Friday, February 26, 2016

Busyness As Usual

I met a guy a while back who played guitar.  He seemed nice, well educated and spoken.  I found an opportunity to ask him if he and I might get together and play some tunes.  He said that sounded great so I asked him if some evening that week would be good.  He actually chuckled out loud and suggested that he was far to busy the rest of the month, December, in his defense, to get together.  I e-mailed him sometime during the next month and asked when he'd like to jam.  Again he mentioned how stressed and busy he was.  I tried one last time and when he rejected the idea again, I gave up.

I wanted the opinion of an old friend of mine about a song I was working on.  He said he was busy but he'd get to it as soon as he could.  He never did.

Another old friend of mine showed up on FaceBook some time ago, I messaged him and said we should talk on the phone and catch up.  I wanted to thank him for some things he said and did for me a lifetime ago.  He told me things were really busy and he was stressed and we should do it some other time.  We won't.

I am finally learning that when someone says they're "too busy" what they are really doing is - albeit politely - blowing you off.  Often, they are simply, in their minds, incapable of finding the time to engage you.  I get it, people work and have full schedules but, well, there is a flip side to it.

When you say you are too busy to be with someone - there's no nice way to say it - you diminish them, marginalize them.  I mean, you're too busy to fit me in - a new friend, an old friend, a mentor, a past love... a son?  Me, a person.

It hurts my feelings.

I'm a big boy though. I can take it.

But kids, not so.

I've paid attention to Nick and Zack.  I've watched them grow; I know their favorite things; I know what shirt they'll choose and why a boy just needs one pair of shoes.  I know how to make them laugh and I know what makes them cry.  I know whom loneliness frightens and who avoids aloneness; I know them as a friend would.

It's funny, I want to rail against this "busyness" thing but I can't find it in me.  I do it.  I project a mock busyness here on this blog.  That's not true.  I keep busy here because it shows the rest of the world how busy I am.  It's my way of getting to say "I'm Busy" I guess.  Well that's an awkward realization...

I'm not really that busy.  In fact I'm not busy at all.  I've got things to do, sure, but, I've got time to toss a ball or play a game of ping-pong or watch the new episode of "Teen Titans Go!"  I'm not too busy to make dinner, or to get up early and get some biscuits in of a  morning, or to change the toilet paper or say one more goodnight.

I guess some folks are.

Busyness trickles down and lingers longest in our children.

I'm not gonna tell you to drop your smartphone or close your FB account.  I'm not gonna ask you to stop over-scheduling your household and hurrying from one practice, appointment, rehearsal or meeting to another.

I am going to ask you to do this:  Look up, look around; engage.

Pay attention with intention.

Don't just look away from the phone, put it away.


I was in a coffee shop a year or so ago, the green one, you know.  I had a ceramic cup and a wobbly table and a small book.  I looked around and every face was down and glowing.  I don't have to describe the scene, you know it.  Had a tenth-century monk wandered in I am sure he'd have dropped to his knees in prayer, assuming that's what everyone was doing.  It was quieter than I expected, the sound of the espresso machines behind the dirge of names, like a litany of the dead.

Hell, I was tempted to pray.

My little table was close to the line, which ended next to me.  I watched.  I tried to smile at people, but most were so surprised, when they looked up, at meeting another pair of eyes they instantly looked back down at whatever they palmed.

I was looking towards the door when a mother and a little boy came in.  She looked sporty and was furiously texting with a manicured finger with one hand as the other held the boy's hand.  He was four or so and wore a parka and red stripey gloves with floppy fingers because his didn't quite reach into them all the way.  As soon as they were through the door the mother released the boy and headed for the line.

He didn't look around as a kid might at a new place, asking questions and taking it all in.  He'd been here before.  What he did was look at the people at the tables.  I knew what he wanted - perhaps what we all want - was for someone to notice him.  A few people would look his way and then look back down.  His little shoulders would square up, he looked a little taller and, then he'd deflate a little.

He gave a table of business men a floppy little wave.  And then, thinking, I'd guess, that it was an ineffectual wave, he took off the gloves and shoved them in his pocket and waved again.  One man saw him.  I knew he wanted to wave, I could see it in his eyes, but, he didn't.

"Daniel, come here and hold my pocket," the mom said.

He walked towards her.  He looked, and I'm sure felt, little, unimportant, invisible.

He looked around again.  Most everyone was standing in the line his mom was in.  His little eyes darted and hopped around and he'd jog his head a little trying to get a face in his view.

He walked by me, very close to me in fact, close enough to see his freckles, close enough to recognize the look in his eyes as sadness.  He finally looked my way.  I saw him and smiled and gave him a little palms out wave, subconsciously, maybe, showing him nothing was in my hand.  He lit up.  He waved back and smiled and...

"Daniel, hold my pocket!"

I made an "uh-oh" face and his eyes widened in mock fear.  He reached up and found the tender warmth of his mother's parka pocket.  He sort of swiveled around so that he had his hand where he needed it to be, but could still see me.

We did that bit you do with a kid - I hope you remember.  He made a face, I did.  He raised his eyebrows, one at a time.  I looked astonished at his prowess.  He laughed as I tried, but, had to hold one down with my finger.  I winked and he blinked back.  I longed to call him over, to talk to him, to put my hand on his shoulder, to show him he mattered.

They moved up to the counter, he turned to look into the pastry case.  He looked up at his mother and said something.  Her head shook no.  He looked back down at the case and then twisted again to look at me.  He made a sad face.  I shook my head knowingly, trying to show him I was sorry.  I shrugged my shoulders and indicated his mom, trying to suggest that he ask again.  He shook "no."    I shrugged again like, "why not?"

He tugged down on the pocket, kinda hard.  She looked at him and her face suddenly recognized him.  She looked around and caught my eye.  I smiled, she softened.  They turned back to the counter and then waited a bit, talking between them.  He kept glancing my way and I smiled back.  Following his gaze she found me again.  I smiled, winked and nodded.  She did, too.

As they finished, she walked by me and mouthed "thank you."  You see, she knew I'd been a part of it, she knew she looked foolish and cold.  She knew I caught her catching herself.

Daniel dawdled as Daniel's will do and was a few steps behind her.  He stopped in front of me, Bear Claw in hand, and smiled.  I put up my hand for a high five.  He put up his and slowly put his palm against mine.  It lingered there.

It still does.


I can't say what I'd like you to learn from this story, for what reason I present it; I'll let you do that yourself.

Here's the thing, it's about attention.  It's about intent.

So, maybe, like, please, don't let others - you know who I mean - think you're to busy for them.  It is unkind, and unkindness hurts.

I few years ago now I made this meme.  It's really the only one I've ever attempted.

(I'd forgotten about the post called "The Memefication of Folder X" in which I made bad memes out of a bunch of images I had.)

Well, thanks for coming around.

Listen, I asked "Other-one-Me" to post on the IHIWAT FB page when a new piece is up here.  Has he been doing that?  And, well, if he has, uh, has he been being a jerk about it?  I hope not.


Friday, February 19, 2016

What's Theirs is Mine

Lets play a game of "What's on the Coffee Table?"  (It'd help if you said that in your best game show announcer voice.)  ((Thanks.))

First, we'll need a table.  Oh, look, there's one right here.

There on the far left is a box of Z's Rubik Cubes, he's been heavy into them for quite some months now.  I made model airplanes when I was about his age - simple plastic ones put together with a glue that still wafts through my memory whenever Marci puts on nail polish.  I made ten or twelve I'd say, mostly WWII fighters and bombers and a Messerschmidt or two.  I suppose I learned a great deal attaching the bomb-bay doors and and tiny Rolls-Royce engines and Goodyear tires.  I'd like to say I considered war and logistics and the nature of good and evil and all that.

I asked Zack the other day why he was so interested in the cubes.  "I dunno, Dad, it just something to do."  Yeah, same with model airplanes, just passin' time not thinking about passin' time.

There's a deck of cards there to the right of that book of magic tricks Z got from the library.  I grew up watching people play cards.  My parents often hosted bridge games of two or three tables.  I used to watch my parents and my two older brothers play Hearts when we were camping.  One time, Dad went off to the latrine and handed his cards to me.  I played that hand and bid and won the next.  They didn't even know I knew how to play.

If you look closely you'll see three box lids, one says "Red Team" on a red piece of construction paper, the other says "Black Team" on, well, black (or, more accurately, that hopelessly dark gray black construction paper always is) paper.  Between the final lid is upside down and lined with orange duct tape.  These are components of card game called "Donut #s."  The pound symbol here indicating numbers.  There is a whole two page set of instructions I will spare you.

I am glad to see cards coming out more here in our household.  We haven't taught them many games yet.  I should get on that.

On the far right end of the table are two books by Newbery award winning author, Sharon Creech.  One is called The Unfinished Angel the other The Boy on the Porch.  Nick has, of course, read them both and was very enthusiastic about them.  I read them and so did Marci.

I can't say that I really ever gave juvenile fiction a second thought over the many years I've been an avid reader.  I never studied any of them, oh, wait, I did take a long look at The Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, which wasn't intended as a children's book.  Anyway, since the boys started reading I've taking a look at some of their favorites and I'll tell you what - there is a lot to be learned about plot and structure and character from these simple books.  I'd recommend them both to readers of all skill levels.

There in the center, to the right of the deck of cards is Nick's Hexbug and controller.  Below that an eraserless pencil, a calculator, a lovely San Damiano cross Marci came home with, a little black box and a thermometer and mini-compass key-chain.

So, I guess that's everything on the table.  You'll notice there is nothing of mine on the table.  I got to thinking about that.  At first, I was tempted to play the pity card; to feel sorry for myself because nothing of mine was represented.  It is easy, as a stay-at-home-parent, to feel like you no longer matter, that you've simply become your children's keeper.

That's honestly too easy and insipidly shallow.  You see, although nothing of mine is on that table, I just made it all mine.  I made this a memory.  I made a moment, created a scene, gave their things my narrative.

In a way, I think that is what parents who are involved, who pay attention to their kids, who worry and wonder for them, who seek a story for them, do.  We make our memories out of their now.

Or something like that.

In retrospect I could've at least put my coffee cup on the table...

... it is a coffee table, after all.  My coffee table.

I know said I'd spare you the two-page instructions from the game the boys invented but they are just too damn cute silly confusing adorable interesting to ignore.

I'm a little confused but, I'll catch on sooner or later.

Peace to you all.

Friday, February 12, 2016

On Place or "I Like Ethos"

It's always the damn place.  Nothing sets my mind back like remembering a place, imagining it at a certain time, seeing the details unnoticed until you take a longer, deeper look.  Or, you can actually return to a place, walk those same hills or streets or pastures, return to subway stations or barn lofts or basements.  I have done this many times (I wrote about one such journey here) in my life, I've been lucky that way, sometimes it all changes so much, going back only bewilders and disappoints.

Photos help, I think, they can frame a memory so well.  Again, the details are there, forgotten until you look into the background.  I've no pictures to show you of the woods and creeks and hollers and hills I grew up playing in and around.  I don't know if I am happy or sad for that.  I've walked through some of them, been unable to find a few, but mostly I remember those places sorta, well, sideways...

I took a walk today through the Two and a Half Acre Woods.  The woods Nick and Zack and Marci and Gramma and Nana and Papa and Kirby and the boys' friends and our rental dog, Snickers, and more I'm forgetting, have all walked through at some time with me or alone.  It is a familiar place for the boys - their woods, our woods, the woods.

Today, though, I went for a different reason.  I went because I wanted to see something pretty, something beautiful.  You see, the world's been seeming pretty ugly and I have following that ugly and, well, I don't have to.  There is beauty absolutely everywhere, I know that's trite, but I am not going to rewrite it.  We all know that, right?  We all know there is beauty in the sunsets and rainbows and baby's faces and toes and in the moment before a kiss or in the empty spot when a child leaves your lap.

Beauty is in the red shed - the only color against the blacks and whites of the branches and snow.  It is in the squirrels dance, the cat's purr, the heartbeat of a boy, the slam of the screen.  It's like the William Carlos Williams poem: "so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens."

That word "depends" never fails to give me the shivers.

But, ya gotta look up, and out, and in.  You have to turn your eyes and ears from the ugly and find the lovely...  I have to turn from it.  I have to look for it.  I have to remember the beauty.

The vast majority of the woods I grew up haunting are no longer around, gone to fields or housing tracks or steel warehouses and asphalt parking lots.  Progress, I guess you'd call it.  Some are a still back there, between the state routes and rural roads, waiting for their time to come, waiting for me to remember them.

So, I am in the Twenty Acre Woods looking for Beauty.  I find it, but, as I mentioned before that's pretty easy once you look up and out.  I find something else as well.

This is a picture of the woods just around the corner from the Meade Cabin to the east of the trail.  The snow is thick on the trees and, well, pretty.  Oddly, though, this is also an image of the woods off by the pond we used to fish in summer and slide on in winter as kids - we weren't supposed to.  Later, we would push that half-fallen tree out of the fork it's stuck in, just to hear it hit the forest floor, a quick crack muffled in the snow.  It is also the storm in the gray above, the creak of the trees rubbing and bending in the cold.

This is the trail where it reaches it highest, the trees bent over in a high wind some years back, the curves surprising among the sharp verticals.  Or is it the old cow path out behind Mr. Poff's, out beyond the pasture that runs through a wood on a high spot where the trees were all bent up by an old oak that lost its footing, trapping a few saplings that would always bow to the wind for as long as I can remember?

This is the creek we play in, JB and I.  The creek we dam in summer and poke the ice with sticks in winter.  It runs on down to the pond, looping almost into itself.  We dug channels between the little tributaries and...  No, wait, that's the corner of one of the bridges in The Two and a Half Acre Woods.  This is the sunken-tire creek, the shoe-sucking creek, the cinder-block creek.  Not my creek, theirs.

Lichens or some sort of wood climb the trunk of this tree like fairy steps to the treetops.  Each capped with snow, pretty, intriguing, wondrous.  They look like mussels and barnacles on the huge footing of a pier in California dotted with sea foam.  I am six or seven.

It is hard to be seven and twelve and twenty-five and nearly "double nickels" all in one thought, in one memory, in one breath.  It confuses and confounds, but, somehow, clarifies and distills all at once.  It seems every experience the boys have reminds me of mine and every memory of mine foreshadows theirs.

It's weird.

Their woods are mine, their ocean yours, their childhood... all of ours.

You see, this isn't a picture of Nick and Zack and a friend.

No it's a picture of me and JB and I think that's Earl Wayne in the middle - or is it Peanut?  No, perhaps it is an image from another childhood, that Russian boy I met in college perhaps?  Maybe it is from a tattered and water-stained photo album I once found in the basement of a house I lived at in Astoria in the eighties, photos of a family in the forties and fifties, long gone, the book musty and forlorn.

Maybe it is a picture from your childhood, maybe a corner of a memory you'd long forgotten.  Maybe that is you in the middle there, a brother to your right, a long gone friend to your left.  Is that the hill you remember?  Is that your toboggan or your Flexible Flyer, your "Rosebud," your crazy, uncontrollable saucer?

Is that sand?  Is that a surfboard?  Are you all on dirt-bikes or in sleeping bags waiting a storm out in a leaky tent?  Is it a tube behind a speed boat, a backyard picnic, a fire in the night?

It is all of those things.  It is memory.  It is the past.  It is the future.  It is now.

It is me and it is you and it is all of us.

It is hope and melancholy and dream, it is all that has been, all that will be.

Well, that's all I've got for today.  That's not true, it is never true.  There is more, there is always more.  Remember earlier I mentioned that I needed to look up and out for the beauty my soul is craving these days.  Well I did.

The snow was so perfect the other day, the day we went sledding - remember? you were there - so I took a few pictures of the snow in the trees.  I like the abstraction of the black and white and gray.

But, you know what?  I took another, this one:

Yes, with the red barn, and all that depends on it...  it gives a sense of place, don't'cha think?

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

"I like ethos."


You know what, buddy?  I do, too... now which one is ethos?

Peace, as always.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Wobbly and Wobberjawed

JB, my childhood friend and neighbor, and I built many things together.  Carts and wagons and bikes and caves and tunnels and, well, structures.  We liked to make "secret places" in the woods and backyards and fields and gravel pits that surrounded us.  

We made treehouses, platforms really on relatively low branches.  Pounding giant ten penny nails with lightweight hammers through planks and into the green wood of the branch.  Two nails took us half an afternoon.  But, one time, we managed to form a sort of bench very high up in an old maple on someone else's property.  It was shockingly high, terrifyingly high, exhilaratingly high.  

I think we sat there ten minutes or less, never to climb that high again.

We made a low, lodge-like building one Spring out of long pines we'd found in a particularly spooky patch of woods just off Mr Poff's soybean field.  The long trunks - felled many years before in a wind or under the weight of snow or ice or, perhaps, just crowded out like little brothers by the big guys - were as dry and hard as driftwood, not rotted, laying all those years on a thick bed of pine needles.  We stripped the bark and cut off the knots of branches with our trusty hatchets.  We found four pieces of forked wood from an oak that had fallen not as long ago, sharpened the points and drove them into the ground and laid the long logs between them.  We used string - that rough hemp string, we'd found in and abandoned barn, I can still see and feel it in my hands - to tie crossbeams of shorter sticks across the two forkends and vertically like pickets to frame a wall.  We sacrificed a fairly small white pine and wove the soft-needled branches all around for walls.  (God - it's funny what comes back when you really start remembering a thing, it can almost hurt.)  We used an old "oil-cloth" for a roof lashed down with that same hemp twine.

We spent an afternoon and evening in it, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, canteens of water, apples and a chess board.  At sunset we took our tarp and went home.

One year, in the woods on the other side of 741, behind the old gravel pit where people shot their rifles and shotguns, we had the notion we could build a sort of log house.  We gathered every fallen branch we could find.  We cut them in to five or so foot lengths with a bow saw and hatcheted points on each and pounded them into the ground, one next to the other like a vertical log cabin.  The plan was a circle but, after about three days we only had a six, maybe, foot wall.  It was all wobbly and wobberjawed.  

At the end of that third day, I think we peed on it and went home.

JB had the notion to build a tepee.  We used long bamboo poles, five or six of them.  He'd found an elaborate knot that was supposed to keep the apex from slipping and yet still the poles could lay flat for transport.  We cussed that knot for hours.  Finally though, we had something and we spread the poles and it all stayed as it was supposed to.  We couldn't understand why our rectangular tarp wouldn't wrap around it, neither of us had yet studied the geometry of cones.  It didn't matter anyway, Mr. B. came home and told us to put the poles back in the garage where they'd been because he might need them someday.

We argued we needed them now.  And then we put them back in the garage.

There are many others that flash through my mind - a cozy little lean-to, more an a-frame, I guess, sticks leaned up against a length of long-forgotten fence, three poles and only the top rail, weathered and gray, still hanging on; a deep gouge in a hillock, cut out by a farmer who needed some top soil many years before that we lined with sticks and fashioned a roof from a couple of peeling, water-logged sheets of plywood and, because it was dirt and Ohio mudclay, we poured bucket after bucket of sand and stone from a dry creekbed for a floor; a fort of pallets out behind someone's barn, we imagined shooting arrows out the slits.

It was, in fact, those pallets that began our last masterpiece.  We found out it was Bucky Barnes' dad's barn.  On the bus one morning, we asked Bucky to ask his dad if we could have four of them.

"Ask him yer damn self," was his reply.  I saw his point.  Mr. Barnes was a pretty gruff dude, heavy set, big, that kind of big that surprises you, perpetually in overalls or Carhart's, leather face and hands - a farmer.

It was near the end of my sixth-grade year, JB's seventh, and that first day of Summer vacation we marched across a few fields, through the gravel pit and came up behind the Barnes', well, barn.

I'll spare you the whole conversation, calling it awkward would be kind.  Although we'd talked to him before, we introduced ourselves and asked him about the pallets and if we could have four.

"You ain't gonna burn 'em, are ya?"

Frankly, that hadn't occurred to us, so we said no.

"Well," he said gruffly, "Whaddya want 'em for?"

"We want to use them as, well, a sorta floor and foundation for a clubhouse were gonna build," I blurted out, sounding ridiculous, I'm sure.

His face softened, just a bit, and his eyes smiled, just a bit, and he said, "Well, that's just about as gooda want as any, I guess.  You can have 'em.  Jus' four."  

We thanked him, relieved to have his permission and to be away from him.  Big guy.

Pallets are heavy.  We'd really not considered how we would get them all the way to JB's backyard.  Not wanting to have to return, we decided, in our primitive wisdom, that we'd take them all by carrying one about a hundred yards ahead, drop it, and return with another, repeat.

We were easily a mile-and-a-half from home, through fields and over hills and fences.  It was a masterful comedy routine - add "Yakkety Sax" and speed up the film and start laughing at the clowns. We tried carrying two and getting about ten feet out and dropping them on JB's toe.  He jumped up and down, cussing - which we'd just really started at - and chased me around with a stick.  We tried to roll - remember pallets are square - them, sort of flipping them to one side then the next.  They kept falling on us, and we got to laughing and wrasslin' and before long we'd moved exactly three out that hundred yards.  It'd probably taken us an hour.

We were wet and hot from the dew and exertion, so we figured we'd take a break.  We were not daunted, boys are not quick to recognize ill-fated or idiotic schemes.  We sat on those three pallets listening to the birds and bugs and frogs and, suddenly the sound of a tractor firing up in the barn disturbed our revery.

We saw the two tandem wheels come around the corner of the barn and then the rest of that old John Dear and then a beat up old hay-wagon.  Mr. Barnes stopped in front of that last pallet, grabbed it with one hand and flung it up onto the wagon.

We were confused.  He puttered up towards us, braked the tractor and idled it back.  He walked up to us, shirtless and overalled, a dirty seed hat high on his head.  Big man.

"Y'all got more wood to build yer 'clubhouse' with?"  His eyes laughed at the word, kindly, though.

"Uh, yeah, uhm, my dad's a carpenter and he brings home scraps and leftovers and stuff and he said it'd be okay if we used some of it and we found some wood out behind Old Man Osborne's shed and..." JB sorta ran out of air.

"I know yer pa, son, he's in Grange.  I know Old Man Osborne, too," he smiled a little and spit brown on the green grass, "and if I were you I'd grab that wood when he wernt lookin'.  Like, maybe, in the afternoon when he's sittin' on that porch, sippin on his 'lemonade' and snorin' in the breeze."

He laughed and we chuckled.  We all knew that wernt lemonade in his glass.

It was right about here that we realized he was gonna help us, and that he knew a lot more about us than we did about him, that he knew a lot more than we did, period.

"Listen boys, let's load the rest of them pallets on here and drive you over there in the wagon.  I found some old wood in my barn that ain't a-doing nothin' but collecting dust and mouse shit so I threw it on there.  There's some two-by-fours and some old pine sidin' there and a couple sheets of some thin-ass plywood I ain't got no use for.  Mind it all though, boys, I cain't guarantee there're no nails in 'em."

We tried to stammer thanks but he'd not have it and he told us where to put the pallets.  Then he tied it all down, hemp rope again, and showed us a tension knot I still use to this day.

He drove us across the farm paths he knew so well.  We sat like kings on top of our pallet thrones, holding on so we'd not get thrown.  He knew where we lived, of course, he worked many of the fields around us.  When we got to the front of JB's house he asked us where we wanted it.  We told him behind the house which was down a steep hill and that we could just carry it from here.  He smiled and told us to hold on.

He went on down to the end of our street, turned left on 741, and then left into a lane.  It was early afternoon and he idled as quietly as he could and didn't wake Old Man Osborne or disturb his "lemonade."  Mr. Barnes pulled right up next to where we wanted it, showed us how to undo the knot and threw the pallets off as we unloaded the rest of the wood.

JB's dad came down, not knowing what was going on, worried I'd guess that we were causing trouble.  The two men looked on and talked as we finished with the last of it.

Mr. Barnes drove off back down towards the road and out of sight.  We heard him gun it and wondered if the lemonade had spilled.

I also wondered, out loud, why he'd done that - why he'd helped us.

Mr. B had turned and was starting back up the hill.  He stopped and came back towards.  This was unprecedented, Mr. B never left twice.  He was a man of very few words but he use up a bunch at once.

"He said he was glad to see kids doin' something.  I am, too.  He said he was proud to know you.  I am, too.  He said you was hardworkers.  I took exception to that."

He winked and marched up that long hill to the house.

We spent the next few weeks planning and building.  I used a circular saw, got a tetanus shot, got pulled over by a sheet of plywood kiting in the wind, got my own hammer and fell off a roof - all for the first time, none for the last.

Most of the wood was questionable, as was our understanding of posts and lintels, but, we had enough thanks to a pile we found behind some one's shed - it was afternoon as I recall.  We bought some plywood or pressed wood - a new concept at the time - and tar-paper for the roof.  As God is my witness, we shingled over it with flattened tin cans.  Yep.

It took us most of the summer.  It had a door and a small window.  We were really proud of it.  Mr. B said something glowing like, it's fine.  Kids came from all around to see it.  My dad liked it.  We thought about asking Mr. Barnes to see it.  We didn't.

In truth, it was all wobbly and wobberjawed, nails bent over, bad cuts everywhere, gaps and scabs and splinters, what a mess...

It was also HOTTER'N HELL.  I mean it.  

We didn't spend much time in it after we'd finished it, we hung out a bit in the fall that year and, except for smoking a cigarette or two in it some years later we never really utilized it.  I think Mrs. B used it as a potting shed (though we already had) after Joe moved on and I went to college.

It's all in the doing, like Mr. Barnes said.  I think that's my point, but, it's trite.  

It's more though, deeper, primal - boys need to do stuff, it keeps the wild at bay.  Men do too, not just to stave the wild but to also embrace it here and there.  Doing is trying and trying is risking failure and failing is good and just and right.

It is also not as complicated as I might make it out to seem.  It is inaccurate to say it's all in the doing, you see, it all is the doing.  The things JB and I made over the summers of my childhood are now but dust and rot.  But, it was the doing that was my reward.

You know, just the other day I remembered another thing we used to do with branches leaned against a tree.  I can't figure what set me to thinking about it:

I've kept you too long again, it's unforgivable really.

Peace to you and yours and mine and theirs and... you get it.