Before Coffee: Restorative

September 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s windy this morning. Fall is blowing the last vestiges of summer through the cemetery gate. It will rain later; the clouds are already gathering outside. Inside, my personal clouds are clearing and I’m starting to feel like me again.

I slept a full night without aid—no Benadryl, no melatonin. “Sleep is for the weak” is something my friends and I say when we don’t get enough, but it really is vital to our health and mental well-being. Sleep makes us stronger, helps us keep our defenses up against the storm clouds and brain weasels.

My appetite is slowly coming back, too. Nourishment goes hand-in-hand with sleep. When I don’t sleep, my Crohn’s disease kicks up, and when that happens, I don’t eat much. I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month or so. While I’d like to keep it off, I also need to fuel my defenses against illness.

So, sleeping and eating. And also creating. I wrote a poem Saturday night, sitting in a quiet attic library with black cat flirting with me. I’d slipped away from the party downstairs for a few minutes alone, and discovered a book of Charles Bukowski’s poems and short stories about cats. Buck is one of my favorite poets, and I thought I shared his poem “tough company” here before, but now I can’t find it. Reading his words made me want to jot down a little drabble of my own. It’s short and it’s terrible, but it’s a seedling pushing up through newly moistened soil. I am feeling the old itch to start writing again.

The party I temporarily escaped from was restorative. Aaron and Anneliese were the hosts, and their parties are always a mix of familiar faces and new ones. They know fascinating people. I met interesting new friends, talked to old friends, and heard the kind of bawdy stories only a former sailor can tell of the Banana Lady and the Bottoms Up Club and Korean sex shows. There was a fire out back and good food inside and joy everywhere.

I drank a little, but not too much. I ate too many of the fantastic egg rolls my friend Travis conjures up, as well as more than my share of my wife’s delicious monkey bread. I watched my friends’ faces in the firelight, and listened to their stories.

But I kept slipping upstairs to the cat and the book and the quiet, just for a few minutes each time, whenever I felt the jittery devil’s hand upon my spine. I read half that small book over the course of the night. Sometimes, I found a friend or two up there, escaping like me, and we had quiet chats.

Toward the end of the festivities, my friend Julieanne said she’d “eddied through the party,” which I thought was just a lovely turn of phrase that perfectly captured the feel of the night: the slow swirl of conversations and people, moving through the house or out into the back yard, seeking the fire or the shadows or the quiet places filled with books and cats.

There are worse ways to spend a night, but if you ask me, there are few better.


This is the cat who kept me company. His name is Tom Servo. (Photo credit: Anneliese Knoff)

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Before Coffee: Soothe the Savage Breast

September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’ve said much here that is dark and sad and full of storm clouds. Ironically, my last missive was my attempt to counter that with something upbeat; seems it didn’t come off that way.

Sorry about that. Here’s attempt number two. I’ll try to keep it short and light. « Read the rest of this entry »

Me, I’m Counting

September 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

It’s been difficult for me to see anything but endings lately, and to fear those endings. It’s certainly taken a toll on my sleep (I’m not getting much), my appetite (I’ve lost five-plus pounds in the last month, without trying), my ability to focus on work and conversations and even mindless TV shows.

But there’s a freight train full of good barreling through my life right now, too. Sometimes, I have to stop and remind myself of that. Count my blessings, as it were. So to that end, I’m counting. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Dare. Risk. Dream.

September 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Random thoughts that have been ricocheting of the insides of my skull, ringing it like a polyphonic bell. This morning, staring at an empty beer bottle from last night and grinning like an idiot at the memories contained therein, the various tones merged into a chorus.

Around the neck of the bottle, it said, “Dare. Risk. Dream.”

I’ve been a little worried about how people perceive me lately. It’s a constant susurration, but lately the volume has increased. Partly, it’s because I’ve put some personal shit out into the world, on this blog and elsewhere. It’s also due in part to my dad’s illness—liver cancer—which has me traveling down dark corridors I’d avoided for the past ten years.

It’s not often I share what’s hidden in the cobwebbed nooks and bottomless chasms. The thoughts and memories I bury in those places are there precisely because they scare me, and I’m afraid they’ll frighten off those close to me. At the very least, I don’t want to worry anyone.

Keeping them locked up wasn’t working. Not this time. For a few weeks, I was in a state of constant panic. I figured sharing couldn’t possible make things worse, so I decided to vent here, on this supposed writing blog, because it’s my only long-form outlet anymore. I can let my fingers dribble thoughts longer than 140-character tweets or whatever the limit is for the Book of Faces.

I dared to share. I risked what people would think. At the very least, I hoped it would help someone who had similar thoughts, feelings, fears.

So far, no one’s run screaming, at least not that I know. And I’ve been reminded of how truly loving and supportive my friends are.

My life right now is very much yin-yang. The dark side is my dad’s cancer, and the looming shadow the C-word always brings with it. But there’s a very bright side, too, driving back the gloom. It took a little daring and risk—and more than a little dreaming—to get to the light. It’s a fragile puzzle made up of fragile pieces. But it’s beautiful, and it shields my soul.

I worry the light won’t last long. I worry it will go out and leave me in the dark with the monsters. Nothing gold can stay, as Robert Frost wrote.

It’s a risk to stay in this dream of light, but I dare to do so for as long as it lasts. I’ll deal with the monsters as they come.

They better come swinging, because this is ground I’ll fight for.


The bottle in question. The beer inside was good; the company was better. (And ha, I just noticed it’s called the Right Hand of Doom. That’s not ominous or anything.)

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Before Coffee: A Weary Life

September 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Adding this up front: I’m blissfully happy right now. Don’t let this post make you believe otherwise. I struggled with the decision to share this and almost didn’t, but decided to because I hope it helps someone. If you’re miserable or weary of life, keep going, because wonderful surprises are waiting. Which is probably what I should have said and called it quits, instead of scaring the horses with my babbling. Sorry.

I want to tell you a secret.

It’s a hard secret, something I’ve never told anyone. Something I’ve tried to keep buried deep within myself, hoping it would someday just go away.

It’s broken the surface a few times, exposing its coils to the odd passerby, then submerging so quickly that they blink and wonder, “No, it couldn’t be. Just my imagination playing tricks.”

It wasn’t your imagination, friends. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Eye of the Whirlwind 

August 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

When the cyclone hits, it’s a hundred miles per hour of whirling chaos. It roars you deaf, batters you with airborne buses, and shreds you with sharp slivers of siding. But if you make it to the eye of the thing, you have a moment of calm before it snatches you up again.

I feel like I’ve been spinning in the whirlwind for about a month now. My dad is sick and that, on top of the thousand natural shocks, has knocked everything shitward. I spend most days reminding myself to breath. My lower lip spasms. My heart rate thunders like the hooves of a thoroughbred. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: How to Tell a Great Story

August 24, 2016 § 2 Comments

I came across an article this morning with the terrible title “A Writer’s Guide to Hacking the Reader’s Brain in 5 Steps.” Because everything has to be about hacking these days. “Hacking Your Diet with Oreos and Bacon Fat,” or “Hacking Your Cerebral Cortex to Never Need Sleep (Without Becoming a Murdering Hobo),” et cetera ad nauseum.

A better title for the article above is “How to Tell a Great Story,” or maybe “5 Steps to Bringing a Story to Life.” Or maybe those are just as terrible.

Regardless, the article is very good. You can skip the first half of it if you’re in a rush and just start at this bit: « Read the rest of this entry »