Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Happy New Year to all my 'Basement' buddies... I have a special treat for everyone.

This is a guest post from Caleb J Ross, author of the chapbook "Charactered Pieces: stories," as part of his (ridiculously named) Blog Orgy Tour. Visit his website for a full list of blog stops. "Charactered Pieces: stories" is currently available from OW Press or Amazon. For more, check out his web site.


I’ve a secret dream of being a barstool stereotype. But like many other dreamers, I’ve settled for vicarious vodka tonics and the piano-scaled stagger of Tom Waits. Himself, actually, a vicarious rendition of Beat poets and diner patron woe-tales. He can celebrate the mundane, befriend the outcast. Who cares that his reputation is merely an elaborate persona performance? He’s convinced me that every sunken head has a story.

You’ve got to set the mood. Like bait for strangers with tales to spill. And you’ve got show your open ears. But keep the smiles down, too creepy. Order something cheap, something a stranger could assume you’re prepared to order multiples of; you’re staying a while. I go with Hamm’s when it’s served, but a Bud Light here in the Midwest does just fine. Share a laugh. If a stranger offers a joke, take it in. If a stranger offers you catfish, take it, too.

Catfish. A recent tale of my own: myself and author Gordon Highland (Major Inversions) recently took to a dive in downtown Kansas City. I love this place. The barmen don’t know my name, but I’m working on it. A small community of middle-aged regulars lined the bar that day, eating catfish deep-fried on the spot. This place doesn’t serve food; I had always assumed the kitchen was a closet.

The regulars smoked. A city-wide ban made this act one of renegades. Gordon and I commented to ourselves, happy to be in a laid-back room. Shortly thereafter, the bartender offered us a plate. Damn good catfish. Fresh-caught by one of the present regulars, we’ll call her Sue (‘cause I don’t want to jeopardize the family). We talked. Sue and the others feel a bit defensive about their spot, slowly loosing it, she said, to emo types; the kids’ Saturday nights were slowly seeping into evening and afternoon. “We can hardly smoke pot out back anymore.”

I realized the dream again, a couple years before Sue, this when I donned a suit rarely, enough so that wearing one shifted my chin up a few inches. A suit meant I demanded respect. A suit mean I was someone new, and with that leverage, I could dictate my own story. I did so, my first trip to Vegas. A business meeting, but I wouldn’t describe it that way to Laura, a day-friend I met on The Strip at the Nine Fine Irishmen Pub.

The encounter, though simple, warranted documentation and reflection. The non-fiction piece in my chapbook, "Charactered Pieces: stories," called “A Chinese Gemini,” is that documentation. Check it out. And if ever we meet in a bar, I’ll buy you a drink and we can weather some bar seats together.

I love this place.

Caleb began writing his sophomore year of undergrad study when, tired of the formal art education then being taught, he abandoned the pursuit in the middle of a compositional drawing class. Major-less and fearful of losing his financial aid, he signed up to seek a degree in English Literature for no other reason than his lengthy history with the language. Coincidentally, this decision not only introduced him to writing but to reading as well. Prior this transition he had read three books. One of which he understood.

"Charactered Pieces" is his first sole-author bound book. However, he has been published widely, both online and in print. Visit his official site for all of the exciting details.


  1. to visit a bar with a REAL barman is a real treat - great mood and feel here - no pub grub for me, give me a a bar with an unofficial kitchen that dishes up catfish anytime.

  2. I find it strange the allure many of us have to the barstool stereotype and there is nothing more right than that moment on a barstool with the head-hung low, cigarette burned down, half-empty bourbon tumbler, coins jingling in the pocket, and scratched-up mahogany woodwork staring you in the face kind of feel to a bad day - even the dames have them too;)
    Very nice piece.

  3. That place was great. Vintage typewriters lining the walls alongside portraits of long-deceased journalists. And in the adjoining room, Caleb kicked back in an antique barber's chair while the evening's entertainment pounded on the back door, locked out, or us locked in. It was the kind of place where you pull the trilby a little lower and hope the bartender's had her shots. — Gordon

  4. There's definitely a great vibe in this piece, Caleb... Thanks for writing.

  5. I've seen Caleb's name all over the place, but have never actually read any of his work. So happy I finally have and it's just fantastic. Tight.

  6. Classy joint. I di like this. good call, Caleb.

  7. Caleb, I'll try to keep the barstools clean and ready for you.
    You could achieve quite a monologue of tales. I'll stop the next time I see your name, and give ya a look.

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