One of the benefits of living in Highland Park is its closeness to Lake Michigan. Less well-known is our proximity to a series of 30 lovely ravines. While the shoreline has a number of nice beaches, it’s the ravines that stand out. Snakily winding their way into the interior, they’re large but subtle, left behind when the Ice Age’s last glaciers melted and water trickled down from the Chicago moraines, carving rough and steeply acute angles into the earth. Animal, vegetable, and mineral: all either visit or house themselves in the ravines.

We live in Ravinia neighborhood, which takes its name from our local topography. Once an independent, incorporated village back in the 19th century, Ravinia was annexed by Highland Park in 1899. Today it’s better known for the Ravinia Music Festival, which more or less began when the Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad built an amusement park there in 1904. The amusement park eventually closed—the Martin Theater and the Old Gate are the only original features left—but the music played on, stopping only during the Depression and the height of the COVID pandemic. The festival brings the crowds, but the ravines its named after remain an open secret.

I wrote this because I’ve been pondering an essay or some longer work addressing the ravines. I’m no John Muir though, so I need to read up on geology, botany, biology, and more. Still, does this sound interesting to anyone out there?

New Year’s Resolution—Blog a Day

It’s after midnight, but it’s been a busy day, and I spent it finishing up an article I’m submitting to the Chicago Reader. Last year was not a great one for writing outside my job. Hilariously, I’ve never been more productive, but most of my writing of the past two years went toward my current job. Blogs. Lots of blogs about all sorts of subjects. Occasionally, I wrote for a comics website (yes, despite the byline, that’s my work) or some other fun site, but mostly I wrote about industrial machinery, hydroponics, and window wells. Oh, I learned and wrote so much about window wells. I switched to a different department, and now I create the blogs for the company website as well as case studies about our clients. As such, I’ve averaged about 2500 words a day (workdays). I do my best whatever the gig though, so I’ve never sold myself or the reader short. Still… I want to go back to regular writing this year. Maybe even polish up those two semi-formed novels I wrote. This I resolve. But I also resolve to write more here.I may falter, but I’ll try my best.

Where You Can Find Me


So, here’s the breakdown on my social media status.


I’ll stick with Twitter until it turns to shit. If Elon moves on and the new owners aren’t evil, I’ll remain.


I’m on Instagram, but that’s just photos, natch.



Follow me on these other Twitter-like sites. Whichever gets the most followers I’ll likely use henceforth. I probably need one of those tools that cross-posts.





I have my podcast, which I’ll get back to in 2023.



I’m on tumblr, but I doubt I’ll ever go back there. When they cleaned it up, the site got boring.


I Have Always Practiced Social Isolation—Pt. 3

Keeping the kids busy hasn’t been terribly hard. Keeping them from engaging in periodic sibling head-butting is the main issue, though they’ve shown remarkable restraint (why is restraint always remarkable?) and have yet to bludgeon, guillotine, or otherwise massacre each other. As mentioned, until their school sets up tele-classes, or what have you, we’ve given them a loose educational schedule involving worksheets, reading time, art classes, and phys ed (“GO OUTSIDE, DAMMIT!”). It’s not always easy to mind them while keeping on top of emails from work and meetings, and the various teaching, editing, proofing, copywriting, and podcasting tasks that come along. Fortunately, they’re both old enough to occupy themselves. Yes, as I said, there’s the occasional scuffle, born out of boredom, usually starting as wacky hijinks but quickly devolving into lizard-brain screaming and pushing. Mostly though, they’ve been a dream.

They’re lucky they don’t have a social media presence yet. Beyond what I say about them, of course, though I try to keep the pictures and accounts of their lives to a minimum because their lives are their lives. What I mean though is that they have the barest awareness of what’s going on right now. We aren’t keeping them in the dark, and certainly their teachers have talked about what’s been happening. But I doubt the gravity of the situation has really hit them. So far Flynn seems perfectly content, but like her father she prefers to be home. Nate was a little depressed the other night, and when we asked what was up he got teary-eyed and said he missed his friends mostly. He’s been able to play games and chat with his buddies Ike and Francisco via FaceTime, but I imagine that’s not enough. We consoled and promised him that when this is all over—quickly, quickly, and may we all be safe and healthy—he’s going to see celebrations like you wouldn’t believe. And surely, he can have all his pals over for game night or whatever he’d like.

That’s an ongoing challenge with kids and acclimating them to social isolation, particularly if they’re pretty social. You have to make it all seem normal, but at the same time you have to throw in a surprise or adventure once in a while. We told Nate and Flynn they could camp out in the living room tonight, which is little more than sleeping bags in front of the fireplace. They were all for it though there was one trade-off. I had to sit in the easy chair nearby, in the dark, while they drifted off. Living rooms are scary places after hours, don’t you know? No problem. I sat and socialized my media, wrote up the early part of this post, and plotted for tomorrow while they sailed off to hushabye mountain. One more day down. How many more months to go? Sigh.

I Have Always Practiced Social Isolation—Pt. 2

My wife Michael pointed out to me how strange it is to read tweets and posts by people who claim to be bored already. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, or even all of America, but I feel fairly comfortable in thinking I represent the, well, fairly comfortable. Even if I wasn’t a homebody—not unadventurous, since I do enjoy road trips and travel; I’m just most comfortable at home—suggesting that my house lacks for mental stimulation is absurd. Even leaving the laptop and Internet behind, I have about 200 or more curated DVDs and subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the Criterion Channel (best Christmas gift I ever got). Between me and Michael, our shelves hold a possible thousand or more books. We have plenty of puzzles, kits, and video and board games; a lovely backyard and an even lovelier hometown that affords a short walk to a Lake Michigan beach; a plenitude of arts and crafts supplies and woodworking tools; and a home that, frankly, has never looked cleaner. Bored? I am inebriated on both pastimes and the actual time in which to perform them.

Of course, work life comes first, as well as the coaching and ride-herding of the children. The former has certainly been sufficient. If any of my bosses are reading this, believe me, I may be home but I’m earning the hell out of that paycheck, writing and editing and proofing and podcasteringing (that’s the verb, right?). I confess, I squeeze in a quick 20 minute nap sometimes because I’m getting old. My body seems to like it, and it repays me (and you) by making me more alert and creative. Just keep that in mind when I get back. Say…do I really have to come back?

As for the kids, they’re certainly happy to be home, but providing direction and suggestions is an ongoing task. As I mentioned we’ve been having “school” from about 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., which usually involves them checking their Chrome books to see what their teacher has posted, worksheets (Flynn likes doing math—let’s hope that keeps up), about an hour and a half of reading, and usually what are called “specials” in their schools (art, gym, etc.). We had art today. I took them outside to draw pictures and write pleasant messages in sidewalk chalk to the many folks who walk by the house every day with their kids or dogs or pathological need to run, even in shitty weather. On our walks Mike and I saw that other folks had done so. My favorite was the one from the neighbor who started with their address: “647 LOVES Our Neighbors” with the parenthetical note: “(From Six Feet Away).” We went with “Stay Happy.”, “Stay Healthy”, and Nate’s “Stay Positive”.

Now, let us be clear… I am not a ball of sunshine. I am frequently goofy or humorous in a deadpan way, and certainly not unfriendly, but I’m not touchy-feely. I despise glurge. I guffaw at trite blandishments. I don’t believe a decapitation can be fixed with a band aid—even one of those great big knee ones. But this is a very different time.

I bring this up because today I saw someone tweeting about how ashamed they were of the twee movement that took place in their youth during the early 2000s. The tweet appears to be gone now, but as I recall they rankled at public pillow fights, flash mobs, precious rock bands and naif lyrics, and so on. Mostly, they seemed to dislike whimsy and, perhaps, false bonhomie, such as that supposedly practiced by people conversing through posters in their windows.

I’m sure the tweeter had the best of intentions, but it was a useless sentiment—not to mention a touch cruel—in the current climate. (Not as blithely cruel as the writer who felt obligated to point out that many of us hugged and kissed our relatives for the last time without knowing it…but that’s another issue.) As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered, to my annoyance, that unlike me, not everyone has learned when to be tough. I don’t mean they’re weak. I mean they never figured out how to suck it up and drain themselves of emotion in order to make the hurt go away (I got very good at that in my twenties). These people need the kindness, not the snideness, of the tough folks to carry on. So, that’s why my kids and I wrote silly, inspirational messages in chalk on the sidewalk and driveway. Oh, and a platypus.

Maybe nobody will notice, just pounding over our pictures with their trainers or standing on them while their dog diddles on the tree. But when you can’t do anything, it’s nice to feel like you’re doing something.

I Have Always Practiced Social Isolation—Pt. 1

IMG_9662A friend of mine, Eric Kirsammer, suggested I regularly post something during this period of social isolation. Some kind of online diary, “in your style” as he put it. Presumably he meant with an ironic, sarcastic, and semi-bitter tone, owing to the complete absence of that sort of writing from the Interweb.

Ohhhh, that’s what he meant. As the philosopher Britannia Jean Spears expounded, “Oops. I did it again.”

Very well then. I’ll try to share what my family and I have been up to during the days of social-distancing. One hopes all this social isolation and people avoidance will keep the body count way down, and my blog will remain a silly whimsical thing.

Starting March 16, my employer sent us to work at home, originally for two weeks. Supposedly, we’d be back in the office by the following Friday. Within a few days Illinois Governor Pritzker issued the first order to shelter in place, self-isolate, social distance, and all the other fun new terms and verbs, and it was decided we wouldn’t go back until the near-end of April, at least. It probably didn’t help that a few people in our building were diagnosed with COVID-19. I hesitate to use the phrase, “it’s all for the best”, but I suppose it is. My wife Michael, a teacher, and two kids, Nate (12) and Flynn (8), being Illinoisans, had their schools closed the Thursday before. Mike and I both hoped that I’d get to work at home, because the idea of her doing her job and minding and homeschooling the kids alone didn’t sit well with either of us. Working for a healthcare association, however, I knew they’d do the right thing, and lo and behold they did.

I work at home twice a month. That’s one of the cushy benefits of my job, something for which I am deeply grateful. I choose two Fridays to stay home so I can walk my daughter Flannery to school and be there to meet them both afterward. It’s a pleasant perk. Wish I could do it more often. As it turns out, the past few days showed that I could. As a copywriter and copy editor my job is all about creating and reviewing documents. With a laptop I can carry my office in my backpack. For the past year I’ve also produced podcasts for my association. Again, luckily, my recording studio is portable. Just saying, in case anyone is listening, working at home has been easy. I’ve participated in several meetings, and frankly they’ve been shorter and more to the point than all the in-person ones. Does a lack of an audience—beyond a grid of taking heads—encourage people to not perform or pad out a meeting? Maybe so.

I started this blog a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve really been too busy to maintain it.* And I mean busy-busy. My workload, praise Cthulhu, has been consistent enough to justify my paycheck. I know how damned lucky I am (so far) to have a job I can rely on. Again, it’s a healthcare gig, and I suppose today we’re enjoying(?) a bull market. I’ve also been taking every advantage of being home, with no need to commute and no social or child obligations (no soccer, basketball, Boy Scouts, swimming, etc. to take the kids to and from). I can read without interruption. I’ve had greater motivation to work up stuff for Third Coast Review and interact with a group of fine, generous writers. I’ve even been able to give that whole writing thing I basically abandoned over the years another look. In a plague year, knowing it can all blow to hell and having extra time is a powerful motivator to attack projects. Also, I seriously, desperately, frightfully need the distraction. Yet, as wonderful as it is to feel productive, I hope it doesn’t last long.

More later.


Third Coast Review Horror Stories Project Thingmabob

So, here’s what I’m looking for, all in one place.

1. Share a paragraph or three about a story that truly scared you or creeped you out. It can be based on a childhood reading memory, something you perused last night, or anything in between.

This is for the literature section, so try to think storytelling without visuals (book illustrations and comics, of course, are acceptable).

Later Note: Upon consideration, movies, plays, TV commercials, music and recordings, news stories, advertisements, amusement park haunted houses, childhood dares, irritating sibling pranks, or the like are all fine horror fodder, but try to tie in literature by telling us a good story about it. Not just “I saw this weird music video once and it freaked me out. Here’s a YouTube link. The end.”

2. Suggestions:

  • Horror fiction (novels and short stories)
    FYI: I love Stephen King too, but I may have to limit the number of King entries to two, I think. Likewise, someone is already doing the cover of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but I’m amenable to hearing about a particular story from that collection that frightened you as a child. Call dibs though.
  • Horror comics
  • Folktales
  • Urban legends
  • Campfire stories
  • Nonfiction about terrible events/people
  • Local folklore
  • Illustrations are fine, but they should be tied to a story.

Did I miss anything?

3. Tell us a story about your scary story. Try to get at WHY it scared you. How did it affect you? Did something frightening happen before or after you read it? How did you deal with the fear?


“The urban legend about the guy with the hook hand always freaked me out! Eeeeeek! And…scene!”

But rather:

“After I read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, I began to see the great gangling man everywhere. For three years, I refused to enter a room with a fireplace, worried his body parts might come tumbling down at any moment. I couldn’t sleep without hugging Booboo, my teddy bear, which is embarrassing for a 52-year-old man, let me tell you… Etc.”

4. Keep it PG-13 (or, at least, a mild R). I’m fine with disturbing and slightly gruesome, but this isn’t a splatterpunk or creepypasta fiction site.

5. Send submissions to dan@mrdankelly.com by Sunday, October 27.

If you let me know something is coming for sure, I can leave space.

If I get a lot of submissions, I’ll do a two-parter. If you need more than three paragraphs, drop me a line.

Did I miss anything? Let me know!