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.

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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.

On Being An Artist Extraordinaire (Pronounced “Ar-teest”)

Last evening, something pretty awesome happened in my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Yes, I said “awesome.” What can I say? I am a child of the 80’s and back then, awesome was arguably the most used superlative (runners-up: Gnarly, rad (as in “radical”) and excellent). We–as in Nicole, Cara, Natalie and I–were fully engrossed in our nightly routine: In our PJs and “settled” with the Good Night Show on in the background. Nicole and Cara were playing tic-tac-toe, i.e. Cara’s new, favorite game. They were doing so on her new, Barbie Doodler when Natalie… the best way I can describe it is “toddled up.”

Picture this, if you will: Curly, crazy hair. chubby cheeks, a pair of “Heal the World” PJs and a bottle hanging out of her mouth. Always smiling, unless you take her last bottle away from her or try to put her to bed before she’s ready. I’d post a picture of her herein but I’m leery of plastering my kids’ faces all over the internet and always have been. Anywhos, she “toddles up” to Nicole and Cara, grabs the pencil that you draw on the doodler with in her right hand, holds it almost as well as I hold a pen, and starts… well, doodling.

It wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary: Just some scribbling, punctuated by the occasionally triumphant “anh!” or “Hodor!” Yes, I wrote Hodor. I swear that Natalie’s taken to saying that, recently. If you are a fan of either the Game of Thrones television series or books then you understand the significance. If not? Well, my wife thinks she’s trying to say “what’s that” and it comes out sounding like “Hodor” but me? Come on. The kid has a dragon named Smaug and saw the Lord of the Rings movies for the first time when she was two months old. Ya’ think I’m trying to instill my interests in her at an early age? Survey says: Undoubtedly.

But I was visibly shocked. I couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t even get Cara to hold a crayon pre-turning two and even then, she wasn’t really interested. But Natalie? Fourteen months young and counting and she’s already holding a “pencil” perfectly and understands what to do with it. I immediately went into the playroom which adjoins and generally overflows into our living room, got a crayon and a pad of paper, came back into the room, sat down on the floor with both, motioned Natalie over (she came), and handed her the crayon. What did she do? She sat down on the floor, the nipple of her bottle still clamped between her teeth, and started scribbling. Scribble. “Anh!” Scribble some more. “Hodor!”

I was so gul’darned proud. This went on for about five more minutes before she lost interest and started attempting to eat the crayon which I quickly stopped. Thereafter she went back to her “ba-ba” and Wibbly Pig and all returned to normal. But for just one singular moment in whatever passes for time ’round these parts, an entire future passed before my eyes. The too-be-told story of Natalie Marsh, Artist (pronounced phonetically as “Ar-teest”) Extraordinaire.

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me and knows Nicole that Cara almost immediately adopted her mother’s personality. She’s analytically inclined (as much as a four year old can be), well-spoken, can already count to 70 (with a little bit of help) and knows how to add and subtract using props, i.e. fingers or Cheerios. She knew how to spell her name shortly after she turned three and was able to write it by three and a half (though she’s still having difficulty with her “R’s.” Hey, “R’s” not an easy letter to master!). But numbers? Numbers are her passion. Much like my wife, who as you may or may not know is a pharmacist (sarcasm fully intended; if you don’t know that by now then you’re not reading the right “Random Musings”). I’m not bragging guys, i.e. my kid is smarter than your kid. I would never do that. I’m just stating the facts. “Just the facts, sir. Just the facts.”

But what about me? What about my characteristics? Save for a slightly twisted sense of humor–she’s fond of making a special trip to sit and “toot” on Daddy’s leg before laughing like a loon and walking away–an expansive imagination and a penchant for over-dramatics, she’s about 70% Nicole and 30% me. Which is fine. I will never complain. Nicole’s my wife and Cara’s my daughter, and I love her… love them implicitly.

But Natalie? It’s like she adopted her Daddy’s personality from day one. She’s stubborn, knows what she wants, gets emotional when she doesn’t get it, loves hugs, fancies a good drink (milk, in her case, Scotch in mine) and now? Now, she’s showing an early, artistic penchant. And this? To have a child that has the potential to not just be yours but to be like you? It’s the most awesome, gnarly, rad and excellent thing that can possibly happen to a parent.

Nicole’s taking the minions out to Target, today, to get Natalie her own crayons. “My First Crayola Washable Crayons” and if you have toddlers and haven’t tried them yet please: Try ’em. I’ll even link them for you HERE. Let me know what you think. And I’ll be sure to keep you abreast of Natalie’s burgeoning career as an artist (again, pronounced “ar-teest”) moving forward.

I could speculate on where Natalie might go from here. I could come up with a whole scenario involving her being an artistic prodigy: About her rising up through the ranks of that particular society and having her first gallery showing at age 10. I could. Heck, what parent doesn’t envision a successful life for their minions? I could even postulate about a collaboration with her dad one day in which she illustrates something that he wrote. I see a picture in my mind of me, older, grayer and hopefully thinner, standing next to her with her crazy, curly hair, each of us holding up a book that I wrote and she created the cover for. That, guys? That’s a pleasant vision.

I know I’m a dreamer. It’s who I am, who I was and who I’ll always be. I want the fantasy. You know, the one that I envisioned years ago after eating a really bad bowl of New England Clam Chowder, back when I lived somewhere between Indianapolis, Indiana and Abington, Pennsylvania and no one lived anyplace else. You don’t? Okay. I promise that one day in the near future I’ll tell you more about it. But this isn’t about my dream for me. It’s about my kids. And I’m allowed to dream about my kids and their lives 10, 20 years from now, aren’t I? Of course I am. It’s part of being a parent. I believe in supporting them in whatever they choose to do. After all, that was what my mother did for me regardless of her own, personal biases towards certain careers that I considered. Booyakasha, Mom-Mom Minnie: RESPECT.

But for me, this isn’t about Natalie’s burgeoning career as the next Salvador Dali. Heck, she might abandon her new crayons all together next week. It’s about one of my girls showing an inclination toward the type of person that I am, however briefly. Not that showing an inclination toward Nicole is or would be a bad thing. Quite the contrary: I think it’s great that Cara’s so much like her Mommy and if Natalie ends up being the same? Awesome, gnarly, rad and excellent. But I take a great deal of pride in even the remotest possibility that one day, Natalie might be an “ar-teest” extraordinaire like her Daddy is, or wants to be (whether I am or am not I leave for you to decide).

But I would caution her the same thing that people cautioned me for years. That path? It’s not lined with rubies and emeralds, i.e. it’s not always profitable or socially acceptable. It’s a struggle for a long time. Heck, it still is. Just because I published a book and it’s sold modestly well up until this point doesn’t mean that I’m a successful author. Heck, I haven’t even broken even yet though I’m pretty close. I’m closer to relevancy than I was before, when ENDWORLD – A Novel was little more than a file on my old HP 286 with the monochrome screen. But it’s not my career. Not yet, at least. But I’m one step closer to it being so than I was a couple of years ago and that? That is a comforting thought. For me and, I hope, for my wife and my minions.

Bring an artist? You have to work at it daily and when you’re tired of working at it? You have to work at it some more. That’s the only way it ever goes from being a hobby to a career. You’re not always going to be accepted. Quite the contrary: Career-types discount people that write, or draw, or sculpt because of the age-old stereotype of the starving artist. That’s understandable, and that is not, I repeat NOT a knock on people that chose a profession. I married one of those people. Some of my closest compadres are doctors, lawyers et al. I love them and admire them all the more for their accomplishments.

But the idea of the starving artist? It exists. It pervades our society. Some of the greatest “ar-teests” in history were. Van Gogh was a pauper who was never recognized until after he died. Dylan Thomas chose a life of poverty as a “minor artist” because it offered him a different way of living, albeit a way that inspired him. Henry Miller was a Bohemian. I could list other names but to do so would be counterproductive. There are a thousand and one, both known and unknown that meet the classification.

But what the white-collar, career-types despite my respect for them and what they have accomplished in their lives don’t always take into account is that starving artists? They worked and are working just as hard and at times harder than them. Art? It is their career, however un-fulfilling it is monetarily. And the rewards for the ones that stick it out and find eventual success? Relevancy? They are the dream, i.e. the rubies and the emeralds. Not many people can say that they’re living their dream existence on this, or any side of the wormhole but me? Well, I may not be living it now but I still believe that one day, I will. By the grace of a sometimes humorless universe, I still believe in the fantasy that was spawned by a bowl of Bad New England Clam Chowder so many moons ago. And I will continue to work toward it, ’cause it’s what I chose. It’s who I am. Not the whole “me,” but a gul’darned big part of it.

I just talked to Nicole a couple of moments ago. She, Cara and Natalie went to Target despite the torrential rain that has been pounding southeastern Pennsylvania since I woke up this AM. They didn’t have My First Crayola Washable Crayons so instead, Natalie got jumbo ones and Cara got markers to practice not only writing her name and playing tic-tac-toe, but drawing, as well (she actually does a really good face, and a few weeks ago, she drew a whale that I actually recognized as a whale). She–Cara–has taken an interest in drawing houses, lately, and I showed her the rudimentary way to do it: One square, a triangle on top… you know what I’m talking about. Maybe she’s got an artist in her, as well. Maybe Natalie will be the doctor. Maybe they both’ll be white-collar career types or maybe they’ll both be starving artists. Whatever they become in the next 10, 20 years I will love them implicitly, and I look forward to seeing them grow, and develop. And if, one day, my dream of collaborating on a book with one, or both of them comes true?

Well, guys? That would be pretty awesome, gnarly, rad and excellent, all at once.

All together now: “Hodor!”

The Thunderstorm – A Long Overdue Appreciation

generic+umbrella+rain+storm

“I think there’s a poet who wrote once a tragedy by Shakespeare, a symphony by Beethoven and a thunderstorm are based on the same elements.”

Maximilian Schell 

It dawned on me last night–as I watched a storm roll in over my home in Broomall, Pennsylvania with my ever-enraptured oldest minion, Cara on one side of me and my youngest, I-could-give-a-sh*t-about-a-thunderstorm-I-just-want-my-ba ba minion, Natalie on the other–that I’ve been writing for years. Decades, actually. Depending on who you ask, I’ve been writing since I was between 10 and 13 years old (whenever I wrote that fully illustrated short story about meeting Bruce Springsteen; I’m still waiting for Mom to confirm). I’m now almost 38 (SHIVER). I’ve published a novel, am 118 pages deep into another and in the time between then and now I have written little to nothing about my love of a good thunderstorm. A sublime love, really. In truth? It’s one of things that I enjoy the most in my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. All sun and no storms makes Frankie a dull boy.

Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining by Stephen King, coming soon to a bookstore near you. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. Have you?

I’m not quite sure why I’ve never written about thunderstorms before now. I can pinpoint one or two possibilities. The easiest? That some things are just too awe inspiring to explain. Sure, I can describe what a thunderstorm looks AND feels like… can write about the way everything falls silent seconds before the first drops of rain begin to fall… can ruminate at how charged the air feels, so much so that the hairs on your forearms and the nape of your neck stand on end. I can write about that smell… you know the one? That sharp, metallic smell that precedes the first lightning strike. But even that feels insufficient. For me, trying to describe a thunderstorm is like trying to describe God, or rather, my concept of what God is (not necessarily the same as yours but no worries: Variety is the spice of life). I can do so using a f*ckload of superlatives like “awe inspiring” but I’ll never get close. Some things simply defy explanation. Thunderstorms are like that.

The other possibility? Not so easy to describe, not even using superlatives. Thunderstorms are invariably linked in my mind to my Biological. Once upon a time, ’cause all good stories, and even a few of the not-so-good ones begin as such, my once-Dad was a storm chaser. Before “Storm Chasers” existed. He’d gather up his son–me–pile him… ME into whatever second hand car he was driving at the time, and drive off after the lightning and the thunder. He never used a map, nor did he use GPS (Tom-Tom and Garmin weren’t exactly in wide use back then and had they been, he wouldn’t have been able to afford them anyway). He “followed his nose.” More often times than not, his nose was pretty accurate. I can remember multiple times when we found ourselves in the middle of the nastiest part of the cell. We’d follow it as far as we could for as long as we could, until such time as either A.) We got low on gas or B.) Found our road blocked by a fallen tree or other obstacle. But he… WE never tired of the chase. If we stopped and turned around, we did so because of an extenuating circumstance or two. Never out of boredom.

Fast forward X-amount of decades to last evening as I watched a pretty nasty cell roll over my… over OUR home in Broomall, Pennsylvania. You know, the one I share with Mama Bear, Biggish Bear and Smallish Bear. Cara–Biggish Bear–has always been fascinated with thunderstorms. Never afraid of them. Quite the contrary, actually: She loves them. She loves the “ziggy-zaggy” lightning and the “s’raining, Daddy, raining!” She’s not a huge fan of thunder… she generally cringes when an unusually large clap of it shakes the house or the car, but she understands that there is something called “God” and that God–whatever your idea of him, her or it is–occasionally likes to go bowling like her Pop-Pop does. Hence “thunder,” otherwise known as the sound of God getting a Strike. As for power outages? Well, despite Broomall’s notoriously fragile power grid, we haven’t had an extensive one since Hurricane Irene rolled through back in 2011 and I prefer it that way. Cara doesn’t like the dark. Something tells me she’s going to be sleeping with her fish tank light and her desk lamp on until she’s a teenager. Oh well. Acknowledged. Time to move on.

It’s no secret to anyone that’s been following “Random Musings” in it’s newest incarnation–Version 2.0–and/or it’s earlier one–Version 1.0–that I’ve got a few well-documented Daddy Issues. I’d really rather not recap them for you, herein. If you’re curious about them (which I highly doubt but hey: To each their own), you can check out “The Man I Once Called Dad.” It’s about as comprehensive a listing as exists. It’s also one of my all time most-viewed blog entries on either version of “Random Musings.” Go fig. I guess some people were interested once upon a time. Regardless, you don’t need to be familiar with it or my psyche to understand this next part. Having kids? It’s was tough for me to initially agree to it. I’ve always wanted children, but for a time, I was standoffish about it. Why? Because I was fearful of making the same mistakes that my own father, AKA The Man I Once Called Dad AKA my Biological made with me. ‘Cause I’m a lot like him. He was… IS a writer. Me, too. He’s wordy. Me, too. He loved Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining.” I maintain that it is one of the freakiest movies I’ve ever seen, albeit no where near as good as the book was. He loved… LOVES thunderstorms (I’m sure). Me? See above.

But in the end, I conceded that my misgivings about having children and my undeniable similarities (appearance wise, too) to my father were not enough to keep me on the sidelines. I wanted to be a Dad. Daddy. And now? I’m one times two. Both girls… thankfully. I’ll not lie: The idea of having a son still kinda’ freaks me out. Not as much because of the whole “making the same mistakes as my own father made” thing. No. Not anymore. I’ve made my bones as a Daddy and while I’m still learning… ALWAYS learning, I think I’ve done a pretty serviceable job despite certain mental handicaps, i.e. my always overactive psyche. But because I simply can’t envision a smaller version of me in the world. A living, breathing, walking and talking facsimile of a smiley face with a graying beard, a pot belly, an aversion to anything green (broccoli? Can’t do it) and a fondness for Velveeta cheese? Not to mention wordiness, and a love of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick? He sounds like a nightmare. What would Mama Bear do?

But I digress. Despite the fact that my daughters are, at an early age, undeniably more like my wife than me (though Natalie belches like a champ and Cara thinks it’s funny to “toot” on you, two very, not-so-endearing traits that are reminiscent of me and my well-documented, sophomoric sense of humor) my oldest has adapted one characteristic that is undoubtedly mine: Her love of thunderstorms. As she watched, awe inspired last night, gasping at every lightning strike no matter how minor, I found myself smiling. Because she looked SO MUCH like I’m sure I did back in the day, before divorce lawyers and visitation rights forever tarnished my youthful naivety at an early age. I’ve always focused intently on what happened AFTER that moment–the day when the Man I Once Called Dad took me for a walk along the Delaware Bay Beach in North Cape May and told me that he and my mother were separating–and how my experiences thereafter turned me into the man I am at almost 38. But I’ve rarely ruminated on my life BEFORE. Probably because I don’t remember much of it.

But I remember thunderstorms. They pre-date my short story about meeting Bruce Springsteen. They pre-date the end of my mother and my once-father, now Biological’s marriage.  They LONG pre-date my first reading of The Shining and my first viewing of “The Shining” but, in the case of the latter, not by much. What can I say? I watched a lot of seriously f*cked up sh*t when I was a kid, thanks largely in part to you-know-who. They pre-date Mama Bear, Biggish Bear and Smallish Bear, Tom-Tom and Garmin, blogging, Hurricane Irene, one published novel and one novel that’s 118 pages to the good as of last night. In short? Save for my mother and my sister, both of whom I love immensely, they have been the lone constant in my life the longest. And to not ever write of them and what they mean to me would be… IS a disservice. I write plenty about God. Why hesitate to write about him bowling?

Because some things, like God and his ever-present quest for a perfect 300 frame are indescribable. Some things? They’re deeper than writing. Some things you can’t explicate. You just FEEL them. And as I watched  my storm chaser in training, Cara last evening out of one eye and my Greens-loving Natalie “You-Take’a-My-Ba Ba-I-Break’a-Your-Face” out of the other, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And I smiled. ‘Cause all sun and no storms really DO make Frankie a dull boy. But only partially. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt youthful. Naive. At peace with my ever-present Daddy Issues and my at times turbulent past. And now? Almost 24 hours later? Well, they’re calling for another round of “ziggy-zaggy, s’raining, Daddy, raining” tonight. It’s going to take every ounce of restraint that I have in me to keep from grabbing my girls, throwing them in my car and heading off in search of the nastiest part of the cell.

😉

Of Whirlwind Weekends, Everything That Comes With Them, A Biggish Bear, A Smallish Bear, Automatonophobia and the Trouble With Writing Short Stories

To say that this past weekend was a whirlwind one for your old buddy the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh is an understatement. Between Saturday AM and this morning at approximately three or 3:30 when I finally got my youngest minion, AKA Natalie, AKA “Smallish Bear” to sleep I attended a Raspberry Festival, changed a fish tank, did laundry, got a customer in South Carolina out of an after hours jam, took a younger lady out on her first date to see “Monsters University” (that’d be my oldest minion, AKA Cara, AKA “Biggish Bear”), went to Dutch Wonderland, drove home, cleaned up a bucket or two full of puke (Biggish Bear again), did more laundry (puke sheets; BLEAH), watched “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” struggled with Smallish Bear to get her to go to sleep until three or 3:30 this AM, got up on roughly three hours of sleep, slammed a Monster Ultra before driving 45 minutes to work and am now drinking Monster Ultra numero dos while I catch up on work/begin writing this blog entry. Thankfully, Daft Punk just came on the radio. I am now grooving to “Get Lucky (Radio Edit)” at my desk while typing these words. My boss stopped in front of my desk and looked at me like I was doing something wrong. I looked him straight in the eyes, smiled and said:

“Been up all night to have fun. Been up all night to have fun. Been up all night to have fun. Been up all night to Get Lucky (Radio Edit).” Which is actually pretty f*cking accurate save for the “getting lucky” part. That’s probably the one thing that didn’t happen to me this weekend. Or did it? I’ll never tell. If I did, Mama Bear, AKA Nicole, AKA Sweetie would likely kick my a**. “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Yet despite all this, only one thing stands out in my mind. Choice “D”: None of the Above. That choice? The Amish statues at Dutch Wonderland. You know the ones I’m talking about, don’t you? An Amish husband and his Amish wife, sitting in front of their Amish hut within which an Amish maid feeds an Amish boy (who looked frighteningly Aryan) next to a room in which an Amish midwife tends to an Amish baby. AND breathe. I’d post a picture of it here but sadly, I don’t have one and I can’t find one online. Mama Bear took a pic of me copping a feel off the Amish wife but she hasn’t posted it yet (I can be REALLY juvenile sometimes). As soon as she does, though, I promise I will amend this blog entry and post it. Until then, you’re just going to have to trust me when I say that it DOES exist, I DID feel it up and it was one of the single freakiest things I’ve ever seen in my almost 38 year existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

My fear of inanimate objects like statues has existed for a long time. Long before everyone and their grandmothers/grandfathers saw the Doctor Who episode “Blink” and adopted it. BTW, if you’ve never watched an episode of Doctor Who (something I find sacrilegious) and you’re looking to start, watch “Blink.” No lie: It will freak you the f*ck out. The premise is simple: Statues and gargoyles that are actually an alien species called The Weeping Angels that can only move when you’re not seeing them, i.e. when you’re staring at one of them and you blink and the next thing you know, the f*cking thing is right. Up. In. Your. GRILL, barring it’s stone fangs at you in a silent scream. If they touch you “POW.” See you in the past. They’re sustained through the consumption of life experiences. They touch you, they consume every Raspberry Festival you attended, every fish tank you changed BLAH, BLAH, BLAH every time you sang “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk to your boss while he stood in front of your desk, scowling down at you and banish you to the past where you are forced to live out not your life, but A life. Some succeed. Many just end up growing old and dying alone.   Freaked out yet? Watch the episode. Trust me: You will be. End unannounced parenthetical aside. I now return you to my regular inane ramblings, already in progress.

My fear of inanimate objects like statues and, in my case, MANNEQUINS stems from an episode of the original “The Twilight Zone” that my Biological subjected me to at a very young age. I don’t remember when, but I remember IT perfectly. The episode was called “The After Hours” and in summation? It’s about mannequins coming to life. There’s more to it… A LOT more, and for your viewing pleasure (if you’ve got 20 minutes to kill), here it is. Embedded for your convenience. Both parts, courtesy of my friends at YouTube.

Did you enjoy it? If you watched it, of course. If you didn’t? No worries. I know I’m not the only one in my subjective reality that suffers from an irrational fear of inanimate objects. If you, too, are afflicted by… get ready… Automatonophobia (thank you, Google), there’s no need for you to watch “The After Hours” to understand where I’m coming from. And if you don’t? You’re lucky. The bottom line? I don’t like anything that maintains a lifelike visage while being inanimate. Sh*t, I don’t like anything not human that looks human. And Amish husband and his wife? They fall squarely into this category. So I don’t like them. But sadly? I can’t get them the f*ck out of my head.

As I stood there with my tongue out and my right hand firmly cupped around Amish wife’s firm, fiberglass breast posing for a picture, my mind began racing as it so often does when I am in… well, any situation, really. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The strangest things inspire me. Amish husband and his wife, along with their entire Amish brood were no exception. Someone said “they look like they’re about to come alive” and in my mind? They did. Cue the short story development process, a process that I am incredibly familiar with, but not one that I am very adept at. In short? I’m not very good at writing short stories.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve written plenty. Two dozen or so total, actually. But that’s over the course of what I like to call my “Writing Life” as opposed to my “Non-Writing Life” that pre-dated it, AKA the period of my life in which I dabbled in everything from theater to sports, only to find that I really wasn’t particularly good at anything BUT writing. Okay, so maybe I was pretty good at the whole acting-thing, but sports-wise? My greatest achievement was when I beat Billy Ring (Booyakasha, Billy; RESPECT) in a game of Rough House, AKA basketball without rules, and even that’s debatable: He may have let me win though he always denied it thereafter. Anywhos, two dozen or so short stories over the space of almost two decades does not = An impressive short story output considering how many novels I’ve written, re-written, finished or just started, and how many Dissertations, pieces of Mental Flatulence and blog entries I’ve written.

But I have ideas for them. Often, actually. Like I said before, the strangest things inspire me. Take the Monster Ultra I just cracked. Yes, another one. Numero tres. Three = The maximum allotment of caffeine drinks one is supposed to consume in a 24 hour time period, and I’m drinking my third in 12. I generally only drink a max of two in 24. Survey says? This last one will either get me through the rest of my day or cause me to have a heart attack. I’d prefer the former but in the event of the latter? Well, at least I’ll get to lay down. Every time I drink a Monster Ultra and feel the initial rush of energy that follows, I remember the short story that I wrote back in college when I was popping Vivarin, No-Dose and 357 Magnum like it was going out of style. It was called “Last Will and Testament” and it was about a guy who OD’d on caffeine pills and wrote about it while he was OD’ing. It’s very psychological. It’s not for the faint of heart. And it’s not very good. AT ALL.

You see, my short stories have always been very psychological, i.e. I haven’t written many that were simply stand alone tales. Two stand out in my mind. I recently submitted one–“The Day of Final Departure”–to a short story contest only to have it summarily rejected for being too… for lack of a better phrase, “long winded.” And I’ll admit: It was. But it was meant to act as a prequel to a larger idea which has, summarily, been pushed to the proverbial back burner. Not because of the failure of the story. On the contrary: I actually like it a lot and think it has an emotional core that resonates with the reader (that’d be the exact opposite of what the anthology editor told me, i.e. “it does not have an emotional core and it does not resonate with the reader”). But because CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD has moved to the forefront of my creative universe. The other that stands out in my mind was called “Origin of Couch” and unless you were on the inside of a little email debate between me and my friends entitled “The Couch Chronicles” back in 2006 you’d have no f*cking idea what it’s about so I’m just going to leave it at that. If you want to read the whole chronicle, message me and I’ll forward you a copy. Once I get the two dozen or so people that contributed to it to sign off on it, that is.

Yet the ideas keep coming. Like this most recent one. So why not write it and the handful of other ones that are dancing around in my head right now down? Because… and this is why I think I generally fail at writing short stories, i.e. THE POINT so if you’ve been waiting for it PLEASE pay attention… when I write, I WRITE. I write until my idea is done. Spent. When I’m writing something long like a novel, each chapter is a separate idea: Equal (and sometimes unequal) parts of the greater whole. I can stop and start again because most times? The idea is big enough to contain everything. Blog entries? They’re more like journal writing, i.e. stream of consciousness. I simply write until I get tired, go back, make sure I followed through on my ideas and tidy it up/complete it with a winky emoticon, and a smiley face. It’s how I used to write essays and term papers in school, as well.

But short stories? Short stories are self-contained tales that have a beginning, a middle and an end. They’re written with restraint by people that are able to practice restraint. Those people? I admire the hell out of them because they are able to give you, the reader a literary Amuse Bouche and leave you satisfied. Me? I’m like the guy who only knows how to make chili. I make a killer batch: I’ve perfected my recipe. But it’s all I can do unless I give you chili on a Ritz and try to pass it off as an appetizer. Fact: It’s still f*cking chili, even with a dollop of spray cheese on the top of it. There are many variations to the recipe–spicy, mild, tomato heavy, bean heavy–but it’s still, at it’s emotional core, a flavorful yet saccharine concoction of  about 12 different ingredients and spices. Jesus, talk about wordy. Maybe that editor was right about your old buddy the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh, AKA… Papa Bear? Oh sure. Why the f*ck not?

I guess what it all boils down to is this one, indisputable fact: I’m not the greatest storyteller. I don’t exactly excel at “once upon a times” and “they lived happily ever afters.” I’ve never written a story like “The After Hours” that would appear on a show like “The (original) Twilight Zone.” When it comes to the idea of the formulaic, basic story ark? I don’t do it very well. I don’t rock beginnings, middles and ends the way others do. I’m more of a “story in progress” kind of guy. I like to pick up the action mid-scene: Throw you into the story. For me, exposition can come later. Involvement comes from meeting pre-existing characters with pre-existing back stories and personalities and getting to know them… to love them over time. I’m fascinated with my characters and I like to get in their heads. They’re like real people. Real people? Real people are “stories in progress” when you meet them. Getting to know them and their history is oft times an exhilarating experience. But that’s the disconnect. Me = A pretty good writer (I hope), albeit a bit wordy. Okay, maybe more than a BIT wordy (I’m like Robert Jordan but without a bestseller to my credit). But me = A good storyteller? Um… yeah. Not so much.

You may think differently. Maybe I’m being to hard on myself. Perhaps. But I don’t see it that way. Even if I am being harder on myself than I need to be it’s in my nature to push myself. That said, there are two short stories that are at the forefront of my mind, presently: One new and one old. Both have beginnings, middles and ends, and I vow that over the next few weeks I WILL write them. If for nothing else for the fact that doing so will be a much needed exercise in restraint. I’ve been working on it in CHILDREN, and so far, I’m happy with the results. We shall see if I can parlay that into a standalone, short story or two. In my defense, there is STILL my as-of-yet untitled (because I legally can’t tell you the title without being disqualified) short story that I submitted a few months ago for a fellowship. The results = Pending. I should know a bit more within the next month but until then? The least I can do is try. As that eminent sage of wisdom Yoda once said, “try not. DO. Or do not. There is no try.”

‘Course, being able to devote time to such an exercise while maintaining my pace on CHILDREN (106 pages strong as of last Friday; this weekend kind of threw a monkey wrench into my proverbial “Writing Machine”) is going to be difficult. I’d also rather not sacrifice either this blog, or the ENDWORLD site in the process. It is also contingent on a few of, if not ALL OF the above listed contingencies that occurred over the last three days NOT occurring again. Certain things are, of course, unavoidable. There’s no way to know when Biggish Bear’s going to get dehydrated and get sick despite plying her with an inexhaustible supply of water. She’s just slightly sub-four years old. She dove off our love seat last night, landed on her head and somersaulted over. That’s the bad news (it also might have contributed to her “condition” last evening though she seems fine today). The good? Her form was spectacular. I think there may be a career in it for her. My daughter, the Olympic diver. Just because I sucked at sports doesn’t mean she will, right?

There’s also no way to know when Smallish Bear is going to wake up in the middle of the night and not want to go back to sleep. She is, after all, just barely post-one and given to dramatics, even moreso than I was. On my BEST days as an actOR (emphasis on the “OR”) I couldn’t feign sadness the way she did last night. She parlayed my weeping heart into a three hour long stay of proverbial execution (and by “execution” I mean “bed time”) that ended with her cooing happily to herself in her crib at three or 3:30 this AM and me wondering just how in the hell I was going to function all day on three hours of sleep. Well, I’ve managed. And I’m not dead yet though admittedly, Monster Ultra numero tres is REALLY coursing through my system, presently. It’s like I’m back in college after popping two Vivarin, No-Dose or Magnum 357 again, only I know that the crash tonight is going to be ten times worse. I seriously need to reconsider my caffeine consumption moving forward. 38 does not = 21, on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence or ANY.

You control what you can. THAT is the way of things, guys. “The way of the Force.” It’s kinda’ like writing a short story, something that I have never been very good at but something that I am going to focus on moving forward (at least for the immediate future): The writer controls the beginning, the middle and the end. He or she controls how wordy it gets and how much of an emotional core it has. He or she also controls how relevant it is or not (inside jokes between a group of two dozen or so friends do NOT sell). He or she is either born with the restraint required to do it right or needs to learn it. Me? I was born with the capacity to write. It’s in my genes (thanks, Biological). But restraint? The capacity to be a storyteller and not just a writer? That is something I’ve been working on for years. I honestly believe I’m finally getting to the point that I can do it. I wouldn’t have published ENDWORLD if I didn’t. But I’ve still got a ways to go until I’m satisfied with it. I may already be more skilled at it than he was, but it’s in my nature to push myself. Because…

Once upon a time, there lived a guy that called himself the Madchronicler, AKA Frank Marsh, AKA Papa Bear. He saw inspiration in everything from a a Daft Punk song to a Doctor Who episode. One day while “functioning” on a limited amount of sleep and under the influence or more caffeine than he had ingested since college, he decided to write a short story about an Amish husband and his wife, how they became statues sitting on a bench at Dutch Wonderland and how SHE–the wife–ended up with some stranger acting like a juvenile and copping a feel of her fiberglass breast. And as for who or what lives happily ever after?

That, guys, is a “story in progress.” Stay tuned for the answer.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

Of Silly Stories, Facepalms, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Finding Nemo,” the Disney Princesses, Fairy Tales and Swiss Farms Tea Cooler

I should probably be working on CHILDREN, right now. I’ve been on a roll these last few days (82+ pages now). I run the risk of losing momentum if I “break” to write a blog entry. But when something that needs to be written “strikes my fancy,” I’ve learned that it’s best not to ignore it. That is the situation I find myself faced with today. So CHILDREN will have to wait for a little bit while I “do what I’ve got to do.”

Every night that I put my oldest minion, AKA Cara to bed, the routine is the same. We watch the last “Caillou” at 8:47 PM. When it ends 10 minutes later at 8:57 PM we usually go and brush our teeth (if we haven’t already), take our vitamins and thereafter, head upstairs to bed. Nine out of 10 times, her room is already prepped for her arrival: Her fish tank is lit up and her bottle of water is sitting next to the lamp upon her dresser which, for some reason, she has to leave on every night. It’s not fear of the dark. But it comforts her. Hey, if it keeps her from waking me up in the middle of the night no worries. It’s worth a couple of extra bucks on our energy bill, every month.

It’s when she’s watered and under her covers that the majority of my… of our issues begin (I don’t want to exclude Nicole from this; she deals with it as much as I do). Some nights, she decides she needs to use the bathroom. Others, she laments that she’s “going to be all alone.” Generally in response to the latter, I tell her that she’s not alone: She’s got her fish, Lucy, her ghost shrimp Tiana and “all her babies” (i.e. her stuffed animals and dolls) to keep her company. Does that work? Occasionally. Most nights she asks either myself or my wife to read her a story and we do. But then… then, after the story is read and she’s been hugged and kissed goodnight (“sweet dreams, Bear; I’ll see you in the morning”), she hits us with it. The kicker: 

“Daddy/Mommy, can you tell me a silly story?”

Insert Facepalm HERE. Or, if you’re looking for something a bit more visual:

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That’s my reaction every night when those words emanate from Cara’s mouth, a reaction made extra poignant by the fact that my chosen .GIF is one of Jean Luc Picard Facepalming. Nicole handles it swimmingly. She’s always got a silly story at the ready, be it the one about the time that she popped her head into check on Cara after she got home and Cara woke up and thought it was morning or another, similar one. Apparently, Nicole and Cara share many silly stories. But me and Cara? Um…

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If I had a “Number One,” and not just an alternate personality that I call the Madchronicler, he or she’d be Facepalming, as well. Because despite the fact that I’m a writer… despite the fact that I am now a published, albeit self-published author (who’s debut book, ENDWORLD – A Novel is currently available to purchase; links to buy HERE; end shameless self promotion), I don’t know many silly, “G” rated stories. I’ve got a million and one rated “PG” and up, but “G?” Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a precarious situation to find yourself in: A storyteller without a story to tell.

Generally, I find a way to extricate myself, i.e. I find a way to wiggle out like a coward. “Not tonight, Bear. Daddy’s tired,” or “Daddy’s got a lot of work to do,” or “Daddy just wants to get the f*ck out of this room before you break into tears because while I’m good at formulating grown up stories on the fly, I completely reek when it comes to telling kid stories.” Consider that the one kid’s story that I’ve ever written–“Princess Cara and the Yellow Dragon”–was primarily dictated to me by Cara one night when she couldn’t sleep, i.e. she told me what the story was about, and I remembered it/later wrote it down.

But lately, escape hasn’t been so easy.  I’ve had to resort to more drastic tactics, i.e. paraphrasing pre-existing, silly stories to satiate her. My best was “Finding Nemo.” “Once upon a time, there lived a fish named Marlin. He had a son named, Nemo. One day, Nemo got tired of Marlin’s overprotective attitude toward him and he swam out, into open water to touch a ‘butt,’ which was, in all actuality, a boat. Nemo was captured by a diver named P Sherman who took him back to a dentist’s office on Wallaby Lane in Sydney, Australia, where he was to become a birthday present for the dentist’s sadistic niece, Darla (good thing Cara doesn’t know what “sadistic” means, huh?). But Marlin had other plans. He set out on a grand adventure, side-by-side with his short-term memory impaired friend, Dory, to rescue or, ‘find’ Nemo, hence the title, ‘Finding Nemo.’ Along the way, they met a shark named Bruce, a school of Bluefish that sounded distinctly like the piggy bank from ‘Toy Story’ and the Abominable Snowman from ‘Monster’s Inc.’ They tangled with jelly fish and rode the East Australian Current on the back of a 175 year old sea turtle named Crush. After an epic adventure, they felled Darla with the help of a pelican named Nigel, saved or ‘found’ Nemo, and returned home to the coral reef upon which they existed. Thereafter, they lived happily, ever after. The End.”

Not bad, huh? You can probably tell that I’ve seen that movie once or twice (try two dozen times, at least; I’ve about perfected Bruce’s voice). Silly, right? I was quite proud of myself. But Cara’s reaction as I tried to escape quickly brought me crashing back down to earth.

“Thanks, Daddy. I know that story, already. Crush was 150, not 175.”

You can probably guess what happened next:

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You know that when Lieutenant Worf… hell, when any Klingon Facepalms it’s bad. Real bad. I think my face turned as red as Lucy the Fish’s skin (in truth, she’s more of a deep pink but she’s close enough to red for the reference). That night, I exited her room a defeated man. I resolved myself to futility. I sought solace at the bottom of a glass of Swiss Farms Tea Cooler… and I didn’t take a Metformin before I drank it. I know: I’m a f*cking rebel. What can I say? I was out of Scotch. Ah, who am I kidding? I can barely stomach Scotch straight at this juncture. Three sips and my head’s spinning faster than Marlin and Dory did upon being ejected from the EAC.

It was hopeless, I understood. I’ll never be able to tell Cara a silly story, I thought as I savored the damp, tea and lemon flavored goodness that remained in my flavor saver, i.e. my mustache. It was then–as the luscious drops of sugary goodness siphoned down from my upper lip to my tongue and a few landed on my t-shirt–that I decided to act. I will not be defeated, I determined, not by the whims of an almost four year old and CERTAINLY not by something that is supposed to be a strength of mine, i.e. storytelling. I WILL come up with a silly story to tell her. I WILL SUCCEED…! 

By my best reckoning, that was about a month ago. In the intervening time since, I’ve written 82+ pages of CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD and multiple blog entries both here on “Random Musings” and over on the ENDWORLD site. I’ve read and written two book reviews. I’ve composed a thousand emails to my customers and my vendors about everything from pumps to motors to pump to motor adapters. But to this day? I still have not come up with a silly story to tell Cara pre-bedtime. That ends now. The reason for this blog entry is to hash out a decent, silly story to tell her before she goes to bed, tonight. I don’t have a lot of time, so I don’t expect that it’ll be a very long silly story, but then again, the longer the story the more time I have to spend trying to coax her to sleep and not popping Metformin/drinking Swiss Farms Tea Cooler while I ruminate on just what the hell Free Caymen looks like (Free Caymen = A location referenced in ENDWORLD – A Novel and seen in CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD). I’ll stop there lest I give away something crucial, i.e. “spoilers.”

So here goes. It needs to be about a topic that Cara likes. Right now, Cara loves the Disney Princesses, so I’ll start there:

Once upon a time, there lived, in the kingdom of Enchantia (stolen from “Sofia the First”), every Disney Princess: Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Rapunzel, Tiana and Merida, not to mention Princess Leia (forthcoming, I hope) and Nita from ‘Brother Bear 2’ (what can I say? Cara loves Nita. Creative license. Please, Disney, don’t sue me). Their lives were wonderful, and the kingdom was big enough for all of them and their husbands (or, in Merida’s case, her bow and arrow).

One day, they were all sitting down over a Cajun feast, prepared for them by Prince Naveen when Merida–always the troublemaker–brought up the idea of doing something different for once.  Initially, the princesses deigned to entertain her idea. Their respective existences were fine. They liked only having to show up for work every time someone at Disney got it in his or her head to either A.) Make a direct to DVD sequel or B.) Have Princess Sofia the First call for help, leading to a guest spot on her television show. And their husbands enjoyed their respective, simple existences after their complicated, pre-Enchantia lives (see: The Beast and Aladdin/Prince Ali).

But Merida was undaunted. “I want to have an adventure!” she exclaimed, and tossed her gumbo across the table. Sadly, it hit smallish bear Koda in the face but the little cub didn’t care: He loved gumbo and lopped it all up.

Despite the fact that the other princesses were happy with their respective, partial retirements in Enchantia, they knew that the only way they’d ever get Merida to calm down and not have her personal witch/wood cutter hex them all and turn them into bears was to appease her. So they agreed to go along with Merida’s request. At least until they were summoned to fulfill one of their two, post-partial retirement duties.

“Hey,” Kenai and Nita said suddenly, “being a bear isn’t that bad.”

The other princesses and princes told biggish bear and his lady-friend to keep their yaps closed. Other than Koda, they were the only bears in Enchantia, and the movie that had brought them together–“Brother Bear 2”–wasn’t even the original one. It was a direct to DVD sequel, albeit a superior sequel to the sub-par, original “Brother Bear.” This caused Kenai and Nita, as well as Koda to quiet down as had been requested of them, for they knew, deep down in their hearts that they were not really a part of the accepted, Disney canon. They silently slinked away from the dinner table and went off on their own. No one knew where or what they were up to. Nor did anyone pay their departure a second thought.

“Okay then, Merida,” Snow White said, “what did you have in mind?”

Pause. Not a bad start, and I hammered it out pretty quickly, which gives me hope that I might actually have this done by nine PM tonight. Now for their adventure. What does Cara like doing? Other than dressing up and playing Disney Princess, she enjoys playing with Natalie, going to the park, ballet, gymnastics, watching/playing “Puss in Boots…”

Bam! “Playing ‘Puss in Boots.'” Puss in Boots is a well known fairy tale. Cara loves fairy tales. Time to continue:

Merida folded her arms across her chest and blew the strand of red, curly hair that had fallen over her forehead out of her face, “I think we should break into teams of two couples each, one old princess and one new one, randomly select a traditional fairy tale and go experience what happens in it,” she said, “we’ll put them all in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and each pick one. Then, we’ll petition the Disney writers to create a scenario for us in it. Then we’ll do it, come back here, and compare notes.”

All the other princesses and princes agreed that it was an equitable, albeit somewhat far-fetched solution. Why not just go on a road trip, they thought, or maybe ask for a spot in the next “Epic Mickey” video game? But no one questioned Merida, for no one wanted to be turned into a bear. They placed a handful of fairy tales in Aladdin/Prince Ali’s turban, and one by one, the princesses selected.

Snow White and Prince Charming teamed with Tiana and Naveen and selected “The Three Little Pigs.” Cinderella and her Prince teamed with Rapunzel and Eugene and selected “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Aurora and Phillip teamed with Mulan and Li Shang and selected “Peter and the Wolf.” Ariel and Eric teamed with Pocahontas and John Smith and selected “The Gingerbread Man.” Belle and the Beast teamed with Jasmine and Aladdin/Prince Ali and selected “The Ugly Duckling” and lastly, Merida teamed with Princess Leia and selected “Little Red Riding Hood.”

“What about Kenai, Nita and Koda?” Princess Leia asked, “shouldn’t they be included?”

The other princesses shook their heads, “Nita’s not really a Disney Princess. Besides, they’re bears, not people.” Princess Leia thought about crying out that bears are people too which, if you’ve ever seen “Brother Bear” and/or “Brother Bear 2” you know is true. But she didn’t. She kept her yap shut. She was still only a trial princess, after all. And she wanted so badly to be accepted as a part of the Disney canon, especially since her husband, Han Solo, had opted to go and try to break his own, personal record of making the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs with his fuzzball of a side kick, Chewbacca and his scoundrel of a friend, Lando, rather than stay with her in Enchantia. I’ll show him, she thought as Lumiere measured her for her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit. 

One by one, the teams went and solicited the Disney writers for their approval. Sadly, they were not given it because A.) Dreamworks held the copyrights for all the fairy tales that didn’t involve them and B.) They had all been written into the upcoming “Sofia the First,” feature length movie. Dejected, they all returned to the table around which they had been sitting, plopped down into their chairs in front of their now-cold bowls of gumbo, and lamented their loss. Actually, only Merida lamented the loss. Leia lamented the loss of her red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, but the other princesses were actually quite happy that Merida’s latest, crazy idea had fizzled out. They began to eat the last of their gumbo when…

The door to the dining hall swung open. The princesses and princes all turned and saw Kenai, Nita and Koda come purposefully marching into the room. They were all about to say something when Merida’s personal witch/wood cutter stepped out from behind them, and started laughing. Apparently, while they had been away petitioning the Disney writers to participate in Merida’s latest, hair-brained scheme, she had, at the urging of the bears, snuck in and spiked their remaining gumbo with the same magic she had once used on Merida’s mother. Within seconds, each of the princesses and their princely counterparts morphed into bears. All but Merida, who had thrown her gumbo at Koda earlier. Merida watched as her counterparts surrounded her. Afraid, she fled from the dining hall with her bow and arrow and was never seen in Enchantia again which, under normal circumstances, would have been quite a crippling loss to the Disney canon. But it wasn’t. For her selfless support of the biggish bear, his smallish brother and Nita, Princess Leia was promoted from trial princess to full-fledged, Disney Princess, and was given the color white to wear as her signature color.

In time, the bears all transformed back into princesses and princes, but they had all learned a valuable lesson. From that moment forth, they each accepted Kenai, Nita and Koda into their ranks as equals. All starred in the “Sofia the First” feature length movie, which became the highest grossing film of all time, and won not only the Best Animated Feature Oscar, but the Best Picture Oscar, as well. Eventually, Han, Chewie and Lando returned after making the Kessel Run in under 10 parsecs. They are all still living together in Enchantia to this day, happily ever after. The End.

Or is it? I’m not really sure. Something tells me that Merida’s part in the story isn’t quite finished yet. To be shunned like that by your fellow princesses? I can only imagine the pain that she’s had to endure since it happened. In my mind’s eye, I see her once again living in the Highlands of Scotland in the ruined castle of her father, her mother and her three baby brothers (who had long since relocated to eastern Australia, and were living out their lives, happily guiding “walkabouts” through the Outback). I see her sitting alone in an abandoned dining hall when suddenly, her once-personal witch/wood cutter shows up and offers her a way to repay her once-sisters and their spouses. “By doing what?” Merida asks, and the witch/wood cutter’s response? “By becoming Mordoon,” she says as she removes a familiar looking cake from behind her back and hands it to Merida. What happens next?

Well? I guess you’ll just have to get it when it goes direct to DVD.

And there you have it. What do you think? Is it a silly enough story to appease Cara’s pre-sleep desire for comedy? What’s nice about it is that it doesn’t have to end there. Maybe the princesses go back to the Disney writers and petition them again, and this time they get their wish. Part of me would really like to see Princess Leia in that red lamay, Little Red Riding Hood outfit, though instead of Merida, her partners would now be her husband, Han, his fuzzball sidekick Chewbacca and his scoundrel friend, Lando. That’s the nice thing about stories, silly or otherwise, adult or kid: They can be whatever we as writers want them to be. Whether they’re called ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD or whatever-the-hell-I-just-wrote-should-be-called, at their core, they’re all the same. They’re a product of our experiences and our imagination. Whether you’re me, Nicole, Cara or one of the Disney writers. Whether you’re a published, self-published or not-at-all published writer, they’re all the same. Just make sure you tell ’em well. And if you’re paraphrasing a pre-existing one? Make sure you get the details right. As Cara deftly pointed out to me a few weeks ago, there’s a big difference between being 175 and 150 years old.

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Stay thirsty, my friends. Swiss Farms Tea Cooler is two for $4.00 this week only. Get yours today.