I will be the first person to admit that I am given to fixations. I find something that interests me and then I make it my mission to learn as much as I can about it. I get waist deep in the subject. It takes up quite a bit of my time and my mind.

I guess you could say I get temporarily obsessed.

I wouldn’t call it a problem (as denial would be fitting for such things) because it doesn’t interfere with my functioning. In some ways, it actually improves my functioning.

My obsessions become something to look forward to, something to get excited about. They improve my mood. They give me something to focus on and give me a place to go to when I need a break from the world. I need a warm fuzzy or a smile or a bit of comfort, it’s my hut on the beach, my winter cabin in the woods.

Naturally, this sort of behavior can be disconcerting. You get too deep into an obsession and extraction takes professional help at $150 an hour and maybe a backwards fitting jacket, if the obsession consumes enough of you. Luckily enough for me, I get bored before that sort of thing happens.

Okay, it’s true. There are some obsessions that I have carried with me for years, but not at a maintained intensity. I fell in love the The Monkees when I was six and twenty-five years later, that hasn’t changed. The obsession peaked my senior year of high school, the intensity fading within a year of graduating. But I still listen to the music, watch the show, and collect the memorabilia. It’s a designated safe place for me to go when I need a boost.

 I acquire my obessions in various ways. Sometimes I stumble into them. Sometimes they come from friends. Some I’ve had so long that I feel like I’ve been born with them. Often times as the intensity of one obession fades, I’ll acquire a new one or the intensity of an old one will rev up.

I’m sure that there’s no coincidence that the intensity of my obessions goes hand and hand with dreary times in my life. When my Monkees obsession hit its peak, I was in the midst of a depression slide following my parents’ divorce. School was where I went to be a normal teenager and the Monkees were my happy place.

Last summer was a dismal one for me. My laptop crashed, my Internet failed, and it was a nightmare trying to put all of the pieces back together. Considering that at the time the bulk of my money was made via the Internet in some form (either selling stories or selling stuff on eBay), I was feeling the pressure and I was feeling pretty low.

With a sudden influx of time on my hands, I turned to watching the Cubs play to stop from chewing myself up. I’ve been a Cubs fan since I was a kid, watching the games and checking the standings. But last summer, it became my obsession. My scheduled revolved around the games. Instead of waiting and stressing about getting a new computer and getting the Internet issue resolved and how I was going to make up for lost time, I transferred that emotion and devotion to my Cubs. It became a safe emotional outlet. And despite the miserable season, it became my happy place.

It’s still my happy place, even in the off-season. There’s still news to be kept up with and there’ll be more than just warm weather to look forward to.

Now I imagine the intensity of this obsession, as with the others, will fade, but my love of baseball and the Cubs will remain. In turn, something else will take its place, a new bit of happy to warm the cockles of my cold, black heart and be my new refuge from the harshness of reality and life.

It might drive my friends and family crazy sometimes, but it sure beats drinking.

Five (Unreasonable and Frivolous) Things I Want From Santa

To get into the holiday mood, I figured I’d start where my childhood left off…with Santa. He hasn’t been to my house in years, but if he did, I’d ask him for some serious loot. Here are five things I want from Santa this year (don’t bother looking for world peace or anything too sentimental on this list; it’s all about me and it’s all about extreme):

1. A red 2008 Dodge Charger. Instead of decorating it with a bow, I’d rather the insurance on it be paid for five years.

2. An all expenses paid vacation to Hawaii and the money to spend to make it worth my while. I’d totally buy Santa a cool thank you gift while I was on the Big Island.

3. The various missing pieces to my Monkees music collection and tickets to their next reunion tour. Santa should encourage my Monkee love.

4. Every Vincent Price movie on DVD. Speaking of love, Vincent IS my Valentine every year. I should have every movie he’s been in at my disposal for February 14th.

5. Ted Lilly to play for the Cubs again. I miss him. Other people miss him. Santa wouldn’t even have to bring him to my house. Just deposit him at Wrigley Field on Opening Day.

It’s a list like this that really makes me sad that Santa doesn’t visit my house anymore. Oh, I doubt he’d bring me these five things, but he would bring me free stuff. And I love me some free stuff.

What outrageous, purely selfish things would you ask Santa for?

Saying Goodbye to Ron Santo

I woke up this morning, turned on the TV, and flipped through the channels like I ususally do after my alarm rudely intrudes on my sleep. I hit the Weather Channel and for some reason, they were talking about Ron Santo. I thought to myself how odd that was, so I turned up the sound.

It wasn’t until the very end when they showed his picture with 1940-2010 underneath it that I realized he had passed away.

The man had diabetes and battled bladder cancer. He wasn’t able to work the radio for several away games this year because of his poor health preventing him from traveling. But, it never crossed my mind that we were so close to losing him or that we’d be losing him anytime soon. It just didn’t seem possible. Ronnie was always there and I just couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t always be there.

Today, I and the rest of the Cubs world are faced with that reality.  Honestly, I’m sadder than I thought I’d be. I haven’t listened to games on the radio for years, but I already feel Ron’s absence. I loved him singing the 7th inning stretch and I loved seeing him in the radio booth during the games. Nobody loved the Cubs more than he did.

My condolences go out to his family and friends.

The game won’t be the same without you, Ron Santo. We’ll miss you.

Suffering Seasons

The Cubs had a disappointing 2010 season and so did I. It has nothing to do with being a Cubs fan. It just so happens that we both had a similarly crappy year.

Like the Cubs going into Spring Training, I came into 30 so full of hope and ambition and promise. This was supposed to be my year, THE year, and I was going to make my waves and get things done and 30 was going to be a success. And like the Cubs getting hammered in their Opening Day game in Atlanta, it was very quickly apparent that was not going to be the case for me or them.

Very early on this year I realized that one of my worst fears had come true and that I had gained back most, if not all, of the weight I’d spent four years losing. I took a moment to berate myself and then I got myself a new exercise schedule, getting back into the moving groove that I had gotten out of the year before. It worked before; I was confident it would work again. Only it didn’t. Like Derrick Lee and Aramis Ramirez hitting 3rd and 4th in the line-up, my go to guys just weren’t producing. It wasn’t until August until I started seeing a change in my body and very tentitively thought that maybe I might have lost a few pounds, but because it took this long to lose so little, I’m not really encouraged about the long-term. I’d really rather not spend the next few years losing only ten pounds in 12 months. I need better production than that and it bugs me that I’m not getting it from my established methods.

The Cubs went into the season with four rookies, three of them in the bullpen and one of them on the bench. And they just kept adding them as the year dragged on.  I started off with a few rookies of my own; new short stories that I would send out. Success for all of us was pretty limited. “Land of the Voting Dead” was my Starlin Castro (it was the only story I sold); “Such a Pretty Face” is my Justin Berg (it had a little bit of success placing in a contest, but continues to struggle in getting properly published). But, I know that like rookies, you just keep sending them out there because they will benefit from the experience.  Meanwhile, I agonize for them and over them.

In July, Carlos Zambrano had a meltdown and ended up on the restricted list. My laptop beat him to the punch by a couple of weeks and my Internet beat him a few days. While Zambrano was off getting anger management therapy, I spent a month negotiating Christmas/birthday presents to get a new laptop, waiting on a hand-me-down desktop from my mother, and trying to wrangle an Internet service. After two false starts and nearly three weeks, we got it all straightened out. Unfortunately, as a result, I missed a couple of submission deadlines. The lack of computer also through a serious wrench in my writing mojo (though I did get caught up on my reading) that took me two months to reestablish. Zambrano made a much better comeback than I did.

Missing out on the deadlines hurt the worst because it meant I was missing out on potentially making some money. Like the Cubs with their expensive contracts, I got myself into my own monetary mess but not having a regular income since February of ’08. I know and accept that and I’m trying to work with what I have. The Cubs shed salary by trading Derrick Lee, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Ted Lilly (of all of these trades, losing Lilly broke my heart the most, even if we did get Blake DeWitt out of it). I ended up selling my action figures to make a buck, but still ended up borrowing money off of my dad more times than I’d like to make ends meet.

Without a doubt, the year has been rough and disappointing, but there were some bright spots. Where the Cubs had some promising rookies like Castro, Tyler Colvin, Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, and James Russell, surprisingly good returns from Carlos Silva and Marlon Byrd, and a strong finish to the season under Mike Quade, I got to meet up with family that I haven’t seen for a long time, spend lots of time with my young nieces, and cash in an early Christmas present from my mom: a trip to Wrigley to see the Cubs play.

Naturally, they lost 1-0 to the Giants.

But, that’s okay. It just further adds to my argument of how sympatico I was with my team. We suffered in different ways, but we suffered together. The 2010 Cubs will always have a special place in my heart because of that. Because of them, I didn’t have to suffer alone.

I appreciate that.

NaNoWriMo Update:

Total Word Count: 22,063

Chapter 1 Word Count: 2,239
Chapter 2 Word Count: 2,084
Chapter 3 Word Count: 2,163
Chapter 4 Word Count: 2,108
Chapter 5 Word Count: 2,100
Chapter 6 Word Count: 2,083
Chapter 7 Word Count: 2,032
Chapter 8 Word Count: 2,041
Chapter 9 Word Count: 2,342
Chapter 10 Word Count: 2,870