WELCOME to my website!

I imagine you haven't stumbled upon this by accident, but if you have, you'll probably need a bit of an explanation.

 

My name is Richard Morris, but it hasn't always been and isn't always!

Below, you'll find a detailed directory of my website, projects, alter egos and whatever else I may be up to these days.

This website is aptly named after one of my childhood nicknames, Jack of All Trades, lovingly given to me by my father due to my quirky and eclectic love for doing too many things at once (well, everything except schoolwork) while never really succeeding at any of them (schoolwork included)!

Born Richard Sandman in Chicago in 1963, I was adopted by mother's second husband Robert Morris in 1971. In 1993, on the eve of my 30th birthday and publication of my first book of poetry, I did the adopting this time (so to speak) and appropriated my writer's nom de plume R.M. Usatinsky, based on the anglicized spelling of my maternal great-grandfather's Russian surname. 

I have spent a lifetime dedicated to following my whims and passions. I have had more than 100 jobs, most notably a 26-year career as teacher.

 

Having left the teaching profession in 2018, I currently work as a professional barber in The Hague, Netherlands, where I have lived since 2010. I also design bow ties, write poetry, fiction, blogs and essays and play in a revamped version of my 1980s new wave band. I'm launching my first podcast, "The Jack," in February of 2021 and somewhere along the way I've managed to raise five children. 

So, whatever's brought you here today, I'm delighted to welcome you to my world and invite you to peruse these pages—always a work in progress—that will, over time, become the repository for all of my creative and business ventures. A "one stop shop" of me, if you would!

Enjoy your browsing!

Richard

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When I formed the new wave band Café Society in Los Angeles in the summer of 1982, I was a 19-year-old from Chicago who probably could have never imagined it would take 38 long years before I would release my band’s first single and music video.

 

But they say that good things come to those who wait…

 

Over the next five years, Café Society would become one of L.A.’s most beloved unsigned local bands, playing alongside up and coming artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Meat Puppets, TSOL, Cock Robin, Bang Bang, Steve Vai, Los Lobos and The Minutemen. In 1985, the band was introduced by Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers as "The greatest opening band in L.A."

In 1987, after five years, dozens of gigs and a handful of studio sessions, I decided to return to Chicago to attend law school at DePaul University. But while attending my 10-year grammar school reunion that September, I re-connected with an old childhood friend and decided to put my college plans on hold and travel to Spain with my friend.

 

Living in Granada, in Spain’s southern Andalucía region for more than a year, I spent much of my creative energy on writing songs, poetry, short stories and one-act plays and decided to return home to pursue my academic studies—not in law as I had once desired—but something quite a bit different.

 

In the spring of 1988, I enrolled at The Theatre School of DePaul University in their new playwriting program, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in June of 1992. I stayed on at DePaul earning a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (English, History & Education) in June of 1994. I completed my teacher training at Stephen T. Mather High School on Chicago’s north side…the same high school where I graduated nine years earlier and was—during most of my high school career—an underachieving student, graduating near the bottom of my class.

 

Putting my creative aspirations aside, I became a teacher and remained an educator for 26-years. I moved back to Spain in June of 1996 where I would remain until 2008. After living in Liverpool, England for two years, I relocated to the Netherlands with his Dutch partner and our five children in August of 2010. 

 

In 2019, I joined forces with Russian bass guitarist Andrey Zakharov and Paraguayan drummer Christian Palmieri to re-form Café Society…32 years after disbanding the original L.A.-based group.

In March of 2020, Andrey, Chris and I recorded the first Café Society single, “Daylight Storm,” at SAE in Amsterdam. The track features L.A.-based Irish-Cypriot composer, musician and producer Jason Soudah, who contributed both the keyboard parts and mixing, and original Café Society saxophone player Jeff Dellisanti, with whom I reunited after 35 years on the recording.

“Daylight Storm” was released on Café Society’s indie label Retro Records on 15 August 2020. A music video, directed by Barbadian-St. Maartener director Kristen Sorton and features Morris and his three youngest daughters premiered on 23 August 2020. 

 

On February 28th 2021, Andrey, Christian and I plan to return to the studio, this time in The Hague, collaborating with producer and sound engineer Barry Olthof, to record two new tracks. Joining in and making her musical debut, my daughter, B.J. Morris, will play keyboards on the new tracks. Also featured on the recordings will be the original Café Society horn section—Dan Levine (trombone), Anne King (trumpet) and Jeff Dellisanti (saxophone)—reuniting for the first time since 1985, recording their parts remotely from New York and Los Angeles.

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To commemorate the tenth anniversary of my Poem-A-Day Project, I am reprising my daily poetry challenge in 2021.

Every day this year—from January 1st until the 31st of December—I will create a new poem inspired by whatever moves me at the moment I sit down to compose that day's poem, publishing them here with subscription-free access for all.  

Every Tuesday throughout the year, I will write and publish one bonus poem that will be available exclusively to my Patrons on Patreon.

In 2022, I will publish a book of my complete poems, spanning more than 40 years of poetry writing. The complete collection of poems will be published in a limited edition hardbound book available for purchase. As an added feature, I'm considering releasing some of the poems in this collection as spoken word recordings by a variety of special guest readers. Enjoy the year!

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Everybody dreams. Though few people actually remember their dreams, and the ones who do, usually only retain those recollections for a few minutes after waking.

Since I was a child, I have had rich, vivid dreams and the ability to recall many of them upon awakening.

 

My earliest memories are of recurring dreams about being chased by jesters and cars plummeting off the Michigan Avenue Bridge into the Chicago River.

In my late teens to early 20s, I had another recurring dream where I was walking home from high school--north on Mozart--when I felt a rush of cool air coming from behind me. I stopped to turn around and noticed an enormous planet filling up the sky to the south.​ 

 

Assuming it was a nuclear war, I ducked into a gangway and huddled against a wall in the darkness and fell asleep.

When I awoke, I walked out of the gangway to see everything covered in snow, but I did not feel the cold. I started running towards home and the streets were filled with enemy troops marching alongside tanks and other military vehicles. 

Over the years, I have only occasionally  written down my dreams though every now and again I have a dream that makes an impression and I have posted those to Facebook over the past decade or so.

Finally, after a series of dreams I had in November of 2020, I decided to begin writing down all the dreams I remembered upon waking and posting them to this blog. 

Many of my recent dreams involve driving--especially in my hometown of Chicago. The cars oftentimes have brakes that function poorly but do not cause serious consequences.

 

Many dreams take place at my old high school, where I was both a student and a teacher during my time in graduate school. These dreams frequently involve my arriving to school or work late on my first day and being confused about where to go.

I also have had--and continue having--dreams about the restaurant where I worked during college, Bub City on Weed Street in Chicago. And as it turns out, I'm not the only one of the restaurant's original staff who have these dreams, which were coined "Bubmares" more than 25 years ago. 

For now, I'll continue keeping this journal of my subconscious life. I have always considered my dreams--or the fact that I can remember them so easily--to be both a blessing and a curse, though I rarely delve too deeply into their (possible) meanings and almost never consult sources of dream interpretation. 

For whatever reason you have stumbled upon this, I hope you find it interesting, entertaining and who knows, perhaps even enlightening. And maybe it will inspire you to keep a dream journal as well, a place where you can document your subconscious experiences and insights into your mind's innermost workings. 

Short Fiction

Essays

Plays

Poetry

I began writing at the age of 11. Not because I particularly liked writing or aspired to be a writer at that impressionable age, but merely to combat the boredom and angst I experienced as a young boy in Mrs. English's fourth grade class at DeWitt Clinton Elementary School in West Rogers Park on Chicago's far north side.

For me, writing was an escape, a way to temper my overactive imagination and calm my restless mind.

But Mrs. English—and dozens of teachers I would have in the years to come—would express agitation and concern about my lack of focus (and satisfactory grades), which in turn led to a less than sterling academic career and a childhood that was spent searching for ways to satisfy my insatiable need to create without getting myself into too much trouble.

I went to college at the ripe old age of 25, becoming the oldest student in theatre department at DePaul University when I enrolled in the spring of 1988. And while I had finally found what seemed to be a safe place to channel my creative energy, I soon discovered that my way of creating wasn't exactly what appeased the academic world and I was soon branded an upstart and agitator.

But I graduated in less than four years and stayed on at DePaul, earning a Master's Degree heavy on writing and allowing me the opportunity to spread my creative wings.

And at the end of that two-year journey, my final project—one I chose in lieu of writing a traditional thesis—was to plan, research, write, release and market a self-published book as one of the first student's to be conferred the degree of Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in the first year of that program at DePaul. 

That book, "My Zayde: A Recollection," an oral history-based collection of poems which told the story of the life and times of my maternal great-grandfather in poetic vignettes, gave me the opportunity I had been searching for all my life: to write what I wanted to write and create something from start to finish on my terms and without constantly being lambasted for not following the rules. I received an A on my graduation project and a 3.3 overall GPA, in line with the average for English and History majors at that time. 

It was while putting the finishing touches on that project that the idea of using R.M. Usatinsky as my pen name occurred to me and, more so, I felt it was a fitting homage to my great-grandfather whose original surname was Usatinsky before being shortened to Satin upon his arrival from the Russian Empire at Ellis Island in 1923. The name stuck and I've been using it professionally ever since.

It's been more than a quarter of a century since adopting this new alter ego, and I feel totally at ease with my writer's persona and equally content with the strides I continue making in this satisfying creative endeavor. 

On these pages, you will find my complete literary works—the plays, poems, essay, novels and novellas—representing more than 40 years of creative output.

While commercial success has eluded me all these years, I have continued approaching my craft with the same passion and enthusiasm of a best-selling author, lauded poet or highly acclaimed playwright. 

 

Over the years, writing has become, for me, a constant companion, a trustworthy friend in whom I entrust my most closely guarded secrets, deepest desires and a lifetime of transforming my human experience into fictional works of art.   

I moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduating from high school in 1981 with the single objective of becoming a rock star.

 

While working two jobs as a bank teller and bartender at a comedy club in the Valley, I soon began training as a professional hairstylist under the supervision of my cousin, famed Beverly Hills hairstylist Allen Edwards (Julianne Moore, Renee Zellweger, Laura Flynn Boyle, Donna Mills, Raquel Welch).

 

With steadfast ambition to pursue my musical endeavors, I left the salon some six months later, but taking with me an unforgettable experience, one I hoped I'd have the chance to pursue again in the future. 

 

Today, after a rewarding 25-year career as an educator, writer and father of five, I have returned to the timeless art of classic gentleman's barbering. 

Following a six-month apprenticeship under Master barber Sam Aydani of Benoah Barbers in The Hague, I created THE NIGHT BARBER concept, a unique barbering experience offering exclusive evening and late night hours catering to 9-to-5ers, students and business travelers. 

From Benoah Barbers on The Hague’s emblematic Noordeinde street in the heart of the Royal Shopping Quarter, the Night Barber popped up in the epicenter of The Hague’s vibrant Hofkwartier nightlife district on the Oude Molstraat during the summer of 2018. 

In September 2018, the Night Barber set up shop at Domo Eclectica at Annastraat 11, an extraordinary gallery space featuring an eclectic assortment of the finest handmade, homemade and antique wares created by artisans from all corners of the world. 

From March 1st 2019, The Night Barber set up shop at the newly established Rahula Hair & Lifestyle concept located in the heart of The Hague at Spui 263, providing the ultimate gentleman’s barbering experience featuring classic haircuts, a wonderfully luxurious lemon-eucalyptus steam straight razor shave and meticulous beard maintenance for facial hair of any style.

I am proud of what I have accomplished in these few short years, having recently completed a three-day advanced course at the world-famous Schorem Barbershop and Old School Barber Academy in Rotterdam and having been selected as a Treatwell Top Rated establishment in 2020, with more than 250 five-star reviews. 

 

Starting my fourth year as professional barber, I am looking forward to serving my loyal customers, building my clientele and striving to improve my skills to continue offering my customers the unique and enjoyable barbershop experience they have come to know.   

I invite you to try my services, whether a traditional gentleman's haircut, old-school styles, meticulous beard maintenance or baby-smooth shaves either by straight razor or the modern luxury of the electric foil shaver. And of course you're always welcome to cold beverage and a friendly chat. Reserve your NIGHT BARBER appointment HERE.

MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER arrived in the United States on September 7th 1923, determined to make a better life for himself, his wife and their two young children who ventured over land and sea from Eastern Europe during a time of great social unrest.

 

A butcher and grain merchant by trade, Sam Satin (née Yehoshua Usatinsky) found work as an “installment dealer” on Chicago’s west side, peddling his wares and making rounds to collect on his accounts each week. Selling mostly household goods to homemakers, his love of fashion saw him occasionally dealing in fine silk accessories for men such as neckties, scarves, pocket squares and his favorite accessory…the bow tie! 

As a young boy growing up in the 1960s wearing Buster Brown shoes, knee socks and bow ties, my own childhood embraced an appreciation for fashion. Years later, my love for bow ties surfaced anew in 1992 while working Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, where neckties often got in the way and were considered a hazard in many aspects of my work as a child life specialist. 

After a lifetime of admiring and proudly wearing them for nearly a quarter century, I noticed that some of my oldest, most beloved bow ties were starting to show their age, becoming thin and frayed. 

Living in the Netherlands, where bow tear wearing was almost unobserved and the rare bow tie one would find at a department store was almost always a pre-tied, strap-around-the-neck version, I turned to the internet.

While I found aa wide variety of bow ties online, buying brands other than Ralph Lauren or Paul Smith was always a hit or miss affair. A bought a few more expensive ones whose quality was quite inferior, and likewise, purchased a few more affordable ones whose quality was quite good. But none were as good—price or design-wise—as my Ralph Lauren Polo bows. 

Then one day, I stumbled upon an old YouTube episode of Martha Stewart making handmade bow ties with her guest who showed how fast, easy and inexpensive it was to make them as Christmas gifts. That aroused my curiosity and I started combing the web for inspiration and what I discovered soon thereafter, became the inspiration for starting my own bow tie company.

I came upon an interview with one of my favorite actors, Daniel Day-Lewis who, as the story goes, moved his family to Italy one year on whim after having met the late, famed Italian shoemaker Stefano Bemer, with whom the actor spent a year on the cobbler's bench learning how to make shoes.

That was all the inspiration I needed, so I laid the foundation for my new company by traveling to Kent, in southern England, establishing a working relationship with one of the oldest silk weaving mills in the U.K. and a small workroom some 50 miles away where silk accessories had been made for nearly a century. Usatinsky Bow Ties was in business!

 

All of my designs are meticulously handmade in England from the finest British-milled silk, linen and wool and my Usatinsky Bow Ties boast timeless designs and heirloom quality suitable for just about any occasion. 

More than 90 years after my great-grandfather left the “old continent”—where I have made my home since 1996—I am delighted to not only revive and carry on the family name, but also the time-honored tradition of providing goods of extraordinary quality and exceptional value, something Sam Satin would be truly pleased to see.

   

I invite you to acquire a Usatinsky Bow Tie with the hope that you—or the lucky soul who you gift one to—wear my bow ties well, wear them often, and wear them in the best of health and happiness. Click HERE to shop the collection and remember that Usatinsky Bow Ties can be delivered to every address on the planet and always with free international tracked shipping. 

In my final year as a Lecturer in English at the renowned Hotelschool The Hague, I was invited to speak at their first ever TEDx event, "Brave New World."

 

When I was approached by the student organizers, I told them I wanted to represent the "E" in TED, which so many people think stands for "Education," (and they can't be blamed as it does make perfect sense). However, the "E" is for "Entertainment," and that is what I wanted to do in the form of telling a story, as opposed to pretending to be an inspirational/motivational type speaker (which the world surely has enough of!).

 

In my TEDx Hotelschool talk “At My Age,” I contemplate entrepreneurship in my 50s, and how having dreams can come true at any stage of life. The talk was closely intertwined with my own personal reflexions of being a "late bloomer" and demonstrating through my personal experiences how brave new worlds can emerge when you least expect it and opportunities are nearly as easy to come by as tying a bow tie.

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