Friday, September 4, 2015

Memories and Images


 (It'd help if you sang that title to the tune of "Photographs and Memories" by Jim Croce from which it was so embarrassingly cribbed.)

The words here won't matter, I think, someday in the future as the boys, perhaps grown men by then, surf the pages of this long love-letter I have been crafting for them.  Just as a letter drops the pictures out of the envelope, spilling them on the table, the pictures here will be seen first, letting the words wait, as words are patient enough to do.


That's the reason I have been so determined to include images - sometimes, perhaps too many - in this peculiar digital journey.  It seemed clear, at the start of all this, that I needed to save the small stuff, the offcasts, the easily forgotten misfits - the heartbreakingly adorable litter that falls from childhood's high chairs, tables and steps.

I suppose I should explain what's going on here.  Maybe I don't have to, you probably figured it out.  While I was away in Athens, Marci and the boys made these shirts.  They found drawings I'd scanned to use around here - there's, like six-hundred of them - and Marci transferred them onto t-shirts, a process that involves the computer, the printer/scanner thingee, and an iron... and magic, I'm pretty sure some magical paper is involved, Diadem Alley has it.  To further muck the story up, this all started because Kirby (not his real name, unless it is) wanted an "ihopeiwinatoaster" shirt and, she asked the boys if they wanted to make something for themselves when she made one for not-named-Kirby..

Not wanting to be left out, Marci made me the white one in the foreground there, a "handburger" Zack drew which was used in this post, cleverly called "Handburger."

Marci made the top left one for herself.  It began life as a Valentine if memory serves.  Now I'm curious, hold on a sec...

Sorry, that took a bit.  It was originally in a post called - these titles are not so good - "The Valentine's Day Post."  It's pretty good, really.  That's what took me so long, I felt I had to read it after I found the image.  Wait, I may have just got back to my original point... I'll be damned.

Nick chose a scan that I can't find anywhere else, in fact I don't know where they found it.  I remember the piece of paper, all it said was "Kids ______0______  parins ______2__________"  He thinks it is hilarious.  So do I.

The eight-legged-big-mouthed-antennaed-insect-thing in the center is on Nick's other shirt..  I never used it in a post but, man, it looks good on a shirt.

Up in the right corner is the "Pick Me" dude.  He is an amalgamation of images from two posts.  The "pick me" is from a piece of paper I found which said those words on both sides, I mention it in "Guarding Innocence,"  the little prince with a dagger is from the post "A Cast of Several and a Set Piece."  He's somehow creepy and cute.

Finally, on the orange shirt, is the little "hi" guy.  Marci place the image, at Z's request, down on the bottom right edge of the shirt, which is really nice because you don't see it at first and then you do and he says 'hi' to you, well, it's funny.  It is from a post called "Narrative Imperative."

I am not a logo shirt sort of guy.  If Nike wants to pay me a couple thousand dollars a year, I'll wear their shirts a few times a week, that'd be cool.  But, for me to pay way too much for a sweatshirt or sporty-spice-shirt and advertise their multi-billion corporation for free... no, thanks.

We aren't into Star Wars and we have not received the decoder rings that explain the over-complicated  super hero movie machine (actually I canceled that order and the truth is the boys don't care to see them) so no Captain Marvel or Batboy shirts for us.

We do wear Reds shirts around here and the requisite school district gear, I am alright with that.  But that's about it.  I have a few Life is Good shirts but, don't tell everyone, I don't really like them - they are soft though.

So, the boys wear mostly plain shirts, gray is a favorite, N looks great in blue and Z fancies green and, of course, orange - one of the local school colors.  

And, they wear the shirts Mom made 'em.  In fact they love them and wear them at least once a week.  Which, believe it or not, gets me to the point I want to make.  They love them because they made them.  Because they drew the pictures, the placed them on the transfers and helped manipulate the images and print them.  They own them.

In fact...

Let's see, uh, I started this before Zack got his stitches on Wednesday, so...

What?  Sorry, didn't I tell you about that?

I'll go with the short version, I've already told some long stories about injuries to both Zack and Nick.  Zack's forehead encountered a rock.  The rock was in Nick's hand but it was just a freak accident  It was a freak accident and it was a clean but deep cut.  It bled a lot, onto his shirt which I use to keep pressure on it, I bandaged it and he went back to practice for a few minutes but a thunderstorm came up and it was called short so...  I can't write a short story, can I?

We went home.  I cleaned the wound.  Marci texted a picture of it to pediatrician's office.  Off to Children's Hospital Urgent Care (always, always, always take your kid to The Children's Hospital if you can).

Let's see, um, right - check in, numbing gel, anxiety, vending machine, nice nurse, capable but busy doctor, heightened anxiety, tears, two stitches, sign papers, into the car and...


"Dad?"  It is a whisper of a voice.  The tone implores me to listen, my answer, I know will be important and everlasting.  I turn down the fan on the AC.

"What is it, Zack?" I ask gently.

"Will you be able to get the blood outta my "hi" shirt?"

I smiled.

"Yep, it's already soaking in cold water in the sink."  And it was, and we did get the stain out.  And, when he asked about it, I understood that he was saying was really:  Everything's gonna be alright, isn't it?


... home.

Home to the other boy who never said he was worried but kept commenting to Mom that we'd been gone a long time.  The boy who was so very upset after the meeting of forehead and rock.  The boy who later said he was so sorry through tears and a sob or two.

"Nick, I know it wasn't your fault.  It was a freak accident, everything's forgotten, forgiven..."

"No, not that Dad, I ruined his favorite shirt, ohhh..." eyes welling up again.

"I'll get it out, don't worry about it, it'll be fine, good as new."

With that he wiped his face on his eight-legged-big-mouthed-antennaed-insect-thingee shirt and trotted off to practice.  But I know what he meant.

Everything's gonna be alright, isn't it?


I can't guarantee it boys, I really can't...


I appreciate you coming around again, fewer and fewer folks are so it's not been so crowded.  I'm glad you did.

I mean that.


From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

(sung a la Frozen)


"Do you wanna build a death ray?"



Hell's yes...


Listen, if there is one thing I want you to take away from this, well, it is not listen under the words, it is not make your own shirts, it is not that images make memories better than words often can, it is not even embrace the silly nor is it remember the stories.  No, it is simply this:


Always, always, always take your kid to The Children's Hospital if you can, they are the best for your kid, I promise.


I got to wondering what I might choose to put on a shirt.  I decided on this from "Post Father's Day Post":




Peace to you, whenever you might be...


Friday, August 28, 2015

Insert Nonthreatening Title Here


I often feel like I should issue the boys one all-encompassing "I'm Sorry" for how messed up this world has become.  As I look at media, social and otherwise, I see so little that isn't negative and mean.  There's a shit-ton of ugly in this world - you've got to understand that, and come to terms with it.

Racism, gun control, abortion, women's health rights...  the list never ends

I suppose I have a position on all of these things, perhaps not the one you'd like or expect me to.

However, I write in a public forum and the vitriol and hate from those who have a view different from  mine is something that I cannot and will not abide.  So, I keep those opinions to myself, for the most part.  If you were a careful reader around here I'd bet you could guess at my leanings on most issues and you'd be right.

To be honest, though, I am a little wishy-washy on some things.  It is more than likely that fear is what keeps me from taking bold stands and high-grounded moral judgements.  It's stupid but I want you to like me and not yell at me.  Also, there's this - positions change, mine has on these very issues and so many more. 

Here's a good example - I hated cargo shorts when they first came to the forefront of men's shortswear.  I thought they were ugly and clunky and made my butt look big.  I bought some all the same at Costco 'cause they were real cheap.  Just days after I bought them I stowed something in them, a box of raisins, I recall, and before long I was shoving bottles and sippies, soothies and little wooden screwdrivers, acorns and acorn berets, sparkly quartz stones and plain essential good-old-fashioned stones, sticks and pine cones and once a bird nest.  I changed my mind about cargoes profoundly, flip-flopper that I am.

And that's sorta the point here.

I once lived for football, now I love baseball.

I used to like Queen Anne's Lace and now I like purple clover.

I was once against cumin and now I choose it over chili powder.

Once Chevy, now Ford.

I hate hooded sweatshirts, or used to, now I write posts about them.

I once took the road less traveled... then I didn't... then I did again.

So, I am not always sure how things are gonna fall, so I figure it's best to not get all involved and opiniony around here.  Mind you, it's not because I lack conviction or a moral compass, it's just that on occasion  logical, sometimes impassioned, thinking, has led me to a different conclusion.  That's the reason I tell folks when they ask me why I don't take on politics or take a stand on issues here.

That's a lie, though, really.

The real reason is I don't want you to come here in twelve or twenty-five or fifty years and see the hate and pain and rudeness and ugliness that this medium, blogging, can bring down.

It's horrible and I don't think you, our sons, need to see it... yet.

I am beginning - to further prove my point - to think I have been wrong in sheltering you from the gunshots and slurs and misogyny and pontification that are sadly going to partly define your childhood.  I thought I should only show you good, protect you from the worst of it all, shine the light on the "helpers," as Mr Rogers called them, let you have your carefree happy boyhood for at least a while.  But now, as you begin to see these things, you have no defense to them and I see your defensive walls of innocence cracking and starting to crumble.  I'm sorry for that.

You Know?  No, I don't regret that.  Ugly is not hard to understand and quickly comprehended, darkness is obvious as fuck.  But beauty, well, that's a little harder to grasp and must be considered through time and space, light is nuanced and is where all the colors live and love.


So what, you are asking, if I didn't lose you over the cargo shorts thing, will you take a stand on?  What positions are true to me, constant?

Hope.  Heritage.  Memories.  Love.  Kindness.  Decency... and, well, baseball.


Here are a few cars Nick made from stuff in the big craft box.  He put down his Kindle and worked on these for hours a couple or three weeks ago.  I'm not sure why.  I am glad he did.



This was his first one, I call it the "Net Car" because my mind needed a name for it.


This one seemed, frankly a little, well... lame.  but then I was trying to get a better picture of it and this happened:


Pretty cool, huh?

Finally, this one got painted with some left-over spray paint.


It's my favorite.  I used some filter or lens watchgidget and this happened:


It looks like it is racing towards the sun like a phoenix.

Actually, this sun.




Zack drew it when he was maybe three.  It's a perfect example of the living and loving that is only seen in the light, in the right, perfect light that reflects from them into me and back to them again.

This all gets missed in the dark, in the ugly, in the mean, in the hate.


From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
(breakfast edition)
 

"Not now, I'm busy licking my pancake."

'Nuff said...


Thanks for stopping by, it means a lot to me.  I know most of you understand that I am mostly trying to leave this whole thing as a gift to my family, as a legacy for the boys.  I fail sometimes at that, sometimes I get a little too preachy, maybe sometimes a little too silly.  But, ya know what?  This is my 400th published post and that's a lot of chances to mess up.

Peace to you and yours, and hey, drive the funny, bright red car of trash into they beautiful setting swirly sun and see what you come back as.  Better's my guess.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Yolo & Me


In nineteen-hundred-seventy-eight, when I was beginning my senior year in high school, the only plays my football coach, Mr. Funk, wanted me to know about were the ones where I pulled and swung behind the line one way or another and took out the defensive end or cornerback.  I was what was called a "flying guard," a position that took some speed, some agility, and, well, quite a bit of crazy.

When I was a freshman, a buddy of mine convinced me that I should try out for the fall play.  I did and got a small part in an abysmal production of and abysmaler play called "Life With Father."  The rehearsals were in the evening and there was little overlap between 'ball,' as everyone called it then in my dusty corner of rural Ohio, and the Drama Club.  No prob.  I went on to be in "Where Were You on the Night of January 16th?," "The Diary of Anne Frank," and, finally there were auditions for "Our Town" senior year.  I'd also been in three Spring Musicals and a couple of Summer community shows.

Now, "Ann Frank" had really jazzed me up about the theater.  Awakenings about justice and evil and hope and kindness and faith and dreams were cracking loudly in my heart.  I was witnessing the dawn of deeper understanding, and that changes everything.  I read "Our Town" that hot Fall and knew I had to be in it.  It reads like a dream, misty and dripping with a melancholy I already suspected but had yet to really experience.

Well, I was cast as the character of 'The Stage Manager' in it.  Yeah, a lanky seventeen year old with a wispy mustache with about as much experience in life as a mindless mayfly, cast as the very personification of wisdom and tenderness.  The irony was lost on me then but seems quite startling as I consider it now.

So, about a week into practice for the play - which I was really struggling with, a lot of lines - coach Funk called me over before a Monday practice, the first game was Friday.

"Peebs," he said, "There's no way your gonna be able to do the theater thing and play ball this year.  I spoke with Mr. Tippenburger, and he agrees."

Coach Funk was about five foot six, maybe.  He was, well, ruddy.  His crew cut was long and red and salted with grey.  He had blue, fiery eyes, lined at the corners.  His most predominate feature was an ever-present cigar stub in his mouth.  He never lit it, he just chewed on it,  a sort of very visible plug of tobacco.  He kind of rolled it around and talked through it in a high but gruff voice.  He was thick as well, big arms and thighs, a barrel of a body, shaped curiously like the stub he spun on his stained lips.  He played for "Woody" the rumor had it.  He smelled of Old Spice and confidence and sweat.

He sounded the word theater, "thee-ā- ter," with an 'a' as long as the one in disdain and a 'ter' that sounded suspiciously like 'turd.'

His cigar went about a hundred degrees 'round.  I waited.  I'd suspected this might happen.  I knew my answer.  I'd begun to see the folly of sport, the folly of the time I'd wasted sprinting and sweating and pushing that damned sled across the dusty fields of Mason.

"So, wadderyou gonna do about it?  Are you gonna play ball for me er what?  Hell, Bill, were about to start a winning season."

Winning was a theme with Funk, almost a religion, though I new for a fact he was Methodist.  We were winners, they, the other team, were losers.  Black, white.  Hard, harder.  Funk or, well, not-Funk.

I've never really decided if I liked Coach Funk or not.  There wasn't much to like.  I know now that he only presented one side to us, that, ironically, he was just playing a role, but back then he just seemed like a hardass to me.

"I'm gonna do the play, Coach."

His mouth exploded with a tobacco tinged tirade that I can't really give justice to, but I remember it ending in one massive, apoplectic breath with "... I want you to give me one-good-god-damned reason why you would rather go inside with all them sissies and in-tee-lect-choo-alls and not come on out here fer me and win a fucking trophy for this school!"

I'd like to say I lectured him on my new found depth of understanding.  Maybe even, I chided him and laid out all the frustrations of chasing a stupid not-even-round ball up and down a dirty, chalky field, in rain and snow and wind and tears and blood and so damn much sweat.

"There's girls inside, Coach," I said instead.

"YER ONLY GITTIN' ONE CHANCE AT THIS, PEEBLES!" He spit into my face.

I turned and walked into the locker room, grabbed my script and headed into the gym where a stage, small but intoxicating, could be found at the far end.  I saw a few friends... and a pretty girl named Kim.


***

You only live once.  "Yolo," as folks are found of saying these days.  I suppose he had a point, Coach Funk.  They did win that championship.  It was a big deal but I don't remember it much, I was busy trying to remember my damn lines and understand surrealism... and flirting with Kim.

I don't believe in Yolo, I think it is flawed and dangerous advice.  Not only as in, uh, say... you only live once so why not hop on that subway car and see if you can surf it through the station dangerous - which only a wild flying guard might try - but dangerous to character as well, the thinking leads to compromises of values and good sense.

You can't seize every opportunity, which is the inherent flaw in living a life you treat as though it is your only one, your only chance.  It suggests risks and, worse I think, can stifle and lead to regret.  Hell, if I'd've thought like that my whole life I'd be sucking down rum and Cokes in a beach town in California, smoking cigarettes and chasing bikinis.  It's flawed thinking.

It was a song by Kacey Musgraves, "Follow Your Arrow," that got me to considering the alternative to that kind of, I think, self-serving direction.  The chorus if the song is:

Make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls
If that's something you're into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight
Roll up a joint, or don't
Just follow your arrow
Wherever it points, yeah
Follow your arrow
Wherever it points

Maybe it's a little snarky but that last line, "Follow your arrow wherever it points," seems like a better philosophy to me.  It's flexible, less demanding and gentler.

It is true I had only one chance to win the big game, get that big trophy, be the football champions of a Midwest, small town high school, the very dream I'd had so many years ago, playing PewWee ball in oversized gear handed down from the winning and loosing teams of years past.  But, well, my damn arrow was suddenly pointed elsewhere, as it would in the many years ahead and often still does.

I don't know what points an arrow.  What sends it, with you along, down that new path, that new arc?

Perhaps, the winds of change shift it.

Maybe, the aim is not true.

Maybe, the arrow deflects off it's target and it begins off randomly on an unknown tangent.

Maybe, it's the arrow of destiny and we just ride it and scream wee-wee-wee all the way home.

Or, perhaps, we point our own arrows.  Perhaps, when we do, we know the flight it just took and shoot it again along the same flight plan or off another way, another way we send it, always us sending it on its way.

Your arrow is your heart, of course.  I can only guess at the the target, I suspect it's doglegged just ahead and I'll have to launch a different way.

I don't mind.


Boys - sweet Nick, sweet Zack - help me find my arrow and I'll help you look for yours.  Deal?


Thanks for stopping by and listening me ramble on about something that happened so long ago.  Also, remember that a memory like this is not perfect, I recall every bit of this with an accuracy that is blurry at best, fictional at worst.  Somewhere between is where the arrow landed I'd guess...


There's a little more to this story, as there always is, you don't mind, do you?  Mr. Funk was at my twenty-fifth high school reunion.  No cigar, his hair was greyer and thinner.  He seemed even more stooped, smaller, but the fire in his eyes had faded to warm coals.  He was happier, mellower, wiser.  We laughed at the story which he said he remembered very well.

In front of twenty or more classmates he barked out to me, "Peebs, that was the one and only god-damned answer that I couldn't come back at.  I kept a straight face until you walked down the steps and then, I gotta tell ya the truth, I burst out laughing and never held it one damn bit against you.  You knew what ya were doin.'  I felt that."

That's when I finally decided, I liked him...


Oh, and speaking of liking, a fellow I like a great deal, Creed Anthony over at the blog called Tales From the Poop Deck, put this story back in my mind.  He wrote a piece just recently called "A Legacy of Resilience," about a visit he took to his ancestral slave past in bucolic Kentucky.  It's really good.


Peace to you all.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Own the Who That Makes You You


Someone I know on Facebook posted a quiz asking which of these he said to his daughter on her first day back at school.

a. Don't get pregnant,
b. Don't screw up,
c. Find the biggest boy in your class, punch him in the nose and then beat the hell out of him to establish your dominance, or
d. I love you, be kind, I'll be waiting for you outside when the bell rings.


(Oh wait, I forgot to tell you, there is an alternate post today, this one is kind of long and a bit didactic so, if you prefer, there's this, "Window Bear.")

It's funny enough, it's cute and, well, clever, but... that last phrase sorta walloped me upside the head  because it rang so loud and so true in my mind. 

That's pretty much my parenting philosophy right there.  

Tell them they're are loved - always do this, always.  

Point them towards kindness because to be kind I think you have to know beauty and Art and love and quiet and tenderness and sadness.  Kindness means you feel.  

"I'll be waiting for you outside when the bell rings."  I've mentioned before that I always walk the boys out to the street in the mornings and meet the bus when it comes back home, often Marci joins me.  I don't do it because I am concerned about their safety - I once was but those days of chasing the ball of the season into the street are hopefully over - or because they particularly need me to or so I can wave at the pretty and, as you might remember from the post "Kindnesses,'" so very, well, kind bus driver.  No, I don't even do it out of a sense of duty or over-attachment or tradition.  I do it because I told them I would... for as long as they'd like me to.

This is a picture of them the day I made that promise. I've probably used it before but you don't know that... dammit.  It is the boys waiting for the bus on their first day of kindergarten:



They still want me to wait with and for them.

 "I love you, be kind, I'll be waiting for you outside when the bell rings."

It's a covenant of sorts. 

Love and be loved, be kind and accept kindness, trust others and trust yourself,  I'll be there for you and you for me.

Thanks for the insight Unfit Father.


I see a lot of notes to kids as they start school, lists of reasons why they are so great or how to find success and whatnot.  I've written a few things like that over the years.  Last year I wrote a bit about what and what not to do on a first day back to school.  (And, to my horror, I just realized I used the same picture to pretty much the same affect in that post as I am using today... oh, well.)

I've considered a long list of important things the boys need to know about life and love and being cool and stuff, but have failed at finding a way to put that poetically and also, I don't know where to stop.  But I wonder, if I could only tell them one thing, one all-encompassing-answer-to-everything statement, what would that be?

Last night I couldn't sleep.  This is not always a bad thing for me.  Late nights in a quiet house are when the hopes and dreams of us all float out and drift down the halls of imagination waiting to be caught in the hopenets and dreamcatchers of our souls.  I was thinking last night about purpose and school starting and change and worry and drive and ambition and loneliness and melancholy.  I remember specifically looking back on my life at times when I had to make difficult changes: a new job in the kind of restaurant I could never begin to afford myself, where the silver was plated and crystal was crystal; a new apartment in a complex where I was the minority; the first day in a college dorm room, not sure who I was and blurting out "Willy" when I was asked my name, a name some still call me; a time, years later, confidence lost, when everything felt so wrong and sad that falling on my knees and praying through the salty tears seemed the only right thing possible.

Through it all, I wondered to myself, how did I take that weight?  How were these burdens and discomforts and hurts appeased, borne?

'You have to own yourself,' was the answer I heard clearly in that wierd mind-voice we all have, or should.


I figure that's as close as I'll ever get to "one all-encompassing-answer-to-everything."

You see, I believe in looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing and liking who you see there.  If you don't, if your eyes avert from your very own eyes, well, if you are being true to yourself - not seeing a false self, that is - then you need to change.  You simply must like and respect yourself, it's how you love and respect others.  That time I fell to my knees... well, the truth of that story is that I saw myself in the dirty bathroom of the dirty apartment I lived in in the middle of a big dirty city and I neither recognized nor liked the pale and lonely, bleary-eyed man I had become.  I could no longer own that version of myself.  Less than a month later I was in a U-Haul with NYC in the rear-view and the rich, quiet earth of Ohio on the horizon in front of me.

Own yourself.  

I believe that to do so you must know yourself.  You have to.  You have to know what you believe.  You have to know your own morality, make your own difficult choices about events and history and war and peace and all of it.  Those may change, that's not the point, the point is you have to think about yourself.  For instance, I love my faith, I own it.  I own the struggles I've had with it because I know they will lead to insight and understanding, mine, my understanding.  I own my faults and transgressions.  I own my gratitude and peace.


Own yourself. 

Own your oddness.  Hold close your quirks and eccentricities.  Know you will laugh when someone says "duty" even if it is the archbishop or the president.


Own yourself.

Own your fears, accept your shortcomings.  I few months back I went to an open mic night at a local coffee house.  I was nervous and dry-mouthed and self-conscious and, honestly, well... not very good.  I couldn't remember the words to the songs, I kept forgetting to keep my guitar close to the mic or bumped it when I remembered to.  I could say I failed, I guess, but, here's the thing.  A few months later, on  glorious summer night, I played a bunch of songs around a fire in the backyard of an old friend.  It went fine, I remembered all the words, I was relaxed, I connected to the songs just as I like to do.  I owned it.


Own yourself.

Believe in the depths of love.  Own the fluttering heart and the sweaty palms.  Own the tears of happiness that is childhood and parenthood and and all the hoods between.  Own your hopes.  Own your dreams.  Own the uniqueness of your very soul.  Know that it all flows from one source, Love.  Own it and know that it is yours to keep and give away and embrace and cherish and, always, remember.


Own yourself,  Nick.  Own your spiky hair and your new glasses.  Own your quick smile, own your good heart, your tenderness, your empathy.  Own, even, your fears.  Own the thunderstorms and ominous clouds, let them act as a metaphor for uncertainty and timelessness.  Own the different drums that live within you and beat them wildly, with abandon, with conviction.  Own the who that makes you you.

Own yourself, Zack.  Own your smallness as you do your confident stride.  Own your ample and capable intellect.  Own your sweet restlessness, and long, languishing stories.  Own it all.  Own your frustrated tears and deep belly laugh.  Own your shyness and don't fight against it, know that examination and understanding come quickly to some but not perhaps to you.  Own your wildness, own the storm that is in you at times, own the beauty in that storm and show it to others.

Own yourselves, boys.  That's all I've got right now, perhaps it is a oversimplification, but I think you know what I mean.

You've got to  we've got to  I've gotta own my life and you yours.  

I try to show that to the boys.  I'm honest to them about my past - so far - and I believe I can continue on with that.  There will be some tricky negotiating around difficult corners, but that's fine.  Life is sticky and tricky and funny and weird - oh, boys, the stories I will someday tell.

Stories I own which I give to you, to them.  Listen, before you can give a gift, you gotta own it.


So, uh, let's call this my back-to-school post.  Yeah, that's what this is, just as I'd intended... yes.

I'll need a picture here, let's see.

Here they are walking out to the bus:


As you might remember I like blurry images but here is a better one:


Yeah, they're neither one very good.  Oh, well.  You know what?  The truth is that's how I see them these days.  Walking ahead, further and further ahead with each passing day it seems, in to the what-will-be.  

And childhood is always little blurry around the edges, isn't it?


Thanks for coming around again, I appreciate it.  Peace to you, consider the kids who are starting school today and this week or the weeks to come.  Maybe, spend a little time remembering the days you started school, the new beginning you've known, the false starts and the do-overs, the dreams fulfilled and the hopes yet to come, the stories you have told, are telling and will tell... the stories you own yourself.


You may have noticed I didn't link to the blog I mentioned above.  It is my policy to list other blogs I may mention here at the end.  You know why... they are usually better than mine and I'm afraid I'll never see you again.  The Unfit Father is funny and irreverent and heartfelt and sweet.  This post, "My Daughter the Storyteller" had me chuckling in the basement a few days ago.  It is good stuff, go take a look if you have a few, but keep in mind, you might be there a while.

 See ya next time.

This piece is an alternate post to today's other back-to-school post which is much shorter and easier to digest, maybe...


Window Bear (An Alternate to Today's Longer Post)


A stuffed, tan bear watches patiently, tirelessly, ceaselessly, out the window for you to come home.


I am, and will forever be, that bear.


From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear in the backseat..."

"My name is Bob, but you may call me Jeff."


Well, there ya go...


The post to which this is an alternate is here, "Own the Who that Makes You You."


Oh, this is officially my obligatory back-to-school post.


Peace...



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Memification of Folder X


I have, of late, been wordy, verbose and irritatingly long-winded around here lately here, on this page.

I had every intention of being the same today.

I'm sorta kidding, but I'm not.  School starts a week from tomorrow.  The boys are nervous, I'm nervous, Marci is nervous.  I had a soothing, gentle post all lined up to go and I was looking for an image to go with it.  Inside a folder inside a folder these seven images have been hiding for two years.  When I opened it and saw what was inside a wave of nostalgia and whimsy came back from when I first started here.

I abandoned the sentimental slop I'd been working on and did this instead.


I don't really know why I took this particular series of pictures.  I think the boys encouraged me to take them, or - more likely - I needed them to clean up and they wouldn't put these away unless I chronicled them.  Sometimes I take pictures of things that really don't matter too much so we can get rid of them.  Actually, that may have been the theme in my early days here.

Anyway, I don't know what any of these are or why they're important so I did the mature thing and made some simple memes out of them.  Yes, clever, I know.  This is really the first time I've tried this around here and certainly, other than some snarky FB thing, the first time I've tried to memify an image of something of the boys.

(Apologies to all the real folks who do this for a living.)


Nick arranged all the items in one box on the carpet:


The funny thing is Nick loves those "Find-It" puzzles and such.

I remember Zack spent a lot of time with this one, he went on to build a whole restaurant around it as I recall:


I am not sure why I find that so funny...

There's this bit of inspired madness.  Mike over at a site called Spoon and Knife suggested the trading card idea and this one also:


This is a part of that scene as well:


What is up with that guy on the right, in the wig, with the Statue of Liberty crowny thing and a lamb in his lap?


I have a vague recollection of them making this fort, sort of, a little, well... maybe not:


That's a good fort right there, I don't care what ya say.

There was one other one, a picture that made me sigh a little when I saw it.  Remember, these are two years old.  It is eerie in a way to see how little and how much they've changed in that time.  I like this image, it is how I remember them, how I see them, how they are and forever shall be... boys, growing up, and out, and into my heart.  Melancholy is hard and bittersweet.


I went upstairs and tried to sneak a candid shot of them.  They caught me.  Nick gave Zack "bunny ears" in all three damn pictures - he's sort of a Ninja at it.  I didn't see them until I looked at the photos after they were done.



















So, that's how they are now, were then, will be... damn, trapped in the strange space/time loop I always get in here.  Whose 'now,' whose 'when?'  I am never sure.


You know what?  I lied.  I did do a meme like thingee once a long while back.  Lemme go try to find it...

Wow, sorry I was gone so long there, I had a nice trip down memory lane looking for this.  It's from March, 2013:


I tried to reenact it but the boys would have none of it, but the sentiment remains the same:


Listen, I know life gets serious.  I know life gets busy.  But... life gets silly, too.  And serendipitous, and curiously profound and roundabout and odd.

Thanks for coming by today.  I'll get back to the feels again soon.  I've got most of something written that you might remember I abandoned earlier today.  But, for now, I'll just leave this as it is.


You might have noticed I didn't link the site I mentioned above, you know, Spoon & Knife.  Well, I was going to, but, honestly, I didn't want to lose you to it.  It is a beautiful site with great information and recipes and stuff and, well, it's better than mine, prettier and to the point.  Check out this steak article there, "Grilled Steak Shootout."  Yeah, that's some pretty good stuff.  Thanks for your help, Mike.


So, I'll say goodbye again, and thanks for looking over my shoulder as I looked back a couple of years.  It was fun.


From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

(upon hearing an advertisement for a Reds statuette giveaway)


"What's the point if it doesn't bobble?"



 It's a pretty valid point...


Peace to you, keep the boys in mind when the school year starts, hope the best for them, because "a hope is always a prayer."

I said that...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Committing Blogamy


I've the nasty habit of writing notes - like prompts, really - to myself that make little or no sense.  I do it on my cell phone, these are the worst as evidenced in the post Post-It Notes, and, I do it on small note pages which I crowd with messy words and messier thoughts and stuff into my pocket, unceremoniously crumpling the brilliant idea I'd just labored to put onto paper moments before.

I've featured a couple of  these before around here.  In the post. ... in medius rex ... I used a couple I found hidden under the pile of tottering papers I call my desk, and in the post Last Night's Note Post, I used a note to format the entire piece and, well ...

...uh... yeah, that's what I'm going to do again.  Maybe, don't, well, you know, go look at that other one yet.  Imagine this is a new device you've not seen yet.

So, that intro went well dontcha think?

I decided to use this one today - mostly because I think I know what all of these mean, if that's even possible - I think these are from maybe three weeks ago.  (Listen, I gotta tell you the truth, sometimes I scribble stuff down, well, uh... late in the evening, perhaps, but not always, when I have had, maybe, a drink or two... or more.  There is a "Truth in Blogging" clause in my contract that compels me to tell you that.)  Here's the note:


***

Right at the top there it says "more inside outside" and I am pretty sure it was simply a reminder to myself that I really enjoyed writing a sort of quasi-review of James Taylor's new album here.  It weaved current events, stories about the boys and notions from my wispy memory just as I have been trying to do here, but, even more, it is a perfect example of how writing can teach the writer so much about themselves.  This has happened over and over here and I am very glad for it.  It is one of the reasons I soldier on here in relative obscurity - I'm learnin' a lot about my self.

***

Let's see "That's far enough..."

The boys and I went camping a while back.  It is interesting how much more they are able to help around the camp and such as they get older.  We were getting ready to go.  My coffee machine crapped out in the pop-up so I hadn't had any coffee and I was trying to hook the hitch onto the camper which usually means I get out, look, pull back, get out, look... you get it.  Nick and Zack were standing watching this so, in the interest of expiation, I asked them to tell me when I got close.

Yes.  Wham!

"That's far enough!"

"That'll do it!"

Thanks, Nick.  Great job, Zack.

I think it is funny when sitcom sort of moments like this happen in real life.  I shoulda known it was going to happen, anyone watching would have.  But, nope, I thought they'd nail it first try.  I was wrong.  We all found it sort of funny and it only really dents the license plate on the truck, mostly...

***

"I am sorry I was so unwise."

I still am, really.

I tell people I have no regrets in my life, they are illogical and hindsight makes regret so damn easy.  I understand implicitly that situations and circumstances I could easily 'regret' are the very antecedents of whom I was to become, am now.  It is ridiculous to wish and hope for other than exactly what happened in your life.  You could argue against that, I wouldn't mind.  I known it rings of predestination and determinism, I understand that, but...

It's like smoking.  I could easily regret the first cigarette I had, that'd be easy, but, truth is, I don't.  Smoking helped me socially, that cannot be denied.  I met people because of it - friends, girls, Jimmy Buffet, a rabbi - who'd I'd have never met.  Smoking changed my life, made it better.  I can't regret that.

And yet, I can be sorry for it, sorry my wife had to suffer it, sorry I spent so much money on it, sorry I damaged my lungs and I burnt down that shed... nevermind.

You might remember from my last post, I went to a college reunion.  I was sitting late one night and trying to imagine what it would be like to see so many folks I hadn't seen in so long and this is what I decided I needed to tell them all.  I am not sorry I stayed and partied until four in the morning or missed that rehearsal because I was drinking in the middle of the afternoon; I am not sorry I forgot my dining card so many times you, Kirby (the names are changes to protect the innocent, or are they?), decided you would carry it, and you did, for two years; I am not sorry I drove us all, like ten of us packed into the cab and bed of a old Ford F100 pickup to Stouds run, with a keg, at one in the morning.  No, I'm just sorry I was so unwise.  And by that I mean, simply, I didn't get stuff.  I didn't see the implications.  I didn't have the depth of thinking and understanding I needed to know what I was doing.

But regret, no, sorry.  The night I stayed so late at the party, I learned "Paradise" by John Prine on guitar in the kitchen, thanks, Mark V.  The rehearsal I missed, yeah, I don't regret the afternoon I spent in dorm room with a beautiful girl - nope, I sure don't.  Kirby didn't mind carrying my card, did you old buddy?  And I think it helped frame the friendship that is still strong some thirty plus years later.  The keg at Stroud's, yeah, that was stupid, but, I reckon a bunch of people still tell that story.  I guess that's the point here, regrets are memories turning bad, going sour.  I've no time for that.

***

I am on my second lawn tractor here.  The first was a relatively inexpensive Yardman or Lawn Machine - they are all made by the same company.  When I got it it was fine but the damn thing wouldn't mow in reverse, some safety thing I didn't understand.  I tore off that sensor and mowed backwards for years.  And then I had kids, toddlers and wished I hadn't.  So I started turning off the blades when in reverse.

Two summers ago I got a new Cub Cadet.  It still has the safety feature, but, with a turn of the ignition key and the push of a button you can override it and mow in reverse.  I want to, it's a pain in the ass to turn off the blades every time I need to turn around or realign my position and, I'd guess, it's pretty hard on the belts to keep engaging and disengaging the power train.  But, I do.

"Integrity is turning off the mower blades."  Sometimes, way in the back of the yard when I know the boys are inside watching TV, I consider just overriding the damn safety and mowing backwards.

I don't.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  Time teaches you that.  Kids teach you that.  Love teaches you that.

***

When I was a kid there were only a few stations on the television.  5, 9 and 12 were the local national affiliates and 13 was our PBS station.  Somewhere around 1970 or so, another station got added, 19, WXIX, an independent station that showed endless reruns and questionable children's programming and some late movies.  Not long after that, channel 64 came into being here in the Ohio Valley.  It was a horrible station with really bad children's programming, impossibly old reruns in syndication and movies butchered in editing and interrupted by endless ads for strange and useless products and cereal, lots and lots of cereal.

However, I was welcomed into Mayberry on channel 64 and goggled some girls at The Junction - Petticoat Junction.  I watched scores of definitive war movies and old goofy romances and film noir classics, yes, cut poorly with bad sound, but, I am still astonished to this day how many important movies I watched late-night in our basement den with the sound down low.

Granted, the ads were infuriating.  I've watched many of the movies I watched way back when since, on TCM and the like, and have come to realize how much they were cut and spliced so they would run shorter.  Overall, though, I think I learned and experienced some important shit way on up there on the UHF dial, through that funny circular antennae, from a low budget, weakly powered station that went on to call itself STAR64 and still broadcasts today as a CW affiliate I think.

The note says "Blogamy is STAR64 - VHF 70s." 

You may wonder what I mean by that.  I'd like to say I'm not sure, and leave it there.  I won't though, integrity is also doing the right thing when others are watching.  I've mentioned before that I am a reluctant blogger, a folk blogger, and I've repeatedly positioned myself as a non-commercial blogger.  I think blogging, still in its early years in my opinion, is at a crossroads.  I see it now as a UHF arena, lots of ads and popups and sensationalist content.  There are over a thousand Dad Bloggers in the community I find myself in on FB - or was in before I wrote this - and many more beyond that.

Under the ads and sponsored posts and links to e-books and incessant "join me" banners, I find very good content.  I find stories worth considering, hearts worth listening to, men (and women) coming to understand themselves.  I shed tears and belly laugh, I am led to a deeper understanding of myself through the tender words of so many others, I am shown a better world full of decent people.

But, and here's my point, I think many sully their poignancy in their urgency to make a couple bucks.  I think in fifty or sixty years or more, when anthropologists and historians look back at this eve of the twenty-first century, they will not look for blogs that tried to garner views with SEO and fabricated likes.  I know they won't look to FaceBook, hell it'll no longer exist.  I think they will look for simple, quiet blogs that posted heartfelt and real content about the difficulties and joys of everyday life.  I think they will savor stories that show the universality of life, the stories that cry and laugh and remain forever in our hearts.

I think we owe it to ourselves as bloggers to keep in mind the integrity and responsibility we have to stay real and focused on writing and narrative and positive imagery and hope.  I think we commit "blogamy" when we hide behind ads and sponsorship and "click-bait."  I think we twist what can be very good intent with a desire to succeed and influence and, frankly, make a buck.  I think we need to come down that UHF dial and end up in the lower numbers of the VHF.  We need to see ourselves as archivists and memoirists and diarists worthy of Ken Burns.  If Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God, then blogamy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of respect for blogging.

If blogging continues to keep the course it is on, and this is just my opinion, fewer and fewer people are going to be willing to sit through the bad commercials and popups and trickery that is coming to define the medium.  You can discount me all you want, I don't really care anymore.  I get that many bloggers are indeed treating this like a business and expect much in return.  They will continue to milk and manipulate the innerwebs to eek out a living, perhaps a good one.  However, I do not think that is what people want from us.  It may be what the websites like Huffington Post and Good Men Project want, but, I'd like to think my audience is smarter and cleverer than that.

I've mentioned before that I get a lot of eye-rolling and patronizing smiles when I tell people I blog.  I try to explain that I am just a storyteller.  I tell them I have no ads or sponsored posts, but, at the mention of the word "blog" I lose them because the medium is becoming a late night talk show joke.

Alan Lomax, the great ethnomusicologist and folklorist, collected the songs and stories of plain folks in their homes and barns and honky-tonks in the 1940s, 50s and early 60s.  He carried primitive recording equipment all over this great country and captured the soon to be lost and forgotten voices of that era.  He recorded ordinary folks, rising and falling stars, famous bluesmen and folkies and high mountain crooners for The Library of Congress.  Much of what he produced is still in circulation today.  He felt strongly that the folk and traditional music springing up organically and honestly from the hearts of so many everywhere he went was of vitally important significance.

I think, as bloggers, we can be of as great a significance.  And we are, I can think of thirty or more bloggers who write from their heart, about their souls and do it without any recompense.  These are the voices that should be recorded for history in high Lomaxian style and shown to future generations as the best we had.

***

Hold on a sec, this is a pretty high horse I'm on, it's sorta hard to get off...

Listen, I am going to remain this voice in the wilderness.  It is where I've placed myself.  I know I am not all right, but, I am not all wrong either.

So, I've abused this device enough for today, and I've taken up way too much of your time.  If you are a blogger, take a minute to think about where the medium is going and whether you like that or not, whether this is where you expected to find yourself.  If you are a reader of blogs - thank you - realize that we are all new here, we are still figuring it all out.  Bear with us, there is important and worthy stuff going on in these pages, it's just getting a little lost.  Peace to you all and thanks for sitting a spell with me.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
 
Dad: "Why are you two pinching each other?"
 
Boyz: "Because it's a commercial."


Well, there ya go...