and Kathy, we decided to start the night off with shots of Patron.

Hey, your mom only turns 46 once, right?

Soon enough, we all had cocktails and were playing our favorite songs through the jukebox in the corner. It was only the natural order of things, then, that we started to play pool. Three or so games passed between Stewart, Mike, Mom, and myself before Mike and I were approached by a local.

His name, we learned, was Billy.

We learned he was a transplant from Seattle, from Sante Fe, from Reno. A vagabond of sorts, he was something of a local legend. The kind of friendly that's harmless, but increasingly unnerving. Every Budweiser he knocked back seemed to generate a new tale: his time in the Airforce, his lesbian sister, his commerce tycoon wife, his dog named Jabez.

And it was never once with context, these spun, inebriated stories. So, it only seems fair to share a few quotes from him throughout the night, presented without context...because, again, there was none.
"This dog knows how to fit between boobs since he was six weeks old." 
"I'm not fool. I don't believe in religion. I believe in god." 
"It could be raining pussy out there and I'd still get hit in the head with a dick."
At the end of the night, as we were leaving, and after he handed over his phone number in case we wanted to take a ride on his bikes the following day, he turned to the local ladies at the bar. They were giving him a hard time that his friends were leaving.

Without missing a beat, Billy retorted: "Pretty good trade off; those guys were way better looking than you."

And what kind of birthday would be complete without a shot of Billy and the birthday girl?

Happy Birthday, Mom. Hope you had a blast.

Looks like ya did!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day CLIII: Game

My little brother, Erick, had a white Xbox 360 that he never let me play. Funny, right, that power dynamic? Not often does the younger brother keep fun and games and exciting possessions from the older sibling. Still, that seemed to be the case between Erick and I. His room was always full of thrilling, interesting goods. And mine? Books, a few stray photos, and a box of speech medals. Nothing nearly as exciting as a stereo, cigarettes, and a snowboard.

But when I purchased a game for the system--Namco's Eternal Sonata--I was granted permission to play the game as long as Erick was not in need of his space or didn't want to play games of his own. They were rare moments, but they existed. And, eventually, I made it through the game, some 40 odd hours later.

And though I'm not sure how it happened, I believe that's when I fell in love with the Xbox 360. Which, I suppose, is to be expected. That's how love works, after all: creeps up on you like a thief, steals bits and pieces of your valuable heart, and, suddenly, you realize you've been losing yourself all along.