The Pen is Mightier: Reflections on Writing and 2018.

Dec. 21, 2018. – At home in New Richmond, WI.

Around this time last Christmas, I was going through a tough time. I had spent three years playing and singing songs for drunks in bars, thinking one day I would make a career out of music. I had even recorded a full-length album of original material, shipping it out to various radio stations and record companies. All to no avail.

My guitar began to collect dust in the back of the closet. The power and magic I once found in those strings seemed to have totally abandoned me. Every once in a while, I would pick it up and strum a few chords. I couldn’t seem to compose any new songs. I would put the guitar back into its black case with a sigh. Why waste my time?

Three days before Christmas Eve, I sat on the floor of my kitchen. It was around midnight. All of the house was sleeping. A swift panic took hold of me. I began to anxiously ruminate over the inherent meaninglessness of life. What the hell did I want out of it, anyway? My life was utterly without music. The philosopher, Nietzsche, would have regarded such a life as a mistake. All the same, I felt too crippled to think and went back to bed.

One frigid night in mid-January, I was alone in the house. I sat slumped at the keyboard and, bored, began to type. At first I typed out only vague images…a one paragraph attempt at a story…a few poetic descriptions…and suddenly, I awoke with a start. I gazed at the clock. I had been writing for going on two hours! Where had the time gone? Where had I gone?

Over the next few days, I began to write more and more. I wrote about anything and everything. I wrote about the clock on the wall, my shoe laces, a bottle of beer I had just downed, the universe, infinity, my beautiful girlfriend, my gut feelings and my cracked emotions, about the lazy cat settling its rotund body upon my feet. I had discovered a new joy and freedom.

My life is full of music again, at last. Only this is an entirely different form of music – the music of language, which has its own tones and rhythms, climaxes and crescendos. When I am writing, I often imagine that I am God. I can say, do, and create anything – the only limitations are in my own imagination.

I am the smiling conjurer of vast, open, and endless dreams. I am a warlock with a pen, a deranged angel with paper wings. My halo is as primitive as a Gutenberg press. It is composed of a luminescent scrawl. I have discovered, as the expression goes, that the pen is mightier – mightier than anything. At this very moment, I am flying.

I continued to write steadily throughout the year. The seasons came and went and I remained at the keyboard, clickity-click-clacketing away, burning on through endless essays, reflections, poems, and stories. Occasionally, I would send off some of my work to a quirky literary magazine. I began an online blog, too, where I posted the majority of my writing. I ended up attracting a fair amount of followers, and even had a publishing company reach out to me, asking me if I’d like my essays on creativity to be featured in their upcoming anthology book. I replied with an expeditious ‘yes’. The title of that book is: Emerging Wisconsin Writers: An Anthology of Non-Fiction, which one may purchase on Amazon.

In the Spring, I joined a local writers group. We meet in a rented out board room at the Civic Center every other Tuesday. The friendly and talented members of this group have since provided me with countless insights and critiques. We have even put together a book compiling some of our best writing: The Willow River Writers Anthology, 2018. One may purchase a copy of this book at the New Richmond Friday Memorial Library. The money for each copy sold goes directly to the library building fund.

In August, I contacted the editors of my city newspaper, The New Richmond News, and inquired as to if they would be interested in an arts column written by yours truly. It turns out they were. Every two weeks the paper prints my column, The Artist’s Corner, which concerns all things art and creativity, usually with a spotlight on one of our many local artists.

I also began printing my own chapbooks at home. I write fifty pages worth of material, slap a cover on it, and print out copies to sell. They have proliferated. There are now eleven different booklets hanging around my house. I like to give them strange titles, such as, “The Sophisticated Barbarian” and “Chiseling Away at Eternity”. I draw up primitive cartoons for cover illustrations. They’re all in good fun.

The end of the year is nearing ominously. I expect to the sky to split open and for the Earth to quake at any moment. As I glance at the word count on the bottom left hand of my screen, I see it is over 114,000. Sometimes I wonder what has happened to me. 114,000 words? Am I so unbalanced? Have I gone insane? The answer is a definite ‘yes’. But it is the good kind of insanity, the wholesome kind, if there can be such a thing. I hear endless voices in my head, but every one of them seems to make their way onto the page without making much of a fuss. It is beneficial to have a creative outlet for our voices, I think. As for this upcoming year, I plan to exceed my word count and to publish my first book.

I cannot neglect to mention my gratitude for all the support provided by Tessandra, the love of my life. Within the first week we started dating, I had written her a love song and performed it for her and her friends one night at a party. I have continued to write songs for her over the years. She met me not as a writer, but as a musician. Therefore, she has had to adjust her image of who I am just as much as I have. She has not strayed for a second. I cannot love her enough for that.

At night, in bed, I share with her some of the things I have written. She critiques them openly, honestly, telling me what she likes and what she thinks could be improved upon. Occasionally, though, I still break out my guitar and perform all the songs I have written for her. She will always be my muse, regardless of whatever art form I choose to work with. Our love, too, is mightier.

I wonder what this next year on planet earth will bring us? It seems as if great changes are happening, or are about to happen. I don’t wish for world peace or tranquility (although that would be just fine by me). I only wish for the world to express itself more creatively…I wish for the world to consciously choose the paintbrush, the guitar, or the pen…as opposed to the bomb, the drone, or the gun.

A Visit with a Friend

When Anthony sent me a message that he had tried killing himself, I put all my plans for the day aside and dedicated myself to a visit with my friend.

The drive was lackadaisical. The air cold, but not frigid. The sun bright and unobscured by the white wisps of cloud. Life seems somehow friendly, which is very unusual for mid-December in Wisconsin. I buy some junk food at Burger King and attempt my best to drive and shovel food – French toast sticks with syrup – into my mouth at the same time. I am only partially successful, occasionally spilling syrup from the little plastic container onto my flannel and jeans.

As I drive the hour there, I gaze upon the country side, trying my best to be present and aware of my surroundings. The fields curve and dip as I pass them. There is a lite coating of snow upon the ground, but today, most of it is melting. I take all the main roads, zooming through the landscape with Tom Waits blasting through the stereo.

As I approach Knapp County, the sky seems to take on a sweeter quality and the trees seem to spread their barren branches in welcome. This sky is my home and these trees are more closely related to my identity. They are the same ones I gazed upon as a child. I think back to my young, impressionable mind, influenced by the Midwestern landscape of green hills, ochre fields, endless corn rows, birch and pine swaying in the wind, and the eternal sun, rising and falling upon the horizon with all of the world’s ancientness.

When I arrive, I get out of my car and stare up at the old farmhouse for a while. It is the place where Anthony and I spent much of our time growing up. We always spent more time at his house than mine. Mine used to be located down the road. It had been burnt down a few years back.

The paint upon the boards are chipped, leaving autumnal edges to every side, corner and shingle of the house. The garage and barn are still there, as is the rusting, creaking windmill. One can no longer read the writing upon its hub – the letters have faded with the endurance of too many seasons.

I am fumbling with things in the backseat of my car, trying to decide whether to bring in my guitar, amplifier, journal, or just leave them when I hear his voice.

“Hi, Tylor! I’m doing a lot better now.”

I turn around, slightly disoriented. There he is, walking down the front stoop. His hair is a long again, nearly to shoulder length. His face is scruffy. But he looks like my friend, mostly as I remember him. He is dressed in his usual black attire, with a shaggy hoodie draped over him.

When we enter the house, he offers me some coffee and I accept. He pours me a cup and when he hands it to me, I give him a hug and let him know that I’m very glad to see him. His hugs are always very tight. He is a man whom always puts an effort into an embrace. I cannot say his hug is cozy, as Anthony is a very scrawny man.

“We just cleaned the house yesterday,” he says. I look around and the floor space is perfectly clear, but everything – the floor, walls, doors, windows, are very grimy and dirty. I go into his bathroom and kick a pee-loaded diaper out of my way as I make use of the toilet.

His sister, Shaina, is there too. Says she is on her way to the college to attend a speech of one of her peers. She is nearly finished up with the semester there. Anthony paces back and forth and around the house. He smiles, makes conversation, is genuinely interactive. I was prepared for the worst. I was prepared for him to be in very bad shape, to be gone, to be insane – like he was last time. Yet to my delight, he seems to be doing okay.

There is a constant whining and shuffling from the corner of the kitchen. I look over and down and see a little kennel with a Pitbull in it. The Pitbull is neurotically clawing at its cage, crying, making a scene. Shaina explains the dog is being kept in the kennel because she gets excited and…likes to nip.

Walking about the first level of the farmhouse, through the kitchen, the dining room, around the bottom of the stair case, memories begin to drift into my mind and settle like dew. Always Friday night pizza, pop and card games at the kitchen table, which is now gone, leaving the old wood floor naked and exposed to the sunbeams gleaming through the large windows. It is a house of windows. The emptiness and degradation of everything at once saddens and awakens me.

As I am talking with Shaina in the living room (while Anthony paces, paces), I spill some coffee from my mug onto the floor. “I have a hole in my lip! Sorry.” She laughs, says it’s no problem, grabs a towel and wipes up the mess for me.

Anthony and I head outside. I grab my guitar, amplifier, and drum machine from my car and bring them into the cold garage. We set everything on the messy, tobacco covered bench and plug in. He hands me his cheap electric guitar and asks me to fix it. “The top two strings sound good but the rest of them sound like shit!” he says. I look down at the strings and I can see why. They’re coated with a heavy rust from being kept in the garage all year. I recommend that he store the guitar inside the house and to change the strings whenever possible. Sometimes he looks up during our conversation and I see his father glowing through is blue eyes.

Pretty soon we get to making some music – well, some noise, anyhow. Anthony on the drum machine. Myself on his $89 guitar. There is one moment during this messing around which I shall treasure for a long time: for about a minute, my guitar riffs and his drum beat fall into perfect sync. We are playing something which is recognizable as music! Anthony looks up at me with a mischievous grin – his particular expression of joy. I can see my friend, the one I grew up with, in that grin.

After a while, we grow tired of making noise and head back into the house. I sit on the dirty couch and he explains to me a bit of what happened. He had become depressed about a woman he was talking to online (he is always talking to women online, and leaving the state to go meet them – but he always comes back, disheartened). He had great doubts as to if she were real or not. He had been chatting with this woman over the phone, on video chats, over text messages for nearly every day over the past three months. He tells me he became paranoid that she was an impostor. He began suspecting all the photographs and videos of her as belonging to someone else. He had planned to take a bus to her home in Pennsylvania, to live with her, to have a relationship with her.

He “fell into a dark spot”, he says, and took a razor blade to his arm, began cutting vertically. When Shaina and her husband discovered the cuts, he was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he stayed in recovery for a full week. I am only grateful that his cuts were shallow. My friend has always been incompetent. At last, his incompetence had literally saved him.

“I’m not ready for a relationship now,” he says suddenly, planning to stay away from Jamie, the woman from PA. I tell him that I agree, that I think he has much work to do on himself before romantically sharing his soul with another. “Yep,” he affirms.

I hand him a book – The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – in the hope that he may adopt a more positive existential outlook and an ability to cope with his darker sides. Perhaps I am foolish in this hope, but all the same, where is the harm in giving away a good book? Before handing it over, I grab my pen and scribble on the inner cover: “To my best buddy. Merry Christmas. Love, Tylor.”

“Oh, man,” he says. “Thank you. I don’t have a gift for you. I wish I did have a gift for you. I’m sorry.”

I tell him it’s no matter, that I don’t need anything, just his friendship, and his health.

Soon Terry, his social worker, arrives. She is asking, “So, Anthony, tell me what happened?”

I give him another solid hug before leaving, letting him know he can call/message me anytime he needs to talk. I am currently writing all of this at the Hilltop Bar and Grill in Woodville, WI. Three regulars are lounging at the bar, making small talk, and I have some coffee and a novel in front of me. Many One Dollar bills are stapled to the ceiling, hanging in loose flaps. There are inscribed many messages and obscenities from drunks on these bills. All of a sudden I get the impulse to pay my tab and leave for home. I intend to leave behind the drunks, my half-finished cup of coffee, the dimly lit bar. I think of passing the peaceful cemetery on my drive home. I think of the blue sky with the sun setting, and the white plumes of clouds drifting across the expanse. The road calls me…back to it.

Growing Up with Bob Dylan

The first Bob Dylan album I ever listened to was a two-disc set issued by his long-time record company, Columbia. The name of the album was, “The Essential Bob Dylan”. I handed my mom what little allowance money I had one morning, asking her to buy a Dylan album for me. She told me that I was weird, but yes, she could do that while she was in town. As soon as that CD was in my hands, I ran upstairs into my bedroom, shut the door, put in the CD and lay flat on my bed. After the first track in, I was sold. Bob seemed to be speaking straight to me, asking me questions in a very singular, direct way. Questions like, “How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?” and “How long must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?” Those lines got me to thinking about not only what it meant to be a man, but what it meant to be a good man, a real man, a dignified, honorable man, and how to go about such an ideal. The other line got me to thinking about our world’s endless wars, about patriotism and militant fanaticism, about hatred and paranoia, war and peace. Would there come a day when we would ever have peace? Was it even possible, or does human nature just get in the way of worldly harmony? These were questions which sent my fourteen-year-old brain spinning. But I loved asking these questions. They made me feel open, and inspired.

I found Dylan’s voice to be unique and personal, yet somewhat distant and dreamy, like a ghost in a wishing well. I resonated with Bob immediately and counted him a friend. Some sunshine broke through the window, making the shadow of the leaves outside dance upon the curtain and my bed. Songs like, “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)”, “It Ain’t Me, Babe”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, seemed to strike on something deep inside of me, like a pickaxe against a boulder, creating sparks. I loved getting lost in the visual swirl of his poetics, in the emphatic phrasings of the lines, and in the delicate whine of his harmonica. Those songs tickled my brain and nurtured my heart.

A feeling of joy and happiness occupied my little bedroom, filling my heart, making me smile. These feelings of well-being were prevalent, but underneath, something deeper. Something a bit sad, but at the same time beautiful, warm, and authentic. I remember at one point being especially in awe of the dancing shadows of the leaves and of the heat of the gold star outside my flimsy little window, while listening to the following verse from, “Mr. Tambourine Man”:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Listening to those words, it didn’t make me a bit sleepy, and I surely had no place I was going to.

Disc One eventually gave way to Disc Two, and songs like “Jokerman”, “Hurricane” and “Tangled Up in Blue” once again set my soul alight with their poetic imagery, stunningly original phrasings, and perhaps most importantly, their values and attitudes. I had simply never, ever heard music like this before. It was my first lightning strike. When these songs played, I always made sure to pay attention to them. If someone else were in the room talking, I would tune them out, and listen only to what Bob had to say. To this day, I still do – just don’t tell my girlfriend that. We play a lot of Bob Dylan in our house.

Some years later, I had the great fortune to see Bob perform at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October of 2014. I attended the concert with my father. Sitting there in my seat, watching Bob do his thing, I felt as if I had come full circle. I absorbed those songs once again, this time with the accompaniment of his band, and felt as if something in my soul had finally healed. By show’s end, I walked out of there with my dad feeling as if I were walking on air currents, completely euphoric. I felt something in my life had come to its peak and had set me on another path, and far away, up and off into the distance, another peak to set my sights on.

I was able to see Bob one other time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August of 2017. He was performing as part of the Outlaw Music Festival with Sheryl Crowe and Willie Nelson. My lovely girlfriend and I went to the concert and shared many special moments together. I especially recall the moment Dylan and his Band walked out onto the stage. Everyone in the stadium arose and cheered. A momentous energy hit the air as the band launched into their first tune of the evening, “Things Have Changed”. The hair on my arms and neck stood straight up. I was covered in gooseflesh, listening to Dylan’s gravelly voice serenade the audience with what sounded like a sermon arising from a post-apocalyptic world. Standing there with my girlfriend in my arms, it seemed as if we were at the edge of a great precipice…staring down upon valleys which previously existed only in legends, only to now be made real in an instant.

I’ve never been a very religious or spiritual person, at least not in the classic sense of those words. But when listening to Dylan, I am sometimes transported to those areas of the human mind. I certainly don’t think it was for nothing that he won the Nobel Prize for literature in the Spring of 2017. Bob has been reaching out and touching human souls since the day he decided music was what he wanted to do, way back in the late 1950’s. Now in his mid-70’s, he is still reaching out and touching our souls while touring the world with his band every year. My hope is that Bob Dylan may continue building his ladder to the stars, climbing upon every rung, and may he stay, forever young.

Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)

First Trip From Home (Childhood Memory)

One of my earliest memories…it is strange how memories from childhood often take on the quality of dreams. I have tried to tell this little story through the eyes of four or five year old, while still maintaining an adult vocabulary. I hope I’ve been successful. My work is always available for constructive criticism. Please do share your thoughts!

***

It must have been my first trip away from home, a two-story eighty year old farm house located in Knapp, WI. My mother and I boarded a bus with tickets to Pennsylvania. I remember the bus was long and silver and gleamed brightly in the sun. We were traveling to visit my mother’s sister, my Aunt Phyllis.

My mother sat near the window, and I the aisle seat. I remember her continually having to remind me not to push my knees into the seat in front of me. The man in front was noticeably uncomfortable from my always bumping against his seat, yet he said nothing. I had a soft, warm blanket tied into a cape around my neck – Looking back, I have a feeling the man might’ve somewhat liked to have tightened it around my throat.

I ran up and down the bus aisle with the blanket-cape (I believe it had a picture of Tazz on it) flowing out behind me. I distinctly remember feeling the grandeur of being a superhero. People cheered me on as I held out my fists like Superman, in a glory of flight. I noticed the faster I ran, the more my cape would flow out behind me. So I ran up and down, faster and faster, feeling grander and mightier all the while. Soon enough, I was informed by the stern, tall bus driver that I must “sit down!”

Slightly shocked, I did. I had found my kryptonite in the stiff, demanding pointer finger of a conventional authority figure. It would not be the last time.

***

Soon night settled upon the moving landscape and all of the people on the bus were either asleep, or trying to fall asleep. Heads settled against shoulders, and many tiny pillows were awkwardly situated against the windows. My mother laid her head against the window and told me to keep quiet, so I did. When I looked over, I could see the reflection of her face, distorted in the dim light and added in detail by my wild imagination.

I imagined her face contorted into a monster’s face. Her nose all warped into an ill-blossomed mushroom, her cheeks ruddy slabs of muddy concrete, her chin a feeble disgrace. For a few moments, I was horrified and looked away. When I summoned the courage to look again, the monstrous face was still there. I noticed the overhead lights elongated and warped inside the glass. What little reason I had at that age suddenly kicked in. If the lights could be distorted in their reflection, so could my mother’s face. My mother was my mother, after all, and not a monster. I relaxed, yet still felt somewhat uneasy, and fell into deep sleep.

***

I don’t remember much about my Aunt Phyllis’ house in PA. But I do remember an average, oval table in the kitchen, where I was served a tall glass of Hawaiian Punch and a bowl of Cap’t Crunch cereal. I remember taking a bath in an unfamiliar bathtub, gazing in fascination at the brown rust upon the porcelain near the drain…

My Aunt Phyllis, my Uncle Ted, my mother, and myself were walking in a vast green field. Out beyond, an array of tall pines touching blue sky. The pines were a much darker green than the field, which was blossoming and bright in the Spring. The field featured large areas of a semi-liquid brown goop. Our tennis shoes inevitably contracted this goop as we continued along.

About thirty yards away was a winding stream which rounded itself into a little underground tunnel, then out of the tunnel and petering out into the forest beyond. I asked my mother if I could go play near the shallow stream and was given permission to do so on the agreement that I be careful. However loose the term ‘careful’ was in my young mind, I readily agreed.

Across the stream was an elderly couple sitting on a wooden bench. They had a little doggie with them. The doggie wandered about, occasionally dipping its nose into the current, lapping the water with its tongue. I began throwing what pebbles I could find into the water, delighted by the sight and sound of each individual Splash! At that moment, there was nothing in life that seemed better than a Splash! The world was born anew upon each and every launch of a pebble.

Then an idea occurred. Perhaps I, as opposed to the pebbles, would make the Splash! And then I would show mom and mom would say, “Wow! Look at you! You’re soaking wet!” and then my mom would show me off, soaking wet, to my Aunt and Uncle, whom would exclaim, “Wow! Look at you! Soaking wet, indeed!” This imaginary praise seemed to me a worthwhile endeavor. I approached the stream.

Unsuspecting, I slipped down the muddy bank and cascaded into the water. Now sitting in the middle of the stream, I laughed and enjoyed. The water was very cold, yet the sun shone down and made me happy and comfortable. I stood up and ambled a bit further down the stream, which was a bit deeper now, the current stronger. I turned to call out to my family, waving my arms, and clumsily I fell down again.

As I lay upon my chest, I could feel the stream pulling at my legs, the nearby tunnel now far less mysterious than it was frightening. I grasped at the soil, but it was no more than loose mud. I began to panic, and to drift closer downward to the dark little tunnel…its opening appeared as the mouth of a monster. The stones around it, ferocious black eyes. Then I saw a miniature isle nearer to the bank, and scrambled hopefully for it. Soon enough, I had secured a hold, and pulled my little body out of the water.

Dripping, gasping, I walked back over to my family. They were still busying chattering away as if nothing had happened. My mother then noticed I was soaking wet, and was without the praise I had initially imagined. This was OK though, because it was decided that we were to have a bit of fun. My uncle picked up some of the brown goop stuff from the ground and threw it at my Aunt, and my Aunt returned the favor by throwing some at my uncle, then both my mother and I were throwing it at each other, and soon enough the four of us were amidst an enormous brown goop-fight!

I found the goop on the surface was warm, but the goop beneath was very cold. Enjoying the feel of it on my hands, I applied some to my cheeks. I felt like an Indian warrior. I picked up a colder handful, laughing now, and threw it at Antie. We all went on like this for some time.

It was a bright day, full of smiles and laughter. I had faced a brisk encounter with the tunnel-monster, and had gotten in my very first mud-fight. Yet, as it turned out, not all of us were to survive that sunny, Spring day. For the old couple’s doggie that I had seen earlier lapping in the stream had been bitten by a poisonous snake, which had been slithering ominously about the bank. Their little doggie died.

I like to think that perhaps, inadvertently, that dog – loyal and venerable as dogs are known to be – saved my life by baring the poison of the snake.

The Skinny Giant & The Morning Bird (My First Memory)

My father had purchased a new toy for me that day. I was amazed and enchanted by it. It was a Spider-man figurine which zoomed down a plastic web, connected between two points. He had set it up high upon the ceiling. To my astonishment, I could watch it zoom past me, its movement accompanied by a tiny whirring noise.

My father was a tall, skinny giant. He had powers clearly unfathomable to me. Like a God, he could touch the ceiling. Or the clouds, for that matter. My father told me it was bedtime, and after setting the toy to zoom by one final time, he sent me to bed.

I remember how very dark my room was. The only light to be found came from the white outline around the closed door. After laying there for some time, I heard something shut, then some footsteps, and finally the unmistakable sound of my mother’s voice. She and my father were talking about something, murmuring fuzzy words. I stood up in my crib, mattress wompy beneath my feet. Holding on to the bars and staring out at the white outline of the door, I was determined to escape and see my mother. It wasn’t so much a whim as a necessity.

The bars were rather close together, but I managed to squeeze my head between two of them, and then one arm, then the other, until I fell with a soft flop to the carpeted floor. I headed toward the light on all fours, then stood up, grabbed the knob and pulled back the door. The light flooded in upon me. It was bright and soft, encompassing me.

I was delighted by my mother’s kind voice, warm and clear. It sounded like the sweet tweetering of a morning bird. She was greeting me, saying hello.

***

What is your first childhood memory? Is it dramatic? Mundane? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts!

My 24th Anniversary ‘Round the Sun

Good morning! Today marks the 24th anniversary date of the day in which my mother popped me out. I was a fat baby twenty four years ago. Today I am a rather slim young man. Not too much has changed between then and now. The sky is still blue and the sun still shines. The Earth is rotating on its axis, flying and dancing around our average star which is merely ninety million miles away. I’ve seen the Earth do just this twenty four times now. So no, not much as truly changed between now and then.

I tend to like existing. It continues to happen every year. My ego considers it a good thing. Me and my ego agree. We have many things in common and tend to agree often. At times I think we are inseparable — my ego and I, that is. Yet just like everything else, I know my ego is just as temporary as this body. The energy which composes the atoms which compose me will one day find a better thing to do than conglomerate into the deranged creative conspiracy that is me, that is conveniently labeled under the umbrella term, “Tylor J. Mintz”.

I have either the curse or the gift of being what one may call a poet — and we poet’s tend to romanticize such things as ‘spirit’ and ‘soul’ and exaggerate upon their relevance. I am feeling rather pragmatic on the anniversary of my 24th year upon this fine, blue little planet, and so I will instead romanticize the Ego — a psychological umbrella term ushered in by the great Sigmund Freud. May Mr. Freud’s cocaine debts forever be paid and repaid on into infinity! His genius insights have excited the minds of many, from those interested in psychoanalysis and the nature of the mind to those whom are merely creative, seemingly stimulated by such ideas as ego, super-ego and the ID. I count myself among the many stimulated.

However, this is not to say that spirit and soul are untenable objects, beyond my reach (though they probably are). Everyone seems to have slightly different definitions of these words, so I will define them for the sake of clarity: Spirit is the momentum and greatness of one’s passion. Soul is a thing for which language fails to communicate its true nature — it is the Self that you truly are beneath your surface identity. Your personality is not your Soul, but is more likely to be your ego’s fashion style. If someone compliments you on your personality, they are actually only complimenting you in regards to your ego’s fancy dress or well-ironed suit. As for the ego itself? Merely the clown nose for the Soul! The Soul is deeper, more to the roots of a human being, that ever strange conglomeration of atoms. An additional note: My clown nose is rather bulbous and red today, it seems. So it often happens upon 24th anniversaries ’round the sun.

What else, what else? I am listening to Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. Still as great as ever. John Coltrane, still great. Bob Dylan, still great. AC/DC, not as great as when I was under going my ninth trip ’round the sun, but it’s still some pretty damn good rock ‘n’ roll, if I say so myself.

The taste of black coffee?

Still the best.

The received love of my loved ones?

Ever more, I am blessed.

It is only fitting for a poet to end a writing with a little rhythm and rhyme…

It is my 24th anniversary around the Sun,

an average sphere of gas and plasma,

which some tiny creatures upon Earth are wont to call, ‘divine’.

The Earth is blue, watery and fine,

located in a distant corner of one

of the trillions & trillions of galaxies

swirling ’round in an infinite Universe of space-time.

And the alarm bell is ringing for me to get to work,

No more fooling around, I’ve done run out of time!

It is the dawn of my 24th year ’round the sun.

Ain’t it sublime?

It’s Always Sunny in Milwaukee (PART ONE, a story).

 

I am walking down the sunny streets of old downtown Milwaukee. Tessandra is by my side, holding my hand. We are hungry and looking for a place to sit down and eat before the show. The air is clean for an old city and the sun is hot and feels good on the skin. Our mood is convivial, and the streets are shockingly clean except for one empty Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottle lying like a dead soldier next to a rusty grate.

The grate looks like the bars to a subterranean prison cell and I wonder whom or what might be lurking down in that cool, stinky dungeon when the air around us changes rhythm and I look up to see two young men passing us by on the street. They have nice wavy hair, are well dressed, wearing sunglasses much to big for their faces. The two men are smiling, holding each other’s hands as if they had the whole wide world in front of them. Tess and I exchange a glance, smile, and sigh at the sight of two fools in love. We appreciate like qualities in other couples, no matter what gender they are. Man, woman, Man-woman, Woman-Man, it makes no difference to us. Every human being deserves the kind of love, the kind of all-or-nothing blooming romance which the two of us share with each other on a regular basis.

We cross one street for another beneath the empty-clouded, sun-split blue sky which is inhabited only by an occasional airplane. The streets are shockingly quiet, almost barren. Everyone has gone away to the nearby carnival. We have accidently stumbled upon the very best time to visit Milwaukee, I think to myself. One doesn’t need the people to understand the city. To examine the still standing ruins is good enough for us. To observe the 19th century masonry work of the old buildings and to take in the historic air of the grand downtown hotels is a treat which tastes far better emptied of its occupants.

We locate a restaurant and sit down to replenish our famished bellies. The restaurant has a French name which I cannot seem to remember, and there are posters all over the walls in French. One of the posters features a goddess in fancy dress, posed majestically above the face of the globe. She has a bottle of Chablis in her outstretched hand. “La Chablisienne!” in bold type at the top of the poster, with the bottle casting a glorious luminescent glow. “Ses Chablis Authentiques” reads the bottom. A thought occurs to me regarding the unabashed blasphemy inherent in this fine liquor advertising. Then a waitress comes by our table and the lovely Tessandra orders a water and I order a tall glass of beer. She orders a salad, and I a bowl of cheesy soup.

As we wait for our food, we talk awhile, and I am admiring Tessandra’s dirty blonde hair that has gained slight tints of red from the summer sun. Her ruby red lips I study voraciously, a temptuous image forever burned into my eager and lusty eyes. She is beautiful. How many times have I come upon this fact as if it were a sudden surprise? And how many times more shall my mind be nearly cracked in two by this realization of her eternal, sexy glory? Forever, I suspect, I hope. One cannot help but watch the shape and curve of her figure, watch the blonde hair wave and curl to the tender shoulders, her breasts an irresistible beckoning to my stupefied, male brain. And one could never forget the tiny freckles upon her adorable cheeks! Each and every freckle appears like a shining star, making her face glow a warm and seductive radiance. And those blue eyes, bluer and better to soak in at the dinner table than to gaze at some faraway ocean paradise.

I gaze into those eyes quite often, trying to communicate without the use of the primitive and useless English language. She gazes back and we have an understanding that the feeling amongst ourselves is of mutual admiration and love. O’ glorious love! There is no greater state of being to be attained than this, I am thoroughly convinced. Through an endless serendipitous parade of miracles and synchronicities, two human beings radically different from each other, the male and female creature, respectively, come together in a harmony that may not be permanent, but is nonetheless beautiful in an existential sense that is grander than anything to be discovered in the human lot.

Soon the waitress comes by with a platter of goods, her black hair tied into tight knot above the head. We thank her kindly and she goes back to tending bar. We are seated next to a large window facing the outside patio and the sun-drenched street. A group of suits are having some sort of meeting at the table nearest our window. Two guys and two ladies are seated there. The guy on the left, the fatter of the two males, looks miserable and understatedly unwell. He is dark and hollow eyed, with sweat dripping from the fat creases in his neck. He appears as one great, leaking ball of putrescent suffering. The worst thing about this scene is that the man appears to be attempting to look casual and inconspicuous, all the while sweating buckets and failing tremendously. I wonder at his story and a whole movie centered around his life begins playing out in my head. Tess and I decide we feel quite bad for this fellow, whatever his predicament may be.

I peck at the contents of my cheesy soup, but it tastes like a moldy Christmas ornament that’s been stuck in a dusty box for a year too long. Tessandra tries it however and likes it. I give her the rest of my soup to go with her salad and I work at the cold beer instead. Soon enough I feel the urge to take a leak. I excuse myself, take some corners, and just before the bathroom I notice a plethora of amateur paintings on the hallway walls.

The colors are bright and easily catch hold of the wandering eyes. I am not sure if they are done in acrylic or oils, but I like them for some reason. My favorite on the wall features a mysterious woman wearing a bright yellow dress, with a heavy black and green mascara upon bulging eyelids. She is lounging awkwardly in a kitchen chair, her baggy blouse draped over the arms. The chair is placed upon a black and white checkered floor. The floor contains the entire background of the portrait. I admire the slender black eyebrows that are sly and sleek. There is a bit of fat to her pinky calves and I think about trying to paint something like her myself when I get home. The wheels are turning in my cracked mind, but I abruptly break from my trance and enter the adjacent bathroom. After all, I really need to go. I get in there, unbutton, unzip and let ‘er free. I am sighing and smiling at the relief of emptying my beer-full bladder. It is, after all, the little things that one must attempt appreciate to the full. Few things are more pleasant in life than this particular sensation of relief — aside from the orgasm of course. Ahhhh…

Life is a Memory in an Old Man’s Dream & other Telepathically Paranoid Musings.

I Have Created Myself

How very often do I find myself writing autobiographical things which end up becoming just as elusive as a stranger’s perfectly forgotten dreams. I begin my sentences with such great certainties — “I did this” or “this event had such and such an effect on me” — when all of a sudden I get that unsettling feeling as if I were being gently levitated from my seat, as if I were not really here at all. I become estranged and apart from my own subject, which is myself.

The dawning of the realization that you are an illusion of your own making comes first as an uneasy feeling in the tender-to-the-touch Almighty Ego. Inevitably, the knowledge becomes confirmed on the intellectual level and thus becomes wisdom. I have created myself out of the fabric of my own imagination!

***

The Differentiation of Illusions

Who is to say the artificial and painted theater stage background is more or less of an illusion than our artificial cultural backgrounds — our cities, homes, jet-ways, parking lots, etc. What makes the one artificial and the other not so? Both the stage and the city, the intended and non-intended illusions, come to the same material result. Both are products of human imagination. Every city upon planet Earth which makes up the whole of civilization first began as a seed in the minds of our strange and creative species. Perhaps even we ourselves are the complete constructs of our imaginations — an illusory product of purely neuro-biologic and chemical processes!

***

The Usually Quite Unusual 

If there’s one thing I’ve observed in this life, speaking from a subjectively objective point of view, it is that everything is usually quite unusual. Or at least, this the impression that one is given from day to day living. Absurdity is merely normality put on full, roasting and shameless display. The average freaks on the street are our fellow men. Coincidences and synchronicity happen all the time. The extraordinary is cousin to the mundane. The uncommon….all too common! Any seeing, feeling person with their eyes and minds open will know this in the back of their consciousness, or if they’re anything like me, at the forefront of their bleeding, pulsating and dreaming hearts.

***

My Paranoid Telepathy

I have this paranoid fear of people reading my thoughts and attacking me violently over the nature of their contents. This fear springs up when I am thinking something particularly nasty about a given human being. For example: I am on the day job. I’m pushing a row of shopping carts uphill toward the cart garage and there is a woman in the way. I push and heave the carts and finally divert them onto a separate path so that the customer and I are not running into each other. I am making this effort purely out of courtesy, and not that the situation required an apology, I apologized to the passing lady anyway. She merely scowled at me and continued on her way. That’s when I think to myself, “She’s just mad because she’s ugly. I mean, just look at that poor, tight-lipped cunt!”

Even now I feel the hysterical daggers of that woman’s pink-polished finger nails at the back of my neck. Thank the Gods-which-do-not-exist that telepathy is seemingly a non-existent human ability. For if telepathy were to exist, I would have been dropped in the river with cement shoes a long time ago.

The only form of telepathy I wholeheartedly believe in is the one where I write words and you are reading them in your mind. This doesn’t make me paranoid though. Just audacious. If you don’t like my word-thoughts, well, fuck you Jack!, ’cause they’re all mine!

***

Life is a Memory in an Old Man’s Dream

Life is inevitably but a memory. Living is only a semi-material experience, like sand falling through spread fingers, or phantom hands. In the tail-end of living, all we have are memories of having lived. Perhaps it was all some strange and great, meaningless dream? No. Couldn’t have been a dream. I was there. I lived it!….but am I here now? Am I living it…whatever it is? In five minutes past will I say I was merely dreaming this? The hourglass is emptying of its sand, from top to bottom. I recline on the couch and watch as the sand falls and I begin to fall too. I am falling like autumn leaves onto a cold, frosty ground…I am falling, falling into the nothing.

I am just a dreaming man going back to that eternal sleep, that thing I was before I was born…