Friday, April 22, 2016


I was a very lonely kid. I had very few friends. As a result I spent a lot of time alone. To my own devices. That worked out pretty well for a budding writer, but as far as social interaction goes? It fucking blew.

I've been watching a lot of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION lately. I just came upon an episode where a young girl has an invisible friend, and it brought back a few memories of my childhood. Since I was so lonely, I tried to create an invisible friend. I'd come across the concept in fiction, and I tried to apply it to my real life.

My invisible friend's name was Mack. He knew a lot about books, and he was a tough guy. He could kick anyone's ass, which was important to me because I was severely bullied as a child. I didn't have the strength to fight back, but he could. He even knew how to put authority figures in their place because once the kids at school were done fucking with me, I had to go home to an abusive step-father and a neglecting mother.

The invisible friend didn't last long. I tried. I really did. My mind is too suited to reality. It refused to believe in Mack. I remember trying to talk to Mack about my shitty day when I was seven years old, and in that moment, I felt like an idiot. My imagination worked pretty well for working with toys and such, but when I tried to pretend I had a friend? Nope. I couldn't trick myself into believing. I just felt like a dumb ass talking to air, pretending it was real.

My invisible friend lasted a week. I couldn't even succeed at faking social interaction. As a result, I spent a lot of my life shunning everyone and everything. It took me a long time to recover from that. In all likelihood, I wouldn't have done it without the help of my friend, Robert Tannahill.

I still can't believe that I'm surrounded by awesome people today. People I'm proud to call friends. People I'm proud to call family. If I could go back in time to tell that young version of me . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


You know what you can't get when you buy books from Amazon? I'd forgotten it myself, to be honest. I shouldn't have. It's something so important that I'm ashamed of not recalling this.

When you go to a physical bookstore, you gather together the books you want to purchase. Then you go to the counter to pay for them. The clerk starts zapping your bar codes with the laser reader. And then he or she comes upon one of your selections, and he or she says, "Oh! You love this author's work?!" Or, "I love this book! Let me know what you think of it!" Or something along those lines.

Yesterday I went to Anderson's in Naperville because it's been a while since I've gone to an indie bookstore. Longtime readers might recall that I routinely give this advice: go to an indie bookstore once a month. I fucked up. I'm sorry. But I went yesterday for the first time in a while. I selected books by Bonnie McFarlane, Larry Wilmore, Patton Oswalt and a collection of John Wayne's personal letters. I took them to the desk, and the clerk started zapping the bar codes.

Then she came to Larry Wilmore's book of essays, and she said, "Oh! I love this show! Do you watch this show?" And we spent the next five minutes talking about how awesome Larry Wilmore and The Nightly Show is. This conversation charged me up. I'd completely forgotten about how fucking cool these conversations are.

The last time I went to Anderson's (this one in Downers Grove), I purchased Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN, and when I went to the counter, I had a wonderful discussion of the controversy about Atticus Finch in this book.

Rewind about ten or fifteen years. I used to work at my local library. Most of my employment there was spent as a page, but the last few years were as a desk clerk. Whenever someone checked out a book I thoroughly enjoyed or a new book by a writer I respect, I always struck up a conversation with them.

I miss that. I really do.

Amazon is pretty cool. They always have what I want. But the indie bookstores are the best. I will never have a book conversation with someone from Amazon as I make my purchase. Once again I advise you all to go to an indie bookstore at least once a month. I hope you do better at that than I usually do.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Take a chocolate and peanut butter Pop Tart. Spread a layer of peanut butter on top of that. Then put two Reese's peanut butter cups on top of that. Take two Hostess cupcakes and put one on each peanut butter cup. Spread some more peanut butter on top of those cupcakes. Place a second chocolate and peanut butter Pop Tart on top of that. Spread some chocolate cake frosting on top of that. For extra flavor, sprinkle some chocolate chips on top. This is my addition to the Foodie Culture: the 'Beetus Blast! Enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2016


I wanted to take the time to thank you all for your kindness and your support and friendship and love. March was a pretty rough month for me. I've been sick almost the entire time with an illness that sent me to the doctor many times and the ER three times. It started off as the flu and turned into pneumonia and settled in as a stomach virus that mimicked pancreatitis so closely that I didn't believe it when the tests came back and said my organs were all fine. There were entire days I spent puking my guts out and then dry-heaving when I didn't have anything else to offer the toilet. I had a deep pain in my guts, and the constant nausea prevented me from sleeping. It was an absolute nightmare, and I'm 99% certain I can trace it all back to that snot-nosed kid who coughed and sneezed over everything at the Urgent Care facility I went to for that lump in my armpit.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today. When I was at my lowest, just as I was getting ready to go to the ER a second time, I got a call from my stepmother telling me that my father had just had a heart attack. From what I understand, he didn't know it was a heart attack, and he was feeling odd for a couple of days. They brought him to the ER, found out what happened and instantly went to work on him. I was confident he would pull through. He always does. He was in the air on 9/11, and he's a two-time cancer survivor. This heart attack would probably just be a bump in the road. My brother kept me appraised of the situation, and it seemed like he would get better for a while, and something else would happen, but then he'd get better again.

When my mom passed away, we all knew it was coming. She'd been sick for a long time, and her organs were failing her. She was in hospice, and she was in a coma. We had plenty of time to prepare. Even when the inevitable happened, we all lost it. No matter how prepared you are, you're never prepared enough.

Losing Dad surprised the shit out of all of us. It came out of nowhere. He was a few years shy of his sixties. He was in fairly good shape after several bad medical run-ins. Full head of hair. Strong as an ox. And bam. One minute my brother is telling me they're getting ready to take him out of ICU, and the next he's calling me to tell me that Dad is gone.

It happens just like that.

I cried a long time. Dad wouldn't have wanted that, but I couldn't help it. From what I've experienced with my mom's passing, I know it will go like this: it will hurt less and less everyday, but every once in a while, maybe in intervals of six months or a year, it will come back and hit me hard out of the blue.

There will be no funeral for Dad. He didn't want anything like that. He was a circle-of-life kind of guy. So am I. I always wondered where I got that from. When I go, I want a green burial. Put me back into nature. Recycle me. Dad donated his body to science so people could pop his hood and check out what happened to him, so they'll know what to do for the next person this happens to. That's the kind of guy he was.

There will be a celebration of Dad's life, though. One last get-together, where everyone can raise a pint to his memory. I wish I could be there and see my family, but Dad wouldn't have wanted me to go to all the trouble. He didn't want to make life difficult for anyone. He was a man of convenience, which is probably why he made such a good salesman. This is my way of sending him off.

Which finally brings me to that "thank you" I promised in the title of this thing. I don't know how it happened, but I've somehow surrounded myself with the most caring, loving, wonderful people anyone could hope to have in their lives. So many of you rushed to offer help, assistance, someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on--you name it, you all offered. Thank you. I'm grateful to have you all in my life, and I can't thank you enough. I love you all.