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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My Life With Jim Carroll + Hunter S. Thompson, or Why I Became A Writer

Jim Carroll died today.

This is weird for me. But not in the same way that it was weird for me when David Foster Wallace died. Or Hunter S. Thompson died. Those two days were low points in a life that was already spiraling out of control. Dark, evil days. Those two writers were the part of the foundational rock that I’ve build my writing career around. The writers I looked to when my own voice, my own stories, my own life seemed so woefully inadequate.

Carroll, though, wrote poetry. Or mostly poetry. Or I knew him for poetry. Which is exactly the kind of writing I have no time for.

And yet 15 years ago at the start of my professional writing career, it was Carroll who inadvertently fueled my wildest dreams about what my life could be as a writer. Ironically, the story that came out of this was the only story I’ve ever written for a publication that didn’t get printed.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Act 1

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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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"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.

The Things I Left Behind

I’ve plotted out a 3-book arc for my life. Because that’s what writers do.

It’s actually a very good gauge for writing, a test that I use on my students to see which of them has the bug and which of them is simply — to paraphrase what my mentor Bill Drummond said the other day — passing time. We see our lives as one chapter after another in a finite story that will, most unexpectedly but also assuredly, end.

My books: Objects in Reality, Samurais in Austin and The Things I Left Behind.

I’m 50,000 words into the first book, although I haven’t written on it in two years. I’m staring at it right now as it sits, lonely, in a binder. Waiting to be moved. And loved again. Which it will be. Soon.

There’s no sense in hashing out the stories with you now. If you know me, you already know them. Unless, like me, there are some parts you’ve forgotten. Either way, the plots aren’t important. Not to this story.

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A Great Deal of Maintenance Required

“You don’t know me very well, but if you get me started I have a tendency to go on and on about how hard the writing is for me.” — “Californication”, Hank Moody

The trouble with summer is that I have time to write. To sit for long periods of time, wringing my brain like a shammy, squeezing out every word on to the page before wiping the next thoughts away like water droplets on a newly washed car.

Which seems ideal. Being a writer and all. The problem — and there is always a problem — is the wringing. The squeezing. The wiping.

The process is a daily deconstruction. An exploration through the parts of myself that are, at times, quite unpleasant. Not simply remembering the moments of rage, of desperation, of love, of joy. Re-living them. In slow motion. Rewinding. Stopping. Examining. Repeating.

That is the process. The relentless repetition of the days that are gone. Like the choppy ocean, lapping against rocks as the sun peaks over the horizon on an overcast fall day.

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Moving Day: A Retrospective

I spoke with the town home complex where I’ll be living and received my actual move-in date: July 24.

What a load off my mind, as strange as that seems considering everything in front of me. But I feel strangely comfortable when I have large projects in front of me. I love breaking down the details and plowing through the tasks that eventually lead to something bigger than I could even imagine.

I’m more excited, though, because I’m ready for the next phase of my life to get started. I’m so glad I came home for this job. I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to see my old friends and my family. I’ve reconnected with so many people from my past, people who I haven’t seen — or spoken to — in years who helped me piece my life back together.

And along the way, I hope I’ve helped them with a thing or two as well. I don’t know that I have. I don’t know that they care.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some new friends as well. Some who will stay with me. Some who won’t. And some who have already gone. All of them have, in ways both good and bad, helped me find my way. For that, I’ll always be grateful. I know that things rarely end the way you want them to. But I also know that most things end regardless.

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Settling back

I’ve been back for just three days but it already feels like way too long.

The next 8 days are going to be a whirlwind of activity. I’m trying to get everything wrapped up for the big move, which looks like it might take place a bit early now. There was a SNAFU at work and my summer class was canceled for some reason. That throws a serious kink into my plans (and potentially takes a big chunk of money I was depending on for the move, trip and healthcare), but there’s not much I can do about that.

On days like this, it’s good to take a step back and focus – at least for a bit – on the brighter side of things.

This weekend, I got to hang out with my family on Father’s Day. And the weather has been spectacular (even if a bit muggy), allowing me to bop around town writing and such things. It’s also allowed me to dream a bit of next year’s adventure in London, which is still in the gestation phase right now (although I have about 3 pages of notes to write up).

And today I had, serendipitously, a wonderful chat with a friend this morning book-ended by a great dinner with another friend and her kid along the river. Those things make it easier for me to keep my eyes on the projects I’m working on even though it’s hard to do when half my stuff is packed away, my office is mostly closed down and I’m trying to get the mundane details on this move finalized.

One step at a time.

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Home…For Now

I’m still trying to get used to the fact that I woke up in Kentucky this morning.

Not that it’s bad being home. I love the fact that when I say hello to people on the street, they smile and say hello back. I love hearing the sweet twang of my life echoed in the voices of the people around me. I love walking the banks of the Ohio River.

Heck, even the adjustment home, time zone wise, was much easier coming West than it was going East. Despite the 14 hour travel day, I fell asleep soundly at 1045 pm and was up moving at 7 am today.

I do love the life that I have here in the CVG even if it’s not as glamourous as country-hopping through Europe.

Now I’m faced with the reality of life though.

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