Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Blues

The Christmas season is so polarizing. It is shaped with anxious awaiting, exciting moments and rich tradition, all leading up to that series of smiles, giving and receiving in the morning. But there is another side, a bluer side that follows it. At least for me. This year it came quicker than expected since I had to leave my hometown Christmas night in order to be back in Provo in time for work the next day. Usually I milk Christmas as long as I can. We keep the lights up through January, and keep the tree up longer than we probably should. I still let Christmas music play, and I eat candy well into the new year. But the Christmas blues hit me this year as the present opening ended and a lull fell over our house. Everyone was exhausted and after a hardy and slightly burned breakfast it was nap time for most of us. I was so thankful to be home and around those I loved, but truly bummed that my holiday was going to be defined by brevity. I was also sad because my sister and new niece hadn't joined us this year. We were staying in my grandma's house just across town even though my grandma was celebrating with my cousins in Washington. The house was bigger and more conducive for gathering. But it was a constant reminder to me of my late grandfather. In a house full of windows, I couldn't help but look out them and see the past. I saw myself running around the alfalfa fields with my sisters and cousins. I saw my grandpa teaching us how to move sprinklers and drive four-wheelers. We were never as close as I had hoped. He was surly and prone to grumpiness, and I was rambunctious and wore baggy pants. But he loved me and I loved him. His sudden departure from this world reminded me how much we loved each other in spite of our differences. But Christmas also reminded me of him; it reminded me of him singing in front of our whole family sweet classics and Swedish lullabies. His hugs and cowboy jeans were on the tip of my mind. It is terribly upsetting how obtuse we can be about love and family until a death awakens that underused love within us.

But I am not complaining. I am blessed to have a job, a family and more gifts than I deserve. I just couldn't help but feel a melancholy around me as the joy of Christmas sort of faded. I suppose part of life is realizing the best way to cope with things. I was clearly saddened by what felt like a rushed Christmas without a couple people that meant the world to me. But 24 hours removed, I can see that it was such a wonderful Christmas, and though I say it every year, the best Christmas ever. Melancholy is okay. Emotional is fine. Sure I missed my sister, and my Grandpa, but that is just a reminder of how blessed I am to have them in my life. I sit alone in my house since most of my friends are still out of town. But that is just another testimony of my blessed life, the fact that I have such important friends to miss. 

With the New Year coming in I have no more time to be sad. I only have a few days to finish out 2014 how I would like to. I have unrealized goals and unfinished dreams, and it is the 11th hour. And with the ushering in of 2015 I can forget my brief encounter with the blues and focus on the felicity of life and the greatness that the new year can bring. After all I have the new Taylor Swift CD, so life cannot be that bad.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Friendship and Words

There is an old Yiddish lullaby that tells of a Rabbi teaching youngsters the alphabet. With classical Jewish tradition the Rabbi leaves the children with these final words, "When you grow up, you will come to understand how much pain and how many tears these letters contain. And joy. And majesty."

A little intense for a group of youths, but truer words have never been spoken. The power and gravity of our words goes further than we can ever imagine. The sentences we utter and the words we choose to use can have glorious ripples or awful repercussions. The tragedy lies in our ignorance. Most of the time we will not outwardly see the happiness or the dread our letters form. But pause for a moment and think of the last genuine compliment you received, how did it make you feel? Was it that hard for someone to notice something about you, and then articulate it to you? No. It was easy, but it likely made us feel very good, and perhaps even imbued upon us a desire to treat another with similar kindness.

I guess I am just nervous. I am nervous that I will live a life where I am not aware of the power of my words. And though I am not a media mogul, nor am I an obvious and influential pillar of the community I know that my words, like everyone's words have the power to resonate and change. My new dream, my new goal is to make a greater impact with my spoken word. Sure, I am a writer and aspire to touch people with the written word, but Lord knows I speak much more than I write. So I find it profoundly important to do better. I find that I need to use new adjectives. I am prompted to eulogize and compliment people with words they are not used to hearing. Why tell someone they look good today, when you can tell them there skin is shining, or that there hair looks like the hair of a Greek goddess? In short, I am trying to rid my vernacular of tired phrases and overused words. Describing everything as "cool" or "legit" is offensive to the vastness and beauty of the English language.

And on that same token I find it incumbent to rid my vocabulary of negative phraseology. What purpose does it serve me to complain? What advantage do I gain from criticizing and belittling another? Sure, it is outlandishly difficult to eliminate all negative speech from our dialogues, but why not try.

Now the topic of friends. The people we are closest to, sometimes even closer than family and with what words do we use towards them? Are we constantly correcting and judging our friends, or are we using powerful and poetic words to show them their potential? Just something to think about. The time we spend with our friends is incalculable, so why not try to infuse more positivity into one another's lives? All we have is our actions and our words. Volumes can and have been written on how to change our actions and behave better, but it all starts with the letters of the alphabet. The words we choose to use can change the world. Not only can they, but they certainly will whether we believe it or not.

I will finish with the everlasting words of one of my favorite authors ElieWiesel. In speaking of words, he said, "For some part of every word is sacred; all words should lean toward the sacred."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Always There: A Big Sister

I don't have a first memory of my big sister Brittany. I guess older siblings are things that don't come into our lives one day, but rather  things that have always been there, like trees or the moon. We aren't cognizant of their existence the moment we come to earth, but they have always been there nonetheless. And there is something wildly comforting about that. We don't have any memories without trees, and we cannot remember a time when there was no moon; we likewise cannot conceive of a world without our older siblings.

Yesterday Brittany turned thirty. Three years my senior, Brittany was always there at my side teaching, cajoling, playing, and taddling. She was always running around using annoyingly big words and organizing things that kids don't usually organize. I looked up to her in a way only a younger brother could understand. We were fiercely competitive and at times could not understand how stupid and immature the other could be. Brittany was the ring leader of organized fun in our house for years. She was the captain and my little sister and I were her obedient soldiers. Though many years have passed since we played "house" or pretended we were in college, or put on "circus performances" for our parents, her leadership and voice have remained with me. The things she says even until this day ring with a curious authority that I assumed would dissipate over the years.

But what has always been unconditional love has turned into something even more special. It is easy to love our siblings. Even if they are raging imbeciles, you share blood, and you share experiences you will never have with another. But sometimes is is difficult to like your siblings. They tell your parents when you do moronic things, they hog attention, and they know all your secrets. With Brittany however, I was blessed. I always saw her as a sister and a friend, and as the years trudged on and life got real, my big sister was always there. Our relationship became much more than brother and sister, much more than just two friends; we became two people entwined through eternal pasts and endless futures, with the understanding that one would always, always be there for the other. Maybe this sounds like a cavalcade of tired cliches, but my big sister is more important to me than I can adequately express.

I could write on for pages about what she has done for me, and how she has molded important years of my life, but suffice it to say, ole Brit is selfless and beautiful, a beacon of what an older sibling is and should be.

Don't even get me started on how much I love my younger sister Danielle. But hers is a different story with the exact same ending, alas, a story for another day.  


"Be nice to your siblings, they're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future." 

~Baz Luhrmann

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Thanks

On the morrow is Thanksgiving. As always I am looking forward to eating mashed potatoes and seeing family, but I am also caught up in reflection, in what I am grateful for. I am thankful for the great harvest feast had in Plymouth in the famous and poorly documented "First Thanksgiving" of 1621. But moreover I am thankful for the little things in life.

I am thankful for conversations that go deep into that night, sinuous chats that have no real purpose or direction but seem to enlighten nonetheless. I am thankful for friends that understand you at an intense and visceral level. I am grateful for the vastness of this earth, the mystery and chance for discovery in new towns and distant countries. I am thankful for books, for without them I would lead a much emptier life. I am thankful for the pen, allowing me to create parallel realities and document my life. I am grateful for a family that never wavers in their capacity to love. I am thankful for soft T-shirts, cause those are just down right comfy. I am thankful for athletics for they bring a sense of adrenaline and competition that you cannot find elsewhere. I am thankful for the beauty of the world found in so many diverse and unexpected places. I am likewise thankful for photography, the ability to capture beauty in a single moment. I am grateful for affection. I am grateful for music. I am grateful for my faith that fortifies my limited self. I am thankful for love, sometimes a confusing and elusive power, in its purest form it changes and ameliorates this world.

The list could go on ad infinitum. I think the beauty of Thanksgiving is it is just one more reminder to us that we are  blessed, and that we have much to be thankful for. It is too easy to focus on what we don't have, on what we cannot have, or what we desperately want. But there is so much in front of us, beneath our obtuse noses to complain and be ungrateful. So this harvest season let us remember the Puritans, let us remember Squanto and the coming together of the Pilgrims and Indians. But mostly, let us open our eyes to the beauty that is around us, let us live presently and realize the blessing that life is. And while we devour turkey and stuffing, let us look around at those next to us and say Thank You.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Equinox Has Passed

Who suffers from a chronic and totally avoidable case of laziness? Anybody have the narcissistic condition of neglecting important things in life in lieu of doing what you want? Well, I will speak for myself. I often suck at life. I make long lists of things to do, only to find myself adding new boxes to check, with easier and more menial tasks. I daily and weekly goals to change and better myself, only to convince myself in the moment that I would be better off  just reading a book. I have debt and other seemingly endless matters of unfinished business that I would rather not attend to. Bottom line, I can be a walking, or more accurately laying on my bed-disaster. Murphy's Law doesn't miss a single day with me. If I don't have car problems, I have relationship problems, and if by some cosmic grace I do not have a worry in my soul, something unexpected will surely spiral out of control on the morrow leaving a detritus of unplanned pain and turmoil. This is life. I am not a pessimist, and am not one to obsessively self-deprecate. My point is life is rocky and stupid most of the time. And most of the time I resolve to change my life tomorrow. I wait for New Years' Resolutions. I wait for my next birthday, my next job, my next milestone. A few months ago I even decided maybe with the coming of the Fall Equinox I would make some needed alterations in my life. There is nothing intensely special about an equinox, but it symbolizes a change; a change in time, a change it climate. Perhaps the difference in light and darkness seems trivial, but the ripples of this astronomical event can be infinite. And so it is with our lives. Simply deciding to change your life tomorrow, or on Thanksgiving, or on Friday, or on Easter Sunday can produce infinite ripples in the sea of your life.

So, the autumnal equinox has passed without any grand efforts or changes on my part. I can wait for the winter solstice, or even hold out for the spring equinox to make new goals and create a new me. But I do not want to wait. Maybe I will use those dates, and January 1st to reassess things, but I want to start the rest of my life today. In fact, I think I will start when I finish writing this piece. There are things I want to do, and I must do them while the night is youthful. Carpe Noctum.

What if I fail? What if tonight my wild dreams prove overzealous and unreasonable? Oh the glory and blessing of tomorrow. Tomorrow can be our new year, tomorrow can be the day that we forget about our shortcomings and dominate the future. So find your next equinox, set back your clocks and live again.

"It's the first day of spring, and my life is starting over again." ~Noah and The Whale

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Excerpts From Book #2 (Untitled)

Many people have asked me in the last few months if there will be a sequel to I'm Trying Here, my first book. The answer is no, at least not right now. I never rule out the possibility of future projects, but for now a continuation of my first work is not where I am headed. My next book that is on pace to be done by January or February is a more serious work, a book about the Holocaust, and my experiences learning about it, and visiting Auschwitz. It is a cross-breeding of genres, part historical, part philosophical, part motivational, and part memoir. I don't want to give too many spoilers, and I am not ready to unveil the title, but I would like to leave a few small excerpts for anxious readers. Stay tuned for new updates on the book's progress, title and cover. I am very excited about this book, and as a young delusional artist, I of course think it will be a masterpiece on par with New York Bestsellers. But until I reach some modicum of fame, I need you to go purchase my first book. If you already have, there are still two invaluable things you can do to help my career. You can leave a review on Amazon and or Goodreads, and you can tell a friend. Okay, enough begging for favors. Here are the excerpts, let me know what you think.

Excerpt I

"I wake up. It’s 3:21 a.m. I’m twenty-seven years old. I haven’t been on a school bus for years, and I have long since left Arizona. I’m alone in a cheap hotel room in Warsaw, Poland. A familiar song reverberates in my foggy head. Its chorus repeats the simplistic and symbolic words, “I’m coming home, I’m coming home.” I go to the bathroom and return to bed wondering what elicited such a vivid and frightful dream."

Excerpt II

"I looked towards the main entrance and saw white birds flying around in what looked like figure eights. I thought about how eternally free those birds were and how their whiteness and freedom contrasted so greatly with the victims of Auschwitz, the ghosts behind the barbed wire fences."

Excerpt III

 "I stood there and held back tears for the mothers who would never see their infants again, and my stomach churned for the fathers that would never teach their kids how to throw a ball, or anything for that matter. I thought of my own parents and the love that that they had woven into my life from day one. In the same way that you put yourself in the shoes of the protagonist in a dramatic movie, I put myself in the shoes of the family members that lost so much. I was reminded of the ingenious brevity of the author Thomas Wolfe who scattered his novel Look Homeward, Angel with the phrase “O Lost!”

Excerpt IV

"In the middle of the mountain of stolen suitcases, the name Greilsamer poked out, beneath it lay luggage of a Mr. Steindler. In the distance, barely visible, I saw Orov protrude through the rubble, almost as if to say, "Remember me?" I thought of my own surname and what it would look like on a discarded box of my belongings. The whole idea of it all ripped me insides apart. I shuffled on laterally and saw dozens more names, Slavic names I couldn't pronounce. But I knew they all had a history, a past full of holidays, newborns, smiles, and Bar Mitzvahs. I would never know the contents of these suitcases, nor would anyone else, and for some reason that bothered me."


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Recharging Yourself

The other day I was in a foul mood. My day was fine, but my night left me unsettled and on edge. I got in a little fight with someone I care about, and it left me sickened at night. Sleep barely came, but then it came fully and enveloped me in my warm bed. I woke up feeling like crap, and not wanting to get out of bed. I was sick of the monotony of my own life, and bothered by a lack of excitement, an absence of wonderful. I lay in bed long after I woke up, dreading the day, and thinking up reasons why staying in bed all day was socially acceptable. Then I got a call from a close friend.
All he said was “Bro, let’s go on an adventure.” My first thought was no. I needed to be productive, and I needed to feel bad for myself, which is hard to do in fine company. But as he spoke on, enthusiastic as ever, the seed of negativity I had planted in myself the night before started to incinerate. Maybe a little spontaneity and sunshine was all I needed, a little recharging.
“An adventure” is wildly ambiguous, but I kind of loved the ambiguity that day. My friend picked me up and we started driving with no real course of action or destination. “Where should we go?” he asked. “Let’s go east,” I said. So we drove on. My buddy cancelled his meeting later that night, and I wore a new smile. We rolled down the windows and felt the air, but really felt it. We would over the course of the next six or seven hours make many stops through the canyon highway to explore abandoned homes and lost graveyards. After traversing streams, eluding curious farmers, and stopping in on an all but forgotten town, we made it to Price, Utah. We knew there was not much to see there, but we knew there would be a nice place to eat, and a place to sit and converse of real things.
We found a delicious diner. As we waited for our food, I wrote down a few words. It was not my finest prose, but I wanted it out on paper before my memory deluded things. The words of William Faulkner leaped into my mind. Speaking of the urgency to write and record, he said, “Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” I followed suit and scribbled down this:

“We stopped to stretch, and kick around the skateboard. A couple sat nearby on a bench and affably called us over, recognizing our out-of-townness. The man was burly, with a soft smile and grimy hands. He wore a bandana and heavy jeans. His woman was clad in some gaudy neon top and pants she should have given to Goodwill years ago. They both respectfully blew smoke in the opposite direction. They were clearly still in love, and ate their McDonald’s in innocent happiness.
Our next stop, five miles down the road was the loan diner in town. It was a Thursday, but the place was packed. Men sat in silence after long days of working manual labor jobs. The men were the types that wore their cellphones outside of their belts, in large phone cases. They had sturdy workshoes, and tattered T-shirts with motocross insignias and demolition derby designs. On my way to the bathroom I saw two cute girls probably in high school dining together. Needing a reasonable excuse to talk to them, I said ‘Hey me and my buddy are just passing through, is there anything we should see while we are here?’ They smiled nervously as I eyed both of them with seductive possibility. One spoke up confidently, yet flatly, ‘There’s nuthin’ to see here, it’s a pretty sucky place to live.’ I laughed, complimented the town’s culinary achievements, and moved on.”

After dinner we rode home in dark bliss, listening to music from high school. The whimsy and glory of the day completely reset my attitude and recharged my batteries that had been corroded and dead from a couple rough days. The fresh air, keen friendship, and spontaneity were exactly what I needed. A true friend, a nice meal, and a change in the routine were a simple thing, but precisely what my soul required. Sometimes we need to recharge, reboot, and start again. For me, a little writing, a little exploring, and a little attention was what I needed to propel me forward again. What do you need to feel better again? There is not a panacea for stress, and there is no cure-all for the blues, but there are small things that can rejuvenate us, and set us back on the correct path. Maybe we need that, or maybe we have been so blessed to realize that someone close to us needs that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Get Your Copy of "I'm Trying Here," Now in Print

After two months of writing, another couple months of editing, an additional month of formatting, a few weeks of procrastination I released the e-book version of my book "I'm Trying Here" almost 5 months ago. The writing itself seemed to be easier than the subsequent marketing and shameless self-promotion that would follow. It has been my goal since day one to get my book printed, but I soon realized without any connections in the literary world, without a literary agent, or any previously released titles I was a bit rudderless. After dozens of submissions to publishing companies, I learned a few things. The first is that most major publishing companies do not actually accept unsolicited manuscripts from unknown authors. The other discovery was that many "vanity presses" exist. These are publishing houses that will print your book for you if you just give them a pretty little check with some commas in it. After reading blog post after blog post, and various e-books on getting published, I decided to self-publish. Amazon facilitated my dream, and the talent and support of many others allowed me to finally create a print version of my book; a book you can hold in your hands, something tactile, something you can smell and write in.

Now, a little news on how to get it. People enjoy their literature in different forms, so the e-book will remain available ($2.99) as well as the new paperback option ($8.99). The e-book is available immediately on Amazon, and can be found simply by searching "I'm Trying Here" by Taylor Church. The hard copy will be available on Amazon in a little under a week, in the meantime it is available on Amazon's sister company CreateSpace. To find it there, click here

For those of you who are not fans of Amazon, and hate whipping out your credit card and deciding on regular or expedited shipping I will have a consistent stock of 10-20 books at all times, as soon as October 6. So, books can be bought directly from me. You are welcome to send me an e-mail or personal message on Facebook if that is the route you wish to take.

As always what makes the book succeed is word of mouth and positive feedback. A review on Amazon or Goodreads is almost more valuable than the four dollars I receive per purchase. And telling a friend can get the stone rolling down the mountain. So if you read the book, and enjoyed it, please tell your friends that are familiar with the concept of reading, and take the two minutes to leave a review online, even if it simply says, "A good read," or "I liked it."

In the coming months I have scheduled various book signings and other events, along with a new website to promote the book and other upcoming projects. So stay tuned. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and let me know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Waxing Religious: What I Want vs. What I REALLY Want

I try not to get too religious with my musings and narcissistic rantings, but when I philosophize on things I find to be important, my beliefs have no successful way of hiding. You can’t effectively drown a rubber ducky, it will eventually float back up. I likewise cannot seem to submerge my religiosity without it returning to the surface at some point. But as is always the case with such texts, you can choose to stop reading the second a word makes you uncomfortable, or you can try to glean from the material something of value and interest for yourself. Just because the writer believes something, does not mean that the reader must be coaxed into a similar belief system. Literature is meant to open the mind, erase worries, and elicit never before-had thoughts.  With that under our cognitive belts, let’s get to the crux of the matter.

There are two things in this world that I want, and that I constantly want, and only recently have I been able to categorize them into two very basic groups: The things I want, and the things I REALLY want. Mind you, I am not prone to using all caps, so this was a big revelation for me. I’ve found that in almost all of my day to day decision making, in the things I desire, there are but these two degrees of want. But what is the difference? The word really, even with its brazen uniform of all caps is not that descriptive of a word. All really really implies is an entrance into reality or actuality. So when I say “I want to take out Susan this weekend” versus “I really want to take out Susan this weekend,” the only noticeable difference is that one seems more real, more genuine, more important

Here’s where I wax religious. To me, the difference in these two types of wants lies in the eternal perspective. I believe my choices will have eternal consequences, and what I REALLY want is usually indicative of an eternal desire, something I know will last and not just satisfy immediate urges.

Let’s kick a scenario. Let’s say there is someone I am courting, and I want to be intimate with them. But I also want to remain chaste, as my religious conviction reminds me. What do I do? I want to be intimate with this girl, but I want to maintain a modicum of chastity as well. So, I ask myself the simplest of questions. Which do I really want? Which choice will elevate me in the grand scheme of things? It seems like such a silly and almost ridiculous thing to have to stop and ask yourself. But I have found it helpful when contemplating what I really want. For me it is not so much a question that I ask myself before I do anything, but rather a question that remains in my head in moments of reflection and introspection. Is this something I want to keep doing, or something I REALLY want to keep doing? It’s similar to the Good/Better/Best question. Just because something isn’t abhorrent or stupid it doesn’t make that thing the best possible option. And so it is with the “What I want vs. What I REALLY want” question.

We have a tendency to think that the majority of our decisions are trivial and inconsequential in the eternal realm of things, but I think paying closer attention to the little choices, the smaller hinges that turn the wheels of our lives will prove to be greatly beneficial.  Whether you believe in an afterlife, or not, a supreme being or not, or if you just believe in the power of yourself, it isn’t a bad idea to reflect on what’s REALLY important, and if what you so often claim to want is what you REALLY want.

Thomas Wolfe, a modern writer believed deeply in the principle of small acts, the reality of all we do having a relative consequence to the future. His prose sung true in 1929 as he said,

 “Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Walking Through Auschwitz

It has been far too long since I have posted. In this inexcusable time of absence I traveled to Europe, gallivanted in California and enjoyed some other wanderings here and there. My first book I’m Trying Here has been out almost three months and is having moderate success on the e-book circuit. But now it is time to move forward. I have been working on several projects and have simply been waiting for one to take some form of momentum.

My moment of clarity has arrived, and I am 11 pages into my second novel. It will be a cross-breeding of genres type of book. It will be a true account of my experience visiting Auschwitz in Poland. Part of it will be historical context, the other part will be motivational/philosophical i.e. what can we learn from studying or experiencing tragedy? What benefit can come from learning about evil and hatred? These are questions that have hibernated in my mind for years, and now I wish to better articulate my inquires, and posit them for all who wish to read.  I don’t want to give away too much yet in terms of motifs and plot structure, but like I said, above all it will be about the Holocaust, and my personal dealings with history. Below I will mention a few salient experiences from my trip to Auschwitz.

I have read dozens of books on the Holocaust, and about concentration camps. There are few things I don’t know about the general history of the Nazi regime and their accompanying plans of horror and destruction. Alas, there is no way to prepare for entering these camps. There is no way to understand the gravity of the events taken place without walking in the paths of history, and experiencing it with your senses. Listening to things about life and the world is important, reading about these things is imperative, but being there, experiencing them is an unparalleled sensation. A man can learn a lot by listening to a suave Casanova ramble on about dating, maybe even more so by reading a book on the subject. But you will learn exponentially more by asking girls out yourself, or by going on a double date with this putative master of dating. This principle holds true for almost any area of learning. Experience, and presence trumps all else.

At Auschwitz, where literally millions of innocent people died decades ago, I myself paid money to enter the horrid gates. At the entrance, engraved atop in iron with ironic morbidity are the words Arbeit Macht Frei (Work sets you free. Our tour took many hours, and yet I was rather upset that it ended so quickly. The camps are vast and overwhelming. I was maniacally taking pictures and trying to take in the moments, all the while trying to imagine the impossible hardships of those who walked those barracks, gas chambers and fields some seventy years ago.

Certain things touched me in a way that will resonate with me forever, in a way no book could ever provide. The exhibits that displayed the things that the Nazis seized from the Jews and other prisoners upon arrival were absolutely harrowing. I knew they would take all of their personal items, their shoes, their glasses, their prosthetics, and even their hair, but seeing it up close, behind glass was something that left my stomach unsettled and my eyes full of water. Specifically the hair; the hair that was violently shaved or cut off by Hitler’s henchman was hard to look at. You could see tiny ponytails and little piles of hair that were clearly that of children. It made my heart churn and weep.

I could go on for pages, but I will save my narcissistic mutterings for my book. All I know is that visiting those haunted grounds changed me in a beautiful and existential way. And though you may not ever have the opportunity yourself, I hope you can have similar experiences that change your view of the world, and inspire you to do good, to do better. 

I am working hard on this book and hope to have it finished within the next few months. Thanks for the support, and let me know if you have any questions. As the book progresses I will post periodical excerpts like I did with my first work. Cheers & adieu.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why Are We So Unsatisfied With Life? How to Rid Ourselves of Insecurities

The last few years of my life, for whatever reason, I have become more keenly aware of a flawed human tendency. It seems that everyone struggles in some capacity with insecurities. This is normal, right? Of course it is, but I would posit that we can eliminate the majority of our insecurities by doing one thing.

Pastor Steven Furtick said it best, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” Now it is human nature to compare ourselves with other people. People are annoyingly ubiquitous and there is no getting around it. In our quest to become better individuals and progress in society we look at what we are accomplishing or doing, and juxtapose it to those around us. But as Furtick opined, perhaps this is a perilous practice if we are not careful. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a very positive thing to compare ourselves to others with the goal of self-improvement. Oh the wondrous things we can glean from the amazing souls around us. Wherein lays this insidious problem then? The problem is we rarely see the struggles people go through. We do not know who is furtively depressed. We do not know who feels utterly pummeled by the cosmos. This is of course mostly because people do not usually broadcast there woes. And if they do, we usually find these proclamations as pathetic and a little woe-is-me in nature.

Generally people post about the great things in life through social media. Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram we see vacations, great food, and timeless friendships. We see love and magnificent activities. But do vacations and fancy eats equate to felicity? What about the other side: What about the hard times we all go through? People do not usually advertise their broken hearts, their weary minds and their cracking moods. We don’t see everyone’s lonely nights. We don’t see everyone’s indecision and muddled thoughts. We see the glory, and the good. But do hard times equate to a poor quality of life? Do difficult moments make our life inferior to another’s?

Truth is, we all go through things. We all have dark alcoves that we don’t like visiting. We all experience hurtful things we don’t want publicized. But it is so easy to look with envy at those luxuriating around us, those seemingly bereft of stress or any notion of sadness. Again, this is a flawed practice. We are being slightly ridiculous if we think people are not out there struggling like we are. The problem is we don’t know fully any one person’s struggle, yet we know all too well the intricacies and gray corners of our own trials.
In an attempt to rid ourselves of at least a modicum of our own insecurities, let’s remember the following: It is a sign of great maturity and a progressive mind to be unsatisfied with the status quo, to be uncomfortable with conforming and disdainful of mediocrity, but sometimes we take that desire too far.
One more time for repetition…

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


After 2 months of writing, another month of editing and countless vacillating over comma placement, my book is finally finished and available for purchase. I am still in the process of sending it to traditional publishing houses, as I am much more fond of physical books than e-books, but in the meantime I decided to self-publish and try to get the word out about my book, and maybe make five or six bucks. 

The book is available on Amazon and Kindle. This does not mean you have to own a kindle to access my words. You can simply download the Kindle app to any of your app-capable devices i.e. Tablet, iPad, smart phone, Nook, Kindle, etc. It can also just be downloaded and read on your computer through Amazon. If you are having trouble accessing it, or are not particularly tech savvy, contact me and I will send you a link. But you shouldn't have any trouble just clicking on the My Book tab. Once again thank you for the love and support. It has only been out 2 days and already I have received countless messages of congratulations and love. 

I have already started work on my second book, so stay sharp, in the upcoming months I will post any updates I have, along with the occasional excerpt. Please help me spread the word about my new book by telling friends, and sharing my links. I don't care about the money near as much as I care about getting my words out there. And with the internet, the amount of influence a book can have is limitless. So if you like it, please share it with your fellow bibliophiles. Grazie.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Joys of Cinephilia

Writing Update
It has been some time since I have blogged. No, I have not been a victim of writer’s block. Quite the contrary actually, I have been editing and finalizing things for the publication of my first book, I’m Trying Here: A Memoir of love, Loss, and Misadventure.  I am still sending it to publishers, but since the average publisher promises to respond in 2-3 months, I decided to self-publish my work as an e-book on Amazon and Kindle in the meantime. I am simply putting the final touches on the cover, and then it should be available online within the week. Stay tuned on my social media outlets, where I will make more official announcements of release dates and any other pertinent information. Thanks for the love and support for my highly lucrative writing career. Post script: The book will likely be available for 99 cents. So sacrifice one Diet Coke so you can afford my book when it comes out. Grazie.

A few months ago I reached a landmark in my personal history of film watching. I hit 1,000 films viewed. This seemed significant if not trivial, but I was in the middle of finishing my book, so a blog post that would entertain me more than anyone else was put on the backburner. Thirty movies later I have decided to revisit the topic ever so briefly. Let’s first rewind to the moment I decided it was a crucial practice to record every movie I had ever seen. Circa 2001, I am 14 years old and for whatever reason decided that my progeny needed to be privy to the movie titles that had been absorbed throughout my life. I started with all the movies in my house, and then attempted an alphabetical list to help remind me of random movies I had seen over the years. Within a few hours my list grew to several hundred titles. Obviously there are movies from my childhood that I will never remember, but that is okay. Ever since that fateful day, I have not gone to the cinema, rented a Redbox, pirated a movie, or seen a documentary without recording it.

I know what you are thinking. Besides satisfying my own maniacal urges to write down everything that happens in my life, what is the bloody point? To me, the purpose of this practice is threefold. One, as with anything else, the more I write things down, the more I remember them. Ergo, anytime I hear a movie title thrown out there, I am rarely wondering if I have seen it or not. When others are quibbling about which sub-par movie Nicholas Cage was in last year, I am usually able to recall the title, and elicit a warning concerning the terrible plot and mediocre cinematography.

Besides my ability to recall titles and miscellaneous movie trivia, I find it motivates me to watch new movies. Everyone has their favorites, but I learned long ago that there are so many movies out there it is silly to repeatedly watch the same movie over and over again. So when faced with the option of watching Dumb and Dumber or some obscure French film, I am almost always going to side with the subtitled unknown. This is not because I am a Francophile or an especially avid lover of foreign flicks, but rather because it could be a great movie, and whether it is or is not, I will never wonder. And at least I will be able to add it to my list, and perhaps bring it up in a pretentious conversation in the future.

The last reason for my OCD-like list making is my ever increasing cinephilia. I love movies, plain and simple. On more than one occasion I have been to the movie theater three times in one day. A nice matinee and enough popcorn to instantly destroy my health, brings me joy. I love the previews and I love discussing symbolism and parallelisms. I love researching movies after I have seen them to find out how the script came into existence, what actors were originally considered and what anachronisms were committed during filming. Just like my restaurant ritual makes me want to eat out more, writing down each movie I see only makes me want to see more movies.  

Despite my love of avant-garde productions, I am no movie snob. I love chick flicks and have been guilty of enjoying movies from the Oxygen channel. To me the best movies are the movies the make you think, and that tug at your emotions. Below is my current Top-5 Movies Ever List (in no specific order).

1.       High Fidelity
2.       Braveheart
3.       The Shawshank Redemption
4.       Legends of The Fall
5.       When Harry Met Sally

Also, my dear friends…My buddy has created an innovative and sleek new wallet. EZ Wallet is super cheap and a much better way to hold all of your cards and coins without spillage. Check out his Kickstarter, and order one right meow

Friday, February 28, 2014

Quarter Life Crisis

I just finished my manuscript tentatively titled Quarter Life Crisis. It is just over 35,000 words meaning depending on the font and page size will be between 150-200 pages long. Like I have mentioned before I have some pending offers with a couple of Publishing houses, dependent on the reading of the full manuscript. I will keep everyone updated on the progress of the final draft and subsequent publishing details (hopefully). Thanks for all the support and love. Let me know what you think, and tell your pals, geez. Below are a few more excerpts, not necessarily in order; disjointed and random just like I like it. Enjoy. There will be no more samples until the book is published. Be easy.

Excerpt I-

The disquiet I felt came mostly from the fact that I so rarely felt this way about a girl. It was like finding a small diamond on a dirt road, and then misplacing it. Losing the diamond is so distressing because you know how unlikely it is to find another rock so precious. Pebbles and muddied stones were all over, but they lacked any real value and often crumbled with ease. I knew there were other wonderful stones out there, but I knew it would not be easy to find another one.  

Excerpt II-

It was like viewing the Northern Lights; it was beautiful, even breath taking at moments, and for lack of a better word, magical. Alas, it was fleeting and we both were very aware of it. But you don’t watch the Aurora Borealis while discussing its brevity, you enjoy it. You take in the stunning vista and let the auroral colors consume you.

Excerpt III-

 There are myriad forms of kissing, but when it comes to passionate kissing, the kind that gets sloppy and requires extra oxygen, there are two types. They are both likely to produce a good time, but the first is more of a routine sort of recreation; it is fun but nothing special. It is exciting, but just a notch above being platonic. The second form of kissing mirrors the first in every physical aspect, but for some unknown reason it becomes chemical. It becomes much more than a monotonous flinching of facial muscles, and metamorphoses into an unexplainable force of kinetic energy. The Kissing that was had between us was of the latter nature. It’s like out faces were soul mates.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Excerpts Part II- Untitled Manuscript

My book is almost finished. I expect to be finished with the first draft within the next few days. I have heard back from a few publishing houses. One of them offered me a contract, but I would have to front 1,000 bucks for their marketing services. The other company based in London has read my first 3 chapters and has now requested the full manuscript. If they like the rest they will give me a book deal. I still have to go through the arduous editing process, and the task of picking a publisher that will be best for my work. But the end is near, and that is exciting. Below are a few more excerpts to hold you over until the whole thing is published. I still haven't finalized the title, but the memoir will be about my experiences with dating, relationships, being broke, being in that quarter-life crisis stage and all the misadventures and foibles that go along with that. Again note that the following excerpts are not sequential and are more or less random selections. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think. Much love.

Excerpt I-

 Her hair was the color of some dark wood I had never seen before. Her eyes were big and kind. Her body was five-star. But what I couldn’t keep my eyes off of was her face. You hear people talk about natural beauty, and the kind of beauty that makes you look twice. This was a hybrid of the two, with an extra portion of regal appeal. Her nose was hand-crafted by the gods, made with a kind of cartilage this world has never seen. Her skin was a light brown tone, hinting at an ambiguous ethnic background. Her features captivated me to no end. I finally knew how Adam felt when God placed Eve in the garden with him, for it was as if I was seeing the female species for the very first time.

Excerpt II-

 The fantasy swiftly and mercilessly disappeared like a fallen contact lens in a crowded venue. From a distance I watched her laugh and caress his arm following what had to have been a magnificently told anecdote. I stopped staring and chalked it up as a loss. She certainly wasn't the first stunning and unattainable woman I had seen or met in my life.

Excerpt III-

When you break up with someone for good you always secretly hope that they will gain sixty pounds or that their teenage acne will return or perhaps they will lose all their teeth in a horrific dental catastrophe. Unfortunately this rarely happens. They usually look better. They look well-rested, better dressed and perky in all the right places. This makes us fear that the reason they look so good is because now we are gone. They look better because that diseased monkey is off their back. And that is a tough thought to entertain.

Excerpt IV-

I am pretty sure that no one had kissed this well in the history of kissing, be it French or any other nationality. We were two people with a rocky past and a precarious future, but our libidos knew nothing of betrayal or dubious forthcomings. So, we continued this quasi violent barrage of snogging, dismissing anything that dared to approach our minds. It is hard to think about the future when someone is kissing your neck and grabbing your thighs. You can try, but your focus will be invaded and destroyed. We laid on that thin carpet and kissed for hours. We would stop intermittently to look into each other’s eyes and remind ourselves how much we missed each other. It was something out of a young adult novel, it was lunatic love. Of course any utterance of the word love at this time would have sent fatal shock waves through the core of our relationship. 

Excerpt V-

After I had typed every word, checked its grammatical accuracy and vacillated over alternative sentences and adjectives I pressed send. Right after a moment like this, you want and half expect a response within thirty seconds. You forget that the person on the other side of your correspondence might not be clutching their phone awaiting a life-altering text message. They might actually be living their lives. You know this, but you fear that they saw the text and simply decided that responding or even reading it was not a pressing matter. I often bemoan the fact that I did not live in the days where jilted lovers and hopeful romantics sent and received letters. I would kill for a mushy missive full of cursive lettering and flowery confessions. Instead I receive pithy text messages with smiley faces and superfluous letters to emphasize enthusiasm. No one would take the time to write an epistle that only said “yessss, I miss yooou, let’s hang soooon!!!!”

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Excerpt I from Untitled Memoir

I have had this idea for some time now, but I have finally started the task of writing a manuscript. It is going to be in the form of a memoir. It will be about life in your twenties, relationships, and the misadventures of my life. That is as much as I can reveal at the present time. Below I have selected just a couple of disjointed paragraphs that should leave you a little befuddled and curious for more. I hope to finish said book within the next 4-6 months at which time a definitive title will be announced and any further information on possible publishing. I would love any comments or input you may have. Just remember these excerpts are random, and not chronological.

Excerpt 1

.........The invention of text messaging has made breaking up, an already far from innocuous process, a deleterious and dragged-out fist fight. It is much easier to send an ill-advised text with some mawkish content like “I miss you”, or the subtler “How are you?” than to pick up the phone and generate a real conversation with someone that likely does not want to speak to you. So, just when you think you are out of those pesky woods, having gone four or five days without communication, you receive a schmaltzy text, immediately thrusting you back into that self-deprecating pool of sadness you thought you had just climbed out of. Soon this cyclical concourse of events breaks you down. You know the texting is unhealthy, and that despite all of her pally texts she does not want to get back together, she just does not want to lose you altogether. This harsh realization comes and goes like the fickle precipitation of February. But denial does not last; you know the veracity of the matter. You know it is over, and that she will never care about you like you care about her. These truths are only homologated by the indie alternative songs that endlessly seep through your headphones into your fragile ears hour after hour, day after day.

Excerpt 2

.........Over the next couple of days we participated in the required dalliance of flirtatious, playful and strategic texts, a sort of non-verbal warm-up to our scheduled outing. On Thursday I was studying in the library when I got a phone call from the girl that will now be called Lilly. I answered a little bemused, since the plan was for me to call her the following day to confirm our meeting. Turns out she had dialed me by mistake in an attempt to send a text. Her nervous confession coupled with her delicate voice twisted a knot in my stomach almost foretelling a future of felicity and good fortune. It was as if I had swallowed a fortune cookie and now understood and believed its cosmic power to produce good luck. Our skittish confabulation stretched on for several minutes, as we both realized we enjoyed whatever was on the other side of that telephone call.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 Secrets to Dominating 2K14

With the advent of another new year my mind is caught up into sundry topics and debilitating anxieties and concerns. I have so much I want to accomplish, so many changes to be made.  I have old habits I want to leave in the past and new forms of dominating I would like to put into practice. But what happens when after a week or so you have already failed? Do we surreptitiously make a new list of goals and just pretend the year only has some 350 days? Do we just wallow in our shortcomings and come to grips with the reality of our outlandish goals? Do we go back to the drawing board and make smaller, more manageable goals? There is not one correct answer. The important thing to do is to move forward, progress. If we are not moving forward, we are inevitably traveling backwards. Maybe this year we will not engage in life-threatening climbs in Nepal, perhaps we will not get engaged period. We may not get the job promotion that we seek, and we may not read all the books and see all the culturally significant things that we would like to this year. There are only 52 weeks, and innumerable unforeseen hiccups along the way. So how can we shoot for the stars and avoid future discouragement? How can we be extremely successful even if not all our goals are met? Well, here are my ideas. They might not work for you, but I am guessing that if followed they will have some positive sway upon your prodigious subconscious.

1.    Make two sets of goals

After feeling unsatisfied with my goals last year I decided to take a new approach.  I make two lists of goals; the first list being types of goals that can be documented or accounted for i.e. write in my journal every day, read 35 books, pay off all debts, etc. These types of goals are important because we hold ourselves accountable. Making a goal just to read more books is too vague, it lacks a certain attainability. So I make a list of between 10 and 20 goals that I can look back on and say, I definitely did or did not accomplish that. You do not want to make 50 goals of this nature; it is overwhelming and will have a negative effect on your productivity. Also, just making 5 or so goals is just not ambitious enough. Peruse your psyche and find areas of your life that you wish to improve upon, and surf the trivial waves of leisure, pleasure and joy, for these things are important too.

Then I will make a list of what I call abstract goals. These are goals that are not as easily cataloged or compartmentalized, i.e. be more gregarious, keep in better contact with old friends, be more genuine with my eulogies, waste less time on social media, etc. All of these can be accompanied by a specific game plan of how to accomplish them, but the results may not be as concrete as the first list, and that is okay. The point is to improve and ameliorate our life through personal accountability.

2.    Review Goals Daily

You need to come up with some way to look at your goals every single day. Maybe you keep this annotated list in your wallet, on your phone, or in your journal, but it is imperative that the words meet your eyes on a daily basis. I know you are thinking that is excessive, especially if you have a decent memory. But, we humans have a tendency to conform to the ‘out of sight out of mind’ notion. If we do not beat the proverbial dead horse, it seems to come back to life and kick us with its sinister back legs. So repetition and redundancy is the order of the day.

3.    Add to Your List

As the year flows forward you will find little things that you woefully neglected to put on your New Years’ Resolution list. It is okay to add to your list, it is not laminated; it has likely not been canonized and sent to the Vatican City. So simply get out a pen and expand your list as you see fit. New circumstances will elicit new motivation and fresh ideas, there is no reason to leave these ambitions behind just because it is April and that is apparently no time to make goals. Every time is a time to make goals. Add to your bloody list.

4.    Share Your Goals

Some of your goals and desires will be private, that is copacetic. Not everyone needs to know that you are trying desperately to quit a disgusting habit. Not everyone requires a knowledge of your delusional goals about romance. However most of our goals should be shared with those that are close to us, those who edify us. It is another form of being accountable. Sometimes when you are struggling and falling behind it is helpful and encouraging to have a friend tell you that you need not surcease. Subtle encouragement from loved ones can make an unbelievable difference. I know I at times am sick of myself and the useless tautologies that circle around my head; I need an outside voice, a familiar reassurance. So let a few in on the things you want to accomplish, it might help them to eventually be realized.

5.    What If You Fail?

Real failure is failure to start again. We will all likely fall short of our goals. If we accomplish every last one of our goals perfectly, perhaps we aimed too low in the first place. Upon not realizing a specific goal we should not pout and wonder why we could not be better people. This is the time to start again. If you made a goal to not smoke a cigarette the entire year, but three months in you broke down and had a fag, do not abandon your goal. Just accept that you messed up, forgive yourself and put it in the past. Far too often we are weighed down by our ugly transgressions of yesteryear. Realize that you are not perfect, and that you can and will do better tomorrow and the day after that.

January first is a splendid time to make goals. But we can start our list whenever we want. Our year does not have to be in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. We can use the Berber calendar, the Chinese calendar, the Islamic calendar, or if we are feeling the true need to back track and start over we can use the Juche calendar where it is only the year 103. The good news is that you do not have to make your New Year’s Resolutions until April 15; the bad news is that that day is in commemoration of the birth of Kim Il Sung. Whatever it may be, make goals, write them down and do your best. 2k14 baby.