Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Pop

How old would you have been? I'm not even sure. 81? 82? Where were you? Your waning years were filled with invisible movement. You all but died in on me two years ago in that drab room. I drove down 14 hours straight to say stay, then when I saw you, to say goodbye. But you punked us, didn't you? I went back home and you got better. Lawns were mowed, meals half-eaten, cigarettes smoked end to end. But inside, only now, looking back, can I even begin to imagine the new struggle you had to take up. You smiled like never before, joked with all of us, you, weakened from climbing from your own grave.

There were many things I despised about you. I despised them in the way only a child who wants his father's approval can. I hated that you didn't understand me, and I felt less than for failing to understand you. Your ways seemed strong and right and solid, and they often fell at my feet, too heavy for me to lift. Your depression made you angry. I remember your deep voice at the breakfast table. I remember my mother's placating tones. Lying in that bed, I wracked my brain for what I must have done to make you so angry. I remember forgoing morning cartoons because I did not want to leave my room and face you. I had no desire to make myself a target. I already did that during the week at school. Later I would discover you had hit your thumb with a hammer; it had nothing to do with me. Your state of mind made silent mountains we all had to climb. Too often I saw you as a dark abyss where no one would want to be.

But I will always admire your spirit, Pop. When things were good, they were good. You shared things with me. I learned how to change the oil in our '73 Duster, the importance of spark plug gaps. Saying what you'll do and doing what you say. The best part of honor, you taught me. You provided, and we never went without. You didn't even get angry when Ken and I would lose our shit laughing every time you tried to read Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve like we were the Waltons or something. You pushed us and often just the right amount. Looking back, I now can appreciate the patience you had for the world that got stranger around you as you aged into its future. That strangeness, beginning in whispers from the city, then entering your own town, and finally infiltrating our own home through newspapers and television. In the end, even moving out into the country, you knew there was no escaping it. The future was inexorable, as were you. One of you had to go.

Happy birthday, Pop. I miss you, but you are never far. I carry you forward into this future that vexed you so. It's not so bad. Wish I could have shown you some of it.

Here's something from my time I think you would've liked. Hope you're somewhere good, listening, tapping your foot and grinning ear to ear.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Beginning of In the Beginning...

Enjoying the Labor Day of no labor. Sitting in a coffeehouse, drinking an expensive coffee, and listening to minimal ambient groove. I've been avoiding working on the memoir. It's a thing now. Over 100 pages. The most I have ever put into a single work. It's daunting and has grown strong enough to take from me what it wants. I'm working on our relationship. There's only so long you can bully your offspring before it calls you out and makes you show where things are. At some point a detente must be reached. I can't give up on it. A younger me would. No more excuses. I will do this, better or worse, and I will send it out into the world to fend for itself, its successes and failings always rippling back to the source. Pride or disgrace in the work of parenthood. And, of course, likely to be somewhere in the middle.

I'm working on a chapter about my love affair with sound...first music, then songwriting, then voice as the elemental that strikes me as the marriage of sound and meaning. I think it will be called "In the beginning was not the word." Wrestling with how much to include, trying to remember that this phase should be about including everything, leaving editing for later.

Here's an excerpt from the chapter in progress.

"When puberty sneaks in, music becomes a place to go, like the mall or the dam to drink, laugh, and discover the bliss of unrequited lust. For some it reveals a place to hide. Like the green hillsides and darkened woods in the Goodwill paintings my parents filled the living room with, melodies introduced themselves as portals. The days I spent staring, trying to wish myself into those infinite summers. 

I remember the Beach Boys’ idyllic portraits of some coast with souls and skin the perfect hue. I lay on my stomach, chin in hands in front of the dusty speaker trying like hell to make that place real in my head. Everyone seemed so well fed. If there were bullies, you were one of them, or at least invisible enough to find solace. Muscle cars meant no fear of bathrooms, third period, or vicious gymnasia designed to part wheat from chaff..."

Working on finding the proper balance of digging deep and grazing wide. No new struggle there, as those writers reading this would attest. The excavation is fascinating and sometimes painful. You come across pockets of gold but also raw nerves that may have been better left alone. But if you're going to tell your story, this is part of the work. Some tell it hard and straight, and some wax poetically until it's more about the present than the past. Some are minimal like the music around me and some leave in all Proustian loose threads and dusty baseboard scrabble. You decide where you fall and how it needs to be done. You listen to it as it is conjured, as much audience yourself and composer. Balance of power. Middle Way. Flowing with it so that music is made and, hopefully, not the sound of something breaking you want to remain whole. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Nuggets of Gold

Nothing from me today. Instead, take a gander at this:

The living of an emotional, emotionally intelligent life. I learn something there every time.


Friday, August 12, 2016


I give myself permission to be human.
I give myself permission to mutate.

I give myself permission to falter.
I give myself permission to win it.

I am charged with speaking my truth
and not overprotect the response.

I will remember to care but not try to own.
I will remember the more I let go, the more I embrace
the universe.

Worry less and trust more -
says the dust speck,
happy for another chance to smile

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Otherwise Blessed

Photo by Gerry Walden

"And there is one who stands and marvels at this splendor. And he is so made that he waits whether to come awake. Because in sleep alone one sees such state and such festivals of such women: their slightest gesture, a fold falling in brocade. They build hours out of silvery discourses, and sometimes lift their hands up: so - , and you must think that somewhere you cannot reach, they break soft roses that you do not see. And then you dream: to be adorned with these and otherwise blessed, and earning a crown for your brow, empty."

Rainer Maria Rilke from The Lay  of the Love and Death of Cornet Christopher Rilke
translated by M.D. Hester Norton and Michael Gause

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Spring of Pan

Dried blood and cigarettes. The end of a bad night out. That's what the exhausted worker on the train looked like as I climbed aboard and looked for a seat. I sat next to him and saw that the smell of his look didn't stop there. He looked at me half in surprise, half in irritation, no doubt used to riders avoiding him, haggard and sprawled out half into the other seat. But I sat next to him, likely out of some need to prove that I'm not bourgeois or some stupid shit like that.

I pulled out my book to read and, like clockwork, began instead to scan the faces and asses of everyone around me. Sleeping against windows. Standing at the doors like sentinels readying themselves for their shifts as construction workers, undead servers, long-distance secretaries. I'm intrigued, each and every morning, by the energy people give off when they think others don't notice. Sometimes the waves emanate with sharp snaps and pops, short-circuited aura lights trying to light paths, pave ways only to sabotage themselves with a darkness that eludes their owners. As for the asses, well, you know. Butts.

I read the third sentence four times before I stop and feel it in my veins like a surprise IV - sadness, a deep and hollow sadness. No. Desolate? What's the word? Maybe that's too strong. Forlorn, yes. The reason that word still exists. After a couple of days high as a kite with the return of spring, I'm dropped hard. Trip over. Bad climax by yourself with nothing to show for it. I've always believed that we punch doors and walls not only out of a need to vent that anger, but because of a deep-seated need to see, no - make, a change. That dent or hole is satisfying. Proof of power. Proof that we exist. Sex, too. Ask anyone what makes a bad lover, and I'll bet you $20 one trait will be 'reaction.' No one, male or female, wants to hump with a mannequin. Okay, maybe, but you get me. These last few days of spring, I've wanted to make the world cum in some altruistic mission of passion. I wanted to erase the ennui of winter and bring light and fire back into eyes, hearts. On bended knee I wanted to caress the feet of the needy and make them want to dance. So much explosion and desire, the Pan in me a misguided berserker of love. It happens every spring, but this year it is particularly strong. To feel this way and see no reaction from the world to show it's real. Disheartening. Can I say crushed? Deflated. What did I think would happen? Silly boy. This morning that passion is added to the grey of last season. I return, one of us. Muted colors and vacant stare. You win. You've won, for now.

I look up from not reading and the lake of bodies swaying back and forth with every turn on the rails. Business blues ready to move that spreadsheet needle just another tick. In the back. Right there. I see you. Twenty feet away seated facing me. As if in a movie, he is wearing white surrounded by shadow. Does he have a halo? he should. Amidst the uninhabited bodies framing him in his seat, he is free. He gleams. A light that negates them and solidifies his place on earth. An extra in Wings of Desire. I smile, hoping he sees. I want to applaud him. I want to stand up. "Here here!" banging my hands together in praise and celebration. It's silly, but it feels very real to me. I seem to be the only one who notices this godchild. I should. I should jump up and Kung Fu kick these dead fuckers and make 'em respect some real piety right here with us on the Blue Line to downtown. Sit on their backs and crane their necks up to cast perverted eyes upon saintly luminescence made worldly for the likes of their ungrateful asses. Asses. But. But no. I don't. Of course I don't. I'm one of us, after all. I allow it. I allow the light to shine, to break apart my shadows. I allow him to simply be the source and me and mine the things that care for the shadows.

I cross the plaza and wend my way up to the fourth floor. I find my cube and set to work. It was only a couple of hours in when I heard the news of Prince's death. The day becomes Surreal and a piece of me is gone. Another light out. It would be another day before the full effect hits us, Minnesotans the hardest. But for now its a numb. An elemental of passion through sound. I get up and go to the window, the rest of the day an empty room to traverse. But I will. We all will. At the window I'm given a gift, a memory forgotten from the morning. The figure on the train, the white light amidst the penumbra. As I departed, I had forgotten how he seemed to look in my direction, a hand raised, as if to say goodbye.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Movement on My First Memoir

Hello, friends. When I'm not hard at work as an A-1 administrative assistant for a fortune 500 company, I like to kick back, pop a cold one an work on my first memoir, tentatively entitled Holler.

I answered a call out on Memoirabilia for articles on the writing process, etc. and decided to chime in on my thoughts on the memoir as a genre and on the strategy for writing my own. They wanted a podcast, so I recorded it and sent it in.

Memorabilia published it as a podcast. Part I is here. Part II coming soon...