Roadside Litter

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Soundtrack “In My Own Way” by Ray LaMontagne

We headed up highway 1, through the rugged northern California redwoods. The Pacific Ocean lingers to the West, reminding me that there are no new lands to discover.  We continue north into Oregon. The long drive gives us time to talk about “all things” and the “nothings” that come with idly watching the miles and moments tick by. Our mission is to take my best-friends daughter Taylor to Eugene to start her first year of college. The ritual of watching ones child head out into the world for the first time is worrisome. Our long drive up the coast will draw out the emotional baggage that comes with slow goodbyes. There is no word for that feeling that comes with knowing this indifferent world is waiting to test the character of someone you love.

I sat in the backseat listening to my iPod, arranging my song-list to play like a soundtrack to the blur of scenery outside my window. I’ve always liked the soothing hum of the road under the wheels, it made me sleepy. I doze and daydream. There is a comfort in knowing that in spite of myself, I’m getting somewhere——anywhere. I listen to the rain falling on the roof and against the windshield, the wipers fall in and out of rhythm with the music. I want to stay in this state of mind for as long as possible. I imagine myself to be a sailer aboard a square-rigger beating its way around the treacherous Cape Horn——-struggling against opposing currents and head winds.

I unplug one of my earphones and listen in to the conversation in the front seat. “Why did you invite your weird friend to come with us?” “What do you mean weird? He’s my best-friend and we’ve logged more miles together than Lewis and Clark.” I can feel Pat’s eyes in the rear view mirror checking to see that I’m asleep. Taylor sighs, “This was suppose to be our road trip. I swear, his breath smells like a stale bar rag and he’s always laughing at his own cheesy jokes.” “I know his jokes are corny, but it’s his coping mechanism. Besides, you use to love goofy jokes. When you were a little girl you’d constantly check out joke books from the library.” “Yeah, but that’s when I was eight years old——not old and——old and obnoxious. He’s socially incontinent, he blabs on and on about whatever shit comes out of his mind.” Pat retorts,“Socially incontinent, is that the type of metaphor they teach in AP english? He’s a guy. He’s direct.” “No, he’s rude and you’re sexist. I hate when you say things like “He’s a guy”, as if being a guy excuses men of being mature.” Pat sternly replies, “I don’t appreciate being called sexist.   Everyone is so PC these days.  If I don’t substitute every gender specific pronoun with the term ‘person’ I’m accused of being sexist—–‘Garbage-person’, ‘Mail-person’, that’s stupid. If a guy holds a door open for a woman she thinks he’s being demeaning. ” I could hear his tone becoming frustrated and agitated. I figured it’s time for me to compensate with some of my “so called” obnoxious-chessey humor.

I pop up and put my head between the two of them. “So, whatta-ya-all-bitches talking about-all-up-in-here?” Pat breaks into a snide snicker as Taylor roles her eyes. She addresses me, “I see that the misogynist has awoken. Have you ever heard the word misogynist?” “I think so, I had mine removed along with my appendix. Or, is misogynist someone who massages the places a masseuse misses. Get it?” Pat offers up a cursory chuckle. I decide to stir it up, “I’m sorry if I offended anyone by calling broads bitches. Did you see what I did there? That’s called sarcasm.” Taylor flips me off, “You’re not funny asshole”.

Pat gracefully changes the topic, “It’s getting to be dinner time. Why don’t we stop for a bite to eat and after dinner Vic can take over the driving duties.” I stretch and yawn, “Sounds good to me, but lets have Taylor drive. A man doesn’t always have to be in the drivers seat.” Taylor responds, “Wow, we can drive and even vote these days. Some day we may even get equal pay.” I interject, “I’ll second that motion.  Testosterone and masculine bravado has been the ruin of all civilizations.  I offer up my deference to the female gender.  And that’s truth, not sarcasm.”

We pull into the parking lot in front of the old cabin looking restaurant. Taylor puts on her coat and gives us instructions, “Guys, please don’t embarrass me in front of the waitress. You both always try and be so clever and flirty when there’s a cute young waitress. Old guys trying to hit on young women is creepy.” I feel a need to provide a little push back. “For one we’re not old, we’re seasoned. And two, we’re not creepy, we’re provocateurs. Old is a number, youth’s an attitude. Besides, chicks dig older guys. In France men with a few years behind them often have young mistresses. We’ve got experience on our side. We know our way around a woman’s anatomy. And the only thing trickier than a woman’s mind, is her body. Women want men who appreciate romance.  Ya see, fellas’ like us, we’ve got old-school class.” Taylor raises her voice, “Stop. Yeah right, you’re both so classy———that’s why you go straight to the senior section of the menu and shamelessly pull out your AARP senior discount card when it comes time to pay. Your wink and a ten percent gratuity doesn’t pay the bills.” Pat interrupts, “Okay queen of the PC police, I’ll buy dinner and you can leave an extravagant tip.”

We finish our dinner and pile back into the car. Taylor sets the cruise control allowing her to sit cross legged indian style. I shake my head, “Are you going to drive or meditate?” “Driving is a meditation. Everything I do is a meditation. What you think about or meditate on is what you’ll attract. I stay mindful of my thoughts. If I don’t feel like smiling, I smile anyway. Take your body and the mind will follow.” “Damn girl, you’re a hell of a lot more insightful about life then I was at your age. You’re a smart cookie.” “No that’s not true. I’ve never been a natural at anything. I’ve had to work harder than the average person to achieve any measure of success. My dad says I have tenacity, and that’s more important than talent. My credo is, ‘I’m willing to do the things today others won’t, so that tomorrow I’ll have the things others don’t.”  I nod in appreciation, “I like your style kid.”

Taylor pushes her hair back “How long have you known my dad?” “I’ve known your dad over fifty years, we’e brothers, we’re a rare breed, we’re lifelong friends.” “What makes someone a lifelong friend?”

I pause to gather my thoughts “You’ll make a lot of friends at different stages of your life. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, social network friends, work friends, but lifelong friends stand the test of time. They’re like the ocean, even when you can’t see them, you know they’re still there. The older I get the more I realize how remarkable these friendship are. My sisters and I shared the same parents, the same up bringing, but we’ve always lived in different worlds. To remain connected to somebody across a lifetime is a beautiful thing. A lifelong friend is someone you can go months or even years without seeing, but once you come together its as if time stood still and you can pick up right from where you left off. It’s sharing the good times and helping each other survive the bad times. This life will tests everyones fortitude and can leave you lost and confused. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have someone who’ll stick up for you, listen to you, restore your faith and give you hope when you feel you can’t hold on for one more day. They’ll forgive you and love you in spite of your flaws and fucked up ways. Not that I have any fucked up ways.” I allow myself a cocky snicker. “That kind of friendship is all that matters in the end. Lifelong friends will be there till the end. They understand you, and to be understood is to be loved.”

“It’s to bad you guys don’t live closer to each other.” “Maybe not. We respect one another, but we have had our share of disagreements. Seeing each other to often might ruin things. Your dad is stubborn and I can be a son of bitch. I guess were best friends because no one else will have us.”

“Your dad has been there when I needed him and I don’t forget things like that. When my Mom got sick he took time off work and flew out to help me. When she got up in the middle of the night and needed to use the bathroom he’d get up with me. He’d say, ‘Vic, is everything alright’. We’d get on each side of her and walk her down the hall to the toilet. In the morning he’d make his silly ass jokes, just to take the edge off the dire situation. No, I don’t forget shit like that. We carried on pretending things were gonna get better. But they didn’t, they got worse. Long nights, bad pain and that goddamn morphine giving her hallucinations. He had a way of making Mom laugh. She called him her Patty. She’d say, ‘Patty, can I fix you some eggs and bacon.’ She couldn’t get out of her chair but if she could, she’d of made us a Sunday morning breakfast with eggs, bacon toast and pancakes. Patty could aways light up a room, turn a dark moment around. Lifelong friends will do things like that for you.”

“And by the way, my breath doesn’t smell like an old bar rag.” Taylor’s mouth droppes open, “I thought your were asleep.” Taylor laughs and shakes her head. I feel her letting her guard down. She smiles, “I’m glad dad invited you to tag along. Do you want a tic tac?” We drove on through the moonless night in a comfortable silence.

A couple of hours later I asked Taylor to pull off the highway into a gravel parking lot adjacent to a country store. “I gotta take a piss and get myself a tall boy. Patty, get your ass up. It’s your time to take the helm.” I grab an empty coffee cup from its holder and throw it at his head. He responds in a sleepy voice. “What the fuck are you doing?” “I’m waking your lazy ass up.” I feel the paper cup bounce off the back of my head. “Now that wasn’t very nice.”

The cashier is east indian. The little store reeks of curly and musky incense. There’s the fracas of timbales and the wobbly atonal sound of a sitar coming from a blown out speaker. The restroom has that good ole American smell of Lysol veiling stale urine. Americans are good at hiding things beneath a thin veneer of flimsey civility. At the checkout stand I ask the cashier where he’s from. In a thick indian accent he responds “Pittsburgh”. I detect a sense of indignation in his response. In this day and age those from different cultures feel a need to be as American and patriotic as possible. “A Steelers fan?” He shakes his turban clad head, “No; I’m a soccer fan. Go Delhi Dynamos”. I smile, he smiles, humor has bridged the distance between us.

The car’s headlights guide us on our way through the narrow windy mountain roads. It occurs to me that the headlights only reveal fifty feet of our trip at a time, and such is the nature of life unwinding. God only knows what tomorrow may bring. From my cracked window comes the smell of damp earth and fresh rain. I open my beer and stretch out in the backseat.

I eavesdrop as Pat launches into a fatherly lecture. “Now be careful and watch yourself. Don’t take rides from strangers. Everyday in the news I hear a story about some poor girl getting murdered and dumped in a ditch. If you go to a college party don’t over drink. There’s guys out there who’ll take advantage of a girl who’s not in charge of her faculties.. And I’ve heard stories of guy’s slipping drugs in a girls drink. Don’t let anyone make you do anything you don’t want to do. I know that you know wrong from right, but the world these days can be dangerous.” In a stern voice Taylor interrupts, “Stop”. I’m not a naive little girl.” Pat snaps back, “Sometimes I think you are a bit naive and it makes me worry about you. Your sisters isn’t like that, she’s grounded.” Taylor turns her head towards the window, her reflection revealing a tear. “Why do you always have to do that. Why do you have to compare me to my sister. I’m the older sister. What do I got to do to make you believe in me? I’m smart, I’m talented too.”

Taylor opens her window creating a hurricane force wind throughout the car. It’s freezing cold but I don’t say a word. “You might be my father, but you don’t know shit about me. You don’t understand me. Don’t you see that people are scarred by the stupid things people put on them. A coach tells a kid they’re to slow to be first string, a minister condemns someone for being gay, an english teacher writes ‘fail’ at the top of their paper in large red letters. Or, you telling me that my sister has talent for singing and acting but I’ll have to work hard and have tenacity. You don’t know anything about me.” It was suddenly quiet. It was one of those unexpected painful moments when someone says something they’ve concealed and held in for a long time. The silence augmented the sound of the rain. Pat nervously breaks the silence “I never said that.” Taylor’s voice quivers, “You did. You were driving me to high school and I was telling you that I didn’t get a call back for Brigadoon. Maybe you were trying to be nice, but those thing you said hurt me.”

I could feel the pain in her voice. I didn’t dare say a word or try to lighten the moment with humor. For a moment, in that darkened backseat, I could feel the absolute sadness of all those who’ve been hurt by the words of others. Words that cause the fragile cloth of self worth to fray and come undone. We all carry these disembodied voices from our past that do battle with our better angels. It’s unfathomable how we carelessly hurt one another. Ironically, the ones who have the power to hurt us, also have the power to save us. I suppose the painful words spoken are as damaging as the kind things that go unspoken. We’re all waiting for someone to recognize are uniqueness, to make us feel important, valued———understood———loved.  Why do we withhold these basic tenant’s of compassion and love?

Does anyone ever really know anyone?  We trace one another’s shadow with our fingertips, we unknowingly project little pieces of ourselves on to them.  Everyone carrying their own wounds of broken friendships and incomplete love.  Companionship isn’t an idea or a mental construct, it’s an emotion that we wait for others to fulfill within us——it’s what we all came here for.

I watch as Pat puts his arm around his daughter. I’m a father too, so I know how it feels to unintentionally hurt your child’s feelings. Even after daughters grow into adulthood, at some level fathers still seek to protect them. “Honey, I’m sorry. You’re not your sister, you’re a brilliant and beautiful individual. Maybe those words I said to you were really things I felt about myself. I’ve always had to work harder than the average guy to achieve success. It was a poor attempt on my part to try and protect you from the struggles and pains I’ve suffered. But life doesn’t work that way.  I know that you must find your own way. I have complete faith in you. I’m your biggest supporter. I don’t know why I’ve never told you this before——-I see greatest in you.”

Just like the final scene from a melodramatic B movie, suddenly the winds shift filling our sails, the currents turn in our favor.  We’ve crossed an invisible lattitude. Just over the horizon I see the lights of Eugene.

 

 

 

 

 

Victor

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Soundtrack “If I Go, I’m Going” by Gregory Alan Isakov.

 

raindrops falling and disturbing still water
she smelled like fresh laundry and the newness of a morning sun
this ole heart is wearing worn and cracked work-boots
It’s the miles not the years

You fell in love with me

like a frozen statue

like a fallen hero
Mistaking love for things that never change

even our sun
will someday die
put on a sun dress
and I’ll wear flip flops
and we’ll get sunburns
while drinking beer at the beach

Internal wallpaper is how we decorate our lives
You were my star in this darkened theater

There is no poetry in Los Angeles, it’s got chicken scratch graffiti on concrete, where tattoos are mistaken for art, its train like cities that have no beginning or ending, just endless strip malls, fast-food joints—-with its smog hallowed sun. How can there be so much loneliness in these crowded places, we have become citizens of cloned hometowns, we’re generation X, or Y, or millennials,—–held together with Facebook velcro.

Nobody really knows what’s going on or what it’s all about. We’re all just running around trying to figure out what we should do, where we should go next, whom do we dare pretend to be. The clock is always ticking, all is uncertain. Before it’s all over we are desperate to discover our part in it all. Occasionally you’ll touch something and it will shock you, like the unforeseen bite of static electricity, or glimpsing a dead falling star. And for that instance your puny life takes on a speck of meaning—–one random piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Her love was like wisteria. At first it brought a subtle beauty to everything it attached itself to. But in time its clinging nature enveloped and entangled what had once been a free-swinging garden gate. Over time there was no way to gracefully enter or exist, the overgrown gate was forever intwined and frozen. It clawed over, across and on top of what once gave the garden its structure and form. In time its need to control and twist all it touched would cause the lattice to sag, to crack under the weight and finally give way. Such beauty strangles the life out all it once embellished. She was my weed strewn garden, she was everything I wanted, but the last thing I needed.

I’ve heard it said that writing is the loneliest of pursuits. It’s just you, a blank piece of paper and your thoughts. I don’t know how writers of pulp fiction feel about their craft, but I suspect that the poet is much more of a desperate soul. His ankle is tied to a huge rusty anchor and it is plunging him to the bottom of the sea. He’s headed to a place where there is no light, no sound, an inhospitable cold region. Poets aren’t depressed—-—no—they’re truth scavengers trapped in a world of forgers. If they were afflicted by depression they might find relief in a drug or in a support group. There is no clinical diagnoses or magic cure for being a poet. Please don’t be afraid, its not contagious.

My father and I share a common name—“Victor”. My dad was called Vic by his friends but I prefer Victor. As I’ve grown older I’ve seen parts of him rise to the surface in me. I was his only son and we tried to reach one another, but we were separate boats being pushed by opposing winds.

I went through a period when I was an adolescent where I’d have night terrors—-I was a sleepwalker pacing the floor in sheer terror, crying and screaming out at things no one could see but me. My dad would shake me, pat my cheek in an attempt to wake me, but I’d carry on in my neither world of monsters, demons and madness. This would go on for hours. He would ask me at breakfast if I remembered these fits. I never remembered these night events. But I’d have a faint memory of something that filled me with terror.

My dad use to say “You’ll find out someday”. And what he meant by that was, someday I’ll learn that life is cruel and bitter and hard and full of frustration and let downs. He would almost say it with a sense of glee. Like he couldn’t wait until this life beat every ounce of idealism and romanticism out of me. He’d just look at me after making this repetitive proclamation, shaking his head and giving me a snide little snicker.

I don’t know how, why or where, but somewhere along the way he surrendered his personal power. It’s always easier to give in, give up and throw your hands up and concede, but that just isn’t me. I take my name seriously, I’m a Victor, I’m born to take on all comers—bring it on—–I’ll go down swinging.

Don’t fear the inevitable, such as death. But rather, fear not taking action on the things you have the power to change, such is your life.

Be a Victor———–Do something!

Throwing Blind Bricks At Jealous Gods

December 9th, 2009 @ 10:58:28

Soundtrack “A Different Corner” by George Michael.

I’d take raw emotion over a calm and collective indifference. Indifference is a wall built of blind bricks———nobody see’s their own loneliness from the outside in.  The opposite of love isn’t hate, but rather indifference. It’s that mute emotion of not giving a damn———-Nobody hears the screams of their own loneliness from the inside out. Love is the tiny kindnesses we toss like pennies into a beggars heart shaped cup. Why do we deny one another passage into each others world?

I knew a girl who was childlike; she protected her stained-glass heart. Like all things of beauty, it was fragile and transcendental. She walked on rainbows, she called to the thunder, ——-and she smiled with the eyes of a child, wide open with wonder. She was impetuous, headstrong, soul-strong. She was shy, mystical, complicated, sensual and not yet broken by the restraints of womanhood.

She found the door to my world carelessly unlocked. She strolled through all of my dusty rooms flooding her light on my dark empty spaces. Her eyes fractured the morning sunlight casting tiny prisms on the walls, ceiling and floor. Her breath billowed through my sheer drapes. She smelled of citrus, her skin was salty and savory like the sea. She let me move through her, we moved in unison, we swelled, we crested and then violently crashed in on ourselves.

Outside, their cites burned, their temples crumbled and the laws of the righteous went unheeded. We trespassed into the forbidden garden———and we defied the rule of jealous gods……………as we found eternal love in a mortal’s world.

Forgive

Soundtrack, “Old and Wise” by the Alan Parsons Project.

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I hate unsolicited advice. Most men know that it is not wise to give another man unsolicited advice. The most important thing to a man is respect and his pride. These things are earned and not idly parceled out like cans of beer—–although oftentimes such libations are swilled to make up for the lack of such noble qualities. On a rare occasion a man may give a fellow golfer advice about how to grip a club, how to adjust their swing or stance, but guys like that seldom get asked back for a future game. Guys have gotta figure shit out for themselves, it’s just he way it is.

Men like to give women advice. It makes them feel superior. It inflates their anemic ego’s. Most women will politely listen even though they know that men spend eighty percent of their time thinking about how to get pussy and what to eat next. The remaining twenty percent of their time is spent picking their nose at red lights or making fart jokes. Under the three piece suits, the impressive job titles and fancy cars, men are basic creatures bumbling their way through life. Women don’t give advice, they make sly suggestions. “Honey, maybe it would be better to use dental floss rather than a pocket knife to clean your teeth.” “Please don’t use gas to light the barbecue dear. Let me fry the burgers on the stove.” KABOOM!!!

But, in spite of my prior warnings regarding unsolicited advice, I have decided to dispense some brotherly advice. So please, “Forgive Me”.

Our time here is so short—–it doesn’t pay to deny ourselves and others forgiveness. Anger only cuts off circulation to the heart and puts a strangle hold on our ability to convey empathy. Forgive, because in the big scheme of things your petty grudges will emotionally bankrupt you. It’s like paying interest on a debt but never reaching the principle—-ya see, you can’t loan love or forgiveness, their value is only realized when given for free.

I wonder if we wear clothes out of shame, or is it a means to hide our insecurities. It’s tough to take another person seriously when they’re parading around bare ass naked. Nakedness is God’s way of showing us that in spite of Madison Avenue fashions and photoshopped vanities—–we’re all allot more alike than we are different.  Under skin and bone our fragil humanness flickers…..

Forgive——-because like a fart, the longer you hold it in, the more pressure it builds, hurting only you, and in time growing louder and smellier—- Forgive because sometimes you have to pull the bandaid off along with the scab in order for the wound to heal, Forgive because there is a child with a bald head dying in a hospital rather than playing on a jungle gym. Forgive because nothing seems that bad until it happens to you. Forgive because there but for fortune go you or I. Forgive because there is already enough darkness in this world—-enough sadness to superglue the softest of hearts eternally shut. Forgive because the shits already out of the pony. Forgive because with age the nights grow longer and peace more elusive. Forgive because winter need not be your favorite season. Forgive in spite of God and his promised heaven. Forgive because the shortest distance between point A and point B is love. Forgive because there’s a supernova a thousand times bigger than our puny sun imploding in on itself. Let go, let go, let go—–because as the old Zen proverb tells us “Let go or be dragged”.

Forgive, because one day you’ll realize that all the stuff you once thought so important were just things made up in your head. This clarity only comes after a major life event like getting fired, losing someone you love, going through a divorce, having a major health scare, facing your mortality or watching reruns of “Friends” (they all look so young). You’ll flop around like a trout out of water, realizing you’ve mistaken the barbed hook for the golden ring.

It all seems so absurd——all the girls you tried to impress with false bravado, the fake laughs given for free to please your dim witted boss, the loud arguments availing only hurt feelings——its all comes back to you like a strange dream, like staring up at the shimmering surface of the water while holding your breath at the bottom of the sea. Down there, there’s only shipwrecks, rusty anchors, the eight armed Kraken and the tiny fart bubbles you release as pieces of your forgiveness. Farting is God’s way of telling you to not take yourself to seriously.

We stubbornly withhold our forgiveness, we’d rather offer up snide remarks and sarcastic smiles. We expect others to rain apologies down upon us, but the sad truth is, some people don’t know how to be sorry. They only learn forgiveness by being forgiven—-and the bible along with all the other holy books speak of this irony. The currency of unspoken forgivenesses pays out in wasted time, it lengthens the bridge we’ve all come here to cross.

Get over your self——–Forgive

Little Wing

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Soundtrack “Little Wing” by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Some people know your secrets before you let them slip, before ya allow them to spill out during one of those beer riddled drunken nights. They can see through you, as if they’ve known you before this brief life stint. There’s no pretending, they draw out the best in you, like a spike struck to the heart, or the rude awakening that accompanies a stiff slap across the face——Boy, she sure shook me up, she took me back to a life I’d forgotten. I knew from that first glance, she belonged to me…..She’s a part of me, always had been, and always would be—-there are few who can make one feel less alone in such an indifferent world, maybe that’s the definition of love? She was partial to me, like the sound of a familiar melody, she could play me by heart…..

I’m gonna take off every piece of your clothing till all that lies between us is freckled skin, damp breath and sloppy wet kisses, we’ll go around and around, then back round again, peeling off our tawdry disguises one layer at a time, till we’re naked, till we’re almost perfect, except for fresh blue bruises and old stubborn scares. Here, take my wallet, my car keys, my cigarettes, along with all the other bad habits I’ve used to hide myself—cause I belong to you like a bad habit. All I need right now is to be wrapped up in your arms, let me tear down those walls that protect your secret garden—now come over here—-yeah, just like that. Let us for now be silent and we’ll speak to one another with our eyes closed. I don’t need to know your name, your age or the name of your hometown, all that stuff is ordinary, frivolous and unimportant to me. You my love, are anything but ordinary——I cut my dreams on the teeth of her diamond shaped heart——

We’d been more than friends but less than lovers, we offered one another awkward goodbyes with tenuous hugs——only our eyes kissed farewell. She’s my little wing, “When I’m sad she comes to me with a thousand smiles she give to me free.”

I’m In A Walmart State Of Mind–Doors

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Soundtrack by Pat Metheny “Last Train Home”.

I’m in a Walmart state of mind. The fluorescent lighting gives the vast yet cluttered place a harsh two dimensional appearance. It’s a landscape crowded with cartoonish characters wearing thousand yard stares.   I’m staggering my way through this cathedral of capitalism, a place where everything has its price, but negligible value. It required the consumption of two tall boys and a shot of Jameson in order for me to enter these doors——I’ve come here to hopefully find an old friend of mine.

I do my best daydreaming while wandering through these isles of meaningless shit. There’s something about the endless isles of blurred colors and the monochromatic shopping muzak that puts me in a walking meditation. I peruse my way through the shameless drooping bra display, past the old ladies laid out in the pedicure highchairs, the in-house McDonalds with ketchup smeared tables, the strange optometrist alcove next to the restrooms and then past the immaculately arranged shiny fruit and vegetables, through the wall of HD TV’s, housewares, hardware, sporting goods and the disheveled toy department. I feel myself being swept away into a Fellini plot with its array of bizarre looking zombies.  It’s a nightmarish funhouse of warped mirrors, insane laughing clowns and Andy Warhol’s stacks of Campbell soup cans. The deeper I’m pulled into the bowels of the store, the more surreal my thoughts become——— Maybe I’ll find her in the shoe department.——

Why is there no three quarter life crises? It’s a misunderstood age ignored by a world consumed by youth culture and the next “big thing”. At this stage of my life, it’s no longer what I’m becoming, or who “I’m supposed to be” I know these things. Today, it’s more about “What have I done”. Or, “What haven’t I done?”  If you’ve aged well, you no longer give a damn what other people think, you are——–(good, bad or indifferent) uncompromisingly “you”.  Time strips away vanities, insecurities and pretentiousness. There’s comes a forced introspection knowing there are more days behind me than in front of me——-

The mirror has become a contemptuous tool of fucking deceit. My internal mirror has me forever young.  When I smile at pretty young girls they offer up blank stares,—–Just for kicks, I give a sly wink====”Better to be the one who smiled than the one who didn’t smile back.” Adam Smith

From the corner of my eye I catch the blur of something flittering amongst the exposed heating ducts, light fixtures and skylights. I scan the upper regions of the massive ceiling. I hear a sound reminiscent of a bird chirping. I follow the sound into the infant department. Could she be here?

My children are now grown and on their own. I carry their old memories frozen in time, but as I’ve grown older they’ve begun to thaw and slowly drip into my consciousness. Out of nowhere an old memory will surface and I will suddenly be consumed by a sense of nostalgia—- I’m taken back in time to cartoon gibberish, ski trips on snowy days, nervously letting go of the handlebars as she wobbles off without me, contentious teenage arguments with my son, teaching them how to swim, drawing the line “because I said so”, sleepless nights listening for the sound of the car returning in the driveway, holidays, family get togethers, loud parties——-tears and laughter——-I wonder, did I do it right? Did I do the right things for the right reasons? Did I tell them how much I love them? Did I say it enough? Did I show it enough? The past is malleable, I wonder about the memories they now carry of me???? Those were the best of times…….irreplaceable, irretrievable, irreparable, pressed like rose pedals within the pages of my heart——-

Perhaps she is by the water fountain near the layaway counter. Haughty shoppers offer up smirks as they jockey past me. They’re in a hurry to fill a hole left on their shopping list. The hunter gatherer gene lingering in their DNA causes them to stalk the shelves with a competitive killer instinct. For some, enough is never enough——hoarders of
“things” forget that everything they purchase comes with an expiration date…….

Have I failed god? Is he mute or am I deaf? Why are we born, why does everyone we love have to die? When I was young I was reckless, such things didn’t matter, back then I was unbreakable, irreverent—— There was always more time, time to say the things I needed to say, time to make up for the things I did wrong, time to apologize to those I’d wronged. I never looked at my watch or a calendar as a fuel gauge, or as an alarm to go off as time grows shorter.

I use to think I had control over my destiny, but not so much anymore. My grand designs flip flopped so many times that I’ve forgotten where my ego ends and my destiny begins.  Life is full of twists and turns, ups and downs, two way mirrors, dead ends, trap doors and enigmatic mysteries. I use to take credit for my successes and make excuses for my failures, but time has humbled me. Someone must have been looking out for me, a higher power, God, grace———Thank goodness that the divine takes pity on little children and fools….

Such a beautiful disaster, filled with prophetic accidents and comical mistakes, the art of life, falling apart and coming back together, riding the wave of brief eternal moments……recollecting all the people I’ve found and lost along the way. There’s always been more room for love. I should’ve hugged more, forgave quicker and been slower to anger——-

I follow the sound through the doors leading to the Yard and Garden Center. I know that she likes it out here where there is sun and fresh air. It’s an atrium of sorts, here I’m surrounded by chain linked fencing and a netted ceiling. I whistle hoping to coax a response from my shy friend.

Did I make them proud. After all their sacrifices and compromises had I come up short? Did I become a better part of their dream. It makes me wonder how others perceive me and what are the blind spots I fail to perceive in myself. Unconditional love, like the air I breathe, has always been there, taken for granted, worse yet——-expected.

Youthful enthusiasm kept me running in scribbled circles, impatient, forgetful———memories of sitting on my folks couch, with the evening news in the background, they leaned into me, listening as I explained my scrambled schemes and how I was going to have things my way.  It must have taken monumental patience on their part to allow me my fanciful indulgences.  In spite of all my false starts and wrong turns, they were behind me, no matter how cocksure I must have appeared. I hadn’t counted on all the fractured relationship, career stumbles, strange lonely towns, sucker punched failures, bad days, night terrors, faltering steps and stumbles——-but I always carried with me the knowledge that there was a place I could still call home, someone who would answer their phone no matter what hour of the day or night, they’d see me through—what a beautiful complete love——

In the corner of the atrium there’s a nest behind a flood light fixture. And there she is, sitting above the rows of patio chairs, barbecues and artificial plants. Her nest is constructed of candy wrappers, recipes and colorful strings gathered from the clothing departments. I’m reminded that to adapt doesn’t always mean to evolve……

I’d first noticed her several months ago perched upon an exposed vent. She must have accidentally flown in the store when the electric doors were open. I’ve continued to make occasional visits to see if she was still making this place home.  I’m not sure if she is trapped, or if she has found this way of life to be more predictable then what lies beyond these walls—-Life without surprises leads to complacency, and complacency compromises ones soul.

She must subside on the fruits and vegetables and other tidbits tossed into the trash cans.  The water dispenser has become her birdbath and drinking fountain.

This Walmart will be her chicks only world, all that they will ever know. It seems cruel and unfair that this sterile box-store will be the extent of their universe. But, if this is all they’ll ever know, then I suppose it makes no difference.  They don’t know—-that they don’t know——-that they’re captive birds.

To know that you don’t know, is where wonder collides with wisdom. I reach in my pocket and pull out a handful of birdseed and place it in the plastic rubber plant.

Leaving the store I’m filled with a sense of freedom. I inhale a deep breath and look up at the sky above me and wonder what doors may be hidden up there. I suppose we are all captive in one way or another ——-insnared by gravity, stiched to space and time, enslaved by our beliefs, stalked by our memories—-and ultimately, entrapped by the limited time we are here and alive………..

No Room For Love

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Soundtrack “Oh My Sweet Carolina” by Ryan Adams

It’s the kind of love reminiscent of a house that’s been neglected and is now ghost infested. . Like a room no longer dusted, every surface has lost it’s shine and luster. No one has paid attention to the accumulation of times tiny cruelties. Things have gone messy, unsightly, rundown and tired——entropy, a law of physic’s leading me to loneliness.

The floor is stamped by a stampede of scuff marks across its hardwood planks. It’s as if the inhabitants had walked in endless circles never reaching a place of compromise. The windows now clouded by years of harsh weather . There’s no longer a way to see out, nor peer in, it’s as if the house has lost its vision—a dark place of shadows and gloom. And, if the eyes are a mirror to the soul, then this room should be bloodshot and stained blue.

She left her finger prints on my door knobs, her dirty dishes fill my sink, her wrinkled clothes on the floor, yet the passenger side of the bed is always neatly made up, not so much as an indentation leaning to my side. No matter how hard you clean a tomb, it’s still a place that reeks of death.

I once read that before a big battle, civil war solders would sew their name onto the back of their shirt collars—-along with the regiment to which they belonged. I’ve tattooed the same on my heart, cause with its last beat, I want someone to know it once belonged to someone——somewhere.

The wind whistles through the cracks in our walls. The fireplace has only fine ash from a fire that’s long ago gone cold.

Bad things have befallen this room. “To be perfectly honest, I can’t live like this.” Such mean things we screamed at one another. Honesty is overrated, please tell me nice things even if they’re a stone-cold lie. A temporary lie is better than an irrevocable truth.