A Life Less Extraordinary

Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

I had an idea. That idea? To write my autobiography and entitle it “A Life Less Extraordinary.” Why? Because quite frankly, my life has been far from legendary. Has it had it’s moments? Certainly. Everyone’s life has ’em. Andy Wharhol called them his “15 minutes of fame.” Every struggling artist–be they a writer, an actor, a painter, a photographer, a musician… whatever–has envisioned their name up in bright, neon lights at some point. Don’t believe me? Ask around. If people are being truthful, I think you’ll find that statement to be 150% accurate.

Some have been successful. Even a few of my contemporaries have. I’ve watched once-associates of mine go on to star in Broadway shows and create album artwork for bands you’ve actually heard of. I even hold the dubious distinction of being loosely-tied to a once politician. A good one, not one of those corrupt bureaucrats that populate DC like vermin…

Oh yes. I went there…

And likely will indefinitely (not something I can control, though I make it a point to vote every single year regardless of how big the election is). But me? Much like Wharhol, I’ve had my “15 minutes of fame.” I am, of course, referring to the self-publication of my debut novel, ENDWORLD last April. It never made it onto any bestseller lists but was I happy with how it performed? Of course I was. A 250 page tome that I wrote when I was 19 to cope with unrequited love ended up being a 447 page epic. And people actually like it. Go fig’!

But outside of that? My life has been pretty darn normal. Less than extraordinary. Hence the title. My idea was to write something for the every man or woman. The people that have dreamed of their 15 minutes but have not yet had them. A rambling piece of long-form, Mental Flatulence that insists to the doubters that it’s okay to be normal. Really. It is. Because we all have a little bit of the extraordinary inside of us. That was the theme… the moral of the story. My story.

Sadly, “A Life Less Extraordinary” seized up at around 100 pages. I made it through my early childhood, through my parents’ separation and divorce and into my high school years but after that? I don’t know. I can’t remember why I stopped (I was flying through it). Maybe that was around the time I decided to re-write ENDWORLD. Or maybe it was the birth of my first and then, my second minion. Whatever the case, I stopped, and have rarely thought about it since.

But…

Lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Not in the same capacity as I once did. Quite frankly? I have no desire to write my autobiography at this point in my life. I’m already fictionalizing aspects of my life in The Endworld Series. Why write more? Who the flying f*ck would read it? I’ll pose that question to you my friends, Romans, countrymen and women. Would you? Would you have any interest in reading about a little pear-shaped kid from a broken family who spent the better part of his first 15 years getting picked on? Would you have any interest in reading about that same kid, post-16 through 20-something and his experiences trying to find his ideal, finding it, and then losing it in the space of a couple of weeks? What about what happened to him afterwards: His downward spiral into a toxic existence through which he ended up homeless and living on his friend’s mother’s living room floor? Would you want to read about how he pulled himself back up… how he embraced a career, discovered what “responsibility” is, started dating his Pharmacy Intern, ended up marrying her and having two beautiful little girls with her? “Would you like to know more?”

Well? There isn’t a lot more to tell, sadly. I can embellish it… it’s what I do, but that last paragraph is really it. Save for the lessons I’ve learned through my experiences my life can be summed up in one, tidy “body” paragraph. Or a couple of words. Those words? Less than extraordinary. Which brings me right back to where I started, doesn’t it? I love it when a plan comes together.

I’m torn right now, guys and gals. You see, for years I’ve believed that I had something special inside of me. I believed whole-heartedly that I was cut out for more than a mundane, routine existence. Not that my life is 150% mundane. My job is fun and keeps my busy, my minions keep me occupied and more often than not guessing, and my wife? Well, she just keeps me, which is okay by me. But it’s not my name up on a bright, neon marquis the way I envisioned it almost 20 years ago. Despite the fact that it’s not what I initially envisioned, it’s good. I can say that now. I’m relatively content with my life. Relatively. I wish I was writing more. That’s the biggest thing. It’s like a big a** hole in my artist’s soul that I just want to plug so. Damn. BAD. But it’s tough to do that between work, play, Irish Dance practice, repeated viewings of “Frozen,” birthday parties, shoveling, family strife… you get the picture, I’m sure. So the question that I find myself faced with this unseasonably frigid night in late March is…

Drum roll please…

Do I just throw up my hands, say “to heck with it” and accept a less than extraordinary life as my new norm? Would I be selling myself short if I did? I can be “that guy.” You know the one I’m talking about: The guy that’s… well, just normal. It would certainly be less stressful… less “angsty.” I can be that guy but should I? Should I sacrifice that which I’ve always believed I had inside of me? Maybe it’s not there. Maybe I’d be better off simply saying “to hell with it” and being Mister Nine to Five from now on. Don’t worry, folks. If I go that route I promise, I will still finish The Endworld Series. I owe those of you that have read it, enjoyed it and are waiting with baited breath for the continuation of William’s saga that. I might write fewer pieces of Mental Flatulence like this one and scrap my plans for about seven or eight other books post-The Endworld Series but William’s story? I will finish it. I promise.

I honestly don’t know. I’m torn. So I’m reaching out to those of you that know me. Whether via my writing or in person I invite your insight into this conundrum that I find myself faced with presently. Can I be both? I don’t know. I think it’s too much, presently. I’ve got too much other stuff to contend with. I don’t know if I can balance the dreamer with the realist right now. Circumstances won’t allow it. While you weigh the heft of what I just wrote and… I hope… formulate a response or two to it, I’m going to give it a couple of days. I’ve done this in the past and I think that now’s a good time to do it again. The next two days could potentially be very big days for me in my Nine to Five existence. I’m going to see how they go. Then, I’m going to revisit this question on Friday night post-the minions going to sleep. I’ll see how I feel then. But until then, a few acknowledgements.

To both the dreamers and the Nine to Fivers: Booyakasha. Respect. While I’m not 150% pleased with the fact that I can relate to both sides, it’s nice… and slightly maddening to have both perspectives. To my Endworld-ians: Much respect. I love that you really liked ENDWORLD… that you embraced it and continue to badger me about the sequel. FYI: It’s 280 pages long, currently. By my best estimation I’ve got about 100 left to go before draft one is done-sky. To Disney: I loved and continue to love “Frozen” despite my oldest minion’s desire to watch it every time we’re home and my youngest’s constant “singing” of “Let It Go” (which sounds more like “leh ih GO!” but is just so. Damned. CUTE). To my new employer (who shall remain nameless for fear of a reaming out) thank you. Thank you for respecting my contributions, something that my previous employers always had a bit of a problem with. And too my previous employers? Meh. That’s about all I’ve got for you right now. Meh, and good luck with that! You know what I’m talking about.

And last but certainly not least, to those of you that believe you are living a life less extraordinary, you are not alone. I’m with you, 150%. Just because your name isn’t up on a big, bright, neon marquis does not mean you aren’t special. Guess what? You are. That’s the moral of the ongoing story. Whether you’re special to one person or special to thousands, you are a bright, beautiful, magnificent soul on this, and any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. And you always will be. Never forget that.

Winky emoticon, friends. Smiley face. Have a blessed evening. I’ll be back in a few days.

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.

Yet Another “Quick Hit,” or What I’ve Done With My Late October and Early November

Good Evening, Morning or Afternoon my fellow inhabitants of this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Did you miss me? Probably not. Regardless of whether you did or did not the bottom line is this: I’m back. Things have been a bit hectic these last few weeks and admittedly? Writing–whether it be something simple like a blog entry or something complex like CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD–has been the furthest thing from my mind. But if history has taught me anything, it has taught me that you can only stop something that you love doing for so long. There comes a point where you just have to, for lack of a better phrase, hop back on the horse named “Tucker” (thank you, Cara) and GO. Whether this “quick hit” exemplifies me getting back on the horse or not remains to be seen but for now? It’s a beginning. And lately? I’ve been focusing too much on endings.

Let me take a “tick” and bring you up to speed: A bit over three weeks ago, I was laid off and have been unemployed since. I have not publicized this for a couple of reasons. The first? I’m not a fan of feeling sorry for myself nor of asking people to feel sorry for me. Said lay off was purely a business decision and I bear my former employer no ill will. I’ve been managing “stuff” for almost 20 years now and when times get tough–as they are now and have been for a while–you need to make cuts. I was the highest paid person with the lowest tenure in my office. It had to happen. I enjoyed my eight plus years with that company and admittedly? There is a little hole in my heart where once existed the letters “AFS.” I miss my customers and many of my co-workers. If any of them are reading this right now let me simply say this: Booyakasha. RESPECT. Thank you, all. I will never forget you. Hit me up sometime. My digits are REMOVED FROM THIS POST FOR FEAR OF THEM BEING ABUSED BY LESS SCRUPULOUS TYPES OR CARNIES. Sh*t, Carnies freak me out.

The second? Everyone’s got problems, and mine are no larger than theirs… yours if you’re reading this. My situation is really not that bad. If anything, these last couple of weeks have given me the opportunity to really think at length about what I want to do with the rest of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, however long the almighty has deemed that life to be thanks largely in part to a wife who has been endlessly supportive of my plight. Booyakasha, Nicole, AKA Sweetie: Respect. And much love, dawg (winky emoticon, smiley face). I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with her and my little’uns and it’s been wonderful. I’ve managed to “knock out” a number of projects that I’ve been meaning on “knocking out” for, in some cases, years, and though I still haven’t cleaned out my garage or repainted my garish, yellow bathroom, there still may be time. Though something tells me that my days on the unemployment line may soon be coming to a close. My goal when this happened was to find something by Thanksgiving and as of this moment? I may have. I’ll hopefully know more in the next few days. That said, I likely just jinxed myself. F*ck. I’ve only myself to blame, really. And Carnies. And the Rogue. Always blame the Rogue (Booyakasha, Tommy: RESPECT).

I knew early on that the key for me (this may not be the case for others reading this and if it is not I apologize in advance) was to find something that both A.) Played to my strengths and that B.) I felt comfortable doing. Early on, I mainly looked at jobs with a heavy sales component ’cause outside of writing–which I think I’m pretty good at though others, namely the Troll that bashed my novel on Amazon, don’t–I’m a pretty good salesman. I’ve been doing it for a while, now. I should be. If I wasn’t, someone would have told me long before now. And it runs in my family: Both my mother and my Biological worked in sales for the longest time… woah, woah, woah: For the longest time. I’m a better writer but as much as I want there to be one, there isn’t a career in that for me. Yet. Maybe one day but as of right now? It’s little more than a hobby/a part time, supplemental income. But I’m still hopeful. CHILDREN = 75% done despite a bit of a pregnant pause in the process. And it’s good, guys. Better than the first one. Cross my heart. Still coming in 2014. Stay tuned.

As time progressed, though, and I went through a couple dozen job postings and a few interviews I realized something pretty important: I don’t want to be JUST a salesman. Willy Loman I ain’t (poor usage of the English language completely intended). I want… I NEED a people component, as well. Whether said component is a managerial one or simply a B2B/B2C (that’s “Business to Business” and “Business to Consumer” for the un-initiated or gainfully employed) one I need to work with people. I like people and for the most part, I think people like me. So I started branching out: Looking at admissions and recruitment positions, as well. And low and behold, I MAY have keyed on one though only time, namely the next few days will tell. We shall see. I’m optimistic. Hopefully they are, too. And hopefully the Carnies stay the hell away. SHIVER.

In short? I decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At 38. How f’*cked up is that? Most people go through this in their 20’s. Me? I was on a career path throughout them albeit a slightly suicidal career path with CVSStress that likely would have ended with me either A.) In the grave or B.) Running a District by now. I walked away from that job of my own volition because I was about to get married and I didn’t think working 65-70 hours a week was conducive to starting a life and a family with someone. I found AFS and for eight plus years, AFS allowed me to build a life and a family, embrace my inner Willy Loman and publish a novel. But… and here’s where one or two (or a dozen) of you might disagree with me: I believe in the “D” word. No, not “doo-doo” though Smallish Bear WAS kind enough to bless me with a bit of a Poop-pocalypse pre-her bedtime tonight. Booyakasha, Natalie: RESPECT.

Destiny, guys. Fate. I believe that we all have one. Whether you feel the same or believe that our lives are not pre-determined but are 100% a product of the decisions that we make is up to you. Me, personally? I think the almighty, otherwise known as God, “The Big Guy” et al has a set-ending for each of us. How we get there is up to us, i.e. “Free Will.” It’s like writing a novel. You generally know how the story begins and you know how it ends but how you get there is constantly in flux. Adaptability is KEY. THE key, really, to life, the universe and everything. Me? I’ve always been adaptable. It’s something deep down within me in a place that I don’t like to talk about at parties (but obviously have no problem writing about for the entire gul’darned world to see). I adapted to Retail despite my wanting to be a writer, and I adapted to Engineering despite my wanting to be a writer/my familiarity with Retail. Now? I am ready to once again adapt to something new. A new field, if you will, and… fingers crossed… I WILL HAVE that opportunity. I certainly hope it’s my last one ’cause really: I’m 38 years old. I’m far from “old” though I’m not exactly a little’un, anymore. Whatever I do from now until the proverbial lights go down on me? I want it to be IT. The last thing I do outside of writing and publishing which, let’s face it, I will ALWAYS be doing.

In closing (only a “quick hit,” guys: Sorry; maybe I’ll write more in the next few days), these last three weeks have been… interesting, to say the least. Between applying for jobs, making follow-up inquiries, going on interviews, picking away at CHILDREN, doing laundry and yard work, “de-cluttering” my house, teaching myself how to bake, occasionally bringing my wife lunch on the days she is working, working on Cara’s letters with her when she’s home and teaching Natalie how to be a better pro-wrestler (she’s pretty much nailed the Frog Splash and is currently working on what I like to call her “Zombie Claw”) I’ve had the opportunity to do something I’ve been rarely able to do in my 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence:

Live. ‘Cause oft times, life gets in the way of that. Carnies, too. And the Rogue. That gul’darned, troublesome Rogue.

To be continued, friends. G’night.

On the VMAs, Tweeting, Miley Cyrus and Keeping My Minions Off the Pole

Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening and/or Night, fellow Sh*theads. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spent last night after my minions went to bed sitting in my living room with my wife, Nicole, drinking raspberry lemonade, Tweeting and watching the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs for short). Why? Morbid curiosity and a dearth of things to watch on Sunday nights now that “The Killing” is over and “The Walking Dead” is still a few weeks away. I hadn’t watched a full VMAs in over a decade and admittedly, the idea of seeing how much it’s changed since my days of watching it for acts like Pearl Jam and The Red Hot Chili Peppers really appealed to me. Like I said: Morbid curiosity. And Justin Timberlake. FYI: I think JT is the f*cking bomb. That’s a little known fact about me that I hope doesn’t ruin my “street cred.”

He didn’t disappoint (though I could have done without the N’Sync mini-reunion) but that’s not why I’m writing this blog entry, right now. I made it through Lady Gaga’s opening performance unscarred though admittedly, I got really sick of seeing her in the audience wearing her shell bikini all night. Taylor Swift, too. I know that Miss Swift is “in” right now but seriously, someone PLEASE feed her a sandwich. It pains me to look at her emaciated figure.

Post-Gaga, they gave out the first award which went to an “ar-teest” I’ve never heard of before and then? Then? Oh my goodness, then. I can’t describe it. You simply have to see it for yourselves if you haven’t yet. And here it is for your… ahem… viewing pleasure, sarcasm 150 percent fully intended:

Like I said: There are no words. Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-rooni. If you follow me on Twitter (@madchronicler97) and were keeping up with my feed last night well? This particular Tweet says it all:

Why is Hannah Montana on stage in a bathing suit, dancing with teddy bears? #ThingsIthinkIthink while watching the #VMAs. 

And this one, which followed it a few moments later:

“WTF IS this?” #ThingsIthinkIthink AND VOCALIZE to @CarasMomma while watching the #VMAs. 

BTW, @CarasMomma is my wife’s Twitter handle. I highly recommend following her as she tempers my oft-times insane, subjective Twitterverse that centers around sports and books with a much more restrained one of her own that circulates around @adamlevine and pharmacy memes. She’s funny. Here’s a sample of her “work”:

I’m going to be defeated by a 1 year old today. Her super power of whining will indeed win out. 

Seriously, guys: Check her out. She deserves to feel as loved in her own, subjective Twitterverse as I feel in mine. End parenthetical aside.

What is it with these once-Disney Channel superstars post-their Disney Channel careers? Miley Cyrus, alias “Hannah Montana,” Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears et al. In truth? JT may be the only one that left the Mouse House and went onto a scandal-free, successful career. The rest of ’em? It’s like they’re the… to employ a much overused yet highly relevant cliche, “the cat’s meow” pre-leaving. They’re the “next big thing.” Then they leave and embark on careers sans-the overbearing influence of the Disney Powers-That-Be and within a couple of years, they’re in rehab, or posing for Penthouse, or in Miley’s case, copulating with Robin Thicke and a foam finger while wearing a gold bikini that looks like something out of Cheryl Tieg’s closet circa 1976. WTF?

It makes no sense to me. Maybe the old adage about finding fame young is true. Maybe it really does destroy people like Miley. I can’t imagine that a teenager or a pre-teen… a “tween” is equipped to cope with all that comes with stardom. But for every train wreck like Miss Party in the USA there’s an Emma Watson, who started playing Hermoine in the Harry Potter movies at the ripe, young age of 11 and managed to come out of the experience not just unscathed, but more mature and well-rounded than most teenagers I knew growing up. For every Amanda Bynes there’s an Emma Stone who found success early, and is now at 20-something one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood.

Maybe “Hermoine” and “Easy A” are the exceptions to the adage. For every child “ar-teest” that went onto a successful, adult career there’s a half a dozen Macaulay Culkins and Jodie Sweetins. Mind you, my interest in this kind of thing is purely limited to what I hear about from my co-workers and read in my wife’s Twitter feed. But admittedly, I’m a bit… I wouldn’t say concerned about it but perturbed? Most definitely.

Consider that last night, I had a dream. As near as I can tell I had it sometime between when I passed out around midnight and when smallish bear woke up briefly at 2:30 AM. In it, I was at a diner with Miley Cyrus post-her VMA performance and I questioned her… for lack of a better (and less repetitive term) questionable acts in pursuit of her “art,” i.e. dry-humping the guy who sings “Blurred Lines” and simulating masturbation with a foam, nail polished finger. Her response was to tell me that she didn’t give a sh*t what I thought. She proceeded to call security and have me thrown out of the diner. The fact that the security guards were all zombies ala “The Walking Dead” was just an extra added bonus, as was the crossbow I magically had on my person and used to eliminate said “biters” before I turned back and saw that Miley was gone. Then, I woke up. True story, guys. I rarely remember my dreams but that one? It stuck with me, and I’ve been dying… no pun intended… to write it down all day.

But the dream itself was supplemental to the fact that in my explanation to the former Miss Montana of why she should re-consider her raunchy “act” in the future, I brought up my own daughters, i.e. my minions, and I remembered… and still remember what Chris Rock said once upon a time: My only job as a father is to keep my daughters off the pole, i.e. the stripper pole. I pride myself on my capacity to raise them right and keep them from a life spent dry humping smelly dudes wearing stained sweatpants and fishing dollar bills out of their underwear. And Billy Ray Cyrus? He did a piss poor job of keeping his own, talented little girl off the proverbial pole. Shame on you, Billy Ray. As if “Achy Breaky Heart” wasn’t bad enough. Insert b*tch slap here.

But I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks that my minions have certain talents, likely inherited from their father and his grandfather, both once-theater geeks who sang, acted, danced and even had one or two moments of caddiness that they… that I regret, to this day. But I don’t think that I’m tooting my own horn when I say that I was talented. Perhaps I still am despite the rigors of age, cigarettes and alcohol. I caught myself singing “Jesus Christ Superstar” yesterday while driving home from my sister’s house and I’ve got to admit, I sounded pretty good. Even Cara told me so. Maybe one day I’ll re-embrace that side of my personality and fulfill my dream of playing Pilate in “JCS.” Regardless of whether I do or don’t I have to acknowledge the fact that my little ladies? They may have a career in front of them as singing, dancing and acting “ar-teests.”

Cara’s a born performer: She’s been making up songs and banging away on her little pink piano ever since she got it for Christmas a few years ago. I have a video of her singing “Call Me Maybe” that is priceless though I won’t post it here (at this point, I hope you are aware of my feelings on publicly posting pics/vids of my daughters). And Natalie? Natalie’s not even 15 months old yet and she already can sing parts of the “Caillou” theme song and the “boom, boom, boom” portion of Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I just played JT’s new single “Take Back The Night” for her earlier and she was smiling, dancing and laughing to it the entire time. It warmed my heart. It always does when I watch them perform.

But then, I think of the curse of the once-Disney Channel stars and starlets. And I think to myself, “what if one of both of MY daughters are the next face of the Mouse House?” My gut tightens and I wretch because my lone job as their father is to keep them off the f*cking pole and if that happens? Then the odds of them one day wearing a teddy bear leotard and sticking their tongues out incessantly in front of tens of millions of people increases. If the old adage about childhood fame is, in fact, true, and all evidence points to the fact that it is, then stardom = Rehab. And I don’t want that for either of my little’uns. So what do I do?

If one or both are, in fact, born performers… if it’s “what they’re meant to do” then the last thing I want to do is suppress them. What parent doesn’t want to see their child or children successful? But I also don’t want to see them 19 and Tweeting topless pictures of themselves to their million plus Twitter followers ala Miss Bynes. I don’t want them to be the featured “ar-teests” on that skank Perez Hilton’s highly overrated website. I never want the term “upskirt” associated with them. Mind you this is all speculation. I have no idea what biggish bear and smallish bear are going to be doing x-amount of years from now. The future is, of course, unwritten. “Destiny” is equivalent to laziness, i.e. it’s an excuse that people use to sit still and not work for the things that they want. But could it happen? Of course it could. Cara could be “Hannah Montana: The Next Generation” and Natalie could be Selena Gomez. So how do I resolve one with the other? If one or both have futures as “ar-teests,” how do I keep them off the pole?

By doing exactly what I’m doing, right now. By preaching “right,” decrying “wrong” and eliminating any “Blurred Lines” between the two. By fostering a love of a real “ar-teest” like Justin Timberlake who has managed to achieve super stardom, sans controversy despite his lowly beginnings as a member of the Mickey Mouse Club and later, as a member of… SIGH… N’Sync. By making sure they know who Pearl Jam and The Red Hot Chili Peppers are, despite the fact that by the time they’re “of age” Anthony Kedis and Eddie Vetter will likely be sharing a room in their local Home for Aged Persons. By introducing them to Taylor Swift’s music which is, actually, pretty good, but cautioning them against her lifestyle (or, just telling them to EAT A SANDWICH). By allowing no trace of Miley “I Was Just Impregnated By A Foam Finger,” “Hannah Montana” Cyrus to impinge upon their own, subjective universes… EVER, By blocking Amanda Bynes from their respective Twitter feeds when they’re old enough to use Twitter and all social media responsibly. By encouraging them to watch cerebral television and not just the VMAs. By reading the Harry Potter books and watching the Harry Potter movies with them, and pointing out that Hermoine is a textbook example of what a strong, young female role model looks like. By watching “Easy A” with them and making sure they understand not just the humorous subtext, but the story behind it, i.e. The Scarlet Letter.

And last but not least? That being a theater geek who sings, acts, dances and even has one or two moments of caddiness is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing so long as they keep things in perspective, and understand always that being a member, proverbial or not of the Mouse House is not necessarily a precursor to being a punchline on TMZ. Being one doesn’t give you “street cred.” No, not at all. Nada. Zilch. Zip-a-rooni. Keep your wits about you, little’uns, and don’t crush your daddy’s achy breaky heart, else I might have to roll up and bitch slap Perez Hilton.

G’Night, friends. Have a glass of raspberry lemonade on your old buddy the Madchronicler.

ADDENDUM – The Wandering Seeker

Hello, all. Yes, I’m back. Just call me the “Twice in One Day” Madchronicler. I just got some sad news that I want to share. Why? Because sometimes, you just have to. A couple of months ago I entered a short story in a contest. Long story short? It didn’t win. Me = Bummed.

This is not the first time I did something like this and it failed, but this one? It meant a lot to me. The reward wasn’t exactly amazing and I’m not going to post the contest or any details, herein. But it was very symbolic in ways that maybe I’ll be better able to explicate one day. But not now. Now, I just want to share it with you, because the one thing that I was not allowed to do was “publish” it until such time as it either won, or was rejected. No such constraints, now.

I want to share it with you. Why? A couple of reasons. The first? It’s about one of my daughters, co-starring my wife. And the second? ‘Cause it’s not every day I write a short story. It’s not exactly my cup ‘o tea. But this one? Well, I guess I’ll just let it speak for itself. It’s not long: 1174 words to be exact. And here it is. I call it…

The Wandering Seeker, a Short Story

I am awakened from my slumber by the sound of someone whimpering in the room next to mine. I crawl from beneath my covers, exit my room, arrive at her door and slowly push it open. By the dull glow of the light in her fish tank, I see her sitting bolt upright in her bed with tears upon her cheeks. I make my way toward her and she acknowledges my approach with a forced smile.

“What is it kiddo?” I ask as I sit upon the side of her bed. She immediately secures herself in my embrace.

“I can’t sleep.”

“Why not?”

“I heard something outside.”

“What did you hear?” I ask and tighten my embrace.

“Crying,” she says, her voice muffled by my nightshirt.

“Crying? Well, that’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s probably just the Wandering Seeker.”

“The who?”

“The Wandering Seeker,” I repeat, “didn’t Mommy or I ever tell you about him?”

“No.”

“Well,” I say, “lie down, and I’ll tell you his story.”

“Is it a scary story?”

“Not very. And I promise that it has a happy ending.”

“Okay,” she says. She lies down, crawls back beneath her covers and wraps my once-teddy bear in her arms. I clear my throat and gaze out her window. The shade is up, and the full moon is rising over the trees beyond it.

I remember.

“The biggest question that people ask is why does the Wandering Seeker cry?”

She tilts her head inquisitively, “Why does he, Daddy?”

“You’ll find out,” I answer, “when I’m done, okay?”

“Okay,” she says.

I nod. “Once upon a time, there was a man who wandered the world… the worlds looking for answers to his questions.”

“What did he look like?”

“His face changed. Most days it would have a beard upon it, but other days it wouldn’t. Despite the changes, though, one thing remained constant.”

“What?”

“His eyes,” I say, “his eyes were deep blue.”

She smiles, and holds her teddy bear closer, “Was he a nice man?”

“He was,” I say, “but he could also be mean. Being mean was his way of keeping himself safe. But his intentions were always good.”

“That’s good,” she says.

“And he was,” I continue, “for the most part. But he made mistakes and was afraid of making them again. He had lots of cuts and bruises, too, and he was looking for the one thing that would make them all better.”

“A band aid?”

“The right sized one,” I say, “but the cuts and bruises? They hurt. And because they hurt, he cried. Just like you do when you fall down and scrape your knee. It wasn’t like falling down, though. It was a different kind of hurt. You see, he hurt up here”—I gesture to my head—“and here”—I gesture to my heart—“and those are the worst kinds of hurt. He cried because he didn’t have a Daddy to come into his room and comfort him. He cried because he didn’t have a little girl to tell his stories too.”

“A little girl like me?”

“Exactly like you,” I answer, and plant a kiss upon her forehead, “he wandered the world, telling his stories to the people he encountered.  His travels… his search for the answers took him many different places, and he met many different people along the way.”

“Where did he go?”

“All over. He visited worlds made of chrome and steel, and he saw the love that blossomed within them. He traveled from one world to the one right next door searching for paradise. His wanderings took him back through his own past, and he did battle with it over and over again.”

Wow,” she says.

“That’s what I said when I first heard the story, too. And he had many adventures beyond those. He learned from each one, and grew each time. Despite his adventures, though? He still hurt. Yet finally…”

I pause, and she glances at me curiously, “What, Daddy?”

“Well,” I continue, “the day came when he knew he had to end his travels. That day he realized that a peaceful life was better than the one he’d been living.”

She cocks her head and looks at me askance, “What’s ‘peaceful?’”

“Good question,” I respond.

“I get it from you.”

I smile, “The best way to describe peaceful is happy. You see, the Wandering Seeker realized that he could never really be happy traveling the world… the worlds alone. One day, he was standing alone on a beach. He gazed at the ocean, and he realized that true happiness would only come from settling down and putting his wanderings behind him. In time, he found what he was looking for. He found the right sized band aid. He settled down. He doesn’t wander any longer.”

“Then why do I hear him?”

“You only hear an echo of him,” I answer, “He’s not really out there anymore. Not in body. In dreams, though? He’s still searching. Still seeking happiness. Answers. The places that he went? He revisits them when he can, but he now knows that there’s a difference between fantasy and reality. Now that he has responsibilities, he knows that he needs to focus on them and not his dreams. But that echo? It’ll always remain, crying on nights like tonight, because all of his experiences? They affect him, even now.”

“Is he a ghost?” she inquires, her eyes opening widely and a shade of her previous fear reentering her voice.

“No,” I say, “there are no ghosts, sweetheart. Ghosts are created by people to scare little girls. But they aren’t real. They’re fantasy, too. Not reality.”

“That’s good,” she says, smiles and re-closes her eyes.

“It is,” I conclude, “and that? That’s the story of the Wandering Seeker. Do you understand?”

She opens her deep, brown eyes and gazes into mine, “I think so. But Daddy?”

“Yeah, kiddo?” I reply with a sniffle.

“Why are you crying?”

Surprised, I raise my hand to my cheek. It comes away wet. I glance at the tears that sparkle upon it in the burgeoning moonlight. Somewhere beyond my daughter’s window, I hear the distant sobbing of the Wandering Seeker. I smile. Without another word, I kiss her upon her forehead.

“Another good question,” I answer.

She smiles, “Will you tell me someday?”

I nod. “I will. I promise that I’ll tell you all of the Wandering Seeker’s stories one day.”

“Okay,” she says, “I love you Daddy.”

“I love you too,” I say. She curls up beneath her coverlet, hugs her teddy bear close and closes her eyes one, final time. Per her slow and methodical breathing I understand that she is asleep. I stand from her bed and exit her room. I reenter mine and make my way quietly over to my bed. I crawl back into it. Instinctively, my wife shifts and her arm falls over my chest. I kiss the moonlight that dapples there.

Dream or reality, I embrace the contentment.

Short, maybe sweet and definitely contrite. What can I say? They only gave me 1200 words to work with. Oh, well. I did the best that I could. No worries. This, too, shall pass. I hope you enjoyed it. Have a good night ladies and gents. Hug your little ones closely, and keep your ears opened for the Wandering Seeker. There will always be a little part of him out there.

Out here.

Winky emoticon. Smiley Face.