Diary of a Southern Gentleman, Pt. 3.

Isaac was a bad soldier.

This is not what Isaac was. This was how Isaac described himself to me on a plane, from Dulles Airport to Logan, on the second half of my trip to Boston to see my friend Ben get married.

What Isaac was... Isaac was Jewish. He was an Israeli. He was also an American, he lived in Virginia, and he missed the big city, but his wife, because Isaac was a husband too, liked Virginia, liked being away from all the people, liked living some place with less noise where she needed a car. And Isaac was father, he had a son. Isaac supported his family by working on computers -- the job he was on the plane for, as it turned out, was for MIT, where the computer geniuses apparently needed him to fix their faulty network.

Isaac also had a girlfriend once, a girlfriend who was a writer, who published a book, and an entire chapter was about her relationship with him. That bit he shared when I told him I was a writer. With some excitement, he asked me if I did that too, if so much of my "profession" was just regurgitating things from my life, memoir-style, if the bulk of the characters in my writing were just people I knew in my life. People I went to school with. People I slept with. People I met on a plane.

I was still a little tipsy at this point, so honestly, I told Isaac, that yes, pretty much. But not to tell anyone. It would kind of ruin things.

But I didn't really want to talk about that, or myself. I stepped on that plane incredibly drunk, especially for me, and I wanted to talk about Isaac.

Because Isaac called himself a bad soldier.

When I sat down on the plane next to Isaac, neither of us expected to talk. I had too much to drink in Dulles, and was going back and forth as to what my non-drinking friends would now think of me, and what it would be like to arrive at the airport to meet with Julia three sheets to wind -- my first thought was, hilarious, but then my better thought was rude. I was also wondering just how rude it might have been had I come out with some NCIS-learned military phrase like "semper fi" or "hoo-rah" at Frank back at the bar.

I figured I'd just need time. The flight was an hour and a half, and when I looked over at Isaac [of course, I didn't know his name yet], he had a book in one hand, and his phone in the other. I was already queuing up Sleater-Kinney, and was rooting in my bag for a book myself. And then, it happened. Or rather, it didn't.

There was going to be some wait time before take off.

So, I turned to my left and introduced myself.

Isaac grew up in Israel, in Tel Aviv, and naturally was required to do his one year of service in the Israeli military. He really didn't want to serve his country, not out of any disdain for it, or because he identified as a pacifist, but just because he didn't feel like the battlefield was any sort of place for him. When they put a gun in his hand, he felt clumsy, like he didn't know what to do with it. In basic training, he was put through the wringer, because he clearly didn't want to be there, and when he hesitated to discharge his weapon during training, one overzealous drill sergeant hauled off and kicked him in the ribs. Another screamed at him like a coward.

He called himself a coward, while we sat there, talking. He talked about getting kicked, and spit on. About talking to people who were supposed to be the enemy, and them feeding him, and treating him... in some cases better than his allies did. Isaac also that he had peers, fellow soldiers, and some superiors who sympathized, who understood that this was not a place for him. But there wasn't any sort of choice here, this was mandatory. The best of them helped him, assured him he'd get through it. And he tried, every chance he got to make things easier on himself, to do just that, and get through.

The man in charge of him, whoever that was in his wing of the military [I swear most of these details were left out by Isaac -- though, admittedly, I was still pretty sloshed], asked Isaac at some point, where he wanted to be assigned, to what unit, not what area. Even back then, he was good with computers, and told the placement agent this, and they recommended to him a new organization, called the engineering division. Which wasn't computers, but at least didn't sound like it would have him out in the field.

As it turned out, the engineering division dealt with unexploded ordinances on the battlefield.

And as a part of the engineering division, Isaac was sent to Lebanon, when Lebanon was not a place you really wanted to be. I don't know how long we'd been airborne, when he started telling me about the shelling, and when, I think, he first called himself a bad soldier. Because the thing about the shellings Isaac said, was that you had all these explosives just falling down on top of you, and it might look like one was coming down miles away, and the next thing you knew, the guy beside you could just be gone. And dealing with that was when people really started to lose it, when the good soldiers would realize with every whistle, with every explosion, no matter how far away they seemed it could be one with their name on it -- the good soldiers all started to lose it a little. Get nervous. Jittery. On edge. They wouldn't walk around unless they had to, and always with their heads down, always with manic eyes towards the sky, wondering.

Lot of chain-smokers, he said. We laughed about that.

And that was how Isaac knew he wasn't a good soldier. Because in Lebanon, Isaac did something that most of the other Israeli men and women didn't do -- he checked out. In a world where the sky was literally falling down around his head, Isaac stopped caring, he didn't cringe, he didn't flinch, he wasn't afraid. Isaac reached that point where, not wanting to be there, knowing he had to be, he didn't give up so much, as he just stopped giving a damn. He talked about it as a very casual thing, compared it to deciding you were never going to look both ways before crossing the street again. But even then, he said that wasn't quite right, because he wasn't intentionally being reckless, he was just done being scared and careful.

Isaac felt he'd live through this, or he'd die and it wouldn't be something he'd have to worry about anymore anyway.

We talked the whole flight, right up until we got off the plane and he waved me a hasty good by. He was so forthcoming, about everything, about his life, his family, and his time as a self-professed bad soldier, and his war stories, if you could call them that [and I can think of no more appropriate name for them] as sobering as you might expect, both figuratively and literally, and I didn't stumble or struggle, I didn't need anyone pushing me out of the gate.

I headed to baggage check, not because I had checked any, but because that was always a sure exit, and called my grandmother, and then my mom [the most juvenile and the most adult thing you can do upon arriving somewhere]. And after making one final call, and wandering around in the front of Logan Airport for a bit, I was greeted by my lovely companions for the rest of my day in Boston, as well as most of the weekend -- the Cooper sisters, my old friend Julia, and her sister, Anna.

HUGE Party

You guys are just going to have to take my word for it that I'm not riding coattails here.

The success of your peers should be celebrated. I believe this implicitly; it's why I link the things I link here on the blog and on Twitter, it's why I like to show people the weird-ass comic books I pick up at conventions and indie bookstores, and why if someone tells me they know someone who published a book, I try to get it. I'll be honest, in most situations, like with John, or Hannah, or Eric and Dave, or Hipstercrite [I feel badly that I don't know her real name, like I should have picked it up by now - though sometimes I call her "Mrs. Brown" in my head], calling them my peers seems like overreaching, and they've certainly done more than enough to not need my mentions.

But I digress.

Tonight, my fellow alumnus, more importantly my friend, Savannah Dooley, has her new TV show Huge premiere on ABC Family, at 9/8 central. For those of you who didn't see my earlier post about this, Huge is a one hour teen drama about a weight-loss camp that's based off the young adult novel of the same name by Sasha Paley, and it was adapted by Savannah and her mother, Winnie Holzman [that would be the Winnie Holzman of My So-Called Life and Wicked fame, folks]. The show stars Nikki Blonsky, Gina Torres is in it, David Hasselhoff's daughter has a part in it, and I have this sneaking suspicion you'll also see big time actor/West Virginia escape artist Paul Dooley show up too. Call it a hunch. Savannah is producing the show too, and it's just such a big opportunity, such a really big accomplishment for her that I want to get her as much support as possible. As limited as I am from my little soap box here.

Because Savannah deserves this. I have had the privilege of reading things of hers that Hollywood may never be bold enough to touch, I even keep one of her scripts from a screenwriting class we had together, just because I periodically like to go back and read it again. It reminds me of her, it makes me feel a little better about all the distance between us. It's also really fucking good.

The same is true for her family. Her mother has always been a sweetheart to me, always spoke to me like I was a writer, even though in her position she didn't have to give some snot-nosed kid like me that privilege. Her dad singled me out right away as someone who wanted to get out of this shit-hole of a state, and took me aside and gave me words of encouragement I'll never forget [or, in this case, share. Some things are private, y'all].

So go. Tune in. Let's get the ratings up on this thing, let's give this show the credit it deserves. If I had a bunch of friends here, instead of scattered to the far corners of the country, even the world, you know I'd be throwing a gigantic viewing party in celebration. In lieu of that, I'll probably be getting takeout and watching from home, but still -- the point stands.

All you writers I know, Savannah's one of our good ones. Let's lift her up. We need more writers like her out there in the trenches.

And hey, she's also not the only person in this little shindig I know, either. Another classmate of mine, Molly Tarlov, a girl who I never got to know as well as I would have liked to, but who always seemed so happy to run into me, always greeting me, no matter where or when, with this brilliant excited smile [and I'd always walk away from her humming a certain Vaselines song]. She's on the show too. So, seriously, there are so many talented people involved here, there is no reason not to check it out.

So. Go forth and watch. Huge. Monday night. The 28th. That's tomorrow, folks. 9/8 central. ABC Family. And while you wait, go check out the official website, go check out the Facebook page, the IMDB page, the Wikipedia entry. Get pumped for this.

One of our own made it.

Chipped a Tooth [Obsessively, Yours]

I chipped a tooth yesterday. It is minuscule, a change that will likely go unnoticed. Something new, that I doubt anyone but me could possibly see, and yet something that has weighed on my mind since I first felt its sharpened edge on the tip of tongue.

I do not know how it happened -- which is a lie. I remember, about a year ago, a kiss. We were both too eager, but still to new to not be awkward, and our teeth connected instead of our lips. It hurt, and but I ignored it, and you ignored it too, at my urgings. Later, I saw a line in it, what could just as easily be some sort of stain, or the epoxy from the bridge hooked behind it. I did not know better, I thought perhaps, that was as bad it was ever going to get.

And yesterday, it went. It's tiny, and beyond notice to anyone but someone who is looking, and my obsessiveness is less indicative of its seriousness, and more about my free time. But I obsess, worry it makes me ugly, worry that some brilliant girl with a bright face and beautiful eyes might see it, and read me as some jagged tooth yokel, a backwater hick without insurance [truth], whose hyena-like mouth [hyperbole] outs him as the loser he is; no job, no income, no prospects, just a busted visage too hard to love. And worse than even that, is if she'll look at me, and think me perfect, but have some hang-up, as we all, quite obviously, do, and my lack of perfect dental hygiene, that single mar in a straight line of pearly whites, will be the neurotic deal-breaker, which will render internet buddies, former acquaintances, just friends.

I sometimes feel like all I've been trying to do is stone myself to the changes of the world, hold down pause and keep myself immaculate, as close as mint in box as you can be once outside it, so when I finally come out on the other side of all this, I'll still have my baseline. I'll still be me, as I was when things were better, as I try to be today. And then, when that day comes, I can willingly fall to pieces, leave so many of the good, attractive qualities behind, because there will be a time, and a place, and a way, to make new ones, to be better than just how I was born. And I know, friends will read this, they will say to me "Randall, you cannot put the world on pause, there was no save before you quit."

They are right. And it would be hard, I think, to say that all of that above was remotely true. For I have cut my hair, and I now wear white, and I have done things, adult things, that the me before it all went south, before I went south again, would never have dreamed of doing. I have lived at least a little, and let go of more of things that I still wanted to be holding when I got where ever it was that I thought I was going. I will walk out lighter on the other side.

And I smile, to myself, because when do I smile to anyone? And even I barely see this chip, and try though I might no photo could be taken of the offending mar other than an obscene close-up of an incisor, no more recognizable as mine than anyone else's. Even if, already I can hear the choruses of "are you sure it wasn't always like that?" and "perhaps it gives you character, punk-rock character, and haven't you always wanted that?"

The answer to both those questions might be yes, but being a rock has never had much to do with personal wants; maintaining one's self isn't resistance to change, but immunity. And maybe someday some one will look at me, and maybe they'll notice that which will probably only ever be on my mind, and they will see character. Whoever she may be, may hold me close, and look closer, and decide that imperfection is something she will like.

But I can't know that. And all these things I can't know are getting in the way of trying to maintain.

Obsessively, yours.

Diary of a Southern Gentleman, Pt. 2.

Dulles had something of a reputation for me. Growing up, I remember hearing all of these decadent stories about a connecting hub in our nation's capital lousy with bars and corridors full of politicians with wide-stances and burned-out lobbyists willing to do anything for their next cocktail, or at the very least a ride back to whatever hick district they called home, that wasn't getting that extra ten thousand dollars for their connecting bridge or public schools.

My first moments in D.C. were less than pleasant. Our flight attendant coming out of Yeager was an affable, middle-aged woman with a soft spot for kids -- apparent by her cordial insistence to take care of her youngest passengers first. On the flight proper, this didn't sit too ill with anyone, though a couple of the louder passengers behind me seemed a little too impatient to get where they were going, even before we had landed yet. I didn't care, shuffle putting me deep in AniDifranco's Dilate in between some Laura Marling and the Rondelles [now there would be an interesting fusion band], and drowned out all but the loudest, a big round man I was really glad to have in the aisle opposite of me instead of directly behind.

The flight wasn't long -- and the attendant, in a portent of things to come, ran along the aisles letting us know which Dulles Concourse we'd need to head towards, and whether or not we'd need the underground train. It was pleasant, and I was already sort of enjoying my trip -- until the seat belt light came on again and I had to cut the Stolen Minks short. The landing was smooth and no problem, but without waiting for any lights, everyone in the plane, save for yours truly, undid their restraints and stood. I still had four hours until my next flight, and felt no need to hurry, and our flight attendant seemed to be of the same opinion of me. After all, she had young passengers, first time flyers, kiddies who had never seen the inside of a cockpit, and whose eyes lit up at the chance to have their pictures taken with the pilots [I really didn't know this happened anymore, but was entirely charmed to find out that the airlines had at least kept one pleasant thing from the fine service they once offered in the 1970s and 80s].

A groan echoed through the cabin, and I checked my watch. Four minutes in the nation's capital, and I'd already lost all faith in humanity.

The impatient bitching continued until long after we exited the plane, and no matter where I moved, who I had in front or back of me as I walked, I had to listen to this incessant bitching about how the flight attendant's kindness had put them all so far behind. Worse, within fifteen minutes of arriving, I discovered that either the tales of the DC airport's long line of bars were greatly exaggerated, or much had changed for Dulles since last I'd heard anything about. Which was a shame, because I was now annoyed and cranky at my former passengers, and still with the longest layover I'd ever had, and sudden, desperate need for some liquor.

I walked as far as my gate before coming upon an establishment smaller than some of Dulles's bathrooms -- a long line of bottles gave me a sigh of relief. The sign that said "please seat yourself" along with the large, synchronized clock right behind the bar made what now felt like a necessary arrangement a convenient one as well, and I planted my suitcase under a stool and ordered [pausing to look at the place's theme] a shot of Jameson and Killian's.

Irish. Outstanding.

The place was tiny and busy, the staff was mostly Chinese [?], and seemed to want to apologize constantly for the fact that the beer I had ordered wasn't on tap. Conversation with a fellow patron seemed the best way to put a stop to that [drinking more would have helped too, but I'd yet to commit to anything but 'calming my nerves'], but pickings at the bar proper were slim -- I.E., all dudes, which wasn't bad, but not what one hoped for as far as company goes with almost three hours before boarding. Closest to me was a clean cut fellow, and as targeted as possible, I made some slightly louder sarcastic statement, and met Frank.

Frank was clean-cut, quiet-looking, and wasn't traveling with much luggage. Like me, he seemed entirely unconcerned with the time, and more interested in keeping his glass full. He was about my age, but held himself in a way that made me think he was either younger [rich frat boy], or older [new family man], a phenomenon that probably says more about me than him. Talking for a minute, I found out that Frank was bouncing from flight to flight out of Afghanistan, of all places, and when I asked if he was private or military, he seemed at first impressed that I'd know to ask, and then, straightening a little, announced himself: "Marine."

The experience gap widened, and I thanked him. I was, now far from West Virginia, clearly in full Southern Gentleman mode [not that it ever turns off, but it's not a title I'd dare use at home]. Frank was on emergency leave for his sister, who had recently died, and brought forth thoughts of losing my own father. He didn't seem sentimental about it -- in fact, Frank seemed just a little cold, but remembering what was expected of this man sitting next to me, it occurred that he probably wouldn't be, or at least wouldn't seem to be, and until his next flight or mine, there would have to be some sub-textual commiserating.

That's right. For the three hours that followed, I was drinking with a Marine.

We bought our own shots. At this point, I knew he was military, and thanks mostly to gladiator movies, I was a little worried about sending the wrong signals and doing something that might be construed as Spartan. He too seemed somewhat hesitant upon learning of my art school past -- that there might be some dark secret of experimentation with some androgynous roommate clearly weighed heavily on his mind. We decided to keep it as hetero as possible. Hard, as neither of us really wanted to talk about sports. So mostly, we just drank. Which, according to Frank, was all Marines traditionally did for fun anyway. I felt, momentarily, accepted.

Eventually, Frank opted to go and check on what flight they had him on next. We said our good byes, with ominous "we'll meet again" stipulations that neither of us could have known about, nor was it likely we'd ever see through to fruition. I tipped well, feeling relatively unimpaired despite the fact that there seemed to be less drinks on my bill than I actually had. Standing was another thing entirely, and I reassured myself that the airport was not actually moving and spinning underneath me, and that if I could just make it to the gate with some semblance of sobriety they would gladly take my ticket and push me through the door. Not a heavy drinker by trade, my mind still felt sharp to me, just disconnected, like a steering wheel which just couldn't quite get its wheels to do what they were supposed to. One foot after the other, I kept thinking. My gate was, from the bar, in sight. This shouldn't at all be hard -- dammit, I was a gentleman! -- stumbling to my next seat was not an option.

I made it somehow, and don't believe I tripped or faltered [one should always be apprehensive to speak about something they did not see themselves], and was only momentarily surprised at how much faster I sat down in my chair than I expected to. I felt... good, relaxed in all honesty, and impressed with myself that my trip had already involved a such a nice companion who would actually be worth relating to someone later. But I also felt a little in a state, and as a former non-drinker, did not want to come off the plane in Boston like a lush, and found myself slightly worried about how I might appear to Julia and her family. Checking myself in the reflection of my laptop screen [how did that get out?], I tussled my hair a little, thinking I might make it all look like exhaustion from the trip. The six hour trip.

I felt embarrassed for being a lightweight. Especially as this was a wedding trip. I was going to have to learn to pace myself better.

With a little extra concentration, I boarded my plane without incident. The man I sat down next to was Isaac, and little did I know, Isaac would be the second soldier I would meet on this trip.

Over the next hour and half, Isaac would, unintentionally, help sober me up.

Earth Prime/ Earth-25

One of the things I always liked about super-hero comic books were the alternate universes. DC's multi-verse or Elseworlds, Marvel's What-If's, even the zombie-centric stuff which has become a little bit over done, I just love the thought of it. Here's a world where Cary Wren becomes Green Lantern, here's a world where Spidey got Gwen Stacy, here's one where Batman's fighting the Nazis, and here's one where all these super-heroes never had any powers at all. And of course, there's always the evil universe -- where twisted versions of all exist, and the bad guys are all milquetoasts. Fun stuff. Now, I don't know physics or Stephen Hawking very well, I can't really speak to how "real" this conceit actually is [I've read it's a possibility, but that was years ago], all I know is it kept me watching "Sliders" even when all of the characters were unrecognizable, and I think about it a lot.

I think... I would find it reassuring if it were true. If somewhere out there in the ether there was a parallel world, with a version of myself not too far removed, who's just had a little bit better go of it, who had all his friends nearby, who all thought today was a day worth celebrating, and got together, and maybe went out for drinks, or maybe stayed in for movies, and for sure at least one of them would totally have brought him cupcakes [I know that one could have happened], and a good time would have been had by all. Those of his friends who are sick in my universe, are well and able-bodied in his, and those chasing success and trying to figure out what to do with their lives have got it -- and just know. And maybe there is a girl, one I've known and loved in this life, or one I've never met, who was by his side through the whole thing, who was soft, and welcoming, and gave him a hard time, and was there to tell him to take himself a little less seriously, and that he would listen to that even though I probably never would, and everything would be just a little bit better. And maybe he'd have more of the things I've wanted, and less of the responsibilities I didn't, and that red couch from "Chasing Amy," and in that world you can still publish independent comics realistically, like Moore and Sim and Fingerman and Jeff Smith did in the 90s, and he'd totally have a burgeoning Strangers in Paradise on his hands.

Because hey, if we're talking about ideal alternate universes, right?

Sometimes I think of Grant Morrison's "Earth-2," and about how the only way to keep the good guys winning in the main DC universe was to make sure the bad guys, the Crime Syndicate, stayed in charge in their universe. Maybe what I'm doing, maybe all the stuff I've been going through in the past couple of years have kept him happy, and successful, and those who he cares about well and nearby. And that is my function, to be not Randall, but the great Antimatter Randall, with his heart on the wrong side, but still on his sleeve, making sure Matter Randall still... well, matters.

Which is of course bullshit. But when you think about it, it's a hell of birthday gift to give yourself.

I want to thank everyone who wished me a happy birthday, either on Twitter, or Facebook, or where ever. Swear this isn't a pity party, even if it sounds like one. I'll pick up more of the diary of my vacation tomorrow.

Twenty-five. Jesus. I'd be worried, except that five years sure was a hell of a long time.

Diary of a Southern Gentleman, Pt. 1.

I have a strong conviction one should never sleep the night before a big trip, especially if said trip begins before the sun rises. No good journey is ever packed well for ahead a time, and there's no real satisfaction of excitement if you're running screaming out the door with at least two things left behind and something not yet zipped up.

This is, actually, a horrid exaggeration on my part. Any situation where two things have been left behind usually reduces me to the temperament of a child, and it is one of my baser instincts to shut down and throw a fit when things don't go just so. This may be why, when trying to catch the earliest plane out of the mountainous tomb called West Virginia, I walked out to my mother's jeep balancing my laptop one-handed like a waitress at an internet cafe [if there was such a thing], and wishing to god that seven gigabytes of girl punk rock and anti-folk would download and sync just a little bit faster. The Xanax in my system was keeping me from panicking about it, but only just.

It was an incredibly bourgeois problem, of course, and not the only thing weighing on my mind. On the ride to the airport, as I did my best not to blind us in the plasmatic glow of my widescreen machine, my mother was also bringing me up to date on the condition of my step-father, who just hours before had been rushed to the hospital with numbness and various other things indicative of a heart condition. He was stable, and awake, and relatively okay now, and the doctors didn't know much of anything concerning what had went wrong beyond that, and the whole of the situation was enough to place a good bit of guilt and worry on a traveler.

Stress and I have fought my entire life -- and if this surprises anyone than you will excuse me if I feel a bit proud. Hiding the panic, at least by my summation, is a skill. Removing myself completely from the day-to-day disasters and creeping anxiety is a near impossibility, but one that I felt this new opportunity would afford me, and selfishly I feared that before ever getting on the plane, something serious would arise to halt my escape.

But I have moved too far ahead of myself. First, some back story. Almost seven years ago I started at Bennington College in Vermont, a liberal arts school which did nothing for my stress, but may just have turned me into something of a worthwhile person [will have to see on that one -- some will make the observation that quite the opposite has happened, and I am afraid we are not yet on a long enough timeline to say for sure]. But my first friend there, and the first person I met [and that it worked liked that is a testament either to him, or me] there was Ben Garner, a long-haired, hippie type who, at the time, was mostly looking for someone to talk about Pink Floyd to, and accompany him to Wal-Mart to purchase a copy of "Thriller."

He was a child of his passions, and I could respect that. And though over four years we wandered in and out of one another's lives, I left Bennington with one of those friends who you knew would be available in some capacity for the rest of your life -- assuming you were liberal with the term "available" and possibly, "life." When roughly a year ago, perhaps more, Ben contacted me and told me he had proposed to Sarah in Italy [a girl who, despite being several years behind us, had left the school when Ben and my class had graduated], I was surprised but happy for them, and hopeful to attend their upcoming nuptials in Cape Cod of all places, which were far away and placed on a calendar that, at the time, looked much different for me than it wound up being. And my failures aside, their wedding date still came, and I realized that I had a little money in my pocket from freelancing, and a suit that had been bought for the gauntlet of funerals I had run in the past year, and strong feeling that if everyone else said I could get out of town for five days, I might actually want to.

So, I was headed back to New England, refusing to quote a John Denver song [that wouldn't last, though it would be a different song]. I had been lucky, in a sense, that the bulk of my friends from school, my "old crew" as it were, of Sam, Hannah, and Julia, were also invited, and Julia's family had a place in Hull, just outside of Boston [by ferry], and only a couple hours away from the Cape. I barely remembered the house when we had stayed there before, but knew they had room, and were wonder hosts to just the kind of freeloader I was -- a gracious one. Everything seemed well and in place, and when I rolled out of the jeep with my luggage, my laptop put away and my iPod still not full, I had resolved that if this many things had worked out, then I would be damned if I was going to let some little family trifle that everyone else said was taken care of bother me.

Even if that meant hitting the bars in my layover destination very, very hard.

I guess, in a very simple way, that was the soul goal I had while I stood waiting at the security checkpoint [other than using the two hours I still had until take-off to finish off my mp3 player, so I might have something else to amuse myself with other than the pressurized pops of my ears] -- and as someone who had spent most of his life as a non-drinker, I found it made the entire experience somewhat more bearable. If only every situation where you stood there holding your coat, your belt, your shoes, and most specifically the waistband of your pants, pockets turned out, had the promise of a cocktail hour after, then travelers, convicts, and high school students might be an entirely happier bunch.

I gobbled up a greasy breakfast of the local specialty [we call it "Tudors" and if you survive it, you've really no reason to fear air travel], and while waiting, I rearranged a few things that had felt too hastily packed and realized with a strong sense of satisfaction that I was ready, or at least as ready as I could be. It was a strange feeling, disrupted only by the common worries of what I was leaving behind, and as I sat there, thinking about what was next, I found myself surprisingly calm. I wandered into a strange place, where assuming I stayed well-mannered and pleasant, kept myself witty and occasionally smiled, I would now be pushed and guided from place to place, despite any sort of condition I might have, be it mental, physical, or otherwise. Check the ticket, hand the money, say thank you, be cordial, take the drink, give up the plate, enjoy the coffee, mind the time, all of these things for the next five days would be handled, and all I had to do was look vaguely like I deserved to be there.

It was incredibly freeing, and set a nice tone for the coming days.

Been to Boston.

Sort of stupid of me to title my last post "I'm back, baby" and then disappear for over a week.

Just got back from a friend's wedding in Cape Cod, stayed in Boston and saw the a lot of my old Bennington crew [sans Savannah and Ian, who are busy with other things and other things respectively]. Had planned to do a short entry before leaving, just really didn't get to in the mad-dash to get ready. Still, it was a hell of a vacation. Next several weeks are looking to be just as busy, well into August [with a birthday somewhere in there], almost none of it is even remotely creative [actually, there are two art shows I'm going to this weekend, I just mean nothing scheduled is me being creative], and even today I had to polish off a review for my continuing freelance gig. But goddammit, I really need to get back to writing and posting. Someone recently told me they died a little inside every time they came here - and if that's not high enough praise to keep me going, I don't know what is.

Might recap the whole vacation here soon. Right now, I'm playing mad catch-up, and trying to get in everything that has been neglected in my absence, so this is just a short "I'm still here" kind of post. I've missed some crazy things while I've been gone though -- including the end of the web comic "Pictures of Crying Children" - which if you remember, I submitted a few scripts to earlier in the year. It looks like both CheriAnn and Ian are moving on to bigger, more ambitious projects now that they are post their nuptials, but the news still blew me away because CheriAnn had been posting a great deal of redesigns on the comics characters. Sad to see it go [especially since I was able to be involved, which is one of my biggest online opportunities to date], but I understand wanting to do different things, and I'm happy they're not sticking around working on something that they don't really want to do anymore. Walking away from something you're used to is fucking hard, and I respect anyone able to stretch themselves outside their usual boundaries. Plus, it's not entirely gone, as you can sign up for a mailing list here, to keep up with all PCC-related materials, and the other projects the creators are working on.

Meanwhile, my good buddy John of the Bathroom Monologues has his Friday Flash essay in a contest over at Mad Utopia, and I encourage anyone reading this to go vote for him - it's a great piece, and even though I'm not involved in Twitter's #fridayflash community, the possibilities it affords certain writers can't be underplayed. Plus, John's celebration of it is just fantastic. Go. Vote. You only have until Saturday.

Also, Eric M. Esquivel of Modern Mythology Press had a new Bleeding Cool article go up today, and it looks like Hannah Miet's book of poetry is coming along at a respectable pace too, along with getting some of her work in a downloadable e-book. Plus, Zoe [from AnachroLush] has posted up a few things from a personal project she's been working on.

All good stuff. Go check them out.

I'm back, baby.

Computer fixed, hard drive installed, data retrieved. All in all, it's been a relatively productive couple of days, if "productivity" can be defined as standing up after someone kicks you in the nards.

Still not entirely sure what went wrong, though I'm relatively certain it wasn't my fault after all. Mind you, that allows for some pretty big coincidences -- that I just happened to be doing spring cleaning on my hard drive, that during that time the hard drive began refusing to boot Windows, and that either before or after this happened the adapter cable which I use to charge my phone and access my external hard drive experienced a power surge in one of the usb ports, rendering it unusable. Is it possible one of these three things caused the other two to happen? Possibly, but the answer to that is just beyond the knowledge of computers that I have. The upswing is my spare external, the 2.5 hard drive ripped from my Toshiba's death by overheating, was still all perfectly accessible and had all data intact, which I was able to easily retrieve with a new adapter cable [this one straight from newegg.com, with a much better rating and several comments to the effect of "not like the cheap crap one that came with the external Randall bought that was made in China"]. So, lucky break there. Lucky like, after said kick in the nards, the doctor icing them down notices a mole and catches that melanoma before it gets out of hand.

But all in all, I am happy things didn't turn out a lot worse. My biggest complaint right now is how sore my hands are -- it'll sound ridiculous, but when I run a computer, I run it a certain way, and want it to be able to do certain things, so once I installed my computer's new brain I had to have it relearn all the old tricks I liked so well. Even going from "blank slate" reinstall as I did, it still took a while to get everything back to normal, and my hands and wrists hurt like... well, a lot like how I've heard carpel tunnel described. Doubt it's so serious, but typing hurts, and as a pretty big computer junkie, that's sort of a new experience for me. I've kind of forced myself to push through it [kind of had to, still had some work to finish up last night], and it's already improved from the agony I woke up in, so now as long as I don't put too much physical pressure on my hands [pushing off/against things are mostly what hurts now], everything should be fine.

Man. Remember when I used to post about my physical health and well-being on here all the time? Takes me back.

One other thing of note about today, or rather yesterday now, is that my first gig [re: dentist's website] with Terry Lively and Vandalia Productions ended. I'm not "out" out, as I've offered to give the website another once over before it's published, and there's a press release I drafted for them that they'll probably want changes made to, but otherwise, this first project is done. There's been some talk of about other jobs, maybe something relatively soon, and the nice thing about copy work is that it's almost always needed on any sort of project. So, fingers crossed.

Next weekend is Boston. I assume the rest of this week will be the usual stuff, getting ready for that, and I think I have another book on the way to review.

More soon. When it doesn't hurt to post.

In the meantime, go read something cool. Like this, or this, or any of this. And I think a friend of mine's been doing some convention coverage here.