Minutes (Chicago)

August 13, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

beer on the ground

  • On the third day of his Master Cleanse a boy grumped down an alleyway at eight o’clock in the evening. While considering the various meals he could but would not eat–pepperoni pizza, spaghetti bolognese, pad thai, hamburger with bacon, bacon, bacon and eggs, steak and eggs, steak and frites and horse radish–meals he had missed–cereal, ramen, a ruben sandwich, a vietnemese sandwich, potatoe chips, hot wings, beer, whisky, a late night burrito–he happened to look at the ground–orange juice, pancakes, coffee–where his eyes caught the street lamp casting a pool of light on the cobblestone ground–jasmin rice, garlic naan, indian curry from the take out place down the street–melting in a puddle of ice a pile of unopened beer cans lay scattered in the street. The boy stopped. He stared at the ground. He imagined what the beer would taste like. He felt like a leprechaun. He looked around in case there was a leprechaun. He studied the ground again. He could still taste cayenne pepper in his mouth and he imagined going home to his supper of lemon juice. He squatted down, untied and retied the laces of his shoes. He burped. He tasted bile in the back of his throat. The hair on his arms stood raised, bristling and he broke out in a sweat. Shaking his head, he nevertheless walked away, throwing his arms up in the air. For the next seven days of his cleans, the boy would return to that very spot and imagine again the beer that lay there.

Minutes (Chicago)

August 5, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

  • A very small man sat beside a very small boy at a bus stop. It was bright outside and both squinted against the sun; both ate breakfast also: an egg english muffin that looked to have been made at home. “It’s Ok,” the father said, looking down at his nine year-old. “We’re just small people.” Something about the way this was said. I’m not sure I understand it, for the boy seemed not to be listening, his eyes focused on the patch of cement in front of the bench, his mouth chewing the sandwich; he nevertheless sat up straighter and an almost imperceptable flush of pride stole across his fine features. He stopped chewing and gazed long at his own hands.
  • A woman rested on another woman in the park. A third lay perpendicular as a witness. The first was chatty, her voice brassy, she punched through her words like one might kick through gravel. “I know I shouldn’t have told her about Pete, but really. I’m a tattle tale. I can’t keep that in.”
  • At a table a young man spoke of endangered fruit. He said he wanted to save them. He was petitioning the city, he said, to start a farm in an abandoned lot. He asked you to sign the petition.

Minutes (Chicago)

August 4, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

  • At the farmer’s market: The Gutter Punk was hitting on the mushroom girl again. They spoke for a few hours, him dawdling around her tent, making himself conspicuous when she was alone and inconspicuous when she had customers, camoflauging at will in the earthy properties of her wares. By contrast she was clean with very white teeth and one of those smiles that seems style-less, unbegrudged by any particular aesthetic or urban affiliation. She looked like she might hike the Appalachian Trail just as she might work in a bookstore, go to school, be a midwife, run a farm or keep bees. A woman capable of passing through many worlds; worlds without a public.
  • At the farmer’s market: children smelled soap like they would taste ice cream. Each child picked a different color of soap and raised it to their respective parents’ noses saying, “I want this one.” Parents complied. A group of three families passed on to the next stand, where the children began demanding vegetables as a passerby remarked with a scowl, “It’s no good children making decisions for the family.”
  • At the farmer’s market: a middle-aged woman walked around with a collapsible stool and a beau. At each tent she unfolded her stool and sat down as one might sit at a flea market. Her beau, a younger man in his late twenties, followed her pointing finger and brought her a variety of vegetables to inspect while she tried to chat with the farmers. The silence came in episodic periods, giving everyone goosebumps.

Minutes (Chicago)

August 3, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard


  • In an auditorian with plush seats, there are enough seats for 500 but only 15 are occupied. What seats are occupied are not concentrated, members of the audience sit scattered and haphazard throughout the room. The room is well lit. On stage middle aged men and women take turns reading poetry. The middle aged women read poems about waking up in the middle of the night feeling lonely. They read poems about how their loneliness persists throughout the course of the ensuing day, using metaphors for wilting flowers, rainy days and brittle, ancient love letters. They tell about how upon the end of their domestic habit their husbands come home and spoon them, easing them once more to sleep. The middle aged men in button up shirts, loafers without socks, in some cases an arrant pony tail, read poems about parties with young women still girls. The girls appear again and again in different masks with different personalities, like flowers in a field the men describe these girls and how they want to fuck them and how once they did fuck them and how fuckable they are. Upon resuming their seats, men and women both pat the thighs of respective spouses.
  • A man leaves his shirt slightly unbuttoned. As he grows progressively more and more drunk, he unbuttons more buttons on his shirt. He frowns in conversation, distracted. The more buttons undone, the more unhappy he becomes. He walks away from a group of four around 11 p.m. “It looks like he’s pushed it to the Critical Level,” a brunette says to a blond. “Whatever do you mean?” the blond says. “You’ve never heard of the Critical Level?” the third pipes up, a petite Asian girl. “That’s when you unbutton your shirt to your belly button.” The blond nods with understanding, “Oh, that. Yes. Well. You know Dean, he just wants everyone to see the tattoo on his heart.” “He has a tattoo?” the Asian girl asks. “Yes. He has his signature tattooed over his heart, very big. He likes people to see it.” The fourth girl, as far as I can tell, never said anything at all.
  • The last middle aged man to read in the auditorium did not tell about girls at all, but read a poem about a robbery. He did not read from the page. He did not boast any rhyme. Rather, his poem had the affect of a story. He had memorized his work and he recited it perfectly. He told a story about the dark night of November when, after leaving a school building in Cabrini Green, he was mugged by penis. His acoster threatened to pee on him if the poet didn’t give up his wallet, his watch and his shoes. The poet escaped by running.

posted by Caroline Picard


A few years ago I happened to be in Santa Fe for a few days in the summer. Among other things, we created a cocktail called The Politician’s Wife: a glass of white wine (chilled) with the liquidy dregs that accrue after one’s scrambled eggs, and single cube of ice. The premise was that, since Santa Fe was in the middle of a drought and all water had to be salvaged and recycled, the Politician’s wife would support her husband through such public and fastidious gestures. (The Politician’s Wife was to go in a long list of peculiar cocktails including The Ultimate (whisky with large Polish sausage garnish: the fat from the sausage congeals on the surface of the liquor), The Beretta (whisky with a maple breakfast sausage (the small kind, otherwise known as a ‘link’) or The Dandy (a martini with a veal garnish that drapes over the side of the glass).

But. I digress.


At the farmer’s market there was a performance artist, a puppeteer. He wore a black mime’s unisuit and black gloves. His face was painted similarly black and he wore a black knit cap. For his legs, however, he wore a cheetah costume, with a cheetah tail coming out of his butt, and strung up to his shoulders with an invisible string attached to his shoulders. This, of course, was cumbersome at time, because the pedestrian customers didn’t always see the fishing line and thus would, from time to time, get caught up and confused in his tail.

Extending out of his torso, parallel to the ground and directly from his groin, came the body of a cheetah, with a pair of fore legs, and of course, a head. The puppeteer controlled this crotch-puppet (it was life size) by another series of strings which connected to the cat’f forepaws, head, eyelids, mouth, and (somehow) tongue. As the cheetah man prowled the aisles of the farmer’s market, the scent of roasting chiles thick in the air, a few old timey blue grass musicians playing on twangy instruments, it would pause now and then to clean itself and lick its paper mache paws. Until of course it found a baby, in this particular case it found a baby in a stroller and it went up to the baby and it sniffed the child’s face, and the mother smiled and the puppeteer said, “if you put a dollar in its mouth it will take it” and the mother gave the child a dollar and the babbling baby that barely knew what for clutched the dollar and the cheetah head neared the child and opened its mouth and licked the child and bit on the dollar and tugged on the dollar and the baby started to cry and the puppeteer started to laugh and the mother started to laugh and she had gooseflesh on her arms and the cheetah took the dollar and swallowed the dollar (somehow) and the mother gave the pupeteer another dollar and both gazed together at the marvels of abdominal extension.

Minutes (Chicago)

July 22, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard



Trials of the Snuggie

  • Two woman sat at a table talking. Through their body language they belied a close friendship, though as is often the case with women and girls, it was not clear whether they had been friends for a long time (during which their friendship had grown deep and rich and strong) or, whether they had only been friends a few days (during which their friendship grew as a clinging vine and without the integrity of years insisted upon an arduous intimacy). While it is of no matter in this account, it would predict whether or not they were still friends today (for those friendships of the fast sort most often explode). The one I will call GEMMA. The other IRENE.

GEMMA: He sent me a snuggie for Christmas. It was late. He didn’t send it until February, but he sent me a snuggie. Isn’t that so wrong?

IRENE: A snuggie?

GEMMA: Yes. A snuggie. Because that’s like what we would have been into if we were still together. So he broke up with me and then he sent me a snuggie a couple months later. And I just didn’t want to deal with it. So I didn’t say anything. We hardly spoke anyway so it didn’t matter but then he started sending me all these links to snuggie activities. Like he sent me a link to a snuggie pub crawl in Wrigleyville and then he sent me a link to an article about how awesome snuggies were and whatever. He kept trying to talk about the snuggie.

IRENE: And nothing else? Not even like, sorry we broke up?

GEMMA: Nothing else. Just stuff about snuggies. Finally he sent me an email, one line, that just said: “You hate the snuggie don’t you.”

Pantry Kitchen Recluse

  • A soon-to-be mother told me this story, which I’ll retell here as though it wasn’t overheard at all. Because I think it’s that funny. Basically Maria is the soon-to-be mom. She isn’t due until next November, but still. She lives with her boyfriend, Franco, and they both seem pretty excited, though kind of worried about the different midwives that seemed to be fighting for their business. Anyway. It’s summer. It’s hot. Franco was at work all day and he came home as usual, around six o’clock. He couldn’t find Maria. Their apartment was pretty small, so he wasn’t too worried about it, he took a little stroll through all of the different rooms, fed thier little terrier and sat down on the couch to watch tv, assuming (as anyone might) that Maria had gone for a walk. After about thirty minutes, however, he started to doubt himself. He decided to call her. He heard her phone go off in the bedroom and that seemed suspicious enough since she always carried her phone. He checked the back yard and then noticed her wallet on the kitchen table. For some reason he decided to call her name, “Maria?” he called. Their apartment, a two bedroom single-story train car apartment was quite small, so he didn’t have to call out very loud. He called again, “Maria?’ He thought he heard a rustling sound but he couldn’t be sure. The hair on his arms was standing on end.  A third time, he called out, “MARIA!” He heard a sound coming from the kitchen, and then a very small “yes?” came, though he could not determine where it came from. “WHERE ARE YOU?” he called out, feeling oddly excited. “I’m in the pantry,” she said, her voice still muffled from behind the wooden pantry door. “WHY ARE YOU IN THE PANTRY?” he called out, opening the pantry door and standing inside with her. It was indeed quite cool. Their dry goods seemed settled and calm in the cool shadows. “I found the coldest room in the house,” Maria said. They were silent for a while, breathing together in the dark of the pantry. Franco heard the dog scratch at the door. He could feel Maria getting angry though he didn’t know how or, more importantly, why. As though to broach her mood he asked, “The pantry is the coldest room in the house?” “Well it was,” she snapped. “Until you came.” She opened the pantry door, walked out and slammed it behind her.

Minutes (Chicago)

July 21, 2009

posted & written by Caroline Picard


  • The Last Thing To Be Said About the Farmer’s Market (for now, anyway): There is a man who sells vegetables under a tent with flames on it. Each morning, before the customers arrive, he studies the price points of other vegetables. He can see that spring onions are sold for three dollars at the stand across from him. He prices his spring onions at two dollars. Tomatoes are sold for five dollars/crate three stands down from him. He thus sells a crate for four. He has an outstanding reputation for his surreptitious activity. Last week he set up his stand and crossed the aisle to examine the prices of his approximate competitor. He had a pad and a pencil and took down notes. One of the vendors scowled at him. “Doing some re-con, eh?” The farmer from the tent of flames looked up and scratched his head with the visor of his baseball hat. “Maybe,” he said. “You do it too though. You came last week and looked at my prices.” The woman to whom he spoke would have none of this. She cussed under her breath, “Fucker, SOB, Apple-Faced Bitch,” and looked up at him again. “That’s just not so,” she said. “I came last week to buy a tomato plant from you. And you know it.” The farmer from the flame tent licked his lips, a surly smile spread over his small teeth. “You and I both know that’s not so. You and I both know what you were up to. Plotting. Undercutting me. Pssh. Tomato Plant. Indeed.” He shook his head and, while rubbing his hands together, went back to his tent of flames, put his sunglasses on and lowered all of his prices a dollar.