From left to right, uncles George, Billy, and Harold growing up in the hills outside of Asheville, NC

I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, same town Ernest Hemingway grew up in. I live in Oak Park today.I subscribe to George Carlin’s point of view that life is a string of dogs. Right now, I’m between dogs. I have written two yet-to-be published novels, Schopenhauer in Love and Paperback Mountain, in addition to innumerable yet-to-be published short stories.

Lately, the stories I write rotate around chance, fleeting encounters of religious experience[1] in a devoutly modern, devoutly secular world, a post-enlightenment world that has become astonishingly prosaic and “scientific”, astonishingly dismissive of figurative speech and the truths that are best or only revealed in myth or by metaphor.

As a Joseph Campbell acolyte, I am interested in “myth”. Our confusion about it is so substantial that the word itself has come to embody contradictory meanings, simultaneously referring to stories that capture essential knowledge of the human condition and, at the other extreme, bad science and fake news.

I studied Greek and Latin with Sam Seigle at Sarah Lawrence College. Sam studied with the German philologist, Werner Jaeger, at Harvard. In consequence, I absorbed and acquired the instincts of a philologist, shaping how I engage with the written word. I reflexively think of words as chords. Words are not polysemous, but instead the meaning of a word is tied to all of its “meanings”, its etymological roots, and its transition from archaic meanings to more modern ones. The word etiquette for example means more and is more potent when you know that it used to mean a “calling card”.

I have traveled most of the country in a camper van or by hitchhiking across it[2]. I am self-taught in computer science and computer programming. My last stint as a technologist was at Motorola where I served on the patent review committee, contributed to the design of a voice recognition feature which competed with Siri and beat Apple to market, and specialized in artificial intelligence. I worked for three years as a trade journalist out of school. I have also been employed as a mechanic in a bike shop, stringing tennis rackets in a sporting goods store, and washing dishes at the Million Dollar Steakhouse in Jackson Hole, Wy.

In 2000, I ran the Chicago Marathon to completion. In 2008, I posted blogs daily as I road my bike the 600-mile distance of the Grand Illinois Trail, raising over $20k in pledges for Thrive, a mental health agency in my hometown of Oak Park, Illinois[3]. The challenge of describing the awe and intensity of each day on the trail permanently rekindled my interest in writing. I wrote my first novel soon thereafter.

Footnotes

  1. Of the kind William James describes in his book, The Varieties of Religious Experience.

  2. One of the more memorable hitchhiking adventures took me from Chicago to the edge of the Rio Grande River and back.

  3. The record of that trip is preserved in snapshots taken by the Wayback machine of the website (now defunct) bikeforhealthyminds.com. A similar, more resent excursion, raised over $4k for a bike shop on the West side of Chicago, but did not end in such glory. This latter adventure is recorded here on the website https://biketoenddivision.org/.