Carnival of Aliens

a mongrel of fleas or invader from mars

Photo / Graphic by Roman.

3/30 — Where does a story begin? That depends on what story you intend to tell.

4/22 — I’ve been singing my death song all the live-long day.

(This is not what I meant to write when I sat down, pencil in hand, only to be confronted by a cannabis-induced* blank spot that removed the slightest trace of the original…

(Instead, I am beset by questions asking half empty / half full or questions for which “Yes” is truthful, correct yet contradictory or those where “No” does the same.

(What we learn from philosophy is that we learn nothing from philosophy.

(Oh, we are a voluble lot, those that gather here. The thoughts tumble one or another then sometimes one and another but sometimes call and response. It is sometimes dissonant but sometimes harmonic…

(Harmony? Yes, when sometimes we agree.)

It is, in sum, a carnival of aliens.


* Or maybe just a senior moment. After all, where does the story begin?

Rolling Stoned

A Letter Written to a Friend at the End of the 1970s.

Side One


What a beautiful night! There’s a deep purple sky rouged with violet and a new moon setting. The moon’s darkside is a phantom of a shadow. The stars are rocks, bravely bright against strangely dim street lights. Two small, illuminated clouds ghost across the sky.

Mystic but cold.

She’s Like a Rainbow

Meet my new roommate: Rainbow, the Bifrost Cat, Scat Ambassador Extraordinaire to Chicago. Yes, Rainbow stayed here, but I’m not sure the relationship is permanent. It’s been fun so far, but she may be pregnant. (I guess I lost my head.)*


I’ve revived the barbaric custom of wargaming, and G____ has taken an interest. We’ve been playing Panzerblitz; however, I have just purchased two new games. One you may like to play: Stellar Conquest. It does not necessarily involve warfare; there is an economic dimension. But you must expand one way or the other– it will be interesting to see which is more profitable, war or peace. Up to four can play.

Tasting the Big Apple

M____ is thinking of moving to New York. She talked to some people in the crew of Man of La Manche which was playing at the Aire Crown. They told her the market for theatre people is much better in New York (and LA) than it is in Chicago. She [is] going to try to get into the Stagehands Union first, though. (Initiation fee: $700)

Among the Dangs

How are you doing?

Side Two

8 Miles High

It was fun watching the city snow removal crews at work: huge articulated earth moving machines that stood two stories high on monstrous tractor wheels. But the men who ran them ran them like extensions of their bodies. Rapid, fluid motions and precise: No uncertainty of movement or wasted motion, and they came within a foot of snowed-in cars. It should have been to music.

Street Dance

The neighbors were amusing also. The crews were clearing every portion of unoccupied street, but several people stopped them to make sure their personal spots were shovelled. I’m sure you can guess who at least one of them was — the Don Himself. There were several futile attempts to move snowed-under cars. N____ A____’s wife floundered about and C____ the Dealer was unable to even open his doors. The last I saw he was desperately shovelling.

Old Lang’s Sign

Te___ is very sad now that B____ and Th___ are gone. I left her an extra dollar in sympathy.

There are still people pushing grass on the street corner in Old Town.

Happy Lunar New Year


* A notably lame attempt at a joke… For those of you in the 21st Century, Rainbow was a cat and the father was most likely Dapper Dan. Rainbow was not quite Grand Champion material, so the cat-breeder hadn’t planned on showing her (again) or breeding her and that is why she ended up with me. He kept the males caged as they were apt to fight and spray. I suspect this pregnancy was Rainbow’s idea but how she and Dapper Dan managed it… Rainbow gave birth to four kittens: BawanaCat, Ferocious, Punk, and Bellybird. Rainbow and Bellybird remained with me. We found homes for the others.

At the time the letter was written, I was living in the Armour Square neighborhood in Chicago. I discovered the letter while cleaning out the hall closet in preparation for moving. I keep copies of most of my correspondence but I may end up shredding them; I can’t bring to mind just who some of these people are / were. And of course, it’s been years since I’ve received (or sent) an actual physical personal letter.


PS  Photo/Graphic by Roman.

The Rock Island Line Was a Mighty Fine Line

Yes it was, though maybe mostly in memory; the company went belly-up around 1980. Artifacts still remain, however. For the next several years, you’ll still occasionally see freight cars (covered hoppers mostly, but a few boxcars too) left unrepainted for all the years since. They all are in the last paint scheme that touts the railroad as “The Rock”. Brave words even if “The Rock” turned out to be tuft not basalt. IIRC, there’s a 50 year age limit to such rolling stock so congratulate yourself if you see one.

And then there is this promotional ephemera that I rediscovered while cleaning out the hall closet. (Yes, it’s time for that again; I’ll be moving in the next few months as I’m being gentrified… again. Where, you ask? Don’t know yet. Not far I hope.) It’s an eight page booklet with plenty of space for notes on your railroad adventure.

This was given to me by my grandpa, Lawrence Dziekan, probably in the late 1960s though I have no memory of the occasion. Today I feel sad about that but I was remarkably oblivious to adults until I was well on my way to becoming one myself. There’s no changing the past even as it becomes ambiguous with distance.

But one of the things that I do remember about Grandpa is that he was very much into calligraphy. It was Parkinson’s Disease that eventually killed him. This was in the days before l-dopa as a treatment and I have the impression calligraphy was his effort at fighting back. So Grandpa filled a few of the pages with some of his lettering. It’s not his best work but not bad also; I thought it worth preserving and sharing, provided you forgive the one typo.

And there’s mystery as well! Who is “Mrs. Clairie Peiton”, the baby sitter? And those strange feel-good verses! I doubt that I’ll ever know the story nor will you ever know the story. We’ll just have to make one up.

Here’s Grandpa:ldz-1ldz-2ldz-3ldz-4ldz-5

And to end this post, here is “The Rock Island Line” from the Library of Congress’ “Treasury of Field Recordings” with Kelly Pace as the lead vocalist. Now arriving on track 2:

Murmuration Psychology

complex behavior from simple idiocy…

Photo / Graphic by Roman.

A crowd of me
Gathers around the screen
To watch the work
Of some of us
And are so pleased
To be surprised.

As we gather,
We snack on nuts and flesh
In nervous anticipation,
Not all of us pleased
To be fed.

Every one of them me.
As me as me as could ever be.
Some are ephemeral,
Some seem hardwired.

We don’t all agree
And frequently quarrel:
Or was that really an accident?


Ou La La!

Photo by Roman.

This is another panel from the 2022 Artists of the Wall. This one, I believe, was completed after the event as I do not at all remember seeing it when I took photos there a week after. There are usually a few panels that get completed in the weeks after, but then, befuddled by fumes of THC as I often am, how can I say for sure if this is one of them?

“Ou la la” could be an appropriate title. “La la,” I have read, is something one might say over spilt milk:

It is a dark and stormy night. The rain comes gushing down: A multitude of splats becomes a roar, the air a thousand concussions. A cold wind descends from heaven. Outside flickers with a sick florescent sky. Inside humidity makes the jar slick when returned to the fridge. It slips. It falls. It breaks in pieces: a half pound of coffee.

Oh! la la…

Thus back in the imaginary days of the Moulin Rouge, “ou la la” accompanied the choreographed display of chorus-girls’ underwear as an expression of mass mock dismay over a collective wardrobe malfunction.

Of course, that may all be so much horse feathers as “la la” is not exclusively dismay…

Santa on Vacation?

Photo by Roman

— Santa Claus!

The fat man whirled with a finger to his lips.

— Shush! If Mrs. Claus finds out I’m here, there’ll be hell to pay. She thinks I’m in contract negotiations with the Elves Union. Not another word, not to anyone, or you won’t even get coal in your Christmas sock. There’ll be coal ash under your tree and your home will be an EPA superfund site.

— Will there be a strike?

— Of course not! We settled-up in an afternoon. It was mostly a matter of the elves trying to figure out what the elves wanted; they’re never prepared.

— What did they get?

— Anything they wanted. They’re elves for Pete’s Sake! You don’t mess with them when they’re on a solidarity kick. And, anyway, it’s for Christmas; why would anyone deny them? Now if you’ll excuse me, we’ve got tickets to see Elvish Pressley and I gotta go.

— But what are–

Not a word! Remember!

— Yip

Back when I was some 40 pounds heavier, “Santa!” was a typical wise-guy cry, at least seasonally, though my impression is that it was as much the beard and the coat as it was the weight because during the warm months of the year “ZZ Top!” would take the lead.

But I have indeed threatened coal ash when fingered as Santa. “ZZ Top” usually just got a denying shake of the head with a smile but on one occasion, the bloke was serious. That was creepy.

Before the COVID, these encounters would happen several times each year, mostly in good humor though repetitious. Even so, children, be careful what you wish for when you wish to be a star.

Post Script: It hadn’t happened in a while, but this last Sunday I was fingered as Jerry Garcia. But wait, Garcia is gratefully dead. Do I look that bad?