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.

Err…

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…

Ahem.

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!}

Now Comes the Black Horse

There’s a cream cheese shortage.  No, I’m not kidding, there is an actual, honest-to-God cream cheese crisis happening in the US at this very moment!

For the love of all that’s holy, how have we not mobilized FEMA?  How have we not started a milk-based Apollo Program to get out of this misery?  God forbid we have to take truly severe steps; when the rationing starts, so do the riots!

Does Washington not understand just how strategically vital is that crucial spread?  The only thing that would be worse of course is a coffee shortage, and not even in the depths of my embittered, cynical soul do I care to examine the consequences of something that horrifying…

I knew we were in trouble when I couldn’t find the real stuff on the store shelves.  I knew it, but I managed to lie well enough to myself to ignore the problem.  I’m good at lying to myself, by the way.  I’m good at pretending disaster is not impending, and that the world can and will keep going just the same as it ever has.

So, no real stuff.  No big tubs of the dense, smooth wonder with a recognized, trusted label.  Just small containers from some generic manufacturer.  Just insignificant containers of some strange, clearly artificial paste described as “whipped”….

Whipped?!

Whipped, you say?!?!

What is this nonsense?  Is this how you fool the shortsighted and placate the desperate?  Is this how you keep the world from ending?  Is there even so much as one real cow anywhere in the supply chain for this?  If I were French, I would spit on your “whipped” nonsense.

Err…actually…if I were French, there almost certainly would be very real riots happening over a such a travesty as this.  You can say what you want about the French, but Gallic pride and intransigence would never allow their world to descend into the misery of a cream-goddamned-cheese crisis!

Why do I write of such things, I hear you ask.  Why remind others of the miseries and pain to come?  Why focus on the naked bagel that so ruined your morning?  Because, well…

Because the Broncos suck, and I don’t want to write about that.  Because 2021, which once promised so much, has delivered so little.  Because there are still masks and vaccines and viruses exacerbating the differences between that need no more exacerbation.  Because everything else is falling apart, so why not the goddamned food chain, too?

And, no, I was neither kidding nor lying about the cream cheese shortage, nor about the travesty of finding only the generic “whipped” version.  All of that is the all-too-painful truth.

*sigh*

It really is a sign of the coming apocalypse.  Remember, while Death rides the pale horse, and War the red, Famine himself rides the black…

Crap, if I can turn cream cheese into freaking Armageddon, just what will I do if — or, sadly, when — coffee starts to become short, too!  I’m adopted, so I have no idea if I have French blood or not, but I know the language and the history and the culture — when the coffee runs out, it definitely will be time to go all Gallic and take to the streets.  I wouldn’t go and riot over much, but my daily pot of dark roast Ethiopian is worth fighting for!

{Musical Note — okay, so obviously not a terribly serious day. Let’s go with something that evokes, well, something else. Let’s just go with youth, and days of thoughts and worries very different, shall we?}

Other Things

I was about to close this blog down.

I was about to end the WordPress subscription and let the domain fall idle.

I was far too busy to write, I said.  I had far too many other things on my mind.

The world had its demands, I said.  All of those other things were more important.

And what did it matter, anyway?  This blog, this little seat at the bar I’ve occupied for the last five years, has never been anything more than a place for me to write in a personal, intimate style I would never use anywhere else.  It started as an experiment, morphed through a stage where it was “practice” and training, and in the end became…something else, something I can’t define.

Now, my father likes to talk about optimism.  He likes to remind me — the cynic of the family — that how we choose to view things is important in how we react to them.  Why I don’t share that same outlook is something we could debate for a very long time, but it is not germane to these words.  I understand the outlook.  More than that, I can even sometimes manage it…

So, when a technical trial and some serious process changes turned to a layoff notice months before I expected it, I decided to play the optimist.

Err…well…I decided to get drunk, actually.  Then I decided to play the optimist.

I haven’t written a creative word in months.  I haven’t explored a character, conceived a scene, or even so much as contemplated something so diabolical as subtext and socio-political commentary.

*sigh*

I couldn’t figure out why I was so unsatisfied.  I couldn’t figure out why my temper had so frayed, nor why energy and enthusiasm had fled.  That black dog, he was beginning to howl, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Two days ago I started thinking that I needed to write something…

…and I didn’t know where to start.  Hell, I didn’t even know how to start.

The blank page on my screen was no longer an invitation, it had become a barrier.  It made me feel small and insignificant.  It reminded me of better days, and I think we all know just how poorly I handle nostalgia and memory.

You have a choice at that point, you know.  The obstacle can be too much; the mountain too high; the price too steep…

Or you can just shut the fuck up and go back to the basics.  That was advice I gave four or five years ago, by the way.  When the writing suffers, when the words won’t come, just shut up and go back to the basics.  Just write.  Just be you.  Be who you are, whether you chose to be that person who lives through the words, or were born that way, doesn’t matter.  For good or for ill, it is who you are…so be that person. Be that writer.

For me that means sitting down in a pub with a beer at my elbow, music blaring in my ears, and an intentional pushing back of the cacophony of mental noise that has so drowned that little voice at the back of my mind…

Welcome back, little voice.

{Note — Yep, I’m re-using a song from a Christmas post I wrote a few years ago.  I love the song, and the sentiment still works, so here you go…}

Adopted Characters

I haven’t done much freelance writing lately.  Honestly, my focus has pretty much been 100% on getting the new brewery up and going.  That focus, by the way, is not gonna slow for at least a year. With everything I have to do, I do not expect to even open the doors until next fall, and even that will take an awful lot of blood, sweat and tears.

Some opportunities, however, still come up…

Even when I don’t seek them out, I have enough friends and contacts who know what I can do to feed me “snacks” from time to time. Look, when you’re known in certain circles for certain emotional things, the work kinda finds you.

I sometimes wish it didn’t.

A snack came my way recently…one I wish I had refused.  I certainly thought about doing so, but the money…

I was asked to rework an ending for a video game.  It was the “bad” ending, yes, but it still was a prominent part of the game…and one that needed attention.  The money wasn’t great, but it was better than what I get in my only-the-healthcare-matters “real” job, so of course I said yes…

All I needed to do was craft some character notes, and write a suicide note and eulogy.

Fuck.

I did it, of course.  I did it because I always do.  I don’t make promises that I don’t keep.  I wish sometimes that that was not the case, but I always deliver*…

*Not always on time, but I always deliver in the end.

So, I finished it…then I called out from work today and opened a new bottle of scotch.

I also cranked up the music.  A lot of music.  An amount — and volume — of music that I’m fairly certain had my neighbors calling the landlord.

Whatever.

I needed it, both the booze and the music.  They weren’t “my” characters, but I adopted them, and that means I built some feeling for them. They weren’t ”my” characters, but still I broke myself to turn out material that mattered…

Then I went and reminded myself of courage, and what it all really means.

Look, I like blues and rock and a certain amount of folk inspired music.  What I can’t stand is complete country.  I hate “hillbilly” music almost a much as I hate sell-out, commercial shit.  Which means I can’t stand 90% of what is called “country” today…

But, well, sometimes the meaning of the song transcends any categorization.  I’ve mentioned it before, but, well…this particular tune has a story that bears repeating:

I can think of no greater sign of courage, nor of love, than what Steve Earle did with the song below.  He took a song from his son, one that he never saw or heard until after his son’s suicide, and he recorded it.

Dear God, I can’t imagine the kind of strength that took.  When I need to remember courage and devotion and love…yeah, this song is all I really need.

More importantly, when I need to remember just how much art can heal and inspire, all I have to do is think about the story, and listen to this song: