Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Even if I turned my torso entirely around, it would still make for a difficult time to spot her. She’s somewhere on the balcony amongst a crowd dawning the exact same colors as her wardrobe. Not a chance, I turn back around- don’t wanna be caught as the guy who keeps looking back into an onlooking audience. Hundreds of people staring at you isn't the most comforting sight- To tell the truth, I don’t think I ever came close to seeing her. I made out a silhouette- most likely wasn’t her, but to appease my peace of mind I’ll tell myself it was her.

Wherever she is...
she’s singing.

Back to facing forward, I could feel the room swelling. The moment turning thick- we’d all been waiting for it, not a single person in the room came for anything else.

A thread of sound, just a single thread- shrilling, leaking from one of the hundreds of pipes stretching the ceiling, holds for the moment. Its thick enough now to breathe, taste, roll around the roof of your mouth and press with your tongue. The thread still holds… and holds… and holds…

… and holds

                …             and        holds…

And breaks- to what feels like a piano being dropped onto your chest. The organ manipulates the air to palpable perfect storm, which would otherwise be hibernating ‘til the next Sunday morn. The musician resuscitating the mad instrument from its slumber and thrust into the stone ceiling of the church, the weight of the room brims upon heavy- brims upon a disheartening sense of “too much”- brims upon a reality we came to confront here.

Chords, scales, chromatics rip about the old walls of the building, slanting sharps and flats from the pipes of the organ, continuing an anthem you swear you’d heard before.  You won’t forget this. Your memory won’t dismember it, your blood will never coarse the way it does for times like these.

The woman on the balcony, again, begins singing in succession with the rest of the quire. Loud and ominous, the sound uniforms with the moment. Time whips by like a film montage, notes slowly descend from the ceiling, all of it spinning at some irregularity than its normal life’s pace… stops.

A casket draped with a white sheet makes its way down the church’s aisle. The inconsolable truth crash lands every heart in the room: Benjamin Gidmark has passed away, and what tangibly remains of him on earth is in that casket.

There is something disturbingly beautiful in the organization of mourning someone’s absence, swiftly followed by an overwhelming, desolate sadness. To pay witness to his casket, struck harder than the initial news of his death.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Honda Chronicles 1

Jan. 1, 2010

I’m hiding. I’m frozen.

Like the rest of the world, I’ve just about had it with Toussaint. Although I could tell you where I am, I won’t. Although I could tell you what happened last night, I won’t. In episodes such as the one that’s about to detonate, people seem to focus on the least important details- kinda like the Usual Suspects. The detective questions Kevin Spacey about everything that would be/should be important, meanwhile neglecting the most pertinent issue that the criminal is right in front of him, Kaiser Sose (Kevin Spacey). Again, what happened last night is a f-----ng tragedy and as much immediate gratification it would give everyone for me to divulge… I won’t. I’m a car, I don’t give a hot damn for human emotions. People shit all over me all day everyday, disrespect my entire existence, and run me like an Egyptian slave, circa any year B.C.

Why am I telling you this story, you ask… because it’s a good one. I am a sucker for the goodness in life. There is much of it to be had, and one must be careful in reaching to have it for in the reaching there is pain. I don’t reach, I park. I park and let it come to me, baby. All good things come to those who wait, and I've been waiting since 1997 for something like this. I was born in Lacrosse, WI to a family that had more use for selling me than having me around. From there, I was sold to the Foster’s (no that’s not the real family name, but I’m not outing anybody except for Toussaint’s dumbass… why? Cos f--- Toussaint, that’s why.) The Foster’s resided in a remote corner of Wisconsin, although I still longed for the city street life, a m----f----r can’t always get what he wants… especially when his life is destitute as a mechanical deathtrap on wheels.

I’m not going to get into the Foster’s, just as much as what happened last night. All you need to know is my present circumstance is colder than an ice cap that hasn’t melted yet. Little does anyone know, my alternator has one more trip left in it. I’ll credit the Foster’s and Toussaint for not noticing the head lights are fading in and out. When that’s happening, it means your electrical is at severe risk to shut down. Personally, my electrical is like a human’s ability to avoid old age, cancer, or a cold. If that shit is meant to be, and one of’em always is (pending on your genetics which comes first), the laws of nature give no f--- for when it goes down. If a semi is trailing you at blinding speed and my electrical or alternator shuts down… guess what Cochese? You’re family’s gonna have to hold a closed casket. No matter where you are, make sure the alternator, serpentine belt, and electrical is tip-top. Bold, rich or beautiful, doesn’t matter how fresh the oil is, I’ll shut this sh*t down faster than you can say “funeral party” if what’s under the hood isn’t tended to like a pacemaker. Consider this your final warning.

Somehow, someway, Toussaint defies this type of sh*t. Yes, I have one trip left in me, but it will be the last trip in the Foster’s name. Aside from the alternator, there is something else deadly wrong with me… my hood is unhinged. If Toussaint doesn’t notice it flappin’ like Ron Jeremy’s tongue, there ain’t much I can do for the guy. Either duct tape the damn thing down, or have it relentlessly flip into the windshield. I can’t blame him. Guy’s a liability, high risk, walking the line like an underfunded Russian circus with no safety nets.

There he is, dumbfound and all, gawking at the shiner on my hood as if it makes me look any less of a Civic. How this large ding got on my hood, again that was last night... I’m not going to dignify it with any background on it. However, Toussaint is genuinely surprised at the dent, I can see him thinking. What’s his next move, how’s he gonna explain this to the Foster’s… he doesn’t have a clue. Kid couldn’t talk his way out of a convertible, the hell he’s gonna explain this. He’s screwed, he knows it, however it won’t stop that m----f---r from enjoying the ride to park it back to Dana’s (daughter to the Foster’s, didn’t necessarily let him borrow the car, but left it in his hands while she’s on vacation).

Happy New Year’s to you too buddy. Toussaint hops in me as usual and cranks up the NPR. He loves that sh*t, what a poindexter.

And here we are, just as I suspected, pushing  50 on 94W… hood bouncing ever so slightly up and down, up and down, up and down, WHAM! I TOLD YA!!! HAHAAAAAAA, my hood smashes back into the front windshield, kicking the rearview mirror off that m---f----r inside the car. The rearview whizzes by Toussaint’s dodging big-ass dome and into the backseat. My hood’s still pressed firm against the windshield, Silly McGillicuddy Toussaint still pressing 50, but slowing down, goes into panic screamin’ like a little girl.

Fave moment: Toussaint looks to his right to find a sports car whose hit the brakes as to not get caught in the ball of flames I’m 10 seconds from turning into- panics, then looks to his left to see a mother driving her kid in the car in the next door lane. Toussaint puts on a “Oh my God, I think I sh*t my pants” look on his face as the mom shakes her head like “Can’t help you, good luck in the next one” and speeds off! BWAHAHAHAHAH! Love it. That m----f----r hits the brakes and some how gets a view of the road from just underneath the crest of my hood.

Damn, I was hopin’ to go out like a stock car, y’know? Somethin’ big. Lot of us go down without a whisper, without a single day of excitement… we just stop. Not sayin’ I wanted to hurt anyone, even Toussaint, but I always looked up to the Dukes of Hazard- always wanted the fast life, the crazy cross-country life, the life a compact city-car like myself can only park and dream of. Most I’ve ever seen is the backside of Wisconsin and maybe a skyline or two whilst parked at the top of a parking ramp… nothing more. Most a compact like myself could ask for is to go down like a champ. Not in the cards… this day, at least.

Well, Mr. Morrison maneuvers us off the road to the 94W exit. Safe and sound, we park on the side of a residential road. We stop. He doesn’t leave the car, just sits there, holding the steering wheel as if it’s the only thinking still working in his life and fears it might be the last thing he touches that’s not broken. I can feel the kid’s chest hollowing out, his breath deepening, the pressure on the inside of the car outweighing any other circumstance outside of it. Toussaint unbuckles, opens the door, slowly scoots his body out of the car, and folds my hood back down. You thought the ding he found this morning was shitty, the hood now looks like the Incredible Hulk held a picnic on top of it. The entire thing is caved in and not a tool in Mr. Morrison’s little world can fix it. He’s screwed in every way possible. Aside from being alive and outside of prison, this guy is as emotionally fucked as one could stretch their imagination.

Toussaint’s next move would have to be quick… and smart. Mama Foster is on her way to pick up the car… today.

to be continued…

Sunday, August 14, 2011

She Schaumburg Hot

Friday, August 8, 2011
Wicker Park, Chicago, IL

Dan is talking. I can hear him. I was listening. Something’s tuning me out- bah, be responsible man- I’m tuning out to something… someone, across the bar. A woman is staring me down like she means to jump me in the alley. I revert back to Dan. What he’s saying is important. He works for Be The Match, a bone marrow donor non-profit, and is debriefing me on exactly how it works. All they do is swab your cheek and- dammit, there she goes again. It’s not that I want to engage with this gal, it’s the look she’s giving me- it’s not sexual, it’s not interested… it’s conspiring. Perhaps I’m paranoid. After watching the Lincoln Lawyer- which is not your typical Matthew McConahay movie and if you say different, I will shave off your eyebrow- I’ve began to read into gesture a little more than the average cop. Sidenote: I’m not a cop, however this woman is still seeing to it that she either murders me with her eyes or sizes me up long enough to shank me outside of this bar.

Back to Dan, back to the conversation, back to the fact I’m in Chicago in lieu of my future-brother-in-law’s bachelor party and having the time of my life with an old college friend. Dan fills me in on his promotion from the Minneapolis branch of Be The Match, to h.m.i.c. of Chicago’s branch. 2 of his 3 things to follow in life are to be on time, and have fun. I forgot the 3rd, but I’ll ask’em later for it.

“Excuse me, are you Toussaint Morrison”, murmurs a voice from the crowd. I can’t find it for a split second, which sends me into a frayed confusion of “what the fuck is going on here, am I going schizophrenic this late in the game- ugh, I really am a late bloomer”. Quick, I turn nonchalantly towards the voice… it’s the woman from across the bar. The woman who wants to kill me... with her eyes, at least. She has vamped from across the bar to right-next-to-me town. Dan and I look at each other… take a moment… and laugh. “No, nooo, is that really a name? Or is that some kind of French word for “toilet”? I boast. She doesn’t look humored by this at all. Her friend to the left, is laughing and smiling, whilst her friend to the right is deadly not amused. People that aren’t amused… well, aren’t amused, but I always make the effort to test it- do my damndest to see how unamused they can look.

“You must be the mom of the group”, I tell the friend to the right. The other two girls laugh aloud. The friend to the right leans in, smiles, “I’m the crazy one”. And that’s when I realized I have a predisposition to be attracted to the craziest woman in the building. Aside from the obvious- Back to the woman with killer eyes- less “how the hell does”, but I’m more intrigued how would she know my full name? Is she making sure she has the right person before she pulls the shank from her purse to gut me? Who the hell knows me in Chicago?

“I work with Jake… He does the mixtapes with you…” Ahhhhh yes, an affiliate of Dr. Wylie. I can’t really put the guy in anonymous for this stuff, but Dr. Wylie’s name is  Jake Wylie. We met in ’01 at the dorms in Hamline before I dropped out after two weeks. However, during those two weeks we put together beats and recorded two or three songs that immediately became cult classics amongst our peers. Now, piecing together mixtapes for DJs and the general public, we’ve easily graduated, 7 years later, to a game of national draw and online numbers.

I introduce Dan, the gal and her friends chat with us, moments pass, we bid adieu. After their departure, Dan & I pause… look at each other and begin laughing, again. It wasn’t the odds of the encounter, it was the fashion in which it was designed. Women don’t usually approach guys, hence the reversal of it all is humor in itself. Culturally we’ve been prepared as men to hunt down the date, initiate the verbal communication, and walk the tight rope of social interaction. Given this woman had an outright reason to approach me, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact it was her initiative. Bet your ass people see people they recognize all the time and do their damndest to not initiate a thing. Either way, it would happen to me the next day at a bar called Burton’s after Rockmen’s bachelor party… still just as humorous.

Dan and I trek into the thick of Wicker Park; hipster hangouts, hole-in-the-wall bars, danceterias, etc. It is fortunate; to converse with an old friend now in the midst of a new chapter. Although having just lived in the Chi for a few months, Dan moves quick: allied with a small group of young professionals meeting once every few weeks to network, swift with bus & L directions across the city, and on top of damn near every facet of his job before he even landed.

Not before I wonder aloud, “It’s like 2 out of every 3 women here are hot fire”, Dan gives me the run down on his experience in Chicago. I give him the run down of me finding the craziest gal in her circle to be the most attractive. “Yeah, she was Schaumburg”, replied Dan. “Excuse me”, I said. “Schaumburg… like the suburb outside of Chicago. It’s close enough to commute, but far enough to make it a pain in the ass to drive. If you meet a woman in Chicago, have a connection, but then find out she lives in Schaumburg… she’d have to be hot enough for you to make the commute. Schaumburg hot.”

I revisit several past relationships. I won’t tell you how many were worth it of commuting the distance to Schaumburg, if any at all. I’m assuming Schaumbeug Hot is transformative over time, whereas the “crazy” girl, from the group that approached us, was damn well Schaumburg Hot… but give it a week or two, and I might’ve been less likely to commute a block rather than a 3rd ring suburb. I don’t know… and most likely never will. The mystery is more attractive than the actual knowing, sometimes. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Woman With The Tattooed Arms (2/2)

July 3, 2011

She returns with our drinks, slides half her left hand into her pocket while holding her beer. My new friend introduces us, “Emily, Hi.” I return the greet… not half as dignified as Emily, but at this point I’m thrown off my horse. The lot of us begin to converse. This is tough- tough in the sense that this used to be hard as nails for me, whereas now it’s my day-to-day. In high school, walking into any classroom was an anxiety attack-and-a-half. The fear of certain embarrassment struck me out before I could ever open my mouth. Athletics literally saved me from a lifetime of asocial behavior and seeking out the underside of a staircase every lunch period to breakout the pb&j sandwich. Thanks to 4 years of swim team enrollment, carousing pool sides in a speedo as the only non-white guy in the building, my social skills have bloomed to what they are today. Stealing glances while we chat, I make the effort not to keep my eyes in the same spot for too long. That was until I spotted something on Emily’s arm. Several jagged scars race across the underside of her forearm with half her hand still dipped into her pocket.

Sweet Christ, what happened? I try and answer for myself, which is of no use and a damn good way to start creating inappropriate jokes. Scars come with various connotations, the biggest part of them is the holder of the scar is the only one who can tell you its meaning- its history- its connotation(s). Marginalizing that can be dangerous, not only to the sensitivity of the person holding the physical scars, but also to your ability to empathize with others who may have gone through the same trauma as you. Marginalize anyone’s pain, and you put yourself at an inherent risk to repress your own.

Hmm, maybe their self-inflicted? I saw a girl at the old Purple Onion cafĂ© with scars enough to look like burn wounds. In that case, they engulfed her entire arm, Emily held much less damage. Whatever it is… it’s not my business. You don’t go up to everyone you see on the street with a tattoo and ask them what the background is on it, do you? (If you said yes to that, then clearly you’ve never heard anyone say “act like you know”… it’s blue collar etiquette, please use) We merrily stroll along with our conversation, as the undeniable element reveals itself: Not only is Emily strikingly beautiful, but her tone of voice is profound. Something about the way she speaks to me reminds me of every steadfast, non-bullshit, authoritative  woman I’ve come across. When you meet anyone in the Midwest that resembles anything but the Midwest… relish it, because you have it again until- well, until you visit somewhere outside of the Midwest.

Emily and I run into the inevitable discussion of blackness, what it means to be of-color in the most segregated city in the country (Milwaukee, WI), and past experiences. Of course we carry out multiple disagreements, shared moments of condescension and pride-blunder… but at the same time take the opportunity to tell each other stories. Emily, her friend, and I all retreat back to the apartment they’re staying at in town. We talk for the duration of the night… and morning.

She schools me. Tells me I have this great way of not answering a single question and maneuvering it back to her. She calls me out on every side step and smile-for-the-sake-of-smiling. She’s more than eluding to the fact she may have me “figured out”… however, eluding to the obvious means you only have something “figured”. Figuring someone (or something) out almost always necessitates a private resolution. Far from private, Emily sweetly announces her victories along our path of conversing… I enable it. It’s endearing to meet your match- or something close to it.

It’s inescapable as it is almost 7am that our conversation has reached its end. Our brain’s resistance to deactivation, scurrying from one another’s verbal parries, reading too far into subtle gestures… we’ve run the game dry. I pass out in a knock-off of a Lay-Z-Boy, and gather an hour’s worth of sleep. Woken by Emily’s friend who was leaving for somewhere in some part of Northern Wisconsin, I went into insta-etiquette- thanked her for letting me crash and drudged it to my car.

After gathering 3 more hours of sleep at Sherman’s (the #1 go to whenever we’re in Milwaukee), my eyes crept open to incessant ringing from my cell. Must’ve went off 3, 4 times before I noticed it. It’s Tesch- he’s outside Sherman’s place… we’re going to the Brewer’s game. This is where I’d usually say “and then we did it all over again”… however, I think half of my attention attended the game, the other half fell dead to being up for the past 48hours. Goodnight Milwaukee.