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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued, friends. G’night.

A Matter of Perspective

There is a scene towards the end of Children of Endworld in which one of the main characters–I’m not going to tell you which one–stands upon the precipice of a cliff and looks down at the ocean, smashing against the rocks below. He/she/it (yes, I wrote “it.” It’s a book about robots for crying out loud, did ya’ think I wouldn’t create robot characters?) considers “doing it”: He/she/it has been through much. He/she/it is mentally, emotionally and physically scarred. He/she/it wonders if “doing it” is better than the alternative, i.e. living in a world without love, joy or hope. Does he/she/it follow through? I’ll write more about that later.

I’ve been relatively quiet lately and for that, I am sorry. I’ve been preoccupied. Not much with writing though Children is about 75% done this cold and dreary night in early October, 2013. I’ve mentioned… “stuff” in one or two blog entries lately and that “stuff?” It’s still around. It’s even been compounded by other, unrelated “stuff.” Stuff + More stuff = One big Stay Puft Marshmallow Man of sh*t and right now? I’m covered in gooey, sugary deliciousness. But I’m surviving despite it. There are days where I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Ivan Drago and the only thing that’s keeping me “up” is my heart and my resolve. There are days where I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a couple of hell hounds and Gozer the Gozarian. My mentality varies. But the one thing that has remained consistent throughout all the BS is that vision that I detailed in the first paragraph of this blog entry: That of a man/woman/machine standing upon the edge of a cliff, looking out over the angry ocean below and wondering if he/she/it should “do it.” That he/she/it? He/she/it is me, right now. I am standing upon the proverbial precipice of my 38 year life on this side of the wormhole of existence and I am wondering: Do I jump, or do I turn away?

Mind you I wrote “proverbial” for a reason. I’m not contemplating suicide. Nor am I sick and/or dying. The “stuff” in question? It’s not life threatening in the common, everyday sense of the term “life.” And I am sorry, but I’m still not going to go any deeper into detail than that. It remains mine and mine alone to contend with. But the sheer cliff face that I am looking over? I can most certainly write about that. Metaphorically, of course.

I never thought that I’d be 38 years old and married with two kids, two cats, two mortgages and soccer practice every Saturday morning. Let me get that out of the way now. I hoped for it but did I actually believe it? No. I really didn’t. Not until I met Nicole and then? Even then it took me a while to come to grips with that fact that I, too, could be happy. That I, too, could be a father and a homeowner. This was not the life I envisioned for myself some 15, very odd years ago when we all lived in and around “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else. I’ve come a long way from those Halcyon Days of my wayward youth. Yet still, here I am at 38 years young or old depending on your perspective at a crossroads. Arguably the most important one I have ever happened upon on the oft times winding road of my life. And the decisions that I make in the next couple of weeks and months are going to affect me and my loved ones for a very, very long time. Hence the extreme analogy of the cliff: Do I take the plunge or do I turn away?

It seems like an easy question to answer until you’re faced with it. Then it becomes the most difficult thing you’ve ever contemplated. And your choice will have consequences either way. The intoxication of the unknown or the comfort of the known? The world that lies behind you, back away from the precipice or the one that lies in front of you, cloaked in obscurity? One is filled with risk and the other? Not so much. What type of person are you? Are you the kind of person that embraces the questions or the kind of person that avoids them? And is your life as a risk taker or a home body sustainable? Questions, questions and more questions, all without answers save for one: I have no f*cking idea what to do.

Therein lies the rub, guys. I know I am faced with one of William MacNuff’s “watershed moments” and I know I need… I NEED to make a decision one way or the other. Do I leap or do I walk away? Sadly, I cannot decide which way is best. I’ve always been a moderate. Were I the President, I would be the Commander in Chief that straddles the aisle more than any President in history. I’m a hybrid: Both a city slicker and a suburbanite; a student and a teacher. Of course I am. I’m a guy that was raised by a woman albeit an incredibly strong woman (booyakasha, Mom. RESPECT). The only other Y-Chromosome in my house is the one my gender-challenged, almost 11 year old cat ‘Dorna possesses. I exist and have existed for decades as a contradiction: A practical artist; a dreaming realist. An oxymoron? How dare you call me a name you… you… you YOU you. But yes, I am an oxy… moron. And my current indecision? It is a direct result of that.

Each choice has potential positives and negatives. Sadly, very little is apparent on the surface. Most of it is speculation. Let me reiterate that I am not contemplating killing myself nor am I considering catching the red eye to Jamaica and cliff diving (aw HELL no). The cliff? It is a metaphor and metaphorically? I, like my character, stand upon a precipice. I, like my character is wondering “do I” or “don’t I.” I, like my character know that the decisions that I make in the next few weeks and months are going to affect me as much as the physical action of either jumping or turning from the cliff would. I am 38 years old and the remainder of my existence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence is hanging in the balance. Do I, or don’t I?

Perhaps the answer is evident in the actions of the character from Children that is standing upon his/her/its own precipice. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, guys: I’ve written the character too that point but I have not yet written what he/she/it does. Why? Because the Endworld books have always been reflective of my own life. An Autobiographical Fiction, if you will and until I make the decision for myself? Until I leap or don’t? I cannot make it for him. Or her. Or it. Damn, dirty metal bastards.

And with that? It’s back to “stuff.” G’night, all. Pleasant dreams. It looks like “Rocky IV” AND “Ghostbusters” are on right now. But I don’t think I am going to watch either. There’s a “The Walking Dead” marathon on AMC. Metaphorical? I leave that for you to decide.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

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:

dennis-rodman-in-costume

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:

220px-Rodman_Lipofsky

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?

🙂

ADDENDUM – The Wandering Seeker

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

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

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

The Wandering Seeker, a Short Story

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

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

“I can’t sleep.”

“Why not?”

“I heard something outside.”

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

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

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

“The who?”

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

“No.”

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

“Is it a scary story?”

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

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

I remember.

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

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

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

“Okay,” she says.

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

“What did he look like?”

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

“What?”

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

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

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

“That’s good,” she says.

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

“A band aid?”

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

“A little girl like me?”

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

“Where did he go?”

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

Wow,” she says.

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

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

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

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

“Good question,” I respond.

“I get it from you.”

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

“Then why do I hear him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why are you crying?”

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

“Another good question,” I answer.

She smiles, “Will you tell me someday?”

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

“Okay,” she says, “I love you Daddy.”

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

Dream or reality, I embrace the contentment.

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

Out here.

Winky emoticon. Smiley Face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All together now: “Hodor!”