This was a comment on a previous post which we thought warranted an Ask Knox response:


So after reading your blog post and visiting the website I was thinking about what you said about hoping the author never winds up reuniting with his muse. Do you think he would stop being able to write if he was happy and got what he longed for? Do you think the only good writing comes from unrequited love? And do you think your writing would be the same if you met the girl you’ve been searching for? Or do you think that no girl fills the bill because you are sabotaging yourself?
Continue reading ‘ask Knox: inspirations’

Sounds at Night


Got this, interesting, anonymous post in the mail this week. Hardly a typical HBD post, but I enjoyed it enough to share with you, dear readers. Enjoy.

ashadowThis is a transcript of an audio recording that my ex-girlfriend sent me to the night that she left to move to Texas for a new job.  We dated for a year, and at the time of her sending this to me, had been broken up for a month and a half.  Our breakup was quiet, she instigated, saying that with her leaving it was better to just let it go now, since I had never really wanted anything that was too serious.  We parted with small, wet, smiles.  I felt wounded, slightly the victim.

We didn’t speak much after that, although I thought about her all the time.  It was so odd to listen to this recording that she made.  I could tell she was speaking off the cuff, as her thoughts came to her.  Her words had a slow, sad quality, and her voice sounds beautiful to me, deepened by the obviously late hour and her fitful sleep.    When she says “maybe they’ll last.” her voice raises with the sweetest, hopeful note, which made me smile.  She always was so optimistic, so joyful about life and it was me that often tried to tamp that down.  I was wrong to let her go but it’s sort of obvious to me now how I pushed her away.

knoxThe rug business turned out to be a little more difficult than anticipated. My fixer was a ghost. The wholesaler I was supposed to sell to in Boston cancelled his order.  I was stuck in Dar-el-Beida with 800 rugs and nothing to do with them. And it was going to be such a wonderful summer.

morI was able to unload the rugs to a buyer from Canada, which helped with my losses, but I was still about 10 grand in the red. The only thing to do was go back to Spain, drink for a few weeks and come up with a new plan. Crossing the straits, I got to thinking about poor old Darryl. I talked with my sister about it from the train station, who cheered me up.

“It’s not your fault,” she said.  “If you hadn’t come along to traumatize the girl, someone else would have.”

“I just don’t get why she couldn’t have waited for the guy to die. He clearly didn’t have much time left.”

“Yeah, but when you think about it, if you haven’t loved someone for years and you’re just playing the role, you may not want to wait around to watch them die.”

“I guess not.”

Continue reading ‘Tracey, the interloper (part 5)’

knoxAll told, Daryl, Tracey’s ex-boyfriend, wasn’t such a bad guy.  Sure, he had a crippling jealous streak in him. Sure, he stalked me all the way to Madrid, hid in my closet, attacked me, and subsequently dragged me by my ankles all the way to Chueca, where he offered 50 euros to any man who would bugger me in the neighborhood’s plaza (the offer immediately attracted a dozen takers, a few of whom were even willing to perform the job pro-bono).  But after that he felt bad, apologized, and even took me out to get loaded.  Besides, the guy had bone cancer and was supposed to die in six months.

tracey4“You have bone cancer?” I said, filling my glass from the meter-high cylinder of beer mounted to the side of our table.  By this time, we were both feeling a little tipsy and relaxed in each other’s company.

“I have bone cancer.”

“And Tracey knew you had bone cancer?”


“And she broke up with you and left for Morocco?”


“And you two had been dating for how long?”

“Since we were juniors in high school, so just shy of 10 years.”

“God, what a cunt.”
Continue reading ‘Tracey, the interloper (part 4)’

mailboxDearest Knox,

I have had many relationships, both good and bad. I feel my romantic life is relatively healthy for a person my age and even though I’ve had my share of heartbreak, my regrets are few and good memories plenty. Last night – I fear I did something regrettable. For the first time ever, I completely lost my composure and became so enraged by a lie that I slapped my ex, in public, in front of his new girlfriend. Then I walked away. This was a reaction to a blatant lie and not the fact that he has a new girlfriend. I knew he had moved on, I just didn’t know it was before he had broken up with me. He blamed the breakup on the way I was acting regarding his sudden change in behavior – mystery solved. I can assure you he did something very wrong but I am still very disappointed in myself for being so out of control. Have you ever been slapped by a woman? Did you deserve it? How did you feel, other than slapped? I thought I would feel more closure than I do. Thoughts?

Continue reading ‘ask Knox: what did the five fingers say to the face?’

knoxThough Tracey dropped the charges and I was released, the town I lived in was too small to live it down.  My landlady said I had a week to vacate before she seized all of my belongings and sold them on ebay.  I wasn’t late on rent or anything – I was just “rapist scum.”  I figured this was as good a time as any get my rug business off the ground, so to speak.  Before leaving town, I tacked a note on my door for Tracey, letting her know the addresses or the hostels I’d be staying at in Spain and then Morocco.  It was a long shot, I knew.  But I really wanted to hear from her again.

tracey3Getting out of dodge and getting drunk has always proven the best method for dealing with heartbreak, especially in foreign countries where few things remind you of your former self. Maybe I’ll never even come back, I thought.  I’ll just wander the mountains, hocking rugs with nomadic Berbers.  Crack, go native.  Marry into a tribe, change my name, make babies in tents as sand storms rage outside.  It’s funny, the things that go through your mind when you’re running away from your problems.

In Madrid, I spent my days wandering the city, stopping in for garlic fries smothered in mayonaise, and lots of Amstel.  I smoked packs of cigarettes and tried to keep a diary.  I haunted museums and nightclubs, dive bars and public parks.  I tried making friends with strangers.  I had a one-night stand with an Armenian tourist.  I kept putting off Morocco.

It all helped to keep memories of the Tracey situation at bay, until I got her letter:
Continue reading ‘Tracey, the interloper (part 3)’

knoxAt the police station I called my attorney, who drove downtown to where I’d been drinking the night before. Apparently my Prius was still parked on Vanderbilt, where’d I’d left it.

tracy2“We might be able to reach out to the girl and explain to her that you drive the exact same make, model, year and color of car, parked half a block down and that you weren’t trying to rape her. That just might work. But you’re still gonna have to pay about $1500 in back tickets if you want them to take the boot off your hybrid.”

Just when it seemed like my luck had changed, I go and pass out in the wrong car. I had a cracked rib, bruises just about everywhere and 25 stitches in my forehead. Not only that, but even if I could make bail, I was supposed to go to Africa the next week, but most likely wouldn’t be allowed to leave the country.

After my lawyer left, I tried to fall asleep on the floor of my empty cell thinking about the woman whose car I’d fallen asleep in. What kind of flowers do you send to someone as if to say, “Hey, I’m not a rapist. Maybe we can get coffee sometime?”
I awoke to the coarse sound of a bull dyke police officer roaring my name. “Dupree. Wake the fuck up. You got a visitor.” Groggily, I opened my eyes to see Tracey standing opposite my holding cell. She was wearing a jean jacket over a sundress and a pair of Nike high-tops that looked to be about 15 years old. It was a sight.

“Second time I’ve woken up to you today. Feels like a dream within a dream,” I said, standing up to face her through the bars.

knoxI had been parked on Vanderbilt Avenue and asleep in the backseat when she broke into my car and sped off down the road.  She must have had no idea I was there, for when she caught a glimpse of me in the rearview mirror she did a quick double take and her eyeballs dilated.  Then she began screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you doing in my Prius?” I slurred, half-drunk and slightly amused by the terrified and utterly attractive stranger driving my hybrid.  I looked down at my chest and noticed that there was a rainbow flower lei around my neck.  Out the passenger side window it appeared that we were speeding uncontrollably along a residential stretch of block near campus.  In my stupor I was both confused and giddy, and began laughing uncontrollably.  Tracey

I was still laughing and she was still screaming when she lost control of the steering wheel. The Prius suddenly veered left, hopping a curb and tearing through a well-kept lawn. We unearthed a flowerbed before eventually crashing into an oak tree.

I must have hit my face against the roof of the car because I was now covered in blood, the site of which only made me laugh harder.  She was thrashing about wildly in the front seat looking for a way out. Her berserk movements reminded me of a badger that I had once trapped in a tiny cage, the thought of which was also quite hilarious to me.

“Badger! Woodland creature!” I croaked.  “I demand you quell your kerfuffle at once and state to me your coarse intentions.”

Continue reading ‘Tracey, the interloper (Part I)’

losangelesWhen people badmouth the aching sprawl of Los Angeles, I always find myself defending the city, even though it’s left me in tatters multiple times. It’s like when your woman leaves you and all your friends can do is call her a low-down cooze and you tell them to back off, because deep down you just want her to take you back.

Los Angeles, though, despite its reputation for being vapid and bland, has a resonate history, which is literally steeped with beautiful stories of disappointment, heartache and misdirected dreams. There’s a reason the hottest girl from your high school moved here. Same with your cool, slightly cocaine-addled cousin who was in that punk band. And let’s not forget your best friend, who dreamed of joining LA’s great literary tradition of failed alcoholic writers.

I love downtown LA, in it’s faded 20s era glory. And I love old Hollywood architecture. And I love the glow of tan, young bodies, lining the sidewalks of Santa Monica. But I also love the less iconic areas of LA. Skid Row, and Highland Park, and, by God, the San Fernando Valley! There’s a bar in Koreatown called the Smog Cutter, filled with destitute drunks, serviced by strangely talkative Filipino women (with terrible English). A daytime, lovesick bender at a place like the Smog Cutter really makes you feel like you’re doing something with your time.

IWroteThisForYouI Wrote This For You

I have no idea what the real story behind this blog is. It was sent to me by an old friend,  who said it reminded her of me. The blog, is the online equivalent of scrawling a message for someone who left you on the inside of a paperback and then leaving it in a park, never knowing whether or not they’re going to see it, but hoping, wishing.

The heading of the blog reads:

I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. You were meant to read these words.

Then, each post couples a haunting photograph with a short message to the writers lost love. Messages, such as:

“I used to carve your name in trees, hoping you would find them. The internet has made this so much easier than it used to be.


“I leave clues everywhere. But you don’t see them. I’m hoping one day, someone will find this and show it to you.

Another one I enjoyed:

“Remember when we used to fight over whose music we’d listen to in the car? I was too this and you were too that. And so we compromised and sat in the silence.

I haven’t heard that in a while.”

Never have I seen the ephemeral nature of the internet medium used so well to articulate loss. I hope the writer never winds up reuniting with his muse.

knox“Just got back from Dubai. Soooooo jetlagged. You have to go, Knox, I’m telling you. Weirdest high end parties you’ll ever go to, and I can tell you’ve been to some weird high end parties before.”

martiniI was enthralled. Allie lived harder, more successfully than any woman I’d ever met before. The third date we’d ever been on, she put four bottles of wine on her corporate card and then, in the middle of dinner at a four-star restaurant, she slit a giant cut down her palm and insisted I do the same.

“C’mon. Let’s be blood lovers. Put the shocked look away. I’m clean.”

The next morning, we both called in sick and hitchhiked up to her grandpa’s old farm in New England. Maybe some white drugs were brought out. Maybe some glassware and/or rare American folk art was smashed to bits. Maybe the cops were called on suspicion of a home invasion, but were sweet-talked out of snooping around by Allie, even though we could conjure no proof that we had any right to be there. Truth is, it’s all a blur.

Allie disappeared for a week after we got back. I didn’t care. Her absence fueled my imagination. ‘Where’d Allie sneak off to this time,” I’d daydream as I sleepwalked through work. She showed up at my office with two first class plane tickets to Mexico City. “There’s a conference this weekend and I’d rather not go to alone.”
Continue reading ‘Allie, the reluctant truth’

So last week someone sent in a post on how Portland was a great city to be heartbroke in. We assumed it was just a simple one-off piece, until we recieved ANOTHER submission on a different city. After a little thought, I’ve decided to start a new category of post, called heartbroke cities, where the post isn’t about who broke your heart, but WHERE they broke your heart. I’ll be drafting a few of my own, but here’s an anonymous submission on the shady side of Montreal and why it’s a fine place to wallow in your depression.

hochelagaThough internationally it is more renowned for its European architecture and acclaimed indie rock acts, Canadians know that Montreal has one of the seediest red light districts in North America. Strolling down the eastern edge of Rue Saint-Catherine, past St-Denis, there’s some of the grossest strip clubs you’ll ever encounter, each advertising “dance-contact,” where lowlifes are encouraged to rub their hands all over the dancers during private performances. While this would seem a fine place to to stop and embrace your woes, keep walking past the gay village and you’ll reach Hochelaga, as destitute a ghetto as you’ll find anywhere, made more foreign by the fact that every broken down soul haunting the streets is Quebecois. Find yourself the first dive that looks open and soak in the cigarette smoke, the depressed old drunks playing slot machines, the aged prostitutes eying you up and down and the amateur hockey highlights on perpetual loop. Pull a seat up at the bar and proceed to drink yourself blind.

mailboxMy boyfriend recently broke up with me and it’s all my fault. Basically, our relationship was marked by jealousy on my side, because he’s a male stripper and I was always freaked out by the fact that ladies and dudes ogled over him every night. Now we’re over and I’m destroyed emotionally. I want to tell my boyfriend I’d do anything to get back together. I just feel like we’re meant to be together, but he won’t he even pick up the phone to hear me out. What do you think I should do?

Continue reading ‘ask Knox: stripper dating’

knoxShanghai. The early 00s. I got an offer to help start a media company with an old colleague. It fell through right after my visa was approved. I guess contracts written in Chinese are a little less firm than those here in the states. I decided to move to Shanghai anyway. It’d been a couple of years since I’d lived abroad and my relationship with Paloma had been hanging over my time in Los Angeles, so getting out of country seemed like the right thing to do. I could survive off savings and try to pick up some freelance magazine writing in the meantime.Daphne

The city was as alive as any place I’d ever lived in and among the expat community, there was the feeling that we were all witnessing something ‘once in a lifetime.’ I met Daphne my fourth night, introduced by a mutual friend in The States who suggested we link up. She was a scout for a bleeding-edge gallery in New York, whose knowledge of contemporary art and Mandarin helped land her the gig and I was excited to meet her, thinking maybe there was an easy article about her to be had. Daphne, however, just wanted to talk about her ex back in Brooklyn.
Continue reading ‘Daphne, the detached’


The story behind Here, My Dear, the album this cut is taken from has already been well-documented. To quickly give the context, Gaye was nearly broke when he agreed to a divorce from his wife, so instead of paying alimony, his lawyer negotiated a settlement where his ex would keep half the royalties from his next album. When he stepped into the studio, he initially planned to half ass it, but was wrought with passion during the sessions and instead produced a startling document of the breakdown of his marriage.

I really enjoy this specific track, because it captures the vindictiveness and anger which often marks the dissolution of marriages. The funk track which backs it, though, has Gaye reflecting with a little bit of distance, creates a funky, catchy song, but which is imbued with sadness. I could write an HBA post for every track on this LP, but I thought this would make a fine entry point to one of the most heartbreaking albums of all time. If anyone can find it on vinyl, let me know

knox8Growing up with a military father wasn’t always easy.  The old man was a bitter alcoholic who cursed in his sleep and wouldn’t sit in a restaurant if his back faced a window or the door.  Furthermore, it seemed that as soon as I started to make some friends in whatever city we were living in, we’d get moved again to some other place and I’d have to start over.  My mother couldn’t stand it, so she left when I was five.  And my sister ran away when she was 15.  I ended up getting shipped off to live with my aunt while dad did his damndest to drink himself to death.

Needless to say, me and my dad were not very close.  I mean, the guy had me call him, “Sir.”  And he had a wicked left hook that leveled me more times than I care to remember.  He always said I could never take a real punch.

I went to visit him one day when I was 22 and I found him sitting in an easy chair, alone in a dark house, smoking a Marlboro and drinking Old Crowe straight from the bottle.
“Knox,” he said.  “You know the doctors tell me that all this drinking is bad for my cognitive abilities.”.

“You don’t say?” I said.

“They say it’ll affect my memory.  Say that I’ll start forgetting things.”

“They’re probably right, dad,” I said.

He didn’t seem to notice my response.  “But no matter how much I drink, son, the memories won’t go away.  Even in my sleep.”
Continue reading ‘My dad, the military man’

This was sent in by a reader who asked to remain anonymous.  It’s about how a certain city can be perfect to “wallow” in after having your lover leave you for a two-bit hack of a poetry teacher.  I encourage you all, dear readers, to comment.  What city do you think is the best to drink yourself to near-death while pining over lost love?  There will be more to come on this topic next week…

3374412652_b28a5d4807The winter comes in around November and just sits on your face for the next six months.  It’s during these never-ending rainy winters that one can find dark and depressing, lovesick meaning in just about everything he sees.  Soggy McDonald’s napkins stuck to the pavement; a shoeless hobo with a cardboard sign that reads, “I just want my childhood back”; a pregnant mother smoking menthols; snobby Reed students on Burnside in coffee shops drawing sketches of coffee cups and wondering if This Feeling will ever go away; your wet shoes and socks and cuffs of jeans dragging on the sidewalk; a chest cold that just won’t go away; postcards in the stationary stores with pictures of tropical islands that exist somewhere.  Continue reading ‘Cities to break your heart in: Portland, OR’

esquireWhen I was in my early teens, I started reading Esquire magazine, though I’m not exactly sure why. I think I sensed that my father wasn’t doing a good enough job of teaching me how to be a man, so I wanted to find more reputable sources. I certainly wasn’t old enough to understand most of the advice or to contextualize the worldview presented, but still, I thought it assisted in me my two noble(?) goals of both being manly and being sophisticated. I haven’t picked it up since, except maybe in the Doctor’s office, but I still believe that there’s a need for discourse in unearthing how to be an effective, 21st century man. It’s with this in mind that I’d like to share today’s diversion, 1001 rules for my unborn son, a simple blog, with clear written thoughts on how to achieve manhood.

While I don’t agree with ALL the advice, most of it is valid, simple, and worth considering for anyone, man or woman. Things like “212. Make yourself useful on a boat,” and “36. If you absolutely have to fight, punch first and punch hard,” is the type of advice we all need vocalized at least once in our lives. Enjoy.

knoxI woke up groggy, with my sister and my friend Caleb at my bedside. The last thing I remembered, I was drunk, climbing Jan’s fire escape to break into her house. She’d forgotten her keys at some dive on East Colfax, and since we’d been kicked out of the place for causing a drunken scene, it didn’t seem worth going back to look for them.

“Where’s Jan?” I asked.

janCaleb and my sister looked at each other.

Caleb, who must have driven in from Colorado Springs, took a deep breath. “She called to say you were here, but we haven’t heard from her since.”

“How long have I been out?”

“Just two days. They got you on a bunch of painkillers. You fucked your back up, proper. They’re not sure if you’re going to walk again.” Tears started to stream down my sister’s face.

I chuckled, bitterly, and said, “It’s OK, sis. I was always emotionally crippled, so maybe it’s all right.”

mailboxKnox, me and my boyfriend are in a long distance relationship of one and a half years, and I can’t shake the feeling that he’s cheating on me. What’s worse, he’s applying for grad schools and I’m waiting to see where he gets in, and then we’re going to decide where I’m going to follow him to move, and I know it will work out once we’re in the same city, but I’m not sure if we can hold out. Do you have any advice?

Continue reading ‘ask Knox: long distance is the wrong distance’