Sketches of East of Here

I. Setting Out.

My brother is driving. I'm in the backseat at liberty to write. Dad, riding shotgun, shuffles through sheets of paper explaining stock valuations and physical therapy exercises.

The car is a 2015 Buick Lucerne with 62,000 miles on it and counting. Destination: Ludlow, Massachusetts, where my dad grew up, where he's from, where he still has family: his cousins, his aunt (who turns 88 in two days), his sister (who he hasn't seen in 25 years), his niece (likewise).

We left Belleville, Illinois, at 8 a.m. this morning, yours truly behind the wheel. Football (a.k.a. soccer) streams on satellite radio, channel 157, the European Championship tournament. This is the first round of the tournament, dubbed group play. Earlier, Russia knocked off Finland. Now, it's Turkey and Wales.

It's been awhile since I've been in a car's backseat. I'm enjoying it; it feels like a luxury. Like I'm flying on an airplane. What else is there to do but to read, to write? To describe, to explain, to tell?

At the first rest stop, my dad pointed at some new socks he was wearing.

"What do you think of these?" he asked...

Click to continue with my account of traveling by car to Ludlow, MA with my dad and brother to visit family there...

Frozen Laptop, Frozen Pizza: Assessing the Early Days of the Coronavirus Lockdown

The weather forecasts are wonk.  Something to do with a sharp decrease in the number of airplanes in the air.  It wasn’t forecast to rain today.  But it has rained, and not just a few drops.  My wife and I console each other with talk of silver linings.  The air quality is improving, just ask the stars.  

Here in St. Louis, as March slogs on, the rain has been a cloying companion during days of isolation.  I can’t recall going on a walk when I didn’t have to watch out for puddles and dreck as the dog Hugo and I walked in our desultory fashion, neither one of us leading the way.  This month hasn’t been atypical in its raininess but I suspect the total rainfall is at the upper end of its historical range.

If only weather were the wackiest aspect of March 2020.... 

The essay continues...

Trip to See My Siblings, Sept-Oct 2019

Game via radio, Chicago feed. Pat Hughes, Ron Coomer, Zach Zaidman. The Cubs take the lead on an Ian Happ double. The regular season is almost over. Can you believe it? Like a wink. Wild pitch, Cubs add a run, it's 3-1.

We say it every year, and not just about baseball, but: where did the season go? Where did the time go? The months like water, like sand, like air. A temperature that will change and what can you do about it? No, nada.

As we drove north-northeast from Springfield today the skies were mixed. To the west, dark skies. Confused, malformed clouds. A blue darkness. We were along the flatness of Illinois. The sky extended as far as we could see in any direction...

North, to Chicago, go on...

The Quiet Politics of Love

Moments preceding the Randall-Paz wedding, 6.1.2019


Shoehorn, suspenders, aftershave
Wedding in a warehouse
Down Ashland in hermano's Honda
Bumping past taquerías,
Body shops and hair salons
None of which
Dad fails to point out.


The candles yet unlit
While the hail outside
Sounds like the clink
Of clean glasses
At the levee bar. Early
To a wedding, it's
Never been done before.


A pair of headphones
In the street
In the rain

But in the bridal suite
DJ Flowerz is blooming
Like green ivy
Foothold on the height
Of an unknown building.


Of our parents
Walk her down the aisle.
They do,
Making it official.


She's walking away.
He's dancing after her. No,
Wait—she's still dancing. Soft,
Sly steps. That's
Her move.


The macarena: fadded
Brought back
Hey, it's underrated
Hey, macarena


Take a cab, take a Lyft, take the bus.
You've taken the world
And arranged the perfect salsa.

The late-nite
Snack table
Is now open. Congratulations.
Thank you for everything.

I'm-a let
The slickness
Of the dance floor
Show me which way

Andersonville, August 2018

I.  Prologue:  Illinois Itinerants.

Itinerant.  Now there's a good word I don't use, have never used, to my recollection.  It means "passing about a country".  That's the adjective, as in "itinerant laborer" or "itinerant preacher".  But there's also a noun version: "one who travels from place to place".

And I'm thinking this might be fitting for us as we head to Chicago tomorrow, knowing the route I'm looking at taking, off-highway, through all those random little Illinois farm towns, Raymond and Stonington; Blue Mound and Boody; Pontiac and Ransom...

Find the full account here...