Nobody’s Hero

When I was fourteen or so, I began listening to the radio, reading science fiction and fantasy, learned how to explore the world, and learned that my curiosity about it was not a failure of acceptance but a secret joy I could live in whenever the suburbs got me down. I lived in a modest neighborhood, with everyday people who went about their inherited 1950’s playbook. I wanted so much more. I was afraid to die and too naive to live. Music and writing became my escapes.

The radio was a constant companion – home or car. I would drive with my father to the store or with my mother to swap meets, and I would control the radio. They always listened to AM. I remember discovering the FM band and was so impressed with how good it was, how different, how alive. I could venture out into my own streams of songs, learning the words and worlds that others created. As a writer, I listened to the lyrics as much as the instruments behind them.

komeIt was somewhere around this age that I also discovered KOME radio, 98.5 in San Jose. Every Sunday night, at 9:00PM, I would take the old, thrift-store radio on my dresser, and turn the dial to 98.5 and listen to Greg Stone. “Stonetrek” was a show of progressive rock hosted by Greg, and it went for various lengths of time but always on Sunday night. A new world emerged and I found Yes, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Saga, Marillion, Led Zeppelin, FM, Kayak, and Rush. The music was mesmerizing, lyrical, and so different than the silly pop that would encompass most of the people in high school. Even moreso, the lyrics were imbued with pictures of magical places and beings, space and possibilities. It matched the books I was reading and the poetry I was writing.

I remember walking through the Fremont Hub, an old shopping center in Fremont, that had a record store right in the middle of it, near the Longs Drug Store. I would walk there with my parents and always stop at the window, looking at the fantastic artwork, the beauty of Boris Vallejo and Roger Dean. And there, I will never forget it, was the first time I actually saw a Rush album. It was Hemispheres, and I thought it was so odd, a naked man standing on a brain. Whaaaa? I had to listen, it was so odd.

fleher-brucke-21-6-17-14I found The Trees, Cygnus, and Circumstances. I found lyrics I could not only listen to but understand. Understand. Not with my heart only but with my mind. I always read lyrics and with Rush, I was always enchanted. I was spoken to. Someone heard me, and it was Neil Peart. I started seeing Rush as soon as I could, and I never stopped. I knew every album, before and after Hemispheres, and in my highest highs and lowest lows, there was a lyric for me. I was as constrained as “Subdivisions” and as lonely as “Presto.” When I lived in Germany for a few years, “Counterparts” was released. They didn’t tour that year, much to my devastation as that is probably one of my favorite albums. I commuted to work every day, from just outside Koeln to Duesseldorf, about an hour. On that ride, I think I completely wore out that CD. I was lonely, in a country that didn’t speak my same language, terrified every moment of getting shipped home or fired for not being good enough. “Counterparts” was my friend, a voice speaking to me, Neil speaking to me through Geddy’s voice.

neil-peart-rush-1984-u-billboard-1548I know that Neil might be the first person to say he was nobody’s hero. Yet, for many of us who were disconnected and sad, lonely or feeling like we were the weird ones, his words comforted us. They connected us in some kind of soulful way, without the physics of the physical. They made us a community, like minds connected via Geddy’s voice and Neil’s words and Alex’s guitar. They were the voice we couldn’t have in the world, because the world was too glittery to listen. Neil inspired me to read Aristotle and Jung, and he expanded my world. He never knew me. But, he knew me.

ghostTo say that I am sad that he has passed has not captured the entirety or depth of the feeling. I’m not angry or fearful, tearful, nor morose. I am honestly not sure what I am. Silent. It’s not that the voice is now silent. It’s been silent for a while; and that absence helped to come to terms that there might not be a soundtrack for my life any longer. I think it might be more like losing your mentor. Your guide. A pen pal you have never met. You both get it but never meet. I believe his soul, though he might laugh at that, is now part of all of us. He left the physical work behind, and the words on paper were and are comfort. I’m not sad, no. I think, I am alone. And now, I have to write my own soundtrack, my own words, my own poetry. I have to finish the life I started with the work that I am tasked to do. He did his part. It’s time, now, for me to let go of the mentor, and do mine.

npFor all of you who are the weirdos, the strange ones, you who think no one understands…they do. Maybe, someday, if you read what I wrote, or Neil wrote, you won’t feel so alone. We’re here. The big, amorphous cadre of oddities has got your back. You may never meet me, but just by the words on paper, we will be kindred spirits.

Thank you, Neil. You were nobody’s hero but you are everyday glory.

Nobody’s Hero by Neil Peart / Rush 

I knew he was different, in his sexuality
I went to his parties, as a straight minority
It never seemed a threat to my masculinity
He only introduced me to a wider reality
As the years went by, we drifted apart
When I heard that he was gone
I felt a shadow cross my heart
But he’s nobody’s
Hero – saves a drowning child
Cures a wasting disease
Hero – lands the crippled airplane
Solves great mysteries
Hero – not the handsome actor
Who plays a hero’s role
Hero – not the glamor girl
Who’d love to sell her soul
If anybody’s buying
Nobody’s hero
I didn’t know the girl, but I knew her family
All their lives were shattered
In a nightmare of brutality
They try to carry on, try to bear the agony
Try to hold some faith
In the goodness of humanity
As the years went by, we drifted apart
When I heard that she was gone
I felt a shadow cross my heart
But she’s nobody’s
Hero – the voice of reason
Against the howling mob
Hero – the pride of purpose
In the unrewarding job
Hero – not the champion player
Who plays the perfect game
Not the glamor boy
Who loves to sell his name
Everybody’s buying
Nobody’s hero
As the years went by, we drifted apart
When I heard that you were gone
I felt a shadow cross my heart


#neilpeart #rush #everydayglory #nobodyshero #alexlifeson #geddylee


Chapter 2: Rocks and their Shaping

Turn towards the road that leads to the courage of the sunrise,
Leave behind your tears, Rainbow
Let the mist dry slowly as you lift your heart
from darkness to the Eastern blessing

From there the Night Wing will drag you on
And Sorrows may weaken your legs,
Remember the smile of the Jester’s Court,
And turn inward toward the King

A playing card may fall on the path
And the carrion eater may circle,
Turn at the water’s edge if blind
and find the doorway in front of you

There is no gold at Rainbow’s end
That fairy tale is gone,
Reach with your hand toward the mirrored sand
Your treasure is the sight which cannot see

-The Sunrise

Iris woke with the sun just creeping up over the tight grassy rise in the road. After a week of steep, slow climbs, her ankles hurt and her back burned. The chill sound of cool water running brought her alert. She was thirsty, and had to pee. She crawled out of the warm sleeping bag and scrambled through the mucky leaves and dirt toward the small stream’s edge. The smell of rotting underbrush drifted upward on the morning mist.

trailThe quiet was overwhelming, especially after the past months of war. The Movement had left its mark, on hearts, minds, and eardrums. Iris almost begged for a raucous gunfight. Her nerves were shattered, she knew it. The sound of the water was pale and weak, but she knew it was necessary. She laid out on the flat ground beside the stream and buried her face in the cool, thin water. Icy. She pulled her head up quickly. The idea of being snuck-up on was very fresh. She took a long drink and rose to pee. A twig snapped on the other side of the stream and she froze, half crouching. An animal out of her element.

She saw movement, brown and slow. She didn’t realize she was holding her breath until her chest began to hurt. The grasses shifted and a small bear wobbled towards the rushing water. Iris did not move, despite the now-apparent lack of danger. Something made her stay put, watching.

The bear was very small and she had never seen a living one. Pictures in books were…inadequate. It’s thick fur swayed as it wobbled toward the water. It tentatively stuck its black snout into the water and lapped up small swallows. Iris, fascinated at a living creature, not human, nearly her size, wanted to creep closer. She put her hands in front of her to pull herself forward when she heard a twig snap, again, to her right. She froze.

Ten yards away, a much, much larger bear lumbered toward the stream. A short whimper followed by a fierce bark erupted from the larger bear. The small bear looked up from the water and whimpered as well. It tentatively put paws into the river but the bank fell off steeply. It floundered for a few seconds before pulling itself up back onto the ground. The larger bear growled again, a rumbling type of bark, and started to lumber toward Iris.

Shit, shit, shit… what was she going to do. If she got up, she was going to be chased. If she stayed there, she was far too close to get away. Luckily, the smaller bear moved up river toward the larger bear. The larger bear, Iris called it Momma Bear in her head, stopped moving toward Iris and sloshed into the river. She waddled across the water toward the small bear, and finally landed on the other side. Iris watched the smaller bear roll up to its mother, rub against her legs and grab for her neck. Momma was having none of it. She swatted the smaller animal and started to move up the bank. The little one followed, and within a few minutes, they were out of sight.

Iris rolled over and let out a long breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. Shit, she thought. I need to be more careful. Iris rolled up and moved back to her camp to pack up for the day’s next hike.

By her estimation, she was still about twenty-five miles from the first place mentioned in the poem – Eastern blessing. It had been so long since she had been here, she felt as if her mind were filling in things that might not have been true. Forests were thicker, the river wider, shifting. As she rolled up her bag and worked shoes and socks back into the backpack, she hoped it was right. She was a little irritated at Anrav for putting directions into a poem. Yes, it was fun to unravel it and yes, she understood why he did it. Damn it, though, how was she really sure she was in the right place. She only had so much protection and the world was becoming a far wilder place. Two more days, max, and she’d be at the first sanctuary. At least, she hoped, it was still the sanctuary she remembered.

Ostera’s Grove. It was one of the places Anrav first met her, to talk about the past, the present and the future.

Winter was coming on stronger, and Iris could feel the snow ahead. The chill, crisp air filling a blue sky was deceiving. She could not see the full western sky yet, as the trees rose and feel behind her, obstructing. If she was right, it would only be one or two more days until the snows started, and she needed to be at the Grove before then. She was shocked how long it had taken her to get to this point. Days of walking in her earlier life would have brought her to the Grove in a week. She was behind. She was out of shape. Guerilla warfare in the streets of a city is no substitute for the endurance of hiking. Iris pulled on the wool coat and slipped the backpack over her shoulder. Damn it. She forgot the water. She dropped the pack to the ground again and unhooked the canteen. The walked down to the river again and laid flat to fill the canteen. The water began to glint and flicker in the on-coming sunrise and she stared at the transient jewels for minutes as the can filled. Shaking her head, she broke the trance. She needed to get going.

bigtrees_fallShe heard the earth move before it actually shifted. Laying on the ground, the sound snapped and grumbled as the bank began to rumble and shift. Startled, Iris looked around at the trees that began to sway together. The ground seemed to undulate, like a large wave, and her eyesight became skewed as the earth shifted. The earthquake went on for some time, longer than she remembered them happening. She looked around for things that might fall on her but luckily, she was in an open space. Rocks on the other bank crumbled and streamed down the low rise and into the water. In a moment, the sound stilled and the earth halted its dance. She took a few breaths and listened. The silence was enormous. Iris breathed. It was over.

The sky to the north erupted in bright white light, even in the brilliant sunrise. As Iris rose, the shock wave of a roaring explosion knocked her back down. She lifted her head and looked toward the north. A plume of grey and white smoke, a cloud rising from the ground, billowed toward the sky. Shit. What now? She racked her brain for what could possibly be this removed from the world and still explode. Her breath caught as she remembered.

Granite Station Missile Silo.


Chapter 1: Dawn

dawnThe rusty hinge popped as she opened the Mustang’s door. She twisted sideways and struck a booted foot on the lacy, white grass. The satisfying crunch of November frost gave way beneath the well-worn sole. A gush of repressive cold surged in to follow the noise, and her breath streamed in wide, flat plumes through pursed lips. She reached up with gloved hands and pulled down her beanie and scarf, and dragged the rest of her tired body out of the old car. She clapped her hands together to remind herself to keep moving and slamming the car door, she turned back to the long path ahead. Continue reading

Artemis and the Old Man – Part 2

Artemis let slipped the loop of the string round the bow end and set her quiver on her back. The daylight was long at this time of year and with all the men gone, she would have no one to bother her until the day was over. She left the horse and made her way toward the north fork of the river, to the eastern-most part of her father’s lands. It was there that the deer hid the high summer.

Artemis began tracking deer almost as soon as she hit the river bed. Chunky rocks gave way to smaller pebbles which in turn gave way to sand. The light dusty bed was perfect to trap the tracks of dinner. Her ears picked up the sound of lizards rustling the heated marsh grass and a movement caught her eye. A white dash tickled her right eye and she looked at the other bank full on, her body completely still. No time for an arrow, she would have to track this one. Suddenly, a great crash assaulted the thick brush and bounded off. Artemis ran.

She quickly darted over the shallow river and into the grasses beyond. Close trees and closer brush made the going difficult but she knew she could keep up. Her lithe legs stretched easily over the branches and fallen trunks as she ran after the deer. She couldn’t tell if it was a buck or doe at this speed but the white meant it was almost certainly old enough, either way. A few more minutes and the deer would be tired. If it would stumble, so much the better. A loud crack to her left caught Artemis off guard. It was she who stumbled and fell into a rotting pit of leaves.


Artemis and the Old Man – Part 1

Artemis coiled her long, brown hair over the strip of fabric and tucked it in. Golden brown wisps stuck to her neck as the sweat cooled. Like her namesake, she loved to hunt. It was her guilty pleasure; if her father or brothers ever found out, she would never be allowed near another bow.

The spring morning was fresh and clean, bright sun streaming through the thick canopy of ash and alder. Her horse stepped tentatively on the leaf-strewn forest floor, twigs and dried detritus echoing against the sparkling bird-song. If she was ever going to find a buck this morning, she would have to stay the horse and take off on foot. Artemis dismounted near a young oak tree and led the horse for a few more steps off the narrow path. No one save she and her father hunted this area of the woods and with him off to Tranwyn for ten days, she would have it all to herself. She smiled as she tied up the horse and unslung her bow and quiver from the saddle.
Artemis’ mother died in childbirth with her younger brother, Justinian. Artemis smiled when she thought of the little boy. He was now ten and not nearly a little boy any longer. While her father doted on his two elder sons (and the heirs to his vast estates), he all but ignored Artemis and Justinian. All of Justinian’s care fell to Artemis; as she approached 18, she felt far more the mother than the elder sister. Soon, Justinian would have to go on his first Blood Hunt and her father would not be able to ignore him any longer.
Artemis sighed and tightened her bootlace. After the Blooding, she would be left alone in the vast halls of Kethwin. She was lucky that the kitchen staff appreciated her kills and the time she spent with them learning their trade. In some of the other halls, she had heard of poisonings and other nastiness when there was no wife, no estate mistress to maintain the order. She never liked the idea of maintaining order. She flicked a leaf off her boot. Of course she didn’t, the thought, as she picked up her bow and quiver and took off in search of dinner.

Sugar-Free Serials

Some of you, who have known me for years upon years, have been subjected to my very sporadic serials – generally telling a story over a long period of time, involving many installments. These are written so that someone can read little bits and still keep track of what’s happening. It doesn’t take much to catch up.

I started these as an exercise in writing. It challenged me to write a coherent story, without editing much at all, over the course of months. I’ve done about four of these and much to the dismay of some, I stopped them for a while.

I think I’m ready to start back up again. While I can’t bring back Willis and Varna, my sci-fi ship invaded by oozing aliens, Sarah and her voyeuristic tendencies, or the glasses that could help you see the “truth,” I’m sure I’ll come up with something equally as interesting. The nice thing is that you don’t always need to have an end point. And sometimes, just jumping in the middle is fine, too.

So, after a few days of much-needed respite on the bluffs of Pilar, I shall return – word and serial in hand.

Happy weekend, chick peas! P.S. Hello Lake Mary, Florida! 🙂


Destined for Latte

She sat quietly at the computer, the mixture of jazz, classical, and funky new pop music flowed around her as she worked. The tables near her were full of coffee-swilling professionals in all states of consciousness. The majority of them were only briefly aware of others around them. It’s as if they were riding in cars, oblivious to the humans that surrounded them. It amused her to listen as she worked. It was as if the TV was on in the background, innane noise. The intriguing part was that this was “real.”

Her name was irrelevant as were the names of the patrons around her. Starbuck’s is always full of two-dimensionals. She listened as people discussed topics with which she was familiar. It always made her smile to see egos manifesting as aggrandized knowledge. Wow, look at the huge brain on that one. Of course, she was well aware that this was her own ego, asserting its self-importance. She could do nothing but laugh.

Over the hours, the patrons came and went and the conversations remained the same. Grandmothers with their pre-school charges, mothers with strollers, men and women meeting under the pretext of “work” (the flirting was odd, if nothing else), and the lone computer geek, like her, typing away without a care for coffee or king: all of them suffering from a sense of caffene and life withdrawl. Better to be around people and not talk than to be around no one at all. Starbuck’s shaved the lonliness off their lives.

She took a moment to pause and reflect on the warm sun filtering through the shade. Her breath was shallow, not comforting at all. The air was cool and calm, if the rest of the atmosphere was charged. It felt good to be in such a place and feel the sun. Roxy Music accompanied nostalgia and longing. What is that, she thought, that repetative feeling of more? Looking around, she was positive that it was there, somewhere, for other people. She was positive it was always there for her.

The barista smiled as he called out the Latte. The long walk to the bar stood in shadow and she was soon to forget…