Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Intimate nights with Duo KaMa

If you’re in Chicago this week, you won’t want to miss these small, intimate concerts with the electrifying Duo KaMa.  Violinist Maria Storm and pianist Kathy Tagg combine energy, technical mastery and a beguiling, enchanting aesthetic to captivate you. Click here for recordings of them performing Debussy, Dvorak and Nigun, and just imagine how they would sound in a salon.

This week you have the chance to hear them in house concerts as well as an intriguing date at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. This is the last chance to hear Duo KaMa play in Chicago in 2017.

Here are the dates and locations:

House Concert,
Thursday, September 14th, 7:00 PM
1146 S Taylor, Oak Park, Illinois

Gallery Concert
Saturday, September 16, 7:00 PM
Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art
2320 W Chicago Avenue

House Concert
Sunday, September 17, 4:00 PM
5850 W Race Chicago, IL

I hope to see you there.

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An artist you should know: Susan Sensemann

Susan Sensemann is a member of my Zen center. She’s a skilled visual artist whose photography, painting and drawing prove intricate and powerful. I find her self-portraits particularly provocative.

If you’ve not heard of this artist, take a look at her work here. Here are some examples of her work.

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Appearance: Oak Park Public Library, December 4th

Chicago area Liquid Inkers, know that I’ll be appearing with Geralyn Hesslau Magrady at the Oak Park Public Library on December 4th at 2:00.

Geralyn and I will do short readings, then interact and take questions on the writing process, the publishing industry, and our muses. Both of our recent novels—Geralyn’s latest is titled Lines—see fires as central events and metaphors. In my case, it’s a bungalow fire; in Geralyn’s, it’s the Great Chicago Fire. There’s plenty of overlap between the books, including keen senses of place and history.

I love discussing books at library events where the crowds tend to be sober, unlike in the bar events I most often attend. Hope to see you.

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Artists you should know: KaMa Duo in Chicago

Admit it. You’ve never heard the music of the KaMa duo. However, all of this can change for those readers interested in visiting the Fine Arts Building in Chicago on November 18th. If you have the pleasure of listening to these ladies play, you’ll be so deeply moved and provoked by their mastery to be left with an impression for the rest of your life. Hearing their music is like standing under the volume of the Niagara Falls, if sunlight and an angel’s embrace replaced chilling water.

More information is available at this Facebook event page. You will not want to miss this.

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The Fugue named CWA Book Award Finalist

I’m honored to join two amazing writers, Martin Seay and Christine Maul Rice, as a finalist for the 2016 Chicago Writers Association Book Award for Traditional Fiction

Obviously, for The Fugue to be honored this way is humbling and exhilarating. My readers know the book’s long road to publication. I have to take this moment to thank Tortoise Books for believing in my work and saving this novel.

If you’re new to my website, welcome. I’m very excited about the news. 


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The Chicago Cubs and World Wars (or why the Cubs must win)

Like many Chicagoans—I might be able to say most—I feel both excitement and trepidation at the prospect of a Cubs World Series appearance. The reasons for excitement are obvious. My trepidation, however, is complex and affects more than just sports.

I need to note that, while I’m a passive baseball fan, I was raised by White Sox fans and miss old Comiskey Park more than I love Wrigley. This does not mean I loathe Wrigley  or anything similarly asinine. I celebrated the White Sox 2005 victory having long before shed the usual sense of unfortunate tribalism that accompanies Chicago baseball. Still, that tribalism is a special-enough force, so I should disclose my roots. If the two Chicago teams met in the World Series, I’d probably wear a Fisk jersey while watching the games. That won’t happen this year, so Go Cubs!

The consequences of a Cubs World Series title would be monumental. For many, it would be akin to a religious experience, the revelation of truths, or transubstantiation to a Billy Goat. Some Chicago legends might rise from the dead. Of course, being only one out or, Lord forbid, one strike away from Nirvana also sets one up for monumental heartbreak, and if any team has the karma to cub-it-up, it’s the Chicago Cubs. Perhaps instead of a Bartman we’ll see Game Six affected by a douchebag streaker running out to interfere with a routine fly ball, ruining everything.

But that sort of trepidation is minor compared to this unscientific but curious historical observation I’d like to offer: The Cubs do seem to have a knack for correlating their World Series appearances with World Wars, the rise of demagogues and one Great Depression. The 1918 World Series, mind you, saw its last game played on September 11th. The next day, the Americans attacked, acting alone during WWI for the first time, fighting on the brutal Western Front.

In 1929, the Cubs’ World Series loss occurred only 15 days before Black Tuesday. Of course, the Cubs appearances in the 30’s correlate with a variety of noteworthy dates leading up to the rise of Germany and culminating with the 1938 occupation of the Sudetenland.  The 1945 appearance occurred with the war already having ended, but who’s splitting hairs?

Now the world finds itself in a precarious position that does not need an intro. And the Cubs have a double digit lead in their Division as the magic number continues to decline. I shudder.

It must be said that the aforementioned calamities all correlate with Cubs’ World Series losses. So, this October, dear world, please note that we should *all* be Chicagoans. If the Cubs win the National League, by all that is good and just in the universe, may they play to four more victories. We root against them at our own peril.


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Taco trucks: the shocking truth

Back when I was a kid growing up in Cicero, at that time almost equally (at least in my immediate neighborhood) made up of Eastern European and Mexican families, there were ways of expanding your ethnic identity. Ok…expanding is the wrong word. You could become an “honorary” Mexican or Lithuanian by going through initiations.

To be baptized an honorary Lithuanian, you had to eat a jar of herring or a huge chunk of homemade headcheese. My friend Juozas and I came up with this initiation, an ironic one, at least in my friend’s case, as he had never eaten either herring or headcheese in his life. The child of displaced persons,  he still qualifies, despite his culinary tastes, for Lithuanian dual citizenship. The Mexican boys who gagged over pig nose jelly will never be able to claim this.

Becoming an honorary Mexican was much easier.  You had to lie down and let your Mexican (and honorary Mexican) friends kick your ass for three minutes. The only rule was no punching in the face or balls. In truth, the three minutes often stretched to four or five.

We did not do this because we valued multiculturalism or envied each other’s identities. We were just boys finding ways to fuck with each other in the packs we joined for protection and friendship.

These initiations, like other rites and customs of the street, depended on unspoken but clear codes. Everybody understood that if your friend had gone through the trouble of taking a three (or five) minute beating,  or if he had slurped down a quivering cube of pig ass—which, mind you, often resulted in real tears—you had to defend him in the event that bullshit came his way.

So, as an honorary Mexican who oversaw the baptisms of a few dozen honorary Lithuanians, let me say a few things about the prospect of taco trucks on every corner.

To America, this would represent a culinary revolution of a magnitude not seen since the invention of the Weber grill. If there were a taco truck on even one corner in most any random town of less than 50,000 people between Youngstown, Ohio and Limon, Colorado, the quality of the local cuisine would improve by a factor so large that I cannot find any tool to help me calculate it. If there were taco trucks at both ends of my block, I’d have hardly any need to go to a grocery store.

A taco truck is superior, both as a food delivery system and a purveyor of quality, than any McDick’s, Burger Thing, Undies, Taco Hell, Beef’n’Cream, Pulverz, Shitway, Jimmy Shlong’s or any other such dump. A taco truck is a civilized place to eat and sells a food item with a rich and fascinating history, linked to lifestyle changes among the working class, specifically to men mining silver. Its development is not unlike the arrival and evolution of the pasty in Michigan’s iron mines or the Vienna Beef dog on Chicago’s South Side, the latter during the Depression. So the taco has more in common with the story of class struggle than does any pumpkin latte or chocolate stout.

So, bring it on. A taco truck beside every school, across the street from every workplace, down the road from your town hall, public library, place of worship and watering hole. Especially the watering hole. Because the only thing better than a taco following a night of raucous frolic is the tamale guy.

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