All The Way Home

What’s livin’?

It’s just synapses and senses and a bunch of memories stored away for grandkids’ stories, right? How do you know if you’re alive, though? Like, really alive? How do you know you’re not playing with the safety on? How do you know that everything’s real when it feels like you’re eating a candy bar with the wrapper still on?

Everything’s muted out here. Every silence invaded by the whirl and hum of electricity and technology. Night’s emptiness pierced by commuter trains and angry drivers leanin’ on the horn just a bit longer than necessary.

It feels like it’s out there, ya know? Just beyond the fringes. Like the world’s wrapped in cellophane and all you need to do is pierce the veil. Maybe push a little harder, maybe go a little further, maybe drive a little faster.

Maybe press the pedal down on the straight-away. Ignoring the pep-pep-pep of rain on the windshield, increasing frequency as the engine roars louder. Watch the little orange dial strain higher and higher, as a spray of water is stripped off the pavement as scattered behind the rear wheels.

Now 70. Now 80. Now 90.

The hood rattles and the wind whips under and around. The wipers struggle to keep up with the constant onslaught of the sky. Bombarding the windshields as fast as the wheels can spin and the pistons can fire. Pedal to the floor.

Now 100. Now 105. Now 110.

The speedometer maxes out at 145 miles per hour. Where does the veil max out? Where does it rip and tear? Where is the intersection of life’s beginning and her ending?

Now 120.

Headlights illuminating flecks of water, milliseconds before they die on the headlights and front fender. Trying to push the accelerator through the floor boards. Eyes closed, but peeking.

Now 130.

A flash of light on the other side of the guardrail. Probably nothing. Maybe a cop. But either way a shock. The wheel jerks; the tires slip; the car spins.

140 miles per hour in an uncontrolled spin.

They say turn into a skid, but no one thinks about that. The world’s a blur. Darks and lights spinning around at speeds incomprehensible. Fightin’ the urge to close your eyes and accept the ending. Teeth gritted. Blood drawn from the gums. Leather squeaking until white-knuckle death-grip. Pinned against the door by the force of it all.

Finally alive.

The tires catch dry pavement. A loud squeal. Smoking rubber smell. The Mustang’s facing the same direction. It’s three lanes further to the right, but the spinning’s stopped. Still facing the same way. Stopped.

Pet-pet-pet-pet-pet.

Rain peppers the windshield. The wipers roll and toss it aside. Is that it? Am I on the other side?

Release the clutch and press on the gas, and it moves. Now 10, now 20, now 30. Take the next exit and through three red lights all the way home.

Grab the leftovers off the passenger’s seat. They’re still there somehow. Unlock the door and fend of the dog’s embrace.

“Hey, buddy. Momma gave me some food for you. Who’s a good boy?”

Who’s alive?

Drinking/Blogging – A Wednesday Tradition Unlike Any Other

So let’s start by saying I’m nowhere near as blasted as last time. I’m drinking a poor man’s Old Fashioned (Ezra Brooks bourbon with a heavy hand of Angostura Bitters and a pinch of sugar) and watching Evolution of Punk – a mini-documentary on CM Punk’s journey to his UFC debut later this month.

Drinking $14 bourbon out of Waterford Crystal is a metaphor for… I dunno… something.

It’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks. I can’t imagine how busy my life would be with a job that required a commute and my full attention from 9am to 5pm. My job being slow right now allows me to devote more time to my writing and to doing other hobby-related stuff that would’ve fallen by the wayside. Boxing, writing, homebrewing (mostly the cleaning, maintenance and prep work stuff)… one of them would’ve had to give. So here’s hoping the changes coming in the future don’t fuck with that too much.

On the boxing front, well, CM Punk’s a worse striker than me, so that’s going pretty well. They’ve started adding strength and conditioning classes on Tuesdays and Thursday, which are fucking brutal. They’ve also added sparring on Thursday night for $10. I’m thinking about stepping in there and getting my ass kicked one of these days. Not tomorrow though; don’t wanna show up for my girlfriend’s birthday with my face looking like an old catcher’s mitt.

The writing’s going well, too. I’m doing a lot of prep-work for a novel. My main problem is maintaining focus. So you know the old adage “write what you know?” I read something about how what it “really means” is incorporate what you know and do best into the story you want to tell. What I do best is consulting. So I create a full-fledged project plan to write this fucking thing. Gantt chart and everything. By my (very lenient) plan, it should be written by August of next year. We’ll see.

It’s funny. I’m really happy with where 2016 has taken me. That’s not something I’m used to saying (err, typing). I met my girlfriend in mid-January, went to St. Croix, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, started boxing, started writing in earnest, read 13 books so far, got a raise at work, had an article published in a local magazine… it’s been a good year and there’s still 3 months left.

I turned 30 since I last posted here. I’m just now starting to grow into the adult suit that I put on in 2012 when I bought my house. I haven’t quite got it tailored yet, but I’m filling it out a little more each day. And that’s something. For a blog (and by extension, a guy) that focuses a lot on death, depression, failure and ennui… this is all pretty good.

Stay tuned to see how I fuck it up.

I Didn’t INTEND to Get Drunk on a Wednesday, Okay?!

There used to be a time when five beers deep on a Wednesday was just a Wednesday. Staring down the barrel of 30, those days are long gone. I don’t necessarily miss them; I’m a much cheaper date these days, but I do miss being able to drop  20-30 beers in a sitting and get up by 8:30 the next morning as some semblance of human. I mean, it was barely human behavior at the time, but I could do it.

So what’s a blog like me doing at a guy like this? Well, I’ve been bumping Chuck Ragan and Chuck Ragan-adjacent music on Spotify for the past hour-plus and that sort of gravely singer-songwriter ish gets my creative juices oozing, so here we are.

Hey, Vin, how’s all that shit you talked about last time going?

Shut your whore mouth, header-writer, and stop judging me. Last time I talked about my 500 Shitty Words plan, and I’m happy to report it made it all the way to 1,000+ shitty words. I burn through willpower like Donald Trump supporters burn through crosses, so part of me knew that I could never keep that pace up, but I didn’t expect to burn out (puns!) so quickly. Though me finishing before I want to is something I’m used to (innuendos!).

In truth though, I’ve been putting a decent amount of work into my primary writing project. That project is a fantasy world which serves a dual purpose as the setting for a series of stories I want/intend to write and as a setting for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

I’ve been playing D&D for less than two years, but I’m hooked on it. I can’t seem to get a hold of a steady game, but I’ve found I have a few friends that at least have a passing interest in it, so my “worst case scenario” is that I have to drop behind the screen and be the Dungeon Master instead of hitting imaginary shit with my imaginary axe.

It’s not ideal, but since I’ve got a lady-friend who actually wants to spend time with me, that whole homebrewing thing, a need to be violent, and a super-derpy dog, it’s about as good as I can muster without quitting that job that pays my bills.

Super-derpy dog
Super-derpy dog

Unequivocal but Non-Typical

I wonder, sometimes, how long I’m gonna be the guy that’s up drinking until 2am on a Wednesday, while also being the guy who corrects that sentence from “the guy that’s up until 2am drinking” because it’s structurally better. I feel like a lot of my behavior is contingent on external influences. I’ve got a good woman, but she don’t live here. So while the cat’s away, the mice will have too much to drink on a weeknight.

That’s not really fair (my girl isn’t a teetotaler by any stretch). I try not to mix too much thinking with my drinking because they both cloud the other. I got some friends – acquaintances, really, but I like ’em – that are in recovery. For some reason that’s harder for me to grasp than my friends/acquaintances that are going through divorces or on their second marriages.

It’s funny, as someone who considers himself a natural fuck-up, I admire these people more than most folks I know. They risked something. For those with failed marriages – hey, IIWII* – they risked a bit of money and a butt-ton of emotion on someone that ended up being a bust for one reason or another. As I’ve learned from gambling, there’s a lot of ways to not make 21. But the people that fought back their addictions, man, that’s some shit. With a bad marriage, you can point externally, but with addiction it’s in you. I guess that gives you a leg up on fixing shit, since you’re – theoretically – autonomous, but that’s a lot of weight on the shoulders.

Describe the pieces to me

Sorry, getting rambly. I think a lot about addiction, specifically alcoholism, when I’m deep in the cups. It’s a bit weird (maybe hypocritical) to read through the archives of revenants with a pint in hand. Prep work? Nah, I don’t think so. I’ve mentally tied alcohol to weight gain, and I think my narcissism will probably protect me. Neat trick, eh? Turn a flaw against a vice. Stick with me, kid, I’ll teach you how to fuck it all up.

I like teasing at the edge. I got vertigo; I’ll never step out on the ledge, but I like getting as close as I can. Peering over the edge, feeling the imminence of death, the immediacy of mortality. It’s weird. A fall from here: certain death. Point this gun the wrong way: it’s over. Now, head back to your desk and pump out a couple dozen spreadsheets, chief.

Something May Catch Fire

I’m pretty damn sure, I’m not the first to let his brainwaves cruise down this current, but I feel like no one is talking about it. Let’s be honest, Donald and Hillary are boring. Politicians – at a national level – are inherently corrupt liars, so is it really a surprise the world’s best liar is up against the world’s most corrupt power broker? Nah, not really. Each side’s predicting doomsday, but it’ll probably be status quo either way. That sort of grand cataclysm is best left for bibles and bullshit. You’re more likely to die in the car, but you get in that sumbitch every day to drive to work. Ain’t that a bitch?

Yeah, this is getting really rambly. Let’s call it a night on writing, kids.

*It Is What It Is

Date Night

Date Night

Part of 500 Shitty Words


A half-burnt joint dangled limply from Mago’s bloody lip. His right arm rested on the stone beside him, his left held the uncapped and increasingly empty bottle of Vulture Original bourbon. His ass sat firmly in the dirt, and his granddad’s snubnose sat loosely in the rear waistband of his jeans. Between the swollen black-eye, the night’s darkness and the haze of self-medication, Mago could barely see past his splayed-out boots.

Until the cars pulled up.

There were two cars, and two men in each. They left the headlights and engines on; this wouldn’t take long. Mago didn’t rise to greet the silhouettes that slammed the doors behind themselves, breaking the silence of the night.

They arrayed in a line before him; headlight beams slipping through their arms and around their bodies. One folded his arms in front of his chest, another cracked his knuckles, and a third brandished some kind of club in his left hand. But Mago’s eyes never left the man at the front, whose arms dangled at his sides, clenching and unclenching into fists.

“I told you never to come back here,” the front-man said, his voice malice and smoke.

“You did. I remembered it, too. I got reminders all over my face. The eye. The nose. The lip. Maybe a rib, too, I don’t know. Thing is,” Mago took a deliberate drag from the joint, “I just don’t care what you have to say.”

The plume of smoke hovered in the space between them, illuminated in twists and wisps by the headlights.

The front-man’s shoulders tensed. His men shifted, anger in their posture.

“Why don’t you just go home, before you get yourself hurt?” offered the fella with the club before giving it a showy twirl and slapping it into his palm with a loud thwack. Mago’s eyes never left the front-man.

“Because it’s date night. Nowhere else to be.” His voice cracked as he fought back the tears that stung around his battered eyes.

“You little sonuvabitch. You little fucking sonuvabitch!” the front-man roared, the contours of his face flashing in and out of the light, “You’re the reason she… she’s gone. You killed her, y-you worthless piece of shit…”

The front-man’s voice cracked, too. If he cried, Mago couldn’t see it. Wouldn’t have cared if he could.

“Yeah… I did.” Mago’s joint burned low, little more than ash.

“I should kill you.” The front-man’s hand slipped into the pocket of his jacket and stayed there.

“Maybe,” Mago pushed his right arm against the gravestone and lifted himself to his feet. He took a drag until the last of the joint burnt out. “But I’m not yours to kill.”

His hand slipped behind his back and found purchase on the cool metal barrel of the snubnose. He laced his fingers around the grip and trigger, and drew.

Neither the front-man nor any of his men saw it coming. Just saw the flash of metal against the darkness. Just heard the bang of a single shot. Mago’s body fell limp, collapsed next to the gravestone.

It was date night. He had nowhere else to go.

500 Shitty Words

I’m an expert procrastinator. I’m so good at procrastinating that I can even disguise my procrastination as real work or “research.” For example, today I listened to Tim Ferriss’ talk with Chase Jarvis about optimizing creative output. I also watched Stephen King and George RR Martin talk about books and writing.

Neither of these actually involved me doing anything or making any substantial progress towards writing. I’m constantly tricking myself into thinking research or note-taking are adequate steps towards producing some fucking words on the page. But they aren’t.

But today’s procrastination ended up being actually beneficial. In the Ferriss/Jarvis talk, they talked a lot about systems and practices for increasing creative output. Some were questionable (mindfulness training), but some were edifying.

“Two Crappy Pages”

One of the concepts they discuss around creative output is the “what would this look like if it were easy?” Ferriss talked about launching his podcast with limited post-production to get started. In terms of writing, they talked about pumping out “two crappy pages” per day. By freeing yourself from the self-editor/self-critic, the goal of producing two pages per day becomes easier. In essence, this is “rigging the game” so that you win more often than you lose. Jarvis talked about the benefits of building momentum; this is well-trod territory of creating habits. Adding in small rewards for succeeding in these rigged victory builds that momentum and makes it easier to continue.

They also talked about using systems (specifically referencing Scott Adams of Dilbert fame):

If your goal is to lose ten pounds, you may wake up each day with failure in mind because the goal is hard to reach, and you are only progressing by small amounts. It takes up all your willpower. I recommend that instead of a goal you have a system. Willpower is a finite resource. Don’t pick a model that has failure built into it and requires you constantly drain a finite resource.

The idea is to create systems/guidelines that allow you to put parts of your life on auto-pilot. This, theoretically, lowers the amount of willpower that it requires to perform certain tasks.

I’m absolutely dog-shit at this. I live a hectic, disorganized life by nature. I do use an app – Habitica – to help me stay up with some habits I want to form, but so far the only one I’ve stuck to with consistently is making my bed.

500 Shitty Words

When I built my original “writing habit” into Habitica, I set it at 300 words. After failing to get past zero a few times (due to fear of the blank page), I decided that blog posts, journaling, or work-related writing could count. I started hitting 300 more consistently. In listening to the podcast and video today, I started to realize that my original framing of the problem was designed for failure.

Stephen King writes six polished pages a day. I’m not Stephen King. Ferriss/Jarvis recommend 2 crappy pages… yeah, I’m not there yet either. I should be able to do 300 words, right? Well, the problem was I wanted 300 good words. Not okay – probably not perfect, either – but they needed to be something solid.

Trying to write while managing your own expectations is a recipe for failure. So I’ve altered my target: 500 shitty words. 500 words of fiction at whatever quality it takes to get to 500. (So this 500+ word blog post doesn’t count). The challenge for me is to not increase the difficulty if I’m initially successful. In addition to being a quintessential scatterbrain, I also have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. And as a people-pleaser, I have a hard time saying “no” (phrasing, that’s what she said, etc).

No Promises

Normally, there is where I’d promise you’d get to see some of these shitty words. Unfortunately, that would kind of defeat the purpose of setting this lower barrier to success. But maybe… if you’re (I’m) lucky.

Free Reads: “Cool Air” by HP Lovecraft

So I’ve decided to start a weekly segment for this blog called “Free Reads.” The idea is simple: I try to find a short story that I enjoyed that is available for free online. That way I can offer it to you without burdening you to make a purchase.

The first “Free Read” is “Cool Air” by HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft is famous for his work in horror fiction, and the creation of the Cthulhu mythos. He was from Providence, RI which might mean something for fellow native New Englanders. Lovecraft was also well-known as a homophobe, racist, and anti-Semite. The amount to which that may or may not affect your appreciation of his work is a personal choice that I would not impinge upon, but bears mentioning – at least to me – along with any recommendations of his work.

“Cool Air” is a horror story, but not the way we would think of it now. It has a Shyamalan-esque ending which astute readers will see coming, but is still an enjoyable read for those with vivid imaginations. I won’t spoil it any further; here is the appropriate link: Cool Air.

Wanton Solicitations

I was talking with my best friend tonight; asking him if he’d read anything good recently. He told me he was “reading a book by JK Rowling, but the dog ate it.” Knowing his dog, this wasn’t just a clever line. He followed up that the dog had done him a favor, and he was going to re-read some Flannery O’Connor.

I actually remember that he came upon Flannery O’Connor through the TV show “LOST.” The character Jacob is reading Everything That Rises Must Converge on a park bench.

I came upon William Gay through a required reading in a high school class. It was the short story “Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?” To this day, that title is more brilliant than anything I’ve ever written or even thought. The story is a masterpiece. I inflicted Gay upon my friend, and we’ve been trading reading notes ever since.

But right now I feel bone-dry on reading material. So I’m turning to you, unwashed masses of the Internet. I’m looking for interesting stories to read, as I make a beleaguered foray back into writing.

For reference, here’s my current backlog of shit I need to get around to reading/finishing:

  • Blood of Elves – Andrzej Sapkowski
  • The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
  • “Providence” – Alan Moore
  • Provinces of Night – William Gay
  • Everything That Rises Must Converge – Flannery O’Connor
  • Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy (I didn’t give this a fair reading)

So lay your suggestions on me if you’ve got them.

Increasing Efficiency

A lot of what I’ve been trying to accomplish in this – my thirtieth* – year boils down to increased efficiency. I am a prolific waster of time and energy. A good portion of that waste comes from my “night owl” tendencies, a bad habit I developed in high school.

The Problem with Sleep

I tend to stay up later into the night and then wake up as late as possible in the morning. Like most people’s sleep cycles, the feedback loop was reinforced and now I rarely go to bed before midnight or wake before 8am (except to feed my dog). This is a habit I’ve been trying to break this year, especially the sleep from hitting SNOOZE over and over is essentially worthless. I’ll never be the up-with-the-sunrise guy, but it would be nice to have a little time in the morning before I have to get to the day’s tasks/work.

What’s frustrating is I’ve found that I’m not making judicious use of my later hours (i.e. the hours I’m “gaining” by “losing” the early morning ones). If I were to read before bed (or update this blog like I am now), I’d feel not as bad about losing part of the morning. Instead I’m watching a “Let’s Play” on YouTube.

Marked Improvements

Which isn’t to say I’ve been a complete and utter failure this year. In fact, I’ve made a lot of strides towards my goals for the year.

I’m down to 15.5% bodyfat and continuing to lose weight. This has been a fix of eating healthier (another goal) and going to the gym more frequently (yet another goal). Switching to the boxing gym has definitely increased my cardio and made workouts difficult for me in a way they hadn’t when I was weightlifting. That’s been a big help in losing the weight, as I’ve been consistently been burning between 800-1000kcal per session, and have been doing between 4-6 times per week, usually on the higher end of both. Both those targets are better than when I was weightlifting with about the same time investment.

I’ve been brewing more beer, too. Today I brewed my 7th batch of the year and probably about 40 gallons for far for the year. I am hoping to get to 20 batches and 100 gallons this year, and I’m slightly behind on that goal, but I do tend to brew more often in the Spring, Summer, and Fall than in the Winter. I probably won’t hit that goal, mostly because I’ll run out of storage capacity (both in kegs and in liver/bladder), but I do expect to hit at least 14/80 numbers this year. This will by far and away be my most productive year as a brewer, and I’m going to start seriously entering competitions. But that’s something I should talk about on the other blog.

Speaking of blogs, I’ve also been updating them all more often. I have goals to write about 300 words a day and try to update the blogs more often. My initial goal was 50 total blog posts for the year and 75k words written. Adding up the word counts is a little much, but I’m probably only around 15k so far. I’d have to retally the blog count, but I’m probably just shy of 20 including this post.

What’s This About Again?

Anyway, this is just kind of a personal update. I haven’t been making anywhere near as much progress on my creative writing as I would’ve liked. A lot of that is probably due to my limited bandwidth/willpower on any given day. This is a big reason my word count goal is so low. Summer is set up to be a very busy time for me this year, so I don’t know how much writing I’ll be able to get down over the next few months, but I do want to recommit myself to writing as the Summer winds down. I may attempt NaNoWriMo this year if I’m not too busy, which would probably help me reach that word count goal, but we’ll see. Perhaps I’ll take my spare moments over the next few months prepping and outlining for November and try to buckle down in that month.

Alright time to try to get to bed a little earlier…

* Technically speaking age 0 to 1 is year one. I turn 30 in August.

Zen and the Art of Violence

I’ve always liked hitting things. I enjoy that tactile sensation that comes from striking. When I was younger, the sports I played gravitated toward this concept: hit a baseball, slap a puck (and later: try to get hit with a puck), hit/tackle a ball-carrier, etc.

I used to punch a lot of walls in high school and college; a juvenile reaction to frustration and anger, but it felt good. I mean, it hurt like a bastard afterward but in that moment, that pain felt liberating. It gave me a (false) sense that I’d done something.

I had: I jacked up my knuckles.

“Trust your hands to do the right thing.”

In between typing these words, I’m icing my left (dominant) hand. I’m icing it because I’ve jacked it up again. I’ve been taking boxing classes for about two weeks now. I’d taken a few free classes in the past, but a gym opened up within walking distance from my house and I’ve been going pretty much non-stop for the past two weeks.

I may be a little overzealous about it. At least that’s what the ache in my knuckles is telling me.

My technique is sloppy, hence the sore hands, but I love boxing. I actually look forward to these workouts instead of dreading them (a common problem with my weightlifting exercises). If I don’t burn over 1,000 calories in a session it feels like a let-down. But – most importantly for me – it’s an outlet for my rage and frustration.

“This is a sport that celebrates violence,” or so the trainer says during one of the classes. It feels good to strike, to lash out, to release the frustration from a world that let’s Donald fucking Trump run for president. Every little annoyance, every glass that gets accidentally bumped off the counter, every email that some idiot misreads… jab, jab, cross.

I live for the last 15 seconds to “empty the tank,” to throw a couple left body hooks, a left cross – right hook – left cross combination, and generally flail wildly at the heavy bag until there’s nothing but acid pumping through my arms and legs. Then abs.

Fuck abs.

“Lone Wolf.”

The other habit I picked up lately is meditation. Yeah, I know. Doesn’t exactly jive with the whole ‘meathead hits stuff’ thing I got going on. I didn’t start as some yin-yang balance sort of thing. Of all the dumb reasons, I started because Starbucks gave me a free meditation app. I’d read about the benefits of meditation – most of them sounding like new-age, hippie bullshit – and decided to give it a shot based on:

  1. I wasn’t sleeping well at the time
  2. Meditation increases grey matter in the brain

Between the meditation and the constant exercise, I’m not only sleeping better, but I’m waking earlier and hitting the ‘snooze’ button a lot less. The extra time in the morning has allowed me to feel less stressed about rushing to get tasks done, and has allowed me to get back to writing and blogging.

I’m planning to expand my meditation from just before bed (what I’m told is not the ideal time for it) to either first thing in the morning while waiting on coffee or right after my workouts.

Plus, I got that whole zen/warrior thing going for me. Which is nice.