The Bearded Man Beholds The Autumn


[Photo is mine.]

He sits on the front deck of his home. Despite recent chilly weather, this particular Wednesday proved to be mild…even warm. He has spent the last half-hour watching a red squirrel scurry about a pile of chipped wood. Doubtless, this is to be his winter den.

The bearded man is sitting like countless other men and women like him. He spends his idle hours either writing or thinking of odd topics to comment on. At the moment, he is musing on the science that explains the breakdown of the Chlorophyll that is necessary for the tree to reveal the true color of it’s leaves.

[Photo is mine.]

He scratches the whiskers on his cheek. He is fully aware that before he can say Blitzen all this foliage will be composting beneath two feet of powder-white snow,

The relentless challenges of winter will keep the old man close by the fireplace. He will likely be typing about the awesome beauty of the North Country winter.

Some Sunday afternoon in mid-January he will find himself in the icy garage staring at ski poles and snowshoes. He’ll recall times when pain didn’t accompany a simple walk in the woods.

Soon, he will be sitting in his favorite leather wingback chair. His fingers will linger with the buttons of his treasured L.L Bean plaid flannel shirt

Like many old men who sit and think, he’ll ponder his youth, wonder what happened to his middle years and doubtless dread the future left to him.

Then, without a doubt, he’ll reach for a good book.

[Photo credit: Google search.]

My 400th Blog!


[Hi, I’m Fluffy. Remember me? My human, Pat, has used me in other posts in shameless attempts to peddle one of his books.  I hope you like this one. You see, Pat suffers from severe Post Holiday Blues and if he doesn’t get a lot of likes and comments…well, I may have to be sent out to pasture, if you get my drift.  Photo source: Google search.]


Writing four hundred blogs is not an easy thing to do.  Even if you’re retired and have little else to fill your time.  It’s an accomplishment of which I am proud.  Some bloggers have written thousands…some have written three.  I know how easy it can be for some people and much harder for others.

Back in the late 1990’s, I taught at the Town School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  One afternoon, the technology teacher, Al Doyle, mentioned to me that he wrote ‘blogs’.

“Blogs?”, I said.  “What are they?”

“Anything you want them to be,” he answered.

I listened and learned.

Sometimes the words would come easy to me and, on more than one occasion, I struggled with ways to communicate my thoughts and feelings.  Some bloggers have chosen ‘themes’ to address, such as marital problems, eating disorders, benefits of certain health foods, conspiracy theories, political rants and self-absorbed musings that interest only the writer.

I have chosen to go my own way.  I have no theme.  I write about topics that interest, amuse, fascinate, intrigue and beguile me.  I have experimented with various writing styles and subjected my readers to topics that some would consider morbid or overly maudlin and sentimental.

But, that’s me.  What you read is who I am and that is what you get.

I published my first blog on July 15, 2012.  It was an excerpt from my novel “Standing Stone”.  Since then, I have taken my readers on two cross-country road trips and a partial winter in Fort Myers, Florida when I learned to sail.  I’ve shared my experiences at a rodeo in Yuma, a hike in Zion National Park, a stroll among the sand dunes of Death Valley, a frightening drive pulling our RV into the Yosemite Valley, a Thanksgiving in Orting, WA., a month in Joshua Tree, CA., and several trips to Europe.

I’ve shared memories about childhood sweethearts, meetings with childhood friends and even wrote about the first woman who ever saw me in my life…the doctor who delivered me in a Binghamton hospital on May 31, 1947.

I shared the birth of my grandson and celebrated the lives of my son, Brian, my daughter, Erin and my wife Mariam.

One of my favorite posts was titled “The Brick Pond”.  It recalled childhood innocence and the coming of adulthood.

The blog that was the favorite of my readers was called “This Old House”.  In this, I attempted to convey the sorrow of handing over the keys to the house that I grew up in, a house that was in our family for over fifty years.

I sincerely hope that you, my readers, have enjoyed reading these 400 musings from a humble and insecure writer…myself.

I hope I live long enough to celebrate an 800th blog, or even a 1,000 posting.

Let’s hope.


[Source: Google search.]

A Mistake Of Heartbreaking Proportions/A Blog About A Blog

[Source: Google search.]

Most people who choose to write and post blogs do so to make a point of some kind.  That is not something I always try to do.  Make a point, that is, or push a position, or share a recipe for s’mores.  Many of my subjects are valid and intense..full of honesty and conviction.  Some are light and whimsical.  Some are full of nostalgia, fear and regret.  I write and post because I enjoy touching on subjects that interest me, amuse me, and by extension, hope they will entertain and be enjoyed by you, my followers and friends.

But, I never have been good at math.

A few postings ago, I slipped in a teaser about an upcoming blog that would blow the roof off the cyber-joint that we share.  I said that I was only four posts away from my 400th blog.  I was elated.  I was preparing something special that would help many of my readers believe that they’ve really not wasted that much of their precious life in taking time to read my stuff and even click ‘like’.

But, then…cold reality and facts slapped me upside the head.  I took the time to look more closely at my stats on WordPress and found myself in a cold shower.  The number of 396 was what I was focused on.  But in reality, that number included the total number of blogs written not published.  I failed to recall that I had 14 posts that were started and never finished…for various reasons.  I didn’t think they were good enough, I forget about starting them and I, most importantly, neglected to delete them.  So they fell into a category called ‘drafts’.

This is where I am found wanting.  I promised a 400th blog that would deliver the emotional impact that would be the equal to Cher performing at half-time at the Super Bowl,  to Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize,  to finding a lost episode of Gilligan’s Island, to proving the climate really does change because of human activity (something that seems to be beyond the grasp of anyone who slept through 7th grade science), to proving that Yoko Ono really did break up the Beatles and that bringing back Dynasty to TV is somehow a rational idea.

So, in reality my last post about Halloween was my 383rd.

This is a set-back worse that Trump ‘winning’ the 2016 election (not really).

The question is: where do I go from here?  At the rate I’ve been posting, it may be well into 2018 before I can deliver the ‘keeper’…the 400th blog post.

Not to worry.  I will always find something worthwhile to post and, hopefully, worth your time to read.

And click “like”.



Oxford Of My Dreams


I was drifting off to sleep.  My dreams began.  I felt disoriented.  Where was I?

I was in Oxford, England to accept an award for “Best Blogger in the World.”

I was waiting in a room in one of the 38 colleges that make up the University.  I had walked here from the hotel, but all the buildings were made of the beautiful honey-colored limestone from the Cotswold hills.  This room is where the dons donned their academic robes. The place was heavy with the dust of history…literary history. Books dating back centuries lined the walls. I saw an early copy of “Alice in Wonderland” signed by Lewis Carroll, himself.  Was I in the college that gave the world Richard Burton, the actor? Or, Edmund Halley, who made his name on a comet?  Was this the room where J.R.R. Tolkien thought about the narrative of the Hobbit books?  Did T. S. Elliot walk the path I just walked?

Perhaps I was in a room off a small lecture hall in Bodleian Library, which claims to have over 100 miles of shelves (The Strand Bookstore in NYC says it has 8 miles of volumes.)

In the lecture hall next door I could hear the shuffling of feet and chairs as the runner-up and past winners were taking their seats.  I could hear Fineguy6076, who blogged out of Jersey City.  There was the instantly recognizable voice of martagoesyo, who wrote from a small town in Ohio.  Last years winner had just arrived to a smattering of applause.  He may have a large following and was quite an original blogger of 2014, but many readers, including this writer, were put off by his daily output of cats dressed as dogs and disguised as trivets or mid-southern house plants.

His wrote under the name of HeSheGuy.

You do the math.

The opening speeches droned on and on.  The room was warm and I began to grow sleepy.  I drifted into a peaceful land of Nod.  I began to feel I was near a great dining hall with floating candles and a really bad bully was picking on a guy named Harry.  Wait! That was the Great Hall of Christ Church College around the corner.  I continued into a light dream-like state.


My senses became fully awake.

“Order please!”  The words came from the lecture hall.

I knew then they were about to announce my name and I was to make my arrival through a massive oak door.

Applause and shouts of “Here! Here!” and “Hussa” and “About time old boy” would soon ring out.  Pretty ladies would stop fanning themselves and whisper, ever so discretely,  “ I want him to be the father of my children.”

But I was not out of my nap.  Another, less salutary voice spoke:

“Ladies and Gentleman” the calm business-like nature of a man’s tone had indeed broken my REM sleep.

I still felt it was my time.

I tried to rise but felt a restraint around my waist.  I opened my eyes and found myself staring at a small TV monitor mounted on the back of the seat in front of me.

On the blue screen was a small icon of an airplane. Behind it was a blue line that connected it to JFK. As the plane was set against a blue color, I surmised that we were over an ocean. The little icon seemed to be headed toward the letter LHR.

As I regained full awareness, it all came back to me. I wasn’t in Oxford, yet.

I was on American Flight #106.

Then more reality came flooding back to me.

We were caught in traffic somewhere near La Guardia Airport.  Despite being picked up three hours early by a car service from the Upper West Side, my wife was beyond frantic.  She was convinced we were going to miss the flight.

I said we wouldn’t, traffic was always like this out here in Queens.

She said we would miss the flight and that it would cost a small fortune to make new arrangements.

I suggested, calmly, like a man, that one screwed up ticket was only half as bad as two and I suggested she get on the flight without me.

[She was TSA approved and I wasn’t, so I would have to take off most of my clothes and pass through a scanner that would prevent me from having any more children in the future.]

She could breeze past all that and still make it to Gate 14.  I told her I would sleep in the airport or go to some cheap motel and find something to amuse me, like going bowling with a woman named Candy from Flushing, and I would catch up to her in London.

She flatly refused. [Sometimes, women just see the logic in some things.]

Without making this blog any longer, we actually made flight #106

So, now my watch reads 5:15 am.  We’re about 45 minutes away from landing.  Some kind of breakfast just got slapped down next to this computer.

My eyes turned red about two hours ago.

We’re going to pick up our rent car at Heathrow.

Our first night is already booked and it’s not that long a drive.

Where, you may very well ask, are we going first?

Oxford, of course.

My birthday is nine days away.  It’s not too early for a gift, is it?

Maybe an award for writing something like this?

Let It Be


I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea

Sometimes I turn, theres someone there, other times its only me…

                                                        –Bob Dylan “Every Grain of Sand”

Parents, send your children to bed (or the media room).  Men, if your wives are of a delicate nature, take them away from your laptop.

I am going to expose myself, my soul, fears and hopes in this, my 200th blog post on WordPress.  Yet again, I will fall into the bitter pit of memories—some bad and some good.  That has become my blog “theme”, I guess; trading in on old dusty thoughts, lovers long gone and the cracks in my heart.  Here I am again, standing in the rain at the corner of Bittersweet and Nostalgia.  It always rains here.  There’s no atmosphere without some discomfort.  It could be rain, snow or tears.  Doesn’t really matter, though.  I turn my collar against the wind and go back to the Hi-Ho Motel to wait for the next train for El Paso.  Then I remember.  There’s probably no more trains to anywhere anymore except some open-pit coal mine providing good clean green energy for us all.  No more whistles that broke the heart of Hank Williams or Box Car Willie.  Now, it’s the next Short Line coach to Toledo.

Last year, on the RV trip to Orting, Washington, I did hear the occasional train whistle.  But the long line of flat-cars never stopped.  They only slowed down to obey the speed limit as the tracks crossed empty streets and country roads.

Yes, there’s no authentic atmosphere without some discomfort.  No one lives in a world of warmth and protection (except, hopefully, children) without living through periods of self-doubt and a tablespoon of dread.  I once had a great deal of faith that got me through the night terrors, but after heart-breaking losses, deaths and illnesses, I often feel like I live in a city populated by millions…alone.

I fall in love quickly and easily and that is a serious fault.  That has led to too many broken hearts in my chest cavity.  When a very close friend died in my arms (he had lived all of twenty-three years), I realized that there really isn’t a lot of time for us, on the earth, to wait for the most perfect choices.  So, I made decisions based on the old trusty phrase: Carpe diem.

But, as usual, I digress.

It’s change that obsesses me now.  Yes, our house could burn down tonight…that’s a big change.  But, it’s the slow insidious change that happens to you during life that frightens me.  I was born on May 31, 1947.  That is 67 years and 6 months ago.  I never was a victim of amnesia.  I was never abducted by aliens (that I recall).  But, I look at a childhood photograph of myself and then quickly stare into a mirror.  I have changed.  But I haven’t gone anywhere to undergo this change.  I can’t say it happened when I wasn’t looking, because I always looked.  I look different and I think different (I used to be a Conservative, for God’s sake).  And, all this happened without a break in the flow of my life!  All the changes I see happened during a day to night to day flow that was never broken.  The lines on my face came slowly, never overnight.

There are years I lived and yet somehow missed.  Students I loved, taught and counseled…I can see their 6th grade faces but do not remember their names.  Women I have slept with are memories now…not out of disrespect…just the passage of time.  I was numb with shock when I heard that one of my long-ago lovers is now dead.  I know that this is trivial and self-serving to many of you, my friends, who have lost a spouse or future partner.  I can only speak to my own experiences.

Somehow, it would make more sense to me if all these changes happened one night.  I’d wake up and be middle-aged.  But, it didn’t.  It happened as I was looking—but I never noticed a thing until one day…

“Hey, that’s life.”  This is what is going through the minds of many of you who are reading this.

I taught with someone many years ago.  Her husband died part way into the school year.  She was the Head of the Middle School and it fell on her to give the graduation speech that would send the 8th grade girls onto the high school.  One sentence will remain with me forever.  She said: “Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional.”

I stood there with the other faculty members.  I cried.  I knew what she had been through even though I had not lost anyone in my life…yet.

What she said was absolutely true.  I knew that then, but I was into my early 40’s and had no idea what was in store for me in a few short years.

I guess I catch on slowly—just like when your hair starts to turn gray.

It’s never overnight.


birch tree 1

[Circa 1954]

birch tree 2

[Circa 1970’s]

birch tree 3

[Circa late 1970’s]

Birch tree 4

[Circa early 1990’s]

My Approach/Avoidance Problem With Being the Center of Attention

Spot Light

Andy Warhol once made a famous statement about the fact that everyone will get their 15 minutes of fame…sooner or later.  But will we really?  You may think that every time I post a successful blog, I get my 15 minutes.  Well, partly true and partly not.  I’ve always thought it would be cool to be famous.  To have people point to you as you’re enjoying a private dinner in a restaurant and you hear them say: “I think that’s him” would be kind of nice.  It’s happened to me several times, but the other person will usually correct the pointer and say: “No, that’s not him…George Clooney is in Tunisia making a movie.”

So, I began to think about what one needs to have a bit of time…center stage…in the spotlight so clear.  It didn’t take me long to realize that all I really needed was a spotlight.  Then I could attach it to something, clear some chairs away, and have all the time I wanted in my own personal “limelight.”

I went to B & H Electronics store in Manhattan one day this past week.  I wanted to get a very important VHS converted to a quality DVD.  On my way out of the store, which is located only a block or two from Madison Square Garden, I spotted the spotlights.  I walked around and stared in amazement.  If I wanted to light an entire soundstage on a New York City set, this would be the place to go shopping.  I looked at all the tubing, stands, racks, lenses and filters…then I saw it!  Here, in front of me, was the spotlight of my dreams.  The only thing that stood between me and having that light in my home, was my credit card.  I looked at the price tag: $875.50 + tax.

I walked out of the store empty-handed.  Not because I didn’t think my time in the bright light was worth that price…I just couldn’t figure out how I was going to get it on the train back to Albany where we had parked the car.

And then I looked closer into my psyche.  Did I really want to be the center of attention?  You need to understand that I am a very shy and insecure person.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking: “He’s so clever and open about everything…he’s a real “front-man.”  Well, that just isn’t the case.

I’m a shy kind of guy.


This evening (it’s November 22), I was attending a benefit dinner at the China House at Hanover Square in lower Manhattan.  I happened to be seated next to a lovely young woman, named Melissa.  I actually met her a number of times in the past years.  She works in the same office at Mt. Sinai Hospital where my wife was an administrator.  The first time I met Melissa, I thought the hospital had violated the child-labor laws…she looked about 16 years old.  I would joke with her about whether her teacher knew she was missing classes.  That was a few years ago.  Now, she looks about 17.  In face, she’s a woman in her twenties with two children.

But she always makes it known that she reads and likes my posts.

Now, here, I thought, is someone who deserves her 15 minutes of fame.  Yes, I would present her with an award.  A small medal or statue for being my most ardent fan in New York City.

[I ask you, do you ever seek out your favorite blogger and take the time to thank him or her for how important they are to you?  I mean, every few days, I bare my very soul to you all…I open my heart and share my thoughts and obsessions, ideas and stories.  It takes me days to recover from the mental exhaustion of giving you my ALL.]

But, alas, I leaving NYC to return home in the morning.  I will not get the chance to go back to B & H to buy the spotlight.  I won’t have the opportunity to present Melissa with her award.  Everything will go on as usual.

I guess the real issue is what did Andy Warhol mean by fame?  How many people have to like you to make you famous?  (I’ve thought about this for many years and I came up with the number of 7,686 people.)

In the end, someone pays attention to another person and makes them feel loved and appreciated…then fame really isn’t an issue.

Make someone happy and tell them that they are a superstar to you.  Tell them that they are more important than Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift to you.


The Perfect Blog


I know with absolute certainty that he will find me.  There is no escape anywhere…ever.  And I have no one to blame but myself.

I moved from Antioch, Nebraska to New York City thinking, for a while, that there would be safety in numbers.  A face in a crowd of millions.  How foolish I was.  I should have stayed in Antioch and spent my last hours of life enjoying what I most wanted: fame and all its trappings.  Now, I could descend into the deepest mine shaft on the bloody planet and still be found.  I could spend a zillion dollars to hide at the bottom of a lunar crater…and it would only be a matter of time.  Spend another zillion on total cosmetic surgery to alter, most completely, my outward appearance?  It wouldn’t help to delay matters for a nano-second.  He would see straight into my soul and know me.

So, who do you think I’m running from?  A mafia hit-man?  Nonsense.  A plague?  Ridiculous.  Death?  Good guess, but I’m smart enough to know we all are going to die.  That’s for certain.  But for what I’ve done, mere death is just the prologue of a play that will be staged until the end of time.

All this for violating one of the Cardinal Sins.  Lust? Been there, done that.  Avarice? I’m an expert.  Gluttony?  Not really an issue, I’m fine with my weight, for a man my age.  Greed? Bingo!  Yes indeed, I wanted it all and then some.  But when you play those kind of games, and dance to that kind of music, you have to pay the piper at the end of the night.

I was well on my way with the talent the good Lord gave me.  I’m a blogger, you see, and I wanted to be the best…not just a contender.  I wanted to be the Mick Jagger of blogs.

You may not know this (if you’re not a blogger, yourself) but we are like rock stars.  There are groupies out there reading our blogs and finding ways to get close to us.  Being a super blogger is light-years ahead of that Nobel thing.  The groupies would email me comments and emails with not-so-subtle messages of what they could do for me.  Every man dreams of that kind of attention.  I’ve received emails sent by readers with internet names like KewpieDoll21, DawnOnU22, SmokinChick25 and SuzieUNameIt666.  And when I opened and read their messages, I could smell Jasmine, Pachouli or Rose Water right through the monitor.

I don’t know how much time I have, so I’ll tell my story to you with haste.  No offense, but I may have to leave abruptly.

My mind was working 24/7 on blog ideas.  I experimented with various styles, different voices and unsettling paces of narrative.  I was growing more skillful with each post.  Some of my blogs were extraordinary, if I do say so myself.  And I had the numbers to prove it.  My Twitter followers grew, my Klout score climbed like a bull market graph on Wall Street.  My Facebook friends were getting in line to have me “friend” them.  My stats, as shown in bar graph form on WordPress, looked like the Manhattan skyline.

Some of my blogs became legendary.  My most popular, in no order, were “The Cat Groomer”, “The Chimney Sweeps of Cincinnati”, “Alpha Males of Coney Island”, “The Urban Legends of Dental Floss” and the groundbreaking, “Hemochromatosis: The NASA Coverup”.

I won “Blogger of the Year” award three times.  Hollywood left messages on my smart phone asking for the rights to film some of my posts.  I guess it was a heady time, I wouldn’t know, my head was in the clouds enjoying the view from the top.

But I wanted more.  I wanted, no, needed more followers.  I wanted my Klout score to be higher than Obama and Justin Bieber.  I wanted it to explode and go over 100.

Ideas kept flooding my brain.  I couldn’t stop.

And then it stopped.

I awoke one crisp autumn day and headed to my MacBook Pro.  After four minutes of looking at my reflection on the blue/grey screen, I realized that I had no ideas.  I didn’t panic at first.  I took a walk stopping only once to stare at a dazzling red maple tree.  I headed back to the house, slowing down to smell a fading rose.

Five hours later the ugly truth hit me hard, like the time I asked a bar maid to please open my bottle of Bud Lite with her cleavage.  The bleeding stopped in about six hours and the number of stitches equalled my age.  But I wasn’t facing a serving girl this time.  I was facing something far more serious and harder to control.

I had bloggers block.

After a few days, my Klout scored dropped by ten points, my Twitter followers began to slip away, as did my Facebook friends.  My bar graphs on WordPress began to look less like Manhattan towers and more like a cheap motel in Waco, Texas.

I went to church and lit candles, not for the memory of my long deceased family members, but for ideas.  I sat in a dimly lit booth of a dusty strip club with my pencil and paper and waited for an idea…a grain of something.  All I got from the night was a bill for six Coors and two shots of schnapps (peppermint).

My spirits began to darken.  I grew listless.  I was restless and agitated and depressed and angry.  So I took a walk.

I passed under the last street lamp (there were only three in this town) and walked along the road.  Even in the dark, I could sense the clouds were building.  Then came a blinding flash-bulb of lightning and a clap of thunder that sounded so close that my hair stood up with the static and my ears began to ring.

I reached the crossroads and stopped.  I took a leak behind a small tree and then found a small dirt mound to sit on.  The rain was holding itself in the clouds above my head, but the wind came in short sharp gusts.

Then another flash of lightning, so bright I had to close my eyes.  The thunder nearly deafened me.  When I opened my eyes, I saw that I was not alone.

At the opposite corner stood a man wearing a black rain coat and fedora.  He was staring at me.  I saw no sign of a weapon so I didn’t feel fear for my physical being.  But something dark and dirty was covering my soul like used motor oil.  He nodded to me and began to walk to my side of the road.  I had an overwhelming sense he knew me and could see deep into me.  When he got close enough, I noticed an odd odor about him.  Something familiar.  Something unpleasant.  Something foul.

“Good evening Mr. Blogger,” he said.


“I hear you have some problems finding words,” he said with a voice that was a mix of Johnny Cash and Richard Burton.

How did he know this?  I told no one about my block.

“Your Klout score will soon be a single digit,” he said, without seeming to mock me. “Need help?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Things like this happen once in a while to us bloggers.  Ideas don’t grow like lawn grass, my friend.”

Despite meeting such a strange guy out here at the crossroads,the shock had worn off somewhat.  I felt more confident.

“I can help you,” he said with a certainty that took me aback.

“You want to be on top again, don’t you?” he asked.  I felt he knew the answer.

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at, mister.” I said.

“I’ll make it simple for you, okay? I know you’ve had a long night and you’re tired.  I’m kind of an advisor to people like you, people who need a little boost once in a while.  I provide services and goods, whatever you need, and you need an idea.  You’d like more than one idea, but I can assure you that I can give you the only idea you’ll ever need.  It’s the ultimate idea.  I’m kind of like the genii, granting wishes.  The exception here is that I need to grant only one wish to you.  I can give you what all bloggers seek.  I can save you months of toil and stress.  My friend, I can give you the Perfect Blog.  It will be unequalled.  No one will ever, ever match it.  You will go down forever as the creator of the Most Perfect Blog in History.  But, only you and I know that I was the one who gave it to you.  What do you think?”

“Yeah, well what’s the catch?  What’s your stake in this?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t call it a “catch” really, but there is a fee of sorts.  Nothing is free as you know.  As far as my “stake”, well let’s just say I’m not interested in the fame part of this thing.  I don’t need fame…of that kind.  Interested?”

“So, this ‘perfect blog’, where do I get it and how will I know it’s ‘perfect’?

“I’ll keep it simple, for you, Bailey.  After you publish the piece, I’ll guarantee you 1,000,000 followers on Twitter, they’ll have to reset the algorithms on Klout to accommodate your new standing.

Now, this is the talk I wanted to talk.  All I had to do was find out how I was going to walk the walk.

All this will happen before midnight tomorrow.  When you reach that number on Twitter, I will have fulfilled my end of the deal…and I get my payment.  You did read the fine print, I hope?”

I hadn’t.

“So, if I get you the numbers, I’ll give you about two weeks to enjoy the new position you will hold.  You will be the Greatest Blogger in the World.  Then, sometime soon after that, I’ll come to you to accept your payment.  By the way, I don’t accept American Express or any plastic for that matter.  The cost to you will not be coming from your wallet so don’t worry about being scammed for a few bucks.  That’s not the kind of person I am.  Have a good evening, Bailey.  Oh, I almost forgot, if you don’t get what I promise, our deal is off.  You can keep your numbers to enjoy.  I’ll just move on to someone else.”

“I’m a business man of sorts, so I’ll have to have your signature on this,” he said, holding a yellowed sheet of high-quality bond paper.  “Just here.”

Before I knew it, he had produced a strange-looking quill-like fountain pen.  He did something with the nib and it came to me with a drop of red ink hanging and ready to fall to the ground.

I signed.

“Just go home now and sit with your laptop…it’ll come to you like an erotic dream,” he said as he faded in the drifting mist.  I had failed to notice the fact that we were surrounded by a patch of fog as dense as cotton candy.  As I walked away, the taste in my mouth was anything but spun sugar.

I sat in front of the laptop for two hours and nothing was coming to me.  I began to drift into a neck bending nap.  I must have gone straight to REM because I began to dream.  I was standing on the steps of a great Victorian mansion.  A beautiful woman came out of the dark and climbed the stairs.  Her look, her scent and her eyes all spoke wordlessly to me.  She was inviting me up to her room.  I followed like the lap-dog I had become.  I never realized that her price for her time was to cost me so dearly.  I would wind up gazing through her keyhole while I was down on my knees.

I roused myself.  My fingers were already working away on the key board.  I proceeded to write the “Perfect Blog”.

My instincts told me that it was indeed ‘perfect’.  I put my finger on the PUBLISH button.  I knew that once I hit the key, I would be releasing a million black ravens out of my window.  I would never be able to call them back and re-cage them.

The instant I pushed PUBLISH, the room darkened…just a little, but just enough for me to notice that it was now different.  I felt like I was lying on a beach and a slick of oil from a foul leak in the seabed was washing over me.  No soap existed that was going to cut through this black fetid grease.  I was polluted beyond cleansing.  My head fell back against the leather of my Windsor chair and I fell into a deep dreamless sleep.

I awoke at noon the next day with a neck that felt so painful, I could totally relate to Linda Blair.  I checked my Klout score.  It had risen by sixty points.  I went to Twitter and saw that the number of followers had jumped to well over 900,000.  I had twelve hours until the deadline of midnight, when my deal would be fulfilled.

I went out for a beer and a tuna fish sandwich.  When I returned, my Twitter followers numbered 966,989.  I took a nap just to kill the time.  I went out for several more beers in the early evening and had a light dinner of fries, double cheeseburger and key lime pie.  When I returned to my apartment, I checked my numbers.  Twitter came with 986,666.  An hour later it was 994,567.

Okay, I think it’s time I came clean.  I’m not a stupid man.  I read widely and know a lot of interesting things about the world.  And, I’ve read enough theological books to know something about other worlds, too.  You see, I knew exactly what I was doing all along.  I knew who was offering me the sweet deal and I knew what the cost was going to be.  If you’re not with me here, read Goethe’s Faust.

If I wasn’t so smart, so very clever, I would have been in deep trouble.  But I knew how to outwit the old guy.  I would cancel my post on WordPress a few minutes before midnight thereby stopping the publication and halting the growing numbers.  Hey, over 900,000 Twitter followers?  I’m not greedy.  I’ll take what I got and run with it.  I was in a win-win situation.

So, at 11:55 pm, I clicked delete on the “Perfect Blog”.  I checked Twitter.  I was somewhat impressed to see that the total was now 999,998.  I was cutting it close but I was smarter than Mr. Darkness, himself.  I grabbed my jacket and headed for the door and intended to go out and find me some blogger groupies and get some action.

But, something went very wrong.  At the WordPress office, the guy whose job it was to obey the commands from the bloggers, was, at the stroke of midnight, in the office supply room having his way with the new intern.  By the time he got back to his control panel, it was too late.

Four seconds after I closed my apartment door,  a guy named Sid in Dover, Delaware read my blog.  That was followed by a young graduate student at NYU, named Debi and a teen hacker, who goes by the name GodFree14 from La Mesa, California.  That put me over the 1,000,000 mark.

About 8:00 am, after I closed the door behind Monica, and checked Twitter, I realized that I had lost.

I’ve been on the road for a week now.  I’m trying to find a place to hide from him but I know, in the end, that’s impossible.

He’s been right behind me for all these miles.

I can feel bits of my soul drip away like the end of an icicle’s life in spring.


I Was a Teenage Blogger



The road to perdition is paved with little things.

My own dark and tragic personal story begins with little pieces of paper.  Not small bits the size of confetti that are thrown out of windows on lower Broadway during “ticker-tape” parades.  No, larger slips white or yellow ripped from notebooks, steno pads and the backsides of shopping lists…once the items are ticked off.  I have even been desperate enough to use flattened toilet paper tubes.  These are hard to use unless you have a dark pen because penciled words are difficult to read on cheap cardboard.

Besides, they don’t use ticker tape machines on Wall Street anymore, haven’t for decades.  They just use baskets of shredded documents that probably contain incriminating evidence of fraud and widespread corruption.  Once, that is used up, say during a parade of returning astronauts from Mars or the unlikely event the Mets ever win the World Series, they probably have a warehouse full of illegal aliens, working for a fraction of the minimum wage, punching out thousands of chads from discarded voter registration forms or racing forms from Hialeah.

What was this insatiable need of mine to possess these small scraps of paper?  In a word…words.  I have this uncontrollable urge to write down my every thought, however mundane, goofy or obscene.  I started by keeping these notes in used large mailing envelopes from places like the Publishers Clearing House or the IRS.  Anything would do.  Old letter envelopes, the contents of which I would toss away, only to get to the blank, whiteness of the backside.  Soon, I had shoe boxes full of these bits of my writing.  When I wrote something really interesting (which, to me, was everything), I would stash the papers under my mattress.  I did this while most boys my age were using that sacred place to hide copies of Playboy or, better yet, National Geographic (the Holy Grail, of which is the much coveted October, 1953 issue with the article “The Native Women of Tongatapu Island”).

This accumulation of my thoughts and ideas began to grow to uncontrollable dimensions.  I was running out of hiding places.

That was when it occurred to me that these gems of wisdom were really not for my eyes only.  No, the world needed to see them.  So, I began to paste these scraps onto the walls of men’s rooms and construction site walls and car repair shops.  When the mechanic was bent over to check my parents oil level, I would attach one or two of my paragraphs to the wall behind the quarts of Quaker State motor oil, close to the STP cans and the Valvoline.  Someone would read them.

I was even bold enough to sign my first name because I was proud of these short articles.

But, it didn’t stop there.  As I grew into an older teenager, I began to tell stories and not just relate my thoughts.  I was actually writing fiction, like Dickens or, later, William F. Buckley.

My fame grew.  I would walk past a bus stop and there would be small groups of people reading one of my written pieces, but that was never enough.  I had to have more.  More attention.  More glory.  More places to paste my posts.

I was getting desperate.  Only the people of the mid-sized city in the mid-west where I lived knew anything about me or the things I felt the urge to share.  Once I was nearly arrested for hanging around the soccer field of an all-female private school and opening my trench coat showing my posts super-glued to my hoodie.  This was during goalie tryouts.

Then, the techno-miracle happened.  The Internet was invented.  K-Marts began carrying personal computers.  The need to own them began to spread like swine-flu virus throughout the world.  I purchased, at no small cost, an IBM desktop.  Social networking companies began to flourish.  I set up an account with AOL and was able to send out my writings to the dozens of friends.  My network grew and soon I had several million followers.  But I was always struggling to comprehend the language of the IBM.  They were calling it a “PC”.

Then, faster than you can say Steve Jobs, an alternate universe opened up for me.  I dropped my PC faster than a high-end prostitute would do once she found out you could only afford to buy her a Miller Lite.  I bought an apple, chewed things over in my mind a few minutes, and ordered a MacIntosh.  Now I was cooking with real olive oil.

Those who understand these things and control them, began calling the posts that people were sending out, “blogs”, which I felt was odd indeed.  The very sound of the term conjured up images of “black” and “fog” or “smog”.  Dark imagery for sure.

But still, I could never get enough.  Sending photographs became possible on something some kid started called Facebook.  I began posting pictures of flower pots and kittens but felt that was going to go out of style before I could grab an audience.  I backed away from dogs and cats in creepy sleeping positions on plastic sofas and started writing more.  (I had a moment of self-doubt when, after I posted a blog that I considered a profound meditation on the eternal struggle of human inequality,  I only got 17 “likes”.  A day later, some woman from Toledo posted a photo of her potted petunia and got 1,355 “likes”.)

That self-doubt began to take over my life.  Was anyone reading my stuff?  My Twitter followers remained at a constant number of 32 for months.  I got desperate and began a long slide down to the gutter, literally.

I pawned my iMac and took a cheap room over the Hi Ho Motel along state route 47 outside of Dayton.  The motel was just across the street from Ron Stokowski’s Girlie Galore Gentlemen’s Club.  The flashing red neon sign below the owner’s name read: HOME OF THE ORIGINAL POLE DANCERS!

Friends, the few I had, would stop by to see if I needed anything.  The kitchen trash was filled with empty bottles of Night Train Express and cheap tequila.  On the little night stand next to my bed was a half-empty fifth of Jim Beam and a crumpled pack of Chesterfield’s.

I had hit rock bottom.  The only lower place for me was the first floor.  That would be the motel lobby.  Outside the lobby was the street…the street of broken dreams…the street of red lights, cheap wine and even cheaper women.  I didn’t have enough money in my pocket to afford a shot of penicillin at the local clinic.

It was raining hard the night I began to think of the railroad trestle about a mile out-of-town.  I put my trench coat on, ready for the short final walk to last stop junction…when Pinkie walked into my room.  I called her Pinkie because she wore hot pink nail polish on the nine fingers of her hands.  The hue matched her lips and eyeshadow (and her hair and tattoo and 6 inch stilettos).

“Look at you,” she said, glancing around.  “Where’s your laptop?”

I pointed to the little table with the steno pad and BIC pen.

“Hey, big guy, Mr. Steinbeck…I’m talkin’ to you.  This ain’t the way its supposed to end.  Not for a guy with talent like you got.”

I stared at her two-inch lashes.

She poured a hefty hit of Jim Beam into a plastic tumbler with a Betty Boop logo on the side, in full color.

“Take this and get a grip.”

I put the mouthful away in one swallow.

“Now, get out there.  Get back into it, big guy.  You can do it.  You got the stuff.  I was down there too, once.  Lower than low. But look at me now.  I’m a regular dancer again.  That’s cause I got the stuff, just like you got the stuff”.

I began to wonder what stuff she was talking about, but I got her drift.  She was right.  I was too young to consider myself a failure…there would be plenty of time for that when I reached my sixties.

It had stopped raining.  There was a heavy fog, like a blanket, covering the suburbs of Dayton.  I stopped under a street lamp with my trench coat draped over my shoulder.  I took off my fedora and waved at Pinkie, who was standing on the balcony of the place I once called home.

I went back to the pawn shop.  The iMac was gone!  So, I took what they had.  I walked out with a Dell.  Life doesn’t get any meaner.  Soon, I was staying in a Ramada in Bayonne, but staring at an empty computer screen.

Maybe I had wasted my youth, my good ideas, my so-called talent too soon.  Too soon and too fast.  They say you were born with only so many blogs in your heart.  My heart was empty.

I walked into the church basement with my head held high.  When my turn came, I calmly walked to the music stand that was being used as a podium.

“Hi, everyone.  My name is Patrick and I’m a blogger.”