Friday, May 13, 2016


         I thought I was a single stone in an ocean so vast that one could never find their way to home. I walked through some fire and some sunlight. I saw some things that people to this day will not believe. I lived a life that was based on doing the things other people would not do. I wasn't happy.

        Until the night the camera's flashed and this beautiful woman held out her hand to dance. That day everything got turned upside down for me. I used to have control. I knew who I was and what women liked and wanted. This girl was something different to me. She made me nervous.

        I was so nervous when I started dating her that I had to make an actual game plan. I bought a new wardrobe (which garnered the dreaded green sweater). I changed my 3-5 day policy to like 18 hours before I called her. I wanted her to like me. I didn't actually believe I was much, but I wanted her to think I was.

        I think she did. Not because I had fooled her, but because she saw something in me. She saw potential. There are very few people at that time that saw potential in me.

        We dated for a year before I proposed. We spent most of that time driving around. On our first date, I took her to the cider mill, then to the train tracks that I used to talk to the homeless in. I gave her a hundred reasons to leave and not look back. She didn't leave...except this one time we broke up for 19 minutes over the phone. She was in my driveway the whole time. We hung up on each other, then in desperation called back. We decided to be together forever and she made the 17 second journey to my door. We have never been separated more than those 17 seconds since.

        She doesn't think much of herself most days. She always underestimates just how beautiful and wonderful she is. I think that is my favorite thing about her. And also my least favorite. She is so humble to let me lead, yet so blind to what she means to this entire world, especially the world living 17 seconds within her reach.

        Today I tried to give my wonderful wife the best birthday she has had because I really appreciate all the hard work she does to keep us all together and happy. At the end of the day, I just felt like writing about her.

        She is my inspiration. She is that voice inside me that tells me to stop underestimating myself. She is the first person to call BS when I am feeling sorry for myself. She is also the first to catch my tears when things have gone badly.

        Laura, happy birthday. Thank you for marrying me. Thank you for Caeden and Aevry. Thank you for watching me struggle and fail and finally succeed. Thank you for being the best woman I've ever known.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Oh, but the distance between us. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016



        And there is the point where the colors fade out and in and back to darkness. This place when you decide to give up based on everything you have learned from the state of the world; from the awful horror that happens.

But horror happens everywhere.

        There is no escape from the darkness that seems to reign here. Believe in what you want, the world will always turn your stomach.


        I believe in God. I believe because I have experienced the joy of hope. Many others haven't. I will never judge. I will be the very last to judge. But if you knew me before, you know me now as a different person. Because I have hope. The single thing that puts light into the eyes of the blind is hope.

        It doesn't matter to me if you agree with me or not, or if you actually hate the message I am sending. It's just my story, and you have yours. It's just my story.

        I was once very unhappy without losing much. I am now very happy having lost much. My hope in God seems to have gotten me somewhere in my life.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, April 4, 2016

Carving Your Name

        A photograph may be the most important invention for people still living. You get a snapshot in time of a moment that only those involved in the photo can share.  It was a moment that no one may remember, but it was this moment it time that happened and proves you were alive in the mist of our existence.

        When everything else is gone and your existence hasn't been thought of for centuries, someone will eventually pick up that photograph and prove you were here. Someone will know that there was a story to be told here.

We carved our names on that tree.


Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, April 3, 2016

They are There and You are Here

        The colors flash and the lights dance and everything is art. But those things don't stop reality. I always try to bury really important things in words and cover them up with pictures. I try to make them less because I can't handle more.

        Lately, I've been really ok. I feel better when working the day shift. I'm 75% less lonely. I've been able to go back to church. I've just felt better.

        But feeling better doesn't mean I have forgotten.


        I saw your mom today. She was composed and graceful as she has always been. Your dad got married yesterday. I got to go to the reception. Of the three of us, I'm the only one to have been at his wedding. I was doing so well too. I was looking forward as if I had blinders on.

        You both haunt me. In my dreams, you show up. When I'm driving, you show up. When I look at your kids, you both show up. I wouldn't trade those moments for anything. But I get sad sometimes when I think that you might be watching. It has been a really ugly road back to happiness. I'm not sure any of us would have wanted you to see it. But as ugly as it was, we held on to each other and I think we learned what made us all keep moving. Underneath it all, we turned out to be strong. Because we held on to each other.


Thanks for reading...Z

Friday, April 1, 2016

Around The Block

        Life plays itself out in acts consisting of happiness and growth, crisis, sorrow, recovery, happiness and growth, then definition. Then it repeats over and over again until you could be considered wise, right before you die. The cruel part is that all of the wisdom gained would have been so much more useful earlier in your life. The great part is that the wisdom you have earned is earned, and it shapes what kind of people those that follow you will be.
        People come and go in and out of your life at different times and in different spaces. Some family people are permanent, and those people whether blood related or not ought to be considered family. Others are little saviors and sometimes place keepers that lead you into other things. Most relationships bud, grow, fade, and often die. These little saviors are all but forgotten.
        Until you drive past that old white shed where you used to have “Blood brother’s” club meetings. Or smell a carnival and find yourself right back on that ride with your mom, or your dad, or your friends. You can almost feel yourself laughing again. You can go a decade without the thought of a particular person crossing your consciousness, but one morning when you step out into the cold fog, you hear them whisper. You see their shadow just beyond your ability to identify them. They were here again, even if stored in your consciousness and brought back from the depths by the way your streetlight flickers in and out. It’s fleeting, so you cannot touch it. You can only close your eyes and enjoy, remembering the beauty of your youth before the crisis, recovery, and wisdom. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Before it Goes

         I went to the park today. For a few moments I pretended that there were people left here...that we were all alright down here. I sat and listened to songs we would listen to in high school and watched the grass blow in the wind. If I closed my eyes, sometimes I felt like I was back there. I could feel what my brother's laugher felt like; so hardy and full. I could see myself laughing too, as if nothing in the world mattered or was wrong in any way. I could even sometimes smell the spring and fall coming. I looked at the cracks in the dirt and think about all of the people that lay dead below me. Then I think about all of the people that are dead among me. That thought brings me back to reality. I'm a 35 year old man in a gas mask, sitting in a park that no one has been to in over 5 years.

        So you want reality? Who are you who reads my thoughts? Who are you to ask me questions? Reality is that I was sitting in a van with my two brothers. We were getting ready to go fishing in the middle of the night; putting on our gear. We were talking about how great it felt to put on new socks, when the world blew up. The van flipped over and over and one of us was thrown from the passenger window into the water. He either drowned or was killed by the explosion, but he was floating in the water nonetheless. The other brother was missing some parts. He was driving and he was clearly dead just by looking at him. I was the only one to leave that van alive that day...that moment.

        Vans blew up all over the world. They kept blowing up everything until everything was gone. As far as I could see it, I was the last one here; the lone survivor of the fruit of our hateful and rancid work. No one builds 200 million dollar bombs without intent to use them. So there it is. That's what happened. And nothing has happened since. The airwaves went down. The power went out. The sun stopped shining. The darkness took control of everything. If I needed light, I needed batteries. If I needed heat, which was always, I needed generators. If I needed generators, I needed gasoline. If I needed anything, I needed something else to get it. It's a full time job remaining alive.

        I sent signals over the airwaves. I sent signals with smoke. I sent signals with fireworks. No one was listening because everyone was too busy being dead. It's difficult to fathom. I was always religious, so it gives me mixed feelings about being alive. I've always been so scared of death. The knowledge that no one escapes it and it's coming scares me. When I was a little kid, I thought adulthood was so far away, but then it happened like time never really passed. So it scared me to know that in a few years, I would be dying an old man, probably with Alzheimers while defiling my pants. So on one hand, I am thankful to not be dead, but not really sure how I feel about being the only person alive. A lifetime can feel like minutes.

        So do you still want reality? I'm old. I run everyday, but I am so much slower than I used to be. I get dizzy sometimes when I stand up and pass out. The sun has begun to shine from time to time and I take my mask off for a while to breathe what the earth is giving me. I last about 4 minutes before I can't take it anymore. You know what's funny? A thing I can't explain? All people are dead, but Facebook is still online somehow. There is nothing new and my primitive knowledge of computers tell me it's just my cache or cookies or something giving me a picture of what was on my computer. I don't really know why. Three things have survived; Facebook, my computer, and me. I wonder who will last the longest? All I know is that Kelly Stepniak likes cats a lot and that Joe Cohen is still waiting in line at the DMV.

        I went to the park today. I sat on the same bench I sat on the last time I wrote on this machine. It was filthy and hard to find with the overgrown grass and weeds, but it remains. I've really begun to appreciate the things that remain. When I was really alive, I would go to the places of business that had people with faces I knew. I liked to know the people I ate sandwiches from. I've always been sentimental. So this is the park I go when I'm going to write something on this little machine that shouldn't even be working anymore. But today, I really don't have any real news to share.

        You won't die. I push the button and you light up. You want reality don't you? You aren't going to die before me. You want to be the last thinking piece of material alive. So here is reality. I am too old to even attempt to take off the mask when the sun is out. I can't risk it because I fear I will die. I don't want to die.

        Right now, in the world, I am alone and sitting on a bench that has collapsed among the weeds. I'm looking at a playground I have outlived lying on the ground in pieces among the thorns and weeds. There is a chill in the air today, much like Halloween when I was a kid. When I was little, kids used to go out in scary costumes and ask people for candy with pillowcases. We would stay out all night until all of the porch lights were out. I actually did this for a few years after everyone left. I'd dress up and go door to door knocking. A tiny part of me always held hope that someone would answer. Hope has always been for people with really good luck. I've always struggled with the decision of whether I was the lucky one or the unlucky one. Doesn't matter really, because every morning when the sun comes up and shines through my window, I remember that I'm alive and that there once was a lot of life here. Someday, I think there will be again. But not for me. This will be my last broadcast from this bench. I think it's ok to go now. I've had enough of this full time job of being alive and alone. I'm gonna go the way I came. I'm gonna have a cry really loudly, then I'm gonna find rest in the arms of my mother.

        Turns out that this machine will be the last being on earth until more arrive. It will continue to add and subtract and remember until it's insides finally give way to darkness. I hope that this message reaches you before it goes.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Robby (A Short Story)

One more week...then one more day...then one more hour...until it's complete.

        Robby is born. Among dangling tools and circuits, in a tiny room in a cluttered basement, he opened his eyes as the three prong plug entered the socket on the wall. His creator, Steven, was born of a poor family living in squalor. Steven had met tragedy and difficulties coping with tragedies for the entirety of his life. He longed for romance: The kind of romance that isn't found in a woman alone. He wanted to express himself in an art so beautiful that it took a life for itself. He studied robotics and engineering throughout his schooling. He applied himself to his own art; the art of feeling things.

        It took years to engineer. He assembled robot after robot, only to disassemble them shortly after. Duncan was the first to be plugged in. He followed the command prompts and walked forward, backward, and sat down in the chair. Steven began the feeling sequence of commands. He wanted to see Duncan experience him as a father.

"Spoken. Alabaster. Philo. Prince. Arrow...Care."

        Duncan blinked, his titanium pupils dilated, then he began to smoke from his chest; from his heart circuit board. Duncan collapsed in front of Steven. He was the first, followed by Vincent, Jared, Silus, Peter, Archie, and Samuel. 40 years he had toiled over his greatest work of art and it seemed as though he would fail. But then he plugged in Robby at a time in his lonely life when he was on the brink of giving up on his greatest dream, something wonderful happened.

         Robby sprung to life like none of the others. He was almost childlike and energetic. Almost as if he were waiting for this for 40 years as well. He stood when prompted. He sat. He walked. He spun around in a circle. He shook Steven's hand. Steven was sweating. This would be it. If Robby's chest began smoking, he would be the last of the robots.

"Spoken. Alabaster. Philo. Prince. Arrow...Care."

        Robby's head lifted and his eyes dilated, narrowed, then dilated again. He looked at Steven like none of the robots did. An upturn of Robby's steal lips produced a smile.

Steven: "Hello Robby," Steven said in a calm and hushed voice.

Robby: "Hello Steven."

        Steven reached over and put his hand on Robby's shoulder and kept it there. Robby looked to the side at Steven's hand and smiled again. Robby reached out and placed his hand on Steven's other shoulder and squeezed softly. Steven laughed because he couldn't hold it back any longer.

Robby: "Steven? Why is your face changing?"

Steven: "That's called laughter Robby. You do that when you are happy or something is funny."

Robby: "Did I tell a joke?"

Steven: "No Robby, I'm just happy to see you."

Robby: "I've been waiting for you too Steven."


        Steven taught Robby everything he knew about the world and how to experience it. Steven and Robby both worked from home doing programming, coding, and software development. Robby made some of the most beautiful art pieces through data manipulation. At first, Robby was everything that Steven was. He was loving and affectionate, caring and strange. But as the years passed by, he began exhibiting a person that Steven was not. Robby remained an artist, expressing himself through paintings, sculptures, poetry, and music. But Robby became somewhat charismatic, which was a trait that wasn't learned from Steven. He became outwardly angry at the tragedies of the world and would punch holes in the walls of their little townhouse. Steven knew he had to let Robby see what the beautiful side of the world looked like. He had to let him into the world. Watching the news brought only heartache for him.

        The world had seen it's fair share of robots, so going to the park garnered little attention. But when little kids started noticing Robby drawing on the ground with sidewalk chalk and trying to smell flowers, their eyebrows were raised. Robby loved the sun the most, even though it made him squint. He liked the way the heat would cause his sensors to cool his circuits. It made him feel like a person. Robby and the outside were inseparable. As Steven continued to age and eventually became incapable of walking without the aid of a device, Robby began venturing off on his own. He would bring back dinner and flowers. Every morning, even as the cancer ate away at Steven's desire for sunlight, Robby would open every curtain in the house and replace the dead flowers with live ones.


        There was a battle raging in Steven's mind about Robby. He knew the cancer was about to take him. Robby was built to live maybe for hundreds of years as he was programmed to repair and replace parts of himself. But Robby had feelings. Could he put Robby through losing his only friend? Could he put Robby through braving this cold world alone? Could he force himself to say the words that would put Robby in darkness?  There wasn't much time left to decide. Robby didn't know a world without him and Steven had never been able to teach him how to cope. Robby would get so angry.

        Steven got up earlier than Robby on a Saturday morning. He used his wheelchair and descended the steps on the porch using the ramp Robby had built him. He collected flowers from the garden in the back yard. He returned to find Robby sitting on the porch waiting for him. They went inside together.

Steven: "Sit down Robby," Robby complied. Steven continued as tears began to fill his eyes, "Robby, you are my son. I love.."

Robby: "Steven? Why do your eyes look like that?"

         He had never seen Steven cry before. He had only seen it on TV during tragedies.

Steven: "Robby, that's what happens when you are very sad or very happy."

Robby: "Which are you Steven?"

Steven: "I am both so very happy and so very sad. I have lived a long life and have seen many beautiful works of art, but you are the most beautiful. You have created yourself. But I am so sad that one day I will die."

Robby: "What does it feel like to die Steven?"

Steven: "It feels both safe and scary. It feels so warm, yet lonely." Robby grabs hold of Steven's hand as he begins to fade and lie down. "I'm sorry Robby, I do love you so."

Safety. Sterile. Cabin. Aardvark. Pine cone. captain...sleep.

        Robby locked eyes with Steven and watched him cry himself to eternal sleep as he himself felt himself slipping away.

        They both laid silent and lifeless on the couch for days. At 6:30 AM on a Wednesday, there was a twitch in Robby's eye, then a flicker. All at once, Robby was fully awake to the sun. He reached his hand to Steven to find his cold skin activated his sensors to heat his circuits. Robby knew what this meant. He was angry that Steven had made him die. He was sad that Steven was gone. He was happy that he got to know him at all. He was scared that nothing would ever be the same. He felt all of these feelings together as a human would. He got up and opened the shades, then went out and replaced the dead flowers with fresh ones. He buried Steven in the garden, then went to the sit in the sun to cope with the tragedies of life.




Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Gene Simmons - a memoir

I'm still not entirely clear how the whole thing went down. I was in elementary school, my brother Jason was probably in like 4th grade or something. We were both in the back seat of a small car with a mentally disabled teenager my mother was fostering. We were stopped on the freeway I think. It was dark outside and raining. I remember some of the details so vividly and others are like dreams you try to remember too long after you have had them. I was wearing a tan corduroy coat with fake fur on the neck. I was in my mothers trademark pants she would buy us called "Tough Skins." They were made of pure steel and had another layer of steel on the knees to prevent molten lava or a semi truck crash from piercing them.

My mom was in the passenger seat and her friend was driving. I was looking out the window from the middle seat in the back seat. I was fascinated at the way the rain would roll down the window. I was making races out of them. They reflected light so brilliantly. The light would hit the beads of water, them shoot lasers of light in different directions. I was reaching out to touch my side of the windo.... Smash!

My neck shot back, then forward and something shot through the tiny gap between my left arm and my ribs and lodged itself there. It didn't hurt, but I noticed it. When the jarring was finished, everything was still. More still than before when we were idling. My mom was her neck and that's what brought me to this obscene moment of terror. My eyes were drawn to the glove box which produced a taped on photo of Gene Simmons in his makeup with his tongue wagging out. I saw it for years, I'm writing about it now so I guess I still do.

A man with blood on his face approached the passenger front window as my mom rolled it down. He asked if we were alright. My brother was really freaking out, so for some reason, he was sent with the man to his truck. As they got to the truck door, a drunk driver came careening off the side of the road, headed for them. The man throw my brother into the cab and tried to fall into it himself. The car hit the door, which made it work like a sling shot, coming back and hitting the man and throwing him into the truck bed. My brother only cut his leg, but I'm not sure whether the man made it that night. The rest gets foggy, but I remember all of us walking to the grass beside the freeway to avoid being near the car if it were to explode.

Memory is funny because this memoir is told from the perception of a 5 year old and the memory 32 or so years later. I bet each of us would remember it differently. But this is my experience of Gene Freakin Simmons.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, January 25, 2016

What it Takes

        When you are lost, you panic. You keep moving so that you don't kill yourself with inactivity. You are scared and just want to find a solution. It gets dark outside and you realize that you are going to have to spend the night alone in the wilderness. Another day of wandering passes and you realize it will be another night in the wild. Then another...then another...then another, until you have lost your will to keep searching. You just expect another night and try and breathe through it.

        It's like watching television. There is this perfect family on the screen and you remember being there. They laugh and they cry and they pray before meals. They are entirely aware of why they are thriving. As you watch it, you find yourself on the other side of the screen; the viewer's side. You are watching them, and yourself (whom you forgot you were) on that screen and look away to only see darkness and hopelessness. A fake reality.

        At some point, you will realize that the person in that television show is you and he is missing from this side of the screen because he made a lot of mistakes and got turned around and lost his way. At some point, you let the heartache go that pushed you onto the wrong road in the first place.

        That's what it takes to come home.


Thanks for reading...Z