The Tin Man seeks a heart

Tin Man
Tin Man

I read a story this week about a woman who moved to Portland, Oregon from New York city and found herself incredibly lonely. Like dangerously lonely.

The better part of my life has been spent pursuing the opposite of loneliness. One of the reasons I moved to Chicago was because I believed that a city with eight million people would be the antidote to loneliness.

At first it is.

You’re surrounded by the cacophony of this human hive. It fairly roars with the constant sound of movement. You can’t look around and not see humans walking somewhere quickly. Nobody meanders in Chicago.

Continue reading The Tin Man seeks a heart

An alternate universe in each of my sons

The 303 train from Chicago to Blue Island broke down last night, leaving me stranded in Chicago waiting for a later train.

Unfortunately, that meant I’d miss my son’s track meet.

He sent me this text just as my train pulled up to the Vermont Street stop where I park my car.

Carson RunsWhat’s unique about this text, is that it stems from a conversation we had last night while sitting around a small table at Chipotle.

It’s been a long two-weeks of sickness around our house, with everyone dealing with a combination of allergies and head colds, with a little strep throat thrown in for good measure. We needed to buy Carson a pair of running shoes for his track meet on Friday, so I made an executive decision to eat out, which is rare for us.

Continue reading An alternate universe in each of my sons

Narcissism and Hubris in the Status Update

the-animal-gladiators-of-hubris-02

The forward-most car on the 5:30 p.m. 303 train from LaSalle Street station in Chicago to Vermont Street in suburban Blue Island is ungodly noisy.

It has a screech not unlike a large dying animal when the car shifts from left to right as it slowly leaves the station.

But it doesn’t impede the conversation that occurs between the long-time commuters of the forward-most car on train 303.

They all know each other and have for a long time.

They greet each other with hugs and ask after loved ones they know by name.

When I found my way to the forward-most car on train 303, I was lonely and growing bitter commuting in from the Chicago suburbs every weekday.

Continue reading Narcissism and Hubris in the Status Update

Allegory of the (Easter) Cave

mara_cave

The incessant babbling is wearing on my mind
as we stand here chained to the walls of this cave

The shadows dancing on the walls around us give rise
to all the speculation that a mind ensnared is capable of

And we pick and choose our favorite lies from puppet masters
and the Old Witness in our midst, clutched tightly to our chest

But if I stretch my neck far enough, I can see by the blackness within
that the stone was long ago rolled away, and you’re gone so long

The shroud is on our face, in our eyes, a sacred relic’s profane
turn as we covered ourselves in it in your absence

We’ll kill the next sun-blind fool who enters the cave
without realizing the stone was rolled away

We have nothing but dogma, but we clutch it close
to our breasts until it smothers us in righteous fervor

The few remaining shrubs that provide us oxygen are cut down
and made into brilliant execution devices

To further cull the wheat from the chaff, because
when we find that door, we’ll find it very narrow

And we wait for a sign, as described by a madman
on an island of loneliness in a sea of regret

These are not chains that bind us to these walls
they’re fears that grip us tighter than any alloy

And the greatest irony  of all isn’t that you came back
to the cave to show us the way out of the darkness

It’s that the cave is the first place we went to look for you
when all hope was lost and despair fell on us like rain

There is irony in the fact the stone was rolled away
we walked inside and killed the messenger

And chained ourselves to these walls to wait
for god knows what in ignorance and grief

And all this while, over centuries and millennia
the fact remains, the stone was rolled away

By Timothy Alex Akimoff
4.5.15

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Kind of Pain

A_baseball_and_gloveLast night I had a catch with my middle boy.

He’s 13 now, and we’ve had catches in the spring most years that he’s been able to hold a baseball in one hand. Well, maybe with the exception of those two years we lived in Alaska. I think maybe the weather kept us from having a real catch until technical summer.

We lined up with my back to the grill, where I could sneak over and turn the chops in between throws. He was out toward the southern fence.

The first throw hit my glove right in the palm, where the leather is thin, and your palm can really feel the contours of the ball.

It popped, loudly, with that pleasurable sound of leather on leather that sound equivalent of  the smell of fresh-cut-grass or peanuts or cheap beer and hot dogs.

The sound of baseball.

Continue reading A Good Kind of Pain

Here You Are

Orland Park, Illinois
Orland Park, Illinois

I like to write on Saturday mornings before two thirds of the kids are awake.

It’s quiet, and I love the solitude minus the occasional interruption from the 9-year-old daughter who likes to ask me complicated questions about life when I’m trying to concentrate.

Last weekend I curbed my imbibing into a manageable martini and a couple of beers and woke at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, a good two hours later than my weekday schedule.

I settled into my comfortable writing spot on the couch, curled my legs under my body and hoisted my laptop atop my thigh to begin to work on a writing project that is currently in the creative stages but about to enter the dreaded editing and second re-write stage.

My phone rang around 8:30 a.m., about the time I was due for a short green tea break.

I didn’t recognize the local number, so I let it go to voicemail.

I picked up the phone a few minutes later and saw that the person had indeed left a message.

“Hello, my name is redacted, and I’m here with your son. He got lost from his running group, and he’s shivering and cold.”

Continue reading Here You Are

Note from 1–49 W Calhoun Pl in Chicago

Homeless Man (oil & wood)

The old man with long, brown and grey-streaked hair stood outside the train station muttering to the world.

It was three degrees. I could feel it, because I took my gloves off to check the temperature on my iPhone.

I could feel that familiar sting of air with barely a few degrees to it in spite of the bright sunshine overhead.

I could hear his words clearly, as I walked closer to the man.

“I don’t belong here anymore,” he said in a thin tenor to start the verse.

“You don’t know what they’re like, you don’t have a single clue,” he continued.

“I’m actually all right, all right,” he finished, as if practicing the words to a garage-rock song for a Friday-night pop-up show.

Continue reading Note from 1–49 W Calhoun Pl in Chicago

The Storyteller’s Dilemna

Chinese Prison

I was listening to my son tell a story last night.

It’s the one where he gets arrested in Northwest China, along with a bunch of other young people and his grandparents, my mom and dad.

He loves to start with the line, “Oh, yeah, I got arrested in China.”

“What?” His younger brother asked, skeptically. “Why didn’t I hear this before?”

“Maybe because you run off to spend the weekends with your friends every chance you get,” his mother said, disapprovingly from her end of the dinner table.

That little interruption aside, Cole launched into the story, perhaps the sixth or seventh time I’ve heard it, but more likely approaching the 50th time he’s told it since he traveled to the remote region of China with his missionary grandparents last summer.

Continue reading The Storyteller’s Dilemna

Live storytelling in Chicago

Somewhere between my pre-school preacher years and high school, I came down with a bad case of stage fright.

I remember taking my first speech classes in college and being simply terrified of the crowd. I tried every trick in the book, and I even took an acting class to try to learn to be more comfortable with it.

My father is a preacher.

I am most certainly not.

So when CHIRP’s Julie Mueller approached me about doing the CHIRP’s live storytelling and music series called The First Time, I tried to think of every excuse why I shouldn’t do it.

Chicago is, perhaps, the world center for live storytelling right now. There is not a night of the week where you can’t find a themed storytelling event in any part of this city.

Continue reading Live storytelling in Chicago

Does modesty really make men behave better?

Fire Island Nude Beach
Fire Island Nude Beach

The first breasts I remember seeing as an adolescent child belonged to a Finnish woman who was sitting across from my brother and me in a sauna in the bowels of a Swedish ferry that was carrying us across the Gulf of Bothnia.

Though I was raised in Europe until the age of 7, my parents had moved our family back to the United States, where nudity was relegated to hidden colonies and Playboy magazines.

We visited friends in Austria on that same trip, and they invited us down to the local swimming pool for an afternoon in the water.

To our astonishment, the two teenage girls in the group disrobed in front of us, quickly pulling on swimsuits in a practiced and efficient manner.

They were not the least bit ashamed, but my brother and I, red-faced with eyes cast directly at the ground for fear of getting caught looking, took the time to find the bathrooms, where we changed into swimsuits as modestly as we could.

What was natural and normal to me in Europe had become a great mystery to me in the United States.

After reading a recent blog post by a woman who gave up wearing leggings because she doesn’t want to contribute to men thinking lustful thoughts about her body, I started thinking about the idea of what is really at fault in our society when it comes to nudity and sex.

Continue reading Does modesty really make men behave better?

"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY