In Which I Shelve “Sh*theads” so as to not Further Anger My Potential Reader Base

Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening or Night fellow Sh… err, fellow denizens of my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Note that I stalled before writing “Sh*thead.” There’s a reason for that. A friend of mine informed me the other day that regardless of my ongoing contention about the term “Sh*thead” not being derogatory, it could still be construed as such by one or two people. He suggested a new strategy moving forward: That rather than potentially insult anyone, I should not use the term “Sh*thead” in the immediate future, especially in light of what is presently transpiring. I am, of course, referring to the imminent publication of my first book, ENDWORLD – A Novel.

A quick update on that for those of you reading this that are new to my mind and my world: ENDWORLD – A Novel remains in the capable hands of my chosen designer and formatter (is “formatter” even a word?). I am awaiting the first proofs of both the e-book version and the print version. Once I have them, the potentially laborious process of “tweaking” the design will begin. As much as I’d love to settle on a cover and an interior right away, I know that it’s not feasible. After all, I’ve waited almost 20 years for this moment. I want to do it right. Right?

When I do go “live” with the book I promise that next to me, my wife and my kids y’all will be the first people to know. So sit tight. It’s coming. Hopefully before Memorial Day, just in time for the summer reading season, thus completing the vicious circle that began many, many moons ago one summer in the basement/Periodical Room of a library in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. Back then, all ENDWORLD – A Novel was was an idea and a dream. It evolved into a scene and from there, it evolved into a Prologue, typed on my old 286 computer in Courier Font. If you’ve been following my random musings for a while, you know the rest. Fast forward to this unseasonably warm day in April of 2013 and my dream is close to becoming a reality. There have been a hundred and one people that have inspired me along the way (and that’s no exaggeration, guys), and it would take me a while to list them all. Instead, I’ll let the book’s dedication speak for itself:

This novel is dedicated to my companions. My brethren. My friends. The once and future inspiration behind its conception.

Je t’aime. 

For those of you that have never taken French, “Je t’aime” means “I love you.” Don’t worry: I never took French either. Nor did I take Latin. I was a Spanish guy from high school through college. That didn’t stop me from using both languages and no Spanish in the novel (I never was very good at Spanish, anyway). Someone once taught me how to both say and spell “Je t’aime” and the lesson? It has stuck with me since. I am eternally grateful for that. And to everyone else that has been there along the way. The finished product may be my words, but every one of you had a part in its development. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be dishing out royalties to you. Sh*t, the darn thing has to make money first. As I promised someone on Facebook the other day, if this book launches a writing career, I’ll buy the beer for a while. That said…

Back to Sh*theads. My aforementioned friend and I bantered back and forth a bit about me posting a retraction on my blog, i.e. instead of an Appreciation, an Anti-Appreciation of Sh*theads or something similar. Sadly? I’m not going to do that. The term “Sh*thead” is as much a part of my vernacular at this point as the word “aforementioned.” But I concede that  he has a point, and from the end of this blog forward, I will no longer refer to people, myself included as “Sh*thead.” Note that I wrote “from the end of this blog forward.” Before  I abandon the term indefinitely, I’d like to take a few moments and reflect back over its sordid history, not just on “Random Musings” versions one and two, but pre-“Random Musings,” back when I and my brethren all lived in and around Jenkintown, Pennsylvania and no one lived anyplace else.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when, exactly, I first wrote or said “the world is full of Sh*theads.” My V-D Day ponderance? My Y2K one? Back then, I didn’t consider myself a Sh*thead. I mentioned this before but it bears repeating for the newbies: I used to believe that a Sh*thead was, in essence, a Nine to Fiver. Someone that wakes up at the same time every Monday through Friday, goes to work, takes the same lunch break, goes home and goes to bed. Rinse and repeat.

But then something intriguing happened. I became one. A Nine to Fiver. A Sh*thead. All of those people that I was referring too back in my early 20’s? If I haven’t already I implore your forgiveness, now. It was a weird time for me. A time filled with copious amounts of alcohol, herbal refreshment, feminine banes, dungeons, poems, sleep deprivation and Animal Planet. Not to mention mountains of debt and a black, Dodge Neon Sport commissioned “The Wraith (est. 1998).” I knew not whereof I spoke.

Being a Sh*thead is not a bad thing when you view it in that context. It’s a good thing. It’s normalcy. The fact that I’ve attained any degree of normalcy in my almost 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is still shocking to me. Considering where I was less than 15 years ago and where I am now? Yeah. If you knew me then and you know me now you likely “smell what I’m cookin’.”

I wonder if there are people out there now that look at people like me the same way I used to look at people like me. Me with my graying, fraying hair and the two spots of white in my once-three toned, now four-toned beard. Me, the guy who sits at a desk every Monday through Friday (and every fourth Saturday) from eight to five or five thirty running an office and helping people with their hydraulic and pneumatic needs. I can hear them snickering at me from within a cloying cloud of blue-gray pot smoke. “Look at him,” I can hear them saying in alcohol choked voices, “look at that Sh*thead. Man, I’m never going to be ‘that guy.'”

Guess what, pal? You say that now when you’re sharing an apartment that smells like feces with two of your friends and living off of Ramen Noodles and powdered iced tea. But 10 years… 15 years from now when you’re married with a job, kids, a mortgage, a spare tire around your once-chunky, but now drooping waist and white spots in your beard/gray streaks in your hair? You’ll understand better. Me? Yeah, I’m a Sh*thead. But for the most part, I’m happy with my normal life. I’m happy with my wife, my job, my kids and my house (my spare tire? Not so much though I do think the white spots in my beard make my look distinguished). I haven’t smoked weed in a long, long time and the last time I did? Let’s just say the experience was highly un-enjoyable. I do still drink on occasion, but rarely to excess and I haven’t had a package of Ramen Noodles since roughly 2010. Powdered iced tea, though? Yeah. It and my spare tire go hand-in-hand.

I like normal. Normal is less stressful than Abby-normal. Normal allows me the time to write (or rewrite) a novel and the money to self-publish it. Admittedly, Uncle Sam had a little to do with that last, as well. It was a good 2013 for the Marsh clan. You can call me a Sh*thead if you want but buddy? Once upon a time (’cause all good stories begin as such), I was where you are, thinking the same way that you did. I’d wager many of us were. But now? We’re the end products of sociological evolution on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. See if you feel the same way when you’re where we are, now. Until then, as Dave Matthews sang, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Okay, maybe not “die” but age? Become Nine to Fivers, AKA Sh*theads? Definitely. That is the way of things. The way of the Force. End needless “Star Wars” shout-out.

I’m not going to lie: There are days when I miss the carefree lifestyle of my early 20’s. Back when I could rage until three in the AM and still get up two hours later to unload a truck at CVS, 45 minutes away from my little, two bedroom hovel in Jenkintown and thereafter, Northeast Philadelphia. Back when I had the tolerance of an elephant and not that of a dying field mouse. Back when I would take spur of the moment road trips with a friend or two (or four) in my spiffy black, Dodge Neon Sport, “The Wraith.”” Back when ENDWORLD – A Novel was still just ENDWORLD, the main character’s name was not William but Roland and the book itself? It was little more than a Fictional Autobiography that drew heavily upon movies like “The Terminator” and shows like “The Wonder Years” for inspiration. I’ve said this before, too: There are elements of both still in it, even now in it’s completed version, but those elements are no where near as prevalent as they once were. Nothing more than occasional homages to the aspects that originally inspired it. I can see them, and I’m sure a few of the people that read the original draft of the book back then will see them, as well. But for the most part? It’s new. A product of my mid-30 something, now late-30 something mind. Is it improved? Well, guys? That’ll be for you to decide. I’ve still got the original at home in a black binder under lock and key. I could always publish it if the new version tanks.

Will I? Probably not. Doing so would be the equivalent of publishing the first ever short story that I wrote. It would be the equivalent of dusting off, finishing and publishing THE OAKS. Yes, THE OAKS. There’s only one or two people I know now that know about that one. Believe it or not? ENDWORLD was not my first attempt at writing a novel. THE OAKS was. I was 17 or 18 when I began it. It was a story about a guy that dies and wakes up in an old, abandoned retirement community that is populated by ghosts, one of whom–Jerry–resembles Jerry Garcia. I made it about 50 pages in before I realized that all it was was a “Beetlejuice” retread and shelved it.

Shortly thereafter I found myself reorganizing the Periodical Room of a library in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. it was summertime, and I was thinking about my upcoming, yearly vacation in Cape May, New Jersey. I was suddenly struck with a notion: How cool would it be to see someone sunning him or herself on the beach while reading a book with my name on it? As I continued organizing and alphabetizing, a scene began to take shape in my mind and I immediately ran for the old, manual typewriter that I’d been using to type on blue, check out cards. I grabbed an empty one and started. By the time that I was done, the opening words of the final chapter of the original version of ENDWORLD were written. That blue card? It, like my 286 is now lost to history (but not THE OAKS; I still have that one). While it was the beginning of something, it was just that: A beginning.

Writing a book? It’s a lot like life, guys. Both have a beginning: A birth. The older both get the more refined both become. What was once a product of naivete–like trying to describe making love when you’ve never made love before–matures. Grows. Eventually? Something amazing happens. You finish writing your book, and you begin the process of either having it published or self-publishing it. And as you get down to that long awaited moment where you go “live” with your creation? You realize that unlike life which has one beginning and one ending, your book? Contextually it has one of each: One “once upon a time” and one “and they lived happily ever after.” But metaphorically? That moment when you make it available to the world is a second birth. That’s where the two ideas finally diverge from each other. What happens after that should be of no consequence to you. You’re not in this for the money, right? Well, maybe some of you are but for me? It’s never been about that. For me, it’s always been about that second birth. Regardless of ENDWORLD A Novel‘s success or failure, I did it. I got my second birth. At almost 38…

Me. A self-proclaimed Sh*thead. I used to think that Sh*theads never got that chance. Apparently, they do.

And with that? I am officially shelving the term “Sh*thead” until such time as I, my friend and any of my potential reader base offended by it deem it fit to return. Let my close by thanking… who else? All of my fellow once-Sh*theads, a few of whom I hope will buy my book when it becomes available, sometime pre-Memorial Day, 2013, and read it while sunning on a beach somewhere. For me? That would be full circle. A dream come true.

Je t’aime, friends.  

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