It’s Halloween so I find it only fitting that I write a blog about some ghostly experiences I had as a kid. These weren’t my only encounters with the great beyond but they served as the initiation for my dad, brothers and me (my mom was more ‘seasoned’ shall we say). You may come away with one of three outcomes about me:

1) I’m a liar

2) I’m insane or my entire family and I were somehow temporarily mentally unbalanced for the four-month span I’m about to recount

3) What I’m telling you is true

OK, first, I wouldn’t lie about this stuff, what would be the point? What would I gain from it? Life is so much stranger than fiction, there’s often no need for embellishment. Second, how could a family of five all become delusional at the same period of time? What are the odds? Why and how could we suddenly become ‘better’ after moving out of our old house (the haunted setting for my story)? Third, yep, bingo. I believe that’s the correct outcome. I don’t claim to have any great knowledge above others about life after death but I know, thanks in part to my experiences, that it’s real and an integral part of being. Speaking of which, I have a vivid imagination but I’m absolutely a realist and of sound mind. I think, if it weren’t for my ghostly witnessing, I may very well be an empiricist (for those who don’t know, an empiricist is someone who only believes what his or her five senses encounter – if it can’t be seen, felt, smelt, heard or tasted, it’s not real). Maybe not, though. I’ve had faith since I was a wee lad so it might have stuck, who knows. That doesn’t matter. My experiences have helped shape me otherwise. Still, I don’t argue spiritual or existential topics with others because there’s no point. I’ll philosophize and talk about the stuff all day long but It’s not my job or place to change anyone’s mind. It’s also useless arguing with an empiricist. They logically believe what they believe and, so long as they’re not hurting anyone or stealing, God bless them for it.

From the day I was born until I was just over eleven years old, my family and I lived in a beautiful house in Rosedale Park, just outside downtown Detroit. Every now and then we’d notice things would go missing or items like rings, toys, watches and so on, would end up in odd places. We dismissed all that as blind carelessness on our parts. I know first hand but also heard the same from my brothers, that every now and then we’d see images out of the corner of our eyes. In my case, they were always human forms, bright yellow in color, standing about, moving around or walking up and down stairs. I’d dismiss those too, thinking “Wow, that’s odd, must be the lighting.” This happened so often, it was simply a way of life so I thought nothing of it. What did they look like? Like I said, they were bright yellow and didn’t show any distinct features (to me at least). Think of the movie Cocoon.  Remember how the aliens looked whenever they removed their human disguises? Yea, that’s it.

Life went on, with little, non-noteworthy oddities happening here and there. All was fine until the first Easter before the Summer we’d planned on moving out in. It was Easter Sunday and it was also my birthday. My parents were hosting both sets of my grandparents over for dinner. Fun times! Well, because we were moving, our ghostly housemates decided it was time to begin showing their displeasure with our departure. All this happened without us putting two and two together but with the benefit of hindsight, it makes more sense. First, I recall my mother and father talking about how the night before, the toilet in the bathroom between our bedrooms kept flushing on its own. It eventually stopped so my folks put it out of their heads. Second, as we were getting ready, we noticed how hot things were getting. It was early April in Michigan, nice and cool outside. So why the hell were we seating our asses off? Turns out, the thermostat was set to its near maximum. My dad turned it off, set it down and, because he was the only one could reach the setting, blamed my older brother for our discomfort. He pleaded his innocence but it fell on deaf ears. Next our oven died on us. This thing had worked for years before and would continue to work for months afterward. But just on that one day, when we needed it most with my parents’ parents coming over, did it decide to take a crap on us. Somehow, the collection of six, seasoned adult chefs managed to get dinner done. We ate and enjoyed the rest of the day.

A month or two later. My younger brother came tearing up to my mom and I, skin white as a sheet, eyes wide and he was out of breath. We calmed him down and asked what the deal was. He swore and vehemently as a little kid could that he’d just seen a Fireman walking up our stairs, in full gear, hat and all. We looked and didn’t see anything. Turns out, years before we moved into our big, beautiful house, an elderly couple had died in the house. They were a married couple who, my mother had learned, didn’t have any children of their own. The husband was a Fireman. Yea.

As we grew closer to our moving date, activities picked up. Most of our belongings had been boxed up and moved, however, my brothers and I had a set of toy walkie-talkies which somehow wound up in my parents’ bedroom. One night, my folks were startled awake after the things seemingly turned themselves on and began beeping the Morse code buttons over an over “EEEEE!!!-EEEE!!-EE!-E!-EEEEEEEEE!” Frightened and caught off guard, all they could do was walk over to the toys, switch them off and then remove the batteries. The next night, under my mother’s guidance, my parents made sure there weren’t any electrical devices of any kind in their bedroom. You see, apparently, some aspect of the afterlife finds it easier to work with electricity. Don’t ask me how, it’s just the way it is for some non physical beings. So, bedroom… no electronics? Check. They go to sleep. An hour or so later, something starts banging and clanging around in the drawer to a nightstand beside the bed, right near my mom’s head. “Boom! Bang! Boom, bump, boom!” Up get my folks. They cautiously open the drawer and find that they missed a small back massage device. The thing was mostly round and between the size of a baseball and golf ball. Again, they switch it off and take the battery out.

The third night, after a much more thorough sweep for electronics, we all get ready for bed. It’s unclear exactly why but this night, my younger brother, who was six years old, asked to sleep in my parents’ room on the floor beside their bed. I believe he’d been having a hard time sleeping and, even though it’s hard for him to exactly recount, may have been due to odd things happening in the night that both woke and frightened him. My mom and dad agreed. My brother wanted to sleep on my dad’s side of the bed but for whatever reason, my mom had a hunch and told him to sleep on the floor on her side of the bed. Now, the wall across from my father’s side of their bed, there’d been rows of 1 foot by 1 foot mirrors. They’d been on the wall for over ten years, firmly in place and ready to continue to stand the test of time. However, that night, in the middle of the night, my brother, mom and dad were jolted awake – “CRASH!!!” A massive stack of the mirrors came crashing down to the floor. Broken glass was everywhere and the wall looked like hell. The crash would’ve come right down on my brother had he been sleeping on my dad’s side of the bed. It was at this point, and my mom loves to recount the tale, that my dad sat up in bed, turned to my mother and asked, “Is it evil?”

She, in her mystical wisdom which we’ve all learned to trust (the potential source of possible future blogs), decided that no, they weren’t evil, they were simply angry that we were leaving. We believe, though we can’t be sure, that had my brother been on my dad’s side of the bed, they wouldn’t have done what they did with the mirrors. We don’t believe they’d ever hurt a child. You see, we believe they loved us. We were like family, family they never had in their lives. And we were leaving them behind. Tragic, really. Why they hadn’t moved on was beyond any of us. Perhaps they were just so desperate or needing of the experience of being around children and the family life. Dunno.

The next day, almost moving day, around noon, my mom and brothers were out at the grocery store. My dad was outside taking care of the lawn, doing dad things and I was inside vacuuming  my bedroom. Music was playing on my parents’ old reel-to-reel player. I was jamming out and cleaning, having a grand old-time. The carpet in my room was nerd-less so I switched the vacuum off. Satisfied, I started singing along with the music when it suddenly stopped. Ever seen a reel-to-reel player? This one had dials on it that took a little energy to ‘click’ from one setting (play, stop, record and so on) to another. “Click,” I heard, annoyed my tunes had stopped. I figured it was my dad, stopping the reel. I walked into the living room. No body there… The reel-to-reel was set to Stop. Then, my keyboard piano, which was standing up on its side, leaning against a speaker, seemingly turned itself on and began playing music. Even right now, typing this, goosebumps just popped up on my arms. The damn keyboard was playing by itself! My eyes boggled, I turned and ran, ran, ran as fast as my eleven year old legs would take me. I bolted out the door and ran up to my dad who was watering the grass. He likes to talk about what my face looked like. I looked like I’d seen a ghost… nope, not seen, just heard. Spooky enough.

We eventually moved on and that was the gist of our encounters with the spirit world for a time. The events there weren’t all we’d ever experience but they were the most vivid and condensed. They serve as a constant reminder to me that the cosmos is more than we see, hear, feel, taste and smell. It’s wonderful, huge and full of curiosities. So tonight, while we play dress-up and enjoy our whimsical dabbles in honor of the beyond, remember who or what may be watching us, unseen, unheard and unfelt. Happy Halloween!

Family Staples

Driving home from work today, a fun 45 mile commute, one way, I was thinking about all the odd, crazy and wonderful things that made up my family while I was growing up. Most people I know understand that the term “normal family” doesn’t exist and hasn’t ever. The older I get the more I’m able to enjoy hearing about people’s unique upbringing. Family is essential to who we are, how we think and how we live. This variety is the splendor that is the human race. Each of us, in our little groups, clans, families, whatever you want to call. The make up changes from home to home but the essential essence generally remains the same.

So, specifically, I was driving along, around seventy miles per hour, thinking about my own childhood and my family. We definitely had and still have our own quirks, practically our own language. There are multitudes of staples that were both a product of our collective input but also a force that shaped who we were and are as sons (I only have two brothers), mother, fathers, brothers. The area I would eventually dwell on at mile twenty in my trek home was movies.

My parents, brothers and I watched lots of movies. We were one of the very few, back in the early and mid 1980s in Detroit, MI who had HBO. It started there. We got our first VCR in 1986, if I remember correctly. From there, we started renting movies. It seemed every Saturday or Sunday morning the topic would come up: “What’s for dinner and should we get a movie or two?” We had lists of movie inventories from several video rental places. I’m not sure why the quandary took so long because it seemed we almost always settled on one of the following (I’ll probably forget some but here’s the most memorable): Starman, Alien, Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Excalibur, Jaws, ET, Blues Brothers, Poltergeist, One Flew over the Coo-coo’s Nest, Gone with the Wind, Terminator, Terminator 2, Star Wars, Big Trouble in Little China, Rosemary’s Baby (yikes), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Arthur, Crocodile Dundee, The Thing (John Carpenter), The Karate Kid.

Yea, there are more but those are the main ones. Why we didn’t just buy the damn VHS tapes is beyond me but I was a kid without any money so I didn’t worry about it. These films, their humor, horror, action, heroes and villains gave us topics to talk, laugh, philosophize and speculate about. They helped shape our language. All one of us had to do was make a quick reference, gesture or quote from one of those movies and the rest of us understood precisely which point was being conveyed. Movies, literature and music, hell, the arts in general do this for us. They help our brains make connections, help us plan our words and express our feelings.

Movies were just one little set of my family staples. There was and is so much more but those can be discussed at a later time. What say you? What were and are your family staples? What helps showcase the odd, unique splendor of your family?

Freedom IS Free

Here’s a Facebook post I put up a couple of years ago. Just figured I’d add since my feelings haven’t changed one bit:

The 4th of July is special and makes me think. Freedom isn’t given to us, it’s ours to accept as responsible adults. Government can’t grant you freedom, being free is a choice and an innate aspect of our being as grown men and women.  All any government, ever, in the history of humankind, can do is limit or take away our freedoms. Some of these being, and not limited to: the freedom to live, the freedom to die, the freedom to go where ever we want, whenever we want, the freedom to say whatever we want, whenever we want, the freedom to believe whatever we want, whenever we want, the freedom to protect ourselves, our children and our property or choose not too, the freedom to put whatever we want in our own bodies or to keep whatever we want out of our bodies.

I think of it this way, imagine you were warped to a world without any established government, hell, maybe you’re the only self-aware being around. Everything you can do is your innate freedom. All others can do is take them from you. Those bumper stickers that boldly state “Freedom isn’t Free” – WRONG, it’s absolutely free! We all have it, only we give it up, usually due to fear. These lives we live are ours. We are the owners of our own minds and bodies. Sure, one could get harmed by a bully or the state due to his or her enactment of their freedom but that’s our choice: free being or servant. Being free isn’t something that’s granted to us by another person or a government, it’s a choice, always has been, always will be.

Back at it after a couple years.

I can’t say that I’ve been slacking but my writing has been in a lapse for nearly two years.  Hailiorea was finished in 2011, Hailiorea Revolt in 2012 and I was about three quarters through the third and final in the series, Hailiorea Clearing, back on November 2013. All good to go, keeping in line with my goal of writing a new novel every year or year and a half. What happened, you ask? A bunch of stuff.

First, my daughter, the recipient of dedications on all my books, needed a little extra care and help after the passing of her stepfather. Second, work was busy. Yep, I believed, and still do, that I can write a book every year and a half while working a forty-five hour a week job. No sweat. Third (hooray and booyah) I met the woman who’d become my dear love and wife. Sorry book, you’re taking a break while AA puts on the moves… And finally, like George Lucas with Star Wars (before he sold it to Disney), I decided to rework and clean up the whole Hailiorea series. They’re going to be crisper and cleaner than ever! Yea, not a single typo in any of the 330,000+ words! Trust me, don’t even bother checking. Why waste your time? Not only will they be revised but they’re also going to be available in paperback and electronic form.

So let the rejoicing begin! I’m writing again and, thanks to nudges from my previously mentioned wife, decided to throw some ideas and thoughts down in this blog. Why the heck not? Fun times.