Friday, January 29, 2016

John Denver Didn't Sing About It

“Holy Cats,” shouted Terry.
               The road swerved and curved in front of Terry’s car like a drunk stumbling home from a bar at two o’clock in the morning. The darkness swallowing the road didn’t make it any better.

“Who designed this road? it’s a mess,” said Terry.

The road was in fact, designed after an old Indian trail through a dense forested area. It was then adopted by the settlers in the area who used it as a wagon route to and from the center of town to sell their goods, like candles and beef and Okra. It simply got wider, paved, re-paved and made a historical landmark. Terry didn’t know any of that. He was on a business trip from Cincinnati and this winding Virginia road was something out of a nightmare for him.

Terry slowed his rented Buick and turned on the high beams. He had a little trouble finding them at first. He thought rental cars should have more obvious buttons for stuff like window wipers and high beams. It was dumb to struggle in the dark interior for the right button, knob or switch. He longed for the days of standardization. The road was greatly illuminated but still a winding mess of switchbacks, hairpin turns, one lane and dips. The posted speed limit was 70 MPH and that seemed insane to Terry. He didn’t think a Dale Earnhardt or Mario Andretti could navigate these roads at that speed.

The Buick crested a high hill and then began a steep decline on the opposite side. Terry had his foot hovering over the brake, just waiting for some pick-up truck or giant deer to come bursting out of the surrounding forests. He had a terrible feeling that his trip to Virginia to sell industrial rubber flanges would be his death. He started to re-evaluate his life as the Buick neared a sharp turn right as the road leveled out. Terry steered the car toward the right and then had to quickly cut left as the road made a surprise direction change along a curve toward a valley of what looked like giant walls of reddish yellow bedrock rising on each side.

“Dear God, is this murder road,” questioned Terry.

He looked down at the GPS screen on the dashboard which had fallen silent, still just indicating he had 17.8 miles to go until his destination. Terry missed her voice suddenly. The radio had faded out almost as soon as he embarked on this road. It was just static or some low wattage Bible beating preacher prattling on about the end of days and the coming of the four horsemen. It was too much for Terry so he had turned the radio off. So it was just the GPS voice and he, until the GPS didn’t have anything to say, except for the occasional “recalculating”.

The road took another sharp right into a very long curve. A curve that seemed to hold for far longer than any Terry had previously experienced. He looked at the compass on the GPS and it went from North, to East, to South, to West and then back to North, all through his long curve. Terry felt as if he had just gone in a complete circle without any change in elevation or anything. It was a strange feeling. The road straightened out and the car’s high beams reflected off the high bedrock walls of the valley. Terry thought it was more of a canyon than a valley. Terry looked at the GPS screen; 18.3 miles to go.

“What the hell,” said Terry, “how did this just get longer?”

Terry felt the car start to rise up another hill and he slowed down. He didn’t want to shoot over the top of the hill and fly off into a river or wind up in the rear of some semi-trailer like something out of the Blues Brothers.  He drove the Buick up to the top of the long hill. Terry half expected to see Sherpa's guiding a climbing expedition party up a mountain side with the height of this hill. He reached the acme of the hill and the car angled down, like a roller coaster car at the front. Terry felt his testicles suck up into his body out of a primitive fear response. The car’s nose dipped down like a barrel going over some waterfall with some 1920’s type daredevil sitting on it. Terry yelled.

“Oh My God!”

             The car shot down the steep decline and Terry held the steering wheel with both hands. He had his foot on the brake as he tried to control the speed of his decent.  The car resisted any attempt to slow it down.

“Turn left in 200 feet,” said the GPS.
             “You’re God damn kidding me,” yelled Terry.

The descent never seemed to end, a mysterious tissue box fell forward from some undisclosed rear part of the Buick and Terry’s briefcase on the passenger seat slipped to the car’s floor. Terry gripped the steering wheel with white knuckled fear and adrenaline.  His teeth were clenched together as the yellow dividing line in the road sped past reminding Terry of some Warp Speed image from a Sci-Fi film.

“In 100 feet, turn left,” said the GPS.
             “What? How the hell…,” said Terry.

Terry was staring at the speedometer. He had his foot on the brake but he was still going 85 miles an hour, almost straight down. He couldn’t imagine coming to a stop and making a left turn. He started to press hard on the brake, pushing it to the floor. The Buick resisted and started to buck and skid unlike anything Terry had ever seen a car do.

“Make a Left turn on Primrose,” said the GPS.
             “How,” shouted Terry.

The road dipped and flattened and the Buick came to a tire screeching stop. The brakes came to life and the Buick skidded and swerved on the level ground. The screeching tires and groaning brakes echoed through the darkness.  Terry’s nose came inches from smashing into the steering wheel. The car ticked and rattled. The high beams flickered and then normalized. A single yellow caution traffic signal hung silently over the intersection where the hill ended and the road opened up again. It hung over the Buick like a warning. An ironic warning.

Terry leaned back in his seat. He looked up at the yellow traffic light. He looked at the cross road and flicked on the left turn signal. He turned left onto Primrose.

“You have arrived at your destination on the left,” said the GPS.

Terry looked out his window to see the flickering neon of the Motel Six.

“Son of a….,” said Terry.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Swipe Me

                I’m one of those guys that resorted to internet-based dating. I know it’s hard to believe that an incredible charmer like me had to resort to such methods to meet someone. Yet, it had to happen. I’ve been “on-line dating” for several years now and let me tell you, it’s failed; failed almost as badly as the old “meeting a girl in person” tactic.

                 I only bring this up now since several women I know have also started internet dating very recently and have already had a whole bunch of dates or meaningful contacts with guys who seem very sweet and almost amazingly earnest.  In some cases these women have had their profile up on one of these dating sites for less than a day before striking up a conversation, talking on the phone and then meeting up for a date with some guy. I mean, they’re not all winners. Some of the guys are downright ass hats. But from what I’ve been able to tell, these women, are pretty happy with their immediate results on these sites. The regular sites mind you, not the “hook-up” sites.

                 I’ve been on-line dating for over three years and I’ve had one date. One. A single, one time meeting, with a woman whom seemed to forget she was going on a date since she chose to show up in what amounted to work-out clothes, but somehow, worse. I, of course, being a sophisticated gentleman about town dressed it up, even wore a sport coat. Needless to say there wasn’t a second meet-up.  I don’t think I can legally call it a “date”.

                My profile on several prominent dating sites is funny, engaging, cute and positive. My photos are all of me, and show the various sides of my personality. There’s no shirtless macho pics, no “bro-time” pictures, no cats, dogs, tattoos, beards, cars, wads of cash, or adventure photos of me punching Godzilla with a Great White Shark. It’s just me, mostly wearing cardigan sweaters, looking sweet and attentive, and smiling my usual Irish wry smile.  I’m not overweight. I’m not Edward James Olmos. I look young, despite my age. I’m amazingly average. What they used to call, steadfast.

Yet my inboxes are empty. If I do get a message, it’s from a woman in China or the Philippines. If a woman does show interest I usually discover the profile of theirs is a fake, a duplicate or a down right catfish pretty quickly. I think what’s even worse is the messages I send to women I find appealing, attractive or even mildly interesting and I get no reply of any kind. I don’t even get a polite, “Thanks for your message but I’m into Safari Guides who wrestle Rhinos. Thanks!”  I could deal with that rejection far better than the nothingness I get in reply to my usually well thought out initial contact message.

It’s getting to the point of insanity; really, the doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.  I carefully seek out women I think are pretty, intelligent, likely passionate about their beliefs, funny, and thoughtful. They usually live fairly near-by too.  I hear nothing from them. Messages after messages to engaging and apparently intelligent women go constantly unheeded.  But CHineseTitty5000 has no problem sending me a, “Hi”, message from Hong Kong.  Her profile pictures will include her crushing a camel and stabbing a Whale through the heart. (Maybe I should start a long distance relationship with ChineseTitty5000?)

It just makes me a little bummed out for my gender and those like me trying to navigate this life and just hoping to meet that someone who compliments them just enough that every day doesn’t feel the same, or at least provides some comfort in light of the terror the world can throw. We want a counterpart to help each other remember what’s good, what fun is, and what’s important. That’s what I think we want.

I’m not looking for a supermodel. I’m not looking for a rocket scientist. Although a supermodel rocket scientist would be pretty kick-ass though I have to admit. (I’d probably always be way back on the list for her, 1. rockets, 2. modeling, 3-8. puppies and skiing, 9. Michael.) I am looking for normal. Normal in the sense that they have a good head on their shoulders, nice hair, good health, a sense of the absurd and of humor, moral, a little sarcastic, a little home-body-ish but not afraid to travel if the whim hits them. They don’t mind nights in or very casual nights out. I’m not a big traveler. I’ll admit it. I’d rather drive than fly. I just hate baggage and airports so much. You wouldn’t believe the number of single women out there that list, traveling the World, as their main objective.  Even if they have photos of themselves in Africa, petting a tiger while hugging an orphaned African child, they still are like, “let’s go traveling!” And all I can think is, “Shut-up, Not everyone has the financial security to gallivant all over the damn world and ski in Switzerland one week and then poke Indians in the eye with Slim-Jims the next”.  

As you can see I’m a little touched by the frustration internet-dating has wrought. The rejection on a mass, computerized scale is daunting. It’s a real blow to one’s self esteem, often. So you say to yourself, “Self, I’m off the websites, I’m going to see where the ladies hang out and I’m going to meet one!” So you put your App away, your laptop is closed and you venture off into the night and go to bars filled with dudes all looking for that one girl who is there without her boyfriend, sisters, book club, hiking group, breast-cancer support sessions, bachelorette party, drunken mean Goth friend, and who is generally amiable to speaking with a normal guy. She’s not there though. She’s at home, curled up watching Netflix and drinking white wine wondering why there aren’t any nice guys on-line tonight.

I’m tired. I’m so very tired of banging my head against the walls of trying to find a date that shares my ideals of intimacy, of romance, of mutual respect, acceptance and appreciation of high fashion. I mean, I like a woman that can crush a nice pair of heels and appropriate outfit; does that make me a bad person? No. I just know what I like.

I’ve tried to be what women want me to be. In the past I’ve made efforts to mold myself into someone I wasn’t necessarily intended to be and eventually the real me oozed out and wasn’t able to fit into the mold crafted for me. I know now that was a mistake and I’ve learned from it. I’ve been back to me for a long, lonely, time now.  Frankly, dating should be the furthest thing from my mind; I’ve got to get some financial security before I can go a-courtin’ effectively and with the intention of having something long-term. (Unless I meet that woman that wants to support my “art”. Wink-Wink).

Yet I’m still taunted by the main point of this piece, internet dating is Hell. Internet-dating, like all computerized dating, is too fast, too brief, too emotionless, and too swipe related. It’s almost impossible for the nice guys, the nice men, the nice graying haired, rapidly aging guys to rise above the superfluous profiles of Bro-Johnson and his ripped abs, classic Monte Carlo and Lake House for use in the summer, where his dad has a boat and the parties are Kick-ass! I mean, really, I should have my own Lake House and boat where my parties are kick ass at my age, but I don’t so, meh.

I guess I just needed to vent about the terrors of internet dating, for guys, for me. Women are mostly in the driver’s seat when it comes to whom they’ll decide to connect with on any particular dating site and much like the real world I just have to have a little more patience that she’s out there, just waiting to swipe right on my charming profile pic. I just have to accept it for a while longer, at least until I die alone, in a puddle of my own (Fill in the blank) __________.

Just kidding, don’t despair. Your favorite writer will be fine, Stephen King is happily married. And I think I’ll be okay too, eventually. Every once in a while we need to shake the “Lonelies” out from our fingers and re-adjust. Now, to get back to my bachelor pad and sit around in my underwear and watch TV, eat crap, and go to bed. Woo-Hoo life is spicy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Curse Words

In the world of curses,
there are numerous words to hex
the  dumbest, the meanest,
and the most rotten among us.
Praying for poxes, for ulcers,
for sores, for insurmountable
losses unparalleled in the annuls
of historical tomes upon the accursed.

A curse for the damned,
a curse to damn,
a curse for the unloved,
a curse for the loved.

Curses for fires, floods, strong winds,
blizzards, mudslides, tornadoes,
famine, hail, avalanches,
earthquakes, on the wretched curs.

A cracking open of the
universe to swallow the
soul of the person who crossed
us, who wronged us, for hates sake.

A curse rightly deserved, rightly
earned, even justifiably right, may not,
in the end, be a curse on them at all,
but a curse on ourselves.

The weight of the hex can slump
our shoulders, while the cursed
never knows why their fortunes
are so poor.

A sufferer is only as aware of their
suffering and not the pains of others.

A curse of self-awareness might be
the best curse of all. The Curse of
Empathy. The Curse of Mile Walking.
The Curse of Understanding.

A Pox on their minds, rather than
their bodies, might be the most
righteous burden and the most
likely to produce compassion.

An evil-eye opener rather than a
wrecker of worlds.
A curse, reformed into a blessing,
might be the best curse of all.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Toll

“Oh Man,” said the Reaper, “Not him!”
The Grim Reaper tossed his Book of the Dead on his kitchen counter and picked up his fresh cup of coffee. He put the mug to his lipless mouth and poured the hot coffee over his dry teeth.
“Ugh, I don’t even want this now,” said the Reaper. He poured the rest of the contents down the kitchen sink and turned around to face the refrigerator. He caught his own morning reflection in the stainless steel exterior. His bony face frowned, or at least he imagined it frowned. It was hard to frown with just a skull for a face, but after the centuries he’d sort of forgotten he was just a skeleton in a dusty robe.
                He turned back toward his counter top and pulled the Book of the Dead back toward him and flipped to today’s date. Again he stared in disbelief, or would if his eye sockets weren’t technically completely void of anything resembling eyes.
                “Really God? Really,” he asked out loud. He sighed and closed the book. He hated when he had to collect the souls of so many talented people in one week, or even just a couple of days. He thought it sort of affected the morale of the humans to take the souls of generally loved individuals. Those individuals that transcend the isolation of the human condition and managed to become something far larger than themselves, to lose them was a blow for the humans. A hugely creative rock star and a very talented actor were on the list and Grim felt a pang of annoyance at God’s fickleness.
                Grim moved through his Manhattan apartment toward his bedroom. He hung his morning robe on its hook and took his reaping cloak from his closet and draped it over his bleached frame. He moved to the mirror over the dresser and made sure he looked as menacing as possible. A look he’d grown quite accustomed to since the Black Plague. He sort of liked it, even if it was rather, faceless.  He sighed and looked at the time on his nightstand alarm clock. It was time.
                He went to the front hall closet near the entrance to get his scythe.  Grim remembered he’d left it propped up against the TV stand. He had been watching a documentary about some murderer but he just couldn’t get into it since he was the one who ultimately took their souls. It was sort of boring.
                He grabbed his scythe and took a look around his apartment. He checked his cloak for his keys and cell phone and then pounded the base of the staff on the floor. A thick explosion of smoke billowed around Grim and he was instantly transported to the home of the next soul due for collection. A modest mansion, filled with good to excellent art, music, a nice bar area, a family area neatly appointed with large family photos and the general disarray of a well-loved and used room.
                Grim shook his head and drifted up towards the bedroom of the aging Rock star, where he’d been hiding his illness from the world. Grim floated past the crying wife, the sad children, the helpless doctor and the general hangers on. He stood next to the bed and bent down over the face of the iconic rock star. A rock star so influential that even the Grim Reaper had a few of his albums. Albums that caused the Reaper to play his scythe like a guitar and thrust his boney hips about his apartment.
                “I’m here for you. It’s time,” whispered the Reaper.
                The aging, but not old, rock star opened his eyes and looked into the face of Death.
                “What took you so long mate,” said the Rock Star.
                “Are your Earthly tasks completed, have you lived a life full and right? Are you now ready to pass from this realm to the next,” asked the Grim Reaper.  It was his standard set of questions, used since the very early days of the human acknowledgement of the soul.
                “I am ready mate. I’m ready,” said the rock star as he raised his hand. Grim took his hand in a bony clasp and with a bow of his head, released the soul up in a flash of light. The heart monitor in the room pealed its familiar monotone. The family sobbed and head hung low. The rock star’s face fell into a peaceful pallor. Death stepped away from the bed as the family, the inconsolable wife, fell onto the empty shell of the rock star.  Death took a moment to remember the well lived life of the rock star, the flashes of genius, the exploration of what it meant to be human, and the general majesty of his accomplishments. The true hole his moving on would leave in the lives of so many. It made Grim a bit sad.
                Grim’s iDeath started buzzing in his cloak. He had no time to mourn the passing of the human icon. It was morning in Chicago and the toll was already rising. He sighed and tapped his scythe on the floor and vanished in a plume of black smoke and ash.  “The actor can wait a day,” thought Death, “I can at least do that.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Snow Mob

Snow Mob,
came to get me in the night,
I owed too much to get out,
so I got pulled back in.

Wise Guy Snowmen,
bustin' up the joint,
sticks for arms, leaving
puddles all over the hardwood.

Mafiosnow, taking control
of the neighborhood,
blanketing the streets with
crystalline blood.

Winter's man, the Old
Jack, vying for a piece
of the Snowmerican dream
through old winter tactics.

Huddling for cold,
spreading it all around,
no care, no kindness, no
pithy rejoinders.

Snow, man. Snow. Always
out to get you, underfoot,
sneaky and slippery,
extorting joy.

They'll wreck your car,
get you sick,
break your ankle,
or hold you hostage.

Snow Mob doesn't care,
frozen hearted lot,
They'll get you,
they got me.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Good Coffee Day

This is not an advertisement
for coffee. I am not endorsing any
particular drink. I am not
advocating consumption or
debating the merits of its
production or marketing.

It’s just good this morning.
It’s just a good cup of coffee
that I made. Sweetened and
stirred to perfection. It’s not
oversweet or too bitter.
It’s a good cup of coffee.

The kind of cup of coffee that
makes you want to stand on some
wood cabin deck that overlooks a
giant lake, maybe hear a loon, just
as the sun cracks the morning sky.
A blanket shawled over your shoulders.

The kind of coffee that feels like that
special person in your life will love you
just a little more for making it. They’ll
kiss you with a little more passion, and
squeeze you a little tighter before they
head out the door to face their day.

Just a good cup of coffee to take you
away from the daily terrors of crime and
murder, rape and genocide, if only for a
little while. A little while to marvel at
this spinning mud ball and think,
“Thanks Third World Slave labor.”

“Sluuuuurrrpppp. Ah.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


                “What’s that noise,” asked Cameron.
                “Noise,” asked Dan.

                Cameron pointed up toward the ceiling and cupped his hand around his left ear. Dan looked at Cameron and then up at the ceiling.

                “Yeah. I don’t hear anything,” said Dan.
                Cameron dropped his hand away from his ear and slammed it on his desk.
                “How the hell can you not hear that? It’s like a cricket with a violin dancing on a chalkboard with ice skates and spurs,” said Cameron.
                “Yeah, I just don’t hear it. I don’t really hear anything like that,” said Dan.

                Dan wiped his nose with one finger and turned his attention back to his computer screen. He typed in the next sequence of numbers that flashed along the bottom of the attached spreadsheet information. All day was spent keying in number sequences. Dan didn’t know where the numbers came from, what they meant or where they were going. All he had to do was sit for eight hours a day and punch in numbers. It was all he really needed or wanted.

                There was a commotion as papers fell off of Cameron’s desk. He’d pushed them to the floor and was now standing on the top of his desk. He bent his head to the side as he listened.

                “I’m serious. There’s a noise, like a mouse with a grinding wheel making pencils out of glass or something, I swear. It’s making me crazy,” said Cameron.

                Dan bent down into the aisle and started picking up the papers that had fallen from Cameron’s desk.  He looked up at Cameron who continued to arch and crane his neck to turn his head to where the alleged noise was coming from. Cameron’s face was strained and red. He was sweating.  Dan put the papers on the corner of Cameron’s desk.

                “Hey, Cam, maybe you should get down. You’re not looking so good,” said Dan. He reached his hand up toward Cameron who gently smacked it away.
                “I need you to come up here Dan. I need you to hear this…crazy noise,” said Cameron.

                Dan sighed and looked away from Cameron’s pleading face and toward Mr. Skelter’s office door, which was still shut and had been all morning.

                “C’mon, he won’t even notice,” said Cameron.
                “Fine,” said Dan.

                Dan reached up for Cameron’s hand and stepped up on Cameron’s desk. They stood very close together and without actually touching each other.

                “Shhhh, now just hold your breath for a second and see if you can hear it,” said Cameron.

                Dan held his breath and listened. He could hear the faint typing of Carol in the lobby and the gentle low hum of the ventilation fans, but he did not hear anything that resembled Cameron’s high pitched noises.  He looked at Cameron and exhaled. He shrugged.

                “I still don’t hear anything at all Cam,” said Dan.
                “I think it stopped when you got up here. I think I knows we’re looking for it now and it’s hiding,” said Cameron.
                “Okay, that’s enough man,” said Dan, “there’s absolutely no noise!”

                Dan started to step off of Cameron’s desk when Cameron grabbed him by the shoulder.

                “Shhh,” commanded Cameron.

                Dan pulled his shoulder away but there was something. There was some very faint whistling noise, like a gnome blowing a dog whistle on some rickety railroad tracks. There was a noise. Dan froze with one foot  poised to step down.  
                “There. There is something,” said Dan, “like a…a faint carnival ride that needs to be oiled.”
                “Yes! That’s it exactly,” shouted Cameron, “an ant picnic cheering for an ant college football team.”

                Dan stepped off Cameron’s desk and looked up at the ceiling. Cameron also stepped down. They stood at the edge of Cameron’s desk, staring up at the ceiling, just imagining what that noise could be, as numbers streamed on Dan’s computer screen and the sun started to set in the West.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Next One

The drinks have been had,
the corks popped, the kisses
passed (some better than others),
the well wishes and kindnesses

Back pats, hands held, glasses
cheered, toasts made, some
people probably even had sex,
or just did their best not too
feel so alone.

The laughs had, the stories
told, the hearts broke,
the messes cleaned, the messes
made anew. The tears wiped,
hugs given and received.

Glitter swept, noise makers
tossed, decorations down,
stowed in boxes for another year or
hauled to the trash next to the dead
tree we kept inside our houses.

We've started it over, in all
earnest belief, that this year
will be better, maybe the best,
than we've ever had before.
Our optimism bubbling over.

There's no shame in hoping,
no reason to be afraid as the
thing starts, it'll go as it will,
as it wants, and we'll go with it
to judge the results and value its worth.

Compare it to others,
wash it off,
clear the corners,
straighten the frame,
just in time for next year and all over