Letters, 2004



Stephen's letter was a photo.

Dreams Come True

Tyler's dreams come true.



I of course, left out the actual assignment.

What about this for an ancillary assignment, just for us. Let's find an example of the happiest time ever. Let's take the happiest time ever, (movie, song, text, image) and perform it for a really long time for no one but ourselves.

The happiest time ever most certainly involves a lot of people who are very happy, happy like happy about the moment. Like when we went bowling and you bowled a strike and felt very happy for a given amount of time that felt like forever until it was over a very short time later. If it's an image, it's blurred with movement which serves to suggest it's temporality and the chaotic nature of such an event. Apply yourself.

I want to start with happy. The last piece started with sad, and this one should start with happy, mostly cause happy can be way more sad.



Yo Stephen,

Cleveland misses you. I'm not sure if you've ever been here, but I understand it misses you. I'm surprised by cities like these. Cities whose downtown areas refuse to be multi-functional, most notably Detroit. They are business districts, and that's what they do. They do not do more.

I was walking down the street last night, Euclid at 9th, and I was the only person on the street. I was the only person on the street in the center of a semi-notable city in a state that has been more than notable of late. I was kept company by skyscrapers. The skyscrapers moaned to me in the dark. The wind coming off the lake made the buildings moan to me in the late evening in a notable city in the United States while I was alone on the street. The skyscrapers were of many different eras, and I could see the smoke stacks beyond them, suggesting the famed history of this city, Rockefeller giving back. A grand old father. A welcome recipient. An admirer.

Downtown to these people must mean day light. Suits. Stiffness. Time. If you ask one of Cleveland's cab drivers, at 10p on a sunday night, where all the people are, that cab driver will say something like, "shooooot, this is Cleveland man!"

Stephen, I wonder if you could answer a question for me. Could you tell me the difference between the stars and my dreams? I kind of feel like they both exist in my head, and my head alone (things cannot exist only on TV, because we are the one interpreting the bizarre medium [putting it's signals together in our heads]). I have seen pictures of stars I guess....but the time that is part of us seeing stars with the naked eye is insane...I cannot attempt to understand millions of years beyond simple mathematics. So, the stars and my dreams. The difference. You can do it.

I look forward to seeing you again in a couple of hours. It will be a welcome homecoming.



Step Counting

Dear Tyler,

I woke up early this morning. Not because I had to or wanted to, but because my cat knocked water all over my alarm clock, and it has stopped functioning properly. When I plug it in it starts counting. I have left it pugged in because I want to see how far it will get. I am imagining it self destructing when it can't go any higher, right now it is at three hundred and fifty. I really want to go back to bed but I can't because I am afraid that I won't wake up in time for work. So here I am writing this letter in order to stay awake, it's a funny thing to do really.

I noticed yesterday that the change in light is starting to happen. At first when I woke up I thought everything had been washed, because it did rain. But then while I was at work I realized it was the fall light not cleanliness that was making things look a bit more snappy to my eye.

The alarm clock has started hissing. I'm going to unplug it. As I suspected the clock started over once it reached 1259. It would have been better if it kept going. It could have been something out of Maximum Overdrive,

A: " Oh My God the trucks have minds of their own! After our baseball game when that boy was killed by a soda machine I got chased down the block by an ice cream truck! It tried to kill me!"

B: " That's weird cause, I woke up this morning and my clock wouldn't stop counting, It was terrifying I couldn't sleep cause I didn't know when I would wake up!"

The light in the fall always makes things just a bit better. Hopefully it makes this early morning humor a bit better when you read it.

I'll write down in my calender for Oct. 14, ask Tyler if he read.



Dear Stephen,

It's chilly tonight, in Chicago.

I'm feeling idle this evening...not really sure what to do about it. I didn't do anything tonight because I thought it wise to give myself a break. I wonder if feeling anxious is the kind of rest I was aiming for. I should read. But then I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the reading because I feel like I'm not doing something I'm supposed to do. I would sit in the chair with the book open, with my eyes following lines of text while my mind made a list of to do's to put on my to do list. Is this the sort of thing that drives people to sedatives? I should go get the trumpet fixed.

My dad told me once, the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is being able to train yourself to think in appropriate blocks of time. He said those that can only think about the next day, or the next few hours will never be able to recognize a larger goal. However, those that can only see 2 or 5 years from now will never be able to see the smaller steps necessary to achieve the larger goals. At work, people newly hired are supposed to go around and find out what each manager's personal motto is. Mine is, "Goals are the life blood of ambition."

I think that I think in week blocks. Yesterday I tried to lay out my next two months and started laughing. It seemed crazy to think about what I should be doing October 14. I decided to give it my best shot, even if it seemed silly, because maybe it's the forcing yourself to think about it and not how similar the actual is to the plan that matters. October 14th I'm going to call Katie Tuten and wish her a happy birthday, and then read. It's a Thursday. The average high is 65 and the low is 45. There will be a full moon.




Today it looked a little bit chilly outside so I put on a sweater before I left the house. I left the house at 9:45am to run some errands. I was focused on my errands. I was walking around a lot and started to sweat. I thought about how annoying it was to be sweating and I wished I had brought a handkerchief. Around 1:30pm I remembered I had a sweater on and took it off. I stopped sweating so much. I have enclosed a picture I drew of this event.

I remember when you hurt your back in rehearsal and had to go to the chiropractor. I remember you hobbling around for a couple weeks. I remember your chiropractors office. I remember you describing strange visits to the chiropractor, and I remember their strange billing practices. I also remember us laughing about how no one is ever deemed fit to function in society without regular adjustments.

My dad took me to a chiropractor when I was 13. He wanted the chiropractor to fix it so I didn't walk with my feet pointing out. The chiropractor couldn't, so my dad just yelled "rail road tracks" at me when I was walking with my feet pointed out for 2 years. That, my friend, did the trick.

I have a real problem with believing something that I can't experience working actually works, and in the chiropractor's case...isn't it just cooler to make the cracking noises?

It was so hot today I thought about how if someone served me a piping hot bowl of stew, I wouldn't eat it.





Your dentist experience reminds me of when I used to go to the chiropractor. When I first started going he would perform the adjustments with his hands, and I would be able to feel or hear by spine doing something. Then a few weeks after I started going he got this machine in, which was used instead of the hand. The machine was much gentler no violent pulls of the head or pushing down on the spine, just a series of gentle repetitive impacts with a tool that I would liken to a tiny jack hammer. I couldn't hear anything moving, or feel anything changing, there was a computer screen filled with red and blue graph lines that told me that things were moving and changing, but I had the similar feeling of being duped. I just couldn't believe that my spine was moving back into place if I couldn't feel it moving, or feel a difference for that matter. Some people I talked to regarding there visits to the chiropractor talked about it as being " better then sex". On my visits I searched and searched for some sign of feeling different, or better and just couldn't find it. I started thinking that maybe I was expecting too much, maybe I wasn't in touch with my body, maybe there was something wrong with me if I didn't feel euphoric after my adjustments. I've digressed.

This past weekend I went camping with a few friends on the Wisconsin river. During our trip I found myself sitting around a camp fire with them silently eating corn on the cob. I thought to myself this is great and I am really enjoying this, and I remembered something Kurt Vonnegut said when I saw him speak, something about saying " If this isn't great I don't know what is" every once in a while, I believe he was talking about drinking a glass of lemonade when he brought this up. I decided to give it a try because I felt like this was one of those moments, the words started to come out of my mouth, and I began to laugh a little mid-sentence because I felt embarrassed or silly for saying something so sentimental (this point could be argued), which ruined the moment and any chance of coming across with some sort of sincerity. So in my attempt to mark this point in our trip as special to me, I ended up making it awkward and had to repeat myself so even when they understood what I said it had lost its intended effect. Maybe it was too premeditated, I find this happens often, If I think about saying something for too long it usually comes out of my mouth poorly and the fact that its delivery isn't there makes it loose something and at times everything. Maybe I should have just gone on eating in silence.

See you soon,



I particularly like the conflict in your fish suit. Is this wrong? Immediately doubting an experience (its validity, reality, moral or ethical ramifications) is something I find myself doing quite a lot. I even kind of think I don't allow myself to experience things, just to experience my inner debate about them concerning the above points. I wouldn't be able to do it again until I had decided it was okay which probably would have taken awhile.

Can you please draw me a picture and include it in your next letter? I drew you a picture that I will include in this letter.

I have had a strange debate with myself over the weekend. Last friday I went to the dentist. I had my teeth cleaned, and then had a root canal. It was a new dentist. When they cleaned my teeth, they used a new fangled device they called "ultrasonic" cleaning. It was like a dental pressure washer, and the most important thing about it is, it is pain free. No metal scraping, picking, scratching, or anything. My first reaction was the desired reaction, cool - this won't suck that bad. Then, during the cleaning, I started to feel like I was being duped. How could this new thing possibly do the trick? There's no hiding that the picking and scraping did it's job, it's picking and scraping with metal things! I can't understand how this new thing could possibly work, and I would like to have my own teeth when I'm 80. I started wondering if I should ask the dental technician if she could do it the old way, but then didn't want her to think I was a pain fetishist, and also couldn't tell her that I didn't believe in her little machine because I couldn't possibly believe in the experience. Teeth cleanings are supposed to suck, and this didn't suck at all.

Then came the root canal, and that was much better. Drilling, and the smell of burning teeth, and scraping, and needles, and the burning smell, and some scraping and then more drilling. Now that's the dentist, that is progress and action I can understand. Drill and tooth and bad stuff being taken away with the drill. That's something I can get my head around.

They prescribed some penicillin, and I'm supposed to take it every 6 hours. I've successfully taken one on time once in the 4 days I've had them. 6 hours just isn't what it used to be.


Dentist Water Pick



I keep on thinking of a place on the Sue St. Marie river, where I used to jump off the rocks into the water. This is what would happen:

I would jump.
I would break the surface of the water.
I would go under water.
I would come back to the surface.
Hundreds of minnows would swarm around my body and tickle me.
I had a suit of fish.
I would get out of the water thinking maybe there was something wrong with getting tickled by fish.
I would do it again.

I found this and wanted you to read it.

We already think we know too much about too much, so mountains are for the mystery of ungeometric convolutions, a boost without knowing what's on top. Awe is not a word much used lately, sounding primitive, like kerosene lamps. What's to be awed about - is this the Three Wise Men following the star? what hasn't been explained? Actually, I don't know what has been explained. If we are told, for example, that 99 percent of our genes are similar to those of a mouse, does that explain anything? Apprehension, disillusion, disorientation, selfishness, lust, irony, envy,greed, and even self sacrifice are commonplace: but awe? Society is not annealed enough. Trust and continuity and leadership are deteriorating, and the problem when you are alone is the clutter. Finding even a sight line outdoors without buildings, pavement, people, is a task and were not awed by other people anymore: too much of a good thing. We need to glimpse a portion of the axle, the undercarriage, of what it's all about. And mountains (an axis, if not an axle) are harder to be glib about than technological news reports. But if you wait until your mature years to get to know patch of countryside intimately, thoroughly, your response may be generic, not specific just curiosity and good intentions and you will wind up going in for golf and tennis and power mowers, bypassing nature, instead.



Hey Stephen,

I wonder it the China project is more like memory than anything else. Right now I'm writing you from the computer in my childhood home in Omaha. Being here is less like what I was trying to get at with Draguc than it is supposed to be. Nothing is really the same. The objects here are all re-arranged, the rooms different colors, the gas stations rebuilt, the hospitals refurbished, the streets repaved. The objects carry only the suggestion of what they are in my memory.

Depending on how well those that packed up and catalogued the towns to be moved, those towns have been bracketed in Time and Space. They have been stopped. It's like when I toured John Adams' Braintree home 3 years ago. When John Adams lived there, things were one way, and after he moved time crept on. Once the historical society got ahold of the house they went to great pains to undo the effect of time on the house. Modernizations were undone or hidden, new walls were torn down and replaced with newer "old" walls. The quality of the effect is judged on how accurate the new rendering of the old building is, it becomes a question of authenticity like every other great question facing American society right now.

A headline from The Omaha World Herald appearing below the fold on the front page. "Personal Shopper: Credit cards to sport snapshots." This headline precedes the following lead, "At last, Americans will get a chance to put the pictures they want on their credit cards. Fido, Your '57 chevey. Grandkids. You at the beach. A child's drawing." The following quote is used later in the story and comes from an employee of the company offering the cards. "It allows you to show your personality whenever you shop. It's a card that is truly unique to the customer, a card that they'll be proud of and want to use and hopefully keep with them for years." The spokesman goes on to say, "the images will be reviewed to make sure they are within the guidelines set by Visa International. There certainly are some boundaries, the images have to be in good taste. I made my card with a photo of my 5-month old puppy. It was so easy to do." I wonder what C A R I A N A C A R I A N N E would have put on her/their credit card(s)?

Let's try to get jobs at Visa as "image reviewers" protecting the "aesthetic responsibilites" of Visa International.

At last, my most valued object will be truly representative of my personality. At last. The waitress will get to see and love my 5-month old puppy as much as I do. My life is finally validated. Everyone will see how great and individual I am because of the vacation snap shot I put on my credit card. I was becoming frustrated by the fact that my credit card, my most coveted and powerfull companion, wasn't reflective of ME, ME!. Now, at long last, it is. The world is complete. I am complete, and "it was so easy to do." Thank god it wasn't hard. I don't like things that are hard.

See you wednesday.




Excerpt from a letter that was not sent when it was supposed to be:

I took notice the other day (not really , but today is the day I decided to write about it.) when I was walking with my umbrella in the rain of how when I am walking under open sky the drops are light and sound like white noise, and when I pass underneath the trees the drops become singular or more pronounced upon impact and produce a dull thud. I can control the spaces in between with my speed. Then the rain water starts to seep up through the soles of my aged shoes, and they begin to squeak. And I can control this too with my speed. For some reason it is funnier when I walk faster. Any Tragedy can become comedy if you just speed it up. Maybe this is why people on the job always say they wish time would move faster, they really just want to laugh.

I recently learned of the three rivers damn project in China. What was most interesting to me about the project was how before building the damn they moved entire towns, "block by block" and rebuilt them in different locations. I began thinking about your letter and your talk of the small town in Croatia, and what would happen if that town was moved block by block to a different location. Or say if ones childhood home was moved in this same manner. I like to linger in thought in the stage inbetween the take down and the rebuild, and imagine a storage area with all of the pieces of my childhood home, numbered, waiting to be put back together again. And think of how the pieces loose there meaning to me when they are in this state. And what happens when they are put back together in a different place? What would it be like to walk through the same interiors, after they had been relocated?

I do think what we are doing here is very much like a blog. It's confusing for me to try and think about my audience here. I am saying that this is a letter to you, and I am trying to write it as if it is, but this will be put up on our website for everyone to read. It is not as if they were being published after they had been written.There is an instantaneous availability to outside silent parties to read our correspondence. It is quite possible that someone else had read your last letter to me before I laid eyes on it. Letters have addresses on them, they come to you, in this case readers come to the letter. We should keep going.



Dear Stephen,

I've missed getting a letter from you this week.

Something from the Sontag I'm reading that I seem to force on everyone I know:

She's talking about Peter Weiss' play, The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed...etc. "There is another use of ideas to be reckoned with in art: ideas as sensory stimulants. Antonioni has said of his films that he wants them to dispense with 'the superannuated casuistry of positives and negatives.' The same impulse discloses itself in a complex way in Marat/Sade. Such a position does not mean that these artists wish to dispense with ideas. What it does mean is that ideas, including moral ideas, are proffered in a new style. Ideas may function as d├ęcor, props, sensuous material."

I like this because I think it refers to a certain destruction of pure narrative, where the words are always closely linked to a characters psychological arch in the closed system of the play. That arguments are argued in a work shouldn't always mean the work will eventually offer a solution. This would be too simple for a work that wants to offer more to its audience. An A to B to C narrative with a single argument that opens and is closed by the conclusion results in a non-fertile, didactic bore allowing no space for the audience to enter and participate.

I've been experiencing a certain despair for not immediately knowing the answer to every question that pops into my head. I write that statement, and I know it sounds idiotic, but I guess sometimes I'm an idiot. Perhaps this is the crowning achievement of my impatience. I want to know what is in a book in the time it takes me to purchase that book. I'm filled with dread at the thought of reading it, and the unanswered questions that it will inevitably bring. I suppose that this predicament would seemingly end in my refusal to read, but I guess this frustration hasn't yet overtaken the joy I feel in finding an idea that is new to my underexposed self. How soon the joy dissipates, and how soon the doubt inherent to discovery creeps in.

Is posting these letters on the internet like a blog, or is it something different? I'm starting to feel like it was a bad idea.

Good night,



Dear Stephen,

2 things right off the bat.

1. When Justin Timberlake gets old, it will be sad for all of us. We won't want to look at him or think about him because when we do will be reminded of our age, and of time's debilitating effects. He will become embarrassing for us.

2. Time does happen to you. This is what I was trying to get at when we were talking about Wings Of Desire the other night, and I think the is the formal basis of Petitmal. In WOD, the frustration of the fallen angel is brilliant. There is a lot to mine in creating a fictional situation where something eternal becomes temporary. When the angel becomes human, he sees color and experiences things in a personal way for the first time. But the beauty (and tragedy) he experiences is frustrating because of time. Wenders got more into this in the sequel to WOD, but it is a wonderful thing to think about the conflicts of moving from an eternal existence to a finite existence. I feel like I could talk about this forever (that's a joke.)

I've really liked thinking about proportional space being intimate. Some friends we made in Croatia took Michael and I around Istria, which is beautiful. One town they took us to, Draguc, was especially fun. It was a town situated on the tip of a short ridge. The expansive valley below was covered in wheat fields and there was a lake in the distance. The town was maybe as wide as a football field, and as long as 2 football fields. It was as big as the surface of the ridge would allow. The population was reported as 60. The town dated to the 11th century and had 2 small churches, one built in the 11th century, and the other build in the 15th century. The newer of the two almost made my heart explode. Srdjan told us that when it was built, the size was determined by the size of the town. It was situated on the tip of the ridge and was about 20 feet long, 10 feet wide, and maybe 8 feet tall. I think it faced north. The walls and ceiling were covered with religious frescos that were at times interrupted by messages carved in the walls. The frescos were delightfully ornate, and completely lacked the color blue because the surrounding nature had nothing that could supply it. The religious action in the frescos were given a local setting with local castles etc. painted into the background. There were a lot of messages scratched into the interior walls in the old Croatian characters. We couldn't read them, but they were said to be pleas of help written by people locked in the church for various reasons like the plague, war, etc.

Two things I want to point out:

1. The incredibly small(intimate) nature of the space, and how proportional to the town it is. This seems in direct opposition to the idea of making gigantic churches designed to inspire awe.

2. The specificity of the structure, this could not exist anywhere else.

I had the distinct thought that, if I had grown up in this town, I would know this church and all of the buildings in this town (20 or 30) as intimately as I know the house I grew up in in Omaha. The town is small enough to be proportional to me, and as an inquisitive child without the boundries that cities insist on, I would have known every inch of this town, and it would be intimate. Stuff that shapes a personality would have happened to me in every part of the very small town. The whole town would be a part of me because as a town, it is proportional to me.

Remind me to talk about the undoing of society in my next letter, I have this whole thing almost formulated in my head, but this letter feels too long. It has to do with our manufactured existence being so far from the church in Draguc, that we will eventually lose truly intimate objects, and this will need to be replaced by something. This something will probably be virtual, or simulated, and will inspire a whole new kind of societal disfuction that will destroy us.

Let's play some pinball tonight.



Dear Tyler,

It is starting to get hotter here in Chicago. My head is foggy from the heat. It feels as if my thoughts are moving through quicksand.

The cat just turned on the phone.

I found something in the newspaper a few days ago that I thought you would enjoy. Here is the item: " At McDonalds, young is the joy we bring to the very young, while we appeal to the young at heart," ..." McDonalds is forever young. And with McDonalds you can be forever young. "Who knew that the misguided explorers looking for the waters of the fountain of youth hundreds of years ago could have found their eternal life in a happy meal.

What will happen when Justin Timberlake gets old?

Time happens to you. Would you agree?

I feel as if I have never walked into the same room twice thanks to time.

See you soon,



Dear Stephen,

I'm sorry that this letter didn't arrive in time for the deadline. Trust me when I say that this will be the exception, not the rule.

I hope your job is going well and that you are relaxing into your new routine. I haven't yet decided whether I prefer routine or chaos[freedom]. I'm interested to see how the last six months will seem in comparision.

I wish I had a dog named Action. No that's not true, I don't want a dog. I wish you had a dog named Action. Wait, that's not true either. I'm allergic to dogs and spend quite a bit of time at your house, so I don't wish you had a dog. I wish there was a dog that didn't live at your house, but was around you a lot. I wish this dogs name was Action and that I could come say hi to you and also say hi to Action.

It's a real question what happens when something we are terrified of disappears. In someways, the lack of the terrifying is more terrifying. It would make me feel naive, or like I was somehow missing what it is I should be terrified of. We should always be terrified of something.

I think proportion is a comforting thing. When I was little, I also found confined spaces in which to nap or otherwise. I would take a blanket, a blanket with a very loose weave that reminded me of the camoflage netting they used in M*A*S*H, and drape it over the desk in my room. I would then sit under my desk in my "fort" and eat cookies I took from the kitchen. I was a chubby kid, and ate too many cookies. My mother wouldn't have been happy if she had known what was happening, so I pretended she was the mortal enemy. Usually, I would finish the cookies, and then wait for my mother to discover me. I was still young enough to believe that my mother was omnipotent and that getting caught came hand in hand with breaking the rules, I didn't know that people get away with things all the time. Anyway, I would finish the cookies and wait for the inevitable discovery and scolding. Usually I would fall asleep in the waiting, and would be awoken by my mother thus perpetuating my perception of her omnipotence.

I think I did all of this because I was more comfortable in a space that was more correctly proportioned to my body. Proportion is like intimacy in a way, we feel connected to our world when the world is designed to submit to the shape and size of our bodies. This, for me, is what made the playground and McDonalds so appealing. It was my size, built for me!

Croatia is real nice. I was on the LIVE television show, Good Morning Croatia this morning with Mary. A woman who didn't know anything about Lucky Pierre interviewed us. She asked her questions in Croatian, and there was a voice in an earpiece that simultaneously translated these questions into English. We would then answer in English, and somebody would simultaneously translate this into Croatian. This translation was mixed over our actual voices. It was live, so I didn't see it, but Michael watched in the hotel room and told me I sounded like a girl in Croatian.

Hope Chicago is okay, I'll be back this weekend.


PS, I think we should date these letters.


Dear Tyler,

This is the first letter in a series of letters that we will be writing over the next year. I am writing it on my computer at home in Chicago.

I've started a new job at a Liquor store this week. There is a dog there by the name of Action. He is thirteen years old and is afraid of the wind. Sometimes when he is out in the back yard and the wind starts blowing he'll run through the store, down into the basement and hide underneath the desk where the owner does all of her paper work. I wonder what he feels when the wind blows on his face? This is a question that has been in my head all week, I could ask it for the rest of my life and I'll never get an answer. I know that he is afraid, and will continue to be afraid until the day that the wind stops blowing.

I am thinking now of how, when I was younger I found it comforting to take naps underneath the dining room table. And I am trying to imagine how it looked to my mother, when she walked into the room and saw my feet sticking out from underneath the table cloth. And I can't for the life of me figure out what it was about the underside of an empty table that I found comforting.

This isn't much of a letter.

Hope all is well in Croatia.

See you soon,