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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sleeping on Concrete

The flu hits like a heavyweight.

One second, I'm cleaning up after dinner and the next I'm curled up in bed, shivering. Wishing for death. I may as well put my thumb in my mouth. My pillowcase is soaked, the sheets are a swamp. And I'm freezing.

I can call off sick, work from home. My back aches from inflammation. My sinuses are leaking brain fluid. Oh, why me, why me? WHY ME?

Somewhere in North Korea there's a labor camp where someone has the flu. They're curled up on patch of concrete. No sheet, no blanket. If they're lucky, if they're big enough, strong enough, high enough in the pecking order, they sleep next to the heat vent.

If not, the concrete is cold, too.

There's no doctor. No Tamiflu. No sick days.

When dawn breaks, they report to work in the snow, in the rain, wearing the same clothes they've worn for two years. The pants are stiff with sweat and grime. The shoes have holes. If they are slow, they are beaten. If they fall down, they are beaten. If they pass out, they are beaten. They eat watered down cabbage soup. Not enough to replace the calories they burn. They are always hungry.

And they work like this until the day ends. If not, they are beaten.

The Nazi concentration camps lasted two years. North Korean labor camps have existed for 50. Some people are born there. They will die there. They have only known concrete.

I have a bed. A house. I have very minor problems. And, sometimes, I lay awake at night, wondering how it could be better.

Shin Dong-hyuk is the only known person to escape Camp 14, one of the fiercest labor camps in North Korea. He didn't go to hell. He was born there. And it didn't happen a long, long time ago. It was five years ago.

We should all know his story.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Light Beneath a Gray Sky

Educator of the Year.

This year, Trident Technical College awarded me that title. I'm not sure how many teachers work at the college, but we have over 17,000 students. So we have a few.

Awards are nice. I don't know anyone that hates them. I mean, hates for real. Modesty might gloss over the excitement, but no one actually hates being BLANK of the Year. Unless it's Asshole. But even that's kind of cool.

This recognition means more to me than something like this normally would, but probably not for the reasons you might think.

My 20s were rough. I was depressed. I didn't know I was depressed, I just knew that every day was like dragging dead weight. Heaviness was in me. I had trouble in crowds. Words were cold in my mouth. Each morning, I stepped into shoes wet with fear beneath a gray sky.

A gray sky with no end.

There was no reason for it.

Alcohol wasn't a problem. No drugs. I had wonderful family. I was never cold. Never hungry. I was 23, just married to a beautiful woman yet life was looking impossibly long. None of this would make sense to others. "What's wrong with you?" they would ask.

I don't know.

There were many years of work ahead of me. But some good therapists and a Zen practice helped me right the ship. It didn't happen all of sudden. There are days, even now, I have to pay attention. For some, mental health requires a delicate grip.

So I'm here. Still here. And I've got this award.

It means more than you think.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Said It a Million Times

Thirty hours, round trip.

My grandma will be 98 this year. Can't say no, even if we spend more time in the car than plowing through turkey. She's as lucid as most 20 year olds. No hearing aid. Her knee doesn't bend but she could still make a Marine jump. 

And the topper: she still lives in her two-story house. No AC. Sleeps upstairs.

The most lucid 97 year old you'll ever meet. And a bored 18 year old  behind her.
Road trips aren't as difficult, now that our kids are older. The earbuds go in and its me and my wife and the endless road. My son is 18. My daughter, almost 15. We've always had a no cussing rule in our house. I try to forget what I was doing at their age, and we didn't have YouTube. We didn't have porn at our fingertips or movie torrents or music downloaders. We still found trouble.

I'm not naive. They know what's what.

This trip, I announce, you can cuss. The deal's only good until the trip is over.

My daughter says, Really?

Yeah. But no f-word. I'm not ready for that, but you can say--

Shit. Piss. Ass. She says it, laughing. Says it like those words are not strangers to her tongue.

Eating sack lunch behind a gas station. May as well cuss.
We eat Thanksgiving dinner with my 97 year old grandmother. We kiss her on the cheek with our curse-word-fouled lips. We talk to her about growing up, about when she met grandpa, about what it was like in the Depression. We see all our family and laugh and hug and not a dirty word leaves our mouths.

After 29 hours in the car -- our butts numbs and heads dull with boredom -- we're 1 hour from home, switching stations until we land on a song. My daughter announces from the back seat. 

I've got 1 hour, she says. So turn that shit up.

I've said it a million times. I love my family.


Monday, November 12, 2012


It's 60-degrees in Charleston, South Carolina. In other words, IT'S FREEZING.

I'm a wuss when it comes to cold, but compared to Charleston natives I'm Jack-freaking-Frost. When the mercury drops below 70, folks break out coats, gloves, snowshoes, propane heaters.

But real cold hurts.

Champaign, Illinois, 1994. It's -22-degrees. That's minus. My wife are sitting in our basement apartment, watching Cheers. Someone turns on the shower. In the kitchen. It takes a second... shower?

Water, blowing out of the wall.

Call the super. No answer. Look for water meter while kitchen floods. Looking, looking, looking, looking, looking, looking, looking, looking, looking...

30 minutes later, anything I find that remotely looks like a meter is getting shut off. I mean anything. I throw the wrench on the meters outside, my buddy Dave says, "I don't think--"


They aren't water meters.

Winter in Charleston really sucks.
Eventually, we find the water meter on the other side of the building beneath a staircase. The apartment is flooded but the water is off. So is the gas. And it's still -22-degrees. That means everyone's furnace is out. They have no idea.

We go door to door. Hey, hi... cold night tonight, right? By the way, something crazy happened and all the pilot lights went out and we're just here to help you light it. You know, so you and your family don't freeze to death. 

We were thanked. Profusely. Even got cookies.

The next morning, my wife and I discovered she was pregnant.



Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Nut Falls Far from the Tree

2:40 AM.

Our son is late. Waaaaay late.

He always wakes us when he gets in, just so we know. But now it's the middle of the night, the lights are on and his bedroom empty. Dial his phone, straight to voice. Text and nothing in return. It's not time to panic, but it's damn close.

The problem is this: he's nothing like I was at 18. This nut fell far from the tree. If I was late, I was up to shenanigans, I was thinking up a 100 lies to cover tracks. I squeezing in a few more hours of fun into the night at the expense of my parents' sanity. I was just late.

My son, he's honest Abe. Something's wrong.

It's 2:50 AM and my wife and I are staring out the window. Our stomachs twisted, throats tight. Fear sits like a chunk of black ice. This is the one, I think. I don't dare say it out loud. This is the night everything changes. I've had a good life -- a great one -- but the legs are getting kicked out tonight. Thoughts about hospitals and twisted metal. Thoughts about getting jumped at the fairgrounds, thoughts about getting caught on the wrong side of town. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts...

This is the one.

At 2:55 AM, we find his license plate number and get ready to call the police, see if there's been an accident.   I look up the phone number, scan the Internet for news. I would've consulted a psychic. Just before 3:00 AM, the phone rings. I watch my wife answer it. This moment stretches out, a moment that meets a fork in the road. Her expression will tell me which path we're going down. Maybe for the rest of our lives.

It's him. He's calling from a friend's house. He fell asleep and just woke up.

The tension falls off us like dead skin. We can breathe again. We can breathe again.

But I think about all the people that were taken down the other path. And my heart breaks for them.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Unleashing the Claus

I was seven when the lie was exposed.

I was hanging out with a friend when he gave me the truth. I said he was full of crap, I know the fat man is real. How the hell are those presents getting under the tree and who's eating those cookies and drinking that milk? Huh? HUH? Those stockings aren't filling themselves. And, besides, my mom and dad say he IS real. And they don't lie.

His dad rolled into the garage, cranky after another day at the office. My friend says, "Hey, Dad. He's not real, is he."

"NO." He jerks the briefcase from the backseat, marches inside.

And it hit. Like the truth was a spear, piercing the wall of lies. I don't know what most kids experience when they get the news. Happy? Sad? All I know is that I was pissed. I'd been punished dozens of times for lying about God knows what (And I was a liar, believe you me) and now I'm finding out MY PARENTS HAVE BEEN JERKING ME AROUND FOR SEVEN YEARS!

I wouldn't support this hypocrisy, not with my kids. Imagine, year after year of telling young minds, If you just believe. Really, seriously. I mean it. He's real, Junior. You just have to believe, you just have to-- I'm sorry, what? Oh, he told you? Yeah, he's telling the truth.

He's not real.

So now I have kids. And guess what I did when they were little. I gave them presents from the fat man. I joined the fun. I filled their stockings and ate their cookies. But the first time they asked, I gave them the opportunity to explore the truth. And, for them, the landing was soft, cushy, and fun. And they still got presents from Santa.

This weekend is the FREE promo for Claus: Legend of the Fat Man. The Christmas story never heard. The facts behind Rudolph and Frosty, the red coat, jingle bells, sleighs, reindeer... EVERYTHING CHRISTMAS!

A friend read it. She said, "I thought you didn't buy into this?"

I know. I know. But it's so much fun.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Self Promoting Blows

Some are good at it. Real good.

Indie writers have to be. At least until everyone loves them, then word of mouth becomes an agent.

Let's compare.

Joe Bob goes to a party, meets some new guy. They talk sports, talk craft beer, Ford trucks or whatever the hell strikes Joe Bob's bell. Then New Guy says, See that guy over there? He points at you. It's an oyster roast, you're wearing flip-flops and a ball cap, a guy Joe Bob's seen a million times a day.

That guy, New Guy says, wrote this amazing trilogy, I'm not kidding you. I'm talking spellbound, all night. Maybe you don't read, Joe Bob, but I'm telling you I couldn't put it down. I lost a week of sleep, because of that dude. 

Joe Bob doesn't read all that much. He's got a few swallows left in the cup, so he listens some more to New Guy.

That guy is going to be famous, one day. You can say you were at the same party as him. How many times you eat oysters with a famous author? Probably get every one of those books made into a movie, probably biggest thing this summer. I heard he's signing copies later tonight, doing a reading or something.  

Joe Bob finishes his beer, figures he'll hang around. He doesn't read much, but what the hell. He heard you're awesome.

I go to a party, meet some new guy. He's nice enough, we got some things in common. Talk about baseball and fireworks. He tells a good joke.

And then I see my opening.

"Hey, did you hear that I wrote this amazing trilogy? I'm not kidding, you'll be spellbound, all night, brother. You won't put it down, you'll lose a week of sleep, it's that good. Yeah. And I wrote it. I'll sell you a copy, sign it for you, if you want. You interested? Because it's really, really good. There's, like, ten 5-star reviews on Amazon, right now. Here, look. See. This one says she lost a week of sleep, SEE? And, swear to God, hand on a stack, I don't even know her. I told you, it's good. That good.

It's that good. So, what do you say? Want to lose a week of sleep? Buddy?"

New guy never talks to me again.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Teaching Children How to Smoke


People we don't like, they are our Buddhas, graciously showing us our holes, our systems. Our deficiencies. They point us toward our practice. Zen Centers are not always warm and fuzzy, don't always feel good. Truth is that way. The sun rises, it sets. No concern for how we feel about it.

There are few buddhas in my family. I'm lucky that way. I love them. More importantly, I like them. Big diff. There's things I love that fall into my circle of practice. I don't like them, but I do them. But my family -- parents, siblings, wife and kids?


We all spent a week in a Tennessee lakehouse this summer. The mornings were lazy and the days whittled down on the dock, sampling margaritas or whatever fit in the cooler. Kids practiced swimming, climbing out and jumping back in at least 10,000 times. Ear infections by the end of it all, but worth it.

Dinner, the men smoked cigars and studied the grill. Nieces and nephews watched thick clouds leak from our lips, fascinated, asking us to do it again while the word COOL dribbled out.

Evenings, there were games. Cards and treasure hunts, games of Make Me Laugh and Pictionary. Before the sun set, we took the boat out. The air cool. The water, glass.

We did that, every day. Every night.

We ended with the Talent Show. We all had our acts. The girls had been practicing all week. The boys, maybe they didn't care so much. We all did something until tears ran freely in fits of laughter. Bellies buckled. Sides splitting.

Perhaps, a little taste, there's a clip of my mother that captures the fever we all carry.

It's warm and fuzzy.

(Not sure he knew what that dance move looked like.)


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Your Cover Matters

Don't deny it.

Yes, it's all about the content. No argument. I'd rather have a gold bar painted with sewage than a dog turd dusted with gold. Yes, our essence -- who we are, our soul, our integrity and honor and value -- is far more important than the flesh it's wrapped in. Infinitely so.

 (Claus: Legend of the Fat Man made infinitely better with Mike Tabor's cover.)

Nonetheless. In this world, the cover still matters.

My first couple of novels, I put together decent covers. I avoided the generic label, threw something halfway decent over the top and figured that readers would buy the words, not the picture. Somehow, I figured, readers were like polar bears getting a whiff of dinner a mile away. Only replace seal with words. If I wrote it, they would come.

Just. Not. True.

And I realized this when I finally paid attention to how I judge a book... BY THE COVER! 

I zip through a listing of books like Ray Babbit, stopping to read the summary if, AND ONLY IF, the cover is hot. I mean, if it looked dull or homemade then forget about it. There might be a gold bar in there but I wasn't going to scratch away the sewage to find out.

My homemade covers weren't horrible. Okay, some were. One I hardly tried. The Annihilation of Foreverland was dreary and depressing and who in their right mind would reach for that? I hired a graphic artist and, with some input, she created something spectacular. Guess what?


 (Guess which cover I did.)

I exercise to be fit, to be healthy. So my bones don't creak when I tie my shoes. But I'm going with the face God dealt me. It's not pretty, but it works just fine. What's inside -- how I behave, who I help, how I interact with others -- is something that I measure with greater value.

I meditate. I exercise, too. But when there's only time for one, I choose the former.

But I won't ignore the cover.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Huh. And Other Irrelevant Answers.

Playing cards, the gentleman across the table showed me a photo of his 16 year old daughter.

Obviously proud, I see an attractive young lady sitting on her bed with her cat. I start to say, She's cute. Alarms go off. I can't tell a man his daughter is cute. I've got a 14 year old daughter. If he told me my daughter was cute, I might cringe. Then again, I suppose it depends on how he said it.

Dude, man. Your daughter is cuuuuuute... hmmm. That would be wrong.

She's cute. Real quick, to the point. That would work. I could do that.

But now I'm doubting myself. I don't know this guy, not really. He seems nice, but then I tell him his daughter is cute and he punches me in the face. My daughter is cute? CUTE?

So I'm thinking, thinking fast.What else can I say? She's a fine looking young person... Hey, that looks like a smart, successful person of the future... You've done a great job with that one, I can tell by the way she's not strangling the cat...

Now I'm looking at the picture too long. Any longer, it goes into creepy gazing, like I'm taking some mental snapshot, like I've watched too much Law and Order, SVU. So I blurt something out, break the spell, move on and get out. I nod and say:


It was more of a noise, an acknowledgement that I saw the picture and had no particular feelings about it. None whatsoever.

Nailed it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Metamucil Wars: Final Chapter

The surgery center was an icebox.

The nurse covered me with blankets warmed in a blanket toaster. I was naked beneath a hospital gown, half-asleep and hungry. I'd fasted the day before and flushed my colon with Suprep, the bowel prep kit that tastes like Nyquil. There wasn't anything inside.

I'm positive.

The anesthetist shot my IV with a margarita. On the streets, it's called dope. In the hospital, it's got a proper name, but the anesthetist called it a margarita. To calm the nerves, he said. I was ready for the colon roto-rooter. My wife sat next to me, reading the paper. I took a short nap.

When it was time, I got fitted with a blue cap and rolled down the hall. The lights were harsh, the room still cold. The assistants introduced themselves and rolled me onto my left side. I faced a giant TV that would soon be televising my lower regions from the inside. The ratings would suck.

The anesthetist's assistant explained what she was doing as she shot various things into my IV. I might've heard her but was distracted by the other assistant baring my ass for penetration. Seems like they'd wait until I was under to do that. Then again, I didn't care.

I talked to the anesthetist assistant while she was doping my veins, said I was a kid the last time I was put under. Back then they used a mask. She said it's easier that way for children and that--


30 minutes of my life cut away, just like that.

No passage of time. No colors, no thoughts.



Like death.

And then, what seemed like seconds later... Wake up, Mr. Bertauski.

I was in the one room, now I was in another. It was magic. A wormhole through time and space that folded onto itself, compressed in a seamless passage from one moment to another. They had done the deed while I was erased from consciousness. Whoever I am was gone, my body left on a table by itself. And I was brought back from dead, transplanted back into my body, tugged back from wherever I went.

Back to the living.

The verdict: everything in Bowel City was ship-shape. They got in and out in less that 20 minutes like thieves. A camera was inserted 4 feet into my body.  I got probed and, had no one told me, never would've known the difference.

Thanks to the magic margarita.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Metamucil Wars, Pt 2

Saw the gastro-doc.

The office was in an area of other health-care providers, like a strip mall for doctors. The lady on the phone said their office was near the big apple sign. I thought that was weird. I don't know why. But there it was, a big red apple parked near the street.

The office was quiet as church. I was in the waiting room with another guy. We didn't make eye-contact. It was more customary than nervousness, but I couldn't help wondering what his deal was. I was there to discuss a colonoscopy. He probably was to. I thought that was weird. I don't know why.

The gastro-doc was a nice guy. Easy to talk to. I went through the symptoms. I had the impression he was not impressed. I suppose he was accustomed to people crapping out a colon, not some 40-something guy complaining about loose bowels.

Blood in stool? No.

Pain? No.

Sounds more like the flu. Scribble, scribble. But we can do a scope, make sure everything's doing what it's suppose to. Handshake. Make an appointment, we'll do this.

I feel better. I also feel my wallet getting lighter. But I should do this, yeah. Just to be sure.

Bowel prepping is fun!

The nurse makes my appointment and goes through the instructions of the BOWEL PREP KIT I'm going to buy from the pharmacy. Those words seemed abnormally large on the box. There was also a lot of emphasis on NO RED DYE. Evidently, every organ in my body will be cleansed. I was instructed to always stay within leaping distance of a toilet.

Because we want your colon to look like this. There's a picture of a glistening pink tunnel that, in her opinion, is a wonderful colon.

Not this. This picture looks like a colon smoked a pack of Marlboro Reds.

We'll see you next week, she says.

Next week. Sounds like a date. One I will sleep through.


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Metamucil Wars, Pt 1

The battle cry sounded like a coffee percolator.

It started at my appendix and trickled sideways for a good five seconds. And then the march of a thousand tiny feet vibrated the walls of my intestines. My stomach was dropping acid like Jimi Hendrix's headband. A couple hits of Milk of Magnesia would put the fire out, get things back to normal. After all, I had places to go, things to eat.

The war was just beginning.

The days passed between foggy drives to work and deep slices of sleep. I was averaging 12+ hours of shuteye a day, getting a wink every time I lay down. No coffee, for days.

No coffee = caffeine withdrawal = F'ING HEADACHE.

I'm a grinder, too. I go to sleep, I smash my teeth like industrial-grade car compactors. I wake with 6" spikes in my skull.

In four days, I eat 2 bananas, a bowl of rice and an egg. The bananas are turds. All food is disgusting.

I self-diagnosis via Internet. Sounds like diverticulosis, or irritable bowel syndrome, or colitis, or gingivitis, or ruptured kidneys, or 1000 other things. I error on the side of general digestive malfunction, something that's triggered by the wrong food and controlled with diet. My wife thinks my pancreas has exploded.

Doctor sees me on day five.

I'm feeling closer to normal. Not eating, yet, but not sleeping like an over-medicated mental patient. Doc says since there's no blood in the evidence and no pain in lower portions when he presses with three fingers, probably not serious. Probably something like irritable bowel syndrome.

In pathology, syndrome means = we're not sure what causes it.

Here's what you do:

  • Take probiotics. Those are the good guys that will fight the battle FOR ME.
  • Increase soluble fiber. That means Metamucil. That means I'm offically 80 years old.
  • Time for the butt scope. We need to see what's in there. Just to be sure.

For now, all is quiet on the western front. Next week, there will be a camera inside me looking at the battleground.

To be continued.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Marshmallows in Potholes

In the late 1960s, Stanford researchers conducted a Marshmallow Experiment with 4-year olds. A marshmallow was placed on a table and a child was told the researcher would be right back and that if he or she could resist eating it, the researcher would bring back another one.

But only if they resisted.

There conclusions: gratification delayers were more successful in adulthood, had higher SAT scores and had fewer problems with addictive behavior.

I'm not sure I would've lasted long enough for the door to close.

Follow up research indicated that low-delayers, as they're called (sounds insulting, kinda: You're such a low-delayer), can change. Follow up research identified differences in brain activity between the two groups. High-delayers were more active in the pre-frontal cortex. Low-delayers, somewhere near the core where instincts take place.

In more recent studies, researchers have concluded the effect of meditation on brain activity and found measurable changes, including structural and dynamic processes. While they do not specifically link results to the marshmallow experiments, they concluded the changes could affect "addiction, mental disorders, and ADHD...".

You know, things a low-delayer can relate to.

We all have experience with low-delayer behavior, that moment when we say, Screw it, I WANT THAT NOW. That out of body experience where we don't feel in control, we eat 17 donuts, have just the one cigarette, the drink, a forbidden kiss, or something else. Fill in the blank.

Every day offers us an opportunity to work with that. To practice with I WANT. To notice the thoughts and experience the bodily sensations that accompany them.

To allow life to unfold. To not get in its way.

And if we practice, truly, it's not change that happens.

It's transformation.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Sleeping Serial Killer

They come for me.

They know I've killed their kind. Murdered, coldly. Flush them them, grind them under my heel. I'll wipe their guts all over and not think twice.

I was asleep. Dreaming, deeply. I was in a shantytown and the walls were crumbling and the holes revealed maggots and grubs. The people even had bugs crawling out of their hair, long since given up trying to kill them. They live with them. I ended up in a pit where bareknuckle fighters--


Something landed on my face.

At some level, I knew it wasn't part of the dream. Something landed on my real face, in the flesh. And I knew what it was.

Not completely awake, I lay still, sensing the dark the room. I couldn't let it escape or there'd be no sleeping the rest of the night, not with it in the room. Nor would my wife. In a black room, eyes closed, the ceiling fan blowing, I snatched at my pillow only a few inches from my head.

Halfway to the bathroom, I wondered if this was real life. Did I just dream this? Is there really something in my hand? Did I just do that?

I threw the contents in the toilet. There, swimming freely, wings splayed, was a fully grown cockroach. I flushed him from the world. He could haunt the sewer system, but not our bedroom.

I didn't tell my wife. She'd never sleep again.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Starbucks Experience


I can't help look at the receipt for a cup of joe I can make at home for 10 cents. My wife reminds me I'm paying for the experience. The Starbucks Experience.

Non-offensive music.

Cushy chairs.

Bubbling baristas.

I'm dropping my daughter off at camp, I've got 2 hours to kill. As much as I cringe over the receipt, it's the perfect place to go knock out some writing. The employees seem very happy. I mean, super happy. That's part of the Starbucks Experience. It came with my cup of medium roast joe with room for milk or cream.

The Starbuck Experience is heightened when a guy in line tells the guy behind him to go back to Jersey. They argue traffic. I try not to look. Sadly, it ends there. The Starbucks Experience does not include bare-knuckle fighting.

The baristas seem unperturbed by the near melee. Still super happy, I don't know how they do it. But then one barista asks another one - one with long pigtails - to throw a muffin or scone or chocolate-crammed cake funnel into a toaster.

Pig-tails says, "You want me to THROW it in, or PLACE it in?"

Barista number one says this. "Whatever."

I didn't think it was possible, but the Starbucks Experience just got better.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I Am My Mother

All my life, I've watched my mother spontaneously fall asleep in all places. When the bell strikes 8, she'll be unconscious on a couch, in a chairs, in a movie. Name it, she'll sleep on it. One second she's awake, the next she's mashing her face into her palm.

Mom (right) face-mashed asleep 45 years ago.

She's fallen asleep in mid-sentence, more than once. No joke.

Mom. Still face-mashing.
Now I have joined the club.

Take a week of early rising, add a dash of heat, 3 pounds of Italian food and mix in 3 beers (okay, 4) and stir. This is the recipe to becoming my mother.

We were with friends at a restaurant. Afterwards, we stopped at our house for a closer. I just wanted to sit down. I remember laying on the floor with the dogs. I vaguely remember laughter, something laid over me. Something flashing. Half an hour later, I came to (barely).

There were pictures of stuffed animals on my shoulder, blankets over my head. There were pictures of friends posing next to me. They were laughing. I had sleep-face. I fell asleep while talking to my wife.

If this was college, I'd be missing an eyebrow.