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.

On Two Years of Days Gone By

I wanted to entitle this piece “Days Gone By,” but it dawned on me as I started typing that that is the title of “The Walking Dead, Season One, Episode One,” and in light of my fervent devotion to that show through it’s good times and bad (and there have been plenty of both), compounded by how incredible an episode it was (and still is) I decided to change it up a bit. Hence the title of this blog post which incorporates it, but does not directly quote it in an effort to pay reverence to it without stealing it. So… Yeah. There you go.

Two years ago today–September 28, 2018–I embarked on a new life journey. It was not a journey I, at that time was very happy about but looking back now, I understand that despite my aversion to it, it was necessary. I was stepping out of my humble little world in and around Broomall, Pennsylvania and into an unknown world of Single Dadhood about 20 minutes away in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. I was adrenaline-filled but scared; I was relieved but sad. I was beaten but emboldened… Determined to make a life for myself and my minions. I was a walking, talking and breathing hodgepodge of emotions. Not a facsimile of a smiling face but the embodiment of a pensive frown. And that afternoon, after I settled on my new home I came here, and snapped this picture:

I believe this is the first time anyone has seen this picture. I did not post it on social media because at that time, my situation was known only to my closest friends and family. I was not ready to answer questions about where I was, or what I was doing in Swarthmore versus Broomall. Separation, nay divorce is not a fun topic to discuss as anyone that has been through it or is going through it right now will tell you. It wasn’t until almost two months later that I went public across my Social Mediaverse with the truth. While there have been subsequent decisions made that I do regret, I do not regret that one. I needed to be ready. So I waited for the timing to be right, and to this day I appreciate everyone that messaged, called, emailed or texted me thereafter. Booyakasha. Respect.

The subsequent weeks, months and years between September 28, 2018 and now–two years worth of days gone by–have been by far the most challenging and rewarding of my 45+ year life, too date on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve experienced moments of incredible joy and crippling sadness. I’ve changed in ways I never thought possible and I continue to do so, each and every day of my life, even now. I’ve doubted myself and my resolve more times than I can count. I’ve replayed two plus decades of my life in an effort to figure out why and how I ended up here. What did I do wrong? What lessons can be learned and how can I endeavor, ever-onward and not make the same mistakes again?

Such introspection, my friends, family and oft times casual readers is equal parts maddening and cathartic, all in the vain hope of answering questions which, I know now cannot all be answered. I’ve spoken and written in the past about how letting go, for me is difficult. I don’t give up easily and I sure as sh*t don’t walk away from things without resistance. But now? Two years detached from that moment, sitting upon the steps of my deck at my new home (the first new one I’d known in almost 15 years), I understand that not knowing all the answers is okay. Sometimes the key to moving forward is to acknowledge and accept the unknown as something that just happened. Right, wrong… You can micromanage the f*ck out of it if you want but you’ll never know everything. You’ll never have a complete understanding of the “why.” There is only the “is,” as in this is where I am meant to be. It has its perks and drawbacks, but I am here for a reason. Damn the past like you damn the torpedos. My present is all that matters. It, not my past is what should drive me into the vast, undiscovered country that is my future. I see that now. I acknowledge it, and I welcome it.

A few hours after the above picture was taken, my minions came to visit me here for the first time. We ordered Swarthmore Pizza (which has become a most-weekly, Friday night tradition) and sat in my then-empty sunroom with no television… Nothing but our own voices and thoughts to keep us company. I cannot remember what we talked about. After dinner, we wandered down to the corner park at sunset and I watched with joy as they played there for a time. I snapped another picture there that I did share across my Social Mediaverse. This one.

In those waning moments of daylight on September 28, 2018, I remember watching them play. A spring of happiness, mixed with sorrow welled up inside of me. I was sad about what I was leaving behind, but emboldened by the opportunity ahead of me. After they left, and before I returned home to Broomall for the last time–I officially moved out and moved in here the next day–I wrote the following Social Media post:

Change is inevitable. Life is a series of moments that move you in a different direction than you originally intended. Take it from me: You never end up where you thought you’d end up. But how you roll with the changes? How you adapt to the things life throws your way determines the person you become. You can either look back in anger or look forward and believe that there IS A REASON why you are where you are. Embrace the changes. Use them to remake yourself into something new and improved. You Version 2.0. The best version of you you can be.

Every so often, despite our inclination to forget the “was” and focus on the “is,” we need to be reminded of where we were and who we were because oft times, guys and gals, we forget. I’ve worked hard to follow my own advice over the last two years of days gone by. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes? I fail. I fall. Why do we fall? We fall so that we can get back up. And THAT Is the greatest lesson I have learned in the last two years. To fall… To fail is human. How we respond to those moments is what matters. I know that now. I believe it. And if the above quote was my mantra before? Let this be my mantra now. I will always… ALWAYS get back up. For me. For them. For all of you. And my wish this unseasonably warm night in late September from the confines of my bedroom is that you, too, will resolve to do the same.

One last memory before I call it a night. This one is from this afternoon. One, last picture. Me, after two years of days gone by. Me at the end of my lunch break, preparing to resume working from home. Older. Wiser. Sometimes dumber. Definitely grayer and with a bit less hair in the front (but way more on the top, sides and in the back ’cause pandemic hair don’t care!). But still determined. Renewed. Ready. My facsimile of a smile may be gone, but my pensive frown, turned a bit of a grin remains.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. God bless all. And good night.

F.

Retrospective

Back in college–when we all lived in either PSU Ab-Oz or State Pen–I wrote what I thought was going to be an epic… MY epic poem, entitled “Retrospective.” What was originally intended to be a much longer piece ended up being roughly three pages long, single spaced and typed. Elements of that poem–written sometime in the Winter of 1996-1997–made it into what DID become my epic, and arguably the greatest thing I ever wrote, “For All That Has Passed.” If you’ve read my second novel, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD (which is, incidentally, available for purchase via a number of electronic and traditional outlets, a list of which can be found HERE), you read it. I’ll not explain how or why it made it in there (if you read it you know, and if you’re planning on reading it no spoilers). And I’m glad I included it, because it personalized the writing process for me. Writing, at it’s nature is a personal experience, and things that you’re proud of SHOULD be put on display. But I digress. Sh*t, when do I ever not?

Fast forward to two years ago now. August of 2018, over 20 years after I wrote “Retrospective” and a few months pre-my publication of CHILDREN. My life? Well? It hadn’t turned out the way I’d drawn it up. My marriage was ending. I was in the process of buying a house. I was suffering through the waning months of my time spent at CareersUSA and… Well? You know all of this if you’ve be reading my ramblings for the last few years. No need to recap, herein what was and remains an equally painful and liberating time in my existence. Life change fosters retrospective, and you are helpless not to look back, consider where you went wrong and wonder where you are going and, more importantly, where you will be in a few years. I did a lot of that back then. Not publicly, or in the written word but privately, with my family and friends. It hurt too much to write it down at that time. So I waited. I thought. I remembered. I considered a retrospective of my life as it had been, and where I was going. I cried. I laughed. I grew angry and eventually, I resolved to somewhat reluctantly move forward.

The last two years have been a mixed bag of very good, very bad, very sad and at times humorous life experiences. My brief foray into dating which resulted in both the worst date of my life and the best in the space of one weekend. And that was pre-entering into a relationship with my current partner in crime, Heather. Two job changes. Innumerable financial struggles. Multiple blog entries and now? A global pandemic which has forced me into a Work-From-Home position for the last five months. In retrospect? The LAST two years of my life have been as, if not more eventful than the previous 20. And lately, perhaps because of said pandemic I’ve found myself looking back in retrospect once again. Not just at the last two years but at my life as a whole. Almost 45 years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Godd*mn. Has it been that long?

I am cursed with a photographic memory. I always have been. I can remember moments from 15 years ago as if they’d happened yesterday. Not all, but many. What they felt like. How they felt. The clear, cold blue sky of a Winter’s day in State Pen, sitting upon a heating grate outside “The Shrine of Education,” journal in hand and pen in another, writing despite the chill in the air. The hazy, dark sky over a beach in Mexico as I watched thunderheads form in the distance. The way 10000 stars looked overhead upon a mountaintop, miles away from civilization and the smell of Summer wild flowers in early bloom, something akin to lavender. The tropical scent of a hurricane as it rotated overhead, and the eerie calm that fell over the world in the midst of its eye. The way my soon-to-be ex-wife looked on our wedding day. The feel of my newborn daughter sleeping upon my shoulder. The touch of Heather’s hand upon mine on our first date. Everything. Both a curse, and a blessing. A curse because it hurts to remember certain things, and a blessing because I want to remember others. Retrospective. A life less extraordinary.

I know that life is about letting go so as to be able to grasp onto something new. But I hate endings. I’ve said this before and I say it now because, IMO it bears repeating. And I’ve struggled with that a lot lately. I’ve never been able to relinquish my hold on the past easily. It takes time, moreso I think for me BECAUSE I have a photographic memory. But to live in the past and deliberate upon things done or not done leads to only loneliness, and though there is a part of me that sometimes WANTS to be the Old Man and the Sea, I know that I would never be happy as such. I need my family and friends around me. So I stay. I stick. And I hope and pray that one day in the not so distant future, I will be able to stop looking back in retrospect and look forward at where I go from here. Despite my inclination to not look forward and focus on the NOW, I think that at long last I am… Maybe not 100% ready, but closer than I have ever been to that point in my life.

Once upon a time (’cause all good, and some bad stories begin as such William MacNuff old buddy/old pal), I had a conversation with someone about how the pain we’ve experienced in life, in many ways more than the joy dictates who we are, and who we will one day become. It was a spirited argument. Some hurt, she reasoned, cannot be a part of who we are and who we will become because damnit, it hurts too f*cking much. In retrospect, I will concede this point to her because as I have learned over the last few years especially, some pain is too deep… Too crippling to carry with you. With ME. Some wounds are too deep to ever properly heal, kind of like Frodo’s stab wound from a Morgul weapon in “The Lord of the Rings.” That concession? That’s the point I am at now, as I lie here in bed, typing these words on my phone, on my WordPress app while nursing a bit of a hangover and waiting for Heather to get here. I should be out food shopping. But it can wait. THIS is more important.

I need to move forward. I cannot let it dictate where I go from here. And that, good friends, family and sometimes readers is the lesson I have learned from my pandemic-induced retrospective, and the one I impart upon you today. Keep moving forward. Always. Don’t allow pain and regret to keep you from embracing your NOW and, by association, your future. Wish your past well but say “goodbye.” Don’t carry it with you. Live. Love again. Don’t become the Old Man or Woman and the Sea. Our time here on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is too short to squander it. Let your NOW, not your THEN dictate your future. And be happy. Talk less. Smile more. Booyakasha, “Hamilton.” Respect.

The hero in my ongoing ENDWORLD Series, William MacNuff is fond of writing “I’ve been here before,” or some variation there of in his chronicle. I too have been here before. I remember this feeling as if it were yesterday. I am tired. Worn out. Inclined to sleep for a day or two. Will I? Heck no. I’ve got too much to do. When I was last here I was empty inside. That is not the case now, and for that I am grateful. Despite my pounding head I will, upon finishing this little piece of mental flatulence, get up, go downstairs, greet Heather at the door and GO. Wherever you are and whatever you are feeling right now please do the same. Join me and make your life, however extraordinary it has or has not been too date something to remember. And I’ll see you soon.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

F.

On Memories in the #AgeofCorona

Memories. We all have them. Defined in my old, Oxford Dictionary–AKA The Big, Silver Book That You Can Bludgeon Someone With that has sat on my desk since… College? High School? I wish I knew–as “mental faculty by which things are recalled; store of things remembered; recollection, remembrance” et cetera et cetera. Memories. We all have them. Some more than others. Often times I wish mine weren’t so prevalent. And tonight? Tonight a whole slew of them came rushing at me like an out of control freight train, or a big, silver book swung at you by a Major League Fireballer that throws somewhere between 98-102 MPH. And finally… FINALLY after weeks of silence and quarantine the old gears started turning again. And here I am. Here we are friends, family and oft times casual readers. So? Let’s get schazzy.

Tonight, Cara and #NatNatBoo wanted to play Uno Attack. For those unfamiliar with this game it’s basically Uno on ‘roids. Instead of drawing a card or cards you push a button on a simple machine, and said machine coughs out none, one, two or as many as 10 cards at you which you then have to corral. You can’t control it. It’s totally random. So if you don’t like cards flying at your face at around 25 MPH it’s not the game for you. But I digress. For some reason, my 10 year old, some times preteen wanted us all to play with stuffed animals. She ran to her room and grabbed her stuffed dolphin Winter, an old, yellowing owl that #NatNatBoo used to chew on when she was teething and? And. My old teddy bear Ixo Facto. Not Ipso. Ixo. Ixo has taken up residence in Cara’s room for years and for some reason, she broke it out tonight. And BAM. Memories. A whole sh*t-ton of them.

Those of you, reading this that are not familiar with the story of Ixo Facto be grateful. It’s a long and sordid tale that I will not get into tonight. All you need to know is that Ixo was gifted to me by someone a very long time ago… Someone who meant a great deal to me for… God. Ages. Sunrises and sunsets beyond end. Said person has not been a part of my life for decades but memories? They’re a bitch, folks. And they have a way of coming back when you don’t expect them. As soon as Cara handed him to me I staggered from a landslide of them. Total f*cking recall of a younger version of me… A guy who wore fedoras and black trenchcoats, smoked clove cigarettes and wrote poetry. A beardless version of the guy I see in the mirror every day with less gray hair and a sparkle in his eyes. Life has dimmed that a bit. It’s receded my hairline a smidgen and given me crows feet if I squint too hard. But he’s there. Always there. Like memories. They never fade.

We want them to. We work awful hard to push them way, WAY back into our subconscious. We bury them under obligation; trying to balance home schooling our kids in this #AgeofCorona while fulfilling our work from home (WFH) responsibilities, paying our bills and the like. As a writer, blessed (or cursed, I leave that for you to decide) with one heck of a photographic memory, it’s a constant struggle for me. I’ve fought my memories for the longest time, intent to occasionally fictionalize them in the pages of a novel or an oft times unfinished story. Because Writer Frank and Working Frank are two completely different entities. One dreams while the other puts food on the table. Is there a way to reconcile the two? I wish I knew. But it feels like one has success at the expense of the other, and the balance that I strive for daily gets thrown out of whack. I’ve wished and prayed for many things over the course of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve been fortunate to have many of those wishes come true and many of my prayers answered. But that balance? That reconciliation of the Artist with the Provider? It alludes me to this day. So what do I do? Where do I go from here?

That my peeps is the question that plagues my mind this unseasonably cold and quarantined Tuesday at the tail end of April, 2020. Maybe I need to stop fighting. Maybe I simply need to pick a path and take it. The road less travelled, or the one that’s worn from overuse? There’s a life down both paths. A good one I think. Full of love and success and in the end? Peace. But I am only one man in millions and one man cannot forge two, seperate destinies. There is only one for each of us. Yes, I believe in fate. I further believe that there comes a point in your life when you need to make a choice. And that really is the crux of Frost’s problem. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I? I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.” Do I follow in his footsteps and… For lack of a better phrase “give it a whirl?” Or do I stick with what I know? Play it safe like I always have and trudge, ever onward into the future?

I have no idea. Ain’t that a bitch? Not exactly a poetic and Frost-like summation of my current state of mind, but hey: That’s a part of who I am, as well. Fedoras have given way to comb-backs and black trenchcoats to button down Oxfords. Clove cigarettes… Heck, cigarettes in general have been replaced by a Juul. My once-clean shaven face is covered by a thickening and graying quarantine beard. The memories of who I was, while ever-present occasionally take a back seat to the knowledge of who I am. Frank Marsh, Business Development Consultant. Don’t get me wrong… I like what I do. I actually LOVE it and feel incredibly blessed to be where I am, professionally at this time, especially when so many others out there are struggling. If you’re reading this and you are, please know that I think of you often, and would give anything to make it all go away. But I can’t. All I can do is pray for you and hope against hope that this bizarre, “new normal” that we’re all living in right now is the precursor to something awesome. Now and always, I say booyakasha. Respect. We WILL get through this. And I promise you that when we do, I’ll fire up my non-existent grill (working on it) and have you all over for Superburgers. We’ll drink, and hug (not necessarily in that order), reminisce about where we’ve been and talk at length about where we are going.

Which brings me back to Ixo. And memories. Memories are a reminder of who we were. They are a part of who we are and to deny them their place in our respective lives is near-sighted. I apologize if you don’t agree with that. But I’ve gotten in the habit of veering away from opinion over the last few years and that one? It’s mine and expressed. If you’d rather forget then by all means do so. I’ll never think less of you because of it. Had Ixo never come into my life I don’t know where I’d be. Not here. Probably someplace very, VERY different. But Ixo and his story taught me a valuable lesson. He and his tale taught me how to love. And the lessons? They hurt for a very long time. And occasionally? They still do. But portions of life are steeped in pain, folks. I’ll never dwell on them… I stopped doing that a long time ago. But I’ll always acknowledge them when they return and then? God willing, my gears will start turning and I’ll write about ’em. ‘Cause that’s what Frank Marsh does.

And with that? This rambling piece of #CoronaQuarantine induced Mental Flatulence draws to a close. Out go the usual thank yous. To my minions Cara and #NatNatBoo for a spirited and incomplete game of Uno Attack earlier tonight (we’ll be resuming post-home school and work tomorrow). To Heather, whom I love, who has been texting me for the last 45 minutes or so and is likely wondering what the f*ck I’m up to. Now you know sweetie. Thanks for your patience. To everyone who is reading this right now… Friends, family and oft times casual readers, thank you. God bless you, keep you and watch over you in the days and weeks ahead, as we continue to navigate our… for the most part shared “new normal” in the hope that maybe, just maybe our days staring out our windows at the world as it slowly, slogs by will soon come to an end. And finally? A bit of a departure. A long overdue thank you. For Ixo Facto. For the story behind him and the person that inspired it. Inspired me. Maybe the first. Hopefully not the last. Booyakasha. RESPECT.

FM.