Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Things to Do in Portland and After

Back in the fold of welcome obligation and responsibility, I look back on a long and enjoyable weekend in Portland, Oregon. And while I didn’t get to catch up with dear old friends in nearby Seattle (Phil), I did get to reconnect with a big part of who I am, meet a grand new addition to that part, and let go of things for awhile.

Things to do in Portland when you visit Ken, Paige, and Ava:
1. Be introduced to Cuban coffee and enjoy it immensely. You may wonder why it takes a visit to Portland, Oregon to experience this uniquely Miami treat, but you’ll get over it and ask that the tedious process of preparing another effeminate-looking cup begin again. 2. Drink White Russians for no reason whatsoever. Just do it because you can. When following a Cuban coffee, they are particularly refreshing. 3. On the Thursday of your arrival, go see the Portland Beavers play the Fresno Grizzlies in a Triple A match-up. Marvel at the absolutely stunning PGE Park and how it strangely reminds you of Fenway Park but doesn’t seem to do that for anyone else. Drink too much discounted beer because it is “Thirsty Thursday.” Heckle the Grizzlies because it is always fun to be an asshole at a minor league baseball game. 4. Go to the Space Room Lounge after the baseball game and revel in the pure and delightful seediness of the place. Drink too much Makers Mark and make sure Ken drives home. 5. Go to the Kennedy School and be shocked that someone has literally refurbished an entire old elementary school and turned it into a series of bars, restaurants, luncheon rooms, theatre, and lodging. Bask in the odd nostalgia that walking those wooden halls offers. Have the barbecue sandwich and thick Ale for lunch. Stop and shake your head that such a place exists. And then kick yourself for not thinking of it first. 6. Go to the Oregon convention Center for the annual Ceramic Showcase and enjoy that all-too-rare glimpse of originality. 7. Visit sprawling Laurelwood Park and watch your friends play with their toddler. Take pictures. Throw bread to spoiled ducks. 8. Go to lunch at Cool Runings and have the best Jerk Chicken sandwich ever. Mix the best homemade hot sauce you’ve ever had with the best red beans and rice you’ve ever had and make jokes while you perspire and try to manage your running nose. 9. Scoop up Baby Ava, and love on her, and make her laugh, and read to her, and make her fly like an airplane, and tickle her, and put her down for her nap, and miss your Boy tremendously. 10. If you love a dive and strong drinks, go to the Bear Paw Inn and feel at home. 11. Go see Todd Snider at the Aladdin Theatre and grin like you just invented music. 12. Enjoy two and a half days of stunning weather. 13. Enjoy a beautiful rainstorm emanating from a soulful grey sky. 14. Stay up all night talking and drinking and act utterly baffled when it is 7:15 a.m. 15. Take pleasure in the fact that some friendships never diminish, but grow like Oregon Douglas Firs and Georgia Pines, surviving distances and years that often weaken the strongest things. 16. Buy a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and toast to good friends. 17. Stay up all night again talking and drinking and *nurse your brutal hangover all the way home (*cold draught beer in Denver, Colorado will help you do this).

Back in the fold of welcome obligation and responsibility, I look back on a long and enjoyable weekend in Portland, Oregon. I hold my Boy and kiss his smile. I play along with “Hey, Daddy, Watch ‘dis”! I give him airport treasures. I bathe him and wash his hair. I explain to him (again) that I don’t like carrots. Or grapes. I break inside just a little when he says, “I’m so glad you back from seein’ Baby Ava.”

And later, as Emerson sleeps, I sit on the side of his bed and watch the rhythmic rising and falling of his chest. Our breathing is synchronous. And I wonder what a man like me did to deserve the visitation of such grace.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Travel Notes…04.21.05…6:20 a.m.

The alarm sounded at 3:30 a.m. just as it was supposed to. I managed almost four hours of sleep, which is better than I expected. Showered. Dressed. Kissed my Baby Boy as he slept. Gathered my bags and headed out.

Not many cars on 440 and then I-40. I like driving the Interstate when it’s dark and nearly empty. There is something peaceful about the headlights hitting the spaced lines and then watching those lines as they race beneath me like a filmstrip. Thunderstorms were predicted but I meet only sporadic misting rain and then nothing.

In long-term parking at Nashville International (BNA), I find a spot near bus stops 5 and 6. Should be interesting to see whether I remember that in five days when I return. I am one of four people on the shuttle. I stare out the window as we bounce our way toward Departures.

The airport is quiet enough. I notice a woman in a wheelchair making seat arrangements. Her laugh—more of a nervous chuckle—annoys me and I feel a brief pang of guilt. There is a boy—or perhaps man—with a dark complexion. He could be 17 or 25. He is dressed too nicely, it seems, for a 6:00 a.m. flight. I stereotype him as Muslim. He seems nervous until it is time to board. His eyes are smiling and he is handsome. He carries only a black bible and this strikes me as odd.

I am tired and my eyes hurt. I’ve decided to forego the double Makers and Coke on this first leg. I’ll be in Denver in a couple of hours and will likely indulge then. I ask for a Diet Coke. Frontier offers Diet Pepsi. Who in the fuck drinks Diet Pepsi? This morning it is me.

Ken will meet me in a few hours. We will smile and shake hands. I may still be warm from the Makers. We will go someplace good for lunch where Ken will worry too much about whether I am comfortable and whether I like the food. We will drink beer. Ken will search my eyes periodically, trying to get a read on me. And in his Ken voice that is home to me as iced tea and humidity, he’ll say through his smile, “So what’s up?” That’s the way we talk to each other. It is at once a question and a statement. It is genuine and it means many things. Sometimes we answer one another. Sometimes we don’t.

After a year and a half I will meet Baby Ava tonight. I will pick her up and hold her tight—if she will have me. I will kiss her cheek and run my fingers through her thick hair. I will tell her about her Mommy and Daddy. I will tell her about Emerson. And then I will tell her that although I had to drink Diet Pepsi today, she is worth it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What I've Learned

Submitted to Esquire in September 2004 in response to their call for “What I’ve Learned” pieces from average people. None of these were chosen.

~It’s hard to be happy, but I try at least once a day.
~Potato chips are like Crack.
~There is nothing so perfect as a well-played baseball game.
~A good boxing match comes close.
~I love my son, Emerson, more than baseball.
~Although I adhere to it, I do not comprehend monogamy.
~Women are cruel, selfish, manipulative, conniving, and vindictive and I love them.
~Good bourbon and good cigars are gifts from God.
~I loathe politics on every level.
~There is never enough money.
~Conceptually, I will never comprehend death or the passage of time.
~As in the best southern literature, a sense of Place is as important as life itself.
~Spiders scare the living shit out of me.
~Driving from Florida City to Key West is one of the most satisfying things a man can do.
~The strangest thing I’ve ever seen is a man wearing bicycle shorts, a leather helmet, goggles, and roller skates pushing a shopping cart down a lonely stretch of Alligator Alley in Florida in the middle of summer.
~Steve Spurrier is loathsome.
~Because of racial divisiveness, nothing of consequence will ever be accomplished in Augusta, GA.
~People in Nashville are the nicest people in the country—until you put them behind the wheel of a car.
~The level of arrogance in Academia is unmatched in any other sector (although I’ve never worked in Hollywood).
~Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and then in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the most beautiful woman to have ever lived.
~Natalie Portman, Kim Basinger, Ashley Judd, and Helena Bonham Carter come very close.
~There is no greater satisfaction than being a father.
~I love a thunderstorm.
~Never say anything behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to his face.
~I’d rather you steal from me than lie to me.
~What I hate most about myself is an inexplicable fear of authority figures—especially cops.
~You have not lived until you’ve seen John Prine perform Lake Marie live.
~I’ve never felt so vulnerable or ineffective as when airport security searched my infant son.
~Heartbreak is debilitating.
~Hemingway revolutionized American Letters.
~Blacks and Whites will never reconcile their differences.
~I really like red meat.
~A man needs some grease in his diet.
~A Japanese Maple is a lovely tree.
~God, I love movies.
~I will never mature to my chronological age.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Moving Day

The U-Haul place at Wedgewood and 8th is run by a delightful, crusty group of folks. There is likely no greater collection of jailhouse tattoos in the entire city. And words like Goddamn, shit, and bastard flow naturally and unrestrained. There is a beauty to the foul language here that is born of real folk whose goal is not to shock but to communicate and be lighthearted. The eloquence of a well-placed fuck can elicit a poetry of its own if handled correctly.

This crew is a living Charles Bukowski riff. From the old man with sparkling eyes and mouthful of motherfuckers to the ex-convict/bookworm with a red shock of moustache and spiderweb drawings on his arms to the young grubby girl rocking back and forth suggestively as she smiles at Uncle G., I would go out of my way to befriend each. These are the people in life that you can depend on in case anything goes wrong. These are people who have fought and loved and stolen and hated and hurt and helped. They are people whose trust you have to earn. There have been no free rides in their world. And as such, they do not offer any. They are judgmental and coarse. And they are accepting and beautiful. A man could do worse than to achieve their friendship.

And so it was after Em’s soccer game and with an old man’s implied threat ringing in our ears that we set about the task of moving Uncle G. into his new apartment. “You need to have that Goddamn truck back by five now!” The voice alive with mischief trailed us out the door. “We can do that,” we assured him.

Uncle G.’s apartment is nestled behind Sam’s Sports Bar on 21st. Sam’s is harmless enough and can even be comfortable at times. But the regulars are a lowdown sort. By lowdown I mean that (from what I know of them) they have no code. Between drinks and blow and whatever else that can be had, they are simply waiting for the next party. There is nothing about them that lends itself to sympathy, empathy, or any feeling at all really. They are simply taking up space. See, Sam’s has no warmth, nor anything that would lead you to want to share your U-Haul story with its patrons. But it is close; and close can mean safe and convenient. Barely a parking lot away, it is easily within staggering distance.

There are few things I enjoy as much as moving. Retinal abrasions and food poisoning rank right up there. But Uncle G. is a good sort and I would help him move once a week if that was what he needed. Because he asked, I agreed to help him heft his material world up the three narrow flights of stairs. We started with the boxes we had freed earlier from the storage unit. I quickly pointed out that we should get right to the heavy stuff as I felt my legs going and was unsure of their shelf life. We knocked everything out in good order—to include the bed, television, and futon. The entire move took only a few hours. We then did a temperature check on Emerson who was doing well with Nana. We drove back to Wedgewood and 8th to unburden ourselves of the moving truck and pick up some supplies for Nana’s upcoming move. We turned in the keys and paperwork and grabbed boxes and tape. The U-Haul crew wanted to know if we weren’t maybe going about this in the wrong order. Their point being that most folks get boxes before they move. The young guy who processed the truck suggested that next time we “oughta gitch you a truckload of nekid girls to help you move.” This seemed like a good idea and made us laugh. The grubby girl still had designs on Uncle G. and continued to rock slowly on her chair as she watched him. The chair made a wonderful, illicit squeaking noise. I don’t know that Uncle G. noticed.

Back at the apartment, we lumbered up the stairs one last time. L. joined us and brought some remaining items from Nana’s—a plant, dress clothes. Uncle G. quickly connected his stereo and speakers and tore open a box labeled “CDs”. On the porch we drank ice cold Corona with slices of lime. We sat in G.s new chairs purchased for the occasion. The breeze was soothing and whispered right through us.

Three stories up we looked down on Sam’s and the harried parking lot; we looked at the BellSouth building peaking through the clouds and trees on the horizon; we watched the sun dip slowly in the distance. And we glanced in the direction of 8th Avenue where, at a U-Haul truck rental location, people closed up shop after a long day. Behind locked doors, Saturday night plans were being made and broken; poetry was being composed, vulgar and wonderful; and a lonely girl with dirty hands sat rocking slowly back and forth, keeping time with a tall beautiful boy in a red baseball cap.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Random Again

Met M. for a beer or few at Dalton’s last night. I’ve been so far beyond needing to get out of the house that I could scream. Don’t do it very often so am thrilled when the opportunity presents itself—if only for a couple hours. M. is weird as batshit and that’s one of the reasons we get on so well. Our morbid senses of humor merge well and take us places no sane man would consider. We are able to make one another laugh regularly. And laughter refreshes the soul. I can always use some soul refreshing. Our funny is the kind that would typically appeal only to adolescent boys—which I guess we pretty much are. And like adolescent boys much of our humor is founded in the homoerotic. Why this track often reduces us to tears, I’m not sure. With so many guys who joke around along those lines, you kind of get the sense they might not actually mind seeing one close up. M. and I, however, are about as straight as you can get—without the hunting and doing doughnuts in the parking lot. We are very similar people. Ours is an attitude of live and let live but fuck you if you think it’s your place to tell us how to live. Well, I know that is my attitude. I believe his is at least close. It was good being out of the house.

We have Em’s soccer practice this evening and his game tomorrow. Last week’s soccer game was a fiasco. Em played hard for about 10 minutes and then promptly walked over to the sidelines, had some juice, covered his head with a denim jacket, and refused to go back on the field. For the rest of the game. He wasn’t exhausted, mad, upset, or bothered at all. He’d simply had enough. No amount of prodding, pleading, excoriation, or indifference could change his mind. I was terribly agitated until I reached a moment of clarity: Emerson is three! It’s his job to be obstinate and headstrong. So, Well Done, Boy. We’ll try it again tomorrow.

I will help move Uncle G. again after the game tomorrow. From the storage shed to a third floor apartment in the Village. I couldn’t be in worse shape if I were being paid to be; so this should be interesting. Nana will keep an eye on Em. I foresee the day ending in cold beer and sore muscles. Not a bad way to end the day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Em Exchange


Me: Leaving some task or other, walk down the hall and into his room where he should be sleeping. “Yep.”

Em: “My hand is itchy. I need some med’cine.”

Me: I check his hand, no redness or swelling. I scratch said area. “There you go, Dog. All better.”

Em: “Nooooo! I need some med’cine. It itches real bad.”

Me: I go to the kitchen, take the dispensing cap off the Children’s Motrin, and pour in a half TSP of orange juice and a half TSP of cherry juice. I walk back to his room. He sees the dispensing cap, and grins big.

Em: Breaks into his natural Woody Woodpecker giggle: “Hehehehehehehehehehe!” Takes a sip. “Mmm. Tasty!” Takes another sip. “Is dis orange juice?”

Me: “It’s medicine.” He finishes it. “You feel better, Boy?”

Em: “Yeah, I feel better now. I need some juice.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Golf, Home, and Politics

I am not a golfer but I appreciate the complexity of the game. I worked for three years at one of Augusta, Georgia’s premiere courses and learned quickly that 1.) Hitting a golf ball is infinitely more difficult than it seems; 2.) Many golfers (primarily those born of privilege) are absolute pricks; 3.) Many golfers (including those born of privilege) are exceptional people; 4.) taking a sharp turn in a golf cart at a high rate of speed will result in the golf cart flipping over and hurting you and; 5.) driving a tractor into the wall of a cart barn will cause that wall to fall down. O’ the lessons of youth.

The Masters Tournament (or the “Toonament” as it is known locally), provides me with a welcome reminder of home each April. It is Augusta’s primary claim to fame (James Brown not withstanding) and elevates the city to the top of the sporting world once a year. If memory serves, the city is never quite as prepared to handle the infusion of fans (or “patrons” we like to say) as you would hope; but aside from the occasional pedestrian failing to make it safely across Washington Road, things go along well enough.

I’ve known members of the National and I’ll leave it to say simply that we are not of the same ilk—typically. And that is fine. Theirs is not a station to which I aspire and vice versa. I certainly would not turn down the financial rewards that come with being them—I think wealth is an outstanding thing, I do. But the cherished pedigree makes me smirk and people who thrive on being taken seriously make me smirk more. We tend not to be the best cocktail.

And now that I’ve flirted with the hypocritically and unappealing elitist attitude that often shapes so many of the have-nots or the downtrodden, I clamor to move on, for I am not of that ilk either. I’m forever a middle-of-the-road guy, genuinely pleased for those who’ve succeeded, occasionally envious of those with the finer things, content in the knowledge of what I need to do to better my own lot, and friend to those with less than nothing. Like Augusta, I’m rarely prepared, but tend to get along well-enough.

My refusal to engage in the politics of the Masters in general and of the National in particular is understood by most who know me. Martha Burke, Jesse Jackson, and Hootie Johnson bore me to tears and so to avoid the inevitable traps that come with discussing them or their cause of the day, I do not consider them at all. And yet I am still able to sleep at night. See, I like sports. The crack of a bat. A perfectly thrown spiral. A three-pointer with no time left. An aggressive running 35 yard putt. Those are the things that get my blood moving, that make me stand and yell while alone in my living room, that make the hair stand up on my arms. I can get weepy watching SportsCenter. I can be overcome with emotion when I walk into Fenway Park. I am not, however, moved by the politics of anything. Owners versus players? Fix it and let’s move on. Salary squabbles, off-season misbehavior? Fix it and let’s move on. “I wanna be a member and they won’t let me…”? Leave me out of it, and let’s move on.

See, as I say, I really like sports. I like the rush, the ceremony, and the tradition of a thing done well. The Masters Golf Tournament coincides with the beginning of my beloved baseball each year. Both of these things bring a little bit of home to wherever I am. A refuge in which to hang the proverbial hat. And that’s a nice thing.

I like things that are put naturally into perspective. Like a 30-foot chip shot on sixteen that whispers to the cup, sits on the lip like a lover for two full seconds, and drops forever into Masters lore. That is the reason I love sports. That is the reason why a non-golfer like me can love golf, miss home, and dismiss politics. It’s a simple thing, really.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Tournament and Telephone Calls

Augusta, Ga is none too pretty by any man’s estimation. It is usually trash-strewn; it is overgrown with brush and weeds, uneven roads and whatnot. But slipped into that mystery of a city is a jewel known worldwide—The Augusta National. Be you golf fan or not, to walk onto that course is to glimpse Heaven on earth. Its fabled awe-inspiration and reverence cannot be exaggerated. It is truly one of the most breathtaking places I know. And it is one of the few things I miss about home. The Masters is under way and ends tomorrow. Masters Sunday, as it is known. I’ve been to the tournament a half-dozen times or so. I even made it on national television as a spectator many years ago as Tom Watson hit an approach shot on number seven, my long hair and backward cap certainly an antithetical image to viewers and patrons alike.

For nearly twenty years, Ken and I have either been together or spoken by telephone on Masters Sunday. Often he would call me from the course as he had somehow secured passes for the final round. He would call to gloat or marvel or update. Ken appreciates tradition and beauty much the same as I do but he is less likely to acknowledge it. In the years since he moved away—first back to Miami and then to Portland—we have talked late in the final round. Laughing about anything, then waxing serious about the finish. And this year will it be Tiger, who is surging, or Vijay who is unworthy, or Mickelson who is delightful, or Ryan Moore who is a young fool? Who will it be when the phone rings late in the day, just before the sun drops finally behind those Georgia pines via Eastern Time? Who will it be to slip on that hideously wonderful green jacket while Ken and I watch on separate TVs and talk about Baby Ava and Boy Emerson? I’ll have the television loud and the stereo louder when Ken calls, golf dialogue and soundtrack to my day vying. And the knowledge that the phone call will come is comforting to me as a pair of old jeans. It is a thing that I look forward to all year long. And the ridiculousness of such a thing makes me all the more thankful.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Bar Scene

I am sitting in a bar. I haven’t decided yet if it is Dalton’s, Mulligan’s, The Saucer, or Joe’s. I have an ice cold draught in front of me and a hefty shot of Woodford slightly to the left of it. The room is dim at best and when the door opens, a hint of light and the muffled echo of life outside slips in. I am posed in front of the ubiquitous barroom mirror. This helps me keep an eye on myself. It also soothes my paranoid side by keeping in check the things that can go on behind a guy. I see a couple at a high top having a beer and quiet conversation. They are in their thirties. I know instinctively that they are married but not to each other. The woman smokes Marlboro Lights and touches her hair often. Her back is to the door. She has a good profile, a small Romanesque nose. The guy is nondescript and dull. He doesn’t know how to smile. Tables are dotted here and there with folks done with their workdays or avoiding them altogether. There is enough banter and laughter for comfort and I am fine by myself. The beer hits my lips first and is cold enough to make my teeth ache for an instant. After a few minutes I hold the rocks glass in my right hand and slowly swirl the liquor clockwise. I bring it up and take in less than a quarter. It is warm and tastes the way whiskey should. I set the glass down and return to the mirror, studying myself as covertly as possible. I’m not sure whether I like what I see. Since the goal is never to chase the whiskey, I wait a few minutes more before I drink the draught again. I look at the bottles on display behind the bar. I notice photos, and dollars, and notes tacked to the wall by the register. I watch the bartender and waitresses and admire their movements. They are self-assured and attentive. Never overbearing or dismissive. Their livelihood depends upon doing this well. The waitresses flirt just enough so that you presume they aren’t sincere. The girl behind me slides off of her highback chair, leans over to kiss the dull guy on the cheek, and walks toward the restrooms. The mirror and peripheral vision allow me to notice her slight figure. Some of us who are not obvious pigs have mastered the art of looking without leering or offending. Merely appreciating. I drink another quarter from the rocks glass, wait the appropriate amount of time, and then drink again from the draught. The girl with the Romanesque nose and slight, handsome figure returns, catches my eye briefly in the mirror, and sits down. The bartender glances in my direction. I raise two fingers held together, and make a half rotation with them. In the moment it takes to pull a draught and pour a fresh shot, they are there in front of me. The couple behind me stands to go. They leave a five dollar bill on the table. They walk side by side the length of the narrow bar, his hand awkwardly on her shoulder. They open the door and pause. Then they disappear into the bright light and the door closes again. The waitress approaches the empty high top, puts the five on her tray, picks up two empty glasses and wipes down the mahogany table top. In the mirror I notice as she bends slightly at the waist. I move my head toward my beer before she turns around. When she walks by, her elbow lightly brushes my back. She looks at me over her shoulder with a knowing smile and mouths the words, “Excuse me.”

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Still Chest Deep

It has rained like hell for two days now. Good black skies while I was in my all day meeting. Little bit of thunder. Little bit of lightning. The ground is loose and muddy. I expect Em will have his soccer practice tomorrow evening; but I don’t expect it to be pretty. I expect he’ll go home looking like a mud pie. I have his shorts, shirt, socks, shin guards, and size three soccer ball in a classy plastic Kroger bag. The trick will be remembering to take that bag to the car in the morning.

Still chest deep in a funk. Is past time to climb free. Will knock that out this weekend.

Something I enjoy each night when I finally settle down to bed: Cody (10 year old Flame Point Persian, dumb as a stick, and my best friend in the world) waits 3-5 minutes for me to lie back, situate the pillows and sheet to my preference (two pillows beneath my head and left leg uncovered), jumps on the bed, walks silently up to my face, gives my chin a head bump, turns and walks back level with my hip and curls up to sleep with my left hand resting on his chest or back. It’s the simple routines that often mean the most. His purring is the metronome by which I time my drift. Every night.

Good ol’ Cody.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Grey Sky Now

I’m in a perpetual state of “out of sorts.” Nothing feels quite right lately. Spring isn’t spring enough; the Diet Coke isn’t as refreshing as it should be; the thought processes are duller than usual; and on. Em is as perceptive as they come and has undoubtedly picked up on this. He has been extra loving lately and that is a comfort. He’s quick with a hug and kiss and the “Hey, Daddy Watch this…” The kid can always make me smile. We had all four windows down as we drove home from daycare late yesterday. The wind rushed in at us from all sides churning up floor litter, blowing my hair into my eyes. Em had both hands behind his head, his chin upturned to greet the wind, and wore a look of pure contentment as work and daycare faded into the landscape behind us. With his eyes closed and his arms up, he calmly told me, “Go faster, Daddy!” And so I did.

This morning on our way back in, the Kinks Victoria came on Lightning 100. Em let me know “I like dat song, Daddy. Sing dat song and turn it up.” And so I did. It gives me such pleasure to see him enjoy something. And the privilege of being his audience when he sees or hears something for the first time is heavenly. I remember holding him when he touched his first leaf on the Bradford Pear tree in our front yard; I remember holding him tight as we stood outside in the rain, both of us looking straight up letting it dot our faces; I remember before he was walking, he sat with me on the front porch during a thunderstorm. When that first slow roll of thunder came in and he started clapping his hands and smiling, I knew we were in it together for the long haul. There is no kind of day that a good thunderstorm can’t make better.

And my mood will pass. It most always does. It is not Emerson’s burden to cheer me up or make me smile or even be aware of this funk. It is my responsibility to do those things for him. And for myself. But Em is acutely aware of his surroundings and the mechanics of those who love him. He is sharp and innately good. I’ll take every hug and kiss the kid will give, but I’m always careful to return them tenfold.

There is a grey sky now and the rain is coming down hard. Thunderstorms are in the forecast tonight.

And tomorrow.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Book meme! Passed on…

Passed to me from MJ

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

Charles Bukowski’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Town. Defined differently by nearly everyone who’s read me, I’d go to the flame a mystery, further etching my place in American letters. I am the work of either a drunken, talentless hack or a tortured genius. Regardless, I am immensely entertaining and they love me in Germany.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Well I always wanted to sleep with Jessica Rabbit until Elastigirl (Incredibles) came on the scene. And I still have a tremendous crush on Natalie Portman’s Marty in Beautiful Girls. So at first blush I am either a freak or a pedophile.

I could think this one to death and not come up with a satisfactory answer. I’m sure I have though. Perhaps Larry Brown’s Fay. Tough, self-sufficient, needy, beautiful, sexual, naive, intelligent, unlucky, hypnotic, strong, and soft.

The last book you bought is:

Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. He wrote Joe College, Election, and Bad Haircut. Got this with a Borders gift certificate received for my birthday.

The last book you read:

A re-reading of Barry Hannah’s Ray. A brilliant tiny book that leaves me reeling each time I read it. Like so many others, this is akin to visiting an old friend. A deceptively deep work.

What are you currently reading?

William Gay’s I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down. Tom Perrotta’s Little Children. An (as yet) unpublished first draft of Against the Clock by Don Hoesel. It typically takes me months to find time to read a single book, so I find it a wise move to begin several at once. Always thinking.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

A nearly impossible question for me to answer. It’s like asking which of your children you would choose. But here goes:

1. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway. I count this as my favorite book of all time. Just when I convince myself it has lost a little of its luster with age, I reread it and am swept away once again. In all of literature, I find Jake Barnes the most tortured of all creations. He is not necessarily as complex as Hemingway intended, but Goddamn he comes close. As I get older I can no longer pretend the anti-Semitism is not there. It is not nearly so pervasive as some scholars would have you believe, but it is certainly there. This alone, is the closest thing to a flaw the book offers. I do not make excuses for the anti-Semitism but nor do I think it minimizes a masterpiece. It is born of the narrator and is a subtle glimpse into his character. Now we can argue narrator versus author in another post.

2. Joe by Larry Brown. The first in what was to be a trilogy before Mr. Brown passed away late last year. This is the quintessential Southern novel and is Brown’s masterpiece. The language and creation of place is nothing less than stellar. Characters you will love, loathe, and (if you’ve been around the block a time or two) absolutely recognize.

3. The Risk Pool by Richard Russo. Another one I revisit every few years. This book makes me convulse with laughter and reduces me to tears at once. A brilliant, brilliant book. Will make you recall John Irving in its perfection of characters drawn. I found this many years ago in a bargain bin at the mall. Best dollar I ever spent.

4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I’m not generally a fan of the English novel, but this one gets me every time. I first read it in high school (Marion Wash’s class—He thought my name was “Royal” for the first six weeks). Simply a wonderful epic of love, loss, and everything that goes with it. How I do love me some Pip. My original copy was left in the rain by a girl I was trying to impress about a hundred years ago. I still miss that book.

5. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. While The Sun Also Rises is my favorite book, this true masterpiece is undoubtedly the finest piece of fiction in American literature. I’ve never read a more noble, entertaining, or important book. Ever. Huck’s singular, spectacular act of selflessness—he gives up his soul for Jim—ranks tops among the most moving moments in fiction, film, or any other fucking medium. I don’t know that a better book will ever be written.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

1. Phil (Scroggett). If not for him, I would not have begun blogging. Now, I don’t know how to stop.
2. Samantha. I like her take on stuff; and her “finish” is always moving. Don’t know you, Samantha, but hope you’ll play along.
3. Don Hoesel. I know he stops by from time to time. If nothing else, perhaps this will make him update his blog for the first time since he created it.

Gatlinburg Staircase Jan. '05 Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Baseball and Daylight Saving Time

It is a tired night. My eyes are heavy but then again they woke up that way. Em slept until 8:00a so that was something. When you stay up until all hours of the night and early morning searching the walls and crevices for answers and then finally again for the original questions, your Boy waking up a couple hours later isn’t necessarily the gift it should be. But I’ll take it just the same.

We had a pretty good day. It was rainy and windy and cooler than I prefer but I somehow managed. Em and I went to the “germ-pit” at Bellevue Center and he got to run around some. (Los Lobos is playing on my mixed CD…That dark night alone in America…) He saw two brothers I recognized from daycare. I was glad for that as he typically plays there by himself. But he got to chase and be chased and had fun. From there we went across Hwy 70 to the Dollar Tree where Em got to spend $5.00. One plastic Jigsaw, a second FBI kit, a bag of bugs, a hammerhead shark for the bath, and a purple flute later and Em was a happy boy. He was a fucker and a half at bedtime (down literally minutes ago), but a happy boy prior.

Good things on the horizon. Baseball season begins this weekend. The BoSox and Yankees play on ESPN tomorrow night. I am a National League guy, but a Sox/Yanks series is always a well-needed boost. I’ll likely bore the shit out of these pages with periodic baseball-related posts over the next seven months but so be it. I love the sport and get much pleasure from it. There aren’t many things like that in a guy’s life so seize upon it I will. I’ll be guilty of drawing poetic analogies all season long, I know. I likely will drop comparisons to chess and boxing and fishing and raising a son and love and sex and thunderstorms and travel and film and theatre and self-discovery and any other thing that makes me happy. And I will maintain my stance that the answer to any query can be found in a single game of baseball—if you look hard enough. It will be delivered on a field of play amongst more grace than you can find in a bullfight. That’s good enough for me.

And tomorrow is Daylight Saving Time. Fuck me if I can afford to lose the hour of sleep; but fuck me twice if I won’t be grinning at the premise of longer days and more light and nostalgia-laced evenings when the sun drops behind the trees around 8:00p. It is on those nights when I sit on the front porch with a drink and often a cigar that I will drift back to sticky Georgia evenings of kiss-chase and red rover, the last train of the day sounding in the distance. Lightning bugs dancing on the air all around me. Katy-dids whining on the breeze. Headlights sweeping the neighborhood streets and the late parents return home; kids scattering behind bushes and backyard sheds. “So long. See you tomorrow,” hanging in the thick stillness as best friends try to beat total darkness to their front doors. I am now (and will always be) a nostalgia whore. I like that stutter-step in my chest when I think of the past. Because nine times out of ten, I will have so romanticized the event that it ends up bearing little resemblance to reality but will instead be utterly perfect in every way—just the way I would have liked it the first time.

And so it is.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Every Now and Again

The rain began during the night. I heard the thunder rolling in. I’ve always liked that. That and a shock of lightning every now and again for honesty. Em had the hood of his new lightweight jacket pulled on top of his head this morning. He was prepared.

“Lookin’ good, Dog,” I said.
“Yeah,” (sip of milk) “you lookin’ good too, Daddy.”

The downpour had slowed to steady mist by the time we arrived at daycare. Ms. E. strode past us as we walked in.

“I’ll be right back,” she said in practiced English. “I have to…uh…um...roll up my window. I left my window open in the rain.” She returns as Em is giving me gross kisses on each cheek followed by mischievous giggles. He puckers to kiss my cheek then quickly sticks out his tongue. The kid’s a riot. I can’t beat him in front of Ms. E. so he’s safe for now. Ms. E’s window was not down it turns out. And apparently, April Fool’s Day is not observed in Ms. E’s home country of Bolivia as she seems fairly displeased with the daycare custodian.

I’m thinking soccer practice will be cancelled tonight. Tomorrow’s 11:30a game an uncertainty. We missed last Saturday’s game because we were out of town. The week before though, Em did ok. He ran like the wind; chased the ball wherever it went; stood on his head with his ass in the air; grabbed his goodies repeatedly; ran to the sidelines to tell us “I’m playing soccer!!!;” lost his shorts once; and eventually lay down in the middle of the field of play, his tired head resting in the palm of his hand, oblivious to the gaggle of boys running all around him. And it got me thinking—which is always dangerous—how wonderful to be that free, utterly void of responsibility. What I would give to be sitting in one of my interminable meetings, suddenly leap to my feet, run wildly about the room holding myself, speed down the hallway to the big boss and bellow, “I’m learning about Policies and Procedures!!!,” gallop back to my seat between the serious people, and with the grandest sigh, lay my head on the table and fall immediately asleep.

But I won’t do that. I’ll listen to the droning. I’ll have my thumb and forefinger on my chin as I often do, looking thoughtful. I’ll casually allow my gaze to slip to the rain-streaked window, wait for a low roll of thunder, and pray for a subtle, subtle shock of lightning.