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Brian and I are two years overdue in producing our third CD. The “blame” for this goes back and forth between the two of us all the time:

Chickdrumer: If you weren’t so fussy about recording we would have done it by now.

Brian: Me? May I remind you that you were writing your dissertation all summer?

Chickdrummer: I said I would take a weekend off to do it.

Brian: Oh yeah… when?

Chickdrummer: Don’t blame this on me. At least, I wanted to record live at Swing State just to get some live versions down before we forget them.

Brian: That would have sounded like crap.

Chickdrummer: It would have been something.

Brian: Yeah, crap.

If this goes on for a while we then manage to blame our jobs, our families, the economy, and our cat, Ben, whose emergency hairball surgery last month cost $3000 and ate up the entire recording budget.

And then we don’t talk about it for a while. Brian starts looking at Craigslist for other bands, and I started planning a novel, and in our heads we “give up” on Short Punks.

Then something out of the blue happens. For instance, we might be sitting in the car listening to the radio, and Sound Opinions with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis might be on and they might play a track of say, Little Richard, and they might talk about how well recorded the drums are and we might not turn it off and we might listen and one of us might say: “That’s how we should do our CD.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Brian might say.

And I might add: “Why don’t we just do it like that? One room mike. No drum mikes. No Pro-tools.”

And Brian will agree. Then he’ll mention a Chicago recording studio famous for that.

And I might say, “Yeah, let’s do it.”

And then we get out of the car, and all of sudden, walking down Kedzie Ave to get Lebanese food, Short Punks will be back together again, planning, thinking about the ‘what next.’

If I could really describe what being in a band with your partner/spouse could be like, it’s like that. Spontaneous, simple moments when we agree, when we find the chord change at the right time, when we know what our “sound” is, when we being in band is mostly easy and not always hard. If I were to describe this in words that are concrete, I would say playing in a band with Brian is as easy as realizing that we both want falafel for lunch.


I’m a working stiff now. In the last two months I self-ejected myself from the uncomfortable, stiff little womb I call “graduate school” and managed to complete a languishing dissertation, defend it, and start a new job.

Insta-presto! You’re a grown-up. I have an office now and a desk and a password to “log on” (to what? I want to know) and I commute and I work late and I am really really tired.

The last few months have been a whirlwind and it is only now in the quiet of an empty building that I have the moment to reflect on what got me here…if I can remember.

What do I remember?

I remember rising at 5 am to attend morning meditation, and then breakfast with the temple residents and then to a cafe or a library to read or write. I remember the moments of utter desperation when one thought roiled in my brain: “you will never finish in time.” The grad school clock had wound down on me and like those desperate I-just-want-to-make-it-perfect students I see in my own classes, I was still scribbling away while a proctor tapped his desk with a pencil and looked at his watch. I was writing against some intractable clock with a stubborn second hand.

I remember walking home from the cafe in the warm summer night passing happy dogs and dog-owners enjoying the late, balmy evenings. I remember wishing I was them.

I remember the 8 hour marathon when Brian and I sat at the kitchen table editing and revising the last draft the night before it was due.

I remember not sleeping, lying in bed, eyes open, writing in my head.

I remember paperwork that “gave me permission” to defend lost in the quagmire of the university. I remember worrying if it would come down to this: a form misplaced.

I remember proofreading the dissertation in an Amish cafe in Florida, sun beating down on me while I sat in the window.

I remember ice tea. Gallons of it. Drunk at all hours.

And what do I not remember?

I don’t remember:

The defense.

The topic of the dissertation itself.

What I did to celebrate when I passed.

What I did yesterday.

What I will do tomorrow.

The world has seemed to whirl around me like a hurricane in the last few months, and in brief moments I feel I am in the eye of this storm, watching the water, the houses, the boats, the Tinman, the dogs circle around me. From there, it all seems clear: this is life. In other moments, like the ones marked “today” I swirled in the storm with the cats and the dogs and the trees, wondering when it would stop, when I would come to rest, to sit still breathing heavily amongst the wreckage. The ability to stop, to slow the swirling hurricane seems beyond me now, and I wait for the storm to slow itself.

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