Thursday, December 23, 2010

Photos From The Edge Of My Phone


I take photos of bathrooms. Here's one in a gas station near Newburyport, MA.


Shopping for the zombie apocalypse.


So hot. Nothing like your woman holding a weapon and shouting at varmints.


I couldn't resist.




Shopping with Caleb is always lined with laughter.


Solomon studying his spelling list for school. Notice how the hole in the sock does not detract from the coolness this kid exudes.



Solomon waiting for the toast. 


This was me waiting for the toast 35 years ago.


Roller derby. Everyone should go to at least one bout.




Imogen Heap in Boston at the sweaty theater. Girl got mad skills.


Mat Kearney up in Maine. Boy got mad skills.


Moving my brother David up to Dover on the hottest day in recent history. Somebody get my ass a towel!


My brother Michael playing guitar in my yard. Boy got mad skills.


Michael Meyers smoking a cig.


How's about a poke? Check out the 'tache and the tight 80's jeans! Sexy smokin' hot!


Only uncle Michael can do Hannah's hair the way she likes it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hello Good People, It's Me. Are You Out There?

I wanted to chemically alter my state of being. I bought the kids a trampoline instead.

As we were setting it up, a hornet stung my left arm. Right on the muscle. I swiped at the pain, and the nasty little bugger leapt from my arm to my hand, stinging me again. The sting on my knuckle began to throb in time with the one on my arm.

I do not like being stung once, let alone twice. Elizabeth was there for me, sweet salve and soft bandages at the ready. My hand began to swell and a lump formed on the underside of my arm. I am not allergic, and the pain would have subsided without her attentions. But who doesn't like some love and kindness when they are stung?

Later, while once again assembling the trampoline, I picked up a bolt. There was a sharp metal sliver clinging to the head. It pierced my thumb. Blood dripped down onto page three of the trampoline assembly instructions that I had placed on the ground between my knees.

I thought about that bolt later, while underwater in the tub (yeah, I tub). That metal splinter had been hanging on to that bolt since the machining process. It made it through the cold forging, the inspection, the packaging, the shipping, and the storage phase of that bolt's journey. It waited in that plastic bag, deep inside the giant box that held the trampoline destined to be ours. How long it had to wait to cut me I do not know, but I bet it was a long time.

For many years I could not understand why Jared would get so angry at God when a plane crashed, killing happy, traveling people. I remember his rage at the news about a little boy from Cambridge, MA that had gone missing. The boy's body was discovered some time later, in a weighted rubbermaid bin at the bottom of a pond near Jared's house. Jared lived up in Maine at the time, a long haul from the boy's neighborhood. My little brother was visibly shaken when he described to me the wellspring of emotions that roiled inside his heart and mind during his daily drives over that bridge. A happy, innocent, undamaged boy had been discarded like trash after being tortured, raped, and murdered. To know that as he drove over that bridge ate at away at Jared's loving heart. He was angry at God for letting it happen. I tried to explain that God didn't let it happen, but that he loved the little boy. I told him that the men responsible were just bad people, and that they would pay someday.

It didn't soften Jared's anger. He couldn't fathom a loving Father in Heaven that would allow men that would do that to a boy come to earth to live. I couldn't either, but I held the party line, stating that the devil was at work in the world and that some men were just plain evil. I had heard grown men that I respected say it, and it felt like a reasonable explanation at the time. Jared didn't agree. I was uncomfortable with his bitterness towards heaven, and blind to the foundation of his rage.

Until now.

I myself am not bitter towards heaven, but I am beginning to understand Jared's bitterness. We grew up together in the same house, in the same church. We sat near each other in Sunday School, listened to the same sermons and teachers, and of course, the same parents. While I was infatuated with every older girl I met, Jared was confused about his feelings for our father's male friends. I felt guilty for some of the things I did which were "bad," but the impulses that I gave into were categorized as "the natural man,"and so I at least had a fighting chance. Jared's impulses were, on the other hand, categorized as "unnatural," and so he was a living affront to God and his plan for man. Jared could not understand the motivations of a "loving" God that had sent him to earth as a homosexual, while commanding him not to be one at the same time. Add to that life-long challenge the insensitive, unforgiving nature of religious zealots and the rejection of family members. The odds against a happy life go from bad to incalculable.

I cannot recall ever having heard that the world would be better off without my "kind" of people, and that we should all be gathered together onto an island and nuked. To have heard that must have made Jared's heart weaken, and his blood to lay still and cold in his veins. If being gay is unnatural, then what is it to be so hateful and cruel? Seems unnatural to me, maybe anyone who thinks that way should be gathered together on an island...

What does all this mean? The hell if I know, I freely admit to wandering in mind, body, and spirit for some time now. It does feel good to express myself though, no matter how few people hear me. Or how even fewer of those that hear me will understand me.

The other day we went into the elementary school for a parent-teacher conference with Solomon's teacher. She said something that split a crack right down the middle of my grey, letting a burst of happy sunlight shine through. She confessed to having told the kids in her class that she didn't care how long it took them to read or write well. She only cared that they become good people.

I think the world would be better off with more people like that. Let's gather them all together on an island, so I can go live there.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks, in no particular order, for...

-ICarly-it'sfunny, with (or without) the kids
-Chicago with Elizabeth, Ricky Gervais, and Louis CK, and hotel sex (with Elizabeth, not Ricky Gervais and/or Louis CK
-The sound of Michael's car pulling up in front of the house
-Harper Blynn's cover of Beyonce's "Halo"
-Courier Font
-The Jesus of prostitutes
-Judy, the waitress with the crooked back that works at the T n' A diner and serves up great pie
-Hannah's kick-ass attitude (most days)
-Solomon's mischief
-Caleb's confidence
-Dark Chocolate
-Jared, for wandering in and out of my dreams once again
-The BBC (1, 2, 3, 4...)
-Alien Beings
-Calm without an impending storm
-Weird, honest, friendly, good, and real people
-Books, Words, Language, Expression
-Feeling good
-My newly open mind
-A man named Zap Rowsdower
-Fried turkey and nobody to share it with but the wife and kids
-The 4th of July Rodeo
-Headphones-so many applications for them it astounds me
-Snaps on my shirts
-Planet Fitness
-Great clients
-The Ability and Will to change

Monday, November 15, 2010

Black Op

It was a beautiful day for killing. The sun was warm and the air still. Mark and I started out early that morning, riding motorcycles up the mountain. We each carried both a rifle and a pistol, and two bricks of 22 caliber ammo between us. The ammo would last for half the day if we took our time and shot patiently.

We set up our shooting stand atop the massive rock formation in the center of our favorite meadow. I had always imagined the long, flat rock to be a sacrificial alter placed at the center of the grassy meadow by an ancient tribe of deadly warriors. Thousands of years before Mark and I showed up it had been bathed in the blood of captured enemies, ugly women, and small children.

We loaded our guns and began to shoot at anything that chirped, tweeted, or flew. Our first several shots were disappointing, but we soon dialed in our sights and our nerves. Before long we were hitting just about everything we aimed at. The rifles worked best, but we used the pistols for celebratory shots directed skyward. In between volleys and reloads we would sip soda, munch snacks, and wait for the birds spooked by our gunfire to return.

We were patient. The ammo lasted for hours.

Long after the cracks of our final shots faded, Mark and I sat and listened for sounds of life in the meadow. We heard nothing but grasshoppers twitching in the grass. Bloodlust coursing through our veins, we walked out into the grass and inspected some of our kills. 

I have shot many guns since that day, but not one of them has been aimed at a bird.

Don't ask me about chipmunks, rats, or squirrels.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Some Hose, Some Hose, My Kingdom For Some Hose!

I don't recall the first time I noticed them, maybe the nurse that carried me fresh from the womb and over to the heat lamp was wearing a pair (white in color would be my guess). The swish of her nylon-sheathed thighs might have brought on my first smile, or my first gasp for breath.

Most of what I remember about my first grade teacher was the soft sound her legs would make as she walked past me, sitting on the floor of her classroom with a book in my lap. In memories she is nothing more than a pair of light brown legs that I want to reach out and touch. It was in first grade that I first made accomplices of dropped pencils, loosely tied laces, and insects. They all made excellent excuses for dropping to the ground. Down there I could sneak a better look at all the lovely nylon columns swishing past me.

In third grade, my dreams were weird. I remember the most common, in which all of the female teachers would line up in the main hall of our school. They were always wearing nothing but tight fitting body suits made out of panty hose. These suits were something I imagined as fantastic but impossible.  I did not know a thing about lingerie in those days, and so I had no idea that such outfits did in fact exist. Had I known, my Christmas wish lists might have shocked my parents. Since I wasn't all that familiar with the female anatomy, the women in this dream were, but for their most obvious curves, androgynous. I would walk along their ranks like a drill sergeant and pick out my favorites. These favorites would then climb onto a long waterbed in a long locked room. Once they were settled into a comfortable row of floating panty hose and soft curves, I would disrobe and roll over the top of them. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, I continued to roll, enjoying the silky layer of nylon bobbing up and down beneath me. Though I loved the sensation, the dream always ended in a hollow feeling, as if something more was supposed to have occurred. Nothing ever did, and so I would wake up to a frustration that I did not understand. The only thing I knew with certainty was that I was a sick little boy that would never spend any amount of time in heaven.

In fifth grade I spent so much time picking up pencils in front of my favorite teacher's desk that one day she actually asked me how the view was from "down there." In an instant I was flash frozen to the floor by my shame. She would tell my parents. I would be exposed to the world for the creepy kid that I already knew myself to be. My family would be humiliated. Dad would lecture and Mom would cry. I would be punished by my parents, shunned at church, and expelled from school. No longer welcome at home, I'd have to run away and live in the woods near the cemetery. My brothers would divide up my Star Wars toys, and I would soon be forgotten. These were my thoughts as I slowly climbed to my feet. Standing before my teacher, a red mask of guilt covering my face, I expected her to hiss, screech, and curse my name. Instead, she smiled at me. After a very long moment I retreated to my desk, confused, worried, and embarrassed. I had been caught on all fours, staring at my teacher's legs; why wasn't I on my way to the principal's office, or being pushed into the back of a police car? Every day for the rest of the school year was an experience in awkward agony, putting a damper on my panty hose habit for a long spell.

Easter, the celebration of the resurrection, and another reason for me to hang my head in absolute shame. Little plastic eggs hidden around the house by a magical rabbit. They should have held no real significance for me in relation to my eternal well being, but they did. Those little plastic eggs would mock me every year, reminding me of my nylon hunger. They were just miniature versions of those I saw in panty hose ads on television, and on display in great big bins at department stores.

By the eighth grade, I knew a heck of a lot more about the female anatomy than I had in third grade. This was due in part to the many pencils dropped more conspicuously in grades four through seven, as well as many magazines stolen from under the mattress of my friend's older brother. The distractions that this new knowledge about girls brought on forced a great portion of my nylon fantasies into remission. This did nothing for my salvation, nor did it erase any of my guilt, however, because my focus had only been redirected to what was behind the nylons.

As a twelve year old I tended to drift in and out of attention during church meetings. I wanted to be anywhere else, except for school of course. Church was (and still is) boring, monotonous, and spiritually tedious, especially for the guilty. I already knew that I was going to hell, and that my life would produce nothing of great value. Why did I have to be reminded of that every week by some creepy old man with a greasy grey comb over and a vacuum-like sense of humor that sucked all the fun out of the room?

To further compound my confusion over religion, one Sunday morning the old face informed us that we had to produce a video for the upcoming church film festival. He presented his idea, which was based on the "less filling, tastes great" tag-line argument of a popular beer commercial. Our commercial would be for panty hose. We would split into two factions, arguing over whether it was the fact that the nylons were "laced great" or that they were "less chilling" that made them the best brand of panty hose to wear. The hilarity of the video would be that a group of twelve year old boys were dressed up as women. We would all, of course, have to wear nylons for the video.

I remember sliding into them on the day of the shoot. I sat on my bed and collected one side of the panty hose up into my fingers like the women in so many commercials I had watched over the years. My toes pointed, I slid them over my foot and up along my leg, smoothing them out as I did. They were so soft and cool against my skin! It was wonderful. Years before, my mother had made me wear tights to school in the winter. I hated them. I had sworn to never don them again, and that I would never force my future sons into such a humiliating position. But this was somehow different. While I felt silly for wearing something made exclusively for women, I felt as if I were being let in on a secret that only women knew. Soon both legs were covered in a thin, silky membrane. I closed my eyes and rubbed my hands over them, imagining Kate Varnseck's legs instead of mine.

Soon I was dressed as a woman. Complete with makeup, hat, shoes, and a purse, I walked through the neighborhood without a thought to being embarrassed. There was no way anyone would recognize me all made up and dressed like a woman, and I really didn't care anyway. The video shoot went well. I hammed it up, slapping a hand on my thigh, stomping my heels, and heaving a big sigh as I argued my case for why the panty hose were so great to wear. I don't recall if I was assigned the "less chilling" or the "laced great" side of the argument, but I do remember the sensation of the cool air on my legs as I crossed them in mock disgust during the debate.

While I enjoyed my brush with panty hose, it didn't stick. That video shoot brought an end to my obsession. I was like a boy whose father makes him smoke a whole cigar in order to kill his curiosity. I gave it a shot, and it didn't play out. I had never wanted to be a woman. While I still loved the soft, silky texture of panty hose, I found it easy to avoid wearing them. I do admit, however, to reaching out for a touch now and again, especially when offered the chance openly by a girl.

Years later, after lusting after many brunettes, I found myself enthralled, enraptured, and engaged to a feisty blonde. She was beautiful. I wanted to impress her. Shakespeare seemed a safe bet. I read to her from Romeo and Juliet by candlelight.

Wanting to look the part, I wore nylons.




Monday, October 25, 2010

A Happy Birthday Story for Jared


We didn’t have to keep our eyes peeled for long. Within a few miles we were pulled over once again, Michael and I both running for the barbed wire fence.
“Hey, was ‘plastic eating cow’ on our list of photo ops?” I asked, pointing at a large brown beast standing in the shadow of my windmill. It was chewing on one end of a long piece of lightweight black plastic.
“Nice, get a picture of the plastic eater.” As he spoke, Michael was stretching his arms high into the air and tilting his head back, face to the sky. His words were accompanied by a loud groan of satisfaction, and he looked and sounded like a dog standing on his hind legs to stretch and yawn after a long nap.
I climbed the fence carefully, dropping down on the other side between two fresh piles of cow manure. “Watch your step,” I warned Michael as he followed me over into the minefield. I had noticed the state of his shoes when we stopped for lunch in Amarillo, and they were not fit for running carelessly through a field of moist cow crap. They were old and worn, the leather soft and pliable, like that of a beloved baseball glove. Not only were they creased with wear and shiny from age, but the heels were mashed flat. Michael no longer pulled them up over the heels of his feet, choosing instead to slide them onto his feet like leather slippers.
“I wouldn’t want you to get cow shit on your shoepers.” I shouted over my shoulder as I ran toward the windmill.
“Ha!” Michael caught the meaning of my word combination joke immediately, and laughed as he caught up with me.
“How can you run in those things?” I asked, not really looking for an answer.
Michael didn’t offer one anyway; he was focused on his stealthy approach towards the plastic-eating cow. He needn’t have bothered, because the cow was more intent on munching her synthetic snack.
“I think I’m gonna grab that out of her mouth.” Michael said, looking back at me with a grin.
“She’s gonna kick you.” I warned.
“You ready?”
“Yeah, I’m filming.” I answered, stepping in closer to capture the action.
Michael took a few quick steps alongside the cow, then reached out a hand and grabbed the plastic as he ran past. Instead of pulling free from the cow’s mouth, the plastic parted with a snap. Michael kept on running, circling the windmill while I laughed myself breathless. Through it all, the cow chewed on, impervious to my little brother’s attempt at stealing her treat.
Once the laughter faded, I turned my attention to the real reason for jumping the fence and risking a shoe full of cow manure. I stood at the base of the windmill and listened to it creak as the warm breeze turned it round and round. The metal blades sifted the afternoon sunlight, creating a dizzying pattern of shadows and light on the ground at my feet. I took a deep breath and held it in as a wave of unexpected emotion washed over me. I couldn’t suppress my sadness at the thought of passing countless windmills over so many years worth of family road trips, but never gathering enough courage to ask my father to pull over so that I could climb a barbed wire fence, run across a cow patty field, and stand this close to one. Regret and anger merged inside of me, just as it had so many times over the past several months. The good news was that I was becoming more proficient at converting the deadly cocktail of emotions into fuel for change within myself. A great part of that change had come in the realization that the happiest memories my children would carry with them into adulthood were sure to be the moments in which we shared something on their own level and terms instead of mine.

It was silly and I knew it, but standing in the shadow of that giant metal flower with tears in my eyes, I allowed myself to accept that I had chased down and conquered a windmill of my own. It felt good, and I shouted for joy before joining Michael in running back to the car, jumping over crap mines along the way.




Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Comfortable Crisis


You can find me on the couch. I'll be the one taking a long pull on a cigarette from one hand, with a bottle of beer in the other. A plate covered in pizza crusts rests on my lap, while pudding cups and cookies wrappers lie scattered about me. I lounge in my lightweight corduroys and a roller derby tee shirt, watching "Rev." on BBC and planning my next "wank" of the day. I am the one that looks numb while remaining wholly enraged. Unless you know where to buy some weed, don't bother knocking on the door.

Is there a point to this farce?

Not really, but it beats the hell out of commenting on a sermon filled with bigotry and fueled by ignorance, spewed forth in between discourses about a loving God that seems bent on confusing the heaven out of me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Deposit

As I drew to a complete stop at the top of the hill, I looked across the street and saw Jared sitting on a red milk crate. He was leaning against the brick wall of an old building, wearing a red flannel shirt and a pair of well worn blue jeans. A cigarette hung casually from the left corner of his mouth, and it looked about to fall, but somehow clung to his lip and even bounced a bit as he returned my stare with a smile. He was old; his hair grey, his face marked by crow's feet, and his eyes wise with experience. In his hands he held a sketch pad and pencil. He nodded at me, just as a tear splashed down onto my hand. A rumbling truck wrested me from the moment and I hit the gas, lurching forward. As I drove past, he held my gaze, cigarette still clinging to that smile.


I pulled into the parking lot less than a block away, parked and ran into the bank, spending all of thirty seconds inside to make a deposit. I jumped in my car and was back on the road in a flash, and as I approached the old building the thought occurred to me that I could, or rather that I should, sit down next to him and talk to him.


But he was already gone, leaving me to wonder a bit longer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Going once, going twice, almost gone!

While I appreciate a nicely restored car just as much as anyone else might, I am not one to spend my idle hours studying them, learning their horsepower, estimating their value, or memorizing the years they were produced and what might make them more collectible than other cars of their day.


Having said that, I do sometimes get caught up in something that I normally wouldn't find fascinating. I recently spent close to ten hours watching a weeklong car auction out of Indianapolis. There were over 1,700 cars to be sold, and the event was televised live in HD. I sat on the couch, usually with food or a laptop at hand (sometimes both), and watched as Corvettes, Mustangs, Chargers, Ramblers, Novas, Camaros, and many more makes and models than I can remember were rolled out for display and bidding.


Having been somewhat of a car junkie during my teenage years, I knew many of the cars that were pushed, pulled, and sometimes, but rarely driven up to the block (low mileage makes a car more collectible). I have always loved Porsches, and a few were sold, but the majority of the cars for sale were American cars, with American muscle under the hood and American memories behind the wheel. It was captivating, all that shiny chrome, bright paint, and pure horsepower on display en mass. I was drawn in and stayed there for days, watching to the end, until the very last car rolled off the red carpet and into a new owner's collection.


That auction set my mind to thinking, or rather many recent events, combined with that auction got me to thinking. There have been hundreds of makes and models of cars that will only ever be seen again in photos, film, or memories. These cars were functional enough in their day, (although that is probably debatable in many cases), but they were never as lovely or desirable as others, and therefore they have been allowed to rust away into memory. A photograph or the mention of them might bring to mind a road trip, a destination, a fight, a particular evening out, a life changing event, or even a specific relationship, but the fact remains that at some point they were no longer functional, practical, or desirable, and became more trouble than they were worth.


Much like those car models that never became collectable, I have over the past several months concluded that some of the relationships that I once thought of as useful, functional, reliable, lovable, and desirable should in fact be discarded and replaced with newer, highly functional, and more dependable models that will hopefully be instrumental in building new memories, new happiness, and in filling new photo albums. It has been and will continue (for a time) to be sad to let go of relationships that are no longer worth the time and effort of maintenance, but in the end the good will out. I have found that some things in life are easier to let go of than we first thought, especially when we have been kidding ourselves for years when it comes to their true value. The key is to know which relationships are worthy of attention, affection, devotion, and efforts towards restoration.


Of course, some people go missing regardless of how much we care, or how much we try, or how much we love. While these people may be the most precious, most lovable, and the most worthy of our attentions, we can not have them back in this life, no matter how hard we wish we could. These impossible situations are the most frustrating, because we will wish away our days, imagining that if we could have them for even but a few moments we would appreciate them for all that we didn't recognize in them before they left us. Living with this regret leaves a hollow space inside of us, one that cannot be filled, no matter the number of things we try to cram into the deep empty within us.


Among the relationships that I have had to let go of is one that has taken a little longer to break off than all the rest. It was a one-sided association with a judgmental, self-righteous, ignorant fool that refused to change, to flex, to question, to learn, or to grow. He was an intolerable tyrant that was quick to anger and slow to forgive. This guy was a real horse's ass, dwelling on the insignificant and carrying around with him the oppressive weight of grudge-filled buckets that dangled from the unwieldy yoke that had been laid across his shoulders at birth. Not someone that anyone with one-third of a heart would want to spend any measure of time with, he sucked the joy out of anything and anyone that dared to cross his path not looking, behaving, or believing as he did or as he thought they should. Farewell I say, to the ignorant dogmatist!


And so I admit to having been a right bastard, and I think that in order to make up for some of it, I'll buy Elizabeth a convertible someday, and we will drive away into the night without a thought to destination.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bladder Control Is So Overrated

My bladder is about as deep as a stripper's whisper; it makes so many promises and holds not a one. The other night, however, she made good for me by filling up quickly. I am sitting in the second row, dead center. To my left are several young men wearing wife beaters and sporting less intelligence than a pile of blankets. To their left, at the end of the row, sits a baby momma, with the baby of head wife beater in tow. The kid isn't a day over twelve months, and spends his movie time sucking away at something that I not about to verify as being just a bottle. To my right, good friends, the ones that invited me out to endure the plotless ninety minutes that some poor fool has been conned into funding as a film project. To be fair, it isn't all bad, and there have been some rather hilarious moments, but not enough to sustain my interest to the point of bladder rupture. If a movie can compete with my tiny bladder for screen time, it is a movie worth recommending to others. This movie shall forever remain nameless.

The real reason for our outing to the theater is not the movie, but rather the BUC. We had not seen the Black Urban Cowboy (see earlier posting) for some time, and were hankering for a glimpse of the legend. We predicted a 9:40 showing of "Predators" to be his selection for the night, since it was opening weekend and he would be counting on fewer people that time of night on a Sunday. No luck; as we entered the building we saw no cowboy hat, and heard no jingle of spurs.

So here I am, eighty minutes into this theatrical marvel, and my bladder is sweating. I imagine the toxins from my pee seeping into my chest cavity, infecting my body and setting up a major case of sepsis and death. I am trapped, however, by the long stretch of beaters to my left, and polite movie goers to my right. At last I make a choice, and stand as the plot heaves its final breath. I manage to exit the row without kicking anyone in the legs, or bumping their face with my butt.

I turn the corner to head up the ramp and down the hall to the restroom, and come to a full stop. There he is; the BUC. He stands alone in the large corridor, backlit by the bright lights of the movie poster boxes hanging on the wall. His hat is white and crumpled atop his head, his suit is dark and loose, and his boots are adorned with the spurs that make him who he is. I am in the presence of a ghost, I can feel it, and were he to levitate past me down the ramp, I would not give it a second thought. With the speed of a gunfighter I slide my hand into my front pocket and back out again, phone in hand. As I walk silently behind him, I shoot, digitally capturing the moment. I am tempted to speak, but my bladder, the very thing that brought me to this moment, is now demanding repayment of the favor.

When I exit the bathroom, he is gone. The hall is empty, as is the massive courtyard and ticket area. He has vanished, perhaps passing through the walls, a fine western mist that now mixes with the light rain outside.

Tell Jared I said hello, would you please, Mr. BUC?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Perfect Sunday School Lesson



I was seventeen. She was in her late twenties, and the car was brand new. Every Sunday I would skip out of Sunday School and stand in the parking lot next to that red custom Porsche, taking in the beauty of the slant-nose, marveling through the windows at the black leather interior, and itching to run my hands along that whale tail. How I loved that machine, and how I longed to peel open her door and slide into that soft, inviting, leather seat. I would turn her on and make her purr as we sped together down the back roads of Madison, Connecticut.
“Wanna ride?”
For a quick sliver of time, I believed that the sultry voice came from under the shiny red hood. The car had sensed my desire, and through some mad miracle had crashed mechanics into lust, finding amid the wreckage a magical solution to all my teenage frustrations.
“I said, do you want a ride?”
Reality kicking in, I turned towards the actual source of that lusty query. My cheeks ran instantly to warm; I was sure they matched the color of the car (now all but forgotten) as I faced the other object of my Sunday morning lust; before me stood the nameless beauty who had in recent weeks become a regular visitor to the morning services. Who she was and why she came every Sunday morning I could not imagine, because she herself was worthy of worship, and I was convinced that somewhere out in the wide world was a shrine built to her name. She smiled, the question hanging in the air and mingling with her scent. I could find no voice within myself, and so I took the muted moment to drink in the sight of her; long, dark hair, eyes as green as young blades of grass, and skin that looked to be fashioned of the softest stuff on earth. She wore a dress that made no effort to hide her shape, and she seemed to be made of nothing but curves leading down to legs so long a man might need a map to navigate their course.
She cleared her throat, and I startled just a moment before gathering my senses.
“In this car?’ I squeaked, gesturing at the Porsche with an arm that had gone numb for lack of blood.
“Of course, climb in.” She laughed, and as the sound of it faded my ears begged for more.
         I opened the passenger door, doing my best not to make too much a display of my excitement. I slid down into the leather, and it was even more smooth and dreamy than I had imagined, yet firm and supportive in spite of the comfort.
         “Buckle up.” She suggested.
         I reached behind me to the right, but my hand did not immediately find the seat belt. I was about to turn my head to look for it when I saw her reach down between those two marvelous pillars of soft flesh and pull up the straps to a four point racing harness. My hands went numb again, and my heart began to smash against my chest walls as she snapped the buckle together across her curvy chest, pulling it tight. As she did so, that dress rode up her thighs, making my love life up to that point in time nothing but a waste of breathe and angst. Every girl, every touch, every kiss and every caress was forgotten in that second. Had the angel of death arrived to rip me from that car, he would have had to employ all of the hosts in hell to do it.
         The engine purred into action; she must have turned the key while I was staring at her legs. I fumbled the seat belt across my chest, snapping the buckle into place. I wondered then where to put my hands.
         “Sorry I don’t have a four point for you,” She said, “I don’t make a habit of giving out rides.”
         ‘Heaven! This must be heaven, and I am dead. Is this my reward? To ride around the rest of my days with such beauty in such a beautiful car?’ My imagination mused, and I smiled at the thought of eternity as a road trip worth dying for. The engine revved high as we peeled out of the parking lot and onto the road. She hit a button and the windows slid down, letting in the cool spring air.
         “I love to drive!” She laughed, shifting up a gear as we hit a straightaway. The wind lifted her hair, and my spirits flew with it; I was in love.
         “I love to ride!” I exclaimed, almost shouting the words, a sort of Hallelujah chorus on such a glorious Sunday morning. She smiled, and then nodded her head as she down shifted around a sharp curve. The car hugged the road tight, the way I longed to hug this strange, crazy, beautiful creature sitting so calm beside me in the driver’s seat. The wind rushed through our hair, the road rushed underneath us, and the blood rushed through my veins. For those minutes I was happy, so happy that time meant nothing and reality was nothing more than a skid mark on the pavement of that church parking lot.
         She never returned to church. I waited outside for her the following Sunday and for many more after that, but I never saw her again. I don’t know why she offered me that ride; maybe she just took pity on me, saw me standing there and thought she could make a difference in some dork’s life.
         She did.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In My Veins

As a child I would lay in bed on Saturday mornings and pretend to die. I would sit up against the headboard to take a sip of water from a cup I had placed nearby the night before, and swallow it down with great effort, allowing a few drops to dribble down my cheek and onto the pillow. With labored breath, I would give a great soliloquy, imparting my wisdom to those who were gathered around my deathbed. I would start to cry, once again wetting my pillow as my children, their children, and sometimes, when my imagination was strong enough, my great grandchildren came to me one by one and whispered their tearful goodbyes to their sweet old patriarch. I would then lay back into the pillow and utter some final, great words of love to my family, gathered around me in my imagination as they were. My wife would take my hand in hers, her warm skin pressed against my own, as my breath grew more and more shallow, my heart beat weaker and weaker, and my life light dimmer and dimmer. I would close my eyes, and the last thing I would ever see in this life would be the face of the one I loved most, a sweet smile on her lips and warm tears of love in her eyes. I never imagined anything beyond that, my understanding of life after death being very minimal in those days.

Thirty years later, I am well into the wretched hollow now, waiting for time. Over 525,600 minutes have passed since he took his last breath, and every one of them has been overshadowed by my little brother's suicide. Nothing is, nor will it ever be again, the same as before; everything about my life has changed. When Jared took his life last year, I could not imagine experiencing a pain, a loneliness, a sadness, a betrayal, or a suffering so deep that it would drive me to do what he did. I could not fathom the depths of the sorrow that he floundered in every day. Over the past twelve months, I have pondered his final minutes here on earth, and how he must have felt as he wrote his goodbye, telling us that he loved us, but that he was lonely, so lonely, and that he had to go. It has broken me to know that he suffered so terribly, and that I was so ignorant of his despair, so blind to his grief, and so deaf to his cries for either death or help, whichever would come first and end his torment. I have been wracked by just a sliver of those same thoughts and feelings this year, and while it has brought me to my emotional, spiritual, and physical knees, I still cannot grasp the measure of his hopelessness. I hope that I never do. With so much crumbling around me, one would think that I should worry and fear. Not so; the crumbling clears my view and allows me to see farther into the distance, granting me a more perfect line of sight to what can, what should, and what will be. I miss Jared, and I will mourn his death for the rest of my days, until I see him again, fall upon his neck, and hold him close like a brother should.

As always, darkness allows us to discern the light. I thought I might list some of the beams of light that pierce the darkness that surrounds and abounds these days.

-I was told right away by "experts" that I would soon feel anger towards Jared. I have not.
-Friends that have stood strong, silent, and fearless beside me as my storms have raged.
-The scales have been peeled away; I am clear-eyed now, even through the tears.
-Words; powerful, heartfelt, flowing words, both from others and within.
-The road trip of a lifetime.
-Three young pillars that have held up against immense pressure, keeping the foundation of this home intact. Caleb, Hannah, and Solomon serve as constant suppliers of unconditional HOPE, LOVE, and JOY.
-Elizabeth; With me from the beginning, she knows my heart. She has shared every single emotion, shed every single tear, and held my hand at every single moment. Not only does she love Jared as much as I do, but she is the one that taught me how to love him as much as I do. The last interaction she had with Jared says it all; he came to her for a hug when he needed one most.

Coming full circle: I no longer play deathbed on Saturday mornings, but I still imagine my last moments on earth, although now with a greater understanding of life after death and the Eternities. Of course I now know what my children look like, and whose face it will be in that final moment before closing my eyes, but in addition to those changes, I have added a couple of elements since Jared's death; there is a smile on my own lips as I close my eyes, and as I straddle the gap between life and death I whisper softly so that only Elizabeth can hear...

Jared!

Friday, May 7, 2010

These Dreams Go On... #4

Last night, Jared shot off the beach and into the atmosphere without a sound. He looked like a true superhero, with one arm tucked to his chest while the other arm led the way, and both hands balled into fists. I laughed out loud and then he was gone. With both hands shielding my eyes from the sun, I scanned the clear blue sky for his shape. He was too fast, too far away, too high up, and I couldn't find him. I stood on the beach with the surf washing over my ankles, waiting for him to return. A chuckle in my ear and a tap on my shoulder told me he was standing behind me in the water. I hadn't heard a splash, felt a whoosh, or sensed a thud. My little brother was graceful, quick, and strong, a real veteran at flying. 


"Want me to show you how?" He asked.


"Duh!"


"Ok, it's easy. Strike a pose to look cool, then jump into the air and imagine the ground falling away from you." Jared stood beside me and struck a pose, gesturing for me to mimic him. I did my best, arms crossed over my puffed-out chest, chin jutted with a frown on my face, but it wasn't very convincing. I felt like a kid learning to box from his hero-big-brother.


I closed my eyes, jumped into the air, and fell back to earth. He laughed, and the sound of it made me laugh. We lay on the beach in hysterics for several minutes, and I clung to the happiness like the sand to my wet skin.


Soon he had me back on my feet, striking poses.


"You have to find the one that fits you, that's important."


"Seriously? You can't fly without a pose?" I asked like an idiot.


"Sure, but why would you? To fly without a pose is just flying."


"Well then what is flying with a pose?"


"Living!" And with that he shot off the beach and into the air once again.


I watched him for just a moment, then struck my pose; fists poised for combat, feet planted firmly, head tilted back, face to the sky. A knowing smile on my lips, I imagined the beach falling away from me as I shot into the air.


This time the beach did fall away, and I was flying. Jared circled back and flew beside me. We sped through the sky, diving, looping, tricking, and laughing for what felt like hours until my alarm went off and I woke up.


Why is this happening to me? The fantasy of my dreams is bleeding over into my reality, confusing the hell out of my waking hours. It was fun to fly, and words cannot do justice to what it was to spend time with Jared, but I am a husband and father, with many years of loving responsibility ahead. Can I spend those years with one foot in dreams, the other in reality? Were sleep not so elusive for me, I might fear of the day coming when that is all I want to do.


Of course, these questions may well be moot; my dream-self (with a little help from Jared) could just be trying to tell me that it is time for me to strike a pose and live.



Thursday, April 29, 2010

Way Too Cool For This Block




The sun is out. Warmth abounds, drawing people out of their homes and into their yards. The clouds have gone, and I am reminded of the short story by Ray Bradbury entitled "All Summer in a Day," where the rains cease once every seven years, allowing the sun to shine for one hour. Neighbors are meeting in the street to chat, kids are riding bikes, and cars slow down as the people in them wave or shout hellos.


I am walking my daughter's bike to the garage, trying not to grumble about her carelessness at leaving it out in the yard. The bike, not yet hers for one complete day, is a lime green BMX style ride with funky black detailing, lots of shiny chrome, and foot pegs. I never had such a bike growing up, and so the urge to know how one feels underneath me is too great to resist. I swing my leg over the seat, drop down onto my butt, then head up the driveway and onto the street. I ride straight and fast up the road a bit before leaning from side to side to make large, swooping circles on the asphalt.
"Nice bike!" Shouts my neighbor as he runs past me. He is chasing his fiesty five-year-old daughter as she teeters on her tiny little pink bike, her red hair blowing behind her.
"Way to go Bella!" I offer encouragement, happy to see her braving the world without training wheels for the first time.
On our rock-star (for real) neighbor's front lawn there is a small gathering of people, so I head over to hear the latest neighborhood scuttlebutt. I brake to a halt, making myself a part of the circle. I sit low on the bike, dropping one foot to the ground and draping one arm lazily across my lap, striking a cool and casual pose. The circle erupts with a wave of laughter.
"Dude, sweet ride, I'm so jealous." This from the rock star, a motorcycle owner, as his wife snaps a photo of me with her phone.
"Yeah, I guess. I'm just out here trickin' with her, to see how she rides." I shrug my shoulders, indifferent to his praise. This brings another round of chuckles, and I am suddenly feeling quite heady and full of myself.
Jokes aside, a real conversation ensues. We discuss the Apple Ipad, our kids, workouts that work us out, bad movies, weird neighbors that should have moved away long ago, and health care reform (just kidding on that last one). I am feeling pretty good; I don't typically converse with the neighbors without Elizabeth around, and especially over the past several months. 
The wind picks up, and I feel a chill below my belt-line.


I look down. My underwear stares back. So much for being cool.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stripping Away The Pain

Running. Outside. On the battered roads of New Hampshire. Sand, trash, cigarette butts, mud, and exhaust. Dedicated? No, I love running inside on my treadmill, and I always will. Strap on the ankle weights, set the incline to the max, and fire up the Netflix. Pick a movie, something ninety minutes long, maybe an independent comedy, no subtitles (too hard to read while running), and hit the start button. Running inside on a treadmill is to train in relative comfort, unlike running outside. Running inside is like being tortured by the French instead of the Soviets; it hurts, but most of your body will continue to function when they are done with you.

So, I am running outside today, for no particular reason other than convenience, and the pain is with me from the start. These days pain is like breathing, it comes naturally to my soul. If it isn't physical, it's emotional, and if I am not in pain than I begin to doubt my own existence. I never understood cutters before; I thought them to be attention seeking teens in angst. Now I know, so my apologies to the cutter community. The pain starts in my lungs, following my breath up and into my nose. It isn't cold today, but it isn't quite hot either, making the moist, pollen-laden air that much harder to suck in. But I suck away at it, because my body is demanding it. It is angry with me; running is a different type of workout, it is not like the weight training and core work to which running has taken a back seat for the past several weeks.

I think I can hear my arms laughing at my lungs and legs, but it might be me. Music is great to run to, but these days music can bring about a paralyzing mood, and in order to make it through this run I have spun the Ipod wheel to a British radio comedy show. Keeping the drivers that pass by guessing, I am smiling and laughing out loud as I run. It is rare to see a runner cracking up as he self torments, and the thought of someone sitting at their dinner table tonight, shaking their head as they tell of the happy runner they witnessed on their drive home makes me laugh and smile even more.

I stop at some railroad tracks, dropping into a runner's stretch across a couple of ties. I bring my head up and look down the long straightaway. In an instant I am taken back to searching for Jared's body last summer. Elizabeth and I had walked the tracks near his home for a few hours. They were long, straight, and lined with trees all the way out to the bay. I shake my head at the emotions rushing through me like blood. My eyes are stinging from sweat, tears, and pollen. I collapse, surrender to the memory, and utter a few words of what might be considered a prayer. After a few moments, I remember that the kids will be waiting for me at the end of their music lessons; I must run.

I start back the way I came, and come to a hill. Halfway up, I am holding my own, my emotions running the show. Something bright catches my eye, and I turn my head as I pass a dirt driveway. There is a shed, set back from the road about forty feet or so. It is sheltered above by trees, and dark shadows have swallowed it's mossy walls. The door is open, and a light shines through. Inside stands a man fidgeting at a work bench.

He is naked.

Thanks Jared, I needed to laugh. And laugh I do, all the way back to my kids.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

These Dreams Go On... #3

My personal gulag, Siberian wilderness surrounding me. The darkness of a coal mine my days, the darkness of a moonless sky my nights. There are few guards, no towers, and little else to stop me from running away. And why should there be? What little I have seen above ground does not instill much hope for a successful flight from this misery. Sanctuary lies so far beyond reach that the distance cannot be measured in miles or time.

Of course, I am duty bound to escape, and so I occasionally make a go of it, getting as far as what I cannot tell; there is no fence, no boundary of any kind, the landscape is a cold and desolate plain. Before long my captors find me, wandering through snow drifts and leaning against the furious winds that blow as if commanded by something greater to push me back to my prison.

Back in the mine, I am led to the gauntlet; my emotions have missed me, and are due their pound of flesh. They exact their vengeance without mercy, striking me down with painful blows that send me to my knees. I crawl along the ground like an animal, unable to defend myself against their brutal onslaught. They stomp, grind, twist, hit, and pull at me until I call out for a relief that doesn't come. Once they have had their fill, their baleful thirst sated only by my wild, endless cries for help, they trudge off to a hidden corner of the mine to wait in the shadows for the next time.

I lay still, the cold stone beneath me chilling my bruises. This time, I wonder, was it worse than the last? Will my wounds close over with thick, wretched scar tissue, making me tougher, stronger, harder to break next time? The thought of being covered in a rough, callous, healed skin; that scares me more than the alternative. To develop an immunity to these stinging barbs and slashing attacks would be for me a fate worse than the suffering that wracks me now. It might mean freedom, to have the strength to walk out of here and into the bleak wilderness beyond the horizon. I could leave behind the fury of my captors, with their attacks and the pain they inflict, but to no longer feel this pain is to cease being who I am, and to end my suffering is to end me.

What then, my sentence? I will serve my time, and meanwhile dig for more Hope.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Deal with it? Why don't you just bugger off?

Many people expect grief to have run her course and been on her way by now.

She hasn't.





She has taken up residence. She is like an inconsiderate roommate that wakes me in the middle of the night with slamming doors. She eats my food, uses the last squares of toilet paper, and watches television with the volume up too loud. She doesn't pay rent, yet she roams freely throughout the house.
She washes her underwear in the sink, breaks the tip off every sharpened pencil in the house, and hides the fingernail clippers. Her wet towels lay about, her dishes grow moldy on the stairs, and her breath smells like a dumpster. She grinds her teeth, picks her nose, and belches during my favorite shows, books, and music.





Grief can really bother me at times, but I have been patient, and she has grown on me. She will sit with me when it's quiet and I am alone. She listens when I vent, takes it on the chin when I scream, and doesn't try to stop me from crying, because she knows that I need to. When I am scared, confused, and don't feel like going out, she shuts my bedroom door and guards it against intruders. I don't want her to leave just yet, because I am afraid that if she does I will begin to forget; I need her to remind me of what I have lost, and why it hurts so much.


She's kinda like Love, I think.



Again, many people expect grief to have run her course and been on her way by now.

She hasn't; deal with it.











Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Whoever Closed The Door, Would They Please Open A Window?

Dear heaven above, that smell, what is that smell? Oh my, that's bad. It's her, or rather something wafting out of her. It must be coming from her; I am the only other person in the room, and the door is closed. Look at her; she sits behind her desk, crushing that tiny, desperate, overworked chair with her mass, pretending nothing is rotting inside of her, that nothing is trying to work its way out of her before it dies inside her bowels. She is teasing it, setting it free in little gasps, making it believe that soon it will be out, clouding up the room and poisoning the air around her like an airborne infection.

Oh, that one was bad, are my eyes actually watering? Can I breathe through my mouth? Will it taste like it smells? Would it be better to taste it than to smell it? Should these be my last thoughts? Shouldn't I be thinking of family and friends? Whatever I am thinking, I don't want to pass into the next phase of forever with this smell in my face. Will my last living act be to suck her warm cloud of stink into my nose, filling my lungs with invisible death?

It's so hot in here, why the hell has she got the heat on? How can she be cold with that inside of her? She is like a walking methane gas pocket, and I am without my canary in a cage. Would it hurt to open a window? I imagine I can see the air outside taunting me, but that may be a hallucination, a side effect of breathing in too deeply.

Oh no, she's on the move. She is going to walk right past me. I want to hold my breath, but I can't suck in a chest full of air and hold it, that would give some of it time to settle inside of my lungs, and I might become a carrier. No, it's best to take short, shallow breaths and hope my immune system can fight off the raging hoards of infection that surely cling to the air molecules in this room.

The door is opening, at last a savior! Oh no, that look, I know that look; they think I did this! Come on! Do I really look capable of bringing about such a smell? Ok, scratch that, I probably do, but that is stereotyping, and aren't we as a society past all that? Should I make a face, wave my hand past my nose, wrinkle it up in disgust? Would that make me look more guilty? Too late, there is no doubt in her eyes, the window for quietly passing blame is closed. Speaking of windows, my kingdom for an open one! My silent accuser grabs what she came in for and leaves, eager, I am sure, to escape my wrath. Soon I am alone with my tormentor once again.

Time crawls. Hours in misery pass. The afternoon is spent at last, and my work is done. Double-checks completed. Everything is running smooth, my tasks are finished. I can leave this room for cleaner pastures of air. I say my goodbyes, reach for the doorknob, and pull open the door. Cool air rushes over my skin; I breath it in, smile, and walk into the hallway. I close the door, leaving her behind with her sins. I am free at last.

On the way out, I think about her job title and laugh out loud.

ASSessor.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

These Dreams Go On... #2

Were you to ride shotgun through my nights, you might...

shake your head at racist road signs,



pick some cotton,



and talk to strange and headless roadkill.



You could chance upon a 190 ft. Crucifix,


chase windmills,



or make new friends, like a plastic pony






or a plastic eating cow.




The sun will probably shine hot through the night





as you walk with me on Mars,




and see the sights.




You will more than likely play in the road,




and you might be lucky enough to stand with me as I relive the fulfillment of a bizarre childhood wish that I cannot explain.




There are many places we could go, and many things we might do, but there are two promises I can make to you;


You will at some point find yourself sitting in the parking lot of a lonely motel just off the 40 in Kansas City, Missouri,



and you will always get to see my favorite view of the Grand Canyon.