Billiken Extra & Backstory

billikenextra2For around a decade, I found myself in a deeply-patterned work life, splitting time between teaching appointments at a local college and freelance writing assignments. On some levels, these were worthy ways to make a living. But the lack of certainty in both fields eventually lead me to leave teaching, while continuing to write for a few local publications and sites. Turning to a completely new career (co-owning and operating a South Side tavern, The Tick Tock) ensured that I’d spend every day of the last 13-months learning something new. Freelance writing on the side’s been doable, but challenging.

My current goal is to transition from daily operations of the place within 2015, now that good business patterns and habits have been established, though I’ll still have a direct, near-daily impact on the workings of the bar, through booking events, purchasing, promotions and my marathon Tuesday shift behind the bar (4-7 p.m, donchaknow).

Freelancing through this process, though, has taken a toll, in its own way. While I enjoy some really great editors, there’s still a stress level involved in the story-to-story pitch process, let alone the pursuit of national clips. Even longer-term ideas have suffered; a project that I undertook this year, the “Ax to Table” experiment for Feast, has listed. Other ideas never found funding or a green light with editors. (And here I’ll note that Stefene Russell, culture editor at, gets my lifelong respect for her continued support of my work, in its various forms.) The idea of forming a tight circle of independent, individually-run projects has been my goal for a few months now and the first step in this direction comes with Billiken Extra, which is launching today.

The site’s live. The impish mascot, courtesy of Kevin Belford, is secured. A complementary side project, a weekly feature story for, is set begin today. And, yes, here comes the money part: the Indiegogo campaign is underway.

My hope with this is that a hunch pays off. The idea’s this: SLU sports are under-represented in local media coverage. I go to my share of SLU sports games. I write. Hey, I could write about SLU sports! While I’m not going to say “no” to anyone’s contributions, my target for contributions to this site are primarily the people who enjoy the program, but feel it could be better-presented in local media.

So. Here’s another media experiment. And another public can-shake.

The creative process is well-underway. The stories are going up, interviews are arranged and my own life is being reorganized. If you wanna help the latter go a bit more-smoothly, your tip of a dollar is welcome. I hope my hunch don’t go sideways. Thanks for reading.