Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A Sideman's Dream

Do ya’ll know what a “sideman” is? I looked it up and I didn’t get a good feel for the word: “a supporting musician in a jazz band or rock group.” That’s really not enough, but I am sure I have layered my own connotations over this simple meaning, as one does.

When I was in my early teens, I tried to learn some Jim Croce songs since he was in the fashion of the times. “Operator,” “I’ve Got a Name” and “Time in a Bottle” are just a few of the tunes I tried to mimic.
I got them down alright, but I never really mastered them. I just assumed I didn’t have the skills to do them.

And then, in the late seventies, I saw Jim perform on a variety show with another guy. I was all, who’s that dude, and, as I watched, I came to understand he was doing the guitar heavy lifting and Jim was just strumming the rhythm. The realization came over my adolescent-addled mind like a storm, one of those, oh, ohhh, OH! moments. Yes, of course, I should have figured it out, but I hadn’t.

He was a long-haired, lanky guy named Maurice T. "Maury" Muehleisen. In fact, here they are together in what I think is the very show I was watching a repeat of. He was killed in the same plane crash that killed Croce and others.

 Jim Croce

After the initial surprise, and, honestly, the shocking fact that I didn’t know this, I watched on. Besides the extraordinary fingering skills and the airy background vocals and the absolute calm he exuded, I could not help but notice how damned happy he looked, as though he couldn’t get over the fact that he was playing for a legend, as though he felt honored to be doing it. That stuck with me.

Forward now ahead to the last few years. I’ve taken a strong interest in the songs and legends of the inimitable Guy Clark. I guess you could say I studied him and his music. I read a wonderful authorized biography of him by Tamara Saviano called Without Getting Killed or Caught: The Life and Music of Guy Clark. I watched a bunch of videos, many from his later years, and one fellow kept coming up, Verlon Thompson. I won’t go into the details of times and places; they aren’t necessary today.

But what is important is how he felt about his job. Over and over again, he states that it was the great honor and joy of his life to be Guy’s sideman. You can tell he means it as well. He took Guy’s death awfully hard, as you can imagine. He also wrote this song, “Sideman’s Dream” for Guy.

I did a lot of living between Maury and Verlon, but I’m not sure I was ever very far away from the idea of a sideman, a helper, a supporter, a “lifter” if you will.

I worked in restaurants for most of my life as a busboy, a waiter, and a bartender. I came early to the conclusion that my job was not about me, but to make others shine.

I never tried to upstage my guests, I always tried to make the whole experience about them. I cannot lie, this approach worked well, and I made a lot of money because of it. Others in the business, however, often were the star of their own show. Beautiful flirty waitresses, flamboyant gay waiters, Canadian dudes with “outrageous French accents”, stuffy sommeliers, overly enthusiastic hostesses and semi-celebrity chefs - they all fill the dining rooms of my memory, and I am sure their own styles worked well for them, but, it never felt genuine to me.

I spent most of my career in fine dining establishments most of which utilized a system of front- and back-waiters, especially for larger parties but often just on a regular night. In most cases, both could perform either role, but I preferred being a back-water. The front-waiter usually did all the talking and gave the “spiel” and took the order, though it helped if both remembered it, and basically ran the show.
The back-waiter took care of all the little details. When a guest left the table, I folded his napkin and, upon their return placed back in their lap. I made sure the Missus had a fish fork and the Mister a steak knife. I kept the water and wine glasses full, removed the salad or soup course, helped serve the entrees and lifted the cloches, and kept the whole thing rolling so the front waiter could look as cool and effortless as possible.

I loved it. I was useful and helpful and had every opportunity to be kind. I enjoyed the elegance and grace of it all. It was very dignified.

And there, I think, might be my point. There is dignity in every line of work that we all must recognize. I don’t want to list all the jobs that I think don’t get the dignity and appreciation they deserve - fabricate your own list - but I know everyone deserves my respect. Are there exceptions? I suppose so, maybe… not really.

In all those years back-serving I often was asked by a guest why I wasn’t a front-man, their assumption being that there was a hierarchy and that I seemed pretty good at it all. I’d smile and deflect, saying it was a pleasure to work behind John, Heidi or Sebastian or whoever. I never felt it stick in my craw though. We split the tip evenly and the work sharing seemed fair, so I just felt we were so-workers, team-workers.

Which, it occurs to me, might be a better point. No role is in any way subservient if it’s agreed upon that the goal and outcome serve the mutual need.

I return to Maury and Verlon and so many other great sidemen I’ve noticed over the years. After the initial thrill of the front-man and the excitement of a favorite song, I find my eyes and ears drifting to the sideman. A great guitar lead or a soaring fiddle solo, the studied beat of the drummer, the bassist soft and slow, the pianist’s quick arpeggio - all seem to lift the front-man, raising him higher than their singular talents. This would be the outcome of serving the mutual need: To present the song as perfect as possible.

One last, quick story and I’ll let you go.

I sometimes play and sing in a local bar called The Plain Folk Cafe of a Thursday night, open mic night. Now, I could write a novel about what I’ve observed in the goings-on there, but what most strikes me is the level of decency everyone offers each other. And these are different folks, with different geographical and social backgrounds, “hillbillies and hippies” my friend Ron once said. But this is no place to start a novel…

I know his name, but I haven’t asked him if I could use it (I didn't think Ron would mind), and, as a memoirist, I might not have all my facts correct or may have assumed things in my subjectivity that aren’t there. Anyway, he plays harmonica and is remarkably good. He sometimes sings and plays guitar but mostly he the house harmonica guy. Folks invite him up to play or he’ll play a bit as someone’s doing their set and they’ll ask him up. Which is what happened to me.

I was playing a tune, “Paradise” I remember, and I heard this plaintive call coming from close in the crowd, I saw him and motioned him up. He grabbed his harp case and hopped on up, playing the whole time, I might add. I’d really just started the song so after the second chorus I played a verse and chorus just on the guitar. A head bob to him and he understood instantly and took the melody on his harp. 

He soared. Adding more, in all honesty, than I would in the subsequent verses. He found that lonesome, lost sound that mirrored the mood and sad beauty in those haunting Prine words. I was a bit gobsmacked and I think he was, too, at me giving him such a long solo, I barely knew him at the time.

I finished that song and did a few more ending with a song I’d written called “In a Little Boy's Soul”. Mind you, he could never have heard this song before, guaranteed. One chorus and verse in, he was playing it like he’d know it all his life. He really lifted my song, made it shine brighter. I will be always indebted to him for that.

We got off that stage and do you know what he said? “Thanks for letting me play with you. I truly enjoyed that.” And then he thanked me for giving him that lead and telling him what key the songs were in. He’d just transcended my set, made it better, you understand? He made it better. I thanked him, of course, and complimented his style and connectedness but he’d have none of it, genuinely humble.

He started to the bar to get a fresh Yuengling and I thanked him one last time, and then he said something that still echoes, “It was my honor.”

So, I guess that’s my advice today. Sometimes, you’ll be a sideman, sometimes you won’t, (and sometimes you just won't be sure), but I have found the most satisfaction in being one. 

I am a sideman to you boys. 

I am a sideman to my dear wife, Marci. 

I’ve been a sideman to friends and musicians, chefs and CEOs, infants and the infirmed, priests and roofers.

And it has been, and shall forever be, my honor.

Peace and thanks for stopping by, I know things are pretty tough the days, I appreciate your time.

There's always more, isn't there?  Years ago, over ten I'd say, Marci had this mouse pad made for me. It's Zack holding the water fountain on as Nick gets a drink, they later reversed roles.

 It's nice to have a sideman, ain't it boys?

Kind Being

This was originally published as Be nice, Kids. Better Yet. Be the Things you want in Others on City Dads Group in March of this year, just two months ago. It seems a bit trite and naive in retrospect, but, I liked it at the time.  

Hey, my teenage sons — and friendly others — you might remember that I’ve been offering advice to you — my boys, not the others — instead of talking about what you’re up to as I did for so many years. Honestly, I thought it would be easy to give advice and drop wisdom bombs. You know what? It ain’t.

Before I get started, though, let me tell you a quick story.

Since right around the time you boys were born, 15 or so years ago, this same guy in the deli at our local grocery store has been slicing our ham and salami and bagging up fried chicken for us. His name is Neil, and he recently retired. I saw him the other day at a convenience store where we were both getting coffee. When he recognized me, he smiled and shook my hand warmly and said, “Hey, it’s Super Nice Guy!”

I was a little take aback, but who doesn’t like a nickname — truth be told, I always thought of him as Neil the Chicken Guy. I smiled and told him I always appreciated what he did for us and mentioned that he always gave me a couple of more pieces of chicken than I ordered. He said he was glad to do it. Neil also said he thought I was the kindest customer he had and that he enjoyed talking baseball with me and watching the boys grow up. I made an impact on this guy just by being nice to him, which is sadly rare way to treat a retail employee.
Just by being nice.

So, I guess that’s my advice for you this time is: Be nice. Good advice, right? Well, yes, I guess so. But, what does that even mean?

As parents, we say “be nice” all the time. I looked the word “nice” up: pleasant: agreeable; satisfactory. Sort of a generic entry there, don’tcha think?

Be good. Be kind. Be safe. Be nice.

I’ve been saying these things to you since before you could talk. So much so, in fact, that it begins to mean nothing. I wonder if they even mean anything to you anymore. We never define exactly what entails “being nice” or any of the other words we so casually offer as you go out the door. Perhaps, they’re only platitudes given up as much for ourselves as for you, as though I’m covering my own ass by telling you these things. You know, “I told him to be nice, officer. It’s out of my hands now.”

I notice, however, that there is a consistency here in all those trite directives I’ve been offering, but not where you’d expect it. It’s that first word, “be.”

Man, that’s a complicated word. But, it is a verb and that helps. I understand verbs.

The word “love,” for instance, is both a verb and a noun. I’ve never been able to pin it down as a noun. It’s one of those that is different to every person and in every case. But, as a verb, it is more definite, more actionable.

Maybe that’s what we mean when we say “be nice” or any of the others. The focus is not necessarily on the amorphous noun but on that little word in front. I am asking you to become nice, occupy nice, live in nice. And, you know what, I see you do it.

I’ve watched you be nice so many times over the years. A hand offered to help a player up on the soccer pitch. An encouraging word given to a scared friend or frustrated brother. An unsolicited hug for me or your mother. I’ve witnessed you being respectful to your teachers. I’ve seen you being kind to your grandparents. I’ve seen you be patient with younger kids, watched you be safe on a playground.

The only way we can see these nouns like love and honor and respect and integrity is when they are acted out in front of us. Listen, boys: it’s easy to see the meanness and baseness and discourtesy of this world we live in. Just turn on your phone or your television. It seems nearly every show or movie depends on some unsavory elements to move forward — some are just devoted to being mean or showing cruelty and disrespect. And the news so often just shows us the bad.

But, and I truly believe this, it is just as easy, if not easier, to see kindness and decency and niceties and so much more.

Integrity flies by in the cab of the firetruck as it screams by our house from the station around the corner. Courage is made real in the intent and decency of medical professionals. Honor is there in the hearts of our teachers. Cashiers and servers, cops and clergy, roofers and landscapers, “chicken guys,” will all respond in kind when offered kindness. I’ve seen it over and over in my life. You will, too, you’ve just got to look for it.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to revise my advice today. “Be nice” is too vague to be helpful. I’d say just “be” might be enough.

Be nice, be kind, be helpful and courageous and wild and playful and hopeful, just and right. Be love, be integrity, be honor and decency and respect.

Let them occupy you. Let them be in you, and I believe they are. I believe they are in all of us. Be the things you want in others, be toward them as you’d have them be to you.

Just be.

Be yourselves.

 I just wanted to get this here.


Monday, March 9, 2020

I Chose the "Ch****oast"

When I was thirteen or so my parents went out of town for the weekend. My then seventeen-year-old, senior in high school brother was tasked with looking after me, so, yeah, I went unsupervised. 

It was fall and he had a football game Friday night which I had attended and got a ride home afterward with friends. He was supposed to get me home. I didn’t see him again until late Saturday morning when he left and told me he’d see me whenever.

I, correctly, took that to mean the next day.

When Mom left, she said we could have anything in the freezer, meaning TV dinners, which were very popular in those days. She, however, did not say specifically which freezer she meant. You see, there was also a big chest freezer in the basement full of frozen bread and vegetables, ice cream, curiously, milk and… meat.

I liked meat, a lot, then and still do. For some people it’s sweets, some like salty, some like fruits and vegetables, others can’t do without starch. I think folks are predisposed, like, biologically, to run on different fuels. I run on meat.  Also, I am not a scientist.

So, here was the plan. I’d get some meat from the freezer and I’d grill it for my lunch. As I opened the lid that cold air rushed me and I swore I heard a little choral “hallelujah” as I looked down on all those white butcher packs full of meat, each marked - many smeared - with a grease pencil as to their content. Now, I was not so stupid as to take a “T-bone” or a “Strip,” Dad would not have liked that. There were plenty marked “Hambuger”(sic) but that’s not what I wanted. As I dug, I found “Round Steak,” a possibility, a giant “Roast” and, towards the very bottom, a “Ch*** *oast.” It was not too thick, a good size and has clearly been down there on the bottom for quite a while and would probably not be missed.

So, I chose the “Choast.”

Now, I have held in my hands a piece of marble that was less hard than this chunk of meat. In fact, I had to run it under hot water to get the paper off it was so thoroughly frozen to the surface of the meat. This, for reasons that I can’t quite grasp today, did not deter me, nor did the white freezer-burn around the edges. I chucked it onto a cookie sheet and went to start the Weber.

I’d watched my Dad start the grill many times, we had hamburgers most Saturday nights, and I knew how to get it started. 
He used a nifty chimney thing that you stuffed with newspaper at the bottom and filled the larger top part with the Kingsford and lit. In ten or so minutes the coals were going and you could dump them out and put the grill grate on. I accomplished this with little difficulties. The difficulties were yet to come…

Salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, just as Dad did with the burgers. The grill was hot, and I slid that meat from the sheet pan and on to that very hot grill with a mighty sizzle and a soft sorta “clunck” and looked forward to my steak in fifteen or twenty minutes, figuring it was just a big sirloin.

I gave it a few minutes and went to flip it with the big fork that dangled from the Weber. Needless to say, that meat was simply impenetrable. I gave up on the fork and grabbed the tongs that were next to them. The tongs were woefully under-designed for a two-and-a-half-pound hunk-o-beef and I quickly abandoned them.

All that was left on the utensil hanger was the burger spatula that had a surface area about a thirty-secondth of the meat. I managed to get it under but kept getting it off balance and had to steady it with the tongs, but I did manage to get it flipped.

Nothing. It had grayed a bit and there were a few marks from the grate, but it didn’t look like any hamburger or steak I’d ever had. I gave the other side maybe ten minutes, performed the flip maneuver with a little more alacrity and again… nothing. Yeah, it was a little darker than the first side, a little less gray edging toward brown but, well, not right.

Young men are not quick to either see nor admit to the folly of their ways - that comes with time and experience - but, I think I began to see that I needed a better plan. Thankfully, it occurred to me that I needed to thaw the beef. Perhaps this was not the best time for this realization, especially since I knew meat needed to be thawed. My mom often left a pound of hamburger out to thaw in the morning for dinner later. I am still unclear why this occurred to me so late in the game that day, but, there it is.

However, when it did occur to me, it all occurred to me. 
Something changed. It was clear that a biological timer had gone off or, deeper perhaps, a genetic switch was tripped, and I saw unmistakably the battle I was into, my first, my trial by fire. The combination of the heat and smoke of the Kingsford, the aroma of the sear, and the Flintstone-like look of that slab stirred up in me a primitive and urgent lust for that piece of meat and conjured in my mind great heroism. I felt, perhaps, as an apprentice may feel as he enters a noble trade and knows that he will someday know the secrets that will make him wise.

I’ll do us all the honor of speeding up the narrative.

You know that technique where you push all the coals to one side and the other side no longer sears, we call it “indirect heat” these days? Yeah, I didn’t think of that. I did remove the meat and the grill, and I pushed all the coals to the sides, in a big circle. I added some more Kingsford on top of the graying ones and put the grate and the meat back on.

Yes, I’d encircled the Choast and begun my siege. 
I won’t dwell on the battle tactics I employed, but they did include an interesting technique to refuel my fire in which I slowly spun the grate and dropped individual briquettes through a small gap by the handles of the grate; an inspired Webelo moment that involved aluminum foil and an onion and a limp celery stalk and Pepsi; and a moment of sheer epiphany when I came to understand the air vent adjusters at the top and bottom.

So, a wrapped and wrestled, roasted and broasted, fiddled and fucked with that meat for a full four or more hours. So long, in fact, that I had to have lunch waiting on my lunch - Lebanon bologna and mustard, thanks for asking. Finally, I decided to remove it from the foil to see what I had.

It was gray…

However, as you might recall, I had been awakened to the Way of the Grill and I knew I needed to get some color on it. So, off the grill, remove the grate and pile all those coals, now just small glowing bits, but they made a nice pile in the center.

As I stacked them with the wearing-out tongs I knocked most of the ash off them and, well, I could have smelted on them. Grate back on and quickly it is hot, hot, hot.

I slid the meat down with a satisfying sizzle. The Pepsi had reduced along with the juices and was a bit syrupy and clung to the outside of the chunk. It quickly smelled of caramel and barbeque and earth and Ohio. 

I managed to flip it - it was starting to come apart a little - and when I did the angels sang. It was dark gold and brown and deep umber and there were perfect grill marks. It was Pinterest perfect decades before there was such a thing. I can see it right now…

I quickly seared up the other side and plated it on an chipped oval platter, a platter my mother still has to this day. It was then that I realized I didn’t have anything to go with it. 

I carried the finished product into the kitchen and decided to fry up some potatoes in bacon grease, a family favorite Nick makes these days. Now that took a while and, honestly, unbeknownst to me, gave that meat a chance to rest and cool a little.

Somewhere around six, I’d guess I sat down at the picnic table on the screened porch. Close enough to the Weber to feel the last of the heat from the coals which cut the evening chill nicely. Our porch was high on a hill and all around me the woods and fields in the distance glowed in that fall palette this part of the country utilizes so well. It was still and had been all day and the aroma from the hours-long grilling session hung sweetly in the high ceiling above me. Crickets and frogs were tuning up and birds tittered in the trees.

I looked down at the platter in front of me, this platter…

… and the rustic aroma of those golden, bacon-fried potatoes mingled with the faint tang of the burnt edges and the sweetness of that pop-caramelized chuck roast will forever hang in the smokehouse my memory.

It was not quite fork-tender, I had a steak knife and sliced an edge off and popped that in my mouth and, well, you know what... I’m gonna let you imagine how good it was. Everything I could say about it is because I know food these days, not so much then.

I know, now, what techniques I used and why things happened the way they did. I know the Maillard effect and about how sugar and salt work and all that.

But, back then, all I knew was that it was perfect, and I had never even intended it. I thought I was having steak but accidentally invented braised, grilled, glazed ch****oast.

And that, dear boys, is my bit of advice today: a lot of times life works out much differently than you expected. And - comically, I think - it is often through blunders and wrong turns and desperate chances and tomfoolery and hairbrainage and dumbfuckery that we find ourselves in wonderful, odd and unforgettable moments.

If there are axioms in life I think this might be one:

“You never know what’s coming or where you're going.”

I hope this finds you someday, boys.

And peace to those reading along now, or tomorrow or yesterday. It’s weird that when you write it’s like being in all tenses at the same time.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Coffee Cups and Mason Jars

Hey, boys, I think it's just us. 

So, I figure it this way: Young men, such as yourselves, don't want their parents' advice, especially from aged ones such as I; also, young men crave advice.  Clearly, the answer here is to give you some advice.


I'll start simply.  As you have no doubt noticed, everyone is walking around with water bottles and travel mugs these days.  It's cool, I get it, but, it hasn't always been like this.  In the sixties and seventies, when I was young, nobody carried a cup of coffee around or had a water bottle close by.  Yes, of course, people used canteens and such and there were buckets (literally buckets, with a ladle) of water at practices.  I remember seeing a farmer, Mr. Barnes, sitting under the shade of that one tree that always seemed to be in the middle of the field, and drinking water out of a Mason jar.  Folks used thermoses back in those days as well, usually full of strong, black coffee from the percolator and usually for a long car trip or a morning hunt or Spring planting.

I'll get back to those in a minute, but first a quick story.


We were walking, so it must have been when I was a freshman and Don was a sophomore.  We'd finished football practice - we were both on the Junior Varsity team - and, because we didn't have a ride, had walked to his house only a half-mile or so away.  He stopped to check on something in the garage, so I planned to knock and go on in as I usually did. 

The entrance that everyone used was off the back up a few steps and through a screen door into the kitchen.  I remember stopping on the little landing and looking in.  Mrs. M. was sitting at the Formica and chrome kitchen table, white green trimmed saucer in her hand sipping out of the matching cup.  She took a few sips and nestled the cup back into its little ring in the saucer but kept it in her hand, not setting it down.

Her gaze was towards the window above the big farm sink to my right.  She seemed still, calm, wistful somehow.  It may seem odd that I took the time to see her so, but here's the thing - I don't think I'd ever seen the woman sitting.  She was a busy housewife; five kids, mostly sporty boys, some grandparents lived there as well, as I recall.  She hung her laundry and cooked and made cookies and sandwiches and all that stuff.  I am only saying this to emphasize the fact that I don't think I'd even ever seen her still.

Looking back, I think that may be why I waited on that stoop, seeing her that way.  I didn't want to interrupt her reverie.  I heard Don coming my way, so I finally pushed open the screen door and walked on in.  I didn't startle her as I'd been afraid I might, she just looked my way and smiled in surprise that I wasn't her son.  She put down her cup and saucer after one last draining sip, she looked one last time out that window into the fading Autumn afternoon.

"Is everything alright, Mrs. M.?"

"Oh sure, Bill, I was just collecting my thoughts," she answered offhandedly.

Don burst into the kitchen laughing with an old hound behind him - he was a big, loud dude, Don, not the hound - and the dog's paws clicked and clacked on the linoleum floor and the stillness was gone.

She quickly got up and put her cup and saucer into the deep sink and asked if we'd like some sandwiches and set to work on them before we answered her.

"Collecting my thoughts."


Thermoses - you know, vacuum bottles, Thermos is a brand name - were lined with glass in those days so we treated them with respect.  There was a lid on the inner bottle which screwed on tight but there was also another lid which sort of half screwed half clicked onto the outer steel shell.  It was a cup.  One did not just glug out of them, you stopped what you were doing and carefully poured a few ounces into the lid and had that.  Sometimes, if you were in a car, the passenger did that for you, but, more often than not, you'd stop somewhere and have a cup or two, and collect your thoughts.

I can't remember where we were going but we were in a big-ass station wagon, me ensconced in the narrow storage well between the back seat and the reverse-facing back-back seat - I liked it there.  The windows were closed except for my Dad's "cozy wing" (look it up), which he used to ash the cigarettes he enjoyed while driving.  Maybe we were going to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving to see family friends, it occurs to me.  Dad lit a filtered Camel and asked my Mom for the last of the coffee.

I'd say we were well into the trip, my oldest brother, in front of me, was reading a cheap paperback science fiction novel and my other older brother was flopping about in the back-back seat trying to sleep.  I'd been watching the fields and barns and cows and power lines.  My mom grabbed the worn gray Thermos bottle off the long bench between them, clicked off the cup and unscrewed the lid.  She poured him a couple of sips, nearly upending the nearly empty bottle, and I remember the steam coming off the little stained stainless-steel cup.  The aroma of that dark black percolated Folgers mingled with the rich earthy smell of the Camel and I recall feeling good, safe, content.  My Mom asked Dad, as he passed back the cup if he was alright.

"I was just thinking, I guess," he said with a smile I could not see but somehow heard.

It was the same with Mr. Barnes in that field.  Down between his feet in a cardboard box, nestled into a wooden crate that was somehow affixed to the tractor, was his daily stash of jars.  They were in, of course, the box the jars had originally come in with little dividers, twelve I'd guess, and they were covered with a wet towel to keep them at least cool.  Of course, a man can't wrastle a tractor and a plow with one hand, so he had to stop and have his drink.

I was watching him from my perch in a tree we played in as boys, he was probably a football field away (a common measurement in the Midwest) and I couldn't really see his face but, it occurs to me now, I'll bet it held the same expression Mrs. M.'s had.  I could tell he was gazing into the distance; the field was plowed to where he was under that big tree, and he was looking towards the beige stubble of the unplowed half.  I'd guess, if one could have asked him what he was doing, he'd've answered "Collectin' my thoughts."

So, my advice isn't to not have a take-out coffee or drink from a water bottle, but, occasionally at least, do something that slows you down.  In a way, I think we all want to do it.  It's there in that moment you forgot that you were watching a baseball game on TV and are just staring at the pretty moving picture.  It's there when you wait in your car, engine running, to listen to the end of an old favorite song or symphony.  It's there watching a child sleep or a sun rise.  I know you recognize it in others, that wistful look on another's face.  A "faraway smile" you could say.  You've most likely had to get someone back from that place.  I've had to do it with you boys.  I see Marci do it - she'd usually smiling as she does, which is sweet.

I suppose, in truth, what I am talking about here is "mindfulness."  Yeah… no.  That makes it seem like a goal or a state of existence or a trance or something you need direction with.  As I said, it is something we all do, this "thought collecting."  What I am suggesting is simply to recognize your soul in it, your self.

If I were a man of faith (which I am) I might make one final observation (which I will).  As I look back on these moments - each serene, quiet, rich, even poignant - I sense something else.  I wonder if perhaps I saw it then, considering that I can so readily recall the details.  I wonder if I haven't always sensed it…

A prayer perhaps?

Peace, boys.

And to you kind reader, thanks for coming around.