Monday, June 13, 2016

North


"I went on the search for something true"


Sunday, May 29, 2016

I now walk into the wild.

Monday, May 30, 2016 -- Memorial Day

Another holiday that will forever be marred by a broken heart; not many of those left that don't have some sort of tragic memory attached to it. Drove up to "Washington" cabin in the Upper Peninsula just south of Escanaba on a whim after major psychiatric episode/losing my everything  -- again -- in an attempt to convince myself that people aren't worth throwing away my sobriety over. This is my "Big, Two-Hearted River".

First night ever camping alone -- arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon after the long drive through the pines of Northern Michigan, across the Mighty Mac, along the splendid shores of Lake Michigan on U.S. Route 2 that winds its way along the pine-studded southern coast of the Upper Peninsula; cute yooper girl at the park booth greets me shyly and hands me the key to the cabin. Felt sad for a while upon setting up camp, but then I stroll down the small dunes a short walk from cabin to the beach and for a long time just sat and listened to the waves rolling in from Green Bay -- like nature's heartbeat -- then cooked a can of chili on the fire for dinner and found Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference Finals on the radio (the little things!), and I almost felt like I was home. Kind of spooky when darkness falls -- and it comes swiftly -- but also kind of a strange rush being out there in the middle of nowhere by myself, where who knows what could be lurking in the darkness in the surrounding woods; it feels right being here in the moment. Maybe this is what I need to do for a little while. Maybe I can be happy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 -- Day 2, Morning Light

'I think I might live this life for some time to come. The natural beauty and splendid isolation is just too good to pass up'. - Alexander Supertramp

Something rejuvenating about waking up to the sound of waves. The stars were the brightest I'd ever seen last night. Sometimes when you look at those specks of light out there in the vast universe, you realize how insignificant your little trials and tribulations are in the grand scheme of the galaxies.

Day 2, Nightfall

Wow! Such solitude!

Hours upon hours sitting outside, by the beach, by the fire, reading, exploring the surrounding trails, gathering beachwood for the fire, playing with the radio (St. Louis Cardinals v. Milwaukee Brewers game comes in loud and clear, Bob Ueker broadcasting -- what a delight). Not a soul in sight. Found the Tigers game coming in from Traverse City on the radio, but I'm constantly having to adjust the AM dial or the radio antennae, because the radio is getting so many different wavelengths from across Lake Michigan -- Chicago, Traverse City, Escanaba, Milwaukee, Green Bay, even Grand Rapids. And at night, when the wind blowing in from the lake makes the radio go staticky, I am spooked by the premonition that the ghosts of sailors in Lake Michigan's depths are trying to speak through the airwaves.

Drove into "town" this morning after washing up at the well in ice cold water -- first to roadside gas station/restaurant/mart to pick up ice and brats (where it seems the entirety of this small town's senior citizen population -- of about twelve -- are gathered to meet for coffee), then to downtown Escanaba; returned to the cabin only to lock myself out, of course. Have to make the long hike a mile to the ranger station, which seems a blessing in disguise, because it's a mile hike through beautiful country -- towering jack pines, birch trees, and evergreens -- walking over pine needles that remind me of my long walks during my long lost summer in Petoskey. When I arrive at the ranger station, I timidly explain my situation to another cute yooper girl manning the ranger station; she phones a supervisor -- a gentle lady who arrives shortly after in her Jeep and offers me a lift back to the cabin; she asks me, with motherly concern, "you're up here by yourself?"; before departing, we spend a few minutes talking wolves and black bears in the area, and she tells me how she picks raspberries and blackberries up here in the summer (what a lovely thought). I spend the rest of the day with absolutely no contact with another soul, just me and the birds and chipmunks, who prowl about camp testing how close they can get to me playfully. Just me, the campfire, the waves of Lake Michigan, and radio.

I'm afraid to go home. I don't want to leave this "road" life. Absolutely nothing to go home to, anymore.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 -- Day 3

Rain, stormy waves, and cold temperatures reflect my soul this morning. Lock myself out of the damn cabin again in the grey dawn, walk the mile back to the ranger station in shorts and tee shirt that I slept in, shivering as the rain falls through the canopy of trees above me on the dirt road. "I lock my keys out of my truck all the time, eh," says twenty-something yooper dude who gives me a lift back to the cabin on his four-wheeler.

Don't want to go back, but I do need my book, my writing. Pledge to myself that I won't be going back to my old life; I'll be back.

Superior, next, then Wisconsin, Minnesota, maybe North Dakota and Montana, next. West! To writing, finishing my book, to the road, to new experiences.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

Monday, May 2, 2016

Chapter 16


"But what else can we do when we're so weak? We invest hours each day, months each year, years each lifetime in something we have no control over; is it any wonder then that we are reduced to creating ingenious but bizarre liturgies designed to give us the illusion that we are powerful after all, just as every other primitive community has done when faced with a deep and apparently impenetrable mystery?"

- Nick Horby, Fever Pitch

Thursday, April 21, 2016

No Exits


Hate this town about as much as I hated it when I was seventeen, right now.

Friday, April 8, 2016

2008

An excerpt from a chapter of the current writing project.
 Previously:


2008

I first moved into that house on State Street known as "BOX House" after Andy and I were kicked out of the fraternity sometime in December. In reality, we hadn't technically been kicked out; we had merely thrown a huge rager at the frat house while the rest of the house was on a trip to Canada for a date party that Andy and I weren't allowed to go on for some ridiculous reason or another. The party got out of control -- no doubt how we had intended it -- and at some point a fire extinguisher was thrown down a staircase and a couch cushion lit afire. The fire department showed up to the scene just as the bus from the date party was pulling up at 2:00 a.m., at which point I was conveniently passed out in my small closet of a room on the third floor. The following morning, the fraternity standards board sentenced us both to six months of social probation on top of what we had previously accumulated -- an entire lifetime to us then -- and before the week was over Andy and I were carrying our futon down State Street towards BOX House, where our friends Al and Brett from freshman year said we could live in the unfinished basement through the remainder of the school year for a fraction of the rent, plus utilities and keg funds.

Our short careers in campus Greek life were over. What had started so promisingly on that early September Saturday -- Andy and I dressed in gameday oxfords and ties on the ledge of the pillared front porch, dancing and guzzling beers while our first Ann Arbor gameday as frat bros paraded blurrily by down State Street -- had gone south about as quickly as that Michigan Football season. I won't bother to bore you with the details of intrafraternity drama, except to say that I learned that Fall that some men would always march through life to the tune of some drum I would never hear.

Though geographically we had only moved a couple blocks down State Street, for Andy and I leaving the close-minded halls of the fraternity house for the more hedonistic digs of BOX House was like being released into another world, liberated. The people were different, the houses were different, and the parties were different. It was almost like moving to an entirely new city, where there was a whole new crop of cute girls to meet and a whole slew of new drinking establishments to imbibe in, only there were less rules and no dress code. Andy and I quickly fell into the house party lifestyle that Al and Brett and our other new roommates were already firmly established in there, and we spent that semester touring Greenwood, South Forest, White Street, Packard, Catherine and Hill, and all the other Ann Arbor streets, toaasting late night beers with strangers we had only just met, eagerly flirting with every blonde or brunette who gave us the slightest interest, dancing while the speakers blared in our ears, shouting "Sweet Caroline" when Neil Diamond comes on the playlist, partying until the crack of dawn and generally having the times of our lives with all of those Engineering students, business school kids, pre-med, pre-law, and liberal arts students who overflowed Ann Arbor's townhouses and apartment complexes.

We developed a close circle of friends who were scattered in houses throughout that area of off campus housing -- a group of heavy drinkers with whom we threw big parties for twentieth and twenty-first birthdays and for Holidays and for the simple fact that it was Thursday or Friday night, with whom we got day drunk on Saturdays and Sundays because we had no other pressing demands on our times or because there was half a keg leftover from the night before, and with whom we wallowed on living room couches with during the inevitable Sunday morning hangover; we pregamed at each other's houses and in our later college years descended upon the bars together, drunkenly shouting and stumbling on the sidewalks, often having drunk so much at the pregame that it was all we would remember of the night. In youth's obliviousness, we drank as if we reigned supreme there, as if we would one day be the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of America, as if we had found the keys to life's ignition in the bottom of a bottle, and as if our parents' generation had missed that revelation. All the while, we shuttered to think that it would ever end.

I can't speak to North Campus' reputation as the land of Asian students and Engineering nerds, or to Kerrytown's reputation as the radically-progressive, LGBT/hipster-friendly scene, because frankly I rarely left my bubble on central campus, but the reputation of our neighborhood -- and our house in particular -- for its raucous tailgating and its binge drinking culture was certainly well-deserved. And even among that cross-section of the student body, the seven other guys I lived in BOX House with represented the far left end of the spectrum when it came to partying, which I knew, after living among the conservative, rule-abiding fraternity guys for almost an entire semester, was precisely where I fit in.

On one of my first nights at the house, a random Wednesday night, I came home from class and walked in the front door to discover one of the neighbors passed out on the living room floor; Ross and Peter were drinking forties of Steel Reserve and watching television, paying no attention to the man passed out in our living room .

"Brick, we're getting fucked up tonight. You in?" Peter asked me, and I knew right there and then that BOX was right where I belonged.

We got our shit done and took our education seriously, and we would extract ourselves from that environment when our studies absolutely necessitated a trip to the library, but when it came down to free time -- and we had more free time during that pristine time known as college than we would ever have again -- we set no limits. We drank with reckless abandon.

I fell in love with that house that winter. Over the years, BOX House would become my final harbor from the rapidly-advancing real world, a safe haven where I always knew I could get drunk with someone and forget even the worst personal tragedies. There, we drank to celebrate when our sports teams pulled off thrilling victories, and of course we drowned our sorrows when they lost. We drank there in the mornings to kill a hangover before class, we drank there in the afternoons before a lecture or a presentation, and we drank there in the evenings while writing papers and watching sports. We drank there for every event there ever was in college -- something to settle our nerves after a big midterm or exam, something to toast new internship offers and new relationships, a bottle of whiskey to help us forget a bad breakup or call from home, always a shot of courage right before anything important. Every night of the week, there were people drinking at the house, and if not there was always someone up for it. But what I loved most about that house was that, there, your drinking was never that much worse than anyone else's, and there was sort of an unwritten rule that, no matter how bad someone had fucked up, you were never allowed to call someone out for drinking too much -- a rule which became more difficult to follow as we turned into Juniors and then Seniors and some of us even fifth-year seniors.

In the mornings, if we weren't too hungover, we would descend from the front porch onto the sidewalks that took us on a ten minute walk along State Street towards campus where, after cursorily putting in our days in the classrooms and lecture halls of academia, we fled back to the house to drink our nights away. It was an extremely mild winter and spring that year, for Michigan's standards, and on St. Patrick's Day and any other day the sun decided to peak out from behind the gray clouds of winter we gathered on the front lawn and on our front porch, huddled around beer pong tables and gallon jugs of "jungle juice," dancing and flirting with whatever girls found their way to the house while the stereos blasted cheesy eighties songs and nineties rock jams, day drinking until the sun started setting against the backdrop of our echanted college town. Then in the evenings we regrouped for round two, when we wandered from one house to another, from one drinking gathering to the next, as from one room in a house to another, oftentimes carrying to-go beers -- as if all of Ann Arbor were but an endless block party to which we had an open invitation.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April



April is waking up to a thermos of Irish breakfast tea on a rainy morning, only to return home from work at the end of the day saddened by the hatred out there in the world -- building like a pressure cooker in America these days, it seems -- day in, day out; isolate myself. Can you really blame me for not identifying with a society that can't even collectively agree that the ultimate endgame of human evolution is global harmony based on a mutual understanding? 

Saturday, February 27, 2016



And the story's only mine to live and die with/
and the answer's only mine to come across/
But the ghosts that I got scared and I got high with/
Look a little lost
- Isbell