Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tic Toc

                Hello my Dear Reader, this is my last blog of 2012. To say this year has been rough is an understatement.  It has been one shit-storm after another for months with little or no light on the horizon.  And, it doesn’t appear there is an end of this excrement-tsunami for quite some time.  The only thing I have to look forward to is endless hours of exhaustive work to fill my days and nights with a pittance of spackle to shore up the impending deluge of unwanted phone calls and knocks on doors which will fill my future with fear and desperation.
                Now, don’t read that paragraph a pity party, it isn’t. It is an explanation of what is going on, how I feel and one of the reasons I have not been paying too much attention to my blog or my creative writing. My life seems to get in the way of me doing the things which I enjoy, like writing. And since my mind is so easily distracted by worries, even when I am sitting on my porch, my couch or even at my desk with the industrial plastic keys under my fingertips, my creativity suffers due to my mind trying to distract itself from the uncertainties which plague me like an old testament plague.
                I know I am not alone in this; I know all of us are battling the unseen forces of life which make daily living difficult. This brings a certain level of comfort to me, because we all seem to be in this struggle together. But that comfort is fleeting because my own problems, just like your problems, overshadow my concern for others. Just as mine issues are but a fleeting thought in your mind and daily existence.
                This season however, we as a collective, celebrate a time of renewal, kindness and understanding. I have been trying to do this. To make myself more aware of others fight for survival. It has not been an easy task, but one I have endeavored to fulfill.  I have tried to approach things with good humor and understanding. I have failed but I have also succeeded. As I hope you have in these times.
                As we look forward into the New Year we try to set aside the failures of the past and embrace the success’s we have achieved and the dreams we wish to forge into reality. Unfortunately for me I have become more and more cynical with each passing year, so finding hope in frail and murky dreams seems extremely juvenile. I’m also tainted against putting much faith in the pipe dreams most people I know are afflicted with. Imaginings the likes we’ve all heard muttered by the water cooler, the lunch counter or even during a brief respite from the never ending monotonous tasks which fill our lives. Words meant to make us feel just a bit better about the existence we are eeking out at the cost of our health, loved ones and mental acuity.
                As a child I looked at a calendar and marked off specific days. I’d place and “X” on the first day of school, a smiley face on the last day of school and the first day of football, the first day of baseball practice, a slash would mark my birthday and many other mysterious symbols adorned my paper time keeper. Every one of them personal and important to me and what I would be doing in my life for the next three-hundred and sixty-five days on this revolving mud ball known as earth.
                Fast forward to today and what does my calendar look like? Dollar signs. Yup, the almighty $ symbols fill in the squares which represent days. They are a constant reminder of when bills have to be paid. This is what I live for now. Not football, baseball, days off, vacations or even holidays. I am consumed with making sure the reality I have created with my own will does not crumble under  my failure to maintain the balance of economical daily life which would allow the monsters of the blue nowhere materialize into existence and destroy all that I have tried to create.
                Yet now, as the second hand of a clock passed the number twelve we are all supposed to feel a sense of renewal and hope. I don’t feel it. I can’t feel it. To feel that way would require me to don some rose colored glasses and check reality at the door. I can’t afford to do that and I know many others who can’t pay a bill that steep either. They are the level headed, nose to the grind stone; hard workers who make the cogs of this nation revolve in a syncopated dance of unseen machinations by the fugue filled minds of the unsuspecting masses.
                (Ok, I admit, I just got a bit preachy. I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not going to. But I will move on.)
                As usual, with my end of year blog I like to look back on my year and see if I was successful in my resolutions over the span of time imposed on us by a Pope in the 1500’s. I have to say I had some successes and some failures. I managed to get published twice; Success.  Approaching conflict with good humor; Success and Failure. Making peace with people who irritate me; Failure, but I didn’t inflict damage on them so I’ll take a push on that one.
                I don’t know yet what my next resolutions will be. Just thinking about them makes me want to crawl under my covers and sleep.  But, maybe… just maybe I will have on that list the ability to try and not worry so much and try to take things in stride. I doubt I’ll be successful in that resolution but I can at least try.
                Have a great and merry New Years my dear reader, stay safe and hug the ones you love.

Skip Novak

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Snug Harbor Part 10

Welcome back and thank you for your patience. I know it's been a while since I've been able to post part of this serial and I appreciate your sticking with me through all the crud of the past three months. So, without further ado or delay, here is Snug Harbor Part 10.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, I, myself prefer to laugh since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. –Kurt Vonnegut

     I’d like to say the rest of the walk was easy, but I can’t. The awkward silence hung in the air between each of us like an unwanted pop quiz in school none of us were prepared for. In my mind, the horror which Mikey had experienced in the loneliness and darkness of that night was unparalleled in my life. I wish I could say the same for my fellow hikers but at the time I knew not much of the individual pains which marked our lives and would go untold for months to come. Mikey was king of suffering in our group and no one wanted to volunteer to remove the crown from his head.

     We marched forward, our eyes glazed over and our minds numb with the images our overactive teenage minds formed. I felt bad for Mikey, sorrow and fear filled me and I wanted to speak words of comfort to him but I knew whatever I said would never be as eloquent as the thoughts my mind formed let alone be accepted by Mikey. His pain was his alone and the only way he knew how to share it was by showing us the source of his nightmares in an attempt to make that pain a watered down memory. A memory that would eventually become so distant and vague the pain it carried with it would fade into the blackness of time.

     Our quest leader slowed his pace and then stopped. I stopped and stood quietly beside him and lit up a smoke, the rest of the gang stopped and a few lit up as well. “Ok guys,” Mikey said “I haven’t been here in while and I don’t know if anyone else has but remember, if we go in the house, some of the boards are rotted and weak so only step on the studs. Better yet, just step where I do. Don’t touch anything and don’t take any souvenirs. People died here and this place was once Indian grounds which in some way makes it sacred. I don’t know how it makes it sacred but that’s what my dad says and is also the reason why this place hasn’t been torn down.” He then turned and pushed his way through the brush behind him. We followed.

     I stepped out of the woods and into an overgrown back yard of what I had come to think of as the “Haunted House”, Mikey was standing in the middle of the yard staring at the burned out shell of the house. To his left was a shed and next to it was the melted wreckage of a twenty foot boat, the grass and weeds had grown over the trailer and ivy had begun to claim the wreckage as a new sub-structure  making it look as if the boat itself were some sort of modern topiary gone awry.

     “I was on the other side of the shed when I heard the screaming.” Mikey said “The family was in the house or at least the parents were. I can’t say for sure the little girl was in the shed. But from what I heard she was in there and when I come here at night still hear her in there. Crying.”

     None of us said anything; we all started to drift off, our inquisitive and exploratory nature getting the best of us. I made my way around the far side of the house where most of the rear right corner was missing. As I approached I could see inside to what I thought was a bedroom, I could make out the soot covered shell of a dresser with a broken and dirt covered mirror sitting on top of it. I stood there not realizing I was staring at the faded reflection of myself and the woods behind me. What had happened here? I thought to myself. How could an entire family get so goofed up in their lives that death was the only way out?

     “Creepy isn’t it.” Kev’s voice said from behind me.

     I jumped. “Damn man… give a guy some warning would you! You damn near made me shit my pants Kev.”

     Kevin chuckled “Sorry man. But it is creepy aint it?”

     “Yeah, it is.”

     Kev and I walked over to the shed, making our way around the boat and saw the front of the shed was completely gone leaving a gaping cavern filled with rusted tools. The ivy had been busy here as well; it had wormed its way inside at least five feet on the floor and covered half the walls. I searched for any signs of the source of Mikey’s crying but did not find anything. It was too dark, too gloomy and very creepy. No sign of animals trying to make a home inside, no evidence of anyone trying to loot the place. I made my way to the opening and saw most of the roof was missing, melted shingles hung down in long, black tendrils that stretched halfway down the walls reminding me of a negative image of tear stains on a dirty face. I looked to the hole in the roof and saw jagged, splintered plywood slowly rotting in the afternoon light.

     Streaks of sunlight seemed muted inside the shed and the shadows seemed to absorb the light and turn it into more darkness. I could feel a cool breeze slowly making its way out of the shed and the smell of old burned wood filled my nostrils. A soft metal tinkling filled my ears and I took a step forward to get a better look inside only to be grabbed from behind.

     “Whoa there cowboy. You don’t want to go in there.” Kevin cautioned me.


     “It’s not safe man. Look, the roof has a big hole in it, the front is missing and the walls are bowed. You go in there and you’re taking you life in your own hands.”

     I turned around, scratched my head and looked Kevin in the eye “Yeah man, you’re right. Thanks.”

     We left the shed and went in search of the rest of our group; they had all left the back yard and moved around to the front of the house. We heard low murmurs of their talk as we walked up the overgrown driveway. In some places the asphalt had cracked and weeds had sprouted up, their mission to reclaim the land seemed to be on a successful path. In one spot I saw a sapling of an evergreen tree sprouting and I marveled at the unstoppable force of nature.

     “So… we gonna go inside?” Big Pi asked as Kev and I approached.

     “You think it’s a good idea?” Teresa questioned.

     All of a sudden the entire group started talking at once. It seemed everyone had an opinion as to whether or not we should go in. Mikey, Kev, and Little Pi were extremely vocal about the dangers of entering the house. Teresa and the rest were for doing some interior exploration. I kept quiet and stayed to the back of the group.

     Everything I had witnessed so far had made me believe there was something terribly wrong with this place. That is when I noticed there were no woodland sounds one would normally hear in the woods. No crickets, no birds not even the chattering of squirrels battling it out with chipmunks. Just the voices of my friends filled the air. “I think we should leave.” I said.

     No one heard me. I repeated myself and got the same results. I walked over to the front porch and sat down on the brick work and lit up a cigarette and waited for everyone to stop arguing. Kevin came and sat down next to me with a look of tired exasperation on his face.

     “You want to go in?” he asked.

     “Not really, the place doesn’t look safe and I am a bit creeped out to tell you the truth.”

     “Yeah, it is spooky.”

     “I thought it would be fun. Ya know? Like at Halloween when I go to the haunted houses. But it’s not. This whole place is just depressing and have you noticed that none of the animals are hanging around?”

     “Not really, I’ve only been here a couple times and this is the closest I’ve been to the house. Usually we just stick to the backyard and throw rocks and sticks into the house.”

     “You’ve never been in the house?”

     “Nah, no one has. Not even Mikey. Everyone is afraid.”

     “Then why all the arguing?”

     “Ah, who knows. It seems the chicks want to go in and Big Pi just wants to put up a good front. Tell you the truth, I think we should just leave. Go ride the bikes in the dunes or go back to your campsite.”

     “Either one is fine with me.”

     “C’mon, let’s go tell everyone that.”

     We got up and walked over to the gang, they were still arguing. Kevin yelled for them to stop and they all looked at him as if he had just stolen their money. Kevin told them of our idea and a few agreed.

     “Fuck this, I’m going in.” Teresa said and headed for the boarded up front door.

     “Don’t go in there Teresa.” Mikey said.

     “Why the fuck not? You scared Mikey? Gonna pee your pants? Run home to Mommy?” She chided.

     “Nothing like that you stupid cow! It’s not safe. Look at the house, the roof is sagging, the walls are collapsing and if you to look in the windows you’d see that parts of the floor are missing. Jeez, you’d run head long into a train without thinking wouldn’t you?”

     Before any of us could react, Teresa crossed the distance between her and Mikey shoved him hard in the chest with both of her hands and knocked him to the ground. She then threw herself on top of him, pinning his arms to the leaf covered land with her legs and started to punch him in the face.


     Mikey’s screams filled the air and I slowly backed away from the mayhem. Karen and Steve grabbed Teresa by the arms and drug her to the front porch while the Pi’s tried to keep Mikey from going after her. I glanced over at Steve and Karen, they were trying to calm Teresa down, Steve standing to Teresa’s left and rubbing her back. On his face was a look of anguish and sorrow. Karen was kneeling in front of Teresa, they were holding each other’s hands and I could see tears streaming down Teresa’s face. Her shoulders hitched back and forth as she struggled to calm her breathing and stop hyperventilating. I couldn’t hear what was being said by Karen but her I could see her head nodding slowly.

     I didn’t feel comfortable approaching Karen, Teresa and Steve and I knew I had nothing to say to Mikey and the Pi’s so I sat down and leaned against a slowly dying tree. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on within the group nor did I really want to know but I did know there was some sort of history between Mikey and Teresa. A history most likely marred by adolescent prematurity and awkwardness. I lit up a cigarette and watched my friends try to sort out their runaway emotions.

     I was never one who liked to be party to drama or fighting, sure, I’d had fights and lost my temper, matter of fact over the past few years I had been in a constant state of inner conflict with trying to control my temper. I lost more of the battles than I won but I was still trying to not be a complete uncontrollable nut-case.

     So I sat, smoked, sorted my thoughts and waited for my friends to calm down. I didn’t have to wait long. Two cigarettes actually.

     Mikey was the first one to stand up and he slowly made his way across the desolate front yard towards the trio on the porch. The Pi’s followed cautiously behind him, as they drew closer to me, I stood up and walked next to Mikey. We came upon the front porch and the air filled with tension and anger as Mikey and Teresa’s eyes locked on one another’s.

     Steve stepped between our two groups and Karen stood up next to him forming a wall of teenage anger. “Mikey, you better just go. She is pissed off at you and doesn’t want anything to do with you right now.” Karen warned.

     Mikey looked at the ground and kept shifting his weight from left foot to right foot, his hands were shoved deep inside his jeans and I could see he was struggling with trying to say something. His eyes were puffy, red and looked as if they were about to explode into tears again.

     “M, sorry.” His whispered voice barely audible in our silent dome of dead vegetation.

     “What’s that?” Teresa said and stood up behind her protectors.

     “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to piss you off or call you a cow.”

     “You better be. Cause next time I’m going to pound your face so bad your mother won’t be able to recognize you.”

     I could sense Mikey become more agitated and I saw Big Pi reach out and put his right hand on Mikey’s left shoulder. “Just take it man.” Big Pi whispered.

     “Teresa, I really am sorry.”

     “Whatever.” She answered, “Let’s get out of here, I’m thirsty and it’s getting late. We can come back and search the house anytime.”

     We made our way to the back yard, this time Teresa leading our motley group to the entrance of the woods. I was bringing up the rear and as I crossed into the darkening canopy and safety of the forest I paused and looked back at the rotting building. For a moment, a very brief moment, quicker than a blink I swear I saw the house brand new and shiny with a mother and father laughing in the back yard. The little girl being chased by her father paused and looked directly at me pointed and laughed. And as quickly as the vision appeared it evaporated leaving only a shadow of a memory behind in my psyche.

     To this day I wonder if what I saw was real and if the darkness that descended upon the family left any lingering connections to that moment and my group of misfits. Or, had the some protective entity used the power of teenage angst and raw emotion to cause a fight which stopped us from ever going inside the house and thus saving us from the inevitable collapse of the structure. A grave and scary moment for all of us who witnessed those final moments and almost killed Kev, but that is a story for another time.

     Have a great week everyone.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Next Big Thing (Skip Style)

                Hello once again, I know I’ve already placed a blog this week so consider this one icing on the cake.  And, if you don’t like what I write here I highly suggest you go to and leave a scathing, well worded and hateful message for my buddy Tom who asked me to be a part of this “Next Big Thing” blog chain letter. Also, I am supposed to try and recruit up to five writers who have blogs to also participate, so, if you are a writer who has a blog and have not participated in this endeavor… feel free to copy and paste and credit me.

                Now, on with the show!

What is the working title of your book? Bastard… and this title is strictly working.  There is a one-hundred and seventeen percent chance I may or may not change it.

                Where did the idea come from for the book? A real life, first hand event which I’ve written into the story, well except for the part about the Marine Biologist who meets a Merman Magician and the two of them discover the cure for every disease on the planet, but then lose the cure-all-formula in a drunken celebration in a Tijuana, Mexico whore house.

                What genre does your book fall under? That’s tough, I suppose it’s a coming of age, murder mystery, horror-comedy.

                Which actors would you choose to play characters from your book in a movie rendition? Scrags… hmm, I suppose Sam Elliot. Chuck… Damien Lewis.  Wolfgang… John Goodman… Peggy the Toothless Whore… Barbara Streisand. Susan…Kaley Cuoco. Kevin Gavin… Jim Parsons. Mary Gavin… Sally Fields.  As for the rest of the cast… I’ve already given this question too much thought.

                Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? No clue right now, I’m in the middle of writing the first draft and I don’t know how long this story is going to be.

                How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Read the answer to the last question.

                What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? No clue… Um, I suppose Dead Zone meets Green Eggs and Ham meets Are you there God, It’s me Margaret.

                Who or what inspired you to write this book? A real life event… duh. I think I already answered this question. As for the person(s) who’ve urged me to write… my Family, friends, perfect strangers, some hot chicks in the barnyard, oh, and this really cool guy who offered to polish my car for six dollars and twenty-three cents.

                What else about your book might pique the readers’ interest? Some really cool things happen to the characters in the story. Oh,  and some people who’ve pissed me off in real life are killed, maimed, murdered, fall in love, lose hope, become cynical, find salvation and meet the Flintstones.

                (Ok, so there may be some sarcasm written in this blog, but ya know, I know You, yes, you, the one sitting there reading this right now, will completely understand. If you don’t get the sarcasm… I’m sorry, but that just means this is going to be one hell of a book!)

                Have a great week. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Season of Death

                Hello once again and Welcome Back! Sorry I’ve been away, I truly don’t have much of an excuse except for work. And we all know how work can rear its ugly head in our lives at the most inopportune moment and force us to do things for money we would rather watch people on tv or dvd’s do. I’ve been so busy in fact that I was unable to promote the latest book one of my stories is in but I did manage to pimp it out on Facebook and Twitter, so I suppose I really didn’t need to make another announcement here since most of you are my good pals and friends on both of those social networking sites.
                Autumn is here once again, one of my favorite times of year and with crisp air filling my lungs every morning which sends waves of energy thru out my system, I can think of no other time of the year where I feel so comfortable outside. Well, maybe Winter. With all of the changes going on with nature, and in each of our individuals lives it is a wonder to me how anyone can keep track of what is going on in not just their lives but the lives of their family and friends. Of course, once again, with the advent of social networking we don’t have to worry too much about the ins and outs of others lives, we just pull out our smart-phones, laptops, and computer tablets we have access to information so quickly it is almost impossible to not know what is going on in the lives of people we know and love and some that we loathe and hate.
                Where is all this going? Well my dear reader I’ll tell you. Autumn, to me and most folks in the world is the signal for the earth to start to go into a time of rest, and the start of the restoration process through the death of what has been with us through spring and summer. This process has become extremely apparent to me these past few months but it has always been important to me.
                You see, while most of you were setting up Halloween decorations, making costumes for parties, purchasing a metric-fuck-ton of confections and watching the latest horror flicks in movie houses across the globe I wasn’t. And while you all were preparing for Thanksgiving feasts, or planning your journeys to friends and loved ones so you could reconnect after months or even years apart, I wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining I’m just stating simple fact. I wasn’t able to participate in the so called normal events of a normal life in these here united States. Why? Because in my world those two events get overshadowed by another event which demands my attention over four months of the year, and so I end up missing out on the pleasantries and niceties of two really cool holidays.
                This year is no different. I’ relish the moments I get to spend outside seeing Mother Nature spew her last dying gasps of glory before she slips into her white and gray slumber. This fact has made itself extremely apparent to me this season of dying.
                For you see, it has been a season of death for me and I have not really talked too much about it… to anyone. Now, if you are reading this blog and have read any of my past three blogs then you will know my personal life has suffered some pretty big hits recently in the form of my wife’s strokes. But what I haven’t spoken about are the four deaths of individuals who’ve I’ve known for the better part of my life.
                One man passed away from an extremely aggressive brain tumor which he wasn’t notified of until five months before his death. Now, this man was a vibrant and happy gentleman who’d never met a stranger and lived every day as if it were a gift. In the almost fifteen years I knew him, I saw him at least three times a month and only once did I see him upset. (The reason for him being upset is not for me to divulge. But I can say he was perfectly within his rights to be angry.) He also did what he loved for a living and refused to settle for mediocrity. His name was Chuck and he was a dear friend.
                Another man passed away and he was a steady fixture in my adopted city. He suffered the ups and downs of life like the rest of us but he seemed to takes the hits just a bit harder than most people would. His life was one giant roller coaster ride but unfortunately the last few years for him have been one long, unending trough which he just couldn’t seem to dig himself out of. I usually ran into him about once a week. He died alone. His name was Peter.
                The third was one of my groomsmen. He was always willing to help anyone who’d ask for help no matter what time of day or night or what the cost may be, whether that cost was monetary or time. He was there. He died surrounded by his family both blood related and the children of his neighborhood he took under his wing and tutelage. At his memorial, in a crowded church in Suffolk, the minister opened the floor and the microphone to the attendees, the flow of memories passed from one to another went on for over forty-five minutes. I abstained from sharing, simply because I don’t like to share my personal memories I cherish with others in large gatherings. This man’s name was Gary.
                Lastly, a family member passed away. My uncle, a man I have not seen for many years but I remember from my childhood. Those memories bring a smile to my face. He seemed larger than life and filled with laughter. His children, my cousins, whom I spent most of my time with, helped build some fond memories from my youth in the form of indoor water fights, cookouts and illegal fireworks. Although time and distance have placed us apart, I will never forget him for as long as I live. His name was Art.
                These four men and the memories I have of them burn through my mind like the vibrant colors of fall. I will cherish each memory I have of them and I am sure in my later years I will think fondly of them during the autumn.
                And so this is my Season of Death. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Viva la Revolution!

Remember Remember the Sixth of November…
            I know, I know, the saying goes “Remember, remember the Fifth of November…” et. Al… But, in light of Tuesday’s events we may have to change the saying for this year. And, in case you’ve been living under a rock these past ten months or if you are not an American, on Tuesday we, Americans that is, get to elect a new leader of our country. Now, this leader can be the same one we’ve had for the past four years or it could the new guy. Either way, to me at least, it doesn’t matter.
            We get to vote for person A or person B, or in some cases you can vote against person A or against person B. It is your choice but this only means there are only two camps a citizen can choose from. But I don’t fit into either one of those camps, nor do a lot of my friends, and we are definitely not the majority in this country. Most of the people I call friends are free thinkers, creators and producers. They don’t fall into any category, they may have at one point in their lives but today, they don’t. They are neither left wing nor right wing. Sure some of them, like myself, have beliefs from one or even both sides yet we are not conflicted on these opinions because they are based on our own personal beliefs.
            Beliefs… funny concept really. I mean think about what you personally believe in… on any topic. And think to yourself, Hmm, I wonder if I would change my belief is I were handed evidence that what I believe on this topic is wrong. Would I change my belief or would I ignore the evidence and stick to my original thought? And if you change your mind due to the evidence, some may call you a flip-flopper, or a traitor, or an idiot or intelligent, educated and thoughtful. Whichever the case, I would applaud you for learning something and moving on to a more enlightened path.
            I mean, after all, isn’t that one of the purposes of life? To learn knowledge, absorb information and to try and make the world a better place tomorrow then it was today? To give our posterity a chance at a better future? Aren’t these reasons instilled in us by our parents, teachers and fore-fathers?
            I used to think of myself as a republican, you see what I did there? I said republican, not Republican, I used a small “r”. Which should tell you something, if you think “Oh my gawd! He’s one of those! Someone get me a torch so I can kill this fascist ass!” Then you would be wrong. The small “r” means I’m for limited government control over a citizen’s life and liberty. And, a government whose primary purpose is foreign affairs, and maintaining peace and free trade with other countries through diplomatic discussion and fairness for all parties concerned. A government who has no military industrial complex whose sole purpose of existence is to seek out conflict so they can justify their livelihood. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a peace-nik, I do believe in such things as a just-war. I mean there have been on numerous occasions where war has been good for a country. i.e. Revolutionary War, War of 1812, WWI, WWII, Civil War)
            But, I believe war for wars sake is wrong and can only promote a depletion in citizens faith in their leaders. Don’t believe me? Ask a Viet Nam vet or even a Hippie from the late 1960’s or 1970’s. That is if you can find a hippie who hasn’t sold out their beliefs in the 1980’s for the almighty dollar and for the iPhone in the 2000’s.
            I don’t believe in segmenting any citizen, we in America are Americans, not some hyphenated American. We all have the right to be happy and deserve to love and marry the person we want, regardless of gender. (That said, I am on the fence about interspecies marriage.) If you belief two people who love each other shouldn’t get married because of the sanctity of marriage or because some bible verse, I respect your opinion, but I will never agree with it.
            I’ve left out, on purpose, a statement in the Declaration of Independence, that statement or actually, fraction of statement is, “…pursuit of happiness.” Why? Because this part of the declaration has given me much pause lately. Pause because when I was younger I truly believed this meant an individual was guaranteed the right to seek out what made them happy and try to maintain that happiness for the rest of their life. Like a quest so to speak. But now, as an almost middle aged man who is fifteen years past his self imposed expiration date, I don’t think it means what I thought it did. Now, l believe it means We the People of the united States have a right, as a majority to seek out what will make us as a country happy. To work at maintaining the quest for happiness for us, as a country and not as an individual, to ensure the laws of the land don’t show preferentiality to any one person or group of people. Maybe I’m dreaming again, or maybe I’m old enough to realize the myopic view of my youth was skewed by my own selfishness.
            Looking back at some of these statements I see I’m sort of leaning left in my life, but mostly what I’ve written about is limited government power, which swings the pendulum back to the right and landing on center. I can push that pendulum even further right by saying I’m all for guns. I like mine and I hope you like yours. That is, if you have one, if you don’t, hey, it’s your personal choice to not have one and far be it for me to tell you differently. Just grant me the same respect is all I ask.
            As for abortion… I don’t necessarily agree with it as birth control, but I can’t say it should be outlawed. Why? Because, who am I to tell a person what they can or can’t do with their body? I’m no one. Not only that, if I had the power to tell someone yes or no on this or any topic, then someone else has that right over me. And I know I don’t want anyone telling me what to do with my life and my body. Also, I don’t know nor do I want to know all the pressures someone is going through that would put them in a situation to make that decision. So why have it outlawed? It makes no sense to me.
            Ok, I see this blog is getting really long and I could write another thousand words on other political topics but I am going to save you from my endless diatribe and babbling. On Tuesday, if you are a registered voter, I highly recommend you go out and vote, I don’t care who you vote for or even why. It is your vote and you have an opportunity to participate in the course of our country. I know I will be participating.

            Have a great week.

PS. The Who said it best;
We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again

Change it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fall that's all
But the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no! 

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie

Do ya?

There's nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beware the Little Man

                I’ve always been taught and believed that if a person works hard and is diligent in their endeavors they will be rewarded with fair pay and the feeling of accomplishment when they finish their tasks they perform for money. This belief has served me all my life. My first paid jobs were mowing yards and shoveling driveways for five dollars a pop to the day paid under the table. Then when I was ten I took over my sister Debbie’s paper route in Green Bay, Wisconsin. My customers on my route had many demands on how early they wanted their papers delivered and I tried my best to get those daily news sources to their doorsteps before their pre-set deadline. My efforts were rewarded when I showed up on their doorsteps every month to collect the money for my work. Not only did they pay me the set price but I also received tips for being a decent delivery boy.
                When I got older, in my teen years, I suffered from the teen symptoms of not wanting to work but wanting money. I soon discovered this was wrong thinking simply because I had no money and no one around me was willing to just give me money. So I took on odd jobs of cleaning out store rooms, unloading tractor trailers, cleaning bricks at construction sites and basically taking on any job that would pay me. I even spent one summer in Indiana at a summer camp on the maintenance crew. I worked, I did a good job and I got paid.
                After high school I joined the Navy, worked hard, slept little, partied often, saw the world and got paid. When I left the Navy, every job I took paid me well and I worked as best as I could for my employers. I have often dreamed, like many of you out there, that one day I would like to own my own business, be it a restaurant, machine shop, train store or even as some sort of artist I would be equally paid for all my hard work and effort.
                This all being said… I like to read.
                I know, I know, the previous sentence makes no sense. Well for now it doesn’t. But please, bear with me.
                Some of my favorite books, books which I’ve read over and over again have been George Orwell’s “1984”, Aldus Huxely’s “Brave New World”, Ayn Rand’s entire catalog, William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” and even Robert A. Heinlen’s “Take Back Your Government” are just a few of the books I enjoy and revisit every so often in my life. Now, if you’ve read any or all of these you know there is a common theme to these books and many others that fill my personal book shelves. They all deal with a dystopian society where the government has taken control of individuals’ lives, liberties and in some cases minds. They are also about revolution and the individuals fight to maintain their own sense of self.
                I’ve always thought there was no possible way for these story plots to come to fruition. But, in light of recent events in my life, I know this to be false.
                If you’ve never read any of those books you need to get off your ass and read at least two of them.
                Back on track…
                Recently, the past few months really, I have been witness, third hand that is, to some very disturbing buerrecratical abuse to someone who I respect greatly. A man who for a lack of a better term can be summed up as a “Producer”, he is a small business owner and has been acting in this capacity for more than thirty years. He even played a key role in the revitalization of a dying district here in the city in which I reside.
                He is a thinking man, an educated man and a man who has many interests in his life, a true Renaissance man. He is not well known, nor does he want to be. He has well thought out views and opinions on any issue you can think of. From politics to religion his thoughts are poignant and expressed with a calm demeanor, and if you have a question on any point of his opinion he will take his time to explain the hows and whys of his conclusions. Just talking with him on mundane tasks is a pleasure and a joy, but once you get him on the tastier tidbits of life… you will become enthralled by his reserved passion and the manner in which he gets his points across to you. So much so that one has a tendency to be not just drawn into his words and ideas but you will forget to ask a question that is begging to be asked.
                Some folks, early risers mainly, will often see him shuffling around the streets in the morning as he makes his way to work. And, if you see him, you would think to yourself “Here is a man who has the weight of the world on him and has been beaten down by life. But, and this is a big but, it is all a ruse. This man, the man I’ve seen and worked with four times a week for the past thirteen years, is far from beaten down. No one can measure what is inside a person’s head and to assume any detrimental thought about him is purely sophomoric and uneducated. I’ve seen politicians; lawyers and other business men seek out his council and advice. I’ve witnessed a debate between him and a seated State Representative about governmental policies and he has won with one well thought out phrase.
                This man, this bastion of intellect, has become disillusioned by small minded, government appointed, arrogant, self-professed know-it-all who has taken it upon herself to not enforce menial codes and regulations but to abuse them in a prejudicial manner. She has decided to make it her goal to break him down and put him out of business. A proverbial feather in her cap as a minor government employee trying to make a name for herself is the feel one gets when one meets her.
                You may be thinking to yourself right now, “Prejudicial? Pray it isn’t so.” But it is so. If this virago used the codes and regulations evenly and above board I doubt I would be writing this right now. But this is not the case. This is a blatant abuse of power by someone who is slowly grinding an ax against someone who has done no wrong what-so-ever. And this ax-grinding is getting on my nerves and the nerves of someone I respect. So much so that he is about to throw in the towel and go on strike as a producer, (Thank you Ayn Rand for that term.)
                I know he won’t go on strike, he is just frustrated right now, as we all are. He is however tired and upset. He needs a break but not from his work, which he loves, but from the petty enforcers who would not have a job if it were not for people like him. For it is the small and large businessmen of this country that keeps the cogs and wheels moving us all forward. The movers and shakers who are out in the world everyday supplying others with jobs and creating opportunities for any hard working individual who shows an aptitude for furthering their employers vision of a better life.
                Imagine a world where men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were not allowed to invent or discover or even work in the fields they are so talented in. Imagine life without iPhones, iPods, iPads, laptops and digital resources. Or a life without a local book store, or writers and artists, or even a world where when you go out to eat all that is served is pabulum and strained peas that have been boiled in a bag or nuked in a microwave. Ask yourself, “Can I live on the bare minimum of what the government feels I deserve?”

                From the heart of the South.

                Skip Novak


Saturday, September 22, 2012


     Today is a day of giving thanks for me. True, it is not the end of November but, I feel the need to let some very special people know how much I appreciate what amazing lengths they have gone to in their assistance for me and my family during our particular crisis. And for those of you who do not know or have not read my previous two blogs, here is a quick review…
     Five weeks ago my wife suffered the first of a series of five strokes. She is home now but unable to work for the next couple of months. It has been a stressful, nerve wracking and frightening experience for us all. And during all of this my family has received a massive outpouring of support, well wishes, kind thoughts and prayers to a multitude of deities. (I say this because not everyone I know worships the same God(s) and some don’t even believe in a divine deity. How’s that for a melting pot of chums and pals in a life filled with insanity?)
     So, on with the show.
     Brian and Kelly, thank you for being there, offering support, guidance and friendship outside of your profession and calling. I don’t know what my family would have done if you had not been there to guide me through my temporary shock on concern over my wife. You did not allow the mundane daily tasks of life slip through my fingers. Also, Brian, you are an excellent Heavy when needed. Your friendship has truly become one which I will cherish into my feeble age.
     Josh and Hope, your spiritual leadership for my wife has been invaluable to her and me. You have set an example for all within your church and you both are a true blessing to mankind.
     Angie and Earl, I don’t know where to begin with you two. You were there for Sue and Madison when I couldn’t be. You did your best to get me to rest and be healthy for my family as well as fill in for me when I wasn’t there. God bless the two of you and your family.
     Stacy and Kelly S. you guys helped out so much around my home and made sure everything was ready for Sue when  she came home, something I was unable to do in my state of mind, both of you have been fantastic friends to Sue over the years I don’t even know how to begin to thank you. Also, Kelly, you are welcome to raid my library anytime, you are my sister in Horror!
     Tennessee, although I doubt you will read this, our phone conversations have meant the world to me these past two weeks. Thank you.
     Mike and Allison, your gift was more then I could have ever expected.
     Chuck and Lara, thank you for the cigars and providing me with a temporary distraction from the endless minutes in the hospital and rehab center. My porch will always be open to you two.
     Michael and Israel, you guys getting the hand-railings on the porch have meant the world to my wife. And Mike, your loyalty to your sister has truly enriched her life more than you will know.
     Amy and David, you guys taking care of all the food and endless smiles gave us all an optimistic outlook on the easily fallen into trappings of depression when things look bleak.
     Zelda, your hugs have been refreshing and always welcome. You are a WARRIOR!
     The Pennsylvania Crew!!!! You guys are awesome… let’s see if I can thank you all even though some of you are Canadian… Brian, my old shipmate, Thank you. Bob and Kelli, light and a dark, you two crazy kids mean more to me than you will ever know. Dickie and Mandy… you two took care of something for me that gave me a welcome distraction in the dark hours of the day. Jeff (Bamfer) our conversation was much needed and a welcome outlet. May all your Disney dreams come true. Malfi for the great story. Qweequeg, your awesomeness never fails to astonish me. Thank you for rallying the troops!
     My family, both sides, Michigan and Wisconsin, our conversations were heartfelt, open and enlightening. Through this tragedy there was healing on many levels. And while we all have our own lives, differences and issues, you managed to put those aside for a greater good. Kudos!
     My work family, Pat, Tim, Tad, Nancy, M.F., Diane, Liona, Corey, Dan and all you others, thank you for expressing concern and taking care of things I couldn’t while I was gone. (Yes, I still worry about the trains.)
     The Lobscouser, Bobby, talking with you about the pain you and your family went through in a similar situation was enlightening and helpful. Thank you for your understanding during the past few weeks and the prayers.
     Delane, thank you for fixing Trainman. Plugs are always good, but I am still going to call you “The Appliance.” Safe travels brother.
     Babs, driving three hours each way… are you nuts? But it was great to see you and your visits meant the world to Sue… you ROCK!
     And to all the folks I am forgetting, Thank you. Your outpouring of love is what this world should be about.
     Have a great week!
From the Heart of the South,

Skip Novak

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Good People, Bad Shit

                Who knows what machinations are behind the curtain of our reality, I sure the fuck don’t. I wish I did. I wish I understood, but I’m just a semi-intelligent Polak from Wisconsin who has done good things and bad in the eyes of man and man’s Creator. Why the good? I’d like to say because I’m a good person. Why the bad? I’d like to say they were character flaws beyond my control. But I can’t answer those questions with platitudinal answers. I know… I know for a fact, the reason I do both good and bad is because I’m flawed and broken.
                You see, I expect bad shit to happen to me. It’s a gift of my upbringing so to speak. Sure I have fond memories of my childhood, I write about them here. But, I also have bad, terrible, horrible memories of my childhood. Memories that when remembered hurt worse than a two day old scab being slowly peeled off my body. I don’t really write about those. Oh, sure I draw upon those ethereal memories for my non-fiction but not here. I don’t bleed here. I don’t do it out of the respect for the living. No one wants to be reminded of past indiscretions… well, except me. When someone comes up to me and says “Skip, you hurt me when you said….” I try to apologize as sincerely as possible. I never try to intentionally hurt someone that is just not in my nature. But perceived wrong doing is impossible to predict and even more impossible to prevent.
                But what fucks with my head even more than my own indiscretions is when bad shit happens to good people for no apparent reason. I don’t like it, and I’m sure you, my dear reader, don’t like it either. It sucks total donkey ass, if you ask me.
                Ok, so here is the skinny, my wife of twenty-two years had a stroke this past Monday. She is younger than yours truly and if anyone deserves to have a stroke and be bedridden in this relationship it is me. Not her. Hell, we’re talking about a woman who refused as a teenager to even try any illicit drugs. A woman who has gone out of her way to help people she barely even knows. And now, she lies in a bed in a nursing/rehabilitation home waiting for some doctor somewhere to help her out.  Now, don’t get me wrong, she is not perfect, none of us are. Everyone has chinks in their armor, some more than others and in any extended relationship anywhere in the world, the ones we love the most get hurt the most often. It happens, its life. This is the way it works.
                Let me give you an example… a comic book example. In the Batman universe, Mr. Freeze didn’t want his wife to die… so he ended up being a bad guy… for Love. In Shakespeare’s’ Romeo and Juliet, those two kids just wanted to love each other… Bram Stoker’s Dracula wanted a bride… The Creature from the Black Lagoon wanted a mate. Well, you get the picture. I don’t have to paint it for you with my poor use of the English language. From the dawn of the written language into the celluloid and digital age, more men and women have done all sorts of shit both good and bad in the name of love.
                Twenty years ago, I’d have been cursing heaven and hell for what has happened to my wife. But I’m older, wiser and more importantly I have to be an example to my daughter for what may happen in her future. A future when I’m not there. She needs a memory of how I handled all this adversity in my life, my family’s life, so that when she has to go through tough and shitty times she will know how to handle the potholes and speed-bumps this craptastical world seems to enjoy throwing into all of our lives.
                Now, I know, mentally that is, other people are going through tough times, worse times, and life ending times. But my heart doesn’t get it. It still hurts. I’ve been a shit-heel for a long time and done some shit that when I look back on it, makes me cringe and wish I had acted differently. But does that change the injustices? Nope. Not a single iota, at least not to mankind.
                We all work hard to eek out an existence on this mudball in an attempt to make a better place for our progeny. Some succeed. Others don’t.  I’m trying to succeed. I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of the ones who raised me. Life changes a person and children can bring out the best and worst in a man or woman. I’ve seen both. Not a big fan of folks who don’t see it this way.
                Which leaves me in a very odd quandary. While I want desperately to rattle the foundations of heaven and piss on the fires of hell… I’m not. I’m trying to take the high road. Trying very hard and all this effort is taking its toll on my walking, talking disposition. Outside, I’m calm and tired. Inside… that’s another story… I am a raging storm the likes this planet has not seen in a long time. I haven’t felt this way in over fifteen years and it hurts to suppress.
                Am I going to find a balance? Something I’ve been searching for all my life. A zen of peace that will keep me from losing my mind? I sure hope so.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August Info

Hateful Midnight
                It’s almost midnight and I’m sitting in a hospital room with the dim light from the bathroom silhouetting my wife as she lies on her bed struggling to find some peaceful sleep. The sounds of her struggled breathing and her impatient restlessness as she attempts to get comfortable with her body that decided to throw her a curve ball yesterday morning brings as much pain to me as the frustration it brings her. This sound keeps me alert.
                In the past thirty-six hours I have been struggling to maintain my sanity, patience and temper as I deal with the unknown. It’s like… like… ya know, this is going to sound a bit odd, but it’s like the first time you ride a new rollercoaster. You know, after you’ve gotten into the car and the lap-bar or shoulder harness collapse down on you, locking you into an experience you can’t really say you wanted to experience but you know you should come out a better person for it. The worry you feel as the train moves out of the station is similar to build up of rushing to the hospital after you’ve received a phone call that no ever wants to receive. The slow ascent up the first and usually highest hill of the roller coaster is like waiting game in the emergency room where information is gleaned by you from passing nurses, EMT’s and doctors as they chit-chat about the cases they are working on. The chit-chat, clikety-clack of their words as foreign to you as Mandarin Chinese is to a forty-five year old Polak from Wisconsin .
                My hands grip the bars and my knuckles turn white in fear and the anticipation of the impending downward plunge. The plunge of authentic, tangible, proven results whose layman terminology rhymes with words like choke, scenic, realization and mud-rot.  Words which once enter my mind get lost in the ether of numbness, fear and uncertainty. These clikety-clack voices, you soon realize are coming from visitors… friends of my wife, friends of mine, pastors and family from her side and my side. All passengers on this train ride have no clue where the apex of this hill is. We all assume the best, the worst, and the in-between. I try to mask my internal emotions and listen to what is being said on this ride by the screamers, the laughers, the non-verbose and the nay-sayers. Words, platitudes and age old comforting quotes fill the air like the squeak of the wheels on the car you are in and I try hard to accept them with all the earnestness they are delivered. I’m not always successful.
                As the train approaches the point of no return, I stare down into the void of what is, what could be and what will be. I put on my brave face and look down into that abyss; I know I’m not alone… I have with me people who have nothing but the best intentions in their mind and love in their hearts.
                I know there is another rise at the bottom of the trough I’m about to plunge into, but when will the descent turn into an ascent? I don’t know. I wish I did. But right now… Only One does and I’m trying to wait on him. (And not be angry… again.)