As my new plumber opened a box filled with porcelain pieces I learn he is from Chicago, and a Bears fan. He spends the season in what he calls "The Bus", an old '74 school bus in the parking lot of Solider Field, and has invited me and my dog to the Windy City for tailgating. "This dog is gonna love my beef sandwich." He went on to tell tails of Brian Urlacher getting him into private parties at the Green Mill as if they were glorious wars stories. This was serendipity to me. I knew this guy would be fun when I talked with him on the phone.
Six years ago I adopted my dog, Dusty-Danger. Everywhere we went people would ask if they could pet him, comment on how friendly he is, take pictures of him, and then, for some reason, tell me about their lives. I began writing about these people, these stories, and our adventures, such as, but not limited to nights of experimental puppet shows, kite festivals, Elvis impersonators, Dusty falling in love with not one but two horses, state and county fairs, rodeos, food festivals, and other random silliness like a plumber living in a school bus. The New York Times, The Good Man Project, and Huffingtonpost have published our stories, and "we", Dusty and I, were invited by with The Weeklings last summer to drive across the American West to write essays about the country on a personal level. We met cancer survivors, a drug addict, a roller derby queen, an eight-year-old swordfighter, a baseball team, a man convicted of child pornography possession, a hitchhiking advocate, and dozens of others. We called the project Away, with Dusty, much like John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. These stories where large, purposely told with a telescopic lens.
This summer we will be telling stories with a microscope.
This June we plan to continue Away, With Dusty, but with a specific focus on gentrification, and how the country is changing. We are spend one week in New Orleans (Ten years after Katrina), one week in Detroit (8 years after the GM bailout), one week in Coney Island (after the The Incredibly Bold, Audaciously Cheesy, Jaw-Droppingly Vegas-fied, Billion-Dollar Glam-Rock Makeover) and one week in Ferguson (one year after the murder of Michael Brown). Now we have added short day trip Houston, Birmingham, Nashville, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Memphis. We will take part in the North Jersey Pride Parade, The Mermaid Parade, and Avery Island where Tabasco sauce is made. I am drawn to these areas because I feel they are under represented, and a paradigm of the American dream. I've been to most of these places before, but most of them ten and twenty years ago. I love the insulation of strange cities.
I turned forty this year and my health is beginning to slide, my memory not as sharp as it used to be, and this past year Dusty had cancer. He had his tail removed. Mortality is beginning to creep upon us. This year our stories will be free of charge using Instagram for micro-essay, Bored Panda for pictures, and The Rumpus has optioned four long form essays, but you might find a few notes and observations on Huffingtonpost as well. Everything will be aggregate on our Facebook page.
"I'm afraid we won't make it Chicago." I told our new friend and plumber. "That's okay. Maybe next year. Now, excuse me while install this toilet" he said smiling, Dusty waging his nub. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'm a Colts fan.
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