Matters Of Little Consequence

As far as breakups went, ours was Chernobyl.

I thought I’d navigated every kind of romantic scenario, until the Dame tried breaking out the Estella Havisham playbook on me. She torched my curtains and shotgunned my floorboards, most impressively.

It was a couple days after the breakup when Dan told me she was writing all manner of crazy shit about it on her blog. Her Venti vitriolic provided ironic symmetry to our relationship, seeing as how I’d fallen for her writing inside another rant about another guy. I was shocked, annoyed and pissed. I’d called the whole thing off, after which she provided me with every single good reason as to why I was right to do so.

I had no desire to get into a war of words with someone who was using our relationship as the battering ram for everything that had come before it. I wasn’t fool enough to believe her rantings were all about me. I had simply provided her with the necessary antagonist for her latest act. I knew that before long, she’d expend herself, find someone new and move on. Me? I’d use all that emotional fuel to write like a madman. Which is exactly what I did since passion is a muse, no matter the emotion it gets dressed up in.

To say this was a heartbreaking time in my life would be a lie. The proverbial ‘broken heart’ is how we portray bad shit in heart form. And for the purposes of bacon cheeseburger brevity, I use it interchangeably here. But it wasn’t that, it was more significant than that. What it had done was introduce me to the real me. I was a romantic journeyer, searching for the temporary salvation of another but unwilling to pay sticker price. If things hadn’t gone sideways, would I have spent the rest of my life with her? At the beginning of us, I would have issued a resounding yes. But as time went on, it became a very hard maybe.

After it was over, I stopped reading her. Cold turkey. Curiosity kills more than cats, and peeking on someone you’re no longer involved with always struck me as creepy. Instead, I drank wine, I listened to love songs and yes, I cried a few times. There was no use in letting the toxins fester, I had to loose them.

As for the blog, Dan had returned. Of course. He jumped back in with a vengeance, as if expecting me to kiss his ass for coming back. All it did was remind me how important I had become to this fledgling enterprise. Dame had called our blog a “sparrow shit operation” in one of her last emails to me, and I liked that one a lot, even if her intent had been to knee cap me with it. The moniker fit.

The blog karate kicked its way out of our old dojo. We had been gifted a brand new, interactive theme- by one of Dame’s pals ironically. He did it for us gratis while Richie kept planning some grand design for us from his bachelor pad bunker in Jersey. And now we had a podcast to add to the mix. This is where Chris came in. He was Dan’s pal. We’d gotten off on the wrong foot when I refused to post his stuff on the blog. But shit if his writing wasn’t wooden and predictable.

The podcast brought out his Dr. Jekyll. Chris’s voice was the kind of butter that had the girls swooning, and his delivery was a Greg Maddux diamond studded fastball. I would write up a script for the show and email the guys and then we would broadcast from two different locales- Me from my crib and the fellas from Chris’s place.

I remember being a complete disaster in the early innings of our first show. I had zero timing and none of the heat I possessed on the blog. Chris picked up the slack and made it all work, perfectly. During a commercial break, I scarfed down a cigarette and a couple shots of tequila I didn’t know I had. Beer wasn’t going to do the trick, so I made some haste and got back to it. Provided with a salty launch pad, I settled in and found my rhythm. Dan played better on the podcast as well.

Drinking and smoking became a weekly tradition on the podcasts. We expanded to an hour after a couple shows because we were stretching out the material with all the improvised banter that was happening. As with the blog, no topic was off limits. Well, except for one: I’d issued a moratorium on any talk of the Dame.

As the blog’s popularity bled into the podcast, with listeners and our own interactive chat room during podcasts, things were looking more promising than ever. I kept busy, writing more than ever before. I’d also procured the phone number of a girl who tended bar at the Irish pub we frequented. She was my Till Tuesday insurance policy in that she was too young, too nice and she had two young kids. But she made a strong drink, she had a great smile and we clicked. And besides, there was no crime in keeping my options open. I’d have been ashamed at myself for not taking the chance when presented.

It was New Years Eve when she sent me a text wishing me well, and I shot one back in patent fashion. I decided not to follow it up, instead dropping in on a family get together on my way home. It was a couple minutes after midnight when I received a phone call, after which I started formulating excuses as to why I couldn’t meet Till Tuesday. And then the area code punched me in the face. Chicago.

I should have let it go to voicemail. Or turned my phone off . . changed my number . . burned the fucking thing until it was goop. Any of those options made more sense than the one I was about to choose, but it didn’t matter, because I was doing it anyway.

Just like that.

Matters Of Little Consequence

Into every life, a little rain must fall. So bring some olives . . and vermouth. 

She could write the starch into a martini with the kind of intuitive manipulation of words and space only a born writer comes to know. And for the rest of the summer after my visit to the windy city, I tried to keep up with her wicked divinity as if I had a chance. I’d never tried to match wits with a writer before she came along, but I couldn’t help myself. She was larger than life when she got to hammering away, making copper laced pastries out of the penny for her thoughts and platinum out of tinfoil minutiae. And when she went deep, she was Mary Shelley in knee high boots. I wrote like a maniac but really, I was playing checkers.

She was playing chess.

The Gorilla was an ass kicking mosh pit of a freak show by now. We had t-shirts made up for the local bars, we had a sparring match with some loose change writer who trashed us in a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website, and we started talking up a podcast. Having the Dame frequent our place mattered more than any of it. For me. Dan didn’t mind in the least since she brought followers. Smart minded peeps who were eager to peek in on the unlikeliest of lovebirds singing their misbegotten songs of love in between rants about parking lot hegemony, Westboro Baptist bumper stickers and Panic at the Disco sex.

As with every love gone wrong song, there were warning signs. Some were post-it-notes while others were banners, and then further along, the shit went full neon. Early on, it was a harmless series of speed bumps that, standing alone, were like zits on a moon beam. Stuff like . . how agitated she became when I took my kids to Disney World shortly after returning from Chicago. And later on, when she used my term- harsh my mellow– rather pointedly, in a post. And how she would call me by my last name whenever she got pissed at me.

The more rodeos you’ve been involved in, the more adept you become at wrangling up the meaning of the most seemingly innocuous circumstance. And it doesn’t hurt one little bit when you’ve been raised by women who taught you the formula. For example: Using my term- harsh my mellow– in an obviously derisive manner was a passive aggressive jab at my super cool (pretend) veneer. See, certain phrases center my room, much the same way that rug did for the Dude in The Big Lebowski. And the last name thing? It’s roll call, Boss Cop stuff. These weren’t warning signs so much as pesky little drips, but for the purpose of context Imma call them the post-it-notes stage. We’d not yet graduated to banners and neon. We were in love, after all.

By the fall, Dan was contemplating taking a break from writing on the blog. Never mind that we were directly inside the eye of a hurricane that hadn’t achieved jack shit yet. My particular opinion was Thank Fucking Christ, since he wasn’t contributing in any kind of meaningful way. Shit, the fucking guy wanted a podcast while we were still burnishing a destination. And he’d started chatting up a brand spanking new look that he and his asshole friend Richie had been working up for the blog.

To that point, me and Dan had navigated the appreciable divide that separated us quite well. We did so by creating a satire hotel, replete with low class amenities whose peculiar renderings both shocked and amazed our visitors to such an extent that we developed a healthy following. But the truth of the matter was, me and Dan weren’t friends in the “I’ll help dig the ditch for your mistake” sense. He was NRA and I was NWA. He was military documentaries and I was a romantic comedy junkie. He was a half ass writer impressed with our numbers while I was a writer impressed with writers who gave a fuck about writing.

I wrote Dan a tongue in cheek come back soon post in early September and then little more than a week later I followed it up with a post celebrating our 300,000th hit. That one was my door, hitting his stupid ass on the way out. I wanted to score another 100 thousand hits before he decided to come back, just to shut him up.

“You do insane numbers,” Dame said to me one night while we were chatting up life’s box scores over Sams on a phone call whilst watching a movie together.

This woman was an IV drip of Carly Simon Kung-Fu Theater. She could turn a simple word into a plum bath, and she was talking to me about numbers that didn’t count for anything. So I told her what I really felt as if I was stepping foot onto Venus, with sandals and a 3-wood.

I told her she was the medulla to my oblongata, the Cher to my Sonny and I told her how I wanted to fly her in a Winnebago all the way to Kathmandu. And okay, so I didn’t say it that very way. But I felt it, more strongly than that. Because the blog and her notorious ex-husband and the distance of seven hundred and eleven miles that separated us didn’t mean a blessed fig newton to me. All that was ever going to matter to me was the smile that launched me into orbit every time it looked my way.

And then the banners made the scene, with the neon glow of something wicked trailing close behind. And then November turned to rain. And that’s just the way it goes sometimes. You get all dressed up in this magic carpet ride of a future, and the next thing you know?

There’s nowhere else to go.

 

Matters Of Little Consequence

Sunday August 5, 2007: The plane banked hard as it took its slot inside a gaggle of interloping tin birds looking to scavenge solid ground for a spell. My window seat provided me a dashboard view of a town whose skyline was a soothing weep of mayhem and mystery, built on hard promises, like a dice game that never gets finished.

Chicago is a stylized ritual of muck and mortar neighborhoods wrestling the waist of high spire glass totems whose fire spills out genius dreamers hopped up on caffeine and anti-depressants. From the sky, none of that matters because it’s a seductive postcard whose come hither purrs love songs from a time so lost to present day, you wouldn’t even bother pasting it to a milk carton.

It had been more than a decade since I’d been to Chi town, and lots had changed. Harry Caray had gone to that big ballpark in the sky and Michael Jordan had retired for good. On the positive side of the ledger, the White Sox had broken a billy goat curse which allowed Shoeless Joe to finally rest in peace. And a Senator named Barack was making big noise on the national level, threatening to make Chicago politics something much more relevant than a punchline reserved for happy hour.

The truth is, the nostalgia didn’t mean a thing to me. I would have been plenty fine meeting her at an Applebee’s in Fargo, North Dakota. Because from the get, it really felt like the moon was throwing us a ladder and the stars were giving us a chance and Al Green was cleaning his soulful pipes for us as if we were close personal friends. And when nothing else matters the way nothing else was mattering to me right then? Well . . I knew I was fucked.

Yes, I should have been a touch spooked by her Shakespearean tragedy of a family history, but I wasn’t cutting or running. It was as if I was provoking the damnedest parts of me into turning another page of this mystery novel called Her. Because she was my favorite Elvis Costello song without even trying.

I stepped off the plane and began reacquainting myself with O’Hare, which always reminded me of a movie set, replete with a full-throated cast of characters bustling around as if there were medals in the offing. I made my way upstairs and then out into the street where I began looking for my ride. I scanned left to right and back again. Nothing. And then a thought rushed up on me before I could stop it. What if she had second thoughts about this meeting?

And then I turned to find her standing by the side of her car looking right at me. She was double take beautiful, with crazy blonde hair that rained down her shoulders. And I was going to be the guy every other guy would envy as soon as I swooped her up.

When I turned and began walking in her direction, she loosed a shy girl smile in my direction as her eyes turned away from mine before they could give too much away. I walked up to her and lifted her into an embrace to make it real. Her response let me know what the rest of our afternoon was going to look like.

I had made reservations at a DoubleTree near her place. As far as her kids were concerned, she had decided against introductions on my initial trip out to see her. We had agreed that it was important to see what our dynamic was going to feel like once we were in the same place at the same time.

It didn’t take long to figure us out, though. As we knocked back a couple of lagers, we talked and laughed and finished each other’s sentences as if we’d been doing it for a lifetime. It felt so much more relevant than a simple connection to another individual. And while I had never really believed in soul mates, she was changing my mind with every spell binding turn.

We went for a walk afterwards, to spin away any of the residual anxiety we might have been holding onto. And that’s when I brought her into me for our first real kiss; a kiss that crushed time into a velvety plush. It wasn’t simply a kiss. No. From that moment on, we would refer to the moment when clarity knocked on our door as The Kiss.

It was the end of the world as we knew it.

Matters Of Little Consequence

The world isn’t one size fits all. It’s seven billion sizes, each one possessing the remarkable ability to tell the world to fuck off,

There was a cinematic quality to the summer of Dame, the days brimming with melodies I’d long since forgotten and the nights a cascade of well spun fascinations. We felt a damn sight smarter than Bogey and Bacall, depending on the moment. It was far from perfect, which is how you expect it to be when you arrive at a certain age.

It would be almost two months from the night of our initial phone conversation until I would fly out to Chicago, and it passed like wildfire. I was busier than a paper shredder in a law firm. My ex was getting serious with her new guy, a fact that I toasted every chance I could. I wasn’t nearly as celebratory about moving back into the old house in the event she moved out, however.

The house had been a point of contention throughout my marriage. Truth be told, I never warmed to the place. It wasn’t her fault, seeing as how I was a royal pain in the ass when it came to particulars during our house search. We went through several agents and scores of homes before she took matters into her own hands and signed off on one. I would never have admitted it back then, but she was right to do so. I was never going to fall in love with a house. I was always more Shaolin monk than homeowner, and I’m not gonna blame David Carradine for my cosmic cow.

As fate would have it, Dame was moving too. So the time was a blur of constant motion on both ends of a telephone line in the lead up. Writing was the funk to our sweetly sewn strokes back into the shore and away from the mighty of a storm that was changing our lives in scoundrel form. The Dame filled in the gaps quite nicely, and before long she became the voice that tucked me in at night.

The only reason the blog didn’t become an afterthought is because it was crunching numbers the way a bar crunches tacos at happy hour. A local radio station started stealing our shit, so when I pitched a fit about it, they invited us on the show. I had Dan do the honors, seeing as how I didn’t want anything to do with talentless jerkoffs who did the puff pastry work of morning radio.

To my way of thinking, if all the world truly is a stage, then you have to play yourself. Because the minute you start playing a character other than yourself, you’re shish-kebab. Granted, I’m a scrum of oddities, but I will always stay true to the things I feel, even if they make no fucking sense to anybody else. Because in the end I realize that we are all grains of sand. Be true to the particulates is what I’m saying.

The blog was kicking thanks to my unsolved self. I wasn’t economical in my opinions, and I sure as hell wasn’t convenient in my dearth of membership cards. But I wrote the hell out of sunsets and sunrises and produced shit that churned an engine that was happening. I found writers, not because I gave a blessed fuck for community, but because they wrote good shit. And they brought friends. I had no agenda and no blessed desire to carry such a thing. And it worked, so fuck Sam Houston and his consternation.

Dame was simpatico. She strummed because it meant something to her, and for no reason beyond that. She’d worked for a newspaper and now she toiled in relative obscurity on a blog with a great sounding name. You could say she had a few million reasons to be that nonchalant but I knew better than that. She’d simply arrived at a point of hurt and hopelessness, after which nothing mattered as much as the writing. Which became the thing, the only thing, and nothing but the thing. She was the kind of smart that attracted more of the same. People loved her because of her bared boned truth telling. She was a Carly Simon song- whichever one she damn well pleased.

It was mid July when I called up Dame one afternoon. I was covering a news conference at Armstrong Headquarters, heralding their LEED Platinum certification. I was jittery on account of it being uncharted territory for me. But trade mags paid well and the spread was sweet. I’d written a few things for Sporting News, and hated it. Fact is, I wasn’t crazy about writing for any publication. I didn’t feel the thrill in seeing my name on a byline, which probably has something to do with that whole Shaolin monk malady I suffer from.

Dame told me to eat up, write up and to call her later and then she smooched me goodbye. After which I headed inside to meet my contact: a thirty something beauty who had tats that spoke to regret and a born again spirit. She was bored in her marriage and kept a love platter on the side. So what if I wasn’t launch code sharp as far as trade mags were concerned. I knew women just fine.

“Do you have a business card?” She asked sweetly.

“I don’t have a business card or a resume, but if you want me back again just read the piece I’m gonna write. That’ll work better,” I snorted whilst staring down the asshole seated next to me who had been reciting his resume to anyone who cared to listen during chow time. 

Dale Carnegie was hating me from the ever after, and I was plenty fine with that.

Matters Of Little Consequence

The best way to reach Atlantis is by drowning. So, yanno . . . be advised. 

By the spring of 2007, the blog was settling into a predictable rhythm. I derived zero enjoyment from the notoriety we had garnered after the Britney shot; partly because it was fucking stupid but mostly because it wasn’t my personality. Blog hits were a currency I couldn’t relate to in the least. But rather than dwell on it, I kept my nose to the grind by rubbing more spice into the beast in order to cull that ching. I wrote provocative shit and connected with other bloggers and brainstormed ideas with Dan late in the night.

Dan wanted to schmooze and to get known and I wanted to write and be left the fuck alone, so we were able to achieve a perfect balance. We were vastly different people who found a righteous third pedal with which to ride this duct taped circus tricycle into a flow that had some keeps. And so what if the means to our endgame was polar bear opposite? We figured there’d be insurance for that.

As someone with depression, writing had become a beautiful outlet through which I could invite my inner tempest without need for a visit to the psych ward. When I wasn’t chitting with sports bloggers or chatting with food bloggers, I was commiserating with depressed peeps like me. I treated blogging the way I treat cocktail parties. Fetch a comfortable drink, find a spot on the fringe and then cozy up to someone who fits my perspective.

Unfortunately my love life didn’t follow the same set of rules. In this respect, I always seemed to find the loudest crash. After a few soft landings to break me in to the new old fashioned ways of romance, I’d gotten down to brass knuckles. In the months leading up to my head on collision with the “Dame”, my common sense had gone rogue warrior. A top five mishaps from that most interesting period? Sure why not . . .

5- Tracy loved Jaeger shots and revolvers. Moving right along . . .
4- Lizette gifted me an Irish soccer t-shirt after our St. Patrick’s Day hookup. Her gun toting baby daddy proved to be too expensive for my umm . . blood.
3- Gina smoked weed whilst driving and her hobbies included bar fights and tat collecting.
2- Karen was always there. Like when she needed a place to crash rent free. Or when she needed money. Or when she needed to recover from a bad breakup. Yep, she was there.
1- Maria

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Damned if I knew. The girl was TNT in spaghetti straps, with the ability to seduce a Pastor on Sunday morning. We’d reconnected at her birthday party the previous summer, where everyone had been invited to feel her new boobs during champagne toasts. Months later during a snowstorm, she invited me over for a private showing. She had a couple bottles of wine and smokes, which clinched the summit for me.

I’d been planning an exit strategy ever since, because every moment spent with her brought catastrophic risk. Girl had a posse of ex boyfriends with warrants and possessive ex girlfriends who hated men. Understandably, I never actually slept during the time I was sleeping with Maria. Thank God for Dan’s incredibly shitty judgement, or I might have ended up being immortalized on some after hours cable crime show.

As if Britney hadn’t harshed my mellow enough, you can imagine my surprise when I woke up to a post on our blog written by Maria. Evidently she had sweet talked Dan into letting her write with us after I kept turning her down. So it was that she treated our readers to the specs on her boob job, her crush on Jesus when times got tough. And oh . . sordid tales of sex with Marco.

My brain exploded, after which I deleted the post, changed the password on the blog and warned Dan that I wasn’t planning on giving it back so easily and that if he ever pulled some stupid shit like that again, I’d tell Emie about his recurring dreams. And then I broke up with Maria, which was awkward considering the fact we weren’t actually dating.

I decided to practice celibacy after that. It was a combination crash diet and detox program, with lots of early nights involved. I read like crazy and wrote like a maniac when I wasn’t running and meditating and for about a week and a half I thought I had the stuff of monks. Until Dan, bless his dark, misguided heart, turned me on to a blogger who would end up changing my life forever. She went by the moniker “Dame” and her blog was a literary cutlery set.

I still remember the first time I read her. She was promising to exact revenge on her former beloved in ways that would have had Messalina shuddering in her sandals. And while it was evident this fellow had proven to be a master cheat, the Dame’s punitive measures were, to put it mildly, extreme. Her vengeful anecdote didn’t mention water boarding, since it seemed too lenient a measure. Everything else was on the table, however.

She believed in an eye for an eye- as in, applying a skewer to his roving one. She talked about how she was going to sleep with his friends, his brother and maybe even his old man if it came to that. I was well aware these specific threats were made in jest, but I was also aware there was no jest in her enmity for the sonofabitch.

Her ramble was homicidal, with only trace elements of sarcasm involved, to keep you from calling the authorities; sort of like a tinctured brandy in a whodunit that lets the damsel escape to some exotic locale before a single badge makes the scene. She was straight up wicked in her brilliance, with the kind of cunning that John Grisham couldn’t touch with a satellite. She had two moves carved to a platinum inset before you stepped out of bed, and while Dan called her crazy, I knew she was something more than that. Entirely.

Truth be told, her ode to a lover gone wrong read insanely. It was the kind of beau bounty that should have had me running into the Atlantic Ocean and not coming up for air until I reached a well lit tunnel dressed in cherubs. That would have been the normal reaction, sure. But me?

I was falling.

Things We Lose In The Fire

Back in the day, when Matters did have some consequence and I was writing on a blog that spared no one, I had a default reply to anyone who threw down on me with a nasty comment. It went something like this.

Go fuck yourself. 

It didn’t end there. Because I’m nothing if not respectful to those I hurl insults at, as dichotomous as that sounds. I feel that if you’re going to engage in name calling with me, Imma clap back with my particulars in bold faced detail. This is because I want to make clear that I refuse to be sucker punched by someone looking to bully me with words.

And let’s face it, social media is a greenhouse for peeps who wish to hit and run. They shout you down as being an -ist and then they flee the scene of the crime because they don’t have proof of assurance. Who needs to be pliable when you can be libel? And get away with it. Sweet deal.

I want to share an exchange I had with a reader of my blog back in 2007. He replied to a post I wrote about Michael Vick after the Atlanta Falcons QB was arrested for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. As happens with peeps who do bad shit, Vick “found” God in the aftermath of his crimes. So I wrote a post in which I speculated on what a phone call between Vick and God would look like. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for Vick.

I’ll narrate the exchange, starting with his comment to my post.

Guys, 

The “culture” thing I agree has been misused by some so-called black leaders to the point of boredom. However, one has only to look at the “Jena 6” to realize that the spectre of racism/cultural double-standard is alive and well. Instead of talking about Mike Vick’s depravity against dogs, how about spotlighting the foul shit that’s going down in the back bayous of good ole’ Louisiana. PLEASE Don’t get “tired” to the point of being blind. Like you stated “What’s wrong is just wrong.”

I know we all want to live in the Utopia States of America, but the fact is the racial/cultural bias in some parts of this country is alive and well. I wonder what your take on this case is, and will you write a “funny” little vignette about it? By the way the lack of national (around the clock) coverage for this case, as opposed to the Vick case, is what’s really insulting to the black community.

Okay, now at this point I could have Napalmed his opinion. But he wasn’t name calling or engaging in sophomoric assaults. His was an opinion that differed from mine. Simple as that. So I responded with this.

The difference between the Vick story and the Jena 6 story is that one involves high school kids and the other involves a grown man. Vick should have known better; his horrible judgement leaves him wide open to satirists and Op-ed junkies. His newfound relationship with God (sic) notwithstanding, I believe Vick is simply a bad guy who will hide behind anything- from the law to God and back again- in order to work his way out of the hole he dug in the first place.

Those kids in Jena? Just a little different, don’t you think? There is nothing in the world I could do to “funny” up what those kids went through as a result of a racial chasm they did not ask for nor deserve to be victims of.

Hypocrisy is fodder, and I’m an equal opportunity offender. Last I looked, Larry Craig was a white Senator from Idaho. He hid behind family values while living a lifestyle he supposedly abhorred. He gets slammed. Vick gets slammed. It’s my blog, my opinion.

We don’t believe in sacred cows here. No one is beyond our reach; black or white, man or woman, Dem or GOP. And what we’re really tired of is a homogenized news cycle that shows a brilliant propensity for missing the point. We want the point, as I believe you do, to be driven home. Why Vick over Jena? Indeed.

And as far as the bayou is concerned, we both know it’s not necessary to travel to the swamps to find the depths. It’s everywhere.

I appreciate your comments, I really do. And believe it or not, I offer no wisecracking comebacks to you, because I believe you are coming at me from the heart. I like that, I respect that. And I invite that.

I don’t feel as if you’ve called me out on this one; but rather, you’ve asked me to see another side. And I do, I try, and where I fail, please let me know. The worst I will do is disagree, but I won’t ignore a thoughtful attempt.

And he came back at me, not with vitriol, but with this.

Thoughtful response. Much appreciated and respected. I think I’ll continue to read your blog.

True to his word, he read us and he would comment from time to time. And like . . . wow, right? Two people, one black and one white . . disagreeing with each other in harmony. And to think, back then we used to wonder where the world was going to?

Now I wonder where it went.

Matters of Little Consequence

Vegas, May 2005:

In Vegas, everyone enjoys home field advantage, even if they hail from Connecticut. Everything is up for grabs and the rest of it is available for a price. I didn’t bother with the alias you’re supposed to wear once you arrive in Sin City. I went with my real name since the scene of any crime begins with a lie, and so it stood to reason that telling the truth was like hiding in plain sight.

A cross country jet ride is an experiment in the absurdities of time traveling, and no amount of preparation ever seems to emulsify the oil and vinegar composition of jet lag. I dozed in and out as the scenery flickered in piecemeal arrangements; from the dark green steeples of mountain ranges to vast plains which resembled oceans riding along with the top down, and then canyons and then dust, where the terrain can best be described as postcards from Jupiter. It’s a ghostly descent into what feels like the edge of the world, until you spot the flash of apocalyptic neon that lets you know you have arrived at the intersection of Christmas and Hell. Because this is the place Mr. Potter would’ve built if Quentin Tarantino had written It’s a Wonderful Life.

I was one hundred and eighty minutes in the black when my flight touched down at McCarran. I sliced through the slot machine cricket song and shit fashion sense of Sugar Daddies on loan. After checking into my hotel, I grabbed lunch and game planned the next few days: Hoover Dam, Gladys Knight at the Tropicana, the Bellagio Buffet, Gilley’s Honky Tonk, the Guggenheim exhibit of Egyptian antiquities and a dead president parade in honor of Bugsy Siegel. I hate giving my money away to worthwhile pursuits, much less a smarmy looking dealer who’s hopped up on Starbucks and reeks of menthol. But I had given myself a kitschy stipend for the toga party that is new age Rome. No camping out at tables or slots, no getting to know the waitress’s family history. Get in, win or lose twenty bucks and get out. If nothing else, I’d know what it felt like to rob convenience stores for a living.

I tugged on a Marlboro, sipped at my frosty hops and picked on a roast beef sandwich as my mind poured wicked intentions as if sugar on a spinning wheel. Life on the other side of marriage had proven less daunting than I’d feared before my separation. Online dating was a nice supplement to my old school sensibilities, where black books and long time female friends imbued my reconstructive efforts. Vegas would be a celebration of life on the B side, sans the rose garden and white picket fence existence.

A blog isn’t an STD

And in much the same way my eleven years of marriage had flown by as if it had been fitted with rocket boosters, my Vegas jaunt crushed hours into minutes and days into the rear view. Before I could get the cosmic license plate number, I was contemplating my last full day in town. I’d saved Gladys Knight for my going away song, because she was going to make me cry when she lit the fuse on “Midnight Train to Georgia”, and I couldn’t think of a better way to say goodbye.

It was the crack of noon when I arrived poolside with a mimosa in tow. The afterglow of a one night stand was laying siege to my senses as I dialed up the mystery girl. I’d invited her to brunch, in spite of the fact it was an outdated gesture inside the age of hit and run.

We connected in Gilley’s the night before, when our eyes kept running into each other as some clueless young pup in a baseball cap fed her drinks. Until then, I was contenting myself just fine with a steady diet of beer whilst enjoying the mud wrestling contests and bikini clad bartenders. And then the baseball cap went to relieve himself and then I swooped in and bought her next round- Absolut and Red Bull- and when our verbs began moving horizontally, we followed.

Wrong number.

The girl wasn’t the least bit interested in getting anything more substantial than the hustle and flow of a Vegas tryst. I respected the hell out of her game, which never would’ve culminated in a score if she hadn’t been packing the Trojans this discount Romeo had somehow left off his checklist. All that and she saved me the brunch tab.

I ordered another mimosa and contemplated whether I wanted to eat something or just nap by the pool when my phone chimed to life. It was Dan, my sometimes pal ever since he married my former jogging partner Emie. Me and Dan were polar opposites who shared an affinity for beer, and that’s really all that matters.

“How’s Vegas?”

“It’s like the garden inside Hunter S. Thompson’s head,” I replied.

“I’m afraid to ask,” Dan laughs.

“Oh yeah, and that jazz about dry heat is bullshit. It’s a fucking industrial microwave is what it is, which is why you have to be soaking in a pool or an adult beverage at all times. And really . . you should be doing both,”

“Hey, I’d like to get together when you’re back in town and toss around some ideas I’ve got about a blog,” Dan said.

“What’s a blog?”

“It’s a website where you write whatever the fuck you feel like writing and people comment on it. You read their shit and comment back, it’s kind of like a community of storytellers,” He explained.

“And you’re asking me what?”

“To write with me,”

“How much is this blog?”

“It’s free,”

“Free is good,”

“I’m surprised you never heard of blogging before,” Dan said.

“Dude, if a woman told me she had a blog, I’d be getting tested. That’s how much I know about a blog,”

“So you interested?” Dan asked.

“I don’t know, you do your research and as long as it keeps coming back free . . then  maybe,” I said reluctantly.

“Did you get married for the hell of it?” Dan laughed.

“Because downsizing the hell out of my shit after one marriage wasn’t enough? Nah  . . you know who gets married for fun? Psychos, that’s who. And there’s the whole I’m still legally married detail to consider. And oh yeah . .  even amicable divorces ask for shit you didn’t know you even fucking had. So umm, no Chachi. But hey! I did bump into Andie MacDowell at Mandalay Bay and I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant now,”

“Dinner when we get back, on me. I want you to be in on this with me,” Dan said.

“You buying dinner means you really want me,” I laughed.

“I’m serious about this. Come on dude, what’s the worst that could happen?” Dan replied.

Famous last words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Zen of Katharine Hepburn, Dragons and Tigers and Canada’s Best

I was watching Bringing Up Baby earlier today and thinking to myself that Katharine Hepburn possessed the rare ability to play opposite any leading man. No matter how aloof (Cary Grant), scene stealing (Jimmy Stewart) intense (Bogart) or intimidating (Spencer Tracy) the personality, Kate made ’em look like pups once the director yelled ‘Action!’ and the match got lit.

For some . . it be that way.

It got me thinking about how damned comfortable some people can be in their own skin, while others spend a lifetime searching for that precious real estate. We’re adaptations whose chapters are constantly being written and re-written. Here on solid ground, we’re graded on the shit. But I like to think the cosmic plan is a tad bit more understanding. As I watched her nail the landing in scene after scene, chasing her pet leopard as well as the man of her dreams, it felt as if Kate and the Universe were on a first name basis. Handling her lines the way Ted Williams used to hug a curve ball. Smiling in a way that made you wish you were the reason for it. As if the secret to life truly was black and white.

Those thoughts of mine begat more thoughts . . .

  • Like, I plum forgot what last season’s Game of Thrones was all about, so it was a good thing I watched the two minute catch-up before tonight’s season premiere.
  • It was an ayt first inning, with plenty of table setting shit happening. And even still, I was literally gawking as I watched the first few minutes with the gang all there. It was like a class re-union, if my class was full of really cool ass kids whose drug of choice was Valyrian steel.
  • The best part is, I didn’t even need my special edition Oreos to enjoy it.

GOT Oreos

  • Just a couple, three fingers of Knob Creek and cold Sams on demand.
  • Oh . . what? Like you don’t treat a season premiere as if it’s a sporting event too? Puhleeze!

Sansa Stark: What do dragons eat anyway? 

Daenerys Targaryen: Whatever they want . . .

  • Yup . . they still got it.
  • Hey, Tiger won a major for the first time since Trump was bossing around interns and not an entire country.
  • I don’t watch much golf, but when my son texted me that Tiger had won the Masters, my official reply was Holy fucking shit!! I missed it??? I mean, I behaved as if I had a set of golf clubs. Imagine that.
  • Oh, and do yourself a favor? Don’t be like me and go chasing Gypsy Blanchard documentaries with Chris Watts documentaries on YouTube. Lest you find yourself watching Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem at one o’clock in the morning whilst taking communion with an Italian sub. I do not recommend it . . .
  • Of course, that YouTube spell also introduced me to Billie Eilish, whose wicked hatchet of a voice sings songs of death. Gloriously.
  • And Pluto TV should be called Satan Woo. Which is my way of saying I likey.
  • Every time I see someone vaping, I feel as if I should tell them to donate their lungs while they still got ’em.
  • So the lesson for all the kids out there is to stay in school, and if you’re gonna smoke . . go with nicotine. At least you know how that’s going to work on your insides.
  • I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t know that vines were a big deal until they were no longer a big deal.
  • I had a sausage McGriddle sammy for breakfast last week, and as far as best inventions of all time go . . it’s right up there with the wheel and the light bulb in my book.
  • As you can probably tell, I’m not a tough grader.
  • My new running playlist includes Grandmaster Flash, Salt ‘N Pepa, Public Enemy, Queen Latifah, the Sugarhill Gang, N.W.A, Dr. Dre, and MC Lyte. Its like I’m pumping morphine into my dogs whilst French kissing a turbine. Chill fixed, plunge ready . . coo.

And last but most certainly not least, is a shout out to my blog pal Dale Rogerson over at A Dalectable Life. I call her Q, and she calls me all sorts of names. But I leave her to that, because she’s usually spot on in the doing. And while she doesn’t have maple syrup running through her veins- that’s an urban legend- she is still plenty sweet. And totally real.

She happens to think Les Habitants will one day rule the hockey world again (I hope she’s right), and that George Ezra can sing the daylights out of a full moon and that every kitchen has a soul and that the Universe believes in her, most days. Which gives me a leg up on the great big forever, because I believe in her . . like, all the time.

Today marks the birthday of our Queen to the North. Who celebrates her life, one cup of Joe at a time. With a smile that lingers, and a laugh that prospers and a heart that beats to a rhythm that is contagious and true.

Here’s to Canada.

Alaska! Hello! (A Prompt Challenge)

Karen Craven over at Table for One issued a prompt challenge for me and Dale of A Dalectable Life. The whole thing was based on snippets of an overheard conversation, because writers are pacifistic spies at heart and we ain’t afraid to admit it. Karen’s prompt post can be found here. I tucked this snippet turned prompt into the block quote that begins with Thank you Andrew. 

I’m just thankful prompts are graded on a lenient curve, because man did I veer. Imma blame it on Larry King and a tee-totaling weekend.

Vegas odds could not have talked me into this shit. Me, ending up in a musty old bunker in Battle Creek, Michigan at the end of the world. The writer in me must admit the locale is Napoleon fucking Bonaparte perfect, I mean . . as far as irony goes. As far as yours truly is concerned? This bunker is a cosmic middle finger to every Goddamn day I’ve been on this earth, all 19,072 of ’em. That’s a lot of middle fingers, and I would trade every single one of them for a single thumb so’s I could hitchhike to any other planet in the universe right about now.

The first nukes hit the major cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia. Everything in and around those places went Edvard Munch, and the rest of time came calling on all the other places in between with loud, shaking fists. In two days, I made it as far as here. Along the way I bogarted a bottle of Woodford Reserve, a Ziploc bag of Xanax, a ’78 El Camino and then a late model Jeep Liberty whose good graces saved me from Cleveland.

When the Jeep ran out of gas, I schlepped for miles until I came upon a residential hive of American made dreams that seem as useful as nursery rhymes now. I found a rancher with NRA stickers in the windows and guessed right on the fallout shelter. The occupants were long gone, probably due North with dreams of building a kingdom in some middle of nowhere place that had zero appeal back when things were running smoothly and borders were meant to keep people out.

From the looks of it, this shelter was constructed during the rolling thunder of Cold War implications otherwise known as the eighties. Updated several times and in fine shape for just this sort of nightmarish scenario. But really, what are the chances this glorified soup can is gonna save my ass from gamma time? The truth is, Jesus ain’t walking through that door, and this clusterfuck is way above Superman’s pay grade.

On a positive note, the pantry was stocked and the generator worked. The bonus round was the TV and VCR. When a VCR feels like Christmas morning, that gives you a pretty good idea of how things are going.

The ham radio stopped working this morning. But not before I learned the nitty gritty about how the country had come apart at the seams with little chance of being sewn back together again. Death toll estimates run the gamut- anywhere from eight million to half the nation’s population. All I know is that I’ve seen a lot of ghost towns along the way. This morning’s transmission between Buck from East Lansing and Andrew from Cincinnati was akin to being on the deck of the Titanic after they ran out of lifeboats.

“Thank you Andrew. I’m not quite sure what you are hearing, but the real answer is, there is not a definitive answer yet. Alaska is working it and they are trying to salvage it.”

According to Buck- a National Guardsman whose intel seemed solid enough- the refuge in Anchorage had been overrun with people fleeing the left coast. Mass rioting ensued after which the ferries were lost and chaos turned Anchorage into a paradise lost.

I pop a Xanax, take a swig of my well worn bourbon and fire up the VCR. The former occupant owned the largest collection of Larry King videos in the world, I have to think. I pop in a tape that reads “Larry King: Alaska”, because why in the blessed fuck would I deny myself a macabre chuckle at this point?

“Alaska, Hello!”

“Hi Larry, this is Joel Fleischman from Cicely and I’m a big fan of your show . .”

It takes me a hot second to put it together. Joel Fleischman was a fictional doctor on a show called Northern Exposure.

Wait a minute! This guy was a prank caller? 

“What’s your question?” Larry barks with enough gravel in his voice to sell it wholesale to a construction company.

“Well it seems our local disc jockey here is planning to build a trebuchet in the hopes of tossing a cow . . .”

Fucking A right this is a prank call! If that ain’t top of the world with a Julie Newmar cherry velvet kiss on top of the last stand righteous! 

BOOM! 

The generator takes a shit and I light up some candles now. It looks like the world is fresh out of def-cons, which means it’s time to double down on my bottles of happy and get to stepping inside a galaxy far, far away. Here’s hoping whatever comes next has a welcome mat and fresh linens. A starched Martini and a Cohiba would be supreme, but I don’t want to be greedy.

I just wish the upstairs neighbors would’ve let Joel Fleischman from Cicely get to the piano punchline. But hey . . I got to spend my last night on earth in the home of a Robert Zemeckis character whose pursuits included prank calling the great Larry king and collecting every last artifact from the eighties.

I pop another Xanax and take a Vegas helping of bourbon and I hope like hell the bastard who called this place home made it somewhere better as I plug his Walkman into a Three Dog Night drip. But instead of chill, my bones are restless to the curiosities above.

“Fuck this shit!” I say as I grab my necessaries before breaking the seal on my tomb and climbing up into the early winter. It’s late July and a thick snowfall coats the ground as spearmint colored snowflakes float across a sunless sky. I walk down to a lake and loose a boat from its moorings while talking the outboard into going my way. When I make it to the middle, I kill the engine and sit back to ponder life’s great mysteries. Like, how did the fates allow Boston to win the last World Series ever played? And would Shakespeare have dated a Kardashian? And why was I so infatuated with my Fitbit? All I know for certain is I hope to hell I left the stove on this time.

I pop a couple more Xanax and finish the bourbon and then I settle into what’s left of not much at all. Just me and my thoughts and a rumbling sound from some place not so far away and getting closer. There’s nothing left to pray for and yanno, I’m glad. Because I got a peach song cooking, just for the occasion.

Timing really is everything.

Dawn

A golden moon sways inside the endless reach of broken china stars whose wishes read like musical notes, risen from the dawn of time.

Darkness grows into a thick bleed of hard purple varnish, with lonely silver pinpricks of the ancient times roaming hopelessly, like lost lovers.

This celestial ballet is a tangle of poets and rock songs whose asymmetry is a revolution of math equations making babies with angry rhymes.

Serendipity pulses and bubbles in this magical pond. The restless calm before the uprising, when the might of darkness will battle with fire.

Cobwebbed stars shout in their best mighty and pray in their best kneel and get tangled up in storms whose crush is lying in ravenous wait.

Vermilion colored pebbles cobble themselves together in serrated regiments, tasked with the merciless plunge.

Stars weeping as if bent spokes on a broken down bicycle whose journey is a wheezing, desperate wreck of memories.

The sky heaves and swirls as if there is any doubt as to the outcome of its rebellion. Its tears turn to flickers and lashes and then finally, to smoke.

Black vespers of those cosmic scrolls float like ash across the moody canvas. Violet dregs to plush magenta to roasted crimson.

Plump slices of orange drip from this frosted ceiling as the moon runs away and the sky opens up to birdsong echoes and velvet cream clouds.

And dreams paint the newborn sky in sunflower drenched amulets that streak the racing heartbeat of that orange pulp with blessings.

The wind tastes of mercury and wine, with wrinkles of mystery and fate collapsing in a tranquil embrace with the ransom of time.

Morning dew gives way to plush, the chill recedes to a warm and faithful glow and miracles dress themselves in different arrangements now.

Daylight sings its cursive song as steeples sing to blackbirds. As a fresh coat of paint comforts an old house. As stained glass speaks of truth.

Dawn has arrived.