Ch 1 – Sinkhole Salad

Bon Appétit Mon Ami –

*    *    *

I look forward to waking up in the morning.

That wasn’t always true.

Like a lot of folks, I was stuck in the muck of settling. A good-paying job with benefits. I hate that part of my life.

It didn’t matter that I was well regarded at work. I was only acting; playing the role of a competent middle-management corporate slug. My passionless career spanned 30 years with a wicked three-hour daily commute.

I was trapped inside a bowl of rotten lettuce and squishy tomatoes. My professional life had become a Sinkhole Salad and I was one of the stale croutons.

When I noticed the carpet tiles in my office cubicle turning into quicksand, I knew I was sinking fast. When you’re “fucked at 56” it’s time to write your anthem rock song and hit the road.

Thoughts of living in a trailer down by the river had a strange appeal. I concocted escape scenarios that involved selling off personal assets, torching my credit cards, and paying cash for a minimalist lifestyle. My laptop and a bedroll were all I needed.

Then, a miracle.

I had surgery to repair two herniated discs in my neck and was out of work for six weeks.

For the first time in 25 years I was away from my cubicle for more than a two-week period.

I dreaded going back to my desk job – preferring the process of having my neck opened up and two cadaver bones and a metal plate inserted into my spine. This much I knew: there is more to life than pining for another medical procedure.

1985. The year I graduated from college, gave up racing motorcycles, and got a “real job.” The same year my dream of becoming a novelist and screenwriter was only visible in the rear-view mirror of my new lease car.

30 years later…

FUCK. I needed a life do-over. Mostly though, I just needed a place to breathe, settle my mind, and reflect on what my life had become. I soon recalled how I used to think big and feel deeply. Back then, the future of limitless possibilities was real – it was marked by time, which I had plenty of.

Hell with all that. I would have settled for traveling back time for just one hour. When I exit my time machine at Anaheim Stadium on December 13, 1975, I would be sitting on my Honda CR 125cc at the starting line before the gate drops. On the evening of the High School Motocross Championship, the only thought entering my mind was getting the “hole shot” to the first turn.

A Legacy of Nurturing My Daughters’ Dreams

My daughter is attending USC’s Thornton School of Music. She is pursuing a career as a film composer. My other daughter works for an interior design firm in San Fransisco and is currently traveling in Spain and Italy for six weeks.

I made damn sure they never settled on a “comfortable career.” Being their role model of what not to do has put them on the road less traveled.

They will likely experience a few pot holes and maybe a ditch or two along the way, but they’ll do just fine. And in another 30 years or so they won’t be looking forward to a surgeon’s knife for a nice long vacation.

I set my career aflame leaving my seat in an office cubicle for a window seat at the corner cafe.

Now every day is balls-out forward motion. Since there are so many new roads to travel, I bought a Harley. What midlife crisis is complete without one?

012416FSTOPrtHR-120 (1)

Wisdom is Accumulated Courage

I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about the art of living. Make no mistake it is an art and always a work in progress. There are moments of clarity and action mixed with muddled periods of inaction. The “life changers” and “life settlers” that define one’s hopes and dreams.

With the benefit of time, however, I was able to look back and clearly see what caused me to go blind during crucial moments in my life.

The assessment process takes place sometime after the age of 50. This classic mid-life point is a part of our DNA; the severity of which determines the degree of one’s regret. Mine was more pronounced than most.

I quit work to write about it. How irresponsible and fucking cool is that?

I have a bunch of shit to share with you, including how to deal with bullshit in the office and how to throw it for distance on the ranch (seriously, I’ll reveal how I won the Cow Chip Toss Grand Championship). Lucky you.

And so, for hipsters of all ages, I invite you now to climb aboard my writer’s hog. Let’s take this badass ride together!

GO TO: Chapter 2 - Cage of Freedom


Ch 2 – Cage of Freedom

CAUTION If you find yourself in a sinkhole and can’t seem to get out, do not attempt a “selfie” Vulcan Mind Meld to feel better about yourself. Trust me on this.

The moment we settle for the “job that pays well” or the “stable job,” our ability to exercise free will is compromised.

I’m not suggesting that excellent pay and job security are not important. I have an issue with the word “settle.”

Many believe that charting a new career path that requires ending their current employment or striking out on their own is tantamount to shooting oneself in the foot. Since we need both feet for walking, people rarely do that. Unfortunately, if you don’t go after your dream early in life, you probably never will.

Humans are creatures of habit. In the natural world, they are not that much different than ants. After exploring their surroundings, ants form paths that resemble a Jackson Pollock painting until they eventually find a dead grasshopper to feed on. When something that plump and juicy suddenly appears, ants (humans) take pieces of it back to their nest (home). They share their good fortune with others (family). Ants create a “hot path” by producing scented chemicals called pheromones. Trails (transportation links) quickly form for others to follow.

Humans build highways, roads, and sidewalks increasing mobility to and from homes, workplaces, shops, etc. While using the Internet, the “web” appears to be complex at first with limitless apps and searchable sites to chose from. Complicated? Not really. These multiple pathways make our lives more efficient and comfortable, and eventually, they become the road most traveled.

Soon, as we age, taking the road less traveled is pushed further and further from our mind. Our dreams become distant memories or worse, they are stored into our sub-conscious as failures.

Office jobs pay well with excellent benefits. The truth is: once you get a taste of corporate crack, you are fucked for life, and, you’re not. Not as long as you follow company protocol in your professional life and remain sufficiently self indulgent in your personal life. Some call that being materialistic – or just another asshole BMW driver – or you simply like crack and now you can afford it.

Pattern of No Return

The American dream of upward mobility promises a better way of life. For many of us this can be accomplished through the employee/employer relationship, either in a government or a corporate job. Employees receive pay increases, healthcare, life insurance, and a retirement plan. Additional incentives, sometimes referred to as “perks of the job” come with the type of business or industry you are in.

If you work for a major university, your children may get a free ride if they meet the standard for admission. Airline industry employees receive travel deals and free flights. Upper management positions come with a company car, bonus pay, and stock options.

If the aim is to climb the management ladder, the stakes are high and highly competitive. One’s star may rise in the organization all the way to the top only to crash and burn in spectacular fashion. Relocated, lateraled, put into a window seat, or given a golden parachute are some of the business jargon terms used when a top executive falls from grace.

Position is power. Without it, professional lives crumble sometimes destroying personal lives. If you’ve bought into a safe harbor life style, you keep your lower grade job sucking the service sector or corporate tit until the day you retire or die which ever comes first.

Personal and professional lives merge – they always do. Many of us get married, move into better neighborhoods, and start families. In return, employers can expect their employees to stay put. And so it goes. Working for The Man solves the I-Just-Got-Out-of-College-and-I-Can’t-Find-a-Decent-Job-and-I’m-Tired-of-Eating-Beans Blues.

Government employees receive guaranteed employment and full retirement benefits after 20 years. It just makes good business sense to keep employees fat and happy. For one thing, it breeds loyalty and makes them less likely to jump ship.

What does this all mean? It’s the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between the cages we all live in.

A Brave New World

Baby boomers are familiar with the popular 1960s slogan: “Never trust anyone over 30.” Youth is a transitional state of mind characterized by a lack of life experience mixed with idealism and fuel to burn. If you are over 30, you have no doubt experienced the personal transformation in your own life.

Hippies became yuppies.

Likewise, hipsters will become appsters. An appster is a hipster who is less tactile and hands on. Fewer beards and laced boots. In the future they will become more 3D digital and VR reliant. He or she sells off their extensive vinyl record collection and vintage Polaroid camera to purchase the latest virtual reality fuck & suck technology. The dawn of perfecting the human “techno-orgasmic experience” without the complications that come with human contact and messy emotions. No clean up required.


Young people energetically resist bullshit, but often find themselves immersed in it. Every revolution in human history is awash in their blood. However, after the Animal House college years are behind them, their beer vomit dorm rooms become office cubicles with that sanitary napkin feel.

“Settling down” leads to accepting, which requires heavy doses of rationalizing. The ability to rationalize one’s circumstances and choices, and thereby mitigate the consequences, is essential for human survival. We all need to eat. That requires a job. Then we become a patron of the arts and support others dreams. See how rationalizing works?

Maybe so, but a lifestyle built on a lifetime of settling often comes at a price. For me, the price was my soul.

How are things in your cage?

Cage of freedom, that’s our prison
We are the jailer and captive combined
All the trappings of our own design

Cage of freedom, growing smaller
‘Til every wall now touches the skin

There’s no exit – there’s no entrance
Remember how we swallowed the key?

– Jon Anderson, Cage of Freedom (Metropolis)

GO TO: Chapter 3 - Sound of Settling


Ch 3 – Sound of Settling

Someday, I reasoned, I will find myself in a secure financial position, and then use that as a springboard to launch my dream career – the one I gave up on when I was 24. To make that possible, I needed to pay off my home loan and eliminate all consumer debt. Then I would quit work and become a full-time writer.

Meanwhile, I convinced myself, the goal of doing what I love full time will have to wait. So I downgraded my dream to a hobby. A hobby I worked at like a second job.

When Work Becomes a Job Your Dream Becomes a Hobby

I maintained a strict writing schedule during most nights. After my wife and kids went to bed and for the next 25 years I lived a double life. I became a hardcore hobbyist during the five hour period between 10:30pm and 3:30am. Most recently, I developed a potty-mouthed Japanese emoticon to keep me company…

¡¡¡( •̀ ᴗ •́ )و!!!

It spoke to me: “Write all night and It will come. Write like a mutha fucka, mutha fucka!”

“Who will Come? Who is It!” I asked. Clearly, I had seen the movie Field of Dreams one too many times.

My emoticon had the answer: “You’re It, dumbass. Write longer, sleep less. Your Breakthrough will come.”

OK, nothing like that actually happened. But those late nights were crazy. I was exhausted, getting at most about three hours sleep, typically two. I stubbornly held onto my dream. And someday I’ll make the transition from desk jockey to professional penman.

Burning the late night oil, a term used when whale oil was used in lamps to light homes at nightfall. I stayed up writing, sometimes until I saw the pale blue light of dawn. I believed I could and would succeed. Fiction. Fantasy. The stuff dreams are made of. My career aspirations as a writer were real. I just needed to work a little harder; stretch the night a little longer. I was delusional, maybe even a bit mad.

* * *

I never gave up believing that my novel would be published, or there would be a bidding war between studios for my screenplay. When that day comes, I will quit my office job and live happily ever after. Until then, I’m settling.

Aren’t most of us?

I’ve got a hunger
Twisting my stomach into knots
That my tongue was tied off

My brain’s repeating
“if you’ve got an impulse let it out”
But they never make it past my mouth.

This is the sound of settling

GO TO: Chapter 4 - Crack In The Wall