Writing: A Happy Rage

I adore the sound the keys make as my fingers punch them down. It makes me think of little bullets being fired. The more passionate I am during my writing, the more rapid the fire. A busy writer can make the sound of a tiny machine gun. Pew, pew, pew, pew, pew, pew!

Within the rapture of creative flow and inspiration, one experiences the power of an instantaneous, inner-flowering. Writing is an exulted, open and happy rage.

Pew, pew, pew!


Laughing at Our Monsters

Perhaps the best way to confront our monsters is to laugh at them!

Laughter weakens fear, the vital fuel for monstrosity. Our monsters, in the face of good-natured laughter, will be revealed in the light for what they truly are: as incredibly absurd, and not at all very serious. They may not outright disappear, but their monstrosity, at the very least, becomes manageable.

The monsters of the mind may be identified under many emotions, such as: hatred, anger, fear, jealousy, envy, insecurity, futility, sorrow, shame and so on. They may most likely be an intricate combination of some, or all of these emotions. By laughing at them, by exposing their untruthfulness and cruelty to the light, we shall be at once acknowledging them and facing them with open hearts and minds.

A monster is powerless if its fear is not valued as vital, legitimate, or worthwhile.

The other day, I felt a strong wave of jealousy overcome me. I was feeling jealous about my girlfriend, all without a valid reason. I isolated the feeling, holding it softly in my mind, attempting to know it intimately. As I observed the jealousy, I began to emotionally detach and view it more objectively. I saw that the feeling was without foundation and not my true self. I saw that the monster of jealousy was absurd, pointless and ugly. It made me burst out in laughter. As I did so, the jealousy dropped away into nothingness.

My monster had fizzled away in the light of laughter, like a vampire turned to dust in the sun.

At the Mercy of the Flat (A Short Story)

I threw off my apron, put on my winter jacket, grabbed the tips from my cup, and exited the Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse. I had just spent the last ten minutes of my shift showing some crazed paintings of mine to Michael Moen, a kindly old artist. Mike is a composer of surreal images. His work is on a level of color and vibrancy which I aspire to reach some day. In the meantime, I throw my stuff onto the passenger seat of my car and take off for home.

A mile down the main stretch of the city and my car begins to rattle violently. My first thought is that my laziness in getting the oil changed has finally caught up with me – my engine is about to commit mechanical suicide. Then it dawns on me that it isn’t the engine. It’s my front, driver’s side tire, which has gone immaculately flat. Months of driving around on a leaking tire, and re-filling it with air, ad infinitum, combined with my cheap refusal to shell out the cash for a new tire, has resulted in this present predicament.

The car shook as the rim touched pavement. I wasn’t about to pull over and bother someone for roadside emergency. So at the risk of further damaging my rim, I drove the pathetic hunk of metal the last mile home.

When Tessandra arrived home, I drove her car to Wal-Mart and purchased the required tire. We went out into the cold night (it is already dark out by five in the evening this time of year) and couldn’t fit the jack under the car to even allow for a lift point. It turns out that one can’t change a tire if the vehicle is still on the ground. Who knew? We head back inside.

Because I obviously know nothing about fixing cars, I call up my old man, the erudite mechanic.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.


“I blew my tire.”


“It’s parked on our street in front of the house right now and Tessandra and I can’t get the jack under the car.”

“OK. What I would do,” he said, not without an overly serious undertone, “is grab yourself some two by four’s, drive the car onto those. That will give you an inch and a half, to two inches of clearance to fit the jack underneath your car. Understand?”

“Yeah, sure. Makes sense.”

“Alright? So you do that, then….you got a lug wrench, right?”

“Yeah we do. Well, Tess has one.”

“That’s fine. I’m pretty sure your car has ¾ lug nuts. I know your car has ¾ lug nuts. So that’s the size socket you’re going to use. Once you have the car parked on the two by fours, you place the jack at a decent connect point. Make sure you don’t place it in any obviously rusty areas –you’re not stupid, you know that. A good connect point is the cradle, which you’ll see if you just look, or the unibody…

Unibody? I pondered.

He said if we had any more trouble to give him a call.

Tuesday. I am reading and writing in my warm home. All is well, except that I am missing my writer’s meeting due to my lack of working transportation. I’ve thought about what my dad has said about using the two by fours. Seems like the perfect solution. I put on my old man slippers and go out into the freezing garage. I take a hammer to a wooden palate that’s been hanging around, collecting dust for many months. I provide numerous blows, none of them very effective. After about five minutes of pounding away at the palate, I toss away the hammer.

My eye is drawn to the rusty bonfire bin we haven’t used in years. I fish two pieces of wood out of there, each about three feet long and an inch thick. Perfect! Now to attach them together into a functional prop. I hunt around for some nails. Can’t find any that are long enough. I look around for some duct tape. No luck there either. Damn! A roll of blue masking tape sits atop Tess’ tool box. I consider using it, but I know it won’t hold. Then I remember the packing tape sitting on the office desk. That should do the trick! I run inside, grab it, and tape together the two kindling pieces into a workable prop.

When Tessandra arrived home from work that day, she put a pan of pork chops and cream of mushroom soup into the oven for dinner. Then we bundled ourselves up in our winter gear. Tess in black, bulky snow pants, two shirts, a hoodie, a coat, another coat, a hat, gloves, scarf. I put on my brown corduroy jacket, then a coat over that, plus a stocking cap and gloves. We walk out into the cold night with the jack, jack-stands, tire-iron, the taped-together wood prop (of which I am beginning to doubt my craftsmanship) and a tiny flash light.

Tess takes the wood prop, situates it under the shredded tire. “Okay, let’s give ‘er a shot,” she says.

I turn the keys and the ol’ Chevy Cavalier starts up fine – a good thing. I put it into drive and slowly approach the prop. It merely slides upon the icy ground.

“Too slow, hon. Try again!”

I try again. Not quite.

“Back up! Again.”

I follow her instructions, and, the third time is the charm. We’ve got the vehicle on the prop. I set it in park and kill the engine. Now for the nitty gritty. Tess and I get down on our knees and arms. She gets on her back with the jack. For the first time we are both truly seeing the damage dealt by eighteen years of pure Wisconsin rust. One easy swipe of a hand beneath the undercarriage and ruddy flakes fall to the ground. An image of beautiful snowflakes come to my mind – falling rust is like the dingy snowflakes of time and entropy, I am thinking when Tess says, “Give me some light, babe.”

I turn on the flash light, making sure not to shine it into her eyes as she locates the connect point for the jack. It occurs to me that I should be the one on my back, on the ground, doing this, and for the millionth time in my life, I am endeared to Tessandra. There is my woman, helping me out in my time of need. A broken down car might well be considered an antithesis to romance, but after nearly three years together, we take these minor challenges wherever and whenever they may arise. I want to lie atop her body and begin making love to her right there in the middle of the icy street, beneath the bright, burning stars, with all of the neighbors peeking from their windows. But I know now is not the time. I make a strong effort to break myself from my dreams. You’re working, not romancing, I think. Be focused. Stay present!

Eventually Tess finds a safe spot for the jack-lift, but not before Steve, our obnoxiously helpful neighbor, decides to give us a hand. He sits there with his car parked in the middle of the street with his brights on and shouts, “I figure some light is better than none!”

“Well, we’ve got a flashlight, but, yeah, thank you,” Tess says, slightly annoyed.

The both of us hunkered down in the headlights, she mumbles now, “I just wish I could find a way to politely tell him I don’t want his fucking help.”

Steve, the big hulking man he is, slams his door shut and ambles over. He inquires as to if I have the emergency brake on so that the car doesn’t roll backwards.

“Uhmm…no, not really.”

Tess brings up the point that implementing the emergency break – one which I have never had to use – might lock up my rims and thus require an expensive tow.

“Ah, there is that!” he says.

Tess begins to crank up the car.

“Wait!” he shouts.


“I wouldn’t jack up the car any further without loosening the lug nuts.”

He was right. I vaguely remembered my dad saying something about loosening the lugs before jacking up the vehicle. “You’re right,” she admitted. “Thanks.”

Tess applied the tire iron. She pulled, yanked, grunted, did all sorts of hunchbacked dancing around my dilapidated tire. “Good Christ these are on tight!” she exclaimed at last.

“Have ya got a cross-handle wrench?” asked Steve.


“Just hold on one sec, I’ll run inside and grab mine!”

The man almost literally skipped back into his house. Tessandra sighed, irritated. She began yanking and pulling again. I watched Steve happily bounce back over to us. I looked at his belly and began thinking of a large bowl of green Jell-O.

He applied the steel cross to one of the lug nuts and began twisting, contorting, and standing atop the wrench. He heaved, grunted, grimaced, and then in an expression of utter futility, he wheezed, “WOW THAT’S ON THERE GOOD!

“Yep,” said a frowning Tess.

I laughed, then felt some slight shame at the inappropriate timing. Tess threw down her tire iron, kicked aside the jack-stands with a clatter and said we’d be inside having dinner before anymore more of this shit.

“Got any WD40?” Steve inquired.

“Yeah. We’ll apply some of that and let it soak while we have dinner.”

I fetched our can of WD40 and Tess sprayed down the lug nuts. We went inside the warm kitchen to enjoy our pork chops.

After our bellies were full, we took a shot at loosening the lubricated lug nuts. She tried, then I tried, bending, yanking, gasping, doing the hunchback dance. All to no avail.

“Look at that, babe,” she said, pointing to the exposed rim.

I looked. My poor rim was as warped as the mind of a murderous drug junkie and as crooked as a politician. “Shiiiit,” I stated.

I really think you should move your car off the street.”

“You’re right, hon. I will do that.”

If I didn’t, I’d surely earn myself a delightful orange ticket slapped to my windshield, if not an outright tow. I drove my shitty car into the driveway. It rumbled sadly. Tess grabbed the make-shift two by fours once more and after several tries, accompanied by the stinky emanation of burning rubber (surprisingly, the wheel still had tire left to burn), we had it propped up once more.

We entered our warm abode with a simultaneous sense of relief and failure. I called up my old man again.

“I’m going to call up Wal-Mart. They had my tire, maybe they’ll have my rim.”

“Yeah,” he said. “They’re not going to have it, buddy.”


“Nope. Call up New Richmond Auto Salvage. They should have a used one for you, or they’ll order you one. You have to get a new rim, man. You can’t put on a new tire without a rim, you know what I mean?”

I very much knew what he meant.



It is six o’clock on Wednesday morning. My girlfriend has driven me to work, kissed me goodbye, and gone off to her own day job. I’ve an hour before my shift officially begins, and so I am sitting at the table closest to the front window of the Coffeehouse. It is still dark outside and all the grey, retired men are trickling in, ordering breakfast sandwiches for later and buying their black coffees now.

I’m sipping a dark roast with a few tablespoons of heavy cream from a white porcelain mug, reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I am feeling sorry for that poor, clueless sot, Charles Bovary – the Madame’s husband. He has no idea how unhappy his wife is, nor her strong desire to have an affair with one of his associates. Poor Charles. I know I would feel mercilessly wrecked if Tessandra were unhappy and had another in her heart. Fortunately for me, of course, I know this is not the case. For she loves me madly, and I, her.

I ponder the nightmare I had last night. I dreamt I was having fun sliding down a gigantic car windshield. As soon as I reach the bottom, I would climb to the top again. The air whooshed by my ears. I could hear cracks in the glass beneath me, but this I ignored, deciding to slide down just one last time. And as I did, the glass gave way, and I collapsed into a literal swimming pool of shattered glass. I crawled my way through to the pool rails, and pulled myself out. My body bled profusely. Shards of glass stuck out of my legs and kneecaps. I suddenly awoke, sweating profusely.

I make some notes of this in my blue journal, and, begrudgingly, clock in for my nine hour shift. The day ekes by like a retarded snail undergoing radical constipation and finally the evening arrives. My father walks into the Dunn Bros. He is wearing a large, bulky winter coat with the words SNAP ON printed in red upon the back. Atop his head is his usual camouflage baseball cap. He watches as I make my final round of the lattes, teas, and coffees.

We drive to my home and jack up my car. Dad has already used a miniature blow-torch to heat the lug nuts to cherry red. Using an impact gun, a little battery-operated tool, he finally removes those bastard lugs. As he does so, he recommends I purchase myself the Milwaukee Tool Kit, which comes with the impact gun. “Can’t go wrong,” he says.

As my dad is down there, removing the wheel, I notice how much older he’s gotten over just these past few years. He takes off his baseball cap and he is nearly bald. A thin stubble of grey is all he has. There are strands of grey in his goatee as well, and as he lays upon his side, I see the end of his pot belly beneath his coat and ponder if I might acquire a belly in my old age as well. I am mystified by time and entropy. Rusty lug nuts. Aged men and women. The world spinning, but not forever. Everything, by course of physical law, is being inevitably worn down. For the moment, I cherish that my father is alive, and cares enough about me to help me out. As he takes off the tire, he eyes my brake pads. Disturbed, he shakes his head, saying, “Worn down to near shit….near shit.”

We drive his warm, sleek Ford focus to the New Richmond Auto Salvage, which is located just off of the main highway. It is a strange place. The building looks like an elongated double-wide trailer, transformed into a make-shift garage. Outside the front entrance is a cheap statue of a Greek God. I am not sure which one it is. His figure is fine, except for a dove, quite oddly, covering his genitals with spread wings.

“He’s quite modest, isn’t he?” I asked my father.

He pretended not to hear me. Upon my closer inspection of the replica, I notice someone has applied black earrings to the deity’s ears. He has been transmogrified into a blasphemous idol; a hipster god, ripe for the times. We enter the door.

The lobby is empty of people, aside from a little old lady sitting in one of the two waiting chairs. The front desk is piled with papers. In the far corner, a seven foot tall shelf chock full of ancient stereo equipment – crappy looking CD/Tape players, radios, and dusty speakers. My father picks one of the stereos up and remarks how expensive they were back in 1990, when he first bought one.

The lobby floor is largely occupied by used, stacked tires. The air smells of old rubber and dirt. A sign which reads, “Tire sets for $100!” is taped to most of the stacks. In the corner, an out-of-order ATM machine placed next to a dingy vending machine, selling Mike & Ike’s and fruit pies. High upon the wall is a shelf which runs 360 degrees around the lobby. Upon the shelf are rusting antique miniatures. There are trains, combines, tractors, milk trucks, old convertibles, racing cars, buggies, etc.

An immense man wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt saunters out of the garage. He is obviously a working man, as he is covered head to foot with grease smears and dirt.

“Y’all must be the folks looking for a rim,” he bellowed.

His voice very easily filled the tiny, crowded lobby. My father and I both confirmed this was the truth.

“Very well,” he nodded. “Rim will be $20. Placement upon the tire will be another $10.”

“Sounds perfect,” I said.

I hand him the new tire and he pops back into the garage. Ten minutes later he returns, wheeling out the new rim and tire. I look at the rim. It is ruddy brown, just like underneath my car. A perfectly matching appliance, I think. A few flakes of rust falls to the concrete.

“Yup,” he proclaims. “It’s a thang of beauty!”

I smile and pay the man in cash. We say ‘thank you’ and head back to my house and attach the new wheel. A great sense of relief runs through me at the tightening of the last lug nut and the setting of the hubcap. At last I am working with four wheels again, which is no small blessing!

The oil change, the fuel pump replacement, the brake pad replacement, will all have to wait for another day – a day to take place far sooner than I had initially planned, I will admit. The event of my flat tire has only awakened me to the realization that I am completely irresponsible with my duties of vehicular maintenance. Due to denying my need for a new tire and behaving negligibly, I have unwittingly wasted the time and effort of my girlfriend, father, and overly helpful neighbor. I have, however, provided some business for my local auto salvage. In life, there are many lessons to be learned. This has been merely one of a great many…and I am a man with much to learn.

Good and Evil in the Universe & The Modern Misfit

A Modern Misfit

I am a writer whom only happens to exist in the 21st century. Had I been consulted before birth, I perhaps would not have agreed to live in this epoch. All previous centuries, no matter how intriguing or romantic, have already been experienced and written about by others. I must do away with my shyness of mentioning Twitter, Facebook, and cell phones in my writing. I may not particularly enjoy these symptoms of modern technology. I may not find them interesting or appealing. Yet by ignoring them completely, I am doing a disservice to my readers – I am being irrelevant. And this, if I am ever to relate, to connect with the public, shouldn’t continue.

Regardless, I continue on as a modern misfit. Now excuse me while I post this to my blog, check my Facebook messages and shudder with distaste. To hell with being prosaic! Someone text me a picture of a furry mongrel with seven tits! Entertain me at a cellular level, the deepest level of the contemporary consciousness, the modern mind…ravish me with dope insights…


Good and Evil in the Universe

There is pure evil in this universe, as well as pure good. There is also the vastness of shadow in between this spectrum of total darkness and light. What is good? What is evil? Both are moral creations of sentient beings whom have evolved a consciousness capable of distinguishing ‘rights’ from ‘wrongs’. Even without human beings, perhaps good and evil may exist in the consciousness of other evolved beings residing somewhere out there in the infinite universe. Who knows? Given the immensity of space, time and materials, it seems quite likely that intelligent life may be thriving elsewhere upon some unknown planet and around some unknown star.

Yet it does seem as if good and evil, indeed all of morality, exists only in an indefinite sense — just as much as humans exist, only in an indefinite sense. When the human species does go extinct, and if there are no meaning/moral producing creatures in the universe, then good and evil will have been vanquished entirely. The universe will then be left to its own. The universe will continue for perhaps another thirteen billion years recycling stars, and spinning, colliding, thrashing around its galaxies. There will be no voice, such as my own, to ask, “But, why?”

And what of it?



Ponderings on Art, Responsibility, Identity, Virtue, and Tragedy.

The Weight of the World

If not for a word, there

Would be no book, no language.

If not for an atom, there

Would be no world, no universe.

If not for a decision, there

Would be no free will, no choice.

If not for a vote, there

Would be no democracy, no republic.

Our decisions and actions matter.

They effect our lives,

They effect our world

In myriad ways,

seen and unseen.

Whatever you do

carries the weight

of the world.

Take firm hold of your responsibility

As a human being with some

Influence upon this planet.

Fear not to care,

And do not shrug.



Even a faraway galaxy is local if you’re living there.


The virtue of tragedy is empathy; compassion.


My identity is not in any sense fixed. It is like a spilled fluid amongst broken glass. My psyche is only reflected in jagged shards – shards which can be rearranged and re-glued together into whatever form my imagination deems feasible. For better or worse, I am the maker of myself.


I have a reverence for everything useless. The tasks of bare survival – to include hunting for food, taking shelter, and reproducing are essential activities – but they are also weary and base. What I champion are those extraneous genes responsible for humankind’s motives to paint on cave walls, vocalize sounds into recognizable melodies, and construct sacred temples. I champion all superfluous culture, all art, all creative expression, all abstractions! It is these things, after all, which truly separate us human mammals from the non-human ones.


All hail the first ape whom thought to shave!


The moments wherein one feels he or she has digested the world are rare moments indeed. They should be enjoyed for the fine illusions that they are. Yet in truth, ignorance is the sea in which we all swim. It is only that a human being feels particularly fine when he or she has reached the highest peak of a wave and can at last see, for a moment, the vast expanse of all the other waves upon this infinite ocean of mystery…


Art and Soul

A true artist sells his soul.

The commercial artist sells a product – one which is often superficial, impersonal, and/or otherwise utterly lacking in soul. Within every Van Gough painting or Beethoven symphony there can be found a portion of the artist’s emotional identity. Art produced solely for mass consumption, by its very nature, contains nothing personal. Arguably, artists whom never give away anything personal are not artists at all. This is why art is often a dangerous and daring activity– it requires us to be vulnerable enough to share ourselves, often our most sensitive and creative selves, with potentially the entire world.


The Pledge of Allegiance (Revisited)

I pledge allegiance

To the symbolic fabric

Of the divided states

Of Corporate Amnesia.

To the Plutocracy

For which it stands

One Delusion

Under an invisible man in the sky,

With Stupidity

And Ignorance for all.


“No Regrets”

I know I am a good human being not just intuitively, but based upon the evidence of my guilt and how frequently I experience it. Virtuous men are always ones with marked consciences, whereas “evil” men are utterly lacking of it. Guilt and conscience go hand in hand. Which leads me to think that the contemporary expression, “No regrets!” is an obvious denying of inner guilt and remorse. It is either this or they have no conscience at all, and are rather proudly exclaiming their sociopathic disposition. One can’t count on less than two hands how many times a drunken man at a bar has slurred out, “I’ve got nooo regrets!” all the while drowning in self-denial, aided by cheap liquor. As I’ve stated in a previous article, “a man without a regret is a man without a moral.”

I was in a coffee shop the other day and observed a young woman with “No Regrets” tattooed on her forearm. How inspired by a bad conscience must one be in order to have these words permanently inked on their body? Now her regret is for all to see. The tattoo doesn’t hide the inner guilt or remorse – it only plainly reveals, makes conspicuous. I felt bad for the woman. And, of course, discussing with her the stupidity of the tattoo could only incite dismay and rage, as she is already fully committed to what the tattoo communicates about her – no regrets.



Artist’s Corner: The Star Prairie Project

The Artist’s Corner is a bi-monthly arts column dedicated inspiring people to be creative and think for themselves, as well as to promote the artists of St. Croix County, Wisconsin. The column is printed in the New Richmond News, but may soon be syndicated to other papers. In the meantime, here is the virtual edition of THE ARTIST’S CORNER.


A true artist sells his soul.

The commercial artist sells a product – one which is often superficial, impersonal, and/or otherwise utterly lacking in soul. Within every Van Gough painting or Beethoven symphony there can be found a portion of the artist’s emotional identity. Art produced solely for mass consumption, by its very nature, contains nothing personal. Arguably, artists whom never give away anything personal are not artists at all. This is why art is often a dangerous and daring activity– it requires us to be vulnerable enough to share ourselves, often our most sensitive and creative selves, with potentially the entire world.

Luckily for us, this week’s Spotlight segment is as personal as it gets…


This week’s featured local talent is a group of musicians collectively known as, “The Star Prairie Project”. Based out of Star Prairie, Wisconsin, the group is composed of former jammers from This Old Store, back when owners, Jerri & Ruth, hosted weekly open mic nights.

Guitarist/professional audio specialist and former Star Prairie Jam Leader, Rick Vogelpohl, and singer/songwriter, Nolen Chew, invited me to their house studio last Tuesday night. While sitting in their handsomely furnished studio, Rick, Nolen, and I discussed the Project and all its future endeavors. As it turns out, the band has already released two full-length albums. A five-track EP – entitled, ‘Shame on the King!’ – is to be released soon.

Jamie Novak, a singer, bass guitarist, and charming personality, dropped in during the interview to add some bass tracks on the upcoming EP, so I was fortunate enough to hear some new material. When I asked Nolen Chew where one might find their music, I was surprised by his response. “You can find us on Spotify, iTunes and Pandora,” he said. “Often right alongside Ariana Grande and other famous pop groups.” From what Nolen tells me, The Star Prairie Project downloads are on the rise and the CDs have sold far more than initially expected.

After the interview, I drove home with their latest album, “Visions of War”, cranked high on the stereo. The album is a versatile collection of styles, attitudes, and musicianship. Project members Jodi Mealey, John Machemer, Mike Emerson, Rusty Johnson, Bryce Schwartztrauber, Ernie Kertzcher, Jerry Germain, Nolen, Rick, and Jamie all contribute their own unique personalities and musical abilities. Nolen has written all of the lyrics. The songs (all 17 of them) range from fiery political/social commentary, to sentimental look-backs, to messages of humility. If you enjoy rock, folk, country, or even piano ballads – it’s all here, folks.

Interested in getting to know more about Wisconsin’s homegrown super-group? Be sure to check out, “The Star Prairie Project” Facebook Page, or just look them up on Spotify. In the meantime, keep tuned for “Shame on the King!”

I will now sign off with our creative quotation for the week:

“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, and creativity to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it personally. Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn’t matter. The intent does. Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that changes another.” – Seth Godin.

Star Prairie Project.jpg

From left to right: Jamie Novak, Rick Vogelpohl, Nolen Chew, and myself.

The Artist’s Corner: Michael Moen

The Artist’s Corner is a bi-monthly arts column dedicated inspiring people to be creative and think for themselves, as well as to promote the artists of St. Croix County, Wisconsin. The column is printed in the New Richmond News, but may soon be syndicated to other papers. In the meantime, here is the virtual edition of THE ARTIST’S CORNER.


Greetings! Welcome back to The Artist’s Corner, New Richmond’s most unconventional column.

This week’s featured local artist is Michael Moen, a versatile creative and an all-around great guy. I met Mike at the Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse a few weeks back. I was working behind the counter when he came in for his usual coffee. The cup he brought with him featured his own crazed illustrations – and when I inquired further about them, it occurred to us that we ought to have a sit-down and make a column out of it.

We ended up discussing his artwork, the nature of creativity, and George Carlin stand-up specials for approximately two and a half hours. He also brought along some of his paintings to show me.

Mike’s work is unique, colorful, and delightfully surrealistic. The first painting he shared with me features a banjo player and a fiddler in the foreground, with a few dancers having fun in the back. This may appear as a fairly normal, down-home Americana scene, until you take into account that the colors of the people are not what one would consider of human complexion. The people in the image are pale white, pink, or a pallid blue. Their arms are elongated and pencil-thin, equipped with an ability to bend at odd angles. The room in which the music is taking place is so warm and inclusive that it seemingly reaches out to the viewer, as if saying, “Let’s get strange. Come join in on the fun!”

He also produces “papercuts”, which is an art form composed solely out of layered, multi-color papers, assorted in such a way as to produce a vibrant picture. His papercuts are so lively that one may easily mistake them for not being composed out of paper, but of paint, or perhaps mistake it for a photograph. One papercut picture features a scene with various rustic objects stranded in a foreign landscape. Kelp has grown all around the objects. Just as one is awed by the intricacy of pointillism (paintings composed of thousands of tiny dots), one is awed by the sight of the kelp, as it is composed out of many hundreds of pieces of paper layered over each other to create an illusion that is impeccably life-like.

Mike especially enjoys observing how other people experience his art. He informs me that people often have unconscious assumptions or prejudices which they project upon whatever they see. For example, if one puts a number of vibrantly colored fish in a painting, the viewer is apt to believe the painting is of an underwater environment (since logically that is where fish belong). But in a work of art, must it be so? Mike’s work proves very interesting in this aspect. Much of the time he will insert a few beautiful fish into a landscape which seemingly has nothing to do with fish or water – it is only people’s logical prejudices with fish that colors their perception of the painting or papercut. It can be said that these abstractions, combined with his ability to create images which delightful disorientate, tend to make people feel like “a fish out of water” themselves.

One of the frequent questions which come to my mind when viewing his art is, “where am I?” and “what is reality”? In the midst of these questions arises the possibility of a new location for one’s being, as well as a new perspective concerning what may constitute reality. Hence, one of the many beautiful aspects of art – it has the ability to make us think differently, and to reveal solutions as at long last conceivable, and therefore, possible.

Interested in viewing some of these creations for yourself? Stay tuned for Mike Moen’s work to be featured in the Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse, starting (tentatively) NOV. 1st thru JAN. 31st, 2019. You may also mark your calendar for all of June 2019, as his work will be featured at the Stillwater Art Guild Gallery, located at 402 N. Main St., in Stillwater MN.

And now we shall sign off with our creative quote for the week, this one from the great surrealist painter, Salvador Dali: “Surrealism is destructive; but it destroys only what it considers to be the shackles limiting our vision.”