Running High

My bout with anxiety is ludicrous when you consider the traits that make it so extreme: vanity and egotism. I feel like a total horse’s ass that I haven’t been able to conquer these embarrassing characteristics–that I still allow them to fill my head with unattainable dreams and expectations. It’s not for lack of trying; but I can’t seem to kill the idea that I should be doing way “better” than I am. People should be saying about me: “Wow, Andrew White is successful.”

I know that I shouldn’t care too much about what others think. That I should stop comparing myself to others–that I should drop out of the “race” up Society Mountain–that I should peel off and find my own route. One that I enjoy every step of the way–one that I can follow with confidence that it is the way for me–and one that brings maximum happiness, which, honestly, may or may not involve fame or fortune but probably doesn’t.

Ironically, one of the few things these days that helps me momentarily step out of the “rat race,” is running. Continue reading


How did it all begin? Why are we here? What happens to us after we die?

I remember asking my mom these questions as a child. Her answers never satisfied me.

“God made the world, honey.”


“Because he was lonely.”


“Because he had no one to play with.”

“What about his mummy?”

“God doesn’t have a mommy.”

“Then how was he borned?”

“God created himself.”

“How’d he do that?”

“With a miracle.”

“What’s a mira-go?”

“It’s when something very special happens, like magic.”

Magic my ass (minus the sarcasm) is basically how I felt after these conversations with my mom. Things didn’t add up. Her answers only led to more questions. It was irritating. And, like all kids, I was a little ninja and could perceive she wasn’t satisfied with her answers, either. Right around Kindergarten, I stopped bugging my mom about the “meaning of it all,” but I never stopped wondering.

In college, I grappled with the great mysteries of the universe as an (“independent”) “adult” for the first time. And I began to view my parents’ explanations, and those of the church, as not just flawed but silly even. Ridiculous, some of them. I mean, come on: God created the earth in 7 days? Anyway, I began to question pretty much everything I’d been taught and (sort of) accepted up to that point about existence. And I began to experience the pangs of existential angst that would hinder me in years to come.

After college, when the framework of school and organized sports was no longer there to guide me (a.k.a. when I had to figure out what to do with my life), the big questions with which I used to torture my mom as a toddler returned to center stage in my mind. I felt like I needed to figure out the meaning of it all so that I could move forward in the right direction. I tried my ass off to figure things out. I really did. But it was like banging my head against the wall. As time passed, I got more and more tired and hurt; and I really began to suffer from anxiety.

Before things got too terrible, something happened. Not an epiphany, but a blessing in disguise: my savings ran out. I was in Pasadena, California at the time, where I’d moved to explore the film industry. (But really all I was doing out there was walking the streets, smoking butts, talking to homeless folks, and scribbling notes and ideas for stories and screenplays I’d never get around to writing.) By the time I went broke, I’d been out there plenty long enough to know that I wasn’t exactly poised to take over Tinsel Town, so I decided to wave the white flag, move Back East, and take the first job I could find.

Shortly after my return to the Northeast, I accepted a job as a laborer with a small landscaping company on Cape Cod. And thank God I did. Thank God for all the failure and paralysis by analysis and other shit that led me to that landscaping gig on the Cape. For if it weren’t for that move, I probably never would have met my wife, Annie. And had I not met Annie, we of course wouldn’t have had our baby Ellie. And a world without my girls is unimaginably empty.

Annie and I met at a bar–the Woodshed–in Brewster, Massachusetts. The night we met I was with a buddy from the landscaping crew. A band was playing, and the place was packed. It was hot, loud, and so crowded it was hard to move. Honestly, had I been alone I would’ve turned right around and left. Miraculously, though, moments after we arrived, I spotted what were probably the only two open seats in the place at a nearby table. My buddy and I moved in. And I’ll never forget it: I sat down then looked up, and there, across from me, was a beautiful, tan, dark-haired, brown-eyed girl.

Holy shit.

Somehow, I was able to work through the shock of love at first sight in order ask her if it was okay to join them. And when I heard Annie’s voice for the first time (“Sure.”) and saw that smile, I practically busted a nut. Yes, she is very pretty, and projects an aura of sweetness, but that’s not why I was so blown away. This was different; there was something else going on here. I know it sounds nuts, but the best I can explain it is our souls connected and were like flirting or something. After five minutes of chit chat we had somehow gotten to talking about our dreams. Our futures. We wanted the same things–right down to living in Vermont and owning chickens!

Before I met Annie, I was not a romantic. And, now that I think about it, I should probably bring her flowers and stuff more than I do. But I really do try pretty hard to express my love. (I can’t help it actually. Whenever I look at her I just want to hug and kiss and…) Every once in awhile, like for an anniversary or something, I try to demonstrate my love in writing. But when I try to put it into words, I never do it justice. I mean, I scribble about how I love her compassion and kindness, and how she looks, smells, and feels, etc., but these qualities are not really why I love her. These qualities are just qualities. Qualities are things. Beautiful things, yes, but just things. And lots of people have them. And while I love all people, in a way–I don’t love them how I love my wife.

No–I can’t accurately explain our love any better than I can put my finger on the secrets of the cosmos. And even if I were capable of this task, language isn’t. What I can do, though, is continue trying my best to come up with ways to show my love. And while demonstrating the depths of my love for Annie is about as futile an endeavor as capturing it in words, it’s totally worth the effort. Because even when it doesn’t land me any poontang, it will at least get me a kiss, a touch, a smile–or even just a glance from across the room, any of which are more than enough to keep me playing Sisyphus.

The other day, Annie and I were outside in our Adirondack chairs with our baby girl, Ellie, who was climbing all over us. It was pure joy watching our little one laughing–without a care or concern in the world. She was giving us kisses, and we were tickling her and making her laugh until she screamed. The sun was shining on us and there was a nice breeze, carrying the scent of lilac.

Sitting there, I thought to myself: Even if I get hit by a truck tomorrow, a universe in which this moment is possible is a really great universe.

I thought about how it won’t be long before our daughter starts asking us about life and death and the meaning of existence.

I put my hand on Annie’s, and she looked at me and smiled.

Eddy Got Your Back

Back when I was living in New York City and studying for my MFA, I nearly lost my grip on reality. It was nuts; I was basically insane with anxiety. I was living on the verge of a panic attack and suffering from what they call agoraphobia–a fear of leaving my apartment. I know it sounds crazy, but I had this irrational dread of just “upping and dying”–of a brain aneurysm or heart attack–while out in public. Sure I was afraid of the actual dying process and all, but what really bugged me was the thought of croaking in front of a bunch of gawkers and causing a big, embarrassing scene.

One evening, early in my glorious, two-year stint in the Apple, I got a preview of this humiliation after fainting in public from a panic attack. It was a perfect finale to a terrible day. It happened right in front of my apartment building while I was out smoking my nightly cig with my boy Ed the doorman. Ed was a good conversationalist–kind of opinionated, but not too bad. He really did want to be your friend. He was honest and well read and not the least bit afraid to throw out the deep shit. Ed was straight off the boat from Russia and lived like 2 hours away in rural New York state where he fished every day. He had a brother who was a great photographer but also a wicked heroin addict. Which was painful for him to talk about.

Anyway, Ed and I were just ripping a few butts, kind of shooting the breeze, as usual. Ed was doing pretty much all the talking as I really wasn’t feeling well. He had gotten on the topic of Eastern European women, and was explaining why they are the sexiest women in the world. It was too bad that I was in such a shamble, because I probably would’ve had some fun with Eddy on this subject–playing devil’s advocate and such. Anyway, I’m sure he was making a compelling argument as usual, but I was pretty preoccupied. Earlier that day I’d given a forceful presentation on Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That which had consisted of two words–“I’m blanking”–before briefly apologizing and sitting right back down. And I couldn’t stop reliving the scene–the embarrassment my peers felt for me, and my professor’s response: “How about a little more intellectual rigor next time?” (“Gee, thanks professor. I appreciate you pointing that out, because I totally thought I just hit a homerun. How about you chug my cock and like it next time? Go write another dry, boring-ass piece for the New Yorker, you absent-minded fuck.”)

Anyway, that whole incident was fueling the toxic thoughts that seemed to suffocate my mind all the time in those days. Like how I would never amount to anything as a writer because writing was too hard for me. Like how I was destined for failure. Like there was no guarantee that I would end up successful or even just all right. That there was no God or force out there to keep me company, let alone safe. And that, despite what the doctors were telling me (that I was okay), I was sick and dying. How could I not be? I couldn’t stop shaking and twitching, and all that weird cramping and the fatigue–it couldn’t possibly be purely mental… It was all too perfect: Andrew White–a golden boy athlete from a respectable family–struck down by Parkinson’s or ALS or some other horrifying malady in his prime. Once his health left him, his looks went, and before long he became an obscure, wheelchair-bound object of pity. His life really ended when he split with Annie.

I fully expected that by the time Annie returned to the Northeast from her yearlong, service commitment abroad, I would have received whatever terrible diagnosis I had coming. I could picture her eyes welling up with tears as I told her the news (terminal cancer, maybe, or at least MS). She wouldn’t cry too badly at first, but as soon as she was alone, away from me, the floodgates would open and she would become hysterical. And because, for my sake, she wouldn’t want me to see her that way, I wouldn’t be there to hold her. I would try my best to break up with her right then and there, to free her from this sinking ship. I would tell her to go on without me, to have children. And I would never see her again, though I would never stop dreaming about her, either.

Anyway. As my brain marinated in this all-too familiar cloud of uplifting thoughts, I began to feel sick to my stomach. Ed’s voice began to irritate me. Why was he talking so loudly? Ed, I don’t give a shit that the Eastern European woman’s foot tends to run a full size below the average American’s. Boom–my nausea escalated from 7 to 60 in about 2.2 milliseconds. I seriously chucked my cigarette and started to book it toward the street so as to not puke right in front of Ed and my apartment building where it would make a nasty scene. My last thought was, “I’m not going to make it.”

Seconds later, I woke up, feeling incredibly rested, as if I’d been out a full night’s sleep. As I came to, though, I heard Ed wiggin’ out: “Andrew, Andrew, are you okay? Are you epileptic?” My head began to throb, and my eye socket hurt like a bitch. Blood was really pouring out pretty good from a gash above my eye. Holy shit, I just fainted! About a dozen other tenants were now huddled around me, too. Squawking like chickens, half of them. One of them said she was calling 911. But I really didn’t want that, and I begged her not to call an ambulance. I was mortified enough and couldn’t deal with being the center of any more spectacle–even if it meant dying.

Ed understood what I was thinking, I think. He had my back. The cool bastard that he was, he listened to me. I’m pretty sure of it, anyway. And I’ll never forget it. Had I died or something that night, he probably could’ve been sued or at least fired. But he listened to me and told the other folks that I was going to be fine and to put their cell phones away. Then he basically carried me to the elevator and helped me to my apartment.

I’d write more about that night–like what happened next and everything. But to be honest, it really didn’t end up being all that interesting from that point on. Basically I just rested a bit, drank some water, then took a cab to the hospital and got an IV.

“Dehydration,” they said.

The Lake Monster

There was a time when man was free and his world made sense.  A man hunted.  Killed.  Fought.  Spoke.  Fucked.  Then slept – without dream or interruption – by the raging fire he made.  Man never thought to ask permission.  He never worried.   Regret didn’t exist, nor guilt.  His sense of responsibility never strayed beyond the province of himself.  Man sought his own fulfillment above all else and chased it everywhere.

On his mad quest, man roamed the wild ends of the world, while his desire ran alongside, like a loyal wolf, unchecked, unrestrained, and deadly, devouring all experiences and tossing them away like meatless bones.  It was a ravenous linear existence and not once did man stop to surmise his wake of destruction and waste, nor did he look to see where he was going or where he had been.  The pressure of time spurred man towards another pleasure that needed exploring, another impulse that commanded his full attention.

Man never asked himself or others what the search meant or what it was for because he hadn’t thought to care.  Man lacked the capacity for self-reflection and it was wonderful and liberating.

Women did not trouble their men with questions about intent, motivation, and reasoning because they knew better than to look for answers where there were none.  Early woman accepted their man as the brute, ungoverned beasts of madness the Creator had made them to be, and out of fear and awe, acted has man’s handmaid to his desire, indulging any and all of his whims with silent acquiescence.

Man was a man.  It was terrifying, ordered and good.  And yet time, nature, and entropy loosened his grip on his world.

Without his blessing and under his fingertips, the world evolved, bringing about social norms and expectations that hemmed the length and depth of his forays into the wild.    Suddenly, man returned from the hunt and woman wanted to know where he had been, what took so long, why he hadn’t checked in and if he had been smoking.  Instinctually, man dashed these silly women’s brain out against a round stone, found another vagina, and fucked it.  He solved his problems in the only way he knew how – by destroying them and moving on.

This worked for a time, until the populations of women dwindled and man’s depravity increased to the point that he looked upon his own livestock, his rolled up socks, dead fish, and his fellow man with an inquisitive raised eyebrow and unbridled longing.  It was an ugly transitional time for man because man began to see the dangers of his unfulfilled desire and the bizarre holes he would explore to quench it.

The remaining woman banded together, stubborn in their persistent demand for an accounting of man’s thoughts and actions.  Man became confused, disorientated, and for the first time, afraid.  He was lost, caught between his desire and extinction.

He acted.  That is what a man does.

Man double down on the fucking and killing, waging war against the evils that plagued him.   Yet, the paradox scrambled his mind.  How does a man wage war against the very beings he wishes to fuck?  He will win but was winning best?  He fought the contradictions within himself using the blunt tools of his past.  He raged and swore and abused everything.   Finally, he herded the remaining women of the earth into a pen, closed the gate, and realized that with one stroke of his ax, he could rid the world of all women and silence their loathsome questions that had stained his perfect world.

He paused for a moment and imagined the world without woman.

From behind the bars, the women protested.

Why are you doing this?  Why is this so important to you?  Explain yourself.

And for the first time in man’s history, he turned to his fellow man, looking for an answer.

Man returned with the only answer he knew, “I don’t know.”

And in that moment, man’s self-awareness was born.  He finally saw the mute stupidity of his existence.  He saw himself – his ugly, half-erect, drooling dirty self – stinking of old jizz, sweat, and booze, holding his balls with one hand and a rudimentary club with the other.

He cowered in the face of his reality.

Involuntarily, his gaze returned to the women locked in their cage and heard their questions.

Why? Why do you do it? 

He didn’t know.  But in that moment man saw the world without women and he retreated from the bearded man-sex, the farm animals, the crusty tube socks, the microwave pizza, the mattresses on the floor, and the crippling sadness of it all. He saw the womanless world and he saw himself in it.  It was too much.

Out of fear, he enslaved himself to woman and the questions he could never answer.  It was safer this way.  This arrangement afforded some level of protection from the destructive power of himself.

Man became domesticated.

But before man opened up the gate and freed the remaining women, the last free men gathered around the shores of Lake Dunmore, stripped down, and washed themselves, using the glacial water to rinse all their base desires, lusts, unquenched thirsts, and animalistic instincts away so they might have a chance at successfully leading their lives of dutiful servitude to the expectations of woman and the new society they imprisoned us in.

If you believe the legend, then these baptismal waste waters, full of life-sustaining minerals and raw organic man material, settled in the bottom of Lake Dunmore, and brewed a primordial soup that spawned the Lake Monster.

The Lake Monster is terrible and destructive and evil.  He is also harmless and misunderstood.  He is everywhere and nowhere.  He lives on everything man left behind as he entered the modern world and weighted himself down with expectations and responsibility.

He is as real as your ability to believe in him.  We assure our kids and our wives that monsters like him don’t exist in the rational world and if they did, we would hunt it down and kill him.  Our homes, our marriages, our society can’t live with monsters like that, so he lives alone, or doesn’t, at the bottom of lake.

The only record we have of the Lake Monster are his stories, tales from a bygone age which he maniacally scribbles down in his underwater layer as an effort to preserve himself against the changing times.  These stories keep him sane and society safe.  If he writes it down, his terror safely stays on the page and doesn’t spill into the real world above.  Sometimes his stories float up from the abyss and get published here.

We don’t know who he is, what he wants, why thinks as he does, what his purpose is.  We don’t spend a lot of time analyzing his writing or adopt his thought process as our own.  It just is.  Out of respect for lost customs, we don’t ask the Lake Monster stupid questions.  We let him be.

Throw your questions into the lake where they belong.


The Big Bald Wolf

Unfortunately, I’m going bald, and it really sucks. No one has really noticed yet, because I’m on Propecia, but I’m telling you, it’s only a matter of time… While the “receding” nature of my appearance bothers me way too much, what has—and will continue to—really set me apart has little to do with my looks, and lots to do with my neurosis. I have one of the most absurdly ferocious cases of hypochondriasis this side of the Mississippi. And this is why my friends laugh in my face when I tell them I have cancer (again (only a different type this time)) or that I’m losing my hair.

“Andrew, have you ever heard of the placebo effect?” a friend recently teased after I entrusted him with the sensitive information that my head would look like George Costanza’s were it not for my popping pills.

“Yeah, but I’m telling you, man, it doesn’t apply here. I really am going bald.” I usually try not to offend people, so I opted not to put the second part of my thought to words: WebMD is my fucking homepage, you condescending prick; of course I’ve heard of the fucking placebo effect.

But, really, I have no one to blame but myself for others not believing me anymore about any of my various health issues—even those, such as male pattern baldness, with mere cosmetic consequences. After all, over the last decade or so, I have miraculously survived about 37 terminal illnesses.

I guess I’m like the boy who cried wolf, only not a bastard like him, because I really do think I see the wolf each time. Or at least I hear him, er… Maybe I just sense his presence or something. But I swear, he’s there. And, I’m sorry, but he’s scary. I’m too young to die, and, I don’t know, I just don’t want to be maimed or anything. It’s bad enough that I’m going bald.

As petrified as I am of the wolf pack lurking in the dark corners of my body and mind, waiting to sink their fangs into my jugular, I really do see the humor in my neurosis when I’m with my friends. They get such a kick out of it, and we laugh about it all the time. It’s therapeutic for me, it really is. Which isn’t to say, though, that even in the throes of our belly laughter, I don’t forget about the fact for one instant that any fun we’re having is a mere band aid—not a cure—for that faulty valve in my heart or those rapidly multiplying cancer cells in my pancreas.

Only God knows how many years I’ve pissed away (and taken off the end of my life) for worrying about afflictions. I’m 33 and so far I’ve had Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease* (that was a tough 3 years), MS, ALS, various cancers (of the penis, testicles, lungs, brain, and throat), Liver Disease, exercise-induced asthma, a mysterious heart condition (manifest in palpitations and an array of other sensations), Lyme’s Disease** and, most recently, Sarcoidosis.

My battle with Sarcoidosis wasn’t quite as tough as the others because I was wise enough to limit my research into the malady***. And although it was a paralyzing fear (not disciplined restraint) of a devastating prognosis that prevented me from learning more about what I was up against there, it was a brilliant move not to study up on this illness as I have on countless others. My lack of knowledge on Sarcoidosis helped me keep my fear of it in check (And while ignorance wasn’t even close to bliss, it at least enabled me to hold out hope for that slight chance that the illness would at least give me a few more years to tidy things up in this life and make preparations for the next.).

Thanks be to God, my fear of Parkinson’s and a few of the cancers I’ve claimed have been put to rest by the fact that I’m still alive and don’t yet seem to be incapacitated (though, like my first neurologist (who I fired) infamously said: “I see no evidence of Parkinson’s. But… Everything starts somewhere****.). With my Sarcoidosis scare, though, I actually caught a bit of break. Five or so months into my bout with this obscure ailment, my fear of it was mercifully stopped in its tracks by a few young MDs in Boston.

The docs were pals with my brother, who I was visiting in Beantown. The four of us went out to dinner one night. The plan was to get a bite to eat and then hit a few clubs. I was psyched; (I’d rather club myself in the face with a nine iron than go clubbing, but) I love hanging with docs. I could pick their brains until the cows come home.

Anyway, before we entered the restaurant, my brother stopped me outside the front door and made me promise not to get all weird again. I don’t know, I guess one time when he was in law school and living with a med student I got really drunk and pulled down my pants because I had this little freckle on the head of my rod that I thought might be something serious. (But that’s neither here nor there.) I promised my bro I’d behave and we headed inside.

An hour or so into dinner, once the docs were good and liquored up, to a point where I figured they might not notice how crazy I am, I made my move. And I have to give myself credit; it was pretty subtle.

We were on the topic of football, and I smoothly inserted the following remark: “Hey—by the way, did you guys hear that Reggie White’s fatal cardiac arrhythmia was induced by his Sarcoidosis? D’you hear anything about that? That’s a pretty rough disease, eh? Sarcoidosis, I mean?” I took a deep breath and waited to hear how much longer I had to live.

The docs looked at one another, baffled, and then at me (like I had three heads).

“How the fuck have you heard about Sarcoidosis? Are you studying for Med School?” one of docs asked.

“Oh, no, I just um, I don’t know, I—”

Then my brother sold me out. “Andrew’s a bit of hypochondriac, and he’s convinced he has Sarcoidosis, among other things.”

The other doc chimed in: “That’s pretty impressive that you’ve even heard of Sarcoidosis. But I can all but guarantee you don’t have it, because…”

He went on to list about 10 reasons why I don’t have Sarcoidosis, but I can’t remember what they are. I was too elated to hear anything he was saying. But I did catch the cherry on top.

“And even in the highly unlikey event you do have Sarcoidosis, all you’d have to do is go on steroids and you’d be just fine.”

A miracle. I could not believe it. I took a deep breath, and all the stress left my body. My muscles limbered right up as a wave of relief massaged me from head to toe. And then, just as I was flagging down the waiter to order a celebratory round of shots, the doc continued: “But you really need to chill out, my man. All that worrying is going to make you lose your hair.”

Epilogue: If after reading this piece you don’t believe me that I’m going bald, you are as insane as I am. Some people look great bald. Heck, they look better bald. But the shape of my head is ridiculous—not to mention I have moles, birthmarks, and scars galore. The scars, by the way, are from pre-cancerous growths removed by one of my first dermatologists (and, really, Lord knows if he got it all).

*Michael J. Fox remains a hero and inspiration to this day.

**I was actually hoping for a positive diagnosis on this one as it could’ve helped explain away various symptoms that are also associated with serious neurological disorders. Unfortunately, not one of my Lyme’s tests has ever come back positive.

***Upon my inaugural visit to the official Sarcoidosis website, I was greeted by the imposing figure of the great Bill Russell, arguably one of the best basketball players of all time. Frankly, it scared the shit out of me. Bill Russell is a legit dude who wouldn’t be wasting his time advocating for just any pansy disease. So I slammed my laptop shut and chucked it out the window before reading another word.

****Really, guy? Why not just leave it at “I see no evidence of Parkinson’s?” Why even mention the second part? It’s called “bedside manner,” you numbnut.

Shit-On-Your-Friends Therapy

In my opinion, seeking happiness is the whole point of existence and is achieved through being compassionate and kind. When living this mantra, I’m usually a happier person. And the opposite holds true as well: when I am mean and hurt or offend someone—anyone, even the biggest D-bag you can imagine—I feel like complete dog shit.

I haven’t always been able to articulate this—why I’m not a fighter—but I’ve never been a fighter. Just don’t have the stomach for it, I guess. Because I’m so freaking sensitive, thoughts, feelings, and experiences—especially unpleasant ones, unfortunately—leave deep impressions on my mind. And so I remember a ton of crap from my childhood (shit that everyone goes through, but most people forget), including, of course, my first fight.

I was 3, in daycare. And there was this wicked cool, communal toy chainsaw that all the kids in the “class” always wanted to play with. When you pulled its rip cord, it shook and made an engine sound. Ms. Wheelock had us take turns to ensure we all got a try. During my turn with the chainsaw, Ms. Wheelock was apparently preoccupied. Because the bully of the bunch—this dude named Patrick with dark hair and a bowl cut—marched right over to me and ripped the chainsaw out of my hands.

Honestly, I am a freak. I practically remember shit from the womb. And I remember, like it was yesterday, thinking: “Hmmm, well, I guess Patrick just took that from me. I guess I could just let him take it, like I always do, or, hmmm… What would it be like if I didn’t let him take it this time—if I grabbed it back from him? What the hay, let’s give it a whirl.”

So I grabbed the chainsaw, and Patrick and I had ourselves a little tug of war. It wasn’t at all fun or interesting, but it wasn’t terrible either. And then he hit me. An open-fisted haymaker to the temple. Physically, the blow didn’t hurt one iota, but on the inside I melted like a soft-serve on a steamy, summer day. I could’ve kicked his ass, I’m not kidding. I really was stronger. But I stopped fighting because it just felt so… weird. I let go of the chainsaw, assumed the fetal position, and bawled my eyes out like a whiny, little bitch.

Since that fight with Patrick, I haven’t been in any physical altercations. But I’ve been in plenty of verbal and mental brawls. Probably fewer than most, but more than enough for me. Unlike that early tiff with Patrick, which was inspired by curiosity, my arguments since then have been fueled by those short-lived emotional reflexes—typically anger or annoyance—that flood the mind after being challenged or crossed.

When I get in real fights these days, I still get this “is-this-really-happening” feeling that I had in my fight with Patrick from 30 years ago, but worse than that, my increased self-awareness leads to this out-of-body experience that provides a front-row seat to my own ugliness in the heat of battle. I look like Jaba the Hut. It’s awful—it’s the polar opposite of who I want to be. Afterwards, I feel all anxious and lonely and depressed.

So, what do I try to do instead of fight? I take a deep breath, recite a few “oms,” and swallow the insults back down my esophagus before they get to my lips—no matter how money they may be or how big of an A-hole it is that I happen to be dealing with. This is not easy and can be painful, like swallowing fire. But, seriously, if I had a nickel for all the debilitating “zingers” my mind has cooked up in the heat of passion that I’ve opted not to say, I’d be a way less douchey version of Donald Trump.

As I hope you know, it can be agonizing, at least in the moment, to turn the other cheek when you’re really fucking pissed. Grrr… It’s like being a punching bag sometimes, and it really irks me when someone punches me knowing I won’t give it back. When I feel this particular frustration I remind myself that (in the long run at least) I’ll be a better and happier person for it. Scotch also helps me release some of this steam. As does my wife. As does Zoloft. As do my friends.

Friends, you see, don’t just support me, but they provide a fabulous channel for letting out some of the pent up aggravation that builds within me as a pacifist. When it comes to me and my true friends, typical etiquette does not apply. We don’t have to censor ourselves for fear of insulting one another. In fact, we insult each other all the time, because, strange as it may sound, our steady exchange of abuse is yet another bridge for our mutual love and respect.

The other day, for example, when my dear friend Trevor decided to take a hot, steaming beet* deuce on my face by talking all sorts of crazy junk about my hypochondria and Jeff’s dependence on Xanax—from his high horse—taking plenty of liberties, I might add, in his “holier than thou” sermon—I took a deep breath, banged out a few “oms,” and before too long had a good laugh. Then I shot him an email congratulating him on well-written rip job of me and added that he should go fuck himself. I continued to insult him throughout the evening. And even though he orders shots of vagisil when at the bar, I knew he could take it because he is fine, and because he, myself, and Camaro (don’t want to leave you out of this strokefest, Jeffy) are true friends.

If I really did offend you with any of these words, Trevor, than I retract it all—just like you retracted calling me a sensitive pussy the other day… But I know I didn’t offend you, T, because you are the founding father of Shit-On-Your-Friends Therapy; and so I don’t feel the least bit bad.

I feel amazingly GGW—“transcendental”—to tell you the truth.

*(If you have or will read the piece Trevor wrote on beet shits in Pencils in my Eyes—how they’re “transcendental” and all that, just keep in mind that it was very early on in his blogging career and he was still testing out stupid subject matter and even more in love with the sound of his literary voice than he is today. If you don’t have a dictionary handy, or if you don’t like reading about the nasty—actual—shit that results from eating beets, I’ll quickly recap the piece for you here: “Blah, blah, blah, blibbety** blah. Blibbety, blibbety, blibbety, blah. Blibbety, blibbety, blibbety. Beet shits are transcendental. Epilogue: Stay posted. I went to the farmers market and purchased “Heirloom Golden Beets.” I am hoping to shit gold bullion.***)

**(Note: “blibbety” is a stand in for any of a variety of very impressive words that neither you or I know the meaning of but that wonderfully display Trevor’s brilliance and enable him to flex his literary muscles in front of a mirror and his Winnie the Pooh doll while wearing his favorite banana hammock.)

***(Are you kidding me with that Epilogue? Really had me on the edge of my seat with that one.)

Working With A Small Schlong

JD Salinger accurately expressed why writing is so hard (at least for me) when he said that immediately after publishing a book he felt like he was walking around town with his pants around his ankles. I agree with that metaphor and then some: writing creatively for others is not just leaving the house with no pants; it’s dipping your balls in a cup of ice water just before going onstage in the “buck” with a spotlight on your small, shriveled wang.

For the record, I don’t have a small cock (though I can’t say it’s big, and it’s certainly small enough to be insecure about).* But my cock—or anyone’s real, actual cock—is not what this piece is about. This piece is not really about real cocks. It’s more about writing cocks. The definition of which is simple: the amount of courage a writer has in creating and sharing his or her work with others. The bigger a writer’s writing cock, the braver he or she is with his or her art.

Most writers have small writing schlongs, which, of course, means they are overly sensitive about their work and what others think during both the writing and sharing processes. Some writers have big ones, but they are rare (and, unfortunately, many of these “writers” out there with massive writing schlongs don’t have a lick of talent). My writing schlong is, well, basically very tiny. And so for years I have been excruciatingly insecure about my work (which has led to extended bouts with the writing schlong version of ED: OCD).

Over the years, I’ve tried to increase the size of my writing schlong (with the hope that it would: 1) make me comfortable sharing my work; 2) allow me to stop obsessing over it; and 3) enable me to actually finish a thing or two). I’ve tried everything, guys, I really have. I went and got my MFA in writing**. I revisited grammar books from grade school. I kept a journal. I wrote (grinded through) several papers and short stories (none of which I’ve ever deemed “finished”). And I read every word E.B. White ever wrote***. The end result of all this engagement with the craft? I write wicked good emails and sound work-related documents.

I try to resist coming to conclusions, because (unlike what Opera would tell you and we would all like to believe) almost nothing is conclusive, and as soon as you do conclude anything you eliminate all other possibilities—which is dangerous. But if I had to sum things up and encourage a fellow writer cursed with a small writing schlong, here is what I’d say: 1) you can’t increase the size of your writing schlong any more than you can your actual schlong; 2) the key to working with a small schlong is probably the same as (Trevor and Jeff’s secret to) having sex with a small schlong: don’t think about your size. Just go bust a nut and/or express some love and/or make that baby. Don’t lose sight of your purpose; love your partner nice…

These days when I write, I try hard to stay focused on the message I am trying to convey, and I allow and remind myself to have fun. That is the whole point! If I see an opportunity to give a reader a little pleasure or impress him or her by showing off a tad, fine—I’ll try it. Maybe.

But I know that if I worry too much about pleasing others (a.k.a. my performance), I’ll never accomplish much—if anything—at the keyboard (or in the sac), and I’ll never (satisfy my wife or) be satisfied myself. And both of those scenarios would suck. (Dick.)

(Real dick, this time, I mean.)

*Consider this is a mere “sidebar”… But. I have a good friend with a monster dong—I mean huge, as in: He. Has. Three. Legs. And, despite the freakish nature of rocking an extra appendage, the dude got swagger… I can’t say so for sure myself (much to my chagrin), but there must be some form of confidence that comes with having a huge hog.

I don’t know—maybe I’m wrong, but I just feel like I’d be wicked happy all the time if I had a real big one. Even when life throws a guy with a big one a curveball, he can always remind himself that he at least has a big cock.

If I could supersize my wang for a day, I’d have a lot of fun. My inner monologue would go something like this: “Wassup, wassup, wassup. I’m the man. What’s that? Excuse me? Oh you wanna step to me, bitch? You sure about that?” Then bla-zam I’d grab my wang with two hands and swing and boo-ya-kasha; the perpetrator would be laid out. The End.

**Don’t do this unless you are wealthy and/or fortunate enough to have been born with a large writing schlong.

***Do it.

Day Sex

Day sex is so good, and you know it (at least I hope you do).

For most of us, day sex is rare, and rare is special. But I think day sex rules for other reasons, too. For one, I have more energy during the day. Secondly, there is more light—so I can actually see my hot wife while we bone. And, finally, both of the above circumstances tend to bring on a rock-hard “woody.” Which is nice.

Woody often graces us with his presence at night, too, but half the time (usually tired and a few beers deep) Woody’s cousin “Chubby” stumbles in for the night shift. I love Chubby, he’s great (and certainly better than Noodle (who fuckin sucks ass)), but let’s face it: Woody is “the man.” Love that guy, I really do.

Normal weekdays are out—no day sex during the workweek because we both work. So, our only real opportunities for loving like that come during our daughter’s 2-hour nap on vacation days and weekends. It’s pretty sad when you do the math: over the course of any given year, with a 2-week vacation, we have a mere 124 hours of daytime availability for sex. That’s just 1.4% of our existence.

My daughter absorbs the majority of time that would otherwise be available for “smushing” before the sun goes down, but I obviously don’t hold it against her. After all, she’s 1. Plus, I have to remember, too, that, thanks to (the idea of) her, the several months it took to conceive her were filled with sex—morning, noon, and night. Truth be told, I got so much loving while trying to conceive my daughter that Woody started calling Chubby in for back up—even, on occasion–during the day!

Unfortunately, our baby girl and our lack of free daylight hours aren’t my only day sex “cock blocks.” First and foremost, my wife isn’t as enthralled with day sex as I am. She is a doer (and I wish there were more of double entendre to that statement). And, she is a busy body who views our daughter’s naptime as an opportunity to tackle her “to do” list—to clean, pay bills, shop, organize and get ready for [insert any of a million things here (except for my wang)].

Day sex remains elusive, but it would be insane for me to complain about our sex life or anything at all. I am raising a family with the woman of my dreams, and—as my wife was quick to point out after reading a draft of this post—she is generous with her loving. And while she would never let on otherwise, she really does seem to like doing me (even when Woody can’t rise to the occasion and sends his lazy cousin in to do the trick).

I am a lucky man. And, as soon as we start trying for another child, I will become even luckier—regardless of whether or not we succeed in this endeavor. When we will start trying is not entirely clear. But what I can say is that Woody is ready, and Chubby is on call (in the event it takes a while).

And as soon as my wife adds “making a baby” to her “to do” list, I will be very excited to put our daughter down for her nap.

The Original Tebower

Trevor was with me during one of my first panic attacks. He loved it. I didn’t. But it really was hilarious, in a way. Sad too—really, sad—but so freaking funny, at least in hindsight. Kind of hard to explain this juxtaposition. Whenever Trevor talks about it these days (which is typically whenever we get together), he refers to it as the time I “took a knee in Colorado.”

It happened during a 12-hour stop in our cross-country journey from LA back to the Northeast. (Trevor had flown out West just so that we could cruise the country together. (Picture the movie Sideways—friends on their final journey together, in a Saab, before one of them ties the knot.) Trevor was engaged and about to marry the wrong woman, unfortunately (and deep down I think he knew it)—but I’ll let him fill you in about that whole saga.)

Anyway, I had been in LA for 9 months or so, thinking/hoping that I would somehow, miraculously get noticed and make it big in the film industry. Maybe acting, maybe writing, maybe directing. I really didn’t know what I wanted, nor did I have a clue as to how to make anything happen. In all honesty, I didn’t do anything to help myself. I was pretty nervous when I was out there.

Basically, all I did for 9 months was walk the streets, smoke butts, and spend at least a few hours a day trying like the dickens to make progress on a screen play or a short story. I made no progress whatsoever. I had about 42 “open” projects going at once, and I wasn’t able to commit to any of them. Even when I did work on one for a while, I would go over and over the same sentences a million times. You’ve heard all about this already.

I did meet some interesting people out West, and I had some pretty cool experiences, too. (I expect to tell some stories about these people and our rich experiences together—maybe even here in this blog.) But, from a career standpoint, I was so disengaged with LA and the film industry while I was out there that I might as well have been living in Antarctica.

In any case, driving back to the Northeast, it really hit me that I was a failure. I was a few years out of College and had accomplished absolutely nothing. I remember Trevor laughing upon noticing that my car registration and emissions sticker had both expired. Honestly, until he’d pointed that out, those things had never really crossed my mind. I was a mess. So unorganized. I remember opening the glove compartment and a bunch of unopened bills fell out.

So we stopped in Colorado and met up with some good friends of ours, and that night we drank plenty and smoked some weed and then went to a reggae concert at a bar in downtown Breckenridge. Before “Eek-a-Mouse” hit the stage there was this hardcore hip hop group opening for them. Their music was so loud, it practically pierced my ear drums. The bass vibrated my ribs. And I’m sure the elevation was bothering me too.

Just minutes after our arrival at that crowded bar, I started to feel a tingling sensation all over my scalp. The air seemed to get even thinner. I thought I might be having a heart attack. I can’t remember exactly how things went from there. I believe I found Trevor and told him I had to get out of there. I tried as hard as I could to make my way to the door.

My eyes were open, but a dark cloud started materializing in my field of vision. I was losing consciousness, and trying real hard to hold on. But everything was failing—it was like being put to sleep against my will. Utter helplessness. When my palms hit the concrete floor I had enough consciousness to attempt keeping my head from hitting the floor, but not enough strength. Boom. Ow. I sensed people looking at me and gasping–look at that guy, did you see that fall, look at that guy.

Trevor and the bouncers sort of picked me up and carried me outside. The embarrassment was palpable. I sat on a bench in the freezing air, which felt great against my hot, sweaty skin. Sitting there, I was pretty petrified, wondering if I’d just had a heart attack and how much longer I had to live, but I was also relieved that I was no longer the center of attention.

Trevor asked me what the fuck just happened. I told him I had no fucking idea. He started laughing—not an uncomfortable laugh—but like a genuine, holy-shit-this-is-the-most-hilarious-thing-I’ve-ever-seen-type laugh. It was just what I needed. I even chuckled a bit myself.

And I chuckled just now, writing about it, too.