Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dune Club--Thoughts about The First Session

For the first time since college, I am participating in a group discussion of a book, and today was our first session.

The club is hosted on Twitch by ComicBookGirl19 and the book we're discussing is Dune by Frank Herbert.    

I'm loving it so far.  

I'm thrilled I finally get a chance to read this book.  I've wanted to read Dune for a long time but I'm easily side-tracked and my list of books to read is long and growing.  

And I dearly love ComicBookGirl19 (CBG19).  She's incredibly intelligent, well-read, and sure she's stunningly beautiful but honestly, I don't care about that.  You guys know me and you know all I care about is what's between the ears.  And a woman smarter than myself will always have my attention.  

Plus, she's soulful and she brings that to the table when discussing Dune, which is far more soulful and spiritual than I expected.  

Sadly, I have to work when the discussion is live, but once work was done I began following it.  I'm listening to it right now.  

She broke the book into five sessions and tonight we discussed pages 1-59.  

What stood out to me instantly was how over-developed the people of that world are and inferior I felt while reading about them.  

In the Dune world, machines (computers, AI) took over the world and subjugated humanity.  Humanity was left stupid without their machines to think for them and were enslaved until they revolted and re-established their dominance.  As a result, humans forbade machines be made that can think like a human.  Humans instead developed themselves mentally beyond anything we can comprehend today.  I felt stupid reading about these people.  

The MC of the book Paul Atraides, is hyper-aware of not only himself but of everybody around him to a point that is exhausting.  His mother, a witch, taught him to pay attention to minutiae that makes a human.  I find similarities in what his mother taught him and all kinds of various beliefs and religions.  Even Satanism teaches hyper-awareness of your demeanor and in observing another's.

There were a few obvious moments thus far.  Back in the 20th century, if you wanted your bad guy to be instantly hated, you gave him a Russian name.  So, the Barron's first name is Vladimir.   Obvious.

Something else I found interesting while reading the book was how bare the descriptions were.  After having seen the movie from the 80's several times, I was really looking forward to detailed descriptions of the planet Caladan.  Plus, I had hoped to learn more about the day to day lives of those in that hyper-advanced world.  But no, Herbert keeps the story moving forward, and doesn't give us much to work with.

There is some serious wisdom in this book.  The lines about "Fear being the mind-killer" is famous but also true.  How many times have we, as humans, be ruined by fear?  Or made bad choices because of fear?

I'm really excited about this book and I'm really happy about the book club.  I can't wait for next week and tonight I'll read pretty much all of the part for Session II.  And I'm so happy my friend Brittany gave me this book to read.  I would have never been able to afford to get it for my Kindle this week but she totally hooked me up.

This is exciting for me in a lot of ways and I have to wonder just how many of these books I'll end up reading.  But I'll worry about that later.  For now, I'm just happy to have another book to dive into and just enjoy.  It's been a while since I've found a book I can dive into like this.  Dune has really absorbed me unlike any book has for some time.     


Friday, July 7, 2017

The G-Forces of a Downward Spiral

It's 6:11am.

Our Hero can't sleep.  His sinuses keep swelling shut due to the allergies he has every summer.

An evil Mind Gremlin sneaks out the window, unseen by him, but the spell put upon him certainly worked.

Our Hero has been re-living the past.  Certain, select days from the past, in a three-day block from 27 years ago.  The way events unfolded in that memory, deep scars were dug, making them not easily forgotten.

The original events were difficult.  Families, abuse, alcoholism, and anger.  Lots of anger.

What the evil Mind Gremlin did was shine a bright light on that distant memory, highlighting it, calling it forth from the shadows, and forcing Our Hero to relive it over and over again.  But this time, he began to fantasize about what he could have done differently.  What he should have done differently.

It was the emotional equivalent to dumping a ton of gasoline-soaked straw on a dying fire.

Suddenly, Our Hero found himself in a battle inside his mind.  Rage.  He was consumed by rage as he thought about how he should have handled the situation.  He should have thrown the man down on the ground and kicked the shit out of him.  He should have beat him within an inch of his life.  He should have beat down upon him the sum of all his resentments while accusing the man's mother of being responsible for all that was wrong at that moment.

Our Hero found himself in a battle with a ghost.

But this battle is pointless and stupid.  He knows this.  Or rather, he's supposed to know this.  The spell put a fog on that knowledge.  So after a few minutes of rage flowing around in his brainpan, he came up for air.  He looked around his apartment and took a deep breath.

Then he focused on the moment in front of him.  The present.  The small actions of his fingers on the keyboard, the distant thunder of a storm that went around his village, the feel of the fan blowing in his hair.

So often, the solution to a problem is right in front of us.  The present.  What we're doing at that exact moment is far more powerful than any memory or dream or hope.

Our Hero doesn't own a time machine.  He can't fix the past, re-do certain events, or fix the many mistakes he made.  He can't foresee the future and he doesn't know the winning lottery numbers.  But he can focus on the moment he is in, at that exact time, and he can do something about it.

It's 6:30am.  Our Hero is still wide the fuck awake.  His sinuses are still clogged and he can't breathe through his nose in order to sleep.  But his head is quiet.  The ghost is gone and he's left with the empty moments of his life, alone in his apartment, his fingers on the keyboard.  It's the best he's got to work with right now and the best he can do.

He wonders, when his story gets re-told around the campfires, if this lesson will be included.  Small victories in isolation in the middle of the night rarely are and it's a shame.  They're usually the biggest victories of all.    

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ear Worms and Screaming Brains

I need to tell you this story.

Before I do, don't judge me.  I get ear worms.  Badly and often.  I get songs stuck in my head and they just don't leave.  Sometimes I'm lucky enough to have good songs stuck in my head but other times, my luck is typical of my life--shit.  And that's when I get horrible ear worms.

Earworms for me are often triggered by memories.   Last night, before I finally fell asleep, after days of not sleeping more than an hour or two, I was reminded of my time working at a gas station in Freeport.  I worked the late shift until close at midnight every night.

I have a lot of stories about those days.

But there's this memory that popped into my head.  It was back when cellphones first started to have ringtones you could adjust and replace with sound bites from your favorite song.  A regular customer, a beautiful eighteen year-old girl, had her phone ring while she was in line to pay for her gas.  It was a pop song that was so distorted I couldn't understand any of it.

She started dancing.  But it wasn't just dancing, it was this elaborate set of moves while she sang.  Sure, she was beautiful, but she was squirrely.  I like squirrely.

I asked her the song and she weirdly began to sing the song title.  "Rockstar," she said.

I went home that night and got on Youtube.

Something about me I should say right now--I have OCD badly when it comes to music.  If I hear a piece of a song, I have to know what it is.  I have to know who the artist is and what song I'm hearing.

I have to.

If I don't, then I need to find it.

True story.  I worked at a pizza place owned by Sicilians.  They had an old cassette tape with Italian love songs recorded into a mix tape.  One of the songs had this woman sing in a haunting but beautiful voice in Italian.  Nobody knew who she was or what song it was.  But I remembered the melody.

I would spend time once in a while trying to find it on Youtube.

And then something happened.  Maybe my life took another spin.  Maybe more unrequited love ate away at me.  Or maybe my brain began yet another tailspin.  Whatever.

I logged onto my computer and spent thirty-six hours straight looking for that song.  Thirty-six.  I didn't sleep.  I just drank caffeine and listened to old Italian songs.  I never found it.

Sometimes, I still hear that melody and her voice.  I tell myself that now is not the time to search for it.  I promise myself that one day, when I have time, I will.  I made a note of it mentally.  Delaying it to the future helps me get through the OCD moment.

But this beautiful woman.  Blond hair, long and curly down her back, blue eyes, tall and incredibly thin, tripped the switch inside my brain that forced me to find this song.  So, in about ten minutes, I did.  I'm really good at finding things.

It was one of the shittiest pop songs a person could like.  Horrible.  Vile, trite, cliche, and all of the things I despise about pop music.  I get angry when I hear it.  When it pops into my brain, I wonder if perhaps I picked up a brain fluke from bad water someplace, and as it eats away at my frontal lobe, it produces excrement that somehow mixes into the wiring, like a wrench in a gearbox, and triggers this song.

Prima J--Rockstar.



Don't judge.  It's not my fault.  I'm sick.  I'm very, very sick.  I hate this song and everything about it.
But that's why we call them "ear worms."  They are disgusting things that get lodged and we can't stop them.

Lately it seems has if my brain is screaming at me.  I slept last night.  Collapsed, really.  I was a zombie until I finally sank into oblivion.  And that's when the dreams started.

First, I dreamed I was upstairs in some house.  The Incredible Hulk was there, running room to room.  He wasn't smashing anything or breaking anything.  He wasn't roaring or shouting.  Sure, the doorframes were broken a bit because he had to get through them, but at least he was using the doorways and not just blasting through the walls, right?

He smiled at me.  He seemed to be there protecting me.  And I hugged him.  The Incredible Hulk let me hug him.

The second dream, I was in the basement of a recently built house.  It was one of those split-level ranch homes that are so common.  The basement was a finished basement.  You know the type--wood paneling painted white, off-white carpeting, crappy second-hand furniture that doesn't match.

This basement went on forever.  It was massive.  Room after room.

It was raining outside.  It was a cold, winter rain.

I searched the basement for something to drink.  I was thirsty.  Every time I found a kitchen, the refrigerator was empty.  One kitchen had about twenty pounds of raw bacon set out on the counter but the refrigerator had the door removed.  I found about five kitchens in this basement and each time the same thing--nothing to drink.

And then my mom came downstairs.  She was sick with a cold or the flu.  She didn't talk to me.

Mom sat down at the shitty kitchen table set out in the middle of this basement room.  She was eating a bowl of cereal or oatmeal.  The table was one of those with the thick brass-colored frames and faux-wood tops.  Mom's old, ratty bathrobe hung off her shoulders, revealing tattoos covering her back.  They were Asian in theme but Western in artwork.  Her back was covered in them.  For the record, she doesn't have a single tattoo in real life.

Mom had an oversized can of 7-up that was about the size of those oil cans we used to get oil in up until the early 80's.  It was empty because she drank all of it.

I wasn't wearing a shirt and I didn't want to get too close to her because I didn't want her to see the scars on my upper arms.  I had new ones from when I melted down with a meat cleaver in January and I didn't want her to see them.  She freaked out twenty years ago when she saw them then.  New ones would not be good.  She was worried enough about me as it is.

We didn't talk.  I woke up.

There was something about this dream that has lingered with me all day.  I feel disconnected and disjointed.  Something changed.  Something ended.  I missed something.

I feel like a door closed on me and I don't know which one.  An opportunity has been lost.  I lost.  I missed out on something.  I failed someplace and failed to make something happen.  But I have no idea what.

I feel like mourning.  I've felt like mourning all day and I don't know why.

My brain screamed at me last night.  It wanted me to know something and I don't understand what.  I'm not going to demean myself by saying I'm stupid or something like that.  I'm not.  I just don't get it.  I wish I did.

I wish I knew what was needed to fix whatever is broken.  But for some reason I have the sneaking suspicion that it just might be too late to fix it.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Eleventh Hour, Fifteen Minutes



I've been working on a short story this weekend and my fingers aren't doing what I want them to do.  I know exactly what I want this story to read like and I know exactly how I want it to unfold.  The problem is, I can't seem to get the words in the order they need to be.  

So, I write a few, delete a few, and repeat.  Lately that's been my writing style.  Instead of editing, I go forward about two paragraphs, delete most of what's in there, and save a sentence.  Maybe.  

It's different from just throwing it on paper and calling it done.  Hunter S. Thompson used to make a joke that was repeated in the movie Where the Buffalo Roam. Bill Murray did a good job being Thompson.  


  • No need to panic. I'll just lash together a few raw facts, a little bit of old Negro wisdom, and this nightmare is over.



I loved Thompson's work but he bitched about money too much.  And he was obsessed with getting screwed over in his race for Sheriff back in the late 60's.  It just gets old after a while.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be like him.  It was cheap.  Cheap, and so beyond derivative, it bordered on thievery.  I was a stupid kid.  What can I say?  

Plus, Thompson never once wrote about being dopesick.  Any doper worth half a damn will know what that's like and they'll write about it. Being dopesick is something you never forget and it makes an impact on your very soul.  Just the thought of being dopesick grips an addict with a fear a person who hasn't used could never understand or fathom.  

I've been writing things that have been out of comfort zone lately. This week, I got a rejection for an anthology I'd submitted a short story to, and was put on the short-list for the final ToC (Table of Contents) much to my excitement.  This was a biggie.  A highly successful series of books with some heavy hitters that paid well.  To get as far as I did was really something.  But the fact that I was rejected really bugged me.  That story I sent them was different from most of what I've written.  

For starters, it had a sex scene.  As many of you know, I just don't write those.  There's a lot of reasons for that.  But for some reason I threw one into that story.  

I still haven't heard back from the published I sent my novella. It's been damned near four months and the fuckers haven't even told they got the shit.  I'm pissed.  

I'm also getting back to poetry.  Reading and writing it.  There's a project I'm working on.  Like everything, it's a matter of what needs to be said.  These things are always like that.  

Get the stuff said that needs to be said before I get out of here. Or at least the stuff that I need to say.  

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dousing Embers

It's a funny paradox that those who want to get under our skin are usually already there.  They're already a presence in our thoughts and hearts.  What they never fully realize is how their efforts just make it easier to walk away from them.

Maybe.

I've found that for myself, the emotional attachments I have to people never quickly drop.  You could show me a video of them putting puppies in a blender while laughing hysterically and quoting from Mao's Red Book, it wouldn't change how I feel.

It would change how I think.  It would change how I act.  But those feelings and emotions would not suddenly evaporate like hot water thrown into the air on a frigid winter night.

A couple of months ago, I had relationship, of sorts, dissolve.  She wasn't into me and I made it clear I was into her.  But we stayed friends.  In the final months, she reminded me often how badly she needed sex, just not from me.

And let me tell you, that feels shitty.  When a woman you want to be with is super-horny but doesn't want you, but yet she reminds you about how super-horney she is, it's a huge slap in the face.

But as I said, we were friends.  One day, she tells me she's sick from food poisoning.  Then, she disappears.  No online response.  I texted her.  No response.  She's called me often when I was sick.  This was not some stalker-type behavior.  We called each other a bunch of times when the other was feeling sick.

So, about six hours after texting her, I called her and got her voicemail.  The next day, around noon, she calls me and chews my ass out.  She flames me royally.

"You don't need to call me and check up on me!  I was on a date and it was really awkward and it was at a certain moment."

She was finally getting the sex she so badly craved after a couple of years without and in that critical moment, I called, and she had to explain to him who I was.  The call lasted about 30 seconds and it was the last time I heard from her.

A day or two later, she posted something on Facebook with her codes for how she was getting some really great sex.  That was the last post I've seen from her since.  I'm not sure if I'm blocked or what and frankly, I don't care.

I realize then, I just didn't care about her that much and I just didn't care about her in that way.  I had no idea until she did that to me.  And if I never speak to her again, then so be it.  It's obvious how little I meant to her anyways.

That's an emotional situation I can walk away from and not be bothered.  I'm fine with it.

I can walk away from hatred just as easily, too.  If I hate somebody and they do something to prove that hatred wrong, I can switch gears and stop hating them.  No problem.  Anger, rage--all of that is easily ignored.

But love?

Love stays.  Love lasts.  Love is one of those things I've never been able to switch off and walk away from mentally or emotionally.  Physically, sure.  No problem.  Done.

But I still think of them.

A number of years ago, I fell hard for a woman.  I mean, it was an obsession.  She was all I could think of.  I wanted to make her laugh.  I wanted to make her happy.  I wanted to be the person she came to because she knew I'd never hurt her.  You know, all the sappy horseshit that fills pop music, shitty poetry, and sonnets written by 8th Graders.

But she was bad news.  Seriously bad news.  Coke whore, gang bangs, STD's--the works.  She was a porn star and sometimes there were cameras.

I knew to walk away.  Hell, I was flat-out told by people who were close to her to walk away.  And I did.

But not emotionally.  Emotionally, she's still there.  I still think of her.  I still think of her smile, and how much I enjoyed making her laugh.  The emotions are still there.

The same is true for a woman on the other side of the planet.  I'd do anything for her.  Her life has continued on with a path all its own.  But I still think about her and compare other women to her.  In many ways, she's a benchmark.  She and I hardly speak anymore.  But the emotions are still there.  And in just a few minutes of conversing with her, I'm reminded of just how powerful those emotions are, and how badly it hurt to know there was no way I'd be in her life.

Love stays.  That's why it's so powerful.  Love stays with us and we carry it in our hearts and minds for a long, long time.  It sinks in deep, to the bone, where it spreads to all parts.

I've walked away from women before.  Not often, but it's been known to happen.  Usually when I'm losing my mind because it's clear I'm not nearly as important as I want to be.  Those times when the other person clearly isn't interested in me on a level deeper than superficial.

I cannot describe how fast the mind spins in those times.  You want to get their attention.  You crave their attention.  You want to hear them say you're important to them.  You want them to show you how important you are to them.  But they never do.  Instead, they absorb your efforts, like a tackling dummy, or the guard rail at Indianapolis at the Brickyard.

So you think harder.  You try harder.  It feels like burning.  It feels like you're consumed by flames and only they can put out the fire with just a few words or a gesture.

There is a futility in those efforts.  It's running uphill during freezing rain.  It's like cupping water with your two hands as you carry it across the room.  It drips out, it escapes, so you press harder.  You lock your fingers.  Your hands become a vice.  But try as you might, that water escapes, and by the time you get to the other side of the room all you have left are a few drops.  That's it.

If they're really cruel to you, they'll tell you how thirsty they are, and how they desperately need that thirst quenched.  Mercifully, that doesn't happen nearly as often as it could.  I've been lucky.

Not too long ago, I walked away from somebody.  It hurt like hell but I had to because I was twisted around and in flames.  I wanted so badly to be a priority to her but it was clear I wasn't.  In fact, my importance was declining, and it was so obvious I felt like a chump.  It was beginning to be humiliating.  

But this is about me, not her.  I'm the one who couldn't handle it.  I'm the one who was on fire.  I'm the one who lost his shit.  Each and every day, I would search for replies from her, maniacally refreshing my various inboxes.  I would scour the web looking for things I could do to get her attention, despite already having it, and ways to be more of a priority to her.

I failed.  There was a canyon between us and she was widening it by the week.  There was more and more going on in her life she couldn't talk to me about.  She was clearly upset.  She was clearly hurting.  But increasingly she couldn't talk to me about it.  I tried to distract her.  I tried to make her laugh.

When you try to make an upset woman laugh so she feels better you become a temporary thing for her but she will not go deeper than that superficial dynamic.  So you make her laugh more and become more superficial to her.  It's a cycle.

That was months ago.  I lost my shit and went into a tailspin.  I didn't care, either.  I didn't care about the 1,000 reasons she had not to give a shit about me.  All I cared about was how she didn't.

I avoided mutual places online.  I stopped all communications with her.  And despaired at how easily she agreed with my request she stop talking to me.  For months she was the first person I thought of in the morning and the last person I thought of at night.  And now it was done.

But that didn't stop me from thinking.  And it didn't stop me from feeling.  I tried, too.  I really did.

How do you get somebody out of your thoughts?  You can't tell somebody "don't think of X" because they'll think about X all the time, then.

Time and absence is the only solution.  So, I tried to avoid her, which didn't help.  I was obsessed.

But after a while, I became comfortable with things.  I got used to how events panned out.  The tail-spin stopped and I went through the stages one does in recovering.  I stopped burning.  Somewhat.

She was still in my mind.  And the emotions were still there.  But I knew better.  I knew all the reasons why I needed to keep doing what I was doing.

This morning, I woke up to find a message from her.  My blood pressure spiked to crazy levels instantly.  So fast, I got lightheaded.  I quickly closed the window so the words wouldn't appear.  I wasn't ready to read them.  I wasn't ready for this.  Not at all.  Not one bit.

And then the anxiety came.  It felt like dozens of shrill, screaming voices bearing down on me.  I wanted to escape but couldn't.  It took me a while to prepare to read it, but I did.

She's angry with me.

At first, I was relieved.  I was relieved she was angry at me because I would have had no defense against anything else.  Had she said anything kinder than "I fucking hate you and hope you die" I would have burst into flames all over again.  If she had said she just wanted to know how I was doing, I would have freaked out, and something inside of my brain would have short-circuited.

But no, she was angry at me.  Thank the gods, she was angry at me.

I'm glad she lashed out at me.  Not speaking to her had become more and more difficult for me.  Just recently, it was clear she was going through a difficult patch, and I very badly wanted to reach out and ask if she was alright.  Friends talked me out of it.

I don't claim to make the smartest choices and I don't claim to have my shit together.  And it's very hard for me not to act upon emotions.  It's one of the reasons I medicated them.  It silenced them enough so I could function.  Plus, the very fact I'm using the "L-word" at all says something ugly about myself.  Something is terribly wrong with me.

A friend recently told me she thinks I tend to fall for women who will hurt me.  This is probably true on some level.

But it's not like I can just flush these feelings down the toilet.

There's a school of thought that says, "fuck your feelings, it's all about your actions."  All too often, I've put myself in that group just to keep myself from sticking my head in the wasp's nest.  My head is an ugly minefield as it stands.  Acting upon emotions would just get me into more trouble.  But I'm moving away from medicating and anesthetizing the feelings so they don't bite and claw at my brain.
My chemical suit of armor is disappearing and I really don't know if I can go on without it.  It scares me.

But no, I'm happy she's angry with me.  If she really hated me, she would have said she missed me, and watched as the fun began.  And I unfolded and burned.    

Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Night Memories

Dear reader, I want you to ask yourself a question--what memories get triggered on a gorgeous summer night?  

Do you think about that one person you were comfortable with as the two of you cuddled around a campfire?  Or do you think about that one night with your friends where everything felt so good you knew it would never happen again?  

You know that night I'm talking about, too, right?  That night where every joke, every story, ever log on the fire, felt as if it somehow matched everything else so well you never wanted it to end.  You felt, in that moment, at peace within and without, and the universe had aligned to give you a break.  

I had a summer of those nights one year when I was in high school between my Sophomore and Junior year.  

Most people never understand what the marching band experience is like if they've never done it themselves.  And not all marching bands are alike.  We weren't the pimply kids who put on a crappy uniform from the 60's and play tired old tunes out of a book.  We competed.  We put on field shows and got judged.  Our parades were judged.  

The world of competitive marching bands for a high schooler is vastly different.  You get yourself bonded to a group of people and you stay bonded.  I was closer to my bandmates than I was to the guys I played football or wrestled with.  In fact, the sports people picked on me and made fun of me.  The band people accepted me.  

I come from a musical family yet I'm tone-deaf.  I'm the only one, too.  My family used to gather around and sing.  Sure, they'd be drunk, and the songs would be old and boring, but it was tradition and had meaning for them.  I tried to join.  I wanted to join.  As a 6 or 7 year-old child, I wanted to be a part of the family.  But because I was tone-deaf, I was told to shut up.  My mom got mad at me and said I was throwing everybody off.  

So I wasn't allowed to be in that tradition.  

Instead, those songs remind me of having a headache, being tired, and wanting to go home.  Songs like "Good Morning Starshine" make me thing of drunken aunts slurring and bossing me around.  It reminds of me not being able to watch tv because it was too loud but not being able to join the group because I sucked.  

My grandfather was a musician.  He had a band called Farold and his Bluebirds and they played in the speakeasies own by Al Capone during Prohibition.  He played the french horn, I believed.  He was highly talented.  

My mom was the music director at our church for over a decade.  Then my aunt took over for about as long, if not longer.  Another aunt made a career in music and has several albums.  It's what the family does.  

But I was talentless in music.  So when the band director at my high school wanted me to join up, it seemed like the legit offer and something I should do.  And I was going to be on the drum line.  

They put me on a fucking bass drum.  I was pissed off about that.  But because the rest of our drumline had no sense of rhythm, I was the metronome for the whole band.  Our section leader, John, had no rhythm whatsoever.  He was so poor, he used to fuck up rim-shots as the band marched into position.  

But as a unit, our drumline was amazing.  Far better than anything in the area.  Our drumline coach, Romero, was awesome.  And he taught us to be serious at our craft.  Romero also took me aside, and we did a lot of one-on-one work when I did timpani solos in music competitions.  Through him, I learned rudiments and the basics.  

I wanted to do more.  I wanted a drum kit of my own and I wanted to play in a rock band.  But that was forbidden to me and when you're 14 years old, some things are just that way.  It never stopped the dreams, though.  

Our band competed in field shows and parades during the summer.  We went on tour and played all over Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.  We slept in gymnasiums and lived on McDonald's.  

The long hours under the sun wearing a heavy drum weren't nearly as bad as one might think.  The worst of it was our band director.  She was chemically imbalanced and a rage addict.  She and her father were terrors in the music education world and nobody dealt with them if they could avoid it. In fact, she would lie and break rules flagrantly but nobody would call her on it because of her behavior.  

Dealing with The Director was an exercise in studying a person's disposition and waiting for the next explosion.  You knew it was coming, but you never knew what would set her off.  But we put up with it.  Our entire band was made up of kids who would rather deal with her than go home because home was that much worse.  Home was alcoholism, abuse, neglect, and pain.  

The rages only lasted a few minutes and then she would be okay until the next one. 

Big things were okay but minor things would cause her to scream and rage without mercy. Sometimes she would grab students.  

But not me.  

Funny story:  We had a parade to do in Dixon.  We were rushed to load the vans and we were always running behind anyways, but this time was worse.  We had been doing field show practice and The Director never kept track of time very well.  She was horrible at time management.  So of course, we practiced too long, and we weren't prepared to pack and go to 20 miles down the road to Dixon for a parade.  We get there, and our bass drum carriers, the harness we wear over our shoulders to hold the drums, were missing.  They had been left back in the school's music room.  

The Director was already shouting and getting angry at everybody because it was our fault she was terrible at time management and organization.  Rage addicts normally blame others for situations they created.  So, this time, as her anger built, the inevitable rage explosion was visibly coming.  We walked on eggshells but then somebody had to tell her the harnesses for the bass drums were back in the music room.  That did it.  

The Director, in a predictable rage, went to grab a student and throttle them.  Sadly, the nearest student was me.  Big, six-foot tall, 235lbs, weightlifting, wresting team, me.  She moved towards me, her arms reaching out, only to look up at me and realize there was no fucking way she was putting her hands on me.  None.  I had already decided that if she did, I would go ahead and oblige her engagement in physical confrontation and she would lose badly and painfully.  

So no, she stopped in her tracks, backed up, moved about ten feet to her left and grabbed a much smaller David.  He had a lot of nicknames.  John the drumline leader (and her favorite) nicknamed him Paco Moreno.  And Senior Satan.  I'll tell the reason for that later on.  But no, she grabbed and throttled poor David.  

It was antics like that I couldn't stand.  Several times a day she would freak out and just explode, screaming at the top of her lungs at us.  She did it in front of other bands, spectators, anybody.  During tours, we would have a practice field to use for a scheduled time after our parade.  One hour.  
Other bands used to watch us practice just to watch her freak out.  And then they stopped after feeling sorry for us.  Other band members from different bands would come to us later on and express how bad they felt that we had to deal with such bullshit.  

One time, she was in the middle of a rage fit, and she fell down on the ground, kicking and screaming.  

But aside from all of that, there was something incredible about being on tour.  The hot summer nights, the new smells, new sights, watching the other bands, it created a magical time.  

We used to sit in drum circles and meet other band's drumlines.  We would sit and chat.  We were open and outgoing, encouraging each other, trading stories.  It was at that time in my life when I first had some girl cuddle up next to me.  It was the first time in my life some girl openly gave me a hug because she was so happy to see me.  It was the first time a girl was happy to see me, for that matter.  

In my high school, I wasn't well-liked.  Girls used to treat me like I was a gross, disgusting piece of shit.  They would make exaggerated facial expressions and stick out their tongues.  In high school, I never had a single date and I never went to a single homecoming or prom.  Nobody wanted to go to a dance with me.  

But that summer, it was different.  That summer, I felt a connection with people.  I felt acceptance. There was a belonging and camaraderie.  We were all eclectic, unique people with artistic personalities.  We were expressive and exuberant.  And we knew we could be ourselves in that culture and still be accepted.  I no longer felt like a loser or that I wasn't good enough to be in a group of people.   

It was the first time for that acceptance for me.  It was the first time for so much.  I can still hear some of the bands play their field shows.  I can still hear certain drum line bits for various songs.  I can still smell the grass and the way the night air smelled so differently from home.  

That summer taught me something important.  That summer, I learned that it's okay to be creative.  It's okay to be different.  And it's okay to be artistic.  Plus, I learned that maybe it wasn't me that was the problem at school.  Maybe, it was them.  Maybe.  

I eventually left the band.  The director was a nutjob who played headgames.  She was of poor character and no integrity.  It just became too much.  

But I stayed in contact with a few people, sending letters back and forth for a few months.  And those lessons gave me a lot of traction in life.  

The other night, I was outside, feeling the warm air.  It brought me back to those nights in Wisconsin, a girl I was close to under my arm, her head resting on my shoulder, as we just enjoyed the night together.  I went back inside, went on youtube, and pulled up videos of various drum corps and their drumlines.  That night, PBS played a documentary about the Madison Scouts, a drum and bugle corps out of Madison.  They showed practice sessions that reminded me of our long, hot music camps.  And each person had a gold tan and bleached hair.  

I used to have drum sticks and a practice pad.  It'd play on that for hours.  Over the course of my many moves, they were lost or stolen.  I decided the other day I'm going to replace them.  It's time to get my chops back for no other reason than I enjoyed it.  And most importantly--I'm going to seek out other local writers just so I can be with my own.  

This summer, I'm going to spend more time with artists.  It's been far too long since I've done that and it's badly needed.  I'm going to seek out places with artistic vibes and go there because that's a place where people like me are accepted for who we are.  It's where people like me belong.      

Friday, May 19, 2017

Get Off My Phone!

Holy shit!  Tonight was a rough night at work.

Most of you know what I do to keep rent paid and no, it doesn't involve me shoving things up my arse.  But sometimes it might as well.

It's call center work.  The wonderful world of answering phone calls from people who think they know what they're doing but really don't.  People who are cowards and bullies and have nothing better to do in their lives but shit on somebody who can't fight back.

Working at a call center is like being tied to a tree with tissue paper while somebody's shithead 10 year-old runs around you after a kool-aid sugar buzz, around and around, laughing and saying stupid shit to you.  He's breathing through his mouth because of all the snot running down his nose and you just want to rip him apart.

I've worked a number of campaigns.  Cable, satellite, newspapers, satellite radio, mortgages.  I've done a lot over the years.  I can tell you that each campaign has a series of categories everybody falls into.

Right now, I'm taking calls for a sporting goods company, and keying orders for hunting and shooting supplies.  What I can tell you about that is this--I'm selling guns and ammunition to people who shouldn't even be allowed to use the phone unsupervised.

I sold a handgun to a blind man.

I sold about $1500 in ammunition to somebody so messed up he could barely speak, never uttered a complete sentence during the entire call, and had extreme difficulty giving me his full name and address.  Yet somehow, his credit card worked, and he was able to buy 2000 rounds of 9mm hollow points, and I forget how many rounds of 5.56.

It's insane how ignorant some people sound on the phone.  I always get a mental picture of what they look like or who they are based on how they sound.  I've had shitheads call in to buy machetes I swear they'll use in a massacre of children later on.  I've had fucktards buy air rifles and you just know they'll shoot their eye out.

People aren't nearly as diverse as we like to assume.  We all fall into some category or another.  We're not snowflakes.  So when some shithead finds his or her way on to my phone, I know right away they'll fall into some category or another.

You people aren't nearly as unique as you think you are.

The spoiled mama's boy who always gets his way or he'll huff and puff and throw a tantrum.  What?  I don't get free shipping?  But I always get free shipping!

I talk to a lot of loners.  Men who aren't married and probably never were or will be.  Or men who were left by their wives because it's clear they had the class of a junkyard dog.  Men who sit in the dark, watching old westerns, and just want to go hunting.

There are men in this country who have their wives call in because they're so incompetent the simple act of having a phone in their hands while talking is just too much.  Half of those idiots tell their wives what to do the whole time, so you hear the shithead in the background while their wives struggle to just get this simple order placed.

I despise people who do that.  Nothing pisses me off quite like trying to talk to somebody while I hear a shithead in the background saying shit to me.  It's rude.  Shut the fuck up while somebody else is talking.  If you have something to say, pick up the goddamned phone, speak into the phone like an adult, be a man about it.

And it's always men who do that.  In all of my years of call center work, I can only think of once or twice a woman behaved like that.  But then again, women have their own quirks.

I have to tell you a story.  Years ago, I was selling cable, and it was an in-bound campaign.  People would call a number on a flier that was mailed out and we'd try to get them to leave Verizon or AT&T for Comcast.  Most of it was New Jersey and Maryland.

So one day, this guy from New Jersey called in.  He had Verizon.  I went through the process and about halfway through, his wife started chiming in from the background.  At first, she was okay with everything, but not really interested.  As the call progressed, we figured out that I could save these people about $180 a month on their cable, internet, and telephone bills.  But the guy's wife had gotten more and more bitchy.

By the end of the call, she was full-on screaming her head off.  She was cussing and raving.  He even offered to hand her the phone so she could talk to me but she refused.  Instead, she just got angrier and angrier, frothing at the mouth, screaming nonsense and gibberish.  I wish I had that call recorded just so I could play it for you.

At the end, the guy couldn't even talk to me, because she was screaming so much.  And so he apologized, which made her even more furious, and she screamed at him to just hang up the phone.

I want you to hear that call.  I want her name boldly plastered on this blog so her behavior could be made public.  I think everybody who behaves like that should be publically shamed and humiliated.

Today, a man called me.  I asked him a simple question:  Are you placing your order from the catalog or the website.  It's simple and kinda something we need to know because it makes a difference in pricing and makes the ordering process faster.

His response?

"I just hung up on somebody for harassing me like that and I guess you're just gonna harass me, too.  I hope this call is recorded."  And then he hung up.

He then called back in, got another agent, and about three minutes later, called me back and demanded to be transferred to customer service.

I want to have a recording of that call and I want to make his name public.  He was obviously a goofy fucker with some kind of mental problem.  Most likely, inbreeding was an issue in his family, and that's why he acted like he needed a beating with a baseball bat.  But laws being what they are, I'm not allowed to do that.  My employer would never agree to something like that and smuggling those calls would most likely get me sued.

This is the problem with customer service these days--there's really no way to get back at bad people. If there was, though; if there was a way to get even with shitty customers who act like fucking morons, the game would change and people would act differently.  They would behave better and no longer behave like mentally deficient inbreed fucktards.

One time, I had a guy call in and get really personal with me.  He wanted to know about options in changing his account.  There weren't many and it would only save him a dollar or two.  He got personal with me.  Very personal, in fact, telling me I was having an off-day and a few other things.  Then, he hung up.

I Googled him after the call only to find he was a Baptist preacher in Oregon.  The piece of shit was supposedly a man of God and yet he was one of the most insulting people to ever call me.  That guy needs to be publically shamed.  He needs his face and name plastered all over, along with a recording of the call, so everybody could hear just what kind of piece of shit he was, and how he treats people.

He was as much of a Christian as I am a bird.

But the laws don't allow it.  Those calls belong to the employer and it would be illegal for me to post them.  I'm certain that if a few of us started posting calls, though, more would gain the courage to do so as well, and we could start a trend.  The grim reality of how pathetic some people are would be plastered all over the interwebs for all to hear.

Two months ago, I took a call from a guy who acted like every single syllable I said pissed him off. Just the act of asking him his name irritated him beyond measure.  He was an asshole the whole way through.  He deserves to be famous.

Call center work develops a healthy hatred of humanity because we're not allowed to say what we really think to people who do desperately deserve it.

Like the woman in St. Louis, who called me, and demanded to speak to somebody in India because when she needed help, she spoke to an Indian who couldn't speak English but when Charter Cable wanted to sell her something, she always spoke to an American.  She was a real cunt about it, too.

I wrote her name and address down.  I want to get even.  It's been nine years and I still want to get even.

Or the asshole cop who called me, bitching about how Charter was maniacally robo-calling people several times a day, seven days a week.  I had no control over that.  None of us did.  Charter is a shitty company with shitty leadership so does shitty things to people.  If you have a problem with that, cancel their fucking services.  Or better yet, file a lawsuit.  Why in the fuck would you call a sales hotline and bitch to them about it?  And the piece of shit kept telling me how he was a cop and blah blah blah.  I fucking hate cops anyways, so why would I care?  And then he played the shitty Guilt Card by telling me he was recently at a funeral for an officer who died in the line of duty and got a call during the procession from Charter.

Why in the fuck didn't you turn your phone off or put it on mute?

But no, Officer Shithead was too busy trying to make me feel guilty.  Didn't work, either.

I could go on and on.  The insanity of a it all, the crazy people who call in, the rude pieces of shit who think they can say what they want just because you aren't allowed to be rude, it all just adds up to a portrait of how this world is a giant manure pit.  Humanity is garbage and many of us deserve to be beaten severely or shot in the dick with bean bags.

There has to be some kind of payback we can do.  There has to be some kind of way to get even with these people.

I'm going to keep working on it.  And when I do, everybody on my shitlist will get their just rewards.

I will have my revenge and it will be glorious!




Saturday, May 6, 2017

Our Daily Sewing


I've got some flower pots outside with sprouts just barely starting to peak up through the dirt.  It's still chilly at night so things aren't growing so much right now.  I'm sure once we're out of danger of having frost at night things will perk right up.

I've got the tiniest of sprouts perking up right now.  Plus, out of all the super-hot pepper seeds I bought, only two are sprouting thus far, meaning these are some seriously expensive plants.  Sadly, none of my ghost peppers are sprouting, just one Carolina Reaper, and one Red 7 Pot Head peppers.

I'm not happy.  The game plan for those pepper plants is to grow as many as I can and use those peppers for jelly and other goodies so I can sell to folks.  I'm hoping to get a month's rent out of them.

I don't like hot and spicy things anymore.  It's no longer interesting to me.  I used to love the feeling of my mouth on fire but anymore it's just not something I want.  Even the smell will make me nauseous.

Somebody asked me to bake a cake for them.  They wanted my special ghost pepper frosting, which is fine, but it really stinks up the kitchen and makes me nauseous.  But they wanted it and they offered money, so I made it.  It's in my fridge right now waiting for this guy to get some time to meet with me.  I really need to get rid of this cake.

I need to do a lot of things.  Writing, to be sure, is among them.  I haven't been writing much lately.  I've been blocked up.  I sit down to write, and what comes out is this boring series of words that just don't have any kind of magic.  No power.

The words don't pop.

I feel like I'm not making the magic that I once was, or so badly want to, and that's making things worse.

The way out of this is to keep writing.  That's the only fix.  Keep writing and keep reading.  Most writers know this but a few don't--writing is 70% reading.  If you're not reading, your writing won't be very good.

Last night, I was reading Hunter S. Thompson.  The problem is, he's fixated on the 60's in so much of his work, that he just doesn't move on.  I'm tired of reading about the Chicago Democratic Convention in '68.  I'm tired of reading about how he ran for Sheriff.

The worst thing about losing Hunter S. Thompson is that we so desperately need him now.  Times are bad and we need him.  But then again, we all really made a mess of things, and a writer isn't going to get us out of that mess.  All he would do is articulate our rage.

We sewed some bad seeds to get us to this point.  Just as I have sewn some bad seeds to get myself to my own ball of mess.

I screwed up.  I screwed up so many things in so many ways, I don't see a way out of this.  I honestly do feel trapped by a dozen different situations.  And every solution, no matter how reasonable and minor, seems like a mountain that needs to be climbed.  Even the tiniest steps in the right direction seem impossible.

I'm so screwed.

I feel like I've gained 20 pounds in the past month.  I am noticeably bigger and my movements are even more restricted because of it.  I need to put a stop to this gain and take control of it.  And even the smallest choices are proving difficult.

This tailspin I'm in has momentum I'm finding very difficult to stop.  The physical issues seem to be growing and becoming worse despite efforts on my part.  Today I tried to go for a walk but the pain in my feet and ankles proved to be too much.

Damn, I screwed up.  I let things get worse and worse.

I sewed the wrong seeds.

Even my chair at my desk, the one I'm sitting in now, isn't right.  It's too short and it has caused me all kinds of painful knee issues.  Yet, I live in it.  I work in it, I write in it, and I do all of my computer activities in it.  I need a new one but I can't afford that just yet.

I will, though.  I'm back to working full-time, which is part of the plan for me to get back on my feet.
That's one seed I'm sewing that is in the right direction.  One out of a bunch.

My sleeping issues are improving.  Because I'm reading more, I'm away from electronics more, and that's helping me get to sleep sooner and sleep better.  Now if I can just stop waking up in the middle of the night wanting to eat my Ruger, because that sucks.  It's a horrid thing to have happen--to wake up in the middle of the night in absolute despair, knowing there is only one solution.

I don't know why this is happening.  When I feel better later on, looking back is horrific.

Everything is connected, I think.  My health, my activities, my sleep patterns, my emotional stability, my writing output--all of it. And no one act of healthy action is enough to change anything by itself.  It takes several choices.  Choices and actions in support of those choices, really.

And every small action seems like climbing a mountain.  Not quite impossible, but close enough.

I really screwed up in letting things get to this point.

I'm pondering starting a new Youtube channel to document my efforts to move forward.  Or decline.  I'm not sure what will happen.  But I figure letting folks know what not to do, not to let yourselves get to this point, is important.  Or maybe it'll stand as a record of just how things ended and what the final days looked like.

That sounds melodramatic.  I feel melodramatic these days.  Everything hurts, everything bugs me, and nothing interests me.  My writing shows it.

So what seeds do I sew to fix that?  I'm sure it has something to do with actually leaving my apartment more and having more face-to-face conversations with people.  There's only a couple in this world I can handle anymore.  The rest cause me great pain.

But leaving my apartment is important.  I don't really have a reason to, or no place to go, but I need to do it more.   Perhaps some more time at the park, or just limping slowly along the trail might help.  I'd like to say "what can it hurt?" but the truth is, it'll hurt my feet and ankles a lot.  And my knees.  And my hip.

But that's needed.  And while it feels like a mountain I have to climb, I realize it's just the first steps.  Those are supposed to be the hardest.  For me, the fourth and fifth steps are the hardest, because I know what to expect by then and I know it'll suck.

Something has to be done.  I can't keep living like this.  I need to sew some healthy seeds in my life.  I've made a few changes but they are minor and isolated.  I need to do a lot more before I can arrest this momentum and stop the decline I'm in.  This tailspin has gone on long enough.

I'm frustrated with how bad it is and right now, the pain of doing something outweighs the pain of doing nothing.  Sure, I screwed up, but I think I might be able to fix this.

I cannot undo the other things, though.  I've been unloveable for most of my life and what I am now is not even fully human.  It's a hard thing to say you're upgrading yourself to "unloveable."  But, I'm working on it.

I will say this--there's a monster in the shadows I have to confront and I'm just not ready yet.  But if I don't, then all of this will be pointless.  Addiction is a hell of a thing.

So, I'm sewing seeds of better choices.  I'm sewing seeds of better actions.

I used to have a ritual for starting my day.  That ritual was a bit of meditation followed by some affirmations.  "Just for today..."

"Just for today, I will make positive choices in what I eat."
"Just for today, I will be clean, and wear clean clothes, and look healthy."
"Just for today, I will not tell anybody I want to shoot them in the face or throat-chop them."

Starting a day off with that those affirmations helped me sew seeds daily.  I'm having a very hard time getting back to that.  But once I do, I'm sure things will begin to fall into place.

Or at least it'll stop this tail-spin.





Saturday, April 29, 2017

This Echo Chamber World

It's 1:36AM and I'm supposed to be writing.  I have a short story that has fought me every paragraph of the way to the end that I have re-written four times.  I firmly believe I have it where I want it but for the last 1/4.  

It's time for the Big Dramatic and Violent End that leaves the reader wondering.  It's time for that twist we all love to read.  

And I'm blocked.  

I don't have a fucking clue how to finish this thing and it's supposed to be sent off in less than 24 hours.  

My brain failing me.  It's not coming up with something awesome.  Sure, it's coming up with all kinds of other bullshit.  But it's just not creating new things.  And I really can't fail this time.  I can't.  

I took a shower to see if that helped and it didn't.  Nothing has thus far.  Usually I make ice cream at these junctures but I haven't done that because the cream I bought is too thin.  It lacks the needed amount of milk solids and the dairy doesn't really give a shit.  

Why not?  They get cream, and they sell it to their biggest client--some butter maker.  The private shits like me buy what is left in the vat.  Since December, the butter maker has figured out a way to scoop up or suck up all of the milk solids from the vat for themselves, leaving behind a thin cream.  That's great for them because they buy the same volume with less waste but it sucks for me.  

It sucks for the little old ladies who buy cream there for their pies.  

That means I have to cook down and reduce the cream base more than usual.  Maybe add more dry non-fat milk, too.  

I can solve that problem but I'm not able to solve this writer's block.  

There's something else, too.  Something most of you don't know.  It's not a secret but it's not something I talk about much.  

I'm a much better poet than I am a fiction writer.  Poetry was my thing from the beginning and one of the first things I ever got published.  I'm a damned good poet when I put my heart and brain into it.  And for some reason I haven't in years.  

That urge is there once again.  It's more than an urge.  Urge isn't the right word.  

The best way I can describe it is when you are with a woman, and she's leaning against you, her back resting against your chest, her head leaning back against your shoulder.  You can smell her hair.  You can smell her skin.  

You put your hands on top of her hands, fingers intertwining.  You look down at her face and it is serene.  She is comfortable with you in that moment.  You.  She wants to be with you.  Of all the people in this world, she has chosen you.  You know all the shit wrong with you and at the moment, you don't want to correct her and tell her she's fucking up.  Instead, you want to lean down and softly kiss her on her neck, just below her ear, just in that right spot.  You want to put your lips to her skin and gently kiss her as she closes her eyes and allows herself to be taken with that moment.  

That is the urge I feel.  The need to press my lips against her skin and make her feel, and know, that at the single moment in time, there is nothing else I'd rather do, no place I'd rather be, and nobody else I'd rather be with, than her.  

And no, I haven't left my apartment in days.  I don't have a reason to.  

But that's not everything.  Not the writing, or the thin cream, or the poetry.  

There's something else.  

When love is drained from a heart it leaves behind a residue.  You can't remove it.  You can't scrub it loose.  It lingers behind.  

So you think of them.  You think of that person you cared about no matter how toxic they were.  No matter how bad of an idea it was.  No matter how badly they hurt you without a care, as if you were a paper airplane on a rainy day just as the sun started to poke through.  Your thoughts still to go them.  And you feel their absence as if it were still the first day of it being over.  

When someone is the first person you think of in the morning and the last person you think of at night for months on end, they leave a mark on your soul.  You know you didn't leave a mark on their soul.  You know you weren't nearly important enough to them to do that.  You were nothing more than cardinal on their lilac tree just outside their kitchen window.  Sure, they saw you, and maybe even watched your for a minute or two, but by lunchtime, they will have totally forgotten you even existed.  
But I haven't left my apartment in days.  People are worried about me again.  I'm gaining weight, my levels are totally out of balance, and I simply don't feel engaged enough in this reality to do much about it.  Other people are just shadows in the fog and they don't see me reaching out to them.  

Six days ago, my heart rate was so erratic it was causing a lot of pain.  I made a mental note to take my potassium gluconate pills then forgot about it.  It got worse.  Finally, there was the fluttering that wouldn't stop.  And the wallops from side to side, as if my heart was a tennis ball inside my chest, and it was trying to get out.  Or a mis-firing motor with crossed plug wires.  

Three days ago, I crossed my arms in front of my chest, gasped for air, and waited.  If it passed, I told myself, I'd take my potassium.  Within just a few minutes of taking it, I felt fine.  Great, even.  But my chest hurt like hell for about half the day after.  

Shadows in the fog.  The smallest light is blinding the and only in darkness can I relax.  

After this short story gets done (and I think I know how to finish it) I'm going to write poetry once again.  It's time.  And I need to.  I can feel it being My Path.  

I'm going to finish this short story before I go to bed.  I think I know what to do and how to do it.  Once that is submitted, things are going to change.  They have to.  

     

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I Believe I Can Crash

Sometimes madness is a warm blanket wrapped around our shoulders on a cold morning after we just woke up.  Or, as it is in my case, afternoon.  My sleep patterns are still all fucked up.

Yesterday, I was able to get two stories sent off to a couple of magazines.  I'd like to say I have high hopes but the truth is my low self-esteem won't allow it.  Instead it's a weird bet with poor odds.

My mind has been racing lately.  Anxiety is like rocket fuel for these thoughts and then suddenly somebody hits the brakes and I crash into oblivion.  

Oblivion, sweet oblivion.  

I need to submit more short stories.  I need to write more good ones, too.  Instead of being cute and trying to be somebody I'm not, I've found my best work comes when I just need to get the shit out of my head.  I haven't been meditating enough lately, either, so there's a lot of shit to get rid of.

So here's what I'm working on right now:

I need to establish a routine.  I'm so bad at this!  Part of the reason is that routines are something adults have and part of me is still a rebellious teenager who refuses to conform.  But I've rebelled so much I'm not even conforming to humanity.  I'm pretty far out there--almost feral.

So I need routines and patterns.  Another reason I refuse to is how I have clung to the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson a bit too much, specifically a quote I learned in high school, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  That's funny when you think about it, because he preached self-reliance and I'm far from it.  I am, however, unique.  That's one thing I've got going in my favor--I'm not like anybody else you'll ever meet.


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds--Ralph Waldo Emerson


But I need routines.  I need consistency so I can adapt positive and healthy behaviors.  Because right now, I'm a train wreck.

I have found it is incredibly hard to do positive things for yourself when you do not have a habit, ritual, routine, or pattern.  And I'm all over the place.

So that's what I'm working on.  My entire being is fighting against this and that reaction has been difficult to suppress.  I keep wanting to just go do my own thing.  I don't do well in restrictive environments.

But I'm paying for that now.  Years of doing my own thing, not listening to anybody, not following rules, not existing within the confines of acceptable living protocols, have all added up to a series of problems--a crisis of living.

This is more than just me being an obstinate jerk.  It goes far beyond the usual rebellion and like many things in my life, it has a dark history.

Here's what happened:

I've said this before but when I was a kid, I was confident I wasn't a human being.  Between the abuse and a number of other factors, I was disconnected from myself and the rest of the world around me.  I was so isolated I came to the conclusion that I was not a human being.

Because I wasn't a human being, the rules didn't apply to me, either.  In my clouded mind, I decided that I didn't have to play everybody else's reindeer games, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.  I was on my own already, what were they going to do?  Really, really not invite me to birthday parties?  Really, really not go on dates with me?  Really, really make fun of me?

This was a bad reaction to events many humans encounter.  I realized that a long time ago.  In many ways, I'm not dealing with the effects of my past so much as my reactions to those events.  My reactions to those events created a series of issues and those are the things I'm recovering from and surviving, not the events themselves.

I did this to myself.  And that means I need to fix this myself.

I have no idea how.

They say habits are formed by doing something four times.  So, right now I'm looking at simple choices I can make in order for me to start slow with positive habits and routines.  It is way harder than it sounds.  In many respects it feels positively Herculean and I could use some help.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sink, You Bastard! Sink!



Every April, it's the same old shit.  I turn on the television and it's some fucking documentary about the Titanic and how it sank.  At this point, does anybody even fucking care?

I mean, it was a big boat.  It sank.  Big fucking deal.

Yeah, sure, it was a horrible thing.  But life is full of horrible things.  Life is full of atrocities and acts of perverse violence.  Sometimes, these things happen because some captain full of hubris didn't bother to steer away from icebergs in the water.  Other times, these things happen because life is ugly and full of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and syphilis.   Horrible things happen all the time yet for some reason we romanticise the Titanic as if there was something magical about it all.

There isn't.

I'm proud to say I've never seen the movie about it--Titanic.  Never.

It was a huge hit when I lived in Korea.  People thought for sure I'd seen it.  When I told them I hadn't, it was like I hit them between the eyes with a 2 X 4.

I would tell them, "I like movies where I don't already know the ending."  The ship sank--The End.

But yet parts of our society are just fascinated by this.  Every year in April, around the anniversary of her sinking, cable television is flooded with lurid shows going over the mysterious details as is all of that post-mortem would somehow offer a better explanation.

The boat sank.  That's it.  It doesn't matter how fast the men in the boiler room were shoveling coal.  It doesn't matter how dark it was.  It doesn't matter who had their wireless telegraph machines turned off for the night.  It just doesn't matter.

Yet for some reason, people seem to act like it does.

Easter is full of weird memories like that.  My grandfather passed away in his sleep at the ripe young age of 93 about a week before Easter.  His funeral was the same weekend as the Chernobyl disaster. What I remember most about that was the lack of information.  It was deep in the Cold War and American news was severely lacking.

My mom and I were driving across Iowa, scanning the radio for something decent to listen to, and while she drove her 1976 Chevy Nova, I turned the radio dial.  I stumbled upon a news broadcast out of Canada.  It was two men and they were getting information--real information.  It was through them we were able to learn just how terrifying things had become.

Those of us who were around back then have a different memory of these events.  It started with a curious but grave news broadcast stating that extremely high levels of radiation were detected all throughout Eastern and Northern Europe.  Norway, especially, and they were stating it wasn't from any of their facilities.

People suspected Russia.  Something had to have happened there but Russia, the Soviet Union, said repeatedly it wasn't them and nothing had happened.

And then they said there was a small accident.  But the radiation levels were so high, it was as if a nuclear bomb had gone off.  Radiation filled the skies.

I remember when the radiation reached the United States.  I remember people going outside with geiger counters and getting levels to register for the first time ever.

I remember people going to the store to buy water.

It's curious what a memory will do.  It's curious what we forget.

When I first came back to the US from Korea, I scrapped together money from the two jobs I worked, and sent care packages to my wife and daughter when I could.  The last one I sent was an Easter basket.  It was as large as I could afford.

It was candy, fake grass, and a stuffed, white Easter bunny.

A few years later, my wife sent me pictures of my daughter.  In one of those pictures, she was holding that rabbit.  It was well-worn and had seen better days.  My wife wrote on the back of the photo, "She takes that stuffed toy with her everywhere she goes.  I don't know why."

So I cry every Easter.  A little girl had only a small stuffed animal from her daddy and she carried it with her everywhere she went.  It kills me to think about it.

Horrible things happen all the time in life.  I try to make new memories.  Happy memories.  But that's been far more difficult than it should be.  And the past just won't fucking fade away.  There are no shoulders.  There are no hugs.  There is no hope.  Only tears and a gamble that maybe our efforts can make tomorrow somehow worth living.

I don't have a reason to wake up tomorrow but I'll do it anyways.  Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and I'll avoid people as I usually do.  My what's left of my family will all be doing their own things.  I'm scheduled to work.  I'll do things to keep my hands busy because that's how I survive.  I'll make ice cream, perhaps, and plant some seeds.

The past just won't fucking fade away.  And how can it when we're making docu-shit-dramas about all of the horrible shit that happened?  We can't fix it.  We can't change it.

The Titanic launched with all kinds of fanfare and hopes.  It sank as soon as it got in the middle of the Atlantic.

Chernobyl is currently having another layer being constructed around it.  This way, it will contain the radiation leaking out of the damaged reactors.  To this day, tends of thousands still suffer from health problems because of it.  You can't run away from radiation.

And you can't run away from memories that won't fade.

I hope my daughter keeps her stuffed bunny.  I hope she never lets it go.  But if she has to so she can move on, I'll understand.  The Titanic wasn't supposed to sink.  It was made with great care by proud, professional men.  Chernobyl wasn't supposed to melt down.  It was supposed to provide power to millions.

It wasn't supposed to be like this at all and yet it is.  Because horrible things happen all the time.

And you can't outrun memories.  




  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Church of Do

I have some goals I want to meet in the next few months.  These goals are based on what I can do rather than what I hope happens.  Instead of saying, "I want to get X stories published" I'm simply saying "I want X stories in submission to magazines."

The work is on me.  And I like that better than wishing or hoping for somebody else to do something on my behalf.

Simply put--there's shit I need to get done.  Shit that I'm hoping will somehow magically fix me and all the shit that's wrong with me.  And that list is long.

As I sit here and write this, I can't help but feel like a disappointing train wreck of a human being and I'm struggling to get out of this mess.  I'm not going to list the whole, ugly set of reasons, because it's just depressing as hell.  However, I will say, each and every one of these are self-inflicted wounds that have festered.

This is my fault.  All of it.  And I am so angry with myself for having let it get to this point.  All the while, it feels like I'm rapidly approaching The End.  A stroke or a heart attack, mostly likely, and that's without pondering the other alternatives on the table.

So, no, I'm looking at what I need to do.  The word "DO" being key here.  Do.  I must DO things.

I just went for a small walk and I'm feeling it.  I need to do it again and I most likely will.  More of that whole "DO" idealogy.

Do-ism.  

I haven't been doing enough.  Or, when I do actually do something, I don't do the right things.

So, here's what I'm working on:

I want to have a short story finished, edited, and ready to submit in a few days.  There's a call for submissions that looks rather interesting.  My story took a weird turn and became quite romantic.  I honestly have no idea why.  When I try to write romance it becomes horrid.  I just can't.  My pacing is all off.

So now I need to turn this romance into horror.  Oh how simple that is to do when it's my life.  But in fiction?  This should be interesting.

There are a few calls for submissions I'd like to have things in for this month.  I currently have two short stories and a novella in submission and I can't wait to hear back about that.

As for the video stuff, that's a different story.  I filled my hard drive and so now I'm waiting for an external drive to arrive so I can move some files.  Once that happens, I can go back to making videos.  Plus, I have a new ice cream maker coming in soon.  I'm really excited about that.

I have ice cream projects I want to get to.  Ice cream flavors, as well as configurations, like novelties.  I want to begin making ice cream cakes, pops, coated and rolled confections, and a few other things.
I have goals and this new ice cream maker will allow me to make ice cream faster so I can work on those goals.

There are two projects I have in mind.  Because they are surprises, I cannot say right now, but if they are close to being what I want, they will be my Magnum Opus.  Or at least a crescendo in a body of work that is full of crescendos.

One of the reasons I love to make ice cream so much is the reactions from others are immediate and feed my need to approval from others.  I'll admit that with my self-esteem so low I have become needy as hell for approval from others.  Ice cream gets me that approval.

I'm not going to beat myself up for having that need.  Instead, I will say that maybe one day, that approval with come from within, and I will find a way to value myself for no other reason than I am me.

The next goal I have is to get some seeds ordered for the front of my apartment.  Last year, we had flower pots full of plants and it looked incredible.  That neighbor who did about 75% of the work moved but I have some pots and he's going to help me with some things.  I can't wait!

I'm going to grow all kinds of stuff.  Peppers, herbs, tons of basil again, and a wide variety of flowers.  In fact, I want to have a larger variety than last year.

There is something healing in doing that.  I felt better just for doing that last summer and it meant a great deal to me.  Sure, people used to drive by and look just because it was such a stark improvement over the solid concrete.  But also, people loved how beautiful it was, and we got a lot of compliments.  That offered me approval as well.

So, let's review--I'm waiting for approval from some editors, but while I wait for their approval, I'm making ice cream to get instant approval from folks, and I'll be planting some things soon so I can get approval from people around town.  Because I need approval.  Badly.

One of these days I'll be able to get that approval from myself but for now, I'm at the mercy of those around me.  Of course, who am I kidding?  It's always been that way.  I've never had that confidence and self-love or self-acceptance.  I've always seen myself as less-than everybody else and too much of the wrong things.

But I'm working on it.  I just started reading a self-help book called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.     This is the quintessential book for artists who are trying to heal. I read the first chapter last night and it did something.  I was really upset and I woke up this morning just a wreck.  I woke up feeling lowest that I can ever remember.  Never have I woken up in such despair and misery.

I woke up this morning (afternoon) being fully aware of the sum of all of my problems and worse, no hope of fixing them and no reason to even begin.

The reason for this has been an issue for me in recent months.  Is it worth the effort to fix my life?  Am I worth the effort to fix?  Is there anything worth sticking around for?  So much of my life is gone.  So many things have been taken from me.  So many times have passed me by.  So many phases of my life have been destroyed.  And now that I'm in the 2nd half, what could I possibly look forward to?  Is there anything out there for me at this point?  

Will I have to lie to myself until I can gladly allow a baseball bat smash my brains in and tell myself how happy I am to see the pretty colors?  Is that what happiness will have to be for me?  Is that the key to happiness?  Self-deception masked as the acceptance of terrible circumstances?   Admire the pretty pattern of the snake's skin as it bites me over and over, injecting deadly venom.

Is that happiness?

I don't know the answer.  All I know is I'm still alive and I'm still submitting fiction.  I'm still making ice cream and I'm still planting flowers out in front of my apartment.  I have no idea what will come of it.  All I know is that these are the things I'm doing.  


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Just Another Day



Tomorrow is the 23rd Anniversary of my dad's death.

Some of these have passed me by without a thought.  Last year it really bugged me.  This year, it's more like a simple connection.  Oh, it's that day again.  Okay.

It was a suicide.  Dad was on a downward spiral for a long time.  He was an alcoholic and had brain damage from it, as well as a destroyed body.

The funeral was ugly and I'm still angry about the fallout from it.  That's what I remember more than his death.  I remember how my grandmother would corner my sister or myself and tell us how if we had loved him more he wouldn't have done it.  I remember how his sister acted like she had no idea there were problems.  The years of alcoholism weren't a clue.  Him suddenly showing up at my grandmother's doorstep unannounced to live with her wasn't a clue.  His deteriorated mental state wasn't a clue.  His ruined health wasn't a clue.  She acted like this was a huge shock and it was our fault for keeping it from her--lying to her about how great things were.  Actually, she said we lied to her, when we told her at the funeral that things were bad and we let it be known.  She claimed we never did any such thing.

So no, I don't think about how I lost somebody.  I think about how I watched my family unravel, crash, and catch fire.  I think about how his childhood friends came to his funeral and not a single one of them were shocked.

Suicides destroy families.  I've seen it before and I've lived it.  I haven't spoken to my dad's side of the family in years.  I had to divorce myself from them because they were so nasty towards my sister and I.  Every letter was full of venom.

I'll admit--I was a jerk.  I just stopped talking to them.  They sent me checks and I ignored them.  They sent me birthday cards and I ignored them.  I took the money, of course, but I said nothing.  Not a word.

My grandmother sent me a Christmas card telling me about how upset she was and how she just wanted to hear from me and I ignored her.  I was in my own private hell and just couldn't bring myself to contact her.  I was waging my own battles inside my head.

I feel terrible about how it all unraveled and came about.  When my grandmother died, I didn't go to the funeral.  She eventually died from alzheimer's and dementia.  I said nothing to my aunt.  Not even a condolence card.  Even when she sent me a check for my portion of the inheritance, I said nothing. Not a word.

I was angry, I'll admit, but there was something else.  I got tired of being the crazy one in the family. I got tired of being treated like The Joker.  I know I'm different.  I know there's some things not right with me.  But being treated like a violent mental patient all the time gets old.

It's not just my dad's side of the family who treats me like that.  Parts of my mom's side treat me like that, too.  I have two cousins I knew as babies.  I mean, I held them, fed them, and even changed one of their diapers.  Then, I didn't see them for 17 years.

Seventeen years later, they were at a family reunion.   There were other reunions between that time but I never went.  Most of those reunions I was never invited to or even told about.  I'd like to say it was because the family knew I was too broke to travel anywhere but that's not the whole reason.  As you can imagine, I'm a bit of a black sheep, and as I've said before, treated like a mentally deranged nutcase.

So, these two cousins were there.  I introduced myself to them and they both froze.  They froze and a look of terror spread across their faces.  They knew me.  They knew about me and I had a reputation. It was like they found themselves standing face-to-face with a serial killer or an alien in a public place.  They had to play it cool despite wanting to run away screaming.

Despite the bullshit I write on this blog, I've never killed anybody in my life.  Never.  I'm actually a very nice man who makes ice cream for his friends.  I like dogs and babies love me.  To be treated like a physical manifestation of all the horrific characters out of Hollywood really pissed me off. Worse, I knew where they got that fear--other family members.  Somebody told them a series of things about me and they believed them.

It was insulting.

But no, my ties to family are uneasy most of the time.  I'm often not told about weddings and various family events.  If I send them an e-mail, it usually gets ignored.  There are a couple of family members who still talk to me and for that I'm grateful.

But family is complicated and winters/early springs are very hard for me.

It's no secret I struggle with depression.  I have Seasonal Affective Disorder--SAD.  Every winter I crash into a black hole.  It's a tail-spin I cannot pull out of until the seasons shift and I can get more sunlight.

I thought I had a good game plan to handle it this winter.  I damn near didn't make it out of the last one.  But, things didn't go according to plan and I took some structural damage I wasn't expecting.  It happens.

I don't believe in coincidence.  These things happened for a reason.  And now that I'm finding myself at this mile marker, I can honestly say I feel better despite all of the things going on right now.  I'm no longer angry at my dad for what he did.  I'm no longer angry at his sister and mother for blaming me for what he did.  It sucks that elements of my family treat me like a monster but that's just how it goes.

My mom always said living well is the best revenge.  If I keep doing what I'm doing, there will come a day when they will want to admit they're related to me.  Stranger things have happened.  And when that day comes, I will simply smile and let it go.  I'm fighting to keep certain patterns from repeating. I'm not my dad.  I'm trying so hard to avoid his pitfalls and to not do what he did.

The first thing--don't give up.  The rest will sort itself out as the days play out.  


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Happy Memory Factory and Fantasy Fuel


I remember when I went into my first comic book shop.

I was in the sixth grade and it was in downtown Sterling, right next to Emil's Toy Store.  Emil's was also a magazine shop, and they carried hundreds of magazines, and it was like a library.  I would go there and look at model railroad magazines, then the remote control magazines, and of course, the gun magazines.

It was where I bought my copies of Soldier of Fortune and I can promise you I was the youngest person out there interested in first-hand accounts of the battles in Rhodesia.  The political stories and reporting were top-notch and to a young kid just learning about the world it was like getting information most adults never had.

But the comic book shop was something special.  Knight's Hobby.  It was owned by a guy named Jim Hey, who was a friend of the toy shop owner's son.


Plus, Jim looked exactly like the comic book guy in The Simpsons.  Seriously.  Jim was balding, though, but that was Jim.  Totally.

Knight's Hobby was where I got my first introduction to comic book titles like Daredevil, Sgt. Rock, and Judge Dredd.  I was a huge fan of those, and Marvel's Secret Wars had just started up.  I had the Marvel Universe Encyclopedia issues and a few other odds and ends.  Rom, the space knight.  A couple of Avengers titles here and there, along with a few Iron Man books that went into grim detail about Tony Stark's alcoholism.

The people who watch only the Iron Man movies don't know this, but Tony Stark was a raging alcoholic who destroyed his body with booze.  After a while, his body began to shut down, and only the suit was keeping him alive.  The last issues I saw, if I recall correctly, he wasn't able to get out of the suit anymore.  His liver and kidneys no longer functioned.



Grim stuff.  Damned grim.  And I think I still have that issue shown above.  Maybe.

But that was comics back then.  They were just starting to become moody and brooding.  We were still years away from Spawn and GenX.  Pitt and a few others.

When I was in the sixth grade, my best friend, Pat Pember, had his own titles he was interested in.  Pat was a huge fan of Moon Knight.

How did I afford these comic books and how was I able to afford to see movies every weekend?

As I've posted before, I had a paper route.  The money I made was enough for a few titles and a movie.  That paper route allowed me the opportunity to feed my imagination and played a huge role in my development.

There are a few memories I hold on to and cherish because they, more than most other memories, remind me that escapes do exist and usually, they are because a writer like myself sat down and put them on paper.

For some reason, a number of these memories are of rainy Sundays in the late winter/early spring.  The rain would be cold and nasty.  Back then, my feet were always wet.  Always.  In fact, I developed a skin problem on my feet because they were always wet.  My boots were worn out and my family didn't have the money to buy a new pair.  I knew enough not to ask, too.  I didn't tell my Mom, and certainly not my Dad, that my feet were always wrecked.

But on Sundays, I didn't have to go outside.  I could leave my boots to dry and hide upstairs in my cold bedroom.   Our house was a drafty old thing and I loved it back then.

I could hide upstairs in my bedroom with my stack of comic books and whatever novel I was reading at the time.  There was no football on television, just basketball, and I never was much of a fan of that sport.  Best of all, I would be left alone, because that was the single best thing for me back then--alone.

I've talked about my dad plenty but the short version was this--not being noticed was best.  And I was a ghost.

Those stacks of comics were so important to me because I could read them and fantasize about the person I wanted to be and the places I wanted to go.  They were fuel.

Back then, we had three channels, and Sunday Nights meant a good movie was usually on after 7pm.  If we were lucky, it was a new movie none of us had seen before, and if we were really lucky it was the latest James Bond film.  Another great character, another high-octane fantasy fuel.

Those creators, the writers who developed those stories, did wonders for me as a child.  They gave my brain something to dive into as it retreated from a harsh and ugly reality.  Mondays were made for daydreaming and I would go to Mrs. Broderick's class primed with a fresh tank of day dream material.   She was a stern, arrogant women from an age when education made you superior to those around you and who you married gave you status.  Her husband was a school Principal and eventually Superintendent.  She lacked a sense of humor and enjoyed dishing out penalties.

But I had day dreams to save me.  Day dreams of comic book worlds and heroes.  Villains who made perfect sense and a world that was worth saving.  It is a sad statement about our society that the older I get, the more I cheer for the "bad guy" because usually he or she has a damned good reason to be pissed off.

Sixth grade was hell for me.  There were so many issues going on and so many terrible things in my life--things so bad I can't talk about them here.  But I had comic books.  I had books and novels.  I had things I could dive into and not have to come up for air for hours.  That was when I discovered the books Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard and It by Stephen King.  Big, thick books that would suck me in and hold me there for days.  It was when I learned I could escape the world around me.

Last week, somebody on Twitter posted that meme at the top of this post.  It made me realize why I wanted to write in the first place.  It wasn't about being cute or seeing my name in print.  I wanted to write because it was another form of day dreaming for me.  It was my way of escaping reality.  And if I could give that gift to another person on a rainy Sunday afternoon, then that was even better.

It was something I needed to see and remember.