Posts By Shaun

Things My Dad Doesn’t Want You to Know, But I’m Going to Tell You Anyhow: A Memoir by Shaun Damien

Pickin' Mah Nose. Wut?
Gold is worth money, I’m told. I’m told there is such a thing as nose gold. Therefore, my nose is worth millions!

So you pretty much know a lot about Dad already, but there are some things you don’t know about him. Not yet, anyway. See, as an almost-two-year-old, I’ve seen a lot of things that he hides from the public eye. For instance, do you know he wrote that entire last post while listening to a Taylor Swift song? He wouldn’t want you to know that, but he did. Kept it on a continuous loop, cursing because he couldn’t find the version he liked on Google Play All Access.

He also has a couple of questionable books on his shelf. For instance, there’s this author named Nicholas Sparks. He has a bah-jillion different books by him. He told me he used to read them when he was younger because he wanted to write novels that people would cry to, and he told me that Nicholas Sparks always makes people cry. Which, I guess, means that Nicholas Sparks is a meanie who makes fun of his reader by insulting their intelligence or something. Why Dad would want to be mean to his readers is something I don’t understand. He’s a nice guy. Except when he doesn’t let me play with things I’m not allowed to play with. Like his laptop…which I’m using. Hehe. Don’t tell him because I’m not.

He’s also becoming self-conscious about his weight. I don’t see anything wrong with him because he’s so warm and squish and I can fall asleep on top him and it’s like sleeping on a pillow. He always tells me that there’s nothing wrong with the way people live their lives unless it makes them unhappy. And if something makes us unhappy, then we should do our best to change it until we’re satisfied. The other day, he went to the DMV (he didn’t pick me up for this historical ride, which put me in a mood, but whatever. I forgive him) to renew his ID and when the picture was taken and printed, he said he could feel his stomach drop (he apparently picked it up because it’s still on him). “I’m rockin’ the double chin, Shaun,” he told me and I thought that rockin’ meant something good so I started dancing and he started dancing, too, but got tired very quickly.

“When the warmer weather sticks,” he said, “we’re going to the park more often. I’ll even get you a jogging stroller and we can talk long walks and you don’t have to do a thing. Just keep me company while I do my damnest to lose some weight.”

“We’re also changing what we eat,” he said. “We’re gonna eat healthier and drop drinking so many sugar drinks.”

I couldn’t get behind him on this one, but he’s my dad and I have to listen to him.

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot and if Dad says that if we’re unhappy with ourselves, we should change ourselves. Well, I’m unhappy that I can only have my candy once a week. I want it once a day. I’m gonna have to get a step-ladder to change this. Oh well. I gotta go because I hear Dad waking up from his nap and if I’m not next to him in the bed, things may get a little suspicious. Toodles.

Shaun Damien C.

When All Arrows Point North, Head South

Last night proved something that has always been a fear in the back of my mind: My depression is a living, breathing metaphysical creature capable of growing and nurturing itself. For years, I have master a few tricks to keep the monster at bay without ever seeking permanent treatment. In college, I sat in counseling sessions handling issues the depression brought on, the fears that built up in the pit in my stomach, my anger, etc. It was then that my counselor, Veronica, labeled my at-the-time, long-term girlfriend, Jeanna, my balance. “She centers you. Throughout these sessions, you always mention her. She pulls you out and grounds you in this reality.”

Years later, Jeanna and I celebrated the best day in our lives when our son Shaun Damien was born. Sadly, however, our relationship wouldn’t survive the long battle of ups and downs. Finally succumbing to the inevitable, it ended. We remain good friends because for nine years, we only knew ourselves. And for the sake of our son’s sanity and well-being, we remain partners in raising him. But it’s not an easy thing to let go someone you loved for so long.

Jeanna & I
Our last beach trip as a couple, circa Summer 2011

Suddenly that balance is missing. And with the walls crumbling all around me, the depression reared its disfigured head. It clutched my thoughts with gnarled fingers, bringing to life the Voice that echoes throughout the chambers of my heart. All my tricks and meditations no longer quelled the creature. They wouldn’t silence the Voice and the venom that it spilled within my daily thoughts.

Suffering the most was this blog. Following the constant theme of sadness, this blog underwent a great shift. Several times, I promised to revamp, refocus, and move forward with my writing and my reading and my musings to little avail.

Meanwhile, Jeanna went through similar bout. Taking another road that I did, she immersed herself in social activities rather than hiding away. I won’t go into her baggage because it’s not mine to share. However, I will share one tidbit. Not too long ago, we were lying in bed. We both needed the comfort of another, so we found refuge in each other arms. I told her how Veronica once called her my balance and she opined how it’s weird having depended on someone and suddenly that’s no longer an option. “I can still be your balance,” she offered. “Even as a friend. Couldn’t I?”

I don’t remember what words came out of my mouth, but the answer is no. No, she couldn’t because she cannot be both the source and the remedy. Not the source itself, but the vulnerability that let the Voice in. The fuel it uses to burn all that is inside me.

Last night the Voice decided it was time to beat me. And for the first time in years, I allowed it. I laid down my arms. If every night was going to be a struggle to keep it at bay for the rest of my life, why not let it take me to its depths to see what it has to kill me? When it was over, I picked myself up and moved on.

Today (being Tuesday, though it’s no Wednesday), the world was in a fog. When Carol (who also texted me Monday night apologizing for vanishing Sunday and most of Monday) sent me a text. In the last month, I’ve grown fond of her. There are moments when I just think about her and the pain resides. There are moments when she’ll crawl into my thoughts for no discernible reason. I recounted a story of how I “slayed the giant,” a spin a story I’ve told many times about a very real event in my life about the first love letter I ever received. And it kept the Voice at bay. Still, I could feel its claws digging into my heart.

Then the oddest thing happened. We stopped to put gas after work, and Shaun and I walked into the Stripes where I picked up two sodas – one for Mom and one for me – and  a bag of Cheetos Puffs and a Monkey Juice for Shaun. Shaun is adored by all. The old lady in front of us paid him a compliment, which I’m getting better at dealing with. The lady behind me then struck up a small conversation with me before it was my turn to check out. I handed the guy behind the register the two sodas and took the bag of puffs and Monkey Juice from Shaun so they could get rung up. Needless to say, Shaun did not enjoy this. His face scrunched and he started to cry. I tried to sooth him as I tried my debit card on the machine and it came out error. I tried again, and this time the price for my purchase wasn’t available. Frustrated with the man behind the register and the card reader, I tried to keep my voice calm as I tried to sooth Shaun’s tears. Finally, I hear, “Five-eleven? That should take care of it.”

The voice belonged to the woman who I’d just spoken to earlier. “That’s my good deed of the day,” she quipped.

“Are you sure?” I asked, because the social protocol of this has never been risen before. Not with me.

She nodded. I thanked her.

“For him,” she said as I held the door for her as we both left the store.

It gave me something I needed. I could feel the power I’d given the creature and its voice rescinded. And it’s given me motivation to act on something that I’ve only thought about doing.

My name is Guillermo. And I am a survivor. I am not my depression. I am my balance.

Film 365

The Spectacular Now directed by James Ponsoldt

Movie adaptations are tricky when it comes to the-book-was-better crowd. Most of us scoff at the very idea that a good book could translate well as movie. Though several have managed to hold a flame to their literary counterparts, I’m often reminded by my filmmaker friend’s words, “They’re two different mediums. You can’t compare them. One doesn’t have to remain faithful to the other.” And, in a way, it’s true. Nobody every picks up a novelization of a film and point at the page and complain about how that didn’t happen in the movie.

Spectactular Now movie posterThere are a few movies that manage to tell a better story than their novels. How to Train Your Dragon comes to mind. Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kick-Ass 2 by Mark Millar became superb (fine, I’m only talking about Kick-Ass and its sequel here) films on the big screen.

The Spectacular Now kept me guessing. I liked the book, but disliked the story. Starting off by plowing through the early character development, the film started off as a disappointment. Coupled with poor casting choices—Shailene Woodley as Aimee raised the same question as Shia being cast in Transformers. Miles Teller as Sutter Keely left a metallic flavor in my mouth. The altering of Cassidy’s voluptuous figure to the Hollywood teenage girl crushed the spirit of love who you are. How can you when the film industry keeps telling you that anything more than below average isn’t sexy? Even Aimee’s best friend suffered from film liposuction.

However, as the film progressed, I became more accepting of Teller’s Sutter and tolerated Woodley’s Aimee. And everything I disliked about the book was mended in the film. So what if it’s typical? Sometimes, you want the character you’re rooting for to realize the errors of his way and make up for them. We want redemption even if it’s not your cookie-cutter ending.

I wanted Sutter Keely to grow up in the book, not just become accepting that others are growing up around him.

The Spectacular Now is available for Amazon Instant Video, DVD, and Blu-ray.


The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Where was Tim Tharp as I sat in creative writing class being torn apart by my contemporaries and professor for creating a unlovable character and throwing him into an adventure where he doesn’t learn a lesson? Sure, Sutter Keely might come off as your typical, everyday high school party goer. And sure, he might seem charming. And sure he might get the gist of knowing he has to grow up, but in The Spectacular Now I’m left wondering if he will ever get his head straight and start thinking about something other than the now.

The Spectacular NowDo not mistake charming for lovable. Sutter Keely will steal your heart and make you smile throughout the book with his misguided, quasi-jaded philosophy that puts Holden Caulfield to shame. There is no denying, however, that Sutter is a teenage alcoholic bound to grow up into an adult alcoholic. He’s disappointed with people who don’t embrace his idea of fun and living life. Still, you read through the book with the understanding that this is a coming of age novel. That Sutter will eventually have to grow up. And after seeing what’s in store for his future, watching his friends growing up around him, the reader expects an epiphany, a change. Screw up after screw up, mishap after mishap, trouble after trouble

Tim Tharp, however, doesn’t deliver that to the reader. The Hollywood ending doesn’t do Sutter justice because it’s just a manipulation of the atomic vampires in charge. And while I can’t help but to admire that this book just proved my creative writing class wrong, I still feel cheated.

Even through all the good of the book, the lackluster ending where the narrator learns absolutely nothing even though reflections of his future cheer him on, stare him in the face, ditch him constantly, he keeps on trucking as God’s own drunk. Romanticizing his dead-beat father until he becomes a carbon copy image of the bastard. The only lessons he learns he quickly forgets with his big 7Up and whisky.

Still the amazing ability of getting into his main character’s psyche proves that Tim Tharp is a writer that will get young adults to sit down and read. There isn’t a boring moment within the pages. And the information is delivered without the fluff that makes most books tedious to read at that age. The sort of writer that I yearned for growing up.

So if you’re willing to go along from the drunken ride and test your sobriety, it’s time you curled up with Tim Tharp’s novel.

About the book (from

This National Book Award Finalist is now a major motion picture — one of the most buzzed-about films at Sundance 2013, starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Ember, 9 July 2013 (movie tie-in cover)
ISBN: 978-0385754309

You can purchase a copy of The Spectacular Now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. An e-book edition is available for Kindle and Nook.


Dairy of a Book Hunter Entry 1

Imagine it’s no different than any junky itch. The book hunter—the bibliophile, the bibliomane, the book junky, suffer of the gentle madness—knows when another fix is needed and his nights become restless. This fix started with the hunger for something beautiful on my shelf. For only a $1.50, I purchased Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s second edition to The Madwomen in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. But it wasn’t enough. After work Friday, I weaseled down to Barnes &  Noble and purchased two novels (at a $1.79) for my mother, and Erotic Poems by E. E. Cummings and Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh for myself. This morning, in the mail, arrived Dark Secret Love by Alison Tyler.  And later, El Senor, who’s down in the Valley visiting during the winter, arrived and we went adventuring to Barnes & Noble once again where I finally found a copy of Lone Survivor—a book I wanted to see since I saw the movie.

IMG_20140112_011456Zone One by Colson Whitehead was purchased earlier in the week, while I’m still devouring (slower now that I like it) a YA read. Still, the itch is still burning up through me and I’m afraid that I can’t stop thinking about placing more novels and novellas and collections of short stories on my shelves. I’m running out of space. It’s only a matter of time before my rooms are wall to wall shelves with books piled on the floors before them, towering higher than Babylon. This book lust is bound to be the end of me, yet I can’t stop feeding the itch. Bringing home strays to live with me. Even in my fantasies with women (the nonsexual ones, guys, sheesh), books are involved. An ideal partner must suffer from the same madness. Must lust for books as much as I do. Can you imagine this perfect union in Barnes & Noble (a book hunter’s heaven)?

Oh, one can only dream. Am I right?


Let’s Get On With It

Enough with the ring-a-ding-a-ding, let’s chime in the new year with the solemn vows of  new-year-new-me bullshit that most of us forget by the third week in—”Oh, I tried to keep up that diet, but all that lovely junk food kept pouring itself into my mouth and exercising got too difficult because my couch shackled me to it.” I decided not to hop onto to a dietary trend. I’m not juicing it up, downing smoothies in place of meals, not slim-fasting or weight-watching or Jenny-Craig-ing or blowing money on the dangerous crossfit (cross fit?) trend.

In celebration of the new year, I lopped my hair by a collected amount of five inches.
In celebration of the new year, I lopped my hair by a collected amount of five inches.

This year, my resolution is a revolution of my psyche. It’s a revolution of reattaining the peace she-who-shall-not-be-mentioned managed to break like a Miley Cyrus music video (ugh! That’s an image I’ll never wash from my memory). To regain a sense of control over my anger, over my emotions, over my moderate behavior in all things. Essentially, return to my philosophical roots. Mindful breathing. Mindful eating. Mindful living, and finding peace through my existence and learning through the cosmos of all that is around me. Religion for the religionless.

I resolve to read more books. To learn new things. Write more stories and talk about writing with teenagers of the library. To experience new things. To return to patience and humility. To change what is in my power and accept what isn’t. To count my “blessings.” To improve myself physically and emotionally and mentally and structurally (wait…what?).

Not a new me for a new year, but a back-to-basics me for another year that’s already proving to be absolute shit. And once I accomplish these goals, it won’t faze me.