We’re All Stardust

David Bowie passed away peacefully yesterday. He fought against the cancer eating away at his body for a year and a half, and all the while, he was creating more art to share with the world. Throughout his storied career, he put out 25 – twenty-five – albums. That is an absolutely insane body of work. That’s not even mentioning how many different times he reinvented his style and himself. He was never afraid to embrace new things (or if he was, he didn’t let that fear slow him down) and immerse himself in the sheer passion and beauty and weirdness that was life and this sad, strange, incredible little rock we ride through space.

Like millions of others, I was a fan of Bowie. I admired him as a musician, as an actor, and as a man. I was a weird kid, into learning and comic books and other things that got me labeled as a nerd and kept my peers from inviting me to things, so to see someone dress and act so flamboyantly/bad-ass/striking and still pull off so much charm gave me a little hope that some day I could just own my interests and quirks and pull off my own style with the same success.

And while the first time I think I really saw David Bowie was as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth (a movie I must have watched a hundred times as a kid), rocking an outfit nobody should have realistically been able to pull off, I was already a fan and didn’t know it. I got a lot of my musical taste listening to the bands and artists that my dad liked, so I had already picked up and jammed out to a score of Bowie songs before I even knew his name. They still put a smile on my face years later. It’s good music, great songs.

Now… all that being said, I have to admit that I was never the kind of guy to buy albums. I didn’t obsess over a band’s entire catalogue. Hell, half the time I couldn’t tell you the name of a song that’s playing, or even who performed it. I just know what I like and enjoy it when it comes on.

I wasn’t and am not as well-versed in David Bowie’s work as many others are or even as much as I probably should be, considering my tastes and how much I admire who he was, what he accomplished and what he put out. If you’ve paid any attention to the things I’ve written before, however, you’ll know there is at least one unshakeable truth about me: I believe in and unabashedly love art in all its forms. I may be the Story Man, but paintings, performances, poems, and especially music all serve to provide an outlet for energy, and an escape from the stress and the mundane.

To that end, when a brilliant artist passes, it’s felt less like a ripple than a wave. There is a sudden void where once there was vibrancy. A light was extinguished and with it, an eternal darkness covers all of the potential art that could have been. Even passing fans are deeply troubled by the ceasure of that existence.

But as that sadness permeates in our chest and behind our eyes, we find ourselves doing what we do whenever a great artist passes: revisiting the things they gifted to us. When Robin Williams passed away, we turned on the films that made us laugh and cry throughout the years of our lives. When the tragic news broke about David Bowie, we immediately turned the records on, we popped in Labyrinth and The Man Who Fell to Earth and even The Prestige, because even though his turn as Tesla was relatively brief, it was performed with gravitas.

We’re left with so much music and so much influence and we use what he gave us to help cope with the fact he can’t give us more, that we can’t see him perform live, that we can’t meet him.

David Bowie was an artist. He was more than that, especially to his friends and family, but to most of us, he was an artist. What puts him on a different level than so many others is that he was his art. Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, the Goblin King. As many times as he changed his musical styles, he changed his personas and allowed it all to work together to create something haunting, strange, beautiful, captivating, passionate, and ethereal. He constantly shifted his art, but he always lived and breathed it. So rarely are there Michael Jacksons and Robin Williamses and Freddy Mercurys and David Bowies that when they leave us, everyone has to stop and take a breath because those people are creative giants who have affected not only the world with what they’ve created and how they created it, but also because of the inarguable imprint they’ve left on the sheer concept of art. They inspire new styles, new chances, new bravery. They help us cope by showing us beauty in the world when we’ve forgotten how to look for it alone.

Lou Anders wrote a touching tribute to David Bowie that puts into words so much better the things I feel and wanted to say. You can and should read it here: Something Happened On the Day He Died.

Rob Bricken wrote a more comprehensive analysis of the impact David Bowie left on music, art, science fiction, and really, the world. You can and should read it here: All the Ways David Bowie Changed Our Lives and Expanded Our Minds.

Bowie’s influence has and will stay with us on an emotional and inspirational level. It’s a juggernaut of strangeness and versatility that can’t easily be shaken. And why would you want to? I’ve heard it said that physiologically we’re made from the same elements as the stars. What better evidence that we’re Stardust than hanging on to Bowie?

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Some Fires Just Burn a Little Brighter

I’m a subscriber to love. I don’t believe there is one type, or a specific intensity. I don’t believe that young love is a myth. There’s a woman I fell for when I was fifteen years old that I still miss deeply and hope the best for. I do believe love can be foolish and reckless and selfish, especially when someone doesn’t have much experience with it, or with life. You can love young, and you should love when that feeling presses up against your heart and seeps into your lungs, but it doesn’t always mean it’s going to work out. Love is messy, and like tungsten carbide, it can be the strongest thing out there and still shatter with the right amount of pressure to the wrong spot.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this.

Seven years ago, I still fancied myself an actor. I love acting, to be honest, but though I have a small circle of friends who were always seated in the front row for my shows, I don’t think I was particularly good at it. Keep in mind I moved to Los Angeles a year later to try and actually do it for a living. It backfired spectacularly.

But this is before that. This is before I could enter an American bar. I got into acting late in high school. The first show I ever did was the Outsiders (Dallas Winston. My very first performance, I yelled out FUCK in front of the entire school when my gun got stuck in my coat pocket during my super emotional death scene), followed by Grease (Kenickie, because I’m a whore and a hickie from me is like a Hallmark card: when you care enough to give the very best).

I did some community shows afterwards, including playing a lead in a Halloween show about werewolves where I played a pastor (*cue laugh track*). That show was great. The uncut script was phenomenal, and though we had to trim it down for time, it still ended with my stage wife blowing me away with a rifle.

Strangely, I kept getting cast in musicals. I’m a terrible singer. I never did choir, I don’t sing in the shower. I don’t like my speaking voice, let alone my singing voice. Then there’s the dancing. I’m the clumsiest, least coordinated guy you could meet. Now I’ve got to master dance moves and sing and act and holy shit, how many scenes do I have in this thing? I was the Pirate King in a showing of Pirates of Penzance and though I look dashing in a goatee and a red coat, I felt like an asshole trying to co-lead that show.

Anyway. I did that Halloween show and she saw me perform, although I didn’t know that at the time. We would meet a few months later, during a musical (again) in which I had a mercifully minor role. The show was set in 1920s France and I was set in the most ridiculous costumes I’ve ever set eyes upon. We met for the first time during our first rehearsal. I think even then, there was a connection.

We talked. A lot. The girl I was dating at the time broke up with me over text, and I didn’t handle it very well. It hurt my feelings, and I was mopey. This beautiful actress, six years my senior (older women is my fetish. And younger women. And women my age, but at 20, hey, this older women thing was something new and different and flattering) did a lot to build my confidence back up. She made me feel handsome. She encouraged my writing. She made me feel talented, and through spending so much time talking to and being around me, she made me feel desirable during a time when I really held myself to being worth so little as to be a throwaway text.

The first night I went to her apartment wasn’t a graceful one for either of us. We had met up for food at the tavern about a block down from her place and she invited me back for drinks. Adele was playing from the CD player, Chasing Pavements, the first time I had heard the singer. Candles were lit. Glasses were pulled from the cabinets. We both had a little too much wine and, coupled with the pasta she had ordered earlier, the night ended with my holding her hair back while she let everything return from whence it had come. She was embarrassed, and she told me so then, and she told me so later. I wasn’t bothered. I held her until she fell asleep and then I made my way home.

I fell for her then, I think, in that moment. Not because she was puking. That’s not… I’m not into that. Maybe because she was vulnerable and she trusted me enough to hold her there. I remember her nestled against me, my arm hooked under black and full hair. I recall the light freckles on her olive skin and the way her chest rose in soft breaths, exhausted from what she had just been through with the food and drink.

We talked about it the next day and hung out soon after, and I think the fact the experience hadn’t turned me away or shaken the feelings I was having for her made an impression that lasted. Not long after, we began seeing each other in a fashion I guess I would best describe as being intensely passionate and equally torrid.

We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Not during the show, not after the show wrapped. When we were around each other, the chemistry was unbelievable. Rarely have I looked so deeply into a woman’s eyes and found so much art and life waiting to rush back at me. I wrote poems for her. I wrote short stories. I’ve written about muses and love before, and I’ve left this woman out, I think in part because of how things ended, but she was a fire inside me for several months and she lingered in me for years after.

She made me a journal. The cover was custom designed, and the pages were sporadically filled with pictures of her, of us, of my favorite things. There was a picture of the Eiffel Tower from when we lay curled around each other, wistfully talking about running away to Paris together. I lost it a couple years later in a cab in Los Angeles. The thought still pisses me off.

She introduced me to the Woodshed, the karaoke bar that became a second home to me for many years, a place that has brought me some of my favorite stories and best friendships. She was the impetus for my throwing myself into a life of art, be it acting or writing. Jesus, I don’t know if I ever would have had the balls to actually move to Los Angeles if it hadn’t been for her, and though that move broke me in ways I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from, it still changed my life in a lot of great ways, too.

I felt confident with this woman. My creative synapses were like lightning around her. I’ve had very few physical relationships that were as full of intensity and aggression and expression as when she and I were together. Sexuality, emotion, inspiration ran together in a single, twisting, uproarious current.

Of course it didn’t last. In my experience, things like this rarely do.

See, here’s the rub: I fucking loved her, and I know she felt strongly about me, too. I don’t think it was love for her, and that’s fine. She wanted to be around me and with me, and often it was a companionship that vibrated with a whole different level of energy. But I was young. 20, 21. I liked to party, and party hard. I was dumb. I lacked the maturity that comes from tragedy and actual relationships and general life experience. She was in her mid-20s. She liked to party, too. She was deep in an art scene and fresh out of a relationship with her eyes on the world.

We were good. We were great. But there are other great people out there. And there are plenty of debilitating distractions.

We began to fight. I grew jealous. She was partying harder than ever, and I began to worry about her health. I expressed this by getting drunk and angry and yelling when she refused to listen to my concerns. I was a wreck. I was immature. She was merciless in her comebacks. It got bitter. We grew apart. We stopped seeing each other. We stopped talking to each other.

Years later, I had moved back to Alaska after two years of struggling to find myself in California and Washington. I was working at a jewelry store, a job I kind of really hated, and I wasn’t feeling too hot about myself either. A beautiful, familiar woman walked up to me while I was standing at the front of the store counting minutes. She said “Hey,” and flashed a smile. The smile, her smile,  the one I used to kiss hungrily, the one that left me weak in the knees, the one that made the words come quaking to my fingertips, begging to be unleashed upon the nearest parchment.

It was the smile I remembered looking up to from that fucking break-up text right before she told me things were going to be alright.

She apologized to me, saying she wasn’t in a great place back then. I told her she didn’t need to apologize, it was me that was in a bad place. We talked briefly. She’s married now. At the time, she had one kid. She has two now and is still happy, still in a good place.

I ran into her yesterday after watching the World Cup final. She was performing on stage, her voice as silky and lovely as I remembered. She came over to speak to me afterwards and we caught up. She dug up an old story I had written for her and e-mailed it to me. She seems happy, and I am so happy for her. She deserves it.

What’s funny to me is the timing. I don’t believe in fate. I’m not a believer in a divine plan. I do believe in chance, so maybe I just got lucky, but our paths crossed at a time in my life where I am hitting absolute rock bottom. I wake up in the morning feeling gutted, I’ve been bleeding money on bad decisions and intangible nonsense. Seeing her reminded me of some very positive things. A passionate love that, though tempered and tucked away in the art gallery of my heart, still remains. I was reminded of a woman I wanted to run away to France with, of a time when I saw the world in a woman’s eyes.

She found a good life, one full of art and passion and love and family. Maybe some day I’ll find something like that, too. She gave me one more gift, after all these years, after everything that’s happened: a little bit of hope.

The Metal That Gave Me Mettle

The first computer I ever owned as a kid was some piece of shit desktop that did nothing for Internet and only basic script commands. I could play Space Invaders and Pong on it, green icons on a black screen with a laggy system so that I never got too used to winning. Around 11 or 12 or so, I got upgraded to a faster computer with Internet capabilities and a dial-up connection. I can recall the long screeching noises vividly. My friends and I used to vocally mock the sounds, as if the machine had feelings we could hurt.

My grandparents, God bless them, put a lot of faith in me to not go to any websites I shouldn’t have. I remember furtively venturing to “sex dot com” and laser printing out softcore images of naked women that I hid under my mattress and blamed on my friend when I inevitably got caught. Oh, you were holding drugs for a friend? Weapons? Yeah, I had topless photos of Denise Richards. “For a friend”.

I took my grounding and pleaded my case and gradually regained my privilege to be on the computer. I discovered Java Chat, a popular early chat room type often divided up by topic or demographic. The particular one I frequented…I don’t even recall how I found it. I think the subject for the room was “Miscellaneous” or some other inane shit.

Being a bullied kid with few friends and an awkward look, I found it easy and, in fact, a relief to meet friends on the Internet. There was JadeDragon (who was kind of a dick) and Topcat (who was my homie) and Spider and this chick Jess who I had a huge crush on and who called me occasionally and who betrayed me when I found out she lied about her age, even though her actual age was closer to mine. You remember when A(ge)/S(ex)/L(ocation) was a thing? Yeah, it was like that but with lies.

I think I was 13 or so when I met Amanda in the chat. She was a year older than me, feisty, funny. She and I bickered as much as we had each other’s back, but she was also there for me through some really hard times. We became friends, though I was in Anchorage, Alaska and she was in Toronto, Canada. We spoke a lot, almost everyday, in the chat room proper or in PMs (private messages). She was my girl, my go-to, the one person I could tell anything to.

She is still a close friend of mine, some 13 years later.

Amanda is the one who got me into Kittie. She started talking about it in the chats, linked me to songs, encouraged me to buy the CD (which, at that point, I think was only Spit). I’m not a big metal guy. I never have been and I probably won’t ever be super into it, but there was something about this all-chick line-up and they way they shredded and screamed and sang that reached whatever pent-up feelings I had gurgling in my chest cavity. I got hooked. I checked them out because a girl I liked asked me to and I stuck with it because the band fucking rocked.

As the Java chat wound down, Amanda and I found our way over to Kittie’s official message board on their website. It was free to sign up, there were hundreds of threads to contribute to (Band discussions, debate, general topics, art and poetry, tours, etc.), and the only rule, really, was don’t be a dick.

Did we follow that? Hahaha no. Not in the slightest.

Could we be warned and banned and suspended? Absolutely. But the moderators didn’t always get along and there were always favorites and sometimes someone said something so fucked up but inherently hilarious that the person would get a message asking them to tone it down instead of an official warning.

There were several regulars that frequented the board, myself among them. I was 13 or 14 when I started posting and I developed a certain kind of reputation for myself. Everyone who was anyone on that board built a rep for themselves. There were stern folks and smart folks and assholes and sarcastic assholes and poets and artists and dumbfucks and rock stars. I made friends with a lot of the right people, but I got warned a time or two. Everyone who was anyone on that board got warned a time or two.

There were costume contests and .gif request threads. There were board awards where people could vote for users to win things, and other people would make banner “award” images to post in their signature lines. There were threads about politics and threads about soda and an equal amount of energy and opinion went into both.

It was a community. It was a family. Not everyone got along, but it was a family all the same. The craziest part about it was the transparency. This was right when scanners and webcams were starting to get big so there was a level of transparency on the board that hadn’t been in the Java chat. Add to that the fact that several board members either lived in close proximity to each other or would road trip to hit up concert venues and meet there. We knew when people were who they said they were.

Additionally, as it was their official board, the Kittie band members would occasionally pop in to chime in on certain topics. The thing that struck me the most about them was that they never came in to address their “fans”. They came in to talk to their family. There was never an air of condescension or entitlement or a shortness of expression. They were our friends, and we were theirs and that was a huge thing.

See, in school, I had to be somebody different all the time. Quiet around certain people, bite my tongue with certain people, hide my intelligence or over reach it with certain people. As I got older and began working, I needed to have a professional face. I had to hide certain qualities about myself and felt ashamed about certain others.

But on the Kittie message board. Everyone could be themselves for the first time. I didn’t have to worry about being called ugly. I could hide or post a pic and at least one person would have something nice to say. I didn’t have to worry about my poetry. There was another poet who would encourage me. I could rant in anger or cry in frustration or celebrate losing my virginity or crack crass jokes or vent my family problems or voice my insecurities. I could be me and people fucking liked me for me and that was weird and so goddamn needed.

You know, people talk a lot these days about the dangers of meeting people on the internet. It is no more dangerous now than it was ten years ago. Less so now, in fact. You just need to not be a fucking idiot about doing it.

I met Diana when I was 17 and flew to Texas. We had spoken on the phone, had webcam chats, talked for years online. I may have gotten confirmation from someone else that she had met, and we met in an airport – practically the most public place you can meet. I stayed for two or three weeks. We went to Ozzfest during Hurricane Katrina, celebrated what I think was her 21st birthday, catcalled some meerkats at the zoo and walked the Galveston strip. It was a hell of a trip.

A year or so later, I flew down to meet my friend Tommy. When he first showed up on the board, he had some stupid fucking goggles that I would not let him get away with wearing. I flew down a couple times, actually. Once I met another board member, Ashley, visiting from Arkansas. The other time, Tommy and I decided to spur-of-the-moment drive from Prattville, Alabama to Detroit, Michigan to meet up with board member Crystal and catch what would be my first live Kittie show.

We arrived in 13 hours, stopping for fuel in Tennessee at a joint gas station/fireworks shop because God Bless You, Tennessee.

Which brings us back to Kittie. I never got to meet the full Spit line-up that had got me so hooked on the band, with Talena Atfield and Fallon Bowman. I did meet sisters Morgan and Mercedes Lander, bassist Trish Doan and guitarist Tara McLeod and let me tell you, they were amazing to me.

They snuck us in to their sound check to hear some of their new stuff before anyone else. They recognized me immediately as “that dude from Alaska”. Mercedes made sure I had one of the two copies of the set list in hand and they took the time to take pictures with me after.

I flew to New York to meet board member Jenny D. We caught Kittie’s acoustic set in a mall where I surprised them. I hadn’t let them know I was coming. Jenny took me to my first and only college party where, at 18 or 19, I won some games of flip cup, vomited all over some frat house bathroom, got a girl’s number and suffered the single worst hangover I’ve ever had.

We caught the Kittie concert in Poughkeepsie and after, the ladies all signed my hat. Tara, who I had a tremendous crush on, gave me her number to keep in touch. I mentioned wanting to write books for a living. Morgan encouraged me to do so. I can’t express how much it means to have someone you look up to and whose art you enjoy tell you to keep at it.

I met board member Karen in Ireland and had one of the fondest memories of my life, holding her while a university group, amidst a light show, sang “She Moved Through the Fair”.

Skyler Martin, aka Skaz, is another board member. One I’ve never met but who is the best writer I’ve ever worked with or whose material I’ve helped edit.

Tommy, of Alabama fame, and his roommate (and board member) Ben once gave me a place to stay when I got kicked out of Canada and had no place else to go.

The last time I saw Kittie perform live was at the Key Club in Los Angeles in 2009. I had just moved away from Alaska for the first time. I was scared and mostly broke and too much in my head and in a rough spot. I scraped money aside to see them; my friends ditched me. Morgan greeted me with open arms. She gave me a shout out during the concert. Ivy Jenkins was playing bass at the time. I didn’t get to meet her then, but we’re friends now.

After the concert, after I forcefully interjected myself between a perma-fried, super-high fan and Morgan, I got to spend a little time with her and Mercedes just relaxing on the tour bus and drinking wine. And I felt okay. I felt like I could get through things, if only for a while.

Morgan and Mercedes Lander, Trish Doan, and Tara McLeod have absolutely been encouraging to me and my endeavors for the better part of a decade. They have never needed to reach out or wish me happy birthday or offer me to hang out. They have never needed to reach out to me.

Or anyone else, because they have reached out to so many people. They have touched so many lives, have encouraged artists and inspired artists and have left an impact on the industry.

Not only that, but the community they have built has saved lives. People who couldn’t be themselves anywhere else found an out. Those who were struggling found support. I personally have developed some of the strongest friendships in my life from interactions on that board, real friendships that have lasted over a decade without, in some cases, needing to meet in person. I’ve met my greatest inspirations through Kittie’s board. My best first kiss with a woman. Some of my greatest, craziest memories. Friends all around the world.

The best part? I’ve lived most of my life in Alaska. I’ve barely had the interaction with the band people elsewhere have. I know of at least two marriages from that board, one that crossed the world. Kittie is a band who is compassionate, inspirational and fun, a band whose presence ignites growth and whose very construction can build a global family that stands the test of time.

I love the band as a whole for their artistry, especially being outside of what I typically like. And those women I know personally? I love them dearly for the friends, the experiences and the encouragement they’ve given me. I may not have pursued storytelling had they not told me I was worth it.

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Distilling Who I Used to Be

As I write this, I’m just tipsy enough to start to sleep comfortably. I’m supposed to be up in 3 hours for what will likely be an almost 24 hour day between a 12 hour shift and a healthy stint at the bar I spend too much money on.

So I’m laying down and thinking about sleeping but I want some music to put me in the mood to sleep. Strangely, radically, I find myself in the mood for the Distillers. As The Hunger and Coral Fang and City of Angels pulse through my ears, I’m shotgunned back almost a decade.

I was an asshole as a teenager but mostly because I was angry. I was angry at my family of fuck-ups. I was angry at fake friends. At how nobody believed in me because I was good at plenty of things but not great at anything and I didn’t have a known clique that I hung out with. But I had my group and that group stood by me.

For about five years, there was one thing that I prided myself on and that was that I just did not give a fuck about myself. I took chances. I didn’t blink at risk. I spat in the face of logic and disbelief because I believed I could do it. I fought for the impossible solely for the sake that everyone else thought I couldn’t make it happen.

Not quite everyone. My aforementioned group was a few folks that railed against conventional thought and really fought to put their lofty goals first. They were like-minded dreamers. That’s why we got along so well.

Then folks started getting married, having kids. I made some mistakes. I fell in love and got burned. People fell away. I almost died. I racked up debt. I started feeling like shit started feeling like a piece of shit.

Now I’m listening to Brody Dalle growl in my ear. I’m remembering elbows in my ribs and music pounding my shoulders while my one goal was to be – not the biggest or the strongest or the smartest guy – the scariest motherfucker there. The guy who didn’t quit. The one who laughed at “it can’t happen” and “you’ll never do it”. When I was the guy who didn’t believe in writer’s block, let alone let it fuck his vibe up.

I’m too focused on the grind these days. Not that it isn’t important, not that I shouldn’t care about my job. But that job isn’t me. The money is nice and it’s essential, but I’m a guy who has lived out of two suitcases for five years. I’ve spent three years following the drifter lifestyle without the freedom the mentality gives.

I need to get back to this: I am who I am, and I do what I do, and it won’t be the best, and it won’t be the smartest, but it’s going to happen no matter how many people will leave, no matter how people will stop believing, no matter how many people will tell me I can’t.

I used to scream at thunder, punch waves, grit my teeth at the odds and believe that no matter how bad it got, I would pull myself up. As I got older and had fewer family, fewer friends and more bills, it’s gotten hard.

But dammit, the challenge is what I loved the most about it. I lost that somewhere along the way. I want it back. I’m getting it back.

Fucking Brody Dalle. Bless ya.

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Satori and the Key

I have often used art as inspiration to write stories. Whether it’s a picture of an abandoned warehouse or a character design that warrants exploration or a battle that needs to be expounded on, I’ve often looked to visual mediums for ideas.

Then, while I write, I often have headphones plugged in to drown out the surrounding world and to keep people – usually co-workers – from bothering me while I work. The music tends to be without lyrics. If I were listening to lyrics, those words tend to get jumbled up with the ones in my mind that I’m attempting to put on paper. Instrumentals, however, flow sweetly, encouraging without undercutting. It keeps my mind focused without loading a bunch of extra shit on.

Something I haven’t done before, though, is writing for music. Alongside it. I stumbled across a writing prompt last night that said, “Write the final scene in a story set to this song.” I have never used the rhythm or melody of a song as a score to the things I’ve written. It’s an interesting thing, to create that partnership, to have a soundtrack to the words you’re reading and the pictures you’re visualizing in your mind.

I wanted to try it. The song in question is The Aviators by Helen Jane Long. I wanted to give the story an animated film feel to it. So here we go.

****

A trickling sound roused Satori from what felt like a deep sleep. She was on her back, laying on a firm substance, but she wasn’t uncomfortable. Her eyes moved behind heavy lids for several seconds before she opened them.

She was in a cavern. The memory of it gradually came back to her, but she recalled the interior being dark and bare. Terror had filled her as she struggled to escape Moko and dread coursed through her veins once she realized the cave had been a dead end.

But that was all. Those were the only things she remembered before waking up.

Now the cavern was bright, every wall and most of the ground covered in ice blue crystals. She lay on a mossy bank next to a clear pool. A thin shaft of light shone through a hole in the rocky ceiling and a stream of water tumbled down into the natural lake. Like snow, tiny amethyst lights drifted lazily down around her, fading as they hit the surface of anything.

Where Moko had stood, arms stretching upwards with a sword clenched tightly in his hands, there was only a tower of crystal the color of lilacs. Satori cautiously climbed to her feet and approached it. There was no resemblance to the man who once stood there, but when she pressed her fingers to the center she swore a faint orange glow radiated outwards.

She cast one more glance around and then made for the exit. It all felt so surreal, that the last few days could end in such a manner. Had it been real? Had she imagined it? The crystal cave was too fantastic to have gone undiscovered for so long otherwise, right?

The path wound out to one of the three cliffsides overlooking her village. The sun was still climbing as morning yawned, casting rubies and citrines over Fairweather Harbor in the distance. The windmills were churning slowly. Smoke was already billowing from the chimney of Old Han’s restaurant.

Satori cast a glance back at the mouth of the cavern. She fished around in her pocket and came out with a boring, slightly bent, little brass key. The key that started it all. She kissed it and then thrust it back into her pocket. With careful steps, she started descending the bluff towards her village.

If she hurried, and if her mother forgave her absence, she may just make it down in time for a late brunch.

What A Muse Meant: A Shower Poem

Years ago, I used to write a lot of poetry. A lot of poetry. It was before I took to long-form writing but I had the itch to get emotions and ideas and concepts out and poetry was the simplest way to do it. There are tons of different kinds of poems, too, so I got to flex my muscles with haikus, iambic pentameter, acrostic, couplets and more. I ended up primarily doing the kind that don’t necessarily rhyme or have a consistent structure but follow a rhythm. Maybe they sound better read aloud than seen on a screen, I don’t know.

Anyway, back then I would often be in the showet when a line I loved or a verse I craved struck me and I would weave most of or all of a poem in the shower. From the ceaseless depths of my creative soul, I decided to dub these “shower poems”. I know, thanks for the applause.

I moved on as I got older to writing short stories, then longer short stories, then novels. My poetry trickled awat and stopped. Only recently have I been taking a crack at it again. This poem isn’t necessarily more special than other poems I’ve posted on Word Whiskey. It’s not even necessarily better. It’s just the first shower poem I’ve had in a while:

The stage fits her like a tight dress
The spotlight, a necklace
Dark hair shines like Tahitian pearls Curled back behind her ears
The microphone in hand seems to alleviate any
Fears she might have had
The bad day slips away from her
She slips away in turn; the music
Burns through the air
The words slip out, smooth as silk, rich as gems
Every him hee-hawing in the crowd is cowed into silence
There is only her

Her body moves on the river of the beat
She sways in place and her face says
She is somewhere better
Her lips play with a smokey smile
Enticing under closed eyes, while
Her hips keep time
A metronome in the form of a woman
Hypnotizing, mesmerizing
With that form, a form of pleasure
Treasured; and still pale in the shadow of
That Voice

Her voice box is a paradox rising up from the deep
Lipstick on scotch
Ballet on the edge of a knife
A primal elegance feasting on innocence
One hunger replaced with another
Carried on the night with a tight grip on the mic

The final notes fade gently
Like turning the last pages on the latest entry of your favorite series and
Serious eyes size up the stage stranger
Dangerously alluring during and after performing
Silence reigns in melody’s wake
She takes a deep breath and glides away as easily as she swept in

Veni, vidi, vicit
Fin

The Last Few Days

I’ve been a little preoccupied the last few days. With work, with my mind, with other people. It’s been frustrating not writing, but it’s also been nice not to worry about it.

Thursday night I went out on a date. Part of me was worried she wouldn’t show up because part of me always thinks that. I’ve been stood up before. A lot. It always kind of baffled me because I never thought my personality was so bad that someone would pass up a free meal, but whatever. I started carrying a book with me, just in case. I’d still eat. I mean, by that point I was hungry so hell, I might as well buckle down and have a good dinner and a good read.

But this girl didn’t stand me up. It was our second date, the first being a dinner on my birthday. The second was even better. We had a good dinner. Followed it up with a local film festival that was delightful not only because the films were good but because the crowd was so interactive, knowing or being someone that was involved with the short films.

Following that, we hopped across the street for drinks and karaoke. I didn’t sing. She did. I’m absolutely addicted to her voice. I could listen to an album.

We went back to my place afterwards. I had chickened out on my birthday, but I took a gamble here and kissed her. It paid off. We went inside and watched whatever was on at 3AM in the morning which, and this shouldn’t be a surprise, consisted of divorce court and Nicolas Cage movies and I’m here to tell you that is totally fucking awesome.

We didn’t talk much, instead curling up with each other and losing ourselves in Academy Award-winning Nic formerly-Coppola’s riveting performance in National Treasure. And that was perfect.

It has been a long, long time since I’ve been on a date where I didn’t feel out of place or pressured to be a certain way. It was easy and it was fun. And regardless of where it goes from here, it was a night I needed after losing two friends and being stressed out at life. She makes me want to write and writing is my life.

She left around 4:30, I went to bed, woke up renewed enough to trudge through eight hours of work and then went out to see Crystal Method play at a local bar. I like electronica alright and it was solid, but I found myself out at the deck bar more often than not. And it was raining. In fact, it was pouring and I was drenched and I kind of loved it.

I’ve talked about my love for rain before, but this was a different. Very little is similar between hearing the chatter of rain drops on rooftops and being in the middle of a downpour. I felt cleansed. Lightning flashed and thunder roared, rare occasions for Alaska. As people staggered around me and even as I slipped into a more inebriated state, I was fascinated by the sheer naturalness of the weather. It felt amazing. I think I’m going to get pneumonia, though.

Cut to yesterday and I’m at work again. A customer at the table next to me sagged in his chair and then collapsed onto the floor. My co-worker and I both tried to catch him but were too late. He hit hard and seized a little. Coincidentally, one of the other customers in the store happened to be an EMT and he took care of the man until the emergency services arrived. He was responsive and coherent as he left and I hope he makes a full recovery.

The entire thing left me shaken and I resolved to get a beer after work. Just so happened the Spin Doctors were in town to play a free (to the public) show down by the railroad station just a couple blocks away. I got off in time to catch the last hour or so of the set.

I stood on top of a hill under a grey sky, plastic cup full of beer gripped tightly in my hand, looking over hundreds of people of all ages. They were dancing and drinking, fighting and kissing, sitting and staggering. I saw dozens who stood in one spot, eyes closed and bobbing their head to the music. I had arrived wondering how many people showed up hoping that they would hear Two Princes because that was the only song they could sing along to. I left realizing that it didn’t matter. Music – like paintings or sculptures or prose – is art and people take in art to escape from the world for a bit. Fans are nice. They’re the bread-givers to artists. But here it didn’t matter if these people had bought every album or just needed to unwind; the Spin Doctors had showed up to give their gift and these people received it by having a goddamn good time.

I don’t know that there’s a point to this entry. It feels like I’m writing into my diary, hoping that the other end of it isn’t Voldemort. I do know that I have spent the last month mourning and sulking a bit and doubting and the last few days have kind of put things into some perspective.

I forgot how nice it is to be liked and to hold someone in your arms. I was reminded how fleeting life is and how suddenly something can happen. I found myself in positions where I appreciated the smaller things in life, be it music or rain, and made a promise to try and do so more often.

Our planet is not the biggest, but that doesn’t mean it’s small. There is so much that happens on every level. Chemical reactions, volcano eruptions, animal friendships. We create incredible things to be shared. We have relationships.

All the same, we are mortal. We spend so much time worrying about what we’re doing or how we’re going to make something work or pining over someone or something and we aren’t literally taking the time to smell that gorgeous bouquet of flowers. To smile at someone who looks blue. To pet the sweet dog that ran up to you at the park. To say hi to the girl or boy with their nose in a book.

I spent the last few days celebrating and appreciating life in a way I haven’t in a while and I liked it quite a bit.