One Divided By Four

Alright, let’s get all that pessimism from the Excuses posts behind us and talk positivity; specifically, a Positive Progress Post!

*confetti falls, bells ring, someone screams a Wilhelm scream*

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An Abundance of Blogs

The following post is one post in a series of posts in which I attempt to explain my lack of posting since I started this blog with the hopes of regular posting. Or something.

The bane of many an amateur author is life around them. Extraneous circumstances tend to take precedence whimsical and unimportant things, and when you string enough of them together, it’s the unfinished opus that usually takes the backseat. This series of Excuses posts I’ve been spewing upon your computer screen over the last month has sought to pick apart a few choice pieces of this real-life interference to show you, my presumed readers, why exactly the ol’ BIP’s fallen on hard times as of late. And today, I finish this mini-series with a bit of circumstance whose suffocating presence any suppressed and repressed creative type can relate to: work.

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So This is What a Quarter-Life Crisis Feels Like, Huh?

The barstool wobbled under my weight, a little heavier than usual due to some added work stress. No server in their right mind wants to be actively serving tables up until the bar closes at 2 AM, but that was my lot on this particular night. Wanting desperately to just get home, hit my bed, and reset, all I could do was stare at my last two guests as they casually sipped – that’s right, sipped – Miller Lites from the bottle, my time meaningless compared to their enjoyment of that rancid ass-beer.

Sitting there on my perch, watching my bartender try to shoo regulars and staff members overstaying their welcome, I remembered the relief when the guests finally decided to call it a night. I could leave the service floor and finish closing my part of the restaurant, meaning a solid half hour of grinding coffee for the morning brunch shift before I could run screaming into the night.

Feeling my pulse in my feet resting on one of my stool’s bars, I remembered the fatigue that set in as I slouched in a hot basement, being lulled to sleep by the repetitive whine of the grinder, the heaviness in my eyes as I folded napkin after napkin, each crease in the fabric a crease in my dimension leading me into blissful delirium.

Observing my inebriated coworkers looking shocked as they were being booted from a closed establishment well past the legal serving time, I remembered when two of them showed up a little after one, pretty intoxicated from an earlier concert. I was awash in a sea of sidework and couldn’t spare the mental capacity required to converse with them. So one decided to bring the conversation to me, in the dining room while I folded napkin after napkin. She decided to drunkenly let me know that she didn’t think I did enough sidework. While I was doing sidework.

I rolled a discarded Miller Lite cap between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand and remembered a simpler time, when I was either 8 or 9 in daycamp in Northeast Philly. A friend and I noticed that there were innumerable beer bottle caps partially submerged in dirt and gravel throughout our camp ground and we decided to go into business. What that business was, I’m still not sure. But it involved digging up the caps and organizing them by brand. We quickly noticed that the most populous caps we found were the brands we’d heard of before, through advertising or our dad’s own selection. Brands like Bud Light and Yuengling became our gold standard, and their rarer cousins – like Red Dog and Michelob Ultra – became our most coveted caps, earning themselves places in separate sandwich bags. If it wasn’t for our meddling camp director and his fixation with our “unhealthy fixation with alcohol-related products,” we would’ve (presumably) been rich by the end of summer.

Even as I sat, slouching and defeated, nursing a well-earned pint of something dark and bitter, the complainy coworker continued to rain down on me with a steady stream of condescending remarks about my lack of this and her superior that.

I watched it all.

I felt it all.

And I continued to roll that damn bottle cap around in my fingers. I was 8 years old, and all my future financial troubles were gone in an instant. I had it all figured out. The young businessmen were focused and goal-oriented and ready to take on the world. I was 24 years old, and I had no idea why I was where I was. Staring at that cap, getting berated by an angry friend, feeling the ill effects of another all-day grind in this god-forsaken industry, I couldn’t help but wonder where all that drive, all that promise, and all that future had gone off to.

Trust me when I say I cannot finish this BIP soon enough.

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What I Know Hates Me

The following post is one post in a series of posts in which I attempt to explain my lack of posting since I started this blog with the hopes of regular posting. Or something.

They say the best authors write primarily from what they know, what they’ve experienced, the very emotions that have tormented, delighted, and confused them over their several decades on this Earth. I know this. I read these authors regularly, and their exquisitely visceral and jarring dramatic retellings of past traumas knock me on my ass every time. I can always tell the difference between a passage written from strong memory and one written solely because it sounded cool to the author at the time. That high-level, so-real-it-could-happen-to-me-and-mine style of writing is why I myself have chosen to stumble down this faux-authorial road I now find myself lost on.

In short, I’ve always seen myself as just that kind of writer. I’ve always written from my own experiences within the world we share. I know this style of writing like the back of my own hand. Why, then, was I so woefully unprepared for its now-obvious ramifications?

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2012: Year of the Technological Apocalypse

The following post is one post in a series of posts in which I attempt to explain my lack of posting since I started this blog with the hopes of regular posting. Or something.

So there I lay, on my couch, in my underwear, sweating the sweat of a man skirting obligation on a hot Philadelphia summer afternoon to watch just one more wrestling video on Youtube, when BOOM – something died loudly right outside my window.

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To Sleep, Perchance to Shit My Pants

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been sick.

Nothing crazy, just a minor summer bug over the last few nights. But one thing about me when I’m sick: I’m strangely susceptible to fever dreams. And I do mean strangely. It’s almost as if the sickness manifests solely to allow my body to complete its one true function, the terrifying distortion of reality in real time. It’s so prevalent that if I suddenly found myself to be a mutant and sought to join the X-Men, my power would be to achieve a core body temperature of over 100 degrees and freak the fuck out.

So anyway, combining this propensity for the insane with my horrible habit of falling asleep with my TV on full blast – as well as the contents of half a bottle of Nyquil churning in my gut – I managed to have one of the most effed up dreams of my life last night.

It opened with a small gathering of well-dressed people pre-gaming a party as the well-dressed do in a small South Philly apartment, one that strongly resembled that of my best friend. All faces in attendance were familiar, notably including my girlfriend and said best friend. Once proper pre-gaming had been accomplished, we made haste for the Schuylkill, where we were to attend a fancy yacht party hosted by my girlfriend’s entire family.

Shit was tight.

Guys wore black suits or tuxedos, ladies wore white dresses or gowns. Everyone had drinks in hand, nothing crazy or sugary but proper neat pours of life-giving brown booze. I can even remember the taste of the single malt I shared with Mr. My Girlfriend’s Dad (Lagavulin 16, if I’m not mistaken) as we stood by the starboard rail, clinking glasses often and discussing the future.

Sometime during this conversation, I realized I’d forgotten something direly important back at Best Friend’s apartment. I ran down the block (because naturally, Dream Philadelphia allows for Boathouse Row to run adjacent to Passyunk Avenue near its intersection with Catharine) and just before I made it to my destination, I was abducted and knocked unconscious.

I came to in a white room, strapped down to a bed, a man in a white doctor’s coat leaning over me with an apathetic smile on  his face, if such an emotive look ever existed.

“Where am I?” I was frantic, maybe even a little sweaty.

“Where I need you to be.”

“And who are you?”

“The man who needs you here.”

“And why do you need me here?”

“To kill you.”

Hold the phone. Kill me? Even in my dreams, I’m too lovable to murder. What gives, fever?

“You see, those people on that boat, they’ve scabbed the world. And you’ve been colluding with them. It’s a shame it has to be you, I understand, but this is how I prove my point.”

“But wait! I don’t want to die!”

“Nobody does.”

“I have too much to get done! My book, my family, school, my whole life!”

“Everybody does.”

I sat silently, my head held in place by tape, my eyes on fluorescent lights shining from the ceiling. Even in a dream, I knew I had no response. I understood gravity, futility, and finality.

Even as he lifted a nondescript syringe over my face, the entirely non-threatening yet terrifying medical man uttered the phrase “I’m sorry” before I jerked awake, covered in fresh sweat, my comforter ripped to shreds, Harrison Ford yelling at Sean Connery to not call him Junior on TV.

Now, I’ve had nightmares throughout the course of my existence, as we all have. Whether it was Cookie Monster bashing my head in with a baseball bat as a kid or being shot on the front line of a forgotten theater of a forgotten war as a teenager, I’ve certainly been scared by my dreams before.

But this one? This one terrified me. I couldn’t get back to sleep at all, but why? What made this dream more unbearably scary than some of the more grotesque and morbid things I’ve dreamed in the past?

All I can think of right now, a full day removed, is the look on the man’s face. That not caring. That look of  “Hey man, everyone dies. Why shouldn’t you?” That almost businessman-like approach to the topic of death. I’ve come to the conclusion that he is one in the same with the good little Christian perception of St. Peter up at the pearly white gates, dodging whys and whens and hows, just explaining the now, the prescient.

This comfort with death – bureaucratic death, if you will – is easily scarier to me than anything with blood dripping from its fangs. The highest heights, the spindliest spiders, they pale in comparison to my fear of the end, the brick wall marking the finish line in my one-man race through life.

And why’s that? Because, as referenced by surprisingly accurate Dream Me, I have shit to do. Lots of it. Nothing I can take with me. And I certainly don’t want to leave business untended to just so I can go and be dead. I want to finish those things I’ve started, most notably my current BIP.

You know the adage: live hard, die record-settingly old, and leave a bookish corpse. Or something.

That all being said, you can bet I’m scared to life by my subconscious mind right now. Apparently, it wants me to finish this thing. And that’s exactly what I’ll do.

My goal is the end of December, this year. I’m just over 20% of the way through my outline. Think I have it in me? Words of encouragement are certainly appreciated.

And between now and then, I am staying the fuck away from yacht parties with my girlfriend’s family.

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No ‘D’ in Drinking Water, I Think

Words. Palabras. Strings of letters, squished together to form meaning. Big words, small words, words held together with seventeen hyphens.

I love ’em.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve pursued them in every way possible: reading them, writing them, eating them. Recently, they’ve become an important backdrop to my otherwise unremarkable life. I write as much as possible, always chasing the next Great American Bundle of Gibberish. And even as my book-in-progress (BIP for the lazy eyes out there) continues to grow longer and denser before my screen-fatigued eyes, I pursue words to their literary end.

It’s this insane love for the vast majority of words in the wonderful English language that makes my unadulterated hatred for a very select few that much more intense.

These are words that I would wage war against, were they vague concepts or ideologies. These are words I would vote against in democratic elections. These are words I would never opt to be stranded on a desert island with, lest this hypothetical island is merely a theater for a fight to the death, in which case you’d better believe I’ll be channeling my inner Rambo up in that bitch.

Most of the time, it’s easy to avoid these terrible, awful words. But sometimes, one of them sneaks its way into whatever I’m writing as the most logical choice, and it ruins my fucking day.

Take tonight, for example.

A seemingly innocent sentence, in which a character looks up scientific facts about drinkable alcohol. All fine and dandy, except the word my brain poured onto the page was potable.

Rage. Ire. Nuclear holocaust. All fail to describe the hatred I have for that damned P-word.

“But Rausch, you must expound upon this irrational hatred for a very rational word.”

If I must, let’s travel back in time. Say, 1995. A chubby little third grader is taking the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by storm with his inhuman ability to spell words several reading levels above his age. He goes on to place third within the Archdiocese, getting a sweet shot of his even sweeter slicked back hair on the evening news in the process.

Fast forward five years. This third grader (who is definitely me, for those playing at home) is now an eighth grader. He’s just beasted his way through the spelling bee of his own elementary school, and now he’s on his way to the South Jersey regional. He makes his way to the semifinals, so confident that he eschews the provided list of words he can expect to encounter. In the third round, he steps to the microphone, and the announcer slaps him in the face with the bitter taste of the unknown.

“Mr. Rausch, your word is potable.”

The sweat begins to bead in the center of the boy’s bowl cut. He’s never heard of such a ridiculous word.

“Repeat, please.” Either the youngster’s ego prevented him from the embarrassment of asking anything of anyone, or the netbook this blog is being typed on cannot type a question mark. Regardless, the demand was made.

“Potable.” Spelled here, it’s correct. But the enunciation provided by the announcer absolutely, without-a-doubt replaced the ‘T’ in the center with a rolled ‘D.’ The wonders of the Philadelphia region, people.

Naturally, the speller took the announcer’s bait, sounding out the word as it was repeated.

“P-O-D-A-B-L-E, potable.”

Buzzers sounded, old women hissed, and a great big cane came from offstage to drag the loser away, out of every spelling bee for the rest of human history.

And that’s that. Since that horrible day, the P-word and I do not get along. I avoid camping because of it. I’ll never go to Mexico. A job with the water department is completely out of the question.

But despite my unwavering death campaign against the hated word, tonight taught me a lesson. In a BIP that’s currently on pace to surpass 500,000 words, it’s nearly unavoidable to have an undesirable slip through here and there. And hey, if it truly makes sense, then of course I’ll use it when necessary.

But only then. With gritted teeth. And maybe a little hate puke in the back of my mouth.

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