Notebook

A collection of sketches, essays, and broadsides from the past decade, written into a notebook with a .5mm pen. Some of these are fodder for real or fantasized books. Others are outlines and citations that have worked their way into my teaching. Some are mere exercises, evidence of struggling to understand our strange world. I hope any of these selections will be worth your time.

Notes

The Greatest Show on Earth

An excerpt from my novel.

Big City Romance

I stand on a busy corner waiting for her to arrive.

Big American Digest

Published monthly.

Hell

This is strange terrain.

Comfort

An old Zenith plays over the bar in the Comfort Lounge.

Americana

Somewhere in Philadelphia.

Silence & Stars

I watched the sun bleed over the mountains and experienced a magnificent panic attack.

Cotton Gin Catfish

Somewhere in Mississippi.

Hannity Crying into a Towel

He has a ritual.

Welcome, Race Fans

He pointed his little grey car southeast.

Man at the Mall

Everything looked like science fiction these days.

The Desert Sea

A short story about a man.

A Chair for Meditation

On the edge of the Salton Sea.

Televised Memories

I sit alone in a high chair in front of a small Zenith television.

Brighter Than the Sun

He began working the county fair circuit, selling little bags of black fur that he claimed belonged to the alien’s large black dog.

We’ll Keep the Light on for You

Somewhere on the edge of the desert.

The Bureau of Manufactured History

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” wrote Albert Camus.

The Last Free Place

The name demands attention: Slab City. Such tough and cryptic cadence that sounds like the stuff of underground pulp and purple noir.

Oklahoma Meditation

Ruminating in a parking lot.

Dehydrated

A jittery man with long blonde hair and an extra-large leather jacket warns me about the desert. “When you go out there, don’t listen to anybody who dares you to walk into the desert.”

Ode to Miss Lonelyhearts

Jimmy Stewart’s up there, judging you.

Rainy Night at Tokyo-Narita

Strings of sodium lights burn in the rainy Tokyo night.

The Human Condition

I was probably in second grade when I first became self-aware. No, it wasn’t painful, just surprising to suddenly find myself outside of my self, watching myself and wondering why I did the things I did. Eating orange popsicles until I was ill.

Lashing & Hunkering

The meteorologists were flushed with excitement. They wanted the storm to hit and they wanted it to hit big. Chipper women with electric lipstick fanned their painted nails across the cyclone’s projected path…

Waterway

On a Sunday morning my father and I put his little skiff into the water, wondering if we could make it to the Gulf.

Brand New

She’s got a supervisor with a big Steak ‘n Shake logo running up his forearm.

Chaos is Your New Lady

Love among the ruins.

Tapped Out

As I watched the old woman twitch in front of the bulletproof glass, I saw Ernest Hemingway walking into an airplane propeller.

Thunderbird

A big old Thunderbird pulls up to the curb blasting Curtis Mayfield.

The Line is Hot

“Always remember that you own the bullet. Wherever it goes, whoever it hurts, you own it.”

Theorist

We did not land on the moon. 9/11 was an inside job. Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to be bombed. In 1954, the government purchased child-size coffins to store the aliens that crashed at Roswell.

Landing

They climbed for hours because there were no roads, choking on dust and hauling bags loaded with equipment. Klieg lights, tarps, helmets, a strange inflatable vehicle. When they reached the top, the commanding officer put the Rolleiflex on the tripod and said, One picture before we clear the set. The lieutenant and private grinned next […]

Impulse

In the morning I found a note to myself: “Go to Chick-Fil-A, then buy a weight set. Be more alpha.”

A Speech about Driving

Public speaking is the number one fear of American adults. Although I enjoy teaching and public arguments, the idea of standing on a stage and delivering a speech fills me with shimmery panic.

Something Bad Happened by the Lake

They wouldn’t talk about it.

Tell Me, Holy Roller

There are nights when I listen to “Jesus Children of America” for hours.

Carhenge

A half-buried car sits on a hill, its face pointed into the sky. This is where the American landscape reaches its logical conclusion: eerie monuments built from the machines that shaped our nation.

You Never Sausage a Place

Somtheeng Dee’frent! South of the Border. 26 miles. Keep Yelling Kids, They’ll Stop. Pedro’s Weather Report: Chilly Today, Hot Tamale! 21 miles. Too Moch Tequila! South of the Border.

Notes from the Boom

“It gets so dusty you can hardly see my knives.”

Slipping Inside

He remained convinced that he was a Martian until 1982.

Mental Exile

This election has been going on for thirty-two years.

"More than mere art"

When society is dissolving, the best one can do is help it crumble.

The Way We Understand Cities

“The Walkman changed the way we understand cities.”

Messenger

His perfect black tie, the way he clutches his sticks and roars.

A Big Cross

A few moments beneath a gigantic cross in Kentucky, followed by several weeks of thinking about faith.

Happy Holidays

“And I’ll be grooving at Christmastime.”

Saturday Night Song

Sometimes we’re hit with the desire to write a sentence or make a sound that captures everything at once, the traffic lights and grand dramas playing across the city tonight…

Long Night

America should spend these long autumn nights doing some soul searching.

On Black & White

“He understood for the first time that black-and-white was the only true medium for film as an idea, film in the mind.”

Lost & Found

Digging through a box of my grandfather’s things, I found this blade. The sheath says 30 cents. Made in USA. For a moment I thought about walking the streets with it and tracking down the kids who stole my bike the other day.

Sunday Afternoon in Cairo

At the bottom tip of Illinois where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, there’s an empty town called Cairo.

A Eulogy for My Grandfather

He was 88 years old and we shared the same name.

Intermission

10,083 miles later and the book tour is done.

Book Tour

In North Carolina, a man asked if I agree that America is blessed. In Michigan, a man spoke of an alternate nation of people living off the grid. In Minneapolis, an older woman quietly told me that she, too, was an only child.

Border Inspection

Men with guns.

A Story about Me and My Mom

I do not know how to mark this day.

Florida to Georgia

Riding through the back of northwest Florida, I speed past exploding swamps and palm trees that look obscene in the Saturday heat. A big sign with haunted house lettering asks, “Are you afraid of your energy bill?”

Start

I’ve got butterflies while I zip up my suitcase and look for my keys.

Late Night Melancholic Fireball Music

Sometimes I want to light up a cigarette in the middle of a crowded movie theater.

Big American Auto Tour

Asheville, Brooklyn, Cambridge, Denver, Seattle, Pasadena, Salt Lake City…

Blackjack Memories on a Saturday Night

A cigarette bobs on his lip as he punches in “Funnel of Love” again.

Notes on Death Wish

I wasn’t prepared for such an angry thread of social commentary.

Birthday

Come here and give me a hug.

Commercial Interruption

I made a commercial for my book…

A Lot of Gold, A Lot of Soul…

Heat lightning flashes across the sky tonight. From somewhere down the block, a radio plays an old deep soul record. Listen…

My Fear of Flying and the Rapture

Save the date! Return of Christ is May 21, 2011.

Hot-Blooded Young Blades

Wounded pride and 1980s action films, angry parents and nostalgia.

Point & Shoot

“As authorities in Florida try to make taking photos of farms illegal, James A. Reeves traces the law’s Red Scare roots and offers some legal tips.”

Punching Bag

I’ve started hitting the punching bag harder and more often.

Mardi Gras

If you stepped outside even for a minute, you ended up in a parade. So I ran home and put on my most colorful grey suit.

Ragtime Terror

“Its victims, in my opinion, can be treated successfully only like the dog with rabies, with a dose of lead.”

Fucking Ronald Reagan and Crashing JFK

“In assembly-kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection.”

Lawyer College Update

I’m beginning to make my peace with the fact that, for me, law school has been an elaborate writing workshop and psychotherapy session.

Krewe du Vieux

Krewe du Vieux taught me about the strange heat of crowds and the barriers that crumble when everybody crams together in the streets to play dress-up with a backbeat.

High Rise Technology

“This was the sort of resident who was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbors to make a mistake.”

Gas Station Blues

I worked the late shift at a gas station. This was back in the blurry years between 96 and 99. There was a nightly AA meeting around the corner.

A Machine to Make the Machine

“A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Rightly so…”

Prada Marfa

“But now these towns are so damned broke that they’re turning off the street lights at 9pm.”

Lagniappe

To keep up morale, I gave out high-fives and granola bars. And lots of star stickers.

Florida Motel

I kicked at the gravel and snapped some photographs.

"Heat of Passion"

The law’s bestial view of the American man is disturbing.

Quiet Town

Overheard on the edge of the Mojave.

Snow

At night you can’t see a thing in the desert, but you can sense them hulking out there on the horizon, pitched forward and waiting for something to happen.

Motorways

Norman Bel Geddes designed costumes for operas, directed a Broadway ice show, and managed an industrial design studio where he manufactured cocktail shakers and computer casings. He also changed America’s landscape forever. In 1939, he designed GM’s iconic Futurama exhibit for the New York World’s Fair, an exhibit credited with convincing American taxpayers to foot the […]

Solo

Live on the beach. Except even that gets political, they said.

A Strange Melodious Light

A man slams on the brakes because he sees a UFO in the sky.

Faith

I worry that faith is a form of denial.

Shoot or Prosecute?

A nice snapshot of two different perspectives on property defense in America.

Best Comment Award

There’s a man out there who is searching for apocalyptic patterns in the names of comic book characters…

Highway Landing

Someday I’d like to see a Boeing 747 land on I-10 just for the hell of it.

Postcard from the Texas Coast

I live in a beautiful nation of car dealerships and panic attacks.

Radioland

In 1946, the “Atomic Boogie Hour” debuted on AM 1400, serving the latest jive, jam boogie woogie, and jump blues to residents of Alabama.

The Lordsburg Killings

While searching for the spot in New Mexico where I ran out of gas, I stumbled across a murder at an internment camp.

On Beauty

Yea, ya simply beautiful. Yeah, yeah, beautiful, yeah. When you get right down to it. Oh, mmh-hmm. Oh, ho, huh. Oh, ho, ho, huh. Mmh-hmm, hmm, hmm. Mmmmmmmmh-hmmmm! Ay, hey, baby!

Meeting Elvis

A visit to Graceland

Babushka Lady

She’s the unknown woman who filmed the murder of a president.

My Bookcase

This is my new bookcase. I get misty-eyed when I look at it.

Notes on Checkpoint Charlie

A giant photograph of a soldier looming over an intersection. A booth with sandbags. I ate lunch at a sushi restaurant around the corner.

Seventeen Notes on the Stasi Remand Prison

“You smell that? That’s the linoleum glue.” Our tour guide flashed a dark grin. “That’s the smell of East Germany.”

My Last Good Idea

You can probably imagine the music videos and concerts: glitter and strobe lights, endless drum solos, lots of orbiting…

The World's Largest Food Distribution Center

Meat Innovations. Mobile Redemption Center.

Mix No. 13: Music for Night Running

I fucking love reverb in my headphones.

Writing About Katrina

Hatchet holes in rooftops. Rows of abandoned refrigerators. Crying jags. The reappearance of the first working stoplight. Defiant barbecues. Notes on 1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Electric Narcokleptocracy

Manuel Noriega was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 until 1989, when the United States invaded Panama and removed him from power.

A Very Short Story About Love

“I would never cheat on you,” he said.

A Very Short Story About Killing

“I have an idea,” she would say. “Let’s all play a dangerous game.”

Classics Rescreened

“…a hotel management course on the pitfalls and satisfactions of overseas nightclub operation…”

Sketchy Motel Interlude

Self-Portrait in Bad Motel Lighting With Ceiling Mirror, 2010

Notes from an Interview for a Production Artist Position

I want to be a good worker.

My Handwriting is Sh*t

My notebook bursts with page after page of choppy, bunched up scribblings that I can barely decipher. It’s the demented book that the detectives uncover while searching the serial killer’s house.

Field Notes from a First Grade Classroom

They gather on the dirty carpet. They smell like Velveeta. Lindsay announces that she has a bleeding tooth, which sends shockwaves through the class. Sympathy flows. The children take turns recounting their own dental war stories

Crank

Pictures of people with no teeth and liquid skin on billboards. Horrifying batshit crimes in the local paper.

Basic

Eighteen minutes of the most emotional frozen robot crying head-rush music ever recorded.

Vinyl

I’m falling hard again for the gatefold sleeve, the dusty touch, the hiss and pop.

Tickets

Tonight I’m trying to make my peace with two stiff tickets, still stunned into disbelief because I’m a fantastic driver.

My Exuberant Email Syntax

Sometimes I write emails that freak me out…

Dakota Wreck

Somewhere in the middle of the night in America, I sit in my blue rental car in a 24-hour fast food parking lot.

For the Record

At the bottom of a busted shoebox I found an old yellow clipping from a local newspaper in Flint, Michigan.

Kraftwerk in Helsinki

It’s easy to forget how many perfect moments they’ve created: Man-Machine. Tour de France. Numbers. Computer World. The Model. Neon Lights. Autobahn. Trans-Europe Express…

Live from Helsinki

I had the opportunity to play some of my favorite songs very loud and show some photographs from America. I had a ball. Thanks to the encouraging people who danced around and whistled and waved. Here’s a recording of the evening’s set.

American Moment

A few old bomb casings and rusted fuselages sit in his backyard which is an endless desert thundering out towards the Sierra Nevada range.

Nomenclature

“Elephant feet,” said the old lady selling turquoise jewelry from a chewed-up blanket on the other side of the road in the Sonoran Desert.

Things You Can Kill on the Road (and Vice Versa)

A brief inventory of the things that I’ve killed over the course of 22,315 miles and the things that have almost killed me.

On the Beach

Something peculiar happened on this beach in April 1970.

30 Hours in Estonia

Here’s the real thing and yet it looks like a movie set.

Distress Signals

You or Queenie better come home Mother has the grippe.

Good Drum Time

A couple of drum tracks from around the globe.

Machine Dream

I have a techno-thriller dream yet the gadgets are from the 1950s – why?

American Cure

When Obama is sworn in on Tuesday, I expect a lot from him. Everybody does.

Strange Men in the Bathroom

There are strange men in the bathroom of my office building.

Mix No. 5: Flags & Fireworks

92 minutes of big techno fun, starring Maurizio, DBX, Pan-Pot, and Reinhard Voigt. Recorded during a late-night set on July 4 at Supreme Trading in Brooklyn.

Mermaid Parade

A crush of sequins, rubber, heavy makeup, and skin marches down Surf Avenue, and thousands of New Yorkers climb over each other to get a better look

Mix No. 4: Rocket City

I was invited to put together a mix for Cut & Mistake, which is flattering because they’re doing some terrific things to improve NYC’s techno landscape.

Anatomy of a Speeding Ticket

Pennsylvania has tacked on a bunch of pork to feed its state machinery.

Detroit All-City Classic

An all-Detroit mix that I recorded for American Apparel’s Viva-Radio.

Waffle House, Parts 1 & 2

A Waffle House on Truck Stop Road, somewhere near exit 100. I ordered the Grilled Texas Bacon Egg & Cheese Melt Plate.

Atlantic City to Arkansas

A girl in a dirty tracksuit sits bunched up with a sign against her knees.

Mix No. 2: Téléférique & Autostrada

I’m mixing tracks in France and somebody gives me the finger when the sound cuts out.

Il Déchire Grave

Those French alpine villages are so cute and photogenic, you want to pinch their cheeks. Brooks and bleached yellow brick and spiderwebbed streets. Retro cable cars and majestic slopes and purple skies. This is the stuff of jigsaw puzzles and inspirational calendars. Paunchy men in berets stand in the crosswalk with big sticks of french […]

Bikini Bull Riding

A melancholy Vegas after you lose all your money and fall asleep at a floor show.

Nothing But Drums

Reading and listening in a chair in Brooklyn.

Adult Matters

A music note from Detroit.

Giraffe, Part 3

Giraffe and Lucy loved each other loud and hard. They annoyed everybody with their love. When the rest of the dinner party had drifted into silence, each guest working hard to pick up a thread that might keep the evening going, the two of them would just gape at each other, making goofy faces, happy […]

After Burner

Houston Street New York is such a well-documented city. People point cameras at every street corner, at the tops of buildings, at each other. Fifty people and a buffet table surround the filming of a Law & Order triple-homicide investigation outside a Chinese grocery. A few art students are staging something on the steps of […]

Western Electric

The TV says “the outfit should have its own point of view.”

Cigarettes, Their Role and Function

He said smokers know they need to smoke most when they are under strain or working against time.

Puerto Rico, Part I

San Juan is a riot of color. The contrast is higher here.

Haphazard

The client wants to add a sexy lady to the design. I tell them that sexy ladies are a last resort, but nobody listens. Sexy ladies are band-aids, but they insist. I want to take my ball and go home, but it’s too late. Hands were shaken, checks have been cashed. Where the hell is […]