Monday, February 27, 2006

This River Don't Go...

I’ve been craving poetry of late. William Matthews. Wislawa Szymborska. Raymond Carver. ee cummings. Whitman. Bukowski, the wonderful vile bastard. Some temperate Sandburg (How the hold he has on me? Perhaps for my embrace of simplicity. He doesn’t make me work too hard and I like that. But he certainly worked harder than critics allow). And you, James Dickey. One drunken night we nearly made a pilgrimage to Columbia and knocked upon your door. I was too young to realize your reputation for fact. I doubt you’d have welcomed us, but I pretend that you might have. Is it true your son dropped a $10,000 movie camera in the river during the shoot of Deliverance? One of my professors told that story long ago. Timing and proximity made it believable. We all know this river don’t go to Aintry.

And back to Matthews; long ago I found a blurb of his on the Web, decided I should know more about him, and eventually found Sleek for the Long Flight in a Harvard bookstore one balmy Boston day. Best fucking eight dollars I ever spent. (Discounting a double Makers on a flight to Los Angeles way back when minis were still $4 a pop). How I envy you:

The Music Pool

You have to put your head in.
It’s so much like silence
it takes all your breath
to begin
hearing it. Then you never forget
the sound of being held
completely still by someone you love.
Soon you will undress
but not yet.

I long for the ability to express myself that simply. In person, with many, I am a long-winded, and repetitive sort. I’m not sure why. Emphasis? A narcissistic appreciation of my own voice? A lack of respect for my audience? Both likely and unlikely on all counts. Really, just another quirk of my personality. I don’t fret it that much. Not that much.

Regardless, I need a rush of creativity. My minor successes have come in the form of poetry only; and yet, I have not penned anything of note in several years. That is a bit poetic in and of itself, huh?

[I sense a bit of forced internal rhyme lingering on the horizon of my free verse way of life—like a fence of sorts, struggling to define its purpose. It is there for the citing, I am certain. I am certain].

But what spawns creativity more earnestly than… the envy of creativity? So maybe I am once again on the verge of something. I feel a storm. And I will harness a fucking storm in a millisecond. I can’t tame one, but I’ll claim it and ride it for all I can.

And to a sweet Boy with covers pulled high, I’ll always whisper poetry to you. And I won’t pester you with iambs and such. I will likely tell you just what I mean—no slight of hand here. And while I may try to pretty it up from time to time, I trust you will follow my simple meter for what it is. Just that.

Nothing fancy.

Sometimes I just like to talk poetry to you.

Sleep well, Boy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Convolution Wrote the Gay Straight Man

I’ve always been a bit of a strange bird. Strange in that I’ve not really been able to pin myself down in terms of description—nor have I had much inclination to. And I like that. I appreciate that elusive quality about myself, primarily because it is a sincere quirk and not an affectation (as is often the case with folks).

I have definitive opinions on just about everything but rarely share them unless pressed—and even then I have to be in the mood. When I do elect to share, it is not with the intent of winning one over to my side of things. I may not agree with you, but in all honesty I could not care less whether you think as I do. Generally speaking, I am interested in other’s views if for nothing else the opportunity to learn something new. That is a rare and fine thing and I like it. Above all (most) else though, I am a live and let live kind of guy. As long as you don’t fuck with me or mine, it is not likely that I will fuck with you. It is as simple a motto, slogan, caption, mantra, bumper sticker, what have you as I can imagine. I’ve always had a little difficulty grasping that there are not more folks who adhere to a similar belief. Don’t think for a moment that I don’t recognize the sheer arrogance and hint of hypocrisy in that admission, for I do. But while I may have trouble grasping that more people don’t follow similar paths, I would never presume to tell someone that they should. So in that sense, I am comfortable that I am being consistent. My belief system works for me and that, really, is my only concern with it at the moment. It seems to parallel the oft quoted and clichéd Golden Rule that so many others profess to follow but rarely do.

All of that nonsense to get to this: I’ve been troubled lately by a thing that I would ordinarily find hilarious, re-tell to close friends for the sake of story, then rid from my overcrowded bean forever. See, I credit myself with a rare personality glitch that prevents me from insult or offense. Rather, I cannot be insulted or offended. Perhaps it harkens back to an arrogance of which I am unaware; but instead of simply saying it, I truly do not care what people think of me; and I am so inherently vile that (seemingly) nothing offends me. And herein lies the problem. I think I am mostly bothered by the fact that I am bothered. I learned recently that extended family of the Boy’s mother relayed as fact—not opinion—to other extended family members that I am gay and my Boy is being raised in an unhealthy environment. Apparently, it is my homosexuality that broke up my marriage. Yeah, Baby! The closet door has been pried open and Word’s out—I like the dick.

Nine out of ten times I would laugh at this like there was no tomorrow. I am as secure in my masculinity as I need to be; and I am in no way threatened, or bothered by homosexuality. The reason being? Because I live and let live. I simply do not care! So it is certainly not the stigma of homosexuality—implied or otherwise—that hurts me here. And “hurt” is not appropriate for what I feel. For there is another unfortunate quirk of my personality that would permit me to dismiss these particular people from my thoughts altogether. In the big scheme, they are of no significant import to me. I like them, have welcomed them into my home, and have gone far out of my way to ensure their comfort. It has been important to me that they have a role in Emerson’s life. Despite my cynical facade, I respect family and tradition. Many of my efforts thus far reflect that. So I am not hurt that they have dubbed me gay. If this story is true, they have underestimated my personal security and open-mindedness. But having borne witness—albeit peripherally— to my role in Em’s upbringing these past four years, that they would dare suggest the Boy is somehow in harm’s way by being in my custody infuriates me. My reaction is as convoluted as you might expect.

I understand divorce has long-reaching affects. From family to circles of friends to casual acquaintances, folks are affected and reactive. I am no one to fuck with human nature. I get it, I do. But no one has been more hurt by this than my son, his mother, and me. We’ve got our own shit to deal with. So when someone so far removed from the immediate situation reverts to seventh grade name-calling and rumor-spreading, I take exception. And my uncharacteristically itchy trigger finger encourages me to slap the living shit out of two old people. And that pisses me off in ways I cannot voice. Because that is not my nature. I am pissed that during such a difficult time, I have allowed myself to become saddled with this ridiculousness. I am pissed that I have allowed this to occupy anything more than a millisecond of my very limited time. I am pissed that I have circumvented my own freakish need for privacy and shared any of this. I am pissed…

It is a trial to maintain a level head under the best of circumstances, eh?

I know little, but I do know this: I love my Boy more than life and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for him or to ensure his well being. For me, a vastly important part of his well-being is family interaction—paternal and maternal. He is a deeply loved Boy and, in turn, he loves deeply. I have made and endured several compromises to ensure that Em receives and returns this interaction. For now, I will continue. But, for good or for bad, the Boy will take his lead, direction, and instruction from me. I will have done him no favors by granting him an audience with people who denigrate his father. This is where it becomes particularly complicated. I am quite capable of dealing with insults and slurs. Truly, I am not that sensitive. I will certainly manage to give the Boy enough reasons to doubt me on my own as he lumbers into manhood. These missteps will be entirely earned and thus on my conscience. I will have earned them. And I will own them. But should a four-year-old child be subjected to such hatefulness directed at his father? What kind of respect would/should he have for a father who knowingly sanctions such hatefulness? Or is there a grander lesson of turning the other cheek in this?

But rhetorical is rhetorical and life is rarely defined.

Experience tells me that third person accounts of anything are rarely accurate. This one, though, stinks of truth. Soon I will approach the offending parties and graciously give them an “out” or a stage on which they can present their “Ryan likes cock and is a horrible father” PowerPoint. Either way, my response is not likely to be pretty and I already regret that. I hope to be the bigger man here and retain a relationship that gives my son the gift of people with experience and love and goodness. I hope. I hope I am that big.

For the record, my issue here is not with childish name calling. Nor do I have the energy to debate whether homosexual parents are less capable than heterosexual parents. These are non-issues for me. My issues are with betrayal, maliciousness, and overt indecency—and, ultimately, how I choose to deal with them.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Practicing Letters Posted by Picasa
Ol' Blue Eyes! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Travel Notes, Ruminations, and Whatnot #5—02/02/06 12:45 a.m.

It is 12:40a Portland time. 2:40a Nashville time. I’m not sure what time it is in my head. The rain is making a wonderful soundtrack—as Tom Waits says, “…and the rain sounds like a round of applause.” I stand but do not bow. I sit, return to my umpteenth Evil Williams & splash. And thus begins the extended bender I’ve promised myself for ages. On the heels of a sleepless week I embark. Because embark I must (I love to talk lofty). K & P gracious and graceful as ever indulged my near non-stop blather. Apparently I was in dire need of some adult company as I did not shut up until they went to bed. They are good listeners and good talkers.

Tomorrow is Seattle and a brush with a dear friend from way back. I am anxious to see how the years have treated him. Anxious to visit his city. His friends. A guy likes to have a feel for how his buddies are doing and where they are doing it. In my mind, Seattle suits Phil as Nashville suits me. But I need to see it firsthand, just to be sure. Amtrak will take me three and a half hours north and along The Sound. A lovelier trek is hard to imagine. I’ve made the trip once, nearly ten years ago. K and I went to a Mariners game that we really should have been kicked out of. I saw Alex Rodriguez in his infancy. K explained to me how important A-Rod would be to The Game and how he had grown up down the street from K’s grandmother in Miami. K knows I love shit like that. [I almost certainly have part of that wrong yet it has remained thus in my memory for a decade]. It was a good trip and we returned to Portland hung over as all hell but with stories to tell. Tomorrow will be good.

With the lullaby of rain still feeding me hints, you’d think I would sleep now. I am exhausted beyond words, but am also aware enough to know that sleep will not come.

So I mix a new drink. I glance at The Boy’s picture on my friends’ refrigerator. And I listen to the rain. The wonderful rain. Its advice and secrets and wisdom.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Travel Notes, Ruminations, and Whatnot #4—02/01/06 late a.m.

My plane approaches Portland. I try to discern Mount Hood from Rainier and St. Helens. It is obvious really.

As obvious as an anxious, aging man sitting alone in Coach, his thumb absently caressing the weightlessness of his ring finger.

Travel Notes, Ruminations, and Whatnot #3—02/01/06 late a.m.

The timing of this trip could not be better. There is something about K & P and Baby A that’ll cure what ails you. Part of it is that after nearly twenty years we know one another as well as we know ourselves—perhaps better. With them it is o.k. to be familiar, crude, crass, vulnerable, stoic, an ass—in short, myself. Do not misunderstand. Of my many flaws, not being myself is not one of them. Ever. But with K&P it is different. Different in a way that keeps negativity at bay. Different in a way that relegates cynicism to crevasses—not necessarily replacing it but displacing it. And that is a good thing. They are good friends to have.

Perhaps this evening we will drink Veuve Clicquot. Toast the lightening of things. Perhaps we’ll rehash old stories and laugh. Always laughter. And when Baby A turns in, I’ll read her Wet Dog, explain the virtues of Georgia football over Florida football, make disparaging remarks about her father, and kiss her forehead goodnight. And I will miss doing the same with Emerson. But I’ll speak to him the way I always do when I am away from him. And he will hear me. And he will smile as he falls asleep, knowing he is loved and missed.

I think I will then pour another glass of champagne and laugh some more.

Travel Notes, Ruminations, and Whatnot #2—02/01/06 mid a.m.

I am operating on two hours of sleep and not doing it well. It could be that the three hours I got each of the past two nights were not enough. Maybe? I am notorious for not sleeping, but man…

I am about an hour and a half out of Portland. The flight is not crowded—for which I am thankful. A couple of rambunctious, noisy kids who in the past would have annoyed the living shit out of me. But since having the Boy, I find myself infinitely patient and empathetic in such situations. It is a nice change to have made.

O.k., my eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep and 30 plus hours of wearing contacts with only a two-hour break. I am a little hung over in the form of a headache—exaggerated, of course, by lack of sleep. I look bloated, as though I am either about to start or as though I took my last six meals at a saltlick—and followed with several glasses of brine. Just not feeling that great despite the excitement of travel and impending companionship.

But things are now looking up. Quite up. On the second pass by the sky waitresses, I order a double Makers and Coke. Turns out they don’t have Makers. But they do have a little something called Woodford Reserve. I grin, my testicles sigh (and shift just a little), I graciously accept. In a bar, I would’ve said “Neat, please!” On a plane I have to say, “No Coke. No Ice.” Well, actually, I did say “Neat” at first. But the lady looked at me as if she’d just seen a strange man whose testicles had sighed and shifted and she wasn’t quite sure what to do about it.

You know, if you take two minis (airplane bottles or South Carolina bottles) and dump them into a wide-mouth plastic cup, the result almost looks like a real pour.

Know what else? It drinks just as good too. Foof!!!

Travel Notes, Ruminations, and Whatnot #1—02/01/06 early a.m.

Random thought to self on random fellow passenger:

Perfect hair. Looking dapper in over-priced denim head to toe. You and your friends, Bahamas bound, are nauseating. Your collective tones are so superior that I have to look around to see just who exactly you are better than. You are nothing to me. Nor am I to you. Why then do I take pleasure in watching your fists clench in fear, your thighs and calves constrict and freeze as we take off and again when we land?

Perhaps you are better than the rest of us. Or at least me and my judgment.