Hallo, Fremder.

Dark WandererForgive me, reader. It’s been three months since my last confessional. I think that’s the longest I’ve ever gone without writing in this century.

It’s a boring but important issue to address, so let’s just get that out of the way, shall we?

Oh let’s do. I promise to keep it short.

Over the past several months, I’ve felt a very strong need to step back from the world for a while and figure out what to do about writing. Not whether or not I should do it, but rather what I should be writing about.

Life has felt unbearably grim for quite some time. I retreated from social media for a month, thinking it might help minimize my angst, weltschmerz,  lebensmüde, and any other unpleasant mental state that can only be described accurately in German.

The withdrawal only made me feel more isolated than usual. This is, of course, not a smart thing.

I’ve struggled for ages with the idea that, given the current political scheißsturm we’re in, I have no right to be funny. Or even mildly entertaining. Toddler torture doesn’t exactly inspire humor.

Instead, I’ve spent my time in a combined state of anger, horror, helplessness, and exhaustion. The never-ending news cycle has helped turn my brain into something like a stale loaf of bread soaking in a bowl of milk and liquid chloroform—sodden, cloudy, and fuming to the point of near insensibility.

Combine that with a year spent digging up altschmerz in the boneyard of Memoir-land and Presto! You’ve got a delicious recipe for a mental health disaster.

Know what? It’s a pretty fucking black place to inhabit.

No one needs to live in a near-constant state of darkness unless one is, say, Scandinavian. But even the Finns know the light will return if they just hold on long enough. They take their vitamin D, use the sauna, toss their hair to Speed Metal, or do whatever it takes to get them through to a brighter day.

Whatever it takes.

And that is essentially what has finally sunk into my think, thick skull– doing whatever it takes to not succumb to that blackness.

Talking things over with my friend Craig the other day, he said, “You may not be able to save the world, but you can at least help to make it a world worth saving.”

Then he added, “I have no idea if I got that right or even who I’m quoting, but you get the general idea.” I think I do.

It’s exhausting absorbing darkness all the time. And maybe throwing off a little light now and again isn’t just acceptable, but necessary.

So I’ve decided to keep on writing and telling stories and will do my best to not feel guilty about doing so. And with a regularity that might suggest I were treating it as medication. Not like a four times a day insulin shot that helps to keep one alive, but rather like a once a month flea-and-tick pill that helps to keep things from sucking so much.

Yes, that’s it. When you think of me, I want you to now think of me in this way– as oral dog medication.

Thank you so much for letting me get that off my chest.

I’ll be back sooner than later with some titbit or other for your (hopeful) enjoyment. Until then,

Auf wiedersehen, pets.



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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
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46 Responses to Hallo, Fremder.

  1. Giedra says:

    A monthly flea-and-tick pill that helps to keep things from sucking so much? I already feel better! Craig is on to something. xoxox

  2. SHARON MIRO says:

    Glad you are back.

  3. Lana says:

    And I thought I was the only one feeling guilty about not writing in these wretched times:) Sigh… Thanks for making me smile! And you are so right about German!

  4. Diane Leach says:

    Remember the bad guys want to shut people like us up. If you stop writing, they win.

  5. Mrs. McSorley says:

    It probably doesn’t work as well in reverse, but my day was made a bit better just by reading this. Thank you, dear.

  6. carole says:

    Du schaukelst! (I googled how to say ‘You Rock’ in German so I’m not sure it’s exactly what I mean, so you get it, right?)

  7. MaggieToo says:

    Well, your name already sounds like a prescription: Procopio Rx: side effects may include increased empathy and unintended smiles.

    Don’t let the bastards get you down, Michael. This little corner of the world needs you.

  8. Jan Morrison says:

    I’ve been waiting for you. Not, I hope, in a pervy stalking sense, but just wandering by every so often to see if you were back yet. In the mean time I finished up being a grade two teacher on a reserve, and my husband and I sold the house, got rid of most everything (but not really), and moved back to Nova Scotia. It’s a zillion FRICKIN degrees here and we are unpacking the stuff we moved and the stuff we had here in storage for five years. Want a cheese grater or twelve? Now, on top of feeling this constant ‘the world is in the charge of fuck-wits’ anxiety I feel completely groundless. As soon as it cools down I’m going to start baking. Have you ever made Sticky Orange Vodka Chili cake? Now that’s my idea of self-care. Much better than a bath and candles. All this to say that your take on the world is of much benefit. If you weren’t crazy sad at all this…well…you’d be a gerbil. And humour is sanity pure and simple. Big view.

    • I am having a very hard time equating heat with Nova Scotia, Jan Morrison.
      Cherish your Prime Minister, give your excess cheese graters to nuns or perhaps woodworkers in need (I already have two, thank you), and self-medicate with booze-soaked baked goods.

      I’d hate to think I was a gerbil because I have, in fact, met Richard Gere at a bar.

  9. Jane Maynard says:


    I love what craig said, so so so so good. it reminds of how I felt after going to malawi to see how different aid programs were working there. the experience caused a LOT of thinking, talking, ruminating, sharing, more thinking. quite frankly the problems felt overwhelming. and the guilt, oh the guilt. what I learned eventually, though, was that you have to let go of the guilt. me feeling guilty about what I have doesn’t do anyone any good. instead I had to learn how to take what I have and do something positive with it. and that actually could be helpful. ANYWAY…what YOU have is a gift, michael. feeling guilty about it is not helpful. figuring out what to do with it will be…so write and write and write some more.


  10. Thank you for expressing the grim-itude in such a Germanic and witty manner. You are so correct and so very not alone in your literary angst. In these times, creating art is an act of resistance. Humor is resistance. We need you.

  11. Amy Yerkey says:

    Thank you – for your honesty, courage and relatability. I have also had to limit my news intake and social media in order to survive these dark times. Humor, and particularly about food, is a saving grace for me. I look forward to your writings.

  12. Susan says:

    If only things were simpler, but it’s a pretty complicated world and at times introspection is not an option but a necessity. You are a good writer, and I always enjoy reading your posts but you shouldn’t pressure yourself to write if you have a block. It will only make you feel stressed and not good.

    • Hello, dear Susan.

      After ages of blockage, I now actually think writing alongside, over, under, and around it are the best ways of getting through. Of course, I have to put this theory to practice. I’ll let you know how it work out!

  13. julie says:

    It doesn’t help much, but please know that you are not the only one who sees darkness way too often.

  14. Alles says:

    O, Schatzi!
    My German is so much worse than yours — but I know the words Ausgezeichnet & Arschgeige — and they make make giggle harder than pink, sparkly Unicorn Snot. Which is a thing. I love your writing, the way you tell stories, and your cocktail recipes are divine! (Who can forget the evervescent Big Bertha? Nicht mich!) We’re all struggling right now, and to lose your light would only make it worse.

    To quote the immortal Kander & Ebb,
    “I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie
    With whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea
    She wasn’t what you’d call a blushing flower
    As a matter of fact she rented by the hour
    The day she died the neighbors came to snicker
    “Well, that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor”
    But when I saw her laid out like a Queen
    She was the happiest corpse, I’d ever seen
    I think of Elsie to this very day
    I remember how she’d turn to me and say
    “What good is sitting all alone in your room?””

    • Alles,

      Given that your screen name is a German word, I would have assumed your command of the language would be better than mine. The fact that you have now introduced “Arschgeige” into my vocabulary is proof. Ass violin. SUCH a vivid, descriptive tongue!.

      Also, I’ll have you know I just watched Cabaret again last week.

  15. Thea says:

    Yay for you! Yay for Craig! Yay for us! I’m prepared to handle all the wit and humor you can hand out. I myself listen to Mr. Randy Rainbow on repeat. Yes, that’s right, intelligent snark gets me through most days. And now we’ve got you back — frabjous!

  16. Becky Miller says:

    Your humor does make this world a place more pleasant to inhabit. I am always delighted when I get a new email notification that you have posted.

  17. amanda says:

    heart lifts on seeing a new post .always apposite and intuitive. you are a good egg.as we stiff upper lipped british say.x

  18. Mein Liebling……….

    What I have to say about the “Tyranny of Technology” on the internet is “Ack, don’t give me tsuris”……..(mispelled Low German Yiddish) Oh, vey boychick!

    I spent 30 minutes writing a message, only to see it disappear into the bowels of cyberspace (?????)

    Got an error message something about “email invalid” immediately after clicking submit.

    I am verklempt!

    Michael, did you get my post written on July 30th?

    Colleen Marie-Blanchefleur Whalen


    • Oh Colleen Marie-Blanchefleur Whalen,

      I did not see anything about a post written on July 30th. In fact, clicking on both your name and the link you provided take me to an error message. I fully understand and appreciate your verklempt state, but I do love and encourage the further use of Yiddish in your future comments (which, hopefully, will be less stressful that this one for you).

      • Oh vey, boychick!

        I labored for 30 minutes on a brilliant, aesthetically alluring post, only to have it devoured in the bowels of cyberspace.

        Ach, tsuris, galore.

        ch is the Tyranny of Technology, that a literary Lorelei is subjected to such slings and arrows of outrageous fortunte. No big whoop considering Schiller, Fichte, Goethe, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley all suffered far worse than little old me.

        Hey, Michael – YOU, yes YOU can fill the massive void left by the tragic passing of Anthony Bourdin. You have the seeds of genius within you. Hold fast to your center, keep writing, keep on conjuring, in that whirling, twirling brain of yours.

        When I have a very crappy day, I love to read your spellbinding, hilarious posts. You always put some pep in my step, lighten my heart and uplift me!

        Colleen Marie-Blanchefleur Whalen

        • Well I shall certainly keep writing, but filling the Bourdain void is a daunting task– one to which I am not up! But I do take the compliment to heart. And I will continue to do my best to keep your steps peppy (At least, on a monthly basis)!

  19. Deborah says:

    I understand well the dark that we live in now. But I want you to know that you brightened it a bit for me by putting this out in the world. Be well and laugh as often as you can to beat back the dark.

    • Deborah,

      So sorry. I haven’t checked my blog this week, so I just saw your lovely comment.

      I can’t tell you how glad (and, admittedly-but-gratefully surprised) it makes me feel to know that I might in some way help to brighten someone else’s dark. You have certainly brightened mine by telling me so. Thank you.

  20. Peggy says:

    My bud – So glad there are so many of us letting you know how much you matter. My fave comment above: Don’t let the bastards get you down, Michael. This little corner of the world needs you.
    Non Illegitimi Carborundum indeed.
    So here’s one idea that I do. I moderate the Indivisible Berkeley Facebook page and every day I post actions, some large, some small that, taken altogether, might help. So check it out, and write postcards for Andrew Janz, or send emails to Feinstein and Harris, or whatever sounds appealing that day. It’s not the answer but it’s a small way to fight the darkness, at least for me.
    And here’s a .

    • Peggy!

      So sorry– I haven’t been back to the blog in a few days, but delighted to find your comment!

      I have been taking small actions, which don’t always feel like they make any impact, but do make me feel a bit better. And then there are the donations, which also help (both candidates and me!).

      Thanks for the kind note. And for causing me to learn a new (20th Century!) Latin phrase.

  21. Laurel says:

    Hello Michael:
    I followed you via some foodie blog linkage over 7 years ago. I just wanted to let you know that I am very glad that you will be sharing your fabulous wit and wisdom once again. I enjoy the humor and spirit with which you write very much. If you sometimes feel like no one may be listening, I assure you that I am.

  22. Ulrike says:

    I am always stunned what German words impress other folks, especially in times when we seem to give up our language or rather transfer it into Denglisch.
    What you might also like is “Matschbirne” for “… my brain into something like a stale loaf of bread soaking in a bowl of milk and liquid chloroform—sodden, cloudy, and fuming to the point of near insensibility.”
    And if it is of any interest:
    you rock – du bist spitze, or du bist Hammer

    • Ulrike,

      Thank you so much for the new word, new phrases, and the lovely compliment. I wandered into the metaphoric wilderness for a while and had a rather difficult time finding my way back, so I only just today read your excellent comment.



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