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god's servant's blog

this used to be god's garage

Troll boy
Posted:Aug 8, 2013 4:08 pm
Last Updated:Oct 2, 2013 1:45 pm

Troll boy

It was 1996, the year after I separated from my wife, and the year before the divorce was finalized. I had taken a job in a very fast paced small print shop where the owner was verbally abusive to me. I previously had a really good job with really good people, but the company had moved 45 miles out of the city and I wasn’t able to keep up with keeping a vehicle up to the commute. I was thrilled at first to find a job in the city proper, rather than downtown or in the burbs. This shop was just off fullerton and ashland, which was very near to a dear friend, ricky, down the block from the practice place of a band made up of close friends (including ricky, their drummer) and also just a mile away from the gallery which was my home away from home in those days. As I settled into this job, however, I had to come to terms with a slave driver of a boss who called me terrible names and was never happy with anything I did.

Eventually, one day after I had suffered through a particularly nasty tirade, I calmly got up from my desk, grabbed him by the throat and pinned him up against a wall. I told him that I would immediately start looking for another job, that he would apologize to me and watch his mouth until I did, and that he would give me a good reference. He was a small man (in more ways than his stature) and I scared him to death. He apologized and agreed and I found another job within 3 weeks. The economy was much better then, and I got really lucky too. I landed the job that I would keep for the next seven years, until I was hospitalized last summer and began my current foraging for careers situation.

Before that happened, I usually would be pretty wired and upset after work. I often would drive a few blocks down fullerton to where it crossed the chicago river, crawl down the side of the embankment there, and sit on the riverbank next to the fullerton bridge and play my guitar. There was a big mall behind this spot, but they hadn’t done anything to develop the riverside area yet. I have been there lately, and it is a sort of park now. In 1996, it was still just a barren desolate area. Other than the occasional river rat, it was exactly the kind of solitary city verses nature locale that I am fond of playing my guitar in to unwind. Soon after I found and became comfortable in the spot, Troll Boy moved in.

He was kind of gooney looking and probably twenty something. He wore the same clothes since the day I first met him, but there was nothing unusual about them and I can’t seem to remember any details about them. I think that he had a red flannel shirt, but I am not certain. He had longish brown hair and a very scraggly mustache, but no other facial hair. I remember thinking that was strange, because he didn’t smell like he ever bathed and I couldn’t imagine that he would shave. He had a hint of a southern accent, but was not overly yokel, and it could have just been a south side affectation. Chicago southsiders often consider themselves to be rebel stock and somehow acquire a very unchicagoish drawl. In the season that I knew him, I did not really have too many lengthy conversations with him, but he seemed to me to be fairly intelligent.

By “moved in,” I mean that quite literally. Troll boy did not just bunk beneath the fullerton avenue for shelter from the storm, he made it his home. Both sides beneath the bridge were fenced in with chainlink fence from the ground along the river to street level where they met concrete. The riverside was open, but it was the river, and considerably lower than the shelf of troll boy’s home, and neither offered any visible access. I never did figure out how he got in there, or moreover how he had gotten all his furnishings in there. There was no breach in that fence anywhere that I could see. My spot was just alongside the fence and I had never even considered beneath the bridge to be an occupyable spot before troll boy occupied it. I had gone running from the rain more than once, and had I been able to get under that shelter of the bridge I likely would have done that instead.

Troll boy figured out how to get in, and he made it his home. He completely furnished it with things I would guess that he found on the streets or in the alleys, the kind of stuff that people discarded. The first thing that he moved in was an old sofa bed. It was an especially big one, and I wondered how he could have even moved it himself, let alone gotten it into the fenced in space. I asked him about this and he just said “If I tell you, then you could get in here and take it.” That was one thing about his personality that I learned early on, he was completely distrustful of everyone. Sometimes, I would come down to my spot after work to find him sleeping on the raggedy mattress that the sofa contained. It was a king size bed and he would sprawl on it as if he wanted to utilize every inch of it. My playing would always wake him up, but he never complained, he would just roll over and listen to me.

He was a good audience. I was playing adult comedy music at the time, and he was intelligent enough to get my jokes and innuendos and would always laugh and applaud or tell me “I like that one.” I guess that it was mostly bottom feeder stuff, and it did not take much intelligence to understand. But that was what I was doing at the time. I remember that I was working on a song about my exploits at the gallery that the line was “I’ve been fishing in a shallow, stagnant pond,” that he really liked. I would guess that he fished some, he had a few poles in one corner of his “house,” but I’d never seen him fish. Or eat for that matter. It was when I was working on that song that he asked me why I called him Troll Boy. I told him that it was because he lived under a bridge, but I don’t think that he understood the reference. He asked me if it would be ok if he called me Guitar man, and I said sure. We never asked each other our names.

So whenever I would go along the river on fullerton after work and he was there, which was often, I would say “evening Troll Boy” and he would say “evening Guitar Man.” He said “guitar” with the emphases on the first syllable rather than the second, like a southerner might. Over the course of that summer, he completely decked out his home. He got a table and a couple of chairs (although i would bet that i was the only company he ever got), a bookcase complete with books, and an armoire (a freestanding closet thing). He even got a tv even though he couldn’t plug it in anywhere. He had a broom too, and he kept the concrete floor of his home well swept. He secured a rebel flag up on the chainlink fencing on the opposite side from me. That was what led me to my southsider theory. Chicago southsiders are often inexplicitly drawn to that flag - that and jack daniels and large bottomed women.

Troll boy’s bridge was a fine home, and it was easy to see that he took pride in it. Like I said, we really didn’t talk much other than to exchange salutations, but one day I told him that he seemed intelligent and perfectly healthy and asked him why didn’t he try to get a job somewhere so that he could get an apartment. He looked at me as if I were soft and gestured with his outstretched arm so as to encompass all of his home beneath the bridge and asked “Why?” as if that answered everything. I didn’t argue and I never brought it up again.

As the weather started to change, I visited Troll boy less often. Too, I had gotten myself a girl friend, sara, and I had less free time. Then, I stopped down one day after I’d not been there in almost a month, and there was someone else in troll boy’s bed. The house looked different too. Everything was in disarray, the armoire was wide open and the television was lying belly up on the concrete floor with the picture tube smashed. Glass was all over the place. There were a dozen or so empty beer cans next to the bed. When I sat down to play my guitar, the person on the bed jumped up startled and said “hey, I’m sleeping here!” He was an older, more weathered man. His head was shaved bald and he looked angry. I thought ‘ogre’ immediately, but I didn’t say it. I said that I always played my guitar there, and I asked where troll boy was. He said “If you mean that punk who used to live here, he had to move out. This is my house now, and you don’t always play here no more!”

I got the impression that the ogreman was the main reason that troll boy ‘had to’ move, and didn’t really care about the spot enough to battle ogres. I guessed too that troll boy’s distrust of anyone else finding his secret entrance was not paranoia. To tell true, troll boy was really my only attraction to that particular spot anymore. That river runs all through the city and I knew of dozens of more peaceful places on it that were more convenient to me in my life at that time then. Even though we never talked much, troll boy and I were good friends, and I had always felt at home there in his back yard. Now that ogreman had conquered it, there was no warmth there anymore. I have only gone back there once or twice when I was in the neighborhood to reminisce. Even ogreman was gone then, as was the remainder of troll boys prized possessions. I always have wondered what became of troll boy, but I never knew his name and he didn’t leave a forwarding address. Nonetheless, I have explored nearly every bridge that I could find within a mile or so of that area, hoping to someday find his new digs. I have found some other ogres, and a river rat or two, and once, off of the north avenue bridge, a crying , but never again any sign of troll boy.

This city tends to just swallow up people like troll boy and me.

Posted:Jul 28, 2013 3:58 pm
Last Updated:Oct 2, 2013 1:45 pm
I think his name was Robert, I really can’t remember. The man himself was much more memorable. He had big round eyes, almost too round and too white. On such a dark black man with such weathered skin, his eyes were almost a racial mockery, like a painted black face, like Rochester when he was terrified. Except for those eyes, the Gooseman was kind of dignified in a quiet sort of way. He carried himself slowly and walked with integrity and purpose. It was easy to see why his birds were easy around him. I felt like that around him too, he virtually oozed peace and tranquility.

We met at the Skokie lagoons. I used to go there on my lunch hour to play my guitar. They were a chain of disconnected little bodies of water separated by stretches of woodlands. Some were mere puddles, others were so expansive that you couldn’t see the other side. They also weren’t so very far from where I was living at that time, and so I used to go there a lot on the weekends as well. They were beautiful and peaceful and a great place to practice. There was one particular pond that I visited more than the others. I guess mainly because there were a lot of benches there and a particularly serene view, and because I would often meet the Gooseman there.

The first time I met the Gooseman, he was taking a fishhook out of the mouth of a rather large goose. He had a long nose pliers in one hand and the goose by the neck in the other, and he was calmly, and carefully, and really slowly, manipulating the pliers to the side of the goose’s snapping beak. The goose was emitting frantic shrill squawks from that beak, and the rest of the goose was a flurry of feathers and webbed feet. It was fascinating to watch. The Gooseman managed to hold the bird just far enough away that it was not able to touch him, yet close enough that he was able to get inside of his beak to do whatever he was doing. I didn’t know that he was removing a fishhook until he came over and told me afterward. A million thoughts went through my head as I watched, but it never dawned on me that was what he was doing. I never worried that he was hurting the goose intestinally though; it was obvious that it was a labor of love.

Suddenly, he pulled the pliers away from the goose and straightened up. He slowly set the goose down on the ground, gently stroking its feathers. The Goose stopped squawking, shook itself violently, and then waddled off to join the main group of geese who had stood by idly watching all this. As had I.

The Gooseman then sauntered over to where I sat on my bench; I always sit on the table top of a bench rather than the sides, which are intended as seating. This gives me more arm room to beat on a guitar. He smiled and held up his pliers and I could see a piece of fishing line extending from them. “Fishhook” he said, “Damn careless fishermen.”

I smiled back, but didn’t really know what to say. It was apparently ok because he sat himself down on one of the vacant side seats and just started talking. He was like that, he would just start talking and talking. I could never accurately recount all the things that the Gooseman said to me, but I can remember most of everything he said in a kind of wordless image-like way. He had spoke in much the same way that he held himself - he was peaceful and even, a pleasure to listen to. Something about him was almost childlike, naïve; almost as if he were retarded or slow – but he was definitely very wise and worldly. Over time, he told me about his wife and his , various adventures in several wars, different jobs and seasons of his long life (he was probably in his early seventies), and all about the geese. His wife had passed away, his had grown and mostly moved away, and the geese were all the friends that he had anymore. Until we became friends.

During the summer and early fall the area was literally crawling with geese. I don’t know much about species and such, they were mostly grey and black with green heads and necks. They were pretty big birds too, bigger than an average chicken, maybe even bigger than a turkey. The Gooseman knew about the breeds, and he would prattle on about that one being this particular breed, or how this one probably had come all the way from some place else and was not part of this flock or that. He could tell the males from the females, and the young from the old, and he would point out when one goose was ostracized from the rest. He said that happened fairly often.

I would just listen to him go on and on, nodding my head and playing my guitar. Sometimes, he would kind of scat along with me if I played a catchy blues rhythm or jazzy bass beat. Occasionally he would say that he liked one tune or another, but most often, he would just kind of ramble on about his past, or his geese, in his deep calm baritone voice. It was almost as if it were a part of the scenery. Whenever he sat with me, the geese would come right up to the table. He usually fed them too, and always had bags of torn up bread. He would sit and talk and toss out a piece or so of bread to waiting beaks, and I would just listen and watch and quietly play my guitar. It was almost surreal.

Sometimes, if I was at that spot and he wasn’t around, the geese would come up to me at my table and look at me as if they expected me to have some food. Or as if they were asking me where the Gooseman was. I used to yell at them and tell them I didn’t have any food and that I didn’t know where the Gooseman was; it wasn’t my turn to watch him. That usually satisfied them enough that they would go away and leave me alone. I never much cared for the geese myself. I mean, I like all wildlife, but gaggles of geese are not really my cup of tea. On top of that, they tend to leave green trailing turds behind them everywhere they go that are just so gross that I could puke. That is what makes up the green on the banks of the majority of the lagoons there, not grass. For that reason, I tended not to ever venture very far down to the waters, and probably why I tended to stick to the one particular bench that I could reach from directly off the pavement of the parking lot.

Time passed. It was maybe through four or five summers and falls that I would go down to the lagoons and spend a day or so a week with the Gooseman. Once I took my wife and there on a weekend, but he wasn’t around. After a time, I divorced, and after some more time, my job moved from nearby Northbrook to Wauconda, which was too far away for me to drive to the lagoons at lunch anymore. I moved too, and was no longer close enough to make it worth the trip on most weekends. Additionally, being single again, my life had changed a lot and I wasn’t treasuring things like peace and tranquility so much anymore. Once in a blue moon I would make a point to find the time to go to that old spot on that lagoon and play my guitar, but I never saw the Gooseman again.

On one such trip, I saw a goose standing apart from the flock. I recognized it as being ostracized because of what the Gooseman had taught me. It was squawking and it appeared to want to rejoin the flock, but the flock would close in and turn away each time it neared them. My heart went out to that goose, I knew how that felt. I was going through a time when many changes had come and my life was upside down. The friends that I had made while I was married were no longer my friends. I had tried to stay in contact with some, but most of them were married couples and choosing up sides, and usually it was not my side. I had always thought of my in-laws as my family, but they had completely ostracized me – my father-in-law and his sons actually wished me ill. I had left most of my old friends behind when I got married and had , and those of them that I could still find were generally not very good company. I found myself very much missing the Gooseman and wishing he would show up and sing some of his scat to some of my blues.

The lonely goose noticed me then and waddled over to my bench. I didn’t chase him off, rather, I tore off a little piece of bread from the subway sandwich I had brought with me that day, and I tossed it to him. He gobbled it up gratefully, and if geese could smile, he smiled. I sat there a while more and played my guitar and he sat with me and listened. I wondered where his ears were. For a time, we both had some good company.


to all the naysayers: I DID IT! i am a biblical scholar
Posted:Jul 22, 2013 8:31 pm
Last Updated:Jul 28, 2013 3:58 pm

to all of you that said i would never do it,


i finished my LAST required class this june and i have my last internship supervisory meeting this wednesday.

this means i have earned my masters degree in divinity.

in your faces
1 comment
extreme scratching post
Posted:Dec 23, 2012 3:27 pm
Last Updated:Oct 2, 2013 1:44 pm
i took a cardboard roll thingee from carpeting and glued a left-over strip of carpet around it, and now it is the world's biggest scratching post. i wedged it between my floor and my ceiling and used a couple of strategic drywall screws, securing it to the built-in book case in my living room. my cat hobbes uses it like a firemen's pole to get up and down. i put another piece of carpet up there for hobbes to perch on and watch over the house.
20 pounds of christmas in a 10 pound sack
Posted:Dec 14, 2012 7:31 am
Last Updated:Dec 24, 2012 12:00 pm
i am getting ready for the big christmas show tomorrow night and the church is a LOT smaller than i thought. i had been hopefully guesstimating i could cram 100 people in if i really pushed things. now that i moved things around and put in a bunch of chairs it is looking more like i will be lucky to get 50 people seated. oh well, if worse comes to worse i will pull the chairs and just pack them in as standing room only.
1 comment
NOT viral
Posted:Dec 9, 2012 3:54 pm
Last Updated:Dec 9, 2012 3:55 pm
i *finally* fixed the guest room computer. it was NOT a virus as i had supposed. i changed out the hard drive and it still kept doing the same thing. it was shutting down when i tried to do anything. if i just left it on, it ran fine, but if i tried to run anything or re-install windows, it just shut down. i replaced the power supply thinking it was maybe the fan, but that didn't help. so i opened it up and watched what was going on, and after running through the shut down happening a few times, i realized that the processer was moving ever so slightly just before it shut down. one of the clips that held down the fan on top of the processor was broken and so when the processor got hot enough, the fan wiggled a little bit and it shut down. a little bit of strategically applied superglue has fixed the problem and it is running fine now.
we don't want to talk about it
Posted:Dec 1, 2012 10:54 am
Last Updated:Dec 5, 2012 6:55 am
what exactly WAS the big recent BC major makeover about anyways?

nobody is talking about it, but it is the elephant in the room.

i know that there are some that blame ME, and others like me, for being trouble-makers. if that is true, i am not sure if i am ashamed or proud.

it seems to me, that SOMEBODY here at big church made a REALLY bad decision. this place is like a ghost town. i had been coming her for probably almost 10 years and i NEVER seen the place this desolate.

that they have gone back to the old format is very telling. no apologies, no explanations, just business as usual. i for one, am glad that they came back for whatever reason. i am also glad that they gave the axe to the arian couple they were showing on the front page. they were just TOO caucaison. i found that offensive.

so i wood like to officially say THANK YOU big church for giving us chat and the blogs back. and PLEASE never do that again.
christmas concet
Posted:Nov 28, 2012 8:02 pm
Last Updated:Oct 2, 2013 1:42 pm
the pastor of the church i go to is a kind of famous blues guitarist. he has blessed me with deciding to do a christmas concert here at god's garage next month. it is a pretty big deal, this guy is really an incredible guitarist and he tours world wide. he has taken up the hobby of building cigar box guitars, something they did back in the days when the blues were born. he is going to do a cigar box set for the party. i just put the ads up on the website and i have to start printing out some flyers. the church here can only hold maybe 100 people at the most. i am probably going to have to turn people away.
guest room
Posted:Nov 19, 2012 6:10 pm
Last Updated:Nov 26, 2012 7:57 pm
i have finished (finally) the guest room (mostly). i currently just have an old wooden bunk bed with two twin mattresses. my mother has an old fold out couch that i have to go get that is going in there too. i have a tv with a dvd player, but i can't seem to get the hd tuner for the tv to work. i also have a computer with dsl internet, but the computer has a virus i can't seem to get rid of. all in all though, it is still a good place for guests to crash. anyone want to come visit?
heated church
Posted:Nov 16, 2012 10:19 pm
Last Updated:Nov 28, 2012 8:08 pm
i *finally* got heat into the church. i ran a flex hose from the furnace in the basement, under the steps to my apartment in the hallway, through the hallway on the floor, which i covered with a little wooden tunnel, and busted a vent into the crosswall in the church. it isn't exactly beautiful, but it works. it was nice and toasty in the church tonite.

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