Where have they gone,
The happy ones?

Where have they gone,
The appreciative ones?

Where have they gone,
Those who don’t complain about others.

Those who are cool
With people being who they are,
With people doing their thing,

The ones who don’t pass judgment,
Who don’t mock,
Who don’t put their shit on others.

Where have those people gone,
Because I’m looking for them.

Where have those people gone,
I hope they are still out there.

Where have they gone,
I want to be one.

“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.

An IT-band can be an awful running mate. The fibrous tissue runs from the hip down the side of the leg to the knee. It’s the gathering place for muscles in the front and back of the thigh. I bet the IT-band thinks of itself as community builder with all of those muscles coming together under its protection. Today I think it is a scam or trap for it has brought a pain to my knee that has stopped me in the middle of a trail about six or seven miles from my car. To go forward on the loop would allow me to finish the miles I needed for my training, but the distance back to the car was shorter if I simply turned around.

How had it come to this?

People run for many reasons, vanity, health, competition. I was running for vanity. My son commented that I looked like a whale and I believed it was true. Sure it hurt, but honesty is best, right? Running was cheap, I could do it at night by myself, and it was an old demon I thought I might exorcise. High school cross country had put a mark on me that I never really ever got over. I started running minutes, then miles, and one day on the White Clay Creek trails in Pennsylvania I had the bright idea to run a marathon. My health was good, the whale was back at see, and after a couple of marathons the competition virus took over.

I set goals. I followed crazy running programs. I went faster, harder, and farther than I thought possible. Things at home had become bad, so I also ran angry. My running face was more of scowl than expression of effort. I had become sick of the nagging, tired of the union, and afraid to move on. To compensate I ran more, raced more, and generally scheduled my runs so I would be away from the one who caused me such pain.

There were morning runs in the dark before work. Runs in the dark of night. Long runs on weekends at far away trails. Distance charts and heart rate graphs became my support system. A shoe rotation system became my higher order thinking. Running was about all I had. My barber used to laugh at me and say that I was too big to run marathons. Soon my body would agree and on a visit to my parents’ house I decided to hit the trails for an extra thirteen just because I loved running in York River State Park.

My legs were beginning to feel the wear and tear of all the running. My hips were tight, my hamstrings were short and there was a knot in my calf that I just accepted as normal. Despite all of the aches, I laced up my trail shoes and shouldered my Camelback and took those first few ginger steps towards something I have a hard time explaining. I don’t think I conjured this up, but who knows.

A normal run started as a struggle until the blood and breath found a balance that let the parts move freely. The first few miles of a long run are about the mind finding a peaceful message and then thinking only of that. Sometimes I counted. Other times, I concentrated on the sound of my breathing. On this day, my mind raced from argument to argument. The energy of it all becoming an obstacle that I could not avoid. To quiet my thoughts, I picked up the pace exerting an energy my IT-band would not ignore. I brushed off the first shooting pains and then there was one step that might be the closest I will ever come to being hit by a musket ball. My knee locked and I hobbled to a stop. After resting and stretching, I tried a few more steps, but the pain was too great. Even walking was too much. All I could do was wait the pain out and then get back on the trail.

“Hey, Chris, what’s going on?”

There is no way that after six miles on a cool and cloudy day that I should be hallucinating, but I had to be. Standing in front of me and dressed for a run was my grandfather, Big Daddy. I knew this could not be true because he had been dead for two years and before that suffered with cancer and lung issues that made him more sloth than trail runner. Besides those obvious maladies, my grandfather would never have worn shorts or a headband.

“Why’d you quit running? You were fast today,” he said.

“It’s my leg. I have a kind of tendinitis,” I said.

He nodded his head like he always did. His eyes were penetrating, but my grandfather was a man of few words. I’m not sure I ever had a conversation with him. He would ask a question and get an answer and that was it. The same worked in reverse, no extra words. He would take me on jobs and errands with him and all that either of us heard was the wind coming in the windows. He always had his hand resting on side mirror and I started doing the same just because it seemed like that was what I was supposed to do.

“You know, I ran ten miles to get to a football game once,” he said.

“I heard that story at your funeral. Why didn’t you just ride the bus?”

“My father made me work all day and I missed the bus. He was a tough man. Anyway, I just had to run. Come on, let’s go.” He held his hand out and helped me up.

Standing was tough. My muscles had cooled and the IT-band was tighter than ever. There was no way I was going to be able to run. Big Daddy had other plans.

“You’ve already been there,” he said pointing back down the trail, “let’s go somewhere new.” He started running down the trail with the bullish gate I would have expected from an old, dead man. I still had a hard time believing he was there, but I followed dragging my pain along with each excruciating step.
“Yep, my father was a tough man. He was until I put him in his proper place.”

I knew very little about my great grandfather. He seemed to have been a rough man who got what he wanted with force and very little sympathy for the feelings of others.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I let my father go. I made a life without him,” he said.

“And what did that do for you?”

“It made me happy.”

On the word “happy” my grandfather began skipping. He was smiling and light in the air. His movement was infectious and I found myself skipping too. Each step-hop took me further down the path with a physical ease and an uncluttered mind. There was a joy the skipping that had been absent from the hundreds of miles that I had run over the last few years.

I lost track of time. It was like we were riding in his tar splotched Dodge listening to the wind whistle through the cab with one arm out the window. Before long, he made a turn and we were heading into the parking lot.

We stopped skipping and he turned to me and said, “Life’s too short. Run away.”

Then he was gone.

I quit running for many years. I never stopped skipping though. His advice was solid and my new life has brought the kind of joy I felt that day on the trail. Recently, the vanity returned and I’ve been running again. This time, though, there is no reason for for aches, pains, struggles, or angry faces. I may as well be skipping because life is happy and if running is not in it for the day, I’ll row.

Thanks, Big Dad.

There’s a treadmill commercial on tv.
Those people did it.
They got to their better place
At just thirty minutes a day.

Be happy for them.

I just hit a few peanut M&Ms and a Pop Tart for breakfast.
Sure I’ll get on the bike later and
I’ll throw some weights around,

And I’ll be happy doing so…at about twenty minutes…

No commercial for me.

Nah, titles can be misleading,

There isn’t much to complain about today.

Sure the sky is gray with the first bits of springtime humidity,

But that’s nothing

Because the sun is behind those clouds and

My friend still has sick days,

When either stops, the sun or his sick days,

The zombies are coming, so I’ll rant then.

Seriously though, why do we get so worked up

Chasing goals that never let us rest

Or why do we waste time

Conjuring up demons that drive us crazy?

What’s the point?

None. 

No complaining today…

Talking with my daughter
About her entering into the working world
As I’m spending more time thinking
About my exit strategy
From the working world;
Both of which are impossible
For either of us to comprehend

Work has dominated my thinking
Since I was in high school
The race to have money,
Insurance, and a pension
Making for a laborious toil
In search of security’s spoils

But my older years are asking more questions
About the meaning of work,
The why behind what I do,
On the balance between growth and gain where
Dastardly thoughts about whether
Any of the time spent working really means anything,
Since the purpose should be more rewarding
Than the salary and benefits

Fortune has been bestowed upon me twice
Not as a financial windfal, rather as two jobs where
Excellence and creativity merged
To make the daily hassles nothing more
Than hiccups in the day
Each job brought expectations of “smart”
Instead of bottom feeding drudgery
In the form of white collar time card punching banality.
Too bad those two meaningful experiences
Did not become careers
Because my quest for the big time
Dropped me in situations
With no mobility,
Ever changing political manipulation,
And reliance on efficiency
Over anything considered collaborative
Or creative

I miss making spokes
The labor so exacting and
Dexterity so important as
To bring to life
A wheel round and true
While the ride in historical literature
Kept the present informed of the past’s simple complexities
I miss the high ropes of summer
With kids so out of their city comfort and
Dealing with high thinking intellectuals who
Debated with vigor and collective vision
The best ways to inspire these kids of hope
To find their ways to better lives
Than offered by their unforgiving streets

Nothing could compare to those experiences
Not really even jobs
As they hold a place
For this working man
Beyond the human resources of management,
Parents, and
Even students

So my daughter
As you look for a career
Be ready for the aggrevations
But find a gem of a job
That doesn’t act like one

They’re worth the sacrifice