Musings from within the Maelstrom

A quick note before I begin: the aforementioned “maelstrom” is a more elaborate way of describing the pseudo-blizzard blowing outside the insulated brick walls of the two story colonial in Broomall, PA that I share with my wife Nicole, our daughter Cara, and our two feline children Pandora and Roxy. The scene outside my window is pretty picturesque if that’s the kind of scene that you are partial too. Me? I’ve never been a big fan of snow. Never been a big fan of Norman (I like to call him “Normal”) Rockwell, either, AKA the master of the painting portraying a sleigh ride through the countryside complete with pine trees, a cabin and the occasional covered bridge. So “Hallmark.” So generic. I can almost here Burle Ives crooning beneath the reassuring cacophony of Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” emanating from my headphones. Crank up the volume, baby. “Rooster” seques in to “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone and I can feel my creative juices starting to flow. NOW we’re talking. Or… writing?

Sure, a fresh snowfall looks beautiful and sure, a half a foot of snow when you’re of school-age is pretty significant (force of habit: I still listen for school number 356 on KYW, News Radio, 1060 AM; 356 was the snow number for my grade school some 22 odd years ago). But when you’re 34… When you have to get to and from work in the midst of it… when you can already feel your lower back tightening from the shoveling that is still hours away… well, what can I say? Snow excites me about as much as the prospect of lobotomy with a dull spoon. And anyone who’s ever had one of those will tell you they’re not pretty. Not that I know anyone that ever had a labotomy with a dull spoon. Now a RUSTY one…

I digress. Sorry.

Depressing, huh? Knowing me and my propensity for reminiscence, you’d expect me to be writing something reflective of my youthful days of “yore”: days when I’d wake up at 6:00 AM of my own accord (not because of the alarm on my phone booming the opening chords of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck”) to the intoxicating smell of pancakes and coffee, not the fading scent of the formula spit up on my shirt and the crap my eldest cat, Pandora, just took in the other room. What can I say? Not everything that happens in my life hearkens back memories of the 20 to 30% of my childhood (pre-16, mind you) that I speak so highly of. FACT: Save for the two plus hours that my wife and I spent trying to put Cara to sleep tonight (she’s been cutting her first tooth now for the better part of the last month. I wish the darn thing would just come in already!), I’ve been consuming musical tracks from the aforementioned two bands (Alice and Mother), along with Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Seether, a sprinkling of Tool and more than a healthy dose of Soundgarden. Said music? Not exactly conducive to the psychological equivalent of a Normal Rockwell painting. More like something painted by Dali or Picasso, with a touch of Georgia O’Keefe thrown in for good measure.

FYI both Moto-Droid and iPhone users: Pandora Internet Radio is an amazing application. Pick a genre of music, and watch in awe as the app creates an entire, commercial free radio station of songs in that genre. This particular station that I am listening to is called “Mother Love Bone Radio.” I also have “The Who Radio,” “John Williams (yes, the composer) Radio,” and for my wife, “Meet Virginia Radio” (mid to late-90’s Top-40 Rock). My musical tastes remain incredibly eclectic.

Yet again, I digress. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate, or in Netspeak, “retweet” my previous apology.

Is there a point to what I’m writing, currently? Yes… and no. Yes, I’m writing with a purpose. Out of necessity, really. You see, I’ve known for a while now that I need to start writing again. I’m not simply talking about the occasional blog entry or rambling essay (though admittedly, Nicole and a few others DO enjoy a good piece of Mental Flatulence). No. I’m talking about something substantial. To continue to deny the writer in side of me the freedom to express himself is the proverbial equivalent of one of my pre-16 year old “friends” smothering my face in a snowdrift… what we used to call a “whitewash” back then, pre-learning it’s actual definition and etymology (per my old friend Wikipedia, “To whitewash is to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data.”). It’s who I am. I’m also a husband, father, homeowner, taxpayer and working stiff, but before I was any of these things, I was a writer. I can’t afford to lose sight of the basic foundation of who I am. Without that foundation… let’s face it friends, without it, the whole goddamn house of cards that is your ole’ buddy Frank, AKA The Mad Chronicler comes tumbling down. Said collapse is generally followed under most, if not all circumstances by the once-secure and confidant individual curled up in a fetal position in the corner sucking his or her thumb. I’ve been there. I’ve been that poor soul. I’d rather not be that person again… EVER.

What about the “no?” The other answer to my previously posed question (“is there a point to what I’m writing, currently?”)? That’s easy. I’m not trying to change the world with this blog entry, friends. It’s a goddamn blog, not a mission statement. I’m attempting to exercise my mind. You know: get those neurons which have been dormant for too long now rolling belly to back, and back to belly; the psychological equivalent of my daughter’s new, favorite activity. I’m attempting to re-familiarize myself with the ACT of writing.

Which brings me to “Halcyon Days.” Not “The Endworld Trilogy.” I’ve realized over the last few days that in my subjective universe, “Endworld” relies heavily on “Halcyon Days” for relevancy. That was never my original intention when I started writing “Halcyon Days.” For those of you reading this that haven’t the slightest notion of what I’m talking about, I’ll give you the basic premise. “Halcyon Days” was… err, IS a novel I began writing about a year or a year and a half ago. I made it about 50 pages in before my Masters program at Drexel University began. After that, it was academic (no pun intended). School sequed in to Nicole’s pregnancy, which sequed in to Cara’s arrival, and “Halcyon Days” took up permanent residency in the “UNFINISHED NOVELS” folder on my computer’s desktop. But unlike so many of the other aborted attempts at novel writing in that folder, “Halcyon Days” has never been far from my mind. Has, in fact, grown MORE a part of my mind with the passage of time and experience.

It is the story of Robert Allen, and it is the story of Roland MacNuff. Confused? Understandable. In “Halcyon Days,” Robert Allen is actually the author of a series of novels called… you guessed it, “The Endworld Chronicle.” Robert grew up in a fictional little town in South Jersey called “Halcyon Bay” which resides on the shores of the Delaware Bay, known locally as “Little Atlantic.” Robert’s Hollywood lifestyle, burgeoning career (the movie version of the first of his bestselling books, “Endworld,” is in pre-production as the novel begins) and self-imposed exile from the small town of his youth is interrupted by the sudden passing of his mother, and he is forced to return and face the ghosts of his past while putting his mother’s affairs in order. He is reunited with the friends of his youth. Among these, his first love, Melissa Stark, who… well, I can’t give away everything. The bottom line is this: “Halcyon Days” has an outline. It has a framework. In my mind, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s lighthearted, but is underscored by a darkness that only I can see at present (after all, I’m the only one that knows the MacGuffin!). I have full scenes outlined in my mind… with musical accompaniment, no less. Not Alice or Mother, Soundgarden or Tool, but the songs of my pre-16 year old youth… those formative years when I was nothing more to most than a rollie-pollie, pear-shaped target for noogies and “whitewashes.” Songs like LA Guns, “The Ballad of Jayne” and Def Leppard, “Hysteria.”

And in order to re-write “Endworld,” I know now that I need to write “Halcyon Days” first. Why? Well shoot, friends: how deep do you want to delve in to my psyche? I know why it has to be this way. It has something to do with writing a character based on myself to get MORE in touch with another character based on myself, i.e. if I write about myself writing about Roland MacNuff, then it will be easier for me, Frank Marsh, AKA The Mad Chronicler, to write about Roland MacNuff… in Netspeak, IRL. Insert Winky Emoticon HERE. You have permission to smack me the next time you see me.

Do I digress? Not really. But it is getting late (12:30 AM, to be precise), and my thoughts are growing steadily more disjointed as this composition unfolds. Generally a sign that I should start shifting in to “wrap-up” mode, along with the shortening of my paragraphs and a growing reliance on frivolous punctuation like the ellipse and the semi-colon to make my point.

And that point is? Simple, really. Before I was Normal Rockwell, I was the love child of Salvidor Dali, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe. I was reared on the literary stylings of Andrew Wood, Layne Staley, Chris Cornell and Maynard Keenan, though admittedly, my primary musical accompaniment since the late-90’s has been very Top-40’ish. Before I was a husband, father, homeownwer, taxpayer and working stiff, I was a writer. I remain a writer, albeit one that has spent the better part of the last decade plus hibernating within his two story, brick colonial in Broomall, PA. Said insulated brick walls have protected me and my family from a seemingly endless series of proverbial psuedo-blizzards, and within these four walls, our collective life together has been the equivalent of a Normal Rockwell painting, complete with a soundtrack penned and vocalized by good ole’ Burle Ives. Don’t mistake me, friends: I am thankful for this. Every day of my life I wake up and thank God for my family; every night before I close my eyes, I ask God to bless them and protect them so that I may see them the following morning.

But I lost sight of something integral over the last decade plus. I stopped taking chances; I started playing it safe. It’s been an eternity since I’ve been awake long enough to see 12:57 AM in bold, black letters on my Moto-Droid. By taking the occasional risk, i.e. fighting back the sleep that threatens to overtake me in favor of telling a bit more of Robert Allen’s, Roland MacNuff’s… OR Frank Marsh’s story, perhaps I will be able to discover a balance between the still, silent atmosphere of my home (broken only by Temple of the Dog singing “Say Hello 2 Heaven”), and the inspirational “maelstrom” raging outside my window.

Goodnight, world. Much respect. Insert Winky Emoticon HERE.


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