Finally made the cover of the Reader after eight or nine years of contributing. It was a nice surprise. A few people texted and emailed congratulations. Good to know the print version still matters a little—the cover, at least.
I went to see Brokeback play at the Bottle a couple weeks ago and had a nice conversation with Doug McCombs. I’ve drawn Doug dozens of times because he’s played in so many great bands in Chicago but we’ve rarely talked until the last few years. My enduring memory of him is from sometime in the late ’90s at Leo’s Lunchroom: the two of us the only customers in the place not even acknowledging one another’s presence. There was never any hostility or anything like that; just two shy, taciturn guys keeping to themselves. So it was nice to just shoot the shit with him the other night. Brokeback is a great band too, go check ’em out.
I don’t know Marc Ribot but I’ve loved his guitar-playing since at least Tom Waits’ Raindogs. One of my favorite times seeing him was at Constellation a couple years back. He played solo soundtracks to a bunch of short films projected over his head. Last Tuesday he was at the Old Town School of Folk Music to play in a duo with David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. In between one of the numbers he casually mentioned being so down lately that he was barely leaving his house. He didn’t say why but it could’ve been brought on by reading a newspaper any day over the last couple years. It’s a struggle for a lot of us and it made me worry for Ribot. It bothered me enough that I emailed someone I thought might know him to see if he was truly in a bad way.
I’ve been reading Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke off and on for over a year. I picked it up shortly after his passing when it occurred to me I’d only read Jesus’ Son up to that point. Tree of Smoke is a very good book but so heavy and so like the news these days that a couple days ago I finally just threw in the towel and left it at the coffee shop for someone else to wrestle with. It was like having a boulder lifted from my neck. That night I picked up my friend John Hodgman’s Vacationland. I read it over the next two days with great pleasure. I think it’s the best thing he’s done so far.