My friend Erin Tope and I collaborated on these pictures in the French River a few years ago. From the first they suggested characters and supernatural narratives, which I initially put to a series of four wordless video shorts set to music. That sparked years of subsequent imagining about who these ghosts are. Words have now been joined to pictures to form the final iteration of the project. In the absence of an actual physical publisher, I have posted them at their own site where I consider it a free 16-page e-book. I post them here as well for your enjoyment — although you may want to leave the light on.
“Bar Fight” is a Duluth-centric science fiction vignette in the style of William S. Burroughs. It reads like a hard-boiled noir tale of a private eye tailing a crooked cop to the bad part of town, ending in a scene of shocking violence — except the private eye is an interdimensional traveler in a space suit, the crooked cop is the god Osiris (now a beat cop for Jehovah), and the bad part of town is a bar in Limbo (modeled after the Pizza Luce bar). I performed this through a megaphone while speaking very quietly because it gives the feel of a distant transmission. I recorded this a couple years ago late at night, but abandoned it because I thought it was silly and I was a mess. Now I’ve viewed it again and it is making me laugh, so I’m posting it. There is a gap of a few seconds in the middle as I scroll my page down. This is the first video release on our podcast, which you can see if you click through but it’s just me reading at a table. The video has a surreal shuttering effect which was unintended but I like it. This story originally ran in the Transistor.
#1.) Official video for the Low song “Gentle.” 2015. My one paying video gig and crowning achievement. Low saw Lake Superior Aquaman footage I posted here and requested I fit it to this song. The imagery is of the collapsed column of Uncle Harvey’s Mausoleum/The Icehouse in Duluth’s outer harbor off the Lakewalk.
My whole life was organized around going out for drinks. The party’s over.
The Duluth art and music scene seems preserved in amber. I can see it in my mind’s eye from every angle, but I can’t touch it.
Has the virus infected time?
I was days away from participating in a group art show in Duluth Coffee Company and its Roasteria taproom. The Facebook event page was hours from launching. All the art is on the walls. I left a hammer there I was going to go back for, just before the stay-at-home orders unfolded. It’s probably right where I left it, timelessly suspended as if let go by an astronaut in orbit.
The Embassy art-church had just opened, promising untold events, unseen sights, and unheard sounds. It reached as if for the hand of God in the Sistine Chapel — a frozen gesture.
When did I come to consciousness? Its bars and venues the wombs I gestated in, the booths and stages framed my embryogenesis. Birthing me to myself, I walk between trees. Light and water conspire mysteriously. My shadow stretches to the lake and covers it in the setting sun. Praise it!
I am bridges staring down into darkness and depth. I am mirrored streams carving the hillside like molten silver from a furnace pour, the lake a great ingot. More than anything, I am the lake. Gleaming as if the sun has transferred its powers to Lake Superior in guardianship, Lucifer abandoning hell to an angel of water. The lake is a tectonic plate of fire subducting at the shoreline, trapping the light in water like amber, a bowl of liquid light. Golden honeyed light, silver light like photographic emulsion, sepia light. Ore boats sailing the surface of white stars, red giants, blue neutron stars. Ore boats sailing out of faded, flaking photographs. The lake like Io, blinding bright, sea planet of perpetual ice cover, Jupiter blots out the sky rising over Superior. The lake a reflecting mirror like a planetary laser defense system, peering into every south-facing window on the hillside, light pouring into every home as the lake searches them with its blazing eye. Praise it!