Beware of Darkness: In memory of my best friend

I recently found out that my best friend has passed away. I know that he had struggled with mental health problems and substance abuse issues for years, and they finally ended his life. While part of me wants to find solace in that he has finally found peace, an even larger part of me is angry that the world has been cheated out of what this bright, sweet, funny young man had to offer.

We first met working in the same restaurant. He had a Fargo accent so thick that I initially thought English was not his first language. When he was washing dishes he put on the Sex Pistols, and I was the only one who totally dug his choice. From there, we would bond over books and music. If you’re a Kerouac reader, you know how unusual it is to find anyone who has read anything besides On the Road, and we had both already read the Dharma Bums. George Harrison was our favorite Beatle, and we agreed that Chrissie Hynde was the overlooked Queen of Rock ‘n Roll. We believed that John Lydon’s memoir, ROTTEN: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, should be required reading.

When I began to try my hand at writing professionally, a Google search revealed that my given name was so similar to an already successful author that a pseudonym was in order. I told my friend about this while we watched Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He suggested I should start calling myself “Tracy of Lockesley” since I was always crabbing about our society evolving into a corporate fiefdom.

I eventually learned was that I met him during a more lucid period. He’d been clean for about year, and remained so for the first year of our friendship. He had the worst luck when it came to his romantic relationships, and was something of a magnet for women who would mistake him for a punching bag. I don’t know for sure that any of these relationships triggered a relapse, but they certainly didn’t help. Once he left for college, he appeared to be on a persistent decline. On the outset, he appeared to be developing into an alcoholic. When I discussed the matter with his father, I learned of my friend’s earlier drug use.

One of the things that’s very difficult about loving an addict is that at some point, you have to resign yourself to the prospect that each time you see them, it may be your last. My friend spent the last years of his life bouncing around, incapable of holding down a job, and couch-surfing on a good day. I think he spent the last two years of his life living on the streets. He somehow managed to visit with me for my birthday last year, and appeared to have been clean for a few weeks. And yet, after we said our good-byes, I couldn’t escape a fatalistic feeling that that may very well be the last time I’d see him alive. And it was.

Of all the difficult things about this, I don’t know what more I could have done for him. As his friend, I had no way of having him committed. I had a standing offer to his parents that if they ever needed me for an intervention, I would be there. He was happiest living in California, and I’m very content to remain in Chicago, so geography was rarely on the side of our friendship.

Even in his passing, geography isn’t on our side. His memorial service is out of state, and I can’t make it. So I’d like to pay tribute to my friend by celebrating the time we had together. Below is a playlist of some of his favorite songs. There’s nothing I would love more than to hit the dance floor with him one last time.


One last playlist

One last playlist

Categories: Books, Guy Stuff, Music | Tags: | Leave a comment

This machine kills fascists.

Stella Marrs

Stella Marrs

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. But as a writer, the massacre of writers and artists sickens me and hits too close to home. What frightens me is that the global assault on free speech seems to be accelerating at a more lethal pace than we can handle.


So what can we do? Just keep writing.


Defend our capacity to agree to disagree. And, most significantly, defend the rights of those we disagree with. It’s not enough to acknowledge that tolerance is a two-way street, we must put it into practice. The right to protest, dissent, and mock are to be protected. We also need to grow up and understand the differences between criticism and threatening language. To not do so puts us on the path to tyranny.


And above all else, just keep writing.

Categories: Art Star, Books, Guy Stuff, Lady Issues, LGBT Rights, Losing My Religion, Make With the Funny, Politics & Society, Racism Is Still With Us | Tags: | Leave a comment

In Hibernation


Sleepy bear is everywhere.

I have a ton of personal crap and work stuff to deal with. I don’t see any writing happening for the rest of the year. I envy that bear.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tove Lo – “Queen of the Clouds”

tove lo

Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo’s debut album, Queen of the Clouds, has some promising ideas, but ultimately feels too derivative to achieve them. The idea of a song cycle following the arc of a relationship is inventive, separated into three sections by brief spoken word interludes: the Sex, the Love, and the Pain. She doesn’t shy away from decadent displays of sex and drugs, and manages to keep it more sensual than trashy. Her sound is a consistently mid-tempo pop, that hints at the poppy R&B of Rhianna and Usher. As a result this can sound formulaic, and at worst her production sounds dated. She also has moments that hint the eccentricities of artists like Imogen Heap and Lykke Li, and I felt that I spent the entire album waiting to cross the threshold into the genuinely weird.

Upon first listen, I mistook “Like ‘em Young” as cougar anthem, and had a chuckle at her being under 30 (she’s actually 26). Then I realized she was talking about wanting guys her own age, and dissing her peers for chasing dirty old men. I think my favorite song on here is “Moments,” mainly for the line, “But on my good days I am charming as fuck.” I can see “Timebomb” bringing people to the dancefloor, and “Got Love” has a sweet groove. The Ali Payami remix of “Not On Drugs” sounds like it could be one of Usher’s leftovers. “Habits (Stay High)” has the potential to be a great breakup song.

Ultimately, it’s good music to chill out too. I think Lo is a promising talent, but I wish I saw a stronger sense of artistic identity.

Categories: Music | Tags: | Leave a comment

I guess Milo Manara really likes this pose

Much ado is being of Milo Manara’s artwork for the new Spider-Woman:

milo spider woman


Bootylicious isn’t she? Almost like she’s preparing for some doggy-style lovin’. I guess invariably strapless, body-clinging spandex isn’t illogical enough for female superheroes. We’re getting down to full on nudity with just a layer of body-paint separating our crimefighters from the bad guys.

I didn’t know anything about Milo Manara before this, and it turns out he’s an erotic illustrator of some note. After an image search, I can se why his work is so popular–it’s really beautiful and sensual. But when I stumbled upon this image, I was a little unsettled:

milo penthouse


It looks like he did the art for the cover of the November 1996 issue of Penthouse Comix. Also quite bootylicious, also like she’s ready for some doggy-style lovin’.

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I’m hardly a prude. I’m aware that there are plenty of artists who have done work in both the erotic world and in children’s books.  And when I was struck by the similarity of the pose to the Spider-Woman art, I couldn’t resist sharing. If I do have a problem it’s that Spider-Woman is intended to be read by people of all ages–who wants to be stuck explaining the doggy position to a nine year-old? Perhaps perched on that big building, she’s enjoying a nice breeze around her privates.

I’m probably more amused by the irony than anything. This whole thing reminds me of a joke on the Simpsons, where a character clearly based on Maurice Sendak explains that he got into writing and illustrating children’s books after Playboy kept rejecting his comics for being too dirty.

Also, I’d love to Manara’s version of the Kama Sutra, if it exists.

Categories: Art Star | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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