What Thanksgiving Means To Me – The 2018 Edition

What Thanksgiving Means To Me – The 2018 Edition

You knew this was coming, right? Sure, it’s been a few years since I wrote one of these but in light of everything that has happened this year on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, I figured it was time to dust off an old tradition and make it new again. So? Here we go.

New means not a retread of what I’ve written in the past. I can’t promise that this blog entry… This piece of Mental Flatulence won’t have echoes of past compositions in it, but I’m going to endeavor to freshen up the formula as much as I can. It all starts with the title. No “by way of” this time. Nope. Just the 2018 Edition tagline. And the question that proceeds it.

What DOES this Thanksgiving mean to me? After all that has happened since I last wrote one of these, what could I possibly be thankful for? Well there are the obvious answers. A roof over my head, food in my belly, money in my pocket… You’ve heard the litany countless times. My family and friends? Of COURSE. I’m more thankful for them then I have been before. My minions especially. I’ve gotten accustomed to spending Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving with them over the course of their lives. While others go out and drink, dance et cetera, I stay home, bake cornbread, watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and the Parade (booyakasha, 6ABC. Respect) and chill with them before heading over the river and through the woods to Mom’s/Mom Mom Minnie’s for dinner. Our trip is always strategically timed to coincide with one of the airings of “Alice’s Restaurant” on WMMR (booyakasha, Pierre Robiere. MUCH respect). And after dinner? Homeward bound to wrap up the day and hit the sack. Maybe do some online, Black Friday shopping after midnight. That’s Thanksgiving in a nut shell for me.

But this year? It’s a different… Feel. Sure, the tradition and schedule is roughly the same, but it’s just me and the girls this year for the first time in as long as I can remember. And because of that? I appreciate it and THEM even more. I mentioned in my last blog entry/piece of Mental Flatulence that I’ve learned to make the best of my reduced time with them and today of all days? That holds true. Heed my words, friends and somewhat constant readers: Treasure the moments you have with the ones you love because you never know where you, or they will end up down the line. Live for the NOW. Don’t dwell on the past. Embrace your present because it’s fleeting. It’ll be over before you know it.

The same holds true for my family and friends this year. I’ve always been thankful for them. But this year? Moreso than before. No one man or woman is an island and there is NO WAY I would have survived this year, and the last couple of years without them. You all know who you are. You’ve been my constant… THE Constant for decades and without you I would have thrown in the towel/stopped fighting a long time ago. You were my Mickey and then? When Mickey left you were my Duke. “One more round, Frank.” Keep punching. You urged me to do so and I did. And here I am. A bit emotionally punch drunk but alive. Maybe not thriving just yet but there’s time. Sure, that whole line of thought was a completely gratuitous Rocky reference but sh*t: This is Philly. And Rocky is a part of my DNA. He’s a part of our birthright. Kind of like the Eagles and Cheese Whiz but easier on the stomach.

That said, there’s more… A LOT more to cover in this new and hopefully improved What Thanksgiving Means To Me Edition but for now? It’s time to clean up and head out for dinner. I’m going to do something I rarely do. I’m going to pause writing for a tic. I’ll be back but in the interim?

Wait for it.

WAIT for it.

MIND THE GAP.

Home now with a full belly and an afternoon of football watching, online shopping and family time under my belt which is, I should add, stretched taught around my waist at present. No minions now: They’re with their mother leaving me alone in my single family twin in Swarthmore with only my thoughts as company. Don’t worry, everyone. I’m okay. Really. The silence that ensues 50 percent of the time these days is becoming a companion. Not feared, nor regretted but accepted. Kind of like an old friend that I can’t hug. Filling it can be a bit trying but so far, I’ve managed and will continue to manage because… Well? That’s life now. Better to accept it and not rail against it. I’m adaptable. I evolve. We all do. I’ve evolved a lot in my 43 plus years. And I’m sure I’ll evolve a lot more before the inevitable end, many, many moons from now.

A few nights ago, a good friend and I had a long “talk” about life, the universe and everything on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The word talk is in parentheses because I find myself not talking as much as I used to in the traditional sense of the word. Talk = Text in 2018. I probably spend more time texting now than I used to and for some, specifically certain people who shall remain nameless that have accused me in the past of being a “bad texter” (if you’re reading this, you know who you are and in a quick, parenthetical aside that virtually NO ONE reading this will get, dude? You were right. And I’m sorry) this is likely a relief. Welcome to the modern world, Frank. Mind the f*cking gap.

But I digress. Our conversation was an enlightening one and in the grand scheme of my life, it was probably the one conversation that I needed to have at the perfect time. Consequentially, or INconsequentially depending on your stance, it was about ENDWORLD. Specifically the completed sequel and the as-of-yet, virtually unstarted, final book in the trilogy. I say “virtually” because I did begin writing it, I just haven’t gotten full on into it yet. It’s in the Literary Foreplay stage. A lot of kissing but little else.

Anywhos, she brought a number of things to my attention and in doing so, answered a question that was almost the subject of another blog entry earlier this week. I mentioned, the last time I wrote that I had stories to tell. A little “magic to do,” so to speak (booyakasha, Pippin. Respect). One of them is, of course, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD but there are others. Ideas that I have been considering for years and am eager to tackle. But what to write? Do I finish William’s story, or do I go in a different direction and leave William MacNuff and his not-so-merry band of revolutionaries by the roadside for a bit? It was quite frankly (no pun intended) a tough decision. Thankfully, Amy (yes, I’ll name you kiddo… You deserve it) helped me realize what I needed to do.

I need to finish HIS story. William’s. The ENDWORLD Series. Because his story is my story, and has been for a good portion of my life. It, too, has evolved over time. The faces and the places have changed a bit but the ENDWORLD books remain, despite all the changes, an autobiographical fiction. My life as told through the eyes of a man, similar to me staring at a world that is LIKE mine but not mine. Another place on another side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Some might think that a spoiler. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. All will become clear… Crystal clear soon enough but for now? There is only THAT. Because in order for me to move on, I need to finish his tale. And that, folks, is the ever-present crux. The rub, so to speak.

What does Thanksgiving mean to me this cold night in late November, 2018 as I now sit in the sunroom which in many ways has become the center of my subjective reality? It means that I should be thankful for everyone and everything that has played and continues to play a part in my life too date, both bad and good, hero and villain. As I said earlier and will repeat here, I didn’t get to this moment, on the cusp of whatever comes next by myself. I had a lot of help along the way. But this last part? It falls on me. From within the silence that wraps around me like a warm, fleece blanket tonight comes a resolution. THE resolution. Six words that ring true in my mind in a hundred and one voices past, present and future.

Finish his story.

Finish YOUR story.

Well sh*t, folks. I may not know everything but one thing I DO KNOW is that when the universe speaks to you, you’d damn well better listen. So universe? I’m all ears. Let’s get it done.

One last thing I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for the strength and the ability to be like Mike and JUST DO IT. What does Thanksgiving mean to me in 2018? It means a future, born of the past and the present, leading on into what I hope will be an exciting, and awe-inspiring finale for your old buddy El Autoro, AKA The Madchronicler. Stay tuned.

William MacNuff? Let’s dance.

F.

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What Thanksgiving Means To Me By Way Of Hashtags, The Bastard Child Of Zumba And Crossfit, A Little ENDWORLD, A Few More Hashtags And A Life Less Extraordinary

Well Good Evening, Morning or Afternoon to you ALL. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, or #HappyThanksgivingEve to those of you that love a good Hashtag. I, myself, really REALLY love a good Hashtag. I use them religiously across all of my Social Media platforms. I don’t know if I really understand the whole Hashtag thing–mine vary from one devoted to my youngest minion–#NatNatBoo–to one devoted to my every-other Saturday morning routine–#Crumba. Yes, #Crumbaisathingnow, or so that @fmarshauthor guy Tweets. For those of you that are wondering what Crumba is, Crumba as the bastard child of Zumba and Crossfit: Two activities that participants are fervent, and in some cases militant about. I hold nothing against the practitioners of both. In truth? I’m a bit envious. My idea of activity right now is yard work, cleaning house, doing laundry, playing with my minions and trying to top 10K steps daily on my Fitbit, something that I’ve only managed to achieve two or three times in the six months since I bought it. So let’s get that out of the way now. Dear Crossfit and Zumba peeps: Keep on keepin’ on. Keep rocking those deadlifts and “ooh ooh’ing” to “Uptown Funk.”

There are a probably a few of you reading this right now that are wondering “hey, where the f*ck has this guy been for the last year?” You’d be right to wonder. My last blog post (incidentally also a “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” ponderance) was on 11/26 of 2014. That’s an eternity for a guy that used to pride himself on writing every day. What can I say? The same thing I always say when I disappear off the literary radar for a bit: Life, man. Gul’darned, cotton-picking LIFE. It gets in the way. Between being a good Branch Manager, being a good dad, being a good husband (all things that I’m always trying to improve upon) et al et AL, writing with any sort of consistency has been a tough thing to do. The good news? Over the last two weeks, I HAVE been writing more. CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD mainly, otherwise known as #CHILDRENOFENDWORLD in my own, subjective Twitterverse (#Amwriting #Homestretch, baby). If everything goes the way I hope it to, I should be done the first draft sometime within the next few weeks, so those of you that have been waiting patiently for the continuance of William’s story? Your patience will soon pay off. And if you want to Beta read it, message me here, on Facebook or on Twitter. I’ll be lining up about a dozen once it’s fully edited and ready to go.

Is it any good? That’s a tough question to answer. I’d be lying if I said I personally didn’t like it. I actually like it more than ENDWORLD. A LOT more. I’ll be honest with you: While it continues William’s story, it’s a very different story. Darker. But deeper, too. More spiritual, really. In fact, spirituality is a huge theme in it, one that I expect will carry over into Book Three, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD (#HEAVENANDENDWORLD #Areyougettingtiredofthisyet). Okay. I’ll ease up on the Hastags moving forward. #Acceptmyapologies #STOPF*CKINGHASHTAGGINGEVERYTHING!

Anywhos, I digress. Focus. Focus and we’re back on point. I’m not here tonight to write about my writing. I’m here tonight because I cannot let a year go by without a “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” blog post. It’s tradition. And LIFE cannot get in the way of traditions. The thing is? It’s been a rough year, friends. At times REALLY rough. It’s definitely had it’s high points: Disney World with my minions, my wife and my in-laws, a new Mad Max movie (still the best movie of the year, IMO; at least until the new Star Wars movie comes out next month). There’s more but my head hurts a bit too much tonight and I’m sure you don’t want to read 5000 words about every little, piddling good thing that’s happened to me this year. Back in April, I passed a Kidney Stone and it hurt like a MOTHERf*cker. See? That’s a good thing but do you really want to read about it? Survey says: HELL no.

In truth? It’s been for the most part a challenging year. Sick loved ones, saying goodbye to my childhood home (booyakasha, Maple Street and J-Town: RESPECT), turning 40, turning 40 and did I mention turning 40? Yeah. That’s a tough pill to swallow. #Thisis40 and let me tell you the Judd Apatow movie was on. F*cking. POINT. The only thing it was missing was the overabundance of white hair and a sagging stomach. That said, it’s a bit tough to ruminate on the good when so much of what has happened this year has been… well? Not great. But ruminate I will because if I’ve learned one thing over my now 40+ year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence it’s that it could always be worse. And at the least? There’s THAT to be thankful for.

So what does Thanksgiving mean to me… hell, to ANYone in a less-than-spectacular year? Well, it remains a time to give thanks for the basics: Family, friends, good health, a roof over my head and food in my belly, a new Mad Max movie and NOW a new Star Wars movie to look forward to, a six year old minion that enjoys reading and writing as much as I do (and has her mom’s aptitude toward Math and Science, as well; it’s a powerful combination), a three year old minion with a propensity for “twirly skirts,” princess crowns and “squeezy hugs” and a wife who at 35 is just as appealing to me as she was when we started dating 14 years ago this month (11/11/01, a day that had lived and will continue to live in infamy). But it goes deeper than that, perhaps moreso when you’re coming down the #homestretch of 365 daunting days and already looking forward to embracing 2016 with open arms and a plea: Dear God please do NOT be like 2015. Pretty please? Thank you, Baby Jesus. Like CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, there’s something spiritual about it.

I can’t really describe it save for through experience. Feeling. It’s that experience… that feeling of wandering out to the curb on a chilly night after you just got done making Sauteed Apples and Cornbread (or as #NatNatBoo calls it “Corn Cake”) for Thanksgiving Dinner, lighting a cigarette, looking up at the full moon, inhaling deeply and smelling wood burning in a fireplace somewhere near. For no reason whatsoever a little smile graces your face and a little bit of serendipity wells up inside of you despite your pounding head and dire need for a good night’s sleep. As Creed sang back in the days of my wayward youth in a song that STILL has meaning for me today, “There’s a peace inside your soul/Let it be your friend/It will help you carry on/In the end/There’s a peace inside your soul.” That peace? It’s what sustains me through the tough times.

But there’s more. I’ve come to realize something over the course of the last 11, soon to be 12 months. I feel it every time I see my girls after a long day at the office (and man? Some of them have been really, REALLY long; maybe not physically but mentally? Aw hell yes; a few have taken me to the brink of passing out), get a “squeezy hug” from Natalie and I hear about Cara’s mandatory Three Things she must reveal to Nicole and I every night that she did at school that day (which usually revolve around a subject–Math for instance–recess and either Spanish, Music, Art, Library or Computers depending on the day). That feeling? The aforementioned “more?” Simple, friends. Love with a capital “L.” It wells up inside of me to the point where I can barely suppress it and focus on driving, or making dinner, or giving Natalie a bath and spotting Cara while she showers. I look at their Cherubic little faces–still so much like Nicole’s and for that I remain grateful–and listen to them speak, or sing, or even bicker. And I smile. Maybe even shed a little tear (though I’m quick to disguise it from their view; they hate it when I cry). And I think to myself: Thank God for them. For my wife. For my friends who I can still talk to about any and everything from the most mundane–Rousey losing to Holm for instance–to the most complex–discussion of the respective books we’re working on. For my family who I can still call if I need advice.

THAT’S what Thanksgiving means to me at the ripe old age of 40+ guys and gals. It’s a time to give thanks for all of the intangibles that I have. Money? Fame? Success? All are wonderful and I’ll never stop pushing myself to achieve the highest level that I can achieve and obtain of each. But all of those things really are secondary. In a way I’ve come full circle. When I was younger, I didn’t have ANY of those things. I learned to live and learned to love without them. I grew from a boy to a man and suddenly those things were there in spades and they WERE important to me. To a certain extent they remain so though the thing… the THINGS that are the most important to me now are not the amount of money in my wallet or my title; not whether I sold 1000 copies of ENDWORLD or 10. Family. Friends. Those little moments of peace like standing by moonlight on a chilly, Autumn night, the smell of burning wood in my nostrils and the taste of Apple Cider on my lips, waiting for my girls to return from a hayride to the Witch’s House (booyakasha, Linvilla Orchards: RESPECT) while I chat with a close friend. Or lying in bed next to my wife at midnight and laughing ourselves to sleep with anecdotes. Even sitting here tonight, typing these words while listening to the soundtrack to the Rocky movies (it’s called “The Rocky Story” if you want to pick it up or better yet, stream it via Spotify, iTunes et al et AL) and discussing with Nicole between paragraphs how the f*ck we’re going to get out and see “Creed” in the near future when we can’t get a babysitter and all Cara and Natalie want to see is “The Good Dinosaur” and in Cara’s case, “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”

Life, friends? It doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time. Sometimes a life less extraordinary is better for the heart, mind and soul. It teaches you humility… teaches you to really, REALLY appreciate the things you have. By the cold light of a full moon on Thanksgiving Eve 2015 while a cigarette hangs from one corner of your mouth, you realize that once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

You thought you’d never have the things you have today. You were miserable. You spent your days and nights pining away for an ideal that really was nothing more than a fictionalized autobiography of your life. What you envisioned, not the really, really REAL world. The really, really REAL world is a what waits for you inside your little, two story Colonial on a sleepy little street in Suburbia, US of A. It may not be the dream you originally dreamed–the sometimes impossible dream–but guess what? It’s the dream that THAT dream became while you weren’t looking. And amazingly enough, you realize as you flick your cigarette out into the street and turn and stroll up your driveway, your shadow cast in front of you in full relief that this? THIS was what you always wanted. A home. A family. Consistency. They’ll always be a little part of you that yearns for a bit more. Use it, friends. Let it drive you. Never give up. Find peace inside your soul… let it be your friend, but never totally stop reaching for the stars. If you grab ‘hold of one, make it your b*tch but never, EVER neglect what you already have. #Noregrets, folks. To quote the great Paul McCartney, “money can’t buy you love.”

And with that? I’m spent. #Itsgettinglate #IvealreadyneglectedNicolefortoolongtonight. But I’m glad I did this. And I’m glad that if you’re reading this right now, you once again came along for the ride. I appreciate you in ways you can’t possibly imagine. Your support. Your candid feedback both good AND bad. I oft times end these little ponderances with a long list of arbitrary thank you’s but tonight? I’m not going to do that. #Keepingitreal. I’ll just end it with one. Thank YOU, friends, readers and fellow sh*theads. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

#THEEND.

What Thanksgiving Means to Me By Way of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD, Hans Zimmer and the “Interstellar” Soundtrack

Good Evening, Afternoon or Morning, fellow Sh*theads. Happy Thanksgiving Eve to all of my fellow denizens of this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. It’s been a while since I last wrote… almost too long. For those of you that have been waiting patiently for a new blog entry I’m sorry. Thank you for your tolerance of me and my inconsistency as a writer, lately.  As before, I assure you that it’s not for lack of wanting. I want to write every day. But sometimes, life gets in the way and this aspect of me has to take a backseat to other aspects of me. Husband, father, friend and working stiff. Not to mention laundry, chores, homework and playing princesses with my minions. Birthday parties, holidays… you name it. I do what I must. But tonight? Tonight it’s me, my trusty old laptop, the soundtrack to “Interstellar” and a blank page. And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without another of my yearly “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” entries.

I promise not to be too long winded. I’ve been accused of that in the past. And really? I don’t feel the need to be so anymore. There’s no need for embellishment to tell you how I feel right now. In short? I feel blessed. Thankful this year more than I’ve been in years past. It’s not that my life has changed much. It hasn’t. Short of my kids being a year older, my marriage being a year stronger and my new-old career coming up on it’s one year anniversary things really aren’t that much different than they were at this time last year. On the surface. Inside? I don’t know. I just feel… what’s the word I’m looking for? Ah, yes. Two words actually…

At peace.

As I sit here tonight with the soundtrack to an incredible movie playing in the background (Hans Zimmer is so very, very good for the soul) I type these words with a sly grin upon my face beneath my bushy, salt and pepper beard. Why? Because I’m at peace. It’s nothing concrete… substantial. Like I said, my life isn’t much different than it was a year ago. But I feel it. I felt it at my daughter’s Thanksgiving Feast today and I felt it as I watched my girls play in the snow outside this afternoon. I felt it when I closed my eyes and took a brief, half hour nap this afternoon and when I woke up and started baking for Thanksgiving tomorrow–Pumpkin Bread and Corn Bread from scratch; I accept no substitute. I felt it watching “Caillou’s Holiday Movie” for the first of many times this season earlier and I felt it when I read my girls their nightly story, tucked them in, kissed them on their respective foreheads, told them “goodnight,” “sleep tight” and “I love you.” It was gul’darned serendipitous, friends. Like now as the composition “Stay” soars.

Serendipity.

I could type a laundry list of the things I’m thankful for this year. I could. But I won’t. Because really? There’s only one way to explain it without filling up Kilobytes upon Megabytes of text here on WordPress. I think I’ve mentioned this before and if I have, sorry for repeating myself. Yet if I haven’t? Well heck, now’s as good a time as any. I’ll admit: I’ve been stymied on CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD lately. Again, not for lack of wanting to work on it. Life, man. It just gets in the way sometimes. But there’s the scene in CHILDREN that I’ve always looked forward to writing. I call it “The Thanksgiving Scene.” It happens around page 300 of 400 or so and without giving anything away, it’s the scene where my hero, William MacNuff is reunited with his brethren in totality for the first time. Past, present and future: All intermingled, as some in Endworld would say. All one.

The other night, after not working on the book for weeks I sat down and finally… finally wrote it. I’d always had an idea of where it would go and who would be involved. A few things have changed from the moment I re-wrote the first words of ENDWORLD until now (sarcasm fully intended; the whole damned thing changed) but surprisingly? The same people that were in it the first time I conceived of it were in it again. Through a hundred and one twists and turns… new characters, unplanned demises et al, the same people showed up the other night in my living room to eat wild turkey, drink Wild Turkey and toast each other on an undetermined day of an undetermined month in the year BLANK of the BLANK (come on; I can’t give that away, can I?). The same people went around the table and said what they were thankful for. And yet when I got to William’s moment I stopped typing. Because really, what was he thankful for? His loved ones. Sure. His life. Definitely. But how could he… how could I rank the things I’m thankful for? Fact: I can’t. And neither could he.

So what did he do? What did he say? That, I can tell you because it applies this cold and snowy night here on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Art imitates reality and vice versa. And what follows sufficiently answers the question posed by the title of this blog entry, “What Thanksgiving Means to Me,” perhaps better than any laundry list ever could:

There was not a lot to be thankful for in Endworld. Living under the proverbial boot of a totalitarian Administration bent on suppressing humanity? Constantly running for our lives to a hypothetical freedom? There once was a poet, whose name I cannot remember that wrote that “nothing gold can stay.” “So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day.” I believe that’s how it goes. And yet at that moment as I sat there amidst my brethren… my friends after so much time apart an undetermined day of an undetermined month I knew. I knew that there was one thing I was thankful for… the same thing that we were all thankful for, originality be damned. Slowly, I stood from my feast. All eyes followed me as I did so. I picked up my half-filled glass, raised it to the ceiling and spoke.

“I’m thankful,” I began, paused, and completed, “for now.”

Smiles graced the faces of all those assembled around me. A few people nodded. I heard someone sniffle. And then, in a rousing chorus, all of my counterparts spoke in unison.

“To now,” they all said as time moved onward without check, as time always does in Endworld.

Okay, so I edited it down a bit. There were a few “tells” in the passage and I don’t want to give away what’s coming. But that statement? “I’m thankful for now?” That’s really the crux of it for me. Let’s face it, gang: You never know what tomorrow will hold. Carpe Diem, baby. I’d like to think that I’ll be here in the morning to see my wife off to work and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade with my minions. I’d like to think that I’ll be eating store bought turkey at my mom’s house tomorrow afternoon and thereafter watching the Eagles beat the stuffing (pun intended) out of the Cowboys. But who knows? Anything is possible. If life has taught me anything over the last 39 plus years it’s to expect the unexpected. And if the world ends sometime between now and when I wake up on Thanksgiving morning to a snow-bleached world and a bright, blue sky at least I’ll be able to say that I did. I lived for now. I’d urge you all to do the same. That, friends, is my Thanksgiving wish for you. Seize your respective days and make them your b*tches and b*stards. Booyakasha. Respect.

And that? That’s the end of this little piece of pre-Turkey Day mental flatulence. Thanks as always for your time! May your turkey be warm, your mashed potatoes and gravy be un-lumpy, your stuffing be… well, awesome (’cause stuffing is just awesome) and your yams be sweet. May your afternoon be filled with love and high fives every time the Eagles score. In short?

Happy holiday, fellow Sh*theads. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

It’s A Wonderful Life, Right?

its_a_wonderful_life2

“Oh Mary, let me touch you. Are you real?”

It never fails. Every year on approximately the same night, a few days before Christmas, I come downstairs after putting my beloved minions to bed and it’s on. “It’s A Wonderful Life.” And it’s always at roughly the same part when I tune in. You know the one I’m talking about: The scene where Mister Potter offers George Bailey a boatload of money and George, in no uncertain terms tells him to stick it up his crinkled old you-know-what. He does so despite the fact that he’s not happy… he’s not living the dream that he once envisioned for himself and regaled his then-girlfriend Mary about. Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such, and “It’s A Wonderful Life” is one of the best…

He promised her the moon. Told her that if she wanted it, he’d lasso it out of the sky for her. But he never did. He got older… got married and had a couple of kids… moved into a drafty old house with barely two pennies to rub together and spent his life helping others. Despite it all… despite his family and the immense amount of respect his hometown of Bedford Falls has for him, he finds himself on a bridge on Christmas Eve planning to end it all. In a fit of depression, he wishes that he’d never been born, and guess what? He gets to see what the world might’ve been like without him in it thanks to the help of a heavenly body named Clarence whose just trying to earn his damn wings for the umpteenth time.

Y’all know the rest. George realizes how important he is to the people that care about him and the world and he takes it all back. He “awakens” on the same bridge and everything has returned to normal. Cue the music, him running back into town through the snow and arriving at his house, embracing his family and discovering that he has impacted every, and I mean EVERY life in Bedford Falls. And as his littlest minion “Zuzu” tells him that her “teacher says every time a bell rings and angel gets their wings,” the tears that I have been shedding for the last 10 minutes redouble and I start bawling. Not just tearing up, guys and gals: Sobbing like a pre-pubescent kid who just watched “Old Yeller” for the first time. It’s been that way every year for as long as I can remember and it remains that way now, even at the ripe old (young) age of 38. Few movies impact me the way “It’s A Wonderful Life” does. I never understood why…

Until now.

I’m sorry I’ve been “away” for a while. I’ve been busy… damned busy. Back on December 3rd I started a new job–the same one I referenced in my last blog post–and I’ve been knee-deep in learning not just it, but the industry, as well. I’ve been meeting new people and helping people find jobs. Writing has been somewhat of an afterthought for the first time in a long time. It’s not that I’ve given up… I haven’t. But as my good friend and eminent sage of wisdom Kim “Don’t Call Me Kimmy” said a few nights ago, “you’re allowed to focus on other things, Frank. Writing will be there when you’re ready for it and it’s ready for you, again.”

I believe her, and I believe that. Sh*t, here I am, aren’t I? Blogging again after a month of not doing so. It really is like riding a bike. But this little piece of modern Mental Flatulence isn’t about writing. Not directly, at least. It’s about “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and about the realization that I came to roughly five minutes before I started typing. That realization? That I am more like George Bailey than I ever considered before. The kinship I feel with Capra’s tale? It’s a symptom of similarity, i.e. certain aspects of my life seem culled from the pages of the script.

Consider: I grew up a dreamer. I still am, though I consider myself more of a conservative one this unseasonably warm and foggy night in late December of 2013. When I met my then-Pharmacy Intern turned girlfriend turned wife Nicole Gentile I was filled with youthful spit and vinegar. “You’ll see,” I told her, “one day, I’ll make a living as writer and you’ll never have to work again.” Twelve years later and I’m still working an “odd” job, i.e. not writing for a living and Nicole is working 40 plus hours a week as a PIC (Pharmacist in Charge) at CVS/Pharmacy. I live in a drafty, pseudo-old house and have two “Zuzu’s” of my own. I’ve never ended up on a bridge, or anywhere for that matter contemplating ending it. And I never will. But am I happy? Have I lasso’d the moon? Or am I, like George Bailey, merely accepting this life that I live as incontrovertible, i.e. wearing a winky emoticon and a smiley face but bawling my eyes out inside?

I think, in the immortal words of another cinematic icon, Forrest Gump that “it’s a little of both, happening at the same time.” Spoiler alert, friends: I’m NOT always the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. But then again, who is? May he or she who is cast the first aspersion upon me (I’d appreciate them not throwing stones if at all possible). I have my problems just like everyone else from my beloved wife to you do.  But I don’t need an under-qualified angel to come’on down from heaven and show me what the world would be like without me. I don’t care to know. ‘Cause I’m here. For 38 years I’ve always been here, impacting lives and feeling the impact of others upon me and mine. And I hope to be here for a long time.

Life is full of ups and downs, guys and gals. Not every day “is gonna’ be the best day of [your] life (thanks, American Authors).” There are going to be good ones and bad ones and the key to surviving? To not falling into the raging river of despair that flows beneath the proverbial bridge of existence? It’s to always retain hope. To hold onto your dreams and strive toward them, regardless of whether or not you will actually achieve them before the cold, dark embrace of Night with a capital “N” enfolds you. Sh*t really does happen… eight thousand dollars (symbolic dollars, of course; kind of like ethereal Monopoly money) occasionally DOES disappear. But it is in those times of seemingly insatiable despair where you, like George Bailey, look up and see all the smiling faces of the people you’ve impacted in your life staring back at you. They begin to sing “Auld Lang Syne” in perfect harmony as you hold your youngest minion close to your chest and your oldest sings songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack. Behind you, a bell rings and your youngest grunts the equivalent of “every time a bell rings an angel gets their wings.” And as your tears begin to fall you turn to her, and you look her in her big, brown eyes and say…

“That’s right. That’s right.”

Have a very Merry Christmas, every one. And a Happy New Year to boot. Now if you’ll excuse me, George Bailey is about to “awaken.” Cue me, sobbing like a baby.

F.

On A**holes, Sh*heads, Thursdays and “LOST”

I am functioning on very little sleep as I write this. Let me be upfront about that. I don’t think I’m suffering from sleep deprivation yet but I am getting close. Call it borderline sleep deprivation. If there were a way for me to sleep for 24 hours straight right now, I would. Of course, knowing me, I would wake up crankier than I am, presently. Your ol’ buddy the Madchronicler is funny like that. I can go x-amount of days on limited sleep and be in almost complete control of my mental and physical facilities. But if I get more than five or six hours in a given night? I wake up with a headache and an overwhelming need to scream “FTW” from the proverbial mountaintops. It’s not helping that seemingly every person I’ve talked to today is a complete and total a**hole. I’d say sh*thead but as you that are reading this already know, the term sh*thead is reserved in my subjective universe for a different type of person. I am a sh*thead, and the world is full of them. Of us. I’m not an a**hole, though. At least I don’t think I am.

Am I?

One of the early signs of sleep deprivation is paranoia, so I need you, my friends, Romans, countrymen and women to confirm for me that I am not an a**hole because despite the fact that I don’t think I am one, I can’t help but feel like I am one, presently. Why? I have my reasons but for the purposes of this blog entry, all you need to know is that I just do. Please, feel free to leave your comments, good or bad below. Or, drop me a line at any of the number of places out there… out here on the World Wide Web that you can find me. Twitter, FB et al. Links to “contact” under the “About Me” tab. Or, just check out the ENDWORLD page (www.theendworldseries.com). They’re all on there, too.

I just texted my wife about the prevalence of a**holes in my subjective reality, today. Here’s the screen cap of our “conversation”:

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Assuming that Nicole is right and Thursday is… we’ll call it National Be An A**hole Day, then I can’t be the only one going through this right now, can I? Let me take a poll: How many of you reading this are suffering from the same BS that I’m suffering from, i.e. “short” people (as in angry, not vertically challenged), rude people… an assorted collection of all the different types of a**holes that exist. Professional a**holes (i.e. people that are trained to treat other people like crap), personal a**holes (i.e. people that treat other people like crap ’cause they want to), romantic a**holes (i.e. people that use other people to “get their rocks off” and then drop them like a bad habit)… you get the idea. Moving forward, the general term a**hole will refer to any one of the above mentioned… well, a**holes. And if you have any others that you’d like to add to the list? Please, contact me via the same procedure I outlined above. I look forward to your respective responses.

Suffice it to say that the world, at least on Thursdays, is apparently filled with a**holes. Just like the world is full of sh*theads 24/7/365 (and in a Leap Year 366). But why? What is it that brings them out on days like today, when I’m functioning, albeit barely on minimal sleep and the sky overhead is gray/the air is thick enough to cut with a knife? I can think of any number of reasons. Postulations, really. And here they are:

  1. It’s Thursday. As in the weekend minus one. And here in southeastern Pennsylvania in the summertime, weekends mean one thing: The Shore. As in the Jersey Shore and no, I am not referring to the now defunct, MTV show (the damage on pop culture from that little phenomenon is, blessedly, done). Come Thursday, people are already looking forward to cutting out early on Friday, packing their families into their respective cars and heading east to that place where the ocean meets the land. So of course they get grumpy and turn into a**holes on Friday minus one. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde “thing”: Those same people that are calling me up/cursing me out on the phone today will be the ones sitting on the beach tomorrow night with a wine cooler in one hand and a cigar in the other. Maybe that’s why I’m not one, at least per my own reckoning. I don’t, in the immortal words of Billy Joel “spend my weekends on the Jersey Shore.” I generally spend them at home in Broomall, Pennsylvania either doing stuff with my kids and my wife when she’s not working, or doing stuff around the house. So Thursdays, for me, are just another day. Fridays, too. Saturdays, Sundays… they all kind of meld together for sh*theads like me. I haven’t really had a weekend in a while. Maybe I need one. But then again, if I do take one I might end up turning into an a**hole. It’s a Catch-22.
  2. They’ve had almost an entire week to build up to it. This one presumes that a**holes are just a**holes 24/7/365 (and in a Leap Year 366) and Thursday is, in fact, National Be An A**hole day. It’s an unwritten pact among them. They begin building up their angst on Monday AM and let it fester until Thursday. And then? They lash out with the full force of their a**hole-ness. They get it out of their respective systems by the end of the day Thursday so that Friday, they can come in to work fresh and unhindered and coast through the day until the ringing of the bell at quittin’ time. Then, they go home and treat their loved ones with respect. Because they “got their rocks off” on poor, unsuspecting sh*theads like me. If I may bastardize the words of the progressive rock band Midnight Oil, “A**holes are a**holes so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully?”
  3. It can’t be Jerk-Off Day. That’s Monday. Depending on who you ask, every day is Jerk-Off Day. I once knew a guy who bragged that he could do so two, three… four times a day (his nickname was “KYW” and if he’s reading this, he knows who he is). Quick parenthetical aside: How does one do… that that many times in one day? It’s the equivalent of paint primer on a very sensitive portion of the male anatomy. Calluses, maybe? ‘Dunno. End parenthetical aside. This blog entry is not about Jerk-Offs though it was inspired by my wife’s text regarding them (booyakasha, dear: RESPECT). It’s about a**holes. But the Jerk-Offs already have a claim to Monday (I trust Nicole on that point implicitly). Wednesday is Hump Day which eliminates it and Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the Weekend which eliminates them. That leaves Tuesday and Thursday and Tuesday? Tuesday has no identity. It doesn’t deserve one. It’s just… BLAH. Never any good television on and most people are just… not a**holes, but miserable because they’re a day plus detached from a weekend and further away from the next one than closer. Tuesday doesn’t deserve an identity in my subjective reality and since we’re chillin’ on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence here on “Random Musings,” F-Tuesday. I’m eliminating it from contention. Thursday wins by default.
  4. They miss “LOST.” I guess this one’s a bit of a stretch but think about it: For six seasons, the mind-bending, water cooler conversation enhancing, oft times brilliant, others aggravating television show “LOST” was on every Wednesday night at 9:00 PM. I know my wife and I never missed an episode. It gave us something to talk about on Thursday AM. But ever since the show ended I’ve noticed an uptick in the quantity of a**holes that come out every Thursday to make my life a living h-e-double hockey sticks. Are they longing for the adventures of Jack Shephard, Kate and Sawyer? Locke and Ben? Richard Alpert and the Others? I guess the likes of “Chicago Fire” and “Nashville” just don’t measure up comparatively. Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J J Abrams take note: If you’ve got a spin-off/sequel in you, now might be a good time to start writing it, ’cause the longer the world has to go without the particular brand of insanity/brilliance that was on display every Hump Day the more chance that everyone, including me is going to morph into an a**hole. “Property Brothers” has been a good, temporary stop gap but I need me some thought provoking television. I love “The Walking Dead” but it’s mainly popcorn entertainment. I love “Game of Thrones” but I already know the outcome having read the books. I love “The Killing” but they totally “Seven’d” out the end of this last season. That said, I’m begging you on behalf of Losties everywhere: We’re still here. And we’re waiting. Save us all from our inner a**holes.

I couldn’t think of “5.” My mind is starting to go a bit fuzzy around the edges. Gul’darned borderline sleep deprivation. Sorry. If you’ve got a “5,” a “6” or a “7,” please feel free to… repeat the litany with me, guys: Send it to me via the above mentioned procedure. It’s a heady proposition that Thursday = National Be An A**hole Day, and while the above, four postulations give a good basis for my argument, circumstantially at least, every argument, especially one by a sleepy sh*thead that calls himself the Madchronicler deserves all the support it can get.

Things have quieted down here in my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence this afternoon. The gray, threatening sky overhead has finally started to yield a little bit of precip here in southeastern Pennsylvania. One of my all time favorite movies is “The Crow” and there’s a song in it called “It Can’t Rain All The Time.” It seems like it’s been raining on both a**holes and sh*theads alike for the last couple of weeks. Whether on the weekend, Jerk-Off Day, the identity-less Tuesday, Hump Day or the theoretical National Be An A**hole Day… apparently precip plays no favorites. This past weekend, I did get to go down the shore for a bit and it was actually sunny and beautiful for once. I sat on the porch of the house on the Jersey Shore where I was staying with a White Russian in one hand and a cigarette in the other and I pondered… postulated. Years ago I said that “the world is full of sh*theads” and I ended that piece of mental flatulence with a bold statement: I want to be a sh*thead. I want a mundane, routine existence as a normal nine to fiver. The question that I now face–as Thursday slowly segues into Friday, AKA another weekend spent landlocked with my girls in Broomall, Pennsylvania with a full list of things including yard work and replacing a shower head to do–is this:

Would I be better off as an a**hole? Do I want that the same way I wanted to be a sh*thead back when we all lived for a time in “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else? Would I rather be the caller than the unsuspecting answerer? That’s a damn good question, guys. I look around me and do you know what? The a**holes? They’ve got nice lives for the most part. They spend “their weekends on the Jersey shore,” they “get their rocks off” during the week so they can go home at quittin’ time on Friday night and treat their loved ones with respect. They could give a flying fig about Tuesday and Jerk-Off Day? It only comes (pun intended) two, three… four times a month. Just like every other day. Maybe they miss “LOST” as much as I do. Maybe they just can’t stand “Chicago Fire” and “Nashville” and haven’t yet discovered “Property Brothers.” I could be that person. That guy. An a**hole. So why don’t I?

Because despite the borderline sleep deprivation I am suffering from, I’m still in complete control of my mental and physical facilities. And those facilities? They’re generally not predisposed to a “FTW” mentality. ‘Cause I’m a sh*thead. A nine to fiver. And I’m a nice guy. And if nice guys are destined to always been the answerer? Well, guys, it turned out okay for Jack Shephard, didn’t it?

Yeah. It did. Until next time, fellow sh*theads and a**holes. Stay frosty.

F.

In Which I Attempt and Likely Fail to Get “Freshly Pressed”

I’ve accomplished a lot in my 37, almost 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I’ve rambled, ranted and raved about many of those accomplishments–both good and bad–for years, both here, on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 1.0,” in my oldest pieces of “Mental Flatulence” and in my original “Dissertations.”

Most recently, I’ve written about the publication err, self-publication of my first book, ENDWORLD – A Novel (I need to keep it real for the people that think I got a book deal). A quick, parenthetical aside on that: The book is still selling modestly well, even after almost a month, and I am patiently awaiting next week when my self-proclaimed “Memorial Day Week Promotional Blitzkrieg” will begin. Note to all: Be prepared. Me and my book are going to be popping up all over the place. And by “all over the place” I mean across the blogosphere and on social media. Maybe even on one or two Google “Search Result” pages. “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Don’t all “ooh” and “aah” at once. I don’t expect that you’ll see my book cover and my face on a billboard overlooking I-95 through Philadelphia. At least not until I shed a couple of pounds. You think a television adds 10 pounds? Imagine what a 30 foot wide by 20 foot high billboard adds. Crikey. I’d look like an albino extra from an old “Godzilla” movie. Just call me Mecha-Marsh.

I’m even 50+ pages into the sequel, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD thanks largely in part to the not-so-gentle insistence of the people who have finished the first book and really want to see what happens next, and the new Daft Punk album, “Random Access Memories.” All in all? Life’s pretty good, right now. I’ve got to say that as the eras of my life go, this one ranks pretty close to the top. After all, I’m fulfilling two dreams at once: Being a dad and being a writer (not in that order nor in reverse order).

Are there things that I’d change? Sure. I’d love to drop a couple of pounds (and by a couple I mean 50-60). I’d love to spend more time with just my wife and less time with my wife and my beloved “minions,” AKA my children. I’d love for my book to already be a bestseller. I’d love a place down the shore. But I’m a realist really (try saying that five times fast), and I know that, in the immortal words of Mick Jagger, “you can’t always get what you want.”

Okay. Accepted. But there is one thing that I’m lacking. One last, little accomplishment that I’d love to… well, accomplish. That accomplishment? To be…

Drum roll please… 

Freshly Pressed. 

For those of you that don’t know what that means, here’s a definition: “Freshly Pressed” is something that WordPress does with certain blog posts. Per their tutorial (viewable HERE), they Freshly Press blog entries that “enlighten us, inspire us, entertain us and get us talking.” As for who “us” is I’m assuming “us” = The Powers that Be, otherwise known in this case as the WordPress Admins. There are other criteria but at it’s core? That’s what being Freshly Pressed entails. Almost every blog that I follow here on WordPress has, at some point, been Freshly Pressed. They’ve all got that cool, little “Freshly Pressed” badge on their sites. But “Random Musings?” Nope. Never. I could just copy and paste one to my sidebar but that would be cheating. I believe in earning my kudos, not undercutting the system/fabricating them.

Do my posts not enlighten you? Inspire you? Entertain you? Get you talking? If they don’t okay. No problem. I’ve obviously overestimated the reach of my ramblings. Perhaps I spend to much time talking about things that interest me and too little time talking about… I don’t know. Cats. Or Doritos and Smartfood. Or something else that I know a lot about. I’ll concede that at times, this blog has seemed more of an online journal and less of a… how does one define a “blog?”

A blog (a contraction of the words web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first) (SOURCE: Wikepedia of course).

Okay. Per that criteria, “Random Musings” does qualify as a blog and not an online journal. It is a discussion, even if it’s just a discussion with me, myself and my wife who religiously reads every one of these posts in the hopes that she will see something transcendent. Or just funny. I think she’d settle for funny. In truth? I think she just reads it to humor me. And I appreciate that in the same way that I appreciate people telling me that I’m not obese. Um… yeah. Guess what? I am. Morbidly so though I have been told that I carry it well by people that I know would not humor me. Fact? I’m 30 pounds clear of just “obese.” And that’s without consuming sugar. Stupid potato chip-esque products. I should have left you in my proverbial rear view mirror after Lent had expired.

Curse you, Doritos and Smartfood! Curse you to h-e-double hockey sticks! 

There’s more to being Freshly Pressed. A lot more. And admittedly? I want it. I want it so badly. I crave it the way I crave Tostitos,Velveeta and Salsa. There’s nothing like watching college football in the Fall while your “minions” nap with a bag of chips, a trough of cheesy but spicy goodness and a towering glass of Tea Cooler, the latter of which has enough sugar in it to fell a thoroughbred. So this blog entry will be… is an attempt to get Freshly Pressed by analyzing and, hopefully, incorporating each and every one of the selection criteria outlined in the aforementioned tutorial (again, viewable HERE). Will it work? I have no idea. But much like the whole publishing err, self-publishing a novel thing, I’ll never know unless I try. So here goes:

1. Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff. 

In layman’s terms? DOA. 90% of “Random Musings” is “dead on arrival.” Per the Freshly Pressed criteria, “hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images that belong to someone else, spam or content that’s primarily advertorial in nature” are not allowed (SOURCE: WordPress Tutorial, cited above). I’m good on hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images and spam. Those items are not in my nature as a person or a writer. I hate no one, not even my Biological though admittedly? I “strongly dislike” him. Fear-mongering? The use of fear to affect the actions and opinions of others? I’m seriously the least scary person I know, though the idea of seeing my mug on a billboard really terrifies the you-know-what out of me. As for adult/mature content, let’s face it: I’m a traditionalist. I feel that certain things need to be kept behind closed doors. The name of this blog isn’t “50 Shades of a Pseudo-Madman” (though if it was, I bet I’d get a lot more traffic) and the only sex scene I ever wrote is contained in the pages of the only novel I ever published. And even it’s not too graphic. Copyrighted images and spam? Okay, the idea that anything on the World Wide Web is “copyrighted” at this point is ludicrous. The bulk of what’s out there… out here is a part of the eminent, public domain and will remain so until such time as someone buys a controlling interest in the Internet, AKA never. And I decry spam/spammers. I’d hunt them all down and spank them if I could. But that last bit? “Content that’s primarily advertorial in nature?” Yep. D. O. A. I’ve spent the better part of the last six months hocking my book, AKA my “wares” on this blog/over on ENDWORLD and THE ENDWORLD SERIES. I’ve even done it in the content of this blog entry. Survey says? Disqualified. I am the weakest link, and I probably should say goodbye at this point. But I’ve already started so really? Why not finish. 

2. Have a point of view/Don’t be afraid of your voice. 

I’m lumping these two together because they’re invariably related. Furthermore, in the interest of time and fairness, I’m only going to rank this as one criteria, and not two. “Random Musings” comes much closer to meeting this one than the first one. I most certainly have a point of view and I express it, sometimes to the chagrin of people who come here looking for something transcendent or amusing and end up reading x-amount of paragraphs that ruminate on my own, subjective life, the universe and everything, i.e. the world… the “All” as I see it. But that’s a point of view, is it not? Everyone sees the ever-turning world around them and the ever-expanding (or shrinking depending on your perspective) universe differently. Me? I generally don’t get depressive about what’s occurring in the grand scheme because really? It’s supremely FUBAR. It has been for some time now and will likely remain so so long as one side of the proverbial aisle can’t agree with the other. Note that I said “proverbial.” I’m not simply referring to Congress though I’m sure that one or two conservatives/liberals will take it that way. I’m referring to one belief system as opposed to another, or one world view as opposed to another. We’re a long way as a species from the idealized Earth that Gene Roddenberry envisioned when he first conceived of “Star Trek” a half a century ago. In this world’s defense? As docile as Roddenberry’s Earth was, his universe was incredibly f*cked up. And we’re still 50 or so years away from Zefram Cochrane’s first warp flight/First Contact so there’s time. But I’d feel a great deal more secure raising my “minions” into adults in a world free of crime and currency that emphasizes learning and exploration, not just on a macro level, but on a micro one (i.e. not just the exploration of the vastness “out there” but of the limits of the mind). And as for not being afraid of my own, unique and sometimes exhaustive voice? Well, I think that I’ve demonstrated that on multiple occasions  In summation? I think I’ve got this one. Survey says? I’m one and one. Moving on.

3. Paint us a picture. 

Ugh. This one is just about DOA, as well. Yeah. “Random Musings” doesn’t really have much of a visual element. That’s the problem with my writing: I’ve grown accustomed to illustrating things with words and not with pictures. I was never very good at taking pictures, though I’ve got a couple at home/on my C-drive that I really treasure. Do you want to see them? Here are a few. With explanations (of course):

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This is a recent picture of me and my “minions.” I’m the ugly mug rocking the grizzly beard on the left. That’s Cara in the middle and on the right? Natalie, otherwise known as “Natalia.” Because in Soviet Russia, everything sounds cooler with an -ia (pronounced “ya”) on the end.

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This is a recent pic of me and my smoking hot wife, Nicole. It was taken at my cousin’s wedding back at the beginning of April. There was a fedora there, as well (the one that you see in my Gravitar profile pic/my author pic) but it didn’t make it into this picture. It made it into others, but showing those pics on here would further violate criteria number one (posts that are free of “bad stuff”). Finally…

Higbee Beach, Cape May, NJ

This is not a recent pic. It’s actually pretty old. It’s a picture of the path through the dune forest to Higbee Beach in Cape May, NJ. If you’ve finished reading ENDWORLD – A Novel (SPOILER ALERT) you know that it plays a pretty significant role in the final pages. It also plays an even more significant role in the opening pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. The final scene in ENDWORLD originally took place upon it. It was not until a few years ago that I decided to “move” it to another location. But I couldn’t resist bringing Higbee into William’s story. And I like it’s function now a lot more than I like it’s original function. But I’ll leave it at that. You’ll find out soon enough for yourself.

So there you go. Whether that visual element is enough to get me Freshly Pressed remains to be seen. At the least, I got to share a couple of meaningful pictures with you. Meaningful to me. Whether or not they are meaningful to you is open to debate. Survey says? Draw. Still one to one with one push.

4. Make it easy on the eyes/Aim for typo free content. 

Oh boy. Here’s another one… two, actually (ranked as one singular criteria) that “Random Musings” arguably fails miserably at. Actually, I shouldn’t just blame the blog. It’s me. Easy on the eyes? Not physically or proverbially. I’m wordy. It’s about as integral a characteristic of my genetic make up as my love of anything and everything potato chip-esque. In my defense, I’ve been trying lately here, over on the Endworld site and in CHILDREN to cut back on it. One sentence to describe what used to take me two; shorter paragraphs. Have you noticed? Likely not. And if this blog entry is any indication my paragraphs are still as morbidly obese as I am. The problem with that? If I drop the equivalent of 50-60 pounds off of one of my paragraphs I end up with something that is not Mecha-Marsh. I’m descriptive. I think it comes from my Biological, a fact which I acknowledge, but don’t exactly revel in. I do use bulleted and/or numbered text (these criteria being a good indication thereof), I rarely center justify anything and the design of my page–Misty Lake–is one of the cleanest templates available. But verbosity? Yeah. I’m a’cursed with it. As for typos? I was an English Major in college. I had a qualified Editor edit my book. Yeah, typos = Me. Though I do endeavor to cut down on them here. Survey says? A big minus one. “Random Musings” one, WordPress Powers that Be two.

5. Add relevant tags. 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t “get” tags. I mean, I understand the idea behind them. “Don’t use tags that are too obscure” and “use relevant tags.” Okay. So I guess “The Ooh Cat,” “Dead Possum” and “Ebola” aren’t exactly popular or relevant to anyone save for:

  • Someone who worships “Puss in Boots” more than my almost four year old does.
  • Someone who lives in a metro area and thinks a “possum” is a creature of lore, right up there with foxes and bunny rabbits (both of which exist in abundance in Broomall and DELCO).
  • Someone who recently traveled abroad and is now suffering from influenza-like symptoms or someone who has watched the move “Outbreak” way. Too. Many. Times (I mean, it’s not that great a movie; the book is a whole heck of a lot better).

FYI: Bulleted points, WordPress Admins. Bulleted points twice in one blog entry. Bonus points, perhaps?

Tags like those aren’t going to get “Random Musings” noticed by the WordPress Powers that Be. And until my book is an established commodity and not “selling modestly” “ENDWORLD” isn’t going to pull in too many readers, either. My tags may not be relevant. But they are creative, and a part of the overall, “Random Musings” experience. Do any of you ever read the tags I tag my posts with? You should, sometime. Therein may lie the transcendence and/or funny content that you are looking for. I mean, what other blogger uses the phrase “Herbal Refreshment” as liberally as I did a few posts ago? The answer? No one. Still, I have monumentally failed to fully grasp the potential of the tag. Survey says? Another big, minus one. The Madchronicler one, WordPress Admins three.

6. Write a headline we can’t ignore. 

Regardless of whether my headlines on “Random Musings” are catchy or not, the WordPress Powers that Be have, by my reckoning (and simple mathematics) clinched victory. The best that I can achieve at this point is a two-three loss. Meaning? Meaning that unless I break from my tried and true formula of writing non-fiction “essays,” not only this blog post, but no other blog post that I have ever written or will ever write here on “Random Musings” will be Freshly Pressed. That said, I think my headlines are pretty catchy. So I’m going to score this one for the good guys. Survey says? “Random Musings” two, WordPress three. Sound buzzer. Game over.

And there you have it. Cue the faceless victors cheering and cue me, the morbidly obese published err, self-published author/blogger with the grizzled beard weeping profusely in the corner of his subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Congratulations: You have now shared in yet another, personal accomplishment–one of the bad ones.

The point of this rambling treatise that might get me kicked off of WordPress (but I certainly hope it doesn’t) is this: I don’t write because I seek the validation of my peers. I didn’t write ENDWORLD – A Novel because I wanted the world to see me as more than just Frank Marsh, a semi-regular Joe Schmoe that works an eight to five, Monday through Friday (and every fourth Saturday) job. I said this earlier and I’ll say it again: I’m fine with how my life is, presently. This really is one of the greatest eras of my life too date. Because I’ve got my “minions.” And I’ve got my sweetie (pics above). And Higbee Beach awaits me at the far edge of my vision IRL though in Endworld? It’s currently in the forefront. I was a living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face pre-publication. Being a published err, self-published author is just the icing on the cake. No. I write because I want to tell a story. I’ve got a whole book of ’em in my head. Some fiction, and some non. Some both. And one day, I hope to tell them all to anyone that wants to read them. Time and health–God willing–permitting.

And as far as being Freshly Pressed? If it happens it happens. Again, I don’t blog because I seek validation as a blogger. I blog because I’ve got something to say. I blog the way I talk because IRL? Most of my talking revolves around answering technical questions about hydraulic applications, the myriad of questions that Cara asks me on a given day or teaching Natalie (AKA “Natalia”) how to say “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Cara” and “Doritos.” Whether or not people chose to hear my voice is their prerogative. Whether or not my ramblings have an iota of meaning for you is relative. I’m sure there are one or two people out there that can relate to my accomplishments–both good and bad–and can commiserate with my musings on life, the universe and everything. Maybe the others just read “Random Musings” because they’re looking for something transcendent. Or just funny. In truth? I think they’d settle for funny, too. Like my wife, who either humors me or hangs on every word that I type (and sweetie? Please don’t ever tell me which; thank you).

I’d love to be Freshly Pressed. I’d cherish that badge the way I cherish a cool, Fall Saturday (not one of the fourth ones) filled with College Football, multiple tall glasses of Tea Cooler with enough sugar in them to fell Godzilla and Tostitos with Velveeta and Salsa dip. Admittedly? It would be really cool to see my ugly mug of a Gravitar picture, fedora and all on that page along with one of my headlines. Much better than seeing albino Mecha-Marsh 30 feet high and 20 feet wide. Who needs a billboard when you can gain access to 500,000 other bloggers, some with like interests to yours and others with completely different ones. Can it happen? Will it? Or am I forever doomed to blogging obscurity?

Here is the conclusion of my pitch, WordPress Powers that Be: When I’m not working my eight to five, oft times mundane, routine existence, playing with my “minions” or squeezing a few all-to brief moments of quiet time in with my wife, I’m writing. It’s not just what I do. It’s what I am. I may not meet your Freshly Pressed criteria. “Random Musings” may be an atypical blog compared to others that you read about cats, potato chip-esque products and “Star Trek.” If that’s the case no worries: So long as you continue to host me I will continue to post here. But give your buddy the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh a shot. If not for the rest of the blogosphere, then just for my poor wife, who can’t understand why I write rambling pieces of “Mental Flatulence” for free if only a select few people read them, searching in vain for something transcendent. Or funny.

I think they’d just settle for funny.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, everyone.

A Lenten Conundrum

I consider myself a good Roman Catholic, albeit not exactly a practicing one. Most observers would consider me as more of a recovering one. I’ll be honest with you because really, I pride myself on being so in both my life and my writing: I don’t go to Mass every Sunday and I haven’t for some time. I haven’t been to Confession in over a decade and generally when I do go to Mass, I skip Communion because, as Sister Mary Margaret taught me in Grade School (back when we all lived in “J-Town” and no one lived anyplace else), to receive Communion with Mortal Sin on my soul–my aforementioned lack of regular Mass attendance–is punishable by nothing short of the fires of H-E-double hockey sticks.

Despite this, I do consider myself a good, if not a great Roman Catholic. Both of my children were baptized RC; both will attend Catholic School and both will learn the same things that I learned growing up. Why? Because I consider my RC upbringing crucial to the person that I am, currently, and the people I want my girls to be. When they turn 18, they can be whatever they want to be but until that day, guys? They’ll do what I and my wife want them to do. Baptism, First Penance, First Holy Communion, Confirmation… the whole shebang. Hopefully you get the point. If you don’t? This next part is for you.

I believe in God. I believe that His son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and was Resurrected a few days later.  I’m a little put off by the idea of a Holy Ghost (or anything ghostly, for that matter), but I concede that something changes within us when we are Confirmed. I don’t know whether Mary was a Virgin or not when she conceived Jesus and I don’t care. She is the mother of “the Word made flesh” and that is enough for me. I believe that “faith” is more than just what happens within a building every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. It’s more than giving money to an establishment. Faith is something inherent within oneself. Something that one believes. And me? I believe in all of the above and in Heaven, Purgatory and Hell too boot, though I do not believe that my missing Mass most Sundays dooms me to the latter because for the most part, I’ve lived a good and moral life. At least I hope it doesn’t. If it does, wow. My whole existence seems kinda’ pointless.

In essence, I believe in a secular version of the spirituality that I was reared in. I believe that my relationship with the Almighty is a personal one, and not something I have to dignify to a building full of worshipers or anyone, for that matter. That said, my reason for writing this blog entry is not to profess my faith to you, my loyal reader (or readers; I’m not really sure how many of you there are since the whole “Visitor” versus “View” thing here on WordPress is a little vague). It merely gives you a bit of background… a foundation that sets up what this blog entry is about: A Lenten Conundrum. 

Who here doesn’t know what Lent is? A show of hands, please. Lent, for those of you that don’t, is the period of 40 weekdays leading up to Easter Sunday that are devoted to fasting, abstinence and penitence. In essence, Lent is a time of purification for all Christians, not just RCs like me: Purification of the soul for the day that marks the anniversary of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead which, in biblical times, was also the day new Christians were baptized. Today–Tuesday, February 12, 2013–is the last day of Ordinary Time, pre-Lent and is known in most circles as “Fat Tuesday.” It is a day of excess: Of not fasting, not abstaining and being unrepentant before Ash Wednesday kicks off Lent. It is a good excuse to party and it always has been. But for me in 2013? Fat Tuesday signifies something else. Something much more dire and serious now that my idea of “partying” involves popcorn, sugar-free juice boxes and “Puss In Boots” on a Saturday night with my three and a half year old. Tomorrow, I need to give up something for Lent and this year? I have no idea what in the H-E-double hockey sticks I’m going to give up.

Last year, I gave up Facebook. Don’t all “ooh” and “aah” at once. It is possible despite our seemingly insatiable need as a species to see what our friends are doing and, in some cases, who they are doing, laid out before us in blue and white. The experience, or lack thereof was actually quite liberating. Granted, I spent a lot more time on Twitter than I normally do, but I didn’t feel as locked-in to my Zuckerberg-sanctioned timeline as I usually do. So that one’s out of the question. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I generally don’t eat sweets–I can’t because of the whole high blood sugar thing–and my only real vice–smoking–is now a virtual non-vice though I’ll admit to sneaking the occasional Cancer stick, but only on special occasions like at a wedding, or on a Saturday night whilst watching “Lock Up: RAW” with my wife. I’m not a big drinker, and the one thing that I could give up–caffeine–is just not an option. I don’t think I could survive one day, much less 40 without it.

Which leaves me with the title of this blog entry: A Lenten Conundrum. I’d give up blogging–and I’m sure one or two of you reading this would be okay with that–but giving that up is the same, for me, as giving up writing. I can’t. I won’t. It’s too much of a part of who I am. I’d give up sex but come on: I’ve got two kids–a three and a half year old and an eight, soon to be nine month old–for chrissakes. How much do you honestly think I’m getting? How much do you think I even care about getting laid at this juncture? I prefer a good night’s sleep or an uninterrupted hour of reading to getting schazzy. This is in no way, shape or form a reflection on my wife who is as beautiful and desirable now as she always has been. It is merely a personal preference. Nor does it make me less of a man. What it makes me is smart. Sleep… relaxation trumps sex. I can function at work on a full night’s sleep. I can not after a tryst-filled night. So sex? Out of the question, too.

What’s left? I think that pretty much uses up all of the broad topics. Social media? No. Sweets? No. Smoking? Not significant enough. Drinking? See smoking. Caffeine? H-E-double HOCKEY STICKS no! Writing? Nothing to gain. Sex? No point. Am I then reduced to actually picking out specifics to give up like Monster Energy Drinks, Mumford and Sons or Words with Friends? Perhaps. There has to be something. The driving precept behind a Lenten sacrifice is giving up a luxury. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a vice. So what luxuries do I enjoy, outside of the ones mentioned above? Here goes:

1. Cheese: I’m a cheese junkie, guys. I love it. American, Sharp Provolone, Cheddar, Port Wine, Gov’ment and Velveeta, if the latter can even be classified as “cheese” and not a “cheese product.” But there’s a problem with giving up cheese. During Lent, one can not eat meat on Fridays. And I really can’t eat fish. So unless I’m going to eat nothing but greens every Friday between this one and the Good one, I need to keep cheese in my diet. Eating nothing but greens would have the same effect upon me as not drinking caffeine. I don’t know who or what I’d turn into, but I know it wouldn’t be pretty. Why is it that I picture myself cowering in a corner and repeating “my precious” over and over again?

2. Soda: See caffeine. Soda’s not soda, diet or otherwise (and I can’t drink “otherwise” ’cause of the aforementioned, no sugar thing) without caffeine. Anything that masquerades as decaffeinated soda is little more than carbonated liquid in a juice box. I can’t… I wouldn’t survive without it. We’re talking about giving up a luxury, guys, not functionality.

3. Functionality: Both professionally and personally. I could give up being a functional cog in the machine that is my reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Give up working; give up going out; give up being a good dad and a good husband. But doing so would be incredibly counter-productive and… well sh*t, just downright wrong. Besides, I don’t think giving up something as crucial to my life as functionality was what my religious forefathers and mothers meant when they came up with the idea of a Lenten sacrifice. I guarantee you that if they did? There would be a lot more of us out there (as if the however many billion Christians that exist in the world, currently, isn’t enough). Admit it: Laziness is attractive. It is to me. I just wish I could be lazy more often. Sadly, there’s not a lot of room for that in my life, presently.

4. Sports: Too, too easy. I mean really? Giving up sports in Philadelphia right now is the equivalent of taking a vacation. The Flyers stink. The 76’ers blow. The Eagles went 4-12 and just resigned Mike Vick, much to the chagrin of 90% of the sports fans in this city. Phillies’ Pitchers and Catchers reported today to Clearwater, Florida for Spring Training but even that does little to assuage the general malaise that exists when one thinks about the local sports scene, currently. After all, the Phillies finished third in the NL East last year (81-81) and are projected to do the same by most pundits going in to this season. I’d do it, but something tells me that the Almighty would look upon it as me, taking the easy way out.

5. One of my many myriad electronic devices: Smart phone, lap top, iPad, Kindle Fire… you name it and I have it. This one could work save for one issue. Actually, multiple issues, one with each. Regarding my smart phone, I’m sure I could go 40 days without it. I could leave it off in my room at home for a couple of weeks and not think twice. But doing so would eliminate the lone means by which most people contact me. Whether via text, email, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter et al, my smart phone keeps me connected to my friends and family. I have a land line at home but I honestly don’t know it’s number. Generally when it rings I concede that the person calling me is either A.) A telemarketer, B.) A robo-call, C.) My Biological trying in vain to re-establish a relationship with me or D.) My sister, who for some reason always calls my house phone. I automatically assume that if the situation is dire they will call my cell. That said, my cell is necessary to my daily functionality. Ooh, functionality: A double no-no. Plus, I have a March upgrade to look forward to. Samsung S3 here I come! Regarding my lap top, I need it for work since I am the on-call guy for my company. If Sister Mary Margaret’s hydraulic system breaks down at 2:00 AM and she calls me I need to be able to check our warehouse stock, et cetera, et cetera. Regarding my… our iPad, I rarely use it. In essence, giving up the iPad would be the same as giving up my work computer: Something that I don’t own but am allowed to borrow occasionally. Insignificant. As for my Kindle Fire, while it might be nice to give up e-reading and go back to reading paper texts for a few weeks, I am constantly using my Fire to work on e-formatting Endworld. Considering my editor just finished her first edit and will be sending her copy back to me to be re, re, re-revised in the next few days my Fire is, unfortunately, a necessity, as well.

What’s left? I honestly don’t know. I’ve covered everything and anything that I can think of. Is it conceivable that at this juncture, on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence there are few, if any non-necessities in my life? There are luxuries, but are there any that I can manage to survive without for 40 weekdays? I guess that’s why they call it a Lenten “sacrifice,” huh? The idea behind it is a secular extension of the original idea of Lent being a time of  fasting, abstinence and penitence in preparation for the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection and by association, the day of Baptism. And I profess to be a believer in a secular approach to the Roman Catholic faith that I was reared in, do I not? How can I raise my girls RC if I’m not willing to lead by example?

Maybe I should give up caffeine. After all, I didn’t think I would be able to give up Facebook for six weeks last year and I did. It would be healthier for me, wouldn’t it? Should I? Would I?

I would not. Because I believe in God. Because I believe that His son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and was Resurrected a few days later. I further believe that neither the Almighty nor His offspring would ask me to give up something pivotal to my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence as a means of purifying my soul. I can do the same thing through prayer and reflection, can I not? In addition, I remain a little put off by the idea of a Holy Ghost (or anything ghostly, for that matter), but I concede that something within me causes me to think this way at this time of year, even after 30 plus years of doing it. Furthermore, I have believed and always will believe that “faith” is more than just what Sister Mary Margaret defined it as in the Fifth Grade. I believe that faith coincides with belief, and I believe that I have been asked to sacrifice early and often over the course of my life. I have done so with zero debate. I’ve never questioned the motive, I’ve simply accepted that it was something I needed to do. Despite it, or perhaps because of it, I believe that I have lived and that I continue to live a good and moral life. If the Almighty deems it otherwise? Then I guess I underestimated His judgement of what earns one entrance into Heaven, Purgatory or Hell. Still, I am required to give something up for Lent this year and I intend to fulfill that requirement as I have every year since I first learned that I had to. And if I need to pick one of the above listed “necessities” and not caffeine? I choose…

6. None of the Above: You read that right, guys. None of the above. Believe it or not, there is actually a luxury that I have not yet mentioned that I ingest on a daily basis. For lunch; when I get home. In truth? It is likely one of the main reasons why I’m as holly and jolly as I am right now. Chips, guys. Not just potato, but derivatives thereof: Doritos, Fritos, cheesy poofs, Smartfood. All shapes, sizes and flavors. When you combine this with my preexisting inability to ingest candy or anything sugary, I am, in essence, giving up what exists in my subjective reality as junk food for Lent. I figure this will not adversely affect my functionality, nor will the Almighty, His son or that darned Holy Ghost accuse me of “getting off too easy.” Plus, I might drop a few pounds in the process, a not altogether unappealing prospect as Winter begins to wane and give way to Spring and thereafter, Summer.

There you have it! Lenten conundrum solved. I’d like to thank Sister Mary Margret for allowing me to mention her multiple times throughout this composition. I’d also like to thank the Father, the Son and yes, even the Holy Spirit for being the foundation of my spirituality. No matter how secular said spirituality has become in the last few years, I still consider myself a good, if not a great RC. I’d like to thank Mary, the mother of Jesus and her husband, Joseph. Mainly Joseph because really? Mary gets all of the credit, all of the time. I’ll give it to her: The whole Immaculate Conception thing is pretty awesome. But Joseph? Even if Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ Biological he was, seemingly, an attentive and caring father/husband. We should all aspire to be that way, shouldn’t we?

In closing, I’d like to thank my wife, Nicole, who kept Natalie and Cara occupied while I completed this blog entry. She also helped me to decide upon my Lenten sacrifice. She’s giving up sweets–all variations and derivatives thereof–for Lent. No one thinks she can do it but me? I totally think she’s got it in her. Everyone reading this? Please send her your best, positive vibes. Thank you, and have a happy and healthy Easter Season.