Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Divorcee, or "Virginia Slims"

"I just love life!" she told me as she lit up a long, pungent Virginia Slim. 
I looked at the cancer stick questionably, but decided to ignore the ironic remark.
"That's good to love life," I said dumbly, because nothing else really came to mind. "Are you single?"
She took a long, pensive drag. As she exhaled the smoke, all the other answers to my question — lies she could have told me, questionable not-quite-answers — seemed to linger in her frothy, perfumed cloud of exhalation. 
"No," she said quite adamantly with a bob of her head. "No I'm not. Yet. I'm in midst of a divorce. Life is life, you know? And I love it. And I'm quite happy about it."
She was deeply depressed. 
"Did you know I haven't had sex with any other man besides my soon-to-be ex-husband in almost five years. Five years of sex with only one person!" she threw her head back and laughed. "Can you imagine?"
"No," I said honestly. "No I cannot."
"It's all so dreadfully boring. How people slosh through over forty years of marriage is beyond me, quite literally. I'm not saying that there is no true love story, but I think they're rarer than what our puritanical society admits to. Everybody wants to feel special. Only a few people are. The others are simply told they are."She sighed. "At best, we're all just a bunch of Kardashians without the cameras."
I laughed. She was jaded beyond belief, and it was attractive to me. But I guess that's what a twenty-nine year old soon-to-be divorcee looked like: a post-youth drained of all optimism until they deflect all what they used to represent.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


We saw the world as it was, not as it could be…strangely chemical, with a distant ether of confidence descending like virga on a horizon we knew we never could touch, but inherently had to breathe. Our minds, our bodies, our true selves, our atman all strove for that cataclysm and iconoclasm of America, 2013 after-death.

But what postlude of expiry had sufficed us to live the way we do? An exotic, risen Jew, crowned and castled into the ionosphere, so we may dwell on an “I am a sphere”, such was our narcissism reflected on a Colgate and Neutrogena spattered corona.

I had seen the hint of something true two months ago but I had lost it, lost it upon my return westward. I had seen hope, and skewered it with mental anguish for not being hopeful enough—not because it wasn't the beyond answer, but because the question far outweighed the certainty we had come to expect after the rise of Generation Y: that We are the answer.

We are not.

Two months ago I was walking through the pastel streets of sunset Prague, tripping on stonework laid before my great-great-great-infinite-grandfather was born, and wondering if my blistered and bloody feet would ever impart anything but indentation on the earth. And if the sights I had seen had always been sights, or were merely manifestations of human splendor collectively agreeing, for once on the most primal, peaceful level, that there is more to life than Life and Me.

Like the gypsy girl I had kept making eye contact with as I wandered deeper into the bowels of Boheme…who I wanted also on the most primal and peaceful level, too.

She made me think of all the women I had loved and lost, even on this trip, where two souls would be meet for a night in space, in time, in everything and nothing and somehow find common hostel heartache despite not sharing a common tongue but the one we slipped into each other's mouths that said, Hush Moon Child, Our bags are packed separate come mourning.

But let us remember Hermes, who brought us here on mercurial feet to silver lands that we couldn't properly pronounce but it didn't matter because it had a Babel of names anyway—like Prague, or Praha, or Praga, of prayer of power of none and less the energy was still realer than the buildings that stood higher.

I continued and wandered west through the winding streets of Bohemia, making mark towards a river that had carved Habsburgs and has-beens and heathens and now slashed through me thus: that there were souls here, there were souls beyond, there were souls in London, in Shanghai, in Reykjavík, in Borneo—on planets we equally cannot pronounce but it didn’t matter because there had to be a common tongue—Eden Prairie...

I was not nor ever will be the center of anything.

And it made me happier to know that my expectations were insufferably human but also musings of a higher creation.

I’ll tell you what.

I drank cheap vodka in crushed forest berries with people my age in Portorož, Slovenia and heard dreams and wishes much akin to my own.

I saw remnant bullet holes in Rijeka, Croatia from a war that I had seen in the news in my youth but didn’t give a second thought of in my adulthood.

I also learned that “never have I ever” was a universally known drinking game and every culture stayed safe the first round and then the vilest, most sexual things I had ever heard in broken English would come out after a player had finished their second drink.

You know what I think?

I think never have I never not had a lot to learn.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On Breaking Up

The land was dark and spring was over, and somewhere to my east was Manhattan, and somewhere to my west was Minnesota, and somewhere up above me was my soul, intangible as ether, but as certain as the stone in my stomach, and I had to ask myself, Was this my life?

I had just come out of a break-up that seemed destined to bring about my ruination. Or so it seemed because I had placed someone else's happiness on a pedestal as my Higher Power than all-good encompassing, all loving God. And while she had flighted away to Vegas to revel in sin and debauchery and forgetfulness at my sickly worn face that she could no longer stand, I sat somewhere in the middle of defunct rage and forlorn grievance that A) I had brought this upon myself and B) I continued to bring everything upon myself. And my choice was the deciding factor and albeit benefactor, whatever the consequence...which connotates both good and bad, which I love that a word can sit somewhere in the gray middle of good and bad in a world that is decidedly neither.

What I mean to say is, I thought I was going to marry this girl. I still might. It may just be a short goodbye or long goodbye, but a goodbye is a goodbye in the same sense that I can say goodbye to my mother before a flight from visiting her in Minnesota and hop on a plane that might crash and burst into a hundred thousand nebula nothings…or I might arrive safe back in the New Jersey Palisades to see through another day despite riding upon a winged time bomb of human errors.

And so that is what I intended to do. Remove the errors from my life.

I am twenty-five going on twenty-six in a matter of days with a brain that hurts because it thinks too much. And I don't want to be a Bukowski or a Kerouac or even a Hemingway because their nihilism came from the least of the human experience—that is drunken stupor and soul dampening drugs.

That’s not to say I haven’t popped a Xanny or four in the past couple of days to ease the sometimes torrential regret, it’s just to say that I’m working on not combining that with a cocktail or six.

I want to wake up every morning next to someone and breathe in the name of God and then just spit it out like fire into their heart: to give back more than the breath of life but the breath of purpose; to exalt someone and praise them not as my golden calf, but as my golden half.

I also wanted someone who would be there for me when a life event occurs, like a death in the family. 

I saw nothing in the distance but truth and beauty, running away into the sunset and ignoring my too stretched soul which clung to the past like a shadow of self-loathing, distrust, and everything I abhorred about me from the blackheads on my nose to the black holes that spattered my heart, spilt like liquid charcoal on a long chapter I no longer wanted to read but had dog eared because it's what I had always turned to in times of tribulation.

Goodbye libation.

It was time to close that chapter of my life. Hell, it was time to start a new book. 

I didn't want to be a casualty of  circumstance anymore. I didn't want to be constantly checking my feet or neck and saying to my executioner, You didn't kill me, you just tied my neck to a tree. The rope was too short and gravity lasted too long.

I was tired of excusing error, both mine and someone else's.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to be Famous. Not anymore.

I remembered days like, summer days where we were nothing but smoke. And time seemed like a centerpiece whose purpose was to collect dust because I had monarchs to catch and wolf spiders to feed, and neighborhood kids were best friends and worst enemies all in one until someone cried, “Supper!” and we would all disappear, ephemeral and longing and raptured home to Lord Mother and Lord Father to feed and prosper and espouse about a bloody knee.
When did I grow up?
I didn’t plan it, and yet it happened and here I am, safe in my same New Jersey bed in my same New Jersey home in my same New Jersey city where a week prior everything was glorious and vanguard and I had plans to conquer and sights to see and I saw God on morning high and evening tide and yet now it seemed like a desperate search for something unattainable but that I needed because I did not know what exactly it was.
Once upon a time I wanted to be famous. But not anymore.
That was what the cancer was that had burrowed deep into my generation, and I was just now realizing it by being lost—the longing to have the most Twitter followers, or Facebook friends, or having the instant gratification of sending a SnapChat to some unknown person a thousand miles away you have never met.
How awkward it must be to come soul to soul, face to face, if you ever even did, eventually, and know that you had seen timed snap shots of this person’s life through digital media but never saw personhood or character? They may be glorious to look at, everyone knows their good angle, and they may have a following…and yet age decrepits even the most Greek, people forget who people are, and what you were five minutes ago isn’t what you are five minutes from now and still we feebly try to keep tally by followers on a made-up scoreboard who are just as whimsical to flight away with breath of wind as you are to send a text message to the past a wonder if they got your message to no avail.
The only true constants are love, family, and God.
It doesn’t take an adult to see that scraped knees heal by affection and understanding, that is why children ask for you to kiss a boo boo before disappearing back into the smoke of youth.
And while digital media is great for connecting with loved ones, to use it in any other fashion is narcissism and cancerous.
I am working on that not to be the case for me, and it is a long road, because becoming smoke after becoming stone and accepting morality and mortality beyond the digital dialogue while still maintaining my dreams of writing and producing will be harder to grasp. But the respect is worth it.
So when my son, Atticus (whoever his mother maybe in future times as she must agree to this name prior), asks me while I’m bandaging his scraped knee, Can I join Facebook?
I’ll say, “Let’s write the story of you first."

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Grandfather Died Yesterday, And Grandma Needs to Go to Him Soon

Yesterday my grandfather passed away at the age of 89 in his sleep in a whisper in a stop of breath while I was a thousand miles away in the depths of New York blocked by skycrapers and anonymity and unknowledgeability to the fullest extent that a hero had fallen on the battlefield of my heart but I was out at a club and had bottle service.
Grandpa, or “Papa” as I and everyone took to calling him, is gone now. It’s weird, because his number is still in my phonebook, and it’s tangible and reasonable that I still may have the possibility to call him and hear his voice say, “Hello?” in the cryptic rasp of old time Americana and then holler to my grandmother in the distance who asks, “Who is it?” and hear him reply, “It’s Sam!”
And I knew that I was in tune with the universe because the godhead had been connected and the trifecta and the loveline to my past was still here a wire away launching humanity into satellites and into receivers we call souls.
Papa and Grandma and Sam.
It happened once or twice a week, and we’d laugh, and Papa would tell the same stories except a little different because as he aged his stories were like cheese—finer but harder to digest without a grin as you tried to suppress the gas.
And Grandma would sit there and I could see her in my mind bobbling her head and just smiling to know that her grandchildren loved her more than sun and moon and stars and infinite insurmountable greatness.
Both of them perpetually put the “grand” in their respective titles.
But now Grandpa is dead and Grandma is a shell.
The cancer came to Grandpa and the dementia came to Grandma. And here I am digesting death and the prospect of death and how absolutes become ends and hearts become earth and eyes become entryways into eternity.
I had never felt such pain as I had felt yesterday, and it made me ask the eternal question on why the eternal is not… God, why?
For some reason I thought that this Death would be different; that of all the death in the world, I would be anointed above it and deemed too precious to not have to the learn the inequitable cruelty of the world. But lo, everyone does, and everyone will, and you yourself will teach the lesson to a loved one someday, too.
We are all purveyors of the promise of death.
Our mothers carry a curse of heartache in their bellies, our fathers in their loins.
And yet we continue, onward, upward, downward, forward, beyonding and beginning to far reaches and meeting new lovely faces of people that one day will expire too and we never know who will enter our heart except those around us as we enter this world, and that’s what stings the most.
That my hero is gone and the wind still blows and my shower tub looks exactly the same with soap scum and hairs that I know I should scrub away but my Papa is dead and is in heaven looking down on a Grandmother who has reverted to mental infancy.
But humanity is just, and God is justice, and the universe inhales and exhales and we will all be together in some matter someway somehow forever eternal.
It’s just that I wasn’t ready for the infinite now or for eternity to expand.
I love you Papa and Grandma. Grandma, please go join him.

Papa, Grandma, Dad, and I at Lincoln's house in Indiana, 2009

Friday, March 22, 2013

How You Feel After A Cold Spring Day

The substantiality and effervescence of what isn't now but will be is what keeps God smiling and hearts praying, for the beauty of the promise is that it encompasses not just you but the entirety of the universe in one binding pulse of love. For once we searched for narrow rainbow, we all now see holy light. And where once we had light pollution, we now have starry starry night. God rests on atom and the pores of my skin. Love is spread from without, but begins from within.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

That Song You Know That Does That Thing

Recently a song came on my Pandora that brought me back to forever ago amen and I wasn’t quite sure that nostalgia was allowed at the meager age of twenty-five but I was selfish enough to feel as if I had lived enough to smile at a tune and daydream at the thought of younger years that could have been better spent calibrating my future self for heartache and fortifying my soul for wanton success.
            I will never ever be able to hear Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” without thinking of my mother and me in cradle, despite how foggy that daydream might seem. Also learning even more recently that I had recollected the lyrics wrong all along for eternity years, and that it wasn’t “Michael Row YOUR Boat Ashore.” Michael never owned a boat. The boat was me, the sea was God’s mind, and here I was rowing through it with ores I felt might be better suited for someone else but that mistake was made and nobody ever owned anything. Creation was thus, and here we were, and we had to make the best of it until we jumped back into the sea we might call US and UNIVERSE.
            Or oddly enough, if “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed came on, my father would mystically appear driving me everywhere I needed to be at the tender age of scion not catching onto the graphic details of song but reveling in the fact that playing the saxophone might still be cool despite being made fun of for being first chair in band at eleven years old while the football quarterbacks called me a queer for experiencing high mighty arts.
            But now, it’s other songs that spin in my head that don’t have a tune but Anansi might dwell and bounce on like some springboard, intertwined webbing.
            I want to spend my life acknowledging the fact that memories will be made, and who I am now might not be a recollection in a decade if I live so long. I also want to realize that happiness is but a choice, and that music is subject to listener.
            One of the most beautiful tunes I still hear in dreams and phantasmal energy are the click-clack of puppy claws that need to be trimmed on wood floors while I’m trying to sleep.
            It was about this time five years ago that I found out that my beloved Prema was going to meet God, (as if it ever was a doubt for any of us) because I believe that every animal does meet God and the same God I intend to meet in compassion and love.
            Just that smell of spring brought freshness and renewal and wondering and curiosity in endless euphoria as what we are, who I will meet in ten years time, who I had met in ten years past, and still the radio pumps on and provides a tuneless tune and the world’s heartbeat thumps and pumps and breeds and bites and tears and creates and humanity burns and candles melt and what what what is anything but a wonderment to celestial body and what can we say but, “Certainly, it is great to know love exists and we are not alone in anything but loneliness.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Love Letter to Death

When it came to light that I would definitely be losing both my grandparents this year, I didn't curse. I didn't scream. I didn't yell. My mind just seemed to vacate like a rain cloud absorbed into the prairie big sky canopy, not wanting to let loose another raindrop tear until it was certain that there was at least a substantial sapling to absorb and enjoy its heartbroken sustenance. It was worse than extreme sadness or extreme anger. It was Nothing. My Fantastica had grown and crumbled in what seemed like a blink. I was no longer a boy, I was a man. And the worst part was, I didn't even get a chance to soar through a saltwater sky with Falcor, much less take a bow on a Broadway stage for my heroes.
What it boiled down to was memory and cancer. Grandma's Alzheimer's had gotten exponentially worse, while Grandpa's cancer had ebbed and flowed, receded, tsunami'd, and now stood to flood his entire digestive tract. Grandma's mind was going, Grandpa's body was going, and here I was staying in New York City, where thoughts came and went and hope raised and went and I cursed and struggled and conquered and faded on a daily basis.
But today, another Nor'easter came and blanketed the steel and chrome and mercurial waterways to contort it all into a bastardized version of the vast Minnesotan tundra I had been raised on and still identified as "home": endless prairiescape, my grandparents' porched home atop a hill, the farm at the base of the hill, the phantom dogs that lived and died there, the people I had met at my grandparents' that had lived and died there, the coffee sipped at the Donut Hut, us, me, them, we, gone, mist.
My grandfather had long been preparing me for this, ever since the original cancer took hold. My grandmother tried when she could, but mostly was just there to love.
But oh the magic swell it gave me to know that their spot in nothingess, whole body God's mind earth could hold a portal to everything that I held dear on earth and beyond to infinite.
Did my grandfather feel the same way? Did my grandmother? Did they once look around the vast Minnesota prairiescape that was alien to them but chapel to me and realize the magic they had created? That the Jewish cowboy from South Dakota and the barefoot Cherokee half-blood from Texas had forged in me a desire to recreate the same thing for my children, my grand-children?
That was the sapling my tears could water.
Death is a mystical idea--it brings salvation, samsara, peace, and nothingness. It brings loneliess and togetherness. It brings me home in my heart despite being thousands of miles away; it reminds me that love is the great uniter.
It also brings back foggy memories of hot summer days too, which are needed on cold dreary days like this, of walking along a dusty gravel road in muggy July Minnesota, running through prairie grass and catching butterflies while Grandpa told me to mind the electric horse fence and Grandma told me to be gentle with the bugs.
They will be missed more than I know now.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

She's on "Smash"

The other day I was at my bank, which is correctly titled “Actor’s Federal Credit Union” because I am indeed, as far as I can tell, still an actor. Why? No clue. I spend most of the time ruing the fact that I have a Bachelor of Music, and even more so that it’s focus is in Musical Theatre, and even further that New York City still has yet to embrace my antithetical genius but somehow likens Lena Dunham to Woody Allen.
But ruminations aside, the other day I was further reminded why I should change my bank.
It’s not that I hate the grease paint crowd; it’s just that I don’t necessarily fit in. The fact of the matter is: if I don’t want to hangout with them, why should I want to bank with them? It’s not like any of us have that much money, and if we do, we definitely aren’t banking at AFCU.
But the worst part is: I have to stand in line with them.
Now, admittedly, I have had some theatrical success. But I don’t pull my thumb out of my butt every time somebody asks me if I have sh*t today so they can smell my fruitions.
Which is why I also don’t want to hear you talk to my couldn’t-give-two-sh*ts bank tellers about how you are on Smash. My eyes are eventually going to get stuck looking at the back of my head before I can even deposit my measly paycheck.
Unfortunately, I was behind one of those people in line at the bank that day.
“Do you watch Smash?” asked the bumble-along older lady as she scrambled to the next available teller whilst waving a white paycheck in her hand, fumbling and bumbling like wind was blowing in her face and the oppressive weight of first world glamour had taken its toll on her just to get here. “You know, on NBC. Smash. The TV show? Smash. It’s about musical theatre and BROADWAY.”
The bank teller looked her over hesitantly; unsure if this lady was just obnoxious or drunk. “I think I’ve seen a commercial for that for something…”
“Oh well, darling, you must watch it tonight! I’m on it! Blink and you’ll miss me haha, but I play so-and-so’s wife…you will love tonight’s episode!”
“Okay,” the bank teller said, “can I have your check to deposit, please?”
“Yes! This is my check from Smash! You will definitely love the songs tonight, the songs are so good. NBC is such a good network to get in with!” she said, handing her flailing white check over the counter and to the absolutely already over it bank teller.
“But I tell you, BLINK and you’ll miss me! But it was such a great experience.”
“Ma’am?” the blank teller sighed, ready for lunch break at only 10 AM.
“Where’s your deposit slip?”
“For my check?”
Yes, your Smash check I thought.
“Yes,” the teller replied, less sarcastically.
“OH GOODNESS. I must have forgot. Can I fill one out?”
“Yes. Please step out of line.”
“I’ll be right back!” she said, bumbling out of line like some doped out cross of Liza Minnelli and Raggedy Ann.
“Next!” the bank teller called, and it was for me.
I slowly walked up in my casual, pigeon-toed fashion. “This check isn’t from Smash. I’m not on TV. Or in anything, really.”
The bank teller smirked.
“I just want to get out of here as quickly as possible.”
The bank teller looked up. “Me too.”