What Christmas Means to Me, the 2019 Edition


Incidentally, I’ve kept that pic under wraps for a few months now. Funny story: It was taken, along with a ton of others on a blustery Sunday when my minions, me, Heather and her boys spent a few hours at the Philadelphia Art Museum by the “Official Art Museum Photographer” who–for the price of $3.00–basically gave me an impromptu photo shoot. It was going to be my Christmas Card this year but I opted not to send one out. Now? I am sharing it with you. All of you. Even the ones that don’t want to see it. Happy Holidays from the Swarthmore, PA Chapter of the Marsh Family!

In the interest of full transparency, I should tell you now friends, family and oft times casual readers that this is not my first attempt at a holiday rumination. This is actually attempt number three. The previous two–both entitled “2019: A Retrospective”–were convoluted, filled with neuroses and downright boring. Basically my infamous Dennis Rodman post from a few years ago, but with a Christmas/New Years spin. I have no way of knowing if this effort is going to be any more successful than they were, and judging from how tired I am today and the fact that I woke up this fine, chilly Christmas Eve morning with a sniffle and a cough that seems to be getting progressively worse and worse with each, passing minute I’m not optimistic and the only thing I can tell you with surety is that’s it’s likely not going to be long. Still? In the immortal words of Freddie Mercury/Queen and countless other entertainers over the years, “the show must go on” and this show? Trainwreck or not, It always goes on. For 44 plus years so? So. Let’s get schazzy, peeps.

First off? Happy Christmas Eve guys and gals that celebrate, and Happy Holidays to anyone that doesn’t. I hope you are all reading this, nestled snug in your respective beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads. Unrelated to sugar plums and sleep–some things I’ve lacked in abundance this holiday season–I was driving into work this morning (staffing never stops, y’all; I’ll probably be getting phone calls and emails tomorrow) and Carrie Underwood’s version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” came on the radio. In a completely unrelated turn of events, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks, or a five ton pile of candy canes, dropped on my head from a height high enough to daze me, but not high enough to kill me that there was only one thing I had to write today. One rumination. One little piece of Mental Flatulence that in no way, shape or form relates to Dennis Rodman. Thank God for that, right?

I’ve made no secret that 2019 has… let’s just say had it’s moments. Not by any stretch of the imagination all bad, but bad enough at points to make me reconsider my motto of never giving up and just throwing my hands up in the air, saying “f*ck it Dude” and going bowling. Booyakasha, Lebowski. Respect. What I will say is that no matter how bad I think or thought I had it in 2019, other folks on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence had and have it worse, and I think that we the people inadvertently lose sight of that at this time of year. I don’t think it’s intentional. Heck no. But we get so caught up in the grind that is the season we’re tis’ing that we lose sight of it. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head and food in belly, even if said food is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and said roof appears to be a bit leaky. I’m fortunate to have heat and lights, water and WIFI. But others aren’t, and I wish there was a way that I could do more.

I tried this year. Really, I did. Despite what has at points been a challenging stretch of time, I made an effort because in a life that has been, for the most part over the last couple of decades pretty stable both financially and mentally (though some that know me and are reading this right now could and likely would argue the latter), this year I discovered what it felt like to struggle. Again, both financially and mentally. Maybe this is TMI, maybe not but f*ck it Dudes and Dudettes, it needs to be written so I’m bagging bowling and writing it. You’re welcome to look away if you desire.

To anyone that’s struggled in the past, if I didn’t understand it before, guess what? I do now. I was always sympathetic, but sympathetic in the way that someone is when they see others having trouble while all their bills are paid and they have Christmas presents for their kids. I felt your pain, but I didn’t really feel it the way you did and maybe still do until this past year, i.e. the year that was. 2019. Back in 2016 I wrote about taking a barb-wire wrapped baseball bat to the year that was. This year? I’d like to hit the year that was with a tactical nuke. For all the good that came out of it–and there was good; sh*t, there’s always good, even in the darkest of times–it needs to die a quick and preferably painful death, though I’ll settle for a merciful one if that’s my only option. “Am I not merciful? Am I not MERCIFUL?!?!”

I didn’t survive 2019 without scars, and I didn’t do it alone. To everyone that has helped me over the course of the year that was, thank you. I’d mention names… I’d “booyakasha respect” the sh*t out of you all but in the interest of time, and the fact that I’ll be heading out to pick up the minions in a little bit I’m just going to leave it as a blanket thank you and move on. If I can ever pay it forward… if you ever need the same, please let me know and I’ll support you in whatever capacity I can/you require.

You know guys and gals, I was on LinkedIn this morning–as I generally am, multiple times daily while working–and I saw someone that had posted about where they were 20 years ago and where they are now. Twenty years ago: A single mother who used EBT benefits to purchase cereal and candy for her kids for Christmas morning because it was all she could afford and she wanted her kids to have something under the tree to open. I grew up with that. I had my Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Campbell’s Creamed Chicken in place of a turkey or a ham dinner with all the ‘fixins a number of times as a kid.

But now? That same single mother is the owner of her own company. And I see that too. I feel it. Single Dadhood and by association Single Momhood is a pain in the a**, and despite what one or two have told me, I don’t think that I’ve conquered it. In 2019? I conquered diddly squat, AKA jack, AKA sh*t. But despite that, I look at that single mother from 20 years ago and I think to myself self? I can conquer it. I can do this. Because pulling myself up by my bootstraps is in my DNA. And despite the fact that the year that was didn’t turn out the way I thought it was going to on New Years Eve 2018/New Years Morning 2019–by roughly noon that day it had already gone sideways–2020 can be and will be better. And 2021 will be better than 2020. And so on and so forth until such time as I, too, can look back on all that I went through this year with a smile and ruminate on it and where I ended up. Maybe laugh a little, as well. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

I believe that. And I wish that for any and everyone that has struggled and is struggling right now. That’s all I want for Christmas, friends, family and oft times casual readers, alias guys and gals, alias my endlessly awesome folken. I’ve really lost interest in anything material at this point unless it’s something that supports my caffeine addiction. I wish that all the Dudes and Dudettes that had or are presently having the kind of year that makes them want to nuke it with a ballistics missile find a little peace and security over the next few days and weeks. And I hope and wish that your 2020 is a better time filled with happiness, new beginnings, love, friendship and family, not to mention bowling, zero mention of Dennis Rodman or Charlie Brown Christmas Trees and Campbell’s Creamed Chicken and a healthy dose of “the show going on.” This show? It will go on, trainwreck or not.

So raise a glass of your favorite holiday cordial and toast with me. Here’s to the year that was and what lies ahead. Year 45 of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of the same. 2020, y’all. Cheers. And Happy Holidays from your ol’ buddy Frank, alias El Autoro, alias the Madchronicler, alias the Patriarch of the Swarthmore, PA Chapter of the Marsh Family!

What Thanksgiving Means to Me, the 2019 Edition

Greetings and salutations friends, family and oft times casual readers. It is I, your ol’ pal the Madchronicler, back for another go ’round at my yearly, Thanksgiving rumination. Surprisingly, these little “What Thanksgiving Means to Me” compositions are a few of my most read, and had I realized that back in 2016 and 2017 (the only, two years since I started Random Musings that I didn’t write one), I would have made it a point to come up with something, however trite and uninteresting it ended up being. Moving forward, I will not make that mistake again. Whether you consider my pledge to never miss a Thanksgiving rumination hereafter a curse or a blessing is your prerogative. I won’t question it. To you, I’ll simply say “Happy Thanksgiving! enjoy gorging yourself on turkey, family and football.” To everyone else? I’ll say the same, and in the semi-immortal words of my former alter ego, El Autoro, “let’s get schazzy.”

I’ll not lie: This year has been and remains a bit of a bizarre one. It’s been a roller coaster, filled with ups and downs, lefts and rights, unexpected U-Turns and the occasional Jug Handle. Every good has been tempered by something bad and for the first time, arguably ever, one balances out the other. My life… my world has become a perpetual, albeit subjective Yin and Yang. The Dark Side and the Light. It’s been years since I’ve smiled this much, but it’s been years since I’ve cried this much, as well. Even last year–when my marriage was winding down–I was less emotional than I am now. In light of that and the last 11 plus months, what am I thankful for this year? I think I’ll start there and see what develops.

I’m thankful for the usual litany of things that most of us are thankful for: Family, friends, relatively good health, a steady paycheck et al.. I’m thankful for food in my refrigerator and a roof over mine and my minions’ heads. I’m thankful for my minions. I’m thankful for Heather, our relationship and for how she supports me regardless of my mood. Booyakasha, Sweetie. Respect. Insert huggy and kissy emoticon HERE. I’m thankful for the gifts that the almighty gave me which led me to publish my second novel this year which, I should add, is still available on Amazon, Barnes Noble et al.. And it only costs $0.99! Links to buy can be found HERE. And that, guys and gals, is the only shameless plug I will include in this little piece of Mental Flatulence.

Most importantly? I’m thankful that I still get to wake up every morning (although it does take me a bit longer to roll out of bed these days than it used to) and embrace my life less extraordinary. Forty four plus years on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Damn. A couple hundred years ago I would have been considered a senior citizen. That term bespeaks age. Wisdom. Whereas the term “Middle Aged” sounds depressing as f*ck. “Life, man. Life.” But I digress.

In “life, man, life,” one must temper the good with the bad/the light with the dark and not allow oneself to despair. And this year has been filled with moments that made me want to crawl up, fetal, into a little corner and just give up. I’m not thankful for those moments, but I’ve allowed myself them ’cause as people always tell me, you’re human and you should have them. No one is invincible. Even Superman has a weakness. These moments? They usually happen in private. I’ve become… somewhat guarded and it takes a lot to get me to open up about anything. But despite an overwhelming urge to give up at points, I never did. I never will. And that’s something else I’m thankful for this year: The capacity to forge, ever onward despite the universe seemingly screaming at me to tap out. I don’t know if it’s folly or not, folken, but it’s who I am. I guess it’s who I’ve always been. And I won’t belabor your eyes or minds with that at this time because I’ve already gone there in the past within the electronic pages of this blog. It makes me no greater a human being than any of you reading this and anyone else on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence that isn’t. Just… me. El Autoro. The Madchronicler. Frank f*cking Marsh.

Frank f*cking Marsh has learned a lot this year. Is it possible to mature, even at the ripe old/young (depending on your perspective) age of 44? Apparently it is because I have. There’s zero point in denying that. There came a point, sometime in my early 30s when I became a dad for the first time and I thought, “that’s it! I’m done!” And for a while, I was. But “life, man, life” has a funny way of inserting it’s long, pointy and highly annoying gnome-like nose in your business and guess what? It did. And guess what else? I’m thankful that it did. I’m grateful for the opportunity to change and evolve, even now because once upon a time, I grew complacent. And I got burned. Never again, y’all. Add that on as an addendum to my earlier, Thanksgiving pledge and “lock it in” for the forthcoming days, weeks, months and years. And if you’re reading this and know me as more than just an occasional read (mi familia y hermanos y hermanas; you know who you are), do me a favor? Remind me of it if I ever falter in my resolve. Booyakasha, folken. Respect.

They say that the first year post… anything is the toughest. I’m not going to generalize and say that it’s just the first year post-a marriage or a relationship because there’s so. Much. More. Maybe it’s the first year post-a job you’ve been working in for decades. Maybe it’s the first year post-retirement. The first year post-losing your companion, human or animal (’cause in the end, that’s what we all are, is it not? Animals). Your first year post-Cancer or your first year, God forbid with it. I could go on and on and on even further, but I’m pretty confident that you get the point. Change is never easy. And not everyone adapts to it well. Me? I guess I’ve grown relatively used to it at this juncture but it’s still not simple. I’ll be the first denizen of this, or any reality to tell you that, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve had my moments of despair not just over the course of the last year, but over the course of my life, as well. Someone recently proposed that I may suffer from a spot of depression. I don’t know if I do or I don’t. I think I just grow attached to things. I “fall” easily. And do you know what? I’m thankful for that, as well.

So that begs the question: Is there anything I’m not grateful for? Survey says? I guess not. My life is what I’ve made it, for good and bad/light and dark. Your life is what you’ve made it, as well. So? You can either accept responsibility for it, or not. I won’t judge you either way. “When you think about it, we’re all different people, all through our lives and that’s okay. That’s good. You’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” And I, like the good Doctor (Who?) Will never forget that. Not one iota. We never stop evolving, friends, family and oft times casual readers. And that?

You guessed it. That’s something I’m thankful for, as well. Most importantly though? I’m thankful for you. Yes, you. All you folken that have been reading my various ruminations for decades. If you keep coming back for more I vow to you that I’ll keep writing. Always.

And with that? I’ll send you on your ways to enjoy your respective holidays. A very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence from your ol’ pal El Autoro, alias the Madchronicler…

Alias Frank f*cking Marsh. Winky emoticon. Smiley face. See you next year.

An October Retrospective

So today would have been my 14th Wedding Anniversary. I guess that technically, it still is. At least until such time as things are finalized. It’s been… Quite a year. I think back on where I was LAST October 15th, and I compare that to where I am now. It’s been a year of change. Some good, some REALLY good, some bad and thankfully, not much that has been REALLY bad. Last year, as I was preparing to embark on this new adventure (if you can even call it that), i.e. the life of a Single Dad or as I like to call it, “Single Dadhood,” a lot of people told me that Year One is the hardest. Those people? They were right, and while I don’t really have a point of comparison yet–ask me for that next October–I feel comfortable saying that it HAS been rough. Despite the good–a new job, a new relationship etc.–I’m probably more tired now than I was last year at this time.

Do I regret it? No. Not at all. I pride myself on living my life regret free and while an argument or two can and HAS been made about how I handled… A lot, without going into specifics? I regret nothing. I’ve thought long and hard about it friends, family and oft times casual readers. And like Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark/Iron Man said in “Avengers: Endgame,” regret is toxic. Better to accept the choices you made, learn from them and move forward, content in the knowledge that you have learned from all of them and their results, good OR bad.

So where does that leave me, this sun-speckled and Fall-like day in mid-October, 2019? That’s a damn good question, and one that I do not have a complete answer for at this time. I could bull sh*t you… Could tell you what you want to hear like I used to back in college (majoring in English is the equivalent of majoring in bull sh*t), but I can’t. I won’t. I’ll only tell you that there are days when I’m happy, and days when I’m not. There are nights that I welcome and embrace the peace that comes with solitude, and there are nights when I miss my kids, and curse the silence that falls over my house after I say “goodnight” to my girlfriend. I miss the life that existed before. I remember how utterly perfect that day in 2005 was–so similar to this one–and how amazing the years that followed were, even after they weren’t.

Change, like Thanos, is inevitable, guys and gals. If nothing ever changed we’d never learn… Never be able to move forward. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. That doesn’t mean that just because you’re in a better place and you KNOW you’re in a better place, despite the struggles that you face sometimes that you’re 100% happy, 100% of the time. That may sound like me, being repetitive and maybe it is, but it’s true, and it bears repeating.

I said to a friend at work today that the best way to not get divorced is to not get married. True? Yes. But I wouldn’t trade my once-marriage for anything. Not the kids that came from it, nor the memories made, nor my decision to stick it out for as long as I did and TRY. If you love someone, folks, and you’re considering a future with them, or you’re IN a future with them, never give up unless you have no recourse left. Always try. And IF the day comes when you look in a mirror and say to yourself, “I can’t do this anymore” and you know in your heart-of-hearts–deep down in those places you don’t like to talk about at parties–that you really can’t? Then THEN and only then will the universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence give you permission to move on. When that happens? Do so. And understand that you’re going to f*ck up along the way. But learn from your f*ck ups and try not to make the same mistake more than once. Or twice. But no more than three times, everyone. That is unforgivable.

All that said? A few “thank you’s” before I end this little piece of mental flatulence and get back to my day. To Nicole, my once-pharmacy intern turned wife turned co-parent of our minions, thank you. Thank you for our life together. I’m sorry it didn’t work out… Really, I am. But I hope you’re in a better place now. I know that I am.

Thank you to my… to OUR minions for adjusting so well over the last year plus to your new life. Your resiliency continues to amaze me and I look forward to the day when you can both read this, and see in black and white how important you are to me and your mother. That doesn’t mean you’re getting an iPhone 11 for Christmas this year, but hopefully my words and undying love are gift enough. Don’t worry, girls. You’ll still get stuff. Cross my heart and hope to NOT die, at least not for a while.

Thank you to “Avengers: Endgame” for being a kick a** and take names culmination of a decade of obsessively watching Marvel movies and TV shows. Why? Just because. This puppy has not one but TWO “A: E” references in it. The MCU is a pop culture phenomenon and whether you believe it’s going to continue at the level it has for the last 10 plus years or the quality is going to drop-off, you cannot deny the impact it has had on society and culture. Plus, it validates life long Geeks like me and the sh*t we read as kids and, consequently, STILL read from time to time.

And last but certainly not least, thank you to YOU. Yes, you. You know who you are. Thank you for standing beside me through all the changes I have gone through and continue to go through now. Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for teaching me that gluten free food is actually pretty good if made right (something which I have not yet mastered but hopefully, eventually will). Thank you for seeing what I see when we look at the stars together and being a part of my past, present AND future. If you had told me a little over a year ago that I would feel the way I feel about you now, someone I have known for over 30 years, I would have looked at you askance and said, “DAFUQ?” But now? I wouldn’t want it or us any other way. Thank you, Heather. There. I said it, kiddo. Now it’s social media official. Winky emoticon. Smiley face and… that little heart, kissy face thing, too.

That’s all I’ve got, folks. Booyakasha. Respect. And good night.


“I’m Looking Over, a Four Leaf Clover…

“…that I overlooked beFORE!”

So begins a classic, Irish tune that’s about as well known as… well? Most classic Irish tunes. Like “Danny Boy” and “The Unicorn Song,” it has a distinctly Irish feel to it and as many of you reading this know (and a few maybe don’t), I am… somewhat Irish. I’m not sure about HOW much Irish I am because I’ve never had my DNA tested. My guesstimate is somewhere between 50-65% based on a number of factors, including how I look and what my parents and relatives are. So… we’ll just go with SOMEWHAT Irish and leave it at that.

Still? I was raised Irish by my Irish loving Mother, and songs like the two, above mentioned ones and the one that doubles as the title of this blog entry/piece of Mental Flatulence are not only a part of my heritage, but a part of my life, growing up as a pear-shaped little outcast turned less-pear-shaped Staffing Coordinator/writer/self-published author. And a few moments ago, I went outside because I needed some air. And low and behold! What did I see when I looked down but a f*cking four leaf clover. I sh*t you not, friends, for you are and always have been my favorite turds. Insert groan HERE.

To be honest? I haven’t seen a four leaf clover in years. I can’t remember the last time I did, only that I did, and it was… not exactly a life-altering experience, but a pretty cool one. I remember that I was a kid when it last happened. I used to sit on my lawn in J-Town, looking through every, individual blade of grass, weed AND standard, three leaf clover to see if maybe, JUST MAYBE I could get lucky and find one. And the one time that I did, I remember calling excitedly for my Mom, and being answered with silence. That’s not a knock on Mom. She was likely doing something in the house, or napping after a long couple of shifts at the multiple jobs she was working. I remember that when the initial excitement at having found one wore off, I did what you’re supposed to do when you find a four leaf clover. I made a wish. And were you to ask me what that wish was now I’d likely look at you askance and say, “DAFUQ?” JFC, guys and gals, that was probably 35 years ago. I can barely remember what I did last week.

So a few moments ago? When I discovered ANOTHER one after decades of looking, both actively, with my kids or by myself I did what I did back then. I closed my eyes, sang the song in my head, and made a wish. The song, in case you’re curious, goes like this:

I’m looking over, a four leaf clover
That I overlooked before
One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain
Third is the roses, that grow in the lane

No need explaining, the one remaining
Is somebody I adore
I’m looking over, a four leaf clover
That I overlooked before! 

It goes on like that for a couple of verses, and ends as it began. In truth? It’s not exactly a lyrical masterpiece. Most Irish tunes aren’t. They’re meant to be sung along to, oft times drunkenly, or to get you up and dancing. This isn’t a critical interpretation of an Irish Folk Song. Nor is it about a mutated strain of a weed that grows in one of every 10,000 or so other “clovers” that, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll likely miss. What matters here is not the plant/weed, nor the song, but the practice of wishing. And the wish that I made.

For reasons that I will not go into at this time, I cannot divulge the exact content of my wish and how I phrased it, but in my mind? I think it was a pretty good f*cking wish. Life has been… a bit of a grind lately. I’ve spent a lot of my “free time” exhausted. Not only have I been relatively active but emotionally? I’m tapped out, folks. What the pundits don’t tell you is that life changes? They’re pretty gosh darned tiring. And over the course of the last 12 plus months, I’ve gone through a ton.  They say that “that which does not kill you only makes you stronger.” Well? I’m still standing Elton John, but I feel like I’ve gone 13 Rounds with Ivan Drago and am holding on to consciousness for my life and for THE GLORY OF THE GOOD OLE’ U S OF A…

Um… yeah. Not really. Outdated Cold War Cinema reference aside, my point is that I’ve barely had a chance to stop and smell the clovers–the three, four or rare FIVE leaf ones–since before this time, last year. Even writing has become a bit of a chore despite the fact that I’ve published a novel, and it seems like I’ve posted both here, and over on the Endworld site with a lot more frequency this year and in the latter part of last than I have in a while. Maybe that’s a bit of age, catching up with me, or maybe it’s simply that I don’t WANT to publicize what’s going on with me, internally as much as I used to. But again, that’s not what this little blog entry/piece of Mental Flatulence is about. It’s about continuing to look for the elusive, four leaf clovers among the tens of thousands of regular three leaf ones. It’s about finding one, every 35 years or so, closing your eyes and wishing. Those wishes? In my case, they’re not about becoming rich and famous because quite frankly? I don’t want that. Part of life is having to struggle a bit and I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that because the struggle? It keeps me on my edge. Kind of like caffeine, but without the nasty side effects and increased risk of cardiac arrest. I never wanted and don’t want to be a “kept man.” No. My wishes are generally simpler… a LOT simpler than that. And I still make them and always will. Because?

Because I HAVE to. Because today? When I closed my eyes and sang the song for the first time in 35 years or so and made my wish, I saw myself as I was back in those days when we all lived in J-Town and no one lived anyplace else. I saw myself sitting there on my lawn, cross-legged in my too-short shorts and ripped Ocean Pacific t-shirt, pouring over every green “thing” on my lawn, looking for a four leaf clover. And I realized in that very moment that I still am and will ALWAYS BE that little, pear-shaped outcast turned whatever I am these days (a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist I am NOT). For the first time in a long time, I embraced him because I recall all that HE overcame and for the first time in a long time, I felt my exhaustion fade a bit. My head stopped pounding and I felt… not great. But okay. Because I know that I’ve done it before, and I can do it again. We ALL can.

So? If you’re currently struggling, folks–and I’m sure a few of you reading this are–here’s my message: Don’t give up. No matter how tired you get or how hard things are, look back over the course of your life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence and remember all that you’ve overcome too date. Remember, and in remembering understand that you’ve done it before and you CAN do it again. And you will. Don’t give up. Look over a four leaf clover. And if you can’t find one? Here you go:


Understand that one leaf represents the sun, one the rain, one the roses growing on Maple Street, on the side of the road in J-Town or on your own, little community lane and make that fourth f*cking leaf whatever you want it to be. Be it fame and fortune, someone you adore, genius, billionaire playboy philanthropy or something else entirely. Make your wish. And sing along with your old buddy the Madchronicler.




On Happiness

FYI: I wrote this a few days ago. I didn’t post it at that time. I wanted to post the one about Maple Street and J-Town and give that a few days to marinate first. Happy reading, y’all!

I’ve been wrestling with this idea lately, friends, family and oft times casual readers. Look away if you want to read something mindless ‘cause this little piece of Mental Flatulence will not be. That disclaimer… disclaimed, as a former incarnation of the Mad Chronicler, AKA El Autoro used to say—back when we all lived in and around Oz and no one lived anyplace else—let’s get schazzy.

The idea that I’ve been grappling with is a pretty simple one, folks. Happiness, otherwise known as a mental, emotional and physical state of “chill,” further known as something that, upon closer observation, I haven’t been in a long time. Let me elaborate on that a bit lest a rumor or two about me and what I’m writing about publicly hits my own, subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. My lack of happiness? It was not a product of my marriage. In that I was complacent and accepting of my role for a very, long time. And I do not regret that. Nor do I regret the 13 years I spent in it, the children it produced, the extended family I inherited et al. This may be hard for a few of you reading this to believe but guess what? I’m glad for it. It was a period in my life with a number of highs, a handful of lows and a dozen or so “meh” moments. Just like every period that came before it. If you compare it to my state of mind from roughly 1995 through mid-2000 it was, despite how it ended up a f*cking extended vacation. For a good amount of the time that I was in it, I was at peace. And that peacefulness shines through in what I wrote over the years, much of which is viewable in the e-pages of this blog.

But was I happy? That’s the question. And it’s a complicated one to answer despite the fact that the concept of happiness, on the whole is a pretty simple one to grasp. In my life, both family, social, social media, physical, yadda yadda yadda (booyakasha, Seinfeld; Respect), I was. I didn’t become truly unhappy with that until the end which is why… well? It ended. Case closed. But deep down inside of me in those places I don’t like to talk about at parties, I don’t think that I was. There was something missing for me and it was for me, not my partner. Feel free to picture me punctuating that statement by gesticulating madly to myself as I’m writing this. ‘Cause in my slightly warped mind, I am.

I’ve always been a dreamer. Always had the ideal of what I wanted out of my life/what would make me happy in my mind. I’ve always retained that vision of the perfect life. It drives me, to this day. The perfect relationship. The perfect career. My house on the beach beside the ocean with my children, my wife and the thunderstorm. Do you remember that one, friends? It goes way, way back. I originally wrote it while I was working at “Roche Diagnostics, how can I help you?” I re-posted the basic idea on here a few entries ago and you can link it HERE if you so desire to read it. Well? I’ve gone through a number of changes over the past almost year. Permutations. I’ve matured and de-matured in different ways. I’m more practical about my obligations and responsibilities but less practical about my emotions. I’ve dropped about 50 pounds to the point that none of my clothes fit me anymore and yet I’m quickly in the process of going all white and grey up top and in my beard. I quit smoking. I started vaping. I gave up sh*t beer like Coors Light and replaced it with slightly less sh*tty beer like Blue Moon. I feel great physically yet I tire earlier and more quickly. I could go on and on but this is not a blog entry about the State of my State at almost 44 years old. This is about happiness. And I’ve come to realize over the last few weeks and months that my age old, vision of happiness was not an option, and never would have been an option in my marriage. Again, not because of her, but because of me. I set too high a standard for us. It was achievable, but only in short, controlled doses and it was not sustainable. We were simply too different. We wanted different things out of our respective lives. And because of that? It ended. No hard feelings. Seriously, y’all: No hard feelings. I wish her happiness and I know she wishes me the same.

But this… realization? It begs the question: Can my perfect vision of happiness be achieved? Or is it simply a fanciful way of imagining my life as I want it to be, and not focusing on my life as it is and could be? Does that make sense? I hope it does to you ‘cause it does to me. It’s reality versus fantasy, guys and gals. Fiction versus Non-Fiction. The ENDWORLD Series versus Random Musings Version 2.0. THAT’S the crux of what I’ve been struggling with these past few weeks. Because my life has been… upgraded, you could say, and all of a sudden, that question of happiness has returned. I’m once again seeing that scene upon the beach that El Autoro originally came up with a couple of decades ago and wondering if it’s attainable, or nothing more than wishful thinking. I’m also wondering where that beach is but that’s another story… another pondering for another time. Today, I’m here about happiness. And whether or not you can achieve your ideal version of it.

A simple question that carries a relatively simply answer, at least for me. And that answer is YES. You can. Whether you get there or not remains a question but the process of going after it? Striving for it? You can do that, and while there may be as much probability as lightning, striking me right here where I sit writing this right now as actually having that exact scene from my alter ego El Autoro’s vision play out in the really, really real world, you can try. Getting there on your own, though, is a monumental task but when you have two, three, four… however many people rowing in that same, general direction the probability of it actually happening as you wrote it up “back in the day” becomes more and more… probable. Favorable. But it can’t be a blind search. You can’t be, all of you rowing in the fog, hoping blindly for some clarity or direction. The weather needs to be favorable. The goal needs to be consistent across the minds of everyone, assembled in said boat. The conditions need to be perfect. But it’s doable, y’all. I truly believe that.

Yet here’s the thing: You can’t get down on yourself or despair whilst you’re trying to get there. So you need to… temper your ideal a bit for the NOW, not the ONE DAY TO BE, i.e. the future. So am I happy? I think that I am. It’s not that perfect version of happiness that I’ve been writing about in this little, piece of Mental Flatulence but it is A version of it. I still have anxiety. Concerns. Bills to pay, children who need food as Billy Joel so aptly sang in “Downeaster Alexa.” But as tempered ideas of happiness are concerned, it’s a pretty good one. I haven’t lost sight of my beach and what has yet to transpire upon it. I may be no closer to it than I was a year ago. But I’m… Content. I think that’s the word I’m looking for. There’s a bit of peace inside of me for the first time in a while and while I know I have a ways to go… while I know that there’s a lot of water left between where I’m rowing currently and where I’m going, it feels a bit closer for the first time in a while. Another way of putting it is that I think I’m back on the path. MINE. The one I lost sight of sometime ago. Instead of diverging (sorry Robert Frost), recently? A couple of roads did the opposite and converged, not in a yellow but in a green, lush wood and though it still may be the road less traveled? It’s surprisingly familiar and that, in and of itself is enough to make me grateful. So thank you for that. End slightly vague but likely transparent to certain folks reading this rant.

I know this isn’t a typical blog entry friends, family and oft times casual readers. I think this is how I cope with the desire to write a poem for the first time in a couple of decades but the incapacity to rhyme, or find the appropriate words to express myself. Maybe that’s just rust. Or maybe… just maybe it’s the fact that much of what I wrote back in those wayward, dark and twisty days of 1995 though mid-2000 was just that: Dark. Twisty. I had another name back then, in addition to Frank Marsh, Mad Chronicler and El Autoro. It was a name I gave myself. I was the Lunatic Lover and I lived by the credo, “chaos is a friend of mine.” Booyakasha, Ozzy; Respect. As those wayward days of my late youth/early adulthood passed into memory after that, so did my poetry. Happiness of a sort… peace took over my life and there was no need for that guy anymore. I think the greatest testament to how I’m feeling presently is the fact that the Lunatic Lover has remained silent in my mind (we’re all mad here, folks!). That speaks volumes to me. Perhaps it does to you, as well. There still may be a poem or two in this but it won’t be something steeped in sadness. It’ll be something hopeful. Optimistic. And I promise I’ll share it when and if I write it. You can decide for yourself if you want to read it. I’m cool with it, and you either way.

That said? I think I’m done. Disclaimer disclaimed and mischief managed. I’d like to thank all of my alter egos for continuing to get schazzy with me on this weird a** ride called “life.” I’d also like to thank Seinfeld, Roche Diagnostics and the entire Accu-Chek line of blood glucose testing supplies for saving a ton of lives and keeping me employed during my dark and twisty phase. Further thanks to Billy Joel, his daughter Alexa, Ozzy Ozbourne, chaos in general, Robert Frost and anyone that’s helping me row the proverbial boat right now. I know we’ve still got a ways to go but see that? Yep. That’s a seagull. And that purple lump in the distance that you can see every time a swell passes? Yep. That’s our destination. So don’t give up. Keep going. It’s closer now than it was a year ago.

We’ve got this.


On Summer, Childhood, and a Little Street, in a Little Town Known to Many as J-Town


Today, I watched with joy as my minions ended the 2018-2019 school year, were “promoted” to Fifth and Second Grade respectively and collected a little end of year hardware. Mind you, said hardware was, in each case a certificate, specifically an award. Cara received the Art Award for her homeroom (a Marsh winning an Art Award? It’s UNHEARD of, sarcasm fully intended) and #NatNatBoo received the Effort Award for hers. To say that I was proud of them, and remain proud of them at this late hour is the understatement of the year on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, in my subjective reality. To have gone through what they went through this year and still achieve what they achieved? I remember what it was like for me when I was Cara’s age. The year my mother and father separated? I was a wreck. The one after that, as well, and the one after that. I think, after that things started to get better but I honestly don’t remember. Jeez, guys and gals, that was over 30 years ago. I can barely remember what happened to me last week!

I’ve spoken at length this eight months or so, after I went public with that was going on in my life about their resiliency, and how amazed I was at their capacity to adjust, and overcome. We’ve had our moments since I relocated to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania but for the most part? It’s been status quo. Business as usual. Pick your poison or in this case, your favorite cliche and roll with it. It applies. They’ve made adjusting to this new life easier than it could have been… Hell, SHOULD have been and for that? I love them. Sh*t, I love them anyway but if it’s possible to love them a wee bit more than I already did, I do. That said, I’m not popping by Random Musings tonight to extol the awesomeness of my progeny (though admittedly? They are pretty awesome and I could write about them all night). I’m actually here for another reason and that one? It’s loosely related to them finishing school for the year. It’s not about what’s passed, but what’s ahead. Specifically? Summer. It’s officially summertime again! Insert Happy Dance HERE.

The idea of Summer conjures many a memory for many a denizen of my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Swimming pools. Pick-up baseball games ala “The Sandlot.” Shore trips. Trips to the mountains. Lying out in your backyard getting a tan or, in my case, a really nasty sunburn. Barbecues. Patriotic celebrations. Fireworks. Catching lightning bugs. Sh*t friends, family and oft times casual readers, I could go on and on for paragraphs. Summer means something different to everyone but to me? It has and always has had a singular meaning. A memory that I’ve been unable to shake since I was a young’in. I find myself pondering it every year at this time and surprisingly enough? I’ve rarely written about it in the e-pages of this blog or my previous one, Random Musings Version 1.0. That memory? I touched upon it when I wrote about the Mayor of Maple Street a few years ago but that piece was a eulogy and this? This is not. Though it does involve a certain street, in a certain town that has been popularized in modern television and Hollywood to the extent that writing about it NOW doesn’t feel like it has the same, universal heft as it did 10 years ago. Yet I still feel the need to write about it ’cause once upon a time, someone told me I had to. They told me that our story? It was mine to tell. And for some reason, I feel like it still is. Whether anyone will read it now that we have The Goldbergs and Bradley Cooper is a mystery, but somehow… someway? I still feel like it’s my baby. My tale to tell. So I guess I’m going to tell it and we’ll see what happens.

I am, of course, referring to that little street, in that once-little town that is still called “Maple Street” and the town? It’s J-Town, otherwise known as Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. What follows in the pages of this blog is the story of us. The kids turned adults I grew up with. The things we did. Our experiences and guess what? I’m not going to put a price tag on it. I’m simply going to embrace the idea… the concept of writing for joy and not profit because I did the published author thing. Hell, I’m still doing it. Telling you this tale is not about money. It never was back then and it isn’t now. We were lucky if we had fifty cents in our pocket to go buy Tastycake Fudge Bars at Lena’s Deli (to say nothing of Cheese Fries; to wit, Lena’s Cheese Fries were and still are the best f*cking thing to ever pass my lips in my almost 44 year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence). No. This is simply my way of saying “thank you” to the friends I grew up with, the families that accepted me into their homes and a place… THE place that I never really left. Welcome to my own, personal Summer Project. Not chronological or structured. Just the stories I want to tell.

Tonight? I’m going to write about how the denizens of Maple Street spent their summer nights. And I’m going to start at the beginning, in the same place where my minions started their respective summers earlier today. I’m going to start with the walk home from school after commencement. After Mass at the now defunct Immaculate Conception BVM School and still functioning Church. After all the awards had been given out. After all the buses had picked up their allotment of children and sent them home, screaming and cheering out their open windows. There we were: Marshes and Rings. McCreaveys and Breslins. Lyons and Cooneys. Harmers, Hungerfords and Scharnikows. The whole lot of us, walking south down West Avenue, past McGolderick’s Funeral Home and the ancient, tree-lined properties that lined the street. Maple Street was, and still is one past Cedar Street in that direction.

As neighborhoods go, it wasn’t particularly well-off compared to some of the other areas of J-Town that have been popularized in pop culture. Very blue collar. A hodgepodge of twins and single family homes. If I close my eyes I can still see us ripping our ties off, untucking our shirts (both girls and boys), unbuttoning our top buttons (mainly the guys, but maybe one or two of the girls that wanted to catch the eye of someone other than me but always ended up catching mine, whether they knew it or not). And plotting as we walked. Synchronizing our mental and physical watches. Home to eat lunch. Get changed. Chill for a few. Watch a little television. The Transformers (now known as Generation One), GI Joe, Scooby Doo, Josie and the Pussycats, Jem and the Holograms et al. Eat dinner–generally something grilled–before reconvening at our predetermined time, usually at the Rings since they had the biggest yard at roughly the middle point of the street.

I remember that the sun was always dropping in the sky, bathing the world in “an eerie, golden red iridescence.” Sound familiar? It should. In ENDWORLD, CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and eventually, HEAVEN AND ENDWORLD I wrote/write about it, along with time. Specifically a lack of it. In case you were wondering where those ideas came from they came from my childhood. Specifically those timeless, late, summer nights spent playing Spring or Doors or Ghosts in the Graveyard or Freedom or WHATEVER you call the games we played as children and the ones our children play now. Depending on where you are and whose playing the names change, but the concepts remain the same. Two teams. Sometimes three or four depending on how many kids were in town and out, how many came over from Cedar or Hillside Avenue and occasionally, “The Alley,” how many stumbled out after dinner into the teeny, tiny world we inhabited that was a child’s version of Utopia in microcosm and our parents’ version of Heaven. I was always one of the last ones picked. Me, the goofy little pear-shaped, non-athlete that loved reading and fancied himself an artist and later, a writer. But I didn’t mind. Because I generally ended up on Billy Ring’s team.

I’ve written in the past about Billy. He’ll feature prominently in this chronicle. Billy was the most popular kid at IC and, in truth? Arguably the most popular kid in J-Town and DEFINITELY on Maple Street. Tall. Lanky. Athletic. The polar opposite of me and I’m not ashamed to write about how much I looked up to him as a child. No matter what I endured as a kid–and there were moments; let me tell you–Billy always had my back, even when he was smacking it and causing a bruise. Was he my best friend? Maybe. BFs didn’t really exist back then. But he was as close to one as I had early on. There would be others, later, and I’ll write about them, as well, but it all started with him.

Thereafter, the games started, and progressed long after the sun had dropped behind my house and the streetlights had turned on. If I close my eyes I can still hear it: Crickets chirping. Cars driving past on West Avenue. The occasional rumble of thunder as a storm passed by or hit us, briefly drenching us before moving east toward the city. Children yelling, laughing and occasionally crying. Parents talking politics as they sat upon their covered porches, smoking cigarettes, drinking iced tea and the occasional “adult beverage” and watching us run as the first lightning bugs of the season started blinking in the darkness. Scolding us on occasion if we did something “mean” but never chastising us or ordering us to retire inside. Because kids, they reasoned, needed to be kids, black eyes, scabbed knees and all. The concerns that we face now as adults and they faced then never made an appearance. Those arguments and moments of despair occured behind closed doors. They, the adults, our parents… They kept us in the dark ’cause all they wanted us to worry about was being children. They knew, as we do now that our respective worlds would eventually grow to encompass the wider one. But those warm, summer nights? They were OUR time. Free. Happy. A peaceful cacophony of immature wonder.

Eventually? Big Bill’s aforementioned whistle from “The Mayor of Maple Street” would shatter the darkness and bring the night to a close. We never questioned it. We heeded it like we heeded the vengeful, Old Testament God in Religion class, said our goodbyes and headed home, exhausted, but smiling. Sleep came quickly after we washed up. And all of us Marshes and Rings. McCreaveys and Breslins, Lyons and Cooneys, Harmers, Hungerfords and Scharnikows rested and dreamt the peaceful dreams of youth, only to wake up the next morning and realize that the moment was not a fleeting one. We had days, weeks and months of the same to look forward to.

THAT was Summer on Maple Street in J-Town, folks. Maybe your experiences were similar. Maybe not. I can’t speak for you. I can only speak for me. Us. The same ones that tasked me to write it all down one day. To those of you reading this that remember, I’m sorry it took me so long. I needed to be ready. And now? I think I am. Because?

Simple. Because today I watched my minions finish their Fourth, and First years at another school. Not IC but Saint Anastasia’s. Not in J-Town but in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. And as I hugged them outside and celebrated their awards before returning to work, I saw the joy, emblazoned across their young faces at the prospect of the warm, summer nights ahead. Their memories will likely be a bit different than mine. The world on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence has changed much since I was their age. But their smiles? They are the same as mine. And if I close my eyes for a moment, I can still see and hear those carefree days of my own youth. Contentment follows. After months of turmoil I can finally say that yes. I am happy. And I am ready.

Thank you for reading. And Happy Summer. Winky emoticon. Simley face.