The Fallacy of All or Nothing

It’s possible to be happy and sad at the same time. I find myself in such a situation right now. I’m happy for many reasons, but I’m sad about the events that have unfolded in the world around me as the outrage grows over the senseless murder of George Floyd, yet another black person killed because of the color of his skin. The list of tragic black murders continues to grow and yet nothing changes. Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be?

When I was a young man and the ferocious flame of idealism roared deep in my soul, I had convinced myself that institutional racism ended with Brown vs. Topeka in the Supreme Court if only because the truth was too hard to look at, too contradictory to everything I thought I believed. I grew up in the rural south in a time that seems lost in today’s world. It wasn’t uncommon to meet people who spat racial epithets as if that made them bigger than their scrawny little brains proved. In fact, I remember my high school experience more for the racial fights than I do for the friends I made and the girls I crushed on. It was an embarrassment that I vowed to leave behind in the dustbin of unfortunate circumstances.

Had you asked me back then what I thought the year 2020 would look like, I would have painted a picture of progress, forward-thinking, and collaboration where the best ideas won out over recessive tribalism. I might have even suggested that the “Us vs. Them” narrative would have died an ugly death at the feet of intelligence. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead, the tribal instinct has grown rather than been stamped out in the name of enlightened progress. The “Us vs. Them” narrative has taken an ugly turn. We are no closer today as human beings than we were when I still harbored that youthful idealism. Today, I’m a cynical, old man with nary a flicker of idealism remaining in my darkening soul.

In the place of progress stands a paper tiger of sorts, the all or nothing autocracy. You have to be one thing or another. There’s no in between, and there’s certainly no room for logic or common sense. The moronic talking heads would have us believe that it’s too complicated for anything more than that, and the sad thing is that many people cast aside their hard-earned critical thinking skills and accept these simpleton arguments. The world is being dumbed down for us. We only have to accept it and ignore that everything is more complicated.

Never mind that it is possible to love the ideals upon which your country is based and be critical of it at the same time. It’s possible to support law enforcement and be critical of bad players and demand justice when those bad players show themselves. It’s possible to always stand for the national anthem and sing along with pride yet support those who feel that the nation doesn’t value them as much. These things may seem like contradictions, but despite what the pundits may have you believe, life is not black or white (no pun intended). It’s gray, very gray.

I’ve been very complicit in all of this. I’ve tried to vote for candidates that offered the best chance for a common future that we can all be proud of, but I’ve largely failed to effect any change. The fact that we are limited to two parties that do nothing more than shamelessly pander to the fringes of their membership, both of which have bought the all or nothing argument hook, line, and sinker, gives me no hope for any immediate change or progress. I’ve never walked the streets in protest. I’ve convinced myself that if I lived my life in a way that exemplified my ideals that it would somehow change the course of history, but it hasn’t. We’re stuck. My generation has been useless. We’ve largely failed. I’ve failed.

If there is a glimmer of hope, I see it in my kids. Of course, both of them are near peak idealism. I see my former self in them when I talk to them about serious things. I’ll give my opinion if they ask, but I mostly let them talk. I want to draw from their youthful enthusiasm. They don’t need to be saddled with the weight of my experience. Experience is a great teacher, but it’s also a cold-hearted bastard. Both of them are better than I was at their age. They are more intelligent and more passionate than I was. I don’t speak of the painful realizations that are to come. I hope they can transcend these things and push the world forward just a little. That’s my hope. If that happens, then my life was worth it. I will have made a tiny drop into the ocean of life that someone, somewhere heard for a brief moment.

The Biggest Dick

Every morning, I start my day in similar fashion. I stagger downstairs to pour myself a cup of coffee (it’s programmed to be ready by the time I get up) and make myself breakfast. Then, I get on my computer to read the news while I eat breakfast and enjoy that first cup of the day. My enjoyment usually ends there because the news cycle is a barrage of depressing and unflattering stories. I often have to flip over to Instagram to get some relief from the misery and idiocy. My Instagram feed is mostly of dog pages I follow. You can’t be miserable when you’re looking at puppies.

In today’s media circus, where anyone who can spell d-o-g can yell from any virtual corner without any substance of facts, it’s become apparent that we’re slowly devolving into a fight over who has the biggest dick. The social media one-upmanship is less about logic and reason and more about winning a pointless battle. I’m especially embarrassed for my gender because our behavior clearly shows we’re definitely not the brighter sex. We’ve become a bunch of wannabe men in the high school locker room bragging about how big our dicks are, and any threat to our exaggerated size estimates will set off a barrage of idiotic aggressive behavior similar to what you’ll see at the zoo when one of the male monkeys is threatened.

Nowhere has this become more evident than in our politics. There’s nothing more embarrassing than seeing an impotent, old man posture like he’s some young stud about to conquer the world. Our political discourse has really become like the locker room of some posh country club where a bunch of old fools cling to the supposed conquests of their youth inflating what remains of their flaccid egos. Instead of doing things, they’re talking about things, and of course, they’re bragging about who has the biggest dick as if that even matters.

I look at leaders like Jacinda Ardern, and I have to say it’s way past time to give the women their due. They can’t do much worse. At least they won’t be limited to arguments about the size of their members, nor will they overreact if their manhood is threatened. Ardern has proven cool and unshakable (literally in one recent incident) unlike the grunting and crotch scratching I often see on this side of the pond. It’d be nice to have a well-balanced discussion and a logical path to decision making, but maybe I’m asking for too much in a world dominated by shit-throwing monkeys. Surely, there are others out there who see this for what it is, or maybe this is just the dead-cat bounce of that idealism I possessed so long ago when I was young.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to break out the measuring tape. I’m going to settle an argument once and for all…

God, Guns, & Porn

This past Memorial Day weekend, my family and I drove from Atlanta to Orlando. It had been 32 years since I last made the drive down Interstate 75 into the heat and humidity of Florida. Back in 1988, my good friend Marshall and I made the trek down to Florida to celebrate his high school graduation in what would become a memorable trip for a couple of high school buddies.

Some stories from that trip still live on in our collective consciousness simply because of the sheer brazenness of our youth. For instance, we were walking near the beachfront in Daytona beach when a drug dealer approached us and asked us if we wanted to buy some coke. Back then I was a smart ass (okay, I still am), so I responded that I preferred Pepsi because, for some reason, I thought that’d be funny. Luckily, Marshall ushered me out of there before my mouth got my ass kicked or worse. Back at the hotel a short time later we laughed about it; although, Marshall’s laugh was a nervous one.

Needless to say, this trip was more benign. The passage of three decades will do that to you. The drive hasn’t changed much. It’s still boring as hell. South Georgia offers nothing that is worth recommending in terms of sights. One is left to stare at the endless billboards that litter the side of the freeway as bugs commit suicide on the car windshield.

At least the billboards offered some entertaining contradictions as we sped through the raining insects. As I sat in the passenger seat while my teenage daughter absorbed her first road-trip driving experience, I amused myself by reading the billboards. I couldn’t do much else, like read a book, while my daughter drove because I had to be prepared to spout a dad-ism about driving at a moments notice. That’s too much pressure to relax and read a book.

Anyway, the billboards. If they offer any insight into the local zeitgeist, it’s a confusing one. There were numerous billboards for “the world’s largest” adult bookstore and a cafe centered around a stripper pole. Both emphasized the fact that they had ample truck parking. The locals must love their truckers.

I found the trucker fascination a little humorous when it came to the spas that apparently dot the interstate. They too have ample parking for truckers. Now, I’m not a spa patron, but I’ve seen the spas my wife goes goes to, and I’ve never seen a semi parked out front while the driver gets a mani-pedi. I could be wrong, but these spas may be a little different.

The selling of sex certainly piqued my interest, but my attention shifted as the billboards grew in number and audacity. I noticed a plethora of gun-related billboards. It’s no surprise that Southerners love their guns. When I was growing up in the South, just about every hillbilly had more guns than he had teeth. That affinity hasn’t changed as the billboards attest, but I couldn’t help but see the sex connection because instead of some toothless redneck toting an assault rifle that he used to hunt squirrels, there was an attractive woman firing a machine gun at an unseen target while encouraging drivers to stop and take a gander.

We passed on the machine gun, but just when my testosterone-fueled masculinity reached its peak, the billboards threw some cold water on me with a series of holier-than-thou religious billboards. Southerners excel at good, old-fashioned religious guilt, and these billboards broke out all of the trite cliches. Never mind that the series of billboards I had just read encouraged me to purchase illicit sex and kill something.

I don’t remember what the billboards were advertising 32 years ago when I first made this drive. Maybe they were similar back then too, or maybe, I’m just a lot more cynical now. Some things never change.


In 2013, I ramped up my running. I had just completed two years of more than 1,500 miles each, and I decided I wanted to go even higher. I started running every day for a period of time, shunning days off to get more miles. It paid off early on. I ran my best marathon time ever in March of that year. I ran my first 50K in September, and I finished the year with over 1,600 miles. Looking back, that was the year I peaked, which in some ways is kind of sad but expected given the relentless passage of time.

It was also the last year in which I didn’t suffer from some sort of nagging ailment (that relentless passage of time again). Early in 2014, I started experiencing ankle pain. It got bad enough that I had to see a doctor and ended up taking three months off from running. I barely finished with 1,000 miles that year, and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve learned to live with the pain, but it has noticeably slowed me down. Nowadays, I’m just happy I can run, but if anything, that year taught me the importance of balance, not just in running, but in life.

Anytime something gets out of balance, an event happens to swing things back into equilibrium. It’s no accident that equilibrium pops up again and again in our high school science classes. The natural world seeks balance. Ancient philosophies considered equilibrium an integral part of their outlook. The whole concept of feng shui is built around striking a balance with the natural world. In other words, while things may swing toward an extreme, they’ll eventually come back into balance. There’s no way to avoid it; it will either happen by choice or force.

We all juggle so many things in our lives. If one thing takes precedence over the others, those other areas begin to suffer. In the short run (pun intended), it’s sustainable, but in the long term, it’s not, and that’s when the pendulum swings back the other way. You can fight it all you want, but in the end, you’ll lose. We all do.

Silver Lining

Unfortunately, the dumpster fire that is 2020 is already a forgettable year and we’re not even halfway through it. I’ve already written off any plans I had for this year, and I’m hoping 2021 proves to be better. I would say it can’t be any worse, but I don’t want to tempt the fates because living in poorly-written disaster movie is about as fun as watching paint dry.

That being said, it would be melodramatic to say nothing good has come out of this. Sometimes, there’s a patch of blue in a gray sky, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point that out, but first, it helps to have a perspective on a typical day in the pre-pandemic era.

With two teenagers in school and both my wife and I working, our weekdays were a churn of seemingly endless activity, and our weekends were mostly filled with things we couldn’t do during the week plus any fun activities we had planned. The days and weeks flew by. I’d blink, and another month had passed. There were days when I barely saw my kids. Being teenagers and all, they’d hole up in their rooms after school with their doors shut. I rarely made it home for dinner on most days because there was always something more to do at work. I’d come home and reheat my dinner and chat with my wife while I ate. Time for bed. Repeat ad nauseum. Phil Connors had nothing on me.

The pandemic changed all of that. First, schools shut down and relegated my kids to online learning at home. Then, my wife started working from her home office, and a week later, I joined them working from my home office. Suddenly, the four of us were together all day every day. Gone were the commutes and after-school activities and programs. The weekends, often crammed with chores, errands, and activities, became drawn-out days void of any intentions. My kids, like feral animals in the night, ventured outside their rooms for long stretches of time because even teenagers cannot soak in their own privacy indefinitely. They need some social interaction, and in desperate times when all else is lost, they’ll socialize with their parents.

It took a bit to get used to this new home order. With our usual routines upended, new ones formed. We have dinner together on most nights. Even if I have work to do, I can walk the 40-odd feet from my office to the dining room and have a meal with my family. The conversations have been wonderful ranging from the humorous to the serious. Even my son, whose predilection for grunting one-word answers to any question, has emerged as a thoughtful conversationalist. Weird times these days…

Just about every evening, all four of us take the dogs for a walk. We have a standard route we take weaving through the neighborhood, carefully maintaining social distance from our friendly neighbors whom we see regularly these nights. The mile-long walks offer up more opportunities for conversations, which helps my wife and I feel more connected to our sometimes brooding teenagers. I worry about how hard this is on them. They are disconnected from their friends and the other social aspects of school, but one thing I’ve noticed is how resilient they are, how much they have adapted and accepted our current state of affairs. They’ll be alright when this is all over (whatever “over” ends up being).

I can’t help but think that this significant pause in our lives is giving us a chance to connect with our kids on a deeper level than we would have otherwise at this point in their lives. In the former order, it was easy to keep moving forward without much concern for the moment. They’d be less inclined to engage with us because there were too many other things going on – school, activities, friends. Now, there’s just this void that stretches on for days, weeks, and months, and we’ve filled it as a family.

The hardest part of being a parent is letting go. It’s a necessary part of the circle of life because you want your kids to grow into independent adults, but that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier. One day too soon, these two will venture out on their own and have lives completely separate from us, but for now, we’re getting an opportunity to enjoy our time with them as we’ve all been thrown together in isolation from our usual busy lives. If that’s not a silver lining in all of this, I don’t know what is. I suspect that years from now, when it’s just my wife and me, we’ll think back to this time and remember it more for the opportunity it gave us than for the inconvenience it caused.

Ring, Part Five (Final)

Carl drove in silence, north through Connor, further away from Musk. Millie only glanced at him as if she were afraid of looking at him directly as she leaned into the passenger door, the cool window against her face. Her hands trembled. She felt disoriented as if she’d been hit on the head. She couldn’t think straight. Carl? Carl…

A freight truck blew past them going in the opposite direction shuddering the silence in the cab. Carl stayed focused on the road ahead and remained silent. He looked rigid like a stone statue forever frozen in its pose. Millie sniffed providing the only break in the monotonous drone of the truck’s engine. She rubbed the spot on her arm where he had grabbed her and dragged her to his truck.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked finally. Her voice sounded wounded and foreign to her. Carl didn’t respond.

“Carl, why are you doing this?” she pleaded. When he didn’t respond, she mustered up the courage to be more forceful. “Carl, answer me!”

She could feel the truck barrel forward. Her throat hurt; her insides felt like they would spill out of her at any moment. She glanced at the speedometer and became more concerned, but before she could say another word, Carl finally responded to her.

“You don’t get it do you?” Carl sounded remarkably calm, like the father-figure she thought he had been at one time.

“Get what? What do you mean?” She felt a panic surge in her chest. He seemed detached from the terrible reality between them.

He took one hand off the wheel and rubbed the side of his face as if he too were trying to wipe away that reality. “I was nice to you. I defended you when the men at the mine were catcalling you and saying disrespectful things to you. I helped you, and you didn’t notice.”

She didn’t understand what he was saying. She heard the words, but they seemed juxtaposed with the way she remembered things. “What are you talking about? I thanked you,” she said, her voice shaking. “Is that what this is about?”

“Those men would have eaten you alive if it wasn’t for me,” he continued. “And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. You treated me like some throwaway. You probably do that a lot to men, don’t you? I bet you use and discard men all the time. That’s the thing with beautiful women. You can’t trust them. They’re used to getting their way and leaving you behind.” He frowned and shook his head without taking his eyes off the road.

Confusion ran rampant in Millie’s brain. She couldn’t make sense of what Carl was saying. He sounded like a scorned boyfriend. “Carl…you’re…you’re my boss,” she said, the words stuttering from her lips.

“That’s all I am to you.” He shook his head again. “You used me.”

She felt dizzy, disoriented. “I…trusted you…as an authority figure. I was thankful for all you did. I didn’t mean to disrespect you in anyway. I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“Are you really sorry? Are you, Millie? Because I don’t think you are. I think you’re used to taking advantage of people and using them in anyway you can. That’s what beautiful women like yourself do. I know. I’ve seen it many times.”

The world around her started to spin. She felt like she was having an out-of-body experience or that she was walking through a nightmare where nothing made sense or the rules of logic had been suspended for the sake of the terror.

“Carl, I don’t understand…”

“Of course, you don’t. Women like you never do.”

“Why do you keep saying that? What did I do to disrespect you? Whatever it was, it was just a misunderstanding. I never meant to do it.” She could feel the panic rising in her chest.

“You just don’t get it. I protected you. I did something for you, and I wanted you to do something for me. That’s how it works.”

“What do you want me to do?”

Carl finally broke his trance-like focus from the road and turned his head toward her briefly. He had a half smile on his face. “I want us to be together.”

It took her a moment to process the words like she had to turn over each one and decipher it in her brain before she could string them together in a sentence that made sense.

“Be together? Carl, you’re married.”

“No, I’m not.”

She felt further confused, if that was possible. “Who is the woman in the picture on your desk? And the kids?”

He laughed abruptly. “That’s my sister and her kids. I’ve never been married.”

Millie felt like she had imagined everything that had happened since she started working at the mine, like it was some elaborate play that was coming to an end. Like all actors, Carl was something completely different than his character in this imagined world.

“But I remember someone referring to the pictures as your wife and kids. You didn’t correct them.”

He turned to her with a slight grin on his face. “I didn’t want anyone to think I was pathetic. Do you know how hard it is to be a man my age who has never been married or even been in a serious relationship? Do you?”

She didn’t answer his question as he turned his attention back to the road.

“Of course you don’t. Women like you don’t have a clue. You just use people your entire life and you get away with it. Not anymore.”

“Whatever I did to you, I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt you or disrespect you. You have to believe that.”

He didn’t respond or even acknowledge what she said. He just stared out onto the highway as if he were trying to make sense of the straight road ahead of them.



“It’s too late for apologies, Millie. It’s too late.”

Tears began to stream down her cheeks again as she looked at him. He refused to acknowledge her. She leaned back onto the window and took a deep breath. She kept her head still but scanned the floor beneath her and the little compartment in the door. It had been cleaned out. She had been in Carl’s truck before, and he usually had stuff scattered about, nothing that could be used to defend herself, but his truck had never been this clean. He had made an effort to clean it up before he came for her.

Thoughts clicked through her brain as if she were flipping through pages in a book. She tried to remember everything she had in her bag. It sat in the back of his pickup, well beyond her reach, but it had nothing but clothes, some toiletries, and her dead phone minus the charger. She strained to think of something, but she was truly defenseless. Until a memory floated into her mind.

One morning during the previous winter, she had rode with Carl up to the edge of the mine to investigate a sample site. Although they had only been at the office for a couple of hours, a layer of ice had formed on his windshield when they got into his truck. She remembered him rambling about how he always kept an ice scraper in his glove compartment. This isn’t one of those cheap plastic ones. It’s heavy duty because the ice here in the winter can be thick. You should get yourself one.

Millie eyed the door to the glove compartment. Is it still in there?

“Where are we going?” she asked.


“Why Wyoming?”

“There’s a place I want to take you there. It’s beautiful. You’ll love it.”

She considered this for a moment. “I have to use the bathroom,” she said.

Carl looked at her briefly before turning back to the highway. “You’ll have to wait. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“I have to go really bad.”

“Can’t you wait until there’s a gas station or something?”


“You just want to go on the side of the road?”

She looked at the blur of bushes along the side of the highway. “I can go behind these bushes.”

He eyed her suspiciously. “Don’t get any ideas. There’s nowhere to go. We’re miles from anywhere. People die out here all the time from dehydration and exposure every summer.”

“I’m not going to run. I just need to pee. Please.”

At first she thought he would ignore her, but then, she felt the truck start to decelerate. He slowed more forcefully and pulled over to the side of the road. She looked ahead and then back. She hadn’t seen another car for a long time, and none looked to be headed in their direction. The blacktop gleamed for miles in either direction.

“Hurry up.”


Millie opened the door and climbed down from the truck. Carl got out as well and walked around to her side. She stood by the door for a moment until Carl nodded toward the bushes. “Come on,” he chided. “We don’t have all day.”

She felt his eyes on her as she climbed down the dusty embankment near the road and stepped through the shortest of the bushes. The scraggly leaves snagged her jeans as she made her way toward a more private spot. She looked back at him before she squatted down behind the bigger bushes and pretended to relieve herself. She didn’t stand up until she had thought everything through one more time.

“Let’s go!” Carl yelled from the side of the truck. His voice carried well in the stagnant air.


She kept the charade going from behind the bush, taking time to button her pants and rubbing her palms on the thighs of her jeans. He seemed convinced, but he stayed put by the side of the truck as she climbed up the embankment. He even smiled at her as she came up to the truck.

“Feel better?”

She nodded.

“Good, because that’s the last stop until Wyoming.”

She stared at him for a moment, which seemed to freeze him in his tracks for just a few seconds, precious time for her. As he took his first step around the truck, she pulled open the door and swung into the passenger seat. She popped open the glove compartment and almost felt elated when she saw the ice scraper. She grabbed it’s rubbery handle and quickly put the weapon at her side as she slapped the door of the glove compartment shut.

Carl opened the driver’s door. He seemed out of breath from the walk around the truck. In an instant, Millie looked at the keys dangling from the ignition, and as he lumbered up into the driver’s seat, she slid toward him and struck him on the face with the ice scraper.

At first, she thought her blow did nothing to stop him. She recoiled and struck him again in quick succession. He howled and stumbled back from the door but remained halfway in the truck. She swung her legs up onto the seat and kicked with all of her might. He grunted and tried to fight back, grabbing her ankle and twisting hard. He howled again and cursed her, but she kept fighting. He pulled her closer and she swung the ice scraper at him again, stabbing the air with its metallic blade. It made contact, but it felt insignificant until she saw the blood, lots of it, gushing from his forehead.

She kept kicking and swinging. She heard a loud feral scream that she didn’t realize was her own voice until Carl stumbled and fell out of the truck. He almost pulled her out with him until she gave him another kick. Her ankle ached as she pulled it back from the edge of the door. She quickly grabbed the door and yanked it shut, but something blocked it. She tried to slam it again until she noticed Carl’s hand still wedged into the door jamb. She kicked it away and slammed the door shut.

Her whole body shook. Her heart felt like it would pump through her chest. She could barely turn the ignition because her fingers wouldn’t cooperate, but once the engine roared to life, she gunned it. The truck ran over something, and she felt sick as she looked in the rear view mirror and saw Carl lying on the side of the road like road kill.

She didn’t stop, and he didn’t appear to move as she sped away. She pumped the gas harder until she could no longer see him lying there. Only then did she start crying. Only then did she wail into space of the cabin like a wounded animal. One day, she’d make sense of all of this, but today, she was just glad to be alive.

She drove well above the speed limit. The truck’s tires chewed up the blacktop until she came upon a small town that appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Her hands still trembled when she pulled into a gas station. She sat there for a moment looking around at the few people at the pumps. Every man she saw looked like Carl. She took a deep breath and stepped out of the truck. Her wobbly legs carried her into the gas station where she asked the attendant to call the police. After she shrugged off the attendant’s concern, she returned to the truck and sat there with the doors locked until she saw the flashing lights pull into the station.

Dancing (or Writing) with Myself

Billy Idol, that hyper-cool rocker from the 1980s, said it best when he sang “There’s nothing to lose and nothing to prove” in his hit “Dancing with Myself”. While his love-lorn song about dancing solo may have been a hit with fans for its rhythmic beat (and let’s be real, Idol was just so cool back then), the lyrics tell the story of a traveler (a rock star, perhaps) that’s missing that one girl but makes the best of being alone.

While I can’t imagine that the life of a rock star is one of loneliness, I can say that of the writer is in many respects. It’s a solo act for sure. Hours spent pounding away on a keyboard, thinking through plot lines, or simply reading and re-reading drafts are not activities that lend themselves to group engagement. Sure, writing groups exist that remedy the isolation, but I find such groups feel like swimming in very choppy water where I get tossed from side to side by the waves of varying opinions that often conflict with one another. It’s like purposefully tossing myself into a giant blender and trying to avoid getting dizzy. I’d rather not.

Instead, I spend all of my writing time holed away in my office. By now, I’ve amassed thousands of pages of writing on this blog, in my Scrivener program, or in various documents. Much of it unseen or untouched by anyone but myself. I have seven novels that made it to the first draft. I have several incomplete novels that linger in a purgatory of sorts. I feel like a hoarder watching over my room full of books and stories that are piled up to the ceiling, some fanned open and others stacked in haphazard columns that threaten to topple over. On second thought, let’s chuck the hoarder imagery; that gives me the creeps.

I’m sure the next time I sit down in my chair to start writing I’ll hear Idol belting out the chorus to this song, or maybe, just maybe, I’ll pull up the song on my phone and have a listen. You just never know what will inspire you to write.