Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

Did you ever believe that you’d live this long? As a child, we used to map out our futures. What we’d be like as teenagers. In our twentysomethings, batting away quarter-life crises. And we’d imagine being 32. Then it was just dark, unplanned. Nothing lay beyond its horizon. It is uncertainty whether we thought our …

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I spend a lot of time walking through bookstores. Well, just one bookstore. When Hastings closed several years ago, Barnes & Noble has been my one source for instant book gratification. Well, that and my Kindle. Most times I buy something. Sometimes it’s just therapeutic. Tonight I picked up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien even though …

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These are not resolutions

December 25, 2016


The dry spell isn’t over. 2016 brought so much and gave so little away, creative wise. And it’s difficult to remain optimistic about the dawning new year. So many poor decisions were made this year. It started with the decision to only read books of a certain genre. It quickly derailed. Much worse than the year before. 2017 will be a low number goal for books, but do I promise to budget my time between TV, books, and, most importantly, being a father.

And exercise—shit! I forgot about exercise! Earlier this year, it was the first to go when things began to look bleak. Just cast aside after months of fighting with the Zombies, Run! app and my phone’s weak signal (just Sprint’s way to remind me it’s time to upgrade!). And with exercise, comes better eating. Having to watch your sodium and sugar intake isn’t fun at 33. Most things dietary aren’t fun at 33. Things aren’t fun at 33. And it’s necessary to stop expecting instant results. More so, it’s important to know that it’s not something a person can jump into headstrong. One needs to ease into it, otherwise, you’re bound to lose hope and enthusiasm. No diet books. No starving myself. Just better, healthier choices.

And spending time with friends. It’s beneficial to make time for yourself to spend with friends. No matter the activity. After binge watching The Big Bang Theory (don’t you dare judge me! We all have our vices), I brought up the idea of incorporating Dungeons & Dragons into our game night. We’re all nerds, after all. Why not take it to the next step? From the starter kit, purchased for $20 at Barnes and Noble, to purchasing the three main guides from Amazon (thank you Humana Vitality!), Duckie and I have been pouring over everything in order to make decent characters and stories. Of course, Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens, and Betrayal at House on the Hill are also included in our reindeer games—plus whatever board and card games purchased in the new year. But the activity doesn’t matter in the end. Games or movie marathons or a TV show binge. The effort needs to be made at least once a month (twice, if you’re feeling randy).

And writing. After swearing that 2016 was the year that my creative process would resurrect itself, nothing came to fruition. A few jotted notes in my “bible” dealing with story ideas, quotes from stories and books read or skimmed through, snippets of science and astronomy and mythos lore—nothing that amounted to anything. I won’t say 2017 will be my year. But damn, I’ll need to put more effort into my craft. And not just my random thoughts in a journal or on this blog. But serious, hardcore writing.

And returning to the garden. I started a small garden for Shaun this year, but after the summer incident I lost enthusiasm. I always meant to spread the garden until it encompassed a large chunk of the backyard. And after watching Fuller House, I have an idea how to go about it. But it’ll cost money.

And finally, adulting. I haven’t figured out how to do this just yet. But I will.

The Collection of the Gently Mad

June 21, 2015

The first collection I recall keeping consisted of my baby teeth. I kept them inside a small glass jar which I tucked away in a drawer. Most children placed their fallen teeth beneath their pillows. I did this once and the Tooth Fairy left me some money. She also left my tooth behind. Into the jar it went. Not all my baby teeth made it into the jar. Just the ones that weren’t swallowed or lost down a drain. I don’t recall why or when the collection started. And I don’t remember when it ended, or what happened to the jar.

Throughout the years I have collected many things. I collected pebbles, stones, and rocks. Pogs and comics and cards. I owned an array of marbles. Kept business cards in a plastic sandwich bag. Fliers and posters for events I never intended to attend. I archived the letters written to me. I kept letters found in public places where former romantics accidentally dropped them. I owned several half-filled marbled composition notebooks filled with adolescent poetry. Journals are tucked away throughout the house. Some forgotten, others carried with me wherever I venture.

Bookshelves, Shaun's toys, and a foot.

Shelves

I am nothing short of a hoarder. Step into my house and you’ll see nothing but the sickness, this gentle madness, encoded into my literary DNA. There are four boxes of unread comic books stacked besides the collection I started a year ago. I have shelves upon shelves of books. Half of which remain unread. Some of these books were gifts. Most were purchased on whim. They come from many places. From boxes outside professors’ offices. From a withdrawn shelf at the university library. From recycle bins. From Amazon. Barnes and Noble. Better World Books. Several from Hastings during their last days in McAllen, Texas.

I purchased books because their covers called to me. Because there was an itch that needed scratching. Because they were written by authors I’ve come to love. Or authors that I want to love. Or authors who are loved by those I love. Some were purchased to fill an emotional void. Others were purchased by suggestion or recommendation or after reading an article about the writer or a review of the book. I purchased books for research. To educate myself further. To find my center. Because I watched a movie or TV show based on it. Or because an upcoming movie was adapted from a novel that just seemed right up my alley. Once I purchased a book on the sole reason that a girl was reading it in class.

Hanns Bohatta said it best: “The bibliophile is the master of his books, the bibliomaniac their slave.”

Of the two, which am I? Was the ever a time when I controlled these impulses? Can I say that I am the master of my library? Can I say it honestly? Have I always been its slave?

I never stole a book. Not really, anyway. Some were given to me after being liberated from a library. Some were borrowed and never returned. I’m not willing to throw down money for a signed first edition of a classic text. I’m not about to spend a life’s savings on a framed sheet from a manuscript written by James Joyce or Ernst Hemingway or Sylvia Plath. My addition hasn’t reached those extremes. My career choices will never make those fantasies a reality should they ever come to fruition. It’s simple: I buy books to own books.

I shop sales. Take advantage of memberships and free shipping and discounted prices. I hit bargain bins and tables. Lust after three-for-two deals. Kept track when local libraries held sales. I buy used copies of hardcovers or softcovers, but do my best to stray away from mass market paperbacks; they cannot handle my affection or my abuse.

Unboxed comics beside collection

Unread comics

Of all my collections, my library is the newest and, by far, the most rewarding. Those that I have read have molded my prose, my thoughts, my ideals and ideas. I borrowed personality traits and philosophies, making them my own. They have suggested music and movies and other books, which I come to love and adore. My library ranges from the literary to the realms of fantasy and horror. Graphic novels and comic trades and manga stand beside Joyce Carol Oates and T.C. Boyle and Umberto Eco. There are old college text books, not all of them mine. The cheap shelves purchased from Walmart curve sa they exceed the recommended weight. There are small stacks in my bedroom. There are more making it to my lists. Some I’ve already pre-ordered. I subscribed to Comic Bento just to see what it’s like.

What’s the endgame though? As Nicholas A. Basbanes put it: “Whatever the involvement, however, every collector inevitably faces the same harsh reality. After years spent in determined pursuit, a moment arrives when the precious volumes must pass to other shelves. Some accept the parting with calm and foresight; other ignore it entirely. Some erect grand repositories as monuments to their taste; others release their treasures with the whispered hope that they reach safe harbor in the next generation.”

There will come a time when I’m faced with the decision. And I am uncertain of how I’ll respond. Am I the master, or just the slave?

The End of Phase 2 Pt. 3: Notes.

April 25, 2015

From the pages of Thought Processing (my handwritten journal):

Purchase a copy of Yes Please by Amy Poehler and highlight the shit out of that book.

Screw the partnership. Start writing posts for the books we carry and hopefully others will follow. Maybe ask local writer friends to write a post about their favorite book (the one that said this is it. I’m a writer/reader/book lover). (Michael Jones, Richard Sanchez, Anne Estevis, etc.)

Start working on “Stories for Shaun” in lieu of “Letters to Shaun.” Regular WordPress blog?

What’s phase 3? More about life and writing? More books? More posts about being a father? Bug Ashton about new banner.

Write. Write. Write. Never stop writing.

Possible post titles:
1. Lessons in Letting Go
2. Letter to Jeanna—”The Greatest Bastard” Damien Rice.

Stop being so afraid of moving forward, goddamnit!

Find “gift of fear.”

“They are not long, the weeping + the laughter.”

There are shards of memories I want to share with you. Maybe to put together, or maybe to bury. Truth is, I don’t know what I want to do with them. The only thing we can be certain of is that these pieces aren’t meant to hollow a path to return to us. They aren’t bread crumbs from a crumbling romance grown stale and moldy. They’re simply shards of memories. A declaration. A proclamation. Just reminders that it was never in my intention to let you down.

Sometimes I forget [illegible] There are times when you don’t get a rejection. Sometimes this [illegible] rejectionlessness eats you up more than a no would. You begin to feel that you are so unworthy of anything

There are times when you don’t get a rejection. And, at times, this may seem worse than if she had just said no. A part of you There’s nothing you can do about this one. Asking again is just a set up [for] ridicule. If you were clear of your intentions the first time, a second time will not garner you an answer.

Never expose yourself to the world [illegible] Several people will say personality trumps everything else. However, I’ve noticed the vanity of those around on a day to day basis. This is not to deter you from trying to meet someone who is “out of your league.” There are no leagues. Just shallow and the deep. Shallow people are the here and now. They say things like, “Can you blame me for They create superficial high standards. They care only about chiseled features or unnaturally large tits. They worship cosmetics like a Christian Catholic on Easter Sunday.

[…]

I wonder when I grow old, my face will remain scowled. As if my expectations of the world have left me perpetually disappointed.

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 …

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