I was inside Husky Stadium today, returning my wife’s cap, hood, and gown, so that the University of Washington wouldn’t charge her any more than the minimum $100 rental fee. She graduated with a doctorate that took eight years to earn, an accomplishment in which I naturally take a deal of pride. Next, she’s on to her postdoc. And so, as I signed the ledger for the return that some silly, barely pubescent undergrad presented me, I told him, “Yes, she’s a PhD,” and the words rang out with smug superiority under those cavernous bleachers. Then, turning, I stepped face-first into a pole! One of those enormous steel I-beams. And down to the ground I went! Oh, I got up quickly enough, brushed myself off, and answered that, yes, yes, I was certainly fine, and even ran back to the car to show what a hurry I was in and show how spry I was. And I suppose there’s a moral there about pride and condescension, but my head is still spinning, so I can’t quite think of it right now. I’ll lie down and see if it hits me.
Last night Boris discovered that he was lousy… How can one get lousy in a beautiful place like this?… We might never have known each other so intimately, Boris and I, had it not been for the lice. —from Tropic of Cancer, 1961, by Henry Miller
Before reading that page 1 paragraph, I had never before connected lousy with lice (perhaps owing to a privileged life led lice-free) and indeed had never before connected lice with the singular louse. A big thank you to Mr. Miller for clearing things up.
I saw a friend of mine today, Mike Oneppo, who works at FiftyThree, which is the company that created the Paper app, which is by far the most intuitive illustration app I have worked with, and which is what I’m using now to illustrate our new posts in Hirschworth.
Paper and other illustrative tablet and phone apps have completely transformed the illustration marketplace—I think very much for the better—in part by increasing the accessibility of digital illustration and in part by giving artists new tools.
When I first started illustrating semi-professionally, I was a teenager doing work in watercolors for Field & Stream Magazine and the L.L. Bean Hiking and Backpacking Handbook. This was the in the mid and late 90s, and hand-drawn illustrations for pretty much any kind of publication save children’s books were becoming less and less fashionable. Fluency with Adobe Illustrator was increasingly vital to getting work. I tried to figure out Illustrator but found the program illogical and slow and the experience extremely frustrating. Now, plenty of people are wizards with Illustrator and it’s a powerful program, but it was never going to be a good fit for me and so I pretty much gave up on digital illustration (and stopped getting illustration work, too). It seemed like artists who knew Illustrator were in their own little protected kingdom, safe and secure with their esoteric know-how, commissions, and paychecks. This was a crazy thing to have thought and rather unfair. The point is that I was jealous of them. Very jealous because one of my sources of income had dried up and I was left feeling inept.
Then, sometime not too awfully long ago, when Mike had moved back to Seattle and we had both become fathers, he started telling me about this free app he was working on with a big team of people. I went home, started playing with it, and became completely hooked. Paper is a marvelous way to illustrate. The layout makes sense. The tools you use are direct mimics of the tools you use in real (non-digital) life (scissors, pens, pencils, brushes, etc.) and they behave with each other to rather elegant effect. Add to this that the app is ever evolving, getting more and more sophisticated and more and more powerful (for example, the resolution of the images created is higher now than when I first started working with the program, and the magnify feature is a thousand times better), and the overall experience is delightful. I started illustrating a children’s book (not yet done) and pretty soon got work doing a piece for an article in Bright Ideas Magazine. I haven’t yet used Paper with the Stylus Pencil they created, nor have I have tried it out an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, but I hope to soon. In the meantime, the results I can create with just a finger on an iPad 2 will turn up right here, every week, with every new post. I hope you enjoy them.
Eight years ago, Jim Harrison generously offered to meet me on the Missouri River. At the time, I was an assistant editor at Field & Stream Magazine, and I was sitting in my cubicle in our New York office with a telephone to my ear. Mr. Harrison was at his winter home in Arizona, I believe. He was writing a piece for the magazine, and by luck I got the job of clearing up a detail in the story because our publication deadline was nearing and the senior editor in charge of that piece was out for the day. I have no idea any more what that particular detail was, but I will always remember hearing Mr. Harrison’s measured, gravelly voice on the telephone and his willingness to let the conversation turn to fly fishing in Montana and comparing some of our favorite spots.
We didn’t speak long, and I never spoke to him again. It’s the same old story—I got busy. Busy leaving New York and finding new work in Seattle, busy getting married, busy becoming a father. Calling up to say, “Hey, remember that five-minute phone conversation we had back in ’08…” starts to feel increasingly absurd. Surely it would have been absurd, too, though I don’t think he would have minded in the least and I even like to imagine that he happily would have made the trip if he was able. He left that kind of impression on me.
But I am writing all of this really just to say that I am extremely sad that he has passed. He has been one of the biggest influences on my own writing since I first read Legends of the Fall as a teenager and then went on to devour a good number of his books, spacing them apart a bit because I don’t like the idea of running out of them, my rationale somewhat akin to that of a kid trying to make his Halloween candy last (a habit I also apply to the novels of Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, and Virginia Woolf among others). I think now I will go back to his catalogue and indulge my sweet tooth. His books are wonderful treats.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s behind the scenes essay, we thought it would be fitting to show a few of our deliberately staged images. Many of the photos we incorporate with the poems, stories, and essays we publish are collaged and heavily altered to better illustrate the written content. They are always, at the very least, cropped into squares. We’re taking this as an opportunity to show our comparatively unadulterated photographs the way we think they look best. Whether we’re trying to portray beauty or ugliness, sexuality or even simple shallowness, we always care about the intrinsic aesthetic. For a good read on hipster photography, which one could argue our images embody to a T, check out this article by @MarcoBohr. But enough words for once. On to the images…
Model: Emily B.
Photographers: Richard C. Armstrong III and Thomas McCafferty
lies the echo of your name
don’t bother to call it pain same old sameness, same old flame – Virginie Colline
As in fall the maple’s leaf
Is borne unto the breeze
And sent away, a flicker
Across the open fields. You that I am wanting,
I live now in a foreign city,
Where the days are empty streets
And the nights an endless boulevard,
And I cannot possibly know
Anymore where to turn or
Just what it is
That I ever really wanted. – Matthew Saks
as a stained glass painting. Now imagine it disappear
in dwindling reds
until it becomes a flat marshland
of compressed grey. It’s almost as if to say
things as beautiful as paintings
should never exist
in the first place. – Andreyo Sen
I return the shadow of a cat
to the cat:
every mouse recognizing hyperbole,
sensing my predatory nature-
in conference deciding who will
place a bell on Kitty’s neck,
who will catch her cat-napping,
which one will roll away fear,
like a ball of unraveling yarn.
– Michael D. Browncontinue…
I pause before reaching for the next step. Where my brothers see a line extending from their toes,
knowing with certainty the orientation of that step,
I see a splatter,
a glob, like paint dropped from a height,
the edges fighting to decide the right direction.I place faith in my gut that I’ll meet my brothers
at our destination in the end,
as long as I accept that my path
might look a little messier, the manner of my step
a little clumsier as I slip in the paint
and skate my way across the ground. – Leanne Rebecca continue…
for fish I said up river near the log jam we might find another fish you said lets look – Richard C. Armstrong III
“Well honey, get yourself some lamb skins for next time, or find a girl cracked up enough not to care. Those days are past for me.” She tapped her cigarette ash into the pail. “If you’re still married, you could go back to your wife.” “I do wish I could,” Elliott said. “But Johanna, she got caught in an accident a long time back. She’d be fifty-seven in October.” “I’m sorry to hear it.” “I get by.” “It doesn’t look that way,” Rebecca said. “You ought to get yourself another girl.” “Girl like you?” “No, I think someone closer to your age.” “I was just teasing.” He looked out hoping to see his horse. Maybe it had gone back into the pasture again. “The truth is, I’m not too interested in finding another girl. Doesn’t seem right to me.” As Rebecca dressed to leave, she found the boning knife under her clothes. She picked it up by its string and removed the sheath. A single piece of steel ran from the butt to the blade, which curved at the tip. “Why do you have this?” she asked. Elliott propped himself on his elbows and pointed at the indentation on his chest. “I always carry it here—seems I use it every day.” She tossed it to him. “Are going to put your clothes on and walk me out, or do I have to escort myself?” “No, I’m staying here if you don’t mind. My legs need the rest.” He paid her the other sixty then, and folded his shirt behind his head as a pillow. “Don’t worry about closing that gate. It can stay open.” She folded the money into her shorts, replaced the bucket on the lag bolt, and left through the field, making a straight line to the fence. She didn’t try to walk around the thistles this time, and he knew that her legs would be itching that night before she slept, wherever that was. It’s a hard thing to fall asleep when you itch. He remembered getting hives from the wet heat in Florida, and from eating too many strawberries, and staying up for hours before finally taking antihistamines. He hated the taste of medicine. As her silhouette disappeared at the edge of the fence, he wondered if he was the last man she’d see that night—probably he wasn’t. Then he reclined on the horse blanket to sleep. ♦ Elliott awoke at dawn having to pee, which was funny because he was thirsty. How could you be dehydrated and still give up fluids? He had some idea why from a biological standpoint, but from the perspective of common sense it was harder to grasp. He fought his legs and stood—he wouldn’t make himself walk—and he pissed on the straw and stared at the obscure figure in front him. It was the horse. “You’re a son of a bitch,” he said. “Keeping me waiting, like you don’t even care.” When he finished, he lay back on the ground and rubbed his thumb over the butt of the knife. He thought Johanna would understand. They’d met when he was twenty-one and working for her father in the Keys, commercial fishing for spiny lobster and stone crab out of Islamorada. In 1974 they married, then moved to Montana. With their savings and a bank loan, they bought six hundred acres that stretched from the Yellowstone River to the base of the Absarokas. They cropped mustard and alfalfa, and a little bit of wheat near the house because Johanna liked the color. A spring creek ran through three miles of the property, and Elliott taught himself to flyfish. At Johanna’s suggestion, he opened it for public use, at a price. The land didn’t farm well but it was full of trout and by 1985 they were clearing close to five hundred dollars a day from summer sport fishermen. By the 1990s, it was over a thousand, but Elliott kept farming to stay fit. Then in August of 1996, they were lighting a backfire at the western edge of their property when the wind changed. The flames kicked up and spread through the fields, catching Johanna at the fence and engulfing her body. Elliott watched, less than two hundred feet from her, upwind. That was ten years back. After her death, he hired a man to look after his property, then took her remains to the Keys. The water turned pale green where he scattered her ashes in the ocean. For a while he stayed in Florida. Johanna’s father was still alive and glad for the company. Elliott learned to sightfish in the saltwater flats. He couldn’t cast worth shit, but somehow managed to put the fly over the occasional bonefish, and once he caught a permit. It fought like hell. When the old man passed, Elliott returned to Montana. The man he’d hired offered to stay on, but Elliot let him go. He felt about it, and hadn’t been able to explain himself well. He’d insisted he could handle the work alone, though it was obvious that he couldn’t. Now he ran the knife over the back of his forearm, shaving the hairs. No one could say he’d been careless about the blade. In front of the stable, the horse swished his tail through the grasses, and mosquitoes rose like seedheads in the wind. Elliott flexed his hand, then with a clean motion slit his throat. -Thomas McCaffertycontinue…
To his credit, JJ tried to pay for the damage to my Miata after craning his neck to see my smashed up front bumper. That’s before he understood who I was, when he still thought a few dollars could get him out of the embarrassment of being caught cock-fisted and bleeding on his upholstery. I insisted we go by the book and take down each other’s insurance and snap photographs. He opened his glove compartment, retrieved a checkbook and a pen, and started writing. “Ten thousand,” he said, waving the check at me between his fore and middle fingers as if it were a cigarette. I took it. It was a personal check, which showed at least some good judgment. He had scribbled it out in a shaky hand with the words Pay to cash. I would have preferred it if he’d left it blank, allowing me to insert any word in the world. If I were to put down say the name of a known drug dealer or child pornographer, I could make life rather sticky for mister Jud Junior. No matter. I folded it, put it in my wallet in my purse, and said, “Aren’t you kind? And here I thought I was in the wrong. Let me park and I’ll buy you a drink.” “I don’t drink,” he told me. “A soda, then? Or a tonic water? Or a juice? I’ll buy you whatever it is you do drink.” He looked awkwardly at me and then at his shirt and pants, the stains of blood dark against the off-white fabrics. “We can go to my place,” I said. “Or yours. We don’t have to do the club.” In my mind, given enough options, JJ would have to say yes. He had been disturbed, if somewhat violently, in the midst of pleasuring himself, and I felt that by leaning forward and displaying what modest cleavage I could, surely the prehistoric parts of his brain would get the better of him. I admit that I was tempted to forgo this line of flirtation, to tell him bluntly what an ass he was, to ask him if he’d ever heard of Pap. Pap, I knew, would get a kick out of all of this. But what would I gain by showing my hand? Wouldn’t I gain more with the promise of showing my breasts, my buttocks, with the promise of touching his ears with my lips? Wouldn’t it be interesting in at least an anthropological way to see the path this man would pursue? To get a sense of his desires and fetishes and animal perversities? Was he a magnum or a pencil pusher? A lover or a sadist? You will understand that I have, for the last ten years, been supremely self-confident when acting within the role of my profession. I am an arsonist. A con artist. A criminal. A woman. I am five-feet-nine and one-quarter inches tall in my bare feet, heels firmly on the floor. I weigh an average of 136 pounds when I awake, according to a digital, biometric scale. My percent body fat rounds up to five. During the course of the day, I gain an average of three pounds in water weight that shows in my paunch like a burgeoning beer belly. I cannot be scared or sloppy or start second-guessing myself when I am handling a client or servant. I have to play whatever part I choose with my whole heart, mind, and body down to the tremble of my lower lip, the thrust of my hips, and the whisper of my breath. By turns I am a predator, a floozy, an intellectual, a virgin, a bitch, a lesbian. I carry out these roles as required to whatever extent necessary. I use protection usually. I carry mace always. I have once employed the high-prong setting of an emerald cut ruby ring to slice a man’s thigh nearly to the femoral artery. He proceeded to strangle me until I lost consciousness, and I am still not sure entirely why didn’t kill me. Certainly from the standpoint of pain and terror, that incident ranks as the closest I have come to my own death. But all of this is only to say that I have gauged the risks of my profession through personal experience. I am not a simpleton. I am not a naïf. I am not overconfident. And I am not to be pitied. My right headlight was out and I didn’t feel like risking getting pulled over on the highways so I parked in a garage on Evernia Street then joined JJ in the Cadillac. He was dabbing at his shirt with a wet napkin. Without looking at me, he said, “Where do you live?” “South,” I told him. “A guy’s there. Maybe. Maybe not be the best place to go.” “I’m out in the country,” he said, his words coming out in defeat. Who was this man? A virgin? An ineffectual depressive? I realized how very little I understood him. I let him sit with only his own answer for a minute while I buckled and put my hands on the hem of my skirt. Finally, bashfully, he lifted his eyes. “Isn’t too far. Hour drive is all.” A wonderful lie! It was an hour-and-twenty minutes doing eighty on the highways in the light of day. At night? A good hour-forty. Unless he had a different place in mind. “Good thing for you I’m a country girl,” I said. “Take me the hell out of this city, mister. West Palm ain’t good for nothing but dinging up my car.” (To read BIGGER THAN A CADILLAC from the beginning, click here) – Candice Cousins
Someone once said, a teddy bear is a projection of your early fears of spaces & absolute stillness. Of losing yourself in the shafts endless as you. You rip Teddy to shreds. You stitch him back together. Tell him it was all just a misunderstanding. You tell him to be quiet. – Kyle Hemmings continue…
As Pap snaps back Bruce’s pinkie, it occurs to me that if the man is gonna be so scaredy about security then he should also inspect our phones for bugs and our persons for wires. He has never done this, however, probably because his paranoia is married with his penchant for self-important superiority. He doesn’t believe we’re intelligent or resourceful enough to sneak anything by him in any sophisticated manner, and in his mind he knows we’re too frightened to go the police or any other agency that might help us with the difficult work. He is smart enough not to let me bring a purse inside. I argued this briefly, saying I had certain necessities in that purse (lighters, mace, toiletries, etc.). Once a month, I made a point of telling him I needed to use the restroom and “borrow” a tampon from Chelsea. I did this mostly to irritate Pap. He finally got pissy about it and, on what he said was Chelsea’s advice, bought me a Diva Cup. Now I hold my tongue. Bruce scrunches his face and flexes the muscles around his eyes and in his neck as he works against the pain. He makes a muted, animalistic sound nonetheless that’s reminiscent of a raccoon yowling. Pap lets go, and Bruce’s pinkie is angled obtusely, grotesquely away from his other fingers. Then it falls obliquely back in line, the color bright against his tan. Any sane person would wrap his hand in ice quick as can be, but Pap won’t allow it. The swelling is part of the punishment, an instance in which Pap’s behavior veers away from the judicious and lands on sadism. I think that’s where his heart is, really. I think that if he didn’t love his girls and Champagne and money and golf carts and club memberships so much, he’d wallow very happily in a world of hands-on pugilism, rape, and thieving. As it is, he dabbles in these areas mostly at arm’s length, allowing himself only an occasional moment of gratification, as he has here, grinning broadly, staring down at the finger that has already doubled in circumference. For half a minute we are all quiet, studying Bruce’s broken digit. The silence is awkward because Bruce, if he ever decided he’d had enough abuse, or more realistically if he ever became so frightened and angry that he lashed out, could be a quite formidable threat to Pap. The two men are similar in height and build with Bruce being an inch taller and some ten pounds heavier. Unquestionably, he is less intelligent than Pap. Probably, he is not as quick in the fast twitch muscle department. Perhaps he does not know as much about fighting in close quarters. Nevertheless, if I were Pap, the prospect of backlash would give me pause. Does Pap gain confidence from my presence? Does he think that I would assist him because he employs me? Honestly, I’m not sure if I would or wouldn’t. I sympathize with Bruce and usually fancy that I am in this line of work more because I’m good at it and enjoy it and not because I need the money. The money, however, is quite a perk and if the moment ever comes, the thought of future paychecks might just sway me. Finally, Pap shakes his head, looks sourly at Bruce and says, “Pendejo. Use that enormous head of yours. You’re no good to me without your hands.” Bruce nods back and forth in a rhythmic manner of agreement that translates down through his whole body. It is a motion employed more to handle the sensations in his finger than to affirm his understanding. Pap goes to the refrigerator and comes back with a Negra Modelo. He does not offer one to me or to Bruce and we do not expect him to. I have often considered that if I wanted to kill Pap, one of the best methods would be to spike his cervezas with some poison or other. How I would pop the caps to access the liquid, I’m not exactly sure. I suspect that Pap is careful enough that if the fizz and hiss are not perfectly consistent upon removing the cap then he would drain out the contents. I am not sure of this. It is conceivable that carefully prying off the cap, dropping in a tear of cyanide, and replacing the cap just so would do the trick. After taking a swig, Pap says, “Tell me what you know about Prince Rupert.” He doesn’t mean the city in Canada. He means the bull over in the western half of Palm Beach County. It’s a great big Chianina bull. It is rumored to weigh two tons, and on Monday that rumor will be put to the test by the good people at Hanson Dairy and the Guiness Book of World Records. “He’s a damn big animal,” I say. “He’s as white as my hand is red,” says Bruce. This is the kind of nonsensical thing that occasionally spouts from his lips when he’s trying to show how thoughtful he is—in this case to show how much of a team player he can be even as he suffers. I sympathize but can’t help rolling my eyes. “He is extremely white,” says Pap. “He’s going to break that record.” I feel I can say this with a deal of confidence. I have seen the bull. I have seen his size. He’s bigger than a damn Cadillac. Must be heavier, too. A truly stupendous animal. Pap spreads his hands, palms up. “Yes, if he is weighed, he will get the record. But you see, I cannot have him get the record.” “We could kill him,” Bruce says. “They would still weigh him. They would still honor him—or it’s very likely they would. And Hanson must have twenty pounds of that bull’s semen already in a bank. So it will not help me to have the bull dead. Let me add that it would be a nightmare to steal him. Where would we put him? How would we get him? Would we pasture or slaughter him? It’s difficult logistically. No, I want him to be weighed. I want him to be tested, and I want him to be disgraced.” (To read BIGGER THAN A CADILLAC from the beginning, click here) – Candice Cousins
How many times has it chomped my fingers, how many times has it tasted my earlobes, how many times has it charged my behind, butted my belly, bloodied my clothes, trampled my toes, bruised my bones? How wicked is the goat, braying with laughter when I stumble? There in the dirt pen, hen-pecked and speckled white, brown, and gray, there in the alfalfa, mowing the green, there at the mailbox, splayed obscenely, waiting to nip a postman’s hands, a sheen of sweat on its neck, a cake of dung on its tail, in full regalia lies the goat, barking with hatred when I approach. Down in its soul, it knows it will die; down in its blood, it pules with fear; down in the muscles under the roots of its hairs, it tenses, it twitches, it bristles; it opens its eyes and regards the barrel of daddy’s pump gun. Away runs the goat, old billy, whinnying like a kid. Now in an oven, tossed with carrots, turnips, shallots, white wine, now on a plate with suprêmes of clementines, now in my mouth, pulling apart, masticated, luscious, lovely, a buttery treat for my tongue and tummy is the meat of the ornery goat. I say, “Pass the gravy.” – Evelyn B. Hirschworth
This essay originally appeared on August 18 on denvercritic.com. Read more from DenverCritic here.
The real business behind the curtain swallowed up that April’s sun as soon as it arrived. Bad-luck-struck from the get-go, unable to see the multitude for the tree-peoples of personal hopes and dreams, we were (simply put) only somewhere: still behind the eight-ball of everything, still the mocked sons of industry’s fallen king. How long could we carry on just carrying-on?— The carrion of a generation’s education spread thin amongst the vultures of the information age? How far would the veil be pulled up over our heads before the slow satin of another era’s dawning would drop fully down upon us? Bleakness became us. Built for the blunderbuss, we were abandoned in the realm of the battle rifle. The ballistics of corporate realities had us rightly bought-out before our very eyes… There once was a man who said at the heart of any true endeavor is a tethered ego and a willingness to release that which is rightly ours to hold onto. Yet to give up more than that which belonged to us in the beginning is an impossibility. All we really ever had was our own lives to live. – Richard C. Armstrong III
 Sometimes a piece is very much in a gray area between a short story, a poem, or an essay, and while we do pick labels for each one, these labels are meant more to be organizational tools than decrees. I remember a friend of mine named Slim saying his favorite book of poems was Finnegan’s Wake, which seems perfectly valid despite its status as a novel.  We are focusing on The New Yorker at the moment more than Harper’s because of the discrepancy in circulation (as according Wikipedia). The New Yorker boasts a total circ of over 1,040,000; Harper’s has a total circ of about 187, 000.
How could you describe sorrow?
That deepest sorrow that demands silence, to
keep you from screaming.
I like to guard in my heart the good, the loving.
I weed to dig out what worries me, but now
I have to save it and it oppresses me,
sealing my mouth.
I hadn’t wanted to, to stay confident,
but I couldn’t.
How long can this last?
Why should this happen to me, when it happens to no one else?
Did I do something wrong?
Too many times my mind has wandered
while I stand fixed in the same spot…
When it seems happiness will come over you,
the heart assualts you.
I never wanted to learn, but I realize that the science of love is life and experience.
It is the absence of innocence. – Kire (translated from the Spanish by Kire and Thomas McCafferty) TRISTEZA ¿Como se podria describer la tristeza? Esa tristeza profunda que hay que callar, que no puedes gritar. Me gusta guardar en mi corazon lo bueno, lo amoroso. Suelo sacar afuera lo que me preocupa, pero ahora tengo que guardarlo y me oprime. Sellare mi boca. Yo hubiera querido no hacerlo, tener confianza, no se puede. Cuanto tiempo durare asi? Por que me tiene que suceder esto, que no les sucede a nadie? Tanto mal hice? Tantas veces he partido quedando fijo en el mismo lugar… Cuando parece que se va acercar la felicidad, te asaltan el corazon. Nunca quise aprender, pero me doy cuenta que La ciencia de la vida y del amor es la experiencia, es la falta de inocencia. – Kire
It was never in the cards It was never in the stars It was never in our future I was never in your heart, Save some little space reserved For the temporary visitor Like a guest house Mother-in-law suite Or drawer under your bed. Run around the entire earth Fifty times if you can So slowly you ran It was always your plan To never find a home. – Dominique R. Scalia
The rage of time inside the space between his cupped hands and ears was proof enough—he’d gone too far. But it would be silly to turn back now, halfway through a life, hunched over at the long table in the cafeteria, surrounded by gibbering omnivores with their compartmentalized trays, their divided lives… He had a good chance at getting the Chair if the Chair ever died. And his next book, the important one—they’d expand his Wikipedia entry. And what would he do if he stood up right now and walked out, the pilaf still steaming on his tray? Fishing? TV? The Plebeians seemed to get by fine with a six-pack and a lineup of celebrity game shows, vampire sitcoms. He could blend right in. The Korean man at the deli wouldn’t think twice if he brought a bottle of malt liquor to the register, asked for a pack of Camel Lights. Thanks, Lee. See ya t’morrow. And what would he be giving up? After the lectures, the office hours, the board meetings, the applications, the hiring committee, applying for grants, grading papers, reviewing the relevant journals, after all that, to burn, to crave the unapportioned time to sit down and what? Write his articles, chase a fly around the room with a dish towel, crack his neck, pace? And if he did give it up, then at parties, when someone’s wife said, And what do you do, Martin? he could say, I work at the Port, offloading containers, or, I run my own landscaping business. And she’d say, No, you silly man, I mean, what do you do do? What makes you get up in the morning? And he would say, What do you mean? And she would say, Never mind. But of course, he wouldn’t be at parties like that, at the parties he’d go to, no one would ask what you do do. That would be nonsense. But it wouldn’t be so easy as all that, to get a job at the Port, start a business, etc. And he’d put years of his life into getting where he was now—a respectable position. No, it would be silly to turn back now. To turn away from the one thing he was good at. Which was what, exactly? Obsessive introspection? An unparalleled ability to sit inside his own head without going mad? Without going mad? Without going mad? Hello, class. I’d like to begin today’s lecture with a thought experiment. Let us imagine a man. He is just like me, only older, and fatter, balder, more able to get away with being the acerbic asshole he’s always been. He doesn’t drink. He’s divorced. He wakes up at seven each day and masturbates, before making a pot of coffee, or plopping a few ice cubes in the remnants of yesterday’s pot. He eats a bowl of cereal while grading the papers he didn’t finish last night, he rushes to class, discusses chapter six, catches himself staring at the Chilean girl, gets flustered, eats lunch by himself, arrives at his afternoon lecture, locks the door, puts a .38 special to his head and says: What is happiness? Answer in the form of a short essay. You have until the end of the period. – Horace Thursby Blandemeal, PhD
Asking too much of me, this life has never-the-less made a turn for the better. And I am as surprised as the next guy about it. It’s not like I’m the most nominated film of the year, but (speaking cinemaphorically) I’ve put the few million bucks worth of butts in the seats it takes to break even. Consumed by desire, I am going to give it all another try. My self-hypnosis cassettes are rewound placebos: My subconscious is crammed full of surface-level self-esteem. Beauty is in the boredom, I think. I think a lot too, although that is a strange thing to say because even always thinking of nothing is a lot of thinking, I think… – Richard C. Armstrong III
“I should paint you like that,” Gerald said, “you’re perfectly misplaced.” “Sure,” Will said. “But come to the party.” “If you’re going, I wouldn’t miss it.” Another December thirty-one and no girl, no resolutions, no decision, no direction. La di da to that. Gerald stood facing his dorm’s head-to-toe warped dressing mirror that made him look stocky. Tough. His dorm room was small and bland and naked now and somehow prettier without all his old paintings hanging from tacks and tape. He spent little physical time in the room, purely to sleep. The paintings had been embarrassments, anyhow, proof that his old standards of art fell low of the mark. Maybe Florida would hold the answer. He’d packed: his paintings rolled in and around shipping tubes, his father’s canvas duffle bags jammed with clothes, two boxes filled with books, and all in his car. He hated the room and hated the linoleum-tiled floor, soft in the mornings beneath his feet with the fuzz of dust and cold. He frowned at the mirror—navy dress pants and a deeper, near black fish shirt patterned with salmon, crappy, bass, trout, and sunfish, over-worn and beginning to fade, only a hint of whimsy remaining from what had once been outlandish. This was goodbye. He placed the fedora lightly on his hair, pulled on his suede coat, and thrust his fists deep into the pockets, fingers finding old tissues balled and disintegrating. He pulled these out and tossed them on the floor and turned, catching himself in profile. “An Adonis of a bumpkin,” he said, and he left. Snow drifted through the light thrown off by the metal halide bulbs over the parking lot, the streetlamp poles hanging bright and gray, splitting and curving in opposite directions at the tops, like the frozen necks of great dead swans, he thought. He hated them, hated the parking lot: All so ugly. Not even so ugly. Just so damned boring. Too nice, too well kept. No razor wire, no stench of piss, no needles. Disgustingly safe. Only his imagination could produce a moment of apprehension, but he had come to view even imagination cynically. In elementary school, they teach you to use your imagination so that you can get through the goddamned boring and bland hell they raise you in without complaint, without going out of your mind because of how disturbingly mundane it all is, and lifeless—everyone running scared, living in the drama in their heads because they have no real dramas in their lives. Gerald was young enough that he found such notions terribly poignant but astute enough that he understood his own tendencies. “Hard for me too to keep the goddamned drama out of my own head,” he said. “Screw it.” He pulled the suede coat off and folded it up inside out and tucked it under his arm and walked out in the snow to his car. The steering wheel was frigid to the touch and he cursed himself for packing his gloves in his duffle bag. Will stood outside his own dormitory, waiting, as Gerald drove up. “You don’t look well,” Gerald said. Will was annoyed. Terribly dressed, too, Gerald observed. It was like he had never seen colors outside of black and khaki. Stubborn in a naïve kind of way. “You ever gonna spiff up for any goddamned thing? It’s fucking New Year’s.” Will considered. “I don’t know,” he said. “I see you packed.” “Yeah.” “How do I get back?” “I’ll drive you,” Gerald said, “if you don’t end up staying, you know.” The qualification seemed unnecessary. “I’m not getting back with Meghan,” Will said. “No,” Gerald laughed, “never.” “Fuck you.” “Nothing like revisiting old horrors.” He regretted saying that. He loved Will. “Jesus Christ. Don’t turn your goddamned patronizing act on me—your intellectual superiority insecurity complex, like I’m one of them that you can observe and fucking know.” “Ah, fuck it, man. I know you’re not one of them,” Gerald said. “No one really is.” He wanted to say, “Let’s drop it,” but didn’t let himself. He knew people who said that and it annoyed him; he liked to argue things out until both parties were equally alienated or somewhat reconciled. He’d always hated when people would just shut up and say nothing. That’s what’s patronizing, he thought, the idea that they know better than you and are too good to tell you, or that you’re too stupid to understand. Of course, it’s true enough that most arguments don’t end well, but fuck—fuck it; he was bored with it. Will looked out the windshield, watching the snow and lit-up billboards pass as they left town, left Bozeman and headed into the Madison Valley that stretched out great and black before them in the dusk. “We’re all conceited,” he said. Gerald looked at him a moment and grinned. “No,” he said, “you and I aren’t rich enough to really be conceited. I think the best we can do is pretentious.” Gerald had driven up the canyon so many times—not to Meghan’s so much, like Will, though enough times to know how to get there, but really he used to come up—they all did—to hike, to fish, to drink, to work. He remembered driving with Jack once with a bottle of red wine they’d found dusty but unopened in the work shed. They’d gotten ripped out near Pioneer Campground, laying on the grass beside the river in the sun—it was beautiful, then, so hot, and he could smell the grasses and pines, and Jack had brought a pack of cloves, and they had smoked and drank and Jack had said, “It’s a hell of a life.” Sure it is. “All we need is a couple girls.” We’d fuck it up. “Whatever happened with those chicks in the car?” Like I’d tell you, man, you’re too young. “Ah fuck that. I bet you didn’t do nothin’ with ‘em—best for you, anyhow.” I wasn’t that lucky. How are they, anyway? “I don’t really know—they’re older’n me—guess they’re still workin’ out the ranch their uncle owns, but I don’t know.” They were nice girls, and Alice was damned cute. “Both ‘er pretty hot. Sluts, though. My older brother—” Fuck it man, you still hung up on that shit? “Ah, I don’t know.” They’d walked the couple miles back to the truck to sober up, and there were some kids bridge jumping or waiting to start bridge jumping or perhaps just finishing up and anyhow sitting on the rails. Jack had known the biggest of them. “William,” Gerald said, “did I ever tell you about when Jack punched that Wilkins kid?” “No.” “So we’re walking back the road at this bridge, the one just after Pioneer Campground, and Jack sees this big kid, blond guy with a crew cut, wearing one of those long striped swimsuits all the high school guys wear, and his chest is sunburned and he’s with this other guy who was just there, I think, and a girl he’s trying to show off to or something and he’s chewing a big wad. Name was Jonathon Wilkins. I didn’t know who he was then, though, and he spits a wad in front of Jack and says to him, ‘Say hi to your brother for me,’ and he laughs—Jack’s brother’s in prison for making meth, stupid kid, but Jack’s touchy about it—and Jack, three years younger than this guy, stops, and he looks at me, and he says to me, ‘You know Alice and Christy?’ Yep. And he walks up to this guy, just sitting on the railing, and says, ‘My brother says your sisters give good head,’ and punches him in the face and the Wilkins kid falls back off the bridge, and Jack and I walk over and look over the railing and his face is bleeding—he’s ok, and Jack spits at him, and we drive off and he’s all climbing back up the bank cussing and saying he’s gonna get Jack and shit like that.” “Crazy.” “You remember those girls I told you I got a ride with?” “Yeah.” “Yeah, they were too young, then. Cute girls, though.” “Like that stopped you.” Gerald laughed. “Well, I kissed Alice, anyway.” “I don’t see you’ve gotta go, really—go back working summers on the ranch.” “I don’t know,” Gerald said. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen Jack for a while now. Winston would hire me back, but—I’ve been here too long. I gotta leave Bozeman. I mean, it’s not like you just coming to school here—I’ve lived here, what twenty-two years. I’m done, man. Fuck this place. The art department sucks anyway.” “Graphic design’s good.” “And fuck graphic design, man. That’s advertising. That’s selling yourself.” They drove on in mutual ease and silence. The snow no longer fell so much as it came swooshing up and from the sides with the gusts of the wind, mesmerizing sworls in the headlights. Beyond the snow lay the road and beyond the road the pines that all broke up in shades of black. Gerald blinked with a conscious effort to see the snow and the road and the trees and understand them—to legitimize them to himself as a reality, concrete and tangible, and he strained all of his attentions and touches and memories—he knew them, almost, but still they passed, images flitting effortlessly, two-dimensionally by—and he could not get there—it was all a film. It was something Alice had said to him. They were sitting just off the road at dusk—his car had been towed and Alice had offered to drive him home—and he was smoking a joint with her and twisting stems of wheat in his fingers and running his fingers up the shafts, pulling all the seeds of wheat into a bunch at his thumb and forefinger and blowing them away to the ground, and Alice had said, “No one knows it—no one knows this.” She picked at the dirt and wheat and leaned against Gerald’s chest. “Everyone sees it and goes on and no one tries to see it and feel it.” And she’d kissed the tip of his nose. But he could not get at that memory—it slipped away quickly—he wanted to stop and walk out to the trees and touch the bark; he blinked and drove on and he had the feeling that he had lost touch with anything truly alive, that he had entered into a sort of limbo and was moving toward hell. – end Part I – Lionel Harrington
“It would be so novel. So dreamy.” “So dreary. So fantastically bleak.” “In that Virginia Woolfish way.” “We would be so cool.” – Thomas McCafferty
his breath touched with a Mint Julep his tongue, his lips, his whirlwind kiss
wrangle me to heavenly bliss. – Casey Whittaker
BEFORE THEY WERE SOLDIERSCalvin and Sean and Leaf and I start hiking into the Beartooth Wilderness in the late afternoon. The air is dry as we head up a lifeless trail past lakes that sit like Buddhas nestled in the mountains. We hike through meadows, yellow and brown with withering flowers and decaying grass. The peaks, at twelve thousand feet, terrible gods of ice and granite, command attention, respect, and fear. My muscles strain under my pack a little more each mile until I can’t feel them. A dizziness, an ease of repetition hits you until you stop a minute to drink and then, starting again, the sore bones and muscles that were nothing but dull pains before scream alive. After hiking for hours in silence, ignoring them becomes impossible. What little sound there is, is only the wind picking up, bringing clouds. The sky fills with haze that deepens to the intensity of black. Calvin turns to me, “We should set up camp before it rains.” I agree, though it means stopping short tonight. The tents go up in a drizzle, a slow leak from the clouds, exploding as we escape inside, rain pounding the granite below us in waves from the sky. Here we are far above the treeline. I open a window enough to look out and watch the lightning. No firework show could ever compete. Booms of thunder send tremors through the ground, keeping us from sleep. Across the lake, a crack, a million guns fired at once, draws me to the window and I watch the only avalanche I’ve ever seen. Boulders the size of cars slide down barren fields of scree. They look small from here. Then the storm is gone and the sky lightens and the clouds break. The last light fades into black, and we listen to the streams of water washing under the canvas tarp of the tent, runoff from the slopes above that fills the lake, which now sits as calmly as before. And my mind wanders to women, which is inevitable when you are sixteen and in the company of men. – Lionel Harrington
– Dominique R. Scalia
for then it will become like a celebration.
And let each day happen to you
just like a child, with the passing of the breeze,
is given a cluster of blossoms. To gather up and save them –
this never enters the child’s mind.
He shakes them softly from his hair,
where they were so happily captured,
and holds out his hands anew
to the glorious years of his youth. This poem was written by Rainer Maria Rilke and translated from the German by Matthew Saks
SHANIKBig joints often break up space with mashed clusters of tables and false walls in order to be cozy. Small restaurants (in terms of square footage) usually feel like hampers. Shanik, however, with fifteen-foot raised ceilings, dangling bulbs, and an open dining room that peeks over a wide pass to the kitchen, maintains a lively atmosphere while feeling almost grand. The bar at the back is separated by a lattice and even it is luxurious. What this means is that the host and waiters have a relatively small and manageable space and a limited number of guests to navigate. Service was excellent from the first: cold water and steaming chai (homemade and truly standout, see the recipe here) arrived at the table as soon as I did. Piping mouthfuls of vegetable tempura soon followed. Complimentary delicacies are always a treat, and when they arrive at the beginnings of meals are especially welcome. I was never in doubt that I would leave hungry or feel that I had overpaid. Shanik shines in this area, especially compared to less ambitious Indian restaurants: dishes that should come with rice or na’an do, no need to order separately or worry about extra costs. My server was good enough to let me know this fact up front so I had no need to bother as I scanned the menu. Meeru Dhalwala and Oguz Istif brought quite a reputation and a lot of buzz with them from Vancouver when they opened Shanik here. Unfortunately, I am not sure the hype has been deserved. The best I can say for the food itself is that it tasted good, sometimes very good, and that two appetizers, one vegetable entrée, and one meat dish quite handily stuffed three people. The worst thing I can say is that the flavors and textures were much the same throughout I had my first forebodings when the samosas arrived. They were lightly breaded and nicely crunchy (though they could have been flakier) and stuffed with potatoes and bell peppers. The problem was that the curried chickpeas that accompanied them were remarkably similar in terms of texture and taste to the stuffing—only the curry was spicier and tastier. I could have done without the samosas altogether. I would have been happy as a bumble bee on a marigold. Instead I was left wondering why the samosas were made to compete with the curry at all. The Brussels sprouts with bell peppers, cashews, and paneer? Spicy, yummy, and missing any quality that wows. The entrée of roasted eggplant and butternut squash with black chickpeas? Much the same, and because of the chickpeas, too similar to the samosa app. Only not quite as good. Finally, the spice-encrusted lamb popsicles: I had high expectations for this dish. I love lamb. I love mutton. I was excited about the split pea and spinach mash. I was intrigued by the sound of coconut curry. But I found all of it just so similar to the sauces, vegetables, and curries in the dishes I had just finished. The lamb itself was blackened and cooked between medium rare and medium on all three cuts of the rack. The spicing was excellent. The meat was yummy. But the coconut curry should have popped and it did not. And the spinach and peas should have tasted green and they did not. Too much butter and oil was at play, which was apparent from the first: the sauce was breaking in the dish, oil rising and gleaming at the top. This is an especially bad move with rack of lamb that is quite naturally oily and fatty already. I will add that the cocktails were topnotch, which is no surprise in Seattle. The Bollywood 411 was particularly fine. And the English-style Machine House Gold ale on tap was superb. I found myself in the confused state of being happily sated and slightly disappointed when I left. The food just could not live up to the promise of that first cup of chai and crunchy morsel of vegetable tempura—too much the same note. I have noticed the problem of food that declines over the course of a meal many times, and that was not exactly the case here. But the food did not get better and it should have. If a restaurant serves entrées, the entrées should be the stars if only by virtue of cost. Here they were not—for more on this topic, read My Entrée is Cursed—and so my recommendation for Shanik is this: expect tasty food, but go for the ambience and service. – Thomas McCafferty Shanik www.shanikrestaurant.com 500 Terry Ave. North Seattle, WA 98109 206-486-6884 Upscale/casual No reservations
 Now, this is not a problem exclusive to Seattle and it is not a problem that is ubiquitous in Seattle, either, but it is prevalent enough that I feel it worth mention. Offhand, I can think of fifteen restaurants that fit the bill (It would be wrong to name them all with one sweeping stroke, but going forward I will write them up in reviews). I can also think of a handful that are stellar beginning to end, the exceptions that prove the rule.