If you're trying to do what I'm trying to do, you need to stay active. I'm not talking about flexing my boulder shoulders at the local gym... nor do I refer to a compulsive need to run every morning as the sun rises (although I have done this on many occasion). What I mean by "staying active" is being present, establishing myself as a continuous force in the online community.
See, because I want people to nod their heads and say "he's a writer," I have a certain responsibility. Us "writers" need to keep up appearances--the whole 'fake it till you make it' sorta thing. I used to think that I could just show up online on whim, pump out a couple adverts, hype up my unknown books, and BAM, step aside New York Times Bestsellers!
Of course, none of this is true--unless you've written the next Harry Potter. Although I know even J.K. Rowling had to do a little promoting before her boy wizard could soar... Anyway, my point is this: writing is a second job. Writing is fun, it's a hobby, but if you want to be a writer, you've gotta work. I'm beginning to understand this. I'm beginning to realize that I need to meet people and create relationships, and garner respect and attention by sustaining these relationships. Self-publishing nowadays can take you far if you're willing to man-up and grab the wheel. Sometimes you'll hit some one-way streets, make a wrong turn, bump over a pothole--sure.
But ain't that the beauty of Life in general? The hardest part is telling myself that I can do it; that I'm capable and intelligent and talented. Of course, this could all be false (do you like me?), but at the end of the day, who cares? I want to believe that I have it in me, some recipe for success. I want to believe that I'm an awesome wordsmith and that as more people catch wind of my ideas, they'll sign on.
So hop aboard! I've got no idea where my stories will take us, but I'm sure as hell gonna make it interesting...
Guns and Cowards
It's hard to get away from death. It's on the news everyday, it's in the obituary sections of our newspapers, it's referenced or implied or made explicit in countless publications everywhere we go. Death is a constant in Life.
Nobody understands it. Some people might want to. But I feel like most people would rather not. We might like to find ways to stave it off, or avoid it, but we don't really wanna take the time to wonder what it is. We might use religion or strange rationalizations or dry humor--whatever.
Death is a tough beast to level.
What I don't get is why some people feel the need to bring death to others. There are a quazilliontrillion instances of people getting killed. But I think what bothers me the most is when people kill somebody because they do not have the ability to control basic human emotions in the moment.
I'm talking about the imbeciles that shoot others during a fit of rage, during a robbery--the perpetrators that whip out their .45s, thinking they're tough, and then seem to derive some kind of 'high' from the power.
Of course, as the saying goes, power corrupts. And so too, does that power corrupt in these instances. As if it's not enough to get somebody to subjugate because you have a small lethal device between your fingers. As if that's not enough, once the person has complied with the pistol-wielder's requests--the perp has to go a step further.
Senseless murder happens all over.
Listen up, dingbats:
Wielding a gun and using it to control others does not make you more powerful than them. It doesn't make you a demigod in the presence of mortals. It makes you weaker. It makes you a coward.
The world has a lot of cowards.
Space is a wild and mysterious thing. Black and endless... with points of light and death stars and Han Solo and rocks that zip all over and zero gravity and matter and holes and all kinds of wacky energy that we say we understand but only partly, or not at all, or maybe just a tad...
Space is crazy. And it's even crazier when you've gotta explain space... to a bunch of kids...
See, I substituted once for a bunch of first-graders. Let me start by saying, I know nothing about first graders...I mean, I know they're small little creatures, and they all wanna have 'play-time' and even the boys have high-pitched voices...
But really I know nothing about them. They're like a bunch of gremlins who haven't hit puberty yet. (I'm not sure what that means, but just roll with it...)
See, when I started 'explaining' outer-space to these kids, I was bombarded by a trillion questions. Oddly enough, questions that I too have wondered, and have yet to answer.
"Where does it end?" one munchkin kept shouting. What was I to say? I told him that we didn't know. That very smart people had been studying it for some time and that there were a lot of different ideas and theories.
One kid asked me how something could go on forever. Again, what to say? I tried to relate it to a circle, but even that didn't really make sense in my mind, cuz I knew it wasn't quite like a circle, and I also knew that I didn't really know anything about space aside from the few things I had learned Wikipedia-ing one day.
Fortunately, some questions were a little easier to handle. And it was good to see them learning. After all... our galaxy, the Milky Way is, in fact, neither chocolate nor tasty.
And I felt that was an important distinction to make.
In the end, it was comforting to know one thing. That all of us, from time to time, regardless of age or knowledge, wonder the same things.
What's out there?
Do aliens exist?
Can we go back in time?
Is there intelligent life?
And if our galaxy is called the Milky Way... have scientists located the Baby Ruth?
Ever just stared in the mirror
I did this the other day. Some people might always perceive their viewing glass with confidence (sup, "Situation"), but if you really take the time to just stare, things get weird...
You see a face that's relatively still. Maybe a little pale, a little wearied. Maybe older, saggy... maybe a tad misshaped like Play-Doh. Maybe young and youthful with a nice rosy glow. But it's not really moving.. Sure, for those of us who have tight, thin structures, we might detect the subtle beat of a jugular. Or we might notice folds where we contract with expression.
But usually, there ain't much movement on the surface.
Then you begin to think about it... there's a whole world beneath that fleshy facade. A brain, teeming with neural networks, blood cells blasting through interconnected conduits; some small and imperceptible, others larger, firmer, coiling this way and that like garden snakes.
You've got musculature and electrical impulses and all kinds of chemicals constantly in flux, subtly changing who you are day by day, second by second.
It's like somebody threw a big tarp over a metropolis and masked the sound and obscured the visibility. But it's all still there.
Makes you wonder if you're even in control...
Titans and Barbells
I've never been big on lifting weights.
This might be because I have the physique of a prepubescent Ethiopian boy. Or it might be because I'm afraid of showing up everybody in the gym. Haven't decided...
One thing is for certain. Your standard gym/workout center is teeming with gorillas. By "gorilla," I'm not using a racial epithet (completely). I refer to those people who stand before the mirrors, analyzing every swollen muscle, rotating, kissing their biceps, massaging their freakish veins, and generally revering themselves like fuckin god kings or somethin. A la Jersey Shore:
But anyway, even if you haven't seen Jersey Shore, you'll know what I mean.
Just look for the guy. This is the guy (or mustached girl) who will find the center of the room, where all eyes will go unavoidably at one point or another. This Potato Head will churn rep after rep. They'll dead-lift and bench-press and sling boulders from their backyard in the Andes. They'll put so much pressure on their body, they might just explode (or implode?).
Listen, I'm all for getting fit and lookin good. I mean, I routinely do 20+ pushups in a row (without PEDs). But sometimes people seem to be taking it a little too far.
The strangest is those individuals who find it necessary to grunt with every exhale, that you think they're practically breathing down your neck even when you're across the room. See, for the most part, if I ever get forced into a weight room, I find the cardio machines, or I locate the simple weight contraptions at the corner of the room where few people can see.
I mean, what the hell is that other stuff? Medieval torture devices?? How am I supposed to know how to use those things? Sure, I can read the directions, but that ain't gonna help me. I'm still gonna do it wrong and end up rippin a dorsal fin. I'd rather set the treadmill to a moderate pace and zone out to CSpan 6.
But most of the time, I elect to run outside. Treadmills get me dizzy. And why the hell do I want to get dizzy?
Getting drunk is for after the workout.
Come and Go
People are always coming and going. One day drifts into one month, and in a matter of years, a clearly magnified memory fades to condensation on rippled glass. Haze always finds its way in.
More important friends stick through the storms and the summer burn; however, "friends" of circumstance, those for the moment when the reasons are right—they are gone once their purpose is served. Other acquaintances come and go, and we never know, for certain, when they'll come waltzing back in.
But with some people, it's hard to leave the door open. Some people, once the time has passed, you don't want them comin 'round knockin. "Go away, big bad wolf. Leave me be."
A lot of people have a way of shutting off. Leave the emotional baggage in the rearview, I suppose. Forget and move on. Learn and grow. Go forward with eyes wide open. Let the past be past.
It's a funny saying, really. So many people wish to let the past be the past. They want it to stay back there. Set up a roadblock and some flares, and keep those old dusty memories from rollin up.
But this doesn't always work.
Our past is in our bones. Our past is the wrinkles on our face, the bruise on our leg, the enamel on our teeth, the wear and tear on our organs and our psyches. Our past is our personal history, our human nature. And it's a running narrative.
But sometimes we just wanna forget. And there's nothing wrong with that. But it's hard as shit sometimes. It's tough to rub away an almost indelible stain. We can banish it to the infinite recesses of our memory banks—but it's always floating somewhere in the void. And sometimes, when you let something float around, it's only a matter of time before it bumps back into you. A sort of asteroid belt of ugly, forgotten thoughts.
And the strangest things can trigger what we deem, by all accounts, to be totally unrelated. But certainly, the mystery of the cerebral cosmos is that all things are somehow linked. Somewhere down the causeway, off this detour, and through this isolated woods, and by this gnarled stump, and up this secluded knoll... the neural network will take us there.
In our lives, people come and go. People make the difference when we let them. But people can also drift as ghosts, if we so choose to let them. And it's easy to be a ghost. It's harder to be real. It's harder to let people in because, then, of course... we've gotta let ourselves out.
But being a ghost always has its pains. With everything, there are regrets. And when you choose to drift, there's always another level unexplored. The curtains are never fully parted. And when they are, sometimes it's ugly on the other side. Sometimes, the view outside the window is far from serene. Sometimes, colors are harsh, and sounds are loud, and the scent and touch leaves us jaded. At times, there's too much light.
Which is why I wear Aviators.
There exists this concept of a Multiverse.
It changes depending upon the exact theory you take, but they all seem to have their similarities.
I imagine looking at a map online. Say, Google Maps or Mapquest. Now, you're staring at this map. Maybe, you're enjoying a look at local streets and cul-de-sacs. Perhaps, you're taking a virtual tour of quaint neighborhoods and corner businesses. As you move this way and that, you have the option of zooming.
Let's say you choose to zoom out. You zoom out. With each degree, these small side streets shrink and fade. At first, they are arteries. Then, mere veins. Then, they constrict to an almost imperceptible tangle of capillaries.
Then, they blink out from existence altogether. As you go, other more prominent features move before your eyes, only, to fade and disappear entirely.
Interstates and monuments and parks and zip codes and counties—all, without fail, are reduced. In the end, what was once vast no longer warrants a visual rendering.
Everything is so small, not even a blip on the radar.
It may seem that all these features—the side streets and watering holes and courts and suburban developments—are insignificant.
But they're not.
They're immensely significant. Individually, they represent something of personal and communal importance. They are people's backyards, favorite routes, favorite parks, favorite restaurants and bike shops and bakeries and places to get cold snowballs after a day of running in the sun.
And collectively, these minuscule points on the map are the map. They are the building blocks, the atoms—the most basic structure that makes it all possible. They may disappear when the whole picture has been drawn, but they are there.
Things unseen are worth more than meets the eye.
See, I envision the Multiverse as something akin to this. It is infinite, with endless parallel dimensions, endless hypotheticals played out, simultaneously, somewhere. Every part is significant.
In one reality of the Multiverse, I chose to stop typing N
But in this reality, I continue to type. In another reality of the Multiverse, I dropped out of high school. In one, I put all my effort into finding the most attractive girlfriend ever. Some of my alternate realities have already ended—perhaps cut short by an accident, or disease, or murder, or suicide.
What if we tap into the Multiverse? What if, we are not detached from these alternate realities existing alongside our own, but, in fact, experience them, unknowingly?
What if it's all one big crazy network. The Multiverse could be like the human brain. It could be unfathomably intricate, with chemicals and electrical signals firing every which way, as if every Fourth of July firework celebration was incorporated into one dazzling show.
Imagine... we are connected by our collective unconscious. Our brains in these infinite alternate realities speak to one another. We don't even know it. Ideas we have, thoughts and emotions... when we tend to dip into a certain state or sickness or pain, without knowing exactly why...
Perhaps, a reality has ended somewhere else, or something tragic has happened... Maybe the Multiverse functions like synapses, and these sensations are fired across the network, across the synaptic gap, hitting all of us.
Certain human beings are born with certain abilities. Some can sense the infinite versions of themselves better than others. Some are torn to pieces by it, not knowing from where their great internal distress stems, but nonetheless melting under its effects. Psychosis? Synesthesia. All kinds of disorders and maladies and exceptional abilities...
What this all seems to mean, of course, is that there is no "you" and "I."
Perhaps, when we dream we are, in fact, seeing snippets of these alternate realities. We are experiencing what has happened or what is happening in another dimension. Perhaps, when dreaming, we temporarily subsume one if not some if not all, simultaneously, of our alter selves.
But what about when we die? Do we really die? Or do we simply snap to another reality, and the transition is seamless, and we have no recollection of having ended, aside from the collective cognitions that manifest from time to time?
Maybe the Multiverse is like a big server. With a shit ton of data. The infinity of it all baffles us, but then again, it should. Because we are but humans, mere pieces in the crazy scheme of the world. We are not intended to know things. My brain is too simple to do this.
We are merely meant to experience.
I was tracing patterns on a wall one night with my urine, and I realized something.
People are really interesting.
Yea, yea, some people have great aspirations to be the next American Idol winner, or the next great MLB juice head, or the next big-shot hedge-fund manager pulling in more in a couple months than most people make their whole lives...
But what about those other people? The crazy, warped ones who are oh-so very interesting for all the wrong reasons?
What about the dude who got his entire body tatted? And then got tats on top of tats? What about tribal women who get their necks stretched with rings? What about those who go off into the wild and think it's a good idea to live with grizzly bears, only to be eviscerated one morning by an especially ornery male? And what about the guy who conceived the movie, Human Centipede?
What crawled into that guy's bowl of corn flakes?
It's always fun to imagine what people are thinking. You walk around your Walmart, take a stroll down the neighborhood; stare at people from afar in a venue. Sometimes you can pair thoughts with expressions. If some stubbly beer-bellied dude is yelling cuz his team is down in the bottom of the 9th—chances are he's getting antsy for a meaty dog and a cold one. It's his only solace at that point.
If you see a woman staring at a mirror as she holds up a dress—she's probly wondering "should I go on Weight Watchers?"
If you see a sex offender sitting aside a pool with his shades on—he's probably wondering which of the little swimmers were dropped off alone by Mommy and Daddy.
If you see a scraggly-haired pale-faced kid standing outside a high school at lunchtime—he's probably waiting for his 'guy' to get his 'stuff.'
People-watching is always fun. It's especially fun when you catch somebody else in the act, and the two of you make eye contact, and you can only wonder what they are wondering you are wondering.
Makes you wonder.
"Makin it rain"
Cool people seem to have a knack for "making it rain." I'm not sure what this means. Sure, I suppose I get the whole money thing, and the dropping of cash on one's fellow buddies and ladies, and how it's like precipitation coming down. Sure, I get that. And it's grand.
But what confuses me is why anybody would want to exhibit their wealth that way. If you're gonna toss cash around like you just don't care, do it the right way. "Make it gust."
I suggest a leaf-blower. Set up your 'stacks' in nice crisp columns—then spray that shit all over the place. Make it gust. Imagine a bunch of blinged-out egomaniacs standing around with leafblowers tearing up the club. Pretty awesome, huh?
Better yet, if you really wanna show how little blowing money means to you, take it a step further. Make it burn.
But seriously. Ever seen the movie the Dark Knight? I mean, if money has no value to you... if you've got so much of it that you can just do whatever... why not burn it? What better way to show you're a real rich snitch than to barbecue that shit?
Imagine the looks on people's faces when they see you mindlessly torching hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"Shiiiit, he don't give a shit yo. Fool just burned six figures..."
What if you're really hip? What if you're so cool, you're cold? What if you're 'on that arctic shit'? In these cases, I say, screw makin it rain.
Make it flood. Make it Katrina.
Have a crane dump your stacks on the club floor. What better way to say what's up than to literally suffocate people with your money?
Talk about drowning in dollars...
For The Love of the Drunk
I remember my first drink.
It was a shot and it was beer. Bitter, luke warm like tap water left in a dirty glass in a disheveled kitchen in a subterranean dorm room with beige walls and three too few lamps. My heart was practically in my brain when I took that first gulp.
But nobody cared. Nobody knew. My alcohol maidenhead was gone down the gullet...
Part of me wondered if it was obvious, the half-fear on my face. But alas, there was no time to watch. 60 seconds passed and another. And then another. A minute by minute swish-swash mouthwash of that kingly beverage. A “power hour” they called it.
Though I didn’t see the power. Not in me. And by shot #47 or so, there was no such thing as hour or minute. Time no longer ticking but melting… slipping away like Salvador Dali’s.
At some point, some people actually looked different. Or maybe I was different. Or maybe we were all different. I couldn’t help but noticing that the voice in my head was now coming through my mouth and speaking on my behalf, without a whiff of permission.
Oddly enough, I didn’t care.
Because I was laughing. The beer was gone but we were doing something else. Again, a shot glass. No, not a shot glass. A bottle. Straight from the bottle. But this, darker, harsher, like sucking fire from the sewers.
And then we were going, to dinner, to a building that suddenly sounded infinitely more exciting than words could express. Yay we were going. Most of us. One — two? -- of us were in the bathroom spitting. Some of us were being forced by the flat-faced seniors to “keep going bitch, you didn’t fill those to the top.”
In my head I tried to do the calculations. 60 minutes in an hour, so 60 shots. A shot glass was 1.5 oz so that was 1.5 x 60, so… so… 90 oz. Okay, so a normal beer was 10 oz — no, 12 oz. Was it 12 oz? It was 12 oz. But wait, were these cans 12 oz? Okay, okay so that was 12 ounces and… what was the beer?
Normal alcohol? The normal alcohol content for a beer was… So this was 12 oz of ‘normal’ beer alcohol content with shot glasses, one of every hour for 60 minutes, so that was …
Wait, were those ‘normal’ shot glasses?
We had reached the cafeteria and it was taco night. How did I know it was taco night? Aside from the line of bros who loved taco night? Easy. The undifferentiated mass of dung that clung to your plate and made your bowels quake like the San Andreas Fault.
Except tonight, it was beautiful. And apparently, so too was everybody else. Women looked a lot better. And apparently they thought so too. Why else would they clone themselves?
As the double apparitions moved around me, I squinted with one eye closed to find my fork in the dump of mass-produced paste, an ooze of dining hall fodder on my lopsided tray.
Just for shits and kicks, I opened my closed eye and closed the other.
As the years passed, I would open and close many more. Sometimes you’d open in a strange place. Most times, good. Sometimes bad. Occasionally, awful. Some, like me, would come to invite the spirits whenever possible. Pouring through the pores, heavy on the breath and tongue, glossed and glazed in the crooked eyes.
Words of seeming genius intertwined with mindless garbling. Friends and foes made and forgotten. Good drinks turned bad, and bad turned worse. Good memories too, easy days, simple sips and heavy rips.
Because when you threw out the trash, you chose the trash. You distinguished the trash from the non-trash. For every blood-soaked sunset with a summer ale, for every perfectly hazy memory of intoxication, youthful and old, there are days less glowing. Times less desired. Memories that hurt the brain and heart, leaving indelible marks in nooks and crannies we rarely expose.
It’s simple and obvious, but no less true. You don’t know the bad without the good. You can’t know love without hate. Two sides of the same coin. Just centimeters away, so close yet so far — facing out on two different worlds. Always, forever, one turned away from the other. And yet always, forever, made of the same thing. Created in the same way, from a singular source.
The love-hate-rinse-and-repeat of the lovely drink. The love for the drunk.
Sometimes I loathed what it did to me, or I did to it, or what I imagined we did to each other. And whenever I truly tried to break it down, I riled it up. Rearing the head of that burning lust.
Over time, I’ve learned to change. Slightly, I’m not perfect. But mixed with writing, mixed with anything, in moderation, things always seem better. I think. Writers drink, someone once told me. As if it were an immutable fact of the Universe. Not only do they drink, but they absorb. They suck it dry till their synapses are sufficiently soaked, their thoughts and feelings buoyed by that lapping bath of booze.
Soaked and swimming in thought. Writers, one once told me, are alcoholics.
Well that’s fine, I thought. Because I’m not a writer and never was. What I do, when my fingers flick and my words issue with the warm gentle flow of a healthy heart at rest — that’s not writing. I’m not writing. I’m bleeding. A strong, ceaseless pump, tendering in that moment what matters most.
I write as I run. Streaming, daring it to stop.
I’m not a writer, I think sometimes. I just know how to bleed.
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