I Am Santo

Fiction, poetry, music and mindscape pictures by creative artist Jason Santo

Kicking the tires

So begins three months of nothing but what I want to do. I’ve worked diligently for well over thirty years, and now – finally – some time off to concentrate on things I want to do. It’s an incredible feeling that I’ve been writing about or describing in conversation to people every day since I was awarded this sabbatical.

What happened? I wouldn’t say I “broke down,” but I would offer that I’d had enough of the status quo and living, it seemed, for everyone other than myself. We get one life, and I was spending mine worrying about making everyone happy while giving my own happiness and well-being little mind.

We were in Spain, I was on a day off and yet I was on my phone – always the damn phone – and arguing with a co-worker about the approach to something technical which I took way too damn seriously. That’s me, though, taking everything as serious as a car accident. But this time, it wasn’t a car accident, to me whatever it was we were in dispute over was a train wreck of epic proportions. A train hit by a plane that somehow fell into a football stadium. I just was so worked-up. And why?

The truth is, I was – and am – burnt out. I’ve spent the last ten years at the same workplace diligently pushing whatever I could across the finish line, putting productivity ahead of most everything including the birth of my second child. That’s not my employer’s fault. That’s my fault for not knowing when to say when.

The cup runneth over. I’ve taken on so much for a role that I hoped would expand in scope and title – my great play for getting to a pole position in the rat race. And for the last three years, it went unchecked. So I crashed and now I’ve been allowed to reevaluate, rethink, and decompress. Pole position is likely lost, but I’ll accept that. I’m not sure I’m corporate success material; perhaps the cut of my jib is just not right for the suit-and-tie brigade. But I am a good employee who works damn hard and solves the problems without a Hell of a lot of overhead. And I’m fine with doing it at my current place of work for another ten years, providing I can find a balance in my day-to-day life.

Part of that balance is making time for writing. And the first thing I did was start cracking the journbal (my affectionate name for my daily reflections that resulted from a typo some thirty years ago) so I could clear my mind. Next was getting this site’s damn SSL situation taken care of. Unsure of why I took the approach I did with my personal website, but I find it hilarious that I’m responsible for at work was languishing in my personal life. The landscaper’s lawn is always the worst in the neighborhood and all that.

Now it’s on to writing, specifically copy-editing and compilation of poems and short stories. I put the number of books I have sitting around here at five. Can I put all five together by the end of my time off in early December? Doubtful. But maybe I can get one or two of them done, and oh what a relief that’ll be.

Because while I may be a web professional with mad organizational skills and a knack for becoming proficient in most anything I touch, I’m first and foremost a storyteller. And that identity needs proof now. What is a writer that doesn’t write? What is a writer that hasn’t anything for anyone to read? Not much of a writer at all, in my estimation.

Time to change that.

What’s Ours, What’s Theirs

We’re crafting big Hells
In little packages,
Gift-wrapped by hands
Aching with pride,
Bones undone by the delicate task
Of inviting suffering
Where tenderness was required.

What’s Poppin?

And why wouldn’t I start a journal entry some two years after the last with a borrowed title from a TikTok-famous rap track?

Truth is, not much has been poppin. Since 2020 was an anguished blur for most of us, it probably isn’t worth recounting. What can be said is that we made it through relatively unscathed from a physical standpoint and while it was emotionally debilitating, what isn’t? Life is constantly taking pieces out of our hearts. If it wasn’t, would there be so many songs about heartbreak?

Before the pandemic started, I’d downloaded an app called Reflectly on my phone. It was a pretty bare-bones creature that offered daily platitudes and motivational sayings, but I liked it as a journal-keeping software. Here I was with Microsoft Word and Evernote Premium and I went for this ridiculous app from Norway that seemed to have almost zero market penetration. It was good for many moons too; at least four months of daily journaling. And then they revamped the functionality of the app… and lost me. My daily habits became weekly, then monthly, then none-at-all. This February, I let the subscription expire, as I did too with Evernote Premium.

With the acquisition of a new mechanical keyboard – one of the supa-fly glowing background ones – I’m wondering if I might give this WordPress site a real go. I mean, it does have some history, logging all of those old Instagram-via-Tumblr posts, but also using WordPress at my day job makes me wonder what it might be like to use the CMS as a creative platform.

So, I may be here for a bit. It wouldn’t be too forthcoming – that’s the good part about having an app on a locked phone: there’s no need to be shy. But it might offer me a place to consistently give voice to some thoughts that too often seem out of place on Facebook (where no one cares) and Instagram (which I try desperately to only write creatively.)

As usual, no promises. Maybe it’s a single run with this keyboard and we’re done. But I get the sense it could be something more. I’ve been feeling the cyclical nature of life of late, and I’m sensing my twenties are rolling around again in a more wizened state as I near my, gulp, fifties. Could it be that the creative energy that used to course through me like lightning is building up wattage for a new run at powering me through days?

One can dream. But again, one will not promise.

When the last thing becomes the only thing

I started this random site about two-and-a-half years ago to get myself up and running on WordPress again after many, many years of using other CMS solutions. There was interest at my day job in it, so I fired up an instance and wrote a couple entries, focusing more on moving old material from various platforms – mostly Tumblr – to here. As I was writing on Instagram and even posting periodic stories to Facebook, this was a forgotten space that acted more as a nuisance due to filechange notifications and SPAM comments. And yet here we are and this is the only part of me that’s really present online.

What happened? Life, really. I got too busy – and felt too dragged down – by social media, and the weight of not regularly writing on Instagram felt oppressive and shameful. I was tired of not posting anything creative and just talking about my life on Facebook – or Twitter – seemed pointless. Politics were infuriating. Being witty was tiring. Interactions with friends felt inconsequential. Time was nearly extinct and when I did have a moment, all I did was scroll and scroll, feeling more and more down about the state of everything.

So I jumped offline and said good-bye to most of it all – except Twitter, which I do not use – and this blog, which I also don’t use. But here I can tell a story to anyone who might be looking for me. And here that is:

I am fine. Life is busy and I am consumed with parenting my two children and working smart and well-enough to keep myself from drowning in debt. I am doing a 365 project for my son Diego which too is online, so there is that, but it’s nothing anyone seemed remotely interested in beyond his mom and I. Such is the choice of platforms, I suppose. I did the same 365 project for my boy Justin when he was Diego’s age and while challenging, I’ve rarely been more pleased with the outcome of a project. This one has been just as fulfilling.

This July, I am getting married to Diego’s extraordinary and incredible mother in Spain. I visited London and New York City in March. I’ll be in Aruba in November. It’s a big year for travel, and I’m looking forward to making this chapter of my life “official,” although to me, she and I agreed long ago to be together forever when we agreed to try for a child.

This is my best chapter. I’m living for those I love and the byproduct is a kind of happiness and sense of self I’ve never known. I’m still a mopey, angry mess a lot of the time, but it’s less and less time and I’m less and less mopey and angry. (Or at least I hope I am.)

So life goes on without being under the indifferent microscope of Facebook or Instagram. I love and work and keep breathing. I don’t know what’s next for the creative side of me, but I do know that I’ll be creative again at some point. Or maybe not. I can’t say I care all that much anymore. There just isn’t enough time to care that much.

The Will and the Way

My life changed drastically in August. It was for the better – it remains so much for the better – but like all huge changes, it takes time to assimilate all those stray pieces of your existence into a new and durable routine. As a result, I’m still playing life-Jenga and it’s a little frustrating, even as it is awesome.

The upshot is I’m in love. And man, let me tell you, that one was a huge surprise. It’s no mystery to those that know me – or those who have read a lot of my writing – that when I split up with my son’s mother, I went into a hard spin that involved lots of dating and conversation with people who, while incredible in a number of ways, simply were not “right” for me. In a couple cases, I thought maybe love was a possibility, but almost always those were intentional non-starters due to practical factors like distance, marital status, or both. It was self-sabotage because I wasn’t ready. I simply couldn’t be ready.

Then I met the lady who changed my world without even trying. She stepped into my life and she listened to me. She showed me care and thoughtfulness. She showed me her vulnerabilities, admitted her own imperfections and exhibited passion I’d never encountered in person. And she did it all effortlessly. No agenda. No deceit. No rule-bending or fine print. She simply presented herself as who she is, warts and all, and I fell in love despite the grave belief that I simply had no love left inside.

I did. I had a seemingly endless supply. And I continue to find more and more as we embark on new adventures in this life of ours.

It hasn’t been easy. The cracks in this here ticker are fierce. As big as I love, I hurt. Not others, although I’ve certainly been the cause of some terrible pain which plagues me with guilt, but more so my own hurt. Love and hurt have been in equal measure within this internal matrix, a yin and yang of delight and solemnity that I’ve rarely seen in anyone else I’ve met. And I look too. Very few seem to both love and loathe life the way I do.

Maybe that’s part of the reason I write. Maybe that’s part of the reason I struggle even when I’m living a truly enviable life filled with love and incredible, almost astounding good fortune. A concentrated effort to pay more attention to the things for which I am grateful has helped offset my frustrations with the incongruous parts of my current routine, but those frustrations do persist.

And so I must sort it all. The websites, the blogs, the journal, the poetry, short-stories, podcast ideas… all of it needs sorting and time. But most of all they need to be made a priority, by me, and understood as essential to my happiness. Life is full of obligations and it always will be. There’s no way around that. But they cannot, and will not, be allowed to once again overshadow the things I need as much as I need air.

No one is telling me I shouldn’t write. In fact, the woman in my life is demanding I do so. She sees me struggling now and it breaks her heart. I have to honor this fact – this support – through action. Get this routine straightened out. Get this life’s path paved. Walk hand-in-hand with the idea that my creativity is as important as everything else.

This has to happen now. Before too long, I’ll be a dad for the second time and life will put a very hard stomp on my ability to carve time for myself. But I must. And I must bury any thoughts that I’m doing anything wrong by taking time to create.

I’ve made the mistake once before putting obligations and allegedly more important responsibilities ahead of my personal happiness by burying my creativity. No one told me to. I chose to because I believed it was what I *had* to do.

Truth is, the only person that can really ever demand you do something is yourself. And I’m demanding one thing: stay balanced not with love and hurt as that’s as natural as breathing, but with what creativity brings and what responsibility demands.

This goes here. That goes there.

This is kind of a turgid brainspill, so I apologize if you’re here reading it as I believe most entries here going forward are going to be more about me sorting through my thoughts and less about me sharing creativity.

It’s been a couple weeks since I swung by and did a little organizing. My days at work learning WordPress are much more about working on the back end, php, HTML, CSS, etc. It’s fun, but in time that work will lead to categorization, tagging and site taxonomy. That means getting back to working with posts and maybe in turn it’ll lead to me coming around these parts to write something new.

But there’s a bigger issue to tackle when it comes to posting material on this site and it’s a simple one: what belongs here? Many of the older posts are poems and short fiction that passed through my Blogger and Tumblr accounts, neither of which I use much, if at all, anymore. In fact, I need to redirect jasonsanto.com to here, a domain switch that gives me a little bit of agita as I’ve struggled with redirects in the past – an admittedly ridiculous fact because there should be nothing more simple. But I don’t want a simple redirect, so much as a mirror of iamsanto.com to appear with the same directory structure, etc. as this site. I seem to recall that being a SEO no-no, so then it becomes obvious that I need jasonsanto.com to occupy the WordPress hosting instance, reversing the original set-up and… well, that’s all tangential and too much bother on this sunny, September Tuesday.

Back to the original thought and the question of “what belongs here?”, I find myself puzzled with what this venue will represent. The goal in 2016 was to publish a book or three, but so far I’m slower than a snail crawling through tar when it comes to organizing manuscripts. As a result, I could just keep popping new creative writing into here, as my recent attempts at broadening my readership by using Facebook posts has been a punched A-Class ticket to Fail Town. What did I expect, though? Facebook loves silly, cute, incendiary, and – most of all – anything easily digestible. While my stories and poems are bite size, they’re not bite-sized enough. Instagram was never the right platform for me in this regard. Facebook even less so.

Medium has piqued my interest as an online spot where people with attention spans may congregate, but there’s something about it that’s left me a little hesitant. It’s almost as though my work isn’t right for any of these platforms, leading me again to this bloggy approach until I publish something.

But will I publish something?

That’s the real question, and it’s a chicken-and-the-egg scenario. If I don’t publish, no one can read it. But without any demand, I am hesitant to put in the effort to supply. Either way I look at it, there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut, simple answer so I just continue doing what I’ve been doing; writing on Instagram for the dozen or so seemingly dedicated readers that exist out a following of over 1,200 accounts.

Why? Because it’s easy and it’s an (albeit minuscule) audience. Plus I have a rhythm with which I’m comfortable when I create for there – that 2,200 character limit has been a fun challenge to write to episodically. Of course, I could just re-post the stuff here – kind of like I did with my other sites. But that seems pretty pointless. If anyone is interested in my writing, they likely already read my Instagram so what’s the benefit of a site with the same material? Perhaps the fact that it’s organized? Is that enough of a benefit?

The categorization of a site like this pretty much allows everything to be here. The bonus for the creative stuff is that, if someone likes my work, they have a whole Hell of a lot of it to sort through and read in a variety of ways pretty easily. There are tags. There’s a search feature. There are distinct types of writing broken out in the navigation. No one is likely to care, but for me it at least feels moderately clean – almost as though my mind has some order to it. Instagram cannot offer that.

There is one thing that will not be here, however, and that’s anything that’s ultra-personal. This may be a blog, but it’s not a journal. That’s perhaps too bad because I certainly could use the outlet as I always have a lot with which I’m trying to come to grips and I’ve grown downright lazy with attending to my thoughts in the written journals I maintained most of my life. I think the last time I wrote in my journal was six months ago. Sad. I really want to get back to that kind of writing, but I need to do it there, not here.

Oddly, my last journal had stories within it – one of which, Grave, had several installments typed up and included on Blogger and is now here! It was both personal rumination and creative expression, and I think that’s exactly what a journal should be. So this… this place just becomes a sortable dumping ground; a place to drop off thoughts and creativity without much hope of attracting any significant audience. And yet it feels good to have it all here: it feels tidy.

Anyhow, I guess there will be quite a few entries like this one, rambles that find me wondering about the whys when the wondering is the why.

Well Now. This is Quite a Mess.

So I’ve decided to collapse as many of my online ramblings as I could into this website and in doing so I’ve managed to create a bit of a tire fire in terms of organization. At the same time, I’m constantly debating with myself what’s actually going to live here and what isn’t. I guess the old adage of “it’s better to have than to have not” has won out, and thus I’m looking at a website consisting of 600+ posts, probably about 100 of which are redundant and many more which, to be honest, I probably don’t want you reading, oh great denizens of the Interwebs. So the next step is to get editing. And that takes time, a luxury I never have.

As a result, if you’re reading this, it probably means you’ve stumbled onto this messy collection of my writing either from a google search or I’ve gone ahead and promoted the site on Instagram despite knowing better. I do really want some people to read this stuff and while it’s on Tumblr – which was populated through Twitter and Instagram in some bizarre game of social media round robin that stopped working a while ago – I’m not really so hungry for attention as to sound the ramparts now and cut the ribbon. Yet this material has been in limbo for so long and even this small dose of organization is better than what’s currently available, so maybe it’s okay to invite y’all to roast some smores by the smoldering wreckage of my creativity.

Just be forewarned if I did toss you into this direction: it’s a sloppy spill of unedited stories and broken image links imported from Arresting Progress (aka jasonsanto.com) and my rather poorly curated Tumblr called Inspiring Progress. (Which begs the question, are there well-curated Tumblrs?) The formatting is inconsistent and I’m not even sure if things are dated correctly. But what’s perhaps most eyebrow raising is that there are likely a few demons lurking in here – raw confessions of anguish with self worth and life in general from a few years back when I was living in very tumultuous times. It was stuff I wrote on Instagram and later deleted, but stayed alive on Tumblr because I wasn’t exactly exhaustive in my clean-up. I’m not apologizing for those times or the quality of the writing produced then – in fact much of it helped me build the modest audience I now have on Instagram. If you know me in real life, however, or if you are a newer follower of my Instagram gallery, then there’s a lot of deeply personal work you probably never saw and maybe do not want to see.

It’s quite possible all of that is buried under the huge import of material, though and I’ll probably nuke a lot of it as soon as some time comes available, so maybe this is much ado about nothing.

Isn’t everything?

Why this?

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve blogged. While I’ve dabbled with Blogger (well past the point any self-respecting web developer would), that was a six month experiment largely geared toward using my jasonsanto.com domain to get out some of the new writing I was doing. Four years or so later, I’ve been tasked with getting reacquainted with WordPress and it seemed like this was as good a way as any to do so.

As before with Arresting Progress, that Blogger space I inhabited for a while, I really make no promises to myself or anyone else about what’s going to happen here. At best, it’ll be a frequently updated repository of the work I compose over at my Instagram account, neatly organized and made more palatable than it is in that space where I am woefully too wordy to fit in with their writing community. At worst, this is it… a single post tossed into the Internet’s unforgiving ether and indifferently ignored by friends, family and strangers toeing the world wide wading pool. Either way, I’m strangely fine with it. I’ll write regardless, create in a vacuum if I must, and periodically hope that someone notices, although it won’t keep me up at night like it did so many years ago when I was young and terrified of never making an impact. Impacts are overrated, it turns out. Sometimes under the radar leaves a lot less mess to clean up.

My first blog was in 2000 or so and it got me into a lot of trouble with friends because I was far too candid. Next time I took a stab was during those dark “MySpace” years where I wrote whatever I wanted and it was more or less ignored. Now I’m cultivating a space in the immensely crowded, yet infinitely accommodating virtual world into which the Internet has evolved. It’s a flag stuck in a barren surface overrun by busy bees seeking their own fortunes and attention, and I have no expectations of either those multitudes or myself. I’m simply writing and sharing. Word by word. World by world.

If you’re there, just know I do think it’s nice to see you again. Cheers.

La pluie qui est Tombée

Throaty saxophone warble, the punctuation of this ru(e)mination is distaff, an open embrace to nurturing breast and plumbed womb; seed dripping down thighs as refuse shatters outside tall windows. Day’s broken. Hours coagulate, gumming up the works of released agonies, veins popping, heads rolling with 18th Century aplomb; tasty petite mort lurking behind edifice edges and shuddering shutters. Exuberant filth. Stormy dejeuner. Thoroughfare stumbling and chimney phalanges flexing, what wide gray felicity this crowded air brews, drowning voice with lazily tapped high-note piano. On the beat, bleubloods bandy bawdily about bureaucratic brethren, their toe-tapping syncopated, their high note whirring shrilly like longing trumpets – ah oui, how this town jives jazz, lives lust, gives greed. Rain’s coming, awnings out, rivulets to collect, streaming dreamy bliss that puddles on age-old concrete and cobblestone, an ocean’s worth of rhetorical surmising grown iridescent in the cruel spill of leaky mopeds. May there be plenty of rainbows as these bodies tar, little prisms stinging from diamond hearts pressed from coal soul curiosity. Plenty of invaluable memories to be had, all set to the thrumming of a stand-up bass, a stand-down baton, a drop-spattered window and shaky-legged moan. Drip, drip, drip each lovely history during this longest day. Because la lune’s lunacy leaked lures in every eyeful of sea, the bounty to be drawn from tears both infinitely joyful and miserable; lives as quiet quartets playing in smokey, dark cafés. Some ask who’s sitting in the front row. It doesn’t matter, as long as He forgot His raincoat.


Stucco and Stone

Wood and tile. It was all she knew. Wood and tile, stucco and stone. The night had pulsed long past late dusk, revelers waving their limbs about in heightened, feigned ecstasies they hoped might escalate and consume them, like dry brush waiting for fire. So many nights like this one over the years, evenings where cologne mixed with spilled beer and smoked tobacco blossomed in pockets around doorways into the clear, dry air. She always took a moment to herself shortly before festivities petered out and had begun to wonder if her mini wedding-siestas were like drought to a river, somehow draining the evening of its nourishing tempo. Behind her, Francisco called over the throbbing beat of another dance song but she pretended not to hear him and instead moved gracefully into evening, her heels finding the tile of the patio with a clack counter to the fading beat. Boom, clack, boom, boom, clack. That smooth tile, she wanted to press her hot face to it and allow the coolness to leach into her skin. She didn’t, of course, but instead kept walking until she found a quiet spot around the far side of the reception hall where a breeze stroked her skin like a lover she’d never meet. All this stucco and stone, that wood and tile, and living within it all those same intentions and predictable desires. Good people living good lives, but all of them colored by long days in the sun and the watchful eye of a God demanding routine, safety.

She sighed, thinking about the bride and her resignation, a mirror of herself twenty-two years ago when she sat at the head table next to Francisco, then thin and handsome, and endured the chants of their friends and family to kiss again and again, the clanging of forks to crystal beckoning like clarion warnings of the dullness to come. She knew then what she knew now; how do you find true love among this stucco and stone, wood and tile? You don’t. It’s simply a matter of taking a hand that’s good enough to last the long years of life without making it all more intolerable.

And it wasn’t bad, but it was devoid of passion and took so much distraction, little obsessions with propriety and decisions made by cousins, families, parents, youth that should have been smarter, better, more in line with God, faith and what everyone else was doing. It was ok, though. The bride would find happiness in the slow pace of married life, the conviviality of sunset get togethers with family and friends, the cooking of lavish dinners for her husband and sips of wine before bed while reading of lives far more fantastic than hers. She would raise children as she was raised, among this wood and tile, stucco and stone, and she might steal moments of pause for herself, where the chill of the firmament blanketed the plains, and would dream of climbing into a car and driving to cities crafted only for visiting, never for living. She might even convince her husband someday to leave, but that would be later, after the children and when she’d already lost her comeliness like children do their favorite toys; one day there, the next forgotten.

She lifted her long, floral print dress to check on a blister the strap of her high heels was urging on her Achille’s and noticed how smooth her legs looked in the dim light. Youth was escaping her, no doubt, but slower than compared to others her age, a drip instead of a flood. She still had her the tight skin and vitality she remembered her mother having, there was still time for… A voice cracked her thought, low and gruff like a phlegm-choked cough.

She turned and saw Francisco stepping from the envelope of night into the flickering orange glow of the overhead streetlight, his thick shoulders and neck and rotund belly unmistakeable even in the dimmest light. “You ok?” he asked as if he wanted to know the time or what the weather might be tomorrow. She nodded and stepped his way with a smile, wanting to thread her arm into his own but instead letting him turn and walk in front of her a few paces as she always did.