Hey, how are you guys doing tonight? It’s good to be here. What’s up with this feeling of clawing? Clawing for words. Clawing for character! You know what I’m talking about… almost dying to come by sentences, to chance upon lines that only a handful of people will see anyway. What’s up with walking around so many cities in the winter, ghosts in your heart so hard, you can feel yourself coming apart, barely stitched together, by all these stupid pop song lyrics about how you can be in love with almost anyone… (Points to someone) You get it, sir. He gets it.

All right, you guys are great. This is good, I feel good.

You ever feel like writing is basically like spending every night of your life trying to decide on a 59,000-word tattoo that will impress someone you’ve never met or known, someone married and done, someone already gone?

Does anyone here — let me see a show of hands on this — does anyone feel born too late to meet Dorothy Parker and Carson McCullers?

All right, this place is heatin’ up. I’m feelin’ it.

You guys ever do this thing, where you go through this period in your life, this naïve thirty years or so, where you think you’ll never tire of clever boys and cardboard girls trading quick lines on the page? Or that thing where you love someone so deeply it would kill you if they left, but you’re still torn apart by a colleague looking past you, through you, thrilled to see the person at the party who’s standing behind you?

No, but seriously… sometimes years teach you the worst; that you can long for everything, you can long for a city, for London or Berlin or any place you’re certain would fix you, would be your Lourdes, but it’s locked away in a country where you haven’t got the visa to stay more than the couple of nights you’re there anyway. (Points to someone again) She gets it… this next joke’s for you, Miss.

Time teaches us that we can can be alone but fall in love with a time in history, we can fall for the fucking jazz age, Django in Paris, a man and a time that will never know you or I existed! You can listen to every lyric of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, pass out in a thousand hotels all over the U.S. and realize you’re going to be gone before you ever figure out your own heart, even though you have more than you deserve. No matter how many years you have, there is this thing in you that’s cracked, and you thought that was the interesting thing about you, but you see everyone passing by, looking for something solid. But sometimes the broken parts of you are applauded, you find a crowd of strangers who love it, but you will always go back to bed alone with it. What’s up with that, is this thing on, this microphone I’m tapping on?

You’ve been great. That’s my time, you guys. Time, the earthbound concern. You guys, a handful of beautiful strangers, drinking to break the chain to the anchor of reason, trying to find the steam of something bigger. I am a crow, cold with wet wings, eating trash, a yogurt container, on the high school football field, in a hometown of somebody born to move past me.

OK, they’re telling me I have to go. Thank you, Milwaukee. I love you. Don’t forget me.

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Read the prequel to this piece