Sewer Hole Joe

Over brunch this past weekend in New Orleans, Celino Dmitroff told me this story of his childhood, which I am going to retell for you as best I can.

Celino was about six, living in Hawaii, and he’d wandered far from his house to the edge of the water. An old wino known around town as Sewer Hole Joe saw him there and asked him what he was doing, and he said he wasn’t sure how to get back home. Joe asked Celino to describe what was nearby where he lived, and all Celino could remember was a Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I know just where that is,” said Joe.

As they walked, Joe and Celino talked about all sorts of things that were totally inappropriate to talk about with a young kid, but Celino found him fascinating.  Things like how to use a lighter to squeeze the last few drops out of a liquor bottle, or how to poke a hole in the cork of a wine bottle and suck the wine through the cork so it won’t spill if you pass out.

Celino noticed that every time they passed a pay phone or newspaper stand, Joe checked it for change, and when he found something, he’d say “Bingo!” and his face would light up. Finally they got back to Celino’s neighborhood, and he went on home.

Over the next few weeks Celino would run into Joe from time to time. Celino came to learn that Joe lived in a sewer, that he had it set up pretty good with electricity he’d run from a nearby building.Whenever Celino found himself with change in his pocket, he’d leave it in a pay phone for Joe to find later. One day, Celino saw Joe sitting in front of a store counting change. So Celino walked up and said, “Hey, did you get the money I left for you in the pay phone?”

Joe said, “You left this for me?”

Celino said that yes, he left change for him there all the time. Sewer Hole Joe then started crying. And then Celino started crying because he thought he had hurt Joe’s feelings. And then, by happenstance, Celino’s mother drove up and saw her son sitting with this wino, both of them weeping. Of course, she wanted to know what the hell was going on and what the hell Sewer Hole Joe was doing with her son.

“This is your son?” Joe said. “He is one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met.” And then Joe proceeded to tell her what Celino had been doing.

She was not moved by the story. She accused her son of stealing change from her and demanded that he stop spending time with winos.

As Celino wrapped up the story, he teared up a little, wondering if Sewer Hole Joe was still alive.

I could only think about how I could turn this tale into some kind of updated Huckleberry Finn type thing, but then I thought, no… This is Celino’s story. I’ll just share it more or less the same way he shared it with me. So there you are. You are welcome.


Plans and Brainstorms

This is mainly a note for my own use, but I’m leaving it public because I welcome the feedback of my illustrious fans and friends. It’s a little early for New Year’s resolutions, but I’m trying to get all my various projects and ideas plotted out for 2009.

Writing: So essentially, all these projects are in progress already. And I just need to set aside a little time each day for each one, or at least plan to work on at least one of them every day. Lately, I’ve been slacking off..

  1. First order of business is to try and get my novel manuscript Zen, Mississippi published. If I can’t manage to get a deal by, say, early spring, I’m probably going to publish it myself just to get it off my desk and out into the world.
  2. Second is continued work on my as-yet-unnamed new novel.
  3. Then I have the a series of related short stories, tentatively titled Still Life with Infidels. Several stories from the collection are complete, and most of those have been published in various places (such as here and  here). I have a few more I still have to write.
  4. I’m also building a separate collection of unrelated short stories. No title yet. Some published. Others not yet published. Still more not yet written.

I have another idea for a book, but it’s going to have to wait. Four books is enough to work on at one time. And that’s not counting the stuff I’m working on with Jennifer Blowdryer, which may eventually turn into either a book or a documentary film.


  1. Dixieland Space Orchestra. That band has been on hiatus since, I think September. I want to write some new arrangements, maybe even write some new songs, and definitely refocus the direction and overall sound of the band. I haven’t really started on any of that except some brainstorms about the new sound. Essentially, I want it to be less rock and more Dixieland/avant garde. The rock element has been creeping up. I think I’d also like to do some actual traditional Dixieland songs with our own spin. I think that will help to establish the direction that I’m thinking about.
  2. Gutter & Spine, the indie rock band that I play guitar/drums for. That band should plan on recording a second album next year.
  3. Some friends and I have talked about starting a hardcore band, writing all new material. I’d like to do this. I think we probably should just get together and do it–see what we can get done in a rehearsal or two. Need to write or dig up some lyrics to bring in. I have a couple that we can start off with.
  4. Finally, an idea I had this morning–probably a very dumb idea, and it would only work if we planned to have very limited engagements. Just the Way You Aren’t — hardcore covers of Billy Joel songs. A little something like this cover of Big Shot that my old band Eurotoaster did.


Heard in the elevator around lunch time a couple of weeks ago:

– Where are you going for lunch?

– Mickey D’s.

– Hate yourself that much, huh?

– You have no idea.

I went to McDonalds for breakfast this morning and had the following exchange with M.

– I’m going to McDonalds.

– Are you trying to kill yourself?

– Yes, I hate myself that much.

– Poly (our cat) wishes you hated her as much as you hate yourself.

On Second Glance

I’m sitting at the piers west of Greenwich Village. There’s another dude sitting on the bench around the corner from me—wonder if he’s cruising, what the signal is. He’s youngish, about my age I guess, dressed casually but stylishly. Could be waiting for someone. I didn’t see any headphones or a book. He’s just waiting there.


On second glance, he did have headphones. It would have been better if he didn’t.

Aliens Like Dead Rabbits and Poetry?

To test the existence of aliens, a company in New Mexico sent a suborbital rocket up over Roswell containing the remains of a rabbit, some poetry and some human hair. They were hoping it would be abducted. They were trying to create “a product that would appeal to the extraterrestrials.” Needless to say, the rocket returned unmolested.

What I wonder is, how did they come to decide what would appeal to the aliens? Very interesting. Save this for that story about Keel that I haven’t started yet.

Story Ideas

Story ideas:

Two feuding authors who both specialize in paranormal/alien myth who both live in the UWS and argue when they run into each other at the Fairway.

A patriarch with children by several different women. On Sundays, the women and their kids get together for picnics and swap stories about the patriarch.

M is working on a book that compiles front pages from every NYT ever printed. She sent me a couple that actually included Hornbuckles in them. Beyond that, there’s tons of interesting source material on virtually every page. Makes me want to set something in the 1850s.

Feel like I need to take LSD. I haven’t felt like that in years.

Southern Detachment

Something I noticed growing up in the South. Often, left-leaning young people have a way of casually mentioning that they or someone they know participates in an alternative lifestyle. “My friend Brandy, who’s a Wiccan, was at my house the other day…” “People don’t realize that I’m bi, and I don’t know why they’d care really.” Etc.

This serves two purposes. One, it makes a great show of how little it affects them, that it’s no big deal. Two, it tests the interlocutor for a reaction, which could be shock, disgust, or a similar faux jadedness.


This is an actual conversation I had with someone in my writing workshop. He’s a retired antique bookseller. I’d mentioned previously that I play guitar in a band.

– I don’t play an instrument myself… Although sometimes, when my wife isn’t home, I play these old 78s. There’s this instrumental interlude, and I like to play along with it on the kazoo. Only when my wife isn’t home though.

No response from me.

– What’s that instrument that Louis Armstrong played? Not the trombone… is it the trumpet?

– Yes, trumpet.

– Yeah, that’s what it is. The kazoo sounds really good with that. And sometimes, I take the lid from a sauce pan, and I hit it with a spoon like a cymbal.

Lice Roulette

CW told me a great story from when he was on tour with his other band. These kids they stayed with played lice roulette. They had six hats in a circle on the floor. One of them was totally infested with lice. I’m not quite sure what the point was, but I think I can do something with it.