a scotch in time, part two.

Dreams always flashed bright and heavy to me as a youngster. I rarely told people what worlds would unfold in my head as I slept. Most of the time, I thought these narratives were too strange for anyone, even my parents, to digest in full. These were dreams that woke me up, crept along my back, and made me shiver beneath the covers even on cold nights in mid-January. So often I would find myself unable to remain in my room, these dreams were so strong; I had to stay in a place where other humans were. My parents complied. They complied way too often.

There was one dream that always frightened me. It had to do with my house catching fire when I was little. I remembered having this dream when I was three or four. I recalled it beginning on some barren plain. It was almost a Mars-like landscape. The sky had a purplish tint to it. In the distance, the only building was my house alone like a spear-like lightning rod. But it was cartoonish, unreal. But what did I know? I had only been living for a few years on this earth!

Those flames swirling back and forth through and out the windows haunted me like some specter. The rhythm of the movement was what chilled me to the bone more than anything else. How could flames do that? Did fire really go back and forth, back and forth in such a metronomic way? It reminded me of the washing machine in my basement, the vroom-vroom-vroom-vroom of the rotor as it churned the water out of the clothes in the final cycle. The flames were fake, evenly outlined, like one would see in a coloring book. But to my four-year-old self, it was real. And frightening. I knew what fire could do, knew it could destroy, obliterate. And I didn’t want that fire anywhere near my house. The house where I had lived for…ever? At least for my measly three or four years it was forever.

I wondered, years later, how I could have dreamt something so macabre, so absurd as that colonial house in Lakewood in the middle of the field, up in flames, fake-looking flames making washing machine sounds. The frightening thing was that this was not the most frightening dream I had had when I was around that age.

*****

I woke up. It was midday. Or it could have been later in the afternoon. The clock time did not really matter in the end. The digital clock near the bed could have lied to me. I leapt out of bed, nervous. The reason why I was nervous, I did not know, but it would soon become clear. I stared out at the overcast sky. There was some tinge of odd colors up there, as if a tornado was coming. It was a warning. A warning for something, coming soon.

As I ran downstairs, out the door, and onto the deck leading to the driveway and my backyard, I knew what was going on. And I had to run far, far, far away from it. The end of the world was happening. The world was going to end, and it was going to end frighteningly soon. I did not know how I knew, and I did not know why I was so sure this was going to happen. I just knew that it was going to happen and I had to get away, far away. I had to make a run for it. If I ran hard and long enough, I would manage to escape the impending apocalypse. Somehow I would. There was no explanation as to how I would escape this greater-than-human situation, how I was so sure at such a young age that this event was actually going to happen, or how it could happen. But I knew then. And I was scared. Very scared. I could feel my tiny heart pounding as I stood on the deck pondering the truth, placing weight on each foot – back and forth in turn as if doing some sort of coordination exercise would not help me out.

So I ran. And I did run. I don’t remember seeing much of anything else. I simply saw a blur. I felt the compression of the world around me, as if being smothered. The apocalypse was like a wool blanket forced down over my mouth and nose, my whole face surrounded by Saran wrap. But I still ran. Fast. I did not think about anything but my yearning to escape, to stay far away from the end of the world. Wherever it was. Whatever it was.

Years later, I attributed these dreams to the times spent in church hearing about Jesus’ Second Coming. That was the only spot I could think of where I could hear and ingrain that idea in my brain, deep in my subconscious, released after I fell asleep into some grotesque dream about the sky compressing me, chasing me, informing me about the world’s end, that it would end fast, so run, run as fast as you can! Even though I only dreamt about this once, at least from what I remember, I always kept reliving and reimagining the spine-tingling situation as I heard again and again about the End Times in church and again in elementary school, what it would be like to live in a place where there was no end, to find out where exactly that end might be in the distance. And then not finding it. It sometimes made me dizzy. Sometimes nauseous. I shivered and tried to reinvent this notion of something stopping – but it would not, could not, will not.

I went to a private grade school, so we had religion class every year. November always haunted me; I still do not care for the month. It holds the same niggling spot in my being – as this is the end of the Church Year, at least for the Lutheran Church. This leads into the Advent season, the four weeks before Christmas. Because of this, the majority of the sermons and the homilies talked about getting ready for Christmas: Jesus’ first arrival on earth. Not only that but I was informed I had to get ready for Jesus’ Second return. The End of the World. The End. Capital E.

I remember in religion class reading Matthew 24 and looking closely at it, mainly taking heed of Jesus’ disciples asking him this question: “When will this [the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem] happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”[1] So Jesus answered. And I made a list, putting a check next to each thing that had happened thus far in the mid ’90s, from what I know:

  1. War and rumors of war (Check: Persian Gulf War happened and Desert Storm was over in 1995).
  2. People who say “I am the Messiah!” deceiving many (Check: Koresh and Waco had just happened in the news).
  3. Famines and earthquakes (Check: yeah, I am a weather nut and this obsession with the weather started in the ’90s).
  4. You will be persecuted and sent to death (Check: we had been given examples of when Christians were (and are) persecuted and sent to death, ad nauseum).
  5. The gospel will be preached to the whole world.

Not checked. That last one. Not checked! My heartbeats turned less frequent. So it appeared as if this capital E would not happen just yet. The gospel had not been preached everywhere. A few of my instructors said so; this is the last thing that had yet to happen[2]. But – they said – we must try and get the gospel to everyone, and then Jesus will come back, and then all will be well, and then we will have eternity and nothing else!

The End of the World. The bad dream from when I was four. This is what they said would happen, and how it would happen, maybe tweaked a bit for our fragile little minds. Inwardly, I refused to agree to this, that this would be the final thing to happen before the End would arrive. I did not pray for it to speed up like they said. I did not want it to happen. I did not want to be chased by this apocalyptic landscape, so imminent, a promise so hard-pressed within the Bible, a promise given over and over again by pastors, teachers, everyone. This final checkmark, this would be when it would happen, when the gospel would reach every single spot in the world. It had to happen soon. This prophecy had been proclaimed by Jesus thousands of years ago. And now there are planes and jets and trains and other fast ways to get to these isolated spots that were Gospel-less. I wanted a map to show me who hadn’t been reached. I wanted to know. But “no one knows the day or the hour”[3] – that was the mantra. So I sat there, in the dark, waiting, right before I would fall asleep. Wondering when. It could be ten years from now. It could be 40 years from now. It could be tonight, in an hour.

Cue the nightmares once again.


[1] Matthew 24:3 (New International Version). But, to be fair, after learning more about this in high school and thereafter, this possibly could have been a prophecy having to do with the end of the Roman Empire. At least this is what I might have been told.

[2] Perhaps in Jesus’ case, he meant the ‘known’ world at the time of his speaking.

[3]  Matthew 24:36

the warped music video.

So MGMT had held – in my opinion – the prize for the most trippy, insane, most out-there music videos, at least over the past few years. (And there were quite a few bands out there with strange ones…)

For example, see Time to Pretend and Kids below:


This past year, however, Mother Mother have created two vids that have come extremely close to MGMT. Seriously. Both videos are so warped that it’s a trip watching it … even if you aren’t taken over by some psychotropic substance.

a scotch in time, part one.

The sun was bright. The sun was bombastic. The sun smiled. No, it smirked. Who wouldn’t smirk in Barcelona in mid-October, smirk down at whatever lay beneath them, knowing that elsewhere held such different weather conditions? The Mediterranean coast shone beneath the palest blue imaginable, with puff balls over the water hovering like cats about to pounce at a shoelace. On Montjuïc, you could peer far into the distance in every direction depending on where you stood on the now-unmanned castle. I opted to patrol the east and the south, so I could catch the whitecaps of the sea and the concrete slabs of downtown with spires and façades of Gaudí poking up, miniscule and fake. I might as well have touched all the buildings to make sure they were real; I could have picked up the Sagrada Família and set it delicately along the shore if I so chose. Here I was, five again, the moment when I had the power to construct a city, do whatever I wanted to it, even destroy it with a Matchbox car, a dinosaur figurine, or the sweep of the hand as it toppled over the skyline like a tsunami.

As I stood and overlooked the Catalonian capital painted with the sun’s brightness, a sun that seeped into my eyes, I felt a pull in my chest. I knew the afternoon would be here way too quickly, and that it would be full of reflection, of silent remembrance. I was glad I had to squint, just in case the mind wandered too far into forbidden territory where it was not allowed to go. At least not yet.

It was edging close to 4:00pm. I knew I had to leave Montjuïc soon. There were too many tourists and wanderers around. I decided to come here today, but I forgot that a gorgeous Saturday would lure even more people to this spot, camera clickers huddled all around as I mindlessly nibbled on a bland bocadillo de jamón. I did not want to walk down and mimic the trek up the hill after the funicular ride I had had, so I headed near where the gondola lifts stopped to let in riders for the bottom.

Luckily, I managed to snag an entire car for myself and float back down to the base. The views were incredible from this vantage point; as I was suspended in midair, I caught people as ants, wandering the parks and the pathways below me. The car soared above the undergrowth and the trees that lined the less-developed hillside. The beaches reached on and on, beige boundaries between a rolled-on blue to the right with irregular edifices on the left.

And then all cars on the lift stopped. Precarious, both hands holding to either side of the car, I waited, my heart stopped in its tracks. The wind – although light – buffeted the car. What weight there was inside provided little resistance. The conductor, or whoever was controlling the lift, soon started it up again without much delay or any further problems. It still felt like hours suspended there. But I was on my merry way once again.

The alarm on my watch beeped. It was actually 4:00pm now. Right then, in Ohio, my grandfather’s funeral service had just begun. My car made a turn to the left following the cable’s progression closer to the base of the hill.

I had been living abroad for a whole year, and I was in the process of returning back to the U.S. A week before this cable car journey, my grandfather took his final breath. Awful as I felt, I did not purchase a flight back to the U.S.; I was warned multiple times to stay where I was, not to jump on the first flight from Slovakia to get back to where I might be a part in the funeral, that I see the casket lowered into the ground at the cemetery. The struggle to decide if I really should go back to the U.S. weighed on me, it weighed on me like the earth and the stones and all the eternal sediment that would forever press on my grandfather’s coffin, soon to be lowered underground and left for water, decay, and annual bouquets of flowers.

In the end, returning back for two days was not what my grandfather would have wanted me to do. I thought to myself how to commemorate his life, how to remember him from afar. First, I penned a eulogy for the service; my great uncle would read this to him, the words in place of my presence. Then, a second idea occurred on my second day in Barcelona. I bought a 2-shot bottle of Dewar’s and decided to drink in his honor the moment the funeral service began that Saturday. I thought it was a good enough sacrifice. I was never fond of scotch, and this was being taken straight-up with no water, ice, or anything to squelch the taste. I knew full well what I was getting into. It had been more than a year since I had had it last; it was going to be a rough, but necessary, task.

I drank it in two sips. The amber liquid coated my throat and my tongue as I took the first taste. I felt the buzz and could catch the whiff of smokiness one normally notices when drinking scotch. The first nip of the Dewar’s was now inside me, warming my heart, and taking the faint burn in my mouth with it. My lungs were aflame with something else as well. I suppose one word that could describe it was appreciation. I appreciated my grandfather so much just then; I appreciated him more than I thought I would.

The lake I was on was calm. The sun was gone, but there was no rain in the clouds that ambled over me. I wore a life jacket and a baseball cap. I was five. I was steering the motorboat back to the docks, inching ever closer to the docks. My grandfather was to my right, his left arm so close to the steering that I thought he’d take over the reins at the faintest whiff of danger. His moustache was black – alive and combed. He had just complimented me on my catch of perch and crappie, a “well done, sergeant!” lingering in the air.

My eyes wrapped around this moment more than a decade ago, almost two decades ago, and I took another sip of scotch. The whisky swam down my throat effortlessly. I was not being directed by my grandfather any longer on the lake. My sister and mother had been there, allowing me to bask in my moment of independence, veering left and right, a grin on my face, no idea that a Barcelona existed, no idea that I would ever even attempt to drink a scotch straight-up, no clue as to what scotch even was. So much was unknown to me.

The last of the Dewar’s was gone. I loved it. I simply loved it. The taste stayed in my mouth as the car skidded at the depot. Without a word, I left the car and made it to the Metro. I held the empty bottle in my pocket for the rest of my travels.

I almost did not want to eat dinner or brush my teeth that evening. I wanted that taste on my lips, the filmy remnants to stay coated over my gums and teeth. The bliss was indescribable. I could not think of much else except for the remaining taste of the Dewar’s as I walked down Carrer d’Aragó, full of its traffic and constant horns that went on well into the evening, past midnight. I reached my hostel and turned around the tiny, empty bottle in my hands, looking at the red lettering. Over and over I turned it around. How often would I do that gesture that night or in the future?

As the months and years plodded on, I would grow to discern much, much more about scotch: the smokier the better, the Islay varieties glorying past the others, the smoothness of Balvenie and the feeling of an ice cube in certain kinds, the clink of the glass. With each taste of a different varietal, I would pick up memories and attach them to the brand. I am not sure when I will follow perfectly in my grandfather’s footsteps and start having scotch with water. But I think this is a decent start…

book snow write.

I read 32 books this year.

This number could (and should) have been higher but I was eaten alive by graduate school this fall semester. Perhaps the upcoming year will be more productive. I’ve started 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami and No Touch Monkey! by Ayun Halliday. This should keep me occupied when I don’t wanna do thesis and capstone stuff. But let’s just remember that I do indeed have to write two major papers before I can hold that Master’s degree in my hand this May. 

Not only that – but I want more poems published, perhaps get a cool book deal (novel or travel narrative collection), and also travel some more with Mary. I also just want to write more in general, but specifically I would like my hard-cover journal to be filled to the brim so that I have to purchase a new one before the year is out. Or by the time the end of the world hits. Isn’t that some time next December?  

Also a job (or jobs) would be good. Preferably decent-paying ones in the Cleveland area. No more Toledo after this semester. Nosiree…