•February 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

These days trying to add more hellos to goodbyes, but sometimes you have to move on. All-new post in the hopper for next Friday. Cheers, MM

Completely in the Dark

Goodbye1I’d entirely forgotten that, in the spring of 2008, I almost produced my first short film.

The impetus for the project was a local short-film contest, which set a maximum length of 12 minutes (or 12 script pages), four characters, and use of a specific location—in this case the Witch’s Hat Water Tower in Prospect Park, Minneapolis. The film also had to address the theme of “Agony and Bliss, Unrequited Love.”

I’d written a script with Chars Bonin, an actor-director friend, who cast three other actors. We scheduled production for the weekend of May 30. We chose that date because it was the only time the tower would be open to the public, and we’d be able to shoot our final scene from the top.

Work on the story started as early as April 16. The submission deadline was August 15, so we had it all planned. Our working…

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Heeeeere’s Danny!

•February 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’m grateful to the generosity of my old friend Dan this past week, so celebrating with this piece from 5 years ago. New posts to follow in 2017! Cheers, Mike

Completely in the Dark

[Dear friends: Completely in the Dark will be taking a brief hiatus next week, returning with a new slate of posts on Saturday, Sept. 10. Thanks for stopping by!]

“Summer has just ended. Today was the first day of school. And in this letter to you, I hope to summerize the summer which has just ended. It ended with a wimper and started with a bang. Because on the last day of school I had a hassel with the kids around here and on the first day things went slow. I spent a lot of time with Danny this summer. We both said we should keep in touch and maybe, belive it or not, all this could become a book.” —August 1974

Things could be a real bummer, man.

Like, being 16 and having to work during the summer holiday. And remembering you used to use terms like, “It was…

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Question Everything

•February 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

There’s this 12-year-old kid who’s got his own bedroom and he’s lying awake on a mid-winter night. It’s probably, oh, around 1971 and he’s got a clock-radio on a bedside desk, and oversized Sony headphones are cupping his young head.

“What’s he listening to?” you might be wondering.

Well, I can answer that.

It’s late night FM radio and the DJ is playing The Moody Blues’ song “Question” (the long version). It’s jazzing the beejeebers out of this kid, like having the top of his head popped off.

So much coming at him. So much thinking going out.

It’s driven by those insistent, thrumming guitars backed by soaring voices, a roving bassline and the lyrics: “Why do we never get an answer, when we’re knockin’ at the door?”

Immediately, images fly past: a burning world of persecution, yeah, just like the Vietnam War on the TV news every night, backed by skeevy politicians and faceless corporations “burnin’ in its greed…”

But “the truth is hard to swallow…” The boy recalls a Bleeding Heart Jesus knocking at the door—an image from Indianapolis in the mid-1960s—then, just as suddenly as the torrent began, the song sags into something sorrowful and sweet and lost, making the boy feel lost, too: “Between the silence of the mountains and the crashing of the sea, there lies a land I once lived in, and she’s waiting there for me.”


“…Back in 1987, on a Wednesday at exactly 4:41 a.m., the boy eyes a streetsweeper pirouetting the intersection of Blake Road North and 2nd Street Northeast in Hopkins, viewed out the sliding-glass patio window of his apartment. A space he will never inhabit again.”

Here is where we pick up the story again. It’s years later and he’s on the verge of completing two new pieces to follow on the previous year’s work.

When I look at the The Question of Survival section from Vicious Frieze II (1988, at left), a lot comes back.

I was struggling in the late 1980s to figure out what I wanted to do, creatively and professionally. I’d finished the first Vicious Frieze and naturally 1988 would yield up a Vicious Frieze II. Heck, I might even have a Vicious Frieze III in me. Who knew?

But what made things work was to just settle in with what I had directly in front of me at the time. You see, I grew up around crazy-makers—you might not have thought so, but to a person such as I was becoming, it might be more accurate to say “others whose values did not reflect my own.”

As a kid, I always felt I was to blame for this predicament. Now I’m seeing it differently.

It was a question of survival.

The cool thing is I survived.


Ten days ago I moved all my planned Vicious Frieze posts on creativity off WordPress and over to Medium.

For the next 100 days, I’m experimenting with drawing again, once every day, accompanied by a 100 words-or-so blog post.

That culminates on May 4, 2017. Yeah, I know! Seems like forever from now. The world could be completely different.

I’m excited about this because it allows room to experiment while keeping CITD true to its somewhat original mission: Making sense of whatever remains after losing everything that mattered, or in other words, a place for long-form, more autobiographical, deeper-dive pieces. The Medium posts will be no more than 200 words and accompanied by new artwork.

Completely in the Dark begins its 7th year here on WordPress and I’m grateful for all the loyal readers who’ve stuck with me.

Thank you for your friendship.

You Can Have the Town

•January 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

RIP Mary Tyler Moore. Reposting this seemed like the right thing to do and brought back so many happy memories. Cheers, MM

Completely in the Dark

“Saw her walking thru the crystal court/she made a scene by the revolving doors…”The Hold Steady, “Party Pit”

We motored into Navarre, Minn., in our blue-green Chevy station wagon one snowy, cold January in 1971.

She came down to Minneapolis from a town up north, with everything she owned in a white Ford Mustang.

My father would be starting a new job with the University of Minnesota.

She left her friends, family, a dead-end relationship, then landed a plum gig at WJM-TV.

I was a shy kid trying to make new friends.

And she, of course, had spunk.

Say it with me now…

“…And I hate spunk.”

How Will You Make It On Your Own?

Mary_and_Rhoda_1974My first memories of Minneapolis blended with a sit-com that aired on Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m.

When I was a couple years older, in 1975, my new Minnesotan friends…

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Peeling Onions

•January 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment

All-new post sitting in draft folder. So, instead of calling it a day, here’s how to make SOS for lunch.

Completely in the Dark

“Boys! Home for dinner!”

The alpha male with the booming voice was tasked with ringing the front door dinner bell and bellowing that call to the entire Casco Point neighborhood.

That daily ritual reminds me how important food and mealtimes were to the Family Project—especially Dad—right from the beginning.

Even when we were guests of my maternal grandparents, Ray and Mamie Adams (at left, picnicking in July 1964), Dad was at the head of the table, saying grace, our heads bowed. The women cooked the food and set the table.

Years later, after we’d moved to Minnesota, the task of setting the table fell to me and my brother. And, since Mom never really learned to cook, meal preparation was eventually split between Mom and Dad.

Because of grandmother’s preoccupation with making her husband’s life hell, she perhaps neglected Mom. I never recall Mom deeply considering supper menus…

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Tell Me a Story

•January 13, 2017 • 2 Comments

Going through some soul-searching on my own stories and what matters as a new year begins. All-new post next Friday, so here’s an appetizer until then.

Completely in the Dark

Once upon a time, there were no stories.Story Time 2

Umm, what?

That’s right. It’s a ridiculous statement to make, because I can’t remember such a time.

If there ever was a true beginning of the world, then that was not it—no stories? No life!

No Bambi fleeing a burning forest.

No Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on a wicked witch’s spindle.

No foot race with golden apples and—terror of terrors—a lovely young woman with a priceless wedding gift, and whose misuse of it is legendary.

It started so simply: “Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle,” “Hickory, dickory, dock!” “Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,” “Little Bo Peep, lost her sheep…”

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail… and Peter.

And then Wynken, Blynken… and Nod. Just three dudes sailing off in a wooden shoe, “on a river of crystal light…” I could see it! I could imagine their crazy flight!

Story Time 1My maternal…

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•January 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

After last week’s post on songwriter Marlee MacLeod, I got to thinking about my own forays there. So, this. Next week, all-new post. Happy New Year, friends!

Completely in the Dark

Kevin Gibson asked if I could write him some lyrics.Game2

On Aug. 16, 1978, I “worked Tables 17 and 4 with the same old crowd.” As mentioned, the Tonka Toys factory was so loud we couldn’t chat while working.

But sitting outside at the picnic tables on dinner break, “Kevin Gibson and I did a lot of talking about collaborating our songwriting talents. So this Sunday I think we’re gonna get together [to] do a little jamming and go out and have a few beers.”

The diary entry concludes with just one word: “Offsides!”

The grind was getting me down. I was itching for a creative outlet. Kevin could see that and offered a way out. If I wrote some lyrics, he promised to put them to music.

The next day I was back working the tumbler-deburrer, which involved a wage increase for the night. There, between tumbler loads, I…

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