Chapter II

I was smoking a cigarette on the porch when Kyle called me. It was spring and I had just got done with finals at Portland State University. I was sitting on my tiny porch off Sixth Avenue in downtown Portland, looking out across the stream of cars crawling towards the city center, like ants.

“Hey man,” I said.

“Hey. What are you up to?”


“Cool. You leaving for camp soon?”

“Yeah, next Monday.” 

“Well look, I have a question for you, and I’d like to run it by you before I leave.”


“How about tomorrow morning?”

“That works.”

“Where do you want to meet?”

“How bout…Genies.”



The next day I rode my bike over the Hawthorne Bridge, turned right on the Esplanade, then left, and rode all the way to Division. Genies was a breakfast joint on 11th and Division.

Kyle was already there. We ordered breakfast and he told me the generals. People wanted him to start a church in Salt Lake. He asked me about my experience starting a church in Denver. I told him what I thought.

Two years ago I lived in Denver with 18 people.  Fourteen adults, three kids and one baby. We pooled all our resources for funds, worked together, lived together, did church together. It was great.

“Why’d you leave?” Kyle asked.

“Mostly, I wanted to move to Portland. Kevin kept pressuring me. And I didn’t want to live in Colorado my whole life. Also, I didn’t agree with everything the church was doing.

“Yeah, like what?”

“Well, nothing big, I still love everyone there. Just things like they wanted to be a mega-church, and market themselves all over the place and there was lots of drama, and nothing necessarily wrong with those things, just personal preference I guess.”


“And I have always loved Imago, since I visited back in the day, when it was small, meeting in Laurelhurst.”

Kyle nodded.

“Also, I think there’s enough churches in the world. I don’t think we need any more buildings. I do think we need CHURCH though, you know capital church with capital letters.

“Yeah.” Kyle said. Then with a very excited face said, “Check this out.”

Kyle told me his whole story. Then he asked if I would be interested in something like that. I said yes. That since Denver, it had been on my heart, church planting that is.  Kyle said nothing was for sure yet. He said he would keep me updated over the summer.

I said, “Okay.”

After summer was over, we talked again. I was in a weird place, had been for a year, and still am I guess. I was disillusioned, tired of church, had so many doubts I didn’t know what to do with, angry at God. The reasons were many. I was also depressed, slightly lonely, drinking a fair amount and sometimes silently prayed that a bus would hit me on the way to work and it would all be over.

Mostly I just didn’t care. I wished I cared more. I really did.

So I met with Kyle at the Imago offices at Evangel and as we conversed I watched the yellow leaves of fall start to slip off the great big tree outside his second story window.

He told me that everything was on track. The Imago elders had met with the Orchard group, both Rick and Luke (the executive pastor) felt like it was a good thing, and basically everything was falling into place and there wasn’t a reason not to go.

Kyle asked me if I was still interested. I was. I was very much excited in fact. But I also wanted to be honest with Kyle about where I was at. So I said to him, “Look man, I am interested and I’d love to go but…I don’t really have my shit together.”


“Yeah.” I said, and explained.

I explained that I didn’t know what I thought about the Bible, didn’t know what I thought about hell, didn’t know what the meaning of life was, how most days I didn’t want to be a Christian, how most days I just wanted to get drunk and sleep with a pretty girl, how I felt like less of a Christian than I have my entire life, how I just wanted it all to be over, how I felt like David Bazan, etc. Maybe this was young 20’s angst, maybe not.

             Kyle listened intently, and then said, “Look man, that’s fine. I’m okay with that, I know who you are and I like your honesty and I think people in that city could use some good ol’ fashioned grit and authenticity.”

So it was then that I said, “I’ll go.”

Though, as Woody Allen says in Annie Hall, I was a little nervous about a club that would have me as a member.


Slowly the word gets out. First Kyle and Joy announce the news to their home community (which I am a part of). Most everyone nods and says that this would be a great idea, and good luck and blessings and so forth and then Kyle says, “And if anyone wants to join, we’d love to have you.”

Then there is silence.

But people start thinking. First Jeremy and Emily decide to think about it, they have three kids—Cole, Avianna and Alidia. They decide to go.

Lucas decides to go. He is a bible student at Multnomah University, is part of our home community, and helped Kyle with the Junior High. He also has a mustache and an Elliot Smith tattoo.

Beth and Howie say no. Then after a few months, say yes. They live in Gresham and have two twin boys named Noah and Nate. Howie is finishing his degree at Western Seminary.

Becca is on the fence. She decides to go. Then decides not to.

Other people think about it. And this is just our home community.

Next comes Eric and Nish. Eric is a raft guide. Nish works for Imago. They just had a baby. Then comes Noah and Katie, newlyweds.

Then comes the big kicker. Kevin and Karen. You see Kevin and Karen have been with Imago from the beginning. I think Karen was the first paid staff member.             So for them to leave is a big deal, but Kevin remarked that one of the things that got him stoked about Imago in the first place was Rick’s desire to be a church that plants other churches. He just kinda forgot about that. Neither of them would ever have imagined leaving Portland, or Imago. Yet, they decide to go.

After a few months Imago announces it to the congregation. It is December 2009. More people start thinking.  A guy named Jonathan hears this and can’t believe his ears. He goes to Imago Dei Vancouver and for years has wanted to move to Salt Lake or Park City for ministry, but just didn’t feel like the timing was right. Now he knows why.

Then another surprise, Nash and Kora and their daughter Bellie, they lead the Buckman home community. Nash used to be an arts pastor in Seattle, when Mars Hill was just starting out.

And the list slowly grows. By May 2010, over 25 people from Portland have committed to moving to Salt Lake. Noah and Katie, both musicians at Imago, decide to come to.

The amount of talent is staggering. And I don’t mean talent in just the superficial way, like we have the best musicians. I mean the depths of everyone involved is staggering. The richness of people’s souls. The love dripping through their pores. The solid marble character.  The truth, the beauty, the community.

But we do have musicians, and artists, and writers, and speakers, and justice workers, and moms, and dads, and raft guides, and children’s pastors, seminary students, interior designers, vegans, gardeners, paralegals, etc.

We have so much talent, but like I said what’s even more staggering is the depths beneath. It is unprecedented I’m sure, although probably not, but I like to think so, it appears so, has to be so.

So we start to have prayer meetings and gatherings, informational sessions, vision casting, storytelling.

Everyone is excited. This all takes place from about September 2009 to December 2009. And before we know it January rolls in the new decade and Kyle and Joy are the first to move to Salt Lake towards the end of the month. Kevin and Karen go next in the middle of February. So does Jonathan. Next comes me. Then Nash and Kora in May.

And throughout the summer everyone trickles in. Like a small creek, melting from the peaks of Northwest, and steadily driving over the hills, the desert, through Eastern Oregon, Idaho, Nevada maybe, over the Wasatch range, and down into the valley of the Salt Lake.





Three Sonnets

Hot Ham Water




                  Beggars stole our sense:

sensibility. We stole their loaves


 of bread white ironed t-shirts

                  brown leather shoes


the news of bridges, iron

fired caskets. Roaring train track clickety


clack. Smack to blame it on

                  distances of sidewalks


between our hands. Nordstrom’s

shopping bags. Our rags


stretched over



tonight, our house: charades 

be there





To:     From:

Subject: Concerning Recent Church Bullshit.


I’m sorry you left on the fastest east Garden

state wind to Oregon


the desert deserting you

an ugly organ piping,


you there.

like a too-quick-two-buck-chuck-blinding-mirror-dinner.


said we’re done here.

I’m moving to Arizona now, you hear?


Fine. I’m sorry your back was a cutting board

because (we all do a little cutting every now and then)


At least your kid’s in soccer practice

what color are the Jersey’s?



I remember silk screen

snow, dotted toothpick pine


trees. Aspen’s softly

raining yellow leaves


Red sleds. Black-top-stove-top

chimney hats


smoke the color of

November streaking



April’s embers.                                    


Then there were the zombies:

bone gnarring marrow splitting venom greening, spitting



—they ate us all.






Questions to Kanye West from a Middle-Aged White Guy

Just two questions today:


You say in one of your songs “wahtchya think I rap for? To push a fucking Rav-4?”

What do you have against Rav-4’s? I happen to own a Rav-4.


Why did you buy your whole family whips?




Chapter 1: Of the Beginning of Things

The following is the first chapter of a book I’m working on entitled “Plant: One Interns Memoir of growth, mess, and starting a church in Salt Lake City,” or “The Tenacious Photosynthetic Doubt of Redemption in which a boy grapples with the most basic questions of life through heavy drinking and smoking.”


I promise other posts will not be as long. 


The first time I met Kyle Costello, we picked up dog poop together. It was August and a church I was a part of by the name of Imago Dei Community was holding their annual kickball tournament. I rode my bike there to help set up, locked it, and found my uncle Kevin. Kevin was a pastor at Imago and had recently convinced me to move to Portland from Colorado where I had grown up and lived my whole life.            

He was setting up the speakers under a make-shift-gazebo-thing when I got there. I asked him what I could do to help. He told me I could pick up dog poop. I said okay, hesitantly, and noticed that it was hesitant, so tried to pick up my voice and sound excited, “Okay!”

“I just sent Kyle over. Have you met Kyle? He just came on staff from a church in Las Vegas. Here…I’ll introduce you.”

 We walked over to where Kyle was and Kevin introduced me, “Kyle, this is my nephew, Levi.”

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Levi.”

“Kyle.” He said and offered to shake my hand, but then said, “I won’t, because there might be dog poop on it.”

Kyle had a shaved head like my uncle. He wore glasses, shorts and a brown polo. He looked youngish, around thirty or so and had broad shoulders. I would find out later that he was the kind of guy who ran marathons for cancer patients. I was the kind of guy who ran to the Plaid Pantry for cigarettes.

“Levi moved out here last summer from Colorado, just to be in Portland and maybe intern with Imago.” Kevin said. “I told him to help you.”

“Sweet.” Kyle nods, smiles. “Well…let’s pick up some crap.”


At that point, I would not have predicted that two years later the three of us and multiple others would be involved in a church plant from Imago to Salt Lake City.            

I never had any desire to move to Salt Lake City. Neither did Kyle. I was completely content in Portland. There were good coffee shops, good beer, good art, good music, a very diverse urban center, basically what I called, “culture.”

I wasn’t sure if Salt Lake had this.

What I knew of Salt Lake was conservatives and Mormons. Also, snowboarding. Salt Lake is a huge snowboard capital. So I liked that. But everything else…well, it was questionable.

All I knew of Salt Lake I knew from driving through it years ago on a road trip with my grandparents to California. I remember the Salt Flats stretching out like an ocean and the smell overpowering, like Yellowstone geysers. I remember how close the city felt to the mountains, as if the city came first, and the mountains had slowly crept up around it, like giants. I remember that the Olympics were about to be held there, so there were giant billboards and statues of Olympians in tight fitting spandex. Then all I saw was desert, desert, desert. This was what I knew of Salt Lake City.


Like most good stories worth telling, there’s a back-story to how all of us winded up in Salt Lake. If one watched movies all day, one might get to thinking that every character suddenly arrived at exactly where it was that they were in the film and give little thought to the history, failures, suffering, families, marriages, and so forth that give things shape. The truth however, is that most of the exciting things that happen in movies are two hour glimpses of a characters whole life. Movies are compressions of time. So naturally, the bad parts are left out. Not even the bad parts necessarily, but the monotonous ones. So in writing this, I would like to write as much about those parts, as the exciting ones. Because the truth is, life is not exciting. Not all the time at least. There was a time I thought it was. I thought that every single moment was to be spent in some high-speed car chase or dangerous romance. When this did not happen I got disappointed. If I wasn’t leading a Scottish rebellion against England or subverting the Roman Empire as a gladiator I felt like I was failing somehow. But perhaps a lot of life is about finding contentment. Finding peace in the small things, the simple things. Maybe life isn’t epic at all, and maybe that’s okay. So this is a story about the small things, and how small things can be great things.

This is about mustard seeds and yeast.

This particular story, of a group of people living life together, gathering occasionally to sing songs, learn about the nature of God, and love a city (also known as a church) starts with the story of an individual, Kyle. Not because he’s the leader necessarily, but because he’s the most handsome, and well, just a good place to start.



Kyle grew up Mormon in a small town called Eely in Eastern Nevada. His family was fifth generation Mormon. So, kind of a big deal.  Kyle was 18 and about to go on his two-year mission when he started questioning his faith. And in that faith, questions are a bit, um, well…not quite allowed. It wasn’t even that his questions were out of place. Kyle was studying the faith and preparing an apologetic defense and explanation to those he would encounter, so he came up with a list of questions he figured most people would be likely to ask. He was able to answer all the questions except one or two. So he went to his dad. He handed his dad the piece of paper and his dad stared at it, slowly, and then looked up. His dad looked at him and said, “Why are you asking these questions?” Kyle explained.

“You don’t ask these questions son,” his dad, all of a sudden looking very stern-like, said.

A few days later Kyle got called into a meeting with his grandpa, a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And it wasn’t like going to grandpa’s house for milk and cookies. Kyle met with him in his office, an all-of-a-sudden-strange-looking place. His grandpa once again asked him,

“Why are you asking these questions?”

Kyle explained.

“You don’t ask these questions.”

Kyle stared.


“You know why.”

“No. I don’t. It’s for the mission.”

“Do you realize what you’re asking?”


His grandpa stared.

“Your questioning me,” his grandpa shook his head. “You questioning your father, your great grandfather, your elders, the prophets…” etc. etc., etc.

So Kyle left that day for the first time wondering what it was, he really believed. Six months later he had his name resigned from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Six months later he didn’t even know if he believed in God. Kyle enrolled in the University of Las Vegas. He never went on his mission.


While at the UNLV he met Joy, his current wife, only wife at that actually. Joy was a Christian. With a name like that, go figure. Kyle and her started dating and so the conversation once again opened up towards faith, God, religion, so forth. It was a very messy time for both of them. Kyle didn’t want anything to do with religion and Joy, naturally, didn’t want to date someone like that, and neither of them wanted to force the other. They would break up. They would get back together. Then they would break up.

One day Joy dragged Kyle to church. It was a big church, what someone like me might call “hokey,” but all things considered, a good church. As Kyle sat there he didn’t feel or think much at all about it, you might say he was “Puttin time in with the girlfriend,” but as the pastor started speaking, something happened. The sermon was, by all accounts, typical, but what the pastor kept doing, and without perhaps anyone else but Kyle realizing it, was use himself as an example. As he preached, he would talk about the darkness in his own heart, how he was trying to overcome it, and how the Gospel was transforming him. To Kyle, this was astounding. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this would never happen. As much as you put your faith in God, you put even more so in man, so for a man to get up there and simply explain that he, too, was afflicted with the human condition, was literally mind blowing.

This jacked with Kyle. For a long time.

So began a discovery back into the heart of God, but separate from religion.

Kyle became a Christian, married Joy, and a few years later was on his way to seminary. From here he worked at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas for a few years before he felt God telling him to move to Portland.

So Kyle moved. With Joy of course, and they didn’t really know what to do, but felt okay. They knew about Imago Dei and Kyle had met Rick McKinley (the pastor of Imago) at a conference a while ago, so they started to plug in there. Before long, Kyle got hired on as the youth pastor and everything in the world was good.

However, not two months after they moved to Portland, their dog died. And then, two weeks later, Joy’s dad committed suicide.

Everything was not good.

But it was during this time, they learned what the word, “community” meant. And I mean, really understood not in a “I went to bible college so let me tell you about the Greek indicative plural past tense,” but in the way that you feel the woman you love deep in your bones.

The Costello’s were flying back to Las Vegas for the funeral when they were greeted by a mob of people that could honestly only be described as HEAVEN when they got off the airplane. The community of friends from Central absolutely swarmed them, Joy swept up as in a cloud of women loci, and for the entire week hovered in a swarm of love, compassion and community, not even allowed to descend to the dirt of the earth until she got back on the plane to return to Portland.

Yet, as soon as they go off the plane from Portland, they were swarmed again. They were film stars on the red carpet compassion of the Imago Dei paparazzi. They had expected it from Central. But this? They had barely been here a summer.

So if you ask them, they will say this was the summer they learned about community.

So the Costello’s did what they could to move on. They were loved. They were in community. This helped a lot.

It was nearly two years later when Kyle was asked to speak at a church planting conference held in Salt Lake City. A bunch of people wanted to take back the city from the Mormons and figured a church was the best way to do it. Salt Lake was a battleground. They invited Kyle to speak because they knew his background and figured he could give some valuable insight to how the next crusade of the Christian church was to be won.

As Kyle listened to speaker after speaker go on and on using terms like battle, fight, win, take-back and so on, his heart broke, and he also got a little angry.

When it was Kyle’s turn to speak, he did so. Mostly, he just spoke his mind and said that “taking back” the city from the Mormons was not the Gospel, it involved very little love and humility and was based on religious pride and Christian rhetoric rather than a desire to see transformation in the Mormon community.

When he was done, a lot of crickets started chirping. And as Kyle left the conference he thought very little of it. “I said what I had to say,” he thought.

But there was one guy, all the way in the back, watching. I picture him like Aragorn the Ranger, smoking his pipe in the dark back corner of the stadium, watching Mr. Costello, listening. Taking puffs and blowing O rings, a hood on his face.

A few weeks later, this dark ranger approached him, his name was Paul, and he was part of the Orchard group. A church-planting group.

“We want you to start a church in Salt Lake City.” Paul said.

“UhughufCough!” (is what Kyle said.)

“No, really.”


“We liked what you said, we think you’re the guy.”

“I’m honored,” said Kyle, “And I really think someone should plant a church in Salt Lake, but not me.”

The Orchard guy said, “Well, we’ll be in touch.” And I like to think that this exchange happened in a parking lot and the guy flicked his business card at Kyle while saying, “We’ll be in touch,” very ominously, as if both of them knew that they had no choice. Kyle, you-are-the-chosen-one-sort of-thing. And then he lights a cigarette and peels away in a dark sedan, leaving Kyle in a dark parking lot, alone, standing with a briefcase beneath a dim lamppost and a confused look.

For a year the Orchard guy kept calling. Kyle kept saying no.

Seriously, who wants to move to Salt Lake City? I’m happy where I’m at here. Why are you still calling? I said no, don’t you get it? I don’t want to do it, I don’t feel called there, God says no, my wife will hate it, why are you calling me at three in the morning? Okay, maybe I’ll pray about it, yes, really I will, I’ll ask my wife, yes really, but I’m not saying anything, she’ll probably say no, not yet, no, will you calm down, it really is late you know, yeah, yeah, I know you guys are up for awhile in New York, have I been to New York? No. Do I want to go? I don’t know, is this a trap? If I go to New York does that mean we are going to meet? I never said anything you know, yes, I’ll look at that website, yeah, I’ll pray about it, this is really getting old you know…


Kyle eventually said yes. His wife said yes. His background/family/religious history said yes. God was probably okay with it. And eventually Kyle himself began to like the idea.

It’s just too bad it had to be Salt Lake City.

You know?






March 2012


Once a month on Fridays we have men’s group at 6:00 in the morning. We get around and talk about trucks, weight lifting, and our wild hearts. We watch UFC, use war analogies—you know all the usuals.  Really what we do is meet together, have breakfast and coffee, and discuss the misused diction of Christian linguistics. What does it actually mean to be saved? What does the word “calling” really mean? Can we question the calling of others when they say, “God called me here,” and we think that perhaps this is just a nice Christian excuse to do what you want to do? Today we talked about being born-again and what that means. I asked whether or not it is natural to want to punch someone in the face when they use this word on CNN. No one acknowledged me.

After breakfast and our chat I go outside to smoke a cigarette. I am preparing to head up to the U to fight my arch nemesis—math—over a two-hour test. Tomorrow I am leaving for Bend, Oregon with my girlfriend to visit her sister, and so I had to take a math test, roast about 15 lbs. of coffee, pack, and see if the pair of shoes I ordered had finally come in. I’d been a nervous wreck the whole week, not sure if I should go through with the purchase of said shoes, when would be the right time to commit my life to such a heavy, and unchangeable path of wearing these shoes.

I looked at the Wasatch Mountains behind the office. They were hazy, blue and shafts of light began to peak through the canyons. I took another drag from my cigarette and felt the dull, indistinguishable rumble of an upset stomach. I thought about how much I drank last night. Not that much. I took a deep breath and tried to pull myself together. Kyle and Jeremy were talking across the street and I didn’t want them to see me if I started, when, suddenly becoming a more appropriate word.

I couldn’t take it. This morning’s breakfast of pancakes and sausage and coffee and orange juice all came out swiftly and relatively quietly. I made it to behind the dumpster in just enough time that no one saw. I stood up for a second and knew there was still more to come. I leaned over again, but this time it felt different, more fluid, less chunky. And as my esophagus wrenched I saw the bright, rich liquid of what I knew to be blood come spraying out on top of my recent pile of vomit. I threw up some more. It was rich, burgundy, nearly sparkling, a purple wine color. It had to have been more than a cup. I placed my hand against the white brick wall and knew that my day was about to get much, much, harder.

I didn’t know what throwing up blood meant. Did I somehow get alcohol poisoning? Or an ulcer? Alcohol poisoning was not a rational thought, since I had only had four drinks last night, but still, I wondered.

I went back inside and my friend and La Barba Coffee Roasting business partner Tim Walzer was still there.

“You have blood on your beard,” he said.

I wiped it off.


Two days ago I finally decided to buy myself a pair of shoes. Why not? Does the why not make it sound less romantic? Probably. But realistically, I don’t have my hopes up for anything much in the purchase of shoes. I am operating out of three basic assumptions about the buying of shoes 1) These shoes will not make me happier. 2) These shoes will never fulfill me in the way I want them to. 3) These shoes will expose my own hypocrisy, selfishness, and ultimately be about my own sanctification and the glory of God. Therefore, though I love these shoes, though I am choosing to be with these shoes forever, though I know it will be hard, that the buying of these shoes makes the most sense, and that I will buy them without unrealistic expectations of what they can do, it just makes sense. Also, the temptation of wanting to wear the shoes without buying them is a little too much for me, so I’m thinking for my own purity (and the shoes) it will be better for the both of us if I buy them soon and then we can both go home and get inside each other whenever we want.


            I can’t say it’s been an un-stressful, blissful experience, this choice of settling down with this pair of shoes.

Inside the office:

“Yeah, I just threw up,” I said to Tim.

“Wow…that sucks.”

“I threw up blood.”

A pause.



“I saw it on your beard.”

“I know. What does that mean?”

“It might be an ulcer, your stomach may be bleeding. Have you been stressed?”

I think about this question, this question of whether or not I have been stressed. I am in the last semester of what’s turning out to be my hardest semester of college, I am starting a business, which has the potential to fail at any moment, I am constantly trying harder to pull myself up by my bootstraps to be a better Christian, and yes, I have just bought a pair of shoes two days ago, and am still unsure of whether I am making the right decision, or perhaps sure, but scared, and nervous for what I am getting myself into. 


The Raw Honesty of Louis C.K.



When I was growing up, I once heard my pastor that God didn’t have a sense of humor. Humor, he said, was based on imperfections, and therefore nothing of God could coincide with anything less than perfection. Whatever the theological reality of this statement may be, humor is indeed based on the imperfection of life.

            And there is no man who knows imperfection better than Louis C.K. The Boston born actor, director, and writer, has been hailed as the best stand-up comedian of today. He gets his title not from magazines or media outlets, but from fellow stand-up comics. His show Louie on FX has been critically appraised and he’s written and acted in movies with the likes of Ricky Gervais and Chris Rock.

            What Louis C.K. does best is unearth the façade of decency we live under and delve into the darkest workings of the soul. His act is crude, depressing, and self-deprecating, but it is also touching, raw, and incredibly honest. C.K. will get on stage and talk about anything from masturbation, to his recent divorce, from his own self worth, to raising his two daughters.

The common claim about C.K. is that he says what we’re all thinking, but are too afraid to say. The reason I can’t but help love Louis C.K., even though it may not be the “cleanest” act in the bunch, is that on the one hand, C.K. can get up and do a show about how incredibly depraved he is, and in the next breath enable you to laugh at the jacked up world in which we live. In many ways he is merely a mid-forties struggling parent who loves their kids very much.

There is a contrast however, between the rude and crude Louie and the real life incredibly thoughtful soul. If you merely watched his act, you might think the guy was utterly depraved, as I guess we all are. However C.K. recently gave away three fourths of the million dollars he made on his latest stand up act. He released the show on his website (it’s still there) for five bucks and after it did really well, he decided to give a fourth to charity, a fourth as bonuses to the people who made him make the video, a fourth to cover expenses for the video and the website, and a fourth for him and his girls, which he claims he will do “terrible things with but none of that is any of your business.” On his website he makes an almost prophetic statement about money, saying, “I never viewed my money as being ‘my money’ I always saw it as ‘The money.’ It’s a resource. If it pools up around me than it needs to be flushed back out into the system.”

            This contrast, between crude comedian and a generous, aware soul, gives Louie’s comedy something other comedians don’t have, personal exploration. It’s easy to take pot shots at religion or politics as many comedians do, but it’s much harder to be almost unbearably honest with yourself. Yet, Louie never strays too far into the cruel. Most comedians would rail against their ex-wife, but he has yet to do so, claiming in one interview that it’s her privacy and he doesn’t feel right exploiting that.

            In a world of bi-partisan divides and moral failings of pastors caused by a lack of honesty and confession, it’s refreshing to hear something as confessional and raw as Louie’s comedy. Writer Joel Lovell said it best in an interview with Louis C.K. in GQ, “There’s a deep anti–moral-hypocrisy vein running through C.K.’s work, which is organized as much as anything around the idea that to not speak openly about our capacity for ugliness is to further enable it.”

In many ways, this has been a fundamental problem in the Christian church. Many of us refuse to acknowledge our ugliness and this leads to nothing more than hypocrisy and moral failures. Honesty is a hard currency to come by within Christianity. 




Welcome to the State of Utah

The Following is a public service announcement from the Utah Tourism Agency


Welcome to the state of Utah!


You might have just gotten lost on your way to Vegas from Denver, but we don’t think it’s an accident.


You’ll love our world famous postmodern architecture and French cuisine.


Our picturesque mountains and wide-open desert.


We have rocks so red they entirely sway the political leaning of our state


We have so much desert, we make Saudi Arabia look like the Pacific Northwest



But come,

Visit the city of Lehi, a quaint little European town famous for their Belgian waffles and crepes

Or take a romantic boat ride down the canals of Orem.


Come on out to the Great Salt Lake and lounge on our fly ridden, rocky beaches. Is that a woman’s hand on your thigh? No, it’s a dead birds spine.


If you like women, well then you’re in luck, because its true you can marry as many as you want, as long as at least one of them is below the age of


18 feet of snow is how much snow we get in Utah and that’s just before thanksgiving. Have back problems, well good luck shoveling.


Visit the bohemian town of Sandy where hippies and crust punks alike decorate the streets with Rembrandt-like graffiti.


Did I say graffiti? I meant to say ads for breast implants!


Did I say hippies? I meant to say people who drive hummers.


Like alcohol? So do we, which is why we made sure you can purchase alcohol at any of our three state-run liquor stores. Besides Sunday they’re open at least 12 hours a week.


We’ve also made sure that you can no longer get daily discounts on liquor or higher than 3.2 alcohol percentage in your beer, because we want everyone to see how great our Wasatch mountain river water makes the beer taste.


Sure, you could go skiing on the mountains or climbing in the desert, but who wants to do that when you could be waiting in line to get your very own nude Republicans calendar signed and autographed by Glenn Beck himself, while he holds a baby, an American flag and a shotgun in the same hand.


Do you like socialism? Liberal politics? You’ll love our progressive legislature, run by some of the most forward thinking individuals since the USSR.


These rich white men always have the best interests of the people in mind, especially the poor.


Do you like shopping centers and strip malls that look exactly like other shopping centers and strip malls halfway across the country



Do you like diversity? Or handguns? Well we only have lots of one of these and I can guarantee you that most people are scared more by one than the other.


Our state symbol is the beehive, because we’re the only state north of Guatemala to have, that’s right, killer bees.


Are you 16 and looking to get married? Come to Utah!


The 24th of July is more of a celebration than the fourth of July, but neither of these are anything compared to the amount of fireworks that’ll shoot off in your head when you discover the T.V. show Touched by an Angel was filmed right here. 





The bottle says four

in the morning, two

before the dawn hits mother,


nature—cracking grey branches.

Skeletal. Stretched.

A conceit picked up

by these arthritic arteries


thumb towards heaven

the blood drains


I want it to stay

there, right there

but I might need six more in the chamber till it thins,

thins like it’s December first


All wind and no hair.

run a comb through.

nothing sticks. Maybe


ten mixed with a tenth

times two. This skin—

permeable, a grater,


To: the blowing dark air, only colder, larger

            with more slits

acetaminophen can’t thicken


I don’t want to remember


Let’s all do oxycodone in December

Spit our blood to make a mural.


“Ten Stories” Review, Interview with Aaron Weiss



On May 15th mewithoutYou released their new album “Ten Stories.” For many old mewithoutYou fans the album is a welcome return to their former raucous post-hardcore sound. Lyrically, mewithoutYou has never been better. Aaron Weiss’s lyrics are complex, poetic fables, but still retain a fairy-tailish simplicity. The poetic wanderings of Weiss’s continue to make mewithoutYou what they are today. At once confessional and mystic, concrete and wandering.

The best song on the album is undoubtedly “Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume,” which not only highlights Aaron’s lyrical genius, but brother Michael’s and Kleinberg’s guitar skills and Mazzota’s wonderful drums. There’s even a Sausurre reference to the sign and signified in the song for the nerdy English majors out there (don’t worry about it). “Provisionally eyed, practically alive,” Weiss sings “Mistook sign for signified, and so sins have tried to run him off a cliff like Gadarene swine.”

We were able to get an interview with front man and singer Aaron Weiss about the new album and touring in their bio-diesel veggie bus.

Tell me about the inspiration behind the new album.

Well, I can’t say exactly what inspired everyone else’s contributions, but I can say a bit about mine. The beginning of the story was loosely based on a true event, a menagerie train crash where a tiger opted out of escaping. Once I heard that, I figured the rest of the narrative would come relatively easily. Also, our cat Blizzard had kittens as the band was writing the songs. Having them around the house put me in a silly mood, and kept animals on my mind.

Do you consider Ten Stories a return to the previous Mewithoutyou sound?

Yes, to some extent. Mind you, we’ve always tried to challenge ourselves & change with every record, so I don’t think we really have a single sound that we could return to – but some of the stylistic elements we had abandoned with our previous release are revisited on the newest one.

What is your favorite new song on the album?

At the moment probably the one called “East Enders Wives.”

Have you made a conscious effort on the last two albums to write fables instead of exploring more personal issues? It seems you’ve moved away from a more confessional writing style to third person storyteller.

I can’t remember how conscious an effort it was, but I agree that things have moved away from a confessional style and toward fables – but of course that doesn’t mean I’m not still exploring personal issues…they’re just veiled nowadays, but thinly so.

Maybe a tired question about the whole Christian thing, but I know some Christians have criticized your use of Sufi imagery and stories on the last album, how do you see yourself balancing different religious ideas and stories in your writing?

I don’t think that’s a tired question at all – I think it’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t really know the answer. I’m not sure I understand what I’ve been writing about all this time, or even my own intentions or thought processes.

Are you guys still touring around in your veggie bus?

Yes, we’ve had the same bus for the past 6 years or so, but used vegetable oil is hard to come by these days.

I admire your honesty and interactions with fans at the show, is it ever annoying to have fans coming up all the time asking you questions? How do you deal with it?

I’m afraid I’m pretty easily bothered, and find some way to be dissatisfied with almost anything that happens. If I have too many interactions at a show, yes, it can  be draining – but if no one wants to talk, that can be upsetting in a different way. But as for how to deal with it (with either, for that matter), my main trick for maintaining some semblance of sanity is to let go, to whatever extent possible, of any agenda I might bring to a given interaction.


mewithoutYou will be playing at In the Venue on July 20th at 6 p.m with Kevin Devine, Buried Beds, and local Salt Lake band L’anarchiste. Tickets are $12.50.


Hello world!

I have chosen to keep the WordPress title caption for my first post because I will probably never write a sentence that says HELLO WORLD! with an exclamation point again. The days are rare and the mornings few when I wake up and think to myself HELLO WORLD!

In an effort to actually make something out of my writing I have started this blog. I used to have a blog, it was an old clunky thing, rarely updated, limping along like a sad old dog ready to be shot. So I shot it. And made this new thing so I would look more professional. If that’s possible.

Here is where you will find my poems, writings, newspaper articles, and rough chapters for books I’m working on.  Read on, if you will, if you won’t, that’s okay too I guess.