7.16.2018

I'M HERE, YOU'RE THERE, I'M COMING.

One of the principles I believe in, which I believe is somewhat backed up by science, is the finite nature of present time. We can engage in infinite philosophical discussions about the meaning of time, and continuums, and the relationship between it and other variables, but when it comes to cold reality, we have what we have. That’s it. There’s no stretching or squeezing. It brutally exists in the same way that sometimes feels plodding and sometimes feels accelerated, but notwithstanding our feelings, it’s the same. One second is one second. One day is one day. Et cetera.

I really loathe guilt trips. What do they buy you when you’re handing them out? The same thing you get when you’re receiving one: resentment. Friendships and relationships built around guilt and unrealistic expectations are not a good or a healthy thing.

I fight it sometimes. Pretty sure most people do. I tried to eliminate them, but they can be fun and feel so useful...when you’re the one handing them out.

Pivoting: I do think one of the hallmarks of great relationships - not ALL, just great ones - is that they’re proactive.



In other words, it’s the difference between saying,

Are you upset about something? Well, let me know if you want to talk.

And saying:

I’m sensing you’re upset about something. Let’s talk.

The difference between:

Sounds like you’re overwhelmed! Let me know if you need help!

And saying:

I think you have a lot going on and I would love to listen and help. What shall we start with and what can I do?

The difference between:

Let me know if you want to talk.

versus

Let’s talk. Tell me what’s going on! And let’s face this together.

The difference between

Responding to a heartfelt message with an emoji.

versus

Responding to a personal message with a thoughtful response.

___


I’ve tried to help our kids learn how to converse well: 




“Conversation is a ball. You’re playing catch, and you take turns. You keep it going. You throw, you catch. Good dialog is like that. Active. You answer a question and then you throw it back. That’s what makes conversation - and friendship - fun. It’s active and you keep tossing things back and forth. It's not one person's job to keep it going. You gotta both be in it.”

Life is tough sometimes. And most people...they’re on middle and outer edges of our concentric social circles; the people we nod to and say ‘how you doing?’ without breaking stride, the ones we banter casually and playfully with and keep ourselves in check with appropriate decorum and protocol for the nature of that friendship.


But the handful of deeper and more meaningful ones we might be fortunate to have...by definition, they may need a little extra time and effort and concern and concerted exertion building and growing...

...those are the the ones that need proactive energy; the kind that doesn’t wait or expect the other to contact you for help.



And energy, although different than love, has the potential to have a similar characteristic in the right circumstances: it can multiply. Good energy (I know this runs slightly counter to Science 101) multiplies itself. Bring good energy in. Proactive. A rocket boost. Or even a tiny little vial-size boost. Not fake positivity; totally different thing. 

An energy that says "hey, this is tough, and you need some extra energy, so I'm jumping in with you, and let's boost each other up today." 

And that can be two minutes. Two minutes of proactivity here and there. An investment. Those two minutes add up. They're doable. But don't wait. It's a ball. You catch, you throw. 

You go. You don’t wait. You confidently forge ahead and take ownership of that valuable thing that you share and you make it your place to make sure they’re good.

Because sometimes, it is your place.

And it feels good to know there’s someone coming to check on you before you’ve asked.

That’s what we do for each other. What we should do.

And that word “should” is at the root of so many guilt trips.

You should do this.
You should do that.

So be it.

To those people you may be extra close to and have special connections with: you should be proactive. Don’t wait to be there for them. Don't wait for them to ask. 

Just go. Be there. 

Happy sunshine day, all. Go get 'em. Get him. Or her. Go. 




7.13.2018

MUSIC : Five thoughts on Sepultura, U2, James, Kings of Leon, Avett Brothers.

1. 1974

I firmly believe that the very best music, like a lot of great art, often takes time to absorb and appreciate. It may not immediately impress itself upon you. Many of my favourite artists have a mix of accessible and challenging compositions that have sometimes taken years for me to fall head over heels for. Radiohead. Grandaddy. Charlie Parker.

Regarding Van Morrison : the Irish Van Morrison that consistently lands a handful of albums on critics' 'all-time best albums' lists:

I don't get. I want to like him. I want to love him.

But I don't. If I want mournful, stripped down melody, I'll go with quiet Neil Young, or Sea of Bees, or Joni Mitchell, or...any number of others. I'll take Van Morrison over James Taylor. But not by much.

I'm trying to get through Veedon Fleece again while I'm working. It's not that I hate it. It's that it's so...blasé.

I'm not giving up on him. But close.

1986

2. 1993

I am very picky about the metal I listen to. I much prefer Brazilian Max Cavalera's later bands, Soulfly and Killer Be Killed, to the 90s outfit that made him a legend: Sepultura. But I still enjoy pulling them out occasionally, and The Hunt, from 1993's Chaos A.D. is a worthy chug-chug with his inimitable growly growl. And if you want a bit of that tribal rhythm he loves playing around with, give the title track, Chaos A.D., a spin.

feb 2003

3.  2014

U2's Songs of Innocence has left me unimpressed. Haven't listened for a few years. Love them, although they're not up there with the majestic sometimes-similar sounding James. Speaking of whom: I absolutely love love love track seven off 2016's The Girl at the End of the World. The song is Surfer's Song and I watched the stars sparkling recently while listening to it on repeat and it is magical. Vintage James: soaring vocals, heartfelt lyrics, insistent rhythm section to keep you tapping, intimate verses with big choruses...tres magnifique. 

Know that your love's right
Whatever your incline
Be the bright light
In these dark times
Clearing the high bar
Hearing the crowd roar
Here comes, here comes, here comes
aug 1990 / shingletown, california
The swell, swell, swell
june 2018 / cape kiwanda, pacific city, oregon
Cascading over me
Their gorgeous La Petite Mort from 2014 is still a very special album to me, and possibly - possibly - my favourite. I can play Walk Like You, Frozen Britain, All I'm Saying, and Moving On over and over and over...

4. 2016

Over. Track 5 off Kings of Leon's WALLS. Rugged, modern mashup of rootsy Americana and designer jean rock n' roll.

Current Top 5 KoL tracks:
A. Sex on Fire (2008)
B. Over (2016)
C. True Love Way (2007)
D. Eyes On You (2016)
E. Tonight (2013)

I read an article about them a decade ago and the only thing I remember is one of their girlfriends talking about how they all wore jeans that were so skinny and tight they had to shimmy into them in contortions that even she couldn't manage. No idea why that stuck with me. Totally irrelevant. Except there's a strange humor in realizing some great arena-ready rock and roll country is being made by guys who need help squeezing into their pants. Maybe not that unusual now that I think about it. It's hard to imagine Willie Nelson doing that though.

One of my faves, Rachel, was telling me about how much she's been enjoying Avett Brothers, which is what made me dig up my old Kings and Avett albums. I'm hoping to have the same slow re-discovery experience with Avett that I did with Leon: slow burn fall in love. She says Emotionalism is awesome. She may be right, she often is. She is my only friend I know who actively loves James so much, as much as I do, and I love that.

My friend Jon is my only friend I know who actively read and loved The Great Brain book series as a kid. I love that too. Totally different.

photo of me by jon / june 2016

Those bonds you build over shared literary and music affections can be so beautiful and important. 


5. 2007

Circles. You give help, you get help. You give advice, you accept advice. You make recommendations, you listen to others' recommendations. 

Relationships are about circles. Closing circles, or trying to create some sort of closure with Cubist oval-shaped connecting lines that entangle and cross over and around each other and eventually meet up and close the gap.

spoiler:

these ones have 

permanent residencies (see: below) 
I love music, and have loved learning about and absorbing music since I was around 12 years old (Ghostbusters II and Batman soundtracks on cassette, thank you). I've listened and thought about a lot of music, and I've given a lot of recommendations about what I like. When I give one, I try to think about the specific person and how they might appreciate it. Sometimes I try and keep my mouth shut. Still haven't found any of my friends or family who dig Deafheaven like I do.



But give and take. I know the joy that can come from introducing someone to something they fall in love with, and it's best when it's a two-headed arrow. If I'm asking you to take a listen to something, it's fair that I take a listen to something important to you. 

Which is also why I don't go just making recommendations to anybody. I'm not interested in making time to listen to some people's junky taste in music. Yes, I just said that. But just like I can't be friends with everyone, I can't listen to the music everyone around me likes. I have a small and expanding group of people I trust to recommend well. 

And sometimes I listen to a recommendation to give a second chance to something I passed on once. The Avett Brothers. I listened to them a while back and liked their idea more than their songs. Fun and folksy instrumentation, but nothing struck me as super special. But recently, someone said: 

I am loving the Avett Brothers. 

And that's all I needed. Because I trust her. We are not in total sync; she gave Deafheaven one sad listen on the way to snowboard at Mt. Hood (poor timing on my part). She dig Phish and the Grateful Dead and I'm still waiting for her to provide reasons why I should like either band. Or at least some opening tracks to make the introduction to their bottomless catalogs less daunting. 

But I know she has reasons for loving what she loves, and even if we disagree, there will be potential for good banter, argument, and discussion. And I love it when people are excited about something. She's excited about the A. Bros. So I gave - am giving - them a second chance. 

She said their 2007 album Emotionalism is great. I happen to have it, and I happen to have listened to it two times a decade ago and made up my mind. So I took a re-listen with fresh ears. 

There are three songs touching my heart quickly on this third go-round. 

1. Shame
2. I Would Be Sad
3. Will You Return?

The little flourishes I'm picking up on, especially when the piano bubbles in. And some of the couplets feel handpicked from my brain. 

I wish you'd see yourself as beautiful as I see you
Why can't you see yourself as beautiful as I see you?

How do you ever know what others think of you, or how they see you? 

You don't. 

And that's okay. I don't care what most people think of me. I am me. The bulk of me tries to be kind, respectful, and interesting to everyone I interact with. And the bulk of me is ambivalent about whether most people think of me, my style, my work, my thoughts and philosophies and preferences. They can like who I am and all the traits and preferences and eccentricities and foibles I bring. Or not...

1998
...but there is a core part, a small and integral part, that cares very much what some people, what certain and select ones, think of me. It's a deeply vulnerable thing to admit that you care what someone thinks. I think in this respect, I may possibly be normal-ish, aside from the fact that I acknowledge and own it, though I have no plans to provide a full list. :) 

I want the people closest to me to know what I think of them. I have no plans to die today, or tomorrow, or next week. I hope I don't. 

But I don't know. I simply have no idea how many days I have on this earth. 

And the people I love...why not effing say it? 

Say: 
"I care what you think."

Say: 
"Your opinion matters a lot to me."

Say: 
"You're beautiful. Try seeing yourself as I see you."

Such a beautiful line to build an entire cornerstone of a life philosophy around. I choose to do so. 

Avett Brothers nailed it. 

Here's to third chances. Thanks, Rach. And maybe don't give up on Deafheaven.





___






Deafheaven / Luna off New Bermuda (2015)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifyQfFNgO3E




















7.10.2018

CONVERSATIONS. Christy the Barber and cheap movies.

So what are we doing?
she asked, clippers at the ready;
we made eye contact in the giant mirror as she stood behind me.

Well,

I said.
I'd like some hair cut off. On the sides, and maybe top, and I was thinking of having you make me look cool. Can you do that?

She laughed.

Yep. We'll start with a four-inch and see how that looks.

Okay.

I said.
Cool.

A FEW MINUTES LATER. 

Doing anything fun this summer?
I asked.

No...

she thought carefully.
Watch movies. And my granddaughter is ten months old and I love seeing her a couple times a week. She's so cute. She's standing up now, and saying 'mama' and she'll be walking anytime.

So fun to see them learn new skills!

I said.

And my best friend's moving up from Texas.

she said.
So I'm excited about that. She moved down there so her kids could be closer to their dad. But she couldn't stay. So she's moving back, and her daughter has already been texting me asking if I'll do her hair. She wants to go pink. I said 'fine by me, is your mom cool with it?'

That's great,

I said.
I bet you'll enjoy having your friend back. What do you like doing with her?

Oh, let me see...

she thought.
Mostly hang out, and we watch movies. Yeah, stuff like that.

Any good movies lately?

I asked.

She thought deeply.

No...I can't remember the last one I saw in the theater.

She lowered her voice.

You know, I found this website online where you can watch movies for free. It's great.

Whoa,

I said.
For free?

Yep.

she said proudly, as she snipped away.
Like the movies that are still in the theater. It's way cheaper than paying to go see them. I don't remember what I've seen. I've got, oh, let's see, Netflix, Hulu, all those, plus this website where I watch movies in the theater. I don't remember what I've seen though. I like everything. Except scary movies. My son won't sit next to me in the theater during a scary movie because I'm so loud. I get scared at everything. So I watch the scary movies at home. In my living room.

For free?

I said.

Yep,

she laughed.
For free! It's so much better that way.

*

I thought about asking for a free haircut, as I would prefer that as opposed to paying for it, but decided as she was halfway done, it might not be optimal timing. And when she did finish, I forgot to ask.
*

We spoke of other things, including allergies and how to handle customers who have gross hair. But that's for another time.


And she did make me look cool. Sort of cool. Thanks Christine.






7.06.2018

CONVERSATIONS. Koda and Drake, lost hikers on a backroad.

The night was getting dark as we drove the last couple hundred yards up the mountain; almost home after seven hours on the road. 

Look!
One of the children said.
There’s two teenagers walking up our mountain!

On this rare occasion, they were correct. I looked out and there were two boys; one shirtless, weaving their way up the mountain a hundred yards from our place. 

I pulled in. Me and three of my favourite girls: my 10-year old daughter, my eight-year old niece, and my 22-year old sister. Home at last. I turned off the lights, opened the car door, and stepped outside.

Daddy!
she whispered urgently. 
They’re coming down our driveway! 

Sure enough. Two young men slinked down the driveway. After 10pm, dark night, lonely mountain, two strange characters in my yard. 

I shut the door, tossed the keys in, and locked it from the inside, not in that order, and walked up to confront them. 

Hi!
I said. 
What’s going on?

They both started talking, but then the shorter, shirtless, inked one anointed himself the alpha. I’m not going to try quoting him, because very little made sense, but apparently there was an ex-girlfriend they were supposed to meet, and then they somehow got lost. Lost on the top of a mountain three miles from the Safeway at the bottom where they had started off. 

Can I use your phone? 
he asked. 
I’m really sorry, mine is almost dead and I need to call my mom to see if she can pick us up.

Right, I thought, and bypassed his question with my own
Are you drinking?
I asked. 

No sir,
He said. 
I mean, earlier we were, but not since we started walking up this mountain.

You smell like booze. 
I said. 
What’s the number?

I punched it in and handed the phone to him, crowding him a little and keeping his tall skinny friend in my field of view. 

The children peered through the car window and he noticed as the phone was ringing. 
Your kids are so cute.
He said.
I love kids. I’m definitely planning on having my own kids.

I decided to wait until he was off the phone to suggest that perhaps he consider having his own children with someone other than his ex-girlfriend, and also possibly investing in an automobile, and possibly a lifestyle change or two. 

An older female voice answered at the other end. He jumped right in. Hey Mom, can you pick us up? We were supposed to meet ____ and ______ and then _____ so can you pick us up at the cross street of ______.  

Okay, see you soon, love you Mama. 

Hung up, handed my phone back. My body relaxed slightly; happy that I wasn’t going to have to chase someone in the dark to get my phone back. 

Hey thanks so much,
He said.
Sorry to bother you. 

Sure thing.
I said.

They started walking up our driveway. I gave twenty seconds to make sure they weren’t bluffing and made a decision:

Hey,
I called.
Call your mom back. I’ll give you a ride to Safeway. 

Really?
He said.
That would be so awesome!

Yep.
I said.
Give me two minutes.

I unloaded my daughter, niece, and sister our of the car quickly and hustled them inside.

Lock it behind.
I told my sis. 
I’ll call you in ten. 

They climbed in and I drove out. One hand on the wheel, one on my phone and two-foot length of sturdy fiberglass club I keep handy for such situations. 

So...
I said.
Explain to me again how you came to be up here?

Again, they both started in, but the shorter, the one in the passenger seat, took over. Short version is they were trying to walk partway up the mountain to meet his ex-girlfriend, and obviously paths got crossed up, and cell phones were going dead, and...

What were your names?
I asked.

Koda. 
Said the shorter alpha in the front seat.

Drake.
Said the taller sidekick in the back. 

Joseph.
I said from my position in the driver’s seat. 
So she’s your ex, Koda? 

Yeah.
He said.
I mean...sort of. It’s complicated. I mean, I still love her, and she sometimes likes me, but she yanks me around a lot and I’m okay with it. I know what to expect. 

Well...
I said. 
I don’t know what to say. That’s not cool. Sounds like you’re a loyal guy. Meeting up with her tonight and all. 

Yeah.
He said.

So what keeps you guys busy when you’re not hiking mountains in the dark?
I asked.

Koda jumped in. 
I’m gonna travel and buy property. My plan is, I’m going to school to learn HVAC, and when I’m done I’ll start at $60 thousand a year, and then I’ll be making in the triple digits after a few years. 

Whoa.
I said. 
Sounds like a good plan.

Yeah totally.
He said.
So I’m gonna save up three or four hundred thousand and then buy property. I’ve been researching and you can buy, like, 40 acres for $20 grand in Montana.  

Montana’s awesome,
I said, checking out quiet Drake in the back seat. 
You been there?

Nah,
He said.
I’ve never been further away than Bend. But there’s, like a bunch of places in the world where you can buy cheap property. After I’ve saved up three or four hundred thousand I’ll go buy some and then get a 5th wheel with my buddies and set up a drifting track. 

Pretty cool!
I said.
Have you checked out Tokyo?

I’m really into drifting,
He raced ahead.
But I wanna make my own track, so we can build it how we want, and then just, like, do it whenever we want, you know. 

That sounds like it’ll be a pretty awesome experience and setup. 
I said. 
I would love to find out about some of these property deals. And maybe start HVAC school. 

Yeah.
He said. 
I’ve got it figured out. 

What about you, Drake?
I asked.
What’re you up to?

I did have a job until a few weeks ago,
He said.
I worked with my dad loading pallets and cargo and stuff. But then he got fired for drinking on the job. So they fired me too because I guess they thought I wouldn’t be reliable either. 

That’s unfortunate, I’m sorry,
I said.
Are you reliable?

Yeah,
He said. 
I’m planning to go through IBEW training so I can be an electrician. You make good money. 

That’s what I hear,
I said. 
Good luck. So how do you guys know each other?

We went to the same high school,
Koda jumped in. 
But we weren’t friends. We were in, like, totally different groups. But then I saw him at a party and I was like, hey, I know you. We should, you know, so yeah, we were trying to meet up with my girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. 

I’m supposed to be in Maui right now,
Drake explained from the back.
But I missed my flight.

Uhh...
I said. 
How did that happen?

I was at a party the night before,
He said.
And I forgot to set my alarm and my friend that I was supposed to go with called and said we gotta go RIGHT now, and he said he could come pick me up if I was ready right then, but I was too out of it and I just said, ‘just go man.’ So he did. 

So...
I said.
What happened to your ticket?

I told him to take his girlfriend,
Drake said.

So originally he was going with you, 
I asked.
But then his girlfriend was ready to go last minute and the ticket transfer worked and all?

Yeah, pretty much,
He said. 
Maui would be pretty cool, I’ve never been there. 

I’ve heard it’s kind of spectacular,
I said.
But on the bright side, at least your friend’s girlfriend is enjoying it.

Yeah.
He said. 
It’s like, I probably shouldn’t have gone to the party the night before.

Yeah.
I said.
That might have been a good idea...but you’ll have a drifting track to hang out at soon!

Yeah!
Koda said, and Drake nodded in the back. 

I pulled into the Safeway, directly in front, and stuck my hazards on. 

You guys gonna be good from here? 
I asked.

Oh yeah, yeah yeah.
Koda said.
Thank you SO MUCH. 

He reached out his hand and gave me a firm handshake. Drake leaned in and gave me one too. 

Thank you SO MUCH.
He said also.

Sure thing, guys,
I said.
Good luck with everything, and school and work and property ownership!

I drove away and watched in the rear view mirror as they scanned the parking lot for their ride, which I was not inclined to wait around for. 

SIX MINUTES LATER:

I parked for the second time that night in our driveway. Stuck my key in the front door lock, twisted, opened, walked in...

...and was greeted by a 22-, 10-, and 8-year old in suspended state of attack; ready to repel unknown entrants. I believe one - my daughter - was aggressively holding a pair of scissors in front of her. I do not recall whether my sister was wielding a machete, or whether or not my niece had a chainsaw. Those details escape me. What I do recall is that apparently my return was not expected; they were in fact quite certain that “the teenage boys,” as they derisively called them, would be returning, sans me, to attack the house, rob everything, and leave a trail of carnage behind. 

Somewhere between one and three of them fully believed this. 

*
FOOTNOTE: my daughter corrected this incident to the following: “I didn’t think the TWO of them would be coming back. I thought THEY were the distraction, and after you left, a THIRD would be coming along to break into the house.” 

Where she gets her out-of-control imagination, I have no idea.
*

I spent the rest of the night on the phone, talking down my son, my nephew, and various other family members and friends that had been alerted during my eleven-minute absence to the near-catastrophe. There were tears, there was certainty that we would be under home invasion for the rest of their childhood, and there was nowhere in any conversation the acknowledgment that I was, in fact, the hero of this story and handled it exceptionally well. I am, in fact, the only one that has truly stated the simple facts, which are that absolutely yes, they were planning to attack the house and do horrible things, but due to my calm, firm, and non-violent intervention, a Manson-esque tragedy was averted. 

Again, my involvement in this has never been the focal point in this story. Am I a hero? Who’s to say? Who’s to say. I just live my life threading the guy wire between Sergeant John “Die Hard” McClain and Nelson Mandela. The streets are safe, the mountain is secure, and Koda and Drake...I wish you the best with your future jobs, properties, and relationships. 



And maybe learn to prioritize between a party and a Hawaiian vacation. Mazel tov, boys.