Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2015, A Year in Review

There's an old rustic cabin way out where the woods get heavy, somewhere in the untamed North Country. Miles from the nearest town, moss-covered and in varying states of disrepair, it stands at the end of a narrow dirt road that winds through the pines, with blackberry and raspberry and thimbleberry bushes along the roadside that on summer days we pick and put in baskets and make pies and jam out of. Out back there is a sprawling wooden veranda of a porch where we sit around the fire and wait for the magical lights of the aurora borealis, and even farther back beyond the cattails is a wooden dock that goes right out over the water. In the daytime the lake is blue and cold, but at night when I write it is black and it reflects the yellow glow of the moon.

Inside, the fireplace is cackling, making grotesque shadows on the walls in the candle light. In the main room in the back, the walls are lined with bookshelves. There is a ratty but comfortable old couch, an end table, a small radio, and my desk looking out over the lake, where I stay up writing until sunrise. The pots and pans are hanging in the kitchen and there is a small hallway that leads to the little bathroom that smells like Irish Spring soap and well water and then the bedroom, where the bed is draped with brilliant Indian blankets.

I often go there nights, after the workday is dead and over. And slowly the noises of this place -- the alarm clock ringing, the car engine turning, the printer printing, the copier copying, the telephone ringing, sirens blaring and horns honking, the sounds of voices speaking colorless, unnatural speech -- it all starts to fade away.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Penn State

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said
"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence

- Disturbed, "The Sound of Silence" 
(originally written by Paul Simon)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Two Years Sober

Today marks two years since I've had a sip of alcohol.

It's bittersweet.

Somewhere in my college town on Saturday evening, just as a brilliant pink dusk was setting over an Ann Arbor that was painted with the brick reds, the pumpkin oranges, and the rust browns of Autumn, I stormed out of my childhood friend Eric's apartment and into the stairwell. Visions of football players in Michigan State uniforms taking a botched punt into the Michigan student section endzone dancing in my head, I tried to understand what had just happened. It was over. Our long-anticipated victory over our instate rivals -- the victory that was supposed to end eight years of humiliation at the hands of the team we had so arrogantly labeled "little brother" -- had vanished quite literally into thin air only moments ago. It wasn't long after I sat down on the stairs that I broke down into tears.

There's not a State fan alive that can say they deserved that game more than I did after the last three or four years. It took me more than a year of trying to put down the bottle -- often managing to stay sober for three or four weeks at a time before I would wind up face down at the tail end of another bender, going through withdrawals with my tail between my legs, a process which repeated itself until it became a vicious cycle -- before I started to accumulate any serious sobriety time. Even after I went to outpatient rehab in the Spring of 2013 I relapsed after ninety days sober for a stretch that lasted well into the '13 Michigan football season. All the while during those dark years I had to watch my Michigan football team flounder in their own identity crisis when I needed them most. I could only jealously watch my Sparty friends bask in unprecedented success for their football program, taking little satisfaction in the knowledge that I was earning my badge of loyalty.

This season felt like my year. Bo's prodigal son had returned to Schembechler Hall in the form of one Jim Harbaugh, and the date of the Michigan State game happened to fall two days shy of my two year sober date. This was the first Fall that I felt comfortable enough with my sobriety that I returned to tailgating, and seeing my college buddies throwing back beers at Maryland and in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and them being okay with me not drinking, it all felt pretty damn good. I've been through a lot with those guys, in and out of Michigan Stadium, and it felt like we had earned one.

Watching all that get ripped from my hands as Michigan State took a fumbled punt to the house while the game clock expired didn't only feel like an injustice, it felt like a big fuck you from life.

And you know what, fuck you too life. Two or three years ago, back when I was drinking, I would have wallowed in liquor and my own self-loathing after one of these types of losses, but that's not who I am anymore; that person is dead. "We have to have resolve, put steel in our spine and move forward," Harbaugh said Saturday night after the loss. I don't need luck. And I don't need any of life's help. You move forward and you embrace the pain, because it makes you stronger.

Minnesota in two weeks. Fuck em. And fuck you too, life, because I'm only going to work harder.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Michigan State

And it's been a while
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been a while
Since I first saw you
And it's been a while
Since I could stand on my own two feet again.

And everything I can't remember
as fucked up as it all may seem
The consequences that I've rendered

And it's been a while
Since I could say that I wasn't addicted
And it's been a while
Since I could love myself as well
And it's been a while
Since I've gone and fucked things up just like I always do.

I cannot blame this on my Father,
he did the best he could for me.

Staind - "It's Been a While"

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Now that we're here,
so far away,
all the struggle we thought was in vain
all the mistakes,
they all finally start to go away
and i feel like I can face the day 
and I'm not ashamed to be the person that I am today.

These are my words
that I've never said before
I think I'm doin' okay,
And this is the smile
that I've never shown before

- Staind, "So Far Away"

Monday, September 21, 2015


[previously: 2012]

another excerpt: 2002

"Where are we going?" I asked, suddenly aware that we had veered away from the main road. My best friend Jim and I were following Matt Griffin through the suburban streets of wooded Northville, the big expensive houses silent in the fading dusk, but we had turned suddenly onto a dirt trail that branched off from the sidewalk, and I was hesitant to leave the clean, well-lit path of the lamp-lit street. The trail ahead looked like it led to a small patch of woods behind a mini mart that was lit by neon martini glasses. It looked like the kind of lot you see on missing persons shows.

"Just follow me," Matt said, that mischievous grin on his face.

And something about the way he said it got my adrenaline pumping; we were always chasing after that next adrenaline rush in those years, our hormones imbuing in us the devil-may-care attitude of reckless youth, looking for trouble and causing all sorts of mischief because it gave us a sort of high we hadn't found elsewhere yet, and the look on Matt's face told me he would take me to it. I followed anxiously, always chasing the next rush like I would later so desperately seek my next drink.

The three of us were supposed to be walking back to the Griffin's house from Ashley Blanchard's house, but we were young, full of life and night, and we were in no hurry to go home back then. Besides, neither Jim nor I knew the surrounding area well enough by then to be able to navigate it on our own -- we had only recently started hanging out with Matt, when he transferred to St. Mike's for the start of junior high -- so we really had no choice but to follow him anyway.

Matt flipped open his cell phone, holding it out like a flashlight, and the green glow of its translucent light guided us into a wooded thicket of tall grass, where the foxtails blowed breezily in the night air. We continued on a hundred feet or so through the woods until we arrived at a small opening in the trees that looked like some sort of construction work graveyard -- orange traffic barrels, broken cinder blocks, and rusted metal pipes strewn haphazardly around the trailside in varying stages of nature reclamation. Overhead, I could hear the bats flying blindly across a golden sliver of a moon, which hung like an ominous sickle in the inky purple sky.

It was the Springtime of our eighth grade year, and by then Jim and I had been through just about everything together. After seven long years toiling in the shadows of the class above us, it seemed we were the kings of the school at last: we were popular, active on the track and baseball teams that Spring, and we had just spent the night making out with our girlfriends on Ashley Blanchard's basement sofa. After several years of nervous speculation, we had also recently discovered that we would be attending the same high school together in the Fall, and it seemed nothing could tear us apart. Still, though our eighth grade graduation was fast approaching, the hedonistic pursuits of post-pubescent teen boyhood far outweighed our nostalgia as one door was closing and another opening.

"Here it is!" Matt cried ecstatically, getting down on his hands and knees to shine the light of his cell phone into a hollow concrete pipe that was tangled in vines and roots. He reached in and pulled out a crumpled up brown paper bag, which he carefully unwrapped. He pulled out a small, teal green box. It was a pack of Newport Lights.

"Stole 'em from my mom," Matt boasted to us before we could ask, placing one of those thin white cigarette butts I had heard so much about between his lips casually, like he had done this dozens of times prior. He was always trying to play the James Dean schtick, especially with the girls in high school, something for which I resented him because he already was the star quarterback, the lovable jock -- he couldn't possibly understand the first thing about James Dean. "She just thinks she smoked 'em all herself," he mused, breathing, and all three of us watched the clouds of cigarette smoke billow from his lips as if they spelled out the secret to life.

Matt carried on smoking while Jim and I just stood there, dragging the toes of our tennis shoes through the dirt, trying to look occupied. We both knew what he was going to ask next.

"You guys want one?" Matt asked, and Jim and I looked at each other nervously.

On some level, the entirety of my fourteen year long upbringing seemed conditioning for this moment -- had conditioned me to "just say 'no'".

It had certainly been made abundantly clear to me in my home life that smoking cigarettes would not be approved. My Mother never smoked, and I remember she used to emphasize to us that "smoking kills" whenever we would pass by a smoker outside the mall or in the park, intentionally instructing us loud enough for the second-hand-smoke-wielding culprit to hear. As a consequence of this I regarded cigarette smokers along the same lines as the junkie or the wino outside the liquor store in my early years.

As for my Father, it was sort of an unwritten rule in my house that we weren't to talk about my Father's late night smoking habit. Though I was ignorant to the whole charade for several years, I began to pick up on it about the same time I started watching the Red Wings with my Dad. Sometimes, especially during hockey games, he would slip out the garage door and disappear for ten or fifteen minutes at a time, returning to the couch smelling like a chimney, pretending as if he hadn't left at all. Neither my Mother nor my Father would say a word about it; my Mom would just continue on folding laundry in silent disapproval. Sitting there on my living room sofa, I was quite sure that I would never be like my parents. The unspoken silence in regards to the issue was more persuasive than any anti-smoking commercial ever could have been.

Then there was school. And there was nothing so influencing on my perception of drugs and tobacco than St. Michael's Catholic School. Starting in second grade, there was a rumor that would bi-annualy recirculate around school concerning some seventh or eighth grade boy who had been expelled from school for smoking cigarettes on school grounds. Then in fourth and fifth grade we completed the D.A.R.E. program, which was ran by my friend Chuck 's Dad. Created to "keep kids off drugs" in the the wake of the Cobain-fueled heroin scare of the early nineties, D.A.R.E.'s dishonesty when it came down to discussing the drug epidemic ultimately failed me like it failed so many kids of my generation. It indoctrinated us to regard heroin and marijuana and even cigarettes as similar evils, and by the time I was through with that I was quite sure I would never smoke or do drugs.

I couldn't even really blame peer pressure, either. At St. Mike's, I was surrounded by private school kids who lived lives that were sheltered from the drug culture rumored to be rampant in the public school system; the kids I grew up alongside in school came from upper middle-class households with wide lawns and narrow minds.

I couldn't even hide behind my the sins of my own best friend. As soon as the question was on the table, no more than five seconds passed before Jim quickly declined: "No thanks, man, it's not my thing," Jim said collectedly, confidently. I could have easily said no at that point -- we would have outnumbered Matt two to one. It probably wouldn't have been a big deal.

But the thing is, no matter how many different ways I was told that cigarettes and drugs were bad for me, there was always a part of my soul that gravitated towards saying "yes" and more, more, more. I was one of those lost souls who couldn't be told that something was bad for me; I had to figure all that out for myself.

"I'll take one," I said, and Matt obliged, lighting the cigarette for me. We stood there smoking under the stars while Jim stood idly by a short distance away, out of range of the cigarette smoke, and a few minutes later it was over. The three of us wandered back to Matt's house, talking girls and sports like nothing had changed. But it had.

Jim took the road less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rush Hour Blues

Some people wonder how irresponsible one must be to become an addict; I see the world and I wonder how people can tolerate it without becoming one.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Dog Days

Sit around, dream away the place I'm from,
Used to feel so much, now I just feel numb,
Could go out tonight but I ain't sure what for,
Call a friend or two I don't know anymore.
Sit and listen to the rain,
Sit and listen to the rain.

- Ryan Adams (Whiskeytown), "Sit and Listen to the Rain"

Monday, August 3, 2015

Those Were Different Days

"I never had any friends like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?"
- Stand by Me

We had just finished a double-header on a sweltering hot August afternoon. We dumped what was left in our water jugs on our heads and the losing trio would inevitably start bickering about blown calls that cost them the game. It was a time when the outcome of a sandlot baseball game was the most important thing in our lives. We would gather up our bats and gloves and walk down the trails alongside the Rouge River as we headed home for one air conditioned basement of Millwood or another, where summer nights of cold sodas and video games awaited us, the sun sinking beneath one of those pink August skies and the woods quickly darkening.

I knew those trails and those woods like I once knew the statistics on the back of my Steve Yzerman hockey card. When I went back to those woods this summer, just to see the old sandlot again -- a pastime that has sadly decreased in frequency over the years -- I realized that many years had passed since I had been back there, that place where we spent our formative years, and that I barely knew some of those guys now. And I wondered if I was to blame for that. The trails that we used to take to the sandlot through the woods were almost unfamiliar to me now, and I knew that no matter how much I wished otherwise, things would never be the same.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To All Mothers of Rebellious Children

In my high school years I was really into Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. For my seventeenth birthday I got a big silver book of Dylan's lyrics and later a smaller book of Springsteen's, and I soon found that their lyrics were complimented by alcohol. I spent many a night back then drinking whiskey out of a dixie cup in my bedroom, the crickets chirping outside my screen window, mesmerized by the lines of All Along the Watchtower and Thunder Road. As college came and went I slowly lost touch with those books and those lyrics, like I lost touch with a lot of things as my drinking progressed over the years.

 It was 2013 when I discovered Jason Isbell's album "Southeastern," an album on which Isbell reflects on his newfound sobriety, right around the time I was getting sober myself. I had known Isbell as a guitarist and vocalist for the band Drive By Truckers back in college, but those were different days. Some nights, when I catch myself studying the lyrics to some Isbell song on my phone or on my laptop, it feels like deja vu going back to those nights in high school; I feel young again.

Nine to Five

- banksy

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Current Favorite Writer: Timothy Showalter

Heavy on the song lyrics lately. Doing lots of writing.

Black boots black jeans black beard
Walking down the street in the morning air
Then I lit up a cigarette and put my headphones on
And I listened to Van Etten sing
You gotta give out, give up, give out, give up, give out, give up, give in, give out, give up, give in
Give in, give in, give in, I was better than I felt in years
Then I looked to the streets and I looked to my fears
I know something was going round these tears
I was hurting people, so close to me
I spent those long years feeling so fucking bad

Take it even further back to darker times
When I drank too much and I took too much I lied to all my friends about who I was
But Caitlin listen to me now I'm all grown up
I spent two long years just losing my mind
Thank you Kristian for keeping me clean
And we're painted like the warriors. . .
You gotta heal. . .

- Strand of Oaks, "Heal"

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day

I was an Indiana kid, gettin' no one in my bed
I had your sweet tunes to play
I was staring at the map, feeling fire in my head
I had your sweet tunes to play
I was mean to my dad, cause I was mean to myself
I had your sweet tunes to play
Stealing smokes in my car, with the windows way down
I had your sweet tunes to play, your sweet tunes to play

I was sittin' in the bath, cleaning off the ash
But I had your sweet tunes to play
And I hated all my friends, I wouldn't let them in
I had your sweet tunes to play
On a long desert train, and a knife in my bag
I had your sweet tunes to play
Under the Market Street Bridge, burning one in my hand
I had your sweet tunes to play
Your sweet tunes to play

I'm getting older every day, still living the same mistakes
I got your sweet tunes to play
Your sweet tunes to play

- Strand of Oaks, "JM"

John Mellencamp.
Neil Young.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Isbell is God

Guess I'm doin' what I'm on this earth to do
And I don't think on why I'm here or where it hurts
I'm just lucky to have the work

And every night I dream I'm drownin' in this dirt
But I thank God for the work

And the day will come that I'll find a reason
Somebody proud to love a man like me
My back is numb and my hands are freezing
But what I'm working for is something more than free

- Something More Than Free

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

If You Build It, He Will Come

"I came to Iowa to study, one of the thousands of faceless students who pass through large universities, but I fell in love with the state. Fell in love with the land, the people, the sky, the cornfields, and Annie. For years, I bathed each morning, frosted my cheeks with Aqua Velva, donned a three-piece suit and snap-brim hat, and, feeling like Superman emerging from a telephone booth, set forth to save the world from a lack of life insurance. I loathed the job so much that I did it quickly, urgently, almost violently. It was Annie who got me to rent the farm. It was Annie who got me by. 

The year after Annie and I were married, the first year we rented this farm, I dug Annie's garden for her; dug it by hand, stepping a spade into the soft black soil, ruining my salesman's hands. After I finished, it rained, an Iowa spring rain as soft as spray from a warm hose. The clods of earth I had dug seemed to melt until the garden leveled out, looking like a patch of black ocean. It was near noon on a gentle Sunday when I walked out to that garden. The soil was soft and my shoes disappeared as I plodded until I was near the center. There I knelt, the soil cool on my knees. I looked up at the low gray sky; the rain had stopped and the only sound was the surrounding trees dripping fragrantly. Suddenly I thrust my hands wrist-deep into the snuffy-black earth. The air was pure. All around me the clean smell of earth and water. Keeping my hands buried I stirred the earth with my fingers and I knew I loved Iowa as much as a man could love a piece of earth."

- W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe

Here's to women who support childish dreams, be it building a baseball field in the cornfields of Iowa or attempting to write a novel. Here's to women who won't let you settle for a salesman's job, even it means throwing all caution to the wind. Here's to my Annie. 

Monday, June 8, 2015


Sunday afternoon found me at my cousin Frank's condo in Farmington, checking in on his cat. Outside the sliding glass door, a late Spring thunderstorm raged in the darkening sky. I sprawled out on Frank's living room carpet next to the fire place, put on his Nirvana Unplugged in New York record, and drifted off with the storm clouds for a little while. Kurt Cobain's live performance in New York that night is considered one of his most haunting and one of his best, and it is a testimony to Cobain's spirit that when he gave that performance that night, he did so while going through the utter torture of heroin withdrawal. I listened to Cobain's voice, and, like reading Kerouac on a winter night, it felt good to remember that I wasn't the only one who saw the world through sad eyes sometimes.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lasting memories I have of days spent at the office: zero.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


It's been a long year since you've been gone
I've been alone here I've grown old
I fell to pieces and I'm still falling
Every time I'm falling down
All alone I fall to pieces

I keep a journal of memories
I'm feeling lonely I can't breathe
I fell to pieces I'm falling
I fell to pieces and I'm still falling

Every time I'm falling down
All alone I fall to pieces

- Velvet Revolver, "Fall to Pieces"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Game Seven

Last night, watching game 6 with my buddy Adam, I said something along the lines of, "you know if we come back, we'll remember this the rest of our lives". I don't know if he took me seriously or not, but I wasn't exaggerating. I remember each and every Red Wings Game 7 from my lifetime, where I was and who I was with, what it meant at that point in my life. It's hard not to ponder the gravity of a game like this, given my personal history with them. In light of the impending Game 7 against the Lightning on Wednesday, a sampling of some of the Game 7's from throughout my lifetime:

May 16, 1996

I was eight years old in 1996. Watching hockey with my Dad in the living room was the biggest stage in my world -- back when we were buddies, back before we forgot how to talk to each other, in my moody teen years. Dad cancelled bed time altogether that night, bending the rules out of the slight chance that he could share one of those rare sports moments with his firstborn son, the kind of game you never forget. It was Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semi-finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Detroit had gone without winning a Stanley Cup for forty-one seasons, and the ghosts of Red Wings lore seemed to haunt the confines of Joe Louis Arena in the Dead Wings era of the eighties and early nineties, but Steve Yzerman had brought new life to the slumping organization, and the Wings seemed poised to really soar once again. The both of us were on the precipice of something more.

The rest of my family, including the two cats, were tucked inside their beds, dreaming the suburban dreams of their own individual lives, the house stilled in slumber the way suburban houses get past dusk. Outside, a warm Spring gust swept through the pines in the backwoods and rattled the shutters on the upstairs bedroom windows.

Secluded back in the woods, Millwood was a quiet neighborhood, except at the hour when Steve Yzerman brought life back to Hockeytown. My Dad and I both sprang to our feet, instinctively, ecstatically, screaming like banshees with bursts of joy -- like little kids. Steve Yzerman had blasted a sixty-foot slapshot from the blue line over the right shoulder of Blues goaltender Jon Casey with 18:46 remaining in double overtime. "Score! Steve Yzerman! Detroit wins!" the television announcer cried over our cheers; I've watched that replay so many times that I sometimes hear those words in my sleep, or in some drug-induced flashback. Whenever I see a replay of that goal now, I think about Fathers and Sons -- and about the way we were then.

May 12, 2011

It wouldn't have been a big deal if I were still in college. But I had graduated from Michigan a year ago almost to the day, and college seemed a long time ago. On the bus ride back home to Ann Arbor from Chicago, my first year of law school behind me, I stared out the window at the passing Michigan countryside and pondered the implications of another Game 7, another metaphorical chapter in my life about to be written.

I drove up to East Lansing to watch the game with my childhood best friend Steve, thinking that one symbolic Game 7 victory with my best bud would surely wash away the confusion and the regret of the previous year. We chain smoked cigarettes during intermissions on the patio at Harper's, and when the Wings lost, we tried to wash down the sour aftertaste of ashtray with whiskey and beer and whatever else we could get our hands on; this wasn't how it was supposed to end. We decided to drive four hours Up North with our buddy Adam, because we did things like that back then -- when we were young and wild and free.

But I wasn't so young anymore. Driving back the following day, a raging hangover pounding in my head, I had all the time in the world to think about where the time had run off to, about how I was losing my way. When I arrived back to my girlfriend's college house in Ann Arbor, she told me that she had cancelled our dinner plans that evening. "Your hangovers have ruined a lot of our plans," she told me -- her heart broken again -- and then wandered off to some other portion of the house, leaving me lying face down on her bed, alone with my regrets. I heard what she said, that day, but I wouldn't understand her words for at least another year or two. And by then it was too late.

*Other notable Game 7's: 1994 Red Wings-Sharks Round 1(my first ever sports memory, a rookie Chris Osgood cried in his locker stall following the game after the upset-minded San Jose Sharks derailed the heavily-favored Red Wings); 2009 Red Wings-Penguins Stanley Cup (in Chicago, I went on a personal bar crawl and got lost in the city following the Game 7 defeat, the Stanley Cup having seemed so close I could taste it). I'm covering these others in depth in the current writing project.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Old Days

"It seemed normal enough, at the time, just another weird rainy night out there on the high desert. . . What the hell? We were younger then. It was a Different Time. People were Friendly. We trusted each other. Hell, you could afford to get mixed up with wild strangers in those days -- without fearing for your life, or your eyes, or your organs, or all of your money, or even getting locked up in prison forever. There was a sense of possibility. People were not so afraid, as they are now. You could run around naked without getting shot. You could check into a roadside motel on the outskirts of Ely or Winnemucca or Elko where you were lost in a midnight rainstorm -- and nobody called the police on you, just to check out your credit and your employment history and your medical records and how many parking tickets you owed in California.

There were Laws, but they were not feared. There were Rules, but they were not worshipped. . . like Laws and Rules and Cops and Informants are feared and worshipped today."

- Hunter S. Thompson
"Fear and Loathing in Elko"

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In the Stars

I was born under the star Nekkar, of the constellation Beta Bootes.

The Herdsman

"Bootes is identified with Icarius, who was killed by some shepherds he had made drunk with a flagon of wine given him by Bacchus/Dionysus. In consideration of the grief of his daughter Erigone and their hound Maera, Jupiter placed her father in heaven as Bootes, together with herself as Virgo and the hound became one of the Dogs; some say Canis Minor, others say Canis Major.

According to Ptolemy the influence of the constellation is like that of Mercury and Saturn, though the star Arcturus is like Mars and Jupiter. It is said to give prosperity from work, strong desires, a tendency to excess, a fondness for rural pursuits, together with some liking for occultism. The Kabalists associate it with the Hebrew letter Teth and the 9th Tarot Trump, "The Hermit". [Robson*, p.32.]"

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Boots of Spanish Leather

[an excerpt from the current writing project]:


But I dream of her. I dream of her all the time. 

It's weird. The dreams are usually about the stuff we used to do together. Like when we drove her Jeep Up North for Fall Break that autumn of my senior year. We bought our lunch from our favorite deli in downtown Petoskey and brought it to the beach where we had a picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan. I sat there silently watching the waves, hoping she wouldn't bring up my hangover. I watched the lake and the line of the beach and noticed that the tide had changed and the sea gulls were working busily well down the slope of new wet sand. The red and white buoys out in the distance were diminishing as they receded. You could smell the lake in the October winds, and the white caps crashing against the pier foretold of winter. 

In another dream, we are camping out in the woods at her cabin on Sugar Island. Right before I wake up, she turns the ignition on her family's speedboat. I'm on shore, and she's kind of waving good bye. I'm standing on a beach of washed up pine needles and she's going off into the Lake Superior sunset, into another life. I've had that dream so many times I've lost count. 

Sometimes I wake from those dreams convinced it is the Fall of 2009 all over again, but it's never real. The ticking of the clock reminds me that she is gone and those days of my Indian summer were a long time ago. I lay awake in bed, wishing I had asked her to send boots of spanish leather. I got rid of her letters a long time ago, but you can't get rid of dreams. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Their ghosts have been hounding me since the stroke of midnight. They know my weaknesses all too well. Some days your flush and some days your bust.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


"Favorite food? Blues (speed). Miscellaneous likes? Birds. Professional ambition? To smash one hundred drum kits. Personal ambition? To stay young forever. There you have it, the world of Keith Moon effectively encapsulated in a few choice words. Straightforward hedonistic pleasures, cheerfully destructive tendencies, and an unattainable goal, except in the words that Townshend had just written and which Moon alone would live up to/down to: 'Hope I die before I get old.'"

Tony Fletcher, Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend

Monday, March 2, 2015

Snapshots of My Life

It was March, two years ago. The proverbial rock bottom. It's the only secret that I still cling to from those days, my very last drinking days. I knew, then, with the horrifying clarity of a funeral for a loved one, that I was done, that I could never touch the stuff again, that I had once and for all crossed that forbidden line. March brings with it the memories of those events, those charred visions of me at my worst. They're scary. But this song popped on at work today, and I understood that it had to be this way forever -- that I always have to remember those days.

"I wrecked the El Camino
Would have been DWI
So I just walked off and left it
Laying on it's side.
The troopers found it in the morning
They said it's purely luck I wasn't killed
I probably ought to quit my drinking
But I don't believe I will."

James McMurtry, "Rachel's Song"

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Call of the Wild

Oh, cruel February. The two dog nights of February drag their boots through the heavy snow as the grandfather clock slugs its way through the doldrums of the calendar year. But March, March is a month of promise. The muds and fogs and greens of March -- my birth month, fittingly: the dead come back to life during March.

With March comes the stirrings, year after year, deep inside, of some primal call of the wild. March brings with it the memories of boyhood Springs and Summers in the woods behind Millwood Village, the woods that compose the backdrop to my collective childhood memory. As the calendar page turns this weekend, and the great hands of the clock are winded forwards, to the Ides of March, we begin the descent from winter's alpine pinnacle towards the liberation of Spring, and the wilderness of summer.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, 
There is a rapture on the lonely shore, 
There is society, where none intrudes, 
By the deep sea, and music in its roar: 
I love not man the less, but Nature more, 
- Lord Byron

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


So this is it, huh? This is adulthood. This is what the twelve years of education, the four years of college, the summer jobs, and the internships were for. I can't even say I wasn't warned. For all the years I've professed to be a Springsteen fan, though, it is only now that I can truly hear his words.

I get up in the evening
and I ain't got nothing to say
I come home in the morning
I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain't nothing but tired
Man I'm just tired and bored with myself

You sit around getting older
there's a joke here somewhere and it's on me
I'll shake this world off my shoulders
come on baby this laugh's on me

Stay on the streets of this town
and they'll be carving you up alright
They say you gotta stay hungry
hey baby I'm just about starving tonight
I'm dying for some action
I'm sick of sitting 'round here trying to write this book

Friday, February 20, 2015

In Memoriam

The great Hunter S. Thompson shot himself with a rifle ten years ago to the day. "No more games. No more bombs. No more walking. No more fun. No more swimming. Relax -- this won't hurt," he wrote in his suicide letter. Forever ingrained in my memory will be the image of his face on the walls of my college house bedroom. His spirit lives on there and on my bookshelves. There's less truth in the words around us without you, good doctor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February Nights

"Just such a pleasure to tie up above that mainline with a woman's silk stocking and hit the mark and watch the blood rise into the dropper like a certain desert lily I remember I saw once in my child's encylopedia, so red. Yeah, I shoot desert lilies into my arm.

It's been hard, the writing lately. Just all comes in beautiful fragments, like nods now. . . so high. . . guess I'd rather sleep forever and forget. . . but the gnats, they keep buzzing in my ear and the heat and the dreams.

Bob Dylan, he's on the radio. He glows in the dark and my fingers are just light feathers falling and fading down."

- James Carroll

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Man Who Walks Beside Me

Going to see Jason Isbell tomorrow. It's a little bit more than just going to a concert, for me. Three years sober himself (as of last Friday), Isbell released "Southeastern" - an album not about the demons of living with the bottle, but about the demons men face when they put down the bottle for good and have to atone for their past - just as I was was starting to accept my own alcoholism in mid-2013. The words existing within that album ("In a room/ by myself/ looks like I'm here with a guy I judge worse than anyone else/ So I pace/ and I pray/ and I repeat the mantras that might keep me clean for the day") were the real-world situations I was simultaneously facing in the pursuit of my own sobriety, and I leaned on Isbell's words during the nights it seemed darkest. Isbell is one of the greatest living songwriters in my book, but tomorrow's about more than just the music. It's going to say thanks, in a way, to the man who helped make me the man I am today.

There's a man who walks beside me
It is who I used to be
And I wonder if she sees him
and confuses him with me
- "Live Oak"

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mid-Winter Night's Dream

(on addiction)
"Your nose is running, your legs are cramped. But there's always a voice in the back of your head saying just one more time and then I'll quit. And you want to stop. You really do. But it's like a dream. And you can't stop dreams"

- The Baketball Diaries

Sometimes I still do think about those days -- the ones from when I was most lost. Most terrifying are the dreams I have in which I'm drinking again. Vulnerable as it makes me feel to admit, I am still tempted, too. It comes with the affliction. But movies like this, quotes like this - they remind me of who I am and where I've been, and, most importantly, of where I can never go again.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


After a too-long day spent busting my hump at the office -working man that I have become - I spent some time this evening nostalgically clicking through the pages of my old college house blog. The following is a post from one of my good friends who lived next door at 1001 South State, right next door that college house I so fondly remember. But it could have just as easily been written by me back then - for better or worse it's representative of the lives we lived inside those walls at 933 South State Street. The author was also one of the most well-known faces in the Maize Rage during those college years (back before it was popular to make the trip to Crisler for basketball games), which makes this old post even funnier to me. 

That world! It's an entirely different world than that which I now live in. Funny to think about the things that can happen in a span of five years. If ever life begins to feel stale, as it is prone to do, juxtapose the 2010 me with the 2015 me and know that change is as real as it is inexorable. 

(From the college blog, circa February 2010)

Well folks, what an interesting journey thus far. For clearly the longest stretch in my drinking career, I have gone sober for 12 straight days. I must consider this one of my most shining accomplishments in the history of the Friendly Neighborhood Drunk considering the crowd I run with. For those who do not know, I decided after a slight mishap prior to the UM/MSU basketball game that this was necessary. 

The day started like any other basketball weekday game. Clearly I needed to skip class to start drinking about 3 hours before the game. But unlike other games, I was not drinking forties or the delicious red with the mere alcohol content of 9%. The Danimal had finally convinced me to man up and thus I drank a fine Vella Merlot with the content of 12%. This was my first major mistake. I had drank 6 fairly large glasses by the time my friend Mitch came to pick me up to go to the game. The second mistake was trying to tie one more on with Mitch.

I proceeded to pour us each one more glass before going to that two hour wait to get into the game. I finished mine in roughly a minute, and Mitch decided not to finish his so I just decided to chug the rest of his. This decision would ultimately lead to an epic failure. The last thing I remember is walking out of BOX and falling down the stairs, utterly destroying a fresh tin of dip in my pocket. While walking past the IM building, trying to clean a tin’s worth of dip out of my pocket, I entered the blackness. From there the rest of what happened I only know from hearsay or second hand sources.

Apparently when I reached Crisler, I proceeded to run around the arena looking for cameras. Why? I have no explanation. That is all I know what happened outside of the game. Once entered, I marched down the stairs to my typical spot where I could inevitably lay into Tom Izzo. But unfortunately I could not stand. A police officer noticed the state I was in and came to escort me out of the arena. When he tried to grab me, I thought he was shaking my hand, so I gave him the firmest handshake I possibly could. As I was being escorted out, the only words I could put together were “I’m just livin’ the dream.”

When I awoke from my blackout, it was 4am and I was in a hospital bed. This being the second time I ended up in the hospital due to drinking, I was obviously angry. But I saw the wristband from the game on my hand so I assumed I had at least seen the game. Unfortunately the nurse informed me that I was admitted at 6:20pm…40 minutes to tip. Needless to say I was very disappointed. Then, I saw the highlights to the game and how we completely blew it. That was just more salt in my already gaping wound. When I was discharged at 7am, I was given my bag of things: My swim trunks, my maize rage shirt, another shirt I was using as a turban, my Neil Diamond Vest, my cellular, my wallet, one half used tin of grizzly wintergreen longcut, and two pieces of the other tin that shattered in my pocket. I was driven home from the hospital by DPS and proceeded to sleep through all three of my classes.

 Right now my goal is to pick up drinking again by the spring game, but odds are that it will be relatively sooner that I end my sabbatical. I would also like to congratulate NotoriousPLC on his case race victory. The man knows how to drink. But I digress. So the next time in the coming weeks that any of you decide to drink have one or two or ten drinks for me.

- I have to give credit to this guy: The Friendly Neighborhood Drunk

Friday, January 23, 2015

My Old Man

Took my first breath where the muddy Brazos
spills into the Gulf of Mexico,
and the skylines colored by the chemical plants
put bread on the table of the working man.

Where the working man does his best to provide
safety and shelter for kids and a wife,
Give a little of his soul every day,
making overtime to keep the wolves away.

I was barely thirteen when the company man
tried to dig my Daddy's grave
It happened on a French-owned tanker ship
spilling poison into Galveston Bay

Where the liquid fire filled his lungs and his eyes
silenced any moans or cries.
The cold and the grit, death, sting and pain
He fought like hell to keep the wolves away.

For the next few years Dad was sick as a dog,
but he made a recovery just to spite the odds.
Settlement came and we moved out of town
where the sky isn't heavy with refinery clouds.

Yeah he's still alive he's doing good, he's in his fifties
but the money's running out and he's pinching for pennies
so I'm going for broke with every song I play,
cause now it's my turn to keep the wolves away.

- Uncle Lucious, "Keep the Wolves Away"

In my rebellious teen years my Father never could understand my desperate need to chase after every next midnight adventure, to get out of that house, to escape that godforsaken town. He epitomized everything about that town I never wanted to become. It is only now, grown older, wiser even, that I realize my Father is probably worth a hundred of me - a better man that I could ever hope to be.  Not only a better man than me, but damn certain better than every job the Motor City ever gave him. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Anxious to close the curtains on another winter's day, the moon beats me home from work every evening. Should-have-been-retired automobiles sputter and puff smoke into the Garden City streets. On my street, lower middle class houses stare at each other with droopy eyelids, tired of domesticity, tired of winter, the chimneys on the rooftops waving endless handkerchiefs of smoke towards the purple sky. The sound of metal shovel scraping against salt and asphalt echoes from somewhere down the street, but all else is silent, empty, sad, too cold for even the dogs.

Cabin fever having already set in, I forego my front door and decide to go for a walk. My breath visible in the frosty air, I'm sick of this place, this town, this bitching cold. I walk by a procession of identical boxes in the way suburban houses are, cognizant that each of those boxes has a story to tell: someone's getting drunk again for the second time today; someone's coming down off heroin, writhing on a basement sofa; some old man's sitting by the window sill just waiting to die, counting the days since his wife passed away; some single mother fighting tears as she stirs up a steamy pot of beef broth. I want to crawl up through the bushes to those windows and watch these stories like television, but the days of knowing your neighbors had faded along with a simpler America. What a tragedy that these stories will never be heard.

I cut across the park, on the off chance I might find something I lost a long time ago. But it's cold, and all I can think about is how lonely I must look trudging across a snow-covered soccer field. I start to walk home, thinking I'd take just about anything to make this world look new again.