Monthly Archives: May 2017

Death, the Medial Sinus, and Depression

I’ve been feeling  stuck the past couple of weeks, and then some. “Stuck” is one of those polite euphemisms for “the sharp teeth of another depression episode gnawing on my toes.”

The manager notices it. The wife notices it. Heck, even the teenage scion notices but is too enmeshed in her own drama to say anything.  (Fair enough – high school is a serious challenge, after all.)

So what gives?

I’m swimming through a particular confluence of things: three deaths in the extended family, the oh-so-damn slow recover from my last sinus surgery in December, and a lack of professional opportunity. (The last one refers to my day gig, not writing.)

Death: My aunt Pat passed away recently after several rounds of cancer. She is my father’s last sibling, so that basically leaves him an orphan at the tender age of nearly 89. I had the occasion to spend the afternoon with Pat last month because of a business meeting in nearby San Diego.

That is a lie. I had no meeting. I wanted to see my aunt before she died, rather than say my goodbyes at the funeral/celebration of life. So I told my manager I was going to take my bereavement leave “early” and flew down to San Diego.

Basically, I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, or put any pressure on anyone. I simply wanted to pay my respects, bring her some flowers, and spend some time before the Reaper showed up.

So I did, and managed not to lose it. It’s hard seeing people when they’re sick. And terminal cancer is sick. (Special thanks to my Best Man in Irvine, Dan Malcor, for driving down to hang with me for a few hours before my return flight. True friendship, that.)

A few days later, I learned that my uncle (by marriage) Bob had passed away. He lived near my parents and was an absolute character. He went into the hospital for a procedure and the Reaper punched his card.

And the third death: Ratrani, our long-suffering middle cat.

So my dance card is pretty full on that subject. Moving on.

Sinues: I had two nasal surgeries last year. Normally, the recovery time for an intranasal procedure is about 6 weeks. Maybe 8. However, I’ve been dealing with the aftereffects for five months. Either I’m one of those lucky folks who don’t heal fast, or the benign tumor left behind some friends. My next followup with the surgeon isn’t until July. In the meantime, I feel like it’s Allergy Season all the damn time around here. Which puts me in a less-than jovial mood.

Work: Finally, I made the decision to change jobs, which is turning out to be much harder than I thought. I have my vacation booked for the summer, but after that, I’m ready to move on. There’s no growth potential here (even my manager agrees) and more to the point, the level of  dysfunction is hard-wired into the company’s DNA. They won’t change, and I don’t want to settle.

Unfortunately, despite the local heated economy, the only nibbles I get are for contract gigs, or regular jobs down in San Jose, which is a commute of epic proportions.

And then there’s the craven Republican congress trying to make life hellish for all of us. Let us not speak of that.

So now what?

The first step is acknowledging the Big D. I see you, Mr. Gray.

Next is ticking the boxes: food, water, sleep, a good book.

Then reaching out to friends.

Then remembering that I sold a pro story recently, and have loads of stuff in the WIP file.

Then sitting down in zazen, or with a cup of tea, or a cold vodka, and breathing.


Still here.

Okay, I can do this.

Thanks for listening.

4-star weekend

It’s spring, which means Paradise Lost (7, in case you’re counting). This was my fourth attendance, so my badge bore witness to it.

We had quite the variety this year: one-star retreat only folks, dipping their toes into the alcoholic punch of neo pros; five-star veterans, and of course, the founder, Sean Patrick Kelley, carrying around seven stars like the blessing of some demented deity.

This weekend happened to coincide with Fiesta, a 2+ day celebration in downtown San Antonio in which thousands of raucous folk clog the sidewalks (and parks and plazas and hotels) as if Mardi Gras and an Oakland Raiders Tailgate Party had a child and raised it south of the Rio Grande.

So it was, ah, busy. And loud. Fiesta apparently draws a lot of competition for its events: Loudest Continuous Car Horn Exchange (1 AM division), Weirdest Electric Parade Floats, and Highest Number of Unlicensed Street Grills.

Fortunately, we had several catered meals at the event, and plenty of space in the lovely Drury hotel to hang out between scheduled lectures and critique sessions.  There really wasn’t much need to go outside, except to forage supplies for the Social Suite bar.

My new contribution to the suite was NOLA from St. George Spirits here in Alameda. The coffee liqueur got many positive reviews. (“I’d have this for breakfast!” –Chris from Chicago) Absinthe and Buddha’s Hand vodka also made return appearances.

Since this was my fourth year as a critique participant, it felt less like a bacchanalia and more like a family reunion. I met some new writers, some of whom will probably become friends, and reconnected with many good souls from Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox.

I received great feedback on my submission short story, listened to excellent lectures (and very funny anecdotes) from Jaye Wells, Mary Anne Mohanraj, DongWon Song, and generally recharged.

There was, however, no traditional game of Cards Against Humanity. This year, people seemed more inclined (on Saturday, at least) to break into small groups for quieter conversation.

Well, a lot has happened since 2016, especially since October.

There were other things, of course, plot-breaking and games of Werewolf, free books (!), surprise guests, gift exchanges, and tearful farewells.

I’m proud and very happy to call these folks my tribe, and they help keep me sane, and keep me honest, and inspire me to be a better writer. And a happier one.

What more could you ask?

See you next year, Buddha willing.

(Can you find 6 Fire Wombats in this picture?)