Blogula Turns Two.

Birthdays blow.

Birthdays blow.

The blogodometer finally kicked over 25,000.  A minor triumph.  Time to put a shot-gun blast through the screen door.  Microwave a can of beans until it explodes.  Throw a bottle of high proof alcohol at the wood burning stove.  Bust up some wooden chairs to feed the bonfire.  Drop in the Mentors tape, and swan dive naked into an empty pool.

And get this party started.

As C.E.O. and acting Operations Manager of T.T.T.F., it warms my cockleshells to have this opportunity to self-congratulate myself.  Since nothing pleases me more than pleasing myself.  Except of course, pleasing others.  Which I would do more of, if it wasn’t so hard.  And I could remember to.

This month at T.T.T.F., we are not only celebrating another arbitrary milestone in spam-driven statistics, but a two-year anniversary, as well. -Pause to let polite applause die down- That’s right, Trudge turned two this September.  And I am proud to announce that the future of Trudging Through The Fire is going to continue hinging on the fickle decision-making process of an alcoholic in recovery.  Which means it’s future is not only uncertain, but as C.E.O. I can assure any stockholders that all their fears are warranted.

I have to go to the board meetings.  So I know.  The people at the top are fucking clueless.  Oracle reading ape-shit thrown against a wall would yield richer intellectual heft than some ideas being tossed around.  The best one being to kill the whole thing.  Just take Ol’ Yeller out to the barn and tap one into the T-Zone.

My God, look at the format.  It hasn’t changed or had an upgrade the whole time.  Why?  Because the people in our Creative Marketing department are playing Grand Theft Auto 5.  Instead of coming up with exciting new ideas, they’re running over hookers in an attempt to flee the police.

It’s criminal what goes on behind the scenes here.  You’ll find more work ethic in an opium den.  And corporate couldn’t care less.  Why should they?  They’ve got their parachutes and are ready to bail at the slightest turbulence.  I’ve never seen such craven, self-seeking leadership.  These dogs are swimming the Volga and Kiev hasn’t even fallen.  And that kind of cut-and-run cowardice runs from the top hat to the toes of this organization.

Only the fact that it is not a success-driven enterprise keeps it afloat.  The whole thing  survives…because it doesn’t need to.

How creepy is that?  It’s Un-American.  Pathogenic.

But you didn’t hear any of this from me.  As C.E.O. I’m supposed to wave the flag and rally the troops.  But then again, I’m supposed to do a lot of things.  Besides elbowing old ladies on my way to the life boat.

Anyway, let us not forget why we’re all gathered here– to celebrate something by now I am so totally over– our Turquoise Silver Jubilee. Twenty-five thousand hits in two years!

Clap…………………………….clap.

And yes, that’s less than the video of the girl having an attack of diarrhea at the hot tub party got in it’s first hour on Youtube.  But we’re not trying to compete with that.  Nothing could.  The fact remains, we now have over a quarter of a hundred thousand hits!

Clap.

Clap.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited either.  It all leaves me pretty empty.  And feeling like this project was a complete waste.  A waste of time.  And a bitter disappointment.  Let’s face it, this blog is not going anywhere.  And sometimes I hate doing it.  So to continue would be insane.

Good thing all that doesn’t phase me anymore.  I can eat that bullshit like bucket chicken.  So I’m good.  Good and ready to lead us on to our third year together.  If you will only continue to trust me, I promise to lead us to places more fantastic than any Byronic nightmare.  We will scale heights that leave Olympic gods dizzy, short of breath, and wondering which arm going numb is bad.  We will plumb depths darker than any ex-child actor, and then emerge, not only unrepentant, but cocky and streetwise.

Stories of our journey will be used to frighten children into obedience.

I can think of no greater honor.

And we’ve made some good friends along the way, haven’t we?  Met me some crazy mofos through this blog, friendships I will treasure to my dying days.  And that wasn’t in our Mission Statement.  If there had been one.  No, sometimes you just have to do things, like write a blog, or paint, or practice lap dancing on the couch in the garage, for no good reason at all.  Other than it’s something to do.  And as long as you chasten yourself against the lust of result, the disappointments will be few.  The happy surprises many.

I’m just glad to be writing again, for whatever lack of a reason.  Don’t think I would have had the chance if I kept going like I was.  So that’s reason enough to mark the milestone.  If you’re still hung up on reasons.

So now, I would like to raise a glass and make a toast.  To Reason.  May it be damned for a dog.  Okay, now those of you who can do so with apparent impunity, please drink yourselves into a joyous stupor, and do something insane.

Those of us who can’t drink anymore will be watching.  Maybe getting a little crazy on ourselves over by the coffee.

Just to show you we still got it.

Thanks for reading.  Trudge on.

Marius

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Unplugged Thug

I was downloading Kindle for PC when the computer shit the bed.  Two days earlier, I had downloaded updates from Sprint that ruined my phone.  Now this.  I was already a little freaked about getting a virus from going bareback for a week or two after the security expired.  Instead of re-subscribing right away, I thought, fuck it, let’s live on the edge again, if only in this greatly watered-down way.  How about some of that reckless youthful disregard for common sense that created your legend, huh?  Just for old time’s sake.

Hell, I wasn’t going to be downloading midget lesbian porn from Romania.  I was going to be a good cyber-citizen.  I’d stick to WordPress, Facebook, and whatever links on those.  Besides, I didn’t need to be paying some place to protect me from something I’m not even sure exists.  Computer virus.  Until I’ve actually seen one and gone camel toe-to-toe with one, it’s hard to believe it’s real.  Sure, I have heard plenty of anecdotal accounts of it, but same with Big Foot and Chupacabra.

Frankly, I believed in Big Foot and Chupacabra more.  Mostly because I wanted to.

I remember early on in my sobriety I was still living at my mom’s, and was getting re-aquainted with the computer in my room.  I had just joined MySpace and was poking around.  I wound up on some punk rock girl’s page and clicked on her pictures.  Scenes of human gore started flashing on the screen, one after another, with bizarre sound-effects and crazy screaming sounds.  One image in particular stands out.  It looked like a close-up of a hemorrhoids operation.  Anybody who knows how squeamish I am about seeing operation scenes will delight in knowing that shit went into my eyeballs.  Fairly traumatizing enough, but it wasn’t over.

After the strobing gore accompanied by the Bedlam Cacophony Choir, the screen froze on an intricate collage of gay porn.  Not just any gay porn, but some really esoteric stuff, featuring old men in their seventies.  Very graphic.  I don’t think I would have liked it even if I was gay.  Then a loud voice over the speakers repeatedly announced, “Hey everybody! I’m looking at gay porn! Hey everybody! I’m looking at gay porn!”  I couldn’t make it stop until I unplugged the computer.  I’m sure my mom heard that from her bedroom.  What an evil thing to do to someone, I thought.  Well played, punk rock girl.

There was no lasting damage to the computer, but my psyche had some disturbing images burned into its retina.  I didn’t count that as a virus.  It was just another fucked up thing that happened to me, in an already intricate collage.  It wasn’t something to drink over though.  I shrugged it off.

So now, when the subscription expired, I figured eventually I’d subscribe to some security or look for a free computer condom download, some Trojan Horse Trojan…but only when it didn’t seem like too much of a fucking hassle.  That might be never.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t going to take any crazy risks, like clicking on some punk rock girl’s pictures on MySpace, or downloading stuff that says “Warning. Are you sure you want to be downloading this? File found to be potential virus threat.”  Except when Dave dares me to.

I had an expired cert and an antiquated firewall, but I also had a good feeling.  I was an intrepid adventurer paddling up a malarial river while drinking a local remedy through a human skull.

Man, I’ve been through some real shit in my life, what’s a computer virus going to do to me that I can’t handle?  I would find out soon enough.

One night, I’m typing away and the letters start to place themselves randomly within the earlier text.  What’s coming up on the screen looks like it was encoded with an Enigma machine.  It would stop for a while, let me clean up the text, write some more, and then like a venereal wart resistant to Podophyllin, keep coming back.  O h yuo ffffffffukcr! e

That kind of bullshit really slows down the creative process, but this little virus had even more things to demonstrate.  It seemed to be showing off its newfound power and control over my computer.  It started with random highlighting, then began repeating letters, and then spontaneous scrolling.  It was replying when I didn’t ask it to, and leaving the page without my permission.  Was this a virus, demonic possession, or just youthful rebellion?

Ghost cat across the keyboard?

There was only one thing to do in any case.  Pretend it wasn’t happening.  Just keep on keeping on.  Smoke pouring out of the hood?  Turn up the stereo and floor it.  As a drunk, denial was an important survival tool, so it’s still my default go-to fix.  My messages to Dave became something like, “Dud e, thsi thngi is doign some fcukde upshhhhhiiiiiiit  to my keyb or   !!!!”

Dave knew I caught a dose.  He is Mr. Computer, but in a Mad Max way.  Picture a dusty, road-worn, ex-con wearing wi-fi goggles, going giga-geek on a laptop duct-taped to his motorcycle’s sidecar.

His deeply held anarchist principles don’t allow him to pay for anything on the internet, so he deftly circumvents anything that smells like capitalist exploitation, which is pretty much anything that charges money.  He recently put out an e-book, Subterranean Emerald City Blues,  It’s a sharp slice of Seattle street life during the 90’s, that I highly recommend.  A delightful piece of Misery Lit, or rather, Post-Misery Lit.  Neo-Misery?  Anyway, it’s as real as Dave, and that’s pretty fucking real.  If you don’t want to pay the price you set yourself, you should contact him and he’ll be happy to teach you how to steal it.  Knowing him, he would prefer that.  Steal his book even though it doesn’t cost anything.

Anyway, he jumps into action.  I need to download this and upload that.  Run an EOD -13 driver optimizer through my Pre-Dat file digitizer.  I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, and instantly get ice picks in the temples when I try to know.  Let’s face it, I’m still a barbarian.  A Russian soldier in some bombed-out Berlin apartment using the toilet as a water fountain.  Tippy-tapping on a computer has only recently become a past-time.

Before that, my hobby was pulling the shower curtains down around me while falling into the bathtub pissing.

Anyway, I tried my best and did what I could, but it was too late.  The little cyber spirochete had burrowed itself into my brain and was eating away at my motor skills.  In the meantime, my screen was erupting in the wildest misbehavior.  I was dealing with what Dr. Vernon Woolf would call “a self-organizing unit of intelligence.”  A holodyne.  This one, primary manifestation of intelligence that it might have been, was already an asshole and pissing me off.  In a few billion years of evolution it would join a fraternity and drive a Corvette.

For now, it had to be content with irritating me like this.  There was a mischievous quality to its hijinks, like it was really just running amok, not oblivious to the displeasure it was causing, but delighting in it.  I’m sure I caught it from one of my motley mob of Facebook friends.  Every one of them could easily have been a carrier.  Scroll through them sometime.  You’ll see.

The screen finally went turned onyx on Thursday night.  All my attempts to revive it failed.  By that I mean, I turned the router off and on a few times, and then unplugged the power strip twice.  When that didn’t work, I said, “Fuck it.”  It deserved to die.  This was what Joseph Campbell would say represented the myth of the hero’s journey, only in this case, instead of retrieving The Golden Fleece, the hero fails, bites the curb, and dies all dead and shit.

Let the dead bury the dead.  I had to move on.

Now what?  I had a phone that had a touchscreen that kept freezing every 15 seconds.  I could still make calls.  I just couldn’t hang up…without taking the battery out.  Forget about doing anything on the internet, unless it’s something that takes less than 14 seconds, like seeing how much e-mail you have to answer but can’t.

The cool thing was that it finally got me and Dave to talk on the phone.  Before this we had only interacted via keyboard.   Now that we were able to talk, we could really trade some stories.  These were tales we held out because they were too involved to type in chat message, and too not-passed-the-statue-of-limitations to blog about.  Dude’s got some good ones.  Me too, I guess.

I broke out my paints and started splattering a canvas while we jawed.  It was great.  I laughed for hours, and wound up with sore abs and a masterpiece of abstract expressionism.  Not a bad deal.

It would take days before I could get the computer back or a new phone from Sprint.  I had to go Yukon and rough it.  I could use this time away from suckling at a social media tit, and really take a look at things.  Maybe even tidy up and reorder some life priorities.  Of course, not without first experiencing withdrawal.

What if someone posts on my wall and I don’t “like” it soon enough?  They’ll think I’m totally stuck-up and start talking shit about me to all the popular girls!

I actually did find myself feeling a little anxious.  I had shit I wanted to do on the computer, and now couldn’t.  I was trying to download Kindle for PC so I could read and review my friend, John Carnell’s book, Thugs Like Us.  It’s a novel based on a true story of crime, drugs and drink set in late 70’s England.  What’s not to love about shit like that?  I wonder if I got the computer clap from it.  It did come with a warning “This book does NOT contain any teenage vampires, dodgy S&M soft porn sequences, witches, dwarves, dragons or indeed any mythical characters whatsoever.  This book does contain nuts.”

John being the main one.  Dude is fucking crazy funny.  Who else writes non-fiction novels?

Speaking of nuts, I was also in the middle of writing a story about spending Mardi Gras with some University of Michigan co-eds when the box went black.  I had just gotten to the part where I had OD’d on brownies on a Greyhound bus in Texas.  Shit.  I was going to miss my deadline for the blogula, and I hated to do that.  Sure, it was an arbitrary, self-imposed one, but forgetting that makes it still matter.  There was also a pile of e-mail I needed to answer, some friend’s blogs I wanted to comment on, and a few reviews I wanted to write.  Hard to thumb out on a phone that freezes every few seconds.

Well, all that stuff is going to have to wait now, isn’t it?   I’ve learned to shift gears pretty quickly these days.  Just another part of being sober.  Things are going to happen, and some you’re just not going to dig.  How you deal with them will determine a large part of whether you can avoid popping the beer can escape hatch.  I have sober friends that can just go existential.  Shit happens.  It’s all meaningless.  Nothing matters.  Why stress?  And I admire that.

I have to go a different route.  I have to tell myself that everything that happens is for the best possible reason, regardless of how it appears to me initially.  Whether I’m deluding myself is entirely unimportant.  The cold hard fact is that when I do, my behavior improves.  I respond in healthier ways, and it becomes easier for me to deal with shit in a more present, measured, and tolerant manner.  If nothing else, I’m not aggravating my initial irritation with the bad repercussions from throwing a tantrum and broodfest.  I also don’t get thirstier for anything stronger than a Hansen’s diet ginger ale.

The really strange thing is that, eventually, I begin to intuit/see/realize how whatever did happen was the best thing to happen.  A new narrative emerges.  I just had to stop being a petulant pissy-pants long enough to let it unfold.

This whole bullshit with the computer and phone, as pissed as I was when it happened, got me talking to Dave on the phone, spending more time with my girlfriend and cats, ruining perfectly good blank canvases again, cleaning and organizing my room, reading some history, pruning down my garden for Fall, staying longer at the gym, working on my jail house shadow boxing, mailing out some packages and post cards to friends, and basically, understanding that my life should be bigger than just the part that lives on the computer screen.  I needed to be reminded of that.

It’s easy to forget real life happens out here, away from the screen.  It’s easy to become a pasty, hunched little troll, growing too fat, lazy, and sheltered to participate in it. Tip-tap.  Click.  Click.  Like.  Share.  Unfriend.  Delete.

Unfortunately, when the real shit hits the fan, you’re not going to be able to click DELETE.  You’ll be too busy trying not to get deleted yourself.  Then you’ll wish you had logged off once in a while to jog around the block and work on your combos, or actually held a loved one, instead of “liking” Enterprise Car Rental and playing Slingo-Bingo for magic tokens.

Still, it was good to get the thing back from the shop, with my cat pictures intact.

Today, everything is fixed, but a little better because it was fucked before.  The Hero’s Journey.

Well okay, I have an epic tale of drunken misadventure to finish, some friend’s work to read, and e-mail to answer.  Then maybe throw some iron around to remember gravity still exists.  BBeBBee Saef out  threrrr ! e!!

Kick your computer to the curb. Your world won’t end.

The Blogula Hits 10.000; Thanks To Freckled Breasts

Well, here we are at 10,000 hits, and all my problems are over.  I’ve been waiting for this moment.  When everything is redeemed.  When everything is glorious and I stand victorious.

I have conquered, and now reign cloaked in majesty and might.  My enemies lie slain around my golden sandals.

Somehow, I thought it would be better.  Maybe, 100,000 will do it.

It’s not that I am not grateful.  I’m certainly grateful to all the bizarre Eastern European spam that has driven up my numbers.  “You have many interesting points of valid depth.  Your expression is provoking many thoughts.  Your erection problems can be solved with medication from approved international pharmacy.”

I’m grateful to all the perverts and their sick and warped search engine terms that lead them to this place.  Some are understandable: “toothbrush shank,” “sap gloves,” “jack hammer crotch,” “lap dancing strip club manager,” “can a penis get conjunctivitis?”  At least there was some general matching reference to my published work.  But the other ones are rather esoteric and puzzling; “pneumatic penis milking machine,” ” leather gloved sniffing,” and my personal favorite, “fierce vagina factory.”  That must be the name of an all-girl punk band.

How did those search terms lead them to my work?  Do I really want to know what that means about me, and my work?

Hey, whatever, right?  Whatever crooked cyber path leads them to this blog is fine with me.  I’m like a whore that way.  Any search term will do.

However, the all-time champion is “Freckled Breasts.”  Freckled Breasts has brought more hits to this site than ANY other search term.  By far.

The freckled breast thing started when I wrote a piece about this biker chick I knew, and in it, mentioned her freckled breasts.  No big deal.  At least not to me.

Well, apparently freckled breasts are a really big deal to a whole bunch of other dudes.  Ladies, if you happen to have freckled breasts, let me assure you, there is an entire international army of men out there who can’t seem to get enough of them.  You might as well swell them out of your bras proudly.  Start harnessing the power they provide.  There are legions of men out there prepared to do your bidding,  just for a chance to paw at your sun dots.

For awhile, there was a freckled breast frenzy.  I’d get two to three hits every single day from a freckled breast search term.  They couldn’t have been from the same guy, since he would’ve been hip to the fact that all my piece provided was nothing more lurid than a casual mention.  I know that when surfing for your particular sickness, you remember those kinds of disappointments.  You never click on those twice.  No, these hits were coming from a bunch of different dudes.  Internationally too.

It became so common that one night, while sitting at the computer, I announced to my girlfriend, “Hey, no freckled breasts today!”  “You’re kidding,” she says.

It’s died down to just a hit now and then.  However, I imagine that this little cluster bomb, loaded with freckled breast references, will Google me into the big leagues of blogging. (I just re-read that last sentence.  I really am insane)

Anyway, I’m grateful for freckled breasts.  And while freckled breasts may have built this blog, it took many more hits to get this far.

The unwitting stooge clicking on a photo I posted, or a Facebook friend so desperately bored that reading this week’s entry beats re-reading the cereal box for the eleventh time.  I am grateful to you, dear reader.  You have brought me my greatest kick, writing for somebody, anybody.

I’m grateful to have anyone read anything I’ve written, whether by accident or on purpose.  I’m just grateful to be writing again, whether anyone else reads it or not.  So what’s my fucking problem?  Why do I feel so ambiguous?

I think it’s just Milestone Syndrome.  Reaching a point you’ve been waiting for, getting over the thrill, and then wondering “What the fuck now?”

My driver’s license, my first car, losing my virginity, my first handgun, my first legal drink, not having to pay money for sex, a steady job, my own place, my first live-in, beating my first felony rap, having an attorney on speed dial …they were all a big deal.  And then they weren’t.  I thought they’d make my life better, but whether they did is debatable.  They definitely made it different, and in a lot of ways worse.

So I didn’t have any illusions about reaching this momentous and crucial moment in the history of Mankind, when my generic WordPress blog reached an arbitrarily chosen number of clicks.  If I did seize on this moment, I knew the yoke of all human suffering would be hung around my neck.  I already struggle with bad posture.   So that would kind of suck.

Good thing I’m inoculated.  I know how to deal with things that suck.  That was what the first part of my life was all about.  Running and gunning through a booby-trapped obstacle course.  How I managed to not die is a testament to my wisdom and moderation in all things.  Level-headed, clear thinking is the key.

I guess that brings me to the thing I’m most grateful for, being alive in spite of my best efforts not to be.  So yeah, having a blog do semi-okay is pretty amazing.  But so is me being around to drop a piece of toast on the kitchen floor.  It is an absolute miracle that either can happen.  And I did it all without being burdened by things like common sense and reason.

Reason and common sense.  Most people have them, and do just fine.  But, take those inherent abilities and see what magic you can create by stewing them daily in judgement-impairing juice.  Now you’ve created something far more interesting.  This creature is very different.  Operates on an entirely different system.  If this…this thing can survive long enough to stop drinking, you’ve got a mutant on your hands.

The years of hangovers and emotional suffering have tempered it’s threshold pain tolerance.  It isn’t scared of the stuff normal people are.  Losing a job, a family, being sick, broke, in jail, close to madness, close to death.  Been there done that.  It’s all over-rated, but nothing to lose sleep over either.  For a guy like me, every day above ground is a victory of such dizzying intensity, that everything else is just gravy.

The other day, a buddy called me.  He’s like me, dig.  Also off the sauce.  He asks me if I’m going to be at a certain meeting.  I say yeah, and he tells me to be on the lookout for this one dude just coming in.  Fucker actually died his first day of work.  Spent the week-end on a bender, then sobered up one day for work.  He tells the boss he’s feeling dizzy and falls out into a full seizure and dies.  No pulse, no breath.

There’s some ex-military dude there, and he knows CPR and starts revving up his heart with a massage and even pumps some of his air into this guy’s lungs.  He keeps him alive until the paramedics get to him, and take him to the hospital.  He lives.  Now he thinks maybe he should look into getting sober.  Who knows why now?  Anyway, this friend tells me that Lazarus was going to be at the Men’s Wednesday Night Stag.  Or at least he said he was going to be.  Heard that before.

I go the meeting, recognize the dude from my buddy’s description and introduce myself.  I welcome him back among the living and wish him luck.  We sit through a fairly boring meeting.  At the end of it, the dude, splits before I can go over and talk with him.  Whatever.  It’s not like I run around trying to save lives.  I just try to make myself as available as I can.  I’ve had some of my most eloquent speeches fall on deaf ears, and a casually tossed remark change somebody’s life.  So, I don’t get too bent about what get’s heard or not.

The next day, I’m leaving the gym and heading out to my car.  There he is.  Trying to crawl out through the driver’s side from out of the passenger’s while some old woman waits smoking outside the car.  I thought he was drunk, but he wasn’t.  Her passenger door was broken, so that’s why he was crawling and sprawling all over the place.  Man, did I know that one.  The beater with the door that didn’t open.  For me it was always the driver’s side.  Anyway, he finally climbs out.  “Hey, look who’s here!” I say.

The old lady drives off, and we stand around and talk a bit.  He mentions he’s stressed about being homeless.  Not a sissy stress, by any means, totally understandable.  But this guy just died and came back.  I don’t think I would be stressing too much about being homeless at that point.

“Dude,” I tell him, “The way I see it, you just made it into the bonus round.”  Through no work or effort of his own, something saved his sorry ass.  Maybe, he was just lucky, but something about him told me he wasn’t the lucky type.

“By all reasons, you should be dead, and staying that way.  I don’t think you had much to do with that.  Something else was in charge.  Why don’t you let that something stay in charge for a while and see what happens.”  I told him most people live in fear of death, and that he could cross that one off his to-do list.  He could seize this moment and really go with it.  He could approach life fearlessly.  Dude, even death couldn’t kill you.  You need to embrace your mutanthood.

Just get out there, and completely dig everything that’s happening, like the holy madman you’re meant to be.

I don’t know if any of it sunk in, but like I said, I don’t sweat that too much anymore.  Anything that’s supposed to stick, will.

I’ll tell you what though, recounting the little pep talk I gave him has done wonders for me.  Man, I really told it like it was.  Then I hear what I call The Voice That Enlightens And Irritates Me At The Same Time, “What an inspirational message, Marius.  You do realize that little lecture you delivered was really more meant for you, don’t you?”

Now, whether I listen to myself, remains to be seen.  I guess anything that was supposed to stick, will.

Anyway, this randomly designated milestone comes at a fortuitous time.  It coincides with a little vacation I’m going to take.  After 46 or so straight weeks, I’m going to take one off.  I fucking need it.  Take a breath.  I need to see where I want to do with this thing, this blogula creature that seems to have a life of its own.  Should I kill it now, at the pinnacle of its success?  Or make it endure the rest of the course, like I myself have chosen to do?

Greatness is really great.