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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.

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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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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Freeze Frame

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I don’t usually hitchhike on bandwagons, but this one rides smooth, gets good gas mileage, and possibly ends at an amazing destination.

A friend asked me to take part in the internet phenomenon, The Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness and money for the horrible illness Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease“.

It took the life of a family member and has stricken the lives of people I know. So, I loaded up a kitchen pot full of ice water, fetched my teenaged daughter as an assistant and gave my wife my iPhone to shoot the results.

This is connected to the writing prompt, “phenomenon”, at http://www.velvetverbosity.com.

Today’s song is from the J. Geils band. I couldn’t pull the trigger on Foreigner, Madonna, Vanilla Ice, Slayer or Metallica. This is too good of a cause.

If you would like to donate to ALS, go here: http://t.co/PFA50C9Pxa – MJsArmy.org

Never Said

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It is a 20-year-old tale told by a fool, full of drunkenness and pity, signifying something, and when the Facebook friend request popped up I ignored her on instinct. The following message made me grin, wide, but guilt as cargo. My wife sat three feet away on the family living room sofa as I read.

What is the airspeed velocity of a flying monkey?

I remembered. Two decades earlier the person behind the message and I sat on a sad, yellowed couch watching The Simpsons. It was the episode where Mr. Burns unleashes his flying monkeys. We quoted every line, laughed at each joke, and plotted our own entertainment successes that never happened. Against better judgment, I answered.

Fly my pretties! Fly!

I didn’t wait for her response. I shut my laptop and walked into the kitchen to look for a diet soda. I opened the refrigerator, popped the top, and drifted into a memory.

I stood in front of a dirty fridge looking at a twelve pack of beer, a pack of cheese, some condiments and left over pizza. She had followed me into the kitchen, chattering about our plans.

“When we make it as comedy writers and stand ups, we’re never drinking cheap beer from a can.”

I swigged a Natural Light while tossing her one as she leaned against the lime green wall phone with a cord that could stretch into all five rooms; kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms. She caught it with her left hand and said.

“Tell me your first joke you’re going to do at the open mic tomorrow.”

I frowned at the thought of performing in front of just her. As close as we were, it was a competitive relationship. I didn’t trust her. If she liked my material, she’d downplay her delight. If she didn’t like it, she’s patronize my feelings. I took the bait like a hungry catfish.

“Hey, how’s everyone doing? I just graduated college and my post graduate work is making strangers laugh enough so that the important guy in the back running this place gives me a break and I’ll have my own sitcom by Christmas. So please, for the love of poverty, don’t forget to tip your waitresses. I plan on sweet talking one for a twenty buck loan at the end of the night.”

She drank her beer, then grinned. I fumed.

“What?” I demanded.

She stepped toward me, tossed back another drink, and answered.

“That’s so adorable, you’ll get laughs and get laid by the waitress.”

She patronized me. I knew her so well. I walked past her and looked for the black spiral notebook that contained my best stuff. I felt her hand on my back as I reached the bedroom.

“Who is she?”

The refrigerator door shut and I was back. My wife stood a few feet away with her arms crossed, holding her cell phone with raised eyebrows and a mischievous smile.

“Somebody I used to know from my stand up comedy days. I denied the friend request. answered her message, then walked away. I was going to tell you.”

She met me in front of the fridge and leaned in for a kiss. She brushed away strands of brown but gray-tinged hair from my eyes.

“I know, but I was bad. I looked her up on my phone. She’s not as pretty as me, and it looks like she’s unhappy with her life. If she messages you again, tell me, and I’ll have her killed by the end of  the day.”

We both broke into loud laughter. I composed myself, kissed her, then said.

“You’re the funny one, these days. Maybe I should take you to an open mic.”

I followed her into the living room. We never said anything else, about her, or my life, back then.

http://youtu.be/RCP-UIs2kpM

You Get What You Give, Blogher Part 2

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Last time: http://lancemyblogcanbeatupyourblog.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/save-me-san-francisco-blogher-part-I/

Being around hundreds of others who do do what you do, the mantra “blogging is hard” gets reinforced and validated. I heard stories just like mine, mostly of a different gender, since I was one of few dudes at BlogHer.

“I write in line to pick up my kids.”

“I blog late at night after everyone has been asleep for hours.”

“I’ve done my best work on cocktail napkins while out at dinner with my significant other.”

I also met many people who do more than detail personal diaries of their kids’ adventures growing up.

Friday, day 2 of BlogHer, was my personal favorite as I learned the most about the conference and myself. This sounds ridiculously coy, but I had no clue of my audience. Sure, I’ve connected, online, with thousands of people, sold some books, and gotten positive feedback on the politics and pop culture site I tri-launched in January 2014, http://www.leftypop.com , but it’s hard to believe numbers and messages on a screen. By the end of breakfast, I’d met, face to face, so many people who’ve read this space and my other one; messaged, retweeted, shared, liked, favorite and emailed. Hugging and talking to people I’ve admired for years was overwhelming. Meeting people larger than their 200 x 200 avatars was a great feeling. I didn’t mind the worst breakfast burrito ever because the connections and conversations were unique and satisfying.

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This experience was supported by the morning keynote speaker, Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess. Her meteoric rise to internet fame was told brilliantly by her recollection of her first BlogHer, six years ago, meeting Dooce, arguably the web’s first celebrity blogger, Heather Armstrong. Lawson talked about “geeking out”, then pledging to write her own story and become successful. Lawson is a hero to many in the blogging community because of her plain-spokeness and championing of mental illness. I got close to her, about 15 feet, but several others were having their own moment with the star. Maybe I was witnessing the next Bloggess, hugging and complimenting their inspiration near the restrooms. It was like watching a real-life Behind The Music but with slightly less drugs and nudity. The Bloggess was the perfect role model for so many bloggers.

The first session I attended may have been the best and worth the entire trip. I sat in a panel discussion about book publishing with 4 successful authors including Kami Wycoff, whom I I’ve read and admired. My writing friend Rachel aka @rachelintheoc sat next to me and even helped me organize my own blog. She’s found a ton of success an a published author and her help will be invaluable.

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Over the past 4 years I’ve written 4 manuscripts, including an 83,000 novel that lurks in a zip file, and three 45,000 plus word novellas, publishing two, The Ballad Of Helene Troy and Soul To Body on amazon.com for kindle and lulu.com in paperback. Reviews were good but sales were not and I wondered it I was doing it all wrong or wasting my time altogether. No one handed me a book deal or assigned me an agent, but the advice on networking and writing process affirmed my belief in what I’m doing.

Keep Writing

Keep Trying

Keep Putting Yourself Out There

Keep Believing.

At the end of the class, I pulled out a lighter and started to sway. Not really, maybe.

I figured out that talent and hard work find an audience you nurture. I slipped so many business cards into well connected fingers, I’m convinced 1 or 2 didn’t end up picking turkey sandwich morsels of their teeth later during lunch.

The afternoon session on freelance writing had nothing to do with me personally, although my name is Lance and I write a lot for free. Four writers, two of which I follow on the Twitter, Jenn Pozner and Liz Henry, talked about putting a price on your work and getting paid for freelance. I’ve done a little of this and learned I’m doing it wrong. Their were a lot of shocked faces and shaking heads as the panel lectured us on how to earn money for our magic. Selling your words can feel gross when it’s not a book or an entire website you run. The class showed me how to get over it.

As day two came to a professional close, I felt more confidence that I had in a long time. I’m not doing anything wrong, but I know I can do it better. Blogging and professional writing is frustrating when you think it’s just friends, foes, families and fellow freaks occasionally checking you out. I learned it’s more than that. I need to give myself more credit. Blogging is hard but there’s another mantra, you get what you give, especially for those of us with the dreamer’s disease. I should’ve sang that at karaoke.

Part 3 tomorrow night; killer karaoke, years of friendship made real, being late to the party was a good thing and breaking glass.

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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Save Me San Francisco – BlogHer Part I

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When you spend most of your time in one kind of box wanting to get out, the empty feeling of containment can only be helped by breathing new air. The first thing I noticed getting off the plane in San Francisco was the continual breeze, the Bay Area current that symbolized the different kind of people that live there.

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When my wife. aka The Bobina, and I figured out we could navigate budget and schedule, a week before school starts for two of our three daughters, we signed up for BlogHer 2014, the tenth anniversary of a blogging conference that started in Northern California in 2005. Since I started blogging almost five years ago, I’ve become integrated into several communities and some of those people have attended and talked about BlogHer for years. I’ve been in a deep rut, writing, personally, especially on this space, but the successful launch of my other site, Lefty Pop aka @lefty_pop http://www.leftypop.com I co-own with Linda aka @modmomelleroy, meant I had an opportunity to really figure out what I’m doing and how to do it better.

After landing on Thursday, we rented a car and drove to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, becoming serious tourists, taking pictures with Alcatraz in the background.

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Despite locals telling us that it was unseasonably warm, about 80 degrees, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Bay breeze. In my hometown of Atlanta, summer days are characterized by a stifling hot temperature and air that feels like a scalding wet washcloth smacking you in the face when you walk outside.

We spent several hours walking, eating, shopping, and photographing. I’m never calm, but relaxation swept over me. The left coast gets mocked where I’m from but step one of getting out of the box and the rut was complete. I didn’t even care when we hit the fifth souvenir store. This felt more than a working weekend vacation. It was an intervention.

By the time we knew the way to San Jose, I was energized. We checked into the hotel and the conference, then planned our night, meeting more than a dozen amazing people I’d previously only known in 200 x 200 avatar settings on a computer screen. I didn’t even think about the general weirdness of it all. The quote of the weekend belonged to my writing friend Natalie Ricci aka @singingfool1224 of the blog The Cat Lady Sings who answered someone else saying they felt awkward meeting people, “hey, no one here was the prom queen, we’re all pretty awkward.”

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I wasn’t the prom king, either. Being dropped into an island of outcasts was refreshing, like the Bay breeze. I quickly realized that while I did fly west to figure out how to blog better, sell more books, and promote my politics and promote Lefty Pop, with the great double-barreled blast of San Francisco and San Jose, I was also saving myself from the piping hot, stale-aired wet washcloth of self-doubt that had me considering blogging suicide.

The much needed Save Lance intervention was just starting.

Part 2 tomorrow; featuring The Bloggess, book publishing secrets, business card bonanza, freelancing, tribes, and being late to the party.

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

bookcoverpicajjhkasfpaperbackpicturesad