Sunday, December 28, 2014

Grenade (a short story)

      Alison tilted her head back and held the dropper steadily above her left eye as she pumped the gas pedal repeatedly to keep the car she was sitting in from stalling. The revving motor created a gentle sway to which she timed perfectly with each squeeze of the hollow rubber handle. She seldom missed. After applying several drops to each eye, Alison screwed the dropper back into its glass port and returned it to her purse. Using the rear view mirror, she dabbed her eyes with a small swath of tissue. She noticed Shawn standing across the parking lot, on the sidewalk hugging the building, sheltered from the drizzling rain by an overhang that ran the entire length. His arms were outstretched, pumping up and down, and looked as though he were comparing the weight of two imaginary objects.  He was mouthing something in her direction. She cracked her window.
      "Leeeet's go, already!" "C'mon, let's gooooooo!"
He stopped yelling long enough to snatch a smoke from his inside pocket, light it and take a drag, before resuming his verbal commands. Alison watched his dumb ass for a moment longer before finally killing the car's ignition. The gas needle left the 1/4 mark and disappeared beneath the horizon. She checked her eyes one last time in the rear view, grabbed her purse, and made a b-line to where Shawn was standing.
      "Hey, fuck face," she said, "why you gotta be so rambunctious?"
      Shawn took a drag and exhaled slowly. "S'bout time! I been waiting in the rain here forever, fool."
Alison peered through the mostly empty parking lot. She looked back at Shawn and noticed a strange stretch across his face. It was like it was never there before, but she couldn't be too sure.
      "You're a goddamn liar, Shawn."
      "Whatever, come on, let's get a drink already."
They walked past several storefronts until they reached Jerico's Bar. Alison stopped to clean her boot bottoms on the rubber mat and reached for Shawn's shoulder for balance, but he opened the door and disappeared inside without hesitation.
      "Shit head!" she called out to him as she reached for the door frame instead.
Inside, Shawn was already seated at the bar and waiting for his first beer. Alison slid into the stool next to him.
      "You order one for me?" she asked. Shawn shook his head no. "Asshole," mumbled Alison as she motioned towards the bartender. "A whiskey, please. Neat."
      The whiskey appeared before her and was placed onto a napkin. It came equipped with a little green stir stick.
      "What the fuck do I need a stir stick for?" she asked aloud in no specific direction. The bartender had already moved away. Shawn looked over and shrugged.
      "Maybe to prop open your pussy later?"
      Alison sneered. "What does that even mean anyway? You make no sense, Shawn. None." She stirred her whiskey and took a hit. "Hey, how are my eyes?"
      "A BEER, sir! Can I get that beer already?!" Shawn yelled across the bar. Embarrassed, the bartender hurried over to the tap, poured a PBR and rushed to where they were sitting. He set the pint down on a coaster causing some to spill over and run down the glass. "My apologies, I completely forgot. I'm truly sorry," he said before wiping the spill with a cloth and walking away.
      Shawn took a long pull of the cold beer. Alison sat and watched. His adam's apple bounced and lurched with every gulp and his throat looked as though it were writhing in pain. He set the beer down half full and belched.
      "Um, nice. So, how are my eyes, pig?" Shawn looked at her.
      "What do you want me to say? For fuck's sake, I dunno... they look like... eyes," he said while flipping his hands out to the sides. "Besides, I'm hungry. We should order food too," he added and started looking for a menu.
      Alison griped a few choice words as she stood up and slid out behind the tall, wooden stool. She reached in and took another sip of whiskey, this time removing the mini straw and placing it along the edge of the napkin.
      "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to the bathroom. I'll check my own eyes, thank you very much." She started walking down the length of the bar, stopping when she noticed a stack of menus. She grabbed one and slid it down to Shawn. "Order me a fucking steak and prawn, would ya?"
      Shawn reached for the menu and nodded.

      Alison wasn't even a third of the way into her steak when Shawn finished the last bite of his meal. He wiped his mouth and surrounding beard and mustache clean, crumpled the napkin, tossed it onto his plate, and slid the whole thing forward. He nodded to the bartender. "Another PBR, please."
      "Wow, you really finished that food quickly. I have NEVER seen anyone eat that fast before."
      Shawn turned toward the voice. It was a pretty, blonde haired woman. She too, was eating. The man seated next to her was not, but was leaning in on his elbows while caressing a pint of beer between his hands. The neighboring blonde continued.
      "I bet you could do real good in one of them eating contests!" she giggled, pleased with her conjecture.
      Acting uninterested, Shawn acknowledged her with a "yeah, I guess so" while Alison rolled her eyes and continued eating her steak. She'd seen this whole bit with dozens of pretty girls before in dozens of other bars; each one hoping to end their evening by fucking Shawn's brains out. Alison waited for the next brilliant pick-up line by silently counting down with every chew of her meat. It arrived before she even had time to swallow.
      "So, where'd you learn to eat like that? I'm Courtney, by the way," the girl said while extending her tiny hand up and over her bright red purse. She wore rings on her fingers and bracelets that made clanging sounds against her wrist. Her hair was straight, medium length and hugged the sides of her smiling face. She had poofy bangs and her lipstick matched the redness of her purse. Her blouse was see-thru lace and a red skin tight shirt could be seen beneath. It was low cut, exposing her soft tits. Tight jeans and black boots completed her attire.
      Shawn took her hand in his and squeezed it lightly. Without thinking, he quickly answered her question.
      "In the Army. I was a Ranger. We learned to eat fast, kill faster, and fuck hard."
      Alison shot a him glaring glance and nudged him hard in the side. Shawn ignored both. She leaned in.
      "You are un-fucking-believable," she whispered, half smirking. "I can't believe I even know you."
      The blonde girl's interest in Shawn increased immediately as she turned more to engage him, completely abandoning her purse and plate of food, but before she could produce her next sentence the man seated next to her spoke out. He was still leaning forward on his elbows grasping his beer, but shifted and slid one arm in the blonde's direction as he spoke around her as though she didn't exist.
      "2nd Battalion right here, brother. Let me buy you a drink." The man raised his hand and snapped his fingers loudly, then pointed at Shawn. "Sir, I'm buying this man another one. Oh, and another for me if you don't mind, thank you." The bartender nodded and immediately served them a round. The man held up his own beer and motioned for Shawn to do the same.
      Shawn thanked the man, held up his beer and took a gulp in unison. He set his beer back down and turned nervously back to Alison.
      "You get no support from me, you dumb fuck," she said quietly. "Why on earth did you say that?"
      "I.. I.. I don't know. I just blurted it out without really thinking," Shawn replied even quieter.
      "Yeah, well, you better do some quick thinking... because he's coming over."
      The man walked over and stood with his beer in hand, partially wedged between Shawn and the pretty blonde (who was now visibly flustered by the sudden turn of events). Still ignoring her completely, the 2nd Battalion Army Ranger spoke again.
      "I'm back from deployment: Iraq and Afghanistan. State-side for the first time in over a year. Fuck, it feels good. What about you, brother? Where did you tour? Which battalion?"
      Shawn fumbled through his thoughts. His throat grew tight and his hands clammed up. He spun his beer anxiously in circles. He'd been in this situation countless times before, but always with women, never with a full grown, battle-hardened soldier asking questions he could not answer. His thoughts jumped from being slammed against a wall and punched repeatedly to the smell of the blonde girl's hair and the taste of her skin. He wondered what type of panties she wore, if any at all. He wondered if the sex was even worth the lie he told in order to try and get it. She was probably a bore in bed; a total snooze. One of those girls who cringe at the thought of sucking dick, but love to get eaten out. Karma certainly was a dirty bitch, and he definitely invited it in this time.
      Still punch drunk and swimming in an endless dream, Shawn slowly raised his head and met the man's eyes for the first time. They were deep brown, and his stare, intensely unwavering. He stood powerfully over him; a tight Affliction t-shirt contouring to a muscled body beneath. A 75th Ranger Regiment tattoo could be seen peeking out from underneath his sleeve. Below it were other tattoos- all portraying scenes of chaos and violence. Shawn almost managed a chuckle thinking about the dangerous frailty of his situation.
      "Fucking karma, I swear," Shawn mumbled incoherently as he drank more of his beer.
      "Didn't catch that," the man answered back.
      "He said, 'fucking car won't start'. That's all he's been talking about all night, and I swear, it's starting to rub me raw." Alison stood up and moved in, whiskey in hand. She wore a semi-short black skirt which revealed two gorgeous legs. She loved her legs and considered them to be her best feature, hence the wearing of skirts nearly every day. "I didn't catch your name?" she asked as she placed one of her legs against him.
      "Staff Sergeant Curtis Fletcher, ma'am."
      "Oh, come now, Curtis, you can drop all the military speak. It has taken me forever to train my... friend, Shawn here, of that. You Ranger boys are all the same," she teased playfully while placing her arm around his neck and shoulder. "Always so polite too, I might add. Complete gentlemen."
      Shawn could hardly believe what he was witnessing, but he dared not interrupt. He watched while Alison single-handedly, and almost certainly, saved his lily white ass. In a matter of minutes, Staff Sergeant Fletcher's interest in talking to a fellow Ranger had diminished and was replaced with buying whiskey and flirting with his new friend. They relocated to the far end of the bar and continued drinking and flirting. Shawn watched in disbelief as Alison continued the charade, even allowing herself to be felt up under her skirt. As the heavy petting progressed to a full on "anything goes" make out session, Shawn decided that it was time to leave. He paid his bill, got the pretty blonde's phone number and left Jerico's.

      He sat outside in his car smoking a cigarette and watched as the drizzling rain collected on his windshield and formed a dizzying, opaque shield between him and the outside world. His head still reared from all the alcohol and his mind was numb from disbelief. His cell phone beeped and vibrated several times in the empty seat next to him. He flicked his cigarette, rolled up the window and retrieved the phone. The first text was from mom asking where they were at and if they were coming home for dinner. The second text was from Jenny asking if he was with Alison. A third text from Jenny asking why Alison wasn't answering her phone followed by another text demanding her whereabouts and that he call or text her immediately. Shawn tossed the phone back into the seat and rubbed his face with his hands. He leaned his head back and wondered some of the same things his mother and Jenny were wondering. He knew only a little more than they did. He had texted Alison a few times over the past few hours, but no response. He was already way past the point of worry; he was downright scared now. His kid sister had jumped on a grenade for him, but why? Why would she do that? And what could he possibly tell his mom and sister's fiance about Alison's sudden lack in communication? This was bad... really bad. He cracked the window and fired up another smoke. His trembling hands made the simple task annoying.
      "Where are you, sis?" he said aloud. "Why on earth did you go with him?"
      The realization that he basically abandoned his sister and left her in the arms of a drunk, horny man, suddenly struck Shawn hard. He felt sick and tormented at the thought of what she might be experiencing. She had never even been with a man before. She came out of the closet in her teens and had been with girls ever since, never a boy. And now, because of his stupid endeavors, little Alison was who-knows-where doing who-knows-what with you-know-who. Yanking the door open quickly, Shawn leaned out and started throwing up. After finishing he closed his door and wiped his mouth with his jacket. He picked up his phone and tried calling Alison one more time, but was interrupted by an incoming text message. It was from an unknown number and all it said was, "Fucking karma, I swear."


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saturday Song Salute

It's time for a Saturday Song Salute (a day late). Yesterday after work I hurried home, took a shower, fed Snuggle McFuck Stick, grabbed my tent and bedroll, attached them to the back of my motorcycle and headed south to Lebanon, Oregon for a concert called Guitars Under the Stars. It was an outdoor concert lasting from Friday to Sunday, but I was only staying Friday night so I could see, once again, one of the greatest bands of all time: Floater. I avoided I-5 by taking the back roads through several small rural towns and provided myself with a pleasant one hour motorcycle ride to the venue. Once there, I set up my campsite next to some other friendly concert goers and proceeded to unwind via the flask of whiskey I hid inside of my bedroll.

Actually, bear with me while I plug a certain brand for a minute. Over the past few months I have gradually weaned myself off of gin and switched over to drinking whiskey and in my attempt to locate a favorite bottle, I have discovered (through trial sans error) my absolute favorite: Ghost Owl whiskey by Parliament Distillery in Washington state. If you are a whiskey drinker and you have the chance to try this brand, I seriously cannot recommend it enough. I have mine on the rocks with a few dashes of angostura bitters.

Okay, back to the concert. There really isn't too much to write about really. It was just your basic run of the mill outdoor concert with a beer garden and food vendors and two separate stages. The other bands were decent enough, but the real steel belonged to Floater, hands down. They took the main stage around 9:30 p.m. and rocked the fuck out for about two hours non-stop. While watching this dynamic trio perform I was reminded how fortunate I am to live where I do. At almost any given time throughout the year I can easily see this band live. They reside here in Oregon, so they play here often enough. I can honestly say that Floater is one of the top reasons I love living here. Actually, that would make a terrific blog post. (Note to self: create a top ten list of reasons I love living in Oregon).

This brings me to my belated Saturday Song Salute. Choosing just one of Floater's songs is damn near an impossible task, but I've done it. I tried my best to choose a song that covers what this band is about: rock & roll for the masses. I don't really know how else to describe them. It is a common occurrence to see mothers and fathers with their small children seated atop their shoulders at Floater concerts. It is also a common occurrence to see mosh pits break out during songs such as Sad Ballad of Danny Boy and Cinema. The mixture of the "family-friendly" and "hardcore metal" feel of a Floater show is what I love most about this band. They give just enough to both worlds that both worlds can come together and have a really fucking great time. Okay, enough about the band, let's move on to the song I've chosen to salute.

In this Saturday Song Salute I've chosen Ghost In The Making by Floater. Musically, this song visits all the tiers. You get a very catchy, poppy beat and a fun melodious guitar line that carries you through, but you also get several chorus change-ups that take you deeper, but never abandon the metronomic backbone of the song. Lyrically, this song hits like a hockey slap shot. Picture the goalie's thick glove reaching out and... KAPOW!!! The loud snapping sound you hear is Ghost In The Making hitting leather at a hundred miles per hour. The beauty of these lyrics is that they might mean one thing to me, but something entirely different to you. This is one of many favorite songs by a band that I love very much. As always, grab your ear buds, pour yourself a Ghost Owl whiskey and settle in for four minutes of amazing rock & roll. I think you will definitely enjoy this ride:
Ghost In The Making (lyrics):

All you tortured and strange, before we begin, just open your minds so we all can climb in.
Sell your souls for a dime. Don't try to fight.
You'll never be strong, but you'll always be mine.
Yeah you'll always be mine.
So you're cock of the walk? A heart like a balloon and it's getting bigger.
Still when there comes that knock upon your front door
When you dance across the floor you'll know one thing for sure.
You know they won't see nothin'
You know they won't see nothin'
You know they won't see nothin'
You know they won't see you.
Oh they won't see you.
While you're working to earn just one slice I'll give you this kindly advice:
They'll forget your name at half price.
You're just a ghost in the making.
Now you're tortured and you're strange. It's already begun.
Why keep throwing punches when you know that I've won?
Sell your soul for a dime and don't try to fight.
You'll never be wrong, but you'll never be right.
No you'll never be right.
Talk your talk and walk your walk. I'm no common fool and I'd say you took your number
Still when there comes that knock upon your front door when you dance across the floor
You'll know one thing for sure.
You know they won't see nothin'
You know they won't see nothin'
You know they won't see nothin'
You'll know they won't see you.
Oh they won't see you.
While you're working to earn just one slice
I'll give you this kindly advice:
They'll forget your name at half price.
Oh you're just a ghost in the making.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

McMenamins Passport!

For those of you who are my east coast friends, you will only get to experience this via my blog (or unless you come visit me). Allow me to introduce you to McMenamins.

Wikipedia says: "McMenamins is a chain of 65 brewpubs, breweries, music venues, historic hotels, and theater pubs. The chain is located mostly in the Portland metropolitan area, but has many other locations in Oregon and Washington. According to the Brewers Association, McMenamins is one of the top 50 largest craft breweries in the United States."

Basically what happened was this. Back in the 80's two brothers decide to open up a brew pub and upon its success, they decided to open up another one. And then another, and another, and another... you get the picture. What's unique to this particular restaurant/brewery chain is that they like to buy up old historical properties and turn them into a new location. For example, the McMenamins closest to where I live in Salem is called the Boon's Treasury. It used to be a general store owned by Oregon's first state treasurer, John D. Boon.

Okay, so now that you get the idea of what I'm talking about, let's move on. Not too long ago a friend of mine told me all about a really cool marketing strategy McMenamins started. What they've done is combined all of their locations and created a passport that you carry to each location. When you're there all you have to do is go to certain key areas (typically the bar and/or front desk), show your passport and get stamped. That's it! As you complete each location along the way you get free prizes. For example, I just visited Hotel Oregon in McMinnville which required me going to all three bars (main, cellar, and rooftop) and to the front desk for a total of four stamps. The guy at the front desk gave me a clue: "Maybe they came for the rabbits". I had to walk around the hotel and photograph the answer to the clue, then show him the picture before getting my last stamp and prize. I received a cool Hotel Oregon t-shirt! The price of the passport was twenty bucks, so I already got my money back.

My plan is to visit every location via my motorcycle. I will turn the McMenamins Passport game into mini weekend motorcycle trips. For the furthest away locations (Seattle and Bend) I will spend the night camping out somewhere, maybe get a hike in, explore the area. I'm excited!

When the entire passport is stamped and completed you become an instant winner of their grand prize list, and let me tell you what, it's pretty badass. Here's the run down of everything you get:
  • Three individual night stays at three of McMenamins historic hotels
  • A pair of concert tickets at the Crystal Ballroom or Edgefield
  • Drinks at happy hour prices for an entire year
  • Entrance to an annual Passport Club Party
  • Exclusive passport merchandise
  • A cosmic tripster key to all things McMenamins
So there ya have it. For those of you who are reading this and live in the Pacific Northwest, stop in at any location, buy a passport and let the fun begin! For those of you who are faraway friends, well, you're shit out of luck, sorry.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

"My People"

Each day that passes feels more and more like a slice of wasted time that I cannot get back. While it's true, I can't get them back, I honestly wouldn't want them anyway. That's how I've felt lately. The brightly lit red arrow still flashes through my bedroom window keeping me up at night. My skin still bubbles when I stare at it long enough and my veins now carry question marks throughout my body. I can feel them; especially when their curled tops get caught on various entryways into major organs. Sometimes, when I sneeze, strangers turn and stare at me with quizzical looks on their faces and I suddenly wonder if the question marks have learned how to escape. Have they become airborne? Are they infectious? Will everyone around me now wander aimlessly through their day questioning everything currently happening in their lives? I certainly hope so. You people need an awakening.

I said "you people" haha. Fuck, that's fun.

"My people" are currently bombing the ever living shit out of the Gaza Strip. I use the term "my people" very loosely seeing how I am only related by a faint strand of genetic code. Besides, if I really wanted to break it down, we have to use the term Zionism here, right? Regardless, as I watch what is currently happening and try to learn the history behind it, I cannot help but think how similar the Israel/Palestine conflict is to the heated issue of abortion. I'll explain. Both of these issues are huge topics of contention in America and will violently divide a room of people within seconds, and both issues have been an ongoing battle for both sides for a long time. When I look at Israel's claims and then witness the results of their actions supporting those claims, I can't fully get behind it. I don't discount the fact that the Jewish people deserved and have created their own state. It's right there on the map and it's not going away, so let's just get past that fact. That being said, I can't ignore the history of how they got there, nor can I disregard the notion that they have literally turned Gaza into a huge prison. Not to mention the 40+ years of hostile take-over of the Palestinian land around them. If I ignore all that stuff and merely say, "Hamas is a terrorist regime and the Palestinians deserve what's coming," then I have to erase away the dirty parts that exist and pretend I never learned it. Same with abortion.

I'm pro-choice simply because a decision that personal should only be made by the parties directly involved: the woman, the man, their doctor and family. That's it. Everyone else needs to shut the fuck up and acknowledge that a situation this difficult and traumatic doesn't need to be worsened by those who are completely unaffected by the outcome, especially the old assholes in Washington D.C. who spend their days shifting around in 3,000 dollar suits, consumed by their lust for greed and power. That being said, those of us who are pro-choice cannot ignore the fact of what an abortion is. If we simply choose a side and disregard the "dirty" stuff to help ourselves feel better about our stance, then we're being disingenuous. An abortion snuffs out a tiny life ember inside of a womb, plain and simple. It interrupts and extinguishes a process that, if left on its current course, would likely become a baby human being. That's the fact that "my people" have to acknowledge and come to terms with when choosing their side on the issue. Same with the Israel/Palestine conflict, see?

I would be remiss if I didn't sew a final common thread into the analogy I just outlined: religion. I don't think I really need to explain how heavily religion plays a part in influencing peoples' minds on both of these issues. If you are a super-duper Christian and I were a gambling man, I know exactly where I would place my bet on where you stand on these topics. I don't feel compelled to rattle the thought loose from the nut in which it is contained, but I will say this: isn't it interesting that one tiny little clue is all it takes to know exactly what a vast majority of people are thinking? If religion is completely removed from the equation and I can't use it to understand your heart and mind, and you can't use it to help yourself in deciding them, then are we not left with merely facts in front of our faces? I don't know, I could be wrong. Heck, I'm willing to be wrong. In my opinion, being wrong is one of the greatest learning experiences there is in life, and trust me, I've had plenty of them.

I didn't sit down at my laptop today with the intention of writing my thoughts on two extremely divisive (and heartbreaking) subjects, but it happened and I don't really care. Maybe I have given you something interesting to read for a few minutes. Maybe I've given reason for your blood pressure to soar to dangerous levels. Maybe I've gained some new fans and lost a few friends, or maybe nobody will read this and life will go on just as it has been. I'm okay with any/all of it really. The question marks that flow through my body flow through yours too, and you know it. I don't care how well crafted your life is or how perfect you feel within your bubble, because when the sun goes down at the end of the day and you find yourself sitting there alone with just your thoughts and memories of your past experiences, you know damn well you feel it too. It might not tug at you nearly as hard as your neighbor or it might not steer you far from your path, but deep within I know you feel those curled question marks catching on your aorta as they enter and exit your heart. It's okay, we all feel it. We're in this shit together, remember? You are all "my people".

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Mountaineering Bug (For Newbies)

I've lived in the pacific northwest for nearly ten years now and have been into backpacking for some time. I've hiked and camped some beautiful backwoods over the years and every once in awhile I would catch a remarkable vista of one of the surrounding snow-covered peaks that famously dot our horizon. Well, it was just a matter of time before the same invisible force that inspires my long walks in the woods would be coaxing me up those mountains. Last year I went up Mt. Adams with some friends and that was my first taste of what it was like to travel up to 12,000 feet in elevation via my own two feet. Now I can add Mt. Hood to the list.

Ever since the Mt. Adams hike, I have been on a mission to properly prepare myself for a more technical mountain. Even though Adams is just a basic walk-up (on the route we chose) it still is a mountain, and when we were there it decided to prove it by producing a severe white-out snow storm with 50mph sub zero wind gusts at the summit. You can read the blog entry and watch the video I made here: Mt. Adams Hike. During that hike I had zero experience of how quickly weather can change from beautiful sunny skies/warm weather to zero visibility, freezing cold with ice forming on my face. I was wearing regular hiking pants and short sleeve shirt with no base layers. On my feet were my flexible Merrell trail boots. I wore a pair of super thin stretchy gloves, a soft shell rain jacket and a puffy synthetic coat (that I sweated through) for warmth. I had rented crampons and an ice axe at least. Oh, and my water bladder froze.

I have since spent a lot of time and money researching and buying the necessary equipment  that will help me endure the harsh elements of future mountain climbs. For example, here is my new and improved list of items I now own and have used on Mt. Hood:

Minus 33 merino wool (base layer)
Weatherproof alpine hiking pants
Marmot Alpinist Hybrid Jacket (mid layer)
North Face Point Five hard shell (outer layer)
Salewa Condor Evo GTX mountaineering boots
Black Diamond crampons
Kahtoola microspikes
Mammut Skywalker climbing helmet (w/ Contour Roam2 mounted camera and headlamp)
Black Diamond alpine harness
Black Diamond ice axe w/ slinger leash
Outdoor Research high gaiters
Smith goggles
Outdoor Research Arete mountaineering gloves w/ liners

When wearing all this gear I am reminded of what a coal miner might look like, and in continuing that string of thought I find it interesting that the deeper or higher one goes on planet earth, you end up looking the same. Also, the conditions are life threatening in both directions, though I would much rather risk my life for a summit view rather than a dirt tunnel.

If you've ever looked out your window and stared at Mt. Hood and wondered to yourself what it would be like to climb it, I'm going to attempt to give you an idea of what you're in for within the words of this blog post. When I decided that climbing snow-covered mountains was going to be my new passion, I started watching every mountaineering film I could find. YouTube is a rich source information; anything from short clips to full length documentaries. Honestly, the best thing to do right from the start is watch a disaster scenario video that way you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Especially if you have a spouse and children that are depending on you coming home alive. Don't go unprepared. Knowing the potential dangers is part of the preparation and the following video clip is a terrifying example:
You'll notice that all it took for this climber to fall was a small chunk of ice tumbling his way followed by the instinctual reaction to block it with his hand. During my ascent on Mt. Hood, a chunk of ice almost identical in size to the one in this clip came loose from above, gained momentum as it rolled down the slope, and hit me square on the back of the hand that was gripping my ice axe. It hurt badly, like when you're a kid and you catch a fast pitch in your glove from an adult. I never saw it coming so I didn't have an opportunity to react, I simply took the hit and had to shake off the pain. I realized then just how serious all things can become when climbing a mountain and was reminded why wearing a helmet is essential.

Netflix also has its fair share of mountain related movies. Amongst them are two of my all-time favorites: Touching The Void and The Summit. Both of these films are remarkable in their own right and shed a harrowing light on how dangerous mountaineering can be, while simultaneously illuminating just how addictive the sport becomes for those that catch the bug. Every expert mountaineer seems to have their own personal tale of tragedy and loss, yet they continue climbing peak after peak as if the loss of friends and lovers is nothing compared to the mystical spell the mountains have cast upon them. And it's true, I can already attest to the magical pull of Mt. Hood. When I see it against the horizon on a beautiful clear day from Salem, I long to be there. I can smell its sulfur stinging my lungs. I can feel its frigid air and hear it whipping against my clothing at 40 mph. I can taste the debris of ice as it sprays back into my face from digging my axe in. I can sense the weirdness in my head from being so high up and working so hard to get there. I can feel it breathe beneath me as I climb up slowly.

So you've bought all the equipment and watched all the films, now what? Well if you're like me and are not the athletic type and find working out to be a chore and not a pleasure, then you have some work to do. You can't just go from couch potato to mountain climber, sorry. You have to at least get used to walking long distances with a weighted backpack. That's the bare minimum. Even better, start doing squats and lunges and jumping jacks and core work and stretching every single day. For at least 45 minutes. On your days off, drive out to Henline Mountain and climb it with your weighted pack. If you do all that stuff you'll be getting into better shape, but even so, when you take that first step onto Mt. Hood and realize everything from that point forward is straight up and forever long, you'll quickly realize where your weaknesses are and wish you had trained harder and longer. My first attempt resulted in me having to turn back about an hour and half from the summit due to a muscle in my left hip (lliopsoas or sartorius maybe?) seizing up and hurting so badly it brought tears to my eyes. I was so disappointed. I had climbed for so long and was within an hour push to the top, but I knew it wasn't safe to continue. So start conditioning yourself and get used to the exhaustion because that first time up a mountain will be the hardest thing you've ever done, trust me.

Okay, so now you've completed everything up to this point and you're ready for that first climb, but you can't stop wondering what you're getting yourself into. Well, let me explain what you have to look forward to. It's called an alpine start. If you plan on climbing to the summit in one day, as opposed to climbing part way, bivouacking through the night, and summiting the next day, then you will have to begin your climb really early in the a.m. This is due to the sun. Once the sun rises and begins its march across the sky it begins to heat up the mountain which creates greater risks such as ice and rock fall and avalanches. For example: I worked all day on Friday and clocked out around 3 p.m. I went home, showered, gathered up all of my equipment and left Salem by 7 p.m. After stopping for gas and food I arrived at Timberline parking lot at 10 p.m. I assembled my Therm-a-Rest LuxuryLite cot and set it down between the front bumper of my car and the concrete parking barrier. I then pulled out my Western Mountaineering down bag and bivy sack, plopped them onto the cot and voila! My temporary sleeping arrangement. I napped until 1:30 a.m. Upon awaking I changed into my mountaineering outfit, packed up my cot and sleeping bag, locked my car and hit the "trail" by 2 a.m.

I put trail in quotes because the first several hours of the climb is merely steep hiking up crunchy snow in the dark of night. There is no designated trail. The Palmer ski lift is to your left. You will be walking up the bumpy paths the snow cats make with a headlamp illuminating your way. When you look above or below you, you will see the bobbing headlamps of other climbers. You will also see the spotlights of the snow cats far up near the top of the ski lift. They will be in constant motion as they groom the slope getting it ready for business day. When you get within range of them always be attentive and keep your headlamp on, for they are large and loud and the drivers are probably jamming to metal music and enjoying the shit out of their job while you are just a tiny human walking slowly by. Getting run over by a snow cat isn't a mountaineer's idea of a noble death, so give wide berth and don't dally in their work area.

Once you've passed Palmer ski lift it's now just you and the mountain and the rest of the climbers. Depending on your conditioning, the sun is either up by now or soon will be and you are probably nearing the good stuff. You'll enter into the Triangle Moraine and at this point (or sooner) you will have to stop and attach crampons to your boots. It is colder now and steeper and icier and you will need better traction. You might also want to start using your ice axe as a walking stick. As you get even higher, the ice axe doubles as your self arrest tool in the event that you should fall and need to stop from sliding down the mountain. It's a good idea to practice this technique on a less aggressive slope that way you have the feel for it ahead of time.

When you reach Crater Rock followed by Devil's Kitchen, you have arrived at what will now be the upward half of the hardest part of your day. You've been walking all through the morning and your body hurts and from this point forward every step you take gets harder and harder, steeper and steeper, not to mention you're now in the danger zone. A fall from anywhere here could very easily result in death. On either side of the Hogsback ridge are large fumaroles and crevasses that you would almost definitely slide right into, SO DO NOT FALL. Be careful and take your time. Let faster climbers pass you and if you are unsure of how to do it just stand still and call out to them as they get near you. Dig your crampons and your ice axe in and tell them you are secure and they will go around. Don't worry, if they are moving fast that means they've probably done this before and they're used to it. When they're past you, continue on. Once you've committed to the final stretch, that is, everything from the Hogsback and up, it isn't very easy to stop and take breaks. You will always be sideways, clinging to the mountain face at an extreme angle that you are not used to. It feels awkward and unsafe and stopping to straighten your body and stretch feels scary and dangerous. There are no flat spots until you reach the summit.

You'll see experienced climbers act as though it's no big deal. They will stick their ice axe into the hard snow, take their pack off and attach it to it, dig out food and water and remove jackets or put jackets on, all while standing there nonchalantly like a fearless mountain goat. You, on the other hand, will be too terrified to try that. Instead, you will suffer in the smoldering heat from all the layers you are still wearing because attempting to remove them is too risky. That level of skill and courage probably comes after a few more climbs I imagine. I suffered and sweated all the way up the Old Chute.

When navigating the steepest part of the climb it's best to simply kick your toe spikes into the ice and whack your ice axe above into anything solid. If it's soft and mushy, yank it out and whack again. When it's a good hold, pull yourself up and repeat the process until you reach the top. Oh, and DO NOT FALL! I'm fairly certain that it would be impossible to self arrest from anywhere inside the Old Chute. It's just too solid and steep.

Reaching the summit is a wonderful feeling because of two reasons: a) you get to bask in the glory of achieving a difficult and dangerous task and b) you get to finally rest on flat ground again. Rest, relax, drink water, eat some food, enjoy the gorgeous view from 11,250 feet above sea level. If you explore the summit be careful around the edges. Cornices can be deceiving death traps that will break off if too much weight is applied, so be conservative with your vantage points and don't try creeping up to the lip and peeking over. It's not worth the fall.

At this point the only thing to do is go back down. In every movie I watched and article I read about mountaineering accidents, 90% of all deaths occur on the descent. This is because you are extremely fatigued having worked so hard to get to the top, and now gravity is working against your tired body as you retrace your route back down. When I reached the edge of the Old Chute and looked down at what I had just climbed up a half hour ago, I freaked out a little bit. My stomach knotted up and I felt like a little kid who climbed high in a tree and was now too scared to climb back down, but in this situation my father would not be bringing a ladder to rescue me and staying on the summit was not an option. I had to go back down, it was that simple. When there are zero options it certainly helps the decision making process. I stood there awhile and watched others go down and finally got my courage up to make my descent. That first moment when you turn around backwards, look down through your legs and step awkwardly down, hoping like hell you're placing your foot in a good spot and that you're properly balanced, is a frightening thing. I was pretty scared most of the way down actually. I was scared that a crampon would pop loose, or that the head of my ice axe would pop off, or that a muscle would cramp up, or that a chunk of the ice face would dislodge. All of these things spelled disaster. You just have to push those thoughts to the back of your mind and focus on every step. You do this all the way down until you finally reach the safer section of the mountain. And then you simply... walk forever... all the way back down... glissading when you can... but trudging along mostly... through the thick melted snow... deep steps... post holing... exhausted and sore and so ready for sleep.

The next day, after you've slept harder than you ever have before, you get to feel your body react to what you just put it through. All the wonderful pains in places you didn't even know existed. And while you're nursing all those sore spots and reminiscing about the insane adventure you just experienced, you will find yourself smiling and thinking about the next mountain that you'd like to climb. Maybe Mt. Shasta? Am I ready for Rainier? Holy shit, what about... Denali? Could I actually climb something like that?!? And that's when it hits you... yep, you've got the mountaineering bug, for sure. This is how it happens, I'm telling ya.

Here are my two Mt. Hood videos:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Brightly Lit Red Arrow

What is a blog page if there isn't anything new to read on the regular? An empty womb incapable of providing life. A cracked glass unable to hold its liquid. A ghost town on the edge of extinction. I no longer write. I no longer keep up. I no longer read. I no longer care. I have a stack of unread novels dick-deep that I am nowhere near getting through. They just sit there piled up in a corner... awaiting my interest. I'm sitting down now for the first time in awhile, fully expecting to complete a new blog entry, but I'll be honest... I have no idea if I'll complete it. Nor do I care either way. I'm not writing for you and I no longer write for me, so that doesn't provide much hope for either of us. Ghost town, baby. That's where we've found ourselves.

Why the sudden shift, guy? You seem to have been on a positive path recently. Sure, sure. I do not discount the fact that I've made remarkable strides toward future tranquility, however, I find no shame in sharing my disappointing lows along with my inspiring highs; I am human after-all. And if you, dear loving reader(s), find yourself sharing only the good stuff in your life while purposefully trying to hide and ignore all of the bad, well... allow me to be the first to say... you are cheating. Not only are you cheating others, but you're also cheating yourself. Own up to the moments when you feel unworthy or ashamed. Own up to those moments when you feel shitty and miserable and can't exactly reason why. We all carry an enormous amount of bullshit throughout our lives and we all do a remarkable job in hiding the fact. Well, I'm not here to hide shit from you. My purpose is to share, and in doing so I find myself sharing the bad with the good, yet I feel so alone in doing so. I don't get anything back from you. Sometimes, every once in a blue moon, I get a comment saying "well said, Mick". Thank you, I like being appreciated. But seriously, what do I know about YOU? How often have you shared with me? All I ask is that you remember this the next time you judge me for being so bloggingly pessimistic. K?

So, we've established that my current state of mind is not so stellar. Fine, so be it. We've also concluded that we've all been there and done that. Cool, cool. Let's move on, shall we? Okay, I will lead the way, as usual.

The couple that moved into the house across the street are interesting. I rent an apartment that overlooks the main street from here all the way to there, so I notice any changes that occur in the meantime. The house I'm referring to used to be occupied by a family of renegade losers. They beat up the block with relentless disregard. They stayed up late, played their music loudly, cursed wildly into the night, revved their vehicle engines while racing up and down the street, and allowed their dogs to bark incessantly every single night. I am glad they are gone. I'm pretty sure they were evicted from their home. They left it in complete disarray. But now there is a new couple who moved in. They've been steadily working day after day to revert this home back into a suitable form of living. Actually let me make a correction: SHE has been doing all the work, not HIM. I've seen him show up and disappear into the house on numerous occasions while she stays outside all day long fixing the fence, cutting the lawn, trimming the hedges, and cleaning up various garbage piles from around the house. I've watched this woman work so hard that even I broke out in a sweat, but that's not saying very much for her man. Who knows, maybe he's hard at the internals?

Either way.

I came home today after a long bicycle ride, went to my fridge and poured myself a drink. I walked to the living room, pulled back the blinds, and there she was... sitting in her van with the door swung open, street side. At first I thought she was doing lines of coke off the crook of her thumb and I immediately thought to myself, "Yep, she totally deserves that." She's a hard working woman, after-all. But after spying on her through my window for a few minutes I realized she was applying make-up to her face. For a really long time. She had a full sized vanity mirror propped up on her steering wheel and a bag of make-up perched on her leg. Her tan and white pit bull sat in the passenger seat panting, watching her as she applied each layer. This went on for a very long time. She went through every option in her little make-up purse, applying everything she felt was needed. I watched this woman transform herself from a yard mule to garden jewel in the span of a half an hour. She still wore the sweaty clothes she worked in all day, but her face now resembled Mona Lisa. When she was finished she got out of her van, walked her dog over to the backyard tree, locked him up and disappeared inside for a moment. I thought she was going to change, but instead she reappeared a few seconds later wearing the same clothes and left to go somewhere.

We should all be more like her: work hard, get shit done, fix yourself up, go have fun. I think that's the point of me writing this.

Recently I have fallen in love with mountains. Not just any mountains, but the ones with a high enough elevation that maintain snow cover year round. In other words, I have become an alpine mountaineer. I say that loosely, however, for I have only summited one mountain so far: Mt Adams in Washington, but I have attempted Mt Hood here in Oregon and will be returning again very soon. After a successful Hood summit, I will then set my sights on the North Sister, then Jefferson, then St Helens, then Mt Shasta in California followed by Mt Rainer in Washington. I will summit these peaks again and again because I find myself completely drawn to them. Once I've climbed these mountains enough times to feel comfortable in my abilities, I will then direct my attention toward the highest peak in North America: Mt McKinley (aka Denali). This is what consumes my thoughts now. Like my neighbor and her make-up, I constantly apply my thoughts and research into snowcapped mountains I can climb. I spend countless hours watching internet videos and documentaries about all the 8,000 meter peaks. Granted, I don't really know if I'd ever end up attempting to summit something like K2 or Annapurna, but still, it grips my waking thoughts nonetheless. I have found a new passion; that's all I can say.

Well, I suppose that's all I have to say right now. Carry on, happy fappers.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

While the sky pisses against my bedroom window I peer out into the blurred evening of another misused Saturday night and wonder to myself, "Mick, why are you not hiked somewhere deep inside a forest?" Typically that's where I would be right now. Nearly twelve miles away from the nearest major roadway. Forty miles from the nearest town or city. But instead, I'm sitting here at my computer, which means I am home at my apartment looking thorough my bedroom window watching it rain while you are probably out with your friends having a great time drinking,

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Peace And Love... It's Not Just Hippie-Dippie Bullshit, Man

Today is Saturday Song Salute, but before I get to that I want to first talk about a few things that are on my mind and heart. I don't do this much anymore, as many of you who follow my blog already know. I used to fasten my heart to my sleeve via life update blog entries, but stopped doing it awhile back. I'm trying to be more professional even though I still think it's important for people to know what's going on in the hearts and minds of their fellow humans. I like to believe that by writing about the serious thoughts in my own head and allowing others to read them, that I become an avenue of learning and healing for those who choose to read. I am grateful for everyone I've ever read who took the time to write something down that I desperately needed to hear at a certain moment in my life, so I guess I feel like I'm returning the favor when I do it.

So what's on my mind then? Yep, you guessed it: love/relationships. I've been going out again. Yes, to the bars. Where else can one go where you find yourself surrounded by people willing to chat with complete strangers? Bars are unique in that everyone who's there is there for the exact same reason: to drink a few and unwind. Granted, when you break it down a bit further the reasons become more defined, but in a nutshell most people go to bars to relax and unwind. Everyone knows the minute they pay their tab and walk out those doors, every aspect of their regular lives will be there waiting for them: jobs, relationships, responsibilities, bills, health issues, the banality of life, but while we're inside the bar drinking and conversing we forget that other part of life exists. If only for a few hours.

I recently found myself having a conversation about my cat. I was talking to a girl and she asked me what my cat's name was. I said he had an embarrassing name and that I didn't want to tell her, but she insisted on knowing, to which I replied with this ultimatum: I reveal my cat's name if she agrees to answer any question that I ask. She agreed, so I asked her this: "What do you want most in life RIGHT NOW? If you could have one thing, what would it be?" Her response took less than a few seconds: "Peace and love." I told her that was two things, but I let it slide since they were both beautiful answers. Obviously the conversation that followed was filled with heartfelt, alcohol-fueled ideas of what peace and love meant to each of us and even after she was long gone, I continue thinking about it now.

That's all we truly want in life, right? Peace and love. It doesn't take a complete stranger to reveal that, we know it all along but often times we simply forget. Maybe the expensive toy parked in the garage that has four wheels and a motor temporarily distracted you from it. Or maybe your last failed relationship has distracted you. Or maybe juggling two jobs and raising children has distracted you from it. So many things can step in the way at any given time, some of which are wonderful, but peace and love always seems to be right out there... just beyond the fingertips of your outstretched arm... waiting. And yet most of us have no clue as how to reach out and grab it, and so we forget about it and instead go for the things we can reach: money, booze, drugs, vehicles, television, occupational advancement, sports, sex, etc. We each have our own list, varying here and there, but for the most part they're all quite similar regardless of socioeconomic status. Some just get more than others.

I've had all those things already and yes, they seemed to make me happy at the time. I remember when I lived in North Carolina and owned a jet ski and a boat and would go to Lake Hickory every weekend and frolic on the water. That was a blast! So much fun was had, but in the end my wife and I divorced and all those things went away and I was once again left with that empty feeling inside and that nagging question: what do I want in life? Peace and love, man. That's all I really want. I'm always happiest when I'm in a relationship with a girl, even if it's a shitty relationship. I find peace in companionship and find love there too, even when I shouldn't. So what does that mean? If I find peace and love in relationships that aren't meant to be, how in the hell does this whole peace and love thing really play out? When I'm single I tend to get a little crazy and walk through Salem with one flip flop while cursing like a mad man, so I know that isn't the answer, but if the opposite isn't either, then what is?

I think it comes down to finding it within yourself, huh. That's got to be it. If you find peace and love within yourself, and I mean REALLY find it in there, then no outside force can fuck with you. Ever. Nobody can take that away. I've come a long way from the depressed Mick that used to write horribly sad shit so many years ago. Over time, I've listened and learned and grown considerably closer to truly knowing the peace and love inside me. It's there. I can feel it on my good days (which are more often than not) and I'm getting better at embracing it, but I'm far from perfect at all of this. I'm a novice here, just like you. I'm not afraid to say I don't have everything figured out yet. I also realize I probably never will, but I assure you I will never stop reaching for and wanting it. Peace. Love. Happiness. Yeah, that's all I want.

That and a jet ski again.

In sticking with the current theme, this Saturday Song Salute goes to Carsie Blanton and her song Smoke Alarm. I discovered this amazing artist via a podcast called Tangentially Speaking (host Christopher Ryan, author of Sex At Dawn). His podcast, by-the-way, is absolutely worth listening to and I can't recommend it enough. Intriguing guests and fascinating stories told in a remarkably intelligent and casual way. Tangent! Okay, back to Carsie. In the song Smoke Alarm, Carsie sings about the brevity of life and how we should never allow a moment to pass us by. If an opportunity presents itself and excites our inner being, then by god we need to jump out and go for it! Letting moments like that slip on by in a life that is infinitesimally short on the grand scale of things is equivalent to committing an act of sin. When listening to this song, the cliche "live life to the fullest" comes to mind as does the aphorism "carpe diem", but both are invaluable to experiencing everything you can in life and gaining a better understanding of why we're here in the first place. If you see something you like grab onto it and enjoy it while you can, because it (and you) might not be around to grab tomorrow. As always, use your headphones to fully appreciate and enjoy the following favorite song of mine:

And then this showed up on my FB wall the day after I wrote this blog entry:!DVmc4

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I've been asked to join something I know nothing about. It's called the Blog Tour. Apparently a group of writers have come together and decided to share their process of writing with anyone who is interested in learning more about it. You know, from the people who already do it. Turns out I am one of those people. What is my main motivation? My extremely unreliable memory. This is why I didn't do very well throughout my schooling years. I have horrible retention skills and my brain is constantly erasing life as it happens, so I got in the habit of writing my thoughts down early in life that way I could always "check my notes" if I wanted to remember past events. People who know me will immediately recall how often they'd see inked words on the back of my left hand, on the fleshy part near the thumb joint. That's been my daily post-it pad for years.

A little about me:

I am a thirty-something middle class garbageman living in Salem, Oregon. I wrote my first poem in middle school. It was about the blonde curls of my beautiful math teacher whom I had a major crush on. I wrote my second poem shortly after finding out she was fucking my favorite science teacher. I was immediately heartbroken and felt as though I had been robbed of my adolescent fantasy, and I quickly started learning about the little angles love can take in life. From there, poetry simply became a part of who I was. It wasn't until much later in life that I actually began branching out into writing prose; before that it was all poetry.

1) What am I working on?

Nowadays I find myself writing short stories and poetry mostly, but have recently written a full length novel called In Through The Eyes, which I plan on self publishing soon along with a compilation of poems and short stories. The novel idea came to me shortly after learning about an online annual event called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This is a great way for writers like me who have been considering writing their first novel, but never really dug their toes in. It was just the motivation I needed to get my ass into gear, so I joined up a week before it started and went for it. After writing 1,600 words every day through the month of November I succeeded in completing my goal of 50,000 words by December 1st. The book has since grown to right around 60,000 and is now in second draft mode.

The story follows a garbage man, Fischer, who has led an insecure life as a recluse, antisocial oddball. His life takes an up-turn when he meets a girl who begins to break through his walls, opening him up to the outside world he's been missing all along, but all of this progression comes to a screeching halt when an incident at work changes everything and Fischer begins going through radical behavioral and physiological changes.

 2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm not sure really. I feel that it will simply fit right into the thriller/horror genre without making any big waves or splashes. It's a very fun story to read in that it's simplistic and easy to digest; it will not win any awards for "most thought provoking" or "disturbingly brilliant analysis on life", but it will take you on a wild ride with the main character in a way that you won't easily forget. I tried to make it a story for all, although some of the scenes that occur could be geared toward a slightly older audience.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Honestly, because of a troubled past. Poetry has always been a release for me, much like the pressure valve on a steam engine. I tend to wander through life without much direction, constantly seeking out new niches where I feel most comfortable, and upon settling I often find that my emotions swell over time and my heart begins to grow weary. The poetry I write is often poignant and difficult to read, but a necessary part of healing and growing. When it comes to the stories I write, they are simply a creative avenue of escape; new worlds for myself and my readers to live in temporarily while the real world spins hurriedly around us.

4) How does my writing process work?

Pretty much in flux with my personality. There will be days/weeks where I don't want to be around people, so I retreat to my writing desk and spend time with my muse. Also, life experiences tend to drastically affect my level of writing. For example: the loss of love may send me spiraling into the depths of creativity for weeks or months on end, whereas witnessing a falcon splatter across the front of my work truck may only be a blip on the writing radar. Also, in all honesty, alcohol is a factor too. If I'm drinking, the relationship between writer and muse becomes more relaxed and our courtship is far less a challenge. I'm not sure why this is, but it is. I've written many a favorite poems and prose while under the influence, and conversely, I've written many favorites while completely sober. It just seems to come easier with the former, not the latter.

This is the part of the Blog Tour where I'm supposed to introduce a new writer to the ring, but I regretfully announce that I have no one to introduce, so I will instead just thank Riya Anne Polcastro (Storyteller Grrrl) for giving me this opportunity to present myself to the writing community and allowing my personal story to be there for others to explore. Miss Polcastro is without a doubt a terrific writer and storyteller and I feel honored to know her as a friend. Her words will create all the waves whereas mine will create mere ripples. If you haven't already, go check out what she's been up to over at and tell her hello. She's been busy getting her own novel ready for publishing and I highly look forward to seeing the final product.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two Writes Don't Make A Right.

I've allowed my blog page to become an empty wine glass left atop a mantle and forgotten. The lip stick smears are still there as are the faint traces of oily fingerprints all around the belly of the glass, but the contents have long been downed and the good time that followed is nothing more than a sex stain on bedroom sheets. Where have I been, you might ask? Around, I would answer. Around this town like a lonely lover looking for a warm place to stay each night. Sure, I still have my own place, but these walls seem so much closer now and I feel somewhat claustrophobic. My place was already small enough before the walls started closing in, now it's damn near impossible to breathe. My cat, however, doesn't seem to mind one bit. Actually I take that back, he does mind me being gone all the time. He sits by the door waiting for me to return while I'm out on the town seeking friendships, aka, full glasses of wine.

I deleted my account profile at All Poetry. I had been a member there since 2006, had written hundreds upon hundreds of poems and made many friends, but recently felt like I no longer wanted to be a part of that community. And so, after printing out every poem, I finally said goodbye. Actually, there was no goodbye. I simply... vanished. So to any of you from AP who came here looking for me and wondered what happened, now you know. Your poetry will be missed. I haven't written a poem since deleting my account; I sure hope I didn't sever a creative connection. Time will tell.

What else has been going on? My novel. I completed my fictional novel and have since edited
it to the best of my ability. My three beta readers have all dropped the ball, so it's left to me to figure out where my story is weak and fix it before sending it to a professional editor. By using beta readers I was hoping to lessen my expense on an editor, but I guess when I finally hire someone I'll have them do the deep story editing too instead of mere punctuation and grammar. Out of the three, only one has told me that my story is even any good, so thanks goes out to her at least for boosting my confidence. She also pointed out a few helpful tips during a beer session, but I didn't write anything down because I thought I was getting her notes back. I'm a little frustrated, but hey, it's all part of the publishing process I guess. It's not supposed to be easy and there will always be bumps in the road, I just didn't expect them so soon. So now it's time to go shopping for an editor and take things from there.

I met a very awesome local writer here in Salem who has also written a novel. Two novels actually, but I only read one of them. She is a true talent in every sense of the word and I was honored when she asked if I wanted to beta read her book, which I did. After reading it I tagged two places in her story that felt a little... off. She has since went back to the drawing board and is editing her book fiercely. We're both doing the same stuff at the exact same time and it's all pretty cool. We're both also looking to self-publish and become indie authors. Fame and glory and riches await! Haha. She recently tapped me to take part in a blog tour that features writers and highlights their writing process, to which I accepted. So I guess that sort of explains my sudden return to my blog site. I abandoned it but am now trying to quickly resurrect it in time for this blog tour thing. It's happening write now, so I need to get snappy.

I'll end this blog entry with my latest hiking video. Me and two friends drove out to Maxwell Butte and hiked up to the top where we then skied and snowshoed around for awhile. It was a lot of fun even though there wasn't very much snow. A nice little getaway and a small taste of many harder/longer hikes to come. The nice weather is finally upon us! Ok, that's all I have for now. See you rascals next time.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

     It was 8:37 and still she hadn't shown. Kenneth sighed, looked up from his phone and watched as the bartender made her usual swipes across the bar with a damp terrycloth towel. It was knotted up into a ball and looked stupid in her hand as she slid it back and forth in figure eight motions, cleaning nothing. Her half-ass attempt at cleaning infuriated him as he took another drink and continued watching. She appeared disinterested in life. The clothes she wore were trademarks of hard times and her hair was tied back in a simple ponytail as to avoid any effort at making herself look pretty. Make-up never met her face and her attitude towards customers was irreverent at best. Basically, this bitch was one bad moment away from losing her proverbial shit.
     "I can't take it anymore. You're killing me here, Janice."
     Janice set her balled up rag aside and walked over to Kenneth. "Whattaya need there, Kenny boy? Nutha fountain?"
     "No, I do not need a 'nutha fountain'." Kenneth used a girl's voice as he pronounced 'nutha fountain' mockingly. This was exclusively a Janice phrase and it too infuriated him. For as long as he'd been coming here she had always referred to the pouring of beer as pouring a fountain. "What I need is for you to use that rag as a normal person would. Can you do that, Janice? Can you not knot the rag up when you clean? I mean, is it even possible?"
     Janice glanced over at the rag. It was still balled up like a snake. She looked back at Kenneth.
     "You think you got it all figured out, donchya. You're one of those smarty fart wise asses who think they're better than everyone else. Ain't that so?" Janice walked back over and picked up the rag and slowly unraveled it. "Well lemme tell you sumthin, Kenny boy. I got your number, mother fucker. Yeh, that's right. Every night you sit there in that bar seat drinking alone, and every night I watch you pretend to text people on your expensive little smart phone there, hoping to avoid anyone noticing just how alone you are. And tonight you got stood up again. That's the third time in two weeks. You think I'm too stupid to notice things? Well you're wrong, asshole. And I can clean this goddamn elbow rest however I want. You hear me?"
     She walked down to the far end of the bar and started cleaning again. Kenneth watched as she swiped back and forth lazily, this time with the rag spread out flat like a normal person. He turned and stared at his beer. He looked down at his phone and pressed the home button... zero new text messages. He opened his message history and scrolled through the texts that Rachel had sent him. He read them all, it didn't take long. She spoke in abbreviated thoughts and kept her intentions hidden well. Their correspondence played out like a bingo hall romance. Each message neatly trimmed of all importance and letters omitted for the sake of brevity. He re-read her last text that said she'd meet him at the bar.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Song Salute

Do you know what today is? It's okay if you've forgotten, it's been a long time. How about I remind you with.. a song! That's right, it's Saturday Song Salute, ladies and germs. For this salute I've chosen a song sung by a lady who's voice can be the rivets that hold a ship together at sea or the waves that crash that same ship apart. Same holds true for the song you're about to hear called L.A. Song. Quite honestly, I don't know if anyone other than Beth Hart could deliver this one as powerfully. It is the perfect example of a voice matching the mood that the lyrics set and the accompanying music just takes you right where you need to be. The piano part is divine, might I add. I'm a sucker for a great piano song and this one has that in spades.

Let's move on to the lyrics. What can I say except... WOW. She tells a story that many of us can relate to on varying levels. It's a story of a girl trying to find her place in an out of place world, moving through all of the usual suspects: drinking, running away, relationships. Yeah, how many of us have been down that road? I know I can unabashedly raise my hand. Life is hard and it can take an entire lifetime to figure out. During that process we may fall (or place ourselves) into situations that only allow us to fall deeper, but if we're on a path of learning and growing we get back on that train and head back to what we truly need. The girl in this song did just that, as have I in life. I wonder if I had heard this song eight years ago when I was packing my car full of clothes and hugging my family goodbye, about to leave Pennsylvania and head out west, if I would've paused and reconsidered. Music can be that powerful sometimes. People who say otherwise are being disingenuous.

Okay, enough with my words, on to the music. As always, this song needs to be listened to via a good pair of headphones or earbuds. Seriously, you want Beth Hart's vocals to be right there inside your head and soul. Please don't listen to it on your shitty laptop speakers, that would be like meeting your hero without brushing your teeth and combing your hair. Enjoy!

"L.A. Song"

She hangs around the boulevard
She's a local girl with local scars
She got home late, she got home late
She drank so hard the bottle ached
And she tried and she tried, and she tried and she tried
But nothing's clear in a bar full of flies

So she takes and she takes, she takes and she takes
She understands when she gives it away
She says

Man I gotta get outta this town
Man I gotta get outta this pain
Man I gotta get outta this town
Outta this town & out of L.A.

She's got a gun, she's got a gun
She got a gun she calls the lucky one
She left a note right by the phone
Don't leave a message 'cause this ain't no home
And she cried and she cried, and she cried and she cried
She cried so long her tears ran dry
Then she laughed and she laughed, she laughed and she laughed
Cause she knew she was never comin' back
She said

Man I'm gonna get outta this town
Man I'm gonna get outta this pain
Man I'm gonna get outta this town
Outta this town & out of L.A.

It's all she loves It's all she hates
It's all too much for her to take
She can't be sure just where it ends
Or where the good life begins

So she took a train, she took a train
To a little old town without a name

She met a man, he took her in
But fed her all the same bullshit again
'Cause he lied and he lied, and he lied and he lied
He lied like a salesman sellin' flies
So she screamed and she screamed, and she screamed and she screamed
It's a different place but the same old thing

It's all I love, it's all I hate
It's all too much for me to take
I can't be sure where it begins
Or if the good life lies within

So she said

Man I gotta get out of this town
Yeah and now I gotta get back on that train
Man I gotta get out of this town
I'm outta my pain
So I'm goin' back to L.A.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Club Music

I've ceased all wireless transmissions; have hardwired the lines between all the electronics and the mainframe of my heart. There are no more signals here, I'm pretty sure I eliminated them all. They were disgusting little creatures, invisible beams of sickness that crept through me at night while I slept. Now they are gone and I am left with an eerie stillness that can be felt if I hold my fingers out just right. At a soft angle, adjacent to the floor like this.

I still stand on aluminum foil every night before I sleep. It discharges the static freckles that litter my internal frame and make me self conscious with my own soul. It is shaped like a West Virginia golf course- the aluminum foil, not my soul. But both are worth playing on.

In the other room I have club music playing loudly and I am pretending there are girls on my sofa getting it on. They are still clothed, but not fully. If I walk out there and peer around the corner I would most likely see exposed breasts being fondled by the hands of the girl seated beneath the topless one. She is grinding herself against the one beneath; her skirt is riding up exposing her soft, eggshell white legs. I almost said eggs.

The bass from the music is thundering against the walls and I wonder if my neighbors hate me yet. They tend to leave bags of garbage outside their front door, so my music is more like a "fuck you" that I've patiently waited to deliver. I think I'll go turn it up and see what the girls are up to now.

Seventeen Seconds is how long it took me to do that.

The Ring Of Fire will not leave me alone. It comes more than it goes now, visits me in my sleep even. I'm beginning to wonder if the expanding universe theory is happening inside my head. I will make it a point to invite Neil deGrasse Tyson over after the girls leave and the club music has ended. I will politely ask my neighbors to discard their trash before he arrives. We will sit together and discuss my options. He will want to look inside my head. He'll bring astronomy equipment that will appear more menacing than it really is, and I will have to hold very still while he assures me it will only hurt a little bit.

Hold on, I have to piss.

My father met his real father for the very first time on his 66th birthday. He also met one of his brothers too. They came as a pair from wherever they live in New Jersey to meet my father after all this time. Two pool hustling Jews packing heat, is what they turned out to be. It seems I finally understand myself a little bit more. Dad too, he beat them both at billiards and sent them home with their bifurcated tails between their legs. Our family just got a little stronger.

I'm writing poetry again, but I can no longer stand the website where I've been doing it for the past 8 years. They've decided to make members either pay a monthly fee or force them to leave comments on other poems before they can post a poem of their own. What kind of socialist bullshit is that? I've been a paying member all this time just because that's how I roll. If I like something I pay for it. But now I no longer want to give them money and I am in the process of removing every poem I've ever written there, all 547 of them. It is a painstaking process that I do not love. I'm going to miss that website and all the people I've interacted with, it's a damn shame that the admin became a communist turncoat who will now suffer a miserable, agonizing death in the burning valley of Gehenna.

Fucking Hell,
I'm done talking.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Magic 8 Ball iPod

I have loved before, sure, and I have watched love go right out the window like a whistle in the wind. None of this is new, it's merely par for the course in my long life of dead-end relationships. I am hardened by this shit by now, but I still cry because it still hurts. I still scream because it still makes me crazy. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm still human, though I would love to change that fact. What would I be if I could step away from my human frame and don that of another? Hmm, let me think about it...

Ah yes, I would become the Hawkline Monster that lives in the ice caves beneath the basement! Rawr.

Earlier today I decided to play the Magic 8-Ball iPod game. If you don't know what I mean, here's the gist of it: you use your iPod as a magic 8 ball by asking it a question (backed by a lot of emotion) and then hit shuffle. Whatever song it plays for you is supposed to give you all kinds of deep, spiritual insight to the question you asked. Obviously the more music you have on your iPod the better this little mystical game is, and I have a LOT of music. So, I pulled out my iPod and turned it on. While holding it in my hand I asked it my question. Now, I won't tell you what I asked of it because it's personal and relevant to my current state of affairs, but I will share with you the song it decided I needed to hear because it's a great one, and after listening to it repeatedly while pondering the lyrics, I do believe the magic 8 ball iPod has come through for me. Here's the song: