It’ll Come

Want to know what’s really hard?  Lighting.

No, seriously…freaking lighting is a nightmare.  Table lamps, chandeliers, recessed, track, indirect, spot, flood…

Lights are, to all intents and purposes, flat out evil.

Have you ever tried to find the perfect pendant lights for a brewery in a 100-year-old train station?  Good lord, I feel like a 14 year old trying to find just the right outfit for his first date…


See, this is how places end up with basic fluorescent lighting that doesn’t only look like shit, it also pisses off the customers: it’s just easier that way.  There are companies out there whose entire business model is based on our society’s subservience to FOMO.*  But not these lighting folks, nosireebob.  They’re just the opposite; they build their model off our willingness to surrender and simply settle.  They know someone shopping for new commercial fixtures is likely starting a new business.  They know that particular someone is going to be stressed and overwhelmed.  They know timelines and costs are probably already out the window by the time the buyer gets to lighting, so they base their marketing and product selection on that other little nugget of societal gold: “Stop dithering and just buy something, ferfuckssake!”

*Fear Of Missing Out, if you’re wondering.

It’s insidious.  It’s evil.  And, of course, it works.

Crap, I wish I had known more about sales and marketing when I was in high school and college — I wouldn’t have left “those” parties and bars alone quite so often.

Ahem.  Never mind.

The good news out of all this is that I am at the point where lights are a concern.  Freakin’ lights! That right there is progress, if I do say so myself!  Remember way back when I told you about how I really am able to write — really write — only in taprooms?  And when I hinted about becoming my own best friend in that regard?  Yeah, that “really far down the road” ain’t lookin’ so far away now…

Of course, then I just have to find (or manufacture) the time to actually step away from everything else and just write.  Ah well, it’ll come…it’ll come…

Ray Bradbury was really good at titles.  Yeah, the man could write, too…but he truly ruled at creating titles.  My favorite title of his?  Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Change your perception of the second word to our modern slang interpretation, and…oh my, does that title work even better for me right now!

If you’re curious, by the way: Desmond Depot Brewhouse

{Musical Note — Let’s go with a band I haven’t posted on here before…

Edit: the writer created this song while backpacking alone through a strange country. It was a song about alienation, and missing home — and also about hope. It is also, of course, a song about the cost of being away from home. This is, when you get down to it, a song all of us wanderers and hobos can identify with.}

Hiding Away

Just how many times can I start and stop a blog post?

Just how many times can I highlight everything I just typed and hit the Delete key?

Just how aimless and mindless and focusless* can I possibly be?  I very much have the “kinda, sorta” disease this morning, by the way.  I kinda, sorta know what I want to say…but I just can’t get the thoughts and words into any kind of order.  I kinda, sorta have the want to write, but not the right mindset.  I kinda, sorta have the right music playing, but its not right enough to immerse me in creativity…

*I’m pretty sure that one is not even a real word, but I’m going to use it anyway…

Hell, not even the coffee is helping.

This piece might end up being one of those posts that just sits there, a quarter written, until focus and momentum builds again.  Or it might be one I have to bin entirely.  It’s that, or I make it one of those where I just sit here with my fingers on the keys and force the words into existence.  I’ve certainly done that a time or two…and always regretted the results.

Well, shit.  This is no way to start a day.


Okay, so it’s a few days later.


Actually, it’s six fucking weeks later.

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about writing.  Nor is it that I haven’t wanted to write.  The truth is…

Well, the truth is that I have been hiding.

Look, let’s be honest here: until you have heard that black dog howl, you have no idea just how seductive is the drive to hide away from the world.  For all the booze and drugs that I have experienced in my life, nothing compares to that particular impulse.

If I was a kid still, I would have built the biggest, strongest blanket fort in the universe and dived beneath the covers.  Unfortunately, I think my parents would have objected to me taking a fifth of scotch down into that fort, so I guess I’ll have to throw away the idea of being a kid again…


So what got the dog to howling? I hear you ask.  Fear.  More accurately, the fear of things spinning out of control.

I think we know each other well enough by now for everyone to acknowledge that I do not surrender control easily.  Umm, I don’t surrender control at all, as a matter of fact — just why the fuck do you think I’m single?!

Okay…so…can we skip that particular bugbear please?

This loss of control is more real and less emotional, anyway.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to open a brewhouse.  Well, a bit more than “trying” actually…

And I’m terrified.

I’m terrified not because of the business itself, but because the numbers and concepts behind the business have become far larger and more urgent than my original plans.  Oh, where things currently is better…but better is as frightening as it is exciting.

I have faced danger in my life.  I have faced danger in every sense of the word, to be honest.  I have stood there and faced as stoically as I could all kinds of danger and loss; the loss of success, the loss of ease, the loss of freedom.  I have faced, even, the loss of life.*  And none of that danger and loss has been half so bad as what I currently face.

*I still write thank you notes to the very, very large mama bear who didn’t eat me when I unintentionally came between her and her two cubs…

And that fear…well, that fear bought a drink for the isolation of being in a new place  with no real friends and they hit off it off.  Those two got together and had a little baby that looks and sounds a whole lot like the black dog with whom I am so familiar…

I heard that dog howl and I hid away.  Yes, that is an excuse of sorts.  But, well…

I don’t do nostalgia.  I don’t do memory.  But this past Christmas…

This past Christmas I stood outside and tried to look at the stars.  I saw only light reflected from the towns and cities around me.

I stood outside and tried to listen.  I tried to listen to my heart.  I tried, to be honest, to listen to the wolf packs howling in the night.

I tried, but I heard only cars.  Cars and the howling of the black dog….

{Musical Note — you have to listen to the words. All of the words. This song works. Like all good songs, it builds. Oh, and by the way, I love live music. I will always choose live music if I can — especially if that live bit is recorded in someone’s back-freaking-yard!}

Wait…I’m Dracula?!?

I had two posts stacked up, ready to post…

Yeah, the important word in that sentence is the verb: had.

One of the benefits of getting ahead on posts, by the way, is that you gain the time and distance you need to read and honestly evaluate the material before you hit the “Publish” button.  On review, both of those posts saw me hit the trash can icon rather than the button to post them.

One of those posts I kinda regret nuking, but only because it was basically harmless.  It was, in all honesty, just an exploration of the meaning and impact of a couple of songs.  Unfortunately it also wasn’t any more than that; it offered nothing new, nor anything particularly interesting for anyone but me.

That is the great danger of this kind of writing, by the way: the urge to devolve into internal monologues and self-absorption.  It is all too easy to forget that even a blog has to have a point.  Even a blog has to work to communicate something to its audience.  A work that is nothing more than the stream-of-consciousness spouting of internal thoughts and feelings with no purpose is a diary,* not a blog.

*Or freaking “Prufrock”…but, then, I hate that damned poem.  “Dare I eat a peach…” my ass.  Harrumph!  Those who love that poem, however, have a totally different opinion.  YMMV.

One of those posts that I deleted, however, had a core that did have something to say…even if that core needed to be stripped of the bitter, half-drunk trappings with which it was surrounded.  Now, what got me started on this particular post was re-reading that bit, while simultaneously thinking about a couple of discussions with some new friends…

Just like when I was living in Yellowstone, I find myself surrounded by — and socializing with — those who are significantly younger.  That’s not entirely bad, to be honest.  There is an energy and an honesty to youth that those of us who have weathered more of life’s shit can quite easily lose.  I know I personally have lost quite a bit of that energy and hope.  Unfortunately, youth also owns a callowness and naivety that can grate on your damned nerves…

One kid — 19 or 20, and dreaming of wealth and better things — talked about getting into “affiliate marketing” and “drop shipping”.  Now, whether you go old school and call them pyramid schemes, or adopt fresh new terms, those things are still nothing more than vehicles to abuse the young and stupid.  Sorry, Ethan, but that’s the truth…

Others with girlfriend/boyfriend troubles…

The loss of an apartment, and couch-surfing with friends and acquaintances…

When you get right down to it, the pure naive belief that the world makes sense, and that the universe is — of all life’s dirty words — “fair”…

I’m still utterly convinced that Dracula, and his particular brand of magic and mesmerization, is nothing more than an allegory for someone with decades of life and experience living among the young and naive.  A deep, dark part of me — one that I don’t invite to parties — knows it could manipulate these “kids” into, well, pretty much anything.  Experience can predict response; wisdom can guide impetus and action; cynicism can manipulate reaction…

God, I’m an evil bastard.*

*Errr…actually I’m a writer.  Which amounts to the same thing, when you get right down to it.  Who else but a serial killer or a writer would ever Google shit like “castration” and “eunuch” and actually read the damned results?!

“Why would you do that?” is the cry, of course.  “Why would you ever abuse the naivety and inexperience of the young?”

Just wait until you are over forty, then go talk for a half-hour with someone who is less than half your age!  You have two choices at that point: nostalgic memory for your own youth, or bitter cynicism at everything you have lost…

Shit, someone should write a story about that!

Wait, I think I might have that covered…

Okay, so someone should open a brewery where that can be written!

Ummm…well…I pretty much have that covered, too…

Shit…wait a damned second!

Did I just take away my last excuses for not producing my long-brewing fantasy series?  Dammit!

Random Thoughts: Us Versus Them

I was listening to a program this morning as I drove around on some errands.  It was a program about whales in general, and specifically about an upcoming film “featuring” one whale in particular: the 52-hertz whale (also called “the loneliest whale”).

Now, I’m not going to get into the story of that particular whale, no matter how fascinating the diversion between the actual science/research, and the emotive storytelling that has sprung up around him.*

*Yes, it is in fact a him — apparently, it is the male whales who sing, not all whales.  I did not really know that until the marine biologist on the program brought it up.

No, what I keyed in on as I listened — and what spurred me to ignore the business & planning stuff I should be doing in favor of typing away at this while I sip a beer in the sun — was a couple of specific observations.  Those observations I found, as both a writer and someone who has been fully immersed in the wilds, to be thought-provoking and well worth a bit of stream-of-consciousness exploration.

**Pointless Irony Alert!!**  There’s something, erm, kinda wrong about eating a bowl of poke while writing about the most impressive and amazing of sea-critters…

First off was a one-liner that I love: we humans are self-obsessed, we can’t help but anthropomorphism everything else.  The anthropomorphizing thing I’ve talked about on this blog before, but I absolutely love tying it back to our self-absorption as a species.  We are, to ourselves, quite literally the only things that matter in the universe.  Now, before you start yelling at me, please understand that I do realize just how overly broad and simplistic is that statement.  I realize all of that, and I still wrote it, so stop yelling!

Believe me, the intellectual dissonance in that line, and my own outlook on the universe, is a thought I could explore for…oh…at least a few thousand words.  The key thing to remember is that we humans, when you press us back to our most basic instincts and drives, cannot stop ourselves from resorting to, well, let’s call it tribalism for the moment.  By tribalism, I mean that instinct and drive of ours to divide the universe into us and them.  That instinct, by the way, is always there, no matter how we try to suppress it.  As soon as any group of ours grows to three or more, you can count on the fact that there is at least some element of us-versus-them.

That us and them leads directly to the second observation that I liked: we cannot — and do not — even begin to appreciate the wonders of the world, and animals in particular, until we have at least some form of personal experience with them.

Let me put some perspective around that thought.  You all know how I have spent the last several years.  I have been inside grizzly and wolf dens.  I have been eye-to-eye with a bear just feet away.  I have watched a wolf pack take down prey just yards away.  I have smelled the breath of a curious bison.  Nature and I, to put it mildly, have developed something of a romance, and that romance has given me opportunities and experiences that only a few (modern day) humans have shared.  On the other hand, I have had, in my own sense of pride and accomplishment — in my own sense of us versus them — a certain amount of contempt for those whose only experience of the same animals is through a spotting scope deployed on the side on the side of the road.

It is fair to say, however, that 90% or more of those who visit Yellowstone, and use binoculars or scopes or cameras to view the wildlife, have never before scene those animals anywhere but on a TV screen.  And very, very few can leave that park without a certain sense of attachment to — and fondness for — the animals they finally got to see in person.

In my YNP days, I led groups of visitors out into the night to listen to the howling of the wolf packs.  There is nothing more powerful, by the way, than to sit under the light of just the stars and listen to those powerful, primal calls.  To listen to that music.  It gives me — still! — the chills to think about it.  I can close my eyes and see the stars, hear the cries…

So what if none of those who sit on the side of the road and watch a mother grizzly teach her cubs to forage and hunt can describe just what a mother smells like?  Does that make their experience any less powerful?  Or any less important?  No, it does not.  Those folks have had their own magical experience.  They have watched a massive apex predator treat her young with all the motherly care, and all the urge to teach them to grow up “right”, that we would expect from a young human woman.  If they are lucky, they have seen, even, those “kids” play and horse around just as would any pair of young humans.

I can tell you, from thousands of conversations over the years, that those experiences change folks.  It is very hard to advocate for the uncontrolled hunting and slaughter of animals that you have stared at in real-world awe and admiration.*  And that is a good thing.  That is, in fact, the very heart of the reason for America’s national parks: To give folks that exposure to nature — to the wild and beautiful places, and to the wildlife — that they would never otherwise have.

*I’ll skip over the exceptions here…and they (sadly) do exist.  There are those few who live and work on the borders of Yellowstone, and even within the park itself, who still would eagerly hunt and kill every single wolf in North America.  Since they all were/are hardcore Q-Anon/Trumpistas, I get to write them off as the nutjobs they truly are.

If you truly want, you can find backcountry guides who will take you to places you should not go.  Just are there are guides on the water, and in the mountains, and on the tundra, who will work only for their own benefit, without care for the animals they exploit.  Those who will use chase-boats to herd whales or dolphins into tight areas, and trap them there, so high-paying tourists can “switch with them”.  Just are there are those who will take you to wolf den while the pups are still unable to leave.  And those who will leave out drugged bait so you can “just happen across” a somnolent polar bear.

That is, unfortunately, one of the dark-side effects of us-versus-them: Our penchant to abuse and exploit them because only us truly matter.  You see it in our society and culture; you see it in our politics; you see it in every single thing we do.  And that is the bitter part of bittersweet, the inevitable cost.  The experience of nature and wildlife can be — and very often is — life-changing to many folks, but we have to always be mindful of the cost.

When the wolves are gone, we change the world.  We not only change the ecosystem, we lose something unique and beautiful from the world.

When the whales are gone, we will lose a piece of our souls.  Listen to their songs, watch their stately movements, and remember this final thought:

For all the power and majesty of nature’s wonders; for all the size and intelligence of the whale; for all the soul-touching sounds of the wolf; for all the wily creativity of the bear; they live on our sufferance.  A whale — or a bear, or a wolf — can kill a single human with no trouble.  Just trust me on that one, I know very well and very personally.  But we humans, in our numbers, and with our technology, can wipe out their entire species without even intending to.

{Musical Note — is this song the best fit?  Probably not, but I’ve been looking for an excuse to use something from these guys for a long time now…}