Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, I’m A SMITH

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If you hang around blogging long enough you become one of “those people”, that don’t write. It’s been a while and I have plenty of excuses but lack the energy to list them. I used to make fun of people who didn’t blog every day or every other day, then I turned into one. What happened to me? Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, I lost a fight to someone bigger and tougher than me, real life.

I miss it, I promise. The prompts, like my own creation, 100 Word Song, the tight-knit community of like-minds and same publish button-pushers. Then my oldest daughter went to college, I started traveling for work, the other website I started ten months ago needed attention I couldn’t give, and my own mental illness started running my game by its rules.

Wait, those are excuses. It must have been the burrito I had for lunch that gave me the strength.

I’m struggling, with a lot of things. For now, I’m still working on the sequel of The Ballad Of Helene Troy, called Woman Of Troy. I hope to release it by the end of the year. Silas and Olive will be made into a novella, too, to be released soon.

I wrote two pieces, one serious, one humorous, about my life with mental illness, bi-polar disorder, and the things that surround it for my a new book coming out around March 2015 called SMITH – Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor.

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Since I was a teenager I wanted to be a Smith, and now I am, maybe not Johnny Marr or Morrissey but a new kind of SMITH. I’ll keep you updated on when the book comes out in the spring. Here is our the website

My focus for this space needs to return on what I love to do, fiction writing and posts about myself and the four women of whom I live. I need to say thank you to the dozen or so people who have inquired as to what the heck I’m doing with my writing life. Things are still busy at Lefty http://www.leftypop.com, please go there.

The notebooks are full, my mind is active, and characters are being developed. I just need to start hitting publish more often.

One of the changes I’ve made in my life that’s affected my writing is we cut our cable television off. Now, I’m watching my handful of favorite shows through HULU, NETFLIX, and whatever streaming services there are over my phone. This has allowed for more time to scribe.

I’m here, and I’ll be more, here, soon. Maybe, even tomorrow. I apologize for turning into one of “those people” that you view their blog and it says the last post was a date requiring an “s” to be added to the word “week”.

Since I’m a SMITH, I should play The Smiths. They just got nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Bittersweet Symphony

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Sipping a Diet Coke, eating lukewarm Chinese take out in a two and a half star hotel room in the middle of Massachusetts is how I unceremoniously reached middle-age, 44-years-old, a little over two weeks ago, while taking an inventory of the first half of my life.

Like so much of my time as a “grown-up”, I laughed at the lack of pomp or circumstance of my birthday and searched for the nugget of gratefulness at being alive, at least for another day, month, and hopefully, year.

When my dad was 44, he had a 23-year-old recent college graduate son, to whom he seemed like a very old man, clad in country club golfer attire and perpetually preaching about insurance, getting a good job, and settling down.

As I embrace the dub 4s, I’m just hoping this CrossFit knee injury heals soon, I can find time to write, rock and roll makes a comeback before I think it’s too loud to listen to and my wife and three daughters allow my key to work when I get home at the end of each day.

I’ve been traveling for work, thus why I recognized mid-life a thousand miles from home earlier this month, and not writing as much I usually do.

I like to say I’m on year 8 of my mid-life crisis, but the truth is closer to the fact that my 44 is completely different from my dad’s and I’m slowly getting use to it and will one day be okay with it all.

I’m not the man I thought I’d be. I work only part-time in journalism, writing is more of glorified hobby, and my day job pays the bills and equates to the analogy as an overthinking busybody lighthouse keeper guiding ships along their way through my home, my writing commitments, and whatever friends have decided to stick around, even after knowing the mess that is me.

Over the past year, I’ve been hanging around old high school friends. This is something I never thought would happen. After re-establishing contact with fellow forty-somethings through the media that are social, we reunited, and found how much we viewed our lives differently, but through a common scope.

There are days I feel ancient like after a workout because body maintenance is important but harder than ever, or hanging with my college freshman daughter, or being in line at the grocery store with twenty-somethings who prattle on about staying out all night.

Recently, I was in one of those places and the 1997 alternative music anthem, Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve came on the sound system. I found myself grooving in the aisle with an impromptu five-minute therapy session. It felt amazing and assumed my dad or his friends never did that at my age.

There are things I’m fine with and wish my fellow forties would be as well.

It’s okay I’m not as conservative as my parents and grandparents. My open-mindedness has made me friends and acquaintances that have made my life more interesting.

I don’t think my eight tattoos, all received between the ages of 35 and 42, will make me look stupid later in life. Each one has a story.

I’m glad I sold my golf clubs a few years ago and started blogging. You can do it in your underwear and it costs a lot less than a round of eighteen.

I still hate most country music as much as I did when I was a teenager and this means I’m not giving in. Nothing says you’re getting old than listening to the same music as your parents and grandparents.

The Verve’s Urban Hymns album contains Bittersweet Symphony is a wiser person’s guide. It predicts the future, puts the past in perspective, and soothes the savage that is aging.

“‘Cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life try to make ends meet, you’re a slave to money then you die I’ll take you down the only road I’ve ever been down you know the one that takes you to the places where all the veins meet yeah”.

I have to end this post because it’s time to get my youngest daughter on the bus and go to work. But do me and many others my age a favor. The next time you see one of us lost in the grooves of Bittersweet Symphony in a store or at a kids’ ballgame, don’t bug us. We’re in a cathartic, profound moment that qualifies as intense psychoanalysis.

That’s forty-four, these days.

 

I wrote two books. They got good reviews. The third one, a sequel to the first, Woman Of Troy, is on the way, very soon.

The Ballad of Helene Troy, an underdog story about a female musician in New York City, and Soul To Body, about an ex-1990s guitar player trying to raise his teenage daughter after the death of his wife, her mother, are available, digitally, on Amazon.com for your kindles, and in paperback from Lulu.com

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Cartoon

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Last time: http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/heaven-knows/

I needed something to stop the tears after leaving my daughter at college and the rock song of her generation blaring from a nearby dorm made me feel even older, so stopped at the red light and tapped my iPhone music library. The opening lyric, “now everybody’s looking after me,
If I’m dragging by some coat tail“, in front of twangy late 1980s college rock guitar brought on a 26-year-old memory I didn’t realize was there.

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Dude, like really, could you give us a minute! She’s upset!”

I surveyed the uncomfortable situation and didn’t know what to do. With two minutes before my 10th ever freshman DJ shift at the student radio station, I was being ordered out of the studio so some guy I didn’t know could console a crying girl I did know. The room was small, dark, and suffocating with more than two people inside. I tried to please two masters, my radio gig duty and their wishes to be rid of me. I decided to cue up my first record on the turntable next to the girl so I leaned into the thin, pale sophomore named Jule. I suspected her name it was Julie or maybe Julianne and she was reinventing herself like the rest of us social rejects at college. Those were the types that inhabited the University of Alabama student radio station, WVUA, in the fall of 1988.

“Why do you keep doing this to us? Leave us alone for five f**king minutes, a**hole!”

I thought I was a melodramatic bad actor but this guy blew me off the stage. The  vinyl record was ready with needle on groove, all that had to be done was push a button and the world would hear staion approved college rock for the top of the hour of 1am.

Before I walked out, I turned to Jule and placed my hand on her shoulder. We’d hung out for a few minutes at a time during station meetings. She was from suburban Atlanta, Georgia like me, but a town about an hour away. I muttered over my shoulder as I reached the door.

“Hang in there, I hope you’re okay.”

The guy started to scream at me again.

“Get the fu…..”

Jule placed one hand over his mouth and pointed to the door with the other. When he pushed away from her and stayed in his chair, she growled, low and intentional.

“The music comes first, here. It’s his shift, you leave and don’t call me, again.”

He got up, threw the rickety black office chair back into the radio console with his butt, then glared at me. He elbowed my chest like a rebounding basketball power forward and cursed into the hallway. I looked at the clock in the studio then at Jule. She wiped her eyes, rubbed her hands on her dirty jeans, then asked.

“What are you starting your show with?”

Her lips trembled. I wanted to ask her what happened. Instead, I just answered.

“Soul Asylum, Cartoon, it’s my favorite song right now, well, you know, until tomorrow.”

She laughed and leaned back in her chair as I pushed the button.

Like my teenager, I had a different life one month into my college career. I owe her a huge thanks for instant recall.

Heaven Knows

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Walking the streets of downtown Atlanta on a weekend afternoon is an assault on the senses as the sights, sounds, and smells of the previous night’s sins are prominent with a college campus the featured resident. I strolled out of the parking garage and began texting my Georgia State freshman daughter because I knew she wouldn’t answer a call since it’s 2014 and she has twitter. Before I could finish the message, I’d reached the courtyard of her dorm and looked up to see a little blond thing in a sweatshirt, shorts, and long golden hair greet her dumb dad.

“Hey, you. T (her roommate) saw you get out of your car so I just came on down. Let’s walk to my favorite Chinese food place.”

I held back a tear, as I hadn’t seen her in two weeks, traveling for work, missing her return home a few days, before. She let me lean on her shoulder at a cross section while we waited for a truck to turn right. I whispered.

“I missed you.”

I knew not to say it too loud as four boys she was familiar with approached us and everyone exchanged hellos.  She knew them from class, I assured myself.

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The Chinese food place was closed so we opted for plan B, wings and French Fries at a sports bar type joint, two storefronts down. She turned and smiled.

“I knew you’d pick wings.”

I started with a list of questions I’d mentally written down on the drive. We delved into her favorite class at the moment, philosophy, which was mine, too, when I was a college freshman, 126, I mean 26 years earlier, at the University of Alabama.

A few minutes after the food arrived, she started opening up about her life, slightly less than a month old. She’d changed a set of friends, found a church she liked, gotten off to a great start with her roommate, and figured out how to get to class without being too terribly late. I couldn’t stop looking at her face. Her smile was intentional and infectious. The dour, mean high school girl had changed. She was something totally different. She even slipped and said she missed me. It must have been the Mountain Dew talking.

I almost didn’t go back to her dorm. I was afraid of evidence like dirty clothes, old pizza boxes, maybe a beer can that didn’t belong or something that would make a worried, fussy father even worse. As rock music played from one dorm room we walked by, I braced for something nerve-wracking, instead, the discovery I made was much more profound.

Her roommate had the same face, smiley and anxious. The room was clean. They looked like young women not girls. After a while, I realized I didn’t belong and my stomach was already hurting. My welcome was worn out between the greasy food and cursory laughs at my bad jokes when I walked into their new home. She had homework piled up on her desk and a meet up with church friends in less than 2 hours. She sighed.

“I have an essay to write.”

I’m increasingly impatient with the attitudes of people my age towards those of my daughter’s. Maybe at other guys’ girls’ dorms at other colleges there were signs of immaturity and laziness, but at least for this day, my kid and her roomie had put on an excellent show. She had a new life, and it was going well. She didn’t ask for money and the hug and kiss she returned were sincere.

I waited till I got back to my car in the five dollar garage before I broke down. That, my daughter had earned. Heaven knows whether or not she’s making wise choices and taking advantage of her college opportunity. The mutual respect and shared trust taught me a lot. I haven’t screwed this up, so far.

Here’s The Pretty Reckless

What I Like About You

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In two weeks I turn 44-years-old and what scares me the most is I still have little to no self-esteem. You would think after more than half my life gone I’d have accumulated some cockiness about my resume. Nope.

A couple of months ago, I visited a new psychiatrist. She was a very nice Indian-American lady who exuded warmth, kindness and positivity. Either she was a fantastic actress or the perfect person for her chosen profession. She made me feel safe, welcome, and relatively okay, for a crazy person.

One of the things she told me was I was too hard on myself and didn’t give myself enough credit for the good stuff I’d done and my positive attributes. She gave me homework that of course I didn’t do, until today.

“Go home and write 5 things you like about yourself and say them aloud to the mirror.”

My first thought was, lady, you’re lovely, but I’m a writer, isn’t that enough narcissism for one person. Then I realized I was paying her for the hour, so eventually I obliged.

It was difficult. Five things about me? Really? I’m a mess. Okay, but note, I wrote out like seven, then realized that two of them were sarcastic lies so the five you’ll read are absolutely it. I don’t recommend any of you do this, because I know most of you will whine about paring your list from 37 to a top five and then I’ll have to hate you.

5) My taste and knowledge of music is pretty stellar. I can’t remember my kids’ names but I can recite Lou Reed lyrics from the Transformer album. I always forget at least two things on my wife’s grocery list but I know more about 1970s punk and glam rock and 1990s grunge and alternative music than the average dude or dudette. People ask me for playlists all the time, tag me in their Facebook posts about music stuff, and if one more person argues with me about the merits of Diamond David Lee Roth Van Halen versus Sammy Hagar Van Halen I’m going to curse them to choke on brown M&Ms. If you don’t get that reference, we can’t be friends.

4) I don’t drink coffee or play the lottery. This means I’m the perfect person to be in line with at a convenience store. You don’t have to worry about me bickering over the quality of the cappuccino mix or taking 14 extra minutes selecting scratch off tickets.

3) I’m reliable. I hated this about me until about five years ago. I’ve moved over 30 people by either owning or tracking down a truck, dollies, and boxes. I’ve bailed over 10 people out of jail. I’ve never failed to pick someone up from the airport, school, or work when they needed a ride. You ask me to be somewhere, I’m 97.3 percent of the time punctual and proud to do it, publically. Privately, I’m probably making fun of you and making snide remarks. Seriously, I’m that dude you’re supposed to call because it’s the right thing to do.

2) I can write. I’m not saying I’m Hemingway or Palahniuk or even Franzen but I think I know what I’m doing. Time and deadlines are hard to meet sometimes because of real life but I know my way around sentence structure and storytelling. My editing sucks, but I have people for that. I think I know what I’m doing as a writer compared to most.

1) I’m a good parent. I didn’t say I was a great one because that’s crazy talk. I know my 3 daughters love me, mostly behind my back, but with one in college and two others at the tops of their classes, I haven’t screwed them up or nullified the fantastic work of their mother. There’s a lot of love in our house and all 3 of my girls are smart, beautiful, and can tell a good joke.

What are your good attributes? Please, limit them to five. I’m very fragile, emotionally. You start showing off with more than that, and the next 47 posts will be dark dystopian tales of woe that will make you want to punch yourself in the face, too.

Here’s The Romantics.

http://youtu.be/Rqnw5IfbZOU

I wrote two books. They got good reviews. The third one, a sequel to the first, Woman Of Troy, is on the way, very soon.

The Ballad of Helene Troy, an underdog story about a female musician in New York City, and Soul To Body, about an ex-1990s guitar player trying to raise his teenage daughter after the death of his wife, her mother, are available, digitally, on Amazon.com for your kindles, and in paperback from Lulu.com

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Always On The Run

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Chewing my breakfast in the car, I ignored apple Danish smudge my thumb left on the phone screen. I typed good luck with first day of college classes to my oldest daughter while my middle one waved goodbye and walked into school.

 

http://yeahwrite.me/gargleblaster-176/

The ultimate question

Lace up those sneakers – this week’s ultimate question is designed to get you moving.

What are we running for?

Basket Case

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Walking the ten steps upstairs to pick up clothes for the laundry basket, check the cat’s food bowl, and shudder at the mess of my 3 daughters’ bedrooms is a routine that has suddenly changed because one of them is gone.

Since my 18-year-old daughter graduated high school in the spring and prepared to leave for college, there have been a lot of tears. Yet, with her moved in to the college dormitory at Georgia State University yesterday, I realized that those bouts of crying were in anticipation of a harsh reality that she’s no longer living in my house. Now, I’m just numb.

College move in day was pretty standard stuff. I bought and hooked up a mini-fridge, maneuvered around several twenty minute parking zones in downtown Atlanta, and owned my dad moment when I handed over pink pepper spray mace and lectured her on being smart and safe as a pretty, naïve, young woman on a large Metropolitan campus.

It was a long hard day without a defining moment. My wife and I were just like the other moms and dads stumbling around looking for carts to roll boxes into rooms and kicking ourselves for forgetting obvious stuff like silverware and toilet paper. We were too busy to stop, drop and roll through our emotions and pinpoint the mind-blowing instant our lives were splitting the atom and changing forever.

Until I went upstairs this morning, and saw her room, almost empty, and without her.

For the emotionally draining months to come to a mildly anti-climatic end seemed appropriate. This is real life. I have two other daughters currently filibustering for their sister’s room, to take care of and stress over growing into the same kind of young woman my oldest did.

Now, I follow my college enrolled daughter’s day through her social media accounts wondering if there’s a boy just out of screenshot or she’s eating something more than Doritos and cheese dip.

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Our relationship has been unique because I didn’t meet her until she was twelve, we were friends while I dated her mom, then became dad after we married. It’s a 37 minute drive from our driveway to her dorm. I know at some point I’ll embarrass her and show up for a lunch or a freak out night trip after she doesn’t return a phone call because she left her phone at a fraternity party.

Friends who have gone through this have told me it gets better. “You’ve done all the hard work and it’s all up to her, now”. I don’t think I buy into that, just yet. The next four or five years of her life in college will matter a lot more than the ones before it because of the choices she makes off the lessons her mom and I have tried to teach. As hard as yesterday was, It had to happen.

Now, I just hope she let’s me fine tune some of those lessons and realizes I wasn’t just some annoying basket case after all.

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