Spaced Oddities

The night sometimes wraps itself around me.

There’s an oddness to it that I can’t quite explain. Emptiness and hollow, a long, dark hallway. I think it’s way I don’t slow down. Or rarely slow down. Like a child who sprints up the stairs after flipping the light switch, desperately trying to beat the blackness.

The unwinnable race.

And tonight is the first night I’ve had. Alone. Here. With nothing to do. Or, since I have too much to do, without doing anything. Eventually my body and mind just shut down, escaping into the past. The darkness. The tunnel. Reliving all of the events between then and now that got me here.

A silent movie. Stuck on repeat.

***

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The Fortress of Solitude

I’m sitting on my couch in Austin, the end of a long day. The calm before the Conference.

It’s already been an amazing trip, a decompression after the insanity of ABC’s Extreme Makeover week. Certainly much drier than it was. Not that I’m in much better shape. I forgot that 80 degrees is the norm for weather in October. So not unlike last week, I am wholly unprepared for the elements.

My own inanity aside, though, it’s good to be back home.

Home.

The entire neighborhood has been transformed since March. New residents have spruced up the houses, a welcome change from the slightly worn look of the past few years. And Mr. Wilson has transformed our backyard into something that will soon be beautiful. That hard work we put in last year is really starting to take shape.

And I have a room in my house again, a fact that I am not willing to give up. Ball State University has afford me many things: a new lease on my career, a fresh start, a wonderful community and the financial stability to keep a room for myself in Austin. Just knowing that makes my heart lighter than it already is.

I’ve known Wilson since 1996, my first post-Ohio friend. The circumstances of our meeting are best saved for another blog, or a book. It’s simply enough to say that 14 years of friendship has transformed my life in ways I could never really express. Nor need to be expressed.

***

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The Night Before…

There’s been only a very short period in my life when I’ve enjoyed flying. And enjoyed was probably not what it was. Probably fatigue, a soured relationship that exists near the back edge between the first months’ bliss and the final months’ disgusted disinterest. The area of empty casualness.

My life in Berkeley involved flying. Lots of it. Los Angeles. Austin. Las Vegas. New York. London. Chicago. Seattle. Portland. A never-ending turntable of activity that numbed me to my own fear, drowned in a ever-flowing sea of airport booze (the best booze!).

Even still, I never slept the night before a flight. Up all night. All. Night. A few precious hours of sleep, maybe. A habit that I still have. A habit I still have for many things. I never sleep the night before I teach. Never the night before presentations.

Always, the night before.

***

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Things I Do With My Spare Time

Occasionally I forget that being a writer involves two writing and searching for inspiration.

I forget that writing for the audience that has found me keeps me from doing both of those. I question myself. I question the words I put on the page.

What will they think? Is this bigger, smarter, deeper than the last thing I wrote? Will it keep everyone interested?

Then I remember: I don’t care. I can’t care. Writing isn’t about that. This place isn’t that. I’m thrilled that people have found me. I’m stoked that people dig it. I love reading the emails, the Tweets and everything that comes with it.

But it’s kept me from writing. From being me.

In other words: I’ve made the classic mistake. I read my own press clippings, got too invested in what this was becoming and forgot there are words to be put on the page. Ideas to be wrestled with. Mistakes to be made in public.

It’s spilled over into my personal life, trying to shape myself into the things that people around me want me to become. Trying to figure out what I want to become.

I’m working on correcting the first part. Here’s how I’m trying to fix the second. We’ll see about the rest of my life.

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"How many special people change? How many lives are living strange? Where were you while we were getting high?"

prologue.

"It" is happening again.

The "it" that is happens not as much as "it" used to. Which strangely isn’t comforting. The "it" is a creeper, lying dormant for long stretches of time. Hiding. Always watching. Waiting.

Which is what "it" does. I know this about "it", which makes "it" not so terrifying anymore because I have a name for "it". And names make everything better.

Maybe not better in the sense that you think. For me, better simply means the shakies go away. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know that I care. Because when the shakies are gone, and all that’s left are the restless nights, the pacing, the wall climbing, the staring. That, somehow, is okay.

one.

"Join the club."

That’s a flip statement I made to a friend tonight. She responded: "I’m in."

"Oh, there’s no room," I replied. "It only fits three: me, my ego and my self-loathing."

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The Fallen

Nathaniel Hawthorne. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hunter S. Thompson. David Foster Wallace.

These are my mentors, the writers in my life who have shaped my thinking, my narratives, my words. They are the familiar community of comfort, the places I visit when I’m lost.

That they tell, in some manner, stories about the American Dream — at different times in America’s existence — is something that I’ve only recently started to put together. Maybe it’s been obvious to others. (Fitzgerald and Thompson are easy in this case.)

That they all tell of the existential horrors of that Dream as it manifests onto their own lives — some through fiction, some through narrative non-fiction, some through non-fiction — is comforting. Because I feel like I experience America from the outside, looking in. An uninvited guest to the party, watching through the looking glass. Listening to the side conversations. Trying to put it all together.

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"I Guess I Worship Fascicle Things, But They are Different than His."

Today was a good day.

That’s happening more and more. I suspect those good days were always happening around me. I just wasn’t paying enough attention to it. Focused my energies in the wrong place.

I still do that from time to time. Failure is part of being human so there’s no pretense that I’m going to get this right every day. It’s just not, you know, the target.

I know this because even as my day may have fallen apart — when I turned a 20 minute walk home into a 90-minute adventure — I had a choice to make. One that just a few months ago would have turned out differently. Today, though, I took a few moments to look up into the sky. No big thoughts. No big plan to solve my lost problem. Just the clouds that were exceptionally big. And the sky that was painted blue.

But that’s not why it was a good day. Because big clouds and painted skies are too profound for me. My day was much, much smaller:

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"Too weird to live, too rare to die"

Buckle up. I’ve been reminiscing about the good old days quite a bit lately.

Writing does that to me. Moving probably doesn’t help either. And trying to fill in the gaps with the Muse has been a big part of that as well.

It’s been an interesting saga, these last 14 years. I tell these stories, these snippets of my life that happened and even I have a hard time believing them. I can’t imagine what those around me must think. I’ve come to understand, in a visceral sense, how Neal Cassidy must have felt. Always around it. Always driving the bus. And always just on the outside.

It’s a lonely place there. Not quite part of the actual world that’s told in On the Road, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Hell’s Angels and the other books where he appeared. And not quite believable to those who weren’t there.

The infamously almost famous.

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"So Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now. The Hour’s Getting Late."

(Inspired by Timothy McSweeney’s Very Intense Heated Passionate Battle/Embrace with They Might Be Giants)

Simple Things:

I’m sitting in my living room in Muncie, windows open, listening to the wind stroke the trees outside. The air smells like heavy electric. It’s one of those magical, farm country dark nights when you can imagine the demons and creepy crawlies come out.

These kind of nights scare city folk, I imagine. Me, I love them.

But I don’t know if I love them because I love them or if I love them because I’m here, in my life, and can love them. Or if there’s even a difference. Or if it matters why.

Mostly I don’t think on it too much these days. What I know is simple. Simple, tiny things. Each unto itself. Nothing to get worked up about. And yet I do. Near every day. Because it’s all so new to me.

Every time something happens like that, it feels surreal. Like it shouldn’t be happening. Which, counter-intuitively, makes it more real. At least to me. Because just a short blink ago, that feeling hadn’t existed for me.

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Makin’ Muncie

It’s T+1 in the Hoosier state. I’ve been a resident for just a bit more than 24 hours and my towne home is 95 percent unpacked.

My parents actually arrived at my place before I did, setting up the kitchen and things. I was coordinating the move from Covington, which consisted mostly of me chatting with the movers while they hauled out the boxes and furniture. Once we all arrive, my dad and I put the Ikea furniture back together (it was much easier than I remembered) while mom made lunch.

I think I spent more time hanging pictures frames today (25 so far) than we did unloading all the boxes yesterday. All in all, I don’t think I can complain too much. (Although despite its country location, I’m still dealing with a little "move-in" music in the complex, which I’ll be dealing with tomorrow. Let them have their fun tonight.)

The place already feels like home: two stories, a reading room, a den, a bedroom and a gigantic living space on the first floor. Heck, I have 3 bathroom in the place, which I have to admit feels a bit like overkill considering I won’t have that many people here on a regular basis.

The location is great too, no more than 1.6 miles from most of the things I’ll be doing here in town: school, shopping, parks, coffee shops, parks. I’m also located right between two of the feeder roads for the town. That’s going to come in handy, I suspect. No long drives just to get to an access road.

I’ll post a video walk-through of the place tomorrow after the cable guy shows up. And after my first BBQ. Which I’m attending tomorrow.

“Not Because they are Easy. Because They Are Hard.”

  • On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Congress to commit several billion dollars in funds so that America could lead the rest of the world to the moon.
  • On September 12, 1962, Kennedy visited Rice University, in Houston, to outline the effort (these remarks follow).

The video is an art project celebrating the achievement of the decade-long effort that lead to the Apollo project, which placed 12 American men on the moon and cost 8 others their lives in this pursuit. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, I hope you will take a minute to reflect on the glorious scientific age that we live in.

And to remember that our country’s true “manifest destiny” isn’t as the world’s police or superpower. We are more than that. If there is such thing as manifest destiny, it is to lead all of mankind into a place of peace and prosperity, of knowledge and science.

A goal we achieved on July 20, 1969 when two men — Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldren — touched down in Tranquility Bay while Command Module Pilot Michael Collins orbited above.

***

I am delighted to be here and I’m particularly delighted to be here on this occasion.

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