Those January Blues

by Michael on January 10, 2015


Five years on and I grapple more with the month of January than I do her death. It’s PTSD, or something like it, and the very moment midnight hits on New Year’s Eve I expect all rights to go wrong: the ringing of every phone call is a death march, a soft cough is a collapsed lung, each honking horn the final beat, the final beep of the lifeline. This month each year drags me along its endless path, slams me against every wall, leaves me wide-eyed in bed at night counting the many ways things fall apart.

Truth is, life’s never been better since she died. I’m exactly where I should be doing what I love surrounded by people who inspire me in this city I dreamt of since childhood. We’re healthy, we’re happy, and we’re living the life we want to live. And this kid! This beautiful boy, whose existence surprised us weeks after the funeral, he wanders his world, taking it all in, an intensity in his eyes as if it’s all a bit familiar, as if he’s been here before.

And yet the soft hum rattles away at me, that layered reverb under the surface of everything everywhere I go for this one month a year. When does it end? Is this the year? Or does it remain, a cruel reminder of that blurry-eyed thousand-mile drive back to my hometown five years ago, of the inevitable passing of time, of the knowledge that one day life’ll take something else away?

The Letting Go
I started this blog first out of anger, then wrote through deep bouts of what I suspect was some not-too-distant cousin to depression, and of course a bit of that nostalgia I’ve been known to battle. Now that the pain has found new form, I’m mostly silent here. I guess the stages of grief are present on these pages, though I spent too much time on anger and isolation to care about denial and bargaining. What is, is. No regrets, no desperate pleas or flailing efforts to change what can’t be changed. When the glacier you stand on begins to melt, don’t focus on the water you can’t refreeze.

But this talk of stages, where’s fear? Or the inexplicable worry and anxiety? And what’s the name of that thin layer of goddamn surreality that’s floats over my life like an Instagram filter?

The surreality. So many of these days don’t feel real. The months pass and then later I wonder where it’s all gone. Some stretches of time all-too-similar to that moment just after you realize you took one too many hits, one too many sips, one too many steps into the dark room. Not bad, just different. Not wrong, not entirely right. Or, so right that I catch myself wondering if I made it up. I watch Charlie and sometimes wonder if he’s real, if any of the past five years have happened at all or if instead this is some waking dream that I don’t understand but never want to end.

Perhaps this is why I’ve fallen in love with photography: this need to preserve, to prove real the existence of those moments I’d otherwise question.

On Moving On
I’ve learned that so many never find their way to acceptance. They’re wandering, lost in the Sisyphean task. And even though I’m there, sitting on the boulder somewhere at least near the top of the hill, I feel an existential obligation to reach out to those whom I know are left on the wrong side of the hill. Losing a parent is a scarring bitch of a life event, losing a parent when you’re too young to lose a parent is white-hot pain, a fracture for which there is no cast. It’s directionless, it’s endless, its truth strikes at you in so many forms, in so many ways. At times it’s as if your only vision is peripheral, at others as if there’s nothing left to see at all.

And yet, peace is out there in some form somewhere. In that dark room you fear, in your wife’s womb, in a job you belong in, in a wave tumbling at your child’s toes, in a stranger’s nod, in a bull elk’s stare, in a book or a song or in a good meal or at the bottom of a strong drink. Even if it’s fleeting, it’s there and will return even when there’s good reason to doubt.

Five years on and I’m not quite right but I’m also not quite wrong. And I’m okay with that. I’m so okay with that I wouldn’t change a damn thing.

{ 1 comment }

BSidesNarrative Best of ’14

December 27, 2014

2014 was the year of reimagining: throwbacks, remixes, dubs, even a few homages to gone-too-soon geniuses, Arthur Russell and Jason Molina. There’s a little bit of everything here: 50’s bubblegum pop and 60’s psychedelic folk, that requisite lil’ bit of disco and heady post-rock, some bounce-in-your-step electronica and so much 80’s synth-pop you may soon find yourself three movies deep into a John Hughes marathon. And of course no ‘Best Of’ list is complete without a healthy dose of “Suicide Mike” cuts, those songs that’ll carve you up and crush you with […]

Read the full article →

BSidesNarrative Best of ’13 Playlist

January 1, 2014

Everything changes.

2013 was a year of transition: retro, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Dance floor disco, wall-of-noise dream pop, and a splash of shoegazing post-rock. 80’s synth-pop, ‘fuck-up your life’ folk, and some damn fine electronica. We look back and flash our influences before landing somewhere between here and there. Feel it out and find your way.

Click shuffle and let the music be as random as your life.

Spotify: BSidesNarrative Best of 2013

Rdio: BSidesNarrative Best of […]

Read the full article →

On the Wonder of Life

May 22, 2013

It was late in the year of the fog, first spring after 9/11, those days of ER visits, of endless Xanax and chain-smoking. The unemployed era, when I stared at a blinking cursor, hour after hour, blank-brained and absent, incapable of doing much of anything. “Severe acute anxiety disorder,” one of the on-call shrinks said before handing me more drugs, no follow-up scheduled- there’s no profit in the uninsured. I ignored days – too many people – and instead lived […]

Read the full article →

On Moving On

January 17, 2013

That moment, it changes you. Not like those other big events, a first kiss, that broken bone, a high school graduation, the ‘stay in bed for weeks’ breakup. This moment, it’s different. It sends you into shock and then destroys you, puts you to sleep and then haunts you harder. It shape shifts, fades in and out, but never leaves you. You’ll dream on a loop and wake up shaking. Terror is animate.

I’ve known loss. Grandparents, neighbors. Even a college […]

Read the full article →

BSidesNarrative Best of ’12 Playlist

December 31, 2012

There was no anthem this year.

Music in 2012 was a year of unexpected movements and sloppy transitions, retro nostalgia-inducing synth-pop and shoegazing beach disco, fuck-with-your-head folk and get-off-yer-ass-and-run-for-your-life electronica. That about sums up our lives, too: from career changes to a cross-country move, from the mountains of Boulder to the hills and beaches of San Francisco, from a crawling infant to a maniacal toddler, from feeling old to finding your ‘young again.’

Click shuffle and let the music be as random as […]

Read the full article →

On Daydreams and Nightmares

September 14, 2012












I avoid sleep. I run from it as if it holds a knife because, in a way, it does. It’s where fears comingle with regrets, where failures meet insecurities. It’s where nostalgia lives, where my Mom dies over and over again, where all of life’s cruelty resides. It’s where I’m helpless to fight back. And I wake from every sleep, whether a nap or a full night, that knife stabbing at my gut, poking around, choking away my breath. Sweaty and […]

Read the full article →

On the Funeral Song: An Unexpected Goodbye

January 17, 2012













Play your life backwards as you would an old vinyl record & perhaps you’ll hear a hidden meaning. Premonitions. Timelines. Lost opportunities & endless regrets.

I last saw my Mother early November 2009 at my brother-in-law’s engagement party in Chicago. We had breakfast at her favorite diner, one we frequented when she visited during my time living in Chicago, a greasy spoon with mediocre food that must’ve reminded her of home. She looked good for a woman who’d been given a death […]

Read the full article →

On World B. Free & Why You Should Be a Reader

January 12, 2012












No matter the disappointment, no matter the ridicule & rage, you’ll thank me for what I pass to you – this losing record, that last second folly, the endless blooper reel that will be your life as a sports fan. You’ll have moments, no doubt, bursts of pure hatred. Heartbreak will become your most stable relationship.

You won’t remember these times we now share, of me tossing a ball at your toes while you clap your hands & belly laugh, when […]

Read the full article →

On Spirituality: A Letter to a Loved One

December 21, 2011
















If you know me, you know I’m relentlessly passionate on certain topics. If you don’t know me, but follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, well, you know I’m relentlessly passionate on certain topics. Though not everyone will agree with what I say or think, nor will I ever be accused of standing on middle ground, I embrace criticism, argument, & correction. When proven wrong, when a different perspective shatters my worldview, I acknowledge it as such and […]

Read the full article →

BSidesNarrative’s Best of ’11 Playlist

December 15, 2011

(Musical highlight of my year: Telluride Blues & Brews Fest, Sept ’11)


Warning: This is a moody playlist. I’m talking post-rock meets folk-rock meets country-folk meets electronica meets hip-hop instrumental meets lyrics-that’ll-knock-you-flat-on-your-ass.

Music is an emotion, a chord strikes a chord at a given moment & a song becomes as concrete as a memory. There’s no rhyme or reason, no formula for what moves me. That said, and for whatever reason, these 90 songs impacted me over the course of an emotional […]

Read the full article →

backed in a corner

November 5, 2011

Knock on wood, but it should be noted that I’m a healthy guy. If you’ve read this space before, you know I’m a freak about what I eat: an organic veggie-based unprocessed GMO-free, mostly non-dairy diet. You may also know that I’m a runner: I often log as many as 6 miles per day. And when not running, I’m always moving: walking, wandering, pacing, & dancing. I’ve undergone no surgery, minor or major, have no history of chronic illness, have […]

Read the full article →