each man is a half-open door

I came to Chicago in 2007, the year of the Virginia Tech shooting. I’d been there, and when I got here—to the University—people asked me about it, what it was like. I didn’t become friends with those people, but the city and I got along just fine. Hyde Park and I got along just fine, and in a matter of weeks we grew quite close.

That was over ten years ago now, and will continue to be over ten years ago till I reach some other well-rounded milestone and it becomes over twelve or fifteen years ago and I become old. A great deal has happened across those intervening years, to the point that “intervening” is perhaps the most unfair adjective I could have chosen. But this is about then and now, wormhole-connected, glossing over the in between.

I haven’t moved away yet, but I almost did, and I will. And when I do, I’ll take with me a bunch of boxes and a big piece of myself labeled “CHICAGO” and for the first few months in Elsewhere I probably won’t know what to do with it. I’ll get in elevators and make small talk about the weather. I’ll park on the street and be paranoid about getting a ticket, or park in a lot and expect to be towed. I’ll wear nothing but black, white, and, on more festive days, gray. I’ll expect winter to be seven months long and be surprised every year when that’s what actually happens. I’ll honk my horn in traffic to express all manner of emotions and communicate a wide variety of messages, most especially to inform the driver three cars ahead the instant that the light has changed that they should remove their foot from the brake and place it on the gas. I’ll scowl at my phone as I navigate crowded sidewalks. I’ll find that people do a lot of the same stuff no matter where I go.

These years have been formative, driven by burning questions and thoughts I dutifully, feverishly recorded for fear of losing them and ideas and desires and dreams for which I tried to find some mode of expression—that’s how I’d sum this up. The “process,” if I may, has been like peeling an onion apart and putting it back together again several times over, all slippery and falling apart and never quite the same shape in the end. But the result is no monstrosity, no abomination of nature—at least I don’t think so. Ask me again when I’m gone, though, when I’ve had time to digest a new way of being, a new climate, a new routine, and when I’ve had more time to look back.

I think of all the time I wasted before I got here and started growing up, saying no, saying yes, saying no again, backtracking, starting over, or trying to, and trying to understand, trying to be and become. Here, I learned to grow, and tried to love it. Could I have learned this and done this anywhere? Probably, but I didn’t, and I’m not done.

Chicago is something I read about now with a silent vicariousness, almost as if I shouldn’t. It’s something for which I discreetly search while in its very midst with a cringing, semi-empirical rationalism set to the task of soaking up who we are in words, images, and structure, so I can make something of it myself, my own something, my piece and partial parcel for the packing on to what and wherever’s next, a line in the sand between more and more of the same.

Ten years makes me part of it and it of me, and together we are at times hard, heavy, and stifled, even in our excesses, craning toward a linearity that’s absurdly out of reach. Summers warm us to an almost-welcome that autumn briskly brushes off in favor of the dirt and grime and years beneath. Time is not only visible here, it is our neighbor, in every neighborhood, sometimes on the corner, other times mid-block. We are a cold draft crawling impertinently up under the covers at the foot of the bed to wake an enduring fascination for repulsion at the cracked plaster walls of our collective domestic heritage.

failing

This is the story of Francisco—pejoratively called Frankie, unbeknownst to him—the middle-aged, denim-jacketed, long-haired pseudo-revolutionary Executive Director of a small NGO singing songs and playing guitar with his little makeshift band of false rebels, primary among them the incomparable minion Sonya de la Torre on tambourine, the pride and joy princess fresh out of community college with fresh red lipstick and caked make-up, no one on harmony, just a couple other drifters in the room, together butchering “Blowin In The Wind” rather than engaging in budget negotiations that would keep the organization and its programs afloat while our “engagement specialist” sat at his desk trying to tune all that out-of-tune clanging. What can we do? Frankie’d (always) say (about every fucking thing). What more can I say, I ask, you, now? Some, seems, so I will.

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in threes

There’s a thing I started writing a couple years ago and never finished. A thing about threes. In it I started and never finished saying that important things come in threes. Just look online. Profundity comes in threes. Steps to success/achievement /perfection come in threes. Good things come in threes. Meaningful things, delicious things, great things—if it matters, it comes in threes, I started and never finished saying, probably because it wasn’t that important or profound or delicious.

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exit

Once I was six or five years old and did things kid backward like I do them grown backward now and I remember one day doing my six or five year old backward best to ponder nonexistence because it struck me ponderably, little ponderable thing I was barely getting used to existing and ponderance in the first place, sitting on the floor of his father’s room, over by the table at the bedside—remember?—maybe flipping through one of his pilot dad’s aviation magazines by the light of the bedside lamp, that antique-store-strange white-painted metal lamp with the ornate key-shaped switch like a wick knob you’d find on one of those kerosene contraptions like the one my aunt gave me because I like the idea of things and you had to turn that ornate key-shaped switch on the antique-store-strange lamp for the electricity to ignite, a functional piece of creative anachronism in a hodgepodge sort of room where I liked to go to play, that day chance pondering upon what it would mean to die. Well, not die, but to be dead. I swear I wasn’t a morbid little soul, I just had a bit of a ruminative side. Thankfully I grew out of that and I no longer think anymore, about anything.

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evident

And I see it’s all material, sure, that’s fine, again material, more material, immaterial and otherwise and with depth, yes, of course, I’m not mad, of course, not quite, not yet, of course, but I just can’t let the idea go, not quite yet, because I like to start things strangely and because where would it (go)? That’s unclear, sorry. I mean the idea that it’s all stuff all here and always has been and I wonder why I used to wonder how we’d break free from context, from the maybe not so barefaced subjective that stuff-makers like Eliot and Frosty Frosterson believed would impinge upon one or both aspects of a dual identity I’m not sure I believe in, the day-to-day sufferer, on the one hand, and the artist creator on the other. But why? And here again I go wondering stuff, taking stuff and doing something to it and wondering what and why and how and in the end just saying.

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partake

We had two dogs when I was growing up, brothers they were, one called Sammy and Moxie the other, both black and brown and white, some kind of beagle-shepherd-wolf-bird-dog-bear mixes or something magical like that, the latter with longer, scragglier fur for catching burrs and getting caked with mud and all manner of undesirable substances and the former with shorter fur of the sleeker sort for speed and stealth and general petability. I’m from a place far far away where we have dogs like that in abundance, a mythical land of blue mountains and orange moons and green clovers and faeries of assorted shapes and hues and temperaments and it was a great place to be a kid. A kid with dogs, these.

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some stuff beginning with i

I write under the name “Mischa” but that’s not my real name. Well, not anymore, usually, I mean it’s real, and it really was ceremoniously bestowed upon me by the power vested in my parents and the state of Virginia, but I tend to go by Mike or Michael—or Fernandoquan inside inner secret insider circles—because Mike or Michael are generally easier for everyone else to say/pronounce/accept and it makes for a nice 50-50 personality split, Mischa boy and Mike/chael man. Sometimes the split’s more like 80-20 or 20-80, depending on the lean of polarity and fat content. So now you know: Mischa as a child and for clandestine writing activities, but it’s Fernandoquan to real friends. For everyone else, Mike/chael will do.

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