I said my good byes to a lot of people.
But my friends wouldn’t let me go.
I love those assholes.
I said my good byes to a lot of people.
But my friends wouldn’t let me go.
I love those assholes.
How did I get here?
How did I end up in a van full of sideshow freaks and burlesque girls? I wasn’t a part of this world—I wore suits and manipulated the public’s idea of needing.
I was neither artist nor musician, my wife made sure of that.
But there was something about her. I was attracted to her; less like a bee to a flower, more akin to a moth to the flame.
So I got in.
Work would understand, my wife would not.
I didn’t really understand it either.
Truth be told, I was just happy to feel something again. Something other than remorse and loneliness. Something other than resignation and defeat. Even fear felt better, at least when coupled with big blue eyes and a smile that worked more effectively than a cattle prod turned up to eleven.
How quickly and easily the unassuming romantic can be swept away by a soft pair of lips—wrapped up between the legs of an idea far more pure than any one person.
The moment I got in that van I knew; I had a lot of decisions to make—a lot of changes to contend with, save for one.
One choice was made obvious and clear, for once you jump down that dark deep hole you simply must chase the rabbit all the way to the bottom.
Jumping head first ensured I would fall, never once thinking about the abrupt landing waiting just below.
I was too busy feeling weightless to notice my stomach drop.
Just where were we going, anyway?
In my reckless youth, living up to the cliche by searching the vast map of Europe for myself, I never had a problem being alone, free to witness or interact as I pleased.
More to wit, I once relished such exercises.
I could fall in love with a stranger and live out my life without saying a word or lifting a finger. I could fall into the shadows and watch stories unfold, or develop my own.
Somewhere along the line that stopped. With little warning and even less fanfare, going out with others became a chore, unthinkable alone.
The outside world didn’t change, but sadly, I had.
But then, lets be clear about something; having worked so diligently at honing my skill and rank of functioning alcoholic, sitting alone at a dark bar, staring into my old fashioned, was an entirely different exercise.
I could drink alone like a professional. What I could not do is sit down at a table for one and dine alone.
When I sat at a bar I was never alone. I wasn’t in a bar, I was in my drink—in my mind. I was at home.
Dining alone, however was an altogether different thing.
Perhaps it harkened back those lonely moments, sitting at a high school locker, a brown paper bag and book my only lunchtime companions. Such invisible spotlights can be rather blinding.
Perhaps I didn’t like the reminder that I was, indeed, alone. The reminder that the only better half I possessed was merely the left or right side of myself.
Or perhaps I simply didn’t like eating alone.
“How many will be dining tonight?”
My life is pretty damned good.
I have friends and family.
I love my profession. I make a very good salary while working from home on things I have expertise in.
I have time to write, paint, upgrade my yard…
I keep my own hours and sleep when I choose.
I have the freedom and money to travel pretty much wherever and whenever I want.
I can play with my pups all day, and grill dinner every night.
I can donate close to a thousand dollars per month to the people that need it most…to live—literally.
I can mentor and inspire, and often do.
How did I get so lucky?
Luck has nothing to do with it.
I have this life, because I made this life, despite the obstacles.
Luck is for those who cannot take their life into their own hands.
It’s for lotto winners and those unwilling to work for something great.
Luck is for the impatient and uninitiated.
Like the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, I simply don’t believe in it.
I believe in me.
And I choose to make my own luck.
But then, I’ve only ever gambled with my life.
It was the same every summer.
From our first to our last.
It didn’t matter where we were. It didn’t matter who was watching or what lengths she had to go through to do it.
It wasn’t officially summer until she did it.
I remember one in particular. It wasn’t at the beginning, nor close to the end. It was nestled somewhere in the middle, when things could go either way.
Before they went this way.
We sat on the back porch of our home.
It wasn’t the first summer evening we sat out there, drinking good beer and scratching our dog.
Then she saw one.
And then another.
Suddenly our yard was an all-natural, eco-friendly dance club.
There were lightning bugs everywhere—some call them fireflies, but we never did.
I watched her jump out of her chair, and run down to the yard, barefoot and in her PJ’s. She lunged, and then paused. She waited and watched for them to show themselves for that split second.
And then she caught one.
I watched from the porch as she whispered something into her hands, occasionally illuminated through her fingers by the nervous blink of a captive audience.
And then she let it go, watched it fly away and came back to the porch.
As she sat down, she told me, “I named him Herbie. Summer can begin.”
She took a drink, and I looked at her.
This was the part of her I fell in love with.
Sadly, it was just one of many pieces, and we had become very different puzzles.
I still catch a lightning bug every year, whisper a name and let it go.
Sometimes, that’s all you can do with something so wonderful.
I am not a handy person. I’m more of an idea man.
But after four years, it was time.
Time to claim my yard and create my own personal Blue Heaven.
I have always loved sitting out back, usually on the top step of the porch.
But. I rarely went down the steps into the yard.
It’s uneven, ugly—grass won’t grow in parts, and the patio area was too small for much of anything beyond a chair.
So I planned. I planned a budget, and a strategy.
I raked and dug and broke the earth with my bare hands. I broke rocks until my arms were sore, my back ached and my hands bled.
I shoveled and leveled and laid each piece of the patio down, one tile at a time.
I built, I assembled.
And then, I finished.
Sure, there are tweaks to be made, plants to be planted, a grill to assemble still, but by and large, it’s finished.
And as I sit out here, in my own private bar patio, coffee house, living room and office—My Blue Heaven—writing this rather bland post about Doing It Myself, I feel proud of what I made.
I am content with where I am—A satisfied man.
It’s Father’s Day.
I didn’t get to see mine today.
He’s in the hospital with blood clots on his lung, and I’ve been dealing with my own ailments all day. (getting old is a pain in the ass—quite literally at times.)
But that doesn’t mean he’s not with me, all the time.
I was a rather lucky person to have such a great man as a father—such a great man to raise me.
He did more than teach me how to throw a baseball, and ride my bike. More than convince me spaghetti grows on trees.
He taught me how to be a good person, and hopefully, one day, a great man.
He taught me how to be respectful to others, that it is okay to be affected.
Most of all, he taught me how to pick myself up and start again—a lesson that still comes in handy, and one he still reminds me when I need it most.
I may never be a father, I may never get to be the type of great man my father is, but I’m a good man because of him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.
See you soon.
I acknowledge the fact that I’ve written very little as of late.
This is for two primary reasons:
I’m in the process of curating and revising a book of short stories, essays and poems for a Fall 2014 release. This takes time not to write, but to review what I’ve already done, to coordinate with my editor and designer…
The main reason, is my reaction to the most current mental funk, manual labor.
I’ve lived here for four years now. Every nice day I spend the majority of it out back, sitting on my porch, top step.
I write, drink, and play out there. I watch my dogs at their happiest.
But I never leave that porch, save to take the trash out to the alley.
So I decided to fix that.
I love my backyard. It has no trees, but the neighbors do, and that gives me shade, and my dogs room to run and romp and play.
So this month has been spent digging, raking, tilling, laying down patio and assembling things.
I’m not finished, but I’ve done enough now to sit out here on a couch, typing this blog as Daisy chases lightning bugs and Deuces sits next to me for the ear scritches.
Stay tuned. You know I like to share.
I started drinking early yesterday.
I have gotten rather good at *not* turning to the bottle when I’m down. Alcohol is part of a celebration of life, not a tool to numb myself from it…
Not anymore, at least.
But it was not a normal day, and the dark clouds that hung low were nothing so trivial as lost love or a forced change in career paths.
One year ago, I lost an important person to me. One of the most important, in fact.
I could go on and on about what made her such an important person to so many.
This isn’t about losing Stephanie.
This is about what has happened since.
I don’t shed a tear, once a year to prove she was here.
I shed a tear often, with every fond memory recalled.
But the tears aren’t pure sorrow; they are more.
She was more. More than my high school love, my summer romance.
She was more to so many. She impacted people the right way.
And that is what this is about.
Making the right impact in this world, making the right impact with the people around me.
When Stephanie passed, I tried so hard to pick up where she left off. To volunteer my time, to mentor and inspire.
I was too busy watching my own life fall away to help anybody else.
Further proof of how strong Stephanie was. She was fighting cancer, six years longer than they had given her. She never once let it stop her. Her personal tragedies were hers, but she still took on those of others.
I failed at being Stephanie.
I am someone else. I had a hard time swallowing my failure to emulate her; where was my impact? What had I done for anyone?
And then, one year to the day, I met two young men. Fans of my work. Fans of my writing, with no mutual friends nor connection. They found my novel randomly at a bookstore, drawn to the design of the spine, and were sold after the first sentence, by their own accounts.
I spent the afternoon with them, talked about the book, my work and process, talked about them, and their lives.
They told me as they read Rorschach’s Ribs, they found themselves saying, “yeah, that’s exactly how I feel,” and “I feel like this was written for me.”
Which means it was. It means I made an impact. I moved them, inspired them; but not in the attempt to be someone else.
When I was their age, I was inspired by the work of Douglas Coupland. I met him, had him sign my book and gave him a letter I’d written.
He was uncomfortable and never responded, and I began to wish I hadn’t shattered the illusion.
I’m not as famous or successful as Coupland. I probably never will be.
But I will always be more accessible. I will always simply be me.
The afternoon probably meant as much to me as it did to my fans, my new friends—if not more.
I failed at being Stephanie, but I did not fail to properly honor her life; by doing my best to inspire those around me—to make a positive impact on the world.
This is, perhaps, the greatest lesson she left behind for me.
She impacted me.
Now it’s my turn to do the same.
My wife didn’t like us to touch when we slept, or most any time we were awake for that matter.
She insisted we buy the largest bed possible to avoid such atrocities as one of my legs drifting over.
I had no idea what I was missing, until her. As we laid in my much smaller queen sized bed, she whispered quietly in my ear nine words I never knew I even needed to hear, until she said them. Nine words my wife would never say, at least not to me.
“Do you want me to big your big spoon?”
I said nothing more than a faint, barely audible “yes.”
Then I felt her leg wind into a tangle with mine, an arm tucking gently around my torso. I felt her beautiful, young body press against mine, until I could no longer tell where I stopped and she began.
Her breath was warm; steady, soft—a lullaby sweeter than music.
It really felt like she wanted to be there, melting into me. I believed it with all of my heart, as my brain screamed obscenities and called me a fool.
But to be loved in such an open, warm way made my mind’s opinions moot.
It was everything I ever craved in my previous life.
Everything I never had.
I never wanted to sleep any other way ever again so long as I lived.
I did my best to enjoy the warmth and intimacy of the moment; I tried to ignore that nagging feeling in my gut that there wouldn’t always be a spoon to help reassure me of my choices.
But there was for now.
I used to lay awake…in a cold bed, next to an even colder woman. I would lay there and think about everything. I would think until my mind was overwhelmed and confused—turned inside out and tangled up.
It always started with the same thought:
I should leave.
This isn’t my beautiful wife. This is not my beautiful house.
How did I get here?
More to wit, what would happen if I left?
I would lose my house, my TV, my couch and over-priced dining room table.
I would lose 13 years of memories shared.
I would lose my dog.
I would be alone.
What is alone like?
I wondered, and then pondered…
And then I had an anxiety attack.
I had never been alone. Not really.
Siblings and parents, roommates, a girlfriend and then a wife.
What if this was my one and only chance? What if I left and never found another person to share my life?
Nobody to talk to—nobody to spend holidays and weekends with, regardless of how those weekends were being spent.
It scared me. It scared me enough to stay.
And now, even after leaving, I lay awake, listening to the deep breathing of another warm body slumbering beside me for no reason other than a simultaneous fear of waking up alone.
Perhaps I needed to learn how to be codependent on myself, for a change.
I fled the city. There’s no question about my motivating factors for leaving.
There’s no doubt I made the right choice.
As the forces of nature converge on STL, the mood thick and awkward, I fled.
I fled the endings.
The end of shows, relationships…the ends of bands and performers. The end of a lot of somethings that probably went on far too long.
I fled because I didn’t want to be near it. Any of it. I didn’t want to see her, or most anybody else.
I didn’t want to think about the whimper throughout the weekend—the quiet undignified final breath about to be exhaled before it all goes silent.
I don’t want to tempt the fates, or wonder when people might pop back into my life.
I don’t want to mourn quietly, nor celebrate the ends, so much as continue forward finding my beginnings.
Madness. It had all fallen into complete madness. A freefall.
I had jumped. I needed to for the both of us.
It wasn’t always so bad—our life together didn’t begin with such bitter resignation.
We used to enjoy one another’s company.
We spent our honeymoon in London, or more to wit, inside various pubs of London. Drinking was one thing we still had in common, if little else.
It was our last night before returning to reality. We spent it in our favorite local, just down the road from our hotel. We had gotten to know the regulars and bartenders, by face, if not name, through repetition and an open invitation to converse with anyone willing to talk.
I bet the wife I could get the bar to serenade her, without asking. The prize, one pound coin.
And eternal respect for my charm.
I finished my pint, walked to the jukebox and selected the proper song, before making my way to the bar for a refill.
I selected It Must Be Love by Madness. I’m fairly certain everyone in England knows this song.
As the song began, I noticed the regulars tapping their fingers, and bobbing their heads, gently to the intro. I began to sing along quietly, just loud enough for the people next to me to hear.
When the chorus came around, a burly, bearded old Brit with a cane and a can of snuff stood up and wailed out the chorus with everything he had. His eyes were closed, his face red, his pint was swinging along, spilling onto his had and the floor. That was enough to bring the rest of the bar in for the next chorus.
I walked over to the wife and took her hand. She smiled and blushed, a growing rarity as the calendars turned. I lead her to the center of the bar with the drunk, singing patrons all around her. I winked, and rejoined the chorus.
I still have that pound coin.
What I felt once upon a time; It must be love.
I’m not one to share memes—neither here nor on the Book of Faces. I tend to find inspiration in my own words more often than something posted and then reposted. Though those words are oft true to life, I simply prefer thoughts made just for me.
Selfish. Perhaps, but I believe in knowing thyself.
Like I said, I’m not a meme guy, but I scrolled through FB not too long ago and came across this little gem.
I saw this and chuckled, quietly to myself.
I could think of a few woman who aren’t too thrilled about this fact.
I just had a conversation on this very subject with an inspiration for my current novel, Fondly.
It wasn’t a friendly conversation.
She told me to stop writing it. That it was a violation of our relationship.
It was in that exact moment that I no longer missed her. It was at that exact moment that I was free.
To tell a writer to stop writing.
I don’t write about dragons or wizards or any fodder of fantasy. I write about life. I write from the heart, I write what I know. I want my sentiment to be true. I want my message to be sound.
I’m sure many a woman regretted their part in Bukowski’s pieces, in the works of Henry Miller. But they chose to be a part of an artist’s life that left them forever impacted. That inspired words.
Not everyone leaves an impact. The last girl was milquetoast. Nothing of note in any direction came of it.
But there are others. Some I knew but for a moment, others far deeper.
Others, like that inspiration to Fondly.
She told me to find a new muse.
I had to explain that she hadn’t been a muse for years, merely a part of my life, an experience that made a broad change in life.
She told me she wouldn’t be reading it.
I didn’t respond.
I know she will.
I write the stories that are relevant to me. I don’t expect to make a dime. Just a moment. A story. A chance for someone else to say, “yeah, that’s how I feel.”
So I write.
Perhaps one day, she’ll understand the meaning behind the title, Fondly.
Or perhaps she’ll stay true to her words, the idle threat of not reading what I write.
But still, I write. I write the joy, the love, the loss. I write the wrongs.
Here I sit. Tubes and IV’s, swollen spots on both hands and arms from blood tests…bruised belly from shots…trapped in a room, attached to a machine. No smoking, no drinking, no puppies.
And sadly no inspiration to do anything other than sit and wait to go home.
“When I was your age…”
When you’re dating someone 13 years younger, this is the moment your relationship changes.
It strikes a nerve—in both of you.
Suddenly, one of you feels young, while the other, extremely old.
It reminds you both that your love isn’t wildly accepted by the outside world, and maybe, the inside one as well.
It doesn’t change how you feel about her, merely the situation.
Why couldn’t we have both been born in the same generation? Why did Grunge happen when she was four, while I was rebelling in college?
Why didn’t our nostalgia match?
Our passions were the same, and every bit as intense.
But she was still searching for something I had found.
When I was her age…sigh…I was every bit as passionate as I am now…and every bit as lost.
Four years ago tomorrow, my life took a rather unexpected turn. I’m not sure if it feels like it happened only yesterday, or a million years ago. It was the beginning of something that changed nearly everything.
The day after that, everything did.
It was the first step in a new movement, artistically, and a huge leap with a running start for me personally.
Regardless of what happened after that point, at that point, I finally got the point.
What’s my point?
I suppose that, no matter what happens in my life, I’ll always look back at this and respect the changes it stirred. I’ll remember new friends that would become family, a drunk tramp, bearded lady, fouled mouthed dancing girls, a caged beast, a moonshine-soaked hillbilly, a medicine show barker with suspect intentions and a miracle elixir.
And, of course, darkened elevator shafts.
“You’re the first grownup I’ve ever dated.”
I’m pretty sure she meant it as a compliment, but it merely made me feel old, and it made her seem really, really young.
When a woman dates a younger man, she is called a Cougar.
When a man does it, he’s a lecherous, creepy, dirty old man in the midst of a crisis of some sort.
Given that most women mature faster, and develop rational thought, that seems a bit unfair.
Given that I act like a 15-year-old in my thirties only proves a point of compatibility.
I’m sure when she told me that, she meant it as a compliment. I’m sure she meant she’d only dated boys until now—boys with fast food jobs, and a strange obsession with video games.
I had already caught myself starting a sentence with, “When I was your age” far too many times, as I searched for our level of equality.
But at her age, she was merely searching.
When I was her age…I was too.
So why did I expect her to be different?
I didn’t even know how old, or perhaps young, she was until well after it was too late. I didn’t ever even think to ask. When your soul finds something that feels right, age becomes inapropos.
So does a house, a wife, and pretty much everything else.
She was rather good at vanishing.
A grand disappearing act, suddenly gone from my life, but never far from my thoughts.
She always re-appeared at my highest or lowest point, or simply when I would start to heal.
I don’t know if she was being calculated, selfish, feeling lonely or if, deep down, she loved me too.
My heart was developing a rather thick layer of scar tissue, but she could always find the soft spot, with little more than a well-placed smile.
Or the simple phrase, “I miss you.”
Were I smarter, or perhaps merely stronger, I’d ignore it and continue on.
But I was neither—simply in love.
When she texted again, she asked if I was home.
And with that, I found myself bundling up, scraping an inch of ice off my windshield and swerving through a snowstorm to see her.
I wouldn’t risk the roads for the office.
For her, I’d gamble away my life.
I did once before.
After a divorce, they get their groove back; they eat, pray, and fuck. They are celebrated for their every step toward a normal life in the wake of a major change.
Nobody ever talks about what we go through.
We have to start from scratch, too. Learn how to be single, alone, and answering to none.
If Stella were a man, how she got her groove back would be labeled a midlife crisis, and heads would shake in a disparaging manor filled with judgment and jealousy.
Nobody ever makes a movie about a man learning to be alone, late in his life.
Nobody makes movies about having to buy trash bins and plungers and shower curtains to replace what was left behind.
Nobody makes a movie about a man who misses his friends, his king-sized bed—nobody makes a movie about a man who misses his dog.
Maybe I should write that screenplay.
Or maybe I’m just trying to justify her.