Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Had a Bad Day

I had a "bad day" yesterday.

I remember when Nick was in first or second grade he came home one day long in the face.  One of the very special things about young boys - children in general, I'd guess - is the sleavedness of their emotions.  I asked him what the matter was and he answered, simply and quietly, "I had a bad day."

I pressed a little, maybe to see if something big was bothering him, you know, bullying, workload pressure, math problems, the ever looming proficiency tests that seem so important but aren't.  I guess I wanted to fix, to make better, to solve.  I know better than that, I really do, but little souls are so damn vulnerable.

"I just had a bad day, Dad!"

Yep, sometimes that's all that needs to be said.  I reckon he did all the figuring in his head, understood where the day failed him, knew why his day was bad.  And that's the whole of it, don'tcha think?  Understanding why your day was bad?  I think inherent in a young, growing mind is a concept that, embarrassingly, eludes me sometimes - Hope.  Nick knew better days would come.  In fact, if I'd had cupcakes or cookies or salami or pie at the ready, I could have quickly made his day good again.  I'd bet after his bath, in cozy pajamas, reading a chapter of Narnia or whatever we were reading aloud that evening, he probably forget all about his bad day.

But, this morning I was still hanging on to mine.  Oh, I try not to let it trickle down to Marci and the boys, I mean, it's not like something awful happened yesterday, in fact much more awfuler things happen all the time.  No, it was far more selfish than that.

For instance yesterday I played a set of maybe ten or twelve songs on the old Alvarez, new Ernie Ball strings a-janglin'.  It's a little known fact that artists and craftsmen and hobbyists and enthusiasts must work on their thing - "practice" we call it.  Honestly, I sounded good, didn't make too many mistakes, nailed a couple of  Slaid Cleves songs I've been struggling with.  It was a good session.

But for some reason, as I cased up my guitar, I wondered why I go to the effort?  No one hears me, really - occasionally my family, a couple times in firepit season around a campfire for some friends, a few Christmas carol singalongs, that's about it.  Yesterday, I couldn't help but seriously think that if I shelved the guitars away for good, well... nobody'd even notice.

I've been doing some writing lately.  I'd guess you wouldn't know it as the tumble weeds roll over the crickets on this blog, but I have been.  I've been working on longer stuff - memoir style pieces, longer short stories and fiction, some songs and even some prayers - all of which take cajoling and tweaking and mistaking and deleting.

Yesterday, I was working on a story about my own seventh grade year of school as the boys start theirs.  Well, the phone kept ringing, the text kept blooping, the chores kept interrupting.  I considered driving over to the old Junior High school I went to in the seventies, now an administration building, and bullshitting my way in and taking a tour of the old place, smelling it and tasting it, realigning myself to the perspectives of size and time.  But, all I could think was if I go out I'll need to stop by the library and Nick needs reeds and I'll have to get some groceries and then the timer went off and the boys would be home soon and I'd better this and that and the other thing and... I shut down the computer.

And, I choked back a sob as I did.  It felt like I was casing up my thoughts, boxing them.  I thought, well, maybe that's where they belong.  Boxed.  Stored.  Offcast.  Sequestered.  Abandoned.  I know this feeling well.  I've let go a lot of dreams and wondered if this was another.  Somewhere in one of the Corinthians in the book labeled "King James" it says:  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Yeah, but what defines a "childish thing?"  And, perhaps if we all "understood as a child" this world might...

But, it still echoes in my mind, this verse and I often feel childish, writing and singing into the wind, into the trees and ashes and dust.  Perhaps, aside they should be put.

This morning, I was making breakfast and packing lunches.  I'd purposefully avoided opening FB or The Post on my phone, I could think of nothing better to make a bad day worse, and, well, I wanted to have a better day today.  I did register, as one will do these days, that I had a new email.

After the boys left, without any real forethought, as if instinctively, I grabbed my coffee and opened my phone and just before I opened FB I saw that email notification again, and, risking spam or more things to put on the new whiteboard calendar we've had to hang as times get busier, I opened it.

It was a note from a writer friend of mine who said he was looking through my archives (only available on the desktop version of this site) and stumbled upon a couple of posts he very much liked. Well, that alone was enough to make me glance over at the pile of boxed memories and dreams I'd just yesterday set aside.

It is a silly little post from my first year of blogging - actually, my eighth piece ever - that exactly forty-seven people have seen.  It's called, complicatedly, Inexplicable Instructions and Flow Charts.  He used words like "clever" and "wise" and "meaningful."  I'd not thought of it in years but remembered being pretty proud of it when I wrote it.  It did exactly what I was trying to do back in those early days.

He said he'd jumped to it from another post he'd seen called "Simple Gifts." He called that post "purposeful" and "sweet."  The boxes rumbled a bit.  My friend said other nice things, said I'd been supportive and kind to him, he said I'd influenced him in his early days, said he'd hoped to have as clear a purpose as I had.  He said that I had a sense of...  not really the point, Bill.

I needed his encouragement this morning, I really did.  I had to get to an early morning oil change appointment for my truck, so I showered and headed out.  I put a box on the table as I left, no dust was on them, yet.

The repair shop is next to a coffee shop in my old home town of Mason so I walked on over there to wait for the truck to be done.  The place is a local place, not a soulless Starbucks, and I walked in the front and through I few rooms set like living-rooms, and headed to the counter.  I ordered my extra-bold with heavy cream and sugar and, well, I heard an accordion. Yes, you read that right.  And then... a banjo.  And then, some sort of percussion and what seemed to be another, or was it two, accordions warming up.

The shop, Kidde Coffee, has a sort of sun-room patio out the back door, where they have live music of an evening.  In fact, I've played a couple open-mics there in the recent past.  I opened the door and what to my wondering eyes did I see?  An accordion band.  Three older guys on the ivories, a very wizened Gandolf looking dude on cowbells and washboard, and a guy maybe my age claw-hammering a five-string.

At, 7:55 in the morning, of a Wednesday.  Well, once I became accustomed to the sight, I took a seat at a table a ways away.  I mean, what else mattered at this point.  They were bantering back and forth, straightening out their music and getting settled.  One guy had sent his instrument in to be worked on and was trying to get used a spare one of the other guys let him borrow.

"I'da sent it in sooner," he said "But, I couldn't find a ten-foot box."

They all shook their heads in sympathetic agreement.

"Been there," one of them said.

"But then my wife said I might be able to close the bellows and use a smaller box," he said.

They all agreed what a smart and good woman his wife was.

I laughed out loud, never having encountered accordion comedy before.  Later one of them called it "bellows humor," which I again found very amusing.  They waved hello to me and asked me my name, one of them said he thought he remembered my older brother.  I sipped my coffee and smiled.

After a few more minutes, right at eight, the aged wizard punched out a three-four beat on his two cowbell and washboard kit and the accordions started a lovely German polka in three part harmony.  They were wonderful, joking and happily playing for their audience of one - and each other, I'd have to say.  They did standards and waltzes, all of which I knew.  They laughed back and forth, teased each other and were having a grand old time.

About ten minutes in, a group of what one might call "little old ladies" came in and got coffee and sat down to listen, groupies no doubt.  A little later a young woman who'd been at the counter with an eighteen month old little girl, came out to leave and, without missing a beat, the band segued into "The Chicken Dance" a sort of polka thing with choreographed hand and body chicken movements, with a fun little butt wiggle and... it's Cincinnati thing, you wouldn't understand.  She set the girl down and they did the dance, the choir of groupies did in their seats.  I tried as well, but I'm famously bad at it.  Every damn one of us were grinning like idiots.

It came out that they got together every Wednesday morning for what the banjo player, the straight man it turns out, called a "painfully public practice."  They called themselves the "Mason Mediocre Band" but that didn't get any search results, so, I think they were joshing.

I had to go, the truck was ready and I had stuff to do.  I thanked them and headed out and picked up my truck.  As I started it I thought, you know, what the hell, I'll go back for another cup of coffee and a bit more music.  I pulled in just after nine and, well, they were gone.  One of the guys had just finished putting his instrument in the trunk of his late model Buick and was on his way out.  I watched him as I parked.  If I hadn't of seen him I may have wondered if I'd made the whole thing up.  You still might be wondering...

I got to thinking as I drove home - as I'm wont to do - that maybe it's not time to put those old guitars up on a high shelf, and maybe it is time to open those boxes back up - time to uncase the lot.

Honestly, I'd never played and sang to be a big star someday.  I may have lied to myself about that, but... I just wanted to have some fun, accomplish something, impress a girl here and there and maybe a few guys as well along the line.  I've played my share of open stages and and hosted a few backyard and kitchen hootenannies in my day.  It was fun, it's been fun, it's still fun.  The wind, trees, ashes and dust have made a pretty fine audience as well, thank you very much.

I guess what it comes down to, in summary - finally, you might add - is that I'm glad I had a bad day yesterday, it made today that much sweeter.  In less than two hours I'd been reminded of why I do these things I do, reminded of the childlikeness I will not and should not put away.

There's more, there's always more.  Yesterday, Nick had an after school lesson on the bassoon (he plays oboe now), his first.  His dear music teacher let him bring home the instrument and he couldn't wait to get it out and play it for me.  I've had the fortune of hearing some bassoon in my life, a dear friend from a lifetime ago had a friend who still plays as a professional, she was a student at the time.  It's a beautiful and rich and soothing sound.  And as Nick played a low B-flat, it seemed to come floating back through some thirty-plus years of memory.

As he went to bed last night he laid back on his pillows and said, "I had a good day, Dad."

You know what, today, so have I.

Thanks for coming 'round.

Here's something from the backseat...

 "I like thunder and interventions."

Who doesn't...?


(Nick's playing the bassoon right now, I wish you could hear it, you know, to add some verisimilitude...  Lord knows, this piece could use some.)


  1. Bill, we need to have a long talk after we have had some long drinks. Things get so complicated..... no matter who you are or how old you are and sometimes they just get too overwhelming to cope but then you hear a good song and see a good friend and there's the solid ground again

  2. Love you bro. Don't put it away. It makes you YOU. It sounds like you got some "God winks" today. God cheering you on.

  3. As always, Bill, your writing makes me breathe out a long, satisfied ahhhhhhhhhh. Big - go big. Write a book and I'll bet it will sell like hotcakes.