Sunday, July 10, 2011, Bad Fucking News

Title Page

Post 3.

If you are new to this blog, scroll down to post 1 to start at the beginning. XO M

Unvarnished excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral…

I was awakened early on a Sunday morning by a call with bad fucking news. I had lived through this bad news in a dream years before, as odd as that sounds. I know. It doesn’t get any weirder than that. Well, wait, depending on your threshold of what you define as weird, there may be a few more things that meet or exceed weirder in the upcoming pages. I wish I had that creative a talent for storytelling to have made that part up, but I don’t. My talent is simply in my ability to observe, remember and document.

Where I physically was on the planet within this live déjà vu moment was different from my dream, nightmare to be honest, but the broken tone, the pitch, the timbre of my mom’s voice, the syntax of the words and the way the news tore through me were exactly the same. Nothing like some bad fucking news to bitch-slap you awake on an otherwise pleasant summer Sunday morning lie-in.

It is a bit unnerving what we perceive in a familiar voice, something as simple as a change in the way someone draws a breath in before saying something. With one word, my mom, saying my name “Mardi?” conveyed in that split second that I knew bad news was to follow. My mom half-choked out the words mixed with unsuccessfully held-back tears, “David…died this morning.” By this morning, she really meant minutes prior to picking up the phone to call me. A shiver that only comes from either a déjà vu experience or really bad fucking news, combined with an instant jolt of adrenaline that rushed through my body putting me into a state of freezing cold, shock. I didn’t ask what happened. I loathe unpleasant details. I apologized to my mom, “I am so sorry, Mom. I will be right over.” I hung up.

I returned to the still warm place in my bed where I had been enjoying the last delicious moments of sleep. I closed and opened my eyes waking myself up in an effort to determine if I was having a hypothetical nightmare or if this was really happening. I regarded the ceiling in our bedroom, I thought it excruciatingly bright white with more sunlight than anyone should have to be forced to face on a morning with bad fucking news like this. ‘Why on Earth did I get these stupid sheer curtains?’ Even if I were a morning person, it was way too bright today.

An unexpected calm began to wash over me as I warmed up in bed and deliberated these embarrassingly ridiculous, unimportant complaints. I breathed in several slow deep breaths as I was involuntarily forced to process the reality that my darling Viking Fucking Warrior of a brother had, in fact, left the building. But, and this is a big but, he also had finally been released from that stupid jacked-up paralyzed body he had been stuck with since his freshman year of college almost 40 years prior.

The comparison of these two opposite realities created an unrelenting loop in my thoughts, in my reality that could not be resolved at that moment. It felt like a newly found scratch on a favorite record that skips repeatedly, causing you to cringe until you directly tend to it. I was on one level entirely eviscerated by this new certainty that definitely sucked for me, but LUCKY HIM!!!

NSFW Warning!!

NSFW

Post 2.

If you are new to this blog, scroll down to post 1 to start at the beginning. XO M

Unvarnished excerpt from the upcoming book Viking Funeral…

FFWD>>>Full Disclosure Explicit Language Ahead!!

Fast forward several years post Viking Funeral. My husband and I hosted a small family gathering. The crowd thinned to just the younger generation of adults who were staying the night at our house. They were collecting themselves at the table for a game of cards and to enjoy another round of booze. Three of Dave’s and my nieces: Kelli, Stephanie, and Jaclyn, my son Steven, another cousin Brad, and a friend of the family, Nick, were finding places to sit down at our dining room table to play cards with my husband and me.

Kelli and I had been talking about my work (varsity procrastination foot dragger) on this epic failed autobiography moments before sitting down while everyone else was in place shuffling the cards, trash talking each other in pre-game fashion as to who was going to win. Among the banter around the table, someone made my son Steven burst out laughing. Kelli’s eyes flashed with a stunned look on her face as she pointed at Steven, her eyes instantly brimming with tears as she said, “Oh, My God, that laugh!” Steven, oblivious to Kelli, was still laughing with his cousins. She continued, “It sounds JUST like DAVE’S!”

Jaclyn and Stephanie were peeled away from their laughter with Steven by Kelli’s comment, and they, too, realized what they were hearing, that same inward laugh. It sounds like a seal breathing inward sharply, catching its breath, maybe recovering from a seal asthma attack. It’s hard to describe but once you hear it, you never forget. I instantly teared up at both Kelli’s reaction, the collective change of focus at the table and at the realization of what I too was hearing. It was unexpected, that long-lost barking seal of laughter of Dave sitting at the table with us. How had I missed it? He is my 25-year-old son! I suppose I was too close to the fire or the forest or the trees to have noticed how Steven’s laugh had changed over time from the cute whinny of a pony when he was little to the barking seal of a laugh now in adulthood. THAT laugh that sounded exactly like my brother Dave’s hilarious and infectious laugh. This entire realization and brief sniffle lasted mere seconds before we burst into laughter at ourselves and got on to that round of cards, more spirits, and much more laughter.

Admittedly, I have a bit of a potty-mouth. I get excited and use colorful language for good or bad circumstances in life and, subsequently, in this book. No one ever wrote a book about nothing interesting happening at all using blah blah blah language. Expletives abound in this book driven by some very extraordinary events, so be prepared to deal with it. Not Safe For Work warnings officially given and all that, meant to convey intense emotional emphasis, not to offend.

Now that everyone is on the same page here; knowing that our hero is in fact gone; that he is missed to tears years later on; that I have a potty mouth; and that there is absolutely NO poetic license taken. I hope you enjoy time travel through these biographical essays that happened in the real life of my Viking Fucking Warrior of a brother, Thomas David (DAVE) Linane. No bullshit. See what I mean? I type pretty fast, and it just slips out.

Here is how it went down:

Dave Linane’s Birthday March 13

Post 1.

In honor of Dave’s birthday, I am releasing this preface for the book. I hope you enjoy and join me as I unfold these unedited excerpts from this Viking Funeral…

Spoiler Alert: Our Hero does not make it out of this life alive

This isn’t one of those thinly veiled “BASED ON A TRUE STORY” stories that we recognize as cruel, manipulative Hollywood bullshit formulas that dictate when you laugh or cry based on music cues. There will be no explosions where our hero outruns the blast and fallout of concussive flame-y fury to fight another day. There are also not going to be any tense phone calls between the good guy with an Irish brogue hinting at “a particular set of skills,” and the bad guy, as awesome as THAT would be.

Now that you know what this biography is NOT, I can tell you what it IS. A story of one particularly pretty shitty day stalked by relentless love, friendship, laughter, celebration, and more laughter. You are going to love him, no doubt, even without my taking any poetic license to spice up the story for interest. But, I formally state, for the record, that our hero does not make it out of this life alive. There, Band-Aid ripped off. Truth in advertising and all, I mean FUNERAL is in the title, so it should be obvious someone is no longer mingling freely among us mere mortals.

There are billions of ways to die, and most of us don’t have a choice in that. But we do have a choice in how we live and how we celebrate a life well-lived when our loved ones move on. This book is about both of those things and everything large and small in the middle of those two things that make up an ordinary magical life.

Vikings burned their boats when they arrived on the beaches of lands they intended to conquer. Their strategy was to forge ahead or die trying. There was never any going back. Dave was a powerful athlete who dealt with his broken neck, the result of a college football accident, with dignity and grace. Just as there is no crying in baseball, there was no crying for himself in this life, he just rolled forward with purpose.

He was the original YES man. He was game to try anything and everything he could, from spicy food to adventures with a ride-or-die attitude, a huge smile and his infectious bark of a laugh. He applied that same energy when forging his radically altered life path and didn’t let bureaucracy, transportation, “sleet nor snow,” or steps get in his way. He found his true professional calling after a ridiculously uphill battle. I thought of this Viking Warrior description of him as I wrote his obituary tribute. He was too modest ever to have claimed ownership of such a bold title plus, as far as he knew, we weren’t of Scandinavian descent. It was an honorary title I bestowed upon him because I do not fear the Viking Semantics Police way over here in California.

It was the tradition at a Viking Funeral that gifts would be offered to accompany the warrior on his travels to the next world, Valhalla. The gifts and warrior’s earthly body would be burned and therein be transformed into the next world. Folklore has it that they were placed in a boat upon the ocean and lit on fire by flaming arrows and their ashes spread to the ends of the earth. But really, they were most often burned within the confines of a ship shaped monument of stone on land. Fire would transform them to Valhalla. The ashes would be spread to the ends of the earth by the wind.

The idea for our Viking Funeral grew from this posthumous Viking Warrior title. I wanted a celebration that represented him and his enormous spirit: Dave’s favorite food and booze followed by a bonfire after dusk with people sharing stories and we would let people put gifts in the fire by way of written notes to help transform Dave to modern day Valhalla.

In Dave’s early 20s our family home transformed every weekend into the hottest bar in town for Dave’s friends, occasionally a poker parlor; we hosted hundreds of BBQs, dinners, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, bridal and baby showers, four weddings and a funeral, our dad’s. This well-visited home for all the aforementioned celebrations would now host Dave’s Viking Funeral our best party ever.

I sent his tribute and invitation to the Viking Funeral to our local newspapers, the college where he worked (San Bernardino Valley College), the university where he attended undergrad and grad school (Cal State University San Bernardino), as well as anyone whose email address I had. Both the college and the university honored his passing with dedications to him on their website home pages, because he was very well-known at both campuses.

When our dad passed away, my two thousand-word-plus biography was printed about him in three regional papers–a completely cut and paste job. My dad had been a world-class athlete and home-town (Redlands) hero. My brother was even more well-known than my dad because of his accident and news coverage at that time, but the paper had changed ownership for what felt like the hundredth time, and no one in the now corporate conglomerate upper management at the paper knew anyone local, so no story was printed.

The newspapers that had been so vapidly eager to cover his tragic accident decades before, now wanted a ridiculous amount of money for an obituary paid upfront before they would consider running the tribute. We didn’t really care about a story, we just wanted people to know that he had “left the building” and to invite them to celebrate because we knew they would want to. I was very irritated. I joked that I would save money with the shortest obit ever: “Dave died, party at our house.” All the right people would know what that meant and where to go. I chose slightly more tasteful words, “David Linane passed away unexpectedly on July 10, 2011. A memorial will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the family home Saturday, July 16, 2011.” The newspaper charged more than $600 for this brief obit but didn’t run the tribute, which I might add, was beautifully written. Jerks.

I am literally stuck writing this “surprise” and epic failed autobiography against my will, since he woke up unexpectedly dead one morning before really getting it started. It isn’t the writing that is the stuck part. I, along with everyone who knew him, would much rather have more days on this earth with him, enough days for him to finish his autobiography as intended, or to hear him laugh, that barking seal of a laugh ONE MORE TIME.

Update: According to My Heritage DNA services, which was used by my husband and me on a curious whim driven by a deep discount, I discovered that I am 18% Scandinavian, which was a hilarious shock. Retroactively Official Viking Warrior!

Solution To Writer’s Block

Fingerprint

Creating the identity of the biography (Viking Funeral) by fire that I’ve been writing about my brother’s life under duress has been a challenge.

He’s permanently unavailable to interview.

I have had to rely on memory for everything.

I have to decide how to tell the story, what to leave in, what to leave out.

I have struggled for seven years with the ending. SEVEN. YEARS. SEVEN! I don’t talk too much about the book with my darling husband, because it makes him sad. I promise it’s not a sad story, my DH is very tender-hearted.

Ok, maybe there are some moments that tug at a heartstring here and there. Anyway, I’ve written 100k words. I wrote 35k right after Dave died. Then writer’s block. Then the balance was written two years ago. It’s a biography, so I can’t just make shit up, plus I’m not a creative writer. Unable to decide how to finish, I have filled my time with reading biographies, just so you know what I’ve been doing the last seven years.

Tonight I told my husband of my struggle with the ending. In less than 10 minutes of Q&A, a few moments of silence while he was “thinking about it,” he made the perfect suggestion.

I initially thought, no, I’ll have to rewrite everything. Then I realized it was the perfect ending and I could not stop laughing. My husband saves the day… again! He is a natural visionary. Man I could have had a Pulitzer YEARS ago! hahahahahah.

Surrounded By Kindness

PLEASE READ:
Check out the sweetest video of @tonyhawk helping his daughter drop in on a baby-sized pipe.
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Tony Hawk grew up two houses north of our house in San Bernardino, CA. From our kitchen window we could watch a young Tony fly in the air. Best way to do dishes ever.
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As sweet and supportive as he is with his daughter, his dad, Bob Koston, was always kind to my brother Dave.
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I’m sure his dad built Tony his first half-pipe for training, in their driveway because before Tony was born, his dad helped modify our house by helping create and install a gorgeous wrought iron spiral staircase in the back of our house near Dave’s room so my parents could hear him if he called for their help in the middle of the night. He also helped install a back door that made it 100% easier for Dave to come in and out of the house. Whenever there was an interesting project going on at our house, Bob Koston was the brains behind the solution.
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Tony’s dad was a proud salty vet who was not only a very hard-working commercial painting contractor, but a man who could build or repair just about anything and always offered to help our family solve problems, especially when Dave first came home from the hospital and our house needed modifications.
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Seeing this sweet video of Tony with his daughter, seeing what a lovely dad he is, reminds me of his dad, Bob and the kindness he always showed our family and I’m so grateful. Bob was among the many people who always encouraged Dave to write his story. If Bob is still alive @tonyhawk please thank him for me and tell him the book Viking Funeral is FINALLY coming.
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Book Review: Life After Life

Life After Life

Life After Life
Raymond Moody Jr. M.D. 

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My brother had several encounters with a being he knew to be God.

I have mentioned that in my sophisticated method of procrastinating working on his biography, Viking Funeral, I felt compelled to read NYT best-selling autobiographies and biographies to figure out HOW TO WRITE A BIOGRAPHY. It’s been seven years of finding another reason to continue researching. I’ve enjoyed so many great books. I swear, I’m almost done!

One of Dave’s friends shared with me that Dave told him excitedly “You know I died briefly when in the Intensive Care Unit!?” This was one of the first things Dave told him once he was off a respirator following his paralyzing accident. This took the interview down a much-unexpected rabbit hole.

There was discussion of a book that Dave had been given a few years later. I set out to find the book, but it is out of print. I found this book instead.

This book was a compilation of interviews conducted by Dr. Moody of people (patients) who had experiences of something beyond this life. The book is technically well written, but it didn’t exactly go anywhere, just a clinical compilation. That may be the nature of the subject matter and the difficulty of writing about life after life without actually having been there. I am not sure what I was expecting. I gave it four stars for the interesting nature of the subject. I felt compelled to share some of the stories with my darling husband as I read.

Anyone have a life-after-life story to share or a suggestion for another book on this topic? I’m open and still looking for any excuse to continue procrastinating! Bring on the ghost stories!

I don’t make any claims to know anything on this topic other than reporting what I’ve heard as a reluctant biographer.   

Book Review: Becoming Michelle Obama

Becoming Michelle Obama

As you may have read previously, I’m stuck writing my brother’s unfinished autobiography Viking Funeral. It’s a daunting task because he barely started before he died very unexpectedly. 

Like any GREAT procrastinator, I felt like I needed to read every other biography on the planet to figure out how to do it correctly. You have to read if you want to write, right? I’ve read some fun stuff along the way. I thought I would share my own reviews and observations I’m picking up along the way.

Becoming Michelle Obama
🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

I always love a story of triumph.
Becoming Michelle Obama is a lovely story of triumph, of consistent well thought out choices beginning with her mother moving her from a less than adequate classroom early in elementary school. That move began her trek of hard work that propelled her from the Southside of Chicago deservedly to Harvard. I related to the way her family enjoyed and celebrated with music as well as to her frustrations of piano lessons and trying to please a perfectionist teacher. Y’all know the culmination of her story as the former FLOTUS… The book is very well written from a technical perspective and it’s a lovely introspective work of both grit and inspiration for everyone. I give it a five-star rating. Love your comments.