Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Eve

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
It's Monday afternoon and I'm lying in bed, my laptop propped up on my legs, laundry tumbling in the dryer.  It is an idyllic scene, I suppose.
Lying here, I've been thinking about New Year's Eve and what it all means.  The end of an era? A time to consider second chances? To make resolutions that most of us have no intention of ever keeping?
At the moment, the media is full of Year in Review stories.  A lot of them are surprised that 2014 wasn't as horrible as the 'experts' were predicting.  Too many of them sound disappointed by that fact, that the world didn't spin off its axis.
Of course, there were troubles in 2014.  There are always troubles.  Just as there are always good things happening too.
Sometimes, I think we give New Year's Eve an artificial sense of importance.  It's just another date. Right?  Just another secular holiday to mark the passing of time.
It doesn't actually mean anything.
Or does it?
There are a lot of people who probably wouldn't look back at the past year, their choices, their lives, if not for New Year's Eve.  There are a lot of people who wouldn't take stock of what they've got and decide that they've either (a) got too little or (b) not enough.
Self-reflection can be useful, but I'm not a big advocate of wallowing in the past.  Too often the past is like quicksand, it can trap us in its grip and pull us down.  We don't push ahead, we don't forge new paths because we look at what we've done and lose heart.
"I wasn't able to accomplish anything last year, so why should I try this year?"
But maybe that's because we're too busy looking at the negatives.  When was the last time you sat down and looked at the good things in your life? Not just the things that have happened to you, like surprise birthday parties and job promotions, but the things you've done for others? Buying that homeless guy a dinner or stopping to ask that lady burdened with bags if she needed help?
Those were good things, nice things, but we never seem to remember them.
If you're going to take inventory, make it a complete inventory. Don't gloss over the little things because, let's be honest, most of life is made up of little things. Seconds and moments where we decide whether or not to hold the door open for the person behind us.
New Year's Eve is coming.  Whether it happens that night, before it, or after it, we'll all take a look at ourselves and what's happened this past year.
Just remember, ladies and gentlemen, to look at everything when you do.
Maybe you'll realize this past year has been better than you realized.
So, what comes next?
A happy New Year.
I hope.

Thursday, December 25, 2014



Twas Christmas Day
and I was home,
perusing Facebook,
all alone.

There were Merry Christmas wishes,
and fare-thee-wells galore,
the Internet equivalent
of the Christmas cards of yore.

But as I sat there reading,
I didn't feel a thing,
no urge to wax nostalgic,
my heart did not take wing.

It feels like just another day,
almost the same old grind,
except for having not to work,
which I cannot say I mind.

This day, it has no magic,
not secular or divine,
and it seems this year, more than most,
no one's inclined to be kind.

The news is full of protests,
of riots and unrest.
Whatever happened to this day,
bringing out our best?

This season, supposedly full of joy,
just seems to bring us down.
When did this day of faith and cheer,
become a time of frowns?

I do not have an answer,
this riddle has me beat.
Perhaps sharper minds or better souls,
can overcome this feat?

I only hope, as I sit here,
reading my Facebook feed,
is that people realize what they've got,
in these days of need.

I'm not talking about presents,
but of subtler lessons learned,
the fact that they are truly loved,
and are loving in return.

Maybe Lennon had the answer,
and the world just needs a shove,
to save the day and see the way,
maybe all we need is love?

Twas Christmas Day,
and I was home,
perusing Facebook,
all alone.

Monday, December 22, 2014


The other day, someone asked me, "What are you doing for Christmas?"

"Nothing much," I answered. "Probably sleeping in."

They looked vaguely scandalized. "You’re not going to spend it with your family?"

"No," I said. "My family doesn’t really do Christmas."

"You aught to do something," my friend said, then wandered away.

This whole conversation left me thinking about Christmas and the things we do for it.

When I was a kid, Christmas was a big deal. It was never a religious holiday in my family; it was a time for getting and giving presents, for waking up at the butt-crack of dawn and rushing into the living room to tear open carefully wrapped packages to get to the goodies inside.

Of course, as time went on, Christmas changed. We stopped getting up at dawn to open presents. We’d get up later and later. Over the course of time, the number of presents beneath the tree dropped as well. And gifts were less fun and more practical. Socks. Sweaters. That sort of thing. After presents we would go to my grandparents’ house for a big dinner.

When I was eighteen and moved away, I spent my first Christmas without family. However, I wasn’t lonely. I was living with a nice family in Virginia and they included me in their celebrations.

Later, when I moved into my first apartment - which I shared with two other guys - I had the dubious pleasure of buying my first Christmas tree. It was a four-foot-tall tabletop tree on sale at K-Mart and it bore more than a passing resemblance to the tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Nevertheless, we set it up on the coffee table in the living room and bought some cheap decorations. When it was done, the roommates retreated to their bedrooms and I stepped onto the balcony for a cigarette.

It was a warm December that year and windy to boot. I didn’t think about the wind until I heard a thump and turned to see our Christmas tree blown off the table and rolling across the floor like a festive tumbleweed. That was the last time we had a Christmas tree in the apartment.

Later, when I moved to Alaska and had my very own solo apartment, I pondered what to do for Christmas. The thought of buying a tree seemed more like a burden than a pleasure. I didn’t have a lot of room and didn’t want to have to bother with storing the tree after the season was over. In all honesty, I never even considered a live tree.

Instead, I did something which became a Christmas tradition for me. On a whim, I went out and bought a sheet of brown butchers’ paper. Taking it home, I drew the outline of a Christmas tree on it in dark green Magic Marker and taped it to my apartment wall. When friends came over, I’d hand them a box of markers and tell them to draw an ornament on the tree. It was a surprising hit with my friends and at the end of the season, I could just take the tree off the wall, roll it up and toss it into the trash. No muss, no fuss.

After a few years, though, I stopped doing even this. Christmas was just another day to me. And, really, what was the point of putting up a tree and decking the halls? I was working nights and, over time, my social life had pretty much atrophied. Some years, I did exchange presents with friends but not very often. Christmas was just a bother.

Now, I’m sitting in my living room, which is pretty much devoid of any Christmas presence. These days, Christmas doesn’t make me particularly festive. It seems to be all about traffic and crowded stores and exhausted parents trudging from place to place to satisfy their children’s greed.

Honestly? I don’t usually feel festive until after New Year’s Eve. I suppose it’s all about the release of pressure.

However, this year, I have noticed I’m feeling a bit more Christmas-y than usual. I’ve been listening to some Christmas carols and have even decorated the windows of my townhouse. I’ve got a merry old Santa Clause on one and a Christmas tree with ornaments and presents on the other. Granted, they’re those cheap little window appliques you can buy at the dollar store, but at least I’ve got something up. The other night I listened to a version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, I suppose, the Christmas spirit is slowly starting to seep back into my life. Maybe in a few years, I’ll have a big, live Christmas tree in my living room, decorated with strings of popcorn and velvety, red balls. Perhaps the house will smell like cinnamon and spruce. Maybe there’ll be Christmas music playing from my CD player.

Somehow, though, I doubt it.

I’ll probably decorate the window and listen to some carols. Usually, I watch the Albert Finney musical version of Scrooge and order pizza. I don’t think that’ll change in the future. But if it does, if Christmas becomes a bigger event for me, I’ll welcome it.

Christmas changes for us as we get older. It becomes something different. We reinvent it to satisfy ourselves; we start our own traditions.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sure, there are people who will decry that the day is becoming more secular and less religious, but I think that the core of the day will remain untouched.

Christmas is about giving. It’s about generosity of spirit.

And we could all use a little more of that these days. Couldn’t we?

So, merry Christmas, gentle readers, however you may celebrate. May you get the things that you want and, hopefully, the things that you need as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its crammed full of ghosts,
of those that I’ve lost,
those that I’ve loved.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of regrets,
for the haves and have-nots,
full of the emptiness,
reeking of dust,
full of the ghosts
that once made up ‘us.’

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of my heart
and full of my lust,
full of my fears,
my tears and my woes,
home to my highs
as well as my lows.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of the dreams,
that come in the dark.
Dreams of the future,
dreams of the past,
dreams that won’t linger
and don’t ever last.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of the promises,
that wait in the dark.
Its full of the echoes,
from our pillow talk,
the sense of your body,
lying right here,
a whisper of breath,
the scent of your hair.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of ‘me,’
of ‘myself’ and ‘I.’
Full of the things
I do to get through,
full of soft lies,
and full of hard truths.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of the past,
and the future as well,
of the promise of heaven,
and the void that is hell.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its still full of the ghosts
that wander my heart,
that haunt my heart.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014


It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
dark and red and dry as bone,
wine that tastes like tears.

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
downing it all by my lonesome,
drowning out my little fears.

Pour the wine.
Raise the glass.
Give a toast to yesterday,
It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
and I don’t care what you say.

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
another night,
another glass.

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
if you don’t like it,
you can kiss my ass.

Pour the wine.
Raise the glass.
Give a toast to yesterday.
It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
and I don’t care what you say.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Art of Asking

I've been reading Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking.  The book was gifted to me by one of the regular customers at my day job.  It came as a pleasant surprise and I've been enjoying the book enormously.
Although primarily as expansion of her TED speech, Amanda Palmer includes a lot of autobiographical detail in the book.  And although I don't think of myself as an artist, a lot of what Ms. Palmer writes and shares has resonated with me.
One of the things she writes about is the three types of artists.  There are the collectors, who take the greatest pleasure in amassing the experiences that they later use in the creation of their art.  There are the connectors, the people who take those experiences and connect them, weaving them into story or song or street performance.  And then, there are the sharers, those artists who get off on sharing their creation with the world.
Miss Palmer firmly states that she is a sharer.  That connection with her audience, her fans, the public in general is her particular bliss.
I think, in my case, I'm the connector type of artist.  I like the make things: stories, pictures, whatever. That's what gives me the greatest pleasure.  I've been doing it for decades, for all my life, in fact. 
One of my earliest memories is sitting on the back steps of my childhood home and telling myself stories. Weaving a vast fantastical story in my head about winged people in outer space just for my own amusement.  I never wrote it down, I never told it to anyone before this and it didn't matter if I did it or not.  I was happy just telling the story to myself.
Connecting the dots, weaving the story is what gives me the rush. Sharing it with the world? Not so much.  As for collecting the elements of story? Well, for me at least, that just sort of happens.
So what does any of this have to do with The Art of Asking?
It's a good book.
If you're a creative type, or even if you're not, I'd say go out and pick up a copy.
Maybe it'll make you see that you aren't as alone as you thought. That those midnight thoughts we've had aren't unique to us.
And maybe, if enough people read it and get it, we can put the fucking Fraud Squad out of business.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


In crisp white windows they sit,
letters as black as black can be.
Jet. Obsidian. Onyx.
Impossible to miss behind frozen
glass, sitting on white velvet sheets.

We reach for them, you and I.
We press against the clear glass,
fingers splayed, hearts in our throats,
feeling the heat of words,
the beating black heart of waiting letters.

The glass gets in our way.
It holds us back until we smash it.
We reach into those white windows,
we cut ourselves on shards,
spattering little drops of our blood
on the white window dressing.

The letters burn, icy-hot,
but we do not let them go.
We clasp them tight,
hold them against chest and belly,
letting them mark our skin.

Later, when they’ve cooled,
we bend our heads and take bites out of them.
We bite the letters, breaking teeth,
not caring at all about it.
Our mouths fill will blood and words.

Then we run from the scene of the crime,
clasping our ill-gotten goods,
laughing and gobbling,
all the way to Dream City.

We spit out words as we go,
bits of story, pieces of poem,
a hacking expectoration of drama.
We run, fast as our legs will carry us,
until another white window catches our eye,
and everything begins again.

Monday, December 1, 2014


"Status, Mohawk?"

"On the ground and scoping the scene, Fly," says Mohawk. "Stand by."

She hunkers down on the roof, her eyes making soft zip-zip-zipping sounds as they zoom in on the street below. It’s green, covered by a carpet of mold at least a foot thick.

She checks her clean-field’s integrity, is pleased to see it’s still holding. The last thing she wants is to suck in a lungful of mold-spores and get drawn into the spore-mind.

"Fly, things look quiet. No reaction. Update?"

Twelve miles up, Fly is circling the site in lazy loops. He’s strapped into an air-rig, plugged into the wave, surfing data from a thousand nano-tech sprites.

"We got a pea-souper in the works," says Fly. "Breach is imminent."

Mohawk grins with anticipation. "What do I do?"

"What you were born to do," says Fly.

She can hear the grin in his voice and responds, smiling so hard her face hurts.

Dumping her pack, Mohawk pulls it open and takes out the egg. That’s what they call it, ‘cause that’s what it looks like. A big silver goose egg. It’s light and cold, even through her gloves. Gripping the upper and lower halves of the spheroid, she twists.

"Scrambling," says Mohawk.

In her hand, the egg is getting warm. She tosses it from hand to hand.

"How long?" she asks.

"Soon," says Fly.

"This gonna work?" she asks.

"Yeah," says Fly.

"Good." Mohawk smiles and lobs the egg over the side of the building.

It hits the moldy ground with a sizzle. Smoke rises from the street, which starts to undulate and convulse as the mold-mind reacts to the flame.

Mohawk laughs, wishes she’d brought fireworks with her. That would show ‘em!

The mold arrived in a meteorite, a veteran of galactic conquests. It had subjugated whole worlds, devastated entire species, absorbed alien cultures and repurposed them to suit itself. When it landed on Earth, it had expected things to go as usual.

But humans, it seems, were irrational. They lived in an environment that they deliberately poisoned. They bred even though natural resources were growing increasingly scarce. They fought wars with weapons that only advanced their own extinction.

They were a mad, suicidal race and the mold never had a chance.

Humanity carpet-bombed the infected territories with nukes, killing millions of their own people. Then they nuked the surrounding territories, just to be safe.

The mold was lobotomized, traumatized, but not defeated. Not yet. So long as a single spore remained it could rebuild itself. That’s what it had been doing here, on this little island in the Atlantic, growing quietly in cellars and attics until it burst onto the streets and devoured most of the populace. It was determined to win.

Humans, however, were just as determined to wipe it out.

Honestly, the mold was the first real challenge that humanity had ever had and they embraced it. They hated the mold so fervently, in their subterranean cities and satellite colonies, that they practically loved it. It was not a healthy relationship at all; it was obsessive and stalkery.

The war continued and attracted people like Mohawk. She of the tall, gangly build only made more so by the black mohawk she adopted that became her trademark and her call-sign.

She’d grown up in one of the under-cities, a smart girl with a bad attitude and an unhealthy obsession with killing herself.

The army snatched her up and promised to help her achieve her goal in a truly spectacular fashion. They trained and equipped her as a suicide bomber, waited for the right mission to present itself and then happily sent her off with a nuclear egg to kill the enemy.

Mohawk crouched on the roof and watched, grinning, while Fly counted down from ten.

The egg cracked when he was on three, and the world went white.

Around the world, the mold-mind shuddered and writhed in agony as a significant portion of itself was incinerated.

And, not for the first time, the mold wondered what cosmic power it had pissed off to find itself on a planet full of mad bastards?