Peter Pan


Drove over to the parental dacha in Cleveland Heights to do laundry. My dad has been here solo for a few days because my stepmom is in Toledo helping my grandparents interface w Galactus, eater of worlds American healthcare system. Normally this place is Pottery Barn photoshoot ready, but b/c it’s been an unsettled and unsettling and busy past week, there are a few unworn shoes scattered around the entries, and a few stray undone dishes/food sarcophagi. Specifically, there is a 9/10ths empty jar of peanut butter on the counter. Spoons encrusted with its blood lay scattered around it, like the daggers that killed Caesar. I recognized the tableau from having made my own versions of it many times, too addled or busy or otherwised to do anything but ingest something full of protein in the most direct way available. If I was a rock formation there would be a river canyon carved into me toward the peanut butter deposits.

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Kevin Cooley – Svalbard

(not actually Mansfield)

Today I drove out to a worn-out city of ~40,000 souls about an hour southwest of ​Cleveland today, with my dad as co-pilot. In my personal privately-held map of the world, Mansfield is noted for not a lot. I am aware Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall got married at a farm not far from Mansfield, the home of novelist-cum-agronomist Louis Bromfield. Most of The Shawshank Redemption was filmed at the old jail in Mansfield. The new jail is used as a jail, not as a movie set.

In the swale between old jail and new jail, little herds of black angus cattle huddled, hunched over the patches of grass they found especially compelling. The outbuilding that stands in as the license plate factory in The Shawshank Redemption sits on the edge of the hollow. Fictional characters shared a respite from a fictional brutal reality on that roof, tarring in the fictional May sun and drinking fictional cold beers.

The cattle herd belongs to the prison. I only saw the cows from the vantage of the driver’s seat of a moving Honda as I wandered lost inside the back access roads of the new prison, trying to find the way to the old reformatory. We drove on a soft bend around the lip of the swale, and the cows stayed put, swishing their straight skinny black tails like eccentric metronomes. The car reached an emphatic stop sign insisting on only state vehicles past this point, please. Making the turn into a prison felt like walking into the women’s bathroom. I felt a static electricity at voluntarily wandering into a place so unhappy, so distant from my own free personhood. I liked the cows. They’re going to be slaughtered and eaten by unfree men, which probably doesn’t feel that much different than being eaten by regular folks.

We drove out to Mansfield to see an exhibition of base ball (as in, baseball played according to 19th century rules, in rough approximations of 19th century dress). They played on the front lawn of the old Ohio State Reformatory, which is always in 19th century dress. There were nearly as many ballplayers gathered as there were spectators. I was happy to have a reason to move through the world. The visiting team came from Canal Fulton, a town that’s on the Erie & Ohio Canal (hence the name). They were the Mules, and their team standard was topped with a tiny wooden mule stood atop a baseball, with a tiny wooden harness collar. There was no tiny wooden canal boat or tiny wooden world for them to inhabit.

After the base ball, we drove through the time-bleached center of Mansfield and ate time-bleahed slices of pizza. Most of the few people downtown at 4 pm on a Sunday looked uncomfortable, sitting on things not meant to be chairs, checking their cellphones frequently as if to will something to happen and take them away from there.

As we drove the 50 miles out and the same 50 miles back, we talked about the history of Ohio, the history of places and the history of people. Some of the history was just trivia; some of it was family lore. My dad told me about a bicycle. It was a Roadmaster, once owned by a relative. This relative had suffered the double disfortune of losing his job in the Depression and more or less simultaneously contracting polio. The disease left him unable to drive a manual-transmission car, but capable enough to ride a bike.

So he rode a bike to and from what work he could find. Eventually he got himself a Ford with an automatic transmission, and he didn’t need the bike anymore. The rusty old Roadmaster was handed down to my dad, but it lacked a banana seat and all other contemporary hallmarks of not being janky. Out of a desire to make the bike less janky, my grandfather sanded it down and painted it red, hand-detailing a white V on the head tube, with yellow piping separating white from red.

As we drove a silver car that my dad and stepmom gifted to me two months ago, my dad expressed a gentle but deep remorse that he hadn’t held on to that bike, not because it was an especially good bike but because of the loving work his father had put into repainting it. The hillbillies down the street wound up with it after a rummage sale.

This all loped around to the story of my grandfather’s best friend as a boy in Delta, Ohio. Robert Harms was the friend’s name. Harms was a naval fireman, serving on an LST in World War II. At the age of 19 years and 3 months, Robert Harms died in a kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. He was one of at least two men named Robert Harms to die in uniform in 1944. The Robert Harms of Minnesota was 20 years old when he died in France three months earlier. My grandfather, who is 89, is not in good health. This quantum of unwelcome news that isn’t any less sad for its actuarial predictability. Once, when my dad was the age at which Robert Harms died, his appearance reminded Robert Harms’ mother of a time when Robert Harms wasn’t dead.

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you can close the book on Kelder


finally put a fork in the Van Sweringen brothers over at Belt. Please to enjoy Train Dreams, Part 3. Next assignment: Writing fiction for a while.

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lucid love of his condition


Yesterday I stumbled out of my hidey-hole after an especially indoors day on Thursday. I was walking my bike and squinting and sort of mad at the world for not meeting me 90% toward my end of the pitch. Yesterday was the one-month-out mark for leaving Sunset Park and Brooklyn and New York City and New York and the last 5.5 solar circuits behind me. I walked past the fruit-cart ladies, didn’t really talk to them because we have no language in common and their fruit sucks compared to the bodega a block away (although having quality fruit is not a prerequisite to talk to someone).

As I hit the corner the first people I noticed were two white dudes, one of whom had one of those Mumford and Sons beards and a five-panel hat. My first and deeply uncharitable response was to roll my third eye and be like SMH mass-production hipsters inbound, protect your neck, etc. I don’t think that “ruining” is the right action language for what is inevitably going to happen to Sunset Park (there will be someone making coffee from a Chemex within a mile of my soon-to-be-former apartment within a year, I feel pretty sure). But changing: yes, it’s going to change, harder and faster than the normal human lifecycle syncs with street-level retail culture. Just like shit is always changing. That change is going to displace people and businesses.

There’s a steady flow of gripes against gentrification. All of them are stupid to a certain degree. Gentrification is for sure the gross ghoulish finger of market forces in action, disrupting communities and lives in a way that truly sucks. But it also seems like an inevitable byproduct of the way we have organized the world. It can be treated, like sewage, through patience and decency and considerate behavior on all sides, but none of those things pay. The big gnarly abstract process of gentrification is something I can’t speak to other than to say that I’m vaguely against it, and that it’s probably irresistible.

On the micro level though, my resistance is not vague but pointy. I find people whom we might describe through the dread, other-ing epithet “hipster” distasteful; of course, that’s just my stupid internal, conveniently flexible definition of this concept that I am applying to this poor dude and his beard. He’s probably a better person than me.

New promise to self/others: Every time I want to use the word hipster, even in my internal thought-tapes, I will replace it with “person whose clothes or grooming make me uncomfortable for dumb reasons.” Then I’ll play the thought back to myself and think if it’s still worth keeping.

This chip on my shoulder about people with more money than me. It’s healing, but would I rather leave the scab-dent as a reminder or fill it in with putty.

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These are the wheels of the world b/w PSA

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I’ve been meaning to post something on here about an impending geospatial lifechange for days on end; I even wrote myself a note about it. I think you can tell from the general combat readiness of this blog that I’m really medically on top of my shit as far as updating regularly. But I’m gonna give myself a free pass because I did write something that pretty much gets everything down on horseless paper for ye. It’s over at Belt, my new employer. Here’s a snippet.

I also didn’t know that there are thousands of Clevelands across America and around the globe, little galaxies half-finished and half-undone, the Rust Belt of the world. We rushed to build up these places, and rushed just as fast to empty them out. Every single one of these places has stories and songs. But I didn’t know any of that. My idea of Cleveland was an blank spot, surrounded by a desert of tract houses, SUVs that never got dirty, and a lifetime of joyless commercial pilgrimages to malls and big box stores.

So yeah, that pretty much covers it. If you have something to say about a Rust Belt–of the map, of the soul, of anything, I want you to write about it for me.

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partial list of Ray & Dave Davies’ enemies, 1966–1973

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Naggin’ women
Well-respected men
Dedicated follower(s) of fashion
The girl who is always talking when I’m speaking on my party line
People who own houses in the country or other exclusive real estate properties
Queens of darkness
Everybody else/people like everybody else
Mr. Reporter(s)
Mister Pleasant(s)
You/you all
Cigarette smokers
David Watts
The sun
Queen Victoria
Mr. Churchill
Authority figures in general
People who wear uppity hats
Labor unionists
People in grey
Plastic men
Trains not powered by steam
Your/their younger, sexier sibling who lives in the city with his/her smart young friends
Aristotle-Aquinas conception of time
Bright city lights

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some other good and valid reason for courting death


Worked like a tiny digital ox on this. Let me holler at you. Repurposed from my other alpenhut:

The latest issue of The Classical Magazine is nominally The Books Issue, but our writers experienced a bit of that good old American Mission Creep. So you’ll find thoughts about magazine journalism, punk rock, philosophy, occult bike zines, three pieces of fiction (one of which brings together Dwayne Schintzius and Moby-Dick, at last), and more straight-ahead essays on the sports books that moved our contributors, from a classic portrait of gritty ’70s football, to literary novels about soccer managers that strive to reconcile the personal with the ideological. The common thread through it all is, as always, sporps.

We have a great cast of contributors, some Classical vets and some new bylines. The crew this time out is Paul Flannery, Alex Belth, Holly M. Wendt, Nathan Huffstutter, Damon Agnos, Meredith Craig de Pietro, Inman Majors, Bryan Joiner, Chris Collision, and Tobias Carroll.

They’re tackling North Dallas Forty the novel, the making of “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?,” doomed love and hockey, Harry Crews, The Pogues, “Waltzing Matilda,” Maurice Clarett, Robert Swift, Matt Bush, John Updike, and more. Do not take my word for the quality of this issue. Buy many copies and then make an informed decision yourself.

As always, you can grab our magazine in single servings or subscriptions via our slick iOS app or our also-slick webstore for those who prefer to keep the ghost of Steve Jobs out of their isht. Sorry Steve! It’s all love!

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train dreams part 2

act casual

for all my Cleveland history freaks out there: Part 2 of my history of the Van Sweringens has arrived over at Belt. I will never stop going in, at least until part 3 is done. Part 1 lives here.

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I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river is a strong brown god

i can’t document this but in 6th grade i wrote an essay about the discovery of america that won a prize from my local Olive Garden.

The Olive Garden gave me a medal with C. Columbus on it and treated me and my kin to a free meal. i swear to god this happened.

the Columbus medal from Olive Garden LLC was struck to commemorate the spirit of discovery in the youth of America

I kept it in its cheap plastic case, columbus’s spirit of discovery sleeping eternally in shoddy gray-green foam, occasionally admired

also, postscript, i unironically enjoy olive garden, not the food but the weltschmerz and also more dining should be done in rolling chairs

in conclusion, our world is an impossible theater of braided cruelties and errant love and no one knows what happens when the play is over

crass but vital

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the sun like a fattened hog


The rowhouse containing my apartment is maybe ¾ of the way up the rump end of the terminal moraine. The moraine is the front lip of the divot that a giant ice sheet once made. The sheet scraped its way south during the Ice Age, pushing a little mound of soil and stone in front of it as progressed through Long Island. The crest that gives Park Slope and Bay Ridge and Crown Heights and Ridgewood their names, that affords the views that gives Sunset Park its name, that crest is the bottom of the Ice Age. I live on the back of the bottom of the Ice Age.

I can see the harbor from the front stoop of my apartment. In the winter when the entire world is made of concrete and ice, and the wind feels like chewing on foil, I can see this little slice of water. The inner harbor’s water is cold enough to kill me in five minutes, but the from the safety of my  moraine it feels like a promise that the world will come back some day.

On that medium-distant blue lawn, I sometimes spot a fat orange caterpillar crawling. These are Staten Island Ferries, which I have decided are good luck. I have not followed through on the sabermetric work of assessing whether this good luck is real. I can’t follow through because that would require indexing and ranking the days of my life, which I am afraid to do for several reasons not least of which is that I am not sure I’ll like the answer.

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