So moved,
How does it happen?

One telling the story of abuse,
Racism,
The other waxing poetic,
Of life with a story teller’s magic.

Both,
Moving me to tears.

It’s honesty or authenticity,
No, both,
Reaching in with surgical precision
And cutting the emotional scars I’ve carefully engineered.

These guys,
Bringing their pain to the surface,

Raw brilliance,
Their pain, a wisdom massaging a lack of confidence
That oozes from me in tears and sniffles,
Hushed by manliness and thoughts so deeply ingrained.

Yet, they have let go,
Finding freedom in expression forged in understanding their truth,

A truth, mine, the one
I want to understand,
One that has been elusive,
One that resides under layers of doubt and uncertainty.

They bring the waste out
Leaving me wasted in my own rubbish

For it’s their ability to be men
That has me wondering what I’ve always been,
Who I’ve been playing,
Why so many roles of pretending.

It’s as if they found out
Being themselves is greatness, easier

So moved,
A way of living,
Unfettered by the trappings of shoulds,
Untethered to the ropes of limitations.

So moved,
How does it happen?

“And once you cease to be a real person, you stop being a real person.” Scott Speedman

Who hides behind the mask?
The one unsure of who she is.
What need does a mask play?
Serving to advertise a fading image.
Where does the mask come from?
A catalog, chain store, or Amazon.
When does the mask come off?
In private.
Why mask your true personality?
To hide the pain of insecurity.

Call upon confidence to be true
Real is better than fake
For the trappings of the imaginary you
Makes for pits filled with snakes
Or at least the unintended interpretations
Of the false advertising
So blatantly hocked by your ever-changing masks,
Denial, and unavoidable journey through the ages.
Let yourself be real,
Authentic.

“Remember to play after every storm.” Mattie Stepanek

“There’s redemption in this chair,” I said
After inhaling a syrup-less Monte Cristo,
Tots, several cups of coffee, and an overly tall beer.

Saturday started with a wet nose to my face
Because my dog does not know how to sleep in,
So I went Mel Robbins and counted, “5-4-3-2-1,”
Rose from the pallet, and pulled my physically rested body
From the mental heap that flattened pillows absorbed.

The way to the chair proved to be inspirational
When I heard a movie clip on the radio
That might have come from Easy Rider and said something like,
“If is the middle of life,”
Which left me talking to the steering wheel and Siri
As I attempted to capture an idea for a writing project.

After picking up my non-dog owning son,
Which meant he had sleep past the time of
Our agreed upon arrival,
We headed to a diner for the awesome,
Dare I say, “ecstatic,” inducing brunch?

Too full to drive, we waddled around the mall,
It’s design conjuring visions of a wheel
With its open center area and shopping halls leading like spokes.
We talked of over-consumption and the idea
That malls are relics of waste and greed
All the while laughing at the zombies wandering around
Without a smile on their faces.
Then a Trump guy sat down and we changed our conversation
To the impotency of the current administration
With respect to morals and a broad interpretation of the Constitution
When my son said,
“Anybody who says Kaepernick is not American is un-American.”
I added, “Yeah, I wonder how far up the President’s butt Jerry Jones is.”
That’s when the guy with the boots, jeans, tucked in Polo from 8th grade, and
The mesh baseball cap with an American flag sewn on it got up and left.
He forgot to take the snicker he threw our way along with his baited anger.

We sat there for a moment, taking in the patriotic machismo and
I said, “I was totally f#@&ing with that guy.”
My son, being me said, “Me, too.”
We laughed and headed to Friday’s for a beer.
The consumption was not to be enjoyable,
Both of us were still too full,
So the trip was extended in BAM, Books-a-Million.

My thoughts on gifting books are shallow,
I don’t really do it, too risky,
Today, though, I felt like it was in the cards, so
I bought a copy of Christopher Moore’s, Lamb,
A humorous and possibly plausible explanation of what happened
To the childhood of Jesus Christ.
My gift of spiritual on the edge of blasphemous sarcasm was a knee-jerk reaction
Bordering on fatherly advice for a conversation about life with my son
In the same restaurant where we used to share occasional Tuesdays and Thursdays
Under quite different and less reflective times, far more angry back then…

Then, he and I talked of middle school and the stresses of blended families,
Now we talked about the ramifications of a friend’s offering and the importance
Of friendships where the forbidden fruit is concerned.
We shared thoughts of the compression of time, the interference of technology
In the truest parts of our human existence, and then we shared stories
Telling of the mundane parts of our lives that somehow brought

Joy

To who we are.

The funny thing, if you like the kind of gallows humor that makes my meter move
Beyond a poker face to a beaming smile, sometimes called a smirk,
Is that this was the best conversation I had been a part of in weeks.
It covered the cosmos, ranging between metaphysics,
Existentialism, and horniness.
I was in heaven enjoying every minute of my time today,
Serious, sarcastic, and ensconced in “If,” that middle part of life.

When I sat in the red roadside rescue chair, the one I swore to never sit in,
I got the same feeling I have when I pick up the copper ball on my desk,
Or when I touch the weeping Buddha that is next to it,
Or when I pick up the crucifix or St. Christopher’s medal that rests there as well.

“Or,” it’s the middle of “word,”
That must mean something because Dennis Hopper planted a seed,
Now I’m thinking differently or maybe I’m not.
I just said, “Word,” like an old guy trying to be cool.”

With joy, really, because the ideas bring solace to the ifs that I live
Where I don’t know what the heck I’m doing,
Even at this age, unsure of what it means to be me,
Unable to accept that an aura can be hard to shake.
Not sure how to be what others need,
And positively sure that don’t like the way I am.

So there I was, feeling the constriction of anxiety being pulled from my body,
Wondering if this chair had a power to suck whatever it was in my constitution
That need to be pulled out and
I began to feel the energy of the room, noticing the old school construction,
Solid doors, antique door handles, and simple 1×4 trim.
The rustic architecture was accented by cheap college kid carpet,
Old attempts at cubist painting, and pages of books taped to pitched walls.
Simple, inviting, comfortable…
The chair, the room, my son.

No judgment, peaceful. No authority, equals.

Maybe we harbor the same confusion of “what,”
“Ha” is in the middle there (funny…),
And the absolute respect for the messed up works that drive each of us.

Love.

The time came to leave and while driving, I got lost in the Grateful Dead,
So happy to have them in my life,
Something my son gave to me.

Getting home brought the pressure of trying to explain
How these insignificant moments make me so happy,
Even though my face and body language fail to convey the beauty I felt today
In grubbing, nerding out, talking about the creative process,
Exploring the unknown, hypothesizing about the meaning of things,
And then just sitting in a chair and going Puddy while staring at a room
Full of positive energy, one bereft of expectations, emotions, and egos.

To find out how great this day was,
To be able to share exactly what it was that made me warm,
Happened because of as my son said, “I’ve got to capitalize on this anger.”
He was talking about writing songs.
He meant finding the stuff that troubles him and putting notes to it.
He is not out there ready to destroy the world.

I knew what he meant,
The confusion raking at my soul
Makes me angry, mostly at myself,
For allowing the lightlessness to reside.

In the middle of a documentary about the making of The Dark Side of the Moon,
I realized it was go-time,
Time to “capitalize on the anger,” by writing.
With Spotify tuned to Pink Floyd’s, Time, the repeat button activated
And nearly an hour later…

Here I am
Happily banging on the keys of my computer
With a desperation that is less the English way and more a me ranting monologue,
But it feels so good.
I’m home, tired, fired up, and using it to move myself along.

Alas, though, anger is fleeting,
Creativity is fickle, and proofreading is a killer.
A quick change of songs,
Her voice, her soulfulness, her utter release of pain,
The acceptance of loss, or some orgasmic moan for a lucky dude,
Has taken the last of my Saturday along with the full moon and winter winds.

I liked today.

There are times when I am at a loss
For my mind can get a grasp
On something that happened
Or an idea that might be bigger
Than I’m used to accepting.

I’m never quite sure
The best way to accept these moments.
Sometimes they are threats,
Other times I deflect with humility.
It just depends on the moment.

The reaction, though, is emotional
Whether I’m defending my ego against
Some perceived foe or hiding my pleasure
Behind a disbelieving confidence,
Both I wish were better than they often are.

Less defensive.
More appreciative.
Easier on the soul, they are, when
Both toe the line and
Let me be that simple guy I want to be.

william_and_mary_bookstore_and_cafe
The William and Mary Bookstore (formerly Casey’s)

There were two real bookstores in Williamsburg when I was a kid. There was Scriveners and The College Bookstore. They were different than the book racks at the grocery stores or at Grant’s Department store. Scriveners and The College Bookstore had prestige, hardcover books, and in the case of the college bookstore awesome sections for swag and drawing. It was the swag that got me hooked me into college bookstores. I rarely visit a college without stopping in the bookstore. There is something about the way the textbooks are organized and the ridiculous gear that they sell to college kids, the over priced sweatshirts, the junk food, and the novelty stuff. It was the William and Mary bookstore where a subtle and long simmering thought was bestowed upon me.

I was hanging out at the bookstore thinking about buying a stuffed basketball for my room when my eye caught a drafting set. Drawing was something that I enjoyed doing, but I had never had the tools that would make me a great artist. The kit had a compass, protractor, and ruler. Naively, I thought that this was all I would need to create great drawings. Little did I know, right? I didn’t by the kit. Instead, I wandered into the books and started looking through history books about different wars. Back then, military history was a big part of my life. My father was interested in military themes, my school was teaching about all of the American wars, and Tidewater was full of military history. The Civil War was at the top of my list back then. The first book I picked up was full of photography of the Civil War. I could not believe the photography of Mathew Brady. I did not see a glamorous portrayal of war. For the first time, I saw real death resulting from the barbarism of war. The pain on the dead soldiers’ faces stole the romanticized images of war Hollywood had propagandized before me. In a real way, my values about wars were changing and I was a long way from the “Tribe swag” that I initially thought of buying.

My time until I would need to hustle to my father’s office was winding down and I knew I better hurry if I was going to buy something. I was torn between the different parts of me, sports, creative, and learner. I bounced around the store picking up the ball, dreaming about drawing, or thumbing through pages of books way above my grade level. I had no idea why I was interested in each of them, but each item pulled on my wanting nerves equally. Finally the time came to make a decision, so I went with a pack of tracing paper.

Really? Tracing paper. Where did that come from?

It’s been about forty years since that day. I am writing this while sitting in a YMCA and listening to a group of middle schoolers use their east coast valley girl accents to talk about playing solitaire while I try to block them out and watch Chase Jarvis Live on YouTube. There’s a lot going on here and I’m searching for reasons why I bought tracing paper… What did I do with that tracing paper? I traced comic books. I guess I tapped into my drawing side by buying the paper. I still can’t draw a great picture, but I get ridiculous with concept maps. Maybe I really want to be a visual artist and the tracing paper allowed that to go on for awhile.

I’m also trying to figure out how the tracing paper beat out the Civil War book. Feel free to offer analysis (for free of course…). Another thing I like to do is take photographs. Mathew Brady is someone who still intrigues me, but it’s Sally Mann who captures the intensity I felt the first time I saw the photos in the book. When I take photos, my first instinct is to find a mood or tone that has the same feel as glass plates. They are imperfect, haunting, and full of mysticism. The tracing paper was none of that, but it was safe and allowed me to replicate something that was there. It was “within the lines” which is something that I’ve learned to live with, but I really wish I never let become a part of me. I wish that I could go into creating something with no fear and make art that represented the honesty that I think Brady and Mann are able to muster. I’m getting closer to that ideal, finding the bite, the true emotion, the abstraction that captures the reality around me. It’s coming…

My best guess is that I bought the paper because the sports gear cost too much and I didn’t want to read the book, just look at the photos. I settled for the paper, because it was something I could use quickly and afford. I also knew my grandfather probably had the drawing gear, so I would not need to waste my money there. Sports would be an important part of my life and still is, but I find myself drawn to the creatives of the world who tend to see the world a bit differently. I do love the artistry of athletic achievement, however, the over saturated, fantasy dominated, and seemingly never ending seasons have worn me out. Music, art, writing each allow me time to think without the television time out, the talking heads explaining the nuances of some obscure rule, or the endless analysis of what team best suits what free agent.

Art also affords me the opportunity to think differently. So much art, no matter the medium is built on being outside the box or close to some edge. I like divergent thinking and my years have taught me that tracing is not the best way to go. I want to create “stuff,” art if you will, and being hamstrung by the idea that I need to be like others, worry about critics, or create for the purpose of sales are ideas that are as thin as the paper that I bought all those years ago. It’s also good that those ideas are just as easily torn like the onion skin thin paper I traced the Incredible Hulk onto. Thank goodness for the College Bookstore. Who knew that someday I would be reflecting on the purpose of tracing paper in my development as a creative? It seems that the day of indecision and settling was more important than I ever knew. Perhaps this is the time that I am finally ready to realize what that day meant to me.

Learning takes time…

Photo Credit:
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/76/William_and_Mary_Bookstore_and_Cafe.jpg

I’ve heard of tangled webs,
Under the radar investigations,
The pomp of bloated egos driving,
But never the insistence of weakness

Now don’t get me wrong
I listened closely to my doubting ways
Wondering if I have what it takes
Sometimes yes, sometimes no
My weakening ways
Cause me to reevaluate to put
To rest that of me I’m not fond of

So without being accusatory
Let me invite those with similar awareness
To forgo ego
And the stories of personal perfection
For it’s in the appreciation of the flaws
Where men can begin to accept who they are
And garner the positive attention they crave

Let go of the sneak
Let go of the cheat
Let of of the over developed authoritarian baselessness
Just be.

Have you ever noticed
They way people react
When they know the humor
At their expense
Is how they actually
See themselves

Tight muscles
Loose fingers
F-laden verbiage
It’s a crack up
Because we take ourselves
Too seriously

A student asked,
“What ‘s the greatest life lesson you’ve learned?”
I had trouble answering
So many have offered so much
Too often I’ve nodded my head
Faking acceptance of the charitable wisdom

I think though
Getting over myself
Might be the lesson

I’m just a man full of imperfections
Strengths and hopes
Of being better
The edges are sharp
And the corners blunt
But inside my acceptance of me
Is bringing my ability to laugh
At me
And all that true stuff people want to joke about

Let us be okay
When someone jokes of our weak heart
Let us be okay
When someone is snarky about our bitchy ways
Let us be okay
Because as Seuss suggested
It’s more fun when you know
How to laugh
(AT YOURSELF)