27 August 2016

TEN at 25!

August 27, 1991.

Starting my senior year of high school as the world around me smoldered in the wake of what had been a rough year-and-a-half. My parents divorced and I tumbled down a rabbit hole of depression that led to a month in rehab and the subsequent deletion of everything I loved and knew from my life.

My friends in high school had been replaced by the people at AA meetings. Older men and women who'd lost jobs and homes. People who'd done hard time in federal penitentiaries.

I left my childhood home to move into an apartment my dad shared with a recovering addict, a terrible decision based on guilt and shame. That was the last time I ever saw a lot of my old stuff. Magazines and posters and hundreds of cassette tapes. A large collection of fantasy and Stephen King novels and DUNGEONS & DRAGONS accoutrement. STAR WARS and G.I. JOE actions figures.

When I left the Adolescent Chemical Dependency unit at old St. Francis in Lawrenceville, they told me to get new clothes. My Metallica and Queensr├┐che t-shirts were a sign of the life I was leaving behind. And even though nobody ever came out and said it, I got the impression I was supposed to emerge from all that turmoil like a butterfly out of a cocoon.

Except it didn't really happen that way. I'm not sure it ever does.

Pearl Jam's TEN came when I realized maybe I wasn't an addict, but just really, really depressed. The pink album cover represented a change from so many blacks and grays. The lyrics were intellectual in a way Guns and Roses weren't. When I first saw the video for "Even Flow" I realized the band didn't wear a uniform or costumes. They weren't putting on airs. They dressed like I did. And they shared my anger and frustrations and expressed them with more subtlety and nuance than a lot of the bands I listened to before. And they were mine.

The next year-and-a-half was as monumental as the previous eighteen months had been. I graduated high school and began college at Penn State, Fayette Campus. I started working for Laurel Highlands River Tours in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania as a whitewater raft guide. When I walked through the parking lot that first morning of Cheat training down in Albright, West Virginia, I heard TEN blasting out of Bo Harshyne's old van. I'd found my new tribe.  

TEN was the bedrock upon which I'd build the life I'd always wanted for myself. It gave me a directive to seek the freedom I'm always wanted to be the person I needed to be. To dress the way I wanted. To read what I wanted. To explore new ideas and philosophies.

And twenty years later, when my writing career didn't seem to be following the trajectory I'd once hoped it would, Pearl Jam began reflecting on what it meant to be a part of something special for so long. The band and Cameron Crowe released PEARL JAM TWENTY, or PJ20, in 2011, and the retrospective reminded me of their battles with Ticketmaster and their struggles to maintain artistic integrity in spite of so much noise. In that way, the band and their ethos played a massive role in my eventual decision to self-publish a novel, a singular act that virtually every publishing opportunity I have today sprang from.

So when I saw today was the anniversary of the release, I stopped what I'd been doing to let it soak in. Twenty-five years is a long time ago, and a galaxy far, far away. Lately I've been joking with Heidi that my real birthday was some twenty years after the actual day I was born. I figured summer of 1994, give or take. My reasoning was that the events of the last twenty years have had as large an impact on my life as the events of the first twenty. And if that's the case, then it makes me happy to think that a little bit of August 27, 1991 is in my new DNA.

20 August 2016

SMALL SPACE BIG LIFE: Cinque Terre by Sea, August 2016

Published on Aug 16, 2016
The first clip from our Italy trip! This is from our evening cruise along the five villages of the Cinque Terre, courtesy of Angelo's Boat Tours. I'd highly recommend them for anyone visiting the Cinque Terre.

We patronized the following businesses while in the Cinque Terre:

14 August 2016


So, Heidi and I have recently undertaken a new kind of project. After scrolling through some pictures from a trip we'd taken a few years ago, we decided there had to be a better way for us to view them, and took to putting some to music. And to share them with family, we uploaded a few to YouTube.

Ultimately, this is a way for us to relive some great moments. Sharing them is more about making them available for anyone who may be interested in seeing them than becoming an internetfamous vlogger or world-class humblebragger. We aren't shilling hotels or restaurants, and we certainty aren't trying to tell anybody what to do with their time or money. At the end of the day this is a way for us to momentarily revisit some places we truly love.    

The YouTube channel can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeKwWd2nVYEJPQh9cxRN6g

31 July 2016

Audiovile: The Expanded Digital Edition

I was really happy to have been asked to contribute when Mike Arnzen first put this together. As far as I know, it's the only evidence in existence that proves I've tried to play a banjo. Mike has some great stuff on here, and it's worth a look. 

Audiovile: The Expanded Digital Edition 

Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

Audiovile was originally released as a CD in 2007 by Raw Dog Screaming Press, breaking new ground in spoken word horror.
This newly "Expanded Digital Edition" includes high quality digital versions of all the tracks, and then DOUBLES the size of the original release, featuring EXCLUSIVE performances which were not included with original 16-track CD, most appearing here for the first time. And if you purchase the full album, you get access to BONUS FEATURES: an ebook companion with stories & related articles; printable CD inserts; a photograph gallery; the "Brain Candy" music video (animated by Jennifer Barnes); and a secret bonus audio track to add to your collection!

13 July 2016


I don't know what it's going to take to resolve this problem, or if I'll see it in my lifetime, but this is unbearable. I describe myself not as an optimist, but rather as a prisoner of hope, and these events are making it a challenge for me see people as inherently good. They make me wonder what it's going to take to not be afraid for people I know and love.

As an educator, I am always forced to interact outside of my comfort zone. I am an introvert by nature, but my job has let me into the lives of some beautiful people, some of whom wear blue, some of whom wear no uniform at all. They come from from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and I am certain they all deserve equal access to the same right to pursue happiness so long as it does not interfere with somebody else's right to do the same. I understand the anger expressed by the families of the victims and am frustrated that I have no idea what a solution looks like. Ideally, I do, but this is not an ideal world. In an ideal world I am at the front of the classroom, leading a rational discussion about what makes us the same genetically or culturally, and what makes us all beautiful as people. In my world students are forced to listen to stories that are different than their own and are encouraged to talk about what makes them happy and unique. Of course, everybody's in 9th grade in my world. But you know what 9th graders do that many  adults don't? They listen. They want to be coached through challenging concepts and they want to understand. Ultimately, they want to be happy, and they don't want to be afraid, and in that way they are no different than anybody else.

I wrote a blog post during our school's lock-down as the events in Sandy Hook unfolded. I lost some Facebook 'friends' that day. I don't know if my opinion is just noise or if I should even care about alienating people with opinions that differ from mine. But a few of these images got me in a way I did not expect and I had to do something I had not done in a very long time. Soon enough my posts will be all cat pics and happy places because that's the bubble I'very created for myself. I have had four former students pass away since January, and life outside of that bubble doesn't get any easier.

Thankfully, a few of these images give me a glimmer of hope.