In Which I Abruptly Break From Writing CHILDREN OF ENDWORLD to Discuss a Topic of International Importance

I say “abruptly” because as of five minutes ago, I was plugging away at Children of Endworld with reckless abandon. I took a break at page 216 to “deal” with what I and my wife, Nicole, like to call “The Revenge of Wings-To-Go” (and if you don’t understand what I’m talking about I’m not going to spell it out for you). When I returned to my computer, I minimized my empty email inbox to check the latest headline on CNN and saw:

CNN Breaking News – Dennis Rodman plans “basketball diplomacy” event involving players from North Korea. 

What little remained of yesterday’s late lunch/Sunday Night Football snack of reprocessed chicken product, smothered in either medium wing sauce or Teriyaki staged an entirely unexpected coup in my lower GI and I found myself once again in the bathroom “dealing” with the problem that has been plaguing me since I woke up this AM. Coincidence, or brought on by the mention of a now D-List, former sports star? I leave that for you to decide.

For those of you who have no idea who Dennis Rodman is, here’s your first lesson:

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As hard as this may be for those of you just now hearing about him to believe, the above pictured… personality is, in fact a Hall of Fame basketball player who won five… yes, five NBA Championships between the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. You may recognize him better in this picture:

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I swear it’s the same… um, “guy.” He is considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest defensive player in pro basketball history. He’s a two time NBA All-Star and a two time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. I could go on and on with his accolades but there’s really no need to. To the non-sports indoctrinated, Rodman has been the star of an ongoing reality series for the last two decades. Whether intentionally or not, he is the walking and talking definition of a “Train Wreck.”

Consider: His propensity toward dressing in drag, his movie career which lasted about as long as Vanilla Ice’s, his stint as a pro-Wrestler, his well documented alcohol abuse (not to mention his appearance on “Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew”), his shotgun marriage to Carmen Electra and subsequent divorce a few months later and a laundry list of legal issues ranging from battery to drunken driving. He is also the only person in the western hemisphere that the Communist dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong Un likes which makes him somewhat essential, presently.

Are you as scared as I am? Good. That was my intention. Please excuse me while I step away for a second and “deal” with the stabbing pains shooting through my midsection, presently.

I’m back. Ugh. I’m starting to think that The Revenge of Wings-To-Go is more incapacitating than Montezuma’s Revenge which I also once suffered from. That story = Another story for another time. Not now. Back to Rodman: I can appreciate quirky personalities, especially public ones. I, myself, am slightly quirky as anyone that knows me will tell you (though I’m far from a “public” personality despite this blog, my book, the 173 people that “like” me on Facebook and my 718 Twitter followers). But I’ve never worn makeup and made proverbial “sexy time” with a dictator.

Still, I can’t help but feel a bit of gratitude towards “The Worm.” This country has a lot on its plate, right now. Between Afghanistan, the War on Terror and the clusterf*ck that is the greater, Middle East… well, sh*t. At least we don’t have to “deal” with North Korea, presently. Rodman seems to have that once-problem well in check though admittedly, I’d prefer a more stable, less eccentric personality (i.e. someone with international policy experience) to a guy who I can totally envision seeing a big red button in Jong Un’s office, saying “what does this button do,” pressing it and instigating the Apocalypse.  Not for nothing, someone in DC should call him in for a little remedial diplomacy training. Foreign Policy 101: How to deal with a two-bit dictator who compensates for his gender crisis by threatening aggression. Emphasis on the word “threatening.” Personally, I don’t think he’s got the stones to try. I’d wager he doesn’t want his country turned into a parking lot.

Sorry if that last bit offended anyone. I’m not exactly adept at talking or, in this case, writing about politics or international affairs.  You’ll never see me guest blogging on the Daily Blaze or giving Anderson Cooper an interview about my feelings on Montezuma’s Revenge, and how it’s (conspiracy theory alert) actually an attempt by our southern neighbor to eliminate us one-by-one: An opening foray in what will one day be called The Second Spanish-American War, otherwise known as the war in which we conceded ownership of the southwestern U S of A to Mexico without a single shot fired because none of our soldiers were able to stay off the commode long enough to fire a weapon. Which reminds me…

Sorry. Duty called (and I don’t mean “doody” though… well, I guess I kind of do). Incidentally if you are completely grossed out/pissed off by this blog entry feel free to look away. I promise I won’t hold it against you.

Back to Mexico: I get it. Really, I do. They coax you to come and visit with the beauty of places like the Riviera and the history of places like Mexico City. But what they neglect to tell you is that those people that keep disappearing while on vacation, down there? They’re not really disappearing. They’re being culled… infected with Montezuma’s Revenge like zombies, only to be turned loose on the U S of A when they’ve fermented for a while. You thought a zombie virus was terrifying? Consider one that duplicates the symptoms of Montezuma’s Revenge or, in mine and my wife’s case, The Revenge of Wings-To-Go on a massive scale. Think of the horror. The carnage. Sewer systems overflowing with reprocessed fast food; septic tanks that burst under the strain of the waste from an entire family that ate Corn Dogs for dinner and Fried Oreos for desert (what can I say? I was at a carnival yesterday). Oh, the implications. Oh, the stench. Oh the… ugh. BRB.

That time? Not brought on by Dennis Rodman, Montezuma’s Revenge or The Revenge of Wings-To-Go. I’m pretty sure I grossed myself out. I won’t allow it to happen again. Getting back to diplomacy and Rodman’s either sanctioned or non-sanctioned involvement in our ongoing effort to develop a relationship with North Korea and Kim Jong “I Watched ‘Too Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar’ One too Many Times” Un. Despite my earlier posturings about the former NBA All-Star and his Bromance with a guy who has openly professed his hatred of the good ol’ U S of A once or twice, I respect what he’s doing.

What if… and this is a big “what if,” but what if Mexico subversively despises its neighbor to the north. What if El Presidente Enrique Pena Nieto really does believe that the southwestern United States is rightfully his? What if he’s planning on annexing it by unleashing his stash of Montezuma’s Revenge infected disappear-ees upon Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California? It would help to have a diplomat like Rodman, i.e, someone with very little foreign policy experience, a working knowledge of the language (which I don’t even think Dennis has) and a following there to smooth things over… to distract them from their hatred of us so that we can deal with more pressing issues like the ever-volatile Middle East and… oh, I don’t know, OUR OWN F*CKING ECONOMY.

Sorry. I veered right where I normally veer left. Please, forgive me my transgression. I am not well, today.

But wouldn’t it be nice? To have someone that’s been to Mexico and likes it there head down, and have a little proverbial “sexy time” with El Presidente albeit without makeup and… well, sex of any sort (I’m married, guys, and incredibly straight: I’m just making a joke ‘kay? ‘Kay?)? Said person could stay in the Riviera and take trips to Mexico City as required. Do you see where I’m going with this? If you don’t, I’m not going to spell it out for you. I’ll simply say that I would be honored and privileged to act as a liaison between Mexico City and DC. I really do have a following down there. Consider that of the 173 people that “like” my Facebook page, a handful of them live in… okay, not Mexico City but Panama City which is still in Latin American and is also a “city.” The fact that they’re all members of a Facebook Group that focuses on the evolution of electronic lifeforms–a concern that the entire, international community should take seriously–should be a bonus, and should make up for the geographical distance between one “city” and the other. Booyakasha “Fictional machines/electronic life forms and evolution scifi club.” RESPECT. I’ll even throw you a redirect HERE.

I like Mexican cuisine. I intersperse my writing with the language (see: “Numero,” “Chi Vato” and “El Presidente”). I have virtually no grasp of politics whatsoever. In short? I’m perfect. All I ask in return is to be allowed to live on the Riviera somewhere and bring my wife, Nicole, and my two minions with me. I’d also love a guarantee that my loved ones will not be kidnapped and trained to be walking, talking and sh*tting assassins. They love the good ol’ U S of A as much as I do. Other than a decent place to live on the beach and a weekly stipend, I’m good. If interested, please contact me via the comments section or via the info on the “About Me” page of this blog. Gracias, senors y senoritas.

In truth? This is not the direction that I thought this random musing was going to go in. I honestly thought I’d mock Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong “I’m Sexy and I Know It” Un for a couple of paragraphs, rue the current condition of my stomach, say something pithy and end with a moral lesson, a winky emoticon and a smiley face. But what was originally benign has grown quite malignant, IMO, and I think that it’s time to bring this abrupt departure from what has been my norm–writing Children of Endworld–for the last couple of weeks to a close. Page 217 awaits and the coup that yesterday’s Wings-To-Go instituted this AM has, apparently, failed (though I do have Monday Night Football, tonight, and some leftover so who knows? Did I learn my lesson or not? Only time… and tonight will tell).

Is there a lesson to be learned from this blog post? Lessons? Have I accomplished anything outside of exhausting all of you reading this? I have no idea. Maybe this: There exists, on one side of the proverbial wormhole of existence a place where Dennis Rodman, alias (arguably) the greatest defensive basketball player in NBA history hosts a “basketball diplomacy” event in an effort to bring countries like the good ol’ U S of A together with countries like North Korea, Afghanistan and Mexico. The President of the U S of A, Kim Jong Un and Enrique Pena Nieto are among the dignitaries that attend. Among the players are Rodman, the 1989 and 1990 World Champion Detroit Pistons and the 1996, 1997 and 1998 Chicago Bulls (his Airness can still dunk). Vanilla Ice raps a version of the national anthem that, much like Hendrix’s, is initially panned but later accepted as a quite good and because of it, he reforms his wayward life and does not end up on “Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew.” Carmen Electra handles court side commentary and the cheer-leading squads are made up of all the people, regardless of how they veer, that either lost their jobs, disappeared, were wrongfully gassed or were otherwise suppressed over the last couple of years internationally. And no one suffers from Montezuma’s Revenge or The Revenge Of Wings-To-Go.

Pre-the game beginning, the Panamanian Facebook group “Fictional machines/electronic life forms and evolution scifi club,” is honored by Julie Newmar for their outstanding work done enlightening the international community to the dangers of artificial intelligence. In their acceptance speech, they thank their mentor for writing what they consider a modern treatise on the possibilities, both good and bad inherent in a machine-run or “Administration” run world. That person? He is sadly not in attendance. He is not needed since El Presidente and the President sit side-by-side in their shared club suite making proverbial “sexy time.” No. Their mentor? He sits surrounded on the deck of his beach front home in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico by his wife, Nicole, his minions, Cara and Natalie and all his loved ones. “Too Wong Foo” is playing on the television in the family room but no one is paying attention to it. The sun, setting over the Gulf of Mexico is much more entertaining.

Don’t you think?

🙂

Douglas Adams – An Appreciation

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I need to be.”

(Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish)

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There is a little known fact about me that you may or may not know. When most people think of me as a writer, they think of someone who was and still is inspired by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Asimov, Tolkien and Robert Jordan (not Brandon Sanderson). Why? Because for years, I have been claiming that they were the authors who most directly inspired me to write.

And they did. They still do, even now. But I’d be lying if I said that they were the only authors who have inspired me. Among the others, in no particular order are Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Sam Shepard, Tony Kushner, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, T. S. Eliot et al. I could continue but in truth? I have no desire to fill this entire blog entry with a list of influences that I may or may not ever measure up to. Note that I said “may.” Anything is possible, right? What can I say? I dream big.

But one author is conspicuously absent from the above list. That author? The late, great Douglas Adams who’s Hitchhiker’s Guide, five book trilogy (yes, I said “five book trilogy”) remains one of my all time favorites. While I find it hard to believe that anyone is unaware of what the f*ck I’m talking about, here’s a quick primer for those of you that don’t: Arthur Dent, the main character,  is an Englishman who is one of two human beings to survive the destruction of the Earth (the second and only other survivor, Tricia McMillian–“Trillian” in the books–travels around the universe with Slartibartfast, a once designer of luxury planets). He escapes with the assistance of Ford Prefect, an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse who is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Guide is just that: An instruction manual for how to get around the universe on a budget (hint: Make sure you have a good towel). Arthur and Ford go on a myriad of adventures across the universe and through time which I will not itemize herein. If you’d like to know more about them, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Zaphod Beelbebrox, Deep Thought, 42, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and the time hopping, Chesterfield couch et al, check out the books or ask me for mine. I’d be happy to lend them to you.

I first read the books in college at the urging of my friend Pat (booyakasha, Vato. Respect), and have since read them multiple times, most recently to my firstborn, Cara. It was a part of our nightly routine when she was still a toddler: “Ba Ba,” book(s) and bed. Sadly, Adams passed away in 2001, way before his time and yesterday, 3/11/13 would have been his 61st birthday (shout out to Google for their terrific, Google Doodle honoring him). Last evening, in honor of it, I picked up my dog-eared copy of  Life, the Universe and Everything (Book Three) and started reading. I was immediately re-immersed in the universe that I loved and continue to love so much now, almost two decades after I first read about it.

Too this day, I’ve been unable to determine whether the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a product of Adams’ insanity or genius. If you’ve read any portion of it you understand why. So many of his ideas are so “out there” that it’s hard for me to believe that a sane, or non-substance induced mind could have come up with them. I mean really, I’ve always considered myself pseudo-mad and I can’t come up with anything like what he did. The Impossibility Drive? The SEP (“Someone Else’s Problem”)? Not even when I used to drink heavily and smoke ‘da Chiba. The phrase “often imitated, never duplicated” applies perfectly to him… was, in fact, used by fellow author Neil Gaiman to describe him in the Forward to The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The answer to what it really is is irrelevant. Regardless of what Adams’ original motive for writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide was… whether he actually conceived of the idea one night, drunk in a field while hitchhiking across Europe or he came up with it on the spur of the moment to meet a contractual obligation to the BBC, it has affected and continues to affect others too this day. Everyone has their own reasons.

As for mine? His style of writing–cloaking the problems of the world, nay the universe in absurdity–is something that I’ve tried to do, to an obviously lesser affect in everything from these blog entries to their precursors (“Mental Flatulence”) to their precursors (“Dissertations”). I adapt it to my own, personal issues on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, as well. “The world is full of Sh*theads?” “The Feminine Bane of my Early Existence?” I never would have come up with those ideas were it not for The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Adams taught me to not necessarily laugh at the same things that once upon a time (’cause all good stories begin as such) vexed me, but to look at them with a degree of jaded humor. The time I did BLANK to BLANK? I used to obsess over it. After I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, though? Well sh*t, guys. I guess if Adams could make light of the destruction of the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass–an obvious allegory of how infrastructure has replaced and continues to replace all things pure and traditional in our world–then I could make light of my one or two, misguided attempts to forge a relationship with a woman that really had no interest in me, or a “Biological” that had moved on with his life at mine, my sister’s and my mother’s expense. In short? Douglas Adams not only affected my writing, he affected my mentality. And for that–the ability to laugh at the things that used to bother me–I am eternally grateful.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to write this blog entry, today, save for an inherent desire to express my thoughts on, in my opinion, one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century in lieu of what would have been his 61st Birthday. I guess I figure that over the next few months–if everything goes according to plan–I’m going to be writing a lot about an idea that is very un-Hitchhiker’s Guide-like in both its tone and its scope. I originally conceived of ENDWORLD – A Novel before I’d ever read a word of Book One, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Even now, after its most recent rewrite, ENDWORLD is more King meets Asimov meets Jordan in its tone and scope than Adams. If I ever get to the point that I’m ready to put it out there… out here for you guys to read it, I intend to market it as such to my “Targeted Audience.” But the last thing that I want if I ever do achieve my big, big dream of being not just a published, but a successful author is to be pigeonholed as purely a genre writer. I’d love to write something Hitchhiker’s Guide-like one day. And while I would never aspire to the same heights as Douglas Adams achieved… while I never could achieve the same balance of comedy, satire and narrative flow that he did, I’d very much like to try.

That said, I’m done, albeit somewhat more prematurely than normal. What can I say? Not every blog entry is going to be a rambling rumination on my own personal life, the universe and everything. In closing, I’d like to thank not only Douglas Adams, but Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Slartibartfast, Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Paranoid Android and all of the other personalities that inhabit the universe portrayed in the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Reading about them again last night was like reacquainting myself with my old friends. I’d also like to thank my Vato, Pat for lending me his copy of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so many, many years ago. My mind hasn’t been the same since. In closing, I’m not going to take the easy way out and say “DON’T PANIC.” Nor am I going to finish with “so long, and thanks for all the fish” though admittedly? Both would work. No. Instead, I’m going to close as I opened: With one of my favorite quotes. This one is actually from the Adams penned Preface to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It may be one of, if not the best observances of humanity and the human condition ever. Enjoy!

“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever. This is not her story. But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.”

(Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

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.

What Thanksgiving Means to Me by Way of an iPad, Scotch, Hashtags, Curiosity and the Eminent Zombie-afication of the Earth

Well here’s a first. I’m typing this on an iPad. ‘Whoda ‘thunk it? In all honesty, I didn’t buy this for me. Despite my seemingly ageless aversion to anything and everything Apple, I will concede at this juncture that while Apple may never gain a monopoly over the technological world, the iPad will, by the time Cara enters school, have replaced ‘ye ‘ole copybook. So rearing her on it at an early age is, in my opinion, crucial to preparing her for school. I still want her to learn how to handwrite and not merely type, because for all I know, the Zombie Apocalypse will happen sometime between now and September of 2014, erase all traces of anything technological from the face of the world and force her to do so. But if it doesn’t? Well, at least she’ll be technologically savvy. It could be worse. I could be allowing her to watch Spongebob Squarepants.

Maybe that’s the big secret that NASA is keeping from us: The Curiosity Rover found an ancient, petrified, zombie-afied finger in the dust that it was analyzing and the Jet Prepulsion Lab is trying to figure out how to break the news to us.

I can envision it now: “Guess what, Earth? We have determined that there was life on Mars once upon a time, but a Zombie outbreak coupled with the rapid deterioration of the planet’s atmosphere caused all life on the planet to disappear. Oh, and by the way, the same factors that contributed to the death of that planet are contributing to the death of ours, just more rapidly. Hope you enjoyed dinner and had pie. Have a Happy F*cking Thanksgiving, Sh*theads.”

I wonder how Curiosity could encapsulate that statement in to 140 characters and Tweet it? It’d probably have to paraphrase. Something like “@MarsCuriosity dear certified, bona fide Sh*theads: Mars went Biter and Earth’s going to too. Eat pie. Happy F*cking Thanksgiving. #Turkeycoma.” 140/140. Sweet. Can a machine swear? That’s a serious question, guys. I may need an answer to it if I ever publish ENDWORLD and start writing the sequel.

Incidentally, did you know I wrote a book? If you didn’t then you really must be new to Random Musings. The only thing I’ve blogged about more since I started writing these little ditties in 2008 is… Well, okay. Nothing. I’d say “myself” but it’s ‘kinda the same thing, isn’t it?

It’s still Thanksgiving. At least it will be for the next 39 minutes. Within five minutes of when I left my mom’s sans Nicole (she’s going Black Friday shopping with my sister, AKA she’s taking her life in to her own hands and I know where her living will is) both girls were in #turkeycomas and have been since (Natalie woke up just long enough to spit up on me, drink her bottle, smile, sh*t, spit up on me again and pass out). I’m firmly ensconsed in my own, yearly tradition of wearing sweatpants, drinking Macallan Single Malt and watching “Punkin Chunkin.” Somewhere between tumbler one and tumbler two I decided to start writing a blog entry on our new iPad.

My initial impression is the same as my initial impression of my first Android phone was: Typing on a virtual keyboard is incredibly awkward when compared to typing on an actual, physical one. ‘Course, that could also be the scotch. But I’m managing despite my unfamiliarity with it to muddle through. I can’t speak to the quality of what I’m writing… That’s up to you the reader… But I can say with the utmost certainty that… Well, I’m still composing. I don’t know for how much longer. That’ll all depend on when the Tryptophan starts to mingle with the Macallan and turns me in to a zombie. Hashtag turkey coma, #eveyrhtingtastesbetterwithsinglemaltscotch.

A quick, parenthetical aside: Does the brain trust at Discovery order Kari Byron to wear something skimpy for every show that she films? Everyone else at “Punkin Chunkin” is wearing a parka, a hat and gloves. Kari (God love her) is wearing a knit hat, a pea green skiing jacket and a pair of tight, tight jeans. Tight. Really tight. Knee-high brown leather boots, too. #Iheartredheads, especially intelligent and muscular ones. End aside.

I have relocated to my bedroom and am still writing despite the fact that it is now 12:04 AM, Thanksgiving Day Plus One, AKA Black Friday. I just talked to Nicole. She and my sister apparently decided to risk their lives a few hours early this year. They’ve already hit Walmart and Target and are now preparing to go to sleep until 4:30 AM when they will awaken from their own, respective #turkeycomas and rejoin the masses in pursuit of that once in a lifetime, Black Friday deal, again.

I never really “got” Black Friday. Perhaps that is because I worked it for every one of the 13 years I was enslaved by I MEAN AN EMPLOYEE OF CVSStress Pharmacy. I don’t have any funny retail stories about it. Not even from when I was working in good ‘ole Norristown, Pennsylvania. Generally, CVSStress opened around 6:00 AM on Friday and not 8:00 PM on Thanksgiving. Generally, the best deal offered was on the latest, generic knockoff. One year it was a DVD player for $50.00 back when DVD players were… Well, we’re worth more than they are today which, amazingly enough, is approximately $50.00 on the eve of the eminent Zombie Apocalypse and simultaneous deterioration of the Earth’s atmosphere (f*ck the Mayans. Here come the radioactive Walkers).

Since I left in 2005 and sought gainful employment elsewhere, I’ve stayed as far away from any retail-based proprietorship as I can on the “busiest shopping day of the year.” FYI, guys: That’s a misnomer. Take it from someone who… Well, worked 13 Black Fridays in a row. The last few days leading up to Christmas, specifically Christmas Eve are easily twice as, if not three times as busy as today. So for those of you out shopping pre-dawn that are reading this pseudo-drunken rambling on your iPhone, your Android or your Windows Phone while sitting in your cars, engulfed in a toxic haze of recycled heat, coffee and a #turkeycoma induced Methane deposit, or those of you that are waiting in line, shivering in the cold behind a couple of dozen other, crazy-eyed shoppers that want the free Super Mario Game for the Nintendo WiiU that Old Navy is offering to the first 100 customers starting at 4:00 AM… Breeeaaattthhheee… Do me a favor? Tell the doe-eyed cashier that rings you out to conserve his or her energy. After all, Black Friday is just one day. There are still 31 more shopping days left after it until Christmas. He or she will either thank you for your perspective or quit retail, never to return.

Either way trust me: It’s a #winwin. #BlackFriday, #youdorealizethatsomesinglemaltscotchwouldmakethecoldgoaway.

12:44 AM now. The grand finale of “Punkin Chunkin” is almost upon me. That’s good, ’cause I’m pretty tired, and my gut is telling me that the girls are both going to awaken from their respective #turkeycomas around the same time that Nicole and my sister are drinking their coffee and driving to… Wherever the hell their first shopping destination is this year. Scratch that: They already hit two so their third shopping destination. If they are reading this right now which, knowing my wife, she is I’d like to take this opportunity to tell them both that I love them and will be praying for their safety while Cara watches Dora in the dark on one side of me and Natalie drinks an early bottle on the other. And if that doesn’t happen? Good luck. I’ll be asleep and dreaming a dream of Kari Byron. Not to self: Relocate sheet and pillow to the couch in the Man Cave before Nicole gets home later due to one too many Kari Byron references. #FML.

I think I’m going to try to synchronize these last few paragraphs with the end of the show. I’d narrate what’s going on for you but really, guys? You probably watched it. I mean, it’s not just my tradition but everyone’s… Isn’t it? Hashtag silence, #thesoundofcricketschirping. In truth? I’ve missed most of it. The last time I really paid attention was earlier around the same time I wrote (still on the iPad, by the way) and revealed my inner longing for Kari Byron. Guys (only the males, and any females that are in to that kind of thing) I’m serious: Google her. I promise that you won’t be disappointed. See what I mean?

So what was the point of this blog entry? I honesty don’t know. The original title was “An iPad Test” but it has since morphed in to something more. Sadly, I can not say what that something is save for another semi-drunken rumination on a holiday by your buddy, the Madchronicler. I’ve covered everything from the Zombie Apocalypse to Black Friday. And did I somehow manage to show a correlation between the two?

I guess there are similarities. Consider that exhausted shoppers, just emerging from their #turkeycomas ‘kinda resemble zombies, and it is pretty cold out, tonight. Cold could equal climate change which could be a fore bearer of a forthcoming, catastrophic depletion of the Earth’s atmosphere. And then there is the fact that I’m writing this on an iPad which I did not purchase on Black Friday (I purchased it about a week ago), but I’ve always maintained that me, giving in to the Cult of Apple would be one of the signs of the apocalypse. Why not a zombie one? I guess in the end it all comes down to one, indisputable fact. And that fact?

Those of us with access to Macallan Single Malt should not be allowed anywhere near an iPad while drinking it. We should be content to simply allow our own respective, post-Thanksgiving dinner #turkeycomas to engulf us before our minds start racing. But then again, without imagination, The iPad, Macallan Single Malt, Curiosity, hash tags and the eminent, Zombie Apocalypse wouldn’t exist.

F*cking tradeoffs. 1:18 AM, guys. Sweet dreams.

My New Favorite DROID App and an ENDWORLD Update

Well this is quite a new experience albeit one that I’ve been looking forward to. Some time ago I downloaded the “Blogger” App for my then DROID phone. I have since upgraded to the DROID 3 (sexy phone, BTW. DROID and DROID 2 owners? If you have an upgrade available I HIGHLY recommend it) and am finally attempting to blog on my phone and upload it to “Random Musings.” We’ll see how it goes. Perhaps this will force me to take a more minimalist approach to writing not only “Endworld” but ALL worlds and ALL forms of writing. Not just novel writing but blog, poetry and short story writing as well. Not that “minimalist” is a prerequisite for being a writer (good, bad or somewhere in between) but it is good to occasionally focus on making a point quickly and not being too “wordy” or “talky.” I’ve been accused of the being the latter more times than I can count and RECENTLY no less (thanks, Em: I know it’s ‘kinda talky and I’m attempting to scale that back a bit). That said, enough “chit-chat (sarcasm FULLY intended). On to business.
 
First an “Endworld” update: I broke the 150 page mark the other night and the rewrite currently sits at 155+ pages. I started this process in late April, 2011 and I figure I’ll be roughly 65-70% home by the time I finish writing the next sequence (which is, incidentally, the Battle for Freeworld One). Those of you that read either Version 1.0 or Version 2.0 may be a little shocked at that statement. In V. 2.0 (’cause that’s the only one I have now. I’m not sure what happened to V. 1.0) Freeworld One happens at around page 90-95. And it’s not really a “battle.” Well I assure you that in V. 3.0 (hopefully the LAST version) it is poised to MOST CERTAINLY be a battle complete with an ample share of Michael Bay-esque explosions and carnage and… I hope… a few tears. 
 
That said, I had hoped to be done the initial draft of this rewrite by the end of August, 2011… specifically by 8/27/11 (the day I head down the shore for a week) but that, unfortunately, doesn’t look feasible. There is a possibility: I never know when a writing sprint is going to start but admittedly? I’ve got A LOT more on my plate now than I did 10, 15, or 20 years ago and other things DO have to take precedence from time to time (SEE: Wife, daughter, family, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and the occasional movie on AMC. I’m looking at YOU “The Shawshank Redemption”). But 155+ pages in three months? That’s not half bad. It’s on par with my most prolific creative periods and I’m satisfied. But admittedly? The writing process is beginning to wear on me. For good reason: I haven’t written more than a few pages of ANYTHING in over a decade before this and I’m not exactly conditioned to novel writing anymore. You could argue I never was in the first place but that’s irrelevant. I’m rediscovering my stamina and if I finish this by the end of September, 2011 I’ll be happy. So stay tuned, friends. After FW1 and Halmier’s Pass (you’re on deck, Tim Redfield. Are you ready for your closeup?) = The home stretch. 
 
Other than that there really isn’t much more to say on the topic of “Endworld” save for this: I mentioned a few days ago in my collective, social networking reality (FB, Twitter, Google+) that I’d had “an intense moment of literary clarity.” Well, I DID friends. And it was big. I mean REAL big. I joked with a friend about it on Twitter (@Chelle_MNN who, incidentally, has her OWN blog if you’re interested in reading: http://petitechild.com. It’s quirky, entertaining and informative) and the “conversation” got a little heated (jokingly, of course) but in essence the upshot of said intense moment that I experienced is this: While I can’t reveal TOO much of what I’ve decided to try I CAN tell you that “Endworld” is no longer just the beginning of a trilogy of novels collectively called “The Endworld Chronicle.” It’s a starting point for something much more vast. An idea that I came up with a long, LONG time ago that has–in subsequent years–never left my mind. I always knew that the world of “Endworld” was potentially a part of that idea but I never considered it to be the STARTING point. In short, friends? My planned, little trilogy of post-apocalyptic romances is now just “The Miller’s Tale.” Before I tag and bag this blog entry and go price up a sensor or two I want to leave you with this. It’s part of a scene from Alex Parker’s/Roland MacNuff’s interaction in Freeworld One. Those of you that know me may recognize what is being referenced. Those that don’t? I have one word for you: EDONA. ‘Kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? 
 
“Alex smiled as he reached across with his left hand and pulled his right shirt sleeve up as high as he could. I could see the the top of his forearm clearly and it was bare. On the underside I could see… SOMETHING… though I could not positively identify what it was that I was seeing. That’s a tattoo, I thought. The black mark appeared to be designed of two circles atop each other, perhaps in a clean figure-eight or perhaps in an overlapping one (it was impossible to be sure) and it incorporated an arrow that seemed to be cross-cutting the figure-eight and was pointing toward the palm of his hand. I made a mental note to inquire about it further if given the opportunity…” 
 
F.
 

Musings from within the Maelstrom

A quick note before I begin: the aforementioned “maelstrom” is a more elaborate way of describing the pseudo-blizzard blowing outside the insulated brick walls of the two story colonial in Broomall, PA that I share with my wife Nicole, our daughter Cara, and our two feline children Pandora and Roxy. The scene outside my window is pretty picturesque if that’s the kind of scene that you are partial too. Me? I’ve never been a big fan of snow. Never been a big fan of Norman (I like to call him “Normal”) Rockwell, either, AKA the master of the painting portraying a sleigh ride through the countryside complete with pine trees, a cabin and the occasional covered bridge. So “Hallmark.” So generic. I can almost here Burle Ives crooning beneath the reassuring cacophony of Alice in Chains’ “Rooster” emanating from my headphones. Crank up the volume, baby. “Rooster” seques in to “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” by Mother Love Bone and I can feel my creative juices starting to flow. NOW we’re talking. Or… writing?

Sure, a fresh snowfall looks beautiful and sure, a half a foot of snow when you’re of school-age is pretty significant (force of habit: I still listen for school number 356 on KYW, News Radio, 1060 AM; 356 was the snow number for my grade school some 22 odd years ago). But when you’re 34… When you have to get to and from work in the midst of it… when you can already feel your lower back tightening from the shoveling that is still hours away… well, what can I say? Snow excites me about as much as the prospect of lobotomy with a dull spoon. And anyone who’s ever had one of those will tell you they’re not pretty. Not that I know anyone that ever had a labotomy with a dull spoon. Now a RUSTY one…

I digress. Sorry.

Depressing, huh? Knowing me and my propensity for reminiscence, you’d expect me to be writing something reflective of my youthful days of “yore”: days when I’d wake up at 6:00 AM of my own accord (not because of the alarm on my phone booming the opening chords of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck”) to the intoxicating smell of pancakes and coffee, not the fading scent of the formula spit up on my shirt and the crap my eldest cat, Pandora, just took in the other room. What can I say? Not everything that happens in my life hearkens back memories of the 20 to 30% of my childhood (pre-16, mind you) that I speak so highly of. FACT: Save for the two plus hours that my wife and I spent trying to put Cara to sleep tonight (she’s been cutting her first tooth now for the better part of the last month. I wish the darn thing would just come in already!), I’ve been consuming musical tracks from the aforementioned two bands (Alice and Mother), along with Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Seether, a sprinkling of Tool and more than a healthy dose of Soundgarden. Said music? Not exactly conducive to the psychological equivalent of a Normal Rockwell painting. More like something painted by Dali or Picasso, with a touch of Georgia O’Keefe thrown in for good measure.

FYI both Moto-Droid and iPhone users: Pandora Internet Radio is an amazing application. Pick a genre of music, and watch in awe as the app creates an entire, commercial free radio station of songs in that genre. This particular station that I am listening to is called “Mother Love Bone Radio.” I also have “The Who Radio,” “John Williams (yes, the composer) Radio,” and for my wife, “Meet Virginia Radio” (mid to late-90’s Top-40 Rock). My musical tastes remain incredibly eclectic.

Yet again, I digress. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate, or in Netspeak, “retweet” my previous apology.

Is there a point to what I’m writing, currently? Yes… and no. Yes, I’m writing with a purpose. Out of necessity, really. You see, I’ve known for a while now that I need to start writing again. I’m not simply talking about the occasional blog entry or rambling essay (though admittedly, Nicole and a few others DO enjoy a good piece of Mental Flatulence). No. I’m talking about something substantial. To continue to deny the writer in side of me the freedom to express himself is the proverbial equivalent of one of my pre-16 year old “friends” smothering my face in a snowdrift… what we used to call a “whitewash” back then, pre-learning it’s actual definition and etymology (per my old friend Wikipedia, “To whitewash is to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data.”). It’s who I am. I’m also a husband, father, homeowner, taxpayer and working stiff, but before I was any of these things, I was a writer. I can’t afford to lose sight of the basic foundation of who I am. Without that foundation… let’s face it friends, without it, the whole goddamn house of cards that is your ole’ buddy Frank, AKA The Mad Chronicler comes tumbling down. Said collapse is generally followed under most, if not all circumstances by the once-secure and confidant individual curled up in a fetal position in the corner sucking his or her thumb. I’ve been there. I’ve been that poor soul. I’d rather not be that person again… EVER.

What about the “no?” The other answer to my previously posed question (“is there a point to what I’m writing, currently?”)? That’s easy. I’m not trying to change the world with this blog entry, friends. It’s a goddamn blog, not a mission statement. I’m attempting to exercise my mind. You know: get those neurons which have been dormant for too long now rolling belly to back, and back to belly; the psychological equivalent of my daughter’s new, favorite activity. I’m attempting to re-familiarize myself with the ACT of writing.

Which brings me to “Halcyon Days.” Not “The Endworld Trilogy.” I’ve realized over the last few days that in my subjective universe, “Endworld” relies heavily on “Halcyon Days” for relevancy. That was never my original intention when I started writing “Halcyon Days.” For those of you reading this that haven’t the slightest notion of what I’m talking about, I’ll give you the basic premise. “Halcyon Days” was… err, IS a novel I began writing about a year or a year and a half ago. I made it about 50 pages in before my Masters program at Drexel University began. After that, it was academic (no pun intended). School sequed in to Nicole’s pregnancy, which sequed in to Cara’s arrival, and “Halcyon Days” took up permanent residency in the “UNFINISHED NOVELS” folder on my computer’s desktop. But unlike so many of the other aborted attempts at novel writing in that folder, “Halcyon Days” has never been far from my mind. Has, in fact, grown MORE a part of my mind with the passage of time and experience.

It is the story of Robert Allen, and it is the story of Roland MacNuff. Confused? Understandable. In “Halcyon Days,” Robert Allen is actually the author of a series of novels called… you guessed it, “The Endworld Chronicle.” Robert grew up in a fictional little town in South Jersey called “Halcyon Bay” which resides on the shores of the Delaware Bay, known locally as “Little Atlantic.” Robert’s Hollywood lifestyle, burgeoning career (the movie version of the first of his bestselling books, “Endworld,” is in pre-production as the novel begins) and self-imposed exile from the small town of his youth is interrupted by the sudden passing of his mother, and he is forced to return and face the ghosts of his past while putting his mother’s affairs in order. He is reunited with the friends of his youth. Among these, his first love, Melissa Stark, who… well, I can’t give away everything. The bottom line is this: “Halcyon Days” has an outline. It has a framework. In my mind, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s lighthearted, but is underscored by a darkness that only I can see at present (after all, I’m the only one that knows the MacGuffin!). I have full scenes outlined in my mind… with musical accompaniment, no less. Not Alice or Mother, Soundgarden or Tool, but the songs of my pre-16 year old youth… those formative years when I was nothing more to most than a rollie-pollie, pear-shaped target for noogies and “whitewashes.” Songs like LA Guns, “The Ballad of Jayne” and Def Leppard, “Hysteria.”

And in order to re-write “Endworld,” I know now that I need to write “Halcyon Days” first. Why? Well shoot, friends: how deep do you want to delve in to my psyche? I know why it has to be this way. It has something to do with writing a character based on myself to get MORE in touch with another character based on myself, i.e. if I write about myself writing about Roland MacNuff, then it will be easier for me, Frank Marsh, AKA The Mad Chronicler, to write about Roland MacNuff… in Netspeak, IRL. Insert Winky Emoticon HERE. You have permission to smack me the next time you see me.

Do I digress? Not really. But it is getting late (12:30 AM, to be precise), and my thoughts are growing steadily more disjointed as this composition unfolds. Generally a sign that I should start shifting in to “wrap-up” mode, along with the shortening of my paragraphs and a growing reliance on frivolous punctuation like the ellipse and the semi-colon to make my point.

And that point is? Simple, really. Before I was Normal Rockwell, I was the love child of Salvidor Dali, Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keefe. I was reared on the literary stylings of Andrew Wood, Layne Staley, Chris Cornell and Maynard Keenan, though admittedly, my primary musical accompaniment since the late-90’s has been very Top-40’ish. Before I was a husband, father, homeownwer, taxpayer and working stiff, I was a writer. I remain a writer, albeit one that has spent the better part of the last decade plus hibernating within his two story, brick colonial in Broomall, PA. Said insulated brick walls have protected me and my family from a seemingly endless series of proverbial psuedo-blizzards, and within these four walls, our collective life together has been the equivalent of a Normal Rockwell painting, complete with a soundtrack penned and vocalized by good ole’ Burle Ives. Don’t mistake me, friends: I am thankful for this. Every day of my life I wake up and thank God for my family; every night before I close my eyes, I ask God to bless them and protect them so that I may see them the following morning.

But I lost sight of something integral over the last decade plus. I stopped taking chances; I started playing it safe. It’s been an eternity since I’ve been awake long enough to see 12:57 AM in bold, black letters on my Moto-Droid. By taking the occasional risk, i.e. fighting back the sleep that threatens to overtake me in favor of telling a bit more of Robert Allen’s, Roland MacNuff’s… OR Frank Marsh’s story, perhaps I will be able to discover a balance between the still, silent atmosphere of my home (broken only by Temple of the Dog singing “Say Hello 2 Heaven”), and the inspirational “maelstrom” raging outside my window.

Goodnight, world. Much respect. Insert Winky Emoticon HERE.