The stones, the sticks.
The arrows. The slings.
Be thy name.
And I shall sing once more.
The stones, the sticks.
The arrows. The slings.
Be thy name.
And I shall sing once more.
I’ve been sitting in that rather strange place tonight. Trapped between deep thought, a million stories to be written, and the simple lack of alertness to do justice to the prose.
Tonight, my mind has been coming back around, again and again, to the kiss.
The first kiss of any relationship.
The second, the third, and the 300th.
You can tell a lot from a kiss. The first one, usually desperate, awkward or accidental is merely a leap together. The risk that, in that moment, you both are willing to take.
But the ones that follow, as your lips learn each other, fitting together like pieces of a puzzle—those are the ones that matter.
I have kissed many a beautiful young woman in my lifetime, but very few have been the type you think of days later; months later—years later.
It’s more than love, more than intimacy. It’s passion.
It’s a whisper in the ear, over and over again, reminding you that you aren’t in this alone. The warmth of a big spoon, stirring, stirring.
When the lips fit, as if they were designed for one another, it is a rarity, and presents a far deeper connection than three simple, often misused words can.
When the lips fit, the souls tend to follow, even if the heart cannot.
The trip started off so nice and polite. Earnest, even. Standing in the airport bar, offering to share my table with a nice family that wanted a bite.
Two minutes later.
A friend walks by, on the same flight to the same city. And he asked what I was going to be doing.
47 seconds into the diatribe, the nice family opted to move.
But hey. This is my first vacation since 2008, and even then I was with the wrong person, dictating our every move.
But now I dictate me. My choices, my movements and my leisure.
I could sit here and recount my drunken flight there, the crazy weekend that ensued…
I could go on about the limos and personal chef and endless river of free booze, but none of that holds a candle to the bigger picture of the trip; the people, the event, the simple notion of being in the moment for the moment every moment.
It’s a rare occasion when you find yourself surrounded by so much quality in a group. So many dynamic people willing to smile, converse and simply enjoy their time.
I could wax poetic about hookers, bowties, sugar hearts and the blinking lights of the strip…I could lament about the 13.5 hour stay at the airport on the final day, and getting lost in the casino trying to find an exit or a clock…Regale you with adventures on and off Vegas Blvd…
I could have come home with a plastic bag full of shot glasses, postcards and T-Shirts…
But my souvenirs come from a much deeper, less tangible place.
Truthfully, we could have been in Iowa or Detroit, and I would have taken home the same level of satisfaction.
It isn’t where you are, but with whom you are with.
Soon, I will upon you, drinking your cocktails and smiling at your women.
This isn’t like the last time—the first time.
Though I didn’t gamble much, and lost even less, I walked away with the feeling that I merely broke even.
Walking the strip, with the wrong people for the wrong reasons…
I was merely another family lost in Disneyland.
When I left, with barely a hangover from the experience, I vowed never to return unless I could do it properly.
The swirl of friends and limos and booze and women, dancing in the lights like the fountains of the Bellagio, all shaken up for me, a martini ready for its olive.
And I am a thirsty man.
In the sudden rush of a hot wind, like the breath of a former lover on your neck, I’m coming back for you.
She climbed onto the sink, her towel falling to the floor, her back to me.
She was putting on her makeup for a show; I was merely admiring the view.
She leaned in closer to the mirror to add her eyeliner and fake lashes.
I looked at her feet. They were filthy.
I had neither seen anyone, nor anything more beautiful in my entire life than in that moment.
But she wasn’t doing it for me.
And she had no idea what either fact did to me.
I never graduated college.
This is a fact that I’m both proud of, and mortified by.
I’m proud, simply because I managed to become a success regardless. It’s proof that if you figure out your goals, make a strategy and have a little patience, you really can do whatever the hell you want.
I’m mortified, because I consider myself an intelligent individual, but school somehow never worked out for me. With the exception of a few distinct years, I got good grades, by and large. When I dropped out, I literally had a 4.0 GPA.
But it was always a struggle.
It was always a pain.
I hated very second of it.
And I never really cared if I didn’t understand how it actually applied to me and the life by which I was surrounded.
In grade school, I was so underwhelmed by lessons and over stimulated by thought, my third grade teacher inadvertently invented “Independent Studies” for me. She figure out how to put my energy to use, by writing books, and plays, creating sets, binding, etc.
My mom tells me that if it had existed back then, I would have been diagnosed with ADHD. When I was a kid, they called it hyperactivity and gave us Ridlin. But mine was confined to my mind. And thank god. Rather than some prescription that made me calm and complacent, I had a teacher that figured out how to help me put my mind to a better use.
Not that I don’t believe in the usefulness of antidepressants and medication when truly necessary, but as a child, the mind is a great coping mechanism.
Personally, I think I have dyslexia. Words get jumbled when I read, and if I write too fast, I literally write words backwards. But if nobody tells you there’s an excuse, you don’t have one and push through it.
And if you’re lucky enough to have parents that instill a passion for the simple act of learning, discovering…if you indeed love to embrace the fact that there is still so much unknown, it’s really easy to push through.
To evolve. Every day.
Case in point. I always believed I had no rhythm. I couldn’t even snap in beat to songs I sang, and knew intimately.
One day, Dustin, Strawfoot’s vibe player and someone I consider a very good friend called me out. It was a simple thing, really. I know he knows more about music than me. I don’t know theory; I don’t know shit, aside from what rests in my soul. I have no problem deferring to him.
It wasn’t that I had no rhythm; I simply had the wrong rhythm.
It turns out it was something very simple. I was snapping on the up beat, when I should be snapping on the down.
It’s like learning that 1+1=3.
Like learning you’ve been tying your shoes wrong your entire life.
Such a simple, mild adjustment.
We have to be open to the fact that we don’t always know.
Even when we assume we usually do.
Because, even when we know so much, we have to be open to the idea that we’re wrong; that we don’t know shit from shine-ola.
This is a fatal flaw in the world.
It’s because we all have egos.
But once you shed that—once you admit that the key to knowing everything is the simple fact that you know nothing at all, that’s when you can truly figure it out.
When there are no rules, no egos, no pomp nor circumstance, but rather, an open mind.
That’s when the magic really happens.
I’ve got rhythm…
The next morning I felt like I was on the losing end of an internal battle in my head waged by angry badgers with switchblades. I didn’t want to move. The slightest shift caused jolts of nausea.
But I had work to do. I had to become unrecognizable. I grabbed a few hundreds and called a cab.
“Show off,” I said looking down at Ben.
My destination was the nearest department store. I needed a few items to pull off my master plan of deceit. I headed straight to the women’s section in search of a black dress, and veil. I felt no shame as I asked the cute and thoroughly creeped-out girl in charge of the fitting rooms for a key. I wasn’t embarrassed. I didn’t even exist. I found some shoes to match the dress, grabbed a black scarf to hide my adam’s apple, bought some stockings, and a bra and then headed out. The whole process took about 15 minutes.
It always took Sam hours to shop for clothes. I didn’t see what the big deal was. I even found a purse that matched my shoes. I suppose I was a little less picky about my outfit than a real woman, in Sam’s defense; as long as it was black and fit, it was good enough for me.
I called another cab and headed back to the drugstore across from my motel.
Ah, the drugstore.
The Stagecoach Inn was just far enough away from the suburbs to be somewhat devoid of large chain stores. The drug store across the street was all there was.
It was quite an oddity—it was essentially a mini-Walmart.
They didn’t have as many aisles, but still somehow there was a little bit of everything there. Condoms, alcohol, hair-dye, cosmetics, razors; there was only one choice for each item, but every shopping need was represented.
They also had an aisle devoted to Halloween costumes, as the holiday was slowly creeping up. It was there I found my wig. I grabbed every tube of lipstick, and mascara I could find, trying hard to remember what Sam owned but coming up blank. I threw a razor and some shaving cream into my little plastic basket, and checked out.
I needed a makeover.
During my married years I found myself watching more makeover shows than any heterosexual man should ever have to watch. Sam was addicted to them. She controlled the TV.
She wore the (sweat)pants in the family.
“I want a makeover,” she would always say.
“You look too good to get picked for one of those shows, honey,” I would always reply.
“Correct answer, Finn.”
Every night, a different makeover show and the same witty verbal exchange. I watched enough of them to have a general idea of how to apply basic make-up—a fact I’m none too proud of.
I labored in front of the mirror for hours applying base, lipstick, mascara and eyeliner, a little rouge on the cheekbones, and eye shadow to finish the job. I grabbed the bra and a roll of toilet paper to fill them in. It was time to stuff this turkey. It was the first one I saw at the store. Bra sizes are a foreign language to me. I held it up and looked at the tag.
“36-Double-D,” I said to Jimmy. “Looks like I’m gonna be the belle of the ball.”
Jimmy was unimpressed. I can only assume he’d seen plenty in his time on that motel wall.
I stuffed the bra, and put on my dress and stockings, my leg hair forcing it’s way through the nylon. I put on my sensible heels, grabbed the wig, and then added the finishing touches before walking over to the mirror to see how I looked. My ankles rolled with each step. It felt as if I were walking in hockey skates.
So much work to be pretty. I don’t know how Sam made it to work on time each morning. She must have woken up at 3 in the morning. No wonder she got so angry when I’d snore all night.
I took a swig of Jack and stared at my reflection. I looked like a truck stop whore’s uglier, inbred half-cousin.
“Jesus, I make an ugly woman,” I said. I looked over at Jimmy.
He was frowning just a little bit more than usual.
I didn’t mean to go so long.
It’s not as if I have nothing to say. The will is there.
I’ve merely been distracted.
Distracted by this little thing called life, I suppose. I’ve been far too busy putting my house in order, playing with my dogs and finding a strange contentment in doing very little else.
Distracted by the simple pleasure of a well-crafted cocktail and/or delicious meal.
Distracted by my preparations for the 9th Annual Halloween Hootenanny, and the alignment of performers, musicians and promotion (not to mention my costume) that go along with it.
And then, as I mentioned earlier this month, there’s that whole Fall of the Mad Man thing.
True to the season’s nature, as well as my own, my career has taken a pleasant turn by virtue of interesting work and the chance to be charming in front of important people, all while drinking on somebody else’s dime.
Most prominent in this last vertical of distractions is the opportunity to build creative strategies.
This is a somewhat intangible skill they don’t teach you in a creative writing class or as an art major. I’d be shocked if they even know how to teach it to marketing students, simply because there are no rules, merely limitations to work within. There is no correct answer, no template. This isn’t science; it’s merely persuasion, and the art of determining who to speak to and how to say it is different every single time.
And thank god for that, otherwise I’d be as bored as I was copy/pasting bullet points about upscale luggage for three years too many.
I worked there for three years.
So I’ve been distracted.
It wasn’t until today that I realized how long it had been.
So, I suppose, rather than continuing to construct an eloquent excuse for not writing, I should simply write.
“So what’s the big idea…?”
I was asking myself more than the art director sitting on the couch, opening another beer.
“Or, I suppose, first I should ask, what’s the point?”
The art director looked over at me, rolled his eyes, and took a drink, knowing full well, I was just getting started.
We had been through this time and time again. He would sit there, drinking and checking his phone, while I would fall into a whiskey-fueled, passionate soliloquy about giving the clients something better.
Outside, the protesters were back, chanting and holding signs about war, or oil or injustice. They stood out front and yelled at the empty office below.
We were doing our best to ignore the show. We had work to do; music to make, ideas to craft.
But she was back, too.
I’d seen her the last time we put our feet up on the ledge and heckled them.
She stood out immediately. The focus of everything around her went soft like a Gaussian blur, and it felt as if her eyes were a tractor beam pulling at my soul.
Suddenly the big idea didn’t matter quite as much—there was different idea altogether brewing in my mind.
It’s an interesting point in your life when you no longer need to be reborn; when there are no ashes to rise out of, merely a path to follow…
…Where the desire to reinvent one’s self is replaced by the confidence simply found in knowing thyself.
When dreams are merely a plan.
I don’t need reinvention. I don’t need a new look or hairstyle; I don’t need a new career. I know what I want to be when I grow up—because I already have, and this is what I am.
And, in my opinion, this isn’t too shabby.
I don’t need to find myself, because I’m no longer lost.
It’s all about fine tuning my contentment from here to eternity.
It’s Autumn. This is my favorite time of the year.
There’s always a rise in the fall.
Music becomes jazz, suits are more common, and there’s a chill in the air just crisp enough to make one seek out a loving partner to hold, or at the very least a well made cocktail.
Life becomes as dynamic as the scenery, and my swagger finds its way out of the shadows.
I walk differently. I hold my head differently. There’s an earned confidence in my manner—in my thoughts and words.
This is my season. The Fall of the Mad Man, in the best way possible.
My thoughts are a little more clear and direct, and something quite fantastic tends to manifest as a result.
I ordered Chinese earlier this evening. The fortune cookie told me I would witness a miracle in the coming months.
I can’t discount the notion, they happen all the time, all around us in a variety of sizes and forms—we merely have to look for them, be open to them, and be aware of them.
We don’t always have control of the opportunities around us, but we do hold power over the ability to stumble upon them, and take them, be it professionally, romantically, or on a deeper, more intrinsic level.
But first, fall.
We hid in the shadows, by an old freight elevator shaft.
That I needed those shadows was, by all indications both outward and in, enough evidence to know I shouldn’t.
But there I was.
The sun would be rising soon.
I didn’t care if my wife was laying awake, wondering where I was. She could have been here with me, if she had wanted.
She never wanted. Anything. Not the somethings that rise above our daily bread of upkeep and maintenance.
I didn’t stop to question why I was even there, in a loft full of fractured artists, and drunk tourists, like me.
For the first time, since my indestructible youth, all I cared about was that very moment.
Giving in. Letting go.
So in shadowed, theft, we stood alone, surrounded by crowded thoughts we didn’t care to entertain.
And we kissed.
She told me I was the loneliest man she’d ever met.
I could do nothing but cry, gently.
And kiss her again.
More than that.
I let go.
I held her, closely—tightly.
For the first time in ten years, my arms felt strong. They felt like they had a purpose beyond mechanics.
The problem with letting go, however, is the simple fact that it leaves us to fall.
Especially when we are just barely hanging on for dear life.
I’m not sure if it was a wild risk, or stupid attempt to get caught, and slink back to what I left with my tail between my legs, but I had to do it, regardless of the true motivation. I had finally achieved anonymity and now, I was ready to throw it all to the winds of chance and crash my own party. Maybe it was some symbolic moment of life closure.
It was probably more of a drunken, morbid curiosity to see who would show up.
Like a car crash, or stalking your high school girlfriend on Facebook, the curiosity of it all had gotten the best of me. How many people get the rare opportunity to attend their own funeral?
I simply had to go.
I just had to figure out how to pull it off.
I grabbed a hundred-dollar bill and walked out into the night towards the closest drugstore in search of items to help disguise me. I looked down at Ben Franklin, who was smiling up at me with a devious grin.
“Who’s cock did you suck to get on the c-note, Ben?” I asked, as my own devious grin crept out.
I bought (more) whiskey and some black hair dye and then returned to my room at the Stagecoach to begin my metamorphosis. According to his Driver’s License, Finnegan had brown hair, though his wife used to call it a very-dirty blonde.
I leaned my head over the little sink in my room and went to work. By the time I had finished, the sink was stained with black dye; so was the floor, the walls and the shower curtain. It looked like a squid exploded.
I threw a towel over my head and walked towards the mirror facing the bed, rubbing my scalp vigorously. When I removed the towel and looked at myself, it didn’t feel like my reflection.
“What do you think?” I asked the Jimmy the clown, leaning in for a closer inspection.
I did look different, but only at first glance— the face was still the same. Looking like a strung out Super Man past his prime wouldn’t be enough. I would be spotted for sure. I cracked open my fresh bottle of Jack and sat down at the edge of the bed.
As usual, the sad clown offered me no advice. I was on my own.
I needed to completely change my appearance to pull this off. I needed something that would throw no suspicion of my true identity out to the funeral goers. I took another drink as inspiration came crashing down on me like a roof caving in.
Then I passed out in a drunken stupor.
I have had a rather strange week. Strange only in contrast to the week prior, full of professional oddity and the type of strange that has somehow become my norm.
This was an inadvertent, self-imposed variation of a semi-solitary confinement of sorts. I didn’t try to cut myself off from the outside world, save for brief moments of self-supposed wit and charm via the social satellites of love…
I just did.
I’ve mentioned in recent posts that, save for poems and short chapters, I have been a bit at a loss for words.
It’s not that they aren’t there; there are simply far too many. Far too many unfinished chapters and half-started explorations stemming from a mind that moves faster than the hand, whether by ink or keyboard.
I am, by trade and reputation, an emotional, passionate man. I am learning from experience that I am best admired from afar, lest you see the unavoidable truths of the temperament found within me; found within a complex man in search of simple things.
I am, by trade and reputation, a tornado.
But this week, without planning such, my emotion has been vacant, my passion focused and quiet. There have been brief moments of contentment, longing, angst and melancholy, but they only creep out like a soft light emanating from underneath a bedroom door.
Without trying, I’ve spent the week in a cosmic ambivalence, by and large, shrugging the universe off in trade of simple images that say more than my words ever could.
More than they ever should.
Loud images, in a quiet place, my mind focused on nothing but.
It is an artist’s burden to feel so damned much all the time. It allows us to display these emotions, explain them, or at least show the world they exist, so they can feel them too.
Or perhaps, know they aren’t alone.
Without, of course, the privileges and benefits of slowly going crazy as a result.
Emotional ambiguity. To exist in this state for too long is a tragedy for any man or woman. But for me, right now, it’s kind of necessary. Even were it not, I am here nonetheless.
I’ve thought too hard. Longed too hard. Spoke too hard. Loved too hard. Lost too hard.
Sometimes I drink too hard, and perhaps I simply live too hard.
It can make a man tired.
Sometimes, when I feel everything, I need a little time to feel nothing.
It’s a farce. Deep down, I know better.
Hard as I may try, to stop feeling altogether would be to stop living.
And regardless of how one lives, for this brief moment in time, we are alive.
Perhaps this emotional dissidence is merely a temporary calm before a rather large storm.
The biggest blazes all start with a spark, and I am but kindling at the ready.
Far too often, my work has ideas of its own; no matter how well I plan out a project or try to envision it as a finished piece, even before I begin, I know it will go where it must.
Me? I merely go with it.
It’s like steering a runaway horse that you know won’t stop until it wants to.
You hold on tight, and hope to god you don’t get lost.
It’s a very stark contrast to my creative process for advertising. That is a system all its own, with calculations in both strategy and risks. It has a budget, and far more accountability on a fairly immediate level.
But deadlines are for the mad.
This most recent one has taken me into a dead forest full of petrified skulls hiding in the mud, if you look close enough.
Sometimes I vomit my emotions publicly through words, through music and performance.
Other times, I merely exorcise or, more to wit, recognize my demons.
I’ve reached the stopping point for piece number two in my series, it’s ready to be ignored for a spell, so I can return to it with a little separation.
So it’s on to the next process, the next piece of the series, and in the most obvious of clichés, the next piece of the puzzle.
I haven’t any idea just how far deep this rabbit hole goes.
I’m okay with such things.
Hell, I jump in head first, regardless of how I might land.
I don’t always get to pick what I work on. Sometimes, I merely must.
Sometimes, I want more than anything to do just one thing.
But I do something else—entirely.
It’s not a misdirected obsession, merely an opportunity to follow my inner muse wherever it may lead.
Sure, today I wanted to work on an essay about the importance of writing by hand. The scientific background attached to a higher plain of thought resulting from a journal.
I’ve been researching it for months.
But my words are hard to come by these days, save for the occasional misread poem or random short chapter.
I wouldn’t call it writer’s block, so much as a motivational lull.
Words are so much easier to misread than art.
Art is open.
It was meant to be misunderstood, made personal in message, kept individual by the souls that witness it.
When words fail, the simplest truth is found in a more direct emotional response.
I started a new piece tonight, a new process to fall into and be swept away by. The second in a series focused on the roots of human emotion.
More specifically, mine own.
This has been the primary subject of my therapy recently, both in a licensed professional’s office, and in my own head and heart as I create songs, words and art.
But words have failed me as of late.
I am fortunate to have so many outlets—so many options to express myself.
Through eloquence, through a messy rage, through melancholy, I can look deeply into my own dark soul and search.
My mind is mine. My mind is mined.
My mind is always on public display, to help avoid confusion of character.
Why look to the words of others, when it’s already there, waiting for you to see?
So until I find the words, the process continues, as do I.
But this is merely the beginning.