Screenshot of my deactivated Twitter account, with the message: This account doesn't exist. Try searching for another.

This was long overdue. I deactivated it last November, but turned it back on a few weeks later to save my following/follower list. Then it lay dormant & forgotten for most of the year, except for some DMs to people who were still nowhere else & who were seemingly impervious to email. It’s time.


My wife and I met thirty years ago today.

I was invited over to a friend’s apartment to meet her — and she ignored me the whole time. No hello, no eye contact. Absolutely nothing. She was utterly unapproachable. Instead, she spent the evening in the other room, forehead-to-forehead with her friend, discussing and analyzing a VHS tape of the modern dance concert she’d choreographed a few weeks earlier. And I could see instantly how smart, articulate, beautiful, and, most of all, strong she was.

We began dating eleven months later, and married eleven months after that. Twenty-two months that seemed, at the time, to span thirty years. And now, thirty years that seem, at times, to have spanned barely twenty-two months. Well, that’s time for you.

Some stories belong to the breath, not to the pixel and keyboard. Some stories need the counterpoint of digressions and indignant amendments, of interruptions to refill the wine glass or the bread bowl, or to choose more music, album by album. They need the bustle and patience of a long evening, the wood and steel rhythms of a well-provisioned table.

So: to hear the rest of the story, you’ll need to be seated across from us, favorite beverage at your elbow, and all the time in the world. And perhaps a story or two for us in exchange.


To mark the day her eyes closed and mine stayed open: Polly


Twenty Years

On March 3rd, 2003, this quote by Walter Ong was my first post on a long-dead Textpattern blog I installed at a long-gone domain:

The personal diary is a very late literary form, in effect unknown until the seventeenth century… The kind of verbalized solipsistic reveries it implies are a product of consciousness as shaped by print culture. And for which self am I writing? Myself today? As I think I will be ten years from now? As I hope I will be? For myself as I imagine myself or hope others may imagine me? Questions such as this can and do fill diary writers with anxieties and often enough lead to discontinuation of diaries. The diarist can no longer live with his or her fiction.

There were some lost years and there were some silent years, but I’ve always tried to have some sort of blog percolating quietly, like a sad little aquarium in the corner. Even if the fish died from time to time, there were at least a few snails working their methodical way along the glass, and a patient deep-sea diver gazing out impassively from behind its mossy visor, awaiting, like all of us, for a renaissance of wonder.


Happy 50th to Gravity’s Rainbow.

A copy of Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon next to a banana-shaped pouch for the game Bananagrams.

Now Playing:

Cover image of XTC's 1982 album English Settlement, showing the Uffington Chalk Horse on a plain green field, with the title and band's name barely visible in embossed letters

Released on this day 41 years ago.




Seventy-eight years ago today, one of the two men I was named after was murdered by the Nazis. His body was left on a street corner in Apeldoorn, along with six others. A sign reading Terrorist was pinned to their chests.


Thirty-five years with this machine.

Alvarez dreadnought guitar hanging on a wall hook close-up on the sound hole of an Alvarez acoustic guitar, showing years of wear from strumming

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow:

In one of these streets, in the morning fog, plastered over two slippery cobblestones, is a scrap of newspaper headline, with a wirephoto of a giant white cock, dangling in the sky straight downward out of a white pubic bush. The letters


appear above with the logo of some occupation newspaper, a grinning glamour girl riding astraddle the cannon of a tank, steel penis with slotted serpent head, 3rd Armored treads ’n’ triangle on a sweater rippling across her tits. The white image has the same coherence, the hey-lookit-me smugness, as the Cross does. It is not only a sudden white genital onset in the sky — it is also, perhaps, a Tree…


“Says I to myself” should be the motto of my journal. It is fatal to the writer to be too much possessed by his thought. Things must lie a little remote to be described.

—Thoreau, Journal, 11 Nov 1851

Happy 205th, Henry.


Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Questions) 1991


Q: Why was he doubly irritated?
A: Because he had forgotten and because he remembered that he had reminded himself twice not to forget.


Happy 85th to Thomas Pynchon!

I’m not going out today (too much to do at home) so here’s a photo from a previous Pynchon in Public Day—

A copy of Gravity's Rainbow beside an Old Fashioned cocktail

—at the excellent Volstead Speakeasy in (of all places) Eagan.

A wall of liquor bottles behind a bartender mixing a drink

Keep cool but care.


Seventy-seven years ago today, one of the two men I was named after was murdered by the Nazis, his body left in the street with a sign reading TERRORIST pinned to his chest.


Sixty years ago today, one of the two men I was named after — my Opa Nicolaas — dropped dead suddenly as he was getting into a cab in ’s-Gravenhage, his arms laden with Sinterklaas presents.


A Day in the Life
Minneapolis, 05:30 CDT

two mugs, coffee grounds, tea tin, sugar jar, notebook & pencil, iphone

How I begin every morning

tea for her

and the blank page
for me


If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

—Thomas Pynchon, born on this day in 1937, and who’s been sporting a face mask for years:

Animated Pynchon on the Simpsons wearing a paperbag over his head with two eye holes and a big question mark on the front

At more or less this moment, 30 years ago, I walked into Chris & Dave’s dorm room to see who was heading over to the Caf for dinner. They were the only ones on our floor with a TV in their room.

A crowd had gathered, watching the news.

The Berlin Wall.


So sorry that Sixth Chamber closed for good today.

Here are two bookmarks. One is from the mid 90s, the other from the late 90s. These two are from my envelope of on-deck bookmarks. Many more are scattered throughout my library, tucked in books, waiting to be rediscovered.

two bookmarks from Sixth Chamber Used Books in St Paul MN

First and last afternoons.

1 July 2011 at 1:30pm:

View over the Willamette and SE Portland with Mt Hood white with snow on the horizon under a clear blue sky

30 March 2016 at 2:35pm:

View over the Willamette and SE Portland with Mt Hood white with snow on the horizon under a clear sky with a few high cirrus clouds

No Damn Cat


This dark morning, the rain lashes my front windows and Monstrance is on for at least the fourth time in the last twenty-four hours.

So it goes.

The Internet and all the channels on Blogovision are overrun with Vonnegut tributes and redundant notifications, so I will add my voice to the cacophony only to point toward this, by Lance Mannion. And to say, Exactly so: ruined. My life was ruined when I was about thirteen, when my eighth grade English teacher assigned Cat’s Cradle. Game over. I wanted to be a writer.

More than that, though, I wanted to stay awake and pay attention. There was something about Cat’s Cradle that made me realize I was constantly in danger of missing the big picture. It was the first of many books, and he was the first of many writers, to leave me with that sick yet elated feeling. Ursula K Le Guin, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, Annie Dillard, Pynchon. It’s like the old joke about the difference between a virgin and a lightbulb: you can unscrew a lightbulb. You can’t unread stuff like that.

But you can fall back asleep. If I may be so bold as to suggest that art has a message (a claim I would not want to be asked to defend), that message is perhaps: Pay attention! Stay awake! They’re out there, waiting for you to fall asleep, and then they’re going to take over everything else! Keep your lamps trimmed and burning!

And for Vonnegut, like all satirists, the best defense is a good offense. Good artists shock, great artists startle. After all, we can grow numb to shocks, and fall back asleep. What we need are good and frequent startlings. Wake up.



Gilbert Sorrentino has died. As of 9:30 am EDT, however, I can only find the Wikipedia article as corroboration of this posting.

The theologian Jaroslav Pelikan has also died. Obits here and here. I first encountered him while I was a student living in Aberdeen. I attended as many of his Gifford lectures as I could in the spring of 1992. The lectures I attended focussed on the Cappadocian fathers, Basil and the Gregs (good name for a band, no? playing the Divinity circuit).

Oh, and I read the Da Vinci Code last Sunday afternoon. The whole thing. Is this what all those mass market paperbacks you can buy in grocery stores and airports are like? It was only slightly more entertaining than an episode of E! True Hollywood Story, slightly less intellectually strenuous than watching someone get a haircut, and staggeringly inept in its history. I found it plainly, baldly, distressingly bad on so many levels. It was, as one of my coworkers likes to say, “craptastic.” So this reviewer’s take on the Da Vinci movie does not surprise me: “In the cinema, such matters are best left to Monty Python.”


“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole.”

The news of John Spencer’s death makes me very sad.

Ever since Bartlet walked out of the Oval, having signed over his presidential powers to the Speaker of the House, I have hardly watched the show because, to quote Sam, “they forgot to bring the funny.”

But for a few years there, that show was deeply important to me, out of all proportion for a television show. It was important to me the way the Daodejing is important to me, or Gravity’s Rainbow. And the role of Leo McGarry was pivotal to its importance. Leo was the basso continuo.

Raise a glass to his memory.