Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year brings New Hope.


I have made a pilgrimage to the houses of democracy and dipped my toes in the ocean of ideas our fore-fathers shed their lives-blood for, only to drown in the sea of hope they inspired in the generations of Americans that followed in their footsteps. I went in search of an absentee spirit only to discover a wellspring of poetry carved in cold marble that warmed my heart and instilled within me a peace and tranquility that all but obliterated the chaos that reigns inside of me.

As I sat on the cold, unforgiving marble of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial reading the five quotes carved into the walls out loud to my daughter, I became misty eyed and hoarse. Mr. Jefferson’s words have never failed to move me but on this occasion, at a time when I have worked myself beyond exhaustion, my defenses were at an all time low.

So, where does this leave me at the dawning of a new year?

I am going to post here those quotes on my blog. The quotes that brought tears to my eyes and hope to my soul, I hope they move you as much as they have moved me.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states...And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.

Almighty God hath created the mind free...All attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens...are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion...No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion. I know but one code of morality for men whether acting singly or collectively.

God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

And lastly, one of my all time favorite T.J. quotes.

I have sworn on the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Happy New Year my dear readers. I hope the coming days and months bring you happiness, joy and prosperity.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I Still haven't found what I'm looking for.


Christmas Eve was a mad dash of work, mayhem, marathon eating, the traditional receiving and giving of gifts and running around the greater tidewater area. Once my family and I arrived safely home and commenced our own particular yearly tradition of prepping the house for our annual solstice traditions, it did not take us long to fall into our routines of secretive wrapping, skulking from room to room in an attempt to avoid contact with anyone who may be lurking around a corner in an attempt to get a glimpse at what sort of goodies may be hiding within the cavernous, self exiled cell filled with ribbons, bows and obnoxiously printed paper.

I made more than several trips to the trash can with over filled black plastic bags, specifically purchased for the sole purpose of hiding the manufacturers packaging of products that were put into said packaging by extremely frustrated, angry and underpaid employees from foreign countries. These employees sole purpose seems to be to throw fuel on the fires of frustration parents have been feeling since the beginning of the holiday season.

Paper cuts, abrasions caused by plastic and torn fingernails are wounds we go to great lengths to hide but are easily ignored by the wide eyed, adrenaline filled offspring that wakes us all up at the butt crack of dawn in an attempt to discover the treasures that lie under the lighted, adorned and tinseled faux wooden emblem of the season. Bleary eyed we stumble through our homes, our eyes feel as if the interior of our eyelids are made of eighty grit sandpaper, the harshness of our pre-brushed mouth seems to be only a minor irritant as we make our way to the well worn seat cushion on our favorite living room piece of furniture.

If you are lucky and you’ve thought ahead, your automatic coffee pot will either have already made or is in the process of making you a pot of ebony, bitter, acrid life giving plasma. If not, you have to settle for stale orange juice and three-day old almost too hard to eat bread to help kick start your morning celebration of peace and tranquility.

This is the century of the Simpsons and Griffins Christmas, not Ozzie and Harriet, the Cleavers or even the Brady’s. Our lives are so filled with demands of time, energy and pressure we seem to lose the peace and tranquility. I know I have. I stated in my last blog I was having difficulty in finding my Christmas spirit this year. And, now that Christmas has arrived like an unwanted credit card bill, I still have not completely found what I’ve been searching for. I feel a bit more in the spirit but I still have not sold out completely.

I don’t know if I will be able to.

I hope, I pray and I’ve even gone so far as to try and fleece myself into the experience what everyone else around me seems to be having. It’s tough to have a void where your good will once was. A vacuum that seems to do nothing drink in all of the happiness you used to feel. The simplest, most innocent actions leave me feeling numb or wanting more.

Am I closer than I was a week ago? Yes I am.

Will I eventually receive the one gift I’m looking for? Hopefully.

Am I going to celebrate if and when I do? Fo-Shizzle!

Here’s hoping you all had a great Christmas and I’ll talk to you all real soon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Struggle


The lights from the Christmas tree sparkle off the tinsel casting red, green and blue shadows on the walls. Scents of pine, cinnamon and apple fill the air with mouth watering deliciousness, and promises of gastronomical fulfillment. My daughter and her friends have to be peeled from the ceiling just to be told it is time for school to start. The overflow of excitement runs out of their pours like a viscous liquid that immediately attaches itself to anyone who comes near it like coagulated molasses on a cold winter’s morning. They have been ready for the coming morning carnage for weeks and conversations which are overheard by parents everywhere are filled with what sort of LOOT they are about to tear from vigilantly wrapped packages which were hidden by the gifters in secret locations around the home and offices in places the CIA, KGB and FBI could never find. (But a 10 year old knows of these places and can snoop out a gift in 5 seconds if left alone.)

In my car, under my tree, in my wardrobe and my office hide such packages. Carefully picked out, superficially covered in vibrant recycled, ecologically friendly paper. The tags with names carefully scrawled on them by my shaking hand dangle in the breeze of fresh, canned air that streams from the heating ducts. Their dance reminds me of the hope and joy I am supposed to be feeling this season. A hope and joy I have been looking for but unable to find.

Oh, I see these lost emotions on the faces of children and adults as I pass by them on the streets. Their laughter and light hearted moods are more contagious than the latest flu epidemic. But it seems this season I have been immunized against all the cheer this season normally brings me. Maybe it has to do with the fact I have been unable to truly enjoy the normal festivities of the general populace of my fair city. Maybe it has to do with all the time I’ve spent over that past few months immersed in creating the holiday experience for others that I’ve neglected my own requirements for a festive season. Maybe… I don’t know.

You see, over the past week I have listened to a metric ton of Christmas music, watched countless hours of holiday movies and have even made an attempt at spreading joy, hope, kindness and cheer to others all in an effort t to find the peace of the season within me. I have been unsuccessful. I don’t know why these feelings are so elusive for me this year. Sure, I’ve had tough times in the past garnering the good will towards my fellow men but I was in a very different place then. A place where my only warmth was afforded to me in the form of a prickly, raw woolen gray naval blanket with no family or loved ones to comfort me. Long lonely days seated on cold, dark gray decks reading books with missing pages and eating leftover cold food and drinking warm, stale milk. But even then I managed to find a lining of silver on a bleak and weary day.

Today, not so. I have many blessings in my life; a family who loves me, not one but two jobs where I know when I am not there my presence is missed. I have friends who call me out of the blue to tell me about their day and want to spend time with me and value my opinion in matters of decisions that will affect their lives for years to come. And even with all these blessings, which I’ve counted and stored in the vaults of my memory, I still am unable to engage in the joyous festivities that seem to have taken over not just my town, state and country but also the world at large.

My search, within my own corporeal body and my not so corporeal body has been an in depth raping of all that I hold near and dear to me as well as my belief system. (Which at times goes against the knowledge of the physical world and all the science I know to be true and untrue.) Yet still, I have been unable to call forth the emotions from the memories which have always served to cheer me up in the past. The memories of receiving THE gift on Christmas morning that reaffirms in a tainted teens childhood that there just really may be a Santa Claus or that Hope is not just a platitude spouted by a preacher on a pulpit or a crazy, hairy, smelly, toothless, homeless man on a cold and dingy street corner, have all failed to bubble to the surface of my being the sense of tranquility I normally feel at this time of year.

Yes, I know I am not supposed to talk about these things. But I just can’t seem to help myself. My mind won’t allow me to NOT talk about it. I have tried to bury my blemished mood and I have been triumphant for the most part in not letting on to others what I am experiencing or in this case, not experiencing. But now it is a week before Christmas and time is running short, the light of hope that casts out the shadows of pain this time of year has yet to shine upon my psyche and warm the coldness that has wormed its way inside my body, taken root and started to send its icy branches to every part of my ID. This coldness cannot be warmed by platitudes and empty actions. The frigidity can only be thawed by an intangible, unseen and overlooked gift. I’m looking for that gift. I believe it is the one gift that will reinvigorate my childlike awe most people feel this time of year.

This is my yoke, my quest and my struggle.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Relief


I, like most people, am a creature of habit. I don’t like it when my life takes an unexpected turn or when some minor irritation becomes an everyday commonplace occurrence that seats itself inside your psyche like an unobtainable splinter. Hiding just under your skin and sliding away, deeper and more painful every time you get close to extracting the damnable irritant. This has been the case since a week before Thanksgiving, when I discovered I had lost my check book, mortgage payment book, car payment book and my 16 gigabyte back up flash drive. You wanna talk about a realization that makes your sphincter water tight, this is it. I was and have been a bit out of sorts, more than I thought I was.

To put it bluntly, I’ve been so concerned about the misplacement my fiscal accountability that I have been incapable of maintaining a respectable flow intelligent thought. Which means, I have not been writing my blogs or my fiction too much, sure, I’ve pounded out a few drafts for blogs and even outlined a new story and regurgitated about a thousand words on an existing story, but for me to be able to communicate to you properly, I truly need to not have any unnecessary worries piled on top of my daily concerns. And the worst part of it is that I didn’t even realize how much the loss of those items affected me.

I’ve been at best a bit moody and distracted in tasks that I normally could do with my eyes closed. Yes, I make mistakes; I’m not too proud or big headed to claim I’m perfect. Hell, if I go through a day and only make a dozen errors I consider it to be a good day.

So, today, as I was walking through my dining room and into my kitchen I noticed a plastic shopping bag sitting on my piano. (What? You don’t keep your piano in the dining room?) So as I passed the bag I snatched it up in my hand believing it was just another empty bag left lying around by one of my fellow housemates for the sole purpose of driving me more insane than I already am. But as I pulled it towards me in my left hand I felt the weight of something shifting inside and my curiosity told me to open the recyclable satchel and figure out what it was.

Once my eyes accepted what I was looking at I stopped dead in my tracks. The shackled grip of fear and anxiety started to un-tether itself from my soul. Relief and renewal of my spirit washed over me.

So, now I am sitting here at 0012 in the morning with the slew gates of my mind wide open. I’ve forgotten what it felt like. Also, more than a bit disturbed at how easily the roadblocks of life become the creative artery clogging cholesterol of ID stress. Man, it sucks. But, and I hope this is true; my arteries have become roto-rooted with the locating of my tethers to my financial responsibilities and creative outlets.

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011



I’m sitting on my couch, slowly flipping channels and trying to not fall into another tryptophan stupor. It’s been a great day for me. No stress, good food, and several naps. A perfect day for me and during all this relaxation and overindulgence in culinary delights my mind wanders into the various nooks and crannies that hold memories that are near and dear to me. So, on this day of thanks I am going to make a list of the things I am thankful for.

1. My body for allowing me to abuse it so much.

2. My family for understanding my absence.

3. My friends old and new for putting up with my insanity.

4. My employers for helping me provide for my family for the past 17 years and 12 years respectively.

5. My Doctor for keeping me alive.

6. My buddy Brian for listening to my ramblings.

7. My co-workers for laughing at my jokes.

8. My friends with whom I’ve communicated with over the past year, whether it was by text, email, phone conversation or just old fashioned letters.

9. And lastly, I am thankful to all of you, my dear readers. You have shown me support by reading my blogs and I know some of you have even purchased the book my story is in. And I am truly thankful for your support.

I hope you all have had a great Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shared Pain

I received a personal phone call today at work. Now under normal circumstances I don’t answer my cell phone at work unless it is a call from immediate family or someone who is a very close friend. In this case, it is a very close friend.

My friend, let’s call him Steve, yeah, I like that name and you really don’t hear it very often anymore. So, Steve calls me, we haven’t spoken for over two months, not for the lack of trying on my part, I’ve sent him text messages, left voicemails, posted on his Facebook page. I did everything I could to get a hold of him except drive up to his home on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania boarder, grab him by his short hairs and drag him out into the sunlight kicking, screaming and cursing my name and my ancestor’s names too.

So, when I saw his name and photo pop up on my overpriced smart phone I immediately answered and headed for a private place in the museum. Now, let me clarify some facts for you my dear readers; Steve and I have only known each other for eight months and we spent three weeks working together every day. At night we would hit the local bars for endless hours of bullshit and bonding. It turned out that Steve and I have a lot in common; ie. Horror movies, horror books, work ethic and a deep desire to talk about anything BUT WORK!

And for three weeks we did just that. Even at work we managed to not talk about work.

You see, while Steve works for one of the best companies in a very small field and he is one of the best at what he does, he is also Staff Sergeant for Uncle Sam and has done three tours in Iraq over the past ten years. His job for Uncle Sam is classified but I can tell you that he is damn good at his government job and because he is so good at it his skills are in high demand. So is his friendship.

Now, if you have never been a part of a close knit unit who have put their lives on the line for each other twenty-four hours a day for endless years on end there are no amount of words I can use to express how close you become to the men you are serving with. The things your share with your fellow soldiers and sailors over the years can only be understood by those that have served. It’s a rough life, especially since the war on terror started. Steve has suffered but he has managed to maintain a living wage outside of military service.

Now that I’ve explained all this I can now divulge some of our phone conversation and why I will always answer phone calls from close friends.

Since the last time I spoke with my pal he has suffered some terrible losses. One of the members of his reserve unit died in a terrible motorcycle accident, another committed suicide and his units commander is now retiring. Basically, three of his closest and most trusted friends have disappeared from his life. It pains me to even think of something like this happening to me and during my conversation with Steve I could feel the pain he was trying to hold inside. He told me he’s been in “ghost” mode since he got the news. I couldn’t blame him. How could I?

Here is a close friend, a soldier, a hero, a brother in arms and a man I would take a bullet for in pain. I listened to what he had to say, we made jokes when with each other when appropriate. We talked about people we both know, new internet sites, future vacation plans, horror books, women and cigars. We talked about everything but the crap that causes us stress. It was a great conversation. A much needed conversation.

I hope it is not our last.

Steve is more loyal to the people he cares about than he probably should be. He will bend over backwards to help a buddy out when they are in need. Hell, he’ll even bail your ass out of jail if he isn’t in jail with you. He drinks Yngling by the case and Jameson by the gallon. He smokes his cigarettes by the pack and will stay out until it’s time to go to work. He is a hooligan who celebrates his Irish heritage with pride and knows more Polish jokes than I know Irish jokes. My pal is hurting and I hurt for him. I don’t know where he is tonight and I know he is working through a lot of crap that would crush most people. I pray for his safety and a guiding light to help him through the dark times that seem to have fallen on him.

Thanks for reading, and if you run into a short, dark haired Irishman who has had too much to drink and is looking for a fight tonight with some crazy tattoos from foreign tattoo artists. Try to gently guide him into a safe harbor.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Right, Wrong or Inbetween



Remember, remember, the 5th of November

The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
Three score barrels of powder below.
Poor old England to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Hip hip Hoorah !
Hip hip Hoorah !

A penny loaf to feed ol'Pope,
A farthing cheese to choke him.
A pint of beer to rinse it down,
A faggot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar,'
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head,
Then we'll say: ol'Pope is dead.

In 1605 Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Parliament of England along with King James the VI of Scotland. Some say Guy Fawkes acted alone, some say he had some Catholic Conspirators. Regardless of which story is true, he was caught and burned at the stake. Now, every year on the 5th of November the people of England celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. They light off fireworks, burn in effigy Guy Fawkes and have parties across the island.

This is amazing to me.

Here’s why…

One man’s attempt to change the world and do what he felt was right for himself, his family and his country ends up getting him labeled a terrorist for eternity. Guy Fawkes considered himself a Patriot and Freedom fighter, but he goofed it up and now his name is synonymous with America’s Benedict Arnold. Which is funny to me. Benedict Arnold never tried to blow up the House or Senate. (Our version of Parliament) Also, if Guy Fawkes had succeeded in killing off King James and Parliament, who knows how our country would have turned out. Remember, our Fore-Fathers didn’t sign the “Declaration of Independence” until July 4th 1776. Those 56 founding fathers were also considered traitors of the crown after they penned their names to the Declaration. King George basically put out contracts on all of their heads and they were hunted and killed without prejudice by the crown.

History tells us Guy Fawkes was one of at least thirteen plotters who wanted to take out King James and company. Our founding fathers were at least 56. Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were caught, tortured, tried and killed. Our founding fathers, while 5 of them were captured by Brittish troops, 17 served in the Revolutionary war, 11 of them had all of their property destroyed, 13 became governors’ after the revolution and 18 became part of their states legislative bodies.

Guy Fawkes was drawn and quartered.

Guy Fawkes and his group of Catholics were fighting to reinstate the Catholic faith in England. Our forefathers were fighting not just for religious freedom but also the future of our republic.

Guy Fawkes was labeled a traitor.

Our founding fathers were labeled as traitors.

Guy Fawkes failed.

Our founding fathers succeeded.

I am not trying to glorify Guy Fawkes or what he did, nor am I trying to build a case for him. It just seems to me there are a lot of similarities in what he was trying to do and what we eventually did.

Yes, Guy Fawkes was acting as a religious terrorist against the King. Did the reasons for actions matter to the people of England? If you were Catholic, I would say yes they did. If you were oppressed by the government, I would say no.

Similarly, today across our nation, thousands of people are waging protests against corporate greed. If you have a job and are striving to make ends meet these protests mean very little to you. But, if you are jobless, feel oppressed, and have been downsized by some corporate guru who worships at the altar of the almighty profit margin. Well, then yes, these shenanigans affect you very much and you should be very concerned.

Am I saying you should plot to blow something up? HELL NO! Am I suggesting you join in a fight to change policy in America? HELL YES!

Look, we all know times are tough. Gas prices are out of control, homelessness is on the rise. Corporations are playing three card monty with retirement packages. Elected officials have proven time and again they cannot be trusted to look out for the best interest of their constituents. And, the holidays are looming and kids are screaming for new toys.

The pressure is building and I smell gunpowder on the cool northerly winds. Someone somewhere is going to do something stupid like the cops in Oakland and people are going to get hurt. And then, the masses will rise up and we will see what lies beneath the cool exterior of the face of American Complacency.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

End of Summer

I’m sitting on my couch, the television is screaming at me to buy things I don’t want and my attempts to brush the cobwebs, fog and shadows from my brain are failing. My lower back, knees, and neck are in constant, mind numbing pain. Empty and half empty bottles of aspirin, ibuprofen, and motrin are scattered around the house like the dust bunnies that seem to show up every week. These simple facts tell me one thing.

Summer is over, fall is here and the looming grayness of that overtakes our hemisphere for one hundred plus days of the year has arrived. It was trumpeted in with a hail of screams as I sat on my front porch on the evening of October, 31st and handed out the yearly bribe to the ghosts, goblins, princesses, super heroes and serial killers that had invaded my neighborhood.

Yes, it is official, summer is over and the time of dying and rest is on the cusp of overtaking our lives. A time when the earth tells us all to slow down, pace ourselves and enjoy the rewards of our efforts from the rest of the year. But do we? Do we sit back and rest? Do we slow down? Do we listen to the quiet whispers of the primal forces that have been controlling mankind for over 250 thousand years?

Not anymore. Sure we used to, when our lives were lived at three miles an hour. But today, we live our lives at the speed of light. (186,282 miles per second, just in case you are wondering.) We can’t keep up or compete with metric shit ton of problems life throws at us. Especially with the over commercialization of the impending holiday and the stress we put on ourselves by trying to make everything perfect for the celebrations that have already begun to invade our calendars.

It sucks. I have always looked forward to this season of rest. But for the past seven years I have been unable to truly enjoy all the offers, tidings and joy that are afforded to others. It’s ok, I’m not really complaining, I just seem to be missing some of the good cheer I used to bathe myself emotionally in on a daily basis. It’s the whole speed of light living thing I suppose. I don’t know how much longer me and my fellow elves will be able to maintain the hectic pace set for us by others. We are all falling apart and chores that we once were able to perform without batting an eye, now take their toll on our bodies in the form of splinters, jammed fingers, twisted knees and ankles.

We self medicate with all the tried and true over the counter painkillers and occasionally with some not so over the counter medications. We stagger to and from our tasks in a shambling state of undead likeness. The moans of sorrow a low an guttural in nature and only drowned out by our recitation of the tasks we have yet to finish. As we gnaw our way through our home made lunch’s, our bodies creak, pop and stiffen in protest of the abuse that is waiting us in a few short minutes.

We joke and laugh to hide our pain but our wit is soured and tarnished by the disillusionment of the impending work schedule. We know we will rise to the occasion and make the dreams of others a reality. We understand our position and we know if anything ever happens to one or two of us these dreams would never see the light of day. But we go on. We have to. There is something inside of us that drives us to complete our work. To not disappoint.

I can’t speak for my fellow Polaks, I wish I could, but I can’t. For me, I know why I do it. I know why I put up with all the discomforts, the pain, the abuse and the sleepless nights. I remember the looks on the faces of the small visitors, the ones who don’t show the wear and tear of a life of disappointment and the tarnish of failure. Faces whose owners are drawn into the magical season and are so immersed in the wonderment of the coming solstice that their minds ignore the minor flaws in the scenes they are observing. The stray burnt out twinkle light, the animatronic figure that appears to have palsy, the chipped paint or exposed electrical cord. All these minor errors are overlooked.

This is why I do it. This is why I work to the point of exhaustion and then continue to push through the mind numbing monotony in an effort to finish the tasks at hand. We have only four short weeks to accomplish our magical machinations but we get our jobs done on time. We always do.

My only real regret, that is if you can call what I feel, regret, is that my life is so consumed with work at this time of year, I don’t really have the opportunity to enjoy Halloween or Thanksgiving. Sure, I get to have candy from the spectacle of spooks and I enjoy the harvest feast of the pilgrims. But I am not as in touch with those holidays as I would like. But these feelings of loss quickly fade with the setting of the sun and the passing of the shortening days.

Soon, we will be surrounded by a fantasy world of green, red, blue and silver. Music so saccharine and overplayed that we forget we ever really liked the archaic melodies. Smiles of false friendship and the monotone redundancy of “Thank you.” From exhausted shop owners and clerks dig their way into your brain like an ear worm on a bad 1980’s radio station. We will be tired, groggy, drunk from overspending and generally in a bad mood. All thoughts of the joy we are supposed to be feeling for the season will be lost in the never ending deluge of commercial sales and greed for our hard earned dollars.

For me, this year at least, I am going to make an attempt at abstaining as much as possible from the commercialism that has invaded this coming season and just try to enjoy my family and my friends. I am also going to try and focus most of my energy on why we celebrate this time of year and what it means to me. If I am successful, I will post my thoughts in a blog, if I am not successful, I will still post my thoughts in a blog. Either way, you will know what I have discovered.

Have a great week.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Breaking Newton


I’ve always been a watcher, an observer, a student who studies the comings, goings and behaviors of the people around them. Or, at least I have tried to be overthe course of my life. This behavior has helped me through the course of mylife. It has also hindered me in the fact that I have been a bit slow to respond to people when they ask me a question and I am weighing in my mind what they want to hear and what I believe in.

So, I should not have been too surprised when I discovered an almost ancient truth the other night. The truth? “The apple does not fall far from the tree.” I guess, I need to explain myself and the situation a bit further… so listen upand read carefully because I have no idea how many toes I am about to step on.
A personI have known for the past thirteen years, I shall call this person… Chris…that’s a nice androgynous name, I’ve known Chris since he/she was about fourteen years old. Now, Chris has gone on to college, graduated early, still lives at home with his/her folks and proclaims his/her independence. This person I have seen grow from adolescent awkwardness into a semi-responsible adult.

Over the years, I have tried to build a relationship with Chris, help Chris when he/she needed it. Assist when Chris wanted to do volunteer work to pad his/her graduation resume. Look the other way when Chris was doing things inappropriate in a public space with his/her boyfriend/girlfriend. Offer simple yet sage advice about such things as careers, goals, savings accounts, politics andvacation spots when he/she asked me. In other words, trying to be a good person who helps others.

But…but… but… I should have known, for you see my dear reader, I am an acquired taste. If you hang around me long enough you know I speak my mind. This habit comes from the fact that I see life as a short but fruitful experience. Most people, young people that is, can’t handle this sort of honesty and openness. To be blunt, I speak my fucking mind. I don’t hold back and I refuse to try and take your feelings into consideration when you are goofing up so badly that you don’t even know it.It’s a personality quirk that endears me to somet but alienates me to those among the human race who are lying to themselves and the people around them.

This seems to be the case with Chris, and I had such high hopes for him/her. Chris over the past year has proven himself/herself to be a cut from the same cloth as one of his/her parents. I will call this parent Pat, another nice androgynous name. Pat, who for a lack of a better term, has lost faith in everything andeveryone. He/she, Pat that is, has been overheard saying on numerous occasions“If you lie to me then you will steal from me and I HATE a liar.” Now, as much as I would like to go intoeverything that is WRONG with that statement right here and right now, I won’t.Why? Because we all know this is a falsehood and holds about as much water as a colander full of pasta for Sunday’s spaghetti dinner.

For you see, Chris has been influenced all his/her life by the negativity of Pat. A negativity that has gone unchecked and will fester like an open wound untilChris is sitting alone in an empty house devoid of any happiness that could have been found or built upon because he/she refuses to recognize that people in his/her life mean no harm or malice to Chris’s life and that any misunderstandings or mistakes that may occur are purely accidental in nature.This misconception of humanities intentional harm is going to be the downfallof not just him/her but of humanity itself.

I have stated or implied in a lot of posts that I truly believe we as humans, are good in nature. I want to; no I NEED to believe this. Not just for myself but for my daughter. I want to believe that one hundred years from now, some semblance ofme will exist in some form or another. I want to believe that down the line mydaughter will tell her grandchildren stories of her insane, out of control,train addicted father and that all the work I did for the betterment of my community will not have gone to waste.

I suppose I am speaking of posterity, and all the implications of leading a goodlife and trying to do right by our fellow earthy compatriots imply. Of tryingto overcome the obstacles that have been put in our path not just by ourparents and lineage but by our government and elected officials. THAT WE ASLIVING, BREATHING, THINKING BEINGS have an opportunity to be better than theexample which was set for us by the fallible and impressionable humans beforeus. We can rise above our situations andbe better than the people who came before us. All we have to do is strive to do better, and not make the same mistakes our predecessors have made.
I knowI have tried to be better and to overcome the trappings of my examples in mylife. Have I been successful? I would like to say yes, but I know there are many times when I have failed. When I have succumbed to the easy, angry and blazed path of my forefathers in how I deal with failure, insecurity and perceived insult. I’ve lashed out in anger, pride and a wrong sense of righteousness. And I’ve paid for it in aloss of pride and self dignity. I’ve had to crawl back to my station and ask for forgiveness when I knew I was wrong. Swallow the pride of my native Polish/American roots. It hurt and I am sure it will hurt again.

To see this person, Chris, follow in the steps of his/her negatively charged parent hurts me and I wish I could do something about it. But, I know I can’t. Only Chris can change the course of his/her life and I hope he/she does soon.Because I would hate to think that the dysfunction of his/her childhood getspassed on to another generation.

Lastly,I would like you to do some homework this week, go to your child or significant other and love on them. Tell them you need them in your life and that you wantthem to help you be the best that you can be.

Have agreat week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guest Appearance.

Ok, I have a guest BLOG over at http://horrorwritingdaddy.blogspot.com/?zx=38a68a4e389b4864 If you are brave enough to scroll through the mess and read upwards to 3,000 words. Enjoy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friends and Relations



                One of the blogs I read this past week was about friendship, well not really about friendship. It was more about someone trying to understand friendship and it got me thinking about relationships. This particular blog hints at three types of friends, and they are, reason, season and life. I don’t think I can address all three in one blog, simply because I have a lot of thoughts about each one of these classifications to go into here.
                You see, I don’t really classify my friends in the manner I read about. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point the writer was trying to make, it is just that I don’t have the same view. You see, and for those of you using google plus will understand this, I’ve always looked at my friends by how much I could tell them about myself without them freaking out and running off to live in seclusion or to the nearest sanitarium to get someone to commit me for the rest of my life. In other words… circles.
                That is how I keep track of how close a person is in their relationship with me. And the smaller the circle, the more you know about me or the more I will reveal about myself to you. It’s just the way I work. Now, are all my circles/friends in the same category? Nope. My mental picture of how this whole thing works in my life looks more like a VENN diagram done by some sort of schizophrenic paranoid sociopath. But it works for me.
                Sure people can move in and out of my life through the difficulties of time, space and death, but do any of these factors detract from the relationship we built? Nope. It does not. You, my dear reader, should know this of me by now, just through the way I’ve written about some of my childhood friends, Navy buddies and even my current chums. None of those people mean any less to me now that I am older, as a matter of fact, I would go so far to say, they actually mean more to me today than when we were running headlong into our respective adventures. And just because we’ve lost touch with each other, moved away, had disagreements about things we don’t even remember does not mean that they are any less close to me now than when we said our last fare thee wells.
                I know this is not the case for everyone, it can’t be. We as humans are programmed to not always be nice to each other. We hurt people who are close to us, we betray them, we ignore them, and we treat them like three day old meatloaf and then wonder why we sit alone at night in an empty apartment drinking wine straight from the bottle. We hurt each other out of fear and ignorance and occasionally malicious intent.  It is the way of the world.
                But as time passes and our pain fades to a dull emotional scar whose origins have been lost in the ether of our memories we yearn for the companionship we once shared with those who have moved on in our lives. Our brains lie to our hearts and the soldiers of our IDs whitewash the past into a sparkling glorious fun filled time of frolicking and remembrance. I for one am glad of this.
                Once we reconnect and stories of our conquests and misadventures are re-hashed we end up growing even fonder of our past friends. Sure, we easily lie to each other, we are older, wiser, less likely to make the mistakes of our past simply because we are too tired and our bones creak and ache. But we know, deep down inside we know that we truly can’t remember the trespasses that separated our love for one another at an earlier time in our own histories. We try as hard as we can to be good people to each other and in some cases we succeed, in others we fail.
                In the end, we all have friends of varying levels, degrees or closeness. These friends are in the same situation as you and we are all trying to make meaningful connections while trying to move forward in a society that is moving forward at a pace no one can be expected to keep pace with. After a week, month, year or even decade we forget the pain others have caused us and weep at the loss of friend we once had. Our existence here on this mud ball is linear in nature but not all of us are on the same path so it is nearly an impossibility we will maintain the same set of friends throughout our lives. Besides if that were the case, our lives would most definitely be boring and unfulfilling. New people in our lives mean new experiences and new stories that flesh out the chapters of our individual lives. And I for one want an extremely large novel at the end of my existence.

                Have a great week!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Special Guest


     Today I am going to do a guest blog. Unfortunately for me the guest is going to have to speak to us from the grave. And, while he has been dead for over three years, the points he made then are just as relevant and funny today. Also, they are scary and very true.
Enjoy.
But there’s a reason. There’s a reason. There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed.
It’s never going to get any better, don’t look for it, be happy with what you’ve got.
Because the owners, the owners of this country don't want that. I'm talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.
Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought, and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying, to get what they want.  Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I'll tell you what they don’t want: 
They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.
That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!
You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it, and now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street, and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cause they own this fucking place! It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it!  You, and I, are not in the big club.
By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think and what to buy. The table has tilted folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people; white collar, blue collar it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue, these are people of modest means, continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you.
They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL.  And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day, because the owners of this country know the truth.
It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.

George Carlin (May 12, 1937-June 22, 2008)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Networking



First there was Friendster, then MySpace, next up was Facebook and now there is Google+. It seems, since 2002, at least, people have been using the internet to “socialize” with each other, create groups, obscure cyber-friends and even “hook-up” in an attempt to feel better about themselves and their lives. Hell, I’ve even overheard conversations from people as to who has the most “Friends” on their social networking pages. (This makes me really question the insecurities some people seem to carry with them throughout their lives.)
     So, where is all this leading? Simple, you see I missed out on the “Friendster” craze, and I was there to see Myspace fall to king Facebook and now I’m witnessing the exodus to Google+. All this makes me wonder what sort of social interactive website is in our future. I mean think about it, do you remember what a pain in the ass it was to learn how to upload your photos and customize your Myspace page only to have to relearn the process for Facebook and now Google+. I can only assume things will become easier and more instinctive for us humans as our interactions with computers and the “blue nowhere” merge to a more cohesive understanding in our future.
     It seems anyone anywhere can upload photos, blogs, vlogs or status updates anytime they choose with the smart-phone technology available to them. Or, if they have a “tablet” computer, the options are almost limitless. Where is all this information sharing going? Who is monitoring and sorting this information? Can one group of people manage the metric tons of drivel that are constantly thrown onto the internet? Or, is there some master computer somewhere doing all the sorting for them?
     I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. I don’t think anyone can know. Knowing information like that would not allow any of us to sleep at night. Of course if the general public did believe there was someone, somewhere, sitting in a bunker with a score of supercomputers spitting out sorted data on everyone in our country, I believe there would be a revolution of epic proportions.
     Or not. Maybe the public would just shrug their shoulders, pick up the remote and change channels to the latest comedy, drama, reality based show for an hour of mindless entertainment. And this entertainment has only one goal in mind, and that is to turn our brains to pabulum and make us as compliant as possible to the will of the master controllers. (This is me being paranoid)
     But I have faith in our country, less in our countries leaders, but faith none the less.
     (I’ve left twitter out of this diatribe simply because the format in which it is built reminds me of the early chat rooms the internet used to have. Only now, you can pick and choose who you are talking to and sort them through different types of platforms. )
     And all of this ranting leads me to three questions… Who here is leaving facebook for Google+? And when the time comes are you going to be jumping off the Google bus to the next social networking program? Also, what ever happened to good old face to face talking?


PS, the book "Death, be not Proud" that has my story "Cindy's Condition" in it is on sale at Amazon.com as well as BN.com. It's only 9 bucks, go buy a copy or three! PLEASE, I'M BEGGING YOU!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Death, Be Not Proud (But I sure am!)

Death Be Not Proud
By John Donne

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy p
ictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliver
ie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make u
s sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt not die.


Hello folks! It is with great pleasure that I am able to announce the release of “Death, Be Not Proud a Zombie Anthology” featuring 13 writers. Some of these writers are veterans of the publishing industry, some are journeymen, others are rising stars… then there is ME a complete and utter neophyte to the world of writing and publishing. (Yes, this is fiction we are talking about, not my Blog.)



Here is the list of writers in no particular order:




Gord Rollo

Joseph Mulak

Joe McKinney

Gregory Hall

Lucy Snyder

Rick Hautala

Steven Shrewsbury

Scott Christian Carr

David Dunwoody

Sheldon Higdon

Skip Novak

Dave Brockie

Jonathan Maberry

I highly recommend you go out and buy a copy of this tome of deliciousness. I had fun writing my story and I know some of the other writers had a blast with theirs. The book is available from as http://www.amazon.com as well as http://www.barnesandnoble.com. (Please remember, orders of 25 dollars or more get FREE shipping so buy two copies and save yourself shipping costs. As for what you will do with the extra book, simple, give it to a friend as a gift. Send it to me and I’ll sign my story for you and send it back. Use it as a door stop. Or, in the case of a real Zombie apocalypse, you can use it to keep your mind occupied while hiding in your zombie proof bunker!)

Have a great week! (Now go buy a couple of books)


Friday, September 9, 2011

I Am

Once again I sit down and write a blog in response to a question posed to me by Kelli Owen. Now, if you don’t know who Kelli is then your life is just not as full as it should be. Here, let me do you a favor by posting a link to her blog right now, http://kelliowen.com/, now click the link and read. Then come back and read my blog. This response is written for her August 26th posting.

I Am

By Skip Novak

I am a liar. I am a hard worker. I am fat. I am loyal. I am untrustworthy. I am a cook. I am ugly. I am a solver. I am a thief. I am a hard case. I am lost. I am sick. I am happy. I am an enemy. I am a friend. I am a consultant. I am an opportunist. I am over worked, over tired, over drawn, over extended and over it.

I’ve been up, I’ve been down and I’ve been around. I’ve traveled from Wisconsin to the other side of the world. I’ve had my heart broken and been drunk for weeks. I’ve been in love and sober for years. I’ve seen the beauty of life in the petal of a flower. I’ve seen the horror of the world in a child’s eyes. I’ve witnessed desperate men and women commit despicable, frightening and appalling acts upon each other in the name of love, in the name of jealousy and in the name of hate.

I’ve been to the edge of the abyss and became mesmerized by its beauty so much so that I almost jumped in and lost myself completely. I’ve stood on even fields of bounty with daggers of pain tearing through my soul and no hope on the horizon. Only to become grounded by the simple fact that with the end of the day comes the end of pain and the dawning of a new day gives birth to new hope and the fresh soothing pain of healing wounds. I bear the scars of life’s misery and life’s loves.

I have memories I wish I could forget and I have moments I can’t remember. Reflective moments in my life I know cause me unblemished embarrassment and shame haunt me when I least suspect it. There are days when the yoke of my humiliation seems almost too much for me to carry. There are days when my heart is filled to the bursting point with adoration and hope for the people in my life.

I’ve been embarrassed by my successes and awards and I’ve been happy in my failures and losses. I’ve been frustrated by my ignorance and foolhardy in my knowledge. I’ve been blinded by a woman’s beauty and fascinated by a person’s intellect. I’ve cursed God and Satan. I’ve prayed for death and life. I found salvation in a baby’s eyes and despondency in a friend’s suicide. As I’ve grown older I cherish what I once had and beg for more of an innocent age where I’ve yet to be filled with pain.

I’ve blindly traveled the world in a mindless state of confusion and self pity only to realize I was truly looking for a way to make peace with myself and the unmerited sense of self worthlessness I felt was instilled in me by others.

I’ve confessed my sins to strangers and kept personal revelations from friends. I’ve aided in the promotion of enemies just to watch them fail. I’ve plotted, schemed and been through the wringer to attain vengeance on those who have intentionally harmed me and I’ve forgiven people who don’t deserve my grace. I’ve made ghastly first impressions and virtuous last impressions. I’ve fought for what I believed was right only to find out I was wrong and no matter what penance I pay I can never fix those wrongs.

I’ve won minor battles only to lose the war and I’ve won wars by not fighting any battles. I’ve been mean just to be mean and I’ve been good for the sake of being good. I’ve alienated people because I don’t like them and I’ve tried to build relationships with others out of a sense of loyalty. I’ve taught eager minds only to watch them fail and have beat myself up for their failure. I’ve poured everything in my being just to learn a simple fact of life that seems to be common sense to others around me.

I am a lover of art that celebrates life and I’m fascinated by horror of tragedy that seems to end life. I am a lover of books and knowledge and I relish in certain ignorance of my failures.

I’ve been an atheist, deist and a Christian.

I know I will never know what comes tomorrow and I’ve been scarred at the prospect of the knowledge of the coming day.

I’ve faced my fears and won and I’ve faced my loves and suffered.

I’ve been selfish and selfless.

I’ve brought out the best in myself and the worst in myself.

I’ve been homeless and free.

I’ve been unbound in my orphanhood.

I’ve been chained by the weights of family and responsibility.

I’m a man who for the past 44 years has lived on this mudball and with a purpose of trying to survive. And, now with the grace of God and love of my family and friends I hope to live at least another 44 years.

I am Skip Novak.

(Edited for space)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Reaper Madness


“Have you ever had surgery?” the question came at me out of nowhere and I answered as honestly as I could.

“Yes.” I replied with a sudden wave of memories crashing into my consciousness of lying on a hospital gurney at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Green Bay Wisconsin as my mother read me the latest Readers Digest to calm my nerves and let the sedation drugs slowly lull me into a false sense of security.

I suppose I should rewind the clock for all you good folks out there who are sitting in your living rooms reading this on the wonderful world wide web.

The year is 1978, the Bee Gees own the radio air waves with little brother Andy coming in a close second and Paul McCartney and Wings are closing in on the title slot like a laser beam. In the theatres Grease, Superman and Animal House are raking in the dough to the laughter and surprise of everyone in attendance. On tv “The Incredible Hulk”, “Dallas” and “Taxi” are getting ready to premier. Home computers, cell phones, and the internet have yet to be invented let alone truly be thought of. And while all this is going on I end up with a bullet lodged in my mental tuberoses of my mandible (that’s a fancy way of saying chin.) All because Al Minnow (Fish) thought it would be funny to shoot me at close range in his bedroom with his Crossman Pump BB/Pellet gun.

That is the back story. Good Times.

Now, fast forward to 2011 and I am sitting in an emergency room in Suffolk, Virginia and some nurse who is barely out of nursing school is asking me about my medical history.

“What sort of surgery have you had?” she asks calmly.

I gaze over my glasses at her freshly washed face and into her ever so eager to help eyes and calmly say “I’ve had a bullet removed from my chin, on my right arm I’ve had my flexor/extensor tendon sewn together and above my left knee I’ve had my vastus lateralus repaired.”

I watch as her face slowly drains of color and her eyes become blank orbs of fear. I wonder what she is thinking for a moment but then the moment passes and I just enjoy the moment.

“Uhm… Mr. Novak, all at the same time?”

I would love to say yes just to watch her reaction but then I answer truthfully and say “No. Different times for the bullet and the tendons and muscle.”

The young lady lets out a nervous sigh and then starts typing on her computer.

The interview continues with such mundane questions like: Why are you here today? If you could gauge your pain level on a ten scale what would it be? Are you allergic to anything? And the list goes on and on. But as you may have already guessed, I have put my brain on auto pilot and am simply answering the questions from some primordial recess deep within my mind.

I’ve answered these questions hundreds of times. I don’t want to answer them anymore, I just want to get back to the semi-private room, have the Doc come look at the worst part of my body, give me a shot or pills and send me on my way. Because unlike the young nurse sitting across from me, I know I will never truly be fixed. I know I will always be in pain, I know I will never be the healthy strapping young man I was twenty years ago. I know that as my life progresses my health will decline and I will always have some sort of ailment that will constantly plague my system. This is the way of life. This is the chronic condition of deterioration we all face. I am comfortable with it.

When she was satisfied she led me to my examination room, handed me a hospital robe that was made for King Kong, asked me to change and then abruptly but politely left the room. But her questions, questions I have answered in the past and will answer in the future, got me thinking. I obeyed her commands and started to disrobe, and as I stood there in that stark, clinical room I stared at the mirror on the back of the door at the scars and age of my body.

Looking at them brought to mind some of the early railroad maps that I’ve collected over the years. Lines of tender pink tissue that started and stopped unexpectedly on my arms, legs and shoulders looked out of place but also looked as if they belonged. I tried to imagine myself without them and the stories they represented and the pain that caused them. I couldn’t.

I realized then and there, standing half naked with the threat of strangers coming to poke and prod me that my scars were as much a part of me as my sarcasm, wit and Polish heritage. I also learned I appreciate my life and all its difficulties, pleasures and familiarities better than most of my friends and colleagues.

You see, I have held hands with the reaper four times so far in my life and the S.O.B. has been cordial enough to let my hand go so that I may continue living on this mud ball for as long as my will sustains my love of breathing fresh air, smoking cigars and riding my bike. These scars are my memories of those lonely walks with him and I will continue to make my trek for as long as I can.

As for the Doctor and the nurse? They pushed, pulled, poked and prodded me to the best of their abilities then gave me some pills and sent me on my way. I’m healthier now because of them but I still wonder where the Reaper is right now and when he will come take me for my final walk.