Immortality

Ankh

Most of us, if not all, are afraid of what comes next…the big next.  Now, I’m not going to get mired down in a philosophical treatise on the afterworld or reincarnation, rather I am going to center on the simple act of leaving the life you know behind.  Death waits for us all, whether we want it to or not.  We worry about the state of our affairs, “who’s gonna support my loved ones, who’s gonna take out the garbage on Monday night,” and so forth.  The question that burns the deepest is, “how long before I am completely forgotten?”  At least if I am remembered, in some way, then I live on.

Those of us that blog, do so for certain reasons, like catharsis, or sharing beautiful moments, or introspection and trying to understand what it is to be human…reaching out with this to say that we are not alone.  We read the words of others to experience their human condition and to see not only what makes us different, but what unifies us as well.  Beneath all that, I think, that we yearn for immortality through our words.  Many of the bloggers I see have already published books, and in that alone deserve our respect and gratitude for adding to the chronicles, while some of us (yes me) are still finding our voice with hopes of one day writing the next Great American Novel.  Is that too much to ask?  If I can string the right words together, in the right sequence, I can live forever.  It’s wizardry.  We are trying to cast a spell, but if we do it wrong we could find ourselves lost in the oblivion.

This carries a lot of weight.  I have always allowed fear, more specifically the fear of failure, to paralyze me into inaction.  If I do nothing then I haven’t failed yet and the possibility of success is still there, but if I try and fail then the dream dies.  Now with age comes wisdom and I have learned at the intellectual level that this is false, that we learn from our failures and can always try again, but at the subconscious level I am still scared shitless.  A prime example of this fear induced paralysis was, for me, going to college.  I didn’t go right out of high school.  I went to work through temp agencies, at warehouses and factories and found myself having nervous breakdowns that bubbled up when I would think, “is this my life, am I stuck?”  I had always wanted to go to college, but the fear told me that if I go and I flunk out, then factories and warehouses will be all that’s left for me.  It took every ounce of my resolve to fill out the paperwork, but in the end…I flourished.  I loved it.  I wish I could be a career student to this day.  Now I won’t get into the irony that I am now employed at a factory in a managerial position, as it would change the tone of this entirely.  Rather, I am going to talk about hope.

As most of you know, I am now the proud father of a beautiful almost-five-month-old son.  Now, as much as he can serve as a wondrous distraction, he has also given me my immortality (at least that’s how I see it).  He looks so much like me that it’s like having a window into my own infancy.  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of my future self sending my current self a letter that not only explains what’s coming, but the right decisions to make to get there…perhaps this’ll be a future post.  Now I know this concept seemed a fantasy, but it will happen…not for me, but for my son.  I am the letter from his future and hopefully with my help he can make the right decisions and avoid certain pitfalls.  Okay end of tangent.  This newfound immortality means that it isn’t all riding on me becoming the next Stephen King.  I can begin to write with a sense of insouciance.  The weight has been lifted, by the hands of a 17 pound, almost-five-month-old mini-me.

So, watch out world…here I come!  Right after I change his diaper and I figure out a new way to  make him smile and laugh.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I started a new job about a month ago and I’m really enjoying the change of pace, the learning/growth opportunities and having moved out of the food manufacturing sector and into electrical component manufacturing sector. I’m on 1st shift, which is great, but would be better if my wife wasn’t working 2nd, as I don’t see her all week. 

Today I erased a handful of social media apps off my phone, including Facebook. I truly feel giddy with liberation or, perhaps, it’s low level anxiety at losing that outlet/connection. I’m not entirely sure. 

I quit those apps to be more present when spending time with my son and to hopefully spur more creativity. The only social apps I kept are writing/creativity related. I’m keeping this short, so raise your glasses for a toast to change and to creativity! 

If anyone has done the same or similar…don’t hesitate to comment on how it went!

I’m radioactive!

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Standing in the back aisle of the local Kmart, I came across a test kit for determining if your microwave is leaking.  My first thought was, holy crap…my microwave could be irradiating my beautiful single-wide trailer, with me and my miniature schnauzer included!  My second thought was, I wonder if I concentrate really hard if I can get this little tester to light right up.  Stay with me…this is how my mind works.

I picked the tester up, it had a shiny black surface, like vinyl.  The packaging showed an ominous radioactive symbol, a bright red, right in the middle of the area that now appeared black.  Apparently the tester detects the microwaves and the symbol appears, like magic…like finding a pure white, wooly caterpillar–foretelling of a long hard winter, but in this case sterility and bleeding gums.  Again, the idea of concentrating my mental energies on this tester, to bring the symbol out of the black depths had goose bumps running up my neck.

I clutched the tester in both hands, pinched between thumbs and pointer fingers, like someone reading a winning lottery ticket for the fifth time.  I concentrated on the area where the symbol should be, my eyes almost crossing.  I held it about six inches from my face.  Five seconds in and I swear I could see a ghost image of the symbol, like the lady of the lake rising from the depths–the sword represented my newfound psychic abilities. My pulse quickened.

If such a thing is possible…I concentrated harder, spurred on by the ghost image.  My eyes were slits and perspiration beaded on my forehead.  The faintest pink pulsed within the specter and what was once faint began to take form and showed clearly distinct lines.  My eyes widened as the symbol took full form–a phoenix from the ashes.  My heart pounded.  I glanced around to see if there was a witness.  I stood alone.  I frantically flipped the package over and read the small print.  What were the repercussions?

My eyes quickly scanning the fine print.  A bowl.  A bowl of water is placed in the microwave.  The water boils.  The boiling water creates heat.  Heat.  The tester measures heat.  Heat?!?  My fingers pinching the tester right where it’s affected by heat.  My shoulders slumped.  I was once again a normal citizen.  No longer a member of the mutant brotherhood.  I chuckled nervously to myself, wondering where this placed me on the MMPI.

Closer to Home, Father I Roam pt. 2 


In an earlier post, Closer to Home, Father I Roam, I talked about the loss of my father. I talked about our relationship, about his being supportive of my writing and how his passing affected me.

I talked about how I am embarking on an inward journey, in attempts to better understand him, creating some of the same neural connections…through reading the same books he had read. He left a map of his adventures–his Nook reader and a library of titles. 

I picked The Shannara Trilogy and was not disappointed. I’ll be the first to admit that I moved through the first two books slowly. It was as if I was subconsciously coming up with excuses to not buckle in and read, at least not nearly as often as I had in the past. However, I did really enjoy them, as they are definitely in a genre that I love. Now I’m not going to do anything close to an in depth book review, but simply say how the journey went and what I took away from it. 

I’m currently about 100 pages away from finishing the third book. I take it with me to work and inevitably I end up going down an internet-search-wormhole and make no use of my breaks, whatsoever. Irritated with myself I’ll return to work, vowing to read the next time. Some part of me doesn’t want the story to end, just like I wish my father’s story was still going on, I guess. 

My takeaway, at this point, is simply my seeing a parallel between my father and the Druid Allanon. He wasn’t really there at the beginning and until later in life he was kind of a mysterious figure that moved in and out of my life. Most importantly, he gave me my love for reading, which blossomed into writing and is the most powerful magic I know. 

I will try to push through the last 100 pages and then see what’s next. I hope to report back on this pilgrimage. I miss him sorely, but these breadcrumbs I’m following will not only bring about a deeper understanding, but will also take time…putting me closer to him in a more final way. 

To me, sharing a book with someone is probably one of the most intimate things you can do. It was, for a time, a life you lived and now, through your actions, they share that life. Share your lives with those you care about, my friends. 

I’m psychotic, er…I mean psychic.

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Okay, lets start with a mild disclaimer, that I’m not entirely sold on the concept of having psychic powers, but I have had some very salient, personal experiences with it. A more recent example reminded me of the previous ones, as I had purposefully tried to forget them and with good reason.

I was at work. I’m a 2nd shift supervisor at a factory, so I do a lot of running around making sure everything is running right and that everyone is following procedure (safety, good manufacturing practices, etc.). As I was walking I blurted out a line of dialogue from a movie I vaguely remembered, “…blew the shit out of our fruits,” which had absolutely nothing to do with anything I was doing at that moment—purely spontaneous, nonsensical muttering. The next morning I was scanning the channels and the title ‘Shanghai Knights’ rang a bell. I selected it and it not only happened to be the movie that the line of dialogue was from, but the very next line spoken was the one I blurted out, and THAT made me take notice.

Now I had mentioned how I had essentially tried to forget about previous premonitions and that I felt I had good reason, and I will get to that, but I will cover a couple innocuous examples first. Back when I was too young to be legitimately working, I had a part-time job at a comic book store. I stocked shelves, assisted customers and mostly read when things were slow—it was great. Well…I got into an argument with another kid working there at the time, and I became so frustrated that I got a headache. I told him that I was done arguing as I had a headache and he said, “That’s my superpower…I give headaches to people I argue with.” This being a completely normal thing to say, as we were both nerdy, comic book geeks. Pissed off, I blurted out, “Yeah, well…I popped both of the tires on your bike!” Now I said this to just get him out of my face, and he did immediately go outside to check on his bike. He was back in the store in a matter of seconds and basically called me an asshole. I was sure he was messing with me, so I went out to look at his bike and lo and behold…both tires were flat. I tried unsuccessfully to talk my way out of that one and was made, by the store owner, to walk my coworker home.

In high school, I had two real good friends, who were brothers. We were going to go hangout at a girl’s house, but Mikey, the younger brother, said that he shouldn’t, as he had to be back home for dinner or he’d get into trouble. I blurted out some insane scenario where he could tell his mother that someone stole his sneakers and because he had to chase them he’d missed his bus and didn’t get home in time for dinner. I was trying to be amusing, I guess. Mikey did end up going with us to the girl’s house and when he said that it was time for him to go catch the bus, she jumped on his lap and her sister pulled his sneakers off an took off running…locking herself in her bedroom. By the time he got his sneakers back he had missed the bus that would’ve gotten him home on time.

During that same school year I had a much more ominous premonition come true, one that shook me to my core. Now mind you, during this time I was skipping more classes than I was making it too and was in ISS almost every day that I decided to actually show up to school. On this particular day, I decided to turn over a new leaf and go to all of my classes, even the ones that I didn’t like. So I found myself sitting in my math class, hoping like hell that the teacher wouldn’t call me up to the board to solve a problem, as I was completely clueless at this point. The teacher called another student up and as he walked by I blurted out in the lightest of whispers, “You’re going to die.” Now here is where I usually get weird looks from people when I recount this story, but I assure you—I did not wish him dead…I did not want him harmed in any way. I didn’t really know who he was as we didn’t associate. The words simply spilled from my mouth without a single thought. Well, the next day the school canceled all classes and as I walked the halls I just kept seeing groups of students huddled together crying. I learned that a student from my grade, while playing basketball at a local boy’s club, collapsed and died almost instantly from a burst valve in his heart. You guessed it—he was the student from my math class. I didn’t tell anyone about this, certainly not anyone that went to my school. I was afraid that I would be thought of as a lunatic, I became afraid that I might blurt out something similar to someone much closer to me, so I buried it. I stopped blurting things out off the top of my head and became much more reticent. I thought before I spoke and if something did pop into my head…I didn’t blurt it out. Eventually I stopped having the urge to blurt out, until a few days ago, while walking around at work.

Am I crazy? Do any of you believe in psychic powers? Have any of you had anything psychic happen to you? Help me feel a little less alone…

Privilege of growing old

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“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Author Unknown

During the summer of 1990, shortly after graduating high school, I got the opportunity to take a road trip across the U.S., from NY to Montana to Arizona to Georgia and back again. I got to see Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the Grand Canyon and a bunch of other sights. It really does give you a better perspective on how vast and varying our country is.

I’m not going to get into a great deal of detail on this trip, but am going to focus on one time period. Shortly after leaving New York, having gone through Pennsylvania and then up through Michigan, an occasional motorcycle would pass by. Now I probably didn’t even really take note at the time, except maybe to notice how loud they were, but probably immediately forgotten. Now, no one in my immediate family owned a motorcycle, so I didn’t have any reference to go by, like…oh, that’s a pan head or knuckle head. So they passed with little notice.

The farther along on this trip I went, the more motorcycles seem to pass by. By the time I was halfway through Minnesota, lines of motorcycles a quarter mile long would pass by me. There was no way not to notice them at this point. When I tell this to someone who rides, they immediately recognize the fact that I must’ve been nearing the Sturgis Rally…which I had been. Completely coincidental, I ended up at Sturgis AND found a room on the 50th anniversary of the rally! Most do not believe that part, but it is true.

Now, why did I centered on this particular time period? It reminded me of growing old. I’m 43, now I wasn’t sure if I should’ve put ‘only’ in front of that or not, but 43 sometimes feels young and sometimes not. I’ve often thought about what it means to grow old and what it all entails. The quote, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many,” by an unknown author, surfaces more than most. My initial feeling on the quote was the differences in healthcare from third world nations to places like the U.S., but lately, with the passing of my father and father-in-law, I find a sense of Irony with the quote.

Now when you’re young, as long as it isn’t someone from your immediate family, you probably barely register the passing of fellow human beings, unless they make a lot of “noise” when they pass. However, when we get older these happen more and more frequently…until we can’t help but notice—especially, of course, when it is someone we are close to. I feel like the word ‘privilege’ seems odd, as we, that remain behind, get to see more and more of those we know and love pass. The closer we get to that final destination ourselves, the more it would seem like a never-ending procession passing by. Is this our privilege? To witness this procession?

What are your thoughts?

Closer to Home, Father I Roam

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“Dad…you don’t look any better. You’re wasting away. You should just go back to the hospital. Make something up, so they take you seriously, like you’ve been having chest pains, or something.”

[I haven’t been on here in a while and I want to apologize for that, as its been like 9 months—long enough to be born anew. I originally thought I might take a month or so off, so that I could acclimate to the new job, which is going well—much better than the last job. However, between there and here I lost someone very important to me…my dad. This post is about him and, by extension, myself.]

My earliest memory of my dad (I was around 6 at the time and very precocious) is one where he gave me a Hess truck. He and my mother had split up before I can even remember, and the details of their break up are a haze of he-said, she-said snippets I’ve accumulated over my lifetime. What I’ve come to know about my dad, is that I’m not the first child that he’s walked away from or been pushed away from. I have a half-sister somewhere in Florida, that he never really talked about, and I never really questioned him about. Knowing my father as I do…I think that he always assumed that a child is much better off with their mother and, being the most non-confrontational person I know, he would simply walk away. However, now that I am a father, and I know that I would walk through the fires of hell to be with my son…I’m left a little saddened that my father didn’t. The Hess truck took batteries and my dad said was a collectible—something that becomes more valuable the longer you hold onto it. As young as I was, I remember thinking that it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday, but he has this present just sitting there…waiting…on the off chance that I might come for a visit; my father, who I had no memory of until that very day. Maybe, I thought, him and my mom had conversations that I didn’t know about, that my mom knew this whole time how to get a hold of him, where he lived and that he was just a short car ride away, but it was on this nondescript day that I met the man my mother said was my father and that I learned inanimate objects grew in value because most would be mistreated or thrown away, so those kept and taken good care of became rarer and more precious.

The next time I remember seeing him I was around 8. It was night and he had come to my house for a short visit. I remember it being night because he jokingly said that two motorcycles were coming up the road and that I should stand in the middle of the road, between the motorcycles. I knew that it was a car, but I slowly walked towards the road anyway, trusting this man, my father, would stop me out of some undefined bond we shared. He did stop me, then he promised to visit me the following week for a longer period, and that following week I ended up sitting outside on my plastic three-wheeler, by myself, until the streetlights came on and my mom dragged me into the house. I think at some point during that day of waiting, my mom talked to him on the phone and yelled at him within earshot, and I worried she would scare him off entirely, but I knew that he must have had good reason to not come and see me…he must.

Fast forward, again what felt like years, and my dad is staying at my cousin’s house on weekends. He worked up north, wearing a Tyvek suit and scrubbing agent orange out of ceilings, and on the weekends he was ours. My cousin was more like a brother and he lost his father to a drunk driver when he was almost too young to remember, so we shared my dad. My cousin has pointed out that my dad served as an anchor for us during turbulent times. You see, most of the adults around us were dealing with what life had thrown at them by self-medicating, and the drug of choice, more often then not, was alcohol. The time we spent with my dad was even keeled. We’d go to arcades, movies, or just sit around his room and play Dungeons and Dragons. He gave me the book Dream Park and though it took me a year to read, it was the spark that got me to be a lifelong reader and aspiring author. It was funny, that his first parental action was to limit my soda intake, which at that time was pretty high. I was at once caught between wondering how he could expect me to listen to him since he was never there and happy that he cared about my well-being. I was around ten years old at the time.

These days seemed to go on forever, as the summer vacations of our youth often do. Nothing stays the same and he eventually moved out and at one point lived in the YMCA and with friends at another point in time. The chronology is foggy at best. I never really visited him when he was at the ‘Y’ and he acted uneasy about the place when it was brought up, but me and my cousin visited him regularly when he lived with his friends, continuing the tradition of arcades and D&D. In fact, it was my introduction to D&D and the resulting increase in my vocabulary that got me tested for and admitted into the Gifted and Talented program in the 5th grade. The best thing to come out of being in the G&T program was knowing that I’m not the only goofball/weirdo/nerd out there, and the worst was never feeling like I’d accomplished what I should’ve.

I moved out of the city to live with my cousin and his wife, as I was going down a dark path in high school and probably wouldn’t have graduated. Years later my dad would end up moving out to the piece of land I was on, out in the country, in the trailer out back. We shared common interests like movies, books and photography. He was a much more prolific reader than myself, but never attempted to do any creative writing. I went to college and majored in English Writing Arts and Psychology and I usually follow that up with the joke, “Now I can write stories and know just how fucked up I am for having written it.” He was always my biggest fan and encouraged me to keep writing, which was why it was so hard to get back in the swing after he passed. Every time I write I think about him and how he will never see my son, his grandson, grow up. He loved living out in the country, as going to a nearby nature center, with walking paths, so he could take pictures was his favorite thing to do. We spent many a warm, sunny afternoon playing hacky sack. He always held to the idea that just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to act like it. He was truly young at heart.

I ended up moving in with my then girlfriend, who is now my wife, and my dad and my uncle moved halfway towards where they worked—a drug store warehouse. This house he moved into was condemned and they moved back to the city of Syracuse. The house that was condemned was eventually demolished. It also happens to be on my route to my new job. It serves as almost a daily reminder of my loss. I work 2nd shift, so many times I find myself driving home late at night with tear-filled eyes.

Near the end he was losing his breath very easily, and having a great deal of cramps in his legs while trying to sleep. Then he started losing weight. He came up for a visit and he had me touch in between his shoulder and neck and there was no muscle…just a hollow impression. He went to the hospital due to his difficulty breathing and didn’t tell me, not wanting me to worry. I happened to call while he was at the hospital and he said they’re running him through tests.

Later on he said that his lungs were clear and his heart was fine, which was what he was worried about most. His doctor ended up diagnosing him with Myasthenia Gravis. He said that it was caught early enough that a treatment program would work well. The last time he visited me, when he was standing out in the driveway, getting ready to go back home, he said that he was proud of me. Now we always hugged when he left, but for some reason, probably his weakened state, he slid into his car. I was standing behind him with my arms raised thinking we would hug, but figured he was tired out from walking outside. We exchanged ‘I love yous’ and he drove away. A couple weeks later my uncle called me, voice trembling, and told me that my dad had collapsed on the bathroom floor from a massive heart attack. I cried so hard and for so long that my eyes dried up and felt like sandpaper. He was cremated and sprinkled at his favorite nature center. I’m trying to strengthen my relationship with my uncle, who is kind of a recluse. My uncle gave me my dad’s laptop and I’m writing this post with it. He also gave me his Nook color, and I have begun reading the books that my dad has read. For me they’re like a trail of breadcrumbs or a treasure map that will lead me closer to him. With every sentence I read, that he has read, I will be making neural connections that he had, shaping my mind a little more like his. He was always loving, humble and young at heart…despite having had a shitty childhood where his mother left him and his father remarried a prototypical wicked stepmother who denied him the very joy of reading the comic books she would buy—his favorite thing. It seems his not being there will serve as bookends for my life, but I’m reading him into my mind and soul.

I opened this post with an imagined conversation that I’d wished I’d had with him the last time I spent time with him. It plays out in my head over and over. “Dad…you don’t look any better. You’re wasting away. You should just go back to the hospital. Make something up, so they take you seriously, like you’ve been having chest pains, or something.”

I’m forever wounded but have healed enough to begin writing again. It is what he would have wanted.

I love you dad.

Glass clackers and lawn darts


I made it…I’m still here. I grew up before and during the advent of getting plugged into a zombifying home game console. Don’t get me wrong, I used to love playing video games…many hours invested in burning every bush in Zelda, but I also knew what playing outside meant.

I used, at one point or other, toys that have been banned, like glass clackers that could shatter into a million razor sharp pieces (all destined for my eyeballs), and lawn darts that had metal tips. I even remember that one friend, like out of a scene in Grownups, who thought it was funny to throw it straight up into the air and watch everyone scatter, but luckily no one got hurt.

I’m sure some of you have played with these notoriously banned toys…what were they and do you have any stories to go along with them?