Caution: Adult themes ahead…

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Well, I did it.

I wrote and published something on Amazon for sale to the general public.

I took the leap.

All of the years of procrastination, the fear of rejection, the worry…

I decided to chuck it all.

Caution has been dispatched without ceremony.

And now, I prepare myself for the results.  Success and reward or folly and failure.

The die has been cast.

But all of this with a twist.

The genre which finally allowed me to break the barrier is, shall we say, of an ADULT nature.

So needless to say, this is not Shakespeare, nor Hemingway… not even Danielle Steele.

But it’s mine.  And my hope is that it leads to more.

Self-control did get the better of me.  It’s written under a pen name to shield my personal and professional connections.

So this is no flack advertisement.  No link included for you to follow in order to purchase this torrid tome.

If you want to read it bad enough, most of you know how to contact me.  I’ll send you a link and your purchase stays forever in the vault of my discretion.

It’s certainly a side of me that very few people know existed.

But damn, does it feel good.

I’m more relieved than anything, to be honest.  And someone has already been kind enough to purchase it.

One sale down, hopefully many more to come.

My irresolution was fulfilled before the end of the second month of the year.

So I listened to “Raise Your Glass” as I put the final touches on it and pushed “Publish” and these lyrics played out as the mouse button clicked:

So raise your glass if you are wrong,
In all the right ways,
All my underdogs,
We will never be never be, anything but loud
And nitty gritty, dirty little freaks
Won’t you come on and come on and raise your glass,
Just come on and come on and raise your glass.

Finally, after all the years that my words never produced a penny, I am beginning the journey to if not producing an income, at least supplementing my income.

It was time to raise my glass.

And for the bravery to put my words out to the masses, whatever source that came from;

I thank you.

I thank you.

This spring, my hope be eternal.  And to quote the Shawshank Redemption

Hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.

So raise your glasses, and join me in a virtual smashing of the champagne bottle across the bow of my writing career.

The horizon’s clear and seas are calm for now.

 

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.

24 hours in Heaven and Hell

jeepYou know, the past 24 hours have been such a whirlwind, I really don’t know where to begin…

So I guess that I will just begin at the beginning.

I was about to have dinner with a friend, when she got the call that every parent dreads.

A phone number that she didn’t recognize.

A frightened voice telling her that her daughter had been in a car accident.

As the fates would have it, the accident was a mere 100 yards from her front door.  We ran to the car and we could hear the sirens howling in the distance.  Panic crossed her face, as it would any parent hurling themselves headlong into this sort of surreal nightmare.

If we weren’t on the scene in less than a minute after hanging up the phone, we were pretty damn close.  And the scene that greeted us was nothing less than the very picture of what haunts parental dreams.  Brilliant flashing red and blue lights.  Smashed and twisted steel.  Concrete strewn with debris and moonshine diamonds of shattered glass.  Emergency vehicles racing up the road.  Screams of pain.  Glowing red road flares.

We dashed across the traffic lanes and were blocked by police until she heard her daughter screaming for her and she damn near lost it.  The officer relented, let her through and she fell to her knees next to her daughter who was being carefully tended to by the first paramedics that had arrived.  She was crying out in pain, the heart rending sound that makes a person feel so helpless.  Her mom was overcome and had to take a moment to gather herself so I knelt by the girl, holding her hand like the most fragile, delicate piece of glass I could imagine, saying every comforting and soothing word I could think of.  Kind hands on my shoulders as a fireman said “It’s ok, dad.  We are taking good care of her.”  I didn’t bother to correct him or clarify my status.  At that moment it seemed trivial.  Those same kind hands purposefully guided me away, giving them the space they needed to work.

I turned to the teenage boys that were with her in the car and who were pacing nervously, almost as if lost.  The story was coming in bits and pieces, but we managed to gather the basics but the penultimate detail was that the girl was ejected from the vehicle through a back window.  That was about all we had the chance to gather before the girl and her mom were loaded into an ambulance and fired off.

I stayed behind and tried to wrap my mind around what had happened.  I spied a shoe that the girl had been wearing left on the street.  I picked it up and searched for the other.   It wasn’t the only item missing from my sight.  As I looked at the car she had been in, I noticed that the right rear wheel was gone.  As was the tailgate of the car.  Not just flat, bent or damaged.  Fucking gone.  I looked all around and could not see them anywhere.  I wrenched open the battered driver’s door, grabbed the girl’s purse and found her other shoe still inside the car.

Incredible.  Surreal.  I was stunned as my mind pictured the immense impact and I couldn’t shake the horrible image of the girl flying out of the window in a glittering explosion of glass and winced as I pictured her body thumping against the pavement and coming to rest.  I dropped into the front seat of my car and lit a cigarette.  I closed my eyes and took a few moments  before I did the impossibly long (at least it seemed) drive to the hospital without the benefit of lights and siren or even a visual of the ambulance, but wasted no time nonetheless.

I parked the car and hustled into the ER Entrance.  As I approached the trauma room I saw swirl of scrubs and white lab coats.  Machines and monitors beeped, ticked and blinked.  Her clothes had been cut off and lay in a dejected pile on the floor.  I put my arm around my friend and did my best to keep her calm.  She described the ambulance ride as we stood just outside the room, as no space for even a single other person was available in the bustle of that room.

Minutes turned to hours to hours as staff gradually trickled out, their roles complete.  The girl seemed pitifully small on the hospital bed.  We took turns gently talking to her, delicately stroking her hair and reassuring her that we were still there and were not going anywhere while they rolled her to CT scans and paced until she was brought back.

Finally, around midnight, a relieved looking surgeon cataloged her injuries, a concussion, bruised bones and pulled muscles, cut and bruises and an ugly patch or two of road rash but nothing broken.  Nothing serious nor life-threatening.  She would spend the night in the hospital for observation purposes, but could go home in the morning.

Which in my humble opinion, is nothing short of amazing.

A few weeks ago, my youngest asked me if I still believed in God.  It brought to mind a scene from a movie where a fallen angel asks a man who once studied to be priest;  “Do you still believe?  Any of it?”  And the priest didn’t.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him the truth, that life had battered that out of me over the past few years.  I didn’t want to break his little heart, so I told him that I still did.

I don’t know what to believe anymore, but dear reader I can tell you this I surely believe in miracles.  And when that girl shyly and hesitantly walked up to me (after I brought them home from the hospital) and wrapped her arms around me in one of the sweetest hugs that I had ever received, I knew that I was holding a living miracle at that moment.

In the midst of all of this,  I get contacted by a high school friend.  After texts back and forth, he tells me that his mother is dying.  A woman who was a second mom to me in those terrible awkward years of my life.  A woman who I had shared countless hours, cigarettes and RC colas with.

I pondered this crazy life of mine.  One moment joy and relief, and the next, sorrow.

And a few hours later, a simply worded text.  His mom had passed.  And all of the breezes that had filled my sails earlier vanished.  In a matter of hours I shall be sitting with my friend, doing my best to be the person that I need to be for them.  I will give them the gift of my time and my love and friendship.  The longer I live, the more I believe that those simple gifts are the only currency that don’t devalue.

And some day, I hope that this life will make some sense to me.  In the closing scene of the movie “Tombstone” Wyatt Earp is visiting Doc Holliday as Doc lay dying and Wyatt is lamenting his inability to live a normal life.  To which Doc replies:

“There’s no normal life, Wyatt.  There’s just life.  You’ll get on with it.”

Truer words seldom spoken.

I guess I’ll just get on with it.

 

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.

This one’s for the girls…

This will tie in nicely with my previous post, affirming without a doubt my weirdness.

There is a lot of hullaballo about this latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and the advertisement for “Swimsuits For All.”

Let me go on record as saying that I am an ardent admirer of women. All shapes, all sizes, skin colors, hair colors, etc.

I have preached (to anyone who will listen) that a woman’s beauty, value and sexiness has NOTHING to do with a number on a scale.

Not a damned thing.

Let me tell you a quick story from my teen years: Being a dork, I spent a few weeks one summer at a Journalism Camp. Shocking, I know.
It was co-ed, and my first real unsupervised experience with the opposite sex. Me being me, no supervision was needed. As with the most of my years, the fairer sex pretty well ignored me at this camp. That’s beside the point. I have a memory of an incident at the pool that was my first vivid impression of the unhealthy view that a lot of women have towards themselves. A view that the media and certain male types have conjured up and inflicted upon them.

There were a number of girls at the pool, and one girl (who had a beautiful face and a willowy, model-type figure) came to sit on the edge of the pool. She was wearing a relatively modest one-piece suit, but you could almost physically feel her shame and discomfort. She sat for about ten minutes, and then fled back into the locker room in tears.

Because she had convinced herself in her mind that she was fat/looked fat.

There was another girl who went in to check on her reported that information to us. She was a redhead, lots of freckles and a thicker (but certainly not fat) build then the other girl. And while her face was pleasant enough, she wasn’t in the same class as the girl now weeping in the locker room.

But hot damn, she was so much sexier than the model-type.

I have never been able to put a tangible criteria on sexiness or whatever qualifies someone as sexy in my mind. But I have been fortunate enough to know a good number of sexy women who don’t fall into the archetype from magazines/movies, etc.

I think that it’s mostly due to confidence and attitude. The second girl was very comfortable in her own skin and with her own appearance. The first girl had everything a girl is/was supposed to have (in all the appropriate places, best as I could tell) but lacked that major piece of a belief in her own beauty or sense of self.

I still feel bad for her, and I hope that these many years later that she has come to peace with herself. As I feel bad for any woman who doesn’t believe that she is beautiful. I am amazed at the callousness that exists among other women with remarks like “She doesn’t belong in a bikini” or “Why is she wearing THAT?”

Such drivel. Who gave them the right to decide who is fit to be in a bikini and who is not? I’d like to know, because they deserve a kick in the ass…

That’s why I am SO pleased to see the #Swimsuitsforall campaign in that bastion of potential body-shaming, the Swimsuit Issue.

Ladies, you don’t need my permission to wear what you want during swimsuit season. Or anyone else’s for that matter. Wear whatever makes you feel the way you want to feel.

But it never hurts to hear from another source that you can be sexy. You can wear the swimsuit you desire. You are beautiful. And none of those depend on what your scale said this morning.

That being said, allow me to also say “I get it.” I’m sure that I am not the only guy to feel that way, but men get “fat-shamed” as well.

My own weight has fluctuated hither and yon. I have never felt really good about what my body looks like. Even when I weighed whatever I was supposed to weigh.

I have recently embarked on a exercise plan. Been at it about three weeks. I am cutting back on soda and other unhealthy foods.

All with one goal: this summer I will be frolicking on the beach in Jamaica. And I want to feel okay with being on the beach with my shirt off. I know that I won’t look like Jax Teller or Matt McConaughey, but I want to feel okay.

Just okay. Maybe sexy if I am REALLY lucky. (Or really drunk!)

Out of respect for your breakfast, I have decided not to post any “Before” selfie. But if I feel okay, I might post an “After.” I make no promises.

But I do promise this: I am determined to feel better about myself. I am determined to walk on the beach shirtless (it helps that I will be in another country where people who know me won’t be able to see).

And I promise to be an unwavering supporter of women who wear what they want and women who choose to be sexy.

Be who you are. Wear what you want. Be happy. Be confident. Be brave. The sexy will follow.

#nofatshamingofyourselvesallowed

A dark place…

You never know where the muse will take you when you write.

Sometimes you have to follow her into the dark.

This little outlet of mine is part blog, part fiction, part confessional, so it’s only fair that I tell you:

it’s so dark where she’s going, I can barely see.

I used to think that crazy behaviors on the parts of writers/actors/artists was just some cop out that they used to excuse their excess.

After trying to create some worthwhile reading for you out of the words in my head, I can now understand much better why some quit and walk away.

I can also see why some go off the deep end.

You see, the two stories that I have written here are true.  The ghostly visitor and the murderer – both real and actual occurrences in my life.  I made some minor tweaks to disguise the identity of the murderer, but it was indeed a real person.

And after all the years I have spent in the funeral business, I have so much more to draw upon.

Some of it scares me.  A lot.  I have to try and worm my way into the brain of some very messed up people.  And it’s not a place that I like to go to.

A dark place.  THE dark place.

And as for my absence here of late, I want you to know that I was working through another one of these life stories in my brain with every intent to post something last Thursday.

Until I get hit by the biggest, baddest Mama Jama of a panic/anxiety attack that I have ever had.  It took me a place that I have never been before.

Never. Ever.

And it scares the crap out of me that it spun so far out of control.

It almost took me to a dark place.

I pulled the reins and got the wagon back under control.  Thank goodness.

But for a while, the horses were running free and I was like Kevin Costner in the opening scene of “Dances With Wolves” – arms outstretched, eyes closed, awaiting the fates and not caring where I landed.

I can’t say if this is all because of writing, because the ghosts and skeletons were already stuffed in the mental closets…

But writing unlocks the doors and jiggles the doorknobs of the doors already creaking under the strain and ready bust open.

Bear with me friends.  It might be a bumpy ride.