Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How I'm Spending My Christmas Break

feel like I'm living in the plot of this movie

Wednesday evening reunion with Frank, T, and B at the condo -- as soon as I step in the door it's like I never left. Friday night date at the Penn -- Christmas Vacation with popcorn, pepsi, swedish fish and a nerds rope; then an unexpected pleasant reunion with a friend I hadn't seen in years (due to a personal feud), went to sleep that night as happy as I'd been in some time. Saturday night, Christmas Eve at Aunt Mary's and Uncle Paul's in Ann Arbor (a tradition now, but when I was a child Christmas Eve rotated amongst the aunts) -- it felt good this year, as I was for the first time able to proudly boast of my exploits in the North, hiking, camping, teaching, writing my novel. Strange to think that only last Christmas I was lamenting the rut I was stuck in, how stressed I was between work travel and vacation plans with the girlfriend's family, how stuck I felt in my hometown again. Spent a late Christmas Eve night with Frank's cat Dika (they were out of town to Taylor's hometown for Christmas), jamming and brainstorming how I was going to cut a 20,000 word novella into a 5,000 word short story by mid-January. The cat woke me up at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas morn, and I spent dawn watching both "Scrooged" and "A Christmas Story" before venturing over to Millwood for Christmas with the fam, in dire need of coffee.

Some things really never do change. Yesterday, I joined some buddies at the bar to watch the Lions on Monday Night Football, only to be reminded of why I've never felt any sort of loyalty to my local pro team; afterwards, I'm the only one sober so I drive to bowling in Canton, talk writing with Adam's brother Brian, a songwriter from Texas in town for the holidays, watch my friends stumble drunkenly across the bowling lanes. These nights seem so much more enjoyable now that I'm detached from the scene in my Northern winter abode. Woke up today around 1:30 in the afternoon, remembering a line from "Beautiful Girls" -- "what we've been doing lately is smoking massive amounts of drugs, binging on Entemmann's and listening to old Pink Floyd cd's". Just like I left you.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Home for the Holidays

There's such a big difference between being home for the holidays and living in your hometown for the holidays. Upon arriving home, I heard about an old family friend who, like myself, has spent much of her adult life struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. She won't be coming to Michigan for the holidays after all. Heard this song driving home from my cousin Frank's late last night, the festive lights on the houses passing by in colorful blurs, and it made me think of her. I'm grateful to be home for the Holidays; it was only earlier this year that I was pretty lost myself.

My heart goes out to you, wherever your are, M.

I don't want to understand this horror
There's a weight in your eyes
I can't admit
Everybody ends up here
in bottles
But the name tag's the last thing you wanted

As the world explodes
We fall out of it
And we can't let it go
Because this will not go away
There's a house built out in space

I can't see the thief that lives inside of your head
But I can be some courage at the side of your bed
And I don't know what's happening
And I can't pretend
But I can be your
be your

Someone help us understand
Who ordered
This disgusting arrangement of time and the end
I don't wanna hear who walked on water
'Cause the hallways are empty
Clocks tick

As the world implodes
We fall into it
And we can't go home
Because this will not go away
There's a house built out in space

It's a long long getaway
It's a long long getaway
Make it home again
Make it home again

- Our Lady Peace, "Thief"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First Winter Up North

Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. Winter here in a big way; snows for days and days. Lake effect snow descends upon the windblown streets like a fog. Mornings, trying to warm up next to the electrical heat vents, I often find myself looking out my apartment window to Lake Superior on the horizon, a single smokestack on its shore waving an endless handkerchief of black smoke, satisfied in the simple knowledge that I finally fucking did it. Another day stuck inside, tea on the stove top and a book on the rug, but I'm here in the Upper Peninsula.

Life starting to happen fast for me up here.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Circa 2004

Unknown, talk to unknown
Ever, lasts forever

Well it's a sharp shock to your soft side
Summer moon, catch your shut eye
In your room
In my room
In your room
In my room

Louder, lips speak louder
Better, back together

Still it's a sharp shock to your soft side
Summer moon, catch your shut eye
In your room
In my room
In your room
In my room

What's the time?
What's the day?
Gonna leave me?
What's the time?
What's the place?
Go and leave me
What's the time?
What's the day?
Gonna leave me?
What's the time?
What's the place?
Go and leave me out
leave me out
leave me out
leave me out

Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, "Soft Shock"
(rec by K)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Great Writing

"At one point, tacking out of Annapolis, [my father] said, "you've got the habit of leaving things unsaid, of shoving things under the rug."

I was startled, unnerved.

"Maybe it's inherited," he added.

I wondered what things he had in mind. He seemed to mean resentments. Did I have so many?

Once upon a time, I'd secretly blamed him for my miseries, for the anguish that plagued me through my college years after Caryn left me. My notion was, that his devotion to my mother -- his emotional dependence on her -- had set me a bad example and given me a model for love that ended up devastating me. But I had abandoned that idea, that ludicrous resentment, long ago. There were plenty of things I was actually glad I left unsaid. Still, the comment haunted me. It haunts me today -- all the things I wish I had said, when I had the chance."

- William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Writing felt like it justified, barely, my existence -- this extremity of obscurity I had perversely chosen."

William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Pale Blue Dot

A couple days after the loss, my brother Patrick mentioned "The Pale Blue Dot". 

"That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there -- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, that delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in this great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

- Carl Sagan

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Catholic School Kids

"Evidently it took Catholic school to turn young kids into fearless, hardened apostates."

- William Finnegan, "Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life"

Friday, November 11, 2016

At 7:00 p.m. the main hatchway caved in, At 7:00 p.m. it grew dark it was then, He said "Fellas it's been good to know ya"

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
But that's alright, because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear my cry
But that's alright, because I love the way you lie

I can't tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now there's a steel knife, in my windpipe
I can't breathe, but I still fight, while I can fight
As long as the wrong feels right, it's like I'm in flight
High off of love drunk from my hate
It's like I'm huffing paint and I love it the more that I suffer

Thursday, November 10, 2016


And I don't want you and I don't need you
Don't bother to resist, or I'll beat you
It's not your fault that you're always wrong
The weak ones are there to justify the strong

The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It's all relative to the size of your steeple
You can't see the forest for the trees
You can't smell your own shit on your knees

There's no time to discriminate
Hate every motherfucker
That's in your way

Hey you, what do you see?
Something beautiful, something free?
Hey you, are you trying to be mean?
If you live with apes man, it's hard to be clean

The worms will live in every host
It's hard to pick which one they eat the most

The horrible people, the horrible people
It's as anatomic as the size of your steeple
Capitalism has made it this way,
Old-fashioned fascism will take it away

There's no time to discriminate
Hate every motherfucker 
That's in your way

Marilyn Manson, "The Beautiful People"

Thursday, November 3, 2016


I want to live alone in the desert
I want to be like Georgia O'Keefe
I want to live on the Upper East Side
And never go down in the street

Spledid Isolation
I don't need no one
Splendid Isolation

Michael Jackson in Disneyland
Don't have to share it with nobody else
Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand
And lead me through the World of Self

Splendid Isolation
I don't need no one
Splendid Isolation

Don't want to wake up with no one beside me
Don't want to take up with nobody new
Don't want nobody coming by without calling first
Don't want nothing to do with you

I'm putting tinfoil up on the windows
Lying down in the dark to dream
I don't want to see their faces
I don't want to hear them scream

Splendid Isolation 
I don't need no one
Splendid Isolation

Warren Zevon, "Splendid Isolation"

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

High School

"As graduation time drew near, the principal of Freehold High, a basically good guy with whom I had a pretty decent detente for most of my high school years, took it upon himself to suggest that to let me attend the ceremony looking like I did would be a discredit and disgrace to the class. He subtly hinted that perhaps someone should do something about it. That was it for me. I would not be the subject/victim of meatheaded vigilante retribution. On my Freehold Regional High School graduation day, I woke up at dawn. That morning, while the house was asleep, I got dressed, went down to the bus terminal and boarded the six a.m. Lincoln Transit Commuter straight to New York City. I disembarked at the Port Authority, grabbed the subway to Eighth Street and walked up the stairs into the early-June sunlight of Greenwich Village feeling free as a bird. My world. I was done. Let them have their little party."

- Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run

Friday, October 28, 2016

Chapter 21

This is the beginning of the first chapter of Part III:



I lit my first cigarette and watched a small kid
Cussin’ at a can he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street
and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to something
That I’d lost somehow, somewhere along the way

- Kris Kristofferson, “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

We lived in a four bedroom loft apartment on the top floor of a ten story apartment building, directly beneath the fifty-foot golden clock tower perched atop the building, which lit up Greektown and the Near West side like an Athenian full moon. If I felt out of place amongst the yuppie crowd in the lecture halls and library aisles of my law school downtown, things aren’t much better in my home neighborhood of Greektown, where I am an Irishmen in search of whiskey and sports on streets that were lined only with classical architectural columns and statutes of Greek gods, where the storefronts are adorned with Christian relics, homemade wax candles, wines and cheeses, where the streets are lit up with the neon lights spelling out “Greek Islands,” “Artopolis,” “Rodity’s,” “Pegasus Restaurant and Tavern,” “Santorini” and “The Parthenon,” out of place among the old men and women in wool caps waiting at the bus stops and the thirty-something parents pushing newborns in strollers. I don't even like fucking gyros. Some dozen miles away, I might have found home in the tree-lined streets of Wrigleyville or Lincoln Park, where young college students and post-grads like myself guzzled beers on the front porches of townhouses and in the windows of Chicago’s corner bars and pubs while searching for their way in the world, but since I was in Petoskey all summer I left the apartment search in the hands of my roommate Ryan, the Naperville native; I didn’t give Chicago the forethought I should have, in retrospect. The only place I feel any semblance of home in Chicago is up in the tenth floor window of our apartment skyrise beneath the clock tower, listening to Red Wings play by play announcer Ken Kal narrate another winter night in Chicago for me through my headphones, a tall glass of whiskey soda at my side, but even there, I’m usually alone; I would often get up at whistle breaks and intermissions, to look out the living room window into the Chicago night, the skyline bedazzled with glimmers of red and white lights in the Sears Tower and other skyscrapers -- great Chicago, where my classmates and roommates are out beginning the rest of their lives, and I’m amazed that in a city so immense I could feel so utterly alone.

Most mornings, I take for granted the view of the sun rising from the East over the cityscape; its appeal had quickly been lost on account of the blinding light it greeted me with every morning at six a.m.. But something in the whiskey beckoned me towards the apartment windows at night time. It was all there at my fingertips, the vast skyline domineered by the geometric angles of the skyscrapers, reaching for stars mired by smog; the steeple-topped churches humbly genuflecting at the feet of the steel skyscrapers; the factory chimneys waving endless handkerchiefs of smoke into the frostbitten air; and behind it all lurked the mysterious enormity of Lake Michigan frozen over, where icebergs squeezed forwards towards Lakeshore Drive, hoping to climb ashore and rest their weary masses; even further out on the edge horizon lurk the deepest depths of Lake Michigan, where the souls of sailors lost to the Great Lakes are frozen in debaucherous howls in the ship graveyards at the cavernous bottoms of the lake. The slow march of life and death exists outside my window, but I am stuck inside that tenth floor apartment, alone in a room with a guy that I judge worse than anyone else, stuck in the past. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Michigan State

This game will always be for when you stopped saying I love you the day after I got out of the psychiatric emergency room, for never once even bothering to ask if I was okay.

Fuck people and Fuck State. See ya in East Lansing in two weeks.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesday, Before Dawn -- Notes for the Therapist

It's that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
And who would've thought the books that you brought
Were all I loved you for
Oh the devil in me said go down to the shed
I know where I belong
But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong

It's that little souvenir of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say the world is that way
Surpise, surpise, surpise, surpise surpise

Here's where the story ends
Oh here's where the story ends

- The Sundays, "Here's Where the Story Ends"

It's that feeling of coming alive when the depression breaks after a bad episode, when the Sunday and Monday blues fade into the manic highs of Thursday, Friday, Saturday. It feels all too similar to my drinking years (note to self: discuss this phenomenon with the new therapist), when I would suffer through withdrawal in a world all of my own on Sunday and Monday only to be reborn again on Wednesday or Thursday, when I would emerge from the despair and isolation of alcoholic hell into the outside world again. It's like the depression is mimicking those years, making me revisit old visions and memories that I had revisited plenty of goddamn times by now thank you very much. Listened to this song this morning (read: dawn) after a sleepless night -- still no sign of the sunrise -- and it made me feel alive again after a rough two and a half days in which I spent a lot of time in bed feeling homesick and singing the blues (strange as it was the first time I had struggled with a depressive episode since moving to Superior). I don't know what it's like for most people; maybe they feel alive all the time. But for me, I've learned to appreciate those moments when you feel truly alive, when the darkness breaks and the sunrise of a new day peaks its head over the horizon.

Nevermind. You wouldn't understand. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ch. 17: Hull



Chicago for me would turn gray, cold, impersonal, cruel. But in the beginning, when I was still in college, it was summertime in the Windy City, and it was very much vast and limitless. Opportunity not yet squandered. Opportunity not yet lost to the bottom of a bottle.

There’s an intern party going on in one of the dorm rooms at the University of Illinois – Chicago campus, where my fellow interns and I are staying for the duration of the Chicago-Kent Law School summer internship program, and I’m sneaking away from the party room back to my own dorm room, where I giddily line up two fresh lines of Adderall to snort off of my wooden desk, which looks out from a brick dormitory tower window to the corner of Halsted and Harrison, where the Sears Tower looms majestically above the steel skyline of great Chicago and the shores of Lake Michigan, the city lights beginning to glimmer in the falling dusk, the sun setting over the redbrick rooftops and steeple towers of Chicago. I snort both lines back to back, one for each nostril. The adderall immediately gives my veins a jolt of electricity and I pump my fists in the air like a boxer before a title fight, amping myself up for Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, a rematch of last year’s final pitting my defending champion Detroit Red Wings and the young guns of the Pittsburgh Penguins. A game seven in the Stanley Cup Finals. Doesn't get any bigger than this. Don't get scared now.

Strange as it is to be away from Detroit and Ann Arbor for Game 7 -- makes me uncomfortable in my superstition -- the whiskey and adderall alleviate the nerves and make me feel right at home. On whiskey and amphetamines Chicago seems very much conquerable.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Autumn Rains

"She began to giggle and he kissed her soundly and later took her to bed and they slept together like spoons. He remembered waking up once, listening to the wind, thinking of all the dark and rushing cold outside and all the warmth of this bed, filled with their peaceful heat under two quilts, and wishing it could be like this forever -- only nothing ever was. He had been raised to believe God was love, but you had to wonder how loving God could be when He made men and women smart enough to land on the moon but stupid enough to have to learn there was no such thing as forever over and over again."

- Stephen King, The Tommyknockers

Sunday, September 25, 2016


As I was going over the Cork and Kerry mountains
I saw Captain Farrell and his money he was counting
I first produced my pistol and then produced my rapier
I said stand and deliver or the devil he may take you

I took all of his money and it was a pretty penny
I took all of his money and I brought it home to Molly
She swore that she would love me, no never would she leave me
But the devil take that woman! yeah for you know she tricked me easy

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my daddy-o
There's whiskey in the jar-o

Being drunk and weary, I went to Molly's chamber
Take my money with me and I never knew the danger
For about six or maybe seven in walked Captain Farrell
I jumped up, fired off my pistols and I shot him with both barrels

Now some men like the fishing and some men like the fowling
And some men like to hear, to hear cannon ball a roaring
Me? I like sleeping, specially in my Molly's chamber
But here I am in prison! here I am with a ball and chain

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da
Whack for my daddy-o
Whack for my dadd-o
There's whiskey in the jar-o

Metallica, "Whiskey in the Jar"

Monday, September 19, 2016

Chapter 1: SAWCHUK

Writing update: After finishing up "Summer, Trader's Fall's," I transitioned back to work on the novel by making major edits to Parts I and II. Post edits, it stands at a little over 60,000 words; I figure I need to write another 30,000. I hope to finish the last couple chapters in Part II this Fall and write Part III (the ending) this Winter while holed up in the Marquette snow. As part of the editing process, I made the executive decision to make this chapter the new and current first chapter of the novel. It was previously posted as "Goose Loonies," but I think it conveys the tone and theme of the novel particularly well:



March 24, 1988 – Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan.
Hartford Whalers 3, Detroit Red Wings 2.

My old man used to say that it was the only game he missed as a season ticket holder during the 1987-88 Red Wings season. “It was the best game of the season, though, because it was the night you were born,” he used to tell me on game nights after a couple Labatt's. It was always through sports that he told me he loved me.

On the surface, it was an unremarkable regular season loss, the box score and newspaper collections in the National Hockey League archives indicating only that Hartford defeated the Red Wings 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena that night in a late season throwaway game, Detroit having already clinched the Norris Division. Russian defector and rookie phenom Petr Klima scored a goal for the Wings, bad boy Bob Probert notched an assist, and the ever-scrappy Joey Kocur amassed a whopping seventeen penalty minutes with his fists alone.

What that box score couldn’t suggest, however, was that underneath the surface, the gears of fate were turning deep within the Motor City hockey machine.

A few weeks later, before I had even left the hospital – an incision stitched halfway across my belly, I was a hospital baby in my first couple months in this world – rumors of a scandal scorched the hockey world. A couple mornings after the Red Wings had been eliminated from the 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Edmonton Oilers, the sports world read the details of what would come to be known infamously in Detroit as “The Goose Loonies Incident” in the morning papers, the press hot with the details of a late night drinking incident involving six Red Wings players. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t have merited news, but the six perpetrators happened to pull this stunt on the eve of the biggest Red Wings game of the season and perhaps even their biggest game of the nineteen eighties to date – an elimination game in the conference finals against the juggernaut Edmonton Oilers.

Three of the ringleaders turned out to be none other than Petr Klima, Joe Kocur, and Bob Probert – a was recovering alcoholic. The newspaper columnists accused the three of them of organizing an all-night drinking party at a downtown Edmonton bar called “Goose Loonies.” The Red Wings fan base, starving for a winning team, took the Goose Loonies incident personally, feeling a few bad apples had jeopardized the franchise’s best shot at a Stanley Cup in years. It was a big story in the newspapers in Stanley Cup-deprived Detroit that summer, and Goose Loonies became a household name in my neighborhood in the following days, weeks, and months. Even now, twenty-seven years later, I still come across references to the infamous Goose Loonies Incident in the sports section of the Detroit newspapers every now and then.

The oft-troubled Probert must have lost control at some point that night; I of all people should be sympathetic of an alcoholic relapse. No stranger to trouble with the law, Detroit’s notorious tough guy had famously cleaned up his act the previous offseason, and it seemed he had managed to pin down his demons for most of that 1987-88 regular season – 87-88 was Probert’s lone all star game appearance – but even one drink can be the unraveling of a recovering alcoholic. A Red Wings assistant coach found the hotel rooms of Klima, Kocur, and Probert incredulously empty at curfew check, put on his jacket, and went looking for the six missing players in the city lights of downtown Edmonton.

Meanwhile Probert and gang were still sucking down Molson’s in the whiskey hours of the Alberta night, undoubtedly under the hazy spell of Jack Daniels and Canadian women. What a buzzkill it must have been for the six of them, when, to their great infamy, the assistant coach showed up at Goose Loonies, an incredulous look on his face as he imagined what head coach Jacques DeMers would have to say about his discovery. Six Red Wings caught red-handed.

A surely hungover Probert dressed in the following evening’s Game 5 against Edmonton anyways – the Wings couldn’t afford to sit him. He accumulated a tell-tale minus three rating in a lopsided 8-4 loss to that loaded Edmonton team. Wayne Gretzky, Canada’s soon to be departed hero, scored a goal and added two assists for the hometown Oilers. Had it been a victory for Detroit, the details of the previous night might have fallen away into the great chasm of forgettable sports losses. But it was a loss, and a big one at that, so the Goose Loonies Incident would haunt the Red Wings for some time.

Like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Chicago’s “Black Sox,” the six perpetrators came to be condemned as the infamous “six” that summer, the numeral six stitched permanently onto their jerseys like damning scarlet letters. The proverbial last straw broken, the Red Wings then-coach Jacques DeMers stood shame-facedly at a podium in front of news cameras back at the Joe and issued a heartfelt public apology to Detroit fans, calling the incident a “blemish on the entire organization” and “a black cloud on the season”. Fighting back tears, DeMers apologized profusely, looking like a broken man.

DeMers’ public apology, while dramatic, masked much more volatile currents running through Detroit’s front offices. There, hot-blooded internal discussions raged behind closed curtains, Detroit’s management team discussing rehab facilities for Probert and debating the termination of some of the other perpetrators’ contracts. The fault lines beneath Hockeytown were shifting, and some of its big names from the eighties would crumble in the aftermath. The turn of the decade fast-approaching, Detroit’s brain trust wanted to put an end to the “Dead Wings” era, for good.

Years later, while vacationing Up North in Ontario with some of the guys I grew up with, I would read Probert’s own version of the Goose Loonies incident in his autobiography, Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge, over a 24 ounce breakfast beer. It was springtime, the year 2012, and the corn stalks planted in rows behind the schoolhouse we were staying at had barely peaked out of the dormant earth.

Hungover and jittery – unable to sleep – I retrieved my copy of Probert’s book from my duffel bag and tried not to wake my buddies as I snuck a handful of beer bottles out of the refrigerator. Although I drank in the morning all the time with my college buddies back in Ann Arbor, these were the guys I grew up with, and they were much less further gone than I was at the time. As the eldest of our friend group, a role model to those guys, I didn’t want them to catch me drinking so early in the morning.

The previous summer Bob Probert had suffered a massive sudden heart attack and died on his boat on Lake St. Clair in the waters between Michigan and Ontario. The lake where he died was only a few dozen miles of waterway south by Lake Huron from that Canadian schoolhouse where I read his book. The loss of one of the great tough guys of all time devastated the hockey community, if it didn’t surprise them. Probert died just a couple chapters shy of finishing his autobiography, and a local columnist ironically had to ghost write the final pages of Probert’s autobiography. Only a year had passed since his death, and the wound of his passing was reopened as I voraciously consumed his roller coaster of a life story.

As I discovered in the pages of that book, the Goose Loonies incident was only the beginning of a long battle with alcohol and drugs for both Probert and Klima. Probert was shipped off on a flight to the Betty Ford Center in Minnesota for substance abuse treatment following the end of the ‘88 season, but he was unable to maintain any long term sobriety throughout the remainder of his playing career; the Goose Loonies incident must have seemed like small potatoes to him the very next season, when United States customs officials found a hefty bag of cocaine in Probert’s SUV at the Windsor border. To his credit, Probert served his time in federal prison and would go on to find a successful career with the Chicago Black Hawks, but his personal demons would forever be linked to his name, fairly or unfairly. Probert had been sober for some time at the time of his death, but it was hard not to speculate that his early demise was somehow loosely connected to that fateful night at Goose Loonies in 1988.

As for Petr Klima, Detroit police found him slouched over the wheel of his Chevy Corvette not long after the end of the ‘88 season, drunk at the scene of a single car automobile wreck; between Detroit, the minors, and several other NHL franchises, Klima would bounce around from team to team throughout the remainder of his career, even winning a Stanley Cup in 1993 with the Edmonton Oilers – perhaps fitting that he won back in Edmonton – but he never quite lived up to the hype he generated during his rookie year with the Red Wings.

I looked up from the pages of my book and gazed out at the cornfield stretched out below the schoolhouse deck, feeling the strange buzz of a liquid breakfast. Stretched out across the shell-pink horizon was Canadian farmland as far as the eye could see, the fields glowing golden under the early morning sun. Probert’s struggles with cocaine and booze captivated me. I was reading a lot of books about the dark side of alcohol at the time, memoirs of battles with the bottle, probably on some subconscious level knowing that my own toe to toe battle with the bottle was looming right around the bend.

But all that was still in the stars.

Friday, September 16, 2016


On the eve of game day volume III, I think about Kordell Stewart's Hail Mary in 1994 to beat the Wolverines in the Big House, maybe my very first Michigan Football memory, preceding only the Dreisbach to Mercury Hayes miracle on my first trip to the Big House in August '95. I put my head phones on, and I go to battle in my head, getting lost in other worlds. And I try and find comfort in the darkness, knowing I'll see things you'll never see. Outside the window, storm clouds from Superior cast a strange darkness in the early evening. I love it when it rains on the eve of a game day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Tell your children not to walk my way
Tell your children not to hear my words
What they mean
What they say

Can you keep them in the dark for life?
Can you hide them from the waiting world?
Oh mother

Gonna take your daughter out tonight
Gonna show her my world
Oh father

Not about to see your light
And if you want to find hell with me
I can show you what it is

Tell your children not to hold my hand
Tell your children not to understand
Oh mother

Not about to see your light
And if you want to find hell with me
I can show you what it is
Til' you're bleeding

- Danzig, "Mother"

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Central Florida

Night falls and I'm alone
Skin yeah chilled me to the bone
You turned and you ran
Oh yeah oh slipped, right from my hand

Hey, blue on black, tears on a river
Push on a shove it don't mean much
Joker on Jack, match on a fire
Cold on ice a dead man's touch
Whisper on a scream doesn't change a thing
Don't bring you back
Blue on black

Blind oh, now I see
Truth, lies and in between
Wrong, can't be undone
Oh slipped, from the tip of your tongue

Hey, blue on black, tears on a river
Push on a shove it don't mean much
Joker on Jack, match on a fire
Cold on ice as a dead man's touch
Whisper on a scream doesn't change a thing
Doesn't bring you back, yeah
Blue on black
Oh blue on black

Kenny Wayne Shepherd, "Blue on Black"

Friday, September 2, 2016

Summer, Trader's Falls X


It was a Tuesday, no Wednesday, Thursday? Jackson sat against the brick wall of the New Oakland Psychiatric building, smoking a cigarette while the rest of his group ate their lunches inside. He had made a habit of coming outside to this spot every day at lunchtime, as it was the only alone time he got during the day session. Soon the rest of his group would trickle outside to chain smoke cigarettes and chat through the rest of lunch break, at which point he was under an obligation to try and socialize by therapist's orders. 

Do you know what it feels like to have a bad morning in psych group? Bobby, the resident psych ward veteran in group who does not stop talking, even when the therapist is walking out the door, admitted to the group that he had swallowed a bottle of benzos two nights prior in an attempt to kill himself, then disappeared out the back door mid-session. Rob, the guy who hasn't said a word since Jackson was admitted to group, except to emphasize that he loves the Philadelphia Eagles, stood up and took off his shirt towards the end of the morning session, displaying for group the bullet wound and surgery scars from where he shot himself through the chest in a suicide attempt two weeks ago. It was an improbably powerful moment for Jack, but it also triggered old secrets that Jackson should not have been thinking about. 

It was a beautiful day outside, at least. with great white cotton candy clouds floating across a sky of robin's egg blue. The dog days of summer had set in early in Metro Detroit, and the ninety-five degree heat beat down on Jackson as he wrote in his journal on the blacktop outside the building. He could hear the traffic rushing by from I-96 through the alley. Across from the building there was a two story house with grape vines on the side and a garage out back, where there were always four to five cars parked; the rumor going around group was that the residents were somehow involved with the Mafia. Jackson put his headphones on, and played the same song he played everyday at this time  -- Stand of Oaks, "Heal". 

He picked up a white rock from the concrete and began clawing away at the redbrick wall of the psychiatric building, writing the lyrics to the song. He had already covered the brick wall in several of these chalk-like phrases with lyrics and thoughts during his time in group: "The voices say RUN"; "Hello darkness my old friend"; "I was born in the middle, maybe too late, everything good had been made, so I just get loaded, and never leave my house" (this one had taken him two lunch periods to complete); "the idiotic chattering laugh of a girl unstrung with hideous fear". He had found that last one written upon his arrival, and Jackson loved it. 

He scratched away at the redbrick wall with the white rock, the rock crumbling as he wrote, like a pencil growing dull against paper:

"And we're painted like the Warriors
You gotta Heal"

[the end]


I keep swinging my hand through a swarm of bees cause I
I want honey on my table
But I never get it right
No I never get it right

I keep swinging my hand through a swarm of bees
I can't understand why they're stinging me
But I'll do what I want, I'll do what I please
I'll do it again til' I've got what I need

I'll rip and smash through the hornet's nest
Don't you understand I deserve the best?
'Til you do what I want
I'll do what I please
I'll do it again til' I've got what I need

I try to stick this pin through a butterfly cause I
I like all the pretty colors
It just fell apart, so I flung it in the fire
To burn with all the others

So I'm cutting that branch off the cherry tree
Singing "This will be my victory,"
Then I, 
See them coming after me

But I'll do what I want
I'll do what I please
I'll do it again til' I got what I need cause I
I want honey on my table

Thrice, "Black Honey"

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer, Trader's Falls V


From the very beginning Jack had planned a detour up Highway 61. He wanted to experience the highway Bob Dylan had famously written of, take it up to Hibbing and see the childhood home Dylan had grown up in there. He thought he might find some of Dylan’s muse up there on the Minnesota coast. But not even during his wildest office fantasies had he pictured it this breathtaking; if ever there was a place to go looking for Dylan’s muse, this was it.

He sat Indian style on a flat boulder on the cliff at his campsite, looking out at Split Rock Lighthouse looming in the distance over Lake Superior, its revolving beacon flashing over great crags of rock that made Superior’s coastline crooked here, over a small island of orangish gray rock which was coated in towering green pines, over the eternal horizon of Superior’s waters. He looked with a sense of wonder that he thought he had lost along with his childhood a long time ago. The scene reminded him of the Oregon coast in The Goonies – when One-Eyed Willie’s eighteenth century pirate ship emerges from the cliffs out onto the Pacific, majestically emancipated from its dark cave. From his spot up on the cliff, he could hear children from campsites below playing Ghosts in the Graveyard, chanting “Dead man! Dead man! Come a-LIVE!” Oh, the sweet memories of childhood. 

He had arrived at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park in Minnesota just before eight o’clock central time, with little time to spare in pitching his tent before dark. It had been a long and beautiful travel day. The four mile hike from Lake Superior Cabin to his car seemed much easier than the hike in, as many portions of the trail had dried up in the sweltering heat of the last couple days. His bags were also considerably lighter on the hike out, on account that he no longer had the weight of his food sagging him down. Many more snake sightings kept him guarded during the hike out, but he had seen so many during his trip that he was mostly shrugging them off by then. When he finally arrived at the trail head, sweaty and physically exhausted, he never thought he had been so happy to see his car.

In an impromptu picnic he immediately scarfed down two pop tarts and a hot water bottle he found sitting in the back seat, which gave him just enough energy to resolve to see the Lake of the Clouds after all. He blasted the air conditioning and drove through the forested road out of the park to Ontanagon, where he picked up a cold bottle of Mountain Dew, a king sized Snickers bar, and a long-awaited fresh tin of Grizzly Wintergreen. Feeling a new man, he made the drive back into the Porcupine Mountains, determined to make one last hike to see the famed Lake of the Clouds, which did not disappoint.

There were long stretches of the drive through the Western Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin during which he saw no other cars for miles and miles, and on several of these occasions Jack caught himself wondering if he had ascended to another world. For the first time in several weeks he found himself feeling as if life were more than a chore.

Along the drive he spotted several deer along the roadside, but other than that he saw no wildlife – nothing but North Woods forest, rolling hills, rivers and creeks, and small rinky-dink towns that weren’t even on the map. He made a brief pit stop at a scenic rest stop on the Superior coast of Northern Wisconsin, where he admired the girls laying out on the beach and walked out on the dock to view the enormous lumber mills on the lakeside, imagining himself a die-hard Packers fan who had worked these mills half his life; he could live here, he thought – he could fight in a place like this. He made a second pit stop at an outpost in Minnesota just outside of Duluth, where he ate one of the best pulled pork sandwiches of his life for dinner. From there, he crossed the Duluth Bridge and veered North up Highway 61.

When he had envisioned the trip, Jack had pictured some pivotal epiphany or some other grand metaphorical event occurring on Bob Dylan’s famed Highway 61. Dylan had been his very first inspiration for writing, back in high school, and Highway 61 had always symbolized some metaphorical escape from everything he hated about his hometown back then. He had even went digging through his old high school cd collection, picked out “Highway 61 Revisited” for this portion of the journey, hoping it might set in motion some life-altering realization:

Well, Georgia Sam, he had a bloody nose
Welfare Department, they wouldn’t give him no clothes
He asked poor Howard, “Where can I go?”
Howard said, “There’s only one place I know”
And Sam said, “Tell me quick, man, I got to run”

Oh, Howard just pointed with his gun
And said, “That way, down on Highway 61”

So it was disappointing to find the entire drive up Highway 61 to Two Harbors clogged by orange traffic barrels and men in neon green vests.

Still,” he reminded himself, “hard to feel down considering all the sights and scenery we saw today”. From the hike back up to the Little Carp River Gorge, to the Lake of the Clouds, the Northern Wisconsin coast, the Aerial Lift Bridge over the water in Duluth, and the massive cliffs of the Minnesota coast, it was hard to complain about that kind of day, especially considering that a mere five weeks ago he had been pent up in a cubicle staring out the window, longing for this exact place. And still the best was yet to come; when he arrived at his campsite in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park at sundown, the view was unlike anything he had ever seen before.

He parked his car at the designated lot and made the short hike to his campsite on the cliff. The fire ring and tent site lay on level grass on a ledge of the cliff, and a narrow trail led upwards to the crest of the cliff. He climbed up to find the view of a lifetime laid out before him – a three hundred foot drop to the crags of Lake Superior below, cliffs that wound their way around a small cove that was protected by a small island, towering pines jutting out at odd angles from all over the cliffs and island. Above it all stood the majestic Split Rock Lighthouse, its beacon revolving across Lake Superior’s vast, deep blue enormity. He stood atop the cliff for a long time, breathing in the lake air, reflecting, pondering life and the awe-inspiring view before him. The lighthouse fit so naturally into the scene that it looked like it could not have possibly been man made. Jack thought it must have stood there on the cliff for all of time – before man ever stepped foot in this country.

When darkness fell he gathered his radio, journal, and notebooks and hunkered down in the tent. He adjusted the radio dial for several minutes, searching for a decent station, letting his mind get lost in each station he vetted before panning the dial to the next – classical music (some Mozart composition or another), Albanian talk show, “KQ Classic Rock Duluth” (the same station he got at the cabin in the Porcupine Mountains, which he was frankly sick of), Trump worship and Obama bashing on several stations, religious babble, sports radio! Finally. There seemed to be two sports stations mashed together by a miniscule turn of the radio dial, both stations talking NBA Draft Night. 

Oh, for Chrissakes,” he said out loud in the tent, as if asking the gods for mercy, "is the Chicago station really coming in clearer than the Minnesota station?" 

[It was].

Fuck Chicago,” he thought bitterly, all of the memories of her apartment in Wrigleyville swirling up in him like vengeant demons, “Chicago is dead to me.”

After scanning through the entire spectrum of the AM and FM radio dials again, though, he accepted defeat and resolved to give the Chicago sports station a shot. It was sports radio, at least, he figured. 

 “It’s just a radio station,” he thought, attempting yet again to suppress memories of the past two years in Chicago with her.

Fucking sick of these Chicago stations,” a darker voice whispered, “how is it possible that Chicago stations come in across all the Great Lakes?”

Jackson was testing his limits. He opened the tent flap and smoked a cigarette while looking at the stars. He decided he would try and read some Harry Potter, try and get lost in another world for a while -- any world but his -- a plan which went smoothly enough until the big news came that “with the fourteenth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select Denzel Valentine, shooting guard from Michigan State University”.

Denzel fucking Valentine,” he reflected, no longer angry but just plain sad, “her alma mater”. At that, he lost it.

By the time he calmed himself down, it was near midnight. He had wrote out enough curses and mad thoughts in his journal for one night. He unzipped the flap of the tent and climbed out to retrieve some cookies he had accidentally left on the picnic table. The stars were bright in a clear midnight blue sky. He spotted the Big Dipper hanging above Lake Superior, glowing magically over the cliffs. He crawled back into his tent, his flashlight lantern lighting the interior, and readjusted the radio dial. KQ Classic Rock it was. 

When was the last time you were in a tent?” he asked, as if he were changing the conversation with someone.

The last time he was in a tent was with Al and Jamie back in the summer of 2011, the worst summer of his life to date, hitting the slopes and guzzling beers on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan in some feeble attempt to forget the fact that the girl he had just transferred schools for had left him mere weeks before they were scheduled to move in to their apartment together, when he was a shell of a human being. The last time before that was sophomore year in his college house, when he and Andy lived in individual tents in the unfinished basement for a semester after they had been kicked out of their fraternity house, when he was a loose cannon.

He listened to the sounds of night audible over the soft songs of the radio. He could hear the big semi trucks rolling down Highway 61. “Bob Dylan’s sacred Highway 61,” he reflected; he was here at last.

Jack wondered what those truck drivers were feeling and thinking as they rumbled through the lonely night – heartsick for a girl halfway across the country? Homesick for a house where children slept peacefully in their beds? Angry or content with the hand they had been dealt in life? – wondered if they could see Dylan’s ghosts out on Highway 61.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Summer, Trader's Falls (IIX)



Sunday morning coming down. Jack hated Sundays. He suspected it had something to do with his drinking years. Back then, Sundays always meant the dreaded end of a three or four day bender, bringing with it the shaky hands and fried nerves of an alcoholic hangover, long walks of reevaluation on a weekly basis and alcoholic guilt, until it got to the point that it took Jack six to seven beers to taper off each Sunday, until the benders no longer stopped on Sundays at all; though Jack had been sober from alcohol for over two and a half years now, it felt as if the ghosts from those Sundays fighting alcohol withdrawals still walked with him. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer, Trader's Falls (III)


"You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific Ocean? They say it has no memory." It was Andy Dufresne who said that, Jack mused nostalgically. Sitting on a washed up log on the rocky shores of Lake Superior, journal in hand, "boiled creek water Gatorade" (as he called it) at his side, watching the sun set over Gitchee Gummee, that adage held true for him on Superior's waters. He listened to the waves for a long time. Zihuatenejo. 

Even Superior's waves seemed rather gentle today. The tide receded swiftly, now, revealing massive black boulders that jut out of the coast, boulders and rock slabs that look like they haven't moved in centuries. He watched the sunset turn the sky different colors -- orange, then pink, then lavender -- describing all of the brilliant colors around him in his journal: on his left, to the South, the forested shoreline curved outwards in brilliant greens -- almost a fresh lettuce green on the shore nearest him, then grass greens and maple greens for the next couple miles of coast, then mountainous blue-greens where the coast rose in elevation towards Duluth; the sun was sinking rapidly into Lake Superior straight ahead in the West, casting the waters in varying shades of blue that darkened with the incoming waves, until they broke with white foam against the rocks, which had taken on a Merlot hue in the fading daylight; and on his right, to the North, Lake Superior opened on the other side of the mouth of Big Carp River, vast waters beneath an equally vast blue sky, as far as the eye can see, framed only by the pines on the Northern shore. 

The sunset had drawn his neighbors from another cabin to the beach as well. Not far from where he sat writing, the female half of a thirty-something hippie couple walked barefoot along the sandy portions of the beach, throwing stones into the lake and taking artsy photographs with a camera, while her bearded male counterpart sat farther down the beach, stoically carving something with a pocket knife. Jack wondered what the woman on the beach was thinking in that moment as she walked nearer. She was pretty in the way that women are when they are troubled in thought. He had seen this couple on one or two occasions at the Big Carp River bridge, and since he had first seen them on day one he had half been expecting that prophetical 'backpacking hippies pass along sage wisdom to the writer camping solo' a la Jan and Rainy to Alexander Supertramp, but so far they had not shown any signs of interest. He wondered if there was trouble in paradise when he watched them disappear into the woods shortly thereafter, neither of them speaking a word to one another. 

It had been a "good" day for Jack -- no episodes or breakdowns. The mountains had succeeded in that. He had woken up at one o'clock in the afternoon, the latest he had slept in years, with the easiness of a man who had recently quit his office job to chase his dreams on the road, in the wilderness, an easiness which was broken by the sharp realization that he desperately needed to figure out a way to boil some drinking water, ASAP. 

He tuned his radio to the weather dial before changing into his jeans and a clean shirt, anxious now that he realized he had wasted half the day, the weatherman's announcement that it was the longest day of the calendar year in terms of daylight only a small consolation. 

"But stay hydrated if your outdoors, folks, it's also going to be one of the hottest," the weatherman said. Jack finished tying his tennis shoes, grabbed the bucket from the corner of the cabin, unlocked the cabin door, and headed out on the trail towards the Big Carp River bridge. 

"Weatherman wasn't wrong," he reflected upon arriving at the bridge. It had been one thing under the shade back at his cabin, but here on the river the sun beat down on the wooden bridge uninhibited. He climbed down from the bridge onto the rocks on the banks of the river until he reached water's edge. He leaned over, running his hands through the water and scooping it onto his face. It felt cold and rejuvenating in his pores. He filled his bucket with river water and carried it up the bank and back to camp, surprised at how sore he was and how difficult it made such a simple task. He set the bucket down on the front porch and rubbed his shoulders, achingly, then set out for his first long walk down the beach, hoping to find drift wood for the fire. 

To Jack's great relief, starting a fire proved much easier this time around; the wood seemed drier today. "Must have rained up here yesterday morning before I got here," Jack hypothesized, "that would explain the swampy hike in." It was boiling the water that proved the tricky part.

Initially, he attempted to boil the water by placing the tea kettle from the cabin cupboards on a flat stone in the fire pit. This took over an hour. And even then, Jack skeptically eyed his first mugful of murky tea. His second attempt went much better, as this time around he boiled the water in a pot on top of the biggest log he had. As these methods proved more efficient, he made notes to himself in his journal under a heading titled "Camping Notes". 

"Invest in water filtration device," he wrote, "too many wasted hours on such a basic necessity."

Then again, he thought, that's the beauty of camping -- you were always moving, always working on something for camp; no time in which to dwell on yesterdays. 

He ate a very late lunch of saltine crackers and summer sausage, which he cut into slices with his pocket knife. He enjoyed lunch with his first batch of "boiled creekwater Gatorade" (boiled river water plus a couple squirts of Mio water enhancer), as he called it in his journal. After lunch, he changed into his bathing suit, which instigated one of the few setbacks of the day.

"You know, you probably shouldn't have packed the bathing suit that she bought you for the vacation with her family this Winter, dumbass," a voice told him reprovingly. 

"It's just a stupid fucking bathing suit," he responded, though he knew damn well in his heart it was more than that.

He mixed a second water bottle-full of boiled creekwater Gatorade, grabbed his book from the nightstand, and set out for the beach at the mouth of the Big Carp River on Lake Superior, trying not to think about his bathing suit. That cause was accomplished when he encountered two different snakes in separate locations along the trail there -- two to three foot Northern Ribbon Snakes, grayish black snakes with two vertical yellow stripes down their backs -- which put the fear of nature back at the forefront of his imagination. He loathed snakes; had spent considerable time fretting about snake encounters for days prior to his journey. Still, his fears coming in to the mountains had proved to be much worse than the reality of each encounter, and Jack guessed that was the way it was with most things in life. 

He waded in barefoot across the mouth of the Big Carp River, where the river bottom was sandy and clear. Superior's waters felt like stepping into a bucket of ice water, but it was soothing on his sore, bitten feet. He washed his arms in the water and bent over to dunk his head in, which gave him a momentary brain freeze that reminded him of slurpees when he was a boy. After cooling off in the water, he attempted to do some reading on the beach, but he never did make much progress on Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, perhaps because while Hogwarts had been his only means of escape the past month -- he had already devoured The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix since his psychiatric episode -- here on Lake Superior's shores, his escape was all around him. 

Jack had spent several hours tanning at the beach, and now he had changed into long sleeves and was watching the sun go down. Zooming in from the natural valley above the Big Carp River, a family of ducks landed in vee formation on Superior to his right -- landing not far from where the hippie couple had recently disappeared into the woods. One of the ducks barked out orders to the others. Jack guessed he was the Father duck. Floating now, the family of ducks commenced fishing, dipping their heads underwater as they drifted past him in the current. "There they go, behind the rocks, before I even finish this sentence," he lamented in his journal. 

"Probably time to head back to the cabin soon," he reflected. Even on a hot day, it got chilly quickly when the sun went down over Lake Superior, and the sand flies were coming out in droves, congregating in insect clouds over the water. There were big fish jumping on the lake. 


"Yikes," Jack though on the walk back to the cabin. It was cold and spooky in the darkening woods. The fire had burned completely out by the time he got back to camp, and though it was probably just the wind he confronted a vision in which someone had been to camp and put it out. Terrified, he jumped onto the cabin porch and flung open the screen door, secluding himself inside the cabin away from the horrors of the night. He lit both candles and hung his lantern from the rafters frantically, then locked the cabin door behind him. 

Even in the cabin, he ruminated, he felt more alone than he had last night, for whatever reason; it just seemed to him darker outside the cabin tonight, colder even, and he got the feeling that darkness had fallen more rapidly tonight, like someone was shutting off the lights on him. 

"It's okay," Jack consoled himself as he adjusted the radio dial, taking deep breaths, "I've got Cobain on the radio, Harry Potter at my bedside, and pen and paper on the table". There were all kinds of adventures to be had in a cabin. It wasn't going to be so bad. 

The radio played "Free Bird" and for the second consecutive day he took great joy in knowing that he could connect with a favorite song in a way that would have never been possible before the trip. The first instance had occurred yesterday on the drive up, listening to "Something More than Free" on the cd player, windows rolled down, Isbell waling through the speakers as they sped down the two lane country roads through waving fields of tall grass:

Are you living the life you chose?
Or are you living the life that chose you?
Are you taking a grown up dose?
Do you live with a man who knows you like I
thought I did back then?
But I guess I never did,
did I, kid?

Fleetwood Mac, "Dreams," followed Lynyrd Skynyrd, then REO Speedwagon, "Ridin' the Storm Out," which whisped Jack away to a blissful high, upon which he disappeared into his writing. There was something intoxicating about being alone in a cabin in the woods with nothing but candlelight, radio, pen and paper. 

"I sure could go for a cold bottled water," he wrote in his journal a couple hours later, "getting pretty goddamn sick of boiled creekwater Gatorade." Still, he reminded himself, he had to continue to monitor his water intake. He was showing symptoms of dehydration and was now second-guessing himself on that first batch of water from the tea kettle -- had he boiled it long enough? did he drink contaminated water? -- paranoia that probably was not helped by the fact that he was properly stoned. 

"These are things you should not mess around with in the wilderness," a voice reprimanded him, "especially this far away from cell phone reception." If dehydration symptoms continue tomorrow, he cautioned, he would have to consider hiking back to the car early, maybe finding a motel somewhere to recover. At the very least, he would have to wake up early tomorrow and boil more water, first thing, as he was already running low again. First significant challenge of trip, he wrote in the journal that night. It made everything feel very real for the first time since he had left home. 

Because he had opted for the sunset at the beach over starting another fire to cook dinner, he was forced to settle for a late supper of cold beans and summer sausage, plus a protein bar and a Motrin for dessert. He found the cabin journal and read through it once more, returning to one of the smallest entries that had been stuck in his head since last night:

I came on this trip to find something my wife and I have lost after 25 years of marriage. Hope you find what you're seeking as well.

Jack wondered for a long time about the man who had written that entry some years ago. He wondered whether or not he and his wife were still together. Ultimately he concluded pessimistically, imagining that the man and wife had probably waged a long and painful custody battle against one another in court, but he truly hoped that was not the case. He hoped that his personal conclusions were merely the projections of a heart that had turned cynical and black over the years. 

He wondered about that second sentence, too: "Hope you find what you're seeking as well." It proved the cause of much mental anguish for Jack, that night, as he had nothing but time and space to ponder its implications. Was he seeking out something on this trip? Or was he simply running away from everything?