bike riding

this is a shorty outtake from flotation device 12. i eventually took it out cuz i felt it didn’t add anything. and i didn’t want to contribute to the glut of zines that feature bike riding in them. and anyways, i’ve prolly already made my fair share of contributions to that glut anyways. on the bike riding note – i am looking forward to warm night bike rides again. tonight was one of the first of the year. so i’m especially stoked now!

One of my favorite things in the summer is to ride my bike late at night. Alone on the street only a few cars passing occasionally. Cool air. Sometimes heavy with humidity. But always cool and caressing after the heat of the day. The buildings pass by lazy. Trees that line the roads. Dark branches against dark night sky. Leaves green rustle whisper in the night breeze. Coming home from wherever I was. A show. A movie. A friend’s house. A diner. A bar. The city quiet for the night. Slowed down. Feeling like a hometown. A comfort zone. A pocket of safe from the world. Float and glide on rubber tires past mail boxes and street lights stoplights intersections. Cool air on my skin through my t shirt through my hair. My city. My town. My home. Trees overhead. Stars through the leaves and branches.

video games

this is an outtake from the 2216 section of flotation device 12. i felt i had already included enough pieces that established jeff and, sadly, this one had to go. in the end not much was really mentioned about our video game playing. a serious oversight.

Hey. Jeff said sneakily looking around.


Hey is it getting dark in here? He asked. It was still light out.

Awesome. It’s totally getting dark in here. I shut the blinds to cut the glare. He turned on the tv and the n64 and put in perfect dark.

This is the game we played most. Most on the n64.

Video games became one of our main things to do while hanging out. He was into video games and wanted to do sound for video games. Design it. Create the soundscape and sound effects. Compose the score. He loved it. I liked to play socially. So if I had someone to play with I was happy. He was always renting games. Some I would watch him play, some I wouldn’t. He’d play for a couple hours and then go out or do homework or play guitar or skate.

Is it getting dark in here? Initially it just meant perfect dark, but of course eventually it came to mean, do you wanna play video games? Of course we could always be direct about it and say, Hey do you wanna jam some vids. That always worked too.

skatepark nihilism

this was a little coda that originally followed the treefort (slight return) section of flotation device 12. when i first wrote it, it seemed logical to include it. it flowed with the rest of that junior high section, but when i read it once all of the pieces were put in order, it seemed to kinda just sit there.

We had a brilliant idea too. David and I or Luke and I or all of us. On the west side of the subdivision beyond the pond and on the other side of all the fences beyond the last recently sodded lawns of the new houses there was a field. A cornfield old and unused derelict and filled with dead cornstalks and grass. In our explorations seeking out new places to explore and new places to walk we came across a cement platform. It must have been the floor to a storage shed. We said it was an old barn. It was divided into a few different levels and the cement was fairly smooth in some spots.

As we sat out there under the summer sun blue sky and white clouds hoping that the men in the pick up trucks that seemed to occasionally patrol the fields didn’t come, we had a brilliant thought. Let’s turn this into a skate park. We could build a half pipe out here and some mini ramps. We could use the multi levels for a kick ass street area. It’s out of the way and no one would bother us. Genius.

Jeremy could help. His dad had built an amazingly professional quarter pipe that they kept in his garage. It was on wheels and they would wheel it out to skate it in the driveway. It terrified me with its perfect curvature smooth wood and vert at the top and its five foot height. Jeremy could help us. Luke could help us, having built that half pipe in his basement. He also helped me build a launch ramp that we kept in my garage that had a nice curve that Luke got from wetting the wood with a hose and bending the wood back while standing on it. We could get wood and nails and pvc coping from the dumpsters. That’s where we always went for supplies for treeforts or bike ramps skate ramps or whatever we were building. Often the dumpster raids also included clandestine exploration of the skeletal frames of houses after hours when the workers had left for the day. Climbing in through the sunken basement windows. Climbing up the skeletal stairs. Walking through skeletal walls. Climbing on skeletal beams. And carefully walking over skeletal floors.

We could do it. We could build our own private skate park out here in this field. Sun pouring down. Browned yellowed dead corn stalks. Blue blue sky. Possibility in the air. Dreams dreamed. A shared fantasy. The sound of skateboard wheels on cement on wood in our minds. We could do it. But we didn’t.

apartment tour

this is the first draft of the beginning to the 2216 section in flotation device 12. i wanted to take the reader on a tour of the apartment. when i finished writing and read it, i thought the pacing was too slow. so here you have it in all of its fascinating first draft glory. see for yrself, the miracle of rewriting! please have patience with this one, it is epic.

I lived here for four years. Longer than I’d lived in any one place in my entire life. Growing up my parents moved us from house to house every three years with great regularity. We only lived in three towns, but we lived in four houses in Woodstock and they’ve moved two times since I moved out. So 2216 was where I lived the longest.

I lived here for four years.

XXXXX was the one that found it. We had moved out from Woodstock together a year previous. He had been living in the dorms at UIC and I had been living back at home commuting to Columbia College a few times a week. Sometimes less when I could stay with my friend Nate and his girlfriend Ally.

XXXXX and I first moved into a two bedroom in Uptown at the corner of Leland and Dover. It was a nice place, probably too nice for us. We were 19 or so. We were loudish playing guitars through amps and moog keyboards as well. Making noise together and recording it onto four track tape. XXXXX had a few parties with some theater type kids from UIC. We got some complaints from neighbors who didn’t complain to us directly, but instead went to our management company. The management company then called us with the complaints. After the second we decided to move before we got kicked out. We lasted six months in that building. So we found a small two bedroom in Lincoln Square on Claremont just north of Welles Park. We lived there for six months before XXXXX got antsy and wanted out. I said, fine but I’m not looking cuz we just moved in. so XXXXX found this three bedroom on Wilson, two blocks away.

Brownstone two flat half a block east of Lincoln and half a block west of Leavitt. Up a flight of stairs that run to the right, at the top, the landing. Two bikes there on the landing. Jeff’s and mine. Open the door. The dining room. Chandelier. A table across the way with a lamp, a phone, a two foot statue of an 18th century Irish potato picker – head wrapped in rubber bands taken from the stacks of junk mail. Mail piled and strewn at his feet. A hammock to the right precariously hung form the ceiling . Did anyone sit in it? Someone did and it fell with a crash. A love seat on the north wall, covered in bags and backpacks.

I sat on that love seat feeling depressed crushed and beaten the night I was removed from PAL. I had told them I was going to Mexico in the fall and that I would be quitting Chicago Comics as well. Instead of practice that night we just ate noodles with red rocket sauce from Hi Ricky’s next door to Quimby’s where we practiced two nights a week after they closed. It was decided that if I wasn’t going to be in the band in fall, I should just be out so they could restructure. We played our remaining scheduled shows. My last in Chicago happened the day after we started the second war in Iraq. I announced all of my songs as “Shock and Awe.” The last show I played with PAL was in Beloit at C-Haus and they arranged for me to get flowers on stage. I was touched and felt pretty emotional. So after our last song, Tim’s rave up rocker, Liberate Me, they picked me up and dropped me into Billy’s drums. I still have the flowers dried and in a box on my radiator in my living room. I was out of PAL.

I sat on the striped love seat in the dining room under the dimmed chandelier light not knowing how to feel that night after HI Ricky when I was removed and felt dazed. Not moving sitting in silence until Jeff came home.

What’s wrong?

I’m out of PAL. I said. I felt like I had been dumped.

To the right of the front door the dining room opened into the living room where we spent most of our time. A long couch that had been in my parents family room on the east wall – amazingly comfortable and highly conducive to napping or falling asleep at night watching movies. A love seat that was my friend’s parents’ and had been in their basement family room when he and I were young. A chair that Jeff had brought with him. On the west wall was the hifi cabinet that had been my grandpa’s then my uncles and then mine. On it was the tv. In it were speakers and a stereo a turntable a cd player a dvd player and an N64, a game cube and eventually an Xbox. Another chandelier lit the room and one night when Jeff and I had been playing video games we heard Jody and Mike coming home thumping upstairs. We stopped looked at each other and said, hide! I quickly dove behind the love seat in front of the windows and left my legs sticking straight up in the air effectively hiding only my waist to my head. My legs waving in the air. Jeff attempted to hide somewhere else equally ridiculous. As I was upside down and behind the love seat I had no idea where he went. Jody and Mike walked in and Jody laughed. You guys.

For a while Jeff’s and my favorite thing to do was to put a random object on the sidewalk in front of the house and then watch from the windows while carefully hidden to see what people would do. Our favorite object was an old lampshade and we’d shake with suppressed laughter when someone would stop and set it on the bushes or move it off the sidewalk or stop and look up to our windows or walk around it. We thought we were hilarious.

Off of the living room was a small half bedroom that originally was a storage room for unused things, then it was Jody’s room for a few months before she went back to Pennsylvania, but before she was officially living with us. She stayed with us after her lease ended but before Columbia’s semester was over. Then after XXXXX announced he was moving to NYC, Jeff and I invited her back and she would take XXXXX’s room. She ended up living in that small room again when XXXXX didn’t end up moving to NYC but took a couple months to move out to Ukrainian Village. There was enough room for her mattress and some bags. I would sit in there and talk to her about the troubles of my early twenties love life and the woes of my then relationship. I was thankful to have a girl to be talking to.

When XXXXX moved out and Jody moved into his room. Jeff and I turned it into our little music room. A four track. Our guitars and amps. A stereo. A snare drum. Keyboards. A desk. A chair. Lots of blank type II cassette tapes. A closet filled with Jody’s clothes. Jeff hung ridiculous pinups from Playboy and in celebration of our triumph we hung a Jim Morrison banner on the side of the door that faced the living room. So everyone would know that that room was for musical genius.

There was a window in that room. We could open it and climb out onto the roof of the little front porch. Jeff and I wanted to use his massive slingshot to launch garbage at the Starbucks that had opened up down the street at the corner of Lincoln and Wilson – replacing a laundromat that had free laundry one day a week where homeless people washed their clothes. We never did. M and I stood out there one New Year’s Eve when it was turning into 2000 and watched people stumble down the street and fireworks off over the lake.

My room was off the dining room next to the front door. Somehow I manged to get my entire life into that room. A futon. Boxes of magazines to cut up underneath the futon. All of my cds and records. My desk where I wrote. A stereo on a milk crate. Speakers on top of it. A turntable. A light from the ceiling with a pull string switch that I extended with string and action figures and chotchkes that I ended up with so that I could pull the string while under the covers in bed. The window sill was my nightstand. A dresser in the closet with a bookshelf on it and shelves higher up with more magazines to cut up boxes of zines and pictures. My computer on a table also in the closet. I went in there leaned my back on a pillow against the side of the dresser. Clothes hung above the monitor. Typing up my homework, my stories for fiction writing, my papers, my finals, my zines.

At one point I had two bookshelves in my bedroom against the walls somehow. But I can’t remember how I had it arranged. Somehow everything was in there. I eventually moved a bookshelf out into the dining room and put all my comics on it. This was when XXXXX left, taking his two cats that liked to destroy.

The hallway ran north. It was dark. The bathroom was on the left side. Large with an old bathtub. Monochromatic tile pattern on the floor. The tiny tiles that formed floral shapes. Larger tiles ran halfway up the wall continuing the monochromatic scheme. A glass and wicker coffee table in the corner with a stereo on it and magazines on the shelf below. Tape Op. Playboy. Rolling Stone. Perfect 10. Punk Planet. A box of make up and other feminine products next to the stereo. The bathtub that I plunged every few months to keep it draining properly. The sink that twice was mysteriously clogged and twice needed a plumber to come and fix it. Once a toothpaste cap was the culprit. He glared at me as he held it between his fingers.

Did you know about this?


Are you sure?

He was convinced I had done it. I had no idea who had done it. I just walked away.

Jeff’s room was across from the bathroom. It was the smallest room but he never seemed to mind. Going in there was always like invading someone’s church. It felt wrong. I only went in there occasionally to borrow a cd or something. Almost always he was there. Once or twice, when I was desperate, I took change from his change jar for the train.

The hallway opened into the kitchen. Large. Table in the center with chairs around it – almost always covered with junk mail or school papers or back packs. An extension of the bedroom. No counters no cabinets a fridge and stove. A dishwasher and a large pantry. Before Jody moved in, the kitchen was generally ground zero for the passive aggressive warfare that raged for the last few months of XXXXX’s stay with us. Cat litter on the floor. Garbage piling up. Puke in the sink. Food hidden away with signs. Dust and dirt piles swept into his room. Dishes placed on his bed.

Our revenge was ill-tempered. Annoying. Ineffective. And it felt amazing. XXXXX’s room was off of the kitchen. It was painted orange like sherbet. It had no closets but was immense. After XXXXX left, it became Jody’s room and the warfare subsided.

There was an enclosed porch off of the kitchen. Two chairs and an end table in between them. Some candles. A cribbage board. A deck of cards. Jeff and I loved to throw stuff out the back window. Things we were getting rid of. An old broken stereo. An old broken turntable. Magazines. Things that were headed out to the trash in the alley. Of course we picked the scattered bits and remains up from the yard.

The apartment was wrapped in dark wood paneling that ran from matching hardwood floors to a foot from the ceiling. The wood paneling ran from the living room and dining room through the hallway into the kitchen and out into the back porch. We all felt like we lived in a warm cabin up in the north woods of Wisconsin. It felt like that. It felt warm and safe and like permanent vacation surrounded by tall old dark trees.


i wrote this right before i got off my ass and finished writing flotation device 12. i guess it helped motivate.


I need to demystify my writing process. I used to treat it like this divine sort of act. Invoking the writing spirits the mystic rulers of word rhythm the secret gods of sentence structure. I would reverentially play amazing music – depending on the phase of my life I was in. Different types of music were more spiritual at different times. For a while it was punk rock and for a while it was electronic and for a while it was experimental and for a while now it has been jazz. Punk generally meant dead kennedys. Electronic generally meant aphex twin. Experimental meant sonic youth and jazz meant fucking jazz. Of course I still listen to all of these things – especially jazz and in particular free jazz.

But I need to take my process off of the pedestal I put it on when I was 20. When I was writing my stories for fiction writing at Columbia. When I was writing late into the night into the early morning listening to amazing music in the glow of my little lamp. Warm and magic. That was when it was easy and words flowed and text fell out onto the paper of notebooks I didn’t have to much think about it.

That’s when I turned my writing into this lofty exercise this magical event that I could only perform under certain and ideal conditions. It worked for a while but then life happens and living situations change and you grow up a bit. But my thoughts about my writing stayed the same. I waited for mood to hit me for certain times of day for certain lighting for certain social arrangements for certain everything. And I stopped writing. It was too much. The circumstances were never right. I rarely wrote for three years – a long time when you consider yrself a writer. Painful and depressing and always in the back of yr head. In the back of my head.

I had grown and life had changed but my conception of writing and my process hadn’t. It was still back there where I left it. It was still in my room in my apartment at 2216 w Wilson. It was still there with me at 20 listening to xx play video games and cats meowing and xx slurring and xx fucking and amazing music in a warm glow at my desk at 2 in the morning feeling alive and magical. Magic. Magic. Spirit. Spirit. Invoke. Invoke. And the pedestal kept growing year after year. It got taller and taller rose higher and higher in the sky and it disappeared in the clouds and I thought that only on certain occasions at certain times of day in the right light with the right music could I touch it again, that magic glow on the pedestal in the clouds. And then I felt like I couldn’t do it at all.

How powerful the mind is. How amazing it is. How wonderful it is at convincing us that things are impossible and that an easier way should be sought after and found. What a son of a bitch the mind is. Telling us it’s easier to not do anything rather than work at something we enjoy so much. What a motherfucker.

I lived with my process existing on that fucking pedestal for 8 years the first half of which worked great, the last 4 didn’t work at all. And it’s only been in the past few months that I even saw the fucking pedestal at all. I kept blaming circumstances and far from ideal or sometimes just slightly unideal conditions.

But writing is writing and it’s not a spiritual act or magical. It just is what it is. Sometimes it comes easily sometimes it’s hard as shit but I have to just do it. I’m not a great writer. I’ll never be remembered as being amazing. Fuck, I’ll never be remembered. Everyone I read humbles me. Their words and grammar and sentence construction and narrative structure. They are amazing and I’m okay. I’m alright. And that’s fine. I’ll keep writing what I write, documenting what I can how I can. But my shit doesn’t have to be magical and it doesn’t come from some fucking magical place that I invented when I was young. It just comes from me and my voice and my brain. It is what it is. And I can fucking do that whenever or wherever I want. If it’s something I need to work on fine. If it’s difficult I just need to do it. I need to work through the difficult times. It’s a discipline. It’s work and I should treat it as such. It’s a mundane action and I just need to keep practicing.


here’s one in case you were wondering what happens when that keith guy doesn’t get any sleep. as i get older this becomes more and more of a problem the later i stay up. i just can’t rock a late night like i used to. so earlier and earlier to bed and earlier earlier to rise. which is cool. just stay productive. you can’t fight the seether. you know? this was originally going to go in flotation device 12, but it didn’t make the cut.


Albert Ayler on the stereo. Prophecy. Bells. Ghosts. Last of the summer night time cool air fall on the breeze the wind in my face as I ride wanting school to be done again so I can get back to normal season feeling. I like fall. I hate the feeling of slow sink dread that comes on as summer ends and classes start again. Overcast right now. Clouds. Gray. Humid.

Teaching english standing in front of a class under neon lights dry erase markers. When did this happen?

Trees. Israel. Current events. Fuck. Sleepless nights.

I’ve taken to not sleeping one night every other month or so. I’ll lay down in bed shut my eyes and my brain rebels. It keeps going. I can just feel it not let go of whatever is going on. It won’t let go of the day. It won’t let go of events of thoughts of consciousness of thinking of music of breathing of stress of sounds of awareness that I’m not sleeping of anything. It just goes and I lay there. The glow from the power light on my computer illuminating the bedroom in its blue brilliance as my eyes adjust to the dark. I listen try to focus on something the fan the night outside the refrigerator the house settling. I try counting slowly stretching out each number for seconds elongating the sound of it in my mind. Oooooooonnnnneeeeee ttttttwwwwwoooooo ttttthhhhhrrrrreeeeee I get to twenty before I forget what I was doing and start thinking again. Thinking thinking. Try not to think about why I can’t sleep. Try not to obsess about it and for fuck’s sake don’t’ look at the goddamn clock. Never look at it. Do I still have sleep meds. My nighttime pills that I’m supposed to take when this happens. no. lay awake in bed. Eyes open. Just relax. Let the dreams start to happen. Just drift away shut yr eyes and.

Ow. Eyes open.

Twinge of nausea. Fuck. I guess it’s that time. Go to the bathroom turn on the light blazing brilliance piercing the back of my skull searing my pupils. Turn on the radio. NPR. Safe jazz all night til five am. That’s still a few hours away. Shit my guts out. Read harpers. Listen to safe jazz. Go back to bed. Shut my eyes twinge of nausea. Fight it for a while but every time I start to drift off. Every single time. I start to fall asleep I awake with a start. Oh fuck. Back to the bathroom for more safe jazz more harpers and more shit my guts out. Brilliant blindness of blazing bathroom light.




At some point I give up move to the couch and read a dull book. Something that won’t take my attention. Something like Race and Reunion – the Civil War in American History. Something in Spanish like El Muerte de Artemio Cruz. Something that’s guaranteed to knock my shit out. Lay on the couch with soft lamplight illuminating the quiet room. And wouldn’t you know it. My dull book happens to be quite the pot boiler page turner and I’m enthralled by how the south carefully constructed their own version of history and foisted it on the rest of the country. Oh. Back to the bathroom. My brain is totally awake, but my body is falling apart. Too bad I can’t be productive. Too bad I can’t write or be comfortable while not sleeping. Too bad I get the dry heaves and shit my guts out cuz I could put a few spare hours to good use. But instead my body goes crazy and I feel totally incoherent. Is it five yet? Five o clock and I can watch the morning news sitting in my rocking chair watching the traffic and weather repeated every five minutes. I finally pass out when the sun starts to come up the sky gets lighter and I fall asleep around six or seven and sleep until ten.