I have a playlist,
It’s called Flossing,
Not so much like teeth,
More for that mental purging
That needs to happen from time to time
All too frequently lately with
Life’s stresses hitting,
Death’s appearances.
Music seems right.

I save these tunes for those times
When my soul is empty,
When nothing but anger
Seems to be burning inside,
The dirty fuel inspired by
Rat bastards who make life miserable,
Sometimes that being just me,
Since I don’t seem to be able to not give a F#*^.

So back to the playlist,
A healthy mix of hard driving blues
And deeply disturbing songs
That never fail to make me feel better
With their haunting sounds,
Grinding guitars, and baron-like claw grip.
Each pulling, pushing, and stomping
Insignificance, doubt, and consternation
Into a place that lets me get back to living right.

Truth is, I hate talking on the phone,
Not big with email or texting,
Can almost always sit in silence
Without much effort at all.
That’s why today was tough.

I’ve been sitting in my cocoon
Unable to muster the strength
To make the phone call I needed to make.
My friend’s father passed away,
I needed to call his mother.

She’s always called me her other son,
And like my mom, she’s been there for me
Able to yell at me without fear of me coming back
Like sons do to their mothers,
Able to teach me different lessons than my mom.

I’ve been lucky to know good women,
My grandmothers, strong and independent,
My mom, flexible and nurturing,
My wife, always giving me a necessary ego check and perfect partner,
And then, my other mom, lover of life.

To the end she stuck by her man,
He to her as well,
She making sure his final days went in dignity,
He making sure his final breath,
Was taken while she took a much needed rest.

I worried about calling her,
It had been so long since we last talked.
Would she be too upset to talk?
How wrong is it to call only in tragedy?
Would she even answer an unknown number?

Perhaps the fates lined up just right,
It was like I was back in the trailer
Getting lectured about what time to be home,
Where I was sleeping, and that we better not
Wake everyone up.

She told me stories and shared feelings
About how much I meant to her, how much she loves her son,
How Albert used to talk about me
And I started crying because it seems like
People just don’t share those things enough.

Heck, I’m struggling to type this now,
I was worn out before we talked,
Stupid life, schools, jobs, all the clutter in life
Was jamming me up so badly.
Thank G…, no thank Linda, I made that call.

She made me feel better with that mom’s way.

Something is up with my dog,
He’s acting strange lately,
Maybe he’s tired of us being around,
Maybe he’s tired of us sitting around,
He just seems a little different.

I got him a new harness,
He looks ready for a swim in it,
Like he might fly over Niagara Falls,
Like he could take a white water run,
The new harness is boss.

We’ve been going to new places,
Parks with mowed trails in cleared fields
He wants to run, not sprinting, normal, but trot
He wants to keep the pace slow and just go
Because the new place are so different.

He gets going, not normal for my balled up pit bull,
Setting a pace that is just above a walk
Nothing too furious,
Nothing too get crazy about,
Although, when we get home, it’s right back to sleep.

With all his yelps,
With all his hitches,
With the lightness that lets him protect us.
I guess everything is normal with him,
Except this little bit of running.

***I’ve been taking MasterClasses for the last few weeks. Often, there are assignments given out. This one was to write about the saddest moment in your life. One other note, I allowed ten minutes for writing, so the essay might seem short for such a heavy prompt. Here it is…

The Rental

Honesty in sadness is a tough one to write about. Trying to find the saddest moment of a life seems so disrespectful to all of the sad moments a person experiences. For me, the end of February 1998 had to be about the worst. There was a confluence of events that took me away from being happy and culminated in somber dash to get rid of a rental car.

My grandfather died that month in Texas. We were all together for his funeral. We learned things about him that are only things you learn when someone dies. That weekend was tough because of my grandfather’s passing, but it was not unexpected. He had been sick for a long time.

Two weeks later the shock hit. My brother was gone. We had just been together for my grandfather’s funeral and everything seemed fine with my brother. It wasn’t and I had missed whatever clues he was giving out.

Before I had gone to Texas, I was renting a car because mine had been smashed by a kid driving on ice. His car had gone full on bobsled and crashed into mine. The rental had some problems and when I returned from Texas, I made arrangements to exchange the car.

Then the phone call came that my brother had ended his life.

I felt a shock that I cannot explain. By nature, I am a problem solver. In stressful moments, I just get on with the business of moving through the situation. I rarely take time to grieve and if I do, I’d prefer to be alone. The morning after the phone call, I had to drive across our county, about an hour long drive, to change the car. While I was driving, I had to fight back the tears, but somewhere over on Route 100, I lost it at a stoplight. I cried about as hard as I could. When I looked to my left, there were kids in their car laughing at me as I wailed.

I felt nothing for them. My brother was gone.

Twenty or so minutes later, I had changed out the car. The new car smell of the next rental was more of a cherry bomb scent, cheap and hurried. The rest of the drive home was a blur.

Why when these moments of doubt
Creep into my fingers
Keeping the words from leaving my head
And showing themselves on the digital paper of my laptop
Does a healthy dose of Pink Floyd
Make everything better.

The cure is not too hard,
Twenty minutes or so of “The Great Gig In the Sky,”
Blasting on repeat
As the combinations to the locks to the thinking gates
Slowly tumble to release whatever is so pent up.
It always works.

A complimentary elixir is “The Final Cut,”
Listened to start to finish,
The history, the angst, both are soothing,
Somehow, enabling a flow that will hang on until
The emotion of it because too much
Right around the time they start singing, “eff all this.”

I’ve found the last eight weeks to be a blessing and curse,
Cooped up, away from the contagion,
Locked away from all the meaningful things in my life
Which has left me feeling a bit lost.
Thank goodness I can run, reach out to friends in whatever way,
And noise cancel with some Floyd.

A big, fancy non-profit bought a cemetery. They did so to make sure that their manicured lawns were not associated with a rotting burial place that so many cemeteries become over the years.

This cemetery was the final resting place of many local historical figures. There was the writer. His plot had a wrought iron fence around it. There were the conductors of The Underground Railroad. Their plots were right next to the road waiting for the next person in need of help.

The problem with the big, fancy non-profit was that they over promised on how they would protect the cemetery. They, in the interest of tax free land protection, made mention that they would repair damaged headstones, that they would keep the grounds clean as if they were behind the stone walls and high admission prices of the foundation, and that the cemetery would be brought to the forefront of historical discussions about those who found their final resting place now stuck between DuPont’s highway vision and a fire station.

The years passed and more headstones began to fall. The ground began to sink. The prices next door continued to grow and the apathy of what were promises made on the hopes of the living for their dead were ignored.

Then, something happened. There was a blight that began hitting the trees within the hallowed grounds of the manicured nature center of the big, fancy non-profit. The water that spewed from the gaudy fountains began to trickle. Something was happening to all that unnatural development and it was eating into the profits of the organization dedicated to keeping itself going.

No one could understand what was happening. A fear began to seep into the administrators of the non-profit money making organization and the fear became desperation after the pandemic. In the hopes of getting some guidance, a soothsayer came to the grounds and offered some advice.

“Respect the dead. They deserve your integrity. Help them.”

The next day, crews were sent to the cemetery. They cleaned up the grounds and got rid of the weeds that were taking over. Leaning headstones were reset. Those that had aged to a point where the names could not be read were cleaned and the names cut back into the stone. Promises were being kept.

Strangely, the infestations and sludge like water on the other side of the street began to clear up. The grounds were being restored to their previous profit making level. The big, fancy non-profit would be able to survive and the souls of the those laid to rest across the street would be able live the way their ansestors had hoped they would.

Sometimes “Thanks” can be a dis,
Sometimes “Hate” a term of endearment,
Like when you get poked to run six miles,
And you offer a “thanks” to the person
Who made you feel like a loser
For not getting out of bed to get the run done
And that feeling is less than sincere,
More of an eff you with a smile.

On that other hand, “I hate you”
After finishing that six mile run
With the endorphins pumping
And the satisfaction of having gotten something done
Even if it was only 5.75, I’m sure Strava wouldn’t lie
If only it showed up in the feed,
Is a great way to give an actual, “Thank you.”

Just a few days ago,
My legs hurt,
My motivation was lacking,
My excuses were reaching adolescent proportions
When a friend sent me a video,
It whispered in my head overnight
Making me angry for being such a little whatever word is allowed now.
I hit the roads the next day and when I finished,
Texted my boy, eff you, and I did so with great hate,
The appreciative kind.

That’s why today made me laugh,
When the wise Goggins in his sit up glory
Let another friend hear the whisper
And be so moved by the morning run
To at least allow me the dignity to choose thanks or hate.
In this case, I chose the hate, it’s more honest
And fitting with the tone
Of sucking it up, buttercup and
“This ain’t no walk in the park, Kazansky…”

By the way, consider this even for the sit ups in the pool.
I really don’t like those effers.

I’m not sure how many people I ran with today,
All of them were dead,
I don’t say that smugly,
But it’s true,
I was running in a cemetery.

I get weird ideas running there,
Hands reaching out,
Me waking the dead with my heavy stepping,
Them down there partying
In some underground disco grotto
For the deceased.

I don’t mind running there,
I wonder how they all ended up there,
Illness, natural causes, the virus of the time.
They span generations from the 1800s
All the way to now,
Hopefully my running postpones joining their grotto.

So Bayard, Banta, McFarlan, and all those Clouds
I run lightly in your presence
Not wanting to bother your rest
I’ll see you in a few days
For now, entertain the squirrels
And that one crow over by the Mendenhalls.

You know, those things were told to aspire to.
They’re supposed to help us, right?
I suppose.

Certain goals motivate me,
Other things, eh,
But I’ve been pursuing a new one lately.

This week my challenge is in doubt,
Three days, many miles left for that helpful thing,
The goal.

For us, the weather has been spotty,
Lots of clouds, lots of wind, and
Enough cold to make it easy to ride a treadmill inside.

So today, when the weather got all crazy
With high sun and eighty degrees,
I figured it was a perfect time for two run.

The morning was still cloudy,
Not much to report,
Quickly finished, feeling kind of cocky.

That Mother Nature, though,
She knows when a man is a little too sure
And she can bust him down without even trying.

She was like a siren calling me towards the rocks,
Fast out of my neighborhood, faster down the hill,
Strava says my second fastest up State Street.

I listened to her call, going Gump and just running,
Not far mind you, about four miles out,
Without water and it was very hot and not shady.

I started thinking about hydrating as I ran by a Dunkin,
When I turned around at the light, I thought of asking for a cup,
But with no mask or money, I thought that too ballsy.

As I passed Victory and then Wawa, I took a walk break,
Picking back up a I passed the bookstore
Lest my mates, the owners, see me struggling as I ran by.

The dirt next to the railroad tracks was dry and dusty
Making my mouth feel like I had eaten a tums consistency pixie stick,
I was in survival mode and this was supposed to help, right?

Finally, I got to sections that were more manageable,
The walking breaks vanished and my mind shifted,
Home was beyond the last laughable hill.

I say laughable because I am 77,000th and something
In a running-climbing challenge online,
But this last four-tenths is always hard.

Just think, two more days in the week,
Only nine miles to go…
Then the goal changes.