Tag Archives: nonfiction

Does the fork in your road have seven lanes or is it just me?

Photography by Gabriel circa 2012.

Photography by Gabriel circa 2012.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on my blog. Five months to be exact. I know it’s been too long because the creative blood in my veins have begun to clot along the interior walls of my heart. I wish I could give you semi-decent excuses for my absence. You know the usual balderdash. This happened, that occurred, I was too busy with work, I got married and the wife popped out a litter of pups, went on a walk-about in Australia so I could seize manhood by growing a scraggly beard and skinning rattlesnakes, or that I was building a sailboat in order to ride the high seas like some rich kid who has nothing better to do with their time. (Just for the record I don’t know how long it would take to build a boat, considering I have no idea how to use tools or even the basic concept of woodworking. I would have to interrogate my friend Jacob on that one.)

Excuses like that seem legit and some would even consider them noble undertakings. But alas, I don’t have any room for them in my excuse folder. Although I did manage to grow a beard towards the end of 2013. I was very proud of my beard. But it’s too hot in Florida, even in the dead of winter so I shaved it off.

In a one of my previous posts I had mentioned that I moved down south to get away from life up north. That kept me busy for a while. You know, settling in, finding employment, etc. But then (unfortunately) I was called back to New York for several weeks in order to take care of some personal business. After those shenanigans were dealt with and after it was apparent (yet again might I add) that my New York Jets would not make the playoffs, I flew back down mid-December in order to find work and wait out the rest of the horror that was last year. I am not complaining, unloading, or even giving you a list of things that in all probability you don’t really care about (wait, that last one might be true), I am simply trying to explain where I’ve been.

I think mindsets have a huge say in when a self-entitled writer decides to pick up their pencils (or laptops) and squeeze out a few coherent sentences. For instance, I take Instagram photos and write silly little fiction tales to go along with them just to keep sharp. But I don’t think many people appreciate my doing so (with a few exceptions of course). I mean come on, who has time to read fifteen sentences these days (he says with the roll of his eyes)? People probably think I am being snooty, or showing off, or just plain bats. I don’t care. Like I said, it keeps me sharp and it’s nice to think it could invoke emotions out of the crowd. Who doesn’t like a little commentary to go along with a pretty picture?

But it’s that whole mindset problem . I’ll tell you a secret, the wires in my brain have managed to get tangled up over the past few years. So much so, that if you took an x-ray of my noggin I bet it would look like a ball of yarn someone left under their recliner. If your mindset is dragging you down and you find yourself trapped in the dreaded doldrums, fear not. It makes great fodder for the weary writer looking to muse something poetic and original. I know this to be true in my own journey through life, especially the past six months. I think one of our problems (the unpublished) is seeded in the fact that we are hopelessly emotional and we sometimes forget how to channel the positive/negative energy emanating from our own deceitful nature. Now I know I run the risk of being mocked, condemned and even tarred and feathered for such a blatant statement, but it’s true. I think of it like this: painters paint by what they wish to see, musicians create music by what their ears want to hear, and writers scribe from what they feel deep inside their bellies, where things churn and swell and eventually come out in a flurry of ingenuity, hoping someone will take notice. Don’t get me wrong, every facet of artistic ability stems from the deep longing in our souls to make beauty out of nothing, to inspire someone, to change the world from their own perspectives, and since I can’t paint nor play an instrument, I have to rely on words and sentences to convey what is going on inside the ball of yarn I call a brain.

What do you like to read when things go sour? What section of Barnes and Noble do you peruse when all is well and the world is your oyster? What corner of the library do you find yourself in when things aren’t going right and when every door slams shut on your face? What’s your favorite Starbucks to visit when you are in love and you want to journal some sappy nonsense about your better half?

Maybe you’re like me. Straddling the fence between every place and no place, reading everything or reading nothing, loving all or feeling nothing but that silent emptiness of loneliness. I’ve been trying to pray more these days. I took a long hiatus from the practice because I felt the Lord wasn’t hearing me, or that I wasn’t asking hard enough. I think King David must have been feeling the same type of emotions when he wrote the Psalms. It’s a wonderful biography of a person that God called “a man after His own heart”.  Meanwhile he was one of the biggest basket-cases in the Old Testament.

But the Psalms are different. David takes the reader on a journey to the top of the mountain with songs of love, faithfulness, joy and peace with his maker. On the other side of the token, the not-so-bright side, he brings us into the valley of his lamenting. He is scared and lonely and doesn’t know where to run and hide. He begs for help and sheds tears because there’s no one to comfort him. If I close my eyes I can see him sitting on a hill, faithfully tending his flock while all of these emotions are running through his spirit. This was the man who slew a giant with a stone! A shepherd boy who was to be king of Israel. When he wasn’t writing, he was running from Saul, when he wasn’t running from Saul, he was trying to figure out which road God wanted him to take.

Doesn’t this sound like us at times?

So, my fellow unpublished friends, cheer up. Use your emotions as a tool to write wonderful things. Use it as a compass to change the world because people need directions. There’s too many forks in the road.

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Life as a fictional character.


I don’t know which is harder to endure, sitting still and watching life fly by in a haphazard whirlwind of confusion or getting on your blistered, war ravaged feet day after day and traversing towards that mysterious goal you set out to accomplish. I don’t know which is more heartbreaking, remaining stagnant where you stand, hoping for something to come your way to lift your spirits or leaving what is familiar, what is safe and what you know will be there when you open your eyes the next morning. I cannot bear to stand these quandaries.

Sometimes I wonder if every human is confronted with perpetual crossroads, if the decisions we have to make are merely a cosmic joke told by the Grand Jokester to keep things interesting, or they actually mean something important and are not to be taken lightly. I always felt that my life is akin to a never-ending maze of sharp corners and wicked speed bumps followed by tumultuous alleyways and finally rounded off by a series of burning rings that I must jump through. I don’t mean to be dramatic. I don’t mean to sound as if my life is harder than anyone here in the audience and to be honest I am not even voicing a trivial complaint. I think it’s alright to question the cosmos once or twice. Hell, the only bad question is the one that’s never asked.

I guess it would be nice to saunter down that smooth, cobble-stoned walkway once every few months or so, just to be reminded that life doesn’t always have to be a sharp kick in the ass. The first twenty-nine years of my life I convinced myself that hard times make you tough, make you strong and that it will put hair on your chest. I usually welcome those moments when I go face-to-face with the gods and clash my sword against their shields and listen to the metallic ring of victory. But there are times I don’t wish to do battle because I do not want to put up a fight.

I am thirty now and I am tough. On a good day I am strong, and there is too much hair on my chest, I shave it once and awhile but it grows back thicker and will itch like something else so I let it grow ginzo style because I know women love hairy men.

Please do not misunderstand where I am trying to come from. I don’t want an easy life. I never wanted the path of least resistance because without some of the trials and tribulations I would not be the man I am today. Personally I don’t envy those boys and girls who never know what it’s like to have hardships. It certainly gives you a much better perspective on adulthood and you’re more apt to appreciate the things you do have in this world.

They say it’s about choices. It’s all about choices and nothing else. What about circumstances? What about luck? What about all that bullshit I hear about parents abandoning their children? What about poverty? Disease? Handicaps? Addictions? Are not all these factors somewhat involved with the so-called choices we make? I can’t sit here and write to you people and tell you I have stood my ground and avoided stupidity like one avoiding an avalanche. Because it would be untruthful and it would contradict the mission that has been ingrained in my heart to help those suffering.

I make dumb decisio’s every day.

My point is I want to be at peace with myself. Even for one week. For one week I want to roll out of bed with gusto and smell the flowers and all that malarkey. I want to throw open the bedroom door and inhale deeply and whistle my ass into the shower. I want to have breakfast with a beautiful woman who thinks I am the greatest creature in the universe. I need the life that Lyle Lovett was singing about when he croaked over cream in his coffee and flour tortillas and Sunday mornings and how his chick knew him better than anyone else. That’s the life I secretly wish for.

But I am a fictional character. There is a curse to those of us who sit down and scribe our thoughts and musings and tell tales of grandeur. When you spend most of your time inventing worlds of make-believe and the entire goings on involved with said world, you can accept your talent and bask in the god-like glory of being the mastermind behind every masterpiece your nimble fingers create…or you can become depressed because the lives you invent are not reality. They are figments of another place and another time, and if you dwell on them too long, you may wind up sitting in a padded room while brutish nurses feed you horse tranquilizers and your hair grows old and grey. By that time no self-respecting American women will have you.

Yet there is a certain glory to it all. There is a sense of accomplishment and peacefulness. There is a part of me that loves to create and to fantasize and to make pretend. I guess this is what helps me stay young and sane and in-tune with my Zen-like nature. As someone who fabricates stories I have many characters running around the confines of my skull and they are all pushing and shoving and vying for position. Each one serves a purpose, each one was created at a certain low point in my life, and sometimes they cannot be found when I am in dire straits to help assuage those hard choices I mentioned earlier.

I think this is where most of us writers go awry and become unfulfilled. We spend hours upon hours pretending to live in the stories we write. We daydream about living out the lives we give our protagonists and all the while neglect our own realities. I won’t speak for all of you, but I know that when I come to a proverbial fork in the road, I will shut my eyes and seek advice from someone I created, yes I am fully aware of how it sounds, but I don’t care, because I know some of you will understand where I am coming from. I think most people do this type of meditation but are too afraid to admit it.

I travel often. I am what they call a drifter, a hopeless wanderer, a man who searches when his heart cries out for something new. I drove across America last year and spent three months on the road. I loved it dearly and managed to come up with several wonderful ideas for novels. Adventure makes me feel whole. When I feel my feet sinking into the sands of monotony I pack my meager belongings into boxes and move on. I will be leaving my residence shortly to regain something I had lost over the past several months. I will take those characters with me and they shall comfort me when darkness creeps over the vastness of earth and eclipses the sun.

Forks and crossroads.

They can be friend and they could be foe. But it’s just a matter of perspective. Isn’t it?    


Road Trip: Beyond the sight of man

Rocky Mountains
Golden, Co
Photography by Gabriel

When I wake up in the early morning hours I find myself lost between different lands. Upon opening your eyes, the first thing to hit the center of your pupils are the Rocky Mountains. All you see is darkness at its base, but when you gaze at the multicolored sunrise above the hilly terrain you are hit with a sense of shock at the contrast between earth and sky.

It reminds me of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island. If you get to the beach at sunrise, you will see pitch black waves rocking back and forth with no sense of direction. If you look deep into the horizon and past the breaking point of the waves, reds and oranges welcome another day into existence. The dark water is alive with life and as the sun rises, it makes the liquid seem less ominous. Sometimes you forget the world is circular because at that moment, you are certain the earth stretches east to west for billions of miles, as if running alongside the heavens. A cosmic battle of the ages with no winners, their job is to keep us filled with questions and wonder and mesmerize us by creating natural phenomenons.

Then I moved to the middle of American, where flat land stops abruptly and bows down to majestic mountains. In the morning, dark, rolling hills cut the purple sky in half in these strange, zigzag, up and down patterns which seem to go on forever. Stars still shine and the moon hangs high above the earth in victory and awash in the suns reflection. Every color of the rainbow mixes in with white clouds and all is quiet underneath its banner.

Once I am fully awake I remember where I am and what I’m doing here. Although I don’t understand the why and the when, I feel all these questions will be fulfilled in due time. The place I came from seems to fade away with every sunset, the future, like every sunrise, remains a mystery to my mind and my soul and yet I wait in expectation, hopeful and captivated by the strangeness of it all.

Speaking of strange, two nights ago I checked into a local motel out here in Colorado and found myself caught in a creepy, personal version of Ghost Hunters. Unbeknownst to me, the place had a reputation for being shady and a hangout for various sorts of arch criminals and vagabonds. Not that I have a problem with consorting with different people, I’d rather not stay in a building where shootouts occurred and people died.

Anyway, I rented a room and made my way down the dark corridor with an uneasy feeling in my stomach, this was strike one. Upon entering the pad, I put my stuff down and prepared myself for a shower in a bathroom with a puddle of water sitting in the middle of the floor. Strike two. I spoke comforting words into the mirror, you know, kind of like a pep talk to keep me going. As I stood in the middle of the lavatory in my birthday suit the madness began.

Oh Shit!

An unearthly whisper shot past my ears and the hairs on my neck stood up sending my nerves into a panic overload. At this point I am extremely vulnerable because I had to put on my clothes before running through the walls like some cartoon on steroids. As this was all transpiring, my heart beat a hundred miles an hour and my mind was screaming for me to leave this place of the damned. The evil twin girls from The Shinning flashed in my mind and all I wanted to do was scream. After I managed to throw on my clothes and pick up whatever crap was lying around I made it into the hallway safely without anyone or anything grabbing my shoulder. I would have screamed, my lord I would have screamed!

Point of the story is I managed to get out of there alive and in one piece with a full refund. There is another world beyond the sight of man. Whether you choose to believe is your prerogative, but at that point, in that room, I was not alone. My skin crawled, my lungs filled with fear and my mind played tricks on me. I’ve never had a problem staying in motels before and I have stayed in plenty. I knew I wasn’t losing my mind, when I checked into my beloved Motel 6 an hour later I spoke with the cute lady behind the counter about the haunted motel. My story was confirmed when she explained to me how many people have left that motel in fear.

I’m usually one for exploring the unknown and the eerie, but not then. I want to know what I’m walking into first before signing up to be a Ghostbuster. I think it’s only fair to warn your patrons there are spirits roaming about the halls. If the creepy lady at the front desk would have explainedthis to me I would have been in the mood to deal with the unseen. But, like many of the adventures I’ve had on this trip so far, it makes for good conversation.

Get em’ Ray.

Today is opening day for the NFL and I am sitting here in Starbucks drinking the cheapest coffee a guy can find in this particular establishment. This will be the first time in many, many years I will miss my beloved Jets open up the season and it’s amazing how little I actually care. Priorities can change when you are broke and homeless and on the verge of mental collapse. You see the world differently, you grow up faster, you pray for help and you try to remain strong while you rebuild and regroup and start from absolutely nothing. Like the ghost which haunted me a few nights ago, the unknown is a scary, otherworldly existence I have come to despise.

I don’t have anything else to add except this: Don’t be afraid, the morning light will shine eventually and the darkness cannot stand it. Take it easy.


Road Trip: Chewbacca drinks soy milk in the Land of Enchantment

Tucumcari, N.M
Photography by Gabriel

Authors note: I am on a road trip across America! Please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible! Music to read by “Return to Innocence”  by Enigma

The first thing you notice when you enter New Mexico is the sky and how the entrance to heaven must be found somewhere along its horizon. Blues mix and mingle with the greens and browns of the hilly earth. Wooden sticks with sharp barbwire zigzag across the landscape in no specific order. I assumed they marked boundaries, separating one homestead from the next. Black and brown cows litter the red ground beneath their hoofed feet.

Mirages are real. I’ve seen a few while driving down historic Route 66, but mostly in the form of Starbucks coffee. I started to lose it when I crossed over the Texas/ N.M border. When I say lose it, I mean I began to crack. I had just hit the 2,000 mile marker on my journey and the road psychosis kicked in. I started to laugh at nothing, I repeated words over and over, I made sounds like Chewbacca and at one point I pulled over to the side of a lonely road and had a conversation with a cow about the benefits of drinking soy milk. The state trooper who caught the affair was not impressed with my story and kindly asked me to get the hell out of his state and go back to New York. I looked back at the cow and she trotted away. I could have sworn she said something about eating more fiber.

I don’t know what happened to me.  When you’re on the road for long periods of time, things just mesh together. There is no rhyme or reason. When your schedule consists of nothing but survival in the great expanse of America your priorities can change. I poop in rest stops, I eat in gas stations, and I sleep in my Grand Van. I had a wonderful egg and sausage breakfast burrito while traveling through Texas the other day. I had no intention of doing so, but when I went in to pay for my gas, a young lady was in the middle of making some cowboy his breakfast. I had to have one.

It looked sumptuous, so I threw caution to the wind and ordered one. This is in a Sunoco gas station, in the middle of Texas. Before leaving home, I purchased some things from a store called BJ’s…why they decided to use such a suggestive name is beyond me…but they have some really good deals. I stocked up on all sorts of goodies. My most prized is the box full of Welch’s fruit snacks I’ve been munching on for the past nine days. Southwestern cuisine is absolutely worth the drive.

Want a good lunch? Go to any Mexican taco stand or mom and pop diner and you will walk out feeling like a king (or queen) that just had a royal feast. Eggs, tortillas, salsa, cheese, more tortillas and lots of guacamole make me a happy wanderer.

New Mexico
Photography by Gabriel

The roads in New Mexico are endless and the earth is a rainbow of colors. It goes from brown to deep red, to lush flower fields. White rocks jut out from the sacred ground and purple mountains soar above the skyline. If you listen closely you can hear the distant rattle of a snake, if you walk a spell towards open land you can almost hear the ancients sing their sad songs. When you look at the hills, you expect to see an Indian chief standing proudly on his stallion with his tribe behind him. When I walked alongside the Rio Grande River I envisioned the first settlers panning for gold and trying to survive. If you stoop down and put your ear on the red dirt, you can almost hear buffalos stampeding.

Years ago when I was visiting Maine, I purchased some Native American music from local tribes. I still enjoy playing them from time to time. While driving down I-40 at a respectable 60 mph, I put my arm out the window and let the warm breeze rush through me. Soft flutes and melancholy drums played in the background and I imagined what it must have been like to live four or five hundred years ago, hunting for food, forging for edible plants, dodging wild animals, sleeping in tepees.

I think I would have made a good chief, or at the very least some sort of ancient journalist. I’d have my rock slab handy and my paints ready to go. I would sit and listen to young men complain about hunting and how they needed more gear. I would take time to sit with the women and listen to them whine about not having enough water or food stuffs. They would expect me to report it to the higher-ups and I would. I picture riding a horse through deserts and territories to find other tribes, so I can bring them the latest headlines.

I’ve been on the road for almost ten days now. My beard is growing in and my legs are like rubber from driving too much. I started this article two days ago. I’ve driven another seven hundred miles. I feel one with the earth, one with my driver’s seat. I am praying for guidance, wishing for answers, looking to make some sense out of this whole quest of mine. I have miles to go and many nights to sleep under the heavens.  Part of the fun of driving across country is meeting new people and hearing their stories.

I was sitting on a curb in downtown Albuquerque yesterday, listening to a few vagabonds play instruments. The girl was sweet, the guy was definitely stoned and I was sitting there enjoying the whole scene. This is what life is about I think. Sharing a few laughs with strangers over a few beers can teach you a lot about yourself. Tells you what you are made of. Tells you what’s in your heart.

The Land of Enchantment is a beautiful place filled with mysteries and ancient history. The rocks cry out and sing sad songs. The mountains stand guard over people as they sleep. The skies light up and welcome you into its presence as you make your way west.  I could have sworn I saw John Wayne standing in the distance beckoning me to give up my fears, hand over my doubts and just let go. Be blessed everyone and until next time, adios.

New Mexico
Photography by Gabriel


Road Trip: My Intensive Care.

Me and the Shenandoah Valley.

On August 1st, 2012 I walked out of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for the last time. It was my home for the past three years. I was sure the outside world had changed drastically since entering the insidious institution of sorrow, that mammoth structure filled with sporadic acts of selfless bravery I have never encountered before. I have seen the sick be made well, watched families unite and grudges forgotten. I look forward to exploring the brave world of the half living.

It’s very serious up there in the I.C.U. When I walked the circular corridors I looked into the eyes of the dying and wondered which dimension beckoned their souls, I pondered the state of their hearts. Nursing staff ran to and fro delivering medications or cleaning any of the three major fluid groups; urine, blood or stool. I am not a morbid person I can assure you. I just try to give you the facts.

You can see death you know. It starts by taking the color from your skin, leaving it grey and pasty. It slithers into the whites of your eyeballs and casts a sickly yellow film over your pupils. Mouths open slightly, breaths come out slower. You can hear death too. The Reaper takes its smoky hand and grabs hold of your esophagus, allowing only whispers to escape your lips, until you slowly fade into the light. In some dimension far beyond the sight of men, your spirit exits and enters some sort of Twilight Zone even Rod Serling would be proud to call his own.

I was tired of it all.

So, I left the madness, the alarms, the codes, the elevators. Have I mentioned the blood and the stool? One cannot stress this point enough. Give a patient a bottle of Jevity and just watch the gastrointestinal system do its job. For those of you not in the know, it’s basically chocolate milk pumped into your stomach by a machine to keep you from starving to death while you are in a medically induced coma.

This past Wednesday morning, I woke up to the sounds of an electronic rooster screaming in my ear and I walked out on my past life. Months of worry, weeks of preparation and hours of anxiety, all came to a head when I started my Grand Van and pulled out of the gravel driveway.

It’s a funny feeling to just get up and leave everything behind. Luckily for me I never procreated or bought land to tend to, so I am able to throw caution to the wind and try something new. Yes, I had a good job for several years. I will eventually find new employment and get back to the grind and all that balderdash, but for now I need to be inspired. I need to dream. I want to explore paths less traveled. Walk where only a few brave men and women have dared. See what this beautiful country has to offer before I go stark raving mad just trying to survive.

After twenty bucks and a pinky finger later, I crossed the threshold into Jersey and headed south on Interstate 95. I screamed and pounded the roof of my van and sang along to whatever song was playing. Freedom is such a beautiful concept and I guess I never really knew what the term meant. I have no home. My money is tight (what else is new). Everything I own in this world I crammed into the van, and to be honest with you, I feel it’s too much. Stuff, stuff, stuff. We accumulate all this crap and for what?

Driving south on I-95 I was filled with both excitement and sorrow. Excitement in knowing I am living out my destiny. This is what I was supposed to do. This is why I was created. Oh, I don’t know, I just have this grandiose idea about writing a novel and inspiring others, and in order for me to accomplish this I have to walk out on life and go across country like Jeremiah Johnson or something. I am sorrowful because I leave a wonderful family behind. I am skipping out on time with good friends, leaving loved ones is a hard thing to do.

Have you ever had a burning in your heart to do something? Ever feel the Spirit leading you into an unknown direction? What did you do with it? Did you let the dream simmer and spoil or did you take hold of the reigns and put courage before your fears? I believe the key to a successful life is not in your wallet, nor your head, but in your heart. Set out to do something wonderful today even if it is terrifying. The harder resistance, the more important it is.

I feel this way about my own journey. I have a destination, Colorado, what will I do when I get there? I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I am walking by faith because I haven’t a leg to stand on.

Anyway, back to my road trip. My first major stop was our beloved capitol Washington D.C, where I spent most of my time worrying about feeding the meters so no one towed my mobile home. I was a bit disappointed for not staying longer, but I had a chance to catch a few sights before tucking tail and heading further away from home.  I stood outside the White House and waited patiently for my invite, when the president came out to greet us he noticed me and graciously invited me in for tea and strumpets. I asked him about gas prices and how we were doing on the whole economy thing. The Secret Service kicked me out once I started a fight over who had a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. I still say Jets. He is obligated to say the Ravens. Whatever, come playoffs, he’s going to owe me a lot of money. I think he cursed at me as I was being shoved out of the Oval Office. I let it go.

Virginia is a beautiful state filled with rolling green hills and sporadic homesteads. The Shenandoah Valley opens up before you like a fairytale. When you drive through Shenandoah National Park, you are greeted with numerous overlooks and friendly faces. I wish you can all see it once before you leave this earth. As you climb in altitude, the scenery intensifies and brings you closer to heaven.

I will end this article now because I don’t want to overload you with too much information. I have driven almost eight hundred and fifty miles in the last two days, so I am about tapped in the energy department.  As I sit here in this small, rundown hotel (one where they don’t give you free toiletries mind you) just outside of Knoxville, I bid you all a goodnight. Tomorrow will bring more mystery and exploration and I can’t wait to share the journey with you. Set out to do something noble today. You may be surprised who you inspire.

P.S- If you are in Knoxville, do yourself a favor and stop by Marlin & Rays seafood joint for some good food and wonderful hospitality. Southern girls make you feel right at home.