Monday, January 31, 2005


is an

you play it

Originally published in Cotton Row Anthology, 1996

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Raining in Nashville

It is raining in Nashville. And it is cold. Maybe an ice storm. Maybe not. I can predict my moods better than they can predict the weather here. Either way, they say, be careful on the roads in the morning.

The Boy has another ear infection. Daycare called me at 11:00 this morning. “We have a sick little boy here,” they say. “Fever of 102 degrees. Lethargic.” Jesus, it sounds as though they are ready to harvest his organs. 102? “He eats 102 for breakfast. Give me 105 and we’ll talk,” I say. They aren’t amused. Truth be told, I’d rather lose an appendage than have him uncomfortable for a minute. But a bigger truth? You try to protect him too much, shelter him, save him from life’s cruel jokes, you’ll fuck that kid for the long haul. Em’s a good boy and takes it in stride. I pick him up within 30 minutes of getting the call. “You feeling OK, Boy?” He is feverish, tired—just pitiful. Know what he tells me? “I’m just a little tired, Daddy.” I hold him tight and make him smile. I sing him the Handsome Boy song. A little Motrin, a little Augmentin and he’s as good as a broke-eared boy can be. He sleeps now—the rhythm of his breathing, a perfect dance. I shuffle-step as best I can, keep time like a challenged father.

I’ve put together 20 cds for Ken in Portland. Waterboys, James, Hayseed Dixie, John Prine, Todd Snider, more and more. In our running days, we were all Judas Priest and Dokken. Today, it is Widespread and Yonder Mountain for him, Americana and Folk for me. We like to meet in the middle and embrace in that old comfortable friendship of long ago. But we can still appreciate a Vain, or Dio, or L.A. Guns homecoming. Yearn for it, actually. I will mail the cds tomorrow.

It is raining in Nashville. And it is cold. I don’t think the ice storm will come. But it might.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

30 Second Film (Untitled)

Cut from Black to Interior ratty pickup truck traveling leisurely if not haphazardly down a two-lane. Occupants: 3 year old Boy (Gust) in casual, well-worn play clothes; Father, 30s but appears older, tired of being tired, 3 day beard growth, nondescript red baseball cap tilted back on his head, grubby blue workshirt. Sound of the road is prominent. It is high noon.

Boy: We gone go see Nubbin?

Father: Naw, we ain’t gone see Nubbin today.

B: I wone go see Nubbin.

F: Slightly agitated. I understand you wone go see Nubbin. But you ain’t gone see Nubbin today. Nubbin ain’t ‘round today (pronounced duh-day).

B: Begins to whine. Go see Nubbin’. I wone go see Nubbin. Bawling. Go see Nubbin.

F: Yelling. Goddamnit, Gust, we ain’t gone see Nubbin today. Now that’s enough! Pause. God-damn!

B: Long pause. Sniffling. We gone go see Poot?

Cut to Black

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rock Stars Eat Sushi

On Friday night I stepped away for take-out. A Frisbee-sized burger for me. Sashimi for Liz. Since both restaurants are in the same center, I stopped at Dalton’s first, bellied up to the bar for a hefty shot of Woodford Reserve and a couple draughts, and placed my order. It was a nice relaxing forty-five minutes. A brief respite from a week of work and Em responsibilities. I was able to unwind, people-watch on the sly, catch 3 rounds of a lightweight fight, and ignore a fool seated to my right. From Dalton’s I walked to Tokyo and took my place in line behind a guy with longish hair, a black jacket, and black sweats. Instinctively, I knew he was a rocker. Nashville is delightfully full of relocated rockers. I often see them when I’m grocery shopping. Dressed in black and wearing rocker sunglasses, they are entirely at ease in this easy town. You see them and note a nagging familiarity that you can’t quite place. Then you put it behind you and go about your shopping. As the Tokyo rocker politely moved away and took a seat by the wall, I had a faint idea who he was. The waitress rang up my order and took my card. She made sincere eye contact with me—not her style. She then motioned with her head at a signed Cinderella picture—circa 1986, all glam and pouty lips—hanging on the wall behind her and quickly pointed to the rocker. I cocked my head and said, “Yeah? I thought so.” The waitress was simply giddy. She offered me his autograph (which I unsuccessfully declined) and news that he had a new baby. I had been prepared for nonchalant mutual acknowledgement and a graceful exit. But instead I had a brief conversation during which I felt unnecessarily foolish—if only because it was forced. At least I managed not to squeal pixie-like, “Tom Keifer, you fucking rock, dude!!! You guys were my favorite of all the hair bands. Stephen Pearcy and Ratt? Bret Michaels and Poison? Kip Winger? Those guys got nothin’ on you, Tom!!!” The guy was a prince, truly. I mentioned the time I saw him in Augusta, GA in 1986—1st tour. “Yeah. With Bon Jovi,” he said. In me, he no doubt saw a harmless aging fan suddenly reliving a pinpoint thrill of his youth. And in the reflection of that fan’s eyes, perhaps, he spied an even older former rock star, belting Rock Blues to thousands, the tail-end of a decade belonging to him. We talked briefly about the singular joy of fatherhood. We shook hands and I let the man alone. On my way to the Jeep, I noticed that I had a little something extra in my step and a grin on my mug. I glided home in a haze of pleasant nostalgia. I’ve been grinning since Friday. Somebody Shake Me, I’m too old to feel this young. But I’m young enough to appreciate it.

Oh, and Tom Keifer, You fucking rock, dude!!! Ahem, I mean a real pleasure to meet you. And thanks for the autograph.

Monday, January 24, 2005

lightning winks

lightning winks in the distance
reflecting along the horizon of
your pale blue eyes

a single shard of rain

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Key West

like a
of butter
in a warming skillet
the orange
the waiting

Originally published in Cotton Row Anthology II, 1997

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

When the Stories Were Done

Em calls me “My Daddy” lately. Ummmm, My Daddy? I’m gonna build you a rocket ship today. Ummmm, My Daddy? Who made da Moon? It cracks me up. The Boy is a marvel, he is. He knows his address, his telephone number. He can immediately differentiate between sarcasm and sincerity, irony and fact. I know people who’ve circumvented a lifetime without being able to do that. He’s only three. The little shit actually mocked me recently. It was just hilarious and it garnered my respect in that it was done with perfect timing and no hint of meanness. The kid’s got potential. On Sunday we played with his “building bricks,” the poor man’s Leggos. We meticulously crafted houses and cars and ferris wheels and playgrounds and buildings. We leaned back on our hands and admired our work for several minutes. Then with a beautiful smile and a glint in his eye, he asked, “My Daddy, can I knock it down?” “Of course,” I said. “That’s the really fun part, Boy.” And knock it down he did. Ever the optimists, we built it back again—better. The two of us, gleefully naïve, as if the next Apocalypse was not a mere hand swipe away. (A good hand swipe is just too tempting to pass up.) That night we read The Brave Cowboy, Where the Wild things Are, and Hop on Pop. On every page of Where the Wild Things Are, he’d stop the story to point at each character and tell me, “That’s you, and that’s Mommy, and that’s me, and that’s Uncle Geoff.” Turn page and repeat. When the stories were done, he nestled into the crook of my arm and yawned. Then he looked up and said to me, “I love you, My Daddy.” I looked back at him for a lifetime. Finally I said, “I know, My Boy. I love you too.” It was a good day.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Old Beginnings

He sat there, casual as a minute hand, the pace of everything around him having long ago set itself.

There it is. I wrote that opening sentence on February 12, 2003. And then I stared at it for over an hour and tried to figure out what to do with it. I could visualize the “casual He.” Knew him well enough to call him by name—but what name? I knew he was sitting at a dimly lit bar, in front of the well-placed big bar mirror, a row of whiskey bottles hiding the bottom half of his reflection. But that’s it. I took that sentence and its possibilities and shoved it in a drawer with hundreds just like it where it has been casually sitting ever since—the pace of its author having long ago reset himself. I’ve got beginnings, Baby. And I’ve got locale. And I’ve got desire. What I don’t have is a voice. What I don’t have is a middle. Segues to segues. I think the well is full, but the pump is fucked. And I can’t lower a bucket because my rope is frayed. And any number of forced metaphors. Anyone interested in publishing a book of beginnings? The potential is immeasurable. They most always take place in bars or lonely apartments or cars being driven at night. The language they invoke will likely be coarse. The scenes to which they lend themselves will likely be dark, uncomfortable, but somehow familiar. A little like Bukowski but with less heart. An aspiration to be like Carver, but only Carver will ever be Carver (and just what do we talk about when we talk about love?). And I’m off on a misdirected tangent. Because, I do have a voice, it’s just buried for now. And I do have a middle—I’m living it right now and it’s not bad. And I’m a walking segue, always have been. And pump and rope be damned, the well will yield when it is ready. It is full and patient. Casual as a minute hand. In the meantime, I’ll start something new. Nothing got anywhere without beginning somewhere—and other painfully clear observations.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Emerson Sleeps

The Boy is down now. When night comes he is "scared" and wants Daddy's bed. This is new and he has learned to leverage fear (no Daddy would have his son be afraid). Tonight he is scared of lions, tigers, bears (oh my), spiders, and eyes (?). Bullshit. He loves lions, tigers, and bears (oh my). I know this and tell him so. "Oh," he says. "Yes. Oh," I reply. As for the spiders and eyes, I find no sign of them during a once-over of his room. So I lay with him a long while. I rub his back and cover him with Ol' Blue. I apologize for being frustrated earlier. He is sorry for being a little shit. We agree that we are good, trade kisses, a hug, and potatoes. Tomorrow we will sign him up for soccer. A three-year-old playing soccer. Hmmph. Seems a bit odd to me but I'm game if he is--and he is. I've explained to him that this is purely for comic relief. I expect him to get nothing out of it. But I, on the other hand, intend to laugh myself sterile watching him amble up to a gaggle of soccer boys, grab the game ball, and haul ass. Then when the Soccer Moms encircle me, marking their territory with protests and exasperation, I'll say, "THEY'RE THREE!!! All the Boy did was pick up the ball. Isn't that your little monster over there taking a growler on the other team's net?" Soccer moms hate that--I presume. But for now, the Boy sleeps. Doing battle with lions, tigers, and bears. Victorious over each one. And after awhile he walks his little boy walk straight ahead to soccer practice. Confident and scared with his perfect mischievous smile and a pocketful of spiders.