crankyMY DAUGHTER STARTS 8TH GRADE TODAY. There’s a nip in the air. Leaves are getting crispy. Introspection isn’t surprising when seasons change, but fall comes at me with extra layers.

It was about this time…
> 20 years ago I moved to Minneapolis
> 16 years ago we got married
> 15 years ago I went freelance
> 13 years ago JoJo was born
> 7 years ago we bought this house

Are we doing it right? Trying hard enough? Will we be happy with our choices later? The questions linger, but lack urgency. Our (self-reported) report card reeks of self-satisfaction. Life is great on paper and backed up by reality. We’d rather have our pain than anyone else’s. Best not to jinx it. #SmugLife.

I started this blog in 2008 as an extension of my pre-internet scrapbooks. In 2012, social media assumed that role and this morphed into a journal for processing raw inspiration and messy experiences. Two decades into adulthood, our grand scheme feels much less raw and messy. No longer manic ad-libbers, we stick with what works and keep on keeping on. My boldest moves bring me back to familiar conclusions. Once my greatest fear, becoming a cliché now feels beyond my protests.

When I was younger, I thought there was one way to be: skeptic, non-joiner, contrarian, awake in a world of sleeping sheep. This is a hard perspective to hold on to as you age. Truth is, there’s no monopoly on truth. No one is pure. We all have our own contradictions and delusions (Late Capitalism demands them). Each of us is trying to survive our own twisted trip. So live and let live.

Whatever I used to be on about now musters a shrug. I wrote my last post many months ago, a panicky screed about my ambivalent existence. No one needs that kind of performative outrage, least of all me.

Let’s turn the page. See you around in real life as I STFU and try to enjoy it.

ME: I live in a house of cards perched on a sand hill.

ALSO ME: What’s that now?

ME: I owe my standard of living to a bubble economy held up by non-renewable resources, unchecked borrowing, and systematic oppression

ALSO ME: But what exactly are you worried about?

ME: Awful leaders. Corporate looting. Accelerating climate effects. What should reassure me?

ALSO ME: Ruling class wealth is built on the same system as yours. They won’t just let it go to hell.

ME: They nearly did — with gusto! We’d be in full Greece Mode if not for some 11th-hour Hail Marys.

ALSO ME: Exactly. Somebody has a hand on the controls and is determined not to fail.

ME: You mean the cartel in the White House? The “adults in the room” who aren’t accountable to anyone? No one is even pretending anymore. The rich are buying up land out west for When The Shit Goes Down. They know something we don’t.

ALSO ME: You know people out west. Eke out The Great Decline with them.

ME: The west is a giant tinder box. At least we have water (for now). Can I even survive without a grocery store?

ALSO ME: You have camping skills. Forage for mushrooms. Catch some fish. Build a fire. Shoot your dinner.

ME: Guns scare me. Especially people with guns. Can I play the Artist Card? Maybe I could do an oral history of the apocalypse. My wife’s pretty handy…

ALSO ME: See, you have currency when capitalism is over. 

ME: You become something you’re not just to survive capitalism. Then you’re helpless to survive without it.

ALSO ME: Still, it’s a bad look to complain about a system you’re winning on when most people lose.

ME: All looks are bad anymore. Maybe the collapse can redeem me — I’ll be an educator or a life-saver.

ALSO ME: You can barely save yourself. Anyhow, who’s to say you’re more resilient than your neighbors? They might be bailing YOU out.

ME: Hope they like shabby drawings.

Volume X in a series of stuff I’m enjoying on Mp3 (streaming music is just too intangible, maaaan) floating somewhere in a 3-D space defined by Throwback, Dad and New axes. Earlier volumes here, here and here.

> Download WASP MILK <

01 White Magic – Hiding My Nightingale
02 Parables of Neptune – Bumblebee
03 Sneaks – Hair Slick Back
04 Josef K – Heart of Song
05 Pylon – Cool
06 Swizzymack – Deez Hands (f. Quinta B)
07 A Tribe Called Quest – Kids (f. Andre 3000)
08 Goodie Mob – Cell Therapy
09 The Flamin’ Groovies – Don’t Put Me On
10 The Kinks – Strangers
11 Arthur Lee – Everybody’s Gotta Live
12 Modest Mouse – All Night Diner
13 Wilco – King of You
14 Concrete Blonde – I Don’t Need a Hero
15 Sinéad O’Connor – Old Lady
16 Tacocat – Men Explain Things to Me
17 Great Grandpa – Cheeto Lust
18 Cass McCombs – Run Sister Run
19 The Who – La-La-La Lies
20 The Monkees – Cuddly Toy
21 Thee Oh Sees – At the End, On the Stairs
22 Art of Noise – A Time for Fear (Who’s Afraid)

Image-1.pngDID I TELL YOU ABOUT THE TIME I WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA for a wedding that didn’t happen? Within hours of touching down, the path of Category 5 Hurricane Matthew moved up from Florida to a direct hit on Tybee Island. As the only guests to arrive before the storm tacked, Sarah and I were left to scrap over rental cars and flee the city as it boarded up around us.

That was October. This week I return to Georgia for Island Wedding Round 2 (the chapel grants storm-related do-overs). There’s long-simmering excitement, but also sadness — the groom’s mom recently died after a long illness. No longer outlying tragedies, these events are a Phase of Life. Sarah’s dad, sick with Parkinson’s and cancer, has fewer than nine months to live. In January my own father moved to an Alzheimer’s care facility at the age of 68. I go to Seattle after the wedding to spend seven days with him, our longest visit since I was a kid. I’ll have ample time, between Bingo, field trips, and our fractional, Charades-like conversations, to contemplate my own mortality (and perhaps the inside of a pot dispensary).

Thankful for new beginnings to balance all the loss. My sister, newly married and nearly 40, is pregnant with TWINS, news that’s just now circulating widely. Feels like a miracle with a side order of curse, but if anyone can hack it she can. It’s a family tradition after all: I have twin (half-) siblings, my dad’s a twin, and my Grandma Fran had two sets.

When Grandma Fran died in January, at the visitation my sister whispered the secret news into her embalmed ear. We cry-smiled. 2017 is like that.


WHY SHOULDN’T URBAN PLANNING BE A PARTY? On two nights in November, Minneapolis planners hosted the public for free food, a live quiz show, and a series of art happenings to gather input on the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Public Acts of Drawing (me and Marx Studio in this iteration) traced historical maps of the city and asked attendees to layer on their visions of our future.

So what change do we want to see in the world? Parks, boulevards, bike freeways, sculpture gardens, several gargantuan monuments, and a Doll City, to name a few.

THE WORLD MAY LOOK BACK on the year 2016 as the best one we’ll get for awhile, the deaths of my idols and ruin of our republic notwithstanding. Ours was abundant, at least by the measure of how many photos I shot and shared. Here are a few of the blessings I’m counting in panoramic splendor (click for a big ole view).


Sarah contemplates the Blue Ridge Mountains after narrowly escaping Hurricane Matthew


Adventuring on the Superior Hiking Trail with Lucas


Green Line LRT iPhone experiments on University Ave SE (an homage to Ed Ruscha)


Downtown and South Minneapolis from atop the Witch’s Tower with Jo’s school in the foreground


Waterfall at Temperance River State Park, a reward for a cold, wet slog in the woods


Dangling above Minnesota’s “mountains” with ski buddies


Drinks with Craig and Matt at Track’s Bar, St. Paul’s least-charming dive


Next to zero visibility on the Appalachian Trail outside Hot Springs, North Carolina


Ferrying to Washington’s San Juan Islands for a rare reunion of my dad’s five kids


The late-night shuffle


Porch view from our rustic Blue Ridge cabin (roving pit bulls and land yacht are cropped out)


Exploring Peak DC on spring break with our hosts Marc and Viv


Prospect Park Business Center in ruins before its 17-story redevelopment in 2017


LIKE A LOT OF BUBBLE-DWELLERS, I’ve been caught in a dark emotional loop since November 9th: shock, sorrow, regret, shame, anger. These feelings color every conversation, cheapen every gesture. I am drowning in contradictory impulses fed by a flood of panicky opinion: Normalize, Don’t Normalize; Talk more, no Listen moreBlame Racism, no Blame Economic Anxiety, no Blame our Degraded Education System. Every conclusion sucks. My disgust is total. I never wanted to go to space, but it’s looking good about now.

There’s little that hasn’t already been said. But I have some things I want to get off my chest:

It’s our own fault. As much as I want to, I can’t disconnect myself from the causes here. You don’t need to vote for a more regressive, exclusionary system to prop it up. We participate at all levels. When we accept mass incarceration. When we gentrify and self-segregate. When we accept the narrative that immigrants and the poor are “takers.” When we look at gross inequality and say “that’s just the way things are.” Lies accumulate. Truth erodes. The dam breaks and now we’re swimming in shit.

The pain will be radically unequal. White people, especially men, will endure the least of the indignities in the coming years. Not that there won’t be serious consequences for us all — an acceleration of planetary warming among the most dire — but they are less acutely awful than being deported or being attacked in the street by thugs or militarized police. In the near term this will mostly harsh our mellow, not ruin our lives. I need to refocus from my own sense of desperation to those who have everything to lose.

We are not smart. I was caught up in the play by play of this election since 2014. I consumed a super-abundance of information and opinion from all corners, most of it revealed to be clueless garbage. Turns out that up is down, black is white, dumb is smart. This event has undermined my trust in polls, experts, Americans, the democratic process, and my own instincts and acumen. If there is a silver lining to this election, it’s the loss of so many illusions.

I have no words of reassurance this month. But here’s some responsible advice. And an analysis of our new normal that feels true.

I predict this will a golden age of survival guides.