Thursday, July 7, 2016

“Oh, Thank God, We’re Home”


This piece first appeared on the website City Dads Group and I have permission to post it here.

***

The light lingers over the lake, the boat bobs, tubing is done for today. My twin boys and their new friend from school are using towels as capes. The sun has kept us out later than we should be, and we have a 45-minute drive home. It’s time.

“Let’s get going, boys, it’s late and you’ll have to get up in the morning,” I shout down the hill from the deck we’ve been enjoying. They are done, sunburnt and weary. They head our way.
 
“Watcha gotta do in the morning, dude?” the new friend asks.
 
“We have to go to Mass.”
 
A blank stare from the boy.
 
“You know, church.”
 
“Wait, you guys go to church?” the new boy asks.
 
Without missing a beat, my other son says, “Wait, you don’t?”
 
I grew up going to the Heritage Presbyterian Church, on, you guessed it, Church Street in the great Midwest. I’ve never not gone to church, even in my groggiest college days. I’m not talking every week, just as often as I could.
 
My wife grew up attending Catholic schools, sang in choirs and was one of the first girl altar servers her church allowed at the time. She was a youth minister for a number of years and works in ministry still. She’s gone to Mass regularly for as long as she remembers.
 
There was no doubt our kids were going to church. You’d probably guess there was some difficult decision making that had to be done. Nope, not really. We went with the one with incense and water and coded garments and saints.
 
It’s time for me to be a bit more honest. I’m not a good Christian. The dogma borders on myth to me. I’m uncomfortable with some of it, unsure. Religion asks a lot of a man, in my opinion, and sets him up for failure, doubt, pain. So, why do we go to church?
 
The sunset is spectacular out my rear­view; high cirrus clouds take the red light and bend them pink here and orange there in stripes across the sky. The familiar, comforting voice of Marty Brennaman calls the Reds game on the radio, three to two in the seventh. The country road cuts through cornfields, forgotten little towns with unnecessary stoplights and down a long hill that leads us home. It is pastoral, serene, simple, right.
 
A boy sighs audibly, the scent is grape Jolly Rancher. The other boy says in a quiet voice, “Thank you, God, for this beautiful day.”
 
I whisper, Amen. They doze off and I am left to contemplate in the quiet, now sacred, cab of an old F-150.
 
You see, if you set the theology aside, forgo the dogma, there is great simplicity in faith. In seven words, my son pretty much summed up where 50 years of hard thinking got me. Prayer, thanksgiving, beauty.
 
I want my sons to pray, not this specific prayer or that one, no, their own prayer. I hardly believe prayers are answered — people die, lotteries are lost, tests failed­ — and I learned long ago not to ask for things. But prayer makes you listen. When you ask Yahweh or Mary or Buddha or Ra for answers, you have to find them. They’re between your heartbeats, behind a setting sun, between the stars. They are there in the moment between the breaths of two dozing man-­cubs in the backseat of a red Ford truck.
 
I want my sons to give thanks. My question for those unfaithed ­– for lack of a better word –­ has always been, “To whom do you give thanks?” In this crazy, selfish world, it is easy to become the center of everything.
 
Giving thanks changes that. It is an admission of vulnerability, of need, of humility. The joy of giving thanks, outwardly, overwhelms the vague smugness of self-praise. It’s never mattered where the thanks go –­ upward, downward, inward –­ what matters is the search for thankfulness in the rooms of the heart marked “Love and Kindness” and “Truth and Beauty.”
 
I want my sons to see beauty. Sunsets, trees, cathedrals, oceans, faces, eyes, hearts ­– it is everywhere. In beauty, one sees the mask of, well, I’ve tried to avoid it, but, God, and behind the mask is … I dunno, truth? Somethingelseness?
 
One of my sweet boys, 3-years-old at the time, thought a dethorned rose was so beautiful he carried it around like a touchstone for a whole day. The next morning it was wilted and he was sad but thought it was “still sorta beautiful,” I’m still not sure if he meant the rose or the rose’s story. Another time, we sat on a soccer pitch on a warm fall evening and watched the sunset. The other boy, then 8 years of age, said it was “glorious,” which it was. He knew the science of it all, but he still offered the question, “Why would God do this for us?” Grace, I whispered.
 
Children are ill-prepared for theology and dogma. Without the benefit of experience, the tales of commandments and compassion and resurrection and redemption are jumbled in detail and mystery. What a child learns from these stories­ — common across the cultures — ­ is that there are rules and justice, that love is way important, that renewal and do­-overs are possible. It is not the “redeemed one” that’s important, it’s that there is a redemption song.
 
I don’t know, then, if I can teach faith to my sons.
 
I can show them mine, though.
 
And, they can show me theirs.
 
It is dark in the driveway. I open the back door. My breath catches as the soft light shines on two slumbering, sweatshirted, rosy little boys, and I offer up a quiet prayer of thanksgiving for these beautiful, beautiful boys, and, before my breath starts again, I know it has been heard.
 
One little boys stirs, “Oh, thank God, we’re Home.”
 
And yes, he did capitalize “Home.”

***
 If this seems better than what I usually throw down, it's because it was expertly and tenderly edited.  Yeah, it's sort of noticeable isn't it?


It's important to remember that I am trying - trying, mind you - to use this space as basically a long love letter to these boys and, I hope, a few others.  I'm having fun, most of the time, and hopefully I'm archiving some memories for the boys but...  well, I want them to know, really know, I loved them.  Love is a damned verb, folks forget that.  It takes action, effort and deliberation.


I need a image...  let's see.


I always refer to my  spirituality as a journey.  A path behind, a path ahead.  I just don't always have someone to hold hands with... I'm glad they do.


Peace on your journey and thanks for walking with me on mine.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Foreshadows of Dawn



I've been carrying a note I wrote to myself in my purse for the last several weeks. (I've included a capture of it as an attachment.)



The top line says, "What dif can I make," and there is a downward arrow which points to the bottom line, "...is there a difference to be made?"



The arrow is the key. You see, it represents the passage of time. When I was younger I used to ask myself what a difference I could make. Not in some altruistic, giving sort of way, but also in the differences I could make every day and, also, perhaps sadly, about the difference I might make as an actor or singer or famous guitarist - pipedreams, fantasies, wishes on fishes.



And then the arrow.



"Is there a difference to be made?" is a question I ask of myself frequently. I usually answer yes, the yes that is in action - to love, to cherish, to honor, and sometimes, to hold on. However, from somewhere deep in me, sometimes I hear a 'no.' I heard that no a while back, a month I'd guess, when I was struggling on a piece of prose, working and listening to it, spending hours on it, reflecting deeply and profoundly and... 'no'.  I was overwhelmed by the truth of it.



Short story, long, I listened to it. I thought about that sense of truth I'd felt. I realized, late night, lager in hand, that it was a tired voice, firm, but raspy, weathered, worn out, weakened. A voice whispering retreat, not defeat. A voice, somehow defiant in its despondency. A voice which was weary.



I reached for my vintage Alvarez and played John Prine's "Paradise" and haven't really written much since.



I've been learning new songs, including this one by Guy Clark (which is a must-listen if you had a father, or are one)



"The Randall Knife"





and I've been trying to memorize and rehearse my more popular songs.



"Is that really gonna make a difference?"



A raspy voice from the cellar of my soul calls up, "Yes!"



I can't say how it's making a difference. The boys are home and underfoot most of the time so I play when they are on their laptops playing Wizards101 or Slither.io or whatever. They hear me, though, and know I am practicing and I suppose that's a good thing.



I play in the late evenings to the frogs and fireflies and hooting owls and cicadas. I sing to the stars and the racing, ebbing summer moon. I sing to my god and your god and my neighbor's god and the gods of our ancestors and the gods yet to come and a harmonic comes back to me that seems, well, right, pure... eternal.



I play sometimes to my technologies but they intimidate me and I don't play well with them. I've tried dozens of times now to record some originals from my CD on my phone so there is a visual archive, a physicality to the memories I am laying down.



The difference being made is, more than likely, that I am learning so much. Just as writing and the dad bloggers scene and crafting a novel and writing bad poems taught me so much about myself, singing and playing is doing it as well, if not better. Honestly, the guitar was my first teacher - besides books - to take me aside and whisper, "There's more, you know." I'd sort of forgotten how much the stories that only music can tell meant and mean to me.



So, short of one post, This Raised Sword, which I wrote in anger and profound sadness, I've been away from the keyboard, which I am sure is evident by the previous several paragraphs. There are a lot of pieces I've ideas for and one just needs to be done but, I keep shying away from it. Hell, before I started this I ironed six shirts just to avoid it. I'm weird like that. I know the voice is getting better, maybe this is a trial run, maybe...





I am well. Thanks for asking. I've been, as I suppose is evident, introspective, which always leads people to ask if I'm alright. "Yes, yes, I'm fine. I just want to sit in the yard and drink and watch the years go by." Folks think that's a weird answer, I doubt you will.



I see your son is doing well and your attitude remains positive. Congrats on the temporary work, sometimes shrugging and saying "what the fuck" isn't the worst plan.





Peace to you, I'm still looking for mine, but, it's a great journey.





With best regards,



Bill



It's that damned arrow, that's where the stories are... and, I'm glad I finally figured out what that note was for.

*** 

I wrote the above in an email to my friend Brian Sorrell.  Ya'll know I don't usually use real names here, especially for the ancillary characters, except when I do.  Brian is a writer and a teacher and philosopher, he is a repairer of bikes and a changer of diapers - or nappies as he might say.  He is a weaver of intricate tales and an unraveler of simple ones.  He's smart and witty and fresh and, first and foremost for me, he is my friend.  He has a beautiful and compelling web presence on his blog, Write On.  Go there someday when you have some time and give it to him, his words are worthy of it, I promise.

So...

Why am I sharing this private note with you all?  Well, not to say I am beginning a late-life career as a singer/songwriter, although part of me wishes for that.  And not to say I'm quitting this gig, although for a while that seemed to be the course I wanted.  Also, I'm not sharing all this to say I'm going to become a major presence in the writing community, dazzling you with premier posts - topical clever and important pieces bound for virality, although it'd be nice to have more than forty people stop by my little corner here any given day.

No...

You know, when I first heard that voice say 'no', I was, honestly, I little scared, a little ashamed and a lot sad.  I thought it was another "ending" and I am very weary of endings.  But, the important lesson that they teach alludes me - they are always false.  When something ends it has time to rest, get stronger and tell you what can be learned.  I can't seem to remember that.

What seem like endings are often just rest stops, a pause to refresh and reflect, and... prepare for the journey - not a new journey, but the same one that trails behind you and winds and wanders ahead of you.


Alright then.  I'm back, I guess, for now.  I've a pile of obscure notes - not unlike the on that started all this today - full of ideas and stories.  I've pictures in the camera, baseball tales to tell.  I've words of advice for you and you and, always, always... me.

I'll try to get back on schedule and post on Fridays, and perhaps more often.  I'll get "other-one-me" to start things up again on the FB page and I'll rustle up some "... from the backseat..." offerings.   I fear you've forgotten my little porch here, forgotten the times you've been before, forgotten the conversations and hopes and dreams past.  Well, I'll tell ya what, come back at the end of the week.  My voice feels strong again, the heaviness that I perceived as an ending is lifting, and I see sunsets for what they are, a precursor to sunrises, the foreshadows of dawn.


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

"Lightening can be both pretty and dangerous ... like Minnie Mouse."



I've always found Minnie a little creepy...


Thanks for coming around again, remember the porch door is always unlocked, come by anytime, poke around, you might find something you left, or thought was over.


I've written on endings before in "Bottle Buddies and Roses or There's Always Another Door" and "Two Images, Two Hours (or Three Images, Five Hours)" and "I'm Afraid I'll Forget" and, finally, "The Elements of a Post."


As always, peace.  See ya real soon, alright?


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,

Other-one-me



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.

Peace.



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?


Peace.


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...