StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

85A: Chapter 9: “Colby at Irving Park Station”

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on February 2, 2010

So I thought I’d give a sneak preview of the book, 85A, on the blog.  It will be published this year through Bascom Hill Publishing.

Please remember that Seamus is 15 years old in the book, and he’s recounting an incident from when he was 14.

Also, the date is January 23, 1989 and he’s recounting something that occurred in the fall of 1987.

He’s an immature and vulgar narrator.  Hopefully with some redeeming qualities.

This is the chapter where he recounts how he once tried to pass himself off as English.  This incident did not happen in the author Kyle Thomas Smith’s actual life.

While we’re on the subject of the author, if you in any way reproduce the contents of this chapter without my express permission, I will find you and sue you!


Chapter IX

Colby at Irving Park Station

There’s this lavender-scented sex hormone—a crotch-teasing, unisex Spanish fly—they pump from all the ceilings on all the floors at Medusa’s. It fills your nostrils, fills your pores. It makes your blood beat, your body burst into flame. Mix that with all the cigarette smoke and sweat, you got yourself a two-story teenage cathouse—three stories if you count the stairs going up to Granny, the bouncer.

And that’s before you hear the drum machines and heavy bass. The owners are probably drumming up business for the local abortion clinic: “Send us your teens! No fetus can beat us!” If so, that clinic must be doing one hell of a business. On every other stair up to the top floor, there’s another funny-haired guy knocking back another funny-haired girl’s tonsils and pressing her tits so hard and spazzy, you’d think he’s making an emergency batch of biscuits out of them. And the only lights on the staircases are the little cartridges set in the walls that only give off about as much light as bike reflectors on an empty street with no lampposts. The hallway walls come in lots of colors. The coal-black walls stay coal-black, but they swirl the blood red and sky blue walls with cloud white. They all glow in dim neon till close. Not that I’m ever there to see them turn the neon off. I got a fuckin’ curfew, remember?

They can’t serve booze at Medusa’s. It’s a juice bar for minors. It’s against the law for them to tank us all up, so you gotta go out back by the dumpsters and guzzle out of a paper bag before going in. Even Medusa’s is forced to prohibit some vices. That’s why they got Granny frisking you for firearms and drugs before she lights another cancer stick and dropkicks another rabble-rouser out onto Sheffield Street.

Beyond that, you’re free to let your dick hang out and your body get beat in a mosh pit. The bouncers are required by law, though, to break up any brawl they see involving less than three people—that’s word for word what I heard Granny telling a new bouncer she was training one night. In the pit, though, it’s nothing but consensual punk rock. There are a few signs up saying that they’re not responsible for any injuries or lost or stolen items, but I’m not sure that stands up in court. Course, if anyone’s stupid enough to sue, they’ll probably have motherfuckin’ Al Capone at their door before a judge can even sign a subpoena.

As for dicks hanging out, maybe you see it once in a while, but I don’t think guys in the video room got too much to show for themselves there. And their teeny-weeny weenies were just what I was thinking about as I walked around the top floor after seeing Colby get busted. True, Colby did keep his hands up while Narc searched his pockets, didn’t kick him into the train while it was moving. Doesn’t mean he don’t got balls.  Means he’s got brains. Nobody gets away with shit in this country unless they’re in the White House—or my neighborhood’s whitey households. Colby knows when it’s in his best interest to cooperate. But just his naturalness—that hair he refuses to fuck up—it shows he’s got more going on in his jock than any of those sneering, snooty, funny-haired freaks who run from jocks and futz with their hair every fuckin’ five minutes. When I think of Colby, it makes me want to stop fuckin’ up my hair too. But I’m not ready to give that shit up just yet.

The L’s pulling up to Irving Park and Pulaski now, far, far away from Medusa’s. This is where courtyard apartment buildings make their first appearance on the O’Hare line, left and right of the train. The building to my right has gray-painted wooden staircases, running at sharp angles down to the alley where dumpsters sit brimming with garbage bags. Not a lot of nightlife here. Some dive bars, some greasy spoons, not a lot of trendy restaurants, and no clubs. No one ever talks about it. Never gets mentioned in The Reader, which I pick up every Thursday to look up shows and sex ads. Every morning, this L platform is crammed pillar to post. Unlike Jefferson Park, Irving Park station doesn’t have a lot of buses coming in from all over Chicago. Must mean people boarding here live here. Yeah, I could see that. There are lots of apartment buildings around; you can pack a lot of people into a neighborhood that way.

The apartment buildings are big too. On my way back from school once, I overheard an architect trying to impress his girlfriend by calling all the buildings around here “Tudor.” Whatever the fuck that means. To me, they just look like a bunch of big Joe-Mama gingerbread houses. Every time I pass, I feel like I’m in a fairy tale. Tempts me to get off the L and walk into one of the courtyards. I keep thinking I’ll get sucked into some time warp, like in The Time Machine. I’ll be transported to some fairly tale, like Hansel and Gretel or Mozart’s Magic Flute, only I’ll be the main character. Finally get a shot at a life worth living.

But could I get that here, at Irving Park and Pulaski? It’s not Piccadilly Circus. It’s not even Belmont and Clark. The people getting on—a lot of the men—look and smell like big Bluto bohunks. Don’t know what kind of jobs they’re headed to. Maybe they’re on their way to construction sites or factories—but wouldn’t they be starting their shifts a lot earlier in the morning? The women, a lot of them look like Polish cleaning ladies, except others look dressed for the office. Maybe they’re secretaries. Must be the ones who learned English and took typing classes at community centers. Good for them. Not all of them do.  Some of ’em been here forty years, never learned a lick of English. Give them all the credit in the world, though. Must be fuckin’ hard as hell, making your way after moving halfway around the world with nothing.

The ones who do learn English a lot of times wind up way the fuck ahead of any of us who were born here; the Chinese almost always do. But I bet the Polacks send most everything they earn back home. Wonder if their money orders ever make it past the guards at the Iron Curtain. But why are their families back home so fucking poor? Aren’t they all guaranteed jobs under communism? That’s what the guy who passes out The Socialist Worker under the Belmont L says. So why the fuck do they want to come here?  Probably swallowed a shitload of American propaganda, just like Americans have.

No, Irving Park-Pulaski isn’t the coolest hood on earth, but I always scan the station anyway, hoping to see Colby. Why the fuck did he get on here? I mean, here, of all places? I don’t know, but I keep thinking I’ll see him getting on again and, when I do, I’ll walk up and say, “Hey, weren’t you the guy who got busted for packing a marker?”

Yeah, that happened on the L one Saturday night—months before the first time I saw Tressa get off at Logan Square. Out of nowhere, this legion of leather-clad kids got on at Irving Park and Pulaski. My eyes got big, round, hypnotized. I had to clench my jaw to keep it from hitting the floor. You gotta understand, these were ultra-vivid Brit punks, not bland, fuckin’ eunuch Americans. No, we’re talking, they had…oh, man…charisma…their presence, it just radiated throughout the car like nothing I ever saw on Belmont—only like what I’d seen in photos in Punk: A Sordid Saga, like the ones of Siouxsie Sioux on stage in ’78, wearing a black trash bag and a Nazi armband. And they didn’t even have English accents when they talked. But they couldn’t’ve been from fuckin’ Chicago. I mean, they sounded like they were, but fuckin’ no one knows how to dress that cool here, except maybe Tressa.

And they all got on here, at fuckin’ Irving Park and Pulaski! Four of them—two girls, two guys. One of the guys had this blond Billy Idol hair. No, but it was better, much fuckin’ better than fuckin’ Billy Idol. What he did was, he spiked it all around to look like Sid—a blond Sid Vicious, it was fuckin’ brilliant! He had this tight-fitting black peacoat. Looked like he tore it up and then put it all back together with all these safety pins and sewn-on calico swatches. And the guy wasn’t wearing combats like the rest of the fuckin’ world. No, he wore black motorcycle boots with a red bandana tied to one of them. First time I ever saw that. His skin was deep bronze. He had this one chick hanging on him. She had a tar-black bob, shaved close to the skin on the sides and back, the rest dangling in fringes from the crown of her head to her chin, and her eyes were lined Cleopatra-style. She fuckin’ flaunted that fifteen-year-old hooker look—leopard-print coat; shredded, sheer nylons; go-go boots; and this sizzling hot-pink mini. The other chick was this blonde with long, curly hair. Her body was wrapped tight in a knee-length, black leather coat, her big bust busting out of it. Don’t know if she had anything else on besides her sheer scarlet stockings and black fuck-me pumps. She was sitting next to the kid I heard them call Colby. Her arm was in his, she was damn near in his lap. He had his hand on her thigh. Saw him move it over to her other thigh too and a little ways under the hem of her leather coat. She acted natural and let him do it right there on the L. But I couldn’t tell whether, when he tried going up her skirt, he actually found a skirt.

What I wouldn’t’ve fuckin’ given to be Blondie right then and there in that seat. Oh, Colby. Like I said, he had that 1940s black-lid hat on. It had a bow, like a bowtie, on the right side. Used to see those hats on sale at Wax Trax, but they looked fuckin’ ridiculous, sitting like clumsy clods on the racks. I’d look at that pile of hats and think, who the fuck could pull off a look that’s worth it in that? But Colby was as good an answer as I could ever ask for. At one point, he took off his hat. He had black hair and a simple, short haircut. Didn’t do anything hardcore to it—no parts shaved, wasn’t bone-close or fuzzy like a skinhead’s either. He just let it be the way it was, nothing to prove. Now that’s guts. His eyes, I could fuckin’ drown in them—the deep blue sea with moonlight lapping in the waves. His skin looked like it could tan like Dr. Strykeroth’s, but he kept it white as porcelain. He wore a black biker jacket with the Murphy’s Law logo painted in green on the right sleeve—yet another band I never heard before Tressa. He wore a gray collared shirt and black Levis cuffed over black, 8-hole Docs, like he was about to throw a fuckin’ Molotov cocktail at Buckingham Palace.

But, no, there was something a little too precious for violence in him. Maybe he was a little like Siouxsie Sioux—a gutter punk gone sensitive artist. His lips were so rose-red, they could’ve dissolved into wine and I would’ve been on my knees lapping up every last drop. But his hand was up some succubus’ thigh. What I wouldn’t fuckin’ give to be that succubus with that thigh.

Colby and his friends were all laughing together. Looked like they’d all known each other a long time. Maybe they all grew up around the block from each other. He’s so fucking lucky to grow up in a neighborhood where kids are doing the same shit he is. Who do I have? Fuckin’ Andy Payne? I had to do all this shit on my own, and pricks on Lehigh are driving up and screaming faggot and freak at me for it. I couldn’t hear what Colby and his friends were laughing about. Maybe I was too stunned to listen. Maybe I was so caught up in all the fun they were all having together, their talk just faded into white noise.

I kept my head down and made like I was looking out the window. Dr. Strykeroth would’ve given me a noogie if he saw that and said, “Why don’t you go up and try mingling, knucklehead?” Dr. S says I should have every reason to feel confident. He says I’m beautiful. But, no, not like Colby. Didn’t even feel fit to look at him; couldn’t stop looking at him either, though. It was like standing before God. Every now and then, I’d scope out my own gear. Sex Pistols God Save the Queen T-shirt; red hair, loosely fucked-up, shaved on the sides and back; a moth-eaten long black funeral coat that I found in our crawl space and that Dad’s always trying to stuff in the Tuesday garbage; scuffed-up combats, too fuckin’ big for me. I had nothing on these cats and I knew it. If Colby didn’t have me so spellbound, I would’ve walked out between the L cars and dropped myself like a sad sack under the speeding wheels.

Sid Vicious/Billy Idol took flat balloons out of his inside coat pocket and started blowing them up. He passed the first one, a red balloon, to Colby. Colby took a black magic marker out of his Murphy’s Law jacket’s right pocket. Blondie hung on his arm and watched with a red-lipstick smile as he started scribbling eyes, ears, a nose, a goofy-ass mouth, and all these fucked-up curls on the balloon. When he was done, he let the red balloon fall and bounce at his feet. Sid Vicious/Billy Idol blew up another balloon, a purple one, and passed it to Colby who lost no time marking it up. I didn’t get a look at what he was drawing but they were all howling up such a fucking storm at how fucked-up it all looked, they got me laughing too, but I caught myself before they could catch me and quick-looked out the window at the oil towers and bungalows coming up on Addison.

A few stops later, as Colby sketched more shit on to the second balloon, some fashion-disaster redneck with Andy Travis hair, a lumberjack shirt, tan corduroys, and gray New Balance gym shoes got out of his seat and clopped over to Colby and his friends like Boss Hog. “Excuse me,” said the redneck. The whole posse looked up. Redneck said, “Get off with me at the next stop please.” Colby and his friends looked at each other and back up at him, ‘huh?’ scribbled all over their faces. Redneck dug out his wallet and flashed a badge, “Get off with me at the next stop.” He was a fuckin’ narc.

Narc waved down the black guy who worked the train doors. Black L Guy nodded back. The L pulled up to California and Fullerton. Black L Guy got on his walkie-talkie, mumbled something to the conductor, and got on the PA, announcing, “We’ll be standing in the station momentarily.” Narc said to Colby and his friends, “C’mon. Off the train. Now. Empty your pockets.” They all filed out on to the California Street platform in the setting sun, not knowing which fuckin’ way was up.

Narc started frisking Colby, who stood with his hands in the air. I got out of my seat and called out the car, “What? What the fuck you harassing him for?” Narc turned around, but Black L Guy closed the doors before Narc could make a grab at me. The L pulled out of California Station, taking me miles and miles away from Colby and his friends. Black L Guy said, “Lucky he didn’t drag you out for mouthin’ off.” I threw my hands up, “They’re all fascists, man. Cops are all fucking fascists. Anyone who looks different, man. Anyone who looks different.” Black L Guy looked down, shook his head and chuckled to himself.

I didn’t see the humor. I sat back down, fuckin’ fuming. What the fuck was asshole Narc bustin’ Colby and his friends for? Drawing on balloons? Littering, when the first balloon bounced? Guess there were no murderers or serial rapists to go out and hassle that night. At least Colby didn’t write “DIE FAG” or some shit like that with his Magic Marker like Payne, who never gets busted for any of the shit he does.

Part of me wished Narc did hustle me out to the platform. Man, I thought, I could be in a jail cell with them tonight. Beats the shit out of going to Medusa’s. We could play poker on the cement floor and talk Johnny and Jello Biafra and Malcolm McLaren all the way till we make bail. Would’ve been the start of something beautiful. But, no, Black L Guy had to close the fuckin’ doors. Probably for the best, though. Wouldn’t want Colby and his posse seeing fuckin’ Mom or fuckin’ Dad or fuckin’ both. I mean, shit, who else could I call to post bond? Brody? And I sure as fuck wouldn’t want any of them hearing the stupid shit Mom and Dad would say in front of everyone in the pokey: Mom’s shrill, condemning religious vomit; Dad’s bull’s-eye putdowns; their genius for making me want to crawl into a hole and die. So maybe Black L Guy did me a favor.

Still, on the way to Washington and Dearborn, Colby’s all I could think about. Even walking the Washington tunnel to the Howard Line, I just kept turning his image over and over in my mind. I started thinking I should go back to Wax Trax and take another look at those hats. I should get one. Then Colby and me could walk down the streets together. I’d wear the hat and the biker jacket just like him and I’d get something painted on my sleeve too. Maybe a Union Jack with a circle around it and maybe there’d be another circle in that circle too, one that wraps around a jagged A, the first letter to the words, “Anarchy in the UK,” all those letters sketched out all-cool-n’-shit on the inner perimeter of the larger circle that’s around the Union Jack.

Maybe I’ll even get Colby to paint it for me, I thought. I liked what he drew on the red balloon. He’s probably a good artist. I imagined somehow getting the money together for the hat and the jacket. I’d wear black Levis too, rolled up and cuffed just like his. Except I wouldn’t have Docs. No, I’d have fuckin’ motorcycle boots with a red bandana tied around one of them, just like his friend’s. Now that would be an original look! Colby and me could be a two-man gang. We could laugh together, walking down the street, just like Sid and Johnny used to down Kings Road, screaming, “We don’t fucking care!” I’d throw my arm around his shoulder like I’d later see that fuckin’ skinhead throw his arms around his friends’ shoulders, only we’d be real friends, not just a couple reverse-conformist thugs.

And it could be at Irving Park-Pulaski. I don’t fuckin’ care. Not everything’s gotta go down on Belmont. Maybe we could go back to his house, I said to myself. Maybe he lives in an apartment and his Mom’s never there; she’s always at work or with her boyfriend—y’know, typical broken home-type shit. We could play fuckin’ Dead Kennedys, 7 Seconds, Crass, and whatever else he’s got in his room. Bet Colby’s got all the albums anybody’d ever fuckin’ want. We could light cigarettes in his room. Play music on Saturday afternoons. Spend hours in there together, just the two of us. Then we could hit Medusa’s.

As I walked up the stairs to the Howard L at Washington, I thought, I’ll conscript Colby into my London Plan. Fuck knows I’ve been mapping it out since I was 11; now I’ll just add him. The Plan’s pretty straightforward. Right when we turn sixteen, we’ll get jobs at a supermarket or something, a Jewel or a Dominick’s—maybe even one around Irving Park and Pulaski, who knows? If something more glamorous turns up, well, so much the better, but anything’ll do at this point. We’ll save up a couple years and leave the day whichever one of us is younger turns eighteen. I’m sure Colby’s only fifteen. He doesn’t look any older than me. He’s just got his shit more together than I do. That’ll all change, though, once I build a bigger life in London. All this might mean we can’t go to Medusa’s or Wax Trax as much as we do now…not if we’re saving up and shit…but whoop-dee-fuckin’-doo! Those places suck ass anyway. Instead we can hang at his place, smoke cigarettes, blast 7 Seconds, Sex Pistols, fuckin’ PiL.

As the northbound L came, I told myself, I’ll tell Colby we’ll fly from O’Hare to London. Last I checked in the Sunday Trib, the cheapest fares run about $600—and that’s roundtrip. We only need one-way, so it’ll be a lot cheaper. We’ll get to Heathrow (that’s the airport there). We’ll get on the Tube (that’s what they call the L in London, and, in quids [that’s what they call bucks], it shouldn’t be any more expensive than the L). We’ll find a squat (that’s an abandoned building where you can stay till you have enough quids to pay rent on an apartment; lots of punks live in them) somewhere in Brixton (that’s where David Bowie grew up but it’s mostly Rastafarians now; they got blacks in England too, with British accents, it’s mental!). We’ll find some punks at the squat, ones we can trust to look after our shit. We’ll get back on the Tube and go apply for jobs at some West End pubs (that’s what the Brits call bars). Almost all of them pay you what they call “under the table” (that means you don’t have to worry about being an illegal alien).

We’ll start making money and get our own apartment. And then, who knows, maybe I will go to fuckin’ college. Maybe it’ll feel right by then. I’ll forge my high school transcripts and get into some college in England. Maybe Oxford. They won’t deport me if I have a student visa. I won’t have to work under the table anymore either. I’ll kick ass at Oxford and become a shrink like Dr. Stykeroth—but I’ll practice in England, not here. Fuck no, not here.

Or maybe I’ll follow my real dream of being a BBC actor. I hear they’ve got a lot of actors in the West End. Maybe I can meet ’em if I’m working in a pub where lots of them go after shows. They can tell me where to audition, how to get started in British show biz. I’ll get parts in plays. They don’t have to be big parts. They can be bit parts. But the more I act, the more attention I’ll attract. BBC agents’ll see me in small theaters and, pretty soon, all of England will see me on the BBC and Masterpiece Theatre and shit. That’s all it takes.

And I’ll tell Colby he can do whatever the fuck he wants, whatever he fuckin’ dreams of doing! I’ll encourage him. Maybe his mom never encouraged him, maybe his dad walked out on his mom before he even got a chance to give Colby a shred of encouragement, but I’ll fuckin’ encourage Colby. Maybe Colby wants to own a club, a much cooler club than fuckin’ Medusa’s. I’ll say, go ahead, do it. Maybe we can run it together, just as long as I don’t have to do any fuckin’ math. It can happen. All this shit can happen. You just gotta believe it.

I got off the Howard Line at Belmont and walked to Medusa’s, hoping Colby’d be out of the clink soon so we could make friends and get moving on our London Plans. Once inside the door at Medusa’s, I stood in line—or in the queue, as they call it in England—on the pitch-black stairwell heading up to the main floor, where Granny, the chain-smoking old lady, pats you down. She might be older than God’s own granny and bonier than a skinned fish, but I’ve seen Granny bounce skinheads the size of fuckin’ Appalachia on to the curb. Dudes who’ll mosh with Godzilla know better than to fuck with her. I stood among hordes of punks, skaters, New Wavers, housers, skinheads, trendies, poseurs of all stripes—every one of them pulling out every fuckin’ stop to show off how many people they all fuckin’ know. I stood all alone, this time thinking, I’d rather be alone than be friends with these assholes.

It took me fifteen minutes in the queue to make it up the stairs, which gave me ample time to look the whole Medusa mob scene up and down. What can I say, it looked fuckin’ pathetic! Most of them probably piled into cars and drove in from the fuckin’ suburbs, where they all play punk the same way little girls play dress-up with dollies. Not a one of them came anywhere close to Colby in coolness. It’s like, on the L at Irving Park, I had a vision of perfection that ruined me for anything I’d ever see again (until I’d see Tressa, that is, and maybe until I see London up close and personal). Granny slid her hands into my pockets and down my sides and legs and let me move on. I paid five bucks admission, looked back down the stairs and sighed so all those fucks could hear it as I walked up to the video room.

For about an hour, I wove through the Rosemary’s Baby meets Teen Steam orgies in the neon rooms, where they blast lavender-scented Spanish fly and Meat Beat Manifesto videos. It was like, all at once, I was walking across two planes of reality. One was the lower plane, where all those freaks are into all that show-off shit, playing up to each other, acting like they all fuckin’ know it all, not letting anyone into their little cliques unless the majority of their clique approves. Then there was another plane. Call it fuckin’ Mount Olympus, where the gods get together. Colby lives on high there. As I walked through the video room, I imagined his friends must live up on Olympus too, or else why would he be hanging out with them?

Mount Olympus, it’s where people are above all the poses video-room fops strike. It’s where people like Colby got bigger plans for their futures than fucking up their hair and buying twelve inches and test-pressings from bands only a few fucks know about. I thought, Colby and people like him…they do shit like move to other countries and make art and write books and make music, the kind that’s got lots of range and puts lots of styles together, not just this monotonous industrial shit. At least, that’s what I imagine they do. They express their true selves. You can see it on Colby’s face. Not a blemish on it. There’s just that glow rising from his soul. He’s lit from within. He doesn’t feel the need to fuck up his hair. Him and his friends—they’re fuckin’ self-styled. Lots of people wear leather jackets and boots, but, I dunno, not like them. I can’t explain. There was…fuckin’…something about it. I dunno. It was that…fuckin’…Mount Olympus experience. All at once, or, at least in my mind, I was on Mount Olympus and the lower plane, the neon rooms. And I wanted to be way up in the land of the gods and away from that fuckin’ lower plane, the fuckin’ neon rooms.

That’s why I walked out of the video room. From the third floor at Medusa’s, there are no stairs to Olympus—though I hear that, if you blow the DJ, he’ll take you up to the roof and cut you some lines of coke. I figured I’d cut my losses on the five bucks admission and walk back out, past the old lady with her cigarette and the bouncers following her lead. I didn’t expect I’d ever be back, though I also didn’t expect there was any other place for a fuckin’ freak like me to go.

As I stepped into the hallway toward the Exit sign on the main floor, I looked at the new queue of people waiting to pay up and get frisked. Right at the front of the queue, I saw a leopard-print coat. I saw a long, curly mass of blonde hair hanging down a knee-length black leather coat. I saw blond Sid Vicious hair. In front of all them, I saw a fuckin’ 1940s black-lid hat. I froze. It was like, I couldn’t go to Mount Olympus, so Mount Olympus fuckin’ came to me! But last I checked, wasn’t Mount Olympus getting hauled into the slammer? What’d they do, break out? Mustn’t be the cleverest group of punk-rock gods and goddesses if they decided to go on the lam in Medusa’s. Where the fuck’d they think the cops’d go looking for their divine little asses first?

What should I do? I thought. Go talk to them? Find out what happened? Find out if they got sprung or if they fuckin’ sprung themselves? I’m not good at that shit—going up and introducing myself. I used to try that shit at Xavier when I first got there. I’d go up to kids at school; I’d say, I’m Seamus; they’d look at me; I’d stand there. I’d ask what they’re into, who their favorite bands are. More standing there. I’d say my favorite bands, say what I’m into. More standing there, sometimes some laughter sputtering out of them. After a while, they’d take one last look at me and walk off. And I’d still be fuckin’ standing there. I don’t know what it is about me. I don’t know why the kids at Xavier walked off. I don’t know why they laughed at me later if they never bothered talking to me first. I told myself I’d never invite that experience again. I decided, if I wanted to know somebody, I’d wait for them to introduce themselves to me first. Only, nobody ever came up and introduced themselves—so I never met anybody, not till Tressa. I had to do everything by my fuckin’ self, go everywhere by my fuckin’ self, learn all this shit by my fuckin’ self. Rejection just hurt too fucking much to keep trying to talk to people, but Dr. Strykeroth’s still trying to get me to risk it anyway.

But I wasn’t up to it that night. I had Plans, real big fuckin’ London Plans for me and Colby, but I just couldn’t bring myself to walk up and introduce myself. I looked at what I was wearing. I looked at where I’m from. I kept my head down and decided to brush past Colby on my way out the building, even though I knew that later I’d regret being such a chicken shit.

But, on my way to the last set of stairs, Colby walked right up to me. Right fuckin’ up to me! He said, “Hey, weren’t you on the L when we got pulled off?”  I stopped, froze like a fuckin’ corpse in a morgue. My dream was fucking forcing itself to come true right before my fuckin’ eyes. I had no fucking idea what to say. I fumbled around my coat for a cigarette. Colby looked puzzled when, instead of answering him, I took a long pause to fish out and light up a Marlboro. Finally, I squeaked out the definitive answer Colby’d been waiting for: “Yeah.”

His friends gathered around me in a group. I thought I’d fuckin’ faint! Fuckin’…sensory overload! The chick in the leopard-print coat clutched on to her Billy Idol/Sid Vicious boyfriend and said, “We were arrested.”

“What?” I said.

Billy Idol/Sid Vicious said, “They called a squad car and took us to the station.”

“They fuckin’ cuff you?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said, “They have to by law.”

I didn’t know how the fuck I was gonna manage the rest of this exchange. It all came on so—phew! —fuckin’…all of a sudden. There’s no way I’m cool enough to keep this going, I thought. I gotta be, like, 100,000 times cooler than I am right now to measure up to what they’re all used to up on Olympus. I decided now was as good a time as any to put on the voice I always wished I had—a cockney fuckin’ British accent. Why not? It’s my life. I should be able to sound whatever fuckin’ way I want. I should be able to be whoever I fuckin’ wanna be, even it means I gotta make some shit up about who I am and where I’m from.

Right then and there, in Medusa’s lobby, I transformed from Seamus from the Northwest Side to Seamus from the motherfuckin’ East End of London. A whole spiel—all the basics I could tell people—started forming in my head. After all, I’d be meeting a lot more people now that I was the fabulous Seamus from the East End of London. I’d say, “Hello, I’m Seamus from the East End of London:

  1. I drink tea.
  2. My dad’s the British ambassador to America.
  3. ’is job shipped ’im to Chicago. I ’ad to accompany ’im.
  4. I miss London.
  5. I’m goin’ off me fuckin’ trolley with boredom ’ere.
  6. I plan on goin’ back to London. It’s so much fuckin’ better that side of the pond.”

This was a stroke of fucking genius! This would be my life story from now on! It’d be like living in England without living in England yet! My new voice, my new persona would charm the fuckin’ shit out of Colby. We’d take tea at teatime. We’d talk on the phone. He’d tell me how his day went. We’d plan to take tea-and-sympathy again, real fucking soon. There’d be lots of tea. Lots and lots of fuckin’ tea.

I’d tell him how outrageous London is. I’d study up on it in the encyclopedia and all the travel booklets you can get for free from Caldwell Travel Agency. I’d talk like a fuckin’ insider. There’s no way he could find out the shit-truth about me: that I’m Phil and Mary O’Grady’s son and I’ve lived on the Northwest Side all my life. He’d never meet Mom and Dad. I’d make bloody fuckin’ sure of that. And it’s not like I know anybody’d he’d know. It’s not like we’d run into anyone from my neighborhood, not around here. It’s not like I’d have to worry about anyone from St. Xavier busting me out if we ran into them; they’d never fuckin’ deign to speak to me in the first place. If Colby’d call my house and Mom’d answer, I’d just tell him my parents are using American accents to fit in (“What can I say? Wanker mum and wanker Dad is into fittin’ in.”). I’d never have to be Seamus from the fucking Northwest Side again. Now I’m Seamus from the East End of London. And soon I’ll tell Colby he could move back to London with me. This was a stroke of fucking genius!

All these thoughts flashed through my head in the time it took to take another drag off my Marlboro. Colby said, “They had us in custody for almost half an hour.”

My first word in my new voice was, “Ay? Why?”

Colby twitched down an eyebrow, “Well, you saw. I had a marker on me.”

“Righ’, Righ’,” I said. “The balloons.”

“Yeah,” Colby replied, raising and then twitching his eyebrow back down again, “the balloons. You saw that guy get up and walk over to us, right? He was an undercover cop.”

“Righ’,” I said, nodding, smoking and talking all at once, like I once saw Johnny Marr do on 120 Minutes. “Fuckin’ narc. Fuckin’ wanker.”

Dead silence, thick as midnight. I’d spent years practicing a cockney accent in my bedroom and I thought I was doing a pretty fuckin’ good job, considering the short notice.  But not a word of it washed with Blondie, Colby’s leather-succubus girlfriend. Fuckin’ Blondie. She let go of Colby’s arm and fixed me a glare that said I was the fakest fuckin’ fraud she’d ever fuckin’ laid eyes on. She even spun around and laughed at me in front of all the freaks traipsing down the hallway and bounding up to the third floor.

Colby was nicer than Blondie. He just went on with what he was saying, “Anyway, I told the cop I wasn’t using my marker to tag graffiti. I was just drawing on some balloons. They couldn’t find any evidence against us, so they confiscated the marker and let us go.”

I took a mean drag off my Marlboro, let it out in a long exhale and laid down the law, “Tell you wha’, them fascists is wankas. Fuckin’ wankas. Oughta declare a state a fuckin’ anarchy and say fuck off with the lotta ’em.” More morgue silence. Blondie snickered one last time and walked right on past me up to the video room. Leopard Print followed and so did Sid Vicious/Billy Idol, both of them chiming in on Blondie’s laughter.

I realized I was the stupidest fuckin’ twat alive. Mount Olympus was a fuckin’ golden bird, laying golden eggs in my hands and I dropped the eggs and let that fucker fly away. What about living in foreign countries? What about making art with all them?  What about the books I’d write while we’re all sitting around cafes at teatime and going to the gigs they play (if any of them are in bands, that is)? What about the friendships we could make with each other, the kinds people make movies and write biographies about years later? Did I fuckin’ blow it like I’m blowing my chances of staying at Xavier?

Since I couldn’t take looking at Colby’s flawless face anymore, I let my eyes drop to the dark hallway floor. My eyes fell in motherfucking defeat to Colby’s boots as he started marching away with his friends. I wanted to take the cigarette I was smoking and stab it a thousand times through my left hand. Gone were all hopes, dreams, and best-laid London Plans with Colby…and there was no one to blame but my fuckin’ self. Before that moment, I never met a mirror I liked and it didn’t look like I ever fucking would.

As I was taking another drag off my cigarette and was about to incinerate my flesh, I felt a gentle grip on my shoulder. I looked over. It was Colby. “See you around, man,” he said. “Take care of yourself.” He took a look back at me. To look me in the eye. To see me. It was a look of understanding, like he understood how hard it must be standing there, wanting to burn myself alive. Did he ever feel that way himself? I can’t imagine. He’s so fucking beautiful and cool. He got me, though. Caught me fronting with that stupid fuckin’ cockney accent. He fuckin’ got me and cast no look of hate when he did. His look seemed like love, actually. But, no, I wouldn’t go that far. He still followed his friends and kept his back to me the whole way up the stairs to the video room.

Guess he wasn’t expecting me to follow. I wasn’t expecting to either. But, after he went upstairs and I took a couple more drags off my smoke, which I didn’t end up stabbing through my hand after all, I took a pen out of my coat pocket and scratched my name and number on the piece of paper I always keep for emergencies like this. I walked back into the video room, the lower plane, where I saw Colby making the rounds through a fuckin’ blue million neon video-room denizens, getting hugged and kissed and clasped and loved a blue million fuckin’ times over—the ambassador from Olympus that Dad never was from England. I stood back a couple minutes and watched.

A Thrill Kill Kult video was raging on all the screens. It made me bold. I nerved up the nutsack to tap Colby’s shoulder. He didn’t feel it at first. Billy Idol/Sid Vicious and Blondie were watching me, fucking aghast, as I kept tapping him. Colby turned around, took a step back, and looked at me. I handed him the slip of paper with my name and number on it and said in my plain Chicago voice, loud enough for him to hear over Thrill Kill Kult, “Here. Just in case you need a witness for what happened on the L.” He smiled and said, “Thanks.” I smiled back and walked out of the dark neon rooms, past Leopard Print, Blondie, and Billy Idol/Sid Vicious. I thought of asking Colby for his number, but I already fucked up once in the main-floor hallway. I wasn’t gonna fuck up again. I walked off Mount Olympus for the night. But now its king, this teenage Zeus in a 1940s black-lid hat, heard my plea. Maybe he’d call me later to welcome me on to his pantheon.

But what would he gain by calling me or being my friend? He’s already got friends. By the looks of it, he had the whole fuckin’ video room. What did I have to offer, except my London Plans? And I could have a life in London without him, I know that. It’d just be a lot fuckin’ lonelier, that’s all. At least Colby’s always right there in my mind, though. That’s what I thought to myself as I made my last exit to Sheffield Street: “Colby will always be on my mind. Even if he never calls, even if we never take tea, he will always be on my mind.”

It’s been well over a year now. Colby still hasn’t called. Not that I’m waiting by the phone anymore. And I haven’t seen him around since that night either, not even at the fuckin’ Murphy’s Law concert, where my eyes were peeled out of their fuckin’ sockets for him. And I’ve been back to the video room time and again and he never turned up. He wasn’t even at Medusa’s when Ministry played. Fuckin’ everyone who’s anyone was there! Not him, though. Who knows, maybe he moved. God, I fuckin’ hope not. I so want to see him again.

I never told Tressa about the night I met Colby. Never told her what happened with Narc. Never told her about my attempts at a cockney accent and a new story. But I did ask her if the name Colby rang a bell. She said it didn’t and asked me why I asked. I said somebody told me some story about somebody on Belmont named Colby but I couldn’t remember how it went. I could tell she could tell I was lying. I remembered the story. Knew it fuckin’ chapter and verse. I was its author. “Colby’s coming with me to London”: I nursed the story all last year. I nurse it now, but not so much now that a year has gone by and the phone hasn’t rung. Yet my London Plans still stand if he ever wants to hear my pitch, if I ever see him on the L again, if we ever become friends. I’ll keep watching out for him at Irving Park station. But I won’t do a cockney accent next time. That was just fuckin’ stupid.

(c) 2010

Kyle Thomas Smith is a writer in Brooklyn, NY.

85A Log: My Miracle Lunch with Shell

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on August 15, 2008

So, yesterday, I had my fateful lunch with Shell at Miracle Grill, where we went over the first draft of 85A. I had the Blue-Corn Fried Chicken Tacos with chips and salsa and an iced tea. She had a quesadilla and a few glasses of water.

Before we got started, we celebrated her most recent freelance breakthrough. AARP, circulation 38 million, has accepted Shell’s pitch to write a profile on the graphic novelist who created the Joker. A career salvo, indeed. Way to go, Shell!

Her feedback on 85A was entirely constructive. She began by praising both the writing and the concept. Still, as I already knew, there’s a lot more work left for me to do on the book. An entire rewrite, actually.

Here’s what she had to say:

1. Start with An Action Scene: As it reads right now, the books starts with Seamus standing at the 85A bus stop, ruminating on the racism and violence in his pure-white middle class neighborhood. This is not as compelling as beginning with an action sequence.

(notice the Icarus wings)

(notice the Icarus wings)

I knew just what she meant. What leaped to mind immediately were the first lines of Toni Morrison’s Paradise:

“They shoot the white girl first. With the rest, they can take their time.”

Boom! Sucks you right in. Then, by and by, Morrison weaves in the history of Ruby, Oklahoma. Doesn’t spell it all out at once. She takes her time.

Similarly, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon begins with the North Carolina Mutual Insurance agent, Robert Smith (a black Icarus), leaping off the Mercy Hospital roof with a pair of homemade wings on the morning that Morrison’s protagonist, Milkman, is born.

So, yes, golden advice: start with a memorable action sequence.

2. Cut down on the F word: It is hardly an exaggeration to say that, in the first draft, every second to third word out of Seamus’ mouth is fuck. I wanted to show how dead-set he is on recreating the Johnny Rotten/Sid & Nancy experience in his barely pubescent Chicago life. Even I feared the fuck-repetitions were excessive. My fears proved true. I fully agree with Shell that it became more pesky than revealing after a while. As a matter of fact, she rightly discerned that, when the story really got moving, she saw that I wrote less and less fuck’s. Now, that’s not to say the fuck’s don’t have their place. In fact, they have a time-honored place. It’s just that the fuck’s are more effective when they’re more strategically positioned.

3. Imagery: Shell told me that I do a great job of vivifying the characters. What I need to do, once again, is to slow it down and include more sights, sounds, smells, and bodily sensations. Right now, it reads like I’m trying to get my main points down on paper – rushing to get to the point (a symptom of our ADD culture). But there needs to be more sensory input if I’m going to form a complete picture.

4. You See: There are times when Seamus will say things like “But, see, the thing is…” as if he’s speaking directly to the camera instead of soul searching.

A big challenge for me is that, while I want there to be action, I also want to show how Seamus is mostly solitary, idle and given to grandiose fantasies that have little basis in reality. How do you balance that with the kind of dynamism that keeps your reader reading?

I even picked up The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel for help. A sci-fi, fantasy writer named Tom Monteleone wrote it. Somewhere toward the middle of the book, he said something about how, every year, a glut of novels about alienated individuals trying to make sense of the big-bad world take up space on publishers’ desks, mostly before being shoved into the recycling bin. Monteleone then says, “If you’re planning to write that kind of novel, do yourself a favor. Don’t.”

I can sort of see the wisdom in that. Only, I feel like I have to write 85A, which fits the very description of the books he condemns. Plus, I have a long history of starting and stopping novels. Dammit, I’m gonna finish this one! Sorry, Mr. Monteleone.

The MFA Question

Enough ink has been spilled on the topic of whether an MFA in creative writing is absolutely necessary for someone who would like to write and publish novels. Still, I felt the need to ask Shell her thoughts on the matter since she got an MFA at Naropa University.

I never went to grad school. Some of our greatest writers never did either. On the other hand, many of our greatest writers – Flannery O’Connor, Michael Cunningham, Junot Diaz, and my newly discovered hero Joshua Furst – did come out of MFA programs.

Shell came down on the side of it not being necessary. You can learn some good things in MFA programs, she said. You can learn the art of the short story. No one is ever prepared for the novel, though. You just gotta go balls-out.

Some years ago, I picked up a book called The Portable MFA. I liked it when I worked with it, but it’s now sitting in one of my dusty book boxes. I should dig it out again. I’ve always been the kind who has learned best outside of confining environments like classrooms and offices. That’s not to say I’ve learned nothing in those settings, but I’ve learned far less in them than I have by doing my own reading, conducting my own dialogues, and following my own interests.

I’m extremely fortunate to have someone like Shell to give me this kind of feedback. With that, let me give Shell Fischer’s services another plug and send you to her website, where you can contact her:

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got a novel to write.

85A Log: Sid Lives! (Right Alongside Ian)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 16, 2008

So, last night, Mike and I were hanging out at one of the alfresco tables of this one Cuban restaurant on Bowery, right across from where CBGB used to be. Now CB is an art gallery called Morrison Hotel. Ain’t bad there actually. Vivid punk and glam memorabilia – Liebovitz and Mapplethorpe-level photos of The Stones, Iggy Pop, Elton John, The New York Dolls, Debbie Harry, Sex Pistols, Bauhaus. The window display was that disgusting picture of Sid Vicious eating a mustard-slathered hot dog with his mouth open. Then, I kid you not, two people walked by – within five minutes of each other – wearing Sid Vicious t-shirts. This morning, on my way to go write at Tea Lounge, I passed a kid, no older than 18, wearing a t-shirt featuring the front page of a newspaper with the headline: “Sid Vicious Overdoses on Heroin, Dies.”

This all bodes so well for me! I mean, 85A might be set in 1989, but Seamus’ obsession with Sex Pistols (ten years after their breakup) is still timely. (His favorite band is Public Image Ltd. He’s way more into Johnny than Sid.)

Two books in particular have helped me recapture the disaffected spirit of Sex Pistols youth: Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus and England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond by Jon Savage. Also, John Lydon’s autobiography Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs was surprisingly well-written and informative; I’ve always loved Johnny Rotten for his wit and candor. I also went back and watched My Beautiful Laundrette, This Is England, The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle, The Filth & The Fury, and of course Sid & Nancy.

I first saw Sid & Nancy when I was 13 years old. It had way too big an impact on me. Sid, Nancy, and Johnny’s foul mouths and havoc-reeking looked like total liberation to me. I started talking and acting like them every chance I got. Made my home life even worse than it already was. I also entered high school with that well-worn Rotten attitude, thinking everybody had seen the movie and knew what statement I was making. No, they just thought I was a twerp and an asshole. Walk in like that as a freshman, you’re going to spend the rest of your high school years living it down…and, well, that’s what happened.

So, I wondered what kind of appeal Sid & Nancy would hold for me at age 34. Oh my God! I am so embarrassed that I thought those people were cool. They were nasty, malignant, maladjusted scapegraces. Why didn’t I pick better role models growing up? What can I say, I was possessed. I needed to get all that sedition out of my system. Having said all that, Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb give peerless, searingly authentic portrayals of Sid and Nancy from start to finish.

I also recently rented Control, a wonderful film about the rise and fall of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis by Hungarian director Anton Corbijn. I was a captive Joy Division and early New Order fan as a teenager. All accounts I’ve read point up Ian Curtis as a total dick. Control has quite the opposite take on him. Even as an adulterer, he comes off as a sweet, sensitive, even polite youth who only wants a simple life of work, marriage, fatherhood and poetic musings. Life has other plans for him, though, when it catapults him into stardom. Samantha Morton gives a heartrending performance as Curtis’ beleaguered wife, Debbie Woodruff. Sam Riley is absolutely prodigious, adorable and tragic as Curtis.

But does the film’s account of Curtis’ death (at age 23) stand up to fact? Corbijn has Curtis hang himself in Debbie’s kitchen pantry. From what I’ve read, he hung a rope from Debbie’s living-room ceiling and stood on a block of ice, noose around his neck, while watching TV. By the time Debbie came home from work that night, the ice had melted, the TV was crackling static and Ian was dangling, dead.

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but one of the things that charmed me most about the film was that the first track on the soundtrack was “Drive-in Saturday” from David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane (1973). Curtis has just come home from buying Aladdin Sane at the record store in Macclesfield. He lays back on his bed and lets the album spirit him away. Then, his best friend Nick swings by with his girlfriend Debbie, who’ll soon be Curtis’ wife. Curtis rolls off his bed and starts applying glitter eyelashes to look more like Bowie. Oh, why didn’t that period of music last longer? In my late teens and early twenties, I used to sit in my bedroom with the lights out, playing that same LP.

Another amazing track they play is from one of my all-time favorite albums, “Warszawa” from Bowie’s Low (1977). It’s so deep, sad, haunting. Once again, in my room, I used to play “Warszawa” and all of Side Two of Low again and again and again while I smoked Camel Lights, wrote in my journal and looked out over all the miasma curling off the trees in my backyard. It made me want to be an expat writer, living in Berlin. Well…that didn’t end up happening.

But there is a great German film about a 14-year-old heroin addict prostitute called Christiane F. (1981). The soundtrack is all Thin White Duke-period Bowie (including, “Warszawa”); through most of that period of his music (1976-1979), he was living in Berlin. He even appears in the movie when Christiane goes to his concert and tries heroin for the first time. He does a killer live version of “Station to Station.” The movie is based on the book, Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo. (I actually read the English translation about 15 years ago. It’s not bad.) Only problem with the movie is that the dubbing is so bad, you might find yourself laughing your ass off while she goes cold turkey.

Progress Report: 85A

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 9, 2008

Lord knows I have my days, but, on balance, I could not be more thrilled with how my novel, 85A, is shaping up. It’s already crossed its 174th page and there is way more to go.

The Patron Saint of 85A

Johnny Rotten - Patron Saint of 85A

Set in a racially stratified Late Eighties Chicago, 85A centers on the life and consciousness of a foul-mouthed, Johnny Rotten-obsessed, 15-year-old boy named Seamus O’Grady. Despite his rough edges, Seamus is actually a sensitive artist trying desperately to come to terms with his sexuality, spirituality, and creativity amid the authoritarianism, racism and homophobia of his household, school, neighborhood and city. At the same time, he has big dreams to live in London as a writer or actor or maybe as a psychologist like his mentor Dr. Strykeroth (with whom he has a more-than-questionable relationship).

This day-in-the-life, stream-of-consciousness narrative tracks Seamus’ inner life and outer struggle as he takes the 85A bus to the Chicago L, which brings him to the high-performing Catholic school that is itching to kick him out. Will the heads of the school expel him? And what would he do if they did? These are but two of the besetting questions facing Seamus. My largest ambition for this work is to plumb the depths of Seamus’ character while giving readers a vivid snapshot of life in 1980s Chicago.

Given Seamus’ emulation of Johnny Rotten, my fear is that this book would be too vulgar for a publisher of fiction and/or Young Adult fiction, but…

editor extraordinaire

Shell Fischer - Writer/Editor extraordinaire

Shell Fischer will be helping me edit the manuscript once I manage to heft it on to her desk. I couldn’t think of a better ‘nother-set-of-eyes than Shell. She is a freelance writer and editor here in Brooklyn and the author of a saucy new novel called The Joy of Mom. If you require writing and editing services, I highly recommend her. Go to

So, having Shell sets my mind at rest. Plus…

I ran into my friend Libba Bray today at Tea Lounge on Union Street & 7th Avenue, here in sunny Park Slope, Brooklyn. Libba is the author of the monstrously successful Young Adult books A Great And Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. We used to write in the same cafe together – she the legend, me the aspiring. Today, when I voiced my trepidation about the marketability of a book as profane as 85A, she spoke with enormous pride and conviction about how YA genre books have become more and more unflinching. If A Clockwork Orange were submitted for first-time publication today, it’d probably find a happy home in YA. I breathed a sigh of relief. I don’t know why I was surprised, though. Libba’s work is pretty two-fisted itself.

When I do get a publisher, I’m going to make a special request that I get to keep the quotes already featured on each of the three sections of my book. (That is, if it still has three sections after the publishers get done with it…)

The first quote for Part I comes from:

The Who - Quadrophenia

The Who - Quadrophenia

The song, “Four Faces” from The Who’s Quadrophenia:

You must have heard of them, a kind of screwed-up blend

Split personality

Two sides to fight and argue all night

Over coffee and tea…

I’ve got four hang-ups I’m trying to beat

Four directions and just two feet

Got a very very secret identity

And I don’t know which one is me.

From the time I started writing this book (originally, a short story) in January 2008, it never ceased to amaze me how much influence the album and movie Quadrophenia had on my personal aesthetic and sensibility. Seamus is just as confused as Jimmy, if not more so. (He’s younger, though…)

The quote from Part Two comes from…

New York Dolls

New York Dolls

The New York Dolls’ 1973 invective, “Personality Crisis”

All about the Personality Crisis

You got it while it was hot

But now frustration and heartache is what you’ve got…

In 85A, Seamus’s got a personality crisis, big-time.

Final quote, Part III, comes from:

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

The great Tennessee Williams: “There is a time for departure, even when there is no certain place to go.” Part Three is where Seamus finds himself at the most harrowing crossroads of his life.

Earnest Hemingway at His Writing Desk

Earnest Hemingway at His Writing Desk

Speaking of literary masters and writing (and because I have not been overzealous enough with posting pics), I read somewhere that Hemingway only wrote 500 words a day. This was an enormously helpful bit of news on those days when I had a famine of ideas but couldn’t answer to my conscience if I didn’t meet some healthy writing quota. I set 500 words as my daily minimum and often found myself surpassing that number each time a narrative momentum started to pick up. But we must also heed the advice that Hemingway gives in A Moveable Feast, which was basically: quit while you’re ahead; otherwise you won’t have anything to start with the next day.

Okay, so, that’s all for now re: 85A. More field reports coming soon.