A Suicide In My Brain

“Man looks into the abyss, and there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that’s what keeps him out of the abyss.” – Wall Street

A few months back, a high school classmate posted his suicide note on Facebook. Although I hadn’t laid eyes on him in 25+ years, I joined the frantic effort from his friends and family members in vain attempts to reach out to him. Hours passed, and while I knew that he had seen some of my messages, he stopped looking at them or responding.
My spirit bottomed out. I feared that our efforts would be fruitless, wasted with a culmination on some lonely dead end road.
It stirred up a black swirl of my own memories, when dark days prior to my separation and divorce led to even darker days that followed it.
Many nights spent lost in shadowy thoughts. Where internal debate rages between the fear of death and the pain of life and like some evil role call every single misstep and bad decision comes prancing out of lightless corners in the mind and each one happy to burden the scales in favor of ending it all.
Voices from nowhere reminding me what I waste I was, how I had squandered my life, ruined my family, destroyed my finances…
The gift of words that I had been blessed with I rarely used.
I felt that I had disappointed so many people.
Why was I continuing to remain here? What was the point?

I don’t endorse/condone suicide in any way, shape or form.(I don’t include terminal disease/medically assisted cases in this)

But I understand it.
Oh do I ever.
When the burdens grew nearly intolerable…I called my best friend and handed my gun over to him to keep. I told him that I was worried about security at the extended stay hotel I was at, but it was so much more than I could bear to talk to even him about. I asked him to hold onto it for safekeeping.
I let him hold onto it for months.

Until the internal debate simmered down.
Until I felt like my head was on straight.
Until I felt like I could breathe again.
Until I could look my children in the face and not feel like I was collapsing into a emotional disaster.
Until the dark thoughts finally dissipated.
Until I realized that there was hope.
Until I allowed myself to feel the love of those who rallied around me.
Until I could study the sunset and look forward to tomorrow.

As I write this, there is a story on Yahoo about Katy Perry and her own experience with suicidal thoughts. Even the young, wealthy, famous, gorgeous aren’t immune from the siren’s song…

And if there’s a battle raging inside of you or someone you know, act and act quickly. For your own good. For the sake of your loved ones. Because there is always hope. There’s always good things in the future. There is always a reason to keep on living.

As for my high school classmate, he was found at a hospital. I don’t have all of the details except the most important one…he is alive.
And for that I am thankful.

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My first almost girlfriend… rest in peace

Allow me to grovel at my extended absence from this blog.  Life had delivered a few sharp blows that sucked the wind right out of my writer’s sails…but today, I saw something that forced me back to the keyboard.

Sadly, it’s tragedy that brings me here.

Any of you that know me understand me as an awkward person.  Always have been.  Always will be to varying degrees.

In high school, I was even worse.  Exponentially so.

I never went on a date in high school.  No dances.  No movies.  No senior prom.  I was too painfully shy.

In my junior year, I was required to serve 3 weeks as a social service project.  I chose Children’s Hospital where I thought I could feed babies and pull little kids around on wagons… and I did those.

But I also met a beautiful girl my age there.

Her name was Shannon.

She happened to be very down to earth and friendly.

I was awestruck.

I looked for any excuse to hang around in her vicinity.

I talked to her.  Conversation came free and easy.

I screwed my courage up and asked her out on a date.

She said yes.

Fairy tales would have had us falling in love, complete with white picket fence and Volvo station wagon.

Ok… probably not a Volvo.  Her dad happened to own a Pontiac dealership.

But my life is no fairy tale.  And the date never happened.  Not through her own fault, but due completely to my own cowardice and insecurity.

I never followed through.  I never had the stones to call her and set up the date.

Every now and then, I would flip through a photo album and see photos of myself and a couple of high school chums in our blue volunteer vests hanging out at Children’s Hospital.  I even had a picture of Shannon and I in there.

I would smile.  What a silly, stupid kid I was.

And then today happened.

I was enjoying a gas station hot dog for lunch and flipping through the paper and a headline caught my eye.

“Funeral set for cancer patient beaten to death”

I started to read the article and dropped my hot dog in disbelief.

It was Shannon.

Now I hadn’t seen or spoken to her since then…but I was still sad and shocked.

She was seeking treatment for cancer in the Chicago area.  Sitting at a bus stop.  Some lowlife subhuman came up behind her and bashed her in the head.  For apparently no reason whatsoever.  Not robbery or anything else.  The guy simply ran off.

What the actual fuck is that?  What sort of piss poor excuse of a world is this really coming to?

She was on life support for about a day.

And died.

Died trying to fight death from another source.

A blogger friend of mine wrote a very popular post called “A Senseless Death”

Donnie, I have to compare this loss as just as senseless as the one you wrote about so beautifully.

Godspeed Shannon.  You’re with your dad now.  Watch over your family.

I am sorry for the way your life ended here.

 

 

 

High Anxiety (Blogger advisory ~ lots of vulgarity in this post)

Well, it happened.

I sent the kids off to the bus stop.  Alone.  For the first time.  To their second day at a new school.  Did I mention that they were alone?  AND they will have to walk home (1/3 of a mile) from the bus stop and let themselves in the house.  For the first time.  Alone.

And I was/am a damned wreck.  It was everything that I could do to not park somewhere and watch them while they waited.

The DadStalker.

You see kids, I suffer from anxiety.

Most days it’s manageable.  Some days, it’s paralyzing.

Lately, it’s been a fresh hell.

Aside from everyday life stresses and my crazy, fucked up occupation, I’ve been compounded by a move to a new house, worrying about my dad (with whom we spent 9 months living after the death of his wife), the kids & their new school, money (can I really afford this freakin’ house?), et cetera…

Oh, and I turned 45 a couple of weeks ago.  Birthdays almost always jack up my anxiety as I analyze my life over the previous year(s) and try to decide if I am keeping my shit together in a manner befitting someone of my age and station in life.

The answer this year was an echoing “hellz noooooooooo.”

And I am trying to decide if that is a good thing/bad thing.  My writing friends Hemingway, Thompson, Bukowski and good ol’ Hank Moody are all varying degrees of trainwreck.

Is this something inherent in my animal?  Literary DNA?

I wish I knew.  The past few months my hands shake noticeably.  Now the legs have picked up the beat as well.  If I stop typing, my hands will involuntarily tap the keyboard.

ajjdhohehoieh  (See what I mean?)

At least, I hope it’s anxiety.  A little voice in the back office of my brain’s Health Concerns Department keeps whispering “Parkinson’s” over and over again.

And to answer all three of you that read this blog, no.  I don’t take anxiety meds or have any treatment other than smoking and the occasional indulgence in drink.

I am a fan of self-medication.  An enthusiast, really.

But lately, neither tobacco nor fermentation has been working particularly well.

What to do, what to do.

As I write this, I get a text from the girl telling me that they are home from school.

The weight lifts ever so slightly.

My apologies for the lack of entertainment value in this post.  It was therapy for me to put this out there.

Thanks for reading.

Will you celebrate with me?

Tomorrow is a momentous day… for me at least.

One year ago tomorrow, I launched this blog, with the purpose of amazing, entertaining and astounding you.

I may have fallen a little short. I re-read some of those early posts, full of the green sap of hope and enthusiasm. I even placed an expectation of “3 writings a week” in one of them.

Can you hear the manic laughter? That’s my Muse. Saying something along the lines of “Bitch, please.”

But I stuck with it, submitting 30 or so writings for consumption (and/or regurgitation).

Some obviously resonated more than others. I saw lots of hits at first, then slowly tapering off to the occasional hiccup bump. My band member friends call empty rooms “playing to the crickets.” It seems as though I’ve been writing for the crickets.

Hey, I get it. Life gets in the way. Many things vie for our attention these days, especially things like assertive offspring who somehow feel entitled to my free time.

Who am I kidding? I have very little “free time” and even less time to write.

But I feel like a success. I maintained some steady output of words despite long separations from the Muse. Sometimes, I wrung the words out of whatever life happened to be handing me at that moment.

And some of you read them. A few of you even read them all. Fewer still were exceptionally kind enough to comment, like or share them via Facebook, et al.

For that, you have my undying gratitude. I got just enough feedback to keep me going during those barren days at the keyboard.

One year. 30-odd posts. Hundreds of views. Thousands of words.

Finally, those gibbering spirits of my long-dead writing coaches (Bukowski, Papa Hemingway, the good Dr. Thompson) have abated some. And I can look in the mirror with confidence and say,

I am a writer. A writer who stuck to something for an entire year.

So I will celebrate Bloggerelstl’s birthday tomorrow. With a toast, and perhaps a cigarette or three.

And I will celebrate all of you, who continue to stick with me.

I thank you. I. Thank. You!

Waking Annie ~ Curate of Souls – continued…

“Wake, child.”

The witch stirred uneasily.  She had been down for a long time in the Silence when the soft voice called her.

“Wake.  You are needed.  It is time.”

She resisted.  Her slumber of centuries should not be interrupted.

The voice grew insistent.

“Annie.  Now is the time.”

Memories began to flood her mind.  Angry, violent memories.  Warm, carnal memories.  Memories of the life she led so long ago.  Palm trees.  Breezes of the Caribbean.  Sharp-edged blades meant for cutting sugar cane.  The taste of blood on her lips.  Heart-pounding.  Fear.  The salty air as the wooden walkway creaked beneath her feet.  Panic. Escape. Rhythmic pounding of drums.  The gurgling hiss of her husband’s throat as she cut.  The taste of the dark skin of her lover as lovemaking kept time with the drums outside.

And  then she could see.  Grass.  Trees.  A hazy figure standing over her.

She was not in the Caribbean.  She did not feel alive, but she was aware.  Angry, mournful and confused.  What was happening?  Why are all these images in her head?  Why was she back in this godawful place that she had freed herself from with swigs from the amber bottle so many, many years ago.

Her vision cleared.  The figure standing over her was a woman.

“It is time.  Come with me.”  Annie heard the words, but saw no movement of the woman’s mouth.

Annie felt herself moving in the direction of the figure, but without actually walking.  It was as if she was magnetized, getting pulled along without effort.

“Come, child.  I need you to do what you excel at.”

“And what is that?”

“Seduce a man.  Seduce…and kill.”

“Who is this man?”  She didn’t need to ask why.  She never needed a reason before.  It amused her.  Men were drawn to her in life, drawn to her beauty and her body.  She knew this.  She loved the thrill of enticing…letting her dress slip off her shoulder.  Letting a little too much cleavage show.  Men were easy to draw close when you let your hips sway and undulate a little. So easy to predict.  Fumbling, shaking hands groping, and she loved to let them.  She loved to let them think that they had the power, right up until the moment they felt the clean, sharp sting of the steel on their neck.

10 Movies That Don’t Have Enough John Goodman

Word.

Putting It Into Perspective

We all need a little John Goodman every now and again. The only thing better than a little John Goodman is a lot of John Goodman. The man is an extremely talented actor, and frankly, a living legend in the entertainment business. He never fails to paint smiles on every audience member’s face in the movie theater, which is why I will go as far as to call him an artist. Also, he kills it whenever he makes a television appearance (whether it be as a recurring character or guest star); case in point: Roseanne.

So, to honor a man who is always honest with his acting and his interviews, I’ve compiled a list of ten movies that just don’t seem to contain enough John Goodman in them. [WARNING: Some spoilers ahead…]

1. Coyote Ugly

Explanation: In a movie Mr. Goodman admittedly did solely “for the money,” one would expect…

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The Bronze Goddess

I owe you words.  I am keenly aware of this.  I have not been living up to my end of the bargain.

So I prostrate myself before you:  grovelling.  Eyes big and wide and deep.  Asking for forgiveness.

A temporary creative lull has forced me into writer’s limbo.  I am grasping at straws here, folks.  I even broke down and looked into the writing prompts that WordPress serves up occasionally.

And then I remembered the Bronze Goddess…

You all have a Bronze Goddess in your background.  The minute you found her, your life changed forever.

She was freedom.  She was happiness.  She was your ticket out, to anywhere.  She was your future.

Will you indulge me a bit to tell you about mine?

It was a warm fall afternoon all blue sky and golden leaves.

When I first laid eyes on her, she was ugly.  So ugly that she was beautiful.

She smelled kind of funky.  Earthy.

She was 10 years old, but in my defense she looked much older than that.

My hands caressed her lovingly even though my touch was uninvited.

I got no response.  I might as well have been touching a corpse.

I gave her a slap on the flank.  Again, nothing.  Just the hollow sound of my handsmack.

But I was in love.  Like I never had been before…like I never would be again.

I slid inside her.  An exquisite feeling.  Indescribable.  My heart was cranking out some serious thumps.  I knew I was headed for serious trouble this time.  There was no going back now.

I did everything I was supposed to do to turn her on, but she was slow to respond.

Finally, I pushed things just a little further, and she came alive…trembling beneath me.

My Bronze Goddess.

A 1977 Plymouth Volare Premier station wagon.

Spanish Gold Metallic.  With woodgrain sides.  And a luggage rack.

Just a whisper over 22,000 original miles on her odometer.

I was a virgin until I was twenty.  Oddly enough, I got rid of this car just before my 20th birthday.

Merely a coincidence, I’m sure.  But I digress.

A 318 V-8.  Torqueflite 727 3-speed automatic transmission.

Vinyl seats.  AM radio.  Conditioned air.  Yep, that’s how I roll.

And yet, I loved her.  By rights, the way I drove her I shouldn’t be alive to write these words.

She was a bad joke at first glance.  Faded paint.  Rust in all the right places.  Milky windows.  Dust and moldy funk inside.

In other words, a very typical ’70s Chrysler product.

I was the laughingstock of the parking lot at school, just like Arnie Cunningham in “Christine.”

And I was just as enchanted by my petroleum succubus as he was with his.

I dubbed her the Bronze Goddess.  I actually stole the name from another student at my high school who had named HIS car that, but his car was something dirt common and unworthy of the moniker.

I drove.  I loved to polish and wax her for hours, buffing with a old cloth diaper until you were blinded by the diamond glint of her metallic flake. I tinkered with her.  I spent money.

Oh boy, did I ever spend money.  Stupid money.  I bought every snake-oil elixir that Autozone sold trying to fine-tune her engine performance.  And I drove.  And drove.  And drove.

Thousands and thousands of miles.  To Hell and back.

And the memories.  I never christened her (as some of my friends suggested) by gaining carnal knowledge of some lithe female in the back part of the wagon.  Mainly because I didn’t have any willing partners.  But alas, I had plenty of fun: my first makeout session, my first copped feel.  Wind in my face.  The sweet future lay ahead as smooth as freshly pressed asphalt.

My first cross-country solo journey.  She was my chariot to my personal Heaven on earth, the great state of Colorado.

And Colorado was where she met her end.

When I got my first real job and started making money, I decided that I was too good for her.  I needed something nicer. Faster.  Something to turn a lady’s head and catch her glance.

So I sold her off to a co-worker with still less than 50,000 original miles.  She ran so smooth and true that I had that instant feeling of “Shit, I shouldn’t have done that.”

A few months later, in kind of dark that you only can find out in the country (well away from city lights), my co-worker hit a Blank Angus steer that had wandered onto the highway.

Not even the immortal Goddess could have survived.

He was fine, walked away with seat belt burn and bruises.

The Goddess was trucked away to fade into the weedy landscape of the local salvage yard.

I still think of her.  Sepia-toned memories of rest-stops in Kansas, White Castle drive-thrus and the crisp, bracing air of the Western Slope.

You can only have one first car.  Damn, she was the best.

A love letter to Brazil (or Una carta de amor a Brasil)!

For some reason, the country with the most people viewing my blog is Brazil.  I’m sure that it is due to some improper link or something even more nefarious, but I feel compelled to address those beautiful, coffee-skinned visitors.  So apologies to all of my English speaking friends, this one is strictly for the la gente de habla hispana.

Queridos amigos,
No sé lo que te trajo a mi blog, pero yo quería tomar un momento para darle las gracias por estar aquí. Estoy seguro de que usted estaba buscando algo más, pero si usted puede leer Inglés, los invito a pasar unos minutos leyendo estos mensajes. Si tiene alguna buenas palabras para dejar atrás, por favor hágalo.
PS – las mujeres brasileñas son algunas de las mujeres más calientes del planeta!
Muchas gracias!
Dan

The Best of Me

katzpyjamas

You are still here
A delicate amorous thread
Woven within the lines
Bringing life to blackened pages
Allowing me to breathe again
To feel again
Rather than this half dead life
A half written story
Of now dead dreams…
And so I pen these words
To remember
The best of me

M.B.Stephens @mnm67
10April 2015

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The Demon Why

Yesterday, I read an amazing blog post by my friend, Don. You can find his blog at donofalltrades.com. Don is a good cop, maybe the best of them. He understands how compassion, kindness and humor can defuse and remedy a lot of the awful situations he faces every day. I admire him and his writing is superb, but I especially admire his ability to do a job that I once thought I wanted but realize that I don’t have what it takes.
His latest post is called “A senseless death” and by reading it, an all-too-familiar demon was summoned.
The demon “Why?”
Through my years as a funeral director, I have had many encounters with clergy of all faiths who have been unable to dispel this particular demon satisfactorily.
He’s a demon that I just can’t seem to shake.
I have one of those jobs that brings things into my life that makes me wrestle with “why” on a regular basis.

*Why does a 6 year old have to take a bullet from some sub-human and die?
*Why did two sons from the same family die a couple of years apart? Both of them under 40. In unrelated circumstances. Why did I have to try and bring comfort to their wonderful, loving parents who hugged me and handled the loss seemingly more at peace than I did?”
*Why did the mother of an 8 year old boy (whose death from cancer stirred emotion from even us weather-beaten old salts) get murdered only a year or so after his death?
*Why did the friends of my parents have to suffer the loss of 2 children? One from suicide and one from a car wreck?
*Why did all the prayers of so many people that were being said from my father’s dying wife have no apparent effect?

For all my conversations with clergy, the common theme seems to be faith.

And forgive the brevity of this post, but I am having a hell of a hard time keeping faith alive when confronted with the demon “why” every day. I don’t know how my friend Don holds it together when he sees even more than I do.