Category Archives: life

I Love Vermont!

As I mentioned in my last post, my lovely bride and I have recently moved to Vermont. She hailed from Rochester, New York, before coming to San Francisco for graduate school and ensnaring me along the way, and had wanted for a while to be closer to where she grew up for access to family, friends, etc. So two years ago, we headed out to Salem, Massachusetts, which met her criteria (same time zone as family, same day drive, direct transport links, far enough from the city that we could have a little bit of space) and met mine (near a big city with major artistic resources, access to nature, and on the ocean). It was our best guess at a 2,700-mile remove about what might work for us. The thing is, it never really did.

Please don’t get me wrong, Boston is a great city, with a lot to offer. Salem has quite an active arts scene for its size, especially on the literary front (shout outs to my writing group and the folks behind Salem Writers and the Mass Poetry Festival). I worked with an inspiring group of people who were doing good things in the world at the Housing Partnership Network. And I made some friends during our two years there who I will keep for life (hopefully you know who you are!). But the pace of things was just a little too hectic for both of us, and Boston, as close as it was, was hard to get to without feeling like you’d fought your way through. For both of us it seemed like everything was a little too draining, too much of a struggle, and we didn’t have enough reserves left at the end of the day to get out and do the things we loved.

So, we traveled around, and kept our eyes out for places that might work for us. We found ourselves consistently drawn to the areas around Burlington, Vermont and Portland, Maine. Both had a lot of things in common- beautiful natural settings, smaller cities that were easy to get into and out of and get around in, but cultural scenes more like a big city in terms of art, music, literary happenings, events and food. Of the two, Burlington was better for access to New York, had a lot of resources around local-food and food-justice issues Abbey is passionate about, and I ka-loved the lake and mountain combination. (Ka-loving is like “loving”, but with a “ka-bam!” added). So I started a Vermont-centered job search in the Spring of this year that I honestly thought might take a while- a year, maybe more. But, I’ve observed in life that when something is ready to happen, it can unfold in a hurry. And so a July interview resulted in being totally up and moved by the end of August.

The verdict so far? I love it here! Abbey does too, although of course she can tell you about that herself. A few examples of the why’s and wherefores of my new-found love:

Mountains. One thing I realized I really missed from California while living in Massachusetts was mountains! This is the view from our driveway (and living room window, for that matter). Those are the Adirondacks in the background, over in New York across Lake Champlain. Which you could see if it wasn’t behind some low rising hills. You can see these guys, and/or the Green Mountains of Vermont, from pretty much anywhere you go.

Lake Champlain. I’ve always thought I needed to live somewhere near the ocean. It may still prove to be the case, as I feel heart pangs every time I see pictures of crashing surf. However, in the meantime I’m certainly enjoying being near a lake that stretches for over 100 miles, touching New York, Vermont and Canada along the way. Lake Champlain (seen here from the top of Mt. Philo, a few miles north of where we live) is the 13th-largest lake in the United States. However, if you read the fine print, you’ll discover that two of those are man-made lakes, two of those are saltwater lakes, and one of them is in Alaska. So I like to think of it as the eight-largest naturally occurring freshwater lake in the lower 48. And also possibly home to…

Champ. Sighted over 300 times since the 1600s, Champ is -a surviving pleisosaur? a relict zeuglodon? a giant sturgeon? a trick of the light and standing waves? Whatever. Put me near a possible cryptid, and I’m happy. Now to get a kayak and take up diving so I can find him! Her?  

Wilderness. Vermont is home to the Green Mountain National Forest (where Abbey and I found this handsome-looking fellow) as well as a wealth of State Parks, and the aforementioned Adirondack Park just across the bridge in New York. Nearly every weekend we’ve been tromping out somewhere. Including this weekend, when we went to North Hero State Park to take part in a beach cleanup to protect the habitat of baby turtles. I mean, come on, baby turtles is practically worth it’s own entry!

My job. I’m working at Middlebury College. Which, besides meaning I get to work with really nice people and see ridiculously pretty views like this every work day, also means I’m part of a fantastic, creative and progressive community. Founded in 1800, Middlebury was the first university in America to accept African-Americans, and one of the first to admit women on a co-educational basis. It reminds me of some of the things I missed about working at the Exploratorium. There are lectures, films and performances going on all the time, and there’s even a museum where I can visit Assyrian reliefs, mummies, classical statues and centuries of painting for lunch.

Vergennes. We live here. There are falls (as seen to the left). A riverside park where you can see a heron walk down the dock. A downtown that’s all of 3.5 blocks, but has a row of cute little shops and several excellent restaurants. And we actually live a little outside of town, where things look like the below right. That was a scene from strolling up the road we live on earlier in the summer. Farms, cornfields, rolling hills and mountains in the distance. We even saw a deer bounding across a field one day. It’s pretty ironic that someone who couldn’t wait to

escape from the country as a teenager is now thrilled to be greeted by the horse across the street who eyes me suspiciously as I go out to the car each morning, and then has a commute that regularly includes cow, horse, sheep and goat sightings (with occasional turkeys, vultures and the stray llama and gratuitous extra camel (yes, camel)). But I am thrilled! And best of all, we get to live someplace as laid back as this, but still be an easy drive to Burlington and all the city has to offer. Which in the last two months has included…

Last but not lease best, in fact most vital to who I am and what I do, Burlington is home to quite a vital writing scene. The last event pictured above was co-hosted by Geek Mountain State, which is delightfully just what it sounds like, a community encouraging geeky pursuits in Vermont, and the Renegade Writer’s Collective, a group that hosts readings, holds workshops and otherwise provides resources and support for local writers. I’ve already taken one of their workshops, and look forward to doing more.

Since getting to town, I’ve also started to become a regular participant in the ongoing writing feedback workshops held by the Burlington Writer’s Workshop, where people get together every week to provide critical (in the helpful sense) feedback on pieces submitted by local writers. Anybody who’s attended at least one session can sign up to have their work reviewed at a future one.

I could go on, but the point is, being here seems like it might just work out okay. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!


Ten Years Gone By…

I just has a birthday this past Friday, which always gets me in a “looking back” kind of mood. Since I was born in 1970, this particular birthday also has me hoping that I’m about to discover the secret to:

That’s not what I’m here to discuss today, though. But I have, in fact, been thinking a lot about life. Being on the leeward side of 40 has made me wonder about the twists and turns my life has taken, what might have been, what might now be too late, etc. I don’t necessarily recommend this crazy-making line of thought, but it does lend itself to looking for the narrative.

And as it happens, one of the biggest turning points in my life recently had its own birthday, and has everything to do with narrative. In April 2002, the uranium pile of my first marriage had finally hit critical after a two and a half-year meltdown. This was a crisis I bore no small measure of responsibility for, and I was already going through a process of wrenching change and self-examination in trying to address the issues that had brought it on. Between that and the general void the collapse of a twelve-year relationship leaves in its wake, I was struggling to rediscover who I was and what I wanted from life.

One of the things I had put on the shelf about ten years before that was a lifelong interest in writing. Even as a kid, I had written short stories and movie scripts. I started keeping a journal and writing poetry in my teens, and kept it up all through my early 20s. Then, as I was gearing up for graduate school and working life after that, I stopped. I can’t even tell you why, exactly, but it went away, and was replaced by more “grown up” concerns. Not at all coincidentally, I think, addiction and darkness started ramping up at the same time.

Back to post-separation: alone, shaky, and rebuilding, in the summer of 2002 I decided to take an “Intro to Fiction”  course led by Junse Kim at the Bay Area’s excellent Writing Salon. I’d already started keeping a journal again in the last year of the marriage and the workshop further re-awakened literary stirrings. By late August I had realized, “You know what? I think I’m supposed to be a writer!” I began work on a novel.

So here we are, ten years later. I’m still writing! It doesn’t pay the bills, but it remains the core of how I think of myself: I’m a writer. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I have “enough” to show for it. The part of me that does this because it is my truest and deepest calling in the world gets mixed up with the part of me that wants it to have some kind of concrete outcome in terms of recognition and success. Well, for both those parts, I’d like to bear witness to what I have produced so far:

  • First (and perhaps foremost?) I ended up doing 7 drafts of that novel that I began in 2002, Out in the Neon Night, before finishing it in 2006. I ended up sending out queries for it to 27 agents in 2007, 3 of whom requested a look. While none ended up coming through, I do from time to time consider doing another round of queries, or even e-publishing and promoting it myself. In the mean time, you can read a sample chapter.     
  • My essays “Kissing Girls in the Dark” and “Watch the Skies!” appeared in the 2005 and 2006 issues of the late, great compendium of true tales of the unseemly Morbid Curiosity. I will always be grateful to Morbid‘s editor (and darkly wonderful writer) Loren Rhoads for publishing me for the first time.
  • My confession of my mid-30s discovery of a love for heavy metal, “I Sold My Soul to Rock and Roll” appeared in the 11th issue of the sadly departed “Magazine For People Who Think Too Much” Kitchen Sink in 2005.
  • While I was engaged in endless rewrites of Neon Night in 2005-2006, I started a much more lighthearted “new novel” to have something fun to work on in the midst of revisionitis. It eventually petered out at 20 chapters, and I set it aside in favor of other things. But I’ve been feeling some enthusiasm for resurrecting it recently… 
  • I wrote several articles on arty (and boozy) aspects of San Francisco life for in 2007. 
  • SoMa Literary Review published my poems “untitled” and “Twelve Steps to the New Israel of the Beats” in 2009. Sadly, their online back-archive is currently in search of a host, but I can send you copies if you want to read them!   
  • Slouch Magazine published a short prose piece of mine, “relapse in 26 lines” in August 2009. 
  • My prose poem “Young Karl Marx” was featured on Opium Magazine’s website in late 2009. 
  • In 2010, my essay “Bachelors of Armageddon” appear in When I Was There, an anthology of tales of student life at UC Berkeley.
  • From 2007-2011 I finally pursued a lifelong interest in film-making as a member of the Bay Area independent film co-op Scary Cow. During a four year-period I worked on 13 short films in a variety of capacities, including 6 that I wrote or co-wrote. You can get more of a description, and links to several of the films I helped write, produce or direct, here   
  • Even my bad adolescent poetry has had its day in the sun, being read on stage as part of the Mortified reading series in San Francisco and Boston multiple times from 2006 through 2012. 
  • My Short Story “Ave Maria” was published in 2012 in the anthology Warpaint, available from Amazon on Kindle, and in several other electronic and print formats from the publisher, Zenfri. Meanwhile I have three more short stories making the rounds of submissions. They vacillate between despair at ever seeing the light of day and feeling terribly encouraged by Ave Maria’s success.   
  • Earlier this year I completed the first draft of my first full-length screenplay. I’ll be revising and finishing it over the next year, and then confronting the intriguing sell/make decision… 
  • I also just finished revising a collection of 40 poems (written between 2000 and 2010) which I am now starting to submit to publishers and prizes. 

So there you have it. Looking back, it doesn’t seem like such a bad output for my first ten years (re)devoted to being a writer. That belief wavers a little whenever I hear about a 20something author’s big debut. Then I remember that Raymond Chandler didn’t publish his first story until he was 45, or his first novel until he was past 50. And the truth is, should success come sooner, later, in a form I can barely recognize, or even never, it doesn’t really matter. I have to keep doing this. I’m a writer!



A few lines concerning the fallacy of the "latte millionaire theory"

You may have heard of the “latte millionaire” theory (the above image is not mine, by the way, but I do salute the brilliance of whoever originated it). I am writing to formally place on the record my opinion that there’s a major flaw with this theory.

The underlying notion has probably been expressed by many people many different ways, but the latte-centric formulation of it was made by a guy named David Bach in his book “The Automatic Millionaire”. The mathematical logic of it, as far as it goes, is impeccable. Let’s say you buy a $3 latte every workday. If, instead, you saved that daily three dollars, it would total $3 x 5 days a week x 52 weeks=$780 a year. Over 35 years, that would be $27,300, which is not too shabby. Now, if, on top of that, you invested your saved $780 a year in the stock market, and received an average 10% return a year, the amount you save each year compounds over 35 years, and by the end of the period you would have $211,399. By forgoing a frivolous expense that you hardly even notice on a daily basis, you’ve made yourself wealthy by retirement. There’s just one problem with this idea:

Under this formulation, you don’t get to have a latte for 35 years. Let’s say you start it when you’re 30. You won’t have a latte again until you’re 65!

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the wisdom of planning and saving for the future. I certainly understand  the idea of delaying immediate gratification for longer term gain. And yes, you could make your lattes at home and bring them, or have the office coffee. But part of the joy of life is splurging for an occasional latte, making a normal work day just a little bit frothier and more magical.

I also understand that the idea is not about latte and is, in a way, a metaphor. And that’s where my real objection lies. Yes, it’s a good idea to keep track of impulse and splurge spending, to not be doing it all the time. And granted, as it is a whole lot of us have not only not been saving, but have been buying things with borrowed money, hence our current collective economic dilemma. A pinch of the “latte millionaire” idea would be a good antidote to that.

But the larger idea of delaying gratification for decades, saving up not just our money but our experiences of joy for retirement, threatens to impoverish the decades in-between. And I wonder if this sense of joy poverty is in itself something that fuels our urge to splurge. Could more living for today, in a balanced, engaged way, actually lead to less urge to buy on credit and more saving for the future at the same time? Call me a dreamer…

When do you call it quits?

One of the things I got for the Nook Color after getting that super-groovy present for Christmas (thanks everyone who pitched in!) was a subscription to Poets & Writers magazine:

It’s a great thing to read on a Nook before turning in for the night. It’s also helped focus my thinking on a question I’ve wrestled with repeatedly since turning 40: When do you call it quits?

Rest easy, dear readers. I’m not referring to cashing it in with strychnine, towering bridges, or anything so grim. But, since I started writing again in earnest in the wake of separation and divorce in 2002*, and then started trying to get that writing published a few years after that, I have wondered from time to time how long I should keep at it before deciding it’s not working?

One answer, of course, is the one that Diego Rivera gives Frida Kahlo in Frida when she asks the same question: If you’re a writer, you’ll write until you die, no matter what anyone says, and that’s that. (Okay, he said painter, but you get the point.) As far as writing itself goes, I think that’s a perfectly good answer, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be true. Year after year of this business of researching agents, publishers and contests, formatting submissions, paying entry and review fees, etc., however, can get a little tiring and discouraging. And so I’ve wondered during the the occasional sleepless night-when am I allowed to quit?

One answer that I’ve vaguely considered is: ten years. In other words, in August 2014, ten years from when I first submitted something for publication, if I haven’t had any major success so far, it’s time to quit. The part of my brain that thinks these kinds of things, of course, doesn’t consider any of the things I have done so far (essays in two journals and an anthology, poems and short prose pieces published in several online venues, writing, producing and directing short films that have screened for audiences of several hundred) to be suitably major success.

I could name things that might be “good enough”- getting a short story in a print publication, having a novel published, or a screenplay bought and produced by a real live studio. But I know myself well enough to know that even if some (or all!) of these things happened, I would probably still find reasons why it didn’t count and/or obsess on the next unachieved goal. After all, Buddhist psychology informs us that never being satisfied is one of the essential features of conditioned human existence, and as a person in recovery on top of it, my “enough” meter is inherently skewed. So, when I’m in my (mostly) right mind, I know this voice doesn’t give reliable advice.

But when do I get to quit? The latest issue of Poets & Writers provided some perspective, in a section that featured profiles of twelve poets who have just had their first print collection come out. Being as I’m working on a poetry collection to submit for publication myself this year, and being as I’m a statistics geek, I did some number crunching based on the profiles. The twelve authors profiled took however long they took doing the writing (often ten years or more), and then, on average, they took three years of active submissions, and an average of seventeen submissions, to find a publisher for that collection. What does this tell me? Rest easy, little one. It takes a while.

In the same issue, there was also an article about the new poetry book series that San Francisco publisher McSweeny’s is coming out with. One of the poets who has a volume coming out with them, Allan Peterson, has been writing since the 1960s, with very little recognition until the last few years. In the article, he said that he considered himself “an outsider to the literary world.” This reminded me of my good (literary) friend Charles Bukowski, who himself toiled in relative anonymity for twenty years until finally entering his heyday in the late 60s. Here blooms into view a goal I can get behind: If I don’t have any “suitable” “recognition” at the ten year mark- fuck them! I’ll just declare myself a literary outsider at that point, and keep going as long as I damn well please.

Literary outsider. I like that. 

* I think it’s worth noting in this context that, ten years after that separation, here I am today celebrating the first anniversary of my marriage to my heart’s delight, Abbey LaMay-West. Some pretty blessed things can happen, if you just give them the time to unfold…

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

 Or, as our friends in Japan would say, Happy New Year!

Just brief one today to say happy New Year’s to you all, and publicly witness my intention for the year. I have a New Year’s tradition for the past few years, which I picked up from the very wise book The Language of Letting Go. It’s pretty simple: set some quiet time aside and write down everything you might wish for the coming year. Big goals, little goals, pie-in-the-sky dreams, all of it. And then, once you have it all down, turn it over to the Universe, any such Higher Powers as you see fit, to fulfill as it will.

I’ve found it’s a very good way to witness and own what I want and at the same time release my hands from the levers of control about how, when or if it comes to pass.

What I’d like to share today is not the list, although I did note in making it that it was both smaller than in previous years, and eminently achievable. Which tells me the good news that my life is a lot less pent up than it used to be. Instead, what I’d like to share is the release part of my intention.

Which is that, all individual goals coming and going as they may, what I would really like to manifest for this year, after all the rushing around of 2011 (two weddings! one cross-country move! punishing work schedule! etc., etc.) is a year of living simply, in balance, and just being.

May you all have a blessed New Year!   

Review: Superman/Batman: Vengeance

Superman/Batman: Vengeance (Jeph Loeb/Ed McGuiness, DC, 2006, originally Superman/Batman #20-25)

Dearest Blog, I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed this before, but I am a comics collector from way back. Probably this is not news to you, given my other proclivities, but just for the record, there it is. 

In my earliest form, in the halcyon age of those spinny metal wracks in supermarkets, I was a fan of horror comics. I would load up every time my parents went shopping. As I got a little older, I became an acolyte of Marvel. This was in the early-mid 80s, when they were really the shit- The X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, Spiderman et al were in the midst of some of their best runs. Except for following writer/artist John Byrne’s run on Superman when he went to DC from Marvel, and Frank Miller’s work on Batman, I wasn’t very interested in DC. Compared to Marvel’s attempts at psychological and physical realism, DC was just a little too cartoony, too hokey, with the fake cities (Metropolis, Central City, etc.), unlimited god-like powers, silly weaknesses like kryptonite and the color yellow.

As with many things that had been a key part of my life (writing being front and center on that list), I put down comics when I went to graduate school in the mid-90s. My soul went into hibernation and life got more and more off track. After recovery and separation and other major life changes, I began to pick up things again (writing being front and center!) in 2002. And so comics have returned to my life, fueled by the collections of storylines into big softcover trade paperbacks that has become one of the major distribution modes of the 2000s.

I’ve caught up with some great stuff this decade. And to my surprise, I’ve found that in my old age I’ve become a big fan of DC. In part, it’s certainly because younger writers and artists have shaken up the formerly staid world of DC. But I think it also reflects my own ability to connect now, after a lot more of life’s twists and turns, with the basic, archetypal legends that DC has to offer. They deliver comics myth-making in its most elemental form.

None are more archetypal than Superman and Batman, two golden oldies still running strong after 70 years. Each has several monthly series devoted to them, but they also co-starred during the 2000s in Superman/Batman. I have dearly loved it for how it takes the two biggest toys in the DC Universe, presents them at the peak of their careers, and spins an ongoing storyline involving the two of them but liberally drawing on heroes and villains from all over DC. 

This is the fourth collection from that series, and it’s a doozy! I’m allergically opposed to spoilers, so I won’t give away much that you don’t learn in the first few pages: Superman and Batman find themselves crossing paths in a parallel universe with the Maximums, a wonderful parody/homage of the “Ultimate” version of Marvel’s Avengers. This could be a throwaway concept in the wrong hands, but the Maximums are very well done, the kind of loving forgery that shows as much affection as cattiness toward Marvel. Along the way, alternate Supermans and Batmans galore enter in, as do Bizarro and Batzaro. The series also draws in threads from almost everything that’s happened in issues 1-19. You should probably read the other three collections first (“Public Enemies”, “Supergirl” and “Absolute Power”), but once you’re done, this volume delivers international, intergalactic and interdimensional fun in a way that only DC can get away with.


Boston Day 11

Technically, I’m in Danvers, which is a small town about 15 miles North of Boston. Abbey and I are camping out here in an extended stay hotel because:

A) It’s more affordable to be a little outside of the city, especially when you need a room that allows pets as well.

B) We’re looking for places in the area (North Shore, as they call it here) so it’s a convenient base.

So how is day 11? Pretty good! I had been prepared to have a period of depression right after the move, since it’s like that sometimes after you leave a place you love. Or after you make any kind of big change in life for that matter. But so far, while I did have a blue afternoon this weekend, I’ve been surprisingly buoyant. Still prepared to have all kinds of feelings along the way, but glad to be here.

And I’m super-happy to have the whole family together again. Small space to hold me, Abbey, Sasha and Jinks, but we’re doing well:

So far, in-between me working remotely, we’ve mostly been looking for places to live. But along the way we’re exploring too. I can heartily endorse the rocky shell-strewn beaches of Salem:

The big sandy stretch of beach between Lynn and Nahant:

The beaches near Ipswich, which, contrary to what H.P. Lovecraft led me to expect, do not seem to be crawling with hideous half-breed fish people:

And last yesterday we went to check out Gloucester, where an overcast windy day and cold choppy water made me feel very much at home:

As for our home-searching, it’s going pretty well. We have a few solid prospects in Salem and Swampscott. More news to follow…

19 Days to Boston!

So, this post is (perhaps) notable for two reasons:

1. It’s my first post in 2011, after only a handful in 2010. Versus, say double-digits in 2007, 2008 and 2009. That’s something I certainly plan to change as part of…

2. I’m moving to Boston in 19 days!

#2 there is kind of hard to absorb- both for the brevity of the time remaining in San Francisco, and the length of the time behind. I moved here in September 1999, so it will be almost 12 years in the city when I climb on board that plane (with my two furry little carry-ons) to join my beautiful bride in the Far East (coast) on July 29th. Kind of wow. Kind of big. Kind of too big to write about all at once. Which is one reason I need to get blogging again more regularly for the remainder of my stay here.

Beyond that, one of the things I want to be part of this move is a lifestyle shift to more time for creative pursuits. I had a pretty good run of it there for a few years, but then the pace of life, and especially the nature of my job, made it hard to maintain. So I’m going to try and recast that in Boston, and make my creative pursuits a central fact of my life, which work and other factors must be shaped around.

How exactly am I going to do that? I don’t fully know yet! I’m doing things to explore livelihood, and making myself open to change. Stay tuned for what this looks like, along with other exciting announcements. And give me hell if you don’t hear from me more often!

40 in 40

A little over a week ago, I turned 40. I never particularly figured myself for being the type to get hung up on age issues, but I definitely had a reaction to the advent of this milestone. In fact, turning 39 set off a year-long slow simmering mini-crisis just because 40 was approaching. All the usual things came up: Is my youth gone? Did I waste it all? Is it all decline from here on out? Should I be further along than I am in terms of career? Finances? Achievments? Will women stop looking at me now? Wait a minute, did women ever look at me? Should I get a walker and start looking in to rest homes now?

And the verdict so far…?

Eh, it’s not so bad. The other day, when I overhead a young girl telling her friend that she had $14 dollars in the bank and $16 dollars in her pocket, I felt positively giddy about being in my age demographic instead of hers’. I even had the chance to do some journaling last week and realize that what I have in my life now is everything I wished for during despairing years in my early 30s. It doesn’t all look like I thought it would then, but it’s pretty damn good.

Even the year-long marination in low grade existential crisis had its benefit: I came up with a list of 40 things I wanted to do while I was 40. Kind of a proof to myself that life, far from being over, is full of as much richness as you want it to be.

Full disclosure: I got the inspiration from fellow Mortified performer and all-around superstar Sara Faith Alterman, who did a blog about her own Dirty 30 list to mark her transition to the decade that starts with 3. I figured it would work just as well for 4. So here, without further ado and in absolutely no particular order, is my own Forty in 40:

1. Take rock climbing lessons.
2. Try hang gliding.
3. Go to Burning Man.
4. Visit Nashville & Memphis.
5. Learn to ride a bike.
6. Do a mini-Triathlon
7. Do a 10-K.
8. Finish my 9th Step.
9. Swim in the ocean.
10. Start regular yoga.
11. Go to the Fringe Festival in Scotland.
12. Take a cruise to the Farallons.
13. Go sea kayaking.
14. Kayak on Elkhorn Slough.
15. Do a silent meditation retreat.
16. Ride in a helicopter.
17. Visit a haunted place.
18. Go to the Eureka Springs Arkansas UFO conference.
19. Take a DJing class.
20. Publish a zine.
21. Get some boots. Big ‘ole shitkickers.
22. Do something to explore Native American Spirituality.
23. Finish a draft of my new novel.
24. Finish a poetry collection and submit it for publication.
25. Finish my full-length screenplay.
26. Ride in a hot air balloon.
27. Write a song.
28. Take part in a dream group.
29. Get hypnosis.
30. Go to the hot tubs at Esalen.
31. Try Rolfing.
32. Go to a service at an Orthodox Church.
33. Go to a Santo Daime service.
34. Go to a Spiritualist service.
35. Come up with a career transition plan.
36. Let it all hang out at a nude beach.
37. Visit Alcatraz.
38. Visit the Marin Headlands.
39. Have a show in the San Francisco Fringe Festival.
40. Experience a psychic phenomenon.

I’m also giving myself permission to be imperfect. In fact, I think I’ll be doing very, very well if I can get to half of these. However it plays out, I’ll keep you updated along the way!

Independence Day

I think it’s quite as important to have private holidays as public ones.

Thanksgiving, Easter, Memorial Day and their kin can, perhaps, bring us together as a community and help us remember important things. But there are also private dates of remembrance that can bring us together with ourselves. These dates of ritual observance can remind us about where we’ve been and give us occasion to think about where we’re going.

Yesterday, for example, was my Independence Day.

On May 3, 2002 I went to stay with friends for the weekend while my wife moved out of our apartment. Regarding the specifics, I’ll only say that she had her reasons, she did it after two and a half years of trying to get me to do it, and nothing we did to try to hold it together in the interim had worked.

At the time I was melancholy, and vaguely terrified, but looking back it was a profound gift. Within a few months, things that I had put on hold for years had reawakened. I was writing again, buying new music, getting out in the town to try a hundred new things. Our separation lengthened into divorce and I began the baffling process of learning to love again.

Other things reawakened to, old demons of depression and addiction, and the past seven years have had their share of heartbreak and turmoil. But I grew through them, and, looking back, everything that I think of now as who I am- the people I know, the things I do, what’s most important to me in life, came about after this date. I’m so grateful that life (and to be fair, her) gave me the kick in the butt I needed to start to become a whole person.

I treasure this wholeness now, and want to use this seven-year anniversary to reaffirm my commitment to continue to pursue it no matter what.