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On life, and the passing into history of a year most(ly) dreary

Back in 1989, my friends Chris, Linda, Karen, Tamara and I were hanging out listening to music, as usual, in somebody’s dorm room at ESU.

At some point, we went to our dorm’s common room and flipped on MTV or VH1, and on came the video for The Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line.”

When the camera panned to show a guitar sitting in an empty rocking chair, it took us all a second to realize it was an homage to the late Roy Orbison. We sat silently as the symbolism sank in. For me, at least, it was a sobering moment (something I’m sure I needed more of in college, but that’s another story). I started thinking about death, the legacies we leave behind, and the struggles we all go through on our journey. 

I realized, then,  that “End of the Line’s” poppy, catchy structure belied a more profound meaning: You can waste your life wondering what other people think about you; you can waste your life sitting around hoping good things happen to you; you can waste your life dwelling on the past and worrying about the future; or you can accept the things you can’t change, live your life to the best of your ability and take your joy wherever you find it.

Sadly, 27 years later I still don’t always remember to live that message, but I try.

2016, by most accounts, has been an awful year. Divisive politics; the death of more icons than I care to list here; global atrocities; personal setbacks  … everyone seems to have a story from the year the music died.

It seems appropriate, then, to post the video and lyrics to “End of the Line” here. Think of it as a kind of tribute to those who’ve passed, a salute to those who are still on the journey with us, a send off to 2016 and a reminder that it’s all right – remember to live and let live, because the best you can do is forgive. It’s a message we can all carry with us into 2017. 

 

“End Of The Line”
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, doing the best you can
Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand

You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring (End of the Line)
Waiting for someone to tell you everything (End of the Line)
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring (End of the Line)
Maybe a diamond ring

Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong
Well it’s all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it’s all right, As long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgment Day

Maybe somewhere down the road aways (End of the Line)
You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days (End of the Line)
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays (End of the Line)
Purple haze

Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive (End of the Line)
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive (End of the Line)
It don’t matter if you’re by my side (End of the Line)
I’m satisfied

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive

Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

Dear Santa …

One of the fun things about having a column is that I get to write about (almost) anything I want. For this issue of Indulge, I got to dream a little bit and put together an all-American gift wishlist with items from a few Lehigh Valley businesses. (Santa, if you’re listening, I really want the ‘37 Ford, and I’ve been a pretty good boy all year … )

As the holidays near, think about the children

The holidays are right around the corner, and although they can bring us great joy, they can also bring sadness and stress – especially if a family has been split by divorce. With that in mind, I volunteered for this story, Split Decision, in our latest issue of Inspire Health. If you or someone you know is in one of the more than 43 percent of families that the Pew Research Center calls “nontraditional,” I hope this helps you navigate the sometimes tangled web of blended families, custody schedules and holiday happenings.

Too often, divorced parents can’t rise above bad feelings to work together for what’s best for their children. As one therapist I talked to for this story told me, “parents need to put on their big boy/big girl pants and deal with it, because this is about their kids.”

Also too often, relatives of divorcees make hurtful remarks or are unwilling to be flexible over the holidays. Not only does that add to the stress of the parent trying to juggle everything, it makes it harder on the children caught in the middle.

It’s important that everyone in the family works together – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and step-relatives – to make the holidays happy for the children.

A haunting we will go

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays — yes, in my house, we call it a holiday. It’s a time for my boys and I to celebrate fun. We decorate to excess, watch spooky cartoons and movies — we even have our own Halloween playlist that we blast while we’re spookifying the house.

That’s why I was excited to tackle a ghost story for the latest issue of Indulge LV. I had the opportunity to interview historians and tour guides, do some independent research, collect ghost tales from around the Lehigh Valley region, and even do some creative photography.

Click here for the result – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

ghostly2_tonemapped

 

 

First test a success!

Tonight, I told my boys I had a story for them. I read the first draft of Hope Anne Wells and the Batty Saturday. Audience reaction was a big thumbs up. Then they found out that Dad wrote it, which led to hugs and a cheer of “Yes!”

I found a few spots I’m going to rework, but overall, I’m happy – after all, if the two most important critics in the world love it so far, I must be doing something right!

Feelin’ batty

bat.jpgIt took a lot longer than I expected, but the first draft of what I hope will be one of my first published children’s books is done. It has a working title of “Hope Anne Wells and the Batty Saturday,” should clock in around 30-plus pages, and is in the capable hands of the artist. We’re hoping to have a working concept in the next month or so, in order to present it to the publisher. I’d cross my fingers, but I’m working on other stories, t00, and that would make it hard to write.

Wish us luck!

Eye there!

My name is Patrick, and I’m a writer.

It’s a bad habit I picked up at a very early age, and it came to light when I wrote a third-grade story about Santa Claus and a time machine as part of a class activity. Suddenly, family and friends were convinced I was going to be a best-selling author when I grew up, so much so that I became convinced, too. I read voraciously and wrote lots of silly poems and goofy, forgettable stories.

Oddly enough, my first foray into newspapers was as a photographer and photo editor in high school. I had been given a point-n-shoot camera as a birthday or Christmas gift, a teacher saw some of my pictures and shazam! I found myself with a Pentax in my hands at school events. Pardon the pun, but my interest in photography only developed from there. When it came time for college, though, my interest in the written word (mostly) won out. At various points, I was the news, photo and finally editor-in-chief of ESU’s Stroud Courier.

After college, I became a copy editor. It wasn’t through any choice of mine, though  – it was the early ’90s, a time when newspapers were experiencing one of their first seismic shifts in readership, ownership and ad revenue. Widespread layoffs hit just as I graduated, and jobs were scarce. To paraphrase one particularly memorable rejection letter from The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Dear Mr. O’Donnell: We have  about 10 people in line for each open writing position. Each of those candidates has at least 10 or more years of journalism experience. We appreciate your enthusiasm and enjoyed reading your clips … please apply again when you have some real newspaper experience.”

While I spent some time bouncing from job to job (maintenance worker, cook, warehouse manager, landscaper), my resume landed on the copy desk of The Express-Times in Easton, Pa., where it had been dropped by an editor for the features job I had applied for. From there I started a journey into the dark (working nights) and dreary (working holidays and weekends) world of working on a newspaper copy desk. Think lots of yelling, no respect and loads of stress.

Still, it taught me a lot about the finer points of wordsmithing, how to (and how not) to work with others, and the mechanics of publishing. I’m grateful for my time in the trenches.

These days, though, I’m back to writing and I thoroughly enjoy my job. There’s something about crafting a story that’s deeply satisfying. I love seeing the words come together; I love the process of writing, rewriting, editing and writing again – it’s like polishing a piece of wood and watching the depth of the grain come to the surface in all its glory.

And, like any craftsman, I hope to learn and grow, to refine my work and, eventually, expand my reach.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey.