Monday, January 16, 2023

Resolutions for the rest of the world

Only suckers make resolutions that start on January 1st. You just spent a night celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year by drinking too much, staying up too late, and making some bad decisions along the way while ensure that you wake up on New Year's Day with a headache and a pile of regret. Maybe you should give it a day before throwing new rules upon yourself. Or wait a couple weeks before starting. Like me.

Blah, blah, blah!

Listen, I’m perfect. Beside losing about thirteen pounds and writing every day and maybe posting on this blog with some regularity, there’s nothing I need to work on in 2023. I’m me and I’m cool with that. But the world wants resolutions so here’s my resolutions. For the rest of the world.

Drive Better

The Covid-19 pandemic has eroded driving skills around the world. In 2023, all drivers should resolve to not leave three full car lengths between their car and the car in front of them at stop lights. I know this gives you a chance to take a quick look at a Tik-Tok video while waiting for the light to turn green, but you really don’t need that much space. You are just pushing the line of traffic further back and if you are in a left turn lane you are making it worse since fewer cars can get into the turn lane and then they back up the lanes that are going straight and then I get stuck at the light right by the damn Costco with the double left turn lane because you didn’t move up. Inch up a little. It’s okay. And, really, just put the phone down. Seriously. Whatever it is, it can probably wait until you get where you are going. And if it can’t, get off the road.

Move the Line Inside

Not all of these will be about lining up but since we seem to spend more time in line that just about anything else in life, when did we start lining up outside the bathroom at sporting events to use the toilet? Men, it’s okay. Move in a little. Seriously. The guy in front of you doesn’t need eight feet of space to be comfortable enough to get a good stream going. The bathroom lines at the United Center in Chicago are wrapping from one set of bathrooms to the other! In 2023, resolve to move into the bathroom.  Ladies, I’m not sure if this is a problem in your bathrooms, too, but you should resolve to make sure it doesn’t happen in 2023!

We’ll do it live!

Dawes live in San Diego, CA.
Streaming is cool. There are so many viewing options and channels on cable and streaming services that have the time I want to find something new to watch I spend a half hour trying to find something to watch and then I give up and turn everything off. In 2023 let’s all resolve to go see more live events. Go to a concert, go see a play, a musical, a comedy show. Hell, go to a movie theater and see a show.  You couldn’t get tickets to Taylor Swift? Go see a string quartet performing Taylor Swift shows? Your local bar, brewery or restaurant probably has live music a couple nights a week. If it doesn’t, find one that does. Take your kids to a show. Our family is proud new subscribers to Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theater, which gives us five musicals to see in 2023. Get out from behind your screen and go see some live entertainment. With other people even!

Look Up

Last year I was obsessed with averaging 12,000 steps a day. Some nights before bed when I needed to pull the car into the driveway, I would take a short walk a few houses down the street just to get some extra steps. Some of those nights I ended up staring up at the sky and if I was lucky and it was clear out, I’d stare at the stars for a few minutes. I have vivid memories of being outside at night in high school and staring up at the stars, contemplating life (or just wondering why Amy Norris didn’t like me as much as I liked her). I don’t do that anymore (staring at the stars or wondering about why Amy Norris didn’t like me as much as I liked her). In 2023, let’s all resolve to look up at the stars and pondering our place in this vast universe. For a brief moment, the fact that Amy Norris doesn’t like us as much as we like her will seem insignificant. Feel free to substitute whatever burden you are carrying for Amy Norris. (My youngest got a telescope for Christmas this year. We've had all of twelve minutes of clear skies since Christmas so right now it's just a piece of furniture, but he can't wait to see some stars. One of these nights. Maybe).

And that’s all there is. Thanks for reading and if you are still on target with any of your New Year's resolutions, congratulations. If you are on target for all of them, you are probably lying.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever read a short story where nothing really happens and wondered "Well, what was that story about?" You will not have that problem with this collection of stories, for ask Mark Wish states in the introduction, these stories are all "interesting." From start to finish these stories are all excellent. My favorites included "Fifth of July" by Mary Taugher, which is very timely, "Happy Birthday, Honey Vanlandingham" by Lee Martin and "Boss" by Jeff Jeffire.

View all my reviews

Thursday, June 02, 2022

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 3: Conference Finals

My energy to write these posts always fades after the team I want to win falls out.  This year it was my beloved Florida Panthers, who forgot how to score and got swept out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Maybe next year the Panthers will be able to get past Tampa.  Maybe. Also, our entire panel picked the Hurricanes to get past the Rangers, and the entire panel was wrong.  So, here’s our standings now:

Joey and Jax                     9

Jarrett and Smo               8

Bob all lonesome            7


Now we pick the conference finals!

Eastern Conference

New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Still trying to figure out how the Rangers got here. Oh, wait, goaltending injuries in Carolina had a lot to do with that.  Our panel unanimously picked the Lightning, including one person who picked them before their opponent was even set. Confidence? Or really, is Tampa just that good. I believe it’s the latter.  Lightning in 6


Western Conference

Edmonton Oilers vs. Colorado Avalanche

How ‘bout them Oilers?  It’s hard to believe with the talent this team has had that prior to this post season, they had only one postseason series since their trip to the finals in 2006? Their reward? A series against the Avs. Look for a lot of goals in the series.  Our panel is 80% confident the Avs have this one.  Avs in 6.

Bonus: Here’s a text chain we had going during game 1 of the Oilers vs Avalanche series.

JA: If the Avs had better goaltending, they’d already be drinking out of the cup.  Good Gravey

MJ: Good lord…hope you got the over.  The former AZ Coyotes goalies…

HA: Holy Crap. Old time hockey my friends.

JN: These guys still play like they are in Arizona.

JA: What was the over/under?!!! (editor’s note: it was 7.5)

MJ: Ya…like Koskinen is gonna make a difference. The dude has a .865 save percentage.

JA: Our boy Duncs looks old (editor’s note: he is)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 2

We are down to eight teams remaining in the quest for Lord Stanley’s kitchenware. Maple Leafs fans are down, Rangers fans are up and we got five game sevens in one weekend! Bob got to see a series close out in person. Thirty six people read the round 1 post. And our newest and youngest panelist went 8 for 8 in picking winners in round 1. Here’s how we did:

Joey              8

Our leader.
Jax and Smo 7

Jarret             6

Bob               5


Let's move on to round 2. Who survived to make the conference finals?


Eastern Conference

Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lighting

Is this like Pittsburgh and Washington used to be? Can we hope these guys keep matching up against each other every year? Can the Panth get past the Lightning? We give a 3-2 panel edge to the Lightning, but frankly, those three guys are wrong, and Joey and I are right. Fun fact: prior to the start of round 2, Florida was the Vegas favorite to make it to the Cup Finals.  Just think, a playoff series where neither team needs to pack a jacket.  Panth in 6.

Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers

Jax speaks emoji
On our group text, the guys like to use emojis for the teams they pick to win. The Hurricane emoji is, well, underwhelming. The Canes, however, are going to overwhelm the Rangers, as our panel is all in the Canes. We really like the canes, as we all picked them in round one. Fun fact: I saw a Canes playoff game in Raleigh in 2003. It was the first hockey game I’d ever been to where people were tailgating in the parking lot. Canes in 6.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. St Louis Blues

Blues wrap up round 1
Guess which one of our panelists is the homer who picked the Blues to win? Yes, Bob, the same guy who texted us a picture of the Blues winning in six games on home ice, just like he predicted. The rest of us, just like Vegas, picked the Avs. Fun Fact: In our group text, some of the guys call it “St. Poo-is.” Avs in 6.

Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers

On the plus side, at least one Canadian team will make the conference finals. Most of us think it’s the Flames, while Bob is going against the grain and picking the Oilers. Both teams took seven to get through the first round. Fun fact: it would take about 17 hours to bike the 300km between Calgary and Edmonton. Flames in 

Thanks for reading.

Blues fan?

Monday, May 02, 2022

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 Picks


We brought some fresh blood in for the Stanley Cup playoff picks in 2022.  So, instead of me telling you what I think (looking back, the rest of my panel seems to beat me every year), I’ll give you what the panel picks, then I’ll tell you why they are wrong.

Eastern Conference

Florida Panthers vs. Washington Capitals

Our panel of five (Jax, Jarrett, Bob, Joe Bob and I) were unanimous in picking the President’s trophy winning Panthers to down the Caps. My love of the Panthers dates back to NHL 94 during my freshman year of college. I got so good at the game no one would play against me unless I was one of the bad teams. And the Panthers were the worst. And I still won all the time. And then they made the Stanley Cup finals in 1996. And they have been terrible since then. But here they are, winning their first playoff series since that 1996 season. GO PANTH! Fun fact, the Panthers won 52 games after trailing this season. Okay, not that many but it was a lot.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Four people on our panel picked Tampa Bay, while Jax was the lone Leafs backer. Three of us had the series going the distance. These two teams are both stacked. Tampa has won back-to-back cups How much more do they have in the tank. (I picked the Lightning in 7). Fun fact: I’ve been to Toronto like 7 times but I’ve never seen the Leafs play there.

Carolina Hurricanes vs Boston Bruins

We unanimously picked the Canes in this round. That’s all I’m going to say. Fun fact, the Canes were 42-1-0 when leading after 2 periods this season.

New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Four of us picked the Rangers, who are the sexy sleeper cup winner pick this post-season. The Penguins? Does anyone remember the last time they had a fully healthy team?  Anyway, Rangers in 6. Fun fact: Sidney Crosby is hurt every time he is supposed to play a game in Chicago.

Western Conference

Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators

Another unanimous choice: the Avs. They were head and shoulders above the rest of the western conference this year.  Plus, Nashville barely backed into the playoffs. And I don’t like them. Except Roman Josi. He’s a stud.  Fun fact: Colorado had a 9 game and a 10 game winning streak this season.

Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues

You all know Bob is a Blues fan, so you know who he picked. I don’t think Bob has ever picked the Blues to lose a series but I’m way too lazy to go look that up, so just trust me. Usually, we unite in telling Bob he is wrong, but we went 3-2 for the Blues in this series. All the experts are picking this to be the best first round series, so it will likely end up being a sweep. Fun fact: One year Bob invited a bunch of his friends up to Chicago for a Hawks Blues game and I got to tag along as the token Hawks fan. The Hawks won 7-1.  That was fun.

Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars

How did the Stars make the playoffs? On the flip side how were the Stars not better.  Alas, it doesn’t matter, as we went 5-0 for the Flames in this one.  Fun fact: Calgary’s top line boasts three 35 goal scorers.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Los Angeles Kings

Our panel picked the Oilers 3-2. I mean, at some point the Oilers have to win a series or two, right? The Kings were champs 2 out of three years, then were among the worst teams for a couple years and now have climbed back into the post season. And the Oilers are still the Oilers.  Fun fact: I’m still not sure how to pronounce (or spell) Draisaitl.









Thursday, March 31, 2022

March 2022 Reads

February went quick and March went quicker, although cold temps and snow flurries kept this March lion from turning lamb. Just before the calendar turns and you children and co-workers unleash April fool's jokes on you, (please not anther variant), here's the March 2022 reads.


Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

I bought this book for my intermediate creative writing class in January of 1995 when I was an undergraduate at DePaul. I know this because I still use the receipt as bookmark. Our teacher, Anne Calcagno made this book part of our class, and since there were maybe fifteen people in the class, the bookstore didn’t get it in time and yadda yadda yadda I’m boring you in the first paragraph of the post which doesn’t bode well. Back to the book! 

Bird by Bird is a book about writing and, frankly, it is one of the best. The title comes from a story Lamott tells about her brother, who put off his school project about birds until the last moment and was overwhelmed by the task ahead. Her father’s sage advice: “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Simply put, do it a step at a time. Chapter 3, “Shitty First Drafts,” is my favorite advice.  All good writers write them. This chapter I have read a least a half dozen times, especially if I am agonizing over something I am writing (I have become terrible at finishing my own shitty first drafts). The book is a great read for anyone interested in writing, and I won’t wait more than twenty-five years to read it again. For you Ted Lasso fans, Coach Lasso snuck in a “Bird by Bird” reference in the second episode of season 1 after Richmond lost their first game with him as a coach:

              Coach Beard: I hate losing.

              Ted Lasso: Bird by Bird, coach.

Also, for the next two plus years at DePaul, Ryan Maconochie and I would frequently sing song “Bird. By bird,” to each other whenever we were writing. I don’t think anyone outside of our creative writing class understood where that came from.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I should have read this book already. Chicago writer, acclaimed book, the stories set in Chicago, like one of my favorite writers, Stuart Dybek. I really have no excuse for waiting this long to read this book. Fortunately, my oldest was assigned this as part of his freshman lit class, so once he was done with it, I stole it from him and read it (and got to read his highlights and comments, too). Cisneros wrote some fantastic and very short stories about growing up in a Chicago that most people didn’t see at a time when there were not many places for such short works.

Deadheading & Other Stories by Beth Gilstrap

“A dress with pockets is a reason to celebrate on its own.”

My wife has always complained about dresses not having pockets, or women’s pants not having
pockets and that’s why I picked up on that line from the title story of this collection. There isn’t much else to celebrate in that story, but it is one of many powerful stories in this book full of fantastically crafted stories about complicated, world-weary women working through life, love, death, bad decisions, bad husbands, bad boyfriends, bad girlfriends, absent parents set in the modern south. Gilstrap is a fantastic writer (I feel remiss at omitting mention of her piece titled “A Monstrous Silence from the Jan/Feb issue of Poets & Writers I read in January), and I can't wait to read more from her. Seriously, you should go buy this book and start reading it right now.

For the Kids

A Boy Called Bat by Elena K. Arnold, Illustrated by Charles Santoso

My youngest boy’s school chose A Boy Called Bat as the One Book One School selection this year. Every student received a copy of the book and each night, the students listened to one of the school’s teachers reading a chapter. Ben and I read a couple chapters together, but he looked forward to seeing and hearing his favorite teachers read as well.  The story revolved around a boy called Bat who is autistic, who ends up helping his mother, a veterinarian, care for a baby skunk. Bat (his nickname) and his sister also navigate living in the separate homes of their divorced parents, and as the story progresses, Bat becomes friends with another boy in glass who is also interested in the baby skunk.


A Very Large Expanse of the Sea by Tahereh Mafi

My daughter just finished this YA book, centered on Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl, who, shortly after September 11, 2001, moves to a new school and fights against stereotypes, rude stares, and degrading comments from both students and teachers. She meets a boy, Ocean, her biology partner, who wants to get to know her for her, not just the stereotypes so many others see.  Abby rated this 4.5 stars out of 5 and it is now on my want to read list.



 I'm looking forward to April, when, hopefully, I have read several of the too many books I bought at AWP this year. Really, though, is there such thing as too many books?


Monday, March 28, 2022

Overhead at #AWP22 in Philadelphia

 It has been three years since I was able to immerse myself in all the gooey goodness, wonderful people, and stacks and stacks of new books that is the AWP conference. It was great to be back among my people, taking in panels, walking the bookfair, meeting up with old friends, making some new ones. I always love the conversations that happen. Here’s a sampling of some things overheard at AWP22.


“Do you have a book?”

“If I don’t have anything to say, I won’t sit down and write."

“Sometimes we can’t see our work.”

“How did Covid affect your writing?”

“Today is National Cheesesteak Day (March 24th).”

“Is that Matt Bell?” (For the record, the first Matt Bell reference was dropped at 9pm on Tuesday night, which I think is a new record).

“Other people are cheating on their spouses. I’m cheating on my novel.”

“I’m fucking funny.”

“The time for my body to get acclimated to brown liquor has come and gone. I tried, but it is not happening.”

"City hall."

“I’m California sober.”

“Wait, you don’t have a tattoo?”

"I know how to be a periphery person."

“Agatha Christie did it. Why can't I do it?"

“Who’s story is it?”

“That’s what my therapist tells me.”

“I’m trying to get an A in therapy.”

"Are you?"

"I think so but my therapist doesn't"

“I’m gonna go outside and shotgun a beer. You wanna come?”

“Those cookies are awesome.”

“Have you been to the Barrelhouse table? You can spin for prizes.”

"Hey look, Matt Bell?

"Barbara Jeeps!"

 “Is that how you spell ‘approximately?’”

“Did you get today’s wordle? What about worldle? What about lewdle? Hiney? That’s not lewd!”

Writer standing in front of microphone:

“Can you hear me?”



Writer moves infinitesimally closer to the microphone:

“How about now?"

Seriously, though, next year at AWP I'm doing a session on how to perform at a reading, which starts with proper microphone usage.


The Ben Tanzer
The Marriott Hotel Bar Manager at 3:45pm on Friday:

“I think we underestimated how busy we are going to be tonight.”

“I’ve been self-medicating the last two years.” 

“Where’s Tanzer?”

“Yellow is life.”

“Comics: were not just for kids anymore.”

“What’s your twitter handle.”

“(Insert famous writer) once said (insert general quote about writing).”


“You know Rebecca Makkai?”

"She won’t remember me but I’ll introduce you. I’m okay being embarrassed.”

“Please, yes, yes, yes.”


“Would you rather get $5 every morning in your pocket or twenty four hours with any person in history?”

“Have we met before?”

“I’m sorry about the weather.”

“I’m sorry I’m taking you through this part of the city.”

“I’m sorry about the rain.”

“Not everything is lost.”

Looking forward to #AWP23 in Seattle.



Resolutions for the rest of the world

Only suckers make resolutions that start on January 1 st . You just spent a night celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of t...