World’s Most Meticulously Cluttered Basement

Michael Chabon once penned (or keyed) an essay entitled Subterranean. It appeared in a book, which was a collection of essays titled Manhood for Amateurs.

Hilariously, this book was my introduction to Chabon’s writing. Despite the fact that he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction waaaaay back in 2001, I was oblivious. His prize-winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay was a mystery to me on that fateful lunch hour (and a half) a few years back when I randomly plucked the CD audiobook of Manhood for Amateurs off the shelves at the Maple Grove Library.

Since then, Chabon has become one of my favorite authors. He’s top 5 along with David Foster Wallace, John Irving, Michael Pollan, and Russell Brand (yes, that Russell Brand). He’s one of the authors whose style I try to emulate without actually trying to imitate. I’ve tried to imitate David Foster Wallace, but GFL on that path to futility.

Anyway, in Chabon’s essay Subterranean, despite nearly drowning in his grandparent’s basement during a particularly torrential rainstorm, he pens the seminal defense of the lowly underground hideout. For my money, this is the first point in literature where the basement, rife with all its weird smells, darkness/dankness, and spiders is elevated to the status it so richly deserves: quintessential underground workshop.

Where else can you be six feet under and still thrive?

Chabon’s essay stuck with me for a very long time—like still. A big part of my first novel, which comes out after the novel I just finished, hinges on the basement almighty. I was hip with the basement vibe long before Chabon articulated it in the pristine manner for which he’s legendary.

In a bananas meta moment, I referenced him and his essay in an Instagram post of my basement—he actually liked the post! I ain’t gonna lie, it was a thrill—it blew up my skirt a lot!

Without bogging this down any further with backstory, I’ll go ahead and bog it down a bit further. After my divorce, I lived in my mother’s basement for a spell. Actually, my tiny kiddos and I lived in her basement for five years. As much as it was a major defeat for 38-year-old me, my two-year-old son and four-year-old daughter have fond memories of their five year sentence in Grandma’s dungeon. This amuses me to no end. My daughter still says things like, “I loved living in Grandma’s house.”



After five years in purgatory, I had finally saved enough (and received a fair amount of assistance) to buy my own house (again). Needless to say, it was a fixer-upper extraordinaire. Thankfully, my only sibling is a contractor and agreed to undertake the majority of the colossal rehab project. Thankfully, my wifey is a pro photog with keen eye for design and agreed to pick out all of the finishes and fixtures. From that point, the three of us vacillated between intense admiration and intense disdain for each other depending on the day. It was a long process (nearly two years).

DISCLAIMER: do not buy a fixer-upper with your new spouse and proceed to enlist your sibling do the up fixing. On the surface, this seems like a great opportunity to offset the cost with a little sweat equity. But trust me, once you are knuckle deep in mummified mouse carcasses piled up behind the vintage dishwasher you are extricating, so that you can heave it into the 30-yard dumpster parked in your driveway on a blistering-cold/dreary-as-fuck Minnesota February morning, you’ll be questioning every decision you’ve ever made in your entire lifetime. You’ll have occasion (many) to question your sanity as well. This will ultimately be no ones fault, but it will be inevitable.

I offer this analogy—think of how hard you have to negotiate with yourself to just get out of bed on a Sunday morning after an uproarious Saturday night of imbibing, just so that you can push play on the coffee maker, just so that you can start to begin to resemble a human again. Multiply that by an entire home gut job/redo and two additional humans.

They—whoever the hell they are—say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This is spectacular bullshit. It’s more like, “Whatever doesn’t kill you will scar you for life, haunt your dreams, and give you PTSD. But naught for nothing, as it will give you pause if you ever contemplate something similarly fucking idiotic ever again.”

Take my word for it—just don’t do it!

Mercifully, the main level and upper level were eventually completed. The kids and I moved out of Grandma’s basement into our new home. It was a red letter day. We moved furniture up from my wife’s house in ATL (that’s an entirely different novel). And with the help of friends, family, and my beloved wifey, we made a home out of a zombie mouse apocalypse.

I’m still grateful for everyone who pitched in to make this a reality. There was no shortage of cool human beings who made this impossible undertaking possible. I’d like to take a moment to thank them all again—you know who you are. None of this would have been possible without y’all.

While the main level and upper level of our new pad were perfectly lovely, the basement resembled the garbage disposal scene from Star Wars where Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewy are simultaneously up to their tits in garbage while being hunted by some one-eyed snake thing as the walls literally close in on them. What lay just below our living room was something similar.

And while I had a village helping us get into the house, rehabbing the lowly basement fell to me, myself, and moi. I actually enlisted the kiddos—then seven and nine—in the demolition process.

Famously, in one 30-minute span of questionable parenting, Karli stepped on a 2×4. A protruding rusty nail pierced her tiny shoe and tiny foot drawing a copious amount of blood. After that minor emergency was abated and she was back on her foot, she swung her 5 LB mallet into a piece of Sheetrock so swiftly that it came down on Nate’s head.

At that point, I broke up the band and completed the rest of the demo as a solo artist.

Here is what the demo looked like in progress. There was a single functional outlet in the basement at this point, and it was dangling from the celling like in some horror movie.

Here is some of the cool shit, literally, I found during the demo…

To add insult to injury, at points during the demo process, there would be angry wasps dive-bombing me. In classic Chuck Donley fashion, as I was swatting at them with my gloved hands, I would mutter angrily about, “The damn kids leaving the front door open.” Eventually, I’d find a wasps nest glued between two joists in the storage room, because there was a hole in the foundation—of course there was! There were actually multiple holes, but I’d discover the rest of them later. No wonder there were malevolent wasps constantly trying to end my life.

Sorry kids…not your fault.

This is what the basement looked like just after I pulled the last nail out of the celling joists and the dumpster trailer was dropped in the driveway…

Here is the dumpster/trailer with everything I hauled up from the basement, one garbage can at a time…

And after I went through the space with a fine-toothed shop vac, it looked like this…

There are moments in a lifetime where you feel good—no, fucking great—about yourself. This photo was captured on a Friday afternoon/night in early summer 2015 after “the final clean out” was complete. I felt like Jack Dawson standing on the bow of the Titanic with the wind in my hair yelling, “I’m the king of the world!” In my lackluster version, I sat alone on the fireplace hearth and quietly drank a celebratory Moosehead. The kids hadn’t started drinking yet.

As time passed, and I chipped off one project after another, the scariest space in the house started to look less horror show and more monochromatic insane asylum—a serious improvement!

Eventually, after the electrical work was completed, and the last coat of paint was slathered on whatever needed more paint, we were ready to move the stereo into the basement.

Without music life would be a mistake.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Before going any further, we had to have music. This was the chief goal of the basement project. And once a reliable HiFi system was installed and records were shelved, our grandiose fanciful flight began.

While my son gratefully spearheaded the procurement of modern gaming artifacts, Karli and I focused on capturing gewgaws that struck a delicate balance between vintage/groovy and audacious/unnecessary. For nearly a half-decade, we’ve thrifted the western suburbs of the greater Minneapolis area in an effort to acquire immortality. And we’ve acquired quite a bit. I cherish each and every one of these too-numerous afternoons spent canvassing the city and pouring over other people’s crap with my redheaded co-pilot.

It wasn’t a bad run…

It ebbs, flows, and shape-shifts from weekend to weekend, but we’ve largely achieved our goal of curating “the world’s most meticulously cluttered basement”. It’s basically in the Smithsonian state in which it will remain until the kiddos head off to college and the larger adventures this life has to offer. Eventually, I’m destined to migrate south.

They also say, “To the victor goes the spoils.” We’ve been #winning every second we’ve spent down here—I guess that makes us the victor(s)!

When the time comes—as it inevitably does—we’ll split it up, pack it up, and spread it to the four winds. Accordingly, some spoils will go with Nate-o, some will tag along with K, some will migrate south with me, and some will be graciously returned to the places that recycle these majestic relics. Other lucky souls can then discover these artifacts just as we once did. And that’s OK.

Nothing is forever, except acne.

But as it sits right now, in all of it’s glory, I want to provide a virtual tour. I want this space to be immortalized in the same spirit that Michael Chabon immortalized his grandparents basement. Only I’m doing my tribute with visual aids.

Basements = essential + immortal. So without further adieu…

The door at the top of the staircase is innocuous. It’s situated across from the main-level powder room, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think it was the door to the broom closet. But when you open it, it ain’t no broom closet.

The space is divided nearly in half by “The Great Wall of Stairs”. The kids hang a right at the landing, and yours truly hangs a left. While their half is a rectangle, my half is “L” shaped due to furnaces, water hearers, and other necessary basement appliances.

Let me begin with their space, specifically “Karli’s Korner”…

Her chandelier is courtesy of the aforementioned grandma. It previously hung in her office at the salon she ran like a gangster for 55+ years. When she was clearing out her things, Grandma asked if we wanted it. We both knew exactly how to answer that question.

Another day, we decided that no self-respecting basement is sans hammock. This one was procured on a particularly fruitful thrifting expedition; the color was perfection. Karli spends copious amounts of time literally hanging out, eating popcorn, and contemplating the existential injustices of high school as she stares at the celling joists. She is unfortunately stuck with the beer and Mtn. Dew fridge on her end, but I tried to integrate it into her desk. She assured me that, “It’s no big deal.”

Nate-o commandeered the other end. He games, a lot, and always. His rig is set amid a backdrop of the largest Nerf Gun collection this side of the Toys “R” Us secret storage compound that is laying dormant until the juggernaut of fun announces it triumphant return. We couldn’t think of anything better to cover the walls with, so we kept requisitioning more firearms until the wall was nearly covered. It seems to feng & shui righetously. At least we got options when the zombie apocalypse descends upon humanity.

Opposite Nate, but still in his realm, is the retro wall of retro gaming and other retroness. A vintage green gaming chair faces off against a wall of 13″ Sony Trinitrons, VCRs, handheld video games, and other superfluous bullshit. I often climb into the retro gaming chair and we game back-to-back.

His gaming handle is: MyFriendNinja. His gaming buddies have bestowed upon me the handle: FatherNinja. When I’m sputtering profanities at my tiny TV during a particularly intense game of Mappy, his friends will ask, “Do we hear FatherNinja?”

As I transition back to my half, the wall o’ 8 tracks eyes me with disdain…they want more attention.

As I pass from their space into my space, the view is simply breathtaking…

Starting at the command center, this is actually where I am sitting as I type this right now. Crazy, right? I am an ordained Dudeist Priest of some repute. My Dudeism shrine is on the second shelf to the left. Abide…just abide. That Panasonic clock radio TV right in the middle of everything actually works. As this photo was snapped, an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation was playing in glorious B&W.

Flanking me, and directly behind me is Blockbuster Plymouth. The OG Blockbuster Plymouth closed years ago, but its spirit lives on in my lair. Despite the fact that I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, there is always a movie screening on the crazy red Seiki TV. Just like Blockbuster back in the day, there is always a little visual noise “now playing”. I have approximately 1,200 “slabs” as the cool kidz say.

Just around the corner from Blockbuster Plymouth is my LP collection. There is an entire other blog devoted to this obvious obsession. Since I started mining the thrift store LP bins a decade ago, I’ve discovered approximately 6,500 golden musical platters. I have resigned myself to the fact that I cannot listen to them all in this lifetime. Maybe in the next, tho.

Buttressing the LPs are the compact cassettes…all 1,000 of them. I was ejected into this realm in 1972. Hence, I was in the unique position to watch all of the various musical mediums come and go.

As a kid, I listened to my dad’s Beach Boys, Dr. Hook, and Juice Newton vinyl LPs on the home HiFi. Cruising around town in the backseat sofa of our Chrysler Town & Country family truckster, I was subjected to an endless rotation of 8 track tapes featuring easy listening legends like Neil Diamond, Air Supply, and Glen Campbell (my old man’s doppelganger). I bought my first compact cassette tape in ’82, Freeze Frame by the J. Giles Band, at K-Mart after a therapy session at the Washburn Child Guidance Center. 10-year-old me found that tape to be much better therapy that what my counselor was doling out. I bought my first compact disc a scant five years later. Thanks to the runaway success of “Wishing Well”, Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby would be the first CD I’d ever pop into the open maw of my Sony Discman.

By the time high school began, I’d seen all of the major formats come and go. And now they all seem to be coming and going around and around again and again.

Cassettes, above and beyond all others, were the paramount format of my coming-of-age epoch. And being that I was the right age during the heyday of cassette/boombox culture, I’ll most likely be mired in it forever. I have a ton of tapes and a badass cassette deck (or 4).

As I previously mentioned, this is the reason I didn’t just leave basement in disarray. This glorious monstrosity has expanded dramatically over the years and goes by various titles:

  • “The Wall of Sound”,
  • “The Midwest’s Most Dangerous Pioneer Stack”
  • “Don’t Even Think About Going Near Dad’s Stereo”

Call it what you want, it’s the heartbeat of this home. If I spin the big volume knob rightwise enough, the pulsing can be felt from the foundation to the top of the chimney (and beyond). It plays all of the aforementioned formats. In the very near future it will even play digital files and have streaming functionality thanks to Arthur at the Tapeless Deck Project.

Taste aside, this rig dazzles all of the senses. It sounds as impressive as it looks. There are enough shiny knobs and switches to keep your fingers busy for hours. When the big woofers are bouncing prodigiously, the cabinets exhale powerfully through the reflex ports. There is nothing quite so intoxicating as the aroma of ’70s speaker insides. To be honest, I may have licked it once; it tasted metallic. I’d contend that my musical taste is impeccable, however.

Due to the vintage of the equipment, and the relative complexity of tape loop that interconnects half the units, simply turning it on is rather like firing up a 737. Operating it is rather like flying one. As the inimitable Techmaon once said in one of his videos, “I rather like having a complicated HiFi setup that only I can operate. It’s a bit like Biff’s car—only Biff can start it.”

Eventually, I ran out of space for stereo components. Plus, I needed somewhere to display my stable of Pioneer cans/coconuts/headphones. Someday, all 13 components will be stacked from floor-to-celling. Today, the ceiling in our current subterranean space ain’t tall enough. So, the overflow is tucked away in the gutted MCM stereo console that we rescued from a roadside curb alert. Fun stuff here, especially that sexy U-24 Program Selector!

And that’s a wrap!

Sure, there is a furnace/laundry/workout room. There is also a storage room—the one where the kids were sitting on shelves—which has been fully built out for max storage. But those aren’t the sexy parts. And for this provocative post, I only wanted to feature the sexy parts. Creating this space with much assistance from the aforementioned kiddos will forever be one of the greatest joys of this lifetime. It’s where we’ve spent many evenings alone together.

There are a lot of switches, buttons, and remotes required to get it all dazzling and sparkly. This shit don’t just light itself up! I once drunkenly boasted that it takes about 99 switch flips to light up/shut down the basement. Nate immediately called bullshit on this. Karli and I counted the next time we shut it all down. Nate was right. Not including Nate’s computer, it takes exactly 66 switch flips to slow the whirling power meters and quiet the glare.

We’ve had many most excellent times underground. And we’ll continue to have them until we go our separate ways. But long after we sell this mixed up, muddled up, shook up home, the memories that have been absorbed into the cement foundation below us, the cinderblock walls around us, and the wooden joists above us, will linger forever in our respective minds. And that’s OK—that’s where they ultimately belong.

That we got to make those memories in the first place—that is everything!


Copyright © 2021 – ∞ Blake Charles Donley

When everyone who ever knew anything about Bob Dylan is dead, will anyone know Bob Dylan ever existed?

I just spent 40 minutes with N&K on Omegle. This was simultaneously jarring, terrifying, and (at times) uplifting. I’ve never seen the actual future collide with (and devour) my adorable notions of the theoretical future. I imagine this is what my parents experienced when they became aware of Cyndi Lauper, Twisted Sister, or (gasp) Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s video for “Relax”…

On Omegle, I felt as ancient as a special edition U2 iPod (black, 4th gen) at the Avalon Apple Store in Alpharetta GA last week as sat across the street in a wicker chair sipping a Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc waiting to be seated at Rumi’s Kitchen for my wife’s birthday dinner with the in/out-laws.

The three of us sat in a Han/Chewy/Leia arrangement in front of Nate’s webcam as we attempted to make contact with others riding this blue-green sphere through the universe (being the most hirsute, I was Chewy, you can figure out the rest).

We generally didn’t last more than 30 seconds with any random group or individual served up to out mötley crüe. It turns out, the sight of a 49 1/3-year-old man on the camera in horn rimmed glasses, a Westerly sweater (by Pendleton) topped off with a porkpie hat festooned with a turtle broach tends to scare the fuck out of most tweens and teens. But periodically, we’d make contact with fellow travelers who wanted to chat with our unlikely gang of three.

The ones who chatted all said the same thing: “That’s so cool that your dad (Chewy) hangs out with you!”

It made me a bit sad, honestly. We’ve always hung apart together in the basement. None of us get up in each other’s shit, but there is a unspoken solidarity that permeates our meticulously cluttered space. It’s almost like when the sun slowly heats the earth more and more as the angle gets closer to 90 degrees—you don’t necessarily see it as much as you feel it.

My son’s online moniker is MyFriendNinja. It has stuck since the day we sold the Thomas the Tank Engine table and the $1 mil. worth wooden train cars for a paltry $150 and parlayed that cash into a used Xbox 360. That was six years ago; he kept the moniker. Now, when I walk to his end of the basement and start shit-talking into his much-too-enormous microphone attached to his preposterous gaming rig, the gang on the other ends of the interwebs say, “Hey, is that father ninja?!” I’m like their mascot.

After an hour or so, we disbanded our makeshift Millennium Falcon seating arrangement and said goodnight to Omegle, I was struck by this question: When everyone who ever knew anything about Bob Dylan is dead, will anyone even know that Bob Dylan ever existed?

I’m thinking, naught—at all—for the future is devouring the present (and past) at a pace seen only in Sci-Fi books/movies.

I need to secure that bartender gig at that beachside Aruban Tiki bar ASAP!

Copyright © 2021 – ∞ Blake Charles Donley

All of the Clichés ARE True

“The fellowship of true friends who can hear you out, share your joys, help carry your burdens, and correctly counsel you is priceless.”
—Ezra Taft Benson

Life is a journey to be sure. For me, it gets more bewildering as the various “futures” disappear somewhere in my rearview mirror. As I reflect on the past half century, most of the certainties I thought I’d collected along away are gone. They inevitably disintegrate and drift away like stardust when passed through the gristmill of time.

Yea, the older I get, the less I know

When you cross paths with a merry band of fellow travelers on your journey, it’s a gift—a kind of magic actually. Much of any lifetime is necessarily spent alone, and much of that time is spent locked inside one’s own head with one’s one thoughts. It’s blessed relief when you find a compatriot or two to commiserate with. And if a bit of wine & cheese is mixed in with the whining & cheering, then you have conjured a most majestic state known as fellowship.

If you are really lucky, these fellow travelers stick around and your respective journeys intertwine. At times, it’s hard to tell who is journeying on whose path. But it’s hardly material, because having someone, anyone, to interrupt the solitude and carry a bit of the burden is the true priceless treasure of this lifetime.

My wife and I are blessed to have an inviting space where much fellowship occurs. We are also blessed by the relationships we’ve forged over time. Each group of fellow travelers is unique, and the degree and variety of revelry varies accordingly. With some groups we can’t seem to escape the damn kitchen. With others, we spend very little time indoors at all. And with one group, we invariably convene our fellowship at a specific Mexican restaurant just down the road known for their fantastic margaritas.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most (especially the little people)

Thankfully, there is a pair of special ladies—fellow travelers to each other—who always force us out of the damn kitchen into our oft neglected living room. With a charcuterie board as a 5th, wine (always red) as 6th, and music as a 7th, the four of us cozy up on the sofa and dueling oversized chairs. As a fire blazes away on the hearth, we nibble the cheese and pour the wine—inevitably, a bit of our respective souls spill out in the process.

After much hugging, our conversations always begin at the surface: What’s new with you? How are the kids doing? How’s the job going? But as we dive deeper into the cabernet, we attempt to tackle weightier issues. We share our hopes and dreams. But most importantly, we laugh our asses straight off. It matters naught what is happening outside of the living room (much less in the world), what is happening between the four of us is some dazzling confluence of enchantment, sorcery, and witchcraft.

Any or all of us could be in shit moods. Any or all of us could be battling ominous unseen demons. Any or all of us could be slightly ticked at each other. Much of that is leveled by the sharing, listening, and fellowship. But mainly, we slay all of those monsters behind the impenetrable shield of love with the undeniable power of laughter. The sort of full-body laughter that heals, and the kind of love that never fades even if we’ve not gathered in months.

Laughter (and a few glasses of wine) is indeed the best medicine

At least for me, the only dude in this gang, these little soirees are gold. It’s refreshing that there is no talk of sports, cars, or sports cars. Women tend to talk about the trials and tribulations of friendship, love, and life. And I’m truly blessed to be “one of the gals” on these occasions. Honestly, it’s like dressing in drag and sneaking into The Golden Girls (without actually having to dress in drag). To have a wife and these two ladies to share the burden is, as the Aussie’s would say, “legend”. I truly adore our little Cabernet klatsch—friends of this vintage are essential and rare.

The last time we all gathered to testify around the meat & cheese board was a few months back. It was a typical get-together—absolutely fabulous! One of our golden girls has the best laugh. You can see it before you hear it. She leans forward, thrusts out her wine hand, presses her free hand into her chest, and fills the room with her signature infectious guffaw as her head bobs up and down. She’s like a kid you can’t help but laughing along with simply because hers is so damn contagious.

Making her laugh is one of this lifetimes great accomplishments and delights. Making all of my golden girls laugh, and then laugh again, and then eventually wipe away the laughter-induced tears was always a secret goal of mine. There is something completely cathartic about laughing until you cry. And we’ve summoned plenty a catharsis over the years.

Spend the time, because someday they’ll be gone

Inexplicably, my golden girl with the infectious laugh was rushed to the hospital a little over 10 days ago. A brain scan showed two large tumors. One of the tumors was inoperable.

Cherish every moment, because you can’t make old friends

Impossibly, just after 10 PM last night, she was gone. You know how they say, “A little light went out of the world,” when the death of a famous person is announced. Our golden girl was not famous per se, but she was famously luminous—she sparkled impressively.

“Shock” is not a strong enough word.

I’m numb.

My wife is devastated.

For our other golden girl, words don’t exist for what she’s feeling.

I think we’ve all (alone and together) tried in vain to wrap her abrupt passing in some sort of reason. I told my wife today that I’ve just only begun to attempt to unravel tiny aspects of this loss. It’s a cruel and bitter loss to be sure. Our luminous golden girl did not deserve this ending. I imagine it will remain unfathomable for a long time.

As I thought of what I wanted to write tonight, I tried to digest the myriad emotions I was suffering. But my angle, my path, became quickly obvious. The biggest cliché of them all is the most apropos…

Only the good die young

Being a New Yorker for a stint, Billy Joel’s music was paramount for her just as it is for the rest of us. As the de facto DJ of our little klatsch, I usually tried to play “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” at least once at every gathering. It fit the mode and the mood brilliantly.

But if given the opportunity to play her sweet soul one last song, it would be Lori McKenna’s “Humble & Kind”—because our fallen golden girl was definitely no cliché. A few years back on a muggy August evening, the four of us saw Lori play at the Atlanta City Winery. Thankfully she played this song, as it’s one we all cherished.

During one of our subsequent vineal therapy sessions, I played everyone the version Lori McKenna and Mark Erelli performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. We all listened in rapt silence. The memory of Cyndi with eyes closed, swaying, and gracefully conducting the music with her glass of wine will be forever imprinted on my soul. And at least for this lifetime, this will be her verse…

Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind

Lori McKenna also penned this lyric from the song “Happy People”…

Life is short, and love is rare, and we all deserve to be happy while we’re here

Amen & cheers to that!

I will miss our gatherings of the golden girls so terribly much. I suspect that the three of us will still gather for as long as we linger in this lifetime. When we next gather, we will (always) pour a glass for our dear Cyn. She’ll forever be a part of each of us, and she’d never miss an opportunity to eat cheese, drink wine, and laugh.

I know she’ll be there…

Copyright © 2021 – ∞ Blake Charles Donley

America Reversing Polarity

Guest commentary by Russell Brand

A (fantastic) guest commentary by the indomitable Russell Brand,

As a product of blue-collar Britain myself, I don’t believe these people are bigoted or backward, as they’re commonly rendered by the institutions that demonize them. I feel they just know that they’ve been stabbed in the back. Given that politics is now largely about opinions — things you say rather than things you do — the emergence of global online communication platforms has provided a glorious digital brewery in which discontent and division can hideously ferment. Judgment, vehemence and loathing can be calmly dispatched in cold and solitary certainty.

This is probably the best (and most succinct) analysis of global political trends that I’ve read. In America, it’s the same (with few notable exceptions, on both sides): the working class now identifies with the Republican party, and the upper-middle class (and beyond) are largely Democratic—a staggering reversal in polarity in just a few decades.

In reading the NYT Daily Briefing—an embarrassingly liberal rag—this political reversal of polarity is underscored by the lopsided tone of their daily reporting. Simply the title of today’s briefing email, “Falsehoods and threats“, reveals everything. I already know what’s inside without having to peer around the corner. But, inevitably, because I’m a glutton for intellectual punishment, and like to consume equal parts loony liberalism and corrosive conservationism, I read it.

The main story featured a number of cases where election officials have been threatened in some way by “Trump supporters”. In none of the cases are the alleged supporters portrayed as anything but backward, gun-totting, racist thugs. By employing clever language, a subtle yet distinct appeal becomes obvious—these “Trump supporters” are (profoundly) wrong to exercise their rights of assembly and protest. Additionally, by employing the fallacy of composition, they highlight (via numerous bullet points) the actions of a few zealots and tacitly paint all “Trump supporters” with the broad brush of zealotry.

So, am I now supposed to cast a suspicious gaze toward our lovely neighbors with whom we’ve shared too many good times? I mean, they own guns, they are working class folk, and they are—gasp—Trump supporters!!! Clearly they are devolved thugs, am I right David Leonhardt? They are the deplorable souls by association. Or, at least that’s what is being suggested by the NYT and their ilk.

Brand proffers a similar analysis in his guest commentary about the “working class” of the UK. Rightly, he refuses to paint them with a broad brush or blame them for Brexit. Unlike Dave, who was privileged enough to receive an ivy league education, Brand came for slightly more humble circumstances. He possesses something that can only be gained by “being there” and “doing that”—perspective.

And it’s just that: perspective, which organs like the NYT are trying to warp and bend to fit a narrative that unfolds strictly within their online fantasy land. In my world, in my neighborhood, we still all get together and hang out and enjoy life. I’m pretty confident in my ability to profile my neighbors’ political leanings. And I’m positive none of Trump supporters among them fit the stereotype David Leonhardt and his cohorts are peddling.

Ultimately, Brand suggests that demonizing half of the population is a mug’s game at best and perilous at worst. These divisive techniques only drive the wedge further between the two camps. From a distance, it is much easier to view each other as less than human and therefore treat each other badly. This cycle of division and hatred is as vicious as it is perpetual. And the ultimate result is something like civil war.

And in this context, that’s an interesting oxymoron. If you view the two words: “civil” and “war” as separate paths, you see two distinct and opposite outcomes. I meditate about civility daily. But with the current state of mainstream media coverage, social media discourse, and political upheaval, I fear we’re headed for war.

Copyright © 2020 – ∞ Blake Charles Donley

The Gulag Archipelago – A Crucial Excerpt

Without going into the entire story, which is to say the history of Russia from approximately WWI through the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union was a dreadful place to be in the early-to-mid twentieth century.

Without going into the reasons it was a dreadful place to be during that epoch, let’s just say there were a lot of citizens “spying” on one another in an effort to protect themselves from ending up in Gulag for a “tenner” (a ten year sentence in a labor camp). The crimes for which one landed in Gulag ranged from very real to vividly imagined—it mattered naught.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was an officer in the Russian Army in WWII when he was arrested in 1945 for corresponding with a friend. Throughout their epistolary relationship, they occasionally exchanged derogatory remarks about Stalin and the Soviet government. For that, Solzhenitsyn spent the proceeding ten years as an unwilling resident of various Soviet prison camps where he witnessed a dozen lifetimes worth of human suffering and carnage.

He miraculously survived and went on to chronicle his experience in a book which I am currently reading titled: The Gulag Archipelago. It’s staggering in both breadth and length. Mostly, it’s rife with lessons of too-quick submission and compliance by the citizenry, which time would judge tragically. Many of these cautionary tales are buried in the minutia of innumerable farcical trials Stalin’s government conducted to either exile, imprison, or execute anyone he considered even a theoretical threat to his dominance.

To say Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus is an incomparable achievement would be faint praise. On the shallow end, it won the Nobel Prize in Literature (1970). On the deep end, it’s largely credited with the eventual (and sensational) dissolution of the Soviet Union. Due to its impact, it’s often cited in Dr. Jordan Peterson’s lectures and is the foundation of many his ideas.

Fresh off the heels of yet another impressive overreach by the governor of one of the states where I sporadically reside, I’m reminded of this excerpt from one of Stalin’s absurdist kangaroo court trials. In order to include them in his book, Solzhenitsyn did decades of research and reconnaissance to unearth the actual transcripts.

Andrey Vyshinsky was one of the state prosecutors in Joseph Stalin’s Moscow trials.

Nikolai Bukharin was a Bolshevik revolutionary on trial for numerous imagined crimes—chiefly not agreeing with Stalin’s totalitarian philosophies.

Keep in mind that at this point in the trial, Bukharin was resigned to the inevitability of execution and just wanted to get on with getting his bullet in the head. That is to say, because it was inevitable in his mind, he was basically going along with Vyshinsky for the sake of an expedient death.

Of note (and particularly relevant today) are all of the spectacular illogical leaps Vyshinsky makes. Also note that when Bukharin says, “According to the logic of things,” he actually means the illogic of things. As by this point in the Soviet Union, all logic had turned illogical.

Andrey Vyshinsky: “Is it true that every opposition to the [Soviet] party is a struggle against the party?”

Nikolai Bukharin: “In general it is—factually it is.”

Andrey Vyshinsky: “But a struggle against the [Soviet] party cannot help but go into a war against the [Soviet] party”

Nikolai Bukharin: “According to the logic of things, yes it must.”

Andrey Vyshinsky: “And that means in the end, given the opposition of beliefs, any foul deeds whatever might be perpetrated against the party: espionage, murder, sell-out of the motherland—”

Nikolai Bukharin: “But! Wait a minute! None were actually committed!”

Andrey Vyshinsky: “But they could’ve been!”

Nikolai Bukharin: “Well, theoretically speaking…”

Andrey Vyshinsky: “Those are your theoreticians for you. But for us, the highest of interests are those of the [Soviet] party?”

Nikolai Bukharin: “Yes! Of course, of course.”

Andrey Vyshinsky: “So, you see, only a very fine distinction separates us. You are required to concretize the eventuality in the interest of discrediting in the future any idea of opposition, we are required to accept as having taken place what could only theoretically have taken place. After all, it could have, couldn’t it?

Nikolai Bukharin: “It could have—”

Andrey Vyshinsky: “And so it is necessary to recognize as *actual* what was “possible*—that’s all, it’s a small philosophical transition. Are we in agreement?”

Nikolai Bukharin: “Yes.”

Today, this notion of leveraging the *possible* and *theoretical* as *actual* is also the justification for the unjust subversion of this nation’s [United States] charter to restrict personal liberty. The parallels are uncanny.

And this twisted logic, like the virus du jour, is contagious. But unlike the early-to-mid twentieth century where is was contained within the Soviet Union, it’s spreading around the globe.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana, philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist

It’s seems a scant few souls working in government, media, higher education, or ‘expertville’ have ever read a dystopian sci-fi novel.

—Blake Charles Donley, me

Copyright © 2020 – ∞ Blake Charles Donley,

Our Drowned Cargo

There is a seminal moment every evening just before dusk. For precious minutes, the world is in a state of suspended animation. Sandwiched between the commotion of the day and the mystery of the night, it’s an unnamed snippet of eerie tranquility where neither a drowsy sun nor bestirring moon reigns.

It was the best part of any day during the summer of ’85.

I was 13 years old.

Bathed in the 15-watt glow of a crescent moon that seemed to hang inches above the current circumstance, I crouched in front of the garage door. I was standing sentry at the northeast corner of the white rambler where my mother, brother, and I sheltered during the Reagan-Bush era.

Just off the poured-concrete stairs that lead around to the backyard, I held my position next to the downspout, periodically edging my left eyeball around the corner for a quick southward peek. Although the moon was fair-to-partly-dim that evening, the damn street light at the base of our driveway suddenly burst onto the scene dousing me with its harsh white glare. I suddenly understood how an x-rayed tibia felt. I had no time to give it much thought, however, as I was preparing to run like hell at any moment.

Positioned at the northwest corner of the house opposite me, near the overgrown arborvitae that had swallowed up footballs, baseballs, and snowballs too numerous to count, was my comrade-in-arms: Brandon. When the world, or at least Plymouth, MN, was not obscured in a dusky mist, he was more easily recognizable as my younger, larger, and considerably blonder brother. I could only assume he was strategically edging his right eyeball around the corner for a fleeting glance southward. If not, I’d have to kick his ass later—there was no time for shenanigans, however—we were fighting for our lives.

Together, we were employing the classic “scan and scamper” technique. This was accomplished by respectively covering each other’s unprotected flanks. If flanker #1 (Brandon) spotted the Drill Sergeant’s flashlight off the southeast corner of the house, he’d run like wind to the northwest corner of the house where flanker #2 (yours truly) was waiting. Flanker #1 would then relieve flanker #2 of his post and take up position to scan eastward from there. In turn, flanker #2 would scamper to the southwest corner of the house and find a good spot from which to settle in and also scan eastward. Both flankers would then lie in wait while calming their breathing and peeling their eyeballs. It was flawless. And if you could cajole a partner, you could do it all, night. long.

Having just been relieved of my post by my panting bro, I flew down the stairs to the backyard and hunched down in my new position behind the peaked shrubs that were trying to grow in the 20′ x 10′ patch of desert behind our garage—it was the only spot on the entire property that was seemingly never shaded.

My breath aside, it was deathly calm. As my huffing and puffing faded back into unconscious reflex, I began to marvel at the frenetic serenity that had engulfed me. An orchestra of crickets provided a dull-yet-mellifluous murmur. The occasional flop of a bullhead or slap of a beaver’s tail from the small hidden lake in the backyard would send ripples across the surface of the water and sound waves across the drums of my ears. The omnipotent scent of an early summer evening would fill my lungs, drench my skin, and saturate my clothing, so as to be present long after I went in for the evening.

Only the occasional whoosh of a passing car on the adjacent road would mar all of these natural melodies with a momentary blast of mechanical resonance briefly reminding me that I was not in some Guatemalan jungle or Appalachian forest. And the flittering night wind, that would occasionally swirl and rustle the hairs on my head, seemed an ominous harbinger of something unseen and unknown —a characteristic notably absent from the refreshing breezes that invigorated me on too-numerous summer afternoons.

By sheer serendipity, I found myself in an idyllic setting…to be a kid.

We called it Army—the innocent gamification of something that, unbeknownst to all of us at the time, was considerably more ominous, more ruthless, more deleterious. But it was the era of Platoon, and Full Metal Jacket—we all wanted to be “in country” with CCR thrumming in our heads, at least in our back yard for the evening.’

It was entertainment invented by my brother and me with considerable input from our three stalwart neighborhood buddies: Angus, Robin (Rob), and Heath. Together, we divided, explored and conquered our minuscule corner of the planet as a band of misfits, that somehow together, fit.

Our creation was surely inspired by, and a conflation of, numerous outdoor games we played on too many dusky, musky, murky summer nights. It was a little capture the flag mixed with a little kick the can amidst a backdrop of flashlight tag.

I have no clear recollection of how this diversion came into its prominent existence. Like most total awesomeness, it was likely spawned at the crossroads of utter boredom and precipitous imagination. And for at least one wondrous summer, it captured the imagination of five kids from the neighborhood quite utterly.

The game was simple, yet inexplicably the rules somehow became more subjective as we continued to fine-tune them:

  1. Someone was the Drill Sergeant, and for whatever reason, Rob was always the drill sergeant.
  2. Everyone else was a soldier and began the evening at the rank of “Private”.
  3. Drill Sergeant Rob was equipped with a flashlight of his choosing (or bringing — mostly bringing—(he didn’t trust us to equip him).
  4. Privates were allowed no gear other than swift feet, sharp wits, and the clothes on their backs.
  5. If Rob caught anyone in the cross hairs of his flashlight beam, that soldier had to freeze regardless of whether he was 15 or 1015 feet away (his chosen flashlight was no joke).
  6. Upon being caught in the light, Rob assigned the soldier a physical challenge. Judgement, imagination, and mercy were his only guides. These are a few common examples:
    1. Do 30 push-ups
    2. Climb to some specific branch of a tree
    3. Run around the house 10 times in under 5 minutes (oh yea, he also had a stopwatch dangling from his neck)
  7. If the challenge was completed successfully, the soldier moved up a rank.
  8. If the challenge was not completed successfully or refused, the soldier moved down a rank (Private -1, Private -2—these were common ranks)
  9. Here’s where subjectivity crept in: if the soldier was successful in not being caught for a particularly extended period (at least 30 minutes), Rob could simply grant him a higher rank based on his prowess at evading the deadly glare of his flashlight. If a soldier managed to evade Rob for an hour or longer, Rob might move the soldier up multiple ranks.
  10. In general, the reward was significantly higher for being stealthy rather than being able complete an endless series twisted calisthenics. Plus, none of us much enjoyed Rob’s cavalcade of twisted calisthenics unless we were feeling especially masochistic, and it was usually hot as hell outside.
  11. In the end, glory, distinction, and legend came by reaching your final rank not with brawn but with stealth and brains.
  12. The game ended when the platoon was spent, or a soldier was beckoned home by a bellowing mother’s voice from across the ’hood.

We played this game nightly with fervor reminiscent of addicted gamblers consistently returning to the same bank of slot machines. What strikes me now, is that we never bothered to consider that there was anywhere else for a kid to be on a summer’s eve than outside. The very notion of siting inside and watching television when the weather was so nice was anathema to us all.

The backdrop for our collective nocturnal pastime was the kinda-bucolic acre lot upon which our rightsized rambler was situated—a setting where I would tirelessly labor to craft an imperfectly pristine childhood.

The home itself was perched on a substantial hill by suburban Minneapolis standards. In the winter, the embankment just off of the aforementioned poured-concrete stairs was steep enough to get a sled up to about 25 mph just before colliding with the leafless branches of trees, shrubs and vines in the wooded area that too-quickly met you at the nadir. Incidentally, the same speed could be achieved on foot in summer by getting a running start and simply allowing gravity to plunge you down the hill into the awaiting leafy arms of Mother Nature.

On the other end of the lot was a heavily wooded area that stretched for nearly a mile around the small lake in the backyard—a body of water that was given the apt moniker “Hidden Lake” because only those that called its banks home knew it was there. Within this marvelous, magnificent and mystical forest were numerous foot paths worn down by the steady trampling of boys’ and periodically a girl’s sneaker. All paths, plus various semaphoring tree limbs directing the way, eventually led to a fort constructed of stacked logs. This fort functioned quite well as a home base for any “operation” upon which our little neighborhood “battalion” needed to conspire and subsequently execute.

Just past the enchanted forest, at the base of a shallow slope covered in tall grass, was a rather dynamic rail line. This freeway for train traffic provided numerous opportunities for fun including (but not limited to): flattening pennies, collecting railroad spikes and walking the world’s longest balance beam.

In turn, it could be quite inconvenient for reasons including (but not limited to): blaring steam whistles at all hours, pictures vibrating off your bedroom wall as you slept nearly scaring you to the grim reaper’s door step, and waiting for train cars to pass before reaching or returning from the bus stop. Either way, there was something spooky and sublime about watching a locomotive rumble through the evening’s dewy particulate.

The house, being a walkout, had a rather impressive upper deck off the back that spanned the length of the main level with a concrete patio just below it that spanned the length of the ground level. The railing of the upper deck provided a built-in ladder for convenient roof access (much to our mother’s chagrin). The grange was attached to the west end of the house, but there was nothing behind it. Thus, a natural nook or cranny (not sure which) was formed in the backyard directly behind the garage.

There were dozens of climbable trees on the property – most notably a Weeping Willow that grew horizontally from the lake shore spanning 20 feet out and over the lake. Another notorious tree, which like the roof, was accessible from the upper deck railing, always beckoned me with its enticing-yet-scary canopy. Already 10 feet closer to heaven when starting the climb, the daredevil that scaled it had a birds-eye view of the entire backyard and a partial view of the front. At 50 feet from ground level at it most climbable point, it was where only legends (and some birds) dared to perch.

One of my personal favorite moments from our summer “in the army” involved hastily hiding, the aforementioned arborvitae, and a bonnet of bees.

In an effort to find some quick cover from the flashlight beam of doom, I passed the overgrown arborvitae on the northeast corner of the house in a full sprint and proceeded slam on the brakes in order to dive into it.

As I attempted to silence my locomotive breath—the result of chugging up the hill, I watched Rob saunter past my shrubby disguise and then slow down. Although I was in no actual danger, I was immediately stricken with that sinking sensation you get when you first hear sirens and then see flashing lights in your rear-view mirror; I instinctively held my breath. I started to turn blue as Rob more closely investigated the general area in which I was cowering. As he intensified his search, I think my skin shade darkened a bit toward the purple end of the spectrum.

Mercifully, he moved on, as I gulped vast quantities of thick-as-pudding, humid, evening air. When the color returned to my cheeks, I noticed what I thought was a ball lodged in the evergreen branches not more than a foot in front of my face. Having previously retrieved all manner of long-lost recreational items from this particular shrub, I instinctively reached out to grab it.

As I wrapped my fingers around it—it was no larger than a softball—I noticed that it started to vibrate. Seconds later, I noticed that my index finger was throbbing in intense pain. Split-seconds later that, I bolted from the shrub screaming “Bees! Bees! Run! Bees!!!” This immediately elicited a flashing of Rob’s light in my direction. I was busted by the Drill Sergeant, but at least I escaped certain death by multiple bee stings!

On another occasion, one of my fellow comrades decided to scale the previously ballyhooed tree that was instantly accessible from the deck railing. It strikes me today that the obvious threat of ghastly injury was generally disregarded back then, just as I’d dismiss the chance of being struck by lightning on a trip to the mailbox during a thunderstorm today. I guess I’ve always embodied the idiom: “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, and we were all spectacular fools in those halcyon days; little has changed…for me at least.

A broken wrist, arm, or leg seemed a negligible risk for the reward of shimmying up a tree trunk for a million dollar view of the evening’s festivities. And one of my platoon-mates decided to go higher into that tree than anyone had previously dared. So high in fact, that he was not seen on maneuvers by anyone throughout the course of the entire evening.

I often recollect this endeavor when I imagine the most pristine place on earth. Especially when suffering endless hours in a scrubbed-clean, white-noise-filled, chi-destroying cubicle. I imagine the hot dewy air rushing in where trade winds fear to tread. I imagine the view of endless woods from five stories aloft. From that vantage point, I can envision the street that divided the tranquility with the periodic ’78 Buick Regal or ’82 Cutlass Supreme whizzing past and destroying the silence. I imagine what I’d imagine nestled in such a spot in the universe. I imagine the unparalleled beauty of the scene. I imagine perfection…at least on this astral plain…

Anyway, we could nary locate Angus as we decided to pack it in and launch an all out manhunt to pinpoint his coordinates—now four weary, wet, pungent, Drill Sergeants vs. one soldier. As I canvassed the backyard, it was not until I heard Angus’ telltale cackle cascading down from the heavens, that he finally revealed himself. I recall being shocked at his Spider-man-like skills and thinking that he had a real future as an Indonesian coconut retrieval monkey. He definitely claimed the brass ring that night—of that there was no doubt.

This diversion of ours —it caused us to think. It forced engagement of the mind to propel the body which lifted the spirit. It was a magnificent synergy that could only be achieved in the great outdoors, in the heat of summer, in the still of the night.

We were all residents of our respective imaginations each time we navigated this fantastic twilight saga. We were elite paramilitary troopers specially trained in camouflage, quiet, and evasive maneuvers. We were superheroes that could perform amazing feats of agility, speed, and strength. We were stealthy ninjas disappearing in the shadows, melding with the flora (arborvitae) whilst evading the fauna (bees).

Even if we weren’t.

It didn’t matter.

Thant was the point.

Likely, we each achieved varying degrees of legend in our own minds as we traversed our opaque fairy-tale. This shared endeavor unfolded as much in our minds as it did in front of our faces.Despite running, and ducking, and exerting ourselves, there was plenty of time to think, and plot, and plan. We were kings of our hills, masters of our universe, and explorers sans compasses. But that was very much the point. Our imaginations flourished—because we refused to hold them back—because we had to rely on them to persevere.

Today, we seem to be on some bent quest to organize, compartmentalize and homogenize the childhood episode in life’s mini-series. This often results in a sort of institutionalized play that resembles the hour of outdoor activity accorded to inmates incarcerated at maximum security prisons. Ironically, this institutionalized play is often rationalized under the guise of protecting kids from potential dangers posed by the type of folks that end up as prison inmates.

It seems to me that we need to disorganize, randomize, and colorize the childhood installment of life once again. As I sit in my Dilbert-style cubicle during these hazy summer afternoons, I often catch myself daydreaming about things I did decades in the past…outside…at night. In those fleeting weeks of endless childhood summers, my life seemed like an ancient Greek epic poem by Homer—an Odyssey.

Copyright © this hellish fucked up year of the lord, 2020
– ∞ B. Charles Donley

David Foster Wallace’s 1994 Syllabus: How to Teach Serious Literature with Lightweight Books

Open Culture unearthed one of David Foster Wallace’s syllabus from the Fall ’94 semester at Illinois State University. His course was entitled “English 102-Literary Analysis: Prose Fiction”. I know from reading all of his books and essays, as well as consuming an inordinate number of interviews on YouTube, that Wallace took the teaching gig to pay his bills while he was writing fiction.

Under the heading…


  1. Mary Higgins Clark, Where Are the Children?
  2. Jackie Collins, Rock Star
  3. James Ellroy – The Big Nowhere
  4. Thomas Harris – Black Sunday
  5. Thomas Harris – The Silence of the Lambs
  6. Stephen King – Carrie
  7. C.S. Lewis – The Loin, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  8. Larry McMurtry – Lonesome Dove

I’m sad to say that I’ve read exactly one of these: The Silence of the Lambs. If for no other reason, I now feel compelled to read these based on Wallace’s goal for the course.

In less narcotizing words, English 102 aims to show you some ways to read fiction more deeply, to come up with more interesting insights on how pieces of fiction work, to have informed intelligent reasons for liking or disliking a piece of fiction, and to write—clearly, persuasively, and above all interestingly—about stuff you’ve read.

OK, I’m in!

Copyright © 2019 – ∞ Blake Charles Donley

Guest Writer: Karli Annmarie Bolduc-Donley – Where I’m From

Where I’m From

I am from red hair
From curly hair and Norwegians
I am from Def Leppard
And the Beatles
I am from shiny records
The Walkman, and turntables that I played some of my favorite music on

I am from scoliosis
From orthotists
And back braces
From funerals
And loss

I am from tulips and lawn mowing
And best friends
I am from bikes with baskets
And Dairy Queen
From salty popcorn
And Mom’s Best cereals

I’m from divorces
And “Lord we thank yous”
From trampolines
Chip, Chirp, and Peep Peep
And “Using you head for something besides a hat rack.”
I’m from Goldfish
And my terrier mix Lily that I have played with and have had some of my best memories

I’m from writing
And a writer dad
And pencil sketches when I am bored
I’m from Guinea Pigs
And dreaming of winning the lottery
I’m from swimming
And leaving school early
From thank you and please

I am from these memories
That I hold close
And will take with me
Wherever I go

Copyright © 2018 – ∞ Karli Annmarie Bolduc-Donley
(age 12 at the time of this penning)

Article: Stephen King and other top authors headed to Minneapolis for new book festival

Stephen King and other top authors headed to Minneapolis for new book festival



Wordplay — a new book festival to be hosted in May by the Loft Literary Center — will open with a rollicking concert at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis starring the all-author supergroup the Rock Bottom Remainders.

The Rock Bottom Remainders is a fluid band, its members changing depending on who is in town, but it’s anchored by King, Tan and Karr, as well as humorist Dave Barry and sportswriter Mitch Albom, all of whom will be in Minneapolis for the festival.

h/t Minneapolis Star Tribune


I mean…I am a failed guitar virtuoso and fledgling author. I live in Minneapolis. I’m home that weekend. I should probably pencil this onto the calendar.