Monday, May 22, 2006


The financial situation is so freaky here now that there is no situation. When you can’t even locate a situation, you know you’re in an interesting place.

God loves interesting places. He loves trouble. He makes it. Then He fits it so as to dunk me into it. Then He 1) waits, 2) grimaces, 3) checks His watch, and 4) gets me out of it. It’s a rhythm; a pattern: God loves, makes, fits, dunks, waits, grimaces, checks, removes. Just like planting a wheat field, baking a cake, or beating a person with a stick. Thus, God demonstrates His power. The awful cycle weakens me in body yet strengthens me in faith. That's one of its purposes. You are already aware of my world-record faith.

I may be an idiot. I have analyzed this from all angles. As soon as I think I may be an idiot, something tells me I’m a genius. Listening to the latter voice is idiotic, however, so I am back to square one. The best way to stop the mental mayhem is to consult the current balance of one’s checkbook and 1) read, 2) weep, 3) rejoice.

This is one of the few times when we’ve really had to watch what food we buy. It's an up-and-down business, folks. Two days ago, we couldn’t buy any—food, that is. I know this situation will eventually change, but I'm in "dunk" mode now, so I'm going to revel in whatever lessons it has to teach. To one of the few people on the planet dispensing the true gospel, this is a chunk of gold in the cave wall. It’s neato to suffer for the sake of Christ. I hope my kids understand it fully someday. Most of what they think nowadays is, why don’t we have this in the refrigerator and that in the cupboard?, and so on and so forth. I’m not sure they’re now grasping the God Principle, which is that not having money for a particular length of time in this present eon may be a sign of God’s favor, especially if the pinched individual dispenses, for a living, the true gospel.

Jesus did not have much money growing up, and especially not during His public ministry. Judas Iscariot kept the books, if that tells you anything. Jesus didn’t even have a home. Not even a house. He probably strung a hammock between olive trees on the Mount of Olives. He swayed in the breeze off the Sea of Galilee. He got up early before everyone else and went to the mountains to pray. These were the best times for Christ during those years of public ministry. He and the disciples made campfires at night and knocked back draughts of herbal coffee. Imagine the Bible studies going down at that time, if you can. Money didn’t matter. What joy. (I may be there.)

There is something exciting about traveling so lightly through this life, with nothing but a copy of the scriptures, a body, a hammock, herbal coffee, and a well of faith gushing up through the bedrock of trial.

Over these last thirteen years since trading a well-paying job at the Postal Service for suffering-filled vats of evangelistic evil, I have abounded and been abased in the legal tender department. Some months, I cannot even tender things legally. Other months, Melody and I are off to Red Lobster. Whenever God sees fit to abase, it no longer scares me. I used to worry, but I have not done that in years. God has trained me to relax in the midst of peril. Relaxation is my normal reaction to peril now. Friends don’t get it. They tell Melody, “I don’t know how you do it.” This is a backhanded slam at me. I take it and smile. I choose not to make dolls of the people and push pins into them. That would be immature. What these “friends” are really telling my wife is, “I don’t know how you live with that man.” Some have put it this bluntly. Other bolder ones have inserted colorful adjectives before the noun “man.”

Yet these people could not muster faith enough to salt a Wheat Thin. Do I lord it over them? No. Do I mock them for not having faith? No. Do I brag about the absurd amount of faith I have? No. How can I brag about something given me by God? So I just take it. I simply read my newspaper on the wire God strings for my family and me across the mouth of the great cataract.

This does not mean I do not cry. It is possible to be humiliated and free of worry simultaneously. I do it all the time. Then I think of Christ on the cross and realize how far I have to go. It comforts me to realize that God would not ever take another human being that far. It is unnecessary now. Our sufferings now are so small compared to the sufferings of Christ. God has taught me to be rejoicing in my sufferings, inasmuch as I am “filling up in my flesh, in His stead, the deficiencies of the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24). How Christ could have come away with any deficiencies of afflictions is beyond me. But He did, and others and I are catching up to them.

Well, on second thought, Jesus never had to explain to His kids why something as inexpensive as a box of generic pancake mix could suddenly not be located in the bottom cupboard.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


They call me Doctor Faith. I am the Doctor of Faith.

I have no money today, and it's interesting. People think I’m rich just because I write books. That’s a nice theory until your employer is God, Who controls all monetary sense and nonsense. Sometimes I have money, sometimes I don't. God has plunged me into an erratic line of work. Some days God sits me on His lap and pets my head. Other days I feel like an anvil, and God is the nose of the hammer. I hope that these two weeks, or however long it has been, will dispel forever the ignorant notion that just because I realize God is behind evil and will eventually bring good of it does not mean I greet it with a conical hat. If I told you what I said to God this morning it would shake your faith, so I will refrain. I would hate to have anyone stumbling over me. I can say and do and live without stumbling, but that is only because I have severe amounts of faith. Severe amounts. I am overloaded in the faith department.

If this were the day when faith moved mountains, I would be playing chess with the Himalayas. But this is not that day. This is the day when faith can only barely be bartered for peace with not being at peace. I have boxcars of faith, and it is the only reason I get away with what I say and think and dream and hope and tug and tunge and drag o’er the hearth toward the cave where He lay for three days before rising. I’m not even bragging. But honestly, this is the longest three days of the last two weeks of my life, and “tunge” isn’t even a word. This ought to give you a clue as to my faith. It is as advertised.

When I speak of my faith, I do not boast as if I have originated it. As Paul says, what do you have that you have not obtained? I have not originated, but obtained. And I obtain and obtain and obtain. I am telling you, when the first boxcar of faith passes the chambers of my inner being, it is no big cause for worry, because there’s another boxcar behind it, and another one behind that, and another one behind that. I have more faith than sixteen boxcars have coal briquettes. In fact, I need rid of some. Were I able to give some away, I would. I would render unto each of you a boxcar’s worth—and have plenty left over. Left over? I speak an outrage, for I obtain a trainload’s worth of faith every hour, even while testing the limits of all things Godward and making up words like “tunge.”

This, too, shall pass. I know this comes to pass. It all comes to pass. Nothing comes to stay in this eon, but to pass. Thus the saying: “It comes to pass.” Great saying; one of the best ever; one of the better ones. The rain and the clouds and the death come to pass. The fear of losing all my loved-ones comes to pass, and even the losing of them would also come to pass. See? What did I tell you about my faith? It is completely god-awful. It is a burden to be given so much. I have no idea why I am the world record holder in this department. I am not even glad of it. It only is. I can only bear it. I cannot help for a moment my singular possession. I cannot change it. It does not even show most of the time, this faith. If it did, I would be world-famous: Fifi the Celestial Poodle Leaping Through a Hoop of Flaming Planets. If I could barter faith for money, I would be Jed Clampett of the New World Order.

I wish I could dispense it. Would that I could. I would not charge a nickel for it, not even a penny. It would not be like my books, which come hard. Having so much faith is like having too much iron in the blood: you get heavy and bloated and your veins turn hard from constantly plying the parameters of not seeing anything. I would hook up a fire hose to my head or my heart or to whatever spiritual ventricle supplies faith, and I would heave open the valve and souse you with a flagon’s worth every minute. The tap could run all day and leave me none the worse because, in the interim, I will have been reloaded with two more times again the dispersal, immeasurable in human flagons.

I do not even work at it. Work? I blaspheme. I do not even play. In fact, the less I work the more I get, and the more I play the less I don’t get. I say again: Would that these were the days of moving mountains. But power these days is hardly manifested as men (or women) would manifest it. Men and women looked for power in the time of Christ only to see a man on a cross trying to get comfortable in His spikes and groaning unutterable utterances to Himself. They look for power nowadays and all they see are mountains sitting where they’ve been since the disruption of the world. The mountains won’t move a whit, not even to save an oxygen-deprived yak on the South Col of Everest. But in the coming kingdom, anyone with a tenth of the faith God has given me will send comets out of orbit with a random thought while gathering summer figs in the south of Lebanon. The rings of Saturn? Gone before breakfast.

There is a time for everything under the sun except personal glory. If sun is what we have out there and it is advertised with such coronal exuberance, then it should disrupt more of our cellular communication. And yet it does not. I do not doubt for a moment that I am a target of the Adversary. Everything on this dirty planet now is like a chisel that chips iron off the horseshoe of surviving another ping of God’s weeping little hammer. (I apologize for that sentence; it was uncalled for. It is just a longwinded, downgraded term for the Adversary.) And that’s without the fire, even. Add the fire, and it makes you want to take megavitamins. Or eat carrots. (Not that any of this would help, but then that’s where faith comes in. When carrots make your eyesight worse, that’s where faith comes in. If rabbits see so well, why do they run pell-mell into oncoming cars? Trucks? Campers? Where are the rabbits' heads? Why, I know: their heads are detached from their bodies! And this: When you pull on your undershirt and get the tag in front after trying so hard to get it in back, where it belongs, don’t you think that, too, is of faith? And also when you’re out of jelly? And milk? And bread? And apples? And patience? [Do you think patience is of faith? Recant of it, miscreant; impatience is of faith.]

It could perhaps be that God is gearing up for the Super Bowl of Revelation. The glory knob I spoke of on an earlier page occupies all-time world record lows, lying (or laying—who the heck knows or cares) in the lowlands of that famous dial. Not even pancakes can cure it. Not even pancakes packed with syrupy fruit can resurrect this knob from its “death bed.” Not even new brain chemicals, real or artificial, can make the glory knob rise from its slab. (Same with Christ; God roused Christ.) What about local honey? Forget it. Bees don’t live long enough to regurgitate that much glory. I doubt that a local honey would cure it, either. Mark this: Fun in this eon causes misery. Study it. Fun Houses—with all their wacky mirrors and slanted floors—make you sick. (What a paradox. But don’t look at me; I didn’t invent it.) The only peace available in this eon is to be at peace with not being at peace—that is the only cure for this present eon. In France, it would be known as “le curĂ© miraculiare” and you would pay a million francs for it. Hear what I say. Appreciate what I have just dispensed to you, nearly by accident. It is as I told you. I have merely blown the foam off the top of my flagon, and that with no more cost to me than an exasperative exhalation. I dispense to you faith in this way, without cost; I blow it nearly inadvertently in your direction. Just like that, faith in your face. Now—can you imagine my burden?

You used to say live and let live. But if this ever-changing world in which we live in makes you give in a cry, well, then live and let die.

You can always resurrect in the coming eon.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


You will never guess what happened to me yesterday afternoon. Given a hundred years you would still speculate wide of it, short of it, everywhere but on it. Were you to eat three helpings of salmon and chase it with broccoli and green tea, the goings-on of moi on the afternoon of yesterday would ne’er come nigh your tent.

I fell asleep on my walk.

Well, not exactly on my walk, but during it. You see, I usually sit down for two and a half minutes at the seven mile mark of my daily round. This brief respite makes the final mile back to my office less of a strain. The two and a half minute sit is long enough to leave me refreshed and ready to go stale again.

I have a favorite telephone pole (F15718) that I think fondly of and lean back against as I bring my knees to my chin to enjoy the sensation of not walking. The pole is on an agreeable, grassy little hump. The thing yesterday afternoon was that the weather came fair and the winds spindly, so I closed my eyes. Next thing I knew, two cars passed the pole simultaneously from opposite directions, creating enough of a whoosh to startle me into consciousness. It was then that I realized I’d been asleep.

I don’t wear a watch, so I looked at the sky and unsheathed my sextant to make sure I hadn’t accidentally slept for, say, five hours. It was not like me to fall asleep at all in the middle of the day (except for lately), but I thought I’d check the sky anyway. I didn’t want to have missed supper. The sky looked just the same; the sun was where it was supposed to be. That relieved me at first, but then introduced a troubling thought: was it possible that I had slept for 24 hours? What if I had just spent the night with my back against F15718?

Well, ha-ha, of course I knew that was impossible because I didn’t remember brushing my teeth. Besides, I looked down at myself and noticed that all my clothes were still on. Plus, Melody had not kissed me. Plus, I had not said goodnight to the kids. I was relieved for all of this, to say the least.

I once fell asleep while riding a bicycle. So momentous was the occasion that I remember the year: 1991. And the season: winter. I had set for myself the goal of riding my bicycle the 23 mile round trip to my post office job on as many days as possible between October of 1991 and March of 1992. In other words, through the winter. Any idiot could do it through the summer, I thought. At least I think I thought.

The problem (one of the many problems) was that my job necessitated my presence at 5:30 a.m., and the post office lay 11.4 miles to the west. This necessitated my rising at 3:20, eating as much food as possible, and leaving the house at twenty past four. I remember my breakfast in those days: one large bowl of Malt-O-Meal, two huge blobs of grape jelly supported by two pieces of toast, a Slimfast breakfast shake, orange juice and a cup of coffee. Melody (such a good wife then, and always) would get up with me, help me burp, and send me down the road with a cheery, “You’re nuts.”

For some reason, I loved it. I loved the dark and the cold. I loved that no one else was around. I trumped the world in this way. I blinded the dark and the cold with science. I blinded it with a high-tech lamp (NightSun) clamped to my handlebars, a windshield (not kidding, manufactured by the Zzipper Fairing Company), electronic foot warmers (Hotronic), down mittens that resembled hockey goalie gloves, a black Lycra face covering, and ski goggles (Scott). I looked like a citizen of Pluto. I pedaled like a citizen of Pluto, just to make heat. No sun in my universe shone or even suggested the phenomenon. I was usually so awake it was ridiculous. But on one particular morning, I wasn’t.

I was pedaling up a hill one morning (up a hill, for God’s sake) with the snow flying and my nose running and my legs pumping as usual, and it just happened. Nitey-nite. Next thing I knew, I was in the ditch; didn’t remember going there; never would have steered there purposely; never favored snowy sidegrass as a premier route choice. My adrenal glands squirted their protective juices and I remained upright and heaved myself back to the pavement. I was awake for sure now. I related my adventure to my work crew while missorting mail. I was legend already, but this cemented it. Another time I almost hit a deer, and this was commemorated with a plaque next to the postal coffee pot.

Yesterday was weird. This whole two or three weeks has been weird. I can never sleep during the day. I sometimes try, but hardly ever can. I have trouble shutting down my mind. I never tell you any of this. You don’t know the price I pay for being me. You don’t know what my brain does to me. It hardly ever considers my feelings. It lives a Bohemian lifestyle that I, myself, could not possibly bear. It tortures me, though I have never been anything but kind to it. Perhaps you do not know what it is like to always be at work. If you do, forgive my presumption. Writers never clock out. A writer is at work even when he or she is looking out a window, or leaning against a pole, or dumping the sandy residue of cat waste. There is no stopping the onslaught of information and the brain’s innate need to record it—my brain, anyway. But I got back from my walk yesterday, worked some more (yes, I do work; I swear I do; I think and read and write and talk into my microphone while staring at you through my wall [ZenderTalk], and my mind never gives me a break, but these are not the lowlights of my day; I relate the lowlights for the thrill of exposure and the potting of my plant in the universal peat; everyone works, but not everyone accidentally sleeps against a telephone pole or flushes out a deer in the middle of the night with the high beam of a NightSun bicycle light, so that’s why I relate these. I also saw a dead dog yesterday on Route 9, a little dog I greatly admired; he walked with a larger, older dog; they barked at me halfheartedly but never bothered me because they were too busy on the farm; they were the Bobsie Twins, Laurel and Hardy, I loved them; the little one was so sweet walking behind and trying to keep up with Old Bess, or Old Roy, or whatever the older one’s name might be, but there was this little one alongside him always, or sleeping next to him, or looking up at him, his big buddy, but now here on the side of the road away from me and away from his older friend in swipes of blood—unfair blood—I had to hope it was not him, but his little head was too brown and the little body was too white and blotched in too soft brown for it not to be him, so I choked back tears and looked ahead to something and walked on faster and breathed in the sunshine, because you know what death does to me and how much I love animals and how rarely the sun shines here; I knew that the owner of the farmhouse would come and get him because the owner has a young boy [I hope the lad is sensitive, but not overly so like I am]; I could not go get the dog myself or anything like that; I just could not do it; I wonder now if the older dog realizes it yet; I could only turn away from what used to be my friend and walk forward pretending not to see him, pretending that life goes on, pretending that the eon has already ended), and then I laid down (or lay or lie, I never know which; I always have to look it up; I never learn; I never want to learn because the rules are so ridiculous) on my sofa when I got back and took my pants off and you’ll never guess what happened next. You would never guess how I found relief then. In a million years you will have ventured and ventured and reckoned your head off reeling off a million guesses without ever nearing the truth.

I took a nap.

I was so happy when my mom called later yesterday to tell me that the pollen count has been astronomically high due to the non-severity of this past winter. Wow. So that’s been my stupid problem. So at least now I know that I’m not dying. Ah. It’s life that’s killing me.

All I need then, is a large jar of local honey and a big spoon. Forget the dumb bees from Argentina. California bees do me no practical good. It’s the local bees that go out and gather all the specific pollens (the local stuff that is killing my mom and me) that torment local sufferers. And they carry it on their little bee feet to whatever hive they call home. Then they digest the pollens with their inner syrups, regurgitate it as a sort of vaccinative elixir (called “honey”), surrender it to the bee man, witness the man’s wife—through the translucent hive walls—glean their nectar through plastic nipples in jars shaped like bears—or, better, in fat glass jars dubbed “Mason”—for the innoculative rescue of sufferers like me and she who bore me.

All this will happen, God willing, tomorrow, if I can scrape up seven dollars left over from the price of gasoline.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


If death is such a bad thing, then why did Jesus—in the case of Lazarus—compare it to sleep, and why does it feel so good to turn out the lights at night and feel the soft covers come up over one’s naked body, and feel the Reaper snuggling up against one’s chin?

It is 9:30 a.m. and I have just eaten my third 3 Musketeers bar. That’s a total of nine musketeers in less than five minutes. Death is nigh my tent, but I am pleased of it. My fingertips are gay in the archaic sense because they are shaking like paint mixers. I could eat three more 3 Musketeer bars—but halt. While nine musketeers may be company, eighteen would be a crowd, a nougat-filled crowd. I have possibly just now entered musketeer heaven (as I write) because I am feeling quite good about m-m-myself. (M-m-my brain is tricking me. Sombody, p-p-please help me.) My bloodstream is licking its chops. This good feeling will go away in about ten minutes, and I will feel like shit. Is it a good trade-off? You bet it is.

I did my eight-mile walk yesterday. The weather was favorable and I was not eaten by a dog. I just sort of walked. I didn’t do anything else, really. I did sip my fruit punch Gatorade through my blue bite tube. I may have had one or two thoughts. No, wait. I just remembered that I was on Base Line Road heading due east when a high-flying bird took a mid-air doopsie. I saw the blob of white doopsie emerge and I visually followed it all the way to the ground. I have for years seen the results of avian digestion, but never the process. The sky was so blue and the field was so green and the doopsie was so white that my eyes got so big. It took the doopsie nearly four seconds to hit the ground.

This doopsie reminded me of the time I saw a space shuttle launch and watched the two white solid rocket boosters jettison just short of space. The boosters were just tiny white dots away up there near space and I had to squint and shield my eyes from the Melbourne, Florida sun to even barely scratch out the pencil-shaped side rockets, which to me looked like tooth-shaped dots. (Imagine being where the boosters were. Imagine being close enough to them to rub a flat palm against their great sides as they whirled and twirled and flipped end over end through the air over the ocean before their chutes popped. [What violence!] Imagine the sound of the air whipping around the boosters and the sun reflecting in the leftover heat of the main shuttle engine—the big red thing. Imagine the size of the boosters and how cool and smooth the shiny ocean-side of the boosters would be to the caress of the open palm, and how far away I looked to those boosters, standing, as I was, in a motel parking lot shielding my eyes from the same sun glinting them.)

Well, it was the same thing with the doopsie.

Birds flew automatically for thousands of years before humans learned to “imitate” them with killer engines and landing gear the size of semi trucks. Men stared at birds out their windows after breakfast and figured that if a being that small with a brain the size of an avocado pit could fly, then so could they. Why, with the proper amount of feathers and a hearty strap or two, they could fly as well as any purple-bellied finch. So the men built wings loaded with feathers and straps loaded with little sizing holes. The men strapped the wings to the tops of their arms and cinched, each, the others’ buckles. Thus the men proceeded to make fools of themselves before their womenfolk and the more discerning neighbors.

All women back then pooh-poohed air travel. For one thing, the women would not fain soil their dresses. For another thing, the women had to clean up from making breakfast for the men. For another thing, the women kept birds as pets and the birds filled them in. Even the birds were smarter than the men, but the women were for sure many IQ points ahead of their penis-wearing counterparts. For another thing, the women foresaw overcrowded coach seating and twelve-hour flights to Sydney. Said one to another over a sink full of earthen pots: “Let us simply invent the minivan.”

I had to live forty-six years before God allowed me a vision of freefalling bird poop. For some reason, I have been mysteriously repeating to myself this week: “Complete life’s work, then die. Complete life’s work, then die.”

Another domino falls, I fain concede, with yesterday’s flight of the doopsie.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Monday, May 08, 2006


I was tired all weekend without knowing why. Yesterday was the first Sunday since January that I stayed home from a long walk. I could not imagine myself walking down the road yesterday. Falling down it, yes; passing out on it, yes; fainting, yes; sleeping in the ditch, yes; getting run over by a truck, yes; walking, no.

I woke up sneezing and sniffing again. In an exasperative fit, I took a dose of Nyquil. That will teach it! I thought. But it taught me. Thirty minutes later, I was back in bed for a two-hour nap.

The drug wore off at 1:30, so it was time to proofread the digital text proof of my latest paperback, The Really Bad Thing About Free Will. This book is now at the printers and they are poised to print, but they are awaiting my sovereign approval. So I sat on the sofa to read my own book. I hoped to like it. I hoped to not find any typos in it. But better to find them now than later.

An hour later, I finished. I think this is a fine book. I wonder how I wrote it. There is a mistake space, looks like, between numbers in a verse reference, but who cares? So what? One unnecessary space—I can live with the void. I won’t send in a new disc just for that. Let the space be. Let it be a space. All I want to do is sign off on the project and be done with the gaggle of technoburdens. I want to breathe the unspoiled air of a virgin project. Thus, I make friends with the space. I see it as a destined space, and a permanent part of the book. So God bless the space, and the probably one or two other typos I missed.

I wish I was a prima donna writer who just wrote a book and then gave it to a clean-up crew. I want the same thing for my life. I wish I was a prima donna liver of life. I want to create and run, create and run. I don’t want to be God and sit by all the fires I’ve lit. I want to light the fire and run to the next tinderbox. I want to lay cloudbanks and scurry to another blue sky. Let angels watch the paints on my rainbows dry. But I’m a small “g” god; I wear too many hats; there are too many lenses on my retina: introspection, exospection, omnispection. I am writer, editor, proofer, sulker; husband, father, son, brother; citizen, taxpayer; person who refuses to litter; person wishing to live free of regret; person who strains to make a bed in accord with his wife’s standard of bedmaking.

On a day like yesterday, I could not imagine being the author of so wonderful a book as The Really Bad Thing About Free Will. I got caught up in it—a good sign. I read it as a reader, and it affected me. Whoever wrote this thing, good for him. He has done a service to mankind. Now he can drive to the grocery story, sit in the parking lot, listen to classic rock, and eat three chocolate bars while staring at a dilapidated storefront because he feels like a piece of stale bologna in a hot jar this day. He should be out walking, but instead he is sitting in this car getting fat, so he listens to Joe Walsh and eats a Hershey bar, a Kit Kat, and a Three Musketeers bar, in that order. He should stop the carnage, but chocolate coats his world and Joe Walsh owns a vehicle that does one-eighty-five, but he lost his license and now he can’t drive.

You will not believe what happened when I got home from this eating/listening/staring frenzy. In thirty years you could not guess it, so I will tell you. Are you ready for it? I doubt you are. Go away until you’re ready. Go away, then come back better prepared.

All right, then. When I got home, I took a three-hour nap.

I know some ninety-two year olds who have more energy than me. I think my days of getting up at 2:30 a.m. have taken their toll. Perhaps I’m now paying the toll for waking against my will for a week straight at an hour when not even owl heads rotate. I’m driving up now to the glass booth and they’re punching my sleep card. I’m handing all my change to the smiling person on the other side of the window, and I’m falling asleep at the window while the world honks its collective horn at me.

I drank a two-liter bottle of Gatorade yesterday with nothing to show for it. I ate whatever I wanted all day with nothing to show for it. (“Nothing to show for it” means, “no means of burning the calories.”) The only worthwhile thing I did was proofread the new book. For that, I burned a calorie a minute. Whoever wrote that book, good for him. He did a good thing. He capitalized on the wave of inspiration when it came. A wave of life crashed his way and he balanced atop the crest and rode it for all it was worth.

I went to bed at nine o’clock and fell right to sleep. Next thing I knew, it was five thirty this morning. The sun is shining today, so far. I must stay off chocolate, for a while. I’ve got to walk my eight miles today, no matter what. I faxed my approval to the printing company at 10:00 and I pray now that I’m finished with The Really Bad Thing. I must don a more agreeable hat.

Taking into consideration my professional and personal life, I have a hat rack that resembles the antlers on a frickin’ moose.

Perhaps it’s this rack that explains so much of me these days.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Friday, May 05, 2006


Morning is the best time to write because the world isn’t up yet. I’m not just talking about a.m. in general, but about 2:30 and 3 and 3:30 and 4 and 4:30 and 5, and even 5:30. Things get shot when the postal workers come to work beneath my office at 6, for then I hear the rumblings of practical work. This, along with the rising sun, ruins everything for me.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning—again. You cannot believe how tired I am by 5 p.m.

It is only good for a man to be alone when he is writing. How can writers collaborate? In the world of words there is room for only one mind. Charge it with a little caffeine and see what happens. Turn on an electric fan so that the white noise of the fan merges with the white noise of the brain, and see what happens. I cannot imagine being unable to track down a thought stream at 3 a.m. with a cup of coffee and a fan running. At noon, it’s another story.

Writer’s block is simply performance anxiety. It is worrying how you sound and how you will be received; whether you’re good; whether your wife will like it; how many people you will offend; whether or not you’ll sound smart; can you compete with Henry Miller?

Some people live their whole lives chained to performance anxiety. You know them by the hospitals they are in; they get ulcers and die early. They never do anything original. They only do what they think other people want them to do. And if they think they can’t do something better than everybody else, they don’t do anything. (This is too common. People forget that they are unique. It is important to learn to embrace unique imperfection. The alternative is a long and miserable life. The world’s great people boldly publish their self-perceived failings.)

There are two modes in which one writes, and these are 1) creation mode, and 2) editing mode. (I think many of these lessons will work for life. As we go, apply these things to your living.) A writer is both creator and editor. The editor must sit on the bench while the writer writes—and vice-versa—and this is the secret to breaking through writer’s block (and to living life).

A writer in creation mode cannot afford to fret over how the words come out, just that they come. Sitting for minutes staring at a wall in search of the perfect word is fatal to the Muse. There will be plenty of time later for second-guessing. In creation mode, forget the perfect word. The important thing is to come close.

Turn off the dictionary and thesaurus and turn on the mind. Loose the mind from its cage. (If you can do this after the sun comes up, more power to you.) The mind will rub its eyes and look around, hardly believing it’s free. (How often do you let your mind out? We take our dogs for walks, but not our minds. We let our dogs pee on anything and we relish the tail wagging, but not so with our minds.) A free mind is a happy mind. It is a tail-wagging mind. So many filters in life stop up the mind. The key to writing honest prose (and to living an honest life) is to dispense with as many filters as possible. I understand that we must employ filters to function in society and avoid jail time, but the secret of the filters is to leave them off until editing mode. In creation mode, go with the stream of thought without filters. Jump into the stream with whatever words you know and paddle like hell after the thoughts. It helps to know how to type.

Winston Churchill painted. One day, he couldn’t start a painting. He stared at his canvas, unsure how to begin. Just then, a friend drove up, a woman, who was also a painter. She asked what the trouble was, and he told her. She said, “May I?” and he said, “By all means.” She grabbed a brush, sloshed it in some blue, and just like that started streaking the canvas with it to make sky. She hardly gave it thought. (Well, the woman pre-dated the Nike Company. Her motto was: “Just do it.”) Churchill said it was the last time a blank canvas ever intimidated him.

This is why I have a little piece of paper taped to my printer that says, “When in doubt, do it.”

Oh, and have something to say. Otherwise, you’re screwed.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Our great God appears in unlikely places. He has range. He kills and He makes alive. He kisses and removes the gore. He slaps you funny, then slips you away to blue skies and greenery.

Perhaps the most perfect rock and roll song ever written is “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress.” It is by the Hollies. Strange. My favorite group of all time is the Beatles. I should not say this about the Hollies. There is no comparison between The Hollies and the Beatles. I cannot properly defend what I am writing about, but neither can I ignore men gathered on two momentous days in recording history so vitally and unconsciously plugged into their own Maker that they define humankind by writing and performing such disparate perfections as “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

And in the same lifetime.

This Godlike feat performed by a silliness called “The Hollies,” beats everything. I would like to know where I was on the occasions of these two recordings, and what insignificant thing I was doing when the cosmos confessed to a silliness called “The Hollies.” Where was I when the men picked up their guitars and nodded to the sound technician? What was the sun doing? Who pressed the “record” button after the count-in? What foods were in the stomachs of The Hollies when they dipped humanity’s secrets from so vast a cauldron of time as this eon? How long before the final echoes from the final notes died, and who had the wisdom to note them?

I do not know these men, or where they came from, or wither they are going, or where they went, or if they went, but were I of their number and had laid down the Beginning and the End of Humanity, I could lay down my burdens in peace—retire in perfect peace—for, as a musician, nothing would remain. What more could I accomplish when in less than five minutes I had sealed for the world the breadth of the cadence of man?

The Lord speaks in mysterious ways.

On two separate and miraculous occasions, The Hollies became as the Deity.

The Deity can speak through music, and He spoke through The Hollies in a recording studio on two separate, disparate and miraculous occasions. It is a record of the reach of man in this eon.

The Hollies. I know nothing of them except for the last will (“Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”) and testament (“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”) sealed into grooves, pressed into plastic by technicians unaware of what they handled, and delivered every day, like the sunrise, on Oldies stations.

Oldies stations, for God’s sake.

What an innocuous noun (“Oldies stations”), and what an innocuous name for a group (“The Hollies”) that soundtracked, in less than five combined minutes, the Alpha and Omega of our eonian experience.

© 2006 by Martin Zender

Monday, May 01, 2006


Melody returned from Nashville today, so God is merciful to me. She and Jamie broke three hours for the half-marathon, finishing in 2:50. I finished nothing in 2:50. I did not even finish the laundry in 2:50. I did not complete raising the children in 2:50. I can’t even breathe well in my home because of the dirt caused by me not cleaning it. I think our dog had a stroke yesterday. It rained for Melody between Nashville and Columbus. It did not rain here. I prepared nothing for anybody while I was here. I only watched the extras on the 10th anniversary CD edition of Sling Blade. Besides that, I slept and walked.

I walked 23 miles today. I sneezed and hacked the whole way. I slept six hours last night. I willed myself down the dark road this morning and knew that Melody was still in bed in the too-expensive hotel room. Nashville is the Country-Western music capital of the world. My home is the Depression capital of the world. Crescent Road is the Dark-Before-Dawn capital of the world, and the well in Fitchville is the capital of When to Stop and Look Down an Embankment into a River Where Naked Indians Used to Mate and Shoot Wolves.

Nothing tastes worse in the pre-dawn dark than a bread sandwich coated in peanut butter, honey and wheat germ. Maybe I am allergic to honey. I could not possibly be allergic to wheat germ. Too many raisins stir too many farts from too many people, including the writer of the current paragraph. It is no excuse to stop growing raisins, but a damn fine excuse to stop eating them.

My kids and I did nothing for each other; Jefferson mowed the grass and emptied the trash baskets for his mother. We all existed in a weekend void of vacancy except for ourselves. I did not know where the other people were and they did not know the location of me. This is somewhat metaphoric because I am a responsible person. I told Jefferson that Melody is the hard drive and I am the floppy drive. Jefferson ignored the computer analogy and said that Melody was the engine and I was the windshield wipers.

I don’t even want to know.

© 2006 by Martin Zender