Tuesday, January 27, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part IV: 925-901

Turns out I'm only getting two installments up in January.

Christ.

I think I'm coming to terms with how much time this will take, though. Now my concern is coming up with 800 more -- I'm trying to stay four entries ahead -- things for which I can claim to be thankful.

Wouldn't that be shitty if I literally just ran out of things at like 677? I'd probably sound like a real asshole and people would be all like, Uhh-nnhhh, He doesn't even like grass or birds or the fact that Taco Bell is open until four a.m.

Guess what? Probably not going to be a problem. As long as we keep producing crappy people in this country, the beautiful elements stand out even more.

Yay, balance!

Anyway, here's this...

Nine Hundred Twenty-Five: synchronicity


            This phenomenon has presented continuous patterns to me on numerous occasions in the last two or three months and it’s really tripped me out. In a good way. We all have those déjà vu-y moments from time to time which we tend (I think) to find pretty cool. This, though. This has been borderline outlandish. And I dig it. There’ve been so many recent examples that I’ve lost track of them, but the most recent one remains fresh.

            There was a person with whom I wanted to speak. The thought came to me on a Saturday, but before I could act upon it, I forgot. The next morning, he and his wife were at church. I went to speak with him after Mass, but he’d taken the kids to the car, so I told his wife to give him my number. I didn’t hear from him that day, nor did I on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and again: I forgot. Friday morning, however, I was driving, and I remembered again. I thought about it for a few minutes, and at the next red light, I looked at my phone.

            A text from an unknown number appeared in my inbox and as I read through it, I realized it was him.
 
There was also the time where I ran into five people I knew in three days that were all wearing the same Flash Gordon t-shirt from Target. All five of them had different reasons for wearing it, too. Or the series of instances in which the same topic of conversation arose in three separate scenarios (all with different parties), each of them a day apart.

            I don’t really have anything else to say about it, save for that it makes me feel alive, and for that, I am grateful.

Nine Hundred Twenty-Four: tobacco

            These can’t all be flowery and pure. Life’s not that way and some gratitudes -- I’m discovering -- you come by the hard way. I first consumed the national cash crop because I wanted to fit in, to be popular. That was over 20 years ago, and today it’s still, in many senses, a crutch. I don’t love tobacco, but I do like it. You can find an incredible Frank Zappa interview on YouTube, wherein he refers to tobacco as a sort of food.

            “Tobacco is my favorite vegetable,” he said.

            I felt that way about tobacco for years before I heard him say that, only I didn’t realize that that was what I felt. Now that I’ve recognized it, I’m trying to teach myself that it’s not a necessary food. I know that I don’t need it. I just haven’t learned to live without it.

            At the same time, I’m grateful for that. I’ve enjoyed tobacco and, on occasion, I’ve leaned on it. That gratefulness exists only as potential, though, a potential that I’ll appreciate to its capacity when I can say that I do live without it. I’m not there yet, but I appreciate where I’ve gotten.

Nine Hundred Twenty-Three: Dr. Dre

            I’m not a rap expert, but I haven’t felt a stronger sense of importance from any artist of the genre than that with which Dr. Dre’s music leaves me. I dig Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Snoop (Dogg) Lion, Warren G., Tupac, Eminem, and old Sir Mix-a-Lot, to name a few. Each has his place in the significance pyramid, but Dr. Dre will always be tops.

Nine Hundred Twenty-Two: unnamed friend #5

            Any cat who sits at his desk and tries to assign value to the (significant) individual friendships he’s had over the years could be called foolish. This, however, is me as I type the words for this entry.

            Unnamed friend number five was -- at one time -- one of the best friends I had. It was a tricky deal, though, because I think unnamed friend number five has been that valuable to a considerable number of people in his adult life. Never have I found a larger wealth of intelligence, noteworthy compassion, zest for adventure, and a hunger for good sports, accurate news, and new music all wrapped into one human being. That’s unnamed friend number five, though. He’s the kind of guy that can be all of those things that he is and adapt himself (with precision) to the levels of the person with whom he interacts.

            To put it another way, he can spruce himself up or dumb himself down -- and does so without reluctance -- just to make his every interaction all the richer. And for a healthy decade plus, we were really close.
            A number of things have transpired in recent years, most of which have created what started as distance -- but grew to a rift -- between us. This has a little bit to do with geography, and some to do with growing families and newfound demands. The bulk of it, however (I’m sad to admit), has to do with the fact that he does not care for the person that I have either a) become, or b) always been. The evolution of our situation has to do with viewpoint expression in various forms, almost none of which has been face-to-face, but regardless of medium: I am not the kind of person with whom he wants to associate. Not with any regularity, anyway.

            This entry does not seek sympathy or to display a stance. That doesn’t mean that the words in it weren’t hard to think and then write; they were. This entry seeks acknowledgment in the form of a gift I was given: meeting this person, becoming his friend, becoming close with him, and learning more from him than I probably realize. That our paths in life crossed leaves me morose for what is, but grateful for what was.

Nine Hundred Twenty-One: Led Zeppelin

            In the days of the old blog, I spent a few hours writing about the most important band in rock-and-roll history, so I won’t risk repeating myself here. It’s totally okay if you disagree with my claim in the previous sentence; I’m not here to argue. What I am here to do is say this: That I discovered Led Zeppelin and that I discovered Led Zeppelin when I discovered Led Zeppelin would make my Top Ten Biggest Life-Changing Moments list, if I had such a list. A handful of jokes among high-school friends (and to my chagrin, some footage) still exist and their sole purpose was to mock my inflated admiration for the band, and if I weren’t such a sensitive bastard, I’d be okay with that.

            I never seem to tire of Zeppelin tracks, though. I mean, I skip “Fool in the Rain” and sometimes “Stairway” (and always “D’yer Mak’er”) if I’m immersed in the misery of FM radioland; for the most part my appreciation of their stuff has aged, but it hasn’t lessened. I feel like having them dropped on me at the time in which they were was like an inclusion to a secret club, or the ability to channel some kind of intrinsic magic. Whatever it is, it’s almost always had the ability to make me a happy dude, and I am, of course, grateful for that.

Nine Hundred Twenty: The Dave Matthews Band video for “Everyday”

            Go ahead.

            Get on over to YouTube and watch it.

            It’ll only cost you four minutes and 51 seconds. I promise.

            I’ll wait.

            <waiting>

            Done?

            Does your face hurt from smiling for four minutes and 51 seconds straight?

            ‘Cause mine always does.

            I watch that video two or three times a year.

            It’s medicine for my soul.

            I hope it nourishes yours, too.

Nine Hundred Nineteen: writing

            I don’t wanna be the dope that sits here and writes about writing, but it’s such good fuel for my mental health. I look forward to publishing something some day, and I hope you are there to enjoy that with me.

            Well…You don’t have to be there…like…next to me when I get notification that something’s been accepted…or like…at the physical press where they’re printing my book, but…you know…as a reader…I hope you’re there with me.

            Thank you for being here with me now (as a reader) and being such a big piece of the reason why I put my ass in the chair.

Nine Hundred Eighteen: privilege

            From the department of Bitter Pills to Swallow comes entry number 918.

            I’ve made a stink about the stink made about the notion of white privilege (at bare minimum in a previous post on this blog) before, and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect upon the notion, the stink, and about my stink about the stink, and what I’ve come to -- or what I think I’ve come to -- is this: I’m a semantics guy.

            This isn’t necessarily a good thing, because my actual semantics are probably not the greatest. Of more importance: I want people to select precise verbiage when they make a claim.

            When I think of the word privilege, I think of something you earn, like my first car. I got a job, saved, and purchased. I earned the privilege of being a car owner and I didn’t have any help doing it. I was oft-reminded as a young person which things were my duties, which things were necessary, and which things were privileges. Privileges -- I was always reminded -- were something of which one could be stripped.

            Therefore, when people speak (and have spoken and will continue to speak) of white privilege, I have (right or wrong) this association of something earned. My take was that I didn’t earn the “privilege” of being white; I was born that way.

            With my affinity for semantics comes a bias for commitment to definition, and I must acknowledge that the word “benefit” appears in the definition for “privilege.”

            It may sound like I’m trying to defend myself here and that’s because I am trying to defend myself. Unfortunately it took a smattering of recent incidents in our country to make me see the light and that light is this: There’s a benefit to being white in America.

            I feel like I have to defend myself because (to me) “white privilege” feels like something white people have done to make their lives superior and I, as a white person, want nothing to do with that. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had an agenda to make my life better than another’s or to make another’s worse than mine; I’ve just tried to make ends meet.

            It turns out, though, that there are white people (and plenty of them) that feel entitled to do things to make other people’s lives worse, and that is a shitty recognition. It’s not that simple, though, because in many cases “worse” means end, and (to me) “end” is synonymous with murder. Of course you’ve watched with me as “murder” has transpired via the hands of those chosen to serve and protect the communities of this country, this country that’s supposed to be the greatest on the planet.

            This…this is all just…the ugliest possible thing I could imagine.

            I mean, I’m a guy that wants things like the message of the Dave Matthews Band video to materialize in the real world. I’m a guy that wants the words of Rodney King to resonate with the hideousness of bigotry inside those who hate.

            I’ll stay stubborn, though.

          I’ll stand by my claim that the phrase “white privilege” is inaccurate, but I can’t not admit that being white in America isn’t a benefit.

            I think about it every day, now.

            I come and go as I please.

            I don’t get looks.

            Hell, I sometimes give the looks.

            I did it the other night at 7-11.

            It occurred to me (as I hustled out of there), and to the employee, too.

            I mean, the dude seemed suspicious.

            Who goes to 7-11 in search of corn syrup at 10:15 at night and interrupts the transaction in place upon entrance into the store? And when you appear confused and ungrateful while listening to the directions to the grocery store, take your hands out of your hoodie pocket. I don’t know what’s in there, but there’s a pointed protuberance that makes me (and others, apparently) nervous.

            That doesn’t happen to me, though.

            It doesn’t happen to me because I don’t act like that.

            It doesn’t happen to me because I don’t look like that.

            So…I didn’t write all of this to say that I’m grateful because I was born white. In some sense, though, I’m grateful that I wasn’t not born white.

            Also, I can’t not drag social media into this: If you’re getting online and defending police officers and you don’t ever -- not even for one second -- think that you might be part of the problem, I’ve got news for you: You’re not part of the problem. You are the problem.

Nine Hundred Seventeen: The Green Mile

            I read Stephen King’s writing book last year and it was the first Stephen King book I ever read. It was probably the only Stephen King book I’ll ever read and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. As a kid, my mind was blown when I discovered that Stephen King had written the book upon which the movie Stand by Me was based. In fact, that still blows my mind. My mind was also blown when I learned that the movie The Green Mile was based upon a King novel by the same name.

            I think I was too exposed at too young of an age to some of the horror stuff King wrote (that of course became films) and I was forever jaded; I was too scared (or scarred) to be intrigued enough to pick up one of his books.

            I fucking love the shit out of The Green Mile, though.

            It is the absolute perfect tale of irony. It is the embodiment of the good-and-evil dichotomy. It is (even if fictional) hope that good (be it by the graces of God or otherwise) prevails in the world, and it doesn’t matter if I watch that movie 50 times (Note: I’m probably close.), I will still cry at least twice every time.)

            So, thank you, Stephen King.

Nine Hundred Sixteen: Frank Zappa

            If you don’t “get” Frank Zappa’s music, you never tried. His work was not for everyone. No artist’s is. His massive discography will never be matched in terms of either total content or ingenious intricacies found in every layer of every composition. What Zappa symbolized as a musician, an entrepreneur, a voice, and a mind should be the personal-goal acme for anyone that seeks more out of life than evening television. For who he was and what he did, I’m grateful. And I’d be remiss without mentioning the reach of his work, a feat noteworthy in and of its non-traditional, grassrootsian self. Thanks must be given that his stuff found who it did, and that some of those folks found me.

Nine Hundred Fifteen: unnamed friend #6

            Unnamed friend number six gets finger quotes. This friend is so by proxy; it is someone I do not know well. Unnamed friend number six and I cross paths maybe twice a year and I always think of this person as a source of gentle envy for the person that introduced me to this friend. Unnamed friend number six invests -- with gusto -- in appearances. That of the physical, the material, and the social-stage representations of who unnamed friend number six wants people to believe unnamed friend number six is. It’s a fascinating endeavor in that, beneath it all lies a mystifying level of genuineness, an interest in just being, sans presentation. Under the examination scope, a conundrum is exposed: everything about unnamed friend number six can trick one into thinking that all of the details of unnamed friend number six’s life represent what we’re supposed to want out of our own. It would seem, though, that one could be happier being in tune with what one actually wants out of life, not what one thinks he or she wants. Unnamed friend number six is -- I think -- good people. It’s grounding, however, to have someone like this in your circle.

Nine Hundred Fourteen: sibling #2

            Sibling number two -- whether she realizes it or not -- is a little bit too much like her brother: troubled and opinionated. With proper perspective, these qualities can be assets, but they require kid-glove handling, nonetheless. Sibling number two possesses powerful sources of motivation inside of her; she knows what she wants, when she wants it, and how to go about getting it. Sibling number two has a huge heart. She’s able to display it, too, when the appropriate moment lends itself. Her heart also has a black spot on it, which leaves her susceptible to pain and to danger.

            The spot rests upon the least-examined refrigerator shelf, a leftover from a banquet of the past. The Tupperware that contains it sits nestled in a corner, shielded by pickle jars and jellies, wanting to be disposed of, only rearing its head when enough of the outer contents get jostled.

          Sibling number two entered the world with a gift of creativity, an admirable sense of humor, and a groundedness that invokes envy. We have enjoyed a bond for most of our lives, and navigated some bumpy seas both together and at odds. I love her with all of my being and would do anything I could to help her grow and find happiness. For her boldness, her love, her fortitude, and for so much more, I am grateful for the privilege of calling her my sister.

Nine Hundred Thirteen: seasons

          In the past I’ve wondered if I might suffer from the occasional Seasonal Affect Disorder spell, but in recent years a touch of clarity opened my eyes: seasonal transition indicates the passage of time, another year (or a portion of one) gone, a deeper level of self-criticism uncovered. For a while it had to do with the service industry. The thousands and thousands of hours punching the restaurant clock began as the ultimate social stimulus, the very source of life’s endless party. At some point the shenanigans threaten to overtake the job and then they just do. You, the individual, become more important than your co-workers, your boss, and the establishment, the guest a mere afterthought.

          One day there’s a realization that you no longer enjoy the late nights, the perpetual hangovers, the sexually transmitted diseases, the unplanned pregnancies, the substance-abuse addictions, but little changes. Then, one day, you realize that you are, in fact, too old for this shit. You pine for a partner, feel the possibility of having a family begin to fade. You talk about going back to school, and in many cases, you actually do.

          Lucky enough to wed, I got out for the purposes of bringing a child into the world. Then we did and we needed more money. I got back in and flirted with many forms of danger. Luck found me once more and I got out again, this time -- it is hoped -- for good.

          So I was out. I was married, and then we had two beautiful children, but still, the season would linger then give way to its successor, and still, I felt blue. I realized it was about writing.

          Every summer that bleeds into fall, every winter that births spring, I feel older and more distanced from the only goal I’ve ever known to be associated with writing: publication. It’s a tough puzzle to put together, too. How much time do I devote to the blog? How much to quote/unquote serious projects? Will I ever find happiness without getting published? Will I ever untap the necessary source to a devoted, hour-stealing schedule that guarantees productivity?

          Somewhere I have the answers to those questions, but of greater importance: I have the experience of changing seasons, four times a year, to keep me mindful. I know the weather’s great in San Diego, but how great can it be if it always feels the same? Today I give thanks for our Midwestern cycle.

Nine Hundred Twelve: unnamed friend #7

            Unnamed friend number seven: another ex. This one I think I was in love with for three years before we dated. I say “I think” because I’m not certain you can be in love with someone in that way until you do date them. When we got together, though, it was really anxiety-provoking. I believed that she wanted to be with me. I believe that she wanted me to believe that. I believe she wanted me to believe that but that she wanted me to work for it, to court her, as if I hadn’t been subtly doing so for 36-plus months. I remember our first evening out when it seemed like we were really going to be a thing. I’m pretty sure there was a swirling embrace with chandeliers and disco lights behind us. I’m pretty sure that “Almost Paradise” played in the background. At least in my head it did.

            As fall became winter the thing had overtaken me. My small sense of responsibility had withered. My roommate dropped delicate hints that he didn’t like it, that he wasn’t sure about her. He didn’t know, though. He didn’t know how amazing the thing was. He didn’t know that I was learning on the fly how to be in a serious relationship. He didn’t know that I was envisioning the rest of our lives together.

            When the holidays came, we were apart for 10 days. Ten stab-me-in-the-ribs days of pain, of aching, of questioning why we decided to spend them apart. I could probably count on one hand the number of days we’d been apart in the four months prior. Reunited, there was most of two weeks’ worth of time to recoup. We did that and more, enough so that, a chunk of the way through January, we wound up pregnant.

            The timeline of the next 20 years of my life unfolded in my mind, in an instant. Two jobs had always been easy. I’d take on three. I could see our home, our yard, our child playing in it.

            She had another idea.

            It ended hard. For me, anyway. She said it was hard for her, too, but I don’t think she had any idea. I don’t think she sobbed at the bar, alone, inconsolable. I don’t think she sunk into a dark abyss of self-loathing, of questioning, of uncontrollable emotion. After a few weeks she started coming around again, expressing public intimacy like never before. I of course ate it up like a dog with a porterhouse in his bowl. Then she broke it off again and I spent the summer fucked up, crying to OK Computer time and again.

            That was the first time I sought therapy.

            “Dude,” my roommate said. “You just weren’t yourself.”

            He’d always had a way of delivering messages in blunt, brief, direct fashion.

            And he was right.

            I didn’t know it then, and I didn’t know if for some time after, but I hadn’t been myself. I had abandoned the life and the routine I’d had prior. I’d given up my interests, my friends, my passions. Above all I’d given up myself.

            It took me a long time for my roommate’s words to even register. It took a little bit longer to comprehend them. It took a lot longer for me to entertain the idea of possible accuracy within them, and it took longer than I can even recall accepting their truth.

            I buried that experience for a long time, embarrassed to admit that I’d been dumped in both the literal and figurative sense. I’m glad it happened, though. It gave me an idea of how to be a grown-up in love. It taught me the importance of relationships being two-way streets. It showed me how to value myself, and it prepared me for the future. In a sense, it prepared me for how to be a husband, one that loves his wife, one that feels her love for him.

Nine Hundred Eleven: that fateful day in September 2001

            I walked in to work late. It was a few minutes past eleven o’clock. It was Truck Stop Tuesday at McCoy’s Public House. I didn’t even make it to the host stand before realizing that the bar was full. There were even folks standing behind the occupied chairs. Every face was glued to the television sets mounted around the ovular bar. I panicked, thinking I’d forgotten about an event on the books for which I’d been responsible for prepping, an event that maybe warranted an early arrival. I walked in what felt like slow motion to the service well and clocked in.

            Dave Avitable approached.

            “Dude,” I said. “What in the world…”

            “You haven’t heard?”

            “Heard what?”

            Dave raised his index finger and turned with the slowness of a mime toward the television set above his head.

            “They tried to take down one of our towers.”

            Truth be told, I’m not positive I could have identified the World Trade Center in a photograph if I’d been quizzed on September 10. This, and naiveté, left confusion on my face.

            “The terrorists,” Dave said. They flew a plane into the World Trade Center,” he said.

            I stood there watching the footage, not understanding it, for most of 10 minutes. To be honest, I don’t remember everything I thought. Hell, I don’t remember anything I thought. I don’t remember piecing together the details or the logistics. I don’t remember drawing any conclusions. I just remember the feeling of intent, that it was understood that somebody wanted all of this to happen; they’d planned it. And for the first time in my life, I feared for the security of our country. I feared war. This, I would imagine, was the desired effect.

            I am not grateful for the occurrences of that day. I am not grateful for the thousands of lives lost as a result of those events. I am not grateful for the existence of hatred, or for the feasibility of it having success. I am, however, grateful for the awareness, the courage, and the resolve shown by the United States of America every day since September 11, 2001. I’m grateful for the reminder of life’s fragility. I’m grateful for the breathtaking eye opener that a contagious brand of malevolence lurks in the world and it does not seek prisoners.

Nine Hundred Ten: Uncle Frank

            I haven’t seen my Uncle Frank in about 10 years. It was probably five years before that, and another 10 before that. I saw him every few years as a kid and out of my mom’s four siblings, I’ve probably spent the least amount of time around him. My Uncle Frank’s a pretty cool dude, though. His quick mind, his physical strength, and his affection fuel a unique personality that I admire and respect. For a stretch in the late ‘80s, Frank and his family lived near mine. I became close with his then wife Maureen and their four children. Their proximity created a bond with cousins unlike any I’ve ever had, unlike any I will ever have. Since then, my Uncle Frank’s life has evolved in more ways than I can tally, and I have no idea when I will see him next, but I look forward to the opportunity to tell him that I am grateful for the privilege of calling him family.

Nine Hundred Nine: Uncle Mike

            I have two uncles named Mike. One I know and love; the other died over 15 years ago. I write this entry in remembrance of the dead one, Mike Johnson, my dad’s younger brother. I never met Mike Johnson. I only met his three sons and his ex-wife four years ago. I think he spent some time in the Navy. I imagine that at one time his mind sought happiness and his mind centered on being a good husband and father. Uncle Mike struggled with addiction. His choices cost him a job, a marriage, a relationship with his boys, some legal turmoil, and then his life.

            I selected “choices” there because no better word came to me. To be clear, I mean his choices to use, which were decisions I think he made because he didn’t know any better. I mourn the pain he felt in life and rejoice for the possibility that death freed him of it. I choose to believe through spiritual awareness his ex-wife found contentment and I pray for his sons to forgive him. I selected “choices” there because -- as of four years ago -- (at least two of) his sons expressed anger that their father chose to use over being a husband and a dad. I hope that their pain soon heals, that they dismiss the idea of such simplicity driving Uncle Mike’s decisions. I know my dad loved his little brother and I would bet their older sister did, too. I used to pine over the fact that I never met my Uncle Mike. At some point that shifted. Now I am grateful for the idea of him, for the reminder of life’s complexity.

Nine Hundred Eight: Natalie Goldberg

            After the Stephen King book I read Writing Down the Bones. It took me like five months to get through 170 pages with an average chapter length of two pages. I should have finished it in a week, but I don’t read like that.

            I own a copy of this paperback because my Uncle Jack once gave me a Christmas present that consisted of it, Stephen King’s On Writing, and George Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? This gift he had a name for; it was something to the effect of writer’s kit, but much more clever. Like most of my books, these titles sat on my shelves for years before I selected them. Like most books, Goldberg’s was a slow go for me. Unlike most books, however, I spent the first few months hating it.

            I can’t put a finger on the preciseness of the thing, but I think I identify easier with the work of male writers. This is not to say I haven’t read some fantastic female authors; I have and I own books by many. This Goldberg title, though, just dragged, and seemed so drab, and clean, and, well, dull.

            With about a week left I changed my mind. I’m not certain if the thing started picking up steam or if I became eager to complete it, or both, but I enjoyed those last 40 pages or so. As of now, I will probably never read another one of her books, but she’s provided some insight in here to which I plan to refer back. So thanks for writing down the bones, Miss Goldberg, and thanks, Uncle Jack, for the gift.

Nine Hundred Seven: Unnamed friend #8

            Cool cat. High-energy cat. One of those dudes -- exhausting as he can be -- with whom you wish you had more time to spend. That’s always been the case, too, in youth, young adulthood, and now, as older guys, I wish circumstance afforded me more time with unnamed friend number eight. Unbeknownst to him, this guy taught me how to defend against the head fake when a ball carrier wants to drive the paint. This dude continues to amaze me -- 28 years later -- with his self-confidence, his ability to face challenges, his gracefulness in finding happiness down life’s every avenue.

            The man typifies achievement. His robustness as a sports fan goes unequaled, his educational accolades pedestaled. I give thanks to the universe for having him as a friend.

Nine Hundred Six: “Silent Night” at Christmas Eve Mass

            I kind of hate December and it’s all your fault, Christmas.

I struggle more each year to find that holiday spirit inside of me and let it out into the universe. It’s gotten so bad that I have begun to despise Thanksgiving, too, as it requires so much work that it almost seems to outweigh what the tradition means. Then it’s a sprint to December 25. Life becomes so busy, gift giving a cycle of errand sharing, of spending money on things that people don’t need. It’s come to this: My Christmas spirit starts with the hymns of Christmas Eve Mass and ends just before dusk on Christmas day. Those hymns are special, though, and “Silent Night” never disappoints. I’m thankful for that annual experience, for still having the ability to have my Christmas spirit awoken.

Nine Hundred Five: critical thinking

            I’m thankful for having been born with the intelligence and the mental health to recognize when something no longer appears to be the thing you always thought it was, even if that thing appeared to be what it was for years.

Nine Hundred Four: The University of Kansas

            I became enamored with the town of Lawrence at a young age. I enrolled in, but never attended, K.U.

          Larryville’s a special place, though. I love the geography, history, layout, and vibe of it, and my feelings for the university there are probably, in some strange way, even stronger than those of the average alum. That is, it’s still as mysterious to me as it was when I was 10, and 11, and 15, and 17. Culture continues to blossom in Lawrence, and K.U. will always be one of the coolest campuses in the country. They’ve got a pretty good sports program, too, which always helps. I feel privileged to be close to so many that matriculated as Jayhawks, and strange as it sounds, I’m glad I never sat in a Kansas University classroom.

Nine Hundred Three: the band that was named Talking Heads

            Byrne, Frantz, Harrison, Weymouth. Simplicity. Ingenuity. Creativity, happiness. Eight records over 11 years, immeasurable influence, unfortunate cessation. Talking Heads. A celebration of evidence proving Marty McFly’s claim: “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Nine Hundred Two: my daughter, Adeline Grace

            I never imagined I would meet such a complex character as I did in Adeline Grace Johnson.
            Clueless as to how much work it is, I always wanted kids. It seemed like they would be babies -- keep them from breaking -- and then they would be young adults -- teach them how to deal with the Kurtis Blow breaks. Not only does nobody tell you about the infinite complexities, it doesn’t even occur to anybody to mention that they exist, probably because every parent in the history of child-rearing learns on the fly.

            Adeline turned four years old last month. I can barely remember life before her; to do so I have to really concentrate. I find it amazing, confusing, frustrating, and relieving that I am incapable of piecing words into phrases that might -- might -- give her a fraction of an idea of how much she has taught me about myself. I hope and pray every day and night that she carries an awareness of how much I love her and care for her. I worry for her and her sensitivities. I try to avoid stressing over the possibilities of her getting in harm’s way. I fear the day she realizes her old man can no longer help her with her homework (because he doesn’t understand it) and wish that she will find value in her father in other areas.

            <significant pause>

            As Adeline’s dad I realize that helping her find the trailhead to the path of happiness in life dwarfs everything else. To equip myself for this responsibility, I must hunker down with my own affairs of this sort. For this awareness, for the joy that she brings me, and for the gift of having her in my life, I am grateful. Thank you, Pumpkin Pie, for being my baby girl.

Nine Hundred One: one-tenth of the way


            Like many tasks and challenges, I underestimated how hard pinning down 1,000 gratitudes would be. In this moment, I’m thankful to have the first 100 done.