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Jason McDowell is also known as Little Tiny Fish. He is the Creative Director for OnMilwaukee. Occasionally he freelances. Mostly he rides bikes.

littletinyfish.com is not a cohesive blog, but a repository of musings on an assortment of topics, such as design, art, cycling, Milwaukee, and other personal experiences.

This weekend I went out with Tim from Teecycle.org to do some tee-shirt modeling. Our location, this time, was Klode Park, located at the top of Whitefish Bay. It’s a small park with “No Dogs Allowed” signs posted everywhere but with plenty of dogs still roaming around. At one point a police officer staked himself on the road, but given the relative fanciness of the area and lack of ticketing the dog owners (thankfully) I had no idea what he was there for and he soon left.

Once I we started the photographic process I noticed a small problem starting to develop. At the Bike Co-Op we call it “The Syndrome.” That is I inevitably want to purchase everything I put on. The camera Tim uses is quite simple, but it does a bang up job of capturing the right saturation of colors and a nice, subtle grain. I’d also like to say it does a great job making me look good, but I’d like to take at least some of the credit for that.

While we were there we were met by a very forthright miniature ground squirrel who popped onto the park’s path, throwing himself in the way of our oncoming feet, bicycles, and other tee shirt modeling gear, and demanded food. He made a good case for himself; he was just too irresistible to turn down. I had the scraps of a peanut butter sandwich from earlier and tossed a crumb his way. When he finished he demanded more. I put the crumb in my hand and he hopped on and I picked him up. “This is probably not the greatest idea habituating these little guys to humans. It’s screwing around with nature,” I said, but it provided for the perfect Teecycle shot. Me in a Boy Scout t-shirt, communing with furry woodfolk.

While we continued to shoot in various locations around the park the little guy kept following us, and we kept his belly stocked for the winter. We even saw a brother of his in the parking lot, following so closely behind a family he almost get stepped on. “Watch out,” we warned. The family turned around and, spooked by their pursuer, screamed and jumped into their SUV.

We all laughed at how freaked they were by such a small (though admittedly demanding) creature until, without realizing it, they put the car in reverse, backed out of their spot, and crushed the back legs of the tiny squirrel.

It all too uncomfortably illustrated the point I brought up earlier. That puffy–tailed squirrel learned that the parking lot was the easiest way to get food and as a result, tangled with something much larger than he ever anticipated. As the poor guy was struggling to figure out what had just happened and how he could get out of the situation, we knew the only answer was to finish the job.

Feeding that little squirrel gave us the syndrome. We knew we couldn’t take responsibility for this animal, and we knew it wasn’t wise, but we did it anyway. And the reality of the gravity of the situation was much harsher than a closet full of t-shirts.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. This is such a well told story. I was interested all the way to the end, worried about what would happen to this squirrel.

    Excited to see Tim’s pictures 😀

    Ashe Dryden · 2008-10-01 07:40 · #

  2. Great Story. Question: Isn’t that a baby gray squirrel? I thought a ground squirrel was a colloquialism for “chipmunk.”

    Heygabe · 2008-10-01 13:27 · #

  3. That picture and story are adorable… but your arm looks strange.

    It Girl · 2008-10-02 09:06 · #

  4. @Heygabe It could be. I guess I didn’t think it was a gray squirrel because it had red fur. Maybe it’s baby fur? I don’t really know, as I am no expert on miniature woodland folk.

    littletinyfish · 2008-10-02 15:11 · #

This weekend Milwaukee was loaded and packed to the brim with things to do. There was the Downer Avenue Bike Race, Brady Street Days, a Bay View block party, The Riverwest 24, a free rummage sale on Holton, GermanFest, Critical Mass, Bar Camp Madison, Secret Chiefs 3 (with aquaintence and opener, The Demix) and plenty more that I’m unaware of. If you were bored this weekend, you’re an idiot.

As for me, I picked up a new pair of padded biking shorts and chose the Riverwest 24, a 24–hour bike race through the Riverwest neighborhood. The course was approximately five miles long and within the 24–hour time period I managed to make the circle 23 times. Every two hours new bonus spots would be rewarded. If you made it to the spot and accomplished the goal you’d be rewarded with an extra lap. For this special occasion, my friend Tracy and I designed and spray painted our team logo on the back of our shirts.“O! My taint!” Most thought it to be quite appropriate.

Things started out well as we felt out the course. The wind was minimal on the first day and tolerable the next. Our trail took us through four checkpoints and just as many block parties. It took us down the busy Humboldt Ave, across the Milwaukee River via the Marsupial Bridge, and through the side–streets of Riverwest. Neighbors often cheered, even early in the dusky morning.

During the day–long event I was mostly biking along with Tracy, and periodically with my friend Clifton. We took Beagle breaks, bathroom breaks, and breakfast breaks. At one point my kevlar tires allowed a punctured tube and difficulties patching the tube caused me to lose some time.

We left for the East Side at 1 in the morning in order re–charge with Pizza from Pizza Shuttle. By 4am we decided to take a two–and–a–half hour nap. I’m not a morning person and when I got up I was in full–on zombie mode, but we headed out to the breakfast point, where we were served up Vegan pancakes.

The next few laps were accomplished on sheer willpower alone. Just keep moving forward, I kept telling myself. Despite my weariness, I pushed myself harder, and forced a happier mood each time I stopped for a checkpoint, pretending that this was the easiest thing in the world.

After we made the 20th circle we took a lunch break for cereal and eggs. I felt better, but not for much longer. I was able to squeeze out three more laps and, just before we started the fourth lap, my body gave out. I felt sick and tired and angry and felt like I wanted to cry. I could barely walk and standing was making me nauseous. I went home, grabbed my dog, Frutiger, and headed to the finish line. I laid on the ground and passed in and out of consciousness for the next 3 hours. Tracy completed her goal of 25 laps and came back with a peanut butter sandwich and a cracker pack, which improved my mood tremendously.

After the race was over we had to leave before the final results were in (The race board noted that some teams had made over 100 laps) because we had to go lend our tired support to The Demix at the Secret Chiefs 3 show at the Turner Ballroom. The music there was loud. Deafeningly loud. I had to keep fingers in my ears at times because the experimental noise, while artistically and entertainingly arranged, was ear piercing. And even so, I was still managing to nod off.

It was a punishing 24 hours, but I’m very satisfied to see just how far I was able to push my mind and body. I wish I could have gone further, but I really believe I reached my limits. Before the end of the race we were already talking about plans for next year. “We’re definitely doing teams next year,” we said, but there’s still a part of me that wants to go solo again.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. I’m proud of you and I’m glad you didn’t get hit by a car. Yay for not being killed by a car! 😀

    Ashe · 2008-07-28 17:26 · #

  2. Yes!! Great article and I loved the shirts you and tray made!

    KeVroN · 2008-07-28 19:10 · #

  3. Man, I know exactly how you feel. Wish I could have been there. I’m in for next year.

    Incidentally, I’m typing this while sitting on your brother’s couch in Lincoln, Nebraska. Crazy!

    Teecycle Tim · 2008-08-03 17:04 · #

Daniel Johnston played a mesmerizing set and wished everybody a “Merry Christmas” at the Turner Hall Ballroom last night. It’s the middle of February, obviously, but as he pointed out, “With all this snow, you’d think it was Christmas.” That’s the kind of whimsical naïveté that points the spotlight on Johnston’s song writing abilities. John Sieger & the Subcontinentals and The Scarring Party opened the show.

Every time I go to see a show at the Turner Hall Ballroom, something is different, whether it’s the entrance point, the start time, the floor layout or even improvements on the acoustics. Unlike the last couple of rock shows I’ve attended, this time we were greeted with a floor full of tables with candles, each with two chairs pointed towards the stage. It was a kind of sweet ambiance, as Johnston’s music is less about the rocking out, and more about life reflection.

When Daniel Johnston took the stage his hands were shaking, his fists were clenched and his eyes were closed. I first took this to be nervousness, but as the set went on, I could see that Johnston seemed barely aware that there was even an audience in the room. Even when the crowd was heckling / requesting, it fell on deaf ears. Usually you can see the recognition in a performer’s eyes, when they hear a shout out and choose to ignore it, but all I could see was an intensity in Johnston’s eyes, deep below his furrowed, bushy eyebrows. To him, it seemed, this was no time to be thinking about anything else, except this song. The result of this focus? Well, the first song wasn’t particularly “good.” It lacked pacing, Johnston’s voice never seemed to find a key, and the song may have been under-practiced. But none of that really mattered, because the intention was there, and the audience sensed that. At the song’s closing, the crowd broke the delicate atmosphere with whistling and clapping.

At first Johnston was the sole performer on stage: a large, round man standing in front of the skinny microphone stand, clutching a back-packer guitar — a sort of mini, snubbed guitar that truncates the reverberation of the strings. (Think ukelele, but with more power.) It was alone, under the spotlight, that all of the ironies that comprised this musician were made obvious: He was a powerful character, yet entirely timid. His performances were clumsy, but his music was beautiful. It seemed he didn’t want or recognize his fame, yet a full house was honored to watch him perform. He’s been compared to blues man Robert Johnson and country star Hank Williams, yet he is simply Daniel Johnston.

His instrumental performance was varied. On a few songs, Johnston’s fat fingers strummed his guitar, and later he ticked away on a piano (unfortunately for just one song) with an overwhelmingly bright sound. Most often, though, he was without an instrument, clenching his fists, or clutching the mic stand, backed by other musicians, including the openers John Sieger and the Subcontinentals. All through the performance, Johnston’s quality see-sawed between an endearingly child-like first recital and an impressively honest artist, who unabashedly announced his intentions, beliefs and fears, deep from within, without holding back. No matter what the quality of his performance, you knew when he meant what he said. When he sang the words “This is life, and everything’s alright,” I genuinely believed him.

Special guest John Sieger played the kind of tambourine–happy, Summerfest blues that is best enjoyed with a plastic cup in each hand. Opening band The Scarring Party played what they call “End–Timey” music, a combination of apocalypse–rooting, haunted jazz and folk with a hint of punk, held together by a diverse instrument line–up including banjo, accordion, tuba and typewriter. The new mellophone machine gives them a spookier sound, akin to Ramero–era horror films.