Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Dream (or A Canopy of Sorts)

In the dream, I lay on cool sheets in an air conditioned house. It is so cold that my balls threaten to retreat entirely, protect their purpose. My skin, head to toe, is its own compress. There [is] 20 pounds less of me and, while still too soft, I don’t cringe at my reflection. The house is immaculate and I eat sushi off of the floor. The humidor is full of Cubans. The liquor cabinet is stocked with Makers and Woodford. The automobiles are freshly cleaned, shoed, filled, and tuned. They start their own engines just to hear themselves purr. Mark Knopfler has scored the never-ending moment and his guitar floats the walls and ceiling, mournful and wistful. I quote poetry by William Matthews, Raymond Carver, and Walt Whitman and my pitch is dead on. In the dream, everyone loves everyone and I laugh and say out loud, “That’s a bit much, eh?” And suddenly, I ride stingrays in the shallows of the Gulf. When I look up, the beach is empty. The feat has been my own and I like that. I am in a slow freefall and embrace the fact that I have never disappointed anyone. I am in a black and white slideshow. There I am at the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge humming No Worries, Mate. I am at Fenway Park, the buzz of the faithful slowly electric, and then the crack of a bat and then thunder. I lay in the cool grass beneath a teeming Japanese Maple, the all of it a canopy of sorts. It is melodrama (of course) and not. I am in Astoria and Key West. I am drinking cold draught beer and then telling dirty jokes to no one in the French Quarter. I draw my own caricature. I am wearing long shorts and slides and then nothing as I walk the length of the Natchez Trace. I stop at a park bench and have a drink with Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin. Hemingway talks of Brett Ashley and Chaplin of City Lights. I look up and they are gone.

When I awake, Emerson is there in my crook. It is still 87 degrees in the room. But I am refreshed. For the first time in years I am not exhausted. I get up and walk to the kitchen. I stand at the window as the sun comes up.

Potter the cat winds her way in a figure eight between the space between my bare feet.

I don’t even know she is there.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

One Weekend in June

The air conditioner repairman was tall and lanky. Slightly stooped in the shoulders. He had a friendly, hangdog look to him but didn’t smile once. He had chew tucked away in his jaw in that unselfconscious was so many Southerners have. “First thing is I’ma hafta unfreeze the unit. It’s all froze up in there,” he told me. His voice matter-of-fact and monotone. The guy wasn’t particularly friendly (nor un), but I liked him. By the time he was done, he had “unfroze the unit,” topped off the refrigerant, cleaned out the something-or-other that was lousy with garbage, and sold me a follow-up fall and spring package. I wrote him a bad check for $159.00 and he was on his way to the next call.

At the Highway 100 Kroger, the MasterCard transaction declined. The Aww, Fuck!!! settling over me like a familiar stranger. In these middle years, I am pretty much free of shame or embarrassment—though a hint, I suppose, will always rest in that tight space between my shoulders. (Pause). Remembering that the check to Em’s old daycare had not yet cleared, I fished in my left pocket, found, and swiped the account debit card. Success.

Last night on my way to Daltons for silent draughts and Woodfords, I turned up the stereo so I couldn’t hear the back brakes grinding. (Are the brakes grinding if you cannot hear them?) E. had my shot and draught on the bar before I was fully seated—a wonderful feeling for a barfly.

Mid morning yesterday, I put on Racing Stripes for Em. During the climactic scene in which an improbable zebra overtakes the field in an improbable horse race, Emerson sat astride his large stuffed lion. Wearing a tee shirt, shorts, snow boots, a snorkeling mask, and a camouflage safari hat, the Boy enthusiastically jockeyed himself to simultaneous victory. How I do hope the pictures turn out. It was during this surreal race that I got a telephone call from Seattle, the welcome voice of an old friend. We discussed our September possibilities for a 20th high school reunion. The call was booze to the senses in that I got to hear a familiar voice and an all-coin transaction as he boarded a city bus. Because I think I am funny, I told him, “I can almost smell the homeless. Don’t sit in the seat that has been defecated in.” Because I think I am funny.

Em awoke at 1:00 a.m. with an ear infection. His first in nearly a year. He was inconsolable and refused the orange-flavored Motrin. We made the expensive judgment call of going to Saint Thomas. I feel guilty for looking at it in terms of dollars and cents. But he is on the mend and will never know that I reduced his discomfort to a chess match of finance. It is a minor infection (as ear infections go) and he was calm before we left the house. But I feel shame nonetheless.

Today was the neighborhood park, swordplay, movies, and rough housing. Two doses of antibiotics. Four stories. And a wrestling match with bedtime.

Tonight is Evan Williams and Gran Habanos. My face is heavier than is becoming and unshaven since Thursday. My head runs rabbits and thinks too much. Whatever the air conditioner guy did did not take and it is 80 degrees in my house at 11:00 p.m.

It is shocking what you can’t buy with a bad check these days.

Monday beckons and I start anew.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Place Where Strangers Don't Tell Your Secrets

I have my drink (Evan and a splash) and a mammoth CAO Brazilian. I am on the porch. Aside from every known (and unknown) species of bug peppering me like so much Tennessee rain, it is comfortable enough. I am decidedly not a bug guy, so this is a brave night for me. It speaks to how much I want the cigar.

I took the Boy to the Caboose Park this evening where we met B. and his family. It was good for Em as he badly needed a dose of familiarity. B. is Em’s best friend from his “old school.” Watching that Boy’s face light up with pleasure is better than a thunderstorm. I’ve not yet found my comfort zone with the new school and worry that I have somehow failed him by switching. I have always been a slow one for change and recognize my misgivings for the unnecessary second guessing they are. Things typically work out. I expect this will be no different.

What a treat watching the two boys run, dance, and play. They shared a big hug in the parking lot when they said goodbye. There is something about watching children do that that makes my eyes blink and water a little. If only we could remain that innocent—utterly void of self-consciousness. If only.

In the plastic chair next to me I have the latest Esquire, the latest Men’s Health, the June 6th New Yorker, a Ring Magazine, Hemingway’s The Short Stories, and a manila envelope full of articles my Dad sent. I’ve ventured into each one. I am all over the fucking map and cannot seem to settle on a single piece. My free time is so limited and I want/try to do it all in these moments. The end result is that I worry over all of it and rarely complete any of it. Yet another character flaw I hope to not pass along.

And with my complete lack of focus, I have the audacity to wonder why Em can’t put on his shorts and watch the Cartoon Network at the same time. If I weren’t so impatient, it would be the most hilarious part of my week.

When I picked him up from daycare today, a little girl I didn’t recognize sold him out. She looked at me and said, “He was not good today.” What did he do, I asked. “He hit people,” she told me. Em’s initial smile faltered and, had he known the words, You lying little Bitch, he surely would have used them. When we were alone, I laughed and said, “Damn, Boy! She sold you out hard.” He looked at the floor, slowly shook his head, and said, “Yeah.”

But then there was the park and things were as they should be for him. He was back in the place where best friends run and play and laugh and dance. A place where strangers don’t tell your secrets. A place where all that was old is new again. A place where little boys hug hello and goodbye in parking lots and fathers try to swallow their tears.

The rain of bugs is slowing. A train whistle bleats in the distance. My Boy sleeps inside, content.

I have fashioned a late night plan. Instead of catching up on much needed sleep, I will mix another drink, light another cigar, and read my Esquire. Or maybe my New Yorker. Or maybe I’ll revisit Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place or A Way You’ll Never Be, or Hills Like White Elephants, or…

Sunday, June 19, 2005

What We See When the Sun Sets

My father was a professional soldier. He served two tours in Korea and two in Vietnam. He was Elvis Presley’s Sergeant for Elvis’ first three days in the Army. As a personal favor to my father, Elvis telephoned my Mother to say hello. We have personal photos and an autograph from those days. My father was in the field when he received news of my birth. I was one year old (or nearly) before he ever placed eyes on me. I sometimes think what a difficult thing that must have been. He returned to Vietnam for his second tour in 1970. He told me years later that the Vietnam of 1967 and 1970 bore no similarities. A palpable difference as that between night and day. The mood was different. The men were different. How painful, I imagine, for a man with such a love of country. We talk often of the wars and the nuances thereof. But only once did we discuss those vast differences he met upon his return overseas. It is not something on which I press him.

I often get the sense he regrets being just too young to have served in World War II.

My memories of childhood are exaggeratedly vague. But I recall one evening after dinner, being outside and seeing my first brilliant sunset. The air was alive with reds and blues and new shades of grey. I ran inside and said, “There is something wrong with the sky!” My father quickly went outside to investigate. Smiling, he explained sunset to me. With the Missile Crisis just a decade behind us and nuclear possibilities forever looming, I can only imagine what went through his mind when I rushed into the house. And only now, with my own young son to tend, can I grasp the relief he must have felt at what he found and could then share.

My father and mother officially went their separate ways when I was four. It was for the best. Our time together was limited to occasional Sundays and phone calls. He would pick me up in his cobalt blue 1964 Mustang and we would visit his friends or just drive around. At a young age, I was introduced to the bar scene. I met wonderful, scarred people who helped shape the man I would become. Snooky’s. Fred’s. The Rendezvous. I was embraced by a family of hard drinkers and dangerous men. I have yet to be so decently treated as I was then. And from those early encounters, I developed a love of bars, dives, and haunts that I harbor still.

My father bought me a mini-bike. A motorcycle. And, later, my first car. He took me to motocross races and bought me hotdogs and Cokes.

From him, I acquired a love of boxing. No other sport demands so much from its participants or commands so much from its audience. Brutal men doing beautiful things. It is grace and precision, fear and fearlessness, science and mythology. Much like war. Nothing I have experienced is as emotionally taxing as a good fight. When I was fourteen, my father flew me to Chicago where, at the Rosemont Horizon, we saw Mike Weaver defeat James “Quick” Tillis to retain the Heavyweight title. And we saw Marvelous Marvin Hagler decimate Mustafa Hamsho. It would take over forty stitches to piece together Hamsho’s face. It was beautiful and horrifying. I have never forgotten it.

In college, when I grew my hair to my ass and had four earrings, my father never judged me. “It looks good on you,” he said. And he was sincere.

He took me with him to Nebraska and Colorado to visit family. I accompanied him to his mother’s deathbed. And in my youth, I selfishly concentrated on my own sadness, not realizing what he must have been going through. That bothers me when I think about it.

My father is a surprisingly sensitive man. So what I have often attributed to being raised by my mother and two sisters—my own deep sensitivity—is just as much a product of him. He is deliberate and methodical with a grand baritone voice. He is the best storyteller I have ever known—and I’ve known some good ones. His sense of humor is rich, raw, and blue. I owe him the debt of having the same.

I’ve seen him watch me as I interact with my own son and I know that he is pleased. That is a satisfaction that defies words.

On rare occasions, we get to sit down over a drink or a beer and we feel immediately at peace. I cut my whiskey with a splash of Coke. He is a purist and does not. Yet he does not criticize. I like to think that one day he, Emerson, and I will sit down together at a seedy bar and likewise share a drink. He is 75. Emerson is three. The math doesn’t work out—but I don’t allow myself to think about that. Instead I enjoy the now. The occasional visits, drinks, and lunches. The political discussions and reminiscences. The generosity shared between a father and son. The knowledge that we accept one another—good qualities and flaws alike. I like the fact that we like one another. That makes loving one another something more special than that which blood dictates.

And one day—probably pretty soon—I will sit down with my Boy outside. I will hold his hand in mine and we will look skyward. We will pause and be still. And together we will be in awe as the sun sets on another day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Chip in for Birdie

In the summer of 1985, riding the tail winds of the Violent Femmes and R.E.M., I stepped right from high school into a job on the golf course at the local Country Club. Lovingly referred to as The Club by members and non-members alike, the ACC was a marker of the demonstrable wealth that made up much of Augusta, GA. Membership was (and is, I presume) a treasured birthright. Money and power in Augusta carry the same clout they do in most of our other communities. When I was young, I greatly resented this. Years later, my resentment—which was largely a result of envy—embarrassed me. Alas, the shallowness of youth helped prepare me for the depths of adulthood—in which I still often struggle (…and other unwieldy metaphors).

I met some of the biggest pricks on the planet during those three years working my way through college. There were a few that deserved truly horrible fates. While I wish no man any harm, I do believe that people somehow get what they deserve in the end. That’s not a bad thing I think. One sadistic, useless little fucker leaps immediately to mind…but I digress. I’ll just think of him as “Hank.” But, I further digress.

Conversely, I met some very decent and generous people at The Club. Generous tips. Good conversation. In fact, the most prominent golf producer at CBS at the time gave me his 24 carat, gold-plated putter (because “It doesn’t putt worth a shit!”). I regret that I was not savvy enough to recognize the connections I was party to. My life may have turned out quite different to this point. But I can’t complain. I was just a kid. Twenty years later and I still rarely recognize an opportunity when it presents itself. Aloof? Obtuse? Perhaps I’m still just a kid in those respects.

The work could be taxing at times; and it was certainly humbling. Lugging hundreds of pounds of golf clubs/bags; towing six golf carts behind a tractor and navigating through rows of Mercedes, Jaguars, and Porsches; picking the driving range clean time after time and dodging the assault of range balls as some members thought live targets were just hilarious. But there were tips, free cokes, free hot dogs for lunch, and other perks.

In 1987, I was standing on the course, peeking through the trees at the bordering 11th hole of the Augusta National when Larry Mize chipped in for birdie from 140 feet. Augusta’s own was the Masters Champion. The roar of the gallery that afternoon rivaled anything I had heard or have heard since. Later that year, I would get the privilege of cleaning the very sand wedge that Mize used to win the tournament.

We weren’t happy. We bitched. We made fun of many of the members. But we maintained camaraderie. There is nothing quite like the refuge one finds in common misery. I worked my ass off. But I had money for school, books, and beer. A punkass kid can’t really expect much more than that. I just wasn’t aware of that at the time.

Sometimes when I am back home, I drive by The Club. There is still the hint of an aura about the place. It looks largely the same, maybe a little more sprawling. But behind those gates and walls, and on that lovely green course are some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the South. I am old enough now that I am not intimidated by this in the least. I am also old enough to regret the fact that I ever was. Simply put, folks are folks. I am pretty much comfortable around anybody, regardless of Class or social slot. That was not always so. But to this day, arrogance and pomposity make me laugh like hell. God help me if I ever take myself that seriously. Few things fuel my personal laugh track like the self-important or self-righteous. These are qualities that, surprisingly, seem to transcend social strata.

The last time I drove by, I noticed the old lot where I had parked my car all those years ago. I glimpsed where I had lined up hundreds of golf carts, retrieved hundreds of golf bags, and where I had washed thousands of golf clubs. It was the place I often harbored envy and nastiness; and it was the place I recognized decency and good fortune. Those were the years I began to understand stuff.

Most every Friday night, after the last golfer had come off the course and the last cart had been put away, I would pop my trunk and grab an iced down Michelob from my twelve pack cooler. I would drain the bottle and reach for another. On the way home, with the windows down and a cold beer between my legs, I would ride the music of the Femmes or R.E.M. or the Romantics as far from the workday as I could.

Sometimes I wondered silently where I would be in twenty years. Other times, I would just tip back my beer and simply drive into the sunset.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Sound the Rain Makes

It is an Evan Williams (with a splash) and a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero, rain-soaked night. The occasional brave lightning bug dances in the distance. I picture them with tiny umbrellas, waltzing about in the quest for love. Silly bugs, I think out loud.

Emerson played the ‘”I’m scared card” into my bed and is sleeping. Letting him “work" the situation from time to time is one of the pleasures of parenthood. We both know the score and leave it at that. We did the 7pm, rainy night at Chuck E. Cheese’s tonight. (Yeah, I’m probably a bit of a masochist). It went well though. For every obnoxious, unattended child we encountered, we met an equally polite and well-mannered one. That is a rarity and, as such, gave me a glimmer of hope for mankind. I am a realist by trade—by this, I mean cynic—and took great pleasure in the witness of decency.

I did the Dalton’s/Tokyo take-out thing last night and got away for an hour. Good Woodfords. Good draughts. Good non-thinking time. When I left the bar at twilight, it was drizzling and calm. This time of year in Nashville, it is like the Seattle of the South. Rains all the time. The result is breathtaking with lush greenery all around. My sense of geography is what you might expect, but these deep green rolling hills of Middle Tennessee are what I picture Ireland to look like. Perfect. Particularly, a hill overlooking the Blockbuster on Highway 70 South; and a seductive bend on I-40 between exits 199 and 196.

(The Double Ligero is done and I’ve broken out a Gran Habano #3).

Thanks to the daylong showers, my porch is thankfully void of the obligatory multitude of flying and crawling bugs. No June bugs to dive bomb me and piss me off. True cause for celebration. I hate a fucking June bug—and I don’t hate much at all.

Aunt R1 arrives tomorrow night from Evansville and will take my Boy with her to Augusta for the week. He will get to meet some very special relatives in town from Colorado and Nebraska. I’m not able to make the trip. I will miss him like an appendage, but could not possibly deny him the adventure. He is excited and will be in exceptional hands. But it is a difficult thing. He is a much-loved boy.

It is raining harder now. I like the sound. Coming through the trees, hitting the aggregate driveway and asphalt, it sounds like applause and makes me happy. Yes, the rising and falling of applause.

How I love the rain.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

One Night in June

As I write this, Cheap Trick is playing a free outdoor concert at the Mercy Lounge. Jesus, I loved that band and would give a DNA sample to be there. It is a nice, muggy Tennessee night. I know Rick Nielson is all suited up, ready to rock. Bun E. Carlos is wearing out his simple drum kit subtly like a man on a smoke break. Robin Zander is still dashing, blonde as ever. Tom Peterson probably came straight from Gruhn Guitars downtown. Ah, Baby, it is 1978, 1979 all over again.

There is a long-forgotten movie called Over the Edge that essentially served as a showcase for Cheap Trick’s music. It launched with “Hello There” and never stopped. It also launched Matt Dillon’s career. In my mind, there was no one cooler than that little streetwise smartass. And a couple years later, he got to sleep with Kristy McNichol in Little Darlings. Lucky bastard. But mostly he immortalized himself—for me—by being cool to a Cheap Trick backdrop.

Music has long been a mainstay for me. Even uncertainty—which I struggle with daily—is no match for it. My oldest sister, R1, introduced me to the best of the best (Woodstock, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Prine) and encouraged me to listen to any and everything. And I did. And I do. In the mid-70s I was all about KISS. And then I let Cheap Trick share that wondrous stage. Later, I graduated to Van Halen during their second album. Then it was Rush for the longest time. But I never lost sight of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Ernest Tubb, and Johnny Cash. And, too, Bluegrass was essential listening in my house.

Like many others, I measure periods of my life by the music of the time. So, even once outgrown (or put aside, rather), the music is a part of me—who I’ve become. I have never not had an ongoing soundtrack to my life. And I quite like that. It is nice to revisit certain tracks and feel young again. And capable. Full of potential. Music will often cure what ails you. Or at least dull it some.

Nashville hs been difficult of late. Nothing a Ryan can’t handle, but difficult just the same. ..(And for now, the soundtrack might lift its own needle and drop on Zeppelin’s Tangerine or Going to California) . (Or it might not).

Among other things, Emerson started a new daycare today. He had been at Temple since he was ten weeks old. The ordeal was much more sobering than I thought it would be. It saddened me. Goodbyes are not my thing—and it’s not even my fucking daycare. He’s good with it—or has at least put on a brave face. Tonight he told me he really likes his new school but thinks that “maybe tomorrow I’ll go to my old school.”

Ever see a grown man fight back tears in front of his child? Going back is not an option.

It is foolish to underestimate the resilience of a child. And probably more foolish to underestimate the resolve of an Emerson. He will be fine and he will thrive.

Because that is what he does,

A little strife is food for the soul. Right?


Em is sleeping now. My drink is strong. My cigar is mild.

And what is that I hear? It sounds remarkably like a Cheap Trick guitar lick—“Good night now, Ladies and Gentleman. Goodnight, now ladies and gents. That’s the end of the show, now it’s time to go.”

And I am eleven years old again. And Matt Dillon is the coolest motherfucker on the planet. And he hasn’t even met Kristy McNichol yet.

Lucky Bastard.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One Blah Day Does Not a Bad Week Make

It is buggy on the porch tonight. And still. It is damp from the rain. The drink and cigar are not working as I had hoped. It is an out of sorts night—coming on the heels of a shitty day.

[Completely unrelated] On Friday, a co-worker looked absolutely stricken when she learned I have a subscription to Playboy.

“And I suppose you read it for the articles,” she said through a forced smile.

“The first thing I do,” I told her honestly, “is check to see who the interview is with. Then I look to see who wrote this month’s fiction. Then I read the Advisor.”

Fact is, Playboy is one of the top three magazines in the country. Esquire and the New Yorker being the other two. The writing is exemplary. Don’t get me wrong, I love tits as much as the next guy—okay, probably a little more. But airbrushed is not my style; nor is it my preference. And while I certainly enjoy the photos, they are literally the last thing I look at. I shake my head at the notion that Playboy is somehow pornographic or in any way demeaning to women. I’ve had discussions with friends who take the opposite view. We agree to disagree. And still we are friends. It’s nice to know that people can still do that once in a while.

It is buggy on the porch. And still. I mix another drink. I light another cigar. My funk is heavy tonight. I need sleep. But it won’t come for a long while. My mind races. There is no finish in sight. I try thinking about baseball. Boxing. Fishing. Nothing works. I hear a train in the distance. Its whistle, usually a source of hope and adventure, offers neither. I am filled with dread and anxiety. I need a vacation from myself. Sometimes a man just thinks too much.

Thunderstorms are in the forecast.

At least there is that. And Playboy.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Things I've Done

This evening I made a drink and began a mental list of things I would like to do before I am done. This eventually led me to a pad of paper and a pen with black ink and a free association ramble of things I have done.

It occurs to me I’ve had it pretty good over the years:

I’ve driven a pristine yellow Stingray up the fabled Grapevine Highway in southern California.

I’ve watched numerous sunsets in Key West, Florida.

I’ve flown an airplane (during a lesson).

I’ve dipped my toes in the Mediterranean Sea.

I’ve eaten squid in Barcelona.

I’ve eaten kangaroo, emu, and camel in Sydney Australia.

I shook the hands of authors Harry Crews, Larry brown, and Kinky Friedman.

I drank a $9.00 can of Coors in Tokyo, Japan.

I’ve seen Rock City.

I’ve caught a 20 lb. catfish.

I was propositioned by a cute hooker in Manhattan.

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon.

I got sunburned in Washington D.C. and then went to see Les Miserables.

I saw Marvelous Marvin Hagler fight Mustafa Hamsho in Chicago, IL.

I lost a kidney.

I’ve been to the dog races in Miami.

I’ve been to the horse races in Kentucky.

I’ve had crab cakes on the harbor in Baltimore.

I’ve seen the largest Fir in the world in Oregon.

I’ve seen the Lewis & Clark statue at Seaside, OR.

I’ve had many Cuban cigars.

I’ve had a gun pulled on me.

I’ve been arrested.

I rode in the backseat of a police cruiser once occupied by O.J. Simpson.

I’ve been in love.

I’ve published over 30 poems.

I edited a 500+ page book on the Civil War (The Civil War and the Press).

I earned a Master of Arts degree in Literary Studies.

I once saw Michael Stipe in a bar in Athens, GA.

I’ve been skinny dipping.

I’ve been to a Bar Mitzvah.

I think I saw a ghost once.

I’ve ridden the subways in New York, Boston, Barcelona, and Tokyo.

I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I’ve been to Fenway Park.

I once held a book signed by William Faulkner.

I’ve been to the Masters golf tournament.

I was at the only NFL game in which Walter Payton was ejected (Atlanta, 1980).

I’ve been a pallbearer. Twice.

I was once on the same airplane as Tommy Lasorda.

I am in possession of an album autographed by Elvis Presley (to my father).

I was a product of bussing in the 1970s.

I turned 18 in the French Quarter.

I once stood on a railroad track and mooned an oncoming train.

I’ve eaten squirrel and pigeon.

I’ve ridden in the trunk of a car.

I’ve been on a date with a stripper.

I once choked on a piece of candy.

I saw Jimmy Connors at the Hard Rock Café in New York City.

I swam in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was accosted by a band of female gypsies in Spain.

I saw Spike Lee give a speech at the University of GA.

I planted a Japanese Maple.

I touched the Lincoln Memorial.

I was in a car wreck in Savannah, GA.

I’ve voted in the past five presidential elections.

I ducked a punch in a bar fight.

I once had a pen pal named Faye.

I’ve totaled a golf cart.

I saw my son baptized.

I’ve fired a 357 Magnum.

I’ve been to the Blue Mountains in Australia.

I’ve owned a home.

I’ve been to the Whisky a Go-Go.

I was once bitten on the ass by a dog.

I’ve been deep sea fishing.

I’ve been to the Ryman Auditorium many times.

I took AMTRAK from Portland, OR to Seattle, WA.

I’ve ridden a city bus in Seattle.

I’ve been to Pike’s Place Fish Market.

I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building.

I’ve been on television.

I’ve had stitches.

I tried to ride a unicycle.

I wrecked a motorcycle.

I held a guitar owned by Mickey Newbury.

I tried out as an extra for a Robert Redford movie.

I saw firsthand the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.

I was a dinner guest of a cult in California.

I saw Greg Maddux pitch.

I once saw Muhammad Ali from a distance.

I’ve climbed the steps of the Segrada Familia.

I drank Jim Beam from a flask in Sanford Stadium (UGA).

I’ve been unemployed.

I’ve jumped a slow-moving train.

I’ve wept at a funeral.

And I am but a little more than halfway through this episode of Ryan’s Follies. When I get a little down or begin to slow dance at the gate of self-pity, I think I’ll recall this list that came to me with shockingly little effort. And by the time I make another list, I will have leapt from an airplane, become fluent in Spanish, toured Ireland and Scotland, published a novel, and—perhaps—penned a successful screenplay.

And I will continue to marvel at the Boy whose cord I cut, whose faith I approved, and whose very existence will forever be the thing of which I am most proud.