Sunday, December 31, 2006



Allie and I had a wedding shower in November.

We got lots of stuff.

One of the items in the kitty was the quesadilla make pictured above.

As we were packing up the car I looked at it and scoffed, "What are we going to do with a quesadilla maker." I thought it had garage sale written all over it.

Well, it's become my best friend. I've had quesadillas almost everyday. I've even gotten adventurous, making brie and smoked turkey quesadillas, goat cheese and calamata olive quesadillas. Below are pictures of blue cheese and pepperstea quesadillas and meatball quesadillas, which are my favorite so far.

Ham, cheese and pickle.

Blue cheese and peppersteak.




more info

For more information
about my book
- Cross-X -
please visit
the official website.

(But if you want to know more about me, feel free to stick around and read my blog.)

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Last night, my uncle told me that he and my other uncle have completely cleared my grandma's house out. He said it is now empty.

I've known that they were in the process of moving her things for a while now. She moved in to her new place a few weeks ago. And we've all had conversations about what a tough time this is. And I've tried to stay the unsentimental course. My message has been everything's temporary. And the pros of Grandma finally moving to Goshen -- cultural and spiritual center of Elkhart County -- far outweigh the cons.

But then I hear that her house is now completely empty and I feel as though I've been punched in the gut.

More than any other place, Grandma and Grandpa's house has been my home since the day I was born. I don't mean that as a slight against my mom or Bob or the Minichillos. But there's something about 125 Hollywood Avenue I've never found anywhere else.

You know that old meditation cliché, when they tell you to close your eyes and, go to that special, safe place? That's where I always went.

I suppose I could go on a long memory bender.

For some reason the first one that pops in my mind is the time I ate a pound of walnuts in front of the TV. I got a horrible stomach ache and I begged grandma to give me Alka Seltzer. But she accidently gave me Efferdent. Fearing she'd poisoned me, she tried to get me to let her stick her finger down my throat so I'd throw up. But I refused, and lived anyway.

Or when I called my grandpa's bluff. Whenever I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he always said, "A good boy." So one year I cut a bunch of pictures of good boys out of a magazine and gave them to him.

Or the tree house he built for me.


I could really go on and on, and on.

But the memory I always come back to is a summer when I was home from college. It was a perfect day and I was laying in the hammock with a book and some sweetened ice tea in one of those tall green glasses they used to have. I don't remember the book I was reading, only that it was one of those good ones you don't want to end. At the close of one of the chapters, I laid the book on my chest and looked up at the late afternoon sunlight sifting through the leaves of the old pin oak. Time was moving neither too slowly nor too fast. I was young and content that I was exactly where I needed to be.

I had several more moments like that over that summer, and a few times in my visits since. But gradually the pace of life has outclipped even the serenity of the granfolks' place. I've tried many, many times to bring that feeling back. Haven't succeeded yet.


It's 3:15 in the morning.

I awoke from a dream in which I saw my father again.

I was on my knees tending a garden at my grandmother's house. Except it wasn't his mom's house; it was my mom's mom's house. But my grandma (his mom) was inside. We were both waiting anxiously because we knew he was going to arrive. There was snow all around the exposed patch of earth that I was working.

Dad pulled into the driveway in his truck, the early-70s gold model. He glanced over at me and then stared at the steering wheel, obviously overcome with emotion.

I made my way to the car, feeling choked up, too, but also very excited and happy.

He got out of the truck. He acted a little slow and dazed, which seemed appropriate for a man who's been dead for 30 years. He looked good, though. Just like in the pictures.

Grandma rushed out of the house to greet him.

I can't remember what was said, or even if we embraced. I woke up before we could really get to talking.

It was a pleasant dream, if frustrating. It felt very real, but not real enough.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I wrote three sentences on Monday. I sent the sentences to Agent Lydia right away, fearing the worst. She said they were great. It was a major breakthrough.

I wrote another sentence today. And then I copied a paragraph from another document and pasted it on the end of that sentence.

Another breakthrough.

Not sure what's next. An outline, I suppose. Then I'll probably have to check in to the Motel 6 again, lock myself up, so to speak, and gitter dun!

This is how writing goes sometimes. Days and weeks of nothing, or what looks like nothing. Then a drip or two. Then, ahem, a flood.

Except it's not nothing in between. It's thinking as strenuous as weightlifting.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Allie told me about this site where you can answer a bunch of questions and it'll tell you where you ought to live. She did it and it told her to move to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which she found supremely disappointing.

I did it, and all the top pickswere in the South. A bunch of places I never really gave much thought to, with the top finisher being Norfolk, Virginia.

Allie and I have actually talked about Norfolk before. It's supposedly a vegan paradise, because PETA is based there. Looks pretty cool, actually.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

book meme

I've been tagged by Joel. I think I've done this one before.

Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz
"We look at the little pictures, He takes the big view." Another woman wailed, "I don't want to go to hell, Lord. It's hell here."

Which probably is as good a reason as any to apologize for my lack of posting here. A lot's been going on, most of it good. Plus it's the holidays. But the "lot," in general terms is:

*Getting ready for the wedding
*Reworking my proposal for book2
*Helping Ryan and Marshawna get ready for the big tourney at MBA
*Helping Mark Funkhouser get elected mayor

I'm home alone for the holidays right now, which is kind of weird. I've stayed behind while Allie is at home with her folks so I can stick around this church I'm writing about. I'm not sure who's in town for Christmas, but if you're here, drop me a line.

Some Sort of Bird
It Never Happened

(you know the old saying: "That family that blogs together...)

Monday, December 18, 2006

feel good

(I love the reporter's grasp at meaning at the end.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

person of the year

I've been named Person of the Year by TIme magazine.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

lil' jake's r.i.p.

I heard that the overlords of KC are going to condemn the best barbecue joint in the city and give the property to rich people.

I'm having lunch there tomorrow. So stay tuned for a full report.

But for, now, my Googling found doom foretold in a Star article published last year.
One well-known business that would be relocated should the development plan move forward is Lil' Jake's Eat It and Beat It, a popular 18-seat barbecue restaurant at 1227 Grand Blvd. [Jon] Copaken said there had been discussions with Danny Edwards, the owner, to try to find a suitable new downtown location.

"I love going to Lil' Jake's as well," Copaken said. "He is an institution downtown, and we want to find a way to satisfy him."

Suitable location?!

That's the reporter's words.


Seems to me Mr. Edwards already had a damn suitable location, one he snagged fair and square years before a bald developer with more money and more connections decided he wanted it for himself. But, of course, Kevin Collison is Copaken's unofficial stenographer. So to him, it seems, the word choice "suitable" is even-handed and accurate.

So now Mr. Edwards is -- indeed, we all are -- going to lose this venerable beacon of Kansas City culture to eminent domain. As if it's in the public's best interest to have a downtown "institution" swatted away so -- what? -- so a rich person can get richer, I suppose (but no less bald).

Seriously. I'm at a loss here. It's not like the joint is being demolished so we can have a highway we all need, or a light rail line. It's being shut down because someone with extreme privilege has decided they want it. And our ever compliant government shall make it so.

We're still living in America, right?

To think the liberals on the Supreme Court supported this crap.

You'd think we live in Zimbabwe or something. Like Robert Mugabe is running downtown.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

chicago tribune

Cross-X was named one of the best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

upside down world

It's interesting to read about the looming Supreme Court decision on school desegregation after having worked my way through Robert Caro's Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

That entire, massive book is about a Herculean push to pass the tiniest, nearly insignificant civil rights legislation in 1957. I was amazed at how well the system worked against such measures, how the powers that be would invariably interpret laws and procedures such that they'd benefit bigotted whites and oppress everyone else.

This recent deseg stuff is kind of similar. From the NYT:
Justice Stephen G. Breyer let his frustration show in several exchanges with Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who argued the Bush administration’s position as a “friend of the court” for the challengers and against the school systems in both cases.

“Think, go back to Cooper v. Aaron,” Justice Breyer told the solicitor general, referring during the argument in the Louisville case to the court’s 1958 decision enforcing a desegregation order in Little Rock, Ark. “Go back to the case where this court with paratroopers had to use tremendous means to get those children into the school. That’s because the society was divided.”

He continued: “Here we have a society, black and white, who elect school board members who together have voted to have this form of integration. Why, given that change in society, which is a good one, how can the Constitution be interpreted in a way that would require us, the judges, to go in and make them take the black children out of the school?”

“Well, I understand that, Justice Breyer,” Mr. Clement said. “But I think the answer to that is that the lesson of history in this area is that racial classifications are not ones where we should just let local school board officials do what they think is right.”

There's so much in that little exchange.

Back in LBJ's time, it was the cry for local and state rights that led the conservatives' charge against integration. Now it's the opposite. Now it's conservatives' arguing that the local governments can't be trusted to do what's right, lest they discriminate by integrating.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

end of the line

The tour is officially over. I've got a few appearances left, but it's not all tour like. They're just readings in places where I'll already be, like Kansas City and, um, Kansas City.

What a long, strange, fun, exhausting trip. Seems like a year ago since that first nervous reading in St. Louis. Now I'm sitting in the dinky Long Beach airport, after talking to a crowd of five at Eso Won Books in L.A., and selling all of two books, one of them to myself because I didn't have a freeby to give to my housing host.

But I've long since stopped caring about sales. The LA event was set up because I had planned to be here anyway, and the goal was to make a connection with the store's owner, which I did.

Yesterday I rented a bike at the Santa Monica Pier and rode it south past LAX and back. Then I went for a walk at sunset listening to Mile's Davis's In a Silient Way, the best beach-at-sunset album ever made. Today I drove the PCH from Laguna Beach to Long Beach, stopping at various state parks and walking the sand barefooted.

I hate to say it: I love Southern California.

It's like heaven on earth. Too bad it would be hell to live here.

Oh, what a drivellish blog entry this is. I've had so many I've wanted to write over the last several weeks. One about the night I sang a kareoke duet of "You Never Even Call Me By My Name" with an old black woman in an all black bar on the black side of Louisville. Or about Robert Caro's magnificent Master of the Senate. Or I need to rework my proposal for number 2, a prospect I'm actually quite thrilled about. Or...

See, that's what happens. I get these ideas and then they just disappear into mush, because I'm so damned tired.

Christmas music is playing. I hope this overdose of sunshine I've had for the last five years will carry me through the bleakest months in the Midwest. The sun here is as tart and satisfying as orange juice.