Ignorance like a gun in hand
reach out to the promised land
Your history books are full of lies,
media -blitz gonna dry your eyes
You're eighteen wanna be a man
Your granddaddy's in the Ku Klux Klan
Taking two steps forward
and four steps back
Gonna go to the White House
and paint it black
Turn around, they'll try to keep you down
Turn around, Turn around
Don't drag me down

--Mike Ness

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I am crazy.
I am delusional.
I am always wrong.
I have perceptions that have no validity.
I am the source of all my children’s problems.
I am a danger to myself and to those around me.
I am going to loose my children.
I have lost my house.
I am 42 and a looser.
I am pussy whipped.
I get what I deserve.
I am a coward.
I hate myself.
I want to die.
I am tired.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I'm in a train station. It's large with a ceiling so high I almost can’t see it. It’s all tans and browns with an art deco feel. The main terminal is filled with people, so many that they press in against me. I don’t want them to. I’m going somewhere but I can’t remember where or why. I’m jostled and shoved by the press of people all hurrying to their destinations. Everyone is moving except for me. I’m standing still in the middle of the terminal. Lost.

Spinning around I search desperately for an exit, for the direction that will lead me to my destination. All around me are tunnels leading down to the platforms. They're dark. I can’t penetrate the darkness. Can’t see where they lead.

I choose one at random. Hurrying toward it I bump into an Indian man with a blue turban. He smells of curry and sour sweat. I apologize but he doesn’t hear me. I grab at his arm but he pulls away with out looking at me. After what seems like hours I reach one of the tunnels and see stairs descending into darkness. I'm afraid. Paralyzed. Forcefully the crowd pushes me forward. Turning I try to fight my way back up the stairs but it is no use. They're to powerful. I'm overwhelmed by the crowd and swept down the stairs.

Pushed to the bottom I find myself in the middle of the terminal again. I'm confused. This is where I started. Choosing a different tunnel I run toward it. I push people down shoving them out of the way but they don’t notice. Down the stairs I race taking them two at a time and find myself back in the middle of the terminal.

Grabbing a woman with long curly black hair I ask for directions, “where am I supposed to go?” She stares through me not hearing, then pulls from my grasp hurrying to where ever she was going. I ask another person. And another. And another. They don’t hear me. I panic and start to run toward another tunnel. I'm pushing people down. Shoving them out of the way. Trampling them in my attempt to find the train. Down the tunnel and back into the middle of the terminal.

Screams fill the air and I realize that it's me. No one notices. The crowd passes me by and I drop to my knees pulling at my hair. Throwing back my head I look to the ceiling screaming. Screaming. My throat is on fire and pain fills my head but still I scream. The people hurry by. Closing my eyes I don’t want to see them. I squeeze them shut until it hurts and my head is filled with a blinding white light.

Someone says “Ticket Please.”

Opening my eyes I blink rapidly until my vision is clear. There's a conductor standing before me. He's old and kindly looking with many winkles tracing a map across his face. I stare at those wrinkles and for an instant I think I see where to go. Directions to my destination hidden in the wrinkles of his face just out of vision.

He says “ticket please,” once more.

Searching my pockets I can’t find a ticket. “I don’t have one, please tell me where to go” I plead. Clutching at his arm, begging him with my eyes while trying to see the secrets hidden in his face. I can’t find them. I don’t have the ability. He smiles kindly and pulls away moving into he crowd and is lost from sight. I hear him asking people for tickets. They all have tickets. They all have a destination. Direction.

On my knees I'm screaming again. No one hears. I can’t escape the train station. Trapped in a prison of my own inadequacy.

I'm screaming.

The crowd passes by.

No one hears.

June 29, 2010

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In the Quiet Hours

Do you ever wonder in the quiet hours about your existence? Whether are not you have been a bane or a boon to life in general? Sometimes I do. In those quiet hours at night when I am alone, those quiet hours that I simultaneously dread and long for. I am an atheist so I often wonder what motivates me. There is no god in my world who will judge me, no eternal reward or punishment. I have no desirer for any lasting legacy for when I am dead and gone, retuned to the universe in the most elemental of ways, what then would I care for what people will think of me. To tell the truth I have little care for others opinions now. What is my motivation for choosing good over evil or as my friend might say heroism over villainy? In those quiet hours I sit by myself going over the mental balance sheet of my life and realize that at 40 years of age I am half way through life and have accomplished nothing of any significant value. There is no great invention for the benefit of humanity. No work of prose showering enlightenment on the unenlightened. Does this mean I don’t value what have? Do I value these lofty endeavors more than what I have? How did I get here to this point? I have to come to the conclusion that while I have not been rudderless in my voyage, neither have I had direction. I have proceeded willy nilly to the point I am now at. Now don’t think that I am unhappy or unsatisfied, rather I guess I am just wondering if I could have been something more, something different. Would I have been more fulfilled choosing a steady course as either hero or villain rather then meandering back and forth between the two? I guess I am at that point in my life where I am feeling my own mortality and wondering what the purpose is. I have lived a simple life of carpe diem, climb the hill because it is there, enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishment at the top, enjoy the view, and discard these things and move on to the next hill. From hill to hill with no other purpose save to see what lies at the top of the next hill, driven by curiosity. I have to wonder though if Robert Service was talking about me, I have lived life by half?


The Men That Don't Fit In

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

R. Service

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Darkness (Part I)

I was afraid of the dark through out my childhood and well into my adolescence. Never was I afraid of many things but this one made up for the lack of fear in other areas I suppose. My fear was not the kind of fear that I imagine most people deal with. Not a slight adrenalin rush and the nervous alertness that comes with it, not something easily dispelled with a quick monster check and comforting hug from Mom. Darkness for me took on a menacing singular presence; it became an entity, a personification of the blacker places that exist in our imagination. Take the all the evil, malice and hatred that exists in the world, pour it into a formless being that at once is everywhere and nowhere and you will be close to what the dark was for me. Craven and King have nothing on the demon that stalked my youth.

I battled with this nameless being during all of my childhood. I doubt if many who are close to me even know of the abject terror this fiend filled me with. That terror did not manifest itself with tears, screaming or frightened calls for parents. It was a paralyzing fear for me, one that left me rooted to where ever I happened to be. Trapped and alone, unable to move or react, leaving self doubt and visions on my own demise to gnaw at me like graveyard rats chewing the bones of the dammed. For years this was my transition from wakefulness to sleep, laying stiff and still in a bed that had become a coffin, waiting for oblivion to take me and bring some small measure of peace. Each time knowing somewhere inside, that this time would be the last. Once I let my guard down, Darkness would take me.

As I got older I came up with tricks to keep Darkness at bay. Ways to stand vigil until the return of the light or exhaustion take me. A flashlight became my sword and a book my shield, armor against the night. This tactic in my silent war inadvertently served a function I did not realize; it fed my intellect, that rational side of me that is rooted in logic and reason. I built a wall of reason to protect me against Darkness until such time that I could vanquish him completely. Slowly, I became more secure. There were no ghosts, no goblins or demons, no presence lurking in the night waiting for an opportunity to strike. Over time that presence diminished and became a small nagging thing only occasionally rising up to confront me. He was still there but not so intimidating now; I knew a final confrontation was coming yet and beneath the rational armor was the thought Darkness might somehow win. It was the chink in my armor; the tiny flaw that could be my undoing. I wanted to be rid of this foe once and for all but I feared the confrontation.
Scout camp was to ultimately be the setting for this battle. I started going to Camp Tapico when I was eleven. Over the next three years Darkness would take that opportunity to strengthen his position. He spread his form though out the woods of northern Michigan. Kalkaska County became his lair for one week a summer. He worked hard to claim me there in our silent battle, but I had grown stronger too. I was armed with knowledge of the woods and those creatures that dwelled there. I became familiar with their habits and habitats least they join the forces of Darkness. With my reason before me, I came to know the trails, woods and animals that were contained within so that if had to venture forth at night I would know them for whom and what they were. When I did have to venture forth at night, I worked hard to stay with groups of my peers. Darkness was always reluctant to reveal himself in front of others; I could feel him in the distance though, watching and waiting.

Patience paid off for Darkness my fourth summer there; I was fourteen and it 1985. My first three summers at camp my scout troop had always camped at Deer Run-the camp site closest to the administration end of camp and most centrally located to the various activities camp had to offer. In the winter of 1985, our troop had become more like the boy run organization it was supposed to be and we boys had decided we wanted a more challenging site for summer camp. We chose Beaver Point. Where Deer Run was on the south east side of Grass Lake, Beaver Point was on the west side. It was the closest of three isolated sites. You could not get vehicles in there as part way in was a narrow causeway crossing a swampy portion of the lake. Consequently, all troop equipment would have to be packed in and daily commissary runs would be done by canoe. It was perfect for the needs of a troop that had grown in experience.

Now camping is not the only thing a scout does at summer camp, it is also a place to learn some skills. Hiking, boating, archery, rife and shoot guns, and swimming are among the popular activities that you can learn or better your skills at, possibly earning a merit badge along the way. One of the less popular interests is Astronomy. Now, astronomy is something that has always intrigued me and I signed up for it at the nature center right away the Sunday afternoon we arrived at camp. I did not think about the ramifications of this fateful decision at the time. It was warm and sunny on the parade grounds outside the nature center and without hesitation I signed my name under several others on the clipboard. Astronomy would meet that night after opening campfire at 10:30 pm. Getting there was no problem as my troop had to walk past the parade ground to reach the trail head that lead to Beaver Point. As we left the campfire that night, we walked as a group back toward our campground and upon approaching the parade grounds I saw the small cluster of boys and one counselor standing in the middle with some equipment. I told Mr. B, our Scoutmaster, that I would be back later as I had Astronomy merit badge to work on. He nodded acquiescence and continued back with the rest of our troop while I peeled off and headed over to the knot of youths on the parade grounds.

Astronomy went well and star gazing is an activity I still enjoy today. My problem began when the lesson ended and we started to break up to head back to our troop sites. Of the fifteen or so camp sites that were at Tapico, only three were located on the west side of the lake. All of the others were on the east side of the lake. With the majority of the campgrounds on the east side, that meant the majority of the campers would be on the east side of the lake. The minority of the campers would then be on the west side; my side of the lake. As we packed up our stuff, I was coming to the realization that the fickle finger of fate had determined me to be a minority of one. Even the counselor was going in a different direction. I slipped on my knapsack and looked toward the opening in the distant tree line that marked the opening to the trail head for the western sites. Now I could have asked the counselor to walk with me and I’m sure he would but I became a victim of my own hubris. I was a Patrol Leader, I was respected, and I would not be labeled a coward. I began walking toward the opening in the woods, a dark hole in the tree line. An owl hooted and a slight breeze made the trees whisper like the voices of the damned. I could smell the sick sweet scent of rot and decay that came from the swamp back further in the woods. It was the smell of death. With each step I took toward that black hole in the tree line, my heart grew heavier. I was filled with a cold foreboding, every fiber of my being screamed to get away, to run anywhere and nowhere. I stopped about ten feet from the opening to the woods. I was paralyzed with fear and indecision. I was helpless and I could feel him in there waiting for me, mocking me with his silent laughter. I stood alone in the night and Darkness waited.

(To be continued)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mood Indigo

Softly the silky smooth voice of Billie Holiday slinks across the room to me while a large stuffed fish rotates lazily overhead. Her voice contrasts starkly with fish, the rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” is somber, quiet and melancholy while the fish is garish. It has exaggerated eyes and mouth and is stitched together from fuzzy fabrics of fluorescent orange and cobalt blue with cream colored accents. That unusual contrast reminds me how rarely I come up and lay here in top bunk. How rarely I partake of what the climb has to offer. My oldest son sleeps next me. His rhythmic breathing seems to underscore the song. It is quiet. The kind of quiet that makes you aware just how noisy "quiet" can be if you stop to listen. Everyone save me is asleep, dogs and children and now that Sun has set even the birds outside have ceased to sing.

As the dusk descends on our little town that "quiet" slips into my boys’ room revealing sounds that are always there, hidden just under the more demanding diurnal sounds. Their fish tank bubbles away while it's air pump gives off a quiet hum. The bunk bed creaks with every slight shift of my weight. My oldest son breathes softly and just below us I can hear the breathing of my youngest son. It's warm and the window is open letting in the exterior night sounds. Leaves of trees and shrubs rustle in a slight breeze. A few blocks away the railroad crossing begins to ding, and then a loud long mournful wail of a freight train cuts though the night. Twice more the train blows its whistle robbing the night of its serenity. As the echoes fade the sound of the train rolling over the tracks combines with the ringing of the crossing signal in a vain attempt to blend with the other night sounds. It's a futile attempt though. The sound of the train and crossing is harsh and out of place to the other night sounds. It strikes an odd contrast with its surroundings, like the fish. Like my own presence here.

I don’t know why I’m reluctant to make the trip up to the top bunk these days. Partly it is pragmatism I suppose. Everyday constraints of raising three children all with different needs provides an easy excuse not to. There are always excuses. I need to do dishes. I have things to pick up. I have to get your baby sister ready for bed. Your brother is younger he needs me to lay down with him. All are just rationalizations used to mask my ageism and notions of masculinity. A boy who is almost six shouldn't have to have someone lay down with him. It somehow makes him a baby, less of a man. Having your father lay down with you becomes at some unspecified point an unacceptable contrast to the process of growing up.

How did I come to believe this? Is it true? I don’t know and take enough comfort in the night sounds to question myself. Question my perceptions of fatherhood and what it is to be a male. My son runs his hand up my sleeve, he has been doing this from the time he was an infant. It must bring him some small measure of comfort, a sense of security in world that at times doesn't feel very secure. It feels good. Simultaneously it feels uncomfortable to me. The close contact of him reminds me how in frequently I am in this spot. Reminds me of how out of context I seem in this place. I wonder if being here makes me less of a man. If being here makes him less of a man. Does this now infrequent trip up become like some cruel joke to him? Have I become some Robin Goodfellow making mischief on him as he sleeps? Leading him astray from the man he is too become?

The fish has stopped twirling and now looks down on me accusingly. “Are you going to go?” He says. “No,” I whisper. “I’m going to stay.” I decide that whatever my notions of manhood and growing up are; right now, right here, this feels right. That if even for just a few short minutes the world with its problems and perceptions has melted away, has shrunk down to this small place for this brief period. As out of place as the train and the fish seem they serve a purpose and have a function. I come to the realization that the whole point of growing into manhood, of having strength, honor and virtue is to be able to provide an atmosphere that fosters moments like these. Without them masculinity would be little more than hollow shell in which to hide.

Absent now is the sound of the train. I pull myself in close to the warmth of my son. My nose is full of the sent of him, neither pleasant nor unpleasant, it just is. As I am now. I embrace the moment and close my eyes. Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” plays on the radio as sleep takes me. Right now for this moment all is right in the world. The fish stands guard over us.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fun for the Whole Family


The first rule of Hamster Fight Club is - you do not talk about Hamster Fight Club. The second rule of Hamster Fight Club is - you DO NOT talk about Hamster Fight Club. Third rule of Hamster Fight Club, no one yells Stop!, If a hamster goes limp, taps out, finish the fight. Fourth rule, one fight at a time, fellas. Fifth rule, fights will go on as long as they have to. Sixth rule, fights are to the death. And the seventh and final rule, if this is your first night at Hamster Fight Club, you have to fight.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


I finished the play list for my blog last Wednesday. When I started making the list I set out with the intention of achieving a number of goals. First I wanted it to be entertaining, when people visited and read my posts I wanted them to hear some music and say “hey, that’s a good song.” As music is a very subjective thing, I’m not sure this goal could ever be achieved in the way I envisioned. Second, I wanted the music to be reflective of the blog, or more accurately myself, since the blog has in a very strange way become a deeply personal reflection of those parts of me that don’t normally make the light of day. Ask anyone who knows me well and I think they will tell you I don’t let much to the surface most of the time. I think I achieved that goal. Third, I wanted the songs to be stuff I actually listen to and reflect the passion that I have for music in all of it's variety. I had a good time picking the songs and they span a wide range of musical styles and time periods. Yes, you could walk in on me at home and be likely to catch me listening to any of this stuff. Lastly I wanted a variety, so I told myself that I would not repeat myself. I would not put twenty five songs by Duran Duran. So I worked hard to avoid repeating artists. I would say I achieved that goal, now some of you are going to say “Hey dude you have Johnny Cash on there twice, once for “Hurt” and he sings on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. Well technically you would be right, but “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is a collaborative version with about 30 artists. It is a tribute to Mother Maybelle and for those two reasons doesn’t count. My blog, my rules, nobody messes with Mother Maybelle.

There is only one artist that is in the list twice, that’s the Dixie Chicks. I have a reason. Maybe you remember that the Chicks ran into a little controversy in London. This was just prior to the Iraq invasion and on stage during a concert, band member Natalie Maines said “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas” as a transition into their song “Traveling Soldier”. No as you know I’m a bit of a conservative and was a Bush supporter, so this didn’t sit too well with me. It didn’t sit too well with country music fans either. The back lash that the comment generated was unbelievable. The Chicks became hated literally over night. County Music radio stations refused to play any material by them, some of their fans threw away all their albums. There were even some CD burnings that were strangely reminiscent of the Nazi book burnings of 1930. The Chicks received hate mail and death threats. Now as I said the comment didn’t sit to well with me, but I didn’t go off the deep end either. Admittedly the Chicks weren’t on the top of my play list at the time but I didn’t hate them, I didn’t get rid of our Chicks albums. I didn’t want Natalie dead.

Now I’m a conservative and I’m proud of my country. I would say the thing that I’m most proud of is the United States Constitution. I hold that particular document more sacred than most people hold religious texts. Let’s face it, weather anyone likes it or not Natalie had a right to be ashamed that the President was from Texas. She had a right to say it. She had a right to say it anywhere and anytime she chose. It's a right guaranteed under Amendment one. The freedom of speech. Natalie had right to petition her government for redress of grievances and if she chooses to do it in a public forum in England, well then so be it. That’s the bit that those who were calling the Chicks un-American forgot. Disagreeing with the government in power is perhaps the most American thing a person can do.

Over the next few years the chicks would be largely ostracized by the corporate country music establishment. They did try to do a little damage control, but it was too late and I think they knew it. I guess taking the hit from the things you say is a little American too. One thing I will give Natalie credit for; she didn’t deny it. She didn’t try to white wash it and say she didn’t mean it. She held firm to what she said. She held firm to her shame. In 2006 the Chicks produced an album titled “Taking the Long Way”, it got almost no air play. It also debuted at number one on both the pop and country charts. In 2007 the album won five Grammy’s including best album, I have listened to it and I think it deserved it. I respect the Dixie Chicks for that accomplishment and so have included a second song in the list, the 2007 Grammy Award winner for best song “Not Ready to Make Nice”.

Here’s the thing for me and there is no getting around this. I disagree with Natalie, that’s my right. She also has the right to disagree with me. I have the right to not listen to her music. She has the right to not read my blog. I also have the right to respect her for standing up for her rights, for being American enough to not back down. I disagree with Natalie Maines, but, if push came to shove I would be willing to pick up a rifle and defend her right to voice her disagreement with me, you, the government or anyone else who came along.

I wonder if she would be as amused at the irony as me.