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“At first going to hotels seemed exciting and glamorous, but now I find it depressing and lonely. Essentially they are all pretty much the same; there are better or worse. You do your thing and you come back to your hotel. And you get up the next day and it is like you’ve never been there at all. It was interesting to see if I could make something out of that seemingly dead time.” - Eimear McBride

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a hotel novel, but don’t have enough experience with hotels to make the setting convincing. (I’ve always been more homebody than traveler.) I think the only hotel novel I’ve read is Jim Thompson’s Wild Town.

January 26, 2020 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)


The whole season has come to this:
a holding on so that the letting go
might seem to us like chance.
- Frank Ormsby

January 25, 2020 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heatless Mondays

“Bartenders wearing overcoats, sweaters, and gloves bustled about setting ‘em up for the chilled patrons, who also kept bundled up while they were partaking of the drinks the government had ruled were not to be dispensed.” (Connecting the Windy City, 2nd item)

Pretty cruel to not allow heat in public places, while also not allowing someone to have a stiff drink to ward off the resulting chill.


January 20, 2020 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

The poetry of football

I was struck by a quote from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace. Adding some line breaks creates something almost like poetry:


We Arrive Few
Pep Guardiola

We tried to do everything
How many cross and arrive there.
We arrive few.
The spirit was there
We tried and we tried.
It was a pity at the end
To drop two points in this way
But that is football
And we have to learn
From these situations.
It was a tight game
And unfortunately
We could not win it.

January 19, 2020 in Books, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

”An empty L, lit by a similar glow, rattles by like massive links on the chain of a ghost.”

Stuart Dybek, from "The Caller" (collected in Paper Lantern: Love Stories, 2014):

The vigil candle at St. Ann's will melt into smoke, though at this moment, after midnight, its tiny flame has the locked church to itself and in the darkness emits a numinous green light that has the stained-glass windows facing the L tracks on Leavitt glowing from the inside out. If a soul flitted mothlike, lost in a once-familiar neighborhood, the light might attract it. An empty L, lit by a similar glow, rattles by like massive links on the chain of a ghost. Blocks away the ring of a phone echoes in a musty airshaft, and all along the street graffitied pay phones, most of them out of order and all of them obsolete and scheduled to be torn out, beging ringing. And then the steeple bells of three churches toll.

Plenty of lovely touches there that convey a Catholic church and the Chicago streets outside. The kitchen in my first city apartment had a window that looked into just such a musty airshaft; the window was painted shut and I could never quite see all the way down to the bottom. I always wondered what might be found there.

January 15, 2020 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

“He drove up in this little sports car, drums were hanging out from every corner.”

I love the story about Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson first meeting Neil Peart, who just passed away at 67.

“He was very tall, lanky,” said Lee. “And he had short hair. All of us had major hair. He had spent two years living in England before that. We didn’t know this. But he had just moved back home and given up his dream of playing in a rock band. And he was working for his dad’s farm equipment store. He drove up in this little sports car, drums were hanging out from every corner. He comes in, this big goofy guy with a small drum kit with 18-inch bass drums. Alex [Lifeson] and I were chuckling – we thought he was a hick from the country. And then he sat down behind this kit and pummelled the drums, and us. I’d never heard a drummer like that, someone with that power and dexterity. As far as I was concerned, he was hired from the minute he started playing.”

I had a brief Rush infatuation in high school, and owned Permanent Waves for a few years. Though my tastes moved elsewhere, I still enjoy a handful of their songs from the early 1980s. And I love hearing Maddie play “The Spirit of Radio” on guitar. 

I didn’t know Peart was the band’s lyricist, which seems somewhat unusual for a drummer. (As goes one of the jokes in fellow drummer Chris Mars’ Gratuitous Drummer Jokes collection: “Q: What is the last thing a drummer ever says to his band? A: ‘Hey guys... how 'bout we try one of my songs?’”) How fitting, then, to have attended a Blackhawks game this past week with Maddie, and sang along to “Tom Sawyer” when it was played over the PA system during a break. 

January 11, 2020 in Music | Permalink | Comments (0)

“Yes to man as a struggler amid illusions..."

Poetry's poem of the day is an excerpt from Carl Sandburg's book-length The People, Yes, which I first learned of in Harry Lewis Golden's biography of the poet. The People, Yes is on my list despite its 300-page length (some of which is undoubtedly introduction and explanatory notes) - Sandburg is such a joy to read that even a few hundred pages of his verse will surely seem to fly past.

January 6, 2020 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)

”I’ve squeezed my middle age dry...”

Tove Jansson, writing in 1997 about writer’s block:

What did I tell those kids who wrote and asked how one becomes an author? It was something like write about what you’ve lived, about what you know …

But I’ve done that. I’ve squeezed my middle age dry, and when I got seriously old, I did what I could with that, too, but then I tried to write about really young people, and that didn’t work out so well. And the kids wrote again and asked, And what do we do now, and I said write about your fears, and they did it, at once, and wanted feedback as soon as possible.

And what do I fear above all? To be a sore loser, to be second best. But this is not something one writes about.

Elsewhere in the piece, she parenthetically ponders, “I wonder how it is for other people.” To which I would respond, “For other writers, exactly the same.”

January 1, 2020 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)