Acceptance & Hope

During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.

You will start to look forward and actually plan things for the future. Eventually, you will be able to think about your lost loved one without pain; sadness, yes, but the wrenching pain will be gone. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.

So Trump’s inauguration is tomorrow (or probably today by the time you read this).

I was talking with my girlfriend who – as both a woman and not-a-white-person – is dreading tomorrow. I’ve resigned myself to the inevitability of it. There’s a strange comfort in the apathy of begrudgingly accepting the fact of it. As I said to her: “I can’t stop it. I’m not going to torture myself watching it, and I already have plans to protest it. I’m gonna go to the gym and beat the shit out of a heavy bag for a while, then go home and have takeout, beer, and sex.”

That last part should only take about 30 seconds, so I’m also going to continue re-watching Breaking Bad and start watching the new Jason Momoa show Frontier.

I’m sure there are some people that will be upset with that perspective, but I think that anger/disappointment would come from a place of misunderstanding. I’m not burying my head in the sand; I’m not hoping that if I don’t look Trump’s inauguration won’t happen. I just don’t see the point in hate-watching his coronation. If his tiny right hand causes the Bible to catch fire, I’m sure Occupy Democrats will post a video of it with the dramatic squirrel. Which is to say, if anything newsworthy happens, I’m sure I’ll hear about it without having to actually suffer through the banality of an inauguration (I’ve never watched one, because why?). I’m also fairly confident that the world won’t literally end tomorrow. It’ll be a historically terrible day for America, but I don’t expect there to be a nuclear holocaust until at least Monday, because as the Orange Urinal Cake said himself to the Times of London:

[D]ay one – which I will consider to be Monday as opposed to Friday or Saturday. Right? I mean my day one is going to be Monday because I don’t want to be signing and get it mixed up with lots of celebration

(Ugh. Fuck this idiot.)

Beyond resisting the urge for masochism, I plan to use my energy in a quasi-positive direction through working out (and working, in general), and I have plans to exercise my First Amendment rights while I still have them by joining the Boston Women’s March for America.

And I’m also going to continue to live my life. It’s a lot easier for me as an affluent, white, male US citizen than it will be for others, but in terms of coping it’s one of the few options that I have. When I think of the impending Russian occupation of the White House, I’m reminded of a platitude that arose after September 11th. There are various versions of it but it goes something like: “if you let this affect your life, if you live in fear, then the terrorists have won.” For me, this means making every effort to derail the Trump Train within my limited power, but also not turning into a (more) jaded and cynical prick. It means not allowing the shadow of Trump to cast a pall over my relationships with my friends. It means not hate-watching press conferences or giving this vapid narcissist the attention he so desperately craves.

My other coping mechanism comes from this quote:

The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency.

  • Eugene McCarthy

The conservative element of America controls the Executive, Legislative, and (soon enough) Judicial branches of our government. Checks and balances will be negligible at best until – at best – the mid-term elections. Thankfully, if our government is known for one thing it’s that it is a lumbering bureaucratic clusterfuck that is run by equal parts idiocy and greed. Not really something to celebrate, until some Russian Piss Puppet decides he wants to spend multi-billion tax-payer dollars on a wall between our country and one of our allies. We can take solace in the fact that such a bill will delayed by every greedy idiot trying to cram more pork into that bill than a competitor at a hot dog eating contest.

There are very real dangers in a Trump presidency. An almost innumerable number of them. But getting angry about what could be is wasted energy. Stewing in front of a TV while the guy from Celebrity Apprentice is handed the nuclear codes isn’t going to do anything to change it from happening. I don’t have any advice beyond that. I’m not an activist. I’m not a “better person” who can not hate the shit out of this vulgar rotted yam. Ironically, I don’t have any more answers than said yam. But there is only so much that can be done, and beyond that… all we can do is hope.

Unrequited, For a Love That Never Was

Music is a truly amazing thing. There’s a power in sound that I don’t think I’ll ever fully comprehend. It’s not just how it makes us feel, but how it makes us feel about things that never existed.

One of my favorite songs is “Under You” by Better Than Ezra.

This songs transports me. Not to a moment in time, but to a collection of moments that never existed.

I’m back in college. I’m dating a girl that never existed. We’re laying on my tiny twin dorm bed, playing with dust motes in the late afternoon sun of a warm Spring day. It’s a happy memory of a failed relationship. A relationship that never existed. Our fingers dance along the near-invisible floating clumps of dust until they intertwine. Everything else fades away.

It’s vivid. It never happened. Nothing remotely close to it has ever happened in my life. I’m not substituting some surrogate into a memory of an ex-girlfriend. This is an experience that exists entirely in my subconscious, yet is as real – if not moreso – than any actual memory I have of that time.

I’m old enough and wise enough to understand it, and what it represents. I miss my youth. I miss the lack of responsibilities and the feeling that the world was ahead of me like some prize that I was bound to win. I know it’s a song I wouldn’t have identified with at the time, but in retrospect provides the soundtrack for a moment that never existed, but thematically encapsulates so many “wasted” seconds rolled into one.

There exists in me a feeling that I died the moment that I graduated college. It sounds ridiculous. It IS ridiculous. I get that.Understand though, that I was dumped the night before my graduation, that I’d be leaving the place I’d lived for four years, and that I’d be moving away from the family I’d made over that time. It’s a similar experience to what I imagine most graduates feel, but there were circumstances that made it feel exacerbated it for me.

The 2am game of wiffleball – a desperate attempt to grasp the fleeting moments of youth – didn’t help.

I was a different person than the naive avatar I picture when I peer into the past. Frankly, I hate the person I was at the time I picture, which is what makes the fabricated memory so appealing. In my memory, I was everything wholesome, holding on to something good that would be unfairly taken from me.

Reality is/was different. There’s a reason that I started identifying with the moniker of “anti-hero” shortly after college. I wasn’t a bad person – per se – but I wasn’t a good one either.

It’s impossible to look at the past objectively. The paths of our lives are fluid. There’s moments in the first few days of my time in college that – if I changed them for temporary gain – would’ve altered not just who I am as a person, but the people who made me a better human over those four subsequent years. I had three best friends in college. I could’ve never met them if I’d properly understood a casual innuendo literal minutes before I happened to meet them. Had I not been a naive child, I’d have never followed through on that chance encounter.

Life is interesting, but the razor’s edge that defines each path is endlessly fascinating.

The Obligatory New Year’s Post, 2017 Edition

Recently I wrote several thousand words on politics and another thousand words about the end of 2016. They’re sitting in the “Drafts” folder of WordPress, and believe me when I tell you that I spared you from them.

Writing functions as a form of therapy, a sort of house-cleaning for the brain. By the time I finished writing 3000+ words on the impending doom of the Orange Menace and the ineptitude of his opposition, I felt better (if a bit tired). But none of what I wrote was anything new. I mean, unless you’ve dug yourself a sound-proof bunker with a computer that only accesses my blog posts, you’ve probably heard everything I’ve had to say on the matter, put more eloquently by professional writers (or more succinctly by a dank meme).

When I tapped out 1000+ words on the shit-nado that was 2016, I realized by the end the only real insight could be summed up thusly:

Millennials are getting fucked in the ass by older generations (especially Boomers) and it’ll continue to happen for at least another 20 years, because we keep feeding them medicine that lets them live longer and vote against the interests of the younger populace.

The natural conclusion to that train of thought is “so kill your parents,” which is neither something I believe or want to condone. So it ended on the scrap-heap along with many other thousands of words about me being pissed that my father voted for a sentient Hate-Cheeto.

In order to slide off my soapbox with what little remaining dignity and grace I have, I’ve opted instead to pen the ever-generic year-recap/year preview post and hope that Fuckface Von Clownstick doesn’t blow us all up before 2018.

2016: The Year Our Heroes Died, Our Parents Abandoned Us, and a Soviet Puppet was Elected President

Ah 2016. The year started off so promising with the shooting of a beloved gorilla and an unstoppable swarm of death mosquitoes. Being neither a resident of the Cincinnati Zoo nor pregnant/elderly, my personal life was remarkably unscathed by the tragedies of 2016.

In fact, I might even say 2016 was a good year if it didn’t make me feel like the one dude with the gasmask on while everyone else slowly asphyxiates to death around me.

I met a great girl in January, and (knock on wood) I haven’t managed to fuck it up for almost a year. That’s probably more thanks to her endless patience than my actual growth as a person, but I’ll take the victories where I can get them.

Speaking of victories, my pumpkin ale took how the homebrew club’s Pumpkin Competition, and also managed to tie(/win) our Brewer of the Year award. In addition to that, I was elected President of the club, so it just goes to show that the club is going to hell. It’s actually an exciting time as we’re entering our third year as a club, so let’s hope it’s still standing by 2018.

Slightly smaller achievements that don’t warrant full sentences include:

  • Publishing an article in the local weekly alternative newspaper, The Boston Dig
  • Getting a pay raise at work
  • Reading over 20 books (through some graphic novel cheating)
  • Visiting St. Croix, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Lousville, Maine, New Hamsphire, Cape Cod, and Baltimore

I fell slightly short in some of my ambitious goals for the year. For example, I never did reach 14% bodyfat, only getting into the mid-15% range for brief periods of time. It’s a goal I plan to re-up for 2017, especially since I have some trips coming up (more about which in a moment).

I also failed to hit my goals for beers/gallons brewed, blog posts published, and novel chapters written (the goal was one, I wrote 0). Overall, 2016 was a fairly ambitious year with success on a lot of fronts. Which brings us to…

2017: The Year – Nuclear Holocaust Permitting – We Get Some Shit Done

I managed above that I’m planning to re-up on some of my failed goals from 2016. First among them is the bodyfat goal. My goal is to get to 14% bodyfat in 2017. I’m making a concerted push for this goal right from jump street, because I have trip to St. Croix planned for early February and a trip to Greece planned for early May. I’m hoping to push my way into the mid-to-high 15% range for St. Croix and then get down into the 14% range for Greece. It’s doable; it might not be realistic, but it’s what I’m shooting for.

I fell short of my 2016 goal to brew 20 beers, but I did manage to get to 14, so my 2017 goal is to brew 15 beers (roughly 90-100 gallons). Given that I already have less time available on my calendar in 2017, this may prove to be a challenge. But the real challenge is finding ways to drink all this beer. To that end, I’m also planning to enter more competitions in 2017, and take home at least one medal. I’ve never entered many competitions (one actually) since I started brewing, mostly because I hate bottling/packaging and shipping my beer. It’s not a quality issue, I’m just lazy. But in order to brew more, I need to clear space, and if I’m trying to lose weight I can’t drink it all myself (again). Solution: make everyone else fatter by forcing my beer on them.

I’m also increasing my reading goal for 2017 to 15 books. Last year I set a goal of 10 books, because I’m a slow reader. Then I discovered I could use graphic novels and audiobooks to “cheat” my numbers up. Doing that I actually “read” 23 books in 2016. Now that I have some reading momentum, I want to set my goal a bit higher with a bit less cheating. The first book on my plate is Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, a short read at 1,252 pages. I’m also subscribed to Audible, so I’ll hopefully be able to sneak in a few audiobooks as well.

Writing, ah, writing. One of my biggest hurdles with writing is momentum. The piece of advice I’ve probably heard/read most often is “write every day.” It is a piece of advice I consistently fail to take, or (worse) try to further complicate. With that in mind, I’m hoping to write a daily journal in 2017. I’ve allowed myself some leeway with this. It can be by hand in my Moleskine journal, or here  – as part of my goal to write 50 blog posts –  or scrawled on the inside of the guy’s john. As long as fingers (and brain, I guess) produce words, it counts. Toward that end, I’m tabling my novel ambitions. I still intend to practice, produce small pieces, and continue reading about the process, but I do not plan to poop out a book in 2017.

Some miscellaneous personal betterment/home improvement goals, that also don’t deserve full sentences:

  • Volunteer (I’m doing Habitat for Humanity this weekend)
  • Get another (undeserved) raise at work
  • Remodel my kitchen and downstairs bathroom
  • Practice daily meditation/”mental practice”
  • DM a game of D&D (I’ve never done it and want to try)

Let’s Do This

Assuming that I’m not hanged for treasonous slander on January 21st, I’ve got a pretty full plate to gorge on this year. I know that plans change once you get hit in the face, so we’ll see how this all shakes out.

Until then.

Coming Soon: 2017

I am not much of a pre-planner nor much of a resolutionist*, but as 2016 draws to a close I’ve started to take stock of the goals I had for this year, my progress towards them, and my potential goals for the impending year.

It’s a bit early – about 2.5 months early – to really start prepping (/giving up) in earnest, but instead of tossing together resolutions about 2 weeks into the year, I figured I’d get a jump on things.

First, a Recap:

  • Read 10+ books in 2016 – I’ve read 16 so far, including audiobooks and graphic novels.
  • Brew 20 batches of homebrew (~100 gallons) – I’ve brewed 12 batches for roughly 60-65 gallons so far. I have another group brewday planned for Nov. 20 and can probably squeeze 1-2 more brewdays on top of that. So closing in on 15 by Dec. 31 is my new goals, and will probably be my 2017 goal as well.
  • Win a homebrewing medal/ribbon/award – I recently won the third annual pumpkin beer competition in my homebrew club. It’s not an official award in terms of being recognized by the BJCP or NHC, but I’ll count it.
  • Get down to 14% bodyfat – I’m hovering around 16% right now after wedding season and a summer of beerfests and weekend trips. I’m confident I can get to about 15% by year’s end if I push. I still want to get closer to 10%.
  • Write 50 blog posts – Between my two active blogs, and including this post, I’m hovering in the mid-30s. Not bad, but not great either. I can probably hit 50 by year’s end with a more concentrated effort. I definitely want to expand this for 2017.
  • Get an article published – Oh, you know it.
  • Vaguely defined novel goal – Well, I’m planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year, so we’ll see on this one.

Coming in 2017:

I’ve got a solid number of plans lined up for the coming year.

  • My girlfriend and I are planning trips to St. Croix and to Greece.
  • I’m aiming for 15+ books in 2017, with at least 10 of them being full-length paper (i.e. only 5 audiobooks or graphic novels will count).
  • 15 homebrews in 2017 is the new goal. I’d ideally like to get to 20.
  • 52 blog posts in 2017. A modest increase from this year, but I also haven’t hit this year’s goal (yet).
  • At least one homebrew award outside of my club.
  • A raise at work, because I’m good at my job.
  • 14% bodyfat (LOL).
  • A second draft of a novel.
  • Some free fiction content for this blog.

I’d like to talk about those last two bullets for a moment. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been steadily trying to develop a writing habit. Recently, I’ve found myself pumping out more and more words. I don’t know if it’s some natural cyclical/seasonal uptick in creativity, renewed motivation, or some other confluence of factors but I’ve been writing fiction with my coffee before work, steadily journaling, and (holy shit) even updating this piece of shit blog.

If I don’t develop crippling carpel-tunnel, I intend to do a running diary of my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. I’ll write more about this soon, but for those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a 30 day challenge to write 50,000 words. It takes place in November each year, so I’ll be taking this challenge in less than 2 weeks. I’m not sure what my “novel” will be about just yet, because the idea is to come in with a fresh idea, so my morning fiction is inadmissible**. Like I said I’ll have more about this later, but if it goes well, I want to take time in 2017 to edit and produce a second draft of the completed story.

As for the free shit, that’s where these morning sessions come in. My hope is to create a serialized story that I can start rolling out in 2017. Right now, I’m averaging around 600 words a day. My hope is that between the end of October, December, and January I’ll have enough to share that I can start dropping weekly stories.

Wrapping Up

That’s all I have for tonight. It was nice rambling at you kids again. Let’s do it again some time.

———————————-

* Fun Fact: this is not a word.
** Of course if I’m really stuck, I’m just gonna say “fuck it” and get that easy first few words for free.

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.

Eight Years of Bad Opinions

WordPress notified me that today marks the eighth anniversary of me registering with them. My original blog – The Dead Pool – was full of bad takes, wrong opinions, and a lot of pointless fucking swearing. Now I’ve got The Anti-Heroic Epic, Anti-Hero Brewing, Literal Mercenary and I’ve gone through a few others in that time. Fun times.

So here’s to eight years of yelling into the void.