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– Changed cabin air filters in car (saved $50 doing it myself!)
– Removed a bunch of wood paneling and boards that previously made up some walls in the basement.
– Replaced tub faucet
– Took down wall shelves in bedroom
– Hung/wired light fixture

– Cut/removed a bunch of nails protruding from bottom of floor boards in basement ceiling.

Grade: A. Couldn’t be more excited about spending the day on my feet and not on couch playing video games.


– Cut holes for and installed deadbolt lock for workshop in garage whilst listening to loud, drunk shouting of 4 20 somethings who were celebrating the northwest side Irish parade (which is about a block away from new house) a bit too loudly and vulgarly.
– Removed final bits of paneling and boards from weird basement walls. Began to worry that one of the beams might possibly be supporting the floor above. Put beam and header back in.
– Broke window by moving stepladder while it was open from one room to the other. Panicked. Ran to home depot for plywood and wood screws. Cut plywood too small. Dropped first wood screw down heat register. Misplaced screwdriver bit for 5 minutes. Realized there’s a GODDAMN STORM WINDOW IN ALREADY. Put up plywood anyway because fuck it.

Grade: C-. Went home to play video games. Hurriedly put my name and phone number in a on-hindsight-obviously-fake window replacement cost estimate website resulting in my phone rigning off the goddamn hook all day. Started dinner — cauliflower crust pizza which I broke and left in the oven too long.

We decided it would be called Feaster. This year we made Italian Easter Pie (torta rustica) and Hummingbird Cake (flappybirda cakica).

I take many web-based surveys for e-rewards (because my opinion is important — and they pay me in GameStop gift cards which I use to feed my video game addiction) and having done countless numbers of these, I sometimes go on auto-pilot.

Recently when I was asked to enter the year of my birth, I entered my zip code. Instead of rejecting my answer as out-of-bounds, the site kicked me back to the home page as being not the target demographic for the survey.

Because it thinks I am a time-traveling survey-taker from the year 60,626.

Day 1: Write a poem where each line starts with a letter from your first name (an acrostic). It can be about anything, but it should not be about you or your name.

As I try to
deliver on my campaign promises, I
am reminded that
mostly, I am a liar.

(It’s like paparazzi  but for grammar. Some people say “grammar nazi” but… let’s admit it “nazi” is an overused term and not one I’d ever apply to myself and blah blah blah.)

Email from coworker:

“If you need to reserve a room, contact myself, Suzie W, Anne B, or Paula O.”

My first response: “When will she learn that ‘myself’ is a reflexive pronoun. It should be ‘If you need to reserve a room, contact Suzie W or me.'”

Second response: “You should only use myself if you were saying something like ‘I reserved a room by myself.'”

Third response: “I need to stop caring about this shit.”


A couple times now, I’ve taken part in the Lifeline Theatre Storytelling Project — on Monday nights, a few intrepid souls will perform personal stories that they’ve written. Last night, I told this story:

The Trooper

I’ve managed to collect a few scars in my life. Most of them are nothing more than small white lines; evidence of my inability to properly slice vegetables; testaments to my hack-and-slash approach to shaving. Nothing that tells a story of courage and daring-do. But there is one  — one that I prize above all the rest — that is more interesting: one that tells a tale of fortune and glory, of a battle hard-fought and won. It is on my left wrist, a nickel-sized patch of wrinkled skin, and this is its story.

I was 14 – a freshman in high school – and a friend offered me a one-day job walking around one of the northern suburbs going door-to-door to hand out flyers for some politician. It was a long, grueling day, but it paid the unheard-of sum of one hundred dollars. A hundred dollars? I’d never had a hundred dollars before.

Well, that money was burning a hole in my pocket. So two days later, after school, I walked over to the strip mall on Dempster & Dodge and strolled into the Sound Warehouse — you know, back when music stores still existed. I probably spent an hour in the store trying to figure out what to buy. I don’t remember what else I looked at but I can tell you exactly what I bought: Automatic by Jesus & Mary Chain and a poster from Iron Maiden’s single “The Trooper.” A strange juxtaposition, I know, but I was eclectic way before it was cool.

I left the store and headed back up the street towards home. I hadn’t gotten more than three blocks when I saw a large 2-door car — a Lincoln Continental or a Grand Marquis — driving the opposite way down the street. The driver called out to me:

“Hey man. You want to buy some weed? I’ve got dime bags.”

Now, I was 14, and I’d smoked some pot, but I hadn’t really found it to be all that interesting. But I had friends that were into it, and I was suddenly filled with what I would later realize was the desire to be the “playmaker.” The guy who gets the assist. So that when I was hanging out with friends and someone asked, “Does anybody have any weed?” I could casually say, “Oh, uh, hey, I’ve got some.” And everybody would remember me as the guy who, that one time, had some pot.

And I had money. And it was just burning a hole in my pocket.

I walked out into the street, approached the car, leaned down into the open window, the Iron Maiden poster rolled up tight and held securely between my legs. Automatic was in its jewel case in my left jean jacket pocket. “How much?” I asked. “Ten bucks?” I thought I remembered someone saying that that’s how much a dime bag cost.

“Yeah,” said the driver. “Sure. Ten bucks.”

This being my first drug deal, I didn’t know the best way to proceed; I didn’t know that asking to first “see the stuff” was a good idea. I pulled a ten from my pocket and handed it over. The driver took the bill, tucked it into the waistband of his shorts…. And started driving off.

But not fast enough that I couldn’t grab onto the door of the car and trot alongside, yelling, probably inappropriately loudly for the neighborhood we were in, and the illegal activity we had just been transacting, “Give me my fucking money!”

Unsurprisingly, the only effect this had on the driver was to make him speed up. Just a little. Just the slightest additional pressure applied by his foot onto the gas pedal. Just enough to turn my trot into a gallop. I was undeterred. “Give me my fucking money!”

The car went faster still, until my feet could no longer keep up. I felt my the toes of my shoes scrape along the pavement, and then my knees, and then my left hand. My right hand? Still locked tight on the door of the car. I was being dragged down the street.

I wish I could recall what thoughts were going through my head at that moment. God only knows why I didn’t let go. It was only ten dollars, it wasn’t worth being run over by a car. Most likely, there were no thoughts other than “Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck” — the kind of running refrain that drowns out thought, makes it impossible to take any sort of action at all.

I’d also love to know what the guys in the car were thinking. It had started as a beautiful early spring day, just two buddies out for a drive, running their simple con: find some dumb kid who looks like he’s got a few extra bucks, get him to hand over the money and drive off. What could be easier? Then, suddenly, there’s someone hanging off the side of the damn car. Do you plan for this during your morning meeting? Like, “Okay, I know this sounds insane, but on the off chance that there’s someone hanging onto the car, here’s what we do….”

Here is something I learned that day: when you’re being dragged by a car, every second feels like a minute; every foot feels like a mile. I don’t know how far we’d gone. It was probably only a block at the most when I finally lost my grip on the car and fell to the pavement.

My thoughts then? Fuck. There goes my 10 dollars. Also, probably, Ouch.

But, instead of tearing off like I expected, the car stopped. I’d like to think that I leaped to my feet and brushed some dirt from my shoulders like, I do this shit all the time, now, sir, about my fucking money. But, more likely, it was me peeling myself off the pavement, dazed, confused. Staggering to my feet. What happens now?

And here’s the part that people often find hard to believe. Hell, I find it hard to believe myself. The dude driving the car pulled my ten dollar bill from his waistband and held it out to me. “You’re fucking crazy!” I took the money; they drove off.

I was left standing in the street to take stock of my situation: my jeans and jacket were ripped, my knees were both scraped and bleeding, and my left wrist which apparently had taken the most damage was torn open. But, other than that, I was little worse for wear. Even with all the pain there was still a small smile on my face, a feeling of elation. They had tried to con me, but thanks to my complete and utter lack of foresight and rational thought, I had managed to come out on top; a little bloody maybe, but still on top.

So I limped back to find my poster lying in the middle of the street, picked it up, and headed home. Along the way, I tried to come up with a story to tell my family about what had caused my wounds. A story that didn’t include trying to buy weed or getting dragged by a car. I’m pretty sure I went with “I fell down.” or something along those lines.

But we knew the truth: the twisted, snarling, skeletal solider and me. And while that poster has long since been relegated to the trash bin,  I still have that scar: a permanent reminder that there’s a right way and a wrong way to buy weed; that my life is worth a bit more than ten bucks; but that sometimes, very occasionally, you need to be fucking crazy in order to win the day.


Word count: 50k+ Smiling zombie happy to be done!

Well, it’s all over. Finished yesterday afternoon with a 2000+ word sprint to the end. Still some story to write, and I really don’t know how to finish it in a satisfactory manner. Really feel like Ak and Zach could wander off into the sunset together with a “To be continued…” title on the screen.

November is done (almost.) For once, the November Curse seems to have been thwarted (knock on wood.) Got through the month without disaster befalling me or anybody I know (I think — if I’m forgetting any disasters, I apologize….)

Thanks to who provided all the zombification of the photos.

Always appreciate the people who ask about the story and word counts and generally pretend to be interested in the ridiculous stuff I come up with. And to everyone whose IP address shows up in the stats page.

Much gratitude to Erica for support & daily inspiration & the zombie chicken and zombiegotyerkitten.

Here’s one last excerpt, from waaaay back in the beginning pages. Feels like a good wrapper on the blog for the year, even if I end up throwing the whole wrapper away.

Cheers. And thanks. And…..braaaaaains.

Here is how my days go: First of all, I’ve lost all track of time, so the concept of “days” is a little iffy. Being a Z — undead; life challenged; reanimated corpse; whatever — means no more sleeping. We’re beyond the need for that, which is nice in some ways, because I’m getting so much more done than I ever did before. Ever want a few more hours in your day? I’ve got them! But you know, staying up all the time gets a little tiresome. A lot tiresome. In order to keep sane, though, I try to break up the days a bit. You know, keep each one from running into the next. I fake a sleep cycle — just an hour or two staring at a blank wall or I’ll just lie down in what used to be a Taco Bell and count the holes in the ceiling tiles (4,983). Anything to give my mind a bit of a break, keep from thinking about the utter shit hole that the planet has become. I’d kill for some electricity here — all those pretty gadgets, video games, all wrapped up nice. I guess they’d had some generators going here for a while; the former tenants had set up a couple consoles and giant TVs. Looks like they had a some game tournaments and whatnot. The leader boards are still posted. It’s nice to think they had a few moments of fun before the unholy swarm of undead ended their pathetic lives. If that sounds bitter, it’s because I am — I never got a chance to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 6 and it looked like a good time. I wonder if they bothered with the zombie mode at all.
There’s really not a whole shitload to do here. You’d think, what with it being a shopping mall that it’d just be a playground of fun times, but those that came before took care of all that, made sure there was not much for little old me to take pleasure in. Their final fuck you to the zombies that ruined their lives. Well, hell, I guess I deserved it, even if I didn’t personally gouge any of their eyes out, or eat their livers or whatever. I still felt some personal responsibility. Not like I lead the horde to their doorstep, those guys are unleadable, unherdable, I told you that. And not like I could have stopped them, they’re pretty unstoppable, I mean that’s how they made their name, you know? Once they get that whiff of smoothie, it’s on, there’s no stopping until the last one of you is dead and eaten. You know it’s true. I’m not sure what would have happened if I’d tried to get in their way. Like I said, they pretty much just ignore me, or tolerate me, or whatever, and I can tell you exactly how effective me standing on a soap box, yelping something about peace and love, moving along, leaving these nice people be would have been. They’d have just gone about their business. So, I play in what’s left of the mall, mostly staying in the food court, sometimes going to The Gap to pick through the clearance items, seeing if there’s something left that fits me.But look, I know this is all real interesting to you — how Zach Graves got to Woodfield Mall, what he does with his time, what he’s doing right now, scratching away at his notebook, hoping his pens don’t run out of ink, waiting for someone to come find him, and end his miserable life, or save it, or whatever, it’s all the same. No, I know you’re all wondering how it all came to this. How did the idea of people getting sick, dying, and then coming back from the dead become commonplace? How did society fall apart? How did it all go down?

Well, hold your damn horses. I’m getting to it.


Word count: 50,000+ No longer a zombie!

Word count 48,047

It’s real weird, once you get to 48k, just how quickly the whole thing gets done. Or at least, that’s my hope. I mean, it’s a mere 2000 words. That’s nothing.

Today’s bit is, I realized, kind of what I’d hoped to write when I first had this idea a year ago. A sort of zombie society where things like Zombie Digest (which I think is just a hilarious name for a zombie publication) actually exist. And zombies have conversations about which types of humans have the tastiest brains. And the Amish are just constantly terrorized what with their unadulterated-by-technology gray matter.

Anyhow — glad to get a little bit of that in this.

Crossing the room, I opened a door to find a gigantic walk-in closet, full of clothes more expensive than I had ever worn from floor to ceiling. I could tell just by feeling them that they were of the highest quality. The labels were of designers I’d only vaguely heard of, never having paid much attention to fashion. Seven empty hangars amongst his shirts and four more amongst the pants provided further evidence that Stimph had planned and packed for a trip away from home.

“Nice duds,” I said.

“Brains.” Nicer than yours.

“What do you know about fashion anyway?” I asked, defensively.

“Brains.” We are learning.

“That’s just adorable, Westy. Maybe I can show you some old episodes of Project Runway or America’s Next Top Sweatshop Workers. You’ll love them, I’m sure.”

“Brains.” We believe that you will find, once you get around to actually fulfilling your end of the bargain whereby you eat some brains, the brain matter of one who watches less than four hours of television per week are of much higher quality in terms of size, taste, and tenderness than those who watch more than four hours per week. One who watches more then 20 hours per week will have a brain that is very nearly inedible according to a recent survey.

“‘According to a recent survey’? Who conducted this survey? Where were the results published? Zombie Digest?”

“Brains.” We keep track of these things. Four out of five zombies agree that reality television has the most adverse effects on brain quality. Those who partake in video games (particularly puzzle games and adventure games), crossword puzzles, and reading are reported to have higher quality brains.

“Wild.” I considered the results. “Where the hell do you find someone who watches less than four hours of television a week anyhow?”

“Brains.” We admit, it is quite the rare delicacy. Amish country is a popular zombie destination for food holidays.

This is, for some reason, one of my favorites. Word count: 47,502

Super seriously the home stretch. 47502. <2500 words to go. A couple of dedicated writing sessions and it’s all in the bag.

Here our hero figures out (with the help of his trusty sidekick, Westy) where the evil Tim Stimph has gone.

“Where are you going next, Tim Stimph?” I asked a photo of him that I had earlier hurled across the living room and into the kitchen. The glass in the frame had shattered, but the picture itself was undamaged. I peered deep into his beady, black, soulless eyes hoping for an answer, a sign, a clue. Nothing came to me.

“Brains.” Was there nothing else in his bomb room?

“Not that I could see. Bomb making stuff, the banner, and more bomb making stuff. No diagrams, blueprints, or maps.”

“Brains.” Where else are there libraries?

“Well, hell, Westy, I’ve been a bit out of touch, you know? Three years ago, most of the libraries had already closed. There were just a few left. But they’re probably all gone by now. And anyhow, how do we know he’s not just out on walkabout, seeing the sights?”

“Brains.” Well, I’m at a loss.

“Me too.” I opened the refrigerator again. “Sure wish I could have a beer, even if it is just Miller Lite. God, Westy, how I loved beer. So much flavor and complexity, it rivals wine for variety of flavor, body, and character. Not Miller Lite, of course, but other beers. Better beers. Actual beer beers, you know? Stimph had good taste in everything but books and beer, apparently.”

“Brains.” We have just now recalled something that might be pertinent.

“Oh yeah? And what was that? That Tim Stimph is an asshole?”

“Brains.” No, not that.

“Well,” I said, shutting the refrigerator door, “I’d say that’s about the most pertinent thing I can think of. What’cha got?”

“Brains.” That woman, the human —

“Polly,” I supplied.

“Brains.” Polly. She said something about Stimph promising to bring her a bottle of his favorite beer. With the amount of ‘Miller Lite’ in this refrigerator, would it not be a safe bet to assume that ‘Miller Lite’ is Tim Stimph’s favorite beer?

“Nobody has that much Miller Lite in their ‘fridge by accident,” I said. “Where are you going with this?”

“Brains.” Wouldn’t it stand to reason then that Tim Stimph is going, or has gone, to the location where this ‘Miller Lite’ is produced?

“He wouldn’t have to go to the Miller brewery just to bring her a bottle of Miller Lite. He could have just come to his refrigerator and grabbed one. He sure had plenty here.”

“Brains.” That is true. However, and please, correct us if we are wrong, but is it not somehow traditional for vacationing or travelling humans to often say that they will bring back one of (or some of) whatever it is that the place to which they are travelling is famous for? For instance, if one were to be going to Maryland, one might say, “I will bring you back some crabcakes.” Or if one were going to Detroit, one might say, “I will bring you back some crime, unemployment, and urban blight.” Therefore, if one were going to wherever it is that ‘Miller Lite’ is produced, one might say, “I will bring you back a bottle of Miller Lite.”

“Good God, Westy,” I marvelled. “You’re brilliant!”

“Brains.” We do what we can. Now, where is it that this ‘Miller Lite’ is produced?

“Miller Lite is made by MillerCoors, LLC which is located in Chicago,” I said.

“Brains.” So he has not travelled far.

“That’s just their corporate offices, I think.”

“Brains.” Then where is their production?

“Miller products are brewed in Miller Valley. Up in Cheesland. Home of the Brewers. Land of Sausage.”

“Brains.” Milwaukee?

“Yep,” I said. “Milwaukee.”