Stopped, Sondra, beauty, and the day floats by

Written by on June 12th, 2016

I spun in a circle in my own backyard. And then I did it again. I was hearing a song in my head, yet unable to process. It is cooler than expected for a June morning…and I shivered for a moment. I can peek through the cotton ball sky….they say heaven is up there. They offer no proof. Today is Sunday, but in reality, I’m living this way currently. Stopped, spinning, but not augering into the ground. Not yet.

When I got home from the wedding last night, Jen gave me the update on Sondra’s celebration of David’s life (mach 2). Sondra is the rail thin, older women who we think lives in an RV behind the land office. She always seems slightly grubby- a dusty patina to her weathered face – and has a head of unkempt hair, bad teeth, and multiple layers of strange jewelry. We have NO idea where any money comes to her from, but she has a newer cell phone. Not that this says much.

David was her husband who passed a couple of years back. I don’t remember him at all. Jen said he was rather dour, looked a little like a gone-to-see biker driving an old station wagon, and that he wasn’t particularly liked.

Anyhow….Sondra had taken a full campground of shit over to our little local park to have this celebration. She pigeonholed (conversational capture exceeding 10 minutes in length) various folk to help her with set up, and had actually said there’d be crab legs, beef bourbuignon, and baked beans. Features for some I suppose. Jen checked on her progress as the day went on, and saw this mass accumulation of stuff, then checked later for attendance. Not a soul was there. I got home around 6:45, and we had fake meat tacos, and then we walked over to the park to take a look see. There was Sondra and her stuff. I must admit, I thought for sure I was going to be roped into the tear down, but what hit both of us was that this was something she needed to do, and if her celebration and remembrance and NEED to do this was strong…..even if delusional…..this event was hers to see through. So we went home.

At 9:15 am when Primo and I went on our walk she was still there. As was all her stuff. And she saw me and (yes) pigeonholed me and launched into a difficult to follow stream of consciousness ramble about their anniversary (25th or 35th), how their shared rings (he didn’t wear his) were small crown circles bought from a pet store, and how I could officiate HER statement (in the $300 vintage dress she is going to buy from my wife’s shop) regarding their life together. Her eyes were tired, and looked like marbles with dried milk on them. She asked if we were coming back for lunch, and I said, “We’ll have to see how the day goes.” But I suppose I’ll check on her at some point. Its a funky, breezy, fickle kind of weather day. One where you want to read/sleep/read/sleep.

I am relearning beauty. In the midst of change, age, “life”, and people’s drift from compassion, love, hope……I’m casting my lasso out and working really hard at capturing it at least once a day. As the saying goes, “Not my first time at this rodeo.” And lest I stand naked and unprotected against the events of the day and the loss of charm in living as a whole, I have to look….everywhere I go. Even spinning in a circle in my backyard. ESPECIALLY spinning in a circle in my back yard.

I hear our neighbor’s hound dog “Duffy” barking, our chickens clucking, and the wind blowing. I’m not melancholy. Just a little sad. Don’t worry. The day will float by in celebration of itself.

 

and so I come back to say what I want to say.

Written by on March 20th, 2016

in any variety of ways.
in a deferred 3rd party sort of way.
away from Facebook.

I will simply start with this. I have done, I did, I do ….stupid shit (though not as much recently). Part of me wants absolution and closure, and the other part of me says you’ll never get the names out of me, where the bodies are buried, the recipe, my favorite color…..
I want forgiveness, just not as long as any of the major porn mags pay $$$ for “Letters to the Editor.” I want to be forgotten only after I am unburdened and freed. Then I want to fly off like a butterfly. Or a bat….in cover of darkness.

I laugh at the gun articles and commentary of today. “Children please….” I sneer at the tales of infidelity, “dangerous (wrong) sex”, and lives pulled back from the brink of drug disaster. That PG shit is for the young folk.

Happiness is a grand elusive concept. I bought into it like a Mexican gardener buying a Beverly Hills mansion. I was upside down from the start, but now…I’ve found a nice period bungalow with lights in every small room to help me at least be a little relaxed. Peaceful? When I remember to forget. Or forget to remember. Whichever comes first.

It’ll all get pithy….or cutesy….humorous….poignant….risque. You choose your word for it.

If you’re still talking to me.

The Life Atomic blog. re-opened for business. 3/20/2016. Lucky you.

 

The “Anti-Wedding” starts the season…

Written by on March 23rd, 2014

Aside from my day job, I double as a wedding officiant. It is both secondary income (which we desperately need) and a continuation of a blessing. I’d gotten the proverbial online ordination card years ago to marry two friends from the tattoo industry, but that never happened. And in one of those delightful twists of fate/kismet/serendipity, my first actual ceremony was my best friend Joe and his beautiful Ally.
The years have gone on now (5,6?) and I’m in the mid 60’s for numbers of ceremonies. The online ordination is augmented by a business license. I can count on between 9 & 16 weddings a year. Most are special is some way, but some are super dialed in, and detailed beyond belief. In some cases I don’t meet either the bride or groom until 15 minutes before the big show. But that is the exception, not the rule.
Each season arrives like a combination of Haley’s Comet and the Star Wars “Death Star” painted white. There is an odd glowing in the distance, and then the calendar looms into view. I take out my suit/shirt/special tie/Thom McCann “Roma” dress shoes (vintage pointed toe “Ciao Bella!”, “Rat Pack” style) and ponder the upcoming carnage. I steel myself to the wedding coordinators of all types (I have 3 Desirees – but my favorite is a wonderful gay man named Mark), the floral designers cutting in and out of the rehearsal like pastel ninjas, the novelty deserts (the huge, decorated stands are for cupcakes? yellow rock candy mixed with blue m&m’s), the cackling participants (one sketchy half-in-the bag groomsman, one insanely inappropriately dressed, hot bridesmaid, the wildcard/black sheep/”where the hell is he/she?”), the indifferent groom, and the temporarily, bridally insane wife to be. Family members? They mostly look like participants in a controlled environment stress test.  The fathers work at looking calm, but the fine sheen of perspiration is ever present.

I’ve heard all manner of strange comments from participants (“Honey…your thong is showing”/”I dated him for years….never knew he had it in him”/”We wanted to tell you that _____ was in prison for 2 years. Everyone knows…(me now too apparently…)”

So the 2014 wedding season opened yesterday at a mobile home park in Oceano. Oceano is one of those semi-beach towns that is perpetually windy, and you find yourself continually asking why anyone would want to live there.  Is is surrounded by agricultural fields, and 5 minutes after arriving I was already having a “bad hair day.”  The ceremony was to take place in a grassy area by the clubhouse, where the reception would be held. The groom was a longtime friend/co-worker of mine with some daunting health issues. His bride was someone he’d met 11 years ago (I think through Craigslist, singles online, etc.). As is the mold nowadays, it all started over coffee at Starbucks. They had family in from all over, but the whole day had a loose yet definite DIY feel. Her daughter from a previous wedding was busy hand decorating the clubhouse, and assembled family members huddled in small pockets, chatting and getting caught up.  Out on the grass, friends tended the Santa Maria style BBQ.

And finally, when all were assembled, and without processional music, my groom and I went to the front, followed by the bride’s daughter (escorted by his next door neighbor/best man), and capped off by the arrival of the bride (no ring boy/flower girls/mascot dog-pet, bagpipes, etc.) on her father’s arm.  There were only 12 seats for family, with the rest of the 40-50 guests standing. Show time.

I was completely relaxed. Loose as a goose (a little unusual for me). I could have done James Brown’s “good foot dance”, punctuated by a “AAAOOOoooOOHA!!” The ceremony was not long. I recounted some shared history of the groom and I, recounted the first time I’d seen the bride, did the vows/ring exchange/ratification of the crowd, and then….the pronounced them husband and wife. And in the aftermath of pictures and congratulations and some nice compliments (a former actual church Minister approved and enjoyed the ceremony), I slipped off, letting the newly merged families celebrate.

One of the great luxuries of being a wedding officiant is the view of love up close. Yesterday’s gift was the look of love and happiness on a 20 year friend’s face. I will ponder this as the next 13 weddings approach (I have a 12/13/14). I got my mojo working. I’m feeling it. I’m ready (and I have 2 more weddings where I am marrying dear friends….one in Yosemite….and it can’t get any better than that…..well maybe).

I came home to an empty house. Primo was on the sofa. He gave me the “mom is up at the ranch with the horses and other corgis and she left me here” look. I played a little guitar and contemplated those places in marriage, outside of the bubble of a day, where you each have space and time and things you can do. The life together, with the personal time we all need. That bubble doesn’t ever pop if you don’t let it. And you can find all the space and time you need within your season if you just never stop believing.  And the seasons just keep coming.

 

For Kevin….Summer of 1976

Written by on January 4th, 2014

When you post a picture on Facebook of your “past”, it often brings out a curiosity in others in a present sense. Such was the case when I posted a picture of me surfing at San Simeon beach, Summer of ’76. And a friend asked about that summer.
Dear God….am I really going to have to peel back darkened pages and prove that I’m suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s? Apparently so.. So to put this time in context, let me frame it with these facts. 75/76 were my second year in college. I had a 69 Datsun pickup with a camper shell, a full head of hair, and an always at risk 2.4 GPA. At the start of the school year I was between majors and badly wanted to ask my father if I could come home. But at the same time, I was developing a strong bond with what would become a number of life long friends. I lived with Ralph & Bruce. I surfed with Jeff, Terry, Bruce, Brad, and Sam. I didn’t have anything going on with the ladies….at first. It was a plain time.
The year got interesting right past the cusp of 75/76 when in no short order I started to surf past the beginner status (accident free), there was a brief but delightful Christmas romance, I saw a band called Thin Lizzy at the Santa Maria Fairgrounds, and later dated Lisa Dunfee. She and I didn’t last long – she was a biting, screaming, hickey applying sexual animal with an epic body, no conversational skills and basically no interests – but all of a sudden I was an active late teens man.
The school year ended, and having found a coveted job at a local record store, I decided to stay for summer school and work at inching my GPA up towards 2.5, or if I dared, even higher. I stayed at the same housing complex, now empty save for a few stragglers (these were the days when San Luis Obispo was a much smaller city and when the students went home it was a ghost town), and settled into lots of surfing. But this summer was also the summer of Jeff and Susie.
My first year roommate’s brother became my surfing foil. We went everywhere a car could take us, good weather or bad, and developed a breakfast ritual of reinventing the wheel, vigorous bonhomie, and plotting the rest of our lives. Jeff is older than I, and I don’t get to see him nearly as much anymore although he lives closely, but my love for him is deeper than any ocean. A genuine, dyed-in-the-wool Surf Swami. Back then there was many a day where other guys would ask me if I wanted to “go out”, but I would always hold out, waiting to see what Jeff might have planned. The picture on my  facebook page was one he took. He had a water housing for his camera. This photo is one of my most treasured possessions.
I don’t recall who it was who suggested that Susie and I date. Might have been a blind date.  Can’t remember every last detail – only enough. I just know that before I fell off the edge of the world into the cocaine abyss, she was all the girlfriend I man could want. She was from Delano, near Bakersfield, and studying graphic arts. A taller, fuller redhead with one eyebrow that arched slightly like an owl’s. We nearly married right after college in 1979. But the summer of ’76 we lived out what seemed like a Bob Seger song….going places with no particular plan, enjoying the smooth expanse of a non-stressful summer, and screwing ourselves silly. I can only assume that I never cross her mind, wherever she may be, but I think of her often….mostly because when you count the people in your life who are truly good, it buoys you up….towards a better you. It would be easy to say that I learned from my mistakes, but it is more fitting to say that I learned to love and live and laugh from my beautiful ex-fiance.  May her way in this life/world be blessed.

You were expecting fireworks? Something dangerous or lurid. Not that summer.  Plenty of other summers veered into the realm of weird and out of control.  Summer 1976 was a Hollywood movie that shone in pastel colors and gleamed precious metal hues,  that you could see the end coming, and regret (that ocean where I moored my sailboat) flooded my senses before the credits rolled.  A point in time that you roll through, and then say, “wait….I’m not finished….”

Oh….one last thing. The beach shot. A couple of weeks after the photo was taken, a smuggler’s ship was captured at sea right out from the shorebreak. In their haste to lighten their load and potentially escape, the smuggler’s dumped bales of Marijuana into the ocean. Supposedly the beach was littered with them, and DEA agents. I never found any, and if I had, I’d have never said so..

Every story has to have a story in it, right? Or does it?

 

Gifted, even at a full week early….

Written by on December 25th, 2013

Somehow..somewhere….sometime, the awareness that I have fallen asleep at my post at Fort Ambition slowly dawned on me. I don’t think it was after my neighbor asked if I’d come up with any New Year’s resolutions (one of course would be to stop checking out his wife’s butt while she walked the dog in the morning). And I’m not sure if drive & focus simply crept by the army of fear that invaded my psyche after I got laid off in January of ’09-nearly 5 years ago, and just ran off into the woods.  But my personal resume seems more poised to “move forward” lately, an indicator of the desire for action that hopefully blossoms.  “Hope springs eternal” they say.  Until you die, short of measure and not having reached the mark you didn’t define well enough.  The match won’t light itself.

I worked 15 cumulative years for one company until ’09.  I was an integral part in growing a 25 million dollar plus business.   In some senses an “exec”. The owner destroyed it by building a personal money pit, and savaging his own reputation by delinquent paying everyone but his construction contractors.  I left and went to LA to work for a dynasty, but felt underutilized (big fish know every inch of the small pond, but small fish look into the shadows of the big pond and pray they aren’t eaten….), hated the city, and returned to find the company I’d helped build was now the playground for “Private Equity for Dummies” assclowns and youngsters focus on pricey jeans, person issues, the latest personal electronics, and a firm grasp of the parameters of “lunch hour”.  For the umpteenth time it was up to me to restore and project the integrity of a broken and deceitful company, a task unrecognized, unrewarded, and that I found out later…unwanted.  I was the boxing coach, but the little boys and girls liked scrapping and knocking the shit out of one another without me around. In other words, the calendar that told me day/month/year did NOT cover AGE.  The little fish went swimming in a shiny sea, while this dinosaur moved closer towards the tar pond.  Small and black and seemingly without bottom.

Water under the bridge.  In fact, the bridge isn’t even there anymore.  Now this isn’t a Star Trek pledge, with me promising to “go boldly when no one has gone before”.  Its me deciding to “go somewhere”.  That’s a start.  I cannot remain “never satisfied” or unfulfilled….I simply have to push the rock off the ledge and down the hill.  What will that be you ask?  I have no clue.

Here’s how it stands now.  Wine dude and wedding officiant barely cracks 40k.  I know….I know….its not about the money.  What it is about is the math.  I am 57.  Now I understand that I’ll be “working” (Good Morning! Welcome to Wal-Mart) until I’m 70, but damn….can it be something nifty…or dare I say it….fun?

I’m trying to figure out the writing thing (as usual & again).  Blogging has been a short format release, but I inch into short stories, and I have 4 story lines to blow up into longer pieces.  Still, the instruction sheet (not found online) is in front of me, and I vacillate daily from comprehension to befuddlement.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be a tech guy, but I have to confront my deficiencies in that arena in a meaningful way, or I’ll be forever one step behind increasingly swifter runners.  “Just when you think you got a handle on the rat race, along comes faster rats.”

And alas….I can no longer simply skate by on my good looks.  I was never a “chick magnet”, and thankfully my beloved wife and I still share the correct polarity. Every body part seems affected by gravity, I have 7 pounds encroaching near my belt line (back to copious amounts and varieties of situps), and the hair that used to grow on my head now feels emboldened to sprout from every part of my ears and nose.  I have become my old orthodontist, leaning over myself, looking up at massively forested nostrils.  I no longer have all my teeth.

So introspection into action.  Christmas day/2 days work/weekend off/2 days work/New Year’s off.  How many days is that to prepare?  Math was never my forte.  Good thing I’m thinking about all this now….

 

Merry Christmas/Happy New Year

Happy Holidays

May the season give you peace, time for reflection, and all the love you can handle.

 

 

Life – November 3, 2013

Written by on November 3rd, 2013

My wife is the forward thinker in our house, which explains why at the end of daylight savings time, she’d moved the clocks forward versus backwards. But then again, my wife is sun that shines all the time. Me I’m a cloud chaser, more so I don’t get blind instead of warm.

I have spent oceans of time hunkered over my life (then & now) like a security guard watching for a bank robbery on close circuit television. The last 5 years I’ve re-invented “the wheel” of my life in my head so many times that the ghost of Henry Ford came back from the dead and said, “take a drive son. Loosen up.” And in some odd sense, I have. I have begun to sleep longer stretches at night. Sometimes deeply, and nestled with my popcorn in a comfortable chair in the R.E.M. theater. I found that I can’t really find a common denominator in my dreams – they drift from Lila Hubbell and I laughing and “making out” by the old grade school to nuns telling me I was performing the marriage ritual incorrectly, to my reoccurring and unexplained iceplant/public nudity/candy vistas – but instead of recitations of specific evenings or microscopic examinations of content, I just roll over fluff up the pillow and carry on.
57 was a good year for cars, but the jury is out on my marker at the moment. I am getting older. This comes to me via the body parts that hurt, the face in the mirror, and the general malaise of society to my presence, like I’ve mastered the art of disappearance. I’ve avoided the embarrassment of say….getting caught watching dwarf porn with my hand in my pants, singing Air Supply loudly in the produce section, and rooting around in my nose for boogers while stopped at a red light. The closest thing to real embarrassment is my wife’s subtle prod of “well…you tied one on last night.” I haven’t bought a “man’s magazine” in decades, and find myself bemused at the rainbow gilded ornithological splendor of the mating ritual of the young (pre-40). I just shake a tail feather and glide against the current of under dressed fashionista, seal skinned yoga moms, and the obviously developing tartlets like a mallard.  A stirring in my loins indicates either the buttons on my 501’s haven’t been securred, or a trip to the bathroom.  I never was a “the grass is always greener” guy, and as the years move on and grind the world into a non-differentiated gray paste, the phrase that holds more meaning literally and figuratively is, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

In the reconfiguration of the last 5 years, it did dawn on me that I may be working til I’m 90 (I lost my savings and my sanity in ’09 – only one returned…slightly damaged…and that wasn’t the cash). My job is not particularly challenging or fulfilling, but I’m working on it. It would help if young people could work in a world that wasn’t about them. It would help if the work ethic that started at 12 could be matched by a fun, energetic foil. It would help if “wine tasters” weren’t cheaper than a ghetto bar patron. It would help if I could envision myself working there 10 years from now. With station…and pride…and joy & welcome on my aging face. In the meantime, I circle the job market like a lost, reluctant shark, gear up for more classes (computer), and hope that my new improved sleep cycle puts my feet on the ground each day with a better cognitive plan.

Today I make music with friends. Yesterday was “domestic duties” – leaves, the garage, moving the remnants of my son and his family’s stay here to the garage. I found a way to store things that makes it look like we have a garage. And Jen & I have less overall to clutter it up again. The house and yard look pretty good, but the jack ‘o lanterns from Halloween need to be moved.

What is the concept of fulfillment? Is it a stretch of time…an end game….or moments where rest & a job well done collide violently with love & home creating a kind of……”ahhhhh” moment? I’m getting closer to the answer.

anyhow….ready to start “life” on November 3, 2013.  All day long.

 

BAD WORDS.

Written by on August 16th, 2013

So….my day off. the blinds are drawn, the air conditioning is on. I’m watching dwarf porno, polishing my handguns, covered with 30 weight motor oil, and peering occasionally out the bedroom window at the playground at the elementary school.

NOT. But you’re paying attention now, right? I need help. I have a problem. BAD WORDS. 2 in specific. FUCK and HATE. I use both waaaayyyyy to much. I don’t have a great time, I have a fucking great time. And I say, “fuck yeah”, a lot. When I try to catch myself….think through the sentence, equation, job in front of me, and NOT use the f-word, I drive myself fucking crazy. I have substituted the guttural exclamations of samurai from Japanese movies, but often I just slip back into bad habits. This will not do, as I am considering teaching elementary school.
Secondly……HATE. I hate rap music. The word comes flying out (probably because it is so much shorter than “strongly dislike” or “completely despise”), but do I really hate rap music? The deep pool of poison that constitutes hate shouldn’t be applied to bad drivers, freak rain storms, liver and onions, and the vocal stylings of Justin Beiber.

I solicit advise from my readers, and will neither tell you that I hate you, or to fuck off, if I think you are coming at me with some lame, despicable shit.

In other news, I had a wedding rehearsal in Shell Beach today, and I sat and took in the air and sunshine before moving to the point where the surf break “Sewers” is. A glorious day. I took off my shoes and got sand between my toes, and watched the aerodynamic wizardry that is the Pelican. I love the beach (shorter than “I get all soft and peaceful” or “I can’t think of anything that makes me feel better than salt air”).

and it brings up a word I’d better think up more often. ENJOY.

and then I’d better do it. Not let bad stuff get in my way. Phooey on that bad stuff.

 

Hair care products, fear, “Whitey’s 2 last eggs, Bruce Springsteen.

Written by on August 4th, 2013

I bought “hair care” products at Target the other day. I think I got a great deal on L’oreal shampoo and conditioner, but frankly, I don’t care. In years past, I would have turned up my nose at the lower cost brands. My shower was filled with whatever my hair stylist recommended. Now I’m nearly bald, and I’m sure a number of follicles expired and fell to the linoleum while I made my expensive decision. I tried them both out the next day, and they lathered like an over soaped washer in a ghetto laundromat, then “conditioned” (whatever that means) and left me silky smooth. I towel dried, slapped some gel on (Pantene – $3.99) and off I went. At this point I should mention that my first wife had moved out of our place in Auburn, NY, then wrongly waited too long to go back to get belongings store in the garage. These belongings included my photo albums (recorded history). So I’m not able to be “nostalgic” for the days when I had hair. I don’t remember them well, and don’t have much of a record. So my future will not include Aveeda products, strangle emulsions to “inspire new growth”, and vanity brands. I’ll enjoy my recent $13 expenditure ’til the day that is replaced with a razor and a cap.

FEAR. I have it. I am working at keeping it “at bay” (God I love that phrase…need to look into its origins). Here are some quotes that help me.
1.) “No I don’t have a solution, but I admire the problem” – Bertrand Russell
2.) “the conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking” – Arthur Bloc
3 & 4) CONFUCIUS SAY….”Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.” and “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
4.) “Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become.” from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”
5.) “The world is what you make it, friend. If it doesn’t fit, you make alterations.” from the movie “Silverado”.

well enough of that. So….we’re down to 2 chickens. The dumbass neighbors with their dumbass dogs? No…not the ones that wiped out 9 of our chickens before…the OTHER dumbass neighbors….their dogs got out and killed “Whitey”. “Whitey” was a mellow hen, and never really any trouble (she did have an appetite for my tomatoes…which pissed me off to no end…). It is a shame to lose her. Today when Jen went into the coop, she said words that kinda stung a little. “Whitey’s last 2 eggs”. We have 2 chickens left. The are extra small Belgium bantams that we’re not fond of. And now it is too late to start another group this year. Next year maybe. And in the meantime I am letting both neighbors know (1 pair simply idiots, the other pair drugged out idiots) that animal control is on my cell phone speed dial.
Apropos of nothing. My best friend loathes Bruce Springsteen. And another friend, who is close to my besty, has elevated him to deity status. Which makes the various conversations funny. This morning I was reading an article on “Bruce”, when it dawned on me that aside from my father, he was/is the only example I have of an enduring, unbridled passion for something. In this case music.
I’d been introduced to Springsteen through a disc jockey friend who I worked with at a local record store. And one weeknight, after much raving about “Bruce”, he took me to LA, where there was a showcase at the Roxy Theater. I’m not sure how long that concert was…and it was way long, but looking back, it was one of the 2 best concerts of my life. The first was Cat Stevens. This was simply sweet music, rendered perfectly, and I heard every note sitting knee cap to knee cap with Lisa Verhovek. The Bruce show was shade and color and pacing and storm and quiet and an exercise in involving oneself in the transformative power of music. A year later, dating a truly weird and not that bright girl at college, I found that our true shared place wasn’t the heart or sex, but rather drifting off to sleep side by side with “Jungleland” playing on my stereo.
I don’t know why I’m writing this. It might be because one of my favorite songs is “Land of Hope and Dreams”. Maybe it is that I’m trying to reconnect to a passion that makes a difference in my life and others. A quote from the article by Mr. Springsteen.

“My father was a pretty good pool player, and not much else, “he said. “When he was about the age I am now, he was offered a job with the telephone company, but he turned it down because it would have meant traveling away from his wife and kids. Years later, I realize how that missed opportunity had hurt him ever since. So I’ve always felt that if you’re fortunate enough to be up there onstage, it’s your responsibility to try and close the gap with the audience, TO GIVE THEM THE SENSE THAT THERE ARE OTHER POSSIBILITIES THAN THE ONES THEY MAY BE SEEING.”

something/nothing? I don’t know. means something to me.

And as Forrest Gump was so good at saying….
“That’s all I have to say about that.”

 

Summer Metaphors/”Tacking into the Wind”

Written by on July 7th, 2013

I drove south yesterday to Santa Barbara to pick up some repair items, and it finally truly dawned on me that it is summer. I passed Pismo Beach, with folk already down by the pier, hotel/motels filled with neon pink “No Vacancy” signs lit, and found myself surrounded on all sides by autos of all makes and sizes loaded down with bikes or pulling trailers. Inside the steady hum of my car’s motor, I could feel a kind of joyous vibration. This was strange, as summer has not had great meaning to me for a while. Our circumstances haven’t allowed for the luxury of much of any kind of “vacation”, and the season always seems to impose an unfocused, steamy weight on my shoulders. I haven’t been able to enjoy it for any number of reasons.
Recently, however, that has started to incrementally change. My wife, the positive fairy of beautiful things, has pushed me to garden, we do a Monday night community pot luck, and she points out things that lift me out of my negative, worrying hole of dark reverie, and exposes me to “light”. I am getting a little better humored, and I’m also starting to recognize and remember summers past.
When you’re a child, summer is part Disneyland, part birthday party, and lots of parts swim extravaganza. My youth was spent with summers at our beach house on Balboa Island. My father was a children’s dentist, and perhaps remembering his good times – spent way back on the Balboa Peninsula – he’d invested in a two-house place at 219 & 219 1/2 Garnet St. on the island. We loved that place. He loved that place. One of the only times I can remember my father openly weeping was when he sold it.
Anyhow….summers were one kind of fun event to the next for many years. There were paddleboards that we used to drift in an out of the docks for the yachts, looking at mussels attached to the pilings, and to find abalone stuck to the sea walls. Next was the ice cream maker, with my dad alternating from vanilla to strawberry to his personal favorite – fresh peach. The 4th of July was spent making ice cream, cleaning the yard, then swimming and hanging out on the beach at the end of the street. When night time came, there was our fireworks; smokey, loud & bright, then the huge display from the Newporter Hotel, across the bay and inland.
One summer my Dad bought a Sabot, a “dinghy” – small sailboat, and a 1 1/2 horsepower Evinrude outboard motor. And like most things he ever did, my Dad mastered sailing pretty quickly. Me? It was harder for me.
On sailing days, Dad invariably took the little boat out, and owned it….threading the moored boats in the bay, tacking effortlessly, coming about, and easing back onto the beach. Then it was my turn…. I didn’t have much problem sailing away most days, and certainly was fine with the wind at my back, but a headwind? The mechanics of tacking (turning the bow of the boat to catch the wind from the sides) seemed slightly out of reach. I’d get out into the bay, and sometimes be blocks away – near the bridge that allowed cars onto the Island – and I couldn’t get back. Sometimes, I’d get out of the boat, letting the sail go slack-taking the mast down, and swim the boat to shore, walking it back to the Garnet St. beach, ducking under the mooring lines along the way.  Sometimes Dad had walked down the shorefront looking for me and helped me get back to our beach. I could feel Dad’s exasperation, and for a time, I avoided sailing as much as possible.
Into this milieu came my Mother’s decline. My Mom had come from strange stock, and had madness in her family background, so when the only relative she knew, her Aunt Rose who’d raised her, died quickly under sad circumstances, she started to crack. This was followed by the death of her best friend, Dolly Hallberg, from cancer. This was the first time my sister and I had seen encroaching death come to the door. In some strange way it helped (but did not soften) prepare us for my Mom’s eventual death from cancer, but it executed a complete coup de grace on my Mom’s spirit. At that point she began her descent into alcoholism. And the end of our time – our summers – at Balboa Island moved closer.
When the last summer came, I knew it without being told. And I threw myself into everything….every activity, with more gusto. Even sailing. The Saturday before Labor Day weekend, my Dad told me we were sailing the Sabot for the last time. He was selling it. We geared the little boat up, and sailed out together. When we came back to the beach, he asked if I wanted to take it back out, and I said, “yes.” And off I went. I got down nearly to the bridge when I foundered AGAIN. But this time I didn’t collapse. I could hear someone calling my name, and saw Julie Watson, my unrequited summer crush, waving to me.  She swam out, and pulled her lithe, chocolate browned, tiny bikini wearing form into the boat.  And I looked at her and started to cry.  She didn’t say anything.  She took my hand for a moment, and I watched the droplets of seawater bounce off my foot.  Then I took the line for the sail, and executed a clumsy “come about”, caught the wind, and sailed smartly back to Garnet St., with Julie smiling and delighted, wet and young and beautiful….and sitting next to me.

In my waking and sleeping dreams I am seeing more of my Father…and more of Balboa Island.  This pleases me, and on the mornings after those dreams, I feel a kind of peace and restfulness.   I don’t speak much of sailing to my son.  Tacking into the wind would be lost on him.  Perhaps a motocross or zombie killing metaphor would work.

I “lost” my job nearly 5 years ago now.  I lost lots of income, my savings, my health insurance, what status I thought I had, people that I thought liked me, or who at the very least would be loyal or helpful in my endeavors going forward.  A neighbor helped me with work part.  I took classes and immersed myself in my current vocation. My wife climbed into my little boat repeatedly, and urged me to sail.  I’m going next week to the Board of Education to see about a teaching credential.  Taking my boat out into the back bay, the wind all over the place, the water slightly chopped but warm. In the absence of a friendly tail wind, I need to brush up on my “tacking”, as this boat, like the dreams of summers past, won’t be here forever.

 

 

 

the Mirror.

Written by on June 28th, 2013

I took a moment after my shower to just look at myself. I took my 5-tooth “stayplate” out of my lower mouth and looked at the strange space where teeth used to be. I left my hair wet and uncombed, and surveyed my face, a garden of weird colored spots that my skin doctor (whom I haven’t seen for 7 years and probably won’t until the day we’re insured) would be most displeased to see. I am tattooed from my ankles up, many of which I like very much, others….not so much. And for all the love my tattoo family has given me, I still see folks looking at me unsure of who I am/what I am/how I am. I have no doubt, especially in light of the last 4 years and struggling to restart any semblance of a career, that these personal items of color combating an often drab life have “held me back”.  Colored handcuffs.  A picture barrier. So I regard my naked, colored body with some regret.
With a little sprucing up, I approach a kind of human “shabby chic”. This morning, I am just old and shabby.  Cleaning hasn’t help put a shine back.

Now I realize that “age is just a number”, but it was more important at 21 (beer), than it is now. At 65, it will regain importance, things will be cheaper, and I can join a select group of folk who consider almost anymore under that age a pain in the ass.  Their numbers are not high enough.  That is if I make it that far. Right now 56 seems like an undefined wilderness, somewhere between “Deliverance” and “Jurassic Park”.   And I don’t feel like “camping out”…

I pulled on a plain white tee and black shorts and kind of combed what’s left of my hair. I put my teeth in. The strange naked man looks different now. Resigned.  To what I’m not sure.

 

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the others welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott