Spring in Review (2013)

Anna Wilson house in 1920s
This the building that housed Anna Wilson’s notorious Omaha brothel. Pictured here in the 1920s. After Wilson’s death, the building was converted into a hospital, per her wishes. (Courtesy of Wilson & Washburn, a new bar downtown that’s named after Anna and Josie Washburn, a prostitute turned reformer who makes a cameo in my novel.)

Summer is here in just about every way imaginable, so it’s time to recap what’s gone down the past few months.

First, some news about Tom Dennison’s house at 7510 Military Ave was passed on to me by a reliable source who wishes to remain anonymous. (Previous posts about the Dennison house can be found here and here.) There was some confusion about which side of Military the house was actually located, and my source let me know that the address of the house would have changed at some point after Dennison died. So while it was originally 7510 Military, it would have been on the 7300 block of Graceland Drive for most of the time it was standing, putting it south of Military, on the property of Skyline Retirement Community rather than on Marian’s side like I thought. That the address changed clears everything up.

Some more info from the source:

From the 1960s until it was torn down in 2006, the house was used as a guest house by Skyline Manor, and later as administrative offices. There was an effort to remodel the home before the decision to raze it was finalized, but the cost of a new roof, structural repairs, asbestos removal, etc, etc, was deemed too great. Skyline also offered the house free to anyone who wanted to relocate it to a new property, but, again, the cost of moving the house vastly exceeded its monetary value. The spot where the house stood is now a parking lot.

Other news from what was a pretty busy season:

-I was awarded a fellowship and residency by Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. (Get the whole story here and here.) Summer of 2014 can’t come soon enough. We’ve been busy planning out the trip and addressing all sorts of logistical issues. I thought Maddie would be a little more nervous, but she’s still very excited about the whole thing, just so long as she gets to watch movies on the airplane and have torte for dessert every meal. Not such unreasonable demands.

-Some more good news for my novel came in June when The Uninitiated was announced as a long-list finalist for Inkubate’s Literary Blockbuster Challenge. News of the winners will come later this summer.

-My short story “Shame Cycle” was selected for publication in Gargoyle!

-The College of Arts & Sciences at Creighton University was nice enough to interview me for an alumni profile. I also offered up some summer reading recommendations for The Kenyon Review.

-“The Hyphenates of Jackson County,” an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, was short-listed as a finalist for the Summer Literary Seminars Unified Literary Contest. It did not win.

New Stories from the Midwest 2012 was released, with my story “The Approximate End of the World” garnering an Honorable Mention.

-Not a lot of travel lately, although we did spend a few days in Los Angeles in April, which was really nice. On the docket for this summer: the Ozarks, Kansas City, and a family trip to Chicago to give the girls a little more flight experience before crossing over to Germany next summer. Tentative plans call for a little jaunt to New York this fall to retrace and expand last year’s bratwurst tour of Manhattan.

 

Madchen.

Dispatch from The Uninitiated

Tom hadn’t exactly been feeling fit, but he didn’t feel any worse than he had the month before, and maybe he was a little better than the month before that. His daughter had him doing all sorts of things to feel better. Morning ablutions. Evening exercises. A Bulgarian hulk came to stretch his legs with a rubber strap and burn his back with rocks. He had a steambath installed in the back lawn. Tom submitted because she begged him to. Ada had him consuming all sorts of herbs and minerals too, he didn’t even ask what the names of her magic were. Selzter water mixed with salts from the Dead Sea, she claimed anyway. Now why he wanted to drink Dead Sea saltwater he didn’t know. Wasn’t dead the very thing he was trying to avoid? All it did was keep him in the bathroom all morning, and he suspected more than once that maybe this was Ada’s way of getting him to spend less time at work. It surely kept him occupied.

 

Just Finished

Woes of the True Policeman by Roberto Bolaño. Supposedly this is Bolaño’s final unfinished novel, what he was working on when he died, I guess, and it’s writing that ranks up with his best. A lot of it reads like stuff that was cut out of 2666, which is fine by me. The focus on Óscar and Rosa Amalfitano yields quite a few wonderful stories.

In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield. A series of sketches about the guests of a German health resort. Mansfield is vastly underappreciated, and this is yet more great work from her. (The Kindle version of this is now free, fyi.)

Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov. I’d never heard of this novel before, but picked it up on a recommendation while at Book Soup in Los Angeles, and I’m glad I did. A comedy of manners that romps through Berlin and Italy.

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann. I’ve been meaning to read this for years and finally got to it now that I’m trying to get a feel for the German canon before I’m over there next summer. A masterpiece. Maddie kept asking me to read it aloud for her–a little uncomfortable given the subject matter–because it’s so beautiful. I’m pretty sure she didn’t understand many of the words…hoping anyway.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. After all the controversy and hoopla surrounding this book when it came out a few years ago, I decided to give myself some space before reading it. I’m big fan of Franzen, but not so much this book.

The Slippage by Ben Greenman. A solid offering, but not quite on the level of his short fiction.

 

Now Reading

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek. Really digging this. I’d been meaning to read this for a while too–being how I’m a fan of the Michael Haneke film based on the novel–and am glad I got to it.

 

Up Next

Amerika by Franz Kafka.

Walking in LA

Hanging out in Echo Park with Cocoa.
Hanging out in Echo Park with Cocoa after her week of high-powered business meetings and sushi-rritos in Santa Monica.

From everything I’d heard, the one thing that seemed certain about our trip to LA was that we were going to need a car to get around. So, while we did have a car to get to and from LAX, it was gratifying to leave that swank Dodge Avenger blissfully parked outside our rented Echo Park bungalow for pretty much the whole five days we were in Los Angeles.

Besides saving money and aggravation, it was nice to get some exercise between meals and drinks, and street burritos, and ice cream sandwiches, and was especially nice since we had a big crew for the first few days. Nicole and my brother, Matt, were on the tail end of business trips; superfriend Justin R. came down from Seattle; friend-of-the-blog and aspiring weapons trainee, Country Club Bill, came up from San Salvador, and his brother, Rob, turf specialist for the Dodgers, who happens to live in Echo Park, in a monastic cell where he is feted with chicken head soup and other Szechuan wonders. Below are some highlights:

ship shape
On an egg run downtown.

-The six of us partook of the PBR/tequila special (and some mysterious tacos, is it dog food? could be) at The Gold Room on Friday before heading up to the stadium for the Dodgers/Brewers game, which was followed up by a stop at Sunset Beer Company for supplies. No one was injured.

-Tracked down a foodtruck, Egg Slut, in the Toy District for breakfast. Boxed water? Raw denim? Plenty to go around here.

-The speedball at The Viper Room came highly recommended, for a brief foray into Hollywood, but Nicole and I ultimately decided to abstain, and hit up Book Soup instead. I feel like that was a solid choice.

-Saturday night brought bowling in Tarzana to celebrate the thirstiest birthday of friends Joey Joe Jo and Brandi along with Benji, Jeff, and a host of other Nebraska expats who relocated out there.

CCB sucking in his gut at The Red Lion Tavern.
CCB sucking in his gut at The Red Lion Tavern.

-All the other out-of-towners left after a couple days, but CCB and I stuck around a few extra days for two more Dodgers games, another stop at Sunset Beer Company so CCB could fill his suitcase with microbrewed delicacies largely unknown to Central America, and a Neil Hamburger-headlined comedy night at The Satellite in Silverlake.

-We also hit up the Red Lion Tavern for some serious day drinking. Much happiness resulted from the liters of fine Spaten and Bittburger served here, although the food was pretty disappointing. There were also like twenty people getting rowdy on a Monday at 11am, taking advantage of the sunroof. We knew it was pretty serious when the guy with long gray hair holding an ornately carved walking stick complained to the beermaid that another guy who long gray hair (this one with an eye patch!) thought he was a “big shot!” To the victor go the spoils, I suppose. (Ed. note: CCB talked to the guy with the eye patch in the bathroom, and testified that he seemed pretty nice. So there you go.)

And what awaited my return to Nebraska. Snow in May. Glorious.
And what awaited my return to Nebraska? Snow in May. Glorious. (Our new house on the right, by the way.)

-My favorite part of the trip, however, was the kid we saw biking between Echo Park and Silver Lake who was holding a cross-stitched little portrait of two guys kissing. The hipsters of LA are taking it to a new level.

-Seriously, though, it was a genuinely relaxed and gratifying weekend. We talked about how none of us ever really felt the need to experience LA before, but that it was actually pretty awesome. Could it be that the most over-hyped city in America could be kind of underrated?