Thursday, May 24, 2012


We're all monkeys dancing to the hurdy-gurdy, and the organ grinder is turning the crank. Flash your best simian smile, tip your tiny hat and dance a jig as the music fills the street corner. Maybe if you're fortunate, a passer-by will throw you a coin or a peanut.

Maybe you slave for 20 years with your head in front of a computer screen, typing like an idiot savant on quaaludes as the band blasts notes in your ears. Your spine curves forward, your chest hurts, yet you continually peck at that keyboard like making love to a woman.

You continually do this because if you don't, you'll die.

Writing is how you conquer your fears, how you stop the bullies, how you deal with an insane, nonsensical world.

It's a coping mechanism, you crazy monkey.

Scamper up a tree, hang by your tail and fling your poo at those who deserve a faceful of feces.

Writing is respectable work for sociopaths, slackers and poverty-stricken dreamers who believe their words have impact.

To the average meat-eating bed-blooded American, writing is a fool's folly. It is mental masturbation for pseudo-intellectuals and ne'er-do-wells and socialist finks. To the masses, writing is a waste of time and a ticket to the poorhouse.

Yet monkey continues to dance to the beat, shaking his little monkey ass off. He dances until his feet bleed and until he passes out from exhaustion. He dances to entertain the slack-jawed yokels who can't dance.

The organ grinder turns the handle, which requires no skill. He stands idle and takes the money from the adoring crowd.

The monkey does all the work, sweating and getting arthritis and stumbling without a break.

Yet in the end, the money receives the applause, not the dullard cranking the hurdy-gurdy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stress Puppy

As a reporter, I do my best writing on deadline. With my back ensconced against the wall, I dig deep into the recesses of my primal writing brain and enter a tranquil, Zen-like state. Words start flowing, willed into life by my nimble fingers typing like whirlwinds on the keyboard. It's a forced birth, pushed forth from the mind-womb with a cacophony of screaming.

When all goes well, I write like a motherfucker on deadline, thriving on the last-minute pressure. Like this week, with Ocean City's election. In addition to picking city council candidates, voters had to choose to accept or reject an initiative which would make it legal for patrons to bring alcohol into certain qualifying restaurants. Two big stories had to be written on deadline and I got both of those fuckers done in under an hour.

Lately, there is no joy in Mudville, however. Over the past month, I've been extremely stressed out. Work used to be a mundane thing, something one shows up for. You go through the motions and overall, everything is benign and okay. Once in a while, you have pockets idiocy with people, but all-in-all, it's just work.

Until a month ago, I was reasonably content. I've noticed a pissing contest between certain employees here. I'm not naming names. They just don't know how to act professionally, nor are they courteous towards each other. There's this really shitty juvenile attitude with some members of the advertising department and another employee.

Putting it bluntly, they fight. I'm talking pitched, screaming battles in the office. If this place were a private residence, the police would be making regular domestic disturbance calls.

On one occasion, the editor, who was working in the next room, had to leave his office, enter the main office area to admonish these knuckleheads.

I've tried noise-cancelling headphones, but they don't work. Over the last month, I've been extremely busy with several articles. I wrote a 10,000-word World War II piece, a piece on the Ocean City Tabernacle, interviewed all nine city council candidates and gone to four city council meetings. Not to mention election stories and other issues which cropped up.

Tremendous work volume, plus a toxic working environment equals stress. Part of this problem is my lack of exercise. I used to hit the gym on a semi-regular basis, but haven't done so since my physical therapy for a herniated disc ended six months ago. I try to walk whenever I can, but life just seems to gravitate between work and home, with precious little respite in between.

Yesterday I noticed a rash and welts on my back, following a weekend of pains across half of my chest. My doctor diagnosed me with shingles, which I learned is stress-induced. So I've got that little present to deal with. If the Valtrex he prescribed doesn't kill me, I should be a-okay in a month or less.

So it's come down to this:

I'm resolving to take better care of myself and manage my stress. I will begin an exercise regimen, get at least eight hours of sleep and find time in the day to meditate and relax.

I will take it easy.

I will not sit in my office for long periods of time. Sitting is dangerous, and I'd just sit in front of the computer, check Facebook nervously and surf the Internet. I'm putting the brakes on that shit right now.

I will allow the positive vibes into my life and expunge the negative. I will spend more time with those who love me, namely my girlfriend, my friends and family.

I will stop taking everything so damn seriously.

This new journey I'm undertaking will allow me to be a calmer and better person.

To quote Kramer from Seinfeld, "Serenity now!"