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A note

This is my campfire, a place where I share stories. These tales, woven with threads of truth and rich embellishments, capture moments and memories in unique ways. Stories steeped in reality don’t always lead to laughter; sometimes they’re tinged with awkwardness, or even a touch of melancholy. They have a way of capturing life’s complex flavors – not just the highs, but also the bittersweet and somber moments. Yet, in these most authentic tales, there’s a certain richness, a genuine resonance of the myriad experiences that make up our lives. So, pull up to the fire and grab a marshmallow.

This monkey’s gone to heaven

Earlier this century, a Tibetan monk was scheduled to be executed in China. We will come back to that in a minute. I moved to the midwest in 2002 and struggled to find work. I quickly ran out of money and stretched my budget by eating only one 7-11 egg and cheese muffin and an orange juice every day. I was tired, broke, and malnourished. It was the best I looked in years. I eventually found a job at a daily newspaper in a very liberal college town. The local university had a popular football team and I worked late nights until after the game ended and the recap had been written. I waited for the final stories to come in, laid them out in the paper, and sent it off to the printer. The office was a few miles from my home and I had no means of transportation. The town had bike trails and skate parks everywhere, but not a single curb could be found outside of the downtown. So, I walked carefully each way, unintentionally playing chicken with traffic if I stumbled. One day, the university students held a protest against the Tibetan monk’s execution. The editor…

Sitting in cars with friends

We were exposed to drugs at an earlier age in the city. The same was true for cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. Our conservative parents tried to protect us so much that they missed the things that were right in front of their faces. The first time I smoked pot was out of an apple core in the back of a butcher shop. I was barely a teenager when I was learning how to MacGyver bowls out of regular household items. In this regards, my friends and I were way ahead of the curb. I lived across the street from a park. Kids from nearby schools used to drink and smoke weed in there. So, it was clearly too obvious a location for us. We would walk around and see what opportunities presented themselves to us. Often it was a an empty storage unit with an open door, or a shady parking lot behind a closed store. One day, we were cutting through a used parking lot when one of us jiggled a handle of a car door. To his surprise, it opened. “Guys, check this out,” he said in that loud whisper that is neither loud nor a whisper. We…

Best buy bye bye

Years ago, I moved in with a friend when we both needed a fresh start. She had just broken up with her boyfriend, who lived in the apartment with her. So she needed a new roommate to help pay the bills. I moved in, and we instantly bonded over our workaholic natures and love of Golden Girls. I was newly single as well, and we served as a good distraction for one another. A few months later, she struck up a relationship with a college classmate. Things went well, but he moved back to New England a few months later when school let out for the summer. They decided to try the whole long-term thing and certainly gave it their best shot. This is was in the dark times, when the world of communications was dominated by landlines and long distance charges. To mitigate the costs, they scheduled a time to talk each night. However, our phone was located between the kitchen and the living room, which gave her absolutely no privacy. The next holiday season, I bought her a cordless phone. It was the best of the worst possible phones, with fancy features like caller ID and the ability…

Get to the choppa

After a surgical procedure, my doctor told me to lay low for a week. Being a college student with his first taste of living on my own, this was not a big ask. The following week, my roommates and I drove out to Penn State to visit an old friend. Though I typically drove, a roommate said he would drive because of my recent procedure. I did not hesitate to take him up on his offer. I hate driving. Plus, we were going through a gorgeous stretch of Pennsylvania that was filled with scenic mountains and beautiful trees, and I wanted to soak it all in. I stared out into the evening autumn sky, enjoying the landscape that this city boy never saw growing up. It felt like a nice intermission from my daily routine and I loved every second of it, until I didn’t. Halfway through the drive, I began to sink lower into my seat. My whole body began turning yellow, and everything closed in around me. My eyesight was blurred, my body limp, my breathing heavy, and my stomach nauseated. “Are you OK, dude?” I didn’t hear the question. “Are you OK?” “Can we stop? I need…

Pillow problems

Growing up, my cousin was my best friend. We were born less than a year apart and naturally became each other’s first friend. No one else competed for the role, as her brother was the only other cousin in the area, and he was a bit of a rebel who preferred to carve out his own path. That all changed when my sister was born. She was the family’s little angel, and even her name suggested such. The family fawned over her, especially my father, who was immediately wrapped around her finger. One holiday, my cousin and I peered into the crib of this sweet cherub, saddened that she had taken the focus off of us. The feeling of love that comes with being the center of someone’s universe is deeply missed when it fades. This fact was not lost on us; we felt lonely, abandoned, unimportant. We stared at her as she slept, jealousy growing. My best friend and I exchanged a look as something came over us – an unspoken decision to resolve what we considered a problem. At the tender ages of four and five, respectively, we grabbed a pillow and momentarily placed it over the side…