Can you imagine what the first person to land on the moon thought as he viewed the Earth from afar (not knowing if anyone has “actually” been there yet or if they’ve already established suburbs, mini malls, and a couple of McDonalds’ there). Where we have been is important and should never be discounted, but the question that plagues my brain as I think about the months to come is where I want to go. Being stationary only suffices me if I need a breather before continuing the push forward on my adventure, and if there is one thing I am at heart, it is an explorer.
While taking a week long sabbatical from blogging, me, my wife, and my son ventured to a location disclosed on my Instagram account, and needless to say, travel has changed and rightfully so. Some airports were uncrowded and had the bare essential stores opened for the cloud riding voyagers. Other airports, like Dallas and Charlotte, were brimmed elbow to elbow with people restless to abandon their sturdy seat in the sky for a soft, ground level bed. A majority of people were wearing their masks as requested by local airport authorities, and there were instructional, precautionary signs posted all around the airports and intercom messages warning people on what to do and the penalty they would incur if they did not do so. A couple of people were brave enough to take their masks off to eat, drink, sneeze, or cough, and all I could do was observe and wonder which parallel I would end up in next.
Since there is no shame to my game, I’ll be the first to admit that I despise flying. I do not care to sit on runways for God knows how long or take off in rain showers or snowstorms. I love when the rubber tires finally screech the landing strip and the pilots gear the engines in full reverse and plow the brakes. I’ve hated flying since the first time I boarded a plane, and with the heart of a true explorer, it kind of dampens my chances of ever being able to colonize my own planet far away from Earth. It would take a thousand milligram Xanax the size of a frisbee just to get me into the upper atmosphere, much less another galaxy.
I was seventeen the first time I flew in an airplane. I thought it would be good to venture to Bonaire, a tiny island off the coast of South America, with my dad and his friend on one of their scuba diving adventures. We flew out of Raleigh Durham to Miami on a hot summer night. My equilibrium was all over the place by the time we arrived above the clouds, and millions of lightning bolts were shooting out the tops of the clouds due to the seasonal heat and atmospheric energy. With my heart beating a thousand beats a minute, I gripped both sides of the seat and watched each flash with scared apprehension.
After landing in Miami, we were shuttled to a Holiday Inn by a local who was wearing leather, fingerless gloves. He had sunglasses on at night, was mouthing a toothpick, and had a gold chain tangled in his stiff, black chest hair. I felt like I was in a scene from the movie Scarface and I knew, at any time, someone was going to kick in the door to our room and be brandishing a chainsaw. Needless to say, I slept with one eye open and one eye shut and awaited to board my next cloud laced carriage early the next morning.
The next flight was going to be three and a half hours to Curacao where we would then propeller plane hop over to the island of Bonaire. The pilot came over the intercom and said that we needed to buckle in because there were a couple of spotty areas ahead of us. When I gazed out my window, all I could see was endless, hazy cotton balls because we were flying through various clouds. My feet and armpits began to perspire. I sat in my seat, renewed my faith in God, Jesus Christ, mother Mary, and the Holy Ghost, and knew if we could make it to Bonaire then everything was going to be okay.
We finally landed and the good times took off from there. I had never flown before, much less been out of the country, so it was an eye opening experience for me. My dad and his friend knew locals on the island, and it never hurts to have familiar faces in unfamiliar places. The local Dutch women were not shy about laying out topless on the island’s pristine beaches, and that was a win win for me at the time. The locals understood and were mesmerized and intrigued by my improper Southern English twang. My dad’s friends on the island were of Papiamento descent, and they were extremely nice and cordial to us. They welcomed us to their homeland with open arms, taxi’ed us from the local airport, rented us motorcycles to drive around on the island, and reserved us a fancy room at one of the local resorts.
Long story short, my dad’s friend Orlando had organized the Curacao/Bonaire Tour Camacliri 2001 motorcycle rally for the island and positioned us at the front of the pack. We were watched after in more ways than just one, and I could not have asked for a better, much less safer, experience considering I was fresh out of high school and a long way from home. The motorcycle rally carried us through a local village where they were celebrating their one hundred and fiftieth year anniversary. Every native islander was partying under a starlit sky, laughing, joking, drinking, eating, dancing, and playing carnival games they had designed with their own hands. All the kids ran up to me, smiled, and looked at me like the stranger that I was. I walked over to the games with some of them and paid for them to have a chance to win a prize.
At one point during the celebration, Orlando asked my father to go with him onto their main stage where they were performing their live, local music. Orlando got the microphone, spoke his native language, and addressed the crowd. He thanked the village for welcoming the rally and congratulated them on their anniversary. After saying numerous things that I obviously do not know how to decipher and because I was too busy eating goat (tastes like chicken, of course) and drinking Screwdrivers, Orlando brought my father onto the stage and allowed him to address the crowd.
It was an amazing life experience to witness and be a part of. Orlando told the crowd that we were from “the States” and had traveled there to partake in their motorcycle rally celebration. Orlando translated everything my father said, and my father ended the speech by thanking the locals for letting us be part of their anniversary. The crowd clapped. The music recommenced. The party cranked up to a different level than before. After the rally, we were later escorted back to our hotel room and hung out into the wee hours with other visitors who had come to attend this event.
The jest of the blog is this.
I could have let fear decide my fate. At the very idea of going out of the country, I could have shut it down from its very inception and remain hidden in my mundane, rural backdrop. On my first airplane ride to Miami, the one where Zeus was battling every other mythical god and goddess in the clouds, I could have said enough was enough and bailed on the entire trip as soon as my feet hit the ground. My fear, my anxiety, and the complexes that my mind had designed to hinder my body from moving forward would have made me miss out on some spectacular things that I now look back on and relish.
The good memories of old, the ones I need to remember, the ones I want to remember, flash in front of my eyes as though I was inserting another reel into my View Master. When I need a change of scenery, all I have to do is click the lever.
So ask yourself this question: where do you want to go? When answering, don’t worry about where you have been or not been. Don’t worry about how many flat tires you’ve had. Don’t worry about how many cracked windshields you’ve been blessed with and had to replace. Set a destination, never stop exploring, and if you have to take a detour then detour you must. The world will always be under construction, so check the gauges and liquid levels and make sure the brake and gas pedals are free from obstruction.
When I ask myself, “Where Do You Want to Go?”, I already know my answers. I want to go where my talents and abilities are needed. I want to go where my art is appreciated. I want to go where my mind can link with other like minded individuals in order to create a lasting work of art. I want to be a good husband. I want to be a good father to my existing child and hopeful one that is on the way. I want to be a good son, brother, family member, and friend. I want to be a positive etching in the universe. I want to be a better writer than I was the day before. I want to seclude my little tribe on a mountainside somewhere, watch the world turn, and salute each sunrise and sunset with a, “how you like me now?” I want to turn one of my books into a screenplay, a process that I am currently starting this very week because I have been requested to do so. My editor/agent said, “if you can sing, you might as well dance too!”
Insert another reel into your View Master, click the lever, and be honest with yourself for once in your life.
“Where Do You Want to Go?”
Thank you for your time : Be Safe : Feel free to share, comment, or like : Tell a friend
I sit down at my laptop and outline my thoughts as I battle the voice inside my head:
I started my blog with Introductions First back in December of 2019 and said that 2020 was the year that I was going to put everything on cruise control. I look at my keyboard and find myself standing at the rails of some global, scenic observation point. I look around at the world, wondering which episode of the Twilight Zone I’m going to be in this week. Each one of my days begin with a new sunrise. Everything is in black, white, and grays. Rod Serling is at the foot of my bed, scissoring a cigarette between his fingers and verbally teasing me about what I am going to encounter in this episode. My mind leaves my body, or maybe my body leaves my mind, so it doesn’t have to wither away without actually existing first.
Hey! You! Don’t shake the dust off yet! There’s still more ground to cover. You’ve always told yourself, ‘which boat knows the way the wind blows? The one that never drops her sails’.
My memories, the good ones, the nostalgic ones, the ones that I choose to remember and not erase, take me to distant galaxies that are void of the noise and clutter of today’s world. I remember the days of being a kid and looking forward to three o clock on Friday school days. I remember waking up on Saturday mornings and my biggest decision of the day was which cereal I wanted for breakfast. I remember my dad having endless outdoor projects to fill my free time with. I remember my mom making me and my sister go to church every Sunday. I remember the imaginative giddiness of Christmas Eve nights leading into Christmas mornings. I remember very little but so much at the same time.
Hey! You! Don’t lose that sense of nostalgia quite yet. We have lightyears of memories left to store and share. You’ve always told yourself, ‘rear view mirrors are attached to the windshield, not the other way around’.
At the hitching post of my personal galaxy, the place where my soul goes to ponder, nobody is around for miles. The wind blows through the canyons and valleys and grazes the mountaintops. The wind speeds across the earth, pushes the waves of the ocean, and makes them curl with foamy white thunder. When the invisible gusts hit my body, it carries with it the scent of balsam fir and salty coconuts. Even though it would take one’s body hours to carry its soul from one of these places to the other, my soul carries my body to these places in nanoseconds if I close my eyes hard enough. The only catch is when I open my sky blue orbs, I wonder where my feet will truly be.
Hey! You! Never be afraid of self discovery and chasing the stuff that true dreams are made of. The only way to feel the breeze is to step away from the crowd and hang out on the end of the limb alone. The branch is only going to be as strong as your trunk – your inner core. You’ve always told yourself, ‘pioneers and prophets had to wander first before they found their true destination’. Keep exploring, you!
If I keep looking left to right to right to left at a busy intersection, while shopping in a store, while scanning a menu, or while doing whatever I am doing, I get nauseous. I feel the changes in Earth’s gravity. If I keep scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on different social feeds, I start to feel like human livestock. The information overload makes my eyes and brain hurt. If I’m in a crowded room and people slowly increase the noise of their conversations and laughter so they can be heard above everyone else, I begin to wonder who would configure such an aggravating program. I find myself searching for my observation point. My familiar hitching post. I wait for that familiar breeze to rasp its fingers around my body. My body temperature lowers. I put on my sunglasses. I slowly grin.
Hey! You! It’s okay to be in this world and not of it. It’s okay to enjoy planet Earth. You are here for a reason, right? All of us are, and what defines us is how we use our time. Some people produce. Some people consume. The timeless ones are the ones who can consume and produce at the same time. You’ve always told yourself, ‘the best treasure chests are the ones that are the hardest to find’.
So here I am. There are so many things that I am ing’ing right now. The list could go on for miles. I am hoping. Wondering. Wishing. Dreaming. Feeling. Laughing. Praying. Crying. Thinking. Absorbing. Procrastinating. Determining. Loving. Debating. Holding. Caring. Projecting. The gerunds of life transform and ‘ing themselves into the far future. The verbal nouns roll around on the top of my tongue and awaken my palate. The present participles turn everything around me into a giant, floppy pancake, a pancake that is waiting to be covered in butter and syrup. Waiting. That’s all I’m doing, like the rest of the world. Waiting!
Hey! You! It’s okay to wait. It’s okay to hope. It’s okay to wonder. It’s okay to wish. It’s okay to dream. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to pray. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to think. It’s okay to love. It’s okay to care. It’s okay to get frustrated. It’s okay to pound your fists on the ground. It’s okay to be you and feel the way you feel as long as it is justified. You’ve always told yourself, ‘words rely more on us than we do on them. Use each one to their greatest extent’. So far so good, right?
You tell me!
Keep typing, son. Keep typing, daughter. Keep typing, father. Keep typing, mother. Keep typing, boy. Keep typing, girl. Keep typing, writers of the world. The sentences of today are the paged highways of tomorrow. Some roads will be traveled. Others will not. We are paving the world one word at a time. ‘We are going to the edge and back, one word at a time’. Make sure the asphalt can withstand the test of time as well as the outdoor elements.
If it does not, then was it all in vain?
Hey! You! Do you feel that?
Yes! The breeze, my constant soliloquy! Do not drop your sails just yet. The compass may be broken but the stars still hang above your head, waiting for the sun to set. You know the way! Push forward, weary soul!
Hey! You! Wait now! I thought I was controlling this dialogue!
But you are! You have been doing so all along.
Thank you for your time : Feel free to like, comment, or share in your own way : All are welcome
* Want to listen to me talk to myself even more and since I'm willing to admit it - click this link to a previous post titled, Do You Talk to Yourself * : https://vernonwrites.com/2020/04/02/do-you-talk-to-yourself/
Are there any cliches that have been spoken directly to you and you’d like to find the originator and punch them directly in their left canine? Have you ever seriously thought about cliches or idioms or blindly repeated the phrases because you have been conditioned to use them as a witty go to when in need of sustainable dialogue? Even worse! Have you ever found yourself to be a living form of one of these cliches and had to soul search so you could break away from its vacuumed grip?
It’s probably safe to say that we all have, myself included, and one of the biggest ruts to get stuck inside is actually becoming something that you used to hate or preach against.
As my father would say, a rut is just a double sided grave.
Numerous cliches resonate wherever I go, and they stand out in printed red italics and are contained in bubble clouds above people’s heads whenever I hear them. Actions speak louder than words! Really? So throwing a hammer at someone is more effective than just saying you’re going to do it? The grass is always greener on the other side! Not all the time, Sherlock! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Well, that’s debatable considering where the tree is planted and if there are any surrounding hills. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Yeah, well, the people at the metaphor department better send Danielle Steele, Playboy, and Hustler a memo. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, unless it is a bear, moose, or shark attack. Love is blind. Yeah, yeah yeah, it’s been blind since the Garden, we get it. Ignorance is bliss. Well, I choke on my own spit as I swallow because I know a lot of blissful people around my way and I’m sure you know some around your way as well.
Then, the cliche, that reverberates my soul with an endless echo, claws through the cracks of light in my brain and permeates the matter or lack thereof. This cliche is the one that tests me the most and will continue to do so until I vanquish the devilish cornerstone of my irony.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
This cliche leaves bite marks on me for certain reasons that I choose not to disclose because not all of my stories are free for public consumption. If there is an absence of something that you love in your life, an attachment that you must separate yourself from, then there is going to be enormous amounts of pain. There is going to be heartbreak that finally scabs up when it decides to, and it will leave a scar. There is going to be mental anguish. There are going to be negative emotions constantly battling positive emotions. There are going to be pits of deep desperation. There are going to be contradictory feelings that are going to get yanked apart like melted cheese and then be jump roped into knots. There are going to be more down days than up days, and the mental separation of these facts from the situation will start to cloud judgment in all areas of your life.
Whether this attachment is a person, car, job, house, pet, or one of the other one million things that you, the reader, hold dear to yourself, absence does not always make the reunion more grand. In some cases, if there is some unnecessary weight you are trying to rid yourself of, absence is only going to make your vision clearer and force you to realize that you are safer and better off distancing yourself from that specific thing. Sometimes, absence brings you to a certain level of enlightenment because you begin to accept that the void you put yourself into was needed so you could fill your life with more satisfactory things.
One common cliche that people tag together with the absence one is the fact that if you let go of something and it never returns then it was never yours to begin with. I chuckle to myself because only gaslighting narcissists and control freaks would rely on this cliche to validate a certain outcome. This is quite often used as an excuse for pushing the cause and effect off onto someone else and making sure the spotlight never hits front and center. There’s a catch twenty-two that comes along with letting go of something because there have been numerous times I had to let go of certain behaviors, substances, and people, and I never wanted to see that thing ever again, even in the afterlife.
Except for one forced occasion.
Nobody will truly know the lengths of the self sacrifice I have performed over the course of my own life, and that’s okay because self sacrifice should not focus on obtaining instant gratification. To you, the reader, and all the others that do not get the recognition for feeling the way that I have felt and continue to feel from time to time, I curtly bow and hold my hand out to you. Self sacrifice is one of the most tiring dances I have ever participated in, and it seems like you must put on the proper dancing shoes, so called Time and Patience, before you can properly tango with it. The ballroom is full of other dancers like you and me, and I can assure you that, when the music finally stops, all of our struggles will have been worth it. While everyone applauds the orchestra for playing their latest tune, me and you will be able to slide a glass of champagne off the shiny silver trays being ushered about, salute one another, and close our eyes as we take our first sips of validation.
If that is not the case, then this purgatory of an Earth is pointless, creation is nothing more but a quarter slot arcade machine, and the afterlife is but a mere cloak of what your life used to be before you were born. I try not to think like that anymore because life is too short to be lived as such. It’s okay to be an optimist. It’s okay to be a pessimist. It’s okay to be a realist. It’s okay to be an equal combination of all those mindsets. I do know that a life lived in constant angst and discontent is like purposefully jabbing holes in your life raft as the boat slowly sinks.
So always remember, there’s no time like the present, because I guess it would be hard to say there’s no time like the past or future. If all else fails as you journey through your life, it’s better to be safe than sorry (that cliche would make a good condom ad). All that glitters isn’t gold. If life gets hard, don’t cry over spilled milk (or liquor) and know that every cloud has a silver lining.
Want to read about a silver lining to top all silver linings - check out my post about being in a band that gigged out once before breaking up : https://vernonwrites.com/2020/04/15/silver-linings/
If life starts grinding you underneath it’s heel, don’t let anyone lie to you and say that time heals all wounds. There’s only one thing that heals wounds.
I have discovered that life is not a highway (sorry Tom Cochrane – great song though). Life is not a rollercoaster. Life is not a Ferris wheel. Life is an off-road ATV ride through a hot, unforgiving desert. Rip off the rear view mirror, buckle your seatbelt, put on your helmet, and hold the insert F word here on. The view over the first hill is going to be worth the bumps and bangs our undercarriage absorbs as we plow forward into destiny.
Your life is more than becoming a living cliche or idiom. Your life is a story, so make sure it inspires you first before you share it with others around you. Never settle for anything less than what you need! Recognize the difference between happiness and joy. Fill the voids of your life with things that set your soul on fire. It’s okay to smile despite the tragedies of life as long as we keep ourself balanced and grounded.
You know what they say about comedy right?
Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
Or a joint the size of my leg.
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The past week had ups and downs, and I’m trying to think on where I need to begin this post as we all leave our footprints behind for the incoming tide. Paradigms are shifting. Some ideas and issues are being conveyed and accepted effectively while others are just a mere spiral into borderless insanity. A majority of human beings should be able to distinguish the two, and for something to heal I understand it has to hurt to begin with.
I started this week by helping a friend with his small business while he is out of commission due to surgery and recovery. He has chosen to go into the lawn maintenance arts. With the Southern heat and humidity kicking in, I found myself more hot and bothered (not that way – minds out of the gutter, Planet Earth) this past week than I have in quite some time. I have discovered, the first hand hard way, that it is a lot of work for a single man to mow, weed eat, and edge an entire yard then blow (with a backpack blower that makes you look like a Ghostbuster) off every concrete surface. It does not matter if it is a quarter acre or five acres, the struggle is real and the ones that execute these jobs have my respect (even though they had it to begin with so why did I even have to admit that fact?).
I tried to remember the last time I had physically worked as hard as I did last week, and my memories instantly took me back to my adolescent days when I helped local farmers barn tobacco. That journey has already been chronicled in a past post titled Southern disComfort : https://vernonwrites.com/2020/04/23/southern-discomfort/
My previous job of self employment was more mental strain than it was physical, so in turn I guess it was time for the world to test me and see if I was ready for a job that was more demanding physically than it was mentally. Little did I know, the past two months of eating the wife’s baked goods was going to catch up with me and rightfully so. Some men were destined to design and draw up bridges. Other men were destined to build them. I guess I fall somewhere in between. The only important thing is the fact that the bridge is built in the first place and can hold its weight as it withstands the test of time.
At one of the job sites where I was performing the landscaping arts, an older gentleman came outside his home and conversed with me for a couple of minutes. Our conversation then carried over to his military service because I saw that he was wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat. First and foremost, I thanked him for his service, and for a second or two he silently stood in the hot, humid sun with me because my words meant a lot to him.
The Vietnam Veteran confessed that he hardly heard a congratulatory thank you come from the lips of people my age and said that it was good for veterans like him to hear grateful compliments because, upon his return from a war in which he was drafted to go, he received nothing of the such. He recalled flying back from Vietnam and into an airport in Chicago, and a majority of the people spit on him, called him derogatory names, and protested his return back to his home country. One could see that it still affected him in a certain way. We ended the conversation by chuckling about how much war has changed since Vietnam with all the modern day technological advances such as GPS, remote controlled drones, and smart bombs.
The weekend finally came, and my family was able to celebrate a very special birthday. It was my great niece’s birthday, and that alone had me thinking about the titles we carry around as we age. All of us have certain titles that we fixate our existence on. Some titles might be related to work as we climb the invisible ladder. Other titles are related to school as we dive into whichever institution we invest our money into. The military has it own system of title ranking for the ones who dedicate their time and service. The titles that had me standing still and thinking in place for a moment carry a lot of weight and are donned upon us as our family tree branches and produces fruit during our lifespan.
I was flipping the barbecued chicken breast on the grill, watching my family go through the movements like I was a bystander sitting in the seat of a non crowded theater. My mind began to process the titles, memories, and threads of time that connected all of us to that single moment. The titles flashed across the screens of my eyes like I was reading captions in a foreign language film:
I am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am a father. I am an uncle. I am a great uncle. I am a cousin. I am a nephew. I used to be a grandson. I am a friend. I am a neighbor. I am a son in law. I am an intangible soul capsulated inside a human body. I am me.
It took a second for the dust to settle after the universe shook the fabric of that moment. The thing that re-grounded me was my great niece wanting to run around and play with a squash she had picked from our box garden. With everything the world was currently going through and addressing, the only thing on her mind was playing hide and seek with a vegetable she had picked while her birthday feast roasted on the grill.
Then, the second epiphany hit.
If any of these people were hurt or killed, whether justified, unjustified, accidental, or by natural causes, I would be devastated, and there is nothing wrong with that. Welcome to the world of being a real human and not a robot. In my case, the reason my soul and world would need bandaging is because of the titles these people give to me personally.
A famous celebrity or sports star or musician or politician or news station with a megaphone is exactly that and nothing more. The more money and fame and viewers, the louder they tend to be. Most of these sensationalists tend to pop up when something big and controversial happens then they abandon the ones holding down the front lines while fading into their private poolside backdrop. These same people then float around in lukewarm liquid and rest their scrolling thumbs as their instant gratification slowly wears off. It’s okay and acceptable that they were able to gain a hundred thousand new likes at the expense of someone else’s misfortune as long as they can get back to their normal life after their statement is made.
Growing up in the rural South gave me an upbringing unlike any other, and I am glad that I have been able to experience the things that I have. People think that “Southern Hospitality” is always nice and cheery, but there is a lot of give and take when it comes to that ideal. When I help someone in need or because I want to pay it forward or because a charity worker’s heart should be genuine and unconditionally loving, I do not scan the person for an exterior checklist like the world wants me to do (the girls at the local Food Lion – testify!). I do not frame and post my good deed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or SnapChat so the the world will give me my instant glory and bestow upon me a few thousand followers. I do not discriminate my good deeds because that could easily be my dad in need. That could be my mother struggling and in need of a pay it forward. That could be my widowed wife needing a pick me up and pat on the shoulder. That could be my son. That could be my daughter. That could be my sister. That could be my brother. That could be my grandparents. That could be my insert title here.
This past week, I did not do what Instagram told me to do. I did not do what Facebook told me to do. I did not do what CNN told me to do. I did not do what Fox News told me to do. I did not do what the celebrities and millionaires told me to do. I did not do what the musicians told me to do. I did not do what the athletes told me to do. I did not do what the politicians told me to do. I did not do what some of the local preachers and their self righteous road signs told me to do.
For the first time in quite some time, I did what I needed to do. I made myself be still. I meditated. I sincerely prayed for our nation and all our people during this time of hurt and unity. I prayed for the people who have lost someone dear to them in a tragic way. I continued to treat everyone’s soul like I would want mine and my family’s treated. I reflected. I did not cast the first stone. I put my faith in something that transcends time and space.
Then, the third epiphany hit.
This revery came out of the corner of my mind, and a cool sensation numbed my body. It took me back to the words I had written in a previous post, I Rigged the Election : https://vernonwrites.com/2020/05/27/i-rigged-the-election/
Divide and Conquer – who’s honestly winning this battle? Are we, as a nation, truly controlling the strings on our backs or are they still doing it and leading us to believe something else? What side is what and whose side is whose anymore?
The sands are shifting, and I can only hope that the dunes we build as a unified people can withstand the next big storm that comes our way. We must realize that one piece of sand cannot block the breezes and turbulent waves of life. Only a conglomerate of the best of what the world has to offer can stand a chance against a storm that rages into the void of the unknown that we collectively call the future.
Shh, shh, shh!
Can you hear and see that?
There, over the horizon!
Is that what I think it is or is it?
When I was a senior in high school, the time came to hold class elections for the offices of President, Vice President, and Secretary slash Treasurer. There were no secret ballot boxes or us having to deliver open ended promises through platform preaching. The ones interested in running for office did not have to go on nationwide propaganda trails and be backed by the donations of special interest groups. When we voted, our class of less than thirty laid our heads on our desks, covered our eyes with our arms, and silently raised our hands for the candidate we wanted to vote for.
On senior class election day, the last thing any of us worried about was collusion with the Russians or some other foreign power that has yet to be scapegoated and named. We did not have to worry about lowering our standards with muck raking speeches or slanderous commercials or dabbing out threats of impeachment. We did not have to worry about who had control over the Senate or House or the branding marks of being a Democrat or Republican. We did not have to worry about socialists or communists, much less battling a group of aged grown ups who consistently act like a bunch of babies as they crawl around with loaded diapers in an overcrowded sandbox. The only thing we had to worry about was the one lucky weasel who happened to overhear the girls plotting on how they wanted the results of the small class elections to pan out.
If you haven’t tied in the clues by looking at the featured image, I was the lucky weasel (with the longest tie in the galaxy!)
When I heard the future Valedictorian and Salutatorian discussing who they wanted to nominate for what office, I was disgusted and devised a foolproof plan of resistance. At the time, I did not care about being President. I did not care about politics. I did not care about the numerous, prestigious, make believe titles that a private Christian school could hand out. What I did care about was the underlying ethics when it came to the somewhat smarter ones of the class thinking they were going to be handed a position without any type of struggle and steamroll over our tight knit group of boys and handful of girls.
Out of somewhere, the oldest and most efficient war strategy popped inside my head. It is an attack mechanism that can go cloaked as the people around its effect are slowly consumed one by one. This current ploy continues to provide more than adequate results in the world of today when it comes to race, religion, politics, sexual orientation, friendships, relationships, families, council voting, social class castes, businesses – small and large, and any other thing that you, the reader, would like to add to it.
Divide and Conquer.
I quickly counted the people in our small group, and we had the same number of voters as the Gang of Girls. I knew, since we were going by popular vote alone, if we nominated more than one girl from their group and stuck to nominating one of ours, their brains would instantly complicate things. I knew they would not have enough time to unravel the mysterious plot that had formed and, ultimately, they would be distracted by focusing on their crowded vote as we snuck underneath the radar and seized Election Day.
When the attack was unleashed, it was too beautiful to look away and not savor. Each time we named a girl from their group, they looked at us, smiled, and could not comprehend how unselfish we were being by throwing their names into the pool for the noble positions of senior class office. The only reason we did not win the Vice Presidency is the fact that our nominee voted for the other candidate instead of keeping his vote for himself, which shows a certain nod of chivalry that modern day politicians, male and female, know nothing about.
By the time we shot our arrows and cleaned the battlefield, our side had captured two out of three positions, and we waved our metaphorical boxers in the air. There was no recount to drag out for the next couple of months or tax wasting filibustering by reading a children’s book to stall the inevitable and waste even more taxpayer money. The popular vote had been divided and conquered.
When I turned eighteen and was allowed the privilege to vote in the national election, I scrunched up my lips and shrugged my shoulders because the entire process seemed too much like a board game that comes with a set of instructions controlling your every move while also being written against your favor. Over the past twenty years, there has not been a single candidate or nominee that I fully agreed with, liked, favored, much less trusted enough to see as the angry and visibly discontented face of our nation.
If one observes the Republicans and Democrats long enough, you begin to realize that they start to look like a conglomerate of suited gang members, backed by special interest money, operating by a set of rules that apply only to them and not us. Capitol Hill and the special committees that exist there are nothing more but modern day, suit and tie, Blood and Crip street gangs in which guns are microphones and pens, trash talking are lies and open ended promises, and brown bagged forties are filet mignon dinners, expensive bottles of wine, and fully paid junkets to country clubs and beautiful foreign countries that I can only dream of visiting one day if I can save up enough money to travel there. (Shout out to France 🇫🇷)
People will immediately retort as they wear their I VOTED sticker, “well, if you don’t vote, then don’t complain. You cannot have an opinion if you do not show up at the polls.”
I’m like, “well, as long as I’m paying state and federal taxes on my income, paying state taxes to own and drive a vehicle on a worn out asphalt road, paying county land taxes so my house can sit on a piece of dirt that I am led to believe that I own, and am paying county and state taxes on every purchase I make at whatever store I shop at, then I can have my own opinion when it comes to our governmental control mechanism. The real question would be – do you think our governing bodies take more from ‘we, the people’ than they give back? This nation was founded by rebels and is protected by brave soldiers, so how well is our government at succeeding in dividing and conquering us based upon our race, religion, socioeconomic statues, and orientation?”
*insert sounds of crickets chirping*
I’m not going to drag this post out and waste precious time by dissecting the positive and negative qualities of some of the presidential, Senate, and House candidates we have been introduced to and what they stood for because, in my opinion, all of them suck in their own way (especially the angry and bitter ones – women included). If all else fails, I have a worn out vacuum cleaner, clogged with years of hair, dust, lint, and crud from the floor, that sucks less than what the past two decades have given us as a nation of taxpayers, honorable veterans and active military, and free minded civilians. For all we know, a total reset of the government, as well as liquidating unnecessary offices and positions, while giving the taxpayer a four year income tax break, could benefit us more than a new bill or law or more government expansion. There is a good chance I could be wrong, but then again how promising does the future look when the best leaders we can pit against one another are a deep pocketed egomaniac and a sly tongued used car salesman.
This post boils down to one thing and then I formally abandon my dust covered political soap box until it is time to discuss and promote my second unpublished fictional novel, Drowning Skylight. (I will share the query to this beautiful book and dedicate my next blog post in its memory. I copyrighted Drowning Skylight back in 2010, and I believe it is more prevalent now than it ever has been.)
The key to the castle is this – if me, a broke nobody with lint filled pockets, little political knowledge, and some curb appeal, can rig an election and not have a teleprompter to read from so I will not stray from the global powers’ boring and lackluster script, just imagine what the right person, with a lot of fame, fortune, and ego, could do with unlimited power, a full ink pen, and no resistance.
Yeah, you’re right about what you just thought!
The possibilities are as endless as the sunsets in Hawaii.
Push Play : Thank You for Reading : Feel Free to Share my Site with a Friend
I told myself this past weekend that I was going to take the week off. I had it made up in my mind that I was not going to fill the WordPress void with another countless blog post. It’s not that I do not want to write. It’s not that I do not have any ideas to discuss with you or have another random secret to reveal. Writing is one of my many ways to unravel the metaphysical yarn in my mind, and pulling both ends of the string sometimes tightens the knot rather than break it free.
There are times when a writer needs to step away from the keys, close the doors to his brain, and watch the wind stir the branches of the trees. Sometimes, a writer, much less any other normal human being, needs to listen to the birds chirp, watch the squirrels scurry about and nibble on random things, and allow the world to turn on its axis. Sometimes, and yes I am prepared for the gasps and hand covered mouths, I find myself wanting to do chores (okay, mom! You heard correctly! You win!) and allow myself time to filter my public prose before releasing it into the world.
Last week, my father and I trimmed the neglected two acre family graveyard with a push mower because an easier and more efficient way would have been insane and go against the family heritage of always doing things the hard way. Last week, I knew I was not going to be gifted with enough time to sit down to myself and etch a somewhat meaningful notch in my blog post. Even then, with limited time during the day, I found myself thinking about my sticker covered, hardshell Samsonite briefcase, knowing that my space bending time machine was resting inside, yearning for me to crack it open and disappear into the unlimited parallels with it.
When I think I am going to step away from the asdf jkl; home keys, something happens. In the quiet and stillness of whatever room I am in, something invisible permeates the air. If I’m reading a book while lounging on my couch, one of the chairs at my grandmother’s aged dining room table that I inherited will pop and creak a couple of times. If I sit in the wooden swing under my carport and enjoy not focusing on anything pertaining to thoughts, life, and emotions, an owl near the creek bank will echo a familiar hoot. Even as I mowed the family cemetery, I caught myself looking around because the sounds of the mower, much less the sounds of the world, travel differently there.
I have come to realize by being self-employed, running errands throughout the day, working from home, doing chores (yes mom, there you go, second time I said it) around the house, and writing in my spare time, that one must find a way to create more time during the day or learn to use their schedule to their advantage and not the other way around. Granted, we are all given the same twenty-four hour day, and sleeping has to fall somewhere during that span of time. The greatest unit of measure is certainly a tease, and it has never been more heartbreakingly obvious to me than by observing the two greatest people I know age and blossom into who they are now. These two people gave me my beginning.
I have given them hell at a couple of points during my life span, and in return they have given me unconditionally tough love when I needed it, free shelter, food, and money, and a gentle understanding even in the most contrary of life situations. Time is starting to reverse the caretaking roles we now assume, and it frustrated me at first. I’ve since embraced this change in life and accepted it for what it is. My parents never hesitated when it came time to care for me, and I still remember the day they gifted me my first laptop, a white Apple iBook G4, during my first semester of college. I wrote a handful of fictional novels on that machine, back when gigabytes did not exist, and it helped me as I embarked on my writing adventures. If there was ever a moment when I needed anyone, they were there for me through the thick and thin, even if it required me stumbling down the mountain of life and nicking myself up before I crawled back up their front porch steps.
I remember one incident in fourth grade when I said an adult word that isn’t as proper as it should be but to a kid it seems like no big deal. Our class had read a story about Puss in Boots, and I so happened to call the cat by its kitten name. When I said the slang word that I now know refers to the anatomically mysterious female garden or describes a person that is scared of almost everything, one of the boys tattled on me to the teacher. Considering I attended a private Christian school, one would have thought that I had desecrated the very fabric that held all religious doctrine together.
I honestly did not know what that specific word truly entailed or I would have strayed from it considering every girl back then had the cooties. The more I think about it, I wonder how the other boy already knew what that word really meant. Instead of pinning the guilt and shame on me and making me seem like the locust eating nomad wandering the desert, they probably should have scheduled a surprise Social Services home visit for the other boy and his parents considering he knew exactly what the word was. My mind had not hit the bottom of the gutter yet and was still geared toward Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joes, and sports trading cards.
I understand that in this day and age, fourth graders are cooking meth, selling illegal firearms on the black market, stealing their parent’s cars to go buy Lamborghinis, shanking other kids in dark alleyways, and getting tattoos, and I could not understand what the big deal was for discovering a much cooler way to call a cat a kitten. (Thank you, sis, for jamming Naughty by Nature, Marky Mark, Tone Loc, and M.C. Hammer as we bee bopped around town. I also had two sixteen year old male chauffeurs to and from school that thought it was appropriate to play Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Bone Thugs n Harmony, Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang, Gravediggaz, Snoop Dog, and DMX around me. It was an ear opening experience, to say the least, as I prepared my heart, mind, and soul each morning and afternoon.)
Long story short, I was sent to the principal’s office for saying, well, the word. The principal called my father, who at the time was self employed and working an hour away at the family business, and said that he needed his consent for me to be paddled due to my potty mouth. Dad told him that if he laid a hand on me then the last person he needed to worry about seeing descend through the clouds would be Jesus Christ. The principal’s face turned as red as my teacher’s face did when the boy whispered the word I had said into her ear, and me, oblivious to it all, could only sit and truly ponder what the fuss was about. The word that had created such a stir and brought street level crime inside the sacred walls of the school was, to me, nothing more but a feline that walked upright in knee high boots, wore a feather in his cap, and carried a sword in his hand.
My parents have given me a couple of health scares during their lifespan, and I did not know if I was going to lose my dad a couple of years ago when he had triple bypass surgery. Anytime a loved one is sick or is in the hospital, that is when I realize how fragile life truly is. I cannot imagine life without them, and I know they cannot imagine life without me, my sister, and the rest of our tribe. Life has a way of connecting certain people, keeping them together, and giving them stories to bring up from time to time so they can look back in laughter. Luckily for our little tribe, the stories are as endless as the sunsets.
One day, when our lives finally end and a new beginning forms, I hope we leave behind numerous intangible things to keep our loved ones satisfied and smiling when the tangible things may be few and far between. A car, house, or boat can be sold or repossessed. Memories cannot, not yet at least, and there is an inherent power in that. For now, all I can do is use my time wisely and hope that people will remember me the same way that I will always and forever remember my parents.
So, here I am, typing, thinking, wondering where each sentence will carry us and where me and you will end up by the time this post is archived. I believe we will travel to unusually good places, and I believe those destinations will give us satisfying scenery, as well as carry us through a couple of tricky intersections and forks in the road. Don’t worry, though, because you’re driving this convertible, my fellow adventurer, and I’m simply sitting in the passenger seat with a worn out atlas road map, no GPS, and controlling the radio of course.
You and I are going to go to the edge and back, and we are going to do that one word at a time.
Dig your toes into the soft grass. Listen to the waves splash the rocky cliff below us. Watch as the seagulls circle us in the air. Take a deep breath and look around. The view might surprise you.
If I’m lucky, by the time I’m finished with some of my authorized nonfictional biographical stories, you may crack a smile. The only one that will know that is you.
Push Play : Put the Top Down : Let’s Drive
( If you would, please raise your glass into the air – to Puss in Boots, the most misunderstood cat in history. )
Have you ever taken a stroll or hike through a park or state reserve and seen etchings like these carved into various structures at beautiful overlooks? I’m sure Mother Nature appreciates these whimsical, bladed tattoos, especially considering that ninety-nine percent of them are given by the hands of sub par artists. My mind then travels beyond the aged trees, park benches, and surrounding fence posts, and I wonder how long these people made it after they put their painting on the cave wall of tomorrow? Was their moment of insatiable love lust justified or did they merely turn into nothing more but a lonely buoy that sits out in the ocean water, unsheltered, and is only noticed when someone needs them so they do not run aground?
My parents were the type of people that accepted who me and my sister dated regardless of how that avatar looked on the outside. I know a couple of times they wondered if I was “on the marijuana” or if my head was on straight. As the circle completes itself, I have come to realize that it is the responsibility of a loving parent to question their offspring’s choice in mates, whether they’re bringing home someone that resembles the nineteen nineties version of Julia Roberts or Tom Cruise or if they drag up someone who appears as though they have just finished being a roadie for a two year long hardcore metal band’s world tour. There is a difference between judging someone and showing them tough love out of concern, and as a writer I have found myself having to step out of all the numerous revolving doors I have kept myself locked in. Love knows what it wants, even if it is naive, goes against the parent’s wishes, develops into a global disaster, is temporary, or in rare occasions, turns out to be long lasting and fruitful.
“Looks can be deceiving, don’t judge a book by its cover, and love is blind.” We have heard these terms numerous times, and I try to dissect those cliches until there is nothing left but air. I love listening to other people’s personal narratives and asking them questions about their journey. Most good fiction writers like doing this, I assume, because our art requires us drawing from the real and making it so fake that one has to double take when they compare it to their own life. I have come to realize that some of my fictional characters are more real and trustworthy than some of the people I know in my own town. I am an all-people-person, and I tend to look at the better qualities of the human soul. Everyone’s life is a story, and every story has lessons and is important in its own way.
To me, love is not blind. It may put the blinders on at times, but it has not fully lost the sense of sight. Love is not walking around, feeling at the air around it, tapping its walking stick so it will not trip over an obstacle. True love does not hope it will meet its destination by luck or chance. Love is the aged gladiator that has a tear drawn scar on its face and a couple pieces of missing flesh from the numerous fights it has been in. Love is the middle aged cage fighter that has something to prove when his televised title bout finally arrives, even if he knows he is outmatched. Love conquers all, even on a planet that has lost all hope and its people would rather argue and let their differences divide them rather than unify and bring them together. For some, true love can only happen once in a lifetime and for others it returns and manifests itself differently. Love does not pay the bills, true, but true love will stop you from robbing the bank so you can pay some bills (unless you are Bonnie and Clyde, then you can do both. Not a glamorous ending, but hey, it was fun while it lasted, huh?)
The world is filled with the heartbroken, the heartbreakers, the heart healers, and the mended. Looking back at my life and digging deep since it is a writers responsibility to do so, there are some girls I have dated that deserved someone better than me and something different than what I was able to offer. I recognize and support that fact, and it does not chip away at my ego to admit it. If anything, it brings closure and enlightenment. I chuckle to myself when I picture their parents scratching their heads and wondering what their offspring was thinking when they drug me through the door. I only pray and wish they are one hundred percent happy in their current life and were able to gain back the time that I wasted.
Bringing justice to the scales that weigh everything, I also recognize the couple of hiccups I had in my dating history and begin to feel sympathy for my parents. I realize that some of them were nothing more but a foul ball (potential home run for someone else) when I found them, and I should have let a bigger fan keep them and not ask for it back. There are people out there who break hearts every week, and they will never be satisfied. There are some beautiful souls that have never broken a single heart even though their life pumping muscle has been patched with band aids, duct tape, and Gorilla glue. There are some people that you have dated and it was the right place but wrong time. There are some people that are truly the spawn of Satan, and all we can do is wait for the day when the Sun lassos them and takes them back home, eh?
I etched the carving that is pictured above on a rail post at a popular waterfall located in our mountains. If anybody truly knows me, I tend to observe the behaviors of what everyone else is doing and, most of the time, go against the grain. I do not do cliche. I do not do cozy. I do not do predictable. I thrive on originality. I realize the world has enough coasters (drinks not roller), cookie cutters, and oven mits. I had to etch my carving on the cave wall of tomorrow because my significant other could not cut lukewarm butter with a flame thrower. If she would not have cut off four fingers and two toes in the process, I would have requested for her to vandalize the park’s hard work and leave our tag with all the other losers in the vicinity.
If we went to that same spot today, it would take us a minute to locate where we performed our illegal act of love speak, but that is not what would impress me in that moment. The carving is just a symbol. The carving is the cookie cutter. The carving is nothing more but our emoticon. The fact that me and her returned together is the vandalism that the world needs more of. We all need to show a spouse or significant other, a family member, a friend, a child, someone else’s child, a neighbor, or a complete stranger some love, and unconditional love at that. Whatever sets your heart on fire, keep it in your pocket, share it when you need to, but let it remain close to your chest first.
Love will break your heart. It has been doing exactly that since the dawn of mankind. In retrospect, love can also mend someone else’s heart. Instead of running through the world with mallets and hammers, it’s time we locate our needle and thread and suture up the things that need it. You can be hard and soft at the same time (not exactly the most memorable or clever metaphor to picture right now, but it will have to suffice.) Better yet, be chewy! Everyone likes chewy! Right? (I need to depart from this comedic rabbit hole now because it could go on for paragraphs and I would only embarrass myself.)
“Go do some good in the world, even if you do that good for yourself! You cannot love someone else until you love yourself first.”
Push Play For Free Listen : Much Love
This post has me reflecting on the first time I had to put a dog to sleep due to debilitating health issues. I have discovered that the best way for me to honor something or someone is by using my gift and putting into words what that specific object, person, pet, or memory meant to me as our journey progressed forward and ended at a certain point in time.
This is the story of Mattie, a fifteen year old black Labrador retriever.
Mattie was an “outdoor family dog”, and in the rural South, most people know what that label entails and are not offended by it. Mattie’s ceiling was the high heavens. Her lamp was the sun. Her nightlights were the different stages of the moon, the stars that would slowly pop out like shiny diamonds, and the outdoor lights I routinely turned on around the house for her. Mattie’s carpet was the various types of Earth that she happily treaded, and she racked up more miles on her odometer while being confined to a one mile radius than some people drive their entire life. Mattie’s swimming pool was the nearby creek or nearby ditches that filled with rainwater. Mattie’s air conditioner was the wind that Mother Nature provided or an electric powered fan I would occasionally put outside for her. Mattie looked forward to can-can time around four in the evening, and she never shied away from a treat, even if I chose some that were not to her liking.
If Mattie needed to release number ones or number twos, she sniffed countless minutes for the perfect spot in the yard and did it on her own time because she was free to do so. She never dropped a number two in a spot where I would step in it at a later point in time. If she felt like getting away from me and having girl time alone, she had free will and range. Mattie was not chained, pinned, or enslaved to me unless it came to her medicines, water (I could fill her bucket with ice cold Voss and she’d rather drink from a puddle), food (she did kill a rabbit on her own one thanksgiving while we were inside feasting), pampering, and outdoor housing (which consisted of a fully insulated and cushioned dog igloo underneath a shop shelter and out of the North wind, as well as having full access to enter inside my shop through a door so she could lay in her favorite bed). To me, and granted I am showing one hundred percent favoritism since she is the family pet, Mattie was a real dog, a type of dog that is a dying breed in this modern day world.
Mattie enjoyed her younger years by chasing the four wheeler around the yard and as we traveled around the fields to the creek. Nothing made her happier than jumping in, cooling off, and dunking her face in the water. She enjoyed playing with kids, followed them around, and protected them like they were her own even though her ovaries had long been removed. When she was in good health, she loved chasing after a thrown frisbee or tennis ball. As her body began to wear down due to use and age, the trips to the creek consisted of her having to board the golf cart and not run slash walk there. I knew time was slowly winding down for our once strong black Labrador because I would have to help her into the golf cart so we could take a familiar ride to one of her many places of pleasure.
On numerous occasions, I would open the door to my house and tell her to come in but she did not want to. She knew that pioneers, explorers, and cowgirls never lived in a house because the outside world was their playground and home. A couple of times in her later years, I brought her inside to see how she would react, and I could tell that she felt uncomfortable by the close spaces and confinement of numerous walled rooms. I recognize the fact that I am not a scientist, doctor, or trainer, and I know her reaction to her surroundings was based upon her conditioning and how she was raised. As humans, a lot of our repetitious behaviors are based upon those same pre-programmed mannerisms. Most people would quickly assimilate to their surroundings so they could blend in when given the opportunity, but Mattie, she was an exception to the rule. She was my kind of dog.
In this day and age where some family pets receive their own checking and savings account, a personal butler delivering their kibble in diamond studded bowls, two vacation homes – one in Palm Springs and another in the Hamptons, and are bestowed life insurance money if the owner dies, Mattie’s life was about something more. Her life was about living off the grid and being content doing so. Her life was about digging foxholes that were deep enough to break an elephant’s kneecap. Her life was about standing up and wagging her tail whenever she saw a family member driving toward the house. Her life was about looking forward to July 4th celebrations and running through the sparklers and smoke like a kid. Her life was about enjoying time on this Earth while she had it. Her life was about living each day to its fullest and greeting her loved ones with wet nosed kisses. That’s more than some of us humans can say about our own lives, myself included, if we sit down, disconnect from Wi-Fi, reflect, and truly think for our own self.
As the years passed by and the world around Mattie changed, the gray hairs began to appear on her snout, belly, and paws. Her back legs began to give out on her, and she had trouble standing and sitting. Her breathing became more and more labored and shallow with each passing season. Her hearing began to dissipate and sent her into a state of passive confusion. The last sense to fail Mattie was her eyesight, and I believe she could not make out objects until she was very close to them. I had to pick Mattie up a couple of times and carry her to her food bowl for can-can time and I know that embarrassed her. A beloved, strong willed pet, that had been in the family for more than a decade, had ran out of time, and us holding onto her was not giving her the quality of life that she used to have or deserved.
It was a sunny and comfortably cool day when me and my sister took Mattie to the vet. Mattie audibly farted on me while we waited for the doctor and her assistant to come to the truck. I, personally, had not dropped a bomb that potent in quite a while, yet I let it slide considering the current circumstance. If there is anything that will break the tense air in any vehicle, it is a non-discreet shot out of a nervous cannon.
Since Mattie’s mobility was limited, and at our kind request, me, my sister, the doctor, and her assistant found a wide shady patch of Earth under a tree where we parked my truck. If there could have been any way that Mattie would have wanted to go, it would have been to peacefully pass away and fall asleep in her element. Mattie laid on top of her favorite blanket, and I held her face under one of my arms, rubbed her face with my other hand, and coaxed her. The entire day, I had been dreading this event, and my mind was running rampant and filling in the gaps on how everything was going to play out. Little did I know, it was going to be one of the most peaceful departures I have ever witnessed.
The doctor did her assessment and said it was remarkable that Mattie was that old and in as decent shape as she was. She listened to Mattie’s heart and breathing and felt at her joints and bones. The doctor agreed with our concerns and said that Mattie had lived a full life and was ready to go on to the next stage of her enlightenment.
I watched as the doctor inserted the first shot. I could feel Mattie relax for the first time in a long time, let go, and be at peace with having lived the most awesome life a dog could possibly live. Her rapid breathing finally lulled and slowed as her life transitioned from one stage to the next. The last breath that Mattie took was not one of struggle but of relief. I could hear and feel the difference as she laid in my arms.
The doctor then inserted the next shot and comforted us as the drugs took effect. We sat in the shade, listened to the wind, and shared an experience that transcends time and space. At one point in time during the process, I rubbed Mattie’s forehead and said,
“Well, today, it’s your time, ole girl. One day, though, it will be ours.”
One thing they do not tell you on the internet or that I did not realize until faced with it even though it should have been common sense – a dead dog is a helluva lot heavier than a live one. The doctor and her assistant helped me and my sister wrap Mattie in her favorite blanket, and I sat on the ground for a minute. Whether it was out of shock or because I had never held a dead family pet in my arms or because the passing was so peaceful that it took me off guard, I could not tell you. I told the doctor and her assistant that I had it under control from there, and my sister walked over to me and asked if I needed help.
I exclaimed, “nah, I got it! I’m good!” (But I wasn’t)
I tried rolling up to my feet from the ground with Mattie in my arms, and I swear that dog was playing tricks on me even though she was no longer present. What was once a forty-five pound sack of rattling bones, a worn out heart, and good, life long memories, had now turned into a two hundred pound, water logged bean bag. I know in Mattie’s mind she was hoping for a more prestigious procession than what her idiot owners were providing, and as my sister drove home all I could do was roll the window down and let the breeze blow past me as I held the shell of the greatest dog alive.
That night, after we buried Mattie at her own spot at the family cemetery, I was lying in the bed, watching Breaking Bad, and a somewhat violent thunderstorm swept through. Before the rain began to fall, I could hear the thunder getting closer and closer until it was on top of us. Considering how the day unfolded, I thought it was fitting that it should have ended as such. A quote then popped into my head, a quote that I try to live by each and every day.
“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death trembles to take us.”
That day, death showed up in more places than each of us can list, and each person was affected by it in a different way. That day, four people and a dog named Mattie were huddled underneath a shade tree, giving relief to a tired heart and a worn out body and setting a strong spirit free. That day, when death transcended through the blue sky, cut the cool breeze, slipped through the cracks of loving arms, and showed up for the beloved family pet, it shuddered at what it had come for.
Death came for the greatest dog in the universe, and what it found was an old school black Labrador named Mattie.
That day, one of the weakest dogs around made death tremble. One day, I can only hope that my life does the same.
“We may face Death alone, but in Love we will always be together!”
Push Play For a Free Listen : Thank You for Reading : Stay Safe
Everyone has someone they came from. Everyone has had something that affected them one way or another. Everyone has someplace they have planted their roots and currently call home. Everyone has someway to remember the days of their youth, even if some of those memories require scratching a scar or two.
My father wanted to move back to his family’s land so me and my sister could grow up in familiar surroundings and enjoy some of the experiences of his youth. As I left staggered footprints in the sand of my life’s journey, there were times when I questioned his choice even though I am now able to see the merit and courage in what his decision was able to provide. It is not common practice this day and age to have one grandmother, one aunt, one uncle, five cousins, and family folklore a bicycle ride away, and I recognize the history that I was able to enjoy and add to for future reference.
The first of my thoughts take me to the many times I would bicycle up our driveway to grandmother’s house. My grandfather died before I was born so she was all I knew of my father’s parents. I remember her spooning snuff into her cheek while rocking in her sitting area and listening to a black and white television with foil covered rabbit ears. My grandmother made the most savory, lard laced, flour bread each week, and it is, to this day, one of the most missed family traditions of my childhood. Her eyesight was not very keen, and she would ask me to read the Bible to her. On my weekly visits, I would occasionally take my spare Bible to her house and read to her as she pushed her worn out rocking chair with her foot. Since the Bible meant so much to her, I placed the one I carried and read from beside her in the casket before all of us said our final goodbye.
Other thoughts take me to numerous hours I spent with my cousins. If you wanted to know where the party was at, all you had to do was look for a pile of bicycles at the front steps of whoever’s house and that is where the mischief was taking place. If we weren’t constructing our own makeshift bicycle ramps out of cement blocks and layers of scrap plywood, we were transforming old tobacco barns into clubhouses and hideouts like it was a backwoods edition of Love It or List It.
As we all grew up, bicycles transformed to golf carts transformed to four wheelers transformed into automobiles. If there is one thing a person needs to experience before they die, besides buying, transporting, and shooting illegal fireworks smuggled northward from South Carolina, it is living on a dry, dirt road with a beehive of angry four wheelers buzzing around your house. Have you ever seen a plane leaving an enormous trail of ‘whatever you want to label it’ as it slowly passes by in the upper atmosphere? Well, imagine all that exhaust, dust, and racket at ground level and being produced by beastly swarms of bees juiced by untethered testosterone. It was a constant sandstorm that never settled until the first rain chased our trails away for a day or two.
Me and one of my friends had the same four wheeler, a Kawasaki Bayou 220. I remember eyeballing that sweet machine at a nearby dealership because she had a fluorescent orange flag attached to her backside. She caught your eye by reflecting fire engine red in the golden sun, and I imagined my hair dancing in the breeze as I pushed the accelerator with the thumb on my right hand.
One day when I came home, I looked to the far side of the carport and saw my surprise sitting in the failing light of dusk, waiting to be ridden. I raised as much dirt, and hell, as I could while living on our sad dirt road and dusted everything I zoomed past. If a neighbor was brave enough to open their windows on a cool spring day, with them looking forward to rocking on the front porch and listening to the birds chirp, there was a good possibility that I ruined those peaceful easy feelings and chased them inside by Tokyo drifting around the curves, drag racing in the straightaways, and spitting up more sandstorms than an angry Tasmanian devil tearing through an open desert.
Karma later caught up with me one day when it came to my four wheeling mischievousness because my good friend, the one that owned the same four wheeler but different color as I did, accidentally backed over me in reverse while I was running away from him. I remember holding the rear chassis up with Atlas like strength as the tires spun at four thousand revolutions per minute near my skull. The scene that unfolded resembled some of the more memorable moments from a movie franchise like Saw or Final Destination. My friend argued that he thought he was stuck on a stump, but the more I think about it, I could have sworn that he reeved it up even faster when he plowed me over. A modern day hit and run minus the running. Now that I honestly recollect, I think there is a good possibility that he was trying to murder me in the first degree. My cousins quickly interceded and lifted the muddy machine off of me. Needless to say, that was how we ended one of our normal summer weekdays.
A special hang out for the wild bunch during the hot and humid summer months was a placed called “the swimming hole” (it was more than an actual hole, and we did not mean to discriminate its significance with such a misleading label when we christened it). The swimming hole was located at a creek that ran near and around family farmland. It was the first swimming pool any of us ever had. My uncle and his sons attached a rope swing to one of the nearby birch trees and built a wooden platform as the launching pad. The good times and memories took off from there. If we were not swimming in the cool, murky waters of our nearby exotic getaway, we were fishing that specific spot for a perch, brim, shad, or, if we were lucky, a bass. I’m surprised we did not get attacked by a wild animal, had one of our toes bitten off by a snapping turtle, or were bit by a venomous snake. The ancients must have been watching over us as we engaged in innocent, childish fun.
After the years passed, it seemed like everyone pulled the rip cord one by one and parachuted in places near and abroad. Some stayed, some never returned and transplanted themselves elsewhere, and some are rediscovering their rustic roots in their own way. The only thing that has remained constant, besides the memories that connect us, is the family cemetery. The hallowed grounds remain entombed in the middle of a field and has always attracted a faint breeze. The piece of land stands as a place of shade from the hot summer sun and provides hickory slash walnuts for squirrels and other wild animals. The creek and nearby river has become a fickle beast when a hurricane plows through, and their banks sporadically become overwhelmed by torrential rainfall, not to mention collecting run off from newly constructed highways and byways.
A couple of times in my life, I thought I had myself convinced that if I had offspring then I was going to move them far away from the bitter angst that lurks in the shadows here, the type of distemperment that only southern living can provide. As the picture attached to this post foreshadows, that has not been the case per se. I find myself letting my son enjoy some of the things that I partook in as a kid. In retrospect, I go back to the times when I questioned my father’s decision about moving back home and sharing the things of his childhood with me and my sibling. I thought he was crazy, but then I take a step back and look at the cycle of generations and folly of my momentary mindset.
Another memory, that washes over my eyes like a mirage, comes from my grandfather on my mother’s side of my family. Grandpa would always give us the bird (slang for the middle finger) whenever we would get ready to leave his house in our car. Grandma would slap at his hand as though he were a child reaching inside the cookie jar and plead for him to stop his foolishness. She was a God fearing woman who went to church every Sunday, and she believed behavior of the such was meant for the devil and his demonic offspring.
Me and my sister would flip him back without hesitation, and our mother would slap at our hands just like her mother was doing to her father. Dad played the innocent bystander and edged us on through his laughter, and I would be a liar if I said that he did not raise his middle finger on occasion until mother’s volcanic stare cornered him into silent seriousness. Since they have long passed, I still find myself waiting for Grandma to send a birthday card in the mail and be addressed in handwriting that depicts a slight touch of Parkinson’s. If I’m really lucky, the smell of Old Spice will hit my nostrils while I’m outside, and I’ll look around for the man who constantly mouthed a toothpick and taught me an unforgettable way to say goodbye.
A lot of things have changed over time, with one of the biggest markers of our families timeline coming when my childhood home was flooded, twice, due to hurricanes, rainwater, and rising creek levels. Everything was eventually gutted out, and the house was relocated to farm land that dad owned. It was harder for me to watch my parents go through that hardship than for me to personally experience it because they had worked their entire life for that house, piece of land, and surrounding structures and had specific memories attached to certain things. I’ve never seen a more imperfect house go through such a relentless struggle. I have come to realize that the house itself is more than just wood, cement blocks, and nails. It is one of the most beautiful metaphors of the human soul if some of us take the time to recognize it. Not every home can be described as such, and I take pride in that fact.
If the powers of nature ever want to flood the entire Earth again, which pieces of it inevitably will, I know where my ark is located. I have no love loss or attachments to the life experiences I have encountered and things I have owned while living in a flood plain. It is said that some people’s final trial will be by fire, and I know a lot of obstinate people around me that choose to fan those flames while they are alive on this Earth. Of course it appears that irony, my soulmate, has decided to judge me by the opposite element for the time being.
Even though the environment around us changes with every passing year, there are constants that connect certain parallels of the past, present, and future if one pulls the veil aside and seeks them out. Some generations keep traditions in the family. Some generations sell those traditions, pluck themselves up, and replant elsewhere. Some generations seek out nostalgia of days past and receive bittersweet glimpses of what life used to be like. Some generations grow communities, neighborhoods, special groups, and churches while others choose to destroy those named entities from the inside out. Some generations become bitter, angry bullies as time passes and sow discontent until their dying breath. Others choose to live and grow in grace, wisdom, and understanding, and their souls become more and more beautiful with every passing year.
As my fingers rattle the plastic keys on my keyboard, I take a deep breath and imagine myself being eleven years old, riding my bike as fast as I could up our driveway to Grandma’s house with my Bible underneath my armpit so I could exchange free reading for warm bread. All she wanted was to hear the sacred words from whatever chapter of whatever book, and it was the least I could do considering the matriarch of the family farmland was going to give me future memories to reflect and look back on.
The other day, I looked around at my surroundings as the wind bent the trees left to right and back again. A cloud tore apart like white cotton candy from upper level disturbances. A weed danced in the breeze and released its seed into the surrounding air. That is when the smell of Old Spice tickled my nostrils. I scanned my surroundings to make sure no one was around and waved the middle finger in the air.
Where do you grow, rustic roots, and how far down into the Earth do you go?
Rustic Roots, where do I need to go from here?
Plug In Earbuds : Push Play : Enjoy
P.S. – If I ever do move, I’ll probably be cursed by the spirits I abandon here, and my life will turn into some effin Stephen King horror movie wherever me and my wife plop down at next. She’ll see people crawling the backwards crab on the ceiling, and I’ll have shadow people calling out to me and haunting me from a dilapidated wood shed in the back yard or cellar door underneath the stairs. Worst case scenario, our new house will be located near a pet cemetery or ancient Indian burial ground, if our current house isn’t already. Lucky me! We can only hope, can’t we?
If you live in the United States and think that child slave labor only exists in other black market countries, you obviously have not visited the South in summer times of the past, nor should you because the humidity sucks, gnats constantly fly around your face and stick to the underside of your nostrils, and some redneck trucks are purposefully geared to sound like an overbearingly constipated hippopotamus. If a Southern speedster isn’t trying to drag race you at every stop light in their beefed up, automatic sports car, you might get lucky and have a prestigious member of an Original Free Will Baptist Church cuss you out over the phone one Sunday then get a lifetime achievement award for their Christian service the next Sunday. One would think that self righteousness was a pre-requisite for calling this certain place home.
I have come to realize that living in the South is like cutting open a fresh onion. It may make your eyes water, yes! It does have different layers, yes! You may dread having to use that specific ingredient when it comes to preparing your next dish, yes! But (I know you’re not supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction, but I had to this one time – sorry!) once you dice it, throw away the refuse, oil up the skillet, and start the cooking process, the smell that hits your nostrils is one you will not soon forget. Living in the South is not easy nor is it for the faint of heart, but I suppose any place that you currently call home will start to lose its curb appeal over time if you stay there long enough.
From the age of twelve until a senior in high school, I had a summer job helping local farmers barn tobacco. This was not an hourly job. This was not an air conditioned job. This was not a job where you put on the fanciest of clothes, spray on cologne, and try to hit on girls that are oiled up and lounging poolside in their low cut bikinis. This was a job that paid you thirty dollars a barn and lasted as long as it took the crew to fill that barn with the farmer’s investment. This was a job that left your hands and skin sticky until the next day when they would get recoated with tobacco resin all over again. This was a job that took more from you than gave back. While other kids enjoyed their summer break from school, slept in, played video games, and ran around in their underwear, I was waking up at the literal crack of dawn and breaking a hard sweat before nine a.m.
One of the biggest perks of being the youngest farm laborer each summer, a young man who was not going to hit his growth spurt until college, was being picked on every day. The hard working African Americans didn’t bother me because they showed up to work and only cut up through their jokes and mannerisms. The hard working Mexican Americans were a breeze to work with when it came to farm labor, even though I could not decipher a single word they were saying. A choice handful of white people, quote on quote Caucasians, were the ones who aggravated me the most, and that’s coming from someone whose rapper name would be Vanilla Crunch.
During my first couple of years on the job, I pulled the tobacco harvester in an open cabbed tractor. The farmer’s youngest son of sixteen thought it would be fun amusement to snap off tobacco stalks and throw them at the back of my head while simultaneously doing his job. If I weren’t trying to focus on keeping the tractor inside the rows and at a speed where the other workers could keep up with the plants, I was dodging four inch celery stalks being hurled at me from, of all people, an entitled farmer’s son. A low level retaliation would have been as effective as building a sea wall out of beach sand and hope high tide did not wash it away.
A couple of summers later, I moved from that farmer’s throng and into another’s. I knew that me leaving was only going to propel my farm laboring career. At this next location, I was promoted from tractor driver to plant cropper. I thought going to a new sweat shop would provide better summer experiences, but that turned out to be an ill fated lie after the first week.
While I snapped off tobacco leaves down below on an old school harvester, one of the punk rackers up above would hurl an endless supply of tobacco stalks at me. The only advantage I had in this situation was the fact that I could throw dirt clods up to the roof above his head and shower him with dirt. The only downside was the fact that innocent workers would get peppered in the process, so I was at a lose-lose in my never ending battle. If that wasn’t enough torture for an army of one, the kids who thought they were big shots decided on who got the notorious water cooler dumped on them at the end of the day. I’m pretty sure you can assume who got the end of that surprise tradition. I don’t think my work shoes ever dried out completely from the previous day.
Today, since the tables have turned, most of the people that did the picking back in those days, bullying as it is now called, have turned out to be the biggest losers this area has seen and will ever see (I’m not implying that I’m the Gucci of the South, but I’m managing). A couple of the hot shots from past high schools have become nothing but a mere byword when you talk about what is going wrong in the community or where the next big screw up can be located. Wherever these people go and whoever they hang around, their mere presence makes everything around them dumber with each passing breath. I realize that I do not have the preserved good looks of Leonardo DiCaprio combined with the Brad Pitt mannerisms, but most of the punk kids from back then are balding at an early age, drinking cheap beer, and are strung out on something. Irony is my soulmate and has a sense of humor. I understand that notion and have never escaped its grip when it came for me, but I find it comforting to know that it does not discriminate.
I always wondered what my parents were thinking when they made me enter the gates of hell each and every summer morning while wearing clothes made out of gasoline cotton. Sometimes, I was angered towards them each time I had to hop in the back of a beat up work truck at seven a.m. All I could see were the whites of everyone’s eyes because the sun was barely breaking the horizon. I now realize that they were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. I look back on those memories now and smile rather than fill my inner spirit with negative emotions and thoughts of disdain. If that grueling experience gave me anything, it instilled a titanium like work ethic at an early age and made me appreciate the common luxuries of my future modern day jobs.
I remember hearing the spiritual intellects say from time to time that, “if you commit murder in yer heart, then tis jus as bad is if you did it in real life.”
I’m already like, “eh, really? Are you sure about that premise in its entirety? You are literally saying that if I off’ed someone in my brain, in my imagination, then it is just as bad if I did it in reality? I mean, really? So if somebody almost made me wreck the other day because they were riding my bumper and total out my truck, which is paid off, and I wished the Coronavirus on them, that makes it just as bad if I purposefully contracted the virus and deliberately sneezed in that person’s eyeball?”
If that is the case then I was a mental mass murdering preteen machine because I nipped someone each day I left the fields of hard labor. If you think Dexter or John Wick knows how to tag up a meat puppet, then you would have been covering your mouth when it came to the ways I used my imagination when carrying out my mental repercussions on the boys that turned me into their kicking can. They say “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Well, there’s a b-side to that. “Hell hath no fury than a boy who just wants to work in peace and make his thirty dollars a day, especially considering he would rather be spending his summer at the beach or poolside while taking in all the beauty that Hawaiian Tropic can provide.”
If I sit really still in front of my laptop, put on my thinking cap, and lightly play Tycho in the background, there are a couple of memories that do wash away the dark clouds of past, modern day, slave labor. I was able to enjoy working with a couple of my childhood friends while barning tobacco. To be honest, me and my friends cut up more than we worked and never got arrested for it. It’s a wonder that I still have all my appendages and did not end up in a body cast. While “pickin baccer”, I was also able to meet my first girlfriend. She was there for me when I failed my permit test for the first time and was the first girl I ever kissed. She passed away a couple years later from leukemia, and it was hard to see her go through that even though we were no longer together by the time of her misfortune.
The fondest memory regarding the tobacco battlefield are the days when me and my cousin would ride to the barns and fields together. He had his license, so it made sense for me to ride to work with him considering he lived across the road from where I lived. He was a decade older than me and listened to the cool music of the times: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Crash Test Dummies, Bush, Beck, and Metallica.
If we ever got off work early, most of the time I would take a couple of showers, go over to his house, and play the Super Nintendo or whatever system was hot at the moment. He had a basketball goal that you could lower to white boy dunking level, and he did not like anyone hanging on the rim. All my other cousins would come over, and we would battle it out on a grass covered basketball court. You’ve never had a true game of basketball until you’ve played on terrain where there is no definite way to control your dribble.
At my second farm laboring job, this one guy kept throwing stalks at the back of my neck while I was trying to crop the leaves and send them up the belt to the rackers. I told the jerk numerous times to quit and that I was about to reach my breaking point. In my mind, I had already killed him six different ways. I didn’t want to throw a dirt clod against the roof and rain pebbles on him because my cousin was up above on the harvester, helping the jerk rack the picked tobacco leaves.
When the sixtieth stalk hit my neck, I got up out of my seat, ripped an entire tobacco plant out of the earth, and harpooned the bully like Moby Dick. He Ninja Warrior’ed down from his high horse and threw me to the ground. Out of the corner of my eye, my cousin jumped to the earth like Thor returning from some distant planet. He wrapped his arms around the boy and slung him to the ground. After yelling out an explicative and readjusting his glasses, the punk saw that he had bit off more than he could chew. It was not my cousin’s normal temperament to lash out like that, and his actions had taken the jerk off guard.
When the dust finally settled and everyone went back to work, needless to say, not one stalk was thrown at me for the rest of the summer. I have respect for my cousin and his actions because people like him are the ones that need to repopulate the world with their own brand of intelligence. I mention this story every time I get the chance to talk to him and thank him because I am still grateful to this day.
Living in the South has its pro’s and con’s, just like any other piece of dirt where one could call home. There are times when I want to move and leave everything in the rear view mirror. There are times when I appreciate the goodness of what I have here. There are times when I remember living on a dusty dirt road until the state finally paved it. There are times when I remember being fifteen years old and still not having enjoyed the services of satellite or cable television.
I reground myself.
I realize that I married my childhood best friend, and she continues to be that today. I realize that I have a healthy son from a previous marriage. I realize that I have a uniquely crazy family, one that will be there for me through the thick and thin. I realize that I have friends placed in spots where I need them, and they know what to do if they need me. I realize that I have gifts and abilities, and I’m somewhat proud to have grown up on land that has been in the family for generations.
One thing a stranger must realize when it comes to the disComfort of the South:
“If you thinks you gunna come down here and show duh South who duh boss truly be, dancin and prancin round like you own duh place or sumthin, then you betta git cuz you got another thing comin yer way, ole buddy boy! Sum people used to could do dat. I ain’t lyin. Dat be me speakin duh truth now cuz sum of dem boys down dere be crazy now! Watcha say? You dun thinkin and typin and lollygaggin now or what? You betta git fore you git in trouble now. You hear?”
Here : Press Play : Enjoy
Have you ever heard or read a story about a band breaking up after their first gig? Well, believe it or not, I was part of a situation that turned out like that. Some would think it was funny. Others would think it was quite sad. Through it all, I maintained my focus on the silver lining because, when days seem dim, her job is to catch your eye and make a bad situation seem better.
The band started out with just me and my drummer. I use the possessive adjective ‘my’ because I had to search out and locate my beat factory, so in essence it was not ‘a’ drummer, it was ‘my’ drummer. He was a friend from the past, and as luck would have it, he said he was willing to go out on a limb and clang the sticks for me. He knew that I was not well versed in the neckings of a guitar or keys of a piano, but for some reason he looked beyond that and took a leap of faith with me.
The love for music was deeply rooted inside my soul, as well as my genetics, and had been my release for quite some time. I had attended over thirty different concerts, some repeats of the same band, and I knew what kind of sound I was chasing after. Just like any other garage band in the early stages of creation, I was convinced that if I could find the right people and put them together then the sky was going to be the limit. Before long, my band was going to be on the radio, signing a record deal, and traveling together on a bus or in a van because the idea was too original to fail.
I had dabbled in playing the guitar, knew all the major and minor chords, but realized my limits were only going to provide us a steady rhythm. I had purchased a couple of synthesizers and wanted to incorporate them into our sound, with some songs’ bass lines being carried by the unique machines. I had never taken a piano lesson nor did I know how to read sheet music. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a C major or a D minor when it came to the keys, and most of my synth experimentation was done by me spending long nights digging into the different wavelengths of each sound. The brand of music and the way it was going to form was going to be unusual because the most popular themes in our area was singing southern rock, classic rock, country, or gospel music or being in a cover band.
Me and my drummer hammered out long and tiresome practices in an old tobacco barn and developed a unique bond through our music. During our practice breaks, we would smoke a cigarette and play a game of HORSE. The first two songs we fell in love with was a drum and synth instrumental called “Prevail” and a catchy six minute guitar slash drum duo song named “Time Machine”. If it was ninety degrees outside during the long summer months, we sweated and continued to push forward. If it ever cooled off below the fifties during the short fall and winter months, we warmed our hands and tarried on. We had three light bulbs, two electrical outlets, and numerous drop cords and surge protectors to our name, and we were going to make the most out of it (the band later moved to a room in my future house. We practiced every Sunday for three hours plus, and I would clear out the entire living room for our equipment. We did this each and every week).
My drummer had never laid beats to a synthesizer, so you can imagine the struggles we had to begin with. He would get frustrated and want to abandon the original material for covers, and I would come back and tell him that our originals was going to make us stand out. I did not want to do all that work and become another radio station for people to listen to. I wanted original material backed by original talent that was going to put out an original sound. I was hardheaded to a degree, yeah, maybe, but before the split, we had compiled eight original works of art in less than a year and a half. With someone with no musical knowledge, a someone that could not tell you the difference between a Esus4 and a Emaj7, a someone playing with a very experienced drummer, I don’t think that is shabby considering our rural backdrop.
We were going to gig out as a two piece when the second awakening came. Thinking back over it now, us rushing to share our art was somewhat laughable and would have been a beautiful disaster, but I was determined to succeed and so was he. When someone has something to prove and the world keeps telling him or her no, they are either going to give up and wilt or push onward with terminal velocity. I’m glad things panned out like they did because the biggest blessing for a band was on the way.
A local guitarist sent me a message and told me that he wanted to come audition for the band and let his light shine. Me and my drummer knew who he was, and we could not believe that he wanted any part of what we were crafting. The talent this guitarist had was impeccable, and truth be told, in my opinion, he was and is the best guitarist in a two hundred mile radius. I stand by that fact to this day because I have seen greatness on stage, I have heard it with my ears, and I have witnessed it with my eyes. He was the type of guitarist that could listen to a song and know where to put his fingers on the neck of a guitar. It was beautiful to watch. He was quirky. He was different. He was laid back. He was exactly what we needed.
Our new guitarist completed us in so many ways that it was comforting for me to have him as a friend first and then a bandmate. By acquiring this amazing talent out of nowhere, it allowed me to focus more on singing, lyrics, and synthetics. In less than three months, he had memorized all the original material we had created. As I sit and type, I begin to chuckle when I think back and watch in my memories as a guitar’ing nobody like myself tried to show a stringed prodigy how to play the somewhat simple originals. Not only did he fill a void that the band currently had, but he was able to improve our songs while teaching me techniques to make me a better musician. As the saying goes, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you are probably in the wrong room.”
We tightened our eight originals (if I told you the song titles, one would think we were opening for Fifty Shades of Lust), rehearsed five or six covers to accompany those songs (three of those being “Do I Wanna Know” by the Arctic Monkeys, “In The Meantime” by Spacehog, and “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper), and gigged out at my house so we could shake the ice off our shoulders before going out into the world. We grilled cheeseburgers for those attending and even had a campfire since we were playing an outdoor gig in early October. The music was so loud, a couple of my parents’ redneck friends said they could hear us at the river bank two miles away. It was a fulfilling night, to say the least, and I catch myself looking at my set list I have displayed near my desk and bookshelf. It was nostalgia at its finest. Those moments are very rare. Little did we three know, this was going to be our only performance together.
Some of you may be asking yourself about the silver lining I mentioned in the introduction. It used to be really hard for me to find, but time, patience, and life has shown me a thing or two when it comes to searching her out. A couple of weeks after the gig, everyone in the band went their separate ways due to an unforeseen issue. I still consider them two of my life friends that I would never shy away from if I saw them in public. I would embrace them like a brother returning from war simply because they joined me on a journey of a lifetime. One of them confided in me with their years of drumming experience, with me being the most unluckiest source of non musical genius, and that says a lot. The other one introduced me to disc golf and yoga, taught me to be a better musician, and motivated me to quit smoking cigarettes after burning the white sticks for over a decade. What was most important, though, was three searching souls came together, the most unlikeliest of people, and created a sound, an original sound, that still remains foreign to the place I currently call home.
Since then, I have sold all my music equipment except for my synthesizers. I parted ways with the first guitar I ever owned, my fifteen year old Gibson Explorer, but I kept the guitar pedal that currently stores all my unique sounds. Out of all the pieces of equipment I sold and parted ways with, my guitar was the only thing that choked me up. Getting rid of my equipment was a forced decision, but I had to sell these material things as one dream slowly died and led into another. One of my many silver linings is the fact that I still maintain the memories that those things were able to give to me and the two special people it connected me to. I always wanted to start a band from the ground up and develop a sound that was ours and ours alone, and that is what I did even though the fame and glory was short lived.
Every now and then, when the event horizon pulls me closer to that specific wormhole, I pick up my acoustic guitar when no one is around and strum the riff to one of my original songs. As time slowly passes me by, each song gets harder and harder to remember and play when they used to be the only language that my fingers knew how to speak. Some would say that the entire situation was just life. Some would say that it was a shame and I ought to get the crew back together. Some would say that it did not need to happen in the first place.
As a single tear strolls down my cheek, I say, “maybe I traded one dream for another. Maybe I had a bigger creative destiny somewhere else and so did they. Maybe my fingers found a different way to invoke emotion, something that will have a better future for me in the end.”
“Well, what’s that?” You may ask yourself.
“Watch and I’ll show you! Tell me no, and I’ll try even harder!”
To the two young men who stood by my side during that time of my life, thank you. You hold a special place in my soul. I love both of you, and I hope life is giving you the stuff that true dreams are made of.
There is something floating around in the air, and I cannot quite describe what it could be. Rage! Could it be rage? Desperation! Could it be desperation? Healing! No, it couldn’t be that! Paranoia! Blasted, speak that word no more! Does rage flush my face and paint it red? Does desperation make my heart feel like it is beating out of my chest? I look around, and everyone’s eyes are wide in the wonder of what tomorrow holds. Is that the look of healing, paranoia, or some other word that my tongue cannot remember? We already know what the answer is, I believe. Don’t we? Or am I the only one?
By the time this life is over, everyone will have Oscars on their mantle piece, and I’m not talking about hot dogs. Some trophies will say best lead. Some will say best supporting. Some will be in the acknowledgement of writing. Some praises will be for cinematography while other admirations will be for directing and producing. On the inside of all of us, the confident scaredy cat puts on a brave display while we try to act like things are normal when things are far from it. Your lips speak sacrilege if you think today’s life is normal. I propose a better question for your listening ear! Have things ever been normal? Madness, I say! People speak, breathe, and think pure madness! So many things are shifting. The plates are hot, I tell you, hot! Do you feel this happening or am I the only one?
I have been a constant for so long that I probably would not know how to respond to being a variable. The couple of times I was the variable, I sloshed potential pay dirt around in my pan in hopes of finding at least one gold nugget or a couple golden flakes to cash in. The only thing I found was dirty water, wrinkled fingers, cold feet, and a tempest fever. I am careful to stare down at the past through pictures and rub my finger over the frozen scars. I am hopeful to look to my future when me and my family drink milk and honey from golden grails and hear the harps of angels glorious. I walk around, observe, and enjoy the present as my intuition prods me with a bent fork. This feeling seems so familiar, like I’ve lived this moment in other parallels shadowing this one. My subconscious is not of this realm. I’ve had deja vu so many times that I don’t recognize that nostalgic feeling anymore. Does this dissociation make sense or am I the only one?
One would think we were all on the borderline of insanity, to take in difficult questions and not fully answer them before moving to the next problematic scenario. Do I take things too seriously? Better yet! Do I take the wrong things too seriously? Do I take the right things not seriously enough? Should I dream while my eyes are open or am I wasting my days away with lukewarm water and stale bread? Are some people blessed with gifts and talents and will die without ever being able to use them? God forbid! I will not stand for it, I tell you! So where do we go from here? Where do we not go from here? Why are you smiling? Why are you frowning? Why are you happy? Why are you sad? Why are you thinking? What are you thinking? If you want to change your life then why don’t you? Do you ask yourself at least one of these questions once a week or am I the only one?
I was reading Crime and Punishment the other day while lying on the couch. The room was completely silent. I started to hear what sounded like a light buzzing followed by a *tap tap tap* emanating from a west side window that faces the sun in the afternoon. Without flinching a muscle or lifting myself off the couch to investigate, I remained focused on my book and kept reading my sentences from left to right. My mind had deducted the nonessential clues and solved the mystery. A wasp had trapped itself between the blind and the window. He was doing everything he could to make it to the beautiful nature that existed on the other side of the clear pane. A day passed, the same sound. Another day passed, the buzz buzz buzz of miniscule wings followed by the *tap tap tap* of a hard headed creature thudding against a thin window. This sound would occasionally resonate in the air, and I let it do so for an entire week. My mind tickled me and asked, are you really going to keep this angry wasp hostage from his army of other angry wasps? The honest answer was that I was too benevolent to put it out of its misery, and I was too selfish to free it from its prison. It is not my fault he was designed to be a pretentious pest with a sharp stinger. Do you understand the situation or am I the only one?
As the seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, and days to a full week, the sound became weaker and more faint. I consciously knew the wasp was there, no fault to myself, and I knew there was no way he was going to be able to escape his cage. They say struggle is nature’s way of survival. What is human’s way of survival? That same struggle? Fighting? Arguing? War? Becoming a narcissist? Revolution? Giving up? Giving in? Ignoring the issue? Finding a distraction? Assimilating? Doubting? Confusion? Misinformation? I walked to the window where he was trapped and carefully lifted one of the panes. I knew if the wasp had any fighting energy left inside his crunchy exoskeleton then he was going to attack me like a Peregrine Falcon, but he did not. The wasp looked at me, I looked at him, and his antennas rubbed the air around him. He was too tired to fly or climb. I knew how he felt. I mean, in a parabolic way, don’t we all know how he feels or felt, or am I the only one?
I walked to the kitchen, grabbled the fly swatter (Southern slang for winged creature killer), and tip toed back to the blind. I slowly inserted the flappy end of the wand into the window and coaxed the wasp to crawl onto the flexible platform that had killed so many of his friends. I found myself chuckling at the situation because I found it paradoxical to be using an instrument of damnation for an instrument of salvation. Thirty-two steps later, I released the wasp back into the outside world. My good intentions granted him entrance to a place where he had fought so hard to be. When I sit on the couch and continue to read, I catch myself listening for the rapid buzzing of fragile wings followed by the *tap tap tap* even though I know that my mind should know better. The sound of the wasp bouncing between the blind and my window haunts me. Am I on the borderline of madness or are all of us already there? My mind shifts, my perception expands, and I realize all of us are caught between an earth and an afterlife.
Do you sometimes feel like this or am I the only one?
(Cue this bit of free ear candy below! It is from one of my many life soundtracks! Most of you will probably hate it, but oh well, it’s my blog, not yours, so I can embed whatever I want! Stay Safe, everyone! Much love!)
Do you talk to yourself?
Oh God, here we go. You know they have other things to worry about right now than silly questions of the such! One would think you had more important things on your own mind than being rhetorical with someone you don’t even know.
Oh, you hush it, you. I’m trying to engage the reader and share a moment of introspective thinking. That’s the reason I started this blog and share my finger taps with all of them, so the reader and I can escape for a moment and go to a place that is not “here”.
Introspective thinking? Really? You and who? Them out there? All the ghosts of the future on the other end of this invisible line? You think they are really going to sit down and partake in an imaginary journey with the likes of you? A nobody? Good luck, Mr. Impossible. Looks like you need to quarantine your common sense away from your pandemic dream.
Well, I don’t think you give some of the people I know, and do not know, the credit they deserve. The free minded people out there are the failsafes to end all failsafes. I like sharing these little moments with them, and I like when they reciprocate their experience back to me. A writer is only as good as the material he reads, watches, absorbs, and dissects.
Yeah, true, but your effort is in vain, there, sir. There’s only one question at hand while this crisis is going on. At the end of the day when you look into the mirror and see a new wrinkle the world has blessed you with, or when you look at your reflection and stare into the nebulas of your eyes, or when you scoff at the image of what you have become in this timeline, there is one underlying humanistic theme that remains up in the air.
Yeah, what is that, oh wise one?
How long will it take the people to forget about all of this after everything calms down and gets back to whatever the new norm may be? Do you think it will take a year? Two years? Maybe more? Maybe less? Humans tend to follow a pattern and rarely do they break from it. Some patterns shuffle while others repeat. It’s all inevitable, friend. Before you know it, we will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Coronavirus and people will have to fight to remember what this moment actually felt like.
People who have contracted the virus or lost someone due to this virus will never forget about this, buddy. People are not as dense as you think they are. Most of them are resilient creatures that can change and adapt at the click of their thumb and middle finger. You can try to discredit that fact, but you are only going to make yourself seem self righteous, judgey, or even worse, naive.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you always have an answer for everything, don’t you? You would make a good defense attorney. You know that? And me, being naive? What does that make you then, dear reflection? What you fail to realize is the fact that even though the norm has been shifted, people will remain the same.
I never said that people were not hard headed and stubborn, myself included, but I think you are underestimating the entire situation, considering this virus is a global pandemic. I think you are out of line with this particular observation, and maybe you are the one who needs to proofread himself before the red pen touches the paper.
Oh really, wise one! How long will it be before this virus becomes a punchline to a joke like other past tragedies that are now, all of a sudden, horrifically humorous? Is the world that short on material? How long will it be before race wants to fight race again and see how many viable causes we can pit against one another? How long will it be before we start focusing on the lettering of someone’s orientation before seeing that person as an individual human soul first? How long will it be before we see whose religion wants to be the greatest and most supreme ideology in all the land, with its way being the one and only way? How long will it be before we see whose political party is the most honest and pristine when electoral focus rolls back around? How long, my misguided friend, will it be before we are back to the same cycles and old ways of what used to be until the next big tragedy comes along and shakes our little snow globe of life?
Well, I don’t think that argument is fair because not all people are like that. You are generalizing a very large group to your standard ideal, over an estimated seven point eight billion people to be exact. We are going to rise above this calamity. We are going to prepare for a brighter future. We are going to overcome hardships and obstacles. Together, all of us are going to unify and make Earth a better place.
Like all of you were doing before this happened?
The past is just progress.
And it got all of you where?
To the present, a place where we can raise the flags of the world together and fight in taking down a global enemy.
Where is that going to lead you, friend?
To a future life with endless possibilities.
Since you are taking this stance, I can imagine what the people were thinking in 1918 during the Spanish flu. I bet one poor sucker was thinking, ‘well, by gosh by golly, I think because of this, one hundred years from now, humanity is going to be stronger and brighter and more unified than we can possibly imagine. We are going to show this world what we are truly made of. We are people. Hear us roar!’
You’re being a prick.
What does that make you then?
Let me tell you about the people I know. The people I know storm foreign beaches in the midst of war and charge into the unknown in support of another country. The people I know grow gardens, give out free food, and check on their neighbors at least once a week. The people I know do not wait for a path to open up but create one either individually or as a group. The people I know will work from sun up to sun down just to make sure their family is taken care of. The people I know will intervene if they see an injustice taking place in front of them. The people I know will unconditionally love someone regardless of race, religion, orientation, political status, or social status. The people I know will wave a pedestrian across the road even if they have a green light in front of them. The people I know will bleed out and die before giving in to something they do not believe in. The people I know never forget the deceased and honor them by being the best future person they can possibly be. The people I know cry when something bad or good happens to someone else. The people I know would rather host a fundraiser and give to charity during a crisis than do something for themselves. The people I know live life forward and only look back in reflection. The people I know dream regardless of the odds that are against them because they understand that dreams and aspirations are not reserved just for the rich and elite. The people I know would stare down a million suns just so their kids could have one last glimpse of the moon and stars. The people I know will lower their head in respect but keep their eyes open if a stranger prays, even if they are not religious. The people I know, their heartbeat is what makes the Earth spin on its axis and their blood is what feeds the lands and oceans. The people I know are a waning candle in the darkest of rooms. The people I know, whether they live in a single wide, double wide, the projects, a suburb, or a gated community, will come together to find a way because, for now, this planet is a shared community and it’s all we have.
And these people you know, where do you find them, may I ask?
They are out there! Believe me, they are! When they want to be seen, you will know. Trust me on that statement!
Well, the people I know are far different than the ones you have described, and some would say that mine outnumber yours, there, friend.
We all see the world how we want to. Don’t we? What we perceive the world to be, that is what will manifest before our eyes. Just like you, dear friend. As soon as I quit listening to you and pull the curtain, you no longer exist. You become a figment yet again and not an actual voice. Right? So who has the power in this relationship? Hmm?
Oh, chase me off if you want to! Cut the cord to my mike before I drop the pipe bomb and run away like a coward! Even in the midst of a loss, all you want to do is huddle the team together, give them a pep talk, and yell, ‘one, two, three, team’. History is going to repeat like a worn out, wobbly vinyl record. The same directional spin. The same tune. The same scratchy ending. You’ll see, friend. Just like the time when…
Well, I think I’ve heard enough of you for today. He is right though! I’ve got bigger and better things to worry about at the moment. Let me see. Hmm. First thing on the list. Where can I go today and hopefully find some toilet paper since the people I know are buying it up like gold? Let me think…
( cue Frank Sinatra – Luck Be A Lady )
The other night, my wife and I were watching a stand up comedian perform on Netflix. He was funny, crude, and had both of us chuckling out loud. Some of his jokes made us laugh so hard that we had to catch our breath. In the midst of all the lightheartedness that the present moment deserved, my mind started to wander. I asked myself, if this comedian was not performing in front of a crowd of people and they were not engaging his material by laughing out loud, would he be as funny as he is now?
In the pre-corona era, one of my biggest enjoyments in life was attending a wide variety of indoor and outdoor concerts. By the look of the situation we are currently faced with, it might be a hot minute before bands and venues come back into a renewed existence with a herded crowd. A lot of musicians, and notable celebrities, are turning to live feeds on different social media platforms, and I’m glad they have an outlet to connect with their choice audiences. Of course, as we all know, nothing is going to beat the experience of having ten thousand fans singing the lyrics in unison during a live show or having various celebrities attend mass gatherings and receive nods for their accomplishments, but I guess our new existence is going to have to suffice until this non rideable wave goes back out to sea.
All varieties of professional and college sports have been affected by this calamity, as well as different branches of entertainment like movie theaters, wrestling organizations, broadway musicals, and other performing arts venues. Restaurants have been severely undercut by this virus, and some are doing their best to have a presence by providing drive-thru or take-out service only. Our local movie theater has delightful, automatic leather recliners in a couple of rooms, but the idea of whoever was there before me burrowing into the seat like a tick, while coughing and slinging spit on the sticky black leather, makes it seem somewhat unbearable at the moment. Even when I used to sit down at our favorite restaurants and survey seven thousand crumbs and dried liquid spots all over the table, all I would do was take the first napkin in line and simply brush the top layer of film off or move to another table and await our feast. Things of the such did not bother me in the pre-corona era, so I guess we are at a crossroads when it comes to cleanliness. Does that make me seem hypocritical or just more aware to treat those scenarios as such now or should we have been taking these wipe down precautions all along?
When I reminisce over in house dining, my mind takes me back in time. In middle school days, I remember wiping the cafeteria tables off with the infamous “rag”. Some kids did not want to touch the filthy, lukewarm, Sloppy Joe stained towel back then, myself included, even if they had a bionic arm made out of scrap metal from Ironman’s suit. That specific table towel had seen more dark alleyways and side streets than all of the rats in New York City combined, yet we children used it week after week after week. Each kid had their assigned time of table duty, and we would wipe spillage and crumbs into the chairs and onto the floor and massage the other kids’ blowback around in circles until it became an actual piece of art on the table. The more I talk about the “rag”, the more I start to feel sorry for it, so I will stop for now and move on.
There are other things I begin to miss since the plague started circulating around the globe. I miss rounding the toilet paper and paper towel isle at the grocery store at seven a.m. on a Friday morning and seeing clouds of it waiting to be purchased. I miss scratching my thin mustache and beard with unwashed fingernails while riding in my truck and not having to think about the pestilence that is hiding underneath them. I miss rubbing my eyes with each of my pointer fingers at the same time when they itch from the seasonal pollen or from wearing my glasses too long and not worry about turning into a rabid zombie. I miss allowing someone else to cough unmuffled and not get a nasty stare from me whenever I force myself to go “out there”. I miss going out to eat at least once a week and not having to worry about washing dishes, pots, pans, utensils, and cups. All first world problems, I know, but still.
Pushing the physical, worldly stuff to the side for a moment, I find myself reflecting on the cleanliness of my own inner being. I used to internally fuss, rave, and spit strong cuss words whenever it came to certain aspects of my job. I have described these in one of my earlier posts, The Aged and the Ageless. Some things about the family business frustrated me, and I willingly let it. Some days, I used to wish that I finally closed on my dream job and things would begin to take off from there. Some days, I would wave my hands at the heavens, asking whoever was listening to me to simply bless me and let me thrive because now was the time for me to do so. Some days, I would just sit in silence, finish the job, but still be somewhat pretentious on the inside. Different things, including my attitude, have stabbed the family business in the heart and twisted the knife, and as funny as it may sound, the body that makes up our main source of income has fought like a heavyweight boxer who would rather stand back up, wobble, take another uppercut, and be knocked out cold rather than throw in the towel. During a time like we are all experiencing, I find admiration in that fact. This virus might be the last straw for some businesses, ours included, but then again I could be wrong. It certainly would not be the first time, and I am highly doubtful it would be the last.
Taking in the grand scheme that makes up 2020 so far, a year in which we are all supposed to see things clearer than we ever have before, maybe I need to be more appreciative than I have been in the past. Maybe I need to be more patient than I already am (I had to force type this sentence because of everything my life journey has contained, and I’m sure some of you could relate). Maybe instead of taking advantage of things, we need to start taking care of things. Maybe we all need to spend more time with our families and friends. Maybe we need to turn our screens off from time to time and turn our minds on. Maybe our kids needed a break from public and private learning facilities so they could enjoy life for a minute or two, even though I realize there is a need for the meals that those wonderful institutions provide. Maybe our overly scheduled lives needed to be dismantled and rearranged. Maybe all of us needed to slow down. Maybe we have been running around and looking in every direction rather than focusing on what is directly in front of us. Maybe this is the end of the world. Maybe this is another fresh start. Maybe this is punishment for being common and cold shouldered to one another and not unconditionally loving and forgiving human beings. Maybe this is part of some invisible warfare and we are unaware of it. Maybe this is just a way of the Earth telling us that it has a fever because we plague it with our ways, devices, and negative energies.
Or maybe it’s something more than all of that combined and to the thousandth degree.
Maybe it’s just life, and we need to be one thing we haven’t been in a while, myself included.
We are not at this crossroads by mystery. We will not be confounded or confused. We must be vigilant, and that is what we will be until the sun rises each day and frees us from this shadow. We will make it through, and we will do it together as one.
The meek, people.
P.S. – I’ve burned so much lemongrass and tea tree essential oil in my diffuser, I no longer have nostril hairs. Stay safe! Stay clean! Be polite! Be kind! Breathe! Relax! Stay strong!
I’m not the type of person to stand on a social media soapbox when it comes time to vent, pretend to be a self righteous judge, or act like a specialist because a crisis pops up in modern day America. Most of the time, I bite the inside of my cheeks until they bleed because some of my observations would be too straightforward for some people to stomach. Some would consider that trait to be admirable while others would think it to be cowardice. I have found that life is safer for all parties involved for most of us to be the positive amongst the negative and let things pan out because it is going to do that anyway.
I started this blog in December with Introductions First and talked about 2020 being the year I put certain things in my life on cruise control. Yeah, way to go on that one, idiot! We’re pumping the gas with the brakes now, huh? I then shared a couple of posts about a lengthy sixteen hundred page book I was trying to publish and the journey surrounding that one particular story. Yeah, best wishes! Keep going! This should be grand! Since then, I’ve tried to share tidbits of my fictional style while also trying to engage the reader by sharing epiphanies I have experienced since opening my finger taps to the world. ZzzzZZzZZ *snore* ZzzzzZZzz, wake me when it’s over. I’m currently waiting on copyrights to return from eight of my other fictional novels so I can share them with my editor, and then, dun dun dun, the calamity of all calamities hits.
Toilet paper shortage.
If there is another country with cleaner backsides than America right now, I’d like to visit it (like in a year or two or whenever – maybe). I have lived my entire life in America’s Hurricane Alley, and a storm of that magnitude is visible to the naked eye. You can see it churning on a live map, and news stations send their agents to places of first impact so they can await the salty aired beast and provide us with live coverage. You cannot predict a hurricanes exact path until it approaches land, taking into account where any high or low pressure fronts may be, but any viewer can watch the tropical monster as it slowly shuffle steps toward you.
A virus, well, as all of us social media scientists already know, is invisible, and the only way you know where the virus is manifesting is when people start showing symptoms. I must advise that I am the farthest thing from a medical professional, but in a time when a global pandemic is transpiring, one must be careful going back to work a couple of days after contracting seasonal flu even if one does not show symptoms. There is going be a new standard after this is over, and all of us are standing on the front lines against this threat.
We find ourselves weighing a heavy decision and trying to balance the health of a community and the health of a business. There are thousands of scenarios where only one person in a small office has yet to get sick while all their co-workers came down with the unforgiving seasonal flu. I work at a small family business, and it is going to be affected by this travesty of a situation. This may be the same scenario for a lot of you and others, I’m sure.
Some of us are going to need stimulus money to help pay a couple of bills because our job is tied in with businesses who are affected by this virus. I know everyone is worried about work and paying bills and not going insane while being forced to stay at home (people’s complaints sometimes rattle me), but we need to look at the bigger picture. Do we stay home, social distance, and let our bodies adjust so all of us can survive, or do we throw caution to the wind and expose ourselves to something that has already taken many innocent lives away? The common sense answer is not hard for me, and I don’t know how I would feel if I infected someone else, who then took it home and infected someone they hold dear to their soul, and the end result became them losing that person forever because I wanted to be selfish or because I wasn’t momentarily thinking.
This all shadows my next observation. I saw this sassy sentence scroll across as a headline for a major news station the other night.
“We can’t make it because we don’t have the right parts.”
Huh? Wait a second! The right parts? America, are we serious right now? We have the most brilliant minds in the world and that’s the best answer we can come up with? MacGyver could stop a bomb from exploding and save an entire city with a bent paper clip, a Q-Tip, and a piece of chewed up gum stuck to the underside of his boot. Rambo could free an entire village with some vine cord, bamboo spears, a bow and some arrows, and a military issued knife. Chuck Norris could fire a sub machine gun left to right once over a dusty hill and eliminate twenty threats in one wave then grin about it as the wind blew through his shaggy, sweaty hair. (Sorry! I had to be dramatic first before I bring it together here at the end!)
Over a hundred years ago, two American companies competed and built railways across the entire continent and met in the middle, and that is who we are, as a nation. We, the people, are America! All of us! We should be a nation of problem solvers, not problem starters. It’s going to take all of us to hammer through this, and we will put our footprint in the history books of tomorrow.
A quote sticks out in my mind since this pathogen has struck, and for the life of me I cannot remember who said it.
“A virus is one thing that will wipe out an entire population and leave its treasures intact!”
In the days to come, we are going to realize that treasures are more than possessions. Treasures are people. Treasures is good health. Treasures are the truck drivers plowing through long hours and distances to make sure our stores are stocked with food and necessities that we need. Treasures are the people working at the grocery stores and other distributors to make sure those goods are delivered to we, the people. Treasures are the doctors, nurses, and medical staff that keep clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes open so we can get the care that we need in this time of crisis. Treasures are the bright minds, scientists, and laboratory technicians who are currently researching together in order to put an obstacle in this virus’ path. Treasures are the kids who are able to enjoy time being kids, and the mother’s, father’s, and caretakers who are spending time with those children while balancing work. Treasures are the restaurants that will one day reopen and be better than ever, and the other eateries that are maintaining their business with drive-thru service only. Treasures are the pharmacies, pharmacists, and staff that continue to show up at their place of business so we can have the medicines we need to combat the symptoms of the virus, as well as keep our pre-existing conditions at bay. Treasures are the people in uniform, whether domestic or military, who continue to hold their countries safety and freedom close to their chest and will do anything to protect the citizens of their great nation. Treasures are me, you, or whoever else out there that reads this, and is scared, yes, nervous, yes, but determined to pilot these uncharted waters and come out as a better America, as a better Earth, once the storm has passed.
America, much less every other nation, will survive, and mankind’s civilizational history of struggle should be evident of that. My heart goes out to those, locally and globally, that are sick, have lost someone due to this pandemic, or are stuck in the trenches. Everyone’s community just became bigger, and together, regardless of race, gender, orientation, religion, social status, political party, or one of the other one million stereotypes that currently exist, we will make it through this dire time in history.
The key word is together!
We are the pioneers of tomorrow, and our journey starts today!
If you want to raise someone’s anxiety level by ten thousand percent and send their mind spiraling into an unknown abyss, I know two introductory statements you should start off with. There’s a good possibility that someone has spoken these phrases to you at some point in time, if you were not the one saying them yourself. They go something like this:
“There’s something I need to tell you!”
“We need to talk!”
Thirteen times out of ten, there’s a good possibility you are not going to like the facts you are about to hear after those introductions are made. If someone came up to me and started our interpersonal dialogue in that fashion, my mind would instantly jump to various scenarios involving a break up, divorce, death in the family, speeding or DWI ticket, job loss, an unforeseen medical diagnosis, or an unwanted slash surprising pregnancy.
Not every occasion, when hearing those two phrases from someone you hold dear to you, will warrant you having to speed dial your therapist. Not every occassion, when you hear those dreaded quotes leave the lips of the person that stands in front of you and wants to play the role of Satan, will require you to call Jerry Springer or Maury Povich to be the mitigator. Time has taught me many lessons, and I have forged my own brand of wisdom through experience, observation, conviction, and reflection.
My grandmother used to tell me when she was alive, “if you ain’t dun nuthin wrong, then you ain’t got nuthin to worry bout.”
There are ways to counter attack the dreaded phrases of doom. The remedy comes in many forms and fashions, and we personally carry one around with us wherever we go. Philosophers have coined a term for this certain entity, and advertisers have trademarked a name for the product that is flying off the shelves as we speak. In this modern world, it is back by popular demand. They call it:
I carry EGO around with me and try to use it as sparingly as possible, even though it’s temporary nectar is sweet, beautiful poison to the soul. To keep my EGO in check, I allow it to feel insignificant but in a positive way. Your first thought is, dude! Really? That’s crazier than climbing a sand dune on a bicycle. Don’t do that, man! You have something to live for! You know that right? Don’t put yourself down like that! There are other ways around this!
The decompression process I use is designed by me, for me, and is simple. Everybody’s method is different, and there’s beauty in that. When I let my EGO feel insignificant, I realize and understand, first, that it is not the end of the world. You have to be brave to let that feeling creep in then chase it away on your own terms. Second, I do not let the insignificance of my EGO affect me negatively, and I try to keep my emotions in check. That has not always been the case. I do not let my mind turn on me and tell me that I am worthless, not special, or that I have nothing to live for. When that voice creeps in, I immediately know which shoulder is talking and thump the invisible nuisance off with my pointer finger.
What keeps me grounded is the fact that I know I have everything to live for no matter how gloom the circumstances may seem at the moment. The present is just a single blip in the timeline we call life. There are millions of people in the world suffering far worse than I am or possibly ever will.
Another way to keep oneself grounded is to know that you are special, regardless of your skills and abilities. Me, I know that I am more special than a rainbow tinted unicorn that urinates Skittles, spits out Xanax’s, and farts Lucky Charms (they’re magically delicious). I have known this fact since I was a little boy because my mother would tell me one thing before I left each morning for school.
“You are special! Don’t let anybody tell you different!”
So you may wonder how I purposefully make my EGO feel insignificant?
The other night around dusk, I walked to the blinds that hang in my large kitchen windows. They were open because that side of the house faces the east. The sun was slowly closing its weary eye over the west side of the world, setting the horizon into a dark blend of purples and pinks. In the eastern sky, where my attention was currently being diverted, the moon hung high above a giant oak tree. The orangish, gibbous orb was one night away from being full. The lonely celestial being was so bright and the atmosphere was so clear, I could see the patches of gray on the face of the moon with my naked eye.
I lifted the blind with the pointer finger on my left hand, stared at the object that is two hundred and thirty-eight thousand miles away, and sipped some tea from the cup that was being held in my right hand. For the spanse of time of no more than twenty-three seconds, all I did was look up and marvel at how small and insignificant I truly was when compared to it. The feeling was natural, non GMO, gluten free, and cannot be justified through description alone.
Moments like that come and go for me, but the feeling I had the other night was different than prior ones. Sometimes, it feels like there is a shift in power between the constants and variables that make up the equation of our world. Sometimes, I feel like so much is going on that we begin to lose ourselves, and our identities change with every headline that dings through on our tablet or iPhone. Maybe the last thing we need is another emoticon to express ourselves with. Maybe the last thing we need is another stereotype or issue to pit even more people against one another. Maybe the understood you is slowly turning into the understood I.
Maybe, hopefully, I have all of it wrong.
The other night, the moon sent me a notification and it said, “no matter what you do, I’ll always be hanging above your head (minus a giant asteroid creeping by and finally obliterating it). I will be controlling your tides, planet Earth, and filling your minds with nonsensical conspiracies until the day you die.” (the moon is a Death Star created by aliens, or is it a hollow projection of our matrix, or is it just a big block of cheese?).
So I say to you,
“We need to talk! There’s something I need to tell you! Tonight, or whatever night, if you have time, look up. It’s okay to let your EGO feel insignificant as long as you remember that you are special! And, as grandma used to say, ‘if you ain’t dun nuthin wrong, then you ain’t got nuthin to worry bout’!”
I like places where I can listen to my own thoughts and mute the world’s noise and clutter. This one particular day, I decided to go incognito for a couple of hours so I could dissect a special dinner date. Most other casual dates would not have required a spectacular view in order for me to compose an epiphany, but this one, strangely enough, was that important.
I went out one evening with this girl, a girl I have known for quite some time. She was crimson and clover, a long cool woman in a black dress, and too good to be true. As Elvis Presley once sang, I was caught in a trap, and I could not walk out. I quote song titles and lyrics from those eras of music history because that is what played over the background speakers at the restaurant. Of course I knew the tone for the night was officially keyed in when Otis Redding pleaded with all the potential lovers to try a little tenderness.
My date’s mannerisms struck my senses and sent them into a panicked fury. A thousand milligram Xanax would not have been able to wash away the paranoia she created just by being near the outer rim of my territorial bubble. My heart fluttered like pigeon’s wings. My armpits transferred heat like a greenhouse. My mouth was dry like freshly picked cotton. My knees trembled like I had exercised a thousand squats. My hands fidgeted as I twirled my straw wrapper. The sounds she made with her body, and the way her body carried those effects to my eyes and ears, peaked my curiosity. Her entire silhouette was symphonic, and all I could do was wait and see what the orchestra was going to infatuate me with next.
The candlelit room provided the best filter for us to interrogate one another and jot mental case notes inside our imaginary folders. When she grinned at my attempts to be suave with my one liners or when I tried to tell a joke, her ivory teeth broke the shadows. The flickering flame of the candle sat between us, and we undressed one another with our eyes while the dragon’s eye licked the air and gave us a private dance.
I listened as her fingers fumbled with the worn out menu, her nails grazing and picking at the creases as she flipped the pages. It sounded like a long nailed tiger was trying to find traction on hardwood floors while in hot pursuit of a lean gazelle. When she rubbed her fingerprints over each item on the menu and slowly decided what she was going to devour, I dreamed of being an expert crime scene investigator. I wanted to sprinkle powder, softly brush, then lightly blow where I thought she had left her trademark stamps and hope her trail of victims would lead to me.
When our salads arrived, I watched her politely unfold her silverware. She wiggled around, found her spot in the high top chair, and patted her napkin onto her lap. She brought her glass up to her mouth, and it was beading with sweat. She eyeballed me as she put the straw into her mouth. I watched the elixir slowly define gravity and climb up to her lips. She was the most unique street side magician I had ever witnessed, and I wanted to be a prop for her most grand illusion ever.
With my point of view peaking amongst the interspaced chatter in the room, I studied her like a freshman artist observing the Sistine Chapel for the first time. When she swallowed her food, it was like watching a snake force a bowling ball down its slender, elongated body. When she chewed her lettuce, it was like listening to a trail blazer cut his way through an overgrown jungle with a sharp machete. When she gathered the last bites of food into an organized pile on her plate, it sounded like someone dragging a rake over a mic’ed off piece of tin. Most people would cringe at these sounds, but I was lulled into a trance.
To catch her off guard and put her on the spot, I asked her a question just as soon as she mouthed a piece of food. She held up her finger, answered with the batting of her eyes, and muffled a response. After rushing to chew that bite of food and swallow it, she answered my question and threw one back in my direction as I fed myself. This was our back and forth game of cat and mouse, and I knew what was around the corner, the biggest trap on any special dinner date – dessert.
At the mention of our sweet treat to top off our date, we had to look at one another to see which way the scales were tipped. We decided to order one piece of cake and split it between the both of us. She slowly took her fork, pushed it through the dessert until it made contact with the plate, and gingerly filleted her next bite. The tinging sound of her fork hitting the plate reverberated like a man trying to drive a spike through solid granite. A couple of times, she closed her eyes when the dessert made contact with her tongue. I would fly in behind her fork with mine, sneak off a piece of sweetness, and see what her eyes were talking about.
We ended the date outside the restaurant and not at one another’s apartment door like movies and television shows portray. Neon lights from other street side restaurants and pubs bounced off our faces and filled the dark alleyways. We began to create one of those moments when the second hand of the clock ticks slower for you than it does for other people. Our eyes connected. I wanted a hug. She wanted the same. We wanted to touch, and this embrace was going to allow that. When our puffy jackets collided, it sounded like beached mermaids, wrapped in sleeping bags, rubbing against one another. Her cheek was cold when it touched mine. People walked the sidewalks and laughed, but their sounds were muted. Cars drove by yet were silent. The only sound was her heart playing patty cake with mine.
I came to this mountainside today to think about these sounds I know, the sounds that keep me wondering if there are any surprises left in this world. I know there are and will continue to be if I am still enough to hear their specific hum. Even as I stand here with a mountainside all to myself, the girl from my dinner date has texted me and invited me over to her place tonight. She found a new recipe on Pinterest and wants me to be the guinea pig taste tester. Me, well, I think you already know what my reply was. To make me walk a thinner tight rope than I was currently balancing on, her last text was worded like this :
“I think it’s supposed to rain tonight, and I have a tin roofed back patio. We can sit there, drink wine, and hope Otis Redding, Frank Sinatra, or Etta James has something to sing about.”
I look out over my special place where only the passing wind makes noise. I hear my heart beat. I swallow and hear the internal air rub the sides of my throat. I chuckle to myself and let my laughter disappear in front of me and into oblivion.
These are the sounds I know.
I remember your eyes, and when I looked into them, I swear, it was like I was seeing the lost city of Atlantis for the first time. You were standing in front of me, and it was like your soul and my soul were connected. This was our special place away from the world, and it would continue to be our little secret for as long as we wanted it to be.
I remember you walked over and shushed me by putting your pointer finger over my lips. Your warm breath turned into soft words as they penetrated my left ear lobe.
“Stay for a while,” you whispered and hovered near me. “Please! I need you.”
“Okay,” I replied. “I had no intention of leaving anyway.”
I remember you were more reliable than some things I’ve known my entire life, and I instantly realized how special our connection was. Your love was like feeling the sun from both sides, and your kiss could turn snowflakes into raindrops. When you held my hand and told me everything was going to be okay, for once in my life I believed you. I could tell you were not like the other girls just by the way you wore a fragile smile. Your body sliced the air as you walked in front of me, close enough so I could catch a trace of your perfume. By the way you looked at me from across the room, I could tell your advancing glances were hungry. Our eyes locked onto one another’s like felon’s feet on a chain gang. You realized I knew these things about you, yet you were fine with it because you realized the same things about me.
I remember you were like the moon to me, a distant planet wanting to be noticed while hovering above my head on a cloudless night. The pull of your gravity affected me. The stages you went through over the span of a month were funny to observe. One night, I might get pj pants and a tank top. Another night, I might get no pants and an oversized t-shirt that slightly sashayed over your petite right shoulder. If you ever brought out the black dress and stilettos then I knew to be on the look out because I was in for a long night and a good one at that.
I remember you were always that person that I could never completely figure out. As a matter of fact, you would not let anyone figure you out. You seemed genuine but distant. I wondered about you for the simple fact that you kept yourself hidden from everyone else except me. You were an attractive mystery, and a lifetime of clues would not solve the puzzle that made you, you.
I remember your vulnerabilities. I never shouted them to the world and kept them locked away until you wanted me to use them against you. We promised to never let go of the energy between us because it took us to places that I had never been to before. Transformed, I saw us in a tree filled forest, walking barefooted on moss like carpet. A creek trickled nearby, sweet serenity, and you touched my face. Transformed, I saw us snowboarding down a perfect mountain, a mountain we had all to ourselves. You were bundled in a blanket of white, and you held onto me until your muscles trembled. Your effort delicately painted the sky with a soft brush and set the horizon ablaze, our eternal fire ignited to help keep us warm. Every time I was near you, you caught my eye like a lipstick stained cigarette sitting in a murder suspect’s ashtray.
I can still remember the sound of the ocean waves as the sea breeze blew past my body. One hour turned into a lifetime, and my hands and feet were still cold from where your memories took me.
I remember you. The funny thing is, if you sit around long enough and think about things like I occasionally do, you will remember me too.
Just so you know, I will be there waiting by the line that we drew in the sand and dared one another to cross.
This is me remembering you.
Have you ever thought to yourself and started with the phrase, just the other day?
I have and it carries me back to times of distant past.
Just the other day, I was sitting on this mountain side, staring at this girl and the scenery that panoramically enveloped us. The wind had icy, cold fingers and would try to sneak its hands inside your coat. If one wanted to stay warm, one would have to find open patches of sun kissed earth and bask in its golden delight. A passerby would have thought that I was a voyeur by the way I was snapping pictures of this girl, but she was with me so I could legally creep all I wanted to.
The day was for adventurers only, and I can remember us not wanting it to end. When the breeze stirred through the open plain, her hair slowly tickled her back and danced on invisible puppet strings. We picked out a hillside where our imaginary dream home was located. We thought of different ways that we could leave everything in the old world behind so we could move here. If there was ever a place for us, we knew it had to be in this land. It was that special.
I sat downwind from her, and my senses led me to believe that a bakery or coffee shop was nearby. Her lips smelled and tasted of vanilla bean and peppermint. Her hair carried the scent of freshly crushed coconuts and flower petals. Her skin gave off the aroma of strawberry kiwi and other tropical fruits. She smelled so divine that I waited for her to disappear because I knew she was nothing but a figment of my imagination. This feeling was so special that I knew her worst odors would still emanate magic and unicorn dust. I knew her morning breath would shoot by my awakening nostrils like cotton candy and not fiery dragon’s breath. I knew her sweaty sports bras would shout cherry bubblegum and not lukewarm sardines. I knew her messy morning hair would wrap around me like a nest of freshly roasted hazelnuts and not give off the scent of everyday oily bed head.
As a mountain cut a nearby cloud into two marshmallowy fluffs, I found myself disappearing into time and space. A small hand reached down and interlocked their tiny fingers into mine. Her head nudged up to my shoulder and nestled as though she were bedding down for a long winter’s nap. She let out a sigh then everything went silent. Something special was happening, and I let it. I felt it creep up my spine as each second ticked by with resounding thunder.
She squeezed my hand until I finally looked at her. Her eyes were disguised by big oversized sunglasses and mine were being refrained by classic Wayfarers. For the millionth time that day, her hair danced like freshly thrown Christmas tinsel. The flaps from my beanie rustled against my burly sideburns and stuck to the hairs on my lower chin. She took her thumb and rubbed it over the top of my palm.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“Yeah!” I replied. “Couldn’t be better. Why?”
She smiled and looked in the direction of where our imaginary mountain house was located. A couple of children approached and ran by our overlook. They were quickly silenced by whispered threats from the mouths of their parents for disturbing the peace.
“Just wondering. That’s all!”
She giggled after her response. I smiled back at her.
Just the other day, I was having the best day of my life, and I’ve had a lot of others since then. Just the other day, I picked out the best spot for a forever home. Just the other day, I felt the sun like I’ve never felt it before. Just the other day, time stood still and in a good way. Just the other day, I realized that every day is a good day if you look at it through the right lens.
If you feel like boarding your own time machine, say to yourself, “just the other day”, and see where your mind takes you. The destinations are endless and can be memorable as long as you don’t lose yourself. Everyone has their own way of keeping their mind, body, and soul grounded.
If I close my eyes hard enough and get inside my time machine, a nostalgic feeling starts to wrap around me. I start to smell cucumber melon. Eucalyptus spearmint. French lavender and honey. Warm vanilla sugar. Japanese cherry blossom. Twisted peppermint. Winter candy apple. Sweet pea. Pink chiffon. Midnight pomegranate. Passion fruit.
I take another imaginary whiff just because I can.
Just the other day, I think.
I don’t know what to write.
Seriously, I don’t. When a writer cannot think of anything to write or relate to the reader, one would think that a fiery comet the size of Iowa was currently jetting toward Earth at the speed of sound. So much relies on that connection that one would think that the world was about to implode. I could try and pretend I’m more interesting than I really am or think I am, but who would I be fooling? Would I be fooling you since you barely know me? Would I be fooling myself, considering my own reflection plays tricks on me from time to time? As my father would say when times got tough while running the family business, “a rut, son, is just a grave with two open sides.”
I’ve worked for the family business since graduating college. Long story short, it is a constant challenge and will continue to be as long as I’m involved in it. We have been able to operate the business from a close central location for the past couple of years. There are daily pressures that become very monotonous with each passing day. Sometimes, the relationships between father, son, mother, and sister become strained. When it’s time to put the tools away and enjoy one another’s company, something inside you starts to turn your normal composure into a dark, demonic creature. You find yourself not wanting to see these people. You find yourself not wanting to hang out with these strangers, who are your family, considering one of them fertilized you and the other pushed you through her portal without an epidural (life, what a stage it is). The times when you are not working together, you find yourself wanting to become as invisible as possible. You want to become so isolated and incognito that if you walked through the family cemetery you might discover a headstone with your name on it in the midst of all the others.
Not all family owned and operated businesses comes off as the such, and I realize that. Our job is mentally and physically demanding on our bodies and souls, and one would think that if we did anything other than what we currently do then life would be better for all us. I constantly think to myself as I work my fingers to the bone, why couldn’t the family business be a condom packaging facility or why couldn’t we dress up as clowns, go to birthday parties, and make balloon animals for excited kids? Why couldn’t we test toys or video games for a living or make cake pops and strawberry lollipops all day in a candy factory or bakery? If that was the scenario laid out before us, then one of our worst days on the job would only result in someone getting pregnant or a kid having an emotional breakdown because their inflated dachshund made a loud pop and scared the hell out of them.
As it is with almost every job, I hypothesize that even those scenarios would start to wear thin and get old over time. The boxes that the condoms went in would start to look the same. The birthday parties would have the same underlying theme. One would get tired of looking at toys, holding a controller in their hand, and testing products in order to discover the next big trend. Before long, strawberry lollipops and chocolate cake pops would start to taste as bland as eating a spoonful of self-rising flour. As time slowly aged your brain, you would start to wonder how a grape lollipop or vanilla cake pop would taste and look instead.
I have cursed my job to the high heavens, as I’m sure some of you have also done at some point in time of your life (now is not the time to be self righteous). If you honestly have not, then you must be filled with enough common sense to realize that you possess one of the biggest blessings in life. It has taken numerous trials and tests and expanded periods of time for me to learn some of the lessons that I currently have notched on my belt. I have enough of “those shirts” to fill three Bloomingdale stores.
I knew I had to take a step back from myself, the biggest antagonist of my life, and look at the creature I was becoming when resentment toward my job permeated not only the branches of my tree but also the trunk. After the anger worked its way out of my body, I took a deep breath and looked at myself internally. I didn’t recognize the ungrateful person that looked back at me with ice blue eyes. One, that was not who I was or was raised to be. Two, the person who conjured endless negative thoughts and excuses was definitely not my friend. Three, the person, who thought so pessimistically and victim carded everything, needed to save all that worldly drama for character development in one of his fictional novels.
When I stopped worrying about other people’s erratic behavior and focused on my on, shame began to tickle me with its icy fingertips. A couple of clouds opened (scared to do so considering the angry little beast that was currently stomping about on the Earth), and a faint trickle off light hit me where I stood. What was once rage had now subsided into internal reflection and from that a lesson was learned. It took some time for me to unravel my epiphanies into a single thread, but after I did it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, as well as my soul.
The lesson concerning my job was this:
“It’s not about work or the business as a whole, even though it pays for the bills, personal toys, and vacations. It’s about something more, something deeper, beyond the construct that we see on an everyday basis. It was about the time that we, as a family, were able to spend together while supporting one another. One day, we were not going to be there, as a unit, together, like we currently were. One day, things were going to be different, and we were being allowed to enjoy each other while we could. The calloused hands that once held the business together and carved out its future would one day tremble and shake, and someone else would need to be there to steady the sails of the boat so the captain could rest.”
Sixteen years of going through my menagerie of a mindset, I’ve discovered that you can either be the wobbly vinyl record on the record player or you can be the studio quality music that fills the air and makes you dance. You can be the merry go round or Ferris wheel at the circus, which some people enjoy and rightfully so, or you can be the rollercoaster that takes sharp turns, goes upside down, and finally levels off with hair blowing speed. You can be the protagonist, the antagonist, the flawed hero, the comedic villain, or an equal combination of all of those. The free will choice is yours and always has been.
During this journey of self employment, I have realized that it is hard watching some people age, primarily the people that you love. Some people age with grace and temperance and turn into beautiful flowers and butterflies while others age like a decaying carcass, nagging the earth with stench and flies until nothing but bones remain. The common cliche is and I’ve used it millions of times, “I’m going to age like a fine wine,” and now I think, Okay, good, you go for that, you rebel you. The truth is, nobody but you sees your wine aging because you hold the cork, and no one will appreciate your age until they finally taste you for the first time (metaphorically speaking). What we have to be aware of is to make that first sip as memorable as possible because, after all, the initial impression is the one that sticks to the palate of our brain.
At the beginning of this post, I wrote about not knowing what to write, yet maybe I do and need to give myself more credit. Maybe we all know what we need to write if we sit down long enough with zero distractions, use common sense, look at the world around us, then reflect on who we are as individuals. If enough time passes and we pay close attention to who we were as compared to who we need to be, then we might find the silver lining we all desperately seek. I’ve realized a lot of things in my life, but one thing sticks out the most to me when it concerns the difficulties my family has encountered while managing a business in a world that continues to spiral into utter chaos.
There’s a big difference between the aged and the ageless.
One morning, I was traveling on a road with other weary cavaliers of the pre dawn hours. The jaguar sun was nowhere to be found. Most mornings, he would already be in the sky, prowling the safaris of the far reaching horizon. The blue sky had been erased and painted with the cold, leftover ashes of a once warm fireplace. The winged fowls of nature were scared to fly about in the foreign apparition that had slowly crept in during the night and blanketed everything. A certain feeling of hopelessness prodded my brain because I did not know if everyone had been sucked into a hapless void, leaving me to wander in this strange land all by my lonesome. Was I the only soul footing about in this misty shroud?
My mind continued to roll its calloused fingertips across the hard surface of my soul. I knew there was a wizard somewhere in his high towered castle, looking down on me, stretching his hand and magical staff out over the tree tops. I could hear him casting a spell on the countryside that I was journeying through. The paranoia crept inside my thin suit of armor, and I let the warm wash over me like a toddler wetting the bed in his sleep. With my shield in one hand and sword in the other, I surveyed my surroundings for the winged beast that the crafty sorcerer had sent. They were hunting a vast sea of souls that morning, and I happened to be another piece of flotsam in their black, salty sea. I longed to make safe passage and sailed forward with as much persistence as I could conjure. To be part of the immortal round table, I knew my courage needed to surpass my unwillingness to ignore the fact that I actually possessed it in the first place.
I began to see tiny hints of light coming at me from a distant yonder. For a reason that is only known to those that have danced in a foggy morn of the such, the sight of flickering lanterns calmed my spirit. I continued in my approach and saw boxed candlelights swaying on a weather beaten carriage. My eyes blinked for a split second, and the lanterns that were dangling from the stage coach had transformed into two glassed globes on the front of a model-T. I shook my head, rubbed the dryness from my eyes, and drank the lukewarm bean brew from my witches cauldron. When I refocused my line of sight on the lights of other courageous travelers, they now appeared to be moving about in wheeled transports similar to mine and at the pace of metal horseshoes on slick cobblestones.
I started to curse the morning fog that had been conjured up during the twilight, awaiting the moment when all the travelers would wake from their slumber and be cast into its premeditated spell. For miles on end, I knew the dragon that I was trying to avoid was swooping down and snagging other poor fools who were sneaking through the cleared timber like I was. I knew the black magic wizard was looking down at us from behind his crystal ball, chanting in his archaic tongue, hoping our souls would give him stronger yield in his book of sorcery. I knew my mind had to be sharper than the dull sword I carried. I needed to make my way out of this cloudy mystery before I fell victim to its many perils. There was only one option left for me and other travelers who try to brave this kind of mythical mist. I strapped my aged shield over my back and ran, never once looking back to see how sharp the dragon’s claws truly were.
The weight of the armor made me sound like a tinkling can when I ran on my heels. Each time my knee caps and elbows bent in motion, it sounded as though someone had filled my armor covered body with a couple of heavy stones and pushed me over a mountainside. If anything, I was attracting more attention then I was deterring. I shook my head, rubbed my eyes, and realized that I was no longer a knight in pale armor fleeing mysterious, mystical creatures. In the batting of an eyelash, I was now seated on a stagecoach drawn by horses. I slapped the leather straps on the backs of the thoroughbreds as a gang of bandits rode our tails. The metal shoes on the hooves of the horses clopped harder and harder. One of the wooden wheels hit a rut that had been carved in the blazed trail, almost knocking me off the hard wooden seat I was sitting on. My eyes began to water so I blinked. I soon realized that I was no longer riding on my stagecoach but was now seated in a dated model-T. I swerved the Tinkertoy car left and right, dodging random bullets that were being carelessly shot from behind me. Jars of distilled liquor rattled in my backseat. I wondered how long I had been a notorious moonshiner, trying to escape the lawmen with each shipment that was ready for delivery. I debated drinking some of the devil’s brew to ease my own conscience and burn away my common sense, but something gained my attention in front of me and never relinquished it.
A massive orange globe started to tear through the hazy distance and illuminate my surroundings in a fiery wave of brightness. Minuscule pieces of fog started to evaporate around me. The light unclasped the fog’s clammy grip on the battlefield I was dredging through. My car struggled to claw at the pavement that passed underneath it. I heard a loud jolt while I meandered through the ghostly cloud. The blazing sun was so warm and bright, I hypothesized that I would be reaching its surface in a matter of minutes. Behind me, I could hear the dragon’s wings swooshing near the roof of my car. I could hear the wizard chanting louder and louder as though his increasingly forceful pitch made his spell more effective. I could hear the horses neighing as the wooden carriage they pulled rattled from side to side. I could hear bullets zinging by, bouncing off the outside shell of my car. I clenched my teeth and braced myself. Perspiration grew on my forehead and lower back. I had waited numerous lifetimes for this moment.
When I emerged through the white thickness, I opened my eyes and looked around me. My heart continued to beat a thousand beats a minute. Everything on this side of the fog was functioning like it was the upper echelon of the twentieth-first century. It appeared as though the people in this land were having a normal day of ordinary accordances. I saw travelers heading toward the clouded hell I had just driven through. I debated on trying to stop them from falling on their own sword like I almost had. I mustered enough courage to look in my rear view mirror and see if there were any other survivors emerging with me. That is when I saw something that still haunts me to this day.
In the beams of absolute sunlight, I saw the tail of the dragon slowly slip back into the blanketed abyss. He had snagged another knight and had him clutched in its sharp talons. I saw the sorcerer point his magical staff in my direction and move it around in zig zag motions. The aged wizard swung his ragged tunic around and crept back into the dampening shroud I had survived. I saw horse carriages and stage coaches of innocent pioneers galloping at full pace in hopes the bandits would give up on them and cast their attention on another victim heading in the opposite direction. I saw people brandishing guns while hanging out the doors of model-T and other old fashioned cars. They slammed on their brakes and skidded to an angled halt as they let the moonshiner cross the imaginary line of where their jurisdiction ended and the criminals freedom began.
I wiped tiny beads of fear from my forehead and settled down in my cushioned, four wheeled womb. I cracked my window for some fresh air. The only thing that would bring me back to my senses would be the unadulterated inhalation of oxygen. I looked in my backseat, and I did not see a sword or a shield. There were no lantern lights to hang on my coach. There were no jars of shine that my drunk father and uncle were trying to deliver across state lines. There was only one thing left from my allegory besides the nightmarish memories of my epic thrall that I had been thrown in at such an early hour.
The morning fog.
It would return another day and try to reclaim my soul, and I knew I would have to battle it again in order to survive. The real question was this.
Would I be ready?