Friday, October 31, 2014

Patronum Interruptus

I don't really care for Halloween.  There, I've said it.  I don't care for a lot of holidays.  In fact, the only one that really passes full muster in my opinion is Thanksgiving.  I've been wondering about that, what makes me so distanced from so many perfectly legitimate holidays, even the actual Holy Days.  Now, especially, as I see more and more how intrinsically twined are the childhoods of parents and kids.

My memories of holidays as a kid are all pretty swell and I ...

Wait.  What?  "... intrinsically twined ..."  That doesn't even make sense ...

(Shut up.)  As I was saying, I liked holidays as a kid.  My mom was always very enthusiastic about them, the presents were great, the eggs were well-dyed, the costumes clever; the pies and hams and potato salad and turkeys and green cakes, all delicious; the church services were touching and crowded and somehow unforgettable.  My aversion to holidays come from somewhere else, my guess is ...

... from all those years working in the restaurant business.  It was always busy on those days, stressful and you hated it.  That's sort of stupid and, well, dull.

It is not dull and I planned on telling it a little more elegantly than that - you know, citing examples and weaving in the sadness and melancholy certain days seem to bring along in their coat pockets.

What?  "... coat pockets..."  You're definitely not making sense.

Are you going to stick around or what?  Because, this always gets very confusing for the readers and it irritates the shit out of me.

What readers?

Not funny ...

Yeah, actually it was funny, and, yes, I am sticking around.

Oh, goody.  Well, I suppose, I should introduce you.  This folks is an italicized literary device, an alter-ego - an invention, I might add - which interrupts me now and again and again and again...

Oooh, look at you at you gettin' all clever with the linkity-links...

I am simply trying to give you some context.

Shut up.  It is just a desperate little attempt at getting your "readers" to look at a few back posts.  It's pedestrian, cheap.

No, it's not.  It is a legitimate thing, people do it all the time.  And, don't do the air quotes thing around the word "readers."

And, you always hate it when people put a bunch of links to past posts in their pieces.

Well, yes, but that's because I usually have seen the post someone links to, and a lot of folks have it open in the same window as the blog I am reading and then I look at it and see something else and go down the rabbit hole and forget what I was doing in the first place.

That's because you are an idiot.

Can we just move on?  Why are you interrupting me today?

Because you aren't doing what you said you were going to do.

Yes, I am. 

Really?  There's a plan?  Because, you said, or thought, or, uh, however you'd say that ...

Go on...

... you said you wanted to try something different, today, something ethereal and, I think you used the word 'wispy.'

Yes, I am getting to that.

Dude, you don't "get" to that, you start from that.  And, you are certainly not going to "get" to that in this first person, self-indulgent, tripe of a voice you always use.

Well, that's not very nice.

No, I don't suppose it was.


I'm sorry.  So, tell me what do you have planned.  Do you have some images?  Some stories?  Some deep and meaningful prose?  What?

Stop badgering me.

Don't be so touchy.  Go ahead, tell us all what you have planned.

Well, I thought I'd start with this drawing of a greenish sunset Zack drew:

 I like it a lot and he used a lot of different colors.  I thought I might talk about the fact that he still likes crayons and how I am glad about that and ...

Uh ... you, um, have it ...

Stop interrupting, you asked me what I was planning to do and ...

... upside down.  It looks like a green alien in a golden spaceship flying at light speeds.


Not your wispiest moment, dude.  So, a sunset and a few words about crayons, that is deepI can't what to see what's next.

Well, if you must know, I was going to show a picture of the pumpkins the boys made this year and I thought I wouldn't say whose was whose, you know, leave it to time and maybe someday they might have fun trying to figure it out.  I thought it might be fun for the readers, too.

What readers?

You know what?  Screw you.

I'm sorry.  That was uncalled for and rude.  Go ahead.


You didn't even take the picture yet, did you?

Well, I am going to ...  I just haven't had a chance to and then you interrupted and, well, I, uh ...

Go ahead, go take it, but you've got our attention right now, do you really think we are going to wait?  Go...

It'll just take a sec.

It's about time, dude.  Where've you been?

Sorry, the shed door was open and I had to go shut it 'cause the wind was picking up and that got me thinking about the lawn and the leaves and that made me think of getting gas for the mower and my trunk and that made me hungry so I ate a peanut butter English muffin.

Did you by any chance take the picture we've been waiting to see?

Yes, like eight of them.

One will do...


That's Zack's on the left and Nick's on the right.

You said you weren't going to say, remember, "whose is whose" and it might be fun for the readers and all...

What readers?


Finally, back to what I have planned for today, I am going to come full round to not liking Halloween again and say that it is important for me to remember that the boys do.  Perhaps I should be aware of that and not be so vocal about not liking it.  You know...

And that's what you had planned today?


It's not what you decided to do when you realized it was Halloween and all the other kids do Halloween posts and you have in the past and you probably should?

Well, maybe that, too.

What about what you were going to do?  I mean really.  You spent all week thinking about it and you've done the outline and the research, the images are ready, why don't you just do that?

The country-road-memory-lane thing?

Yes.  Why aren't you doing that?

I dunno...

Yes, you do.

Because it's going to be hard to do - you, know - hard to write and that future perfect tense is hard to sustain and, well, it will make me cry.  And, it would take a lot of time and energy.  And, it will make me cry.  Anyway, you interrupted and it's too late to start on it now.

To be clear, you conjured me up from the twisted depths of your imagination, on purpose, I might add, just to avoid a little heartache and handful of bittersweet memoriesOh, and I saw that link you slipped in there.

I didn't conjure you up, you cold-ass busted up the whole thing.  Who knows, if you hadn't come storming in here I might have that whole piece done and be sitting here weeping on the keyboard right now... Oh, that's probably your point, isn't it?

If my point is sometimes you avoid the hard stuff, the painful stuff, then yes.  That's my point.

Okay, so what would you have done today if you, say, didn't want to get all emotional telling a story that might break your heart a little and, also, suddenly realized it was Halloween?

I'd have gone with the pumpkin thing, not saying which was which boys (totally avoiding the awkward "whose was whose" syntax you chose) and then perhaps a simple haiku and an image teasing the post I will write soon ...

See, it's not so easy is it?  What, wait ...  that's a pretty good idea.  Hey, you just linked up your last haiku, didn't you?  Whoa, I didn't say you could do it...

Gravel tar and trucks
A golden lane of mem'ry
Perfect childhood still

What I would not do is finish with some folksy thank you and one of those silly aphorisms you insist on ending on.

Like that preposition on which you are now squatting.

Oh, just be done with this already, it's getting long and there is no time for ...

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

"Use your smarty-pants-ness!"

I can go with that...

... that.

Thanks for coming around and please, excuse my patronum interruptus there ...


... I am working on a piece that is difficult and emotional.  I did plan on doing it today.  I did then realize it was Halloween.   And then dude interrupted.

Y'all come back now.

Oh, for God's sake that is the most hack-kneed, stupid phrase ever ...

Race you to the publish key.

Well, that's not fair you're already closest and ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mazes and Spirals and Such

Sometimes life wants to talk all at once to me and, unlike memories, listening takes time.  A million memories may flood all at once at the scent of a tar road or the sight of a crescent moon, but sometimes I can't hear life's soft soliloquies and whispered asides when they seem to come all at once.  I am sorry for that, and, I forgive myself for that.  The notes and chords, colors and textures, fragrances and flavors I miss in a day, will, I hope, return when I have more time to entertain them.

About this time every year I must get rid of all the leaves that pile up between the fences.  I used to rake them, as I did as a boy, and pile them in high mounds and let the boys jump in them as we have in the past, as I did as a boy.  But, I don't anymore.  It is an unspoken but immutable fact that leaves make awful landing pads, you know it, I know it, and yet...

 ... here are Nick and Zack planted deep in the maple leaves, Z doesn't look too happy.

Growing up we used to rake the leaves and jump on them, and then one time, at maybe eleven or twelve, I landed flat on my back and laid gasping for air as my friends looked on.  I am lucky I didn't break my back.  I am pretty sure we burned the leaves in giant bonfires, with gasoline and used motor oil, from there on out... seemed safer.

Here at home, I usually sort of chop them all up with my tractor and then use my push mower with a leaf catcher and just sweep them all up.  A couple of years ago the boys were watching and, as I went to dump the bag in the mulch pile, they started running around in the paths the little mower had made.  It looked like fun, and I somehow remembered it being fun, so I made some more and they imagined and ran and screamed and laughed.  I did it last year, too, but there was a strong wind and the paths didn't last.

Yesterday, I got to thinking, and it was a calm day, and I wanted to be outside, and I heard a fragment of what life was saying to me and, well... I did this:

I made a lawn maze.

It had a nifty little dead-end spiral:

And two young warriors came and battled in the golden setting sun:

This morning the wind was whispering up high so, before the paths were blown into memory, I went out and took a few more pictures as the sun came up:

Around here we don't really get into Halloween so much.  Oh, we carve pumpkins and get our candy, but it is not that important.  I would say, though, that making a maze in the leaves of the back yard may be something I do for years to come.

You never know what might happen when you listen to the wind.

Lately, there hasn't been too much coming from the back seat so this'll have to do, today.

From Bill's "... things you don't expect to see scribbled on your notes on your desk ..."

It is sad how funny I think this is...

Well, that's all for today.  Thanks for dropping in and come back if you get a chance.

I think next year I might make a giant spiral in the lawn.  You know why?  It was fun, I think that's why I wanted to share it with you, that and the fact that the boys were really thrilled by it all and I want them to remember that someday, later, when life isn't always as thrilling.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Post-Postage, A Follow-Up

A couple of days ago, in the post just below this one - a curiously popular one, I might add -  I wrote this sentence:  "So, as I teased Nick for beautifully, diligently, perfectly misspelling so many words, and marveled at Zack's profound non sequiturs, I began to see this stuff within the story being told."

Yeah, it made more sense when I wrote it...

So, last night Nick came out after they'd gone to bed and quickly scribbled a note.  Not to be outdone, Zack soon followed and wrote his own, a little more carefully.  Both notes, which I did not read at the time, ended up on the couch in the guest room where they have their morning meet-up most days.

Here is Nick's:

It seems to say Make more vidos (videos) on New app we got yesturday (yesterday).  That is indeed the proper way to misspell yesterday.

Zack made this:

Old person

Now, that is how you drop an absurdity.

Well, that's all really, I just thought it was funny that I'd just said those things and then they make these little notes and... wait, what's the last part of that sentence up there?  "... I began to see this stuff within the story being told."

Right, well... I haven't exactly done that have I?  Honestly, I think I could piece together most of this story - it has to do with a movie-making feature in a drawing app they recently acquired - but to tell you the whole story here would involve a dozen or more subplots, six images and three scans, several side-bars, a few flashbacks and an aside or two.  I ain't got time for that today...

So, how to reconcile my self to the fact that some stories have to wait, or aren't ready yet, or haven't yet decided what they want to teach?  You know, I must witness a hundred stories each day - some in the middle, some just starting, some ending - and the vast majority of those go untold, but, but...  I still heard them.

You know what?  I just learned to play a song I heard recently.  It is by Slaid Cleeves and it is called "Quick as Dreams" and you can hear it here, the words are here, and it is a very good story.  I heard it once and knew I had to learn it, to retell it.  Some stories are like that.

Some stories have to wait.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by again.  Give that tune a listen if you feel so inclined.  Oh, and be sure you are listening to the stories echoing all around you.  Peace.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'm Afraid I'll Forget

It's funny, I started out doing this on a lark, really.  I figured it'd be fun and I really thought, still think, that the things I've documented these last three years are, by and large, funny.  Misspellings and limbless heroes and hairbrainage and dumbfuckery, nonversations and illogical truths, a blue jet (my first post) or a rocket boy, and so much more, all of it, laugh out loud funny.  Cute, even.

That's what got me started and, frankly, it was pretty easy.  There was an endless supply of fodder from take-home folders and home crafts, notes and valentines and cards and dioramas and owl projects and pictures in the sand, there still is, as I'll soon prove.  But, and this is important, something else happened, something profound.  The silliness and the humor and the spontaneity of it all began to pull back the curtain and reveal deeper feelings, show deeper truths, feelings and truths I began to see waiting in the stories hoping to be told.

A story is a hope, isn't it?  I laugh at myself sometimes because I think I tell the stories, that I am the one so cleverly manipulating the words, painting the paragraphs, inventing the narrative.  One is never the master of a story though, it has been waiting and we tell it.  Sometimes the story lets you think you are in charge, but, you never really are.

So, as I teased Nick for beautifully, diligently, perfectly misspelling so many words, and marveled at Zack's profound non sequiturs, I began to see this stuff within the story being told.  I think childhood should be a story of hope.  What is weird, though, is that as I told their stories they got all wrapped up with mine and I could see that it was just one childhood, theirs, mine, yours... ours.  Sometimes it seems like one small story is the whole story because there is more before and after whatever part we choose.  Left to its own devices, given an audience and a way to be told, any story could be the one story, telling us everything we need to know.  Maybe...

That long intro was, a while back now, designed to make a point.  Showing a cute and funny picture and making a few jokes about it is, actually, pretty easy and, not too time-consuming - lazy it could be argued.  Listening to what an image or object or a memory, even, has to tell me takes time.  The hows and whys and "what if"s and "what about"s need me, ask me really, to consider them.  And, I do.  What I am trying to say is that I don't post here as frequently as I once could because it takes more time than it used to.  I guess I just shoulda said that in the first place.

For instance, these two owl projects the boys did as a big "graded" project last year - third grade - have been sitting in the back of the closet in my room for a while now.  I don't want to throw them away, but I have to.  I can't save everything, every memory and moment, every story, long or short, every scrap and swirly sun.  But, perhaps here I have trapped the key to the door of this memory and with it the whole story may unfold, the story of learning to learn.

I threw them in to the recycling, it had to be done.

This is a picture I took of a black shirt, black pants, I white stained polo shirt and two unimaginably small book bags.

Why would anyone take this picture?  Well,where should I begin?  In the first restaurant I ever worked in, or the twentieth, or the last?  In tuxedos or waiter jackets or white shirts and thin black ties?  That wouldn't make any sense.  I could begin with the reams of school work and projects and pencils and crayons and notes and nonsense I have pulled out of those little Land's End backpacks.  Kindergarten, first and second - times two.

Good stories both, but not the one that came to me.  All that stuff, old work clothes and two beginner book bags - worn for an eternity in childhood years - all of it together, was bound for the donation pile.  I'd found both in my closet when I cleaned it out because the owl projects were being crushed - in true "If You Give a Mouse A Cookie" style.  I walked by it all, stacked haphazardly, literally tossed away, and I looked at it hard and wondered why it was so compelling.

"Endings," I said to nothing, to everything - I'm never sure which - and I smiled.

Two, seemingly random items, together, whispered to me a singular truth, a sad truth, a truth that stories all tell, for end they do, there must be endings.  I worked a lifetime in uniforms and black pants and white shirts, thirty-plus years, and that pair of black pants and that black shirt was the last uniform at the last restaurant job I ever intend to work.  The book bags are not going to be missed, they were the first of dozens to come, but I couldn't let go of them, which is why for some years now they've been taking up room on the dusty floor of my closet.

Giving those bags away, letting them go; donating the uniform, letting that story close are both endings.  An end to what had once been my career, the end of toddlerhood and elementary school innocence.  A final goodbye to a thousand freindships, farewell to carefree childhood.  These things are over.

It is all donated now.

The two pictures here are pretty straight forward.  The boys built towers on a table in the guest room.  They are as different as the boys themselves and a pretty accurate shot of how they look right now.  So, I should just leave it at that.  I could, I might have a few years ago.  But, I don't want to just remember the things they built, I need to remember why they built it.  I need to remember why Nick made a face and why Zack is crouching on a stool.  I will now, I guess I don't have to tell you, for the time being at least.

Both structures are knocked over now and the table put away.

Well, thanks for stopping by.  I learned a little about myself today, which is one of the reasons I do this.  I am afraid I'll forget, but, the strange part is, I'm afraid I'll forget my own childhood if I fail to  cherish theirs.  Make sense? 

One last image:

Yep, that sums it all up nicely I think.  You can tell your own story for this one, but I hope it involves a Chinese food restaurant called City Zen and a happy ninja delivery boy, who's a superhero...

"CITYZEN."  Man, that's hilarious.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oh, The Places Boys Make

A copse I guess you might call it, maybe a thicket, of trees grew in the very back of the yard I grew up in out there in rural Ohio.  On a bank, it transitioned our yard down to the Osborn's which was flat and once most likely part of the field of soybeans or corn or winter wheat that was just beyond it  There was an opening between two Rose of Sharon trees in amongst the small hickories, black and raspberries, honeysuckle and huckleberries and one curiously out of place white primrose bush.  If you ducked and pushed in through the opening, you came into a small little alcove with the trees arching all the way above, a canopy.  It was isolated and safe.

When we first discovered it, probably in the late Spring of my third grade year, it was barely large enough to accommodate us both sitting cross-legged knee to knee.  We kept going in and, with time, it got roomier.  We pulled some of the undergrowth and cut back a few of the brambles with our handy hatchets and, by the end of that summer, it was our fort, our citadel, our haven from the heat and big brothers. We'd also fashioned a back entrance for quick retreat, hidden through the honeysuckle and often sat watch, one of us at each entrance, talking in whispered voices, happy and content.

We pretended in it, we ate candy and butter bread and jam sandwiches and sipped cold rusty water from our army surplus canteens.  One time, we ran out of candy, or our moms had gotten better at hiding it, and we stole a packet of Jell-O mix and licked our fingers and shoved them into the wax-paper package and licked it off.  It was cherry and when Mrs B asked us "what in heaven's name" had happened we said we had a fight with choke-berries.  The next time we purloined a packet of Jell-O, the coveted lime if memory serves, JB - a candy savant it seems in retrospect - grabbed two old candy canes and we licked those instead of our fingers.  Unknowingly, he inventing a candy my boys love today, Wonka's Fun Dip.

One year, maybe that next summer, we found a pile of old lumber behind an abandoned shed out way behind Mr. D's a couple of houses down.  Some of it seemed good.  Well, not really, honestly, but all we wanted to do was build a platform in the tree we played in and the nearly rotten, decades old two and four-by-fours seemed just the thing.  We hauled and cut and hoisted the timber into that old maple and made ourselves a fine little crow's nest out in that sea of corn that summer.

JB ran through a sliding glass door early one summer slicing his leg badly and cracking his collarbone and chipping his shin.  He recovered in his older sister's room because he bunked up with two or three brothers, in a dorm-like room his dad had made from one half of the two car garage, and his boisterous brothers could not be trusted to not jump on the stitched leg or plastered shoulder.  I cannot remember where the sister went.  I went over frequently and he and I sat with his pillows and blankets and sweatshirts all bunched up around us, chess board between, as we learned that ancient game, surrounded by girlish posters of hanging kittens and teen, blond feather-haired pop stars and a  framed photo of a grumpy looking Pope. But, floating on that seemingly vast queen bed, we were safe, alone, on our little island we battled on horseback, with castles and helmeted pawns and surprisingly wicked clergymen to save our queen and king.

Nick and Zack have always played in piles of laundry and their baskets.  They've surrounded themselves with vast armies of stuffed animals, close ranked and formidable.  They love their wing of the camper, their little berth, a king sized bed surrounded by canvas and zippers and screens, wild and safe.

I think the best thing we've ever done for them is the bunk-beds.  They have their own little space where they read and sleep and laugh and dream and talk and talk and talk.  I spent a college dorm year sitting on a bottom bunk and always felt good and happy sitting there talking and talking and talking.

When  Marci was pregnant with the boys my friend K was here for a while and helped me put in a large plywood and two-by-four storage unit in our unfinished basement.  It's sixteen by four feet and has two shelves, one just a couple feet off the ground and another easily accessible at probably five feet.  We had fun doing it, we'd shared hammer and tools many times before this, and were glad to be making noise and building.  Midway through he looked at me and said, "You know, were just basically building a big playground for your twins."  I had been formulating the same thought.  We had a laugh and moved on, but, well, now with a renewed sense of purpose, imagining how much fun we, as boys, would have had in such a place.  The large expanse of plywood - now sanded and finished nicer - seemed transformed.  But, into what?

Here's the answer:

Well, actually, that's not the answer.  That is one tiny maple leaf, the only red one amongst the growing bed of gold ones.  It caught my eye from the house, so, on a whim, I decided to go and take a picture of it.  I took two or three and turned to go in but the playset, not twenty feet away, looked, well, different.  I couldn't really figure it.  As I got closer, I could see that what had caught my eye was this:

Dried mud pushed into all the corners where the rails meet the outside board.  You know, log-cabin style or adobe style or yurt style or mud dauber style or bird style.

I realized it all at once and every scene I mentioned above and so many more flashed in that instant memory, that past place where time seems so odd and malleable, that comes with understanding.  I said the words aloud.

"A boynest."  My eyes misted over and I smiled.

A safe warren in a thicket of brambles - a boynest.

A pile of familiar clothes and blankets and hopes - a boynest.

A bunk bed - top or bottom, a shelf, a sleeping bag, a blanket, a bean-bag chair, a car backseat, a dorm room, a Brooklyn loft, a baby crib... boynests all.

The sandbox of a playset, safe under a mortared, caulked and sure watchtower, weapons ready on a soft bed of pine needles, a flying disk to hunt with, and a burnt, touchingly symbolic log end there on the right.

A boynest - one of the best I've ever seen, and I've seen thousands.

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

From Bill's "... pictures I took of a boy with a turban fashioned from his pajama shirt which he wore for nearly an hour last night and Marci was at a meeting and I wanted to show her that putting things on your head is a genetic thing and, yes, he and his brother are "dancing like Egyptians..."

I'm pretty sure I was at this party in 1979...

I appreciate you coming around again.

(Listen, to be honest the whole "boynest" thing might not be my strongest idea ever, but, you see, memories come and are made in the damndest ways.  This essay is not perfect either, in fact, none of them are.  There are typos and dangled metaphors and phrases, ramblings and bumblings, unfinished and unfocused stories and, well... that's the way it has to be.  I really don't have an editor or a mentor or a writing or life coach to tell me if an idea is good or bad, long or short, deep or shallow - I just kinda go with my heart.  I don't really mind that.  I hope you don't either.)

Peace to you and yours.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 really only barely happened...

I know I said I was trying to get away from all this, but...

This came home in the beloved take-home folder:

To recap:  A shout out to Mom, an honest assessment of self, a very appropriate farting sentence, and a misspelled word to bring it all together.

It is from a test at school and we all understand that I should not be showing it here... get over it.  (I was sayin' that to me mostly.)

He got a ninety on the test.  He made up a word and then misspelled it on the other side:

"desinagrate"  Well, Nick, it sure as damn hell looks like a word to me, too.

Why would I put this on this memoir I am crafting?  You might ask, or not... and you probably wouldn't use the word "crafting," in fact, I doubt you are even wondering.  I guess I am more than anyone.  The truth is I do find it amusing - with just a hint of silly and a whisper of the absurd - but, more than that, I find these little bits of these boys so revealing.  I know this boy, in a way I was this boy, am this boy.  I was, and then I forgot.  And, if you forget what was then, it really only barely happened, didn't it?

I want boys to remember being boys, and, I want to remember it as well, my boyhood, I mean - and them theirs...  and you, yours.

I am sorry if it all seems a bit confused.  You see, it is...  I'm not sure whose childhood is whose.  Thanks for coming around again, I am glad you did, and I hope you are , too.

Monday, October 6, 2014

On the Future of Things

I don't often write about shiny things.  Fast things.  New things.  Speedy, cool things.  However, I'd be lyin' if I said I didn't consider these things.  I see a new Ford F-150 and covet it.  I marvel at the sheer amount of stuff there is in it, backup cameras and LED underbed lights that shine bright in the winter's dark of a pick-up bed at midnight.  Sometimes, I wish for a perfect new jangly Martin or Taylor guitar with sparkling strings and a golden spruce top and a mother-of-pearl inlaid fretboard.  I wistfully hope for a new toaster-oven with an array of buttons and a crumb-catcher that slides out with ease.  Sometimes, I really, really want a shed to write and pray in.  Sometimes, I think want an exciting, luminous future of popularity and prosperity.

I have to reach far across the bench of a seat in the cab of my truck, so far, in fact, that I have to put it in "park," to roll up the window, to reach the crank, you understand, to physically roll up the window.  It sort of annoys me, but you might remember I am hard on stuff and have a bad history with window motors, and, at the dealership, specifically had to ask for no automatic windows.  Suggesting what I wanted was a "farm truck" the salesguy said he had a tan one and a red one.  I said I'd look at the red one.  We bought it the day we found out we were pregnant with twins and my sons will someday learn to drive in it.  That new F-150 don't look so great now.

I am driving over mountains and through dales and tunnels in some Carolina and a song from my wife's smartphone - which is linked to the car stereo because, well, mountains - begins with a guitar intro and I wonder what kind of guitar that is and notice how sweet and tender the playing seems.  It is a song called "This Old Cracked Guitar" which was written as a marriage proposal, and recorded as a first dance... by me, on my trusty vintage Alvarez.  That Taylor Grand Concert Series seems a lot less grand now somehow.

Toast, waffles, bagels, tater tots and crowns, nachos, tuna melts, all come to our table through an old, ugly, Hamilton-Beach oven/toaster thing.  I see new ones at the store and marvel at their capabilities and wonder if they'd toast Nick's bread so lightly that it has an "only slightly crunchy outside."  Will it go to 450 fast enough that I can pop the tots in it and come back to a perfect side dish in exactly 27 minute?  Could it possibly melt the shredded three cheese mix just enough on the chips and not crisp up the edges?  'Cause Zack hates burnt edges.  Maybe that new programmable one wouldn't do it right.  Yeah, probably not...

I been watching my neighbor build a shed in his backyard over the past few weeks, he's just now finishing the roofing.  I don't think he had a very detailed plan, he and his sons just built it, which I admire.  As I watched I could not help myself from thinking that they were exhibiting no skills, which included accidentally sliding down a roof on an unsecured sheet of plywood, that I did not possess.  I have all the same tools he used as well.  Nothing is stopping me from building a shed, really.  However, as I write this sitting at a table, looking out over the yard, I know in my heart that the shed is only a metaphor, a place in my soul, and the true gift of the time to pray and write I have already been given.   If I had a shed of what would I dream?

And, in the same breath in which I long for a better, more luminous future I realize that the damn present is perfect, the past is hardly unforgotten, and what is to come is already borne in them.  We will become what we should, there is no hoping for better things to come, they just will.

I have a Kindle tablet.  It's handy, good for looking things up, checking social media, an occasional game or two or a surf around the innerwebs for a good read from a fellow writer.  And one can download books from the library and read them.  I have given this a try here in the last several months.  Initially, I just didn’t like it because, well, I didn't want to.  After some time, though, I began to see the general attraction. I liked getting novels and philosophy books quickly.  The search interface was simple and limited in a good way - less choices and all - and, for a while I felt clever and hip reading Tim O'Brien's visceral Vietnam memoir "The Things They Carried" in such a post-modern way.  I read some poetry, which translated well I thought to the blank page the reader could be.

I read lines over in the Kindle and it frustrates me.  Yes, Marci did bump up the font size and I played with the brightness, but neither one helped.  It isn't that bad really and I have figured out that it's because of the angle, sort of kitty-cornered, I have it positioned when I read in bed.

I still don't like it, though.  I can't help shake the thought that I don't like it because I don't want to, but I sort of so want to like it.  So, what's my problem?

Last night Nick came in when Marci and I were reading our tablets in bed to ask an important question - what was for breakfast the next day, as I recall - and he asked me what I was reading.  Well, I was reading a book by Michael Chabon called "Manhood for Amateurs" and I told him that.  He thought about that and then asked me what it looked like.  You see, normally I would just hand him whatever I was reading and he'd look at the cover and comment on the picture or art, or, if there wasn't one, he might flip through the book and stop, reading a sentence here and there, doing all the stuff you do when you first encounter a potential book.  Except, well... you figured it didn't you?

There was nothing to really show him.  Nothing to foster a conversation about the book, nothing to help him form an opinion of it himself, no image to mentally take and remember years from now when he sees the same book on the shelf, mine or someone elses.  That's not fair to him, or I'd say, to the book.

I'm gonna say that's why I don't like reading on the thing.  It takes away the physicality of the book itself. The number of pages, the font, the weight of the thing, the format, the passage through time as physical as a walk through the woods, the markers clear and obvious.  I know people love these tablets and they can have dozens of books on them a once, and it is easy to read on a plane or at the pool or on the porch of a cool summer's evening, but... I like tottering towers of books, tables flung with them, beach bags bursting from them and kerosene lamps on wrought iron tables in among the crickets to see them by.

The bags and bags of books, literally thousands - twenty-two at a time because the first time we went together that's how many the bag held - we've gone through are all remembered from the covers, not the light they shined out, but the light they actually were.  All the baby board books, one in particular that made a ribbon rainbow page after page, were chewed and bruised and so loved and repeated that the pages still float by, images of a hungry caterpillar, the simple, haunting refrain, "goodnight, moon," a train that really could.  They were dragged and stacked and thrown and shelved.  They were loved and tasted and handled and caressed.  They were so real and important that even now the boys recognize a cover from when they were two or three.  Sadly many of those early memories are stepping back, making room for the new ones, thicker, with less pictures and more heartbreak and adventure, with deeper messages and harder themes.

One should be able to hug  "To Kill A Mockingbird," drop a tear on the last page of Owen Meany, to close up Narnia in victory as The Last Battle is won.  One should have something to desperately clutch as you gasp in horror at Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" or to caress as you read the words of Dickinsin and Frost.  A machine cannot offer such physical assurances nor will it ever make you smile as the cover of Animal Farm or Catcher in the Rye at the used book store - last Tuesday I think it was - makes you remember high school in just one breath.

So, the books pile up and wait.  Here is a stack my brother sent me, books I'd read as a child, sitting on my work/music, uh, bench, waiting to be found:

"Churchmouse Stories" is unforgettable, so sweet and naive, and, two books down, "The Battle of Gettysburg," showed me the despair and suffering of war and led to Lincoln and Whitman and Woody and Dylan and Homer.  That book, that thing.

This is the shelf next to my desk, a few favorites, odds and ends, Shakespeare, Narnia, Sherlock, "The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart," a signed Owen Meany, Oz.  And a dulcimer...

Down there on the bottom two shelves are a set of Harvard Classics, fifty books of importance as decided in 1920.  There is a long and satisfying story to tell about them, but, I haven't time right now and it may go untold.  The milk grate is full of the memories I have already shared here - "the keeper box."

The boys have a shelf in their room.  It is messy.  It shifts easily.  It is, I believe, the third bookshelf we've had in there, progressively larger and sturdier.  It is, somehow magical and alluring, as bookshelves so often are:

Yes, those are guard-Furbees, motion sensitive and irritable.  It's perfect, isn't it?

One last pile comes to mind.  Ever-present, right there in front of the television, with delicious irony, a pile of the boys library books waits to be read,  returned or traded for a new series, a new place - a new thing - to be remembered:

My life has been haunted by the ghosts of so many books.  But, those beautiful ghosts rose up from the paper pages and deep black ink and battered bindings and old book dust and the smell of the past and future commingled.

We have littered the boys childhood with books, piled thick and scattered randomly or purposefully, and we will continue to do so and hopefully they will never be far from a stack of books, a pile of dreams.

Truly, would this image seem as nearly as tender if we were all staring a Kindle?

Or this one as iconic?

I don't come to bury the tablet readers or suggest their unworthiness as a replacement for our books (actually, I do), but merely to remind you, us, of those books that, so long ago, sprang from our hands and into our memories.

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

Something a kid said to Marci:

"Mom, you could be a saint ... I'd vote for you."

 It's true, I think you vote once a day, forever...

I might, or more likely not, follow this up with a few other technologies I see not serving us, especially these beautiful boys, as well as their antecedent.  For now, though, thanks for coming around.