Saturday, December 27, 2014

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part II: 975-951

Here, then, is the second installment to this series. The idea of posting one per week might take me til May before this thing wraps, so who knows what things will look like this time next month. Again, no value in the order of appearance; these gratitudes appear as they came to me. The first installment is here; the original idea here.

Nine Hundred Seventy-Five: Mike Gordon

            The Phish bassist is one of the most unique human beings I’ve ever observed. Having studied interviews conducted with him, print pieces he’s written, songs he’s crafted, his onstage mannerisms, his tweets, and having met him and talked to him once, I think this guy is one of God’s finest works. I believe he is -- and has been for some time now -- the finest working bass player in rock, and if there’s only one more thing I can say about him it’s this: The way he bobs his head with most every note shows that he is in tune with the magic happening around him and his bandmates; he has, in fact, surrendered to the flow, and for that, the audience lives a richer life.

Nine Hundred Seventy-Four: tractors (John Deere, and otherwise, but mostly John Deere)

            I’ve only driven my late Grandpa Beck’s Craftsman, and that was probably 30 years ago. I know I’m not unique in this but I love John Deere shit. All of it, man. All of it. The small units, the big rigs, models, mugs, bibs, key chains, all of it. I love them, what they do, what these machines represent. I’ll probably never own one, never live on a farm, and never even have a riding mower, but I like the idea of all of those things. I’m not infatuated with the idea of humans conquering the earth, but the notion of the amount of fertile soil on this planet being so vast, so gigantic that we keep building bigger and bigger machines to help us harvest its fruits is pretty cool. The idea of a John Deere machine so big that my family could sit and eat dinner inside one of its tires both frightens and intrigues me, and as weird as that might sound, I’m grateful for it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part I: 1,000-976

            I don’t know much about One Thousand Gifts beyond the glean of a quick Google search and that it was the recent feature in my wife’s book club, but I like the idea. Gratitude has been an idea in my brain for a number of weeks now, and it’s time to strain the wine-soaked onions, the bay leaves, and the peppercorns. It’s time to add some salt to the butter-mounted reduction, and if I’m lucky, squeeze some citrus into it. The plate has been a concept and life has reached the acme of service. I’ve weighed the starches, proteins, and yes -- the veggies -- entered them into the spreadsheet, and clicked ‘save’. Conceptual value determined, presentation awaits garnish, expedition, and delivery.

            So before I conjure any more food metaphors, it must be stated that, while possible to order such a list in some sense of ascending appraisal, I will probably not do so. I imagine this will take enough time on its own, so if I list two-ply toilet paper before the Rocky Mountains, don’t think that I consider comfortable defecation cleanup to be a more precious commodity than rushing runoff through a wildflower field. I’m just not disciplined enough to spend the necessary time to reorder these things once I’ve written them. That said…

One Thousand: heritage

            For at least 15 years I’ve wanted to trace my ancestry. I dabbled in it for a minute, oft hoping to find the Internet loophole to free research, but I’ve never bitten, so I’ll go on what I know. Or what I think I know. My father told me that my blood consists of Irish, German, and Cherokee lineages. In looking over a few documents I obtained, it appears there’s some British as well, which would explain the teeth, I guess. I don’t find the Irish portion of that mix to be superior, but it’s the one with which I’ve identified the most and for the longest time. It’s hard to sort out the emotional and mental pieces of why that’s true, but I think it has to do with finding pleasure in a people that have worked hard and struggled. I also imagine there’s a part of me that seeks family unity and finds a source of it there, buried beneath real and imagined rubble. I can’t really speak for the German (or the British) pieces, but I suppose they lend perspective on being the oppressors of the world. Be it true or not -- I mean, have you met my sister, Tiffany? -- the Cherokee embodies the spiritual me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Piecemeal: Six

          Just before 11:00 the next morning Seamus and I set out in search of Ewepie. I think we were headed west but all I know was that we drove past a few cattle ranches and wound up in garlic and onion country. The air was thick with their smell for 10 or 15 minutes ‘til it wasn’t. Then all I could see for miles was hay fields.

            “Where’re we goin’?” Seamus looked at me out of the corner of his eye.

            “Don’t worry about it,” he said.

            “I’m not worried,” I said. “It’s just that I can’t figure how you aim to find someone out in the middle of a hay field.”

            He didn’t bother to look at me again, instead powering on the Buick’s stereo. Led Zeppelin’s “Tangerine” had just begun. I guess he thought the music would prevent me from further questioning, and I decided the noise was better than trying to get information out of him. Before the short number ended we approached what appeared to be a hub of the local irrigation system. Seamus pulled the car onto a dirt road, exhibiting a carelessness for the vehicle. I shook my head in frustration as I felt the suspension and steering shoulder the caution necessary for such terrain, an element for which the operator should take responsibility.

            A ways down the road stood a shake-shingled shelter with a horse corral behind it. Seamus pulled over and shifted the Buick into park.

            “Wait here,” he said.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Quick Thought on That Wild K.C. Blue October

            I was trying to figure out my favorite part about the 2014 Kansas City Royals post-season, and like the late-nacho lunch I should’ve stopped eating sooner, it hit me. It’s not that I am too young to recall the last K.C. berth. I remember it -- along with shades of the 1980 World Series vs. Philly -- well. It’s not that this team stumbled in various phases of the season before ripping off an unprecedented eight straight wins. It’s not that the thing got hairy and thrilling in the fall classic and took us all the way to the proverbial two-out, two-strike, bottom-of-the-ninth, World Series game seven moment. And it wasn’t that the run was great for the franchise, the fans, and the city. All those things -- be they overstated or lacking in resonation -- were true.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Rise & Fall of the 10,000 Tweets

          It's been most of 20 years since I first discovered Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching. I was in a pretty hippie-dippy lifestyle and mindset, and had all but shunned Catholicism. In short, it jived with me.

          I'm a little bit less of a hippie now than I was then, but I reckon I'm still a hippie at heart and there's a lot about eastern thought that I still dig.

          Whether it was age, immaturity, my daily bong hits for breakfast or a combination of all of the above, it was hard to wrap my head around every thing this text tried to communicate but it spoke to me nonetheless. I love the message in its passages and would be remiss if I didn't mention Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet as cornerstones for helping me better understand the concepts.

          When I finished the last book I was reading and returned to my shelves for the next project I came across my old copy of Tao Te Ching, and although it sat there silent, sandwiched between Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, it spoke to me again.

          And I couldn't have been happier to see my old friend.

          So I've spent the last two months with it, contemplating its lines, embracing some of its messages, shaking my fists at its simplicity.

          As a whole, the publication is as any other book is and should be: imperfect.

          That doesn't detract from its message, though. I think -- as a people, a chapter in the universe's history -- that so much good could be harvested from the world if we all made an effort to follow a sliver of what Lao Tsu wrote. Like books, I'm far from perfect and am humbled by revisiting these pages and having a greater understanding of my flaws and how I can become a better human being.

          Anyway: Whether it was a good idea or not, it occurred to me that I was nearing my 10,000th tweet and since the elements between heaven and earth are referred to as the 10,000 things, I thought I'd try to condense each chapter into a 140-character-or-less synopsis. There are a few exceptions around which I could not dance, and I should thank James Inman for turning me onto the Stephen Mitchell translation of the text, which I turned to often in this exercise. The results follow.

          I love you people.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dream Fiction no. 4: Durango BrewPub Porn Shoot: "Theme Night"

         (Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of a new series in which I take content from the outline of a recent dream and flesh it out with fiction, hence the title. Rest assured, there is nothing but offices and ice machines in the Steamworks basement. For now.)

            Every time I approach Durango I’m curious what the mix of familiar/new will look like. Steamworks Brewing Company might be the ultimate microcosm of this phenomenon.

            On my last visit, I came across Jeff Baker, who was both.

            He’d moved to Denver some time ago having hung up the general-manager skates of the East Second Ave. brewpub. There he was, though, running the place again, and perhaps he was most proud of the refurbished basement, which had been notorious even pre-renovation.

            I can’t recall on which day of the week he invited me down for a tour, but the construction of an entire corridor proved far from the only thing that surprised me. In fact I couldn’t even process my surprise before the temperature of new wing widened my eyes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Piecemeal: Five

Thomas started stealing sleep at age nine. By 13 he was a master. No parents, teachers, or family members could catch him; only the occasional friend. The thing had a sort of organic development. What began as a struggle to rise for school and a need for a nap after it had dismissed became a quasi-chronic exhaustion that garnered too much -- Thomas was quick to realize -- attention.

            “I was fortunate,” he said, “to recognize that they were similar to snacks and meals. I’d get them, but had to wait for privacy to indulge, or else I’d have a caravan of adults monitoring my every move.”

            By virtue of accident Thomas shared his story with me and Abel one day -- about a year or so after that Led Zeppelin afternoon -- as part of a point he’d been trying to make; by the time he realized his once-clothed secret stood naked before us it was too late to abandon his tale.

            “Whether I had to shit or not,” he said, I could knock out a seven-minute snooze in the stall at school. Easy. And when your parents maintain a schedule unflappable in its predictability, it’s like schooling a fat kid in one-on-one: a single head fake and you can drive the paint every time.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Necessary Exercise: Not Oscar's Home, Not Wednesday Night, and Not the Band

            Stephen King says 2,000 words a day. Natalie Goldberg encourages “first thoughts.” Neil Young sings, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

            The blank screen. The white page. Blue skies from pain.

            Erin O’Laughlin manages a life way busier than mine with double the work hours, double the children, yet still adds to her Cornucopia.

            People snap pictures of their backpacked loved ones.

            Two thousand fourteen resembles a relay; August takes the baton, sprinting faster than July, who beat June’s time, who scorched May. Twenty thirteen scoffs; next year licks its proverbial chops.

            I find myself irritated by the new Pandora channels I just started to love. Tweets via SMS invoke ire, especially when smart -- and all of the ones I follow are -- users RT the day away instead of sharing original thought.

            It’s 10:00 on Friday night and I have but bottled enthusiasm for the Kansas City Royals. Another football season looms. Another Dwayne Bowe suspension hangs. Disappointment remains inevitable.
            I haven’t unpacked my basement. My stereo, in pieces, occupies a shelf. Because of that -- and so much more -- I’ve given my son the typical second-child shaft. My job is my car and my car clings to function by wood glue and duct tape.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Piecemeal: Four

When we got back to Seamus’ place I unloaded the contents of my pockets on the coffee table and paced, waiting for him to retire. Hearty, relaxed breaths were hard to come by and every time I stood still, whichever knee I placed weight on trembled a touch. My guts kept pinching themselves, leaving me in a spot where I didn’t know if I oughtta double over to counter it or hustle to the toilet. His couch begged for me in such a loud whisper that -- for a second -- I wondered if it was audible outside my head. One second I’d strain an ear listening for the sounds of his bedroom television to come to life; the next I rubbed my face and checked my watch.

            At last I heard the murmurings of voices -- perhaps from an episode of Law and Order -- and flopped onto the sofa as though it were my Battle Royal opponent laid out on the mat. I pried my shoes off with my toes and sunk my face in the throw pillow, fantasizing about the huge piece of sleep that lay before me.

            But a moment passed; then another. Before long it was five, 10, then 25. It’s possible I dozed between the 25- and 30-minute marks, but a full-body twitch launched me right back awake.

            “Fuck,” I said, rolling onto my back. Seamus’ ceiling was that weird white, textured surface, and in it I could find no patterns. When I’d had no success seeking shapes, I switched to symbols and drifted into that cosmic window where I remained dazed for so long that -- when I looked at the clock -- I couldn’t remember what time it had been the last time I checked the time, or even at what hour I’d laid down on the couch. When I went back to the bumps and splotches of the ceiling, I remembered the summer of ’73, which had been when I got to know Abel.

            We were 10 going on 11. Or at least I was.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dream Fiction no. 3: Damp Footage

            When representatives of the six investment groups gathered for the Splash Time ground-breaking ceremony, I remember seeing it on the news and thinking it would probably take a summer or two for me and my buddies to make the trek to Jonesboro. I remember thinking that 3,200,000 square feet of water park sounded pretty freakin’ big, but -- like most square-foot measurements -- I couldn’t picture the size. I remember imagining the ease with which a 20-year-old might blow $100 in an afternoon there, and I remember feeling anxious about the infinite number of girls a guy might meet at a place like that. On the contrary, it never occurred to me that I would become the largest news story in the destination’s history, just 14 months into its existence. All of those things turned up true.

            August 12th had been perfect. Hank Zeller’s birthday had been circled on the calendar since late June, and our numbers rounded out somewhere near 11. This meant three cars, but three cars in comfort. We never had anything planned that far in advance, but it didn’t matter if we had a spot in mind six minutes or six weeks in advance: Who -- outside of Hank -- would drive was always a ridiculous conversation. Because he thought his ride was slick, and because he wanted to be in control, Hank always drove. Always. Plans, then -- when we had them -- would become concrete, and a seat assignment cage match would ensue. When the group was bigger than five, the excuses would come out like cellophanes of Molly at a Disco Biscuits show.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dream Fiction no. 2: Alice the Merchandiser

It hadn’t been the alarm. Those fast-paced electronic wails don’t wake our neighbors but on the rare occasion that they sound, we leap -- frenzied -- from our slumber. It could have been a phone chime, the baby crying, or perhaps just a hunch. Either way, I moved, quasi-upright, toward the bedroom door where I’d seen her exit, disappear into the hallway. Courtesy of the minimal light reflecting up the staircase, I saw Alice the Merchandiser vanish again -- this time into the foyer. The flash of her movement that I caught was quick and hunched, creepy like one of those alien snippets from Signs. It should have frightened me more than it did.

            I should’ve been afraid for what she might be doing or what her intentions were. Instead, sordid motivations sent me -- grumpy at being awakened, startled and pissed by her presence -- after her. As is my tendency, I hadn’t thought it through and had no plan regarding what I’d do if I caught her.

            For what seemed like an hour, though, I couldn’t find her. She was nowhere on the main floor and the more the time passed, the more I panicked. No doors had chimed; she wasn’t outside or in the basement or garage. Still, I could pick up no trace of Alice.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Piecemeal: Three

          At seven past eight the next evening we got in the Buick. I was pissed that Seamus wouldn’t let me drive but too tired and weak to argue. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going, and it made for an uneasiness that made me think of leaving his place and him. I didn’t have much money but the gas tank was pretty full, so I knew I could make a start.

            “Who’re we lookin’ for?” It seemed like if he thought me well enough to join him on this mission that he ought to share a detail or two with me. “That cowboy?”

            “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “You just make sure we ain’t bein’ followed.”

            We pulled in to the Black Bear Diner parking lot on Main in Fernley and Seamus chose an isolated spot. There were only three or four cars in the parking lot and when he shifted the Buick into park, I felt like his selection drew attention to us. From whom I wasn’t sure, but I could feel my nerves binding a touch.

            “Wait here,” he said.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Piecemeal: Two

Light poured through my closed eyelids and my skull rang like a council-fire drum. I could hear Seamus’ voice asking if I was okay but I hadn’t figured out how to answer. The muscles in my face pulled the strings to make my lips move but the pounding harshened. Ten or 12 thoughts swum in my head but none of them spoke as loud as the one that wanted to darken the room. A handful of ice cubes clanked in a glass just before some liquid was poured. The image of the cowboy flickered in my mind and I hoped the Buick was parked outside of wherever we were. Seamus sipped his beverage and let out an exhale gasp of satisfaction. Some plastic crinkled and a light rapping of one surface upon another preceded the dragging sounds of a scrape. Seamus snorted.

            “Where’s Abel?”

            Seamus mimicked the sound he’d made after sipping, then snorted again. I managed to open an eye and see him hunched over a table. He clutched something cylindrical between his thumb and forefinger and one end of it was inside his nostril. The idea of a whiskey-and-cocaine combination saturated me with nausea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Piecemeal: Pilot

The strange feeling of a sunny, cold afternoon (with mosquitoes) floated through the windows of the ’61 Buick LeSabre. For a moment we forgot about the fact that we couldn’t put the top down; the pile of toasted bologna sandwiches was that good. I bit into my fourth and stuffed some kettle chips into my mouth at the same time. When Bill passed me the half gallon of milk, I gulped from it, leaving a dirty-finger, kettle-oil residue on the carton. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten while sitting, not looking over my shoulder at flight-sacrificed crumbs. In one fleeting second I a) imagined what Ally Sheedy felt like when she ate that Cap’n Crunch/Pixy Sticks sandwich in The Breakfast Club, b) remained unbothered by the cow-juice-saturated white bread as shingled its wet self to the roof of my mouth, c) enjoyed the sensation of breathing slow while chewing, and d) pondered the spring board meeting in which taupe was deemed a fit shade for the new LeSabre.

            “Think we should try to get the top down again?”

            Abel squeezed the question from his lips while pinching once, twice, a third time at a fresh chaw.

            “Why?” I eyed the last bit of my sandwich and wrestled with whether I wanted it or the final handful of chips to be my last bite. “S’broken”

            “It ain’t broken, dipstick,” he said. “Needs a fuse.”

            “’Kay,” I said. “You got a stash o’ fuses in your shorts?” I hid a satisfactory smile; finishing with the chips had been the right call. There’d been a time I would’ve shared the thought with the long-time acquaintance. Many months had passed since I’d called him friend.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


          Salmon, lentils, rice, zucchini. They made their way to my stomach as I thought of James Joyce, the German soccer team, and listened to The Lumineers. I didn’t have to do any dishes; the music streamed free-of-charge into my desktop. A cold can of Red Bull knelt in one corner of my mind’s ring. Its opponent -- a dose of tobacco -- could taste the impending victory. As I clicked the Pandora thumbs-up icon on the Passenger tune, the basement door opened. My wife wanted to know if I’d gotten enough to eat; my daughter wanted to announce that she’d made a happy plate. Two days ago, we’d been in Oklahoma.

            Before dishing the vittles onto my plate, I printed a pair of forms. The first was a crappy The Print Shop flyer I’d made for tomorrow morning’s first customer. It contained a fuzzy image of the product I wanted them to buy, a breakdown of how much they’ll save by making the switch. The second was an evaluation I’ll fill out with my boss upon completion of the pitch. Once the USB cord was switched back to my seven-year-old desktop (from my work laptop), I closed up shop for the day and ate while the things printed. Upstairs I thanked Mama for dinner and as I returned downstairs, I thought of Oklahoma.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Untimely Reviews: Phish, "Fuego"

          Consuming music has gotten so weird. This is not an old-guy-hates-change rant, but I miss the effort and perhaps a bit of the difficulty of what it was like to experience music in middle school. Yes, I love iTunes, and yes, I think Pandora and Spotify are fantastic. So is Amazon. But when I was 12, 13, and 14 years old, acquiring music and then experiencing it was a serious, complex endeavor. Adulthood and technology have made it this whole other thing that -- for the most part -- grants immense access to the listener and makes it impossible to keep current. There was something about waiting until payday (or until I’d mowed enough lawns) and hopping on the 10-speed for a five-mile round trip to load up on cassette tapes.

            I mean, it wasn’t hard. But, I had to heave it up a few small hills and cross some busy streets and ride home with my merch’ swinging in a plastic bag, banging against the handlebars. And then I’d sit down.

            After all of that huffing and sweat and the awkward transition, multi-tasking -- once I was home and through the plastic wrap -- was the farthest thing from my mind. It was all about spending time with the albums, the undivided attention, the listening and studying, the melancholy of knowing I could not transport to the studio where that album was born.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dinner, Bass, & Death

          I startle stupid easy. I also employ a certain level of stubbornness and feel -- for the most part -- that celebrating birthdays is for a) people between the ages of two and 10 and b) folks outside of that age range that are into themselves like normal folks are into sports and reading and morning bowel movements. Therefore, I have crafted three life rules for you category-b folks unfortunate enough to have to deal with me on a quasi-regular basis:

1)      If you sneak up on me I will punch you right in the neck. Hard. And not feel (too) bad about it.
2)      I like things my way, alright? Things one might store in folders called “Some Other Way”, “This Way, Perhaps”, or “Another Idea Is” have only one place they can call home: a shredder.
3)      If you’re way into your birthday (Editor’s Note: Look away if you want; we all know who you are.), you are only allowed to say one word on your celebratory day. You may say it as many times as you like. You are welcome to conduct orchestral phrases with varying uses of the word. Pen speeches with it. Utilize sign language to communicate it, but know that it is your only word for the day and each expression of it must be exclamatory. Here is your word: me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Forty-Three Years After...And Then Some

We need one of the McCaffrey brothers to look us in the eye and say, "You're doin' it wrong."

          Alex is one of the most gifted writers I've ever known. Now is not the time to criticize him for letting his talent fester (Editor's Note: eight-plus <cough> months since last <cough, cough> post.) in a puddle of spilt microbrew (that he told y'all about on Untappd!) and smoked pork fat. Rather, it should be noted that -- when he's not busy masturbating the retweet button when his phone buzzes about tea parties and Colorado weather -- he's a pretty good follow on Twitter. He's good for a couple doozies a day, even if it is about the lunacies encountered in his daily public-transportation commute or the apparent flock of still-mourning-Tebow that inhabits Denver. For example:

           I won't argue his point, here, which is unusual for me; Alex and I have a healthy history of arguing within whatever medium upon which we can wrench our mitts, but I'll give him this one. I've never owned Freedom Rock, nor have I held a copy in my hands, or given it a listen. I find it amazing that it they actually sold copies of the album considering how many thousands of times that commercial aired when the compilation was released. His tweet is true, but I'll add to it: There are some pretty solid cuts on there, too. Namely, track two, which was written by Alvin Lee and performed by the band Ten Years After. You know it because of its token line:

"I'd love to change the world,
But I don't know what to do.
So I'll leave it up to you."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Mom Sold Her House and I Took Some Crappy Pictures While My Kids Slept in the Car

photo courtesy of Lauren Rodriguez

These are my kids. I don't say this because I deserve a parenting trophy, but on Mondays Wednesdays, and Fridays I pick them up from school. I say it because the thing is an ordeal and the ordeal is a thing. It goes like this: Retrieve the boy from the infant room and lug his heavy ass and all of his gear to the car. Drive to his toddler sister’s school where she and her sass get loaded.

Between the loading and the arriving (and subsequent unloading), we each have a need. My son's is simple, envious: Keep it down so that I may squeeze in a nap that lasts from the start of the car ride 'til you unbuckle me later with three seconds to spare before you load my mouth full of hot, dry dinner, then a pre-bedtime bottle. His sister's need involves telling me multiple times (and in no certain order) that she a) doesn't want to go home, and b) wants her mama. The distance between my admiration for my son's need and the shitty feeling I get from listening to my daughter offer her reminders is much longer than the drive from school to home. My need is frequently hopeless: Keep the fussing and crying to a minimum.

Last Thursday, as we loaded, my daughter began her anti-home proclamation and I announced a surprise: We were going to NanaJuj's house for one last time.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Beckoning Bill Burroughs: Three Women on Power, Eating, and Costumes

left to right: Antoinette, Brosh, Lawson, Burroughs

Almost three years ago to the day, I penned the last installment of one of many short-lived features on the old blog. The feature, Beckoning Bill Burroughs, celebrated the cut-and-fold technique the author used in the 1960s. In short, he would create a story by piecing portions of selected manuscripts together. Inventive or not, the patience required in putting scissors and glue to such a task remains remarkable, even if, in doing so, an arsenal of liquor and narcotics serves as the primary motivator.

Tonight I revive 'B' cubed, and the source of inspiration comes from a video I saw on Facebook:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dream Fiction no.1: Therapists and Baristas

 It was a black sedan. Something fancy. Maybe a Lexus. And we moved, ignoring the traditional-space responsibility associated with lanes. Dusk doesn’t quite grasp when it was. The vanishing of the day’s last glows had transpired recent enough that you could measure their absence in increments so fresh that the group did nothing in the way of speaking or assigning value. But there were still chunks left before the driver -- my therapist -- would engage in the inner monologue associated with whether or not to turn on the headlights. Streets signs were still legible without a squint. The sky had been clear enough that the brightness lingered, a child hindering bedtime efforts.

            My therapist was good at breathing. She used the technique to control time and emotion in a contagious fashion. Once while on retreat, she smudged me. It’s of value that showers and changes of clothes don’t wash off that sort of thing. In the back of that sedan, though, I could hear a foreign form of panic trying to make itself known. A second cousin of sorts. I didn’t like it, but I knew she still had the reins. The way she multi-tasked as we wove made me think about her. My back-seat view of her head was unfamiliar and as I watched her juggle the wheel, her cell phone, directions from the stranger in shotgun, and the group’s emotions, it occurred to me that maybe someone had body jumped her.

Monday, April 28, 2014

An Anniversary of Greatness on Greatness

  Fifteen years ago today a special collector’s issue of Sports Illustrated hit the stands. I happened upon it that day and my life has not been the same since. Two weeks ago I was discussing relationships with my therapist. She said, “We all want to feel needed, valued, important, chosen.” The subject of this piece wanted those things, too. Even bigger: He was those things.

In the fall of 1994, I came out of room 202 and turned left to walk down the hallway towards the restroom for the first time in my new home. I was a freshman at Pittsburg State University and to call the inhabitants of Tanner Hall an interesting mix would be an understatement. My 202 roommate was a 265-pound Mexican named Ernesto Holguin, a wrestler from Newton, Kansas. He liked cable television, menthol cigarettes, and fat white girls. One of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. In room 204, our neighbors to the left, were two dudes as different from one another as Ernesto an I, I being the tie-dye-wearing, long-haired stoner from Kansas City, the only guy in the building with a fake I.D. I got asked to buy beer a lot, and many people in my building were afraid of me in a sense. Not because of my towering five-foot-nine, 145-pound frame, but because people from central and western Kansas -- it turns out -- are afraid of people that are “on drugs.”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Celebrity: Redux

Editor's Note: This genesis of this piece was originally shared via hard copy and e-mail, and was written on my old computer. I found my copy of it in the basement and decided that it was -- albeit lauded at the time by my loving family -- a huge clunker. I couldn't stand it. So I sat down to retool it and now -- just shy of 15,000 words later -- it's done. I'm happy I gave it the energy it deserved, but mostly I'm happy to put it away for good. Enjoy.

Two days shy of the six-month anniversary of my father’s passing I opened a blank Microsoft Word document in the spare bedroom of Matt Graunke’s house and sat there. My computer screen was like a crystal ball that portrayed foggy images of the recent past. A strange mixture of wet fear and damp curiosity rushed from the front of my brain and down, tickling my inner-most nose, scratching my throat with its moisture. As it ran through my upper torso my mind became aware of a frigid force field of stoicism that shielded my wounded heart.

Those first stages of mending had set in but it remained unclear when. It was evident it had been several weeks as the charge of imaginary liquid didn’t antagonize the injury; it didn’t pop open again or begin to weep. Instead some secondary or tertiary stage of definition had set in, acting as protective layers. Cells labored to construct outer shell upon outer shell, checking in on that primary cut with some sporadic measure. Those waters rushed past, though, like a herd of carnivores not noticing their hiding prey in the thick of the forest, a few mere oaks off the path.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Basements, the Jammys, and YouTube

            Seventeen months ago, I moved for the 24th -- and hopefully last -- time in my 39 years on this planet. It’s of little interest, but that’s a move almost every 19 months, and now, having averaged that out, I’m a little impressed that I’m as stable as I am. A little. Put into perspective: I’ve always had clothes on my back and food to eat, so I’m not handing out awards to myself or anything here. Put into perspective: My wife has moved about eight times, and half of those include college-years moves. To my point: She’s got the stable market cornered.

the current homestead

            After move seven, I logged my longest-standing stay at one address. This was the house my mother bought after her second marriage ended and we, having bounced around a bit upon our return to Kansas City, could finally unpack for real. It’s of little interest, but she put a for-sale sign in her yard a couple of weeks ago, so that’s pretty weird. The point, though, is that that home established a literal and a figurative foundation for us. My sister and I, along with our mother, were able to plant some roots; we had a basement. Now I don’t mean to imply that you can’t get your human-being act together if you don’t have a basement. You totally can. What I mean is that it’s pretty nifty, if you can pull it off, to have one.

            But that’s a pretty big if.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Untimely Reviews: Marin Oldridge, John Howard Griffin, and a Promise

          (Editor's Note: Untimely Reviews is a project I started on the old blog. It happens irregularly, has a dumb name, and is typically about something nobody cares about anymore, but "I like it!")

          Nineteen eighty-nine was an odd year. Baseball still mattered. Exxon Valdez dumped oil into the Pacific Ocean. Sega Genesis came out. George Bush took office. Ted Bundy was executed. Blake Griffin was born. Donald Barthelme died. North America hit up the Internet via a dial-up connection. The Simpsons debuted. The Calgary Flames won their lone Stanley Cup, and the Denver Broncos took a year off from getting the life stomped out of them in the Super Bowl. Now, I’m not gonna say it was an odder year than any other, but it was still a trip. For me, anyway. That was freshman year, and I’ll never forget walking into that building on the first day of school, and freezing, for a moment, in fear. I didn’t know where my locker was, where any classrooms were, and fuck me if there weren’t a gazillion people in the hallway.

            I don’t remember, but somebody, a few days prior, tried to ease my anxiety with some gem like, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” Whoever that was should be commemorated with a prize of the advice-not-to-give variety. I was late to first hour because I had no freaking idea where I was going, and I was terrified that I wasn’t going to have any friends, even though I’d come from middle school with plenty, and from grade school before that with a few. There was something about the fact that it was high school, though. It was the big stage. The knee knock. The spot. The crossroads. The four-year stint in which you must try to master the art of getting smashed, lose your virginity, and sculpt yourself into college-ready mode.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Because It Was On: The Karate Kid

          This is either the initial installment of a new series that will effectively waste a lot of people's time, or it is a one-timer. Either way, without directly doing so, it's about good, old-fashioned American laziness and our tendency to vaporize precious ticks of the click by zoning out in front of the tube, even if what's on is crummy. Even if what's on is crummy and we've seen it before. Even if what's on is crummy, and we've seen it before, and we freaking own a copy of the thing. That last piece isn't the case here, but it has been on countless occasions. It's the ultimate dose indolence when, nestled in a dusty box or bin in our basement, is a copy of the original form of a movie, but, out of sheer stubbornness and lethargy, we will sit through an edited version of it -- with commercials -- because, well, getting up and being productive is entirely too much work.

                 When we got Google Fiber this summer I never anticipated being in a situation where I was on the couch struggling to find something to watch on TV. If I’m flipping channels -- which is maybe twice a month -- I’m toggling between two or three programs, irritated that the commercials airing during each are doing so at all of the wrong times. Last Saturday, however, I was a solid three-quarters through the guide and the feeling came over me that I might be forced to find something else to do. It’d been a long day, a long, emotional week, and I wanted nothing more than to find something mindless -- or some decent comedy -- to which I could doze and arise at six a.m. to root for Team Sweden in the gold-medal game.[1]

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"In Sochi"; A (Terrible) Rap Debut About the 2014 United States Men's Olympic Hockey Team

          Counted my Sochi 2014 chickens before they hatched by writing a rap about the United States men’s hockey team winning gold. My plans -- obviously -- derailed yesterday, but I’m proud of how far the sport has come in our country, and I was proud enough of the lyrics I’d written to connect with a rapper dude I know to discuss recording it.

            He booked us some studio time, and when the United States lost to Canada yesterday, I hung out on the scrap-the-whole-thing fence for the entire afternoon and evening. Late last night I decided to go through with it and put my humility with my hockey team: on the line. I’ve been supporting them for so long that it wouldn’t be fair to leave them hanging after defeat.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

T.J. Oshie, Appetite for Destruction, and Tobacco

           I’ve been looking forward to today since yesterday. I’ve had it circled on my mental calendar for about two weeks. And for about four years. And also, for about 12 years. Eight years, too. And a number of other measurements of time as well. A couple of weeks ago, I was informed by a friend about a writing contest, and a regimented thing like that -- with a deadline -- is the sort of pants-seat kick I’m wired to need in order to get something done. So with the support of my wonderful wife, I worked pretty hard to put a few submissions together, and I sent them off yesterday. In mathematical terms, that means I was early, which never happens.

            But I was really only early with that deadline because of the four-, eight-, and 12-year marks. See, the United States of America men’s Olympic hockey team had a game today. It was super earls for us stateside, but in the evening over in Sochi (Editor’s Note: For the record, the “DawnsEarlyLight” hash tag will forever remain an all-time favorite for me.). And it wasn’t their first game; they beat Slovakia 7-1 Friday morning. Nor was it a medal game, a qualification game, a quarterfinal, or a semifinal. It was game two of three in the preliminary round. But Team U.S.A. faces Slovenia tomorrow, and then it’s on to round two. This -- a Saturday-morning tilt against a home-team Russia several have picked to win gold -- would be their true test of the round.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Twitter Exchange: A Right-Wing Stranger and I Discuss Mike Priefer, Chris Kluwe

          I was eating lunch at a neighborhood bar and grill today and I looked up at a television broadcasting SportsCenter. Along the bottom line was the news that the Minnesota Vikings had decided to retain Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer, and I literally dropped my jaw. Honestly, I thought I’d misread it, so I waited for it to scroll again, and when I saw it again, I did as nerds like myself do: I took to Twitter.

            In the tweet I wrote, I threw in a couple of hash tags. From time to time I find it easy to lose track of the intention of the hash tag, which is to shore up searches, but it’s probably used more often in a sarcastic fashion. Anyway, the presence of the hash tag got the attention of someone who was apparently trolling the topic of Priefer -- and if you don’t know the back story, get it here, here, and here  -- and he responded.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Calling Super Bowl XLVIII a "Disappointment" Yields Major Disagreeance

It’s hard work carrying around hatred. Loathing something that won’t go away causes stress and rapid aging, and if you struggle to acquire the skills necessary for health-appropriate coping, you’ll get eaten.

In today’s Kansas City Star, Sam Mellinger wrote a column that contained this sentence:

Elway had always tortured the Chiefs as a player, and now he’s doing more of it in a suit.

I saw his tweet with a link to the column and the headline of it carried me to the front sidewalk in search of that line. It’s a good one, and it appeared in the piece right where it needed to, and for Mellinger’s role as a professional writer, it’s good that the scope of the piece about John Elway and Peyton Manning was as broad as it was. But for me, that line should’ve been the lead; the piece should’ve expounded upon that notion, carried beyond the margins, and onto my kitchen table.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Privilege Versus Punishment

           In recent weeks, it seems the Internet can’t host enough pieces about privilege, and I, for one, do not understand it. I feel like I did not miss the boat, rather the boat is something about which I’ve been told. It’s my own personal Groundhog Day. I wake up as Bill Murray’s character, see the advertisement and rush to the ticket agency. Upon arrival at the dock, there’s just, simply, no boat. My wife told me about this Feminist Breeder post, which stems from a 26-year-old piece entitled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Napsack. My friend Ashley Fuller shared this on Facebook,  which apparently led to its creator doing this and most recently, I came across this piece, which I found via this exchange on Twitter, which stemmed from the Dr. V story on

            I don’t wish to dissect the Dr. V piece as that has been done by professional writers, and done well. I’m not sure I support the underlying attack of all of those dissections, which is that Caleb Hannan violated an ethical boundary in outing Essay Anne Vanderbilt. I do think it peculiar that he revealed this piece of information to a member of the investment group that backed her product. But I can understand how and why he lost the scope of his piece and allowed Vanderbilt’s past to take over his story. In the end, the outspokenness of trans* supporters has rung true with this now-prevalent idea of privilege, and I recognize the opportunity to use this situation/story/unfortunate death of the subject as a platform for awareness. At the same time, the idea itself has perhaps trickled into another notion: that of punishment disguising itself as privilege. The theme of what Kate Fagan, for example, wants to address centers on awareness, aversion to defensiveness. And I, being one that tries -- albeit with struggles -- to be mindfully gracious, don’t get it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Moments That Make Up a Dull Day

January’s been a tough place to be in terms of keeping tabs on my mental health. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure my head’s visited all of the beneath-the-couch-cushions corners when it comes to the emotional dinner plate. With my starches there’s been fatigue. Each bite of protein has had a dollop of motivation on top of it, and when it’s come to getting those veggies down, I’ve been every bit of both the refusing child and the adult who knows better. My head has nodded in agreement to angry, unaffordable appetizers; my inner glutton has thumbs-upped dessert when there was no room left in my belly.

Google Maps Navigation has been my favorite smart-phone tool as the new job opens itself up to windshield time, but the more familiar I become with it, the more of a stranger I become to myself. It’s as though I’m perpetually shoe shopping, but can’t tell how each pair fits until I’ve left the building, and then once I’m processing, my foot tells my brain how each shod situation felt unfamiliar.

Maybe I’m out of shape. Getting back in to therapy would do me some good. Age is not helping, as these weird, dull flashes of pain have been greeting the inner back of my skull. Perhaps above everything: Happiness hovers, half attainable, frequently out of reach.

And I have answers for none of it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Some History, Some Glory, and a Roster: Why You Should Get Behind the 2014 Men's Olympic Hockey Team

Now that the rosters have been announced, let's get down to business.

The History

Ninety-four years ago the Olympic Games brought ice hockey into the fold, and the first round called Antwerp, Belgium home. Seven nations participated in the new-to-the-Games event with the host country bringing up the final-placement rear. France finished sixth, while Switzerland and Sweden fell shy of medaling. Czechoslovakia took the inaugural bronze, and although the United States dispatched of the Swedes, it should come as little surprise that Team Canada blasted the competition en route to the gold. By the time the Winnipeg Falcons -- the all-Icelandic squad representing Canada -- were awarded their championship medal, they had outscored their opponents 29-1.