The Devil’s Alaskan Adventure

Alaska, The Devil, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“Guess who’s back?” The Devil asked excitedly as he strode confidently across the living room.  “I brought wings!”

As always, he was well dressed in an impeccably tailored suit.  In each hand, he held a platter overflowing with his famous Hellfire Wings.

“Where have you been?” I asked with a hint of annoyance in my voice as my stomach grumbled at the smell of the wings.

“I have been on a much needed vacation,” Lucifer explained with a smile.  “Took a cruise to Alaska.”

He placed the wings on the living room table.  Then he snapped his fingers, which made a case of Snapple appear on top of the cooler.

“Vacation?” I asked dubiously.  “I thought you were too busy to ever take off for any extended period of time.  And why Alaska?”

The Prince of Darkness sat down on what he liked to think of as his end of the couch.

Alaska, The Devil, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“Have you ever been to Alaska?” he asked like I was the one in this room who was off his rocker.  “It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  Plus, with the conditions in Hell, I like to spend time in colder locales.  Why do you think I hang out in Maine?”

“To drive me insane,” I quipped.  “I thought that much was obvious.”

I grabbed a wing and devoured it in one gulp.  Then quickly took another.

“As for my decision to finally take a vacation,” Satan continued, “I realized that with the current state of your country, there was no need for me to work so hard.  America is going to Hell.  Quite literally.  We have the Republicans to thank for that.”

“We don’t call them the Grand Old Party for nothing,” I chimed in as I shoved another Hellfire Wing into my face hole.

My guest flashed a devilish grin.

“I used to break my back trying to recruit souls,” The Devil informed me.  “And all the things I had to promise in return.  It was ridiculous.  Now, I just let Trump and his cronies do the work for me.  Let them spread the hatred, the bigotry, the close-minded ugliness that sends souls directly to my doorstep at no cost to me.”

“It has been a rough couple of weeks for the United States,” I agreed as I snatched a Snapple and then downed half the bottle in one swig.

Lucifer was kind enough to hand me a handkerchief, and then motion that I had Hellfire Sauce all over my face.

I nodded my thanks and did my best to clean an area that was only going to get dirty again because I intended to eat a ridiculous amount of wings.

Alaska, The Devil, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“You’ve had Trump on his usual rampages,” The Prince of Darkness stated.  “Then there’s Omarosa with her book and secret tapes, Bob Woodward’s book, Stormy Daniels with her book…if nothing else, President Trump is really promoting writing in America.  Then there’s this nonsense with Brett Kavanaugh and his nomination.”

“You went away to Alaska, and the country slipped even further down the slope towards the fiery depths of Hell,” I observed.  “It’s almost as if having you around kept the Republicans in check, but once you were gone, they didn’t have to hide their horns and pitchforks anymore.”

“I always assumed Trump was trying to hide a set of horns under that awkward rug he wears,” Satan chuckled.  “As long as he understands that my pitchfork is the biggest.  And from what I recently read in Stormy’s book, it’s not even close.”

I laughed so hard that I actually spit Hellfire Wing bits across the room.

“So you are okay with the Republicans doing the legwork for you?” I queried as I hurried to clean up the mess before the sauce burned a hole through my hardwood floor.

“Most definitely,” The Devil confirmed.  “I’ve been at this for centuries, and I could use a little me time.  And to think, I had absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s winning the election.  Had I known his victory would make my life easier, I might’s saved the Russians the trouble and rigged it myself.”

Alaska, The Devil, short story, humor, Modern Philosopher“But you let Putin have his fun,” I reminded him.  “I’m sure it’s good for your brand to keep all the evil heads of state happy.”

“That’s a good point,” Lucifer agreed.  “Vlad can get very moody, and the last thing I need is for him to decide to become a good guy or step down because he’s not having enough fun over on his side of the world.”

I just nodded and kept eating.  I was sad at the state of the world, and my country’s part in it, but there was nothing I could do about it.  At least not now.

So why not just stuff my face with the greatest chicken wings in the world, and maybe say an extra prayer tonight that the midterm elections will begin to make it all better…

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The Not So Magnificent Seven

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherSometimes, the road rises up to kick my ass, Modern Philosophers.

It seems that today is one such day.

When that happens, I guess it becomes a matter of how I respond to that challenge.

It has been incredibly windy here since last night.  The windows of The House on the Hill have been rattling, and I’m worried that a pack of big bad wolves is trying to blow my house down.

But I didn’t let the weather conditions prevent me from going on my morning run.  Saturdays are when I work on distance, so I was keen to get out there with the wind at my back and pile up the miles.

Just as long as I didn’t get blown off to Kansas, and land on a Wicked Witch with a pair of snazzy red shoes.

It definitely felt like Fall, and that was a good sign.  This is my favorite season for running because of the Goldilocks weather.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Just right.

But the wind could not be ignored.  It made it seem like I was doing resistance training as I fought against it on my way out the road.  But I just made that part of the challenge.

Whenever I could, I ran into the powerful gusts.  When the wind tried to push me down the block, I fought harder to go in the direction I desired.

Seven, running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherMaybe I was being a glutton for punishment.

Perhaps I didn’t want to be accused of sloth.

I just think it was a matter of pride.

Whatever it was, I kept propelling myself down the road, determined to go seven.

It was a rough run, but that’s how I know I was doing it right.  I’ve always said that if I feel too good after a run, I haven’t given my best effort.

I felt like crap when I finally made it back to The House on the Hill.

My knees ached.  My legs were heavy.  I had sweat in my ears.  How do you get sweat in your ears?  I’m still befuddled.

Even now, hours later, as I sit here watching the Notre Dame game, I’m very sore and moving quite slowly.

I haven’t gathered as many steps as I usually do on a Saturday because I’m tired and it hurts to force myself into an upright position.

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherBut you know what?

I ran seven miles today.

I’m suffering a little now, but it’s the good kind of pain.  This is how accomplishment feels.  And dedication.

The wind is still rattling the windows of The House on the Hill, but it didn’t rattle me on my run.  It just made me work harder, and kick a little more ass.

It wasn’t a magnificent seven miles, but at least it didn’t end with my head in a box…

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Is The House On The Hill On Elm Street?

nightmares, Freddy Krueger, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’m beginning to think The House on the Hill has relocated to Elm Street, Modern Philosophers.

I’ve always had nightmares, but over the last few nights, they’ve really been disturbing.  The kind that makes you jumpy all day.

It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve been humming the Freddy Krueger song all day…

One, two Freddy’s coming for you…

Of course, the most bothersome part is the recurring dream.  Or I should clarify, the recurring “star” at the center of these midnight movies of the mind.

Apparently, I have my own Freddy Krueger.

Only this one doesn’t have a burned face, trademark fedora and sweater, and a glove that can end lives while also cutting steaks.

No, my disturbing dream demon is a blue eyed blonde.

The one who once wore a little white dress and stood next to me on an altar.

nightmares, Freddy Krueger, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’ve never understood why I dream about my ex-wife so frequently.  I don’t see her or talk to her, have no contact with her, and never think about her.

Three, four better lock your door…

Somehow, however, she has burrowed deep into my subconscious and clearly has no intention of leaving.  I’m not sure where our divorce papers are, but maybe this was part of the settlement, and I simply didn’t realize it at the time.

Sure, I figured she might pop into my dreams a little more often now that I’m writing this TV series about my time at college, which is when we met.

To this point, though, her character has barely received a mention.  She pops up maybe once an episode, and even then, it’s just for a fleeting moment.

It’s almost as if her character is a ghost that haunts the story because I know that she will eventually become a major character.  I’m aware that she’s out there lurking, maybe hiding around the next corner or under my character’s bed.

Five, six grab your crucifix…

But that doesn’t explain the increase in intensity of the dreams.

As always, they begin either with her breaking up with me, or my realizing that my marriage has ended and then desperately trying to get her to take me back.

nightmares, Freddy Krueger, humor, Modern PhilosopherI never dream about us being happy together, which I thought might happen now that my mind is opening up old memories of our days at NYU.

There is a chance, however slight, that I do have happy, rainbows and unicorns dreams about her, but I simply don’t remember them because the nightmares demand far too much of my attention.

So why am I so worried about these nightmares now, and asking if The House on the Hill has magically moved to Elm Street?

Because two nights ago, I had the most horrible nightmare in a long time.

It veered from the regular script, and that alone was enough to freak me out.  But what really got to me was the subject matter.  I’m not going to share it because it will just unnerve me yet again, and it’s a creepy, rainy night.

Seven, eight gonna stay up late…

What I will share, though, is that for the first time, the nightmare caused me to care about my ex-wife, worry about her, and want to reach out to make sure she was okay.

Of course, I eventually realized it was just a dream and made no attempt to contact her.

But the mere fact that I felt some inkling of compassion and concern for the person who crushed my heart, destroyed my life, and sent me spiraling into the abyss, scares the crap out of me.

Freddy Krueger ain’t got nothing on her!

Hopefully, these nightmares end soon because I’d really like to get a good night’s sleep.

Nine, ten never sleep again…

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Why Do I Keep Running?

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherThe other day, someone asked me why I keep running, Modern Philosophers.

I immediately realized that was a great philosophical question to tackle on the blog, but I wanted to give it some thought first.

The more I pondered the query, the more I realized that I had been the one who had posed the question.

Why the hell do I keep running?  I ask myself that every morning before dawn when the alarm clock wakes me up to send me on my merry, running way.

I really just want to hurl the clock out the window, pull the covers up over my head, and go back to sleep.

And yet, I always get out of bed and go for my morning run.

So why do I do it?

Running gives me some control over my life.  So much is out of my hands, and I often feel like a puppet with a sadistic master yanking at my strings.

But when I run, I am taking control, to some degree at least, of my personal health and wellness.  I’m making my well being a priority, and giving myself a fighting chance in the ongoing battle against my family’s screwy genetics.

By running five days a week, I’m reducing my weight, increasing my health, and putting out there that I care about myself and want to be a healthier person.

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherRunning boosts my self-confidence.  Every day that I fight off the urge to sleep an extra hour makes me feel better about myself.  I am pushing myself to be a better version of me and that deserves a pat on the back.

I like that my friends and colleagues think of me as a runner, and come to me for advice on getting healthy and setting up a wellness routine.

Being known at the dedicated runner is much better for the ego than being thoughts of as the pathetic single guy, or the crazy cat man.

When I look in the mirror, or step on the scale, it really hits home that I am doing something really important.  The results boost my confidence, and this carries over into other aspects of my life.  I’m definitely more confident about my writing now.  I feel like I carry myself differently, and I’m more outgoing and not as introverted.

I keep running because I like the competitive aspect.  We have a Wellness program at work, and use the Virgin Pulse App to track our progress.  I have always been at the top of the list for number of weekly steps, and I am proud of that status.

By running on a regular basis, I keep myself in the top position, where I can look down at my coworkers and urge them to try to catch me.  Just this week, a colleague boasted in a meeting that she was setting her sights on the top spot of the Wellness rankings.

That certainly got my running juices flowing.  I’ve gone on longer runs all week, started up my after dinner walks again, and made a conscious effort to dream about running.

As a result, I have increased my lead in the standings.

And had some very strange dreams…

I also have to admit that I keep running because I think it will help my chances of finding someone special.  The confidence boost form running makes me feel more confident when it comes to talking to members of the fairer sex.

running, health, fitness, humor, Modern PhilosopherI used to look in the mirror and think, “You’re big, fat, and funny looking.  No one is ever going to fall in love with you.”

Now that I’ve lost 65 lbs from all this running, I’ve knocked “big” and “fat” off the list, so now I’m only burdened with being funny looking.  That’s definitely got to help my chances with the ladies, right?

In the end, I keep running because the positives of the annoying activity far outweigh the negatives.  Even though it would be much easier to be lazy, adding a little challenge to my life cannot be a bad thing.

So what about you, Modern Philosophers?  Why do you keep doing something in your life that is annoying and/or a challenge?

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Clearing The Fog In My Mind

coping, mental health, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherWe all fall into funks at one time or another, Modern Philosophers, but not necessarily for the same reasons.

Mine are usually related to one of three things:

My inability to support myself as a full time writer.

My frustration at being perpetually single.

Financial stress.

With those forces working against me, it can be quite the struggle to clear the dark clouds to let in the sunshine.

I’ve found that running is a great coping skill, but at times, there aren’t enough miles on the planet to clear the fog in my mind.

Lately, however, I have been in a very good place.  I’m still running five days a week, but it has been the addition of a steady diet of writing this TV series inspired by my time at college that has really made a difference.

Even though I’m writing this show on a purely speculative basis, I’m so immersed in the project that I feel like a full time writer.

I’ve already written three full episodes, and I’m hard at work on the outline for episode four.  It took me about a week to write both the Pilot and Episode Two, but I cranked out Episode Three in just two days last weekend.

That is how quickly the ideas are flowing, and how excited I am to get the stories out of my head and into script form.

Every episode starts as an outline, which is definitely something new for me, but the only way to handle a project this size.  Over the course of the week, I tinker with the outline.  Usually this means that more scenes get added as I work out the flow and structure of the episode in my head.

coping, mental health, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherWhat also happens, though, is that this week long “percolation process” allows me to write very specific notes about every scene.  As I’ve shared with you before, when I’m running or on a long walk, my writing project plays out in my mind like a movie, or in this case, a television episode.

I actually see the characters moving in the scene, and hear their dialogue.  All those actions make it into the script as screen direction.  I make very specific notes about the dialogue so it isn’t forgotten.

I run five days a week, and go for long walks several times a day, which means that my mind is constantly at work writing the episode.  By time I actually sit down with my laptop, all I need to do is move the story from my mind to the page.

Even then, though, my work isn’t done.  As I’m writing, the characters continue to speak to me, and the story leads me in directions I never expected.

Take Episode Three, for example.  I knew one of the first scenes began with the two main characters talking about a very specific subject.  The outline then stated that the character based on my friend Fitz enters the room and joins the conversation.

While I was writing the scene, a hilarious entrance for Fitz’s character popped into my head.  That went right into the script, and I just kept going.

Two scenes that were not in the completed outline made it into Episode Three because inspiration hit while I was writing.

To circle around to the beginning of this post, it’s impossible for me to be in a funk when I’m this creative.  My mind is overflowing with story ideas, so there’s no room for the thoughts that summon the black clouds.

coping, mental health, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherEven if this series never gets made, I have found a great way to clear the mental fog, and keep myself in a very positive frame of mind.

Not only has this been a blast to write, but it has also been so much fun reconnecting with my friends Fitz and Dave.  They read every episode and pepper me with feedback.

In an email the other day, Fitz wrote: “I take issue with my character being portrayed as a man whore. Then again, it is very important to be accurate.”

Being able to talk to them about the episodes makes me feel like a writer with a production team.  Just shooting the $%^& with them inspires further story ideas.  I truly can’t believe how much I’d forgotten about my time at NYU, and it has been like a little time travel adventure going back to the dorm and reliving some of the best years of my life.

Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem of my being single.  Then again, I’ve created a best friend for my lead character, and she is basically an amalgam of all the cool, platonic female friends I’ve had over the years.

So in my mind, at least, I’ve had some really great company over the past few weeks.

This is Maine, and crazy things happen.  Maybe a bolt of lightning will strike my computer and magically bring the best friend character to life.  I’ve seen Weird Science, so there is a precedent for something like this to happen!

Weird Science, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherDon’t worry.  I haven’t fallen that far down the rabbit hole.  But I do leave my laptop out on the porch when the forecast calls for heavy rain and lightning.  You know, just in case.

The take away from all this, of course, is that I’m in a very positive place right now and focused on an even better future.

I have emailed all three episodes to my producer, and I’m very impatiently awaiting his feedback.  Maybe I need to write Episode Four now to keep myself distracted…

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Back To The Grind

MTV, life, humor, back to work, Modern PhilosopherI was not happy when the alarm went off this morning, Modern Philosophers.

Not only did it mean that my vacation was over and I had to return to work, but it also roused me from a very cool dream.

I was a writer for The Conners, the new show that has risen from the ashes of Roseanne’s racist Twitter tirades.

I had been tasked with writing the Christmas episode, and everyone was eager to learn how I was going to deck the halls with holiday humor while the Ghost of Roseanne Past haunted the Conner family.

I was definitely up for the challenge.  I had the writers’ room hanging on my every word, and the fate of those magical Christmas ratings hung on my creative talents.

The Conners, life, humor, Modern PhilosopherBut before I could explain how I was going to bring the Christmas magic, the stupid alarm clock brought me back to reality.

And as Ben Stiller, Winona Ryder, and Ethan Hawke taught us so well, reality bites.

Reality Bites, Winona Ryder, Ben Stiller, Ethan HawkeDespite my better judgment screaming at me that staying in bed was the proper move for my sanity and writing career, I still got out from under the covers.

I even managed to run four miles.

I’m not going to lie.  I definitely felt anxious about going back to work.  My vacation had been so relaxing and productive that I had completely grown accustomed to my Writer Boy persona.

I had no desire to shed that comfortable skin and go back to the daily grind.

I had outlined Episode Three of the TV series last night as the sun set on my vacation, and I felt like I was abandoning my characters to return to my other job.

Even though there was an enormous amount of work waiting for me, I still managed to find a way to soothe my Inner Writer.

I went for a walk on all three of my breaks, and as I did laps around the parking lot, I mentally plotted out the scenes of Episode Three.  They played like a TV show in my mind, so it was as if my character were right there with me, getting their steps.

Heigh Ho, Seven Dwarfs, back to work, life, humorHeigh Ho, Heigh Ho, back to work, and still writing, though…

Knowing that the front porch, my laptop, and my characters were waiting for me most certainly got me through what felt like the longest day in history.

When I finally did get home, I made a very quick wardrobe switch.

Here’s what I decided to wear, grabbing the shirt with no hesitation…

Kylo Ren, Star Wars, the dark side, humor, Modern PhilosopherSomething about the end of vacation, having to go back to work, the fading of the light, and the call of the dark just made this seem like the perfect shirt for a night of writing.

How was your Tuesday? Do you feel like the first day back after vacation is the longest day on record? Do you like my tee shirt?

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Do Go Chasing Waterfalls

summer, vacation, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherHappy Labor Day, Modern Philosophers!

This holiday, which has traditionally marked the end of summer, is actually the last day of my vacation.

I’m not looking forward to rejoining the rat race tomorrow, but I definitely took advantage of this time off.  I relaxed, I ran, and I did a ton of writing.  Episode Two of my TV series about life at college is done, and I am hard at work outlining Episode Three.

I decided to go for a walk along the waterfront this morning to enjoy the view and gorgeous weather.

Of course, my mind never stops, so as I took in all the beauty my surroundings had to offer, I was mentally writing key scenes in the next episode.

I know that nothing might come of this project, but it has stirred something inside of me. It’s as if it has awakened my slumbering inner writer, and reminded me of the special talent I possess that I rarely use to its full extent.

Now that it has been awakened, I want to explore its boundaries, push its limits, and find out if it could lead to a more fulfilling life for me.

Kind of sounds like the story of someone I know and adore…

Rey, Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Modern PhilosopherOkay, so I might not quite be Rey with the Force awakening inside me, but it certainly feels like how I imagine it would have been for my favorite Jedi.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though the song warns us to don’t be chasing waterfalls, I want to go after this one and see what happens.

Even if the series never gets made, I haven’t felt this alive, creative, and like a full time writer in a very long time.

No, I don’t want to go back to my desk job tomorrow, but I will knowing full well that as soon as I get home, I’m going to be writing the next episode.

Yes, Modern Philosophers, I say that we need to follow our dreams, go after what makes us feel most alive, and definitely chase that waterfall.

And I hunted down mine this morning.  Here’s the proof…

summer, vacation, writing, humor, Modern PhilosopherI’ve still got half a day before my vacation ends, and I plan to make the most of it.  I will be camped out on this porch writing, typing up ideas, and editing the first two episodes.

Life is what you make of it, right?  I could sit here lamenting the end of my vacation, or I can keep working to create a brighter, more exciting future.

I choose the latter.  And I’ve got the waterfall picture to prove it!

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