Bill McElaney is the type of person that I hope each of you has in their life. That person that you find yourself saying something along the lines of “If it wasn’t _______, I wouldn’t believe it.”
On more than one occasion, I heard Bill advise someone to learn to play guitar because it could take you around the world. This much I know is true. Bill traveled the world as a musician. And now that he’s passed away, he’s had memorials in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and more than likely in Ireland in the near future. If it wasn’t Bill, I wouldn’t believe that someone’s ashes could go on tour. But here we are. Continue reading →
“You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”
In reference to the article as a whole, guilty as charged. I was totally searching for writing tips as a way to put off writing. In fact, writing this post is just another way to put off writing the thing that I actually want to write but am scared spitless that I don’t really know how to write. But the catch is that I’ll never really know unless I… you guessed it… actually write the damn thing.
Excuses stripped away, guess I’ll be off to my word processor window now.
Often times, when I’ve been asked to head out on either New Years Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, I politely decline.
Partly, it’s because these days have become Amateur Hour Serious Bummers and I’ve hit what I refer to as “The Murtaugh Point” in my life, where’s I’ve become (and openly acknowledge that I’ve become) too old for this sh**. There are people who should never drink and there are people who should never drink seriously. Unfortunately for the rest of us, both of those groups are in full bloom on those days and the shift from “bystander” to “collateral damage” happens quickly.
However, the other reason is because once upon a time, I managed to do both those days right and feel no need to try and improve at this point in my life.
I believe it was 2002 when I took the day off from work to dedicate an entire 24 hours to St. Patrick’s Day. My favorite band (Revels’ Glen) would be playing at my favorite pub (Biddy Mulligan’s) and I figured this was as good a chance as any to enjoy it.
I opened the pub with the bartenders, had lunch, a couple pints, and spent a lot of time listening to house music and writing in my journal. It began to fill up in mid-afternoon, but I already had my turf staked out and the band was showing up for an early set. Guinness was being served in plastic cups in order to keep up with demand and, I imagine, keep projectiles and breakage to a minimum. By early evening, friends began showing up and a couple pints were had with the band.
By the time dinner was done, the party was in full swing. I have no idea how much Guinness was in my system at this point, but I was openly dancing so we could easily classify that amount as “too much”. At some point in the night, I had a shot of peppermint schnapps – more as a breath mint than anything at that point. The night ended with us having pints with the band and gently being ushered out the door right as the lights were turned out.
Aside from one of the mightiest hangovers I’ve ever encountered, I escaped that night unscathed and with a smile on my face. Personally, I don’t see a reason to tempt fate by trying to top it.
All right, so that’s not entirely true… There’s definitely times when I’d like to be asleep when my brain and basic body chemistry seem to be conspiring against me. However, by and large, I don’t “suffer” from insomnia in a traditional sense.
Back in the day, I used to survive on a couple hours of sleep for months at a time. It became a regular thing for me and I found my own ways to deal with it. In high school, it was watching the local PBS marathons in the hopes of catching a block for 2 or possibly even 4 episodes of Red Dwarf or maybe some Red Green. Remember, this is back before streaming, DVDs, and widespread TV-on-VHS. Cue the old man voice, but we had to actually wait for things to show up on TV!
To this day, I don’t “suffer” from insomnia. It’s a part of my life that I deal with and try to account for. Times when I need sleep, I’ll do everything possible to make myself conducive to being ready for bed – sleepy time tea, reading, and melatonin are fast friends at this point. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it’s better than nothing.
However, I’m not scared to be awake late at night (or early in the morning). As I type this, it’s half past midnight and I have no regrets. Of course, being self employed, I have the chance to account for this and adapt my schedule. It’s a luxury, but it’s also one that I pay for too – go ahead and ask me about my health insurance and pension plan.
At the moment, I’m working on a book which may or may not be good.
Maybe that sounds a bit pessimistic, but I don’t think so. After all, nothing is really decided until someone else reads the thing and even then, it’s still mostly that person’s opinion. And even then, that person’s opinion really only matters to them the most – anyone else is still free to read it.
Actually, I tend to look at this statement as a positive. Just because it might not be any good, that also means there’s a decent possibility that it could be good. At this point, I’m giving myself solid 50/50 odds, which is better than what you’ll get on most scratch tickets and definitely better than what you’ll get on the powerball.
Not to be coy, but I’d rather not get into what the whole thing is about, but I will say that it’s a concept book of sorts. In my own simplistic terms, it means that I’m writing poems around a certain theme or topic rather than collecting old poems or doing what I did with my previous attempt at this whole book thing, which was collect a bunch of poems and then realize there was a theme afterwards.
Nope, none of that. This time, the theme is right up front and I’m trying to write in a specific direction, which is a first for me when it comes to poetry. Which is exciting. It’s making my brain work in new and interesting ways. Either that, or I’ve begun to deteriorate mentally and have forgotten that my brain works that way normally. Either way, it’s a bit of a thrill.
One of my goals for 2018 was to read more, but I also had a numeric element as well – I wanted to read twice as many books as I did in 2017. Considering that 2017 worked out to be an even dozen, I thought 24 books wasn’t an unreasonable goal. As it turns out, I came up three shy of my goal by turning into a reading slouch for a few months towards the end of the year. My goal for 2019 is to read 25 books, but here’s a look back at what 2018 held. I’ve done a quick list and then a list with some comments after the read more if you’re interested.
Starship Troopers by Richard A. Heinlein
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Adventures & The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Great Shark Hunt by Hunter S. Thompson
Mornings On Horseback by David McCullough
Wool by Hugh Howey
Brothas Be Yo, Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? by George Clinton
How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
Yeager by General Chuck Yeager & Leo Janos
World War Z by Max Brooks
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
Two Years Eight Months And Twenty Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
Kill ‘Em And Leave: Searching For James Brown And The American Soul by James McBride
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe by Douglas Adams
Life, The Universe, & Everything by Douglas Adams
So Long And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams
Bill Duke is a serious dude who doesn’t mince many words. His interviews for the Film Courage channel on YouTube have been must-watch material for me since day one. This one in particular has a lot of good stuff in it, but in particular, this attitude stands out…
When the Boogieman has his foot on your throat, you have two choices – give up or bit his toe.
Now, that’s a terrible paraphrasing, but it works for me. The point is, when something seems like it has you down for the count there’s always a choice – give up or fight back. Notice that there’s no guarantee that it will do any good or that there’s even a vague chance it’ll lead to saving yourself or victory. It’s more about how you choose to live than about that. Are you ready to cave or willing to fight even when it’s absolutely hopeless?
Back when I used to play pick-up basketball, my only valuable skills were: 1) a natural tendency to be in the way – which meant I was pretty good at defense, and 2) I was too dumb to stop running. You might score a bunch of point on me, but I was going to run with you all day until I dropped. There’s times when I see that in my life now – that really the only reason I’m still walking around is because I was too stubborn or dumb to lay down. I don’t pretend that makes me brave or brilliant – it just happens to be my tendency and it’s served me well.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve derived a lot of inspiration from the work of Casey Neistat. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock or trapped underneath a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Siera since the Dubya administration, Casey Neistat is a YouTuber of serious renown who lives in New York City. He has a serious gift for storytelling, a unique style, and a serious “don’t give an eff” attitude that has served him well.
As much as I’ve been inspired and influenced by his videos, it’s been his studio that has given me a serious case of envy since day one. It’s handmade, funky, and as described in the video below, “wildly functional”.
This video is just over five years old, so there’s been some serious changes made in that time – however, the overall aesthetic remains the same. As soon as I saw where this guy worked, it made me start thinking about my living and workspace. Neistat personalizes almost everything he has: engraving his name on devices, customizing his sunglasses with spray paint, etc. But he also builds most of the parts of his studio himself, including his camera bench and rig, work stations, boxing speed bag, and his camera storage room (not in this video).
I used to watch all the Jesse James chopper specials and Monster Garage shows that I could. There was something about watching someone make individual frames and tanks from scratch rather than grab parts off a shelf, weld some stuff onto it, and call it custom. Having never been terribly good with things like carpentry or metalworking, it’s something that I’m intensely curious about. Watching Neistat’s vlogs appealed to that part of me.
Which all leads into how I’ve been working to make my work space a little more customized. Back when I set up my standing desk, I wanted a paper lantern on either side of my desk for overhead lights, grabbing that shamelessly from Casey Neistat’s camera bench. The one thing that I didn’t like was that each lantern had its own on/off switch – I wanted one switch in a convenient place to turn on both lights. One catch… I also wanted it to be a hidden switch.
The switch itself was easy – I found a large button switch that’s intended for Christmas tree lights that sits on the floor and turns the lights on and off by stepping on the switch. Perfect. I plugged both lights into it and we’re in business… except I didn’t like it sitting on the desk. Two years later, and I was still looking at that ugly thing on my desk this morning when I got fed up enough to do something about it. A little glue, some cable hooks, and there we go… a hidden light switch under my desk.
One of the beautiful things I’ve realized recently is that 2018 has been a rebirth of sorts for me writing poetry. Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time writing song lyrics. Perhaps for some people, poetry and lyrics are the same thing or at least close to it, but that’s never been the case for me. There’s a been a touch of crossover – every so often a couple lines from a poem (or a fragment that never grew into a poem) will find themselves into a song, but that’s hardly the rule.
When I’m writing a song, it’s usually aimed in a certain direction, working around a particular idea, or trying to fit the mood and/or phrasing of some music. When I write poetry, there’s a decent chance I have no idea what I’m writing about until I’m either well into the poem or finished with it.
I keep my poems stored on my hard drive in folders by year. So far, I’m on pace to write more than I have in the last three years respectively, which is a big deal for me. So yeah, I have that going for me.
Part of this I attribute to one of my goals for this year – to double the number of books that I read last year. I’ve given up on resolutions because they’ve never worked for me. Too much change that isn’t attached to anything at all really. Goals? I can work on those.