Wednesday, December 8, 2010

744. Red, White, and Dead

This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Monday, November 15, 2010

743. Sonnet for Karaoke Night

This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

742. Camouflaged Wounds: Mother

The first in a series of documentaries about life after war, this is the story of Tracy Miller, mother of Marine Corporal Nick Ziolkowski who was killed in Fallujah, Iraq.

It is produced by, which is a resource website for returning veterans and their families. If you are a veteran in crisis or know someone dealing with the challenges of life after war, please visit the website.

Steven Freitas and Dario DiBattista directed this video. If you would like to know more, please email

Monday, October 11, 2010

741. Heavy Metal in Trenton

Blog post removed because I'm seeking its publication. :-)

Friday, October 8, 2010

740. On Smoking

Here's a fun little exercise for this semester's poetry workshop.

On Smoking

We sat against the brick and mortar wall,
When April’s rain ejected a Spring squall.

We rolled our thumbs over the flint and flame,
The fire arose, intense yet short and tame.

Delighted in its warmth we held above
The tip of the heat our nicotine love.

One puff, two puff, oh God we need some more;
The monkey tells us what we’re craving for.

He’s climbed on top of our backs, never will
Let go: until the tar renders us still.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

739. Following the Long Walk Home

He’s in Nashville now, a stop on his way towards visiting all fifty states. He doesn’t use a small plane, an automobile, or even a bike as his mode of transportation. Ron Zaleski is walking all across America. With his petition in hand, he doesn’t even wear shoes. When there’s no one around to solicit signatures from, sometimes he’ll lay that document down to pick out one inch shards of glass or repair a torn off heel. Passion can’t even begin to describe how fervently he believes in his cause.

59-year-old Zaleski is the founder of the The Long Walk Home, a nonprofit organization that seeks to raise awareness and create solutions for the mental health problems veterans face during and after their service. He wears an impressively-sized sign around his neck on his daily 10 to 15 mile barefoot walk that reads: “18 VETS A DAY COMMIT SUICIDE (‘commit suicide’ in red, bold letters).” A veteran Marine himself, Zaleski’s quest is a very personal one. “I get that sense that everybody that is in the military is related to me in some way,” he believes. “That could be my son, my daughter, my loved one in there.”

And the grief of his walk gets more personal more often than he likes. “The hardest part of this journey for me has been when a car pulls over, and a mother will stand there and cry.” She’ll tell him that “her child came home safe, committed suicide, and then she’ll hold me,” Zaleski shares, also tearing up.

Zaleski joined the Marines in 1970 even though he came from a devoutly catholic lineage and did not believe in killing. His family, he also notes, was “a dysfunctional World War II family.” His father had brought the war home with him as it continued raging within his mind. That rage manifested itself as alcoholism and mental abuse towards his family. Zaleski joined up to intentionally anger his parents in a passive-aggressive kind of way.

But when the orders to go to Vietnam arrived for him and five of his buddies, the reality compelled Zaleski to follow his convictions. He told his commanding officer that the only way he was going was “chained to a helicopter,” and he was willing to face the jail time for his decision. Miraculously, they decided he could stay because of his other critical skills. “I became an office squirt because I could type and had brains,” Zaleski says, emphasizing his Long Island accent and vernacular.

He saw one of those men later. Zaleski asked what happened. “We all got shot and two of us are dead,” his buddy told him. He decided to embrace their sacrifice for freedom -- so he stopped wearing shoes in 1972. Understandably so, people would ask why he didn’t wear shoes and Zaleski would respond combatively, “because I don’t feel like it; you got a problem with dat?”

In 2005, after years of slowly destroying the family business he inherited and a horrible divorce – all problems stemming from his arrogance and bitterness (most likely learned behavior from his father) – a girl asked the same question he had been hearing for the last 33 years. “Why don’t you wear shoes?”

“I had been doing it so long,” Zaleski recalls, “I couldn’t really have an answer. God spoke through that child.” What were you doing? He questioned of himself.

He realized then that he had what he calls “a hollow memorial; a meaningless penance.” Zaleski finally decided to do something tangible to help with the legacy of his fallen friends. So he kept doing what he did – walking shoeless – but he started doing it with a purpose.

Some of the results were unexpected. In Zaleski’s pursuit of getting mandatory PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and grief counseling for all returning veterans by collecting a one million signature petition (20,000 names in each state), he helped finally cure some of his father’s demons. Initially Zaleski walked the Appalachian Trail in bare feet to meet his goals. His father asked him “What’re you punishing yourself for?” and Zaleski shared the reasons for his personal crusade.

His father started crying then, an emotion so rarely seen by Zaleski that he only initially recognized it as a “strange noise.” Zaleski’s father it turned out, had been wearing a tremendous guilt for the last 60 years, stemming from his short time in the European theater of combat: the guilt of watching men serving five years and being killed on the final days of the war when he had only served five months; the trauma of watching 12-year-old boy soldiers, “Hitler’s Wolfpack,” being shot down by his comrades; using soap made from dead Jews. His father’s revelations underscored the sense of urgency in Zaleski’s “Long Walk Home.”

“If you can get a guy (the appropriate counseling) right when he gets out he has a much better chance,” Zaleski says. Speaking of the estimated 175,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. he adds, “For a guy who put his life on a line to be under a bridge drinking his memories, that doesn’t make it for me.”

So far his progress has been minimal. Maybe four or five thousand signatures he guesses. And Zaleski doesn’t want to simply create awareness. He wants real change. “If I tell somebody their house is on fire but I don’t help them, what good is that?” Zaleski wonders. Of the politicians he’s encountered, most have written off his cause because they aren’t his representative. “They (the politicians) say nice things to my face,” Zaleski says brashly, but they eventually just ask him “are you my constituent?” and when he answers incorrectly they decline to latch on to his cause. “A soldier didn’t fight for the North or South or New Jersey or Kentucky,” Zaleski screams, “they fought for America.”

On a positive note though, Phil Roe, a Tennessee Congressman and former soldier himself, has decided that he wants to help champion Zaleski’s goals. They plan on meeting up in October when Roe can concentrate solely on Zaleski’s cause and not on the upcoming election.

But even if Roe turns out like almost all the other elected leaders he’s met, Zaleski’s not going to quit. “I question my sanity I really do. I realize if I do nothing, that’s crazier than doing something. I don’t want to pass this along to the next generation. I don’t want another mom to tell me about her lost son.”

You can follow his journey here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

738. From Fallujah to Philanthropy

By: Dario DiBattista

You can see him behind his laptop at the Washington, D.C. Dupont Circle Starbucks at end of an eight hour day, crafting the framework for his entrepreneurship. Six years ago, in Fallujah, as a corporal in the D.C.-based Marine Reserve unit, Mortuary Affairs, you could see him in rubber-gloved hands, collecting the corpses of his dead comrades. “You just hoped the body you found wasn’t the one of someone you knew,” Xi Xiang tells me.

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?” I ask.

“I don’t even know how to answer that question,” he replies, his deadpan gaze hinting at a deep trauma that belies his smile and congenial manner.

It really must have been bad. Xiang and his Marines developed a dark humor to cope with their job. In a photo of his group at the time, an image titled “We’re Dead,” you can see all the mortuary Marines laying on top of each other in a row with large, beaming smiles, in one of the mass graves they prepared for the dead insurgents.

As a protocol for their job, they had to have weekly sit-ins with Navy chaplains acting as counselors. After one week of his counseling responsibilities, a new ensign had to leave the room to cry at the stories Xiang was relating to him.

The muscular, dark-crème-skinned 28-year-old’s life has never been the same since Fallujah. Days after the battle ended, his team was sent into the abandoned city to collect the remaining enemy corpses. Amongst the rubble – blasted out homes with rebar-spiked chunks, downed power lines, and mortar crushed streets – Xiang observed a toddler standing alone in the carnage. He reasoned the child’s parents were dead. He believed the boy had no future, and would probably perish, too.

“If I ever get out of this f***er,” Xiang told one of his buddies under the scarlet sunset of Mesopotamian evening, mortars cracking in the distance, “I want to do something big.”

He thought for a long time about what exactly he was going to do. He knew that he wanted to make difference, he just couldn’t decide on how. But a seven month tour gives a man a lot of time to think.

“I really believe in education,” Xiang says, “it’s all you can give to someone to help them improve their own circumstances, which in turn creates better civic responsibilities, lower crime rates, more wealth – the benefits are exponential.” His idea to help give better education to new generations is broken down in three main ways. Xiang pumps his fist and raises a new finger as he lists them, “Scholarships, incentive programs, funding scholastic programs.”

Xiang wants to use his business dream – a patent-pending software platform that selects and distributes advertisements for out-of-home digital display networks – to finance his desired philanthropy. He spends every free second on this project, when he’s not doing IT consulting for major military contractors. With a large portion of the projected profits for his venture (he hopes to have a demo ready by the end of this year), he plans to start a nonprofit organization, a “dot org” as he refers to it. “I have an insane compulsion,” Xiang says almost bouncing out of his seat. “I just want to impact the world.”

He’ll be there, clacking away at his keyboard, until he can make his dream a reality. If you’re on the Circle for a late-night latte, maybe you should shake his hand. He’s working the hardest he can to create real change for this insane world.

All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

737. Beware! Combat Rage

(This is a re-post from my blog at, check it out!)

It still comes out sometimes. The combat rage. Usually at bars; other people get so plastered that they lose their filters. They will come to me with disrespect, being uncouth or accosting me for no real reason. I’ve learned to be a peaceful man, but don’t doubt that beneath my wild beard and extra pounds of flab, the green, clean, killer-confident Marine still lies dormant.

You wouldn’t poke a stick against a serpent would you?

It’s the hardest part of the combat experience to erase – that warrior instinct to maim or kill at a moment’s notice. It’s part of boot camp: beat up the other Marine, knock off his helmet with your pugil sticks, and get a phone call home.

It’s an aspect of weapons training: peer through your rifle’s iron-sights at the targets shaped like people; imagine what it’s like to violently end another human.

And it’s the most essential part of war: an explosion ignites while on patrol, rack your machine gun and get ready to kill.

I used to spend a lot of time at bars because I was depressed and didn’t care about life. Drinking allowed me to at least feel a burn, the flaming spirits torching my throat and charring my mind, which was something at least. Or maybe I’d just consume so much I’d never wake up again. That would have been fine, too.

Now I drink however, because I have found a calm and joyous spirit, and I love to be social and spend time with my friends. I’ll have a few brews and laugh and watch sports; or stay up late, engaging strangers with discussion of the arts, culture, or life and the lessons I’ve learned.

But I forget sometimes who I am really am – the warrior I was programmed to be – and the mental struggles of surviving battle that I may never entirely rise above.

A short, muscular man with a shaped-goatee, tried to take one of the chairs that I had reserved for my friend, as I chilled with some friends at a local trivia night. He did this even though I reminded him when asked about the chair several times already, that “Yes, my friend is coming. He’s just running late, man.”

His question, this time, was especially disrespectful. During a chug-off (if more than one team gets the correct answer, they send a representative to throw back a beer as quickly as possible to try and win the round), he had already taken another one of our chairs when we left our table to cheer our teammate.

“You sure you need this chair?” he asked yet again, jeering us, as he began to drag it away.

I slammed my palm against the table and leaned into him. “Take your hands off that f***ing chair.”

He stared back, deciding if he wanted to pursue a brawl. I’m sure he was way stronger than me – I haven’t lifted much in the years after getting out – and maybe more trained. Who knows, maybe he was even a part time lightweight cage fighter; almost everyone I meet is into martial arts these days. But I get blackout rage, this deeply ingrained caustic instinct that prevents me from feeling any pain when I’m mad. And I don’t think those who haven’t survived man versus man, life or death combat (or ever even had to consider their mortality) can really understand how that can be. Like a suicide bomber, you can’t stop that mentality. There’s no defense.

He backed off and returned to his group of friends, chair-less, and leaned against the bar. My friends stared at me awkwardly and my pulse still roared.

It was all the better for him, though. I like to think of myself as a pacifist now, but I cannot shut off my nature. It’s in moments like these that the darkness returns. I pray I’m not pushed too far in these times. They are less and less frequent the further away I get in years from Iraq and war. But I know that they’ll always remain.

All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

736. Six Months Down: How Close Am I Towards Making My Goals for the Year?

Six months have passed. We've laughed. We've cried. My bank account has dipped to zero. But does that mean I'm not close to making my goals for the year? Let's discuss (or actually, you just sit there and read).

---From Blog Number 719---

Goal Number One: Sell both my books. Well, yeah, I have not achieved that one, yet. I'm methodically pitching agents and have gotten some pretty good responses so far (one request for more material and several personalized rejections). My big secret I'm not telling anyone is that, supposedly, one of my mentor's agents is interested in talking to me about representation. But alas, she was supposed to call me two Mondays ago and I still haven't heard from her. Sigh.

Goal Number Two: Continue doing my very best at Hopkins. Well, I got the same grades as last semester so I'm totally on par with that one. I'm taking a full time load again this Fall.

Goal Number Three: Complete a book of poems. Um, let's not talk about this one just yet. I have poems -- just not in a book. Yeah...

Goal Number Four: Make enough for sushi with my writing. Well, I'm a paid blogger now at, and I'm going to be getting recompensed for making documentaries for them -- and I'm started a podcast too! Sweet! And yeah, I'm not making money overall for my words but I've had my stuff published in The Washington Post (see two posts ago) and later this year in Connecticut Review so that's pretty tops, huh?

I don't know people! I think I'm getting there and I'm not quitting. Much love all :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

735. Memorial Day (We Were Dreamers)

Torn from our family and our lives, we volunteered to put the weight of the nation on our shoulders. Many of us didn’t know why we would ever fight, or what romantic notion would compel us to even try.

It was for God, for country, for family, for the love of a heart so many thousands of miles away; we fought.

Anything would have been better: working late at the office six days a week; driving during rush hour to some distant relative’s house; mowing the lawn on Saturday; shopping with a girl; attending a high school reunion; anything at all.

In between battles, over cigarette smoke and strumming guitars, we would talk about our plans for after we returned home: the embrace of our lover; living life as a college boy; sleeping in everyday; betting on black in Vegas. It would all be so sweet.

It was those images that kept us awake behind our machine guns after fighting for days. It was the thought of our lover’s taste that gave us the drive to search houses and vehicles while not knowing what hid inside. It was the hope of something better that helped us exist unbroken in our reality.

Oftentimes we were mindless; we had been conditioned and trained. We would give immediate obedience to lawful order. We would react by instinct and perform like automatons. But we were dreamers – we would have never joined if that weren’t the case.

And that is the tragedy of a military death in combat. The dreams of nations, the dreams of family and friends, the dreams of the individual soldier; they all fall one person.

It is a burden that those who have survived will never forget. We don’t seek pity and charity from anyone. We just ask that you remember; just like us the best you can.

Lest we forget and the American dream becomes a nightmare.

RIP: Sergeant Bill Cahir; Corporal William Salazar; Lance Corporal Michael Starr; Lance Corporal Norman Anderson; Corporal Joshua Snyder; fallen members Third Battalion Seventh Marine Regiment for OIF II

~ Semper Fi ~

All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

734. Dario's Guest Blog for the Washington Post

From Fallujah to Chili's: A reservist goes back to work (Excerpt)

(You can read the full blog by clicking here)

At the restaurant, right now is the highlight of our guests's week. Monday through Friday, for eight hours a day, they had to dress up, be polite to the boss and look busy behind something light and digital - how tough for them.

None of them carried a weapon instead of a Personal Digital Assistant. None of them listened to wind-tossed dog tags clanking against the rifle, boots and helmet memorial of a newly killed Marine. None of them picked up the body parts of both strangers and friends: a tossed salad served by suicide bombings.

It's March 2005; I've only been back home from my second tour for about four months and I'm heartbroken and poor and not mentally well. It's been over two months since my year-long orders to active duty ended. The military's finance system has yet to sign off on the thousands of dollars they owe me. So I'm forced to work when I'm barely capable of basic existence. On my days off, I'm too depressed to move. On my couch, I watch the days turn to darkness through the slits in the patio blinds; and when it's dark I'll finally rise to go get wasted.

I loved someone once. And she loved me. She wrote me daily in Iraq and drew me pictures. She scribbled hearts under her name and marked the envelopes with lipstick. We used to work at the same store. Now that I'm home again though, I've become an ugly man - filled with rage and sorrow, prone to excessive self-medication. I scared her away. I show up to a different Chili's now; it's too hard for me to face my failures...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

733. Check Out Dario as the Featured Student Voice in The Johns Hopkins University Arts and Sciences Magazine!

Here's a snippet (click here for the full story):

Which is most difficult: Waiting for war, fighting in it...or making sense of the aftermath?

These are among the issues that Marine Reservist Dario DiBattista Jr. grapples with in his memoir Go Now, You Are Forgiven. Currently a graduate student in the Advanced Academic Programs' writing program, DiBattista, 26, served two combat tours in Iraq before coming home, he says, to a life of "discord." Eventually he began to find catharsis by blogging about his experiences—work that gained him notice in The New York Times and an interview on Connecticut Public Radio.

DiBattista's story extends beyond the battlefield. Inhis memoir, for which he is currently seeking a publisher, he writes movingly about the pain of living in "constant flux"—as a college student (at Central Connecticut State University), waiter, and Reservist "on standby for war." In the end, he says, "Go Now, You Are Forgiven is about accepting responsibility for one's life, no matter how the problems came to be, and moving forward confidently and self-forgiven."

Monday, May 3, 2010

732. Don't Leave Me This Night (Ballad for Narrative Poetry Class)

This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

731. A Beautiful Passing (Profile and Biography Workshop Assignment)

This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

730. Who Among Us is Well?

I wonder who among the thousands of men and women I’ve served with as brothers and sisters in combat is doing well today.

Did the PFC I served with in Kuwait, who used to have manic anxiety in our underground bunker during SCUD attacks, return home as a happy woman? Does she think about the time where we sang “Lean on Me” in our bunker after the surprise missile attack that started the war? Does she have kids and a job? Can her significant other understand why she sometimes can’t sleep (the missiles always came at night)?

Has my red-headed brother (I call him that because we looked so alike back then that this is how people referred to us, as “brothers”) had his hearing repaired from the explosion? Is there a ringing still that tortures him? I wonder if he can have his brain scraped of the images of the dead bodies he processed during his second tour as mortuary affairs.

I saw my senior drill instructor from boot camp on the Syrian border area of Iraq. He was in charge of a logistics convoy where two Marines had just died. Have you ever seen the broken face of the man who taught you how to be hard? Does this gunnery sergeant still wear that vacant look in dark rooms at the end of the day? Does he wear it over an open bottle in a bar?

I served with one of my best friends from youth in Iraq. I have a photo of the first time we encountered each other overseas: a polaroid of him chewing dip and half-smiling on a guard tower. That tower is destroyed now; three vehicle-borne suicide bombers made sure of that one year after our tour had ended. I have not seen my friend in over five years. When we saw each other then, all he saw was Iraq. I don’t like to think about him anymore. It’s easier for me to just think he’s gone.

Who among us is well?

How can we get back to the place before?

People tell me that they think I’m fine. But how can they really tell?

There are secret burdens that you will never see.

Who among us is well?

All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Monday, April 5, 2010

729. Ha Ha, Sweet, I've Been Quoted by the Associated Press

Young war veterans returning home to unemployment

By KIMBERLY HEFLING (AP) – Mar 12, 2010

WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate last year for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans hit 21.1 percent, the Labor Department said Friday, reflecting a tough obstacle combat veterans face as they make the transition home from war.

The number was well above the 16.6 percent jobless rate for non-veterans of the same ages, 18 to 24.

As of last year, 1.9 million veterans had deployed for the wars since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Some have struggled with mental health problems, addictions, and homelessness as they return home. Difficulty finding work can make the adjustment that much harder.

The just-released rate for young veterans was significantly higher than the unemployment rate of young veterans in that age group of 14.1 percent in 2008.

Many of the unemployed are members of the Guard and Reserves who have deployed multiple times, said Joseph Sharpe, director of the economic division at the American Legion. Sharpe said some come home to find their jobs have been eliminated because the company has downsized. Other companies may not want to hire someone who could deploy again or will have medical appointments because of war-related health problems, he said.

"It's a horrible environment because if you're a Reservist and you're being deployed two or three times in a five-year period, you know you're less competitive," Sharpe said. "Many companies that are already hurting are reluctant to hire you and time kind of moves on once you're deployed."

One veteran looking for work is Dario DiBattista, 26, of Abingdon, Md., a graduate student who did two tours in Iraq in the Marine Reserves with a civil affairs unit. He said he's found that a lot of military skills don't readily transfer into the workplace, and in many cases, there aren't jobs to apply for even if companies want to hire veterans.

"If you don't have a strong family support system ... it's hard to get over the hump to make the decision of where you're going to live, what you do for work, where you're going to go to school, if you can even qualify to get into school," DiBattista said.

For veterans of all ages from the recent wars, the unemployment rate in 2009 was 10.2 percent. Historically, younger veterans have had more difficulty than their older counterparts finding a job because they often have less training and job experience. Some joined the military right out of high school.

One possible solution is to make it easier for veterans to transfer certifications they have for jobs they did in the military into the civilian workforce, Sharpe said.

The Labor and Veterans Affairs departments have a variety of programs addressing the problem. The hope is that one program, the Post-9/11 GI Bill rolled out last year, will be particularly effective. Under it, $78 billion is expected to be paid out in education benefits over the next decade for veterans of the recent wars to attend school.

The national unemployment rate last year was 9.3 percent, the highest since 1983.

Source: The internet, lol. Seriously, this story went everywhere.

728. Checking Out (First Person Narrative Poetry Assignment)

This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Monday, March 22, 2010

727. Bill Hicks Would be Having a Field Day

I've got some to tell to you all. Something amazing you might not know. But this is a fact. You ready? Drum roll please ....... People with Healthcare die every day. Goodnight America! Sleep tight!

726. The D.C. Girl (Third Person Narrative for Narrative Poetry Class)

This will be available to own for free on soon. Thank you for your patience.



All content ©Dario DiBattista 2010. All posts are for display purposes only and not to be considered published.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

725. The Dario Effect

Any of you who have ever spent any significant time with me know about "The Dario Effect." No, this isn't some egotistical thing about ladies fainting when I enter a room; its an inconvenience thing that affects my daily life and the lives of the people around me. Simply put, "The Dario Effect" means this: everything that I actually want and desire or need becomes unnecessarily complicated or eludes me for longer than it reasonably should.

If I'm desperate for a Red Bull in the morning, inevitably, the first couple places I go to find it will be out of stock somehow. If I'm running late for classes in D.C. (please understand that "running late" means leaving an hour early because of anticipation of "The Dario Effect"), no doubt, a tree will fall onto the highway, stopping traffic.

I know that most people will say, stop whining Dario this happens to me too -- you ain't special. But before you disregard what I'm saying, here are some recent examples from just the last week (keep in mind that this list is by no means extensive):

1. Last Sunday I went to help my friend move. No big deal; I don't mind assisting my friends, but hey, it was on Sunday -- I just wanted it to be done quickly. What happened on the way? Oh yeah, I-83 South was ostensibly shut down because of a "major accident." We had to drive on the side roads. Just like everyone else.

2. GI Bill money. I'm now well over a month into the semester and they haven't paid me the 1200 dollars they owe me. What does this mean? I'll give you a hint: it involves digging through the couch and then going to coinstar. Yeah. I'm that broke.

3. This next one I probably shouldn't complain about, but, here it goes. Two Saturdays ago, I emailed a man who was interested in hiring me. He didn't get the email. I didn't find out till Wednesday. On Wednesday he said he'd call me on Friday around 4. He called me on Friday at 6:30 and said, we'll probably get back to you again next week with something concrete. Like I said, I can't complain because I need a job, but damn, why does this process have to take so long!?

4. Yesterday, I was sick and tired after my early class. I just wanted to go home and sleep. Guess what? The guy who parked in front of me in the public garage didn't give his keys to the attendant. It took almost thirty minutes of moving around cars like Tetris pieces to be able to maneuver my car out. And then I still had an hour and a half drive because of unusual traffic. Damn.

Yep, that's the jist of it. Snap!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

724. Goodbye, Beard

Goodbye, Beard. I miss you already. So much. People ridiculed you when you first started sprouting. Said you'd never be anything. I believed in you. My trust was rewarded with warmth and comraderie.

You saved me once. In Pittsburgh, after the Ravens game. Some unruly Steelers fans threw a snowball at us. We turned around and your wiry red color and impressive thickness intensified my rage. You scared them away - saved the day. I'm a short man but you made me feel seven feet tall. I could do anything, with you, together. I loved you.

I feel like I've divorced a child. When I pay off my debt with what I make utilizing a more professional look, I promise to buy a bike and bring you back.

In the meantime, I apologize to everyone I've let down. And you Beard.

I want you back.

723. Sold! To World Hum. A Story from My Book

Check it out if you like. I think its pretty sweet :-)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

722. Check Out My Interview at Not Alone!

Hello friends!

Please check out my interview about my military and coming-home experience on I promise that it will only moderately bore you :-)

Click Here!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

721. You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

1. People in 2010 who still don't receive text messages on their phone. You need to accept that in these modern times, no one wants to have a real conversation with you.

2. The fact that AT&T has only made 8 million dollars for Haiti. All you have to do is send the word "Haiti" in a text to 90999 and they will donate 10 dollars to The Red Cross for you. At that current total that means only one fourth of one percent (or 0.026 percent to be exact: 800,000 people) of Americans have donated. There's 200,000 dead; a million displaced. Squeeze your wallet harder. See what comes out.

3. Vampire movies. Can someone create a new monster or creature, please? They did in Cloverfield and that movie made like 15 BA - zillion dollars.

Okay bye,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

720. Elliott Smith: A Tribute

So, I've been thinking a lot recently about art. Well, to be honest, I think about art all the time. It seems to be the one consistent thing in my life that I can use to channel my energy positively. I've been thinking about folk-rocker, Elliott Smith, who died over five years ago.

I was once in a dark place -- darker than I ever knew existed. There, I shamefully hid my passions and stowed away within my own self-destruction. Beyond not getting a DUI or AIDs, I didn't really accomplish anything at all for those three years of my life. I certainly didn't make anything beautiful.

Elliott Smith on the other hand, was a man who experienced challenges and personal drama that went way beyond my scruples and follies, yet still reached down to make some of the best and most powerful songs ever crafted. That is, before he committed suicide by stabbing himself in the heart.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit, years after I first listened to his posthumous album, "From a Basement on a Hill," I still really don't know all too much about the man. I've never decided that I needed to. I discovered his music through a review in Maxim Magazine while I served in Iraq; I resolved to purchase his album when I returned. I did purchase it then, and that timing was perfect: my great three year depression started upon my return home. I've listened to that album now at least 500 times. It has impacted me to this day so much, the title of this blog takes inspiration from his lyrics off that CD.

It's hard for anyone to really say what it is about someone they love that makes them love them; it's hard to make it really tangible and describe it for others. Ben Folds tried to do this with his tribute song to Elliott and summed up pretty well the way all of us Smith fans feel:

"Elliott, man you played a fine guitar / and some dirty basketball / The songs you wrote, got me through a lot / I just wanted to tell you that / but it's too late."

After his death, dozens of tribute pages went up in his honor. You would only have to read a dozen or so comments to know this was a man you wanted to hear. On your typical band page people say, "oh, I really like your one song," or "the drummer is cute." On the Elliott's page people said, "Elliott, your music changed my life," or "I still think about you every day, and I've never known you."

Elliott suffered from rampant depression, severe alcoholism, and heavy drug usage. Despite this, I can't think of any other artist of any medium who still loved so much; who still had such an amazing heart; who still cared about the world and others. Can you imagine just being so wrecked by poor mental health and addiction but still writing songs about how much you are frustrated with people who mistreat the lower classes of the world? On the final track of "From a Basement on a Hill," "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free," Elliott sings:

"You disappoint me / you people raking in on the world / God knows, why my country don't give a fuck."

That to me is an unparalleled beauty and emotion that I think makes Elliott's work just a little bit better than even the best of what I've heard or seen or felt.

I miss you too, man. I hope I can do something with art that is nearly as amazing as what you did.

"Because your candle burns too bright; I almost forgot it was twilight."

- Elliott Smith, From a Basement on a Hill

Thursday, January 7, 2010

719. Yeah, So I Started Blogging Again...

Greetings, reader:

This is my 719th blog in about five years (the first seven hundred are on - I might copy and paste them to over here at some point). I stopped blogging last semester for the most part. Life was happy and graduate writing work consumed most of my time (the previous dozen or so postings on this blog are of the assignments I completed in the Fall).

Long story shortened, it's a new year so I'm blogging again. If you get a few minutes every couple days, check back if you like, and hear what I have to say. I promise to be innovative and thought-provoking, or - at very least - entertaining.

I think it's logical at this moment, my return to blogging, to simply outline some of my goals as a writer for this new year:

1. Sell both of my books. One's a memoir. Two's a novel about veterans who survive a chemical attack. Am I crazy to set this goal? I think so, but I'm close. One agency has already expressed interest in the second book and I've had a lot of interest for my memoir (interest that ultimately became rejections, but I'm doing something right to be able to stand out from all the other thousands of assholes who are trying to get books published too). Recently I sold a scene from my memoir to, which will be posted online very soon, and that credit will likely aid my goal of publication even more. That's all I've ever done with my life since leaving the Marines: take one success and exploit the hell out of it. Hmm, where did I learn to do that?

2. Continue doing my very best at Hopkins. I earned very respectable grades last semester, and I hope to maintain that momentum. It's hard down there because I'm tremendously outclassed. The majority of my peers are older than me, and they are business professionals - often times working writers - who actually have careers and real lives. I'm just some unemployed kid (sustaining myself off of the GI Bill) who shows up to class all haggardly looking with my red beard and long hair. I'm pretty sure when I speak in class everyone thinks, who the hell is this guy?

3. I hope to complete a book of poems. I want rewrite all the stream of conscious junk I've written over the years and approach them again, this time while considering line length, rhyme, and metering. I think that would be cool and rewarding.

4. I want to make some money with my words. Like enough for sushi. That would be cool.