Phantom Blog

Phantom Blog

The Scenic Route: Day 32

My Life With Dogs, part 1

I couldn’t bring myself to write about my history with dogs yesterday. 

Or the day before that.


Or the day before that.


I thought I could but I started to second guess myself.

Sometimes writing is like taking a rough, gravely poop. You just have to bite your lip and push it out.

My history with dogs is slightly tragic, as it is with every dog owner.

I think Bobo was the first dog in our family. This was before I was born and I never met him. I think he was a boxer mix. There’s an old picture of him and I’ve heard stories at the dinner table about Bobo.

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Heidi and Brad, December, 1969. Photo by Dr. Robert M. Rogers

The next dog was Heidi, a beautiful and smart collie. I often thought she was Lassie. She was a puppy when Brad was born and when he was 2, she had her first litter of puppies. A German Shepherd literally jumped the fence. Heidi was very protective of her puppies but she let Brad come in to the make-shift whelping box (2 picnic benches on their side in the corner of the garage) and let her puppies crawl all over him. If anybody else even tried to pick up a puppy they got a serious warning from Heidi. We kept one of the puppies and named him Hans.

Heidi and Hans came with us when we moved to Oklahoma in 1972. I was just 6 months old. Dad was starting the Pulmonary division from the ground up. If our family was a sitcom like “The Bizarro Brady Bunch”, this would be the special 3 or 4 part, very special episodes, like when the Brady’s went to Hawaii or The Grand Canyon. 

The Rogers in Oklahoma. 

I’d watch.

I did.

Between 1972 and1980 we had a few additional dogs. There was Barney the Beagle who is sporting a cast in some of the photo albums, and was my sister Janet Marie’s dog, according to Janet Marie herself. She didn’t particularly take great care of the dog, as I’ve been told. 

Hans was dog napped and we never saw him again. In Oklahoma, people would just drive up to your fence, and if the dog was friendly, they took them. We lost a St. Bernard that way. 

Hilda and Helga were the next dogs and I really remember them. They were German Shepherds and incredibly aggressive around strangers. But Heidi was the one in charge. She went to obedience school and had a slight air of sophistication. She was always gentle and mothering to me. 

The 3 dogs often slept in the gravel driveway. One morning, Dad was headed for work and he backed over Heidi’s legs. He went to work and let Mom deal with it. Heidi was in so much pain, that she bit at us if we tried to get closer to her. I’m not sure how we got her in the Volvo. We had to muzzle her.

The next day, I asked Mom when Heidi was coming home. 

“They had to put Heidi to sleep, my Dear,” she said.

“When will they wake her up,” I asked.

I remember Mom crying. 

Then I started crying. For like 2 days.

I eventually knew she wasn’t coming back and I cried uncontrollably. I couldn’t get my mind around it. Why didn’t my Dad check to see if there were dogs laying in the driveway? Why didn’t he stay and help deal with the situation? Why did he go to work?

I never really got an answer to that. Dad didn’t do anything wrong, in his mind. He said the stupid dogs shouldn’t have been sleeping in the driveway. I imagine deep down he felt bad, but he never showed it.

I think this was around 1979. We moved to Pittsburgh in 1980 and had to give Hilda and Helga away to our neighbors, strangely also named Rogers, who had lots of land. They wouldn’t have been able to adjust to city life.

Dad made it clear that we would not be getting another dog, because he didn’t believe any of us would take care of the dog. In retrospect, was partially right. 

One night at the dinner table, in November of 1984, during one my legendary debates with Dad, he agreed to let us get a dog. The catch was that I had to “walk” an invisible dog for 2 weeks to prove to Dad that I would walk the dog. I took him up on his offer. I walked every morning and evening for 2 weeks and kept an accurate log. When the 2 weeks were up, Dad agreed to allow us to get a dog. 

Since Brad had asthma, we decided on a medium sized poodle because they had very little dander and didn’t shed. On December 15th 1984, a day before my birthday, we got Francois. I chose his name on the way back from the breeder. I wanted a French name and for some reason I thought of Francois Clemens from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. I loved Francois Clemens. And he was on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. And my last name was Rogers. It was perfect. Francois Clemens Rogers was part of the family. 

I was 12.

It turns out Dad was partially right. I didn’t walk Francois every day like I said I would. Often it was just a quick trip in the back yard. 

Francois or “Francy”, as we called him, was a supremely intelligent and kind dog. He never yipped, but had a rather robust bark that scared off any potential invaders. I had never been so close with a dog before. We had mental telepathy. He practically trained himself. He definitely trained me.

After a couple years, Brad, who didn’t appreciate dad’s challenge of walking a dog for 2 weeks, just brings home a mutt we named Pierre. I have no idea what Pierre was made of. I know he was part terrier and maybe chihuahua. He looked like a combination of a bat and a rat. He was a tiny black bully that ran the show from then on. Francois would sit, very refined while we ate at the kitchen table, with one paw curved under him in a distinctly pretentious stance. Alternately, Pierre would lay upside down, with all 4 legs straight up in the air, with tongs hanging loosely out of his mouth. He looked like he was doing his impression of a dead bug. But as soon as someone moved their chair for even an inch, he hopped up ready for action, so fast it was as if he didn’t even bend his little legs, he just popped upright,  ready for treats, like some kind of wind-up toy.

Pierre liked to run away. He had need to explore. One time we got a call from a Fraternety at CMU. They wanted to keep him. Once he spent the night at the legendary transplant doctor Starzel’s house. He lived not far from us and I could hear Pierre’s high pitched, demanding bark all night long. 

Tomorrow: Part 2

The Scenic Route: Day 28

Miss Kitty

It’s amazing the difference a day makes.

I am not proud of yesterday’s piece, because it was completely self-involved and out of touch.

The truth is, until I lose my addiction to being a victim, I have very little hope, but this exercise is about writing despite my inner cynic’s ever present monologue. 

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A visit from Miss Kitty

I was visited by the neighborhood cat yesterday. There is a stray cat who enjoys our property like it’s her own. I will frequently see her perched at the the top of the stairs in front of the house.

I never owned a cat. My Mom has been phobic about cats since her childhood, well before I even came along. 

Dad hated cats. He wasn’t afraid of them, he just saw them as filthy and diseased. Where he grew up, in Upper Darby, during the depression, there must have been an abundance of stray and/or feral cats. I will save you from the more graphic stories he told me, they were pretty horrific, and I don’t know if he was a participant as much as an unwilling observer. He was the youngest boy (second youngest child) of seven kids. He had 3 older brothers who were distinctly more rambunctious. Survival was my Dad’s primary motivation. The cat’s and their well being was not high on his list of priorities. He once told me, “A cat can’t scratch you if you’re swinging it by it’s tail.”

Mom’s phobia of cats has lessened over the years. She used to squeal any time she saw a cat on TV, loudly, so everyone knew, in no uncertain terms, that Mom did not like cats. Her’s was an irrational, but absolutely real fear, spawned from her childhood experiences. She saw a mortally wounded rabbit with it’s heart still beating.

She always said that cat’s collectively knew she didn’t like them and therefore were naturally curious of her. It turns out, she might be right. I have personally experienced this with her at a few different functions. The most memorable was a fundraiser event, sponsored by the magazine I worked for, at a mansion on Mt. Washington. In the middle of an enormous party of at least 500 people, spread over 4 floors (and an outdoor pool), the tortoise colored cat made a beeline for Mom. I remember seeing the crowd part to get out of the cat’s way as he came towards us. Mom shrieked slightly, but not wanting to make a scene, we gingerly excused ourselves and headed for the exit. It was a close call. “You know, they go right for your jugular,”  Mom said on the way home.

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Betty circa 1995

The only time in my life that I lived with a cat was when I rented a house on Sarah Street in the Southside. I had 3 roommates at one point and one of them had 2 cats. There was a white and tan cat named Peekin, who was always peeking and freaking and frequently “sang” on the steps when no one was looking. Then there was Betty, a medium length, all black cat who was as calm and serene as a femme fatale from a noir classic. She was Lauren Bacall in cat form. It’s like she stepped out of a pulpy crime novel. She walked like she was balancing on an invisible tight-rope wherever she went, be it the back of the couch or the middle of the rug. Peekin zipped around the house and froze when he stopped, as if he thought he couldn’t be seen, if he didn’t move. 

Betty adopted me. When I came home, she ran up to my room, and flopped on her back,  wriggled, and purred demandingly. She hopped up on my bed and insisted I get to the cuddling. Sometimes I would get her so blissed out that she would be flat on her back, completely prone, almost catatonic, purring uncontrollably and loud, with her chest heaving, and I would notice the tiniest little bit of white on her throat. If she was calm and relaxed enough, I could part her fur on her throat and reveal the whitest of white fur. She would mildly protest, with padded paws, but never stopped me or clawed me. It was almost like a secret she wasn’t ready to reveal. If a cat isn’t happy, they let you know. She was blissing the hell out. 

She slept with me every night and kept me warm, which was good because there was not much heat up in the attic. I wore bulky sweaters because she liked to knead my back. If the sweater was bulky enough, her claws only grazed my back and didn’t dig in too much. It was like that old cartoon with the bulldog and the kitten

When my roommate eventually moved away the next year, he kindly offered to give me Betty. Unfortunately I was moving back home. Mom would never allow it. Betty stayed with my roommate.

I heard she lived a good life, reached a ripe old age, and died peacefully in her sleep. And even if I didn’t hear that, that’s how I’m imagining it happened. 

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Miss Kitty

Yesterday, Miss Kitty stopped by. This time I was able to sit outside, without her running away. She stayed about 20 feet away and just reclined on the concrete and didn’t leave. I didn’t go up to her. She runs away if I get too close. I went back inside and continued to clean the kitchen. We had Philly Cheesesteaks and tater tots for dinner.

After a few minutes, the video doorbell on the side of the house registered motion. I looked out through the small window in the door and saw my little cat friend, rubbing her cheek on the bench where I was sitting. She’s a mostly cream colored cat with brown and tan accents around the eyes and tail. The pale blue eyes are so tiny and close together that she might be just a smidge cross-eyed. It’s like Trixie Mattel did her makeup. Halfway down her tail, she’s either missing some fur or there’s something wrapped around her tail, like a rubber band. Maybe some kids tied something to her tail. 

I went out again and she made herself comfortable under a hedge about 25 feet away from me. She blinked slowly a few times.

Just then, no bullshit, I saw Mom in the doorway. She had a quixotic look on her face and I told her that “my cat” was back. “I won’t let her in,” I assured her. “I promise.”

“Well that’s interesting,” she said, pausing, “because I was just sitting in the TV room and thinking maybe it’s time for you to get a kitten. If you get the attic cleaned up, mind you, and keep it cleaned up!”

I was floored. About a year or so ago, I floated the idea of getting a kitten as a way of battling my depression. Most importantly I would keep it up in my room, not down in the main part of the house. She actually said she would think about it. 

Anything is possible. 

Tomorrow: My Life With Dogs

The Scenic Route: Day 27

The Boo Radley of Bigelow Boulevard.

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I remember thinking I was actually smiling

Since about 10:30 am Thursday, I have been drunk. 

I had my annual physical. I always knew there was a possibility that my blood work would come back slightly worse. I had no idea it would be that bad.

176 days of 20 pushups a day. Awesome.

Quitting 4 weeks before your annual physical, makes all that work absolutely pointless. 

Writing and hearing that people like my blog is awesome. Giving up because it’s all just so stupid and pointless, isn’t as awesome.

I really want to die of a heart attack. 

I know that sounds extreme, but when you look at the alternatives, it seems like the obvious choice. 

Things to look forward to in the near future.

I can’t think of a thing.

We all have to die sometime. No one gets out alive. It’s just a matter of how much you get to suffer before you die. I can hope that I die peacefully in my sleep, like an extended dream, but the statistics and probability leans toward a more painful and sad end. 

I’m well on my way to cirrhosis of the liver. Just like the first Patriarch of this house, Mr. Thomas Kenyon. He died at Mercy Hospital back in 1921.

I watched some old scare films from the 50s on Amazon Prime. I think I may have syphilis. Maybe that’s what’s been eating away at my brain all these years. 

What if I had stayed in New York. I doubt I’d still be with Steven, but I wouldn’t be stuck in this house. Someone else would be in charge of trying to resuscitate Mom when she has a heart attack. I would just get a sad, tragic phone call informing me of her passing.

—My keyboard is literally fighting me 

—It goes in and out randomly. It’s like the universe just wants me to remember that I’m a joke. 

I really couldn’t even fathom the possibility that my cholesterol would be so much worse. My Doc even told me I was taking it too personally and that it wasn’t my fault. I said, it kinda was. He replied, actually it’s not, and these readings indicate that it is probably genetic.

Why doesn’t that make me feel better? It’s not my fault, but I still feel like it’s something i could have done. Now I have to take a cholesterol fighting drug that can cause muscle aches and pain, in order to prolong my life. For what reason? I know it’s my mental disease, but I can’t think of a single reason. It’s as if I’ve never had a happy feeling in life and any happiness I felt was some kind of illusion. I felt like I was tricked into living. And occasionally I get a glimpse of what life is really like. The blinders get removed and I realize I am actually the butt of the joke. People haven’t been laughing with me, but at me. And can I blame them? Absolutely not. If it wasn’t my life, I’d be laughing too. I mean it’s completely ridiculous and comical. 

I deactivated my FB. I do that often, but I’m hoping it sticks this time. It’s childish and foolish and silly and the modern equivalent of running away from home. It’s a chance to see if anyone really cares about you. If someone bothers to text you to see if you I’m ok. What a stupid and childish way to act. 

I don’t deserve success. I don’t deserve happiness. I’m a privileged white man who has it better than most, but I’m still heartbroken and desperate. Why would I subject another human being to my insanity? That would be cruel. Even if they thought they knew what they wanted, I would know they have to be crazy if they like me or care about me. 

How sad is that?

When I look into the future, I see a lonely, isolated life. After Mom goes, I will shut myself off from the world. I will not leave my house unless I’m forced. 

I’ll probably get 20 cats and they’ll find me in the attic, months after I’m dead, covered in cat shit. 

But before I die, I’ll become the Boo Radley of Bigelow Blvd. The scary house that kids dare each other to run up and touch. 

My brain tells me that this isn’t just a mere possibility, but a glimpse at the inevitable future. 

And if that’s how I spend my time thinking about life, that’s pretty much how it’s going to be. If I had the strength, I would fight my inner cynic, but I’m just not strong enough. 

There are so many people who deserve to live way more than me. 

The Scenic Route: Day 23

Cooking With Mom

I cooked our Blue Apron with Mom today. A delicious Roast Pork & Cumin Sauce with Vegetsable Fried Rice.

The recipes have been pretty delicious the past few weeks.

It’s nice to cook with Mom. I know this is something my siblings will never experience. 

I have another blog called that I started a few years ago where Mom and I would give recipes and occasionally a few restaurant reviews. With Pittsburgh going through a restaurant renaissance, I figured it was the perfect idea. 

It would practically write itself, I thought.

I did manage a few recipes and reviews but I soon lost motivation when Mom’s mobility deteriorated. The year before her two hip replacements, despite painful injections of cortisone every few months, she was in agony with every step. 

I began to realize that I would eventually have to write about her decline. And eventually, her end. 

I abandoned the blog.

Mom has improved so much since then. Not only does she have 2 new hips, but she is gallbladder-free and able to eat almost anything.

The time has come to return to even if it gets sad. It’s going to get sad. So I need to document the good times. 

The more I write, the happier I am. The more I write about my time with Mom, the more it will help me in the future.

When we used to make our Blue Apron recipes, I demanded to do it all by myself. Mom could barely walk, so it was just easier for me to do it. Now Mom helps chop all the vegetables and get everything prepped, and I just throw it all together. She’s my sous chef.

And she loves how I plate the dishes when it’s done. 

We don’t watch tv, we listen to music. We reminisce. We make memories.

And we make some kick-ass food! 

Having dinner with Mom, and cooking dinner with Mom has become the best part of the day.

The Scenic Route: Day 22

The Board Game of My Life 

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It’s another Red Monday, and I’m having trouble finding anything to say. 

I am embarrassed about my meltdown this weekend. I am overly sensitive. See The Scenic Route: Day 10.

My annual physical is this Thursday and I am extremely anxious. If my cholesterol isn’t at least a smidge lower, I will be sad. 

My inner cynic says, “What the hell are you worried about? A heart attack would be welcome!

I am going to fast today and drink plenty of water and hope my blood work is the best it can be.

Compared to last year, I am slightly more in touch with my emotions, I am writing regularly (even if I have no idea who’s reading it), an I’ve lost a few pounds. So what the frick to I care about what my Doctor says? I know I’m better than I was last year. 

I mean, I know I’m still an over-sensitive, self-obsessed, failure-addict, but I really do want to get better. Even if it’s very easy and almost justified to dismiss me as a fool, I want to keep going. I want to figure it out, at least as much as I can.

Maybe I’ll just figure out it was all a waste of time. Maybe I’ll finally get a feeling of being worthy. Truth is I will never know. 

Like driving at night, your headlights only reveal so far, but you keep going and deal with what comes.

The only option is to keep playing the “bored” game of my existence. I need to roll the dice and play what I get, not to flip the board and have a fit. 

The truth is, there are some scary things coming. And no amount of overthinking or useless planning can change that. I can’t prevent my mother from dying, even though I wish more than anything, that I could. I can’t prevent me from getting a serious illness like prostate cancer. Truth is, I am genetically susceptible to prostate cancer. I may suffer a similar fate to my Dad.  

We can try and drown our sorrows in bourbon, meditation, faith  but the sorrows just get preserved, aged, and more potent. I can’t drown them, I can only experience them. Grit my teeth and weather the storm and try not to add to the destruction.

Enjoy life when you can. The only moment is now. You need to play the space you’re on, even if it’s go directly to mental jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Next time you might roll doubles.

The Scenic Route: Day 21 that much

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It turns out, I probably should not have gone to the anniversary party. Nobody needs my negative energy at a blissful event like that.

It just seemed so exceptionally cruel. There was really no reason for me to be there. Seeing a slideshow set to music featuring highlights of the family’s life, just about killed me. I mean, I don’t want them to suffer loss like I did, but being there was like being in a Twilight Zone episode. Everyone was blissful and full of Jesus. There was no alcohol, just pink lemonade, root beer, and coca-cola. It was like a giant What if. This could have been my family.

The youngest son, who was now happily married to a woman, like it should be, handed out sheets of paper for people to write down memories of his parents. He then collected the memories and read them aloud and people had to guess who wrote it. 

“You were like my second mother and father.”

The mom immediately thought of my brother. I thought he said it, too. When he married into the family, he experienced a feeling of acceptance like he never knew in our home. 

It turns out someone else said it, but the fact that I thought he said it and she thought he said it, was tough. 

I’ve always been envious of my brothers life. He’s been married 25 years and has a real family, no kids, but a family that support and care for him. 

In our house, my dad criticized everyone, but he really picked on my brother. With my brother’s new family, he is viewed as a clever, creative, capable genius. Is it any wonder he feels more comfortable there?

I have no kids. I have no relationship. If I married tomorrow, I would still die before I got to 50 years. But the chances of finding anyone who would tolerate me is minuscule. Why would I voluntarily put anybody through that? Who the hell would want to participate in this hot mess of insanity? And if they do want to participate, doesn’t that mean there must be something wrong with them? 

The mediocre PowerPoint slideshow, featuring photos of their 50 years of bliss, put me over the edge. I just thought of all the memories I would put in the presentation. Memories of the anniversary that could have been.

What do I have to look forward to in my life? 

Chances are, if thing go bad with mom and she, heaven forbid, has a medical emergency, I will be the one, and only one, to deal with it. I will have to attempt cpr. I will have to call the ambulance. I will have to find her. It’s not really a matter of if, as much as when. 

Not only will I have to deal with that, my siblings will ultimately blame me for whatever happens. I mean it was under my watch, right? Even if they don’t, I will think they do. 

It’s a lot of pressure.

But then, while talking to family across the table, the daughter, who is currently visiting colleges, said “we certainly took the scenic route.” She was describing the route they took to South Carolina, but I saw it as a sign. Then, Total Eclipse of the Heart came on the music. It was like the universe was winking at me. 

That’s the moment when I remembered that I couldn’t post to my blog without my home computer. I know that’s archaic, but I was using sandvox software and it’s only on my desktop. So the only way I could post is to be on my desktop computer, which was 60 miles away. Even if I was inspired to write, I couldn’t post it to the blog.

I just wanted to get to 20 days. But I always fall short.

But as a friend on FB pointed out to me, it could always be worse. 

And someone else posted an “inspirational quote” saying “The only one in charge of your happiness, is you.” This may be true, but to a depressed person, it sounds like, if you are depressed, it’s your own goddam problem. And it is, it’s nobody else’s problem. I wish I could just be happy. My brain doesn’t work that way.

I thought I would be reaching the finish line, with this post, I found out I am just farther along on the Scenic Route. 

The Scenic Route: Day 19

Bittersweet Anniversaries 

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I saw myself on tv tonight. 

Aside from looking like a slightly overweight vagrant, I managed to string a few coherent words together.

I’ll put a link here if it’s available online.

Ed Piskor is awesome. 

It’s too late in the day for me to be clever or thoughtful. Just like when I used to do push-ups, it is harder to do it later in the day. My muscles were already tired and I rushed through them as fast as I could. I think that’s how I hurt my shoulder. 

This is my 19th day of writing consecutively. It would be nice to make it to 20 at least.

Tomorrow is my brother’s, in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary. I’m taking Mom down to Uniontown for the party. It must be bittersweet for Mom considering it would have been her 50th wedding anniversary this year as well. 

This last Valentines Day would have been their golden anniversary. 

I’m happy my sister-in-law still has both her parents, but I am a little envious. This year is the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. 

Mom and I will both put on a good face, and be as witty and clever as possible. 

I’ll imagine my Dad there, trying to embarrass Mom with his slightly crude, but relatively intellectual jokes, that would go over the heads of most of the Uniontown party guests. I remember Mom would occationally give him a cautious stare at parties when his jokes went a bit too far. 

I will do my best to embarrass her for him.

I know what he would say. I can hear what I think he would say, in my head. I know he would be laughing at his own jokes, louder and harder than anyone else. Dad always came with his own laugh track.  He was his best audience.

I certainly didn’t acquire his self-esteem. 

But that’s what this exercise is all about, pushing through, despite my inner cynic fatiguing my mind. 

Pushing past the constant inner-criticism is a struggle, but ultimately worth it.

Dad would think so.

The Scenic Route: Day 18

Turn Around, Bright Eyes 

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I need to remember, when things get dark and anxious and confusing, just watch the video for Total Eclipse of the Heart. Pull it up on Youtube or Vevo or whatever and revel in the ludicrous absurdity. 

When I watch it again after a long time, I remember how silly and utterly magnificent it is. 

Just when you think it’s all going well, like a surreal Hogwarts soft-core dream, there are ninjas.


Such is life. You may not get lethal weapons of whoop-ass coming out of the shadows in the form of ancient martial artists, but life has many metaphoric ninjas.

Sickness, trauma, tragedy, loss, can all happen seemingly out of the shadows. But sometimes, unexpectedly wonderful things emerge.

In 1996, I traveled with my Mom and Dad to Trevi, Italy for 2 weeks. It was probably the best trip of my life. Dad promised me a trip if I graduated, and even though I took a few extra years, I did graduate. 

Trevi was a tiny village atop a hillside. There was only one restaurant and we ate there most nights. The mother cooked, the father tended bar, and the handsome son Marco was head waiter. We were about the same age. Black truffles were in season and they made a bruschetta with minced black truffles and olive oil that was pure heaven. 

One night Marco took me, on the back of his motorcycle, to Spoleto because there was no pub in Trevi. We of course had to stop of at his house so he could put on his leather pants before we went. I waited on the bike.

After a nerve-wracking ride on the back of his motorcycle, at speeds I don’t want to even contemplate, we arrived at the Mr. Hyde Pub. The first song I heard playing when we got in was, Total Eclipse of the Heart. I was like, I know this song. 

I met all his friends, and despite a slight language barrier, had many long, comical conversations. Expessive faces and alcohol can bridge many divides.

I felt accepted among strangers and empowered to live more adventurously. 

Was I terrified? Hell, yes!! 

But I hung onto Marco’s slim, fit waist and tried not to freak out as we swerved and sped to the next town. 

Nothing happened between me and Marco, except a few letters, but there was some real, although unspoken, electricity.

Sometimes, despite possibility of metaphoric Ninjas, that might sabotage your state of mind, you just need to hop on the back of “Marco’s bike” and hold on.

The Scenic Route: Day 17

Grand De-Signing 

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Super anxious and glittery today. Maybe I need to cut back on the coffee.

I snapped at Mom. 

Because I’m having an edgy day, I debated with myself on whether I should go to the Ed Piskor book signing at Phantom of the Attic. I really wanted to get a copy of the Marvel Treasury Edition of X-Men Grand Design, and maybe I would get one for my godson. His birthday is tomorrow. 

Hopefully I wouldn’t run in to anybody and I wouldn’t make a fool out of myself trying to make small talk with Mr. Piskor. 

I waited for about 10 minutes  before I went and reminded myself that I need to conquer the things that terrify me. Hopefully there wouldn’t be too long of a line.

I found a parking space, which is a rarity on Craig St at this time of day, so I thought it was a good sign.

When I got to Phantom, the WTAE cameraman walked up the stairs in front of me. No way I’d get interviewed. He’s probably had to set up. I’ll be in and out before that. 

When I got up the stairs I waved hello to Wayne and shook Geofferi’s hand.

There was no line. I went up to the table and shook Ed’s hand and thanked him for creating this epic X-Men project. I took 2 copies and had one signed to me and one to my godson. I noticed there were some issues left of the special cover with a very creepy Mastermind, and asked him to sign it. He told me a little anecdote about that cover and I thanked him again. 

I walked over to the register. When I turned to look back at the signing table, there was a camera in my face. “Would you mind if I asked you a few questions,” the cameraman asked. 

“Sure,” I lied, secretly wanting to turn invisible.

The next few minutes were a blur. I can’t really remember what I said. Hopefully it will end up on the cutting room floor. 

That is all.

The timer just dinged.

The Scenic Route: Day 16

Reflections on The Chief’s Poetry Forum

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The rain way pouring down on the roof as I took my morning bathroom visit. I knew we were to have storms later in the day, but I didn’t think it would be so bad, so early. 

At 11 am, our grocery delivery was scheduled, so there was an excitement in the air. The idea of having all your groceries delivered is almost too much to imagine. Last night, Mom and I filled up our virtual grocery cart from her office. We picked the Asiago Cheese bread we are addicted to, and all the things we would normally write on a list and usually forget on the kitchen counter before going. We used to actually make it into a game, to see if we ended up getting all the things on the list that remained at home. We always forgot something and added something we didn’t have on the list. 

Not this time. 

It seems so luxurious and fru-fru to have your groceries delivered, but it was worth it. Mom was so excited, she seemed somehow lifted from below. Like she had a virtual Beyoncé hair-fan following her around, causing her hair to to dance around her face. 

She exclaimed, “I’m so excited, I could pee!”

She will probably disown me for printing that, but it was worth it. 

It was like Christmas in April. 

I would have paid twice the delivery fee (which wasn’t too bad) to see her intense glee at the delivery.

Despite the rain, the woman who delivered our groceries was friendly and happy. 

Within a few minutes of her leaving, we had all the groceries put away. 

Not bad for a Blue Tuesday.

I still have 28 minutes.

When I was in college, from 1990-1996 (yes, I took the scenic route), I had a group of friends I made in poetry class that I dubbed the Chief’s Poetry Forum. We took almost all of our poetry classes together and frequently met up at Chief’s Café to end the night. They sold a double Jim & Ginger for like a $1.95 and Cherry Bombs for 50 cents (maraschino cherries soaked in grain alcohol). The five of us would monopolize the back tables and stay until close. Sometimes we had impromptu poetry readings at 1:30 in the morning. They didn’t care. As long as we weren’t fighting. Fights broke out frequently, and everyone knew to just pick up your glasses as they wrestled on your table briefly before being thrown out. One night there was a girl with a whip on the bar. No one gave her a second look. 

I lived a block away in a house that has since burned down following a grizzly series of events. If you drive past it now, you can still see the stairs leading up to it, but the house is just a collection of weeds. 

There was a back porch that faced nothing but a hillside, and we put our Milwaukee’s Best in gaudy goblets, and imagined we were someplace fabulous. I even wrote a poem about it, but I changed the beer to Iron City because it sounded better, “Reflections on our Iron City”. It’s currently in a frame in the living room. 

I’m not a successful poet, and The Chief’s Poetry Forum was not the Beat Generation of Generation X, but we had good times. 

Sometimes that’s all you can ask, or expect out of life, for things to go well. 

Times up.

© 2014