April 25, 2016 - Comments Off on Easy Like Sunday Morning

Easy Like Sunday Morning

So this woodpecker recently became my nemesis:

IMG_3940

Sure, maybe he does look like a sweet cutie pie who oddly resembles one of those rocket pops aging wannabe pederasts sell out of ice cream trucks at the community swimming pool:

rocket-pop_1x

What is not shown in the above photograph is the ferocious, thunderous knocking that begins at 6:00am on the only day a week I actually get to sleep in a bit. The best part is it sounds like someone urgently banging on my door, which reflexively blossoms every anxiety developed over ten years of living in Brooklyn. Is it a murderer? Someone delivering awful news? Am I on fire? Who knows! Note: I'm not sure why a murderer would knock but surely one has at some point and this is my delusion so don't judge.

We have a lot of birds out here at Ratna Ling. There are the manic and tiny ruby throated hummingbirds that seem to blink in and out of another dimension at will. There are turkeys that stalk the property like dinosaurs, occasionally making an obscene cackling gobble noise. There are ravens that I'm pretty sure just follow the volunteers around hoping we suddenly drop dead. I don't know why I feel that way, guess they just give that vibe off.

IMG_3034

The turkeys at Ratna Ling are remarkably full of themselves, considering they're always mere minutes from being part of a sandwich.

Point is every one of those birds has a natural function, however weird and insipid it seems to my limited, anthropocentric point of view. When I step back, and meditation definitely helps with that, it becomes more clear. There's a role, a function, a purpose. That's something I learned at a young age but am still understanding more deeply as my life unfolds. Also, the wifi is pretty spotty out here so you just get more time to contemplate turkeys.

So after my initial panicked emotional response triggered by a woodpecker subsided this morning, and I was laying there cursing it's very being, wishing it's soul and the soul of every being it ever loved into some Hell brimming with Donald Trumps and Guy Fieri's, I finally had to realize that this was my shit to deal with.

Here I was, unbelievably annoyed by an incomprehensible expression of the universe into a singular living thing doing what it was born to do- which is apparently to peck incessantly on my cabin wall. All of these awful feelings were raging through me and I was totally mentally out of control. I just laid there, feeling really bad and wasting time - because of a woodpecker. How dumb is that?

Maybe it's some kind of sign I should have been waking up earlier to get some writing done or go for a run through the forest. Or maybe you don't believe in signs. It really doesn't matter, because it has entered the fabric of my reality and the fact is that now I have to deal with it. So I've decided to murder it. Kidding! I'm just going to see if I can not get so annoyed next week.

One thing I'm learning through consistent meditation is that every time you can bring your awareness back is a tiny victory, one step on a very long path. The concept is hardly limited to meditation or mindfulness though - it works for woodpeckers and the daily situations where it helps to step back and look at what's really transpiring, as opposed to the patterns and repetitive actions I take. It's usually embarrassing, sometimes surprising, but so far it's always been worthwhile in the end.

April 11, 2016 - Comments Off on Ratna Ling, Week 1

Ratna Ling, Week 1

IMG_3768

Hello my friends!

I've recently made a glacial shift in my life, joining a yearlong work/study program in Northern California at Ratna Ling.

Since I've been here for one full week now I figured it made sense to give an update on my experience so far. Basically, it's been lovely! In turns I've been engaged, deeply interested, motivated, and in awe of the people and surroundings here. There's a lot more to say about it, but let's start by breaking down a day, shall we?

5:45am - Alarm goes off, roll out of my (bunk) bed. I've found that going to bed in sweatpants makes the process of getting moving that much easier. I was decidedly not a "morning person" but that's honestly bullshit, you can readjust your schedule to get up early within a couple of days pretty easily.

I have a really sweet roommate, Eben, who greeted me into our room with some welcome notes and even rearranged some furniture in the room to make it more comfortable for two people to live in. He wakes up at the same time and we drag ourselves to morning Kum Nye yoga class in the Meditation Hall from 6-7am.

IMG_3783

It's a beautiful space, we're not allowed to share photos of it (sacred and holy areas require discretion, transmission of knowledge is guarded and not for everyone) but it has high vaulted wooden ceilings and is adorned with photos of Tibetan masters of the Nyingma lineage, prayer wheels, and gorgeous Buddhist artwork. It's a perfect space for stretching, connecting with the body, and breathing to start the day. This time of year we begin class in darkness, and finish as the sun comes up, which is especially energizing.

7:00am - Breakfast is just a quick walk from the Meditation Hall across the garden pond. There's a fully stocked restaurant-grade kitchen that volunteers are given free reign over. You just need to stay out of the way of the team preparing meals for retreat guests, but so far I've had amazing smoothies, granola with fresh fruit, and one time leftover coconut merengue pie (don't judge). There's never a shortage of coffee and tea, and you get to enjoy it in the dining hall, with some great views of the surrounding grounds.

IMG_3777

8:00am - All 25 volunteer staff meet at the Stupa for the morning circle, where we chant a mantra to dedicate merit for our daily work. This is followed by announcements, a short reading from Tibetan Buddhist texts and usually a few jokes, and then we start work.

dp_stupa_1024x1024

8:15 - Work begins. The first half of my day is spent at Dharma Publishing, where we kick off with a morning meeting to sort out tasks and responsibilities for the day. One thing I was struck by at Dharma Publishing was the level of autonomy and independence given to all the volunteers. There is very little semblance of traditional hierarchy as we understand it in the west, each volunteer is considered valuable and no idea is discounted outright.

IMG_3778

That independence also means that it's up to you to make those ideas a reality. It's a small team and so far I've helped lay foundation and mix cement for new Stupas, crop and pack sacred artwork for the shipping team, research analytics and metrics for the website sales to make strategic recommendations, and begin a reimagining of one of the organizations digital properties to engage younger audiences.

The team is generally pretty young, multinational (Brazil, Argentina, Latvia, Holland) and very motivated. All proceeds from sales go directly to preserving Tibetan culture, which is being gravely threatened with extinction by China. I'm reminded of this just by looking around, there are Tibetan prayer flags and artwork everywhere, which is and inspiring and sometimes surreal environment to work in.

IMG_3824

12:30pm - Lunch break! The food is vegetarian, which I am not - but it is delicious and over the week I've adjusted to it. I generally feel lighter and more energetic during my day, less lethargic. Although I probably need to cut down on the bread a bit :/

b880e7aed89c8621f491bde4d0e0c616

Lunch is also a great opportunity to socialize with the other volunteers. Everyone has an interesting back story about how they came here, where they came from, and why they're here. I was really surprised by how friendly and welcoming every single person here has been. There's a mix of all ages, some kids fresh out of college and some octogenarians who've been with the Nyingma organization for decades. Groundskeepers, gardeners, warehouse managers, yoga teachers, and forklift operators all converge and break bread, share conversation, laughs and stories. It's really pretty spectacular.

1:30pm - Work resumes, with the second half of my day being spent with the team at the Yeshe De text preservation project. This is a book binding and shipping warehouse. It's no joke, there are four warehouses filled with hundreds of palettes of Tibetan and Western texts. They handle all of the orders that come in through Dharma Publishing while simultaneously using those proceeds to print and bind thousands of Tibetan texts that are given away in India every year at the World Peace Ceremony.

A good summary of the World Peace Ceremony and the Yeshe De project can be found here. Besides helping to preserve the culture of Tibet, this massive project has led to an influx of texts that were normally so rare they were considered off-limits and precious - now laypeople and nuns are able to read and process these texts for the first time. It's led to a resurgence of literacy and a revitalizing of culture among the Tibetan community in India and the surrounding areas.

IMG_6072-1024x795

The bindery workers are really funny and kind, it's repetitive and strenuous work (boxing up books for four hours a day has left some marks on my wrists with sore hands for sure) but they keep a light, joyful atmosphere. It's been interesting to work with sacred texts, and it's a rare opportunity normally afforded only to ordained Buddhist monks and nuns.

It's also a good opportunity to work with the body, and find mindfulness in physical labor and routine activities. Plus, who doesn't want to help these little guys?

DSC00452-1024x768

6pm - We close the work day by chanting and reciting prayer to dedicate the merit of our work for the day - to all sentient beings and anyone in particular in your life who needs it. Once in a while we'll all sit on palettes and stacks of cardboard boxes in a circle and pass around a book, reading passages to the group before closing up shop.

6:15pm-9pm - From here on our you're kind of on your own. So far I've been grabbing a plate of food the kitchen staff prepares and stashing it in the fridge to attend some classes. Typically there's a class in philosophy, history, or art followed by an evening Kum Nye yoga session. The instructors are world-class, and despite being tired after a long day of work I'm always engaged with the teachings. I find time to eat somewhere in there, with a bit more socializing in the common room followed by collapsing into my bed.

There's more to say, but that's a good start for now! I just finished a twelve mile trail run to the coast, and after jumping into the frigid ocean and meditating for a bit on the beach I'm ready for a nap. Morris the cat is way ahead of me:

IMG_3028

More to come! Om Ah Hum.

-Ryan

March 31, 2016 - Comments Off on How Learning Jiu Jitsu Can Help Your Career

How Learning Jiu Jitsu Can Help Your Career

You'll never believe these three simple tricks to stay calm!

  1. Join a Jiu Jitsu class.
  2. Get choked, like a lot.
  3. Try telling me that project review Tuesday with the CMO is really that big a deal.

BJJ promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique, leverage, and most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the opponent. BJJ training can be used for sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition or self-defense.”

— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_jiu-jitsu

jejum-intermitente-atletas

If you ever decide to take Jiu Jitsu (which you should) you will soon learn that a lot of it is accepting someone could seriously harm you and subsequently your giving in.

You're going to get choked to the point of (almost) passing out. Don't worry, it's safe and it's turns out it's actually pretty good for you.

rickson-gracie-breathing

A new study at the University of South Florida (so take that one with a Florida-sized grain of salt) is exploring Jiu Jitsu as a means of treating PTSD in returning US Military Vets. That makes sense, as an activity it promotes fitness, releases endorphines and relieves stress.

The applications learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (or BJJ) and martial arts in my own life have been more pedestrian in nature but invaluable nonetheless. The "runner's high", "yoga bliss", or the "climbing coma" are all well-known altered states of consciousness (ok I made that last one up).

But no form of exercise has been more effective at providing clarity on matters interpersonal and business than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The pure act of going through a simulated life and death struggle for an hour or two will seriously alter the lens you view life through. Other martial arts come close, but this is the safest and overall most healthy option to experience adversity and opposition in a very real way.

cropped-jiu-jitsu-i-aint-even-mad

Very important note, Ronin Athletics is where I learned my initial steady physical practice. They're the best in NYC in my opinion, if you're looking for kind hearted, knowledgeable people to guide you through the process of discovering your physical self. The gym's proprietor, Christian Montes, is a born educator who constantly surprises me. Dude recently started running super marathons, and that's hard even if you're a regular marathon runner. Imagine the focus that takes!

Christian cultivated a mentality of hard work combined wit

There are so many people I love there (I started listing you all and had a panic attack fuck you! I love you) that it's sad I don't live that all day every day. It's just so damn hard to make a living in the arts, even if the art is martial.

I promise you will find your mind glancing back to a situation you were in earlier during the week while shrugging off a confrontation, or finding yourself totally relaxed during what would normally be an anxiety-inducing presentation or public speaking event. Be mindful, it doesn't matter.

iz4OYZC

This isn't to say there's no risk in Jiu Jitsu - I'm still recovering from hip surgeries that were likely caused by my martial arts habits. You'll have to keep yourself safe, know your limits and train smart.

People have written books, created religions on the life lessons of martial arts, the benefits of learning self defense, and the importance of discipline and generating obstacles to overcome for self-improvement. This was for a good reason - and I'll be a student of the martial arts as long as it continues to surprise and teach me. I think meditation and martial arts should be a required subject in school instead of gym, but that's a subject for another post. Ossss motherfuckers! I love you, be awesome and try to kick my ass.

March 31, 2016 - Comments Off on Flash Fiction Content – Entry #3

Flash Fiction Content – Entry #3

Entry #3 for NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Contest

Genre: Science Fiction
Setting: Public Fountain
Object: Paper Airplane

SQa5zAJ

First!

Five friends in Brooklyn decide to give the local thrift store a whirl. A magic item ruins an otherwise most excellent Sunday afternoon.

***

Walking down Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, Elvis turned to Clementine, eying the Japanese Koi swimming up her arms, notes that she looked especially retro-chill today.

Clementine glances down to her sensibly-heeled Flapper shoes, muttering “Thank you honey-bear.”

Levi rolls his eyes, hooking one thumb behind the strap on his overalls, “How quaint.”

“Shut up Levi.” Elvis punctuated his words with his cane sometimes, as he did now. People felt he had more gravitas when there was a striking sound to accompany syllables.

Walking behind them, hand in hand, Homer and Violet could feel the tension building between the two men.

Elvis and Levi had been in a polyamorous relationship together with Clementine for about a year, until a fight had broken out over Levi not replenishing the group’s almond milk often enough. Clementine had chosen Elvis, citing his authenticity, having spent two years as a subsistence farmer with a collective in Buffalo.

“I saw the Pinback reunion last week at Knitting Factory,” Violet interjected, trying to change the subject, “They were alright I guess. Better before everyone knew them for sure. They still had meaning, you know?”

Homer’s huge tangle of a beard bobbed in approval, “Yeah they were better before.” Homer was sensitive about his weight, and found that when he was agreeable people were less likely to talk to him about the hazards of unhealthy eating.

They were on their way to Beacon’s Closet, a vintage clothing store right next to the bespoke olive oil shop that Levi owned. Or rather, the bespoke olive oil shop that Levi’s family owned, as Elvis often liked to point out. People loved that Elvis raised his pinky in an effete manner when he would say this at house parties.

Homer was telling them about the brewing operation running out of his Sunset Park basement. “See the trick is if you use vegetables restaurants throw out you can ferment all kinds of things on the cheap. Shit, I’ve made pepper beer, pineapple beer…”

Inside the shop, crowded with racks of clothes that stank of rejection and old cotton, the teller briefly glanced up and went back to reading Kindling Quarterly. Elvis assumed that was meant to be ironic reading. Then he saw the bundle of sticks next to her and gave a solemn, thoughtful nod.

The store was narrow, low ceilings and pale yellow lighting. Rifling through the racks of old clothes, shoes, sunglasses and hats was a pastime for this group. A sacred space where they could feel pride at being so thrifty. Plus it was a constant conversation topic. People love it when shoes have a good story.

Levi saw it first, drifted forward as though gripped by a dream. His mouth slacked open, slurring a dampened sing-along to the Arcade Fire song currently leaking out of the store’s sound system.

Elvis, failing to command Clementine’s opinion on a cravat that had the most delightful pattern of tiny cat heads, turned to Levi.

“I think this is the bee’s knees, whaddya think Lev? Lev? Levi? Levi!” Elvis followed Levi’s eyes and direction toward the object, bathed in flesh and rose light, appearing to rotate on its perch.

It was a wool newsboy cap, perfectly balanced on an aluminum-foil stand. Grey checked pattern, with the brim slightly tufted where it had been tugged and worn. Probably in some Chinese factory, thought Elvis.

Elvis didn’t find the idea of Levi getting something he enjoyed copacetic, and fancied himself to be the kind of Stand-Up-Guy who took deliberate action on things he didn’t find particularly copacetic. People liked that about Elvis.

And that’s why Elvis quickly strode in front of Levi, snatching the cap off of the cheap foil stand and affixing it to his head in one fluid motion. As he was pulling it upward Elvis did notice some odd markings, symbols he didn’t recognize lining the inside of the cap. China, he thought.

Elvis doffed his new cap, bowing before Levi. “Looks like I’ve got myself some new glad rags for tonight’s dance, eh partner?”

Levi’s shock at being interrupted shifted as the room filled with a steady, low, vibrating rumble. Violet and Clementine looked over as Levi began to point, shout and gibber uncontrollably.

They stood and watched as Elvis was surrounded in a column of swirling black and purple particles. He pressed his hand against the inside of this cylinder, pulling it back quickly as if burned. Elvis became more and more faint, until finally he wasn’t there.

And just like that, Elvis disappeared from all their lives forever.

Clementine cried for a while, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and drinking a lot of Homer’s latest cactus based home-brew. She started dating Levi again about two months after that day in the thrift shop.

Homer found some success with his beer. He married Victoria and they were very happy for about a year. Tragically Homer died when a tank brewing fermented puffer-fish husks exploded.

Victoria is now dating Levi and Clementine, the three of them living in a commune/urban gardening center in Bushwick.

For whatever reason no one really considered Elvis’ disappearance to be that strange. There was no security camera footage of the event, and only a few eyewitnesses. Papers ended up saying they were weirdos, “Hipsters” who probably snorted cocaine.

***

Elvis opened his eyes to take in a cloud of dust and Ford Model-A’s rolling by. A pile of newspapers loosely bundled in twine hit the ground, kicking dirt from the road onto his vintage black & white oxford dress shoes.

He stood, knocking dirt off his pants with the cap and staring around in a resplendent daze. Everything was sepia toned and jittery - like an old film. He tried waving his hands in front of his face, flipped them around to rub his eyes. Nothing changed.

Suddenly it dawned on him - he had traveled back in time. Finally, Elvis thought. I’m first.

March 31, 2016 - Comments Off on Flash Fiction Contest – Entry #2

Flash Fiction Contest – Entry #2

Entry #2 for NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Contest

Genre: Science Fiction
Setting: Public Fountain
Object: Paper Airplane

Mars-Discovery

 

Red Rocks

A miner on Mars confronts the cost of mankind’s bargain for survival.

***

The sunset on Mars defies imagination.

I sit on the edge of the fountain, looking out through the huge domed glass enclosure. It filters the light, makes it syrupy, slow and distorted, arcing over and around the twenty-meter steel gates that seal us from the outside.

Cracking one arthritic elbow I cast my eyes around the public square surrounding the fountain. A few dozen people mill about, many gather around the only exit available - solid stone etched with some runes and markings. Meant to keep some things out. Meant to keep us in.

A small boy with crude metal splints on both legs sits to my right, back propped up against the fountain’s edge. He tosses a paper airplane forward, we both watch it lazily float to the ground, a few hundred meters from where the dome splits the surface. He starts work on a new one. No parents in sight. Can’t blame them. Still, tough draw for a kid.

I catch hushed tones from the Martian citizens, these refugees of a long-lost Earth. Conversation snippets tinged by inevitability, regret.

“…provence.”

“…never even let me say goodbye to my boy.”

“…heard Councilwoman DelRay say it was painless, beautiful even. Do you think…”

One lady in clothes a few sizes too big just sobs loudly, pronated among the red dirt and rock. An elderly couple looks at her dispassionately, continue their conversation.

Leaning back on my hands I consider our situation. It will be dark soon. They will be coming. Mars gets a special kind of dark.

We were to be the backup of humanity’s hard drive on Earth. A few million made it out before The Impact. No one expected that. Just in time, who’d have thought?

Set up two colonies, Alpha and Beta. Alpha was lost shortly after making first contact with Them. The Elders, as our High Council deemed to call them. I didn’t much give a shit what we called Them. Still don’t.

I cough, hard. It doubles me over. Fresh blood on the back of my hand. Red Lung, the end of my twenty-year mining career and my one-way ticket to this here party.

This is the contract. Our collective bargain to continue the human race.

The boy looks up at me, concern on his face. I force a smile, reach down and grab a sheet of paper. Start to make origami - my grandfather taught me to make a frog before I left him and the rest of my family behind. A memory forces it’s way into my brain, out through my mouth to a crippled child.

“My grandpa was a deep sea explorer back on Earth - he ran scouting missions for mining operations shortly before The Impact.” I pause my diligent folding to show him my hands, turning them in the fading light to show off all the knots and swollen joints. “Guess digging up rocks runs in the family.” The boy is silent but looks curious enough, so I resume my work and continue to speak. Nothing better to do anyhow.

“He told me space was a lot like our own ocean. He plumbed our depths and found things so terrible they became beautiful. Beyond light, beyond intellect, so far removed from our experience as apes with brains and cities and churches and rockets that it couldn’t even be understood.”

I stood up to peer at the skyline, all those shades of red collapsing into a singularity of crystalline brick. Stoop down to place the origami frog in the dirt. I flick the tail once and it hops forward toward the boy, who scoops it up. Places it on the ledge of the fountain and nudges it forward.

“Point is… we don’t know what happens, kid.”

The sun finally winks out of sight. On cue powerful floodlights switch on, illuminating the barren desert surrounding our dome. Rotating yellow strobe lights above the gate cast those of us inside with a pale amber glow. The darkness outside swallows it hungrily.

A chattering begins in my head, coalesces into an insectile scratching. Reminds me of when I was nine years old inside my father’s one-bedroom apartment in Queens. And suddenly I’m actually there, the cockroaches crawling over me at night, scattering when I scream and he comes to turn on the light. Shouting at me to shut up, the posters peeling off the wall to reveal more, and more, they move toward me in a writhing black wave and…

I shake my head, reality comes back in a flood of light. They do this, get inside your brain. Happened sometimes in the mines when we’d get too close to a colony. Lost some friends to the madness, clawed at their wrists and throats ’till they bled out. Nasty stuff.

The boy’s eyes have rolled back in his head, he’s trembling and I know he’s sunk in some terrible nightmare too. Looking out at the edge of the dome I see Them amassed by the hundreds, stock-still except their tentacled mouths waving in union, undulating in anticipation.

Peekaboo remember us when you were so young and we were so many already?

I consider leaving the kid in his dream - how could it be worse? But I shake him, bring him to and hand him the frog. “See how far you can get it to jump.” Stupid distraction but he meets my eyes and nods, looks down and flicks the tail with two fingers.

We see you both we’ve seen you for lifetimes it’s not death it’s worse oh so much worse.

A massive tentacle, hundreds of meters tall, slides behind the smaller creatures herded around the dome’s gate. I shudder as the flood lights cut out, leaving only the yellow hazard lights. Spinning, spinning. Some people start to scream, huddle together.

The gates groan open, shuddering off a few weeks of crimson dust. I reach down to cover the boy’s eyes. The fountain runs red.

March 31, 2016 - Comments Off on Flash Fiction Contest – Entry #1

Flash Fiction Contest – Entry #1

Entry #1 for NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction Contest

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Setting: Music Studio
Object: Cactus

6247b88c48814768b25c03dd4feafe9a

The band Gorgoroth, one of the inspirations after some research. Also a fascinating Vice Documentary and interview with the lead singer here.

Norwegian Wood

A tale of two star crossed black metal artists from Norway who decide to share their love with the world. But first, their bandmates.

***

“There is only blackness in my heart. And yet the moon will shine through even the thickest of clouds.”
Artist: Bloody Blood
Album: Drinking Piss from the Lake of Insanity

Our band, Flesh Hearse, is currently in studio to record the title track for our next album, a 13-minute opus entitled Anal Fisted by Karma. We had been at it for weeks and have not achieved our stated goal: Undisputed mayhem and audio violence. Heaviness like a choking fog, a pox upon the ears.

I am in the tiny bathroom of our recording studio in Steinkjer, Norway. Applying my white face paint I consider how to best achieve ultimate darkness. Final, irreversible transgression. Corpse makeup is difficult to get correct. I like to have an hourglass shape in black, it looks the most metal but is difficult to do properly.

I turn to face Varg, lounging on the couch in the sitting room. “Does this look ok?”

He reaches for a jeweled ceremonial knife on a nearby table. Using it to circle his nipple he purrs “Thornium Noktururd you are my dark god and leader, to me you’ll always look most brutal.”

“Shut the fuck up Varg.” I finish my makeup and inspect my nails. Needs a new coat of black polish.

 “What’s the matter, afraid of a little prick?” Varg puts the knife on the toilet tank and holds up our setlist for tonight’s show. “This is our first time playing ‘Welcome to the Church of Whoretown. We have to kill something.”

“I couldn’t agree more Varg. I also think we should tell Killgärten and Batphomet.” Taking the knife I turn it nervously in my hands. “You know, about us.”

Varg shrugs, goes back to sit and opens “Antichristian Commando,” a black metal ‘zine. “You think they’ll take it OK? Our whole scene is all masculine and shit. That dude from Oslo is in prison for stabbing a queer.”

“It doesn’t matter. To create the most heavy song I must expose our love and be burdenless first. My message must be true, like a Scandinavian winter in moonlight, but slightly more gay.” I grab Varg by his leather collar and drag him up out the door.

We join Batphomet and Killgärten in the mixing room, where they have been drinking since we arose at noon. Batphomet is eating sunflower seeds, tossing the shells into an overturned viking helmet on the floor.

I raise my arms and begin, “Time is an illusion, and a short one. Death is the only truth here. I command attention. Flesh Hearse, hear me now.”

Batphomet rolls his eyes, sighing “fuck’s sake…”

“I am in love with Varg.”

Killgärten’s jaw dropped open, “You wrote a song titled ‘We All Die Alone and Screaming.’ That doesn’t really mesh with the whole love thing.”

Batphomet spits out a sunflower seed and sits up, knocking over his viking helmet spitoon and spilling the saliva-laden shells all over the carpet. “Mm. First, Hail Satan. Now let me say that I am against this whole thing. Love? With another man? It’s against every fiber of our fucking mission statement, right?.”

“I expect resistance. My ancestry is bathed in blood and terror as is yours. I promise you this will be the most metal, brutal relationship in the history of man. I will scream my dark love with blood from a craggy mountaintop.” Pausing, I glance sideways at Varg. “Also, I think we should be married. The benefits are totally worth it.”

Varg’s tugs on his gorgeous blonde beard, “We haven’t even discussed this. I don’t think it’s very Satanic to get married.”

“I do not consult. My path is the left hand path of darkness and it is true.”

Crunching more shells under his boot, Batphomet continues “By Odin’s Beard, this is an abomination!”

Killgärten clucks his tongue at Batphomet- “Bro come the fuck on, it’s 2015.” He walks over to Varg and gives him a hug. “I’m very unhappy for you both.” He looks over at me, “Hail Satan.”

“Hail Satan,” I reply, smiling and raising the ceremonial knife. “Now come, let us sacrifice a goat in the name of all that is unholy.”

Batphomet casts his eyes down and pushes some of the seeds around with his foot. “Fine.”

Later, as we drink the warm goat’s blood around a pentagram on the floor I smile at Varg. He looked so gorgeous, sitting next to the Goat’s Head Cactus I bought celebrate our one year anniversary of being brutal together.

Batphomet and Killgärten are discussing a church burning this coming Thursday, and laughing at some story that arose from the last burning.

There is a lightness inside me now. My contempt is easier to reach, more tangible. We will make the most brutal, metal song in history. I know it now.

 

March 31, 2016 - Comments Off on Flash Fiction Contest – WTF is that

Flash Fiction Contest – WTF is that

So in 2005 I graduated with a major in English and a concentration in Creative Writing from Binghamton University.  This practically guaranteed I would end up as a graphic designer. I kid, but only sort of. Go Bearcats!

Binturong-1a-1194

This is a real-life bearcat aka binturong from Southeast Asia, which is also the mascot for Binghamton University. The reasoning escapes me, but I went to a high school that thought it was a good idea to have our mascot be "The Crusaders" which has to suck for anyone from Turkey.

One has to make a serious commitment to be a full-time writer, and I have spent enough time in newsrooms and been friends with enough full-time writers to know it's mostly thankless work. So I took the (arguably) more marketable road of digital design work - but that doesn't mean my love of writing went away! I just kicked it's teeth in and then shoved it into a dark closet, where it's laid on the floor for 10 years now while I made marketing websites.

But now I've taken writing out of the closet (which sounds weird as a metaphor now), apologized and am attempting to make amends. To that end I've entered a Flash Fiction Competition, run by NYC Midnight. I've found that a lot of my motivation is personally born out of competition, even if it's friendly. So when I have to to dust off a brain that's only creatively written emails for 10 years, it helps if there are some stakes.

Here the stakes are: I paid $40 to enter, and I get graded and ranked.
That's really all it takes for me. A little cash and some peer ranking as incentive.

NYC Midnight has done a great job at organizing the contest - the feedback hasn't been great (MY FIRST FEEDBACK WAS ALL CAPS AND NO PUNCTUATION WHICH MAKES ME QUESTION THEIR ABILITY AS A WRITING JUDGE) but the submission process is smooth and they seem to have quite the system in place.

The rules for the contest are pretty simple - 1,000 words maximum, you receive a prompt at midnight on Friday and the story is due that Sunday at midnight. The prompt is always a genre, location and object. So, for example, Romantic Comedy, Music Studio, Cactus was my first round. You have to stick to the genre and location very closely, the object can be sort of tossed in there (mine have been so far).

It went from ~1,500 people in Rounds 1 & 2 to ~240 people in the semifinals. I just submitted my piece for the semifinal entry and I'll post all three stories after this one. The process has been a great creative exercise overall, couldn't be happier.

March 30, 2016 - Comments Off on Welcome to Sharktown

Welcome to Sharktown

I remember when I was young, around ten years old, my grandfather had a boat down in Florida. One time when he took me out to sea he made me help him clean the boat. I was terrified of being in the ocean, because I was also super into learning about sharks.

Still terrified of the ocean, by the way. This could be below you at literally any moment:

shark

Life is full of uncertainties! Why would you add an ocean more that also have teeth? Pools are generally safe, depending on the personality of the pool's owner.

The point is - I fought my Grandpa on it, big time. Cried, likely screamed. Maximum kid shit show level, basically. But once I was in the water, the murky green stretching as far as my tiny, dumb kid eyes would go, I felt fine! Just kidding, oh my god the entire experience was an awful waking nightmare from pillar to post.

But I'm not mad, in fact I wonder how much that experience actually changed me as a person. Maybe not even for the force of good, the memory may lay dormant until my time to rise to power is at hand. Who knows! But that memory is strong, it was clearly a powerful experience. I wasn't eaten by a shark and someone had to clean the bottom of that boat. Would I do that with my grandson? No, but there's a good chance I'll do whatever that version of plunging a kid into a difficult situation is. It might be forcing them to not wear their VR contact lenses for a week, ripping them from the constant stream of all human information collected to date. What a dick I will be!

The experience is a memory, it is a moment that has passed and yet possibly influences me now, vividly, more so than some deep experiences that have happened in the past 20 years. I'm curious about why our brain chooses to lock away some specific experiences and creates memories, tells narratives. There's a chance that none of that even happened, or it's a mishmash of different memories, or just something I read once and appropriated for my own life.

Sometimes it's good to just cast yourself out into unknown, warm, dim water where there are giant monsters just cruising at ridiculous speeds looking for something around your size to eat. But you probably don't have to do that.

March 24, 2016 - Comments Off on New York, I love you and goodbye

New York, I love you and goodbye

city-scape

A million words too many have been written about New York City, but because you can just stop reading...

Since moving to Brooklyn in 2006, I’ve been lucky enough to have:

  1. Lived in a pre war building with floors so sloped you’d get seasick walking too quickly. Fun party tricks.
  2. Spent a year in Manhattan and learned I have no idea what to do if a cockroach dies on top of your oven timer. It's just always animals:o'clock and you come to accept that.
  3. Rode the Cyclone, got a concussion. Taken a selfie on the Wonder Wheel.
  4. Did photo shoots for bankers on Wall Street, while also aware they were bankers on Wall Street, and didn't throw paint on any of them.
  5. Wore/tore leather pants playing bass at the Gramercy Theater.
  6. Got fired from NYU. I wasn’t even mad.
  7. Learned how to fight in a cage, to a soundtrack consisting mostly of Lady Gaga.
  8. Was a partner in a successful business that did good things, hired some great people and put creative energy out into the world.
  9. Been beaten with oak leaves at a Russian banya in Midwood, Brooklyn. It’s good for you. Exfoliation.
  10. Watched a free outdoor screening of Annie Hall in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
  11. Had my understanding of dance shattered in the best way by a performance at Lincoln Center.
  12. Hosted a fried chicken recipe competition in my backyard. I didn't win.
  13. Spent a few hours over a few years looking through a telescope at the moon from my backyard. It made me feel small and overwhelmed, which I've come to understand are good things to feel.
  14. Spoke to students at a CUNY school about what you can do with an English degree. Other than, you know, be destitute and miserable.
  15. To be added to occasionally based on desire, memory and access to technology.