Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood…

One of my greatest joys when I was younger was sitting out on my porch in “J-Town” as a thunderstorm rolled through. There’s nothing quite like a thunderstorm in Summertime at the end of a long, hot and humid day. I’ve described the experience at length before. I even wrote a blog post about it, many moons ago when I lived in Broomall, and everyone lived everyplace else. That time? Past. Like the once-oppressive heat that marked today, as rolls of thunder and distant lightning echo through my new home in Swarthmore and I endeavor, for the first time since finishing HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD, to write.

A lot has changed for me since that late, Friday night in April. It is now mid-July. I won’t dive into the particulars of all that has happened. Needless to say my life is, in many ways renewed. It was long overdue. To anyone that has suffered because of it, I apologize. You know who you are. But I needed a fresh start. I needed to refocus on a path… MY path forward. I spent many years putting the needs of the many before my own and in the process of doing that? I lost myself. I had to rediscover who I am. Have I? Yes. Does that mean I know my way forward? Sadly, I’m still working on it. But I’m close now.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both.” You know that one, right? “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It’s always been a favorite poem of mine, right up there with pretty much anything T. S. Eliot wrote. For many years, there was only one road forward for me. Yet that road? It officially ended a few weeks ago. So here I am, once again looking at two, and only two possible ways forward. Down one? Continued stability and normalcy. And down the other? The road NOT taken. A riskier path. And the latter, while intriguing, scares the living bejesus out of me. It’s been a bit since I took a risk. So the question is: Do I? Do I take the road less traveled and if I do, will it make all the difference as it did for Frost?

Many have told me, as I sit here writing in silence, my only accompaniment the sound of the storm, raging outside that I am still young, even now as I balance on the precipice of 46 years, on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Yet I do not feel it. I feel far detached from that dreaming child that sat upon his mother’s porch in “J-Town” watching a thunderstorm roll past. In truth? I feel old. Despite a renewed sense of self there remains the feeling that I’m past the halfway point of my life less extraordinary and a desire to DO. Now. To live while I still can. That is the allure of the road less traveled. The well-trodden path? Easier. A slow downslope into peace, but without fulfillment. Excitement. And despite the occasional ache in my bones I still crave it. So what do I do? How do I proceed?

I know that I am being vague and that is intentional. For it feels too soon to start speaking of what lies down each path. There remains a step for me to take before I can reveal all. The final step in my so-called renewal. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I? I took BLANK, and that has made all the difference.” Which one do I choose? I know where I am. I know where I want to get to. But do I endeavor to “cash in” on a few, long held dreams before doing so? Or do I stay here. Live. Exist. Maybe write another book or two. Has the time… MY time for dreaming passed me by? Does there come a point where we really are too far along for dreams… A point where our reality is what it is and we need to accept it as such? I wish I knew. All my life I have questioned. Is it time to stop asking and just… Be?

So is the state of your old buddy the Madchronicler’s mind this evening, friends. The storm that was raging outside has passed. There are more storms in the forecast for later tonight. Let them come. Let them renew me as they did when I was a child and make me feel alive, and in amazement at the majesty of nature’s fury. My porch now? Nothing like my mother’s, but big and covered enough to allow me to sit. I think I will. Sit, and consider. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood?” I’ll let you know when I decide which one to follow. I’ll let you know if it made all the difference.

FM.

On Beginnings and Endings

A coy observer of the title of this blog post will remember that back in November of 2018, I wrote a piece I called “On Endings and Beginnings.” This is an intentional juxtaposition of that title, and it is in no way, shape or form related to that little piece of Mental Flatulence. Quite the contrary: This is a rumination on writing, not life though some will claim that for many, writing IS life and vice versa. Never for me, though. Life is my daily, 9-5 gig. It’s spending time with my friends and family. It’s paying my bills, cleaning my house et cetera et cetera. Writing is a luxury. A desire? Yes. Oft times an obsession. It’s my pre and post-9-5 gig. It’s spending time with the characters in my head. It’s not money driven though there IS house cleaning involved. Editing they… Sh*t, I call it, and even though I have arguably the greatest editor I could ask for (booyakasha, Amy. RESPECT), I still have to clean up my own mess before I hand it off to her. Et cetera et cetera. So let’s talk about writing. Specifically? The ENDWORLD Series. A bit about how it started, and more about how it’s going to end. Not THE end (no spoilers; I promise). But the inevitable conclusion of what has, in many ways been the longest constant in my 45+ year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

A casual observer will likely note that this post belongs over on the ENDWORLD site, linkable HERE if you are so inclined to check it out. Argument made. But this FEELS like a Random Musings post and not a book-related one. Anyone who knows me knows the story of how ENDWORLD came to be. It was originally written as a fictional autobiography… A reflection of my life at that time which drew upon three main inspirations: The Terminator movies, The Wonder Years and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Many, if not most of you reading this also know that what it once was is not what it is now. It grew… It evolved. It still retains remnants of what it once was but at it’s core, it is now so much more. It’s a rumination on spirituality. Love. Loss. Dreams and ideals… Goals not achieved because of selflessness. And most importantly? Sacrifice, and its importance because as Spock once said, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” William MacNuff, formerly Roland MacNuff is my tragic hero. He is me, but not as I am. He is me as I always HOPED I would be. That is what The ENDWORLD Series was, and remains now, a few years shy of 30 since I initially started writing it.

This year? I will finally finish the process that has been an ever-present part of my life for almost three decades. Yes, this year. I know this now. Not because I want to finish it… I don’t. As is the case with almost everything in my life I hate endings. I find it God awful hard to say goodbye. But I will finish it because I have to. I am beholden to MY better angels, and the people that care about me and that I care for to be done with it, once and forever all. Forever more. So this will be the year. Get your red pen ready Amy. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

The knowledge that the end is only a couple hundred pages away makes me sad. There’s an emptiness on the other side of it that I simply do not want to face. Yet I have known for years… Decades really, that the key to unlocking all the other stories that have formed in my mind is to finish the first one. THIS one. So with a heavy heart and a reasonable, albeit not crippling amount of fear I commit to, and surrender myself to the inevitable. It’s true that the end has been written for some time. Don’t worry. I promised no spoilers and there won’t be. It’s also true that I’m not entirely convinced that everyone that has graciously bought, read and enjoyed the first two books will like said ending. But that is a chance I need to take. Because as I have said before, authors don’t write books. They are merely a conduit. A storyteller. Books write themselves. That was one of the first lessons I learned as a wannabee novelist 26 years ago now. But I hope… Nay pray that you understand it, and the rationale behind it when you have the final manuscript in your hands. Some of the greatest tales ever told have a questionable ending. Sad. Confusing. Aggravating even. To defy your instincts as a writer and “play to your base” is how some authors roll. But not me. I’ve spent too much of my life going with the flow. I can’t sell out on this. My apologies in advance. Remember: If you hate it… If it scars you, I’ll offer you a refund. That’s about as close to a money back guarantee is your ol’ buddy the Madchronicler can offer.

So? Let’s mark this moment for posterity. A bit earlier, over dinner I finished a read through of the first, and only 131 pages of the HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD manuscript. It is rough. Yet I did not clean my house. I did not break out my own red pen and edit it or make any wholesale changes. There will be time for that when the first draft is completed. I am picking up the story exactly where I left off. On page 125 (confused? Remember: The ending is written, and now you know it’s six pages long which, again, is NOT a spoiler). William MacNuff and a handful of his brethren are in a bit of a pickle, and it’ll be interesting to see how they get out of it. Even I’m a bit curious. You may be reading this right now and asking yourself why I’m blogging and not… noveling? Authoring? Writing. A little known fact about the original HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD: I paused at roughly the halfway point for around six months. I was bracing myself for the eminent race to completion. True to form, I’m doing it… I DID it again. Not stalling. Committing. Resolving to complete the story that I so desperately want to keep telling. But everything has an end, and The ENDWORLD Series is no different.

I’ll leave y’all with this as a “thank you,” not just for reading THIS blog post, but for reading all of my musings and stories over the years. Mind you that this is relatively unedited (albeit redacted to avoid spoilers per my earlier vow), and only a small sampling of what is to come. But if you haven’t read CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD? I’d look away now. These words could change but… well? Here it is. The beginning of HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD. Book Three of The ENDWORLD Series. By Frank Marsh.

PROLOGUE – Forward

Time present, and time passed are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present all time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction remaining a perpetual possibility (T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton).

The sea has no memory.  

I’m not sure where I heard that before. Some pre-Administration author or poet wrote it. Someone whose name was lost along with so much of what existed before. I stand here, my tarnished boots in the sand, staring out over the endless expanse of water that stretches out to the horizon before me beneath a gray, late Fall or early Winter sky. Not a dreaming python, and not deadly if you provoke it. But peaceful the way it undulates hypnotically before me. Somehow… someway I understand, and I close my eyes and feel the way the chilling, sea breeze blows against my cheeks and whips my long, mostly white hair out behind me.  

The sea has no memory, I whisper to myself, and feel a moment’s respite from the nagging pain of hunger in my gut and the way my mind drifts like a fallen leaf, or a piece of wood upon the water. I open my eyes. It is hard. More difficult than it ever has been before because I am tired. So tired. Time has passed. I am unsure of how much as time has no meaning here. A day… a week… a month, year, decade, century or millennia is infinite. Forever. Everything else dies but time? It marches ever onward like a dutiful humachine, it’s only purpose to taunt us… it’s only meaning to give a vague, sense of structure to the All. In the end? Laughable. “Only to die, as all must in time, the demise of a fool to fact.”  

Remelius Vincent really knew his shit, sarcasm fully intended.  

* * * 

You know who I am. You know my name. You know where I’ve been, the things I’ve done, all I’ve lost and what I’ve gained if you’ve followed me this far. For the unindoctrinated, my name is William MacNuff, and I have been many things in my life. But what am I at this juncture, as I sit here once again by candlelight, writing these words in shaky longhand on a faded and yellowing piece of paper? I wish I knew the answer to that question. Perhaps you can assist me with it as I endeavor to tell, and likely finish my story because although there are relatively few constants in this place save for time, or the lack thereof (depending on your perspective) one thing is undeniably true…  

This is the end. My beautiful friends? The end.  

Jim Morrison really knew his shit too, no sarcasm whatsoever intended.  

Goodnight and sweet dreams all. Time to go. There’s novelling/authoring/writing to do.

F.  

Midnight Musings For My Minions

There are days these days when I try, and fail to remember what life was like BEFORE. Before COVID. Before separation/divorce. Before Single Dadhood. Before mortgages and bills. William MacNuff, the protagonist in my ENDWORLD series said once upon a time that “I have been here before.” Well? So have I. I maintain enough recollection of my own, personal history that I remember the late 1990s. My “Dark and Twisty” period as I sometimes refer to it. But remembering those days? It’s honestly easier than remembering 2017. Or even February 2020. Is this normal? Survey says: I have no idea. But it’s the truth. And I pride myself on speaking it. I always have, and I always will.

We’ve all been through Hell folks. Our subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence has gone through quite a transition since 365 days ago. And we’ve got a ways to go. We’re far from “in the clear” yet, and while there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, it doesn’t seem to be getting closer. I know. Maybe I’m giving into skepticism. Me, the eternal optimist taking a hard left turn into the throes of our President Elect’s “Dark Winter?” Who’d have thunk it? But here I am. Here WE are, and as hard as I try to figure out a way back… A way to break the doldrum that I’ve been ensconced in for far too long, I simply can’t. So helplessly? I find myself thinking about the past. A life… MY life lived. I look at the angelic, sleeping faces of my daughters as I kiss them goodnight. I retire to my room and I sit. I mull an idea or two. A sales strategy for work tomorrow. Eventually? I will go to sleep. In sleep? Dreams. Vivid, but likely unremembered. Before I know it my alarm will bark at me and it will be morning. Second verse, same as the first. But before that?

I know the way out. No, not THAT one. Geez, guys and gals, I may be a bit depressed but I’m not there. And if YOU are? Please: Come back. Let’s live… Together, and keep on living until such time as our bodies naturally tell us it’s time to move on. A life less extraordinary, nay boring is preferable to the alternative. But where is… WHAT is my purpose? Me, your 45 year old Madchronicler/El Autoro, who once envisioned himself the guy that would pen the next, great American Novel. Now? Now I see myself for what I am. Normal. And if that’s it then that’s okay. Whether I write another word after this or not (I probably will but who knows?) I still have things to pass on. Wisdom? Perhaps. But I need to stop trying so damn hard and just let sh*t take it’s natural course. And right now? That course has me wanting to write about my minions. TO them. A few helpful hints for a more productive life. Yes, that’s a thing. It was in the late 1990s and it is now. I guess it always HAS been. So on that note?

1. Never sell yourself short or underestimate what you can accomplish. In less than 48 hours you will see, for the first time in the history of this great country, a female Vice President. The glass ceiling has been shattered. Not just by Kamala Harris but by all those who came before her. RBG and Hillary Clinton. Sonia Sotomayor and Geraldine Ferraro. Your path to greatness is clearer than it ever has been before. Take it. Work hard. Compromise if needed but hold true to your resolve. Follow it with determination and become the best you that you can be. No goal is too far-fetched. Be spectacular. And know that I will always be here, supporting you and cheering you on.

2. Be you. Don’t be what others expect or want you to be. Rainbows and unicorns? Own that sh*t. Dance in the rain. Sing as loud as you can and if someone tells you that you shouldn’t? Sing louder. Let the beauty of this universe fill you up and if you think you can’t take anymore? Trust me. You can. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the ugliness because it will endeavor to do so. For every stark and disturbing scene of a mob, storming a Capitol or every word, spoken out of hate in a public forum there is a beach, golden at sunset or a mountaintop, above which tens of thousands of stars vault from horizon to horizon. Embrace the awe of someone speaking from their heart over the dissapointment of someone spreading hate. You will be better because of it. I promise.

3. Love hard, but do not allow it to distract you from you. If someone asks you to compromise your plan for theirs, don’t. Always put yourself first. Until the day arrives when you have children of your own. And then? Place their welfare before yours. Make sure they eat before you and if times are tough? Always keep a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, lights overhead and the water running, even if you have to work two jobs. Make sure they always have a book by their bedside. Novel? Comic? Whatever. If they can’t sleep don’t let them turn on their TV. Task them to read until their eyes get heavy and promise them that eventually, they will sleep. And when they have a nightmare… When they arrive by your bedside in tears hug them regardless of their age, and invite them to sleep beside you because you are their solitude. Oh! And if they ask you to brush their hair, don’t ask questions. Do it, because there will come a day when they won’t… There will come a day when they won’t need you quite as much. Enjoy it… Embrace it while you can.

4. Know the difference between dreams and reality and strive to strike a balance between the two. Never stop fantasizing about where you want to go and who you want to be, but understand that not everyone is lucky enough to get there. Approach your dreams with a healthy, but not crippling sense of skepticism and have a Plan B. Get good at something else. While money isn’t everything it is, sadly something that we all need to survive and support. Learn how to balance a checkbook, even if your “checkbook” is a blank sheet of paper on your desk. Your Mom-Mom Minnie used to say “eat to live, but don’t live to eat.” Splurge only when you’ve paid your bills and have a bit left over, even if “splurging” is little more than a cheese steak, cheese fries and a Hawaiian Punch. Trust me: You’ll still appreciate the Hell out of it and savor every bite or sip.

5. Never give up hope. There will be times of depression… Doldrum. Moments when you think you are stuck, and your inclination will be to just STOP. Climb under a blanket, put on a news program, or a TV show/movie and just sit quietly, unmovable. Your phone will ring, or beep with notifications and you’ll absently look at it and say “no. I’m not going to answer that.” These moments? They are okay. Normal. Not everyone can be an eternal optimist all the time. The weight of the world will bear down upon your shoulders and many times, the solution will be beyond your control. But trust in your strength and resolve… Let these moments run their course. Eventually? You will get back up. You’ll formulate a plan and follow it because it’s in your genes to do so. Marshes never surrender. We get hit, but we get back up. We’re stubborn like that. And if you ever need help, a shoulder to cry on or someone to vent to, don’t hesitate. Call. You don’t have to do it all yourself. You are and always will be loved and supported because if nothing else, YOU are my purpose. YOU are my Magnum Opus.

There are days these days when I try, and fail to remember what life was like BEFORE. Before COVID. Before separation/divorce. Before Single Dadhood. Before mortgages and bills. And while remembering my “Dark and Twisty” period may be easier these days than remembering 2017, or even February 2020, I know that one day soon, this doldrum… this “Dark Winter” that I… Sh*t, that we are living in will pass. We may never be the same as we were before. But do we want that? Really. Who we were before COVID has been laid stark and in clear relief because of it and so many other factors (that’s a whole other blog post). Divided. Devisive. Is this what we want for our children? Survey says: No. It is not. They need to be the beneficiaries of the lessons we have learned on both a micro and macro scale. Our shared purpose is to make the universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence better for them. Not ENDWORLD, but a world without end. Limitless. Spectacular.

Goodnight all. Sleep calls. And in sleep? Dreams. Maybe this time I’ll remember them come the morning.

F.

What Christmas Means to Me – The Global Pandemic Edition

For me… for years, the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, otherwise known as The Holiday Season really has been the most wonderful time of the year. Despite my situation, I always feel a renewed sense of energy and purpose, simultaneously with waking up on Thanksgiving morn that generally carries me through the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new one. Even last year, when things were… less than stable (to put it mildly), I found joy in eating dinner with my family, picking out and putting up/decorating a Christmas Tree with my minions the following weekend, gift shopping, watching holiday movies and listening to holiday music. Even that gods-be-darned, Mariah Carey “masterpiece” “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Side note: It’s not the song. I actually think it’s a pretty solid entry into the Christmas music pantheon which has been re-done in the years since Mariah first premiered it by everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Michael Buble, the latter of which remains my personal favorite version. It’s the fact that they play Mariah’s version every hour, on the hour and after two decades of listening to it yes: Calling it overkill is kind. It’s the equivalent of a two ton nuke of holiday cheer. Even for someone who loves the holiday season as much as me, it’s TOO MUCH.

But I digress. When do I ever not? Survey says: Never. These blog posts tend to be the equivalent of a literary serpentine, veering from topic to topic with little regard for continuity. I don’t plan them out. I simply “go with the flow,” and try… sometimes in vain, to tie the various threads together at the end in the hopes of… what? Making a point? Conveying a message? I guess they’re whatever YOU, my oft times casual readers want them to be. All 20 or 30 of you. I’ve been doing this for years now. 117 posts too date, this one being the 118th. When you consider I’ve been writing Mental Flatulence since the mid-90s, that number goes up to 140 or 150. All in the hopes of… what? Why do I do this? “Where is Gamora?” “Who is Gamora?” “WHY is Gamora?” The same question(s) can be applied herein. But to me. Not Gamora.

Question One: WHERE is… where AM I? Well physically, I’m sitting at the desk in my writing nook, typing these words out on my computer (not on my phone this time; I decided to go “old school” with this post). As for mentally? Spiritually? Psychologically? I’m not where I’ve been in holiday seasons past. Despite a renewed sense of pseudo-stability, a better job and other factors, I am not filled with joy this year. I was, up until a couple of days ago… I was perhaps more joyful than I have been in years past. But something changed this week. A bit of weariness set in, likely a symptom of the ongoing, global pandemic that has us all “sheltering in place” in many locales across the good ol’ U S of A and the world, the sudden drop in temp outside and the promise of an actual snowstorm this week which, for once, actually happened as the ache in my back is presently reminding me (Hallelujah, Holy Sh*t! Where’s the Tylenol?). A symptom? Yes. But not a diagnosis. I’ve been mulling that one for a while now and I think I finally figured out the WHO, as in WHO is… who AM I? Which leads me to…

Question Two: Yep. WHO is… who AM I? On the surface, I’m just a regular dude with a regular job in Business Development who loves spending time with his minions, his loved ones and his family (both immediate and extended). I get up at roughly the same time every morning and go to sleep at roughly the same time every night. I start work between 8 and 9 (depending on the morning), I generally eat lunch around noon every day and I generally knock off work for the day sometime between 5 and 6, but occasionally as late as 7 and, in a few cases, 9 or 9:30. Ah, Work from Home. Who knew? After that, depending on the night I watch TV, play Destiny 2, spend time with my minions, engage in chores around and outside of my house, pay bills… you get the gist. Yes, it really is (for those of you that have followed me for decades) a Mundane, Routine Existence. But is this the sum total of who I am? Is this all that there is to me, Frank Marsh, AKA the Once and Future El Autoro, AKA The Madchronicler? I’ll not lie friends, family and my 20 or 30 oft times casual readers, I expected more out of myself for a long time. More than just another Joe Schmoe. More than a life less extraordinary. I once fancied that I would one day write the next, great American novel and the older I get on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, the less likely that seems. I’ve been fighting… battling the serpentine path my life has taken for so long that years… heck, almost a decade has gone by and time, that ever-present and fickle constant, seems to be slowly but definitely slipping away. Is there time enough left for me to be the person I dreamed I always would be? That guy who folks labeled “The Madchronicler” 20 plus years ago? Or am I gradually succumbing to the physical and mental rigors of “Mid-Life?” On the one hand, I can still reach inside, and find the Dreamer that I once was. But it’s not as sustainable as it once was. Writing novels has been replaced by paying bills and meeting quotas. Taking road trips to a diner in NYC over three hours away from home has been replaced by food shopping and sleeping. What is… WHERE is my purpose? Which leads me to the final question that Drax asked Tony Stark/Iron Man in “Avengers: Infinity War…”

Question Three: WHY is… why am I? Not Gamora. Me. This is without a doubt the toughest question to ask myself at this juncture because despite intensive introspection this holiday season, I see two possibilities. The first? That I am what I appear to be on the surface and that I echoed above. Normal. A product of adulthood. All responsibility with the occasional bout of wanderlust. A Dreamer so hopelessly entrenched in the rigors of responsibility that they remain just that: Dreams. Inspired? Occasionally, but that sustained inspiration I felt back in May of this year when I was actively working on HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD seems to have faded. I HAVE written since. Two dozen or so pages of that particular novel to be exact (and a handful of these). But it comes and goes, and more often then naught ends up playing second fiddle to other things. That’s one possibility.

And the other? That I’m… scared. Yes, scared. I can admit that now. For a guy that has always fancied himself as a fighter and survivor, even when he failed there is fear. The idea that this REALLY IS it, and that the legacy I will leave the world when I finally depart it will be a microcosm of what I envisioned it would be in my 20s and, to some extent, my 30s. I had plans, guys and gals. To not to just write, but to teach. To pass on knowledge that would make not just my children, but the next generation or two better off than they would have been without it. I’ve had so many teachers in my life. Formal ones, family, friends… you name it. No one gets to 45 on their own. They’re… I’m a product of my experiences and the lessons learned by others through their experiences and “passing on” what they discovered. And even now, at 45 years kinda’ young (but not really), I crave that opportunity. It’s what I should have been. The question is: Is it possible to be that now, after 45 years of life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence? Writing novels… writing blog posts was and IS an easy out. It’s a way of attempting, however in vain to teach and impart knowledge upon a couple dozen people which, they can take or not… it’s totally up to them. But that inherent desire to be a teacher has never left me. So…

WHY not? If my why is to be a teacher/imparter of knowledge, as I’ve always thought it was, why not just become that? Formalize it so to speak. The holiday season is not only a time of joy and celebration, but an era of miracles. Or at least it was when I was a kid. The miracle of an old, heavyset dude with a bushy, white beard and a red suit coming down the chimney of every kid in the whole, wide world in one night, in the universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Have I grown so old… so jaded that I’ve given up on what I once believed in? A perpetrator of the supposed falsehood that IS Santa Claus? I need to stop cowering in fear and take this opportunity–as I glance out my window at the vast, wintery landscape that has become my neighborhood courtesy of the first snowfall we’ve seen, here in Eastern Pennsylvania in eons and despite my aching back which has been alleviated, somewhat not by Tylenol but by Advil (Hallelujah, Holy Sh*t!)–to believe in miracles again. I can still be what I always wanted to be, can’t I? After all, 45 years is… a lot, but I’ve still got some time left God willing. And that’s the OTHER tenant of this time of year: God. Spirituality. Prayer, belief and most importantly, hope. Those who know me know that despite my former, outspoken tirades against faith and organized religion (mainly during the late 90s when I was The Once and Future El Autoro) I have grown, via fatherhood and age into what I was as a child: A God-fearing dude. I say my prayers every night, first with Natalie either in person or over a Zoom call, and thereafter by myself in the quiet darkness of my room pre-falling asleep. Both versions of “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep,” one “Our Father,” one “Hail Mary” and one “Glory Be.” I never say “Amen” until AFTER I’ve finished the last prayer and expressed my Intentions–for the world, my kids, my family and loved ones and for me that the pain in my back from shoveling isn’t a hernia but a muscle strain–and I close my eyes. Some nights I barely make it to “Amen” before nodding off. But every night I get there. Because that’s the magic of prayer, folks. You believe… I believe that despite the silence, someone is always listening.

Christmas is a time of beginnings, not endings family, friends and oft times casual readers. Birth. Celebration. That’s what Christmas means to me this year… 2020, the year that we wish time would forget but won’t. All that we’ve been through this year… history will look back on this in many ways. Despite all that we have lost… all THOSE we have lost (God or whatever gods you believe in rest their souls), we can start again. So while my mood is subdued and tempered this year by months upon months of suffering and conflict, and my heart breaks for those that have lost loved ones, jobs, homes and the like, I still believe that our best days are before us. If 2020 was the year that we wish time would forget but won’t, let’s make 2021 the year that we fondly remember in the days, months and years to come as one of the greatest of our shared existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. That’s all I want for Christmas this year FOR you. I think I know… I FINALLY know what I need to do. And I pray that you will too.

Have a Happy Hanukah, a Blessed Christmas, a Merry Kwanzaa and a Monumental New Year, folks. This is your ol’ buddy The Once and Future El Autoro, AKA The Madchronicler…

AKA Frank Marsh signing off. See you on the other side of December 31st. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

What Thanksgiving Means to Me – The Global Pandemic Edition

It feels weird to be writing one of these right now. Let me say that upfront. With all that’s been going on around me–pandemics and politics, death and division–I’ve been… Not dealing with Writer’s Block. I can write. But dealing with a wide range of opinions for the first time in a long time, many of which I am leery of “putting out there” to my not-so-vast Social Mediaverse and limited, ENDWORLD audience. Why? Why not? Confrontation is not my strong suit, nor is it something I welcome. I aspire to get along with everyone and will continue to do so, ever onward. So if you want to know my take on something, drop me a DM, or give me a ring. Happy to chat. End disclaimer.

That’s where I find myself this pleasant, Thanksgiving Eve in The Year 2020 of the Lord, as I compose this from the confines of the house I’ve spent SO MUCH of the year in. I wonder how long we’ll all suffer PTSD every time someone says or writes 2020? Jumped up Jesus on a pogo stick what a year. History is going to look back on this as the year of the Great Pause when the norm we, the people (I love me some Thomas Jefferson, along with some Daveed Digs) shifted overnight and we became, for all intent and purposes a digital society. I can’t say whether that’s good or bad, but I do understand that it is necessary and our “new norm.” Just like PPE and social distancing. Hopefully sometime in the near future we can all gather, safely together somewhere, get rip-roaring blitzed and hug it out. Maybe shed a few tears.

It’s difficult to be thankful friends, and even a few foes. I know. 2020 for many has been as thankless a year as they’ve ever experienced. To everyone that is suffering financially, physically, emotionally or ideologically, please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you. I’ve had my share this year, as well. Not on the level that many have and are experiencing and for that, I am sorry. But even in the darkest of times, happiness can be found if one only remembers to turn on the light. Albus Dumbledore, noted wizard and fictional character, central to the Harry Potter universe said that. And it rings true as Thanksgiving Eve seques into Thanksgiving Day, and I prepare to retire for the night. I’ll pick this up first thing, tomorrow AM. Goodnight all. Sweet dreams.

AND we’re back. Or at least I am. Happy Thanksgiving all! I find myself in my customary position on Turkey Day morning, sitting on my couch, flipping between the Macy’s and 6ABC “parades” with a Sugar Free Monster in one hand and my phone, open to my WordPress ap in the other. I don’t know that they qualify as parades this year (hence the quotes), but I give mad props to the organizers for splicing together consistent events that reflect the dumpster fire, inside a speeding train going off the tracks that HAS BEEN 2020.

As I sit here, I find myself reading back over what I wrote last night, and contemplating, in a seemingly thankless year the things that I AM thankful for. That light that I referenced in the late hours of the night/wee hours of the morning remains. And I realize that against the backdrop of incalculable odds that we, the people have faced on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence this year, we are showing our meddle. Our resiliance. Despite the division that radiates from every protest or Twitter feed, we have in many ways come together, and not reluctantly. Innovation, adaptation… These are two, additional buzzwords we can add to our 2020 list along with the aforementioned PPE and social distancing. And I am grateful for that. We’ve got a long way to go, but if 2020 has shown us anything, it has shown us that we can evolve. Our voices can be heard. Loudly! If we can build upon that… Build upon focusing on our similarities and not our differences, I think we’ll go far. What can I say? I remain an optimist, hopeful that in the days, weeks and months ahead we can unite. Black, Brown or White… Republican or Democrat… Progressive or Conservative, there has been and will always remain a place, right next to me on my couch or via a Zoom call for anyone that wants to join me. I welcome you.

As for other things that I am thankful for? We’ll, there are the obvious ones. My kiddos of course. My minions. Part of that light, even in the darkest of times has been the opportunity to spend more time with them. An extension of this is my job. I am thankful for it because its own adaptability, and ability to adjust on the fly from brick and mortar to virtual has saved me from concerns about childcare, exposure to COVID et al. Added to that is the fact that they took a chance on me, two weeks into a global pandemic, and allowed me to stay and be a part of their solution. Never before have I worked for a company that cares as much as they do. I am blessed.

I am thankful for my family, friends and loved ones, as I am every year for their constant support. I am grateful for Destiny 2 (the game), which has given me yet another way to connect, remotely with old friends and new ones. I am grateful for my God-given ability to write. I could go on and on but my assumption is that you get the point. Yes, it has been a rough year. Yes, 2020 will go down in history as one of the most bass-akward years in history, a year in which we lost Sean Connery and Alex Trebek within days of each other, an eventuality made uber poignant only by a well-remebered and revered SNL skit.

But there IS a light, folks. The Universe is tasking us as it’s inhabitants to dig deeper, and see the good despite all the bad. 260K+ Americans taken before their time by an unprecedented and historic pandemic, and millions more worldwide. Too many empty chairs at empty tables this Thanksgiving. It’s enough to bring tears to my eyes as I sit here, typing these words. Millions upon millions unemployed and waiting for hours in food lines across the country and the world. But if we give into desperation… If we stop relying on our better angels to get us through this the hits will just keep on coming, well into 2021 and beyond.

So? My prayer… My wish for you this Thanksgiving is simple. Turn on the light. Find good within the bad. Find similarities with those you’ve always considered different. In the end, and at our core we are all the same. Humanity. Diverse. Black, Brown or White… Republican or Democrat… Progressive or Conservative. ALL of us created equal. Now. And forevermore. God, I really do love me some Jefferson. And Digs. Quick addendum: I am incredibly thankful for Lin Manuel Miranda and “Hamilton.” I’m even singing “What Did I Miss?” In my head right now. End parenthetical aside.

Happy Thanksgiving to my not-so-vast Social Mediaverse and limited, ENDWORLD audience. God bless.

F.