It’s a curious bit of culture isn’t it?

You probably know someone who is an asshole. Pardon the expression, it may be brutal, but it’s necessary. We all know one. It is said that there is one in every group. I have even heard the addendum that if you don’t think so, you’re probably it.

You’ve probably experienced this thought a time or two on your daily commute. “Wow, what an asshole!” This is usually in reference to the driver that rode your bumper, sped around you, cut you off and then slammed on his/her brakes upon realizing that you were going slow because of the people in front of you.

How about this one? You’re moving towards a line in the grocery store, you’re less than 3 feet away when…some cranky old lady decides to move from one line to your line because she’s afraid you might make it out of the store two nanoseconds before she does.

What about retail? Have you ever worked retail? If you have, perhaps you recognize this customer asshole. A customer calls to yell at you about <<insert policy here>> and you repeatedly inform them that unfortunately that’s the company’s policy and as you are an employee you have no power to change <<insert policy here>>. The customer proceeds to scream at you, ask for a manager, to which you reply calmly, “My manager is going to tell you the same thing I am telling you, as we are all bound by the corporate policies.” You hand the phone to the manager and the manager caves into the customer after 5 seconds of listening to them. Yep, that’s right. There are two assholes in this example.

“How many assholes do we have on this ship, anyway?” ~ Dark Helmet, Spaceballs

"I knew it. I'm surrounded by assholes!"

What about the person who walks past an African American teenager and edges away, averts their eyes as they try to stay as far away as possible? Because you know that teenager could be a dangerous “thug.” What about the person who walks past a homeless person begging for change and never makes eye contact, never responds when the homeless person says “good day” and then just pretends that the homeless person doesn’t exist? What about the person who says that homeless person should just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and thinks that they’re lazy and useless to society, without actually acknowledging the situations that brought them to the state of being homeless?

How about the person who claims they have the right to control what a woman does with her body? What about the politician who tells you how you should live your life? What about the person who says you’re wrong because the person you’re in love with is the same sex as you?

What about the person who tells you that your religion is wrong because theirs is different? The person who claims to be a Christian on Sunday and reports to Satan on Monday? What about the person who talks about how devout they are while hating everyone who isn’t like them?

What about the person who talks about their “rich people” problems to the people around them who aren’t as fortunate in their own lives? How about the person who smokes right outside the door to a building so that there’s no way to avoid smelling their filthy habit?

What about the person who complains that everyone else isn’t doing their fair share? What about the elected politicians who allow their opinions to be swayed by big business as opposed to those of the constituents? What happened to “We the People?” What about the people who sit idly by and make no effort to change this system? What about the people who sit on their pedestal and judge others for the money they make, the clothes they wear, the words they say, the way their pants droop, the bag of candy they carry, the baggy jeans, the ridiculous shades and the way they walk?

What about the guy who wrote this post? Man, what an asshole he must be.  The truth is, there is something very wrong with the way our culture is. We have shows like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and America’s Got Talent teaching us that there’s always someone better and focusing on judging every single person with the guts to stand up and be who they dream of being.

Why is that?

Don’t say you don’t think you’re better than someone else. I know you’re thinking it.  It seems to be human nature to measure ourselves in comparison to those around us. How else do we know how well we’re doing, if we don’t have a yardstick by which to measure?

Do you really need to measure against someone else in order to feel that you’ve done right by yourself? Truthfully, I don’t think you do. I think doing the right thing feels good. You know when you’ve done the right thing. You can just feel it, even if there’s a repercussion; you know that you’ve done the right thing.

I’m not here to tell you what the right thing is. I’m not here to preach, I’m just as guilty as everyone else. What I have hoped to accomplish in this post was simple. I want to draw your attention to the need for change in our culture. Our culture is poisoning us, our culture is leading to terrible television, subdued and depressed workforce, the inability to rise up and change for the better and something I dread more than anything, acceptance of this as the norm.


The Evolution of a Story – Bernard’s Story

As you may have seen in my previous post, I laid out the framework for a story. This post is to show how a series of bullet points grows into story of it’s own accord. I attended Indy WordLab on Monday night and found myself inspired to go back and take another look at the Bernard story. I feel it truly has potential to be a great story and merely requires I take the time to tell it.  Please comment fervently.

 Working Title: Bernard’s Story

The old room smelled of wood aching to see sunlight but falling repeatedly short of success. This space had always existed to serve as a place of mediation. The ancient table ran long across the floor that creaked the arrival of the two seeking resolution. Bernard took his usual seat on the barely lit side of the table. The other man slid to the opposite side and settled, arms crossed, into the padding of his chair.

Bernard peered over his glasses at his companion. He coughed out a “hem ahem,” clearing his throat. Before he could speak, however, the fellow across the table began the conversation.

“I think you are wrong about them, Bernard,” he stated, in a voice raspy with age and wisdom, but yet a depressing quality rang through every word. “I think you underestimate them,” he continued.

“You can’t fault me, for having faith,” Bernard retorted in a matter-of-fact tone.

After a long and yet suitable pause, Bernard’s companion simply stated, “Perhaps not, Bernard, I truly hope that I am wrong, for their sake.” At this, Bernard solemnly nodded.


The office of Gary Davis was on the eighth floor. Gary held dominion atop a building bearing his last name. A cup of cappuccino was steaming aromatically while it waited for Gary to finish the morning paper. He picked up his mug and moved towards the window. He started every morning at his window. There was something relaxing about watching the city rise from its slumber.

Gary’s gaze drifted slowly across the skyline of the city until finally his eyes came to rest on the street below. The street was alive with the walking masses of pedestrians. The sidewalk looked like a flowing stream that cascaded around a bus stop that contained a bench, like it was some lost island. The whirlwind of grays and blacks created by the people walking in either direction was broken only by the occasional brightly dressed individual. Up in his office, Gary was sporting a very similar gray suit. Gary, having finished naval-gazing, brought his attention back to the avenue below.

Suddenly a ripple in the stream appeared and seemed to emanate from the bus stop bench. The effect continued to widen around the bench until the source of the disturbance was visible. A stumbling man had interrupted the flow and then staggered, lost his balance, and collapsed against the bench.  The front of his shirt was drenched in a deep shade of red and his hands, also covered in blood, clutched his side.

Gary stopped sipping from his mug and a look of mild concern stretched across his face. He looked as if he might do something, but then looked around as if checking for someone watching him and brought the steaming cup to his lips once more.


James Wilhelm was a family man. The pictures his daughters had given him were attached to his visor. Jasmine and Serenity were written in girly flourish on each picture. He looked at the pictures of them and then straightened his tie in the mirror. A look of intense worry creased his face and he checked the pile of resumes on the seat next to him again for perhaps the hundredth time that car ride.

The car in front of James looked like it was having trouble. It had begun to jerk and then slowed to stop. The driver had tried to nudge over to the side of the road but hadn’t gotten very far.  James glared at his watch in frustration. He swore loudly and exclaimed, “I don’t fucking have time for this.”  Leaning back against the seat, he closed his eyes and stared upwards into his eyelids. He took a breath and then began checking his rearview mirror for a suitable opening in the massive traffic jam that lined the road next to him. As the horns began to emulate their owners’ disgust, James closed his eyes for a moment and tried to relax.

The car door opened and a man climbed out, he smiled but had a look of embarrassment cast over his face. He popped the hood and moved to the front of his car to poke around.

James grunted out a polite wave before the man was out of sight. A gap opened in the traffic and James jerked the wheel with a frustrated movement. He looked at his watch, he sighed and muttered, “I have to get there.”



Bernard and the Shadowy Figure

Below, you’ll find a very short story. I hope you enjoy!



Shadowy Figure: Oh, I think you’re wrong Bernard. I think you underestimate them.

Bernard: You can’t fault me for having faith.

Shadowy Figure: Perhaps not. I truly hope that I’m wrong Bernard, for their sake.


<<Setting Change>>

The scene changes to a street level view of a busy city street. There are many people bustling across the scene on this chilly spring morning.


<<8th Floor Office, Window facing the street>>

The nameplate on the desk reads Gary Denver. Behind the desk Gary is lifting a coffee mug to his lips. He is staring out over the street. He appears to be studying the late arrivers. He’s always early.  He’s always there before everyone else. Gary follows his gaze back down to the sidewalk pedestrians.



The scene seems perfectly normal. Until a man, stumbling and bumping into the others as he moves through the crowd, begins to crumple to his knees in front of a bench. After a brief shudder, he sprawls to the ground with his hands sliding out from under him. His hands come away from his body drenched in red.



Gary slowly pulls his coffee away from his lips which are creasing into a look of concern.  He resigns to watch to make sure that the man gets help but doesn’t move from the window or make any effort to retrieve his phone.



The masses of people divide around the fallen man and converge on the other side. No one stops; they all just make as much effort as possible to avoid the man and still stay on the sidewalk. Everyone pretends to not notice him with an equal amount of effort exerted to avoid him.



Gary watches with a stoic sureness, the look on his face shows that he is absolutely certain that there is one Good Samaritan among them. Though, as Gary continues to watch it is clear that his worry is betraying his certainty.



Several minutes have passed and the color is draining from the fallen man’s face. He is clearly dying. The crowd continues to weave around him as though he were an island in a stream.



Gary’s resolve weakens. He leaves the window and heads for the phone on his desk in disgust with the people below. He dials 911 and speaks to the operator and hangs up after giving the location.

Gary returns to the window and looks below. He no longer sees the man below. The crowd is no longer parting. He relaxes and assumes that someone had in fact called for emergency services. The paramedics must have arrived and carried the man away while he was on the phone. The look on his face shows that he believes all is well. He slumps into his office chair, a disgusted looking expression sliding on to his face. He calls a friend and complains of the audacity of the people on the street.


<<Bernard and the Shadowy Figure Conversation>>

Bernard: I admit it, you were right and I had such hopes for them.

Shadowy Figure: I never thought you’d admit defeat. Is it time then?

Bernard: <gloomily> Yes. You’re free to pass judgment. They are clearly not what I hoped they’d be.



I hope that you enjoyed it, I welcome your comments.

To Embrace Anger as a Creative Fuel

For a long time I have considered myself logical. I have made decisions by applying the rudimentary principals of chess. I am a “snappy” decision maker; I weigh the options, root out the logical outcomes, and make a decision. I rarely, if ever, look back unless it involves larger sums of my own personal income.

Have you ever been asked what you’re “passionate” about?

Do you have an answer other than your significant other? I sat thinking about the question and thinking about an exercise that my wife had shared with me some weeks ago. Supposedly, if you continue to write the question: “What is my purpose?” and then follow it with an answer, over and over, you will eventually come to a solution that will really pull your heart chords and make sense to you. I tried this for approximately two hours and was not moved by anything I wrote. I wondered if it is possible that I simply have no purpose? Care for a side of Nihilism, anyone?

I remember being very passionate as a youth. I suffered from the belief that I knew everything, as many teenagers will tell you they do. I was angry too. I vented my anger into my writing and wrote some of the best things I have ever written during this time period. At no point do I look back at my teenage years and say, “That was a great example of logic!” I was fueled by fury, love, passion, dispassion, chaos and disorder. My words were on fire. What happened?

Did I simply grow up? Did something different happen, did I make a choice to abandon the burden of my excess of emotions in place of logic? If so, why? Before I get to that question, let me explain where all this came from.

I signed up for a class with the Writers’ Center of Indiana. I mentioned it in my previous post. The instructor is Dan Wakefield, author of “Going All The Way,” and a genuinely great guy. He’s a phenomenal presenter and has an excellent approach to garnering memories from your past to help with memoir writing. The class is about writing about yourself or finding your inner thoughts, experiences and emotions to fuel your writing. While everyone else was busy writing about some beautiful, charming reminiscence of their childhood,  I was busy remembering details of troubling events from my past. While remembering these troubling events, the book I am reading at home has been “To Each Their Own Darkness” by Gary A. Braunbeck on the craft of writing. Fitting, eh?

Don’t worry; this isn’t where I regurgitate the details of my past. I would say without a doubt that I am thankful that my life went as well as it did. I’ve heard stories of far worse cataclysms than my life. I had it pretty good, save for a few glitches.  We all had glitches; even the people you believe to be perfect.

The stories I wrote in class were dark and yet moving. My classmates were awed by the words and responded with great appreciation for my sharing them. However, they all had that unmistakably troubled look in their eyes. Why is this well-mannered and even-tempered guy so dark?

It troubled me to the point that I did not attend yesterday’s class. I believe that I have become afraid of dredging up darker memories by which to disturb the older denizens of my classroom. I am not worried about those classmates so much as I worry about myself. I remember a much darker version of me. I was once completely imbued with anger. This anger also fueled my writing. We’ve all had bad relationships in our lives, be they with parents, lovers, friends or foes. I generated story after story, poem after poem, some dripping with hatred and spite, some oozing with love and passion and yet some more that proved thoughtful interest in something bigger than myself. It was a destructive and powerfully creative phase of my life. I believe that I saw the danger of continuing to behave as I was and decided to control it. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that this occurred. It took some alone time to put together a box strong enough to hold everything. I think that at some point I stuffed what I could into a heart-shaped box, chained it, locked it and heaved it into the ocean hoping that it would find solace next to the Titanic.

I had embraced logic in lieu of passion, anger and powerful writing.  I wrote my best stuff back then. Now suddenly, all at once, thanks to Dan Wakefield and Gary Braunbeck, I feel some sense of creativity awakening. But I need to know; am I capable of regaining my voice from the depths without returning to the anger that I locked it away with?

There’s only one thing that I know how to do well and I’ve often been told that you only can do what you know how to do well, and that’s be you, be what you’re like, be like yourself, and so I’m having a wonderful time but I’d rather be whistling in the dark. ~ They Might Be Giants – Whistling in the Dark

I believe that we are all, in some ways, untrue to ourselves. We change for what we think is the better, given our situations. How fair are you being to yourself if you change for the world? I might sound a little preachy here but shouldn’t people be expected to love you for you, as opposed to love you for who you pretend to be?

Who are you?
Who do you pretend to be?
What are you really passionate about?

I would love to hear from you.

Going All the Way… to a writing class.

Last night, I spent a couple of hours out at Marian University participating in a writer’s workshop put on by the Writers’ Center of Indiana. The instructor for this 6 week workshop is Dan Wakefield, author, and resident (again) of Indianapolis. We conducted an exercise which ultimately inspired me to churn out the story below. I hope you enjoy it. I’m not sure if it will lead to a larger work, but for now it’s a great standalone teaser. Let me know what you think!

Title: Not the Last

Creak. The bottom-most stair sounded off in protest at the weight of some unknown visitor. Stirring, I slowly parted ways with the shroud of a deep sleep. I did not yet realize what had brought me to consciousness.

Creak. Now, I was sure of it. Someone was ascending the stairs to my room. My eyes drifted sleepily to the end of my bed where Donja, my chow-chow puppy, lay snoozing. She hadn’t noticed I was awake nor the sounds from beyond my bedroom door.

Creak. I rose further from the cloudy sense of a dream mostly forgotten. My eyes adjusted and began to draw in the furniture that encircled the room.  I looked towards the alarm clock and the numbers 3:18 burned furiously at me across the otherwise dark room.

Creak. I started wondering who would be climbing my stairs at 3 o’clock in the morning. What had happened? I hadn’t heard the phone ring. Perhaps my mother was just coming to check on me. That had to be it or so I thought.

Creak. I realized that there was no light creeping in under the door. It seemed odd that my mother would climb my treacherous stairway without a light. My stairs had welcomed my body with pain and suffering on more than one occasion due to an uncomfortably tight right angle halfway up.

Creak. The person on the stairs had reached the angle.


Creak. I began to feel a sense of dread. The last time my mother had climbed the stairs in the middle of the night, it was to inform me of my grandmother’s death. Her arrival would mean bad news. I was sure of it.

Creak. I steeled myself, preparing for the worst. I knew she only had a couple more steps to go.


Creak. I waited breathless for the handle to turn, the door to open, and the news to come. It never came. The door did not open. After a deep breath, I finally rose from my bed, travelled the distance to the door and pulled it open. There was no one standing outside my door and no one on the stairs. That was the first time I met the ghost upon my stairs.

It would not be the last.