Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chicago Poem #1

I wonder how many sandwiches
Slid down the counter
in the midst of a conversation
That meant the birth of a child,
the loser meeting the winner,
the beginning of a job,
the end of a career.

I think of Studs
combing back his hair in the mirror.
I wonder what he preferred.
Italian beef, Turkey, an all beef hot dog.
Maybe a taco or a latke, instead.
Was he on the wall at Manny's Deli
with Jim McMahon? Nah.
He had more important things to do.

I imagine the best sandwich Studs ever ate
was served to him
in a simple apartment,
smoke from a cigarette hanging in the air
with the static of the tape rolling,
by a tough-handed woman
on stale bread, with a bit of government cheese
maybe some bologna and bright yellow mustard
And he savored its separate parts quietly
as she told him everything.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chicago Poem #44

So, we change the poem.

Fall to our knees,
stay up too late, take the fifth.
Chicago holds you in its memory
while a slaugtherhouse in Iowa
files for bankruptcy.
There is more work for you,
I will spirit,
now that you have volunteered.

So we change the poem:
Tonight, Division Street is united.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chicago Poem #46

They lost again.
And after all of that.
We pinned so much
hope, prized possessions, plastic googaw -
Remember that Ernie
never even tasted
the chilly, sweet dusk
on an October field
Under bright lights.
(The want is more/contains more)
Never heard the release
of a bellow and a linsky
like Novembers
that promise
to be

Cubs win.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Laser Quest: Book One

Laser Quest

They would go on to work on the Large Hadron Collider. But first, the war against evil scienitists and their abuses of lasers would be fought in the alleyways of Cambridge, England. This would only be the beginning; the beginning of a great and perilous journey. This was LASER QUEST!

Found Poem: For Sioban

Hang on, Sioban

you had all the time
to just come out
and say
But Im to low
for you
@*% Now
what I've
to tell
the other
half of the coin

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chicago Poem #33

Waiting for the Uffizi

The Chicago Avenue bus is number 60
The Clark Street bus is 22
The Fullerton bus is 74
The Armitage bus is 73
One less.
The Ashland bus is 9
The Ashland Express X9
The Western bus is 49
The Western Express X49
The Damen Bus is 50
One more.

Waiting for the bus,
I imagine they are waiting
in a long queue for the Uffizi
to view some fine art
from some Renaissance
during some plague.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Handmade Underground Beautiful Books from Marseille

If you're ever in Marseille, check out his bookstore:

Librairie Le Lievre de Mars
21, rus des 3 mages, 13001 marseille

I bought several handmade books there that were amazing and beautiful. My favorite "L'Usine Nouvelle" came with a website.

This website was everything I expected and more. It plays into my idea of French Artists. I clicked all over the page hoping it would lead me further. But, ah, Monsieur...Madamoiselle...Life is Absurd! Give cigarettes to babies!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chicago Poem #17

Irwin Birds
Art by Todd Irwin

Old notebooks have resurfaced
and apparently,
late 20th Century Chicago
was full of whiny brats
with bad cursive,
naive notions of life and art
and disposable pens.
Let us now sing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chicago Poem #54

Red Bicycle

Dear Brother, you ask:
How is the rest of the world?
I can only report on that
which is not in front of me.
These days are all looking behind
at a place it never was.
Even if I returned.
And London is never that way, I imagine:
The only thing left
is that bike we built. You were angry
when I left it in front of the taqueria.
It was stolen and then
Ditched in the river.
It's still submerged
in the waters by the old tannery
which will always stink up my memories
with the smell of tanning hides.

See Clare College Through My Eyes!

The photo of Clare College Bridge on SCHMAP was taken by yours truly:

Oldest Bridge

Monday, June 2, 2008

Chicago Poem #39

I was so beautiful at nineteen,
I swear.
and so was the city,
when it was nineteen first
and when it was nineteen second.
I was never around for that.
But I am aware of the fact
and the possibility
of being nineteen twice.
To get there? Fire.

Teaching again

Apologies to Housman

Apologies to Housman

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Chicago Poem #24

I used to live
in the building
with the most stories.

Cobden Arms

Monday, May 26, 2008

Chicago Poem #73

Rules on a paper napkin
written down.
These fools of my past
have let me down.

Tube Tile

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I Do Good Deeds in the name of Liza

Most people will just assume you’re a regular Joe – a God-fearin’, America-lovin’ ex-Marine humbled by the insanity of his youth and the honesty of a steady job. But anything will make them nervous, be it a little bit of an accent to your speaking, a dreaminess to the tone of your voice or a funny stride. They’d just as soon throw you in a nice little category then try and figure what might be eating at you, what keeps you from blowing your brains out, you’re so depressed.
But I do have one sweet thought that keeps me hanging in there. I think about her about half the time I’m driving this tow truck around. I got two hands on the wheel and the third one scratching my ass when I pull up on this lady and her flashing hazards. That’s right. Three hands. And I don’t care if I’m a mutated freak or a normal hand-over-fist working man, I’m here to help with only the best of intentions. I do good works in the name of Liza.


Monday, May 12, 2008

The Times, Eh. They don't change so much...

From a NYtimes article on Suze Rotolo's New Memoir (She's the girlfriend on the cover of Freewheelin'):

Still, she is not nostalgic. “All this indulgence of the ’60s, ay-yi-yi, get over it,” she said. Every era and place hold magic for people willing to live intently in them, she believes. “Everything occurs again, just differently,” she said. “There will always be creative people who feel that they’re different and create a community of some kind. Whether it’s a physical neighborhood or an Internet neighborhood, in Bushwick or in Greenwich Village, it’s not over."

Link to the article:

I hope you are all out there creating your communities. Invite me over sometime.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cars Suck

Drinking Cans at Cans Festival London

Taking into account the height of the billboard, soaring an extra four or five stories over the highest five story building that runs along the Eisenhower Expressway razing land through the West Side, not land anymore but negative space sucking cars into downtown and all points south, and taking into account the subtlety of the change, the way the black letters on the ad had hung proudly, printing the product name simply: Cadillac CTS, a sexualized whisper to the masses set against a calm sea and a calm gray sky, the calm and cultured car parked in clam digging weather – whoever had changed the message, inverted its meaning to the exact opposite of the ad agency’s intent, had accomplished an enormous feat of will and wit, of brains and brawn and one asks, “How the fuck did they get all the way up there?”
Their work done, the billboard now read Cars Suck in the Monday morning rush. It was the dead of winter adding to the profundity of the feat and begging another question: “How the fuck did they not freeze to death?”
To be literal:


It was a seamless edit and the casual viewer could not make out where the original letters had been. The results were so expertly executed that it was as if this was the ad that had been paid for, this was the original intent.
Who are they? Who could have done this? Mischievous and unsupervised neighborhood kids? No way. Neo-situationists gone crazy with a degree in graphic design and too much unemployed time on their hands? Maybe. Communists we are unaware of? Maybe not. Was it a frat boy bet fulfilled? No fuckin’ way. Maybe it was a competing car company, a Japanese one like Toyota or Mitsubishi, who had in their employ seven samurai of civil disobedience. The message was written, regardless of who did it, and the message was received, regardless of who saw it. It made websites, briefly, it made news, maybe, but was blacked out, generally, by scandal in City Hall and a triple homicide out on the West Side – a drug deal gone wrong in a garage. And then there was the war and the coming war and the war behind us and we asked ourselves simply, who are we?

At four o’clock that Monday afternoon, a team of men ascended to the face of the billboard that hangs over the Eisenhower and began the work of replacing the ad, this time with an ad for breath-freshening gum featuring a black man’s nose, mouth and tongue and the phrase Fa shizzle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Luthier

After the tragedy, the luthier gently glided into town with enough wood for 33 guitars. Looking around and seeing that no one wanted a guitar after the tragedy, the luthier, enjoying the sun and the brisk breezes the town offered, strolled to the park, across the street from the school, and pulled out his sketchbook. He drew up some plans. They looked like this:


The luthier decided his unused guitar materials would better serve the children of the town. While everyone was at the funerals or pitching in for the clean up effort or discussing preventative measures to avoid another tragedy, the luthier set to work. The adults looked at him with scorn for not being in attendance at one of the funerals, or pitching in for the clean up effort or coming up with preventative strategies. But what were they doing with their scornful looks? What was the good in that?

It looked like a skate board ramp but it wasn't. When the kids found out it wasn't going to be a skateboard ramp - they found out by walking up to the luthier and asking: "Hey. Are you building a skate ramp?" Luthier: "No." - the children looked upon the luthier with scorn. School had been called off indefinitely in the wake of the tragedy and when you're a kid, if you're not in school, you're either skating on a skate ramp or looking on scornfully waiting for one to appear. And that's OK, kids.

The luthier painted it in graduated shades of blue from a deep cobalt at the top to a light robin's egg near the bottom and then slowly, slowly into white. He painted one black stripe at the bottom. It did include a third dimension, not illustrated in the plan, but no one was for sure how deep the luthier went with that dimension. 33 guitars deep, I suppose.

The luthier finished and promptly left town. He headed for the city to hear some blues at a blues club he knew where his cousin was the chef d'hotel.

It was quite pretty. And slowly, because it still kind of looked like a skate ramp, the children approached it. They sat in its bottom. They said nothing to each other for hours on end. Eventually, school started back up, but the kids would all end up there after school, just sitting and being quiet and thinking. Or not thinking. It was nice. It was a dream.

One of the mothers of the tragedy could be found sitting there most mornings, while the kids were taking their lessons. The squirrels kind of liked it too, but couldn't manage to climb its sides. That was funny to watch.

But eventually, the kids realized it wasn't their dream, it was someone else's, someone strange. Before school let out for summer, two weeks later to make up for the time lost to the tragedy, the kids had kicked it down and used the wood to build a small skate ramp that they quickly lost interest in by mid-July.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Best Teacher of USA!

Best Teacher of USA!

What a great group! But back to Graz where they will lift weights and practice their English so that one day, they, too, may be Governor of California.

So, would this certificate, with its grammar mistakes, be a white elephant, a trojan horse or a pyrrhic victory? Or is there a better word for such a well-intentioned gesture?

Friday, April 4, 2008



No football. No handball. No badminton. No yard darts. No lawn bowling. No archery, croquet or cricket. No jacks, craps or nine ball. No golfing, dog-walking or court jestering. No tomfoolery. No birdwatching. No regarding this grass with disdain. No running. No coveting the patch of grass. No imagining a freedom picnic taking place here - past, present, OR future. You may, however, light up a fag and drink a Carlsberg Special Brew out of a brown paper sack. That's just bloody well fine, now, innit?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another Business Idea


I'm a viking!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Book I Write in 2008?

The ideas are already flowing. I had this stroke of genius! Its obviously related to my upcoming job search. I think this might get written. Here is the title page and table of contents.

"Business Ideas"

1) By-appointment-only coffee (Yr latest album, e-mail, customized cup, fresh underwear)

2) Haircut Hat Day (The Day In The Life of The Haircut Hat - "That's right. THE DAY."

3) Guitar Tuners Unlimited

4) Bottle Collecting Robots - Realistic and Practical Technologies

5) Smell This, Inc.

6) Thoughtful Cards to Your Sister

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Books I Wrote in 2007

The Blue Heron On Methadone

Stories by Ammon Torrence

To order a copy, e-mail and make an offer.


I am a Honky ass reader?

I resolve to read fewer books by white men and more books by presidential dogs.

Books I read in 2007

20 Books in 2007 List

1. Gallatin Canyon Thomas McGuane (1/23)
2. Things of This World Richard Wilbur (1/25)
3. The Book of Dave Will Self (2/6)
4. Love and Hydrogen Jim Shepard (2/13)
5. The Road Cormac McCarthy (2/19/07)
6. Fun Home Allison Bechdel (2/20/07)
7. First Figure Michael Palmer (3/5/07)
8. Ooga-Booga Frederick Seidel (3/5/07)
9. Geography III Elizabeth Bishop (3/22/07)
10. Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift (4/17/07)
11. 77 Dream Songs John Berryman (4/23/07)
12. You Don’t Love Me Yet Jonathan Lethem (5/2/07)
13. In Persuasion Nation George Saunders (5/21/07)
14. A Tranquil Star Primo Levi (6/19/07)
15. Stories in the Worst Way Gary Lutz (7/2/07)
16. I Sailed With Magellan Stuart Dybek (8/2/07)
17. Growth of the Soil Knut Hamsun (9/25/07)
18. What is the What Dave Eggers (10/14/07)
19. Tree of Smoke Denis Johnson (11/12/07)
20. The Brief Woundrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz (11/29/07)