I’m Now A Member of the Steemit Team!!!

This week I became a member of Steemit.com.  Steemit is a new blogging platform that actually pays writers for their work. I’m excited to join this team of amazing individuals.

Beginning today my new blog posts can be found here: https://steemit.com/@ericvancewalton

Please visit often and if you like what you read don’t forget to upvote!  Upvoting is how Steemit authors get paid for their time and energy.

I appreciate you sticking with me through this exciting transition!

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MY 44TH YEAR ON EARTH

For the last decade I’ve written a poem just before my birthday. It’s been insightful to look back on these and see how I’ve grown or not (sometimes I’ve slipped backwards.) This year it’s not quite a poem but, nevertheless, the tradition continues.

So here it goes…WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM MY 44TH YEAR ON EARTH

There are no such thing as, “golden years.” Enjoy today.

Life is fragile.

The largest obstacle is my own mind.

Experiences are always better than things.

Two glasses of wine can indeed give you a hangover.

Happiness in life is 98% perception.

Vintage or artisan are just synonyms for “expensive.”

Being busy doesn’t equate to being productive.

A writer’s work is never done. Ever.

The sooner you remove toxic people from your life the better.

Most everybody has an angle (and that’s okay, people have to make a living).

Absinthe is a powerful laxative.

Talk less, listen more.

People can be fickle.

Things happen in their own time, you can’t rush fate.

White Castles taste better than 90% of gourmet meals.

The US political system is far more corrupt than I suspected.

Simple is almost always best.

There are more productive hours in a day than I thought.

I care less about what people think than I used to.

Meditation is more important now than ever.

Say what you mean.

Never sacrifice what is important to you.

Excuses create regret.

Be yourself, always, no matter what.

Dreams must be made a priority. Now.

Success never happens without risk.

I need at least seven and half hours of sleep to be my best self.

When you think you can’t go on, you’ve only just begun.

_________________________________

For more of my writing check out my website at www.ericvancewalton.net and please sign up for my newsletter for upcoming projects and events.

I’m Sorry Dad But I Don’t Want To Be A Welder

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I was eighteen years old, had absolutely no life plan, and I was sweating it. I was just weeks out of High School and working as a busboy/dishwasher at The Grill and Skillet diner. This place was gritty, like a diner out of some obscure Hollywood film. Walter, the cook, looked exactly like James Brown. Roaches would drop from inside the range hood right onto the grill. Walter would nonchalantly scrape the roaches away from the home fries into the grease trap without missing a beat.

This was extremely hard work, paid nearly nothing but I liked the people there and it was fun when I was still in school. Now that I had my diploma this job lost it’s luster and it was time to move on to something better. All of a sudden I felt like my life was going nowhere and, even scarier, I had no idea what my next move was going to be.

I had two things that interested me, writing and architecture but didn’t know how to make a living at either of them. I was also the first in my family to graduate High School and college didn’t seem within my grasp. With each day that passed I sank deeper into this abyss of terror and confusion at the realization that I was now an adult and I had to make my way in the world. My father must’ve keenly noticed the state I was in.

One morning, as he was getting ready to leave for work dressed in his chambray work shirt with his first name, “Verlo” stitched in navy blue cursive across the white patch on his chest pocket, he asked what I was planning to do with my future. My father’s question was met only by my blank stare accompanied by an orchestra of imaginary crickets.

“I could get you on at the shop.” he said.

His offer immediately filled me with a sense of trepidation. My father had been a welder in a fabrication shop as long as I could remember. He worked extremely long days, came home tired, dirty, and smelling like metal. Some nights he would walk the floors unable to sleep due to the pain of flash burns and metal shavings in his eyes. Despite all of this his job was honorable, it took great skill, and it provided our family with everything we needed and a little extra. His job as a welder allowed my mom not to have to work outside of the home while raising my brother and I.

Even at the age of eighteen I knew I was at a major crossroad.  This was a point in which, depending on my choice, a course would be set that would be difficult to veer from. Even though I wasn’t sure what my dreams even were then I knew if I accepted this offer to become a welder it would mean a future with little time or energy to pursue any endeavors outside of this job.

I quickly responded with, “I’m sorry, dad, but I don’t want to be a welder.”

My heart was pounding so hard as he silently left for work that morning. I don’t even remember his response but I do remember being concerned that my answer hurt my father’s feelings. I was worried that he would think I was ashamed of him, that he would view me as ungrateful. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. I just knew in my heart his path wasn’t my path. I was destined for something else, not something better but just something different.

I am extremely proud of my father. His dad passed away when he was three years old. His mother (my grandmother) was poor and, although she did the best she could, my father found himself being raised off and on in a succession of foster homes throughout the 1940’s. In these foster homes he was subjected to abuse that he rarely talks about. As a result of this he had a difficult time adjusting in school and he eventually dropped out in the eighth grade. Despite all of the hardship life threw at him my father retained an extremely kind heart and a sense of selflessness. His childhood could have left him a bitter man, with a closed heart but it didn’t.

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To this day I know he would do anything he could for anyone he cares about, this alone is a monumental accomplishment given his upbringing. There’s much more. Even with no paternal example to follow he has been a great father to my brother and I.  He was always willing to be the first one to go down the biggest sledding hills, ride bikes the fastest, and fly kites the highest. I remember one afternoon we were flying a kite in the field of our neighborhood elementary school, Fairmoor. We had the kite up so high that we could barely see it and ran out of string. What did he do? He went to the store to get two more packages of kite string and we flew it even higher.

I was a very sickly, asthmatic child and he pushed me to my limits and beyond by taking me on twenty mile bike rides, long walks, and hikes when I was not more than nine or ten years old. As a result of this I became strong and fit and eventually rarely needed to use my asthma inhaler.  Still today I have a love of bike rides and physical activity. When my brother and I were growing up dad was the first to rush towards anything that had a hint of danger and fun. Naturally, my brother and I eagerly followed his example. Ours was the antithesis of today’s, “everybody wears helmets and knee pads and everybody gets an award” kind of childhood. Looking back now I see that our childhood was my father’s second chance to enjoy all the fun he missed out on when he was younger. He certainly made up for a lot of lost time with us.

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My father was very strict when he had to be. He wasn’t the kind of dad that taught me how to get into an Ivy League University or the best mutual funds to pick for my 401k. However, his words, more often his actions, taught me everything in life that matters. He taught me to work extremely hard, to jump into challenges with both feet, and to never be afraid to take chances. Dad raised me to always do my best and more importantly to never give up. He also taught us how to be creative, frugal, and how to survive without a safety net because he sure as hell never had one.

My father’s lessons of dedication, strength, and determination have served my brother and I well in life. As I look back throughout my twenty years of struggling as an author, the fire that kept me going when every single door was slammed in my face was largely stoked by my dad’s lessons. I often think if fate were just a little different and I would’ve had a different kind of father I would’ve given up decades ago. If I would’ve given up I would now be living the worst kind of life, a life of regret and I would always have wondered…what if? Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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Thank you for being the man that you are. You were and are the perfect father for me.

Never forget that you are loved, you are respected, and you are appreciated. I promise, just like that kite we flew all those years ago I will keep this life of mine flying higher and higher, no matter what.

http://www.ericvancewalton.net/

 

 

Guest Blogger – Wendy E. Simmons, Author

Today I welcome guest blogger, Wendy E. Simmons. She’s the author of the new book, “My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth.”  Wendy has had a very impressive launch for her first book.

I enjoyed this witty and engaging book immensely and think you will too. It gives you a rare glimpse into the alternate universe that is North Korea from the safety of wherever it is you’re at.

IMG_4304beijing-1I am and have always been a traveler. Exploring the world, meeting its

people, experiencing their lives, and sharing what I see are my greatest

passions. I’ve traveled to more than eighty-five countries—including

territories and colonies—many of which I’ve been to multiple times, and

I’m struck more and more not by our differences but by our similarities.

Beneath all the trappings of politics and religion, and apart from variations

in the way we live our daily lives, I have come to understand how

fundamentally the same we all are as human beings.

 

Then I went on holiday to North Korea. And like Alice in Wonderland, I

fell through the rabbit hole.

 

This is my tale.

MY HOLIDAY IN NORTH KOREA:

THE FUNNIEST/WORST PLACE ON EARTH

 

WENDY E. SIMMONS

 

 

ALICE STARTED TO HER FEET, FOR IT

FLASHED ACROSS HER MIND THAT SHE HAD

NEVER BEFORE SEEN A RABBIT WITH EITHER

A WAISTCOAT POCKET OR A WATCH TO TAKE

OUT OF IT, AND, BURNING WITH CURIOSITY,

SHE RAN ACROSS THE FIELD AFTER IT…

  • Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

WSimmons-Noko3_pyongyangPROLOGUE

 

It’s amazing how badly you want to go outside when you’re not allowed to. It was such a nice night in Pyongyang, and all I wanted to do was not be stuck inside my dim, drab, smoky, weird, empty hotel.

 

My handlers and I had just arrived back at the Koryo Hotel. It was only 6:00 p.m., but since foreigners aren’t allowed to leave their hotels without their handlers, I wouldn’t be allowed back outside until 7:30 a.m. the next morning, when they returned to fetch me. I felt like a dog with a shock collar on.

 

I moaned, “I feel like I’m being sent back to prison.”

 

Older Handler recovered quickly and volunteered to take me on a walk.

 

“Meet in the lobby at 6:55; walk from 6:55 to 7:05.”

 

Itineraries and meeting times are very strict in North Korea.

 

We walked two long blocks up and two long blocks back, with people

staring at me the entire time—clearly not happy to see an American

Imperialist. We stopped in front of a tiny enclosed stand. Older Handler asked me if I’d like to try a North Korean ice cream “special treat.” I declined, ruminating over the likelihood of an actual, real ice cream stand existing in the barren retail wasteland that is North Korea (probability: zero).

 

She was not having it. “You said you feel like you are in prison. Eat the ice cream!”

 

Her feelings, I guess, were hurt. I ate the ice cream, which tasted kind of like an orange Creamsicle, but without the cream, or the orange.

Depositing me back at the hotel at 7:05 p.m. on the dot, she turned and said to me, “There. Now you feel better,” like I was some kind of child who had been granted a magical five-minute ice cream mind-eraser furlough.

 

Yup, all better.

 

I asked (again) why the main hotel for foreigners couldn’t just put

a bench right outside the front door—right by all the guards and doormen—that tourists could sit on for fresh air and not be stuck inside the hotel all the time.

 

She responded in typical North Korean fashion (read: insane), “To be honest, because naughty Americans—but not you—are using this information to create false stories about our country to make it look bad, so not until the reunification of our country.”

 

Right, got it.

 

Coincidentally, we spent the next two days in the countryside at hotels that had benches outside in small courtyards inside the hotel grounds.

 

Older Handler was very quick to emphatically point out the benches to me, repeatedly letting me know I should sit there so I “wouldn’t have to feel like [I] was in prison.” By this point in the trip, I couldn’t tell whether she was trying to be helpful or just spiteful. I think it was a little of both.

 

+ + + +

 

I am and have always been a traveler. Exploring the world, meeting its people, experiencing their lives, and sharing what I see are my greatest passions. I’ve traveled  to  more  than  eighty-five  countries—including territories and colonies—many of which I’ve been to multiple times, and I’m struck more and more not by our differences but by our similarities. Beneath all the trappings of politics and religion, and apart from variations in the way we live our daily lives, I have come to understand how fundamentally the same we all are as human beings.

Then I went on holiday to North Korea. And like Alice in Wonderland, I fell through the rabbit hole.

 

This is my tale.

 

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW I’M MAD? SAID ALICE. YOU

MUST BE, SAID THE CAT, OR YOU WOULDN’T

HAVE COME HERE.

– Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

 

WSimmons-Noko1_pyongyangCHAPTER 1

ARRIVAL

 

It was June 25, 2014. China Air Flight 121 touched down at Pyongyang’s Sunan International Airport and taxied to a stop on the tarmac. The cabin door opened. I disembarked the airplane and descended the passenger boarding stairs. I was alone, a tourist in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, unaccompanied by an organized tour group or international liaison (unlike most other visitors to the country).

 

I had never been more excited.

 

Aside from our plane, twelve or so fellow passengers, the half-dozen soldiers and airline employees who’d met us at the bottom of the stairs, and a giant smiling portrait of Kim Il-sung affixed to the side of the terminal building, the area was completely empty. There were no baggage trains, no food or fuel trucks, no conveyor-belt vehicles, or vehicles of any kind for that matter. There were no ground crews doing their jobs. There were no other planes. We were it.

One of the soldiers pointed me in the direction of the terminal building. I walked to the entrance and went inside. That twenty-foot walk to the terminal’s entrance would mark the last time I was allowed outside alone for the next ten days.

 

The inside of the terminal was as devoid of normal airport activity as the outside was—something I would have expected had we just landed on a small island in the Philippines or a dirt runway in Uganda but not in the capital of North Korea.

 

There were three booths for immigration: two for “regular” people and a third for diplomats and other government officials. As if it was inconceivable that a foreign woman would travel alone to North Korea and not be a diplomat, my fellow passengers kept urging me to join the diplomatic line. I stayed put. I didn’t want to risk deportation trying to impersonate a diplomat when I hadn’t even been imported yet.

 

When it was my turn, I walked up to the counter, laid my papers and passport down, smiled, and chirped, “Hello!”

 

The agent grunted back without making eye contact.

He took one paper from me, stamped another, and handed it back with my passport, and I was in.

 

I was euphoric. The most exciting moments in my life, when I feel most alive, happen when I’m touching down anywhere in the world I’ve never been. I am reborn into a new world, where everything is a curiosity to wonder at, and even the smallest accomplishment is a victory. There was nothing but discovery and learning ahead of me. And I was in North Korea—the most reclusive country on Earth. This was going to be amazing.

 

Even though I’d done research to make sure the size and type of camera and lens I’d brought would be acceptable, cleared my iPhone of any applications I thought might be questionable, and had declared all of my other electronic devices and cash on my immigration forms, I still felt trepidation as I approached security.

 

“Cell phone!” demanded a guard.

 

I’d read online that North Korean officials take your cell phone and

examine it but give it back nowadays, so I handed it over without

argument. I put my bags on the baggage scanner, which looked about a hundred years old, and walked through the also-ancient metal detector. After being patted down, I stood watching as a gaggle of guards (soldiers?) huddled in a semicircle around my phone. I couldn’t imagine what they were doing with it, since it was locked. Installing a listening or recording device? They were probably just trying to unlock it.

 

After a few minutes, a guard returned my phone and pointed to a set of doors, indicating I was free to go. But my luggage was still inside the baggage-screening machine. I pointed to the machine and politely said,

 

“Bags?” hoping my luggage was merely trapped in the scanner’s inner sanctum, not confiscated. When the guard realized what I was saying, he began shouting at the other guards, who in turn began shouting at one another as another guard worked to dislodge my bags. To slake the mounting chaos, I smiled and jokingly said, “Don’t worry! Happens all the time!” I was summarily ignored.

 

Reunited with my bags a few minutes later, I emerged from security and was greeted by my two smiling, seemingly blissful North Korean handlers—the people who would be my near constant companions until I returned to the airport ten days later.

 

Older Handler stepped forward and introduced herself first. She was prim, wearing decades-old clothes that looked part Star Trek, part

1960s air-hostess uniform, only not stylish and in ugly colors. If we were the cast of a TV show, Older Handler would be the neighbor lady who always tries so hard to look put together

just so but can’t quite pull it off.

 

Older Handler then introduced me to her subordinate, Fresh Handler.

Older Hander told me she was “fresh” at her job—that is, she’d only been a guide a short time. Fresh Handler was young and diffident, and something about her shaggy-punk haircut and sweet demeanor told me I’d like her best.

 

As Fresh Handler said hello, Older Handler unabashedly looked me up and down, sizing up—as I would be called throughout my trip—the

American Imperialist. Then, without taking a breath, in a tone slightly less than suspicious:

 

You first time come Korea? You been South Korea? You been Japan? You speak Korean?

 

ME: Yes. Yes. Yes. No.

 

North Koreans’ antipathy for Americans cannot be overstated. They are taught aggressively from birth that the United States is their number-one enemy, that Americans are imperialist pigs hell-bent on occupying North Korea, and that we may attack North Korea at any time. The Party espouses this rhetoric to maintain its absolute power over the North Korean people. If there is an enemy from which the people need protecting, the Party can be their protector.

 

We exited the airport, and I was introduced to Driver, who had spiky hair and was standing next to our car smoking. He half grinned, revealing several gold teeth, then took my bag and loaded it into the boot.

 

Older Handler directed me to sit in the backseat next to Fresh Handler and took the senior position in the front.

 

My “North Korea Is Great! America Is Not!” indoctrination began immediately. The car doors had barely closed when Older Handler uttered “our Dear Great Leader” and “American Imperialist” for the first time.

 

As we drove from the airport to our first tourist attraction, the Arch of

Triumph, Older Handler turned to me with a smile plastered across her face and said, “Do you know what today is?”

 

ME: Umm, Wednesday?

 

(Which was true.)

 

OLDER HANDLER: It’s June  Twenty-Fifth,  the  day  the American Imperialists invaded our country.

 

(Which was not true.)

 

On June 25, 1950, nearly the opposite happened. North Korea invaded South Korea.

 

Unsure what etiquette dictated in such a situation, I awkwardly said nothing, hoping the conversation would end. She asked me the question again, perhaps thinking I hadn’t heard her the first time. I offered the same answer.

 

Unsatisfied with my response, Older  Handler  responded,  her  smile unperturbed, “It’s the day your country invaded our country.”

 

ME: Oh, that’s a coincidence then that I arrived today.

 

I quickly glanced at Fresh Handler with a look that said, “Ack. How did I screw this up already?” And like the new best friend I knew she would be, she giggle-smiled back at me the equivalent of “Don’t worry!”

 

I looked back at Older Handler, whose smile was now gone. Like a one-two-knockout punch, Older Handler said something to Fresh Handler and Driver, then Driver pulled the car over, and Older Handler and Fresh Handler switched seats.

 

Older Handler looked at me and said, “Now I watch you more.”

 

Welcome to North Korea

WSimmons-Noko2-pyongyang

Special Announcement

I’m excited to announce that next Wednesday, June 8th, I’m going to have a special treat for you! Wendy E. Simmons, author, will be appearing as a special guest blogger* on my website and social media pages. Wendy’s new book, “My Holiday In North Korea – The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth” chronicles her adventures in North Korea as a solo traveler. You heard that right, not only was she one of the few Americans to experience North Korea but she went there alone. I’ve read the book and really enjoyed it and I think you will too. Please watch for her guest appearance here less than one week from today!

Wendy’s website can be found here.

Here’s a link to a newscast appearance from her recent book tour: https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__denver.cbslocal.com_video_3406356-2Dwendy-2Dsimmons-2Dauthor-2Dnorth-2Dkorea_-23.V1BBv6w0Nuk.facebook&d=CwIFAg&c=3OfU9rcgQiAohND-1k-GbQ&r=uJyNvae_jreP9weXV4zlkjVf8tx7pNZAvHhKxn86BAc&m=sqSD3SoMAZdiGcusmmbzSqzNluZXvMQoyJsePs89jUU&s=m69-Sky5so_aSsZxkmX0nioqPQKIWjri79AlpEH4wC8&e=

*Please contact me at – ericvancewalton@gmail.com if you would be interested in becoming a guest blogger.

Limits, SCHLIMITS

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee

After two decades in this business I realize that writing will either; 1. break you; or 2. polish away your imperfections and make you a better human being. Sometimes getting to number 2 requires number 1 to happen first.

Yesterday I listened to James Altucher’s recent podcast with Jesse Itzler to promote his book, “Living With A Seal: 31 Days Training With The Toughest Man On The Planet.”  Jesse’s book is about how this former Navy Seal pushed to crush limits he didn’t even realize he had. This made me realize how human nature so often causes us to perceive our limits to be far less than they really are. There was a time in our history when this was probably useful for survival but in today’s world it often only limits our success and happiness.

Writing, and pretty much every other worthwhile goal in life, requires you to develop a certain psychological toughness over time.  Much like training for a marathon we have to consistently push ourselves to our limits, embrace the pain, and then explode beyond those self-perceived limitations.  This is how people have always found success. After meditating for nearly half of my life I have learned very useful Jedi-like mind tricks that cause the shift in perception necessary to conquer fear or many things that seem impossible.  I’m also aware of just how weak my mind still is sometimes.  I’ve learned that a true growth-moment always occurs just after the pain and yearning is almost too much to bear.  It’s the closest thing I can imagine to giving birth.

Recently had one of those moments.  I was feeling frustrated and sorry for myself.  My day job, personal responsibilities, work on the second novel, promoting my writing, and building a website seemed like it was too much to handle.  I was feeling overwhelmed and, as a result of that, nothing was getting done.  The excuses were flying, “There aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done.”,  “I don’t know how to create a website.” “I can’t meet that deadline.”

As it normally does, life presented me with a few examples that became solutions.  One example was James’ podcast with Jesse Itzler that I previously spoke of, the other came in the form of a friend of mine, Ulrika, from Sweden.  Ulrika is a pharmacist, owns her own candy company, is raising children and still manages to write two (or more) large novels per year.  At first this seemed impossible to me…until she revealed to me the simple secret of how she did it.  No matter how much she has going on in her life she writes one hour per day.  One hour. Every. Single. Day.  It was that ingeniously simple.

I decided to try out her method for myself and here I am, three weeks from the depths of my pain and frustration with a fully functional website (www.ericvancewalton.net) that I built myself.  I’m also waking up an hour (or more) early before going to my day job to work on my second novel, Truth Is Stranger.  This has reminded me is most of us can do and be so much more than we are.

No matter what life throws at us, there’s never not a solution. Life will show us the way (sometime’s it’ll even kick us in the pants). Our only job is to be awake enough to see it and be willing to do the work.  I can tell you first-hand, the glorious lack of regret is worth every single ounce of the pain.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Sometimes Heartache Is The Best Medicine 

So this week it was back to reality after seven days in the Caribbean. I could say I am sad and depressed to come back to my normal life but that would be untrue. My life excites me, especially what lies ahead.


Originally my plan was to get tons of work done on my novel during this trip to St. Thomas but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t add one word to it. The only writing I got done were a few poems here and there and social media posts. You know what? Typically this would leave me filled with extreme guilt but not this time, relaxation and fun is exactly what I needed.


Burning the candle at both ends for the past few years as an author-prenuer with a day job has caused my writing career to grow significantly but it’s also taken a toll. The price I’ve paid willingly and it was very much worth it, I have no regrets. Basking in the warm Caribbean sun and floating in its pristine turquoise waters was a realignment for my soul and I needed it badly. After the trip I feel recharged and ready for what’s next. What comes next for me is setting and achieving some pretty awesome goals. One of those goals is beginning to consciously realign my life to make way for even more writing, more growth, and more travel.

What I’ve found is writers are always working, even if it’s subconsciously. When we’re not writing we’re usually taking mental notes about nearly everyone and everything that crosses our path. While I was in St. Thomas I met many interesting and a few wonderful souls. I also had some true growth experiences. The wonderful souls were strangers at first but we parted as friends. When this happens you’re enriched because, in a way, these people’s stories and experiences become your own.

We met a young couple from San Diego, she was a competitive swimmer and he was a personal trainer. Then there was a man from Romania and his wife. He had immigrated to the US when he was nineteen and almost died during a failed attempt to escape Communist Romania in the mid-eighties before the Berlin wall fell. He suffered abuse at the hands of nuns who taught at the school he went to as a child, and corrupt Romanian police and military officers later in life. Against those odds he still went on to immigrate to America and build a successful construction business. During a brief chat over a delicious breakfast he told me two or three ways to immobilize an attacker with my bare hands.

The last and most profound of the connections we made was with our AirBNB host, Lecia (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3139209?s=p6pABAhB). She taught in in St. Thomas for decades and retired but is still very involved in the community. She cares deeply about the children of the island and their future, she also cares about the environment. Her home is almost completely self-sustaining, she eats a plant-based diet and drives an electric car (which is charged by her solar panels.) Even better, through very smart decisions and hard work she’s built a life that gives her freedom to do what makes her happy. This entrepreneurial path is the one I’m walking on now and I need to surround myself with these kinds of people and soak up their wisdom.

I’ve always loved travel but didn’t fully understand why. I’ve always been fascinated by new people, places, and experiences. Exploration runs deep in the DNA of humanity. I think our ancestors found out long ago that seeking new places and new experiences make us better and stronger, they deepen our knowledge of both ourselves and of the Universe. Growth doesn’t come from doing more of the same things. Yes, ordinary life hands us its share of lessons but when we’re traveling those lessons are condensed in significantly higher doses over a shorter period of time.

I came back from this trip feeling inspired and prepared to take more chances. Dreams have their place but I’m tired of dreaming. I want to make more of a conscious effort to build the framework that will bring about the birth of Eric version 2.0. (or is it version 3.0?)

I’ve learned many things through my two plus decades of struggle as a writer. Dreams only provide a temporary respite from a life that is less than ideal. For dreams to work they must be paired with smart decisions, follow through, and lots of hard work. Over the next few months I’m going to be shuffling many of the priorities in my life around to make more room for writing (of course) and travel.

I’ve learned during the St. Thomas trip that travel isn’t as much a luxury as it is a necessary element in my life equation. Now that I’m back into my weekly routine of being rushed and pressed for time my heart literally aches when I look at the pictures from our trip and recall the freedom we felt. I’m going to use that heartache as a motivator. From now on I’m going to be budgeting for travel just as though it was healthcare coverage or groceries, in my opinion it’s just as important.

I’m honored that so many of you wonderful souls are here with me to take part in my journey. I’m excited to see what the coming months will bring for us all. I promise you, the second novel, Truth Is Stranger, will be completed soon come Hades or rising tides.

~Eric Vance Walton~

The Drum

I still remember
the sky was a deep sapphire
that afternoon when
the dead drone
of the drum began,


their coffers were far from empty
but they were still hungry
for power and dollars,
their only Gods


not a hint of regret
laid across the
lips of lady liberty
but it did her people,
they are good people, mostly,
simple people


the propaganda machine
had spewed its stinking filth
for years leaving us so numb
we were willing to believe anything,
but this time was different

divisions were melting away,
our world was shrinking
and people were thinking,
yearning badly for a lasting peace
so the powers that be
brought us only war


after all it’s never been
their sons or daughters
who get the blood
on their hands,
only the simple people
are sent to inflict the wounds
and collect the scars that
will cause hate and pain
to rip through generations,
like a tsunami


our deepest level of trouble
were the false flags of fear,
their hypnotic switches
causing one to doubt
wh
at they know to be true

 

in their hearts,
this is all they need,
easy belief of these kinds of lies
have always been the
weeds in our garden

but the peace has always
been there within us,
we see the shine of it
from the corners of our eyes
deep down like a
gold nugget flashing,
nestled in the smooth rock
of the river bed

to uncover it, we need

less logic and more ramble
but we must learn this quickly

before our world lies

smoldering in shambles,


this time
there will be
no second chances,
no Phoenix rising,
not this time


through all of this
they failed to realize
that this is just the sort of thing
that turns peaceful souls
into revolutionaries,


our righteous and beautiful voices

may just shout them down in unison,
most of us, we are just

simple people after all,


simple folks who want
the chance to succeed or fail,
fill our lungs with clean fresh air,
and slay our demons one by one,
have ourselves a bit of fun


but in the distance
I hear the dreaded drum,
the dead drone
of the drum.

War Drum

~Eric Vance Walton~

 

Just Another Day

Darren was a bachelor, he would claim by choice, and he was also very particular. His life was lived like a sacred ritual, trying his best to make sure that each day was the same as the last. He woke each weekday morning at 5:20am sharp, showered, and shaved his salt and pepper shadow with a vintage chrome safety razor. He then brewed an extra strong cup of coffee and prepared breakfast which consisted of steel cut oatmeal with a quarter cup of blueberries and half a pat of grass fed butter, never more.

Although Darren was what most people would consider content he had always felt like his life was missing something indescribable. It was as though his soul was a jigsaw puzzle that was almost complete, the few missing pieces were where his heart was but he had no idea of where to find them.

Just before leaving for the office Darren always watered his bonsai tree, a ficus of the variety sold at Walmart, with one half cup of spring water, perfectly measured. For the last ten years Darren had cared for the bonsai like it was his first born. He even gave it a name, he called it Moe because the shape of the tree’s foliage reminded him of the mop top hairstyle of the lead stooge of the same name. His boss had given him Moe as a gift for his fifth anniversary with the accounting agency.

The first night Darren brought the bonsai home to his apartment he had the distinct impression that, in some inexplicable way, Moe’s well-being would forever connected to the security of this job. He believed with all of his being that as long as he kept the bonsai healthy he would never need to worry about the security of his job at the agency. In Darren’s mind his theory was substantiated the following year. He had overslept by only few minutes and was running late, as a result he had forgotten to water Moe. This couldn’t have happened on a worse day, it was the day of his annual performance review at the agency and his absentmindedness cost him dearly, that year he received a measly ten cent raise.

Each Saturday morning Darren allowed himself the luxury of one extra hour of sleep, he felt that any more would be wasting the day away. Upon waking his Saturday ritual was almost identical to the previous five mornings except for one: instead of taking the northbound train to the office he crossed to the other side of the station and boarded the southbound train to the Snelling Avenue stop. Just across the street from the Snelling station stood Wimbley’s Books and the hand painted sign out front, in bold red letters read, “Rare and Out of Print Books.”

Darren spent nearly every Saturday weeding through the stacks of books, intoxicated by the mustiness of antiquity. Wimbley’s was the one of the few places on Earth where he felt like he fit in. Sometimes he would pack a sandwich and a piece of fruit in his messenger bag for sustenance enough to spend the entire day there.

From the moment he got off the train he felt as though a magnet was pulling him towards the front door of Wimbley’s shop. His strides were a little more hurried than usual as he crossed the busy street. Sam, one of Mr. Wimbley’s clerks, had left Darren a cheery voice mail on Tuesday morning with the news that his book had arrived. It took all of his restraint not to continue riding right on past his normal stop that night after work to pick up the treasure. Darren worried over the matter for the rest of his workday that Tuesday but was worried that any deviation in his routine might throw off his luck for the rest of the week.

Darren turned the doorknob and stepped inside Wimbley’s shop and as he did the tarnished brass bell that hung above the door chimed alerting the staff he had arrived.

“It’s Darren, nine o’clock exactly…punctual as always. I have no idea how you waited four days to pick this up, you have more patience than me,” Mr. Wimbley said peering over top of his wire rimmed glasses, eyes squinting as he smiled.

“It wasn’t easy, Sir! I was just so busy,” Darren answered as he blew into his hands and quickly rubbed them together.

The treasure that Mr. Wimbley spoke of was a copy of a fifteenth century Irish illuminated manuscript obtained from an extensive book collection in Dubai. There were only three known copies of this ancient manuscript created by a lone Irish monk.

Legend has it that the monk, whose name had since been lost to history, lived in a two room stone house that stood alone amongst the craggy cliffs of the Irish seashore. The monk had befriended the two Gaelic tribes in the region he was put in charge of converting to Christianity by the Vatican. After living among the native people for only a few months the monk went rogue and adopted the pagan people’s dress and their way of life.

The monk was so taken by the power of these people’s spiritual beliefs he felt it his duty to meticulously transcribe the Gallic druids’ oral tradition word for word. Each page of the book was handwritten in flowing calligraphy; although it was officially untitled, the book was referred to in collector’s circles as The Gaelic Book of Wisdom. The book contained three hundred and sixty-five passages, one for each day of the year. The monk then made two additional copies of the book, he kept one for himself and the remaining two were given to the chieftain of each of the two tribes. When the word got out that the monk had been turned by pagans and failed in his missionary work, assassins were dispatched by the Pope himself to put a swift end to the monk’s shenanigans before a legend was born.

The Gaelic Book of Wisdom is now considered one of the grails of bibliophiles. A person had be in the inner circle to even know about, let alone, get a chance at owning something as special as this. Darren’s ticket into this rarified world was Mr. Wimbley and his admission was earned slowly over decades of patronizing his bookstore and thousands of dollars changing hands.

One of Wimbley’s long time clerks, Samantha Fletcher or Fletch as she was called by the regulars, came from behind the counter and handed Darren a pair of white gloves, “I know you’re a virgin,” her face turned a bright pink, “umm…I mean, uh when it comes to owning rare books.”

Fletch took a deep breath and regained her composure, “You’ll want to wear these gloves whenever you handle it. Otherwise the oil from your skin will discolor the pages. Always remember, this book is an irreplaceable artifact. It’s so easy to forget in today’s world of disposable things how fragile and valuable something like this is.”

Fletch was attractive in a waspy conservative sort of way. Her hazel eyes were studious and she wore her brown hair short in a fashionable bob cut. She was almost always stealing glances across the shop at Darren on Saturdays and he would occasionally sneak a look at her too.

Darren had the distinct impression that there was something meant for him in this manuscript and that it would somehow help him to feel whole again. He was hardly a man of means but he was so sure of the importance of this purchase he took out a loan against his 401k to buy it. The incredible details that Fletch had shared with him over successive Saturdays put to rest any reservations he might have had.

Fletch lightly placed her hand on Darren’s shoulder and glanced from side to side to make sure no one else was within earshot, “The auctioneer we bought this from said the previous owner of the book bought it nearly a decade ago a flea market in Paris and found an old letter written on parchment between its pages. The letter told of how the book had a way of finding the person who needed it most and shared stories of how past owner’s lives were magically transformed for the better after acquiring the book…” Fletch trailed off as the brass bell rang and a few new customers noisily filed through the door. There was a look in her eyes that told him there was much more she wanted to say.

“Well, I could really use some magic in my life,” Darren laughed nervously.

Mr. Wimbley wrapped the book carefully in brown paper and tied it off tightly with twine. Darren eagerly handed him a cashier’s check for ten thousand dollars. Mr. Wimbley removed his white gloves and held the check up and studied it in the light. He then paused, slowly twisting the end of this handlebar mustache.

The pause lasted a bit too long for Darren’s liking. He feared Wimbley was having second thoughts about the transaction. Wimbley then shot Darren a look of concern, flicked the check noisily with his finger and said, “Darren, you’re now among the ranks of a precious few. Do you promise to take good care of this book?”

Darren exhaled more deeply than he ever did in his life, he knew now he had crossed all of the hurdles.

“I do, “ Darren said.

As he exited the shop Darren cradled the book against chest as if it was a newborn baby. He decided he wouldn’t take off the wrapper until he was home but could swear that he felt the power in it as he held the book close.

He could remember nothing of the train ride home, all he could think about was unwrapping his treasure. He quickly unlocked the door of his apartment, slid on the white gloves Fletch had given him, then carefully cut the twine with his Swiss army knife. Darren held his breath as he slowly peeled back the brown paper revealing the book’s cover, it was an emerald green leather and was in remarkably good condition for its age, only slightly faded.

As Darren cracked open the book he was in awe of the richness of color on the pages and elegant flourishes of the calligraphy. The scent was a combination of old paper, leather, and the sea. He started to read and from the first few words Darren felt wisdom and vitality pour over him. Immediately he got the distinct impression that little by little the puzzle of his life was being completed and this book contained all there was for him to learn.

A few days passed and he read from the book religiously. Each day he arose an extra fifteen minutes early to allow himself time to mindfully absorb each new passage. Almost immediately he began to notice a great change in his life: men treated him with more respect; women began to notice him; and the day’s events seemed to suddenly flow effortlessly in his favor.

On Wednesday of the following week Darren’s phone buzzed as he was grocery shopping, he glanced at it and decided to pick up the call when he noticed, “Wimbley’s Books” flash across the screen.

“Hello,” Darren said sheepishly.

“It’s me, Fletch,” she paused, “I don’t know how to tell you this but I just couldn’t go through with it any longer.”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Darren said dumbfounded as he continued bagging his pink lady apples.

“There’s something I need to tell you.” Darren could hear Fletch breathing heavily on the other side of the line.

“Sure, what is it?”

“I made it all up about the book,” she said as she started to sniffle. The sniffles then turned into sobs.

Darren tied off the plastic bag and dropped the apples into his cart, “Made it all up? I guess I’m still not sure what you mean.”

Fletch continued nervously, “I mean the book is old and super rare and it was written by an Irish monk but I concocted the whole part about the magical aspect of the book, there was no letter. There’s no magic in it either, Darren. Believe me, I had good intentions, all I wanted was to see you happy and get to get to know you a little better. I thought I might even have a chance to go out with you or something. Please forgive me.”

Darren’s face took on a look of bewilderment as he walked away from his grocery cart. For a moment Darren let his emotions get the better of him and completely forgot where he was.

“You’re lying. I feel the magic in it, I feel the change in me and nothing you tell me can convince me otherwise!” he yelled, now pacing back and forth in the produce aisle.

“Oh I get it, you probably just want the book for yourself, don’t you Fletch? This conversation is done!” Darren said as he forcibly tapped the end call button and shoved the phone into the pocket of his trench coat.

Oh my, after all these years now I have to find myself a new bookstore Darren thought to himself as he took a deep, controlled breath and continued shopping as though it was just another day.

 

~Eric Vance Walton~