A lot can happen in 14 years. A lot can happen in 1 year. A lot can happen in 1 day. To be quite honest, a lot can happen in 3 minutes.
That was how long it took for 12 years to become a footnote. You know what the last two have entailed.
This Human Condition is a fascinating and frightening thing. We were never given any cliff notes. Our ships were built with hands of love or often hands of necessity, and we were set adrift on the fluid surface of this thing we call our Time. It's kind of a like a plastic bottle floating on the ocean. Refuse, if you will. Something that seems inconsequential and yet ultimately defines exactly who you are, while you're busy being it. Only you don't control the surface beneath you. You just hover above it. Carried at the whim of the wind and the tides.
I would like to tell you that life is driven as such. I would like to give you that way out. I cannot, though. Not in good conscience. That is just a description of my tides. That is my excuse. That is what I still, to this day, blame on the waves.
The ugly truth, the honest one, the only real one, proves that cliff notes were never needed. None of us ever required a directory of what to do or what not to do, what to say or what not to say, what to fight for or what to let go of. The ugly truth is actually the most beautiful thing of all. It is Itself.
I write these words because I'm still learning... too. I write these entries because I'm documenting my own discoveries. I only do so in the hopes that perhaps, one day, they may benefit you as they do me Now.
The only thing I really know, and I mean absolutely know for a fact, is that as long as you're floating... it doesn't really matter what destination you have in mind. Odds are good that destination never had you in mind either. Maybe you were never meant to find it and maybe it was never meant to find you.
Maybe nothing is "meant" at all.
What if floating is all we can ever do? Would that upset you?
1. A person without a permanent home who moves from place to place.
2. A vagrant; a tramp.
3. A wanderer; a rover.
I took that name a long time ago. I guess I just liked the sound of it. I added "King" on the end because it just seemed fitting. We all are, as it were, Monarchs of our own destiny. As it turned out I was far better at the former than I was the latter. I had no subjects. We all want subjects... right?
I wish I could give you all the answers. I wish I could scribble out all of the dodges and ducks that you'll need to learn to make your way on this journey. The ugly truth is that I don't honestly think anyone knows them. I don't think there's any way to prepare for them. I think life itself is a wanderer, a vagrant & and a tramp and I think the only way to greet it is with two fists and a thick skin.
We're a beautiful species, we really are. We have the mental capacity to know injustice, to comprehend it, and yet we're also so very adept at ignoring it. Higher learning. We want to progress and yet we only want to do so at another's expense. We bought into the ideas of freedom and hope, faith and trust, but when it comes down to fighting for it... we would sell our own souls down the river to not have to live up to those words.
We will never be an advanced civilization until we no longer require money to define our place in life.
That's why I'm a vagabond king. Not because I know something you don't, but because I know something you do.
I like mirrors. Not because of what they show me but because of what they are.
There was a pond down in the valley behind the house I grew up in. You had to walk through a bunch of locust trees and then you had to wind your way through a pine thicket that was far older than I ever imagined I'd be. Eventually you found yourself at a fence. Mr. Walker owned that fence and the field beyond it. He had quite a few dogs. He had Popper, to be precise. The other dogs were irrelevant to be quite honest.
Popper was a Dalmatian that hated everyone and everything that wasn't him. I'm convinced of this.
If you happened to find yourself lucky, Popper was somewhere on the other south forty. He was few and far between and hopefully well beyond the time it would take you to skirt that fence and run like hell across the alfalfa field. I ran that gauntlet like a Champion more times than I care to count.
Once in the clear, you had to sneak past the turkey coup. No, I have no idea why Mr. Walker had turkeys. They're loud and they alarm themselves so easily. (Yes... intentional)
Regardless, if you were sufficient enough to have overcome such obstacles, you would find yourself at the little stagnant pond that piqued the mere imagination of one little boy who happened to grow up to be your Father.
Now let me tell you about that pond.
It held no beauty other than what it demanded you see in it. It was no bigger than the first trailer I lived in when I first arrived in Georgia... and it was just as ugly, might I add.
But its water was as placid as any I'd ever seen.
Once you'd skirted away the wee bit of pond scum that might float by and once you'd settled yourself over top of that mirror... it gave you exactly what you had come to get. I'm 36 years old and nothing to this day has reflected me better than that little pool of stagnant water on Mr. Walker's property.
I used to drop stones into it, you know. I liked how the ripples would distort my reflection for a bit.
I never really gave a shit where they were washing ashore. The ripples, I mean. I never really cared if they carried a bit of my image or not.
It's funny to think about now. You know, realizing that your own reflection never defined you at all. It was always the ripples. They were what mattered. They ferried you across the pond, as it were. They impacted what you couldn't see. They had no choice.
This is why I love the Fall and what it means. When I was 8 years old my Father took me fishing for the first time. We went a ways up North Creek. I'd seen it before. It wasn't too far away from the hunting cabin that I'd haunted on occasion. Triple Oak Lodge. It was a little log cabin that had to have been close to 100 years old. In truth, it was 123. I digress.
Jennings creek was far more accessible but North Creek had the Big Fish, or so I was told. As such, that is where we went.
I remember my Father rigging my line with some odd contraption that involved a hook and some small egg things from a glass jar. They were bright orange. That much I recall.
He told me to cast upstream and wait for it to drift by. He said I would hook a lunker. I wasn't exactly sure what a "lunker" was but it sounded cool as shit.
I didn't hook said "lunker". But I did see that little orange ball swim by, often.
Still, I kept casting upstream because my Daddy (your Poppy) said that's what I should do. And if anyone knew what in the hell I was doing, it was my Father. Because I surely didn't.
At some point, and I can't recall the exact moment, I grew weary of the instruction. I began tossing the line out here and there. Willy Nilly (as I was later told). On one particular cast my little orange ball stopped floating by. It decided to hover around a rather obtuse rock. It kind of dangled, to be honest. Dangling in the current. It was a bit perplexing to an 8 year old.
But then I saw that maple leaf.
While I was worming around with my pole and furrowing my eyebrows, I caught a glimpse of a leaf that had finally let go. It was to my right, that much I recall. It wallowed in the breeze for a bit and then found it's new home on top of the water.
The stream, brook, or river, description completely dependent upon your interactions with running water... gladly accepted this leaf. Personally, I don't think it really cared. Secretly, I think it mattered above all things. I fight with myself about that memory often. Who was smarter? The leaf or the water? Immortal questions.
What I do know, though, is that the leaf in question nestled into the current and found its ride. I know that because I saw it do so. I was 8. But I saw it do so.
It followed the current until an obstacle arose (it's called a rock). It hit that obstacle. It stayed there. Far too long for an 8 year old's attention span, in my humble opinion, but it stayed.
Eventually, it let go. Eventually, it moved on. Eventually.
Now, common sense and logic would tell you that friction, pressure & resistance are what held that leaf there. That is probably true.
But to an 8 year old... maybe it was just Patience. That mystical entity I lacked. Maybe.
My little orange ball of bait didn't have that patience. To my knowledge it's probably still stuck. Shimmying in the current.
At least I hope it is.
Maybe I should go check. I've probably been patient enough. :)
(By the way... that isn't a stock photo. That's actually North Creek. Want to see it for yourselves? I'm game.)
Life is a lot like a set list. You hammer it out with your friends, coming to grips with what you think will or won't sound good to those listening, and then you go out and do it.
Most of the time the first song is OK. There might be a few hiccups in the road but you muscle on through. You know you're not quite up to hitting those high notes or slamming that down beat hammer, but it's all good. You can fake your way through the hard parts. Sure enough, by the fifth tune, you're in your groove. You know exactly where this show is going to go.
Eventually you hit the intermission. Nobody ever wants to hit an intermission but we all expect it. People need a bit of a break, as it were.
When you start the second half of the set it all seems so foreign. Alien, even. The oscillation isn't quite oscillating as you intended. The waves are crashing more than they are flowing. It's a bitch.
You chalk it up to the fact that you're playing someone else's shit. If you were playing your own, well, you'd probably be just fine. That's how you rationalize it. It's uncomfortable. It's a bit annoying. It's embarrassing to say the least.
Then it hits you. You might be playing someone else's shit... but you're the one playing it. That makes it your shit for that brief moment in time. See, people don't really care who they see singing what they want to hear. They only care that what they hear sounds like who they want to see singing.
It's in that moment that you give every ounce of yourself to make it worthy of a smile. Ears fade. Thoughts fade. Smiles linger.
You just make sure you realize that when the stage goes dark and when all the pretty women & men have gone home, the only sibling left to the ringing in your ears is the gentle acceptance that for once, and possibly, the only time in your life... you played.
For the first 34 years of my life I was obsessed with Things. I wanted to acquire them. I wanted to own them. I wanted to present them to anyone who might want to question whether I had any Thing.
I worked so hard to make money so that I could spend that money and populate my life with the possessions that money bought me. I upgraded from a trailer to a small house and then to a bigger house. I put as many things as I could into each. I stuffed those homes full with all I could. I choked them.
When you two came along, I doubled my efforts. I acquired as much as I could. I put every toy available into your rooms. I put every color I could imagine on your walls. I put every article of clothing that was fashionable on your bodies.
"Fashionable". I'm so very ashamed of that now.
When the world turned to shit and I knew that my life had not only hit a speed bump, but that the speed bump I'd hit had indeed dislodged my ride from the road, I gave it all away.
All of the furniture, all of the clothing, all of the toys left behind. Even that big house. I gave it all Away.
Looking back, I could have made so much money by selling those things. I could have secured myself with a better foundation for the "beginning again" that I was to endure. Yes, I could have done that.
I'm so glad I did not.
I've never owned anything I wasn't willing to part with and not lose sleep over having done so, since then. The true irony though is that we never really own anything. It's all just fodder. It's all just placement. It's all just distraction. It's all a mirage.
The only things you truly own are a breath and memory. The last two possessions you'll ever hold in this Thing we call life.
When I first moved to your hometown, I was an alien.
I didn't know where I was, where I was going, or where I might end up. But I did know who I was and what I could do.
It used to piss your Mom off so much, but long before you two were born I would talk her into taking rides with me every Saturday morning. Long rides into wherever we ended up. Journeys.
She always told me I was insane. She was probably right.
We would get in the truck and follow asphalt. It really didn't matter where it led nor where it intended to lead us. We would find roads, lanes, valleys, highways, anything really. We would just drive.
I especially loved it in the Fall. With the windows down and the early morning sun snaking its way across the road, it always felt like goodness. Seeing people living their lives in their front yards. Getting stuck behind an old farmer on his tractor who waved at you when you sped up to pass him on a straight stretch. These were, are still, and will forever be... good things.
I've always done that. I still do. I always will.
I'll tell you a secret that most folks would never admit... sometimes you have to get lost to figure out where in the hell you actually are.
Always go and find where you're going. Never wait for where you're going to come and find where you are.
I spent a lot of time being afraid of what might come. Far too much time, honestly. I masked that fear with a saying that I stole from a film. "So Be It". I owned it, used it, abused it, and eventually believed it.
Thank God that I did.
I am not old enough nor experienced enough to tell you everything you'll ever need to know. I am not wise enough nor patient enough to give you the insight you'll need to get by. But I pretend I am and I pretend I am. I think that's what matters.
Those things you'll end up worrying about, do not really matter. Those things you'll lose sleep over, do not really exist. They're all mechanisms we use within our own minds to make our lives seem worthwhile. They're tactics we employ to convince ourselves that we have something to figure out, to solve, to overcome. As if those solutions might somehow give us meaning.
They're tricks that we play upon ourselves to fill up our empty cups, when we have no water to pour.
You have to see the World as it truly is. You have to see it as a dysfunctional machine that somehow functions.
Suspend your disbelief only long enough to understand that what you believe cannot be suspended. Who you are cannot be replicated. Who you'll be has not yet been written.
You can only change your world once you realize that no one else could ever dare change it in spite of you.
It is all about perception. That is what "So Be It" means, as it were.
It is all about what you see.
And I know what you see. You may have gotten your Mother's hair, her stature & even her disposition. You may have inherited her religion, her mannerisms & even her apathy.
I see a world full of quiet people, hopeful people, people waiting to to find an answer that has already been answered. I see a world full of people that have all of the tools and abilities it will take to save themselves and everyone they rub elbows with. I see a world so full of wonder and beauty that even blindness has to blink.
I see a world that is rich and waiting. I see a world that you see.
The day I left home, the room I grew up within had walls painted white.
That was due to my having sullied them in my teenage endeavors.
When your old Man was a young Man, he made everyone who came into his room write something, anything, on his wall with permanent marker. The wall meant something. It was 1992... before facebook.
You see, everyone that I ever loved or cared about picked up the stick and wrote what they felt. They wrote what they wanted to say. Unabashed, unaltered, unending. They wrote what they desperately wanted the world to know they had to say.
It was beautiful.
When I left home I had to paint over it. I had to make it presentable again. It took 3 buckets of white paint.
But you know what?
Their words are still there. Buried beneath my whitewash. Hiding beneath the roller and hours and cussing. All of their words are still there. Their sentiments are still strong. Yes, they're buried beneath a couple of coats... but that doesn't render their message obsolete. That doesn't strip them of their intent.
It just means that sometimes you have to dig a little bit to understand what a room is trying to Say.
Life is a Room.
Don't paint over what it's trying to tell you.
Oh... by the way... The greatest quote someone once wrote on that wall was simple, crude, but incredibly to the point.
"You better live life wide ass open. If you don't... you'll end up living life wide ass open."
If you knew how many wishes I bestowed upon that poor piece of machinery, you'd laugh.
Still... there is a sneaking part of me that believes that quiet little whispers, whispered in quiet little moments, aren't just hovering around some random mountain while quietly waiting to find a forehead to kiss or an ear to whisper into.
There is a sneaking part of me that thinks life is a little bit bigger... and smaller than that.
There is a sneaking part of me that honestly believes...
When I was a kid, I would lay back in the cool summer grass and look at the nighttime sky. I would see airplanes, satellites, and various other refinements make their way across the big black spotted dome above me. It's one of my fondest memories.
I grew up in the Shuttle Age of space flight, long after the pioneers & rogue volunteers had launched their way into history, strapped atop nothing more than a damn missile. Now that's not to take away from those who ferried their way into the great beyond aboard the Shuttles.
I do recall what happened to the Challenger. 6th grade. Mrs. Wade turned the TV off when the booster rockets ran away to find their own piece of blue.
I wept openly and without pride, doing so amongst my peers. As did my peers do so around me.
I did so once again when I staggered, bleary eyed one Saturday morning, into the living room to see the slowest shooting stars I'd ever seen at daybreak, quietly make their way across a Texas sky.
Still... my enamor and reserve were always kept solemn and stoic for the Apollo Boys.
I so wish I could have experienced those days. The days in which we, as a country, Did because we Could. Because we Wanted To. They were latter day Outlaws to the heavens.
The Mercury & Gemini Programs had come before, assuring the financiers that we wouldn't (probably) kill ourselves, and thus we banded the few together and pushed them into the sky. Those rockets should have had balls hanging off their asses.
Everyone has heard about Apollo 11 and Apollo 13, but I want to tell you about another Apollo.
Your Father's favorite of all.
They were the first triple threat that went up. Not long after the fire. 10 days in orbit, making sure the orbiter didn't have too many flaws, hoping to God the engineers had it all figured out.
Schirra, Eisele & Cunningham.
They were a pain in the ass to CAPCOM. They bitched about everything. In truth, that was their job. They were test driving a vehicle that couldn't be driven back to the shop if the A/C stopped working.
They railed on the food, the ride, and the fact that Schirra got a cold.
But... because of them... future Astronauts had helmet visors, better meals & the undivided attention of Houston.
Sadly, they were blackballed from future flights. I always found that shameful on the part of our Government. Well, one of many things.
Last July I got to see the Apollo 7 reentry module. I got to touch it's crippled & sculpted heat shield. I got to hold the heavy metal in my hand.
It was a good day.
It reminded me that where we think we can go is no where near where we might end up if we try to go Somewhere.
The Universe if FULL of Life. So are You.
Don't ever let anyone tell you the sky is the limit.
When I was a senior in High School I had the greatest teacher ever.
It was 6th period. The last class of the day. Ironically enough, in the last classroom on the right, down the freshman hall.
Mrs. Adcox was her name.
She was my English teacher.
In her room there was an incredibly, ridiculously, atrociously thick dictionary that stood on a pedestal.
Every day when I slugged my way into class and dumped my backpack on the floor next to my desk, I would go over to that big ass book and flip it open, albeit randomly, to a page. I would close my eyes and press my finger down on that exposed bit of paper.
If I already knew the word my finger had found, I would repeat the ritual.
It amused Mrs. Adcox.
She asked me why I did it.
"Because as long as I could do this, I'll never know everything it has to tell me".
That was my answer. Honest to God. Every time she asked me.
I honestly believed that. I honestly still do.
She would smirk and go on about prepping for the lesson. To this day, she's one of the hand full of teachers I truly am grateful for having been around.
You are not inherently special. There is nothing about you that sets you apart from any other biological form on this planet, save another's whim. You require oxygen to breath, sustenance to consume, and water to swallow to survive. By all accounts, you're simply a dependent creature who worships their environment for the blessings of those things that sustain you, those things that give you another moment. Just like the ants you step on.
But that does not mean that you are not capable of mattering.
And it certainly does not mean that you're better than all of those other, inherently, ordinary things...
I have known assholes and I have known saints. Their differences are often so insignificant that the only telling point to be found is in how they say your name.
Your Father knows both creeds. He knows them well. He's been both. Quite often, at the same time.
If I could turn back the hands of time, wrestle them to the ground and push them into the dirt, I would imagine that I would pick a side. I would imagine that I would choose an allegiance. I would imagine that I'd be valiant enough to decide.
But both I & Cher know I can't.
I kill me.
Did that joke fail?
Are you feeling what I'm telling you here?
You're either liquid or you're frozen.
0.01 Celsius is a place you can never be... for Good.
(P.S. Doesn't Anders look kind of... I dunno... like Julia Roberts? Weird, yea? Hell, maybe he just forgot his chapstick that day. = Things that run through your Daddy's mind.)
I want you to look at this picture. Simply look. I don't want you to see it. Seeing something is not the same as looking at it. Seeing implies that you divulge something from what you see. Believe me... I just want you to look.
Look at this picture. Granted, you'll immediately find your Father. Next, if you're as twisted as I, you will find the juvenile humor in the sign placement. Granted, all of that is hilarious to me, but I don't want you to see it. I want you to look further.
If you look, you'll find something out of place. That fuzzy little bit in the bottom left hand corner.
That's a Pal.
Someone who has endeared (endured works here as well) themselves with you to put up with your childish whims, your broken moments, and your lowest gasps. Someone who has seen your naked ass running into the Atlantic Ocean at midnight, even if you felt upstaged by people half your age, and still held the towel for when you emerged from such a foolish endeavor.
We're such an intriguing species. We're capable of such compassion, such honest devotion to one another, to the point where the single, most precious gift we all carry has been given back for another. So beautiful in that respect. So pure.
We're also capable of such devastating cruelty. So adept at singular survival that the imagination is boundless beneath the thought of that capability. So desperate for another gulp of air that we would destroy for it. Even ourselves, if it meant another could never inhale it outside of our presence.
It perplexes me to the point of languish. Not because I don't understand it... but because I do. I'm both. Just like you. Just like each of us.
Contrary to what you'll hear countless times over, life is not a journey. A journey has a beginning, a path, and an ending. Life is not like that. Life is a perpetual state of moments. Simple, definable instances wherein we realize who we are, what we are, and what we're doing. It is not a road. It is a rest stop. Life is a whole bunch of "Now". Nothing more, Nothing less.
What that means is that the best you can be, the best you can do, the most goodness you can find, and the most goodness you can give... has to be given Now. Right now. Not tomorrow. Tomorrow will never exist. Not Yesterday. Yesterday died a violent death. Right now is all you'll ever have. A perpetual state of Now. An immortal loop, an unending ride, a wild and restless state of absolute awareness. Every day, with every breath, you're defining Here. You're defining You in the mind of those around you.
People are remembered all the time. That's not hard to accomplish.
You make sure you're not Forgotten... for a little while, at least. ;)
Your Father has not always been the virtue. He's not always been the vice. He's always been somewhere between both of those things.
He's not unique in that. He's the bell curve. He's Soy Happy Vacant. Like Everybody Else.
But I'm your Father.
So listen this time.
Life is fucked up. There are days when we fall asleep content and fulfilled and there are days when we don't fall asleep at all. We all set out on this journey without a map, without a course of guidelines, without a damn compass, even.
Regardless, we all set out. We had no choice.
I want to tell you about a stream. It meanders just north of here. It pushes up out of the ground and cascades its way over rocks and drops. It pushes everything it has ever been, down. Gravity makes sure of that. It constantly tries to find its way. That is its purpose. That is what it does Best.
But it is so much more pure than you will ever be. And it has no will.
You can't waste your time trying to be like that stream. You'll never achieve that. The best you can do is try to be the leaf that floats atop it, finding its own way down.
You'll end up stuffed up against a piece of limestone, that's a given. You'll end up mired in a pool of stagnant muck, that's a given. You'll end up clinging to a piece of bloated wood, that's a given.
But eventually all of those things will give way and you'll find yourself swift with intention.
So don't worry about the muddy shore, the proud stone, the circling pool, or the broken branches.
In the end you'll either wind up a dried out fragment of what you once were, on some creek bank, or you'll end up bloated and slowly tearing apart... beneath the crushing depths.
Both are Honorable Ends... as long as you appreciate the Ride.
Ever After never cared about You... so don't care about It.
I want you to see this. I know it's pretty but I want you to See It. I want you to realize, recognize, rationalize, and be humbled at how insignificant and isolated and how profoundly beautiful you Are.
I want you to know that those fragile little beats, of that fragile little heart, in that fragile little body, on this fragile little globe, in this fragile little galaxy, amidst this ever after Universe... mean Everything.
Because without those beats, without that heart, without that body, without this globe, without this galaxy, and without this ever after Universe... those fragile little beats wouldn't Be.
I want to tell you something. Something you need to hear but won't enjoy learning.
When your Mom left, over the course of that year and a half where you were shuttled back and forth, every week, to spend seven days with Me and seven days with Her, I got lonely.
I've heard it said that the nights are the toughest but that wasn't the case for me. The nights were the easy part. The mornings were the misery.
When you wake up in a house that once was a home and the rooms sit vacant and apathetic to your gaze, your mind entertains itself with all sorts of fancy. What could I have done, what could She have done, what could We have done, etc.
There is nothing more emptying to see than a child's bed unoccupied and sounds of that child vacant throughout the house when a Father wakes in the morning. It's crushing. It's absolute.
During the weeks when you were gone I would pass my evenings drinking alcohol, as much as I could hold in. It made time vanish. It made me hope. False dreams built upon a very real catalyst. Eventually, I would bid the night adieu and find rest on the couch. I never slept in the bed after your Mom left. It felt foreign to my skin.
On particularly tough mornings I would listen to Kris Kristofferson's music while I prepared for the day and fantasize about what life would not be like if I were here. The 38 that my father gave me when I moved to Georgia became a constant companion. I always had it nearby. Just waiting for that moment of acceptance, I suppose. Waiting to wave goodbye to the walls.
Obviously that moment never arrived. It tried to, I think, but I always found a reason. Two, actually.
The funny thing about a gun, something I never really knew, is that if you hold a gun without intent... it's just like holding anything else. But if you hold a gun with intent... it gets so damn heavy in your hand.
I think that's because you're not just holding a weapon but you're holding your entire life.
I say all of this because I made a promise to myself when both of you were born that I would never, ever, lie to you about who I am. I have not. I will not.
I want you to know that sometimes it's OK to give up. Sometimes it's OK to lose.
Sometimes, for reasons unknown to you, foreign even, people come into your life for a reason. It could be a stranger on the street, it could be a marketer on the phone, it could even be a glance into the eyes of an occupant in a passing vehicle.
I think there is a reason for it.
I'm not invoking religion nor any preordained manifest destiny, I just think that the Living knows far more about itself than those that Live it do.
Life may be God, as it were. Or maybe... God is Living.
Between you and I, I don't think Purpose ever felt comfortable being defined. If it feels wrong not to... then do it.
The only thing you'll lose by not doing so is the wondering... and we all hate and love wondering.
I met someone when I was eight years old. He was the first blind person I had ever encountered.
I'd seen him at church every Sunday.
I knew instinctively that he was blind because he had a stick that he tapped before him and because everyone led him around by the arm. It intrigued me, as it would intrigue any young child, and I'd often wanted to ask him what it was like. A bit macabre, I suppose, but it was in the honest vein of innocent youth.
I got my chance one warm, spring Sunday. He happened to be standing near the front steps of Enon Baptist Church in Hollins, Va. That was where I went as a child. Your Gammy ferried my Sister and I there every weekend... religiously. :)
It took a little time, but eventually I worked up the courage to go over and say "Hi".
"Michael, isn't it?" He replied to my "Hi".
"How'd you know?" I asked.
"I thought I saw you running around." He smiled.
"But you're blind" I blurted out rather mindlessly and, looking back, rather rudely.
"That's true" He replied, "But it's never stopped me from seeing what I see."
He had a wide grin. I remember that.
"What's it like not being able to see?" I asked, with the purest of intentions.
"I can see everything!" He chuckled.
"How?" I asked.
"Look at the road. Down there, at the end of the parking lot. Look at that road and tell me what you see." He smirked.
I looked down at the road, which was nothing more than a road, and replied "Uh, it's a road".
"Alright" He chuckled, "And what else do you see?".
"Just a road." I replied, rather honestly.
"Are there no cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles?" He quizzed, around the time I heard the motorcycle slipping past.
"Well, yea." I answered.
"Do you see anything else?" He asked.
"Not really" I replied.
He was rather intriguing to an eight year old boy, and frankly, a bit annoying in his persistence.
"There aren't many clouds today." He said. "Do you know how I know?"
"How?" I asked. Knowing full well that he was right.
"Because the sun is warm on my forehead and I'd imagine it sits high in the sky. That tells me two things. One: There are shadows stretching across that road that you did not See. And Two: I'd imagine the rain earlier this morning is throwing reflections right back at you, if you can find the puddles." He charmed.
He was right. When I looked at the road again, I didn't only see a road. I saw the asphalt. I saw the yellow lines snaking down its center. I saw the glimmer of sunlight bouncing off of the shallow puddles of water. I saw the long shadows of the scattered trees stretching with all their might across it. I saw the vehicles glancing by and the colors each held. I saw the people in those vehicles, their faces briefly bright, then blurred.
"Wow" I recall whispering.
"And you thought I was the one who was blind!" He chirped.
I've never forgotten him. I never will. His name is Henry Boitnott. Guess what he does for a living?
One day, not far off, you're going to ask me that question. You're going to ask me that question that I have feared since September 5th, 2009.
You're going to ask me why I Went.
One day you'll love someone so much that you can't breath. It'll probably happen often. It'll probably happen so often that eventually you'll think yourself a fool. And you will be one. But there isn't anything wrong with that.
Your Father has always been far too emotional. He's always had too much of that drug dumped into his veins. He's always wrapped himself around the pulse that passion pushes through. It's one of his many, many, faults. He clings when he should release, he recalls when he should forget, he hopes when he should not.
I would love to consider it a character flaw but I don't actually think it is. I think it's an attribute that hasn't found its way to the surface just yet. Or maybe I personify it with that very sentiment.
I'll stand guilty of that. It feels wrong not to.
I Went because I wouldn't have been a very good Dad if I'd stayed.
If I believed in a soul, I would have sold mine so very long ago. I'd have sold it for the life of a house fly. One that buzzes around your room. One who lights on your wall and watches you live.
I became brittle. I'm stronger now.
I have more good days than I do bad. That's the motion of the child learning to walk again. That's the flow of your Father's river.
Beautiful People who come into my life, I push away. I let fear define my hope. That's a sin that your bible never mentioned. But I'm working on it.
I think I'm winning.
When the nights get cold and I find loneliness, or loneliness finds me, I have two pictures that look at me. I fall asleep with them beside my head. 4 eyes, 2 heads.
I never thought it would take me this long. I never dreamed I would let yesterday define my today in such a manner. Tomorrow bleeds through, though.
I found it courtesy of the internet wayback machine... which apparently cataloged those things I put up on vagabondking.com back when I had high ambitions (and low creativity).
I was portraying Jesus in a passion play that year and on a whim I decided to dye (or streak) my hair blonde. I fondly recall the Preacher saying "Jesus never had blonde streaks!". And I fondly recall responding "You knew him?".
Hence why I never portrayed Jesus in the years that followed. You can ask your Nannie in Georgia all about that.
But this was your Father, several years before either of you were born.
I recall your Mom loving my hair, then hating it, then begging me to cut it, and then lamenting that I'd complied.
Your mind will build life up to be more than it is. You will fashion castles and oubliettes and you will sequester yourself withing both. For a season.
That is human nature. That is how we reconcile our breath. That is how we absolve ourselves of all things. That is how we justify the beating of our hearts. That is what will make it all... OK.
It will never truly make sense, the living, I mean. Some would call it a journey and I suppose that is true to some extent, but it's more of a passage. A journey often dictates reason and purpose. Life isn't either of those things. It's happenstance. It's simply It. Like a passage. It doesn't ask you to use it nor travel through it. It simply exists because it has nothing better to do. In a sense, it's waiting. On You, more often than not.
People will forget what you said and they will forget what you did... but they will never forget how you made them Feel.
Be better than Me.
We're stitched together in a matter of moments. We're quilted with blinks, breaths, smiles, & tears. We're patterned from words, deeds, acts, & intentions. We're a blanket of moments. Nothing more, nothing less.
I don't have the words to define it. I don't have a lyric to describe it. I'd love to say it was once not this way but that would be a lie.
I won't lie to you.
I hope whatever creeps in me never crawls across you. I hope this part of your Dad never found its way into your breath.
I've never understood it. I see so much beauty every day, so much life & hope. I see it. But it all fades. It always fades away before the sun ever finds a reason to settle behind the hill.
I want to grab those last few rays of light and wrestle them in. I want to slingshot myself over the mountain, into the bright, blind brilliance of squinting. I've tried for so long. They always slip through my fingers.
I would sell my soul one thousand times over to hold you. Just to feel your flesh and bone in my hands. Just to smell your hair and see you Blink. Both of You. My only two little moments of absolute perfection. My only notions of goodness.
I don't know what the future holds.
I don't know why some people are broken, some are patched, others are mended, and others yet are whole.
I Hurt. I don't want to hurt any longer.
I hope this never makes sense to you, because if it does... I'll have failed.
Be better than Me. Ignore the 13:13 that the clock never lets you see.
You & your Brother were fast asleep, the distant sounds of Scooby Doo falling on ears that had long since retired. I pulled your covers up, kissed your foreheads, and quietly closed the door. I then went where I go when I feel at peace with the world.
The sky was a menagerie of lonesome clouds and winking stars. My kind of night.
I stood on the front stoop enjoying the unseasonably warm air and lamented on the Saturday looming ahead. Everyone loves the weekend, I know. I just don't like the weekends when you have to go back, I suppose.
Leaning against the porch post, watching the little valley below rise and fall, I felt the incredible need to reach my hand out and steal a little moonlight.
That's when I heard that tell-tale click.
The door behind me opened and you wandered out.
"Daddy? Are you out here?"
"Yea, Baby. Are you OK?"
"Yea, just can't sleep."
"I'm sorry. It's warm, you can come out here with me."
"What are you doing, Daddy?"
"Honestly? Just trying to hold a little moonlight in my hand."
"Can I do that?"
"Well, you can try."
And you did.
We stood there for several minutes, watching the light that came from our sun bounce off the moon and find a little bit of rest in our milky palms.
If I could write a letter to someone that matters to me, one of which I knew the universe had no choice but to deliver, it would probably read something like this...
To Whom it may Consider,
Do me a favor. When you find yourself alone, scared, insecure, & angry at a summer camp you never wanted to go to... just enjoy the fishing. Don't pick on Brad simply because he can't shoot a free throw as well as you. Don't throw that spitball in Ms. Callahan's English class. If you do end up throwing that spitball, don't lie about it and run away to 6th period. She'll find you. Again.
Don't kiss Carolyn with your eyes open. It was your first one. It was worth not seeing. Save any tapes you & your cousin ever record music on. Save the tape that has the weird ghost sounds, too. For good measure.
Don't spit gum in Johanna's hair. Kiss her instead. To hell with Brian and his Norwegian attacker.
Don't fire the bb into the car window at Pizza Hut. Bad move. Make sure you wear the necktie with your t-shirt to the Salem baseball game. Great move.
Make sure you stand up and applaud after seeing Natural Born Killers in the movie theater. Yes, the rest of the folks (including your date) will stare at you. Just go with it.
Don't lie about being born in Romania... you vampire obsessed idiot.
Make sure you motion someone over after watching the movie "Singles" in Salem. Once you have... don't fuck it up.
Confess to Ben that you were the one who shit-bagged his front door, and consequently (albeit accidentally) his doorbell, thereby causing his father to come out at 3AM to clean the gunk out so it would stop ringing. It's shameful to blame it on John. Granted... it was fun to do so. But don't.
Spend as much time with Ben as you possibly can once you graduate. He won't be here forever.
When satellite radio is finally invented and you finally get around to "renting" it... dance around in your boxers to the Hair Nation channel. Often.
If you don't kiss Rhonda in the Goodwill parking lot, I'll never forgive you.
Never. Get. A. Perm. Even if your Mom is a hairdresser and you're in sixth grade in 1986. Defy! Rage & Defy!
Hug Tommy every chance you get.
When your Granddaddy pretends he's going to steal one of your fries at the Dairy Queen in Crewe, Va... let him. He's earned more than your fry, kid. It'll probably put him to sleep again. For good.
Make sure you remember how your Grandfather's voice sounded. Both of them.
You had better tell Nannie you love her every single chance you get. God knows she loves you more than you deserve.
I'm sure you think you're a bottle rocket. Well, you are.
When you get the bright idea to paint a mural on the wall of your newborn daughter's room, don't paint a forest and fountain. Paint the stars above. She'll dig that. Trust me.
Never try to talk Chappy into a river ride on his one man raft. He'll miss throwing you the life line, you'll miss catching it, and you'll both end up losing the raft. Thankfully, not your lives.
Never tell your Mother any of this.
Love more often than you Hate. Live more often than you Die. Believe in yourself more often than you do Not.
And one final request...
Dude... Chill Out. Just breathe. Say "So Be It"... again.
Mean it... as Usual.
The sun will still rise.
P.S. You'd be wise to mark this letter "Return to Sender".
P.P.S. Laugh at people who use P.P.S. It's hilarious.
When I was a boy your Poppy used to make me go with him, deep into the National Forest, and cut Wood.
I never enjoyed it. It was always the same repetitious method. He would cut the tree down, saw it up into logs, and I would carry each dismembered being to the truck. We did this all afternoon.
When we finally filled the bed of the truck we would drive home and he would back that truck up to the barn. He would then climb out, point at the load and say, well, "Stack it".
I would then spend all of Saturday evening emptying the truck of the wood he had cut. I would grapple with two or three pieces and lumber then over to the woodpile (You'd better grin at that pun). I'm pretty sure that's where I learned to curse.
Did I mention this all occurred near the end of Summer?
It wasn't until the lingering arms of Fall fell across my face that we went out to split what we'd defiled.
He would have me set the logs up on a stump and then he would swing his heavy axe and split the wood. He would do this two or three times... to every log. It annoyed me to no end. Chopping wood. Good lord.
In the end he would have made three or four pieces out of each log.
Then.... you guessed it... I had to stack them all over again.
This was called "feeding the fireplace" or so I was told. In my opinion we were just cutting wood. Or more to the point, HE was cutting wood and I was stacking it. Repeatedly.
Personally, I called it Hell but I never enlightened your Poppy to my thoughts.
As it turned out... I'm kind of glad we did that. It was what gave us heat when the nights grew cold. Those logs that we'd (or "He'd") chopped into split ends, were fed into the fire of the stove. Those logs that I'd stacked so begrudgingly, and then carried even more begrudgingly back to the house, kept Me Warm.
I find it ironic now... considering the days I went out and cut the same wood, in a different state, and stacked the same wood, in a different place, so that You would feel warmth as well.
The burden of my childhood no longer seems as such a burden, but a necessary passage. For when I realized I was no longer a child, I also realized I had children of my own.
But you're going to have to learn that on your own.
One of these day's we'll have a fireplace to feed.
P.S. For the record, chopping wood is so much more fun than carrying it to the truck.
3. Something having two parts, units, or members, especially a playing card, the face of a die, or a domino with two pips.
4. A two-dollar bill.
I want to tell you about two people. One of which you were able to meet. The other, I hope, you'll be able to meet through Me.
Your cousin Tommy was always my hero. He was six years older than I. He was the reason I now and forever will love the Duke Blue Devils, the Indianapolis Colts, VW Bugs, & Quiet Riot.
I can't explain that last one either.
He taught me how to play football. He taught me how to sprint. He taught me how much it hurts to lose a member of your Family.
He was no Saint. He wasn't even related to you by blood. He and his Sister were adopted by my Aunt & Uncle long before I was even born. That did not make him any less my Cousin though. It did not make him any less my Family. Any less Your Family. Any less Your Cousin.
He was murdered on a lone stretch of a South Carolina Interstate Road... with a shovel... for 300 dollars.
The man who took his life is now Free.
Tommy is the left half of a two-dollar bill.
I know a part of you remembers Mason.
You were lucky enough to see him one time. He was sitting in his bouncy seat at your Aunt & Uncle's home several years ago. He was hooked up to modern technology. Tubes & wires making sure his lungs did their job, making sure his kidneys didn't have to do their own.
He smiled at all three of us one time. Just once. He lived for four months on this earth.
Nature took his life and it continues to be Free.
Mason is the right half of a two-dollar bill.
The ironic thing about two-dollar bills is this... they just aren't worth very much. Not many people care about them. Their value, in the public eye, is null.
I don't know what happens when the human body dies. I don't know what the mind goes through. I'll know one day, as will you, but not this day. I'd like to think that we evolve but I just don't know that for certain. There is nothing left but molecules and matter. Nothing but a clod of dirt. Nothing that ties us to our vessels, save the countenance that those who look upon us relish and recall.
I do know that whatever made us US, leaves. Call it a soul, a spirit, a being, mere consciousness, what have you. Whatever it is... Goes.
I don't know where. I like to think it goes Everywhere.
Two-dollar bills don't have that luxury. They're no longer in circulation.
What that means, at least to me, is that when you come across them... however infrequently... you should hold on to them.
I drive to and from work on 80 miles of back roads. 40 each way. And by back roads, I mean those roads that don't have any yellow paint. Those roads that hug cow pastures, corn fields, untamed wood & quiet little homes that seek no more attention than the random dandelion that blurs its way by. Those roads that, on occasion, don't mind being anything more than the earth itself.
I find my solace along that asphalt, along that gravel, along that dirt. I find peace in the sleeping hills and snoring mountains. I find a moment of grace and clarity in the cold, quenched breath of the early morning light as it creeps its way across the pine and oak. Stealing its way into the moss & fern.
When the day is done and my work is temporarily put on hold, I lose myself in the fading golden shadows of a setting sun. It always finds a way to melt into, between, beneath, and amidst those knotted knuckles of stout hickory posts. Those quiet, sentimental, regiments whose families are built upon barbed wire & intent.
I am that wandering path. I am those forlorn hills. I am that stoic mountain range. I am that fence. That is who I am.
Find an environment that fits you, melds with you, and defines you.
I would love to hold key to the invention of that phrase, but I do not. It was uttered by someone I care very much for, and now used in a manner and means I'd venture to think wasn't quite intended.
We are Humans Being Human. We work in much the same way as a virus does. We assimilate what we can, be it malicious or not, in the hopes of making what or who we encounter... something like Us. Something familiar. Something we understand and feel comfortable around.
It is the grand history of breath and the great conquest of our Kind.
If you're built like me, and I know you are, you will more than likely go out of your way to accommodate others when it comes to their accepting you. You'll likely find a way to weave a little bit of you into a little bit of them in the hopes that the bolt of thread you envision will matter more than it does not. That is the ultimate goal, as it were. That is what most of us strive for. To be accepted, embraced, divided & woven into the fold. Protected in that fabric. Safe.
Your Father has always been terrible at that.
I see the world through twilight eyes. I see division where I should see unity. I see individuals when I should see groups. I see persons when I should see people.
I see when I should not.
Or so I was always told...
January Snow covers a January Tan and leave's it in dishabille.
She is 90 years old and I fear that time has finally found out where she lays her head at night.
Your Nannie in Virginia was born in 1921. She was the oldest daughter of a Man that one of you shares a first name with. Albeit, altered a bit for gender. ;)
She had hair the color of a Raven's wing. Here eyes, well, they were the color of jade. Her family hailed from Ireland, and believe you me, she was the original Galway Girl.
Her life was not easy by any stretch of the imagination but it has been Her life and she's very proud to have lived it. Not that she would ever admit to that. The being proud part, I mean. She's far too shy for that.
Time, circumstance, and toil has bent her to such a degree that she has a hard time standing up. She scoffs at the cane that helps her from her armchair to the couch. She despises the walker that keeps her on the straight and narrow between rooms. That's just who She Is.
She married a good Man who loved her as long as the breath in him held out. What he left her with, though, was more than anyone could ask to afford. Still, she made a means with it. She made it work. I so wish you could have seen the pastures I used to know.
I want you to be proud from whence you came. We had no money to make us who we are. We had nothing but the stubborn resolve passed between white blood cells. Those blood cells may indeed have been born in your Nannie in Virginia's veins.
Whenever you see a single drop of dew in the early morning light, resting on a single blade of grass, fighting valiantly against a multitude of sunlight for its own survival...
I know it comes with all kinds of baggage. Beliefs, Assumptions, Expectations, Etc. But those things aren't birth rites. They aren't the building blocks of karma. They aren't anything you inherited. They're the by-products of humans being human and expecting you to be the same... on their terms, of course.
Well, between you and I... and don't ever tell your Mama I said this... "Fuck That".
The ugly truth is that most of the things you'll end up worrying about will work themselves out regardless of how much you toil over them. The things you lose sleep over will never lose sleep over you.
So do your Old Man a favor... when you find that this silly little carousel ride called life is a bit much to handle... Let It Go.
I mean, all you need is a Plastic Spoon, a Moon, and a handful of BBs.
I want to tell you about the hardest thing there is to accept, learn, believe in, and trust.
I found out that your Mom is getting married. I'm happy for her. She sought out happiness and it looks like she's finding it. I hope that is The Truth. She deserves to be happy just like anyone else. It's the only god-given right we can grasp. Well, if you buy into the whole "god" thing. Regardless, she's doing what makes her happy, and I Hope, what she believes will make You happy.
The Truth is that no one can buy into that. It's a matter of faith. Just like breathing is. Just like sitting down in a chair is. It's all about faith. It's all about hope. It's all about belief, I suppose. Believing in those things that we can't see, trust, accept, or learn beforehand. Like sitting in that chair. Like breathing with those lungs.
The first woman I loved wasn't your Mom. I know... shocking! She wasn't. She was just One. At the time, I thought she was The One. That wasn't the case. The first woman your Daddy ever loved was a redhead from Franklin County, Va. You've never met her. Maybe one day you will.
There were a few others that your Daddy loved between her and your Mom. I know... how can someone love that often? What the hell is love anyway? Well, it's human nature. It's what we think about when we think no one is wondering what we're thinking about and it's what we imagine when we think no one imagines what we day dream. But be certain, we all do it. And no one has a clue what love is. At least no one I've met. But they all know what it feels like and how to do it. That is how & why we can do it so often.
Loving someone is easy. It's the living with it that will kick your ass.
What I want you to understand from all of this is simple. I want you to see that people change, feelings change, hope changes, beliefs change, and ultimately your very own faith will change.
The Truth, though, it will always remain the same.