Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.

Tao Te Ching

Advertisements


“A line will take us hours maybe,
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching have been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather—
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world. “

So there you have it: writing is hard work. Now, the question remains, what will you do with this condemnation? Will you pitter and patter and moan and groan (which is my general state): or, will you buckle up and DO the hard thing, the work?

Don’t do it.

For he love of all things Didion!

I mean, I get it, there is this undeniable sex appeal. This intrique: scattering your notes across that old bistro set, the heady demitasse begging for your lips: what’s the WiFi code? Nah, I write longhand.

I fall prey to this allure now and again. Loading my satchel with pencils, paper, notes, books. Stalking southbound traffic to my favorite watering hole. Order a Gibraltar, catch up with barista, discuss life. By the time I’m sitting down to write, like an hour later, my coffees cold and the cafe packed.

Cling-clang cutlery. Blah-blah-blah business meeting. “Well I just don’t know about Johnny Depp anymore, why is he so… extra” “Girl, that latte art though.” “Third quarter” shakes head “third quarter, down, down, down.” Steaming, always grinding. Cling-clang. Blah-blah-blah.

Meanwhile my fingernails are digging into the wood of my pencil and just before I think I am going to… SNAP! the pencil breaks. Crickets. Everyone stares. The business man, the gossip girls, the mustache twirling hipster, even the pour-over pauses in its drip, letting out a hesitant sh*******t!

And I scurry home, past the bookstore. Down 39th Street, by the old folk artists coop that may or may not double as a junk yard. Climb the two flights of stairs to my apartment, counting the first, wooden set stapled with AstroTurf, and the second wooden set awaiting carpet that may never come.

I brew up a fresh cup. Sit down. And that’s when it happens…

When

I

Write

It

Out

Never again, I tell myself. But next week, I’ll try once more…


I’m curious: what’s your writing habit? What fuels you’re creativity? Boosts you morale? What get’s you going? The more self aware, the more writerly I become, I find that solitude is key. Quiet. Voiceless and calm.

How I used to be a travel blogger is beyond me. The world kept closing in…

Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!

Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.

$5.00

A strange thing happens when you begin to contemplate the end. It’s as if setting such a definitive goal opens the world to endless possibilities

A phone is buzzing

It’s occurred to me that with the end comes the potential of a new beginning.

There are many types of death. Just as there are many types of love in which the subject, or subjects simply depart from one existance to another. Trading this for that, and in exchange receiving a fresh beginning and a new life, a new identity.

We are flowers forever teetering from Spring to deep Winter.

Forever waiting for Summer. For Fall

Our chance to really live.

Only to rise and be struck down.

Spring. Winter. Awakening. Death.

Where is Summer?

Where is Fall?

This realization came so urgently, slapping me across the face, I shot right out of bed that morning. Before the sun herself could shine and make me straight again, before the day could cleanse my palate as it often does and, in the deadpan winter, shuffled across my frozen, miniature tundra in snow flurry Kansas City, and drained my savings account in exchange for a one-way ticket to Morocco.

That will show em, I thought. Still unsure of who them was. For some reason, whenever I looked outside my window, hoping to spot them, all I saw was the hollow reflection of myself…

A phone buzzed, gliding smoothly across the bistro table. I don’t recognize ringer until realizing it’s mine: I’ve never heard it ring.


It was a cold spring night.

The city still reeling from the previous year’s terror attacks and whispers of Al Qaeda carried through the streets like cautionary tales foretelling the bogeyman. Maybe that explained the police on every corner, their unwieldy machine guns and serious frowns. They had no effect on me. That’s not true: I found it absolutely intoxicating, that life or death appeal is what lured me here in the first place. 

“Nobody said it was supposed to be so cold in the desert.” I said, catching my scarf as it fluttered in the sharp wind. It only occurred to me then that I hadn’t checked a single forecast. 

Moona laughed, “That’s because this isn’t the desert.” She said, looking up at the snow covered mountains. “It is winter isn’t it?”

“Is it?” I cringed as another gust came down from the mountain, lifting table skirts and extinguishing candles.

The waiter returned with my drink just in time for us to leave. I paid, left a few coins tip, downed the drink, shay ma nana, tea with mint, and flagged down the first cab on the square. A big burly man, mustachioed and jolly.

“Where from? Where? Oh, Kansas City! I have cousin in Kansas City, maybe you know him? Welcome to Morocco, America. We love America. Welcome to Morocco!”

He shook my hand as we paid and crossed the street to the souk on the other side. The shops were being washed out, dirty water came surging over the cobbles. And the streets were being watered down, to keep the dust from rising when the tourists arrive.

“And that is how we do it in Morocco.”

“You know it… Do what?”

“He just ripped you a big one. Do you realize what you paid him. What, like twenty dollars.”

My heart sank with shame. OK, so I didn’t check the forecast. But what about the exchange rate? The currency? The mysteriously scrolled dirham papers, lined with calligraphy and stained in pinks and greens. I could count to one-hundred in Arabic by then, but what did that mean of money, of value. Not a thing.

I had just paid twenty dollars for a two block ride down the boulevard.

“Now,” Moona said with her big smug way, “you are in Morocco.”

I’ve been smitten with @smdanler since, embarrassingly late in the game, encountered her interview on @litupshow. Just received my copy of #Sweetbitter -and just in time for the #readingwomenchallenge with @thereadingwomen.

Have you been called to any challenges this year? Resolutions? What are you working towards?

P.s. if you’re interested in the Reading Women Book Challenge, let’s start a book club. Maybe? Yes? No? 😉

These are a few of my favorite things.
Wishing everyone wellness and peace through the holidays!

What are you up to this week? New Years?
My material obsessions right now?
•Alt J • Poetry by @r.h.sin • Antique Bedouin Coffee Pots • Coffee via Portland • @originalfunko Luke Skywalker.

What are you wrapping this year?

Books. Cold Brew. Star Wars Gadgets. Pokemon Cards. Friends. Family. Brother. They’re all on my list and for the first year in my collected twenty-eight Christmases, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve completed my Christmas List!

Feeling rather mature about this.

Tell me, are you on the naughty list? The nice? Or that oft forgot, list’o’krampus?

Whatever you’re up to, know that you are loved and that everything, from the large swaths of snow covered trees to the dust bunnies collected under your sofa, is simply a figment of our collected imaginations 🤔💫

SCENE:
I landed in Andalusia, via Morocco, a few weeks/scenes before. In this text I’ve just met the Belgians Ingrid and Petra, We’ve been traveling together for a few days now and i’m beginning to feel a sort of tugging deep down, in my heart of hearts whenever she appears. Ingrid, that is. Of course, this feeling conflicts with my already strained, long-distance relationship (with Shay), yet I allow myself to be swept away by Ingrid’s presence. 

I remain unable to confront my own feelings. Therefore, before I say anything to Shay, before coming clean to Ingrid, I, selfishly, want to feel out my options.

The nights, dancing, tossing back jugs of Roja, the piles of Manchego, the furious foot stomping, hand clapping Flamenco, twirling through cavernous Gypsy grottoes and aimlessly, drunk on it all, wandering across the cobble stone markets. The old castle that was planted over the city have a millennia ago… this is all I’ve ever wanted. To be where I truly see excitement. To be where the world interests me and for the first time in my life I felt a purpose. 

And caught right there at the center of all that purpose nonsense were the two most extraordinary people I have ever met: Shay and Ingrid…


 From my working draft of The Outsider

     “I can hardly make out the old pointed steeple across the clay rooftops. A fog rolls in over the mountains and blanketing the village in that amber streetlight glow of Old World Europe. Church Bells pulsate through the clouds, as if echoing off canyon walls, a sort of wobbling, underwater sound. Even my own hands look strange in this light held before my face. The fog sweeps over the palm, through the fingers and the golden crown of Ingrid’s long curls. Blinking lights, something I can’t identify in the hazy distance, so foreign in this event –for haze so rich really is an event, isn’t it? Like a sunrise you never forget or the tail of a comet– glowing like dragons eyes… 

A sudden burst of red hits the rooftop as Ingrid’s glass falls to a shatter and wine washes over the Spanish tile where, beading at the edge of the terrace, it drips over the cobbles below.

“Shit.” Leaping up from the weathered futon, “–right back.”

When the coast is absolutely clear I dial the number.

“Hello?” It’s her. 

“Shay” My heart leaps, she’s answered!

How long has it been? A week, or two at least.

“Hi.” unhappy.

“Shay, how are you?” 

“Fine.”

Pause.

“I miss you.”

“Really? Because it seems to me that you’re having a great time on your own. In fact, I don’t know why you’ve called to begin–”

“–please don’t do this.”

“Do what? I’m doing nothing here. This is all you. If you want to go out and forget about me until it’s absolutely convenient then don’t even bother because I’m busy too y’now, i’m not sitting around, waiting for your call. This is all on you.”

“What are you talking about?” My voice cracks. Oh, how I revert to the desperate codependent puppy that I am. “I’m doing the best I can here. It’s not easy finding a phone, let alone a spare moment just when you’re available. The countless times I’ve called and gone straight to voicemail–”

“Words. Words, Nick. I want to see action. I need to feel you with me. To know you mean what you say. This is the first I know of these missed calls. You called this morning, well guess what, calling at 3 A.M doesn’t cut it.”

“Shay, please understand.”

“I do. You’re obviously onto bigger things and you should be. I’m not going to hold you back anymore. Don’t worry about me. Forget it. Go on and do you. It’s clearly what you want.”

“What I want? Would I be calling you from the other side of the world, busy and stressed and manic and missing you and in the middle of life, would I be calling you if this wasn’t what I wanted?”

“I don’t know what to say to that.”

“Be reasonable.”

“It’s never been so clear. You need to figure yourself out. Maybe someday that means us having something but now.” Shay pauses. “Now there’s just empty space.”

I can’t believe what she’s saying. A veil of darkness settles over my thoughts, muddling my vision. It’s all I can do not to crack this headset into the wall. To hurl my phone through the adjacent window across the chasms, stained glass raining over the alley below… but I hold tight. Oh, but to drain this bottle and hurl it through the window, wouldn’t that feel so good. I want to start a fire and watch something burn.

“Hello? Nick?”

I want to hang up. Give her a taste of what distance really feels like. But i’m still that codependent puppy in the throes of loneliness, hurling myself at the closest thing I know to be real.

Ingrid. On the stairs. She’s laughing and coming my way.

Shit.

“Nick? Hello?”

“You’re right. Maybe we’ve let too much air fill the space between “

Shay, hurt. “You really think that?”

Was she bluffing?

Now, agitated. “Isn’t that what you just said to me?” I let that sink in, feeling justified.

“Let’s talk about–”

“–how about I call you later. Let’s think about it. Email me. I have to go.”

“OK.”

I grab the bar as a wave of exhaustion crashes over. I need a drink.

“Hey Cowboy, how you holding up there?”

Ingrid’s cherry presence and brightness fills my cup once more. 

“I need a drink. Shall we?”

I mean, it’s not cheating if nothing happens. Oh, but emotions run deep. Which begs the question: What’s worse, an emotional or a physical affair?

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no.

I bury my face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me as the mountains stretch into fractals, the tears come. The puddle on the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the desert goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

Gliding to a stop, the train hisses and pops, and ever so tentatively the doors stretch open, as if waking from an ancient sleep, creaking, stretching and finally, almost there, quit so those deboarding turn sideways, sucking in bellies and removing packs and balancing boxes upon trained heads. There’s no telling where we are. Out there, way out there, I mean stretching-your-eyes out there, is a city or at least a cluster of lights. Is that it? But here, it’s just a lamppost and a platform of backlit women, veiled and watching our subtle roll and pass through as their smiles fall into frowns, and they go on waiting and we lurch deeper into the African night.

Each one’s the same. Hiss, pop, impossibly congested desert town platforms, lampposts blackened with moths and large scaly things as the moon, rising beyond, lends a silvery glow over all the details she touches as the desert comes to life once more in this reversed role as nature returns to her rightful place and it’s our turn, us humans, to hide away within dens and shrubs.

So. Completely. Alone.

Every single desert town. Platform of veiled women. Waiting. Sometimes I catch sight of their villagers beyond, dusty main streets and always the shadowy figures of children running amok, kicking cans and beating the tattered remains of saggy cardboard boxes with twigs and old broomsticks.

Cracking the seal with a sharp click I down the bottle and bury the evidence deep into pack as the tremble in my hand steadies and I drift away…”

 


 

Scene:
The protagonist has just landed in a mysterious town in Africa. With nothing but a rucksack and a name scratched across a piece of paper: Djemaa el-Fna, “whatever that means…”

We open as he’s feeling deep regret for the past year and taking this tremendous leap into the unknown. But, at the same time, aware of this need to liberate the self from the old life which has led to a deep pit of depression and drinking…


 

While my novel is entirely true, there are moments which I allow artistic license to paint scenes with more interest.

I would love to know what you think.

Yes, this is only a small glimpse, but I know the importance of landing an intriguing opening. And this is my goal here…

Enter Here To Win: http://bit.ly/2jO9jUk

Hurry, enter now to win a Limited Edition Freewrite in cream color (1 of 100) before it’s too late.

The Freewrite by Astrohaus is a distraction-free writing tool for the modern writer. It’s the perfect gift for any author or screenwriter.

  • Best-in-class mechanical keyboard with Cherry™ Keyswitches (made in Germany)
  • Ultra low power and high contrast E Ink™ screen that looks like paper indoors and out.
  • 2nd generation design features larger battery and improved keyboard efficiency that results in 2x the effective working time of the original Freewrite.
  • Weeks of battery life and local storage for over a million pages
  • Seamless syncing to the cloud with support for Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive
  • Rugged, lightweight aluminum body so you can write anywhere
  • Support for 30+ languages. Ships worldwide.

Because if I don’t win, you better!

Enter Here: http://bit.ly/2jO9jUk

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no. Not again.

I bury face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me.

The mountains stretch into fractals as the tears come and the puddle along the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the world goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

From my working draft of the Outsider.

I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts. I know this is a short excerpt but this is the piece i’d like to hear about.

Do you feel connected? Interested? Invited to dive deeper into the novel? Are you left curious?

Or, lackluster? Bored? On to the next one?

Again, i’m aware of it’s length. The idea is to pack a heavy blow into these first lines so I want to hear from you good people out there!

As always, cheers!

–Nicholas

“I’m now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It’s really not my fault.”

—Rimbaud

 

*Portrait by Jef Rosman