Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Story of Angry Cat - part 2

When I moved to New York in 1996 in a spasm of ambition and romanticism from which I am only recently recovering, it was to go to school. No cats allowed in the dorms. I dropped her off at my sister’s to live, and didn’t look back for almost seven years.

This does not speak well to my character, I am aware.

In the meantime I graduated from school, got married, moved into a relatively decent apartment, and made enough money to think about taking care of an animal. Which is a good thing, as my sister, and her pets, had had enough. Honey got along with other animals about as well as she got along with people, that is to say, not very, and her continued presence at my sister’s house made trouble for all concerned. Not to mention the behavior problems of having been abandoned by the only person she really even sort of liked in the world. I still feel a stab of guilt when I think of how her very simple kitty brain dealt with knowing that she had a person, even if she only vaguely remembered him, and that he was gone.

After a conversation with my sister where she made it very clear that the cat was coming to live with me no matter what, I had her shipped from Las Vegas to Newark, a trip which, I’m convinced, almost killed her. She was packed into an airplane and flown for hours across the country in dry air. She was dehydrated, terrified, and exhausted when I finally picked her up at the cargo shipping section of the airport.

As I drove with her over the bridge to Newark airport, windows rolled up to block out the stench of the chemical plants, she climbed out of the container, stuck her head in my mouth to smell my breath, settled down on my chest, and began to purr contentedly.

And thus began our real relationship.

Her time away from me, and my time away from her, had given us both an opportunity to grow up a little. To call me a “late-bloomer” emotionally would be an understatement, but I had, in her absence, learned a little bit about putting someone else’s needs above my own. We began to get along, somewhat. She was still loud, and skittish, and touchy, afraid of her own shadow, and in all ways almost the opposite of a cat. But she could also be gruffly affectionate, sweet, and she seemed to have a genuine talent for being a stolid, loving presence when you felt sad. She was opinionated, picky, and had no problem sharing her disdain for whatever it was that had pissed her off today. It was a bit like living with a grumpy little old lady who never left the house, and who would occasionally express her displeasure by peeing in a corner.

I realized what a jerk I’d been for most of her life (not to mention much of mine), and I tried to make up for it by being as kind and gentle to her as I could. I gave her wet food, which she adored. I tried to play with her (which annoyed her) and gave her toys (which mostly confused her), and just generally tried to make her as comfortable as possible.

She was smart, had a huge personality, and was her own cat. I had her for another eight years, through a separation, a catastrophic move, a drug problem, a couple more bouts of religious mania, a divorce, and a remarriage. She started getting slower (but no less obnoxious), in the last year or so.

Then, seemingly overnight, her eye swelled up so that she looked like Popeye. At first, it was cute, and we rubbed it (which she liked), and made fun of her, called her “winky.” Then, we took her to the doctor, and they said, “Oh, that? Yeah, that’s cancer. She’s too old and little to operate on, so your best option is to keep her comfortable.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, as they were actually quite nice.

We pampered her as much that she would allow, and she still yelled and stalked around the house like she owned the place, so we held out hope that it might be an infected tooth. But it never really got better. And then, very quickly, it got much worse. Over the course of a day it went from “a little swollen and not really that uncomfortable” to “really, truly terrible and awful and pitiful to look at, and kind of painful.”

It was time, so we took her back to the doctor. They offered to take a clay impression of her paw, “You know, there’s a lot of kids in this neighborhood, so it’s mostly for them. But you could have it done too!” they hastily reassured us. We declined.

They gave her the first shot, to put her to sleep, and she settled on my lap for a moment, and then, for a moment, it was like she wanted to get down and take a walk, which we talked her out of pretty easily. She then lay down and began breathing deep and slow. The doctor discretely left the room, and we pet her, and cried. Her paws twitched as if she were walking, and we discussed where she might be dreaming she was, and if she was having a good time. Seeing her so relaxed, we seized the opportunity to touch her paws and her belly, and play with her tail, and stroke her fur, in ways that she would have deemed to be entirely inappropriate while she was awake. We laughed a little at the small irony: the only time she was ever really relaxed to be a cat, in the traditional sense, was when she was just about to be nothing at all.

After the doctor came back in, he injected her with a syringe full of purple liquid, and she breathed deeply, and then was still. And that was the end of her.

She was difficult, and ornery, and angry, and almost entirely humorless. I loved her very much, and she saw me through some very difficult times. She is exactly the cat I deserved, and I hope that, in the end, I had learned enough about being alive to be a good owner.

Because that’s really the thing. I needed to learn about being alive to be worth a damn to her. And, like most things in this life, it took me a long time to get it. I’m pretty dumb for being such a smart guy. Mostly it was learning to take things as they are, and trying to remember that others are more important than me. I’m still learning. I hope I’ll have it figured out by the time I see Honey again.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Story of Angry Cat - part 1

Siamese Dream was released on July 27, 1993, per Wikipedia. I mention this because this was the thing I remember most about the day I got my cat. Not that I don’t remember getting the cat, because I do, very clearly, but I also remember that Honey was a surprise, and that my plan, that day, had been to get a copy (on cassette, no less) of the new Smashing Pumpkins album.

Now, you’d think that that would definatively date the start of my relationship with her, but you’d be mistaken. I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy the album on the day it came out. In fact, I probably bought it several months after it came out, possibly used from Zia Records, which was the record store where almost all my friends worked at one point or another in the nineties. So suffice to say there is some ambiguity about how long I’d had her, how long she was alive, and, really, the exact nature of our relationship. Because nothing about my life at that time, and certainly nothing about that cat, was particularly normal.

My friend Chris lived in a second floor apartment overlooking the Greyhound bus station in downtown Tucson. From one window, to the east, you could see the usual parade of homeless men and women, prostitutes, junkies and runaways that congregate around the no-man’s-land of a bus depot. Out the other window looking north stood the venerable Hotel Congress, with its old brick facade. The club downstairs, a gathering place for a particular type of Tucson denizen that today we’d call “hipsters”, had a certain cache at the time. We’d go back to Chris’s place after a show and people watch out the windows late into the night , observing the hook ups and the fights, checking out the scene and making fun of the crazies and the drunks, both career and amateur.

We were also, at that time, trying very hard to become rock stars. As Bryan Adams said, we had a band and we tried real hard, and while Chris was driven, focused, talented, and optimistic, I was ambivalent, insecure, going through a manic religious phase while simultaneously struggling with a compulsive sexuality, and almost always depressed. Couple this with the fact that we lived in the town that had been “The Next Seattle” for so long that it had become a bit of a joke, and you can see that our plans for world domination weren’t very well thought out. Chris put up with my erratic moods and strange obsessions pretty well, and seemed to look out for me. So when my cat at the time ran away, he was concerned.

Part of his concern stemmed from my already delicate mental state. In 1992, through a combination of excessive intake of hallucinogens and severe depression, I’d decided to drop out of school, and then proceeded to have a bit of a breakdown. I’d only managed to get somewhat back on track through the good graces of my parents, who had agreed to help me get back into school if I lived where they said. Where they said was an RV that they’d parked in a trailer park on the northwest side of town.

It was spartan, to put it mildly: fifteen feet long, ceiling not even high enough for me to stand, baking in the summer, freezing in the winter, and water came in through a garden hose hooked up to the back. To make sure I didn’t get any funny ideas, my parents had installed a set of special, handmade fuses that they had then removed, so there was no chance of me driving it away. It had no phone, so any time I wanted to make a call, I had to use the pay phone at the trailer park office.

On the one hand, it kept me out of the elements and made sure that I had almost literally no distractions from my studies (though I managed to find some anyway). On the other hand it was a singularly dark, depressing, unpleasant place to live, and my already isolating tendencies were exacerbated by distance from my friends and lack of means of contact. I was lonely, raw, and already felt that I had made a hash of my life. So, like you do, I got myself a cat.

Animals are usually smarter than people, and she, seeing the lay of the land, promptly split at the first opportunity, never to be seen again. I couldn’t even tell you her name.

Chris and and his girlfriend, Denise, probably my best friends at the time, were concerned about my precarious emotional climate, especially after the cat ran off. Now, Denise befriended a little old lady who lived down the street from my old place near the University, and when the little old lady’s drug dealer son told her that they had kittens to give away, Denise had seen a perfect opportunity to help a friend. She and Chris picked out a kitten and presented her to me as a present. To circle back around, it was in Chris's small apartment over the Greyhound station that I met the other half of what was to be the longest relationship of my life.

The cat was small. Tiny, in fact. She’d probably been taken from her mother just a little too soon, and she was furious. She pooped in the box they were keeping her in, and she mewed at the top of her little lungs. She had, even then, a considerable voice. I was, to be frank, a little intimidated by this bundle of fur, and it was not a case of love at first sight on either end. I was pretty sure I wasn’t ready to take care of a kitten, and the kitten had a list of demands that in no way included this giant klutz of a man picking her up and trying to (indignity of indignities) pet her. We were both pretty sure that this arrangement could only be temporary.

I had picked up a copy of the new Smashing Pumpkins album earlier that day, and I was much more eager to hear it than I was to nurture this angry new spark of life. On the way home from Chris’s in my friend’s car, I blasted the new record over the protesting yowls of the cat until my friend gently suggested that the excessive noise might be scaring her. I was irritated, but relented, and took her back to the tin can of a trailer that I called "home."

We adjusted poorly to being roommates. She was demanding, slept on no schedule I could discern, attacked me with needle sharp claws and teeth while I slept (under the guise of “playing”), pooped and peed wherever she felt like it (the carpet had to eventually be torn out completely, so thoroughly had she and I managed to destroy it - hey, she wasn’t the only messy one who lived there), and yowled with a relentless, irritating voice that was more screaming baby than cat. In a fit of what could only have been romantic blindness, I had named her “Honey,” after the Van Morrison song “Tupelo Honey,” but her name was, and could only have been, “Cat”.

I, on the other hand, was in and out at all hours, an indifferent (to put it mildly) housekeeper, and kind of a jerk. When she attacked me, I would throw her off the bed, often launching her several feet down the RV. To the list of my transgressions you may also add: getting her high once by blowing marijuana smoke into her ears, not always changing her litter box regularly, and buying the cheapest cat food I could (because I was poor).

On the other hand, she was a bit prickly, herself. When I tried to be affectionate with her, she would only accept certain types of affection. Scratches behind the ear were acceptable, as were pets on her back, but woe betide the fool that attempted to touch her belly or paws. He was lucky to come back with a hand, and it would definitely be bloody. She was, as they say, feisty.

We just didn’t know how to get along.

Not that she got along with anybody, really. Her relationship with my girlfriend at the time was problematic. After taking a nap on my bed (always a difficult prospect - the full sized bed took up the entire back third of the RV), my girlfriend woke me up in irritation.

“She sat on my head,” she said, indignantly.

“The cat?”

“The cat sat on my head!” It was no nice move either. This was the action of a jealous woman, who showed her contempt for her rival in the only way she knew how. The fact that, when we were alone, she usually avoided me, meant nothing. It wasn’t that she wanted me all to herself, as much as she didn’t want anyone else to have me.

We existed in this state for years, living around each other and trying to let the other one be. She didn’t seem to like me much, and I was too self-absorbed to really be much good to anyone. But everything was going to change - I had decided to become... an ACTOR.

Come back tomorrow for Part II - Angry Cat Boogaloo

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wild Geese - by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kratom, PAWS, and learning to walk again

“Ah, another mistress.” - Dale Pendell on kratom, Pharmako/Gnosis

Are you: depressed? lonely? easily frustrated? anxious? Like, all the time? and sometimes you worry that nobody likes you? And that your fondest dreams are just ridiculous castles built on improbable clouds and that God thinks you’re kind of a joke for even wanting anything more than what you’ve got, and why aren’t you content with what you have anyway, huh? What’s wrong with you, for the love of Christ?

Well, have I got something for you.

My apartment in 2003 with my then-wife Stephanie was an old, poorly maintained, huge, and above all cheap apartment far out in Queens. We moved in together there out of economic necessity, and the sheer gravitational pull of our mutual sloth kept us there for almost 10 years. It was a pleasant apartment, in a beautiful neighborhood, and we kept a revolving door of roommates in the various extra bedrooms to keep the rent extra cheap, but the place was a bit of a death trap. Leaky ceilings in a third floor apartment (the floor above didn’t have leaks), plumbing put together by stoned day laborers (evidence of their recreational pharmaceuticals littered the bathroom after they were gone) and a general lackadaisical response time to any emergency from the management all detracted from the quality of life. The heat and hot water went out on a regular basis, but we heated water on the stove and wrapped our selves in layer upon layer of blanket and reminded each other of the ridiculously cheap rent. When Stephanie moved in in 1998, the rent was $1,000 for a three bedroom, two bath. By the time I left in 2008, it was all the way up to $1,500. Total. So we put up with a lot of crap, including a thick, black mold in the walls and ceiling of the bathroom that didn’t go away no matter how we scrubbed or disinfected.

After the unpleasantness downtown on 9/11, both Stephanie and I began to get sinus infections and bronchitis on a regular basis, about every three months or so. As we had both been in Manhattan on that fateful day in September, we chalked up our disease to all the dead people dust and chemical detritus in the air from two falling buildings, when really we probably should have looked a little closer to home. Like the aforementioned black mold.

After a particularly bad bout of sinusitis which morphed into bronchitis and left us up all night coughing and hacking and wheezing, the doctor prescribed Stephanie a bottle of Tylenol-3 with codeine. This stuff is over the counter in Canada, so benign do they believe it to be. But after miserable nights of no sleep, popping two of these and actually being able to sleep an entire night through felt miraculous. I remember thinking, as I lay there, blissfully suspended between consciousness and sleep, that this must be what it felt like to sleep like the elves do (nerd alert: condition red),

Only Legolas still stepped as lightly as ever, his feet hardly seeming to press the grass, leaving no footprints as he passed; but in the waybread of the elves he found all the sustenance that he needed, and he could sleep, if sleep it could be called by Men,resting his mind in the strange places of elvish dreams, even as he walked open-eyed in the light of this world.
It just felt so good. Like all of my cares were soothed, like all of my worries were gone. Like I’d been holding my breath my entire life, and only now was I able to, finally, let it go. I lay in bed, feeling actually content for the first time in ages.

That should have been my first sign. If you have to take a substance just to feel normal, that is a very bad sign indeed. You should probably run, not walk, away.

What followed was several months of taking all the codeine, then furtively stealing pain pills from Stephanie, and then drinking codeine cough syrup, finally portioning out my little stash until it was gone. It only takes a few months to really get a good jones going. By the time February of the following year rolled around, my stash was gone, I’d stolen and taken any painkillers Stephanie had, and the doctor was on to me, refusing (gently) to prescribe me any more. I had to, as the cool kids say, kick.

We spent some time up in New Hampshire at a friends house, my wife and my friend enjoying the snow, and me shaking and dealing with flu-like sypmtoms, all the while hating myself harder than I ever had before. And then, it was over. I felt if not awesome, at least no longer like death.

Understand, I wasn’t turned off to drugs. I didn’t think drugs were bad. I loved drugs, I just figured I’d done the wrong ones for me. So I got back on line and started exploring, as I still hoped to find God in a pill, and in the course of my research, came across a plant called kratom.

Kratom is a tree, mitragyna speciosa, that grows primarily in Indonesia. It’s pretty big, up to 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide, but the tree isn’t what we want, or rather, we only want part of the tree. Just the leaves. Descriptions of the plant’s effects sounded, shall we say, familiar.

“Kratom is one of the most effective and pleasurable psychoactive herbs available,” read the guide. “At strong doses (16-25 grams) the effects are profoundly euphoric and immensely pleasurable. Typically people describe the effects as dreamy, ecstatic, and blissful.”

Yep. Sign me up. Plus, it was natural! What could possibly go wrong! I got my batch of green, fuzzy, foul-smelling powder in the mail, mixed it up with soy milk and drank it down. It tasted terrible, possibly one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. My gorge rises even to this day, two and a half years after taking my last kratom, thinking of the gag-inducing bitterness of the stuff. But once I’d choked it down, I sat back to wait for the effects.

And it was perfect. A warmth spread in my stomach and chest, and it was like being cradled in gentle arms. A loving hug from the inside. Music was wonderful, TV was interesting. Just sitting was fantastic. Reading became a little difficult, but who needed to imagine things anyway? This was what I had been looking for. Opiates like Percocet and codeine were only a few steps off of heroin, and everybody knew that shit was bad for you. But this, this was a terrible tasting, great feeling, all-natural high. I told everybody about it, I was so thrilled. It got rid of my colds, and it took care of my social anxiety. I took it in lieu of drinking and went to parties where I had meaningful, in-depth conversations with one or two people all night. I became such a convert, I even told my straight-laced folks about it, since my mom was on massive amounts of narcotics anyway due to an auto-immune condition. I figured she might as well get on the natural stuff. It was mellowing, but stimulating at the same time, like taking a handful of pills and chasing it with a redbull. It made me chatty, and relaxed, and warm, and calm. I loved it.

It was a strange thing to realize that, inside, as often as I’d felt loved, or helped by a benevolent universe, or blessed, or accomplished, or proud, or even satisfied and content, I had almost never felt warm. Or safe. Or secure. Can you imagine what it must have been like to finally feel like someone took that anxious ache that was so much a part of you that you barely even knew there was another way to feel, and just made it vanish? As Burroughs, the junkie par excellence was fond of saying, “Wouldn’t you?” Yes you would. Gladly.

It eased boredom, it chased away anxiety, it killed fear, it made the mundane interesting, the dull charming and all that day-to-day stuff ultimately not even important. Ignorable. My housekeeping skills decreased from low to none. Clean what? Why?

Since, apparently a couple of idiots in Bali or wherever had managed to get themselves addicted to the stuff (and apparently the guys over in Australia, Myanmar, and Singapore thought it was dangerous enough to warrant making it illegal) I decided to take some precautions. I made rules for myself. Never two days in a row, and never more than twice a week. I’m great at prescriptions like that. Rules that are hard and fast and require no thought I can do. It’s when I start trying to make decisions that I get into trouble. I figured this way, I’d be absolutely safe, no problem. If you’ve ever heard of “chipping” in the context of heroin, that’s basically what I did. I set up rules, and then stuck to them, and set up a nice tidy routine for myself.

I took it every week, twice a week, for five years.

In 2008 into 2009, things started to get a little choppy. I was having trouble concentrating at work. People began to comment that I was, maybe, possibly, using just a little too much of that stuff? You think maybe, Scott? and they worried a little. And I was having trouble being sociable, and I was having trouble concentrating at work (where I would periodically use kratom, not often, just to, you know, alleviate the boredom of an unchallenging job that might have been more challenging had I bothered to show up mentally at all), and maybe I was having problems concentrating on my art, and the anxiety came back, harder this time, social and otherwise, and then I was having trouble with my sex life, and then I realized, I was kinda messed up.

So I quit. What, like it was hard? Rules are easy. Do this, don’t do that. There were a couple of tough weeks where I felt pretty bad, physically. Tired, on edge, achey. No big deal.

It was when the physical symptoms dissipated that I realized that I was in a lot more trouble than I originally thought. All the problems that I’d been having before, concentration, mood swings, anxiety, all of that came back, and now there was no magic powder, no relief valve to turn to when I wanted to shut it all off. Not only that, but my former blissful apathy had become horrible, gut-churning, aching, despairing apathy. I had no enthusiasm for anything. Projects were impossible, problems were insurmountable, nothing made sense or seemed like any fun at all. I was a mess. And I was pretty sure that it was never, ever going to end. I had damaged myself permanently, and now it was merely a long haul to the grave.
About a year and a half into this, I was reading an interview with a formerly drug-addicted rock star, and he mentioned something called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, which is kind of a cute name for something that makes you want to kill yourself really hard. I did a little research and found out that after you go through withdrawal, you start to manifest other symptoms. Like what? Oh, like:
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Variable energy
  • Low enthusiasm
  • Variable concentration
  • Disturbed sleep
Yeah, that was me. And the kicker? The research I read told me that all of this delicious horror would last about two years. Two years!

So here we are, 2011. And I’m starting, just, to feel like a human goddamn being again. I sometimes wonder if something has changed. If I permanently damaged myself in my little flirtation with darkness. I have to assume, since I’m writing again, since I feel slightly less crippled, since I feel like I can handle the problems life throws at me, that I’m getting better. It was a long, horrible road, but I’m still walking, and the scenery seems to be getting nicer. It’s not all uphill, anymore, and there sometimes feels like there’s a wind at my back, sun on my shoulders.

I still want to do drugs, of course. All the time. But not quite as much, and not quite as often. So maybe there’s some hope. I do yoga. I meditate. I go for walks. I write. I’m here. Things don’t feel empty and meaningless. I am learning how to have friends again. I can see beauty and not have it stab my heart. I can pray and not feel like I’m fighting for my life. I get up in the morning, go to work, write my words, love Katie, try to be a good person, fail sometimes, get up, try again.

Update: Please find a follow up post to this one here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review of The Last Werewolf

Fantasy and Science Fiction writers have a fascination with extinction. Witness Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn as the exemplar of the type: a lone individual, last of a dying breed, struggling against the inevitable final darkness in an uncaring world. There’s an element of pathos and glamour that surrounds characters like this that makes for a poignant read, and the longing for a past full of joy and possibility is an emotion to which many can relate. Nothing in this world is made to last, and we are all on a long march to the grave, alas.

Glen Duncan’s book The Last Werewolf takes these emotions and adds to them the salt of blasphemy, sex, and a love of life coupled with a world-weariness that creates a great new addition to the genre. Imagine a vampire book with the pretension removed and the animal blood-lust turned up to eleven, all narrated in a voice that drops off-hand jewels of prose a dozen to a page. Jacob discovers that he is the last werewolf on earth after all his fellow shape-shifters have been hunted down and killed by the para-military group WOCOP (the World Organization for the Control of Occult Phenomenon). The head of WOCOP has vowed to kill Jacob himself, and despite Jacob’s ennui after 200 years of life, there begins a desperate chase with shifting identities, secret assignations, and fight scenes worthy of Jason Bourne.

Werewolf has an exciting, involving plot, but the real treat in this book is the prose. Glen Duncan creates a likable, wise, and profane mass-murderer in his werewolf, who genuinely grapples with his existentialism and lack of faith. “You love life because life’s all there is. There’s no God and that’s His only Commandment,” one character says to Jacob, and that really seems to be the main message of the book - God or no, we make our own beauty and meaning in this life in which we are all born to die. But to accuse The Last Werewolf of being a “message” book does it a disservice. This is a great fantasy/action-adventure/thriller, with some well-thought out philosophical underpinnings that give it that much more depth for those who want it. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Heart of Magic and my new project.

New York City is a very special place. I remember the first time I ever felt its spell, one night back in 1997, sitting in a dark cafe on the Upper West Side with the first girl I'd ever truly loved who loved me back, watching the snow come down in giant flakes on the streets and cars outside. The fact that the love affair went south does nothing to diminish the memory. New York became, for me, a place of rough magic, bloody and grounded and friendly and terrifying all at once.

It seemed to have its own spirit, its own desires and preferences, a sense of itself and its purpose. I could, sometimes, when I was on the right track, feel myself fitting into the flow of it the way a swimmer in a river might feel his speed increase when he swam with the current, but I still wasn't ready. I moved far out into Queens, to the Shire, and hobbit-ized myself as best I could. I learned to love good food and quiet company and simple pleasures. But I became addicted to ease and pleasure, and I diminished myself, ransoming my future for an easy present, not counting the interest I would have to pay on the debt, both financial and spiritual.

And then I fell in love, and I went into the world of men and tried to grow taller. I found that it was tough to get big after you've made yourself small. I wasn't ready for Crown Heights and entrances covered in blood, I wasn't ready for hostility and racism (my own and that of others), and I certainly wasn't ready for bedbugs and poverty (again, my own and that of others). I won't say Crown Heights was Mordor, but it was a lot harsher than I was ready for. I also stopped using drugs, and all my problems came back, with interest.

Finally, I moved to Park Slope, to Rivendell, to heal and to find myself again. Over the past few years I've found some peace, some quiet, some equilibrium. And I've once again been able to find my love of the City. But I have found that the City has changed. Manhattan has smoothed some of its rough edges. It's gotten a face lift, and though it's prettier, it's not as mobile and emotionally expressive as it once was. That's OK, I guess. It happens. Everybody makes choices, and botox works for some. I'm not crazy about it, but I understand the impulse. You have to decide where your priorities lie.

But in Brooklyn, my new, adopted home? I've found there's still some life here yet. History has yet to be paved over (though they're trying), and the immigrants and those that don't quite fit in still have a place. I have my base to walk from, my home, my stronghold to retreat to, because I am still sometimes thin skinned, but I can walk through Brooklyn, and find that it is still a little dangerous, a little scary, a little bloody and grounded and unwilling to take shit. And magical.

Magical. When I first lived in Manhattan, I had a revelation that Central Park was the green emerald heart of the island. It had been contained, sure, hemmed in on all sides and cut off by the sky-scrapers at its corners and perimeter, but it still kept the whole thing alive. Without it, Manhattan would be a husk, a shell of concrete and steel supported by nothing and supporting nothing of value or worth. A small jewel at the center, however man made and natural in its artifice, created a context for all that structure.

So it is with Brooklyn, but in Brooklyn, it's not just the parks, its the neighborhoods, and the people that make them up. Brooklyn, even as it undergoes the same gentrification and homogenization that Manhattan underwent in the 20th century, still maintains a connection to something. Let's call it magic.

And so, I'm writing a book. I'm writing about Brooklyn as the last stronghold of Magic in the City of New York. I'm writing about architecture that supplements or diminishes the magic that naturally exists in a place, and the good and bad angels of geography that shape the history of that place. I'm writing about the decisions of otherwise good men that inadvertently shape the lives of the people who live under their care for evil, and about evil men who try to hide their malevolent intent behind laws and bribes and official violence. I'm writing about a secret history of Brooklyn beneath the world that we experience every day, a history that includes the immigrants that came here, bringing their ghosts and spirits and magics with them that interacted with Brooklyn to make something new, something humble and strong and broken and healing and tough.

That's what's coming. I hope I'm worthy to tell the tale.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Books in my room on the "Read or get off the Pot" list

The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
Love and Will - Rollo May
Screams from the Balcony - C. Bukowski
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet - Reif Larsen
Supergods - Grant Morrison
A Garden of Pomegranates - Israel Regardie
The Conference of Birds - Attar
Ocean of Sound - David Toop
The Shack - Young (given to me by my parents - do I need more Christian thriller novels in my life?)
The Physics of Superheros - James Kakalios
The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005
How to Enjoy your Wine - Hugo Johnson

All these are going on the list. I'm making a Google Docs list which will include all these books, and cross them off as I am done with them. Gotta get 'em all!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#bookbrag and straightening things out

Recently, a friend of mine lamented her increasingly large "to-read" pile. She had, sad to say, developed a rather substantial habit and had purchased far more books than she had capacity to read in a short amount of time.

Leaving aside her shopping habits, I told her that, in order to get through the books she should make a list. I am very fond of lists, myself. They always help me focus, and given that I am a bit addled in my head when it comes to getting things done, I like to refer back to lists to keep me honest and on track. This is all part of, even this late in life, figuring out how the hell to deal with my rampant inattentiveness. So she put together a list of all the books that she had that she hadn't yet read, and began plowing through them, marking them off the list as she finished them. Excellent solution, and all's right with the world, right?

Not so fast.

I started looking around my own, rather impressive collection (oooh, new hashtag: #bookbrag), and found that there were many, many books in my own collection that I had yet to get around to reading. Now, I may be a hypocrite, but I am not a hypocrite! If she could do it, so could I. So I began making a mental list of all the books in my collection that, either through lack of interest, or through fear (yes you CAN be afraid of books. Shut up.) I had yet to read. And there were... a few. A lot. Like, more than 30.

So in the interest of not being that guy, I have begun a project. I will read all of the remaining books in my collection. If, by the time my birthday rolls around in 2012, I have NOT read these books I must get rid of them. That's it. No excuses. I've got to start somewhere. If I don't read these books then I obviously don't want to read these books and I shouldn't keep them in my collection, because they're just taking up space.

And some of these books are awesome! There's V by Pynchon, a couple of books by Calasso, Don Quixote, Moby Dick, The Golden Bough, some books on Shamanism, and a whole bunch more. I'll publish a full list soon.

In other news, the other major project in my life (the new book I'm writing) has taken a major turn for the organized, and I feel more excited about it than ever. I've outlined the book I'm writing and now large chunks of it seem to be fitting into place. It may not be as digressive as originally planned (or it may - now that I know the structure I can write in circles and always know where I'm ultimately headed) but it has legs, a sense of purpose, a backbone.

I'm pretty excited. Now to write the damn thing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I think I need to stop drinking Yerba Mate

I'm starting to find that, when I drink mate, I fall asleep. What the heck is that about? Like, narcoleptic. I can barely keep my eyes open at work (not that they're challenging me so severely that I need to actually remain awake).

Also, apparently mate can give you cancer! Hooray!

I started drinking the stuff more heavily when I stopped using kratom, which now that I think about it, I really should write about. Fun stuff.

I keep forgetting to write about it, and then remembering. Well, not today.

Things that are fascinating me: The new season of Ultimate Fighter, The book I'm writing about Brooklyn wizards, and my Kindle. That is all.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

keep up appearances

The writing proceeds apace. I'm starting to see a shape to the book and, even though I don't know how it ends, I see HOW it ends, if that makes sense. The mechanics, the motivations, the why's of these characters that can make certain events occur, and conclude. It's interesting. I keep coming to these moments where I don't know what's next, and then, startlingly, I know. I see it. I tell a friend of mine about what's happening, and I say, "Well, apparently, this is happening." and I sound a little nonplussed, because, honestly, I have a general idea, but these characters surprise me.

And here I am. Writing more. It seems I can't help it. Once I get started, I can't really stop.

In totally unrelated news, one of my favorite authors, John Crowley (though, seriously, Livejournal?) has an article at Laphams Quarterly about fiction and the future. In addition to being an excellent read by one of the more interesting minds out there, it's also an insight into the process that, if I'm guessing correctly, informed the creation of Engine Summer. He's got some ideas about how writers predict the future in their work, and he brings up something I've always found fascinating, especially as it relates to science fiction.

When I was growing up, watching science fiction movies and TV shows and reading science fiction books, I always noticed how the future worlds these works created were always extrapolations of the present. Logan's Run saw the future as polyester and plastic and curvilinear surfaces. The Tomorrow People was all brutalist architecture and the depression of 1970's Great Britain. Star Trek looked like a 60's hipster's idea of the future, etc. etc. Crowley came up with an alternate method - figure out where things are going and posit the opposite trend.

Really, he says it much better than I ever could, but it all made me think of Frank Herbert's ideas on prescience in Dune. Herbert thought that any prescient vision automatically set into motion the circumstances under which it would come to pass. Well, we've obviously disproven that time and again, and it's comforting to think that, not only is the future stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we CAN imagine. That actually gives me hope. It's easy to imagine the ways that our mistakes and stupidities screw up the future, but I take some comfort in the fact that the future will be screwed up in vastly different and more interesting ways.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

500 words at a time.

Two days in a row! Woo-hoo! Seriously, you take your celebrations where you can find them.

The book comes along, slowly, but that's a function of the routine I've given myself. I've taken a page from Graham Greene's playbook, and I write 500 words a day. More if I've got them, but I have to hit at least 500 words. That way, I still want to write when I'm done. It's a function, oddly enough, of doing yoga.

"What," I hear you say, "does yoga have to do with writing?" Well, back in March, on Ash Wednesday, I decided that I would do yoga everyday for Lent. Rather than get rid of something, deny myself something, I figured it would be better to add a discipline. It went pretty well. I had a great program to help me do it which allowed me to keep track of how much time I spent per day, how much time per week, it allowed me to set up specific amounts of time to do certain poses, and it allowed me to see how many consecutive days I'd done what I said I was going to do.

This measuring, demanding a certain amount from oneself, allows for an amazing freedom. Aside from feeling slightly virtuous when you've completed your allotted time (no matter what other, less wholesome activities you might have engaged in before or after) you could also have an objective measure. There was no weaseling out of it - either you'd done it or not.

The sense of order that this allowed me let me structure my day. It let me set boundaries with people around me - there was something I had to complete everyday, and everything else had to take a back seat. And as the days piled up, I realized that I was changing. My attitude was changing and my sense of self. And I realized that I was actually quite strong and capable, if I allowed myself to be. I'm just past day 200 of doing yoga everyday, and I plan to keep going past a year, God willing.

So that concept of gradual accretion seems to be working for me in the writing department, too. This is what I want to do, and so I do it, everyday, and after I'm done, I can go through my day, knowing that I've done something important towards completing a piece of work that means a lot to me. I don't have to write it all today, and it doesn't get away from me with my usual procrastination. I chip away at it. 500 words at a time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In direct contradiction to the title of this blog

Taking a cue from this guy I've decided to write here more. In the post, he's talking about writer's block, which I don't exactly suffer from. Logorrhea might be more the issue, most days, though there are occasions when the muse is a bit balky. Seth basically says we should write like we talk, and I've been noticing the more I write the more I get to write the way I sound in my head, which, let me tell you kids, is WAY wittier and more awesome than you can even imagine.

So writing today was like fighting through a fog. I'm coming to the point where I know that I'm going to have to come up with a structure for this book I'm writing, or else it's going to meander and wander away from me.

It's a book about gentrification, the energy and movement of urban spaces, race relations, and wizards. Really, it's just about wizards. The rest of it is sort of incidental, primarily because, as a young-ish (feeling) white man, I don't feel I can do the issues real justice. By putting it into a fantasy context, it feels like I can talk around it, address it without having to tackle it head on. Maybe that's cowardly, but there are precedents - George Romero talking about race with his zombies... well, that's the only really good one I can think of right now. Oh! A Canticle for Liebowitz! That's two! I'm practically in the pantheon already!

So, I've finished watching Game of Thrones' first season, and I'm terribly disappointed that there isn't more right now. Right NOW! I want it. I dream about these characters. I'm enjoying the hell out of this weird little sword and soap opera. I seem to remember reading somewhere that GRRM wanted to write a little ditty about the War of the Roses, and I love how adding zombies and dragons tips the dynamics all over the place. It's exactly the kind of thing I've always wanted to make myself.

I promise to write more tomorrow. It's blathering, but I'm going to make it mean something, I just know it.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

so the question remains - why do we do anything? Is life just one damn thing after the other, in a vain attempt to find something to do before inevitable death swallows us? Because that is the distinct impression I keep getting.

My boss is pretty intense. She gets up at 3:15 in the morning to study for her Nutrition Master's degree before coming to work and working way harder than I ever do. She described to me her day, and I got exhausted just thinking about it. Like, she REALLY wants this, but will it make her life better? I sometimes think that the reason I don't have as interesting and impressive a life is that I'm not particularly interested in working that hard. I'm lazy to my own detriment.

Most religions tell us to slow down, stop worrying, stop fretting and making ourselves miserable. Just enjoy life and take it easy. Work at whatever is in front of you. But really, I don't care anymore. I've never wanted to DO anything. I've always been interested in STOPPING doing.

So, what? Is this so-called blog going to be just an extended suicide note? That seems dumb. But really, why do I do ANYTHING? I don't know, anymore. I love my wife, insanely, but I think I may have thought that she was going to save my life by giving me direction - that her intensity would give my life direction, coupled with the fact that I totally love her, all smashed into a singularity of awesomeness that would from then on be my life.

I said to Katie, "You need to think of reasons to do things." I need to think of reasons to do things. My four a day blog languishes, because I cannot, for the life of me, think of a reason to write it. Who reads it? Who cares? My wife? Anybody else? I write the most insane confessional stuff here, and there is literally nobody who reads it. It's impressive, if you think about it. I'm not even upset about it, it just sort of knocks the wind out of you. Like, why say anything if no one is listening. And if they are listening, why say anything anyway. What are they gonna do about it? "You're alone in the universe? Yeah, join the club, buddy."

I write this because it passes the time at work. Which may be why I've ever done anything, exactly like what I said. I don't just want to pass the time. I want meaning, and I don't know where it lives.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting your mojo back

"The way I see it, part of the problem is you just aren't having fun."

She paused and thought about this for a moment. I was right.

I was sorta right about me, too. *I* really wasn't having much fun anymore, either. Why was that?

The pleasure I took in writing, gone. The pleasure I took in making music, gone. The pleasure I took in performing, gone. I don't want to sound like I'm depressed or anything, but I remember distinctly having friends, having a purpose. I even remember the day I stopped. I was at a party, I'd finally admitted to myself that I didn't love my wife, and the group of friends that my soon to be ex and I'd been hanging with for the past 3 years were screening a video of the play we'd done that previous summer. We'd gotten rave reviews in the local press, sold out houses, and a real sense that we'd accomplished something. It was going to be a great night.

We watched the play. Everyone laughed at the funny parts, enjoyed the hell out of their own performances, and dug the hell out of each other. It was a mutual admiration society meeting, and everybody was a member in good standing.

Except me.

I watched in horror as the play that I thought had been so good while we were doing it sat there on the screen and stunk like a dead fish. Was *this* what we looked like? Is *that* how we sounded? All the things that we worked so hard on - was *this* the result? People had told us we were great! Were they lying?

I didn't get it. But I couldn't take it anymore. I got up and left the room, manned the bar for the rest of the evening. I was shaken. I could hear people laughing in the next room, enjoying themselves, and I was outside.

I've since learned that my prodigious kratom intake may have had something to do with my subsequent anxiety, anhedonia, and depression. I think I'm still coming back from that.

When I get an idea, a thought for a creative project, a desire to comment on someone's blog post, for God's sake, I'll occasionally start, and then, midway through the first sentence, I'll think, "Eh, what's the point." and move on.

So, obviously there's still a bit of an issue here.

I don't even know what the good creative projects are anymore.

I do know, however, that somehow I have to come out the other side of this. I'm just not sure how to do that. Have I damaged myself too deeply? I don't know yet. I suppose we'll see.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The past few days have been terrible, and it's surprising how quickly my thoughts turn morbid when I am under the slightest bit of pressure.

My wife hates her job, and I don't know how to help her. Her depression is like all the lights in the house have been dimmed by a quarter: not enough to make it impossible to see, and a lot of the time you don't even notice, but eventually you get a headache and a permanent squint.

I'm tired, even though I'm getting plenty of sleep. I do yoga everyday, and it seems to be helping (body-wise), but damn if I'm not exhausted right now. Nothing's free.

I have stuff I could be doing, but I just want to sleep. I hate it all. It's surprising - I am remarkably self-destructive when it comes to action. People ask what your sin is, and mine is certainly sloth.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alan Watts and late night theology.

(after the blindingly boring indulgence in self-pity that was my previous post, we now return you to to your regularly scheduled program).

Listening to Alan Watts is often a humbling experience. On the one hand, he is a consummate raconteur, a "spiritual entertainer" as he often styled himself, with big ideas and a compelling delivery. He is one of the people I'd like to emulate in my life, and, aside from the bit about being an alcoholic (which I'd also say I understand in some ways), I'd say he's one of my heroes.

Now the other way that listening to Alan Watts is humbling is what happens when I try to explain what I heard to my wife.

"So he says that since you can't really love God, because you're only doing it because you want something or because you're afraid, you have to eventually get to the point where you realize that you CAN'T love God, and only the part of you that is from God can love God, the part of you that *is* God." I'm sitting on the edge of the tub while she brushes her teeth after a long days work.

"Wait," she say, after spitting. "I don't agree with that at all."

I'm taken aback. Disagree? With my beloved Alan Watts? What could she mean? And so I ask.

"I love God," she says. "I remember people telling me how great He was and how much He loved us and all the great things He did for us, and even though I didn't really know what God was, I knew I loved him. Her. It. Whatever."

That made me stop. Now, of course Alan was going on his Zen/Gurdjieff/Rascally Guru trip, which is totally his thing. He loves the idea of "the fool that persists in his folly becomes wise" and going so far into the idea of separation that you realize that your separation is unworkable and that you are one with all things, etc. And it's a good path. It works very well for the skeptical, the cynical, the intellectual. But Love is a mystic's path too, and while the intellectual may scorn it, there is a case to be made that it is the real path of Christianity, tempered as it is with a certain rigor that the sarcastic, aphorism spouting Jesus brings to the process that keeps it from descending into maudlin sentimentality.

And I think that's the thing that Watts misses. He brings a nice balance to the know-nothing sentiment that unfortunately passes for devotion these days, but he misses something crucial. Yes, for a certain type, it may be impossible to believe outright. But there are many, many others, who actually *do* love God, and through their love and trust in His forgiveness, find their way to a union with Him. Now, as with all paths there are pitfalls, and the love and trust can often devolve into love and trust in a God we created, that reaffirms our prejudices and desires, and there to complacency and forgetfulness. We create God in our image, and then worship it.

The pitfalls of Watts' path seem to me to be: despair, madness, an insufficiently marked out path, a sense that "whatever I do is fine, because it's all God's play." I'm sure there are others. Either way, there is no "foolproof" path, but it was nice to see that there are other ways. The sufis often present more than one path to God, suitable for different personality types. Good to see that Christianity has something going on in that department, too.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I've made a lot of bad decisions in my day. A list might take too long, and yet I'm freakishly good at running them through my head at any given point: missed opportunities, enterprises abandoned before they bear fruit, friends lost, decisions made from a place of fear instead of love. I know every one, every decision, intimately, deeply. I know why I did it, why I *said* I did it, what I could have done differently.

And here I am. 39 years old and with nothing to show in my life that resembles success. Talent I have, but I have no belief. Those guys that say you have to visualize your actions, see yourself succeeding, and then do it? Yeah, I don't know what to tell those guys. I just can't see myself succeeding. I can't believe it's possible for me. I've thought I was a failure since I was a little kid.

I'm tired of feeling this way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2/10/11 pros & cons

So, my meeting with my friend Paul last night didn't really give me the boost I'd hoped for. Far from having useful advice or a veteran's perspective, he basically is in a similar situation, except that he has yet to complete his degree from Union. This is pretty much totally unhelpful, and we ended up emoting at each other all night about our various plans. I sound a little cranky about it, mostly because I'm in a state about money, worried about my future, and trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing.

I have an idea, but I'm not sure it's a good one. The issue I'm looking at is that I don't have a clue about how to be happy. I don't know what will make me happy in the future. Will I be happy doing theology? Would I be happy getting a degree? Will it matter, or will it be like Stephanie's useless degree, which cost a shit ton and got her nothing but debt?

A thought I had was to get a Masters of Arts in Theology at General Theological Seminary, which is the Episcopal seminary, but I'm worried that it a) won't be rigorous enough, b) won't be prestigious enough, c) won't be applicable. The Episcopal seminary has a degree in Ascetic Theology, and, like most things in my beloved church, is well outside the mainstream of Systematic Theology. However, in reading about Ascetic Theology, it seems to be very close to what I'm interested in.

If I had to put it into words, I'd say that what I really want to talk about is the overlap between theology and meditation, in other words, I don't want to just *think* about God, I want to find a way to encounter him directly. Eastern Religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism) have proven and studied techniques for the access of other states of consciousness, and even Islam has techniques for approaching God (zikr, salat). Christianity, while it has these techniques, de-emphasized them through the years.

Obviously, we're not talking (at least not exactly talking) about gnosticism, though there is a connection. God is not "knowable" the way we know about dogs, or roses, or stars, but a direct connection is what I'm interested in, and what I want to talk about. A connection to this world, to the people around me, and to the God of creation. I'm looking for a cure for the alienation that I see around me and that I feel in myself. Not only that, but I want that connection, that discussion about that connection, to help me make my way in this world. I realize on the face of it that that is kind of a mess. In Islam, the saints have a trade. I will, most likely, never be a saint. I have difficulty even being sort of a nice guy, let alone a saint.

So, here's the possibilities as I see them:

Apply to General Theological Seminary for an M.A. in Ascetical Theology
- pros: Type of theology I'm interested in (at least on first glance), probably easier to get into, cheaper, part-time program, might be good prep for later degrees
- cons: less prestigious, (possibly) less rigorous, might be a waste of time, non-mainstream theology limits future options

Apply to Union Theological Seminary for M.A. is Systematic Theology
- pros: (relatively more) prestigious, rigorous, excellent prep for future degrees, Ivy League (parental/spousal/societal approval), excellent contacts for future work
- cons: more expensive, full-time, WAY more work, language requirements
- possible concerns: might not be a good fit

There are other issues, but I just wanted to get this out of my head, and onto the interwebs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2/9/11 Straw Gods

I had an argument with a TV character. An ANIMATED TV character, no less. Also, the argument was in my head, so there's that. All told, not one of my finer moments, but one I feel a need to share.

Brian from Family Guy is an atheist. Yes, Brian is also an animated, fictional, talking dog, but he represents a point of view I hear a lot on the internet. The usual arguments for atheism tend to revolve around the same few tropes, and Brian often comes back to them (to be fair to Seth MacFarlane, I sometimes have difficulty telling if Brian is meant to be a parody of a self-righteous atheist, or an actual representative of atheism's chief arguments).

The one that particularly got under my skin is the one that goes something like, "Well when we looked into space with the Hubble Telescope, nobody saw a giant old man with a white beard." The idea that believers in God, whatever flavor they may choose, believe literally in their particular anthropomorphic version of Divinity as represented in art is a little disingenuous.

Let's be clear. Most people I know who believe in God don't believe in that version of God either. God is not a white, bearded, old (sometimes more-or-less virile) old man sitting on a cloud somewhere in space. Almost nobody for a moment takes that seriously. There are versions of faith out there that believe all the Sunday School versions of the bible: the six days of creation, the rivers turning to blood, the walking on water, etc. etc. etc. But that's not stuff I believe, nor does anyone I know who has given it more than a few minutes thought.

When the bible says "Man was made in God's image," that phrase has a very specific meaning. We are in the image of God, insofar as we are participants in creation. The creative principle by which the world came into being is the same creative urge that infuses our highest aspirations. When we speak (cf. Emil Brunner) we engage in the same process that spoke the world into existence. There are indications that the words we use to describe our world to ourselves literally help to create that world, and insofar as we change our ways of thinking about the world, we change our experience of the world. We are not fleshy, poorly made copies of a more perfect body, but embodiments of the creative principle that made the universe.

So if God is not the "old man on a cloud" what is He? The atheist sets up the clearly poetical and metaphorical representation of Michelangelo's God, and then proceeds to tear it down. But that God is not my God, not the God I know (though he is useful as a metaphor - more on that in a later post).

One of the things I love about religion, in spite of its many shortcomings, is the language it uses, and one of the most beautiful phrases I've heard to describe God is as that in which we "live, move, and have our being." On my Facebook page, I describe my beliefs as "Panentheist." This is in contrast to "Pantheist" which, when I was a kid, I thought made a lot of sense. Pantheism is the idea that God IS the universe, that they are equivalent: everything we encounter is God, as are we, and the entire universe is God revealing Himself to Himself. Lots of very smart people whom I respect a great deal (Alan Watts, Robert Anton Wilson, Timothy Leary) believe that, or some variation thereof, and as a model, it's pretty good. Pretty good, but it doesn't go far enough. When I finally figured out that it, to a degree, depersonalized God, it lost some of its shine. My experience of God as loving Father and friend wasn’t supported by this rather more impersonal version of Him.

Panentheism is the idea that God both pervades the universe, and that the universe is within God. God is in us, and we are in Him. This pervasiveness is what causes the universe to continue to be. The universe in no way "contains" God, in the sense of a pitcher containing water, or even "is" God, in the way that a series of systems (engine, drive train, tires, electrical system, etc.) "is" a car. It reverses the emphasis in a crucial way. God creates us, sustains us, is (as the Quran says) closer to us than our jugular vein, even, in a way, IS each of us and everything we see, and yet is not exclusively and only us.

So to get back to the original point, how does this version of God reconcile with the one the atheists tend to argue against? God as a doddering old man (I’m looking at you Philip Pullman) is a perfect “straw man” argument:science has not yet found, and will not ever (as far as I can tell) find the Old Man Sitting on a Cloud(tm). That’s not God, and if it makes any atheists feel better, I don’t believe in that version either. The vision of God (and again, we can only speak metaphorically when we speak of the Ground of Being) painted by Panentheism has the benefit of being less ridiculous, at the very least, and also doesn’t contradict science. Fundamentalists and children believe in Old Man God, and atheism, while a valid choice in the face of evidence, should do better than disprove a conception of God that most thinking people don’t believe in anyway.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2/3/11 update.

Right now the goal is trying to get back to yoga, trying to keep my wife from exploding from stress, trying to keep my band working, trying trying trying. Who really keeps track?

I'm not really working at work these days (the newest time suck: "Infinity Blade" keeps me nice and occupied when I should, perhaps, be polishing my resume and thinking about what jobs I really want to do).

Oh, and I'm really working to try to get on Jeopardy. I haven't told anyone, because I'm kind of afraid I'm not as smart as I think I am, and if I tell people, they'll find out I suck when it turns out that I didn't know which president Chester A. Arthur was. (21st, I just looked it up - he was also part of the Stalwart branch of the Republican Party, and a defender of political patronage and machine politics. After Garfield was assassinated by Guiteau, Arthur actually moderated his position, became known as the "Father of Civil Service" and put in reforms to make civil servants more accountable. He was actually pretty cool! Even Mark Twain liked him!) So I've been DVRing jeopardy and keeping score. I've been doing pretty well, with the occasional terrible game. I know a lot about what I know, but the narrow gaps in my knowledge are abysmal.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

vague, telling my side of the story, but not really.

We did, and then she couldn't, so we didn't, but she said she would, but she didn't, she was gonna, but then I said it, which hurt her feelings, so she didn't, so I said more, which got her madder, which made it worse, and things got darker, until we slept, and I still love her, but I feel like something's missing, and not between us, but in me. I need to man up, and I don't know how.

She wants a man, not a wimp. but what can I do?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It doesn't improve on the silence

It's a bit like cutting a boil to let the pus out. I've got all this wet sick inside me and I have no idea what to do about it. It probably won't matter in a few days, once I'm back to myself, but I need to put it somewhere where it doesn't matter, where it can sit and fester in peace.

Here's the issue - why do anything? What is the meaning of life? What a stupid fucking cliche of a question, but there we are. So, since we're asking, I mean, I'm here, let's chat: what is the meaning, the purpose of life, what is the "Ultimate concern" that Tillich speaks of?

In the sermon this past Sunday, Fr. Murphy said that Jesus life could be summed up in one line: "He went about, doing good." Why do good? It makes others happy? One could say that it is the will of God that we be happy and free, that that is what he sent Jesus here for - to free the prisoner, heal the sick, liberate the oppressed. So say I go about doing good. Who's going to heal me? Who's going to free me? It keeps coming back to this - I'll do OK for a while and then feel terrible, and the truth is, I'm pretty sure that I don't work hard enough, I'm "work-shy" as the English term it. I don't want to work that hard. I don't want to do anything, most of the time.

UGH. I'm so fucking boring when I'm like this. I know what I need to do: work harder, try again, put in the time, but why? and for what? Music? Here is a fact: I could not play another note and the world would not be one bit different. Writing seems only purposeful (and apparently has been since 1983) for venting my spleen. I mean, I can't think of the last time I wrote with such flow and ease. All I really want to do is talk shit. Well here you, little wordsmith who lives in my brain: you get to talk as much shit as you want, right here. Just vomit to your heart's content.

Anyway, theology is a sucker's game, there's nothing I really want to/can do. I wish I could just give up, stop worrying, stop pretending there's something I need to do. I'm making myself sick with it, and I just want to stop, but if I stop, I'll end up exactly where I am now, only it'll be 5 years down the road, and I'll be even further behind than I am now.

My ambition coupled with my laziness is ruining my life.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What did I google today?

Part of the reason this writing thing hasn't been so fruitful lately is that I've been afraid to say what I mean. I've been angrier and more pent-up than even when I was with Stephanie, which is saying something, but I wrote more because I didn't care what she thought. I knew she would never leave me, so I didn't worry about anything I wrote. This may have caused me to be incidentally cruel, if that even makes sense. I just said what I said, and I didn't really care about her feelings.

In contrast, I REALLY care what Katie thinks. Her good mood, her happiness, her not sulking (which she can do, like a master) is paramount to me. I gauge the weather and the tilt of the earth by her. I am so pleased that she is my wife, and so into her, that I am obviously not going to write something that I think she might read and get upset about, as it will ruin my day, possibly my week. Though, truthfully, what will she do, withhold sex? That's cruel, but see, I need to be able to say shit like that. I know she's not withholding sex deliberately, but I also know she's not taking care of herself, because she's scared to find out things are really broken, and she's scared of the pain and discomfort of finding out exactly what IS wrong.

Well, I'm gonna keep bugging her about it.

I titled this post "What did I google today?" which is fun and clever and got me checking things (add to the list "google history"). Here's the list, in case anyone is interested:


Searched for stephany yantorn


Searched for google history -

Viewed 1 result

Not starred
Web History -


Searched for amber benson

Searched for amber benson former vegetarian -

Viewed 1 result

Not starred
Amber Benson Pics - Amber Benson Photo Gallery - 2010... -

Searched for Amber Benson -

Viewed 2 results

Not starred

505 x 650 - 40k

Not starred
Amber Benson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
Not starred
| Best Hot Butter Rum Batter | | Paula Deen Slow Cooker... -
Not starred
Slow Cooker Hot Buttered Rum - Recipes for American/Canadian ... -
Not starred
A Year of Slow Cooking: Hot Buttered Rum in the CrockPot -
Not starred
Colonial Hot Buttered Rum Recipe - -
Not starred
Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Hot Buttered Rum -


Searched for hot buttered rum


Searched for the function of music is to release us -

Viewed 1 result

Not starred
Quote Details: Sir Thomas Beecham: The function of music...... -

See the one at the top? Yeah, that's the "one that got away", sort of, not really. She's this girl that I dated who basically broke my heart and head, and led me, indirectly, of course, to marrying Steph, which was both one of the stupidest things I ever did, and one of the smartest. Smart because I picked a woman who gave me a lot of space when I needed it (and who I didn't care enough about to worry too much about) and stupid because marrying a woman that you only kinda half-love is a terrible idea. Loving somebody because you know they love you and won't break your head? Yeah, that's not really love.

So anyway, back to Yantorn, I realized that that is one search I am not entirely comfortable sharing with my jealous, red-headed, Irish, hot-tempered, prone to jumping to conclusions wife. I can, of course, and she'll store it in her steel trap memory and bring it out to torture herself (not me. No, torture is for the self. Weapons are for others.) which I would hate. I love Katie beyond all reason, I'm stupid for her, I'm terrified she'll leave me, and I live in fear that she'll stop loving me, find somebody else, think I'm less of a man, get bored with me, or otherwise remove me from the sunshine of her good graces.

I'm just one of those guys who is curious about his exes. I want to know what happened to her. She's one of probably 3 women in my life that I genuinely loved - I'm not sure that Carrie counts.

So, to sum up, I've gotta start being honest, even if it means that nobody gets to see it until I'm dead.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.


Computer sits on my lap, almost 40 now (nearly six months away, but I've been feeling old lately), feeling just a touch sorry for myself. My previous blog bursts with activity and a sense of life - I was working it out, trying stuff, saying yes to everything that came along. Now, I spend most days at work, most nights at home, I don't see my friends from those days much anymore. Why?

Guilt, mostly, I suppose. I spent a lot of time destroying the edifices of my life because I felt guilty that I had destroyed something that so many people believed in. I remember very distinctly those days when I was contemplating tearing it all down. I would do a lot of tarot readings in those days, and the card that came up, over and over, was The Tower - lightning crashing down on a seemingly impregnable stone tower, splitting it, burning it, two figures tumble from the top. That's what I did.

I wanted more. And now I have it. It is less social, less connected, less creative, less successful, and I am older. I did this, and I would do it again. This may not be wise, but it is true. I might do it differently, in a different way, but I would still have burned it all to the ground, if I had to.

2006-2008 was challenging, and 2009 was awful. God it was terrible. 2010 was a slow dawning after the pitch black night, with a beautiful sunrise around September.

So now what? Why do this all again? Why pretend that anything can be like it was? People have moved, broken up, and the people that haven't, the ones that haven't moved on to brighter pastures, well, they seem like a lot of them are going through the motions. Maybe they are.

We can't have the world the way it was, and wanting it, harkening back to some golden age, is just my usual bullshit that I indulge in when it's past midnight on a weeknight and I know I've got an early day at work tomorrow.

It's the new year, and we can do stuff, and we can try again, and we can be humble. I can be humble, I can try again, try to build a life. There is no law saying I'm too old, I just have to be honest, damn the consequences. I've screwed up, a bunch. I've hurt people and taken good fortune for granted, I've tried to change my life and blown it up in the process, but I'm still here.

I've got a woman I love, a job that I don't hate, a musical project, a couple of places to write, and a sense that maybe I don't have to kill myself for the things I've done.

Rambling, yes, I know. But no one reads this, and it needs to be said. I need to get back on the horse.