Dear Journal: These Whispers

Dear Journal,

We are so close I can feel it in the marrow of my bones. I can taste it on the wind today, as the weather was so beautiful out I could imagine running across the field, Chariots of Fire style, with a bitchin’ soundtrack playing in the background. Sub woofer speakers and everything. We are so close I can stand inside the house and feel it humming around me, waiting to assimilate me as its own.

But we are not in yet. And therein lies the rub.

You see, it’s a game of cat and mouse. Or Paula Abdul and MC Scat Cat. “Two steps forward. Two steps back.” The kitchen cabinets are in, and the tile is down in the mudroom, waiting in its forms for a settling. I walk through the rooms and I can see where everything will go, where our lives will be lived, but it’s as the echo of a shadow of a thought, blurring all my lines.

The possibilities I can’t help imagining are plentiful, as I fall asleep night after night and dream, as I sleep to dream a future. The house sits there across the field, beckoning to me even now, calling out to me over both distance and time, and I’m dying to respond. I want to scream out into that dissonance of distance and time, to fold it up all nice and tidy, to make it disappear with the sheer volume of my cry.

But that’s not realistic. So I’ll just keep dreaming until those dreams come from our bed, in our house, instead of here, until those whispers speak to me like they never have before. Until they embrace me like a brother.

And I will answer.


Dear Journal: E.T. Days

Dear Journal,

e-tSome days I feel disconnected from society, like I’m a pod person just emerging for the first time and reticent to interact with others for fear that they’ll find out I’m not one of them. This was one of those days, when I fought hard to keep in my “crazy” because I knew others wouldn’t understand. So I went about my business, and I responded when others spoke to me, but I didn’t initiate any conversations and I tried to keep to myself for the most part. I tried to avoid my lizard brain, my E.T. consciousness that just wants to phone home.

I hate feeling like I have to rein myself in sometimes, but my references to obscure books and movies, and my imitations of obscure people are generally met with a “Huh?” and I know they’re judging me. Of course I know I’m always being judged (who isn’t?) but the obvious judgments, the on-the-spot judgments, the “he did NOT just do that” judgments, they’re the ones that sting. So I fight hard to filter myself for their sakes. For my sake.

Then I get back here, and my wife, the one person I can truly be myself around at any time, gives me that same look I was so afraid of receiving from my coworkers. Then she smiles, because she’s not judging me. She never judges me, even though I tell her those obscure references to those odd movies, and I twerk it out while speaking pseudo-German. Because while she might not “get” the references, or the funny nature of the things I have tried to keep in all day, she GETS me. She understands that I need to have that outlet, that my mind works in odd ways, that I’m a unique individual who shouldn’t be judged.

So on these days when I feel the most alone for the vast majority of the day, when I can’t help the ways in which my mind meanders, the ending always goes according to script. Even when I’m about to bust because I feel I can’t just be myself, I know somewhere in my scattered mind that in the end I’ll be reunited with the person I know will always accept me for me, quirks and all, and that keeps me grounded enough to go through those “E.T. days.”

And that’s more than enough for me.


Dear Journal: In Time

“The rich declare themselves poor, and most of us are not sure if we have too much. But we’ll take our chances ’cause God stopped keeping score…” ~George Michael

Dear Journal,

f6513bd24f5eeea3145b74664892f7efIt’s a definite, I guess. In time all things change, even the things I used to see as inflexible. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can just be something different than the way it used to be. I see it like having to change your password on a particular website. You might have been attached to your password, but subtle changes need to made to it for you to continue to visit that site. Something like that.

In time the world has become smaller. I have several international students in my classes this semester, which reminds me of this point. I have Facebook friends from far and wide across the globe, which reminds me too. It makes me want to learn other languages, to be able to speak with them in their native tongues.

In time things that were simple have become complicated, and things that were once difficult are now easy. We can copy entire catalogues of music onto something smaller than our wallets, but we don’t know what to do with ourselves during a blackout. We can read an infinite number of books on our eReaders, but our libraries are starting to die out. The cycle of decay reaches everything.

I went to the Utica Zoo this week, and I saw the decay there as well. It’s sad, really, that something dedicated to preserving and providing an adequate home for endangered species is itself breaking down — becoming endangered. Seeing the building falling into disrepair, the animal habitats cracking at the seams, it makes me hate time. Because time can ravage, leaving everything in its wake.

In time love can turn to hate, people die, and things are said that can’t be taken back. It always seems like we have so much time ahead of us when we’re young, but it hits us like a sledgehammer how little there actually is once we’re old. In time praying becomes cajoling, a bargaining for more when we only end up with so much less in the exchange. In time our dreams become memories that we eventually forget.


Dear Journal: Rio

Dear Journal,

rio-de-janeiro-2016-olympic-parkI wish I was in Rio right now. Yes, Zika virus be damned. I want to be there. I’ve always felt a connection to the Olympics, at least since 1996. Back then it was Atlanta, and it was Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and it was Michael Johnson.

Back then it was all about track and field. The swimming was a mere blip on my radar. I remember Lenny Krayzelburg, but only because of that unique name. So it’s funny that 20 years later I’m thinking of Rio, but I’m really thinking of the swimming competition. That’s because of Michael Phelps, of course, but it’s more than that.

I wish I was in Rio right now, breathing in that musty air, being one of the many bodies packing those grand venues, living the Olympic dream. Before I die I have to personally experience an Olympics. There’s absolutely nothing in the world quite like it. I know. I can feel it slightly muted through the TV.

I have always loved things that were larger than life. No, not like that Backstreet Boys song, but really larger than life. People like Michael Jordan, events like the Super Bowl, but this — the Olympics — is somehow larger than all of that, and it’s not even close.

Back in 2000 I started taping some of the events. I have a disc’s worth of snippets from Sydney, and I wish now that I had preserved more from those epic games. I did capture the debut of Mr. Phelps, though, and his battle with the Thorpedo. That was epic.

Olympic Swimming Pool
The pool in the Water Cube where many world records were recorded during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

And then there was Athens (20 discs), followed by Beijing (23 discs), and then London (25 discs). I watch them religiously when I want something dynamic on in the background, or when I’m feeling nostalgic, or just because. That’s what the Olympics is for me. It’s a “just because.”

I can talk for ages about why Paul Hamm really deserved his gold medal, about the incredible come from behind victory for the men’s 4×100 team in Beijing, and about Gabby Douglas making history in the all-around. I can wax nostalgic about Missy Franklin’s 30-minute turnaround, about Natalie Coughlin’s incredible Athens, or about Kerri and Misty winning triple-gold at 3 straight Olympics. That’s incredible.

And that’s led us to Rio, at least this time around. So I want to be there. I want to walk on that hallowed ground. I want to close my eyes and soak it all in. Because it only happens once every four years — the Summer Olympics — and I’m not there.


On Journaling


I’m sitting here trying to recall the last time I actually wrote something. By that I mean putting pen or pencil to paper and scrawling some bit of creativity. I used to keep a physical journal, but when I made the decision to have a digital journal instead I left the physical by the wayside. Some days I miss it, but I type a lot faster than I write, so I don’t leave as many thoughts behind anymore.

But my journals, I can’t let them go. I’ve collected journals for as long as I can remember. I used to find them everywhere, from dollar stores to TJ Maxx, and other random places. I bought them for as low as 50 cents, and as much as 10 dollars, and they’re all special to me.

Every day I used to write in one or another of them, from a few words to several pages worth of thoughts. No matter how much I wrote, though, I was buying journals faster than I could fill them. That was one of the reasons I decided to write out here. Because in a sense it’s always full and never full at the same time.

Once in a while I dig through the tote that holds my journals and I marvel at their covers, from the antique looking ones to the art deco prints, the covers are as disparate as the range of things I write. I used to keep my styles of writing separate too, with one journal for poetry, one for short fiction, and so on, so to look back through them is to go back to a world where I kept things in compartments.

But my writing now, it’s beyond compartmentalizing. It’s past even being for just me anymore. I’ve had so many conversations about my writings because of my blogs, and I’ve gotten inspired more by others who have read them, conversations and inspirations that never would have happened if I kept my thoughts only locked up inside those beautiful journals.

For over 1,600 days I wrote journal entries out here, and as I wrote each one I thought about where it would fit if I were to put it into one of my many journals. I thought about how it would look if I took out a pen or pencil and copied it down in that journal. But I also shook my head because I’ve moved on. If at some point in time I decide to start using those journals again the writings will look different. Because I’m not the same guy who wrote in them back then.

And my handwriting is a lot worse now too. It’s a trade-off I don’t mind too much.


Dear Journal: Some Like It Hot

Dear Journal,

It’s hot, but I’m not complaining. How could I? I’m the same guy who argued all winter that the chill was no issue. So heat is also no issue, right? I told myself that over and over again while I tossed and turned on the air bed all night, sweating profusely. I wasn’t hot. I swear I wasn’t. Who am I kidding? I miss the air conditioner.

One summer, when I was in day camp, probably around age 10 or so, we were doing basketball that year, and the final program was all about showcasing our basketball skills to our adoring families. This showcase was full of loud background music, and the song I remember the most from it was “Some Like It Hot,” by Power Station.

“Some like it hot, and some sweat when the heat is on. Some feel the heat, and decide they can’t go on.”

I remember hearing that song for the first time and thinking some people were just wusses. I mean, it’s just heat, right? But heat can be deadly. It can also be purifying, though, like sweating out all the bad toxins and coming up from the heat bath refreshed. I like that idea a lot better, especially when it gets so hot I think I’m going to melt like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Which reminds me… water would be nice right about now.


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