A Place for Rick

Three weeks ago on April 5, I lost my Uncle Rick. Mom’s older brother. He’d been fighting cancer for a long time. While it went away for a while, it came back with a vengeance, as it does. Though he kept how bad it was mostly to himself. These past several months, it was hard to get a hold of him. I left a few messages, texts, and sent him a copy of Midwestern Gothic. His 80th birthday was in March. I texted him, and then never got a hold of him. I regret not trying harder, but what you can you do? When we learned things were really bad, we heard he wasn’t taking calls. I tried calling to at least leave a message in hopes that his caregivers would play it for him. But the call never went to voicemail.

Cousin Mary, who lives in California a few hours north of Rick let us know she was driving down and would read any messages we emailed her. I was back home for my niece’s birthday, and was finishing up my email sitting at my dad’s kitchen table, when my Aunt Diane called to tell me he’d passed. This was also the three year anniversary of my Uncle Charlie’s passing, so not a good day for my aunt already.

I sent my message to Mary anyway, and these few weeks later, I thought I’d post a slightly edited version here.

A few other things. Rick was a big deal in the dog world, judging dog shows all over the planet. He’s written several dog books including Rottweilers for Dummies (kinda cool, eh?!) Check out his Amazon Page! He hosted a Tournament of Champions dog show in Detroit for several years around the time I was in high school. He knew Betty White.

His house in Malibu was next door to Olivia Newton John, but I didn’t see her when I was out there. Before that, he lived on the same street as Bob Dylan. When The Wallflowers broke in 1996 and my crush on Jakob Dylan was at its most intense, Rick told me how he remembered Jakob riding around the neighborhood on his Big Wheel. Awesome.

Maybe there’s more I could say, but this is good for now.

So here’s that message. Thank you Rick. 🙂

 

Hi Rick. First off, THANK YOU. For everything. For being part of a pretty stellar line up of uncles: yourself, Charlie, Terry, Ron, and Gary. Pretty awesome there.

Thank you for taking care of Mom, in whatever way you needed to in a given moment. You took care of her growing up. And also rescued her from her houseful of crazy boys. Well maybe not so much from ME, ha. Okay, that’s a lie. The Me part. I know that the adventures you went on together enriched her life like I’m sure they did yours. Thank you in the end for being my “co-eulogist” when it was her turn to go. It was an honor to share that with you.

Thank you for making your visits such events—even if at first that meant you took us to Toys R Us and let us pick TWO toys!

Thank you for being there for graduations and other events. For sending me cards (and cash) when I was a broke college student just starting off on that crazy adventure.

Okay, early memory time: Summer 1978 when Mom, Steve, and I stayed at the Malibu house. You were there part of the time before going on your travels. Steve couldn’t stop running fearlessly toward the ocean. Me, I held back, content to digging in the sand because Jaws was going to get me. Once, I got carried away, flinging sand as I dug. You were sitting downwind, reading. Sand kept blowing at you, and you told me to stop. Probably with a stern look like Grandma. A small moment, but it stuck.

Thank you also for being an inspiration both as a gay man and a writer. Having you to look up to and talk to as I was figuring myself out I think made it much easier. Probably for Mom too. Thank you for being a part of mine and Ernie’s ceremony (10 years ago next month!); for sharing some of your stories, for connecting me to a part of that history. I only wish we lived closer together so we could share more of our stories more often. As a writer, I am definitely aware of this family tradition we have going on here.

(Side bar: I love how many years ago, Ernie and I were flipping through his TV in his studio apartment and when we hit Animal Planet you and Ron Regan Junior were giving commentary at a dog show. What an awesome and beautifully random moment!)

So, the writer thing. Our subjects and approaches may be different, but I love how we both found our ways in (though I suppose I’m still figuring that out.) Thank you for your support in all my creative endeavors. Having you at the show I did in Chicago that dreadfully cold February in 2006 was very cool.

Thank you for that awesome October adventure a few years ago: my triumphant return to California after 32 years! The talk, the wine, the fresh air, my “brush” with Jack Kerouac at Big Sur.

As an uncle now myself, I hope I’m half as fabulous as you’ve been.

Thank you again!!

Love, Michael

Works In Progress

Happy site make over! It’s been on my post-graduation to-do list for a while now. I still feel like I’m in post-graduation (DePaul) mode really. I think I’m allowed to feel that way for at least one full school year after, right? When I still know folks in the program and I’m still feeling the momentum and the wind of my freshly minted degree still on my back (unless that’s really the Arctic wind this winter’s brought upon us.)

In addition to Mortified, I was a part of Defining Moments, Broken Road Theatre’s storytelling benefit for their first show. Thanks again, Dennis! While I did an encore of sorts of my Mortified piece, I am working on some new material to submit or have on hand for future invitations. I’ve also been trying to make it out to shows I haven’t been to. Finally made it to Story Sessions! And in the past few weeks, I’ve “officially” met folks around Live Lit Land I’ve only before known of either through seeing them at an event or around the Facebook groups. Always good to have some real connection. You probably know who you are. 🙂

A couple nonfiction things in the works hopefully soonishly coming to a show and/or publication near you:

Drama 101 – Morning radio improv game, high school, automotive knowledge or lack thereof…

Stolen – Of a childhood home break-in and other loss.

I have some nonfiction work from school that needs some love as well for publication and/or performance (some of it works better for performance than others.) I’ve thought about posting here the piece I wrote about the passing of my friend Cookie Crumbles, though with some editing it may work for live events. So we’ll see… There’s the story of my volunteer work at the Lakeview Pantry last year (The Pantry) There’s also my piece on going home to Detroit to learn more about Rouge River conversation efforts (On the Rouge), which in some ways is less about the river itself and more about Home and connection with my Dad. So hopefully I’ll have news on those stories in the near future…

I need to start entering more contests. There are some deadlines coming up this month. I gotta get on that for real…

I have some fiction work going on as well. This week (and this weekend…) I’ve gotten back into edits of my “Todd & Wendell” story, a story of a grandson and a grandfather I’ve been working on since the summer before school started. I workshopped it in my first writing class at DePaul, and worked on it some more in a literary editing class. And with some much appreciated feedback from my classmate Raul Palma, I’m going full-ish steam ahead on round, um, I really don’t know what round I’m on at this point. I also have The Red Car, an Indiana story, which I included as a work sample for my DePaul application. That draft is long buried, but it’s good to know it was still good enough at the time. There’s also my Triptosis, the story of a couple best friends as told through an unexpected point of view written for Rebecca Johns-Trissler’s Speculative Fiction class (a program highlight for me–take it!) Hopefully you’ll hear good news about these stories as well.

And of course there’s all those other drafts and half-started ideas and first sentences waiting for me to focus my “writerly A.D.D.” back onto them. We all have those!

I suppose this public declaration can act as a motivator. I better follow through for you!

I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers.

Photo: Charlotte Built my Hotrod, 2007.  A favorite from my South Bend, Indiana days. See it on Flickr.

“Dance of the Ring” in Midwestern Gothic

MWGissue11Midwestern Gothic  is a quarterly print literary journal based in Ann Arbor, Michigan dedicated to featuring work about or inspired by the Midwest, by writers who live or have lived here. My essay Dance of the Ring is part of Issue 11 (Fall 2013) their first devoted to Creative Nonfiction. I originally presented this Mad About You-inspired  story as part of Solo Homo 8 with NewTown Writers in June 2010. The now defunct Q Review published it online in June 2011. I’m honored to be a part of this exciting issue and to have it as the new literary home for my story.

Pick up a print or digital copy at MidwestGothic.com. Cheers.

Mortified in Photos

Thanks to everyone who came out to Mortified Chicago to “share the shame” with me as I presented a collection of high school poetry and song lyrics affectionately titled Angry Young Man. As I navigated through the music-inspired personas I put forth, I shared such titles as “Downhill,” “Get Off My Foot,” and “My Bleeding Soul.” I had a blast and can’t wait to to do it all over again.

Photos by my fabulous cast mate Jill Howe who shared with us her take on The Crucible by way of Alanis Morrisette.

UPDATE: Listen to the audio at Soundcloud.com!

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My inner Robert Smith and I.

Mortified 2

Giving the Censor Board a piece of my mind, yo.

My air guitar and I "sing" about a love that's gone "Downhill."

My air guitar and I “sing” about a love that’s gone “Downhill” from 8th grade.

Mom's "moody one."

Mom’s “moody one.”

I Am a Master!

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I started this site/blog during Grad School Phase 1 at IUSB in 2008. Five years and two addresses later (and of course our triumphant return to Chicago), I finally have that Masters. Cool. So a huge THANK YOU to everyone who’s been a part of it along the way. All my profs and peeps at Indiana who encouraged me and worked with me and helped me dive back into academia after a ten year hiatus. And to all my DePaul MAWPers (graduates and near future graduates alike) who I already miss even though it’s been only a little over a month.

Onward in life and art and scratching things off our summer to-do lists.

Cheers!

That’s All She Wrote

Hey Friends! I’m helping launch a brand new Chicago live lit series called That’s All She Wrote.

I’ll be premiering a brand new story called “Blaming Richard Marx.” I know you want to find out what that’s all about.

Details:

Sunday, October 14th at 8:00 pm at Swim Cafe in the West Town/Noble Square neighborhood — 1357 W. Chicago Avenue. Food is available for purchase and the show is BYOB (Lush Wine & Spirits is just up the street!)

Line up includes Jessica Palmer, Angela Benander, Keith Ecker, and Tom Wolferman.

Can’t wait to see you there! 🙂

The Snackpot & School

Hello! Finally taking a second to catch up on a few things around here. School is finished for the year. This quarter thing took us into June, so after a while it was like What are we still doing here? But I rallied and did some solid revisions for my Speculative Fiction class (taught by the fabulous Rebecca Johns) which was a whole lot of nerdy fun. I knocked out my essay revision discussing nostalgia in Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story for my Independent Publishing class. I also finished my work for a Small Press Sampler project we’re working on. My essay on Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago plus other contributions will be included. A website for the project will soon launch, and eventually it will all come out in e-book and possibly print form. More to come! I also got an A on that Language and Style test I told you about in February. Winter also saw my interviews with Stroger Hospital trauma nurse Ernie Purnell all come together for a Chicago youth violence project. The narratives will be featured in a published anthology and a Steppenwolf Theatre production. More to come on all that as well! Finally, my play, Coffee Boy was included in the DePaul English Department’s Thresholds 2012 lit mag. Way cool!

So. The Snackpot.  I’ve been pestering my Facebook and Twitter peeps with links. But now finally, the official MichaelVanKerckhove.com announcement! 🙂 The Snackpot is a way cool new snack and culture site I’ve been writing for these past several months. The site is the brainchild of music publicist Jacob Daneman. I was recruited by the fabulous Keith Ecker to be part of the inaugural writing team. I’ve been reviewing snacks all winter and spring in preparation for the May 2012 launch. I’ve covered things from strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups to Maple Nut Clif Bars. The tone of the site is a healthy balance of information and snarky humor. There are news bits and longer form writings. I need to figure out some essay ideas for sure. The snacks I take on are little writing prompts which have also taught me a few things. It’s food writing with an edge. I’m digging it. To check out my contributions, visit my author page. Note: as of this posting, only the ten most recent reviews show up. Hopefully the interwebby content field thingy (a technical term!) can be expanded to fit everything. All reviews are available in the reviews archives. The site has been doing well, and I’m proud to be part of such a cool project. Please check it out and share with all your peeps. That’d be awesome.

Looking ahead to the next couple months, I’ll be catching up on various projects, reading, revising, and hopefully generating some new CNF material to share with the Chicago Storytelling scene. A little traveling and playing with my new “stupid” iPhone. 😛

Have a rad summer. More to come. Cheers.

Radio DePaul Reading & Interview

Hey friends, it’s finally this site’s official Radio DePaul post!  On January 20, 2012, I joined hosts Colin & Marcy and my classmate Bethany for this term’s second edition of DePaul Student Writers Series.

I read two of my personal essays, Dance of the Ring and More Than Words. Following the reading, we discussed the pieces and the writing process.  Definitely a cool way to spend a wintery Friday morning.

Listen via the show’s new site Welcome post, or go directly to the site’s embedded audio.  Please Note: the first couple minutes featuring announcements got clipped, but the main event is all there.  Also, I’m second guest in the line up.

It’s been a busy quarter, and I should be studying for my Language & Style test right now.  But I still have time.  I’m also involved in a really cool project for my Art of the Interview class.  More on that to come!

Be well, and enjoy the show.  Cheers.