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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


        A lot of sad stuff going on around here. It's been a tough year. Christmas time has been a difficult time to get through for the past 6 years...obviously for good reason. But I still LOVE Christmas! Because it's still about Christ. Christ is about redemption. Christ is about the recovery of things lost. He didn't get born here and die here for nothing. He did this to live with us...and show us what love is really like.

        Sometimes when I get in these funks, I forget the great things I never deserved to have. As a kid, I always wanted to have a companion that didn't care about my idiosyncrasies and strange tendencies. I was loud and twitchy and said things that made people look at me and shake their heads. I'm guessing most of my readers know what I'm talking about. This one girl showed up at a wedding. We danced all night. I loved her immediately.

        This girl grounded me. She helped me work on my weaknesses and I helped her work on hers. We acted stupid around each other and made each other feel safe. She made me feel like I was worth something for the first time in my life. If this girl could love me, maybe I wasn't so bad.

        I asked her to marry me. Twice. Once for real at the Olive Garden while eating the bread. The second time was in front of the bathrooms at the shopping mall food court. The last one was for laughs, because that's me.

        I've never regretted a single moment of my marriage for almost 15 years in June, She wouldn't have enough fingers for the rings I would still place on her fingers.

        She's helped me out of my worst moments. She has laughed with me during my best. She is the most beautiful person I've ever met. We in turn, made the most beautiful kids. A perfect mix of loud and inappropriate humor and grace.

        There is not a thing I would change. God had\s been good. I have been writing about failure and sorrow and loss so much that I have forgotten the reason I'm still standing.



Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, January 18, 2016



        Humpback whales sing into this huge abyss of water. They sing to find a mate. They sing to find each other. Sometimes when they find a mate, they sing with her, often harmonizing with each other. When a humpback whale has lost a loved one, they sing in agonizing tones. When they are lonely they sing. But when in captivity, they are silent. They sing for no one. When you are being watched and the walls of the pool are your horizons, there is no one to sing to.

        I started this blog the day I read that. I had a thought. What is a life that is spent when your horizons are the walls? We all hide things. We spend a great deal of time keeping people from our real thoughts and feelings.

        A child learns it isn't tough to cry or vent feelings in school. So they don't. A young adult learns that vulnerability is weakness. Once we reach our adulthood, we are hardened to being seen or trying to really see others. It's the sad state of humanity.

But I think we all want to tell everything.

        I thought about the whales and how they instinctively cried out for each other, but when put in a box, they let it all go. It connected me to humanity.  Because we are in the same box. Everything is taboo or weak or offensive. No one wants to feel vulnerable. No one wants to admit that we are no better than the weakest and no worse than the strongest.

        I kept a journal at the time. It meant a lot to me to be able to express myself...but something was missing. I was being a human to only myself. I decided that this was no way to live. People should all know each other. Love is based in this very concept. Love everyone means know everyone. So it started with me. I had nothing to lose by giving you my guts. The worst you could do is stop reading. The best I could do is to show someone else what it's like to be human in front of everyone. I didn't think that was such a bad thing.

        I started pouring out my guts on this blog. It wasn't really a blog at the time. It was a journal. A blog expresses opinions of topics. A journal chronicles true events. I told whoever would read; everything. I had a steady growing number of readers who became active in my life. My objective was to to be entirely transparent. It was really hard to do. I have had a lot of demons. A lot of times I would write something and never...ever read it again because it embarrasses me. The point was to share it.


        Will died and everyone came out to lift me up. It was a great thing that people did. Many had been reading about my life for years and spoke to me only this one time. They felt me and hurt with me. They hurt with me because they were connected to me...because I spilled my guts to everyone. It really was a comfort to me to read the prayers and kind words of people I have never met. It connected me to the real world, where there are still caring people. The same thing happened when Joe died, although I didn't share as much because I feared I may hurt his family.


        I believe that life is lived best without small talk. There isn't enough time to talk about the weather. There isn't enough time to talk about your previous weekend. You attack immediately. You engage. I'm not calling for a total onslaught of words. I'm talking about asking poignant questions and actually listening for the answers...especially to people you're are just meeting. We need to listen. Life is too fast and we often neglect the good stuff.


        I started "In Search of Whales" because I wanted to connect my life to yours.  I didn't  need a huge audience. I just wanted to connect with people at our most vulnerable points. Our human existence. I was in search of others who wanted to share in this human experience together.



Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I Am Now Here

'There's no love in the ground for me, so I kicked all this earth downstream."- #1 Dad

     It's really easy to forget where you came from and where you always wanted to go. You forget where you are when you act like someone you have never been...for someone else. You forget where you wanted to go when everyone else trampled your thoughts. You find yourself working really hard at something you don't love because someone somewhere thought you were good at it. Maybe they were right and maybe they were wrong. It doesn't really matter now. I did what they told me to do.

People always told me I was a leader.

     I followed a dream. I followed a dream to try and help kids that were hopeless find a hope I couldn't find as a kid. I couldn't point them in a specific direction. God has no direction. God has no limits. God is in all things. God is in a different place for me than anyone else. For me God was a small heat register that brought me comfort to my face every 45 minutes, relieving me of my loneliness as a child. For someone else, He's a blanket given to them. For another He's a Christmas card, for another, He's a suicide note. Comfort depends on the damage done to a person.

     I became a youth pastor because I really wanted to be a difference maker in the world. I wanted other kids that had nothing like I had to have hope...like I did. Hopelessness was a lie. No one has to accept the hopelessness that comes with missing something. I worked really hard. I sought out troubled kids. I sought them out and cultivated them...so much so that some in my church raised questions about what I was doing here. I could only answer them with Christ. I really felt like I was pointing them to something great in their lives. I could never be sure, but I always believed I was pointing them to where God was in their own lives.


     I've struggled to find God in much lately, and feel alone still. But it doesn't mean He's not there. He's just residing in something different...somewhere I am not right now. I am residing in death. He doesn't live in death. God lives in life. God lives in love. I am living in the squalor of grief. So God is not living with me. God lives for me, but He doesn't live in hopelessness. God lives in happiness.

     At some point to be happy, I'm going to have to let my brothers go. They are dead and burned into ashes. Those ashes, I wear around my neck. Everywhere I go that reminds me of them, I see them hanging on every tree. I just can't live a life dominated by death and sorrow. It's killing me. I have to let them go. We are no longer those kids playing in the street. They are no more at all. It's just me, still trying to play with them in that street when they aren't there. They are a part of me that must become the past.

     Right now, as I sit here writing; I have the most beautiful and loving wife any man could dream of. I have the softest hearted kids, who have seen so much death, standing with me strong. They are looking for me. I've haven't really been visible to them for a while, but here I am now. I am now here.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, January 4, 2016

Things Vanish (A Short Story)


        I led her to my house that night to tell her that I loved her...that I had always loved her. I loved her from the first moment I saw her flipping off that bus driver. She was all wrong for me from the start. I was a timid kid. I spent most of my time with my mom shopping for groceries and clothes or whatever she wanted at the time. She was this story that only other stories could fathom. She was an enigma; saying one thing that had made me think she was one person, then another that would defy my presumptions. She got kicked off the school bus for calling the driver an idiot. She laughed at him and walked off the bus and down it's stairs. She turned and saluted him with her favorite finger.

        She showed me some interest after she had watched me get mercilessly beaten by some assholes after school. They wanted my shoes. I had a hook-up who worked for Nike and got me shoes for an eighth of the price. For at least three years, I had the best shoes in the school. They got me as soon as I got past the baseball field backstops; where we were out of view. They asked nicely first. The first kid said, "Nice shoes man!" The next said, "How much you pay for those shoes? You are wearing clothes from K-Mart, so something doesn't seem right." I said, "I paid what anyone else would pay. I just choose what I want and what I don't care about. The military says that your shoes are the most..." Punched in the face...kid three. The first kid held me down with his knees on my shoulders and the second started holding down my legs, one by one, until the third had finished taking off my shoes. He held them in front of me as my nose bled and tears streamed. I could barely tell what they even were with him holding them in front of me.

        I stood to my feet to face them. I didn't have much as a kid, but I was so excited when I learned that I could have these shoes for the same price as the ones from Payless that the other kids made fun of. I was proud of them. So I faced these kids; I looked them in the eyes, sucked in some of the blood from my nose, and spit it as far as I could in the direction of the first kid's face. It landed on his mouth and some in his eye. He was pissed. He started screaming and gagging. I took my chance and kicked kid two in the nuts and watched him drop my shoes. I turned around to throw a punch at kid three's throat and found a fist in my eye. I dropped. The lights went out and didn't turn back on until I was the only one left on the sidewalk. I looked to my left and saw just the baseball field. Above me was grass. To my right was this girl. This girl that had never looked in my eyes before, despite me having memorized her every detail. She looked for a moment, smiled at me, then walked away.

        The next day, she sat with me at lunch. I didn't say much. I mostly just stared down at my plate and tried really hard to figure out what to do with my hands. As I poked holes in the styrofoam tray, she blurted out to the table that I had kicked these three kid's asses. Everyone looked at me. I couldn't figure out what to say. I looked up for a short moment and saw the whole table staring at me. I didn't say anything. Inside I was jumping all over. Why had she said that? Why had she sat next to me? I did get my ass kicked right? I stopped hearing anything. She kept telling a story that was a little bit true, but mostly false...I think. I was watching her mouth as she was talking about me and I couldn't believe that this girl was talking about me. It didn't matter what she was saying.

        I was an instant success! All of the sudden, everyone at school wanted to sit at my table. But that day she told the story; that was the one and only day I would sit with her at lunch. She sat across the room after that as kids were piling around me, asking me for advice and tips. I could only look at her, but she wouldn't look at me. The one time she did, we locked eyes. We had just spoken to each other, I just knew it. I got up and started walking toward her and she left. I caught her after school by my bike. I asked her to come over to my house to play video games. I had no interest in video games. I didn't even have a video game console. I just wanted her to come over; to see her eyes look into mine a little longer. I felt her pulling away.

        I took hold of her hand and and led her to my house. From days of thinking, I had decided that she liked that I stood up to those kids even though I got killed and lost my shoes. She must like a strong person, and I am going to pretend now. We walked and talked about things neither she or I had told a single person. We passed my house a dozen times. When it finally got dark, I decided that there was no better a time to tell the girl that I loved her. My mom had this beautiful garden she worked on every day in the back yard. This would be the perfect place. I was going to take the biggest chance of my life. I was tired of not taking chances. I was smart enough to know that my high school fame wouldn't last long. I didn't care about that at all. I had wanted her and only her.

         We got to my front gate and I led her to the backyard. I opened the wooded fence and watched her eyes widen at the lights that lit the garden. 80% of my mother's heart was shining in the eyes of the girl that was 95% of mine. She squeezed my hand.

        Then it all disappeared.

        She disappeared. I walked into the house and no one was there. I ran down the street to the 7/11 and no one was there. I called 911 and no one answered. For the next week, I would knock on doors and call random numbers in the phone book, looking for anyone to answer. The television was static. The radio was squealing noise. I got in my mom's car and started driving. I was fifteen and had no license. My hope was that someone would pull me over. No one ever did.


        I drove all over the country looking. No one seemed to be here but me. I sat down on the boardwalk in New Jersey and watched the ocean pass and swell. I drove to Florida and put my feet into the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean and ate a pretzel. I drove to Marti Gras and Bourbon street was empty. No corpses or foul odors;  just emptiness. I drove through the dark night of Las Vegas and found my way to California. In California I gave up searching for people in the world. I was the last and she was gone. I thought about her every day, wondering if she could see the things I was doing. I acted for her in case she was. I grabbed a camera and took photos of me shouting into the dark sky at the top of a ferris wheel. Took photos of me in famous people's homes.

        I listened to record after record of any musician I could find. They made me feel human. These people poured out their hearts and guts into these records. Some went bankrupt and failed. Those were my favorite because it made me think about them now, and if they knew I was listening as the last person on earth. If they didn't capture the masses, at least they reached the last person on earth. I felt them.

        I started painting her face. I would make a painting while drunk on alcohol and hang it somewhere in the city. I hung one in front of the library, the city hall, the 7/11, the high school, and the video store. These were the places I went to most. After that, the locations became random and numerous. I thought once when hanging my artwork of her on the freezer door at a Rams Horn restaurant, that if another person showed up here, they may think my subject was the president or even God.


        I continued to make signs pointing other life to my life, but no one ever came. The radios were dead. The televisions were static. There was nothing living, not even animals. I traveled the entire country, too afraid to brave the sea. I had seen even Omaha seven times. I never got her out of my head. I didn't want to. She was the reason for my survival so far. But I didn't want to be alone anymore. It occurred to me that death among the masses of everyone who has ever died is much less lonely than being the only person alive. I had all of the resources to live, but lacked the only thing that sustains life...love.

        I stood at the lip of a cliff on the Grand Canyon and closed my eyes. I looked at her as she watched me get beaten. I watched her smile and walk away. I remembered her breath on my face as she sat next to me at lunch. I remembered my favorite memory. She grabbed my hand when she saw my mother's garden. She knew I loved her...and she loved me. I stepped off the cliff and began my descent.

        She stopped me. She grabbed my shirt and pulled me back. I turned around and looked into her eyes. It was HER! She had darker hair, but she was there. She squeezed my hand and we got into my car. It didn't matter to me where she came from or where she had been. I only wanted to be with her. We talked all night and told each other things we had never told anyone. At the end of the night, she asked me, "Why are you telling me all of this."

        I told her, "There's no time for small talk: Things vanish quickly."


Thanks for reading...Z