Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye, 2013

For me, 2013 felt like a year in exile. Having lost my apartment to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, I’d been living at the family beach compound, paying rent, eking out a meager existence. Over 80 percent of my belongings that survived the storm have been in storage for the last 13 months.

So 2013 was limbo.


A transient state of existence.

I feel like I should be moving on, pulling up stakes and exploring whatever’s over the horizon.
The shore is sand and surf and incestuous politics. Small towns with boardwalks and garish condominiums. It wears on you after a while. The lack of intellectual stimulation. A drought of new ideas and people. A foreboding sense that everything is run by the same tribe and anything from the outside is anathema.

I’ve felt this crushing sense of mediocrity for a long time.

2013 crystalized it for me, living on the edge, not having my own place.

Staying here just for the job, a career I’ve had for 20 years.

So what kind of end-of-the-year summary is this?

Some good things and bad things happened in 2013. No major catastrophes, thank God. Yet no stunning victories, either. Just baby steps along the “Time Marches On” montage occurring in my head every Dec. 31.

Being blunt, I’m very lucky. Blessed, even. Fortunate to have my family and a wonderful girlfriend and soulmate in my life. They keep me sane and grounded and loved and for this I’m eternally grateful.

So let’s crank this shit out so I can ring in the new year drunk off my ass:

Still In Love. Yep. Elnie is still with me, and tells me she loves me every day. This girl is like luggage – I’ll have her for life. We celebrated our one-year living together milestone in June, and three years dating in July. Not too shabby.

Diabetic Cat. Smuttynose, my furry feline companion since 2000 started looking peaked, emaciated and sickly during the summer. His fur, a tattered mess, his third eyelid closing. After a trip to the vet, we found out he has diabetes. We now have to inject him with insulin twice a day. Now he’s put on weight and his eyelid receded, so he’s on the mend. Plus, he doesn’t urinate like a race horse. Had we not done anything, Smuttynose would’ve died.

New Car, New Computer, New Job Promotion. Adding to the changes, I sold my old car and bought a new Honda Civic, and in the spring purchased a shiny new MacBook Pro. I also was promoted from a lowly reporter to a managing editor. This comes with a modest – and I stress modest – pay increase, but I’m not complaining. It means more responsibility and learning additional skills, which I’m greatly anticipating. I’ll still file stories, but I’ll also prepare pages, write headlines and edit stories.

No Gencon. We couldn’t make it to Gencon this year. The August gaming convention is something I look forward to, but in 2013, it wasn’t in the cards. Maybe next year…

Ravaged Earth Second Revised Edition. This one’s a biggie. The second revised edition of my roleplaying game, Ravaged Earth, was released in May. Limited PDF release, with a softcover released at Gencon in August, making it doubly sad I didn’t attend the convention to promote the book. Still, having Ravaged Earth released in the form I’ve always wanted was a fulfillment of a dream. It’s 322 pages of pulpy goodness surrounded by Martians, weird science and fisticuffs.

Sickness Stalks Me Like A Plague. Okay, a bit dramatic here, but I did have a strep throat and a cold this year. Throw in a few upset stomachs, high blood pressure and bad cholesterol and I’m a ticking time bomb. Hope I get better in 2014. Maybe cybernetic enhancements will prolong my life.

Juicing. During the summer I watched “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”, a documentary about Australian businessman Joe Cross, who used a Breville juicer to help him lose weight. Obese and out of shape, Cross drank nothing but fresh juice for over a month and shed pounds. Bolstered by this touching infomercial, I bought a Breville juicer and started my juicing adventure in August. Here are the results: Joe Cross saved my life. I went from 214 pounds of sweaty American lardass to 194 pounds, and kept the weight off for five months and counting. Every morning I blend a unique concoction of kale, cucumber, celery, apples and carrots, or whatever else I have on hand. And it works. My ultimate goal is to continue juicing and exercising until I’m down to 184 pounds, my ideal weight.

The Novel. I’ve been trying to publish my satirical novel “Ecophreaks” for a few years now. Between manic bursts of energy, I’d pimp the thing out, usually receiving no responses or a polite “we’re not interested”. I never made it past the query stage. Apparently, humorous novels about the environmental movement, corporate greed and talking monkeys don’t sell. In March, a small book publisher in California expressed interest in the novel, which I sent to them. I finally passed the query phase and sent a chapter of the book. They wanted to read the entire thing! This was the furthest along I’ve ever come. Ultimately, they rejected the novel, saying they’d have to pass on it. I didn’t do much with the novel after that, but 2014 is a new year. I might try again. Self-publishing is out. Heard too many negative things about that. I’d rather have a funny novel gathering dust than a funny self-published novel nobody buys.

Writing Like A Demon. I haven’t exactly been shoving Cheetos in my maw and watching re-runs of “30 Rock” on Netflix. I’ve been writing. Like a fucking demon. Sometime in the fall, I got my writing mojo back and began frantically scribbling new tales. I finished a few short stories set in an alternative steampunk Paris, complete with magic and supernatural creatures. It’s a dark historical fantasy setting, and it’s beautiful. The mythology weaves itself over several stories, and Im about to complete a prequel which sets everything in motion. The ideas for this world germinated in my head for a long time, and it’s about time they come alive. The more I write, the more details reveal themselves. Hope to tell more stories wet in this universe in 2014.

Won Another Award. In 2013 I won a third place award for best feature in the New jersey Press Association's Better Newspaper Contest. The story was a feature about World War II veterans and the war's impact on the small coastal community I cover.

 Family and Friends. Spent time with relatives I haven't seen in years. Went to the family's church and had fun introducing my girlfriend to everyone, eating Armenian food and enjoying good company. Hung out with family at a Christmas party and played light saber duels with my cousin. Gaming with friends, played some pretty outstanding tabletop games: Boss Monster, Dominion, Cards Against Humanity, Smash Up!, Dixit, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Fortune and Glory. Good times!

             As far as resolutions for 2014 are concerned, I have one: to not live with regret. During a recent lunch with a friend, he told me how talented I was and that I was "wasting my time" writing for a weekly newspaper. He said I should venture out into the world of larger things, at least a metropolitan newsroom, where my talents could be appreciated. 

           When I told a family member about how my job wasn't that challenging, she replied "At least you like to write." Implication being, I should enjoy my job because I like to write.

            Thing is, journalism isn't what I like to write. I create characters, weave stories, forge worlds from words. It's much more rewarding struggling through a short story, fashioning all the plot hooks and building characters than it is sitting through a boring council meeting. 

            Yet journalism is how I make money. It's how I keep the bill collector at bay and the wolves from my door. It's not what will get me noticed, land me an agent or published in the real world. 

            Hard work crafting those stories will, not stringing together 500 words about the latest zoning ordinance. 

            I want to be braver when it comes to myself. I want to say yes to new experiences, not dodge them out of convenience. I'd like to network and develop a cadre of like-minded people who share the same goofy, geeky interests I do. 

            I'd like to finally be published, to entertain readers with my stories. For 2014, I'd like continue doing the insane thing I was put on Earth to do. Continue writing. 

Here's hoping 2014 brings opportunity, health, and success. Also, good books to read. 

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