Ah, man, Eddie died.
Van Halen, done.
I was late to the game,
Although, Columbia Records and Tapes
Did come through with one album
When I was still in high school.

Pretty good penny I spent there.

So many weekends started with VH,
Junior high, starting the night at Glen’s, west of the Atlantic,
Running With the Devil,
Vinyl, cranked on a Pioneer turntable,
Just before his father could come home and shut down
“That infernal music.”

He was more a Merle guy.

Over ten years ago, I was hanging with the goat herder
When we saw Poodle, Glen’s cousin.
Same deal, west of the Atlantic,
But there was no Eddie that night,
Just Pepe and the mysticism conjured
By an evening influenced by the agave gods.

I miss those days.

A piece of high school headed on today,
Maybe the greatest, who knows,
But I can say without question,
Listening to his solos today
Has me reminiscing about the old times
And thinking how much I really did like VH.

The last few days have been a walk down my musical memory lane, back to a time when it was more lonely and painfully quiet. I got by listening to Neko, Hayes, Lindell, and Anders. Things seemed like they would never get better and then it all changed about the time I heard “She Left Me for Jesus.” I figured out that being alone is only hard when you’re not sure of who you are. Once I realized that and accepted who I was, you stepped into my life. It was something at first, the music being a connection, the 80s have that effect on people, I suppose. I overplayed my hand thinking you’d think me cool for listening to Ben Harper…I do still like him…but I don’t think you ever really did. In the end, it’s all worked out. Thank goodness.

Perspective is perplexing,
Music is relaxing,
Plenty of coffee is “Ex-laxing”
And I’m sitting in a convection oven office
Trying to make sense of
Moods,
Mayhem,
Mental incarceration, and
Any other mmm-mmm bad
Thing that might surf through my brain.

Take perspective,
A walk in the reality of one,
Since we all see things differently,
Through our lens,
In our time, with our emotional makeup,
Under the stresses of our lives.
It’s easy to see how we can be so confused
By the way we are supposed to be
Because the rules are made by those seeing
In way unique to them, foreign to us.

In these days of Rrrrrr,
Political discourse, career apathy,
Self-inflicted physical beatdowns,
The rundown nature of getting on
Tends to taint my outlook on how things are going.
Music soothes, takes on that edge,
With just a little hit on the boombox bong
I melted away without the need for psychoactive properties
Given a little bass, some familiar words, and
I zoomed away from the manstrating mood I found myself in.

Today, Joe Walsh’s, Life’s Been Good To Me, played, it’s
A teenage anthem that never fails to raise my spirit.
Coming through beat up desktop speakers, Joe helped me leave now
Allowing me to drift back to a community gathering where
Big Pioneer speakers added the soundtrack
For a night of shenanigans that
Started a summer adventure
Where for a few weeks
I’d understand the importance
Of patience, pacing, and accepting the impermanence of life.

Maybe the song was the inspiration
For my nostalgic trip back to York County.
Maybe it was the river of coffee that I’d been drinking
Due to the absence of anything stronger
During working hours.
Interestingly, the java didn’t loosen my bowels,
It relaxed my thoughts, allowing those good memories
To flood my present and wash away
The stodgy way of thinking I woke up with.
Perspective, music, and coffee. Ahh…

The Wood Brothers are playing,
I’m back in Williamsburg
In the heat of a swampy Tidewater day.

It’s raining outside,
A cool Pennsylvania New Year’s Eve rain
And that delta blues groove is drawing me in.

I could be sitting next to the James
With the wind blowing lightly,
The spirit of Carter’s Grove as conflicted as ever.

The land fit for a king,
Supported on the forced servitude of slaves,
Evolved into a sanctuary for me.

And The Wood Brothers are tapping into that energy
Sending my soul to that place where I care
The one where I wish I could wave my hands to erase history

The history of slavery,
The history of doubt,
The one where my head spins without reason.

Truth is those cool breezes spoke to me,
I knew they were telling me things could be better
For us, for me

That people could get along,
That I could be cool with me,
That New Year’s Eve could be sober.

Those breezes are still with me,
They blow a little stiffer now,
Especially, the warm one about caring and purpose

For I’m traveling,
With the energy of the new year,
And maybe I’ll wind up in Williamsburg for real, maybe not,

But one thing is sure,
I’m open to messages everywhere,
Apathy has no shot.

It’s interesting to look back at a journal,
To see where the energy had been alotted,
To find an understanding of the winds,
To just remember what has happened,
Where things went off course,
Those happy moments worth writing about,
The ideas jotted down and forgotten.

It’s interesting to think forward about a journal,
To see how I might allocate my energies,
Catching wind and sailing along
Into new experiences, thrilling or not,
Creating memories that make smiles and wrinkles
Whether on point or far from wanted,
Each worthy of an entry
To be jotted down or forgotten.

Rushing memories,
Fleeting emotions,
Songs of a cold basement,
Signs of the bad
And worse
Of times.

Rays of brightness
Slow a running mind with
Cooling thoughts and
Songs of enlightenment,
Signs of the most exciting
And frightening
Of times.

A brilliant dimness,
The perfect antidote
To the ups and downs,
A song of truth and love,
Signs of eternal commitment
And security
Within these times.

Many years ago
I made a move to teach
At a high school.
After elementary school and middle school,
I figured I had seen just about everything.

I hadn’t.

Besides the normal school stuff,
I got to learn a whole new faculty.
One man was a longtime teacher
Who was nearing retirement.
I only knew him in passing, but he was always around.

He ran the hallways during his planning.
His choppy steps were quiet
And he always listened to something
Loud enough on his headphones
To bypass his downgraded hearing ability.

After he retired,
He stuck around.
Using his guile and experience
From teaching the hardest of students
To manage the toughest of all teaching jobs, the substitute.

And he ran.

After a quick Clark Kent change,
He was out of his bow tie
Making his way around the building
With a pace perfect
For memorizing his lines in the script he carried.

I never knew he was an actor,
But he was great,
Never letting on that he had cancer,
Never suggesting that he could not beat it.
His anger seemed manageable as he reasoned with his struggle.

Yet, he remained upbeat
Running as much as possible,
Reading during quiet moments between classes,
Standing through the rigors of standardized testing,
Acting as if he was on the mend.

We last spoke about two weeks ago.
He did some quiet judging of education,
How we are missing the importance of what we are
By focusing so much time on testing
For he had been a man of relationships, no matter how difficult the student.

Word came today that Kirk passed away.
Cancer took a good man away from us all too soon.
He lived with a dignity and honesty
Few will ever approach.
So long, Mr. Fetters…

Time has a way of distorting perceptions.
An athletic career is probably never
As good or bad as a retired athlete remembers,
So making comparisons to the present in the past’s context
Are sketchy at best.

I’ve been coaching for awhile now,
Really a millisecond in the life of my career
As a physical education teacher,
But it’s interesting
Thinking back to how I was as I watch my players now.

The demands on today’s players are too much.
Year round, open gyms, specialty coaches
It’s ridiculous
Because all the special stuff
Doesn’t help kids know how to play better.

I couldn’t survive in this environment.
I liked the seasons,
Winter basketball, spring and summer baseball, and
Fall was mine to piss way,
To just be a kid.

Yet, somehow I got as far as I could
With an understanding of how the games are played,
A sports IQ if you will, and yet,
As I coach today, I know there is still more to learn,
Mostly how to understand what I don’t…arrogance, egoism, delusion…

Then I think, maybe I’m carrying that baggage
Thinking I know the best way
Wanting the kids to be something they cannot be,
Wishing this wasn’t a recreational stop in their careers,
But something that brought some pride to the school.

I think about wanting to play Bruton.
I think about warring against Denbigh or
Sweating it out against Hampton and how
We tried to do right by our school coaches
So our school would be respected.

We knew when to pick and how to roll.
We understood that baseball is dynamic and
Standing around only creates an attitude of passiveness.
Whether it was coaches or players
We were together.

Then I remember some players
Who rode the drama train when they didn’t get what they wanted
And they turned on the coaches or teammates
Robbing us of whatever unity
We worked so hard to build.

Now I see
Then was not so different than now
I understand how time smooths the rough edges
Yet I can’t shake the idea that I can coach “as we should be,”
Not allowing the existing culture that so many are willing to accept.

The turnaround starts when kids carry equipment.
The attitude changes when kids drop the comebacks after being coached.
Hustling, making the correct play, dropping the stat line,
All of these things matter.
Helping the kids understand that is the hard part of coaching.

Looking back,
I think my coaches made those priorities.
They all had their way, but togetherness, team pride, and accountability
All rose from the standards that they set out.
Those lessons mattered more than my launch angle at the plate or a three on the court.

The time has come for some Coach Jones confrontation.
The controversial one once took a cocky white boy to the side and said,
“Son, you look disrespectable.”
Maybe this was the wrong word, a malapropism, but the message was clear,
“Get your shit together and represent your team correctly.”

It took me “being me” to learn the lesson the hard way,
But I got the message because my coach helped me to understand.
My talent level didn’t change, but my attitude about what it meant to be an athlete did.
Perhaps we need a little of that Melvin mental chiropractic adjusting
To align some of our pasts with the curvature disorders of the present.

I sure hope my coaches remember me as a team player.
I hope they remember me listening to them.
I want my teammates to have thought me a good teammate,
Better yet, a friend, someone they could count on
To be in the right place at the right time.

Ah, that what then…