Finding Zen from the voices in my head

I learned something about myself as far as storytelling is concerned. I’m really not the natural I thought I might be at this. Being an outgoing person is one thing. Getting up on stage in front of a crowd of complete strangers and producing a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end? It’s a completely ‘nother thing.

My experiences to this point are very much in keeping with my novice rank. I’ve forgotten my place in a story. I’ve left out really good lines. I’ve rambled at times. I cut a story short simply because my nerves got the best of me. Hell, I’m hesitant to take the mic out of its stand for fear I’ll drop it. The feedback I have received has been nothing short of amazing, and I love it when someone comes up to me and hits me with a line I used, it’s great stuff. Still, I grade myself much more critically than these peeps, probably because I know my reach better than they do.

The transition from writing something down to talking something out has necessarily taken on a greater degree of emphasis for me, and in the process has given me a window into my writing. It’s an interesting, and wholly unique, vantage point.

Who knew? I discovered what makes me tick as a writer by involving myself in a creative outlet where I don’t write down a blessed thing. I haven’t written down a blessed thing in what has to be a month’s time now, and yet I’ve been writing every single day. As a person who doesn’t abide by convention, this turns me on.

Storytelling requires a great deal of practice. It also means that I spend a ton of time explaining to people why it is that I’m talking to myself more often than usual.

The idiom that “practice makes perfect” can easily be misunderstood as being emblematic of a pristine finished product when really, there’s no such thing. Practice is growth, and well, growth is scraped knees. It ascribes to the tenets of Zen: The action is your landscape, the steps taken your true goal. Basically, if you’re looking for the way? You’re there.

I had kinda taken it for granted that my ability to write was borne out of some mystical design to which I had no control. And while I do believe there is validity to the “God given” ability to plant words that grow into stories, this mindset left me wanting. A gift is a living, breathing thing. Which means to say, it requires maintenance. And so it was that I learned this rather obvious fact whilst talking out stories.

Storytelling is the ability to borrow the listener’s mind and furnish it with plush scenarios that sate their hunger. You don’t have to be crystalline in your descriptions, but you do have to be bold and decisive. It’s all right there, in that moment. Whereas writing requires an ambitious decree whose evidence takes on a patina-like quality, story telling is akin to prospecting for quicksilver.

My favorite storytellers live and die in the telling of their tale. The connection is so visceral because the potion they’re serving up is a fiery passion whose immediacy hits you upside the head and takes you to wherever it is they’re going. My favorite writers possess an innate ability to connect divinity to that which is tangible. They weave the temporal into a devoutly stitched piece of work whose union is majestic.

I love both sides of this equation.

I’m not there, on either count; not even close. I’m still stepping and plying and learning my way along. Brokering a peace with the ebbs of my writing chops and forging an alliance with the flow of my story telling. I’m in love with how perfectly imperfect the whole process truly is. Honestly, it makes me feel like a kid on the first day of school.

I can deal with that.


The many truths of Momma Judge

It seems the world is going to hell in a hand-basket that was purchased on Amazon . . for twenty bucks, shipping included.

Reading up on current events is sorta like being the dude tasked with cleaning up land mines in Angola. And sadly, the events of the day are just as tragic in their consequences.

Barcelona is just the latest death knell whose reverberations exist in a horrible new age echo chamber whose next chime could be anywhere at any moment. It’s a madness that prospers on the clench of fear; a fear most of us are unaware we carry. Terror is notorious for its clandestine seep.

Sooo, out of the wreckage man has been leaving across the Blue Planet since forever, come questions of good and evil. Because you can’t have one without the other. Good only prevails when we look to grow it. For everyone. Evil has no mechanism for growth, other than what we give it because evil is all about ownership. Good knows there is no such thing. Dalai Lama said it best when he observed that people were created to be loved and things were created to be used, and the reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.

Possessing true faith means never having to say I want it all. Because if you got faith? I mean, the real deal stuff? You already have it all.

And so it is with this beautiful creation of a story whose incarnations are still being peddled over at The Lovely Fire. It began as a once and done post and it morphed into a love story and now it has taken a turn into something else entirely. It’s a story about the madness of a world where evil reigns, and where the good exists in picking up the pieces and turning the quiet moments into loud and prosperous things.

It’s a reminder that for all the days evil can take from us, it can never take the one thing that will always see us through.


The Lovely Fire

The latest round of posts here at The Lovely Fire will include many of the old, familiar faces while introducing a couple of new characters to the mix. This installment introduces us to Momma Judge- a character who crossed paths and became good friends with Sam and Dave in the pre-zombie world and who is looking to find her way to them in the new age. While Momma may not have been as close to these crazy kids as their adoptive mother Rosa, she has made a journey to the lighthouse thanks to the mysterious dreams of a man named Bob Marley and an unshakable faith in the tether of love and friendship. I hope you enjoy . . . 


(A huge shout out to Christy for her peerless editorial skills. Thank you Christy, for the beauty you bring to the drudgery of details. It’s very much appreciated.) 


View original post 2,118 more words

A Million Miles From Camelot

I figured out what it was. This inability to build a lucid narrative on Trump; an affliction I’ve been toting around since November of last year when reality TV met up with the real thing. It’s because to talk about the man would simply lead me down a rabbit hole whose confined space would force me to rant instead of reason. I would equivocate rather than elucidate. In other words, I would be screaming textually rather than arguing sensibly.

And then this past weekend happened. I was busy as all get out, but who can run away from that kind of news? I mean, really. There’s no place to run and hide when something like Charlottesville happens.  And when it happens inside of an already turbulent time, it kind of feels like Mephistopheles scored the deed to our backyard.

Horrible events such as this leave you with a dull ache- full of hopelessness and dread, for what might come next. Because the worst days always seem to have a sequel just waiting to be unleashed, especially nowadays. To be a true believer in this day and age is akin to being accused of witchcraft in Salem back in the day. You’re a freakish misfit to the villagers. And I guess that’s where I came to understand why it is that I have been silent for so long on Trump.

Out of disbelief? Partly. Out of dread for what comes next? Mostly. Out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to stitch the right nouns to the proper verbs and make it cohesive enough sounding without coming off as a fraternal member of the Young Turks? Definitely.

Until now. Until Charlottesville. And I really hate the fucking timing of this post, because it means that Saturday happened. It’s like a meteor crashed down on my clueless skull and opened me up to the truth of the matter, and how to express it.

I don’t believe in blaming others unless they are directly responsible, which is another reason why I couldn’t bring myself to write on Trump for the last ten months. Because I most certainly wasn’t blaming him for all those votes he got. And I wasn’t even blaming all the people who thought he was the best idea this country had left, even if they were woefully wrong on that point.

No, I blamed the people such as myself. The ones who voted for Hilary and thought that was all it was going to take, and all the others who didn’t think she needed their vote to win by a slam dunk. I was one of those people who made fun of a Trump presidency, over and over and over again. Until November happened, and all the humor of such a thing became an Orwellian story line come to life.

And now, none of it is funny or irreverent. Now, it’s just a series of piss poor comedic skits with no punch lines. Now it’s just a sad and lonely and interminably long truth.

I wish I had some pretty words to dole out, on how we all have to come together and how peace and unity is the only way. But right now, it feels as if that “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King happened inside another world. Right now, it feels as if there is more of Charlotteville where Saturday came from. Because we have a President who never met a middle ground he didn’t blow to smithereens. And now, he has the guns to do just that, in more ways than the horrible one.

I can’t blame Trump for what James Alex Fields did in Charlottesville. Because to do so would be to buy in to the trade off of accountability that has allowed us to arrive at this mess in time. Fields made the decision to kill and injure when he plowed his car into a group of people. Just as those Nazi’s of another mother country and the white nationalists with their Tiki torches made the decision to be moral degenerates long before Trump came into office.

My problem with Trump has nothing to do with the actions of these disenfranchised losers. I don’t blame Trump for their seething hatred and bitter ignorance. Trump didn’t make these people who they are.

My problem with Trump is that he accepted it.

Slugfests, Southpaws and a Summer Wind

The historian Bruce Catton once referred to baseball as the greatest conversation piece America ever invented. While it was a critique of the game’s leisurely pace, he unwittingly pointed out one of its best qualities. Because the game is meant to be talked over, in stops and starts for its better and worse.

I recently took in an Atlantic League baseball game with my pal Gus. It was the hometown Lancaster Barnstormers against the Sugar Land Skeeters. The league is independent, which means none of its teams is affiliated with a big league squad. As far as household names go, the ‘Stormers have Lastings Milledge, an outfielder who played parts of seven seasons with the Mets, Nationals, Pirates and White Sox before opting for free agency after the 2011 season. He hasn’t seen a big league clubhouse since that day, which makes him the baseball equivalent of Tom Hanks in Castaway; holding onto a slim and distant hope. And aside from owning one of my favorite baseball names, he owns a dream that won’t let him quit the diamond just yet.

The dreams these men carry aren’t big ones. Most of them would be ecstatic to score a thirty day contract with some minor league club. Because a thirty day contract somewhere else, is somewhere closer than the last exit outposts they’re toiling away in.

I told Gus that I had a good feeling about things, because our starting pitcher was a lefty. In my humble baseball opinion, left-handed pitchers are a magical thing. Never mind that I didn’t know his name and had no blessed clue whether he could pitch worth a damn. By the time the top of the first inning had concluded, I had received my answer to the tune of a 5-o lead by the visitors.

We made our way to the concession stands and dug into some barbecue while the home team began chipping away at the lead. The game settled for a bit and we watched as our lefty pitcher battled despite the fact his curve ball wasn’t curving and his fast ball was playing around with other men. And then the Skeeters were jumping him again and so me and Gus, we changed the subject for a while.

When it comes to the company you want to keep at a baseball game, you’re not going to get much better than Gus. His conversation chases the ebb whilst paying all due respect to the flow. Sitting in the stands on a summer evening is like listening to a thousand radio songs- filled with white knuckle debate and the laughter of reminisce.

Gus is from Lafayette, Louisiana- born and raised. His vowels are clipped and his drawl goes long when he’s slow dancing with a story. I asked him about Vietnam and he talked about his brother Roger who served in the Army, Special Forces. He made it back, but a part of him never returned; like a jigsaw puzzle with a few really important pieces missing. There was Anthony, his other big brother who served in the Marines before being sent home after stepping on a land mine. While the rehab on his mangled leg was tedious and painful, Anthony was one of the lucky ones.

My pal tells stories in thickly painted vignettes whose mystic is dressed in the scenes of a long ago time. In this instance, he had delivered up suede and bell-bottoms, long hair and peace signs with a fresh vinyl feeling to that Buffalo Springfield war song.

And so a baseball evening’s worth of conversation began in Vietnam as the home team tried digging out of a 5-0 deficit. The talk moved into family as they tied it at 7 and it nestled into thoughts on religion as the teams made the scoreboard operator earn his paycheck on this night.

It was at the end of the sixth inning when Gus took his leave. He had a lovely bride of forty eight years to get home to and so I walked with him to the outfield exit before I asked him for one more baseball night before the leaves turned.

I walked down to the benches behind the outfield wall and took a seat for one more inning. Baseball might lend itself to conversation, but there is plenty of come on to be had in the silence as well. The Skeeters were clinging to a 11-9 lead in the bottom of the seventh when Beau Amaral delivered up the kind of magic our starting pitcher wasn’t able to find. He smacked a 2-2 pitch into a gaping stretch of real estate in left field that Steve Bartman would’ve appreciated. He rounded second before the left fielder could turn to pivot and he was racing home as the throw hit the third baseman’s glove on the relay, and he was sliding across home plate with an inside the park home run as the ball went sailing over the catcher’s head.

Beau Amaral has a great baseball name, and he has something many of his teammates have run out of. Time. Twenty six and fresh off a stint with the Reds Triple A club, he’s tearing up the ball to the tune of a .359 batting average with the ‘Stormers. He’s killing it for another shot at the big time, in the hopes he can catch a scout’s eye and start that most time honored of baseball things.

A conversation.

I’m a Neat Freak!: Real Neat Blog Award

Didi Oviatt recently nominated me for The Real Neat Blog Award, and I am honored to accept. Because it means I’m real and I’m neat, which are two very fine qualities to be in possession of.

As for Didi Oviatt, she’s a blogger with plenty of boom. She writes, she reviews and she presses the virtual flesh with bloggers from all around the world and back again. She does all this with a charismatic flair that has her readers begging for more. To which she always provides.

Thank you so very kindly, Ms. Oviatt, for the award; for taking the time. Both.

Now, as per the rules of my award . . I got a few questions to answer:

1. If your voice could sound like any artist, who would you want it to sound like?- This was a really difficult one, but I would have to say Mariah Carey. Reason being, I love singing her tunes in the car but I know I ain’t doing her justice. I want justice for Mariah.

2. What is your favorite recipe?- This is another really difficult one but if I HAVE to choose I am going to go with a lamb roast. For one thing, it allows me to play with some of my favorite ingredients such as garlic, thyme, rosemary and dijon. And for another, it’s a simple dish that feels elegant and I like that. I refer to it as provincial simplicity.

3. Do you have a favorite genre to read?- No. I don’t. Historical fiction . . . Maybe. But no, I really don’t. An example? Why not. I just finished reading Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. Before that it was Shutter Island . . Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden and The Prophet (For the thousandth time . . I think). And I am currently engrossed in The Alchemist. 

4. What is your favorite movie?- Of all time? The Godfather. There are so many life lessons to be culled from this masterpiece. I could have gone with Godfather 2 because it’s probably a better movie, but my favorite will always be the original. Interestingly, my least favorite movie is Godfather 3. 

5. What did you do today to improve your future self?- Today? I didn’t murder the asshole who cut me off on the way to breakfast with my kids. Hey, it means I don’t have to get used to wearing an orange jumpsuit and catching up on my smoking habit whilst guarding my ass as if it were the Mona Lisa. Yesterday was a bit more constructive, because I spent some time with pit bulls. As far as God’s creatures go, they are severely misunderstood. I was hand feeding a pit bull yesterday, who only a couple weeks earlier was unapproachable and had been designated as “Staff Only”. As a volunteer, I still can’t walk Maximus, but thanks to some wonderful people who’ve been working with him, I learned the color of his beautiful eyes- hazel with a touch of vermilion. And now he doesn’t bark at me, and now he doesn’t charge. Now, we just sit together. These people reached him with patience and love and understanding, and I became the lucky recipient of their dedication. It is in these small victories where I find God.

As to who I nominate for the Neat Blogger Award?

Every single blogger who visits this place. I know, it’s not exactly in keeping with the rules, but I won’t choose. Because I am thankful for each and every one of you. To take the time from your busy day to venture over here, it’s more appreciated than you know. You make this blog what it is- a neat place to come to. Without you . . . there’s no Cayman Thorn.

To peace and love, and to you.




Sunday Morning Coffee Love

I thought I could write on anything, until it occurred to me this year that I cannot. It was a mysterious development, and one I was not used to. Until I delved further and studied its roots more deliberately, just the other day. Then, it made sense- an infinite amount of the stuff.

In this instance, I speak of politics. Of a topic that was always ‘on demand’ simple in my brain. Until last November, when it turned my creative juices on the topic into a hazy shade of winter. And maybe this sounds crazy, but I can’t bring myself to write on the happenings since November changed the world we’re living in.

Perhaps I should make excuses. Like, “Hey, you can’t satirize satire.”, or “Why parody the parody?”. And I have done that, made excuses. But I shouldn’t be making excuses. I should accept what’s happened to this particular part of my brain and just wait it out. Because I know, full well, that there will come a day when the dam will burst and the words will come pouring out and then all those excuses will seem like elegant sounding absurdities.

So yes, I have learned I cannot write on just anything, at any time, as I damn well please. I have come to understand that there are some things to which I have no answer. And you know something? Good. Because it tempers me, humbles me, teaches me. About the writer I am and the process I choose and the treacherous path that begins with a blank white sheet.

The ability to convey your thoughts into some better sounding thing is a gift, and maybe I forgot that. Maybe I was taking it for granted. I don’t know. What I do know is that I am grateful. To be a writer. To know what writing means to me. And I am eternally thankful to one writer in particular. My favorite one. Because I talked this out with her the other day, and she listened. As only she can do. And her thoughts on the matter behaved as a salve to my senses.

She’s something I could write on. All day long. Which is why I’m plenty fine with throwing any political diatribes in the rear view, for now. Because I have a topic on which I can spin tales from here to the moon and back. And it matters more than all the other things I could write on.

It reminds me of a poem by Pablo Neruda . . . .

You can crush the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring. 

My political flavor has indeed wilted, and while it hasn’t died . . it has been crushed in the cycle of stupid that perpetuates our trending news. And she lets me know it’s a ‘so what’ proposition. Because there’s plenty ’nuff to write on. Like the spring time I feel in the ways of a girl who put a spell on me. So there.

Here’s to you, Cat Woman. I love your purr and your poetry, your rhythm and your rhyme. I love the way you make my world feel, just by being in the grand ballroom of my existence.

Like that.


The forever after quality of keeping the faith

There’s a line in the Ray Bradbury Sci-Fi classic “Fahrenheit 451” that describes friendship as a gradual progression; a drip by drip construction of innocent ripples whose mighty is a hidden gem of tidal given proper, pouring itself into a cup over the time and space of a person’s life. The evidence remains a mystery until the cup overflows.

Apologies for not googling the verbatim, but I felt like the imperfections of my memory as per this particular line dovetail much more effectively with the very idea.

Because love and friendship? Ain’t perfect.

But love and friendship are quite necessary things in a world whose market value changes for the better and worse on a daily basis. It seems that the times we’re living inside of are made of equal parts mercury and stardust. The sobering realities, tethered to the boundless dreams.

The weekend was all work for me, and it began on a very melancholic note because I lost my best workplace friend. Which is never a good thing in retail, where the weather changes every five minutes as it is.

How to describe Gus? He’s an Elmore Leonard character who makes the day worth figuring out to its better end. He’s a cool cat who still possesses that Louisiana drawl when he gets riled up. And he’s treating seventy as if it ain’t no thing at all. In his previous life, Gus was a minister. And that’s what he’s going back to now. My loss inside the day to day travails is going to be the gain of a great many people, and it’s how I had to frame things on Saturday . . when I wasn’t busy crying.

Before I left for the day, I found Gus and we hugged. I was tearing up as we embraced and then he went and did it.

“Hey man, I’m gonna be around.” He smiled.

“You better. We have a ballgame to get to.”

“You know it, Bubba. I love you.” He said.

“I love you too Gusto.”

And that was that. My day to day, changed, permanently. My forever too. The former will remain melancholic for a time, but the latter has become a better place thanks to Gus. Because he filled the void left by my good friend, George; who left me just when I needed him most. And it’s okay to be selfish about these things. When it matters this much, it is.

With love, it’s more complicated.

Love is a four letter word with sugar on top. It’s that honeyed up quality to the thing that allows it to have its way with us. Because love is a drug that doesn’t quit your system, even if you swear you will never . . ever . . ever . . never, dabble in the stuff again.

The way I did. When I started this blog.

This blog was my broken hearted pledge to the fates. It was a commandment to myself. To never again venture into something deeper than the shallows. And most certainly never to do such a thing on a blog . . with a writer . . whose words I loved to listen to as they roamed through my brain and tickled my heart and provoked my soul.

Never. Ever. Ever. Never.

I think I did one hell of a job of keeping this promise to myself. At least until she walked in the room and changed those plans. And it was like that line from the Harrison Ford flick Six Days, Seven Nights. She got me excited just by showing up. That was it. I was that easy. For her I was.

It’s just a certain way a man conducts himself when a certain woman enters his domain. He may not even be aware he’s behaving in a different way, but oh man . . he really is. Okay, imagine this dude’s life is a grand ballroom. The music is sizzling, the crowd is familiar and the mood is predictable. The dude is plenty fine with this, because he just so happens to be a creature of habit.

And then she makes the scene, and every single best laid plan goes up in the smoke of her fire. She steps into the grand ballroom wearing an indigo dress and it’s like every other woman in the place is dressed in monochrome. And the only music he can hear is coming from her. And all the sense in a world that’s busy making no sense at all, it’s tucked inside that smile of hers.

She gives him all the most important things. Love, friendship, support, understanding and faith. And sometimes, she gives him funny memes in the morning. And they end up having a gangsta rap meme showdown and it’s just the thing he needs, because the coffee ain’t working and the run didn’t feel so amazing and there’s so much to do and there’s so little time . .

And then he sits down, and in his best James Taylor he pens this. For her.

She’s got honey in her veins, and the breath of mountains in her soul and Keats in her movements and Cupid in her curls and mayhem in her silence and Broadway in her dancing and storms in her flirtatious wink and Hendrix in her rants and scandal in her steps and Gandhi in her whispers and the ocean in her tears and the age of disco in her laugh and she has the magic of all those crazy stars in the words she weaves.

He pens the words that fill him up, the words she created just by being in the grand ballroom of his existence. And he knows. He knows that it takes a certain woman to convince a certain man that you can never, ever say never . .