Monday, August 5, 2019

What If?

I almost didn't tell anyone (except Skylark and Steve and maybe my job because none of them are connected with me on FB) I was leaving for China.

I toyed with the idea of keeping it completely secret and doing everything else the exact same as I've done. So I would have replaced the Grand Tournament with the Bon Voyage party, but I would have called it something else... like "Writing Knights Summer Word Bash" or something.

I would have put all of the effort into getting people to come. Who knows, there might have been more people coming. We may have had poetry on the stage at  Makeshift instead of around the table. It might have been more community minded and less Az-centric. I might not have been the focus.

I didn't mind the Bon Voyage party being Az-centric and being the focus, I'm just what-ifing here.

There probably would have been more work on my behalf to put a more community minded show on. Definitely would have been more stressful.

I feel like, in a way, it would have been more poetic for me to put on this huge event, impressing upon everyone the importance of community and camaraderie, then a month later, I'm gone without a trace. 

Kind of Bilbo Baggins-esque. Disappear before everyone's eyes. 

Of course, now with Vertigo's passing, the timing would have been conspicuous. Vertigo dies, then Azriel leaves.

I'm just toying with the what-iffery. 

The reason I brought this up was I feel like we tend to take for granted the people around us. Far too often, we expect a person to be there always until suddenly they aren't, then we are in pain because we feel like one of our limbs has been removed. I felt that way when I found out Vertigo passed (technically I felt worse the day before, giving more credence to the idea that energy connection is real). It would have been a test for people and for myself if I hadn't told anyone.

I think in the end, I made the right decision. Not telling everyone would have been selfish and kind of a dick move and I wouldn't have seen as many people before I go as I have and will do. There would have been excuses and I wouldn't have a leg to stand on as far as getting people to agree to hang out with me without the impending departure.

Also, I'm glad I told everyone. It has shown me things I needed to see as far as my perceptions and expectations of people I care about. It has given me a sharper scope as far as how much things matter and to whom they matter.

I just found out for sure, I'm leaving August 25th at 5pm. For the three of you who read this, there is now an official clock to come see me. *laughs*


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

In Memoriam - Vertigo Xi'an Xavier

Vertigo Xi'an Xavier is dead.

I don't know how it happened. I just found out about it a few hours ago.

I won't flap his business around, but he shared with me some of his issues. I don't know how it happened. I feel like I should.

I feel like a failure as a friend. I feel like I should have reached out to hang for nonpoet reasons more often. I wished he had some to my party a couple weekends ago so I could have seen him before I left for China.

A friend said, 'adult friendships are hard' and that's right, but I could have made more of an effort.

If you looked up 'lonely talker' in the dictionary, his face would be there. I only recently got Zen about that though and it only annoyed me when I was wearing shorts out in winter or in the summer when there were bugs biting. 

Other times, it was a joy to hear him speak. He got so passionate about his next release or the events he wanted to put together or attend. He was still so passionate, even when he realized the Stark County scene was stagnating.

I think the last time I saw him was a few months ago at one of the more recent sWord Fight showcases. Since then we discussed briefly getting his MOV (My Own Venue) project off the ground. He'd found a place in Akron and since my day job is with real estate he wanted to use my broker and for me to get a kickback. When/if I get back from China, maybe I'll do something in that respect and call it "Vertigo's" or something. Maybe that's just me being dumb.

Maybe I'll run for Emperor of the World and dedicate my win to him.

I keep thinking of people who might want to know, but who might not find out without being told. I tagged a shit load of people. Texted a few. Called one. I probably won't get them all. There were so many that he touched.

I keep thinking about his storage unit and how people are going to parse that out.

There was a tornado a little bit ago. Had to squash that shit.

I keep thinking about having a memorial open mic get together. He's got so many books to liquidate, the money should go to his family or something. Or maybe someone can somehow pull together grants for a scholarship, but I don't know how any of that shit works.

People keep calling him by his not-preferred name and it pisses me off, even though they didn't know him as VX and it's not my place to be pissed off on his behalf if he'd come to acceptance about it.

I keep looking at the first message and how vague it is. I want to know everything about his last moments, but that will probably be a mystery to me until I see his family. I only ever met one of his sisters, I think. I may have heard his dad in another room at one point. I am clueless.

It has taken me about an hour to write this much. I need to do something away from social media.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Disjointed Word Vomit

I haven’t written in so long, I decided what I needed right now was a mental dump onto a white (red) screen and throw it up to the blog to let people know what’s going on. Excuse yourself if you don’t want to read any of my disjointed rantings.

I wonder how many times I’ll say I am bad at keeping up with writing blogs. At least once more. I’m pretty bad at keeping up with blogs. But I promised I would try and the China experience is one that is important as it’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever attempted.

My current catchphrase is, I’m 2/3 excited and 1/3 scared shitless. This is pretty accurate. I’ve recently come across feelings of disorientation as I know this experience is going to be a culture shock for me. I’m going to be in a place I do not know, around people who are not mine (at least not at first) with my only friendly faces people I haven’t actually met in person. I know that a good portion of China speaks English, but there will still be a barrier there.

Contact informed me that white men, especially from America, tend to go a little crazy when they first get to China. They have given me examples that I can’t reveal, but the potentiality makes me a bit nervous, too. But I’ve never been typical when it comes to how I behave compared to other white men.

Nevertheless, I’ve been meditating almost every weekday. I’ve been trying to get in touch with and a handle on my emotions. I’m trying to be in touch with everything I’m feeling about everything.

I’ve noticed I’ve been really frustrated with my 9-5 job. It’s a job that I’ve wanted for the past… oh… seven years or so. It’s an office job where I spend my days doing different paperwork and organizing things as well as handling the social media for the office. The whole collection of tasks is overwhelming to say the least. I almost quit last week. I’ve just gotten fed up with the whole situation.

A blessing in disguise, I’ll be going down to part time next week. 9-1. This will give me more opportunity to take care of the tasks I want to have done by the time I leave. Remember the post about lists?  Two things on my list are getting the gallery inventory sorted out so Sky can just go and grab a book if it fits onto a shelf when it isn’t full, the other gallery related list item is to catch up on all of the other books that do not have all of the information listed in the database for post on a third party site for hopeful online purchases.

Those two list items are actually the things I should be working on now, but I have no patience for them… so here I am, typing away on a Word doc. I probably won’t edit anything so if you see typos or misgrammars I apologize, but not really.

I’ve gotten everything ready for getting my passport stamped and visa acquired. My flight to China is booked. I am 99% sure I leave August 25th. I have two 6 hour layovers, one in New York and one in Beijing with a 14 hour flight between them and about 90 minute flights from Cleveland to New York and from Beijing to Nanchang. It all seems doable. I am a little nervous about the flight because last time I flew, the pressure built up in my sinuses and it felt like my head was going to explode and it was only a few hour flight from Detroit to Florida. My sinuses give me fewer issues now, so maybe I’ll be alright. At any rate, I’m probably going to bring Benadryl with me to help put me in a mini coma for the long flight. In the interim, when I am awake, I just purchased Joe Hill’s book N0S4A2 (however you spell it). I’m expecting vampires, so, of course I’m in.

In writing developments, there are none. I haven’t written anything new for Dragon’s Bane and not much poetry at all since the China trip became an idea to follow. I haven’t lost interest in the series at all, I just have so much else to do that I don’t want to get distracted from it all. I know if I started focusing on the next novel, nothing else I wanted to get done would get done. Going 9-1 five days a week with mostly free weekends will be helpful in that respect, even if I have less money to spend on necessities, like a new laptop after I pay off my passport service bills.

The last thing I’ll write about, for now, is my party July 20. It’ll be the last thing I do at Makeshift probably because they are shuttering July 31st so the (probably) last Writing Knights thing August 9th will very likely be at the gallery. I’m excited to have a multitude of people come see me on 7/20. Hopefully we will get a good turn out and a lot of fun. I’m sad as hell that Makeshift is leaving, but that will be a good send off. I want to be surrounded in the loving energy of everyone from my past and present who makes the trip out to see me. I’m also worried as hell everyone is going to “forget” or say “something came up” or they “couldn’t get a ride.” I’m also afraid I’ll end up judging the people I really want to see, but don’t get to before I go.

In closing, what would you like me to write about next?
Leave a comment here or on social media or message me on FB, Twitter or Instagram.
I’ll try to make this a more regular thing.


Friday, May 17, 2019


The trip to China involves a lot of lists.

I have a list of documents I have to collect.  Some of those documents need to be certified by the Chinese Embassy. 

I need:
 - a letter of recommendation.
 - my diploma.
 - a criminal background check.
 - a Health certificate.
 - my contract.
 - a copy of my passport.
 - a recent photo within the last six months.

I'm someone who is a stickler for details when it comes to official stuff, so having a list of tasks to accomplish helps me out, at least in this capacity.

In my official instructions, they mostly say "a scan copy of," but my friend... I'll call them Contact, says it has to be the original documents.  I don't know *what* to think.

As a side note, I think I have all of these acquired so I am good to go, so yay me!

But I have other lists too. Lists of things I want to do before I leave the country.

I want to:
 - get all of the used books in our WK book store uploaded into an online database for sale while I am gone.
 - set up the wireshelf that's been sitting in my garage and get my extraneous items onto it so they are off of the floor and out of the way.

 - get all of my magic cards entered into a different database... this is lower on the totem pole because I'm not sure if I'm going to take any magic decks/cards with me.
 - sell my heavy punching bag.  I know I can still use it until I leave, but if I can offload it to someone else, it's one less thing to worry about if it would need to be moved while I was away.
 - get all royalties straight with Writing Knights before I go. The good thing about having a low volume of sales in the press, is this shouldn't be too hard.
 - set up a vendor only catalog on the Writing Knights site to send to various vendors I know or will meet if they want to purchase WK books for a discount to sell at their stores.
There will be more, I'm sure of it, but I'm just making a preliminary list.

And last, but not least, there is a list of people I want to hang out with before I go. I won't go into an exhaustive list, but basically whomever is on my friends list on FB is probably on my hang out list. There are some people whom I know I will probably not get to see and that makes me sad, but I'll persevere. People have their lives.

Lists are probably going to be a theme in this blog. They'll get updated time and again as my needs change, but for now, I'll stop.

Question of the entry: How do you deal with lists? Do you work better with them or without them? Leave a comment!


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

From China with Az

It started with a Facebook Post:

"If anyone wants to come teach with me, please let me know. We're looking!"
I run an independent publishing press (Writing Knights Press) and one of my authors is currently teaching ESL and related courses in Nanchang, China. We've had a decent relationship over the last two years, we've had pretty deep discussions in the past, but most of the time our relationship is fostered through Facebook posts and occasional comments. I've always enjoyed their posts describing their experiences in the East.

I've always wanted to travel. Wanderlust is strong in me, but these past few years I've been in one place. In my 20s I traveled a lot. I moved places. I stayed there for a few years, then decided on a new location.

I scrolled my FB feed, as one does, and came across the post: "If anyone wants to come teach with me, please let me know. We're looking!"

My knee-jerk, sort of complacent response: "I can teach poetry... just not professionally." To which I received a <3 response from the poster and I figured that was the end of it.

A few hours later, someone else asked: "What's the minimum degree level required?"
Friend: We have openings for BAs, MAs and PHDs.

Other comments... then...

Me: I have a BA in English. this interests me.
Friend: Send me your email address

And truly, I was interested.  The last time I traveled anywhere of significance was Chicago over the summer for a week for National Poetry Slam.  Before that was a camping trip that ended up with me sleeping in my car.  There have been various poetry related trips, but I have been in Canton, Ohio since 2012.  Just about 7 years.  This is the longest I've lived in a place since I was 18, living at home.

I sent my email address to my friend who passed it on to the administration contact at the college in Nanchang.

That evening, I brought up the situation to my partner, Skylark. I suggested that we fill the two spots. She has a Bachelor's in Journalism which could be translated to ESL, if necessary. She has just been promoted at her job, so unfortunately this isn't the right time for her.

Me? I'm at a job that I like and they treat me well enough, but I have no health insurance and I have been feeling the burnout of looking at a screen for almost a year for work. Also, it's killing my time with Writing Knights. I used to think a job like this would be ideal, but now... not as much.

I am not prone to flights of fancy, but this is a job offering with a time limit. So after a few questions (which I will go over as time goes by), I jumped on the opportunity.

As the blog progresses I will chronicle the experiences of the progression of my journey before I get to China, during the time I'm in China and probably after I'm finished and have returned home.

I'm notoriously bad at blogging, but I've from suggestions I've received, it is a good idea to have a project to work on that keeps one grounded while in a completely different culture. The plan is to make this a combination blog/vlog to make things interesting.

So here it is... the first entry... (almost) From China with Az!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Azriel Johnson -- Contributor Bio

In this corner,
poet, novelist,
inkspatter analyst for pay,
serial writer for life,
director of Writing Knights,
Azriel Johnson

Friday, April 20, 2018

As Real by Azriel Johnson

$10 for the full album
$1 per track

1. The National Ransom - Take the National Anthem, fix it.
2. Shopping Carts - Have some common sense.
3. New Kid - Bullying is wrong. Fight back!
4. Homelessness - Narrative about being homeless.
5. Heroes - Piece about mental illness.
6. Regaining Me - Alliterative, punchy. Like an introduction.
7. Down Below, in Between - Whoa, whoa. I'm an ally.
8. Save It - Appreciate the women you're around.
9. Social Beatin' Ya - How social media is a menace to society.
10. Ancestral Memories - How we pass down things through the ages.
11. Second Worst Pain - Crass, just crass. Have a listen.
12. Sweet - Concerning Diabetes.
13. Metaphor's Friend - Based on a mishearing of "Sugarman" by Rodriguez.
14. Groovy - A traveling to Cleveland, narrative poem.
15. After Howl - A Cleveland litany, with many props to many folks.
16. Poet Workin' a Factory Blues - Self Explanatory title.