Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Band Stopped Playing

I took off my wedding band today for the first time in nine years. I won’t need it anymore. I don’t suppose I ever had much use for it actually.

After court this morning there was neither a parade nor a hug from a stranger. A simple handshake from my lawyer and a solemn, “Well, Congratulations, I guess.” How is it that something so anti-climactic and mundane can be saddening to the core?

The end of things has always given me pause. I cannot help but draw the death analogy. And those who know me know I do not deal well with death. The concept of something that once was being no longer baffles me to the point of …well, incoherence.

But in a couple hours I board a Delta flight for the Pacific Northwest and embrace a five-day bender with friends I believe were given to me by a higher Being. And I already miss Emerson. I hope I will take this low ache and use it to become a better father. Use it to gather patience.

I look forward to a 7:00 a.m. double Makers and Coke that does not end until I slide into a warm Woodford in Seattle on Thursday. I embrace the mere thought of reconnection, independence, and responsibility.

I look forward to introspection and nothingness. To crassness and conviction. To experience. Fucking Christ, how I have missed experience.

Before I leave, I will slow dance with Em in the quiet of our modest dwelling. I’ll hold him tight. Kiss his eyes and face. I’ll hug him until he pulls away. One day he’ll understand the necessity of this trip. He’ll recognize that some bands don’t bind forever. And that sometimes Daddies have to struggle with that knowledge to be better at what they do.

And I will recapture the slender crescent moon that guards Nashville tonight and make it my own. I will put it in trust and hand it over to Em when he is of age. And because he is my Boy and wise, he will say, “Why thank you, Daddy. Help me let it go, please. It belongs up there with the stars.”

Emerson knows nothing of lawyers and proceedings, of heartache and compromise. For the time being, I am so fucking ok with that.

Let us dance, Son, beneath moons that have dictated our respective destinies.

Sometimes I fear I will crumble when you no longer need me.

I love you more than love.


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Childhood Once

Of all my disturbing childhood memories, the most surreal is the one of Glenn M. chasing his sister Lori down the street one night while smacking her on the back with his dick.

It happened. I was there. I saw it.

Lori had dome something to piss Glenn off and the next thing I know she’s on a dead run, screaming down Evergreen Drive with her brother galloping calmly behind her smacking her with what, I remain convinced, was and is the largest penis to ever reside in the state of Georgia. It was much that of a half-flaccid baguette being nonchalantly wielded by an insane man-child. I don’t recall how long he chased her, but eventually Lori got away and told their Mother. Glenn’s “but she started it” defense didn’t get him as far as he’d hoped and he was forced inside for the rest of the evening. The rest of us were left to our own devices, the mammoth shadow of Glenn’s penis as cast on the asphalt by our new streetlights etched forever in our forming memories.

Glenn was two years older than me but by seventh grade we were in the same class at Ursula Collins Elementary. Glenn never lost that peculiar fondness man has for his dick and would routinely take his out during class and lay it on the community table. There wasn’t much anyone could do; and truly, it deserved a chair of its own. Glenn failed seventh grade again that year but oddly enough wound up joining the rest of us that next September in Junior High. I think the principal at Collins was as scared of him as we kids were. It’s as plausible as anything else I could figure.

I have done a lot. I have seen a lot. And I have spent time around some bad people. It has been nearly 26 years since I’ve seen Glenn, and to be brutally honest, I am scared of him still. And I do not scare easily. I don’t know that I would call him a bad person. He was simply the toughest and meanest person I’ve ever known. And it would be years before I met someone who could lie as convincingly as he could. But the jury is still out on bad.

Toward the end of seventh grade and knowing Glenn’s academic failings, I was under the misguided assumption that I would be some fifteen miles away at Langford Junior High and free of Glenn and his ubiquitous penis. This too had to be the thinking of Chris A. when he decided that the thing to do one cloudy Thursday afternoon was to pick a fight with Glenn. It would be the worst decision of his young life. Glenn was mean but he was not a bully. Chris A. was. And he was pretty good at it. At just under six feet and over 200 pounds, Chris out-talled Glenn by eight inches at least and outweighed him by eighty pounds. On our big horrible, yellow school bus (number 1, I believe), Chris shoved Glenn from the seat behind him. Uncharacteristically reserved, Glenn warned him one time. Chris shoved him again. Glenn calmly stood up in his seat and proceeded to administer the worst ass-whipping I’ve ever seen. Glenn’s hands were like concrete slabs and the sound of them hitting the side of Chris’s head was the sound of melon after melon striking the ground hard and from afar. The memory of that sound weakens my stomach to this day. It was seventh grade justice in that a useless bully got the living shit beat out of him. And at once it was terribly sad because a fat, friendless kid with no future lost the only power he would ever have—the ability to inflict fear and pain on those weaker than him. No one was much scared of Chris after that. Even though Glenn was the only one who could do what had been done. I think Glenn beat the cruelty out of him.

Glenn and his dick quit school not long after following us to Langford. I rarely saw him after that.

He was in the news back home a few years ago I heard. His ex-wife’s live-in boyfriend killed Glenn’s biological child and Glenn was briefly interviewed on the local news. He did not present himself particularly well as I understand it. I don’t suppose many people would under such circumstances.

I have a soft spot in my heart for children and typically have a visceral reaction when I learn of a sad fate befalling a child. But I had no reaction at all when I learned about the death of Glenn’s child. I would wish no such horrific fate on any man, yet I had no reaction whatsoever. And worse, I felt no shame because of it. I’m not sure I understand that at all. Not at all.

Glenn M. is merely the curator of some of my more surreal childhood memories. He of the equine manhood and canine fondness thereof. He is the tough man-child who scared me because of that which he was capable. And while I recognize there is every possibility he moved on with his life, refocused his blankness, and overcame his inherited pathology, I know things did not play out like that. Glenn is still chasing his little sister through the dark streets of Georgia, wielding his baseball bat of a penis. Lori is still running, laugh-screaming to her Mother that Glenn is a monster.

And I am certain they love each other the way brothers and sisters always do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

When the Credits Roll

I need a mental health break. I need adult conversation. I need a weekend of debauchery. I need a sensory deprivation chamber. I need a home with a wine cellar and walk-in humidor. I need to know that my Mother and Father will live forever. I need to know the same about my cats. I need to know that I won’t succumb to heart attack or stroke. Or drowning. I need to know that I am not ruining my child. My wonderful, intelligent, challenging child. I need a new fence, deck, and roof. I need an outlet. I need to lose 20 pounds. I need to rake the backyard. I need closure. I need that feeling I get between when the screen fades to black and the credits roll. I need to go to the dentist. I need to flirt. I need a cure for passive aggressiveness. I need to learn that recognizing a problem is not the same as addressing it. I need to write out bills. I need to travel outside of the country. I need to not get so angry at people in the grocery store (but honestly, are our fellow grocery shoppers not the rudest cocksuckers on the planet?). I need to shadowbox until my side hurts. I need to figure out who I am. I need to run with the bulls. I need to make this house a home. I need to work with the Boy on his letters. I need to stare at a blue moon. Retrieve it from its perch, hold it for a moment like a snow globe, replace it as carefully as a surgeon might repair a mistake. I need to accept the hospitality I’ll be shown in Portland and Seattle in a couple weeks. I need to feel the sun on my shoulders. I need…

And as I reread this and accept yet another truth about me, I obviously need to get over myself.



Sunday, January 15, 2006

I've Been Tagged (just like riding a bicycle)

I’ve been tagged by Rex and will play along because, well…he’s Rex L. Camino, Baby!

5 JOBS YOU’VE HAD IN YOUR LIFE: Convenience Store Clerk; Busboy (3 days); Golf Course Bagroom Attendant; Medicare Claims Processor; Assistant to an Academic Chair of Excellence (actually a book editor)

5 MOVIES YOU COULD WATCH OVER AND OVER: Being There; City Lights; Bringing Up Baby; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Natural tied with A River Runs Through It (who could ever limit movies and music to 5?)

5 PLACES YOU’VE LIVED: Augusta, GA; Chattanooga, TN: Nashville, TN (I am far better traveled than lived)

5 TV SHOWS YOU LOVE TO WATCH: 24 (Hands down!); Cops; Reno 911; Law and Order SVU & CI reruns; Seinfeld reruns

5 PLACES YOU’VE BEEN ON VACATION: Barecelona, Spain; Tokyo, Japan; Manley/Sydney, Australia; Key West, FL.; Santa Barbara, CA

5 WEB SITES YOU VISIT DAILY: CNN; Nashville Is Talking; Drudge; The Tennessean; and Fox News

5 OF YOUR FAVORITE FOODS: Steak (1. Filet 2.Ribeye 3.T-bone); Fries; Mexican; Crab legs; Dalton’s Cheeseburger

5 PLACES YOU’D RATHER BE: Naples, FL; The Middle Keys;Ireland; Manley/Sydney, Australia; Santa Barbara, CA

5 ALBUMS YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: (An impossible task) Neil Young’s Live Rust; Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger; Mickey Newbury’s Nights When I am Sane; John Prine’s Great Days Anthology; The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues

5 PEOPLE YOU’D TAG TO PLAY THIS GAME: Phil, MJ, Hamel, Roxy, and Don --
Come on, play along. Sorry if you’ve already been tagged and I missed it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

What are you hearing now?: A One Act Play

Girl: Young. Brunette. Self-assured. Petite Build.
Guy: Average even by average standards. Indeterminate age (25-40).

Out of doors in park, coastal area, parking lot, etc.


Girl: So you’re the one with the soundtrack playing in his head?

Guy: That’s right.

Girl: I thought you’d look older.

Guy: I get that a lot.

Girl: I bet. [Pause] So what are you hearing right now?

Guy: It’s dancing between Clarence Carter’s Slip Away and Badfinger’s Baby Blue.

Girl: I don’t know either one.

Guy: You’re too young. But you should know them. They’re worth your while.

Girl: Will you let me hear them?

Guy: There’s no room for you in there right now. It’s full.

Girl: When will you have room?

Guy: I don’t know. It stays pretty crowded.

Girl: Are you divorced yet?

Guy: Almost.

Girl: Is she in there?

Guy: Not really.

[Long pause]

Girl: What are you hearing now?

Guy: It just switched to The Sloop John B.

Girl: [Smiling, begins to sing] My Grandfather and me… My Dad used to sing that to me.

Guy: Good for you.

Girl: You’re kind of a bastard, aren’t you? Or is that an act?

Guy: A little of both.

Girl: What do you like?

Guy: To be left alone. And company.

Girl: What do you like now?

Guy: [Pause] Company.

Girl: I can’t figure you out.

Guy: You never will [smiles].

[Long pause]

Girl: And now?

Guy: Take a Letter, Maria.

Girl: [Blank stare]

Guy: R.B. Greaves?

Girl: Nope.

Guy: Jesus Christ. There is so much I could teach you.

Girl: [Pause. Smiles] Probably not. [Turns, exits stage left].

Lights Fade. Curtain Falls.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How Did God Made Da People?

I. Sunday Late p.m.
I am taking full advantage of this mild and beautiful January night with a “that’ll get your attention” drink and a glorious Ashton. The train in the near distance so rumbles and whistles that it feels as if I am on it, feet dangling from an open, graffiti-covered car, going wherever such trains go at this time of night. The sound is gone in the time it took me to write that sentence—and with it the brief tinge of excitement that always follows a train whistle.

II. Overheard at a Child’s Birthday Party
Woman (holding 8-9 month old baby) to husband returning from restroom: Where’d you disappear to?

Man following his four-year-old son: I was in the restroom. N. had to go ‘poo-poo’ and wanted me to wait.

Woman handing over 8-9 month old baby: Here, hold this. I have to go potty!

Man (with sardonic chuckle): Hold THIS? I guess he doesn’t want to be around you either.

Woman walking away: Yeah. But he doesn’t have a choice.

III. The Cabbie and Uncle G.’s Girl
The cabbie looks the stereotypical part but speaks English more clearly than me. He has opinions and ideas and takes on life that he feels compelled to share with us. Likely his talkativeness is a nervous response to Uncle G.’s girlfriend who is happily perched on the cabbie’s lap, offering commentary into the dispatch radio as we near 75 mph up West End Avenue.

The Cabbie takes us to the Villager.

He gives Uncle G.’s girl a candy bar.

Uncle G. tips him $20.

We laugh like children on our way into the bar and the possibility of trouble.

IV. Electric Travel
I am three and a half weeks from a trip away from myself. To Portland again I venture. The necessity of adventure is tangible. The need to be elsewhere and with friends is electric.

V. How Did God Made Da People?
Emerson is interested in “how did God made da people?” He thinks maybe we should go to church and “talk to God about dat.” I told him we would do just that.

I admire my son so. At just four years, he regularly forms complex conceptual questions that I barely approached in my twenties. Instead of Man’s Place in the universe, I struggled over the price of beer and which cable channel was running Simon & Simon reruns.

Indeed, Em. How did God made da people?

Hmmm. With much the same care, Boy, which he made the train whistle.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Balls... Posted by Picasa
And a grand swordsman, he... Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Trading Nostalgia for Promise

The five disc random track shuffle is set to go with Ray Charles, The Band, David Gray, The Killers, and…Rod Stewart (of all things). Jesus, now that I think about it, maybe I should add some Cher and Judy Garland and just watch some gay porn instead of write this. Where is my head tonight?

Ahhh, there it is. Still trying unsuccessfully to wrap itself around the abortion that was 2005. While my mind does a quick flip through its rolodex of dismay, I’ll savor this Makers and a splash… Yeah, that’s not going to last long.

I have always loved New Years. The Eve is a night of revelation fostered in hellos and goodbyes. Possibility and nostalgia. I have always tended toward the nostalgic. An unfortunate quirk that causes me to forsake what could be for what could have been. I refer to it as an unfortunate quirk when what it is downright devastating—a self-induced stasis that destroys any hint of personal growth.

2005 was a different Beast, however. And it is with a cheer in the air and a charge in my step that I bid this mean year a thankful adieu. I have had past years offer me treasures I hold still; and I have had some years take serious shots at me. But the Lady 2005 goddamn near did me in. I mean with an ass-whipping of Southern Gothic proportion. 2005 followed me to the Jeep at 3 a.m., asked me for a light, then proceeded to beat me into near submission. As I lay motionless in the gutter, she rifled through my pockets, took my shoes, wrote Fuck You in black Sharpie across my ample belly, and mule-kicked me low. Then she decided to get serious.

I am an easy-going sort for the most part. Sure, I’ve long been a worrier, but I get by. I love and am loved. I laugh loudly when things are funny. I usually smile politely when they are not. And I am lucky by nature. By that I mean while severe things may happen to (and around me), catastrophic events pass me by and settle elsewhere. And I have certainly been blessed with more than my share of good things. It is not a bad way to get by. So imagine my surprise when confronted with 2005.

I deplore baseless claims of victimization. And in no way do I suggest I was a victim of a bad year. I was simply guilty of shortsightedness and naiveté and I hit a rough patch. This led to a trying year. We all have them and we strive to make the next one better. But to 2005 I say, I will never forget you, for you were no gentle lover. In fact you kept me awake for the better part of your life. Due largely to you, I have forgotten how to sleep. I don’t think I’ve done so since April. Often I am unsure whether or not I’ll sleep again. But not a problem—think of the extra time I’ll have to learn things.

And 2005, you nearly taught me how to hate. Me!!! Now that’s just plain mean. For you know I don’t even like the word, much less the emotion. But you were swift Lady, and true. And I will unlearn the thing that gives such emotion a suggested foothold; for I will pass no such thing onto my Boy. It is a slow thing to rid one’s self of. But I like the old me and intend to reclaim my values.

And 2005, you caused me to evaluate man’s propensity for violence in general and my own capabilities in particular. I don’t believe I would need to be pushed any further to discover just what those capabilities are. But dear 2005, it is late. And I rest like an heir at the eve of your gravesite. I am confident you will push me no further. That, 2005, is in the best interest of us both.

I will make a deal with you, Year. You go quietly into your good night and I will go boisterously into mine. I will treat you as a lesson. And this New Year’s Eve, I’ll not grasp sadly for what is lost, but stride proudly into the light of all that is new and promising and good. I hereby trade nostalgia for promise. Self-pity for self-confidence. Self-doubt for self-actualization.

2005, you did not succeed. I stand tall. Bent but not broken. And now you fade ironically away, becoming little more than a reference point for insignificant statistics. Me? Well, I strengthen and move on to 2006. I’m a Category 3, Baby. Tropical Storm Emerson and I have a new year to whom we must introduce ourselves. And this is going to blossom into a beautiful friendship. I know it because the feeling is bone deep.

I know it because it is so.