Monday, June 13, 2016

This Raised Sword

I've run out of outrage.

My deep reserve of grief is gone.

My rant cannot sound loud enough and yet my silence feeds the roaring river of tears.

I fear my prayers go unheard in a cacophony of hate.

My Faith flounders in fear.

My Hope weeps.

Must I resurrect my rusty sword of strength and steel it in the courage bred of outrage, grief, silence and hate? 

But where will I point it?

Should I slice upwards toward a silent God, swinging quixotically against windmills spinning in the unflinching winds of time?

Will my angered soul attack forward with sharpened, biting words of dissent and vitriolic opinion in a blitzkrieg of righteous indignation?

Would guerrilla tactics be more suited to the splenetic fury of my blade, wounding here, gouging there, thrusting furiously at... what?  The evil that deserves my parries is but an eternal and undying specter.

Would it be best to break it over my leg and fling it into the forge and hope for plowshares and wheels and cast frying pans and getting only bullets and barrels and triggers?

Should I tie a white rag to it and raise it in defeat, succumbing to the ugliness, accepting it, allowing it?

But wait...

The same weapons are used to both attack and defend.  My strength is well-hilted, its cross guard wide, its double-edged blade unyielding.  It can suffer these blows.  It has before.

But what is left to defend?  I can think of no institution or hill-shining citadels that are worthy of this steel.

What is left to protect when Hope lies weeping and Love is left staggering?

Yes.  I must protect those things that seem to be losing... lost?

I will defend Joy.  I will stand in front of it, back turned if necessary, and slap away the arrows of sadness.  Joy will be left unscathed, as pure as two boys in the surf.

As honest as a a team of baseball boys playing, and winning, in the haze and heat of a Summer Sunday afternoon.

 I will defend Beauty.

The aggressive glory of a the blooms of the yuccas in the front yard - blooming for the first time in ten years - and the perfection of the rhododendrons will be left unspoiled.

I will defend the sunsets and the sunrises.  Not the optics and light and color and angles of them, no, I will guard the door to the room where their memories are kept.

I will defend my Faith, and yours.  Perhaps you could hold my sword as I cradle a cross a holy woman gave my wife - a Tau Cross, the cross of The Franciscans.  A cross that came from Rome which Marci just received as I was writing this.  A cross which will soon hang in our home.  A cross that just now - and for every now hereafter, and every breath before this one - will keep my Faith.  A cross that will defend me, even as I think I am its defender.

I will defend childhood and boyhood and sticks and dirt and wildness and wilderness and stones and seas and rivers and woods.  I will issue the children wooden swords and paper hats and we will take on creeping reality and the weight of future with laughter, imagination and silliness.

I will defend Love.

Always and forever.

Thanks for stopping by.

Defend what is yours, raise your sword against the pain and fear and hatred we see all around.

Use Honor as your shield.

Cherish deeply.

Love with integrity.

Shine through this damnable darkness, and, hey, at least unbuckle your scabbard...

... and, as always, Peace (I'll capitalize it today.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Stuff That Holds Up"

I've a lot of stuff to get through today.  Here's a list:

Yes, thank you, that is my introduction.  I had something cleverer planned but it didn't work out... I don't have a backup.

The few of you who've been following me here over the years know I used to talk a lot about baseball.  I don't so much anymore - although I did just in March - and I wondered why that was.

The Reds are destined to have a bad season this year, is that it?  No, I can still find the stories in the pitches and plays, players and duels, hits and catches.  We'll still watch.

The boys are playing on a great team this year.  Good old-fashioned "rec" ball, playing against kids they know.  Really as close as they'll ever get to a game of pickup with ghost-runners and right field out.  I could tell a hundred stories about boys on playing fields, pitches and courts.  No, that's not it either.

A couple weeks back, Zack snagged a fly in center.  He fell catching it so it looked like he dove... he tripped over his own big feet, which he smilingly admitted in dutiful self-deprecation.  The crowd loved it and it ended a tight inning.  Nick ended the same game when he stole home on a wild pitch and a lackadaisical catcher.  His coach did not tell him to, but, it was cold and drizzly and I think Nick just wanted it over.  The crowd went nuts and Zack was the first to greet him.  His teammates let go a chant of "Nick, Nick, Nick," as he led the way around the bases for a victory...

And, here lies the problem.  These are their stories to tell, to decide on the details, add the players, decide on the beginnings and the endings.  These are their stories to curate now.  These are their stories to tell, perhaps as old men conjuring up a memory of a long-forgotten baseball game from an oft-remembered childhood.  Or, maybe, they'll never tell it.  Maybe, they'll just hold it close, keeping the joy and pride and happiness for themselves, bringing it back and adding to it as their good times pile up and into themselves.  Or, in my perfect future tense, they'll read the paragraph above and remember.  I hope for all three.

(Yes, I do see the inherent irony in my telling a baseball story to make the point of not telling baseball stories because it is not my place to do so...)

Let's move on.

I opened my Spotify account the other day.  The account I share with the boys.  Kidz Bop; The Very Best of Peter, Paul and Mary; Saturday Night Fever; Hymns for Hipsters; Tennessee Ernie Ford Gospel Classics; Saint Motel Extended Remix, Selena Gomez and The Who.  I can't imagine an odder mix.

It's a popular notion among parents that we can actually shape our kid's musical tastes, or, worse in my opinion, tell them how great our music was and how much theirs sucks.  Pop music is fine, and has a place.  My music is pretty good, too, but, they need to find that out on their own.

Sadly, I thought there might be a story in these weeping lilacs bent under the weight of the rain and wind:

Or in this image of sunset orange and red tulips about to lose their petals relinquishing the beauty of the blossoms to the better story of rebirth and time:

I was wrong, maybe some other time, yes?

I had hoped originally that I might conclude my thoughts on the whole "boys-are-men-are-boys" thing I've been working on in two previous posts, On Boyness and Green Scales Still Fall.  I was wrong again, mostly because all this other stuff is in the way.

I worked long and hard in the restaurant business, from my mid-teens to just a few years ago.  Back when I was managing them, there were what most places called "Shift Books,' a notebook of some kind in which were written the days events and the like.  Usually they were just short paragraphs from a tired manager, scribbled at the end of a long shift, about sales and the special, what sold, what didn't, who was late, who left early, problems in the bar or with guests, that sort of thing.  However, when I wrote them, I, well, got a little more creative.  I'd tell stories about peculiar guests or funny incidents.  I was famous for them and it was the first thing most mangers looked at when I'd closed the night before.

Sometimes, I look on what I am doing around here as "shift notes."  I could just give the facts and show the images and all that, but, for some reason, I wanted to make them more interesting, deeper.

I liked turning those nights closing bars and taverns and dining rooms into stories.  I could tell you dozens and may someday, but here, right now, they don't seem appropriate.  Yet.

Nick loves to watch television shows, Disney shows and Animaniacs and popular movies, whole binged-watched series no longer on the air whose stars now have fallen or burn in more mature venues.  I have to admit that I found it annoying, especially when he'd watch shows he'd already seen many times, for instance Looney Tunes on a DVD we've had forever.  Recently, I figured something out, something that took me a very long time to come to - you've got to learn the ways a story can be told.

I'm pretty sure that's what Nick is doing.  His count for the books he's read this year in a reading challenge at school is well over a hundred - a hundred and forty, actually, but I won't mention that - but longer books are counted as two.  He doesn't read crap, either.  I've read several and they're really quite good, far better than the silly sports and good friend and unflinchingly didactic boys novels I read at his age.  We talk about the things he's read.  He's a good reader.

There is more to reading than the stuff we we are told to look for - the tone and tense and meter and pace and plot and characterization - and a careful, smart reader knows the secret to all of that, contemplation.  Nick thinks about books.  He may tell me something he thought of about a book he finished months ago tomorrow.

Good stories linger.  Good stories give for a long time.  Good stories go and return and rekindle in our minds.  But you gotta know one when you hear it.  I think that's why Nick likes a good Disney movie or old episode of "Good Luck, Charlie."  I think that's why I do as well.  You see, we are always learning to hear a story, sing a song, unspin a yarn. And, in so doing, we are learning how to tell them as well.

"Zack and his jumping."  I'll just leave it at that, knowing when I read that phrase in twenty years I'll remember watching him run down a hallway, arm up, leaping for the door frame, ceiling fan pull chain or just in general.  I'll remember him sitting at dinner and suddenly getting up and in one fluid movement jumping for the opening between the dining room and the living room which he can get well above now.  I have him wipe the jelly and gravy and bbq fingerprints off the wall, mostly because I can't seem to get him to stop jumping, which for some reason irritates me to no end... I'm trying to let it go.  If a boy leaps through childhood, joyfully jumping and happily reaching up, further and further, well, there are less apt metaphors.

Marci and I sometimes, when the boys are goofy and silly and sweetly annoying, say to one another, "Damn happy kids."

I am supposed to tell a sad story about some gophers I know.  We call them woodchucks around here.  It's about a she-chuck and her three playful kits in the front yard and an ominous thud in the street, a garbage bag and a shovel, and later a hawk in the back yard and talons and fur.  And, a few tears.  Mine

I don't want to.

I'll tell this one instead.  There are numerous rabbits in the back yard... as happens with rabbits. I was watching a couple of young ones, bucks I'd guess no longer kits, out under the maples.  They were chasing and annoying each other, getting into mock fights, rolling around running madly to another spot and basically turning and taunting the other guy.  They reminded me of something, I can't imagine what?

At one point, one of the brothers - because I can only assume they are - leaps up out of a tussle and runs straight towards the fence line.  Now, our fence is what I grew up calling "page wire," a wide, rectangular wire weave often, in the fields around my childhood, topped with a single strand of barbed wire.  Our fence is a split rail one with three horizontal runners between wood posts.  To keep in pets - but not wildlife - from top to bottom runs the page wire.  Back to the rabbits.

The one is heading for the fence.  I'm figuring that he knows a way under it and I'd guess his playmate did too.  No, he runs for that fence, full gallop, gracefully jumping towards the gap between the bottom rails and, well, hits that fence so hard the wire rings, poor little myopic dude.  I gasp at the surprise of it.

He falls back hard on his haunches and sort of sits there stunned and shaking his head, confused at this new reality, this force-field, his little mind baffled at this sea change.  The other one is a few feet behind him and, as God is my witness, is rolling on his back laughing his little head off.  Literally, rolling in mirth at his brothers expense, and, I have to admit, it was pretty funny.

Once he regains his senses and sees his buddy laughing at his expense, he charges full out, leaping at the other guy who is still contorted in laughter, pins him down and, I swear, bites a chunk of his ear off.  He jumps and runs away under the fence, in pain I am sure.

I week or so later I saw a few rabbits grazing in the evening twilight.  One of them had a visible nick out of his ear.  Another had a on a little pair of black safety glasses.

Oh, did I mention we are reading Watership Down?

(You're at seventeen-hundred-and-seventy-two words.  Have you prepared a summation?

Shut up, Other-one-me! 

I'm just tryin' to help.

Well, don't.  And why do you always insist on writing out numbers? 

It uses up your precious word count.

Go.  Away!)

The boys did a "Reduce/Reuse/Recycle"  art project for school.

Zack took apart an ancient - like, 1980s ancient - VCR and a couple other defunct electronics and imagined a cityscape with the parts he'd scavenged.  It's pretty clever.

Nick made a sculpture out of old boxes, cutting and taping them together into a form he liked.  He used a flour and water papier-mâché to cover it and painted it with old cans of spray-paint I'd never use.  I helped him with some techniques and with the somewhat tedious task of covering it, really tedious actually.

And, I'm done.  Except for one thing.

Guy Clark died last week.  He was a personal hero of mine.  Short of Bob Dylan, no other singer/songwriter influenced my style as a singer of songs.  When I first started working on this post - which was longer ago than I'd care to admit - I'd decided to call it, "Stuff That Holds Up," which is a line from a song I play of his, one I included in this post.  I remember thinking that the small little stories and memories here today were just a big pile of stuff in a way, not always so important or life-changing, but certainly, to quote the chorus of his song,

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don't hang on the wall
Stuff that's real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.

I thought that the memories I'm laying down here, archiving here, stealing from them, perhaps, are indeed, "stuff that holds up."

That was the day before he died.  Godspeed, Guy.

There at the bottom of the note it says:  "Stuff - words repeated intent - affect."

Yeah, I don't know either.

Thanks for coming around.  Peace to you and, if you're a fan, give a listen to this tune, The Randall Knife... for Guy.

Peace to you.  Here in my hemisphere Summer is coming.  I might not be around here as much for a while.  I'd say that is because I'm busy and focused on the boys this time of year and that might even be part of the truth.  But I need sometimes, some time.  Some time to listen and watch and taste and feel the stories around me - which come like memories, or are memories - as they unfold like old maps, unfurl like vellum and ink, float like forgotten words in the winds of melody or linger in the air like tobacco smoke and incense and gather in wisps on the ever-descending ceiling of time.

Goodbye for now...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Vimeo Test (Private)

Bill thinks he marked this private.  He is wrong.  I just hit publish.  You see, he posted that ridiculous Hand and Bolt thing Friday after I left.  He knows we are trying to get away from that style, trying to distance ourselves from the story of these boys, he knows that he must move on.

He doesn't want to.

We have to. 

(The video is close-captioned.)

I do feel obliged to tell you that he did have a very nice piece on faith and fatherhood published on City Dads Group.  He's not nearly as good as the writers he's been thrown in with.  Ones who wouldn't end a sentence with not one, but two, prepositions.

Here's a link "Teach Faith to Children So They Can Find Their Own Prayer"

Peace to you all,


Friday, May 6, 2016

Hand and Bolt

This was in Nick's sketchbook.

I told him it was sort of interesting and he said I could use it here.  I let him do the photo-editing on Picmonkey and this is what he came up with.

I'm not sure why this fascinates me so...

Something about the creative mind, but, I could write a thousand words or just stop here.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Green Scales Still Fall

This is supposed to be the followup to my previous post On Boyness.  It is not.

I had a lot of great ideas for it, though.  I'd outlined a few stories to tell, stories of times when I see the man in the boy - a determined pitcher, an understanding sibling, a courageous helper, - moments when the reverse of my "men are boys" thesis becomes apparent.

But, you know, fate's a funny, fickle fucker and, well, I think I got filibustered.

Sometimes, before I start to write, I like to get out my guitar and sing a few songs just to get things going.  So earlier today I lit the "focus candle" and started a song I play all the time and, the truth is... I wasn't really into it.  I remembered a faded orange file I'd found a while back filled with most of the songs I used to play but don't anymore - songs gone out of fashion, song that folks would laugh at if I played them now, songs with difficult fingerings, songs from the American Songbook, songs I'd written and forgotten and remembered and forgotten.  Yes... songs forgotten sums it up nicely.

I'd already fished in it before if you remember, so I knew there would be something I might like to play.  I do a game when I practice sometimes, I mix up my music and just grab a song and play it.  I call it "Ya git what ya git."

First song I picked out was "If I Were a Carpenter."  Tim Hardin wrote it and sang it at Woodstock, I learned it from a June and Johnny Cash album that was floating around, like the words to the song, in the wind of the seventies.  A girl I didn't know - at the time - sang harmony to it, June's part, in the dark, beyond the halo of a campfire somewhere around '78 or '79.  One song, a whole damn story.  One piece of paper and I'm sucked up and onto a memory road I'd not been on in years.  Save my love through loneliness / Save my love through sorrow / I've given you my onlyness / Come and give me your tomorrow.

Second song, Rocky Raccoon.  In high school and college everybody was singin' this tune.  I played it and remembered that I'd never really done it very well, kind of stumbling through the first spoken part.  However, in the dorm rooms of Athens alone, I probably played that song a hundred times.  We were so young, boys really, singing and carryin' on so freely and joyfully, finding a wildness we'd not known was in us.  Again, only a piece of fading paper, awkwardly typewritten words and chords scrawled in red - usually in the wrong place - and tobacco stains and beer can rings, but it lifted me back to a time that so shaped me.

Alright then, Let It Be is on the flip side.  This was a song that everyone wanted to hear for a while.  I've only managed once to do it justice.  Not on a bar stage or a summer bonfire or a winter kitchen with friends all around, not there where others would have seen it, but, in a meadow in the mountains of Arizona just east of Payson.  I was camping, alone and... you know what, that's a long story, one I like to be reminded of but am not yet ready to tell.  I suppose that's because it hasn't finished quite yet.  ...speaking words of wisdom, indeed.

Truth is, I suck at Beatles songs.

I pulled out a paper-clipped set of five or six sheets of paper.  One I used in the post I mentioned earlier.  Songs of angst and hope with titles like Pink Skyline of the City and Goin' Round in Circles and Dreaming (of Being with You).  Could I make that up?  I play a couple, or try to, at least.  Melodies are gone or vague at best, chord changes lost, but... the feelings aren't lost.  I wrote them when I lived in NYC in my twenties.  As I sing them I feel like I am saying hello to an old me, and, somehow as if he is waving back through echoes and premonitions.

Since there are five pages here, in the spirit of the game, I play them all.  On the last two pages are three songs by a college roommate, hepcat, friend and, briefly, band mate.  Mostly, really, he was a fellow sojourner, someone I still admire to this day, who may be reading this now.  Hey, dude.

The songs are Leavin' Me Now, I'm in Love  and Heather's Into Leather.  The first two, it occurs to me, are really sort of the same song, same keys, chords reversed. They are two parts of the same story, an ancient story, a modern story... my story, your story.  Our story.  I tried to play Heather but, being rock-n-roll impaired I never really did it well, power chords and a punk beat were never something I was good at.  Good memories, though, good times, I guess people say.

I play Sunshine, you remember, I'll be damned if he'll run mine, and a Jim and Ingrid Croce song called Say What The Hell from the only album they did together.  I pull out Sister Golden Hair and the Lighfoot classic If You Could Read My Mind, Love  and John Prine's Flag Decal.  Songs I learned in late high school, early college.  Songs that remind me of a crush I had on golden haired Renee - or Melody, was it? - songs I learned for friends or family, songs that really, really mattered to me, songs that the story was in the learning.

My fingers were getting weary and you might remember I was about to write important stuff about big themes.  I decided to pull one last song, I got one I'd learned when I was maybe twelve, only a little older than the boys are now, Puff, The Magic Dragon.

I found the fingering and remember the capo and started singing it.  I'll tell you what, I'll play it now for you.  This isn't when I played it earlier, just now as I am writing this up.

I didn't know I'd cry this morning, but when I came to the words a dragon lives forever but not so little boys / painted rings and giant's wings make way for bigger toys I choked back a sob and then had to stop playing and let the tears come.  I'd mourned Puff so many times as a kid, felt so sad for him, but, I'd never cried for little Jackie Paper before.  Never cried for his mighty loss, never cried for his missed make-believe journeys, never cried for his lost innocence.

As a boy it'd never occurred to me.  Poor Puff who could no longer be brave, who slowly slipped into his cave.  But now, now, I was Jackie Paper and I was his father.  I was Schrödinger's kid, both boy and man at the same time, experiencing the song both now and before.  It was as if the boy that was me sensed this day would come and gave me this song for the time I would come to mourn my own sons' fading innocence. 

So my desk looks like this...

... and I am no closer to defending my boys are men idea, which is where this all started.

Or am I?

The men that I see in my boys, the man I see in pictures of myself at their age, the boy I watched just today, learning a song in basement bedroom so many years ago, the men they will become, seem just as formed as the boys they appear to be.

Is manness simply innocence rekindled?

Thanks for indulging me, again.  Remember, most of what I am doing here is for another time, it is for the men these boys will become, or, as you are right now, right boys?


This is the fourth piece in my accidental "Green Series."  The first was "Green Ball of Gratitude," the story of a forgotten ball and hope fulfilled.  The second is "The Frayed Green Rope" about a rope I bought a long time ago that's still telling me stories.  I wrote "The Man in The Green Reds Cap" after I met myself on rural road I grew up on.  Check them out if you'd care to.

See you next time...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On Boyness

There is only one thing you need to know about men, we are boys.  I'm not trying to be flip, I don't mean farts and butt jokes and the word duty and weird dances and, well, boobs - heh-heh, duty.

Peel back your onion please.

Men are formed as boys and...  Listen, let's just get this out of the way, I am generalizing here, stereotyping, profiling, even.  I am not marginalizing or devaluing any one's experience.  Stories need archetypes.  So, when I say boys, I mean me and my friends growing up and when I say men I mean me and the thousands of guys I've had the privilege to know over the fifty-plus years I've known men.

I am watching two boys become men, which is in my mind simply growing out of boyhood.  I, of course, saw this coming.  Or at least I thought I did.  As it turns out, I am also witnessing my own childhood and remembering my own boyness.  I am finding that a bit offputting and, well, melancholy.

I was recently at the grocery store and, as I was checking out, I recognized a face in the little bank they have in groceries these days.  It was the bearded, bespectacled face of a big man in a tailored suit and striped tie.  I couldn't place it.  Once I was done, I glanced over one more time and the right neurons sparked and I remembered him from a group I'd been involved with a few years back.  He'd been watching me and when I looked his way he was smiling and gave me a little wave.

Here's the thing, though, I didn't see a grown man, I saw the little boy who still lived in him.  I saw a shy boy with an impish grin looking to be recognized, longing for attention, hoping for connection.  I saw the shadow sadness that fills so many boys as they struggle to fit in.  His beard and glasses faded away from his face, his suit became a sports uniform, his shoulders dropped a bit and a certain pureness come over him.

I was watching a grandfather at church the other day.  He and his wife, both easily in their seventies I'd guess, had two young children with them, three and five maybe, and were working hard to keep them quiet and at least somewhat engaged.  The woman held the three-year-old girl in a pretty yellow dress and white sandals for most of the service.  The older man was left with the boy with plastered hair, khakis, a white shirt and nice clip-on tie.  The grandfather looked tired and a little stern.  The boy was fidgety and that seemed to frustrate him a bit.  The boy had two little yellow plastic trucks - the same yellow as his sister's dress - and wanted to play with them.

I looked away, distracted by our boys who were nearly as fidgety as that little boy, and, when I looked back at the boy and his granddad, I saw something different.  I saw the little boy playing with the trucks, moving them slowly and quietly on the pew, occasionally jumping a hymnal or ending up vertical on the one in front of him.  And then, I noticed his playmate.  Another boy, perhaps a little older, rolling his truck, bumping the other boy's, a look of conspiratorial happiness on his smiling face.  The weight of seriousness, of piety, of time, had melted away and I saw the older brother he'd perhaps been.  I saw his boyness, tarnished perhaps, flicker in an old-time movie sort of way.  I saw him as he once was and, I am just coming to understand this, as he, we, still are.

I am in the bathroom washing my hands.  I look in the mirror and check my teeth using the classic Cheshire cat grin.  I raise my eyebrows in surprise.  I try one singularly, and then the other, failing both times.  This results in a sort of grimace because I've forgotten to shut my mouth.  I smile at how silly I look.  I try a little grin, unable, as I've always been, to muster up anything better than creepy.  I make a scary face.  I, well.. mug.

I unexpectedly realize that it is not the graying, wrinkled, wizening old man that should be the visage in the mirror, no, it is this boy.

Me, Grade Five

There's more, there's always more.  Nick has been watching me and, as I am drying my hands, he comes in and starts mugging in his own style.  I give him a dirty look when he raises his eyebrows one at a time, he knows I can't do it.  He favors a raised chin, sort of profiley, approach.  He laughs as I mimic him.  He pulls his ears out and and taunts me.  I roll my eyes with exaggeration, he does it better.  

A not unpleasant sort of vertigo overcomes me, brought on by the strange swirl of faces - one in front of me, him in the mirror, me in the mirror, the real me, the boy me, him now, him watching me seeing myself as him and...  I want to jump into the looking-glass, to be that boy, because that is when I best understood the man I would be, the man I am.

I put my my towel away and wink at him.  He winks back.  I leave, but I sneak a peek at him just as I am almost out of sight, he is practicing his winking...
He never questioned what I was doing, never thought it odd, he just jumped right in.  Boys are like that, and, in their little boy's soul, men are too.

I think on my boyhood more now than I have ever done in the past.  I've always remembered it, childhood, carried it with me, but, the truth is I never spent much time reflecting on it.  Now, though, the boys have given me the keys and legend to the map that gets me from now to then and, indeed, back again.

If I were you, I think I might grow weary of hearing my cry of "wait, there's more."

You might remember from pre-algebra that if an equation works one way, it works in the other way as well.  Something about the inverse being true or is that a syllogism...?

If men are indeed boys, then, inherent in that statement, boys are indeed men.  It's a sadder equation, I think, and...

Well, that's a story for another time.

Thanks for coming around, I know it gets confusing around here, I hope you'll forgive that.

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

"I am a majestical monkey goat ... Baaa!"

(yes, it's weird here)

I get it, but, I am just a boy...  hehe, "butt."


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Too Big For Your Britches

I learned long ago not to trust a basement.  Fundamentally, they are caves and, as such, they will always be prone to leaks and seepage and the mold and mildew that follow.  It's not the fault of the basement, I suspect we expect to much from a hole in the ground lined with concrete - eight or twelve inches of it to separate us from the ground, the dirt, the very soil and rock and worms and roots that have been crumbling us down for eons.  It's a lot to ask of a space.

In our basement, it is the north-west corner.  It leaks, probably as a result of the dogwood - the rather anemic dogwood - on the front of the house, it's too big to be so close to the house and I suspect the roots are wreaking havoc there at that corner.  It'd been an expensive fix but I'd rather not think about that, mostly because then I'd bore you with the details.

We put down old towels and frayed and bleach-stained bath mats to sop up the water.  I pulled a load of these towels and such out of the dryer the other day and realized a couple were old beach towels, swimming towels, whatever you want to call them.  The stripey ones we took to the Y where they had a couple years of swim lessons.  I can see them in their too-big suits, standing in the showers shivering then wrapping themselves in these towels.  I doubt they'd even drape their shoulders any more.

The two that match - the ones with cartoonish frogs wearing scuba masks - they took to our friend's lake house and played superheroes in them, later dragging them in the mud and sand.  The short ends are worn out and unraveling from it all.  I don't think they'd even make it halfway down their backs now.

It's all like that.  The "littles," the "smalls," the "boy's," the "kid's" are all being abandoned for larges and adult smalls.  The little Ikea cups, used those many years, are nearly forgotten.  The small divided plates can't hold enough waffles and fruit and yogurt anymore.  We are three gloves into baseball, I can use the ones they use now.  The tiny little gloves they first used I leave in the baseball bag holding memories but not back time.

Numbers are creeping into sizes.  Medium shirts and jackets are now 10-12, large tops out at 14.  And, something I noticed just a little while back, Nick has two pairs of Levi's that are size 27x27.  Grown up sizing right there.

I was a good-looking young man once, as hard as that might be to believe now, and I did some modeling in my twenties, runway work.  I thought I was the shit, but really, it was nothing.  On maybe my fourth or fifth gig a dresser told me that they kept asking me back because I was a standard size - 38R jacket, 9 shoes, medium shirt, and my pants size was 32x32, "thirty-two squared," I remember she said.

Thirty-two is just five away from those twenty-sevens Nick is wearing now.  Five inches between him now and the size I was as a young man.  For some reason that takes my breath away.

You know what?  I've got a pair of Levi's I went to college with, probably in (you'll know why when you see them), lets compare them to the ones Nick's sportin' now.

That's the back of them.  It's easy to tell Nick's are Levi's, the leather tag at the belt line is still fresh.  If you look real carefully on mine you'll see a speck of red on the right pocket.

Yes, the pants are epic.  My Mom patched jeans with great skill and she just kept patching these.  In later years I would add hand-stitched ones, with far less skill.  I'll bet I wore these off and on for fifteen or more years.

Here's the front of them.

Fortunately, old patched jeans can't talk, but... they remember.  However, that's not what I'm getting at today.

I shouldn't tell you about the time I wore them to a wedding with a sharp white button-down, a nice reggie tie, Topsiders, and a tailored suit jacket - my date was pissed but the couple hundred strangers I left as friends thought they were a hoot.  I'll leave out the very flirtatious bridesmaid and the inebriated father-of-the-bride, who said something like "Why couldn't she marry someone like this guy?" pointing to me as he and his business partners all did shots I was pouring from a bottle  of Cuervo I found stashed below the "beer and wine only" bar.

I'll leave out how warm they were, like two pairs of jeans, and how many fires and whiskeys I may enjoyed in them.  Two girls tried to steal them from me; I made the mistake of washing them in the ocean on the southern coast of Crete where they dried stiff and salt-encrusted; once I left them (and a whole load of laundry) in a laundromat in Queens - I closed the bar next door and waited four hours, smoking cigarettes and dozing off, until they opened at six; but, these are all stories for another time.  Ask me about those jeans in ten or twenty years, boys.  Or look for a blog called, "britchesinstiches." NSFW, by the way.

Anyway, I got to wondering what size those old patched jeans were originally.  Levi's, because, well, Levi's, puts an inside label in their pants on the front pocket seam.  I dug around in them on what I was sure was a futile search.

Thirty-one, thirty-threes.  I remember now.  They fit great with a pair of cowboy boots but I cuffed them when I was barefoot or in regular shoes.  Oh man, is this the pair of pants I caught fire because I used the cuff to stash a smoldering roach and when I got up the pant leg flamed up as it caught the breeze?  Yep, someone put it out with a beer.

(Again, a story for another time, which is a difficult subject for me... some of these stories are pretty fuckin' funny.)

There's an aphorism I grew up hearing and saying, it's not so prevalent now, "Don't get too big for your britches."  I'm not sure I really ever knew what it meant.  I mean, we used it to tell someone that, well, they weren't "the boss of me" - which I've heard the boys say - or as way to tell on a classmate, as in "Mrs. Faulkner, Jimmy's gettin' too big for his britches."  It was a sometimes gentle reminder to be cool, "Don't get too big for your britches, Earl Wayne," or a gross indictment of a person's character, "Betsy Jones was always too big for her britches."

Pointing out that someone might be too big for his or her pants implies that, someday, they will be.  I've been watching N and Z getting too big for their britches for years now, literally.  But what does it intone metaphorically?  Someone trying to do something they aren't ready for.  A little boy trying to tell a group of his friends they should all follow him to Mr. Poff's pond, when they knew he didn't know the way.  A ten year old saying he was big enough to drive the tractor, even though his foot couldn't engage the clutch.  A pimple-faced sophomore suggesting to the varsity quarterback that he run a sweep instead of the fullback up the middle thing which clearly wasn't working, and, where I was taking a wicked beating.

Maybe, again metaphorically, it means, like, "Hey, you gave it a shot, but you're not right ready for that."  It sidehandedly suggests, good job, maybe next time, it'll come.

I'd say a lot of my friends thought I was too big for those very britches above.  I'd say we all do it - taking leadership when it isn't ours, showing impatience where we should be more tolerant, bossing others when we shouldn't - but rarely is it done with misdemeanor aforethought.  In fact, sometimes it happens when we are trying to be useful but step out of bounds a bit.

I recently got too big for my britches, I was trying to help but it wasn't my place to do so.  I paid for it, I'd say, and, I learned a lesson.  Perhaps that's the ultimate purpose of the phrase, to remind us that we do make mistakes, we do try and fail, we do go out of bounds and what we learn from it is, in the end, what matters.

I'd suggest that it is a boy's job to get too big for his britches and, well, it's a man's to try not to.

You can write that down if you want to.  Frankly, it made more sense last night...  I wonder if writing overly long essays is simply a case of gettin' to big for my own britches?  I'll let time and memory sort that out.

Thanks for stopping by today.  I missed my Friday deadline last week and other-on-me is pissed.  I don't really care, dude's too big for his britches anyway.

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

"don't. taunt. the slime."

That's good advice right there...

Peace.  I gotta go buy a domain name.