2020/11/09: The Ofay Challet, Silver Bullets and Rage [Creativity and Committment: 5]

Trying out the Q10 distraction-free word processor. It’s…well, I’m only one line in to it. But so far its a damned dream.

It’s got some kind of recorded typewriter sounds for each key click, is amber on black, and has a carriage return bell as well.


Sitting here now my brain flashes back to the White Lodge, a time in my life that’s been on my mind of late.

In my early 20s I had roommates. We shared a house in upstate New York for a couple/few years. The social group’s patriarch (wow, yeah I’m gonna need to do a whole thing about Duncan) had lived there with his…err…wife I guess. But when he moved out we figured we’d move in. He pretentiously dubbed the house “The White Lodge” as a Twin Peaks fan, as this was about 1992-1993.

After his departure it became a monicker of self-aware mockery. After all, not ALL pretentions of the past earn authenticity in their futures. Not very many at all.

But hell it was a few acres of land in the middle of no place for $750 a month. The landlord was in Florida.

I don’t remember if anybody’s name BUT mine was on the lease, but I was the one who was in charge of getting the rent to the guy. The other guys tended to be pretty lax about having the rent at all, much less on time. So tensions were higher than they otherwise would be. It was a valuable set of lessons, expensively learned. Aside from a girlfriend or two, I’ve lived alone ever since.

There were between 3 and 5 of us, depending on the season. The White Lodge stories are vast and insane. But we had one guy living with us, Jeff, who was a good 12 years older than us. He was an excellent guitar player and had a reasonable voice, but a construction carpenter by trade. He was easily the most narcissistic piece of shit I’ve ever known, chasing around my guitar playing girlfriend (who thought it was as fucking adorable as it was ridiculous) and generally being a snide cunt at most opportunities. Plus he had the added Achilles’ heel of being exceedingly anal retentive.

He was smarter than everybody he’d ever met and once declared, out loud with his face that there wasn’t anybody at the New York Renaissance Festival who’s ass he couldn’t kick. This is the kind of gem of humanity we’re dealing with here.

I had a magentic poetry kit on the fridge and one day I, knowing how it would play out, alphabetized the whole thing. Jeff came home one day and, seeing the arrangement, let out an audible sigh of relief.

“I’ve thought about doing that.” He smiled and nodded.
“You know why I did that?”
“No, why?”
I put my fingers on the fridge, above the top of the magnets and just raked them down, upsetting them and ripping them all out of position.
“So I could do that.” and I walked away.

I could balance out the story from my own filters by talking about his better qualities. But the hindsight of about 30 years doesn’t really leave him with very many.

One day, Fletcher and I were playing chess, listening to the self-titled Bloodline album on the house stereo. Bloodline was, I think, a one-project band with Joe Bonamassa on guitar and a bunch of other guys who all had famous musician parents. Don’t quote me on it. I don’t know.

But the damn music was excellent. I recommend it still.
Jeff came in from work, up the split-level stairs behind me and started commenting on the music. “Yeah these guys are never going to be famous. It’s all just kinda rock 101. Basic 12 bar stuff.”
Fletcher was watching me shaking, my back to Jeff, and got wide eyed at the expression on my face.


I looked at Fletcher, stood up, I’d like to say I winked, but I wasn’t that together.

I turned around and said, in my Outside Voice:

“That 17 year old kid plays guitar with more soul in one note than I’ve EVER heard come out of yours in the 4 years I’ve known you.”

He…stopped. No last word, snippy Lord Baelish quip. Nothing.
Just turned, walked into his room and closed the door.
We literally did not see him for 3 days (he had the master bedroom with a bathroom.)

I’d LOVE to say “I turned around, sat down, moved one chess piece and said ‘checkmate’.” But…I’m pretty sure Fletcher went on to trounce me in my emotional imbalance. Not that I had more than an even shot at beating him otherwise.

I really suck at chess. Always have. I think much too broadly to “do the math” the way I’d need to in order to be any good at it. Chess is a narrow and deep process.

Hell I think it was a week later, after life was more or less normal again, that Jeff approached me when I was doing God knows what in the garage and said “Boy, what you said….that…really got to me.”
I could’ve brushed it off. I could have given him the apology he was looking for. But god dammit he deserved it.

“Huh.” was all I could muster, without eye contact.
He went away.

Call it a massive side-effect of insecurity on my part. But I’ve always, with just about anyone I’ve known that I’ve had any doubt of, had a silver bullet with their name on it.

That’s the only time I’ve ever actually deployed something like that, ever. It’s a security blanket of a sort. Just…something in the chamber that I could call on that would rip someone’s self-appraisal to fucking shreds.

It’s interesting that I’m now far more sparing about who I’ll do that with. It’s the first time I’ve overltly thought about it in years. But there are more and more people I know nowadays that just…don’t require such things. Oh I still DO it. There are a couple people I have now whose psyche I could dissolve as surely as if they were dropped in a vat of acid with a single short sentence.

It’s equal parts an improvement in my personal emotional landscape and the resulting discernment in not associating with people I might feel the need to fucking destroy. Plus, moving to The South hasn’t hurt matters much.

…fast forward past 40 minutes of dicking around on twitter…

The problem with this process is that as much as I enjoy it, I’m…handling it wrong. See, I come sit at the cigar lounge and just blast out a couple thousand words. And it’s good. Pull over the cthar I’m getting ctharthic.

But it’s just the beginning. I read what I’ve written and, posted or not (I only ever post about 1/3 of what I put down here) it’s really the beginning of an idea, almost always. It’s scraping the surface of these ideas that I know have some more depth to them, but being satisfied with any blog-post achievement that I leave them alone, patting myself on the back for hitting publish and posting the subsequent link to twitter.

What I need to do is take some of these pieces and constrain myself to writing more on the topic. What will end up happening is I’ll thrash around, saying the same thing over and over again in the word processor until I find an escape from the foyer of the idea into the next level down, like some twisted psychological version of the old game Rogue.

But…I’ve committed myself to go drink this over this evening, which is rapidly approaching. So I’m going to read this through and post it as is.



Election Day.  I’m staying the FUCK away from it, or trying to.  Every website. Every television is blasting this shit into your head. Doesn’t matter if it’s social media, games, shopping sites.  All of it. It’s fucking insane.

The blank page is getting to me something fierce today.  Hell I’ve been here 45 minutes and have only written this much.  Listened to the Far Cry 2 tapes a few times in a row.  Just switched over to my writing playlist, hoping it’ll help snap my brain in to gear. 

The amount of caffeine ripping through my system on a largely empty stomach has got me positively twitchy.  So, you know, that’s not really helping today.  Plus this damned Hemmingway is plugged as fuck. 

It’s all I can do to stop myself from grinding my fucking teeth.

I made a deal with myself this morning that if I did all the dishes I could come here, smoke a few cigars and get some words down.  So, of course, I blasted through my dishes with “Cut The Cord” by Shinedown on repeat, in about…15 minutes tops.  Score.

Check out this thread: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1320971632144363520.html

In case it’s not there, it’s about Worf from Star Trek who apparently didn’t grow up with Klingons (I’m not a TnG guy.  Kirk > Picard) but understood “Klingonness” through their image, their mythology.  So he, in an attempt to be authentic, spends his life trying to live up to that ideal, though he discovers over and over again that the ideal he’s trying to live up to is “just” mythology, that the heroes of that culture fall short continually.  But because he can’t (or won’t/doesn’t) let go of his image of the “True Klingon” he manages no small amount of success in striving to live up to that mythological stature. 

This reminds me of something I encountered quite starkly the last time I was in NYC, a couple years ago. 

I’d flown in to NY to meet my sisters and deal with the issues of my Father’s estate. We had The Meeting on Friday morning at 9:00 and all met there.

Liz showed up at 8:30 where I was waiting, on the street corner.  She called Laura, who said she was still driving in.  We looked at each other and shook our heads.  Liz, like me, is a frenzied neurotic mess.  Laura takes life as it comes, rolls the dice and shit SEEMS to just fall in to her lap. Well, 8:45 showed up, we’re looking at our watches and pacing around.  She found a parking spot a block away and wandered up at 8:50 something. Liz and I just shook our heads.

“How the fuck does this always HAPPEN?” I wondered aloud.

“I….I don’t know. It always does though.”  Liz said. 

And it was in that moment, 26 months ago, that I realized my middle sister had the right of things and it was the two of us who were wrong.  All that anxiety. All that “preemptive worry” was nothing. It was just taking up cycles, aging us prematurely, and getting in the way of everything we thought it was helping us do better.  As opportunities flew by, even sometimes stopping to check in and see if we were interested, we were too busy worrying about the downstream effects to actually just get off our asses and follow or take them.

Well we get out of the meeting, go grab something to eat and Liz says “So what time is your flight?” meaning my flight back to Nashville.

I smiled… “2:30.”

Laura noticed the twinkle in my eye and said “Wait…what DAY is your flight?”

“Tuesday :)”

“You’re just gonna hang out in the city for four days and you weren’t gonna tell us?”

“I…don’t think you’re going to want to come with me where I’m going.  But if you want to hang out I’m definitely in to it.”

They demurred.

Well, the plan was to hit a bunch of my old haunts, get ripping drunk and just reconnect with My City.

Rewind a decade and a half.

I used to take my notebook and head to the Chinese Calligraphy section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sit on a bench and write.  Sometimes I’d go to the little garden they had set up right there and write…there.  It was fun, quiet, meditative, and pretentious as fuck. 

So on that Saturday I did.  I went to the met, drank deep of the Arms and Armor exhibit (which is exquisite, by the way) and made my way up to Chinese calligraphy.

I sat down on a bench in one of those dark quiet rooms, having spent an hour just staring at and photographing brushwork and I pulled out my notebook.

I was struck, a couple pages in (I don’t know what I was writing about. I s’pose I could find it) at how THIS time it was an absolutely honest experience. 

The pretension of the past became the authenticity of the present.

I was living up to the mythology I had created for myself so many years ago. 

So when that Worf thread came up last week it struck a chord.  It was kinda the same thing.  A story, roughly told, interpreted over time by people trying to live up to it. 

It reminded me immediately of two things:

“Authentic Recipe” gatekeeping.  Think about pizza, hot dogs, philly cheesesteaks, or chili.  People will go to war arguing about what makes an authentic New York pizza, or REAL chili. 

But those recipes didn’t come from anything like that. They’re just what people made, the way they made them.  And sure, it’s all a little too contemporary to say “because that’s what they had.”  But the point is the same. 

The pattern emerges and it’s then taken as gospel, given FAR more power later on than it ever had in the moment. In that moment, it becomes mythology…

WHICH brings me to the other idea that’s kicking around in my head about it all. 

Is this not LITERALLY the mechanism by which myths are created and become religion?  To say people have religious wars about the right way to make chili or pizza may not even BE a fucking metaphor.

It’s admittedly a half baked thought. Or, more properly, a thought half baked into language. But it seems the exact same mechanism: Repeated iterations of a story becoming more and more strictly codified and…becoming more of an ideal than a story over time, eventually crossing a threshold where people hold up the story as an ideal.  It becomes myth, completely independent, if not in spite, of it’s reality.

What I need to do is finish Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” where he talks (among everything else) about the evolution of mythology.  I expect he’s done more research on the topic than I’ve done thinking.

See, it seems to me that I should have more than a paragraph or two to say about that. But… I don’t.  That’s the idea. 

Is it not the case the aspirations of humanity is to a necessarily mythological ideal? 

I know people get pissy when you take the wind out of their religion. But the story of the resurrection, for instance, is a couple thousand years older than 2.  Christianity is just the latest iteration. If you’re a believer I envy you. I say that with no snarkiness or scorn. Really. It must be amazing.

But I’m not. I don’t. And the likelihood that I ever will be is functionally zero.

But I wonder if it matters, if it matters at all.  The value of a religion isn’t in whether it’s true or not, but in how it inspires us to behave, in what it is we strive towards.  Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or Taoism.  At their best they’re cultural appropriate templates overlaying personal ideals, no?

I’ve admittedly done more agonizing about the meaning of life than I have just grabbing something and running towards it and life is about doing rather than knowing.  So, as nice as it would be to be sure of something regarding the ultimate truth of the universe, I’m not sure it’s…important.

See that turns my mind to Alexander Cortes’ continual, dead on admonishments to stop worrying about deciding and just pick something. 

Pick the mythology and strive to fulfill the ideas it exemplifies.

So…if my conclusions are correct, insofar as they go, and Nietzsche was right when he said:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

(which he unarguably was)

then does picking a damned mythology to replace what we have lost not remain our best hope for an ideal we can strive to?  All these kids out there pretending they’re jedis or wearing star trek officers uniforms.  They’re easy to laugh at and…I personally believe they deserve some derision.

But…can we really blame them? Do they not have a point?  They’re not pretending it’s all real.  Well, they’re pretending it’s real, but not in that they’re deceiving themselves. 

I can’t help but think about the modern mythology of Iron Man doesn’t present an amazing example. Is there a better hero in modern fiction for our modern age?  Self centered narcissist, humbled to turn to his late father for answers, striving always to make the most of the Promethean gift, to redeem himself against his past failings, at the very least, then to finally sacrifice his own well-earned peace for all life?

I submit, no, there’s not.

Scorsese can eat a dick.

(Surely you didn’t think I was gonna end this with an “I am Iron Man” reference, right?)

Index Posts

I’ve now got a couple post series’ that have “Index” posts that join them all together. Much like a WikiWeb (not to be confused with wikipedia, fuck that garbage) CategoryPage I’m going to use this as a top-level permalink to those series indices. It’ll make things easier to find for me and anyone else who might be interested. I’ll add to this now and again as things accumulate. Then I’ll post a link to this page in its own little box on the main page.

So far there are only a couple:

9/11: Accounts of the day, the aftermath, narrations of same, and such.

Creativity and Commitment

Huge Honkin Console: A fantasy of a software project I’ve been dicking around with for longer than some of my readers have been alive

Creativity and Commitment: The Index

I didn’t think this was going to be two posts, much less four. And it will probably end up being more than that. So rather than make interested parties traipse around this bucket of letters, here’s a top-level topic post.

2020/10/20: The End of the Beginning [Creativity and Commitment: 4]

20201020- Smokey

Ah the blank page…

There was a great post over on imgur some months ago about taking your anxiety and negative self-talk and assigning it an identity:

“God dammit. I’m not worth anything.  It’s amazing I even have the energy to get up in the morning.”

“Ah, that’s just Steve.  Steve’s a dick that lives in my head.  Fuck Steve.”

It was a screen shot of a tumblr post (because of course it was) and the comment thread of people emphatically agreeing with the technique, either through personal experience or the sense of how it “rings true.” 

Since the movie Inside Out came out it hasn’t been so alien an idea. But I have to agree with the tumblristas that actually using it as a tool to help mitigate your own internal processes, instead of just “tossing all your thoughts in a hopper” seems like something that would be tremendously useful.

The last quarter of Think and Grow Rich has a similar tenor.  Hill talks about how he would imagine a group of people in his head, historical figures if I remember correctly, and just run his imagination through sitting with these people, his council to talk through ideas.  While lauding the initial success he also adds that these characters became imbued with their own identities that he…didn’t foresee or particularly plan for, behavioral and personality ticks. 

Most astonishingly, he talks about abandoning the practice because, not to put too fine a point on it, freaked him the fuck out.  He felt these little personae he’d created in his head had taken on such a life of their own that they existed independent of his conscious imaginings.

I imagine that would create an incredible crisis of identity.  It’s no wonder he’d back away from it.

Give Think and Grow Rich a good reread. “We become what we think about.” Usually the most lauded encapsulation of Napoleon Hill’s wisdom from that seminal work is not NEARLY his greatest insight.

We’ve powers we can’t even imagine right at our fingertips, there to be harnessed at will if we have the Will and courage to diverge from the straight and narrow path of consensual normalcy.  Now, too many people will take that incorrectly as a statement declaring the relative nature of reality.  That’s a bunch of crap.  I mean a divergence from the normal pseudo Newtonian mechanics of day to day living that we’ve all more or less agreed to. 

It’s terrifying what we can accomplish if we’re truly of a mind to.  It MAY be glorious. But it’s at least terrifying.

I’m not sure if that’s going to come back in this little blurt.  But they’re pieces of a puzzle on the topic.

If you’ve read the last three of these you get some sense of how I’ve been fighting with my anxiety and neuroticism.  I simply must get a handle on it in order to continue living.  That’s it.  Non-negotiable.

A bit under three years ago I went to Denver to the first Feast of War held by Ivan Throne, where I had the great pleasure to meet the future Lord of Mars, Mr. Swift, and Alexander Cortes.

If you ever get a chance to meet any of those three Men, do it.  At the risk of sounding like this is going to sound, being in a room with them for a few minutes will change your life.

At one point Ivan asked the assembled table of men, about…10 I think, “Why are you here?”

I’d followed Ivan on twitter for the better part of a year by then, had started (but not finished) Nine Laws. (Read it.  It’s exceptional: https://www.amazon.com/Nine-Laws-Ivan-Throne-ebook/dp/B01LZ2FEGO/.) When it came around to me, feeling cheeky I said “I’m here to see if you’re full of shit.  The fact that Alexander is here as well is a bonus because I wanted to see if he was full of shit.” 

I got a raised eyebrow for my mouth and replied “It was obvious immediately upon meeting you.”  Which was absolutely true.

The conversation continued and, while fuzzy, Ivan said something about “fulfilling your sacred purpose.” And again I couldn’t keep to myself. 

“I envy that.  But I don’t understand it at all.  I don’t HAVE a sacred purpose. I don’t understand where it comes from.”  And I admittedly, quite rudely, hijacked the conversation into that topic for…a half hour, trying to figure out if they had something.  In retrospect I was looking for a silver bullet and hoping they had it, while knowing really that they didn’t.  But they did try to get out of me a statement of what really mattered to me.

Alexander at one point, sitting two to my right, picked up a butter knife and said “If I came over there with this knife and killed you, what would be your last thought?”  Again I said something deflective, with Mr. Swift called me out on, all to the good.

I don’t think anyone can answer that question until they’ve been in the situation.  Until you truly face down death you can’t know what your answer would be. Humans are uniquely good at lying to themselves, creating their own stories to cover for the uncomfortable reality of their lives.

I’m not all that proud of my conduct that evening.  But I’ve kinda gotten over it.  It was what I could manage at the level I was operating on back then. 

So the questions remained.  It really took Jordan Peterson to hand me the mirror I’d been looking for, being exposed to Big Five theory had the same effect as learning about survivor guilt a few months after 9/11, “Oh, THAT’S what that is.  Okay well at least I can cordon it off as a thing I know about myself.”  Though unlike surivior guilt, the understanding of being “high neurotic” did backfire a bit on the way towards clarity.  It became a bit of a crutch. “Oh well, I guess this is what I am” and such.

Well I was wandering around my house this morning whining to myself, yelling “Shut up Steve” and chuckling to myself, trying to find my way out of that mess for what is probably the several thousandth time, getting more and more frustrated with the same intellectual arguments, feeling like I was trying to pull a cruise ship off course by treading water with a rope.


And the world stopped.

God dammit.  I just want to create beautiful things.

It was so simple.  It’s always been true.

With an absence of purpose bordering on nihilism, the truth of beauty stands out as its own reward.

It helps explain the diffuse nature of my interests.

The thing about writing software, which is arguably the thing I’m best at, is that no matter how subtle and beautiful your ideas and code can get, it’s still “just engineering.”  Even at its height.

When you look at the work of the greats there’s an elegance to it that’s absolutely impossible to ignore if you’ve got the barest sense of what’s going on.

That beauty isn’t accessible to the outside world.  It’s not visible even to the users of the application, only to other engineers. 

Sure, that may be enough to the majority of programmers (and it may not. I don’t know. I’m not “most” anything.)

That’s not good enough.  I love writing software. I expect I always will. 

That’s why I was drawn so strongly to the Struthless video mentioned in the first post in this series.  “Do one thing every day that pulls in a single direction and you’ll lift yourself out of the morass and confusion of undirected flailing about.”  It’s a perfect sentiment and rang true with me.

The problem is I didn’t really have a clear statement in my head about what I was shooting for. 

So I proclaimed “I’ll write a page of fiction a day” and “I’ll do one simple drawing a day” because, well, they seemed like things I’ve always wanted to do. 

Last Wednesday I’d gotten myself so torn up in knots about what to write (though, perhaps ironically, not what to draw) that I said “screw it. I’m taking a day off.”  Well, it’s been a week. And while I felt guilty about breaking the promise I’d made to myself for a bit, I…got over it.  In fact I got over it really fast.

It was tough to forgive myself for it. But this whole “egg beater in my brain” thing has to fucking stop.  I have to get a handle on it to continue living.  I’m high fooking neurotic on the best of days but now that I’m “nominally retired” and have no reason to get up it’s gotten worse not better.  Add to that the dumpster fire of this year and I’m nearly surprised I’ve literally lived through this much of this year.

No no, I’m not that selfish.  I defeated that demon about 35 years ago (not that the outcome of that battle was so foregone a conclusion.)  There’s just no way to talk about it without cranking the nomenclature up to 11.

There’s a lot more I have to cull from my list of casual pursuits:  Infosec stuff has to go. I’m not a hacker.  I’ve never been a hacker.  I’m never gonna be a hacker.  And there are a couple more in there.  Brewing, like I said, has already gone as a serious pursuit.

Baking is a bit rough since I’m trying to keep the carbs down. But I can be satisfied staying down at dilletante level, baking for friends and holidays. Baking sourdough now and again to keep my chops up to something reasonable.

The long and the short of this is that I have some exploring to do.  Being uncommitted because you’re just a fucking scatterbrained neurotic is one thing.  Active exploration of media is something else. 

I’ve got a few ideas in my head and I think there’s room to try a lot of these things out without diluting myself overmuch.  I’m not going to speak to it all too much, if at all.  There are a few projects I’ve really wanted to complete

After all, that’s what this year was supposed to be about, finding out what I really wanted to do.

“This year” has five days left. 

2020/10/14: Dilution and Bad Promises [Creativity and Commitment: 3]

I’ve been trying to map my way around the confusion of these daily tasks I’ve set myself and the attending neurotic chaos it’s produced in my head.  This morning, likely not for the first time, I drew a straight line between these tasks and playing video games, which says rather a lot about how I feel about both.

The problem with video games is the way your focus is stolen, diluting your potential as a human on something close to all facets.  And before gamers get up my ass, yes, there’s value in some of them.  Hell, a lot of them.  There are great stories and such. Blah blah blah.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

It’s easy to fall in to the simple trap of thinking that an hour a day of playing video games represents a cost of an hour a day. 

So you budget yourself your hour a day and feel relatively good about it.  You stick to that hour, shut down when it’s done and go to bed…or whatever.

But that’s not taking up an hour of your day.  You log off or shut down and it’s drifting through your head.  “What if I’d done this?  What’s the plan for tomorrow?”  You wake up the next morning and, along with the rest of your mental effluvia you think “Hmm…I can get past that level, finish that dungeon, if I did this instead.  Yeah that might work.”  Maybe you leave it there.  Maybe you poke around on youtube [note: I actually typed ‘yourube’ there and was really tempted to leave it like that.  Instead I’m leaving this note in] and find a video or two on fetching that particular golden dingus.

As you lead up to your allotted playtime you get a little anxious and, like 4:30 on a Friday you pretty much hang up the rest of the day. 

You get a snack and a beverage, set yourself up and play for an hour and stop. 

Thinking you’ve played for an hour.

Weeks go by and you can feel that nagging sensation that something’s…off.  But it doesn’t occur to you what the problem is because, on paper, you’re following the rules you’ve set out for yourself.

Got the principle?  Let me say it 19 other fucking ways because that’s how I work an idea around and set it in my head.  It’s not really me being patronizing, though it’ll no doubt seem that way.

The cost of an ancillary pursuit is not in the time spent actively pursuing it, but in the attention it demands when you’re not.  An hours task a day is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to spend on something, assuming you even could.  But creativity, interest, and progress has a tremendous amount to do with the time between the cracks that you spend on the pursuit.

See, I knew I’d get somewhere with this if I just wrote it out. 

This dovetails with the phenomenon of the Eureka moments that come to us when we’re “in the shower” or otherwise not engaged.  Your (well, my, and I assume your) mind doesn’t REALLY ever stop thinking about something.  The very idea of delineating blocks of time for you to be engaged in a pursuit, after which you can stop and work on something else is an entirely illusory notion.  Brains just don’t fucking WORK that way. 

Everything you do puts things in the hopper of your mind, just behind your consciousness for processing.  It doesn’t really matter how much time you think you’re spending on these things, they’re all in the fucking hopper, being processed by the majority of the magnificent engine that partitions only a small portion of itself off for maintaining consciousness. 

Owing to the nature of consciousness, we think that’s the majority of what’s going on because consciousness seems to be related to our perceptual linkages…

[ Well wait…that’s not right.  We react to things before we realize we’ve perceived them. (That’s some heady stuff to read about.)  It’s…almost as if our more primary (primal?) circuitry is higher in the processing queue for stimuli and only passes it along after it’s done with it, going up the line to consciousness, down in priority until we actually have something to deal with ourselves. 

Eh. That’s an aside…I think. ]

If you try this sometime I think you’ll see what I mean.  Just stop yourself, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and see what comes up in your head.  You only need to do it for a few seconds. If you can manage not to have any one particular thought grab your attention and lead you off in one direction you’ll find that it’s complete chaos behind your eyes.  That’s your normal state. That’s what’s going on behind your consciousness.  You’re trying to play gatekeeper. But your mental potential is being absolutely squandered by that madness. 

Now I’m particularly high in trait Neurotic (of Big Five fame) so I’m particularly prone to that kind of internal horseshit. But that just means (as a metaphor, I’ve no idea what the actual mechanics of this are on a biological level) that the aforementioned chaos doesn’t stay put and the barrier at the back of my consciousness is permeable so it comes forward and manifests itself as internal dialog. 

It makes me wonder if that’s not what high neurotic really is, at some level at least. Impossible for me to say, certainly. But it’s an interesting Way of Talking at the very least.

Alright. Now let me circle back again.  Given that and the prior couple posts in this series, and redescribe what it is I’ve been doing:

I watched that Struthless video and decided “Okay, time to trim down my hobbies. Plus I’ll do one thing a day.  I’ll write a page of fiction”  I actually added something else. A simple drawing exercise because I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw.

So I poured out most of my aging mead.  The stuff I already have bottled I left alone since it’s zero maintenance.  Gallons of the stuff.  I’m just not doing it anymore. 

I bought myself a set of notebooks which came half blank notebooks, half ruled, and committed myself to one drawing and one page of fiction a day.  The drawing is of the same subject, much like his Ibis.

So I get up in the morning and say “FUCK.  What the hell am I going to write today?” and I watch the time drag on, dick around online and get some administrivia and crap done.  But hey, as long as I get my two things done I’m golden, it’s a successful day, right?

I eventually stop carping and do my daily push-ups (because oh yeah, I do that too) and, a trip to the cigar lounge to write or to the stupidmarket to pick up food, or to Lowe’s to buy stuff to screw around in the shop (because…yeah, you guessed it) or a trip to Johnathan’s and suddenly it’s dark. 

Well yeah, it’s October, so it’s dark by six something.  But people are home from work and twitter is starting to light up and I’m getting hit after hit after hit of those juicy juicy dopamine interactions.

I look to the left and there’s my notebook standing there tapping its foot “no bed ‘til you’re done.”

A few times in the last week I was up after 3am going through writing prompts, looking for SOMEthing to write, having scribbled some doodle in the other notebook out of sheer impatience with myself.

Of course once I’ve actually selected something and the pen has hit the paper the words come pretty damned fast.  Sure I have to spend a couple minutes structuring something in my head. But that rarely does more than help me get started.  More often than not the challenge becomes stopping at a page.  NOT that “strictly one page” is the rule.  But I think about the task in terms of “one page. Get it done.” Sure, a couple times I’ve been captured by the spirit and gone for a couple/few instead.  And sometimes I’ll actually continue a story from a prior page.  I’ve even got them numbered so it’ll be easy to follow if it’s the case.

Then I have that absolute wave of cool water cascading around in my mind that’s just liquid relief.  I did it. I finished my day and “didn’t not do it.”

Off to bed.

So many things I haven’t done. 

So much time staring at the clock and dicking around doing really nothing other than waiting and agonizing about what it is that I’m going to be faced with when I knuckle down.

The couple/few times I’ve gotten off my ass and gotten it all done within a couple hours of getting my ass out of bed the rest of the day is spent exulting rather than agonizing, but still preoccupied with the task.

There are projects that are admittedly, and in any serious way, far more important to me than these two little pursuits.  They’re curiosities.  My software development has…well, being honest it’s ceased entirely.  I’ve not written more than five lines of code in a couple weeks. 

That’s not okay.  It’s got to change. 

I haven’t lit the forge. I haven’t built the anvil stand, though the plans for something pretty clever and simple are right there on my whiteboard.  I did spend some time in the shop Saturday screwing up the build of a bookshelf. But that’s okay. I don’t mind the failed experiment.

So the question becomes this:

Did I make myself a bad promise and if so can I just walk away from it?

Or (and here’s some fucking neurosis for you, strap in)…

Am I reaching the first hump of difficulty because I’m just finishing week two of this habit/pattern and weaving a series of well-founded excuses out of raw aether because “Waaaaa, it’s getting haaaarrrdddd.” And should I therefore stfu, knuckle down and just get it done first thing in the morning so I can move on to other things?

I’m not sure how to tell the difference.  Is this a dilution of my potential by squandering it in multiple directions?  Do I try to turn it all on its head and focus on project work rather than daily habits? (aside from the metahabit of getting my ass in the chair/shop to do the work every day on a timed schedule?)

The curse of being able to reason out either perspective (or is it a false dichotomy?) is that I have no reason to believe one or the other is more accurate.  All of it is just a mind game.

As I’ve said for years, we don’t discover our purpose, we decide.  But that’s convenient and self-serving.  Maybe I should turn all my efforts to HHC. My god what I could accomplish if I focused on that project and where it led me. Or any of a thousand other things.

 I don’t know how to tell.

2020/10/12: Tech Brainstorming [HHC M of N]


This is just some brainstorming for projects in the front of my mind.

I always find that doing this frees my mind up to take an idea a little bit farther.  Plus, the more different things I mix in the same session, the more seemingly strange connections I end up making. Eventually there’s a point past synthesis when I get in to real creativity.  So if instead of just blurting this out to a word doc in a cigar lounge I actually intentionally added these kinds of things to my personal desktop wiki or another blackboard style format, I’m sure I’d come up with both more simplifications and more interesting ideas. 

The general scope here is “managing my data.”  So I started with a few headings and just started going from there, with an overall goal of keeping everything in one loosely-coupled but still cohesive system.

Have fun trying to figure out wtf I’m talking about or hell, give me some ideas if you’ve got any kicking around.

  • Images and Music

So this nonsense with the iPhone image format (heif?  Dafuq Apple?) has me rolling my eyes on one hand, but it reminds me that I’ve been wanting to write a media import script to keep my pictures, documents, and such in a well-defined tree. 

Sure the /root/* stuff on the external drives is a reasonable structure. But frankly even that’s become a mildly well partitioned dumping ground.

If I can find a python library for handling that nonsense I’ll add something to it that saves a ./original/ copy then converts it to jpg. 

While I’m there, something that traverses the jpg files and rips out the exif data will do my sense of sanity some good.  Actually…shit, no.  Actually what I’ll do is extract a copy of the exif data as a json file so I can keep a database and maybe use some of what’s actually in there (not sure what all it contains) to categorize the images themselves.

Yeah I like that.

I could probably do the same thing with mp3 files as well.

  • Text content

Take the wiki engine and merge it with something like bloxsom (or some generic text/markdown file storage) to merge my writing (import from word?) blog entries and such in a single library with a couple different front-ends. Then I could rip a bunch of code against it for higher-level processing, tag clouds, etc. Maintain a ‘publish’ tag for things that would be mirrored to a largely-static external website. 

I really like that idea, since nominally different types of content could still be easily represented. 

Shit I could add a JSON -> markdown module so I could view just about anything from a single console.

I wonder how easy it would be to build something like that that was sufficiently flexible without being too brittle.

  • Emails

I think an alert system that ran against Thunderbird’s mbox files, spliced into the old import scripts would be really useful.  Take, for instance, newsletters from AJAC or Bevans could be promoted and shuttled off to a reading inbox.

I could use a similar system to capture my clippings directory, where I save things like twitter or reddit threads.

  • SIP

Again, if I can figure out how to build a pdf or ps file in python that will print duplex, then print it automatically in the morning I’d be able to take my todo list and generate a simple hipster pda sheet that’d be waiting for me every morning when I got up. 

Hell, the sound of the printer might even be a sufficient alarm.

Either way it would dovetail well with a todo list/project management system that traversed the contents and built priority listings and dependency trees.  THAT would be exceptional if I could get a diagraming package (something like graphviz/dot, with less ‘auto-layout’ and more programmatic positional layout) to build something like actual tech trees for ease of visualization.

  • Contacts

Import vCard and csv files into a standard json format and get that synced with either iCloud or something else that’d sync down to my phone.  Getting real tired of having half assed contact management.  Deduping becomes the primary issue. 

IF I had a UI on the front of it I could present a side-by-side based on common key fields (either email, last & first name, or normalized phone number) so I could clean that damned list up.  With so many imports and exports I’ve got 3 copies of Joe’s contact card on my phone and none of them have his phone number.  That horseshit has to stop.

  • Frameworks and front-end

Most of this could technically happen without any UI at all. But a simple web front-end or Electron app (but I repeat myself) would be really nice.  The guys seem to like Vuetify as a framework.  I’ll give it a shot. Surely there’s a tutorial kicking around somewhere I can follow.  Everybody loves writing a todo list tutorial for their pet framework.

Problem is I’ve got an image in my mind of what I want from a web framework and I’ve got a really bad feeling that I know what’s going to happen.

A framework and generator script pair that would build a ‘module’ (whatever the fuck that was) based on a spec of a back-end script and some information about required parameters that could be plugged in to a page/app easily would prevent me from having to hand roll (even with a rich framework) each new addition.

  • Log viewing for a ux

A framework that had modules as discussed above could have an added facility to hunt around for a well-known log file name which it could display on an auto-refresh of some kind.  Then add some kind of ‘expect’ style output scanning and it could re-sync an essentially async process.

If I broke these all down to unix design philosophy command line scripts (probably a metric fuckton easier than dealing with it any other way) then I could bang out functional components at a considerable rate.

 Welp, I’m finished with my 2nd cigar and have to hit the stupidmarket for…well, cheese and water.

So I’m going to post this as is just for fun.

I didn’t cover RSS feeds or using RSS as a format at all. But that’s somewhere in my head with all this stuff as well.

2020/10/12: …and miles to go before I sleep [Creativity and Comittment: 2]

[This is probably the 93rd post I’ve made with that title. Deal.]

I’m really here because I haven’t been here in a while.  I guess it’s been the better part of a week.

Damn. My brain just isn’t all that thirsty for the word today.

I saw a tweet by @deeperthrill

  • You need to build momentum with whatever you’re doing. Because the minute you stop rolling a boulder up a hill, it starts to roll back down.

And I realized that my attempts to pursue multiple threads is just getting me absolutely nowhere.  My commitment to a page of fiction a day based on my previous post is just a bunch of crap if I’m not committing myself to an actual project.  

Sure, it’s a useful exercise. But those little bites of disjointed productivity aren’t doing me any real favors if I don’t put them in the context of the rest of my day.

What’s going on is something like this:

I wake up in the morning with a little bug in my ear saying “so what  are you going to write about today?” and I treat it like homework.  Being high neurotic means I’ll let it claw at my brain all day.  So then, ‘round about 9 or 10 o’clock I’ll open my notebook and glance over at it while traipsing through my mind (or back through prior pages) to see what kind of vignette I can come up with, either from a writing prompt or from the back of my mind, I can blurt out to a page.

Once I’ve got one and I get the first sentence in (a process which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 5 hours, biasing towards the latter) the rest just dumps out to the page pretty much as fast as I can move the pen.

And it feels great to do.  It really feels like an act of creation (unlike, strangely this which, while fun, is in truth little more than a therapeutic exercise.)  Once I’m done I push my wheeled desk chair back and exhale as through I’d been holding my breath for the entire time.  It usually backs right in to my keyboard, which I haven’t touched more than twice since I bought it a few months ago.

Then I walk away, satisfied that “I did what I said I was going to do.”  Keeping a promise to myself to write at least a page of fiction every day in Q4.

The problem is that fiction isn’t really my primary goal.  It’s just a thing I wanted to get good at.   Yeah maybe I’ll “actively pursue” it at some point. But right now it just feels like it’s sucking up my attention and focus.  I’m getting almost nothing done because I said that was what I had to do every day,  (There are other things I’m doing every day, push-ups, logging my weight and some other stuff I’m nowhere near sharing.)

So then what is the value of the promise?  I’m really bad at keeping promises to myself so is this just me trying to weasel my way out of something because it’s a little tough? 

If you’re low neurotic I think that last sentence may make no sense to you.  It’s taken me a long time to figure out that people just don’t think that way. 

What good is a promise to yourself if it keeps you from yourself in a real way?

Here’s some contorted logic for you sane people to chew on:  What if the promise of engaging in a new pursuit was made for the express purpose of distracting myself from my primary interests, in the name of “expanding my mind” as a clever dodge to justify my lack of focus?

So then, what about committing to fiction as my primary project or pursuit, even for a time?  Even typing that question leaves me short of breath with anxiety.  What about all the other stuff?  Working on the house. Building my own bookshelves (because I priced them out at $420 for a 7’ shelf for plain pine and they can kiss my ass with that shit) or my development projects?  Robotics? Infosec? Music?  I’ve already given up brewing entirely. 

Maybe…hmm… there are a couple stories in my little notebook of one-page efforts that I’d really like to finish.  Okay commit to finishing one of those stories at least. No idea what I’ll do with it once it’s done.  Hell, maybe I’ll just post it here. (So I guess this is going to be a blog post in a few minutes.) 

If I clean my slate of everything but that and some administrivia that I have to accomplish (which isn’t really trivia. It’s more important than just about anything as it’s logistical life stuff) I can probably get that done in a couple days.

Here’s a thing that used to happen most weekends when I was working full time:

Friday evening I’d get home, sit down at the computer and I’d say “Okay, I’ve got 48 hours to myself.  I can take this time and really accomplish something great.”  I usually meant in terms of a software project, and the ‘great’ was less objective than personal. 

Every once in a while I’d actually do it. I’d open my editors, kick off my testing environment and start ripping away at a project and get far enough that I was proud of my accomplishments. Along the way I’d have all of those “activity begets interest” insights all over again. I’d get in The Zone and just rip.

But it was VERY rare.  I’d usually end up going to bed hating myself for my lack of productivity and laziness.  So I’d go through a few weeks of that then reformat my primary desktop computer and put linux on it rather than windows since I couldn’t be tempted to play games.

Linux, though, on the desktop is pretty damned horrible still.  So I’d get fed up after a couple days and reintall windows, again defeated.

The real enemy for me is completing projects, always has been.  That’s one of the reasons this format comes so damned fluidly to me.  Its not a project. It’s got no beginning, middle, or end.  It really is just me babbling into a word document, letting my fingers drag my mind across the keyboard, come what may.

So…if that’s the real difficulty, then I’m trying to solve the wrong problem.  “Doing little things consistently” is right in principle. But not if they’re all different little things.  Again I’m slapped in the face by how strongly my current effort flies in the face of the Struthless video from my last post. 

Yes, writing a page or more of even disjointed fiction is a great task for getting my brain to just write. But doing so while working towards completion of single projects is going to be immeasurably better for my soul.  It forces me to learn something about story structure, characterization and pacing. 

Okay yeah.  So for now the slight tweak will be to complete the short story I’ve worked on a couple times throughout those previous 11 days of October and not to just “work on anything as long as I get the page down.”

Here’s another thing that I’ve realized recently:  I don’t actually KNOW anybody who’s a creator, not in my day to day life (there’s an exception that occurs to me off the top of my head. But Tad’s back in NY.)  I know an awful lot of cool people. But they’re not generally people who would self-define as “creatives.”  So, coming at this blind I’m trying to teach myself, with no example, what that kind of life is actually like.

You (read: I) wouldn’t think it would matter so much. But those attitudes and behaviors (probably what Peterson would call “microhabits”) are almost completely alien to me.  A lot of people whose content I consume online are of the “find what you’re passionate about and just keep driving.”  And that really seems like “let your muse through” hogwash.  Where’s the practice, the downtime.  Are Creatives really consumed by their artistic passion such that it’s on their mind all the time?  It sounds as wonderful as it does exhausting. 

I can’t imagine what it would be like to hang out at a bar with a bunch of creative people for a good long ass session. 

I’ve hit the writing equivalent of a 7 minute lull so I think I’m just going to post this as is and go on to something else.

This is starting to feel like it’s going to become a series, of which this will be the second part.

Fiction vs NonFiction [Creativity and Comittment: 1]

I just posted a quick 2500 word thing on it being the 5 year anniversary since I moved from New York to Nashville.

At a meta level this had me connect a couple interesting dots. 

First, some background.

An internet friend of mine sent me a link to this video:

It’s exceptional.  Watch it.  I’ll wait.

Well, one of the couple things that came out of that was a personal commitment to write a page of fiction a day for Q4.  So I’ve been doing exactly that.  I got some little folio notebooks that fit in the 5×8 cover I made and I’ve been dutifully, if painfully writing a page of fiction each day for the last couple. 

I’ve always wanted to write fiction and it really doesn’t come easily.  This kind of internal narrative is easy as pie since it’s really just stream of consciousness right on to the page.  Most of the things you’ll ever read from me were written in a single shot and posted with maybe a quick look for spelling mistakes.  I don’t go back and think about structure at all.

In fact my writing process for these posts is exactly this:

Pack my laptop and a bunch of talismanic toys and head to the cigar lounge (before the world was on fire I’d go to Barnes & Noble. But frankly that never worked as well as this does.) I camp out at a high top table, plug in my Surface Pro, a bunch of equipment including a mouse, a usb hub, my phone, a pwnagotchi (just…don’t ask.)

THEN I go to youtube and start my writing playlist going on a loop.  Here’s a link to THAT.  Go check out some of those songs. They are NOT what you’d think of as “writing soundtrack” songs.  I’ll frequently get to one that hits me just right, right-click it and select *loop*.  Right now, for instance I’m listening to “She don’t dance no more” on repeat and have been for ABOUT 2 hours. Yes. Two hours on a continuous loop. 

So a couple days ago when I pulled out my notebook to get the night’s page of fiction done I naturally reached for this playlist.  I hit it, Lights came on and my brain immediately just fucking fried.  It was blank.  It was noise in my head and I just couldn’t fucking get anywhere near the place in my head where the fiction was going to come from.  I switched back and forth between tracks and nothing. I finally shut it down and went back to the page.



Well I tried other stuff.  Ambient “binaural music for studying.”  Nope.  Closer, but no cigar. 

Utterly perplexing.

On a hunch I went diving into my programming soundtrack playlist, which is MUCH different.  Some of the lower key ambient stuff from there ended up serving very well, then I added “rainymood.com” in another window. Yep.  Golden. 

The words didn’t actually flow so easily since I wasn’t just scraping the scum off the top of my consciousness, as is usually the case.

Maybe it’s obvious to everyone but me. But I find it a startling piece of information: The two types of writing come from markedly different places in my head. They’re vastly different thought processes.

One flows like water and there’s of course an argument, hell, even an argument from the aforementioned video, that says I should stick with that and really crank down on it.

But there’s another train of thought I have that leads me to think that what I should be doing is stretching myself in unknown directions. 

Is it…diluting my (*hurl*) talents?  Or is it learning new skills for the toolbox? 

The problem of having too many hobbies hits me square between the eyes. After all it sounds cool as fuck to say “I’m a blacksmith, woodworker, mead brewer, writer, programmer…” etc.  Even if I DO have to add the “Oh I SUCK at most of those. But they’re fun, so…” rider to the end of them.  It serves my narcissism well but my ego poorly.  People find that all very fascinating as I preen with their reactions.

But it’s a bunch of crap isn’t it. I don’t do enough of almost any of it to be any good. So it’s just lying, to myself and to other people. 

So the new task is to at LEAST stop talking like that. 

I’m not sure what that means.  Not really. But I’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, the places my head has to go in order to get out my daily page of fiction (no, I’m not posting it here) is really fascinating.  It feels as though I’ve gone from traveling in jets to walking. 

There’s something vitally important in the journey itself that perhaps I’m otherwise missing.

We’ll see.

5th Anniversary: New York to Nashville

20201003 – Smokey

I don’t remember it being particularly cold.  But I remember that drive, all 16 or more hours of it.  I sure remember that fucking rain.  Holy shit.  It’s something of a miracle that I did it all in one trip. 

It’s five years, to the day since I schlepped my way down here, upstate New York to Nashville, Tennessee.   As with all stretches of time it’s been long and short.  It feels like another life because it was and it feels like nothing’s changed because it hasn’t.

I remember the months leading up to it, trying to divest myself of almost all of my possessions.  If it didn’t fit in the truck, it had to go or perhaps stay.

Nashville wasn’t such an easy choice and I’m not all that sure I made the right one in an objective sense.  But what the fuck does ‘objective’ actually mean in this sense anyway?  I was going away not going to. 

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

 Alice speaks to Cheshire Cat

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“–so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland

So back in…hell I think it was March of that year, 2015, I bought a US map and spread it out on the kitchen table and I sat and looked it a while, not sure what I was looking for. 

I’d lived out of Brooklyn for too many years (3) and desperately wanted to get back to a city like environment where I could walk from home to a watering hole so as not to be overly concerned about my path back home.  So… cities of a reasonable size. 

Someplace that was a bit more open about gun ownership, which meant south and/or west.

No, Texas was just too damned hot.

As an aside I’d been listening to Julia Fowler’s “Shit Southern Women Say” videos on youtube.  It twisted my head to look at Nashville.  Not so hot as Texas, but 9ish hours from Dallas, 9ish hours from New Orleans, a long but reasonable haul back to New York for holidays and such…

Okay, let’s give it a look. 

Not quite prepared to just launch myself in to the void on blind faith I planned a little trip.  Well…I planned the time window for a little trip. I didn’t plan squat other than a roughly  downtown hotel and five or six days. 

I drove down my birthday week, early June.  The drive down 81 through Virginia was just gorgeous.  I noticed as I stopped for gas farther and farther south, not bothering with the big truck stops, that each stop took a little bit more time.  I’d get in to the odd conversation here and there. 

“Yeah had ta take the truck down from the mountain and wash it.  The pollen up there you wouldn’t believe.”  Indeed her truck has a telltale yellow pallor.  I’d get in to little “how’s your trip” and “where ya headed?” conversations with the people behind the counters when I’d grab a snack or a redbull to help push me through. 

Before I was really in to audiobooks, I was spending a fair amount of energy changing stations as my route grazed moderate sized broadcast radii. At one point I heard a radio contest going on.  A caller would start with a $100 prize and they’d decide whether to take a chance at doubling their money or take the cash. If they took the chance they were waiting on  I think it was actually Bessie the cow.  They’d “milk the cow” and either get a squirt of milk or Bessie would kick the pail (with the appropriate sound effects.)  If Bessie kicked the pail, it was over and you lost everything.  Otherwise you could keep going.

I don’t think I’d laughed that loud in months. 

I stopped at Smokey Mountain Knifeworks which was just..a candy store, and bought a nice little gentlemen’s folder with a titanium handle, dangerously straddling the border between fancy and gauche.  It’s still in my sportcoat pocket.

I was determined not to get involved in touristy crap during those four or five days down here.

I’d just drive around to try and get the lay of the land.  Eventually I did what I do and took my laptop down to Barnes & Noble in Cool Springs, the only one around that was really big enough to justify visiting (I have since confirmed.)

New York requires front and back license plates, unlike Tennessee, so it was something of a bumper sticker. 

I parked my little Taco a bit out in the parking lot and, as I got out I realized someone was coming at me.  A late middle aged guy was walking dead at me, away from the store.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  The truck was to my right and there was nobody behind me.  I watched his gate and leaned forward a bit, my hands at my front pockets. Hell my eyes were probably half closed.

“Afternoon” He said, one hand up.

“Afternoon” I drew out a bit.

“Hey, I noticed you had New York plates.”

“Yeah I…drove down here a couple days ago, figured I’d visit and see if I wanted to move down to the area.”

“Well we’re real proud of our community I just thought I’d stop by and say welcome.  I hope you decide to come down.  Have a great day.”

“Hey thanks man, you too.”

He turned to walk in to the store and I was left standing there, crouched, my hands an inch away from a pair of knives I keep in my front pockets. 

I had a flash and I started chuckling to myself, stifling a good solid belly laugh.

I was the psycho.  I was the crazy person in this equation.  Not him.  Me.  And in that moment I realized… “I HAVE to move down here.  I’m wound WAY too tight.”

I can’t even resist laughing about it here in the cigar lounge, drawing a couple looks.  But at this point the regulars are used to me bobbing my head to my writing soundtrack and muttering/chuckling to myself at odd intervals about nothing in particular.

I walked downtown a few times and found, to my delight an upstairs bar, somewhat obscured called The Wheel.  Apparently…you could smoke a cigar in there.

Well that was that.  I headed in and up the stairs and was met with a plain dirt bar with a little glass “humidor” at one end. 

I plopped down, waited for the bartender and smoked a cigar or three.  I came back a few nights and somehow had forgotten to get the bartender’s name.

I made small talk with guys who’d wander in and out.  Groups of woo girls would come up and, disgusted by the smoke, leave immediately, which would elicit a fist pump or three from the bar.  The rest of Broadway was their domain.  We needed someplace to go while they bitched at bartenders about their cosmos and whine about it being their birthdays, failing to get free drinks.

I talked with one gentleman and told him what I was up to. 

“So, do you have a job down here?  What brings you to Nashville specifically?”

“Nothing.  I’m just here checking it out, figure I’ll move down in a few months.”

“What do you do?”


“What kind?”  Oh here we go.

“Okay…most people when they ask that don’t…really know what they’re asking.”

“Well what’s your primary implementation language?” Huh.  Guy didn’t look like a tech.

“C++.  I’m a server side guy, just did a couple decades on wall street and enough is enough.”

“No shit?  I’m actually looking to hire a couple senior C++ guys.”  You’re shitting me.  Wouldn’t that just be amazing.

“You’re shitting me.  Wouldn’t that just be amazing.”

He shifted in his seat a bit.  “Yeah…there’s only one problem.”

“Uh oh, what’s that?”

“I’m just in town for a conference.  The job’s in Cheyenne.”

“Cheyenne?  Wyoming?”  oof.

“Yep.  I run a mining concern.”  A phrase I’d never heard a human utter.

“Oh man.  That’s… a long way away from Tennessee or New York.”

“Yeah.  Gorgeous town though.”

“Not a lot of girls I’ll bet.”

“No.  Not a lot of C++ programmers either.”

“Yeah I’ll bet not.” 

We shared a couple more drinks before wishing each other well and he left.

I still wonder what would have happened if I’d taken that bait.  Impossible to say of course.  Sounds great now. But there’s no way to actually do that math.  But looking back I know that event had some wu to it.  It’s important to recognize those.

I spent a lot of time walking around downtown, great barber shop, and I noticed a banner “Coming this fall: Blend cigar and whiskey bar” and I nodded.

The last night in town I was at The Wheel again and I told the bartender, a long haired guy who really knew his cigars and whiskey (oddly so for a place like that) “Hey so I’m gonna move down here and I’ll tell you what, the day I drive down here, probably the first week in October, I’ll dump my stuff off at wherever I’m staying and come straight here.”

Four months later I pulled in to a motel out by the airport that turned out to be a truly disgusting establishment, owned by a company whose name I can’t bring up that specialized in long term stays for business people.  It wasn’t one of their primary facilities and only cost me $900 a month.  I didn’t realize what I was getting for that. 

I unstrapped the art from the top of my truck and brought it in to the room along with whatever was cluttering up the cab and a single suitcase and brought it inside. 

I was WHIPPED from the drive, having started at 3 or 4 in the morning. But a promise is a promise so I freshened up a bit and headed downtown in the pouring rain.  That storm was one for the ages. 

I parked and hot-stepped it a block or two over to the wheel…aaannnd it was a different bartender.  I told him the story and he said “Oh hey, that was probably my brother.  You said he was interested in programming?”  He was, we’d talked about tutorial resources.

I’m there for 15 minutes, a guy stands behind my left side, leaning forward to look in to the little cigar case behind the bar.  He’s 6’4” or so, hair slicked back, relatively lean.

“Yo, can I get a cigah?” I hear.  Perfect Brooklyn accent.

I turned and looked at him and just dialed it way the fuck up.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”


“I just…I mean today…drove 16 hours to get the fuck away from New York. I sit down here for ten minutes and what the fuck? Some guy from the fucking neighborhood just appears at my side.  What the fuck?”

“The neighborhood?  What fucking neighborhood?” He challenged.

“Avenue U and Ocean Parkway.”

“NO SHIT! HEY YO TONY!” He shouted down the bar.



The bartender’s looking at me funny.  I switched to Brooklynese on a dime, hands flying with every F-bomb.

Over walks Tony.  Tony is 5’4” high and round.  Bald and waddling, right out of central casting.  


“This guy’s from the fuckin’ neighborhood?”

“Bullshit. What neighborhood?”

“I lived across the street from Carlo Gambino when I was a kid.”

“Oh no SHIT? Dafuq you doin’ down here?”

“Got the fuck out man.  Drove down from New York today.”

“Holy shit. You’re fuckin’ kiddin’.”

“Nope.  Been on the road since about 3-4 this morning.  I’m whipped but I promised I’d come in here for one the day I arrived.”

“Dude that’s fucking awesome.”

We shared a couple drinks. I don’t remember if I bought them or not.  But I like to think I did. 

I went back to the hotel and passed the fuck OUT.

It was almost exactly two months before I got a job.  I took the offer letter downtown to shop for an apartment.  I remembered the “Coming soon” sign and used the force to find my way back there. 

Sure as shit the sign was still there, but there were signs of active construction.  Across the street was an apartment building.

Well, wouldn’t that just be the shit?

I rang the bell and was buzzed in.  I talked to a lovely rental agent named Jordan, who showed me an apartment on the 18th floor, a balcony with an unobstructed view of west Nashville.  It was no Manhattan. But it was right in the thick of things while having the virtue of being a couple blocks off Broadway.

“Yep. I’ll take it.”

“Uhm…we need to do a credit check.”

“Sure sure. There won’t be any surprises.  I’ll write you a check right now if it’ll help move things along.”  It’s amazing how a bird in the hand will expedite otherwise intractable bureaucracy.

“When were you thinking of moving in?”

I pretended to look at my watch. 

“Okay we’ll get in touch when everything’s squared away.  But this weekend should be doable.”  It was Tuesday.  I could deal with a few more days in the roach motel.

So I moved in on Friday, December 11, 2015. 

Blend had the audacity to not open until February. 

I went in on their opening weekend.  There was a bartender, Hunter, who was exceptional at his craft and even better at pairing cigars and whiskey.  It got to the point where I didn’t know what I smoked or drank. I’d just go in and he’d grab a cigar or two and pour me something.  It was always perfect. 

I told him the whole Wheel story that weekend and he started laughing.  Like…really laughing.  Gut bust hilarity.  It was funny. But…it wasn’t THAT funny.

He noticed my confusion at one point and, after a moment’s thought, put it together.

“You don’t remember me at all do you?”

“Huh?  Jesus man I’m sorry. I like to think I’m pretty good with that sort of thing.”

“I was the bartender that night.  I watched that whole thing.  It was hilarious.”

“Shit man. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.”

“Well, the light is dim in both places and I cut my hair.”  AND he was wearing full sleeves. I’d identified him by his full sleeve tattoos.

So that was the beginning.  There’ve been buckets of adventures and misadventures since then. There are details I’ve skipped and things I’ve missed.  But I’ll get to those. 

Stories belong in their context, if not in their timeline.

There’ll be more soonish.  I just wanted to get all that out on the 5th anniversary of the move. 

9/16/2020 – Shipped

I feel like I need a fucking cigarette. I finally posted all of it. It’s all out there. The original, the edit, the epilogues, a couple posts intermingled with thoughts about it all. There will be more I’m positive, as I progress through what’s been left strewn about my mind from the process.

One thing I find funny is that I keep thinking about new details. I just added a couple paragraphs to the Epilogue-1 post.

But it’s shipped. As a high neurotic I’ve been hesitating on putting this all out there for damn near 20 fucking years (call it 18.)

I figure I’ll keep remembering things and adding to it a bit for the next couple months, eventually easing towards stability. Then, who knows. Maybe I’ll never look at it again. Maybe I’ll always twiddle it here and there. Don’t know. Don’t much care. It’s out.

It makes me want to reread Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art” which, if you’ve ever thought about creating anything (and why the fuck not if not?) is a truly great book.

In his parlance I’ve won the war with Resistance and Shipped It.

It’s on to the next thing.

Last night one of my favorite people showed up at Johnathan’s and we started ripping the world apart as the night drew on. Hell I’ve only been in a room with him 4 times and the first was very casual. But he’s one of those people you meet and instantly click with. He’s a deep thinker with something to say, however recalcitrant he is to get started.

And as always, when we got to talking, I learned a bunch both from him and from me hearing myself say things I didn’t know I knew. That’s a particularly counter intuitive phenomenon that I’m getting more and more at home with over time.

The trick now, as I see it, is finding occasions and people to work things out with like that. Yes it works very well even when I’m pacing around my home, talking to myself. But when I have someone else there who I can speak with on my level (fuck you, that’s pretty high) it takes on an amazing new level of personal enlightenment.

So finding the coterie is now the task. There’s him and a couple other people who I can add to the list. Not most of my friends, to be sure, love them as I do.

I come back again to the idea of a real Salon, a forum for chosen people to sit together and tear apart the world with each other. Not quite a Napoleon Hill “Mastermind Group” but something pretty close.

It’s not the kind of thing you can find from meetup.com. You have to dredge through acres and acres of normies and would-be intellectuals. They can rarely identify themselves, though sometimes I’ll sit there (at the bar) and someone will say “I wish I could just have a REAL conversation” which will mark them as a candidate.

IF, at that moment, I’m sitting there with another A-list human, we’ll look at each other knowingly (or not even, knowing we both heard it) and probe a bit, seeing if someone has the capability to be wrong without getting their ego in the way, someone who has the capacity and desire to dive into the unknown.

Everybody thinks they’re smart, and hell maybe a lot of people are, just failing to get out of their own way enough to actually fucking listen to…themselves or to others enough to be declared as interesting.

But I’ve written who knows how many thousands of words today and I’m done for now. These sessions are starting to blow by very quickly. Productivity is through the damned roof. But my fingers are in so many documents that I can’t even discern by how much.

Maybe this is what Thomas Bevan is talking about when he says to ignore the word count and focus instead on how long you’ve sat at work.

Enough for now though. It’s 4:45 and I’ve got a bar to go to for a few hours.


9/11: The Edit

I’ve wrestled with the idea of doing this for years.  But the fundamental truth of my 9/11 account is that it was a first pass “quick, get it all on paper before it leaves your head.  Come back to it later and edit it.”  Years later I can’t look at the thing without wincing.  So I decided to start undertaking the project of fleshing it out, seeing what was invoked by a good re-read.

As someone who’s narcissistic enough to enjoy chronicling my own life, I know now that I’m going to be adding to this.  Probably as a yearly ritual for a while.  There’s so much missing.  But at least now, the things that I DO cover, I’m at least marginally satisfied with.

It’s almost impossible to describe that sound. When you think of a crash, you think of a cacophony of shattering and twisting noises, the high pitched squeal of twisting metal. A noise that hearts your ears with it’s pitch. But when you’re in side one of the objects in the crash, the experience is much different, almost inverted in a way. There was a resounding crunch almost too deep to be heard. It reminded me very much of the sound of a car crash from within one of the cars. A much more rounded sound, a crumbling sound.

It was a deep feeling as well. I’ve never experienced anything close, much less equivalent. Most of that was likely due to the fact that I was on the 51st floor of the building. It was a few seconds before the “oh my god’s” started coming from all over the office.

At the time I thought it was a strangely strong lightning strike. As such I was excited, having a great fondness for a good electrical storm.

I looked up from my desk in time to see what appeared to be debris of some sort falling past the window. It was a sunny morning and the debris sparkled as it fell, like some Disney pixie dust.  It was among the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.  It just didn’t look like it could possibly be real, much less shards and dust of glass.

My next thought was that a helicopter must have hit the building a few floors up. That would at least account for the shake and the debris.

It was about then that a few people started running. Shouts of “everybody out” accompanied the stampede of employees. I noted in passing that our fire marshal bolted and was among the first out the door, running so fast he left a smoke trail. Well, so much for making sure everybody’s out.

I could smell the energy level rise, until the whole office seemed to buzz around me.  Some people were venturing over to my side of the floor (I sat in view of the North side) to look out the window at the falling debris, still not sure anything serious was wrong.  There’s something that happens when you get into a fight and they’ve actually made a good enough movie effect of it that I can relate it here.  Adrenaline rockets up and everything around you slows down, the sound dies down a bit as you come into a hyper clear focus but you feel almost calm relative to the situation.

I stood up and looked around. I had started to walk out, but hadn’t gotten all the way out of my “cube” before I thought to pack my backpack. it seemed unlikely that we were really going to evacuate, and if we did, we’d get about halfway down before they told us everything was secure, and to return to work.  But in the event that we didn’t get back in the building that day, I wanted my bag with me. So for about 2 or 3 minutes while everyone ran around like ants on fire I packed my notebook, the “peerless” cartridge (a 20g usb drive) and a couple books.

I started walking towards the back door and ran into Henry (among the few people who had their wits about them) on the way out, confirming that everybody else had already gotten out safely.  He said in passing that the computer room was smoking.  I paused and sniffed the air and, sure enough, caught a whiff of that telltale acrid smell that anyone who’s ever handled a soldering iron is familiar with.

I watched Dana’s telltale red hair fly by as she made for the exit.

So I had my bag and my jacket on, and I made my way to the stairs. People were milling about in strange indecision, arguing about fire drill protocol, waiting for the red phone to ring.  There was some light smoke in the hall.  Someone raised the question of whether to take the elevators or stairs.  We opted for the stairs.

I paused for a moment realizing I had to go to the bathroom, but for some reason thought better of it. In retrospect, a notion that evokes no small amount of laughter.

The stairwell was pleasant insofar as such things can be. People were pretty shaken. Clearly everyone’s neurons had all fired at the same moment and there was a bit of edginess about the whole affair in the beginning. But there was more nervous laughter than anything.

One of the reasons I live in New York City is for the people. This is a statement that evokes all manner of oxymoron jokes from the ministries of jokes and humor throughout the world which is only because they don’t know any better. I don’t mean that New Yorkers are such warm, welcoming, hospitable people in a day to day sense. But New Yorkers really just have a remarkably low tolerance for bullshit and when there’s a panic situation, the amount of panic is pretty much limited to the bridge and tunnel people. No offense, but when there’s an emergency in New York, stay the hell in Bayonne or Scarsdale.

We were descending at a decent pace, when a man to the left of me lost his footing. One of a pair of early 40s rotund latin women screamed at the top of her lungs, discharging some of their pent up stress. An assault on the senses I found it hard to forgive at the moment. Aside from that things were pretty quiet. The gentleman, who was clearly caught in an emotional state with which I am not particularly familiar by the look on his face and the strange paralysis that seemed to overtaken him, was caught before he hit the deck by several people, strangely unable to move his own legs enough to stand up again for an eternity of seconds. Such was the spirit of the descent.

The conversation was harsh with a strange feigned casualness.  We talked about cell phone reception being dead in the collar of the stairwell, the likelihood of the building falling (waved off wholesale as ridiculous.)  The 1993 bombing veterans were remarking about how much things had improved in eight years; sand paint, emergency lighting, reflective surfaces, etc.  I can’t even imagine the carnage if those measures hadn’t been taken.

As we descended fashion fell prey to pragmatism as women’s shoes began to litter the stairs.  The farther down we walked, the more there were.  The resulting spectacle on the lower floors was really like something out of the twilight zone; random odd shoes all over the place.  It was as much of a non sequitur to see as it is to read here.

It was about then that I first had the thought. “What if the fire is in the stairwell 20 floors down and there’s no way out?” It was a kind of understanding that caused me to become more calm. No, calm isn’t the right work. I was anything but calm. It just wasn’t being expressed by sweating and having that strange “I’m about to burst into panicked tears” facial expression that seemed to rule the day. I wasn’t spending alot of energy trying to reassure people so as to reassure myself. I was just being an observer, more and more detached form the reality of what was taking place as I descended each step. I could feel myself getting farther away with each new detail. It was as though the heat of my own fear drove me out of my body.

It was a good 10 or 15 floors before we started hearing “Get to the right!” from several floors above or below us. In the beginning this evoked a modest effort to scrunch along the walls as extremely distressed people came down with a clear-headed escort, or firemen went up, overloaded with gear (including 1 or 2 compressed air tanks, 6? polearms, a vast length of hose and sometimes drinking water, to say nothing of their suits) would come up, sweat poured off them like a bad special effect.

People were quiet, just watching the express lane when it was called for. There was a strange solemnity in watching them.  I’d be lying if I said “foreboding” because that would imply we had any idea what was going to happen.  The only thing we knew was that we were part of “the masses” and that perhaps this wasn’t a particularly ordinary circumstance.

By the 34th floor my bladder was beginning to govern my mind (having descended from 51 in an amount of time I have no ability to calculate or rederive) I needed a solution. So I opened the door and walked out into the hall. The smoke was fairly thick, which I didn’t understand. I thought I had seen forms moving behind one of the glass doors, so I went inside the office and talked to a couple people.

There were a half-dozen people who were just standing around waiting for the staircase to clear before beginning their descent (a phenomenon I noticed at many more ‘poke my head in’ moments on the way down.) Among them were a couple veterans of the ‘93 bombing who “weren’t going to die by being trampled to death.”

A kid (about 25) dressed in 1985 conservative garb was on the phone trying to figure out and report (rather clinically) what had happened. A request for directions to the bathroom resulted in my worst fears realized. They were locked on all floors, and nobody around had the key (these were apparently all squatters from higher up.) So I went back to the stairs.

Strangely, when I got there, nobody had moved. Henry said “Yo, you missed it. Some wounded came down.” This didn’t have the air of rubbernecking excitement that putting it on paper might imply. It was a simple fact. Someone standing next to me leaned in and near-whispered “yeah, it was pretty bad, a bunch of people had to turn away.” I could only imagine what that meant. It occurred to me that those could only have been the wounded that were still able to walk down the stairs.

From then on, when someone shouted “Get to the right” we hustled and found room for people to pass.

It was about the early 30s where the smell of smoke began to get dense. People were looking down the stairwell trying to figure out how bad it was going to get, and would we have to get off and wait in one of the offices until things had cleared.  No, it was better to just go down through it. After all, the firemen were coming up, which is eventually what reassured us. They told us to keep going, that the air would only get worse for a couple more floors then start to clean up.

We caught some word from firemen that a plane had hit the building. I could imagine that being an accident, but it didn’t seem too likely. It wasn’t long after we started getting news that we got the telling piece of information. It wasn’t one plane, it was two. One hitting each tower. For some reason I don’t quite understand, most people didn’t seem to do the math and repeatedly declared how strange a coincidence that was.

I have to imagine that I felt and heard the second strike, but I just don’t remember, or can’t place the time closely enough to explore my surrounding memories for some telltale sign. Maybe the buildings were just that well insulated.

Perhaps it’s the cynic’s lot to accept such truths more readily than normal people. The couple people who seemed on the ball enough to handle the news (and close enough to me that I wouldn’t have to shout it) and I spoke a bit about how it could only have been a terrorist attack. They would shake off my hypothesis (or rather, the effect of hearing it) with a resigned “yeah, you’re right.”

But still, through all of this weirdness, no panicking. Only the rivers of sweating faces of the overloaded firemen and people in other more official uniforms I didn’t quite recognize coming up. The civil, if terrified, people going down.

Now, down below the 30th floor, the firemen were in the individual floors with their pokes, prying apart vending machines to get at something to drink. There were also firemen who’d started dropping their water bottles on the way up the stairs because they were just too damn heavy. Promptly someone would pick them up and offer drinks to the ones coming up behind them until the bottle was empty or accepted in it’s entirety.

My heart began to sink and I became heavy with guilt as the “rescue workers” (as is now apparently the polite euphemism) went up the stairs to do whatever they possibly could. Not knowing what that even might be. A part of me, a big part of me, wishes I could remember more if not all of those faces. I didn’t know it at the time; that they were climbing to their deaths. It was a couple days before I had another thought about that… That they may have known full well.

See, I’ve waited too long to pen this account. But it is only now I can keep my head clear and eyes dry enough to get a significant amount of words out on paper.

In the mid-20s, the flow of firemen became fairly consistent. People stayed to the outside edge of the stairwell by default now as best they could. Descent was extremely slow, taking a couple minutes at each floor. It was here I believe a number of people switched to other, reportedly less crowded stairwells. I didn’t find the going quite that slow, and frankly I wasn’t that bothered.

On 22 was where they were all congregating. They were stopping on the way up for a breather, and going up in shifts of 8 or 10. All of them had radios and they were referring to each other by what company they came from. It did me some good to see them resting. They were human after all, and after what I’d seen already, I had been beginning to wonder.

Things began to speed up dramatically down in the low teens. People’s spirits were lifting as the line was getting faster and the air clearer. More frequently though, the floor in the stairwells would be wet. After all, it was almost over.  But the lower we got, the more water came out from under the doors to each successive floor resulting in quite a deluge.  A couple teeny asian girls had trouble standing and were carried some bit of the way down.  A strange site.

By the time we got down to the 6th floor, the water was coming off the floors themselves, pouring out from under the doors and down the steps. This was causing a fair bit of excitement. People began to try and make time getting down as quick as they could, sacrificing basic safety rather readily. By the 3rd floor it was difficult to walk. But you could hear the police at the bottom telling people to move on.  The fact that the trudge downstairs was ending and the tenor of the cops added a bit of a panicked edge to the mood.

It wasn’t until I got out the door at the bottom of the stairwell, nearly pushed by the police, while they were looking at nobody in particular, yelling to keep moving, run, get away from the building. But the stairwell exits into the bottom of the building which is at least 2 floors underground.

I walked out the door into the lobby and saw some destruction for the first time.

The marble facades on the walls (the 3 or 4 story high walls) had come down in several places, leaving debris scattered everywhere. The turnstiles were battered to bits, presumably by the firemen who had larger things to get upstairs than just themselves. The floor was covered in 3 foot high piles of marble and plaster. They had dug a trail from the doorway out through to the mall entrance.

Everything I remember from those few minutes is white and gray. The color of concrete.  How I wish I’d taken a few more seconds to soak in that scene.  But the police were doing their jobs well, keeping us moving.

As we single-filed out of the stairwell, people were bewildered. There was destruction, the first signs of it with plaster and marble covering the floor in 3 foot deep piles that had been quickly shuttled around to clear some relatively safe pathways out to the mall. They stopped, looking to the police and FBI for some kind of information. But there was only one thing they would get:

“Keep moving. Do not stop to talk on your cell phone. Walk this way out to the mall. Move as fast as you can. Get away from the building.”

“But what’s goin’…”

“Keep moving. Less talking more walking. Let’s go. Let’s go.”  They wouldn’t make eye contact.  They wouldn’t address you or answer a question.  Just the same speech.

There seemed to be hundreds of cops and FBI agents around, all saying the same thing; herding us into the mall, down a specific path. Positively herding us.  It made my blood boil at the time.  I just wanted more information, to understand what the hell was going on.

“Run as fast as you can, get away from the building.” They were programmed to not interact with us in any way, not to say anything that would cause us to stop and try and talk, just to get us out the door.

The sprinkler systems in the mall were going full blast and the floor is a glossy tile. The LAST thing a thinking person would do is run across that floor while it’s covered in an inch of water. In retrospect, yeah, I probably could have trotted a bit.

We were herded around a couple corners to an escalator exit that came up in front of Borders. By the time we got there the sprinklers had been shut off. Not that it mattered much, my hair, clothes and backpack were soaked to the bone.

We got up the stairs and it was more of the same…

“Keep moving. Run! Run away from the building as far as you can get.”

“How many blocks?”

“Just keep going.”

“But how far?”

“As far as you can get.”

“Which direction?”

“Any direction, just go!”

This was representative of the conversations I heard between people just trying to understand their plight and those who were expected to know more than us.  In retrospect, it was genius.  Call attention to nothing, don’t engage anyone, just keep them moving.  It’s the only thing that could have worked to get people out of there.

So we walked. Some trotted, but not too many. We were out of the building, what could possibly have been the need? More debris maybe. But they were being a bit melodramatic about that if that was the reason. It occurred to me finally that I wasn’t even half way up to start with. If they were evacuating the whole building then just to have the crowd there would be dangerous, so of course they would want us “as far away as possible.”  It kept the density of people thin.

Satisfied with my own explanation I walked off in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Worse comes to worse, I’ll just walk home that way and figure out what’s going on later.

I remember my route fairly precisely. I could rewalk it in a heartbeat if it were there anymore. Unfortunately I don’t think I ever knew the street names so it would be of no use to anybody.  I walked diagonally across the street in front of Borders off to the left and passed in front of Staples, still amazed at the police presence.  It wasn’t until I was in front of J&R Computer World that I turned around and saw what had become of WTC-2.

I could see the flames. From what amounted to 6 blocks away from the building and 60 floors down I could see the flames.  The closest thing to a clear thought I had was the strange realization that hollywood would be getting burning building special effects down much better with the footage they’d no doubt scrounge from this.  Other than that my mind was as empty of thought as it has ever been. I had absolutely no reaction. For seconds I watched it burn, thoughts slowly returning as I remembered those guys from the 34th floor “I’m not going to die by getting trampled to death.” Was the most coherent thing I remembered. No sir. I’m deeply sorry to say, you weren’t.

I returned to my exodus with hundreds of people on the street. Slowly people began to realize what was going on as they turned around for the first time and looked at what I had just seen, and screamed. People stopped to take pictures. Occasionally I had the presence of mind to scream at them “Are you fucking stupid !?!”

I heard the source of a noise in my stomach and bones. It was a sound of cosmic import. I turned around a bit quizzical. I watched as each successive floor blew out with flames, then smoke. The sound would have been deafening but it was almost too low to even hear. My feet heard it, my stomach and bones heard it, and my spirit was fractured by it. In a steady meter, obscuring the floors above them in smoke that rose to the top of the building (and above) each floor exploded, pausing only a fragment of a second before the one below erupted, obscuring the next floor up in it’s entirety. I couldn’t help but think of it as the perfect movie effect.

I trotted a bit, sprinted for a little while, but not very long, then went back to a fast walk as the screaming people came on. Frankly I was far more afraid of them than anything else, so my speed was intended to match theirs so I could ‘bodysurf the crowd’ rather than getting trampled by a bunch of panicking morons.

I turned around to see which way I would be most likely to dodge them when I saw the cloud of smoke and ash beginning to snake it’s way between the buildings. It didn’t look like a cloud of ash, but more like an animator had been slowly erasing the background of his entire cartoon world.  It took a good 10 seconds to register, then I did some very quick math and started tearing off in more or less the direction of the bridge, having come to a frightening conclusion.  That thing was moving really fast.  There’s no way I could outrun it.

I noticed as I ran that it was getting quiet behind me. There weren’t any screams. but it wasn’t a “clear” sensation. It was a great thing, a monster that swallowed screams and the people who made them, swallow them whole. And it was going to get me, strangle me, and kill me.

My shoes started looking a little grey as strange particles of ash blew forward between my feet. I turned around to look and there was nothing. Just grey. By the time I turned back around to face forward the rest of the world had disappeared.


Complete and perfect.


I couldn’t hear myself breathe. I couldn’t feel the air entering my lungs. I couldn’t see my own feet. I looked down at my clothes, and could only make out the barest outline of myself, if that was even him. There was no sound, there were no people. There was no Brooklyn Bridge to run to. There was no East River to get to where the cloud would have dispersed. There was no City Hall, no fountain, no J&R. There were no cop cars. There were no camera wielding fools. There were no cops or FBI agents, no matter how well armed. 500 panicking screaming people within 100 yards of me were gone.

Just like me.

There was no lower Manhattan, no new York City, no United States, no North America, no earth, Solar system. No milky way galaxy. No universe. No black, no white. No hope, no light. No love, no life.


Nothing but grey.

Nothing but fear.

Nothing but death.

And me.
Alone. Again. Still. After everything in my life. To die,

Fuck you too.

Huge deep panic breaths. Every breath I take is killing me; reducing my lung capacity as I inhaled more of that crap.  Put your shirt over your mouth. “But I can’t see.” Just walk.

I had been untethered from everything. All I wanted was something to put my feet onto that could move, something to grab on to that was made of steel.

There was someone else moving out there, in the infinity of 10 feet away. I got to him and put my hand on his back. We walked for a while and got separated. It must have been a hallucination.

I found a wall and followed it with one hand. but I didn’t know where it led so I moved away from it and walked out into the street. But I don’t know which one.

This shirt (over my face) is doing me no good.

I couldn’t see anything. I felt my lungs filling up with this crap. How much would it take to kill me? Before my lung capacity was reduced to the point of suffocation?

I saw the lights of a cop car and approached it. I looked at the driver’s side window, but couldn’t see in. Cops were doing important things. I wasn’t important enough to bother them. Besides, all that ash would just get in their car.

A fence… I didn’t know any fences around there. I must not’ve been there. Which way then?

Another form, moving quickly.

A cop hat.

He sees me.

“Give me your hand. We’re going to run.”

I may have said something about not wanting to

He didn’t wear a mask. But I think he had glasses. Shorter than me by about 5 inches, with a grip I was thankful for.

We ran.

“You’re going to see a triangle of light in the upper left side of your vision. When you do, keep running to that.” What the hell did that mean?

It wasn’t long. I could see it. We were running under something. The Bridge! It was the overpass to the bridge.

“I see it.”

He ran with me for another second.

“It’s clear there.”

“I’m not going to die. I’m good. I’m ok.” I was reassuring him (or was it me) and letting him know that he could let go and get back to whatever important stuff he had been doing before getting sidetracked by running into me.

He was gone. But I was here, and there was color and people and New York City. Damn I love New York.

I came out on the “wrong” side of the street. Out from under an overpass I didn’t recognize (until going back to retrace my steps.) There was an FBI agent armed with a combat shotgun and a vest. “You’re on the wrong side of the street. You need to be over there.”

“Dude after what I just came out of, I’ll go wherever the hell you tell me as long as it’s not back that way. Damn, he couldn’t even smile.  It took a bit to register that the cop car I’d seen earlier could come through there and cream me.  Hell of a way to go after all that.

My thought seems to be tightly tied to my ability to see, because as the detail of the world emerged from the cloud, my brain popped the clutch and lit up the tires of my mind.

I vaulted over the guardrail to get on to the right side of the street and started walking. I am I and I had deep purpose. There were things that needed to be done now. Between steps I could summon up as much spit as I could to get the grit, gravel, dust, and ash out of my mouth and throat.

My teeth crunched and I spit continuously for the next 10 minutes.

I walked north. Everybody walked north. It was only a block or two before there weren’t very many people covered in ash the way I was. As I approached Canal street, people started looking at me funny.  I stood for a moment on some median near the Manhattan Bridge, I think. It might not have been that far up.

The moment I stood still people started feeling guilty about being overcome by their urge to crowd. there were a couple guys begin worn by “nice” suits (read: expensive as they were boring.) I think one had a yellow tie and a beeper. he started talking about having been down on wall street when they evacuated. He looked like he had just stepped out of the shower, talking to me about a harrowing experience.

“Where were you when the building came down?”


“You know, when it fell.”

“WHAT!?! It didn’t occur to me that I hadn’t turned around. I did. There was only one tower. “IT’S FUCKING GONE?”

“Yeah man.”

It took me a minute to rejoin the conversation. There were only the two of us talking before. He didn’t seem to need my attention. But I snapped back, having replayed from the beginning.

“Look at me, where the hell do you think I was? Just below city hall, in front of J&R. I’d just gotten out of the building.”


“No, the one that’s still there.” Because at the moment, it was.

A couple asian people asked what questions they could with the English they knew. Frankly I don’t remember them. I was happy to stand there and answer people for a while though. Something in me understands the need of people to have a first hand account. After all, you’re reading this, aren’t you.

In my left periphery I saw a short hispanic man kneeling with a disposable camera tilted on it’s end trying to get a discrete picture, as if somehow I was too big to get into frame otherwise. He saw me notice him and was overcome with shame, his head sunk and his shoulders closed around it. As he started to turn around, his head slung between his shoulders, I smiled and waved him forward.

He lit up, giddy at the opportunity he took the picture, paused a second, then handed his camera to a friend, came over and put his arm around me. We smiled as he took the shot. Then they switched places. I just laughed, really hard. Dust billowing from my lungs. “Come to New York, see a real-live terrorist attack! Get your very own picture taken with a real-live victim.” What I wouldn’t give for a copy of those pictures.

Eventually I said my polite good days and started walking North. On a lark I dug out my cell phone. It was working but all the lines were busy. Liz was clearly the person to call. This classified as “emergency” status. They’d all wonder where I was, if I was alive, and where I’d go. If they’d bothered to trust their instincts they’d know the answers to all those questions, but I’m not here to bore you with my cosmology. Failing that though, I’d call Liz and she’d get the word out. I’d have called Laura just as readily had I known where she was.

In those first 20 minutes, when people were still finishing up their first couple breaths, you could see the fraternity of New York City already in full tilt. Like I said, New Yorkers’ distinguishing characteristic is that they’ve no patience for bullshit. And there was no bullshit in the way here. Something larger than us had happened, and it had given us purpose. It’s a sense of purpose whose flare will die down, but will be integrated forever into The City, forging us all a bit closer together. You could smell the difference.

People had woken up.

Someone once posed the question “How do you wake a person who’s dreaming they’re awake?” I know the answer now. You crack the walls of their dream reality with something they have no choice but to handle, and no basis or tools for handling it.

So many conversations erupted spontaneously in those next few blocks. Busses filled to capacity and beyond were picking up whoever they could, then just heading North to whatever destination they could reach. People in cars were picking up anybody who caught their attention.

I’ve met people I would like to have kept in touch with. Other alumni of the event. I wish I remembered them. But I don’t.

“Well, they started evacuating tower 2 as soon as the plane hit tower 1, which was a 20 minute time difference. It’s just chaotic down here. I wouldn’t worry too much.” In the immortal words of Edward Norton “I’d like to thank the academy.” There was no way I was going to tell this poor guy that no, I think everybody he worked with was just blasted off the face of the Earth.

People on the sidewalk were crowded around parked cars with their doors open or huddled around store window televisions like in the movies, listening to the breaking news on whatever would play it.

I had given up on putting my cell phone back in my bag after every attempt, and just kept hitting redial hoping that at some point I’d get in a window and get through to Liz’s work number. She’d deal with the rest of the calls. It occurred to me that I was walking there as well. She works on 44th street, around the corner from Grand Central Station. It was an easy 3-4 miles away. It was just the easiest place to know to get to. My father works in the Empire State building, but you couldn’t get me near there with a cattle prod and duct tape.  Besides, he was in Colorado on vacation.

After some length, but still south enough that the streets had names, not numbers, there was someone standing on the sidewalk nearly shouting “Does anyone need anything?” It was a fairly peculiar site. He was standing underneath some scaffolding in front of a large pair of open doors in a stone building that looked like an old carriage house, scanning the crowd for something. Then he caught sight of me. “Excuse me… do you need something? Men’s room? Some water?”

“No, I’m good man, thanks. Wait, you know, I’ve had to go to the bathroom since I was on the 51st floor of that building.” I knew something mundane was bothering me but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I probably would have gotten all the way uptown before realizing it.

“Right through here sir.”

There was a woman in the men’s room since the ladies room was out of order, so a couple of us waited outside. As I did so I took a bit of a better look around where I was. The people were predominately black, with a couple exceptions. Several of them were missing teeth. They weren’t dressed very well and they all had the same look in their eyes as they watched the exodus from lower Manhattan. It was pure sorrow and compassion. They looked to me and nodded, asked how I was. I imagine it was a look they’ve seen at least as often as worn.

Unfortunately (perhaps) there was no mirror in the bathroom, but the relief was an ecstasy without words. I stepped outside and started talking to a couple guys standing there watching all this goin on shaking their heads. One white guy, a big “biker stereotype” looking fellow and an older less-descript black guy. they were standing there smoking some thin chestnut colored cigarettes I see now and again. I talked with them for a good 15 minutes about who knows what.

Finally I started North again, but paused.

“Hey, where am I anyway?”

“You’re on Bowery.” There’s one in every bunch, usually it’s me.

“No no, this place. What is it?”

“Oh, this is the Bowery Street Mission.”

“Ok, thanks a bunch.”

Of course it was. What the hell else could it have been. A place where people come to blame their impulse to do good on God. Hey, whatever works. It’s the doing that matters, and these people were doing it. I wasn’t.

I couldn’t help but think, as I looked around at the people there and thought about them later, that these are people who have had struggle in their life. I understand that everybody’s pain is based on their own experience and position in life and that it’s not possible to compare. But these people were working on the border of living and surviving. I’m not. I know where my next meal is coming from. If I was particularly worried about it I could probably buy all my meals for the next year tomorrow just to be safe.

Here were people who dedicated some significant portion of themselves to helping others keep their heads above water (or on the wagon as the case may be.) I was diddling with computers at a bond market company. You can argue that my job helps the economy and therefore benefits everybody. But it would be pretty damn thin and I wouldn’t take you very seriously.

I have some idea of my potential as a human. It’s one of those very very few things I believe that sets me apart from most other people. Not that I’m capable of anything more than anyone else, but that I have some visceral idea of the limitlessness of that potential. And there are people in the world that need help. And yes, it IS my responsibility to help them.

Enough of that for now.

I wasn’t half a block away from the mission before I heard it. My body recognized the sound, but my brain didn’t. I looked forward to see people shouting and pointing in a fairly predictable direction. I turned around but couldn’t see anything so I ran up the block to where everybody was standing and turned around again. I still couldn’t see anything. It didn’t occur to me why.

“What happened?”

“The second tower just came down.”


Again my mind was wiped completely clean. The destruction was complete. People talked and guessed about how many floors were still standing but that didn’t seem to make much sense.

I understand something now, about my reaction to those events. I wasn’t emotionless. I was experience a level of emotion that could not even be fractionally expressed. The reason to express emotion is to get it out of your head and make it a part of the world.  Sometimes that includes removing yourself from it. There were simply not enough tears for crying, nor enough wind for screaming that could possibly express the weight of those buildings coming down on my heart. The attempt would be nearly insulting and would achieve nothing.

With new resolve I walked North.

People kept what they thought was a “safe” distance from me. I must’ve been quite a sight.

I was in the mid 30s when a very well dressed Chinese gentleman approached me and my fly-by-night coterie (my clothes, hair, skin, and backpack white with ash after having been through the sprinklers, then the cloud, gave me away.) He was wearing a white suit, suspenders and a bow tie. He held out his business card towards me with a shaking hand. “I…I…Iwwwas llllate.” He stuttered. “I worked on the 82nd floor of building 2. Are any of the people I worked with alive?” Somewhere in there he said that he wasn’t sure he was making himself clear, so that’s why he was holding out his card.

The rest of the trip to 44th street is a bit of a blur. Probably because it was largely uneventful. I walked with a strangely refreshing singularity of purpose; something that, with a massive case of ADD, I don’t get the chance to enjoy very often.

By the time I arrived, more or less, I had been able to leave a message that I truly enjoyed: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Yes I really said that. In fact, I left that message on 4 answering machines that day. Life is not worth living if not for the sake of humor. And nothing is quite as funny as humor borne of hardship.

I saw Grand Central approaching a block or so away, and all of a sudden I was stopped. Wait, where exactly DID Liz work? I knew it was around there somewhere. So I started weaving between blocks in the low 40s slightly east of Grand Central, to no avail.

For the first time. I decided to sit my ass down. So I chose a nice marble building and backed myself up against it and plopped down on the sidewalk. It occurred to me that I must have looked like a really nasty homeless person with an attitude. That was followed almost immediately with the strange thought that it might not have been a terribly inaccurate comparison.

Sitting down wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and I had a funny feeling that I was the punch line in one of the universe’s simple little amusements. Besides, I was far too high strung to stay in one place for too long. I stood up and turned around to look at the building I was sitting against.

Yep, this was it. Again I reinforced my image as a crazy person, laughing in this state. While people were on ‘smoke break’ out front of the building.

I walked in the building, quite purposefully, and walked right past the guard.

“Uhm… Excuse me.”

I hit the elevator call button and one opened almost immediately as the guard rounded the corner.

“Excuse me! Sir?”

I walked in and hit #4. The doors closed.

Yeah, you’re excused.


I left the elevator and knocked on the glass door to my sister’s place of employment, making great ash smudges that pigpen would have envied.

Poor Ruth, the receptionist. I knew her from nights out with Liz and her posse from work. She looked at me like I was her personal Jacob Marley. It took a couple seconds to realize she need to buzz me in.

“Uhhh… Uhmm.”

“Hi I’m here to see Liz Wilson?” An attempt at disaster humor that was completely lost on poor Ruth.

“She’s not here. Laura came and got her and they went to her apartment… Uhh… Liz’s that is… thinking that you’d go there.”

Great. Liz lived on east 6th street. Almost all the way back.

“Well, what the hell would she think that for?” A rhetorical question. I really didn’t want to walk downtown 2 miles, especially not against the tide of crazed desperate New Yorkers, however tightly bonded they were.

Christie, another friend of Liz’s came in about then and “oh my god”ed up a storm. So I started with the “yeah, I was in there.” and went through the highlights. Ruth had been on the phone. She started relating what I was saying, but then resigned herself to just holding the phone out what I talked. It was a pretty strange scene as people came in and out past me wondering who I was.

Yep. Back South. It was a much quicker walk down to East 6th street. I went east a couple blocks to get away from the madness, but it was still like trying to iceskate uphill.

There’s a little strip-mall looking arrangement in the low 30s down on 2nd avenue or so. They have a bunch of cafe’ tables out. But the whole thing is pretty contrived in a Murray Hill kind of way. I became quite the attraction as I walked through there.

I don’t remember what got me stopped to talk, but there were a few separate groups there. One girl asked me about people she knew in the high 90s. This was beginning to get old and somewhere down in there I cracked…

“Wanna know what I think? I was on the 51st floor of building 1 and I damn near didn’t get out.” She handled it pretty well. they must not have been great friends. Besides, what was I going to say: “I think your friend have been liquefied?”

Another girl approached me in almost the same spot ( probably just waiting until I was done with the first one) and started talking about how how she’s spent almost 10 years setting up this deal where she’d be working with some company (I think she mentioned a phone company, but I can’t be sure) and she finally got the deal, started working in WTC the day before and moved into an apartment 2 blocks from there 3 days earlier. She wanted to know if she had an apartment.

I felt really bad for her. She ventured a bunch to come out here from some middle America suburb state to try and make it happen in the big city. She didn’t know anybody out here. But I was just not clear enough in my head. I didn’t know what to tell her, other than I didn’t know what to tell her. Frankly I should have taken her with me. It was the only right thing to do. But I didn’t. I kept walking.

I was beginning to get a blister on my thumb from hitting redial. But the phone did something strange this time, on about 31st street, it rang. I held it up to my head and Liz answered her apartment phone.

“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” No WAY I was going to waste an opportunity like that.

All I really remember was a whole lot of incoherent excitement and sniffly babbling.

“I’m coming there. I’m on 31st street. I’ll be there when I get there. It won’t be real soon.”

“Uhm… Uh… Ok… Uhm.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty happy I’m alive too. I’ll see you in a few.”

There were some cracks in the cell phone blackout and I was able to leave “Reports of my death” messages on several machines.  My father scolded me much later, saying “I know you think that’s funny…”  Sorry Dad.  I’m allowed to think that’s funny.

I eventually got there of course. It was about an hour later, factoring in all the mini encounters and conversations I had on the way down.

I stopped at the corner deli and bought a 2 liter bottle of regular coke, a half pound of salted cashews and some other yummy stuff.

She buzzed me in and I started climbing the stairs. I really learned to hate stairs that day. When I got to the 3rd floor I could hear Laura out in the hall. I started thinking about what they must be doing and had a uniquely sharp thought.

“The television MUST be off before I get there.” My message was relayed and the telltale sound of “dramatic news background music” died. I didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with the news yet.

Now this is where I’d put some emotional scene about the cosmic relief of being together with my sisters. I’m sure it happened pretty much that way. But frankly, I don’t remember anything like that. My memory skips forward to sitting on my ass on Liz’s floor so I wouldn’t shit up her couch and taking off my shirt and backpack, then plumpfing down in a newly formed cloud that would make pigpen green with envy.

Liz, Laura, and Dan were sitting around wondering what the hell to say. they were doing an honorable job at trying not to stare. But frankly, nothing would have bothered me less.

I have to say it all peters off a bit here.  I sat on the roof and watched the burning rubble, a couple miles south, for a long time while they whispered downstairs, wondering about my mental state.

We ate chinese food and I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor, being watched.  Laura headed out and bought me a pair of jeans and a shirt.  I gummed up Liz’s shower with dust and grime, the contents of which make me shudder still.  At about 2 in the morning I walked home over the Manhattan Bridge.

I did still have an internet connection and I signed on to ICQ/AIM/YIM.  I spent a couple hours going back and forth with people about what had happened.  I tracked down a couple relatives and friends for people who couldn’t get in touch.  It was really something.

Eventually I passed out.

And it was days before I ventured in to Manhattan again.  I walked in and headed to 8th street to have some lunch at Johnny Rockets.  I know, not impeccable fare.  But as a “taste of America” you can’t beat a place that serves vanilla coke, egg creams, and diner food.  It was exactly what I needed and wanted.  I felt like a blood cell in the organism of my city, and the best thing I could do was get back up to speed quickly.

It was weeks before I went back to work (a sanctioned leave frankly.)

But that’s another story.

9/11: The Index

Last Edit: 9/16/2020

Okay, so here it is.  This is the index of the final 9/11 posts.  The original account as I published it in 2003, a couple “epilogue/prologue” posts I made a year or two after the fact, so named because I thought of them as at least as much of a beginning of a new life as they were an epilogue to the original 9/11 account.  Finally I’ve added the final edit of the original account.  A lot of people flinched somewhat badly at the notion that I needed to edit the original. So I’ve included both versions.

I found, when editing it, that the abject pathos I ended it with was unbearable. While it DID reflect my state of mind about the whole thing, it doesn’t any more. So it was a struggle to know what to change and what to leave. So while the “Final” version is subject to more edits, I won’t change the original.

I find it strange, somehow, that these get the traction that they do. But they do and I am, however slowly, coming to terms with all of that.  It reminds me of the original blog back in the day, how it was the day-to-day posts that people were the most interested in, rather than the things that were specific pieces of writing that were arguably “written for others” rather than being an “inside of history” look at my life. 

AS time goes forward I may add to this list of links. Re-editing and writing these posts over the last few days has really brought some things forward in my mind and I’m gonna have some…thoughts.

So here.  I’ll cut the fucking foreplay here and just post the links. 

– The original account

Cigargoyle’s live stream of the original account, broadcast 9/9/20

Epilogue/Prologue #1

Epilogue/Prologue #2

Epilogue/Prologue #3

Notes on the editing process and thoughts from September 2020

The original account, edited

9/16/20 – Smoking at Smokey

I’ve been on a roll, so I hitched up the horse and buggy and headed in to town at about noon.  I needed to hit walmars for a bunch of cheap usb sticks, a hub, and some diet soda for the session.  But then came right over to the cigar lounge, where I half dreaded the idea of a fulfilled promise of someone who said they’d meet me there, not taking the hint when I kept repeating that I come here to write and work, not to hang out.

I set my bag down to claim the high-top in the back room, hit the head, and went in to the humidor.  After some deliberation I picked up 2 fuentes, 2 tatuajes and an avo I’d never smoked and brought them up to the counter where the other guy, a late 20 something whose name I’d never caught, was working at a shipment of something I couldn’t quite see.

I put my cigars down and he didn’t look up. I was wondering if he’d not noticed me, which…doesn’t make a lot of sense.  I take up a lot of room, physically and otherwise.

“Hey man, how’s it going?”  Nothing for a second.

“Can I ask you a question real quick?” He asked with more of a drawl than most people have down here.

“Sure, sup?”

“Why are you always so punctual?”  Punctual?


“Yeah I been meaning to ask you for a hot minute.”  He glanced up.

“Am I?  I didn’t think I was that consistent.”  I thought over the last few days, maybe I was.  But wait…he didn’t work the afternoons Monday and Tuesday.  Did they….was I THAT much of a topic of conversation? That’d be weird.

“You’re doing it right now.”  W…what?  Ohhhh….heh. 

“I…don’t think ‘punctual’ is the word you mean.  Punctual means ‘on time’.”  Buy a dictionary, kids.

“Your personality.”  I was starting to get a hint of what he meant.  “Do you have a life philosophy?” He continued, just looking down into the cases of lighters he was unboxing.

I wasn’t aware that I showed up on this guy’s radar at all. He’s just a low key dude who works at the cigar lounge.  Always ready with a wave and a “See ya Mike. Have a good one.”  But never really engaging in conversation or small talk.

It was an interesting question, now that I’d deciphered it, and it deserved an answer.

“Well, I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life so I figure I’m not gonna pay that forward.”  It was a round already in the magazine.

“Like what?”  He still wasn’t making eye contact, busying himself with his newly arrived stock.

I wasn’t going to go that deep this fast with someone.  Not before a cigar at least.

“Well you know, you encounter people all the time who are in a pissy mood and make it other peoples’ problems.   Then those people go on in their day pissed off and spread it around.  It creates a downward spiral.  I’m not going to be a part of that. Someone is in a pissy mood or if I’m in a pissy mood it’s my responsibility to make sure that shit ends with me.  Ya know, it’s kinda funny you say that because I HAVE heard that a couple times.

“I was in the elevator in my old apartment building, wearing a sportcoat, heading to my cigar bar downtown and this old guy in the elevator asked if I was heading to a party.  I replied ‘hell I bring the party with me wherever I go’ with a wink.  He said ‘that’s what I like about you. You’re always in a good mood.’ ”  Which…wasn’t STRICTLY true. But that’s kinda the point.

“Do you worry a lot?”  DaFUQ?

“Yep.  Always have.”

“Why?”  Fuck, dude. 

“Guess I’m wired that way.  Hell that’s half the reason I come in here and write.”

“But the way you are, people notice that.”  I just looked at him quizzically.  “Yea people will notice that and form an opinion of you.” 

I shrugged in response.  I just didn’t get where he was coming from with all of this.

“Yeah then people are going to pay attention to you.”

Entertainingly, my anxiety kicked in and I didn’t trust myself to say anything, so I just ended the conversation with “Welp, I’m gonna go back and write a bit and burn off some of the madness.”  Yeah I knew exactly what I was going to write about.

Guys I don’t get it.  What the hell was he talking about.  The expression on his face was earnest.  He was trying to figure something out and perhaps trying to remind me of something I hadn’t thought of.

His gaze lingered as I walked to the back room where I’d dropped my laptop and bag of toys, clearly not done with the conversation. But it was just too fucking weird for me.  Sit down and have that talk, sure. They’re interesting points. But I need to figure out where you’re coming from so I know how to frame my responses.  It’s not a talk to have while I’m waiting for you to take my money for cigars, with someone waiting behind me.

I feel like Lewis Black after the “If it wasn’t for my horse, I’d never have spent that year in college” moment.  It’s just ripping around in my head “What the hell did all of that MEAN?  What was the contextual frame he was querying from?”

The implication SEEMED to be that standing out in a crowd was a fundamental negative.  But there just wasn’t enough context to thread those apparent non-sequiturs together.

But it was startling to me how well it dovetailed with a conversation I had last night with Colt and Tarrant.

I came back here, plugged in my laptop, signed in, lit my Avo (fucking delicious by the way, a South American wrapper of some kind with an orange and green wrapper, so…Brazilian?) and started typing…

“I’ve been on a roll…”

Fuck it.  I’m just gonna post this like this and move on to the other project I’ve been working on.  But I’m going to come back to these topics as some of them were on the slate for the next couple days anyway.