by the time i finish this blog post, christmas will be over
Thanks, Rockford, IL, you did me right.
Thanks, Rockford, IL, you did me right.
It's cold here in a way that it never is in Seattle. I felt pretty tough about it, even though my mom said to pack all the warm things I had. It just hits and bites your skin and endeavors to work it's way down into your core. It's taxing.
I've been reading another Saul Bellow book, that damn old Chicagoan, and I feel closer than ever to him here. It's Saul Bellow's coming-of-age story, and I'm like, goddamnit, when am I ever going to come of age anyway, so I can write my own damn coming of age story...or just knowingly hint at it with glints in my eye.
Really though, it's cold here. I miss the women but at the same time I feel further away from everyone than ever, and not just by miles. Buddhists don't have destiny, not in the same way as everyone else, with their destinies of glory. There's just everyone's same old destiny of awakening. Chogyam Trungpa said once, something like, "You want to be able to see yourself being enlightened, with all your followers watching you arise into the air, but it's not like that. From the point of view of ego, enlightenment is the ultimate disappointment."
We walked through the strip mall store parking lots, with the cold sucking at us, looking for something I thought to be a common item. I won't say what because it's someone's Holiday Gift (tm). It's all over Jay Leno's monologues, the white house holiday card, the struggle between Christmas and the non-denominational American Holiday Experience. Kay Jewelers with a touching commercial about a very well-groomed Santa Clause giving DeBeers brand diamonds to his tastefully sexy old wife.
The first night I was so tired from a housewarming party I slept immediately upon going to bed. Tonight I of course squirmed for hours in the time-zone difference. I forgot to tell my friends I'm here. Hopefully I can still get them to come eat some chili.
Thank whoever there is to thank for my mom...and the other Karen, who gave me a kind ride to the airport.
Last night I went to Chicago to take a bunch of pictures. Oh wait, I went to celebrate my Dad's birthday. He's 62. He's still looking pretty good. That bodes well for me and the future of my hair.
In Chicago I was a picture taking fool, and Chicago is full of things to take pictures of. I talked to my Dad and we struggled together with our arrogance so that we could find some place of connection in our lives and have an honest and loving conversation.
I think it's pretty important for people to keep trying to work with their Mom and Dad even if maddening because they are the gateway to all the other men and women in their life. It always disturbs me when people say they hate their parents, because I just feel like it's a big mistake to let it rest like that. Even if I get to the point where I can't even talk to my dad then I just try to retreat and work with him a little in my mind.
The night before I had a little BBQ and had a few friends over. Sasha, Steeeeeeeev, and the inflammatory and slightly insane Graumagus of Frizzensparks.
Fear the Frizzen.
I'm in Rockford, IL again at my Mom's pretty Bungalow that she's gradually doing up in a nice little art-deco style. It's mellow and relaxing to be here. I burned Sufjan Stevens' album, Illinois and am listening to it for the first time while I'm actually in Illinois, which is pretty cool. I told my mom about it and she thought it was a cool idea but winced when I told her there was a song about John Wayne Gacy, Jr. on the album. It really is one of the prettiest songs though. If you're interested, there's some live performances you can listen to over at the KEXP site.
FOR ROCKFORD PEEPS
Please Email me! I'm having a BBQ at my Mom's house on this sunday the 18th, so say hey, and if you can't show up then let's see if we can at least meet at the Rockview for a beer or something. First round's on me.
I'll probably take some pictures once we get started on the bee process, but we're waiting until next week when it warms up a little and we get some of the social stuff out of the way.
All the honey is jarred up and I'm ready to go. Kinda.
I've had a good vacation and I'm looking forward to meeting my obligations and facing my shit, but I'm also really scared.
It's very nice to be able to make decisions completely on my own, but it is of course also terrifying. I know there's many courses I could take, and that all of them have their benefits and consequences. If only there was a way to see the way a course of action plays out.
I think that's my own evidence that I'm getting older. I think potential choices weigh heavier on me now. I have less time to do right by the world left, and I don't want to just flail around until I die. At a time like this in my life, when I have many choices to make, about where to put my effort, my love and my attention.
Suddenly I see the strength I have to build and I wonder, what should I build? What is worth building?
There's a Buddhist reminder called "The Four Ends":
Cheery, I know. But it's trying to say that these are very natural cycles, and you can't start something and be blind to its end.
I honestly hope I can build with confidence, but remember the ruin inherent in what I build.
Another Buddhist prayer I would be wise to remember:
I'll miss you, my good momma, and all my awesome deluded Rockford friends.
And I'll miss frosty $1 beers at the Rockview Tap Room.
I needed someplace to not have to figure out my own life for a week and just live like a midwesterner...sort of.
I've gone to Chicago, grilled outside several times, nicked off early for $1 beers at the local tavern (dry witted bartender's name: Alice...I shit you not), gone and listened to live country music, and extracted honey made in an Illinois apple orchard. I stayed up late with the friends I hung out with as a teenager and roved around Rockford like restless boys...looking for the next entertainment until we were finally ready to pass out.
I know I'm going to have to go back and face my life again soon, but I really hope I take a little piece of the midwest back with me. I mean, not that I always want people to get all flustered forever when I ask for weird coffee drinks like a double tall latte. Not that I think I can be trusted with cable TV. Not that I...want to make a habit of listening to live country music.
But I guess it's nice to have a break from the "funkier than thou" atmosphere of Seattle. And it's nice to not have to have a grand vision for my life right now. It's nice just to get regular non-organic steaks and grill them and make potato salad from the recipe on the back of the Mayo jar. It's nice to drink cheap beer and...have it actually be cheap.
I feel relaxed. Fucking sad and a little broken, but also mellowed out and ready to go home and find myself a place to live and do business.
It's hard to just sit and watch the tendrils of my mind that reach out to her. Just watch them and not try to figure anything out.
Okay, Rockfordians...Friday night Bill and I are going to the brewpub, and you can meet us there. Joe, I know you don't have a choice...Bill's going to come get you.
I'll have to tell you about doing the bee thing though. It was cool.
Tonight my mom and I barbequed some steaks, took the dog for a romp at the lake, and then went out for ice cream. This kind of thing is just what I need. And damn that ice cream was good. It was at this little place in Rockton and they actually make the ice cream. They had all yummy crazy flavors...no vanilla or chocolate. They had oatmeal cookie, which sounded really good, but ultimately I went with the fudge swirl.
It feels good to be here. It was too hard to move out of the house but be staying a mile away...driving down the same street. I seriously felt like I was going to lose it. Now it's nice to have the simple pleasures of living in a mellow way and not having a lot of obligations and expectations. It's really nice to only have to worry about myself, and right now that definately seems like plenty.
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."
-- Mark Twain
I forgot there were lightning bugs! There aren't any in Seattle and I think I really mostly forgot they even existed. When I walked out my Mom's door to walk down to her local tavern to have a heart-to-heart, I was shocked when I first saw that florescent flash in the air that I knew so well as a boy.
I watched, captured, smeared on the pavement, admired, smacked out of the air, cupped in my hand a million of those strange bugs. I took them for granted. I walked into a field where the whole world flashed with a million florescent bulbs, and never realized that someday I would move to a place where a lightning bug would never be seen.
Small comforts like this are good. I'm at my Mom's house in Rockford. Everything is okay and I'm lonely but it's okay. I've checked all my Email, and got back in contact with clients and made some really badass pasta sauce with my mom, and fresh garden garlic from the Roseanne's garden...I think the most potent symbol of heartbreak for me.
We got here so early that my mom didn't even get a chance to finish cleaning the house. We were so mad to get out of dodge, Jess and I, that we drove every day for over 12 hours a day, stopping only to cook simple meals, pee, and briefly pass out in the back of her truck at swelteringly humid truckstops.
We had good music though. I burned some kickass road mixes onto CD's. So many obstacles arose...Jess's truck broke down, then got broken into, everything seemed to go wrong. But finally we decided we were gonna get in that truck on a prayer and do what we needed to prove our willingness to the universe that we were going cross Montana if we had to walk. Our moms were waiting.
It took forever to get out of Washington state, but once we were through it, we drove and drove. We listened to the new Modest Mouse, the new Edie Brickell, the new Prince, and the new Air, plus a bunch of road mixes designed to make us cry.
It was so hot and humid, all the way through Washington, Idaho, most of Montana, until we begged for rain. We saw a huge raincloud finally and we drove straight into the heart of it. We got rain. Rain so hard it seemed like there was more water than Air. We could hardly see and I was scared to stop or pull off the road. All I could do was watch the yellow line that was the only thing I could see and keep driving slowly, hoping we hadn't made a big mistake. But eventually the rain started to slow down and I could see again.
We took turns nodding off in the car. We listened to a lot of music. Up in the distance, somewhere in South Dakota, we saw a tiny rain cloud with constant non-stop heat lightning flashing around like a sci-fi atomic brain movie.
I nodded off, and when I came to, I looked up and said, "Holy shit." The cloud was right in front of us, this mess of lightning and sunset sky. Jess smiled at me, sadly. I looked at the cloud for an hour as it approached and finally encompassed us, like a tunnel of lightning.
Jess looked over at me and said, "This has been so nice. I imagined us talking more, though."
"Is there something you wanted to talk about? Like what?"
"Oh, I don't know...life...all kinds of different things."
And then the floodgates broke, and we talked for hours. About all kinds of pent up feelings: sadness, regret, peace, hope, confidence, love and fear. We drove and talked until South Dakota was no more. And then at the second rest stop in Michigan Missouri Minnesota we slept really well, and knew we only had one more night of each other's company. That we had to figure out some way to bring what we had talked about into our actual lives. And we both knew we were really scared.
It was a little anti-climactic to finally show up, driving through Madison and finally Rockford. Just another town, not the holy grail after all.
Thank god for my kind momma and her good vibes. Good luck, Jess. I know you'll do just what you need to do. I guess me too.
Well, I think it's time to put my money where my mouth is. I think, if I really want to grok Rockford (say it 10 times fast) is to come and do some tinyblog research.
That's right, I'm coming to Rockford. I'm gonna show up mid-month and do some Rockford research, including said "Brew Pub" and perhaps even said "field art". But I am definately going to help my mom "harvest some honey", and maybe even help her with a small "web project".
I...I'm a little hesitant to break the news here, but I think I will, because it just feels wrong to pretend it isn't happening...
Roseanne and I are breaking up.
I know this may be pretty tough for people to believe, since we were going to be married in a month. I wish I could explain more...but I'm kind of in the intermittant pain and shock phase, and not really in the "explaining things to people" phase.
So the loing and the short of it is, I'm moving out, and I'm going to Rockford to kick it with my "mom" and Rockford "friends" for a week or so.
If you are a friend of Roseanne's, please do your best to be there for her. I think she really needs some extra support.
Feel free to email me if you wish.
Well, now I've been schooled about the modern culturefest that is Rockford, IL.
And let me just say that not only don't I know muchg about Rockford, but I didn't really know much about Rockford or Winnebago County or Northern Illinois, even back when I lived there. I know far more about the Seattle metropolitan and surrounding areas than I ever knew about Illinios.
My folks weren't really into exploring the area that much. We did go to the apple orchard though, which someone mentioned in the comments. Edwards apple orchard. I actually went out with a girl in the Edwards family, which was a little surreal since going there had been a kind of childhood memory. Damn good apples, and a nice homey Saturday activity. It felt so abundant to eat all the apples you wanted and just pick bushels and bushels. Like a cornucopia. They also had a little cafe with really good apple pie and cider and such. That was definately a really good memory, we went several times.
Due to lack of coffee shops, I did spend a lot of time with my friends at Denny's, where I began my lifelong overconsumption of coffee. Especially after I read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. It's a book where she talks about the incredible virtues (both in honing writing skill and thereputic psychological value) of writing down an unhindered stream of mental diarrhea. Then I camped out at Denny's with renewed fervor now that I had a purpose.
But that was when I had started to develop a local social circle with cars. Before that I went through some times feeling pretty isolated always living on the outskirts of Rockford. I didn't really click with anyone nearby at my high school, and I really got into the computer and dial-up BBS's, which is how I made some real friends. Now they all have websites. Go figure.
Man I am hitting this whole Rockford thing in a very non-comprehensive kinda way.
Someone (from Rockford) suggested in the comments that they got the idea that I didn't like Rockford. This is not the case. I actually find Rockford incredibly comforting, but don't think I could live there, and remember pretty vividly how stifled I felt.
Rockford is still the place where my mom is, and that alone makes it pretty nice. It has a pretty homey vibe, and all the familiar childhood places make it nice. When I was a kid it was predominantly locally owned businesses, and as dorky as I thought they were, it was really preferable in retrospect to the attack of the chain stores. There's still some Norwegian and Italian-American vibe there, and now there's even a couple of cool little coffee joints, but State Street is nigh on horrific.
It's not just the fact that there's no decent sushi (there IS decent BBQ, what about Lord and Penix, or Box's BBQ?), or 200+ yard rifle ranges (!).
It just...culture. The average person in Seattle would read Bill's blog, and say "Whoa, nice guy, but dude is smokin' too much FOX news." The average person in Rockford (I'm guessing) would be like, "Now there's a man with some common sense." or even, "goddamn travesty there's no 200 foot rifle range".
What I miss most about Rockford is just that there's a lot of parks that are big and that hardly anyone knows about. State parks, city parks, county parks. So many places to go and walk around where you can't see a skyline. But there's no mountains.
Yeah, I guess that's all I like about Rockford. It's familiar and my Mom and old friends live there. It's like meatloaf. It's comfort food.
But check it, Seattle is so cool. There's like a gazillion day trips to breathtaking locales. No one ever talks about wind chill factor. It's lush and green. There's culture up the ass. Seattle International Film Festival, Third Place Books, Kuan Yin Teahouse, Chop Suey, Hing Loon Seafood Restaurant, Fremont, and so much more. Even if I don't even go to any of those places, I just feel so much better living in a place where I can. The populace seems vibrant and aware. In Rockford every young person seems like a Wal-Mart employee waiting to happen.
Rockford, IL was originally called "midway", because it was midway between Chicago and Galena (which was once a place people wanted to go to a lot when they were in Chicago). And really it still has the vibe in some way of a place you go to when you're on the way to somewhere else. Only Galena is now a freaky historical town with no real reason to go there. So now Rockford is sorta midway between Chicago and uh...Wisconsin. It's close enough to Wisconsin that there's a certain sense of rivalry between Chicago Bears fans and Green Bay Packers fans.
I guess I like the Rockford of my youth more than the Rockford of today. I liked it when it really was a midway. It was about 90 minutes out of downtown Chicago, and really it's own town, independant of the suburbs of Chicago, but still accessible to Chicago. It had its own vibe, and it's own local Swedish/Italian culture. Sure, it was boring, but in it's own sleepy way.
It was the second biggest city in Illinois...which really tells you something about Illinois. There was a huge tool-and-die post WWII kinda intelligent industry to it. The biggest business was Sundstrand, a small parts defense contractor. Seriously just a regular American town. But now it has grown towards Chicago, and Chicago towards it. In a way now it's almost a Chicago suburb. It gradually got all the Targets, TGIFridays, and other suburb strip mall chain stuff.
I grew up mainly here in a neighborhood near the outskirts of Rockford, with big greenbelts all round that have now been bulldozed and developed. It's weird to go back and see gas stations where my stomping grounds were.
In the late 1800's they changed the name to Rockford, after a rocky ford in the Rock River, which cuts the city roughly in half.
Today I got an Email about the tinyblog in my inbox:
Hello just thought i would drop you a quick line as i was surfuing web sites with cafe esperanto in the name and i just couldnt quite recall from your picture posted who that is holding the glass..lol...ahh sometimes i miss that place and then other times am glad its gone....but regurardless [sic] to say i think it touched alot of differnt [sic] peoples lives...take care ....charles
This is so strange because now that a$$hole is doing some guest posting, and we know each other from Rockford, IL, I was just about to do some posting about Rockford, the town I grew up in. This Cafe he's talking about is Cafe Esperanto, an artsy cafe in Rockford. Well, the artsy cafe in Rockford. Even stranger, he's referring to this very intimate post where I tell the story of how I first met a$$hole (and had sex with her...it was sex week here at the tinyblog).
So, how auspicious. I think that a$$hole and I are going to do a Rockford, IL posting series, and since most of my readership actually still lives in Rockford at this point, it should make for some damn interesting commenting.
In addition, if any of the Rockfordites would like to do a guest post about Rockford, IL, that would be pretty cool.