I had my last drawing class and did my last Sunday shift at the bar the same week. I’ve been spending more and more time at the bookstore, so something had to give. It’s sort of an embarrassment of riches but too much is too much.

The story of my life is the search for balance between paid jobs and real work (which is often unpaid or virtually so). The art and writing (including this letter you’re reading) is difficult to price. I’ve tried and failed repeatedly. It always feels too much and not enough.

All the time I’ve spent packing and shelving books lately may finally break me of wanting to publish any more books. Maybe there are enough already. Yet, every day, people come through the front door to bring us boxes and bags full of paperbacks and hardcovers to free room in their basements and garages. They empty out their dead relatives’ shelves. Forests have been felled for these things that are so quickly forgotten. I think about that as I go up with full stacks of milk crates and back down with empty ones.

It took most of a week to recreate the Mystery section in the new space. It’s still mostly wide open but won’t stay so for long. In a month or so 60,000 books will have made the move from 3324 to 3326 South Halsted.

I’m not a big planner but rearranging the shape of my days this way gives me an inkling of the path forward. I could see going to the bookstore most days to see what needs doing and getting my own stuff done around the margins of that. I used to drive a cab 80 hours a week and still painted a lot, so time management isn’t a problem.

I get to stay in the neighborhood which is a big plus. I have little use for the North Side for the most part. Wicker Park to me is the Rainbo Club, Myopic Books, then mostly sports bars & strollers. Maybe I’ll like the neighborhood better when I go there less often.

I asked my students on the last day of class if they got anything out of drawing a person once a week for a couple hours and many answered that they did. They found it relaxing. A reprieve from the high expectations of the rest of their course load. That was gratifying to hear. I guess I did what I set out to do there. It’s so the opposite of my relationship with drawing. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

It’s not a reprieve in any way, yet I can’t imagine doing anything else.

“If birds couldnt fly they wouldnt sing” writes Cormac McCarthy in Stella Maris. I listened to it on audiobook part of my drive east. It surprised the hell out of me. I tried reading The Passenger and barely made it 30 pages. McCarthy is really important to me, especially Suttree, but The Passenger felt like a caricature of his worst overwrought, over-stylized tendencies. Stella Maris is completely different. Basically a monologue told from a female point of view, it’s stripped of all his tropes and tells its sad story more or less straight.

There’s a connection to Labatut’s The Maniac in the Atomic bomb/mathematics theme and not a single mute cowboy killer to be found. There are references to The Passenger but I probably won’t try to go back and read that because it might ruin the good memory of Stella. It’s quite a note to go out on. A left turn in the best way.

I updated my resume. Got a few pieces in a group show that opens Saturday night in Beverly.

RIP Steve Albini.