My Top 5 Yelp Reviews About Alton, IL

imagesI’m still kind of in a post-holidays reverie haze and in a frame of mind where I look back on years gone by, growing up in Illinois. Over the past year or so, I’ve written some Yelp reviews of places in my hometown of Alton that I know like the back of my hand. Some I love, some I don’t. I thought it might be fun to post my five favorite reviews, in no particular order, to feel a little good old fashioned Alton nostalgia.


Bubby’s & Sissy’s — 5/5 stars

Best bar in Alton. It’s always a fantastic time here on Fridays and Saturdays. Hilarious drag shows, adequate little dance floor, nice outdoor area. Best place in town to let loose and really be yourself, no matter who you are.

Except if you’re a bigot. Then please, stop being who you are. Continue reading

Observations on Train Travel

For my Christmas vacation, I rode the train from New York Penn Station all the way to my hometown train station in Alton, Illinois, which happens to be less than a mile from my parents’ house. The trip involved riding the Lake Shore Limited from NYC to Chicago and switching trains at Union Station.

fail trainAs you might guess, it was not a short trip. Continue reading

Blast From The Past Part 3: Pedestrian

Earlier this week, I posted three poems I wrote in college and one flash fiction piece I wrote shortly after moving to NYC in the summer of 2011. To close out the week’s Blast From The Past mini-series of blog posts, I’m going further into my archives, all the way to senior year of high school (’04/’05). I wrote “Pedestrian” for my creative writing class taught by Jeff Hudson at Alton High School.

The story was inspired by the time I spent working my first job ever: a bowling alley porter making $5.15 an hour. As you can see in the very first paragraph, I didn’t exactly love the job, though it was an interesting experience. It’s interesting (and embarrassing, as you might expect) to look back on this story now and see how my writing has changed and how it’s stayed the same.

I hope you’ll enjoy it and remember in its corny, cliche, and borderline offensive moments, I wrote this as a high school kid. Having just re-read it myself, I had to laugh and shake my head many times. But I’m glad to have taken a new look at it because it puts me back in the state of mind I had in that time of my life. It’s as good as, or better than, a diary in that way.


With hands full of trash bags, Troy wandered gloomily out the door to the bowling alley. He was not sure which was worse: being inside the disgustingly sooty walls of the pervert-infested redneck asylum or being leaked on through the ripped trash bags. The dilemma was a hopeless one, indeed. At that particular moment, however, he preferred the slimy company of the nasty off-white substance dripping on his foot and rolling off his shoe onto the black top. Beer mixed with ranch sauce? he wondered. Continue reading

Alton, IL is … Part 2

  • a dead eyed waitress on the graveyard shift
  • a chorus of birds performing just for you on your short walk to the car
  • an old woman watching all the cars pass her house
  • hedge apples pounding down on your roof
  • an empty beer case burning in a bonfire
  • weak coffee you can’t stop drinking
  • a bald eagle on vacation
  • a line of cars at 2 a.m. at a drive thru
  • a sad little shopping mall that smells fantastic at Chrismastime
  • a woman with a cheap haircut giving a man a cheap haircut
  • an argument about coupons
  • an entire small town gathered for a Halloween Parade
  • a guy who needs his Pepsi and cigarettes so badly he gets them delivered to his car by a woman he doesn’t tip
  • a bad first impression of someone you never let go
  • a pack of wannabe drag racers
  • a fresh college grad settling for a job in retail
  • a bar with free popcorn and cheap shrimp
  • a wad of cash in transit from the check cashing counter to the slot machine
  • a firm handshake from a smiling man with calloused hard hands
  • a place you’re from that stays with you wherever you go

See my first list of things Alton is at my previous blog post.

Yelp Reviewing

imagesAs some of my friends and family members know, I’m an “Elite Yelper.”

Apparently that is something that happens when you spend enough time over the course of several months writing reviews about any place you can think to write about. It can be a great outlet to gush about places you love and rage about places you hate. Like all writing, it’s a form of therapy — or at the very least, a release.  Continue reading

Alton, IL is …

  • an aging eagle
  • a river barge pushing through ice
  • a Bud Light bottle stuffed with cigarettes
  • a deck of nude playing cards in a bowling alley
  • a shuttered factory
  • a teenage goth walking home from school in big black pants
  • dollar store groceries
  • a drunken gambler cursing at his dice
  • a barmaid in a dive flashing for tips
  • a dusty hat rack in an antique shop
  • high school football on the radio
  • angry comments published in the newspaper
  • a jacked up truck covered in mud
  • an old man raking leaves into a burn pile
  • a handbell choir at a Christmas Eve service
  • a shitty Buick with a world class sound system
  • scratch-off ticket dust on a gas station counter
  • fireworks over the Mississippi
  • a redneck in a gay bar
  • the tallest man who ever lived