Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Mowing

I have spent some time on, behind and fixing lawn mowers.  I associate them with being alone but not with the loneliness that's crept behind me in my life.  No, when you are on a tractor or behind a push mower you are getting something done.  It's a good time for thinking some things through as well.

I do the yard here in three steps and they all yield different thoughts, moods, memories and dreams.  First I trim out the yard.  Much as you would when painting a room, I use the push mower to get the edges and around the beds and the fence.  Sometimes, I'll take the hand-shears and hack back the grass under the fence and surrounding the poles before I pull that familiar foe, the starter cord.

I sit or crawl and marvel at the length of the fence from the low angle I see it.  I think back and wonder if those fences between the fields of my boyhood are as long now as they seemed then, forever stretching out beyond the hills and woods and into the place I did not know would come.

I'll casually cut back a blue flower, a dry August weed I remember blooming quietly through the brambles.  We called them "cornflowers" I think, though I can't imagine why and they are the color of the sky.  As I sit and sweat, as my hand becomes a little fatigued from the thick trunks of oaklings, maplings and English Ivylings pushing up where the mower blades won't go, I think of tenacity.  My mood darkens - perhaps, resolves might be a better word - and I stop and stand and the fence does go on forever, off towards town and the future, down through the hot, sticky now, and down into back pages of my mind.  I finish for the time being with the shears and start the push mower.

Suddenly, I am ten again, startled at the surprise of memory.  It isn't the noise of that simple little engine and dull blade that sparks it, not the exhaust or the sudden smell of cut fresh grass, so familiar, happy, evocative.  No, simply, it is the red color of the deck of the mower.  One summer someone on the street had found a mower without the engine and blade.  I really can't remember how it happened, but, the handle had been unbolted and, for our reckless imagination, it was a little cart and it was red.  Other kids found more of them, barns and sheds were abundant, and we probably had six or eight of them.  We called it "lawn sledding" and I can't imagine a more dangerous summer pursuit.

No one got hurt... very badly.  I think Joe lost a chunk of skin from his thigh, but he shoulda worn jeans.  I think a little brother lost a tooth or two, I busted my nose and I think someone wrenched their back and still suffers to this day, but, that's not my point.  We were warriors.  Champions.  That same energy flushes in me as I attack the lawn.  Push, shove, jerk back.  You can see feel the power and watch it as you win the battle with the tall grass.  It is hard work, sweat drips in your eyes, salty, irritating and real.  I am that boy, I am that warrior, and, and... I am this older man now still winning that battle.

I worked building stage sets in college.  I was an actor, but I was frequently, uhm, uncast, as it were, in the bigger shows, the "Mainstage" productions and, if you weren't in a show, you built it.  One of the adages of stagecraft is "worst first" and means simply do the hardest thing first, like the inconceivably over-designed spinning two-story piece the director called for, not the platform back-stage right.  I feel that way about the mowing, once the hard labor is done, after the battle is won in the tall edges of the yard, the tractor waits.

I love like doing the tractor work.  I don't really know what the word zen means, so I don't use it, but, well, maybe this... 

I'd imagine all farmers are poets.  Repetitive hard work, once learned, can really free the mind - give you time to think.  Think about how blue her eyes really are, sky blue, kind and crinkly and full of the kind of happiness an awkward fourteen year-old can only wish at - cornflower blue, yes, that color right there, over by the woods, down by the fence.  Time to think about the way that book ended, how sad I was that it was over.  Time to think about the way the hot August day has just the edge of Autumn in it and how, just as that thought emerges a slightly yellowed maple leaf flutters on top of the tractor and you laugh - and hope.

On a tractor there is time to think about math, shapes and angles and curves and straight, long, important lines from one end of the yard to the other, from one end of life to another.  The line is interrupted by a tree or a stick or a garden or a death or a wound or loneliness or celebration.  Sometimes, the curves are slow and graceful other times, sharp and urgent.  The country paths from my childhood curved slowly around a barn and a meadow and then turned immediately at a gate or creek.  One turn reminds me of another, this turn led there, that one leads here.

If you don't mow on a tractor in straight lines, then you probably go in circles - a spiral actually.  That's how we did it when I was a kid, how I did it until my old tractor's steering bar got so badly bent it wouldn't really turn right anymore.  I liked the  way it looked.  I liked the change from an old way of doing things to a new one.  It was challenging and those long, straight passes were like a hay field and I was, am, a poet-farmer.

Tractors are undeniably hot and uncomfortable and my knees twinge and my hands ache and my face is dirty with sweat and dust when I finally dismount.  I need to finish though - finish the thoughts, finish the memories, finish the task, close up, summarize.

Me?  I sweep with an old beat-up hand broom.  It's not that hard, I do the front walk and the driveway and the garage because I forgot to close it and I am glad for the rhythm and the silence and the finality of it all.  I know a lot of guys use these blower things, leaf blowers and the like.  I like a broom.  I know how to use a broom.  It's quiet and forgiving and efficient and, well, sweet, somehow...  old-timey.  It feels light and welcome.  As I sweep the grass and dirt from the steps and porch sills and drive, I let go the long poems and wistful goodbyes and hopeful longings.  I see them for what they are, what they were, a lovely way to pass the time.

I am not a fan of "stream-of-consciousness" type writing, and it is not a device I much employ... except when I do.  I wrote this in a damp dirty shirt and grass-stained work-shoes with a blue bandana around my head.  I am not sure really why.  I imagined it as a sort of mowing lesson for the boys but a toaster manual would have more advice than this.  On the tractor I'd envisioned a sort of weaving past and present dream-like vibe, but this just seems like a hot mess.  But, I don't care.

These are missals to my sons, love notes, letters from the past that is the now to me and you perhaps, but the past as a boy looks back, as I look back as... I don't get it.

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

“At indoor recess we were bowling … I was the ball.”

 Well, there ya go...

Thanks for stopping by, you are always welcome but, and this is important, but... you don't always have to stay.

Nick?  Is everyone gone?  Listen, dude, our people do not know the ways of the weedeater.  I mentioned it once in a post called "Twoodles" but it bears repeating.  Avoid string-trimmers at all cost.  Seriously, it is genetic.  They have vexed me as long as I can remember; they have hurt me and angered me and wasted my time and money, tears and talents.  Avoid them at all costs... maybe Zack'll do it for you.  Oh, and guys, always wear a pair of work gloves, promise?  You'll know why someday... if you don't.

(This whole post has been an elaborate ploy to justify showing this image):

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Swirly Sun Rises

Swirly sun rising.
Color unnecessary.
Hopeful little boy.

My posts have been too long lately, sorry internet.

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

N: "I have a vision in my head."
Z: "So do I."
N: "Well, I don't like your vision."
Z: "You haven't even seen my vision."
N: "And I don't want to."

Yeah, it's sort of like that...

Thank you sweet friends.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Conundrum of Memory

It is really hard to summarize a week long vacation in a few - well, several, in my case - words.  I have the memories, I have some pictures and images, everything I need it would seem is right here at my finger's tip and my mind's edge.

But where to begin...

I remember the Pacific, it was cold and my cousins were tanned.  We body-surfed a little and there were sandy hot dogs.  I am pretty sure I swam in the Atlantic somewhere in my childhood, a trip to DC or perhaps a Civil War tour when I was ten or so.  I remember it was dirty and the beach smelled, well, beachy, as apposed to the Pacific's salty zing.

Marci and I are sitting on the beach lamenting the fact that the  boys aren't really too keen on getting back in the ocean.  We understand why, but I can't help but think what they are missing in the rough and tumble of the waves, the remarkable feeling in your soul as the breaker takes you to the shore on a boogie board, the laugh you have at yourself as yet another wave takes you out because you were watching another guy ride one in, the feeling of purpose and recklessness that only the surf can serve.

She asks me when I really learned to love that ocean feeling, that vibe.  I smile and remember.  In my mid-twenties a group of folks I worked with rented a dilapidated, mildewed beach house on the Jersey shore, Belmar, if memory serves, for a couple of summers in the late eighties.  We made margaritas from anything every night - we were all bartenders - and spent the days body-surfing, watching girls, drinking beer and smoking damp cigarettes.  I am pretty sure my guitar stills has that Jersey sand in it to this day.

I see her point.  It is not this trip that will determine their life's affiliation with the ocean.  Not the next one either, perhaps.  Maybe it doesn't really matter.  Sometimes I want too much of my own recollections, demand too much of my own memories, letting them shade and sometimes cloud the ones they are making.

They got a brief feel for it, but on the first full day we were there in Folly Beach, SC, in less than a few hours time, both boys were stung by a jellyfish.  Neither wanted to get back in.  I tried everything from demanding to cajoling, even wearing my self out having "fun" in the surf.

I tried to hard, expected too much, over thought it all.

On the last full day we were there I rented a body board and urged them in, which they both managed, but the pain and fear and creepiness that those stings imparted were hard to forget, to overcome, but they did, briefly and I should remember that.

So, there wasn't as much playing in the surf as I might have liked, but there was plenty of beach-combing:

And walks downtown and great food:

There was a long, leisurely walk down the main pier:

As I said earlier, I don't have a bunch of memories close at hand of my childhood beach times.  I do recall looking for shells, but that is the kind of memory that gets all muddled together and it just seems they are all the same except the size of your feet.  I do remember a the puka beads I got and rocked the summer of seventh or eighth grade, a tight choker that I bought and I thought I looked as handsome as that Partridge kid.

Nick and Zack made their own:

There's more, of course, but it occurs to me that I maybe serving them my memories and not letting them make theirs.  That may be a discussion for another time...

Let me finish this though.

There was a dolphin tour:

A pretty girl on an abandoned beach with a lighthouse in the distance:

There was a purple piece of shell that Nick held for about ten hours straight:

There was a silly and somewhat disorienting dolphin statue that needed a shirt and a hat:

But mostly, by no one's fault, fate, kismet... whatever, it was the vacation that they got stung by a jellyfish.  Nick drew this in the sand:

We also had a couple of journals along in case they felt inspired to begin their memoirs and this is the one and only entry in Zack's:

That's one d-e-a-d jellyfish.

Well, I guess that's it.  Too much?  Probably...

I am also left with a dilemma, one I've been facing for a while, unable to define.  It's this:  Whose memories am I making?  I'd thought the boys at some point, but now, I am beginning to see that maybe this is all, selfishly, for me.  I'm gonna need some time to think about this...

I didn't know even Nick had an Instagram account, but he does so here's one last picture of the trip.

I shoulda started with this, it's sort of the whole trip in one image.  (Thank goodness for the "take-home folder" from school.)

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

"If anyone wants me, I'll be in the dungeon."

Shhh, he's coming... 

Thanks for traveling with me, us, you... I don't even know anymore, but the moon came up over the pier and the wind blew and and the surf sang and I, just me, remember it.

 Thanks, Nana and Papa.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another Obligatory Post, Revisited

I've a lot to say these days.  I am not sure why, perhaps it's that the break from school has kept me from finding the time to write so, at summer's end, I feel the need to share all the ideas and insights I've been given as I watched the boys ripen, grow and change.  Maybe I grow envious of other writers who seem to churn out poignant and topical post on a daily basis and want, simply, to keep up.  Maybe I've a lot to say because I just can't say it all.

When I sat down to write yesterday's piece about the first day of school, I looked back in the archives and found this bit from a couple of years ago.  I liked it and today is Thursday, the day many folks on the innerwebs reuse recycle repeat repost, uh, buy themselves a little time to write something new by showing something from the past...


It's the first day of school and all the other, better bloggers than me will be offering lovely, heartfelt posts recapping the halcyon days of the past summer and looking forward in hopeful prose to the year ahead.  They will tell you how their boys children were worked up into an emotional lather of excitement, nervousness and, to a certain degree, regret.

The other bloggers will mention how cute they looked in their, say, blue crab shirt or their green shirt with a stylized fish on it, the colors making their eyes dance; they might mention how proud they were of their new shoes and too-small socks and how that made my their heart crack a little; or how the shorts we bought purchased at the beginning of the summer seem almost too small and how long and lanky they've become, legs brown from the summer sun.

Those more sentimental bloggers would probably mention how big and bulky and packed full of dreams and supplies and hopes and uncertainties their new backpacks seemed, adding details like how cute the little wolf on Zack's one is and the little fish on the other or how they agonized over the color and style they wanted, hoping for the perfect one to hold their perfect dreams.

The better parent bloggers might post something about how the road ahead seems so long for them, so seemingly unpredictable and sometimes scary; how they wish they could help them more but second grade the grade that child is in is a time to assert more independence.  They might tell you how very much they want to rush right now to the school and hug their shy son child and to tell the teacher that N their confident, sparkling boy, or, uh, girl, is sometimes reduced to tears when the weather looks scary and dark.

They'd ask themselves if perhaps they should have gone camping one more time, or made it to the amusement park with each one by themselves once more; should we they have worked harder on reading and math, definitely spelling, say, you know, if their kids are really bad spellers, over the summer; was there a million episodes of a Phineas and Ferb too much TV and way too many hours playing SkyLanders did they play to much on the Wii.  Or perhaps I'd he'd they would smile wistfully as they tell you:  'No, we nailed this summer, dudes.'

They'd admit their own sadness, their own regrets, their own melancholy at knowing the summer they were seven, or nine, or fifty-one for that matter, is over and will, never, ever return.  The summer they were Angels and started climbing trees.

No, I am not going to do any of that.  I will, however, give you these "little, tiny, scary, pink monsters" N made so at least you won't think I'm some sort of slacker blogger-dude:

I can't really tell what that one on the right is, a skull and crossbones, in pink I guess and the other is an alien of some sort, maybe...

Damned allergies, my eyes keep tearing up.

So, thanks for taking another look at this one.  I still feel the same, worried and proud and excited and all, but, with time, a confidence comes on and I feel we, they, are ready this year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What to do on the First Day of School

I am not going to do anything I should do today for the boys first day of Fourth Grade.  Oh don't worry, we got a couple pics of them before school today, Marci posted them on FB, so, it's documented.  And, me, well, I will be sure to love and cherish and... blah, blah, blah.

But, honestly, that's not what I am not doing today.

I'm not going to vacuum up the layer of dust and dirt and mayhem that boys throw down from their very souls.  I am not going to start another load in the washer and wonder at the largeness of their shorts, the deepness of their grass-stains, the very bigness and wholeness of these perfect mancubs.

I won't mow the grass their feet have run through all these years, won't pull the weeds tangled in the flowers they so eagerly planted in the spring.  I won't quietly walk the yard, finding their stick swords and sabres and axes and hammers, collecting them to save in their citadel of a playset.

I am not going to find the time to wipe the finger and palm prints off the glass door where boys watch hawks and bonfires in the neighbor's yard, nor the yogurt stains on the baseboards.  I won't open the refrigerator and wonder where the milk goes, nor consider the staples on the shelves, the schedule glaring at me from the calendar.

I will consider doing these things, I'll consider them.  Truthfully, I already have and it's taken all morning.  I think about things and waves and waves of memory and melancholy come over me, I play with my sons and they dance with me, now and sometime past.  I welcome the waves.

I won't really have time do my chores, the things I've put off for summer's end - the basement's dank, the screen-door's rip, the bushes, the maples, the mulchless beds.

I am going to be busy, you see, I've got to figure, consider, that is, how this...

... became this?

Where did these boys come from?

Confident, strong, ready...  how did this happen, when?  But, but... this is not a lament for flying time.  Time does not fly, time does not meander.  Time beats, steady as heartbeat.  We are the ones who make it seem to go so fast.

You see, I have the time to remember, I look for the time, I relish the time.  I have the time to savor and celebrate and weep and laugh. Time for hope and wonder - my hope and my wonder - forever entwined with Nick's and Zack's, I watch them root again in the fertile souls of these beautiful boys and their edgeless future.

The damn chores can wait.

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

"I am not going to retaliate, because *I* am *nice* ... and *you* should look that word up."

*indicates air quotes.

I know who said this...

Thanks for stopping by, lets go out on the porch and remember today.  It'll take all afternoon, I hope you don't mind.

Yeah, yes, of course you can bring your guitar...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What To Remember

“How about that fast bike trip down that big hill that led to the water bench place?  And how we found the Temple we'd been searching for all along.”

“Be sure to tell them about the big woods and how we went down into it and pretended to find a Temple thing.”

“Oh, yeah, good one, Nick.  Oh, and remember the raccoon, that was really funny.”

“And kinda cool, too.  Oh, and Zack how we could take our bikes anywhere and all the tricks you were doing... that was a fun trip”

“I was the Shaman of Shamalamadingdong.”

“Oh, and don't forget the nature drawings.”

I'd asked for some input from the boys about writing this piece.  The conversation went on for a while, but, I sort of phased it out because I was thinking about memories and how they work, how they are made, how they are recalled...


My homemade, cobbled together “chopper,” - a customized Stingray bicycle with a second fork added to the original one, tenuously spot-welded by Joe B's dad – is flying down the hill in front of our house.  The summer is full-out August, the heat waves up from the tar and gravel road which blisters and bubbles in the blazing sun.

I pop a “wheelie” and ride it expertly for a second and then it hits down again, hard.   I ignore the little crack I hear, in fact only heard in the memory of the event much later, and pop another, hard and strong, I want that wheel up high.  And... the wheel goes spinning off, spot-weld be damned, the added fork arcing around it, slowly, elegantly somehow.  Bounce, graceful flip, bounce, graceful flip, and, finally lost in the brambles that separate the rural roads around here from the fields they service.

I do not react quickly, who could of, but I do quickly assess that there is a problem.   I consider trying to lift off the seat and push my self off the back of the bike but the rusty chrome “sissy bar" locks me in my seat.  I can no longer maintain the wheelie and so begins its inevitable fall.  The fork that still remains spikes straight into the soft pavement and sticks. I am thrown like a pole vaulter into the air.  My body flips, untucked, in a long enviable arch, and I land, hard, on my back, my thin white T-shirt no protection from the sharp gravel and oozing tar pavement.

I was nine.

It hurt.  I'll spare you the details, but they included scrub-brushes and alcohol and tweezers and oozing wounds and... wait, I said I'd spare you those details, not because they are painful or gory, but, well, because I don't remember them that well.  But, I can see that wheel flipping through the air right now and, that memory links to all the safe flights I had down that hill and so many others.

And, and... those sweet memories blow in the wind and laugh with me as Nick and Zack and I sail down a long hill on a bicycle path that leads to a lake in a State Park under the same summer sun.


I am lost again in the woods on the other side of the main road perhaps a mile from home.  The woods are getting thicker, the ravines steeper, the undergrowth more tangled, the sun filtered nearly out of sight. It is late evening and the German pillbox I am searching for seems less real than it had just minutes ago.  I no longer hear the voices of my squadron mates and, I am lost.

The sun seems a little brighter over there and I head that way and find an old farmer's path, two ruts through the reddish soil, dry and bare in the hot sun.  I know where I am and, once again, the hedgerows are in France, my is stick a gun, my self-assurance returned, I march into the setting sun.

I was nine.

I guess I was afraid, I vaguely remember that, but what I remember most was the well of confidence and purpose that swelled up in me as I continued on my way, strode on averting defeat.

Nick and Zack came running up to the campsite on the road and not through the woods where they had started.  They'd gotten lost, I was to learn.  The were searching for the Temple and thought they had seen it down a deep “ditch” so they'd gone that way and, in so doing, had turned themselves around.  Together, even thought they were “a little afraid,” they decided that they should walk back up the hill and when they came to the top, disoriented, Zack thought he saw a camper and they walked towards it, emerging in a part of the campground they didn't recognize.  Nick figured out from the number on the site that they were in “F” and pointed out that they couldn't be far from “G.”

You have never seen two boys more full of it than the two I watched swagger towards me.  They told the story simultaneously, trading parts, shouting over each other, laughing and teasing each other, dirty, sweaty, jeans covered in burrs, shoes muddy and wet, and very, very happy.

“C'mon, Zack, let's go get lost again.”


“I only walked to the bathroom, for just a sec, honest, Dad,” I am pleading as we step quietly through the screen door.   I have messed up royally.   I can't sleep and everyone else is asleep and I, well, I sneak out of the camper, but, not before I grab a box of Nutty Buddys from the counter next to my sleeping brothers, with a smirk I assure you.  I get out and open a pack of them and then I have to go to the bathroom.  I could just pee in the woods behind the camp but, it is crowded here at the State Park and peeing in the woods pisses dad off, so I trudge to the bathroom and back to camp.

Upon my return there are skunks everywhere, Nutty Buddys, an opiate I know now in retrospect, opened and strewn everywhere.  They are all munching and wandering and, Dad stands still in the doorway of the camper, scowling.  He is a smart man and quickly figures it all out.  He gestures to me, in no uncertain terms, to “Shut up!” and waves me to the door of the camper.  He assures me he isn't mad, but he is, but he knows a crying boy will scare the skunks and that is the very, very last thing he wants.  We watch them, they're cute, dad softens, puts an arm on my shoulder and says, “I know, son, it's alright.”

I was nine.

Every park or camp seems to have them, bears some places, skunks, possums, even at a State Park in Kentucky, feral cats.  I remember wondering what they had here as Nick and Zack helped me pop up the, uh, popup.  Over night Marci hears a rustling and a I go out to see what it is.  She checks again later.  I'd left out the cooler but it has a good strong latch, the food box and trash bag are under the cover of the truck.  Nothing.  I had checked the latch and it was closed.   Later, after breakfast which had only necessitated the milk from the cooler, I walked back toward the firepit and there, ripped open and scattered all around the opening, were the remnants – the very empty remnants – of the bag of lunchmeats.  Salami, pepperoni, turkey, ham, even the sharp cheddar gone and, off down the ravine a bit, toward the lost Temple, a lone, fat, pleased raccoon was watching me.

I don't really remember getting in trouble, or the hard time my brothers probably gave about the Nutty Buddys, but I do remember, with a tear in my eyes, watching those cute little cat-like skunks, snacking peanut butter bars, under the stars, my Dad's warm palm resting forgivingly on my thin, chilled shoulders.


At that same campground, earlier that same summer, I am watching some older boys riding their bikes past some older girls.  They are standing on the seats of their bikes and riding “with no hands” and I think it is the coolest thing ever.  I begin to try it but, really, I can't seem to screw up the courage to get it right, managing only to sort of put one foot on my seat or lifting my hands away from the handlebars just briefly before grabbing on to them again.  I know I'll be able to someday, one day, but not this summer.

I was nine.

I let the boys go wherever they wanted in the park when we went recently.  A freedom I'd never really given them before, but, the camp was not busy and the roads were flat and, honestly, campers are some of the most friendly people I have ever met so I wasn't much worried.  I looked up and saw Zack coasting by doing this:

“Whoo-hooo, go Zack, nice job,” Nick was screaming and so was I...


I am with my childhood pal, Joe.  We are perhaps twenty feet up, at the top of the Saturn tree rocket about to be launched into space, the moon is waiting.  The next day we are waging war against an undetermined foe, only determined to keep our tree fort safe, our kingdom safe and sovereign.  The next day we are flying a bomber, unloading a fusillade of bombs destined to win the war as we fly through flak and the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire.

The tree is everything we could imagine and we are anything we could imagine, Joe and I.  We are race car drivers and astronauts, we are warriors and prisoners, we are cowboys and Indians, we are sergeants and generals, we are princes and kings.

I was nine.

Nick was a Shaman complete with a magic wand and a forked stick chestpiece and a bark hat and a soul deep with understanding and wisdom.  He was reverent and sometimes full with his power.  And silly.  He imagined, just as I had done and just as all boys will always do, that he was what his heart said he could be.  This is what the Shaman of Shamalamadingdong looks like:


I am bored and there seems so little to do, summer is long and hot and drawn out and tiring and sad and lonely and... I am bored.  “Find something to do” is still echoing through my head as I sit in the den downstairs, wondering what it might be.  I look at the World Book encyclopedia set, grab “C” and begin flipping through.  I have already been through them all this summer and I doubt that “something to do” will be found by opening them once again. “California.”  A full page color map.  I'll draw this.  I have the colored pencils and a spiral bound notebook I, uh, acquired from my brother Bob, and, I'll draw this.  No, no... I'll do all the states.

I didn't manage all the states, I am sorry to say.  I think - actually I know, because that is my point – that I did California and Connecticut and Alabama and finally Alaska.  I can still still see the stars around the Capitals, the rivers and inlets and mountains and wetlands.  The way I erased and worked so hard to get the shapes just so.  I remember it seemed so urgent at the time, imperitive.   I think spent a day and a half doing it.  I found “something to do.”

I was nine.

“Find something to do,” I say in exasperation as I was playing the guitar and the boys were finishing a Gatorade after a long bike trip and, frankly, getting on my nerves.  Marci had grabbed a few brochures, pamphlets, whatever, from the State Park office.  There are two of the same one of native birds, one of reptiles and mammals and a couple trail maps, standard issue stuff, nicely done, full color and all.  Nick started to flip through one and Zack does the same with the same one.  I put away my guitar and put it in the camper figuring I'll have to find something to do with them.  I head to the bath-house a ways down the campground.

I had lingered long enough and walk back.  From a distance I can see there is activity, the camper door  opened and slammed and opened and slammed again.  There was was what appeared to be scurrying, no, searching.  I wonder.

“Dad,” Nick meets me in the road, “Do you have any paper?”  The crayons were out on the picnic table, the bird books were opened. “We're going to draw the birds from the books, all of them, for our class, you know, at the Temple.”

“Okay,” I said, unsure of what exactly the hell that could mean, “There's some in my guitar case. Graph paper, is that okay?”

“Oh, yeah, that'd be perfect.”

I handed them the paper and played guitar for a couple of hours.  This is what they found to do:

After dinner, they decided to work on the drawings some more, doing some skinks and other things, culminating in this drawing they did together.  Well, Nick watched and advised as Zack did most of the drawing:

They are nine.

I was nine.  Perhaps, I am nine.

That's what's got me sort of mixed up these days.  I have a vague notion that parenting and growing up is the same thing.  My childhood is theirs because I remember mine as I help them create theirs.  It is difficult to explain and I've already taken up far to much of your time.  However, you are clever, I think you know what I am trying to say.

We've gone this far, stay with me a minute longer.

When we got to the bottom of the hill there was an old arched tunnel that directs a creek into the lake under the bike path, which, years ago was probably a road.  Nick spotted it and said with wonder in his voice, “Zack, it's the temple we've been looking for!”

Indeed it was...

I brought the Shaman necklace home, fully expecting it to break, it is basically held together with a stem of grass Marci tied to keep the two ends together.  I put it on the bell and notice it everyday, and when I do...

… I am nine again.

Thanks for coming around and pulling up a chair today as I selfishly reminisced on my own childhood.  I've more to say on this, I hope you'll be so kind as to return again.

And always, don't forget to... in the fire.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

It Was Called Facebook

Boys, I  don't usually address your future selves directly but today I thought I would.  (So, those of you just looking on now, in the present, you can skip this one if you'd like.)  You see, there is something I think needs explaining.

Once upon a time there was a pretty cool thing that got people talking and meeting and sharing and showing pictures and dreams and thoughts with each other.   It may be around for you now, but, it's probably like a circular flier of ads in what was once called a newspaper and it is just ignored and tossed away, forgotten.

At first it was pretty cool.   I got caught up with old friends, kept in touch with family, made new acquaintances, even got involved in groups that had the same interests and passions - S@HDs for instance and a caring and involved group of Dad Bloggers for another.  It also did something else that was nice, it let you make a little page for your blog, or your non-profit, or your child’s team or playgroup, and folks could see when something was posted or was happening.

And then, well, it didn't work anymore.  You see, it went public, meaning shares were sold, and the dude, Zucker-something (I am sure you've never heard of him), tried every conceivable way to make more money out of it.   It was rife with ads and bullshit links that went nowhere except to other places wanting more clicks and more money.  They began monitoring what we were looking at and talking about and then advertised those things to us and, well, it got ugly.  Worse than that, all the little people with blogs and church links and school pages and Little League pages and decent and worthy not-for-profit companies were quietly left out of it.  The Zuckerdude, his name escapes me, decided we should have to pay for the privilege of using his site to say when the bake sale was.

I get that, I get capitalism, I get that once you start working for share-holders you no longer care about the product or the service you provide.   But, here's the thing, the people who “liked,” uh, said they wanted to see what a particular “page” wanted to show them, who wanted to know when the fundraiser at the church was or what their favorite blogger had to say or needed to know when soccer practice was, stopped getting those notifications.  Here's the kicker, even though folks had liked a page in good faith, assumed that a company or service or whatever would bind it self at least to some shred of decency, the company stopped doing what was right, and chose only to show these pages if it could make them more money.

It was called Face Book.

I am using it right now, it still functions, I still talk to my friends and such, but, and this is important, I don't trust it.

Many, many, many people used it as a way to sort of document their families and lives and, well, I don't think that was a very good idea.  I'll bet, as you read this sometime in the future, you haven't seen all the pictures your Mom and many other Moms and Dads “posted” on the thing.  Probably, if you pay a price, you could look at the archives and see them – I wonder how that will work?

That is one of the main reasons I have stuck to writing this blog for so many years.  I have it backed up and could print it out at anytime but, wow, let me tell you, there are dozens of places I could have written about you, more that I could have put the pictures we took of you.

For instance, I could of posted this picture on Facebook of something you, Nick, did that cracked me up.  Remember, you filled a bottle up with water and I threw it away and then you did this:

Yeah, it's funny and would probably get a few comments and a bunch of "likes" but, but... then it would be forgotten, buried in the detritus of literally thousands of other images of nachos and chickens and "selfies" (a selfish story for another time) and playgrounds and, well, everything else, literally, under the sun.  The memory of this is more important than that.  You made a great joke, and I want to remember it, I want you to remember it, I want you to know I found it important enough to not bury under the corners of the world wide web, that I put it in a place that will be always dear and near to me.

I suppose there is a Pinterest page I could have put this picture of the hawk that you, Zack, have been watching all summer long.  But, where would I tell the story of watching it soar playfully above the back yard, swooping down and landing majestically on the fence.  To whom would I tell the story of finding the rabbit fur and feathers and guts out beyond the pine trees and explaining the circle that is survival.  To no one and everyone?  You, son, are better than that.

Should I tell the story, in a-hundred-and-forty-characters or less, of the time Nick and I were walking to a bathroom in a campground on a beautiful, serene summer day, and you mentioned that your neck made a "click" and I suggested maybe it was a "pop" or something more like that.  You walked on and I said that it was probably a muscle or a tendon and sort of teased you because a click was more of a machine sound or a robot noise.  You took a nice long beat and turned to me and said, deadpan, "Don't make me use my laser eyes."  What part of that should I leave out to fit on Twitter, and, why would I let that go out and then be lost under an avalanche of the short spurts of constant twaddle that live, and die, there?

As I said there are so many places I could put this picture you made, Zack.  Do you remember?  You wanted to explain to Mom how you got up on top of the roof, the route you took, the plan you had, so you drew his picture to show her.  Should I have placed this on some, long gone, or now pay-to-play Instagram or hoped something called HuffPo might deign to steal this picture and put on some click through thingee that didn't make any sense or so many other giant sites that said they'd post your pictures and then decided that they owned them as well?  How would you find it now?  Isn't this worth more than I few looks, a few clicks, all behind walls of ads and popups and so much crap?  I think it is.

I hope you see my point, dear sons.  I started this all because I wanted to remember you and serve your childhood.  I chose to not scatter and carelessly throw around the images and stories that I find so important now and forever.  So, look no further than this memoir, boys.  It is all here and in the photobooks your Mom so diligently made for you, over on the shelves, by the fireplace, real and tangible, like the love I want you to know we had, and will forever have, for you.

Oh, are you still with me?  That's nice, thanks.  I hope I didn't make you mad, you, here, now - my present day readers.  I know many of you feel that this whole internet thing is forever.  Maybe it is, and, that'd be cool, but, what if it is not?