I am pissed.

I’m supposed to be talking about the new Avengers movie (which I’ve seen 3 times already) or even that wack-ass Mayweather-Pacquaio fight (I REALLY want my $100 back) or even talking through Netflix’s amazing Daredevil show. But I can’t. There’s bigger fish to fry.

And pissed doesn’t even cover it. Pissed is when you step in dog shit or drop your $600 iPhone or when your kid forgets their clarinet after you’ve driven 20 minutes to school in a Florida torrential downpour and they don’t let you know until you just walk back in the door. That’s pissed. It’s an inconvenience. An unfortunate turn of events.

I am angry. And I’m angry at this:

If you don’t know, that’s Baltimore. At the time of this writing, the city of Baltimore is closing out a week of protests, riots, curfews and a full-blown state of emergency that saw 4000 National Guard troops brought in to quell the disturbance. Some 200 business were destroyed, community centers and local shelters burned, 486 arrests made, and more than 100 officers injured.

And a man is dead, his spine severed. Six police officers are charged with his death.

It’s easy to blame the victims in all of this. It’s easy to point fingers at those protesting and rioting, easy to question, “Why destroy your own community?” or call those involved “idiots” and “thugs”. It’s easy to sit on our computers and phones, healthily removed from the fray and tweet or craft memes that poke fun or share Huffington Post articles about the right and wrongness of it all. It’s easy when you’re not there, when you don’t have to be there, when you don’t actually have to get your hands dirty, and pretend to be enlightened and judgmental and then turn from coverage to watch the 2-hour finale of Grey’s Anatomy or rush out to the Thursday showing of the Avengers: Age of Ultron (I did—I am complicit as well).

It’s easy to be the rest of us.

But a Black man is dead—again. In a poor community—again. And police are to blame for his death—again.

It’s the “again” that bugs me and the ambivalence the rest of us can hold in the face of such a tragedy. That part is troublesome. We don’t care because we don’t have to. We don’t care that this is a community with more than 50% unemployment, nearly 10 times the national average. We don’t care that this community closed multiple rec and community centers, depriving its youth of positive outlets and activities. We don’t care that the Baltimore public school system has an active school-to-prison pipeline, accounting for 90% of Maryland’s juvenile justice system referrals.

We don’t care. And that’s the problem.

No one cares.

When the school systems or government agencies fail you; when your community organizations are unable or unwilling to provide the resources you need; when your federal government stands a whopping 45 minutes down the road and chooses to turn a blind eye; when generational poverty becomes the norm and you see opportunity after opportunity denied to you; when you continually see those who look like you become victims of those who are sworn to protect you—it only takes a little push to see that powerlessness and frustration spark into a violent outrage, a marching, yelling, screaming, looting, burning maelstrom of human emotion.

I’m angry that another Black man is dead. I’m angry that the police are complicit in the death of this man and we have to go through this stupid exercise, with bated breath, to see if justice will actually be done. I’m angry that people have found a CVS to matter more than Freddie Gray, more than the lives of the residents in Baltimore. I’m mad that the news only chooses to show Black rioters and protesters, that it has the audacity to call them idiots and thugs while glossing over the white rioters looting for the sake of looting. I’m angry that these same news organizations flash past the gang rape on the beaches of Florida over Spring Break or the fraternity members spitting on Wounded Veterans, but are perfectly comfortable calling people who look like me, who feel powerless like me, names. I’m angry that the mother who beat her child into making better choices, who chose to parent her kid on national television, is subject to character assassination on the O’Reilly Factor and is the target of a CPS investigation. I’m furious that fucking Facebook REALLY wants me to give to earthquake relief in Nepal but seems oblivious to the emergency on our own shores.

And I’m angry because a man is dead, the police are charged for his murder, and, now that the curfew is lifted and the National Guard is leaving, in a week, no one will care.

I missed this place…the sights, the smells. The Swoaps. I probably should have cleaned up though.

But I have to say, it’s kinda nice to be missed.

As writers, we pray that our words touch someone, impact them in some way. We hope the things we write matter to someone outside of ourselves. That’s the point, right? To give something to someone and affect them. Right?

I walked away from this whole writing thing a year ago, not because I dissatisfied or disillusioned, but because I ran out of things to say. For my second book, Come Hell or High Water, I finished the third or fourth draft (yes, it is actually finished) and hit a roadblock: it felt broken to me and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I didn’t feel like I had what it took to tell that story—at least not the right way. I put it down, put it away. I was loving blogging but hating the responsibility of it: life was a pesky, persistent thing then and when writing became a chore instead of a joy, I didn’t want it anymore. And I didn’t know what to talk about. Every article online tells you an author should have a reason for their blog, something they are trying to say or achieve or provide—something coherent that would bring people back again and again. I had villains and DMFRH and How We Broke DisneyWorld and the Swoaps—oooh the Swoaps, my favorites! But my blog seemed like a hodge podge of random thoughts without discipline.

So I stopped.

I moved on. I focused on helping people. I was good. Until you dragged me back into this freak show.

OK so that’s Bruce Banner’s line from the Avengers (had to see if you’re paying attention) but it’s not entirely untrue. I did move on. Like far. While I was away, I moved my family from the lush grayness of Seattle to the sunny clusterfuck that is Florida (sorry my Florida friends but you know I’m right). 3509 thrilling miles with The Boy, the Honey Badger, the Wife, the niece (I think I introduced her as the Fox but we renamed her to Skipper—she loves it!), and the Damn Dog—2 cars (1 of which lost a part in every state), a 26-foot Penske truck (that I crashed at a gas station), and a trailer (that actually came off of and got stuck under the truck 1 mile from my return spot). Talk about fantastic.

But I did focus on helping people. Kinda. Ok no, I didn’t. Instead, I quit my job, started my own consulting firm (a firm of one—holla!), and watched my wife launch her own travel agency. We have one kid who has to get homeschooled now since the state of Florida cannot calculate a GPA that low (guess who?), another who is allergic to college, and a third who wants to do her schoolwork while jumping on a trampoline with roller skates on. It’s been an interesting year to say the least.

Until you dragged me back into this freakshow.

A couple of things happened: my father-in-law let me know that he’d been reading my blog and was missing it and its connection to me. I’d often said that if you wanted to understand me, read the things I’ve written (I’m horribly honest). I didn’t think someone actually would. But he did and his words poked my heart. Then we had the Season 5 finale of The Walking Dead. Stay with me, it’s gonna make sense in a second: I wrote a Facebook post recapping my reactions to the finale—with spoilers—and not only did I love writing it, it had a little bit of virality (that’s a word now, dammit). I mean it was like pink eye in the daycare viral (and yes, I know pink eye is a bacterial infection–let it ride, Nurse Ratchet) but still, I got enjoyment and so did the readers. One of the comments was, “I can read anything he writes!” Anything? Huh…I’d never considered that people were reading the blog for whatever the hell I was gonna say, not because I was focusing on villains or breaking Disney or cussing about my kid. It really didn’t matter what I wrote…hadn’t thought about that before.

So fine, I’m back, bitches! What? Too soon? Ok, I’m just back. And we’ll see how it goes. I still have that villainy goodness—you know Avengers 2 comes out next week and Ultron seems ripe for a review. I still have the Boy—DMFRH is the gift that keeps on giving. I still have my books—for all you Heaven Falls fans, not only am I determined to release Come Hell or High Water this year, but the Honey Badger actually gave me both the central conflict and the overall theme for the 3rd book. Right now, Damned If I Do, seems like a fitting title. And I have whatever else comes to mind: I want to talk about those Unsung Other Dudes like John Oates and the guy from Wham! and the dude who used to host American Idol back in Season One. I’ll talk about The Walking Dead because…it’s The Walking Dead and it’s amazing! Whatever comes to mind is a topic we can explore.

In short, I’m sorry I left you (without a dope beat to step to). Seriously, I’m really sorry I left without saying goodbye. That won’t happen again. Hang with me and I’ll hang with you and we can have some fun. Deal?

 

FRIDAY NIGHT FIEND: LOVE

Posted: January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

I bet you thought I was gonna do my little Welcome to 2014, here’s my one rinky-dink goal for the year and dip out, didn’t you? Oh ye of little faith…

See here’s the thing: I’m earnestly doing rewrites right now because the other voices in my head—the ones you don’t know about, the ones who don’t let me sleep or take control of my hand during boring ass conference calls and draw themselves or the ones who have big plans like “Make me an action figure!” or “Remember that graphic novel? There’s the thing called Comixology where we can post for free…”—yeah, those folks won’t shut up. But because I’m knee-deep in making Come Hell or High Water ready for you, my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed wicked little readers, I tend to approach the world through the lenses of my characters. And right now, I’m living La Vida Lucifer—I’m going to apologize in advance for whatever else happens on this blog.

Antywayz, in 1984 Anna Mae Bullock AKA Tina “I Did It First, Beyonce, Stop Dick Riding” Turner asked a quintessential question: What’s love got to do with it? Well apparently a lot: I was going over some of my old posts about villains (which I do just for amusement) and realized there was a nice segment of them whose villainous exploits were triggered and maintained by good old-fashioned L-O-V-E. I mean, these cats did everything from boiling bunnies to becoming immortal…let’s take a look:

First up, Alex Forrest. You remember her, doncha? She’s the only reason (for real) you know who Glenn Close is (because, seriously, it ain’t because of Damages). She and Michael Douglas had a hot and sexy, stolen rendezvous and one of them caught the vapors. I won’t ruin the surprise but “someone” broke into “somebody’s” house an put their pet rabbit on the stove. And that was just to get his attention. Your girl tried to ruin his life and marriage, faked a suicide attempt, and finally came at him with a knife and my man’s wife shot her.

That’s just the first one on the list. It doesn’t really get any better.

You got Gaston from Beauty and the Beast fame. Now his crimes in the name of love aren’t so bad: when Belle spurns his advances, Gaston has her father committed, leads a torch and pitchfork assault on the Beast’s castle, and shanks Beast in the back while your boy is trying to save him. This is a Disney cartoon. While I am not a fan, Gaston does have a pretty hilarious Twitter account.

But wait, there’s more!

Disney came back with another damaged soul for us to examine. Davy Jones CUT OUT HIS OWN HEART AND HAS AN OCTOPUS FOR A FACE! You need me to say more? Fine, Davy Jones is the ferryman for purgatory, taking souls between life and death, so he could kick it with his woman, Calypso. And when she didn’t show up one day in 10 years, my man imprisoned her in a human body and started destroying people with a giant squid. And he cut out his own heart and put it in a box. I mean damn.

Maybe it’s a stretch but have you seen Gollum? This cat has a 3-hour segment on My Strange Addictions because he has a passionate love affair with a ring. And oh did he let himself go! Smeagle killed his best friend, started eating raw fish, goblins and people, lost his teeth and his hair, and declared war on the sun (you know he needs SPF 3000). He gained a split personality and was so in love with the ring, he tracked it for 60 years (in a loin cloth!), bit Frodo’s finger off, and dove into a volcano to save it. And it wasn’t even alive…

Shit, even the finest show on television is a victim of the same thing: Walter White AKA Heisenberg is driven to set up a meth lab, commit numerous murders—he poisoned a woman, set up automatic weapons in his trunk, orchestrated the killing of 9 people in 2 minutes in prison, blew half of Gus Fring’s body off, and ran over 2 people with an Aztek. Y’all this was a highschool chemistry teacher. But he loved his wife and kids.

But love in the villains worlds makes folks do some otherworldly stuff. Look at Dracula. In the Bram Stoker version, my man loses his woman and curses God enough to become a blood-sucking immortal. Dracula outlived everyone he cared about, ate hundreds of other people, killed the entire crew of a ship commuting to London. And then created an entire race of people who, worse than Gollum, can’t have sunlight (except him), can hypnotize people, make somebody eat rats, turn into bats, wolves, and fog, and can’t be killed by normal means.

I’m gonna end this with my main man. You know I’m a Darth Vader fan. You know this. Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader over love. He gives up everything he knows, betrays his friends, kills a bunch of kids, tries to kill his teacher/ace so he learn how to live forever so his woman won’t die. Then he turns around and chokes her out, loses her anyway, gets burnt to a crisp, tries to kill his son—twice, tortures his daughter, and blows up a planet. This is the worst case of PW in cinematic history.

I’m gonna wrap this one up a little diddy from the J. Gelis band that sums it all up. Catch ya next week!

So I guess after 8 days, 2014 is here to stay, huh? I can’t be the only one who came into this year with a “It’s 2014? Goddammit <sigh> Fiiinnnneee…”

It seemed like this year came up entirely too fast. I wasn’t ready; I hadn’t made any resolutions or decisions or goals or anything. Last thing I remember, my mom was in my house telling me how “sexy as hell” Henry Cavill is as Superman in Man of Steel (folks, hearing your mom tell you ANYBODY is sexy as hell is disturbing anyway but I LIKED that movie. Shit…) and the next thing I know, Schmancy down the street is inviting us down for champagne and flank steak and God knows what else.

I wasn’t ready!

I didn’t even have a fantastic Facebook status or an end-of-the-year blog post or 140 characters worth of 40-year-old wisdom and optimism. I was just a collection of “Isn’t it time for these lights to come down?” and “when do y’all go back to school?” Then I got sad about it because I’m reading other people’s This Is The Year of Awesomeness posts and that only made matters worse. Guess I should say something, huh?

I spent the last 8 days trying to figure why I didn’t have much to say. Why, even toward the latter part of 2013, my little well of wordiness seemed to dry up. I think I get it now. Have you ever had that moment at work where you look down at the spreadsheet, or realize you haven’t heard the last 10 minutes of that conference call, or are having vivid daydreams of throwing shit at your boss and realize that there is not another productive thing you can offer in that day? Imagine having that in like October for the remainder of the year. Yeah, that’s what happened. If you look back, and I know you will, you’ll see a general decline in the timeliness of my posts right around October—right around when the Swoaps got arrested.

The truth is, I didn’t want 2013 to end because I wasn’t done. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked or fell into the tar pits that life often places in your path. I didn’t do everything I set out to do and I just wasn’t done. But enough lamenting, let’s look at how things shook out.

And a note, there is a reason to not write shit down: people tend to hold you accountable:

In the beginning of 2013, I wrote a little post called Hey 2012! You Can Kick Rocks! 2012 was a tougher year for me and I had plenty to gripe about. In that lovely post, reviewed my goals from 2012 and set a couple new ones for 2013. Only a couple. Which is good because I didn’t do shit. Well, let me clarify: I didn’t do a lot of shit. Here’s the nonsense I said at the beginning of 2013:

Author Goals

  • Write a blog post 2 times a week
  • Complete Come Hell or High Water
  • Participate in a 1 blog tour in 2013
  • Complete one graphic novel script
  • Write one non-Angel related novel

Publishing Goals

  • Publish Come Hell or High Water
  • Publish Crooked Letterz’ Big Book of Villains

Look at that—these are moderately feasible goals. They’re not ridiculous, they don’t smack of hubris or unrealistic expectations. They’re fair and valid goals. So how did I do?

  • Write one blog post 2 times a week. To be fair, I didn’t realize that schedule until I was like halfway through the year. But still, I knocked out 50 posts in 2013. 50! That is 1 post a week and I took December off! How bout that?
  • Complete Come Hell or High Water. I’m tired of talking about this book. You’re probably tired of hearing about this book. But I did actually complete it. Close your mouth—yes, I did. I finished it in July, thank you very much. Then came the spate of rewrites and climbing the mountain of making the book everything it should be dwarfed the molehill that was the first draft. Truth is, all of this lovely imagery is just a disguise for me saying I procrastinated.
  • Complete 1 blog tour in 2013. It is awfully tough to participate in a blog tour for a book you don’t have. Not a whole lot to promote. Um…this didn’t happen.
  • Write one graphic novel script. Believe it or not, this actually happened. My cousin is an artist and I’ve always had a dream about doing graphic novels. We shared some texts and emails, came with a pretty decent Nat Turner-meets-Superman type of story (you’d have to actually read it). It’s gonna happen, we just have these other commitments hanging over our heads.
  • Write one non-Angel related novel. Yeah, no. I planned it. Plotted it out. No words on the page though.

Let me be brief on the Publishing goals. I didn’t meet either one of these because publishing a book generally takes a book to publish. And on the Big Book of Villains, the only head way I made was working with an attorney to make sure I wouldn’t get my ass sued by Disney, Marvel, Sony, LucasFilm, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, Scholastic, Hasbro, Comedy Central, and fucking Katniss. Mission Accomplished. Seriously, I should be able to knock this one out in 2014.

But other stuff did happen that wasn’t writing-related. My wife got better, then got worse, then got better. That was a good thing. She took herself to Disney World, Disneyland, and then on a Disney Cruise—hey, when you survive cancer, you win. Do what you want. I changed jobs and got some FANTASTIC financial news in the process. I also learned I suck at managing money (but you have to say this like Debbie Downer). My aunt passed away and so did my good buddy, Rocky the WonderDog. I got a puppy, Lady the Damn Dog—now before you say anything, have you ever had a puppy? Ever? I can handle the “every 2 hours I gotta pee” thing. I don’t get the “let me eat your walls” thing. The fuck is that?

The Boy was…The Boy. His phone met a hammer, his Xbox went out the window, and he is now officially taller than me. The Honey Badger dropped that childish innocence with an unauthorized pool party, fucking FaceTime, and 3am texts on New Year’s Eve. Her phone is currently on Craigslist. And we got a new kid in the mix: The Fox joined the party and all she wants to do is DANCE! No, seriously, all she wants to do is graduate and she has 6 months left.

My point is, even though I didn’t reach my writing/publishing goals for 2013, I lived those 365 days. I made the most of my time with my wife, my family, my dog, my career. Every day I didn’t put words on the page was a day I was putting time into the living, breathing mammals that inhabit my life. My sole goal for 2014 is to find balance. To find the time and energy to give each facet of my life the attention it deserves.

And just when I started to feel bad for what I hadn’t accomplished over 2013, I read this:

No Regrets

That, my friends, is the Happy New Year’s post from your friends and mine, Melanie and John Swoap. She makes a point here–a HUDGE one: if they can enter a New Year with no regrets after defrauding a bunch of little girls, getting arrested for back child support, taking a cruise while under indictment, lying to the state of Tennessee for continued unemployment employment benefits, refusing to pay their employees, and trying to gain disability benefits for being bipolar and a couple of shoddy suicide attempts, I can certainly sleep well for missing a couple publication deadlines.

Perspective, people. Perspective.

Happy New Year! Catch ya on Friday!

Wonder WomanI know you think I don’t love you. I know you get tired of me sweeping in and out of your life, one day I’m here and have a schedule and the next I’m off in radio silence. Yeah, well sometimes it be’s like that.

Actually, I haven’t said anything because I haven’t had much to say. It wasn’t writer’s block—it was life’s block. In the last month or so, my life has been 2 parts Brian McKnight’s Where Do We Go From Here? and 1 part Bebe &Cece Winans’ It’s OK and while things are cool (or getting cooler), they demanded my focus. Oh yeah, in the midst of this nonsense, like a disease, I contracted a hater too. But, as much fun as it would be, I’m not gonna talk about that yet—we’ll save it for Tuesday.

But today, in the afterglow of Thanksgiving and the advent of the holiday season, I’m feeling thankful. I’m thankful for you, for hanging with me after all this time. I’m thankful for every eyeball on my words, every comment and like and Share. I’m thankful for the Swoaps (say what???) and DMFRHs and Friday Night Fiends and Stacy Case and…my hater.

Today, I want to revisit an older idea. A little bit ago, I wrote a post about misogyny, particularly in superhero movies. I lamented the lack of female heroines in the movies, highlighted Scarlett Johannsen’s portrayal of the Black Widow in The Avengers, and dogged the shit outta Warner Bros and DC for their hesitance in bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen because she was “tricky.”

Well, this week somebody called my bluff. If you haven’t heard already, not only will Diana Prince be in the next Man of Steel movie, she’s already been cast. Say whaaattt? Yep, in 2015 we’ll see some incarnation of the Amazon princess in a major motion picture and she’ll be played by Gal Gadot.

Aw, that’s aweso—wait, who?

Yeah, that’s the first thing I said: who the hell is Gal Gadot? Then I looked at the pic:

Gal-Gadot

Oh, she’s one of the women who look like the other women from the Fast and Furious franchise?

But the first reaction I got was, “She doesn’t look like Wonder Woman. She’s too skinny. She’s too small.” Same reaction you heard too, right? If you checked the comments on any site anywhere that reported on her casting, all the responses where about her physical appearance. My problem was, those reactions I was hearing came out of my own house. And some of them came out of my own mouth.

Now I don’t generally debate a woman’s physicality. I watched every episode of Linda Carter as Diana Prince didn’t have an issue. I bought Lindsay Wagner as the Bionic Woman and buff-ass Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Michele Yeoh will beat the shit out of all of us. Anne Hathaway made it happen as Catwoman. Zoe Saldana is rail thin but have you seen Colombiana? She scares me.

But when they said Wonder Woman, here’s where I went:

GINA CARANO at the Fast & Furious 6 Premiere in Los Angeles

That’s Gina Carano. She’s a UFC fighter. She’s RAW! She’s tall, beautiful, curvy, got muscles and the fearsome demeanor, and a thing going with Henry Cavill—but she can’t act to save her life. She has this movie called Haywire (you can find it on Netflix) that I’ve tried to watch twice but can’t stomach it. And that’s saying a lot: I liked the first Wolverine movie, am a fan of Out of Sight with Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, and have watched (and loved) almost all of the Godzilla movies. I like shitty movies. I couldn’t do this one.

Here’s the thing: I bought hook, line and sinker into an overly-sexed, objectified view of a what a powerful woman must be. Because it’s Wonder Woman, does she automatically have to look like Jessica Rabbit? She’s the most iconic, most powerful woman in DC or Marvel universes and she’s relegated to wearing a bustier and hot pants—the idea is we wouldn’t buy her power, her capability, if she didn’t show cleavage.

And I’m mad at myself that I went there too.

Wonder Woman is strong, complex, beautiful and a warrior. Gal Gadot meets all the requirements for the role. She is actually an actress. Say what you want about that franchise but she’s been in movies that have grossed nearly $1B at the box office. That means she can carry the nuances of a character that has spent her life as a warrior and a princess of an island full of women and acting as an ambassador to the rest of the world. Complex? Check. Gadot is beautiful, no question about that. She was Miss Israel in 2004 and has been a model. So we can check off pretty. And she can fight. See, Israel has this mandatory 2-year service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). They have their own martial arts called Krav Maga. If you’ve ever seen it, it’s an exceptionally efficient, brutal technique of disarmament and overpowering. She can kick some ass. And she does all her own stunts in the Fast and the Furious. So strong and a warrior? Yeah, check.

Lastly, she actually looks like Wonder Woman. Like the comic initially intended.

Gal Gadot and Wonder Woman

Actors transform themselves for their roles. Christian Bale last 50 pounds for the Machinist and then adopted both an American accent and that heavy growl for Batman. Henry Cavill for so bulked up and sculpted my mother said “I think he is sexy as hell” (which set up an exceptionally awkward night of movie watching). Heath Ledger went from being a gay cowboy to a psychopathic, anarchist, murderous clown in what has become the definitive portrayal of the Joker. The point is we can do better. I can do better. Instead of focusing on how that woman looks or whether she measures up with some comic book ideal of what a powerful woman should look like, I decided to take a page from the Honey Badger. I told her Wonder Woman was finally making it into the movies. She just smiled and said, “Cool!”

Cool.

Don’t say it—I know what day it is (and I don’t even need that damn camel to tell me). I know I’ve been absent. There’s a reason…

Let me paint you a picture: I am standing in the middle of an open field, eyes closed, hands outstretched, communing with nature. Then the sky darkens, suddenly, rain begins falling then strafing the landscape, pelting my face. The wind picks up, sweeping across the land, grabbing sticks and tree limbs, rocks and debris, swirling around me in a roaring maelstrom. One moment I was in the center of peace; the next, in the eye of a hurricane.

That, my friends, is life. My life.

In the last couple of weeks, I fell of my game: my novel rewrites screeched to a halt and, while I tried to uncover the secrets locked within Come Hell or High Water, I haven’t written here like I should have. Sleep is a precious commodity I can ill afford. My gym has filed for divorce and wants alimony. Why? Because, while I’m more than the sum of my parts, each one of my parts needs something. My wife needs my time and attention and I’ve taken to writing her a letter daily to let her know I give a shit about how she feels. My kids need more oversight than I considered: the Honey Badger is actively searching for her Prince Charming (she’s fucking 11! 11! She needs to be searching for My Little Pony). The Boy has renewed his subscription to Doing Dumb Shit magazine and is now a Platinum subscriber—he even got the 64% cotton FuckIt t-shirt. And two suspensions. Two.

Here’s how that ended:

Uh Oh...

Uh oh Spaghetti-oos! This is what “I Hope It Was Worth It” looks like in my house.

wait wait wait—like Kanye West, I’ma finish in a minute but let me tell you watching my wife smash a hammer into an iPhone 4S and seeing that plume of glass was something I will never forget.  It was almost as funny as when she charged into The Boy’s room like Hurricane Amanda and tossed his xBox out the window. Did you hear that? She threw his xBox out of the bedroom window. That it hit an aluminum bat on the way down is another matter entirely.

Anyway, there’s plenty happening. I do have a novel I’m supposed to be updating. I try to write to 2 blogs 3 times a week. I get hungry. I have a dog. You may or may not know it but I’m a professional too and the people who pay me seem to want to sort of return on their investment. I know, right? Asses. Part of that ROI (because that’s how we say Return on Investment at the club *cue rich old man laugh*) means I have to get my Project Management Professional, or PMP, certification. The Boy calls it my PiMP certification. Those snazzy little three letters equal 35 hours of classes plus test prep and an actual test. Yeah, so there’s that.

What it comes down to is me being pulled in a variety of directions on the way to getting where I’m actually supposed to go. Where we’re supposed to go. Navigating this journey we call life really means making a series of choices and investments. Time is our most precious commodity and choosing how we spend it and where we invest it are the most significant choices.

Recently those significant choices, my choices on where I spend my time and invest my talents have come under fire. The return on that investment doesn’t seem to meet other people’s measurements. I don’t spend enough time writing or I’ve made the wrong choices in my professional career or the person I’ve chosen to spend my life with or the type of parent I choose to be, prescriptive or permissive—it doesn’t satisfy their assessment. It doesn’t meet their standards. But here’s the thing: when the ledger of my life is tallied and the accounting is all said and done, it won’t be a single, solitary human being doing the math.

The idea is simply this: live and let live. It isn’t my place to comment on the choices you make for your life because they are your distinct choices for your specific set of circumstances. Where your life is destined to go, who you’re destined to be, is something none of us can see or understand or comprehend. There is always more that pushes us, that drives us, that shapes and molds us and steers us where we’re supposed to go. If we follow the example of everyone else, we’ll simply be everyone else. I don’t think we were made to be same.

I’m learning that it’s okay to not give a shit what other people think. We get one shot at this life. I’m choosing to live mine. Live yours.

And that’s why I chose to be a squirrel for Halloween. Seriously.

I know it ain’t Tuesday. I know I didn’t give you anything on Friday either. I know, if you follow my other blog, Falling From Grace, I haven’t dropped anything in a couple weeks. I have a reason: I have bigger things to focus on.

And that’s what we get to talk about today.

One of the most popular series of the posts on this blog was about a couple of jackasses from Tennessee who decided to dog the shit out of my wife…and then defraud a bunch of little girls. You might remember them. You also might remember I said I wouldn’t do another post about them—and I’m not—because they have real charges and they have kids and things were getting serious for them. So I won’t talk about how they are the dumbest criminals ever. I won’t talk about how your girl went on a Disney cruise while under bond, without the bond company’s permission and now it looks like she’s fleeing. I won’t discuss your boy not only being unable to retain an attorney (after 2 continuances), but also being detained (read arrested—again) for non-payment of child support for another child. I won’t talk about how he went into court yesterday bullshittin about his lack of attorney and ended up getting transported from Franklin to Memphis by a fugitive task force.

And while this is funny…

John2

…seriously, you can forward any correspondence to his current address at 201 Poplar, the Shelby County jail in Memphis—it has a sad side too. There are real victims in this: children and single mothers and dancers and agents.

There are bigger things to consider.

Today is my 4th wedding anniversary. I’d love to say the 4 years of marriage and the 5 years that preceded it were magic. Yeah, that would be a damn lie. Have they been easy? Hell no! Have they been worth it? Hell yes! In those 9 years, I’ve moved across country, tried to be a parent to two kids I didn’t create, tried to be a good husband to a woman who’s seen the darker sides of life. I’ve tried to build myself as a man, a professional, and an author. I’ve watched friends come and go, had some family members stand by me and others shit on my relationship. I’ve been embraced by my kids and played to the curb by them on the same day.

What I’ve learned over the last 9 years is it’s the bigger things that matter. Marriages don’t work on their own. Children don’t become positive, contributing members of society by themselves. We don’t realize our potential and become the people we’re meant to be through osmosis. My friends in Tennessee, on all sides of this equation, are working to be where they are. They are working to avoid their responsibilities, working to get over on someone else…or working to make sure a child flourishes in spite of who her father is.

The last 9 years have been work—and today, on our anniversary, we’re working now. Last night, I spent the evening counseling my daughter on how to handle her first note from a boy, talking with my son’s girlfriend about how to approach the teenage pregnancy of a classmate, working with my wife on how to get out of debt and finally buy a house. It’s work.

The bigger things always are.

RemakeDamienI haven’t made a big deal of it but it’s October. If you follow this blog—and we both know you do—you know that October means my wife has 31 damn days of unfettered access to the TV, movies, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Pookie and Nem’s Video Rental and Lingerie Emporium to showcase her love of scary movies. Since I’ve never really been a fan of horror flicks, I’ve generally called this month Ballstober—the 31 days where I tighten up that sphincter and watch whatever she puts on TV.

And as much shit as I talk about my disdain for these travesties of cinema, there are a couple that I dig, like The Thing and Alien. And there are some that traumatized me as a kid like the Amityville Horror or The Exorcist. And then there’s The Omen series.  That’s some whole other shit.

The Omen is a trilogy of movies that chronicle the birth and rise to power of the Anti-Christ in the guise of Damien Thorn. And for the record, I’m talking about the original movies with Gregory Peck and Lee Rennick, not the one with Julia Stiles (I keep waiting for the black dude from Save The Last Dance to jump in) and Sabretooth from the Wolverine movie. And I don’t usually give spoilers but I’m gonna ruin this shit.

I’m gonna assume you know the deal: Mr. and Mrs. Thorn (I don’t remember their real names) have a beautiful baby boy under some “interesting” circumstances and then decide to name him Damien—which means “y’all fixin to die” in Common Sense. Things are alright until creepy shit starts to happen: at my man’s second or third birthday party, the maid hangs herself AT THE PARTY! There are kids and shit, cake and clowns, and this chick jumps out the window with a bedsheet around her neck, talking about “It’s all for you!” That ain’t all. Animals, like zoo animals, REALLY don’t like little man. Really don’t like him. Big, black rotweilers just show up. And so does Mia Farrow (but that might be the new one)—whatever, then a creepy new housekeeper shows up and she buys a dog that doesn’t like Mr. Thorn. Oh, and then they try to take the boy to church and he completely loses his shit.

Shenanigans ensue, the boy kills his mama, priests get involved and try to warn Mr. Thorn. A reporter starts looking into who Damien is. Come to find out the Thorns’ real baby died, Mr. Thorn steals another child whose mama happens to be a jackal (yes, I said jackal), and my man has to kill the boy with some special Ginsu knives. Old Mr. Thorn doesn’t believe this supernatural nonsense until someone says, “Yeah, well the boy has to have a mark on him. You know that Mark of the Beast? That 666? Gotta be on the kid somewhere.” And, after cutting away some hair in the middle of the night, there it is.

Let me pause right here. I was sooooo engrossed in this movie as a kid that I got up right then, went into the bathroom to see if I had the that 666 in my own scalp. And, truth be told, I’ve checked the Honey Badger too. Twice. I’m still not wholly convinced. Anyway, the plan to kill the boy goes wrong, Mr. Thorn gets shot by the police and Damien’s smiling, sadistic little ass goes to live with his aunt and uncle.

That’s just the first movie. In that movie, Damien was really just along for the ride. He was too young to do anything so there were significant agents (i.e. dogs, ravens, cranes that cut people’s heads off) operating on his behalf. In the second movie, though, my man comes into his own: he discovers who and what he is and embraces it. This one is actually my favorite but there is one image that will live with me forever.

See, I’m from Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes. Truth is, it’s more like 15,000 lakes. And not all of them are marked. We always knew winter had truly arrived when the news reported some idiot snowmobiling over an unmarked lake before it was cold enough, falling in, and freezing/drowning. It was one of those PSAs you just come to know because of where you live. As a result, I’ve always been a little scared of lakes in the winter (THIS, and the fact that I am a Black man, are why I never go ice-fishing and never learned how to ice-skate). In Damien: The Omen II, there is a scene where this guy falls through the ice during a hockey game and they watch him die. It’s FUCKED UP! Once Damien decided he was comfortable being the Anti-Christ (he did have a moment of doubt), he killed his cousin by crushing his brain by looking at him and set his aunt and uncle on fire.

By the time we get to The Omen III: The Final Conflict, Damien is running for president. And winning. In fear of the Second Coming of Christ, my man has all the boys in England born on a certain date killed, slaughters a group of priests and uses a small boy as a human shield. It isn’t until he calls Jesus out personally that Damien is finally stopped. This movie bothered me so bad I didn’t want to watch Jurassic Park because Sam Neill was in it.

And this wasn’t helping…

When the Jews return to Zion

And a comet rips the sky

And the Holy Roman Empire rises,

Then you and I must die.

From the eternal sea he rises,

Creating armies on either shore,

Turning man against his brother

‘Til man exists no more.

That’s it! Provided I get over this sinus infection, I’ll catch you Tuesday.

WaltYou know, I kinda forgot about you. It wasn’t on purp—wait, come back! Aw baby, don’t be like that. Listen—would ya listen? So I had all the best intentions of giving you a Friday Night Fiend ON FRIDAY. I did, really. But life came in and said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Instead, I got the Day Job Dragon biting my ass and won’t let go, a sick Honey Badger (who now sounds like a slow-motion dolphin), a wife with 102 degree fever wanting to put her hot ass feet on me, the Damn Dog believing that muddy footprints make fantastic interior décor, and then The Boy got fucking suspended.

I even started writing it, then I got sidetracked, then, when I finally realized that I never posted anything, I got a case of the Fuck-Its.

But here I am! All yours! And you knew this was coming, Pete.

There is no way I could bid farewell to one of the finest cinematic renditions of a good man’s descent into inhumanity and not have anything to say about it. That ain’t me. I talk about the gray area that lives in each of us, the one that vacillates between good and evil. And I said vacillate—SAT word, people! Plus, I want the hits. I’m selfish. Sue me. So your first October Friday Night—err, Monday Night—Fiend is the chemistry teacher turned meth-making mastermind, Walter White.

And cuz I’m not a total ass, I’m gonna actually give you a spoiler alert. Hey dippy, if you don’t want Breaking Bad ruined, stop reading blogs that feature the main character AFTER the conclusion has aired. Do like the rest of us did and watch it all on Netflix in like a week and catch up.

Now that that’s out the way, let me say this: I dig this dude. It’s not because Walt’s cool (he’s not), it’s because he thought he was. Every step of the way, throughout his entire descent, he thought he was doing the right thing. Well, the wrong thing, but for the right reasons. And we thought so too. Look at him: he’s a high school chemistry teacher who’s seen his better years, and ideas, pass him by. He works part time at a car wash, getting screamed on by the Russian dude who owns it. And then comes home to his pregnant wife and disabled kid. Walt’s a good guy, doing what he’s supposed to do, being the husband and father he’s supposed to be, and life hands him a terminal cancer diagnosis.

That’s how the show starts.

Where else can Walt go? He’s gonna die and you and I know that teachers in the good ol’ US of A aren’t paid enough to take care of themselves, much less handle cancer and chemo and medical bills and pregnancy and college. Walt’s stuck between a rock and hard place and his hard place has a due date, right? Walt has a life expectancy and it’s about 2 years.

So what does Walt do? What any 50-year-old with terminal cancer, $8,000 and a working knowledge of chemistry would do: start a meth lab. Isn’t that your retirement strategy? No? Not one of the options for your 401K? But here’s the thing: he’s good at it. He’s not just good at cooking meth (and he’s REALLY good at cooking meth), he’s good at running meth empires. He’s also good at poisoning kids, lying to his wife, robbing trains, driving his car into people, misleading (and later threatening) his DEA brother-in-law (that “tread lightly” shit was AWESOME!), killing 9 inmates in prison in 2 fucking minutes, watching heroin addicts die, and committing the greatest murder in TV history:

Gus

There will be hundreds of thousands of words written on Walter White and his descent into darkness. There will those who will say that Walter White was always Heisenberg, that he found his true self. Of course, that somebody would be Walter White himself: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. It was the only time I felt alive.”

For me, the awesome thing about Walter White is that he’s each and every one of us. And for those of you saying, “I would never”—shaddup! Shut up! Yes, you would. We all would. That was the thing about Walter White: his motives, at least in the beginning, were pure. He just wanted to leave something behind for his family after he was gone. Hate his methods but you can’t argue his motive. And how many of us have contemplated something less than savory because it gave our children a leg up? You know you’ve given that English a better Christmas gift than necessary so your son might fucking pass (maybe that’s me). You know you’ve volunteered for shit you could care less about doing so your daughter could be with the right crowd. Whether it’s one additional deduction on your 1040 form or adding a zero to that Goodwill receipt for that old computer and those dirty sneakers, we’ve all taken some “liberties” to get where we need to go.

This got longer than intended. We loved Walt because he expressed the duality of who we all are, at base. Criminal activity aside, we all have different sides to ourselves and need to indulge them to feel alive. To feel complete. Walt embraced the man he was “supposed” to be and it damn near killed him. Being Heisenberg gave him a second lease on life. His own life. And that was worth watching.

Catch ya next time!

Guess what day it iiiiisssss! Guess what day it is! MikeMikeMikeMikeMike…you know what day it is. It is not Tuesday (yes, I am aware). But it is Hump Day and that has to count for something. And, as an aside, I cannot be the only person who thinks Denzel is voicing that camel, am I? I keep waiting for him to say something about sending people to Pelican Bay.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about something—anything—and I choose (like this is the Hunger Games) 7 little words that changed my life: Hey, you know what we could do?

When I was a kid, my brother would promise the most exhilarating and potentially painful adventures with these simple words. It didn’t matter what it was: sliding down the steps in laundry baskets (they tip forward and you bust your face), riding down the sledding hill on the backs on Tonka trucks (it was AWESOME!), making a tape recorded news show full of farts and blaming it on my sister, selling peeks in Playboy magazines to neighborhood kids (that was wholly his idea—I just took the money). Didn’t matter what it was. Didn’t matter that it would inevitably end in Band-Aids and butt whippings. Whatever it was, with those 7 little words, I was down.

When he figured out how to make 3000 juniors from 9 different schools in the Twin Cities skip school and come to Lake Nokomis for a pizza party DURING STANDARDIZED TESTING because “it wasn’t fair seniors got a skip day and juniors didn’t,” my brother took You Know What We Could Do to another level. The St. Paul Police tried to arrest my mother for contributing to the delinquency of 3000 minors. The Catholic school we attended for one semester tried to expel all three of us. His last words, right before my mother tried to shake his teeth out his head, was “I did something you couldn’t do. You should be applauding my ingenuity.”

I did something you couldn’t do. You should be applauding my ingenuity.

Bold words from a 16-year-old, huh? At the time, I didn’t get what he was trying to do. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just fall in line, do what other people would do, adhere to the rules set before him. Stop trying to turn the world on its head. But that was then.

Writers are encouraged beaten over the head trained to ask What If questions. What if your 200-pound Saint Bernard got rabies? What if your parents got shot in front of you and you became a symbol of revenge for a crime-ridden city? What if a rich woman and young, broke artist fell in love on a doomed oceanliner? That’s what writers do. We take the things we all know and love and turn it on its head. We take life, add What If, and mix. That’s what we’re supposed to do.

My brother taught me to do something different.

My brother taught me to think completely outside the box. To approach every story saying “Hey, you know what we could do?” Tell the story of the war in Heaven from the Devil’s point of view. Examine morality from the perspective of the ones whose hands should be the cleanest. Take a slave, give her god-like power, and drop her in Harlem. In the 60s. Or in the post-9/11 Middle East.

That’s what we could do.

These days, my brother is an engineer, which means he gets paid to say Hey You Know What We Could Do and figure out how to make it happen. And since he hasn’t gotten fired, I assume he’s good at it. These days I write stories completely from left field. Because I can. Because my brother inspired me to.

And I am applauding his ingenuity. Love ya, B!

That’s the deal. Catch ya Friday!