Posts Tagged ‘journey’

Fondly: Catch and Release

June 17, 2014





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.




Fondly: Spoonman

May 29, 2014



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.

Fondly: It Must Be Love

May 4, 2014



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.




Fondly: When I Was Your Age…

April 1, 2014



“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.



PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 8 (Pt. 5)

December 27, 2009

We sat groggy—a huddled mass in the train station at 5:am.

We were convinced we’d miss our train back to London if we slept the night before, so we found ourselves waiting to leave wonderland with more than four hours to go.

Hunched over on a bench, collar pulled up around my ears, I drifted in and out of sleep, occasionally catching a chill from the wind sweeping through the station.

“This is what it must feel like to be homeless,” I thought to myself, as we sat staring at cold empty tracks.

Stan put on his earphones and melted away into a mix tape, as I looked around the station.

We were the only ones there, save for an old bum with dreadlocks, carrying an umbrella, but he was so far down the tracks, he was barely more than a fuzzy silhouette.

I coughed, my lungs tired from the trip, and heard the echo ring through the vast, empty station.

This was a golden opportunity. I pulled out my harmonica and let it wail, the slowest blues riff I could conjure. I wailed as if I were a troubled soul with a dark cloud hanging in my past—perhaps I was.

Time oft waters down the context of memory.

My private jam was cut short as the homeless dread walked past, followed closely by a dutch cop. The homeless man was yelling at the law as they passed.

He was an american, with the most generic of inner city dialects.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8a | 8b | 8c | 8d

PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 8 (Pt. 4)

December 25, 2009

We did our best to ignore it—we numbed our brains in every way imaginable, but occasionally, fleeting moments of homesickness would wash over Stan and an audible sigh would inevitably rise up and hang over us, sitting heavy like smoke.

I crawled out of my bed, blanket wrapped around me for warmth, and looked out the window.

It had snowed. For the first time in over 20 years, Amsterdam had a white Christmas.

I breathed on the glass, then drew the outline of a Christmas tree in the fog.

A strange giddiness overcame me, and for a brief moment I felt as excited as when I was a child, ready to run into the living room and sit beneath the tree opening presents.

Only there was no tree, there were no presents. Aside from a date on the calendar, there hadn’t been much Christmas at all since we left London.

That was the plan, and until I woke up on Christmas morning, it had been working.

I needed to do something.

I looked over at Soul Sister and our stash of crystallized nuggets in little ziplock bags, but that wasn’t what I needed to do. Not on Christmas morning.

Christmas afternoon, perhaps.

But that morning I needed to become someone else entirely—Stan needed a visit from Old St. Nick.

I grabbed the little spiral-bound notebook I brought to journal my experience in Amsterdam and began drawing a Christmas tree. When I finished, I leaned it against the wall on the desk. The tree looked good, for all intents and purposes.

But it lacked something important: presents.

I scanned the room looking for something I might give Stan. Aside from Soul Sister, our backpacks and an old phone book, the room was pretty bare.

I had to get creative.

When Stan returned about 45 minutes later his face was awash in red, but not from the cold—the phone card hadn’t worked. He tried it everywhere, wandering around aimlessly in search of various pay phones, to no avail.

I was going to have to be his family that year.

He was frustrated and mildly defeated, unleashing a chain of curse words that would make a sailor blush—until he noticed the tree sitting on the desk with little presents wrapped up underneath.

“What’s this?” He asked.
“Merry Christmas, Stan old buddy!” I yelled out, as if I were a character in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. “Santa stopped by while you were out. Open your presents!”

He threw his useless phone card on the bed and walked over to the “tree”.

“But I didn’t get you anything,” he said.
“Stan, old friend, you’ve given me more than you know. I wouldn’t even be here right now if it weren’t for you.”

Stan began opening his presents, one by one, as I watched in excitement. I gave him (his) razor, (his) deodorant and (his) walkman batteries, all wrapped up in pages ripped out of the phone book.

Stan followed each present with “It’s just what I’ve always wanted, how did you know?” and “It’s just my size.”

It wasn’t what he got so much as the act of opening the presents itself. It was a small bit of normalcy in a life that had become anything but.

“So, what do you want to do today?” Stan asked after all his “presents” had been unwrapped.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8a | 8b | 8c

PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 8 (Pt. 3)

December 24, 2009

To my right, Stan flipped through a book we’d just bought called the Mellow Pages: A Smoker’s Guide to Holland and began charting our day’s odyssey. I think his goal was to forget he had a family, at least for a few days.

To my right, a twelve-year-old girl sat rolling joint after joint. She was good. I couldn’t roll that well and I was once a Birkenstock wearing, tie-dye clad, dirty hippie following the Dead and chanting “Jerrrrry!”

But we were in a different world, now and those days were far behind me.

When she finished a big enough pile, the bartender came over, took the joints and put them in a mason jar, then paid her.

She immediately turned around and sat down at one of the video slot machines by the front door. She played turn after turn, pulling the lever to a barrage of canned electronic noise until her money was all gone.

Then she came back to the bar, sat down and started rolling again. This cycle repeated itself for a few hours, and most likely continued the rest of the day.

Just before we left, an old man entered the bar, followed by about 10 teenagers. He bought a 100 grams of hash, individually bagged, and divided them up amongst the teens before they dispersed into the city to sell their goods.

Our plan was to visit as many shops as humanly possible, drinking and smoking ourselves into a family-free holiday stupor at every stop.

When we left we cut down a street that was the official beginning of the Red Light District. Stan and I window shopped for a while, haggling occasionally with a prostitute staring at us from behind glass. We had no intentions of spending any time or money in the Red Light District, but Stan enjoyed haggling—over everything. This was a chance for him to see just how good he was.

When Stan would get a girl to agree on a price, he’d pause and think for a moment, the prostitute ready to unlock the door to her little sterile room consisting of a bed a chair and a sink to let us in. Then he would pause and say,

“I’m just going to go check and see how much that red head is down the road.”

We always walked away to the sound of muffled cursing in dutch and a one-finger salute.

It was fun, but that’s not why we were there.

There’s something for everyone in Amsterdam, providing you enjoy sex, drugs and alcohol. I think the Ann Frank house is there, too, but they didn’t sell pot in the gift shop, so we walked right past, towards the next stop in our little guide book.

On our way to Sunny Corner, the next coffee house on the list, we stopped at a head shop to buy a little half-foot, purple plastic bong which we affectionately named Soul Sister. As we sat in the coffee house smoking and playing backgammon, a boy, no more than 15, walked over and timidly asked if he could borrow the bong in broken English. I handed him Soul Sister and thought to myself,

“How cute. They want to smoke like the grown-ups.”

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8a | 8b

PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 8 (Pt. 2)

December 23, 2009

Next to the doors of the pub was a small, rusted metal door with neither window nor lock.

“In here, guys,” he said as he opened the door, leading to a very steep stairwell. “All the way to the top.”

We walked past Rick, through the door, then up five flights of steps before reaching the top level. The stairs shifted under our feet, and the top floor felt as if it had been attached to the rest of the building with duct tape.

“First door on the left,” Rick said as he followed us to the top of the steps.

Stan opened the door to a large room with two single beds and a small desk with no chair.

“It’s 30 Guilders a night, in advance. Bathroom’s down the hall. You have to share it with the other guests, but right now, there aren’t any.”

I had no idea if this was a good deal or not. I had just (finally) figured out the British Pound. I was trying to convert money from the Dollar to the Pound to the Guilder.

“Sounds good,” Stan replied, pulling out a handful of strange, foreign bills and coins.

We both stared blankly at the money, not sure which was worth what.

Rick leaned over and began examining the currency in Stan’s hand.

“Here, I need this, and this,” He said grabbing what I assumed (or perhaps hoped) was 30 Guilders.

He handed Stan the key to the room, and turned towards the door.

“Have fun guys.”

We stood, still dazed, in the center of the room, backpacks still on.

“So…what do you want to do first?” Stan finally asked, throwing his pack on one of the beds.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8a

PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 8

December 23, 2009

We didn’t even know where we were going to stay.

The rest of the pub staff rented a cottage in North England for the holidays, but Stan was determined to do something bigger.

This was our first Christmas away from our collective families and though neither of us would admit it, we missed them.

So Stan wanted to take his mind off things, fight off the impending home sickness that was hovering above us.

The best way to do this was to have the polar opposite of a family Christmas.

Where better than Amsterdam?

The moment we set foot outside the station, a tall, creepy guy with tinted glasses and a fanny-pack immediately approached us.

“You guys American?”

Was it that obvious?

“Yeah, St. Louis,” Stan responded before I could remind him we were raised never to talk to strangers. This guy was a windowless van away from being everything we were warned about.

“Need a place to stay? Follow me.”

So we did.

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PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 7

December 12, 2009

London during the holidays is everything one might expect and hope for, transforming magically into a Dickens Village. Greenery outlined the city while chestnuts roasted at nearly every tube stop filling the air, mixing with the exhaust fumes of city buses and cabs.

Buskers were replaced by carolers.

It was a warm, traditional Christmas lacking in the Americanized opulence of lights and plastic Santas.

Though I was having a hard time adjusting to Happy Christmas over Merry Christmas.

For as good as we Americans have been at dumbing down the English language to it’s most simple terms, you’d think it would have been the other way around. Merry has such a nice, proper sounding ring to it.

I guess that meant ours wasn’t merry.

Semantics aside…

Our pub’s fireplace was lit first thing every morning, as fresh coal was delivered by soot covered Brits resembling the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins. Due to air pollution, wood was against the law.

But fire is fire, and our’s was warm—crackling and popping a friendly invitation to sit next to it, pint in hand.

“We should do something. It’s Christmas,” Stan said one dreary mid-December twilight. It was the dead part of the shift. Three of us were working, and we outnumbered the customers.

In front of me sat a row of glass pitchers, each filled with a special spiced, mulled wine, handmade by the Pub’s cook, Scotty. He was an aspiring film maker from Wisconsin.

He had been working there longer than anyone, but always as a cook. He wanted to be a bartender or cellarman like the rest of us, but he was just too good at what he did.

“We could go to that cabin in Bristol with the rest of the staff,” I said, pouring myself a mug of wine and sticking it under the espresso machine’s steam wand, turning it on with a hiss.

“We see them everyday,” Stan responded, handing me another glass. “We see them when we’re at work, we see them when we’re off work…this is our first Christmas away from home. We need to do something.”

The last time Stan said we needed to do something, I ended up on a plane with little more than a passport and a backpack, fleeing the country.

“What do you suggest, old pal?” I asked, as the steam wand sputtered out.

Stan took a drink and looked at the front window, the dark of the night transforming it into a mirror.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 6

December 6, 2009

It was less a revered holiday filled with family, food and the limbo that unfolds thanks to tryptophan and alcohol, and more a Tuesday.

Or maybe Thursday.

It was just another day of the week. I had to work, Stan had to work.

Thanksgiving is for Americans. Canadians claim to have one, too, but…

The evening shift was slow and steady, like most nights—a couple of regulars at the end of the bar living off the dole and drinking Harveys amidst a cloud of hand-rolled smoke, the strange old man in the trench coat that drank alone staring longingly (and creepily) at the male members of the bar staff waiting for someone to fall into the unfortunate trappings of conversation. The blowhard who lost all credibility when he ordered a shandy—a line of Guinness with “Fuck You” spelled out in the heads of the stout, poured for the rowdy rugby enthusiasts that thankfully couldn’t read very well…

I pulled some pints, Stan changed a cask.

We spent our cigarette breaks racing over to the pub across the green to see who could drink a pint and be back the quickest. Stan edged me out with a time of 6:02.

Just another day.

When our shift ended, we walked over to the Kebob Kid on Fulham for some felafels, lamb sharawamas and chips drenched in vinegar and salt. We ate this nearly every night.

Walking back, already tearing into our meals, cucumber and onion dripping down our hands, Stan looked over at me.

“Happy Thanksgiving, buddy.”

I had forgotten it even was Thanksgiving until that moment, our dinners suddenly transforming into a holiday feast.

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PFTIB: A Short Work of Fiction, Vol. 5

November 21, 2009

As the train pushed south, I began to wonder if this would be one of those decisions.

Why was I leaving? I loved London; I loved the pubs and markets, the movement and action.

I was surrounded by people stuck in the same frame of mind as me; travelers from every corner of the world, together, living above a bar, in search of something greater.

It was like living on a reality TV show without the cameras. Before there even was such a thing.

Every waking moment was a party—a desperate attempt to live each day as if it were our last. A life driven by visceral excess.

But that’s not why I was there.

Not anymore, at least.

I wasn’t doing anything I couldn’t be doing anywhere else.

I could party at home, but I could never be a stranger—I could never escape myself in a place so familiar.

Back home I had a past, in London we lived only for the present…

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