Tag Archives: happiness

The Soft Parade

The week leading up to my birthday has always been a trying time, a constant reminder of the ultimate futility of my entire life. I mean, sure, I’ve managed to not drive my wife away in the nearly ten years we’ve been together, and somehow I ended up with a kid who’s pretty cool. I’ve got skills and perhaps a decent opportunity awaiting me, and yet, I’m not doing what I wanted to when I first began imagining how my life would go. I blame it on my continuing quest for balance. It seems well and good, but every time that something halfway decent comes along, I hold my breath, and start the countdown until the bottom drops out from beneath me. At this point, I’ve almost given up on the prospect of being genuinely happy, as I’m terrified to contemplate what sort of vengeance that joy might bring. And despite the regularity with which this sort of thing befalls me, more often than not, it manages to catch me completely by surprise. People wonder why I hate surprises: the fact is that the number of unexpected “gifts” which haven’t completely bitten me fiercely upon my posterior can be counted one hand, trembling in fear.

But, because I cannot help but succumb to the instinct which inspires me to crawl up to the sleeping bear and poke it in the eye (never mind the tripping on the rock a moment later as I scramble to get away), I’ve decided to try to think of all the things which bring me joy (and therefore tempt the retribution soon to follow). I’m not really in an altogether upbeat mood, but maybe this might actually be good for me. Well, either that, or it will drive me deeper into depression, but as I’m not sure that’s possible (famous last words), I’ll give it a shot.

I actually managed to write nearly every day for six straight months. Before this past year, I hadn’t done that since I was nineteen or twenty.

I’ve met people who have reminded me what youth feels like, and though the searing burn of age follows immediately in the wake of their departure, I find it reassuring to remind myself what unbridled life was like.

For all the struggles I have had adjusting to fatherhood, it’s nice to know that I’m still better at it than my dad. And the Minkey seems to be turning out alright, though I suppose it’s still to early to tell if that is because of or in spite of me.

My wife is an amazing woman (someone whom I do not truly believe that I deserve), and I just wish that we made each other happier. I know that I am a constant disappointment to her, as I am who I am, but I do not blame her for my lack of joy, as that would be akin to holding the ocean responsible for drowning me. I think I’ve said that wrong. I meant that I am naturally inclined towards discontentment, and that there is nothing which she could do to either drive me toward or save me from the black clouds which hang above me.

I’ve got some friends who are somehow still there for me, despite the fact that I’m rarely there for them. Perhaps my absences diminish what a needy drain I am, and leave behind only the impression that I am kind of funny and profound.

Crap. I tried to think of more, but I think that those five are it.

In case we are wondering why I seem to be so hung up on this, I guess I can share with you the news: apparently, it will be a miracle if my grandparents survive another year. I suppose that I could be grateful for this possible year I have to make the time to see them and to say goodbye. Or perhaps I could be grateful for my childhood spent with them, or the several years when my mother and I lived with them. Or the roadtrips which we took, or the every single special moment that I had to spend with them, most of them under or unappreciated at the time. Part of me is angry, because I already said goodbye when we traveled to The Island last December, and I don’t know if I can do it all again. As I’ve said so many times, it’s not death I fear. In this case, it’s the slowly dying. My heart is breaking, and it’s coloring everything else within my life. Combine that with The Soft Parade, and it’s more than I can take. I just want everything to go the way I want it to, for once. I would just like one untainted, uncompromised, untarnished victory which I could unequivocally call my own.

For all my years, and all the weariness which far exceeds them, there are times when I am self-aware enough to know when I am behaving like a child. To that, of course, I say, “So what?!” Am I not allowed, from time to time, to free myself from the bonds of self-imposed adulthood and just feel again?

I’m sorry for the gloom of these past couple of posts. I’ve no right to inflict my pain upon you, and it’s not as though sharing it with you will actually ease my burden. There is nothing that you can do for me, and there is no reason for you to know the pain I carry in my heart. And while I feel I’m drowning in quagmire of my own design, I know (at least intellectually) that I will probably be okay, at least statistically.

Thank you all for being in my life, from those who only briefly touched it, to those for whom it’s been a significantly longer commitment. I’ve needed each and every one you, for exactly the amount of time you had to give. And no, this is not goodbye.

Think of it instead as good night.

Sleep tight.

Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Walking On Sunshine

So I am a published author, kind of. Maybe it’s not the way in which I ever thought that I would make my first money as a writer, but everyone needs to start somewhere. I was hoping to have sold more than the two copies which I have currently managed, so that I could talk about raking in the tens of dollars, but as it stands now, I basically have enough to repay my wife for that pack of smokes and energy drink she bought me yesterday, so I can’t really complain. And, if I am to be completely honest, I wasn’t really counting on a collection of things which I have shared with everyone for free for months to be a money maker. Sure, it’s convenient, and it’s only $5, but it’s nothing new for those of you who have been with me since the beginning. Terracrats is a step in the right direction, being fiction and all, but it’s only a short story. I’m not going to get down on myself, though. This is more than I have ever done in the twenty-eight years in which I have known that I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve waited so long for this to become a reality that maybe a little longer won’t be the end of me.

I just wish that I didn’t feel so damned… chipper. I mean, since yesterday evening, I’ve been wandering around with a bemused grin, uncertain exactly what’s going on, but somehow pleased, nonetheless. It’s positively infuriating. I just want to slap the smug joy off of myself while sternly reminding… me… that it’s all well and good, but unless I somehow manage to connect with a lot more people, I’m still basically in the same position I was yesterday, but with some pocket change in a month and a half. Wow. It’s sobering to equate my writing sales to date as a ten dollar bill which I’ll find in the pocket of a jacket that I haven’t used in months (and yet don’t remember having misplaced any money the last time I used the jacket). But as jarring as I find all of this optimism oozing from my everywhere, I have to force myself to remember that it’s better than feeling miserable all day, no matter how much I love to remain curled into the fetal position. I guess there’s just no pleasing me.

So what lies in store for me in this slightly happier world,where things appear to be just a little bit more positive, and I might stand a tiny chance to be able to do something I want to for the rest of my life? I don’t even want to imagine a world like that! Where things happen as they are meant to, and I don’t feel like finding clever new ways to just end it all, playing them over and over again in my mind. I’m not prepared in the slightest to face a lifetime of contentedness. My whole “thing” up until now has been to be a mopey type of individual, railing against injustices and complaining that those damned kids need to get the hell off of my lawn. I haven’t the slightest clue of how I am supposed to function in a reality where I am not facing constant disappointment. I mean, it hurts to smile. Years of scowling at the world and its inhabitants have carved my face into a grotesque mockery of me, and now that I am feeling rather chuffed, my whole head has begun to ache, though the stabbing pains behind my eyes might be the key to my salvation.

I suppose that there are plenty of things for me to still get bummed out about, like the fact that, for the most part, the novel which I have begun exists only in my head, or that I still have bills and rent to pay, and pocket change just isn’t going to cut it. Ah, there it is: the sweet agony of self-doubt. Oh, how I’ve missed you these past several hours. It’s nice to see you once again. What say you and I find somewhere kind of chilly and overcast, and spend tonight cuddled up beneath that bridge I found when I was wandering?

See? It’s no use! I’m finding amusement in almost everything, including my misery. Is this what it means to finally grow up, because, if so, I want no part of it! I would much rather sit in shadows and write about how sad I am than risk a moment of pure joy. Okay, that’s not technically true, but it’s still hitting a little to close to home for me to feel entirely comfortable writing it. Perhaps it’s because the future is infinite, at least as far as it applies to my own life until the moment that I finally expire, and full of uncertainty and variables which I may not have taken into account. The past, on the other hand, has already happened, and it is infinitely more soothing to my savage brain. I can pick away at my mistakes at whichever pace I choose to set, and take the time to really examine all the ways in which I managed to screw up. Also, everything seemed better back then. Of course, that could be because there is no impending stress left in the past, whereas the present is chock full of it, and the future is nothing but decisions which I will probably fail to settle to my satisfaction.

Ughhh… this is beginning to unsettle me. I guess that it’s time to get thinking about shiny puppies and the whatnot.

Anyway, overall, I guess that I am doing better than I was the week before. Or the week before that. I suppose that I will have to discover how to survive the pitfalls of success, with all of the brand-name cigarettes and microbrews which it is purported to afford its victim. Now it looks like it is time to get back to work, so cross your fingers to grant me the courage to sit through an electronic editing session of Terracrats with my Kindle Fire. Just turn the sunshine down a little, will you?

Reflections On Grandfatherhood

I’m going to be a grandpa once again. All family politics and volkswagening popes aside, I’m pretty stoked about this. For the past two years, I’ve gotten to enjoy the benefits of grandfatherhood without having had to wait for my son to come of age. And I can see what my own grandparents were talking about when they were saying how much better it was, in comparison to parenthood. With David, I am constantly stressed out, as I know that I am responsible for making sure he turns out more or less okay. But with my precious little Cream Soda, all the pressure goes away, and I can just enjoy him for who he is, and sneak him ice pops on the side. I get to interact with him in a way that I never could with David, free of the burden which parenting provides. For my grandson, I’m the guy who spins you around, takes you outside, and listens to your ramblings. And it is because of this that I have begun to try a little harder with my son. It’s hard sometimes, because he is so smart. I find myself forgetting that he’s still a little boy. And it’s been so long since I was one, that I’ve lost my frame of reference.

Cream Soda is also the brother whom David would otherwise never have. After the Minkey was born, both Flor and I decided that we were out. She had a matching set, and a twelve pound baby tends to spook any mother. And then our grandson came into being. For the first time, we could just enjoy a baby. There were no dirty diapers for us to change, no breast pumps and mangled nipples to endure, no trying desperately to sleep around a miniature tyrant’s schedule. We got to have him when he was at his most precious. Needless to say, David was not impressed. He went from being the center of attention (not all of it pleasant), to standing on the sidelines while everyone went endlessly on about his newborn nephew. And from what he could see, there wasn’t anything terribly impressive about the little poop machine. Now the same fate is about to befall my little grandson.

David's expression upon meeting his nephew for the first time. He wasn't all that terribly impressed.
David’s expression upon meeting his nephew for the first time. He wasn’t all that terribly impressed.

Since he’s been mobile, every deference has been made to him. Any time he erupts in tears, it’s always David’s fault, even if he wasn’t anywhere near his nephew. Like a fútbol star, my grandson knows just how to work it for the refs. And while I tend toward the role of disciplinarian in regards to my monkey man, I am usually quick to come to his defense when the aroma of injustice, like a dirty diaper, comes wafting in my way. Sure, there are times when David can be an asshole, but that’s true of everyone. I call him out when he’s done wrong, but at the same time, I will defend my son if he is not at fault. There are also times when toddlers can be absolute little shits, and it’s obvious that they know exactly what they’re doing. Sometimes kids just fall, or get upset, and there’s nobody one can blame. Toddlers are constantly testing out the boundaries of their physical abilities as well as the social tolerances of their parents. But my grandson’s days in the light of guaranteed innocence have come almost to their end.

Like his uncle before him, Cream Soda will see himself knocked out of his family’s spotlight in favor of a usurper. She will be small, and cry a lot, and demand constant attention. Though his parents have not yet admitted it to themselves, A&W will no longer be an agent with free rein. The first time that he makes his baby sister cry, or throws a temper tantrum over absolutely nothing, he will see a side of his parents that, up until this point, only his uncle has ever seen. He isn’t used to being wrong, and gets away with almost everything. And it’s exactly because of this, that I’m glad he’s got his uncle to fall back on. David has been through all of this, and yet still loves his nephew more than anything or anyone (outside of when his mommy isn’t grumpy). They will keep one another company in the shadows of little Jenny’s radiance, which is good, because we will all be completely transfixed on the new addition to our family.

Actually, I think that this will be good for the three of us: myself, Cream Soda, and the Minkey. My wife and daughter will be fawning over Jenny, like only mother and grandmothers can, and Nerdenn Events will be sucked in as well, doing what he can to help my daughter rustle up a moment or two of sleep. And honestly, I’m really not all that interested in tiny, newborn babies. I mean, sure, I’ll hold them, but they are altogether too fragile to for one to truly enjoy. That, and they don’t really do anything interesting in the first couple of months, at least not that I can really help with. My nipples are for decoration only, and I don’t change diapers anymore. And someone will need to dedicate themselves to being there for our little boys. I suppose that means that I may have to change my grandson’s diaper, but at least that’s easier than dealing with a baby girl. With boys, it’s a fairly simple process: wipe affected areas and re-wrap before being peed upon. With girls there are rules, like front to back, and so many places where it could all just go so terribly, terribly wrong. Better, in my opinion, to leave that sort of thing to the professionals. And hopefully, A&W will be one of the potty-training superstars who gets it right away, and throws off the tyranny of diapers with a shout of independence. One can only hope.

So even though we’ll be packed in like Reader Digests in a hoarder’s hallway closet, I’m kind of looking forward to it. I was the Only Child of a Single Mom, and the closest things I had to siblings were my best friend who lived just up the hill, and second cousins who I really couldn’t stand. Eventually the kids will leave, and we’ll have some breathing room, but for now I get to be a live-in Grandpa, and I have to say that it feels pretty swell to me. To be honest, I prefer the company of children, as they are just insane enough to be really kind of fun, much like my friends in times long gone, under the influence of hallucinogens. Summer is coming up, and that means no more school to fret over, and increased opportunities to go playing in the park. Maybe I’ll set aside a day or two to take the boys out for some fun. I’m sure that we could use it, and will need it soon enough.

But now I realize that I’ve written all these words, having been inspired by my granddaughter-to-be, and yet barely mentioned anything about her, except as a comic foil. The fact is that I cannot wait to meet her, and breathe in that new baby smell. I want to tell her how much her Grandpa loves her, and watch her grow up before my eyes. I want to help her throw off gender stereotypes, and be all that she can be, to help teach her to demand the equality which she absolutely deserves. She’ll have other people to teach her how to do the “girly” things, and a father to intimidate her future boyfriends. I want to be the one whom she can count on to always tell it to her like it is, the one to encourage silly dreams if they make her happy. Grandfatherhood isn’t about crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s, it’s about helping your grandchildren find their voice amidst uncertainty and arbitrary rules. At least, that’s what I always got from the both of mine. Even though I haven’t met her, I already know how much I love her, and I look forward to the day when she first spits up on me to say hello.


I just want everyone to realize that this is the first time since January that I have written something on the first day of the month. If you don’t believe me, you can check it out for yourselves. I didn’t really want to break the streak I’d had going since February 1st, but I felt that I should probably write something in honor of April Fool’s Day. I’m not going to try to convince you that I’m getting a divorce, or that my wife is pregnant again, or some combination of the two. Nor am I going to think up all the strange, yet strangely believable nonsense with which I might otherwise have fooled you. So no, I haven’t finished a book, and it hasn’t gotten picked up by a publisher. I haven’t settled on where I want to work in the real world yet, but soon I will have to choose. This week, probably. Sadly, the thing about the man boobs from the other day is still factually correct. No, instead of trying to think up funny tricks to play upon you, I’m going to take some time and actually share what has me kind of pumped.

Next week, one week from today, Flor and I will be going out to celebrate our sixth anniversary. It’s a little late, but there’s finally something happening that I convinced her she might like to do. And what is that thing? We’re going to catch Apocalyptica at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Wait, I can hear you asking, isn’t your wife a Mexican woman in her late forties? Why would you take her to see Finnish Cello Metal? And those are both questions, though neither one of them is all that good. The answer, however, is that we caught Apocalyptica when they came here on their 7th Symphony tour back… How long ago was that? It feels like it was… maybe four years ago? Five? Anyway, I convinced her to come with me for a night out on the town, and we went to a show together, and wound up with matching hoodies. I just looked it up, by the way. It’s been four and a half years. And the last time we actually did something fun for an anniversary was when we got tickets to the Whiskies Of The World Expo for out third anniversary. Sorry, got off track.

The fact is that I have been trying to figure out how to convince her to go out with me (just like high school- will it never end?!) for quite some time, and when I saw that tickets were still available, I cashed in my points from my Amex card, and snagged us an evening of diversion. Now, the last time that we went to see them, we were both a little younger, and didn’t mind getting back on the last bus of the evening. But this time, Apocalyptica is just a Special Guest, and not the headlining act (Sixx:A.M.), which I really have no desire to stick around to see. That means that we can go out, catch some tunes, and get back in time for bed. I know that’s not really all that metal, but I’m in my mid-thirties now, and I get a little cranky if I don’t get any sleep. That, and my wife will most likely have to start work around, coincidentally enough, 6 o’clock the following morning. None of that matters, though! We’re actually going to go out and have a good time! We’ll have the opportunity to reconnect, and maybe feel the butterflies again. I know that we both became a little weak in the knees when they were holding their cellos above their heads with one hand and bowing stuff of Kill ‘Em All with the other. I mean, I’m not into dudes, but that was kind of sexy. Just sayin’.

Actually, the only thing that has me a little bummed is that they have a full-time singer now, and it’s not the dude they had with them on their last tour: Tipe Johnson, former singer of the Leningrad Cowboys. That Robert Plant-looking dude could really wail, and I just hope that their new guy can handle all the styles of their previous guest vocalists with as much ease as Mr. Johnson. Actually, I hope that they play mostly instrumentals, but that’s just me. Actually, I hope they play a handful of their hits, and then they just throw down Metallica covers for the rest of the show. I would kill to hear what they would do with Orion. They’ve never done a studio cover of it, and I think if anyone could do it justice, it would be those guys.

All this means, of course, that I will be listening to their discography all week, immersing myself the best of their stuff, and trying to will away the aches and pains so that I might be ready for a mosh pit, should one suddenly appear around me. I doubt it will, though. Last time the vibe was more of a show I remember being put on at my middle school, when the administration was constantly admonishing that there was to be “no moshing” and “no headbanging.” Come to think about it, I think that was the first night that I ever checked out the Teen Center. Weird. Somehow I’ve managed to tie up all the themes I ran with in March over the course of a couple of paragraphs. And just to be clear, Apocalyptica did not play at the Old Commode. And there was decent audience reaction when the Finns took the stage. But after a particularly awful set by Dir En Grey (who should have immediately fired their sound guy for gross negligence, and then hauled him away to face multiple criminal charges of assault by way of godawful mixing- I mean, it was like we were getting stabbed in the ear by rabid, shrieking monkeys), we were all still trying to recover. But I still managed to make a Metal Face. And what a face it was.

That's my Metal Face!
That’s my Metal Face!

Anyway, I’m stoked that we are going, and next Thursday, I’ll have a write-up of the show!

Enjoy your April!



Today I was reminded of just how old I truly am. A little boy who I once helped to raise has just turned 28. And another little boy whom I have known since the day of his birth just asked me if there were cars when I was younger. It seems that I cannot escape the march of time, or the inevitable karmic payback of things which I once said when I thought that I was being clever. My youth keeps coming back to poke me in the eye, and I can only sit and watch it happen with a little smile across my face. It’s times like these that make me think that maybe my time has come and gone, and that perhaps the moment has arrived for me to shelve my old ambitions and look forward to the future. And then I think that The Boy isn’t really all that much younger than myself, only David’s age difference between us, and he’s too busy being an amazing person to want to change the world. He is the type of person who will lead by example, which is the change for which I’ve advocated, but I don’t think that he’d like all the attention that comes with starting a cultural revolution. And David can barely make it the length of a commercial break without losing all focus entirely. But enough about my failed dreams and lack of accomplishments.

When I first met The Boy, I was coming over to hang out with his sister. This was just before I wound up calling in a favor, and changing my permanent address to that location. Here came this little kid, though I suppose not so little as I saw him at the time, running up the driveway and demanding that I pick him up and swing him around. I’ve never understood what it is, exactly, that makes kids love that particular type of play. I myself shrink back in terror at the very notion of someone grabbing me and swinging me around, robbing me of control over myself, and the gentle tug of gravity. And yet The Boy could never get enough, nor David, nor my grandson, for that matter. They all kept demanding that I play until the moment that I physically couldn’t anymore. That time is coming for my grandson far sooner than I’d care to admit, but at least for a little while longer I can still scoop him up and spin him wildly until we both feel just a little green.

History replays its finest moments.
History replays its finest moments.

But what strikes me most, is are memories of a conversation that I once had with The Boy regarding his homework, and how he wasn’t doing it. I’ve been having the same conversation with my son lately, and, like The Boy, he also has been diagnosed with ADHD. It seemed odd to me that I was the one, of all people, to have to lecture another human being about the necessity of bowing to the pressures of the busywork. I was the kid who would blow off weeks of homework and then stroll into the classroom to ace the test. I knew the material, but I never had even the slightest inclination toward wasting my time on repetition. Time has taught me that me that there was more important lesson hidden somewhere in the rows of nonsense, and I would have been better served to learn just how to ignore the boredom and get the homework done. I hadn’t figured that out the first time that I had to sit somebody down and try to convince them to do what I could not, but I know it in my bones this time.

The Monkey and The Boy
The Monkey and The Boy

All in all, though,  The Boy didn’t turn out too bad. He’s living life more beautifully than I ever had the courage to even truly begin considering. Sure, I’ve moved hundreds of miles away from where I once ran free, but I fell into the trap of doing all the things which I was supposed to do, and setting aside what mattered in favor of another dream. I had the chance to have the family which I never could when I was just a boy, and I took it because I’d finally found out what it was that I was after. I don’t think that the couple of years that I spent with The Boy when I was learning how to be a man, and practicing to be a Dad, could have influenced him all that deeply, but it is my hope that a little of the dream which I once dreamed might have inspired him just a little to seek out the man he would become, and never sacrifice himself to for anything that wasn’t worth it. I’m not saying that my sacrifices weren’t of value, just that I never seemed to have made a bargain which had unexpected consequences.

Am I happy? In so many ways, I must admit that I am indeed. But there is a part of me that misses the freedom that I once had to go and see the world, not that I ever really did. I have what I have always dreamed that I might have: a family. I grew up in a home torn apart by the statistics of divorce, and I swore that if I ever married, it would last forever. That means, however, that I cannot run off on wild flights of fancy whenever the mood may strike me. I am needed here at home, and, more than that, have no desire to disrespect the bonds my wife and I have forged together. So instead, I settle for a little thrill in hearing of The Boy’s adventures as he travels across the country in search of what it means to be alive. I don’t believe that there is just one answer to the questions life is asking. I’ve found several, both as a father, and as a husband. And these past few months, I’ve rediscovered what my writing has always sought to tell me.

On this day, the twenty-eighth anniversary of my good friend’s birth, I wish him nothing but the best, and hope that his travels might lead him back here once more, as I’ve found that I kind of miss him. Like a blur, the memories are overwhelming, but of him, they are all pleasant. As I look toward the man my own son may become, I have no better example of a good and decent human being to show him than The Man which The Boy has become. Happy Birthday, Homunculus! Be well, and try to do something fun.

Memories in motion.
Memories in motion.




I’ve thinking of how best to describe how I’ve been feeling lately, and that’s been leading me to think back to one of my favorite movies of young adulthood: American Beauty. I remember the first time I watched it, and how it resonated with me then, how Annette Bening managed to capture the frustrations and drives which I could see in my girlfriend, and Kevin Spacey became my personal hero, the embodiment of a man who truly no longer cares, which was something that I had been desperately attempting for at least the past half-decade. And then there was Ricky Fitts. I never sold drugs in High School, nor did I have to worry about a father such as his (or, for that matter, any father at all), but I got the whole photography thing, albeit in a more static format, and the scene when he’s describing the magic of the plastic bag managed to define my artistic sentiment for years to come.

“It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember… I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.”

-Ricky Fitts, American Beauty

Maybe it was a side effect of growing up in the Pacific Northwest, but I felt such a connection to the beauty all around me, and since I had taken up photography, I’d learned to try to focus all that beauty through frame of the viewfinder. And maybe it was just a common sentiment among disaffected youth, desperate to find some meaning, any meaning, for the pain they couldn’t help but feel each and every day. All I know is that in the moment that I saw that plastic bag dancing in the wind, I knew that, despite the pain, and despite the seeming hopelessness of the mundanity of the world around me, there was something that made all of this worth it, and I just had to find out what that was.

Even today, encased, as I may be, inside my concrete tomb, I try to hang on to that ideal, to strive to see the beauty just behind the meaningless atrocities of trying to get by. And even though it’s hard to see it through the smog-filtered sunlight of the San Francisco Bay Area, and in the actions of a populace worn down by the iniquities of life, every now and then I can see it poking through, like an overeager child who wants nothing more than to play peek-a-boo with you. And then I blink, and the joy has gone; the vibrancy of life has been replaced by a Polaroid from the 70’s, where everyone is washed out by ennui and yet still manages to look ridiculous upon proper retrospection.

“Both my wife and daughter think I’m this gigantic loser and they’re right, I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this… sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.”

-Lester Burnham, American Beauty

I’m not sure where I lost that special something which defined me in my youth, whether it was being beaten down by poor decisions, or simply the inevitable outcome of growing older. One of the reasons why I quit my job and set out to make myself write every day was because I knew that I had lost something- something visceral and vital within me- and I knew that if I didn’t do something, I’d never get it back. I had been worried about the things that other people cared about, running after money, selling pieces of my soul one hour at a time just to pay the rent and keep up with the Joneses. Since I was a little boy, the only future which I ever sought involved me changing the world with the words which only I could write. And yet, here I was, almost three decades later, doing everything except anything I enjoyed. There are necessities which must be attended, but the world the would be a poorer place if no one tried to live their dreams. I knew that I couldn’t afford to let my son grow up in a world where all the magic had been lost, and so I took a chance, and changed my life completely.

“It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about.”

-Lester Burnham, American Beauty

Of course, the afterglow has long since faded, and I now face the future with more uncertainty than I think that I can bear. Despite the fact that I’ve been writing almost every day, and even gotten back to where I now feel comfortable in doing it, I’m not writing anything of value, at least not by the standards which I have set for myself. I thought, back in December, that I would have until Mid-January to find some form of gainful employment. I thought that, knowing myself, it would mean that I wouldn’t begin to write my masterpiece until the night before my interview, or worse: first shift in the morning at my new place of employment. But neither of those moments has arrived, and so the desperation for lasting glory has now all but completely faded. I’m still doing something similar to what I’ve always dreamed of, but I know that I need more. There are stories in me, just begging to be freed, and I’m an idiot if, through fear and my own inaction, I allow them to just fade away.

“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

Lester Burnham, American Beauty

And there it is: the philosophy which snuck its way inside me when I began to cry. Beyond the plastic bag, and the beauty which it hides within, there is the knowledge that the only thing which stands between myself and perfect happiness is only myself. I wish that I could step back a little from the nonsense of my life, if only to just let the moments stretch into infinity, so that I might stand a chance to feel just one more moment of unbridled wonder. Somewhere within the pain, both physical and spiritual, there is something which I cannot see which will make everything seem worth it. The look of contentment on my son’s face as he figures out the world. The way my wife is so full of life that it radiates out from her, threatens to consume her from within. How my grandson laughs as we share a private giggle at the jokes that only toddlers and elderly can hope to understand. The fierceness of my daughter as she rages at the world just as I once did, when I was younger. The joy of setting words to paper which once existed only in my mind. I am spoiled for happy moments from which to choose; I just wish that I could see them.

Falling in Love

After almost six years of marriage, and nearly nine years into my relationship, I can say that I miss the feeling of the random, razor butterflies that rip me up inside every time that I happen to fall again in love. It hasn’t happened for quite some time, obviously, but the memory is something which I will keep with me forever. It used to be that I could fall in love as easily as the wind might shift, and yet still love each new person just as deeply as all the other loves which came before. But being with someone for the better part of a decade is an entirely different kind of monster. It’s easy to get discouraged when that heady rush of endorphins peters out, but the key to love’s survival is to turn your eyes toward the long game, and stop focusing on the addictive narcotic of infatuation. I love my wife more each and every day, which, to be honest, because we are both imperfect beings, is a little impressive at times. We have our own drives and desires and are constantly forced to balance them against what we need to stay together. My love for Flor is not a rush of illicit substance hitting my veins and causing me to gasp. She is, instead, the warmth of sharing a mint condition copy of Detective Comics #27 with someone whom you trust until the end of days. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that she increases in value with every moment that passes, and I live in constant fear that she will soon realize that she can do much better.

On our first date (excluding that time where people were trying to get us to hook up at a friend’s wedding), I sat her down and warned her of all my character flaws. She thought that I was joking. In a way, I think that there is no more beautiful way to describe who we are and what it is, exactly, that we have. I am serious and brooding, aware of my failings, and obsessed with a certain sense of honor. My wife thinks that I am full of it, and is always looking for the punchline. Obviously, I’m simplifying things just a little bit, but it’s nice to know that even in my darkest hours, there is someone who will speak truth to power and tell me when I’m acting like an ass. That doesn’t mean that I always listen, or even that, in that moment, I appreciate it all that much, but it comforts me to know that I have someone on my side. Someone who is genuinely looking out for my best interests. It’s easy to forget, when we’re in the middle of an argument, that my instincts are not always to be trusted, as I have this nasty tendency to seek out my own destruction. Whereas my life before I met my wife was a whirlwind of impulsive and ultimately disturbingly atrocious choices, that all came to an end (I cough and nudge some errors back beneath the rug) when we decided to take a chance on one another.

I realized that I had been drawn, much like a moth, to women who would only immolate me. There is something soothing in the passions of insanity, and reassurance in the knowledge that the only surprises will not be what, but how. But that kind of love, if one-sided passion built upon a foundation of co-dependence can be acknowledged as such, tears a person down, undercuts his sense of self, and leaves him deep in debt with nowhere to call home. I knew that the time had come for me to make a change. I would be lying if I said I knew that we would be together for this long. When we started dating, it was just something we did to pass the time in which we’d normally just be lonely. And when we moved in together, it wasn’t because we were so madly in love that we couldn’t be apart, but rather, we both had to move out of the places we were living, and decided that splitting the rent and bills in half was a better way to do it. Even through her pregnancy, we fought like cats and dogs, with my Beautiful Flower doing everything she could to make me feel inferior.

It wasn’t done by insults, or even ill intent, but rather, she outclassed me with every step along the way. Whereas I had been to hell and back, fighting the demons which danced within my mind, she exuded a certain quiet fortitude that put all my travails to shame. Here she was, nearly 1,900 miles from everything and everyone she’d ever known, nearly 2,000 miles away from her teenage daughter and elderly parents, and she was comforting me in the face of impending fatherhood. I cannot imagine the amount of courage that sort of selflessness requires. She put her life on pause to sort out someone else’s problems, and then, instead of focusing on her own, turned her attention toward fixing what was wrong with me. Years later, I think that she may have grown a little weary of her game of Whack-A-Mole, but that she could begin to play at all is what continually amazes me. She is the most amazing person whom I have ever had the pleasure of having known, and though I tell her that I love her at least several times throughout the day, I feel like I could find a way to somehow tell her more.

There is a strength is in her that rivals the very fundamental forces inherent in Mother Nature. There is a love in her that crushes all opposition, grinding it down beneath her boot like a discarded cigarette. There is a beauty in her that hides until she finds the time to smile, and then spills out in radiance upon the world like an overturned barrel full of sunshine. And I feel grateful every day that she is on my side, and grateful to just be near her, to know her, to take in everything about her, and have the opportunity to love her for as long as she will have me.

Feliz sexto aniversario, mi amor. Te quiero hasta el fin del mundo, y un poco más. Todavía tú eres la luz de mi vida, y espero que yo merezco tu paciencia conmigo. No tengo nada para ofrecerte, aparte de mi amor, pues, entonces, te doy mi alma misma.


I love you
Happy sixth anniversary, my love.
I love you
I love you until the end of the world, and a little more.
A million times, I love you
Still, you are the light of my life, and I hope I deserve your patience with me.
Until the end of days
I have nothing to offer, other than my love,
And ever after
well then, I give you my soul.

Happiness is…

… an ice-cold 20 ounce can of Red Bull as I’m sitting down to write my blog. If they made it in a 40, I’d be even happier. 378 mg of caffeine in a single sitting? Where do I sign up? Personally, I think they should make a really fancy Red Bull and have it in a champagne bottle. I’d pop the cork, and pour a glass, and sip it like the rich folk do. Of course, the rich folk have no need of mortal remedies such as Red Bull, when it would be much easier to send their manservants out to procure some cocaine. I don’t think that I’d want to get myself dependent on that upper, but I’d sure as hell love to have a manservant, so that I could call him Warner. And now I have admitted my familiarity with a certain film, and shall drop the subject entirely.

I was worried when I sat down and powered on the laptop that I wouldn’t have anything to write about, due to my general feeling of contentedness. This consciousness runs on piss and vinegar, and a happy outlook can ruin all of that. My back feels ridiculously better after having spent the night sleeping on the floor, and I suppose that I am not awake enough to notice the weariness of my legs. My wife is at work, so I am left all of this time to actually miss her, as opposed to when we are together, and feel obligated to find something we can fight about. I’ve told her that if she would simply accept that I am right instead of waiting six months and then trying to convince me of my own idea, we would probably get along fantastically. I am aware that I can either be right, or I can be happy, but it’s not my fault reality so often agrees with me, and I have to say that there is a certain joy in being right. That being said, it is a fleeting victory.

And occasionally, my wife will gain the upper hand, and I will back the losing horse. In those rare instances, I try to do my best to offer up my concession, and then wash the feeling of my error away with another subject. I hate it when she’s right, because it gives her ammunition toward her argument that I am not always so. And then the next six months are agony as I await the opportunity to fight back the temptation to say that I told her so. I figure myself the brains of our operation, not because I am smarter than her (though I have devoted far more time to ridiculous thought experiments than she), but because she is, in fact, far superior in almost every other way. I honestly have no idea how she does it. Sometimes, as I lay awake at night and ponder stupid things, I wonder if I should try and sneak a sample of her blood from her to try to develop some sort of super soldier serum. I’m not saying that she’s Captain America (which would be hilarious), but that she is the standard to which Cap holds himself (you know, if comic book characters were aware of non-celebrities living in the real world).

Years ago, I found out where my limitations were, and put up hazard lights so that I’d know when I was approaching them. I’m not as young as I once was, and working an 80 hour week is simply out of the question for me. I sacrificed my body years ago, both in work and play, and now I must be mindful of stresses throughout the day. That’s one of the reasons why I got into management (the other is because I absolutely cannot stand working for people who are in almost every way, my inferior (and to clarify: I mean in terms of dedication, problem-solving, intuition, etc…)): I know how much my body can tolerate, and I need to make enough with a single full-time job to make ends meet. When I’m at work, I’m not the type to lock himself in the office and do whatever it is that pompous bosses do; I stay on the floor and in the flow until my body cannot take it any longer, and then I wait until the rush has died, and then I go to smoke.

My wife has no limits. At least, that’s what she’s told me on several occasions as she’s hobbling around the apartment, taking care of things that could probably wait another day (instead of resting, which is for weaklings). There is a sort of justified arrogance that comes from naturally birthing a twelve pound baby. I mean, she had an epidural, but there was no surgery involved. I have spent no small amount of time trying to imagine the sheer scale of pain involved in bringing my son into this world (which is probably less than keeping him in this world, but as that is spread out over a lifetime, it doesn’t hit you all at once), and even taking into account the pain numbing drugs injected into one’s spine, I don’t believe that I would stand a chance. My mental illness has prepared me to face down imaginary demons, and I keep in practice by frequently belittling myself while I watch the world spin by (and then berate myself for that), but when it comes to pain on that sheer scale, I can’t even pretend that I am in the same league as my wife. She could get shot, and she wouldn’t even acknowledge it until she had nothing else to do. It seems that I have married Teddy Roosevelt.

I may be right about almost everything, but she very well might be right about the bigger picture. I need her far more than I can believe that she might possibly need me (and not just because she’s the sole breadwinner at the moment). And yet she stays by my side and endures. I am not an easy man to live with. I wouldn’t have checked myself into a facility a fortnight of years ago if I was all kittens and rainbows. I am a pain in the ass, and usually right, and a far poorer victor than vanquished. And yet my wife has stood by my side for all of these years (and not just for the paperwork, because I think that an expired snail would have made things happen sooner than me), at times looking like she wanted nothing so much as to just slap the smirk from my face, and yet she remained. I guess it could be that she doesn’t believe that our son stands a chance if she leaves us, but I honestly think that she’s just better than me, and that notion perplexes and confounds me. Not her superiority, which I have grudgingly accepted, but the thought that she knows something that I do not.

I could tell you all the reasons why I stay (and it would be a manageable list, as over the past three months I seem to have mentioned quite a few already), but I have no idea why it is that she remains. I’m not the prettiest, nor the nicest, nor someone tolerable on most occasions, but my wife is with me all the same. It makes me a little nervous, to be honest. Like I’m not seeing something obvious, something right in front of me. Happiness, perhaps?


And come back this evening for part three of A Blast From The Past: Memories of MySpace. Part One is here, and Part Two can be read here.