On the Road to 100, What I’ve Learned and What I Still Have to Learn on This Side of the Proverbial Wormhole of Existence

Wow. I wonder if that wins the award for my longest title ever. Survey says? Not even close. Thank you Richard Dawson! Please, don’t kiss me. Wait. What? Richard Dawson is dead? Oh my God. He died in 2012 (thanks Wikipedia; mind the gap). Figures. I haven’t even thought of him since I wrote about him, so long ago in Random Musings Version 1.0. I guess him kissing me is not a concern any longer, huh? Cool. Insert sigh of relief HERE. Now I can focus on the business at hand. Which is…

Drum roll PLEASE…

Blog Entry Number 100! Yay! We made it! You, me, Pinky Lee, Rizzo, Kenickie and everyone else that has had or will have a featured role in blog entries past/this blog entry. It’s been a long and winding road to get to this point, and I can think of a number of people to thank. Even Dennis Rodman who–fun fact–was the featured topic of one of my lesser read pieces of Mental Flatulence, “In Which I Abruptly Break from Writing CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD to Discuss a Topic of International Importance.” I tried to look up the stats on that one and couldn’t, but if I remember correctly, it was around 10. Yes, 10. No, not 10 visitors. 10 views. And two or three of them were likely me. It just goes to show how relevant Dennis Rodman was back in 2016, huh? I honestly don’t think it’s changed much in the intervening time since. If anything, he’s even less relevant now. I could argue the same about myself but… ah sh*t. I digress. Crap, when do I ever not?

Since I’m a bit of a stat guy, here’s a couple. Mind you, these are the stats for Random Musings 2.0. I am unable to view my pre-2.0 stats, i.e. my 1.0 stats though for the record, those blog entries/pieces of Mental Flatulence WERE imported to this site, shortly after I made the change and hence would count toward my total views, vistors etc..  So? Ah, screw it. Let’s just count ’em all together. I can’t imagine that 1.0 got a ton of traffic pre-Wordpress anyway.

Random Musings Version 1.0 and 2.0, since 2012:

Views: 6,353
Visitors: 4,313
Best [Daily] Views Ever: November 3, 2016; 546 (“Remembering the Mayor of Maple Street”)
Most Popular Day: Tuesday; 45% of all views
Most Popular Time: 7PM; 29% of all views
Total WordPress Followers: 75

Survey says? Not uber-impressive by any standard though it warms my heart, to this day to see how much interest “Remembering the Mayor of Maple Street” had early on and has had in the time since. That one came from the heart, guys and gals. The best I could do to eulogize, in my own way, a giant among men. Thank you for reading it. And thank you for reading… well sh*t, everything I’ve written on here. Even the one about Dennis Rodman. All 10 of you. Views. Not visitors. God Bless.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this previously but it bears repeating herein: Writing, for me, was never about fame. It wasn’t about fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory. If that came with it great. But it’s just… it’s simple, really. It’s something I like to do. I always have and hopefully always will. Writing was always about speaking my mind and saying what I needed to say when I was afraid to say it aloud. About telling a story. Whether people agreed with me or not, and more than a few of you disagreed with me over the years. The one about Charlie Brown growing up and the one about “Dora the Explorer: A J. J. Abrams Film” were especially polarizing. Thanks for never being afraid to call me out. Booyakasha. Respect.

People over the years have asked me “why?” Why write? Why keep at it when you have no way of knowing for sure whether you’ll ever achieve anything more than a localized, social media-driven following, along with a semi-fervent Endworld fan base in, of all places, Central America? The answer to that question is relatively simple, and it’s been the same, every time someone has asked me it. Why? In the immortal words of Jane’s Addiction, “Just Because.” Just because. Because if I can speak to one person… if I can write something that affects a single soul on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence then in my eyes? I’ve done my job. I’ve succeeded. Sure, I’d love to be the guy or girl that gets to write for a living, but maybe… just maybe that’s not in the cards for me, AKA El Autoro, AKA your old buddy the Madchronicler. And if it’s not? If this blog, and my completed two novels in The Endworld Series—along with the barely started third—are my legacy then so be it. Fates be kind. I hope y’all have enjoyed the ride ‘cause I sure as sh*t have.

All that said, I hope to continue this ride with you for many, many years to come. Honestly? There was a part of me that considered ending Random Musings with this blog entry. I even discussed it with someone I recently re-connected with a few weeks ago. Their question? “Why?” Why stop? What point save for a symbolic one would stopping serve? I couldn’t answer them then, but I can now. Why? What point? In short: None. Like Miley Cyrus I can’t and won’t stop because these trite, long-form brain farts that I classed up with the phrase Mental Flatulence many, many moons ago when I, my friends and family all lived in and around J-Town, Oz and/or State Pen and no one lived anyplace else are as much a part of me as Endworld is.

Many of you reading this right now know me. You know that I’ve always been a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. I guess you could… you can argue that I further wear my words on my sleeve. Sleeves. Plural. Because I’ve written a lot. A veritable sh*t ton of material, honestly, not all of which you’ve seen and not all of which will see the light of day before I shuffle off this mortal coil many, many moons from now God willing. And at it’s core everything that I’ve ever written has been a reflection of some aspect of me. The person I was. The person I am. The person I want to be. The ideal I dream of. The hero I wish I was in the case of William MacNuff. So? If you tuned out a long time ago like 75% of The Walking Dead’s audience (not me, though; I remain invested and Godd*mn! Aren’t the Whispererers, specifically Beta bada**?) and just popped back over to see what I’ve been up to for 99, now 100 blog posts you should probably look away. Look away NOW. Because this isn’t the end. It’s an end, but not the end. Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 3.0? Perhaps. To go along with Frank Marsh Version 3.0. Survey says? Sure! Why the f*ck not?

Yeah. I guess a reboot of sorts is in order, isn’t it? I think I’ll stay here, though: I’ve kind of gotten used to this URL (though I have to figure out how to get that 2.0 out of it and replace it with a 3.0). Random Musings Version 3.0, otherwise known as yet another attempt by me, one of a number of sh*theads living on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence (the world is still full of them, ya’ know; sh*theads, not wormholes) to make sense of an oft times screwed up universe in his… in my own, occasionally self-reflective way. Because let’s face it, everyone: The universe is inherently f*cked up. It doesn’t matter which side of the wormhole you live on, or what you believe or whether you’ve been reading my ramblings for the last seven to 10 years or you just started reading now. The bottom line is that it’s virtually impossible to make sense out of chaos. Senselessness. And yet despite how it appears on the surface at it’s core, I have always believed and will always believe that there is an underlying beauty to the universe on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Call it God if you want. A representation of the infinite in any number of spiritual creeds. The All as they call it in Endworld. It’s there. It’s something. There is order beneath the madness and that, friends? That’s what I sought out many, many years ago when I started writing and it’s still what I’m looking for now, at 43 plus years old. Maybe this is the way I find it. Maybe you get to find it with me. Who knows? If you find it before me, though, please let me know. A simple phone call, text message, PM or email will suffice. I really appreciate it.

Which sadly (sad for me; you might be thanking the almighty right now and if you are, it’s cool) brings me to the end of Blog Entry Number 100 which, if I look back over the road that got me here, is really exactly what it should be. No fanfare. More a whisper than a scream. More retrospection and reflection. A little bullsh*t. A touch of Richard Dawson and Dennis Rodman, a sprinkle of Miley Cyrus and a well-remembered, and always loved Mayor of Maple Street. A sh*thead here and a sh*thead there, a wormhole, an alternate reality or two, some stuff about Endworld and me, the former El Autoro turned Madchronicler ruminating on life, the universe and everything because if I don’t write it and do it internally, my brain will explode. Being known as the guy who thought too hard and blew up his brain? Not the kind of fortune and glory, kid, fortune and glory that I’m looking for.

One thing I did want to do before calling it quits on my first 100 blog entries, though, was look back on the first one. Yeah, that one. From Random Musings Version 1.0. The one that started this big a** boulder rolling. The title was “I guess in a way, you always end up right back where you started.” Back then, I was 33 years old. I was toiling away at a little company called Advanced Fluid Systems in Royersford, PA. I was married and a homeowner with two “furry children named Pandora and Roxy” and I was anticipating the arrival of my first, human child. Nicole and I had decided to name her Cara Angelina Marsh. Cara for “beloved” (in Italian) and “friend” (in Irish), and Angelina for it’s Italian meaning—“angel”—and Nicole’s then-94 year old grandmother. “Beloved Angel.” It wasn’t much of a composition—nothing monumental—but looking back on it now—after so much “life, man, life”—I see what it was. What it did. It was a beginning. The first concrete thing I had written in a very, very long time. The rewritten ENDWORLD – A NOVEL evolved from it. CHILDREN, as well. The soon-to-be rewritten HEAVEN. A handful of short stories and other, started but not completed novels and novellas. And now 99 others pieces of Mental Flatulence. Not only was it a beginning. Looking back now, I think that it was THE beginning. And that, guys and gals? That makes me smile. ‘Cause here I am now, 10 years later, after so much has changed and I’m still doing it. Exactly what I always wanted to do. A little bit for me but mainly? For you. Always you.

All of you. And You? Yeah, you. You too.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face. And thank you. Always.

Frank Marsh

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A Quick Hit on a Cold Night in March 2019

So I have this little tradition that I keep to when I finish writing something big. Not just one of these, little pieces of Mental Flatulence. By “big” I mean a novel, and by a novel I mean the two… yes, TWO that I’ve now completed in my 43 plus year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. For those that haven’t seen my social media feed, guess what? CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD is done. Edited. E-Formatted. All that I have left to do now is format it for print and wait on my cover. For anyone that’s interested in the final specs, it clocked in at 397 pages total. That’s a bit shorter than ENDWORLD – A NOVEL, which came in at 442. That number will obviously change when the final, print formatting is done but it’s a good gauge of how much went into this. Almost six years of writing—with extended spells of not writing a word because of, as Beast Boy says in “Teen Titans GO,” “life, man… life.” When I first started writing it, I was an impressionable, 37 year old, first time novelist. Now? I’m still impressionable. But I’ve lived a lot of “life, man… life” in the years since I wrote “I’ve been here before.” No need to rehash the specifics of my life, lived herein. I’ve done that enough, haven’t I?

Some of you may know this and some of you may not, but when I start writing something—whether it’s an Endworld book or one of my many, aborted other attempts at writing—I create a playlist on my Spotify. There are a whopping three, related to this at the moment and they are, aptly titled If ENDWORLD Had A Soundtrack, If CHILDREN Had A Soundtrack and If HEAVEN Had A Soundtrack. All are publicly viewable and able to be listened to if you so desire. If you want to check them out, drop me a line and I’ll shoot you the link(s). I think they’re pretty good. A bit on the dark side. Nary a Taylor Swift song on any of them, though I think… yep. “Love The Way You Lie” by Rhianna is on there. They skew mainly 90s and 00s Alt Rock and Classic Rock, with a little classical thrown in. So? If you love you some Social Distortion and Metallica, alongside Billy Joel and Bonnie Raitt, then your musical tastes are as eclectic and fucked up as mine and OMG, DID WE JUST BECOME BEST FRIENDS!?

Seriously, though, music has been and remains one of my biggest sources of inspiration. That, and real life. The people I know and have known; the ones I’ve loved and sadly lost. My kids. Even my work from time to time. These playlists are exhausted over the time that I am writing the book or story they are related to. I think I’ve listened to If CHILDREN 100 or more times, all the way through. It was constantly on in the background while I was writing and occasionally, it bled over onto the pages like “life, man… life.” There’s a Pink Floyd reference in CHILDREN. A Beatles reference, too. They’re veiled—getting the rights to anything like that is a pain—but they’re there. Anywhos, my tradition? I listen to the soundtrack, most representative of the book or story I just finished writing one more time. Today? I’m listening to If CHILDREN and once it’s done? It’ll be retired forever.

It’s amazing to me how much music can reflect your life. Or rather, the music you listen to. A friend once told me that “God speaks to you through the radio” and gosh darnit, she was right! Take now. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John just came on. Apropos? You bet. The playlists start out small—maybe 25 or so songs—but over the course of writing and living they grow, and blossom. Songs are added, and others are removed. Today, If CHILDREN has… 102 songs total on it. Everything from “My Immortal” by Evanescence to “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember” by Otis Redding. And those are just the last two that played before Sir Elton! There’s instrumental—Beethoven’s “Pathetique” is on all three playlists—and electronica—“Derezzed” by Daft Punk makes ENDWORLD and CHILDREN, but not HEAVEN and to tell you why would venture into spoiler territory so I’m going to STOP before I go there.

The point is that the final listen-through? It’s equal parts cathartic and soul cleansing. I find myself, reluctantly or not reliving a lot of what I went through from start to finish over the course of writing it. Love. Action and adventure. Parenthood. Loss. You name it, and it’s there. Memories. Like snapshots in a Viewmaster. Fading Polaroids of moments in time, captured forever. Nothing more. The Why or the How of something that happened to me? It’s no longer significant. I’ve cried my tears. Shit, I cried when I posted the final specs on CHILDREN earlier today and teared up again when I started reading and replying to people’s responses. It’s the end of an era in my life! I’ll still cry more in the days, months and years to come, but the ones that I’ve shed before this? They’re gone now. This house… this vessel? It’s clean. FINALLY. There is only the NOW. Ever-present and more significant than ever. My friend? I missed you. Now lets go fuck some shit up, turn the universe on its ear and be spectacular.

That said, this isn’t going to be a long blog post. I just got done doing my taxes and between that and work my brain is basically oatmeal. But I wanted to write something. Needed to. Because now that CHILDREN is done and HEAVEN is underway… the circumstances of my life are different. And life inspires. And while CHILDREN is a much different book than ENDWORLD, I can almost guarantee that HEAVEN will be something else entirely. Still, there are a few people I want to thank and sadly, I only get one dedication per book (that’s the unwritten, writer’s law, folks; sorry). Honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way. The dedication at the beginning of CHILDREN has been written for a long, long time and I’ll reveal it to you at the end of this composition. But in the interim:

To the musical artists that inspired me to create three Spotify playlists and write now TWO novels (holy crap: I’m still in shock): From Evanescence to Otis Redding, Beethoven to Daft Punk, Soundgarden, Shinedown, Drowning Pool, Adele and Dire Straits and everyone in between, thank you. Thank you for writing music that inspired and continues to inspire people daily.

To the people that inspired me, both present and past, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You know who you are. The O’Briens and Wetherhills. The surnameless Mercs and Explorators. Vogelsongs. MacIntyres. Refields. McClanes. Markinsons and… you get the point. Sadly, I cannot promise that you all made it out of CHILDREN intact, nor can I assure you that you will survive HEAVEN. Seriously, though, I tried to save as many of you as I could but… yeah. I failed. What I can promise you is that you served or continue to serve the story well and that regardless of your fate, you are and always will be, forever, a part of Endworld, another universe on another side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. To quote House Greyjoy: “What is dead may never die!” Even when the pages have yellowed and turned to dust.

To Nicole Marsh, who was there for Book One, and a good portion of Book Two. To not thank her for being my sounding board and live-in critic would be careless of me. Regardless of where we are now, her support throughout much of the writing process—which is oft times a very, lonely place—cannot go unrecognized. It was always nice to come back from that place that we writers go and see her there. Funny story, folks: In ENDWORLD – A NOVEL, there is a character, named Nicole who pops up briefly at a very specific point. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment but if you read it, you likely remember it. Nicole always gave me a ream of shit for her “cameo appearance” in ENDWORLD. As I explained to her then and I’ll explain to you now, The Endworld Series was always more than just a trilogy of books. Sure, they’re a self-contained story. William MacNuff’s story. From onset to the end which is, sadly, coming soon but there’s more to it than just that. There’s so, SO much more to write once I’m done William’s story. Will I? I leave that up to the whim of fate. And if I’m meant to, I will. But that character features prominently in another story. God willing, you’ll all get to read it one day. One novel at a time, though.

To the universe for consistently making my life interesting. You’ve got a sick sense of humor dude/dudette, but I love you. Thanks for always managing to put a smile on my face, even if it’s a nervous one.

And last, but certainly not least to my children, Cara and Natalie. You two? You’re my everything. I honestly don’t tell you that enough and I should. Daily. The love I feel for you… well? It transcends anything else I’ve ever felt in my life. I may never achieve anything beyond what I already have from this day forth but the fact that you two exist? I am blessed. Barring anything else, you two are and will remain my legacy. Which is why, when it came time to consider and decide upon the dedication to CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD there was, honestly, no alternative.

To Cara and Natalie, my beloved children of this world.

Je’taime.

I think that’s as good a place as any to end, don’t you? “Welcome To The Machine” by Pink Floyd just ended and now? Silence. If CHILDREN Had A Soundtrack is over and hereafter retired. On to If HEAVEN and just for shits and giggles, I shuffled it. Song number one? “When We Were Young” by Adele. Apropos? You bet. Thanks universe. You have always been and remain a fickle and unpredictable companion.

Winky emoticon guys and gals. Smiley face. And holy crap: This was blog entry number 99! Coming soon: Entry number 100! I still have no idea what it’ll be about but stay tuned. And I’ll catch you all on the flip side.

F.

On Saturday Morning Dance Class, Clarity of Purpose and Shameless Plugs

Ah, Saturday morning. Depending on which Saturday it is, I’m either at dance class with my minions or chilling in my sun room, watching Sportscenter. As is, this Saturday falls into the dance class category and here I am, sitting in my customary, corner spot on the bench, closest to the front window of the studio. Generally, when I’m not actively writing a novel, I spend the two hours that I’m here reading. Lately, it’s been the Nate Temple, supernatural thriller novels by Shayne Silvers which–shameless plug for Mister Silvers–are awesome. So, if you’re looking for a good read, and the supernatural is your thing, check him and them out. Then, come back and read CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD in a few months when I publish it! End shameless plug.

Saturday morning dance class has evolved a lot over the years. Three studios and almost eight years after Cara started, I’m exactly where I’ve been for the last six plus. From the Top in Newtown Square, PA. And here’s another shameless plug: If you’re considering introducing your kid or kids, boy or girl to dance and you live in the vicinity of Newtown Square, PA, come to From the Top. Miss Sheila and her team of phenomenal teachers don’t just teach kids how to dance. They teach children how to become teens and, later, adults. They teach responsibility and discipline. They’re one of the greatest things to ever happen to my minions and… There you go. End shameless plug. I now return you to your regular piece of Mental Flatulence, already in progress.

What’s on my mind this morning? Why have I opted to write instead of read? In truth, a lot. And honestly not all stuff I can write about right now. My mind is a veritable hodgepodge of ideas and emotions at present and all I can do is just sit back, and enjoy the fact that for the first time in a very long time, I feel alive. Everything around me–from the map of Michigan I have hanging on the wall of my cubicle at work to the three or four, distinct conversations that are transpiring around me as I write this–has taken on a deeper hue. Is life great? Meh. It’s good. It’s evolving. And that’s part of the reason for this new clarity that I’m experiencing right now. Gone are my Saturday morning Tweetstorms about Crumba and #ThingsIThinkIThink from my customary spot on the bench in Miss Sheila’s lobby. Now, when I Tweet, it’s usually a Retweet of something my buddy Austen posted, or something the #WritingCommunity stated. BTW, since I have now renamed this “On Saturday Morning Dance Class, Clarity of Purpose and Shameless Plugs” here’s another of the latter: Austen McGee. He’s an emerging, short story writer and he’s good. REAL good. Check him, and his award nominated work out on Twitter @AustenMcGee. My personal favorite is “How To Influence Friends and Make People” but there’s more… A LOT more to read so do it. Please. End plug.

I guess I’ve always been inspired by a little chaos. Not a lot. A lot turns me into a veritable wreck, cowering in the corner in fetal position until such time as someone I care about, and occasionally a stranger comes along and tells me to get the f*ck up. And I always do. Sometimes it takes a bit but I’ve never… Stayed down? Conceded? I don’t believe in giving up and neither should you. As Rocky Balboa–a regular fixture in these writings anymore–said once upon a time, “It’s not about how hard you get hit. It’s about about how often you get hit, and get back up.” The only thing that’ll ever TKO my a** is mortality and even then, when that moment finally comes I have every intention of fighting until the bitter end. Because I believe in…

Wait for it…

Mind the gap…

The Dream. The end result of the path I’ve been on on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence for 43 plus years. For the first time in a long time I can see the path again. MY path. We all have one. It’s a combination of what we need to do to survive–our oft times mundane, routine existence–and our dreams. Mine hasn’t changed. It’s been a bit since I last wrote of it and when I did, the only people that read these little pieces of Mental Flatulence we’re my friends and immediate family. So I feel like I can recap it… Frame it here for everyone to read. Hopefully see. And maybe draw inspiration from.

In it–when I close my eyes and envision it–I’m on a beach. I live there. And I’m looking out over the beach and the water before me from the back deck of my house. Distant but moving closer to my left is a squall line, and lightning is visible in the clouds within and behind it. I look at my watch and instinctively time it out. Five minutes away. Maybe less. Closer to me, near the shoreline are two children–one boy and one girl–and they’re picking at the Horseshoe Crab that just washed ashore. It’s still alive, and I shout to them to “put the crab back in the water–pick it up by it’s tail so you don’t get pinched. And get inside! There’s a storm coming.” They look up at me, nod, pick up the crab by it’s tail and do as I asked. Assuming they will follow instructions I turn from the beach, and reenter my house so as to turn off anything electric, including my computer, upon which I’m writing a long-overdue sequel to my original, trilogy of books. Once done, I return to the deck and see that the kids have vanished, and the storm has arrived. Wind-driven rain lashes against the windows of my house forcibly and lightning strikes the area surrounding me sporadically. Thunder booms hollowly and the once docile sea is being whipped into a frenzy. I feel a moment’s apprehension at the disappearance of the children but I know that they are safe. Likely sheltering behind a dune or beneath a pier somewhere near.

I watch as the storm exhausts itself and fizzles within 10 minutes of when it began. I follow it through the sky, up-beach, the curtain of water falling from it obscuring the land in that direction. I can see the sun peaking out from the clouds above and over the water and a barely visible rainbow forms in it’s wake. I hear shouting from down-beach and I turn in that direction. I see the kids running toward me, soaked, but safe and excited. I see that one of them carries something in their hands. As they gain the deck and run up, the girl runs over to me to show me what she carries. It is a flat, disc-shaped piece of glass that must have formed when one of the lightning strikes hit the beach. I congratulate her… Them on their find and invite them inside as I simultaneously hear the front door to the house open, and a voice calls out my name and says “I’m home!” I turn in that direction as the children run past me, my heart leaping as boot falls echo on the hardwood floor, moving closer and closer until finally they round the corner into the room I am in and…

I smile. Fade to Black. End vision. Dream. Whatever you want to call it. I’ve always speculated a bit on what happens next. I won’t do so herein because it’s honestly in flux. Always has been. I think that what happens next is, for lack of a better description, to be determined and a product of time. The WHEN of the outcome I just wrote about is dependent on a lot of factors. But it’s there. MY end result. And guys and gals? We all have one.

So if you’re struggling to find your path, friends and occasional readers, understand that it’s okay. It’s acceptable to question where you’re going. But the answer is right in front of you. You’ll see it one day. When your mind is clear. My only suggestion is that when that day comes if it hasn’t yet, don’t be afraid. No matter how hard it seems or how daunting the task or tasks before you, believe that it’s right. Find strength within yourself and without to do what you need to do to make it happen. I’m not there yet. I’ve still got a ways to go but clarity of purpose has returned to my life. One day, I’m going to be that guy, in the beach house, watching his… Likely grandchildren now play on the beach and hide from the storm. I’m a lot grayer than I was when I originally wrote of it and I’ll likely be even grayer when it finally happens but will I get there? Yes. I will. And when that day comes I’ll be happy, the days of mindlessly ruminating on Crumba and #ThingsIThinkIThing in 140 characters or less from my customary corner spot on the bench by the window in Miss Sheila’s lobby long behind me. Gone. But never forgotten.

And with that? Post number 98 between Random Musings 1.0 and 2.0 is done. It’s only taken me… about 10 years to get here. Ten years, two novels, three jobs, two homes, two children, a lot of fish, three cats, one dog and one marriage later and I’m still going. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and I’ve thanked a lot of people. Today? A shout out to everyone and every place that I mentioned within this composition. Booyakasha. Respect.

Only one more post to go before I hit 100 and that one needs to be a big one. I’m not sure what it’ll be about yet. Heck, I’m not even sure what 99 is going to be about yet but when I figure it out? I promise that you will be the first to know.

Winky emoticon, friends, family and readers. Smiley face. I now return you to your regular lives and respective paths, already in progress.

F.

On Valentine’s Day, Otherwise Known as V-D Day in my Subjective Universe

It’s no secret to anyone that’s known me for an extended amount of time that I… hate is a strong word. I try not to use it that often. But decry? Decry is a good one. Okay. Let me start again.

It’s no secret to anyone that’s known me for an extended amount of time that I decry Valentine’s Day. Once upon a time…

Because all good, and some bad stories begin as such…

There was this guy. He was an ancient ancestor of your buddy the Madchronicler and by “ancient,” I mean 25 or so years ago. He called himself El Autoro and he was known around the Penn State, Abington-Ogontz Campus (known then as “Oz” or, later, “Ab-Oz”) as an outspoken opponent of… well? Anything, really. He was known for anonymously critiquing everything from the Club Room there to… yes! You guessed it: Valentine’s Day. He used to post and circulate his musings and, at times, ramblings around campus for everyone to see. He gained a bit of a rep for it. About as close to “fame” as he ever got. These writings? They were called “Mental Flatulence” and they, too, were the ancestors of another form of writing. Specifically, THIS. Blog writing. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, El Autoro? He left Oz/Ab-Oz and went to State College, otherwise known as “State Pen” and became known from that moment forth as… yep. You guessed it. The Madchronicler. El Autoro was me and I was he. I guess in a way I still am. I think I’ve said this before now and it bears repeating: You are your past. Good and bad. Just don’t let your past govern your present. So yes: I am he. And I always will be to some extent. And he? He hated Valentine’s Day. And by association? So do I.

He/I called it and still call it “V-D Day.” I am confident that I don’t need to elaborate on the reference any further and that you “get it.” V-D Day: Nothing more than a fake holiday, created and nurtured by our society as a means to increase retail sales during historically the slowest time of the year, i.e. the Dead of Winter. Post-New Year’s and pre-Saint Patrick’s Day. When the sky is, almost daily, gray and disgusting, the temperature never gets above 40 and you are constantly plagued by a threat of either snow, sleet, freezing rain, Alberta Clippers and/or Nor’easters. Often times at the same time (like today; since I woke up this morning and started my trek into work, I’ve seen snow, freezing rain, sleet and now? Plain old rain, all courtesy of an Alberta Clipper that is merging with and becoming a Nor’easter). Even being in a committed relationship from 2001 until recently didn’t temper my disdain of V-D Day. Thankfully, my now-ex wasn’t a fan either so we rarely celebrated it.

But? But. Here I am, on the other side of a break-up in February of 2019. T-Minus two days until the 14th and I find myself wondering… pondering. I’m attempting to embrace this new life of mine as a single dad and with it? A number of changes. Should I also allow myself to… not necessarily embrace but entertain the thought of… SHIVER… celebrating Valentine’s Day again? I wasn’t always driving the Valentine’s Day Bitter Bus. There was a time, many, MANY moons before this where I did. Back in the mid-90s, I actually enjoyed one of the best nights of my life on February 14th. I won’t go into the specifics of it herein. It’s another story, for another time but again, those that know me now and have known me since those wayward days of my late teens/early 20s know EXACTLY what I’m referring to. Needless to say, the change… this well-documented change in my mentality happened shortly thereafter. Maybe it was a product of that night. To achieve perfection on so many levels and basically have the moment you’ve waited for for years ripped away via your own naivety? It’s a tough pill to swallow. Made worse by the fact that that particular pill hung around for a while, lodged in my throat until time and experience dissolved it and it oozed slowly down and into my stomach, never to be seen or heard from again. It’s a memory and to some extent? It remains. But memories, I’ve realized, are like snapshots in a Viewmaster, or a fading, yellowing Polaroid that sits in a cookie tin, full of pictures in the basement of your new home. There when you need inspiration, but no longer fluid. Passed. The Past. Gone, but never forgotten.

The good news? I don’t have to worry about it this year. Unless something changes drastically between now and Thursday I’ll be spending Valentine’s Day as I’ve spent almost every other V-D Day for the last 25 odd (and yes, they have been odd) years: Working. And hanging out at home in the evening. In all honestly? I’m perfectly fine with that. These last six or so, even odder months have been, at times, daunting. Change is inevitable but does it have to be so… Damn… Exhausting? Survey says? No clue. Maybe. I guess it all depends upon the person and how said person adjusts. I feel that I’ve adjusted as well as I can to my new life. Frank Version 3.0 as my friend Matt calls it (booyakasha, sir. Respect) is, I think, a better me than the me I was for many, MANY years. My focus is where it needs to be: Squarely on my kids and my responsibilities to them and to myself. And while there is a little part of me that’s starting to wish for… bless me Father… companionship? It’s not an overwhelming need at this time. I am, after all, a hopeful romantic at my core and always will be and it’s been… some time since I felt that closeness with someone that I had that night, back in the mid-90s or over the first 10 or so years of my marriage. But the difference between Frank then and Frank now echoes the difference between El Autoro and The Madchronicler. Back then, I and my alter-ego were driven by our need to feel closeness with someone. We were driven, oft times mad by our desire to “be with” someone. Have a relationship. Hold hands, et cetera, et cetera. Now? Now it’s not the thing that drives me, AKA The Madchronicler, AKA the guy who writes these rambling pieces of electronic, Mental Flatulence. We… I have love in my heart for my minions. For my family and friends. For writing and staffing, binge-watching and taking long, thought-filled walks which will hopefully evolve into runs in the near future assuming the temperature here in Southeastern Pennsylvania tops 40 degrees in the near future (early Spring my a**, Phil; someone should take you out behind the woodshed and turn you into a hat). For talking to people I haven’t spoken with in a while, redeveloping friendships that sadly didn’t receive enough attention over the years and should have. For just… being. Existing. Letting life come to me. You know the litany at this point, folks. No need for me to repeat it.

I will explicitly state this one caveat, though: I don’t want to be alone forever. There. It’s said. I can wait… I will wait for the right person to come along. Even if I have to wait a handful of years before then I will. I can deal. But there’s really something to be said for having a companion on the journey of life. Whether it’s a companion for just one night, as it was that night many, MANY moons before this when El Autoro still lived in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania and no one lived any place else, or a constant one as it was from the early 2000s through recently, we as human beings need that. Not it, and by “it” I’m referring to the thing that gave V-D Day it’s name that I refused to reference earlier in this composition and will not reference here (sorry). That’s actually not that important. Seriously. I know, I’m shocked to hear myself saying it, as well. But sharing your life with someone? Walking the oft times rutted throughways of the universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, hand-in-hand with another soul? THAT’s pretty important. Mucho importante, as El Autoro would have said. I know that now. So I’m cool with my downtime, at present. But I’ve got a big f*cking heart and eventually, I’m going to offer it to another person. And this time? It’s going to be the right one. No do-overs now. I’m 43 years old going on 44. Everyone tells me I’m young but in truth? I’m at least half way through my life (if the current life expectancy of a still overweight casual smoker is to be believed) at this point. The first part? It was quite a ride. Filled with nights like that one back in the mid-90s and that one back in November of 2001 when I kissed my then-wife-to-be for the first time. Filled with mornings like the ones on which I held my minions, slimy and squirming for the first time. But further filled with nights like the one when my now ex-wife told me she wanted a divorce and I finally agreed. Or the day I had to leave work and rush home because my youngest broke her arm at school. Heart-filling and stomach-turning… that’s life, kids and kiddos. Anyone that tells you differently is lying to you. Don’t believe them. Or? Don’t believe me and continue about your business. I won’t hold it against you either way. But HEED ME, guys and gals: I know what I’m talking about. As we used to say back in the day, “been there, done that and own the t-shirt.”

And that’s it! Friends, family and sometimes casual readers: I’m done. Resolved: El Autoro, AKA The Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh will, from this moment forth, NOT spend his every, waking breath between New Year’s and February 14th talking or writing about how much he hates V-D Day. Instead, he’ll resolve… he resolves to at least give it a shot moving forward. What can it hurt? To paraphrase my earlier statement: Though the past is a part of who we are today, our present and more importantly, our future shouldn’t be dictated by it. That’s called dwelling, not letting life come to you. And I’m not a fan of the former anymore. The latter though? I kind of dig it. In case you couldn’t tell, sarcasm 100% intended.

So to all of you reading this and some of you that aren’t, may your Capitalistic Feus-Holiday be filled with overpriced chocolates, cards, kisses, “it” if that’s your thing, dinners that you can’t afford and one or two big Hershey Kisses ‘cause really? What says love more than a big a** Hershey Kiss that you got on markdown at your local CVStress. Vermont Teddy Bears, too. They’ve got a zombie one this year. Its wearing a shirt that says “I HEART BRAINS YOU,” and holding a heart, in the shape of an actual heart (thank God for that, at least) that says “I give you my heart.” If I had a companion this year?

Yeah. Nope. I think I’d opt for flowers over that. Roses, of course. ‘Cause nothing says “love” like giving someone a bunch of plants, cut off from their live-giving source that will die within a few days, right?

I guess I still have a ways to go. So I’ll just say Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s a start. Enjoy, everyone. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

F.

On the Year That Was, and What Lies Ahead

You know friends and sometimes constant readers? I had a whole blog post/piece of Mental Flatulence planned for this New Year’s. It involved Time Travel, the Eagles repeating as Super Bowl Champs et cetera et cetera. I even started writing it, but I quickly realized that finishing it before the ball drops in Times Square at midnight tonight/tomorrow would be impossible. So I scrapped it in favor of this. FYI: This is not going to be a long post which, for me, is a bit of a surprise and for many of you is likely a relief. Breathe easy, folks. I’m only going to take up your time for a few paragraphs. I expect that many of you have plans for tonight and are anxious to get to your revelry. I am, as well—whatever that revelry will entail. But before we crack open our respective bottles of champagne and sing “Auld Lang Syne,” a few… parting words before we close the book on 2018.

I’m sure that one or two of you reading this are looking forward to burning this past year in effigy and embracing 2019. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to do the same. As you know, 2018 has been… a bit of a rough go for your old buddy the Mad Chronicler. I’m not going to rehash the events of the last year herein. As my friend Heather said in a Facebook post earlier today, it has been, at times “a bit of a crapfest.” She’s not lying. It has. And while much of what has happened was… expected? Foreseen? It doesn’t lessen the impact. But surprisingly enough, I’m not ready to… what did I say a few years ago at the tail end of 2016? Oh yeah. “Take a barbwire-wrapped baseball bat” to the year that was. I tend these days to look for the positives in each negative. The silver lining or linings, so to speak. And this past year? I learned a lot. A veritable f*ckload of things, honestly. I’ve talked a little bit about those things over the last few weeks but the most important thing I learned this year is resilience. I’ve always been someone that could role with the punches. That’s a trait I inherited from my mother, a single mom who survived cancer, worked two jobs to put food on the table, survived a couple of at times ungrateful kids and never once flinched. My mother is the definition of an Iron Woman, guys and gals. I don’t speak about her enough in these blog entries/pieces of Mental Flatulence and I should. Mom? Thank you for teaching me that I am, in fact, “Braver than [I] believe, stronger than [I] seem, and smarter than [I] think.” I didn’t know it until this past year. I thought that was just another of your convenient clichés (and you have a lot of them which is not a bad thing) but this year? It proved to be integral. It’s not just a cliché for me, now. It’s a mentality. Thank you for that. Even at 43 plus years old on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, I can still learn a thing or two from you. Booyakasha, Mom. Respect. I love you.

This past year, I also learned that perception and reality are two completely different things. I’ve often confused the two in the past. Call it a product of naiveté, even at the ripe age of 43 years young. I confused the two because I wanted the outward perception of what was my reality to be my actual reality. Another, less elegant way of referring to this is in referring to the difference between a Sh*t-Eating Grin and a real one. A Sh*t-Eating Grin? “So nice to see you! Everything is GREAT. My wife is GREAT. My marriage is STRONG.” That was how I wanted to be perceived for the longest time. Always striving for acceptance by the cool kids or, in this case, my peers. That’s been me and was me for a good portion of my life. But in the end? I realized that a false smile betrays who you are deep, down inside at places you don’t like to talk about at parties. The fact of the matter is? I’m still Frank Marsh. Still that geeky kid that you remember from grade and high school. Still a hopeless romantic and eternal dreamer. Still the guy that used to go on four hour, round trip diner runs at 12AM the night before a Midterm or a Final. I’ll never be a facsimile of a smiley face and I don’t want to be one. When I smile now, I want it to be genuine. And there are moments. When I look at my minions and think, “if I do nothing else good in this life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence… if I achieve nothing more than I have too date, at least I had a part in THAT. In THEM.” That’s the real thing, everyone. And that may be my goal… my resolution for 2019. At least one of them. I also want to start running again and who doesn’t want to drop a handful of pounds? No one, I’m sure. But above all else? I want my smiles to be genuine next year. No more outward perception of peace. If I’m at peace, you’ll see it. But if I’m not? If I’m tortured? I’m not going to force a grin to save someone’s ego. Long story short? “This is me.” Deal with it or don’t? I’ll wish you well in all your future endeavors either way.

And finally? Everything that has happened over the course of this past year has gotten me writing again. Whether it’s this little blog entry/piece of Mental Flatulence, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD or that new story idea I referenced in my last blog post and finally figured out/jotted down a rough outline for yesterday, I’m doing it. Maybe not at the speed and production levels that I was writing at back in my recent heyday of 2011-2013, but give me time. I’m building up a tolerance for it. It’s just like running in that sometimes, you’ve got to walk, and then walk quickly before you can run. You’ve also got to stop smoking cigarettes and lose weight but damn, y’all: One thing at a time. I can’t change everything at once.

Which leads me to a quick little announcement here, on the cusp of 2019. Are you ready for it? Okay. Here it is.

CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD is coming.

Yep. You read that right. Over the last few days I’ve spoken with my editor and my cover artist. My editor is almost finished (booyakasha, Amy. MAD respect) and my cover artist has my concept in-hand and is starting to work on it. Assuming everything else including formatting goes according to plan—which it almost never does but I’m optimistic this time—I’m targeting a Spring, 2019 publication to coincide with the six year anniversary (six? Has it really been six years? Jesus, I feel like George R. R. Martin) of the release of ENDWORLD – A Novel. So for those of you that have been waiting? Thank you for your patience. A million and one thank yous. You will soon get to read the continuation of William MacNuff’s story which, I’ll not lie? Heads down a dark path or two between the covers. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you know how deeply personal a book it was for me to write. At times even more personal than these little ditties. If the last six years brought me anything, it brought me perspective and that bled out of my reality, and into the pages of CHILDREN at a number of points. It’s still got robots, and supernatural, existential sh*t, and one or two little plot twists which I will NOT reveal herein but at it’s core? It’s a vision of my life over the last half dozen years. A true autobiographical fiction. Damn. I really need to patent that term at some point.

And with that everyone? I’m done. I could write more but I think the message I wanted to convey with this has been conveyed. Am I ready to burn 2018 to the ground? F*ck yes I am. But I’m not going to do so without carrying the lessons I learned this year, however hard, with me into the future. 2019 awaits. It is a blank slate, guys and gals. Maybe the Eagles will repeat as Super Bowl Champions. Maybe Time Travel will be discovered. Maybe CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD will go onto sell a million copies and launch me into the realm of literary super stardom. Or? Or. Maybe I’ll simply continue to let life come to me and just… exist. On this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Eternal optimist. Hopeless romantic. The once and future Mad Chronicler. Frank Marsh. Me.

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne.”

Happy New Year everyone. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

F.

My Christmas Carol

Last night, as I was driving out to meet up with friends under the light of a spectacular full moon, I was taken with an idea. It felt like a story but in truth? I haven’t yet been able to figure out the full extent of what’s involved. Might have been the drinks and good conversation, something which has been… not neccesarily lacking in my life recently but definitely not as prevelant as it’s been in the past. Something about new beginnings. That’s the thing about writing. Believe it or not? An idea doesn’t happen all at once unless you are very, very lucky. It usually takes time to develop, and then more time to revise, and still more time to complete… you get the picture. So I’m going to let this one stew for a bit. All I can tell you now is that it’s there. It’s there, and we’ll see where it goes.

But then, driving back, I was taken with another idea and that one has stuck with me since. That’s why I’m sitting here in my sunroom, typing this presently. It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that when it comes to Christmas movies, there are a few that have been and always will be personal favorites. “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Die Hard” and others have taken on an almost mythical quality in my life over my last 43 plus years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existance. But nothing… no Christmas story has ever resonated as strongly with me as “A Christmas Carol.” You may know it as “Scrooge,” or “Scrooged…” it has taken many forms over the years. For me? The best adaption is the 1951 one starring Alastair Sim. It’s easily the truest to Dickens’ original story and Sim’s portrayal of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge is hands down the best one ever.

The fact that “A Christmas Carol” has been redone in so many ways, shapes and forms over the years (Muppets? Really?) makes it pretty clear that any sort of new adaption of it will be… well? Not new. Maybe robots would work but I write enough about robots. I’ll save them for the pages of The Endworld Series and… other, still-to-be written ideas which I will not get into now. But one particular aspect of “A Christmas Carol” stands out to me: The concept of ghosts. Specifically, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. You see, the idea of time past, time present and time still to come has been a constant theme in my life lately. Introspection has been a big way in which I fill the silence 50 or so percent of the time these days. Where have I been? Where am I now? And where the f*ck am I going? I believe that the key to moving forward is to use the first two questions to extrapolate the answer to the third. Whether you agree with that approach or not is your perogative. For now, it’s mine. Letting life come to me is only part of the process.

So that’s where I am this afternoon. That’s why I’m writing this piece of Mental Flatulence right now. This weekend, I was visited by two of Dickens’ three ghosts. Now before you go and reserve me a room at the nuthouse understand that I do not believe in ghosts. At least not ghosts of the Casper variety. The idea of wispy, white and occassionally sheet wearing dead people hanging out in my living room… well? It scares me a bit. And I dig a good ghost story or horror movie. But I feel like if ghosts do exist, then they do not exist in the form that pop culture has portayed them in for millenia. Maybe it’s a dimensional thing, like in that Doctor Who episode, “Army of Ghosts” where the “ghosts,” it turned out, were nothing more than the Cyberman, crossing the dimensional plane to interact with people on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in the interest of eventually invading and conquering them. Spoiler alert: They failed. But the Doctor’s companion and burdgeoing love interest Rose Tyler got locked away in an alternate dimension and… well? I may or may not have cried at the end, but that is neither here nor there. I digress. Back on task, Frank. Back on task.

That’s one interpretation of ghosts that I’m inclined to entertain. If anything it makes for good fiction. But another and, for me, more reasonable and realistic explanation is that a ghost is nothing more or less than an idea. A concept. A reminder of a person that once existed or a state of life that once prevailed. So this weekend? Yes, friends. I was visited by two. Past and Present. The Ghost of Christmas Past actually showed up after the Ghost of Christmas Present but for the purposes of structure and staying true to Dickens’ original concept, I’ll start with the Past.

I mentioned earlier that I went out last night to hang out with friends. What I didn’t mention was that two of the three friends were people that I hadn’t seen in decades. A lot has happened to me over the last handful of years. Some would argue (and have) that it caused me to lose a part of myself. Via introspection–that thing that I do a lot these days and probably shouldn’t–I’m inclined at this point to agree with them. But spending time with the people I spent time with last night? I was reminded of who I once was. By recounting what once was, I remembered for the first time in a long time how it felt to be young, not 43 years old and divorced. How many of you reading this know I used to act and sing in plays and musicals? Probably a bunch of you. Bad example. How many of you know that pre-that, I was in speech and debate, otherwise known as Forensics? Maybe a few less. Another piss poor example. STOP. Okay. But the point here is that rarely over the last handful of years did I even consider those days as I was going about the daily grind of my existence. Who I was was a married father of two, working a job that I hated, all the while trying desperately to stoke a fledgling career as a professional writer between loads of laundry and birthday parties. Writing sporadically was as close as I got to the artist, i.e. the art-eest that I once was. In short? I pushed that part of me aside so as to focus on my obligations. And meeting with the Ghost or Ghosts of Christmas Past brought that back full center. Am I inclined to forsake responsibility and embrace the life of a starving artist again? Hell no. But is there a way to be both? An artist with a relatively full belly, perhaps? Hmm. My thanks go out to the people that I spent time with last night for reminding me of who I once was. In the past. And I’m really excited for the opportunity to get together again soon. To paraphrase Ali G? Booyakasha. Respect.

Which brings me to the Ghost of Christmas Present, whom visited me on Friday night as I ventured out to CVStress Swarthmore for wrapping supplies and stocking stuffers. It should be noted herein that I do not believe in shopping at big box retailers after roughly December 15th of every year. I spent 13 years working in retail at Christmastime and have made it a point to avoid it as much as I can since leaving it behind me in 2005. I could have saved money had I gone to Target but it was worth it, if only to get in and out unscathed. Anywhos, no sooner had I walked in the door than I saw my former work colleague of two years. We talked briefly… she was on her way out and I was on my way in but in a short space of time, we talked about life, work (her new job and mine), and compared our respective states of mind now to where they were a few, mere months ago. In short? We’re both better… much better than we were while slaving away at our previous employer. Not that our lives Monday through Friday are less busy. If anything, they’re busier than they were. But being someplace where we feel respected and needed is a step up from being someplace where we felt expendable despite consistently overperforming and succeeding. To her, let me repeat Ali G’s litany. Booyakasha. Respect. Whereas the Ghost or Ghosts of Christmas Past reminded me of who I was many, many years ago the Ghost of Christmas Present reminded me of where I am now, and how much better off I am than I was a few weeks ago. Let’s be honest, here: My life is not perfect. Far from it. I’m re-learning how to support myself with the extra added variable of supporting two little ladies. I’m lonely some of the time, and introspection/finding things to fill the void only gets me so far. But I’m learning that these… aspects? These things are normal for someone in my position. There will be days but if the good ones outnumber the bad? I guess I’m doing an okay job.

So there you have it. Christmas Past and Christmas Present. Both have visited me over the last couple of days. See? No need to reserve me a padded room at the asylum. If you believe in structure, it stands to reason that I’m due a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future either tonight or tomorrow night, otherwise known as Christmas Eve Eve and Christmas Eve. If so? Two words: Bring it. Or am I? I spoke earlier about another ghastly definition of the term “ghost” and that’s where I’m going with this, friends, and occasionally constant readers. Maybe Christmas Future is not a thing. Not a white fog clad wraith or a metal man from another dimension. Maybe it’s not even a person that once was or a state of existence that will be. Maybe… Just maybe Christmas Future is nothing more than a synthesis of what I learned from the Past and the Present. The child of the two, so to speak Over the course of three days, in between watching the Eagles, wrapping presents and doing laundry (among other things), I was reminded of who I once was, and who I am now was reinforced. Maybe Christmas Future is simply a matter of brokering those two understandings and determining who I want to be moving forward, within the confines of my obligations and the requirements of my life as a single dad, supporting and hopefully growing a new home for me and my little ladies. Is it possible for me to be an art-eest while continuing to foster a life of security and stability, i.e. in between working full time, cleaning my house, doing laundry and attending birthday parties if needed? Well sh*t, guys and gals. It has to be. There really isn’t an alternative for me at this juncture. I’m not going to allow it. And whether that allows room for a companion sometime down the line? My own Rose Tyler? Well, I’m going to leave that where I left my burdgeoning story idea from last night. In the Stew Zone. Because now is not the time. Still, I wouldn’t be carrying the mantle of the romantic idealist if I didn’t mention it, right?

So? So. If the Ghost of Christmas Future does want to swing by for a Powerade Zero and some dill chicken? Come on by. We’ll watch the Chiefs hopefully beat Seattle and allow the Eagles to slip into the second Wild Card spot. And we’ll talk a bit about balance and how to resolve time past and time present into… You guessed it. Time future. Because in the end, that’s the moral of my Christmas Carol. Not learning from a bunch of spooks how not to be a Scrooge and Keep Christmas Well. But learning how to live the best future that I can: A synthesis of the boy I once was and the man I am today.

And that? That’s it. Thanks for reading. As I prepare to close out this piece of Mental Flatulence and go make dinner, I am reminded of my drive out to meet up with friends last night under that spectacular full moon. I texted my buddy beforehand that it would be “good for my soul.” And it was. On a number of fronts. And as for that story that I mentioned? It’ll arrive soon enough. Spoiler alert: It starts with a full moon rise. It’s about new beginnings.

And there are no robots.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, friends. If I don’t speak with you beforehand, have a terrific holiday. And as Tiny Tim once said: God bless us. Everyone.

F.

On Christmas, Spirit and the Holiday Season in 2018

Full disclosure everyone: I’ve had a bear of a time getting into Christmas this year. I guess it’s understandable. 2018 hasn’t exactly been a status quo year for your old buddy the Madchronicler. It’s been a year of monumental change and anyone that’s been keeping up over the last few months knows what I’m talking about. So I’m not going to rehash everything herein. It would be counterproductive and, quite frankly (pun intended), exhausting both to you AND me. But this Christmas thing? My lack of spirit? Yes. It deserves… A rumination. Or a blog entry. So? Here we are.

On the surface? Christmas 2018 is not and has not been much different than in previous years. I started early with the decorating and the music. I even had the bulk of my shopping done pre-December. By design: I wanted to FEEL it this year. I needed it. After everything I’ve been through it was neccesary. And every time the minions were over? I wanted them to feel it, as well. And I feel like they have. I’ve always had this vision of how I wanted my home to look at Christmas time. It’s a combination of too many old movies (“White Christmas” remains a personal fave) and that scene in “Star Trek Generations” where Picard wakes up in the Nexus and has a confab with Whoopi Goldberg, AKA Guinan (I hope I spelled that right). If you’ve seen it you know the scene I’m talking about. And if you haven’t? I can’t recommend it. It’s not a very good movie. But it’s worth Googling the scene. Really. Its organic. Warm. And downright beautiful. Did I get there? As much as I could. There was no way I was fitting a ski lodge or a carousel in my living room.

But I digress. Despite it all, there was still something… Off. Not necessarily missing but… Askew. That’s the best way I can and could describe it. It felt empty. Without substance. Superficial. And after a lot of thought I was able to key on a couple of reasons why. Loneliness? Yes. A silence 50 percent of the time that I was and may never get used to, and no matter how many times I watched “Elf” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation…” No matter how many times I listened to the Jethro Tull Christmas album or Michael Buble, that silence remained. It hung around me like a putrid cloud of pine and spice scented Christmas dung and try as I might? I couldn’t shake it. I even considered listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and to anyone that knows me? That’s enough for you to question my mental health. But I didn’t. I let it play out and it lingered.

Honestly? It came to a head this past Sunday night. I couldn’t sleep. At almost midnight I decided to go for a drive to the local WAWA for a Powerade Zero. I got there only to find that they did not have Powerade Zero. I was forced to settle for sugared-up, Lemon Lime Gatorade. Thereafter I drove around for a bit, sipping my drink, my radio set to B101 and heard everything from “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole to “Winter Wonderland” by the Eurythmics. I looked at the lights on the houses in my new neighborhood. Nothing. Eventually I returned home and with the assistance of a late night, hot shower and a half hour or so of reading, I was able to nod off for a few hours before my 6:30AM alarm abruptly summoned me back to another week of work. Obligation. Responsibility. All the things we adults abhor like the Plague, or Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

And still there remained that emptiness. All the way up until a few hours ago when suddenly? Everything changed.

Tonight was my oldest minion Cara’s Choir Recital and this year was a big one because at last, FINALLY she got her much sought after solo. The song was not one that I was familiar with pre-her being awarded her big moment a few weeks ago. “Season Of Peace.” I’ve mentioned before how proud I am of my girls… Of their resilience and their drive to succeed. But the way Cara threw herself into the task of learning and polishing her part? It was next level, guys and gals. I swear that not 10 minutes of wakefulness went by in the last few weeks without her singing it in some capacity. Tweaking it. Making it hers. And tonight, when she stepped up to the microphone at the 2:52-2:53 mark of the song, adjusted the mic stand (like a boss), smiled and opened her mouth, I swear to you, friends and sometimes readers? It hit me. Her voice. The lights lining the walls of the Parish Hall and the prevelance of red, green and “sparkly” outfits surrounding me and on display before me. It was Christmas. At LAST. Everything took on a deeper hue. There was warmth. And I felt… Full. To be honest? I even teared up a little. Just misty. No full blown, “It’s A Wonderful Life” ugly cry. Finally.

She finished her solo, they finished the song, we all cheered and the concert went on for a while. But that moment? I was lost in it. Sh*t, I still am, even now, as I sit here in my sunroom under a blanket, drinking a Powerade Zero and typing these words while “Elf” plays on mute in the background. I realized something tonight. Something that has alluded me this Christmas season. You can’t force it, folks. The spirit of the season? It will arrive when you’re most ready for it. It always has. But I was so focused on it this year I… Basically? I overcompensated. I was subconsciously course correcting my life from what it is NOW to what it was before. And that life? It’s behind me now. I get it. Now? There is only this… what surrounds me daily, and what lies ahead. New adventures. A little chaos. Hopefully no more heartbreak (I’ve had enough of that in my 43 plus years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence). I’ve been so focused these last few months on letting life come to me. I forgot to let Christmas do the same.

That’s the moral of this story, everyone. Different is okay. Maybe better in the long run? Who knows. Only time will tell. There will be moments of loneliness. There will be days where I miss my minions and feel empty, ensconced in the putrid stench of candy canes and Harvest Wreath Yankee Candles. There will be moments where Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas but really? The key is to cherish the moments when it does. Live IN them. Live FOR them. Because they will sustain you. And when all else fails?

Well sh*t, there’s always “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Tonight, as I was driving back to Swarthmore from the concert, I turned on B101 and low and behold? There it was. I’ve avoided it all season. Longer than I ever have before. But tonight? Just this one time, I’ll admit? I smiled, turned up the volume, rolled down my windows and sang…

“I don’t want a LOT for Christmas, there’s one thing I’m asking for…”

Merry Christmas, everyone. Happy Hanukkah, and have a blessed holiday.

F.