October 25, 2016 § 1 Comment

The first frost rimed the roofs in my neighborhood this morning. A praying mantis clung to the porch wall, moving only a leg to let me know she was still alive when I prodded her with a tentative finger. Cold.

I haven’t seen many mantids this summer, and worried that landscaping changes had eliminated their colony. Seeing this poor, sluggish creature clinging to the brick delivered a mixture of cheer to know they were still around, and dismay that she would soon lay her eggs for the autumn and then die. I’ll remember her when I see her children in the spring.

But this isn’t about her. This is about something new and permanent. Something that will die only when I die.  « Read the rest of this entry »


When You Can’t Run, You Crawl

October 23, 2016 § Leave a comment

Summer refuses to go gently into that good night. We’re well into October now, and the mercury keeps climbing into the upper 60s, 70s, and even the 80s. And then plummets, as Fall rallies, only to be routed again by another surprise attack from my favorite season.

Today was sunny, warm, and beautiful, and yet I couldn’t lift my eyes from my shoes long enough to appreciate it. I have stones on these shoulders, and just about the time I get used to the weight, another one gets added. Just this week, a boulder dropped on top of the other rocks already sitting there. So I’m sagging a bit.

I just went up on the roof to clean the gutters and took a few minutes to think and watch the sun nestle down behind the horizon. I took stock of what’s wrong and what’s right, what’s good and bad in my life.

There’s a lot going wrong in my life. There’s also a lot going right to prop me up when the stones push me down. When a new weight drops on the wrong side, the stanchions bend and slip. This week really tested them.

But up on the roof, with the world going dark and silent around me, I did find some perspective. Unfortunately, what’s going on around me is reality, and it isn’t going to change. I want the rocks and boulders to fall off or be lifted away, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

All I can do is lean into the supports—my wife, my family, my friends, and the too-brief moments of joy they bring into my life. And remember to thank them, and try to bring joy to them when they need it. Try not to be a rock on their shoulders, but rather a support for them, even if it’s a weak one. Toothpicks can support bowling balls, if you have enough of them.

There’s a quote from my favorite television show, Firefly. It’s kind of cheesy, but it contains a good sentiment:

When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.

Find someone to carry you. Lean into your supports. We’ll all get through this together.

“Stack on Balance” (Sculpture and photo by Peter Juhl)


Me, I’m Counting

September 20, 2016 § 2 Comments

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: Dear Parents

August 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

I wasn’t going to write one of these today, because I’m sleep deprived and adorable baby animals are talking their shit. (No, I didn’t just have a stroke; that sentence will make sense if you click the link, I promise.)

But then I saw this on Facebook, and it plucked the catgut strung over the thumpy thing in my chest: « Read the rest of this entry »

Anno Coffee: That Feeling When

August 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

That feeling when you write something so great that you surprise yourself.

That feeling when you agree to share the thing you wrote with a group, and on the day your stomach hurts and you feel like you’ll vomit and you consider using illness as an excuse not to show up.

That feeling when you share the thing and everybody enjoys it, and you drive home with a huge grin and a feeling like you’re floating.

That feeling when you sit down to write and your heart starts pounding and your arms go numb, and you know you’re alone and no other writer has ever felt this way but you. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Weighting

August 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Good morning. Long time, no see. How have you been?

It’s foggy in Cincinnati today, and we all know how I feel about that. But today it feels appropriate. Things I can’t talk about weigh on my mind, and fog seems like the world pressing us down. This is me, pushing back.

I enjoyed a night out at the Overlook last night, surrounded by some of the very best people this world has to offer. Allowed myself two whiskeys (okay, two doubles, which is not the same as four drinks, don’t try to tell me otherwise). Listened to some funny and poignant Squirrel Stories, one of which was told by my friend Aaron. (His previous story is featured in Episode 9: Drugs That Rhyme With Cocaine.) Felt a beautiful stranger scratch my back.

Talked with friends about Dungeons & Dragons, Fallout 4, Ghostbusters, mongrel cars made up of the cannibalized guts of several cars, the dangers of selling stuff to friends, tattoos, and other wide-ranging topics. Nothing weighty, nothing deep.

Just what I needed.

Tracy, in the meantime, was home making an animal out of trash bags, pool noodles, pillows, and feminine hygiene products. It’s for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, (aka GISHWHES).

Combined, it spiraled into a Lynchian level of surreality: a guy onstage in the lounge from The Shining talking about the time Abraham Lincoln gave him a concussion with a taxidermied giraffe while a panda made out of maxi pads haunted my phone.

The “padna” was in the garage when I arrived home. Staring at me. I went to bed with that image and the stories and the whiskey and the night all swirling around my head.

When I woke, I found a late night text from my lovely friend Anneliese, encouraging me to write more. So you can blame her for this.

The world has lifted its smothering palm. Blue peeks through the covering clouds. The day begins.


The photo below was taken by Maresa Smith and found it’s way to me via a newsletter/website called Death to Stock Photos. If you’re someone who enjoys different photos or needs stock photos that aren’t the usual Getty Images level of crap (and possibly stolen), check out Death to Stock.

(I experimented with using my own photos for these things, but sometimes it’s easier and more interesting to grab something stock. And I’m lazy.)


I Feel Like A Teenager Again

July 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

Okay, that’s a lie; teenagers can stay awake past 11:00 and generally don’t have joints that hurt, so I in no way physically feel like a teen.


Two things happened today that made me briefly feel like a teenager again. And I’ll take it, because I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened.

Thing One: Ghostbusters

Tracy and I went to see the new Ghostbusters today. You know, the one with all the women that has been ruining fragile male childhoods around the world? Yeah, that one.

As soon as I got home, I posted this on Facebook:

We just had our childhoods ruined — NOT! The new Ghostbusters is amazing!

I was very skeptical going in, because I loved the first movie so much. To the point that I had every line memorized at one point. Tom Wagner can attest; for a long time, it was our regular Friday night viewing. It’s why our nickname for each other is Ray, actually.

But the new “reboot” isn’t just a tired retread with ladies instead of men; it’s a whole new thing. And it’s really good. Tracy said it felt like an alternate universe rather than a reboot. I agree.

So if you’ve been hesitant to see it, don’t hesitate any longer. It’s so much fun!

To unpack that a bit, for those who aren’t familiar with my history: Tom Wagner and I have been friends since high school, and we’re both old enough to have witnessed the birth of the Internet and, later, the World Wide Web. (No, they’re not the same thing.)

Not only that, but we were around to see both the birth and death of the VCR. My family didn’t have the money for such luxuries, but Tom’s owned a Betamax, and one of the movies they had was the original Ghostbusters. And yes, we really did watch it enough to have every. Single. Line memorized.

I still quote that movie at least once a week, it seems. (Want to feel old? Say “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass” to a group of Millennials. If they’re like my friends (yes, I have Millennial friends; try not to faint), they’ll stare at you blankly and one of them will ask, “What is that, like, Bro Caesar?”)

So when the reboot was announced, my first reaction was dismay. I didn’t want a reboot. I wanted a sequel. I wanted Winston Zeddemore, Ray Stantz, and Peter Venkman to hand the reins of the business to a new gang of ‘busters.

I didn’t give a crap that they were all ladies; I just wanted a proper sequel.

Wah wah, boo hoo.

Once the trailers started hitting the web, my heart sank a little more. It just didn’t look all that good. I decided I’d see it…eventually…probably on Netflix.

Two things changed my mind. The first was that so many friends whose opinions I trust on movies said they loved it. Loved it.

And the second was that a racist gamergate dickbro decided to whip up a torrent of hate aimed at Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the reboot. That link is a mild recap of what happened, but I had the nauseating displeasure to watch that vile shit as it happened. And it was pretty damned vile.

So because a leaking burlap sack of diseased testicles tried to beat down a woman just for appearing in a reboot of a movie so old they probably weren’t even sperm when it came out, I decided to see said movie in the theater. Do the opposite of what to those impotent knuckledraggers ultimately want, which is to drive people away from Ghostbusters.

Nevertheless, I went in nervous. I’ve been burned by reboots before; most notably, the horrible JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot. Don’t even get me started on that travesty. Ugh.

Hearing the original Ghostbusters theme in the opening of the movie was the first I-feel-like-a-teen-again moment. And then we were off and running, and I got lost in the fun of the thing and had an absolute blast.

Afterward, Tracy said she tried to match up the original characters to see who the female equivalent was, but quickly realized that they weren’t female versions of Egon, Ray, Peter, and Winston. They were new, unique characters, in a fresh story, with just enough callbacks to the original to enhance the fun but not dilute it.

I hope there’s a sequel, and I hope it’s a lot better than the original Ghostbusters 2. Either way, this time I’ll see it opening weekend. And we’ll own the new Ghostbusters on Blu-Ray when it comes out. It needs and deserves a place in our permanent collection, right next to the original.

So, nutshell: Don’t fear the reboot; it is a hell of a movie, and well worth seeing on the big screen.

Thing 2: Star Trek: Discovery

The second thing that made me feel like a youth again was opening up Warren Ellis’s “Orbital Operations” newsletter and finding a link to the brand new teaser for Star Trek Discovery.

Star Trek was an even bigger influence on me than Ghostbusters. I grew up watching endless reruns of the original series, and beamed up to nerd heaven when Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing. I even convinced my mom to make me a Next Gen uniform, which I still have but will never fit into again.

I’m cautiously excited about the new series. For one thing, it’s being run by Bryan Fuller, who makes amazing TV; Pushing Daisies deserved a much longer life than it got, and his aborted reboot of The Munsters looked fantastic. For another thing, Fuller has said the new show will take place in the Prime Timeline, and not the Abramsverse.

Even though Fuller is the showrunner, however, Alex “I wrote the crappy Abramsverse films” Kurtzman is an executive producer for Star Trek: Discovery. (Which I just realized will be abbreviated ST:D, making the haters’ jobs even easier.)

So those things give me pause. But then I watched the new teaser, and I felt that old teen excitement again. Check it out here.

Warren Ellis says the design of the ship comes from an old Ralph McQuarrie design that was considered but ultimately not used for the original series. But when I look at it, and listen to the clanging undertones of the music, the first thing I thought of was that it looks like a mix of Federation and Klingon technology. It has the saucer of a Federation ship, but all the angles in the body of a Klingon warbird.

Whatever is going on there, I’m in. I can’t wait to get ST:D in January 2017. (See? The jokes are just too easy.)

Until then, go see Ghostbusters. It’s ghastly fun!



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