Crap, Diapers Are EXPENSIVE!

Okay, so I’ve started to slack on the posts a bit (again).

*Sigh*

I do have a good excuse this time, however.  I’ve been spending as much of my time as I can planning and preparing for a new venture that I’ve hinted at in previous posts.  Now, before I describe that venture, let me offer a bit background info…

Those of you who have read this blog for a bit now are aware that I simply cannot write at home.  For those who are new(ish) here, let me say this by way of explanation: When I put myself in a quiet, solo environment, I can do a lot of things.  Some of those things are even mentionable in polite company.    They do not, however, include fiction writing.  Whenever I try to write at home, that quiet, private space is very much reflected in the mood and tone of what I produce.  When I write at home, I end up with material that is introspective, reflective, and generally far more influenced by my personal black dog than is good for me (or anyone else).

I know, I know…a lot of folks find it surprising that a writer can’t write when it is quiet and private.  I mean, just how counter-intuitive can you get?  Okay, so maybe that environment is conducive to writing, but that would be for a completely different person, and different kind of writer, than me.  For me…

For me, I need life and activity.  When you get right down to it, I need people around me — I need to feel in contact with the real world — if I want my characters and scenes to be anything close to what I originally envisioned when I planned them.

Now, like most writers, I do a fair bit of work in coffee shops.  That work, however, is usually the planning and editing of my pieces; the actual writing part of writing, I do in taprooms.  That’s it, that’s my personal rule.  Put me in the corner, surrounded by my fellow drinkers, with a beer at my elbow and my earbuds blaring directly into my skull, and I’m the happiest writer in the world*.  I am also, more importantly, at my most creative and productive.

*Err…even if I have tears in my eyes from what I’m writing, I’m happy…I’m just happy on the inside!

Err…writing, in a taproom?  Isn’t that loud and obnoxious?  Isn’t that kinda, well, distracting?

Yes.  Yes it is.  And that’s the point.

Hey, remember that dissonance thing I’ve talked a couple of times?  The heart of my stories — just like the heart of who I am as a person and a writer — lies completely inside that dissonance.  Intellectual dissonance; emotional dissonance; cognitive dissonance, it’s all there, and it’s all important.  Hell, there’s even quite a bit of social freaking dissonance; I mean, c’mon, how else do you find a semi-recluse misanthrope who has to be around people to be creative and productive?!

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that a good taproom — like a good pub — is one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world.

Well, that love of taprooms went and got drunk.  It got drunk, then it got all funky and passionate with my compulsion to do the most random and unexpected things.  A few months later, the inevitable happened…

It wasn’t the easiest birth in the world, but that baby is finally in my arms, shitting and puking all over the place.  I am, in other words, the proud proprietor of an infant taproom of my very own.

Oh, it ain’t ready for the world, not yet, so don’t get yourself all geeked up.  In a year or so, however, when it is solidly into toddlerdom — and has been toilet-trained — then I’ll officially introduce it to y’all.  Just watch out for your shoes; those baby taprooms can be pretty messy, you know!

For now, if you’re anywhere near Michigan’s thumb coast, maybe I’ll let you play with the little tyke a bit…

Forgive the crappy picture — its my cellphone, and I was in a hurry!

{Musical Note — I just like the song…and it kinda fits the mood}

Scenes From A Bad Morning

It’s eight o’clock and already 75 degrees with 100% humidity.  I am just one big ball of sweat before I even start in on my coffee…

How the hell are man-buns still a thing?  Does the dude at the coffee house really have to wear one?  I mean, look…I know I’m going all Grandpa Simpson here, but get a new hairstyle.  Oh yeah, that and “Get the fuck off my lawn!”  Ahem.

Every town has a dividing line in its hotels and AirBnBs.  That line is that point in the price curve where “nice” and “basic” devolve into “dingy” and “uncomfortable”.  Dive too far down the wrong side of that curve, by the way, and you get the fun of exploring all the way down to “scary” and “crack house”.

My apartment isn’t ready yet — and my “quaint” and “nice” hotel was starting to feel pretty pricy — so I decided to explore that price curve.

I explored too far.

Remember that scene in The Terminator where Arnold is sitting in a nasty, run-down hotel room cutting out his damaged eye?  Yeah, last night was a lot like that.  I didn’t drink the scotch so much as use it to sterilize the bed…

Wait a second…  What has happened to me?  What happened to the idiot vagabond who once stayed — accidentally! — in a cheap Spanish brothel in Cadiz?  What happened to the guy who got lost (in an admittedly alcohol-induced haze) and spent the night in a Budapest subway station?  The guy who once slept amongst the syringes and empty forties littering Venice Beach?

When the hell did comfort and a certain bit of, well, niceness come to mean so much to me?

When the hell did my standards change?

When the hell did I start to get so fucking old?

Just the other morning, it feels, I was moaning, “I don’t wanna go to school today, Mom!” and now all of a sudden I’m worried about shit like hotels and communicable diseases?

It’s still pouring rain — and will be all week, most likely — but I have my entire day free to try and get over this bout of cloud-yelling grumpiness.  Someone really needs to open a brewery around here…

{Musical Note — this song seemed a good fit for a blog post talking about my morning…}

Thank You, Dad

You are what you do.

You will never find a more American perception than that.  Oh, there are a million unspoken assumptions and perceptions that we Americans share, but that specific one…well…  There are none that can come anywhere near the profound part it plays in our national psyche and way of life.

I’ve suffered from the disease that saying represents for a large part of my life.  Hell, even after my “escape” — even after giving up success and a (very good) steady paycheck for a life more in line with my soul, even after running away to watch the wolves and spoon with amorous grizzlies — I still have the vestiges of that saying written somewhere in the small, dark, oft-ignored Gen-X corner of my mind that the rest of me loves to mock and insult.

Now, why would I mention something like this?  For one simple reason: that belief, in my younger years, caused me to make a shit-ton of mistakes.  Okay, so not as many mistakes as beer caused, but still, it led me astray…a lot.

If you asked younger-me who I wanted to be, I would inevitably answer with someone holding a job/career that I considered “cool.”  I would inevitably look to someone I didn’t know, in circumstances I didn’t understand, because that person ticked a few boxes on my internal list of personal preferences.

And, look, I’m not talking about just 12-year-old me.  Nosirreebob, I’m talking about 20’s me.  I may even be hinting at 30’s me, even if 30’s me was a useless ass-wagon who I prefer to ignore.  No, 30’s me is that cousin at the family reunion who gets invited because, well, you kinda have to acknowledge his existence…

Ahem.

If you asked me today who I wanted to be, I would have a very, very different answer from younger-me.

“So, who do you want to be?”

I want to be my dad.

Back in the day, when I couldn’t disassociate person from job, I wouldn’t have given that answer.  And that shames me.  It shames me more than I can really describe, because it is so blind and idiotic, and so full of narcissistic angst and juvenile naivety.

Older-me, however…

Older-me looks at everything I learned from my dad…

Older-me looks at the man my dad is…

Older-me — current-me — looks and feels and thinks about my dad, and I feel nothing but awe and the utmost respect for a man so committed and dedicated to his family, his community, and his God.

That I no longer share my father’s faith is, I know, a source of worry and concern for him.  It shouldn’t be.  The former Christian in me understands that the people of intolerance and rage and hate so visible today are not the true face of God.  No, the face of the God of Peter and Augustine and the New Testament is the face of those of quiet honesty and strong faith.  Those like my father.

In spite of how inadequate I often feel in my perpetually unfulfilled wanderlust, I have seen and done more than the vast majority can claim.  Years and years ago, a friend of mine had pseudo-business cards made for everyone in our small social group.  The job title on mine was “Knows Shit.”  Now, the double-edged sword of that joke was pretty intentional, but it really is true: I know shit.  I know a lot of shit about a lot of shit, which has taught me the very real truth that, in the end, in the grand scheme of things, I actually know jackshit.  There is always more to learn, and more to know.  And for that, I owe my dad.  For the curiosity, and the urge to always explore and learn.  To learn not just what I want to learn, but also the unexpected knowledge the world offers to those willing to listen.

Unlike my dad, I will never be the guy who can ride in an elevator with someone and be best-friends two floors later.  Instead, what I am is the guy who will sit and have a beer or four with anyone — astrophysicist, plumber, chef, lawyer, and anything in between — and learn whatever I can about their life and career.

That curiosity I learned unknowingly at my father’s knee.  It is why I always want more. I want more not in the conventional, material sense, but in the intellectual, spiritual sense.  I want to know more about the places and people I encounter in my endless wanderings; I want to know more about the universe itself; I want to more about the things I cannot see, as much as I do about the things I can.  That need — that irresistible drive — for more is why I will always value the things I learned so unconsciously as a boy.

It is that drive, by the way, that makes me the writer I am.  The self-confidence, and the perverse satisfaction, that comes from never being able to satisfy my own curiosity is a big part of what drives the thoughts and images behind the words I write.  Just as the strength and faith I have watched and admired all my life — and struggled to learn for myself — are a big part of what gets me though those times when the black dog howls and the darkest of thoughts call to me in the night.

So, thank you, Dad.  I didn’t know enough when I was young to put it into words, but I will now: you are my hero.

That I walk a path so very different from what we all expected and pictured when I was a boy does not change just how much I owe to you.  Quite simply, I owe you everything that matters.  I owe not what I am — which, fail or win, I own — but rather, I owe you who I am.

Contrary to the idiotic belief/saying with which I started this post, it is only the who that matters anyway.

p.s.

Because I got such a late start today, I had to resort to writing in a — *GASP* — chain restaurant!  Worse than that, I’ve been forced to drink mainline, mass-produced, evil-brewer beer!  I’ve gone to the darkside for this post!!  Noooooooo!!!!!

{Musical Note — is it about my dad, or dads in general? No. But the thoughts, and the sentiment, behind the song…those are pure-dad}

I Chose This

Some people have panic attacks.  Others have rage attacks, or attacks of uncontrollable loneliness, or lust, or greed…  Let’s be honest here, we humans are subject to attacks by pretty much every single one of the seven of the deadly sins, and then some.

For me — because I am constitutionally incapable of being “normal” — I have attacks not of the negative and base emotions, but of civilization.  No, honestly…I am not going all writer-ish and making shit up; there really are times when the concrete and cars and people become so overwhelming that they send me into full freak-out mode.

Kinda like today.

Coming back from lunch, I pretty much lost it.  I got back to my AirBnB — driving like I was a sixteen-year-old on the LA freeways again — and spent the next two hours hiding inside, coming down.  It ain’t a lot of fun, in case you’re wondering.  It is also something I haven’t felt in several years…

*sigh*

This is pretty much why I abandoned the real world in favor of Yellowstone in the first place.  I have — quite literally — stumbled between a mother grizzly and her cub; I’ve been lost in terrain vastly different from what the old maps showed; I’ve climbed trees faster than any fat man should in order to avoid charging bison; I’ve had to skip the bear spray and go straight to the pistol on more than one occasion…

And in none of those instances, nor in the dozens of others I could relate, have I been even a tenth as stressed and panicked as civilization can make me in a single bad afternoon.

Now, like all of the good problems and challenges we set for our characters, I have no one to blame for this shit except myself.  I chose this.  In more ways than one, I chose this.  I chose to leave paradise and once again immerse myself in the “real world”.  I chose to give up the peace and stability I crave for the chaos and uncertainty I loathe.

It’s more than that, by the way.  It is something I hinted at in my last post: I chose to embark on an entirely new venture…alone.  Now, like most writers, I’m a creature of solitude and privacy.  I don’t share of myself often or easily, and I certainly don’t seek to share with others my burdens and challenges.

This new venture, this re-immersion into civilization, however…it is frightening to me.  It is, in fact, more frightening than “civilization” itself.  Oh, sure, I have friends and family with whom I can talk; friends and family who care and will do everything in their power to help.  But, well, when those friends and family are surprised that I’ve reached out to talk to them more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years?

Yeah, I chose this.

And sometimes it overwhelms.

This is, in fact, one of the few times I can actually wrap my head around Bilbo, and his fear and uncertainty at the choice to leave the Shire with Gandalf and the dwarves.  Now, keep in mind, Bilbo leaving the Shire was Tolkien’s way of expressing — of finally talking about, after several years — his own choice to volunteer for the Royal Army in WW I.  Bilbo fought at the Battle of Five Armies; Tolkien fought in the charnel house that was Battle of the Somme…

Me?  I get stressed out because there’s too much fucking traffic.

“Hi, perspective!  Thanks for coming…”

Ahem.

Some have asked me, by the way, why this blog is sometimes focused and on-point, and at other times is completely random and stream-of-consciousness.  My answer is always the same: “I think with my pen.”

Okay, so that answer is old school, but to say “I think with my keyboard” just doesn’t have the same resonance.  The sentiment and meaning are the same, however.

I think by putting the words together.  Simple, silent contemplation is not useful for me; that just leads to sidetracks and roundabouts, and a waste of time that is dangerous for someone who fights depression.

No, I need to see the words come out — I need to feel them — in order to give shape to the thoughts, and so to exorcise the ghosts of creativity and imagination that gave rise to them.  Plus, well…it’s fun to sit out on the deck with nothing but a beer, some loud music, and a blinking cursor…

{Edit — eek! I forgot to add a song. Let’s fix that…}