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.


It’s not exactly an imposter syndrome. Sometimes I create something that delights me then later I can’t help but wonder: How did I do that? Were those choices deliberate? What path did I negotiate for the words and such to tumble out as they did?

Ferocious was my cat Rainbow’s larger daughter. One of the kitten’s early bowel movements came as a surprise to Ferocious as she bumble stalked along a wall.

!” said Ferocious, looking wide-eyed above a small, neatly formed dry turd.

I try to keep Ferocious in mind.

It makes my pleasure more plausible.


From Andre de Almeida: this wonderful, psychedelic, existential, and surreal story of a man and his cat. It’s also a really nice mix of animation techniques. Full screen and headphones recommended, though this is strange enough that any altered state is strictly optional.

It’s a love story, you know…

Incidentally, according to Google “catisfaction” is a French grunge band, a cat clinic in Alabama, and a brand of cat treats. It was a new one for me, but the word (a portmanteau, actually) has been around for a while.

I can’t get no…

Cats & Dogs

Here are two strays from the 2021 Artists of the Wall. I’m pretty sure these are panels I missed photographing back in 2021 or perhaps I simply did not like the resulting photos. Though… I have seen panels replaced or elaborated over the year that they’re on the wall.

2021 Artists of the Wall. Photo by Roman.

2021 Artists of the Wall. Photo by Roman.

A Cat’s Hand

Photo / Graphic by Roman.

That’s the way my cats regarded me: their obedient hands… mostly… except when they were not… yet that was frequently okay too except cats disapprove of being surprised… but they could never understand why humans were blessed with hands, such clever hands, hands with distinct personalities when paws…

What I had set out to do was examine wrinkles, those rewards for having over-soaked in the bath of life. But I got to thinking of what hands mean to be human and my old cats and here I am, cataloguing memories instead.

Dogs Can’t Climb

What every cat and squirrel knows…

Photo by Roman.

I was going to leave it with just the photo of the tree because it struck me that the photo was essentially from a dog’s perspective. But no dog? No squirrel? No cat? Why, what a bunch of low-down click-bait!

A dogged investigation in the park. Photo by Roman.

So here, as an addendum, is a photo of a neighborhood dog that I took last June when I was taking photos of the 2021 Artists of the Wall. Said puppy seemed convinced that I was up to no good but its human reminded the dog that they had places to go and bones to chew. How is a dog to argue with that?

No New Messages

Fido’s net

Photos by Roman.

…on this doggy bulletin board.

“Huh?” you say?

Look: When a dog pees, it’s never just a matter of Fluphy relieving himself. It’s also a statement that Fluphy was here, and not just that Fluphy was here but many of the other things of importance to an interested dog. Fluphy’s health. Fluphy’s sex. What Fluphy has been eating. Maybe even Fluphy’s mood. All to be read by Fido and Spot and Puggy and Wee and all and sundry who come with a nose that can see.

And they reply with a pee of their own, maybe as perfunctory as a “like” or as voluminous as a treatise. Or maybe they’re just trolling.

Back in the days when the internet, for most of us, meant a long-distance telephone call to a desktop computer with a dial-up modem, there was a volunteer service that would pick up and deliver messages between message boards. Yep, it was called FIDO Net.

What with the current fad of teaching dogs and cats to speak, maybe pee has become an underground grapevine, a samizdat between the feral and the domestic. Careful! They may eat us all, someday.

But until then, they mostly keep us sane… or maybe just less deranged… Otherwise I might suggest that you author your own message to see what the dogs have to say in reply.

You’ve Got Mail!

Peemail. Photo by Roman.

Post Script:
Don’t believe everything that I’ve written here. However. Dogs and cats do get information from scents, some of which is social and some of which overlaps that which humans gain through conversation and correspondence. But just what “some” is is still a matter of research and speculation.

And yes: People are teaching dogs and cats to “talk” and there is a small community of folks (and creatures) on YouTube where their efforts are documented. Whether it constitutes speech or not is a debatable assertion best left to those who study such things; I don’t know that there is a consensus on the matter. But it seems pretty obvious to me that at least some of the creatures have adapted the process (whether “speech” or not) to signal their desires and needs.

If you’re curious about this, my two favorites are Billi the cat and Bunny the dog.

Billi is an older cat and living proof that you can indeed teach old cats new tricks. But pause (begging your pardon) before trying this with your cat. After all, do you really want to know that your cat can not stand the really great music you are playing or that your Significant Other is making too much damned noise? For a while, “mad” was one of her favorite words.

Bunny the dog is a young whippersnapper with an existentialist bend… or maybe it’s just her humans… hard to say. But she is a genuinely joyful character (as most dogs are) and apparently pretty articulate, though sometimes she babbles. That may actually be one of her more interesting behaviors.

And then there is the question of identity, the conscious “I”. Both Billi and Bunny have confronted mirrors and seem to understand… about like humans confronting quantum physics for the first time. There’s also all sorts of research on this subject, including trail cams posted by mirrors in the wilderness. Some creatures seem to figure it out. Others clearly do not. And with others, it’s hard to say.

It’s an interesting question with implications ranging from religion to ethics to diet to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

For my part, I promise not to eat any dog or cat with whom I am personally acquainted.

Summer, 2001

For all that it was a broke-down slum, a place for the well-to-do to park their money and for hoi polloi to hunker down for the moment, I still remember this apartment with fondness.

Photo by Roman. Bedroom / office, Summer, 2001.

Neither the apartment nor the building nor the photo really deserve that affection. When I moved in, it was a slum with a simmering tenant rebellion. In the quarter century that I lived there, my particular apartment gradually went from shoddy to shambles.

War of the Roaches

Why did I stay?

During the tenant rebellions, we went through two management companies, but the building lost half its tenants. They were not about to toss out paying tenants that year. The third management company had no sympathy for tenants beyond their rent payments, but unlike the previous two, they were at least competent and not actively malignant.

My lease was up every May, but every year the first several months of the year were occupied by one of those projects that happen on deadline whether all the work is done or not, perfect to awaken you at 2 AM with questions like: Will we complete that? Who is going to do this? What if? And on and on… not exactly anxiety but not exactly excitement either. There was little time and little energy for me to be apartment hunting, packing and moving.

Eventually, and with the fifth management company that the building went through in that quarter century, it occurred to me that perhaps I could get a 14 month lease instead of a year. Management was agreeable and the next year I was gone. (Quite possibly they would have been agreeable to a broken lease as well, but I am not by nature a quarrelsome person.)

The building, though, is still there. About a year after I left it was converted into condominiums. The idea of purchasing any apartment in that building is mildly mind-boggling, seeming about as foolish as all the time I spent there. For a one bedroom, the apartment was surprisingly small (somewhere around 550 square feet if I remember correctly) and neither the twisty front stairwell nor the back porch entrance were suitable for moving  furniture of any size. A recliner, for example, might or might not have made it through. Take the legs off that table!

I suspect any fondness is inspired by… not memories of youth but of middle-age.

It’s come to that, eh?

But maybe also cats.