Multiverse

 “Who are you?”

The question had been on his tongue before the door crossed the threshold. The light from the outer hallway grew from a thin sliver until it filled the room, absorbing the darkness like a cup being filled. The figure in the doorway hesitated slightly before entering and shutting the door again. He heard the sound of keys hitting the counter followed by the squishy sound of a handbag being set down next to them. There was an impatient sigh from the intruder and then the click of the light switch. He squinted at the pale ceiling lights that transformed the room into something far less familiar. He recognized the woman standing there with her hand still on the switch. Her expression hinted that she likewise knew his face but accepted that he was a stranger in her apartment.

Her chestnut hair tumbled just barely over her shoulders, tight curls glinting slightly perhaps from being in the rain. It could’ve been raining outside for all he knew. She was wearing a puffy winter coat that reminded him of an upholstered chair from the seventies. He had seen her wear a variation of it before but with a slightly different color. Sometimes there was faux fur sprouting from the sleeves and other times there were only cheap plastic buttons clasping it over her bony wrists. A cold gust from outside just now reached him causing the hairs on his arm to raise. Or perhaps it had been her arrival that created the chill. He did not bother to get out of his chair, instead opting to swirl the half melted cubes of ice in his glass and wait for his answer. Sometimes she gave her real name. Other times she lied. He guessed they were names that she gave to strangers who bought her drinks. Now that he considered it, it was possible that one of them was her real name and he had been the man buying her a drink all those years ago. They had met in a bar after all. It had been a smoke strangled place not much bigger than the room he was in now. He couldn’t remember the name but he oddly recalled the bartender’s face.

She chose not to answer this time. She instead proceeded to peel off her coat and hang it in the closet opposite the kitchen regarding him as if he were a messy plate left on the furniture in her rushed morning departure. He tried to not let it bother him except she had that look on her face that he saw every time he disappointed her. Even now it invoked a warmness in his gut that accompanied the little spritz of adrenaline he got when he knew he was about to participate in a confrontation. She closed the closet door with a curtness that confirmed his intuition. He was tempted to get up and pour himself another drink but he decided it would be better to wait a bit longer so he could get a feel for this one.

“Are you supposed to be my husband?” she asked with the coolness of a prospecting employer. She didn’t face him when she spoke. He was a little disappointed. He had been in the mood for something a little more lively tonight and her heated side could be as fun as it was trying. The way she had mouthed the word ‘husband’ hinted at her distaste of the idea. She had scoffed similarly the night he had first slept with her. A few drinks had warmed her up enough to give him the time of day and six more had afforded him the keys to the kingdom. He suppressed a smirk when an amusing thought bubbled out of the recesses of his diminished judgment. He had never considered that he might be overlooking an opportunity to repeat that challenge knowing it would be a fresh experience from her perspective. He scanned his memory for a list of nearby bars and then quickly let the thought fade. There had been something magical about that first bar. It had likely been the bartender.

“Hello dear,” he responded sardonically with a sharp clinking of his ice. “Don’t worry, I clean up after myself usually. Unless I’ve had too many of these.”

“Fabulous,” she said flatly. She began loosening the strings of her soft suede boots while still standing in front of the door. “Let me guess… Phil? No, it’s Stewart. Am I close?”

He set the scotch glass down on the end table and took a deep breath. It bought him a second or two to come up with something witty to say. Or just the boring truth. He could give her any name he wanted and she would accept it as fact. Or at least pretend to. He considered something unsubtle like Thor or Pedro but decided he wanted to leave the door open for his original idea that he had dismissed a moment before. There wasn’t much point in lying about his name so he let it spill off his tongue like a business card tossed onto a table.

“It’s Reese,” he answered. He watched her face for a reaction or maybe a glimmer of recognition. He had theories about the kinds of knowledge the brain might have access to under the curious conditions that now afflicted them. Occasionally, bouts of deja vu had given him cause to evaluate his surroundings and try to see beyond the periphery of his mind’s eye only to have it fade out of reach. He pictured another version of himself sitting in the exact same chair with a full glass of scotch shaking away the disorienting feeling that came with deja vu. He wondered if she might be experiencing it now as well. Instead her gaze dropped down and back up again as if she were internally judging his wardrobe choice.

“I was planning on preparing some pasta for myself,” she announced as she moved behind the island counter and began collecting utensils from the drawers. She knelt briefly and knew exactly which cupboard contained the large dingy pot. She glanced back at over at him as she began to fill the pot with water from the sink faucet. “I suppose I should double the serving. It would be rude otherwise.”

Some things were constant despite the variations. She would sooner slice off her own foot than be improper and that had always created an interesting dynamic between them. He had never considered himself above a crass joke or a McDonald’s cheeseburger and somehow he had married this woman who still called the bathroom a powder room. Not this woman exactly, but a version of her. She lifted the now filled pot with a slight grunt and moved it to the gas range which flared up after a few persistent clicks. He wanted to say her name to see how she would react. He could say it sensually and plant the seed that their marriage had been passion filled and perhaps undermine all of the assumptions she had likely already made about him. He had seen enough possibilities of how his life might have been that he wondered if he could simply cease to be himself and instead be another version of himself. It seemed unfair to him otherwise.

He wondered how many times she had walked through that door and found an empty chair. Perhaps she had encountered a man with a personality more to her liking. Had she found him drinking a full bodied red instead of scotch? Perhaps dinner had been ready when she arrived. He imagined it now, a four course meal. A delicate salad of baby greens with a fine vinaigrette followed by light pasta. The entrée course would be duck confit because that’s what she would order at restaurants when she was feeling romantic. Dessert would be a decadent crème brulet. He would have matched a wine for each course and by the end her head would be floating and she would inevitably be open to suggestion. His suggestion. He glanced at his empty glass and found himself wishing he liked wine. What had that bartender said that had made her laugh that first night? You can’t breed the dog out of the man. That had been after drink number five. He considered offering to make the pasta for her. He knew exactly how she liked it after all.

“Why were you just sitting in the dark like that?”

The question took him by surprise. There would be no denying that this woman saw him as a complete stranger. Preparing a meal for him would be an act of magnanimity. Something about that realization pierced his heart just the same as if she had told him that she hated him. That would’ve been preferable to the utter lack of emotion this person before him now expressed. His habit of sitting in a dark room and drinking his 12 year scotch had been a hallmark of their relationship. Hours burned away waiting for her to return from… where had she been for all that time? Drinks with friends had been the most common excuse but late nights at the office had also become synonymous with date night with the bottle. She had told him to stop waiting up for her after the first few times she had found him reeking of alcohol in the dark. His wandering hands had been deflected and eventually she ceased to even turn the light on when she returned. Without even so much as a how was your evening hon’, she would scurry to the master bedroom and lock the bathroom door. After the accident he saw little reason to stop waiting up even if she would would not be walking through the door ever again. It mattered little that what he was waiting for had changed.

“I… uh…,” his mind scrambled for a response. He realized he that he did not want this woman to be aware of the hell he had endured at her hands. There was no awareness in her face that indicated that she sensed any of the emotional turmoil roiling within him. He looked down at his hand which gripped the scotch glass nearly tight enough to shatter it and saw that the ice was now half melted. He relaxed his grip and gave her a befuddled look. “I… I had a headache earlier. Turning off the lights helps it go away.”

Satisfied with his answer, she pulled a small bamboo cutting board out of a drawer along with a large metal handled knife. Next she collected a clove of garlic from a small ceramic bowl next to the sink and began to finely mince it. As she did so she lifted her eyes and glanced at him as he watched her hands nimbly work the knife. Her eyebrows arched over her round eyes like small crescents the way they always did when she was curious. There was a tingling sensation in his chest as a result. Was she oblivious of the power in such an innocuous expression or had it been a conscious attempt to gain the upper hand? Whatever her intention had been the effect had been the same and all notions of how this evening would play out became murky.

“I hope you like garlic,” she remarked in a suddenly innocent tone. As if on cue she grabbed another clove and continued mincing after shooting another brief glance over at him. His mouth went dry forcing him to wet his lips before he could respond.

“Um.. yes,” he replied nervously. “It’s delightful. Perhaps I can help chop?”

He was out of his seat and in the kitchen before he even decided what he was going to do. His body had simply taken control and pulled him closer to her, willing or not. For a brief second his mind screamed at how irrational this was and what a dangerous game he was playing but he quickly silenced the thought. He was being offered a second chance. Someone or something was finally throwing him a bone and he wasn’t going to stick his nose up at it. Her eyes widened momentarily at his sudden transition into motion but then softened at his offer. He thought he might have seen the corners of her mouth quiver as if she was suppressing the urge to smile. After a brief hesitant contemplation she set the knife down and slid the board over towards him. She then turned to open the refrigerator from which she produced a chilled bottle of pinot grigio.

“Do we often cook together?” she asked as she poured the wine into two long stem glasses sourced from another cupboard. He slowed his mincing for a moment as he considered his response.

“I always wanted to,” he replied. It was an honest answer even if the opportunity had never presented itself. He wondered why that had been the case. Had it never occurred to him before? The kitchen had been her domain and she had coveted it as such. He could recall being chased out on numerous occasions the way a dog looking for scraps would be shooed away. Eventually he had stopped trying and learned to stay in another room until she called him to the table. By then he would be three sheets to the wind and wouldn’t be able to recall what the meal even tasted like. He couldn’t even remember if she had joined him at the table. Now she set the filled wine glass next to him as she took a sip from her own. He nearly missed his thumb with the knife when her proximity brought a subtle whiff of her perfume. How long had it been since she had worn that?

“Goodness, be careful,” she warned him. She had been watching him work the knife closer than he had. His cheeks heated slightly. His mincing had been sloppy and uneven. He waited for her to dismiss him from his task but she simply took another sip of wine and allowed him to proceed. The wine went down easy and before long they were trading stories of their childhood. Some were familiar to him and others were subtly different. On more than one occasion she giggled at anecdotes that had failed to tickle her before. He took advantage of the novelty and retold the stories he knew would thrill her and in return he was rewarded with her wide smile that always brought sparkles to her eyes. The brightness of her face and the faint berry-like scent of the soap she had used that morning culminated into a euphoric swirl that detached him from everything else in his life. He was meeting her for the first time again and all the regret that had filled him with his earlier apprehension was washed away by wine and laughter.

The pasta came together quicker than he wanted and the weightless feeling in his stomach distracted him from his hunger. He could have foregone the meal for the chance to keep talking with her over the steaming pot and the scents of the garlic and basil on the counter that awaited their final fate. Combined with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese the plated meals were picturesque. The obsessive attention to detail he had once found insufferable was now inspiring. She set two places at the hexagonal table and brought another freshly opened bottle of the pinot which she placed at the center. He watched discretely the way she moved across the kitchen noting a subtle bounce in her step that contrasted sharply with the short prohibitive steps she would typically take around him. During their time together in the kitchen tonight he had accomplished something that he never could after years of marriage. He replayed their moments together in his head as he sat across from her at the table trying to figure out what had gone right this time. A thought came to his mind and fast tracked its way to his lips.

“Just in case I don’t get another chance,” he began, his tone heavy with sincerity. She stopped just behind her seat with her uplifted crescent eyebrows. “I love you. I have always loved you.”

She beamed in response, turning her eyes down towards the chair. Her lips pressed together as she smiled and dimples formed on her cheeks. When he saw them he wanted to propose to her all over again. More importantly, he wanted to make her happy, the way he had failed to do before. He had been blind to his mistakes before, up until the very day he received the call from the state patrol. The Dodge ram that had struck her BMW in the intersection had left little behind in the wake of its pointless destruction. It had been a savage end to a frozen existence and it had been only then that he had awoken to the real tragedy. She had been gone long before the accident that took her life and he had done nothing to stop her. He didn’t deserve to mourn her death. His life had ended that day as well despite the stubborn beating of his heart which served only to dilute his alcohol from then on.

Some people said that the world had ended the day the scientists in Europe created the tear inside their giant collider. Months of controversy had preceded the experiment with physicists and laymen alike decrying its potential to bring about calamity. The news networks spewed out reports and interviews with the scientists who scoffed at the warnings of danger and gave their assurances that it was perfectly safe to create a black hole on Earth. He had laughed to himself as he drank himself stupid watching the images and words scroll across the screen before his half aware eyes. He had welcomed oblivion. A black hole was just what the doctor ordered, an infinitely dense point to swallow his sorrow and his worthless existence and thoes of everyone else around him. His life started anew in the wake of their little experiment. Or at least things hadn’t been the same. Whatever it was they had created or opened or whatever…. it had given him another chance. He hadn’t fully grasped it initially as he looked out the tall glass windows of his apartment. He had watched the buildings move. He never saw it first hand but he would feel the flutter in his brain and there would be a skyscraper where there hadn’t been before. He thought it peculiar that he could remember the differences or he at least he thought he could. His laughter would echo throughout the empty apartment as he shouted at the scientists as if they could hear him all the way from Switzerland. You crazy assholes! You broke the universe! He had laughed until she walked through the door with the same scowl she had worn the day she had left for good.

The first time had been horrifying. She hadn’t recognized him then either and her hair had been different. She had threatened to call the police if he didn’t leave and no amount of pleading had prevented her from expelling him from his apartment. She was gone when he had returned the next day and like her predecessor she never returned again. After a flurry of demanding phone calls to his in-laws he reaped only hurtful comments about his drinking problem and a suggestion that he seek professional psychiatric help. He had considered it especially after running into her several more times on the street and at his office. He nearly cracked until news reports began to air about other similar paradoxes happening throughout world. He might have been relieved if he had been able to prove that the television had not been incorporated into his psychosis. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. His conversations with his dead wife were enlightening regardless of their basis in reality.

She sat across from him now, sipping her wine casually, her napkin placed neatly in her lap. The reasons for it were unimportant and he doubted he would have understood them any way had they been available. What he wanted now was time. His encounters with her so far had rarely lasted longer than hours but who was to say he could not have days or even a lifetime?

“You are as charming as you are handsome,” she stated warmly. “I wish I could remember our life together. I’m certain that you have made me very happy.”

Her words left him with a heavy pit in his stomach. He wanted her to believe that so he let the words hang in the air. He worked to erase the other memories from his mind, desperate to convince himself that this new reality was the correct one. There was no crime in it even it involved lying to himself and to her. And yet… where was the lie if his memories were of another person who had made different choices. He deserved the same clean slate. He wanted this second chance. He would not screw it up this time. He would never let her believe that he did not love her. He grinned widely and reached for his own wine glass. There was a peculiar fluttering sensation in his brain. It felt like deja vu.

His hand grasped the half full glass of scotch sitting on the table before him. The room was dark and the only sound was the ticking of the clock on the wall. The fluttering in his mind began to subside as he shook it from side to side. What had he just been saying? There was a strange ringing in his ear like the trailing of an echo after having just spoken to someone. His muscles were tense and his pulse was elevated. Some faint emotional state was dissipating the way a dream fades upon waking. Whatever the sensation had been it felt unfamiliar and yet familiar at the same time. Had he been living another life again? Any memory of it was beyond his reach now. He looked across the table and found the chair opposite from where he sat empty just as it had been a moment before. Why am I sitting at the table? He wondered briefly. A stack of unopened mail lay piled across the surface of the table leaving it inaccessible for any other practical use. He felt a sudden sharp disdain for his own existence which he quickly extinguished by pouring the remains of his drink down his throat.

He pushed himself up from his seat and was forced to brace himself against the table until a bout of dizziness ran its course. He had lost track of the time- not that it had any particular meaning for him. His stomach rumbled distantly reminding him that he had not eaten today. He wanted to eat but was discouraged by the effort of preparing himself something. Instead he stumbled into the next room where his chair waited with its constant promise to keep his ass off the floor. Had he not been a drunk he might have appreciated the consistency of it but for now it was just a place to sit just like the scotch was just something to drink and the news was just something to watch. After planting himself down into the familiar embrace of the chair he groped around the dark for the remote and turned on the television. Bathed by the cold light of the screen he slumped and let his eyes droop. At what point had it all gone wrong? As consciousness slowly began to fade away he thought idly to himself, I wonder what happened with that crazy science experiment in Switzerland

A word with myself

Always be writing. These words cross my mind at least once a day. They linger like a scavenger outside of my peripheral vision, waiting to swoop in and steal my kill. I usually obey, taking opportunity of distraction free pockets of time on the bus or after hours when everyone has gone to sleep and yet it’s never enough. Surprisingly, the problem has never been opportunity. Instead I struggle to fill the hours, finding myself scraping the peanut butter jar for the last dredges of creativity hoping for that spark that will release the flood gate of paragraphs dreaming to grace my word processor. There is a vein of gold in there somewhere, of that I am sure, but first to tend all that boring rock around it.

I have some other lesser ambitions in my life that take a back seat to my writing. One of them is the desire to grow peppers. I’m talking really hot peppers like ghost peppers and other feisty varieties not native to my climate. I’m a bit of a junkie for the endorphins I get from eating food that can be weaponized and used to suppress large crowds. The point of this involves the difficulty in cultivating the plants that grow these types of peppers. Anyone who has tried understands how meticulously peculiar these plants are in their requirements. The odd part is you can grow a perfectly healthy plant with minimal effort but if your goal is to harvest their fruit then you will have your work cut out for you. Simply put, these plants have to be finessed before they will put out.

When you see that first tiny pepper that represents so much more than impending burning lips there is also the sense that while you are on the right track there is much more hard work ahead. This is the same sense I got when I finished the first draft for a novella I’ve been working on for the last few months. I followed the advice I’ve seen echoed time and again to get through that first draft no matter how hopeless you think it is and it’s just like they said. I hate it. It’s a mess. The story is thin and the characters are forgettable and if anyone were to read it in its current form they would probably tell me to stick to my day job. The exciting part however is that with the satisfying catharsis of just telling the damn story out of the way I am now free to focus on the details that will make the second draft of my story resemble more of what I initially had in mind. Like building a house, the foundation is laid. Now I can start picking out the wall paper.

I feel the need to talk more about the process as I go through it. The inspiration for this came from seeing excerpts of Kafka’s journal that he kept, cataloging some of the minutae from his mind. It was the frustrated one line entries that caught my interest. The lack of inspiration that tranquilized his creativity. It was a reminder that even a lush plant can fail to bear fruit some years. Even so, he took the time to write a single sentence to express his frustration to no one but himself.

 

Mourn not

Mourn not the waning of the moon

Nor weep at the departure of the tide

Lament not the setting of the sun

Rejoice the fallen for as above it is below

With the dawn they arise with old skin anew

These are our demands

Today the U.S. Government is held randsom by a vocal minority who are placing their ideology above the greater good. I applaude the passion, I really do, but something feels a bit short circuited about the whole affair. I’m not really interested in talking about that but the one sided nature of the argument gives me the sense some kind of counter demand must be shouted back to our now defunct congress. The precedent has been set that legislators will not perform their civic duties when they cannot get their way. Again, I do not write this to debate the merits of one side versus the other because frankly both political parties that strangle our nation are damned and they inflict upon its citizens a slow rot from within. People like to equate corruption in politics to cancer but what is happening to us feels more like a virulent strain of H.I.V.

I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Libertarian. I am not a Socialist. I am none of the things that pundits love to typecast in order to pre-emptively discredit anyone who does not tow the party line. I am a new kind of American that is weary of hard lines that dictate how I should vote. You cannot marginalize me with the application of a simple label. You will be forced to address my grievances with critical thought and real solutions. You cannot blame the other guy because by doing so you have absolved yourself of all responsibility as an American citizen. Once you have done that, there is no discussion to have and I kindly ask you to find the door.

It saddened me to see the Occupy movement become little more than a whimper. Of course I’m angry that the special interests were able to wage a successful propoganda campaign which cut it off at the knees. I am more angry at those who were the strongest proponents of the movement. With no unified message and no clear voice to make all of our grievances visceral for the majority who sit on the fence, fearful of losing their meager comforts and desperate to echo the voices who calmly say “Everything is ok”. The problems are overwhelming, I get it. There are simply too many things going wrong and they are all intertwined in a spaghetti mess that makes it nearly impossible to find where the fault lies.

The GOP has provided the rest of congress with a list of demands before they will fund the government. I now retort with my own list of demands. My demands are not directed just at the GOP, they are directed at the entire congress of the United States. They are directed at the president. They are directed at the business leaders who now fund our legislators and they are directed at anyone who votes. Let this be the vox populi for our generation. As I have stated I have no partisan agenda and my demands are beholden to no political platform and no ideology and so people of every political persuasion should have no issue with with what I am asking for. My desire is to see the United States government represent the will of the people and to become an apparatus of our collective desire for quality of life and so called inalienable rights.

The first four demands are not negotiable and must be addressed immediately before we can move forward as a democractic nation. Put bluntly these are demands that existing law is observed and enforced. The remaining demands for change should naturally follow but I acknowledge that they will take time to phase in.

 

1. Amend the constitution to state that only a living, breathing, human being enjoys the rights and privileges of citizenship in the United States. Dismantle the farce that is Citizens United which allows corporate entities to dump unprecedented money into political campaigns. This practice has allowed special interests with deep pockets to sway legislative agendas and override the will of individual citizens whose voices are being ignored because money is a far more persuasive political motivator. The fallout from this has been audacious deregulation that threatens the very foundations of our nation’s economic stability as well as our health and environment for the benefit of a minority elite class. The obvious pervasiveness of plutocracy in the United States is unsustainable and will provide the engine for the worst type of unrest this nation has ever seen. Couple this constitutional amendment with a clause that makes using private money to fund public election campaigns illegal and provide transparency requirements in order for this to be enforceable. Once elections can only be publicly funded it will open the political debate to people who do not come from wealth and it removes the advantage of special interests. This is our number one priority.

2. Enforce laws that prohibit public officials from receiving money, gifts, or promises of gifts in exchange for influence on the political process and on policy making (http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/18/I/11/201). This would mean and end to lobbyism which is the primary engine for special interests to override the will of the public. Create requirements for transparency that would make all of a public official’s finances a matter of public record.

3. Reinstate the affiliation restrictions that originally existed in the Glass-Steagall act and were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act. It was this decision that allowed securities investment banks to merge with commercial banks and gamble with public money which in turn brought about the financial crisis in 2008 and has left the global economic system in shambles ever since. This is where “Too Big to Fail” came from and it should never have been permitted. Much of this legislation was put in place in the wake of the original financial collapse that we all know as the Great Depression. This has given select financial institutions far too much influence over the economic well being of the United States as well as the rest of the global community who rely on our stability for their own. It is not the government’s responsibility or domain to prop up failing private businesses with public money. Doing so incentives continued risky behavior which perpetuates our economic dependence on the financial elite. This is unacceptable.

4. Enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust laws. We all feel the pain of monopolies in our every day lives. Many of the household name companies were are all familiar with are all owned by a handful of mega corporation conglomerates. The consequences of this should be obvious but some of the more destructive effects of this are price fixing and the ever increasing disparity between wages and the cost of living. Companies that are not forced to compete have no incentive to innovate and without any check beyond their own bottom line there is no incentive to maintain quality conrol or social responsibility. This creates a scenario where public well being becomes secondary to profit margins. This has been demonstrated time and time again throughout our nation’s history. The most devastating example of this is the consolidation of media companies. Publications and radio stations and news networks have all been sucked up by a handful of politically motivated corporate entities and as a result journalism in the United States has been irreparably compromised which has breeded political corruption and the nuetralization of any incentive for self governance. A healthy democracy must have uncensored journalism.

5. Public elections must accurately reflect the will of the voters. The United States must implement Run-Off Elections (The Alternative Vote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE&feature=share). This will allow us to break free of the two party gridlock we now find ourselves in. The benefits of having more than two parties sharing in policy making goes beyond fresh ideas. Currently there is not enough distinction between our two party platforms and when there is disagreement there is no incentive to compromise and no effective recourse for the public to replace officials who cannot or will not perform there duties. This would also eliminate the necessity of “voting for the lesser evil” which continues to disenfranchise voters who would otherwise become politicly engaged. A healthy democracy must have public engagement.

6. Enforce term limits for all public officials. Politics is not a career, it is a civic duty and therefore should incentivize all citizens to participate in the process. Permitting public officials to remain in office for no longer than 8 years would encourage new ideas and keep politicians in touch with the realities all private citizens must face. This would also serve to make the consequences of their policies more visceral as there is no promise of incumbency to buffer them.

7. Eliminate subsidies for public officials. Politicians should not enjoy additional privileges not available to private citizens. This includes benefits like government funded health care and immunities from the rule of law. This would also serve to keep politicians in touch with the realities faced by private citizens. This would incentivize politicians to enact policy that benefit everyone and not just themselves. The law should apply to every citizen equally.

 

This is the platform that all politicians should run on moving forward. This is the message the Occupy movement should have shouted. These are the demands that our citizens should make on the government if they have any desire to retain its tradition as a free democracy with any kind of moral authority. If these demands are not met then we will collectively face dark days ahead. One needs only look at historical precedence to see where the path we walk now leads. Only when these demands are met will the United States be exceptional once again.

What keeps me awake at nights

It’s 4:30 AM and in 3 hours I will be walking out the door to catch the bus down town to my job. I love my job. It pays the bills. I work in an industry that I love and can stand behind with good moral conscience knowing that I am doing some good by contributing my skills. I love my family. I am proud that I can provide for them adequately and we are able to live quite comfortably even if we are not worry free. My quality of life is good and I consider myself immensely fortunate. 

I awoke not long ago before I started writing this. I got up to use the bathroom which is pretty typical only this time I did not fall back asleep. Instead I lay in my bed facing the dark wall and considered all of the things that had gone wrong the day before. Is that not the time for such things? It is the time there is truly enough silence in the world around me to contemplate my purpose and take stock of my personal fears. Where had the world gone wrong? Something happened yesterday that gave me pause and made me think that I should reconsider how I interact with the world around me.

Those who know me have no doubt had to suffer through my online soapbox ranting at some point. I spend a lot of my time online reading articles and opinions to help me paint a broader picture of what’s going on in the world. Usually I try to share my findings with friends and family. I’m pretty sure most of them gloss over when I post my walls of text as I rail, dumbfounded at how they cannot possibly be outraged by the realities in which we live. I find it exponentially frustrating knowing that left to fate, things can only grow more dire and those who approach facts with apathy will soon find themselves bound by chains they cannot escape. I cannot do the same. Anxiety will destroy my body long before then.

I read an article yesterday regarding the recent government take down of the Lavabit email service. I urge people to familiarize themselves with this case as I expect there will be a lot more of this following the recent revelations regarding pervasive domestic surveillance. This news outraged me almost to the point of frothing and why shouldn’t it? We are seeing the dawn of a new era in the U.S. Where secret laws and shadow courts are becoming accepted and fascism is emerging into the open. What once made our nation a shining beacon of the ages is now a forgotten dream and a darkness rushes in to fill the void. I commented on the aforementioned article in an on line community that I participate in and was met with such extreme pathological apathy about my own outrage I felt as though the wind had been knocked from me. I was called a fearless armchair hero. It was pretty clear to me that this person was a troll but I couldn’t ignore an element of truth to the comment. To be fair to myself I don’t consider my political commentary to be simple blustering. I share information with the specific purpose in mind of educating my peers so that they can make more informed decisions. Clearly the media outlets have faltered in their responsibilities so it falls on private citizens to root out information between the rampant propoganda and make the truth known. I don’t consider myself to be of the tin hat variety either because as they say you’re not crazy if the sky really is falling. My purpose is to influence the outcome by starting a ripple. Perhaps that is not enough. I feel like my words fall on deaf ears any way so maybe the troll had something valuable to share.

So I laid awake in the middle of the night with no hope of returning to my unsettling dreams and I considered my options. I imagined what Abraham Lincoln would say if he saw what we had done to our government. Would he rub his hands together in envy wishing that he had tasted of the unchecked power that our politicians now abuse? Or would his heart sink in pure disappointment that we had taken something that he had cherished and worked so hard to preserve and tossed it aside like an old shoe that was no longer in style. Would Thomas Jefferson share my immense disappointment that we had fallen prey to the very things he warned us about in his writings? Over two hundred years later the monarchs are having their revenge. Did they know that we would eventually collapse back into the old system that we fought so desparately to separate ourselves from? Have they been biding their time all these centuries?

I consider my options and contemplate my weapons. I grew up observing that the pen is indeed a mightier weapon than the sword. How do I use this in a world where both are used to obtain a desired outcome? I feel a growing pressure to use both myself but I also feel as if I now stand at a precipice. I know what awaits us at the bottom of that precipice. It’s a misery most of us have never experienced. There has to be a better way. I appeal to man’s enlightened ideals that there simply must be a better way to step back from this damned precipice.

Dualing Pens

The urge to start writing again happened earlier this year. I had been throwing around some ideas in my mind and discussing it with my wife who plays a skilled devil’s advocate. She is an avid reader as well and had some of her own ideas for novels that she had shared with me. I had read some of her past work which consisted mostly of short stories and poetry and I found her style to be quite inspiring. I think the reason for that inspiration came from her differing style. We joke about how I’m the left brained one and she’s the right brained one so together we fit naturally together and that’s why we are able to function despite being such different people. Functional relationships are functional because the individuals involved are complementary right? The funny thing is that she can be quite left-brained as well. She commonly under-estimates her own intelligence and I play along but secretly harbor tremendous respect for her intellect.

A funny thing happens when we start discussing writing unlike other topics we might casually banter about. Something triggers during our discussions that compell us to rush our thoughts so that we can interject before the other person does that same. A placid surface of water immediately becomes a roiling and boiling pot alight with inspirations and completed thoughts. Often these sessions climaxed into what we call our writing challenges. During these challenges we would offer up a concept, a writing style, or a phrase and we would each write a short story and compare. These stories would often be restricted to one or two pages in order to promote focus and strain our descriptive muscles. You would not believe how challenging it is for me to write a one page story. My wife on the other hand, excels at this. Eventually, I expanded these challenges to include my mother who is also a skilled writer (she’s the only one amongst us that’s actually published). This went on for a while and I found the entire experience extremely rewarding as it prompted self discovery. Not only did these challenges force me to attempt things I had never tried before but it also helped me find my voice. This was enough to prime the engine and soon enough I started working on an outline for a major novel.

When my ideas were developed enough I shared them with my wife. I had been researching best practices for organizing my ideas as the scale of the novel was overwhelming – like I said, I never do anything small – so naturally I shared my findings with her when I found something that really worked. She was encouraging but also offered caution that I might be biting off more than I can chew. She suggested I start with something smaller to get more practice before diving into something so epic. It was sound advice and I had been tossing around another idea for a number of months for something that was much more accessible. It was little more than a shell of an idea which I eagerly shared and much to my surprised she latched onto it immediately. We spent the rest of the day fleshing it out and before long we realized that we had created a story together. Our differing perspectives and interests in the story created a synergy that inspired us both. For at least a year or two before that we had discussed the possibility of collaborating. She had repeatedly cited the collaboration of Michael and Kathleen O’Neill Gear who wrote the vast “People of…” series of books. Their relationship is not unlike our own it seems. I agreed that such a collaboration would inevitably be fruitful given our individual strengths.

I mulled the idea around for a month of two and in the meantime I was fully submerged in the outlining of my larger novel. I was unwilling to let any inspiration pass me by and spent my time writing character profiles and scene outlines. We didn’t discuss the other idea for some time until one morning on the bus the muse struck me and I began to write the first chapter. What’s funny is at the same time, Catt (that’s my wife by the way) had been struck by the muse as well and had written a scene for a different story in a frenzied fashion. She shared it with me and she was suddenly ablaze for her own novel based on a concept that she had been internalizing for the better part of the last three or four years.

At that point we began feeding off of eachother’s enthusiasm and for a period of about a month we both poured ourselves into our writing. I wrote nearly 40 pages of the beginning of our shared story and she wrote 50 pages of her own story and we exchanged chapters as they were completed. Together we explored our voices and traded ideas about methodology and style. One thing we agreed on was to generate first drafts without going back to revise until we were done. For the most part we followed those guidelines but we did not hesitate to violate that rule when the stories demanded it. The combined surge was a liberating experience. Something unexpected came to life in the process however.

As you well know by now, it has always been my intention to eventually become a career writer. The trouble I run into more often than not is that my inspiration comes in fits. I will spend weeks or months during one of these fits churning out pages as fast as my fingers will create them. Inevitably comes the stall. The stall is a period of absolute desolation where no ideas come to me and I write nothing. The reasons for this vary – life circumstances, major work load, or perhaps a new video game has captured my fancy for a time. I had arrived at a scene in the story I was working on that was particularly difficult for me. I knew what was going to happen in the scene but I was unable to get motivated about it. I haven’t added any pages to that story since. I’ve also added very little content to the outline of the larger project. Quite remarkably however, Catt continued to progress on her own project. It appeared the genie had been released from the bottle and there was nothing that was going to stop those words from pouring onto the page. It’s been at least a couple of months since this whole process started and she has been spending every possible moment writing.

I have been permitted to read very little of what she has written at this point so I can’t comment on much beyond what she has shared but what I can say is that what she is accomplishing is nothing short of inspirational. What I have witnessed is how I would imagine a condor takes flight after an extensive sedentary rest. I look up in the sky now from where I stand on the ground feeling both a sense of pride and a sense of envy. The envy comes from my perception of what appears to be a readily accessible firehose of ideas for her. She has managed to find a direct line to the muse and so I watch with great interest as she progresses and I slowly plan for my own flight which I hope will be equally inspirational for her. She is my partner in life in every way.

Who I am

This blog has had as many incarnations as a cat has lives. Some of you who have been here before may be confused by the new format since originally this was a technical blog that focused on development. It got good traffic and had some neat content but it was difficult to get motivated about writing articles. I work all day on code and as much as I am passionate about it I often didn’t want to spend my personal time writing about it. I have a lot of interests in my life and code is only one of them, albeit the most profitable one. If you are here looking for my old technical articles I apologize – they are gone and I have no plans to archive them anywhere. Everything is long obsolete now. Funny how technology is like that. This is not to say that I still don’t write those articles. I just host them elsewhere now. I had some other blogs too, one in particular that focused on politics and atheism but it was a pain in the ass maintaining multiple blogs and I found myself spending more time worrying about which blog to post to than writing the posts. I just want to write what’s on my mind now and I don’t want it to be complicated.

When I was a child I decided that I was going to be writer when I was older. I used to write novels that spanned hundreds of pages when I was in middle school. It was mostly science fiction and high fantasy. I still keep my writing in a box in the closet and every once in a while I burn a few hours reliving some of those memories. It’s an experience that’s both wonderful and embarrassing. The imagination was there and there was even the spark of personal style but as you would expect from the writings of an adolescent it lacked something extremely important… life experience. There was a point during my teenage years when I decided that to put down the pen and come back to it after I had lived a decade or two. In the interim I decided to become a software developer.

I take great pride in that most life goals that I have set for myself I have managed to hit. I can recall a night I spent hanging out with my mother at the beginning of my senior year of high school when she point blank asked me what did I want to do with my life. I had been struggling with high school, socially, so naturally I was extremely unhappy. I want to be a computer programmer, was what I told her without even taking a breath. It was something I had become passionate about in the last 2 years and I was convinced that I wanted to make it my career. Maybe it was my conviction or maybe it was that I had chosen an industry that was exploding at the time and held ultimate promise but she basically gave me the green light to pick myself up out of my rut and get on with what I wanted to do. This meant leaving high school to start a more useful curriculum in college. I was thrilled by this and immediately took flight. Within 3 years I had my college degree in hand and I was working on my next goals, the largest one being to marry my best friend. Somewhere in there was a goal involving a Lexus by the time I was 30 but due to economic circumstances beyond my control some things had to wait.

Fast forward a decade or two and I find myself at the peak of my career as a software developer. I manage a growing team focused on maintaining one of the largest WordPress sites on the web. I sit here now looking back on my time since leaving high school and find that I can finally tap into a wealth of life experience. I feel that I can finally pick my pen back up and resume where I left off. My new goal is to write all the time. I am going to write as much as I possibly can. I suspect my friends and family on Facebook will be grateful that I have found a new outlet for my walls of text which I dump liberally onto unappreciative streams of food porn and canned opinions expressed through internet memes. I apologize to those of you who have found my opining insufferable and I hope that you were able to pick some insight out of my rants. I admit that I am a man of strong opinion. I do my best to build my opinions on a foundation of verifiable facts and I will likely continue to do so through this medium but sometimes there’s nothing to be done for people who want nothing to do with reality – or my interpretation of it. The realization I’ve known for some time is that social media is a useless medium for soapbox ranting and at best all I’ve accomplished is to uncover who agrees with me. This has been frustrating as it has always been my goal to flush out those who disagree with me and have them convince me of their view. I admit it – I love to debate. It seems no one else does.

So here I sit typing away on my laptop. I am a father, a husband, a son, a developer, a cat lover, a writer, a humanist, a science enthusiast, a reader, a gamer, a redditor, an asshole, and plenty of other things I’m sure. It’s unlikely I will have another job as a developer beyond the one I now hold so that means to me that I have reached the next phase of my life. Or maybe I’ve come full circle. Everyone spends the first couple of decades of their life figuring out who they are and my life was no exception. I was pretty confused up until about 28. I’ve had to make enough hard decisions by now and I know who I am now and I know what I want to do while I’m still on this planet. I’m going to start by picking up my pen. I’m going to tell you a story.

Frederico

I awoke to the sound of despair yesterday, the wailing of my wife as she had just learned of the tragic death of the Green Grocer’s shop cat, Frederico. I rushed down the stairs to learn this for myself and immediately the tone for the next untold number of weeks was set. Our 16 pound long haired white and orange friend to all had been taken from us abruptly by vehicle in the night. I don’t know who the driver was or if the slaughter of an innocent soul was their desire or intention but I can attribute a handful of qualities to this person and if karma is a force that exists in the universe then this person has some rough times ahead of them.

My wife and I rushed to the store seeking more information since we were unable to contact our informant directly where we were able to tend to the body once inhabited by one of the friendliest creatures that had ever graced me with their presence. In times like these we are flooded with a number of emotions which prompt a number of questions among which include the why’s and the how’s of the tragedy but ultimately I think we find that the details matter little and all we have is the wake of what is left behind. This includes lifeless staring eyes and the absolute devastation from such a traumatic loss not unlike the ripping of an organ from your living body. This is only an account of how I feel. The collective grief of an entire community which is sure to follow can only be described as overwhelming.

We wrapped him up in his favorite blanket which he often slept on when kept in the shop overnight and laid him beneath the old tall tree which shaded the store, the tree under which he had spent countless lazy days basking in whatever sun the Oregon sky could spare. He was not flipping back and forth mindlessly deriving whatever strange pleasure he received from immersing himself in the dirt but he still seemed oddly at peace on that overcast morning. I sat there completely at a loss for words next to my wife while we waited for the store owner to come claim her fallen companion.

It was an inexplicably cold morning for late July and our extremities numbed but we would not be moved from watching over our friend until we could be certain he was tended. In moments like these the brain goes into an unusual state whereby emotions run things for a little while. You try to make sense of the situation but often find yourself looking for a place to lay blame. Some people place it on the driver, others place it on God, and others still place it upon themselves as irrational as that can be. These are the moments that remind us that we have one of two positions we can take in our power struggle with universe around us both with inescapable consequences.

In my heartbroken daze I chose to observe little white spiders as they went about their day, crawling across whatever lay in their path. They traversed the blanket that bound our friend and I wondered inwardly if they had any awareness of the tragedy evidenced by the cold presence in their domain. Did they mourn their dead or did they simply go about their daily business perpetually accepting their existence as what it was? At the base of the tree was a type of grass or weed that reminded me of wheat. They were no more than six inches high and when I ran my fingers upward along the stock small seedlike pods became dislodged and dropped to the ground. I assumed they would eventually take root and grow into new stalks where the cycle would start all over again. The ground was thick with brown lifeless stalks between the green standing stalks. From where I sat on the cold ground, the dead stalks outnumbered the living ones 3 to 1. From the perspective of a human I translated this in my mind, imagining mankind mired by the dead in similar proportion. Was this a reality hidden by the habit of burying and burning our deceased? This was a subtle reminder to me that we are not unbound by this harsh cycle of life. I tried to comfort myself with this thought but could not shake that poor Frederico was not given the chance to complete his part of the cycle. It is hard to justify the ending of a life by way of ignorance or malice. It is a true test of fortitude that stays your hand from reciprocation in tragedies like this. Was it chance, fate, or evil that did this thing? In either case my eyes were drawn to the weeds that had prevailed through a raised crack in the asphalt of the parking lot and I was reminded that time will ultimately do its part.

I am not a religious man but I consider myself a spiritual one in a way. I know that Frederico will go where he needs to go and I know that somewhere new life drew breath. Perhaps a beautiful newborn kitten entered the world with the destiny of bringing another person untold joy. Certainly Frederico’s body will release its energy to the garden under which he was buried and nature will express her gratitude in beautiful and bountiful ways. How can she not be grateful to receive back a beautiful thing which she created to experience the universe. I take solace knowing she will take that experience into herself and get to feel the intense collective love that Frederico drew from everyone around him. He will be missed.

 

frederico