1. Money and Gossip

    The Gumbo Fiction Salon takes place at the Galway Arms off Clark and Fullerton, and I entered the pub’s front doors with journalistic intent. My plan was to review the event for Chicago Literati. I had my sound recorder ready and would take notes as I saw fit. I entered and went straight for the stairs to the second floor bar/eating area.

    Now, I’d never been to Gumbo before, but I’d been to that room. The whole floor really. A little over a year ago, a good friend of mine had become - through ambition and his mentor’s resignation from the position - the PR manager of a small press publisher called Criminal Class Press. In trying to organize an event, he asked me for advice, stating I was more “part of the literary community” than he was, and after tossing out a few venues, I mentioned The Galway Arms simply because I knew Gumbo took place there. He got the venue and got me into the event for free. When I got there, my friend was nowhere to be found, the initial host of the event had to cancel and they;d scrambled to get a new host who was talented but not exactly relevant to CCP’s style of writing (CCP is gritty and noir, she wrote a scifi novella), the turnout was alright, which is Nice for “not really,” and one of my friend’s bosses was a blowhole for most of the night. It was a mess.

    But enough about that because what matters is the space - it’s nice for a bar/restaurant/pub/whatever the fuck you wanna call it. When you come up the stairs of the second floor, there’s a narrow hallway to the side of the stairs that extends as far forward as it does backward. Forward are the bathrooms. The girls’ bathroom is nice because even though there’s only one toilet, that one toilet has its own stall, there are two sinks, a chair and table against a mirror if you want to sit down to do your makeup, and handsoap is actual handsoap and not just a bottle of Ajax next to a roll of Bounty. Backward is the bar area, a small room that overlooks Clark Street in all its drunken glory. To the right is a larger room where events take place.

    The walls need to be mentioned - blood fucking red.They gave the place a series “redrum” vibe.

    I sat in the seat and gnawed the inside of my cheek.

    Do I?

    Don’t I?

    I do.

    I pull open my drawstring bag and grab for the first four pages of a story I’ve been revising and tweaking and ignoring and not finishing for the past two months, though if we’re counting the time between rediscovering it on my computer and the time I first wrote it, I’ve really been working on it for two and a half years. It had to marinate in oblivion for a while.

    I vaguely recognized some people from school, in this case, Columbia College. One person near me began talking about said school. They wouldn’t appreciate if I put their name down in this post, so for now let’s call this person Shemp. He was the Stooge that replaced Curly. He matters.

    "…They cut the class, along with a bunch of others."

    I asked, “How many?”

    "16%."

    Incredible. “Wait. What’s going on with classes?”

    Shemp turned to me. “Oh, the whole department’s in disarray.”

    I’d gathered that much. “I mean, yeah. Since it’s now a whole Creative Writing Department and not just Fiction Writing separate from Poetry and everything else.”

    "It’s more complicated than that." Shemp scooted her chair closer. "First, the Creative Writing Department lost 16% of its classes. Some were shuffled into Playwriting, and Screenwriting is now only in Film. Others were cut because of a low number of students.”

    "What about the Story in Fiction and Film class?"

    "Moved to the Film Department."

    "Were any classes added?"

    People gathered. There were maybe two dozen in the room including me and this person I sorta knew. Most of them had typed pages crumpled in their hands or laid out in front of them on their respective tables, scrawling edits on them.

    My new friend snorted. “Two. Poetry classes. And here’s the thing, I feel really bad for the non Fiction Writing majors - Poetry and Creative Nonfiction - because they each used to have their own departments, and now they’re being shoved in with us, and a lot of their classes are being cut too. And don’t get me started on the workload. I am not going to finish my homework for the week.”

    The workload for Fiction Writing majors was always a lot, but manageable nonetheless. “It’s still 60 pages total at the end of the semester, right? For each class?”

    "Yeah, but all the teachers are scheduling these big projects all at the same time because NO ONE’S TALKING TO EACH OTHER. No one in the department is communicating."

    He leaned in closer. “You didn’t hear this from me…” I tuned out the hum of the room and tuned him in, “Some of this is the English Department’s fault.” A twist of my mouth showed my confusion, so he clarified. “There’s been a huge misappropriation of funds on their end messing up the whole thing. They claimed to have had meetings about the situation to try and fix it, but they never happened and nobody knows what’s going on with that. Every day is a struggle to save money. A lot of part-time staff has been cut as a result.”

    From there, the reading began. I went up to read, stayed for two more readers, and got the hell out of there because my glucose was crashing and the last thing I needed was to faint in front of two dozen people in an Irish pub in Lincoln Park. That’s too much for a Thursday night.

    Of course, none of this is confirmed, as if the school would admit to any of it.

     


  2. Hello, lovers: the Riot Fest Edition

    Yes, I forgot my Reading Under the Influence write-up and, yes, I have been neglecting many things, but sometimes my brain doesn’t want to do things to the point of simply not doing them. Strange thing, really.

    But this day is special. This is the first day of Riot Fest. Now, festivals never turn out how I expect - I don’t see all the friends I hoped to see, don’t see all the bands I hoped to see, and I spend too much money because vendors are vultures and merch tents are money sponges, but regardless of what bands I see, I manage to squeeze out loads of fun.

    I’ll hopefully be writing Riot updates and taking pictures of how messy I get. It’s muddy and cold, so if I die, I leave all my cash to closest friends for a massive Lakeview shitty bar crawl. Until then, here’s my itinerary of absolutes:

    Today: Pussy Riot, Rise Against

    Saturday: Taking Back Sunday

    Sunday: Modern Baseball, Weezer

    Anything else is up for grabs.

     


  3. Hello, lovers. I’ve got a new one up at Chicago Literati. Depression sprinkled with some suicide.

     


  4.  


  5. Proust Questtionaire


    Questions copy and pasted from Vanity Fair

    1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    Listening to a song and knowing you’re a better person for hearing it.

    2. What is your greatest fear?
    Blindness.

    3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
    Overthinking.

    4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
    Dishonesty

    5. Which living person do you most admire?
    Amy Hempel

    6. What is your greatest extravagance?
    My college education.

    7. What is your current state of mind?
    It’s like a long sheet hanging by upwards of ten clothespins. At this moment, it’s hanging by three, but it’s still hanging ain’t it?

    8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
    Virginity

    9. On what occasion do you lie?
    To avoid confrontation with family members.

    10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
    I hunch my shoulders a lot.

    11. Which living person do you most despise?
    Gene Simmons

    12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
    Honesty.

    13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
    Honesty.

    14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
    Just. When. And then.

    15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
    Henry David Thoreau.

    16. When and where were you happiest?
    When - 20. 21. 22. Where - In his arms.

    17. Which talent would you most like to have?
    Photography.

    18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
    I wouldn’t have diabetes so I could in theory eat a slice of bread without thinking of the greater implications of eating said slice of bread.

    19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
    My friendships.

    20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
    Studs Terkel or Mike Royko

    21. Where would you most like to live?
    Chicago. I already live here, so I’ve got it made.

    22. What is your most treasured possession?
    My computer. His name is Murray Burns.

    23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
    When you can’t get out of bed in the day but can’t fall asleep at night.

    24. What is your favorite occupation?
    Teaching/tutoring.

    25. What is your most marked characteristic?
    Bluntness.

    26. What do you most value in your friends?
    Loyalty.

    27. Who are your favorite writers?
    George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Amy Hempel, Hunter S. Thompson, Irvine Welsh

    28. Who is your hero of fiction?
    Murray Burns.

    29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
    James Boswell, only because I’m related to him through some convoluted family line.

    30. Who are your heroes in real life?
    My great-grandmother, my grandfather, Mayor Daley after the Miegs Field debacle, Joe Strummer, more I can’t think of right now.

    31. What are your favorite names?
    Katrina, Amara, Charles.

    32. What is it that you most dislike?
    Meanness and cruelty for the sake of being mean and cruel.

    33. What is your greatest regret?
    Not taking more advantage of my last year of high school.

    34. How would you like to die?
    Without too much fanfare. Leave that for the funeral.

    35. What is your motto?
    1. Treat your surroundings like a tourist, and you’ll never be bored.

     


  6. Reading Series Review - Reading Under the Influence, August: Attitude Adjustment!

    It’s been a while since RUI’s had a lineup of readers I’ve either met before or actually know well enough to call “friend.” There’s Jacob Hall, who I know of because his name knocked around the Columbia Creative Writing Department coming after the usual words, “Do you know….” Darwyn Jones has performed at two 2nd Story events I had the chance to attend (both for free). Jael Montellano is a person I’ve both talked to and seen perform, both times at Two Cookie Minimum, which I haven’t been to in ages, but there are free cookies and cheap enough drinks, so going is a must. Finally, there is Miss Liz Grear. I’ve known her since my sophomore year back in late 2011 and since then I’ve seen her mature into one of the best writers I know. She doesn’t even know how damn good she is, and this isn’t me gushing about a friend, this is me saying what loads of other people have said.

    But enough of that mush. I paid my $3 cover and talked with Brendan at length about our latest successes and woes until the readings began. First up was Jael with some Jonathan Safran Foer from his novel Everything Is Illuminated, a scene that involved driving in Ukraine with an old man, his grandson Alex, and their dog, the grandfather’s “deranged seeing-eye bitch” named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. In the second half of the reading, her original work was a bit darker, though her work has always leaned more toward the gothic side of literature. Not many reading series feature authors like that. Of course, most authors today would be too damn afraid to touch the genre, so props to her for diving in and excelling at it.

    Jacob Hall read from To Kill a Mockingbird and asked trivia relating to it (which I won because I’m amazing, smart, and was more desperate than everyone else for a free book and a free shot), and read a piece of his own involving relations between a man and a woman, though most memorable was Bronwyn’s introduction for Jacob, in which she described a tutoring session with him where he turned in a piece about a “beautiful girl in the desert riding a stick horse.” It’s certainly an image that sticks.

    Mr. Darwyn Jones had us all in fits and giggles. First, he read from Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding, and when pulling out his trivia afterward, he shouted, “THIS WAS FROM CARSON MCCULLERS’ THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING. THIS TRIVIA HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING.” Instead, the trivia was about “Attitude Adjustment,” and each question started with those two words. We learned that not only is “Attitude Adjustment” a drink made with Bailey’s Irish Cream, root beer schnapps, and peach schnapps, but it is also the name of a 6-man rock band struggling for fame. Later in the night, he read from his own work, a piece he’s performed at two 2nd Story events I’ve been to in the past year. It was a little disappointing to hear this story for the third time instead of something brand new, but these things happen and there’s not much else to do but try and enjoy it, which wasn’t too hard.

    Finally, lastly, there is Ms. Liz Grear. The published work she read was from I forget what, mostly because her own work stuck with me so much. It was a piece I’d read on her Tumblr, but watching her perform it was an entirely different experience. It was a list of reasons why she’s selfish, and she swiftly runs down how she makes her boyfriend jealous, wakes him up in the middle of naps just to see him squirm, and after catching a garter, she slurred, “You can catch all the garters you want - I’m never getting married.” But in the end, she loves him, and he loves her. Whether or not it’s fiction depends on who you ask.

    Afterward, we all mingled, I got my free shot (Malört. Always.), I talked about OkCupid and Tinder with Brendan and Patrick, mostly about how those sites are the dredges of the social media-dating combo boom that’s happened in the past couple years (fucking awful in my opinion). Then we all got frozen yogurt at I took this photo.


    It doesn’t give you money. It takes it away.

    Pertinent information - right after the reading, a few of next month’s readers were announced, with one spot in need of filling. It has been a considerable amount of time since I’ve performed at a reading/performance series and I’m jonesing bad. With every reading, there’s a rush, a marriage of nerves and guts, anxiety and excitement, and it gives me a chance to gnash my teeth and reach for throats. So the moment the hosts said they were in search for a fourth reader, I immediately told host Behnam, “I should read next month,” because I’m an arrogant little shit with no shame, censor, or self-respect. About three hours later, I emailed him saying that if he hadn’t found a reader yet, that I should be that reader, attaching three samples of writing. Within six minutes he replied.

    "Jesus, that happened like three hours ago."

    What can I say? I like getting things out of the way. So, will this able-bodied faux-professional get in on this wonderful reading series? Let’s hope. If it’s anything like it was yesterday, I’m excited. The bar this time around was as raucous and drunk as ever, as it should be.

    rating: A+

     


  7. erikadprice:

    If I have a journal article published with the American Psychological Association, I do not get paid, I must pay the printer for the use of color images, I must give the APA worldwide publication and copyrights to my work, and I am not allowed to give the final journal article away for free on my website or on any social media outlet. I do not get free access to the journal; I do get a free electronic copy of the article (which I’m not supposed to widely share). 

     


  8. A friendly reminder of activity.

    Surprisingly, after I lost my job, I had a week of going out and throwing my resume everywhere, then a week and a half of sleeping as much as possible. The job loss and a lot of other things cluttered my brain, and I needed time to re-energize, resurge, and return to form, and probably a couple other words that begin with “re-“. I’ve been writing like hell for Chicago Literati, working on some short stories, listening to the new Rise Against record, going on OkCupid dates (all two of them), reading a collection of music interviews from The Believer, and wrapping my head around some stuff.

    I still sleep a lot though. That’ll never change.