Jeff Phillips: The Starman’s Luminous Hanukkah [Repost]

Drinkers with Writing Problems

Jasper Mangold had been in orbit for eight months. His work was mostly maintenance on damaged satellites, redirection of the strays, some meteorological observation. Despite daily exercises on a machine that looked like a rowboat, a bicycle, a hamster wheel, and apparatus hanging in a meat locker, his muscles were starting to feel like nothing. Loss of muscle density in zero gravity was no joke, limbs start to look smaller and coordination flounders; not good when navigation of a starship requires precision. He still had a month before the rotation called for his descent. But there was something else that seemed to dwindle. Maybe it was his curiosity. A sense of stir crazy had maybe eroded. He was just there. There was so much out there.

He looked at his calendar and realized it was the first day of Hanukkah. There were no presents on the way for him. A…

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Jeff Phillips: God’s Least Likely Influences

Drinkers with Writing Problems

IMAG1824My recent novella, titled God’s Least Likely to Succeed, is an amalgam of odd fascinations I’ve never been able to shake. Chief among them: hallucinations and secret societies.

When I was a young kid, my family and I went to the movies to see The Bear. I have a vague memory of a scene in which an orphan cub eats a mushroom he comes across in the moist forest. Soon the cub is disoriented while witnessing shifting shapes and vibrant colors. The mushrooms he nibbled were apparently of the magic variety, and the subsequent montage I found beautiful. I was in a trance, curious as to what caused the cub, as if under a spell, to see things that weren’t really there. If I saw this movie near its release in 1988, that would put me at 5 years old, ignorant as to the nature of drugs, though in…

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Jeff Phillips: You Know Jimmy

Drinkers with Writing Problems

I was doing laundry one night, and as I was leaving my apartment to switch my load to the dryer, I heard an elderly woman’s voice from down the hallway call out “is that you Jimmy?”

I replied “No, it’s your neighbor, I’m Jeff.” She looked like she was in her early 90s, shrunken and frail. I offered my hand in introduction. There was something that caught me off guard about her eyes. It wasn’t like she was blind. She seemed to see me, but it felt like she wasn’t quite registering me.

“I thought you’d be home earlier Jimmy,” she said.

“I’m not Jimmy, I’m your neighbor, Jeff. I live down at the end of the hall.”

“Oh, where’s Jimmy?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t met Jimmy yet. Is Jimmy your husband?”

“Jimmy’s my son. You know Jimmy?”

“No, I don’t know Jimmy, I’m sorry.”

“He might be at…

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Jeff Phillips: Do Nuts, Ya Sweet Chili Floaters

Drinkers with Writing Problems

One time Fats Hugo was pissed at all of his friends because they seemed to always find ways to laugh at him. They teased him not only for his weight, but his lack of comfort with the 55 pound weight gain he had within a calendar year. It was, of course, awkward for him; there was this whole other mass for him to get used to maneuvering around with, and it didn’t help to see the constant mimicry of the way he carried himself.

He made these donuts with what he called a “suggestive” nut. He crushed and pressed them into the chocolate glaze. He offered them as a dessert.

“Donuts.” He said.

“Do. Nuts.” He growled at anyone that tried to refuse.

This “suggestive” nut was a rare one from the Amazon rain forest, with a more scientific name of anacardium chukli. Most everyone, any normal person, is actually…

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Jeff Phillips: The Rooster Purge on the Spit

Drinkers with Writing Problems

Sorry if I was out of commission yesterday. My stomach was feeling a bit off. We went to a party at The Belly and that chef, Chubb Champo, had just got back in town; he’d taken a trip into the rural cornfields of Illinois and came back with some spoils. Spoils. That might be the best way to describe what he brought back. It was real important that he throw a dinner party immediately.

As Chubb served us through the window of that decrepit food truck, his name written in soap on the windshield, he told us about his dish in that booming voice of his. There were probably a hundred of us gathered around it, the word had spread quickly that morning. What he had cooked up did smell amazing: citrusy, with a peppery kick that activated your nostrils further, and it overpowered the usual hint of dusty brick…

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Jeff Phillips: The Oyster Binge Slumber Party

Drinkers with Writing Problems

More turned out for the experimental feast than expected. Fats Hugo was consistently told to shut up about his dreams, he could drone on and on about every detail he could remember, and his memory was agile. While his culinary partner, Chubb Champo, was down in the bayou, scouting new ingredients, Fats decided to host the party he’d been stewing on for years; a supreme celebration of dreams. They were both larger men, the product of their ample tastings and re-tastings and devouring of a dish so good, so artful, that cravings couldn’t be suppressed; but oftentimes it was the size of their egos and competitive compulsions that boxed each other out.

In the expanse of a warehouse-turned-arts-gallery-and-party-space in a rundown industrial corridor on Chicago’s west side, Fats had some breathing room for the weekend. He could relax, with a little less judgment in the air, could fully commit to…

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Jeff Phillips: A Wee Hour Pep Talk with an Open Circuit

Drinkers with Writing Problems

I’m beat. Fried is another way to put it. When I think I might need to recharge my batteries, the go-to urge is to be a layabout for a day.

But I’ve sometimes looked to the notion that to get unfried, one has to subject themselves to the literal manifestation of that descriptor, and I mean actually getting fucking fried.

College day shenanigans at my friend Zach’s led to us giving a thrift store find a whirl. It was some sort of thick plastic mask with dull metal prongs lining the inside shell. When strapped over your face, a turn of the dial sent a minor electric pulse to tingle your face. The high end of the dial made your cheeks feel like they were being kneaded by tiny robot hands, while pressing your lips to an old static prone TV. The point was to stimulate your pores, we assumed…

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Jeff Phillips: I Go By Radio

Drinkers with Writing Problems

At quarter of four in the morning I arrived at the Grand Red Line stop. My work shirt was untucked and halfway unbuttoned. I could feel the bags under my eyes spread their dead weight back into my brain, snuffing the day’s remaining electrical charge. I had just worked a moonlight cruise, taking boarding photos of passengers that liquored themselves up in advance. I had already worked the brunch cruise, the afternoon cocktail cruise, and the dinner cruise, but was asked to stay late to cover for a callout. I walked from Navy Pier to the train because by the time I finished draining the effluent from the photo printer and rinsing the machine’s rollers, the buses stopped shuttling for the night. My feet ached from a day hustling tubs of souvenir photos up and down the clusterfuck that is the pier, pounding cheap dress shoes on pavement, further inflaming…

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