Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 19: Grant them to behold thy splendors on the loftiest mount...remembering Mike Truskey (finale)

The night I found myself fired from the University I loved I found myself wading, as if the atmosphere had morphed into an aquarium, as if everything was underwater and I was  endeavoring to slosh upstream. It was cold. I was in shock. I sat in the park bench in the entrance to Bradley park near where Main drips into Farmington Hill, snow pecking at my cheekbones, a feeling of being blind-sided, stabbed in the lower back with an icicle-shaped stalactite by people and a system you thought were your friends.

While seated in Bradley park I looked across Main street and at the corner of Main and cooper saw a female friend of mine jumping up and down in the window of the house she rented.  When I looked again I noticed that she was naked, jumping up and down as if on pogo stick, dancing.

I left the park, traipsing down Heading avenue. Minutes later I was at Uncle Mike’s back door.



“Look at it another way. We’re here. We’re nice guys. We’re doing ok, but we know in X number of years we won’t be here, and between now and then something unpleasant is gonna happen, or at least potentially unpleasant and scary. And when we turn to try and understand that, I don’t think the humanist verities are quite enough. Because that would be crazy if they were. It would be so weird if we knew just as much as we needed to know to answer all the questions of the universe. Wouldn’t that be freaky? Whereas the probability is high that there is a vast reality that we have no way to perceive, that’s actually bearing down on us now and influencing everything. The idea of saying, ‘we can’t see it, therefore we don’t need to see it,’ seems really weird to me.”
                                                                          --George Saunders, New York times profile

The next couple of weeks is a subsistent blur. I was suicidal. I made a noose out of Christmas lights. I duck-taped the largest knife I could find in my kitchen to the side of my fridge and tried to throw myself on the point. Rather than looking at the fiasco as an opportunity for growth and the chance to abandon a job I was miserable and treated unfairly at, all I could focus on was that I was broke. That I had no clue how I was going to pay rent. That I had nowhere to go.

During that time Uncle Mike and my mom were my best friends. I stayed with Mike in my old bedroom. I became paranoid every time a police vehicle idled down the street thinking that they were cruising for me.  When my  (disgusting) dismissal period arrived (maybe you are doing your job if they read passages from a pending manuscript they plucked in an  Orwellian manner off my desktop at work) Uncle Mike gave me his tattered Baha’i prayer book. He told me when I went into the room to act like Abdul-baha was in the room with me and to treat my enemies with kindness and love.  I thought a lot about Whitman’s quote, “Oh to struggle against great odds. To meet enemies undaunted.”

If you want to read more about the craziness of that time you can click here: It was a dark time and I got through it and within a  month landed a job where I reel in ten thousand more a year that gives me more opportunity to write. The job was located at the end of Heading avenue. Mike lived at the intersection of Heading and Sterling. I asked Mike if I could move in since it was closer. At first he said he didn’t think I could technically have my address listed at this domain since he was a caregiver for Anthony. A couple weeks later Mike informed me that it would be no problem and I was welcome to move in at my convenience.

When my lease expired I moved in.

Somehow it felt like I was back home.


Home it was indeed. It was family, Uncle Mike and Anthony and myself.  Mike insisted on cooking for us every night, a big sit down dinner, usually with tatters and gravy and steamed vegetable and meat entrée. Every Sunday he invited friend over for dinner. I continued to work around the house and keep the lawn and the miniature Chinese garden he had in the portico up to elegant par. I was worried about his health. He had trouble walking. He was gaining weight. His ankles were swollen to the size of twin softballs. He said it was fluid from the heart. Again he was skidding off the road when he drove.  A couple of times I demanded he pull over and I drove us home.

He kept staying active. He was feisty. He slept a lot. A few times I wondered how serious his condition was. What irked me the most was that he would howl and yelp in his sleep and when I would enter his room demanding if he was okay he would be asleep and claim not to remember that he had yelled anything at all.

Then, overnight, he changed. Sometime around Easter that year he lost forty pounds in a month. His ankles detumesced. He stopped yelling at night. He no longer needed his cane to walk. He looked ten years younger. He had his wit. I’ve never seen anything like it. He self-healed.

 When I asked him in June how he seemed to spontaneously recover overnight he smiled and said two things: “Prayers and you moved back in.”

I gave him a long back rub that night.
I wish I could tell you how I didn’t (deleted-expletive, Uncle Mike wouldn’t want me cursing in his elegy) up my second round living with Uncle Mike. I wish I could tell you that. I wish I could tell you that I went on the radio-flyer wagon and found peace and focused on paying off bills when the money from my new job  was hobbling in.  

I wish I could tell you that I did the right thing for once.
 I wish I could tell you that but I can’t.
I was making more money than I ever had. Rent was two hundred dollars less per month than what I had been paying at my apartment. I partied hard.  When I left my apartment on Bradley avenue I remember counting the aluminum beer cans and it numbering  close to hundred, all consumed in the last week, which was to be my farewell to alcohol and my hello to abstemious living.
I wish I could tell you that I gave my body a rest. That I became more spiritual. That I was able (yes fully able) to jettison the emotional flotsam keeping me psychologically fettered to the past.  I wish I could tell you that I aptly wrote down every Baha’i story Uncle Mike shared with me, some now lost forever. I wish I could tell you that I was able to take care of my body, tackle my demons head on and to grow.
I wish I could tell you all this. Only I can’t.
I moved my writing desk into the leafy foliage of the nuclear woods. Every morning after work I would walk down the path in to the Nuclear woods that led to Farmington road and purchase a few beers from Haydee at Casey’s. There was a bum who lived in the woods named Steve and I would buy him a six-pack  and we would split a joint. I would then lumber through he woods, deer abutting both bluffs, arriving at my writing desk,  thoroughly pummeling out sentences, heading back down to Casey’s on Farmington road around 11, buying more beer, heading back to my desk and passing out.
Inspired by the Peoria bar Review twice a week I would take my best friend Hale out  and we would find a Podunk bar in the middle of nowhere and get soused, driving around the dusty back arteries of Mason county, smoking cigars, always laughing. One night I passed out in the woods in  Bradley park behind the tennis courts and woke up fifteen minutes before I had to arrive at work. Another Sunday I got home from work and couldn’t sleep and started drinking and ended up partying the whole day, ended up passed out in St. Mary’s cemetery in West Peoria, being ferried to the hospital, informing the ETS that everything was perspicuous , leaving the hospital, going to work that same nigh, coming home in the morning  descending into the woods to crack open a beer before drifting into a pond of sleep.
 I started drinking what I call ‘canoe beer’ by the crates during the week.  Hamms, Schlitz, Old Stye, Old Milwaukee. Crates of PBR. Called canoe beer because it was cheap beer you would see your grandfather drink while going on a canoe outing in the boundary waters.  I would escort Uncle Mike to Krogers in Madison park, leaving the side door to his vehicle purposefully unlocked even though we were parking in ghetto terra ferma  and while he was checking out which brats to buy for the Sunday outing skulk next door to seedy liquor store and stock up.
I wish I could tell you that I didn’t have other addictions as well. I wish I could tell you that I didn’t use my addictions for a gauze to sop up all the menstrual blotches of the past
 I wish I could tell you that I did things differently the second time I was blessed to crash with Uncle Mike again in this lifetime.
Only I can’t because I didn’t.


Almost exactly a year before Uncle Mike’s death he was laid-off from Caterpillar although he was still receiving a healthy chunk of his paycheck. Thanksgiving 2010 he invited his family from Southern Illinois up to celebrate. He cooked. It was feast. He was in high spirits. A couple of days later he began to complain vertigo. He began slur his words. I told him to lie down and take it easy. He continued to go nonstop. I asked him if he was okay. I told him I was going to take him to the doctors. I had seen him much worse than he was. He wasn’t howling drivel in his sleep.

I honestly figured he would be okay.

At Christmas I cozened him from going down South for the holidays, insisting that he just stay home and rest. It had been five weeks talking as if there were helium balloon lodged behind his skull. He still cooked every day he needed help walking. He didn’t like to be told no,

When I came home from work he insisted he was going to Goodfield to take a local Baha’i family out for dinner I adamantly desisted. I took his car keys away. I told him to lie down.  I went upstairs and took a shower. When I arrived home from work the following morning I went into his room to check on him and saw that he was wearing a hospital bracelet. He wouldn’t tell me what happen. Finally I badgered out of him that he had found a spare set of keys and had gotten into an accident. He was still loopy. I told him to lie down. I kept on insisting that he would get better since I had seen him much worse.

 Two days after the accident I went into his room to give him back rub. I had been writing and drinking out in the woods. In the two years since I had moved back in with Uncle Mike I had grown adept into smuggling bushels of beer cans out of the house, the majority littered in the Nuclear woods like a chrome escalator descending into the gravel swath and graffiti’d hieroglyphics  of dry run creek.  Perhaps he was snorkeling in the ether. Perhaps he was wading between the breath of both worlds. I still harbored the belief that Mike would snap out and I would find him one morning after work cooking, being his ornery self.

While  giving Mike the backrub he twisted his head to me.

“Have you taken care of it yet?”

 I knew what he was alluding to but I still retorted with the perfunctory what.

 “The problem that you have been dealing with. Have you taken care of that yet?”

 I knew Mike was talking about my drinking. For a second I thought about how I told myself when I first moved in with Mike I would be attending an AA meeting a day for ninety days and instead I went out and partied and ended up in the hospital.

 Yes,” I said to Uncle Mike. Lying. Kneading my fist into the stiff dip of his lower back.

“I’ve taken care of it. Everything is taken care of indeed.”



Eight hours before Uncle Mike died I ripped a contact lens  over the bathroom sink and went ape shit. I had been in my bedroom writing. I had to work a split shift that day leaving for Springfield, coming back him at six and then returning to work my standard 11pm to 7am shift.

It was a new year. Haddad’s had just burned down. I was madly in love with a creature who curdled my heart and then abandoned me for a fellow ‘wanna-be’ writer (gross) in town. I was melancholic. I was always drunk. As I was leaving my bedroom I kicked the outlet in the upstairs hallway yelping vulgarities.  The outlet transitioned into plastic tri-forces. I hated my life. Hated that I always felt hurt and alone. Hated that none of my relationships seemed to come to fruition. Hated that Mike was all of a sudden loopy.

Hated everything viviparous and with a stolid pulse abiding on the lip of the planet.

 Mike was sitting down in his chair in the living room. I gave him a backrub. He asked me what was wrong.

 I told him that I was just worn out all the time and felt defeated.  

Mike told me everything was going to be okay.

I was en route to Springfield for work. I asked Mike if I could borrow twenty bucks to stop on the way home and get something to eat. Mike told me to grab 20 dollars and I told him I would pay him back when I got home.

I gave him a long hug. I told him to get some rest.

Seven hours later when I returned from Springfield I would enter the house and find the stove on, the water he had heated for dinner just beginning to sizzle. The television was on. He slouched over. His lips were rubbery.

When I went to touch his neck it was still warm.


In the ER that night I couldn’t get ahold of anyone. My cell phone couldn’t get reception so I held my cell phone in one hand gleaning phone numbers calling everyone I knew in the other. For an hour all I got was messages. I then went back in the room where my friend lay. Parts of his body were turning blue as cells exploded, presenting the vessel of  his flesh an encore firework display for the sixty-seven and a half years experienced on this planet.

Uncle Mike looked like scholar. An academician with his goatee. His hair back. The paramedics had removed his shirt in an effort to resuscitate him.

All I could do for the first hour was just massage his body. I massaged his feet for over an hour while my mouth filled with the taste of mucous and salt and every thing above my chin just seemed to dribble and leak. I kept telling him how great of a man he was. I kept thanking him for everything he gave. I kept telling him that one of the greatest privileges in my life was to have sauntered into the weird looking man at the end of High Street all those years ago.

I kept kissing his forehead. I kept squeezing his feet. I kept thanking him


I kept thanking him for being Gandalf to my Frodo.




When I arrived back at the  Howard’s End on Heading Avenue later that night PARC came and took Anthony. The living room was dilapidated. The lamp overturned turned in a frenetic haste while the paramedics arrived still lying on its side as if aerobics, casting elongating shadows against the  geometric oriental flavor of his living room.  

Everyone was telling me that I shouldn’t stay alone in the house.

I told everyone I would be fine.

 I went into Mike’s bedroom and grabbed his thoroughly tattered Baha’i prayer book. I then went into the living room and, with talisman, a mystical lump of copper given to me years early by someone I love more than life, someone I had met through Mike, dropped down to both knees as if being knighted and began to prayer. Began to sob. Having known Mike for just under a pinch of a decade I knew there was one prayer he would pray over and over. He would break out and recite it at firesides. Whenever we passed a cemetery on one of our long drives.

On both knees I genuflected at the same portion of the living room carpet where two hours earlier I was blowing him,  futile trying to fill him with life. I clutched the copper and read the prayer over and over again.

I bled tears.
After an how I got up and straightened the lamp. I then went to his bed, took off my shirt and climbed under the covers.
I squeezed his pillow. I wanted to smell like him. I wanted the old man musk to envelope my entire body as I squeezed the pillow and drifted into the slumbering snow banks of winter peace.


O my God!  O Thou forgiver of sins, bestower of gifts, dispeller of afflictions!
Verily, I beseech thee to forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world.
O my Lord!  Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light.  Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendors on the loftiest mount.



After Uncle Mike’s demise I was still working 70 hours a week and I just wasn’t sleeping and I’m so indebted to my sister Beth and my mom (as well as Gary and Mark Anderson) for coming to the hospital that night.  I’m grateful to the outpouring of love from the local Baha'is and thx to Richard McClelland. Thirty years ago Richard had a sibling who died and Uncle Mike paid for the tombstone. Though he lives in Portland Richard paid for Mike’s tombstone and paid to have Uncle Mike’s obituary on-line ad infinitum. Justin Martin came all the way down from Duluth Minnesota and drove us down to Southern Illinois (riding the glacial surf of the worst snow storm to hammer central Illinois in 25 years. I can’t thank my brother David Hale for traveling down to the funeral with me or the local Baha’is for calling and checking up on me. My brothers’ (and now roommate) Kyle Devalk came down to Peoria with (the great) Roxy Reno came down and we gave an epic poetry reading. A week later my brother J moved in with me for the remainder of my time spent on the cusp of the Nuclear woods. Technically we were squatters, but I was so grateful for his presence and can’t thank everyone enough for really being there when I needed a friend in a time of dire need.

Three months after the funeral I moved out of Howard’s end a bevy of local hipsters moved in. They hosted crazy partied and always posted their pics on facebook ( I kinda feel that I christened it for them). Occasionally I would saunter into one at the Owl’s Nest and inquire about the house. There was at least five people living there and every time I inquired they replied that no, they never went into the woods.

 Uncle Mike has been gone for three years now. I continue to write and continue to drink perhaps more than I should at times. For a while I was burdened with the inevitable ‘if I had only come home minutes earlier he would still be here today’ bromide. But I feel Uncle Mike, in all his Gandalfian insight, just knew it was time for  the narrative tracks ferrying the freight train of his life to proceed to its next port. That the last months when his spirit was in a shamanic haze he was anticipating with vigor the inscrutable wonder the moment consciousness dips out of, as he always referred to it, this coat of flesh that is this body, peeling off layers of our prehensile and ontological perception orienting our limited periphery of this world to wade into the shallow end of the kiddie pool on splashes of what is to come. In an extremely anthologized collegiate commencement address delivered shortly before he died the late David Foster Wallace states that, “None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death.”

Whatever individual theology you adhere to—be it the gavel-duality judgment of heaven contra hell. Be it being reincarnated, poured into a different biological wrap of  epidermal and fur. Be it finding a utopia in the cumulus mist stretching beyond the fabric with a series of individuals adhering to doctrine similar was your own, one thing is certain. That all of us finding ourselves sip-locked and metaphysically marooned in this pocket of flesh for a an extremely terse quantum  drip of the cosmological egg-timer that is time and it is through vaulting over the vicissitudes branding the gravity of our ego—through love and kindness and caring and gestures and putting the needs of others in front of our own that we find peace and happiness in this puddle of reality, the prow of the planet we find ourselves sharing for a terse speck of time.

Uncle Mike exemplified these verities in his life.   Through laughter and unselfish gratitude and giving.  
Through making others feel perennially feel significant and loved for in the end we’re not here long.


Ten years ago Uncle Mike and I were returning from a Baha’i conference in Greenlake Wisconsin. I just met the creature who would later give me the copper. We spent six hours driving home listening to his crazy stories. When Mike dropped me off in front of my apartment I gave him hug and then squeezed his hand.

“Thank you for your friendship,” I told him.

He smiled back, that crooked lovely smile before telling me that we were going to be friends in this world and in the worlds to come.

The world to come which perhaps passing all finite understanding…



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 18: Gandalf to my Frodo... remembering the great Mike Truskey (part 3 of now 4)...


In spring 2008 I was completely miserable. I was dating a drippingly gorgeous classy creature from overseas who was as psychotic as she was stunningly aesthetic. She would hurl domestic bric-a-brac (or rather just bricks) at me after sex.  She accused me incessantly of infidelity, faked a pregnancy informing me that I would have to marry her.  She rented an apartment in a beautiful historic house on Moss Ave from a crazy old dotard. Sometime that spring it got to the point where I told her we weren’t going to have sex anymore because she would verbally explode afterwards.

Finally I laid down a caveat where whenever she began Sylvia-Plathing out of control I would leave her apartment and go home without a word.

My job was no better. While I had an exceptional rapport with the bulk of the students’ my colleagues continued to carp and connive (note: it’s not a good idea to work for a University that’s as historically as culturally internecine as it is nepotistic). I was getting fucked over just for doing my job and, at the same time, 30 percent of my take-home capital was going back to pay off loans accrued from attending the same institution where now worked (the other 70 percent went for Rent and booze).I smiled all the fucking time but I was miserable as shit at my work.  I went from writing 500,000 words a year just four years prior to writing less than ten thou. Why write when you already have a gargantuan corpus and you can’t do anything right anyway? Why write when you can saunter around drunk all the time. Why read when you can click on your computer and lose yourself in the uninhibited world of imminent splashes of flesh for hours on end.
The Murphy bed in my apartment broke (take a wild conjecture how) and I pillaged the alleyways behind frat row and found three mattresses which later turned out to be infested with bed bugs. I had pocks all over my body. Some days I would go on a walk with Dallas, the dwarf-sized MFA student who had no arms and scooted around campus in what looked like a miniature shopping cart being escorted with his dog.
Dallas could be kinda a smart-ass, especially when someone  was taking a dump in the handicap stall and he would tell them to get the hell out. Still he was always an inspiration. I never heard him bitch  about the body he found himself strapped into for a short period of time, and I miss him.

I found Uncle Mike again in early May--the story goes like this: Little David (exhausted as fuck, sick of working extra early morning hours at the university where he graduated from and not getting any sort of pay differential whatsoever other than an "attaboy") works a grueling 8pm-til-5am shift, stays up and writes for five hours, gets a couple of beers in his system to rejuvenate his vitality then at ten he decides to traipse back to the Student center at the university where he graduated from (and is still currently employed) to check his e-mail and make a payment on his forever draining student loan bills. When he arrives at the student center he inadvertently saunters into a janitor whom he doesn't see, or rather, the janitor is windexing the window of the transparent door he is currently walking through and when the janitor (who in all fairness was probably having a hard day too, but who, in all fairness gets paid overtime for his menial labor and did not graduate from/or take out a shit ton of student loans to attend the university where the two of us are now employed).... As I am walking through the door the janitor snaps at me, tells me that I should have seen that he is windexing the door and that I could have used the other door. I politely apologize, tell him that I apologize, tell him that I didn't see him. tell him that I am sorry. The janitor then snaps at me, recycles my apology back into my face like an irascible minor league coach arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire before informing me that I should watch where I am going, informing me that this better be the last time I accidentally amble into him.

Something then happens and I snap back. I've always had difficulty snapping. I have always had difficulty allowing the pent-up oppressed emotional magma to erupt through the Vesuvius of my lips. But maybe it was because of lack of daylight or the migraine of the relationship I was in at that time or the feeling of having failed, something welled up inside of me coercing my entire anatomy to transition into a pissed of exclamatory mark. I tell him that I dished out a laboring forty-thousand in arrears and that he just can't go off on alumni's (albeit ones who are broke) like that. I tell him that he needs to treat people with respect and that he is not going to talk like that to students again. The janitor continues to verbally chisel out harangues into my face and the next thing I know I reach out and strip his name tag off his shirt, hurtling it to the ground in disgust before vacating the building only to find myself minutes later bent over smoking cigarettes with the dwarf size MFA student who doesn't have any arms (hands sprout out of his shoulders like butterfly wings) crying, wishing there was a way to, as I did with the flea-infested furniture in my apartment, jettison all the anger and heartache and the hurt swilling below my shoulders like a see through the torso and tummy of a dirty washing machine.

I then walked around in a daze, catching a glimpse of the beautiful soccer mom who I made love to last summer as she idled her minivan at a light en route to picking up her progeny. I see my friend Tracy who was a dear friend of my late fathers and beautiful eye-lidded Karen who works with my mother. I had been up for at least thirty-five hours and was emotionally enervated when eventually I found myself saddled on the door step of the house I had left two years before.

When he answered the door the first word I said to him was Allah-u-Abha.

The most beautiful word I have ever heard.


It has been two years almost to the date when I had called Uncle Mike on the phone informing him that I was moving out. We hugged each other with open arms, the poetic prodigal son returning to the steps of his spiritual spring father.

 In his typical avuncular verbatim Uncle Mike stated that he knew he would see me any day now.
When I entered his living room the house we had moved into together it was like nothing had changed. I gave him an hour long backrub while we caught up. I told him how much I despised my job.  I told him how my career as a writer was going nowhere and how I was always broke. Uncle Mike had aged. His goatee and hair was completely gray. He had put on maybe fifty pounds. He looked more frail, his skin the color of type-set braille.
His spirits and laughter had not diminished in the slightest.
Mike then told me that he had a roommate and that he was a foster parent with PARC and that Anthony lived upstairs. He called Anthony down for meds informing him that I was the one who owned the basketball hoop in the backyard.
I then took Uncle Mike out for dinner at Steak and Shake and we went on one of our epic long drives.  I don’t know if I ever formally apologized for deserting him. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter.  We talked about the local Baha’is and the crazy times we had when we crashed together. I told him how much I missed his cooking. Uncle Mike laughed and we had assured me that there hadn’t been any more bats in the house since I left.
When he arrived back at his place I told him that I missed his lawn (takes about five hours to mow) and that I would be back the next day to mow it. Mike asked me to help him up the stairs and then told me to wait in the kitchen, stating that he had something for me. He clattered around in the dining room and came out a minute later handing me a wad of keys, telling me to stop by anytime. That I was always welcomed at the abode I had abandoned. Even if I wanted to come over and just crash in my bedroom for a couple of hours.
He told me that I was welcome anytime.


After all this time Frodo finally returned to be with Gandalf once again.


Thus the old man and the hippie were united once again. I still lived in  my apartment and worked at Bradley. During the day when Mike was at work I would walk over to Howard’ End and attack the lawn.  I usually saw Mike once or twice a week and we would always go for a long drive. He was gaining more weight. He had difficulty walking. A couple of our drives I was worried he would drive off the road, which one time he did.

Still his spirits were untarnished. The laughter and banter that has always existed between us had resumed. It felt  like old times.

I found my friend again.

One night in early December Mike (perhaps in all his premonition) insisted on buying 80 dollars worth of groceries for my apartment. I told him not to. He insisted. I learned a long time ago not to argue with his requests.

It was a good time. I was (finally) getting my ass out of debt. I just purchased  $600 worth of Christmas presents including a gift for a  childhood friend I had a tiff with an hadn’t spoken to in over three years.  I still hated my job. Was still treated with disdain from my fellow colleagues. The lucid December night after Mike randomly purchased two months’ worth of provisions I arrive into work. As I walked in seated in the entrance to the building were I have composed hundreds of pages over the last five years

 were the Dean of the department and the hermaphroditic  Human resource cunt who had a penis.


They ask if they could speak with me. They hand me a letter. They call security to have me ushered out of the building, which I declined, telling them I’m not going to let my students and fellow workers see their boss like this, telling them that I will go out the back door. A week earlier I had accumulated the courage to go to Human Resource and point out discrepancies with pay check.


Now, I was being dismissed on unfounded allegations.


 I found myself outside that night, exiled from the university I attended, the university that has my name adorned on a plaque in their central hall. The university I had given my balls to over the years. and had been affiliated with for over a decade.

I found  myself outside, in the cold and the snow.
I found myself all alone

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 17: To forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world....Remembering Mike Truskey (b.)...

In the summer of 2004 I had been crashing with Uncle Mike for just over a year in the apartment on Heading avenue when, out of nowhere, he decided to move to a large house in West Peoria, the corner of Sterling and Heading Ave. The house had five bedrooms. A large bathroom upstairs. A basements that could easily be converted to another three bedrooms. It had a pool in back and a brick portico that looked like a Zen garden.  The front lawn was the size of a high school football field. The back yard was a sprawling 20 acres and a pain-in-the ass to mow.

I jokingly called the house Howard’s End.

Uncle Mike simply referred to it as home.

It took us all summer to move. I had the upstairs to myself. When guests came we had plenty of room for them. As in before, Mike refused to charge me rent.

Not a dime.

The absolute highlight was that the house was located on the edge of a botanical bluff known as the Nuclear Woods, the woods on the edge of Heading avenue. Walk down the bluff and you will find yourself in dry run creek, that feeds into Bradley park and later spools into the graffiti’d swath of connecting tunnels known in the Peoria underground vernacular as the plumes.  

The woods aren’t called the Nuclear woods. Ironically, in the large novel, the one I had added another 400 pages to the past autumn, I had transitioned West Peoria into a post-modern factitious  fairy tale chronicling the timeless pubescent pixie-dust of adolescent , a lullaby from my youth. In the novel I wrote about the woods I used to play into when I was a kid with Pat McReynolds and David Hale. I later crowned the woods with the moniker, ‘The nuclear woods’ in the novel. I started the book in autumn 2000. Little did I know less than four years later I would be living on the bucolic banks of the Nuclear woods.

The house was beautiful in the autumn. Daily after classes I lost myself in the woods, letting my hair down, drinking beer. The woods were flooded (flooded) with deer, sylvan blurs rippling in sashays through the taupe autumnal foliage. In winter I would grab a six pack and escape into the woods, chain smoking cigars, sifting for hours with my thoughts.

   In the new house Mike continued with his hospitality. Continued to cook dinners and invite strangers over to the house. He rented the Franciscan center across the street for Naw Ruz parties and had epic turnouts.

When I told Uncle Mike that I had grown up in West Peoria he would respond by saying, "See. The you are moving back home."

The novel in autumn 2000, house on Heading ave. (note floppy and zip drives) phuckava sprawling-ass manuscript....

That spring I graduated from Bradley. Mike insisted on hosting a party inviting all the local Baha’is.  We had lived in the Heading Avenue house for almost a year. I started working full time for Bradley. I was making 20,000 dollars a year, which at the time, was the most money I had ever earned in my life.  Gradually I would come home from work every night around 3 and drink a 40oz Icehouse and drown a Foster’s Oil can. Gradually the forty and the oil can turned into a  forty, two oil cans and a cheap six pack which gradually turned into a forty, two oil cans, a twelve pack and beyond. I was still writing. I was working my ass off although (as I would discern later) I was being treated like shit. I still gave Mike backrubs every night. I went on trips. I partied. I was writing less. I had a novel I didn’t know what to do with. After two years of working just insane hours I could finally relax. I bought everyone expensive Christmas gifts. I was drunk all the time. I spent the weekends with Mike, helping out around the house (there was always a crazy project, we were always going to Menards). Gradually I grew listless. I was 28. I wanted a female companion. My writing career seemed to be going nowhere. I would get pissy at Mike for no reason. I felt trapped. As much as I loved Mike it felt like we had some weird kind of marriage. He was still always cooking. I was writing but the bulk of the time I soused.

I felt imprisoned. It seemed like Mike oriented his weekends so that we could spend as much time possible running errands together. One night while I was giving Mike a backrub I realized that over the past four years the tips of my fingers had spent more time massaging his back than touching any other female I had ever known.

It was in the middle of May 2006 when I discreetly moved out. I didn't tell Mike where I was for a couple of days. Finally I called him. I told him that I moved out. I thanked him for everything he had given for me the last couple of years but I told him I needed to work on my writing.

I told him I loved him. The conversation was terse. He told me to go work on my writing then.

I know I hurt him inside.


I had my own apartment for the first time in my life. I had a murphy bed (remember those).

The next week I went out and got laid.

And the week after that. and the week after that.


From May 2006 to July 2008 I saw Mike twice, only he didn’t see me. Once I was walking to the ATM and saw him getting out of his Cadillac heading into the Verizon store in campus town and I turned the other way. Once I saw five feet behind him at a store and ducked until he was out of reach. When local Baha’i Juliette Whittaker  (who Richard Pryor credited as giving him his comedic start) died in 2007 Mike called me at work. I had just had a dream about Mike the night before and wanted to chat longer only the conversation was terse.

The world was changing. In a microscopic blink e-mail was supplanted by Instant messaging was superseded by texting. Everywhere you went human being were drilling cryptic SOS’s into the diminutive lens of their cell phones. Everyone was spending all day being vicarious connected to everyone else via facebook. The simultaneous airships of Wikipedia and YouTube gave human beings access to see everything they have ever wanted to see and know everything they had ever wanted to know and still be all alone. It seemed like the bulk of my friends, even the ones I considered well read  and artistic were twittling their thumbs, filling the language I use to bead sentences and milk metaphors with ubiquitous 180 character vacuous  lettered tweets. Everyone was LOL and OMG. The superficial antics Kim Kardashian became the postmodern venerated Athena.  Everyone I knew seemed to all of a sudden end every other phrase of conversation with the platitude, “I know, right?”

I thought about the epigram from Howard’s End, 'Only Connect.'   It seemed like everyone was more and more viscerally connected yet more and more existentially truncated from the soulful rudiments that make us truly human, thinking that even a highly sophisticated hen could learn how to text in quickly tapped three-lettered pecks.

One day I googled the address of my old house on Heading avenue only to see via Google earth that is was directly in front of me. I could even see Mike’s car in the driveway from the Orwellian comfort of my own writing desk.

One Sunday early in the semesters I arrived to work and received and e-mail from my creative writing teacher to the news that my mentor, the great David Foster Wallace, the individual who compelled me to compose commodious manuscripts, the individual who wrote so eloquently about a culture who was so busy entertaining itself they too had forgotten the verities that make us human,  had taken his own life.

Only connect.



At the same time my own life had become unmanageable. I was miserable at work. I drank an accumulated 8-12 beers a day. On weekends it wasn’t uncommon for me to slam thirty beers a day on my days off.

I was scraping by to afford rent. What money I had went to getting plowed. I dated a gorgeous yet psycho girl from Nepal. I dated a really cool hippie from Morton and partied like I was Jim Morrison.

Still my writing career was going nowhere. With technology ferrying us every image imaginable (and still somehow it not being enough to sate our blundering urges) I had developed an addiction to good-ol fashioned friendly neighborhood porn. I still wrote every day but somehow I enacted the ritual of porning for three hours, drinking beer after beer until, finally, sitting down, pissing out a page or two and mistaking it as art.

I started to miss Uncle Mike. I started to Miss the long car drives the hippie and the old man would take together where Mike would share with me his metaphysical stories about conversing with the next world.

Started to miss Gandalf to my Frodo.

I was still partying and getting laid. I was hung up on a girl who moved overseas. After cutting my hair in 2004 to apply for a loan my hair was finally dripping past the knobs of my shoulder blades. I started smoking weed, since, when you have long hair and write poems and live in a University setting everyone mistakes you for having connections and gives you a bag quid pro quo.

In the mornings I would glean my first 12 pack from the convenient store on the corner of Laura and Western. It opened at 5:30 although they wouldn’t sell beer until six.  Often I would go ambling through the dimly-lit suburban labyrinth of West Peoria thinking of Uncle Mike. I walked passed my childhood home on Sherman. I walked past the Owls Nest and the Tartan Inn and (unbeknownst to me at the time) the house on the corner of Ayres and Waverly where I would live after Mike died. I walked past Haddad’s and, usually once a week, I would lurk into the backyard of the house on Heading avenue, chain smoking, watching the sun explode into a spate of orange streamers from the east, smoking, it was spring. I started picking up flowers from trees and placing them under the windshield wipers of his green Cadillac.


It was spring.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 16: Gandalf to my Frodo...(Drivin' around Illinois with the Hippie and the old man)..remembering Mike Truskey who died three years ago this day... (part a.)



It was three years ago today when I arrived home from a split shift at work, coming in the back door, hearing the hiss of the stove, a pan of water making plosive sounds ready to erupt into a pre-mature boil. I saw him on his reclining chair in the living room. His eyes were shushed. His faced titled, as if chocked. His lips had this expression—as if his lips were made out of putty and he was trying to form cursive letters with his lips. As if he were a little boy pirouetting in front of the water faucet in a park, not quite tall enough to reach the stream of liquid, pursing his lips to get a nourishing slurp. 

 I touched the back of his neck and found it tepid.  I touched his forehead and it was still warm. I chanted his name. I shook him. I thought he was playing a joke—Mike loved to joke. One time I came out of the shower and entered my bedroom naked and there was melanoma on the drywall and then it turned out to be a bat whispering at me in nylon hushes. I ran out, dressed up like an eskimo and killed the bat with a shovel. The next day Mike had (somehow) found  twenty fist sized plastic bats , opportunely stationing them atop the blades of the illuminating overhead oscillating fan in my room so when I entered my chamber the next night after my shower and hit the switch plastic bats soared at me from every which way direction, but.

The water hissing on the stove was not yet at a boil. I slap my hands as if instigating a slow-clap in an 80’s teenage movie. I yell out his name. I start cursing. I tell him to quit fucking with me. I tell him to cut it out. I grapple my hands on his shoulders and shake him several times.  There is nothing. His eyes are still stapled in a crunch. His lips are still contorted in a rubbery posture.

Something happens to the body in moments of extreme chaos and disorder. A calm ensues. I grab the phone. I dial the three digits. I tell the operator on the other end that my roommate is unresponsive. He asks for my address. He tells me that he is sending the paramedics over. He states that he is going to instruct me how to perform CPR. I tell him I am already certified.

I reel Mike’s body off the recliner. In the process Mike’s head hits the floor. It kills me. His glasses are crooked now. He is lying in supine posture, his head titled back so that his mouth is open. I close my eyes and breath into his body like hell, as if I am Aeolus. As if I can pour something from my body into his that will animate his senses.


There is nothing, I begin to press down on his chest. I’ve been certified in CPR for three years but one thing they neglect to tell you when you practice the pumping the standard ABBA ‘Staying Alive’ theme song on the Red Cross dummy is that, when you first press down in the center of the client’s chest, usually you hear a snap indicating that there ribs are broken.

I’m not used to hearing this snap. When I press down there is a crackle. In the last five minutes I have found my roommate unresponsive, I have shaken him, I have said that he was bluffing, I have inadvertently knocked his head on the living room while trying to resuscitate him, I have kissed him, I have blown Carbon-dioxide into his body and know, I have cracked his anatomy even more.


I continue to thrust up and down like a piston. Mike’s body continues to listlessly flap. I continue to curse. I can hear the sirens in West Peoria echo into a reverberated shrill. Five minutes later two officers enter the living room. One officer says he’ll continue to push if I blow. We are working his body, kneading our fingertips and our lips into his body, as if he were a musical instrument, trying to get him to make a sound. The paramedic will arrive flooding the house. In the haste two lamps are overturned, casting elongated shadows against the wall. I am trying to give the West Peoria fire chief his name with the correct spelling. There is a defibrillator hooked up to him that keeps on exploding.  The paramedic is holding the clamps like maracas and for some reason I keep expecting him to say the word clear but he refrains. The neighbor enters the house and I tell him to go upstairs and stay with Anthony. The next thing I realize there is a gurney and Mike is being hoisted out the front door, the door with the blue porch. The door we never used. The ambulance seems to be aided by the aegis of thrusters as it shoots out from the gravel of our driveway taking a hard left on Heading Avenue. I ride downtown to Methodist with the fire chief, the same fire chief with the handle bar moustache I spoke with while watching Haddad’s burn down on New years eve.  He drops me off and I enter the ER.  In the room I can see Mike’s shadow. There are eight doctors huddled around him as if discussing a play on third and long. I hear more snaps. More bleeps. After a five minutes of frenetic activity there is a lull. Slowly doctors exit the room. Slowly they are swiping their heads. For some reason I seem aggrieved how everything in the hospital is almost too damn white. The doctor in the ER with the curly hair turns to me and asks me a question, he asks me if I am the son of the old man.



I first met Mike Truskey in spring 2001, I had dropped out of college to write full time. I had 500 pages of a manuscript tucked under my arm so often friends thought I was wearing a cast. I lived on High street (note)  in an apartment located in a historic 1844 mansion, the coolest house in Peoria. I had a loveable gay roommate. I taught children English in an alternative high school. I smoked cigars and drank single malt scotches. I dated classy women who listened to opera.

Life was good.

Somehow life was that of a fairy tale. When I moved into the castle on High street there was a prince, Dave Thompson, my classy gay roommate. There was a King, Larry Reents, who was my high school English teacher and who lived next door in his Versailles-adorned house. There was a troubadour, my brother folk singer Dave McDonald who rented  what was once the servants’ quarters house from Larry and there was Mike Trusky, the Psychic, the magician, the trickster figure who lived down the street.    

I first met Mike one spring day when I was walking down High Street to Moss, then to Bradley library to get a couple of hours writing in. Mike waved at me from his front porch. He was an older man. He wore thick glasses and wore a ring with funny hieroglyphics dancing on the front.

He had a baseball diamond goatee. He kind of resembled Black Stone the magician who sold all the magic kits in late seventies kids would perform at Gradeschool talent shows, He walked with a haunch. His legs were birch-stilts. His body, body, mismatched, like trying to balance a bowling pin upside-down.  He head eyes that looked like piercings 8-balls that would balloon with inscrutable eeriness when he transitioned into psychic mode.
He told me that he was looking for someone to help out (ie, mow the lawn, housework) for him over the summer. I told him I was a writer and intended to spend the entire summer slamming out sentences for my novel.
He then kept on appearing. He would honk. If he saw me walking by he would wave me inside his apartment and offer me a plate of food.

He would keep appearing as if steeping out of a time-hole in sync with his intuitive gait. The Labor Day before 9-11 I went to the gas station to use the phone and a prostitute accosted me, claimed she would give me a blow job for twenty dollars. I turned to her and inquired if she gave hugs and told her that I would give her twenty dollars if she gave me a hug. I then felt the overwhelming need, somehow, to save her. Ran back to my apartment on high, quickly filled a bag with provisions, including boxes of Tofu from my crazy ex-girlfriend, ran down back to the gas station, only to find her gone. When I turned around there was beep.

It was Mike.

Thus we began a relationship where, if he would see me walking, he would honk twice and I would get into the side wing of his green Cadillac and he would aimlessly drive. He had stories that were mystic and inscrutable and kind of eerie. He had given psychic readings to esteemed clairvoyant Greta Alexander. He had visited sites that were quote, “haunted” and possessed performed a series of prayers and, with an inexplicable gush of wind and a clattering of stationary furniture a peace with come over the abode and the house would be cleansed. I was dubious. At times he would talk and there would be a glow around his Blackstone-the-magician face. A metaphysical aureole would cocoon around his visage in blinks of lights. If we would be having dinner at a restaurant he would be talking about an old ‘pioneer’ or mystic friend who had passed-on and the lights in the building would suddenly stutter and wink, Mike would look north, nonchalantly say that said person is in the room with us, before returning back to his meal.

He also traveled the world teaching the Baha’i faith, which, in my theological insouciance mistook for the B’nai B’rith home downtown. He was reluctant to tell me anything about the faith. Finally I badgered it out of him, Mike uttering the names of Islamic-sounding prophets, none of which I have heard of before.

The next was nine-eleven and there were Islamic-sounding names plopping around everywhere.
 Boy was I confused.

He lived in a house near where High Street rolls into the edge of Moss. It was a large house and Mike sold it to the neighbor and moved into their apartment. I had known Mike for maybe a month when he saw me tramping down the street in between a writing session. He waved me over, told me he could see me walking before I left my apartment then inquired if I could move a few chairs. When I entered his new apartment he got silent then he pointed.
He then told me to look around:
“Look around, you’re going to be living here someday.”
Living with a crazy old man-psychic was the furthest thing from my mind.
 I brushed it off as bosh went home to my palace and cracked open a beer.


I would later learn more about this peculiar man with crazy abilities. I would learn that when he was a kid in southern Illinois he was raised by his grandparents and that, one night when he was like five, he had a nightmare where his grandfather died which scared. Young Mike then clambered into his grandparents bed only to be awaken several hours later, his grandmother screaming.

His grandfather had endured a stroke in the middle of the night and was dead.

I learned that Mike had a vivacious loveable-eccentric mother and that he only saw his biological father once (“he was eating bread with whipped butter,”)  I learned that he attended Illinois State and enrolled in the Airforce before attending seminary because he wanted, “to find out if there was a god or not.”

I learned that, shortly after exiting the seminary, he became a Baha’i, after living next to Baha’is named Dick and Anne in Bloomington. Anne was an artist and there were no curtains on their windows. People were coming over at all hours and always leaving with heaps of food. A lot of the people who were coming over to the neighbor’s house were artists, but some looked like they could be homeless and there was always a huge ethnic array of genealogies present. Mike was baffled.  He couldn’t understand what was going on. He was sick of always seeing people come in and out of a house with no blinding’s or shades ferrying heaps of food, laughing. Mike later went out and bought shades for the convivial neighbors, knocking on their door, handing them the shades, telling them to cover their window. Mike arrived in the middle of a festival called Feast. The house was full of people mingling and laughing. Anne graciously accepted the curtains thanking Mike before telling him he needed to come back another day and talk because they were in the middle of Feast, vexing Mike even more.

 Mike then went over to her house the next day, and, like this author would thirty years later, badgered the rudiments of the Baha’I faith out of her. Anne was  vacuuming the floor. Mike kept being inquisitive and pesky. Finally Anne stomped the vacuum into a halt turned to Mike and said, “You are Christian, right? You know how you guys’ believe that Chirst will come return? We believe that he already has.”

Mike then quoted a well-anthologized verse of scripture about the return happening like a thief in the night.

Anne then turned to Mike and said, “How do you know when a thief has arrived in your house.”

When Mike looked back at Anne perplexed she responded, “By coming home and seeing that everything you have is gone.”


Mike then went next door, mulled the Baha'i faith, read everything he could about it. One night when he couldn’t sleep he turned to his roommate.


“I don’t get it. This makes more sense than anything I ever heard in my life.”

The roommate concurred.

The next day both Mike and his roommate both became  Baha’is.  

I would learn that he loved the Baha’i faith. That he traveled the planet teaching his beliefs which, to me, is intrinsically, putting others needs and beliefs ahead of that of your own and fostering the growth of this arboretum of human consciousness we call the planet.  

I would learn that he loved spending time with Baha’i kids in the area and that they would always refer to him as Uncle Mike.

Uncle Mike.


When I was living in the mansion on High Street my father died rather suddenly. I was in the hospital watching the sallow features of his face crunch out the last vowels of his time here on this planet. I hadn’t spoken with Mike in a couple of months. I was kind of avoiding him because he would always start sounding like Yoda. He would glow. Sometimes he would start talking about the Baha'i faith or about friends of his who had passed and time would envelope and slow down and I would experience what Uncle Mike would refer to as ‘Vibratory rates.” Every time I walked through the Victorian brimming houses dotting the sidewalks of High-Vine I would feel like he would spontaneously sprout, honking at me in his Cadillac insisting that I get in the car, breaking into long narrative using an arcana I was unfamiliar with, always insisting that I have dinner with him ( he liked to eat), always stopping by, usually unexpected, at other Baha’is  domiciles in the area, dropping off gifts, always giving me ten bucks when he dropped me off at my house to ensure I had food for the week, telling me to “put the funds in my pocket now so I don’t lose it.” 
He was also weirding me out because he was always saying prayers for friends of his who had died, informing me that eternity is closer than we could ever fathom.

In the hospital the night of my father's untimely demise I was surrounded by people I love. David Hale and David Thompson and Pat McReynold’s (the protagonist of my novel, holding the author of the text up) and my classy girlfriend at the time. Somehow I got the idea that I would call Mike and tell him that my father was dying and that he wasn’t expected to make it through the night.  When I called him up I asked if he could say prayers for my father. He told me not to worry. That everything was going to be fine and that my father would pass peacefully from one world to the next. Mike then called back fifteen minutes later and told me that he called other Baha’is in the area and that they were praying for my father’s passing as well.

Still to this day the gesture of people I hardy knew praying for my farther on his death bed means so much.

 When my grandmother in Chicago died year later told me to go to the House of Worship in Wilmette. He told me to say certain Baha’i prayers for her. He then told me what prayer I should say when I see my grandmother in the corpse and to remember what I was seeing before me embalmed in the corpse was only a ‘coat’ so to speak. That the body of her spirit was elsewhere. when I returned back from my grandmother's death in the Spring of 2003 I found myself homeless. I was still working 60 hours a week but the house where I ad been staying since I moved off of high was being sold to build a Walgreens. For a while I crashed in my station wagon in Jumer's parking lot. One night Mike called my cell phone and asked if I could come over for dinner. He asked where I staying and I refused to answer, fabricating, telling him that I was crashing with a friend.
Mike then pointed down the room and told me that I bed was already made.
Later that I night I remember how, when I was helping him move in, he told me to look around, because I would be living here some day

Thus began my relationship with living with Uncle Mike. The old man and the Hippie. Gandalf to my Frodo. During my first three years living as his roommate he never charged me rent. There was always food. We would go on long aimless drives in the country and Mike would share mystic stories, stories about the early Baha’i pioneers, stories about his mystical teacher Pearl, stories about his paranormal encounters. Again and again Mike would tell me that he knew I was coming to stay with him.

That the Concourse had ordained that it would be so.

Mike loved to cook and invite people over to the house and entertain. Some of recipes are legendary. He would describe his meatloaf as being sinful. He made this greek chicken that would melt off the bones. Every night there was a full meal. On the weekend he would have guests over and cook a feast. Instead of praying Mike had an unwritten mandate that everyone had to go around the room and state what they were thankful for that day.
Mike insisted on sleeping on an air mattress in the living room. I was still working around the clock and going to school full time. I was working the grueling 11pm-3am shift at the library. After a day of classes and writing I would arrive home at five and he would have dinner waiting. I would then give his a backrub (he loved backrubs) and crash on his couch before he got me up at ten informing me that it was time for me to go to work.

 The first year I lived with Uncle Mike (2003-2004) was the most prolific of my literary career. I pissed out over 500,000 words, joyously blowing my wrists out in the process.  I drove up to St. Paul and attended (my mentor) Garrison Keillor’s 30th anniversary broadcast of a Prairie Home Companion. I published my first story in a local literary journal, even though I wouldn’t let him read it because it was about a cross dressing PrinceCharming  a la Cinderella fairy tale.
While crashing with Uncle Mike I witness kindness and giving on an unparalleled level. Everyone he met he seemed to give them something. While living with him I’ve seen him give away at least three vehicles. He would buy furniture for families who needed it. Every week there was someone else he took out to dinner.
 Every week he was always giving.
 I also learned to  invest more in Uncle Mike’s psychic prowess, simply for one reason:
True Psychics’ tell you shit you don’t want to hear.