Death and the Blogger

It might be over—my three year run. My alter-ego as a blogger, a writer. Three years: daily, I opened my laptop and pounded out my thoughts—stream of consciousness—into small stories extracted from my life. Stories of triumph or regret. Running, mental health, parenting and alcoholism. Bitching, left wing commentary and pointless, over-thought drivel. Artistic and agitated, but now, all used up.

I medicated my Tourettes: Risperidone, the magic pill I’ve been seeking for years. It works. It squelches my tics, my unwanted movements, my embarrassing sounds, most of them, anyway. It steps on my OCD, my obsessive, omnipresent thoughts. The thoughts that fuel my writing. This was in August. I didn’t notice at first. It took a month to tap-out my obsessions—the lingering diatribes trapped in my head, awaiting escape into my blog.

I’ve been on facebook for a year now. I joined so I could link my blog posts. I woke up this morning to one of those “share your memories” suggestions. A reminder that a year ago, I had something to say. Even facebook can tell I’m out of material. I’ve got nothing left to write about. At least until fate, that mischievous monkey, threw some shit in my face.

A side effect of joining facebook was reconnecting with old, lost friends. Here’s something I’ve learned: while I’ve had zero contact with the people I knew thirty, thirty-five years ago, those same people are all friends with each other. Real friends, not just facebook friends. Learning this is like getting invited to a wedding reception after they’ve cut the cake. Like finding out about a party when the cops have already come.

Saturday morning, my family and I took a road trip to Wellsboro, PA. This is a teeny town three and a half hours north of Gettysburg. It’s the jumping off destination for the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania—a deep slash in the Allegheny Plateau, home to Pine Creek. Hundreds of miles of hiking and a really outstanding rail trail. The GCP pales in comparison to the Grand Canyon of Arizona, but it’s still pretty cool.

After a surprisingly snowy hike from the rim to the creek and back, after our unexpectedly awesome dinner at Tony’s Italian Cuisine, Eli and Sophie wanted to go swimming in the hotel pool. I wasn’t interested in swimming, but I sat on the deck out of respect for the hotel age regulations. While my kids swam, I facebooked.

My (facebook) friend Mark tagged me in a photo. I haven’t seen Mark in thirty years. He’s one of those old friends I reconnected with over the past year. We worked together at Shakey’s Pizza in Rockville, Md in the early eighties. Mark and the rest of the Shakey’s crowd are welcoming people. We share similar political views and a love of the outdoors. They’ve allowed me to be a part of their on-line community.

The photo Mark tagged wasn’t of me. It was a guy named John who managed Shakey’s when Mark and I worked there. It’s a memorable photo.

johnJohn, wild-eyed and hypnotic, stares directly into the camera. He’s decked out in tie-dye and wears what looks like a silk vest. He’s drinking a Bud. He’s a good-looking guy, broad-shouldered and fit. I don’t remember that from the past. He’s sort of a hippy beefcake. Me? I’m not in the picture, except a sliver of my face. Like a moon hanging on the horizon at dusk; I’m just a three-day crescent.

I joked about how John looks like Zoltar, that creepy, coin-operated fortune-teller in Tom Hanks’ movie Big. The message I received back is that John is dead. He died that afternoon. He’s the same age as me. This is how I reconnect with John Peters.

I haven’t seen him in three decades. Once, we were close. Every summer, I returned from college to work at Shakey’s. I was a ‘closer;’ John was a night manager. Our shift was 5PM until everything was clean—usually one or two in the morning. Then we drank beer. We smoked pot. We sat on the curb behind the restaurant with the rest of the night shift, and we talked. We did this for hours every night. We chatted up girls. We gossiped about whoever wasn’t present. We listened to music—usually the Grateful Dead, and we told tales.

John returned to my life for about eighty seconds. I saw that picture, and I felt an immediate flood of warmth and friendship. A minute later it was gone.

After college, I moved into DC and fell out of touch with my friends. The picture is my metaphor. John is in the center, I’m on the edge, the periphery. The core group of my co-workers is still together. They’re tight, they’re still friends. They camp together, go to concerts, they know the names of each other’s kids. I’m barely in the picture. I’m the guy who disappeared.

My thoughts don’t pour out as easily as they did before Risperidone. I work for them now, and still, I’m unsatisfied with the result. Grief has been near to me for over a month, but I couldn’t see it. I’m mourning one of my closest friends—the writer I once was. John’s death, the real tragedy, woke me up to this. It helped me understand loss. I’ve made a trade, at least for now. I’ve lost writing and gained peace, lost blogging and found sanity.

Yes, there’s irony in writing, blogging about this. But writing is how I think. It’s how I deal with the thoughts that continually pick at me. Most of those thoughts are quiet now. Until an unexpected crisis sets the wheels in motion. Without my daily writing, maybe I can get out of my head. Possibly, it’s time to reach out to my friends.

11 thoughts on “Death and the Blogger

  1. For a dead guy you write pretty well. Sorry about John. It’s always a shock to get one of those calls. “It could have been me” comes to mind. Become friends with Grim and live every day as if it’s your last. One day you won’t be wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff,

    Though a small group of us (Chris, Greg, James and me) have stayed close, we could say the same as you for most of our old, old friends. While we’ve had the pleasure of reunions here and there, for the most part we’ve all gone our separate ways as well. Indeed, John and I drifted apart for the better part of a decade while I was busy working my career and raising a family. John was busy doing the same as well as fighting some of the similar battles you have over the years.

    John and I reconnected about 5 years ago. I’m reflecting now on what his friendship meant to me and trying to understand what I’ve lost with his passing. To me, he wasn’t just an old friend from my glory days. Besides the wonderful woman I married over 20 years ago, I’ve never been as close to any human being. While we all undergo changes as we live through whatever our existence on this planet brings us, John had an immediate, lasting, and positive effect on me. I’ve said he was my mentor, which may seem strange to those who new John and me back in the day. In his own self-deprecating, gentle way he taught an immature, arrogant puke from Potomac, MD what the important things in life were: honesty and integrity, the simple joy of a night in the woods, and above all what true friendship means.

    I’m happy your meds are working, but I think perhaps the rumors of your muse’s demise are a bit premature. I’ve enjoyed reading some of your work here and thoroughly enjoyed your book. Perhaps you’re like many of the rest of us now… we cruise along through the days, months and years on the human version of auto-pilot, when some turbulence comes along which jolts us back to the steering wheel, forcing us to check the map and ensure we’re still flying in the right direction. At those times, perhaps you’ll still feel the need to “write it out”. I hope you do.

    Take care,

    Liked by 1 person

      • Jeff you’re still writing very well – even when something like John’s passing spurs a piece. Above article to me was touching in a few ways: remembering John, remembering again the old Shakey days and also truly hoping you can continue with your postings. Take care.

        Oh and the funny part of that picture of John – it was a Halloween party. He came dressed as himself!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I too am disheartened about my writing. Particularly on my blog, where the response has been increasingly tepid. I’ve deleted about half of my previous posts. I don’t feel I have anything more worth posting, so the blog will be in stasis for some time. On the other hand, this seems to open a space where I can write whatever I want, without regard to what anyone else might think of it. You know…. one door closes, another opens….

    I still think you have a unique point of view worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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