Saturday, January 31, 2015

This Dumb, Dumb, Dumb, Dumb World

January 31, 2015
Day 276

I really don't know where to begin, but I suppose I should start with the news I heard just yesterday that gave me the idea for this blog entry.  The Super Bowl, long known for its use of Roman numerals, has declared that next year, instead of having Super Bowl L, we'll all have Super Bowl 50, officially ending the tradition.  There's no clear reason why, but it seems they think L is just not sexy enough for their advertising.

There's a new TV show on before GLEE called World's Funniest Fails.  The videos are all examples of people having hilarious or painful fails, and a few of them--from the little I've seen--are very funny.  My problem is, there seems to be a very obvious laugh track on there, as well as several planted fake audience members.  On one occasion, the sound I heard was an audience laughing raucously, but the visual was of people clapping politely, and behind them, there were rows of empty seats.  I even saw a woman looking at her cell phone!  Laugh tracks have always been stupid, but they've worked for the most part.  This show though?  It's as fake as fake TV gets.

There's a brewing feud between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, or so we're told.  Andy's theory is that we've only been made to believe there's a feud between them so that when Taylor Swift shows up as a surprise musical guest with Katy on stage at the Super Bowl, it'll be like this incredible makeup moment on live TV.  I really hope that's not what transpires, but Andy's guess is a very good one anyway, and fits right in with the dumbing down of our already dumb world.

I'm not going to touch on politics exactly, but more people seriously need to start actually investigating the news stories they share on Facebook.  I see so many fake facts passed around, so many angry rants, so many completely idiotic, non-factual venting sessions, it makes my brain hurt.  I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat.  Cross-check your information before sharing it!  Don't believe a story just because you heard it on your favorite news station either!

And finally, I got into a slightly heated discussion with a friend last year over Creationism.  He believed the world is only 6,000 years old, because his pastor told him so, pointing to something in Scripture.  People like this believe the dinosaur bones were all placed in the Earth as a clever trick from Satan or something, I'm still not quite sure what the fairy tale is, but that isn't where the final straw broke.  I asked him who Adam and Eve's sons slept with to create more human beings, and he said the law against incest had not yet been written, so they had sex with Mom to start populating the planet.  I was in shock, but I didn't get mean, and when I tried to disagree, he promptly unfriended and blocked me right away.

So what do I really think about some of these extremely dumb traits of our extremely dumb world?  I actually don't blame most people.  Instead, I blame the puppet masters at the top: the politicians, the preachers, and the PR folk who make it all happen exactly as they want.  We live in a world in which massive amounts of good people are being brainwashed every single day, and they don't even realize it.  Their ignorance is their bliss and our dismay, and sadly, I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My Amazing Summer Fling with an Honest Nymphomaniac

January 30, 2015
Day 275
-5.6, 64,395 (+7554)

It was April or May of 2001 when we started talking, and he wouldn't send me his picture.  I'd been dating enough by this point to feel both alarmed and intrigued about this at the same time.  Still, our online chats were really nice, and when we spoke on the phone, he sounded incredibly sexy.  He promised me he was good looking, but the other ones say the same thing, so I really didn't know.  What made this even crazier was that he was living on Shelter Island for the summer (large island between Long Island's north and south forks out east).

He wanted me to rent a room out there so we could meet and spend a day and night together.  What a ludicrous idea!!!

So anyway, I rented the room, a private cottage on the hotel's property, and drove out east once the day arrived.  A ferry ride for my car and me later, I was inside the cottage and on the phone to tell him he could come anytime. 

His car pulled up, and I did my best to breathe.  I would just keep the door locked and politely tell him to go away if he ended up being the liar I feared he could be.  His door opened up and he stepped out, and I finally saw him.  Cute?  Attractive?  Handsome?  No, none of these words would really work.  This guy was hot, like super hot.  Like crazy hot.  He smiled at me and I welcomed him inside, closing and locking the door behind me.

I'm not going to give you the steamy details of what soon transpired, but I will say it all began the way any good date should: with conversation and time.  He got close to me on the couch after a few minutes, and we looked at some old pictures in a photo album I'd brought--I thought it might be a helpful ice breaker, and it was.

There's an important part of the story though I've yet to share, and it may color your opinion of him, me, or both of us very quickly.  He told me before we even started talking much online that he was just looking for a summer fling.  He promised me in fact that he wanted something fun and friendly, but only for the summer, and then he'd be an asshole and disappear.  He actually said this.  And I?  I agreed.  His honesty was extremely refreshing, and I genuinely appreciated it.

He was also, it turns out, a nymphomaniac (a person exhibiting unusual or excessive indulgence in sexual activity).  I did not hate this about him.

We had an amazing day and night together, grabbed some food at a nice restaurant on the north fork, and it was just the most perfect, hot date you can imagine.  I didn't think it could be beat, but then we met again a few weeks later, this time for a long weekend, and the pattern repeated, and if possible, with even greater intensity.  Hair pulling, scratching, waking me up in the middle of the night--it was all so admittedly crazy, yet genuinely amazing. 

This second weekend was also around the pride parade in Manhattan, where--I kid you not--people were asking to have their picture taken with him, and a professional photographer across the street from us came over and gave him his modeling card, asking him to contact him sometime.  I'm not making any of this up, and have my own photos from that day, though I'd never share them publicly.

As promised though, he disappeared.  We spoke on the phone once more after that second weekend, and he was just as sweet and loving with me as always--we even said I love you to each other several times over the course of our friendship--but then he was the asshole he promised to be, and completely disappeared.  I mourned the loss, and felt very sad about it, but to this day, I do still appreciate his honesty about the situation, and I'm glad I met him.  I knew it was just a fling, so I had no right to push him for more, but I'll never forget that amazing summer fling back in 2001.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

This world we live in

January 29, 2015
Day 274

ISIS, marriage equality, Cuba, fracking, Republicans vs Democrats, genocide, murder-suicide, police shooting unarmed civilians, armed civilians shooting police, North Korea, deflated footballs, Tiger Woods' missing tooth, Ebola, blizzards, unvaccinated children, earthquakes, drones, and oh yeah, Facebook.

This world we live in is changing so quickly, and though some of our problems and issues are a constant, many new ones are showing up all the time too.  It really is enough to make you go crazy, like literally.  In a world with this much constant news, information, activity, and change, there's simply no way to maintain your sanity unless you turn it all off from time to time.  The news of this world, the needs of this world, the corruption and the chaos of this world--all of it can wait.

Sometimes you need to turn off the TV, close the blinds, find a book or even just a pillow, and go to your happy place.  This world we live in?  You can't help it if you're in full-out freakout mode.  You need to de-freak your freak and just chill.  The world will be there waiting when you come back.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


January 28, 2015
Day 273

It's been my online identity and screen name for years, and though it certainly doesn't capture all I am, it has been a helpful guidepost.  So what does angelenroute mean, at least to me?

There are two reasons I like the name.  The first and less important one is that I like to believe an angel could come to help me.  I do tend to believe in a mostly hands-off approach from Heaven--despite the subject matter of my first three books--yet I can't help but enjoy the romanticism of the image: an angel swooping in to help someone in need.

The second and more important reason for the name is that I am always aspiring to be better, more perfect, more angel-like.  It's a lifelong struggle, but I believe in it wholeheartedly, and sincerely wish it were the hope of all human beings to achieve a higher level of consciousness at all times. We can't expect others to be more perfect in our eyes if we see through eyes that think ourselves perfect.

The word perfection literally means done through, or completely finished, so we cannot be perfect until we are finished.  We cannot achieve perfection until we achieve a completion of this life we're living.  And even then, how many of us expect our loved ones to say at our funeral services, "He was just so perfect!"  The pursuit of perfection is silly if it's meant to be a human trait in any way.  It has to be a spiritual one from the very start.  I think you'll agree, most of those who seem dead set on the perfect body, career, or life can be completely intolerable to be around.  Father Benedict Groeschel put it this way, "God bless Saint Joseph.  How would you like to wake up and have your coffee with two perfectly sane people?!"

So yeah, I do want to pursue perfection throughout my life.  I want to yell less, lose my temper and my patience less often, and learn to turn the other cheek much more than I do.  I genuinely do want this for myself.  I'm not an angel, as anyone who knows me well enough can tell you.  I have a long list of flaws, most of which I'm aware of on a very-regular basis.

I'm no angel, but I am an angel en route, an angel in training.  I want to be perfected.  I want to be better than I am.  I believe I can be too...some day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blizzard Day 2

January 27, 2015
Day 272

The one thought that's now abundantly clear: there will not be a Blizzard Day 3 in my area.  We seem to have missed the worst of it, and for that, I'm very grateful.

My octogenarian neighbor across the street, recently widowed, was out on her front stoop yesterday afternoon sweeping the snow away, and grumbling just loud enough so we'd all hear her.  I guess the polite thing to do was to go over there and help her, but I was more inclined to shout from my window that she was an insane maniac who should go back inside.  Neither happened, but I was happy to see her retreat indoors after only a few minutes in the cold (I did keep an eye on her).

Once we had a few inches on the ground yesterday--and I'm talking early on, by 3 PM--some of my neighbors began shoveling their walks.  I had an amazing mix of emotions at this: pure hatred at them for being so responsible, coupled with a deep fear they'd mock us once we started shoveling some time in June.  
(Andy went out around 11 last night, and did a great job clearing away most of what we had by that point!)

Last night, satisfied to be indoors while the blizzard raged on, we drank delicious Cherry Pie pinot noir, watched Downton Abbey and Vicious, ate biscuits and chocolates, and then retired relatively early on to a good night's sleep.

The blizzard didn't hit us too bad here at all, so we count ourselves lucky.  For many others in eastern Long Island and up in New England, their fate is worse.  We raise a glass to them, and to all their feet of snow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Blizzard Day 1

January 26, 2015
Day 271

"Potentially life-threatening situation."  "Historic blizzard."  "Epic proportions."  "Up to three feet of snow."

The incoming blizzard is all anyone wants to talk about, so I'll happily play along, although I must confess, part of me does get excited by this kind of thing.  The 10-year-old in me is still there, and though he doesn't like to shovel, he sure does like watching the snow pile up!

It's looking like an abbreviated work day today followed by a snow day tomorrow, and then depending on the timing and the amount of snow to dig out, we could either be off Wednesday as well, or have a delayed opening.

My hopes and prayers are for the safety of everyone, and that the winds aren't too bad either, because if they are, along with the weight of snow on power lines, we could see some dangerous situations.  So stay safe, everyone!  Wishing you all lots of nice quiet time at home!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The time I buried a man

January 25, 2015
Day 270

Marvin was the senior proofreader at Publishers Clearing House, and though he was thoroughly a character in many ways, he was also a sweet man who helped me very much while I was there.

He lived alone in an apartment not far from the company, so he could easily walk to work when the weather was good, and he always walked to temple.  Living alone was the life he lived, and it seemed to be the life he wanted too, but it may have proven to be his downfall in the end.

We came into work one day and heard the story: he was found earlier that morning on the floor of the men's room at work, having suffered what was either a stroke or a heart attack or both the night before.  He was still conscious, and seemed happy to see the person who found him, but within a day or two in the hospital, he died.

Marvin was a very simple man, barely computer literate, and nothing about him and technology went well together.  So when we got to the funeral and realized it was being live streamed online, we couldn't believe it.  Marvin of all people had the most technologically advanced funeral any of us had ever seen!

At the cemetery, it came as something of a surprise to find out I would have to help bury Marvin.  In Orthodox Jewish tradition, the loved ones of the deceased do as much of the work as they can themselves.  So even though there was a small group of men standing by who had just dug the grave, we had to do everything else.  We carried his coffin in between tight turns through a very compact cemetery, and then we had to slowly lower the coffin ourselves into the hole.  After that, we had to shovel all of the dirt in on top of the coffin ourselves until most of the entire 6 feet worth of space was all filled up!

I think about Marvin on a fairly frequent basis, and I still feel the profound connection I have to him because of the role I played in his burial.  (Side note: all three of us from work who helped the rabbi bury Marvin were subsequently laid off from the company.  At least we all knew we could find work as gravediggers anytime.)

I buried a man with my own two hands, and the experience is one I'll never forget.  I submit this reflection here, like so many others I've already shared, to look at my own life experiences and learn from them.  What did I learn most of all from this one?  I mentioned before that Marvin's living alone may have been his downfall, and I don't mean that in any sort of judgmental way.  The security officer at work was subsequently fired for not realizing Marvin was in the building so late.  He was supposed to have checked all the offices and restrooms, and apparently never did. 

Living alone can be dangerous.  If something happens to you, there's no one nearby who would know about it for a while.  So many people do live alone, of course, but I guess I just mention this as a reminder to at least have someone you text before bed, if nothing else.  Marvin's death reminds me to keep my cell phone on me at all times when Andy's not home.  A bathroom trip, a trip to another level of my house: I always keep it close, just in case I fall or am struck by something and can't move from where I am.  Obviously, there are no guarantees in life, and sometimes bad things just happen without any way of avoiding them, but we should protect ourselves whenever we can. 

Missing you, Marvin, and look forward to seeing you again one day!

Saturday, January 24, 2015


January 24, 2015
Day 269

Several years ago, I created an online group for spiritual discussion, and it had a very successful, very happy run at the time.  I called it LIVING, which stood for Long Island Voices In and Near God.  On September 18, 2006, we began meeting regularly at my apartment in Central Islip, where 5-10 of us would watch a movie or documentary with some spiritual theme, and then discuss it for a while afterward.  This went on happily until our last such gathering on May 6, 2009.  Andy and I bought our house in Malverne that summer, and though I had every intention of restarting the group in our new home, it still hasn't happened.

The experiences I had with this group were sometimes fun, sometimes sad, and sometimes extraordinary.  We listened to each other's stories and upbringings in different faith traditions, shared our truths and beliefs in a safe, nonjudgmental way, and mostly just enjoyed the time we spent together stretching our hearts and minds to all possibilities.

I'll never forget the time we were watching a movie called Let It Ride, with the theme of luck and prayer, and halfway through the movie, we heard the sound of a car crash outside.  It was a hit and run, as the driver had side-swiped the car of one of our group members and then driven off!  What a thing to have happen to him, especially on a night dedicated to a discussion of luck!

On another night, we were watching an informational video on the Passover meal.  It was a beautiful DVD I still have, which detailed why the meal is celebrated, and what various traditions surrounding the holiday entail.  We were all thoroughly enjoying it, but then the father of the family featured in the film, the man talking to the camera the whole time, paused suddenly and said something like, "And Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy."  We all looked at each other in shock.  It was a Jews For Jesus DVD, a propaganda film made to convince Jews to follow Jesus in a most subversive way--and we had no idea!  We laughed a bit after the shock wore off, but it was definitely one of the most surprising movie twists I've ever seen!

I genuinely hope to restart these spiritual gatherings again at some point, at my home or elsewhere, and with or without the cinematic portion.  I'm proud of the group, and happy to have helped facilitate some incredibly meaningful conversations during those years.  The reason I started it then is the same reason I'd restart it now: because we don't spend enough time talking about the big picture.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dieting Stress

January 23, 2015
Day 268
-3, 56,841

On Tuesday evening, on my way home from the gym (this detail cannot be stressed enough), I got a flat tire.  When I got home, I wanted to eat A LOT of comfort food.  Instead, I did not.  Win.

On Wednesday evening, after going to the gym (just to clarify), I went to the supermarket on an empty stomach.  I spent some time staring at the ice cream and the cookies, but I didn't buy anything other than the one loaf of bread I needed.  Win.

On Thursday evening, after finishing my workouts for the week (mm-hm), happy to have just one more workday ahead of me, and stressed over the busy week at work I've had, I wanted to celebrate or otherwise treat myself.  I did not.  Win.

On Friday morning, just three hours ago as I write this, I did my weekly weigh-in, telling myself as long as the scale read a certain lower number I had in mind (just slightly below where I was last week), I'd be happy.  I stepped on, said my serenity prayer once again with meaning, and looked down.  It said I had gained .6 pounds since last week.  I laughed, stepped off, moved the scale, tossed my head back with a giggle, and stepped on again.  The number did not change.  I tried a third time, no longer smiling, and then stepped off and took a moment to myself.  Loss.

I tell myself with the amount of jogging I do on the elliptical, my leg muscles have just built up a bit now, and the plateau is only temporary.  I tell myself these things happen, through no fault of my own, and I shouldn't be discouraged.  And then I tell myself to eat a lot of food.

For those who don't diet or exercise, I know you don't get it.  I do.  I understand you just don't comprehend how difficult it is for some of us.  I also know that as much as I'd like to slap some of you when you say things like, "just eat less", that I should not actually become violent.  But please do at least understand that for many of us who try to stay fit or attain fitness and better health, we genuinely are trying hard--and we're having these setbacks quite often anyway.  It's not easy, but we try our stay sane.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Expecting nothing, and it's awesome!

January 22, 2015
Day 267

Okay, so there's no such thing as nothing on a free day, so I don't actually expect nor desire complete nothingness this coming weekend, but as far as weekends go, the one upcoming looks pretty open.

Last weekend I packed up Christmas decorations and put them back into storage, then had a wake in the Bronx on Sunday.  The weekend before, I took all the Christmas decorations down, which was its own large task.  And the weekend before that was New Year's weekend, which though slow, had its own this-and-that going on.

But this weekend?  The one upcoming?  I've got nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  I'm going to do a minimum amount of necessary housework and enjoy a maximum amount of rest and relaxation.  I hope to do a lot of writing too, but that's become a passion, and doesn't feel like work.  So yeah, I'm expecting nothing from this weekend, and if nothing's what I get, that would be absolutely awesome!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Flat Tired

(photo from web)
January 21, 2015
Day 266

Today begins the last 100 days of this blog series (thank God), and as if right on cue, I got a flat tire last night on my way home from the gym.

It was dark.  It was cold.  I was in shorts.  The tire was very clearly broken beyond repair, thanks to a pothole the size of Germany, and it just completely deflated me as much as the tire.

Murphy showed up with his Law too, because not only was it nighttime, but it was a poorly lit area too, and my cell phone was almost out of battery, so it cast very little light on the situation.  The lug nuts were either factory sealed on or otherwise rusted tight (it seemed they were both), so as I stepped on the wrench to take them off, the metal only pushed through the soft rubber bottom of my sneakers.  I had to change into my brown work shoes (while still in shorts, though I wasn't too concerned with fashion at the moment), and they finally helped me pry the lug nuts off.

The whole process took me approximately 45 minutes, four phone calls, and three texts to complete, but complete it I finally did, and got home safe on the donut I keep in the trunk.  How did I do it?  Because I'd done it before at least twice.  Much like Harry Potter conjuring his Patronus, I remembered I could do it, so I did.

That's life then too, isn't it?  We do more than we think we can or want to do because we've had to before.  The older we get, the wiser we supposedly get, and things just become part of the game.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Flashing Before My Eyes

January 20, 2015
Day 265

I've never done this before, you know?  I've never taken this many looks back at what my life has entailed.  This entire year's worth of daily blogging has so often been about looking backward in order to look forward in a new way.  Perspective.  That's what I've been finding all along.

Today I'd like to share a few little flashes of memories past, recollections and musings that could be blog entries of their own.

My little sister Marilyn (19 months younger than me) taught me how to tie my shoes.

I enjoyed mowing the front lawn at our family's home in Rockville Centre, mostly because we lived on a busy street, and I wanted people to see me doing something masculine.

I started and ran a semi-regular family newspaper called The Brennan Weekly...that wasn't at all weekly.  I eventually changed the title to The Family Seasonal, and tried my best to get content from various family members to fill it, but it was a lot of work in a pre-internet world.

While working at the A&P, a friend and I found discarded security tapes.  They were sticking out beneath some other trash, so we rescued them and laughed to see coworkers on camera.  One of the tapes had more than we expected though: a gay porn scene!  It was the first time I'd ever seen something like that, and I secretly kept the tape for months before destroying it out of fear.

I was a well known altar boy and Bishop's Server at St. Agnes Cathedral, earned Altar Boy of the Month honors once too, and all the priests knew me by name.  Even years later when I'd receive communion at church, they'd recognize me: "The body of Christ, Sean." [blog entry to come]

I was a Newsday delivery boy, as I've mentioned already, and once had to collect money from a young man who answered the door in just his tighty whities. [blog entry to come]

I was a babysitter for quite a while, and was paid well to watch several kids around my neighborhood when their parents went out. [blog entry to come]

Despite every indication that I'd be a child of the 90s, having been born in May 1975, the 80s have always felt more special to me, mostly because as the 90s arrived, everything started changing so quickly.  I'll always see the 80s as synonymous with all the fun and innocence of my youth.

Tomorrow begins the last 100 days of this daily blog series.

Monday, January 19, 2015

I wish I could go back to college

January 19, 2015
Day 264

I wish I could go back to college
In college you know who you are

You sit in the quad
And think oh my God
I am totally gonna go far

(I Wish I Could Go Back To College,
song lyrics from Avenue Q)

Yesterday afternoon, quite unexpectedly, I found myself staring at my college campus for the first time in over 17 years.

The circuitous way this happened is kind of crazy really, but interesting nonetheless.  Andy's Uncle Fai died in October, and their family friend Kathy spoke at the wake and funeral for him.  She gave a beautiful eulogy in the funeral parlor, and was just a very good, kind soul throughout the weekend.  This past week, Kathy's 97-year-old mom died, and though I personally might not have attended this wake otherwise, I really wanted to because of how great Kathy was to Andy's family a few months ago.  And the funeral parlor her mom was waked at?  It was on Broadway in Riverdale, just four blocks south of the Manhattan College campus.  I never would have guessed it would take 17 years and 8 months until I visited my college again, nor that it would have taken the death of my partner's uncle's wife's friend's mother to do it!

I loved college so much, and I really enjoyed my classes as much as the time in between my classes, reading in the library, or sitting out in the quad, just enjoying a warm spring day as people played Frisbee across the grass.  But college was also about the dream of what would follow. 

For me, that dream, that reality, was a very happy life as a monk and teacher.  When I left the campus that May (I wasn't allowed to attend graduation), I had every hope and expectation of a year of Master's courses followed by a wonderful lifelong career as a Catholic High School teacher.

I knew who I was, and I knew I would go far.  And then, on July 19th that summer, my life completely ended, and a new one began.  I was back to square one, having no idea what my life would now be.  I had very few belongings and zero money to my name.  By November, I began a career as a proofreader, but my new dream--my original, deeply felt dream of being a successful writer--was still just a far-off hope. 

At almost 40, I'm still not there.  Yes, I've had some successes along the way, and some of those successes include accomplishments I'm very proud of, but I know my potential, that my future still promises great leaps.  I am totally gonna go far, even if I haven't yet, and the part of me that stared back into my past yesterday at my alma mater just reminded me of this. 

Life changes.  Circumstances change as well.  But dreams only grow, and I'm going to keep working hard until all my dreams are realized.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I don't know what to tell you

January 18, 2015
Day 263

I'm feeling a bit out of it this morning, so I'll keep today's entry short...

I spent all day yesterday packing up Christmas decorations, so my house now looks incredibly empty again...and I have to admit I like it!

We also learned yesterday that a friend of Andy's family passed away, so we're heading to the wake today up in the Bronx.  She was 97, and I didn't really know her outside of a nice conversation three or four years ago, but her daughter was very sweet throughout Uncle Fai's funeral weekend, so we owe her a lot.

Strangely for me, the funeral home is in Riverdale, home of Manhattan College.  I haven't been back to my alma mater since I graduated in 1997 (not by choice or circumstance--I just haven't).  So I hope to at least drive by if nothing else.

It's raining out, I've been up for two hours and haven't eaten yet, I'm cold and congested, and I have a trip to the Bronx now ahead of me, so that's it for me.  See you tomorrow!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The rental car key deep in the sea

January 17, 2015
Day 262

We were somewhere in the middle of a two-week trip to Maui when it happened.  It was Andy's birthday that day, so we made it one of our do-nothing days, opting to check out a nice beach we'd heard about just past Kapalua.

I settled down with a book, our cooler, and towels, so Andy could go swimming first, but just as he was emptying his pockets of his wallet, phone, and whatnot, his brother Chris called from Massachusetts to wish him a happy birthday.  They spoke for maybe 10 minutes, I snapped a few photos while they did, and when he got off the phone, I took one last shot of Andy with the gorgeous view behind him (pictured here). 

Andy then went in for his swim in the amazing waters off the incredible D.T. Fleming Beach.  There were only a few other people on the stretch of beach, maybe 15-20 at most, and only half that number or less in the water, so we mostly had the place to ourselves.  About 15 minutes later, as I'm deep into my book and hardly have a care in the world, Andy suddenly comes jogging up from the ocean looking very nervous.  He started rustling through our things, asking, "Do you have the car key?"  Now I don't think any other combination of six words could have told me so much in such a short sentence.  Andy was the driver, not me, and the rental car key would have definitely not been in my pocket.  We hadn't seen a magician recently, and as far as I understood, the laws of time and space were still active.

What followed next was a 15-minute-long stress adventure beginning with Andy calling the car rental company to tell them he thought he'd lost the key in the ocean, followed soon afterward by a call to a locksmith, and a long conversation about fees and hassles, the likes of which neither of us wanted on his birthday, nor at anytime while staying on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!

After watching Andy for a few minutes on the phone, I took a long look out at the ocean waters he'd been swimming in.  I realized, quite accurately, that he'd been exploring about 50% of the whole length of the available swimming area, and had gone in as far as waist-deep out into the water.  Still, there was a bit of hope here anyway.  He wasn't exactly swimming in the northern Atlantic off Long Island.  This was paradise, and I began to think I might actually find the key out there somewhere.

So I said a prayer to St. Anthony, and went to work.  I walked up and down that beach and as far out as I guessed Andy had.  At one point 5 minutes into my search, mentioning to a woman I was searching for a car key, she said, "That guy over there just found a key."  I rushed to the man right away, only to learn it was a completely different key a completely different vacationer had lost.  So I returned to my expedition feeling slightly less hope, but no less determination. 

And then it happened: my golden ticket moment!  I spotted something glimmering in the sun, something metallic shining beneath the deepest water I'd been through.  Could it be?  Could this be our missing car key, not yet buried beneath the sand or taken out into even deeper waters?  I reached down until my head and neck were in the water a bit, feeling around for the object I'd spotted.  I grabbed it at last and pulled it up, and glory be to God, it was our car key! 

I was so happy to have found it, and as I walked back toward the beach, I spotted Andy still on the phone guarding our rental car (worried someone would find the key and steal the car--not too rare an occurrence on the islands).  He was quite far away from me, but I held the key up in the air with a big smile, pointing at it with my other hand so he'd see I found it.  I couldn't help but laugh as Andy came running back toward me, the weight of the world now off his birthday-in-paradise shoulders.  Whew! 

Not quite a Miracle on the Hudson story, just a great Maui good luck adventure, but it's one I promise you we will never forget!

Friday, January 16, 2015

State of the Blog(ger)

January 16, 2015
Day 261
-3.6, 52,465
(To be updated now each Friday. The first number is pounds lost since early January, and the second number is words written in Book 3.)

The blog has been getting a lot of views lately, and the blogger wishes to thank the world for that fact.  He doesn't know why he's speaking in third person, but hopes to rectify that situation by the second paragraph. 

Next week I'll hit Day 265, which means I'm 100 days away from turning 40, and just as importantly, it means I'll have only 100 more of these blog entries to write!  I'm very proud of myself for what I've achieved here the past eight and a half months, but you better believe I will LOVE being done with it too!  Writing a blog entry every single day is so much work!

Speaking of weight loss, last week I weighed myself for the first time in months, and was quite perturbed at the number staring back up at me.  Thankfully, I weighed in again last night, and I'm down 3.6 pounds already, so I feel a bit better.  I have 15 pounds to lose still to get back to my goal weight/low adult weight, and I plan to accomplish this before my 40th birthday on May 1st.

Speaking of book writing, that's been going VERY well for me lately too.  Right now I'm on page 142 and have 52,465 words written.  I'm about to start writing Chapter 15 of a 37-chapter book, so I still have a long road ahead of me, but the story is now coming together very well.  Copious notes and outline work have really helped me on this project.  As you might imagine, writing one book is work enough without it being the third and final book of a trilogy, where you need to resolve all topics and characters, and answer as many questions as possible.

So yeah, life is good, blogging's good, book writing's good, and my weight loss is good!  Plus today is Friday--Chipotle Day!--so the blogger believes he is a very happy camper.  ...oh, shit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

God's a Softy in the Garden of Eden

Apple tree at the Weston Priory, August 2014
January 15, 2015
Day 260

Every year when I travel to Ludlow, Vermont, I make a brief trip to the Weston Priory one town over.  It's a short drive from where I stay, maybe 15 or 20 minutes at most, and because the priory is at the top of a mountain rise, it's always so beautifully quiet up there.

I like to walk around the grounds in meditation, stop in to pray a bit in their chapel, and just completely bask in the serenity of the area.
Fallen apples from the tree at the Weston Priory, August 2014

This past August, I noticed the apple tree beside their large pond, and I took some photos of it.  There was a lesson here, I believed, but I wasn't sure yet what it was.  I noted not just the apples on the tree, but the fallen ones as well, and that's when my mind began to wander...and wonder.

(In the Garden of Eden story, the fruit of the tree is never described as being apples, but the idea seems to have stuck, so let's go with it.)

The tree in the center of the Garden of Eden was actually two trees: "in the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:9).  God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying that when he eats it, he will surely die (Genesis 2:17).  As we know though, he did eat it, just after Eve, and neither of them died...not even "surely"! 

They were punished though, right?  Eve and all women afterward were condemned to ridiculous amounts of pain when giving birth, and Adam and all men after him would have to struggle to find food and support their families.  Soon afterward, God banished them both from the Garden altogether, even going so far as to station a cherubim and a flaming sword to keep them from going back in to taste the fruit of the Tree of Life.

I want to write so much about all this right now, but for your sake and mine, let's just look at one tiny piece of this story: God promised they would die...and they didn't.  For all his flaming swords and cherubim, all his threats and tantrums, the God of Genesis showed his soft side from the very start.

As God, he already knew childbirth would be painful.  Eve didn't.  He already knew men would have to toil and sweat over the land to find their food and feed their families.  Adam didn't.  It's as if a mother punished her 5-year-old by saying, "That's it!  From now on, you shall go to school and learn!  You will begin to age and your body will grow larger!"  How would a child be any the wiser? 

That's right, the God we see pictured at the very start of Genesis is a softy.  He's all bark and no bite.  He's deeply angered by the dangers the serpent posed to his children, and though he yells at and even threatens them, he doesn't kill them, as he said he would.  Instead, he moves them to a safer place, and he keeps on watching over and protecting them elsewhere.

Apple trees are gorgeous, and their attractive fruit is right there staring us in the face.  But a simple glance down at the ground, as Adam and Eve knew, will show you how quickly fruit can spoil once it's fallen.  God just wanted what was best for his kids.  He even tried to warn them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Potholes In My Brain

January 14, 2015
Day 259

I've got potholes in my brain,
though I seem to still be sane. 
But these holes inside my brain? 
They really are a pain!

I'll sit here just a'thinking,
hardly even blinking
(nor even am I drinking!),
when I feel myself a'sinking.

My memory's all fuzzy--
"No wait but now who was he?"
And though I don't feel scuzzy,
I've got potholes in my brain!

Is any of this normal? 
Perhaps a bit coronal 
(though nothing really formal)?
Or maybe it's hormonal?

It could just be my gain,
though probably in vain;
the truth will still remain:
I've got potholes in my brain.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's A Wonderful Life

January 13, 2015
Day 258

I've done some good in my life.  I've introduced and created groups that introduced people to each other who might have never met otherwise.

I helped a friend who said he wouldn't be here if I hadn't been there for him.

I've written words in poems, short stories, and books that have had a positive impact on people.

I've written articles and essays for Examiner, Patch, Addicting Info, and Believe Out Loud that have been read by many thousands of people worldwide.  Anne Rice shared one of my articles with her hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, and I received many personal letters and comments thanking me for this and other pieces I've written and shared.

I've made a difference in the lives of friends and family members in different ways on different occasions, sometimes through the words I said, and other times through the words I didn't say.

I've done some good in my life.  So when I have my bad days when I feel all alone, crushed that my writing is not reaching the levels I hope it will and know it can, or when I'm hurt that someone I care a lot about doesn't feel the same in response, I think about the good I've done in my life. 

When I'm feeling miserable, focusing on my sins and mistakes, my failures and my flops, I need to think on the good.  I need to remember the good.  I need to be ever mindful of the good things I've done in my life. 

We're all guilty of some things in life, and we so often feel the enormous weight of that guilt pinning us down like an avalanche of snow.  But when we're feeling this miserable, this unworthy, this sad or depressed, it's helpful to think about all the good we've done, the smiles we've brought, and the joy we've shared with others.  This really is a wonderful life, and success is worth so much more of your attention than failure will ever deserve. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Me I Am

1993, Age 18, Rockville Centre, NY
January 12, 2015
Day 257

You ever do this?  I'll find pictures of myself, maybe old ones from high school or just 10 years back, and I'll look into my own eyes to try and learn something. 

What was that version of me thinking?  How was my body language revealing my fears to those around me?  What kind of self-image did I have?  Was I comfortable in my body, or unhappy with how I looked?

The me I am has changed so much over my lifetime, but whether I realize it or not, I'm still that same me.  I may not have the same fears, issues, or crushes.  I may not believe all the same things about God or people.  I may not even process my thoughts and feelings the same way anymore.  Yet the me I once was still is the me I am now.

I'm a product of all the time and learning I've received in this life, and I'm forever a result of all the mes that came before this me writing right now.

It isn't hard for me to look at photos of myself and cringe.  My discomfort now as I view them is only a mirrored effect of the discomfort I must have felt in a given photo.  Look at my hand clinched, I'll say to myself, or why didn't I smile?  Why did I think that pose was in any way correct for that photo?

We all do this, don't we?  Maybe we do it to different degrees, or more or less often than other people, but it's basic human nature to self-evaluate ourselves long after an image of ourselves is revealed.  It's completely normal to judge the you you once were against the you you are now.

Maybe you prefer the old you.  Maybe you prefer the new you.  Maybe you like both yous.  Maybe you don't like any of your yous.  Maybe your you now wants to slap the old you.  Maybe you wish the old you would leap through the photo and slap your present you.
2005 (I think) at Long Island Pride, Huntington, NY

We are, all of us, a result of every version of ourselves we ever were.  I am the me I used to be in the same way I am the me I am now.  You are the you you used to be in the same way you are the you you are now.  Our past is our present, because our past is all ours to learn from and grow with.  You can't teach your old you what you know now, but you can allow your old you to teach your new you in all new ways.
March 23, 2003, Rockville Centre, NY

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Destination Ahead

January 11, 2015
Day 256

You know the flag that pop ups on the GPS?  The one telling you your destination is finally growing closer?  Well, now that it's January, and I have just three and a half months left before I turn 40, I can finally see that flag waving at me in the distance.  It's still small, but I can see it now, and it's definitely making me think more and more about the destination ahead.

I love taking long drives whenever I can.  I've driven from Long Island over to Michigan, down to North Carolina, and up to Vermont countless times, and there's always something special about taking that kind of long journey in a car.  I stock up on water and snacks before I go, and always make sure my CDs are close by too.  But a journey is nothing without the ultimate destination.  No matter how long or short a drive is, I'm always focused on how much time I have left

So as I approach the last leg now of my one-year journey from 39 to 40, I'm keenly aware of the little checkered flag that's recently popped up on my internal GPS.  I still have a few months of travel still to go, but just seeing the flag has got me thinking more on what awaits me at the destination ahead. 

This daily blog series has been a journey of perspective, as I keep looking back on some of the significant parts of my past and present, and the flag reminds me of more adventures still to come.  For now though, my focus remains on the journey, and less the destination.  I'm not there yet!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Finding Your Bliss

January 10, 2015
Day 255

In May of 2012, Andy and I experienced an amazing vacation to Maui, Hawaii.  Up until that point, I'd always called Ludlow, Vermont my home away from home, and though I guess it still is, I gotta say... Maui sure would be a nice place to live for all eternity!

As I was writing my second book a year or so ago, I began painting more and more scenes that took place in Heaven, and I had to decide exactly what Heaven would look like, especially for a major scene at the end of the book.  And that's when Maui started whispering in my ear again: "You've already found Heaven right here with me.  Make Heaven look like me!"

We all have these special spots on Earth we go to where we feel absolutely swept up in bliss, a place where all is right in the world even when it isn't, where all you need to do is just look around you, and feel the sensory overload only a perfect place can give.

Maybe your bliss is at the beach, or in the mountains, or on a farm, or at a winery.  Maybe it's in your church, or in a library, or even in your bed!  I'm sure that just my mentioning a few possibilities already got you thinking of a place where you always feel happy.  Good!  That's your piece of Heaven right here on Earth, and you should try to put yourself there as often as possible!

Your place of bliss is easy to find if you just look around and seek it out.  A dream vacation like my trip to Maui may be financially difficult to attain, but bliss is always close at hand.  Even when you travel to a special place of comfort, surrounded by gorgeous views, great weather, maybe some yummy food and drink, you'll often find your bliss was right there with you all the time.  In that way, bliss is like your favorite part of a great book.  It's inside just waiting to be found.  You need only turn a few pages first until you find it.

Friday, January 9, 2015

To Scale

January 9, 2015
Day 254

I see it everywhere: the whole world wants everything "to scale".  If something's pictured larger or smaller than it really is on a package, you better have "Not shown actual size" captioned next to it, or trust me: there will be trouble!

So when I step on the scale at home, as I did again today, I wonder what actual size I'm supposed to be.  I don't mean the fashion magazines' norm, or even according to the national health standards.  I know my body better than anyone else who will ever exist, so I already know what "to scale" means for me.

As I stepped on the scale this morning, it didn't tell me I was too fat.  It just told me my weight.  It left the judgment up to me, and whether I like it or not, to the rest of the world, too.  The scale made no funny faces.  It didn't mock me, or call me names.  It didn't even plaster on a fake smile or give me a sympathetic shrug.  It just gave me a number.  As I expected, the number was high.  As I did not expect, it was higher than the high number I guessed it might be.

Still, I did not cry.  I just prayed, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change".  I knew that in the moment I stood there on the scale, I could not change what the scale told me.  I couldn't blow my nose, clip my nails, or cut my hair off to achieve some dramatic difference.  All I could do was take note of the number, and accept what I could not change in the moment.

We live in a world of scale.  Scales of justice, scales of weight--hell, even scales of fish.  Everything is understood "to scale".  When we're overweight, we're said to tip the scales, as if we're practically knocking something over.  "Whoa!  Don't tip over my display, fatty!"  But if you think about it, the scale starts with, quite literally, nothing at all.  Without me and my body mass, my scale is absolutely nothing, a zero.  I'm the one who gives it a number.  I'm the one who defines it

I will get healthy, and I will lose weight, but I'll do so while remembering that the person I really am is already in perfect scale to the person I already am.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Treated like a king in Fargo

January 8, 2014
Day 253

In May 2008, my Publishers Clearing House Co-Deputy and I drove into Fargo in our Prize Patrol van.  We'd attached the Prize Patrol sign just before crawling into town (it would fly off in the wind on the open road otherwise), and we happily waved to passersby who beeped or waved at us everywhere we went.  Working as a Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol Deputy was a great privilege, but it also meant people treated you a little better.  And no where was this truer than in Fargo, North Dakota.

When I say I was treated like a king, I'm not really exaggerating too much.  Get this: at the gorgeous boutique hotel we stayed in, The Hotel Donaldson, fellow patrons at the rooftop bar bought us drinks and even gave us free HoDo (Hotel Donaldson) sweatshirts. 

We called one of our new friends for a restaurant recommendation just before leaving town, and she gave us the name of a great place called The Old Broadway.  My colleague Jack was hoping to try their specialty Bison Filet Mignon, but when we got there, we learned it was only served later in the day.  No problem though!  Our friend had called ahead to let the restaurant owner know we were coming, so he called his night chef to come in early!  Jack got his steak, and we both enjoyed one of the best meals we've ever had anywhere!

Sharon, the friend who'd been helping us so much, had another surprise for us at the restaurant too.  While we were eating, a woman from the local art museum came in and walked over to us, presenting us each with gorgeous posters from the town's art gallery!

We were floored by all the generosity of the residents of Fargo, but it didn't end there...

As we checked in at the airport, a voice called from behind, "You must be Jack and Sean from Publishers Clearing House!  I don't mean to be a stalker, but I've been trying to track you guys down."  He was David K. Martin, President of the Fargo Chamber of Commerce, and he'd been trying to catch us at two of our previous locations that day, just to thank us for coming to town and wishing us all the best on our journey.  How nice!
And just when we thought it was over, one more person caught up to us before we went through security at the airport: Shawn A. Dobberstein, Executive Director of the Fargo Airport!  He too wanted to just thank us for coming to Fargo, and he even gave us free souvenirs from the airport gift shop!

We found out afterward that our friend Sharon had planned to surprise us with a meeting with the Mayor of Fargo too, but he was unfortunately away on state business in Bismarck that day. 

Can you imagine what this was like?!  I still can't believe it, and I was there!  My co-deputy and I surprised people with money all over, and we met so many people along the way in Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota, but by far, the trip to Fargo was the most amazing.  It's not a destination on most people's to-see lists, but I promise you, even if you aren't in town surprising someone with money, you'll still fall in love with the people and the charm of this beautiful little city!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The swimming pool in my house

Note the metal door to the right of the school sign.
January 7, 2015
Day 252

I honestly don't think much about the perks of being a monk in the place I lived, but occasionally, a little reminder comes my way out of the blue.

I purposely stay away from social media concerning my former monastery, not out of hatred--just hurt.  I lived there, prayed there, ate and drank there.  I went on fun trips with the people I knew there, and just spent so much of my life from 18 to 22 with them.  And then, in just a matter of minutes one day, I was banished from the kingdom.

Regardless of the pain I still carry, there were absolute perks of being a brother there too: 

I had the key to every classroom in the school, and visited the ones I remembered from my freshman year of high school (the one year I was a student there before failing out).  I have distinct memories of turning the key and walking in, just absorbing the rooms one more time, allowing myself a weird sense of peace about the failures of my past. 

When I needed something from the bookstore, I just took it.  It wasn't the kind of the thing I ever felt comfortable doing, but I genuinely appreciated the ability to go to the school bookstore, just outside the brothers' home, and take what I needed.  We just let the brother in charge know what we took, and he noted it in his records.

Toiletries were always there, and should I need a new deodorant, toothbrush, box of tissues, towel, or anything else like that, it was just a few feet away.  One brother was in charge of buying all these items and keeping the shelves stocked, and another brother did the same with all the sheets and towels.  Things truly ran like a well oiled machine!

Food was not in short supply.  That's the nice way of saying a Vow of Poverty does not have to mean actual poverty.  We ate well there, and we had so many different types of foods too.  The community lifestyle means pooling resources well, and you quickly learn how such a little amount of money can accumulate when it's shared.  Truly a loaves and fishes experience!

Speaking of far, the coolest part of being a monk in this particular community was:

I had a swimming pool in my house!  My bedroom was just a 20-second walk to the pool area, so it could be 10:00 at night in January, a blizzard outside, and I could go for a swim before bed.  I don't know how often some of us did, but it was hardly a rare occasion, and certainly in the summertime, it was quite often.  The Olympic-size swimming pool is truly something the school can be proud of, but for me?  For me it was the perk of all perks, and I appreciated it very, very much!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Little Christmas, a little wisdom

January 6, 2015
Day 251

First things first, because this is very, very important: TODAY is the day you can finally move those three wise men into or near your nativity scene.  If you did it before today, you shouldn't have, because they were still making their way to Bethlehem, and all you've done now is confused the poor men.

Little Christmas, or the Feast of the Epiphany, has a long and jumbled past, so if you're at all curious, I encourage you to spend some time getting confused for yourself on Wikipedia.  I just did, and subsequently decided not to bog you down with the same odd details.  Instead, I'd just like to look at this idea of wisdom.

In terms of the story of the Magi, wisdom is represented by the three kings (Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar), who see in the ancient texts and prophecies the truth that a great king will be born in Bethlehem.  They travel from different lands, from different faith backgrounds too, and see in this new baby the one who will be called the Messiah.  The Christian word Epiphany refers to this new fact in the nativity story: that even non-Jews have recognized someone special has been born.

Yet wisdom transcends religion and faith, and indeed is sought after by followers of all faiths and even those who don't believe in a higher power.  In this way, wisdom is a truly intangible gift we all hope to achieve or attain, but never will.  We are, many of us at least, seekers of wisdom, and though we can be called wise, we are not wise-ards--wizards (it's funny to note, this use of the word "wizard" to describe a wise man or sage is now considered obsolete according to Wikipedia).

According to the primary definition online, we are wise when we "think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight".  It's these last two attributes I'm most delighted to see, because they speak of the inexplicable grasp one must have on all that can be seen and understood, not just from books, but from the world at large as well. 

So maybe you believe in these three wise men who came to visit and pay homage to Jesus, or maybe you do not.  Either way, today's feast is an occasion to think a bit more on wisdom, and how we all seek it.  Do you believe every post you read online?  Do you share posts on social media meant to divide and insult people, or do you share posts meant to break down the walls that separate us from each other?  How wise are you?  How wise do you wish to be considered? 

You may not care how smart people think you are, but this isn't about facts and figures.  It's about having enough wisdom to know right from wrong, and a little wisdom can go a long, long way.  If we even just tried to appear wise, we'd all be that much closer to realizing the possibilities of a wiser life.  Just think before e-mailing, commenting, or sharing a post.  Are you trying to teach, or are you trying to mock?  No one expects you to be a wizard, but we could all stand to be a little wiser a lot more often than we are.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Food, Fitness, and Fashion

(Not truly my aim, just a funny pic!)
January 5, 2015
Day 250

So here it is...2015.  No more excuses.  No more, "I deserve this extra cookie," or "I may as well finish up this tub of mayonnaise as long as it's in the house."  I can't even say I'll wait until the first full week of January...because I did, and now it's here!

No, I've run out of excuses, and it's time to get back on track once and for all!  This is the day.  This is the moment.  2015 is all mine to conquer in all the ways I choose to conquer it.

FOOD: I already have a salad for lunch every day, but in the past few months, I'd begun treating myself with extras thrown in, and always with a yummy dressing.  Starting today, I'm back to the basics: an egg, some tomatoes, and some chick peas tossed in with the mesclun leaves.  And my dressing?  Back to the fat-free raspberry.  My breakfasts have been good, usually yogurt, but I was treating myself a lot too, and my dinners have likewise gone off the cliff.  At some point, I replaced my salsa sandwich topper with heavy dollops of know, as a...w a i t  f o r  i t...treat.  Too many treats!

FITNESS: I've got a beautiful, free gym here at my company, and it's just a short walk from my desk to the elliptical, all of 20-30 seconds' travel time.  In the past, I've done approximately 45 minutes of exercise 3-4 days each week, and it's worked.  My diet and exercise plan, when it's on full-time, helped me lose 41 pounds between 2012 and 2013.  I'm going to add more time in the gym more often this year, and keep myself on track.

FASHION: The word fashionable is just not used to describe me, but if there's one truth I have realized these past three years, it's that I look so much better in so many more clothing options when I'm slimmer and fit!  The bulge of my belly just doesn't complement my polo shirts well at all.  Fashion is hardly high on my list of things I care about, but looking good is.  So hopefully once I'm on a good streak with my food and fitness goals, the fashion answers will arrive soon after.

It's a new year, and a new chance for all of us to fix the things we've broken in our diet and exercise routines, and for me, 2015 means something else.  This is the year I turn 40, so I have these four months now to get myself in much better shape ahead of that special occasion. 

I can do it.  I will do it.  And so can you!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

If God Really Existed...

Sunrise from the top of Mount Haleakala, Maui, May 2012
January 4, 2014
Day 249

If God really existed, a whole lot of people dying in hospitals and car crashes, only to be revived seconds or minutes later, would be telling us about their incredible visions of Heaven.

If God really existed, people all around the world would be reporting visions of loved ones who have visited them in some otherwise impossible way.

If God really existed, human beings from every race and nation would have some belief in a divine creator, who they'd no doubt call by a variety of different names.  They'd have different rules and beliefs, but they'd all agree in some kind of higher, intelligent power at work behind it all.

If God really existed, none of us would truly die when our bodies did.  We'd connect somehow to the divine, and many would succeed in sending messages back to loved ones through signs as well as mediums, people with the ability to receive messages from these souls on the other side.

If God really existed, messengers would be sent to us over the course of human history to prove the existence of Heaven.  We'd call these spirits by different names and even titles, perhaps even understand some as being family members of the divine, but we'd all agree they were incredible manifestations of spirit far beyond human comprehension.

If God really existed, the majority of people living on Earth would have an absolute knowing that God existed, even without proof, and they'd spend their whole lives trying to comprehend what this God was, and how they could receive more from it.

If God really existed, many would still not believe, despite all the visions, apparitions, near-death experiences, angels, and other unexplainable phenomena of all kinds.  Those with the rock-solid belief, backed up by so many real accounts from real people with real experiences, would feel sad that their loved ones didn't believe them or their beliefs.  Some would react badly to the unbelievers, and bully them into joining their churches, ministries, and other faith activities.  Others, though, would understand.  They'd see the difficulties of life and the challenges we all face, and they wouldn't be so pushy.  They'd simply trust that in the end, we'll all have our answers, and all know for sure if God really existed.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My AOL Chat Room Experience

January 3, 2015
Day 248

I was planning to tell you more of my dating nightmares, but the more I think about them, the sicker I feel.  Some people don't deserve my time, and some of my best stories just wouldn't be appropriate for this blog anyway!

So instead, I'd like to tell you a bit about how my dating life began.  And I'll share all of this with one overriding reminder: I found Andy, and I found him relatively early on, so please know when I speak of other guys, my heart was forever grabbed and won by this one incredible man I'm so honored to kiss and live with every single day of my life!

In the beginning, there was no internet.  Not for me, at least.  When the internet really started arriving, I was a monk in a conservative Roman Catholic religious order, and while they've since gone very much online, I never was.  My gay life consisted of sneaking peeks at gay books in the college library, and spending Vow-of-Poverty money on issues of The Village Voice sold at a 7-Eleven on Long Island.  The gay dating ads were few and far between, but I lived off them.  I looked at them over and over like they were some secret passageway into another world, which is exactly what they were.  I left the religious life in July of 1997, and finally got my own computer with internet access in 1999.

The AOL Chat Rooms were where we all went back in the late-90s to early 00s.  It was this sometimes-perfect, sometimes-disgusting world online where you could find guys from anywhere into anything.  And though it seemed clear early on that most of them just wanted to get laid, in whatever ways they could, I always knew there had to be good guys in the mix too.  After all, the online dating world was still very small for us, so you knew most guys had to be in these rooms along with you.  You just didn't know who was who...until they private messaged you with "ASL?"

I don't know if ASL is still thrown around any more, but in the chat rooms, it was probably the most-often-seen phrase thrown around.  It stands for age/sex/location, and putting aside the stupidity of asking someone their gender in a gay men's chat room, what always annoyed me the most was the fact that I'd just written my age, my gender, and my location in the chat room.  They'd see where I was and how old I was, and they'd proceed to send me a private message asking, "ASL?"

Still, there were some amazing moments back then, peppered here and there amid the salt sea of horny men.  I'd talk to kids or young men in middle America or the south whose world had not yet changed.  They'd tell me about how homophobic their parents or town were, and how they weren't sure if they'd ever be able to come out.  I'd literally be in tears talking to some of them as they explained how far away New York and this new world still were from them, how lucky I was to be in such a better part of the country.  (It boggles my mind that 15 years later, there are kids still growing up feeling this way!)

There were chat rooms called M4M Priests, str8butcurious, and M4M whatever location you were in.  Gays in New York had a bunch of chat rooms, because the demand was there.  We had M4M Long Island and M4M Long Island Now (which meant pretty much what it sounds like), and eventually even M4M Long Island 2.  The chat rooms just called "Gay" always had all the kids in them, because there wasn't a teen room, and there were literally kids in there saying they were 13 or 14, and just looking to chat.  I'm sure they got some older guys cruising them too, but hopefully they got the support and friendship they genuinely needed most of all.  It really was a quickly changing world back then.  Ellen DeGeneres had come out in 1997, and Matthew Shepard was killed in late 1998.  I came out of the closet in 1997, so I really felt part of the wave as it crashed on the world's shores. 

The AOL chat rooms could be gross or hysterical, but they were extremely important to our community too.  To this day, I have great friends who I met through those rooms, and some online-only friends I met there too, who I still talk to from time to time.  We needed all those chat experiences--the good, the bad, and the ugly--to help us see how many of us were out there.  They taught us we weren't alone, and never were, and they helped us see through to the next step: creating a larger community of friends offline.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Early 2015 Observations

January 2, 2015
Day 247

Today I'd just like to share a bunch of random thoughts this new year brings to mind.

You've heard of the morning-after pill?  I'd like a day-after maid, someone who just shows up the day after a big party, and makes my headache go away by cleaning my house while I sleep.

Remember how excited we were for midnight on New Year's Eve 1999?  The year 2000 was minutes away!  Well,15 years have already passed since then.  I don't have any followup to this; I just feel depressed at how quickly time passes sometimes, and thought you might like to be depressed too.

I'm a huge Back To The Future trilogy fan, so I've really enjoyed all the memes I've seen this week, each referencing 2015 as "the future" we saw back in the 80s from Marty McFly and crew.  My favorite comment though came from my sister Marilyn, who asked if anyone else was going to bet on the Cubbies winning the Series this year.

Have we all finally started pronouncing it Twenty Fifteen now and not Two-Thousand Fifteen?  It took us a while, but I think we're there now, and I'm happy about that.

Years ending with a 5 are important to me, because I was born in a year ending with a 5.  I turn 40 on May 1st of this year, so the big day feels closer than ever now.

Of particular interest to me this year, and perhaps to readers of my first three books: A NASA spacecraft called New Horizons launched years ago will finally reach Pluto on July 14, 2015 at approximately 7:49 AM in New York.

If 1 = A and 2 = B, then 2015 would equal "bae", a word I've heard a lot online lately.  Funny note on Urban Dictionary though: "Bæ/bae is a Danish word for poop.  Also used by people on the internet who think it means baby, sweetie etc.  Bae I love you so much.  Brian, my bae.  I just made a bæ."

And finally, because this is now 2015, my daily blogging adventure will finally conclude in about 4 months' time.  Later this month, I'll begin the last 100 days of my year-long journey to 40, so thank you as always for reading along!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, All Clear

January 1, 2015.
Day 246

(The space below intentionally left blank with respect to all that is possible in a new year.)