A Pseudo-Madman’s Double Life (Guest Starring Clark Kent/Superman, the Fisher Price Little People, Susan Lucci, the Genie from “Aladdin,” Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Professor River Song and Some Guy Named Frank Marsh)

I lead a double life. Kind of like Clark Kent/Superman but without… well, super powers. I’m not faster than a speeding bullet. Nor am I more powerful than a locomotive. I am unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound unless said buildings are my youngest minion’s Fisher Price Little People play sets. If you look up in the sky, you will see birds and planes, but you will never see me. I dwell here upon the humid, oft times soggy surface of Terra Firma on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, somewhere between a little town in eastern Pennsylvania called Broomall and a little town west of Broomall called Royersford, Pennsylvania, with the occasional foray even further west to York, Pennsylvania or south to Baltimore, Maryland.

Despite all this, I do lead a double life. Sadly, mine is not nearly as interesting as the son of Jor El’s so really, why even claim it? Simple: Because it’s true. If you want to know why, I invite you to read on. If not? Thanks for playing. You win nothing! I’m not cruel. I just don’t have anything to give away. But if you’d like a copy of my debut novel, ENDWORLD drop me a line either here, or on any of the myriad other sites that I whore myself out to and I’ll hook you up in exchange for an honest review of my “big, meaty book for summer reading.”

No sexual innuendo intended, guys. I’m a happily married man. That’s what one reviewer called it, though. “Five stars in my log,” she said with an exclamation point. Apparently, a few people agree with her though I wouldn’t know because I’ve only got five total, published reviews between Amazon (four) and Barnes and Noble (one)Which is an incredibly uncouth way of saying “please read and review my book because unless I get 10 positive reviews on Amazon it will never be featured as anything other than an afterthought on any site and will be doomed to obscurity.” I may be biased… ah, who am I kidding? I am biased. ENDWORLD is better than “doomed to obscurity.” I know it.

Seriously, guys. I know I’m not supposed to self-promote on here if I ever want to get Freshly Pressed but I need you on this one. One free copy of ENDWORLD in exchange for an honest review. That’s all I’m asking for. You choose the e-platform: EPUB or MOBI. I can do PDF, as well. Up to you. Get in contact with me and you’ve got it. I’m at 424K on the Kindle Best Seller list currently, which isn’t bad when you consider Amazon’s got over two million titles on their site, but my ranking has been steadily dropping since the end of May after plateauing at 11K. I’m starting to get depressed. I don’t know if I can go on… 

Okay. I admit it: I’m over exaggerating. A lot. It’s all I can do to keep up with my oldest minion who, I have officially concluded, is four going on 14. There are established drama queens less dramatic then her. Don’t get me wrong: I love her and think she’s hysterical, but if nothing else, she’s got quite a career ahead of her on “General Hospital.” Susan Lucci? Eat your heart out. And watch out.

But I digress. This blog entry isn’t about ENDWORLD. Well, not directly. And there’s no better means of turning people away from your product than by whining about it. So I’m not going to whine anymore. I’m going to “stick with the plan.” And that is?

I lead a double life. Really, I do. The truth of this fact really hit home for me earlier today. I was “tweaking” the ENDWORLD site with some new info, and I got an email from a prospective vendor asking me for my name and my title. In the past, I’ve simply written “Office Manager/Inside Sales” without a second thought, but as I wrote it today, I realized that I wasn’t being entirely truthful. And I pride myself on bring truthful. I was being pseudo-truthful–that’s what I am from eight in the AM to five or 5:30 in the PM every Monday through Friday, plus every fourth Saturday–but it ended there. Pseudo. The truth?

The truth is that I am an Office Manager/Inside Sales representative during the time frame specified above.   But from the moment I leave work to the moment I return? I’m something far different. I’m a father/husband/homeowner/”indie” author/eternal optimist and hopeful dreamer. I’m also an avid sports fan though right now, I’m not exactly enchanted by what’s going on in Philly sports. Seriously, Phillies? You win six games in a row, get over 0.500 for the first time all season, get your fan base fired up and then you lose three games to the frackin’ Brewers? They’re the Brewers for God’s sake! They haven’t been better than “slightly above average” since the mid-1980’s. That’s not a knock on Milwaukee, nor is it one on Wisconsin. I love both. Really, I do. But the Brewers? Really? 

Okay. Enough about that. Rooting for the Phillies… h-e-double hockey sticks, rooting for any of the major Philadelphia sports franchises has been a tiring task these last few years. Almost as tiring as self-publication though without the sublime joy of knowing that something you wrote is now available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and multiple other sites (links to buy at www.theendworldseries.com under “Where to Buy ENDWORLD – A Novel“)! Pick up your copy TODAY and PLEASE post a review when you’re finished! End the shameless self-promotional portion of our program. I now return you to your regular blog entry, already in progress.

The specter of 2008 still looms largely in my mind. I remember watching my Phightens hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy and thinking that the drought was over… that we were ensured multiple championships not just in baseball, but in football and hockey, as well (basketball? Not so much). How many have we won since? Survey says?

Zero. New York, Pittsburgh and Baltimore have all won at least one. Even Boston’s won one. But Philadelphia? Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-dee-doo-da, zip-a-dee-aye, my oh my what a crap-tastic time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. And it’s not getting better anytime soon. The Eagles are rebuilding, the Flyers are chronic underachievers and the Sixers? Yeah. Not so much. Dare I pin my hopes on the Soul, again? They started what I thought was going to be a championship renaissance in my hometown back in 2008 by winning the Arena Bowl. Might they be able to do it again? Maybe, but even they’re pretty bad, right now. Which is really just a drawn out way of welcoming you, my readers back to the drought. See you in another 20 or so years on Broad Street. End parenthetical, sports related aside.

I lead a double life. I’m not Clark Kent/Superman. My secret identity is not a costume that I wear beneath the t-shirt and jeans that I sport to work every day, or the dress shirt and slacks that I wear when I visit my York office or travel to Baltimore. It’s the extra Google Chrome screen that I keep hidden on my second monitor. It’s the Word Document that I oft times edit during “down times” like today. You can never see it: It’s hidden beneath a proverbial bank of windows that contain pertinent information to my daily existence. And I rarely do anything but edit or “tweak” while working because despite what you might be thinking, I actually like my job, alias my mundane, routine existence. I’m proud of all that I’ve learned and how good I’ve gotten at what I do in the last almost eight years and I’d rather not risk losing it. So I refrain.

But admittedly? On occasion, one or more of the developing characters in my head–my own, mental Peanut Gallery–cry out for help or attention, much like my youngest minion is fond of doing when she’s playing with her Fisher Price Little People play sets and I’m rehearsing Shakespeare with my older, diva-licious minion, tears and all. Those times? I minimize everything from Outlook to my company Intranet and I answer the call. I may not be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I may not be a bird or a plane but in the subjective universe that exists inside my oft times ridiculed, “big” head? I’m a god. Not the God. There’s only one of them and you’ll know I’m referring to him or her when I capitalize the “G.” But god. A lesser deity with immense, cosmic power… 

And an itty bitty living space, otherwise known as my cubicle. Thank you, Genie from “Aladdin.” Those times? Not even the son of Jor El can stand toe-to-toe with Frank Marsh, though in the grand and not subjective scheme of things, my “power” is nothing compared to his. Assuming, of course, that Superman is a real man. Which he is. Or isn’t. I’m not really sure, but I like to think that somewhere out in the vast multi-verse that is… well, this he exists. Maybe through one of the many other wormholes that pseudo-madmen like me can cross through. Maybe not me, per say, but another one? Most definitely.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, guys. The wormhole that I’m always referring to? The wormholes? It’s… they’re not real. Not tangible. They’re a metaphor for imagination, something that people like me and the guys who created Clark Kent/Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster know about. This side of my proverbial wormhole of existence = IRL. The other side is where ENDWORLD and all my other ideas come from. If you didn’t know that before now there you go. I’ve just revealed a little known secret about me, myself and I. There are others, but I’ll leave them for another time. I can’t give away everything now. As Professor River Song is so fond of saying, “spoilers.”

When I leave my Monday through Friday, and every fourth Saturday mundane, routine existence, there’s no need to wear my disguise, though. I’m like the son of Jor El returning to his Fortress of Solitude. The place where I can just. Be. Me. Not the guy that’s had to learn how to be an engineer in the last almost eight years, but the guy that existed before that. The husband. The father. The homeowner. The eternal optimist and the hopeful dreamer. And the avid, albeit long suffering Philadelphia sports fan. I like that guy too. He’s the guy that’s writing this blog entry, presently. His words? They’re not appearing on a secret Google Chrome screen on his second monitor. They’re appearing on the 13 inch screen of his Samsung, I5 laptop, the same one that he… that I wrote 75 to 80 percent of ENDWORLD on and the same one that I’m currently writing CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD on. Which, by the way, is 70+ pages “to the good.” Part One = Done. I’m taking a day or two off before I begin Part Two. Unless my mental Peanut Gallery cries out in distress before then. Then, like every other super hero that leads a double life, I’ll be obligated to answer the call.

So long as it doesn’t conflict with my youngest minion’s desire to play with her Fisher Price Little People play sets or my oldest minion’s desire to reenact “MacBeth.”

Susan Lucci? Eat your heart out. Watch out. And if you’re reading this? Drop me a line. I’ve got a book I’d love for you to read and review.

😉

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In Which I Attempt to Write About Something Other Than My Novel and Fail

Sorry if the title gives away the ending, guys. Note that in it, I wrote “attempt.” As in I have no idea if I’ll be able to, but I’m sure as H-E-double hockey sticks going to try. The thing is? I’ve been so preoccupied with launching ENDWORLD – A NOVEL that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to write about something other than it. That’s no reflection on my state of mind with regards to it, i.e. I’m not exacerbated with it. Quite the contrary: I’m quite pleased with how it’s doing so far, and the reception that it’s gotten. Mind you, it’s only received one review (Booyakasha, Anonymous; Respect)–a positive one, I should add–and I have no idea what all the other people that have bought it and are reading it think of it. But I’m optimistic. I’ve always been pleased with it, even back when it was a 200 page (and some change; I think the original draft was 207 pages), fictional autobiography of my life. Will others be? That remains the ten thousand dollar question, guys. Pleased or not, I did my part. My “due diligence ” if you will. Regardless of the reception it gets, I published what I felt was a good novel. I’m planning on writing two more. And some other stuff, too, but that “stuff?” I’m not going to show that hand yet. As Philip Henslowe said in “Shakespeare in Love”:

That said? I have officially f*cked up my “attempt” to not write about ENDWORLD – A NOVEL within a paragraph of when I started writing this blog entry. Survey says?

FAIL. But at least I got to embed one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies in this blog entry.

Mysteries. Life’s full of ’em. The eventual success or failure of my debut novel is just one of them. Solving the mysteries that I encounter on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence has been a driving force in my life for years. I’m not talking about X-Files-esque mysteries like the existence of life on other planets (“It’d be an awful waste of space if there wasn’t,” right Mister Sagan?). Nor am I talking about philosophical or spiritual mysteries like the existence of God or a God Particle (I believe in both, if that’s even feasible). I’m talking about lesser, more personal mysteries like the one I asked all throughout my early twenties, “will I ever find happiness?” FACT: I did. Or the one that I’ve been asking since I was a proverbial babe of 19, working in the damp and dusty periodical room of a college, “am I capable of writing a novel?” FACT again: I was. I did. Actually, I’ve written three. I’ve rewritten one and I’ve already started rewriting the second.

Will I be a good father? I hope I am, though there are days when I question it (generally every Bath Night, which as I posted on Facebook and Twitter last evening is, I have concluded, the sum total of all the bad sh*t I’ve done in my life being revisited upon me by the Almighty). Am I a good husband? Well, Nicole rarely complains though I’m sure there are things about me that she would change if she could (note that I wrote “rarely” and not “never”). BTW, sweetie, that’s not an invitation to comment about excessive flatulence, BO or something similar here on “Random Musings.” If you have a problem with any of the above things please, let me know privately. Or, if you want, you can DM me via Facebook or Twitter. We are, after all, living in a world dominated by social media. Why shouldn’t we converse via the internet? If we do that, you can watch “The Voice” or play Candy Crush Saga while I “tweak” ENDWORLD – A NOVEL‘s Amazon or NOOK listing and listen to the soundtrack to “Tron: Legacy.”

Sarcasm fully intended, sweetie. I like talking to you IRL, even if said conversations consist of a series of acknowledging grunts and sighs when one of the girls awakens from her slumber, or a car alarm goes off at three in the f*cking AM after you’ve worked a 17 hour shift prepping for your inventory and I’m still damp from getting splashed repeatedly by Cara on Bath Night. F*cking Bath Night. I swear to God, the God Particle and/or the Almighty, Bath Night is the Bane of my Current Existence.

See? Another mystery solved. I’ve been searching for the Bane of my Current Existence ever since I retired the Feminine Bane of my Early Existence X-amount of years ago. Bath Night? It’s the early front runner. That said, whenever I refer to “The Bane of my Current Existence” from now on remember that it = Bath Night. At least until I find a better one. Jeezy-peezy, one of these days I’m going to put together a glossary of Frankisms and post it on my sidebar for those of you that haven’t the slightest frackin’ idea what I’m talking about when I say things like that, or I refer to people as…

Yeah. I know. I almost went there. Good thing I stopped myself, huh? That word = Still on sabbatical until such time as I either A.) Recoup the money I spent to prep ENDWORLD – A NOVEL for publication or B.) Simply can’t hold back my desire to remind all y’all that “the world is full of PLURALIZED BLANK” again. Knowing me, the latter is a lot more feasible than the former.

Incidentally, the above AVI file is a scene from the movie “Puss in Boots.” “Puss in Boots” is one of Cara’s favorite flicks, currently. It ranks up there with “Tangled” and “Caillou’s Holiday Movie” as one of her own, personal all time greats. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. Even if you, like me, couldn’t stand the “Shrek” movies. Talk about ideas based solely on excessive flatulence and BO (with a little fairy tale mash-up thrown in for good measure). IMO, the “Shrek” movies represent a nadir in the animated feature film that has blessedly been redeemed in recent years by movies like “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Princess and the Frog.” Not to mention “Toy Story 3” and “Brave,” the latter of which was not perfect, but was definitely better than anything in the “Shrek” franchise.  I’m hoping that trend continues with “Monsters University” this summer, the sequel to another of Cara’s most requested movies.

While I’m on it, here is what I presume to be Cara’s list of the Top Five, best movies ever made:

  1. “Tangled”: Hand’s down her favorite movie. She never gets tired of watching it, or playing Rapunzel. Daddy normally gets to play Eugene or Max, Natalie plays Pascal and Mommy? Sadly, Mommy gets the unforgiving role of Mother Gothel. Every. TIME. I derive no satisfaction from that, BTW. None, whatsoever. Um… yeah. None. MOVING ON.
  2. “Finding Nemo”: Who doesn’t love this movie? Lovable characters? Check. Adventure? Check. A completely unheralded, burgeoning romance between Marlin and Dory? Check, check, check-skee. Oh, come on. You didn’t see that when you watched it? I’m sorry if I ruined your childhood. Me, personally? I’m holding out hope that the forthcoming sequel, “Finding Dory” ends with her and Marlin tying the knot. Maybe in a ceremony presided over by Bruce the Shark. Remember, “Fish are friends, not food.”
  3. “Caillou’s Holiday Movie”: Honestly? I don’t get the appeal of Caillou. I’ve heard all the arguments for the little guy. Primary colors. Morality lessons about everything from how to treat others to how not to run in the park wearing sandals (okay, so the latter isn’t really a morality lesson; it’s more of a common sense one, i.e. what idiot runs in sandals?). Music. Short episodes to mirror the short attention span of toddlers, preschoolers et al. Teachers praise it. Cara loves it. And Natalie already recognizes it. But “Caillou’s Holiday Movie” is an exercise in excess. I can take one, two or even three vignettes at a time. But a full length movie made up of a dozen of them, all tied together by a singular, flimsy thread, i.e. Caillou’s desire for Santa to bring him a toy space station? Come on. It’s too much. And the songs in it? Sadly infectious. They pollute your brain like a virus until one morning, when you’re getting ready for work, you find yourself humming “Bent and Tiny Christmas Tree” to yourself in the shower. A lesser man would hang himself as soon as that happened but me? I persevered. That’s not to say I didn’t want to off myself when it happened. I simply chose not to.
  4. Any hour long “Dora the Explorer” special: It could be “Dora and the Enchanted Forest Part One,” “Part Two” or “Part Infinity.” It could be “Dora and the Snow Princess.” If it’s more than 28 minutes long it’s automatically one of her favorite movies. Unless it’s “Dora Rocks” or “Dora’s Fantastic Gymnastics.” Both are only 30 minutes long and both are repeated viewing in the Marsh household.
  5. “Puss in Boots”: Next to “Finding Nemo,” this is my favorite of her favorites. How many of you reading this saw “Django Unchained?” Think an old-school, modernized western like “Django” but without the excessive use of the N-word, a blood splattered Plantation or Leo Dicaprio’s totally underrated performance (not that I minded the Academy giving the Oscar to Christoph Waltz but seriously? DiCaprio and Sam Jackson were both better in their respective roles). Less violence, too. That’s “Puss in Boots.” It’s worth it, if only for the Dance Battle. Trust me: You’ll understand better when you see it.

“Monster’s Inc.,” “Cinderella” and “Brother Bear” get honorable mentions. Those of you that think on the basis of what I just wrote that Nicole and I let Cara watch too much television rest assured: We don’t. Other than the occasional movie that she only gets to watch when she’s either A.) Good or B.) Too much of a handful to control without a Disney movie, a juice box and a bowl of Cheez-Its, the only time she generally watches television is in spurts between six and 8:30 in the PM. The rest of the time we’re either playing, or drawing, or making puzzles, or going to the park/mall/Target/Target for Daddies (AKA Home Depot)/food store/Linvilla Orchards, or going to visit family and friends… I’m sure you get the idea. My life at this juncture… my schedule is anything but open, guys. That’s why it never ceases to amaze me when I have time to write a blog entry like this one. Monster Energy Drinks help immensely with that last.

How do I do it? I don’t know. Once again, “it’s a mystery.” One of the many that I find myself grappling with presently. Not mysteries of cosmic significance, and not even the ones that I dealt with in the past like “what causes a Biological to leave his children behind him and flee west?” That one, along with the mystery of the Feminine Bane of my Early Existence, has been officially retired at this juncture. C’est la vie. No more. Thank f*cking God, the God Particle and/or the Almighty. I’m glad, really. I’d much rather ponder lesser mysteries like “what the f*ck is in Gogurt that makes it so appealing to children,” “why do people love Bieber” and “why does my house always smell like a**?” Those mysteries? They remain unsolved for me, a still pseudo-mad denizen of this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Just because I’m published now doesn’t change that. if anything, it compounds it. Hopefully you’re as happy about that as I am.

And that, guys? That’s about all I’ve got for today. I’d like to thank “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 2.0” for giving me an outlet to write that is only loosely linked to ENDWORLD – A NOVEL which, I should add, is NOW AVAILABLE to purchase from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, in the iBookstore, for your Kobo, via Smashwords or in print at Createspace! Get your copy, today!

Begin and end shameless, self-promotion. If you’re interested in more of it, though, you can check out the book’s website, http://www.theendworldseries.com for “everything and anything related to ENDWORLD – A NOVEL and THE ENDWORLD SERIES!”  

Okay. Enough already. I get it. Really. I’ll stop. MOVING ON, this process was incredibly therapeutic  It was nice… damn nice to spend some time just writing. I didn’t feel like I needed to check Kindle Direct, NOOK Press, Createspace or Smashwords and guesstimate how many units of my book I’ve sold/how many have been downloaded. I didn’t feel like I had to check my Twitter feed, or check Facebook, or answer emails and texts, DMs  et al. The nice thing about “Random Musings” is that it gives me a place to just. Be. ME. The Madchronicler, otherwise known as Frank Marsh: A regular Joe Schmoe in the grand scheme of things, and a self-proclaimed…

You know it, fellow you-know-whats. You know it. Have a great day. Booyakasha. Respect.

A Pi Day Reflection on High Blood Sugar, “Pinky and the Brain,” a 1200 Word Short Story, Purpose and an Un-extraordinary Life

Good day, everyone! Happy Pi Day! No, I’m not talking about “pie.” I’m talking about Pi, alias the irrational number that we all learned about in math: 3.14 et cetera, et cetera. Though a piece of pie would taste good to this sugar-deprived, pseudo-madman right about now. Sadly, my desire for a piece of pie will have to remain unfulfilled until such time as I reduce my blood sugar from where it is to a manageable number sans medication. Thanks, Doc L. I know you’ve got my best interests in mind, but really? Depriving me of pie… of anything with sugar in it is almost as bad as depriving me of caffeine. At least I can get the latter with no sugar in it. I can’t exactly get sugar without sugar.

Oh f*ck. I’ve gone cross-eyed again.

Believe it or not, Pi Day, irrational numbers and my sugar intake (or lack thereof) are not the things perplexing my oft perplexed mind, currently. In truth? There really isn’t anything new perplexing me save for the same sh*t that has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks (book stuff, of which you guys are already aware). Instead, I’m reflective. Yesterday, at the urging of my wife, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I entered a short story in a contest. But not just any old contest. I’ve done that plenty of times before this. No, guys. I entered a short story in a contest sponsored by an organization that specializes in giving non-professional authors like myself with children an opportunity to showcase their work. Sounds innocent enough, right?

And it is. In fact, I’m very impressed with the organization and what it stands for. So why write that its “something that I never thought I’d do?” There are multiple reasons, none of which reflect poorly on the organization in question or others like it. Primarily? I wrote that because X-amount of years ago when I wrote “The Wandering Seeker,” I never dreamed that the scene portrayed in it would be a scene from my own life.

I don’t know if I can publish it here on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman.” That’s http://www.randommusingsofapseudomadman.com. Yes, I wrote “.com,” and not “.wordpress.com.” I have, as of yesterday afternoon, purchased the domain name though really? The prospect of anyone ever using a domain name even remotely similar to it is pretty remote. What can I say? It’s a part of my ongoing bid to dominate the internet on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I already own “frankmarsh.net” and am eyeing up “frankmarsh.com” if the person in DC that holds it ever relinquishes it. To quote one of my all time favorite cartoons:

Pay no attention to the snippet of Raul Julia from “Street Fighter: The Movie” at the end of the clip. I’m sorry, but it was the cleanest one I could find on Youtube. And really, WTF does Raul Julia have to do with “Pinky and the Brain?” Note to self: Make sure to tag this blog entry with “randomness,” as well, when completed. Thanks for f*cking my world up, WelsheyOneder.

But I digress. I was writing that I don’t know if I can publish “The Wandering Seeker” here because of the contest rules. No submissions of previously published material can be entered. Once I put something on “Random Musings” it becomes a part of the Eminent Public Domain. I don’t know if blog publishing counts as publishing so rather than risk it, I think I’ll deign to not post it. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about it, though.

In short (and it had to be: 1200 words max; limiting a short story to 1200 words is almost as daunting a task as writing a novel, at least for my long-winded a**), “The Wandering Seeker” is the story of a father who is awakened in the middle of the night by his daughter whimpering in the room next to his. He goes into check on her and asks her what’s wrong. She informs him that she heard crying outside her window and it woke her up. “Oh, that’s nothing,” the father says, “that’s just the Wandering Seeker.” She asks him who the Wandering Seeker is and he tells her a story about a person that used to wander the world… “the worlds” searching for answers. His travels took him many places but in the end? He ended up settling for a normal life and not an abnormal, pseudo-chaotic one. He met a woman, fell in love with and married her. He had a couple of kids. “He doesn’t wander anymore.” The tears that the man’s daughter heard? They were an echo of the Wandering Seeker’s tears. “He cried because he didn’t have a family to love” her father tells her, “but now? He doesn’t wander anymore. He’s stopped crying. But occasionally you can hear him on nights like this one.”

There’s a bit more but rather than ruin the O’Henry ending (which, if you know me is pretty predictable), I think I’ll stop there. Keep your fingers crossed, guys. I’m still waiting for my “big break” and while I don’t know if this could be it, the reward and the platform said reward would provide me would be very, very beneficial to a burgeoning writer, about to publish his first novel. But the contest? It really is supplemental to the story: A story which I wrote long before I met Nicole.

You see, “The Wandering Seeker” was another one of my early-adulthood attempts to envision my life as I desired it to beand not as it was at the time. But the amazing thing about it? As opposed to my other attempts to write “Autobiographical Fiction,” the events depicted in “The Wandering Seeker?” Well sh*t. They came true. Everything down to the color and style of my wife’s hair in it (brown and curly, a part of the story which I was, sadly, forced to edit out to get it under 1200 words), the color of my daughter’s eyes, her age and the style of her own hair (aspects of the story that I did retain; in essence, I made it 1200 words about a father and his daughter and not 2000 words about a father and his family).

Now, you could argue this eventuality a couple of ways. You could say that the story, which was written with my ideal in mind some 15 plus, very odd years ago could not help but come true. You could say that I would not have settled for anything less than the woman pictured in the story and the little girl that was, quite obviously, a hybrid of her appearance and my own. Contrary to that interpretation is another, though. One word… a word that I’m leery of attaching to anything for fear of either sounding like someone not grounded in reality, alias someone who believes in things like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Or that Pi has a final number. That word? Fate. Or destiny. Or any number of other synonyms that exist.

Let me be frank with you, guys (no pun intended, or course): I don’t believe in fate, destiny or whatever you want to call it. I believe in pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I believe in free will. But I do believe that we all have a purpose and that purpose is hard-wired into our souls pre-conception. Getting there? It’s up to us. Some of us achieve our purpose and some of us don’t. How we are judged by the almighty for our incapacity to either use what he or she gave us or not is purely speculation on my part. I won’t know if I succeeded until I’m gone from this world… from these worlds. Even then I may not know. But I trust in the belief that I have clung to since I was a child. If one day, I die and find out that it was all a farce? Well sh*t. It won’t be the first time someone played a cruel joke on me. Hardy har-har. Insert pie in the face here. 

But being a good husband and father? I truly believe that those things are a part of, if not my whole purpose. The scene that I pictured in my story? It was bound to happen, but not because it was destined to. Nor because I had the foresight to extrapolate what mine and my ideal woman’s daughter would look like at 20-something years young. I don’t even know that I could do that now at 37, going on 38 years old. It happened because when God or whatever gods you believe in was dolling out souls back in late 1974 and early 1975, he or she took one look at the wispy “stuff” that was going to make up mine and said, “do you know what? This one? He’s going to be a good husband and a good dad. He’s going to put his family before anything and everything else in his life. If his daughter calls his name crying in the middle of the night, he’s not going to roll over and cover his head with a pillow. He’s going to get up, no matter how drowsy he is, and make his way groggily into her room. He’s going to sit with her and tell her a story. I’ll let him decide the content of it.”

That’s me, folks. About as plain as can be, really. I’ve been summed up in many ways by many, different people over the course of my… for the most part… un-extraordinary life. Some have called me a lover. Some, a fighter. Some, a big p*ssy and some a fedora and trench coat wearing elitist (you know who you are). I really could give a flying f*ck what people think of me. Some may believe that this blog is just another means of me, drawing undue attention to myself and I’ll concede that while I don’t believe that people always embody the traits of the Zodiac sign that they were born under–mine was Leo, BTW–that particular trait? Yep. I do have it. But only to a degree. I am also humble. I believe that everything that I have, pre-programmed or not, is a gift. And I cherish it. My family? My ability to write? My sometimes quirky sense of humor? My capacity to love unconditionally? All. 

I mentioned earlier in this blog post that I was not perplexed, but reflective. I’m reflective about where I am now this chilly, mid-March Pi Day in 2013, and where I was then, an undetermined day of an undetermined month some 15 plus, very odd years ago when I first wrote “The Wandering Seeker.” Back then, the life that I have now was a dream. Today? Well, guys, I may not yet be a published writer… I may only be a part of the Eminent Public Domain currently… whatever I am, there is one thing that I am for sure. And that is? If you know me you already know the answer. I’m the guy who got out of bed and told one of, or both of his whimpering daughters the story of the Wandering Seeker. Beyond that?

Well sh*t. You don’t want me to give away the O’Henry ending now, do you?

“They’re Pinky, they’re Pinky and the Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain.

🙂

A Quick Hit

Good evening, fellow Sh*theads. Happy Friday night. I told myself that I’d never do this… Told myself that I wouldn’t be “that blogger.” You know, the one who updates you daily on everything from what he’s eating to what he’s watching on television. I told myself when I started this that I wouldn’t turn “Random Musings” into an online journal. But…

Well, guys? Times change, and I figure that I have enough of a “fan base” at this point to justify it. That said, I had pizza for dinner tonight (cheese, only; it’s a Friday in Lent and I’m a fairly good Christian) and I’m currently watching “Sofia the First” with my three year old. A quick parenthetical aside: “Sofia the First” is a new, Disney princess show on Disney Junior about a young commoner, turned royal by marriage (her mother married the king, Roland). It’s terrific, and very age appropriate for a three year old. I highly recommend it. End aside.

Lest those of you that have been reading “Random Musings” worry that I’ve given up blogging, rest assured: I have not. Quite the contrary, actually. I’ve got a handful of new writing ideas involving everything from a “Friends” movie (I call it “Friends: Ten Years Later”) to a new rumination on parenthood, double ear infections, pink eye and Bronchitis. But I’m knee deep in novel revision mode, currently. I’m putting the finishing touches on what I hope will be my final, pre-publication rewrite of ENDWORLD. It and my daily routine are eating up a good portion of my time, currently. As much as I’d love to maintain this site, there are people that have been waiting almost 20 years for me to finally finish this book and I don’t want to let them down. That said…

I know a few of you reading this are dying to see the extent of this novel… This labor of love that I’ve been writing about for… Well, forever. Rest assured: You will. While I’m not confident in putting the whole book out here for anyone to see just yet (a combination of low self-esteem and my fear that someone will steal my idea), I feel reasonably confident about giving you a taste.

So, for those of you that have been faithfully following “Random Musings” since I started it four years ago, I present to you a little treat. The Prologue of my novel. please read, and hopefully enjoy at your leisure. As for me? I’ma get back to the grind. About 100 pages left to go until I’m finished. I’ll catch you on the flip side, friends. Have a great weekend.

ENDWORLD – A Novel

PROLOGUE – Alone (“Fear in a handful of dust”)

It is difficult to remember when my life had meaning. When you’re 18 and on the run, the only meaning that your life has is surviving from day-to-day. Any other meaning that my life had vanished that gray and hazy morning, afternoon or evening on the beach.

I look out the window of the old, abandoned office and adjoining warehouse within which I have resided indefinitely. The nameless town below rolls silently away down a steep hill. Houses and proprietorships, long since abandoned dot the landscape. About a quarter of a kilometer away, the black-asphalt spine of the Highway stretches endlessly in either direction like a huge, dreaming python, and while I cannot see it directly I know that it is there. I can always sense its presence no matter where I am. I’ve got to admit that it is a pretty sight. Perhaps one of the last in this cursed place. Still, a python can be deadly if you provoke it.

How long have I been here? I honestly don’t know. The interior of what has been my surrogate home is unchanged. Old, abandoned desks sit in the four corners of the main room. Atop them, what appear to be old, non-touch screen computer monitors grown dusty and dim with age, abandoned keyboards, speakers, computer mice, the occasional cup of dried-out pens and broken pencils and on one desk, a calendar grown so ancient with age that I can no longer make out the month, days or even the year written upon it.

But such concepts no longer matter in 15:CI.

Three of the four walls surrounding me are covered with accouterments. On one, two framed pictures, one which preaches “Teamwork” and the other, “Excellence.” Another has a yellowing and faded poster of what appears to be a rocket. “Taurus II” it advertises, “Brought to you by Orbital Technologies.” On yet another, a single framed picture that advertises “Leadership.” And on the final wall? A vicious mockery of the world as it once-was: A mural of a forest at dusk, upon it painted trees whose tops extend well beyond the water-stained and cracked drop ceiling over  my head.

I have learned from my experiences, both good and bad, not to rely on time here in Endworld. Every time (no pun intended) that I begin to do so— every time that I try to make sense of such an abstract and outdated concept I realize that the passage of what passes for time here is frighteningly different than one might expect. Everything fades. Everything dies and eventually leaves nothing but the equivalent of a yellowing and faded mural of a forest at dusk if you’re lucky. But in most cases? It leaves nothing but a pile of dust. Here in Endworld? The process once referred to as “time” is elongated. A day lasts ten days. A month lasts 100 months. And a year?

A single year lasts a millennium.

You’re probably wondering who I am. I assure you that that question, and any others that you have will be answered eventually and to the best of my ability. For now, all that I can tell you is that I am alone—the last member of a group of companions who were dedicated to liberating themselves from the totalitarian tyranny of The Administration. I say “the last” not because I am the lone survivor of our group. On the contrary, as far as I know the other surviving members of my group have escaped to a safer place: A place away from the influence of the metal and micro-chip enhanced bastards that sit in judgment over the species that created them and over all of Endworld. No. I say that I am “the last” because I am the one who stayed behind…

However reluctantly.

My gaze drifts back to the lone window, inset within the front door of the place I have come to call my “home.” The sun has almost set and the world is bathed in an eerie, golden-red iridescence. I am reminded of a night seemingly an eternity ago when I embarked on a journey just beyond that same sunset. Then, I was younger physically, figuratively and spiritually. Then, I was unscarred by the sorrow that now hangs like a putrid cloud of hour-old cigarette smoke over my head as I write this. Then, I was as optimistic and naive as any child of 17 whose entire life had been spent within the confines of a small town. Mine was called Jefferson, a tiny borough in the Mid-Western Territory, or MWT for short. Now, though? I sit silently pondering the proverbial road that carried me here, to an old, abandoned office and warehouse in the middle of a crumbling ghost-town sandwiched between a nameless river and the Highway. A place that my companions might have called “The Center of Bumblefuck.”

Darkness is slowly infiltrating the world outside my door and consequently the corners of the office that I nightly bunk down in. I reach into my battered backpack and remove a candle, unfortunately the last of my once-extensive supply. I light it with my trusty Zippo lighter and marvel, as I always do, that after all that has transpired and all that it has endured it continues to light without the benefit of replenishment. My Zippo is as metaphorical of me as the Highway is of Endworld, but more on that later. I place the candle near enough to me so that I can see what I am writing but not near enough to risk the destruction of these last, precious pieces of yellowing paper that I managed to liberate from what must have been the old office supply cabinet in the warehouse.

I glance inside my backpack again and take inventory of my supplies. They are almost depleted. Soon it will be time for me to move on but before I can I must tell you my story, regardless of the likely pain that doing so will cause me. Perhaps when I am gone—and trust me when I tell you that one day soon I will be gone—perhaps when I am gone you can read it, study it… hell, maybe you can even learn something from it. What you do with it is up to you. For the time being, however? I write the following account not to heal the ills of a sick and twisted world: A world of lush forests at dusk grown cold by the emergence of chrome and steel. A world in which a concept like hope is extinct, drowned as all things once youthful and optimistic by the rivers of blood that flow down the distant, eight-lane, asphalt super Highway.

Ever onward, William, a familiar female voice coos in my mind, ever, ever after. I close my eyes against the tightening that embraces my chest and my midsection and I sigh.

No, friends. I write the following account to heal myself.

I won’t begin my tale in the traditional way because as someone wise once told me, the phrase “once upon a time” generally signifies a happy ending. I think that it would be better to begin with…

🙂

A Lenten Conundrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Question of Inherent Goodness

I have always believed in the inherent goodness of most people. My whole life, I’ve held to the belief that, as Luke Skywalker said in “Return of the Jedi” regarding his father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, “There’s still good in him. I can feel it.” At the end of the movie–and at the time, we thought, the story–we discovered that Luke was right. Vader not only saved his son’s life at the end but in the process “brought balance to the Force” as had been prophesied many, many years before. This idea? Of someone as evil as Darth Vader being inherently good? It is a comforting one.

I’m far from naive on this point, guys. I’ve seen too much to believe that all people are inherently good (hence my use of the term “most” in my opening sentence). They’re not. Jerry Sandusky? Not. Adolf Hitler? Definitely not. Did I just lump a child molester and a genocidal maniac in to the same sentence? Yes, I did. In my mind one is just as sick, twisted and f*cked up as the other and that’s not because I went to Penn State and am disgusted by what he–Sandusky–and his co-conspirators have done to the reputation of my beloved Alma Mater.

Quite simply? I believe and will always believe that evil exists. It can be incarnated in any number of ways. Whether you believe that evil is a tangible commodity, evident in people like the aforementioned ones like I do, or you believe that it is an abstract concept that we use to explain the in-explainable–atrocities committed that defy logical explanation (see: Sandy Hook, etc.)–is irrelevant. In our world on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence? Bad people exist. And bad people do bad things. Which brings me back to the reason that I started writing this blog entry in the first place.

I have always believed and I will always believe in the inherent goodness of most people. Let me repeat that: I will always believe in the inherent goodness of most people. It’s part of who I am as a person. But some days? Believing is hard. Damn hard. Take today. Today, I discovered that someone that I trusted was funneling information to someone else in an attempt to… what? Implicate me? Get back at me? Did said funneler think that he/she was doing the right thing? Probably. Is he/she evil? No. He/she is no more evil than I am. Am I being intentionally vague? Yes, and that’s the extent of what I’m going to say err, write on the matter.

The thing is? This is not the first time this has happened. It has happened before. The names and faces have changed over time but the mentality, apparently, still exists. Perhaps it is a product of the institution, whatever that institution may be and not its individual personalities. Perhaps. Or perhaps it is just a sad coincidence. Whatever it is, for lack of a better explanation, it is. I don’t always question the way things are, guys. I know, shocking, huh? But sometimes, it is safer to just keep my head down and be that living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face that you all know and… I hope… love to some extent. But as some reading this may know and some may not, I’ve got a bit of a history with this kind of a situation.

It goes all the way back to my childhood. Back then, I was not a living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face. I was a depressive, pear-shaped kid who wore a lot of black and constantly sought acceptance from his peers. I eventually found it, but it took me the better part of 15… almost 16 years to do so and it didn’t happen overnight. Oh hell no. It was a rigorous process. But by the time I graduated high school and started my Freshman year at Penn State Abington (known then as “Penn State Ogontz,” and thereafter for a short time as “Penn State Abington-Ogontz” or “Ab-Oz” as we endearingly referred to it) that sad and sordid history? It was a distant memory. I was older, wiser, slimmer and more mature. I was, for the most part, happy. But I never forgot, guys. No way. Never.

Am I bitter? No. I haven’t been bitter in a couple of decades. If anything, I laugh about it now, mainly with my wife and others who suffered through similar situations to mine growing up. But… and here’s the rub… if this kind of thing has happened before, is happening now and will, likely, happen again if I remain in the same situation that I am currently in, why “hold fast” as my screensaver on both my computer at home and at work proclaims? Why continue to believe in the inherent goodness of most people if, per not just my own, personal history’s example but the example of history in general demonstrates that people are not? Why not forcibly remove myself from the situation before things get worse?

All are good questions. Valid ones. Questions that require a little pondering and, it seems, a blog entry. I think that a part of the reason why is this: I ‘kinda get off on it, a little. Yeah, I went there. Don’t avert your eyes and scream that you’re blind because the majority of you reading this have likely never seen me in person or haven’t seen me in anything other than a thumbnail in a long, long time and are unequipped to judge.

I do, though. I get off on being challenged, rising to the challenge and overcoming it. All of you people that quote “oppressed me” unquote back in the day? Guess what? A part of me enjoyed it. Do you know or can you guess why? The answer is pretty simple and it can be summed up in one word: Attention. When you were doing it, you were paying attention to me and I longed for that. I let it go on for as long as I did because I liked the attention that I was accruing. When I grew up, though, and realized that conceding to being a proverbial punching bag was unhealthy? I moved passed it. Put it in my proverbial rear view mirror. Finis. 

The same is somewhat true, now, but only the part about being challenged, rising to the challenge and overcoming it. Trust me. The proverbial punching bag thing? Yeah. I don’t do that anymore. I punch back. Ask the funneler and the funnel-ee if you don’t believe me. But only if you can ring their names out of my cold, dead hands…

Um… yeah. Okay. 

Of course, if this blog entry is any indication, I’m apparently still very good at the whole garnering attention thing. But really, guys? Am I? I average about 20-25 hits per blog entry, and that’s only since I moved “Random Musings” from Google Blogger to WordPress a few months ago. Before that, I was lucky if I got 20 hits per blog entry (on average). I’ve had a few highs–“Dora the Explorer – A J. J. Abrams Film”–and a few lows–“Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish”–but for the most part? My little blog is a virtual non-entity in the greater blogosphere.

If I did this solely for attention I would have stopped a long time ago. Still, though, I toil onward, and have been toiling onward for almost four years now. No. I don’t maintain “Random Musings” for attention. I do it because I enjoy doing it. I enjoy writing. Some people play sports, jog, play “World of Warcraft” or otherwise. I write. And writing, for me, is another extension of who I am. Turn away if you desire to. I won’t hold it against you.

So that’s one reason why. Kind of a gross one, I know. I promise I’ll never reference “getting off” again. How about another reason? Okie-dokie, then. Another reason why I continue to believe in the inherent goodness of others despite the fact that some days, believing is hard. Because hidden within the nastiness that graces the static page of every news site from CNN to Fox News, to MSNBC to C-SPAN is proof.

I understand the media. I understand that sh*t sells. I’ve seen “The Running Man” a dozen or so times. And while I disagree wholeheartedly with profiting from other people’s misfortune and turning dictators in to modern day, dime store paperback anti-heroes, I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. You’ve got to feed your families ‘same as I do. But…

But look no further than the teacher that hid her students from the Sandy Hook shooter a little over a month ago and lost her life because of it. Or the bus driver that ended up dying because he tried to stop a gunman from kidnapping a student. Or the pilot that safely landed his plane in the Hudson River a few years ago and saved over a hundred lives. Or “Gabby” Giffords. Or the woman… hell, the women that defy the traditional, submissive roles forced upon them by their respective societies.

See what I mean? For every Jerry Sandusky there’s a Malala Yousafzai. For every Adolf Hitler there’s a “Kid President.” For every bad person doing bad things there’s a good person showing the world that despite how horrific things can get, there remains hope. For society. For us. I’m not going to lie: Humanity is pretty far gone presently. If you believe otherwise that’s your prerogative but I’m sorry: I require your proof. Me, personally? I remain a believer in the inherent goodness in most men and women because of the Gabbys, the Malalas and the “Kid Presidents.” For me? As long as one true hero or heroine exists in the midst of the political strong men, women and profiteers that choke the life from this world there is hope. So I’ll never stop believing. Until the day rolls around that I watch or read the news and see nothing but negativity I’ll never stop. That said…

Somewhere, on another side of the proverbial wormhole of existence Luke Skywalker just informed the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi that “there’s still good in [Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader]. I know it.” We all know how that story ends. Vader throws the Emperor over the railing and in to the abysmal heart of the second Death Star and he and his son have a touching, last moment together. Cue me crying (yes, when I first saw it I cried), the funeral pyre and the Ewoks, dancing to the “Yub Yub” song. But what about this story? Ours? How will it end? Am I correct in my assessment that at its core, most human souls retain some semblance of good despite how some have been corrupted by everything from the media to the desire to be accepted by their peers? Am I just as naive at 37 as I was at 13? Only time will tell, I guess. But as for right now? I believe what I believe. Despite funnelers and funnel-ees, I still believe it, and will continue to do so…

Long after these credits have rolled. Finis. 

Written and Directed by Frank Marsh.

🙂

What Christmas Means To Me

This is probably the last thing that I should be writing, right now. As of this particular moment in time on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence  the question, “What does Christmas mean to me,” can be answered with one word and one word only: Pain. As in sinus, head and throat. As in I woke up this past, Monday Morning–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or do not celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday–with virtually the same ailment that both of my girls had last week. But wait, you may argue, didn’t your girls have two, separate ailments? Yes. They did, and I got the best of both worlds, i.e. Cara’s fever and Natalie’s congestion. I am a walking, talking, barely breathing, woozy headed, medicated facsimile of a smiling face, right now, and the smiley face? I’ve only got that on for my customers. I’d much rather drink a bottle of Nyquil and crawl up in to a corner for the next day and a half. But I can’t. I won’t. ‘Cause as Freddy Mercury so aptly sang despite his foreknowledge of his own, personal condition, “The show must go on!”

To be honest with you? The only reason that I’m here and not at home, in bed right now is because I need to ensure that the dozen or so moving parts of the massive cylinder order leaving the factory for my biggest OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) this PM get off without a hitch. That’s the kind of thing that I do for my customers, guys. Most Inside Sales/Customer Service people punch in quotes, punch in orders and talk on the phone only when unnecessary. They take sick time when they’re sick (and sometimes when they’re not). But me? I throw myself bodily in to my work. I persevere despite how incredibly sh*tty I feel. I go out and visit my customers. I get to know them on a personal level and not just a professional one. I’m not sure why I do it that way, I just do. And it seems to work pretty well so really, why f*ck around with the system?

Because the older I get, the worse I feel. Yes, I know I’m only 37 years young but “getting sick” can’t be cured by 30 Jello shots and a bottle of champagne anymore. I need real medicine and I need rest. And consistent rest is something I have not been getting these last few weeks.

So why? Why chose now to write a blog post about what Christmas means to me? Won’t your answers be skewed by your condition, you may argue. They may. But I just popped a couple of Tylenol Severe Cold and Flu that I picked up at 7-11, along with a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink and I can already feel my nasal pathways, my head and my chest drying up. It’s amazing what Acetaminophen can do when combined with an antihistamine and caffeine. I’m not saying that I feel 100% better… I don’t. But I’m feeling a bit more functional than I was a few paragraphs ago and some things? Well, I’ve waited a few days to write this and I don’t want to wait any longer lest I forget them. So damn the pounding in my ears, I’m goin’ for broke.

This past Christmas–or this past Tuesday for those of you that have been living under a rock or only celebrate Hanukkah–was my 38th on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Mind you, I really don’t remember the first couple but I can remember from roughly my fifth or sixth on. I can’t recall every gift… every detail of those earliest Christmas mornings but I can remember how they felt. In short? They felt magicalBefore I knew the sad truth about Santa Claus; before I learned that reindeer generally don’t fly, not even with some of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust; before I realized that my then-father now sperm donor had eaten the cookies and drank the milk that I and my little sister had diligently left out for the other big guy, Christmas morning was a time of infinite possibility. In truth? It was the only time. Not even my birthday could match it’s awesomeness.

All that changed as I got older and realized “the truth.” Christmas morning was a time of necessity. It was a time to get up before 10:00 AM–something which I rarely did in my teens–and eat breakfast with my mother and my sister. It was a time to open my significantly smaller pile of gifts with each, passing year despite the fact that all I really wanted to do was kick back on the couch and watch “A Christmas Story” over and over again. Magical gifts like the original Millennium Falcon and the Darth Vader carrying case–both of which are worth bow-coo bucks presently in mint condition; who knew?–were replaced by clothes, more clothes and the occasional novelty gift, i.e. “junk.” All this culminated in my first Christmas away from home–1997 for those of you that are counting–when I slept too late at my apartment, missed Christmas breakfast and showed up at my Mom’s hungover and smelling of tequila and cigarettes around noon. I still don’t know if my mother ever forgave me for that trespass. If she still begrudges me it let me formally state the obvious herein: I’m sorry. And if she forgot about it some time ago? Well, I guess I can’t blame her. Only pseudo-madmen like myself can remember things as mundane and inane as this and can barely remember what they ate for lunch yesterday.

For the record, it was leftover Eggplant Parmesan, a meatball and a low sugar, Monster Energy Drink. Anyone else sensing that “caffeine dependency” is a theme for your old buddy the Madchronicler? My neurologist would have a field day with my caffeine consumption, presently. No migraines for the moment. Just a pounding in my sinuses, my head and my chest that already appears to be returning despite the fact that I just popped those Tylenol Cold and Sinuses an hour ago. All together now: Oh f*ck me. Sorry, but I abandoned oh thank God last night.

And then, three plus years ago, something amazing and unexpected happened: My wife and I had a child. Okay, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. We had been trying for a while. But it wasn’t Cara’s birth that I was referring to as “unexpected.” It was my own renewed interest in Christmas. I remember waking up that December 25th, long before Cara and Nicole did in anticipation of Cara’s reaction to seeing all of her presents under the tree… of her happiness at realizing that Santa had eaten all of his cookies and drank all of his milk. I guess in my elation, I neglected to realize that Cara was only five months and some change old at the time and could barely sit up, much less realize that some jolly and jiggly, red suit clad, cookie and milk loving sot had slid down our non-existent chimney and left her an army of Fisher Price, Playschool and Leap Pad stuff. Still, it was fun opening her presents for her and giving her the paper to play with.

But a fundamental change had been enacted in my life, guys. With each, subsequent year I got more and more “in” to Christmas as Cara realized more and more that something different was happening. This year, my wife and I had our second child (Natalie for those of you keeping score), and Cara turned three. And I knew, even before the season started that this Christmas was going to be as fun as hell.

My anticipation reached a feverish level on Monday night–Christmas Eve for those of you that have been living under a rock or who celebrate Kwanzaa–and that wasn’t because of the temperature I was running. It wasn’t due to the myriad medicines, the two low sugar, Monster Energy drinks that I had consumed or the periodic shots of vodka I was taking when mine and my wife’s families weren’t looking to dull the itch in my throat. Okay, so maybe those factors played in to it a bit but I got very little sleep and was up before anyone else on Christmas morning. I actually had to wait a half an hour for Cara and Nicole to wake up (Natalie is still portable and hence not as much a wakeful necessity) before I could go downstairs. But when I walked down those stairs and saw all of the presents under the tree and against the wall behind and beside it… when I looked over at the end table and saw the cookie crumbs on the plate that Cara had left for Santa, the empty cup that smelled a little like sour milk and the note that Santa had left Cara and Natalie? Well sh*t. I felt the magic come flooding back in to my living room for the first time since I was an impressionable youth despite the fact that I knew “the truth” behind the staged scene laid out before me. It. Was. Christmas! And there was much rejoicing.

Yay!   

In short? I had come full circle, friends. As I turned on the tree and the iPad underneath it which had “Merry Christmas!” written in bold, flowing  purple letters across its face I realized that the reaction that I was about to witness in Cara was the same as the reaction that my own mother and, for a time, my own father turned sperm donor had witnessed in me on those early, Christmas mornings of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The impression of the prototypical, Thomas Kincade Christmas morning was heightened by the rapidly melting, coat of white snow that lay upon the ground outside and the lingering scent of baked cookies that hung over my head from the previous day. Throw in a roaring fireplace which we do not have (the Yule Log is not a sufficient substitute, BTW) and you’ve got a scene to rival any cinematic vision of Christmas morning ever created including my all time favorite, the one that takes place in the Nexus for Captain Jean Luc Picard in “Star Trek: Generations.” Yes, I went there. Don’t believe me? Check it out at your leisure and tell me I’m wrong. I triple dog dare you.

In a word? No. It did not.

Um…

Wow. Talk about anti-climactic.

I’m serious, though. It played out like this: Cara came downstairs, smiled and stated very nonchalantly that “Santa was here” before she seated herself next to where my wife indicated her pile was and began to rip through her presents. She further “assisted” her little sister, myself and my wife with our piles. As the process unfolded she seemed to get more and more “in” to what she was doing but admittedly, the entire outcome was somewhat unexpected considering how sure I had been of her reaction leading up to it. After a whirlwind 45 minutes, everything was opened and she was asking me and my wife to remove toys from boxes so she could play with them.

In all honesty? I should have been prepared for it as soon as she came in to mine and my wife’s bedroom and informed us that she did not believe that Santa had come ’cause she had not heard him or his reindeer on the roof of our house. Which is a legitimate point as the ceiling of her room is directly beneath said rooftop. But I was not. Don’t get me wrong: I was not disappointed. Far from it, actually. I savored every shredded piece of wrapping paper that fell upon our living room floor and every “ooh” and “ahh” that her gifts elicited. And I did not for once doubt her belief that “Santa was here” despite her not having heard him and his reindeer because, as she stated at numerous points over the course of the following day and evening, Santa had gotten her everything that she had asked for and she was very thankful.

Perhaps I simply built the scenario up too much in my mind. Maybe she wasn’t quite as ready to embrace the magic of Christmas morning as I thought she was at three and a half. Or maybe the times have changed and the mentalities of our children have done the same. I’m inclined to lean more toward the latter though the former is also a distinct possibility. Little exists in the way of magic nowadays and what does exist is called “fantasy” by most. Our kids? They learn this from the get go. More attention is paid to the sciences and mathematics than is paid to the arts, nowadays. As for me? I’m not a true believer in magic as it exists traditionally though I am a lover of everything and anything fantasy. Wizards and witches, warlocks and leprechauns? There is no place for such things in a world where everything from a holiday to our national debt is analyzed at the microscopic or, some might say quantum level. Such things now fall in to the realm of “fiction” and not “reality.” Not even “Little Kid Reality.”

And Christmas? Both the story that we all know so well and the fundamental spirituality at the center of it (see: Jesus Christ; Saint Nicholas) have been glossed over by the big box retailers and the idea guys. Case in point: The Elf on the Shelf. While I love ours like a member of our family, albeit one that merely shows up for approximately 30 days at the end of the year, wreaks havoc and then leaves, where is Jingle in the traditional canon of Christmas? What child ever wrote in their “What Christmas Means To Me” essay, “My Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, who likes to TP our Christmas tree and have an affair with Barbie right under Ken’s nose.”

None that I know of though there’s always the possibility that there’s some sick and twisted kid out there that thinks like I do. The fact is, Christmas in 2012 (pushing 2013) is not the same as it was 30 plus years ago, or even 15 years ago in 1997. Our children are not the same. Whereas my generation and I were born in to a world of notebooks, number two pencils and Trapper Keepers, Cara and Natalie’s generation is being born in to a world of iPads and Cloud storage. All one of them needs to do is Google “is Santa Claus real” and “the truth” will be revealed. My generation, disenchanted with the magic of Christmas created the same technologies that our children are now being born with. The Catch-22? We used our imaginations to create such things, the same imaginations that once upon a time believed that Santa Claus and his reindeer flew to and landed silently upon our rooftops despite the fact that reindeer aren’t supposed to be able to fly, not even with a sprinkling of Cheech and Chong’s magic dust…

…that Santa slid down our chimneys despite the fact that 75 to 80% of us, growing up, did not have chimneys and the physics of a 400 pound man sliding through an opening with a diameter of a foot are virtually inconceivable…

…that he ate the cookies and drank the milk that we had diligently left out for him…

…that the Thomas Kincade scenes imprinted upon Christmas and post cards, and popularized in movies like “Star Trek: Generations” were, in fact, actual scenes of the perfect Christmas morning that at some point in time existed on this, or any side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.

We created the mentality that our children are now being born with: That everything once considered magical or fantastical has been relegated to the fiction shelf of your local big box, book retailer (see: Barnes and Noble), or the online store of your preferred internet, big box retailer (see: Amazon.com). Even Christmas. But still, there is that teeny, tiny part of me that was watching Cara very, very closely on Christmas morning and could see, despite her nonchalant exterior, a twinkle in her eyes that had not existed the previous evening when I had put her to bed. She saw all of those presents beneath the Christmas tree, the empty plate that had once held cookies and the cup beside it that had once held milk, the note that was printed in her Mommy’s distinctive handwriting and she knew that something had happened. Maybe not something magical but something special. Someone had come, be said someone Santa Claus or Daddy/Mommy Claus, and said someone had gotten her everything that she had put on her Christmas list…

And she was very thankful.

What does Christmas mean to me? The same thing that it meant to me when I was a child. I drowned it for a while with tequila and cigarettes, not to mention a heaping dose of skepticism, one too many viewings of “A Christmas Story” and one too few mornings simply sitting around the Yule Log, enjoying my family’s company. I forgot about it for a while but over these last few years, I’ve remembered it. Even without magic, Christmas morning has been and always will be a time of infinite possibility.

As for Cara? Well sh*t. She’s only three and a half. I can only remember as far back as my fifth or sixth Christmas.

Who knows?

Happy Holidays, everyone.